Saturday, September 17, 2011


We took the back roads into Austin yesterday, and it was the most depressing drive we'd ever taken -- nothing but dead brown everywhere you looked, and this was not an area that had been burnt!
This drought has everything looking like it's the middle of a hard, hard winter, instead of it being the tail end of summer.  Of course, the creek has been dry for months now, which isn't unusual here.  But the trees!  First to go were the shallow-rooted crepe myrtles, seen through the oak in the top photo.  Now the cedar elms and some red oaks are turning and dropping their leaves, and even our bullet-proof boxwoods, which refused to die when we actually tried to kill a few!

The "waterfall" on our creek.
What did my hubby do when we reached Austin?  Why, he filled up our truck with two or three hundred dollar's worth of brand new plants of course, then went back to the feed store for a load of potting soil!
So how would you define "gardener"?  Well, that's just another way of saying "eternal optimist", isn't it?

Friday, September 16, 2011


O! M! G!  Any food writer worth their salt would surely cringe at the sight of that terribly overused abbreviation.  However, I am not a food writer.  I try to be an honest writer, and the three words it represents are precisely what I said, over and over again, as I was eating this gooey concoction.
I first bought these ingredients thinking I would make this for dessert one evening, but with the heat we've been having, I never felt like going back into the kitchen to start cooking again, once dinner was done.  Plus, there were all those plants outside, begging me to get out there and do some watering!  Then I thought about making it for the two of us as a light lunch or supper, but wasn't sure John would settle for that, even though the cheese and nuts would certainly provide enough protein.  In the end, I just woke up this morning and decided to treat myself to an amazing breakfast.

Of course, it may not be to everyone's taste.  John woke up just in time for me to give him one last bite of mine, and his reaction was "Meh."  But then, he's not really a morning person, or a breakfast person, or a salty and sweet person.  Plus, it was the smell of my almost-but-not-quite-scorching the caramel  that woke him up.  Sorry I wasted that bite on him.  However, if you do go bonkers over salty and sweet, and are a lover of each of these ingredients individually, you are sure to adore how they all come together in this one exquisite dish, perfect for any time you should choose to have it, on a beautiful autumn day!

from Deborah Madison, as seen in Bon Appetit magazine
(serves six)

A Note From Deborah: If your pears are on the dry side, the caramel will form more quickly than if they are juicy. (Mine were, and it did!  I will use lower heat settings next time.)  Any variety of pears can be used in this recipe, but Bosc pears hold up especially well because of their firm texture.  Almost any cheese would be great with the pears. (I used a Spanish manchego -- a firm, aged cheese -- and loved the way it became sort of chewy, and glommed onto the nuts and caramel!)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 firm but ripe Bosc or other pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons mild honey (such as orange blossom or clover)
  • 4 oz. artisanal cheese (such as Point Reyes Original Blue, Humboldt Fog, dry Monterey Jack, sheep's-milk ricotta, tangy soft fresh goat cheese, or other local cheese), sliced or crumbled, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Pinch of fine sea salt

Cook unsalted butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to brown.  Add pear halves, cut side down, to skillet.  Drizzle honey over pears and swirl pan slightly to blend butter and honey.  Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until pears are tender when pierced with paring knife, swirling skillet occasionally and adding a few tablespoons of water to skillet if caramel sauce turns deep amber before pears are tender, about 12 minutes.
Transfer pears, cut side up, to serving platter.  Top pears with cheese.
Return skillet with caramel sauce to medium-high heat; add pine nuts to skillet and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Cook until sauce in skillet is brown and bubbling, about 2 minutes.  Spoon sauce over pears and serve.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Know what I love about living in Wimberley?  We get to celebrate Fat Tuesday every month of the year! Local chef/caterer Linda Allen bought a cute little house just past the library a few years back, to use as her catering headquarters and as a pick-up site for food-to-go.  She added a table or two when people started running in on their lunch breaks to grab something to go, then didn't want to leave!
Eventually it morphed into a full-blown restaurant, and one of our favorite places to eat -- especially on the second Tuesday of each month.  That is when Linda calls upon her inner Cajun, and fixes up a whole mess of Red Beans and Rice, Crawfish Pies and Nachos, Muffaletta Sandwiches, and best of all, a big ol' vat of the best Chicken and Sausage Gumbo I ever tasted.  As if that weren't enough, she even provides live music out on the porch, to help us get our mood on!
I keep sayin' I'm gonna try some of that other stuff, but when it gets down to the wire, I always go for the gumbo.  That Linda makes a mighty fine bowl of gumbo!  Not only that, guess who went a wee bit color-mad, when she brought it out on this gorgeous pottery, whose swirls echoed all the colors in the gumbo!  Have I ever mentioned that I have a thing for color?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I knew it was coming -- that those lovely cool nights and tolerable days had been a mere tease, and that we were sure to swing back into "hellishly hot" for a while longer -- but that didn't prevent me from getting dang depressed when it happened!  Speaking of depression, my thoughts have been unusually morose of late.  Between reading The Lotus Eaters, which got me to thinking about Viet Nam, and watching the movie Taking Chance, which got me to thinking about Afghanistan, fretting about all these fires, the poor men and women who are fighting them, and all those that have been displaced, plus the hubbub over 9/11, well, let's just say I needed a little escape.  So, I decided to go back to France -- only this time, I'm traveling by book!

