Monday, March 28, 2011

Please Help Me Spread the Word About Me, Me, Me!

Hey Y'all,
I've asked before and I'm asking again. I have an upcoming Spring Writers' Workshop for adults that begins on April 28th. I also have Summer Camps for Kids that begin in June. I would so appreciate it if you would pass the following info along to your friends, any neighbor lists or school lists you're on, and anyplace else that might net me attendees. Getting folks signed up is what helps me pay the bills and allows me to spend the rest of my time bringing you important information about Rebound's anal glands, my love of Broadway Musicals, my unsolicited opinions about local theatre productions, etc. 

Here, for your convenient cut-and-paste purposes, is a chunk o' info, with links, that you can help me get out into the world. Thank you so much. 

Spike Gillespie's upcoming Spring Writing Workshop for adults, beginning April 28th. There are a couple of openings left. Info on that is here: Spike's Spring Writing Workshop

Also, Spike is currently registering campers for her Kids' Summer Camps. This year's offerings include Writing Camps, Arts & Crafts Camps, and Fashion Camps. Most of these are for younger kids, but I do have one Teen Writing Camp. The entire schedule is right here: Camp Spike Schedule

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Feel Pretty! And So Can You!

When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way... I've been a fan of West Side Story since I was a little girl and my best friend's mom turned me on to the show via her Saturday house cleaning performed to the scratchy vinyl soundtrack. I can't remember the first time I saw the movie but I do remember the last time. It was Fall 2008, Obama had just been elected, and I was stuck in bed recovering from major surgery. I don't usually have my old TV hooked up to anything but the DVD player, but knowing I'd be laid up for more than a month, I splurged and got cable. (I quit both cable and pain pills about four weeks in when I noticed that my only "need" for either seemed to come at around 4 pm every afternoon when the LIFETIME Network showed some movie-for-ladies, usually about some recently divorced woman who wound up facing danger of one sort or another-- like, say, taking on a tenant to help with the bills, only to find out later he's an axe murderer).

One night, when I was still relying pretty heavily on the old Vicodin, I'd reached that terrible place. The silly high of the first few days was long gone and I was deep in that combination place of paranoia and constipation Vicodin inspires. I was so stopped up and confused I began to be suspicious of my own sphincter. I can't be certain if I am remembering two different nights as one, since I definitely had mash-up head at the time. But let's say it happened on the same night. Me, waking up at about 3 a.m., my colon feeling more impacted than a Republican with a wisdom tooth emergency watching the election returns. Warren, bless his heart, waking up to console me, trotting down to the 24-hour Fiesta to buy me waxy suppositories to loosen things up. And then-- Miracle of miracle, wonder of wonders (if I may mix my Broadway references)-- we turn on the tube to find out West Side Story is on. I was so psyched at this great triple fortune: a domestic partner willing to go on a middle-of-the-night suppository run, one of the greatest musicals of all time on TV, and the promise of an imminent bowel movement-- that I gingerly got out of bed and whipped us up some cheese omelets. With ketchup.

We sang along with Tony and Maria and the rest of them. And if we ever get married (don't worry...) I think I should like a ceremony that recreates that moment, the two of us in bed with ketchup smeared faces singing about how somewhere there's a place for us while the officiant, perhaps dressed as Rita Moreno's Anita does the honors.

In the meanwhile, I was totally pumped to get an invitation to attend press night at the Bass Concert Hall's presentation of Broadway Across America's West Side Story. We're going to see a sneak peek on Tuesday night. The rest of youse guys can see it later in the week. Here's the skinny:

WHEN:      March 29–April 3, 2011
                  Tuesday–Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.

WHERE:       Bass Concert Hall | 2350 Robert Dedman Drive | Austin, TX

TICKETS: Start at $20. Single tickets go on sale February 3rd, available at the Bass Concert Hall box office, all Texas Box Office Outlets, by phone at (512) 477-6060 or online atwww.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.comGroups of 15 or more are available by calling toll free at 1 -877-275-3804, or e-mail

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

First Harvest!

