Saturday, April 12, 2008


There is a church near us, perched high on a hill. It's called Unity, and every Sunday, when we see their sign at the entrance to our neighborhood, we tell ourselves that we really need to check it out one of these days. When I got a postcard in the mail recently, announcing that they were about to embark on a three-week study of one of my favorite books, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, I knew that the day had arrived.

The facility is absolutely gorgeous, and must have been a lodge or something in its past life. I was a bit afraid that the church might be too weird for us, but needn't have worried. The service was mostly traditional, and resembled most I had ever been to, except for one major difference. The one thing I could never wrap my head around in most churches was the idea that if you didn't follow the precise rules of that particular sect, you were doomed to hellfire and damnation. Unity is not about rules, creeds, or dogma. They believe that we are all one in God, regardless of our path to enlightenment, that spirituality is more important than religion, and they encourage everyone, through the teachings of Jesus Christ, to be all they were created to be. This church just might fit me like a glove.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Our son Austin arrived in Houston late Friday afternoon on Easter weekend. John took us to eat at a new Cajun place he had spotted, primarily because he just liked it's name - Mamma Assumptions. It was pretty fun. Afterwards, Austin drove out to Katy to meet up with the two Hall boys, who had just flown in, and who were the primary reason that we were celebrating Easter in Houston, rather than Wimberley. He spent most of the day out there on Saturday as well, while John and I decided to take in the Pompeii exhibit that was in town. Mid-afternoon he called to say that the Halls had invited him to join them for dinner at t'afia. "You can't go there without us," I squealed. "Tell them we want to come too!"

The owner of this restaurant, Monica Pope, was probably the primary motivating force in my quest for good food. When I first began working at the nursery in Houston, I discovered a wonderful coffeehouse called Onion Creek, that had a decidedly Austin vibe to it. One day I noticed signs about the little farmer's market that was held on their parking lot each Saturday morning, and decided to check it out. One of the booths was manned by Monica Pope and her cohorts, and in addition to selling some great products from the small restaurant she currently ran, they were talking about the new one she was about to open, t'afia. Eventually she started another farmers' market there on her own parking lot.

When searching the internet just now, for some background information to share with you, I came across this one quote that pretty much says it all: "I surrender, Monica Pope is a genius. And her new restaurant, T'afia on Travis Street, is flat-out brilliant."... It takes just one exquisite bite to see what Pope is up to. Every course of the tasting menu dinner features a Texas artisanal food product. While Pope is bowling you over with her dreamy flavor combinations, she's also single-handedly creating a market for organic farmers, small cheese makers, specialty ranchers and local chocolate makers." Robb Walsh, The Houston Press, March 2004.

Needless to say, a fine time was had by all.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


A while back I read an article in the Houston Chronicle about a new phenomena - LA musicians were packing up their bags and moving to the Texas Hill Country. The musician they happened to be interviewing said that he had grown tired of life on the road and the crazy pace in LA. He and his wife were ready to start a family and wanted a better quality of life. They had heard that Austin was the "Live Music Capitol of the World", and decided to check it out for themselves. Sure enough, not only were they happy with the life they found waiting for them here, they also started a chain reaction amongst their friends and fellow musicians. Every time someone came to visit them here, they ended up deciding to move themselves. It's not just Austin that has a plethora of live music venues, either. Almost every town in the vicinity has several as well. Even tiny little Wimberley.

A few weeks back we finally made it to Cafe Susannah. Once a month the fellowship hall in the Methodist Church is transformed into a coffee house with live entertainment, and refreshments provided by Wimberley Pie Co. and Gringo Gourmet Tamales. The band that night was called Kat's Meow, and I was unfamiliar with it, which made for a delightful surprise. Our friend Cheryl said two of the band members were her neighbors, so she, Debi and I all decided to bring our husbands and meet up there. When they started introducing the band members - lead singer Kat Edmondson, Francie Meaux Jeaux on bass, and guitarist Slim Richey - I thought "Woah, wait a minute, I have heard of him. He's been around for ever!" He bills himself as "the most dangerous guitarist in Texas", and claims to have been banned from performing in Sun City due to playing "such explicit notes".

