Friday, March 27, 2009


MUSINGEGRET!!! Congratulations! Now if you would just send your mailing address to me at becky.lane(at)vownet(dot)net, I will pop your prize in the mail.

And what is her prize? The lovely book Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter, by Elaine St. James. This little tome was published in 1994, right at a time when many of us were beginning to realize that all of these modern conveniences, super gizmos, supposedly shorter work weeks, and round the clock shopping had not really delivered on the luxurious life of ease, and smiling, happy families, that the ads had promised us. If anything, we were more frazzled, and had less time for those we loved, than ever before.

As I mentioned earlier, before one can continue on this path towards good living, it is sometimes necessary to clear the path of weeds and debris, so that you can really see where you are going. I think this is just the book to help you do that. St. James believed that the more complex life becomes, the more people crave simplicity. As she and her husband worked to alter their life's path, she took note of all that they learned, and put it here in this book. Not every suggestion will work for every family, but you are bound to find many that will, such as reducing the clutter in your life, leaving your shoes at the front door, getting rid of your lawn, building a simple wardrobe, not answering the phone just because it's ringing, getting out of debt, reducing your need for goods and services, working where you live and living where you work, getting rid of the exercise equipment and taking a walk instead, giving up on trying to change people, keeping a journal and doing one thing at a time.

As I glanced back through these chapters, I was quite startled at how very many of these suggestions - ideas that seemed so startling and contrary to what was the norm back then - have now been absorbed and incorporated into my everyday life. Pick up this book, and read your way to a simpler, more satisfying life.

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

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Speak now, or forever hold your peace - the drawing is tomorrow morning!


Click to Enlarge

P.S. Don't forget to leave a comment (or email to becky.lane(at)vownet(dot)net) before Friday morning, if you wish to be included in the drawing for another great book. Include a suggestion for some book that really helped to advance you along your path towards the good life, and I will enter your name twice. But hurry, deadline is tomorrow morning!


Caught this off of my porch yesterday, after a brief but ferocious storm flew through here. Fortunately, we didn't get any of the three-inch hail that it dumped up around Marble Falls.

P.S. Don't forget to leave a comment (or email to becky.lane(at)vownet(dot)net) before Friday morning, if you wish to be included in the drawing for another great book. Include a suggestion for some book that really helped to advance you along your path towards the good life, and I will enter your name twice!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


When I took my first bite of oatmeal this morning, I was shocked at how blah it tasted. It was as though I hadn't added enough brown sugar, butter, or cinnamon, though I knew I had stirred in the usual amount. On the verge of adding more sugar, it came to me: I forgot to stir any salt into the boiling water. Reaching for my red ceramic salt pig, I took a tiny pinch, stirred until certain it had dissolved, then re-tasted. Ahhh, perfection!

For years I wondered why dessert recipes always called for salt. I figured it must be important to some chemical reaction. Perhaps it was vital to the crisping of a crust, or adding bounce to baked goods. Only recently did I discover the truth - it's all about balance and contrast. You don't add salt to most foods because you want them to taste salty. You add it because it brings out and intensifies all the other flavors in the dish. Thus, the blah oatmeal. Go figure.

As I was writing this, the strings that attach me to that great harmonic instrument in the sky were just a-vibrating! They were telling me that there was a very important life-lesson metaphor in all of this, if I could just wrap my head around it. Perhaps it has something to do with our need for contrast in our lives, like the way you need adversity in order to fully appreciate the good times, and not take them for granted. You know, like the seasons? The way people up north go ga-ga over spring, after being snowbound all winter, while we here weep tears of joy for that first cool fall day, after sizzling all summer.

Or, maybe it has more to do with the balance in a relationship. Perhaps it explains why opposites so often attract, and that you know it's a good match when each partner causes the other to be a better, more complete yin & yang, right?

Oh, who am I kidding? I have no idea what it means. I just know there is a lesson in there somewhere. What do you think?

And, speaking of important lessons, don't forget to leave a comment, or email me by Friday morning (not our usual Sunday, as I'll be out of town), if you wish to be included in this month's give-away. Include a suggestion for further good-life reading, and I'll enter your name twice!

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


In case you haven't heard, here is one of the many fun things that are coming up in Austin -- The Funky Chicken Coop Tour (and you thought SXSW was cool!)

And now, for something completely different, I am just blown away. It is barely even drizzling outside, and yet there is a steady stream of water coming down from each of our new gutter holes - holes that will eventually be connected to our catchment tank, once it is installed. I can't believe that so little rain can result in that much roof run-off!

P.S. Many thanks to for this image.


Just in case you've been hiding under a rock somewhere, and haven't heard the news, we did it! The Obamas are actually installing a Victory Garden at the White House! But, it ain't over yet. As my friend Pamela Price stated over at Red, White & Grew, we've won the battle, but not the war. To that end, Pamela is forming a registry of bloggers who grow food (though you don't have to be a garden-blogger, per se). She wants it to be a welcome wagon of sorts, for people who are brand new to victory gardening - people like me. If you have gardening knowledge to share, please sign up, and if you need information, this is the place to go!

