Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring Break

(It's bluebonnet season)

We've been wanting to take a fabu family vacation for about a year now. We realize that the time we have with our boys is just about over. Yeah, yeah, they'll be home for visits, but in a year or so we won't be living together as a family anymore.

So, get this. Over dinner last year we asked them if there was someplace in the world they'd like to see. Anywhere! Name it. This could be our last family trip and we were feeling generous. They both barely mumbled, "I don't know. No place. Whatever." See what fools teenagers are? When pressed, we finally got them to admit there was no place in the world they wanted to go, "with their parents."

I haven't completely ruled out some great get-away in the next year, but for now, we've been making the same old trips we've always made. This Spring Break was no exception.

Let's just get this out of the way. My husband's a hunter. I hate hunting and have been waiting these past twenty-some-odd years for him to get it out of his system. We used to fight about it, but it's no use. He's a careful, smart hunter and only kills what he plans to eat, so I gave up long ago.

There's something primal about his desire to hunt. I'm not kidding. He fills the freezer with deer meat, fish and turkey and announces, "That'll get us through the winter." Meanwhile, you can find me using the "Little House on the Prairie" books for recipe ideas. (My apologies to anyone who has heard me tell that joke before. I like it.)

My husband took (kidnapped?) me and my son, Jamie, out to his deer lease for a couple of days last week. (A deer lease is a piece of land you kind of "rent" from the land owner for the privilege of hunting there) Don't worry, we weren't going there to kill anything except a case of beer. (ba-dum-pum!) We keep a camper on the lease, so at least we wouldn't be sleeping in tents.

The camp in the middle of the land owner's ranch is a five hour drive west from Houston, past San Antonio, down a paved road, through a locked gate and down a winding dirt road in the middle of nowhere:

Boy, was I bummed.

Enjoying the great outdoors is all well and good as long as there's a Starbucks nearby. I was miserable. Maybe I was tired. Maybe it was hormones. Or maybe it was the fact that before I put our dog, Henry, on his leash my husband said, "Watch out for rattlesnakes!" All I could think was what the heck am I doing here?

Later, as we sat around the fire, my husband shared stories about the other guys who go out there to hunt. "Some of them drink A LOT when we come in at night," he said. I thought to myself, "Of course they do-it's because this SUCKS!" That night I decided to take up drinking.

I felt better about the place in the morning. The camper is very comfortable (and bug-free), it has electricity and running water. The guys let me sleep in while they went fishing and when they came back...wait for it husband cooked breakfast! *angels singing*

Some interesting facts about the deer lease:

1. It's stocked with exotic animals (in addition to the local deer) like Oryx,


axis deer, sika deer, fallow deer, black buck antelope, aoudad sheep, muflan sheep and red stag.

2. It's 30 miles from the Mexican border. I wanted to go to Mexico for lunch, but everyone else preferred to avoid a gastrointestinal episode.

3. There's a deer blind nicknamed "The Hotel" because many illegal aliens have used it to sleep in on their way into the US. No one knows how they found it.

(This is just an example of a deer blind)

4. It used to have a runway for private jets to land on until drug smugglers started to use it. Now there are railroad ties on it so no one can land.

(This is just an example of a runway)

5. It is five miles from an active movie set. "No way!" you say. Way! A replica of The Alamo was built there for John Wayne's movie oddly titled, "The Alamo". There's also an old western town built nearby. These sets have been used for movies, documentaries, commercials and music videos.

Saturday morning after a fabulous meal of breakfast tacos (egg and potato in a flour tortilla), we took off for civilization to check out Alamo Village (the afore mentioned movie set):

Oh no! My son has fallen in a well!

(He's a good sport.)

That afternoon, we took a drive to look at the exotic animals:

We also saw a few Reyes (I'll have to check the spelling later, folks, I'm in a hurry! In fact, there are all sorts of errors that will surely drive Julie crazy. ha!),

an armadillo, a snake and a flying turkey. Yes, Virginia, turkeys can fly. I didn't know that.

