Saturday, July 2, 2011


One thing I love, is being able to find all the little decorative touches that I needed, to finish up this remodeling project of ours, right here in my very own house!


A few days later, these guys had all been chewed down to nubs.
There are some plants that deer just can't resist, such as portulaca.  I cannot grow portulaca.  Period.  No matter where I hide it, they will find it, and they will keep at it until the plant is uprooted or dead.

There are others, however, that they only mess with sometimes, such as in the spring when there are new babies around, or during a bad drought when there isn't much else for them to eat or drink.  A lot of plants won't recover from being gnawed to the ground, especially when that is followed closely by record-breaking heat.  Then there are my perennials that usually winter over just fine, but which were exposed to multiple hard freezes this year.  With all of this combined, it was kinda like the gardening version of that TV show Survivor.  Things looked pretty bare around here for a while, but I'm beginning to see some signs of life.  Without further ado, here they are -- The Survivors!

Can't remember what this fuzzy grey plant with the yellow blooms is, and my favorite plant book has gone awol.  Anybody recognize it?  I love that little booger!  Also, cannot figure out why the deer don't bother that lime green succulent in the pot next to it, when it looks and feels so much like portulaca.  Go figure!

The gazanias and petunias managed to survive as well, but they are just now starting to bloom again.  This gazania in the foreground has the yellow daisy-like blooms with maroon streaks down each petal.  If you live in the Hill Country, but don't have deer, I highly recommend gazanias, which come in an ever-increasing variety of colors and bloom sizes .  I had one last year that bloomed off and on until the first hard frost, and the foliage stayed a dark glossy green all summer long.  Gorgeous.  That orange one with the yellow centers up above is another gazania, and it's finally got some new blooms on it as well, but I'm afraid for them to open.  The deer absolutely adore that one, and I'm afraid the blooms might lure them back into the garden!  Those petunias were another big surprise.  Petunias aren't crazy about our steamy summers, so they are more of a cool weather plant down here.  However, these with the streaks and dark throats seem to be an exception.  Both the pink and the violet ones have bloomed really well spring through fall for me, as long as the deer aren't bothering them.
Everything in this pot is doing well again, though some plants are taking over and crowding the others out.  There are two Black Pearl ornamental peppers, three kinds of amaranthus (this yellow/pink one is way larger than the other two, probably because it's in the back corner and harder for the deer to reach), and the gazania with the giant orange blooms.  The tall centerpiece with the small orange blooms is a new one I threw in just for the heck of it.  I think it was called cestrum, though I wouldn't swear to it, and it wasn't meant to be the centerpiece.  There's one of those striped grasses, like I showed you yesterday,  in the middle of the pot, but these other guys grew faster and overshadowed it, so it never got very big.

Here's a close-up of the Black Pearl.  The fruit starts out a deep purple black, with an opalescent sheen, but it will eventually ripen to red.  Some people prefer to remove them before they reach that point.  Me, I think it's way to hot for that kind of nit-picking chore!

The two heucheras in the foreground of this photo are looking much crispier around the edges than they did last summer.  I think the big oaks around the garden have lost a lot of leaves, so they aren't getting as much shade.  If they can hang in there until the weather cools down, I can just trim off the crispy outer leaves, and the fresher, more colorful leaves below them will take over.  Behind them is my abutilon, which is one of the plants that froze to the ground this winter.  I thought it was a goner, but it finally came back.  It's still pretty tiny, but it is starting to get a few blooms.

So there you have it -- these guys took a licking, but kept on ticking.  Come back tomorrow to find out about all the hanky-panky that's been goin' on out there when I wasn't looking!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Shortly after I posted those pictures of my porch pots, bragging about how nicely they were filling in, the deer came through and had a feast.  Not only did they chow down on all my newly planted veggies, they pretty much razed all my pots, even the ones right next to the front door, which they usually don't mess with.  Since we were fixin' to leave the country for a couple of weeks, and by the time we got back we'd be approaching triple digits, I didn't see any point in replanting.  I figured I'd just have to put up with an almost empty garden until fall, but there were a few surprises in store for me -- so many, in fact, that I will have to divide the photos up amongst at least three posts!  We'll start with a few things that the deer and the blazing heat just haven't seemed to bother this year.

I've never had a bougainvillea basket do this well -- and with no feeding, trimming, or any special care.  It had barely finished its first round of blooms when it launched into this second, even more prolific one!

The two new grasses I tried out this year are doing well, especially the striped one called Gold Band, which should winter over.  The second one had a lot more of the rosey pinks and magentas when I bought it, but has now faded to the colors of it's relative, purple fountain grass.  Sorry I don't have the proper names to give you for most of my new things, but all of the tags I had saved got lost in the shuffle of remodeling and taking off for foreign lands.

These succulents are doing well too.  The deer did a little bit of nibbling on the top one back in spring, mostly just the blooms, but haven't bothered it lately, or the second one (some call it Cow's Tongue) at all.  Not sure if it's because they don't like them, or because they're in a spot that's more difficult to reach.

Of course, there are others that I didn't photograph, such as rosemary, Texas Sage, salvia greggii, Russian Sage, muhly grass, boxwood, barberry, and the yuccas (deer love the yucca's bloom stalks, but never bother the plant itself), but these have been some of my more unusual bullet-proof stars this summer.  Next up?  Plants that took a licking, but kept on ticking!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


It's been a while, huh? 
Click To Enlarge


Guess what?  The painters were supposed to come on Monday morning, but got delayed.  We're still waiting.