Slim is a prime example of someone who's figured out the key to livin' the good life. He and Francie live here in Wimberley, but manage to follow their passion by playing in multiple bands around the Hill Country, most started by Richey himself, who is internationally recognized for his distinctive southwestern swing/jazz style. In addition to Kat's Meow, he has The Jitter Bug Vipers (think Chicago nightclub in the 40's with Billie Holliday and Gene Krupa), Monster JazzGrass Band (bluegrass players playing jazz, swing and beebop on acoustic instruments), his Dream Band (jazz) and Yo Gadjo - a gypsy jazz band.

The biggest surprise of the evening came when pixie-like Kat Edmondson opened her mouth. All I knew about her was that she had been on season two of American Idol, which I didn't watch. I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't this smoky, sultry blend of Julie London and Madeleine Peyroux. One review I read described her as "a fresh new voice with an old, familiar sound." All I know is, you really ought to hear her singing songs like Fever, Just in Time, and I Thought About You.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


As a rule, I try to support the Wimberley Farmers' Market as much as possible, but the last several times I have gone, there has been only one farmer there. So, today I decided to drive over to the San Marcos market instead - the primary reason being that cheerful looking fellow in the red chef's apron. That is Steve Blank, owner of Phoenix Rising bakery - yet another person who has shed a past life that no longer fit, and reinvented himself here in the Texas Hill Country (a phoenix rising from the ashes?). John and I are so happy that he did, for he is the source of those lovely hand shaped, brick oven baked ciabatta loaves that I use in my Italian egg sandwiches. This week I decided to try something different, and purchased a roasted potato and garlic loaf. I'll let you know if it passes the moan test.

I also sampled some yummy truffles that the coffee bean people have created (white chocolate filled with coffee liqueur and crunchy bits of coffee nibs) and nabbed some tomatoes, a cluster of adorable tiny carrots, miniature heads of cauliflower, red lettuce, and these amazing eggs. I'm so disappointed that the color in this photo isn't true to life, for those eggs are the most beautiful shade of moss green you have ever seen. Definitely worth the trip!


Hey Babe,

Boy, that was close. I guess the Gods were watching over you again today. Ya know that big metal barrel that I painted blue - had an old dead palm tree in it? I decided to move it today, and boy, did it move! I just wanted to roll it over to the other side of the driveway, but I forgot to take into consideration the slant of the driveway, and the curve of the barrel. The curve caused it to turn on me and go in the opposite direction from that which I intended, and the slant caused it to pick up speed and completely get away from me. It went zooming down the hill, barely missing your satellite dish pole (guess I'll have to aim better next time - never was any good at bowling), became airborne a couple of times, but was eventually stopped by a tree some ways down. Ya shoulda seen that sucker go!


Tuesday, April 8, 2008


When Megan and Ben were here visiting, we took them to Wimberley Cafe one morning for breakfast. Pictured is waitress extraordinaire, Nicole. My favorite dish there is Migas, and I wanted to introduce our northern relatives to this Tex-Mex specialty. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked afterwards when Megan said "Well, those were pretty good, but I think my version is better." I made her send me the recipe, so we can check to see if her claim is true. She said the key to her success is something called Sofrito. I had heard that term before, referring to the combination of sauteed onions, garlic and chopped carrot that is the starter for most soups, however she explained that this Sofrito is a product that you can buy ready-mixed in the Mexican food section of your grocery store. So, here is her recipe. Try it and see what you think:

Chop 1/2 onion and saute in a little oil until soft, then throw in about 4 corn tortillas that have been chopped small. Continue cooking until the tortillas start to crisp. Whisk 5 or 6 eggs in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste, then stir in 1 or 2 T. of the Sofrito. Add egg mixture to the pan, stirring gently until they begin to set. Top with a mixture of grated cheddar and jack cheeses.


