Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I just can't tell you how much I'm enjoying watching the chainsaw artist at work on those dead trees back behind Inoz'.

It's a bit like magic, to see these creatures appearing out of that which was dead and doomed for demolition.

To tell you the truth, I'll be kinda sad when the project is complete.

I give kudos to those with an eye for possibilities -- both the artists who manage to bring them to life, and the people who commission these artists, keeping roofs over their heads, and food on their tables. The world needs both!

Monday, December 30, 2013


We tried a new place over in Buda this weekend. (That's Byou-duh, not Boo-da, for you non-locals.) It's called Cleveland's, and specializes in seafood and Creole dishes. I think it replaced a sort of scuzzy grocery/cafe, but you'd never know it now!

We'll have to go back and try a few more things from the menu -- some of the non-Creole things in particular -- before I fully form an opinion, but there were several things I really liked about it, in addition to the decor.  For one thing, I liked the art. It was color-mad.

Next was the Caesar Salad, which I didn't just like, I loved. It had an honest-to-goodness made from scratch Caesar dressing, with just that hint of anchovy, instead of the bottled dressings that most restaurants use these days.

Every so often I get the urge to try a Cajun oyster po'boy again, and it's always a mistake.

For one thing, I can never get my mouth around them. So then you end up having to dissect them with a fork, eating one bite at a time, which means you never get to enjoy the combination of all the different flavors at once. I should also mention that, although I love a good fried oyster, I'm not a fan of raw ones, and these seemed to be a little closer to raw than fried, having a bit too much of that earthy, gritty flavor. John tried the blackened redfish, which was pretty good, but not fantastic. On the plus side, the well-seasoned french fries that came with my po'boy were some of the best I've had in ages, reminding me of the French or Belgian frittes.

For dessert we shared an order of beignets.

I'm usually not a huge fan of those either, preferring a good sopapilla drizzled in honey. I think you have to be a coffee drinker to really appreciate a beignet, as they just don't have that much favor. Alas, we do not drink coffee, so we were quite please with the mixed berry sauce that came with these, perfect for dipping!

All in all, I'd say the place is definitely worth another try.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Just wanted to share with you a couple of the handmade gifts I received this Christmas. This first one was made by my daughter Alexis. She made several of these chalk-painted boards, each a little different from the rest. For instance, the one she did for Austin and Areej still had bark around the edges, for a more rustic look. She intended them as serving boards, where you could set out an array of cheeses and label them for your guests.

However, they would also be excellent hanging on the pantry door, for shopping lists, or above one's desk, for to-do lists or ideas!

This necklace was made by my SIL Priscilla, who is a polymer clay artist. Just my colors, no?

I especially love this amazing adjustable band that she came up with all on her own. It allows the necklace to slip easily over one's Big Texas Hair, but then you can adjust it so that the pendant falls precisely where you want it to fall, according to whatever you happen to be wearing. She even made the little sliders herself!

They always say "It's all about who you know." That's why I make a point to surround myself with creative people!

Friday, December 27, 2013


Since we had turkey for Thanksgiving (with a good bit of it still in the freezer), and since I already had a couple of bee-you-tiful pastured pork tenderloins from local rancher Richardson Farms, we went with the ever easy yet elegant Spicy Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry and Roasted Garlic Sauce as the centerpiece of our Christmas feast this year. I posted the recipe here a few years back.

Along with it we served Lexie's Roasted Broccoli, Austin and Areej's Curried Fruit Compote, my Hatch Chile Potato Gratin and Crack Kale Salad, Whole Food's Rosemary Sourdough Bread, and the perfect wines selected by Nate, our family oenophile.

Our final course included Austin's Gluhwein (mulled wine), and a Salted Caramel Chocolate Crisp Theatre Cake, also from Whole Foods. You see, I agree with the French, who think everything you eat should be delicious and freshly made, preferably by hand, but that doesn't mean it always has to be YOUR hands. They believe some things, such as breads and desserts, are best left to the experts. Therefore, I endeavor to keep our local bakeries afloat whenever possible! (smirk)

In case you're interested in trying the Hatch Chile Potatoes, (which, unfortunately, barely show up in the photo above) here is the recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt 2 T. butter in a heavy, oven-proof skillet on med-low. Cook one diced yellow onion and 2 seeded and diced Hatch or Anaheim chiles until onions start to brown a bit, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat.

