Saturday, February 5, 2011


Normally, I am quite good at reorganizing and getting rid of clutter. In fact, there's nothing I like better than reworking a closet or cabinet -- making a place for everything, and having everything in its place. Why then is there one big pile of stuff in my bedroom, that I just can't make any headway on? It has moved from one side of the room to the other, and back again, but it never seems to diminish in size.

What is in this pile, with its tentacles wrapped round my heart? Certainly not the sentimental things you would expect. There's an adjustable drawing table; all kinds of pencils, mechanical erasers, templates and scales; several pots of dried out markers and colored pencils; cardboard rolls wrapped with vellum drawings; notebooks filled with magazine pictures of plants, decks, patios and arbors; a file box of client data and bookkeeping records; albums of before and after photos...etcetera, etcetera.

Why am I having such a hard time disposing of this stuff? I'm not sure, to tell you the truth. It's not like any of those clients are likely to get back in touch with me after all this time. For starters, they wouldn't know where to find me! And it's not that garden design was the only job I ever loved. I was every bit as happy with visual merchandising after that, and now, with writing. Perhaps then, it is just that these supplies represent an important window of self-discovery for me. So many exciting firsts happening all at once! I guess it was when I finally came to believe -- really believe -- in my own creativity and talent.

I went back to school to study horticulture because I liked gardening. I'd had it with retail and service-related positions, and figured puttering around in a greenhouse all day would be a great job for a fairly anti-social person. When I was at UT studying Clothing & Textiles, the design classes were a struggle, and I was much more at home in the textile labs. So no one was more surprised than me to discover the tables had somehow turned. This time I found the lab work to be boring and repetitive, but the design classes were a lark!

Choosing just the right combo of plants for a particular spot was a lot like working one of my puzzles, I got to spend hours coloring, and I seemed to have a knack not only for making the clients see what was in my head, but also for turning people who claimed to have "brown thumbs" into enthusiastic gardeners! It was my first time to have a mentor who took me under her wings and taught me trade secrets, my first time as a business owner, and the first time my older siblings started coming to me for advice. Best of all? It was the first time John was so proud of the work I was doing, that he bragged about it to others, instead of referring to it as "my little job."

Yeah, I guess that could explain my attachment. Still...what do I do about all this crap?

Friday, February 4, 2011


Oohhh, so that's what snow looks like! I can hear you Yanks now. You just said "She calls that snow?!" Admit it, that's what you just said, isn't it? If only I had some mittens, I'd go build me a snowgirl.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Yes, we did have some frozen pipes somewhere in the water catchment system. However, John was able to switch us back over to well water, and that is running ok. For now. All those pipes are underground, while the catchment system has some that are exposed. Whether there is any permanent damage remains to be seen. It's not expected to go above the upper twenties today.

By the way, couple of nights ago, when this blue norther first came bellowing into town, dropping our temps some 60-odd degrees in one fell swoop, I went out to the porch and turned our two rockers upside down. The wind has a habit of making them rock forward until they are in danger of crashing into that glass-topped table, and I wanted to prevent that. Well, apparently, Mr. Wind got kinda ticked with me for thwarting his fun, so in the middle of the night, he just picked that sucker right up off the ground, and hurled it at the table instead! That must be some heavy-duty glass.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I've got a bad, baaaad feeling. Usually, whenever they're predicting a hard freeze for several nights in a row, and I'm here by myself, I go into panic mode. I run around disconnecting hoses, and putting those styrofoam titty things on all the outdoor faucets. If it's not expected to warm right back up during the day, I've even been known to drain all the water from the pipes leading to our rain tank, and cover any exposed pipes with thick quilts. It was a real pain in the tuckus, but I didn't want John blaming me for wrecking that expensive water catchment system!

A couple of weeks ago, when they were predicting "one of the coldest weeks in history" (which turned out to be rather lukewarm), I had to disconnect a Y-thingy from the pumphouse faucet in order to get the styrofoam cover on, and then couldn't get it reconnected afterwards. Guess I broke it somehow, 'cause when I asked John to try putting it back on this weekend, he ended up having to go to the hardware store to get a new one. Soooo, when they said it would be getting down into the teens the next several nights in a row, and John didn't seem at all concerned about it, I decided I wasn't going to worry about it either. I certainly didn't want to over-react again, or be accused of trying to tell him how to handle his own business, right?

Only, when I got up at 5:30 this morning, and went to fill my tea kettle, the water came out fine at first, but the stream got thinner and thinner with each passing second. Sure hope that doesn't mean what I think it does, don't you?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


My daughter and hubby are gonna throttle me when they read this, and I won't blame them a bit. You see, a while back John suggested we might tear out the awkward tub/shower in our upstairs bath someday, and replace it with a convenient walk-in shower. We have a big comfy claw-footed tub downstairs that's perfect for soaking, and a walk-in will be much easier to manage when we are older. Also, the checkerboard linoleum in our bath and kitchen isn't holding up too well -- lots of divots, cracks and stains -- so we should probably replace that at the same time.

I wasn't sure what to think of that floor when I first saw it. It was a mighty bold statement for such a small space, but I have grown accustomed to it over time, and it shows up really well in blog photos! Plus, it suited the 40's retro look that the original owners favored -- white walls and cabinets, black countertops, straight lines, no frills other than a bit of beaded board paneling and simple chrome handles and knobs. It fit with the outside of the house as well, which, though it was stucco, had a bare bones country farmhouse look to it.

