Sunday, July 29, 2007

LONE STAR PARK (or why my kids will never nickname ME Lucky)

If you're unfamiliar with Lone Star Park, it's a horse-racing facility in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Yesterday was Customer Appreciation Day (alternatively Employee Appreciation Day) at Lone Star Park. Em works there seasonally as an usher, and today is the last day of the summer season, with the Fall season starting sometime in October for a few months. The horses seem to move with the weather and the seasons, racing at tracks in different parts of the country at different times of year. It really starts to get too hot here in August, so the summer season shuts down at end of July.

I guess employees are encouraged to bring family on this day each year; I remember SOMETHING about it last year (Em's first year on this gig), but couldn't make it. This year I wanted to see what it was all about; I'd never been to a horse-racing track before. So, we drove in together early yesterday (2.5 hours before the first race) because employees need to be on hand before the gates open. I forgot my camera, but packed a puzzle book, magazine, some beer in a very small cooler with ice, a little money for betting, a smile, and walked confidently next to him through all the checkpoints without paying.

He introduced me to many of his employee cohorts before showing me where I could sit and watch the races under a broad canopy of sorts. I was concerned that I'd be kicked out as the interloper I was, but he assured me that HE was the one who kicked people out (in HIS section, of course). Some early patrons soon told me that the canopy was great for keeping off the sun but that we'd get drenched if it rained. It not only didn't rain, but there was a breeze all afternoon.

I was fascinated by the view of the track area, and arriving early gave me a little insight into how many people Horse Racing employs. Between the people who dust the seats, water the foliage, serve the food, collect the trash, mow the field, smooth the track, etc ... to those who train, breed, ride and care for the horses, ... horse racing employs hundreds of people. The place is beautiful. The bleachers slant down to where the track starts, and it's a (finely combed) fenced track of dirt kept at just the right combination of dirt and water, unless of course rain changes that. Behind the dirt track is a fenced grassy area where some people looked to be exercising some horses early in the day. Behind THAT is a narrow body of water with shooting fountains, and behind THAT is marshy-looking foliage. Then there's grass, fence, track, fence as the oval completes itself. Bleachers are only on one side, because the billboards only face one way:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Someone really does play a horn to announce the "doodly-do-to-do" before each race (in a tux and a tophat): Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I met several of Em's "regulars" yesterday. They're the folks who treat horse-racing much like my cousin, Jim, treats ballooning. They're interested in the sport, maybe even married into the sport (one gal was the wife of a jockey), or owners of horses who run. I saw the same comradery with the race track people as I saw with the ballooning people.

Of course, I bet on every race (until we left). $2.00 each on maybe 6 or 7 races, and I lost every single time except one (when Em suggested that I bet on a horse because the owner was one of his regulars). I won $.80 cents over my bet on that one. lol. Lucky (my mom) could intuitively bet based on a name, a color...ANYTHING. She didn't pass that gene on to me; just lettin' y'all know.

I had fun, though. The people-watching was GREAT, Betsy (one of Em's regulars) is a fellow cheapskater, so we exchanged phone numbers and chatted a bit, and then Helen arrived maybe mid-afternoon. Helen came to our Climate Party. Unlike ME, Helen had great luck. She pretty much went with red the whole way and won every race until we all left. That reminds me...color (on the racing program) is a little confusing. was confusing TO ME because I was a little bit stupid about it all. Every horse has a number and color assigned to it. Color references the blanket on the horse. I kept looking for the jockey to be wearing something of the color I chose, but never found it. It took 3 races for me to realize that the number and color were the same on every race. lol. So, Helen bet on horse #1 (red) for several races and won something each time. She didn't pick the horses, necessarily, however, based on the number or color. She did on the first bet, but then she got interested in their names and the names that appealed to her just happened to coincide with #1, red. <-- That's the kindof stuff Lucky could do that I can't do.

So, today's the last day of work for Em until October some time and tomorrow early we leave for Shreveport because Em's ready for a little fun. He's not allowed to bet, smoke, drink, or anything at the racetrack because he's an employee. So, now he's on vacation and he can go wild at a Shreveport casino. He won't go wild, but it sounded good, didn't it?

In other news, the car that No. 1 has been driving is considered irreparable and we're going to replace it using the insurance money (we HOPE). Until this morning we thought the best bet would be a Daewoo Leganza SX 1999, sold by a friend of her friend, Patrick. Then, he called to suggest that he didn't want to be held responsible if the car didn't live up to expectations and we're wondering, "What does he know that he's not telling us?" We're gonna worry about that Wednesday, though and have a few days of fun. Last day on the rental car is Friday, so we can't play too long. I don't know whether to curse Patrick or thank him.

