Saturday, March 10, 2012


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Poor SXSW attendees. The weather gods are trying to rain on their parade. Seriously. Remember how I told you it got up into the 80s, even hit 90 one day, back in February? Remember all my whining about our incessant state of drought? Well, hordes of people from all over the country have descended upon Austin this week, expecting that kind of weather. That is not what they are getting. Yesterday we drove over there for a movie, and it almost did us in. Rained all day long, high in the low 40's, and a bone chilling wind that went right through you. We're expecting more of the same today, and though it should begin warming up a bit tomorrow, the rain is going to stick around for a while.

Now that my hubby is no longer just a weekender here, he has decided it's time for him to experience more of the local culture, and SXSW is a very big part of that. To purchase a wristband that gives you access to all the main events is outrageously expensive, but there are other ways to participate. All over town, during the entire two weeks of the event, people and businesses are hosting what they call "side parties." My hubby went to and found a huge listing of these side parties, many of which are free and require neither invitation nor reservation. He printed out the information for several that sounded interesting to him, the first of which was to be Take A Shot & A Walk With Trover. "Join a 45-minute walking tour of East Austin's secret gardens, food trailers and street art. Free booze and cheap eats!" Sounded uber fun at the time, but in the freezing wind and rain? We took a pass. As for the rest? Well, that remains to be seen.

Friday, March 9, 2012


We've had a fairly mild winter compared to last year, with it's multiple hard freezes, and the porch pots are still looking halfway decent -- especially now that the snapdragons, planted in fall, are finally blooming like crazy. The plants in the front pot, with the swirly gazing ball, were planted a year or two ago, and have been a gift that kept on giving. They don't bloom when it's really cold, but the foliage still looks fantastic, and the gazing ball adds a splash of color. My first surprise of the season is in the back pot, next to the green glass frog. Last summer that pot held a beautiful purple basil plant, which I never got around to yanking once the cold zapped it. Guess what's coming back from its roots!
These pots are just so-so, a bit overwhelmed by the one kale that has swamped everything else. They will look a whole lot better in a few weeks, when there's more to choose from at the nurseries, but hey, it could be worse! My second surprise was that purple heart trailing over the side of the big pot, which usually gets zapped by the cold as well, if the deer don't get it first.
The Texas Mountain Laurel, which abounds on our property, has put on a show like never before this spring. We, and the butterflies, are ever so thankful. Though the blooms are now past their prime, their purple-koolaid-scent still fills the air.
The coral honeysuckle is making me a bit color mad. I have this strange compulsion to use its delightful blending of deep coral, tangerine and yellow as a color-scheme for something - in a flower bed, a room, or maybe even a craft project. Perhaps it has something to do with Christy Tomlinson's "Color Inspiration" class I've been taking online. Speaking of color-mad, here's another surprise.
I thought for sure all my heucheras had fried to death in last summer's record-breaking heat and drought, but this one, which happens to be my favorite, is making a comeback. I just love this combination of deep roses, citrus greens, and toffee hues on the new foliage.
That "Amazon" dianthus I picked up on a whim, from the Arnosky's blue barn, is finally in bloom, and it truly is an amazon! It's central stalk is at least knee high, and, as with most things the Arnoskys grow, is supposed to make a great cut flower. And now for the biggest surprise of all. Do you remember me talking about this one dang bougainvillea hanging basket that my hubby picked up somewhere last spring? The one that just bloomed nonstop all spring, summer and fall? It was phenomenal! Anyhoo, when the first freeze was expected, I just couldn't bear to toss it. I'd read once that you could sometimes make them go dormant by cutting them back and keeping them in a garage or basement without much light or water, and had actually tried it once or twice, but with no success. This plant was so intrepid though, I thought it was worth another try.
Would you look at that? Zippity-doo-dah-day!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


He brakes for turtles.
Then he hops out of his car and carries them safely to the other side of the street. He really, really hates finding turtle pancakes in the middle of the road.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


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As much as I loved our trip to France last summer, between the frustration of air travel these days and my hubby's various health issues, I wasn't sure I ever wanted to leave the country again. John, on the other hand, seems quite gung-ho, and keeps asking me where I would want to go if we took another big trip. Would it be another river cruise, maybe to Budapest or even Viet Nam? How about several weeks in a Tuscan Villa, with lots of little side trips? All were tempting, but the more I thought about our river cruise in southern France, the more I realized that my very favorite parts of that trip were the cities we tacked on at either end -- the cities where we traveled "by author."
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In Paris we followed in the footsteps of several of my favorite cookbook authors, going where they liked to go, eating what they liked to eat, shopping where they liked to shop. What fun! In Marseilles we explored via a fictional tale, The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle, which made it even more of an adventure, for we had no way of knowing whether the places we sought actually existed or not! Fortunately, most of them did, and we had the very best meal of our entire trip in one of them. Anyhoo, all this got me to thinkin' about other books I have read, of the sort that make one salivate, and one author in particular immediately came to mind -- Marlena de Blasi!

