Saturday, August 20, 2011


I stumbled across something a little unusual when I went out to water yesterday evening -- a butt sticking out of one of my half-buried pots.  Something was just-a-scratchin' away, trying to burrow down under that lantana.

I turned quietly and crept back to the house, poking my head in the door to beckon John, without much hope that our little 'dillo would still be there when we got back.

He was.  In fact, he didn't seem the least bit disturbed by our presence, or the fact that it was broad daylight out.  So I ran back to get my camera.

He did glance back at me once, when he heard the clicking of the camera, and I got poised to skee-daddle, but then he just went right back to what he was doing.  Eventually I went downstairs to water the Cantina Garden, certain he would be gone when I returned.

He was not.  He had merely moved to the opposite side of the terrace, and added a half-dozen new holes to the beds there.  Finally it occurred to me that it might be best to run him off, before he made himself any more at home.  I pulled out the hose, set it on "jet stream", and aimed it straight at him.  Did he jump and run?  No, he did not.  All he did was waddle to the side an inch or two, then return to his digging.  Oh my stars, this was one determined 'dillo!

Though he was completely unflappable, I did eventually figure out that with repeated squirts from my hose, he was somewhat "herdable", and in this way, I finally managed to mosey him off into the woods behind our house.  Did he stay there?  Well, that remains to be seen.

Friday, August 19, 2011


I have come across quite a few people over the years who say they despise mushrooms.  I emphasized that word on purpose, for it's never a mild dislike.  If they hate 'em, it's with a passion!  I can't help but wonder though, if it's because they, like me, grew up on the slimy bits and pieces that came from a can.  Those aren't really mushrooms.

Once I was on my own, I graduated to the "fresh" variety, but that too is a relative term.  In those days the supermarkets carried only the generic button variety, which has no taste.  I usually bought them pre-sliced, and often left them in the fridge for several days, in their cellophane wrapper, until they were almost as slimy as their canned compadres.  Those aren't really mushrooms either.

Now, these here?  These are mushrooms!

These guys are one of my favorite things about the new farmers' market down the road from us.  They are from Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms in Gonzales, Texas, and come in a nice brown paper bag, which is the proper way to store them in your fridge.  Never store them in plastic bags.

These Baby Bellas are so meaty and delicious that they deserve much more than a bit part in someone else's show.  They deserve a starring role!  So I thought I would share this recipe with you.  It's a very simple recipe, not too fussy (always best when you are working with wonderful ingredients), and we found it to be quite tasty.

from Serving Up the Harvest, by Andrea Chesman

8 cups arugula leaves (other greens, such as watercress, can be substituted)
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound mixed mushrooms, quartered or cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp. dried
1 T. red wine vinegar
Freshly shaved Parmesan (use a swivel-bladed veggie peeler to shave off slivers)

  • Put the arugula in a large salad bowl.  Drizzle in 2 T. of the olive oil and the lemon juice.  Toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Divide among four salad plates or arrange on a large platter.
  • Heat the remaining 2 T. oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and let cook undistrubed until golden on the bottoms, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and thyme, stir, and continue to cook until the mushrooms are tender throughout, about 4 minutes longer.
  • Stir in the vinegar and let cook until the vinegar is mostly absorbed.  Season to taste with more salt and pepper.
  • Spoon the mushroom mixture over the arugula.  Top with a few curls of shaved Parmesan.  Serve at once.
Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


There's not much in the garden these days that isn't brown and brittle, but there are still a few surprises to be found.

For one thing, my Texas Persimmon tree is actually looking better than usual.  A lot of the fruit is thumbnail sized and still growing, whereas it usually ripens and falls at pinky size.  Anybody know of a good way to use it?

My Mexican Oregano is still blooming profusely.  I just love multicolored blooms like these.
This Castor Bean plant that grew from dropped seed is now about waist-high, and sending up its first bloom.  Just look at those colors!
This marigold is a pop-up plant as well, and is doing much better than its nursery-bred mama ever did!

I adore contrast in my garden -- dark purple-black foliage against bright lime green; purple blooms and berries mixed with day-glo orange; this Black Pearl pepper plant is a gem!  Ha-ha-ha!  Pearl?  Gem?  Get it?  And that wasn't even intentional!

I even have a few succulents still, that the deer haven't uprooted.

It's not much, but it's better 'n nuthin'!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Woohoo!  August is more than halfway over!  I started to add "only six more weeks of sweltering!", but then decided I'd better not.  Don't wanna jinx the whole situation, 'cause with the way this summer has been going, there's just no tellin' when the "new" version of summer's-end might be!

