Monday, June 30, 2008

Careers My Father Chose for Me

Antique Underwood at The Bunny Bungalow

1922 Underwood No. 5 Typewriter

Qwerty Keyboard

When I was fourteen, my father brought home a gift that would define my future, an old 1922 Underwood typewriter he had found at a second-hand shop on his beat, as a police officer. "You are going to learn to type so you will never go hungry." My father did not want any of his children to depend on anyone to take care of them. He would say things like, "Who's always there when you're in trouble?" Then he would answer his own question before we could, "You, Kid!"

That old typewriter has traveled the world with me. I typed my way through high school and college with it, only switching to a newer model in graduate school. Word processors then computers came along, replacing typewriters but I kept the old Underwood with me. My keyboard skills, learned on that old Underwood, have kept me better than just fed. I've written work reports, articles, and books (my typing wasn't the reason the books weren't published.) And now I'm blogging and using those typing skills; no hunt and peck for your kid, Dad. Wish you were here to see me now!

One reason Dad turned out to be right about his choice for me is that some things never change. After the Qwerty keyboard made its first appearance on the Remington writing machine in 1874 and people learned it, Qwerty has persisted.
This strange arrangement of keys was utilized, not for typing ease, but to keep adjacent type bars from hitting each other. Your computer has a Qwerty keyboard unless you went to some trouble to find another kind. You will notice in the computer keyboard photo above that the name Qwerty came from the consecutive arrangement of the q, w, e, r, t, & y keys, spelling Qwerty.

If you love old typewriters, as I do, check in on the websites of some really serious collectors. Two of my favorites are Martin Howard and Richard Polt. They both have the history of the invention and some wonderful photos of their collections.

A few years back, I entered the The Bad Hemingway Contest, typing my entry on the old Underwood. It looked really great and should have won on looks alone but it didn't. I really wanted the prize, a trip for two to Harry's Bar and American Grill in Italy (Hemingway's favorite watering hole.) Dad, couldn't you have sprinkled a little magic dust on the old machine before giving it to me? Oh, I forgot, you didn't believe in magic, you believed in me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Color Blind: A Cure?

Shortly after Tall Husband and I were married, he discovered that I was "color blind." I bought a new suit bag and announced that it was my favorite gray. He informed me that it was green and that I had a color vision problem. He could have more easily convinced me that I was Chinese.

Later, at a bookstore that specialized in medical books and items, Tall Husband asked to see a set of Ishihara cards (a standardized color test). When the saleslady was busy with another customer, he asked me to tell him what I saw in the pattern on each card. Afterwards, he informed me that I indeed had a "color vision deficiency" and was
green weak (deuteranomaly). I argued with him, saying that women are not color blind, that he was. He informed me that when he worked for Kodak, as a job prerequisite, his color vision was tested and found to be perfect. Also, he had been a faculty member at the department of ophthalmology at a prestigious medical school.

Flash forward several years: My grandson was tested by his French pediatrician and found to have a magnesium deficiency that caused leg pain and muscle cramps. His doctor prescribed magnesium. As I also had the same symptoms, Tall Husband went straight to the drug store for magnesium. After perusing the labels, he decided on a mixture of zinc, calcium and magnesium. Having taken the supplement for about two or three months, I began to notice that people were repainting things green. First there was the perfectly fine black fence at a nearby school that had been repainted a dark green. There was a house on the corner that had been a nice dove gray that was repainted an ugly green. Then one day I was applying eyeliner when I noticed that my gray eyes had changed color. Stunned, I ran to Tall Husband and demanded to know what had happened to my eyes. He asked what color I thought my eyes had been and what color they appeared to be now. "Well they were gray and now they are a greenish blue." He informed me that they had always been a
greenish blue. He immediately Googled color vision. Finding a reliable on-line Ishihara color test he sat me in front of his computer. I passed the Ishihara.

"This cannot be," he said, "There is no cure for color vision deficiencies." He asked me about other vision changes. I told him how my world was looking like a garish cartoon. How people were repainting things and that it was not psychologically pleasant. In fact it made me nauseous. I wished that I could have my old color vision back.

The next week I was at the Department of Ophthalmology, at Baylor College of Medicine, taking the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test (for color vision) which found me to have normal color vision. One would think that those docs who examined me would jump all over such a discovery: a cure for a type of color vision deficiency. But no. Tall Husband is not an M.D. so they took the
not invented here attitude. To think that a simple, inexpensive supplement (we think it was the zinc) from Walgreen's could cure a color vision deficiency is not dramatic or earth shattering.