A few weeks ago I was telling y'all about my new raised bed gardens, installed for me by Zach & Co of YardFarm. Well OMG OMG again! I've got more plants in now, and more to come. Meanwhile, the first crop has grown like mad-- it is crazy green over here. Our first harvest was this past Sunday when we picked some super sweet lettuce for a salad and some kale and Swiss chard for a quinoa surprise I threw together and cooked right in the rice cooker. I  need to get out there today and harvest some more-- the auto-irrigation system is making all the difference.

Meanwhile, the dogs have totally adapted to their new fenced in area. Witness the grin on Dante's face. He likes to sit and watch me. Henry says Dante's slogan-- courtesy of being rescued from imminent death at TLAC-- is simply this, "Glad to be here." Yep, that's about right.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thank God That's Over

In the end, I actually did not do a single official SXSW-related activity. But I did spend four days at the Hilton during SXSWi, nannying for my friends' adorable five-month-old. And then I spent all of the music conference portion of the insanity avoiding the actual events but somehow paralyzed by whole thing nonetheless. I think it's a combination of having so many people in town-- I swear the energy changes. And also I have memories of so many SXSW's of years gone by that I did throw myself into the fray. Those were fun but exhausting days. Anymore, I think, "Maybe I'll catch a day show," but then I'm so overwhelmed by the choices, and by the knowledge that there's no way I can do everything (or even a fraction of everything) that I just pace around nervously until it's all over.

I am thankful for KUT-- the agoraphobic's solution to wanting-to-but-not-wanting-to take in all the live music. I spent a lot of time glued to my radio, listening to Jody Denberg hosting shows from the Cactus and Jeff McCord hosting from MoMo's. And on Saturday night I was beside myself when I discovered they were broadcasting the Bright Eyes show from Auditorium Shores. That was the one show I was truly determined to get to, but after I heard about the near-trample at the Strokes show, I decided to skip it. But skipping it triggered a severe bout of FMS-- 'Fraid of Missing Something-- from which I suffer regular bouts. So the KUT broadcast alleviated some of my sadness at missing. Even though the live feed crapped out and they had to switch over to recorded Bright Eyes music, it still got me going. To the point that I actually drove down to Auditorium Shores just so I could cruise past in my car and catch an audio-glimpse of Conor Oberst's voice live. I heart that boy SO MUCH. He is like the Leonard Cohen of his generation, absolutely the real deal, a stunningly gifted poet  who played one of my top five all time favorite shows a few years back at Bass Concert Hall.

And my FMS was further quelled if not entirely cured thanks to the fact I did host a band-- Peter Stampfel and the Ether Frolic Mob-- made up of PS (co-founder of the '60s psych-folk band The Holy Modal Rounders and former member of the Fugs) and a trio of young whippersnappers aka the Dust Busters. Peter's in his seventies but you wouldn't know it. He kept up with the youngsters just fine. The band plays old time music on banjo, fiddle and mandolin. I connected with Peter through my old Knoxville friends Kathi and Steven and any friends of K&S are friends of mine. EFM arrived Thursday night and played a little concert in the backyard for the dogs and me from about midnight til 2 a.m. I kept wondering if the cops were going to show up but apparently either the neighbors were down with the banjos or we managed not to violate the sound ordinance.

Friday night they wanted to go out to dinner and I recommended Texas French Bread, which seems to be the best kept secret in Austin. Brothers Murph & Ben Wilcott took over the business from their mom Judy and they serve up this stunning menu that is based mostly on local food. They also have a parking lot which is always nice, but even more so during SXSW when to find parking is to dream the impossible dream. I got this idea-- me and my ideas-- that maybe the guys could play a set post-dinner, so I called Ben to ask if he was down with it. (Murph, demonstrating admirable commonsense, fled Austin for the duration of the conference). Ben was quite receptive to the idea, and so, voila, I became insta-promoter of an unofficial showcase, FBing and Tweeting the news to try to round up a crowd.

