Friday, November 14, 2008




What a hoot! I just discovered, over at, that there is a dealio you can enter your blog address into, and it will analyze what kind of blogger you are. Here's what it had to say about me and my blog: Much as I hate to admit it, it hit fairly close to the mark. So, what's your blogging personality?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Have you ever found yourself staring at shelves full of so many shampoo or deodorant choices that you just can't decide what to get, so you end up leaving with nothing? I have come to the conclusion that too many choices can be almost as bad as having no choices at all. That might explain my recent recipe purge.

I was going nuts the other day, trying to find my praline icing recipe for Austin's birthday. It happens to be John's favorite in the world, and when I couldn't find it here, I sent a message asking him to check there in Houston for me. His reply? "Sure hope you manage to find it, else I just might have to re-think this whole marriage thing." Good thing I finally did.

During my hunt, it occurred to me that I should probably do the same 100 item purge on my recipes that I did on my wardrobe some years back. When I first read Simplify Your Life, by Elaine St. James, I made up my mind to rid myself of every clothes-shopping mistake I had ever made. What I ended up with was 100 pieces (including shoes and purses) that all mix and match, all fit comfortably, and all make me feel beautiful when I wear them. I can't tell you what a difference it made in my life. In fact, if I hadn't done it, we never would have bought this house in Wimberley. I would have taken one look at this teeny tiny closet and said, "Forget it. We're wasting our time here." Instead, I found myself thinking, "Woohoo, time for another purge!"

Anyway, back to recipes. When I first discovered Food Network, I went kind of crazy. I'd go online and print off everything Giada cooked. Then I was buying all of her, Ina's and Jamie's cookbooks. Now I can't resist the latest copies of Gourmet and Bon Appetit, and am always tearing out pages to save. Things are getting way out of control. So, I did exactly what I'd done to my wardrobe - culling out all but my very favorites, which these days are the simple, basic, flexible recipes where fresh, local ingredients are the stars, and I can substitute whatever is in season. I imposed an 100-item limit on myself, and each time I am tempted to tear out a new recipe, I must be willing to pull out and toss another.

Writing about my closet purge somehow dug up a long-buried and all-but-forgotten memory. Do any of you recall a clothing line from back in the 80's, called Units? Or maybe you came across its later incarnation, Multiples. It started as young Sandra Garrett's design school project, blossomed into many small boutiques in high end malls, then faded after it was sold to J.C. Penney. But, while they lasted, they were my ideal wardrobe. It was a modular concept, with only 10 or 12 pieces in the entire line, all made of a comfy, carefree, cotton knit. If you had all these pieces, in a few mix & match colors, you could easily come up with 100 different combinations, which you would then accessorize to make them uniquely yours. I was a happy girl in the 80's.

The most surprising outcome of my various purges was the same, startling discovery that Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch wrote about in their appendix to Ferenc Mate's book A Reasonable Life, titled A Reasonable Garden: "Just as it's easier to write a sonnet than free verse, it's easier to cook well with seasonal limitations: they are a spur to creativity."

I'm reading an interesting book now called The Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey Into Terroir, by Amy B. Trubek. In it, I came across something amazing: "Perhaps ironically, given the story of its origin, but certainly inevitably, in light of our global food system, the taste of place has become a transnational mode of discernment. Increasingly, the taste of place is an intervention into the vast array of placeless and faceless foods and beverages now available to people everywhere." In other words, this whole grassroots locavore movement has come about because we're all sick and tired to too damn many inferior choices!

P.S. Many thanks to for the image of a Units jumpsuit.


and enjoy that tiny thing for all it's worth." (from Joie de Vivre, by Robert Arbor)

My tiny thing? Romano beans! I planted a few seeds (Seeds of Change's Italian Pole Bean) at the foot of my fountain trellis this fall, and only managed to get two meals off of them so far, but couldn't be any happier if you gave me a diamond ring - and if you knew me, you'd realize I'm dead serious about that! Last night for dinner I blanched a handful, shocked them in ice water, then tossed them in a pan with a bit of chopped garlic and breadcrumbs that had been sauteed in olive oil. Orgasmic.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


We humans like to believe that we have supremacy in this world. What a joke. We may be able to tame Mother Nature here and there, for short periods of time, but the minute we relax or turn our backs for even a second, she just goes right back to her old shenanigans.

