Saturday, July 24, 2010


My daughter took me to a delightful little place today - the Avenue B Grocery and Market, one of Austin's oldest operating businesses. I love the fact that it's tucked right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, between two houses, and surrounded by big old trees and picnic tables to lunch at.

When I walked through the door today, I was suddenly about five years old, holding my grandmother Mimi's hand as she led me into the little corner grocery about a block down from her house in Dallas, to pick up a few things for dinner, and maybe pull a tiny bottle of pop from the cooler or buy a pack of candy cigarettes.

In case you're thinking you might like to visit this place, here are a few tips that may come in handy:
  • First - do not walk through the door and start snappin' pictures.
  • Second - do not tell owner Ross Mason that it reminds you of the store you used to go to with your Mimi (Blah, blah, blah, he's heard it all a million times before).
  • Third - do not think you're going to just take a look around, and leave without buying anything.
  • Fourth - do not expect Ross to answer a whole buch of your silly questions about the history of the place, unless you're willing to forgo this week's trip to HEB and buy all your groceries here instead, plus order up one of his freshly made sandwiches and a bottle of Dublin Dr. Pepper to enjoy out under the shade tree. He's got no time for "tourists"!
  • Fifth - do not think you are going to escape without hearing about the sacrifices Ross has made over the last 25 years, to keep this bit of history alive for jerks like you.
  • Last but not least, whatever you do, do not tell him that you read about his place on my blog. He prefers to be "the master of his own internet destiny", and I'd just as soon not be tarred and feathered.
I hope you appreciate the risks I have taken, on your behalf.

P.S. Are you picturing a stoop-shouldered, grizzle-haired guy in his 90's? Boy, are you in for a surprise!


Have I ever mentioned how much I admire my kids? One of the things I admire most is their intrepid attitude. If there is something they really want to do, do they sit around twiddling their thumbs (as their mama has been known to do), wondering "What if I'm not very good at it? What will people think?" No, they do not. They just march out there and do it!

When John turned to my son and said "We need you to design a database to collect all the information from about 10,000 calls a day, related to a natural disaster of epic proportions", did he throw up his hands and wail "Are you crazy? I'm just a kid straight out of school!" No he did not. He hunkered down, and got to work.

When my daughter found out this week that she had been laid-off for the second time, even though her bosses had consistently told her she was doing a great job, did she rant and rave like I did? Did she crawl into her bed to wallow in self pity? No, she did not. She pulled out pen and paper, and immediately began to regroup. She told me, "Mom, it was for my own good. I get paid by the project, not by the month, and with the designer that just came back from medical leave, that's five people with seniority over me. Since none of the presentations we have done recently have resulted in actual work, they had to decide whether it was better to keep me hanging on, with no work coming my way, and no way to pay my bills, or cut me loose so that I can apply for unemployment and look for other work." Later, she tells me "This is my opportunity to get away from designing model homes. You know my passion is really green design, and I never could have pursued it if I'd stayed with that company. I'm not sorry I worked for them though, because they did me a huge favor. They pushed me out of my comfort zone - believed in my ability to handle entire projects from start to finish, completely on my own - and now, I believe in it too!"

My kids? They're my heroes. Hopefully, someday, I can grow up to be just like them

Friday, July 23, 2010


Being a mother is the toughest job in the world, and the hardest part comes just when you think it should finally be getting a bit easier. How do you advise your adult child when it comes to life choices? Do you steer them towards fulfillment, or do you preach to them about security?

My parents were were both very gifted, creative people, who never gave a whole lot of thought to the distant future. Dad was an extremely talented home designer and builder, and absolutely adored what he was doing, but our life was a roller coaster because of it. There were times when we were living the country club life, with mink stoles and one-of-a-kind cars bought off the showroom floor at the state fair. Then, there were times when we had cars being repossessed, or phones being disconnected, or had run out of notebook paper for school and Mom couldn't scrape up enough change to buy us more. Needless to say, security and stability have been pretty high on my priority list ever since.

So, what do you do when you see that one of your kids is headed down a similar path? Do you continue to encourage them to seek creative fulfillment, no matter how many times the rug gets swept out from under them? Or, do you get down on your knees and beg them to find a nice, safe, secure job with benefits, no matter how soul-sucking it is?

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I stayed up until the wee hours this morning, to finish reading The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver. It's a truly amazing book, which sweeps you from the annihilation of the Aztecs, through the Kahlo/Rivera/Trotsky saga, and on to the whole McCarthy Anti-Americanism debacle. Though I loved reading the book, I have to say, it has left me in one helluva funk, for it makes you realize that we humans just do not learn from our mistakes, and history really does repeat itself. There always have been, and always will be: greedy, power-hungry zealots and witch-hunters, who draw attention to themselves by shaking their fists and shouting things like "We've got to take back uh-MER-icuh!"; mobs of scared, confused people who let them get away with it; and many, many good people who get crucified in the process. The only thing that changes is the names. Kinda makes you want to puke, when you think about it.

P.S. Many thanks to for the image of McCarthy, for the image of Limbaugh, and for the image of Beck.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


My hubby never ceases to amaze me. Most people think of engineers as being rather dull and boring, but once you get to know my John, he is anything but. We were once having a conversation about the young couple that more or less stepped into our shoes when we left Indonesia - filling John's position at work, moving into our house, even taking on our staff - when John said "That guy is one of the most talented engineers I've ever worked with." So I asked him, what makes a good engineer? Is it math skills, technical skills, people skills, or what?

"None of the above", he replied. "The one attribute that sets an engineer apart from all the rest would have to be imagination."

