Good Morning, World

Fall has finally arrived here in Austin, Texas, and not a moment too soon. This morning was particularly beautiful.

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Tomorrow morning we point our car back to the west for a week in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. If all goes as planned, we will be having dinner in Santa Fe this time tomorrow night. We are taking this guy with us, but he doesn’t get to go to dinner. Don’t tell him.

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It’s hard to believe that a year ago today we were walking around Hyde Park in London.

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And two years ago we were in Paris, living the dream.

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If someone can figure out how to slow down this experience we call “life”, please let me know. It’s all happening way too fast.

Enjoy whatever life brings you in the next week, and thanks for checking in with me!

 

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Filed under Austin, London, Notre Dame, Paris, Texas, Uncategorized

Welcome To December

Whoa. December. How did that happen?

I am still shaking the sand out of my eyes and ears, having buried my head in escape from much of what was going on around me for several weeks following a certain day in November. I am back in the game, though still avoiding as much news as possible, which I am fully aware is not a mature way to deal, but it seems to help manage my anxiety so I am going with it. And also this.

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Anne never lets me down.

We made our first trip to Napa last month and I was smitten. What a gorgeous part of this country.

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We also made a second trip to Washington DC to visit our daughter. It was a lot more fun than the moving weekend- no trips to Target required. The city was aflame with autumn and refreshed us with crisp air.

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Thanksgiving happened at our house this year. Having my whole family at my table made me very thankful.

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but it was kind of hard to pass the salt

My November Nature Escape took me to Pedernales Falls State Park with my dog and a good friend. Still not many colorful trees to be found, but the day was glorious.

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Meanwhile back in the kitchen- did you know you can freeze pomegranate seeds? Well YOU CAN!

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I usually remove the seeds in a big bowl of water, but this time I tried a Martha Stewart technique which involved holding a half in one hand and spanking the peel side with a wooden spoon until all the ruby beauties fell out. I’m not sure it was any easier, but it did relieve some frustration.

Then I put spread the seeds out on a tray and froze them before sealing them all up into a large zip bag, where they await my December salads and cocktails and any other uses for them I can dream up. They taste pretty good by their little frozen selves, too.

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I have sought refuge in many a good book these past few weeks. This one particularly pleased me, and didn’t seem to get a lot of press. The author is British and wrote the short story on which the film 45 Years was based. (I also loved that film, though Mark yawned all the way through it. Anyone else see it?) The prose in this novel took my breath away.

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And yes, I would be lying if I said I haven’t fantasized about flying back to Paris for a good long while. Remember December in Paris?

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even though I never cared for those “hula hoop” decorations on the Champs

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Le sigh. Let’s go back.

But no- it’s onward and upward. Bring it, December! I am looking forward to a driving trip back to Pagosa Springs, Colorado (where it was 9 degrees this morning!!), lots of time in my kitchen, some fires in my fireplace, all the books, and good thoughts for 2017. What about you?

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Filed under books, Christmas, cooking, Paris, Paris in winter, Uncategorized

Happy Trails

When Mark and I took our little hike through the canyon in Bandelier last July, I was reminded of how wilderness thoroughly refreshes and refuels me. How easy it is to neglect that part of myself that craves occasional solitude with nature. After that trip to Colorado where we enjoyed so many beautiful hikes, I made a mental promise to schedule one day a month on which I would get away for at least a couple of hours and honor that facet of my being that thrives on the peace of the outdoors. August and September kind of slipped by, but it’s hellahot here then, so I gave myself a pass.

One of the many perks of living in Austin is the abundance of opportunity to enjoy nature trails and beautiful scenery without even leaving the city limits. On Monday morning I drove to McKinney Falls State Park, which is an hour from my house but still in the city of Austin. I was hoping to spy some signs that fall might be sneaking in, but I guess October 24 was still too early for fall color. Oh wait- there was this:

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Behold the splendor that is fall in central Texas.

