Saturday, June 9, 2012


Image from
Bluebonnets are nice, but what really quivers my liver is the Monet-like mass of purples and oranges that follows. My favorite wildflower of all is that purple horsemint (a.k.a. lemon horsemint/monarda/beebalm) you see above, which is putting on quite a show this year. I had it on my to-do list to stop into King Feed, to see if they had any of these plants already growing. I was hoping to buy a few to add to my "Sunrise Garden" downstairs. But then I stumbled upon a most delightful surprise.
Apparently, I already have horsemint in my wildly abandoned bed!
The blooms look like this when they open, which is why I didn't recognize them at first. But then they start stacking themselves up, layer upon layer, until they become those tall conical blooms you see in the field above.
There's another sweet surprise in the garden as well, though I'm almost afraid to mention it for fear of jinxing things. OK, here goes. Ever since I placed those two squiggly blue metal stakes in front of the deer's secret passageway, there has been no sign of them in the Cantina Garden, and things like the orange flowers in that pot, and my new rudbeckias below, are finally being allowed to bloom!
 Are they gorgeous, or what?

Friday, June 8, 2012


When we first bought this house, I was still the visual merchandiser at a garden center in Houston. One of my biggest jobs was to get the place all decked out for the holidays, which included everything from getting all the holiday merchandise priced and displayed, to prettying up the gift shop, arranging poinsettias and forced bulbs, making space for our tree lot, decorating our big tree, hanging a zillion twinkle lights, and preparing for our annual open house. It was a mad frenzy from mid-august through Thanksgiving, which is when the trees were delivered. Then, suddenly, I had nothing at all to do, for no new merchandise would be coming in until after our January buying trip. That's why I usually took most of December off.

The first December after we bought this place, it suddenly occurred to me that I could spend that time at the Wimberley house, where we planned to have our family celebration that year, instead of at the Houston townhouse. It was such an amazing time for me: time to explore; time to make the house feel more like a home; one-on-one time with my daughter, who was attending college nearby; time to bake, wrap, and decorate; time to think and muddle and plan; even time to watch some sappy Christmas movies! One day as I sat eating my lunch, I was flipping channels looking for a movie, but landed instead on a cooking show called Everyday Italian. I'd never watched cooking shows before, but there was Giada, turning out these wonderful-looking dishes using real food and fresh herbs, and making it all look so very simple! It was by watching her that I finally learned how to chop onions without crying, and smash a clove of garlic. It was a real turning point for me. Up until that point, I was using mostly frozen, pre-chopped onions and peppers, and got my chopped garlic from a jar. I was missing out on the zen-like pleasure you can get from the sound, smell and feel of chopping your ingredients, and the blissful aroma you only get from sizzling absolutely fresh ingredients in a bit of good olive oil. If you have not yet discovered this for yourself, well, I have a little prezzy for you!
Why-oh-why can't I write in a straight line?
(click to enlarge)
Remember that sweet little documentary I mentioned the other day, called How to Cook Your Life -- the one with the zen-priest-chef from California? Have you watched it yet? He talks a lot about "mindfulness" in the kitchen, about being there. He says "When you chop the carrots, chop the carrots." Look at the well-worn utensils and kettles that surround you. Be mindful of them. Relate to them. And, oh yeah, use a good knife! I am quite mindful of my knives now, and have developed a very close relationship to these Santoku fellows. The one I use most, the lavender one, probably cost the least. I love it because it is so lightweight, but has held its sharp edge for a long time without me having to sharpen it.
Do some mindful chopping this week, won't you please? For me? I promise, once you get the hang of it, it's actually quite fun. I almost never cry anymore.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Spotted this truck parked out at Driftwood Vineyards a week or two ago:
Everything was closing up by the time we got there, so I didn't really have a chance to check out their offerings. But hey, with a name like that? It's gotta be good!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


(click to enlarge)


I wasn't always the upbeat person you've come to know here on this blog -- the one who wakes up excited almost every day. Far from it, in fact. As I kid I spent a whole lot of time worrying about those nasty "what ifs", and had trouble sleeping because of nightmares. What if our house burned down? What if a tornado blew it away? What if the boogey man got me? By the time I outgrew those, I'd glommed onto the instability of my father's job. I replaced my previous obsessions with obsessing about money, and had taken on an attitude of "poor me." How could I get some decent school clothes? How was I ever going to afford college? Somewhere along the line, however, my attitude began to undergo a subtle but steady shift, and I think books had a lot to do with it. I had always admired the strong female characters who didn't just "let" shit happen to them, so I guess I decided to become one. I picked up the reins to my life. The day I turned sixteen I got a job at the local fabric store, started making my own clothes, and put every penny I could in the bank for college. I ended up deciding to major in Clothing, Textiles and Fashion Merchandising, not because I loved sewing all that much, or was even very good at it, but because I had finally found my first real creative outlet. Creating something with my own two hands, something that had started as a mere picture in my head? Watching it come to life before me? Well, that was the closest I'd ever got to sheer bliss and being completely in the moment -- to being so focused on the here and now that you are oblivious to everything else.

Over time I learned not to watch those news shows on TV -- the ones whose sole purpose is to get us obsessing about all those "what ifs", and I spent a lot of time reading books that might give me clues to living in a simpler, happier, more sustainable manner -- one that would satisfy my strong vein of common sense. Books like The Good Life, by Helen and Scott Nearing, and A Reasonable Life, by Ferenc Mate'.
Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, taught me worlds more about unlocking/unblocking one's creativity, about being in the moment, and about how to make it happen, instead of just sitting there twiddling one's thumbs, a-wishin' and a-hopin'.
I never completely dropped the "poor me" attitude, however, until this book came out, for it's the one that finally opened my eyes to gratitude.

