Category Archives: Texas

May: Done and Done

I guess there are some people for whom the month of May is not over-scheduled, over-blown, and over-rated, but I haven’t met them yet. If you have school-aged kids you are barraged with “end of year” everything, including class parties, recitals, sports tournaments/team parties, class plays, band concerts, and my personal least favorite, field days. These events are multiplied by the number of spawn you have produced, causing you to have new sympathy for the Chinese “one child” policy.  If you are a bit farther down the road of life, you find yourself going to endless weddings of your friends’ children, and if you happen to have a weekend off the wedding circuit you are attending or hosting a shower. I recently spoke to a friend who hosted more showers than I took this spring. Well, almost. In sum, the month of May usually seems more like a test of endurance than anything else. Y’all feel me?

This May I was not in either of the aforementioned groups of May victims, but the month was still too crazed for comfort. I welcomed one daughter home from Madrid and four days later drove her to Saint Louis for the summer. We celebrated my mother’s birthday, showered a precious soon-to-be bride, feted a newly-graduated medical student, enjoyed a glorious Mother’s Day, and cheered my other daughter as she departed Austin for Anchorage on her bike (ouch).

Sprinkled in among the parties and champagne was some Real Life drudgery, including a circle of Passport Hell, a flooded but not totaled car, a leaky ceiling that is still raining pieces of sheetrock (and sometimes water) on the floor, and some lab results which by all rights should come from an obese person who sits on the couch all day with cigarettes and fried chicken but in fact belong to me. What the hell?

This month we also shouted loud cries of praise and thanks for the replenishment of Lake Travis, transforming our Fake House back into a Lake House. Our jubilation was tempered by the knowledge that those same torrential rains wrought devastation and loss of life just a few miles away. It is a sad fact that lately our lake fills up only as a result of meteorological events causing concurrent destruction in other places.

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Having finally found an emergency exit from Passport Hell, we are scheduled to return to Paris tomorrow. My new passport is conclusive evidence of the truth of Erma Bombeck’s observation that anyone who looks like her passport photo is too sick to travel. As much as I have enjoyed the May festivities, I do look forward to the relaxed pace of my Paris life. Stay tuned for more episodes.

It may be clean and friendly but the gas pump was slow as Oklahoma.

It may be clean and friendly but the gas pump was slow as Oklahoma.

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Filed under Austin, Lake Travis, May Madness, passport hell, Texas

November??

Whoa November- what are you doing here so soon? I was just getting comfortable with October and now she’s gone? What the heck? Can’t we all just slow down a little bit? Because the next thing you know it’s going to be time for turkey and cranberries and then the next blink is ornaments and gift wrap and shopping lists and I’m just not ready for all that. Like at all.

I got home from Paris at the beginning of October, and have spent much of that month in the kitchen, reveling in the ease of shopping and cooking in my motherland. I made this gorgeous carrot soup from Orangette (yes I know it’s made with coconut milk and you will just have to trust me here), this hearty dark bread from David Lebovitz (which Wonder Chien stole off the counter, leaving a pile of incriminating sunflower seeds on the floor), this tasty vegetable soup with freekeh (cuz I’m a very freekeh girl…..), and the first five recipes from the “Cookies, Brownies & Bars” chapter of Joy The Baker’s new cookbook, Homemade Decadence (because a girl can’t live on soup and bread alone).

We have hit the road or skies every weekend but one since we got back. Last weekend we flew to St. Louis to see our daughter run her first half-marathon. An added bonus was a taste of fall, which we don’t get here in Texas.

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Washington University in St. Louis is beautiful any time of the year, but particularly during fall.

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The best part of the weekend was the surprise appearances of our other two kids, who flew in from Texas. Our daughter was shocked- in a good way.

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The race wound through Forest Park, a beautiful park just across the street from the school.

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The only thing more difficult than getting us all there for the weekend was getting a decent picture of all of us. Apparently the girl we snagged to snap our photo thought it was important to get the parking stripes in the background.

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I am so loving being home. But don’t worry. I have lots more Paris for you. Tune in again tomorrow!

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Filed under cooking, family, Sawyer, Texas, Uncategorized

Happy Campers

While we were in Paris this last time, Mark had some old family pictures popping up on the computer screen in our kitchen. The screen is as big as a small television and too old to do much more than display our family photographs. As pictures danced across the screen, I was reminded of how frequently we camped when the kids were little. We camped in hot and cold weather. We camped with portacribs and potty chairs. We camped with Dad’s signature breakfast burritos and “sugar-powdered do-nuts”, a special camping treat. So many pictures showed uncombed hair and dirty faces stuffed with molten marshmallows. And those were just Mark and me. Those days seem so recent and yet so long ago.

