Friday, September 26, 2008

To Every Thing There Is A Season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3

Monday, September 22, 2008

Autumn Equinox

I always think of my grandmother when the Autumn equinox happens. She used to always get a little "blue" (her term) because of the shortened days and the long nights. She always felt a little blue at dusk, also, because she didn't like the dark hours of night time. I have never understood that really. Dusk is a favorite time of day for me. I love to sit outside and watch the sun slip beneath the horizon. The sun still holds the sky captive with it's light, seemingly forever glowing but fainter and fainter until the night sky prevails. It is such a quiet time as the birds hush their music and chatter. The children go inside as I sit and watch the bats perform their nightly ballet and the crickets and frogs start to blend their voices for a night time chorus.

I love the shortening of days that herald cooler weather and the holiday season to come. I know many people dread the cold weather and snow. I can't say I blame them! After I became an adult and moved away, it was many years before I was home for Christmas during a particularly early cold winter. My blood had thinned from living in the warm climate, and it was a miserably cold experience. But living in the central Texas hill country, I look forward to the cooler months ahead akin to the glee of a child in a snow storm! I love learning which plants go dormant, and watching those that continue growing lush and green during chilly spells. I look forward to my favorite holiday of the year--Thanksgiving.

I feel that as the weather starts to cool down that I am just warming up in the garden. As our northern friends are putting their gardens to bed for the winter, I am getting serious about the plans I have been making during the hot summer months when it was too hot to really work in the garden. That is when I plan the changes I am going to make in the garden design and the ever enlarging of the beds to make room for more growing things.

As I was watering the front flower bed this evening, I disturbed an armadillo. He scared me as much as I scared him. He ran straight to our neighbors flowerbed as I screamed and dropped the hose I was watering with. I never realized they could move so fast! We have seen the signs of one most of the summer. We laughingly say he has been aerating the soil. But it has really been more destructive than that. I have found his den he has made under the gardenia bush beneath the dining room window. I fill it up with soil, and the next morning, it has been freshly dug. I wonder if he thinks that his housework is never done--just as soon as it's finished, it needs to be done all over again. Echoing my thoughts just a few feet away inside the house instead of out.

In case anyone has been wondering, I thought I would give you a skunk update. After 10-15-20 baths (I've lost count) the dogs STILL smell of skunk. It is much better, but I still get a whiff every now and then that sends me running. I bathed them in tomato juice at one point, and they both developed burns on their noses and mouths. Bo had to go on antibiotics for a while because the burns were becoming infected. They cleared up as soon as the antibiotics were in his system for a while. Dawn dishwashing detergent seems to be the best thing for getting rid of the smell. I guess we will try another application this week sometime. I still can't put collars on them, because they just reek of skunk if I do. Another strange thing caused by the skunk...I guess the oil is quite caustic (hence the burns), but the granddaughters were laying with the dogs and broke out in hives from them.

This weekend is going to be DH's annual company dinner. Although I don't enjoy the politics of schmoozing at these things, I look forward to them because they are always someplace fun. For several years we went to San Fransisco. One year we went to Boston, and last year Phoenix. You will never in a million years guess where we get to go this year? Give up? Austin! LOL! I told DH at least we won't have to worry about loosing our luggage. And we still get to stay at a swanky hotel that we would never stay at normally. The Four Seasons is right on Town Lake, so I am looking forward to "getting away" without going away.

As Pam at says, Fall is more a state of mind than an actual season in Austin...I'm ready!

Happy Autumn everyone!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Outhouses II

Eve at brought up an interesting question. When was toilet paper invented? My first inclination was that it was a fairly new invention, but thought since I had the information highway at my fingertips, I needed to take advantage of it and do my research. What I found out was interesting, and if I thought so, I am hoping many of you would like to have a bit of useless information to impress others at parties, although I am not sure how one could get a conversation started on toilet paper!

Here is what I found at

I Historical facts
Click here for the complete historical timeline of Toilet Paper and important paper making dates, going back to 50BC...

When and where was toilet paper first invented?

*China…AD 1391 - The Bureau of Imperial Supplies began producing 720,000 sheets of toilet paper a year, each sheet measuring two feet by three feet. For use by the Emperors.