I found that I had some strange colors of green in my wardrobe; that U.S. dollars are green (so that's why they are called
green backs.); that there are various shades of green (really green) in a forest. My brain has finally settled down and though I still see all the colors, things seem visually normal to me now.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Home Work

Laundry Room at The Bunny Bungalow

The only thing I hate worse than cleaning house is a dirty house. I am such a procrastinator! So today is the day.

As you may know from a previous post, I do not have a maid. I have tried hiring my own maid and several maid services. Each experience always felt like nagging teenagers to clean their rooms. The fact is, no one cleans a house like it's their own or, OMG, maybe they do. No one prepared or studied for a career in house cleaning. Except me!

The truth is, once I jump into it, I love cleaning house, doing the laundry and ironing. I have studied house work as an art. I've got books and articles I've collected. I cruise the aisles of the supermarket, perusing the labels on the latest household products. In high school, I was a member and president of the Future Homemakers of America (FHA)*. Yes, the
effing FHA!

Now where's my new mop bucket? I think I see it over there, under that pile of dirty designer towels!

*Striving toward PCness, in 1999 the FHA became "Family, Career and Community Leaders of America" (FCCLA). Now isn't that catchy!? This name change was an attempt to "resonate with today's and tomorrow's teens." And who's cleaning their rooms?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Drip Irrigation for Pot Plants

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On a recent weekend, Tall Husband installed a drip irrigation system for our two large pots of hydrangeas. Hydrangeas require lots of water in our hot Texas sun. You can see the small black tubes in the photo above. The tubes are attached to a hose that is attached to a hydrant with a timer. The tubes and hose have since been hidden among the foliage and behind the pots. We purchased the timer and system from our local hardware store. This system will keep our hydrangeas from looking like boiled spinach when we are away on trips.

Now, I just need to run back to that hardware store and ask those guys what to get for those iron stains on our new sidewalk! I fertilized the lawn in the rain to save water and time. Not smart but, after all, I'm a blond.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spicing Up a Medieval Congress

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In the summer of 2005, my daughter, who is a French Medievalist, was presenting a paper at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds in Leeds, UK. As she was still nursing, her little Cecilia had to accompany her. I tagged along so I could tend to my granddaughter while my daughter attended presentations. (The day we arrived in Leeds, was the day the entire world learned that the London suicide bombers were from Leeds but that is a story for later.) I had expected to be wooed by Medieval pomp and circumstance but none of the Medieval scholars met my expectations. Save for the lone musician in Medieval costume, playing reproduction Medieval instruments, there would have been a total lack of atmosphere to this Medieval event.

When daughter was again to present a paper in the summer of 2006, I expressed my disappointment at the lack of passion and romance exhibited by Medieval scholars, the lack of costumes. She, a daring soul, agreed to wear Medieval dress if I were to construct it. I am also daring, so I accepted the challenge, knowing nothing of Medieval dress. I was launched on a research and sewing project with a deadline of a month before having to mail the costume to her home in Paris. As luck would have it, Tall Husband learned that a work colleague was an historic reenactor familiar with the Medieval period. He provided invaluable information and web addresses, sending me off on a quest!

As it turned out, McCall's has Medieval patterns that can be ordered on line. I e-mailed links to my daughter and she made her selections. The dress she chose took thirteen yards of fabric. I had to clear out the living room and use the floor to cut, which took all day just for the dress. We did not go for historical authenticity. Those who do, make their own patterns, sew by hand and torture themselves in other ways, I'm sure. I went for the romantic impression of Medieval dress, with an Italian style, lace-up damask dress and a French style chemise of silk. The small crown-style hat, which was also made from a McCall's pattern was the style you see in Medieval paintings. Websites of those who sew historical reproductions were of great help in finding notions (such as lacing rings, etc.) and in reconstructing the patterns to achieve a better look or fit. Also, a friend, who is near my daughter's size, graciously agreed to let me put the costume on her so that technical changes could be determined. The friend, in the photo above, is taller than daughter, so the dress does not romantically drag the ground as it did on the intended.

I met the deadline and shipped the thirty pound costume to Paris, along with dressing instructions. So my adventurous daughter was the renegade scholar who presented her scholarly paper in a red Medieval dress that summer. And who would dare to argue against the scholarly findings of one who is wearing a crown?!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Blogging Business

Kirk Baxter's Designage Card
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Recently I met with Kirk Baxter, owner of Designage here in Houston. Kirk will be designing a blog card for The Bunny Bungalow. He understands all things bunny as he has always had house rabbits. He currently lives with Pepper, a two-year-old black rabbit. The day of our appointment, Pepper was hiding out so I did not get to meet her. Perhaps at our next meeting she will make an appearance.

