Friday, September 25, 2009


In case you haven't heard, there is a wonderful organization here in the U.S. called Story Circle Network. It was founded about 10 years ago by author Susan Wittig Albert, author of three (soon to be four) different mystery series, including my personal fav, the China Bayles herbal mysteries, set right here in the Texas Hill Country. Susan is a lifelong mentor and champion to other women writers, especially writers of memoir, and firmly believes that every woman has a story to tell. I bet you have one too.

Story Circle Network's goal is to assist you in finding your voice and telling your story, via workshops, reading circles, writing circles, mentoring, on-line classes, book reviews, monthly publications to which you can submit your writing, and much, much more. Hard to believe it was just two short years ago that I first moved here, had just started blogging, and was struggling to find my own voice. That's when Susan invited me to attend the SCN national conference, held every other year right here in Austin. It turned out to be a life altering event for me. Not only did it introduce me to a slew of interesting women, including one of the Muses, it also allowed me to attend a panel on blogging, where I learned so much that now, two years later, I've been invited to sit on the panel myself, at this coming February's conference!

There are so many extraordinary stories to be found in our ordinary lives, and those of our friends, sisters, mothers and grandmothers. If, like me, you feel that it's just a sin for them to slip away, untold, unnoticed, and unshared, then maybe it's time for you to join the circle. Here's hoping I see you at the conference!

PICTURE CATCH UP IV: Belated To Do That I Mostly Done Did

Alrighty now. We're pretty much caught up on the photos I haven't been able to post, ever since John screwed up...Oops!...I mean upgraded my computer.


My first attempt at making Spicy Pickled Okra. Mighty tasty, if I do say so myself. I used a mix of red and green okra, hence the rosy-hued liquid. Left me feelin' all pioneerish!


Favorite things from our Sisters' Getaway to San Antonio: The cheese and fruit platter that awaited us, for no apparent reason; the darling leaf-shaped soaps and other little luxuries in our bathroom; the view out over my sisters' toes as we sunbathed or sat in the hot tub; and of course, winning at Shanghai (our favorite card game). Didn't get a picture of that last one - I was too busy scooping up my winnings. Should have quit while I was ahead.


My perfected, more refined version of the Choco Taco. Forget the gooshy bananas and marshmallows. No ordinary chocolate chips for me. This one is simply rich dark chocolate and toasted hazlenuts folded inside a handmade tortilla, toasted in a little real butter, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Muy Bueno!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Well, quiet time is over. I've got the Muses coming over this morning for a sweet potato gnocchi-making party. It's gonna be interesting, since none of has ever made them before! Austin, John and Guinness are coming in this evening, and who knows? If we are having enough fun, and the gnocchi turns out OK, the Muses may still be here when they arrive!

We pick Lex up at the Austin airport tomorrow afternoon, then on Saturday morning we will all head over to Fredericksburg (all except for Guinness, that is) for a big German wedding. Beth Reeh, the daughter of dear Mobil Oil friends whom we have lived with in Kingsville, Houston, Midland and Indonesia, is gettin' hitched! Hopefully, some of our other old pals will be there too, so it will be a reunion of sorts. Should be a fun-filled weekend!

Know what the best part is? When I take Lex back to the airport Monday afternoon, I won't have to get all sad and mopey about not seeing her again for another six months or so. John is flying out to Cali-fornee October 29th, loading the little bit of stuff that she hasn't sold off into a U-haul truck, hitching her little red jellybean car to the back of it, and she's a-comin' back to Texas fer good! Or, at least until some guy comes along, sweeps her off her feet, and carries her off to live in the jungles of Indonesia, or some such foolish thing.

Know what the second best part of the weekend will be? Finally getting my dang computer fixed, so this blog can have pictures again! Pictures of gnocchi-making parties, big German weddings, and quaint little towns like Fredericksburg!

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Oh My Lord, this feels wonderful! I slept with the porch door open last night, and it felt soooo good to be snuggled up under my duvet. The minute I popped out of bed this morning, I threw all of the windows open. It became so chilly that I had to grab that cozy shawl Lex knitted for me a while back, to keep from being covered in goose bumps. Why leave them open then, you ask? Because I can! You just don't know how unbelievably amazing it is, for us to be having this delicious, fall-like weather... in the first week of fall. Usually, we're still hittin' 90 about now, so I'm gonna savor it while it lasts!