*USA…1857 - New Yorker Joseph C. Gayetty produced the first packaged bathroom tissue in the United States in 1857. The Gayetty Firm from New Jersey produced the first toilet paper named "The Therapeutic Paper". It contained an abundance of aloe, a curative addition. The company sold it in packs of 500 sheets for fifty cents, and Joseph Gayetty had his name printed on each sheet! *USA…1890 - The Scott Paper Company is the first company to manufacture tissue on a roll, specifically for the use of toilet paper. Faced with the consumers' resistance toward the "unmentionable" product, Scott came up with the idea of customizing rolls for every merchant-customer they had. Under this private-label arrangement, Scott purchased large "jumbo" rolls of paper from various paper mills and converted them into packages of small rolls and stacked sheets. *Great Britain…1880- British Perforated Paper Company

When was the first roll of toilet paper made and by whom?

Scott Paper Company marketed the first rolls of toilet paper. The Company was founded in 1879 by brothers E. Irvin and Clarence Scott in Philadelphia and specialized in producing toilet paper. At first they purchased paper and tissue from outside suppliers and cut, rolled and packaged the paper. They converted large parent rolls of tissue into small rolls and stacked sheets and began to market the product through drug and variety stores under private label names. Then, in 1896, Irvin's son Arthur joined the company at the age of 21. He convinced his father and uncle to phase out their private label business and concentrate on their own brand names. With this, Scott purchased the private label name Waldorf from a Philadelphian 'paper jobber' named Albert DeCernea in 1902 and began producing this as their first brand name. As sales grew, it became evident that production changes were necessary to guarantee consistency. In 1910, Scott bought an abandoned soap factory in Chester, 5 miles south of Philadelphia for $85,000 and began making their own parent rolls of tissue, 72" wide at 150-200 feet per minute instead of buying from others. Rolls were sold with either 650 or 1,000 perforated sheets. In 1915, Scott installed an advanced, high-speed Fourdrinier papermaking machine. It made paper 148" wide at 500 feet per minute. In 1921, their brand, Waldorf represented 64% of Scott's total case sales. By 1925 Scott became the leading toilet paper company in the world. (On July 17, 1995 Scott was acquired by Kimberly Clark)

Early Marketing

The roll did not easily fit into the consumer market at first. At the time, society did not speak of the subject frequently. It was quite 'unmentionable" to talk about this product in the conservative, Victorian era. However, during this time indoor plumbing was improving and the public had a desire for better hygiene.

An early advertisement

Scott advertisements were suggesting that "over 65% of middle-aged men and women suffered from some sort of rectal disease". Inferior toilet paper was deemed to be responsible. It was printed in Scott advertisements that "harsh toilet tissue may cause serious injury". The ad said " ScotTissue, Sani-tissue and Waldorf are famous bathroom tissues specifically processed to satisfy the three requirements doctors say toilet tissue must have to be safe: absorbency-softness-chemical purity". Each sheet, it said was made of "thirsty fibers." Scott tissue was made from the finest ingredients and "they are neither acid nor alkaline in reaction. Each sheet is fully sterilized in manufacture" it read.

The first paper roll towel- the ScotTowel.

There is a story that in 1907, a teacher in Philadelphia blamed a mild cold epidemic on the fact that students used the same cloth towel. So she cut up paper into squares and used them as individual towels. Around that time Scott was experimenting with a new type of crepe tissue. It was so thick that it couldn't be cut and rolled into toilet paper. So Arthur Scott ordered it to be made into rolls of towels and perforated into individual 13" x 18" sheets. This was called the Sani-Towels. Advertisements said, " For use once by one user." Success was helped by states that outlawed the use of cloth-roll towels because of spreading disease.

What did people use before toilet paper was invented?

*Newsprint, paper catalogue pages in early US

*Hayballs, Scraper/gompf stick kept in container by the privy in the Middle Ages

*Discarded sheep's wool in the Viking Age, England

*Frayed end of an old anchor cable was used by sailing crews from Spain and Portugal

*Medieval Europe- Straw, hay, grass, gompf stick

*Corn cobs, Sears Roebuck catalog, mussel shell, newspaper, leaves, sand- United States

*Water and your left hand, India

*Pages from a book, British Lords

*Coconut shells in early Hawaii

*Lace was used by French Royalty

*Public Restrooms in Ancient Rome- A sponge soaked in salt water, on the end of a stick