All in all, it wasn't a bad weekend. I think I enjoyed it. My husband commented that I'd have to go back sometime. Haha! He's funny.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

American Idol Contract

I've never been a big fan of American Idol. I've seen a show here and there but usually wind up bored. I stumbled into the middle of season five and was blown away by Taylor Hicks. I have cast only one vote ever in connection with the show, and it was for Hicks the night he sang "Trouble". Gorgeous.

Despite his obvious talent, he was labeled the underdog but went on to win the whole damned thing in the end.

Now that I'm a fan of TH, I've been curious about that American Idol contract. I had no clue what a closely guarded secret that sucker is. But I did find some info from 2002 that gives me an idea of how tight those AI reins are on the winner.

The following are excerpts from:

Slaves of Celebrity
Sep 18, 2002
by Eric Olsen

"Kelly Clarkson has a golden future, right? Maybe so. But the 'American Idol' winner and her fellow finalists had to sign virtually their entire careers away to the show's producers for one shot at stardom.

Clarkson and the other finalists signed an unusually onerous contract with 19 Group, the production company headed by British pop entrepreneur Simon Fuller. These young performers are wrapped up for recording, management and merchandising under the most restrictive terms imaginable: Their careers are literally not their own.

Since 19 and Fox have declined to respond to questions about their contract with Clarkson and the other finalists, or the extent to which they control their careers, perhaps the best place to look is the public record.

According to the version of the contract one entertainment lawyer posted to the Internet, Fuller and his company own the names, likenesses, voices and personal histories of the 'Idol' finalists, 'in or in connection with' the show, forever. 19 Group can use that material however it wants, even if it's false, embarrassing or damaging.

If contestants reveal anything to anyone about the workings of the show or the contract they signed, they're liable for damages 'in excess of $5 million.'

Kenneth Freundlich, a prominent Los Angeles entertainment lawyer who has examined the 14-page contract that was presumably signed by all the 'American Idol' contestants, says, that Clarkson and her fellow finalists are 'surrounded by what appears to be the worst rendition of the industry, after being voted on by a public with no knowledge of the story within the story.' How many of the millions of viewers who voted for Clarkson or any other contestant, he wonders, would willingly have signed their own sons and daughters up for such a career of music-industry servitude?"

So it's rumored that Hicks wasn't dropped by the label, rather he was able to get out of his contract, opting for more creative freedom.

I give him a lot of credit for standing up for musical integrity. I've said before that being unwilling to just shut up and do as you're told will make you an unpopular guy. But it makes me want to support his career even more. He's fighting to create music that MEANS something, that's about more than money.

Watch for his next CD and give the guy a chance. It seems to me the fight for the underdog isn't over yet.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Taylor Tuesday

This clip of Taylor Hicks impersonating himself is a son-of-a-b to find, but I persevered and found it just for you! Actually, truth be told, the administrator of righthickssave.wordpress found it for me. She is a font of photo fun. I wanted to embed the video here, but will have to settle for providing you the link. It's SO worth the extra clicks!

Enjoy this hard to find clip of Taylor on "Last Call With Carson Daly" (DivX file, 79 MB) — credit to Phantom for the capture.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

While Making Other Plans

My beloved Dad died five years ago on March 17th. I can't believe it's been five years. We're a close family, but I never knew how unusual that was until Dad's wake and funeral. So many people commented on that-even the funeral director!

I remember when my Mom was told it was time to take one last look at Dad at the wake because they were ready to close the casket. Mom, me and my three sisters went up together, arms around one another, and said a quiet prayer. I was the last one to walk away, squeezing his arm one last time.

I guess the sight of his girls looking into the casket together made on impression on people. Some said it was lovely the way we supported one another.

When I got back from NY, this is the column I wrote for my paper:

Life became unreal the moment I hung up the phone. Stunned, I repeated the words I'd just heard to my kids and husband.

