Saturday, October 24, 2009


Well, it was almost a great week. John came in last night and took some vacation so he could be here to celebrate my birthday with me before heading out to California to get Lex. Then we got a surprise visit from an old friend from Indonesia. Unfortunately, about 10 minutes after we sat down to visit with her, I got the call from my sister.

Mom is diabetic, and she has had several falls since moving to assisted living which we suspect might have something to do with fluctuations in her blood sugar. When I was there last weekend there were a couple of times that we had to force juice down her because her level had dropped dangerously low. Part of the problem is she's still getting her insulin shots twice a day, but isn't bothering to eat a lot of the time. Anyway, Thursday she had a fall bad enough that they called the paramedics. Luckily nothing was broken, but she was so sore she could hardly walk the next day. Yesterday she was so out of it that they couldn't wake her up enough to eat or take her meds, and they decided it was because her diabetes is just out of control. They think someone should be with her 24/7 until they figure out whether she needs to be moved to the skilled nursing section or what, and since I'm the only one without a real job, it looks like I'll be heading back to Dallas for a while.

I hate to do this, but I need to postpone our prize drawing until I get back, since I won't have access to a computer at the nursing home. I will keep the names that are already in the pot, then start up again when I get back so we can talk about the book some more, and gather a few more names. I'm sure gonna miss you. Hope John has fun celebrating my birthday without me!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Did you ever see the movie You've Got Mail, with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks? I absolutely adored the little bookshop that Meg's character owned in that movie - the one that had been started by her mother, and which she had worked in and loved her entire life - until she was run out of business by Tom's huge megastore. That's why I love Book People over in Austin. It has lot's of different departments, not just kid's books, but it still has that same homey, personal feel.

Where I grew up, in Dallas, there was a neighborhood shopping center within walking distance of our home - called Hillside Village. We were finally allowed to walk up there with our girlfriends once we were about nine or ten. Virtually every single store in the center was independently owned, and pretty much all of the owners lived right there in our community.

There was the fabric store where I got my very first job, which just happened to be named Community Sewing Center. We had John Cobb's Drugstore, where we bought all of our school supplies and played the booth-side jukeboxes. He tucked coupons for free chocolate sodas in with our bags of supplies. We had the bakery, where everyone we knew ordered their birthday cakes, and where my sister and I would occasionally share a chocolate eclair. Then there was the ice cream shop, which was owned by the Ashburn family. Their kids all went to school with us. The mom was a girl scout leader and bird enthusiast who visited my first grade class to show us a teeny tiny hummingbird's nest. My favorite shop was JoJo's Toys, where we bought gifts for every birthday party we got invited to, since they wrapped them for free in polka dotted paper. That's where I got my very first Barbie. The owner knew I was having to save up for her, one 25 cent allowance at a time, but never seemed to mind my coming in just to visit Barbie, and dream of the day when I would finally take her home. On one side of JoJo's was the little shoe store where we each got a new pair of loafers for back to school, white dress shoes at Easter, and new black patent leather shoes in winter. On the other side was the barber shop where my dad and brother got haircuts on Saturday. They gave me lollipops or Hubba Bubba when I came along, even though I wouldn't let them touch my hair (they were forever offering to give me a buzz!).

Of course, we also had a wonderful Five & Dime, as well as a record shop, a delicious smelling shoe repair shop, a Shooty Bop (Dad's term for beauty shop), a florist, Beck's Fried Chicken (not fast food, but a lovely sit-down restaurant for Sunday dinners), The Village Grill, and Conklin's children's clothing store. Gawd, how I loved that shopping center! I felt somehow connected to each and every business there. I can't tell you how much I hate going back now. Not one single store is left from my youth. All have been replaced with the same generic stores that you see in every other shopping center in the country these days - stores whose owners don't even live in the same state, much less in the same community!

All is not lost though. The other day, when I walked into Mima's and found my usual large Diet Coke already waiting out on the counter for me, it got me to thinkin'... about all the little independent shops and restaurants right here in Wimberley... about all the families who own them and the people who work for them, all living right here in our community...and of all the many ways in which I am finally beginning to feel "connected" once again.

P.S. Don't forget to leave a comment, if you wish to be included in Monday's drawing!

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Despite it having rained most of yesterday and last night, we had workers here as soon as the clouds began to part at the crack of dawn this morning. I was so excited when I saw what looked like pieces of a plywood arch being unloaded from their truck. I left at 10:30 to go workout and run errands. When I got back, we had this! The muhly grass has nothing to do with this, but was just so beautiful, I couldn't resist snapping a picture.


Believe it or not, our Year of Reading Dangerously has drawn to an end. We've certainly covered a lot of territory, haven't we? We've traveled to Nantucket with Sarah Lee Chase, Tuscany with Ferenc Mate' and Frances Mayes, Provence with Peter Mayle, San Miguel de Allende with Tony Cohan, and Venice with Marlena de Blasi - to learn the importance of having a sense of place, and of rediscovering the taste of place. Then we joined Barbara Kingsolver in Appalachia to discuss the importance of knowing where our food comes from and how it was raised. We simplified our lives, then spent time with Tasha Tudor and Sarah ban Breathnach learning to mine our authentic selves, and time with Julia Cameron, learning to mine our inner artist.

