Something Pithy Here

"Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop." -- The King of Hearts

I'm an adopted Texan. As they say, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!" I post pictures and opinions as suits my mood, mostly because I can. Hooray Internet! 

So far I have three blogs here. By the Way is the oldest. I started it in 2003. I lost a couple of years to Vox because I was too lazy to bother to export when they shut down. I consider it an exercise in accepting impermanence. When I followed my husband to Singapore for his first expat assignment, I started (T)expatriate: A Southern Girl in Singapore. That covers 2010 and 2011, give or take. Next came Oslo, and (T)expat 2: Norwegian Boogaloo,  in 2012. Now I'm back home, and back on By the Way.

Pix live on Flickr. I toss links out on Twitter when I feel like it. I'm still not sure what to do with G+ but I kinda like it.


Filtering by Category: Family and History


We have done so much “invisible” work on the house, it’s nice to finally have something to show off! We used the Behr online color tool and despite a miscommunication with the contractor (our fault) we love the result. The scariest part was wondering if the main house color (we chose “Spanish Galleon,” partly because of the name ;-) would be anything close to what we saw on the computer screen. Happily, it is just the color we wanted.

The Behr tool is really neat—you can upload a picture of your house (or room, if you’re painting an interior) and then apply the colors to various areas. We had this awesome Don Springer watercolor of our happy abode so I scanned it in to see if it would work. Here’s the original:

Watercolor by Don Springer

And here’s what we came up with after some online fiddling:

color tool

This really gave us a great idea of what to expect! We tried lots of different colors and settled on these (except for the red—we ended up with something darker, but this is close).

The miscommunication was that we intended all the major trim to be the lightest color, but the printout that we gave the contractor was … unclear. So they did the columns in Vanilla Custard, as intended, and the rest of the trim in River Bank. Oops! After we got over the initial shock, we decided that the mistake might have been for the best. The columns really pop, and the lower contrast between the two greens on the rest of the house is sort of calming. They also did a fantastic job of picking out some extra details—the red around the attic windows and the tips of the chimneys, matching the window sashes and the trim on the columns, was a nice finishing touch.

We’re not quite decided what will be next, but we have plenty of time as we have to rebuild the war chest before we embark on the next Renovation Adventure.

Godspeed, Curtis Anthony

If you’re lucky, there are some people in your life who simply are. They’re people that you love and you know they love you, without question.


I am immeasurably lucky to have had my dad’s best friend, Curtis, to care about me for my whole life thus far. I believe that he still does.


Check out this post at Cute Overload! Okay, here’s a preview:


Baby chicks (redundancy alert) really are cute. When I was a kid we had chickens for a while. (Rabbits, too, but that doesn’t have anything to do with this story. I just tossed it in there because bunnies are cute, too.) I built (well, prob’ly my dad built) an incubator for a sixth-grade science project and hatched a couple of eggs. I got a yellow chick and a brown stripey chick. I named the brown one Parsley (nope, no explanation for that) and I don’t remember what I called the yellow one. Buttercup, maybe? They were very cute but not really exactly fun pets—messy and not very affectionate. Which is just as well because neither chick lived to chickenhood. The yellow one got et by a weasel or some other predator-du-jour and the brown one drowned in a water dish. Not too bright, chickens.

It's a new... door!

We had our new front door delivered and installed today. What a commotion! We've had such wonderful luck with the Pella window installers, and we got our first window guy, Eli, back for this door install, so I had no doubt that the results would be perfect. The man is a perfectionist, and super-nice besides.

(Lots more pictures on flickr here.)

It was kind of fun to be here for this, because the hole in the front wall of the house between doors was Really Big.

Bye-bye old door

I also got to see first-hand that there really isn't a single tiny bit of insulation beneath our floor.

The floor looks kind of insubstantial here

First thing this morning, a big truck rumbled up and two guys dropped off the door. It had to wait in the flowerbed for a while til Eli got the old door out. (He very nicely saved the original lead-glass panels, which are going to a friend of the MO's who dabbles in stained glass.)


The new door (with sidelights) is almost a foot narrower than the original, so there was some intermediate construction, and then Eli and his helper muscled the new door up the steps and into place.

