Saturday, November 6, 2010


No! I'm not talking about that kind of blockage. I'm talking about creative blockage! Over time I have come to realize it was no coincidence that the period when I was least fit, least healthy and least happy, was the precise period in time when I felt least creative.

"In the twenty-five years I have taught creative unblocking, one of the tools I routinely teach is daily morning writing. How often have I seen my students use their Morning Pages to shed pounds as well as creative inhibitions? Although in an Artist's Way class what we are after is a creative renaissance, a physical renaissance often goes with it, hand in glove." ~ Julia Cameron, The Writing Diet

As I've mentioned before, as a child I craved the artistic life of a painter or choreographer, but because I wasn't "gifted" with these talents at birth, I figured I was doomed to a life of drudgery. When, at the age of 16, I stumbled into a job at a fabric store, I discovered that sewing--coordinating colors and fabrics, accessorizing and creating ensembles--was one thing creative that I could do. So that's how I ended up majoring in Textiles and Fashion Merchandising at UT.

Career plans got sidetracked when we married and moved overseas the minute I graduated. Then the kids came along, and for many years, they were my creative focus. When we moved back to Indonesia, with them in tow, it took all kinds of creative energy just to keep them happy, well-fed, and entertained, with the minimal resources at hand.

By the time we moved back home, the kids were older, and much more independent. However, life experience had left me disenchanted with my original career goals. Somehow, I could no longer wrap my head around an industry whose sole purpose was to convince people each season that those perfectly good clothes in their closet were no longer acceptable, and must be replaced with whatever is new and hot! That left me with no creative outlets at all, and my weight began to creep up. Then, along came Anna Marie Mootz - initially, a source of deep despair for me, but ultimately, my savior.

Anna Marie was a woman I really wanted to hate, but just couldn't. Not only was she a talented architect, whose own house made me completely rethink what I wanted in a home, she was also an amazing painter, photographer, interior designer, entertainer and writer. As if that wasn't enough, she was in the process of becoming a garden designer as well. It just wasn't fair! How could one person be gifted with so many talents, while I was left with nothing at all? Eventually, she taught me that design was design, and those same eyes that helped me coordinate fabrics and ensembles could easily be trained to do other things as well. She also dragged me along to some landscaping classes being offered locally, since it was obvious I didn't have a clue what to do with our new yard and, well, the rest is history!

Thanks to a couple of good books by Sarah ban Breathnach and Julia Cameron, and some wonderful mentoring from Susan Wittig Albert and the Story Circle Network, I now have all kinds of creative energy flowing through me. And there you have it. The final, but by far the most critical step towards Good Life Health and Fitness, is to feel the spirit move you, turn on the switch, go with the flow. Just remember, in the words of George Eliot, "It's never too late to be what you might have been." Yee-Haw!

"...but you must understand there is nothing noble in failing to discover and cultivate your pleasures. (It will make you not only fat but grouchy.) You owe it to your loved ones as well as yourself to know and pursue your pleasures." ~ Mireille Guiliano, French Women Don't Get Fat

Friday, November 5, 2010


When my son was very young, he wanted to tell us that it was "a tad nippy", but came out with those words above instead, causing my husband and I to convulse with laughter. Of course, we've been using his phrase ever since. Considering how it felt when I wandered out this morning, to snap a picture of my frosty little truck, I'd say it is most appropriate.

I strayed into Soda Land this summer, when it was so very hot and I had so many cartons of the stuff left over from our little family reunion,

but now that the weather has turned "nipply", I have fallen back in love with the perfect cup of tea. Even more so since I was reminded, once again, how much difference proper preparation truly makes.

My two favorite teas are Republic of Tea's cranberry blood orange for in the morning, and apricot decaf in the evenings. Only problem is, they're dang expensive! Around $13 for a can of 50 teabags. Needless to say, I don't buy them often, and I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself that the grocery store varieties are perfectly fine.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from my daughter. "Mom, you're not gonna believe this! Guess what I just found?" From the tremor in her voice, I was guessing a bag full of cash? The man of your dreams? But no, it was something even better. Turns out, Central Market sells our favorite R.o.T. flavors, in bulk, for half of what I pay for those cans! ($2.50 per oz. vs. $5 and up)

When she delivered my booty the other day, I put the kettle on to boil, which I haven't done in a while. (Ever since John came home wagging one of those Keurig coffee makers, though neither of us even drinks coffee, I've just been using it to heat my water.) Then I added a teaspoon of the loose tea leaves to my little ingenuiTEA brewer (if we had both wanted the same flavor, or if I was planning to have more than one cup, I would have used one of my vintage teapots), poured the boiling water over them, and let them steep for two or three minutes. The most amazing fragrance began wafting its way through our kitchen.

