Saturday, August 1, 2009


Well, things are about to get a bit hairy back home in Dallas. As you know, my parents and my oldest sister combined their households a few years back. It worked out fairly well as long as Dad was still alive. He waited on Mom hand and foot all day, and did as much as he could to help Carolyn around the house. We never in a million years would have guessed that he'd be the first to go, and when he did, things went downhill fast.

The thing is, you really need to pay attention to people when they advise you about "creating a monster." From the day Dad met my mom, everyone kept trying to warn him. They all said "Bill, you're spoiling that girl. Better watch out, or someday you're gonna regret it!" Did he listen? No, he did not. So you see, it's not really Mom's fault that she became accustomed to having breakfast in bed, water brought to her when she was thirsty, "tea parties" prepared for her when she was hungry, things fetched for her when she didn't feel like getting up, and, well, you get the picture. Not only do people get used to being waited on, they also begin to expect it as their due. So, when Dad passed, Mom just assumed that my sister would become her lady-in-waiting, and it really didn't seem to phase her that Carolyn still needed to work full-time, in order to keep a roof over their heads, or that Carolyn had just had a knee replaced, then a hip, or that she deserved to have any kind of a personal life.

Eventually, it got to the point where my sister's health and sanity were at risk. We got help to come in and watch Mom during the day, but then she somehow got her days and nights mixed up, and took to wandering the house all night, and waking my sister in the middle of the night to demand food or to clean up an accident. Mom's health was deteriorating as well. There were days when she'd refuse to get out of bed or take any of her pills, and her doctors said there was nothing left they could do for her. So, we began the process of getting her approved for medicaid, to get more help for my sister, and to be prepared for the time when Mom would need to be moved elsewhere. To tell you the truth, we were all praying that she would just slip away peacefully, before we ever had to make that choice.

We just found out a couple of weeks ago that Mom qualifies for assisted living, but that it could be nine months or more before a place was available. The next thing we know, they are calling to say "We've got one now!" So, here we go. Wish us luck. Right now Mom seems to be looking forward to it. She has always loved to decorate, and is already busy planning how she is going to fix up her little apartment. But if we start getting pitiful calls in the night, once she's moved in, saying "Please, please, come get me!", I just don't know what we'll do.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Do you recall my story about the day I met Jeannie Ralston, The Unlikely Lavender Queen? When she shocked the pants off of me by saying that they had sold their amazing house and lavender farm in Blanco, and decided to move to a small town in Mexico, how did I intuitively know that she was talking about San Miguel de Allende? It was because I had just finished reading On Mexican Time, by Tony Cohan. I saw myself in both Tony and Jeannie, recognizing fellow seekers of "the good life."

In 1985, when L.A. novelist Cohan and his artist wife decided to explore a little known 16th century hill town in central Mexico, it was not yet overrun with tourists and expats. In fact, there were no direct flights there and you arrived by bus. Once there, they caught a glimpse of another way of life, and fell under the spell of "What if?" So they went back to California, sold their house, and returned to San Miguel. They did eventually buy and restore a wonderful old house there, but that is not really the focus of this story. A reviewer at The Tennessean said "this is not so much a travelogue as a gentle reminder to examine our lives and weed out the unnecessary, the chaotic and the frivolous." Books abound these days about people shedding their old lives and finding bliss in paradise, but this one is a bit different, a bit deeper. I think Cohan tells it like it is, without the rose colored glasses that are donned by so many.

So, if you would like to win this wonderful book about finding your heart's home, and then finding yourself, just leave a comment between now and Sunday night, and your name will be thrown into the hat for our drawing. In addition to the book, I am including four chili pepper napkins, and a small journal to use in your travels, or however you see fit (and I just might fill in the first few pages with my recipes for Mexican Chocolate Streusel Brownies, Easy Pralines and Cholula Spiced Pecans). Good luck!


Autumn Angst: that malady which attacks most Texans each August, when they begin to worry that they will never again see days with highs below 95 degrees F. (click on image to enlarge)

P.S. Don't forget to leave a comment before Sunday, if you wish to be included in this month's prize drawing!