If you have seen the movie Midnight in Paris (if you haven't, why not?!) you are sure to appreciate these two books I found at the library the other day, though you may not want to read them simultaneously, as I am doing.  All this jumping back and forth between eras has me feeling like Dr. Who's sidekick, which, come to think of it, is probably just how Owen Wilson's character in the movie felt!  Like me, you probably left the theatre wishing you knew a bit more about the two eras he "jumped" to, and the characters he met there.  I went to the library intentionally looking for one of these.  Stumbling upon the other was just a delicious gift of synchronicity!

The first -- the one I went looking for -- is A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway's memoir of his time in Paris with his wife Hadley, during the 20s, when he first devoted himself to writing fiction, and became part of the expatriate community, along with Gertrude Stein, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, and Ezra Pound.  "It was in that room too that I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day.  That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything, I hoped; learning, I hoped; and I would read so that I would not think about my work and make myself impotent to do it."

The other book -- the lucky fluke -- is Luncheon of the Boating Party, a novel by Susan Vreeland.  It too is set in Paris, but in the late 1800s, during the birth of La Vie Moderne.  It introduces us to Auguste Renoir and his cohorts in the Impressionist movement, and centers around his struggle to bridge the gap between two worlds, to create the masterpiece that would at last give them some credibility in the art world.  "Crossing the river on the Passerelle des Arts, Auguste was seized by a thought.  He was straddling more than just the Seine.  The iron and wood footbridge stretched from the Louvre on the Right Bank to the formidable, gold-ribbed dome of the Institut de France housing the Academie des Beaux-Arts on the Left Bank.  The new art was a Right Bank school growing out of ragtag Montmartre and the suburban riverside to the west, as far from the classical, tradition-bound Left Bank Academie as it could get.  Yet the painting that swirled in his mind, even though modern in subject, required the skill of the classicists.  He felt as giddy as he had as a youth the moment before touching the first breast offered to him."

Well, I must be off.  I feel a time jump coming on.  Abientot!  See ya later!

Monday, September 12, 2011


We all know them -- that person that you hate going to restaurants with.  The one who is so picky they can never order anything as-is off the menu, and must spend 30 minutes holding up their starving table-mates while they enumerate all their special requests for the poor waiter.  Then, when the food finally does come out, there is always something wrong with theirs, and it must be sent back.  We've dropped out of dinner clubs before, because of prima donnas like that, yet now I fear I just might be turning into one myself!

I haven't started sending food back yet, but I am getting bold enough to be a little more specific when I order, especially when it's a place I go to frequently.  For instance, my husband often snickers when I say "I'll have a diet coke with a couple of lime slices, and the 'Loaded Baked Potato' -- no butter, no sour cream, side of salsa."  He always points out that one can't really call it "loaded" if one leaves off all the "good stuff".  Can I help it if that's the way I like it?

But this?  This has never happened to me before.  We were driving over to Johnson City this weekend for an art show, and decided it would be the perfect time to try out a restaurant there that's been recommended many times.  Their special of the day was meat loaf with tomato relish, mashed potatoes and green beans - one of my hubby's favorites, but not something I usually order.  However, on that day it just sounded really good to me.  Looked good too, though it smelled, well, not bad, just...different.  I took a great big bite, then froze.  I guess I was trying to analyze the disconnect between what I was expecting, and what I was tasting.  I finally came too when I heard my husband snorting.  "Man, you should see the look on your face!" he chortled.

I'm not sure how to describe it other than to say it was cinnamony-sweet.  Some people might really like it, but I've hated cinnamon with tomatoes ever since we were served spaghetti with cinnamon sauce at the American Club in Bahrain once.  I didn't complain, since it was a strictly personal thing, I just didn't eat it.  John took one bite, but didn't offer to take it off my hands.  He just handed me half his sandwich.

There was no way to rearrange that meatloaf, to make it look like I ate most of it, so of course our waitress was upset when she came to clear the plates.  She offered to bring me a different entree.  She offerred me a dessert.  I said no, thanks, that really wasn't necessary.  It was just me.  When the bill came out, she had removed my meal from it.  I felt really bad.  I doubled her tip.  I promise to behave myself if you ever go out to eat with me.


I swear, that TERRI HALLOCK has to be the luckiest reader in the blogosphere!  I don't even need to ask her for her mailing address anymore, 'cause I finally just put it in my address book last time she won something.  Congratulations Teri!  I hope your hubby went ahead and got you a birthday present, so you get double the celebration this year.  Just promise me you will make a special spot for this basket in your Winnebago, so you can take a bit of Texas with you, wherever you may go.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Don't forget, this is your last day to leave a comment here, and have your name tossed into the hat for a chance to win the Hill Country Hippie Fourth Anniversary Market Basket Prize Package pictured above.  Winner will be announced first thing tomorrow morning!


Just finished reading through the section of my 1977 journal which describes our month-long Euro-jaunt, the move back to the states, the job and house hunt, etc. -- background research for the next story over on Miss Becky Goes Abroad.  It left me with one burning question: where are all the frickin' photos?  All through the trip I talk about our taking photos, and when we got back to the states I mention going to pick up the trip pictures.  So how come I have no memory whatsoever of ever having seen any of those photos, or any from our first couple of years back in the states, in any of our photo albums?  It's a mystery!  I wonder if we maybe had all the film turned into slides or something?  Looks like I'll have to do some digging around, huh?