Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Weather or not I am ready

It happens every year, though the timing varies.

Eventually, after we've survived another long hot summer, past when I've asked the "is it warmer this year than it was last year this time?"regulation query of fall, and finally, just as we were about to give it all up and dig out that action plan for the oft-threatened move northward........it happens.

I open our front door and whump!  It hits me right smack in the face. Cool, crisp air.

Chilliness that is suddenly on the OUTSIDE of our house, instead of on the inside.  The inside of our house being that place where we are thoroughly trained to retreat back into to avoid the ill effects of what happened as recently as yesterday afternoon, in matter of actual fact, a sunny bright 90 degree afternoon.  In late October.

At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I'm feeling a little flustered by the huge shift.

It feels a little bit like this:


Me:  Hello?

Breathless Voice:  Good morning!  How are you this morning!?

Me:  (trying but not quite avoiding a suspicious tone) I'm fine.  Who is this?

Breathless Voice: I'm fine too!  I'm a paid representative calling on behalf of Mother-Knows-Best, a fully owned subsidiary of Mother Nature Enterprises™. I'm checking in with you today to inquire as to how you are liking the 40 degree temperature drop I show that we just had delivered to your address?

Me:  I didn't order any weather.

Breathless Voice:  Your "change of weather"® has been delivered free of charge and additionally I have been asked to tell you is part of a special offer - absolutely free of any shipping or handling charges.  This weather is all yours, totally free!  We were wondering how you like it?

Me:  It is kind of a shock, honestly.  It must be 40 degrees cooler than it was this time yesterday.

Breathless Voice:  You are totally welcome!

Me:  I'm not thanking you!  It would have been nice for a bit more of a gradual change.  Plus will we get any rain out of this?  We really, really need some rain.

BV:  You're welcome!  I must advise you that while there is no charge for your weather delivery we do have a policy of No Returns once a front has arrived and been unboxed.

Me:  I didn't unbox anything.  I just opened the door and...

BV:  Once you have checked the weather it is yours.  No returns.  You're welcome!

Me:  Please quit saying I am welcome.  I just opened my door, I didn't mean to.....

BV:  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today!  Portions of this conversation may have been recorded for quality control purposes.  Enjoy your weather and remember, "if it is a little change in the weather you need, Mother Nature is the one to call!" ™

When cooler temperatures arrive, it is best to make chicken stock rather than complain.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Have you learned anything new online lately?

I can honestly say I have.

When I recently read an article in the New York Times singing a song of peanut butter sandwiches featuring a novel (to me anyway) addition to the "and" list of filling ingredient options?  I couldn't wait to finish the article before I rushed to the pantry to assemble my own version.

No doubt you are already well acquainted with peanut butter and jelly.  You likely have your own favored go-to jam or jelly choice as well as "your" brand of peanut butter.  Unless you have a personal taste taboo, I'd be surprised to hear that you'd never sampled peanut butter and honey, or perhaps even some version of the semi-mythic Elvis sanctioned peanut butter and banana combos.

But this particular peanut butter add-on, this alliterative addition to the pantheon of Peanut Butter And _____s? This ingredient represented, for me at least, a bold new direction for the entire peanut butter and sandwich franchise.

Dwight Garner's "Peanut Butter Takes on an Unlikely Best Friend" extols the virtues, the relatively unsung siren song of a slightly offbeat combination: that of the Peanut Butter and Pickle sandwich.

Before I even hit the halfway mark of the article I simply had to try one for myself.  I stopped reading, headed into the kitchen and promptly assembled this:
A Creamy Peanut Butter and Hamburger Dill Chip Pickle Sandwich

And I gotta tell you - it was good, really, truly good.  I enjoyed it thoroughly although as I finished the article I discovered most people vastly prefer a bread-and-butter variety pickle to add a more expected element of sweetness to their peanut butter and pickle sammies.  Harrumph.