Dinner was, as it always is at TFB, over the top. I went with the Salad Lyonnaise (which I always do) and the mussels (with fennel-- mmmm, mussels with fennel). We ate about forty loaves of bread before our entrees arrived which did not stop me from insisting that we all get the Butterscotch Budino for dessert. This is, hands down, the best dessert I have ever had in my entire life. Even though at heart I am a dedicated whore for chocolate, as I told our out-of-town friends, I would forgo chocolate for the rest of my life if I knew that a steady supply of BB was available to me. It's sort of super thick pudding with a hint of salt, a layer of caramel, and an obscene amount of super fluffy fresh whipped cream on top. It's served in a glass and Friday night was not the first time (nor will it be the last) that I actually lick the inside of the glass when I can no longer scrape another drop out with my spoon. OMG OMG OMG-- the Butterscotch Budino makes me feel so many things at once: excited, dirty, pleased, and simultaneously satisfied and wanting more more MORE!

As I settled into the attendant sugar coma of the BB, my temporary roommates took the makeshift stage-- four chairs in a semi-circle. A dozen or so of my friends showed up to listen and I had the very spoiled sense of throwing my own private party at Austin's best little bistro. Peter, in the role of vocalist, was out of control in the best sense of the expression. And for the hour that they played, all my SXSW edginess subsided, and I was right in the moment.

Saturday brought the relief of an out-of-town wedding, a reminder that you can take a short drive out to Drippin' and forget all about SXSW. It was also another reminder of how much I love doing weddings, but we'll save that story for another day. I came home to find the band gone, the house cleaned, the dishes washed, and a stack of CDs of their music waiting for me. Yes, they may stay with me again next year.

And now it's Sunday, you can feel the relief of the massive exodus of tens of thousands of music fans like a blister popped. I'm cooking up a huge meal for Henry & friends this evening as a means of hearing a full SXSW report and, more importantly,  a farewell party for our beloved Samantha, who is heading off to NYC in a couple of days to follow her dreams. There's some nice synchronicity here. When I was in NYC earlier this month, I picked up a copy of Patti Smith's Just Kids for Sam (and I swear, any minute now, I'm going to post my review of that book over at WriteWithSpike). In the book, Smith-- who headed to NYC to follow her dreams when she was about the same age Sam is now-- recounts a sort of religious conversion she had one night (her religion being rock and roll) when she saw a particular band play. That band was Peter's Holy Modal Rounders and Smith fell in love with the drummer, who would go on to become the father of one of the Ether Frolic Mob/Dust Busters. See-- THIS is what I love most about Austin in general and SXSW in particular. I might get stressed at too many people in one place at one time, but I almost always find myself in the midst of some happy coincidence as a result of the mayhem.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mighty Texas Dog Walk Coming Right Up!

Hey Y'all,
Now don't get the wrong idea-- I'm not getting into the habit of reposting press releases. However, since this event is near and dear to my heart-- both for the dog aspect and the good deed aspect-- I am sharing away. Please consider joining the Mighty Texas Dog Walk and helping set a new world record while raising funds for an excellent cause. The following post comes from Sheri Soltes, Founder & Pres of Texas Hearing & Service Dogs. Please pass it on.

Texas Dogs Give Britain the Paw

“Two Guinness World Records is not enough for Texas,” says Mighty Texas Dog Walk organizer Sheri Soltes. “We’re calling all Texas dogs to fetch the title of “Largest Dog Walk’ from England and bring it back to Texas!”

The Mighty Texas Dog Walk, taking place Saturday, April 2 at Austin’s Waterloo Park, expands to an all day festival this year to attract even more walkers.  The festival includes a Texas music stage, doggie cake walk, children’s carnival, food court and lots of dog friendly vendors giving away free samples.

The current record, held by a group in England, is over 17,000 dogs.

