Ch. 15 Painting from The Adventures of Infinity & Negativa

Day 12

It’s hard to believe that 13 months have past since I completed my last painting. The long hiatus arose because I nearly painted myself into a corner. The paintings in this series represent the opening of each chapter from my second novel, The Adventures of Infinity & Negativa. Periodically, I’d overhaul the manuscript. What I discovered after completing chapter 14’s canvas was I couldn’t change those chapters around because I’d have to rearrange the order of the paintings. Since I’m an amateur painter, the quality of the canvases have improved greatly with each one.

An artist friend of mine tried to cheer me up by saying I was probably my own worst critic and no one else would probably notice. I’m the only one who needs to notice! I still revamped the manuscript, leaving the opening scenes, which corresponded with the paintings, intact. In retrospect, I should have waited until the manuscript was completed before painting the first canvas. Yet, it’s difficult for me to put a good idea on hold.

I got back into the groove of prepping this canvas, but forgot to apply tape prior to laying the baseline paint.  I realized too late, but I think the mistake adds another dimension to the waves. For an opening scene about waves, I could have made them even bigger.all 15The 15th canvas has more subdued colors than the rest. That works for the storyline since it follows the chapter where the main character experienced a temporary death. The next one, which I’ve already started prepping, will have more suggestive subject matter and bolder colors. After all, the main character now has a new new purpose in life after her near death experience.

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Abstract Art Opening 2015

1 opening scene One of my favorite local art galleries had an opening reception on a day I actually had nothing planned. Disregarding my first impulse to go alone, I turned this into a meetup outing. Although four other people were supposed to join me, I knew to expect just half of them. I was rather impressed that the two who didn’t show up actually changed their reservations ahead of time.

I arrived at the venue much earlier than necessary. I like to avoid being a hypocrite. When hosts are late and/or not visible when members arrive, a lot of confusion and bad vibes start off the night. The two women who made it had no trouble finding me since I messaged I’d wear a fuschia dress and would probably be the only black woman with dreads.2 painting I do not understand abstract paintings although I like bright colors, especially red and purple.3 red!Yet how does one tell a good abstract from a bad abstract? 4 Bob's Is it purely emotional response when you first look at the painting?5 Bob w painting Fortunately, one of the featured artists was present to answer questions. I asked him a tough one right off the back. “How does one understand this genre?” He smiled and stated that the way he understands it is to  start painting and continue until he considers a canvas “successful.” He admitted that most of his aren’t, but he either starts all over by painting over the failures on getting a fresh canvas.

Then he gave an intriguing response about how every painting is a conversation. When I asked him if he remembered what he was thinking or how he was feeling while working on the painting I snapped his picture with, he said no.6 Fav acrylic painter In the back corner, past all of my beloved Dr. Seuss art, lay a treasure trove of bright, texturized acrylic paintings. Of course I loved all the red and flow, which made me readily forgive it was acrylic. Not my preferred medium to paint in, but I can certainly appreciate the over-the-top talent of the artist.7 another acrylic Truly, what landscape art should be: bold, thought-provoking, narrative-inspiring.8 Jack I normally don’t spend too much time looking in the movie poster section, but here’s one of my all-time favorite actors on Spanish translated poster.
9 Asian fusion restaurantOnce we toured the entire gallery, we didn’t want the conversation to end. We all hopped into our separate cars, and met up at a string of little restaurants and coffee shops which shared a back patio. Believe it or not, the heat and humidity actually allowed us to enjoy the moment.

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Ch. 14 of The Adventures of Infinity & Negativa

Day 7

This painting comes from chapter 14 of my second novel, The Adventures of Infinity and Negativa. At the end of the previous chapter, the main character, Nuru, has just drowned in the Caribbean Ocean, off the coast of Honduras while attending a 24-hour, underground music beach party. The title characters, Infinity and Negativa are twin fantasy mathematical sisters who reside in Nuru’s head. The twins, who always start off every chapter, experience, debate, and riff their own scenes based on Nuru’s reality. In this painting, only their silhouettes are shown. Infinity has the waist-long dreadlocks and Negativa wears an Afro.

“Where are we?” Negativa asked.

            Infinity slowed down her random spinning along three axes. “We’re in the quantum matrix of choices.”