We'll talk more about creativity, gratitude, and mindfulness in the coming week, and about how they are interconnected, but in the meantime, I'm curious. What path did you take? Who, or what, helped herd you along towards being here?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Here you see our beautiful coral honeysuckle vine in early spring:
Here you see it a couple of days ago:
Were the deer to blame? No, not this time. It was this critter:
OK, well, to be honest, I may have had something to do with it. It was me that planted only one honeysuckle vine next to that wooden arbor, with nothing on the other side to balance it, which ended up causing the arbor to list to one side. John kept trying to shore it up, but the older and heavier the vine got, the more it leaned. Here's what the wooden arbor looks like now:
John didn't actually cut the vine down. He somehow managed to un-twine it from the old arbor, and lay it carefully to one side, while he installed this:

I like it!
The hardest part was trying to get the vine lifted up onto the new arbor. I had no idea one measly vine could be that heavy! My arms simply could not lift it up to him, so I just stood their with it balanced on my head, while he climbed the ladder and lifted it the rest of the way. Now all we have to do is pray that it wasn't too traumatized by all this, and that it doesn't go into a decline. 'Cause that would suck.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Ever since I shared my Gifts journal page with you -- the one about "being present" -- it seems I can't open a book, magazine or web page without finding something on that topic! First I stumbled across the article above, by Robin Olsen. I tore it out of an issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors about four years ago, when I was curious about travel sketching. I saved it simply because I liked her sketching style, and it wasn't until I rediscovered it recently, stashed in a basket with my watercolor pencils, that the title practically jumped out at me, causing me to sit down on the spot and read the article more thoroughly.

A few days later, during my sunrise musing, I was scribbling something about unlocking my creativity. Suddenly I remembered a quote on that subject being in the latest issue of Artful Blogging, so I went to look for it. Not only did I find the quote, I found an entire article by Eadaoin Conneally, who blogs at City of Blackbirds. The article made me realize that blogging pushes me to look for and share the hidden delights of my ordinary days, forcing me to be more present and aware of what's going on around me.

Last night I was reviewing the weeks lessons from my 30 Day Vegan class, and in one of them Heather referred to a beautiful little documentary that I had seen a while back. Have you seen the one about the funny-but-wise American man who is a zen-priest-chef? It's called How To Cook Your Life, and it reminded me of how I gradually came to love cooking, after so many years of it being just another chore. It too teaches a very good lesson about mindfulness. Finally I threw up my hands and said "Alright Already! I get it! The universe is telling me to delve into 'being here'!" Which is why we're going to be talking about the subject off and on over the next week or two. Notice I said "we", for I'm hoping this will be a two-way conversation, with some give and take regarding sharing the secrets to Being Here. Won't you join us?

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Well, I'm finally working on the "Week 3" projects in the Art of Wild Abandonment class. To tell you the truth, it's got me feeling kinda blue. It's been so much fun, I hate to see it come to an end. The good news is that people who took the class when it first opened, long before me, are still posting new works inspired by Junelle's projects on the class facebook page. So, at least the connecting and sharing, the best part of the class really, doesn't have to end.
Not only does Junelle have us stepping outside the box this week, she also has us stepping completely outside of our journals! For this project we were to start with a long narrow canvas, and she suggested that we might want to add a piece of decoupaged burlap or muslin to it, maybe even make a pocket of sorts. The rest was up to us. I think most people glued everything down permanently, as they do in their journals, but I decided to make mine a kinetic, changeable display -- an inspiration board, if you will -- where I can tuck bits and pieces that might lead to projects later on.
It all started with these two magazine covers, both designed by artist Jennifer Judd-McGee. I am so in love with them both, I just couldn't bear to toss them. Not sure if I want to paste bits and pieces into journal pages, or if I should try to do some drawings using that sort of Zentangle doodling style of hers, but I'm sure they will inspire something. I clipped a corner from each and tucked them into my burlap pocket, as a reminder.
Next I added that cute little notecard, not only because it reminded me of the lush geraniums and patinaed shutters of Provence, but also because I'm forever running across great quotes and phrases I might want to use later, jotting them on whatever scrap of paper is at hand, then promptly losing them. Now I can either jot them inside the notecard, or tuck my current favorite into the giant paperclip.
The red floral piece with two holes in it was found on our table at Uchi earlier this week, with a pair of chopsticks laced through it. It's there to remind me that ephemera is everywhere, not just in the scrapbooking shops! The bow was added simply because I've had a huge bundle of rafia sitting in my cabinet untouched for years, and really need a reminder to use the stuff, for pete's sake!
When complete, the piece was hung over another multi-media piece (which probably began as a glimmer of an idea in someone else's art journal) in my "inspiration corner" next to my desk. My daughter gifted me with this piece a while back, when I was stressing out a bit over my hubby's health, and it was just what I needed at the time. It reminds me every day to...
O. M. G! You won't believe what just happened! I was going to finish this post by adding "I think I'm finally getting the hang of that", but before I could type it in, I found myself thinking I should probably scribble a few additional things across the corner of that poster, such as also loving where you are and loving what you have. That's when the hammer bonked me on the head.

For several days now, I've been dragging my feet about starting the next class project. For this one, we are to cut a bunch of 4" wooden squares from a 2x4 and paint them with cute little things like we've been painting in our journals. I think the ones all my classmates have been sharing are absolutely adorable, but it's just not anything I need sitting around on my tables or shelves, when all I really want is to get rid of some of the clutter! But what if I were to use my blocks to complete the sentiments I wish to add to my "Inspiration Corner", and hang them below that poster?

It's really true, isn't it? Inspiration really does abound! All you have to do is look for it, with eyes and heart and mind wide open.