I chose the Homestead Trail because it was the longest park trail, but still only three miles. The only challenging part of this trail is getting across the falls to access the trailhead!
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I was able to hop across the rocks with only a modicum of moisture entering my shoes and socks, but next time I would bring water sandals.img_8070

This trail goes right by these sad ruins of a home built in the 1850’s by Thomas McKinney.

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The scenery along the trail was a bit disappointing. It was mostly brush and an unattractive invasive stalky plant. The lackluster vegetation was made up for, though, by a proliferation of butterflies that pleased me very much. Most of the butterflies were small and pale, with just a lower band of coral on their wings, but when they flew around the trail they seemed to sparkle with pale pink hues. It occurred to me that perhaps we all cast our best light when we are moving through this world rather than sitting still in it.

There were a few flashier butterflies, like these two striped beauties.

I checked out the camp sites, which were large, private, and very nice. The real draw of this park ,though, are the falls and the swimming holes that lure humans and their dogs during the long hot months.

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I was back home by 2:00, but felt as though I had been worlds away.

Perhaps next month’s outing will reward me with a few signs of autumn. Central Texas doesn’t do fall well, but we love it anyway.

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Happy trails, mes amis!

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Token Paris pic

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Filed under Austin, Texas, Uncategorized

October

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Ain’t it the truth? I think of this quote every year when this glorious month rolls around. I have spent the last several Octobers in Paris or London, where this month is everything it’s supposed to be- cool and colorful- beckoning us to follow it into the darker and colder months ahead. Meanwhile, it’s ninety degrees here in Austin, Texas, and all my plants look as sick of the heat as I am. So I wait for a cool breeze and flip though some of my favorite photos of falls past.

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Now I’m really feeling nostalgic and maybe even a bit grumpier with my current October. This would be the time to slap myself and  be thankful that I am not in Haiti or any of the many places in Hurricane Matthew’s path right now. It’s hot and humid and green here, but at least my home is cool, dry, and comfortable. Reality checks are good.

September was a frenzy around here. Claire flew home from Paraguay, accepted a job in Washington DC, had some oral surgery (sorry about those two permanent teeth you never received but pretty sure it was the only mistake your dad and I ever made, and you’re right about dental implants not being the sexy kind), found a place to live and moved in, all in a period of three and a half weeks. This month should be a bit calmer, and we are hoping for great progress on our house renovations, which continue to charge ahead at a glacial pace. Apparently it’s true what they say about its being faster to build a house than to renovate one. They do say that, right? If not, they should.

I hope you all are safe and dry, wherever you are, and if you’re in a place where October is in full splendor, please send me a photo. Or maybe not.

P.S.- I have been reading some really great stuff lately and have updated my Books page accordingly. Check it out if you are in a reading slump.

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Filed under France, London, Paris, Uncategorized

Cookies And Kindness

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Paris wins September.

Hello out there! Are we really half-way through September? That’s just crazy talk. It’s still in the high 90’s here in Austin, despite the fact that I have banished all my white and light-colored cottons in celebration of fall. Good news is that the forecast teases that a week from tomorrow we may plunge into the mid 80’s, so we will plough through one more week, gnashing our teeth each time we are confronted with a pumpkin-spiced anything or instagrams of people wearing sweaters.

You know what else is crazy talk? Soooo  many of the words being spewed at us from the television during this nutso presidential race. Much of it makes my heart hurt and my stomach clench. Don’t worry- not going to use this as a platform for my political views, but I will say that I was pretty sad to see Michelle Obama’s optimistic convention proclamation that “we will take the high road” take a steep dive to the low road in a deplorable basket. Let’s all try to get through the next two and a half months without name-calling, shall we?

