Saturday, November 3, 2012


Remember these guys?

I started that "field notes" sketch book and the pretty little nature journal for an Alisa Burke class I was taking a while back, but never got very far with them. Too many distractions! I guess it was something my soul really needed though, for synchronicity just gave me another chance to figure that out for myself.

Imagine my surprise when one of the first assignments in my new Junelle Jacobsen class, called Bless This Mess, was to get out and do some daily nature sketching, and to start a little nature journal just for that purpose!

It took me a day or so to realize that I already had one ready to go but, I'm happy to report, it's been getting a pretty good workout ever since!

Friday, November 2, 2012


Fall has always been my favorite gardening season here in Texas. Spring is ok, but we sometimes get temps in the 90s as early as April, and when your nighttime lows are in the 70s, and we go several weeks in a row without rain, even the heat-lovers start hunkering down to conserve their energy.

Snapdragons and Sticks of Fire
Pink Muhly Grass
Not sure what this tree is, maybe Chinese Tallow?
Soon as we get our first fall rains, however, and night temps start dipping into the 60s, things just LEAP back into life. Our hillside is covered in rippling grasses, the yaupons and pyracanthus are covered in berries, the cedar elms are dripping with rose-colored sameras ready to take flight, the succulents have become more vibrant and are sending up flowers, and all the salvias have burst into bloom.

Texas Tarragon (aka Mexican Mint Marigold)

My favorite new plant is a salvia called Mountain Sage. I love how the bloom pods start out sort of coral colored, then send out this scarlet red tongue that opens into a flower. I especially like it with something purple. I have it planted next to Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) down in the Cantina Garden, and John planted it as a backdrop for some Purple Fountain Grass up in his beds.

Orange Mountain Sage with Purple Mexican Bush Sage

Is it any wonder then that, seeing all this fresh new color, I find myself coming to life as well?

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I have long suspected that stress was the main culprit behind my hubby's health issues (he had two business partners who didn't get along at all, and he was forever caught in the middle, forced to play  mediator) which is why I encouraged him to retire early and join me here in the Hill Country. Unfortunately, my suspicions were confirmed just a few days ago.

John's blood pressure has been the best we've seen in years, since coming home from the hospital, and he's taking about half as many medications as he was on before. Then he got a couple of calls from one of his ex-partners. I could hear the guy ranting from across the room, and poor hubby couldn't get a word in edgewise. Bam! His blood pressure spiked up off the charts again, and stayed there for a day and a half, necessitating a call to his specialist in Houston, and the addition of a new medication to his repertoire.

Now, this particular partner is actually a pretty good ol' guy, who would never intentionally cause John any harm. However, he's the type who has to work through his stress by talking about it non-stop until he comes to grips with it and, since he's now divorced and my hubby is such a good listener, he tends to call John when he needs to vent. It got me to thinkin' about the myriad of ways that people deal with stress.

The other partner, whom we will call The Source (of all stress), handled his own by hopping on a bike that cost as much as a car, and pedaling off into the sunset. I don't know when his family ever saw him! Many of our friends rely on their church families or some type of spiritualism to get them through, while others practice yoga and meditation. Sadly, more than a few turned to the bottle and/or pills. Me? Well, I guess you know by now that I write my stress away for the most part, get lost in some sort of creative trance, or get my hands into the dirt. I have lots of way to deal with stress. My poor hubby, however, has none. He never actually deals with it at all. He just bottles it all up and holds it inside. Forever.

The way he just sat there, soaking up his partner's stress for him, reminded me of a movie I once saw, called The Last Sin-Eater, based on a book by Francine Rivers. The practice of sin-eating began centuries ago in England and Scotland, then migrated to certain parts of Appalachia. Traditionally, villages maintained their own sin-eater, usually a beggar, who was brought to a dying person's bedside, where a relative would place a crust of bread on the breast of the dying, then pass a bowl of ale over them to the sin-eater. After praying or reciting some ritual, he would then drink the ale and eat the bread, thus (supposedly) removing the sin from the dying and taking it unto himself.

