Thursday, March 24, 2011


Hill Country Hippie is going on a T.A.I.R!  That's sister-speak for a Thomas Annual Inspirational Retreat (better known as a girl's get-away).  I'll be back on Sunday, though.  Don't have too much fun without me!


 I used to love this mailbox.  It belonged to a musician who lived a few doors down from me, and I'd pass it whenever I was out walking.  At one time there was a door on its mouth, which gave it a big, mischievous grin.  Now he has a sad, vacant stare, and nothing in his mouth but a change of address card.  Sometimes, things get neglected.  They fall apart, and all the life goes out of them.  It happens to houses and mailboxes, and sometimes, even to families.

At least four different houses in our small neighborhood were once full of love and laughter and people who were living out their dreams.  One little B&B got caught in the middle of a nasty divorce battle, then a lady up on the hill passed away, and the house that she and her significant other had built from scratch together sat empty for years, while the partner and her grown kids fought it out in court.  Our own house had sat empty for several years as well, after the man who spent years planning every last detail fell ill and passed away, without ever really getting to live in it.  But then, we stumbled upon it, and it made all of our wishes come true!

I sure hope that will happen to the house down the road.  I hate this vacant stare and gaping mouth,  almost as much as I hate the thought of that sad empty house. Both seem to be wondering "What on earth happened to all the love and laughter?  Why did they start neglecting things, and let them all fall apart?"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


It was a near perfect visit:  Dinner on the porch, with a glass of vino, only coming inside when it was time to put the kettle on.  Then hot tea, dark chocolate, and more conversation, not giving up and going to bed until I realized my voice was giving out on me.  Sleeping in the next morning, then our traditional swapping of book stashes, which led to more talk, talk, talking, then walk, walk, walking on our new hike & bike trail, and finally, lunch on Mima's patio.

Eventually, she had to go.  I waved goodbye, came in to go to the bathroom, and settled down at the computer.  A moment later, the phone rang.  "Hey Becky, guess you're wondering why I'm still sitting down here in your driveway."  "Actually, I figured you were halfway home by now."  Turns out she has a dead battery, or so she thought.  But the little AAA guy that came out said "Nope, it's mechanical."  Major bummer, since the only reason she drove her hubby's big honkin' truck was because it was much newer, so less likely to have problems.

Anyhoo, we call Toyota, and a guy named Bruce claims he can fix the problem via phone.  He says he can work magic.  We don't believe him.  He has her try to crank the engine, and he listens to it.  Then he tells her to hold her little lock/unlock gizmo (which he calls The Silencer) at different points around the vehicle and under the hood (which we don't even know how to open).  "Now click it", he says.  "Did you hear a beep?"  No, no beep.  Then things start to get hairy.  He has us digging for spare parts in the glove box, looking for the fuse panel, pulling things out, plugging other things in.  He keeps telling us to look for a black wire that "doesn't look like it belongs there", and pull it out.  We pull out the only one we see.  It's the wrong one.  Then we can't get it back in.  I'm not sure who is going to cry first -- Paula, or Bruce.

Just in the nick of time, we see John turning into the neighborhood.  He gets on the phone with Bruce, and a minute or two later, Paula is on her way home.  Turns out it was The Silencer itself, that was keeping her engine from turning over, and it only needed disconnecting.  In our defence, however, it was a red wire, not a black one.  Guess ol' Bruce really can work magic.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


John, on the balcony of Steiner Ranch Steakhouse
In case you've been wondering what Dear Hubby has been up to these past few months, other than unpacking boxes, hauling stuff to the thrift store, installing new flower beds, and consulting back in Houston, well, he's gone back to school!  Part of UT's continuing education department is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and they have something called the LAMP program, which John enrolled in several months ago.

View from the tower at Steiner Ranch
He attends lectures on every imaginable topic, enjoys weekly discussion groups, and, occasionally, even gets to go on field trips!  This past Sunday, Lex and I were invited to tag along on one to Steiner Ranch Steakhouse, overlooking beautiful Lake Travis in Austin.

Lex, tying John's Mimosa
The 5,200 acre Steiner Ranch, now the site of an elite housing development, was probably best known as home base to the Steiner Rodeo Company run by Tommy Steiner.  However, it actually began with his father, T.C. (Buck) Steiner, back in the 30s.  Buck had many irons in the fire, but his primary interests were rodeo, boots and saddles.

An unusual fire pit, which felt pretty good with those breezes coming off the lake.
His favorite business, Capitol Saddlery, turned out boots, saddles and tack which sold through the Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs.  His boot shop of the same name, still in business until just a few years ago,  is a well-known landmark in Austin.

One of thousands of "MacMansions" now crowding the shores of Austin's lakes.
Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning, huh? (even if I do find it terribly depressing, to be reminded that all of Texas' wide-open spaces are quickly being replaced by weenie-wagging, water-guzzling housing developments)

Monday, March 21, 2011


New Zealand Flax, Mexican Feather Grass, and a lime green succulent (euphorbia?)
Some people see a picture of a plant grouping, and decide "That's what I want!", but that has never worked for me.  Whenever I enter a garden center, mind made up and plant list in hand, I always come away disappointed.  Either they don't have any of the plants I want, or they do, but they're not really suited to my particular site and conditions.

Red-Veined Sorrel
I find I have much better luck when I let the plants do the talking.  If I go in with a fairly open mind, knowing just where I plan to use them and what the conditions are there, and having a good basic knowledge of which plants like what (read labels, and ask for help if you don't know!), well then, magic happens!

Purple Heart and the mystery succulent
I was in a garden center the other day, when I happened upon that tall, spikey New Zealand Flax, with its streaks of purple and green.  I tried growing it in my beds back in Dallas, but it would never come back.  However, it would make a gorgeous "thriller" for my largest container, and since I change my pots out twice a year, I figured it was worth a try.  I placed it in my cart, and continued to wander, eyes and ears open.

From that point on, plants began calling to me -- some practically leaping into my hands!  I'd see how they looked together, there in the cart, playing with different combinations, rearranging them according to ultimate height and habit, trying out different textures, one against the other, until finally I had a group that drove me Color-Mad!  Then I went home.

The most important tip I can pass along to you is this:  do not make flowers your focus.  Blooms come and go, and when they go, the plants they are on can look pretty poopy.  If you concentrate on form and texture instead, your pots will look good all of the time!  I knew I'd done a good job as soon as I got them planted up.  Pots never look all that great, right at first.  For one thing, I had to pinch all my fuchsia-streaked petunias way back (removing all the blooms), to keep them from getting too lanky.  And, though I really pack my pots with plants, there are still fillers that have yet to fill in, and spillers that have yet to spill.  Despite all this, they already put a smile on my face, each time I walk by...especially the striped petals on my happy little gazanias.  How could you not love those?

Sunday, March 20, 2011


One summer week's order from TBS, spread out on my counter.

For those of you who may not have access to the wonderful Edible Austin magazine, here is a link to a wonderful article about The Bountiful Sprout, which appeared in their spring issue.  TBS is the group I have been volunteering with, ever since I moved to Wimberley full-time.  Jeremy Walther, who writes for Edible Austin, became so enthusiastic about the concept, while conducting all the interviews, that he has volunteered to open a branch in Austin.  Exciting times!