Foto Friday: There’s a Yankee in the Doodle House (how dandy!)

It’s Picture Day today at the middle school where Heath teaches. With this in mind, I’m resurrecting Foto Friday this week because everyone deserves to see the outfit my favorite history teacher chose to grace the pages of the RBMS yearbook.

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Is he a great teacher or what?

(Props go to Mama Joy for making such a kick ass Yankee uniform.)


Clean or be cleaned?

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Neither my parents nor Heath’s parents had housecleaning help when we were growing up. I don’t know the reasoning behind that decision in the Robinson household, but I’m pretty sure my mom nixed the option because she felt no one could do it as well as she could. I, however, do not share her enthusiasm.

I bring this up because while the question of whether or not to hire some bi-monthly help to tend to baseboard cleaning and oven scrubbing may not give others pause, it does for me because it’s not a luxury I am accustomed to having on a regular basis. Like manicures or massages. Nothing is wrong with either habit, but it’s difficult to embrace an indulgence like that if it’s not what you regularly grew up. I also feel like the maid debate is somewhat of a taboo, at least in our social circle. Before writing this post, I never brought up the subject to friends, it just wasn’t something anyone discussed. But as I started thinking more about it and asking questions, I found out that a surprising number of close friends benefit from the assistance of a professional housekeeper. The fact that it wasn’t discussed but was nonetheless present, makes me dwell on the topic even further.

The truth of the matter is, I am an employed adult in a two-income household with no kids and an affinity for exploration, and the last thing I want to do with my free time is engage in scrupulous cleaning.  I’m not good at at.  I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it. I feel this same way about making sushi and going to the dentist.

So, is enlisting the assistance of an expert in cleanliness the right thing for Heath and I to do at this moment in our lives?  I see a pro/con list in my future.

Pro: The time I currently spend cleaning house would be free to focus on other things.

Con: I don’t currently spend that much time cleaning house, so realistically that doesn’t add up to much.

Pro: I get a clean house, a cleaner house than I could ever imagine…a home where there isn’t a layer of dust on the tops of all picture frames and even places like the sides of the refridgerator have a lustrous sheen. Ok, I clearly can imagine it, and I like it.

Con: Unlike, say, plumbing or electrical work, cleaning house is something I could do myself. I have the tools and the know-how to sweep and shine, so forking over the cash to let someone else do the dirty work could feel a little off. But to be fair, I call cabs despite knowing how to drive and eat at restaurants despite knowing how to cook. Why think differently about housework?

Pro: Technically, hiring a housekeeper would be providing employment, and I’ve always wanted to be one of them “job creators” the Republicans have been going on and on about.

Con: It’s a new expense, something else to budget for, which means less money to spend on some of the fun stuff like concerts or vacays.

Pro: I’m fairly certain the overall quality of my life would improve. I’m not going to put all my eggs in the hiring–a-maid basket, but having a well-kept home would make me feel all warm and squishy inside, like I’m kinda sorta getting good at the being-a-grown-up-thing. Impressing my mom with my spic and span space would be a nice benefit too.

Con: I can see myself feeling what Ranjana coined “lifestyle guilt.” I’ve had a pretty privileged life—got a car at 16, studied abroad in college, own a home—and I’m not obtuse the fact that these are things that many, many harder working people than myself will never have or experience. I don’t pretend that I wouldn’t feel sort of awkward about “flaunting” my good fortune before a stranger. I think this is the reason my friends aren’t quick to fess up to having a housekeeper.

Pro: Having a clean home is better for the house itself. If I bring someone in to regularly maintain the corners and crevices, the house will experience less rust, ware and deterioration. That’s just responsible homeownership.

Con: I would be letting a stranger into my private spaces. Things like dirty underpants, medication and embarrassing dance movies would all be out there for the housekeeper to see. I don’t know if  there’s a universally accepted moral code that housekeepers abide by that demands they refrain from judgement, but I hope so.

Pro: While a housekeeper would be a stranger at first, I hope that eventually we’d form a bond. I know many people who have developed strong ties and relationships with the people who provide them services, and I would really value building that unique relationship.

There’s clearly a lot to consider, at least from my perspective. But in the end, I think the good outweighs the bad. At the heart of it, hiring a housekeeper isn’t a reflection on me—it doesn’t mean I’m a spoiled and lazy so-and-so, it just means I would have a cleaner house. And that is something worth trying.


