Lawdy But It’s Hot

Bonjour from Austin, Texas, where the second full day of summer finds us wondering how many more days until fall, and will it rain again before then? The answers are “too many” and “sweet baby Jesus I hope so”. Until then, we spend most of our daylight hours inside, venturing out only mornings and evenings, which are cooler but still make our sports bras and Nike shorts stick to us like cling wrap. And by “we” and “us” I mean “I” and “me”- not sure why I am gravitating toward the third person today.

My house is currently redolent with the sweet smell of the double batch of granola I just removed from the oven. IMG_7168

This is my go-to granola, and I have gifted some of you with your very own portion, casting me forever in your good graces. I will be bringing this crunchy Nirvana In A Jar to friends who are hosting us on our Colorado road trip next month. If this moves you to invite us to stop by your mountain retreat, feel free to leave a comment below. Or you can make your own, but that’s not as much fun for me.

Can you guess what this lovely concoction is?

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This, mes amis, is the beginnings of lavender and honey ice cream! My good friend and I went to the Lavender Festival in Blanco, Texas the other weekend, and I bought a jar of cooking lavender specifically so I could attempt this ice cream. When we ate at Chicon recently, one lucky person at our table ordered lavender and honey ice cream, to which I sneered and opted for the coconut cake, because who wouldn’t? The ice cream turned out to be the clear winner over the cake, which was the only weak link in a delicious meal, and I have been thinking about that ice cream ever since. I used this recipe, but with one cup of cream and two cups of whole milk and a tad less honey. The loose lavender is strained out of the batter after steeping for ten minutes, so you do not end up with purple bits in your teeth after dessert. But it would be worth it, even if you did. We liked it with a sprinkle of that heretofore mentioned granola (did you know I was a lawyer in my previous life?) because the granola makes everything better. I think you can buy culinary lavender at Whole Foods, in case you happened to have missed the Blanco festival this year. I didn’t ride this to Blanco, but someone did. Lest you think Lavender Festivals are for sissies.
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It hasn’t all been lavender and unicorns around here. We moved all our stuff that had been in storage from Paris into the rooms not being renovated in our new house. Fortunately, everything appeared to be in as good shape as it was the day it flew out the window of our Paris apartment almost a year ago. Those Frenchies know how to pack.

We also moved out of our Houston home and have stuffed boxes and belongings into our lake house until it is groaning with the strain. But whew. Glad the heavy work is done and that our treasures weathered the sea passage and storage.

What else? I finally finished Queen Of The Night, a delightful tome by Alexander Chee. I loved all six-hundred pages of this story about a star soprano of the Paris opera who discovers that someone has written a novel of her life, including secrets that few people know. As she tries to figure out who the author is, she tells us of her amazing life as a circus performer, a courtesan, an assistant to the Empress, and a starving orphan. This book was enchanting from beginning to end. And did I mention Paris?

We had Martha all to ourselves for Father’s Day, which we ended with a nice dinner with a view.

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Cheers to dads and sunsets everywhere.

Stay cool, y’all.

 

 

 

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Leaving So Soon, May?

Bonjour from my new “office”, and by “office”  I mean the porch of my lake house, now offering a view of a very full Lake Travis, which is a most beautiful thing. Hallelujah.

Lots going on in these parts. Spring has been sassy, bringing bounteous rain, flowers, and unexpected cool snaps. Although many folks around here are weary of the rain, we can’t help but be grateful for every drop, and hopeful that it doesn’t disappear again.

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Tomorrow we move all of our stuff from Paris into our new Austin house, even though a large part of that house looks like this.

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After ten months, we want to get our things out of storage, even if it means cramming  all the boxes and cartons into bedrooms and studies and moving it around again when we finish this project (which could be a glimpse into eternity). So that’s my day tomorrow. You?

