Friday, August 22, 2014

The Big Reveal! Final Photos of Exterior House Painting

A year after starting on the painting project, Husband Rudy has finished the last touches on our 1930s Texas farmhouse style bungalow/cottage.

Three years ago, I stood in front of the house and gazed at it. Back then, it was white with very dark green shutters, so dark they looked black at times.

This morning, standing out in the blazing heat, he took some photos of the final result:

We decided not to add all of the old awnings back on, but did put them on the southwest side  to block sun, and on the north front to block the street lamp at night. The front awnings are the original antique pine that were on the house over 80-years ago, and the long one is a metal model that was added in the 60s.

Next project? A new metal roof and decorative fencing.

bobbi c.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Progress on the old house---awnings!

Dear friends,

While I was inside, in the cool air-conditioned house, working on my new novella, Husband Rudy has been slaving away out in the heat on the painting project. He's still working on the awnings, being very meticulous about getting the stripes just right. We're using the original wooden ones that came with the house, made of antique pine and many of them are still in really good shape.

Here's a finished one, ready to be installed. After a really good wash with a pressure washer, Rudy used a paint sprayer on the green body, and did the yellow by hand.

1930s wooden awning

On some of the windows, we had more "modern" awnings, made of aluminum in the 1950s. LOL. Most of these we won't be using on this house, but did have to replace a few of them over some very hot south-facing windows.  Thing is, they went over three windows, making the awning very loooong.

So, now the question was, where to put the stripes on it? One thing I've done over the years is to "try out" colors using a photo and computer software. I love Photoshop Elements and use it for everything, home stuff and business stuff like business cards, flyers, ads, book covers, etc.

I converted the photo to black and white and printed it out after playing around with virtual buckets of paint in various arrangements. I came up with one I liked, that was balanced, and printed out the b/w photo for Husband to look at. I did the same thing with the backside of the house, on the body colors.

It's a really bad photo, but that doesn't matter. I'm not entering any art contests here--it's just a guide for him to look at as he's painting. These were two large awnings joined together to span four huge windows, so we needed a larger stripe in the middle. These are set at the back/side of the house, and will be partially hidden by trees.

Notice some of our dead grass has a few green sprouts now. LOL.

Installation is coming very soon!

Hope you're enjoying this little journey through our remodeling efforts. There's more to come (always, unfortunately). :-)

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How to Dry Herbs in your Microwave

Dear friends,

Waaay back in 1999 and through 2001, I published an herbal newsletter, The Country Cottage Herb Gardener. I've recently found copies of those files on an old back-up disk (yippee!) and decided to share some of the short articles with you.

This one explains how to dry herbs in your microwave. It's timely because many of us have an over-abundance of things like basil and rosemary right now. It's a good time to harvest it and dry it for winter use.

A honeybee loves the blooming rosemary

When the weather just won't cooperate enough to let you dry your herbs outdoors, or when it is too humid indoors, you can dry some herbs in your microwave oven.

Some herbs that can be dried for cooking or crafts in the microwave include basil, dill, mint, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, lavender, tarragon and others. The basic instructions are simple. Simply place two paper towels or an old cotton towel on top of a flat microwave-proof plate or tray. Place the clean, dry, individual herb leaves flat on the paper towels in one layer. Cover the leaves with another paper towel.

Place the plate in the microwave and cook on high (100%) power for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the plate from oven and allow to cool. Check to see if leaves are thoroughly dry by crumbling some between your fingers. If they won't crumble and still seem to be moist, microwave for an additional 30 seconds at a time until they are dry.

In our experience, a handful of herbs (or about 4 or 5 short stalks) of basil, rosemary or sage will dry in 3 minutes. Of course, allowing for differences in individual microwave ovens, yours may dry the herbs in more or less time. Experiment a little and see what happens!

Nice fresh rosemary, ready to be dried
This is certainly faster than the other drying methods, and the flavor seems to be consistently good. Try it sometime! Aunt Jewel, an imaginary friend who lives in Nameless, Texas, loves to use her microwave because she says it gives her more time to watch her soaps on TV! ;-)

Happy trails from HOT Texas!

bobbi c.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

New Texas Garden Craft Novella Available!

My new novel, DYE, DYEING, DEAD has just been released in all e-book formats. Paperback is in the proof stage and will be coming soon!

I've finally combined a lot of my interests into one book---Texas gardening, natural dyes from plants, and a cast of quirky characters. 

You can purchase it on Amazon, Smashwords for all e-reader devices and the Apple store and can read free excerpts at each of those places.

Yes, rosemary is a dye plant!