Positioning the new door frame

After a lot of futzing with the apparently not-quite-top-notch hardware we bought, we have a gorgeous new front door. It actually seals when it closes! There are no longer breezes in the living room! I think it would take a bazooka to get through this glass, as opposed to being worried whenever a sofa-arm-resting cat would sneeze. And oh boy is it beauuuuuuuuutiful!

New door!

Family Letters


I've finally wrapped up a bit of a genealogy project--scanning and transcribing a set of letters that my great-aunt wrote back to her family from Europe while she was with the Red Cross after WWII. I really enjoyed reading them, and I was kind of surprised at just how "long ago" some of the scenes she described sounded to me. My favorite part of the project came near the end of the stack of letters, though. When she was transferred to Schweinfurt, she wrote:

Guess where I'm living at the moment. In an honest to goodness castle. This beautiful castle which is just like a museum with all the armored suits, swords, carvings, figurines, beautiful paintings, etc., belonged to a Nazi named Wm. Saks who is now on trial for having been a War Criminal. He owned a tremendous ball bearing factory.

I thought that all seemed pretty specific, so I spent a few minutes on google and wikipedia and quickly found out that she was in Mainberg Castle. (In her next letter she got the spelling of Sachs corrected--that helped verify things.)

I also found this site, whose author, Don Enderton, writes:

From August 29 to October 2, 1945 my father, a U. S. Army officer, resided in Mainberg castle, near Schweinfurt, Germany.

(Be sure to go look at the pictures.) The internet makes "small world" happenstances even more likely....

(More about Auntie Marge's letters here.)

Lakewatch Pix

I finished up a set of pages with the Lakewatch photos and put them on flickr. I get kind of irritated with the uploader tool because it seems to just pick any old random order for sending your pictures up, and I'm really quite Virgo enough to want them up there in the right order, thankyouverymuch. But I am also lazy, so I just let it do its thing and bitch about it after the fact. At least I can reorganize them within the set.

Anyhow, there's a link to the flickr set in the DotNest gallery:

Start with the 4th picture ;-)

Great Timing

If you have to suffer through a cold, you might as well do it in paradise....
Nothing to sneeze at

The post-nasal drip started last Sunday night and had progressed to full sinus and ear stoppage by the time we got on the plane to Cancun on Wednesday morning. The, er, nasal effluvium, was quite nasty by Thursday, so off to la farmacia on Friday morning for some sulfa pills which at least helped to the point where I didn't have to take four naps a day to keep going. The improvement seems to have plateaued somewhat short of "healthy" but I still have several days to go on the medication so I'm hoping for the best.

At any rate, through the fog of medicine and pile of tissues, I did notice that Cancun is incredibly beautiful, and I will be spoiled forever as far as ocean swimming goes. Almost 70 people flew in for the wedding, so I got to catch up with lots of family and friends. Rob and Cindy were originally expecting about 40, so the party overflowed to an adjacent resort to accommodate us all. The ceremony itself was by turns beautiful and hysterical, and ultimately, they couldn't have scripted it better.

So here's to my cousin and his lovely bride!
Rob and Cindy

See you in Houston for Christmas :-)

Family Treasure

I've been scanning a box of 5x7 black-and-white photos that my great-grandfather, Paul Helzel, shot, developed and printed. At the tail end of the box, I found a little envelope with some mid-60s snapshots, including this one of my Aunt Kaaren, my grandfather, and my mom. The MO insists he's already seen it, but I honestly didn't remember it. Anyhow, I think it's awesome.

Family Treasure

My mom is one hot chiquita, and I inherited the genetic blessing of those legs. Thank you, Mom! (I'll be ninety-nine, on my deathbed, talking about my great legs. Grandma's were shaped the same, so it seems to be a maternal-line thing ;-) A daughter of my own, however, given the chance to choose, might want to opt for the paternal skinny-gene instead....)

The Sky Men

At the prodding of a fellow WWII veteran's descendant, I purchased "The Sky Men" by Kirk Ross. I received it today and immediately searched for mention of my grandfather, John Deam. Although the book is primarily about F Company, and Grandfather Deam commanded E Company, his actions on the day of his death are indeed included, starting on page 155. The description of the events varies a good bit from what Dick Manning has related to me (Mr. Manning is also included in these pages of the book) but I suppose that is not really surprising.

