Saturday, July 11, 2009


Wimberley has two public high schools. One's a small charter called the Katherine Ann Porter School, but most just call it KAPS. It serves grades 9-12, has a total of 124 students and a 7.7 students per teacher ratio. I hadn't really paid it much mind, since I no longer have kids in school, but one day, I noticed that a whole bunch of recycling bins had appeared in its parking lot. A while after that, I saw a crew of young people out by the road, digging up the scrawny, pitiful shrubs that were struggling to survive in that death strip between the parking lot and the highway. Next thing you know, they have been replaced with a bunch of drought-tolerant natives. And what's this? They have an extensive water catchment system? What on earth is going on here?

I found out a short time later, when an article appeared in the Wimberley View. It seems that KAPS is not only making an effort to green up their facility, they have also worked it into their curriculum, and are teaching their students how to live sustainably. They even have a vegetable garden out back! Now, that's what I call a proper education.

Note: When you look at these photos, keep in mind that they were taken during record heat and drought, while the kids are all away on vacation. The veggie patch looks pretty sad, I know, but aren't those natives out by the road doing well?

Friday, July 10, 2009


A letter my son just received. Not good. Not good at all:

Hi Austin,
I was pretty impressed when First Lady Michelle Obama planted an organic farm at the White House. It signaled the Obama administration's commitment to healthy food choices - which are tied to sound environmental choices.

That is until former Monsanto lobbyist Michael Taylor was appointed 'senior advisor to the commissioner' of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Take a minute right now, and email the FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and tell her this guy represents corporate food interests, not the public's health:

Monsanto is the world's leading supplier of the herbicide 'Roundup' and is also the top producer of genetically engineered seeds, so take a wild guess what fans of organic, locally grown, pesticide-free food Monsanto is going to be.

Basically zero. So why on earth is one of the former top lobbyists being appointed to the FDA?

Please send a message to the FDA, and let them know Taylor's appointment represents a conflict of interest, and he should not be in the administration:

When you're done, please forward this along to your friends and family, and invite them to take part as well - and thank you for your work.


Dan Stafford
Environmental Action Organizer

P.S. Thanks again for your support. Please feel free to share this e-mail with your family and friends.



...the one that quivers my liver, drags me out of my chair, and sends me dancing through the house, whether I want to or not:

P.S. A triple-step jitter bug move works perfectly, in case you're wonderin'.


Well, I really had no intention of writing about food again so soon, but then I read Heather's post this morning, over at Beauty That Moves. What a can of worms she opened! She asked her readers to confess how much they spend on food each week, and wondered how so little can cost so much, especially when one is not buying any packaged foods, and is cooking everything from scratch? Instantly, the comments started rolling in, and reading through them just about broke my heart.

We are at the point in our lives where I no longer have to worry about every penny I spend on food, but to hear about what these young mothers must go through to try and feed their families good healthy food, really made me sad. They all asked the same question: must one completely eliminate organic/non-GMO fruits and veggies from one's shopping cart - the most important medicine we have - in order to stick to a budget? It reminded me of the most disturbing thing I saw in the movie Food, Inc. An Hispanic family was in their car, filling up on junk from the dollar menu at a fast food place, while they explained to the interviewer why they couldn't afford to buy fresh fruit or veggies. The father has type 2 diabetes, and they must spend several hundred dollars a month on his medications. That doesn't leave much for food. So they have a choice. They can spend $5 to buy a bag of greens and an apple or two, which would leave them all feeling hungry, or they can fill up from the dollar menu. How sad is that, since the dollar menu is what gave him the diabetes in the first place, and is probably going to kill him?

I felt compelled to leave a comment myself: As everyone else has said, I don't know any way you can reduce your food bill and still eat healthy produce, other than growing more of it yourself. I was fortunate enough to help start something wonderful here in the Texas Hill Country, called The Bountiful Sprout, a member-owned and operated food buying community dedicated to making sustainably and locally grown or produced foods and staples more readily available. We let the producers set their own prices, list what they have for sale on our website, members shop from the comfort of their homes, and come to our local pick-up spot every other Wednesday to retrieve their booty. We've virtually cut out all the middlemen. So why aren't members buying more, and why is the food still so expensive?