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I'm sure I've mentioned her before, and probably gave away one of her books during our "Year of Reading Dangerously." She's the American woman who married a Venetian man after a very brief romance, followed him back to Venice, then to a farmhouse in Tuscany, and finally to a palazzo in the Umbrian hill town of Orvietto, and wrote mesmerizing memoirs about their time in each place. Just for the hell of it I purchased the two you see pictured here, and started reading them again. The first time I think I had library books, but this time I am reading them with hi-liter in hand, paying special attention to places I might like to see, and foods I might like to taste if, by some odd chance, I just happen to find myself in Venice or Orvietto.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I can't believe it! First I get a message from my old high school buddy Linda, announcing her plan to attend this April's Story Circle Network conference in Austin with me. Then last week, when I was making plans to meet up with old friend Lynn at her son's play, you'll never guess what she told me? Damn. You guessed. Yes! I have not one, but two great friends going to the conference with me this year, and I didn't have to pester them, or twist their arms or anything! Is this gonna be awesome, or what?
So, that's two important eras of my life represented.  What about all my buds from those other eras -- maybe someone from the Crestgate Crowd, the Katy Clan, the Bagel Babes or the Indo Mob? Anyone care to join us? We'll be havin' some serious fun, I gare-on-tee!

Monday, March 5, 2012


Well, I did it! I actually signed up for an on-line art class! I found one on art journaling (perfect, no?) by mixed-media artist Christy Tomlinson, called She Had Three Hearts, which refers to the fact that we women have three hearts when it comes to sharing ourselves -- there is the heart we share with the world, the heart which we only share with those who are very close to us, and then there's the heart that is so raw and soul-baring that we need to keep it just between our journals and ourselves.

I had no idea how an on-line art class would work, and I'm sure they vary from teacher to teacher. What Christy does is give you the log-in and password to access the class site, which you keep for a full year, so you can work your way through all the tutorials, videos and projects at your own speed. They are pretty inexpensive too, compared to the live classes I have taken.  This one happened to be on special for half-price the day I signed up, so it was only about $30, and as a bonus she threw in a mini 5-lesson-workshop on color inspiration. I'm still on lesson two of that. It's mostly about how you can find color inspiration almost anywhere -- in books, magazines, shops, the internet, etc. -- that can help you to break out of your color comfort zone so that your work won't be so repetitive. She then shows you how to take these inspiration pieces, like that cactus picture I found online, paste them to one of her downloadable sheets, dab on similar colors from your paint stash and label them, then add bits of paper, lace, buttons, wire, sketches, stamps, notes, or whatever, and either stick it in a protective sleeve in a 3-ring binder, or glue it into an 8x10 journal with heavy paper. Eventually you have a whole notebook full of inspiration for future projects.

There's just one problem I can see with all this. That supply list is three pages long, and most people who do this kind of stuff started out in scrapbooking (which I've never done) and have drawers and cabinets overflowing with all sorts of special papers and craft paints and brushes and stamps and inks and polymer clay and pens and markers and, well, all kinds of stuff! While I, on the other hand, have spent the last five years or so trying to divest myself of just that kind of stuff, since there is absolutely no space for it in this little house. That's the wonderful thing about writing. It's the first passion I've ever had that didn't spur a compulsion to accumulate stuff! If I get passionate about art, I'm afraid I might let my defenses down -- cave in to John's plan for converting our garage into a guest house, only, instead of the sleeping loft for the grandkids that he has in mind, I'm wonderin' if maybe that hay-loft-like storage area above the car bays could be converted into a neat little studio space, with the addition of some dormers or skylights in that nicely peaked roof. What do ya' think?

Sunday, March 4, 2012



My daughter had two best buds when she was little. One was Chase, the son of our good friends Paula and Tim.  The other was little red-headed Pete --son of our friends Lynn and Ken, and the cutie in the cowboy hat below.
Well, Pete is all grown up and living in Austin now, and one day, when Pete and his girlfriend Lucy were sitting around with their rather large group of friends, they came up with the idea of putting on a play together, just for the fun of it. The result was Princess Bride: The Play, performed last year in one of the Austin parks. Un-fortunately, I didn't see it. Fortunately, they had so much fun and it went over so well, they decided to do it again. This time, they've done Ghostbusters: The Play, and this time, we made a point of getting there!

Directions to Metz Park
The "orchestra" -- all volunteers, but remarkably good!
Pete's dad, in the hat, and the audience.
Pete's Mom, Miss Lynn
The dead are rising, and they like to boogie!
That's Pete in the white shirt. He plays Tully, the nerdy neighbor who gets turned into The Key Master.
The face-off with Zule!

What a hoot. See that last photo, with all the little kids running around and climbing up onto the stage? Well, when the Sta-Puff monster got vaporized, bits and pieces of him flew everywhere! (apparently bags of mini-marshmallows had been planted throughout the audience ahead of time) All the kids in the audience jumped up and ran after them, eating them right off the ground!

So, no, it wasn't the finest theatrical performances we've ever seen. It was even better. It was just. Plain. Fun! Best of all, it was free, (though they do pass the hat at the end, to help recoup some of their out-of-pocket expenses) and that's what I love best about Austin -- that it's populated with so many people like these, who would go to all this work in their spare time (they all have day jobs), and contribute money out of their own pockets, just to spend time doing something creative or meaningful with fellow enthusiasts, and to bring a little sunshine into other people's lives. What a great way to Keep Austin Weird!

P.S. If you live in the Austin area, there will be repeat performances today, 3/4, at 5:00pm, Sat. 3/10 at 6:00pm, and Sun 3/11 at 5:00pm. Metz park is east of I-35, near the intersection of E. 1st St. and Pedernales. Bring a blanket to sit on.