Friday, April 4, 2008


John's niece Megan and her husband Ben were both in Austin recently for the interactive conference connected with SXSW. To our great good fortune, they extended their stay a few days to come and play with us in Wimberley. We picked them up at their hotel in downtown Austin just as the film festival was winding down, and the music festival was cranking up. The streets were so packed with interesting people, it reminded me of being at Jazz Fest in New Orleans. We figured it might be a bit difficult to get a table at any of the restaurants nearby, so we took them to Hill's Cafe, down on far south Congress, for a very Texan dinner of chicken-fried steak.

The next day we took them to the fiber arts center at Old Oaks Ranch, and were lucky enough to be introduced to their two new baby alpacas. Afterwards we had lunch at Leaning Pear, and let them stroll the square and check out some of the shops. We had to go back home and rest up a bit for the main event of the day - a grand feast at Tuscan-inspired Mandola Winery. We went to the tasting room first, so Megan and Ben could choose which wines were their favorites, then walked next door through the beautiful gardens to Trattoria Lisina. We started with an assortment from their antipasta table and my new favorite food in the world, wood-fired pizza topped with buttery prosciutto and crisp arugula, then we shared several different pastas and a plate of saltimbocca, so everyone could get a taste of each. That worked out so well that we ended up doing the same thing with our desserts, passing the gelato, panna cotta and tiramisu around the table for each person to taste. An absolutely perfect evening, and about as far away from sittin' in the Willie Nelson booth at Hill's Cafe as you can get, without crossing any oceans.

On their last full day with us, we decided to head over to San Antonio, so that Ben could say he had been to the Alamo. Luckily, it's only an hour's drive from here, as are so many wonderful things. Texas Mountain Laurel was in bloom across the hill country that week, so we were greeted with the smell of grape bubblegum everywhere we turned. We wandered through the shops of La Villita, strolled along the riverwalk, visited the bar in the old Menger Hotel (where Teddy Roosevelt recruited roughriders), had lunch at a tacqueria, and moseyed through the streets of the historic King William district. That evening we had dinner at the River Pub over in San Marcos, and were planning to finish up the day by introducing them to Clifford's Original Wine Bar here in Wimberley. However Megan wasn't feeling too hot by then, and truthfully, I think we were all happy to turn in early that evening. We did manage to cram quite a lot into their very brief visit!

Thursday, April 3, 2008


I got an email message recently from Lisa, owner of our wonderful local wine bar, announcing that she had not only revamped their entire website (, she had launched a "wine blog" as well. In honor of the occasion, she was offering a free glass of their house wine to anyone who would reply to her message with a story or photo depicting why they love Clifford's. I wrote back saying that I love Clifford's because almost every time I go there, I end up with new material for my own blog! Not only did I win that glass of wine, I've also netted several new readers who linked from that comment back to my blog. How cool is that? Go to the link above to check out her fantastic new website, with lots of great photos, and be sure to click on Lisa's Blog.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Have you heard about Six Word Memoirs? They are causing quite a buzz these days. You have to sum up your entire life in exactly six words. There's a website out there somewhere, that lists a bunch that have been sent in, and they run the gamut from thought-provoking to downright hilarious. Some are a little of both , like "Happily married until she discovered affair." I've been playing around with several combinations of my own, and so far, this is my favorite:


I apologize for giving you only the blog entries that I can pull from my head for the next couple of days. I will be back in Wimberley Friday though, and have several good ones saved up for you, as soon as I can access my photos: Our whirlwind tour of the Hill Country with niece Megan and her husband Ben, who were down here for SXSW; dining with the Hall clan at t'afia; Cafe Susannah music event featuring Slim Richey and the Kat's Meow; my first day on the job at Bella Vista Ranch; and a pot luck dinner at the Arnosky's blue barn, with live entertainment.

I had become rather lax about writing in my journal for a while. Since I was busy trying to transfer the previous 3 year's worth of entries over to this blog, I had to keep my rate of adding new stories lower than my rate of transfer, or I had no hope of ever getting it caught up to real time. Now it's time to get cranked back up to creative mode, and beyond. Although the friends and family members I sent my hand-written letters to remained loyal regardless of their infrequency, blog readers will not. If I go too long without posting, I've lost them.

Another thing I've discovered is that they have fairly short attention spans. I've spent a lot of time reading the blogs of others lately, and 'tho I can sit reading a book for hours, the minute a blog starts to ramble, I'm outta there! (am I rambling?) Also, even if I was willing to wade through the early prehistoric chapters of a Michner novel (the ones without humans), a blog had better grab me with its first sentence, or I will go no further.

Thanks to a recently received rejection letter, I now realize that most of my early stories not only rambled, they were also way too wordy. Because I don't enjoy typing near as much as I enjoy writing in the beautiful journals and using the wonderful assortment of writing implements that John keeps me supplied with, I naturally began to condense the stories as I transferred them over to the computer. Trying to rework them for submission to magazines and journals that had strict word limits, had me slashing them even further.

