Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring is Sprunging

Okay, so we're not entirely done with winter yet. It is still February, after all, and even here in Texas we're expecting a freeze this weekend. (Hello, sinus headache #36.)

But the signs of spring are all around me. Up and down my street, daffodils are in bloom, and even the redbud tree in my backyard has braved a few deep purple flowers. The mockingbirds have been singing their complex mating songs for weeks. It's hard for me to feel sad if a mockingbird is in song anywhere near me. Even at four a.m., which is when a mockingbird is apt to burst into song outside my window.

Today I saw a grackle flying with a bit of dried grass in its mouth. A nest! (Say what you will about grackles, but I think they're beautiful with their glossy black feathers and enormous tails.) But the inevitable sign that winter is almost over? I got an email from the Cornell University Nestcams. The cams are live, and the barn owls are courting. (The male barn owl brings the female a tasty dead mouse. Once she accepts his gift, he jumps her bones--sometimes before she can even get the mouse down her throat. It's a lovely sight.) Soon, large white eggs will start to appear. (And if I get addicted to watching the owls again this year, I'll never finish my current work-in-progress.)

I'm huddled here in my quilted bathrobe as I write this, but my winter frozen heart has already started its spring thaw. I'm breaking out the flip-flops and suntan lotion, I'm stocking up on lime juice for those frozen margaritas that are right around the corner. I'm also eying the bookshelves, pondering my summer reading list. In winter I snuggle under the electric blanket with heavy literary books (you know, the ones with book club discussion guides printed on the back pages). But now my tastes are leaning toward fun and flirty, light and luscious beach reads.

I can't wait!

Friday, February 27, 2009

No Money for Video Poker

When you think about Las Vegas what is your first image – the Strip, lavish hotels, casinos, showgirls, Wayne Newton, Elvis impersonators? That’s the Sin City of Chamber of Commerce fame, but believe it or not, there’s another Las Vegas, and it’s one tourists never see.

That’s the city I visited last week.

To set the stage, some of my very favorite relatives have been in LV for over twenty years, and in a city of transients that translates into a whole lot of history. So instead of hitting the slot machines or going to shows (unless my bro-in-law gets us free tickets) we went to Costco (my sister’s pantry could withstand a siege), hiked in Red Rock (I encountered a rattlesnake) and savored more than a touch of gluttony. Here’s a hint you won’t find in Fodor’s - there are a couple of Mexican food places on Main Street that on first glance might appear a bit …iffy. But wow! The food is homemade and so delectable it makes my mouth water. But woman can’t live by tacos alone. So, for variety we hit a Soul Food Festival, and of course you can’t go to LV without doing bar food (full breakfast with grits for $2.99). Yum! Yum!

And let’s not forget the shopping opportunities. We don’t do the Gucci store at the Bellagio or Valentino at Cesar’s Appian Way. No way! We head straight to the Flea Market that has everything from rhinestone encrusted G-strings to weapons of mass destruction. And the best kept secret in LV is the purse lady. I’m such a good customer that I get a hug when I show up – with my credit card. I do love my purses.

So, in a nutshell Las Vegas is like a chameleon. It has many faces and disguises. On the one hand you have high rollers and celebrities, and on the flipside are the soccer moms, carpools and neighborhoods that could be found anywhere USA (except with desert landscaping and swimming pools). Just a hint – if you plan to visit LV ask about the local hangouts. They’re a lot of fun.

Maybe I should write a book – Las Vegas on Coupons and Comps. That should be a bestseller – right?

Now on to a shameless plug – the book I have out this month (The Man She Married) is really a hoot. It’s all about guys and the BARCO lounger/sports syndrome. Does that sound familiar? LOL

Have a great weekend.

Ann DeFee

The Man She Married, HAR, February 2009
Top Gun Dad, HAR, October 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nature Notes

One of my very favorite books is The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden.

Holden was a British artist and teacher born in 1871, and in 1920, at the age of 49, she drowned in the Thames River while collecting plants along the riverbank. Her legacy is this wonderful collection of paintings and nature notes that have been published in two volumes--this one and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

I haven’t picked up this book in a while but with spring just around the corner-or so I hope!-I can hardly wait to look out my kitchen window and see leaf buds on trees and birds gathering nesting material in my backyard. So I opened Holden’s Nature Notes to find out what she said about February in England, more than a hundred years ago.