Can't wait to see what Kirk and Pepper come up with for the design!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend Life at The Bunny Bungalow

Arts & Crafts Table with Antique French Book and Specimen Ants

The best weekends are those that are unplanned. This has been such a weekend. There was early morning coffee with biscotti in bed on Saturday and again Sunday; Saturday breakfast at a French style cafe with friends, Linda and Mac; all other meals eaten out also; antique shopping on Saturday in the neighborhood; reading; watching the video, Becoming Jane; then Sunday afternoon projects.

Projects: Tall husband repaired a nasty assault to our grass and sod by some workers who apparently had been looking for a utility line on the city easement in front of The Bunny Bungalow. I finished stripping and sanding a child's vintage chair which is now ready for a dark stain.

Antique finds: We found a wonderful leather-bound 1776 French book at Jacques Antiques. Then we could not resist the whimsical magnetic French ants at Thompson+Hanson. Our final find was an Arts & Crafts lamp table from Heights Antiques on Yale.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Madeline the Shop Girl

Madeline the Shop Girl

Madeline is a hard working girl who greets and assists customers at Chippendale Eastlake Antiques in the Heights (Houston, Texas.) She certainly doesn't let her looks go to the dogs, as this girl dresses for success. The day I was in her shop, she was wearing an adorable T-shirt with her large pearls which were tied with a shocking pink bow (eat your heart out Barbara Bush.) She graciously took a break from her duties to pose for a few shots. Being told, "You're a pretty girl, Madeline," was the only thanks she required.

Note: Madeline is a Pug but don't tell her that. She thinks she's a people.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ding Dong Bell, Who's in The Well?

Daylily blooming in the well at The Bunny Bungalow

Old Well

At The Bunny Bungalow we have an old well that someone filled with dirt and removed its hand pump. Flowers we never planted appear in such profusion that we joke someone who loved flowers is buried there.

So, who's in the well?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Evidence of Life

Egg Shell of a Mourning Dove

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What is so endearing about finding a small, empty bird egg in the grass? I think the charm lies in knowing that you are holding evidence of a beginning of life in your hand. Such a realization unleashes poignant memories: Memories of your own newborn's tiny nose that looks like yours; the first day you had to send that child out into the world; the first time you held your new grandbaby. Yes, I think that little broken shell reminds us how fragile, exquisite and painful a new beginning can be.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sitting Pretty

Apple in a Child's Vintage Chair


Tall Husband and I were not shopping for antiques. We were merely driving by, on our way to breakfast when we spotted this tiny child's chair sitting in front of a shop. We ignored it. The next day there it was again. Tall Husband pulled the car over and said, "You know you want it."

Can't you just imagine a tiny child sitting there his first day of school, missing his mom, fighting back tears, wondering what this is all about? Then later he sits in his little chair and learns a new song; makes friends with other boys and girls who are sitting in their identical chairs; learns to correctly hold a pencil and trace letters; then finding himself out of paper he decides that the back of his chair will do just fine for his large scribble. So he makes his first mark on the world.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Painting Tip: In Search of the Right White

The Bunny Bungalow Balustrades in the right white

The Bunny Bungalow fence painted the right white

As Robert Frost has written, "...good fences make good neighbors..." and I say that if the fence is not the right white, it can be unsettling to a bungalow dweller. When we purchased The Bunny Bungalow (known as Toad Hall at that time) it had just been repainted but there was something slightly off about the look. The tan with green trim was very Ralph Lauren, which pleased the eye but the balustrades on the front porch did not seem to go with the house. One could tell that the balustrades had been painted white in an attempt to make the white picket fence go with the bungalow but there was still a visual discordance. As Tall Husband and I discussed this, he pointed out that the white was a bright, blue white that actually clashed with the bungalow colors. (Here, I must confess that we took two years to select the right white for the interior of another home.)

It was during this discussion that I recalled reading a design tip in a magazine that went something like this: If you are painting the ceiling of a room white and the walls a different color, start with adding a cup of the wall color to a gallon of white ceiling paint to arrive at a white that coordinates with the wall color. So Tall Husband mixed some of the tan paint left from painting the body of the bungalow with the white fence/balustrade paint. We painted various combinations on the fence and balustrade and looked at them during different times of the day. Voila, we found the right white! As we had put a numbered sample of each on wooden paint stirrers, we simply took the stick with our color choice to our local Sherwin-Williams for a computer match.

