Saturday, December 3, 2011


I pulled out a fresh sheet of drawing paper this morning, to start work on a new winter "to do" list.  Then it occurred to me that perhaps I should flip back through my notebook-full of these lists, to make sure I'm not repeating myself too much.  I had so much fun browsing through the old ones, I thought maybe you would enjoy them too.  (You should be able to click on the images to enlarge)

Friday, December 2, 2011


I apologize for these sad pictures - it's a very cloudy, drizzly day, and one needs some natural light to get good photos!
If someone were to tell me I could only put up one decoration this year, it would probably be this one - the Raku nativity set my husband presented me with several years ago, when I had been pouting and he was feeling a bit guilty.  I have set it up in a different location each year but, this year, finally settled on the perfect one.  It has knocked my son's collection of nutcrackers out of first place to earn the premier spot over our fireplace.
There are sooooo many reasons why I love this nativity set and its new location -- not the least of which is the way the light over the picture just happens to shine directly over the baby Jesus and on the angel's face.
I love, love, love the way the colors of the set just happen to echo all the colors of the picture above and those of the vases and candlesticks that were already on the mantel.
I am tickled to death that my set is the only one I've ever seen that came not only with sheep, ass and cow, but also a reindeer!
I'm thinking perhaps it just happened to be sitting near the nativity display, and some young clerk grabbed it up thinking it was part of the set.  Whatever the reason, it makes me smile whenever I see it.  He looks quite happy to be there, don't you think?

However, the thing I love most of all about this set and its new location is what it reminds me of every single time I sit down in my living room.  Not only does it remind me of the reason for the season, it also reminds me of why it came into this house in the first place.  You see, the reason I was pouting that day was that, once again, John had hauled the giant tree in from the garage, set it up, then disappeared, and I was left to do all the decorating by myself.

Though we had started out our marriage with the tiniest of trees, and practically no other decorations - and had a perfectly lovely Christmas with those few trappings -- we had added more and more to the collection each year until it pretty much filled our attic, and there was Martha Stewart on TV, telling me that if I really wanted my family to have a good Christmas, not only did my house need to look like those pictures in the magazines, I also needed to bake all these fancy cookies, give fabulous parties, make handmade ornaments and gifts for all my friends, and set a perfect table, and...and then I found myself having to do everything by myself, and feeling like no one even appreciated it.  So I decided, well heck!  If no one appreciated it, or wanted to assist in all the "fun", why was I even bothering?

A couple of years ago I happened to read a book called On Strike For Christmas, about all the wives in one little town who went on strike and left it up to their husbands to make Christmas happen that year.  I picked it up because I was in the mood for a little male-bashing, but that isn't exactly what I got.  You see, it made me realize that this was just as much my fault as it was John's.  I was spending way too much time trying to make everything "perfect", and not enough time just enjoying my family's company.

Maybe I went a little to the other extreme, what with not putting up a tree at all last year, but it certainly got my family's attention!  This year, I think we've found the perfect compromise, and both hubby and I are feeling pretty jolly.  I've got a scaled down tree, I've got my stockings, I've got plenty of time to spend with my family, and, best of all, if I find myself slipping back into old habits, I've got this nativity set to remind me -- Keep it simple, and focus on what really matters!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


We've got a new cafe in town called Goodnight Diner.  It went into the place at Poco Rio where Hillsedge Grill used to be, which replaced a seafood place, which get the idea.  It's one of those jinxed locations where nothing seems to last.  In my opinion, it's because they were all charging way too much for mediocre food -- which you can get away with if you have an endless supply of tourists, but this spot is just a little too out of the way for that, so they really need to attract the locals.  I have a feeling this new place just might do it.
It's a tiny little place, with a tiny little menu.  They limit themselves to what they do best -- southern comfort food -- and charge reasonable prices.  Don't go here if you are looking for "lite" or anything else.  We tried it first during their soft opening, before they even had their sign up.  John tried the burger and I ordered the chicken fried steak.  Instead of serving a monster slab of gristly meat that no one could or should consume in one sitting, my cfs was a smaller portion of better meat, served atop mounds of bacon-cooked greens and real mashed potatoes, and drizzled over with better than average gravy.  I found it to be quite tasty, and even with it's moderate size, I could easily have shared it with someone and been quite satisfied.

