Category Archives: books

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

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.

looks like a shadow but is my sole

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

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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Filed under Austin, Austin dining, books, cooking, moving, Texas, Uncategorized

Books!

Isn’t this the cutest header (that’s blog-speak for the banner image at the top of the post)? I bet you are wondering where I got it? Right? Are you? Are you??

Once upon a time in the last six months or so I stumbled upon a very funny blog called I Miss You When I Blink. This blog really made me laugh, particularly the riffs  on fashion catalogues. After reading a few posts, I learned that the author, Mary Laura Philpott, was also spearheading a “laid-back literary journal” for Parnassus Books, an independent book store in Nashville that happens to be co-owned by one of my very favorite authors, Ann Patchett. What are the chances? So of course I subscribed to Musings and have recommended it to my literary- minded friends. I encourage you to do the same.

Recently I commented on ML’s blog (fyi- people DO comment on blogs sometimes- usually nice things) and told her how much I loved her books header, and asked if I could use it on my own blog. She immediately responded that it was her own illustration and she offered to make me one of my very own! How nice is that? Don’t you love it when people are nicer than they have to be? I know I do.

The new illustration will have a permanent place on the Books page of this blog, so please pop over and have a look. I am trying to be better about updating the page, and I think this happy little illustration will be just the ticket to my inspiration.

One more thing about Mary Laura Philpott- she has a book of her own coming out soon! Really? Could she be any cooler? Check out http://www.therandompenguins.com for a taste of her book, Penguins With People Problems, which will be coming out in 2015. Hooray for penguins- especially penguins that wear bright red lip gloss and sassy wigs (only sometimes- it’s not an every day thing- because that would just be over-the-top).

So your takeaway from today’s post should be to check out the fabulosity of Mary Laura Philpott. And my Books page. And Ann Patchett. And maybe leave me a comment here every once in a while. Blogging can be a lonely business- even in Paris.

In fact, why don’t you leave me a comment right now, telling me the title of a great book you have read in the last three months? Thanks so much. Our operators are standing by.

 

 

PS- This was a not paid endorsement of Mary Laura Philpott or any of her endeavors. She has not agreed to introduce me to Ms. Patchett or to dedicate her new book to me. But perhaps one of her penguins can go to Paris some time? I bet they can rock a beret.

 

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Filed under books, Uncategorized

Surprise! New York City!!!

I know that in my last post I suggested that we were leaving for Paris on Friday, but that wasn’t entirely the truth. We were actually stopping off in New York City for the weekend but I was under a gag order because we were there to surprise a good friend on his 50th birthday. Surprise!!

I hadn’t spent time in The Big Apple in a while, and I thoroughly enjoyed our three days.

Friday night we had great seats to this fun show.

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Saturday we ate at Greely Square, where a small collection of booths are set up and cooking lots of delectable foods. We had a hard time choosing.

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Sunday we went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. It was amazing. Such a beautiful tribute to the memories of a horrific event and the people who were intimately involved. If you go, we recommend paying for a guided tour. We didn’t do that, and felt like we missed a lot.

Two memorial pools sit in the spots where the Twin Towers stood. The pools are lined with names of people who died in the attacks on the towers and Pentagon, as well as those killed in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

 

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The museum is very large and I didn’t feel comfortable taking photographs. I did capture this moving quote on the wall, surrounded by artists’ renditions of what the sky looked like on that fateful morning.

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Sunday we had brunch the River Cafe in Brooklyn. I’m not sure I had ever been across the Brooklyn Bridge before! So glad we ventured out. The food was delicious and the setting amazing.

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view from our table

view from our table

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I was happy to see the gorgeous public library as we were strolling down 5th Avenue. Can you tell?

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Once inside I saw the sign for this exhibition and was in it like a flash.

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So many of our favorites were featured in this small but delightful exhibit. I was very nearly a puddle on the floor.

Good night to the old lady whispering "hush"

Good night to the old lady whispering “hush”

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Did you know this was the best-selling picture book ever?

an early Mary Poppins doll

an early Mary Poppins doll

We were just remembering sweet Ferdinand the other day….

We were just remembering sweet Ferdinand the other day….

Last stop Monday morning was the Museum of Modern Art. I was happy to find some of my favorite artists hanging around.

 

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We left NYC at 6:00 pm and the flight was noticeably shorter than the one from Houston. I have spent today unpacking, tidying, and walking the streets, fighting off sleep. It’s finally time to go to bed but the U.S. is playing its match against Belgium now, so I am trying to stay awake for the first half.

I am so happy to be back in Paris, where it is cool enough to enjoy the open windows tonight. I had a great walk on the river bank this afternoon. Ice cream was involved. More on that tomorrow!

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Filed under art, books, New York City, Paris, travel, Uncategorized

Leaving So Soon, February?

Whoosh. That’s how fast the month seemed to go by. A blip. A blink. It was a good one, though. We had some cold weather, which is always nice in winter. I spent some time in Austin, which is always nice in any season. I finished The Goldfinch and read all of Good Lord Bird, both satisfyingly hefty reads. I turned “fifty-too fabulous” and celebrated my first-born turning 24 (whaaa?). Yeah, February was short, sweet, and swift.

Some friends and I spent my birthday visiting the amazing Houston Museum of Fine Arts, a place where I really should hang out more often.

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The birthday celebrations continued with a lovely brunch hosted by some dear friends who also happen to be fabulous chefs, a serendipitous combination.

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I enjoyed many leisurely days in Austin with family and friends, and, at times, all on my own.

hello, red bud tree!

hello, red bud tree!

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yes, those docks are still resting on the rocks down there in the big limestone pit that once was Lake Travis

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My first baby, Patrick, turned 24, despite my best efforts to keep him like this:

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Finally, a colorful day in the Houston Heights, which is always a day well-spent.

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shrimp tacos

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So what’s in store for March?  Paris!  Stay tuned.  Same bat channel; same bat time.

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Filed under art, Austin, books, Houston, Paris, Texas

Food, Literature, and Art

Here we are- another cold, wet, grey February day in Paris. Wait- I’m not in Paris- I’m in Houston!  Where has this winter come from, anyway?  Most of my friends are grumbling about the cold that just keeps coming back, but I am content in my little cocoon, cooking and reading and occasionally venturing out with Wonder Chien.  Although walking the dog in the yuck is not fun, it’s probably the only reason I have not stayed in my pajamas on these cold days, so for that I thank him, I guess.  I just wish he would learn to wipe his paws before coming back inside.

Yesterday I felt a hankering for pulled pork, and the aroma of the meat slowly cooking in the oven all afternoon made my townhouse even more cozy. I used this recipe from Food Network but cooked it at 300 for 4 hours rather than in a slow-cooker. It was fabulous.

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For weeks I have been reading Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch.  If you have been living anywhere but under a big rock, you probably have heard about it, or at least seen it on lists of notable books of 2013.  Weighing in at 800 pages, it’s not a book to be undertaken lightly (especially if it’s a hardback like mine).  The title comes from a painting of the same name which figures prominently in the story.  The book is about life and art and how the two influence each other.  I just finished it this afternoon, and was thinking about art, when I read a blog post from a fellow Houston blogger about a new app called Waterlogue.  It converts photos into beautiful watercolors!  What will they think of next?

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Painted in Waterlogue

Isn’t that fun? Yet another way to waste time on a dreary winter day.  Thanks, Carrie, for contributing to my mismanagement of time!

So what have you all been doing to evade the Winter Doldrums?

Painted in Waterlogue

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