Well, because raising free range chickens and grass fed pork costs a lot more than the way Tyson does it, where their average producer carries half a million in debt, trying to meet their standards for equipment, etc., but only earns $18,000 per year, and the conditions of the animals would make you vomit. Then there are the government subsidies that go, not to the independent growers of sustainable foods, but to the humongous agribusinesses, encouraging them to grow nothing but corn and soy, which in turn becomes high fructose corn syrup and other things that end up on the dollar menus, making the food artificially cheap. So, I don't know what the answer is, other than, as I said, growing your own.

Oh yeah, and doing whatever you can to convince the government to change the way they dole out subsidies would be a very good thing, too. Denmark is light-years ahead of the US when it comes to sustainable living, and one of the first things they did, decades ago, was to start subsidizing the organic farmers, to bring down the cost of the food, thus improving the nation's health and the environment, and thereby lowering medical and pharmaceutical expenses. It would appear to be a no-brainer, but then, I guess that's what we have in our legislature - a bunch of no-brainers.

P.S. Did you see that survey that came out a while back, about which countries had the happiest people on earth? Know which was #1? You guessed it, Denmark! Where was the U.S.? You don't even wanna know. It's all about priorities, people!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Not long after we bought our house, a couple from California bought two run-down buildings just across the highway from us. One was a little adobe building, which they moved into temporarily while they fixed up the other one. In a matter of months they had transformed it from a nondescript rectangle into something straight out of an old western movie set, and the sign on the front read "Heartland Antiques." I was all atwitter, and couldn't wait for it to open.

When the day finally came, I rushed right over, eager to meet my new neighbors and have a friendly chat (though DH would probably describe it more as "pumping them for information"). What I discovered was that they were actually native Texans, but had lived in California all this time because the husband was in the movie-making business, and he was the visionary behind the creative transformation of the building. I also discovered that they were in the process of building themselves a home on a beautiful piece of property fronting Lone Man Creek, just down the road from us. Once it was completed, they planned to move out of the adobe building, and were looking for someone who might be interested in opening a restaurant there. They already had a bakery lined up to go in a space on one end of the building their shop was in, and the final touch would be, hopefully, to find a great little garden art and accessories shop to go in on the other side. Wow. When these people make retirement plans, they plan big, huh? And here we just stumbled across a strange little house in a place we loved, and decided to see what unfolded from there!

It must have been another year before their home was finally complete, but when it was, it was really something to behold! Another scene straight out of a movie set - perhaps one titled "Heidi Meets Bonanza"? By then the bakery had already come and gone, no garden shop had materialized, and business at the antiques shop was really slowing down. The problem for me was that it was filled with massive pieces of furniture that I no longer had need of, beautiful as they were, and very little of the smaller knick-knacks that might keep me coming back on a regular basis. Then the owners came up with another idea: open their own little coffee shop in the former bakery site, complete with drive-through window, to nab all those Austin commuters. Brilliant! Or at least, I thought so. Finally I had a place that made delicious chai lattes, in walking distance from my home!

Alas, that didn't work out too well either. They eventually shut both businesses down, and put their new house up for sale as well, though I'm not sure if they ever sold it. They did finally find a buyer for the little adobe house, but the antiques shop has been sitting empty and forlorn for a couple of years now. It puts me in a funk each time I see it, because I can't help but remember the light in the owner's eyes the day I met her, at the thought of all her dreams finally coming true.

But wait, what is this? Some equipment has been showing up in their parking lot, bit by bit. Now some workers are over there doing something. In fact, I do believe they are actually adding on to the building! Did they finally sell it, or did they keep it and decide to open a different kind of business? What's it going to be? Some might think I'm nosy, but I prefer to think of it as professional curiosity. All I know is, it's making me nuts, that I can't find any answers!

Woohoo, lookie what I found! No, I didn't get any answers, but I did find their daughter's website (she's a realtor in Austin). Well, I guess I got the answer to one question - both their house and business have sold. But if you go to this site quickly, you can enjoy a virtual tour of both buildings, and you just gotta see this house! (the house is the second featured property, the business is the third)

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


In case you're wondering, the stacked tubs contain Roasted Almond Butter, Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Garlic and Grapeseed Oil, and Hummus. Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Our Fourth of July celebration in Houston this year was a bit different from our usual - no parades, no fireworks, no friends or relatives, just me and ma boyz - but we still managed to have a great time. This year, however, we were celebrating independence of a different sort - food independence.