Mark and I have often wondered if we would still enjoy camping now that our kids have left the tent, and last weekend we discovered that the answer is a resounding yes.

Texas has a fabulous collection of state parks, and these have always been our chosen camping venues. Our favorite is Garner State Park, located in the Hill Country of south Texas. The jewel of this park is undoubtedly the glittering Rio Frio, which cuts through stunning limestone cliffs and cools swimmers and “toobers” with its clear, spring-fed waters. The Frio is but one of the victims of the dastardly drought that has plagued our state for much too long, but we found a few places where we could still submerge ourselves in the water we so fondly remembered from the days when it flowed much faster and wider.

Our camping buddies were good friends and their dog, who happens to be the mother of our dog, Sawyer. My friend Martha and I headed out early on Thursday in a Griswald-worthy Suburban, teeming with camping gear, coolers, and two happy golden retrievers. We drove four hours to a tidy little rental cabin located just outside the park, where we spent the night before lining up at Park HQ the next morning.

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The river in front of the cabin was pretty low, but the dogs found enough water to get wet.

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That night we saw shooting stars AND fire flies. As my kids know, that’s all it took to make my weekend a complete success. I could have gone home happy if we had stopped there. But we didn’t.

Friday morning we selected the Best Campsite Ever and then set up the compound before exploring more of the countryside.

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The Frio is lined with enormous old cypress trees. I love them dearly.

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One of the little towns close to the park is called Utopia. We have long laughed at this little sign, proudly announcing the town and admonishing the inhabitants.

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“Welcome to Utopia- A Paradise- Lets Keep It Nice”

Somehow I don’t think the creator of that slogan went on to bigger things. But hey- my words aren’t memorialized on a road sign. Yet.

The men- folk arrived Friday night, happy to find their tents properly staked to the ground and their women and dogs in good spirits. We lay on a blanket and admired the amazing night sky, which was bright with stars and a smear of the Milky Way, something I had not seen in a very long time. The night’s sleep was not that great, however, interrupted by Sawyer throwing up in our tent, a layer of humidity descending on the campsite and turning our sleeping bags into sticky envelopes of steam, and little Molly in the campsite across from us, who decided she was done with camping with Dad and absolutely, not kidding, really needed her mommy. We couldn’t make out what Dad was saying to her, but he didn’t sound very happy, either. He clearly did not know about the magical powers of sugar powdered donuts.

Saturday was a gorgeous day of swimming, picnicking, splashing, napping, and reading cookbooks in our camp chairs. In other words, it was perfect.

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water doesn’t get much nicer than this

Sunday morning, after devouring our breakfast burritos, we decamped and headed to Austin in order to deposit the abundance of camping gear at our lake house. Things looked pretty nice there, too.

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We were totally psyched to find that camping was still fun, even without babies or kids or potty chairs. Of course, there was still some vomit to clean up, so it still had that tinge of familiarity.

this year's Christmas card

this year’s Christmas card

Let’s keep it nice, y’all.

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Filed under Austin, family, Sawyer, Texas, travel

Last Call From Texas

The clock is ticking down on my Texas time and if Air France is on its game this time tomorrow, I will be watching Texas disappear beneath me as I make my way back to Paris. As is my habit, I am feeling a tad conflicted- wistful about leaving family, friends, and dog, but excited to be rekindling my love affair with Paris and sharing it with the multitudes of visitors we will be receiving in the next few months. And I’m stressed. Of course.

I wasn’t stressed last weekend when I paid my goodbye visit to Central Texas. I spent some good time with my mom and my sister, and then drove out to our lake house that is not a lake house, to button it up tight and hug my neighbors’ necks. The welcome rains of late have resulted in lush green grasses and abundant flowers along the roadsides and in my garden. Even the cacti are blooming. It all makes me ridiculously happy.

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This old abandoned building sits on the road just before we get to our house. I have always loved it and imagined what I would do with it. Pies? Cold beer and peanuts? Picnic lunches to take out on the boat? Palm readings? The possibilities are endless. I am open to suggestions.

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A few short years ago our lake neighborhood lost an angel of a man to brain cancer.  Brent could build or fix anything. He was an amazing guy. Fortunately, one of the legacies he left us was this gorgeous vegetable garden he built for his wife. He gathered the stone from his property and made a pretty little wall around the beds, which are loaded with rich soil and watered by an ingenious irrigation system he installed. Another neighbor sowed seeds and small plants earlier this spring, and now the garden is abundant with tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, onions, peppers, and herbs. The bounty is shared by the neighborhood, one final gift from Brent.

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I love this old tractor that sits quietly in Brent’s yard.

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Goodbye, Ricky and Lucy, our next door chickens.

