Friday, January 25, 2013


Remember these guys?

The two heavy concrete urns out on the terrace that I had planted up with succulents last spring? By the time fall rolled around they were lookin' mighty fine! I knew they would crap out on me if they got too frosty, but the urns were just too big and heavy to bring indoors for the winter, or even to move in and out of the garage each time a cold snap was due (yes, I thought of putting them on dollies, but there were steps involved). Anywho, I opted for covering them with a double layer of bed sheets, each time it was supposed to dip into the thirties or below.

So much for that idea.

My newest brain fart is this -- what if I can find plastic containers that will fit down into the urns? I could plant them up come spring, leave them sitting in the urns until fall, then bring them in the house and let them sit in pretty ceramic cachepots all winter. Just think how gorgeous the urns would be next year, if we weren't starting over from scratch each time. By jove, it just might work!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


When we came back from those three years in Indonesia with the kids, I went to work as a merchandiser for Recycled Paper Greetings. My favorite client was the new Hastings bookstore that had just opened up there in Midland, Texas. I loved it for several reasons. First of all, they loved me. I came in and cheerfully went about the work of unpacking orders, stocking and straightening, setting up seasonal displays, taking inventory, and placing orders for any cards they were low on -- all things the employees would otherwise have to do themselves. Of course they loved me! I loved the fact that I could set my own hours, and create whatever schedule worked best for me. I was also tickled that this particular store had turned out to be much more successful than my employers had ever anticipated, and was therefore making me a whole lot more money than they had expected to pay me. Most of all, though, I loved it for the books and music. The music manager had very eclectic taste, and always had something wonderful playing as I did my work. One album in particular almost put me into a trance each time he played it. Finally I went to him and said "Whatever that is that you keep playing, I gotta have it!" Turns out it was that first Pavarotti & Friends CD -- the one featuring Sting. (Imagine that, me, buying opera!) As for the books, well, the card section just happened to back up to the information desk, so the whole time I was working, I could hear what books people were asking for, and what they had to say about them.

One day while I was there, something amazing happened. A steady stream of women came into the store, one after another, all asking for the same book -- Simple Abundance. Finally my curiosity got the best of me, and I went to chat with the book manager. Turns out this book had just been featured on Oprah, and now every woman in the country wanted it! I decided I'd better grab a copy before they ran out of them, just to see what all the hubbub was about. It changed my life. It taught me how to become the woman I was created to be -- the one I had somehow lost sight of.

Anywho, let's jump forward about eighteen years, to my discovery of mixed media art, and art journaling. A common practice is to start a project by layering on some old book pages or sheet music, to use as a background. I went to the thrift store to see what I could find, and there was a copy of Simple Abundance with nicely yellowed pages. (I still have my original copy, of course, but would never consider tearing it up!) I brought it home, and tore out one page to use in this project.

To quote Linda Ronstadt, "well let me tell you that it hurt so bad." I haven't torn another page out since. I did, however, have the most brilliant brain fart yesterday. Up until this point I have done all my art journaling in brand new books, made specifically for that purpose, and have managed to ignore the whole "altered books" phenomena. It just seemed like way too much trouble. But then, yesterday, I started off writing something about gratitude in my morning pages, then switched to reading an article in the latest issue of Sommerset's Art Journaling magazine, which had several techniques that I was dying to try. Later, I thought about blogging about gratitude, then remembered that one of the first chapters in Simple Abundance was about keeping a gratitude journal, so I went to grab that second copy and re-read what it had to say about the subject. Suddenly, I just knew...

this book wasn't meant to be torn up and used in other journals and projects. This book was meant to BE an art journal...a gratitude journal -- one where I can try out new techniques and experiment to my heart's content, with no expectations of an "end product" in mind, where I can scribble whatever is on my mind at the moment, and where bits and pieces of the original text can peek through the paint -- to remind, to awe, and to inspire.

Jeez-Louise! Don't you just love it when things come together like that? It makes me feel so very, well, grateful.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


 I shared some of my home-made mozzarella with two of the muses yesterday, and this is what Outdoor Woman did with hers.

Guess what we're having for dinner tonight?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Remember when I told you about the cheese kit sister Gus gave me for Christmas? Well yesterday was mozzarella-making day! The kit came with everything you need to make ten 1-lb. batches of either ricotta or mozzarella -- even some cheesecloth and a handy little thermometer.  The only other thing you need is a gallon of pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) or raw whole milk per batch.