I did read about a campaign that made me very happy this week. Dorie Greenspan is a force of nature in the baking world, having published twelve fabulous cookbooks. Her newest, Dorie’s Cookies, is due out next month. I had the pleasure of meeting Dorie in New York City several years ago, and she is just as precious in person as she is in print (and she seems to be in print everywhere I look). Somehow Dorie manages to maintain an active on-line presence, and that is where I came across her campaign for Cookies and Kindness. In a nutshell, Dorie is sharing  cookie recipes from her new book in hopes of encouraging us to bake and then share on-line and in the real world. This month’s recipe was for Two Bite One Chip cookies. They are tiny balls of cookie hiding a chip of your choice. I couldn’t pick just one, and tucked chocolate, peanut butter, and butterscotch chips inside my cookies (but only one in each- they are tiny!).

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How many cookies can you fit in a margarita glass?

I plan to pop these babies in the mail tomorrow and send them to a family that could use a sweet surprise. There is my own bit of optimism for you- it will be an exercise in restraint to avoid eating all of these up before I make it to the post office.

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Go forth into the week with kindness, cookies, and optimism, mes amis. We could all use a good dose of each, I think.

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Filed under baking, Uncategorized

But Does It Keep The Food Cold?

We are renovating a house at the moment, which means I am paying a lot of attention to all the cool new home stuff I see on the internet and in magazines. I have puzzled over this ad for the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator on more than one occasion. Perhaps you have seen it, too.

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At first I thought the fridge had a big glass window in it, but that is soooo yesterday, and looks like this.

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because I keep my fridge, like my closet, arranged by color and expiration date

Upon closer study I realized that the large rectangle on the Samsung door is actually a computer screen, because no one gets enough screen time these days. According to the ad I saw in Bon Appetit magazine,

It has built-in cameras that take a photo every time the doors close, so you always know what you have and what you’re missing.

Oh yes it does! Three cameras, in fact, that snap photos every time the doors close. The idea, I gather, is that when you are at the grocery store you can use your handy-dandy fridge app to study the contents of your fancy new fridge. For instance, the person holding the phone in the ad is saying something like

“Oh snap! I almost forgot I have that entire pink frosted layer cake I made yesterday, so no need to pick up popsicles for dessert!”

My fridge, on the other hand, looks like this on any given day.

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There is no phone smart enough to tell me what’s lying beneath that foil, whether the milk is curdling, if that is a lime or a moldy lemon in the “no longer crisper” drawer, or why in hell there is a jalapeno in the wine bottle holder. Even if I could view the contents of my refrigerator from afar, I would be even more bewildered than by what I see when standing right in front of it. Lids must be opened. Produce must be handled. Foil must be gingerly peeled back at arm’s length. Restaurant boxes must be closely examined for any sign of life. Sometimes all of this needs to be done while donning a Haz-Mat suit. Appliances have clearly evolved beyond my own food-keeping skills. That said, I am pretty impressed that my ancient refrigerator still sports its fancy “Whirlpool Designerstyle” sticker on the door. I have always been into labels.

But wait- there’s more. This refrigerator doesn’t merely take selfies. No, for around $6000 you get A LOT more.

This refrigerator also posts notes and photos!
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What happened to post-it notes? Or tacky magnets from summer vacations? Or good old scotch tape that leaves a permanent track of grey adhesive on the door forever? If those old Kodak photos don’t go on the fridge, what the heck to do we do with them all?

The Samsung Family Hub can also stream music and order groceries for delivery, two functions that can be done on the smart phone, which takes up a lot less room in your kitchen. But when it can actually put those delivered groceries away, let me know.

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Come on, Samsung- where is the wine, the take-out boxes, the crusty mustard jars? If my fridge looked like this, I guess I would want multiple pictures of it on my phone. But until then, I’ll just have to keep guessing what I have and what I’m missing. And why the jalapeno is hanging out with the wine bottle.

Keep chillin’, friends. Someday summer will be over.

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Filed under humor, kitchen, Uncategorized

Still Here!