CAST OF CHARACTERS in Alphabetical Order

* Buddy Byers – owner of Buddy's Hardware Store & Sundry Sundries –
somebody went nuts on him with the tattoo gun
* Buster Briggs – gruff, no-nonsense good ol' boy county sheriff, likes pie
* Mrs. Eula-Mae Bunch – Belligerent troublemaker and garden club president
* Flora Martin – mother of Oma and Alma Martin
* Pastor Garvey Holt – Pastor of the First Christian Baptist Free-Will Church
* Ginger Marshall – Kendra's friend, 30-something, a local art-quilter
* Harry Bunch – Eula-Mae's son
* Jack Adams – AKA Mr. Magoo, AKA Jack-of-all-Asses. Kendra's and Jewel's neighbor who says he witnessed the murder
* Jeremy Clifford – Kendra's best pal, late-20s, sidekick and partner in mayhem, theatrical, works at Do-Lolly's Diner in downtown Nameless
* Jewel Moore – 60-something, Kendra's aunt/roommate, avid gardener, fiesty,
widow for three years
* Deputy Jim Wyman – Kendra's love interest, smitten with her
* Kendra Louise Harper – 35-year old folklorist, author and sometimes sleuth, gardener,
divorced for five years
* Lolly Larue – owner of Do-Lolly's Diner; sassy, middle-aged, wise
* Nora Rogers – Nameless librarian, early 40s, studious
* Oma and Alma Martin – owners of a small organic farm outside town, hippy gals
* Sarah Wilson – owner of Sarah's Needles & Threads, small downtown yarn shop
* Verna Holt – Pastor Holt's devout wife, fond of classic fashion
* Virginia Marshall – Ginger's smart fourteen-year-old daughter

Kendra Louise Harper is a folklorist, avid gardener and accidental sleuth. All she wanted to do that nice fall day in September was to help her Aunt Jewel conduct a Natural Dyeing with Plants workshop for some ladies from the Nameless, Texas Garden Club. Before the workshop is over, a dead body lay face down in a pool of glass and indigo in Kendra's courtyard garden. The next door neighbor swears that he saw Aunt Jewel whack the victim over the head with a silver hammer.
No one else really believes Aunt Jewel killed Mrs. Bunch--that is, except maybe the sheriff. And he's the one who counts. He'd just as soon throw Jewel Moore in jail as look at her. But he has no solid proof; he's not going to waste his time trying to prove her innocent. He'd rather bide his time and wait for the murderer to slip up and come to him.

Kendra decides that if anything is going to be done to get her aunt off the hook, she'll have to do it.  Along with Kendra's friends---a very colorful waiter at Do-Lolly's Diner named Jeremy, Deputy Jim Wyman (Kendra's love interest), Ginger Marshall (a local art quilter) and her friends---she sets out to prove that her aunt is innocent.

The victim, Mrs. Eula Mae Bunch, was not a popular person in Nameless. As Kendra gathers information, she realizes that Mrs. Bunch was probably the most unpopular person in town---for good reason. As one resident said, "That old woman is meaner than a room full of peckish wolverines."

Why is Kendra's neighbor so sure that her aunt killed Mrs. Bunch? And if she didn't kill her, who did? And why?

And there are other mysteries in town. Who chopped down Jewel's indigo bush in her own yard? Who is the inebriated stranger that shows up to Eula-Mae's funeral? And what does an erotic romance novel have to do with all of it? Tongues are waggin' in Nameless! Things haven't been this exciting since George Leroy Johnson got the back of his britches caught in the revolving door at the old Railroad Hotel and was pitched out the middle of Main Street with his wherewithalls showing.

DYE, DYEING, DEAD is the first novella in the Nameless, TX mystery series and features Kendra Louise Harper, Folklorist.

Other short stories in the series feature Kendra, Aunt Jewel and the quirky residents of the small agricultural town located about 30-miles east of Austin.

My new Texas garden craft novella, DYE, DYEING, DEAD, is available to buy now on Amazon and Smashwords, and in the iBooks Apple Bookstore. - See more at:
My new Texas garden craft novella, DYE, DYEING, DEAD, is available to buy now on Amazon and Smashwords, and in the iBooks Apple Bookstore. - See more at:
My new Texas garden craft novella, DYE, DYEING, DEAD, is available to buy now on Amazon and Smashwords, and in the iBooks Apple Bookstore. - See more at:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Dear friends,

Since I posted the cover of my new novella, things have changed a bit. I did a re-design ('cause I can!) and came up with something different. Since the whole point of the story is about natural dyeing with plants (and not just indigo), I decided to use one of my favorite photos on the front. Yes, those of you who have my little herb cookbooklet will notice it's the same photo, only Photoshopped to change the colors. :-)  
I'm happy to be able to "meld" or merge my two interests, finally! This new novella features Kendra Louise Harper, a Texas folklorist who studies the lore and legends of Texas, including the use of dye plants! My "Aunt Jewel" character, featured in several of my "Nameless, Texas" short stories (available individually on Amazon), is an avid (obsessed) gardener with a vintage house and huge old-fashioned garden. Sound familiar? :-)

Kendra has an interesting array of quirky friends who are into things like bookselling, quiltmaking and other fiber arts,  theatre, etc.