Hiking Weather

Merely a few images captured during a recent autumn hike on the greenbelt.

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Foto Friday–Eclectic Cottage Flashback

I was going through my flickr account recently, which I hate to admit is sorely outdated, and I came across a handful of pictures of the original Doodle House. We lived there a year and a half before moving to our current pad, doing what we could to make it feel like home given our limited capabilities as renters. We painted. We updated some hardware here and there. We got our start raising chickens. It was the house we lived in as newly weds and we did what we could with what we had to make it ours. I don’t have any negative feelings or weird associations with our old place, none at all. But looking back, I realize now, even with all its quirks, how much more our current house feels like home than did this little eclectic cottage. It’s kind of funny how much can change in just a couple of years.

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brickpatio

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green fabric print chair

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PSA: Portland v. Seattle v. Austin

A few weeks ago I tried to summarize my Portland and Seattle trip by making a venn diagram of every city we visited–incorporating my observations and favorite parts of each. You see, as we prepared for our summer travels the comparisons between Portland and Seattle could not be avoided. We also hear Portland frequently compared to Austin, though this article says it has recently surpassed Austin as the country’s most hipster-friendly city. Regardless, I made this graphic a few weeks ago that stacks the cities against each other, but then I shamefully forgot to post it. And then, in writing this, I realize I also neglected a post paraphrasing Portland. Shame on me on all counts: not writing about Portland, not sharing my clever, or maybe cliche, graphic and not posting in any kind of a timely relevant manner. I hope my journalism teachers aren’t reading.

Tardy though it may be, I clumsily submit this to you now. Hopefully it sheds some light on our experience and lets readers know what they may be in for should they visit any of these fine destinations. Though, full disclosure, our Austin perspective is slightly skewed. It’s the Doodle House home base after all.

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I’ll tell my kids about it

Full disclosure, I flaked out like a blizzard when it came time to, how do I say this diplomatically, make efficient use of our aggressive rooster Ruby. We had raised Ruby since he was a chick. Fed him. Housed him. Named him. So it was tough for me to then do the dirty and dispatch of him. That, I gladly left for Heath to endure. (Though I had no problem doing the subsequent cooking and eating and blogging.) Given my lack of participation in that surreal and slightly icky life moment, it seemed unlikely I would sign up for any future endeavors of the same ilk. How wrong you are my friend. For I was front and center when pals Mark and Ranjana made, er, “efficient use” of their three hens and two ducks last weekend.

Like Heath and I, and thousands of other wannabe urban farmers in Austin and elsewhere, Mark and Ranjana spent a good long while providing a comfortable space in the backyard in which Rothko, Benedict, Omlette, Frank and Scott could scratch up and stink up. It’s perhaps what they do best after egg laying and mealworm eating. But, alas, the couple has decided to relocate, and as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you. And “it” includes chickens and ducks. So, a chicken dinner it would be for Mark, Ranjana and their invited guests.

I’m not blind to the fact that to many, it may seem gross and odd and perhaps even cruel to do in your pets. Nor am I obtuse to the cold hard truth that there is an entire industry out there that does this sort of thing day in and day out, and it’s in many ways not such a big f-ing deal. (In fact, the average American eats about 185 pounds of chicken a year, according to this NPR story, so chew on that if you’re a chicken eater of the “that’s cruel” ideology.)  Whatever camp you’re in—Gross, Cruel, Who Cares—it doesn’t change the simple notion that it is important to know where your food comes from, REALLY comes from. So this time, I put on my big girl pants and played an active role in helping Maranjanark prepare their meal.

Why? Well, to help out some friends, for one. But also, I wanted to be there for selfish reasons. I wanted to document the process for the sake of art, or nostalgia or something. And I wanted to be able to tell my future kids about it. “No kids, I haven’t gone skydiving, or set foot on Antarctica, but I did see with my own two eyes, a chicken run around with its head cut off, and it was weird, and startling and magnificent.” I wanted to be there for my street cred.

What didn’t factor into my decision making process at the time I volunteered for this assignment, was the odd sense of fulfillment I would derive from it all. Not from the actual morbid blood-and-guts part, but being a part of the life cycle. For years Mark and Ranjana gave to the birds, and now the birds were giving back. It was all done humanely and gracefully. Mark and Ranjana said a few words to remember and be thankful for the experiences the birds afforded them, and then shared their nourishment with friends who had supported them along the way.