First stop was lunch at El Rey Tacqueria, a Cuban-Mexican cafe that son Austin had discovered. The tacos at this eatery lean away from greasy ground beef fillings, and more towards seafood, fresh veggies, and grilled meats. I was also tickled to discover that they give you the option of corn or whole wheat tortillas, and not just the usual white flour ones. They do have more than one location there in Houston, but I'm fairly certain they are indy owned, and not part of a national chain. Between the three of us we managed to sample six different tacos, all of them delicious - especially that Cuban one with black beans and plantains!

From there we headed downtown to the Angelika, one of Houston's art house theatres, which shows mostly indy films. On the marquee today? Food, Inc. - a must see for anyone who cares about what goes into their mouth, or who has asked, "What's the big deal about eating local and organic? Who cares?"

On the way home we stopped in at Whole Foods to pick up some grass-fed bison for that evening's grill-fest. It's as lean as turkey, and higher in Omega-3s than salmon, but tastes just like beef, so I figured it would put a much bigger smile on John's face than veggie- or turkey-burgers. When we discovered that their butcher had already put together a stack of bison patties, which had bits of gorgonzola and sun-dried tomatoes mixed in, his smile stretched even further. Austin grabbed sesame-encrusted Ezekial buns to serve the burgers on, I gathered the makings for a blackberry crisp, and John nabbed a chunk of watermelon because, well, just because! We had quite the feast. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if our Lexie had been there too. But, nooooo! She was out in San Diego, living it up with our dear friends, the Halls, being wined and dined, viewing fireworks from the balcony of a luxury condo over on Coronado Island, and sending us "Neener, neener, nee-ner" photos of it all! Harrumph.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Wow. I feel an episode of synchronicity coming on. This morning I was trying to get caught up on all the blog visiting that I missed out on last week, when I came across this posting by Rhonda Jean, on her blog Down To Earth. I nearly dropped my teeth when I read that she used the "envelope method" of budgeting. I thought I was the only one who ever did that!

John and I are very different when it comes to handling money, and when we were first married, it caused me a lot of stress. We finally came up with the perfect plan - one that involves me having a separate household account, so that I can set goals, and plan and budget to my heart's content, and he can spend his portion down to the last penny each month, and not even keep a check register if he doesn't want to, without causing me to have a nervous breakdown.

Once I had control over a set amount each month, I decided to track what I was spending on groceries, entertainment, clothing, house & garden, gifts, and all kid related stuff. When I knew how much I had been spending, I thought about where I wanted to go, and came up with a budget of sorts - reducing some categories in order to add new ones, such as charitable donations and Christmas and vacation funds. When I had all that worked out, the big question was, how on earth do I monitor myself, to keep from overspending in any one category? That's when I came up with the envelope method. I just took a bunch of letter-sized envelopes, labeled one for each category, and put the budgeted amount of cash into each envelope. Each time I decided to spend something, and had to take money from one of the envelopes, I got a really good visual reminder of how much was left for the month, and I could ask myself, do I really need this? Am I going to run out before the end of the month if I buy this? Eventually budgeting became second nature to me, and I no longer needed the envelopes, but I still think it's an excellent way for a novice to get a handle on his or her spending.

If you think I was shocked to discover that Rhonda Jean used my secret budgeting method, imagine my astonishment when, on the very next blog I visited (Simple, Green, Frugal Co-Op), I found Heather, of Beauty That Moves, talking about - you guessed it - the envelope method. Not only does she use it, she also, crafty girl that she is, felt compelled to come up with special designer fabric envelopes to keep her funds in! They are just too, too cute. You absolutely must go here to check them out!

When synchronicity calls, you have to listen don't you? I figured there must be someone out here who is struggling with money management, and spirit is telling me it's time to speak up! So here it is. Hope it brings budget tranquility to you and yours.


LEXLANE!!! How about that? Poor thing has entered every month, multiple times, and finally won something! I have to wait until my Bountiful Sprout order comes in on Wednesday, to get your market bag and the jelly, but I promise to pop all your goodies in the mail bright and early on Thursday. And just what is the wonderful book that she has been awarded? Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver. Happy reading (and cheesemaking) Lex!

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

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Last chance to leave a comment and be included in this month's Year of Reading Dangerously give-away. I'll be drawing the name of one lucky winner at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. Good luck!