NO JOKE

CF8AA223-0A55-4651-BEA8-072019C7A7AB

On April 1, at 4:30 in the morning, I had a stroke. Correction, I had two strokes. It wasn’t until a week after I was released from the hospital that I realized this happened on April Fool’s Day. 

For the first time in my life, I feel vulnerable, rather than bulletproof.

I know what the warning signs of a stroke are, but apparently I didn’t know all of them. I knew what my risk factors were, but again, I didn’t know all of them. Now I do, and I want to be sure you do too. 

I wrote about it yesterday here: 1010ParkPlace.com  For brevity’s sake, I left out some details that still have me shaking my head in bewilderment. Tell me what you think.

THREE MONTHS AGO I began working on a new novel. I’d had bits and pieces of it for a long time, but suddenly, it all came together. It’s about an attractive, successful woman, early 50’s, who has a stroke. 

Her prognosis is for a full recovery, but after more than a year, she still can’t speak. She loses most of her business, many of her friends drift away, and her marriage falls apart. 

Make no mistake, she will triumph over all of this.

ONE MONTH AGO, on Friday evening, March 22nd, I went to a “Pots and Plants Party” to help them “plant” 1,000 pink flamingos. For those of you who have been in Austin for a while, these are the folks who always had the “flock” of flamingos at the corner of Bee Caves Rd. and Capitol of TX highway.

AAE19564-8B79-48A9-823B-17C1C4EE4B03Although I was feeling exhausted and had just driven an hour home, for some unknown reason I felt compelled to change clothes, con my sweetie into coming with me, and drive another hour back to this gathering. 

We met the owner of the compan. I told him I missed seeing the flamingos, and asked him why he had closed his business. He told me he’d had a stroke back then, but you’d never know it! I told him about the book I was writing and he enthusiastically recommended a book by a woman neuroscientist who had a stroke.

I bought it the next day, and my hair stood on end when I read that the type of stroke the neuroscientist had, was the same type of stroke I’d created for my protagonist!

NINE DAYS LATER I had my strokes. Do you think I haven’t stood out in my yard and yelled at the heavens, “Is this some kind of sick joke?” 

As I think about it more and more, I marvel at the coincidences… and wondered if they were all preparation for me to know that like the neuroscientist, “flamingo man,” and my fictitious character, I will be fine.

Again, please read, it’s important: 1010ParkPlace.com

XO Donna


Don’t Tread on Me!

16C6A2A7-C8CC-4441-95CF-730740408E81

I was greeted yesterday morning, over a delicious cup of coffee NOT made by me (since I’m clever enough to sleep an hour later than my darling) by the news that our neighborhood newsletter was warning more about snakes needing to be removed from people’s homes.

Do you remember the scene from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones is hanging over a pit full of writhing serpents and says, “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”

That’s exactly how I feel about them, and to hear about this before I’d even finished my coffee.  Arrrggghhh!!  

So what’s a gal to do?  Since we live in a city, (we’re out in the country, but it’s still within a city) a shotgun is out of the question. Not that I’d ever kill one, no matter how afraid I was.  Education (as with most things in life) is the answer!

Having been horrified when I moved here, upon learning that there are poisonous snakes everywhere in Texas, I took advantage of an avid herpetologist friend’s knowledge  to learn everything I could about snakes.  I wanted to be able to recognize the ones I needed to worry about…  instead of worrying about them all.

DA2D26EF-5E36-4747-A239-D65662A23121

As it turns out, any snake will try to bite us to defend itself, even a little green garden snake.  The State of Texas is home to 15 potentially dangerous snake species or subspecies. 

Despite this, each year, there have been more deaths in Texas attributed to lightning strikes than to venomous snakebites. The four poisonous snakes species here: rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and coral snakes.

By not hanging around the banks of rivers, streams, and brooks, I can avoid water moccasins. Copperheads? Rattlesnakes? Out here, in the woods… and I’m not a hiker through uncharted trails. Nope, thanks.

Coral snakes are small with little-bitty mouths, usually only biting fingers when we stick our hands somewhere without looking first. I don’t garden without gloves, don’t reach into trees or bushes or woodpiles without looking first. 

 Snakes tend to be accidental house crashers. You might find one curled in a corner on your patio looking for coolness in the heat of the summer. Or in your garage… seeking the same. 

The good news? Rattlesnakes will usually signal if you’ve startled them by rattling or buzzing their tails,  giving you an opportunity to pee in your pants then run in the opposite direction! 

I’ve lived here for 41 years, and have never seen a dangerous snake anywhere besides my herpetologist friend’s house! More good news – they are as afraid of us as we are of them! 

The newsletter shared common-sense tips for living where there are poisonous snakes: turn on a light and have a look around before stepping out on your patio at night, or into your garage. And even look around first before stepping out on your patio during the day. Mindfulness, that’s all.

If you encounter a poisonous snake in your garage, on your patio, or in your garden… run away, and call wildlife management. Or, if you live out here, you can call the group of “snake wranglers” who will come fetch them. 