Later in the week we make one last trip to our Houston townhouse, which we will pack up and vacate next Monday. It will be strange to no longer have a Houston landing spot after so many years. Fortunately we have friends and family there who will offer us beds occasionally. Right? Hello???

Mark and I have been exploring the Austin restaurant scene, which like many other parts of Austin is totally different from when we lived here in the early 2000’s. We are keeping lists of places we have gone and places we want to try, and both lists are getting longer each week. We have already learned that reservations and/or off-peak dining times are crucial at all of the trending eateries. Even with advance planning, the search for parking places at many cool spots can mean that you walk into the restaurant in dire need of a house cocktail STAT. But if you make your reservation well in advance and get lucky on a parking spot, you are likely to enjoy many a fine meal in Austin, Texas.

True Food  is one such place. Turns out there is one in Houston (and other places), but we never discovered it. The Austin location is in a corner of downtown that is being redeveloped and still feels a bit awkward, but no doubt will blossom into something lovely in no time.

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Def try the cocktails.

The interior was sleek and handsome, but all those shiny hard surfaces meant lots of noise bouncing around. We scored a table on the patio that suited us fine.

My favorite dish of the evening was the Mushroom Lettuce Cups. Bonkers good, and not something I would be tempted to make at home.

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Something I have been cooking lots of at home is this Roasted Broccoli. There are endless variations on this theme and all are quick and easy. I make a bit batch, and what we don’t eat that night gets gobbled up on salads or on rice or grains later in the week. Trust me- you will never let your broccoli near the microwave again.

Mark and I loved watching a six-episode show called The Night Manager on Apple TV. Lots of glamour, hard-bodies, and gorgeous European locations. And with only six episodes, you don’t have to commit to a long-term relationship. Yea.

That’s all for now, friends. Thanks for keeping me in your radar. I’ll be back. Just like the fruit flies I finally got rid of in my kitchen this weekend.

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Austin and Beyond

And we meet again, mes amis! I seem to be unable to manage more frequent posts at the moment, but I have no doubt that you all are finding plenty of ways to fill your time. For those of you who are paralyzed in front of your computer, frantically refreshing your inbox in hopes of a new post from me, I do apologize.

I mentioned last time that Mark and I spent a week in Isla Mujeres, Mexico in April. We go to Mexico frequently because it’s an easy direct flight from Houston, and because when we go we tend to look like this the whole time.

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We so happy!

Here are a few more shots of Isla, a Mexican beauty.

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I love the little shrine on the outside of this house.

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Although we haven’t yet had much time to relax and enjoy our return to Austin, we did have a fun weekend downtown during Mark’s 30th law school reunion. We stayed at a beautiful new Kimpton hotel named the Van Zandt, after the late Texas musician Townes Van Zandt. If you know only one of his songs, it’s probably “Pancho and Lefty”, which became a hit for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard in 1983. The music theme is reflected throughout the hotel, from the light fixtures to the nightly performers in the hotel’s sleek restaurant, Geraldine’s.

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love this floor

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Our eighth floor corner room was a perfect blend of comfort, luxury, and view.

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Out the window

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Tub with a view.

This happened Sunday morning.

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I do love a good garnish.

If you want to treat yo-self in downtown Austin, the new Hotel Van Zandt is a pretty nice way to do it.

The weekend offered only one window of nice weather, and happily it was Friday night, which we spent on the gorgeous lawn of the Four Seasons Hotel, eating Mexican food and dancing to Bob Schneider. If you don’t know Bob, you should.

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I love you, Bob!

The Four Seasons bar is one of my favorite downtown spots for a cocktail on a summer evening. The hotel also has some of the best potted plants around.

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Just so you know, we don’t always stay in fancy hotels. We spent a night here recently and loved it.

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Well, we loved it until the thunder and lightning and rain hit about 3:00 in the morning. After that we didn’t like it so much and we left early – without any bloody marys or fancy French toast or even a shower. Some days are like that.

