By Temple Wynne
I have always loved Christmas - everything about it. I love the music and the lights. I love the thought that goes into making Christmas lists, and keeping family traditions alive. I love setting out marvelous nativity scenes that bring home the true meaning of Christmas. And, yes, the food - traditional delights!
This year, I got my first real infusion of Christmas spirit at the EmilyAnn Trail of Lights - more wonderful than ever. Thus inspired, I made a special trip to Dallas to join my cousins in a seven generation old tradition - the putting down of the Christmas spice rounds. Looking forward to this taste treat as I was growing up, I decided that this is a tradition worth kindling at my home here in Wimberley. All in all, we made rounds that went to homes in Dallas, Plano, Tulsa, Midland, Ft. Worth, Austin and Wimberley!
To make this magic, representatives from each branch of our large extended family gather in one kitchen. While our "spice girls" measure and stir delicious smelling spices into a special concoction on the stove, the rest of us work around a kitchen table preparing our respective rounds of beef. Not a job for the faint of heart, each round cut of beef (10'd x 6" h) has to be bound tightly with kitchen string, punctured through repeatedly with a sharpened dowel, and then each hole stuffed with the fragrant blend of spices. The round is then sewn snuggly into cheesecloth, and "put down" in a cold spot for two weeks to cure in the brine. And finally, while still in its cloth, it is boiled, refrigerated, and made ready to go! And go it does, to each of our houses and friends' houses, for every holiday party. Placed on a beautiful tray, surrounded with greenery and berries, the firm spice round is carved flat across the top in paper thin slices, and enjoyed on crackers or thin toasts- spicy and delicious- a real Christmas delight!
We at River House wish you and yours a loving, delightful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
by Temple Wynne
The beautiful hills, streams and charming towns in which we live draw houseguests from far and wide. What a pleasure it is to share this glorious place with friends and family! For the host, however, there are a few obvious challenges to a steady stream of visitors, like stocking the guest bath, fridge and bar, cooking meals, cleaning house, and providing clean beds! I have found that some simple requests and procedures help me stay on an even keel, and my guests seem happy to help.
Keep things very simple, over all. Stock the guest bath with small guest soap so that when they look ratty, there are no qualms about tossing! Rinse soap and soap dishes. Check you paper goods. Keep Sam's-size shampoo, toothpaste, throw away razors, Q-tips and spray deodorant, (which rarely need replenishing) handy for the forgetful traveler. I also stock a high cabinet with calamine lotion, antiseptic cream, band-aids, Advil, antihistamine and Pepto-Bismol, just in case! For water, supply an individual thermal glass, distinctive top and straw to each guest. At my house, we have a huge water dispenser from which the glasses can be refilled by each guest as needed.
Many of us have busy schedules, even while friends and family are breezing through our homes on a regular basis. Be realistic- most guests are happy to help plan and execute the visit. Ask them bring breakfast for the days they will be here; they can fix it too! Also ask them to bring their favorite snack foods and to take them with them when they leave!! I usually provide a fridge full of fruit, veggies, cheeses, olives, and plan to cook at least one good dinner while they are here. Alcohol can get expensive, so if it is a group who likes to party, don't hesitate to ask them to contribute to the cooler and to keep it iced up. Last, but not least, at the end of the visit, ask them to leave sheets and towels in the laundry room. This needs to be a breeze for everyone!
It is time for summer fun, seeing new sights or revisiting familiar places. For some of us, a trip abroad might be in the offing too. So the question of the day is "Are you saddled up for summer?".
It is wedding season again, and the question, as always, is what to get for the couple in question- something for the table or a decorative item for the home? Many of us feel obligated to purchase a wedding gift from a registry, while others search for something unique to give. Both are much appreciated! All of these years later, I still remember who gave me what when I married. I still use my beautiful china and delight in the many unique items that I had not selected beforehand. Most importantly, the memories that these gifts invoke of the special people who gave them are worth their weight in gold!.
Today, couples of all ages are adding pizzazz to their tables with colorful serving pieces and multiple patterns - what fun! Everything no longer has to "match"! The beauty of fine traditional china can be complimented and softened with a richly glazed pottery accent. Hand thrown pottery is dressed up with sparkling glassware or formal crystal. A single unique platter or bowl can bring a splash of color, texture and individual style to a table or buffet. The addition of a textile from India or New England .distinctive spreaders, salad servers, ladel - oh, I could go on and on!
American households are no longer held hostage by the staid British mandates of the past; we are back to our adventurous roots! Accent pieces are the name of the game in home décor. And at least part of the credit for the change in attitude may come from the designers themselves. Fine lines like Juliska, Match and Jan Barboglio have been designing serveware and home accents which encourage the imagination and lend themselves to individualistic interpretation. International trade has made gorgeous Mexican, Italian, Indian and Asian lines accessible as well. When choosing a gift, remember that a colorful ceramic, beautiful box, or distinctive pewter or iron piece may be the perfect reflection of you for your loved ones. There are myriad exciting gifts out there from which to choose. What will you choose???!
by Temple Wynne 3/24/11
Over the last two decades, America has undoubtedly become a more casual place to live. For many people, this has seemed a blessing: casual Fridays (or everyday) at work; flip flops for all occasions; blue jeans everywhere. For others, this dressing down seems undignified and sloppy. Regardless of where we fall on the opinion poll, there are some fun options out there for us. What are your personal druthers?