Today, in Susan Albert's blog tour posting, she talked about how they have gradually scaled back on their gardens, due to advancing age, increased writing demands, time spent at their second home in New Mexico, and due to the ravages of flood and drought. Bit by bit, the various sections have reverted to the native plants and grasses from whence they were wrestled, and she is now quite content with her "wild garden."

I have had a nagging cloud of guilt hanging over me, ever since we bought this place. Because of my background in landscaping, people keep wondering when I am finally going to "get to work." While I was still living in Houston, I could make excuses about the drought and not having a way to keep things watered, but that doesn't work anymore. The truth is, I've become attached to my field of grasses that ripples in the wind, the clumps of cedar that provide the deer with shady resting places, the patches of lavender verbena that are popping up everywhere right now, the native Texas Mountain Laurel that smells like grape bubblegum when it blooms, the cactus paddles with their purple thumb-shaped blooms, and the yuccas that have all just sent up exotic looking bloom stalks in unison.

My interests have broadened since I first became obsessed with gardening, and my body is twelve years older (and suffered a good bit of abuse while employed at the nursery). If my tiny suburban plot in Katy sucked up hours of my time every single day, and had me soaking away my aches and pains in the whirlpool each evening, what might this four acres demand of me? More and more I am convinced that most of the property should stay just as it is, and that I should confine my gardening efforts to a few containers and raised beds up close to the house. The trick will be to convince John of that.

This is not the only philosophical schism that has risen here. The biggie involves deer. To feed, or not to feed, that is the question. City folk who move out here just love seeing the deer wander across their yards at dawn and dusk each day, and in order to encourage that, they tend to set up those mechanized feeders that drop corn out at certain times each day. That way you get hordes of deer coming through like clockwork. Old-timers are rabid in their conviction that it's a very bad idea. They will give you a long list of the reasons why, but the one that grabs my attention is the claim that if you encourage a bunch of deer to come into your yard, you are much more likely to lose all your other plants to them as well.

Now, my John just loves shopping for plants and putting them in. In fact, it's just about his favorite thing in the world. He doesn't give a rat's ass about reading up on them, finding out what they need, or caring for them. He just likes putting them in. So, not only is he unfazed when deer eat a plant, he may even see it as an asset - an excuse to go shopping again. Since I am extremely frugal with my money, and absolutely despise wanton waste, losing a plant that I have invested time, money and energy in, without ever seeing it reach maturity? Well, that makes me physically ill.

I too enjoy seeing the deer wander across the yard, and in fact, sit here eagle-eyed with anticipation each morning, hoping to catch sight of one. However, as I wrote that sentence, it occurred to me that the key word here is "anticipation." If I knew that a bunch of deer were going to come through every day, same time, same place, would I still get that same thrill of anticipation? Wouldn't it eventually become dull and boring? To me, the excitement comes from not knowing when, where, or even if I will spot one. That's what keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Isn't it lucky that John and I somehow manage to laugh with and enjoy each other, in spite of (or maybe because of) our many differences? Do you think perhaps we were brought together to balance one another? In the words of Rocky Balboa...well, nah. Let's not go there.

Monday, April 7, 2008


I found out not long ago that you can get google alerts. They let you know whenever certain phrases appear on the internet, so you can find out who's talking about you. I set one up for the phrase Hill Country Hippie, and got a notice that led me to a website ( As soon as I clicked on the link, a song started playing. It appears to have been written about me. Not only is my name in the title, he's singing about my quest - about finding this hill, where the spirit that once was trapped has been set free, and about rollin' down the River Road, over to Gruene, dancin' to Jerry Jeff and Robert Earl Keene. It sends shivers up my spine each time I listen to it.

I told John about sending this guy an email saying I wanted to purchase the CD with this song on it, and apologizing for using the name Hill Country Hippie on my blog. I told him I didn't realize someone else was already using it. John's reply was "How do you know he didn't get the idea from you? Maybe he saw your blog, and that's what inspired him to write this song." Well, I'd say the odds of that are slim to none. But still, wouldn't that be awesome? To think that you had inadvertently been someone's muse?