Perhaps that explains why John is still able to knock my socks off upon occasion, even after almost 40 years of knowing him. Imagination. For instance, imagine my surprise when I came home the other day and found this planter sitting on my terrace. No, he didn't buy it ready-made. Without the hint of a suggestion from me, he got inspired to take the base from an old copper fire-pit that had been rotting away behind the garage for several years now, drill holes for drainage in the bottom, then plant it up with this beautiful assortment of succulents. Just wait 'til they have a chance to fill in and spill over! That boy. He's really somthin', is he not?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Hey! You guys were supposed to remind me about posting this recipe, and now we've almost let the tomato season slip by us! Never mind. This recipe is best made with plum or paste tomatoes, and unlike the slicers, you can get good plum tomatoes over much of the year (don't ask me why, for I don't know). So here's my recipe, adapted from one by Cafe Lago:

1 cup olive oil, divided
2 lbs. plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 1/2 tsps. dried oregano (I use an Italian spice blend)
3/4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 250 F. Pour half of the oil in a 9x13 glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange tomatoes cut side up. Drizzle with remaining oil. Sprinkle with oregano, sugar, and salt. Bake one hour, turn tomatoes with tongs, then bake one hour longer. Turn again, then bake until deep red and very tender, 15 - 45 minutes. Transfer to plate. When cool enough to handle, gently peel off skins and discard.

For Pasta Sauce: Transfer about half of the tomatoes and some of the oil to a serving bowl and gently chop with a dull knife. Add one or two cloves minced garlic, 2 tsp. minced parsley and mix well. Cook one pound of penne (or pasta of your choice) according to package directions. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the tomatoes in the serving bowl, plus enough of the water to loosen the sauce, and toss to coat. Season to taste, and top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

The rest of the tomatoes can be refrigerated in their oil for up to five days. I like to brush a slice of baguette or ciabatta with some of the oil, toast it, then either smear it with a bit of goat cheese and top it with a spoonful of the chopped tomatoes. Or, skip the goat cheese, put some of the tomatoes on the toast, top those with a fried egg, and then grate a little Parmigiano over that. Yummalicious! This was a fantastic way to use up the Juliett tomatoes I grew this year, which were so prolific. The flavored oil can also be added to vegetables or used for sauteing just about anything. Let me know if you come up with any other good ways to use them. Enjoy!

Monday, July 19, 2010


That's me, breathing a sigh of relief, now that the reunion is over and I can get back to my usual routine. Thought you might enjoy a few pictures of the B&B that my siblings stayed in while they were here. Well, actually, I guess it's just a "B", as no breakfast was involved. It's in that little white

country church that's just down the hill from us. Though the owners did some odd maneuverings to squeeze 3 bedrooms and 2 baths in there, and they forgot a few minor things like soap for the showers and enough towels to go around, they more than made up for it with ambience. The main living area is huge and has a casual elegance about it, with plenty of seating and a great bar for serving off of - much more spacious than my living area! Also, you just can't beat the location - with hammocks and swings overlooking a spillway on the creek. And who wouldn't love soaking in that claw-footed tub in the choir loft, with colored light spilling in through a stained glass window? But, I think I should warn you, when they said it sleeps eight? They were probably not expecting all but one of those to be adults!

It's funny how your life sorta goes "on hold" leading up to an event like this - the things that get postponed (such as doctor's appointments), the things that get stuffed into drawers and closets just to get them outta sight until you have more time to deal with them, and the routines and schedules that get tossed or ignored. Personally, I find this to be a very good thing. Just think what a rut we could dig for ourselves, if things never got shaken up a bit! Think what boring people we would become, if we followed our usual routine week after week, speaking to the same old people and telling the same old stories. Perhaps this is why I ended up here in the Hill Country - I just couldn't bear the thought of an endless stream of cookie-cutter days in a cookie-cutter neighborhood. Yep, routines are well and good but, quite often, the things that disrupt them are even better!


Ya know how, when I brought that new dress home recently, I discovered that I already had multiple pairs of shoes, several purses, and all kinds of jewelry that would go with it? That's because years ago, when I was still a teenager in fact, I started paying attention to what colors I had on when people said "That looks great on you!" The lucky result was a mix and match wardrobe that allows me to get lots and lots of outfit combinations out of very few pieces, and never having to go out and buy all new accessories for anything I bring home. It also makes packing light for trips much easier, when you don't have to take different shoes and purses for each outfit.

As I began to age, and my body began to shift, I got very frustrated with clothes shopping. Though the same colors still looked good on me, none of the styles that worked so well on my curvy teen figure did. So, I stopped trying to shop on autopilot, and started paying attention again. I sat down and made a list of every outfit I could think of, which I had owned in the last 10 or 15 years, that made me feel really good. Ones where I not only felt pretty, but also so comfortable that I wasn't forever tugging and twitching. Then I studied the list to see what the outfits had in common. That's how I figured out that I could no longer wear the cinched in waists or clingy fabrics of my youth, but I didn't look good in baggy, boxy things either. I needed princess seaming that lightly skimmed my curves. Good to know!

It seems the same thing has gradually happened with the way I decorate my home. In the early years I was convinced that I had no sense of taste or style at all, and needed my mom or sister to help me decorate. When we moved overseas, I finally realized that though I knew exactly what both of them liked, I didn't have a clue what I liked! So, I went through a period of buying lots of magazines, and tearing out photos of any rooms that made me smile, or left me thinking "I could live there!" Once I had a notebook full of them, I studied their commonalities, and then I knew exactly which colors and styles were right for our home.

All of this leads me to this pillow, for it explains why, when I spotted it from 50 yards away, it drew me like a magnet. And, once I confirmed that it was dirt cheap, I didn't even have to pause to think whether the colors were exactly right, or the style would blend with my other stuff, or precisely where or how I would use it. I just knew!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Good times were had by all! How can you tell? By how few decent pictures I have to post. The more fun we were having, the less pictures we were taking. You'll just have to take my word for it.