Saturday, January 9, 2010


I just love fresh starts, don't you? Whether it's the crisp, blank pages of a new notebook, a newly installed garden bed, or a freshly painted wall, I just adore the chance to start anew.

That's the best thing about January, isn't it? It's the perfect time for do-overs. Usually, once the tree has been stored away, and I'm trying to put things back in order and create space for various new stuff that has found its way into our lives, I can't help re-thinking the status quo. Do I really want to put the furniture back just the way it was pre-tree, or could there be a better way to arrange it? Maybe if I just moved this little chest to the other side of the wingback chair, then placed the sofa on the diagonal, everyone would finally be able to prop their feet on the coffee table. Yeah, that's the ticket!

And, do I really want to keep hauling out several crates of Christmas tree decor each year, even though I'm only using a few things from each one these days? Why not pack a box for Lex, full of all the glitzy frou-frou stuff she loves, and one for Austin, full of all the obnoxiously mechanical movie- and cartoon-themed stuff he loves, and store those away, ready for the day when they are finally settled into places of their own. That would leave me with just one little crate filled with all the beautiful nature themed ornaments I love. Alrighty then!

Of course, you know how this kinda stuff always goes. You start looking for a spot for something new, and one tiny change leads to another little change. Next thing you know, you've rearranged everything from lamps and picture groupings, right down to the contents of all your storage cabinets! I'm not complaining tho. After all, what better way to spend an icy-cold winters day? Care to join me for a cup of hot cocoa, whilst I prop my feet up and admire my handywork?

Friday, January 8, 2010


1) Pipes
2) Pets
3) Plants

As it turns out, preparing for an arctic blast is a real pain in the posterior. Good thing I don't have any pets, 'cause I never made it past #1 (and I'm not sure I even managed it all that well)!

Click Image To Enlarge

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Know why I love Jamie Oliver? No, it's not the cleft chin and impish grin, though those certainly don't hurt. And no, it's not because his recipe for roasted chicken with garlic and lemons and crunchy, caramelized potatoes is to die for, though that doesn't hurt either. And it's not because he started out cooking in his mum and dad's pub as a wee lad, and had worked his way up to celebrity chef by the time he was barely an adult. What really stole my heart is this: he has taken his super-stardom and put it to work, making the world a better place.

First there was Fifteen - the four restaurants he established in order to launch a pioneering apprenticeship scheme. The program is aimed at giving young people, in need of a break in life, the experience of learning to work in the restaurant business, and an opportunity to turn their lives around.

Then came his tireless campaign to ban the junk in schools, and get kids eating fresh, tasty, nutritious food instead.

Now, there is Pass It On. "What is that", you ask? Well, it seems he's trying to get yet another movement started, and he needs our help. "On the surface it's about friends teaching friends how to cook good, honest, affordable food and just generally be a bit more streetwise about cooking. But underneath could well change the health and future of the country."

It all goes back to World War II, and the amazing, radical way in which the "Ministry of Food" mobilized thousands of women who could cook, and sent them out across the whole country to provide support and tips to the public, on how to use their food rations properly, make them go further, and how to help themselves and their country by planting "Victory Gardens".

Jamie believes we have a modern-day war on our hands now, and it's over the epidemic of bad health and the rise of obesity. He's been told that fewer than a third of Americans cook their dinners from scratch these days, and though 75% eat most of their meals at home, over half of those dinners are fast food, delivery, or takeout!

Here's the plan: His latest cookbook, which Alexis got for Christmas, is called Jamie's Food Revolution, and it's geared towards teaching people how to cook simple, delicious, affordable meals. He asks readers to get personally involved in pass it on by pledging to learn just one recipe from each chapter. We're to master each of these in our own homes first, then pass it on by teaching at least two other people how to cook them as well. So that's exactly what I plan to do, then I'm going to pass the recipes on to all of you, via this blog. Hopefully, each of you will make the effort to try them for yourself, then you will each pass them on to two more people, and so on, and so on.

As simple as it seems, pass it on could well be the most radical food movement in recent years, and YOU could be part of it! Won't you join me? Please?

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Robert Arbor once said, "I think that sometimes people don't grow fresh food because they think that it is too much work. So my advice to you is to only grow a tiny thing that pleases you and enjoy that tiny thing for all it is worth." So, that is exactly what I plan to do. Well, maybe not just one tiny thing. Perhaps two or three to start with, mixed in with some of my favorite herbs and perennials... maybe even a few annuals. Sure, I'd shave my head and donate the hair for a garden like the one Meryl Streep has in It's Complicated, but only if it came with a full-time gardener to care for it. Since that's never gonna happen, I think it best for me to start small. Once I've mastered a few easy-peasy beginner veggies, built up my confidence a bit, then I will add one or two that require a little more effort and diligence... eventually, maybe even some fruit.