"Grandpa's doctor said he won't survive the operation. There's nothing more they can do."
I already had tickets to fly up the next day to be with my family. We had been told earlier in the week that if my Dad didn't have this surgery, he would die.

Dad had been in and out of the hospital for the last few years and wound up with a staph infection, which had attacked his heart. A specialist, who dealt with high-risk patients, had been scheduled to remove a heart abscess. We felt hopeful.

Now with a phone call, all hope was gone. Looking at my open suitcase, I realized that I should include something black. This wasn't supposed to happen, I thought.

Images of a younger, stronger man interrupted my sleep that night: Dad playing cards, Dad walking the dogs, Dad coming home and lifting me high into the air.

The next morning, I floated through the airport, found a seat alone and tried not to think. Eventually we boarded. Then the ground was falling away and puffs of clouds rushed by my window. Though I hate to fly, I was so numb that I forgot to be afraid.

Hours later, as we began our descent, we flew straight down the middle of Manhattan, an approach I'd never taken before. I felt like a character in a movie cruising by the Empire State Building in a private jet. Was I dreaming? How could a sight be both thrilling and depressing?

My sister picked me up and, though it was late, took me straight to the hospital. Dad seemed somewhat alert, eyes open, mouth mumbling words in answer to our questions.

He was moved to a hospice the next day. Mom, my three sisters and I spent every moment possible with him. Mom even spent the night, watching his labored breathing. Next day, we continued to hold his unresponsive hands as his favorite music played. We laughed as we reminisced with each other, prayed with him, and told him we loved him.

A little before noon, we were asked to leave the room so the nurse could bathe him. He quietly slipped away just moments after we were gone. He knew he had our love, our thanks and our permission to quit the fight. Lucky man.

The dream continued through the crowded wake and quiet funeral, moving in slow motion, one step in front of the other. The day flowed like the procession of cars I rode in, like trudging in deep water; wanting to run with heavy, earth bound legs.

Then a house of sympathetic faces, the smell of flowers and a pile of food. Another flight among the clouds (Dad? Are you there?) And now I'm home.

There's laundry to be done, Little League tonight and a deadline looming. Responsibility pinched me to my senses. Did it really happen?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Less blogging, more writing!

I'll probably start blogging only every other day for a while. I don't know how my fellow blogger, C&W does it, but she did say once that she never sleeps! (Check out her blog, she's brilliant. I have a link over on the left somewhere. It's called "Chicken and Waffles".)

I'm throwing the "schedule" out the window, except for "Taylor Tuesday". I enjoy writing that. In fact, I have what may be a killer entry in the works for this coming Tuesday, so be looking for that.

The reason I need to cut back is because I'm starting a writing class soon. Last year, when I was fortunate enough to make so many trips, I realized how much I enjoy discovering new places. I'm taking a course on Travel Writing. I think I can pull off the writing part, but they're supposed to teach me how to sell what I write. We'll see.

I'll still be here, just not every day. Love ya!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Taylor Tuesday

As I write this, I must confess that I don't have Taylor on my mind. I'm thinking about The Boss!! Woo-hoo!

OK, I'm good now. My sister and her husband are at a Bruce effing Springsteen Concert in NY as I speak (type). I've never seen Bruce in concert. And I love him. LOVE him.

My sis and I were wondering how many more chances we're going to get to see the man live. He is coming to my area, but the only seats left suck big time. Damn, I need to think about this.

But, back to Taylor. LOVE him. I've got plenty of love for everyone, don't you worry. So, since my mind is on Bruce Springsteen this Taylor Tuesday, hows about we revisit "Dancing in the Dark" sung by Mister TH himself on that dreadful show, American Idol:

I'll give you the details of Bruce's show when I get them from my sister. Tell me, have you seen The Boss live?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Music Monday


We headed back to Gail's lake house this weekend to help finish the dock, but this time we brought reinforcements. Joe and Sue met us there. We've known them since Greg's first year with his company, but none of us can remember how Joe and Sue met Gail. We all have mutual friends and show up at lots of the same events, but we can't pinpoint when or where the friendship began.