*The Wealthy in Ancient Rome-Wool and Rosewater

*French Royalty-lace, hemp

*Hemp & wool were used by the elite citizens of the world

*Defecating in the river was very common internationally

*Bidet, France

*Snow and Tundra Moss were used by early Eskimos

I hope you enjoyed this bit of trivia as much as I did...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Backyard Privy

How many of you remember the backyard outhouse of yesteryear? One of the strongest (and I am using that word for a reason!) memories I have of my great-grandparents farm is the outhouse. There is nothing quite like the smell of an outhouse in the middle of summer. But, worse than the smell was the caution given to always look before you sit down because snakes and spiders like to hang around the outhouse. Well, can’t say I am surprised. But snakes? I can’t think of anything that will keep me from going to the bathroom more than the threat of snakes!
I have tried to explain the experience of outhouses to my granddaughters, but the whole subject just “grosses them out”. It may you too, but I think that we wax poetic about the “good ole days” with out remembering some of the aspects that nudged us into improving our lives quite like indoor plumbing. I know there was no way I was ever going to go out to that little house behind the house in the middle of the night, and neither was great grandma. She kept a chamber pot under the bed for just such emergencies.

In romanticizing life in yesteryear, people have begun collecting strange things. I know a woman who is ga-ga over chamber pots, and has quite a collection of them. She even has an oak chamber-pot chair, otherwise known as the “Thunder Throne”. Now, to me that is just gross, and I think they just plain smell bad. It is probably just my imagination, but I think they hold a distinct odor that refinishing can’t seem to dispel.

Tradition has it in that bygone era, whenever a lady went visiting, and needed to use the facilities, because they didn’t want to ask where the outhouse was, they would say they were going to look at your hollyhocks. I’m not sure which came first, but people began growing hollyhocks around their out-house so that people could distinguish easily which out-house was “the” out-house.

I have begun to think how charming an old rustic out-house would look in our backyard. I would love to have one to use as a potting shed, and to further the ambiance and the illusion, I would plant hollyhocks around it. In fact, I could see where having one would be almost like a blank canvas to be filled. I could paint it a wonderfully wild color to mimic a lot of Austinites attempts to “keep it weird” not to mention colorful in their backyards. But, I think I would rather keep it natural, and rustic. I think a part of it is to kind of thumb my nose at our neighborhood association, and do something our neighbors would never do. I may have to adhere to the associations by-laws on acceptable landscaping, but the backyard is mine to be an extension of my personality.

Just as I began to think of this, I saw one for sell in Princeton, Illinois this summer on vacation,. It was a beauty, complete with the half-moon on the door, and the seat had been replaced with a nice bench, that would be great for potting plants. The price was right too--it was $130.00! A small price for pure Americana! But alas, I couldn’t think of a way to get it home--although the vision of it trailing behind our Toyota, made me smile. So, if any of you out there in blog-o-sphere know of anyone around the Austin area in need of “dumping” (pardon the pun) an out-house. Let me know, I would love to take it off their hands!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cool Hints In Morning

I can feel a hint of coolness in the morning air that whispers a promise of autumn coming. We have had huge dark rain clouds sailing over head throughout the day, but so far none have stayed to give the garden some relief. I hope that someone is getting some of the rain those clouds are so selfishly withholding.

I don't know what kind of moth this is, but he flew out of one of the Boston Ferns I have flanking the front door. I call him camo-moth because he looks as if he is wearing camouflage. He is so interesting, I thought. I'm glad he let me take his picture.

The sunflowers are still blooming away, this one has flopped over onto the rosemary.
My chives are blooming. It smells of garlic when the wind blows in my direction.

The lantana are continuing blooming, and will until that first frost well as the Rudbeckia.
What's this? I can't believe it! I have a bloom on the Trumpet Vine! The first ever. I grew this from a seed pod the neighbor across the street gave me a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Torreon, Mexico

We went through some beautiful mountain ranges to get to our destination of Torreon, Mexico.