            Negativa frowned. “Quantum? As in ‘How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics’?”

            Infinity chuckled, which increased her spinning. “No, although that pi mnemonic does use the word ‘quantum.’”

            Negativa shrugged her shoulders in confusion.

            “Each word in that sentence contains the same number of letters, representing the first fifteen numbers in pi: 3.14159265358979.”

            “Enough with the mumbo-jumbo. Just take me back to Sunjam.”

            Infinity raised her hand and illuminated the twelve pathways leading back to the beach party. “You have all these variations to choose from.”

            “What are the outcomes?”

            Infinity wagged her finger. “We’re not allowed to know the outcome before we take the pathway.”

            “That’s a load of crap.” Negativa narrowed her eyes. “How do humans decide?”

            Infinity’s spinning angular velocity sped up as she lost control. “You want to know human opinion?”

            “I know they’re a bunch of fuckwits, but how do they go about choosing a pathway?”

            “Well, some are so controlled they make very few of their own choices, others avoid choosing their own pathways at all costs. A few analyze patterns, then decide, while many analyze then pray for divine intervention to help guide them.”

            “In other words, they’re irrational. Just as I’ve always thought.” Negativa cocked an eyebrow and put her hands on her hips. “I’m taking this pathway.” She slid back to the beach.

            Infinity stopped spinning and followed her sister.

 

Nuru’s eyes bulged open and she spat up puke. Homero turned her on her side. Ocean water and vomit stung the back of her throat.

“Welcome back to the land of the living.” He rubbed between her shoulder blades until she finished coughing.

The small crowd applauded. Through the spaces between various pairs of legs, the ocean, which had swallowed her whole, mocked her distress with its tranquil lapping against the shore. She put her head between her knees, more to hide her face than to breathe easier.

“What’s going on?”

Nuru’s head snapped up. The ferocity of Strug’s expression, directed at Homero, softened when he switched his attention to her. She reached up to embrace him. He bent down to hug her.

Strug whispered, “It’s OK, baby.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I’ll take you back to the hammock and bring you some food.”

Her heart seized. “No, don’t leave me. Let’s go together.” She stood on shaky legs. Strug’s strong arm secured her.

“Take good care of our girl,” Homero said to Strug.

Strug’s arm flexed around her torso. “I got this.” He parted the crowd, divided the beats within the music, and made room for her to exist.

With slacken jaw and unfocused eyes, Nuru put one foot in front of the other within the protective bubble. The presence of her pendant comforted her. The surrounding commotion blurred by at a hundred kilometers per second as she drifted through it. Strug guided her to sit down and handed her a plato tipico.

His hands enveloped the sides of her face. “I’m going right over there to get lemonade. You can watch me the whole time, OK?”

She nodded. He kissed her forehead and joined the drink line.

“Aw that was sweet,” Lauren cooed, startling Nuru. “Damn girl, what the hell happened to you?” She sat down and picked debris out of Nuru’s hair. “Can I have some fries? Thanks.” She stuffed a few into her mouth.

“You…did…this…to…me.” Nuru’s words dragged out.

“Did what?”

“Tried to kill me. What did you mix in with that herb?”

Lauren screamed laughing. “Girl, if I wanted you dead, you wouldn’t be sitting here alive.”

Nuru broke a small piece of grilled meat and wrapped it into a torn piece of tortilla and nibbled.

“You definitely look like you’ve returned from the dead, though.” She helped herself to more fries. “Y’know that man of yours is something else.”

Hotness rushed through Nuru. Rapid blinking cleared the fog. “Is that what this shit’s about? You want my man?”

“Hmpf! Y’know I’ve learned the hard way that men are a dime a dozen. Money, on the other hand, that’s what makes things happen.”

“I don’t owe you anything.”

“That’s what you keep saying, but I don’t remember ever turning you away in your times of need.”

“So much for that. I ended up dropping out of college anyway.”

“All the education you need, you learned on the pole. We both did.”

Nuru shot a glance to Strug, who’d struck up a conversation with the other people in the drink line, then back to Lauren. “There aren’t any poles on this island.”

“Everything’s a pole. Haven’t you learned that by now, Miss College Dropout? There’s always pussy for sell.” She seductively circled a crisp French fry around her mouth before biting it in half and winking at Nuru.

