Friday, May 31, 2013


Today is our 38th anniversary, and my hubby is neither out of the country on business, nor in the hospital (though it was touch and go for a while). It's a miracle!

He has had several nosebleeds lately, which is a bit unusual. Mostly he just gets them in the winter, when our heating systems dries the air out. We, however, had just come off of a couple of weeks of hot and muggy, with no A.C. and windows wide open. Go figure.

Hubby wasn't about to miss out on watching the well guys at work and, believe it or not, he actually encouraged the taking and posting of this photo.
He had three in a row yesterday morning, and just as the well guys were about to arrive to start pulling our pump, he got a gusher that just wouldn't quit, thanks to the blood thinner he is on.  Finally I ran him over to see our G.P. He decided that hubby had a blood vessel that needed to be cauterized, but which was too high up for him to handle there in his office, so he made an appointment for him to see an E.N.T. in San Marcos this morning. All fine in good, but what to do in the meantime?

A few hours later we had gone through a whole rag bag full of towels like these, and I feared he was ready to pass out from blood loss! Then, just as I was about to load him into the car and head for the E.R., miracle of miracles, the bleeding stopped. Sooooo, providing that all goes well with the E.N.T. in a couple of hours, it should be a very happy anniversary indeed!

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Let me start off by saying, I just don't believe that sisters and best friends need to bring each other hostess gifts each time they visit one another. To me, it's a joy to have them, not an imposition, so why would I need a bribe? Unfortunately, I have never been able to convince my older sisters of that. I guess it was one of those "Mom" things that was drilled into the first daughter, hammered into the second, but then just sort of washed over me, the third, and missed little brother all together. Mom was gettin' pretty worn out by the time he came along.  One thing I do remember her telling me, though, was that it was downright rude not to accept a gift graciously, so I guess I'll just have to soldier on, no matter how much it pains me to receive gifts such as the one Middle Sister Gus brought me last week.

The first thing my sister did when she retired last year was take a sewing class. Ever since, she's been a whirling dervish at her machine, cranking out those darling "origami" tote bags that she gave everyone for Christmas. Her latest project was the bag you see here.

With all its great little pockets, both inside and out, she thought it would be the perfect travel tote for carrying art supplies to Play Days with the Muses, to Art Camp next fall, or to do a little travel sketching. But did she just tell me that was its purpose? Why no, of course not! She went and filled it with a travel sized sketchbook, Neocolor Crayons, watercolors, oil pastels...

and best of all, a set of these Pitt markers -- the very ones my instructor recommended for making those envelope flowers I showed you yesterday, and which I had none of!

Is that a doozy of a hostess gift, or what?

Note to SIL Priscilla, who I'm fixin' to go visit: Don't get your hopes up. I still don't believe in sisters having to hostess gift sisters. ; - )

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Well, we finally got the AC Guys out of our house early yesterday afternoon. It's an amazing thing -- to open your front door and feel cool air on your face as you enter -- is it not, after two weeks without? The Well Guys come tomorrow, to see if they can figure out why ours quit pumping a few months ago, and once we've got our Plan B water system up and running again, we'll have to figure out who to call about the clog in the line to our rain tank, which caused us to waste all the beautiful water streaming off our garage roof during the last two big storms.

In the meantime, I'm taking advantage of this wee little window of opportunity to do another lesson in my 21 Secrets art class! This one is called Flower Power, and is taught by another Aussie artist, Ro Bruhn. Wondering where I got that amazing paper whose texture peeks through the colors of my flowers? Well, I got it here:

We're recycling old security envelopes -- the kind your bills come in! Sketching and coloring the flowers on the inside of the envelopes is just step one. Next we will embellish them with doodles, then cut them out and use them in our art journals or other projects. If you follow the link above to Ro's blog, you will see examples of that in some of her own journals.  My only problem is finding interesting envelopes. My hubby pays most of our bills on line, so just about the only ones we get in the mail these days are all the hospital bills. It seems almost all American hospitals use boring, blue check security envelopes. Which is why, when I stumbled across that box of small envelopes with an interesting black and white pattern, I almost went berserk!

Did you know that different countries tend to use different security envelopes, while some, like Australia, use a wide variety of colors and patterns? So, if you happen to get mail from other places, check the insides of those envelopes before tossing them in the trash. And, if they contain anything other than blue plaids and checks, save them for me!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Yabba Dabba Dooo! They're finally coming to install the new A.C. unit today. Or so they say. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, my hubby proved to me yet again that he is one smart cookie. I heard him rattling around in the tool drawer yesterday afternoon, and asked what he was up to. "I need to pull the motor out of that A.C. unit before they take it away." "Hmmmm, why would he do that?", you might be wondering. Well, it's a brand new motor we just paid about $500.00 for a few months back, only to have something different, and twice as expensive, go wrong a short time later, which we've opted not to fix. And, since we have a second unit that's the very same type, and the very same age, but which still has it original motor, we may very well be needing a new one in the not too distant future. Now why didn't I think of that?

Monday, May 27, 2013


This morning I made a list of all the things we have done to this property since buying it, just before Christmas, at the end of '04. Then I made another list, of all the things we still need to do. It sort of blew me away, and it occurred to me that, if you are a city slicker like I used to be, you might have some misconceptions about what it would be like to escape to the country to live "The Simple Life."

Our original plan was to just buy some property here in Wimberley, build a tiny weekend place on it that could eventually become our guest house, and then build the main house when we were ready to retire and move up here full time. But, one day, we stumbled upon this...