The pages are filled with her water color paintings of plants and animals, her notes and observations, and poems by her favorite poets. It’s really charming.

The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady is organized by month.

February includes this poem by William Wordsworth, and I’m sure she included it because his writing reflects the way she saw and appreciated nature simply by observing it.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art
Close up these barren leaves,
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
Her notes also include daily observations. Here are a few of them.

February 9th: Noticed the young nettle leaves coming up.
February 15th: Found a queen Wasp crawling up the back of a chair.
February 20th: Snow lying thickly on the ground.
If Edith Holden were alive today, I’ll bet she’d be Twittering!

I’ve often been tempted to buy another copy of this book, take it apart, and have some of the illustrations framed. Until I do, I'm content with admiring them in the pages of the book.

Tomorrow on The Writer Side of Life I’ll be blogging about a woman in the Middle Ages whose writing focused on nature themes. I hope you’ll stop by.

Until next time,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Driver’s Test, Part 2

The last time I wrote, I was getting ready to take my sixteen-year-old to her driver’s test. I had hoped that her experience would be far less eventful than mine had been.

It was not to be.

Date: February 5. Attempt #1.

9:00am: After six months’ of preparation, we realize we’d forgotten to get one of the many papers notarized.
9:05: Arrived at bank.
9:15: Leave bank. Drive to State Highway Patrol. Arrive there at 10:00
10:20: Daughter leaves with patrolman.
10:40: Daughter returns, crying. Passed driving portion, failed maneuverability section.
10:50: State highway patrolman regretfully tells me that my dear daughter was crying so much after hitting a cone in the course that he had to ask if she ‘needed to take a breather’. She, being my daughter, exclaimed “Oh, yes!”.
11:15: I say, “Lesley, what happened?” She replies, “Mom, I couldn’t see the cones…I was blinded by my tears.” I am speechless. We book retake for following week. I borrow a neighbor’s set of cones and vow to let Lesley practice a whole lot more.

Date: February 12. Attempt #2

9:00: Practice maneuverability in nearby golf course parking lot. Go back to State Highway Patrol.
10:20: Off she goes
10:45: She’s back, no tears…no license. I’m irritated. “What happened?” Daughter shakes head in wonder. “I hit cone, it wobbled.” State patrolman informs me that in his 20 years of testing, he’s never seen a cone wobble and fall after the course is completed. My daughter is the first.
11:00: We book test for following week.
11:15: Daughter cries whole way to school. I’m seriously thinking about 1)eating a whole Symphony bar or 2)having a beer for lunch.
Noon: Instead of either, I call up out-of-town husband and inform him that I have now had enough of driving test drama and it’s now his turn. He needs to do this duty and to clear his calendar from 3:00-5:00 on the 19th. Because he's no fool, he accepts the challenge without hesitation.

Date: February 19. Attempt #3

By this time I can safely say we have all practiced the maneuverability course at least 100 times. My daughter can’t sleep, my son keeps getting in trouble for teasing her, and my husband is feeling the stress, too. If Lesley doesn’t pass this time, she has to wait six months.
2:00: I elect to stay home to wait, pray, and eat chocolate. Tom picks Lesley up from school. They go do one last practice round. She hits three cones.
2:15: Husband yells, she cries, then turns remarkably calm. Almost zen-like. They arrive back at State Highway Patrol. Officers now recognize Lesley and wave hello.
3:00: Off she goes again with patrol officer.
3:30: I get phone call. She passed! She did great! She’s smiling on driver’s license! My daughter hugs patrol officers in gratitude.
6:00: We finally celebrate.

Now, just four days later, all this seems like a distant memory. Right now my daughter is out and about, driving to a friend’s house. She’s happy, and my husband has earned his bragging rights about being the best driver’s test parent.I’m just glad we don’t have to go through it again-and am hoping for a calm, drama-less March.

Anyone else have a story to share about taking your child for their license?