Saturday, November 12, 2011


We've been hearing a lot of ads on the radio lately, for a new store in Austin called TreeHouse.  From what I could gather, they were an oh-so-Austin version of your standard home improvement store -- one where all the greenest, healthiest, most sustainable versions of all those items you need for your various household maintenance and home improvement projects, have been gathered together in one convenient location.  Since it happens to be located in West Gate shopping center, which has several other stores we love to visit, we decided it was time to do some 'splorin!
Here's some of the cool stuff we nabbed while there.  I'm especially excited about the strainers to put in the top of all our gutter downspouts.  I've been freaking out ever since Julie's friend told me about the rodent that ended up in their water catchment system's eliminator after a rainstorm.  They also had a very cool kitchen section, with all kinds of beautiful bamboo stuff and some great food storage options, to replace all that plastic.  The garden section had everything you would need for raised veggie bed building, composting and water barrel installation -- including a neat little solar powered pump to make it easier to get the water from the barrel to go where you need it.

Next stop was Genghis Grill, for a spot of lunch.  If you've never had Mongolian barbecue (you walk down a buffet filled with stir fry ingredients, spices and sauces, pile what you want in your bowl, then they cook it up for you on a big round griddle), it's a fun place to try -- but not nearly as fun as the first place we tried it back before we were married, Genghis Khan, down on lower Greenville in Dallas.  That's the place where, when asked if he served "authentic" Mongolian barbecue, the owner replied, "As authentic as you can get without the health department shutting you down."  By the way, you are allowed to go through the line as many times as you wish, trying a different combination of ingredients each time, but I've never made it past the first bowl.

After that we headed to the West Gate theater, where we had hoped to see Johnny Depp playing Hunter S. Thompson, the king of gonzo journalism, in The Rum Diary.  I guess it was not a big hit though, for it had ended its brief run the day before.  No worries.  We still had plenty of fun places to explore.  From there we went to Whole Earth Provision Co., and in addition to several Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers, you'll never guess what I found, in just my size, on the half-price table.  These!  Way better than smooth-bottomed Zumba shoes or backless, slip-on Skechers, for hiking to the top of Enchanted Rock, don't you think?
Last but not least was Central Market.  I just love browsing around CM and the Whole Foods flagship store pre-Christmas.  I don't usually buy much, I just love looking at all the eye-candy, and the festive atmosphere.  John picked up a bottle of wine, and I got two precious baggies filled with my favorite loose-leaf teas from Republic of Tea.
Oh yeah, and we saw some of the strangest fruit we've ever seen, outside of Indonesia.

How on earth would you peel/eat this sea-creature-like thing, which had a thick, citrus-style rind?
Have you ever seen an apple that's bright pink inside?
All in all, a most satisfying day.  The only spot we didn't make it to was Amy's Ice Cream, my hubby's favorite, but if he tries to tell you it's because I wouldn't let him have any, he's lyin'.  It's only because he was just too full after that Mongolian barbecue!  Also, 'though I certainly miss all the Borders bookstores that shut down (the only ones that were on our side of Austin),  I have to admit that a very cool home improvement store took the place of the one at West Gate, and I sure hope it takes off like gangbusters!  It would do my heart good to know that it gave up its life for something worthwhile.

Friday, November 11, 2011


for sunlight through rippling grasses.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Hubby and Toad on the patio at Mima's
More and more U.S. restaurants are finally climbing aboard the sidewalk cafe bandwagon, and have added nice outdoor seating areas.  Unfortunately, no matter how nice the area is, it is never as much fun for me as sitting in the French sidewalk cafes was.  I kept asking myself "Why?"

Several of our cafes here in Wimberley have beautiful stone terraces, some with nice covers overhead, in case of rain, and with heaters and fans to keep you at the right temperature.  Some even overlook the creek, or sit beneath a beautiful shade tree.  Still, there is something missing, and I just couldn't put my finger on it for the longest time.

Then, just a few days ago, I decided to go to my new favorite Tex-Mex place over in Kyle, across the parking lot from our big HEB.  I was planning to go get a few groceries after I ate, so I parked close to HEB and walked across the parking lot back to the cafe, which has a lovely covered eating area outside, facing the parking lot.  That's when it hit me -- it faces a dang parking lot!  They all do.  Either that, or a street full of honking, smog-belching traffic.  Oh, a few special ones might face some greenery or a creek, but none of them faces this...
or this...
or this...
What's so special about these locations, you ask?  Well, it's not that they are in France.  It's that they each face onto a pedestrian-friendly street or plaza -- streets and plazas full of life, in motion!  Places where I could sit and enjoy the ever-changing display the live-long day, without ever getting bored.  And that, my friends, is why I keep finding myself sitting in one of our U.S. cafes, dreaming of being here:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Well, I got lots of great suggestions on how to improvise mini-greenhouses for wintering over some of my favorite succulents, but in the end, I took the easy way out.
I grouped the larger ones together in this rectangular container, and plopped it in the center of my dining room table.
A bunch of smaller ones are in a nearby chair.  Our dining porch has windows on three sides, and gets plenty of good morning sun.  Hopefully, that will be enough.  If not, we'll try something different next year.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Here's Elmer, on a late night mission with his flashlight (It's scary dark out there!  All the light you see came from my camera flash). He's trying to nab that dastardly digger, 'Dillo Dan.  Too bad we didn't grab him when we first spotted him as a tiny youngster, who wasn't the least bit afraid of us.  He is rumored to have quadrupled in size, and to run like greased lightning!  Sure hope Elmer doesn't disturb something way more dangerous than a 'dillo.

Anybody know where I can get one of those red and black checkered caps, with ear flaps?

Monday, November 7, 2011


My hubby went to Breed & Co. (so much more than a hardware store!) over in Austin the other day, to pick up some switch plate covers he had ordered.  Of course, he came home with a few extra surprises.  As usual, he tried to blame them all on me.  He claimed I needed a little something new to launch the season with.

It's a little game we play, to help keep his true identity under wraps.  Little did I know, when I first introduced him to "The Thomas Way" of doing Christmas, that he would grab hold of those reins and zoom right past me, just as I was trying to pull on the brakes and simplify.  Ah well, I must admit, he did pick two things that I will use daily (the container holds my kosher salt by the stove), rather than more gee gaws, and that cavorting reindeer does put a smile on my face, each time I see it.  Oh My Gosh.  I'm Santa's "Beard"!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


David and Melody, the farm managers at Montesino Ranch
When you work as hard as these kids do, seven days a week, twelve months a year, well, sometimes, you just gotta cut loose!
Singer Chris Jamison and friend started off the entertainment
How d'ya like them sinks?
Whiskey Shivers stepped up to the mike next, around 8:00, and another group, Sour Bridges, came on after them. I'm afraid we didn't last long enough to see them, though.
Yep, these youngsters sure know how to have a good time, and I'm ever so grateful that they are generous enough to invite the whole community to join in, whenever they do.  It does my heart good to be reminded of the ever-increasing number of young people out there who have figured out what it means -- to be living the good life!