Friday, March 2, 2012


Doesn't this asparagus look beautiful with my blog background?
There were plenty of clues that spring had sprung outside, but when I realized that asparagus had plunged from it's usual price of around four bucks a pound, down to a mere ninety seven cents a pound at the Kyle HEB, I knew it was time to bring some spring indoors to our dinner table. I ended up doing a riff on a browned butter sauce of Giada's, from her Everyday Italian cookbook. It's such an easy thing to do, I just make it up as I go along now, but I will give you her recipe as a jumping off place.

That beautiful pasta pot that you see simmering on the stove (another gift from my hubby) came in real handy this week, as it also has a steamer insert. I popped the tough ends off the asparagus, brought some water to a boil, steamed the asparagus using the insert until it was just tender, then set it aside. Next I dropped some frozen ravioli (I like a good mushroom ravioli, and always keep some in the freezer) into that same boiling water to cook for a very few minutes. Meanwhile, I was making my brown butter sauce on another burner.
All I did was melt a little butter (the real stuff, no fakes!) in a large saute' pan until it turned a pale golden color. Then you can toss in some fresh herbs (sage is good, and I usually have some in the garden) or nuts (I like pine nuts or walnuts, and keep both of these in the freezer as well) or both. Since I was going to use the sauce on both the ravioli and the asparagus, and wasn't sure how well sage went with asparagus, I just used pine nuts this time. I cooked it a wee bit longer, until the nuts and butter were just starting to lean towards brown (this happens fast, so don't turn your head or it will scorch!) then I seasoned it with a bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg (one jar of whole nutmeg will last you forever).
I poured the sauce over the pasta and asparagus, added some freshly grated Parmigiano (again, only the real stuff, not the powder in the green can), et Voila! Simple. Fast. Absolutely delicious. Oh yeah, one more thing. If asparagus is in season, you know what else is, don't you?
Strawberry Shortcake! Yep, tastes like spring to me!

(makes 1/2 cup; serves 4 with a pound of pasta as a first course)

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 fresh sage leaves (torn into pieces) or 1/4 c. fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese

In a large, heavy frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat until pale golden, about 4 minutes. Add the sage or basil leaves and cook until crisp, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and the nutmeg. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

P.S. A quarter of this recipe is enough for the two of us, if I'm just tossing a little bit of pasta in it. Half the recipe was plenty for both the asparagus and the ravioli, for two people.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


When I was in third grade, I was great friends with a little girl named Elizabeth, though everyone called her Liba. She lived one street over and several blocks down from us at first, but then I found out we were moving -- into the house directly across from hers! When I spotted her by the lockers the next morning, and ran across to tell her the news, she threw her arms around me and we both jumped up and down, squealing. Good thing the hall monitors didn't catch us! We stayed good friends throughout elementary school but, as so often happens, began drifting apart in our teens, when we ended up hanging with different crowds.

Liba and I, heading off to Europe with our Girl Schout troop. I'm the geek wearing the corsage, giddy with excitement over my very first plane flight! That's Liba in the center above me, looking "too-cool-for-school."
Once we headed off to different colleges, we kept tabs on one another for a while through our moms, but lost touch altogether when her folks moved out of our old neighborhood. I think the last time I really talked to her was at our ten-year reunion, which was a looooong time ago. We had our fortieth this fall, and though I didn't attend, I did join the facebook group they set up for it, and reconnected with several people there, one of whom was Liba.

I'm not sure if that facebook connection led her to this blog or not, or if my effusive ramblings about my wonderful little town had any effect on her whatsoever. All I know for sure is that, shortly thereafter, I got a message from her saying, "Guess what? We're fixing to be neighbors again!" Apparently she started browsing around the real estate listings for Wimberley, because "it just sounded like a nice place to live", found one that looked promising, arranged to meet up with a realtor one weekend, and next thing you know, it's a done deal! What's even more amazing is that, if I understood her right, unlike my hubby and me, who took about 30 years of constant visiting to even make up our minds which Hill Country town was our favorite, not to mention which house, that house-hunting trip of hers was her very first time in Wimbereley. Lord-a-mercy. I sure hope it lives up to her expectations!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Well, crud! Tomorrow's March 1st and, as usual, I haven't given any thought whatsoever to my spring garden. Well, hardly any. I do know that I will be planting more of that Magilla perilla -- the coleus-like plant you see nestled at the base of the planter above. I love that stuff, and you don't have that constant battle to keep it from bolting, as you do with coleus. Oh yeah, I have given some thought to the big red pots, too. For the past several years they've had a smallish red yucca as their centerpiece, surrounded by a bunch of succulents. Now that the yucca has grown so large it pretty much fills the pot, however, I plan to do a succulent grouping in the bed at the base of each pot, which is why I couldn't resist buying these two guys when I accompanied my hubby on one of his many plant-shopping excursions of late.

Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks of Fire Pencil Cactus'
I looooove this plant, too! These two will be the centerpieces of the two groupings, surrounded by all the succulent cuttings I took last fall and have been wintering-over indoors. I don't dare plant them until after our last average freeze date (mid-March here, I think) but I guess it wouldn't hurt to start hardening the cuttings off, by letting them spend a little time outside each day, starting in the shade, and gradually working their way towards full sun, so that they don't get a really bad "sunburn" when I do plant them out.

But that's it. That's all the thinkin' I've done so far! I should've had it all planned out by now -- should know exactly what I want to plant and where it's going to go, should have my beds weeded, amended and fluffed, and should have all my garden decor cleaned and repainted if necessary. That leaf birdbath in the picture above is #1 on my to-do list.  It looked like this when I made it, just a year and a half ago...
but already looks like this...
even though I used "durable outdoor paints' like Patio Paint and Yard & Garden, and topped them off with a coat or two of Indoor/Outdoor satin varnish spray.  Guess it's gonna be a yearly chore, unless any of you has hints for making it last longer. Anybody?

As for the failure to plan, it's not like I've had to wait for the snow to melt or anything, before I could get out there and reconnoiter. We've been out and about all winter long! Perhaps that's the problem. Maybe people who are snowbound all winter just make better planners than those who are outside playing. Or, maybe it's simply that, having worked in one for so long, my engines just don't get revved up until the garden center frenzy hits. I think maybe I need to see the parking lots jammed with cars, carts full of new plants waiting to be unloaded, and someone inside the shop surrounded by a mountain of boxes waiting to be unpacked, before my creative juices really get to flowin'. Whatever the reason, this is probably why I coud never be a truly dedicated veggie grower, and am drifting back to my original passion for natives and perennials, with a few veggies and herbs tucked here and there. Perennials don't care if I plan or not. They just wanna do their thing!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Lady Violet, of Downton Abbey
Image from
My friend Outdoor Woman lost her mother a couple of days ago, and even though I've been through this with several other friends, and was in her position myself not so very long ago, I'm still at a loss for words. I fear saying the wrong thing to her, so I say nothing at all, which is wrong as well.

All of our parents who have lived into their 80s have become a major trial to us in their latter years. I sometimes think it's God's way of making it easier to let go of them. What with their failing bodies, and with their focus shifting ever more inwards, making them more and more oblivious to the needs and feelings of those around them, well, it's inevitable, isn't it, that they start to feel more of a burden than a blessing? With all the "Mama Drama" that my siblings and I had to deal with towards the end of our own mother's life, it was almost a relief when she passed away, which, of course, left us feeling wracked with guilt. In the end, what helped us to shift away from those feelings of guilt and remorse, was the gathering of the clan, for as always (perhaps this is the true purpose of wakes and funerals?) once we were together, we began to swap stories -- funny stories from our childhood, which helped us to replace recent images of our mother with pictures of her in a better time and place, happy, full of life and optimism.

So, maybe that's what the Muses and I need to do when we gather today. We never met Outdoor Woman's mother in person, and know nothing about her other than the trauma she has caused our friend in these last couple of years. Maybe if we ask O.W. to dredge up some memories from her childhood -- to share with us what was most interesting or humorous about her mother -- not only will it help us to know her better, maybe even to see what traits O.W. might have inherited from her, it might also help our friend to move into a better place herself. She's going to need all the help she can get. After all, it's not easy to be a good matriarch. Just ask Lady Violet!

Monday, February 27, 2012


My friend High-School-Debbie mentioned recently that she'd been taking some online classes related to art and creativity. One was through the Brave Girls Club, and was geared towards resurrecting the person you were meant to be -- the person who has always been there, but who may have gone into hiding while you were busy doing other stuff and taking care of everyone else. I'm not sure about the other one, which was more of an introduction to a variety of art supplies, and how to use them. She got me to thinkin' -- about how much I looooove art supplies!

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of the thrill I got when I was gifted with the giant box of Crayola crayons (the one with the built-in sharpener) one Christmas, and being rewarded with a trip to the Five & Dime to purchase a brand new package of manilla paper, when I didn't pitch a fit at the doctor's office. I also remember going to play at my friend Deeny's house, and having my eyes just about pop out of my head when I discovered they had a huge cabinet in their hallway that held nothing but art supplies. I swore right then and there that, when I grew up, I'd have a cabinet just like it!
Anyhoo, back to the classes. I often think about signing up for art lessons, and actually did take a class on travel sketching over at Laguna Gloria when I first moved up here. The problems with that were: 1) it was expensive, 2) it's a pain to drive over to Austin for each session, especially if they are at night, and 3) it only lasted a few sessions, and though I swore I would keep up the practice after it ended, I never did.

So, here's what I'm thinking now. I'm thinking that if one's goal was to become a true "artist", then there could be no substitute for spending time face-to-face with some masterful teachers. However, if all you are really looking for is something that will motivate you to spend some quality time with those lovely pens, papers and colors on a regular basis, well then, some online classes might be just the ticket, no?