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?