All of this, I think, is working to shape me into a better writer. All I know is, when I go back to read my early ramblings, I am embarassed by my own verbocity.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I am in Dallas this week, taking care of Mom while my sister is away on a cruise. I thought this would be the perfect time to do a lot of blogging, since I finally learned how to access my blog from someone else's computer (have I mentioned that I'm technologically challenged?) Unfortunately, I just now realized that although I can access the blog from here, I cannot access all the photos I have taken recently and downloaded onto my computer at home. Double Poo!

I'm still mulling over where I should go with my writing, and how to get there. One thing I love about blogging is that one's audience has fairly low expectations, and high levels of tolerance. They don't hold you to the same stringent standards of excellence that they would if they were reading your very same words in a book, magazine or newspaper. If I want to quote someone, I do give them credit of course, but I don't stop and get their permission first. If I want to mention something I read about, but can't remember where I read it, I just say "I read somewhere recently..." I'm afraid you can't get away with that in the real world. So, while I'd certainly love the expanded coverage and credibility that would come with being a legitimate writer, I'm also lazy. I don't really enjoy doing research, and I'm already quite resentful of all the time I have to spend on the computer. Plus, I just don't know the rules of the game.

I guess that's really the crux of the matter. As with most things I've undertaken, I only hated them at first when I didn't know what the heck I was doing. The more I learned, the easier it got, and the more I enjoyed it. So, the question is, what's the best way to learn a whole lot about writing slice-of-life articles, or maybe even a column, without having to go back for yet another degree?


I started dating my husband as soon as I arrived at UT, at the ripe old age of 17. However, he was several years ahead of me, and soon graduated and took a job in Houston. A year later, he was transferred to Asia. Since email had not yet arrived on the scene, I wrote him letters. Very good letters. So good, in fact, that he came running home to fetch me the minute I graduated.

When our kids were 5 and 8, we got transferred to Indonesia, and the grandparents were not happy. I started up the letters again, and learned to use words to paint pictures of our daily activities, turning our adventures into stories that would help the relatives to feel connected. The letters ended when we moved back home several years later, but after my father-in-law had his stroke, I wondered if perhaps they should not have. One of his brothers sent him a letter every week, come hell or high water, and having someone read it to him was the highlight of his week. Apparently it meant the world to my mother-in-law as well, for she mentioned it every time we saw or spoke to her.

When we bought this house in Wimberley, and suddenly had so much news to tell, I started up the letters again, primarily for the benefit of older friends and relatives who did not have email. I added my college-aged kids to the list when they complained about never having anything in their mailboxes. Then others began asking to be added to the list, which eventually led to the blog, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Sunday, March 30, 2008


A few weeks back, my weekend did not start well. I had found out that I was not selected as a host site for Susan Albert's blog tour, and the deadline had passed with no word on whether either of my two stories would be published in the next Story Circle Journal. As I was heading out for Houston, I stopped to grab the mail, and found my first official rejection notice, from GreenPrints magazine. The editor told me the story rambled, wasn't very cohesive, and wasn't that strong. I've always heard they sugar-coat their rejections, so I'd hate to hear what he really thought! I let myself stew for the duration of the drive, then put it out of my head.

On Saturday John took me on one of his surprise outings, where he won't disclose what the plans are (my favorite kind!). We started out at the Museum of Contemporary Arts and Crafts, took photos in the Rice University/Museum District, had lunch at a funky little Thai place in Rice Village, then went to a photography exhibit at another museum. By then I'd all but forgotten my woes.

That evening we met my friend Nicki and her partner Dale at their favorite restaurant, Patronella's. Two generations back, it was a little Italian grocery store and deli. Each successive generation bought up neighboring houses and connected them, forming the very homey restaurant that is there today. It even has a bocce ball court out front. Nicki and Dale have become friends with the owner over time, and he came to our table to visit as we were finishing up. He had something he wanted us to see, and we played follow the leader as he led us through the kitchen and new bar area, until we ended up on a secluded back patio. We stood around an open brazier that he had improvised from a salvaged chimney, while he plied us with free Limoncello and chatted about the extensive fruit, herb and vegetable gardens that he had planted in the vacant lot behind the restaurant. No wonder his food is so delicious, and what a delightful way to end the evening!

One thing was kind of funny though. Dale, who is originally from NY, kept asking me if I had gone bonkers from boredom in Wimberley yet. When I told her it wasn't boredom I was fighting, but becoming too involved, she didn't believe me. People who have only lived in big cities just don't get it, and never will. What I have found is that, just as it's easier to write sonnet than free verse, or easier to do good landscape designs if you are given restrictions, or easier to cook well with seasonal limitations, one also tends to have more fun when one isn't surrounded by movie theatres, restaurants and malls. Why? Because it forces you to use your imagination and come up with novel forms of entertainment. Do you honestly think we would have built the world's greatest slip 'n slide while living in Indonesia, or celebrated Canadian Trapper's Day with log-rolling in the swimming pool and human dog-sled races, if we could have just gone to the mall instead? I think not.

Oh, by the way, when I got back to Wimberley I found an email message, informing me that not just one, but both of the stories I submitted to the SCN Journal were going to be published!