Our son Austin is having a tough semester. He's hit that wall that everyone in college comes to eventually, when you finally step over the line that separates "What a Blast!" from "I'm So Ready to Be Finished." He's winding up his fourth year, but still has 2 semesters plus summer school to go, before he earns his computer engineering degree with a minor in German. He has also taken on a pretty demanding job at Hewlett Packard that sucks up all his free time, and which necessitated staying in College Station over spring break, instead of taking his usual trip to Corpus Christi. His roommate for the past four years is graduating this semester and leaving him behind, and to top it all off, he's having serious sleep problems and goes around feeling exhausted all the time. The one happy highlight in his life right now is his puppy Guinness.

His doctor had him sign up for a sleep study, but it was going to be a couple of weeks before they could get him in. Luckily they had a cancellation and called to offer him the spot on a recent Friday. The phone rang just after I had drifted off to sleep that night. It was a very distraught Austin, calling to say that he'd had to cancel his appointment because he'd been wandering the streets all night, looking for Guinness. He had taken her with him to hang out with some friends. When they were ready to go to dinner, they put her in the friends' back yard. When they returned, she was gone. I called John in Houston, to relay the news, then spent a sleepless night myself, trying to block out the picture of Guinness wandering down a busy highway in the dark, trying to find her way back home. Now I remember why I had made up my mind never to have any more pets. It's not that I don't love them. It's that I love them too much, and I never wanted to go through this kind of pain again.

John called Austin first thing the next morning, offering to put up money for a reward. I called just after that, offering to come keep him company while he waited for news. He had barely managed to utter the words "I just talked to Dad...." when I heard my cell phone ringing. With John at one ear, and Austin at the other, I heard the good news. However Guinness had managed to find her way out of that backyard, she had somehow managed to find her way back. Austin had heard the phone ringing while he was in the shower, and it was his friend calling to inform him that a very cute, but very tired puppy was sitting on his back patio when he got up. "Now if I can just dry off and get some clothes on," Austin told us "I will go get my baby!"

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Both my sister Kathy and I have been following Susan Wittig Albert's blog tour, promoting the latest book in her China Bayles series, Nightshade. Her posting on the Working Stiffs blogsite ( was our favorite so far. In it she posed the question "How do you make your amateur sleuth distinctive enough to carry a book into a long running series?" Her answers - think niche, think setting, think character and character ensemble, and most important, allow the character to grow - made me realize why I got hooked on her series in the first place. Before her books, I was never a big fan of mysteries. The characters never seemed to learn from their mistakes, and I hated knowing from the get-go that the PI's girlfriend was bound to get knocked off, because he was incapable of sustaining a relationship for longer than one book. Susan changed all that.

After reading this post, Kathy sent me a note asking "Didn't that give you the urge to write some fiction?" I jokingly replied with "OK, here's the retirement plan: You and I team up to write a mystery series, since you are the expert on them (she's probably read 2 or 3 a week for the last 20 years), and we'll put Carolyn in charge of marketing." Our other sister, Carolyn, worked for several years at The Mystery Bookstore" in Dallas, where they were constantly hosting mystery author book-signings. On top of that, she's a corporate event-planner extraordinaire.

Almost immediately, Kathy shot back a note saying "Now doesn't that sound fun! I think you should be in charge of the niche. Has gardening been overdone, do you think? I'd enjoy character development, but I'm not sure if I could think of a mystery that hasn't already been done. Hmmm...something to think about while lying around for a couple of months (she's about to have both knees replaced).

I couldn't resist answering with "How about a main character who has moved to the Hill Country and is in the process of becoming a locavore? ;) Just think of the interesting characters you could introduce while she's out there searching for the best local growers, cheesemakers, vintners, olive oil producers and bakers. And what about that whole battle over whether it's better to buy organic, or local and seasonal? That's just fraught with tension!

I'm pretty sure I lost her there, because her reply was "Locavore? Is that a real word, or did you just make that up?" However, just in case she does take this idea and run with it while she is laid up, I think you all should know that everything in this blog is copyrighted, and John has oodles of lawyers in his family!