I know a few of you were wondering if I had permanently departed the blogosphere, but I am still here. I am on a “summer” schedule,  as I attempt to discern the future of this space. I have no shortage of time for pondering, as I seem to be spending a lot of time in my car. We are still living in our lake house, which is  twenty to thirty minutes from everywhere I regularly go (the gym, my new house, the grocery store, my mom’s, my sister’s), so I am becoming way too familiar with my dashboard.

Mark and I did what every Texan would like to do in July- fled to Colorado for two weeks. We had never done an extended road trip without a car full of kids, snacks, and frequent requests for potty breaks. I thought we did really well, although there were only a couple of long driving days because our route was dotted with hospitable friends who generously shared their homes with us.

In observance of the centennial of the National Parks, we stopped at Bandelier National Monument for a gorgeous walk through a dry canyon. We had only a few hours, but were completely wowed by this amazing park just outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico. I don’t know why it took us so long to make it there.

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We walked for over an hour without seeing another person or even a piece of trash, and returned to our car feeling calm and re-energized. Don’t drive by this beautiful place if you find yourself in the vicinity. (Another “don’t miss” is this IMAX  on the National Parks currently in theaters. It will make you feel good about America, which might be a nice change, given the current political climate).

Next stop was Pagosa Springs, where our friends had arranged for us to watch the full moon rise from atop a mountain. Sadly, we were chased down the mountain by an impending storm before the moon ever appeared, but not before we enjoyed a stunning view topped by a dramatic sky, and accompanied by Charles and his Native American flute.

Telluride was just as pretty as we remembered it. The hikes kind of kicked our flatlander butts, but they were worth it for the views. Our friends were polite enough not to ridicule our gasping for breath on the ascents.

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We spent a few days with some friends who have just built a beautiful house in Carbondale, outside of Glenwood Springs. Mark and I were so well-behaved on the river float the first day that they decided to take us on a nine-mile hike near Independence Pass on the next day.

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“Lost Man Trail”? Hmmm. We hoped to finish with both the men we started with.

 

The hike was breathtaking (literally) and we paused for frequent water breaks and photo ops.

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About two miles from the end of the hike I experienced my own Cheryl Strayed moment when I noticed that the sole was half-way off my right boot and flopping like a dying fish.

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I thought we might lose a man on the trail, but not my sole.

Luckily, my resourceful husband thought of shoving a sock onto the toe of my boot, AND he had extra socks in his pack (along with my water bottles, which he was carrying for me because I am a wimp). And that’s how I was able to complete the hike without hurling my boot off a cliff. He is a handy companion to have on the trail of life.

The sock was a bit worse for wear at the end of the hike.

The sock was a bit worse for wear at the end of the hike.

 

It felt like more.

It felt like more.

 

Final stop was Boulder. Wow! We had never been there and I am wondering why not. Boulder is such a cool town! The Farmers Market was amazing.
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We rented bikes and rode along the creek path, where people of all ages and sizes were fishing, throwing pebbles, and enjoying the gorgeous day. You win, Boulder. So cool, and yet so approachable. And there was this!

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Boulder Books was amazing, sitting so pretty right there on Pearl Street, a lively pedestrian area bubbling with activity on a sunny day in July. Of course I showed this wonderful inde bookstore some love, because places like this are gems.

Speaking of books- what are you reading? I am almost finished with this

and oh my gosh it’s so good! I also loved its companion, Life After Life, but you don’t need to have read it to enjoy this fabulous novel set primarily in WW II England. Kate Atkinson kills it with both of these novels. Anyone else read them?

In other news, this wall of flowers at a wedding reception I attended totally blew me away.

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And this wall of knobs brought me great joy. Because who doesn’t love picking out jewelry for the home?

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I’ll take them all please.

That about wraps it up here at sunny Lake Travis, where it is threatened to be 104 degrees tomorrow. I think I will stay inside and finish my book. And maybe daydream of cooler days in Paris.

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Filed under books, Eiffel Tower, travel, Uncategorized