Gail goes out of her way to show her appreciation for our help by cooking fabulous meals and plying us with liquor. Ha! That's a joke because Joe gave up alcohol for Lent and I gave it up years ago for health reasons (I get frequent migraines).

Saturday evening Gail mentioned that she has a margarita maker and asked if anyone was interested. Greg and Sue thought it sounded like a delicious idea and I decided maybe I could have one. Just one.

We all watched in rapt silence as the frozen concoction whirled around in the blender. Gail salted the rim of the first cobalt blue glass and handed it to Sue. Sue turned around and gave it to me. I think I saw a tear run down Joe's face.

I took a sip. It was smooth, frozen, limonicky goodness. Greg took a sip of his and said, "Oh man, I'm going to have to be careful. This tastes too good." I should have listened to him.

We took our drinks out on to the deck to look out at the water and within minutes I was drunk. One margarita. No kidding. I started some nonsensical debate about patio furniture. Big stuffed cushions vs no cushions at all? A couch and chairs vs a dining table and chairs? I wouldn't let it go. We HAD to figure out the best option!

Luckily, Gail called us in to eat. By the way, look at this incredible redfish she prepared for us. It's spread with green pesto and then covered with roasted pecans. Gail cooked it on the grill on cedar planks. How 'bout that? Didn't I tell you she's a great cook?

So we gathered at the table and our glasses were refilled. I let mine sit until the green slush melted into a watery liquid. I spent the entire meal trying to pretend I wasn't feeling the alcohol. I don't think I spoke at all. I have no idea, but nobody laughed or yelled at me, so I think I conducted myself in an appropriate manner. But I can't explain this photo:

OK, OK! Hold yer comments. That's obviously not me. I have better legs. (in my dreams!)

Oh, a footnote. No migraine the next day. Yeah!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Kemah Boardwalk

Last weekend my husband and I found ourselves with a free day. No soccer games, no painting projects, no nothin'. Since I know how annoying my husband can be when he has nothing to do...I mean... since we rarely have a whole day to ourselves, I racked my brain for some outing we both could enjoy. The weather was nice, so we wanted to get outside and walk around someplace fun.

About an hour's drive from our house is a little place called The Kemah Boardwalk. There are restaurants, shops, an arcade, rides and, oh yeah, a boardwalk. We decided to head out there to walk around, look at the boats and have a nice lunch.

Before we go on, there's something you need to know. This is something we NEVER do. Sure, if we have out of town company, we hit every tourist attraction in a fifty mile radius. But go off to some entertainment emporium and spend money on ourselves? Unheard of! Shocking!

Well, we threw caution to the wind and did it anyway. That's right, you heard me.

We walked...

and we walked...

and then, um, what did we do? Oh yeah, we walked some more!

Finally, we stopped for some lunch at Joe's Crab Shack.

Stealing a page from Jennifer's blog ("Valley Victuals". Link over there on the right-->) , I took photos of our meals while my husband showed incredible patience!

I had this fabulous crawfish etoufee:

Greg enjoyed the fish n' chips:

We savored our meals while watching the boats cruise by:

Have you seen enough boats? Too bad, here's some more:

After lunch we didn't play any games...

and we didn't go on any rides...

but we found a Starbucks (*angels singing*) in the shade of the rollercoaster, so the day was complete:

Those of you coming for my Big Birthday Extravaganza in September will get to experience Kemah first-hand, so make sure you pack some comfy shoes (and money for Starbucks).

Project Runway Finale

And the winner is...


Stoneface Beckham was the celebrity judge this week. Sitting in my den, I couldn't decide which designs I preferred. I liked them all. I don't know how the judges came to a conclusive decision.

I love that we saw a bit of self-doubt peek through Christian's usual bravado. After he got a glimpse of Rami and Jillian's collections, he said he wasn't feeling as confident as he usually is. And as he waited with Rami for the final verdict, he had a tough time holding it together. His lip quivered, his eyes teared.