Know what else I'm savoring? Having absolutely no "aroma de rotten egg" in the shower with me, or wafting up from the sink as I brush my teeth. In fact, when the very first rainwater came through the tap, I could have sworn I smelled something sweet - that faint, honey-like scent you sometimes catch when alyssum is in bloom. I'm also lovin' those crystal clear, clean-tasting ice cubes, but best of all is having black kitchen counters and checkerboard floor tiles that actually stay black, for more than two seconds, instead of being covered with big white salty splotches from every drop of water that splashes out of the sink or a pot on the stove, or every drip from a dish or a glass. Yes indeedy, rainwater is an amazing thing!

We probably could have switched over a couple of weeks ago, but John hasn't been here since that sudden deluge brought the tank from knee-hi to full in one fell swoop. He's been pestering me daily since then, to try and see if I couldn't switch it over myself. It was just killing him to think that any rain we were getting now was just gushing out the overflow pipe, and running off down the hill. I told him that I would look into it after my sisters' visit, but I wasn't going to risk poisoning them, or worse still, having no water at all while they were here. Then I only had a couple of days after they left, before I had to head off to Houston. Boy, was he disappointed in me, when I said I hadn't got around to it.

So, on Monday I was finally back, we had rain predicted for every day this week, and I had no more excuses. I pulled out the folder of info from Tank Town, and found brochures for the individual pieces of equipment, instructions for flushing the eliminator or changing a filter, and that's it. Not a thing about how to switch over from well to tank, or how to bypass the water softener. I was about ready to chicken out again when I had a brainstorm. I called Tank Town and left a message saying, "I'm so sorry to bother you, but you know how you installed that tank for us back in May, but when you came to check on it later, you said we needed to wait until it had a bit more water in it before we could switch it over? Well, it's full to overflowing now, and we've got more rain coming, and my husband isn't around, so I'd really, really appreciate it if you'd email me detailed instructions on how to switch it over and bypass the softener, 'cause I'm not very good at this kind of thing." Alas, no response at all that day.

Next morning I'm in the shower, lathered up from head to toe, when suddenly the water slows to a trickle, and stops. My first thought was "Oh my stars, the well's gone dry!" Then I had another thought. I hopped out of the shower, grabbed some clothes, wrapped a towel around my soapy hair, and burst through the front door. Sure enough, there was Joe, the Rock Star from Tank Town, rummaging through John's tool cabinet. "Oh, hi!", he said. "The pump tried to freeze up on me, so I'm looking for something long and skinny here, to get it going. This oughta do. Man, we gotta get you going - you're wasting rain! I can't believe we never got you switched over. How long has it been? You shoulda called us ages ago!" I just stood there with a goofy grin on my face, looking for all the world like a woman in love. I was just so damn happy that I wasn't going to have to attempt this myself!

I ran to grab my phone, so I could call John and tell him the news. They were both trying to ask me questions at the same time, so I said "Here, talk to each other." I guess John asked him if he'd mind trying to bypass the softener for us, 'cause he went in the utility room and messed around a bit, said "You're all fixed up!", and climbed into his truck. I waved goodbye, grinning like an idiot. Then I went inside to finish my shower, only when I turned the handle, nothing happened.

So I called Tank Town, and said "I'm really sorry to bother you, but..." The owner answered the phone this time, and it was really weird. He was tripping all over himself to be nice, saying he'd call Rock Star and get him right back out there, offering to give us a brand new pump...very strange. Sure enough, Rock Star was back moments later, and it turned out that it was a problem with bypassing the softener. At first he didn't think it could be done without removing the equipment altogether, but then he found a third valve he hadn't seen the first time. And John thought I should be able to handle all this on my own? Ha! Again the Rock Star apologized profusely, and I just stood there grinning. Heck, he's lucky I didn't get down and kiss his feet! He probably wen't back to the office and asked "What is with that Lane lady? She should have been pissed as hell at us, and all she did was stand there grinning!"

Good gosh a'mighty, it's raining again! It's fall, and I'm feeling scu-rumptious.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


My ice is so beautiful!
Because it's crystal clear, and not fuzzy at all!
Because it's not made from salt water anymore!
Because we disconnected our water softener!
Because we don't need it anymore!
Because our entire house is now running on Cloud Juice!!!!!


Do you ever wonder about what makes a kid "popular"? Do they know special secrets that were passed down to them by their popular parents? If so, are the children of unpopular parents doomed to be unpopular themselves? Is it innate, or is it intuitive? Are some kids just born with a knack for being people-pleasers?