Torreon, along with it’s two neighboring cities, boast a population of over 1.3 million people. It is a city that never sleeps, and is a city of great contrasts. It has great wealth, beauty, and pride. But, it also has great poverty, like the rest of Mexico. I was constantly struck by the poverty that I saw. Like nothing I have seen in the U.S. I know that we have poor--when I was a divorced single mother, I lived well below the poverty level. But it is a different dirt poor, no means of escape poverty. The countryside is dotted with huts made from cardboard, scrapes of wood, blankets, or sheet metal. Whatever that can be scavenged to be used to make a barrier from the elements are used. No electricity or water in the most rural desolate areas imaginable.
I had planned to get pictures of some of the huts and poor areas of Torreon to show, but somehow it seemed so voyeuristic to do so. Instead, I want to focus on a lower middle class area where we spent a good portion of our time visiting the cottages of three children’s homes, which are called: Casa Sonrisa, or Smile House.
My DH in front of Cottage #1. Isn't he cute?

For many years my husband has organized two golf tournaments a year to raise money for this children’s home. Because most of the money that is raised comes from individual donations, we felt that we needed to see the operations first hand so that when asking for money we would have more of a feel for their needs and wants. We both are feeling so grateful to be a small part of such a worthy undertaking. There are 41 children divided into the three cottages in as much of a home-like setting as possible. There is a set of parents to oversee each house. The father still holds down a full-time job, so the majority of the responsibility of running each home is the woman’s job (what's new?). Each woman has the help of a cook and a laundress. These women work tirelessly to make sure that the children are well fed and clothed. Most of these children come to Casa Sonrisa through a state agency much like our CPS. Most have been abandoned by their mothers and have been physically and sexually abused. The day to day operations are overseen by Pedro Rivas. Although “retired” now, for many years he was the President of the University of Mexico in Torreon. This man is a saint! The children love him and call him Grandpapa. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that these children be given every opportunity to make a better life for themselves than where they came from. He has worked out a deal with a private primary school to give the children a first class education, which of course, is near and dear to his heart. One of the first children to come to Casa Sonrisa is now in college, and he has worked his magic once again to ensure that she and any other child will be able to go to college and get the education they will need to succeed in life anyway they may want.
I just can’t say enough good things about this man. He is a very genuine, good person. We were walking down the street from one cottage to the next and people would walk up to us to shake his hand and say hello. He knows everyone, and everyone seems to know him. I found that amazing in a city the size of Torreon.
Mauric Kemper, our guide on this trip and founder of Casa Sonrisa, along with my DH.
Pedro Rivas, along with an attorney at the University of Mexico, who does legal work for Casa Sonrisa, and Maurice.

Torreon has a soccer team, which has been undefeated. The city is very proud of their team, and soccer-mania is widespread! They were having a big game last Thursday, and we were warned to be back in our hotel room before the game let out because pandemonium would rein after the game. Wild celebrations if they won, fights if they lost! They are also passionate about their driving, as is all of Mexico, seeming to make up the rules as they go, and seeming to have a sixth sense about what the other driver is going to do! Liberal use of the horn is necessary to drive in Mexico, and indeed, it seemed as if it is a second language! Everywhere we went, horns were blaring. Friendly--and not so friendly honks depending on the situation. Cabs going down the street with their bip-bip-bip to let you know they were free to pick us up if we needed.
We found it frustrating to not be able to speak the language, and hope to be more fluent the next time we go. I told my husband that I felt like my IQ dropped about ten points the minute we crossed the border! When we visited the children it was hard to communicate. They would ask, “Americanos?” When we would say , Si`, they would wrap their arms around our legs and hug us. They were shy when we first got there, but after we took them to the park, they were hamming it up for the camera and losing their shyness. We planned one day at the amusement park and the next day a pizza party at Pizza Hut. While at the amusement park they wanted cokes, but when we told them, manana coke and pizza, they understood perfectly. What a wild time that was! Forty-one pairs of shoes came off. They had a ball pit that they dove into. It was amazing to watch as the older children looked out after the smaller ones, and if they got hurt or couldn’t get out the older ones would pull them to safety.

The tall thin gentleman is Maurice Kemper. He truly is a gentle man. Casa Sonrisa is his brainchild. When he and his wife were first married, they taught English in Mexico City. It was there that he began thinking of someday establishing a home for the homeless children of Mexico. He saw a need and has worked tirelessly to achieve his dream. If you would like to learn more about Casa Sonrisa, they have a web page at Both my husband and I felt privileged to make this journey and hope that we will one day have the opportunity to go again.

Dios bendiciones sobre usted