Meanwhile, mix together 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. cumin, 2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper and a pinch of cayenne.  Peel and dice 2 lbs. russet potatoes. When onions are done, add the potatoes to the skillet and mix in with the sauteed onions and peppers. Stir in the garlic and spice mixture. Pour 1 cup heavy cream over the potatoes and cover the skillet with foil. Bake one hour at 350.

After an hour remove the foil, then cut up another 2 T. of butter and dot on top of cooked potatoes. Place skillet under the broiler for two minutes, or until butter has melted and potatoes are beginning to brown on top. Let cool a bit and serve. (6-8 servings)

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, December 26, 2013


We had to give Areej both of the small stockings I made for John and I when we were first married and living in Indonesia, to equal one of the giant lacy stockings my mom later made for all her kids and grandkids!
It's Christmas morning. The stockings have been emptied, the last gift unwrapped, and all are feeling a bit glum about the holidays coming to an end. Hubby stands up and pretends to gather up the crumpled wrapping paper that surrounds his leather wingback chair. He pauses, then leans behind the chair to reach for something, saying "Uh-oh. What's this? Looks like we missed a package!" Nate hollers "I bet it's a Red Ryder BB gun!" Someone else shouts "You'll shoot your eye out!"

Little did they know...

Hubby POPS back up wielding a new Nerf blaster -- one with revolving action, which allows you to shoot multiple soft missiles in a row without having to stop and reload.

Striking his best James Cagney pose, he lets 'em have it!

They are still frozen in place, with mouths agape, when he announces "There's four more just like it in there on the bed." Instantly our normally sluggish adult kiddos snap into action. I've never seen anything like it! All four make a mad dash for the bedroom, elbowing one another out of the way when they get jammed up in the doorways. Next thing I know, there are blue pellets flying from one end of the house to the other, there's all kinds of squealing and giggling going on, the poor dog is hiding under the table, and Austin is shouting "Not in the face! You almost shot my eye out!"

My hubby is so very, very proud of himself!

Hubby Sporting His New Van Gogh "Tardis" Tee

Wednesday, December 25, 2013



John and I got up early on Christmas Eve, and headed into town for breakfast at Cypress Creek Cafe. Of course Miss Bobby, a local octogenarian, was already there in her favorite booth, as she is every morning, holding court. One of these days, I'm going to get my nerve up, go introduce myself, and ask her to tell me her story. I've always been the type of nosy person who wants to know how couples met, and that sort of thing. Now I'm dying to get the scoop on everyone in Wimberley - how did they get here, what did they leave behind, and how did they choose this particular place?

The rest of the day was spent in preparation for the big event, and introducing John and Austin to the wonder of the new Whole Foods store. We roasted a beautiful beef tenderloin and some broccoli that had been tossed with garlic and olive oil for our Christmas Eve feast, and served them with a nice horseradish sauce, mashed potatoes, hot curried fruit compote, and a luscious apple pie that John had nabbed on his quest the previous day. After dinner we headed into town to attend the candlelight service at the Presbyterian Church, then wandered over to the Emily Ann Theater to walk the Trail of Lights.