When we carried our cups into the living room, I noticed that we both just sat there for a moment, eyes closed, cups held close to our faces, taking slow, deep breaths. When we finally got around to taking our first sip, our eyes popped wide open, and almost in unison we cried "Oh. My. Gosh! This is the best cup of tea I've ever tasted! How can using loose tea instead of bags make this much difference?" Well, I have no idea. All I can tell you is, it does. I guess this is what Slow Food is all about, huh?

Thursday, November 4, 2010


The topic for today, in our Good Life Guide to Health and Fitness, is getting up off our fannies. I hate exercise, or at least, exercise just for the sake of exercise. I hate sports. I hate jogging. I hate gyms and treadmills and walking round and round in boring circles. Sooo, the trick for me was to find something, anything, that I actually liked!

My first saving grace was discovering that, though I hated walking around a boring track or on a treadmill, I didn't mind it at all if I was with a group of friends and we chatted the miles away, or if I was walking where there was something interesting to see. I never could get John to walk with me though, or if I did, he was ready to head home after 15 minutes. Then I came up with "shoppercising." Just take that boy somewhere that has shop windows along the route, and he'll walk for hours!

My second savior came in the form of gardening, and my job as visual merchandiser at the garden center. Both were such wonderful creative outlets for me, that I didn't mind how strenuous they were. I can't say that I love shoveling a truckload of mulch or compost by myself, but I love the results, and I pass the time by imagining how amazing my Cantina Garden is going to look, thanks to my efforts.

Another boon, discovered just as I hit menopause and was putting on a bit of weight and getting very creaky joints, was Curves. Though I've always hated gyms, I don't mind Curves. I love the music, the camaraderie and conversation, the fact that it's all women and no spandex, and most of all, that it only takes 30 minutes! I don't think it's ever going to make anyone buff, or ripped or torn, or whatever it is they call it these days, but it has kept me mighty healthy, and helped me avoid the heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes, and joint replacements that run rampant through my family. So far, anyway.

Last, but not least, though I've hated every sport I've ever tried, I do love to dance! I just never had much opportunity for it. Because he loves me, John is perfectly willing to get out and boogie with me at weddings and company Christmas parties, but would he want to take weekly salsa lessons? Probably not. How lucky is it then, that I recently discovered a way to salsa, hip-hop, rhumba, jive and shimmy to my heart's content, without needing a partner? Yea, ZUMBA!

So there you have it my friends. Step #4 in the Good Life Guide to Health and Fitness? Keep searching until you find something, anything, that makes you want to get up, and get moving!

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


"When you learn to replace the junk with goodies that truly satisfy, you will learn that the rule of 'Less is more' is no cop-out. By then you'll discover what is obvious to French women: There can be an almost ecstatic enjoyment in a single piece of fine dark chocolate that a dozen Snickers bars can never give you." ~ Mireille Guiliano, French Women Don't Get Fat

Have you noticed how huge bagels have grown over the years? I'm not talking about the tasteless grocery store kind. I'm talking about a really delicious one, fresh from the oven of a good bagel shop. Of course, there are no bagel shops in Wimberley, so one of my very favorite things to do when in Houston is to sneak out of the house while everyone else is still asleep, grab the Sunday paper, and head to Einstein's. I've been doing this for quite a few years now, and somewhere along the way, I found myself thinking "This is a ginormous bagel, and all the goodies and flavor are in the top half. So why am I bothering with the bottom half?" That was the beginning of Good Life H&F Step #2: Allow yourself to indulge in those delicious things that you truly desire, in small amounts, upon occasion. But! Never allow yourself to indulge in mediocre stuff that you don't truly want, just because it's there in front of you.

Because I am such a slow eater, that half of a bagel can last me a really long time - plenty of time for the message that I am actually full to reach my brain. Which led me to Step #3: Be the slowest eater in the room! I love to people watch. I love to eavesdrop. I love to linger over a meal with good friends and conversation. When I do these things, I am inevetably the last one to finish eating, and more often than not, I give up half-way through my meal because I'm too full--which is why I am always grateful when someone is willing to split a meal with me. When John and I went to Beck's Prime for one of their yummy char-grilled hickory burgers last weekend, we split one burger basket, with fries! However, I spent a good bit of time rooting around in the basket, trying to uncover those tiny crunchy bits that always gravitate to the bottom of the basket. I love those things! I couldn't care less about the big fat limp fries, sooo, I don't eat them anymore. I can make a single chicken fajita taco at Mima's last for a good 45 minutes, while most people around me have polished off 2 or 3 in about 5 minutes flat! In the newspaper interview that I mentioned yesterday, they asked Guiliano if she really told Oprah that she ate like a robot. She admitted it. "She told me she had eaten a croissant and wanted six more. That's because she ate too fast. The brain needs 20 minutes to tell you you've had enough food. That's why you have to eat slowly. Don't sit at your desk. Sit at a cafe. And enjoy!"