We decided to give the place another try last night, now that it's had time to get its opening kinks ironed out.  John tried their frito-chili pie, which he loved since it was made with a Wick Fowler style of chili, his favorite kind.  He ordered a side of cornbread, and thought it was pretty good too.  I tried something I've been hearing about for years, but never quite had the nerve to try - Chicken and Waffles.  I'm pretty sure I still wouldn't want it first thing in the morning, but for dinner?  Well, wow!  I worried when I saw that the chicken was marinated in an Asian chili sauce, but it was really quite mild -- barely discernible.   I don't know why the combination works, but it does.  Maybe it's the way the different flavors and textures play off of one another.  All I know is, you really ought to try it sometime.  Trust me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Image from
My kids are both in committed relationships now, and it has got me to thinking a good bit about what makes a lasting match.  A lot of people assume that, in order to find their "soulmate", they have to find someone who is just like them -- someone who agrees with them on everything, enjoys doing all the same things, and wants to be with them all the time.  I see it more as being two pieces from the same jig-saw puzzle, and I ask you, what good would it do you to have two identical pieces?  Sure, you need to be from the same box -- have the same central theme and core of values, share a similar vision as to the picture you wish to be a part of -- but to be a good match you also need to fill in each other's gaps, so that the two of you together create something bigger and better than each of you did when alone.

If you have been reading this blog for long, you are bound to have noticed that my hubby and I are polar opposites on many, many things.  But that's okay, as long as we are in sync on the important things -- the deal breakers like morality and integrity, religion, anger management, parenting and money.  For instance, when it comes to hanging on to mementos, John is a total sap, and I am pretty hard-hearted.  To me, unless it's something useful, or which drives me color-mad, it's just "stuff", and if we don't really have room for it and it's getting in my way, then it is clutter, and needs to be got rid of. My hubby?  I think he'd hang on to a booger, if it had belonged to someone he loved.  But that's okay.  If not for him, my kids would end up without a single thing of historical or sentimental value.  If not for me, you might be seeing him on an upcoming episode of Hoarders.  Instead, we meet somewhere in the middle, and are both better for it.  We fit together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Well, I guess that's it for my tomato season.
There's been a good coating of frost on my little truck the last two mornings, so I'm sure I'll have lots of pruning and yanking to do as soon as it's warm enough to get back out in the garden.

My favorite tomato plant for this area is turning out to be a little paste variety called 'Juliet'.  What a prolific workhorse she has been, both this year and last.  Last spring's plant produced an abundant supply of roma-sized fruit until it just got too hot for the blooms to set.  This year's plant got thwarted by triple-digit temps before it had a chance to do anything at all, but then took off just when I was about to give up and pull it out.  Her first tomatoes were really small, more like a grape tomato than a roma, but the concentrated flavor made them quite tasty when I marinated them in vinegar and oil, then served them as a salad.

Juliet was covered in dozens of green tomatoes when our first brief dips below freezing were predicted, so I went out each evening and snuggled her in with a wrap of frost cloth.  Those tomatoes I picked last week were larger,  but not near as big as last year's.  I roasted them in olive oil, thyme and sea salt, with a dash of sugar, packed them into a jar covered in their roasting oil, and kept them chilled until it was time to serve them drizzled over goat-cheese-smeared crostini at our Thanksgiving feast.

Yesterday I roasted another batch and, as soon as they were cool enough to handle, I slipped their skins off, tossed them into a pasta bowl along with some minced garlic, chopped fresh herbs, and some of their roasting oil, added some hot pasta and just a splash of the pasta water, then topped everything with a healthy grating of Parmigiano.  It was a very good dinner!
I still have a colander full of ripe ones, plus all those I picked when I heard that we were due for a hard frost a couple of nights in a row. I took any that even had a blush of color on them, but left behind quite a few more that were still completely green.  Now, if only I knew what to do with the rest!
Is it weird that I went a wee bit color-mad, when I realized my tomato harvest echoed all of the colors in my wonderful Bakelite bouquet?  Ahhh, Juliet!  Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Or, should I say "ahead to the past"?  You see, in addition to the many adjustments we have made to how our family convenes and celebrates holidays, there have been many, many adaptations on how we decorate.  In recent years we have focused on gradually reducing the amount of decorations to match the diminishing size of our house. The latest, and possibly final, adjustment was to the size of our tree. There just was no room in the living area for our full-sized tree, without removing some furniture.  Even worse, nowhere to put the banished furniture other than out in our "open-air" garage.  Sooooo, hubby decided to go on one of his secret shopping missions!
Did he do good, or what?  It fits perfectly on the narrow table behind our sofa, and gives the impression of a full-sized tree being there -- just partially hidden.  It reminds me a lot of the very first tree we ever bought together, back in Indonesia.  I love that it stores in this wee little box, easily carried in one hand...
and that, when it's dark, its twinkle lights are reflected in every window and mirror.  I love that there is plenty of room for all my favorite ornaments...
but, when it's time to pack them away, they all fit nicely into one little crate.
But, know what I like bestest of all?  I love it that, when I sat in my nest on the dining porch early this morning, I could enjoy my twinkle lights and watch the sun rise, all at the same time!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


A Well-Made Cup of Hot Chocolate!