Saturday, December 14, 2013


We're fixin' to head up to Dallas for some festive frolicking with the Thomas clan. Meanwhile, I thought it might be fun to share a bit of history with you -- revisit the series of posts I wrote that very first Christmas that we spent here in the Wimberley house. To give you a bit of background, we stumbled upon this place in November of '04, went a bit crazy and made a lowball offer, which, thanks to a bit of synchronicity, was accepted. The following photos are the ones we took when we came here to close on the house, on our way up to Dallas for Christmas, right at NINE years ago! My transformation from Big City Suburbanite to Hill Country Character began almost immediately, even though, at first, we only came up here every other weekend. That's also when the writing bug bit me big time, and I started filling up notebook after notebook with stories of our adventures here -- though Hubby didn't convince me to transfer them to a blog until a couple of years later.

Written 12/05
Posted on Seasonality 12/07
No matter how long I live here, Texas weather never ceases to amaze me. Yesterday it was in the mid-eighties all day, and I was wishing I had packed some shorts this time. We opened all the windows and turned on the ceiling fans before we went to bed, and still I was kicking off the covers because I was so hot. This morning I woke up to the sound of wind slamming doors shut and blowing everything in the house around, and suddenly I'm shivering and grabbing for the quilt. Obviously it has "come a norther", as my friend Paula says. Now I'm back to sitting on the porch in my flannel-lined overcoat with gloves and ear-warmers on. Oh well, at least it feels more like Christmas now. It also looks more like Christmas - meaning it's totally grey and overcast. Maybe that's why I actually like dreary days. They make me feel festive because they remind me of the holidays. Snow is so rare around here that for us it's considered a freak occurrence - about like a tornado or hurricane. Schools let out, businesses shut down, cars bounce off of one another - talk about fun! But not something we actually associate with Christmas.

Hard to believe it's been a whole year since we bought this house. Closing date was just a couple of days before Christmas. We loaded our truck up with the bare essentials, drove to Wimberley to sign the papers, went straight to the house, unpacked and sort of camped out here overnight, then went on to Dallas to spend Christmas with my family. So, this is our first Christmas actually spent in the house, and I get to stay for two solid weeks! We sure have managed to fill up all that empty space in a short period of time. Of course, a lot of it belongs to Alexis, but it won't be long after she leaves before John manages to fill up that space as well. Apparently my husband abhors a vacuum, and just isn't happy until every house we buy is absolutely stuffed with stuff. Personally, I liked it better when there were still some empty spaces. We didn't even bother to set up the tree this year because we couldn't find anywhere to put it! I keep reminding John that we will have to combine these two houses into one some day, but that boy just loves to shop. What a pair we are. He loves clutter, I just hate it. He likes dark and cozy, I need light and airy. He's Victorian frou-frou, I'm Arts and Crafts simplicity. In order to save my sanity, and to keep from turning into the wicked witch of the west, I suggested that he could decorate the downstairs (his office, TV room and guest bedroom) any way he chose, if he would let me decorate the upstairs (the kitchen, living area and master bedroom), and agree to keep it a clutter-free zone. I just hope there will still be space for actual guests in the guest room, by the time he's finished.

Entrance to Main Level of House

Garage/Laundry Room/ Mystery Storage Loft
When we were here for Thanksgiving, I managed to get some garland with red bows looped across the porch railing, and icicle lights strung from the eaves, but that's about as far as we got with our Christmas decorating. Alexis was right in the middle of all her final projects for school, and had them spread over every surface in the house. I didn't have the heart to make her put it all away, just so I could start decking the halls. Besides, we weren't even certain where most of the Christmas stuff was stashed. My sisters didn't really believe me when I said I was okay with not having a tree up for the first time ever. They think I must be depressed or something, but as long as I can come home in the evening and see the twinkle lights up on the porch, then come inside and light up my pine scented candle and listen to some carols, I'm as happy as a little clam. After all, I've been doing the Christmas thing at work since last August, so I've had a pretty good dose! One thing I just love about my job at the nursery is that, once I get everything set up for Christmas, there's not much left for me to do, and I can reduce my hours just when I need the extra time to do my own shopping and holiday preparations. By mid-December there is nothing left for me to do at all, so they have me take vacation until after New Year's - perfect for entertaining house guests or going out of town. This is certainly a far cry from my days working in retail and for florists and caterers, when this was their most frenzied time of all! Because I had so much time off, it only made sense to spend it all in Wimberley. It looks like John and Austin will both be able to spend time here as well, so we are all quite excited - one more step towards feeling more like Wimberleyites, and less like visitors. (to be continued...)