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

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Get to know the market, not the supermarket. ~ Mireille Guiliano, French Women Don't Get Fat

The most drastic change that has occurred since moving here full-time is in my day to day cooking. I used to start my menu planning by poring over cookbooks and recipe files, where I would choose five or so main dishes that I figured no one would complain about. After making a shopping list I would head for the store, and spend at least two hours wandering up and down every aisle, tossing in whatever new convenience products caught my eye. As an afterthought, I would toss in a few cans of fruits and vegetables and a head of lettuce, to be my "side dishes".

Nowadays, my menu planning starts at a farmers' market or on The Bountiful Sprout website, and it starts with fresh fruits and veggies. My weeknight meals are very simple and rarely ever include much meat, if any. I use basic recipes that adapt well to a variety of different ingredients, according to what's in season at any given time. My pantry and refrigerator are stocked with all the standards that these recipes require--good olive oil and several different vinegars, fresh from the farm eggs, real butter, dried porcini mushrooms, good pasta, sun-dried tomatoes and cans of San Marzano tomatoes, good (not processed!) cheeses, etc.--and about the only thing I go to the supermarket for these days is dry goods.

Sooo, Step #1 in The Good Life Plan would be much the same as Michael Pollen's now-famous manifesto: "Eat real food, mostly fruits and vegetable. Not too much." Only, I would probably add "according to what's in season, and grown or produced as close to your area as possible."
"In the end, seasonality is the key to the French woman's psychological pleasure in food--the natural pleasure of anticipation, change, the poignant joy we take in something we know we shall soon lose and cannot take for granted. Such heightened awareness of what we put in our mouths is the opposite of routine, mindless eating that promotes boredom and weight gain...Good food in season responds best to the simplest preparation. You really can't go wrong when you start with quality...The key to cooking, and therefore living well, is the best of ingredients." ~ Mireille Guiliano, French Women Don't Get Fat

P.S. This last photo is of last year's Thanksgiving dinner, using mostly local ingredients - except for a few cranberries, which were a splurge in honor of the occasion.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Yep, it's that time of year again! I do so love my wispy pink muhly grass.


Had a great weekend in Houston with John. Everything went well with his brother's quadruple bypass on Friday, so we were able to ease up on the fretting a bit. Son Austin dropped by after work, the first evening I was there, and we all went to El Toro for dinner together. Since I was coming off of a week of birthday celebrations, I decided to avoid all the cheese and sauces, and just ordered a simple chicken breast and veggies for myself. Fortunately/unfortunately (depends on how you look at it) the waitress messed up my order. I ended up getting a plate with three or four different things on it, all containing chicken, and all muy delicioso!

Saturday was filled with more delicious things and I must admit, I was a bit nervous to climb on the scales this morning for my weekly weigh in. Woohoo! No damage done, and believe me, you couldn't possibly be more amazed about that than I am. I've spent most of my life on a diet, as has everyone in my family. In fact, if ever I wasn't actively following the Weight Watchers plan, going to meetings, and avoiding all sugar, I was usually gaining weight. There seemed to be no middle ground for me. So how is it that now, since moving to Wimberley where there is no WW group, trading in my uber-active job as a merchandiser for the more sedentary life of a writer, and not really thinking about weight control much at all for three years now, I've somehow managed to lose about ten pounds?

I happened across an interview with Mereille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat and French Women For All Seasons, in the Houston Chronicle yesterday morning. It got me to thinkin' on the drive home. When I first read those books about five years ago, they made a lot of sense to me - good, plain, common sense. However, I was still in the Houston suburbs full-time back then, with no farmers' markets, nothing at all in walking distance, no farmers with C.S.A. programs available, and I was not very good at juggling the needs of my job and it's long commute, my kids who were still in school, my hubby, and our seriously ill and failing parents. I remember thinking "Well, that's all fine and good if you live in France, but I'd like to see you try it here!"

The more I thought about it on the drive home - about how I managed to eat bagels, burgers and Mexican food this weekend without gaining weight, and about what my life is like here in Wimberley - the more obvious it became that I have gradually incorporated many of Guiliano's lessons without even realizing it! I'm going to ponder on it a bit longer, and will see if I can't come up with a few good life steps to staying happy, fit, and healthy. Stay tuned!

P.S. Many thanks to and for the above images.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


“In Tuscany, poor people eat far more magnificently than the rich in America. The trick is to define abundance. For us, abundance has become a giara of just-pressed oil, far fewer things, a little more time.” ~ Marlena de Blasi, from A Thousand Days in Tuscany

Guess who's been in Houston again, emptying another carload of stuff from the nooks and crannies of our townhouse, out onto our bed here in Wimberley? More stuff to be sorted, discarded, or found a home for. Over and over I find myself asking, "Will this thing truly make me happier if I keep it? Or, will it just clutter up the serenity of this space I have created, and will caring for it eat away at this precious gift of time I have been blessed with?