My ultimate goal is to have what the French call a potager, or kitchen garden. These are not meant for growing huge amounts of anything, to be canned or preserved in some way in order to fill the larder for the winter. Some day I might step up to that, should the need arise, but for now, I am content to support our local growers and producers by letting them supply the bulk of our food. My potager will be there to supplement their efforts by, hopefully, offering up a few tiny things year-round that I can pick at their peak of yumminess and "enjoy for all they are worth" right then and there!

But where to start? What I need is a garden mentor. Most of the books on this subject are written by people who garden in a very different climate from this. On top of that, the two main veg-growing bloggers I follow are in Australia! Is there anybody out there who grows food right here in Central Texas, who can tell me where to get a bunch of good compost/soil blend for not too much money, and who can recommend two or three of the very easiest veggie varieties for a novice like me? Someone to hold my hand while I take my very first baby steps?

P.S. Many thanks to Sharon Lovejoy and for the above image.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I'm not certain, but I could swear my garden has been trying to send me messages. When I was out beside the garage not long ago, picking the last Satsuma orange off of our scrawny little miracle tree, I could swear I heard it whisper something. I think it was telling me, "I've kept this little tree going for years now, with no help whatsoever from you humans, even though your property isn't in its normal climate zone. See how it likes this cozy spot by the garage, protected from those gale force winds that whip through here? It looks lonely though, doesn't it? It wishes it had other citrus friends nearby, to keep it company. Maybe a Meyer Lemon, or a Mexican Lime?"

A few days later, when I was down in the new Cantina Garden, it spoke to me again. It said, "Remember that pitiful little shrub with the pretty purple berries? The one that came up year after year beneath this oak tree? I think it was a Beautyberry, or perhaps, a Coralberry. It sure must have loved this spot, if it was willing to force its way up through all that limestone and rubble, time and time again! Don't suppose he survived the construction, but I bet if you planted another one in the same spot, she'd be just as happy as our departed friend." Wonder what else the garden can tell me?

Of course, there's a pretty good chance it didn't say a thing, and I'm just a little nutty.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Making new friends is always fun, but there's nothing quite like being around someone with whom you have a shared history. This past weekend we were fortunate enough to share John's birthday festivities with people such as this.

My cousin Cindy is like my Ghost of Christmas Past. We recently reconnected at my mother's funeral, after many years of us both hopping around the world at the beck and call of our husbands' careers. She shared my childhood history, and was a feature player in all my very best memories of that era. Paula and Tim, on the other hand, didn't walk into our lives until just after we married, but they have been helping us to make memories ever since.

Tim is what you might call a sports fanatic - but a classy one. You're never gonna find him at a game with his face painted and his beer gut hanging out (for one thing, he would never, ever allow himself to get a beer gut in the first place!), but you're never going to walk into his house and not find some kind of game on the TV, either. Doesn't matter what sport it is, he loves them all, and has probably coached them all, too. But if he had to pick a favorite, it would surely be baseball.

Now, Cousin Cindy's husband Keith just happens to be a retired baseball player (Phillies and Cubs, I believe) who now is the radio announcer for UT ballgames. We have often thought that it might be kind of fun to get those two guys together sometime, and this weekend, I finally pulled it off! Sure enough, the conversation was about ten notches above lively over dinner Friday night, and my John was happy as a clam, doing what he does best - just listening... watching... grinning... occasionally laughing till he cried - the perfect audience for guys like Keith and Tim!

It was a perfect evening all around. Well, except maybe for that part back at the hotel later on, when I turned to Tim and John and said "I take it there's some big important game coming up for UT? Keith mentioned that they were headed out to California for something." The guys (heck, even Paula!) turned on me with matching looks of horror on their faces, rolling their eyes in disgust that anyone could be so oblivious to what was going on in the world of games - especially when it comes to their own alma mater!

Hey, cut it out! Not you, too? C'mon, I like games. In fact, I'm quite good at them - Rummy Cube, Sudoku, Crosswords, Shanghai... and I promise to start paying very close attention to those games on TV, just as soon as John deigns to join us at the card table, whenever my family gets together. I mean, fair is fair, right?

Sunday, January 3, 2010


A lovely room in a beautiful, historic hotel in downtown Austin, for no more than you would pay for a bland, nondescript hotel: $xxx.xx

A magnificent antique bar, a "well-poured" beer, and being evacuated three times by flashing fire alarms: $xx.xx

Dinner at The Roaring Fork - the perfect choice for both manly men and their wives: $xxx.xx

Nabbing a whole row of seats for the hilarious show at Esther's Follies, and the fun of introducing it to a few newbies: $xxx.xx

Afternoon teas and late-night hot cocoas, with whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings, sipped slowly in the ambiance of the lovely 1886 Cafe, right there in our hotel: $x.xx

Great friends and beloved children to share all of this with, and finally managing to surprise my wily husband, even a tiny bit, for once? Priceless!!!!!