“It’s no secret that Britain cheats,” says Soltes.  “People can show up any time they want, stroll along the North Sea and presuming they don’t fall in, it counts.  Expanding our hours evens the playing field.”

Proceeds benefit Texas Hearing & Service Dogs, which adopts dogs from shelters and trains them to assist disabled Texans free of charge.

For more information visit

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bon Jour Amigos! Great News: Lunch Now Served at La Patisserie

Lunch comes wrapped like a little present-- very exciting.

Hey Y'all,
Awhile back I gleefully announced the arrival of La Patisserie, a little French bakery at 602 W. Annie in South Austin that opened last fall. Proprietress Soraiya Nagree-- who also owns The Kitchen Space, a rentable commercial kitchen on the East side-- knows a thing or two (or 5,000) about French baked goods. She might be best known for her macarons (which, translated roughly from the French, means: Oreos my ass-- you call Oreos cookies! Tres droll!). Honestly though, I mean it when I say I have worked my way through Soraiya's pastry case and back again and every single thing in it is spectacular.

Warren demonstrates how to unwrap the little sandwich present. 
At the media event I attended, La Patisserie offered a teasing hint of the then not-yet-available lunch menu. This savory side of L'Menu is-- I am so happy to tell you-- now available. Soraiya invited Warren and me in recently to test out the sandwiches and tarts. These are prepared daily by Jackie of Letelier Food Company, which operates out of the Kitchen Space. And, just as the opera cakes and pain au chocolat left me moaning Mon Dieu! on my first visit, the lunch offerings also found us wolfing it down, unable to remember anything either of us learned in finishing school about small bites and thorough chewing. Of course we had to double check to make sure the macarons were still up to snuff. You can relax-- they remain a crowning achievement among the many other culinary jewels. 

Not your ordinary PB & J, this gourmet version is served on crusty brioche and features grapefruit jelly. Tre exquisite.
Croissant with brie and apple on a croissant. Almost like being back in Paris.

Ooo-la-la the egg tart is filled with chevre, fennel and caramelized onions.  Total mouth melt.
And, for those of you who missed the earlier post-- something else I love about La Patisserie is that they have a little play area for kids. Recently they added art classes that include a project for the small humans to work on and a fancy coffee drink for the adults to slurp down. Such a great place. I hope you'll check it out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Am Pant-Peeing Excited About My New YardFarm Garden!! OMG OMG OMG!



Forty years of writing-- nearly 75% of those professionally-- has allegedly taught me how to organize and present my thoughts to get my ideas across clearly. But my head is spinning from the excitement that's been going on over here for the past couple of weeks. I promised the source of the excitement I would wait until now to reveal the details, though I've been bursting at the seams during this forced period of patience and silence. Now that I have the green light to do the big reveal, I find myself wanting to touch on about 90 different points including: gardening, bartering, radical homemaking (and the related temporal abundance), not to mention the joy of waking up every morning to find a backyard full of enthusiastic young men busting their asses to make my life better.

Prior to the amazing new garden, we defined "exciting backyard events" as crashing tree branches.

Okay, I know, I'll start with the garden. Well, no, wait, better mention the barter first. I was visiting my friend Sarah awhile back, admiring several gorgeous raised beds she'd had installed which were yielding like crazy. I had the good fortune of stopping by when the guys who created this masterpiece-- Zach and Dare of YardFarm-- were also at the house. They specialize in urban gardens. I was lamenting how, despite my love of gardening (or at least my love of the fantasy of gardening), I almost always wind up with a low yield, thanks in part to the brutal summers and my forgetfulness re: watering. Sarah, forever the presenter of great ideas, suggested that YardFarm and I might be able to scratch each other's backs. Maybe they needed help with marketing? Maybe I needed help with gardening? Maybe we could remove money from the equation and do a flat out trade.