Since it's been way too hot here this summer to spend any time out in the Cantina Garden, I've had plenty of time to stay inside where it's semi-cool (can't wait to see our next electric bill!), curled up with a good book.  I finally finished my pile of books about France, including Au Revoir by Mary Moody and My French Life by Vicki Archer, and have now immersed myself in The Dirty Life!  I'm really loving it, but it has definitely strengthened my conviction that I was not cut out for the farming life. (Rats and weasels and muck, oh my!)  The part where their new little cow got mauled by the neighbors pit bull just about did me in.  It's the story of New York journalist Kristin Kimball, who goes on assignment to interview a young, idealistic farmer who would prefer to live in a cashless society, then shucks it all to marry him.  Sound familiar?  In a way it reminds me of The Unlikely Lavender Queen, which I reviewed for you here, only this one has a lot less whining, and a lot more teamwork, which makes the characters a lot more, ahem, likable!

Next up on my reading list are Ava's Man and All Over But The Shoutin', both by Rick Bragg, and then...well...I'm not sure.  I was kinda hopin' you could help me out there.  Now, from looking at my list here, you might think I read nothing but memoir, but that's not true at all.  I loves me a good juicy novel, and have even been known to wander into the Young Adult section now and again!  So tell me, what have you read recently, that you could hardly bear to put down?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Dang!  I can't believe I forgot to mention the one of a kind Christmas stockings that Mom made for each and every kid, kid's spouse and grandkid!  Each family unit got a velvet background in a color that went with their home's "decor", then she decorated each stocking with bits and pieces from her stash of antique lace, fringe, doilies, rick-rack, hankies, buttons, etc.  They're big, too, so they hold a lot!


My kids are pretty darn lucky.  They've got creative genes flowing down to them from all four grandparents, not to mention a houseful of awesome handcrafted stuff to remember them by.  John's mother was a painter for most of her life.  We have a whole wall full of her paintings in our living room, plus many more that we have no place to hang.

My very favorite is this portrait she did of my hubby when he was about five years old.

I'd recognize that face anywhere!

When she was in her 60s, however, she decided to branch out and try something different.  So she went and taught herself how to do woodcarving!  Little tiny hummingbirds in flight were her specialty, held aloft by the tip of their needle-like beaks (are they still called beaks if you suck through them?).

I'm told John's dad dabbled in photography in his younger days, and had a darkroom set up in their home, but his true passion was handcrafted furniture.  He could, and did, make anything from sewing cabinets and plant stands to china cabinets and grandfather clocks.

My own mother dabbled in everything from jewelry-making and painting to miniatures and dollhouses, but she was a most amazing seamstress.  Not only did she keep herself and all her children clothed when times were lean, she once provided all the gowns for a fashion show they were putting on at my dad's company, designing and constructing them all out of drapery and upholstery samples that they had lying around in their showroom.  She also kept us supplied with costumes for Halloween, plays, and weddings!

My dad was a home-designer and builder, so he actually used his creativity to earn a living.  Unfortunately, he worked such long hours, six or more days per week, he had no time for hobbies. Which made it all the more special that, when my fourteen-year-old self showed him a sketch of a special bed she had designed -- a twin-sized four-poster shaped sort of like a box, with a pull-out drawer underneath and curtains all around that could be pulled shut whenever she felt like disappearing into a good book -- she found it waiting in the garage for her on Christmas morning!  And if I ever find that dang picture of it, I will post it for you.  I know there's one here somewhere.

So, yeah, I'd say my kids are pretty darn lucky to have all this talent, imagination, and creativity flowing through their veins, wouldn't you?  Let's just hope they've got a good dose of my common sense flowing through there as well!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


We're babysitting our granddog Guinness this week, while her papa goes on a cruise with his buddies.  There's nothing like a sweet puppy to make you slow down and pay attention.  For instance, you think you're gonna just run her out for a quick potty trip, but it ends up taking 45 minutes.  There are just sooooo many interesting things to sniff and explore.

She loves coming out on the porch with me, but hates having to go back inside -- a good excuse for me to spend just a wee bit longer in that rocking chair.  There's only one thing likely to tempt her back inside...

the smell of breakfast cooking!

Ever hopeful that something will drop, though it almost never does.  Dogs are so patient, and optimistic!

Did I say you could get on that bed, you little shedding machine?

Ah well, I guess the damage is already done, so as long as you are here...

Know what I love mostest of all?  Those silky ears!  I could rub on those ears  All.  Day.  Long.

Puppy Love.  It's simple.  It slows me down.  It makes me oh so happy!  What about you?  What did you do to slow down and enjoy some of the simple things life has to offer this weekend?