The Emily Ann is another one of those unique places that makes Wimberley so special. I believe it was established by a couple as a memorial to the beloved child they had lost. It serves a variety of purposes throughout the year. In spring it is the site of a huge butterfly launch. In summer it provides an open air stage for a play about the founding of Wimberley, as well as several Shakespearean productions. And best of all, in winter it is the place where all of the different organizations in the area set up individual holiday light displays, and you can follow a walking path through them all. My favorite this year was a scene where life-sized papier mache deer sat roasting huge marshmallows over an open fire, while big possums hung upside down from a nearby tree limb, looking on. Speaking of marshmallows, at the end of the trail, you come to the fire pit where they burn a huge yule log each evening, and visitors can sit roasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate. We opted to come home and make hot chocolate here instead, so we could try out the fabulous homemade marshmallows that we had picked up at Whole Foods. We took it downstairs with us to sip while we watched our annual Christmas movie together. Again, you are probably picturing "It's A Wonderful Life" or "White Christmas", but no, I'm afraid not. I don't remember exactly how it started - I think maybe one year someone gave John a copy of "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" for Christmas. Since most of my family usually spends the night with us on Christmas Eve, we often have some time to kill after all the festivities are over, but before we are ready to turn in. John stuck that movie into the VCR, primarily for the entertainment of the teenagers and the men in the family. They had such a good time watching it that the following year he went out and bought another bad Sci-Fi film for them to enjoy, and ever since, the guys have been competing to see who could come up with the most bizarre "B" movie for everyone to watch. This year it was "Reefer Madness - The Musical", which surprised us by being not terrible.

* * * * *

Well, it's finally Christmas morning, and as usual, I am the first one awake. Up until this point, I haven't really minded not having a tree up, but suddenly I miss it terribly. This is the time I always enjoyed it most. I just love sitting here in the quiet, early hours, with everyone else still asleep, enjoying the beautifully lit tree in a darkened room, with mounds of wrapped presents underneath, and each person's stocking so full of goodies that they are overflowing into the chairs around them. To me, this is the magic hour, and it's all downhill after this. Other than missing the tree, I think this has been a near-perfect Christmas. Somewhat bittersweet though, knowing that my baby girl will soon be moving off to California, and might not be able to come home for the holidays a lot of the time. As much as I enjoyed having a small, simple Christmas this year, I also love having a large and boisterous family, and will be especially thankful to have them all around me on those occasions when the kids can't be here. Either I was extra sensitive to it this year, or else Wimberley just has more retired people than I'm accustomed to, but it seemed like every time I turned around, I heard people asking each other "Where are you spending the holidays this year? Will you be with your kids?" Way too often, the answer was "No, afraid not". It made me savor this time with them all the more.

Once the last package had been ripped open, John and I went into the kitchen to prepare our traditional Christmas breakfast of bacon, eggs, and those cinnamon rolls that come in the pop-open can with a little pot of icing in the bottom - not exactly a gourmet feast I'm afraid, but all efforts to upgrade the menu are strongly resisted. When we had finished eating, John and the kids wandered off to play with their new toys, and I tried to straighten up the disaster that was our living room. Then I couldn't resist going for a long walk outside, for it was an absolutely gorgeous day (probably in the 70's!). Mid-afternoon we joined up again, in order to enjoy our final family tradition - heading out to the movies to see a newly released blockbuster. Growing up, it seemed that more often than not, it was usually the latest James Bond film. This year it happened to be "Memoirs of a Geisha". After that, we wandered around town, as we always do, desperately hoping to find at least one restaurant open, so we wouldn't have to go home and eat leftovers. One year my whole family was visiting us out in west Texas, and we ended up at a big truck stop in Odessa. We had such a good time that it sticks out in memory as one of the highlights of all our holidays together. This year the only game in town was one of those all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets, which we usually avoid like the plague, but this time we weren't so picky. I thought everyone else in the world adored eating Christmas leftovers, but this place was bursting at the seams with people who obviously felt the same way as us. It turned out to be the perfect ending to a perfect day. The only thing that could have made it better, we all agreed, would have been some strolling waiters singing "Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra", as they did in the movie "A Christmas Story". We entertained ourselves by periodically erupting in contagious snickers, just at the thought of it!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Our family, like most others, has their own set of holiday rituals. Some, like our obsession with stocking-stuffing, come from my childhood -- though it was taken to a whole new level when my hubby joined the clan. Others, like the guys choosing a tacky sci-fi flick to watch on Christmas Eve, after the kiddles were asleep, came from said kiddles childhood. A few, though, are fairly recent additions, established or embellished during those first couple of Christmases spent here in Wimberley. The annual trip to Whole Foods is one of those.