XO Donna

33F1F858-1BE1-4D2F-AE4C-5B2EA2E71803


Now We’re Cookin’

I don’t know whether my favorite room in our new house is the bathroom, or the kitchen – well, put that way, the kitchen wins –  but it’s been such a pleasure to take a long warm shower in such a roomy space. A luxury that I often took for granted before our RV life!

2433943B-2173-4247-85C9-2F6971B31E94

I’m spending a lot of time in the kitchen baking – I love to bake, (in the 70’s and 80’s I baked all of my own breads) and I love having my tools and a big oven again! I want to share this GF Carrot Muffin recipe with you, not because it’s inherently healthy, or even healthier, but because it’s a darn delicious recipe. And it had me scratching my head, then laughing at my dense-ness, over the directions!

But, before I get to that, I want to chip in my two cents about GF cooking and the fact that going gluten-free isn’t healthier than eating gluten. Gluten isn’t some evil poisonous thing that’s been added to our food. Gluten is a protein found in flour, nothing more. It is this protein that grants things made with flour their elasticity, texture, rise, and exquisite flakiness. 2D676278-6ADA-48B8-947D-63F91A2274D8

Only a small percentage (1-2%) of the population are truly gluten intolerant (celiac disease) while 6% are gluten-sensitive and, like me, plain old allergic to wheat. We must avoid it to be well and healthy.

Switching to GF substitutes made of white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, etc. isn’t going to help if you’re switching  hoping to lose weight: pizza, even a GF one, is still pizza.

A cold-weather cozy: if you have access to Netflix, I highly, highly, highly recommend watching Michael Pollan’s fascinating four-part series, COOKED. The section entitled AIR is my fave… about bread.

If you want to make a healthy change, try switching to organic breads, and using organic flour for your baking. I personally use King Arthur products (and, no, I’m not being given anything for saying that) and they have a wonderful website and a good GF flour blend. I’ve worked out, and adapted, some great GF recipes… for when I want a treat. I’m happy to have them, but they are no comparison to wheat flour…  That said, this Carrot Muffin  recipe from The Minimalist Baker (nothing minimal about this recipe, the ingredient list is a mile long, but worth it) is pretty darn close!

After these muffins are baked, they must cool in the pan for a bit, then the directions tell you to, “turn muffins on their side in the pan.” I swear… I was stumped!  Do what? How?  Then I realized that she meant turn each muffin sideways in it’s space so air could circulate around the bottom. Like this: 6E2A9BF2-4150-4D15-8DF4-373F9E76EB3F

I couldn’t wait to eat one, but they must cool completely or half the muffin sticks to the paper! And, GF tends to taste better after it’s cooled, honest.  I store them for a couple of days in a big ziploc, then refrigerate or freeze. Let me know what you think!

XO Donna

1DE88CD9-6B63-41A2-93E5-D5271061D120


Like Goldilocks

I realized after we moved in that I’d sold my set of modern black bookcases. Somehow, I remembered having kept one… just in case. 

Now, in order to set up my office and conquer the chaos, (I have six boxes of books waiting for a place to live) I need to buy a new bookcase… which is actually pretty exciting. 

I also realized that I have finally outgrown my “black phase,” which is pretty exciting, too. This all seems relatively simple and straightforward, right?  

What I want is a white bookcase. Or maybe a very light grey one. Under $200.00. With a little bit of trim, so it won’t look like dorm furniture.

Plan A:  Get online at IKEA, since there’s one nearby, and see if there’s one that fits the bill, then go get it. I’m always up for the challenge of assembling a piece of furniture. I quickly found exactly what I was looking for, and my sweetie and I headed off for a short field trip. 

We thought we knew the shortcuts through the maze at IKEA, but they have done some rearranging and we ended up totally missing the furniture section and display of bookcases. 

No matter, I went to the Information kiosk, looked up the product number and aisle location, and voila! There was just one problem: the box was more than six feet long and weighed almost 75 pounds! We couldn’t lift it. Well, he couldn’t do it alone, and I couldn’t help since my shoulder is still out of whack. This bookcase was just too big!

10BE626D-C117-4C7A-BEC2-5963B75BF021

I moved on to Plan B: Find someone who delivers… preferably for free. Amazon, Rooms to Go, and Home Depot (did you know they now sell really nice looking furniture online?) Nothing I liked on Amazon. Nor at RTG. I went to Home Depot’s website and found a beautiful bookcase, but it was shorter than I wanted; so maybe a pair might work. Alas, side-by-side they were five inches too wide for the space allotted. Dang it, this bookcase was too wide!

 Who knew that buying a bookcase could be such a challenge? 

I looked further, but I wasn’t finding what I had in mind. Staring at the floor, well actually, at my new rug, I realized I could probably find one at BirchLane.com the same place I bought the rug. As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise… surprise, surprise!” 

They had so many nice ones that I had to enact another plan.  Plan C: pick out the first three white ones in my price range, write down their measurements, see which fits best and get ‘er done!