Also in other news, I learned that our water bill isn't just for water. Em saved all the utility bills while I went off to play with my kids and water is just a small part of our bill each month. I think we used 2 TGAL (which I assume is thousand gallon). Each TGAL is something like $4.50, so our water bill was $9.something. However, grey water processing was something like $10.00 (a constant), there were sewer costs (cheap at twice the price because our neighborhood hasn't seen ANY flooding in the monsoons that have hit North Texas lately), and garbage costs. Add to all that taxes and we pay something like $35.00/month for ??water??. Saving a half bucket of water while the shower reaches temperature is a minute saving. I do it, but...STILL.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Home Again! I love my kids!

My trip to Illinois was VERY GOOD! On a scale of 1-10, it ranked up there with maybe a 9 or something. Some days I just feel happier than a fly on a manure pile and I wonder why one woman should be so blessed as to have such good luck in life. Our first day there, we ran errands which included a trip to IKEA. Their salmon meal is to die for, but I bought some cheap ($1.49) IKEA cloth bags for No. 2, Jen (her roommate) and myself while there. You get extra points for noticing the IKEA bag hanging from my shoulder in the pics. You ALSO get your name entered into a $30.00 grocery prize drawing if you bring your IKEA bag to Trader Joe's. (You get that for refusing their bagging in favor of ANY bag you brought, but we got it later in the week when I brought the IKEA bag). No. 2 and I spent the next night at the HI-Chicago. We made it to the Farmer's Market that's about 150 feet from her apartment before we left, missed kite-flying, but got downtown early enough to walk to the Museum of Contemporary Art via a round-about path through the Cultural Center where we lunched listening to a fair local band play. Continuing North, we passed the old Water Tower. There's quite a nice outdoor rotunda beside the Water Tower, so we took the opportunity to rest my "dogs" on a bench and sip from a water fountain. I wore shoes thinking we might go bicycling on the lake and these feet of mine hadn't seen gym shoe abuse in years, I think. The blisters are just now abating, as I wore those shoes the whole 9 days I was there. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket The Museum of Contemporary Art was right by the Water Tower and Tuesday was "free day", so we stopped in to view their latest exhibit. It wasn't really our "cup of tea", but there was one exhibit that appealed to me: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket The above photo resulted in a security guard rushing over to chastise us for taking a photo of the exhibit with extra chistisement for TOUCHING the thing (which I did, and I knew I shouldn't, so color me guilty.) No. 2 is really fond of Navy Pier's offerings, so (since we were so close) we decided to continue our walk to include that. We took a boat ride on the "Anita Dee". Heh. On that boat ride, we learned that the Water Tower was one of very few buildings left in Chicago after (heheh) Mrs. O'Leary's Cow burned down the whole city. Made sense, seeing as it wasn't made of wood like most of the rest of Chicago.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket After that we walked over to the Rainforest Cafe, where No. 2 treated me to their version of a hamburger with ANOTHER beer. The food's not great there, but the environment is interesting: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket The animals made noises, moved around, and it was a little like being at Chucky Cheese's for a kid's birthday party, IMO (and the birthdays abounded on the day we were there...just getting the pic of the elephant meant I was surrounded by a spontaneous burst of song & joy at a nearby table). The next day we met my friends downtown for the most exquisite pizza in the world at Exchequer's Pub. I don't like to think of myself as an over-eater (and you can just stuff the comments about the belly seen on the Anita Dee photo above), but I think I ate at least 1/4 of that pizza MYSELF! It was SO good! Thanks, Dave and Robert! There's no good pizza in Texas, IMO. No. 2 took us for pizza later in the week at Fox's and there's no good pizza in Illinois outside of Exchequer's, either, IMO. That was SO good! UHH! We ran off the Exchequer pizza by hustling north again to Navy Pier. No. 2 had the notion to see Cirque Shanghai at 2pm, and we'd left the SOUTH loop area at @1:20. We made it into the show at 2:10. Outside daytime Cirque shows just aren't the same. Of course they don't COST as much as the traveling nighttime (more magical) Cirques, so we "got what we paid for". Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Good enough! We hung around Navy Pier long enough to peruse the shops: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket and check out the art exhibits: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket We walked back to the car via the lake route, traveling inland only to accommodate a stop at my Alma Mater to take a picture from the Student Lounge: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket The rest of the trip was spent further south and west of Chicago, closer to No. 2's abode. After that day, No. 2 and I went to her gym, got her passport application sent in, and did a bunch of other things, but (mostly) I spent time with my son (No. 3). He's not as willing to have his picture plastered all over the internet or his activities mentioned, so I'm gonna end the trip report here. Doesn't mean I didn't have a good time with him (because I DID). He whooped our butts in a game of Risk 2210 (or something like that). You got anything, No. 2? While I was gone, No. 1 child had the unfortunate experience of a drunk driver plowing into her car. Em went to look at the damage this morning and he thinks it's fixable. She needs reliable transportation to finish school (which starts pretty soon). PPFFT! I forgot to mention the Navy Pier environmental exhibit. There are many earth replicas (all different and each sporting a separate environmental concern). Here's No. 2 posing at the one we thought most photogenic: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Live Earth (What a wonderful evening!)