It started the year their flagship store opened in downtown Austin, and we went in the day before Christmas to pick up a few things for our Christmas dinner. However, the crowds there on Christmas Eve have multiplied exponentially each year since, especially once they added an ice skating rink into the mix, so this year we got smart and went a couple of days early. 

This excursion requires energy and sustenance, so we began by meeting up at Easy Tiger -- a fairly new bakery/charcuterie/pub/cafe down on 6th street, where pretty much everything is made in-house.

Pretzels with Beer Cheese and Mustard
Oh, and did I mention the amazing assortment of beers on tap?

Several in the group were quite impressed with a Christmas ale that had just a hint of gingerbread in it.

My Dr. Pepper was an excellent vintage.
Me? Well, I don't drink beer, but I was just blown away by the ambiance!

In warmer weather you can venture out onto a terrace with picnic and ping-pong tables, which overlooks the Austin riverwalk.

I didn't know Austin even HAD a riverwalk!

And then we were off to Whole Foods, where everyone chose what they wanted to contribute to our Christmas feast.

It can be quite the magical place this time of year, if you just remember to wear your child's-eye-glasses!

Monday, December 23, 2013



Two Cool Dudes
Originally, Austin was planning to spend a full week in Dallas, hanging out with his best buddy from middle school. I was shocked when he called to say he was coming to Wimberley earlier than planned. Apparently he wasn't having as much fun as anticipated. Back in the early days, his buddy had just been a fun-loving, goofy kid who made average grades, and was only interested in girls, clothes, and hanging out with his pals. His father was some kind of financial consultant to the rich and famous, and was determined that his son would follow in his footsteps. Dad kept threatening to send him to private school, so he would be around the "right kind of people". We thought that was pretty funny, since our school district was nothing but upper-middle class, and you had to have well above a 4.0 GPA to even be close to top 10% of the class. Shortly after we moved away, Dad did in fact send him off to boarding school in Switzerland, so he could begin making "contacts", with summer programs at Oxford as well, so he and Austin were rarely able to get together. When Austin found out that his buddy would actually be in Dallas while we were there, he couldn't wait to see him, but I guess his father's brain-washing campaign was more successful than any of us anticipated. Austin said the entire time he was there, the guy talked about nothing but the future of investment banking, how much he was going to hate his job, but how rich he would end up being, and whether he should buy a Mercedes or a BMW.

Now, I will admit that I have occasionally felt twinges of doubt with regard to our parenting skills. I sometimes wonder if we cheated our kids by not pushing them harder, by not filling their every waking moment with private lessons and educational pursuits, and by not demanding that they be the best at everything they do. How would they compete against kids who have? But then I usually come to my senses and think "Nah, that would suck." What could be more wonderful than having kids who not only like themselves and love what they do, but who also still like hanging out with their folks upon occasion? Besides, look what happened to all those other wunderkinds who were determined to prove to Daddy that they could run with the big dogs - they're mostly in jail! Anyway, that's what Austin is claiming to be his reason for coming home early. Truthfully, he was probably worried that we were having too much Christmas fun without him. We had Taco Soup and warm focaccia bread for supper after the boys arrived, then we all snuggled up on the sofa together to watch "The Polar Express". It just doesn't get any better than that.

The next day Austin and I headed to San Marcos to finish up the last of our shopping. I needed to stop in at Hill Country Humidor to get a gift certificate for John's stocking. He loves going to that place because it's run by an old hippie with a ZZ-esque beard, who's a lot of fun to gab with. This guy has definitely perfected the art of living "the good life". He posts no hours of business on his shop door because he refuses to be held to a schedule - he opens when he damn well pleases! His bookkeeping system is rather unique as well, but ingenious. To pay for my gift certificate, I pulled out a credit card, but he said "Oh sorry, no can do. Has to be cash or a check for a gift certificate." I said "Oh really, why is that?" He demonstrated by taking the $20 bill I handed him and dropping it into a little zip-lock baggie, along with the stub from the certificate. Apparently, when John comes in to spend the certificate, he will simply pull the baggie out of his file drawer and hand him the $20 to spend. Makes perfect sense to me!