Then the fun of painting a picket fence began! This was my first fence job. Not fast, not fun. As I live on a corner with lots of foot traffic, I had plenty of job offers, advice, comments and questions. Most were civil and helpful, however, one man informed me that I had to get a union card!

Although, you cannot tell the difference in the above after photographs, believe me the right white is so soothing to the soul.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Classy Chassis Update: 2008 Best of Show

The 1939 Bugatti Type 57C Van Vooren Cabriolet, above, owned by the Peterson Automotive Museum Los Angeles, California, won 2008 Best of Show at the 5th Annual Classy Chassis Concours d'Elegance, June 8, 2008 in Houston, Texas.

The show was covered in my previous post.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New Bunny on the Block

Terracotta Bunny, Thompson+Hanson, Houston, Texas

All right, the last thing The Bunny Bungalow needed was another bunny but I couldn't resist this big terracotta guy. While shopping for bunnies, I met a delightful woman, Mary from San Antonio, Texas who was visiting Houston to find an architect to design her house. She lives on a ranch and is a self-described "bunny person." She told me about the many varieties of wild rabbits living on her land. She also advised me on my bunny selection, assuring me that this one is quite wonderful.

In exchange for her wonderful bunny story, you know how I love stories, I gave her the name of the architect who designed Thompson+Hanson's buildings, Allan Bianchi.

Have a Happy weekend!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Chinchón, Spain


Fifteenth Century Castillo de Chinchón, destroyed 1520, later reconstructed. Anyone want a fixer-upper? Daughter reading a sign in Spanish that said, "Do not stand on this bridge." You can only read the sign if you are on the bridge. The mote beneath is dry, deep and deadly.

French motorcycle gang

Medieval buildings with swaying photo facade, with reconstruction behind.

Hermitage of San Anton. I had to stick my camera through a hole in the door to get the interior shot, as the Hermitage was locked and dark inside.

Beautiful doors and windows of Chinchón

Last summer, Tall Husband and I flew to Madrid to meet my daughter and her family in Chinchón, as visiting them in Moscow, where they now live, is too tedious for our tastes. Chinchón is a beautiful little medieval village that is about a forty-five minute drive from Madrid. On the drive from the Madrid airport we saw twenty-five rainbows that were so vivid they colored the sandy soil where they touched the earth. We also noticed gigantic nests in the trees. Our son-in-law told us they were made by storks. Sure enough we saw large storks come in for a landing. When we got to Chinchón, the air was full of the fragrance of lavender. French lavender grew everywhere (yes, French, not Spanish.)

The Spanish people are wonderful and live up to their reputation of loving children but the food is horrible. I was quite squeamish about discovering a baby hoof and later a tiny tail on my pork.
I am ashamed to say but when we took a trip into Madrid, Tall Husband and I sneaked into an American fast-food place and had hamburgers and fries. Now we will probably get mad cow disease.

My first day in Chinchón
, standing in the center of Plaza Mayor (where they have the running of the bulls and all other public events), I felt dizzy. My vision seemed to be playing tricks on me. On closer inspection, though, I discovered that the entire facade of the three-story medieval buildings surrounding the plaza was hidden by a realistic giant cloth photo that was gently waving in the breeze, giving the appearance of swaying buildings. The gigantic, panoramic shot was their after photo of the plaza.

It seemed the entire town was under construction. We all were sharing a wonderful medieval (updated of course) apartment on the Plaza Mayor but the constant rat-a-tat-tat of the jack hammers against the apartments stone wall frazzled our nerves. Tall Husband and I moved to the much quieter Hotel Condesa de Chinchón, just down the street.

If you stood in
's Plaza Mayor long enough, you would meet just about everyone in the world. We met people from all over the planet. An Italian bicycle team came through, as did a middle-aged French motorcycle gang.

Sorry Kids. This summer we are staying put and eating our own wonderful cooking in The Bunny Bungalow. There's room for everyone and we promise not to jack hammer the walls. Of course, we'll miss those Italian guys in their tight little bicycle pants and those French women in their high heels on their Harley bikes.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

French Tea For Me

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"A cup of tea is a joy forever," Deborah Rose Sills, from The Light Within, by Lois M. Ramondetta, M.D. and Deborah Rose Sills, PhD, 2008, William Morrow, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.

