Thursday, November 19, 2009


I can't believe that Thanksgiving is just days away, and that a week from tomorrow, I will probably be draping garland and twinkle lights from the porch railing. Are you ready for this? I'm not! I am, however, in a much better place than I would have been in years past, believe you me!

How did I get to this place? Since moving here to Wimberley, I have been learning, step by step, how to bring the holidays back down to size. How does one do that? Well, it's different for each family, as are our priorities and beliefs, but the crux of it is: figure out what is truly important to you...and what isn't, then...just...let... it... go.

Here are a few things we did, to rein the madness in:
  • Stopped throwing big parties for everyone we know, and concentrated on simple, intimate dinners with only our closest friends.
  • Cut way back on the amount of holiday decorations we had to haul down, set up, take down, and pack back up each year. Nothing has to be hauled down from the attic anymore. Instead, we have a few plastic crates and a pre-lit tree in the storage room, a few special teapots and ceramic pieces in the hutch, some candles, and fruit and greenery from the yard - all of which can easily be set up in one afternoon. (I used to get my fruit from the grocery store, but now I have pomegranates and tangerines right outside my door!)
  • Pestered my siblings, year after year, until they finally agreed to try drawing names at Christmas. We all still give gifts to the old folks and little kids, but the rest of us put our names in a hat, then have all year to find just the right gift for one special person, instead of scrambling around for a dozen or more it'll-do-gifts, that will probably end up being re-gifted. Even the sibling who fought it the hardest, finally admitted that she loved the new system, and didn't miss the piles of gifts at all. Best of all, we are now able to slow down enough to open them one at a time, and actually see what each person gets!
  • John's family is much smaller than mine, so we still give gifts to each person: I give something hand-made to each of the three women (a new tradition that began last year, and is now my favorite part of the season), and John orders something geeky for each of the three guys.
  • With the money we save by drawing names and giving hand-made, we are able to help out some needy children each year. A friend who is a social worker gives us some names, and John and I have a date night where we go out to dinner, then have a blast in the children's clothing and toy departments. We LOVE shopping for little kids. They are so very easy to please, and for so little $$!
Things we are still working on:

For the last couple of years, John and I have agreed not to buy each other gifts, since we didn't really need anything anymore. Instead, we would just fill each other's stocking. I kept my end of the bargain. He did not. Either year. At all! I gave up.

What about you? What is really important to you, and what are you ready to just...let...go?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Ever since we bought this house five years ago, there has been a monstrous, thorny shrub growing back beside the garage, on the edge of the cedar grove. Our first instinct was to cut it down, but there were signs of a wire wrap having been placed around its base at some point, to protect it from deer. We figured it must be something good, that was planted intentionally by the previous owners. So we put up with it, year after year, as it grew and grew, and those thorns got ever more deadly, always thinking that eventually, it would prove its worth.

It did not. Finally, John got fed up. He whacked off a branch this spring and took it into the feed store to see if they could I.D. it for us. I forget what they called it, but they said "Nope, no redeeming qualities. Just an obnoxious weed." About fifteen minutes later, John had that sucker chopped to the ground.

Guess what he found, beneath all those thorns? A tiny little twig of a tree, and as it turned out, that is what the wire mesh was actually meant to protect. Its leaves were long, thick and glossy, and though I wasn't certain, I had a hunch that it was some kind of citrus tree. Only time would tell.

Life got kind of hectic around here after that, and we pretty much forgot about it until one day this summer. I was working nearby when I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. Hot damn! My little tree had three pieces of fruit on it, and yes indeedy, they were definitely of the citrus variety. They were small, hard, and green. Must be limes, right?

Just about every week I'd go out and give them a little squeeze to see if they'd gotten any softer, but they never did. They just got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Finally, just a few days ago, the color began to show a hint of orange. Since there was a freeze predicted in the next few days, and I might lose all three, I decided to pick one, just to see what was inside. Much to my surprise, it seemed perfectly ripe, though not terribly sweet, and I ate it right up. Easy to peel, not a seed in it anywhere, sections separate easily, big as my fist... Is it a tangerine? A mandarin? Who knows? Who cares? I've got a citrus grove!


Back in my previous life, as a big-city suburbanite, I was always under the extremely misguided impression that moving to a rural setting, and trying to live a simpler life, would save us tons of money. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

True, I never, ever go shopping anymore, just for something to do. I rarely ever buy clothes, furniture, or knick-knacks for the house. I spend much less on restaurants and entertainment, and that amount will probably dwindle even further as time goes on, and we meet more people to socialize and trade supper invitations with. Also, the older we get, the less a trip into the city for dinner and a movie will seem worth those late-night-deer-dodging drives back home. I'm cooking more from scratch, avoiding most of the packaged, processed stuff, and making many of my own cleaning products, too. Best of all, I've rediscovered the joy of handmade gifts.

Despite all that, we still find plenty to spend our money on. For instance, we recently had some selective clearing done on the property. We managed to ignore the need for almost five years, but could no longer deny that scrub cedar and poverty weed had taken over our property to the point that you could no longer see the oaks, which were also full of dead limbs. Cha-ching! Before that, it was the water catchment system. CHA-CHING! Before that, it was paving the terrace, paving the driveway, re-sealing the driveway, refinishing the floors, the roof blowing off, re-refinishing the floors... well, you get the picture. It might have been different if we had started this adventure in our 20's or 30's, when we still had more strength and energy than sense, but doing most of this work ourselves is just no longer an option.