While I was doing that, Austin popped into Paper Bear to finish up his list. This store is every merchandiser's worst nightmare - their philosophy is cram as much merchandise as you can into as little space - but for some unknown reason, it works. Maybe it's because this is a college town, and students aren't all that particular. Or maybe it's because it makes you feel as if you are on a safari or a treasure hunt. I think I love it because it reminds me of shopping at my neighborhood Five and Dime as a kid. All I know is, whatever you are looking for, odds are, they will have it. When we had completed our shopping, we headed back to Wimberley to meet up with John, who had spent the morning comparing the offerings of our local pie companies, of which there are at least three. Once Alexis got off from work, we headed out to participate in one of our annual traditions - attending some type of Christmas theater production. Now, most people would immediately think "The Nutcracker", or perhaps "A Christmas Carol", but I'm not married to most people. We were headed for the Alamo Draughthouse in Austin, to attend the special Christmas performance of "Mister Sinus Theater". If you were ever a big fan of "Mystery Science Theater" on TV, where they had that guy and two little robots sitting on the front row at the movies, watching old, really bad sci-fi flicks, and providing rude remarks and commentary throughout, then you would love Mr. Sinus, because it is a live, comedic spoof of the TV program. However, if you hated that show, or have never even heard of it, then you just wouldn't get this one at all! John and the kids adored it, and I adored watching them and their reactions.

To be continued....

Sunday, December 22, 2013


In case you haven't been there recently, let me clue you in -- there're some mighty interesting things afoot at Inoz' Brew & Chew, down on the Wimberley Square!

First there was their fabulously color-mad wall art, then there was the on-again, off-again, on-again bocce ball courts, and now, there's this!

I'll keep you posted on his progress. And just so you know? This is not the same guy who just opened up shop out on RR12. Guess I should have asked him his name, huh?

Friday, December 20, 2013


Just having a bit more fun with with those sparkling Silks, a white Sharpie paint pen, and of course, some snowy glitter!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Written 12/05
Posted to Seasonality 12/14/07

It's odd, but when I first found out that John had to go back to Houston from Dallas, to work a few more days, I almost decided to go with him. I was afraid I might be bored here in Wimberley without him. Then I decided it might be a good time to work on my year-end summary for work, start a garden design, get caught up on bookkeeping, etc., so I loaded one whole suitcase with the notebooks and materials I would need for all these projects, and hauled them to Wimberley with me. Well, I've been here for four days now, John and Austin are coming in this afternoon, and so far, I haven't done doodley on any of those projects!

On Monday Lex had a day off from work, so we decided to do a girls-day-out in Austin. Most people in the rest of the country know Austin only as the capitol of Texas, and probably picture it as a somewhat stately place full of politicians. Others may know of it as the home of the University of Texas, and picture it full of Longhorn football fans. I chose to go to school there primarily because, back in the seventies, the hippies outnumbered the sororities and fraternities, and that suited me just fine. Since I was working my way through school, I couldn't have afforded a sorority even if I'd wanted one, so it's a good thing I didn't. Anywho, somewhere along the way, the people of Austin were smart enough to realize that having so many neat funky shops, hotels and restaurants, as opposed to the homogenous national chains populating most other metropolitan areas, made Austin more interesting, and somewhat unique. They decided to promote and encourage this by coming up with the "Keep Austin Weird (support local businesses)" slogan that you will see plastered on many a bumper hereabouts.