The View That Cinched the Deal

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Finally got around to watching Dion Dior's tutorial in my 21 Secrets class, which was about how to use Silks and Twinks, by Lumin Arte. Silks are an acrylic glaze paint with mica flecks in it, to make your work sparkle, while Twinks (short for Twinkling H2Os) are a water color paint with mica flecks.

For this first project, we used plain watercolor for the background, and Silks for the flower. The sparkles don't show up all that well online, but you can kinda see them here.

I learned two very important lessons from working on this project, neither of which had anything to do with using sparkle paints.  The first is something that almost every single art teacher I've had has mentioned at one time or another. "Don't give up!" They all say that they start out pretty optimistic about how a painting is going, but midway through they reach a point where they feel like they've just gone to far, added to much, and totally wrecked the painting. That was sooooo true for me with this one.

You see, in the original project, we were supposed to do mostly collage with an overlay of paint, and I didn't have any of the Chinese paper with sparkly threads which we were supposed to start our background with. So I just did the drizzled, primary shades of watercolor which gave the background a bright tie-dyed look. The flower was supposed to be a simple daisy shape, covered with tiny bits of plain red tissue paper, then shaded and highlighted with the Silks. But, yeah, I don't follow instructions all that well, do I? I decided I had to have a poinsettia, with just a few bits of bleeding red tissue paper on the petals, which were mostly paint. Well, as you can imagine, busy flower on top of busy background? Absolutely horrible! I was so ready to give up on it, but then I remembered what everyone says. "Walk away for a bit if you have to, when you hit that wall, but don't give up. Something will come to you!" And it did.

First I started layering some dark blue paint over the background, which turned those bright reds and yellow-oranges to deep purples and greens, and really made the sparkly poinsettia leaves pop. Walk away. Come back. Splatter white "snow" over the page. Walk away. Come back. Notice the flower is floating in outer space. Do some white journaling around the page to frame it and ground it. Et, voila! Suddenly, I love it!

That brings me to lesson number two, which I read/heard from two different respected artists this very week, and now am a firm believer in. They both said they try never to work towards a certain image they have in their head, for that makes you more of a technician than an artist, and you usually end up being disappointed with the results. Instead we need to learn to just listen and feel where the art wants to take us. Remember, it's about the journey, not the destination!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Know how I'm always yakkin' about how great our little library here is? Well, now there's even more to love. Our recently acquired Young Adult librarian is my new best friend, happy to come visit and make suggestions whenever she sees someone browsing her section. As if that weren't enough, our library has an anonymous donor who has been making certain she has the funds to keep the Young Adult section well stocked. Between that and the fantastic "Book Club" section (with a half dozen or so copies each of all the latest book club favorites), I never fail to come home with an armload of juicy possibilities!

I don't know about you, but I've been seeing lots of lists popping up on-line -- lists with titles that say something like "100 Best Whatevers of 2013." Many have referred to books, and it got me to thinkin' about all the wonderful books I have read this past year. That, combined with the book I am reading right now -- that one on top of the pile up there -- made me want to start keeping better tabs on what I have read, get better about sharing them with others, and maybe get some bookie conversations going. So, of course, I had to make a list. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with anywhere close to 100 (one reason I need to keep better tabs), but here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order other than that which they popped into my head:

  • Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman
  • Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
  • The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green
  • The Divergent Series, by Veronica Roth
  • The Legend Series, by Marie Lu
  • The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
  • Antonia And Her Daughters -- and everything else written by Marlena de Blasi
  • Eleanor And Park, by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  • Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
  • State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
  • Eragon, by Christopher Paolini
  • The Delirium Series, by Lauren Oliver
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
  • The Maisie Dobbs mystery series, by Jacqueline Winspear
  • 12-21, by Dustin Thomason
  • People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
I'm sure I've forgotten some of the best, so you might want to check this list again later, as I will probably be adding to it.  Coming up? Well, I'm counting the days until the next Sarah Addison Allen book, Lost Lake, is released!