...a smallish house with detached carport/utility room, sitting on four acres with a gorgeous view and a jim-dandy creek with a swimmin' hole! Best of all, since it was such an odd little house with no indoor staircase, and had been on the market for a very long time, we were able to get it for pretty much the same thing we paid for our too-big-house-on-a-teeny-tiny-lot in the Houston suburbs. We  saved ourselves the hassle of having to build another home from scratch, dealing with contractors, and making hundreds of fixture selections; we would have a fabulous weekend place for entertaining friends and family right from the get-go; and, as an added bonus, our daughter could live here during her senior year at Texas State, and save us the cost of renting an apartment for her! And, since the house and infrastructure were already in place, once we did decide to make it our full-time abode, we'd have nothing to worry about except the fun, inexpensive, cosmetic changes. Right?

The first thing we learned was that the locals weren't kidding when they described the Hill Country climate as "persistant drought with intermittent flooding." Turns out our great creek, with its natural water slide down into the "swimming hole", was a product of the flooding rains they had the week before we came property hunting. Shortly after that we entered a vicious two year drought, and the creek all but disappeared.  Next we learned about trying to landscape with drought. And deer. And armadillos. Thousands of dollars worth of plants went down the tubes before we finally started to get the hang of it. Then we figured out that a gravel driveway on a steep hill does not make a lot of sense. For one thing, gravel rolls downhill. For another, if you are driving up one, and make the mistake of pausing your vehicle for any reason, well, good luck getting started again. The clincher is all the nosedives you will take, heading down with the trash or to get the mail, when you step on a loose piece of gravel and your feet go flying out from under you. City people don't think about things like that.

$$ Paving the driveway and adding a gravel parking pad, plus resurfacing the driveway every couple of years $$
Once that paving project was out of the way, we started saving our pennies for another necessity, and a bit of fun. We started thinking about adding a spiral staircase somewhere inside the house, so you didn't have to go outside to get down to the guest room and man cave. But there really wasn't much space.

This was our original living/dining area, and we'd already had to choose between our sofa and our dining room table, because there wasn't room for both (it looked so much bigger when it was empty!). That's when we decided to steal a bit of space from our long balcony porch, to create a dining alcove. Unfortunately, that meant refinishing our wood floors as well, in order to get everything to match.

$$$ Dining Alcove Remodel $$$
When we got in touch with the home's original architect, to draw up the plans for this project, he ended up convincing us to add those stonework arches on the lower level. He'd always thought the tall skinny wood columns there were disproportionate, but the original owners disagreed. We loved the idea, and since we were going to need stone masons for the project, we figured we might as well go ahead and add the fire pit and patio we'd been thinking about, all at the same time.

Another thing most city people don't think about is all the time which areas with persistant drought spend with burn bans in place -- which means not building any outdoor fires, even if you have a beautiful new fire pit that you're dying to try out!

$$ Stonework Projects SS
One thing we loved most about this house on the hill was the great breezes we catch on a consistent basis. Sometimes, though, they're a little too great. City people don't think about what it means to be exposed on a hill. Not too long after we completed our big remodeling project, when daughter Alexis had graduated and moved off to California, and we were back at work in Houston, we got a call from a friendly neighbor up the hill. "Thought you'd want to know that your roof blew off last night." Literally, as it turns out. There was a storm, and a big gust of wind came along and picked the entire thing right up off the house, then scattered it across our property and beyond. The nice neighbor had called someone to help cover the big gaping hole with plastic until we could get up there to deal with insurance people, and get a new roof -- but not before there was a good bit of water damage.

$$$$ New Metal Roof, Water Damage Repairs, and Re-Refinishing Floors in 3 Rooms $$$$
This time we made sure the roof was attached to the beams with long, sturdy screws, and not just nails.

Next thing we knew, we were well into our second year of drought, and we kept hearing about people whose wells were going dry! City people don't think about things like that. We were afraid we wouldn't have enough water for ourselves when we moved up here full time, much less our plants. So we added gutters, laid pipes, bought a big ol' rain tank, and built the retaining wall and pad for it to sit upon.

$$ Water Catchment System $$
By then I was fed up with going back and forth between houses, and pining to be up here full-time. I quit my job and came on ahead of my hubby, to get started on turning this place into a real home. First on the agenda was a garden space with a bit of protection from the deer, and some raised beds, since our property was solid limestone. Once again we called on Architect Bob to lend us a hand, and this was the result.

$$$ Mexican Hacienda Courtyard Cantina Garden $$$

My hubby's bypass surgery got us to thinking about a future when we might not be as spry as we once were. Healthy people don't usually think about things like that. That's when we decided to tear out the awkward shower/tub combo in our master bath, add a nice walk-in shower and some shelving for towels in its place, and replace the flooring in both the kitchen and bath. I told you all about that here.

After that we figured we were pretty much done, which was a good thing, since hubby was finally ready to retire, and there would be no more bonuses and such to cover the cost of these projects. What we didn't really take into consideration is, what happens when a house and all it's systems and appliances pass that magical 15-year mark? People who have always moved into new houses, and then been transferred away before the homes were even five years old, don't really think about things like that.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Luckily for Paula and Tim, the rains let up yesterday just in time for us to whisk them off to lunch up in Austin, at Red's Porch.

Though the food can be a bit run of the mill, the atmosphere is always top notch!

If you're not in the mood for dining on the roof top, you might prefer one of the cozy nooks inside.

Speaking of atmosphere, do any of you read the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich? If so, and you went to see the movie based on them, then you may have been a bit disappointed in some of their casting choices. Our bartender here is the guy they should have chosen to play the part of Ranger. Great ponytail!

Sorry I didn't get a good closeup shot of him, but my hubby draws the line at stalking.