Moving to the Texas Hill Country was definitely liberating for me personally. Downsizing to my new home, and adapting to a more casual life style meant that I could divest myself of clothing that now sat motionless in my closet. And while I sort of hated to part with "the good stuff", I felt very happy to share my professional garb, suits, hose and heels, with someone who needed them more than I (the Village Store in Wimberley is a wonderful option for our donations). Eventually, the more formal wear followed. There are occasions in our Valley to "put on the dog", however, so I tried not to shoot myself in the foot!
This is not to say that country life dictates the same message to all of its inhabitants. While I love the ease of donning a pair of jeans and a sweater, there are plenty of lovely ladies afloat in these here hills who look gorgeous in spring frocks and pretty footwear! What about you, what is your style?
Jewelry design has always been interesting to me, and yes, I love it. And just as I continue to regularly use my good china on my rustic table, I do regularly wear my good jewelry with my extremely casual dress. Mixing the things that please your own eye works. Swapping one jewelry "story" out for another is fun, simple and gratifying. Just as in home décor, changing one piece of jewelry, or adding a new one can lift spirits and excite your personal palette - Enjoy!
Spring offers folks in the Texas Hill Country some very special weeks mid March, as we ready ourselves for Easter. The wildflowers start opening up, our grasses spring to life, and the garden centers beckon. Baby animals begin to appear in the wooded areas, and in our own front yards. Most of us are eager to be enjoying the glorious weather with friends, so, let's get our spring chores out of the way with great dispatch!
Box up winter and pull out spring. Swap winter clothing out for warmer weather frocks (getting our "Switch Flops" for the season at River House!). Scoop out the fireplace and arrange some good-looking candles or big potted plants in the hearth (perhaps also call Chimney Sweeps in if you have been burning juniper logs). Store the winter comforter in favor of a lighter colored and lighter weight spread; maybe change out your shams to add something new to the room. Trim up the indoor plants and divine a fresh look for the dining table with your Easter plans in mind- maybe a bright runner or different centerpiece. Now out the door to prepare the porches. Sweep and wash them up and down, then pot some wonderful color.
One of my favorite spring pass times is planning what to plant each year. I like to go walk the EmilyAnn and Lady Bird Johnson gardens to see what looks good and hardy among their plantings, then study up a bit on the water needs of those I have seen. Being practical about what the deer will or will not devour is hard for me, as I am almost always tempted by sheer beauty when I get to the nurseries!
With these necessary measures out of the way, we are free to play! Treat yourself by having good friends over for a refreshing meal al fresca; what is more fun? Cocktails out on the lawn or field, and dinner on the porch? Why not do it up with linens and candelabras while we still have relatively early sunsets? Oh, yes, it is all about spring!
Pictured below is local artist Cleve Ragan-- who was our featured artist for a previous Wimberley Art Fest.
It is that time of year again, and I need to get my act in gear. How can I possibly pick a single New Year's resolution out of the myriad improvements that I need to make? Happily, I recall that a wise man once told me, "When in doubt take a quiet overview of yourself, then do the next right thing". In other words, what sort of person do I want to be and what will I do next to get there? The first time I heard this, I thought surely this exercise would overwhelm me; surely I would disappoint. But in truth I found the exercise to be strangely liberating and invigorating! So here goes:
HoHo! It is already time to ready our homes and hearths where our families and friends will soon gather in celebration of Christmas or of the holiday season. We must slow down a bit to reflect on the joys of Christmases past and on the loved ones with whom we hope to celebrate next week - yes, next week!
One of the perks of the holiday season is that it presents a wonderful excuse to take time to peruse recipes, and think about great food! There are innumerable resources for seasonal culinary delights: the online wonder Epicurious.com and good old Martha Stewart , to name a couple. And of course, family recipes deserve serious consideration as we honor our history and enhance our traditions. I lick my lips as I read through the recipes I have accumulated, hoping to settle on a delectable menu to thrill my loved ones’ taste-buds. That, in itself, is a challenge, but the biggest test for me is always time. It is important to be very realistic, and carefully plan my time around work, conversation and rest. I select recipes for Thanksgiving dinner (served at around 2 at our house) which can be successfully accomplished in the free time I have before everyone takes a seat.
Now to consider the visuals of Thanksgiving. It takes only a glance outside to thank our lucky stars that the Texas Hill Country is HOME. Bring the colors that are so prominent out-of-doors into your table- oranges, yellows and rust. Add a complimentary color to make them ‘pop”; dark plum or rich aqua candles and napkins could work well. Pull out your beautiful oven- to- table stoneware, dinnerware and serving pieces to be sure they are ready to go. Pre-prepare any recipe that can be made in advance, and refrigerate.
Weather permitting, start Thanksgiving Day on your porch or patio- your house guests will love it! Decorate the patio table (or your coffee table in front of the fire) with orange, yellow and purple pansies. Be sure that the insulated coffee carafe is ready for company and the rolls are in the warmer. Lastly, be secure in the fact that guests LOVE help themselves to a leisurely morning! Preplanning tasks that you would like to pass on to helpers definitely makes the day more pleasant. If you are organized enough, it will be a breeze! At noon, orchestrate the setting of the table; 12:30 pm, set out some good locally made cheeses, pears, apples and nuts, served with chilled wine or icy spiced tea. At 1:30 carve the Turkey and lay out the feast. And at 2, count your blessings and enjoy!