Strug returned to the table with three large plastic cups of lemonade.

“Thanks. Just what the doctor ordered.” Lauren reached for a cup, gulped half of it down, and then stood up. “Well, I’m off to go with the flow. Catch you later.” She patted Nuru on the head and blew Strug a kiss.

 

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Retreat 2015

I’ve never worked for a school, business or organization that ever sprung for a retreat until now. Of course, the morning consisted of a series of workshops, which actually flowed by rather quickly. The first one was a 4-minute powerpoint presentation by a representative from each of the programs in our coalition.1 clay frogThe assistant program director with whom I work went first and ended exactly at the 4-minute mark with the video that I successfully embedded. Yet my second favorite presenter passed around a plastic bag, essentially representing “a mixed bag of tricks.” She invited us to pick out whatever we wanted.  I liberated a small canister of hot pink clay and immediately started rolling it in my palms to soften it up. As I worked the clay over, I reminisced about the days when I taught preschool and then molded the clay into a frog’s head just like I used to do back in the day.
2 my motivation drivers Then the executive director reviewed employee survey feedback about how the organization was doing 6 months after the merger. Most of the cherry-picked responses were positive, including one of my quotes.

Next, a motivation expert had us go through several motivation driver cards and methodically pick out six of them.  Once we were done, he asked us to kick out one card, then order the remaining five with the most important card on top.  “Autonomy” topped my list since it represented of the totality of everything I want out of life. The rest fleshed out my autonomous nature.3 Lake Marina

Ending exactly on time, we all made haste to a marina on Lake Travis–about an hour away.4 Lake Marina Totally worth it! This would be the closest to a beach I’d see this summer.5 Lake Marina

I’m glad that in my middle-agehood, I wear sensible shoes since the incline was no joke with trip-enhancing steep steps and loose gravel.6 party boat Our party boat was a double decker.7 drinking circle Once the boat started moving and we finished eating, most of us went above deck.8 scenic outlook I’d never been out on Lake Travis before. Friday was the only day predicted to rain–only 20%. Fortunately for us, the odds were in our favor.9 bee on my neckThis past Independence Day, I discovered the hard way I didn’t have a bee sting allergy. I blogged about how I still retained a healthy respect for bees and would continue using gentle, nonaggressive tactics to deal with them. Since I put that out into the universe, I was not surprised when a coworker warned me I had a bee crawling on my neck.10 bee in my hair I passed her my phone so she could take a picture. As she took pictures, she marveled at how calm I was, all the while panicking I’d be stung. The bee traveled along my neck, inches above my recent bee sting, behind and around my ear, which tickled, but I resisted. By this time, another coworker who sat on my right saw the bee walking along my scalp then upon my locks. I handed him my phone.11 bee in my hair At this point, I asked him to blow on the bee in order to get rid of it. Apparently the bee had a good toe hold into my locks. Moments later, the bee flew away, which was the best scenario since I’d thought it would drown once I slid into the lake.12 docking siteWe docked in a beautiful area, but had to wait a few tantalizing minutes before the slide was ready.
13 boat slide This picture does not exaggerate the steepness of the slide. I accelerated into the lake as if on a roller coaster. I’d slid down with a noodle around my shoulders, which served me well in the lake. Although I can swim, floating was so much better. Several coworkers chose to float and drink. We still got our exercise, thanks to the current. Since we all drifted out at the same rate, we didn’t notice how far we’d floated away from the boat until we looked.14 meEveryone noted how tiring swimming was.  Funny how kids never comment on such things! I was happy to continue my Friday tradition of wearing my bathing suit under my regular clothes.  Yet, we could have left an hour sooner since I truly jonesed for a nap. The smile shone here was absolutely genuine–we were headed back ashore.

 

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Beestung

Around the turn of the 21st century, a bee stung me. My entire right hand swelled. Mom recommended I make a paste out of meat tenderizer and put it on my affected hand, but a few sun salutations had a more dramatic effect. The extra fluid pulsed and coursed through my lymphatic vessels during that yoga warm up. My hand looked normal the next day.

Friends concluded I was allergic to bees. Without ever consulting a doctor for an allergy test, I believed I was allergic to bees. This first time had warned me. The next time would put me in anaphylactic shock.  I went to a drugstore to buy an epi-pen. I couldn’t believe that lifesaving device needed a doctor’s prescription.