Last night was the event mentioned previously called Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket I think I also mentioned that I'd volunteered to host a Climate Party in our home for MoveOn.Org. We'd never done anything like this before and weren't sure what to expect, so took some prudent precautions to ensure that SOME things weren't just out laying around, but after the folks left we laughed at our concerns. I don't think you could meet 14 strangers nicer than these, and they brought GREAT food and drink!

Most everyone brought their own plate, glass, utensils, and I'd thought to run the dishwasher so they could take everything home clean, but there was more food to eat and then dessert to eat and seemed like I couldn't keep more than 4 plates in the dishwasher (which would be a waste of energy to run). So, some washed their stuff at the sink and some took their stuff home dirty, but Em and I had only OUR dishes to clean, a very small bag of garbage for the dump and a recycling bin full of beer bottles. I LOVE liberals! I'd ask them all to come again next weekend just because I'd like to spend more time with them, but I leave for Illinois tomorrow and won't be back for 10 days.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Thanks for a great evening, all of you, and expect to be invited back soon!

In other news, as I just said, I'm leaving to spend 9 days with No. 2 early tomorrow morning. Finally printed off my itinerary for Em this morning at his insistence (lol), and got our laundry hung outside. No. 1 is coming this afternoon for a boggle or 20, so I need to get important things (and unimportant things) done while I still have a semi-working brain. She's also gonna take Ekans over to Dave's when she leaves here today. She has a designated driver (with a truck) this time because last time I wouldn't let her leave. Ekans is really hungry, I think, but his activity may be because of the humidity with me leaving the windows open and turning off the AC.

BTW, we DID turn on the AC for the party last night. It was still pretty warm in the house, but 16 people create a certain amount of heat.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Solar Cooking. I won't be doing that.

Sure sounded like a good idea, didn't it? The kids helped me create a cardboard box solar cooker a few years back, but it never did more than make baking soda biscuits hard. The temperature never got as high as was needed to actually "cook" things. I've heard folks talk about successes with them, and I say, "Good for you!", but I won't be. Looks like the "This is where we draw the line in the sand on these environmental things" begins. Sun Tea Is Unsafe to Drink.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Humor or Tragedy? When is enough enough?

This Saturday, 7/7/07, two billion people around the world will rally for a solution to the climate crisis. They'll gather at concerts on seven continents and at over 6,000 parties from Alabama to Zimbabwe. It's a gathering for Live Earth, a historic music-filled event to raise awareness and demand real solutions to the climate crisis. MoveOn members are joining the party. In thousands of living rooms, coffee houses, bars and back yards, we'll tune into the global broadcast. We'll also watch a special preview of presidential candidates answering MoveOn members' questions on the climate. We'll have a barbeque or potluck together, too. It's the biggest party the planet has ever needed. But Saturday's just the beginning. That night, we'll discuss how we can all work together on next steps for a clean energy future. We're holding this event with our friends at Campaign for America's Future, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in order to bring you all the best information and ideas about solutions. And, we'll start to make change the next day with our online vote on the presidential candidate with the best climate plan. Tens of thousands of MoveOn members will speak at once about what our country needs to deal with the climate crisis!

For more on the insanity of this administration, click HERE..

Sunday, July 01, 2007


It's the beginning of Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Finished weeding the garden yesterday (as though weeding the garden is ever FINISHED). Don't even get many WEEDS, but the grass we grow here extends itself underground. If you were grass trying to survive in the Texas heat, YOU'd extend yourselves underground, as well. Makes for nice lawns, but gardens growing alongside these nice lawns are another story.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket I'm not growing much this year until fall. Summers have been just too damn hot to grow much in recent years here. THIS year we've had RAIN, RAIN, and more RAIN, but Who Knew THAT would happen?