I have years of experience with gardening in general, and even went back to school for a horticulture degree, but when it comes to growing food, I'm a babe in the woods. I started off slowly, tucking in a few herbs here and there, because I was tired of spending a couple of bucks at the grocery store every time a recipe called for a tablespoon of parsley. In Dallas I had a pretty good patch of lettuces planted in a whisky barrel, until a mama rabbit decided to build her nest right in the big fat middle of it, and proceeded to fill it with babies. I also had a great patch of asparagus going. Unfortunately, you aren't supposed to harvest any spears during the first couple of years, and just when I was about to get my first real crop we got transferred, and I had to walk away from it!

Now we live on the side of a solid limestone hill that is overrun with deer, and we have no fences. So far I have some Romano beans growing on a trellis right up next to the house, lots of rosemary, a couple of tomato plants growing upside down in Topsy Turvy planters, a hanging basket full of strawberries, and two beautiful raised beds that my husband gave me for Christmas, but which are sitting empty and idle, until we figure out how to keep the deer away from them. Thank heavens I've got The Bountiful Sprout, to fill in the gaps!

By the way, don't forget to leave a comment or send me an email by Friday morning, if you wish to be included in this month's prize drawing. Include a suggestion for our good-living library, and you will be entered twice!

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

Monday, March 23, 2009


Have any of you picked up Simple Abundance, by Sarah ban Breathnach? In her essay for February 28th she asks us to ruminate on the idea of setting aside a sacred space for ourselves. She begins with this quote: You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so where you do not know what was in the morning paper... a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are, and what you might be... At first you may find nothing's happening... But if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen. -- Joseph Campbell

I have read this essay several times, and have resisted her urgings each time, for I was picturing the little Asian-style altar that she had set up in her own home, complete with incense and a yoga mat. To be perfectly honest, that just wouldn't fit in with my Hill Country decor! Besides, my knees are too arthritic to spend any length of time sitting cross-legged on the floor.

After I sent a copy of this book out into the world, as part of our give-away, I decided to pull my own copy off the shelf and set it on my nightstand instead. When I read the sacred space essay this time - probably my 5th or 6th time - I was hit by a sudden realization: I don't need to set up a sacred space. I already have one, and have had for four years now!

My seat on the porch is my sacred space, and the smells that drift to me on the morning breeze are my incense. My cozy blanket wraps me in its cocoon, and the morning mist blurs my memory of the outside world. Each time I go there, I sink deeply into the silent blackness. Then ever so slowly, as the day creeps up from behind the hills, I am awakened right along with the many creatures that are coming to life around me. And, as the man said, when I take advantage of it, things happen!

P.S. Don't forget to leave a comment (or email to becky.lane(at)vownet(dot)net) before Friday morning, if you wish to be included in the drawing for another great book. Include a suggestion for some book that really helped to advance you along your path towards the good life, and I will enter your name twice!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Can it be possible? Have we really already given away six books in our Year of Reading Dangerously? If you have read them all, you cannot help but to have been affected by them. Perhaps it's time for a quick review:

Our first book was Nantucket Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase. I chose it because it was one of the first books that really spoke to me of the sense of place, and of a person being so affected by a place that it altered the course of her life.

Second was A Reasonable Life, by Ferenc Mate. It was chosen because it offered common sense answers to so many of the questions I had been asking myself, about the way most of us were living our lives now, and why it wasn't making us happy. If only more people had read it way back when he wrote it, paid attention, and acted upon that advice, we might have avoided the plethora of crises that are facing us now.

Our third book was Simple Abundance, by Sarah ban Breathnach. It taught me what it meant to mine my authentic self -- a most vital step to undertake, before setting out upon the path to good living. It also introduced me to the myriad of wonderful books that existed outside of my narrow mystery/romance comfort zone, each of which has taught me something else about good-life-itude.

Fourth was a book about Tasha Tudor, because she was such a fine example of one who was living an authentic life. That lead us to a discussion of Mary Jane Butters -- another authentic woman -- and her magazine, Mary Jane's Farm.

Our fifth give-away was the wonderful little book A Year In Provence, by Peter Mayle. Not only did it explore a sense of place, it also opened me up to the belief that such a place could inspire those who live there to adopt a more reasonable lifestyle -- one that allows them to slow down, notice the seasons, and appreciate life's many little miracles.

Our most recent book to be explored was The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. It was a vital step along the path to good living, for it is impossible to fully appreciate all of those "little miracles", or to live a life filled with passion and color, unless one is open to the creativity that lies within us all.

Are you ready to continue along this path? Would you like a chance at winning our next wonderful book? This is one that was recently added to my list when I happened across it at Half Price Books. It was one of those head-slapping moments, when I asked myself "How could I have forgotten this one?" While many of our books have spoken of ideas and philosophy, this one is about practical steps you must take in order to "clear the pathway", so to speak, before you can continue any further along it. This will take our total number of books up to 13, and discovering that I almost skipped this important one, made me realize that there are probably many others out there I am forgetting, or haven't yet read. It got me to thinkin', maybe we need to continue this beyond just one year. At the very least, I should be compiling a good-life-reading-list in my side bar, don't you think?

What I need are suggestions from you, though. So, leave a comment here, or send an email to becky.lane(at)vownet(dot)net, between now and Friday morning, and your name will be entered into this months drawing. AND, if you give me the name of a book that you loved, and which was important to your progress towards living the good life, I will enter your name a second time. Good luck, and good reading!