Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Style and stocking stuffers
Can you be in style in time for the holidays? Even the font on the cover of “Southern Living Style” is classic, yet modern. I removed the book jacket so I could admire the cover as I slowly peruse this book with plenty of pictures of how we Southerners display our collections, prepare for parties, read and sleep. It’s no wonder other regions are so jealous.
Speaking of fonts, one designer tip is to print your monogram instead of stitching it. Consider collecting ancestral portraits (of anyone’s family) to group on the wall of any room, even the kitchen. I think I’ll mix up a mint julep and read some more.
“La Figa: Visions of Food and Form”
If I had mounds of avocado, cucumber, nori, grapes, etc. at my disposal, arranging them artistically on beautiful nudes would not be my first thought. Chef Tiberio Simone and photographer Matt Freedman thought otherwise, and have produced a breathtaking coffee table art book that is likely to take your breath away. Not the first to “play with food” or link food to sex, this tasteful book, to me, shows God’s beauty through human form and how we are fed and nourished. Nearly transparent cucumber slices resemble scales on a muscular man, spun sugar sculpts an abstract “hairdo” on a woman and a fresh-faced lovely bathes in a tub of cranberries. While many artists pick the most perfect bodies, this pair shows also highlights appreciation for plump and older-than-average models. The commentary on love of food and the making of this book are top-notch reads. This book is both fun and pensive.

Mad about it in your stocking
Mad Gab’s is already into minimal packaging, recycling, etc., in addition to quality product with beeswax, shea butter and organic extra virgin olive oil. So what’s new? The Wildy Natural line inspired by nature. A peacock feather design is on my pink lip shimmer. Lavender vanilla lip butter smells and feels heavenly and sparkly bronze lip shimmer, in a tube with a giraffe look, just makes me feel good. There’s more from “Gab,” and her do-good Maine-based company. Look them up.

Tassi has one upped the hair band.
Promising “Skin Care Without the Hair,” this stylish band is gathered so you can actually roll long hair up in the band and go about your makeup business without your locks falling in your face. Tassicompany.com will show you how to rock the look. One use and you’ll wish you’d thought of it first.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Read up on Texas with an ice cream happy hour

Huntsville’s town square brought me a fabulous fall afternoon of antiquing, fried chocolate pie and Mexican food before I headed to The Texas Prison Museum and Big Sam. At the museum, they have T-shirts billing the city as “Huntsville, a gated community since 1849.” The city and its prison have come up in two new books.
“Steve McQueen” is Marshall Terrill’s thick read that includes filming he did with inmates. I’m about to scour the book for links to Port Arthur, where some say he spent part of his youth as a towel boy in a brothel.
“Gangster Tour of Texas” tells some crazy true stories with a twist. T. Lindsay Baker includes present-day and historical snapshots so readers can visit some key sites, such a court houses and crime scenes. In one case a woman said she was from The Beaumont Enterprise, and had traveled to a small Texas town to interview folks for a story on cotton crops. The Flapper Bandit was really trying to rob the bank. She tried that a couple of times, using different identities, and finally did it. Her lawyer lover helped get her out of the mess.
Huntsville’s prison comes up now and again in this fascinating book, which includes details on Bonnie and Clyde, a vet dealing in morphine, the Houston police dope scandal that rocked the department and a doctor who placed goat glands in his human male patients for “stamina.” He set up a huge business in Del Rio so he could broadcast from a powerful radio station in Mexico. Gambling in Galveston also gets its spotlight.

Are you happy now?
Spike, freeze and serve is the battle cry of two women whose late-night beer float became a book: “Ice Cream Happy Hour,” offering 50 ways to wet your whistle. It begins with the premise that readers like ice cream, and like spirits. Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison have done the science, so you just have to follow the directions to chocolate martini, ginger with dark rum, pink peppercorn with vodka . . . . you taste the idea. Here’s a quick garnish for pina colada:
Rum Pineapple Topping: In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine 1 pound pineapple cut into bite-size chunks, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons rum. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Transfer about one-third of the sauce to a blender or food processor and puree, then return the puree to the saucepan and stir to combine.