One of them was off-white, and another was rustic white; picturing them next to my modern white desk, I decided on the third one, which was white. At last, a bookcase that was just right! 

image from catalogue 

B665BA56-B04B-4D75-944D-77051235F127

I was expecting it Monday, but got an email this morning saying it would be delivered today. It just arrived, and it came with free shipping!

XO Donna

(P.S. – I am not compensated in any way for any store I mention when I write. I wish! I have faves, and I like to share what I have good experiences with.)



The City of New Orleans

Life has been a whirlwind since my last post – we stopped in Austin for a couple days to handle some business, and it began to rain. (I’m sure you heard about the flooding here in Texas).

Lake Georgetown, TX

 

The lake we were camped beside rose dramatically overnight, and it was “colder than the dickens,” so we left and headed to Houston. Gratefully, they had space for us. It was warm, mostly sunny, and their pool was heated. It was fun, but we were so impatient to “laissez les bon temps rouler,” that we both woke at 5:00 a.m. the morning we left for New Orleans! 

 

 

 

The last time we drove through Louisiana, I-10 was in horrible condition. Looking for alternate routes, we followed the advice of another RVer, taking a road they said was better and more interesting. Ugh. It was even worse than I-10. But, it was more scenic!

We drove past endless fields of sugarcane, a crop neither of us had seen before. We drove over too many bridges to count, and sailed past a sea of cattails (another thing neither of us had ever seen).

 

 

French Quarter RV

 

Finally, we crossed the enormous Mississippi River, curved around the Superdome, made an incredibly narrow, and gut-wrenching, turn and arriving at our “securely fenced” RV park in the French Quarter – right beside the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. I couldn’t wait to go explore!

 

 

 

Vessel NOLA

 

We were meeting friends for dinner that night at 7:00 pm, and I was tasked with finding a place. I chose a restaurant named Vessel, housed in a beautifully restored 1914 Lutheran church. The beams in the open-ceiling bring to mind an old ship, and bar reaches skyward in front of golden glass windows. The bottles residing on the  top shelves are reached via library-ladder. Classic cocktails are their specialty, with an emphasis on  the proper glass (vessel) and ice for each, and their food was delicious, fresh, beautifully presented, and affordably priced. Vessel lived up to all of our expectations!

 

 

Beignets (ben-yays) @ Cafe du Monde

Early the next morning I dragged my sweetie out into the streets to head to Café du Monde for beignets since he’d never had one. The walk was only 8 or 9 blocks, the sun was shining, and the St. Louis Cathedral Bells were chiming as we enjoyed our beignets and lattes. What a guilty pleasure!

We strolled for a while before heading “home.” We were meeting Mike and Patricia for a late jazz brunch in the Garden District at Commander’s Palace, an elegant old mansion that’s been operating since 1880. I appreciated that there was a dress code: no jeans or shorts, men needed a jacket. What a pleasure… everyone looked great and “acted right!” I’ve been thinking about their Ramos Gin Fizz every day since!

 

 

The mansions there were so grand, that the next day we hopped onto the streetcar and rode all the way through the incredible Garden District. However, the return trip was so claustrophobic, that thinking we were closer, I insisted we get off and walk home.

Garden District

It turned out to be a 2.2 mile walk! We missed lunch, but grabbed some lattes-to-go and hustled in order to meet our friends on time for cocktails at The Roosevelt Hotel, they were both looking forward to having a Sazerac, since it was invented there. Afterward we strolled down Canal Street to the Palace Café for a light supper. 

The day before we planned to leave, we met Mike at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, which includes the Museum of the American Cocktail. Leave it to Mike to find a place this interesting!  There was a lot to see, but not on an empty stomach. We enjoyed lunch, and a Prohibition Cocktail, in the adjacent restaurant, Toups South. (during Prohibition (1920 – 1933) bitters were created, and a “cocktail culture” was born in order to cover up the taste of wood alcohol and bathtub gin.)

 

SoFAB

After lunch we strolled the large open museum, seeing many items we remembered our parents, and grandparents using as we grew up.

There were also many items we knew nothing about. As we perused, we listened to a tour group in an open classroom. They came in for a private class on Absinthe, and every one had a glass of the pale green liquid in front of them… silver sugar-cube spoons (above) and all.

 

St. Louis 2

 

The day we were supposed to leave it was windy and raining hard in the morning, so we asked to stay an extra day. Luckily, the weather cleared, and we walked to Acme Oyster Bar for lunch (personally, I wouldn’t go again).

On the walk home we finally had both the time, and an unlocked gate, to stroll through the St. Louis 2 Cemetery. There are three Roman Catholic cemeteries, built in 1789, 1823, and 1854 respectively. The graves are above ground in New Orleans because of the high water table, and the fact that in places, New Orleans is below sea-level.

 

 

 

Many have nobody left to attend to them, and are in various stages  of disrepair, but a group is currently working to restore “abandoned tombs” in St. Louis 1 & 2.  It was beautiful, sad, and inspiring to think about the courage of these people who braved the journey, leaving so much behind them, to settle in a new territory so completely different and begin the process of that would create this unique and historical city. I loved New Orleans.

XO Donna