My heroes: Dare (l) and Zach (r) didn't even flinch when they saw what they had to do to transform my shredded yard into a garden paradise.
Sarah's gardens.
I liked this idea very much, since a huge portion of my wildly fluctuating income goes to the mortgage. Zach liked the idea, too. So he came over to look at the yard and talk. I showed him my existing box garden and said that if he would simply irrigate it and get some plants going, I would gladly help with anything he wanted-- blogging for him, Tweeting, etc. Zach, immediately demonstrating his true and beautiful colors, gently explained that, if I didn't mind, he really likes to do things the right way, and he would much prefer to put in better designed gardens, take into consideration my lifestyle (ha!) and come up with a well thought out plan. Our planned short meeting turned into an hours-long discussion as we talked about everything from small businesses to local farms to bartering.

Early on-- boards being stained for the new raised beds. 

Over several visits, Zach got very acquainted with my big, torn up backyard (which was mostly the dogs' domain), and my dreams-- a chicken yard the dogs couldn't get into as they had before (leading to the Texas Chicken Massacre), a real French drain to replace the ridiculous joke of a French drain I'd installed myself that does nothing to keep the west side of my house from flooding, and a garden that might yield enough food that I could start plotting to go off the grid as that is seeming increasingly a good thing to plan for in These Hard and Crazy Times.

Zach drew up CADs, talked me through possible scenarios, and listened to my scheme to win him thousands of new clients with a daily gardening haiku series distributed via Twitter.

Note the irrigation system which is now all invisible and makes the watering seem like magic.
And then the work began. As noted, the guys (note that "guys" should be considered gender-neutral here, as on a couple of days some women employees also helped out) have shown up day after day, even on weekends. They put in three beds which are hooked up to a timed irrigation system that drips water into the beds every other day. They created an elaborate fencing setup that will allow my soon-to-be-acquired chickens a nice chunk of free range real estate, gives the dogs their separate area, and keeps the beds from being trampled by said dogs or eaten by imminent chickens. They also used the wood from my old box garden to make gates, exhibiting MacGyveresque skills that left me in awe. All of this was done with great cheer and dedication. As a bonus, they allowed me to cook for them, and I think the six of you know that few things please me more than feeding people.

Remember the old joke: What's a farmer plant first in a garden? His foot! Well Rebound says,  "Au contraire-- first you plant your derriere!" 

In the end-- well, in the middle I should say because they are coming back to put in a rain garden and privatize my outside claw foot tub, which my son calls the White Trash hot tub-- I wound up with far more than I allowed myself to even dream of at the start of the project. I'd gone into it thinking I'd trade 365 haikus for a few tomato plants and some well-placed hoses. But no. YardFarm has pretty much prepared me in case the Rapture comes and all the grocery stores close due to all the clerks being sucked up into heaven.

I mean, seriously-- can you believe this? The middle bed is full of greens. Soon the flanking beds will be seeded.

Can you tell how happy I am? I AM SO HAPPY.

I am happy for other reasons. As I detailed here awhile ago, I really dug the book Radical Homemakers, which is all about how temporal abundance can equal or even trump cash in the bank. Time is money but making money takes time and frankly, the older I get, the less time I'm interested in spending working. Funny thing for a borderline workaholic to say, I know. But I relish when I can work from home, set my own schedule, and take care of some of my own basic needs: knitting garments, using a clothesline instead of a washer dryer, baking my own bread, making my own yogurt, and growing a lot of my own food. (Since I don't eat land/sky animals, and only eat fish about twice a year, I seriously can grow the bulk of my own food.) Having the guys here reconfiguring my backyard dovetails with a much bigger vision I have-- self-reliance, exchanging services for services, creating an outdoor space where I can just sit and knit or read or meditate or hula hoop.

Rebound and Dante test out their new play area.
I'm going to post more updates and pictures as the garden grows. I know Zach and Dare & Co. are booking up their spring gigs pretty quickly, but I also know that if you want them to help you realize your own initial go-off-the-grid-via-a-garden dreams, they'd be glad to talk to you. You can reach them through the YardFarm website or drop me a note and I'll put you in touch. And you can check out more pictures of other gardens they've done right here.