The two tomato plants I bought at Home Depot when we went to order the storm/screen door are extremely healthy looking, and I was eyeing the fence behind them, which is old enough to have some of the fence nails poking out, thinking, "I bet I could maintain the perpendicular-ness of these tomato plants just by hooking a little butcher twine on one of those nails & then making a necklace to grab the tomato plant. Think that would work? I have butcher twine, so that would fit into my zero dollar vegetable garden budget (which already went astray by buying the 2 tomato plants). I refuse to buy/make cages and stuff because I don't want to store them when not in use. Only other things growing are volunteers from last year's plantings and a few things I started inside. I might add that the tomato seeds mentioned previously started inside never made it past the two leaf stage after WEEKS. I’ll probably stick them outside in the dirt somewhere (or on the compost) just because I’m tired of seeing them on my windowsill. There are two pepper plants out there who got the same treatment. They’re still alive, but I’ll believe it when I see something fruit on them.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Sprinkled around an assortment of seeds after weeding. Lettuce, chard, spinach, escarole, arugula, basil, parsley, dill, mustard greens, catalogna, and purslane (Thank you, Diane!). Can't have tomatos without the greens to go with them, right? I knew it was going to rain again soon because the flies were biting like crazy and it did, so they all got soaked into the soil. I'm only using 7/8 of the garden along the fence right now for growing. The remaining eighth is composting. Seriously. I decided not to spend any money on fancy composting contraptions and now just dump my garbage on top of the grass that's growing where it shouldn't be growing, cover it with grass I've pulled from other places where it shouldn't be growing and let the Texas sun and rain do their magic. We have worms galore now! I'll take a spade to that area after I get back from Illinois, turning it over to get the other side.

Speaking of Illinois, that's coming up soon. I'm gonna spend the whole 9 days (July 9 thru 18) with No. 2 unless we can spend one night at the hostel in downtown Chicago. She said it would be okay as long as I didn’t paint any of her walls with milk paint. There were a lot of kinks in the trip planning this year, so some options were no longer available by the time I heard back from people. One option is the hostel. I LOVE the HI-Chicago. It's centrally located in downtown Chicago and a great place to stay, IMO. I've Emailed the manager at HI-Chicago (at least who was the manager LAST year) to see if No. 2 and I can stay there on the night of the 10th. I'll be meeting two friends downtown for lunch on the 11th (wave to there ya go), so it would be easier if it's possible.

Em'll be working almost EVERY day this week because of the holiday. I made him some snack bars (as part of my experimentation program) to give him more energy. The protein bars turned out to be VERY tasty (and almost 90% protein), but he's still coming home and falling asleep almost immediately. He says it's the heat that wears him down. <-- and then he comes home to a woman who refuses to turn on the AC! We DO have a GREAT cross-breeze now with the new storm/screen-door at the front and the windows at the back, though. I have no idea why we waited so long to get that door. Just didn't think about how to cool off the place naturally, I guess. We still need more ceiling fans, but ... in good time.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Also made granola and granola BARS. The granola BARS weren't NEARLY as tasty as the protein bars, so I'll look for another recipe if I decide to make those again. The granola wasn't as good as some I've made in the past, either, so I'll look for another recipe for that, too. I think we have a keeper, though, in the protein least taste-wise. There aren’t enough to sustain him while I’m gone, so he can purchase his favorite Kellogg strawberry bars to tide him over. I suspect he’ll sigh in relief over that.

Tried to take a few photos, but the batteries from the rechargeable battery thingee don’t seem to be doing anything. Update: Still can't get those to recharge, but some old dead regular batteries sitting around waiting for recycle seemed to work.

On the teeth thing, Heather, I still HAVE teeth because of my dad’s genes. Diane and I have shared dentist stories for a while now, and I suspect she’ll be here soon to share another with you. I don’t think I can blame Lucky’s genes for my 5 cavities, though. I suspect that I’m to blame for that as in “not consuming enough calcium”. As a post-menopausal woman, I should be consuming calcium like there’s no tomorrow, but I haven’t been doing that. I think both Em and I went through a stretch where we thought milk upset our stomachs (lactose intolerant). PFFT! In the last week I’ve eaten granola with milk for breakfast, had a yogurt “chaser” a few hours later and then a whole glass of milk with lunch (sandwich with CHEESE). NO upset stomachs! I ordered a yogurt maker yesterday, BTW. Don’t know if it’ll arrive before or after my trip, though.

Thinking about lack of calcium, I’ve suffered almost this whole week from a stiff neck and upper back ache. My neck is STILL tight! What’s wrong here? I think, “Maybe this is what those women felt/experienced a few days before they found themselves with the Dowager’s humps.”

Last, but not least, our Move-On Climate Party will be this coming Saturday night (July 7). The Move-On folks suggest that you invite friends, family, neighbors, etc. beforehand, but I figured nobody would be interested and I received confirmation from that today by asking my neighbor across the street. He’s a trucker and says he’s a right-winger, but he also said that he’d relay the info to his wife (because he might be on the road again and ANY party might be a good one for HER).

I need to remember to get that pork out of the freezer in time to pull it. I already made a test batch of iced tea (Southern-style), but I don't think Em's tasted it yet because he falls asleep as soon as he gets home from work.