Stubbornness prevented me from seeing a doctor. Instead, I’d spend the rest of my life avoiding bees. When among fools who weren’t allergic to bees, but chose to swat wildly at these insects, which ironically increased their probability of being stung, I sat very still and calmly, but firmly asked them to stop, explaining my allergy.

The only upside to fear is respecting the source. Whenever I was outside on a warm sunny day, I kept an eye out for bees. I stopped wearing perfume unless I was going out at night. I took a longer route to avoid visible bee activity. I gently blew them away when they landed near or on me.

Independence Day 2015 rolled around. One of my nieces had been visiting me for the week. We’d just left touring the LBJ Museum and started eating our burger, fries and malted shakes outside a local fast food joint. Absentmindedly, I brushed away something tickling my neck with one hand while holding my cheeseburger with the other. The scratch from my fingernail startled me. I inspected my nails and there weren’t any jagged edges. I rubbed the sore spot on my neck with growing awareness of what must have happened.

I asked my niece if she noticed any swelling on my neck. She didn’t. I breathed slowly and deeply, not wanting to alarm my little niece, while my mind raced. I casually looked up the symptoms of anaphylactic shock on my phone. Slow connection. I went to the bathroom to inspect my neck. No mirror.

Trying to sound normal, I told my niece I was going to the car to use the mirror. By this time, I saw a small red spot. The combination of heat and panic caused me to sweat. I felt a trickle between my breasts. I pulled my top out in order to wipe the sweat before it soaked my shirt and a bee flew out.

With visual confirmation, I gathered up my niece, hopped in the car and searched for a pharmacy. We never saw one until we reached the grocery store where I normally shopped. I walked a little faster than usual, making a beeline to the pharmacy.  Fortunately, there was no line.

The pharmacist on duty recommended taking two benadryls, but took an agonizing amount of time telling me how long anaphylactic shock would kick in. Apparently, 30 minutes was considered “rapidly.” Since I hadn’t started coughing nor experiencing breathing problems at that point, I started to rethink my alleged bee sting allergy.

For less than $2, I got far more benadryl pills than I ever hoped to need in this lifetime. I popped two prior to driving straight home to sleep off the drug-induced drowsiness. Before falling asleep, I thought of all the unfinished things in my life, my visiting 16-year old niece, all the years I’d lived with the fear of being stung by a bee…

Despite all the research I’d done about having a deadly reaction to bee stings, I’d never read that swelling around the sting area was a normal reaction. Until that day.

On Independence Day 2015, the US celebrated our 239th  freedom anniversary and I personally celebrated  independence from my paranoia over dying from a bee sting. I still respect bees. I still believe in a gentle response when one buzzes near me. I no longer fear them.

 

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What Are the Odds

Welcome back!

We are all winners! Born into this world already having defied tremendous odds. Don’t believe it? Consider this: healthy men can ejaculate between 40 million to 1.2 billion sperm cells and healthy women will ovulate between 300 to 400 eggs during their reproductive lifetime; so the fact that we’re all here means we’ve already beat incredible odds.

Still not impressed? How about out of all the 1700 planets that NASA scientists have discovered, only Earth has life? There’re only four others among them that scientists suspect may have the “Goldilock conditions” of liquid water, conducive atmosphere and a comfortable temperature to support life.

With the improbability of ever having popped into existence, all we have to do is keep the momentum going and make the most of this journey.

Odds are we’ll fall in love and have our hearts broken. We’ll say mean things in a fit of rage. Then apologize later in a fit of regret. We’ll cry for joy and due to sadness. We’ll breathlessly boast about our swashbuckling adventures and times that took our breath away.

We’ll experience déjà vu, motivating contemplation about past lives, third-eye clairvoyance and wormhole time travel. Other experiences will be what George Carlin called “Vuja de,” the eerie feeling that none of this shit is familiar.

We’ll defy some odds while trending within others. Thanks to the inviolable Law of Probability, smart criminals will eventually get caught and dumbasses will sometimes get lucky.

Throughout life, we’ll gamble, risk, advance, retreat—always toward a moving target with ever-changing odds. Circumstances in flux. As soon as we know the answers, the questions will change. As soon as we change, we will be questioned.