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Can I tell you how happy I would be if this dry cove in our backyard were filled with water when I come back? Pleeeeaaaaasssseeee!

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From the lake house I drove an hour away to a little German town called New Braunfels. My book club spent the weekend together at the house of one of our members.  We had such a good time eating, drinking, shopping, and yes, even sneaking in a little talk about books. New Braunfels is full of precious old homes that I was dying to go explore. I had to settle for pictures of the exteriors.

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After dinner we were lured into an open-air bar by the great live music drifting out into the street. Amazingly, we were not the oldest people in the place- always a good thing.

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While shopping the next morning I spied this “vintage” purse, which is just like the kind my friends and I carried in college. Isn’t it weird when possessions from your past are labeled “vintage”? Weird and just so wrong.

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On my way home Sunday morning I couldn’t pass up this restaurant, which has been feeding lunch to church-goers in Schulenburg for many months of Sundays. I gave in to the lunch plate of fried chicken, which was tastier than the mushy green beans and bland boiled potatoes that accompanied  it. I’m pretty sure it will be awhile before I see fried chicken on a menu again.

 

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I always look for the “Eating Out Is Fun” sticker on the door!

 

Thanks for hanging out with me here in Texas for a while. Keep your berets and cigarettes handy because we will be back in Paris before you know it!

Until then…

Go Team USA!

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Filed under Austin, gardens, Texas, 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

Giving Thanks

Bonjour mes amis, and Happy Thanksgiving!  Although there are many days that I miss Paris, Thanksgiving is not one of them.  Having spent my last two turkey days there (where my daughter did not have the day off school, there was no football on TV, and turkey, cranberries, pecans, and canned pumpkin were scarce commodities),  I am beyond thrilled to be in Texas for Thanksgiving this year.  We have even had a well-timed cold snap, lending the season an authenticity that is so often lacking in these parts.  I had forgotten how  much I enjoy the plethora of radio and newspaper stories about pie crust, lump-less gravy, and the never-ending variations of dressing and squash recipes.  Food, food, glorious food!  For a few short weeks I am surrounded by talk of food and how to prepare it, serve it, and eat it.  It has been heavenly.

My two daughters came home from college yesterday, completing our family of five and filling our little townhouse to capacity.  I think Sawyer the Wonder Chien is as happy as I am to have them all home.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the abundance in my life.  For family and friends, of course; for the joy I receive from good books; for my love of preparing food and feeding it to my family.  And, of course, for the amazing opportunity  to write a blog about my experiences in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Thank you all for reading it, and for celebrating my good fortune with me.  Sharing it with you all makes it even more amazing.

For Paris

For Paris

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For Texas

For Texas

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For food

For food

For my precious kids

For my precious kids

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And most of all, for my husband, who heightens my joys, softens my sorrows, and makes my life more abundant each day.

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I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving, wherever you may be celebrating it.

P.S.- Technical difficulties are preventing me from updating my “On Top Of My Nightstand”.  I am reading a great book called Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

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Filed under family, Paris, Texas, Uncategorized

Bonjour from Aspen and other stuff

I spent last week in Aspen with my sister and her three precious girls, which is a pretty hard- to- beat combination.  It was a little bit cooler there than here in Houston.  And it smelled a lot better.  Especially when we were eating these amazing truffle fries.

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Wow.  Those were so good.  And so were the orange mojitos, now that I think of it.

Aspen is quite the microcosm of indulgence.  I saw more Louis Vuitton bags walking down the sidewalk than I do on the Champs Elysees.  Jewelry stores and art galleries were abundant.  And the people were all thin and super-fit.  I think the town of Aspen must check the BMI of all prospective property owners to ensure that they fall into the acceptable range of NO body fat.  Some of the fat seemed to have been pushed up into women’s lips, but that was the only place I saw it.

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Summer flowers are always a treat for me, as nothing much blooms in these parts after mid-May.  That’s an exaggeration, but we certainly don’t have displays like these.

The Ralph Lauren store was in full bloom, too.

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Of course we rode the gondola to the top of a mountain and admired the views.

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Spending time with my sister and niece-lets was the best part.

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I came home in time for a gorgeous sail on Galveston Bay with some great friends who actually kept all three of our kids one week so that Mark and I could go on vacation.  And my youngest was potty training at the time.  She is 18 today.  Whoa.  But I digress.  The sunset was spectacular.

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So that’s what I have been doing lately.  And tomorrow I get to hop on a plane to Paris for 10 days.  Yippee!  Stay tuned for more Paris, mes amis!  I am so hoping to see the end of the Tour de France Sunday night, so if I can capture any of it on my camera, you will see it here!

Off to pack and celebrate a birthday.

Y’all come back now!

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Filed under family, flowers, Texas, travel, Uncategorized