Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Busy Schedule and Hear Me Read at These Events

For the first time in many years, I find myself professionally over booked.  This is good in the sense that my writing career is getting lots of attention.  But, it’s not good that I have to turn down events that I would really like to participate in.  Between mothering, teaching, writing, blogging, reading events, corporate events, family nature club, first communion preparation, dance lessons for the girls, helping with homework, housework, cooking, wiving, and daughtering, things have gotten very busy for me this fall.  

Unfortunately, I have already had to turn down a request to read, participate in a panel, and co-conduct a workshop for the Flor de Nopal Literary Festival in San Antonio.  And, I had to say no when asked to participate in an alumni career path presentation for my alma mater, Rice University.  Very disappointing, but hopefully I’ll be asked back to these events next year, when my current reading events and first communion preparation won’t be taking up space on the calendar.  And, we’ve had to turn down invites to several family events sponsored by my Catholic moms group.  Hopefully, we’ll get to visit with those families soon.  

Anyway, I hope you have time in your busy schedule to attend one of the two readings I will participate in during the next month.  I’ll paste the info below, straight from the on-line announcements.  You can find more information about these and my other events at the links below and on the Upcoming Events page.  Read about my virtual experience at the first event below here.
Friday, October 14  8:30pm - 10:30pm EST

Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum Distance Learning Center

Created By

Time is based on EST zone. 8:30 EST.

Smithsonian LVM in collaboration with Mouthfeel Press presents a virtual poetry reading featuring:

Laura Cesarco Eglin (Llamar al agua por su nombre)
Elisa A. Garza (Fronteras)
Nancy Lorenza Green (Crucified River)
Katherine Hoerth (Among the Mariposas)
ire'ne lara silva (furia)
Cassandra Love (Swagger is a Woman)
Amalio Madueño (Cuyamungue)
Juan Manuel Portillo (passwords_)

with special presentation by Daniel Chacón, (Unending Rooms, Chicano Chicanery).

The stage will be open to writers of all genres after the presentation.

To participate, please go to

You will need an avatar and headset/microphone. For more information, contact: (202) 633-1240, or Maria Miranda Maloney at (915) 261-8502.

Visit, for author information.

Date: Saturday, November 5, 2011
HPL Express Discovery Green 1500 McKinney, R2, Houston, Texas 77010
Time: 2:00 – 3:30 PM

Featured Poets: Sam Amadon, Robin Davidson, Elisa A. Garza, Dave Parsons
Special Guest: Don Sanders
Also, see the schedule for information on this month’s public poetry event on Saturday, October 1.

Breaking News: Public Poetry just won the 2011 Best Reading Series Award from The Houston Press.  See the announcement here and read about other Best awards won by performers for the series at Public Poetry's Blog.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning

Almost six months ago, my husband printed out a blank calendar page and asked me to use it to plan our meals.  I’ve been planning our meals by the week, usually in my head, since we married, but I have to admit that writing them down keeps me more organized about it.  And, it makes dinner preparation a little easier in a number of ways I’ll discuss below.

Last week, one of the bloggers I follow, Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious, wrote a post about her meal planning and asked her readers to share their ideas.  So, I shared my method with her and she invited me to write more so she could add it to her post.  You can read her post here.  I thought: why not write my own meal planning post?

As you can see, my planning calendars tend to be messy, and since we are a bilingual family, this one has some Spanish.  I plan meals by the week, but using a monthly calendar helps me see what I've cooked recently, or even the previous month, since I print two blank months back to back on one page.  I can also keep track of how often we eat out.

I usually write out the meal plan over the weekend, before we go to the supermarket, which means I only have to buy what we need for the week.  I also plan around the store’s weekly sale; both of these practices save us money.  Noting when we eat out on the calendar has also helped us cut back on that expense; we are constantly revamping our food budget during these times of stagnant income and rising prices.  Now, we eat out less on the spur of the moment because we don’t want to waste the fresh food we have already bought.  

You may remember from my post Natural Mom TV that I cook nearly every day.  Just over three years ago, I decided to increase the number of home cooked meals we ate as part of my healthy living plan for our family.  The meal plan helps me maintain a daily cooking habit by reminding me to provide healthy meals that include a variety of foods.  I’ve tried doing this without a plan, but found that it is much harder to keep to a cooking from scratch commitment that way.  When I just go with the flow, it is too easy for me rely on processed foods or take out.  We do still occasionally rely on those foods, but not nearly as often.  Plus, I don’t have to spend time during the busy weekdays thinking about dinner; I already know what I will need to prepare that day. 

While I was thinking about all this, I realized that using a twelve month wall or booklet calendar would be ideal for organizing a longer record of meal plans.  This would be really useful if you are making a switch to healthier eating for a specific reason, such as to mitigate a chronic condition or to avoid catching so many colds during the winter.  You could see how your meals correlate with symptoms by tracking both together.  The only drawback for me would be that I sometimes carry the page with me to the supermarket instead of making a separate list.  I probably wouldn't want to carry something bigger.