Take our driveway, for instance. About a year after we bought this place, we paved the part that climbs straight up-hill. The remaining section - a fork that branches off in front of the house and leads to the guest room parking area - was left graveled. Once Lex moved away and was no longer driving on it daily, it made up its mind to revert back to native grasses and salt cedar shrubs. I knew we were in trouble the day John started to turn onto it, but had to hesitate because he could no longer see clearly where the edges fell off into ditches. He went out with his weed-whacker later, and spent an entire weekend attacking the grasses, but I do believe that by the time he reached the end, they were already creeping up behind him. What it really needs is to be re-graded and topped up with fresh gravel, but that would take a wad of cash that we just don't have right now, and will have to get in line with the landscaping plans, water catchment system, garage enclosure, and everything else.

In a way, it reminds me of the compound where we lived in Indonesia. It was absolutely gorgeous, with olympic-sized pool, golf course, club house, school, and streets full of neat little houses with tidy lawns. It was the Club Med version of a master-planned community, with palm trees everywhere. After the unrest broke out, and the last of the expatriates were sent home, their section of the compound was left sitting idle. Now, if you look it up on Google Earth, you can see it quickly being swallowed up by the surrounding jungle. Soon, it will be impossible to tell that we were ever even there.

P.S. Many thanks to for the image above.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


We are heading to College Station next weekend to celebrate best buddy Tim's 60th birthday, and it got me to thinking...about an eye-opening conversation we had not long ago. For more than 30 years I've been under the impression that we and the Sanfords both ran around in the same crowd, and lived in the same world, when we met in Bahrain. Just recently, however, I discovered that was not the case at all. The lightbulb didn't go off until we told them about hooking up with the Weirichs recently, and finding out about an upcoming reunion. "Hey, none of the guys I hung out with are gonna be there," Tim replied with a laugh. "Hell, most of em are probably dead by now!"

It took me a few days to muddle this out, but finally I got the picture. You see, the way things were with life on an offshore platform, John and Tim were kind of like bisexuals - they could go either way. They had one foot in each of two different worlds, but they each had their primary foot in opposite worlds.

Tim was the safety expert offshore. It was his job to keep everyone alive, and believe you me, that was no easy task with that wild and wooly bunch! Most of the guys working on the platforms had come over on single status, were making more money than they ever dreamed possible, and when they got their one week of shore-leave, they were like cowboys hitting the saloon after a long cattle drive. Tim only worked offshore, so these were his primary friends, but when he got his shore-leave, he went home to his sweet little kindergarten-teaching wife, who lived on the company compound with all the other married-status people. So of course, he socialized with both groups. I used to get jealous because Paula got invited to so many more parties than me - and some pretty wild ones at that - but never really stopped to figure out why. I just thought we must be too boring!

Unlike Tim, John originally worked in the office with guys who pretty much all came over on married status, some even bringing kids. Although we opted out of moving to the company compound when it was completed, choosing instead to "mingle with the natives," these were still the people that we hung out with. It wasn't until months later, that John was assigned to do a stint offshore. I was pretty nervous when I found out about it. He tried to reassure me by saying "Don't worry, we engineers have a low mortality rate," but then he spoiled it by mumbling "long as we don't piss off a construction foreman." Now I'm sitting here wondering if maybe it wasn't just lucky chance that gave him Tim as a roommate. I'm thinking maybe someone was smart enough to realize, if anyone could babysit a rookie engineer and keep him safe, it would be Tim Sanford. The nick-names should have tipped me off. Tim and all the others had tough sounding names like Tex, Toad, and Redbeard, while everyone called my hubby "John Boy." So thanks a million Tim, for bringing my baby back home in one piece. I am forever in your debt.

Top photo: Paula and Tim (aka Toad)
Bottom: Me and John Boy