But of course, the old Christian returned after he was pronounced the winner and had a moment to cry it out. Tim asked him, "Can you believe it?" Christian replied, "Yes."

Check out all the fierce designs from the runway here:

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

American Idol Is Not What It Pretends To Be

Those of you enamored with American Idol need to be aware that the competition is meaningless. Don't spend hours voting for your favorite performer because it won't matter in the end. Producers of the show already know who they're going to force into the nation's ears once the show has come to an end.

This was never more obvious than after season five. Taylor Hicks was America's choice, but the contestant who came in fourth received more backing by the record label than Hicks. In the music business it takes more than a quality product to sell millions of CDs. It takes money to bring that product to the attention of the consumer.

From 1/07/08:

"American Idol' winner Taylor Hicks is splitting from Arista. Hicks has decided to record his next album on his own. He said he signed his 3-year deal straight out of Idol because it was all he could get, and at that point he had no reason to turn it down. He said he'll continue to hustle to get more gigs, and he'll be releasing another album in 2008, and hopefully go on tour."

And the first comment:

"Mr. Hicks was not dropped by his label, as has been widely reported over the past couple of days. His lawyers were able to get him removed from his contract for a variety of reasons, including breach of contract and failure to comply with promised promotion, among other things. Mr. Hicks has agreed not to reveal the terms of the separation for a specific period of time. In other words, J Records/RCA didn't give Hicks what they promised, he wants more artistic freedom and better promotion, he was able to get out of his contract and he has agreed not to reveal any details at this time. Bear in mind that the new season of American Idol is coming up, and they can't afford more negative publicity - look how badly their treatment of Mr. Hicks impacted last season's show."
Posted by: fromtheinside on 01/08/2008 06:38 AM

So, watch American Idol for entertainment, if you like. But don't delude yourself into believing your vote will have any impact on that performer's career.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Taylor Tuesday

Interesting clip of Taylor Hicks at his San Antonio show. Unlike some of his fans, I've never been convinced that he sends messages through his songs. But, they may be on to something with this one.

I was at this show and something was different about Taylor's performance.The songs felt rushed and he seemed to be going through the motions. I didn't feel the joy he usually emanates. Maybe something was up with the record company.

IdolMashups wrote about this video(at youtube):

"Even as early as March 2007, it seemed Taylor and his record company were not the best fit as he seems to drop a few clues with his tag of Van Morrison's St Dominic Preview (thanks to Cochem for tag info and lyrics)"
(con't below the video)

"And we're over in a 52nd Street apartment,
Socializing with the whino few,
Just to be hip and get wet with the jet set.
But they're flying too high to see my point of view.

And the restaurant tables are completely covered.
The record company has paid out for the wine.
You got everything in the world you ever wanted
Right about now your face should wear a smile.

Contrary to media reports, both Hicks and J Records confirm the split was mutual."

This video was shot on March 17th in San Antonio, Texas by McKinneyMama (less)

What do you think? Is Taylor "speaking" through these tags, or are we over-analyzing when in fact, he's just singing a song?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Music Monday

My oldest son is really lost these days. Someday I'll get into the details, but simply put, his first attempt at living on his own turned into a nightmare.

He was sharing a house 1200 miles away from us and had only been there a few weeks when two guys with guns came in and demanded money. Jake's roommate was shot in the arm and Jake was hit repeatedly over the head with the butt of a gun. A third roommate jumped out of a second story window and called the police.

Jake's home and safe, but he's struggling to move forward. That's about all I want to say about it at this point, but I'm struggling, too. (Yes, we've seen doctors and I'm sure we'll be seeing more doctors.)

So this Monday, I give you The Fray. "How To Save a Life" is connected with Grey's Anatomy, but it really has nothing to do with hospital doctors. It's all about dealing with troubled teens. It's all about my life.

The Fray - How To Save A Life
Album: How To Save A Life
Year: 2005

Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And pray to God he hears you

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed
He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he'll say he's just not the same
And you'll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life