Anywho, since many people tend to use John for venting their stress, and since he is not good at processing his own, much less theirs, I suspect that stress and lifestyle, even more than genetics, are the true culprits behind most of his health issues. Yes, his mother had a heart attack and his dad had a series of strokes, but they both smoked like chimneys for years, had sedentary lifestyles, and his dad wouldn't eat anything but meat and starches. On the other hand, all of his farming aunts, uncles and grandparents lived into their 90s, and even his mom, who quit smoking cold turkey after her heart attack and started going to water aerobics three times a week, made it into her mid-80s!

So, I guess what I want my kids to know is this: You don't need to walk around feeling like you have a time bomb strapped to your chest. You are not a puppet to genetics. Just learn to make the hard choices. Eat your veggies, get plenty of exercise, and find a constructive way to deal with all the stress in your lives.

As for the ranting partner, I got ahold of him and explained that John was just out of ICU. I also told him, in the nicest way possible, that if I ever heard him ranting on the phone to John again, I would rip the phone from his hand and stomp the living hell out of it. And then I'd come and do the same to him.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I passed several of these signs each day that John was in the hospital. They were in the skywalk connecting the parking garage to the main building. I guess I was too distracted to pay them any mind at first, assuming they were "interesting tidbit" posters about the nightly bat flight from under the bridge. They were not. One day, when I finally had my wits about me, I stopped to read. Turns out caves and bridges aren't the only places bats like to congregate. They are also quite fond of parking garages and skywalks. Eeeeek!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


My mother in law was an artist, and after John went off to college, she converted his bedroom into a studio/guest room. She put the two twin beds against the walls in a corner, as was so popular in the 70s, with long bolster pillows, to make them more sofa-like. Then John's dad, who built furniture and grandfather clocks as a hobby, designed a big art supply cabinet to go on one wall. The front dropped down and became a work table when needed, but when closed, it just looked like a nice piece of furniture. It was kind of like this one from Ikea that fellow art journaler Camilla Olsson posted the other day, only it was custom built out of gorgeous wood.

The minute I saw this photo, I was reminded of Theda's cabinet, and told my husband "Arrggh! If only I had that cabinet now!" Unfortunately, at the time when we were clearing out her house, I was not yet into art, we still had two kids at home, and there was really no place to put it, so we let it go. A short while later I found my husband staring at this corner of our bedroom...

He said, "you know, if we move that recliner down to the man cave, and put your white drawing table in front of the window there, all you'd have to do is make some room for your art supplies on those bookshelves, and you'd have a nice little workspace here."

By Jove! He may be onto something!

Monday, October 29, 2012


The next assignment for my Art of Wild Abandonment: Bless this Mess class involves sketching some fall leaves. That can be a bit problematic if you live in Texas. Some years we get great fall color, others the leaves just drop. It's a bit early to tell either way, since we just got our first dips into the lower 40s here. I was scanning the yard from the balcony this morning, wondering what on earth I should sketch, when my eyes lit upon this little beauty -- a plant I really shouldn't be growing here.

This is Castor Bean, the plant from which they get castor oil. It hails from east Africa and India, and is not the least bit cold hardy. I grew it in Houston, where it was a standout focal point in my tropical garden, but even there it usually froze back each winter. I had no intention of ever planting it here.

But then one day I saw one sitting in a pot over at the feed store. It's a fairly dangerous plant to have around, as all parts of the plant contain ricin in varying degrees, and the seeds are especially toxic. I wouldn't even consider it if I had small children, or a pet that is allowed outside off-leash. But we don't have either, and I had really been missing those huge palmate leaves which vary from bronze to green...

the beautiful ruby stems and veins...

and these prickly fruit clusters that seem to have a phosphorescent glow to them. So I thought, maybe just this once, and brought it home. How was I to know it would reseed itself, and come back year after year, each time in a different location, sometimes in several? I don't remember it doing that in Houston. When I googled it just now, I discovered that the seeds, which are enclosed in those prickly pods, have a little tab or handle on them, which ants like to grab hold of and drag around. Perhaps they are responsible for its migration from spot to spot.

Anywho, I think its leaves and fruit will make a pretty good substitute for fall color in my sketching assignment, don't you?

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Juicy Collection
Hot Chocolate and Chai Lattes
An Occasional Egg
Steel Cut Oats and Accompaniments
It is true -- all happiness does depend upon a leisurely breakfast!