Also, when we heard they were coming to lay the flooring, we not only moved everything off the kitchen and bathroom floors, we also emptied out our closet floors, so they could put down some cedar planking in there.  Only, it turns out the flooring guys didn't know anything about that.  They thought maybe someone else was supposed to handle that.  So, for over a week now I've had to traverse an obstacle course of shoe racks and elfa units, just to get in and out of bed.

The shower is pretty much finished, but we can't use it until the glass walls come in...

The stones shined up pretty, didn't they?

my dining room table is still piled with towels and bathroom knick-knacks...

the living room furniture is still shoved over to one side of the room, its chairs piled with new hardware and such...

John needed something to replace souvenir shopping in France.
and there seems to be at least an inch of dust coating everything in the house, including my toothbrush.  I just want my house back!

But wait!  What is that I hear?  Could it be a couple of trucks coming up my driveway?  Woohoo!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


OK Ladies, how many of you remember having a toy ironing board when you were four or five?  If you are may age, from the time before plastic, it might have been a nice wooden one, or perhaps a  little red or blue metal one.  I don't know about you, but I thought that setting it up alongside my mom or our maid, and ironing along with them, was just about the best thing in the world!  

I loved everything about it: getting to dampen the clothes first, using one of the soda bottle sprinklers that my sister's Girl Scout troop had decorated; the steamy fragrance the iron gave off as it glided over the damp linens; the way all the wrinkles just disappeared in its wake, as if by magic.  Why, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven, the day Mom finally let me iron a few napkins and pillowcases for real!

Gradually, however, my attitude changed.  The more things that got piled on my plate, the less I enjoyed domestic rituals such as these.  By the time I had a couple of pre-teens who needed chauffering, a job, aging parents, and was back in school myself, I would have done just about anything to avoid ironing.  I wouldn't dare put a load of laundry in the dryer unless I was absolutely positive I could be there to grab it and shake it all out, the second the buzzer went off, and linen was a forbidden fiber in our house!

When I moved up here full-time, and John had to do his own laundry during the week, he became the neighborhood dry cleaner's most devoted fan, and several linen shirts worked their way back into his wardrobe.  The other day I brought a load of clean stuff in from the garage utility room, and sorted it out on our bed.  When John came in and saw what a crumpled mess his linen shirts were, he said "Wow.  Guess I'd better go back to taking those to the cleaners!"  I'm not sure what came over me, but before I could stop myself, I was saying "Don't bother.  I'll iron them for you."  He gave me a dubious look.  "Are you sure?"  I thought about it for a sec, then nodded my head.  I was sure.

You see, over the past several years I have gradually learned to slow down to the Hill Country pace, and as I did that, my attitude began to shift back.  I was finally learning how to look at things with childlike wonder again.  I was even learning how to say "No!"  Which is exactly what I did when I was being pressured to be on our property owners' association board.  I told them politely, "I'm already on another board, and one is enough."  Then I nudged my hubby under the table, and his hand went up!  Soooo, now that I have time to breathe in and appreciate that steamy fragrance, and take delight in seeing the wrinkles disappear before my eyes, I really don't mind ironing anymore.

John walked back into the room as I was stacking up a pile of freshly ironed napkins, and before I could stop myself, I admitted that ironing the napkins and his shirt had actually been "kinda fun."  That was probably a big mistake, wasn't it?

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I discovered a wonderful blog this week.  So wonderful that I found myself going back to the very beginning, to work my way forward -- which is how I found her series of posts on how the French shop for food and plan their meals.  It made me vow to think more like the French, at least in my kitchen. Then yesterday, on our way back from lunch with Lexie at Texas French Bread, we finally stopped in at the new Saturday market that has sprung up between here and Austin.  Boy, was I ever surprised at all they had to offer -- things like rabbit and lamb, yogurt and gruyere cheese.  They even had mini pies (just enough for two) from Texas Pie Company!  Soon as I got home I pulled out a little notebook I began keeping a while back.  When I first moved here full-time, I was buying lots of wonderful fresh food, but much of it ended up in the trash because I didn’t use it in time.  That’s when I started my notebook.

At the top of a page I would write down all the fresh stuff that I had got from the farmers’ market or The Bountiful Sprout, since my top priority was to make use of that while at its peak of perfection.  Then I would glance through the pantry, fridge and freezer, listing anything there that needed to be used fairly soon, such as some leftover cream or a bit of cheese.  In the middle of the page I jotted down anything I could think of that one could possibly make from any combination of those ingredients.  Then, at the bottom of the page I kept a record of what I did end up making that week.

My record-keeping was sporadic at best, but over time I came to realize that, not only did it help me prioritize and be less wasteful, it also became a priceless reference tool. It told me exactly what I might expect to find at local markets at any given time of the year, and gave me handy lists of the many different ways we have prepared it all!

Last night, when adding my new purchases to the notebook, I realized it was time to use those pork cutlets I had got from Richardson Farms.  I decided to saute’ them, then use the drippings and some leftover shallots, wine and cream to make a sauce, to which I would add a dollop of the yummy mustard we brought back from Dijon.  We had some leftover pasta and cucumber salad to serve as our sides, and I could toast some of that French bread that was past its prime, rub it with garlic and drizzle it with the local olive oil.  A delicious dinner was on the table in less than 30 minutes.  “Whoa!”, I found myself thinking.  “Is that not exactly what my new blog friend wrote about in her posts?  Didn’t I shop for food every few days, instead of all at once, buying what was in season, directly from the farmers and producers?  Didn’t I choose the ingredients first, and let them tell me what to make, instead of the other way around?”  Well, whadya know?  I guess I’ve picked up more from the French than I realized!

There is one additional thing to be picked up, however.  One of these!  Not only is it beautiful, it would remind me never to buy more than it can hold, if I wish to use it all while it is still fresh and delicious!