So that’s a glimpse of whats been happening around these parts. This time last year I took a beautiful walk in Parc Monceau. It seems like yesterday.

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See you soon, my friends!

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Colorado Dream House

Bonjour y’all! Today we are finally making it to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. It has been a slow trip, in part because I took a tropical detour to Isla Mujeres, Mexico since we last met.  It is still breathtakingly beautiful, in case you were wondering.

by day

and by noche

and by noche

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But we are not here to talk about Mexico. Today I will share with you my friend Martha’s brand spankin’ new house, located on the edge of the San Juan National Forest and just a few miles outside of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. It’s a stunner!

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The building on the left is Leigh’s (Martha’s husband) barn/workshop/overflow sleeping area, which is still under construction and not yet roofed in this photo. The middle structure is the garage, and the house is on the right.

The best thing about the house is the porch that wraps around the back, providing amazing views of the mountains and the surrounding countryside. We spent some time out there in these chairs (buried under blankets), trying to identify stars in the sparkling night sky.

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The house is designed to look as though it had evolved over generations. The master bedroom, seen at the top of the above photo, has its own little porch and is joined to the main house by this weathered red exterior wood.

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My other favorite feature of this house (I could never choose just one favorite) is the abundance of uncovered windows, allowing the views to be seen from any place you might choose to pause in the house. I felt as though I were in a theater watching day-long features of ever-changing landscape reveal new mysteries and delights with each viewing.

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The hallway connecting the master to the living area is lined with windows on both sides, and is frequently bathed in warm light.

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Yes, that IS a sliding barn door on the left, hiding the utility room.

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If Leigh is getting his dream come true workshop, Martha has surely gotten her fantasy kitchen.

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The star of the kitchen is undoubtedly the fabulous antique workbench Martha found at Back Row Antiques in Houston. Leigh added the zinc piece on one side, allowing the necessary depth for a bar. The other side of the island has wonderful drawers and cupboards for utensils and other kitchen treasures.

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The other diva of the kitchen is this very sexy French La Cornue range. Oh la la!

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Actually, there is a competing star I almost forgot about. Leigh made this gorgeous pantry in his Houston workshop and they brought it up in a trailer.

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Is that not the most stunning pantry you have ever seen? It doesn’t yet have its hardware in this photo, and it still looks simply amazing. The counter is zinc (Martha and I would both be all zinc all the time if we had the choice).

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This precious powder room flaunts a playful tile floor and will be decorated with black and white photos of Paris. If anyone knows a source for old French faucets with “c” and “f” on them, Martha would be delighted. She and I may need to return to the Paris flea markets for those.

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The house sits on a quiet piece of property surrounded primarily by trees and mountains. There are not many neighbors, but two of Martha’s closest neighbors are her mother and her sister! How cool is that? Family and forest would pretty much be my dream neighbors.

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I couldn’t be happier for my good friends and their fabulous new home in such a special place. I foresee many years of joy and lasting memories for them there, and I hope we are fortunate enough to be a part of both!

I just realized that Martha was with me in France exactly a year ago. We went to the giant flea market in Paris, where we definitely could have picked up some faucets.

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Oh well. We remember how to get there!

See you back here soon!

 

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Onward and Westward

I bet you were getting worried I was going to leave you in Marfa. No way. We are moving on through Santa Fe toward Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Ready?

We were only three hours from our destination when we reached Santa Fe, so we didn’t linger as long as we would have liked. I was in Santa Fe last summer during Indian Market Days, when all the galleries on Canyon Road were hosting shows and welcoming guests with wine and cheese. The atmosphere in March was completely different. Many galleries on Canyon Road  were closed, and the ones that were open were very happy to see us (although they didn’t offer us any wine). Sadly, we were not in the market to purchase any art, although I did fall in love with this one.

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Although the sun was shining brightly when we were there, the snow of the previous day still frosted the exterior art that graces Canyon Road.