Knowing how I tend to mull things over for months, if not years, before deciding exactly what I want, John decided to hire our daughter, the interior designer, to oversee this project and speed my decision-making process along. When they asked me what I wanted, I told them that I've always favored Saltillo tile floors and bold colors in my kitchens, but since the black counters and white cabinets are still in great shape, and we couldn't afford to replace them anyway, "I suppose we should probably stick with the black and white theme, huh?" They took that ball and ran with it!

Within a couple of days John had sent Lex all kinds of pictures of b&w kitchens and baths he'd found on the internet, and within a couple of weeks Lex had designed an absolutely gorgeous kitchen/bath combo with little octagon-shaped black and white tiles on the floor. The shower was to have white subway tiles, with an accent border of b&w recycled glass tiles, and a huge, vintage-looking brushed-nickel shower head that I love. She did a fabulous job with the parameters she was given. There's only one problem. I'm just not sure it really goes with the house itself.

Like everything else, this house has morphed into something else over the past six years. It all started with our archi-friend Bob. He designed this house for its original owners, so we looked him up when we decided to create a dining room by enclosing part of the upper porch. He said he'd be delighted to assist us, for it would give him the opportunity to correct a mistake that had been chafing him for years. He hated the tall spindly columns that supported the upper porch and made the two floors look disproportionate, but he'd had no choice at the time. He suggested we remedy the situation by adding the limestone arches across the lower porch. We were so happy with the results, we turned to him again when it came time to create a front garden, and now we have the adobe style portal with ocotillo-like fencing.

So, as you can see, our house has gone from Plain Jane farmhouse to Tex-Mex hacienda, and it's got me to thinkin' that, perhaps the inside of the house should be more in keeping with that transformation. But. How does one make white laminate cabinets and black Corian counters and back-splash exude hacienda ambience?

Monday, January 31, 2011


We worked our butts off this weekend, and yet, it was fun (though I'm not sure John would agree). It is ever so nice to have my hubby back, and to be working on stuff together. Nice to have a reason to plan meals again, instead of just making do with whatever is at hand. Nice to have some of my favorite furnishings back, too, and to watch these rooms morph and reshape themselves. In a way, it feels as if our marriage is doing the same thing.

In fact, it feels a bit like we've been granted another trip through that honeymoon phase I mentioned in

Circle of Love, only we are much wiser this time around. You remember, don't you, that period when you were both bending over backwards to please the other person, and you were afraid to close your eyes at night, for fear of farting in your sleep? I know it's only temporary, and truthfully, I wouldn't want it to last forever (a girl needs her sleep!). Still, it's kinda nice.

I went with him to the hardware store yesterday, then he went with me to do my grocery shopping, since I was no longer certain which things he likes to have around for breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Whilst strolling the aisles, I had a bit of a flashback to the end of my junior year in college. John had been working in Houston for over a year, but knew he would soon be moving overseas. Back in those days, we had something called "dead-week" -- a week without classes at the end of a semester, so you could study for your final exams. That semester John somehow convinced me to sneak down to Houston (my parents would have killed me, had they known), and spend the week studying out by his pool, instead of cooped up in my dorm room. We went grocery shopping together for the first time, and I had dinner waiting for him each day when he got home from work. I even did laundry for him! It was our first little glimpse into what it might be like to spend the rest of our lives together. That's kind of what this week feels like.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


If you're not from Texas, you probably would not believe how utterly delicious it felt out when I woke before dawn. We had our windows wide open all day yesterday. In fact, it's almost too hot now -- hovering just below 80, and with us trying to trade out beds and refrigerators,

flipping mattresses, and what have you, I came real close to flipping on the AC! Of course, it will be back down to 15 by Wednesday, so we've learned to make the most of these little windows of opportunity. I grabbed my pruning shears yesterday, and went to town on all the dead stuff that was making my garden look so sad, including all those poor succulents that were so gorgeous just a few weeks ago.

A new blog friend, Sharon Lovejoy, happens to be a well-known garden writer who divides her time between California and Maine (her California garden is on the cover of the latest issue of Country Gardens magazine). She recently posted photos of a gorgeous grouping of all my favorite succulents. When I told her how sad I was about not having the space in my house to winter over my plants, and having to start again from scratch each spring, she encouraged me to take cuttings. She said the succulent cuttings would harden off and go semi-dormant, so I could just keep them in a garage or basement. You don't even need grow-lights, as long as there is a window.

It got me to thinkin'. We have two utility rooms. One is downstairs near the man-cave, and would be a good workshop for John. The other is out next to the garage. Up until this point it's just been a junk room, but now that I finally have my washer and dryer back, it's time to fix it up. It doesn't have heat or air, but there is a ceiling fan. It also has a big utility sink, a pull down ironing board, and of all things, a toilet and shower! Best of all, there is a nice-sized window, in front of which I could overwinter those succulents, and since John is anxious to replace the huge water heater with a tankless one, I may end up with space for a workbench. Can you say "Potting Shed"? I'm also thinkin' that corner of the porch would be just the spot for a comfy adirondak chair, where I can relax with an icy cold glass of tea whenever I need a break. Yep, that's what I'm thinkin'!