The book will be out mid-August, and I'll post the purchase link here then.

Until then,

Keep on diggin' and plantin'!

bobbi c.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

New garden/fiber mystery coming in August--DYE, DYEING, DEAD

Dear friends,

Here is where I mix my "real" life and my professional life. The reason I haven't posted many pics of the house/garden recently is that I've been busy finishing the (hopefully) final version of my new novella---DYE, DYEING, DEAD.

This is actually a story I started eons ago and put aside for other projects. It's morphed into something similar, yet different, over the years. The main protagonist, Kendra Louise Harper, who is also featured in some of my other "Nameless, Texas" short stories, is a folklorist who researches and writes about Texas lore, legends and folklore.

In this story, she's helping her Aunt Jewel with an indigo dyeing workshop. In the past, I've designed and grown natural plant dye gardens, gave many how-to workshops and wrote several non-fiction books on the subject---Colors from Nature (published by Storey but now OOP) and Nature's Dyepot (published by Fiberworks Publications in Austin but now also OOP) under the name Bobbi A. McRae.

Once I decided that Kendra would be a folklorist (or she decided LOL), who lives with her Aunt Jewel, an avid gardener who gives garden workshops, it made sense to me to start off with this story.

Projected publication date is August, and I'll announce when it's available. It will be an e-book and perhaps even a paperbook.

Until then, happy trails!

bobbi c.

Monday, May 26, 2014

New use for vintage tub, progress on house and other bits-n-bobs

Dear friends,

After pondering The Great Tub Project, going back and forth on the whole "sell it" or "give it away" or "recycle it" or USE it, I found that it's much easier to USE it.  Who knew it would be so hard to sell a vintage Kohler 1930 tub?  Anyway, once I decided to keep it, the next issue was where to put it and how to support it.

The tub is in really good shape, very little rust, no rust holes, so I didn't want it to just sit on the ground.  I want this sucker to last a while.   After looking into several ideas, finding a welder to make a wrought iron stand (it could possibly stretch or rust out before the tub does), making a galvanized pipe stand (which I loved but would be a lot of labor for ME), I decided to use what I had laying around and make it work---cement pavers with cement blocks.

Using a series of cut-off PVC pipes, boards and a lot of muscles, Rudy (mostly) and I finally got it into place. It was actually a bit easier than I thought it would be. Yes, it's VERY heavy--cast iron covered with porcelain, ya know.

Rudy used his heavy-duty drill and a lot of manpower to drill a series of drainage holes in the bottom.  The original drain is also there at the left-hand end, to provide additional drainage.  I'll put a little screen over it to keep the snails out.  Hopefully.

Another issue I had was -- where to put the thing.  After a lot of pondering, I decided to put it in an under-used corner of the garden, right beside the back/side entrance gate.  That's where most folks show up, anyway.  It's behind bushes, so doesn't look like a dumping ground from the street and we can see it from the patio.  The plan is to sand it a bit, put a color wash on it (not sure what color yet although I do have some other blue planters in the garden here and there) then put a series of plants in galvanized buckets around the front edge to help hide the blocks.

My next job will involve the painting, filling it up with something in the bottom so it doesn't take as much soil, getting the soil, deciding on what to plant (the FUN part), and actually doing it.  I know it will be a combo of herbs, maybe a tomato or pepper plant or two, and some trailing, dangling things to spill over the edges.  And some decorative doo-dads.  Now that it's in place, though, I can take my time with the rest.  Although, I'm very ANXIOUS to get 'er done.  You know how that is, I'm sure.

As for the rest of the house, well, ahem.  We are still working on the ancient plumbing, and I believe this is the last Big Thing we'll have to do where that's concerned.


Yes, my side yard is a shambles now.  But our wonderful superman plumber, Wayne Ging, was very careful not to take out any of the trees or bushes.  We only had to dig up one small lantana and move it.  Now I have to decide what to do with this area. Before the weeds and such see all that bare dirt.

There's an equally bare area in the back yard that was dug by hand by Wayne's assistant (bless you, Rick)!

 AND for those of you who have been chomping at the bit to know what I did with the front porch, here ya are.  Cheap, easy, and effective.  I might add a few hanging-thingies on the walls there, but for now, I'm calling it DONE. WHAT extra front door? :-)

 And wasn't that sweet of the salvia to start blooming just for the photos?

Oh, and for the plumbing geeks here, here's our new faucet, made of freeze-free PEX flexible pipe, insulated (stake to come). No longer will I have to go through the winter without garden water! It seems silly to be jazzed about faucets, but once you haul a 100-foot hose around for three years from ONE faucet, you appreciate having them here and there.  We added three new ones.  Woohoo, luxury!  LOL

 Next up---painting the north side of the house.

Happy trails!

bobbi c.