Navigate. Celebrate. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Always remember what it took the universe, time, space and the genetic probability of sexual reproduction to pop you into existence—for a limited time only.

Never allow anyone to make you feel bad about how old you are. The fact that you’re aging means you haven’t died yet. And while you’re still alive, live it to the fullest. Negotiating through life’s probabilities: health, financial, social, political, sexual, existential.

Everything’s merely a casino game of chance. Life’s not turned out the way you hoped? Perhaps you’re playing with trick dice, marked cards, or rigged slot machines. Or maybe you’re going for the nearly impossible. After all, there are only 4 ways out of a possible 2.6 million 5-card combinations to get a royal flush.

The real trick is playing the hand you’re dealt and the other players. How good is your hustle? Turn the music up loud get your hustle on!

 

 

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Maya’s Visit

Every time one of my nieces and nephews turns 16, he or she spends a week with me; so, Maya’s turn was up this summer. I asked her parents to fly her out around the Fourth of July since I’d automatically have Friday off. Maya arrived midday on a Tuesday and left way too early in the morning the following Tuesday. In between time, we had as much fun as we could squeeze in.

On the day she arrived, I’d planned to take her to a poetry slam and treat her to the Greek food trailer just outside the theatre since she’d not tried much Greek food, other than hummus and pita bread. Also, I wanted her to taste a little of the Austin food trailer culture. The first glitch in the plan kicked in when I saw a tight knit of outdoor tables and chairs where the trailer used to be. When we walked into the nearby restaurant, which had collaborated with the Greek food trailer, the bartender informed us that they’d moved a week or two ago.

We ended up walking to a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant and sharing two entrees. Even with the wait for a table and a newbie server (only the second black male server I’ve had in 6 years of living in Austin!), we made it to the poetry slam on time. Yet, this particular slam was a special event: Team Slam Poetry.  I’d never witnessed this before and Maya had never heard of this genre of poetry. We were both in for a treat.

The next glitch arose once we entered the theatre.  Not an empty seat to be found. Plus, there were buckets and rags arranged in strategic spots on the floor to capture the leaking water. Not daring to stand the whole time, I returned to the car to retrieve two lawn chairs. We set the chairs in an “empty” spot in the middle of the audience in front of the stage. The only reason no one was sitting there was the leaks. Yet, Maya and I helped prove that black people aren’t made of sugar after all. Besides, the dripping lessened as the show unfolded. The sheer entertainment value of the event distracted us from being dripped on.1 Maya @ Mt. Bonnell For her first full day, we drove out to Mt. Bonnell, the highest point in Austin at a mere 785 feet, in the morning before the heat turned up.2 Austin from Mt. BonnellThe cloud play enveloped Austin in a mythical haze.3 Another Mt. Bonnell view Thanks to the continued intermittent heavy rains, the verdant foliage framed the voluminous water beautifully.4 Maya @ Mt. Bonnell sign At the end of our hike, we came across the trailhead sign. 5 me @ Mt. Bonnell sign By approaching the hike from the end, we actually got a little more of an adventure than we would have by using the stairs.6 Maya on the stairs Yet those stairs were the stuff that inspired step aerobics and stair masters!7 Mt. Bonnell stairs Our heart beat out of our chest and sweat poured walking up and down those stairs–unlike any other part of walking along the trail.8 Maya @ Rudy's After working up such an appetite, we had lunch at one of my favorite barbecue places. I let our server know that Maya was an out-of-towner and she got the full welcome, including a sampling of the most popular items.9 brisket sandwich I’d texted her mother some pictures of our hike, thinking that we’d be spared the “Mommy call,” but once I’d texted her a picture of Maya biting into an extra moist brisket sandwich, she couldn’t resist calling!10 Maya @ Zilker After stuffing ourselves with brisket, creamed corn and banana pudding, the latter my niece actually thought would be as good as Nana’s (my mother’s), we strolled around Zilker Park.11 Maya's French toast Next morning, I transformed the leftover bread from Rudy’s into French toast, which I garnished with blueberries, strawberries and red apple slices.12 my French toast Maya didn’t want a side of brisket like me–she’s still got a lot to learn!13 Magic Mike marquee On Friday “we” went swimming. (Read: I swam a mile while she sat poolside reading a book except for a brief moment of treading water with me in the deep end.) Then we regrouped, binge-watched “Scandal” until it was time to see “Magic Mike XXL,” the perfect aunt-niece movie! I texted her mother this picture just before we both turned off our phones. Although the audience was allowed to be “rowdy” during the stripping scenes, I was one of the few hooting and hollering. Just goes to show how that theatre had done a terrific job with its “no talking or texting or you’ll be kicked out” policy.14 LBJ selfie Proving once again that selfies are overrated, we slowly baked in the Saturday morning sun, attempting to get this shot. At least she looks good. I’d never visited the LBJ library before. Fourth of July was one of its free admission days. I expected huge crowds, but we were the early birds around noontime. 15 Beatles display I didn’t realize the temporary exhibit would be The Beatles. This display showed a typical teenage girl’s bedroom, circa 1964.16 Abbey Road crossing Against her better judgment, Maya humored me for an Abbey Road pose.17 front of the bus She gladly humored me, sitting in the front of the bus, for a desegregation pose in another part of the LBJ museum. Among all of his accomplishments, LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Seeing the artifacts and reading this part of history made me proud of how far we’ve come in our 150 years of emancipation and 239 years of liberty.19 LBJ's limo I’m not into cars, but this classic limo was an exception, especially at this angle, showing the gift shop visitors must pass through in order to leave the museum.  Ever since I read The Design of Everyday Things, I no longer have a blind eye to such detail.