Casting call
I’d hoped to report a review straight from the setting of “Cast Iron and the Crescent City.” A trim booklet explains how intricate florals, geometric patterns and even corn stalks were “cast” in the history of New Orleans. A mini tour of buildings, accounts of architectural outlines, bios of iron works owners and “maker’s marks” are included in the Louisiana Landmarks Society publication by Ann M. Masson and Lydia M. Schmalz. This quick read made me want to head to NOLA ( New Orleans, La.) right away, but I confess I’d be there for muffaletta and seafood as much as to gaze at fences.
Instead of reading the book from Jackson Square, I studied in before dawn on a Sunday morning, then came home to Texas by switching to the newly-released Historic Homes of Jefferson Texas,” Cherly MacLennan’s loving picture book on this preserved-in-time town. Instead of iron work, these homes have Texas Historical Markers as adornment. I enjoyed my first visit to Jefferson, and I’m ready to venture back, now that MacLennan has educated me on the nuances of tall windows, central hallways, the first gas meter, etc.

Get a look at Jefferson homes
A road trip to Greek Revival homes, a sense of early Texas and the love of preservation make up Cheryl MacLennan’s picture book “Historic Homes of Jefferson, Texas.”
The author seems like a woman you’d want to know. She’s a consultant, independent contractor, photographer, docent at the Institute of Texan Cultures and a volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store. She makes you feel like you already know Jefferson. I was there long ago at my first bed-and-breakfast venture and now I’m ready to pack up for more. I specifically imagine heading to The House of Seasons, with multi-colored panes of glass that glow like a rainbow.

Delicious sense
If common sense to you is pages of one-paragraph gourmet recipes, Domestic Engineer Paula Sole has it. She actually has “Common Sense,” a quick read on tips and ways for good living. She advocates a neat living space. I’m all for that. Here’s a quick dish:
Chicken Genovese: Cut up boneless chicken breast into small pieces. Saute chicken in extra-virgin olive oil until golden brown. Add three sliced onions. Stir consistently. When onions are golden, add water just to cover chicken. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes. Serve over pasta.
Author’s note: “You’ll luv this dish!!”

Frenemies with food
“Frenemies,” in modern parlance, means you are both friends and enemies. A new book was billed as a story of a woman who considered food that way. It takes place in England, and is pitched this way:
“The new book, Clarice, tells the story of a young woman living in a world where food is both her greatest comfort and greatest enemy. Written by a retired physician, the book paints a modern-day portrait of mental illness and describes the path to recovery.”
I “realised” I may have been enjoying this book more because of British spellings, such as “colour” and phraseology that’s used “across the pond.” Clarice does binge and purge at times throughout her life, but I believe the book is most familiar with her relationships with men, married or not. She visits a psychic, and the prediction comes to pass for Clarice in a way that “got me” on the very final page.
Looking for healing
Our best friend is our little child within, and that friend can help us put our house in order. Meditate on that, Austrailian author Teresa Alexander writes in “Freedom Within: A Gift of Love.” The butterfly-on-flower book cover lets readers know this will be a touchy-feely experience. The author discusses colors of lights associated with energy and mixes short writings with poems about friendship, sharing, claiming the day, etc.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Walking it out and dining out help “do good” for community

As a reporter I covered countless walks, but joining the Alzheimer’s support walk this past weekend on Crockett Street was different. There was music, boudain and a sea of purple T-shirts on a sunny day. Through Facebook donations, my husband raised $200 for the cause with minimal effort in one day. It wasn’t until I signed a paper to be pinned on my back that I got emotional. “I’m walking for,” the top read. I filled in Burton Doiron, and noted my dad died a year ago, Thanksgiving week. My husband walked to honor his father, who is still with us.

