Friday, February 14, 2014



to all my Artsy-Fartsy friends!


Hubby and I decided to celebrate Valentines a little early this year, trying to avoid the the mobs that will be in all the nice restaurants tonight. Since we had a nice fat little gift card for Fleming's Steak House in Austin,  thanks to some American Express bonus points, we decided we might as well celebrate there.

The decor was just about the same as all the fancy-schmancy steak houses these days - lots of highly polished wood. Upon entering they convinced us to go to the bar area first, since it was still "Happy Hour".

We started off the evening with a shared appetizer -- one that I now wish I had ordered as my entree, as I could easily have polished the whole thing off on my own. It was calamari like you've probably never had - lightly crusted and tossed with sauteed red peppers in some kind of chile oil vinaigrette. Mmmmm! It reminded me a lot of a special off-the-menu calamari appetizer we always ordered at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Houston. I've missed it so, so much! Next we shared a Caesar Salad, which had bits of crisply fried prosciutto in it.

After that came the cracked peppercorn steaks, a tiny one with a couple of shrimp in a reduction sauce for me, and a larger one served with their signature F-17 sauce for Hubby. Unfortunately, as so often happens at a place like this, when you are taking your time with a meal, we were already getting full before the entree ever arrived. And, since we were determined to share a taste of something chocolatey at the end of the meal, we ended up taking most of our steak home in this ever-so-elegant doggie bag.

Sooooo, guess what I found the next morning, sitting on the kitchen bar stool next to my purse, right where I left them when I stopped to take off my jacket?

Hubby was really, really looking forward to those leftovers.

I've got to be the worst Valentine EVER!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


If you've ever been to my house for a dinner party, you have surely heard me grouse about my kitchen's "One Great Fault". The original owners hired a fancy kitchen designer to help them plan it, but all I can say is, it must have been someone who never actually cooked. It was ever so pretty to look at, and had some really cool features -- like a warming drawer, and some hidden chopping blocks (so well hidden, in fact, that we didn't even discover them until years after moving in) -- but there was one little feature they somehow overlooked. Counter space! A fairly major oversight, in my opinion. Or, at least, I used to think so.

The other day I came across something in my Life Is Meals book of days, by James and Kay Salter, and it got me to thinkin'. It was from an essay called Jason Epstein's Kitchen, and it went like this:

In his own kitchen, there's a fireplace with a knee-high hearth, an upholstered armchair, and only about two or three feet of workspace on a butcher-block counter. The other couple of feet are taken up by an elaborate espresso machine. Doesn't he need more space than this to work? "No, the more space, the more mess you make," he says. The first rule is to clean up after yourself as you go. He's cooked dinners for as many as fifty people here without any problem.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, though I had been trying to "simplify" my life for about 20 years now, the one area I had never been very successful with was my kitchen life. Why? Because I kept thinking "If only I had a bigger kitchen" things would get easier, when in truth, all that ever got me was a whole lot more stuff!

It wasn't until we moved here, and I had to pare my kitchen down to the barest essentials, that I really started to hit my groove as a cook. It made me realize that simple techniques using basic tools, and a few of the freshest, best quality ingredients you can find, are usually the most delicious. It also made me much, much better about cleaning up as I went along, since there were no counters on which to pile things! Granted, it's almost impossible to give one of those fancy, multi-course dinner parties here (I don't care what Jason Epstein says!), but know what? To tell you the truth, I never really liked doing those in the first place, and now I have a legitimate excuse not to! I'm much more of a Mexican pot luck kind of gal, where everyone brings their own specialty to the party, then takes their pots and casseroles home with them when it's over!

Come to think of it, perhaps that is why I love this small house and my wee little studio so much. They've taught me to figure out just what is essential to my happiness, and to pare away everything else. I love magazines like Where Women Create, but more and more I am just overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that most of those women must corral and organize. I have come to realize that, if I did have an entire room just for my art stuff, I would probably spend more and more time shopping for and organizing my supplies, and less and less time actually making art! Luckily, I figured out early on that what I enjoy most is just sketching and painting, rather than collage and assemblage, so I was able to pull in the reins before I strayed too far down that path where you become obsessed with collecting papers and ephemera. If I'd had a larger studio, I might not have noticed until I had another mountain of stuff that never got used.

Sooooo, now I'm thinking that this kitchen re-do I'm being sucked into might be a golden opportunity to pare things down even further. I still have way too many serving pieces that almost never get used, and other things that are strictly for show. My goal is to keep only those things which are both beautiful and useful. Like my teapots, which never get put away, since they are always in use. I mean, seriously, is there anything more beautiful than a well-made teapot?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


the Texas Hill Country look, that is.

An eye-catching millinery display, spotted in front of Wall Street Western on this fine, sunny day. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


I don't know if you remember, but just about a year ago the Ace Hardware store that was at the heart of our little town (both literally and figuratively) burned to the ground. It was months before we finally got out of the habit of thinking "better run to Ace for such-and-such" on an almost daily basis. But, guess what? Now it's time to get back into the habit!

The store actually re-opened on Friday, but we waited a couple of days before heading over there, to let the crowds die down a bit.

Perhaps we should have waited just a tad longer.

In addition to the usual paint and hardware stuff, I was happy to see that they still have plenty of gifty-girly things for me to browse through, while Hubby does his thing...

what appears to be an even larger assortment of canning and jerky-making supplies...

and a great children's department with plenty of art supplies, crafts and science kits - just what you need to entertain those visiting grandkids!

Wouldn't you know, they even had bulletin boards -- and for about half of what I paid for the one I got at Staples the other day!

And, of course, it's still the go-to place for anyone wanting to spend a lazy day on the river.

I especially love their great assortment of my favorite scrunchy straw cowgirl hats!

On top of all that, there are the greeting cards, the gift wrap, the paper goods, and all of the seasonal decor. Which means that -- unlike Best Buy and those other stores where there's not a single dang thing I'm interested in looking at -- I never, ever mind it when Hubby says "I'd better swing by Ace while we're in town."

What else can I say, other than "WELCOME BACK ACE!" We really, really missed you!

Monday, February 10, 2014


TA-DAA! The bulletin board is hung, and quickly filling up with colorful inspiration.

Geez Louise! If you didn't know any better, you might think whoever assembled this was a wee bit color-mad. Mightn't you?