I was confused and conflicted and frankly a little immature when we made a meal of our rooster. But being a part of the experience, the whole experience, with our Austin family was different. It felt right. It felt important. It felt beautiful.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” –Cesar Chavez

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For dog lovers

This Saturday we followed our friend Christine to a “pup crawl” on Rainey Street to benefit Weimaraner Rescue of Texas. About 60 dog lovers leashed up their hounds to show support for the local rescue organization and to enjoy a cool pint and warm weather in the process. Along with the doodles, I also brought the nikon out for the walk, resulting in the following canine collage.

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The handsomest of the bunch.

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This one’s for you, Joy!

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Oh. Hello, Phyllis. I didn't expect to see you here.

Oh. Hello, Phyllis. I didn’t expect to see you here.

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300 entries later…

Honestly, I started writing this blog a couple of years ago just to keep track and have a record of Heath’s and my various comings-and-goings in Austin, not really expecting to gather any type of fan base or following. Today, as I celebrate 300 posts, I know I am really, truly, unimaginatively fortunate to have readers that can derive even the slightest bit of entertainment or inspiration from this little piece of internet. It’s a pleasure and a joy to have an audience.

This blog, which started nearly as an afterthought, has turned out to be the catalyst for motivating me to take on more home improvement, gardening and photography projects that otherwise may have gone unexplored. And I know it’s largely my readers who have inspired me to continue to tackle new territory (including my biggest fan, my mom, who has read and commented on every post, talk about supportive parenting). As I look back at the 300 posts and reflect on the more than 300 hours I have sunk into this funky manifesto, I feel it’s appropriate to mark this milestone with a collection of my favorite posts from throughout the years.

The Rumors Are True  (Our Wedding)
Mostly photographs by the phenomenal Stacy Sodolak of SMS Photography of a hot day in July that remains the happiest one of our lives.

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Don’t Bite The Hand that Feeds You
The story of what happens to rowdy roosters.

ruby1The Need for Seed
The joys and challenges of starting a garden from seed.

seed starter

Dear Diary
A contemplative post about finding balance between nesting at home and having experiences abroad.

They know me well at the painter’s counter
A lighthearted post about the important role unconventional colors play in our lives.

carpetinmidcenturylivingroomA slideshow of sorts
Photos from our life-altering Christmas vacation in India.

The temple elephant.

I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing. Here’s to another 300.


The architecture of a cactus

I love the buds and blooms that spring brings, but walking through our neighborhood yesterday, it was hard not to notice another type of dramatic foliage. The cactus.  As a native Texan, cacti have always held a special place in my heart. Along with blue bonnets and live oaks, to me they are indicative of home. And maybe that is why I am especially prone to studying their varied and stunning architecture. Architecture that swoops, and climbs, and dives, and sprawls. Whether donning incendiary blooms, staccato quills or fluid curves, there is something magnetic about cacti.

From my iPhone on yesterday’s walk…

yucca greenagave

This one reminded me of a fried egg.

This one reminded me of a fried egg.

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Weekend (w)rap up.

We actually didn’t do a single home improvementy or garden-oriented project this weekend. Not. A. One. So what DID we do during our weekend with a freshly deposited pay check and perfect weather? I’m glad you (I) asked! Here’s how we stayed busy…in rhyme, of course. As if there’s any other way.

Friday night was a treat you see,
including pizza with friends and a documentary.
Searching for Sugarman” was its name.
’bout how the singer Rodriguez rose to fame.

Saturday morning we were sleeping late,
followed by a trip to Perla’s for a hot brunch date.
We split some oysters from the East and West,
and had a lobster omelet ‘cuz it tastes the best.

Then we headed south, down the highway
to hang with my Papa who I’m proud to say
is perhaps the wisest person I’ve ever met
a claim upon which I’d place a bet.
We all shared a cocktail and a glass of wine
and we talked all about our India time.

On Sunday mornin’ we cruised the the hood
on foot with our dogs and the weather was good.
We followed it up with a grocery store trip,
getting crab meat, and cheese and veggies and dip.

We didn’t build a fence or paint a wall.
Sometimes you need a break from the pace of it all.
It felt real good to move a little slow
without projects to conquer or veggies to grow.
Next weekend I’m plannin’ big things with my spouse,
‘cuz that’s how we do it at the doodle house!

Mic drop.