Category Archives: Texas

We Are Here

Bonjour mes amis! I know we are all happy that spring has arrived, although some places are looking springier than others. Austin is almost completely leafed-out, and the bluebonnets arrived early and are already packing up again. Spring always seems too short here- like if you take a long nap you just might wake up to summer, which always seems WAY too long. All the more reason to make the most of each day.

That reminds me of Amy Krouse Rosenthal, beloved writer and mom who died a few weeks ago at 51. If you somehow missed her beautiful essay in the New York Times, read it here, but grab a Kleenex first. After reading it, I wanted more Amy so I looked her up and listened to this Story Corp recording of a conversation she had with her teenaged daughter shortly after the recurrence of her cancer. If you didn’t use your Kleenex while reading her essay, you will definitely use it while listening.  Amy’s mantra, even before she had any idea she would be dying at 51, was this:

Make The Most Of Your Time Here

Her daughter mentions in the recording that Amy had engrained that command in her for a long time. These words have been bouncing around in my head ever since I heard Amy say them. Even though I do feel like I make a conscious effort to ensure my days are meaningful and intentional, this phrase gets to me because of the last word: HERE. It’s a not- so- subtle reminder that we have a return ticket waiting for us, and none of us knows when we will have to use it. So while “make the most of your time” is good and familiar advice, Amy’s addition of “here” adds urgency that we might otherwise choose to ignore. It’s particularly poignant that Amy, who lived each day with those words, ran out of time here so quickly. When I am tempted to go back to sleep, or to keep scrolling or clicking, I hear Amy reminding me that I am lucky enough to have life here today, and to get on with it. Thanks for that, Amy.

That life I am lucky enough to be living has been full of new places lately. Mark and I spent a weekend in Mexico City at the beginning of the month. My favorite spot was the Frida Khalo house, “Casa Azul”. I had just watched “Frida” on Netflix, making the tour much more meaningful.

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Our small hotel in the historic district was a converted villa, with wonderful architectural quirks.

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Fortunately the windows were sound- proofed, because there are a lotta people on those streets. That is one crowded city.

Last week we drove an hour to San Antonio for two nights at a fabulous hotel in an old beer brewery. I hope to do an entire post on the Hotel Emma, because it was so photogenic I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Here is a teaser of the lobby.

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Finally, we loaded up our old SUV with camping gear and drove an hour and a half to Colorado Bend State Park for a night. It was primitive and peaceful, and the stars were superb.

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When we haven’t been gallivanting, we have been slowly settling into our new house. Window treatments and furniture will arrive some day, but in the meantime its more comfortable than the tent and less comfortable than the Hotel Emma. Here is a sneak peek at my study. I am seriously in love.

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May your days here continue to be full of what makes you happy, and I hope to be back in this space with you soon.

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Filed under Austin, Texas, travel, Uncategorized

January’s Nature Break

The weekend’s  words and images of  “us” and “them”, who can and cannot come into our country, left me feeling adrift and ashamed. Monday morning, sunny and cool, was the perfect time to escape the noise and quiet my mind. I drove two hours, to a peacefully remote state park, Colorado Bend. It was the perfect antidote.

People who go to Colorado Bend State Park would do well to arrive with everything they need, because civilization is at least a half hour away. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There is this little gem at the entrance to the park.

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However, there was no live bait or ice cream to be found when I passed by, as the place was locked up tight.

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A veritable wealth of treasures- all out of reach.

The park HQ is eight miles beyond the entrance gate, down a windy park road lined with cactus and cedar trees. Many trails are marked along the road, most with parking pads at the trail heads. I chose one of the most popular trails that led to Gorman Falls.

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Early in the hike I came across this bench that said,”When You Drink From The Springs, Consider The Source”. Someone had left a perfect walking stick on the seat, and I used it the rest of the way. I thought about the kindness of strangers, who having walked the rocky trail and returned, offered a helping crutch to those who would follow. It was a nice reminder of our humanity.

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Most of the hike was gentle, but the last bit was steep descent to the falls.

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Good job with the plastic coated lines, Park Dept. I definitely used them. Those rocks are slicker than they appear.

The reward for the trek was a family of gorgeous falls, surrounded by bright green moss and mysterious rock formations.

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I ate my peanut butter sandwich to the sound of water drops tumbling down the cliffs. It was divine.

Enjoy the day, my friends. And remember these words-

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Filed under Austin, Texas, Uncategorized

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

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

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

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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Filed under Texas, travel, Uncategorized

Heading West

We meet again, mes amis! Life has been moving at warp speed as we attempt to resettle in Texas, closing out our Houston home and moving (oh so gradually) into our Austin lake house. I took a time- out from the fun and games of relocating and drove to Colorado and back with a friend. We both are married to men who, though princes of guys, happen to focus more on the destination of a road trip than on the journey. We were justifiably giddy at the prospect of taking our time, exploring back roads and small towns, and looking for cafes along the way. And that is just what we did. If it said “antiques” or “homemade” or “scenic,” we jumped on it, with little concern for how far down the road we had gotten that day. We listened to two audio books (When Breath Becomes Air and Forty Rooms), pausing frequently for discussions in our Book Club Of Two. We listened to several podcast episodes from All The Books and The New York Times Book Review. We discussed our last meal and fantasized about what and when our next meal might be. It was slow. It was full of surprises. It was heavenly. I want to do it again.

If you have ever driven across Texas, you know that it can be a glimpse into eternity. You can’t rush these things. You just keep driving, and at some point the landscape changes, offering a taste of bigger things to come.

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I think that may be a hill on the horizon!

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Yes! Hills!

Neither of us had ever heard of Fort Lancaster, but who were we to pass up a good fort?

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We learned that the fort was established in 1855 to protect military supplies, commercial shipments, and immigrants (what- no wall?) moving along the San Antonio-El Paso Road. The ruins of 29 buildings still stand on this plot of desolate but beautiful land. A chilly wind was blowing as we walked among the ruins, and we imagined how cold those soldiers must have been in the winters, and how hot in the summers. This is not a landscape for sissies.

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Our next stop was Marathon, a tiny west Texas town best-known for its proximity to Big Bend National Park and for its historic Gage Hotel.

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Built in 1927, the Gage was a luxury hotel designed to accommodate the throngs of oil men who were expected to descend upon the town when the oil boom hit. Unfortunately, the oil boom never happened in Marathon, and the hotel eventually fell into neglect until rescued in 1978 and restored to its current state of loveliness.

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Marathon is also home to The Famous Burro Bar.

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And this cool sign.

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That’s as far west as your wagon goes today, but stay tuned for more adventures (and more cactus) as we continue our trip into the wide open spaces of West Texas and beyond.

 

 

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Filed under Texas, travel, Uncategorized