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Although we were reluctant to say goodbye to Santa Fe after such a short visit, we were excited about our lunch destination, El Farolito, a six table dive that appeared to be the only place with a pulse in the tiny town of El Rito, New Mexico. We loved our lunch so much that we placed an additional order to go and ate it again for dinner. If you love green chile and don’t mind the owners’ grandson toddling around your kinda sticky table, this place is not to be missed! Unless you blink as you drive by it, in which case you will miss it.

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We were so satisfied with our lunch that we didn’t need see, eat, or drink another thing in the town of El Rito. And that was a very good thing.

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El Farolito was our final stop before our destination, which was my friend Martha’s brand new house in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. We pointed my very dirty (and fully loaded) car in that direction and made it before sundown.

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We made it!

Yes, the garage is lovely, but wait til you see the rest of this house that Martha and her husband have just finished building. You gonna love it!

Coming soon. Right here.

 

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And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

Paris has been much on my mind the last few days, probably because of the senseless tragedies that continue to be inflicted upon Europe. While missing Paris, I am also reminded that this time of year can be difficult there. You are sooooooo ready for spring (which according to Instagram has arrived in just about every other place in the world), and yet there you are, still wearing your tired sweaters and boots and hating them. It was also difficult to be so far away from home on Easter, and so I’m extra happy to be home to celebrate Easter with family this year. I’m making jambalaya for our Easter feast, because I am ready to swap out the ham tradition (never been a big ham fan, myself) and I think jambalaya could be up to the task of supplanting the pig in the middle of the table. I hope so, anyway.

So shall we lose ourselves in some Paris for a few minutes?

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See- don’t they look cold under that stunning tree?

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Yep- there was a reason those chairs were empty on April 4.

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Eventually the lighter scarves come out again!

Eventually the lighter scarves come out again!

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Wisteria!

Wisteria!

Ridonculous ranunculus.

Ridonculous ranunculus.

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OK. Enough of that. Don’t we all have grocery lists to make? Eggs to stuff? Jelly beans to eat*?

I know I do. Can’t wait to see myimage

*Just reminded me of the time one of my precious kids all dressed in Easter finery took my hand, opened it up, and spit a sticky mass of half-chewed black jelly bean pulp in my palm. I totally understood the impulse but ick.

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Roadtrip II- Marfa

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Even people who have never crossed the line into Texas have probably heard about Austin and how cool it is. It is possible, however, they might not have heard about another Texas town that is super hip right now- Marfa, population around 2000. Possible, but not likely, as stories of Marfa’s burgeoning artistic and culinary scene have been bouncing around the media for over ten years now. NPR described Marfa as “An Unlikely Art Oasis In A Desert Town”.  The New York Times marveled at its culinary evolution here. For a tiny dot on the desert, Marfa garners a lot of attention.

Nestled at the base of three mountain ranges and close to the entrance of Big Bend National Park, Marfa entered the art world when the late artist Donald Judd moved there from New York City in the early 1970’s  and permanently installed his minimalist art. Other artsy types followed, and now the little town is home to numerous galleries and a venerable art space located in a converted 1926 dance hall.

There was little sign of anything burgeoning in Marfa when we stopped in a chilly Tuesday. The town was  quiet and appeared not quite out of its winter hibernation. That suited us fine, as we were interested in Marfa as a model for some photographs, and she was more than willing to accommodate us.

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St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is a sweet building covered in river rock.

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Many of the buildings in Marfa appear untouched  from the day they were built.

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I’m sorry that the pinkness of this fire station is masked in the shadows. It was lovely.

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#dishtoweljunkie

#dishtoweljunkie

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My friend rents out this beautiful little house on Airbnb.  Hidden behind it is a totally kickass patio with grill and fireplace.

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We loved our short time in Marfa, despite not seeing a single piece of art nor a plate of food. If you should find yourself in the desert of West Texas, you should check out Marfa.  All the cool people do it.

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