You may be wondering: how does my system work in reality?  Flexibility is a key component.  You can see on the sample above that I move the meals around if our schedule changes or I don't have as much cooking time a particular day.  This calendar includes some breakfasts and lunches, but most of the time I focus on planning dinner.  Lunch is even more flexible: we often eat leftovers or sandwiches.  We do have a set breakfast menu that is the same every week, but I note exceptions in the meal plan.  

I also try to take advantage of making large batches of certain items that serve as the base for more than one meal.  This reduces the amount of time and effort spent on cooking another day.  For example, you’ll see above that I make a big pot of beans one day and two days later, we eat tostadas.  Our family loves to eat fresh cooked beans: in a bowl with some toppings, on a plate with tortillas, stuffed into a fresh roll, or refried on crispy corn tortillas as tostadas.  Leftover whole and refried beans can be mixed with egg or migas (torn pieces of corn tortilla) and sautéed for breakfast.  You can use beans to make chili, stews, sloppy joes, or casseroles.  Add cold whole beans to a green or pasta salad.   Spread hot or cold refried beans on bread or a tortilla as the base for sandwiches, wraps, and burritos.  I try to make a pot of beans about every seven to ten days, and we usually get at least three meals from that one cooking effort.  Plus, beans are inexpensive and loaded with nutrients, so they are a must do for healthy meals on a budget.  I will post about the super nutrition in beans and more detailed recipes in a later post.

Enough from me.  I want to hear from you!  How do you plan your family’s meals, and what are your tips for making it easier?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September Writing News

Yes, I already have more writing news, and it is very exciting (at least for me)!  I just learned that one of my poems, “Bat Bridge,” has been accepted by an anthology of poems on the sacred to be published by Mutabilis Press in December.  For the first time in nearly ten years, someone will actually publish my poetry, so this is BIG news for me.  Watch for news about the anthology publication in a future post and on the My Publications page.

I wrote “Bat Bridge” a number of years ago, but revised it earlier this year while working on the manuscript Fronteras.  This poem is about my only visit to Austin’s famous urban bat colony, the Congress Avenue Bridge.  A big thank you goes out to my friend Alice for taking me to see the bats as they emerged for the night.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a reading sponsored by the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum as part of their Hispanic Heritage Month programming.  This reading will happen live inworld for the Second Life virtual environment of the museum.  This means any of you could attend as members of the audience!  You will need to set up an avatar account to attend, but once you do, you can also participate in the museum’s other virtual programs.  

You can learn about the museum’s exhibits at the link above and see the calendar of events here.  You can set up your avatar here.

My reading will take place Friday, October 14, 2011 from 7:30 to 9:30 CDT.  Other readers include ire'ne lara silva, Laura Cesarco Eglin, Juan Manuel Portillo, Cassandra Love, Nancy Lorenza Green, Amalio Madueno, Katherine Hoerth, and Daniel Chacon.  Thank you to Maria M. for inviting me to read with this group.

This will be my first exploration of a virtual environment, so I am looking forward to trying out new technology and sharing my poems with more than a locally gathered audience.  I hope to see you inworld at my reading!  Read about my virtual experience here.

I am still working on making time for writing; it’s really tough to write for even a few minutes most days, but I will persist.  Good news about publication is always a motivator to write and put together submissions; yesterday I revised one of the poems mentioned in my last writing update.  It is now titled “Poets are Impossible and Poetry is Dead.”  I don’t know if it will be ready to read at next month’s event, but maybe I'll read it at one of the other readings listed on the Upcoming Events page.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gardening During a Drought

A few days ago, I took advantage of the cool morning weather to weed the garden.  We haven’t watered in several weeks because the tomatoes are finished and the squash dried up.  Now that the heat has let up a little, I’m trying to decide if I should plant a fall garden.  I usually don’t plant one because the yields are uncertain.  Tomatoes may or may not get enough sun and an early cold season could stunt everything else.

Our winters are mild, so the herbs and peppers thrive and produce year round.  We have several types of chili peppers, oregano, mint, and rosemary.  The eggplant is flowering again.  Basil seedlings are popping up and if I water, I’m sure the parsley seeds will sprout too.  I’m wondering, though, is it ethical to plant a garden for my own exclusive use when I already know the drought will persist through November?  Our area of Houston is not on water restrictions, but the rest of the city is.  Should I use up water with a garden that may not yield?  The peppers and some of the herbs will survive with minimal watering, but anything else will require weekly water, at the least.

Barbara Kingsolver lists this dilemma as one of the reasons her family moved from Tucson to the Midwest.  In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she outlines her concerns about gardening using water that her desert community has to transport long distances.  As she increased the size of her garden each year, and finally made the decision to subsist only on what she and her neighbors could grow locally, she saw the use of water for growing food impractical in a desert climate, especially given zoning laws calling for natural landscaping.