I had thrown together a peanut butter and dill pickle chip sandwich, reportedly off-putting to many, but not to me.  It took just the right approach to get my "everything we have around here for lunch is sooo boring" taste buds to sit up and pay close attention.  In that good way, I mean.

I suppose I'll try a sandwich with the more widely favored bread-and-butter pickles eventually. But for now?  I appreciate how the snappy crispness of a ripple cut dill pickle chip plays against the smooth texture of peanut butter spread on soft but grainy sandwich bread.  I am especially enjoying how the salty pickle brine works in concert with the creamy taste of peanuts, reminiscent of savory dishes I've prepared and enjoyed that include a peanut sauce as part of the flavor profile.

And let's face facts.  Once that bread-and-butter style pickle on peanut butter barrier is broken, there will be no reason not to try out bread-and-butter style pickled jalapeƱo slices with peanut butter as the natural nest step.  

I'm not in the predicting or the promising business when it comes to cultivating new tastes.  I realize that you like what you and I like what I like, no judgement, no possibility of error.  It is all and will always be a matter of personal preference, no more, no less.

Peanut butter and pickle sandwiches will never overtake the popularity of the more familiar combinations, but they do have a growing fan base, myself currently included.  You may decide you don't like the idea without ever tasting one, but I'm betting you don't have to guess.  I'm betting you have all the ingredients needed in your pantry right now.

Come on, admit it - aren't you the least little bit curious to try for yourself how the two tastes work out?  I highly advise you to be a little adventurous.  Step away from your computer, go into your kitchen right this minute, take out a piece of bread, cut it in half and make yourself a trial balloon of a peanut butter and pickle half-sandwich.  Take a bite, let the flavors dance around in your mouth a bit, and if you are so inclined, share your reactions in the comments section.  Good, bad or indifferent, I'm curious to hear what you think.  


Monday, October 22, 2012

Be afraid...

be very afraid....

This little sticker may mean I won't watch the final debate this evening, because I've already cast my vote, and because I get so weary at the persistent and immediate insistence upon declaring a winner and a loser between the debate participants (and at times even including the moderators).

Aside:  Is there a more thankless job than moderating a presidential debate?  The only guarantee if you do a great job is that both sides will be peeved at best and furious at worst with the idea that you actually actively moderated the discussion.  The nerve!

At any rate "my" presidential election is all over and it feels great so far.  Whether or not other voters agreed with my stance remains to be seen naturally, but I am relieved to have my participation on the books.  At the very least it will add authority to my hounding of family members to cast their ballots, which I so will be doing.  That's the price of keeping my company, frankly.  Folks I hang with don't have to agree with me but they darn well better participate.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Real creativity transcends time. 

If you are not producing work, then chances are you have fallen into the infinite space between the ticks of the clock where reality is created. 

Don’t let some capitalist taskmaster tell you otherwise — even if he happens to be in your own head. 

Douglas Rushkoff

Excerpted from Brain Pickings
How to Break Through Your Creative Block

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Grab Bag

October is one of my favorite months here.
The highs aren't so gruesome when interspersed with two inch rains and cool fronts dropping overnight lows into the 50s and 60s.  I think of this as "Hawaii" weather time.

Even though I can't  don't keep close enough track of the forecast to coordinate dinner dishes with the weather, it is soup and stew time at long last.

Tonight we'll try out a corn chowder recipe from America's Test Kitchen.

When we watched the episode and it came time to sample the results of their recipe tweaks, both Test Kitchen regulars involuntarily closed their eyes and murmured their approval.  You can't fake that kind of spontaneous appreciation of goodness (or if you can I don't want to think about why you would).

The only tricky part of the dish was getting kernels of corn off of eight cobs without gluing every part of one corner of my kitchen to every other part.  The spattering of the corn juice was monumentally messy.  At one point I had to take my glasses off because I couldn't see past the starchy stuff sluicing off my lenses.  Now, that's cooking!
Meanwhile, everything outside is expressing appreciation of a kinder gentler version of Texas weather in its own way.

Life is good.