At any rate, the really surprising thing for me was how viscerally I reacted to seeing quoted words of my grandfather's. They're from the Westover notes, which Mr. Manning has told me are not accurate, but still, we have

Within fifteen minutes, Lieutenant Deam radioed back "that he was on the phase line and the men in enemy fox holes."

"Don't worry," replied Deam, "I'll start them off myself." Lieutenant Deam called his Third Platoon commandeer, Lieutenant Manning, and told him to "get his men, fix bayonets, and go on in." As promised, Deam led the attack, but was killed almost immediately by enemy rifle fire. Lieutenant Hall, Manning's assistant was shot in the chest, and another officer, Lieutenant Fagan who had assumed command of E Company, was wounded as well.

This doesn't jive at all with what Mr. Manning has related, especially concerning the circumstances of my grandfather's death, but as I've commented before, I'm amazed that anyone could retain a coherent memory of such a time. For me, it's enough to have another confirmation that he was there, he was doing his job, he was leading his men.

More Auntie Marge

I've posted some more of Auntie Marge's letters, and also fiddled with the settings (on the new server) so that the dates show up correctly. For now I've ditched the calendar view and archives. If I (eventually) figure out how to get them to show the right dates, I'll add them back. The last entry is formatted oddly, so I guess there is a hidden character in there somewhere, but I haven't found it yet. Sigh.

More about Mande St. Etienne

I worked on the genealogy database over the weekend. I upgraded to TNG v5 and I really like some of the new features. The tabbed navigation is much easier, and the new Document object is a good idea. I spent a lot of time trying to decide how to organize sources vs. photos vs. documents and I've settled on a scheme that maybe isn't perfect but seems to work so far.

But the best part is that when I wrote to Dick Manning to let him know I'd loaded some of the pictures that he sent (of my grandfather, John Deam) he replied with some more details about what happened at Mande St. Etienne.

I read Company Commander last year and I'm amazed that any man who experienced that remembers anything about it. I'm very grateful to Dick Manning for sharing his memories of my grandfather, sad as they are, with my family. (The book is not long, but it's not a quick read--at least it wasn't for me. It's very matter-of-fact and at times overwhelming, but I'm glad that I read it.)

Genealogy for your house

There has been a lot of talk on our neighborhood email group about researching your house's history. One of the tips was to look at a set of maps that were made for fire insurance reasons. The Houston Public Library has them digitized online (accessible if you have a library card). We had heard that our house was built in 1929, but it shows up on the 1925 map, so it must be a few years older than we had thought. The next earlier map, from 1907 (I think) just has a blank strip two blocks high down the length of our street. The north side of the street has cross streets, but it doesn't show any buildings in the blocks, and the south side is in the empty space. It also shows a rail line just a few blocks away--that certainly isn't there any more!

Check your public library for "Sanborn Maps". At HPL they're part of the Proquest databases and only Texas maps are available online.

Insurance Maps of Houston

Parental Tour 2005

The Parental Tour is complete and was a fantastic success. Many pix on Flickr.

(Someday I'll have to figure out how to get a badge into a post without screwing up the rest of the page, but that is NOT gonna happen tonight!)

Paul Helzel's Photos

I'm finally getting around to scanning the box of great-grandfather Helzel's photos. The scans are coming out very well! Today I scanned 100 images, and it looks like I'm about halfway through the box. Here are some (much reduced in size) samples:

fence shadows on the snow

a cute little dachsund doggie

First National Bank, all gussied up

My Favorite Bowler

This morning we had a lovely rainstorm. It was just coming in when I woke, and I stayed in bed for a while to let its arrival wash over me. The light of a morning downpour is an indistinct glow. You can't really identify the point when it ceases to be dark. The brightening haze creeps in, limpid and blue. At first the thunder was unaccompanied by lightning--too far away--and I told the cats to calm down, it was just Mildred bowling up there.

From that, I conjured an image of a Paul Bunyan-sized grandma, striding across the clouds, hurling a ball spitting sparks of static which grew into lightning bursts celebrating strikes and spares. What would she be knocking down? Pins would certainly be too prosaic. Demons perhaps, toppling them back to the devil. Yes, that works. It's a whole new way to enjoy Mother Nature's elemental cannonade!

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