Saturday, November 27, 2010


I think we're finally getting the hang of "Slow" celebrations. We opted out of the big family get-together up in east Texas this year since Lex had to be in Houston to work the Renaissance Festival this weekend, and since we needed to work on clearing out the townhouse. Therefore, it was just the four of us - five if you count Guinness, our granddog. John, Lex and I spent a lazy morning at home, relaxing and reading the paper, awaiting the arrival of Austin and Guinness. We then headed to Taco Cabana for an early lunch, followed by the noon showing of Harry Potter. No crowds at all since most everyone else was home slaving away in their kitchens!

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the puppy dog, watching a little football, reading and/or knitting. Around four o'clock the kids and I headed into the kitchen. They prepped veggies while I rubbed the pork tenderloin with its spicy flour mixture, browned it, then popped it into the oven to roast for a mere 15 minutes. As soon as I pulled it out of the oven, Austin shoved our broccoli and his super-dooper sweet potato concoction in to roast. Meanwhile, Lex mashed potatoes, and I finished off my roasted garlic cranberry sauce in the pan drippings. John poured wine and set the table, and within an hour of beginning our preparations, we were sitting down to eat.

There was very little clean-up to do, having no carcass to deal with, so we loved on the puppy instead, and watched a bit more football. When we were ready to start a good movie, I heated up the rest of the Mexican Chocolate Streusal Brownies and Mini Pecan Tarts that I had frozen after my autumn tea party, and served them with a dab of vanilla ice cream. A most enjoyable, stress-free day all around, I must say. So let's hear it for slow celebrations, where everyone--even Momma--gets to relax and enjoy the company of their loved ones!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Since the way we celebrate the holidays here in the States always makes me think of "overdoing it" and "excess", here is one thing I am most grateful for: wealthy people who actually use their excess money to do good in the world.

If you read my review of the home tour I went on last weekend, you may have noticed the slightly snarky tone that crept into my voice when I described the 6,000 sq. ft. showplaces where nobody actually lived. The ones sitting on several hundred acres of property, and which were just one of five or six other "weekend places" owned by these wealthy couples. At first I was just feeling a bit disgruntled (OK, make that disgusted) because I had got to thinkin' about all the millions of better uses that money could have been put to, but then another sleep-snatching thought occurred to me.

Each of those week-end showplaces was surrounded by acres and acres of manicured lawn...lawn that is kept green and perfect by automatic sprinkler systems...sprinkler systems that are being kept on year round, and are sucking millions of gallons of water from an already depleted aquifer in a drought-plagued part of the country where ordinary people's wells are going dry...all so that these properties can impress the handful of guests that get paraded through, a handful of times per year.

These people think they are living the good life, but they are most definitely not.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


There was a time when holiday decorating was quite the ordeal at our place. There were trips up and down the attic ladder balancing huge crates, lights to be strung from trees and eaves, miles of garland to be fluffed, wrapped and swagged, a tree that had to be assembled

piece by piece, twinkle lights and beaded garland to be untangled, wreaths to be hung, bows to be made, a Christmas village and nutcracker collection to be set up, 20 or 30 stuffed toys to be arranged on the staircase, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! John usually disappeared as soon as the tree was assembled and lit, leaving me to do the rest on my own, which always made me rather grumpy. Of course, it didn't help that I felt compelled to complete this monumental task on Thanksgiving weekend. Luckily, I have finally come to my senses.

The first year after we bought this place, but were still living in Houston full-time, we decided to try spending Christmas in Wimberley. I came up ahead of the others and, not even knowing where half of the crates were stashed, just did a minimal amount of decorating with whatever I could easily lay my hands on. Know what? It was one of the best Christmases ever!

Since that time I have continually pared down, until all of our Christmas fits into five or six small to medium crates (which are kept in an easy to reach storage closet, not up in the attic) and one pre-lit, two-piece tree. No more waiting around until someone is willing to help me haul it all down!

This year, I am taking the simplification process even further. Instead of trying to haul out and do everything at once, I have begun doing one tiny thing each day, and enjoying that tiny thing for all it's worth! The first day I cleared some of the clutter off of the hutch in my kitchen, and replaced it with two favorite Christmas teapots and a few glittery snow babies. The next day I did a grouping on an end table, using my two favorite snow globes. The day after that I placed a few gorgeous mercury glass ornaments in a bowl. It has been most enjoyable, this "Slow" decorating, making me feel anything but grumpy.

And thus I plan to continue, until reaching the point where it feels properly festive to me. Then, I will stop. Will that be before or after a full-sized tree has been set up and festooned? Only time will tell!

Monday, November 22, 2010


People in New England believe they have cornered the market on fall color. I beg to differ.

It's just that Yankee Autumn is a brazen hussy, who shows you everything she's got on the first date, while Southern Autumn is more of a seductress. She prefers to tease and titillate, slowly revealing herself, bit by bit, one tiny thing at a time. She draws the pleasure out to build anticipation, saving the final reveal for right at Thanksgiving.

It's all in the timing, people. All in the timing.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

DREAM HOMES, continued

I went to see the final place on the Wimberley Home Tour yesterday morning. This couple had 400 acres right on the Blanco River, with four houses on the property, including one that's at least five or six thousand sq. ft., and it's only a weekend place. Not only that, it's just one of six that they own! Quite an impressive house, but again, hardly a home.

No, the only home that triggered actual lust in me was this one, Hacienda Antepasados. Originally it was built by a woman who did extensive traveling in Mexico, and wrote several coffee table books about its homes. I understand it was on the home tour when she still owned it, but you only got to see a small portion of it, and there was very little in the way of furnishings. She was all about the architecture.

Then along came Ryan Jackson, of Laird Jackson Design House in Austin, the present owner -- a man of very eclectic tastes. He combines talavera tile and rustic wood furniture with violet silk and plexiglass "ghost chairs", and somehow it all comes together. Ever since our time living in Asia, I have been mad about open-air restaurants, hotels and homes such as this, where every room opens to a wonderful courtyard and the sound of water. On this absolutely perfect autumn day, with all the doors and windows wide open and not an insect in sight, it seemed like the most wonderful place ever in which to make one's home. Of course, if I were to be there in August, or on an icy winter's day, where I actually had to go outside to get from my bedroom to the kitchen, I might form a different opinion. But that kitchen. My oh my. I could live in that kitchen.

One of the docents led me to understand that Mr. Jackson actually lives here, but when I was searching the internet for photos, I discovered that it is also a vacation rental, and available for special events. Go here for a sneak preview inside!