 

I’d debated taking Maya to a nearby park to watch fireworks, but we went to a poetry potluck instead, which featured artists who were veterans. For the first time ever, I heard the Declaration of Independence read aloud in its entirety. This was Maya’s first time hearing me read one of my pieces live. At least we saw some fireworks on the drive back home–some dangerously close to the street, prompting us to roll up our windows.20 Maya store On Sunday, Maya survived her first bikram yoga class. She’d done all the postures with me before, but never in the actual setting. We brunched at TNT afterwards, then headed down to S. Congress Street. I showed Maya her namesake store. 21 Maya window I asked one of the saleswomen if there were discounts for girls named “Maya,” which was apparently a common question. (The answer’s no.)

Later that night, I took Maya to her third poetry event. This was a pure open mic, which is always an interesting mixed bag of tricks, bombs and jewels throughout the night. The biggest dud turned out to be a very unfunny comedian, who’d approached one of my friends for pot prior to the show. Maya and I figured it must be the drugs that puts him in the mood to actually tell funny jokes.22 Maya doing jinga Maya couldn’t believe how  sore she was the next day after yoga. The best way to deal with soreness is more exercise! We attended a beginner’s capoeira class. Again, she’d done some moves with me before, but this was her first class. She picked up on the sequences much faster than I had in my first capoeira class.23 Sparing I partnered with her the whole time since I didn’t trust the other students to spar with her.  After all, sparring was how I broke my ankle nearly two years ago, which required 6 metal pins. 24 capoeira music Even though I no longer train capoeira, I still knew some of the students and enjoyed exposing Maya to this Brazilian martial arts and music.25 Maya playing panderoAfter class, Maya told me she hadn’t done any strenuous exercise like this since November! I didn’t feel too sorry for her.  She is 16, after all.

Far too early the next morning, I drove my little niece to the airport. She’d enjoyed herself, but was happy to catch up on her sleep and escape the Texas heat and humidity.

 

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Handmade Laundry Bag

JRP bag copy

Last Memorial Day weekend, we entered the fifth straight week of heavy rains, flooding and tornado watches. What a wonderful opportunity to craft!

Graduation season was right around the corner. I researched popular items to give a high school graduate and jumped on the opportunity to make personalized laundry bag for my niece. The plot thickened when I looked up the university she’ll attend in the fall and discovered the school colors were navy blue and white. I just so happened to have two navy blue full-size fitted sheets simply taking up space in my closet. Perfect!

Then I researched how to make a laundry bag. Everything I saw used a pillow case, which would have been tremendously easier–just my luck. Nonetheless, I modified the instructions to suit half a full-sized fitted sheet, bought two types of ribbon to make the draw string and three letter appliqués to iron on her initials. (Here’s one point where I saved myself a lot of time and trouble. I originally wanted to use more fabric I had in my closet to spell out her first name and sew them on.  I’m so glad I let that marinate!)

