Colorado in December

The arrival of February reminded me that I had never written about our December trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Mark, Wonder Chien, and I drove back to our friends’ mountain house so that Mark could help them finish up some construction on their barn/workshop/overflow guest space.

We like to drive to Santa Fe the first day, spend the night, and then drive the last few hours to Pagosa the next day after enjoying the beauty of Santa Fe for a bit.

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Sawyer thought he needed a turquoise and sterling collar.

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We have never stayed at the St. Francis, but I love its front porch.

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and its logo

I was thrilled to be returning to Martha and Leigh’s mountain house, a place that brings me much joy. As in previous stays, I was mesmerized by the changing colors and shadows outside the windows.

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Mark and Leigh worked tirelessly in the barn and got much accomplished. Martha and I, meanwhile, cooked and talked and tried our skills at cross-country skiing. Sawyer had the best time of any of us, totally untethered and free to test out the snow, chase rabbits, and dig for burrowing critters.

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dirty and happy

img_8374This is the barn where the men were working day and night. It was full of manly stuff.

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Martha and I, being delicate flowers, preferred the gentler arts.

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Remember this gorgeous piece that Leigh made for the kitchen?

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Yes that is a zinc counter. Love.

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It was a great week for all of us, and we got home just in time to put the finishing touches on Christmas and wait for the kids to come home. I highly recommend going to the mountains in mid-December. It was much better than stressing about how many more things I could get done for the holiday, and no one seemed to miss anything that did not get done. I need to remember that.

Happy February, mes amis. Let’s share the love, shall we?

 

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Filed under Colorado, 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

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