A hectic taste of poverty
My brush with hard luck ended with a taste of warming stew on a cold night and some of the best cornbread I ever had. It was the same meal the homeless experienced at Some Other Place in Beaumont earlier in the day. For this reward, I had to play a teacher with too many hungry, impoverished students in my class.
Leadership Beaumont, Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce project, staged a poverty simulation. My husband helped put on the evening and got the role of pawn broker. Participants were assigned roles from teen mother to drug dealer and drew cards that had them in government waiting rooms, late for low-paying part-time jobs and without transportation. Sometimes families would get “home” to find overturned chairs, meaning they were evicted. They’d head to the faith-based shelter area, where my teacher character volunteered.
In one hour we all got an idea of tough times compounded by “wild cards” from flat tire expenses to having a child expelled from school. After our meal, we heard speakers who work with people in our community who need work, mental health care and food.

Toasting Taylor
Triangle Aids Network’s annual Paint the Town Red event at the Beaumont Country Club carried a Toast to Elizabeth Taylor theme and allowed guests in evening gowns to financially support a hard-working agency. The TAN office is not glamorous, but deals with sick people who need everything from a ride to the doctor to the emotional support that comes with living with AIDS. Not everyone can work daily with these patients and their families. Paint the Town Red is a chance for artists and business people to whip up beautiful things and packages auctioned off to raise funds for TAN to do their good works. I came home with something I’ve wanted since I saw them years ago, a purse made from an actual Beatles album. I also left with a sense of gratitude.

Winter Wonderland
Parents will get private shopping time and children will make memories when Texas Artists Museum hosts Winter Wonderland Workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26.
“It is for kids 6 to 12 and costs $10,” Jayne Smith of TAN said. “We will have an art lesson included with a framed work as the result. Others activities include "patchwork" pictures, wooden spoon Christmas dolls, decorations, a dove of peace, and Christmas cards. John Manuel will teach the art class.”
“It will be an interesting way for children to learn a bit about art and to enjoy doing crafts as well as give parents free time to Christmas shop,” Smith said.
Call 983-4881 to get “patch” in

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A riot, Seahawks and tartan are in Southeast Texas news

Rhythm Riot
So I’m on the exercise bike at the Port Arthur YMCA and guess who sits next to me. It’s local singing legend Jivin’ Gene. He was reminiscing about his friend Johnny Preston, just honored with a Solid Gold tribute at Lamar State College-Port Arthur. He was also planning to head to England for Rhythm Riot, billed as “The UKs biggest and best festival of 1950s music, dancing and vintage lifestyle.” Mr. Bourgeois was modest, and said he didn’t think it was a big deal. I’ll bet his fans here do.

Team to Beat
Merchants are proudly displaying Seahawks basketball schedule cards. I got mine at the Port Arthur YMCA. This team cinched a championship this past season and Scott A. Street, athletic director at Lamar State College-Port Arthur, says they’re looking to repeat. Street said word off the court is the Seahawks are being called “The Team to Beat,” and games are designed for good, family fun. Seahawks won the National Jr. College Athletic Association title in Tyler and competed in the nationals in Kansas. Support them at home games in the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center, Lakeshore Drive, on the LSC-PA Campus. Tickets: $6 for adults and $3 for students. Home games:
Wednesday, Nov. 16, vs. Lone Star College, Tomball, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 18, vs. Baton Rouge CC, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 19, vs. Texas Southern (JV), 2 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 30, vs. San Jacinto College, 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 7, vs. Lee College, 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Jan. 11, vs. Angelina College, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 21, vs. Paris Jr. College, 4 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 28, vs. Navarro College, 4 p.m.
Sat. Feb. 4, vs. Trinity Valley CC, 4 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 8, vs. Kilgore College, 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 15, vs. Lon Morris College, 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 22, vs. Jacksonville College, 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Feb. 29, vs. Blinn College, 7:30 p.m.

Tartan time
I know all about tartan thanks to a junior high love of the Bay City Rollers. My mother made me a top based on Woody’s yellow and black design.
Now the Scottish society of Southeast Texas is inviting supporters to get their tartan on. The group will meet Thursday, Nov. 10, in the parlor of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 1350 N. 23 rd St., In Beaumont. They’ll dine on a light covered dish supper at 6:30 p.m. Marilyn Manson Hayes will discuss wearing of the tartan, the Scottish clan plaids, in preparation of the annual “Kirkin” of the Tartans, at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, at St. Andrew’s.
For more information, call 409-898-4986. Wear your tartan, leave your swords at home, the invite reads.