We agree! At The Bunny Bungalow, we prefer teas by Mariage Freres. We stock up when we are in Paris, buying their 100g, dark brown cans of loose tea from their shop on rue du Bourg-Tibourg. Our favorite is Abricot (Apricot, a mild and refined black tea), although I also like Earl Grey Silver Tips.

I cannot bring myself to discard those beautiful cans, so I have Mariage Freres pencil cans, Mariage Freres coin cans, on and on.

Well, I must drink my tea from the photo shoot before it gets cold.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Light Within

Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Texas

Nuri A. Nuri listening to the reading, after having introduced the Author (his wife).

Dr. Ramondetta, reading a selection

Author: Lois M. Ramondetta, M.D.

At the Brazos Bookstore last night, Lois Ramondetta, M.D. presented the riveting book, The Light Within, which she and Deborah Rose Sills, PhD, completed prior to Dr. Sills’ death. The Light Within is the poignant story of the remarkable friendship of these two remarkable women, one a gynecologic oncologist and the other a patient with ovarian cancer.

On display some years ago at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston was a wall-sized figurative painting of a man in physician’s garb and a middle aged woman wearing hat and gloves. Large, black words on the painting declared, “I am the real person, you are the patient.” That stereotype of the doctor/patient relationship is blown away by these two women who refused to abide by stereotypes and had, what Dr. Sills would call, the grit and the courage to conduct work, life and death on their own terms.

Their friendship grew out of words; not about dying, but about living the Big Life as they referred to a life driven by intellectual curiosity and adventure. Throughout their odyssey, these two friends teach us that honest, thoughtful, stimulating conversations build good relationships.

Ramondetta and Sills write in their own distinctive voices but the visual clue to the reader is the use of a different font for each writer. This technique is effective and carries the story smoothly along.

This morning I began reading the copy of The Light Within which I purchased last night at the Brazos Bookstore. I couldn't put the book down until I had finished it this evening. I knew that Deb (Dr. Sills) would die at the conclusion but I had to know how her remarkable friend, Dr. Lois (to her patients); her wonderful husband, Giles; her son, Adam; and her daughter, Abby would cope with her illness and her death. I’ll leave you to find that out on your own.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Wooden Puzzle Left on a Table


Note from Maid

There hasn't been a maid in my home for years, not since I arrived home one day to find that my..."You knocked my what off!?"

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Fifth Annual Classy Chassis™


Here in Houston yesterday, Tall Husband and I attended the 2008 Classy Chassis Concourse Automotive Event, benefiting United Cerebral Palsy.

These people really know how to put on a show. The magic began as we drove through the gates of the Reliant Stadium: Tall Husband was driving his silver BMW Z4 and headed toward a distant parking area when a Classy Chassis volunteer waved us over and directed us to a parking spot just steps from the exhibit hall entrance. We were confused and asked if we could really park there, "Yes, you're driving a BMW!" came the answer.

This event was Bugatti heaven as Bugatti was selected to be the featured marque this year. There was a world-class collection of more than twenty vintage Bugattis on display, one of the largest ever assembled in the United States.

Here are photos of some of the Bugattis and other vintage beauties. Enjoy the ride!

BMW Z4, Tall Husband's VIP Parking Spot

Nosebleed View

1931 Bugatti Type 54 Roadster

1973 Jaguar XKE Series III Roadster

1956 Jaguar XK 140 Aerodyne Streamliner

1954 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster

1954 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster

1925 Duesenberg

1937 Bugatti Type 57/59 Special Roadster

1935 three-window Ford Coupe

1935 three-window Ford Coupe

1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix

1924 Bugatti Type 13 Brescia

1923 Bugatti Type 23 Brescia Tourer

1923 Bugatti Type 23 Brescia Tourer

1936 Bugatti, Type 57 Graber Cabriolet

1915 Van Blerck 17 Liter Speedster

1958 BMW Isetta 300 Coupe

1937 Bugatti Type 57/59 Special Roadster

1927 Rolle-Royce Phantom I Mulliner Landaulet Limousine

1960 Jaguar XK 150 S Fixed Head Coupe

1932 Ford Cabriolet "Red Hot Meltdown"

1939 Chevrolet with Trailer

1924 Bugatti Type 13 Brescia

2008 Bugatti, Veyron 16.4

1936 Bugatti, Type 57 Graber Cabriolet

2008 Smart Fortwo with a 1.5 year waiting list in Houston