Thursday, July 30, 2009


When one has been totally absorbed with the repercussions of severe drought for three years, with the added bonus of two full months of record-breaking, triple-digit temperatures this year, one tends to assume that the rest of the planet is suffering a similar fate. Thus, it was almost surreal to read this morning that Vermont has been suffering, not from heat or drought, but quite the opposite. The temps have been at least twenty degrees lower than average all summer, it has rained almost every single day for weeks, and they've had three tornados and horrendous, livestock-killing hail storms, which is just unheard of in that area. What the blue blazes is going on here?

Have we fallen through a wormhole? Slipped through a tear in the space-time continuum? Or did we just wake up, and find that we had somehow entered The Twilight Zone! I am beginning to empathize with that lady in the episode where she believes the world is getting closer and closer to the sun, and they are all fixin' to be fried to a crisp! Of course, up in Vermont, they are probably feeling like the part after she wakes from her fevered delirium to discover it was all a dream, for the world has actually been flung out of its orbit, is getting further and further from the sun, and they are actually going to turn into ice sculptures.

Just answer me this: how can we have both scenarios, going on simultaneously, on this one continent?

While you are ruminating on that, don't forget to leave a comment between now and Sunday night, to be entered in this week's MIND-STRETCHING GIVE-AWAY!

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


We had a new producer join us at the Sprout last cycle, and they offered this beautiful assortment of heirloom tomatoes, that just happen to match all the decor in my house. How could I resist? I also got zucchini from another vendor, and more of Healthy Culinary's sundried tomatoes. Here are some of the things I fixed, using those few ingredients, plus a couple more that I already had in my larder: Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad, Caprese Salad, Jamie's Mothership Tomato Salad with some fresh mozzarella slices and grilled bread, and Fried Zucchini Strings with an egg and some leftover tomato salad. It was a very Bountiful week!


We finally got around to drawing names for Christmas when my family was all together for the summer birthdays celebration. It made me realize that if I want to make most of my gifts again this year, I really need to make some decisions soon and get crackin'. But, OMG, it's sooooo hard to think about Christmas when it's 105 degrees out! We are off the charts with the number of triple digit days we've had this year - about 50 already, and it's not even August yet. And of course, there is the lack of rain, or even clouds, on top of all that. I also need to get back to my knitting. I completed half of a really cute tea cosy when I was hanging out in the I.C.U. with John, but every time I think about picking up that fuzzy ball of wool yarn again, I break out into huge beads of sweat!

Hmmmm, I wonder... Since our little Rain Dance didn't bring but 4 or 5 drops, maybe I should just break down and wash my car. My family was giving me some grief about it last week, and I explained to them that it was a badge of honor here in the Hill Country to have a filthy car. It proves that you aren't wasting water on anything frivolous. However, since it almost always rains the minute my car is squeaky clean, perhaps I could actually help our situation by reversing my stance on that.

If that doesn't work, I'll have no choice but to pull out the big guns. I'm doing my best to hold off on that until fall, wanting to give El Nino a chance to work her magic and bring the Hill Country some rain, but if she lets us down, I've got one last trick up my sleeve. I'm going to pay a water delivery service to come and fill up that dang tank. I have no doubt whatsoever that the minute I've got it so full that it can't hold another drop, it's gonna come a gully-washer!

P.S. Don't forget to leave a comment this week, if you wish to be included in this month's Year of Reading Dangerously Give-Away!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Anyone in the mood for another "major award"? Just walked over to peruse the prize stash and, low and behold, discovered we have only four books left! So what are we in the mood for this time? Shall it be a book about sense of place? Do you feel like visiting Venice, France or Mexico? Or perhaps you'd prefer to develop your sense of taste? Maybe a book about uncovering and developing one's passions is called for? Or, how about one that teaches us how to be passionate about life in general?

Whichever book we choose, you don't want to miss out on this Year of Reading Dangerously give-away, so leave a comment any time between now and Sunday night, and your name will be tossed in the hat. I'm feeling extra generous as we draw near to the end so, most likely, there will be a couple of related goodies from The Bountiful Sprout thrown in!