For our final give-away, we will be returning to France. I saved this book for last, not because it was the best, but because it is about something that ties everything else together - attitude. It's about that one thing that most of us are striving for, but will probably never achieve, because it's not to be found on-line; at the mall or at the bottom of a glass; in a hefty bank account, a position of power, or an all-consuming career. It's an attitude that seems to be sorely lacking here in the U.S., but which many of the French have developed into an art. They call it Joie de Vivre. Joy for Life.

Could you use a little more joy in your life? All you have to do is leave a comment here, any time between now and Sunday night, and your name will be added to the hat for this, our final Year of Reading Dangerously give-away. Joy, Joy, Joy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


This isn't at all what I was cruising the thrift shops for this week, but something about the patina just reached out and grabbed me. How could I walk away from that mottled blend of terra cotta, pumpkin, and amber? Never mind that I never make layer cakes, only sheets. When the siren calls, (and the price is cheaparino) this girl's gotta answer.


Well, the truth is out. Lex let the cat out of the bag, on the phone the other day, that her dad put her in charge of making sure I don't "dilly-dally around" with getting the new Cantina Garden planted up, the way I usually do. Grrrrrrr! Them's fightin' words in this household, and anyone who tries to push me on this project is liable to lose a hand.

As you may recall from this story, John and I have some serious schisms when it comes to gardening philosophy...or decorating...or just about anything that involves filling any kind of space, for that matter. Lex hit the nail on the head when she said "Now Mom, calm down. You and Dad just have different styles when it comes to learning something. You like to study up in advance, consider all the possibilities, list the positives and negatives of a situation, and not make a move until you've come up with the perfect solution. Dad needs to just jump in head first, and (hopefully, occasionally) learn from his mistakes."

OK. Fine! He's got four whole acres here to jump around in and mess up to his heart's content. But. Not. Here. Not in our Mexican Courtyard Kitchen Cantina Garden! It's gonna evolve slow and easy, and not one thing will be planted until I'm certain it's just the right plant for that particular spot. But rest assured, once it's done? It will be stupendous!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The uber tow truck arrived in the nick of time - for the cement guys to get everything poured, and for me to get to the gym (and to Mima's in time for my chicken fajita taco lunch - after all, it had been 5 days since I had one, and a girl can only go so long). Best news of all? The house is back on rainwater! Turns out someone had shut a valve on the tank that caused the pump to lose its prime, which then triggered the emergency shut off. And though the gauge on the side of the tank appeared empty, it was actually just so full that you couldn't see a line anywhere. So...all's well that ends well.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Cantina Garden Mishap #1: Cement trucks are difficult when it comes to making sharp turns. Now the back right tires are in the ditch, and the front left are in the air. Not good.

They're gonna need an uber tow truck to move this sucker. In the meantime, do you think my Mini can squeeze past, or should I just give up on going to work out today?


My nephew Kevin is another one who always felt somewhat out of place, both in Dallas, and in our family. He hated our Martha-Stewart-Style holiday get-togethers, which were more about impressing people than about making them feel welcome and comfortable, and as soon as he was old enough, he opted out of coming to them altogether.

He went through several years of hell-raising, and being considered the black sheep of the family, then he met a beautiful brown-eyed girl named Goya. She took him to visit her family in Mexico, and instead of being treated like a pariah, he was suddenly a king. After all, he was smart, generous, handy with his tools and willing to help out wherever needed. He loved to cook and eat, made a real effort to learn Spanish, and was the most fun-loving, gift-toting uncle in the world! At last Kevin had found the kind of family get-togethers he could really get on board with - ones that were more about sharing than outdoing.

Growing up, we usually went to my uncle's northeast Texas ranch, near Bogata, around rodeo time. (That's pronounced buh-GO-duh, not BO-guh-tah. Remember, we're in Texas!) For us city girls, it was a bit of an ordeal. We never were too crazy about tromping through the fields, climbing under barbed wire (I had more ripped britches!), falling off haystacks and horses, and landing face down in the mud, or worse. My dear cousins got quite a kick out of watching us, though. And Kevin? Well, he adored it, and could never seem to get his fill of spending time up there. Eventually, he and Goya bought a piece of property nearby, and did much the same thing that John and I did - transitioning from the city bit by tiny bit, until finally they got the nerve to cut themselves loose altogether.

We spent all day Saturday in Bogata, helping them celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. Instead of raising hell, Kevin now raises chickens, doves, goats, and veggies (have you ever seen pumpkins growing up in a tree?), and instead of watching TV, he watches sunsets from his porch, and sunrises from a little boat on his pond. He has morphed into the king of family get-togethers, and has most certainly found his bliss. Let's all raise our glasses to Kevin and Goya, living the good life in Bogata, Texas!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Framing up the base of the fence and the bridge over the ditch.