Here's what I wonder most of all: How much does that silly little matter, of whether a kid got to sit at the cool table in their junior high lunchroom, color everything they do and every choice they make for the rest of their lives? Quite a bit, I suspect. Take ol' Lance Armstrong, for instance, who hailed from Plano, Texas - the same Dallas suburb where my poor daughter went to junior high. I once read that when he first took up cycling, the thing that kept him going was telling himself "Each pump of these pedals takes me that much further away from Plano!" Considering how many times he's felt compelled to win the Tour de France, I'd say he's still trying to get away.

Hmmm, I wonder... could it be that not sitting at the cool table is the catalyst necessary for becoming a super-achiever? Are they all still telling themselves "I'll show them!"?

Monday, September 21, 2009


Ya know how people always claim to be great judges of character? You almost never hear someone say "I'm always wrong about people", do you? Well, I'm here to tell you, I am! Usually wrong, that is. I suck at first impressions. People who seem so charming at first, end up driving me bonkers later on, and vice versa. In fact, you should hear what I thought about DH before I really got to know him! On second thought, maybe you shouldn't. I've been wrong about people so many times, you'd think I would have learned to remain impartial for at least a year, but no, I just keep right on making those snap judgements.

Take our newest neighbor, for example - the one we used to refer to as "Asshole" each time we drove past his property. We gave him that name when he first bought the property directly across the creek from us, immediately proceeded to surround it with barbed wire fencing, and put "No Trespassing!" signs down near the creek. It just didn't seem like a very neighborly thing to do, especially since he was never there, and didn't have anything on his property worth protecting for the first year or so. We figured he was probably some rich city slicker with no intention of ever actually living here. Since our property meets his right in the middle of the creek, John thought it might be rather humorous to stick a sign of our own up down by the creek, right next to his - one that said "Y'all Come On In!" - but he never got around to it.

AH fell even further in our esteem when we went out of town one time, and came back to find that he had put up a humongous, ugly, metal utility building. Did he tuck it into the tree-line along the creek, to make it less visible? No, he plopped it down right out in the gol dang middle of his property, totally wrecking our idyllic "Larry McMurtry western novel" view. From then on there was an endless stream of welders, electricians, plumbers, etc., coming in and out, installing all kinds of equipment, laying pipe, and who knows what else. I just knew there was going to be some kind of awful business operating from there - one that would be ugly and noisy, with piles of pipe or metal stacked everywhere.

So, I started asking around. Know what I found out? AH wasn't a he. He was a she. In fact, she was a glass artist, and that building was going to be her studio. Hmmm. I guess that could be kind of interesting, huh? Then, sometime last spring, she started building a little stone house, which she did tuck up close to the trees. She just moved in not long ago. Wouldn't you know, the first thing she did was start building raised beds for a vegetable garden, just like I'm fixin' to do. Then she had to go and add a water catchment tank this past week, just like we did recently. Guess we might have a thing or two in common. I spoke to her one day, when she was out walking her grandbaby (at least, I think it's a grandbaby - AH has solid white hair, but her face is very young looking). She was actually kinda cute and bubbly. Hmmm, creative, friendly, eco-conscious, gardener? Well crap, I've done it again. This lady is probably going to end up being one of my best friends some day, and I'm gonna have to admit to referring to her place as "The AH" for all those months. Or wait, maybe I could just say that stood for Artist's House! Ya think?

P.S. Gee, I'd really love to post some pictures of her place for you, but I still can't use my scanner or my Kodak Easyshare program, thanks to those upgrades that magically appeared on my Mac a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully, DH will figure out how to repair the damage when he gets here this weekend. If not, I just might return to my original opinion of him!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


On the subject of my blog's newly revised title, have you ever noticed that common sense just isn't all that common any more? It seems to me that people could avoid so many problems if they just used a wee bit more of it.

Just what is it, exactly? Well, in my humble opinion, it boils down to being able to see the big picture...being able to look ahead and see the possible future repercussions of your immediate actions. People just don't seem to realize that every single thing they do sends out those ripples we're alway talking about, so not only do we get results right now, we could be seeing the effects for years to come, and not just in our own lives, but also in those around us. Someone once asked me "Am I supposed to pay for that one mistake for the rest of my friggin' life?" Well...yea-ah! Did you think there was a magic eraser somewhere?

So, having common sense is being able to say to yourself "Yeah, this is gonna feel pretty good right now, but how's it gonna feel tomorrow?" Or ten years from now? Or if I guessed wrong? Or if he's not really as wonderful as he seems? Or if they outlive me? Or when it's all saggy and wrinkled? Or when my kids and grandkids have to pay the price? Or if I end up a vegetable? Or if I outlive the money? Nope, there's just not enough of that kind of thinkin' going on these days.