Since I didn’t own a sewing machine, but had a tremendous amount of time during that flooded-out Memorial Weekend, I divided the effort among all four days. Friday, I cut and meticulously pinned the sheet. Saturday, I backstitched the side and bottom of the sheet, forming a bag. Sunday, I pinned the broad, transparent ribbon three inches from the top. Then I sewed the sides of the ribbon, leaving the ends open to form a canal for the looped, narrower ribbon. Monday, I fed the narrow ribbon through the canal with the help of a safety pin and used a silver cord at both ends to help retrieve it when it would be inevitably “swallowed.” Finally, I ironed on the letters–twice.  The first time I forgot to take of the backing in order to expose the adhesive.

Tuesday morning, I stuffed it with three pillows and several large pieces of cloth to test it out and take a picture.  Unbelievable how much room remained for more dirty laundry.  This is a college student’s dream: to delay doing laundry until no clean underwear remains!

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Juneteenth 2015

1 group shot For a third year in a row, I reprised my role as newly emancipated slave, Mattie Gilmore. I always stress over the few lines I have to memorize, but this third time was truly a charm. The words flowed from my mouth like sacred enlightened water. I was joined by three other actors. We all received blurbs from “SLAVE NARRATIVES: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves.”(Read the Texas chapter here.)

2 the ladies I loved my grandma-from-little-red-ridinghood look, complete with bonnet and apron. At one point, that bonnet slowly trapped in so much heat, I became fuzzy-headed. The other actress reminded me of how nervous I’d been my first time, but she had her excerpt, which was at least four times as long as mine, printed out and she read it to the visitors. 3 soldier This guy, dressed as a soldier, insisted that his image was on the Juneteenth sign. I knew it couldn’t be, but humored him by taking his picture since that was behind the whole conversation.4 Emancipation sign In addition to vendors, character interpretations, book fair, and live stage performances, there was a dedication of Juneteenth statues in the back of the museum. Let freedom ring!5 Emancipation statues

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Ramen Noodles 2.0

Rediscovering that inexpensive college favorite, ramen noodles, has been an amazing culinary journey. I started quite innocently  sautéing garlic, red chilies and red onion in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Then I scooted them to the side, cracked an egg and scrambled it quickly with a wooden spoon until it was beautifully fluffy. Next I doused the skillet with a glass of water, turned the dial from “medium” to “high,” dissolved the flavor packet, brought the water to a boil and added the noodles.

I took the above process up a notch the day I substituted toasted sesame oil for EVOO. Originally, I’d bought the toasted sesame oil to make a dip. As that oil sat untouched for months after making the recipe once, I grabbed it to sauté some veggies for ramen noodles and I’ve not looked back since.

The incredible flavor and depth toasted sesame oil brings to ramen noodles just hasn’t grown old for me. I’ve tried it in many more different combinations than I have presented below.  Usually, I’ve just not bothered to take a picture of my plate before digging in.1 Asian veggiesFor this version, I used frozen Asian vegetable mix with baby corn, edamame, red peppers and string beans and of course a scrambled egg. The orange slices frame the meal as a dessert.
2 broccoli & cauliflower For a rare moment in my diet, I actually had both broccoli and cauliflower! They must have been on sale for me to have bought them that week.3 mango I know for a fact mangoes were on sale the week I bought them. After moving to Austin from Honduras, I boycotted buying these “expensive” fruits, which happen to be my favorite, since I had to pay more than a few pennies/nickels/dimes like I’d paid for them in Tegucigalpa. I rounded out my vegetable bouquet with my usual kale, red onions and carrots. As dark as this dish appears, I must have used a few tablespoons of peanut powder to add a more pad thai flavor to the dish.4 peaches & red cabbageAround this time,  small Texas peaches were in season. I love how their color contrasts with the red cabbage.5 oranges & red cabbageYes, another picture with red cabbage…a lesson learned: buying even the smallest head of cabbage means I’ll be eating it for nearly a month! I originally bought it to make a curried vegetable stir-fry for a potluck, but only ended up using about 1/4 of it for that delicious dish. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve had a wonderful time putting it in many other dishes along with my ramen noodle 2.0 creations, especially with these chopped navel oranges.

 

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