We started our day off at the new Whole Foods Market corporate headquarters that opened recently. Oh-My-Gosh, talk about foodie heaven! I think I like it even better than Central Market, which always makes me feel kinda like a rat in a maze. This store has normal back-and-forth rows in the center, which are fairly easy to navigate, but around the perimeter are what I can only describe as satellites of decadence. In the seafood section, I could have sworn I had been transported to Fisherman's Wharf. The counter was quadruple the size of any I had seen in a grocery store, was raised on a dais, and the fish mongers were all clad in those orange rubberized overalls with suspenders, like you see on fishing boats. I expected them to begin tossing huge fish carcasses through the air to one another at any moment. In addition to the extensive selection of fresh seafood, which looked as if it had leaped straight from the water onto those trays of ice, there was a separate kiosk filled with every possible variety of prepared seafood dish, ready to eat or take home with you. The meat section was equally as impressive, but what really sent us over the edge were the chocolatier and the bakery sections (I have a notorious sweet tooth, while Alexis is a fresh bread junkie). We thought we had died and gone to Europe! Then there were the mini-restaurants scattered throughout the store, where you could belly up to the bar and watch as they prepared the sushi, pizza, stir-fry, or whatever it was you were craving for lunch. To top it all off, they have their own parking garage underneath the store, complete with a moving sidewalk to carry your cart down, or you can opt for grocery valet service, if you prefer. It's a good thing I don't live in Austin. I could drop a butt-load of money in that place.

Next we went over to S. congress Ave., to stroll through all the funky shops that I missed on my last go-around. I found another piece of Bauer pottery that I could actually afford, and an old paperweight for John that had a picture of a covered wagon in it and said "Midland, Texas", which is where we lived for many years. I took Alexis to lunch at the little Italian bistro I had enjoyed so much last time, picked up a fresh baguette at Texas French Bakery to go with our dinner, then we went home and spent the evening pouring over a great new book I had found at Uncommon Objects, which describes hundreds more interesting shops and restaurants in Austin that I didn't even know about!

Tuesday was spent running errands, shopping for groceries, and leaving phone messages for excavation contractors. We have decided that having our driveway resurfaced will be our Christmas present to one another this year. Unfortunately, we can't seem to get anyone to come out, or even return our calls. One guy did come out several weeks ago, but then he never got back to us with an estimate. I was quite excited when one of these guys actually returned my call first thing the next day, and even more so when he proceeded to set up an appointment with me for that same day (this has to be a good sign!). Since he wasn't due here until 11:00, and I knew better than to expect a contractor to be punctual, I decided to do some picking up around the house while I waited. As I was doing that, it suddenly occurred to me that my Christmas tablecloths were hanging in the coat closet, so at least I could get to those without too much difficulty. Then, as I was spreading them on the dining room table (a small red fringed one layered diagonally over a large green plaid cloth), I happened to glance up at the corner curio cabinet where I keep my teapot collection. Was it possible that my Christmas teapots were stored in the cabinet down below? YES! Hallelujah! I pulled out a few to place on the table, put one on the sideboard, and a couple on the mantle. Then I decided to light my piney-smelling candle, and next thing you know, I'm singing "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."!

I was even more impressed with this contractor when he showed up for our appointment precisely on time, but my happy little bubble burst when he handed me his estimate. Apparently we can either spend $5,000 every couple of years to regrade the driveway and add new gravel, or we can bite the bullet and have it paved with asphalt, which should last 20 years or more if we just reseal it on a regular basis. When I told Alexis how much that would cost, her reaction was "Shit! I could buy a car for that!" After he left, I was feeling kind of blue, so I decided I really needed to head over to Juan Henry's for a mini mushroom quesadilla and a diet coke with fresh lime slices in it. (For those of you who are unfamiliar, a quesadilla is the Tex-Mex version of a grilled cheese sandwich - several varieties of grated cheese sandwiched between two flour tortillas and sauteed in butter until crispy on the outside, oozey on the inside.) That did a lot to cheer me up. Next I decided to explore the local library, which was surprisingly good for such a small town. I got myself a library card and checked out a couple of books about Wimberley history, plus one about Christmas in Texas that described all the different cultures that settled here, and how they celebrated the holidays. By the time I got back to my recently decluttered and bedecked house, I was feeling quite jovial again. I spent the afternoon cooking up a big pot of chicken gumbo, then read my books all evening, and now, here I sit on Thursday morning saying "My, how time flies!"

to be continued...