First you sterilize your pot and utensils in boiling water. Next you dissolve 1/4 rennet tablet in one little bowl of water, and a half tablespoon of granulated citric acid in another. Then you pour a gallon of milk into a large pot, add the citric acid solution, and heat it slowly until it reaches 90 F, stirring occasionally to keep it from scorching.

Once it hits 90, you add the rennet solution, stir for about 30 seconds, and then continue heating until it hits 105 F.

If you're lucky, that's when the curds and whey will magically begin to separate from one another. Then the curds pull away from the sides of the pan, and gravitate towards the center of the pot.

Using a big slotted spoon, you scoop the curds out into a large, heat-resistant bowl. Then, holding the cheese in with your spoon, you tilt the bowl to drain off any whey that came with it. You are left with what looks like a clump of melted cheese. Now comes the fun part -- the stretching! You heat the curd bowl in the microwave for one minute on medium power, and drain off the whey again, then check the temperature of the curd blob. The cheese won't stretch properly unless you get the temp up to 135 F., so you must keep nuking and draining, in 30-second increments, until it's hot enough. Then you sprinkle the cheese salt (and herbs, if you wish) over your blob and, either with rubber-glove-protected hands, or using two large spoons, you gently fold and stretch the cheese just until the salt is incorporated throughout -- not too much. Et Voila!

You end up with a gorgeous one pound ball, braid, or whatever, of fresh mozzarella. Shiny! Such a wonderful exercise in "being here" too, for you really have no choice but to be mindful when you are making cheese.

It's best eaten immediately, but can be covered and refrigerated for up to a week (though the instructions said NOT to store the cheese in water or whey, for that would cause it to become slimy and disintegrate.) Remind me to tell you more about these awesome reusable food wraps that were also part of my sister's Christmas gift to me. This one is coated in a thin layer of beeswax that softens and molds to the shape of your bowl just from the heat of your hands, then hardens again in the refrigerator.

We crumbled some of the mozzarella over our penne with spicy arribiata sauce last night. Delicioso! Unfortunately, that only used up an eighth of our ball, and I need ideas for how to use the rest of it up before the end of the week. If tomatoes were in season, we'd be eating Caprese salads every day, but alas, they are not. Suggestions anyone?

Monday, January 21, 2013


 I just had the most delicious thought. Yesterday we met up with friends at our favorite winery, then went to one of their houses for dinner afterwards and stayed all evening. Know what that means? It means there's a newly recorded episode of Downton Abbey just waiting for me to snuggle up with it later today. Woohoo!

Another British series I love is Doc Martin. I discovered it somewhat late in the game, as it airs past my bedtime, so I've been trying to catch up on all the seasons I have missed via Netflix. The main character is a brilliant surgeon with the world's worst bedside manner -- maybe even a touch of Asperger's -- who is forced to exchange his prestigious position in London for being a GP in a tiny Cornwall village when he suddenly develops hemophobia. No, not homophobia, hemo-phobia. He now barfs and/or passes out at the sight of blood, which makes it a wee bit difficult to perform surgery. His abrasive nature can get on one's nerves sometimes -- especially if you watch an entire season in one fell swoop, as I tend to do -- so I usually take a bit of a break between seasons.

Anywho, I watched all of season four last weekend, and it got me to thinkin'. Like I said, this guy is bloody brilliant when it comes to diagnosing and curing, but gentle and caring he is not. So I found myself wondering, if I had to choose between him and another doctor -- one not quite so brilliant, but much more personable -- which would I choose? Then I realized I actually have made that choice in the past -- more than once, in fact. I made that choice both when I ditched several OBs who believed all my miscarriages were "just bad luck", and again when I decided that I was just not satisfied with the results my hubby's current physicians were achieving, and opted to seek a hypertension specialist.

So, yeah, I guess I'd choose a Doc Martin or a House any old day. To be my physician that is. Would I ever consider dating or marrying one? Not on your life!

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Our garage here in Wimberley holds many secrets.

Back when we first bought this place, Hubby had the movers shove a whole lotta stuff into that hayloft-like space up on top of the garage -- an area which can only be reached via a tall extension ladder. He figured we'd sort it all out once we were more settled and had a little more time.

That was more than eight years ago, and no one has been up there since. Nor do we have any clue what was stashed there. And, with each passing year, odds are higher and higher that a bevy of bees, bats, or who knows what else, has made themselves quite at home up there, and slimmer and slimmer that either my hubby or I will feel like hauling out that extension ladder.

Wanna take a peek?  I dare ya!