I garden for several reasons: to provide healthy organic food for my family, to teach my children about food production, to eat more local food, and to show my children how to care for the planet.  As food prices continue to increase, I hope to grow more of what we need for budgetary reasons.  While cost is not the only factor, I’m sure our water bills will increase significantly if this drought continues. 

What do you think?  Should I nurture the basil seedlings, plant cilantro and romaine lettuce seeds, and look for other seedlings at the home improvement store?  Or, should I save my gardening efforts for the spring, when the rain will hopefully return?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Raffle Winner and Is It the Heat?

The winner of my August Giveway is my friend Ali J.  She is the new owner of a personally signed copy of my chapbook Familia.  Ali was also the very first person to follow this blog, so her raffle win is a nice little tit for tat.  If you’d like to buy a copy of my book instead of waiting for the next raffle, get in touch, or you can follow this blog (blue button on the left sidebar) or subscribe via e-mail (top of right sidebar) and you’ll be automatically entered next time.

Lately, lots of things we own have been breaking.  Maybe it’s the month of 100°+ temperatures, or maybe it’s because most of our stuff is eight years old (we bought a lot of things after we married).  My youngest brother worked for Sears while he attended college, and he tells me most things are made to last seven years or less; I guess we are lucky some of our stuff made it to year eight.  Several things, however didn’t last nearly that long.

Fourteen months ago, we bought a new sofa with reclining seats and two additional reclining chairs for the living room.  This week, the handle for one of the sofa recliners broke, and it wouldn’t recline.  The warranty was good for a year.  My husband has fixed it, but we’re not sure this fix is going to hold.

Last week, while I was having the oil changed and tires rotated for the car I drive, the dealership told me one of the tires was worn and needed replacing.  Sure enough, it’s got uneven wear and won’t last much longer.  Six months ago, we suspected the front end alignment was off and had it corrected.  Apparently, that alignment went off again, but of course the warranty on that adjustment only lasted ninety days.  So, now we need another alignment adjustment and a couple of new tires.

Earlier in the summer, our water dispenser stopped heating water.  We’ve had this convenience for eight years and have gotten used to instant hot water.  I’d forgotten how long it can take water to boil, until the dispenser broke.  So, we bought a newer version of the same model and two days later, that one also stopped heating water!  Next, we bought a different brand, but this one doesn’t always close its valve completely and sometimes drips between uses.  We haven’t returned it because we aren’t sure we’d be able get anything better.

The step for our kitchen trash can was the next thing to break, losing its lifting power little by little, until the step came loose completely.  My husband tried to glue it back on, but that didn’t work.  At least we can still lift the trash can lid manually, so this particular item will continue to be useful well into its eighth year.  My husband keeps reminding me that it was a very expensive trash can (it’s stainless steel), so hopefully, it will last a while longer.

The dryer knob broke a few weeks ago.  This appliance is also eight years old, and my husband has already tightened a loose drum screw twice.  It still dries the clothes, but since the knob won’t turn, it doesn’t shut itself off anymore.  No more putting a load of while t-shirts, underwear, and socks to dry on my way out of the house.  I’m not that diligent about remembering to check a load even when I’m home, so we have a repair appointment scheduled; hopefully nothing will catch fire before then!

Last weekend, we took advantage of the car seat trade-in event at ToysRUs and bought a new, larger capacity car seat that converts to a booster for our oldest daughter.  I wanted a seat that kept her in a five-point harness for longer than forty pounds, and the original convertible car seat we bought for her that her sister was using was more than six years old (retirement age for car seats).  We found exactly what we needed: a seat with a five-point harness up to 65 pounds that can be used as a booster with the car’s seat belt after that.  FYI: even bigger kids are safer in a harness than in a booster seat; car seat belts can unbuckle during a crash.  Most harness seats only go up to forty pounds, or convert to using the car seat belt after that weight, but more and more choices are becoming available that use a harness to 65 pounds.  

The one we bought has an adjustable head rest that also adjusts the harness straps as you pull it up so they are at or above the shoulders, as they need to be.  However, this head rest does not stay locked in position; when our daughter is not sitting in the seat, it slides down to the bottom, clicking as it goes.  An annoyance, for sure.  I haven’t yet decided if we are going to trade it for another one of the same model or just live with having to adjust it all the time.

By the way, the ToysRUs trade-in event includes strollers, cribs, high chairs, swings and lots of other stuff.  You can mix and match what you trade and what you buy, getting 25% off new items until September 18.  Info here.

One more appliance story.  Eleven months ago, we bought a new dishwasher.  Early in the summer, it started acting up.  Sometimes, the detergent dispenser doesn’t open up at all, or opens later than it should, and it finishes with clumps of detergent still in the dispenser, or splattered over some of the dishes.  A couple of times, the buttons have locked up and we couldn’t get it to start the cycle for several hours.  Another time, it kept turning itself off before the cycle was finished.  Other than all this, it’s working well most of the time; at least we bought the extended warranty so we won’t have to pay for future repairs.  All this home maintenance is getting expensive!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...