Monday, July 27, 2009


I sat facing a woman in a restaurant recently, and it was fairly obvious that she was not a stranger to the plastic surgeon's office. It was also clear that she had spent several hours getting ready for a lunch date with a girlfriend at this very casual cafe. She was a work of art, from her perfectly coiffed head and masterfully applied cosmetics, on through her smart ensemble with just the right accessories, and right down to the professionally painted toes peeking out from those very expensive sandals. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that she is the type who wouldn't even step out onto her porch to retrieve the paper unless she was wearing her full-metal armor.

It got me to thinking, about how a person gets to this point. I mean, I'm all for good grooming, but doesn't this border on obsession, when it becomes the focus of your days, and consumes most of your thoughts and all of your time? Then I started wondering, what might cause a person to need so many props, and I came to the conclusion that if you were raised to believe that good looks were the key to success, then maybe that would leave you wondering "What if this is all I have to offer? Would anyone still care for me if it were to disappear?" Makes me kind of glad I was never a head-turner. In fact, I'm fairly certain I have absolutely nothing in common with John's fantasy woman, so the only conclusion is, it had to be love! Kind of comforting, isn't it, to know that the traits that brought you together are the kind that last forever, and cannot fade or disappear?

* * *
We went to two movies in Houston this weekend. First was The Ugly Truth, and to be perfectly honest, I spent the first hour just getting more and more pissed off. As you probably surmised from the above paragraphs, I really hate the whole notion that women are supposed to spend their lives worrying about how to keep their men aroused 24/7, while men don't feel at all compelled to return the favor! And that business of playing dumb, or pretending to be someone you're not is just insane. Obviously, if you do manage to snag a guy by doing that, you'll end up having to spend the rest of your days acting a part, for fear of losing him if he ever saw the real you.

The movie later redeemed itself though. First by knocking Meg Ryan off her throne with one of the best restaurant scenes ever, then by coming to the same conclusion that was reached in our second movie of the weekend, 500 Days of Summer: the heart doesn't care about all those lists the brain has drawn up, describing the perfect spouse or fantasy lover. It's gonna fall in love with who it falls in love with. (which is why you should be somewhat cautious about who you let it hang around with, avoiding pedophiles and sociopaths if at all possible)

So, basically, I still stand by my all time favorite movie advice to the lovelorn, which came from dear old dad in the movie Juno: find someone who's seen you at your worst, and, God help them, still thinks the sun shines out your ass!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


The strangest thing happened today in Houston. We were sitting in the old River Oaks Theatre, waiting for our movie to start, and there was some kind of music program playing for our audio entertainment. First I commented to John that the female announcer sure sounded young - like a kid almost. Then when she gave her name, and identified herself as the singer/songwriter/musician on the next piece, I shrieked "Oh my gosh, that's our little Sarah!" Not to imply ours, as in "our child" - just "Our little Sarah Jarosz, from Wimberley!"

I guess we are kind of proud (and maybe a little proprietary, for as you know, "it takes a village"!) of all the young wunderkinds that hail from these parts. There's Jesse Huth, more commonly known as Chicken Boy. He's been raising chickens since he was about six, and people from all over come to him for advice now. All the scholarships and awards he has won through his related 4H and scouting projects will be paying his way through college. Then there's Dylan Meeks, our jazz pianist prodigy, who just headed off to the big apple. There's Chrissy Omo, of CKC Goat Cheese fame. She started her business as a young teen, and now juggles being a cheese-maker and goat farmer with attending classes at Texas State University. And, last but not least, there's little Sarah.

Sarah Jarosz just turned eighteen recently - a few weeks before her debut CD was released by Sugar Hill. She began singing at two, playing piano at six, took up mandolin at ten, and then discovered her passion at the weekly bluegrass jams held here in Wimberley every Friday evening. The rest, as they say, is history. You might have seen her on national TV with Earl Scrugs and Ricky Skaggs during the 2005 CMA salute to the father of bluegrass banjo (which, oh yeah, Sarah also plays, along with guitar!) Can you blame us for being a bit proud?

P.S. Many thanks to and for the above images.