So, no. Not cheap. Just different. But good.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


NEWS ALERT! This Just In...

Remember this sad little story about the abandoned antique shop across the highway from us? Well, they have been working on it nonstop ever since, and it has been quite a transformation. Just when I was about to pop a vein over lack of information, rumors began to swirl about town. Could it be? Wouldn't that just be too good to be true?

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know my weakness - the one kind of food that I probably shouldn't be living right across the street from. That's right, brothers and sisters! Looks like I will soon be able to step out my door for Tex-Mex any time I choose. In the words of that famous film star Scooby-doo: "Ruh-roh!"

P.S. Know what's really funny? The building was actually stucco to start with, then the antiques people spent a fortune covering it up with clapboard to make it look old-timey western. So, what did the new owners do with all that clapboard? You guessed it - they covered it up with stucco!

Monday, November 16, 2009


This is how the seasons change, here in these parts: I went to bed with all the windows open, because it was so balmy out. I woke up at one point, still too warm, and flipped on the fan as well. Next thing you know, I'm awakened by rain and a roaring wind that sounds as if it's trying to lift the adirondack rockers right off the balcony. And my teeth are chattering. It's supposed to get down into the 30's the next two nights, and I couldn't be happier. I've had quite enough of mosquitos, wasps, scorpions and centipedes for one season. Die, I say! Die!

I know, I know - that's not a very hippie-like sentiment, is it? Well, at least I never call in the exterminator, or set off any bug-bombs. Mostly I just try to leave them alone and stay out of their way. If only they'd return the favor! When that wasp was determined to join our gnocchi-making party, did we smash him with a shoe? No, we did not. We scooped him up in a cup and carried him outside. And, what was my reward - when I woke up bleary-eyed one morning and didn't notice the one on the dark kitchen counter, right next to my teapot and cup? He stung the $%#& out of me, that's what!

When another of those gargantuan centipedes decided to drop in on my 11-yr. old niece and 28-yr. old nephew last weekend, whilst they were in the bat-cave playing video games, I'm not sure which one was more freaked out by it - the niece, who refused to go to the bathroom from that point on, without someone standing guard, or the nephew, who was going to have to sleep on an air-mattress in the very room where they found it!

The mosquitos were a complete surprise. I'd never really noticed any here, until after this recent round of drought-breaking rains. That's when a couple of uber-swift vampire mosquitos decided to move into my bedroom with me. Not a day goes by that I don't wake up with several new whelps - and we're not talkin' your ordinary, pimple-like mosquito bumps. These are your palm-sized, hot-to-the-touch, tarantula-like whelps. When I'd finally had all that I could stand, I broke down and began covering myself with an organic bugs-away spray from Bell Springs Products, before turning in for the night. The only place I didn't apply it was my face, 'cause the smell was so strong, I knew I'd never get to sleep if I did. So, guess who has been sporting a golf-ball-sized goober on her forehead all week?

A couple of days ago, Lexie came and sat on the side of my bed to visit with me, while I sat at the near-by computer. The windows were all wide open, and we could hear the workers chatting and laughing just below us, as they installed the cedar posts around our new garden. I happened to glance over at her, then froze in my tracks when I saw the scorpion sitting on her jean-clad thigh. "Lex, your leg! Your leg!" "Whunh?", she replied, as her eyes followed the direction of my pointing finger. Then she did what she always does when stressed or upset - she started giggling! I jumped out of my seat and searched frantically for some way to get it off of her. Finally, I grabbed a stiff piece of paper, but then I hesitated, and began to moan. "Ooohh! Uunnh! I don't know what to do! What if I touch it, and that makes it sting you?" We held our breath for a second, hoping it would crawl off onto the bed, but instead, it started inching along her leg, towards her bare foot. That's when we both commenced to screaming and squealing, while I danced around, flapping my arms. "Do something! Anything!", Lex shrieked. I swished at it twice, and missed. On the third try, I managed to scoop it up and fling it so high, we never even saw where it came down. We've been searching for it ever since - and wondering what the workmen must have thought of all the squeals and moans that they heard coming from my bedroom window that day. Die, Suckah! Die!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


First Stop: Farmer's Market, where we nabbed some fresh pasta, romano beans and oyster mushrooms

Next: Whole Earth Provisions - lots of great Christmas ideas, and a present for myself, the book Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture

Followed By: the movie Pirate Radio, which we thoroughly enjoyed, despite its mediocre reviews. It reminded us of just how lucky we were to have come of age during the 60's.

And Then: On to S. Congress! A very cool yarn shop, lunch/dinner at Guerro's, and dessert at Hey, Cupcake! (It's been a while since I was down there - had no idea the whole block was now lined with food trailers. Cool!)

Finally: Back home for a six-hour marathon of Sci-fi channel disaster movies, snuggled in with Lex and John... So, okay, I could have done without the disaster movies (I knitted my way through them), but the snuggling part was great!