So what about you? What wondrous worlds did you lose yourself in this year?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I froze my leftover turkey and gravy this Thanksgiving (separately, of course) until I could decide what I wanted to do with it. After downloading several different recipes from Epicurious, and consulting several friends, I decided to try this one, since I happened to get some fennel from The Bountiful Sprout this week.

 (four servings)

2 cups chopped fresh fennel (can reduce to 1 c., if you're not sure you like fennel)
4 ounces sliced pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped (available in the deli section)
1 lb. cherry tomatoes
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 15-oz can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup leftover turkey gravy
1 1/2 cups chopped leftover cooked turkey meat
1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (I used a sprinkle of dried basil, since all my basil plants are kaput now)

Saute' the fennel and pancetta together in a heavy large pot over high heat until the pancetta begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until tomatoes soften, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Using back of fork, crush tomatoes (beware of hot splatter!). Add remaining ingredients (except for fresh basil). Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Mix in basil. Season with salt and pepper.

I served mine with a grating of fresh Pecorino Romano cheese, just because I had some. And it was Italian. And I like cheese.

Easy peasy, fast, and one of the best uses for leftover turkey I've ever tried. Best of all, I still have enough turkey left to try that recipe for Green Chile Turkey Enchiladas that a friend in New Mexico shared with me. That's just gotta be good!

Monday, December 9, 2013


I was really hoping for some good fall color, to impress the relatives when they were here just before Thanksgiving. What did they get, other than cold, wet weather just like they had back in Ohio? Nada! The only trees that had changed at that point were our three scrawny cypress trees, which the original owners planted up on the hill, instead of down by the creek where they would have been much happier.

But then, a week or two later, something magical happened. The rivers of red oaks that drift across the tops of most hills in these parts, including the one just behind our house, finally began to change. Suddenly we were surrounded by a patchwork quilt of reds, greens and golds.

Love the view above, where our street deadends!

The bottle tree with a backdrop of bright yellow cedar elm.
Better late than never, right?

Sunday, December 8, 2013


I've always loved the "downtown" area of our little village, but I especially love it in fall and winter, when it takes on a seasonal glow -- first with piles of pumpkins everywhere, followed by a trillion twinkle lights. These are just a few of the shots I have taken there recently.

I dearly love this mural, a work-in-progress, which they are adding on the backside of the building that houses Calley's Jewelry and Tastebuds. Very apropos, considering the building began its life as a filling station.

Tastebuds is one of several great places to deposit the men in your group who have had their fill of shopping.

Twins Born 5 Years Apart
One new shop I recently discovered is Ply, located next to the antique shop On The Bridge (both its name and its location). That's where I scored special little handmade goodies to give each of the Lane women this Christmas. I knew it would be a great shop before I ever set foot in the door. Check out this gorgeous outdoor weaving...

and the yarn-bombing on the tree by the door!

Another great shop I just discovered is Santa Fe Connection -- so many gorgeous color-mad things, from Frida-style clothing and jewelry to hand-painted pottery and funky yard decor.

Like I said, you can usually spot a great shop before you ever step a foot in the door. Funny thing about this one, though. The owner had a shop in San Antonio for forty years before coming here, but she obviously never quite replaced her Germanic accent and forthright way of dealing with customers, with the southern manner of charming them into making a purchase.

Otherwise she would have know better, when this particular customer came out of the dressing room tugging on an outfit that was clinging in all the wrong places, than to say "What have you got on under there?"