Tag Archives: Houston

May Days

Hello old friends! One more day and this month is history. This little spot of cyberspace has been static during May, but I, my friends, have been on the move. After a fabulous family wedding here in Houston at the beginning of the month, I made two trips to Austin. One trip was to celebrate the 75th birthday of this lovely lady, my rockin’ mom.

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You know I’m happy to be wearing those genes! Huzzah!

I flew to St. Louis, where my daughter picked me up at the airport and we pointed her loaded car toward home. I am happy to report that the Dairy Queens and Bar- B Q shacks along Texas Highway 59 appear to be thriving.

I did enjoy five leisurely days at home with both my daughters, and it felt like heaven. They joined me at the gym, in the kitchen, at the table, and even at the pool one decadent afternoon.

Speaking of the kitchen, I have enjoyed some culinary triumphs this month. A friend and I made Smitten Kitchen’s Whole Wheat Cinnamon Bread together, and found it to be a good thing indeed. It was so good that my daughters and I made another batch a week later. I sliced up the loaves and froze them with parchment waved between the slices, and we pulled out slices for toast in the mornings and felt pretty happy about it.

I also made tried a new recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Why, you ask? Because browned butter- that’s why! And flakes of sea salt on top! Pret-ty amazing. Thanks, Joy The Baker! My book club thanked you, too. My hips- not so much.

And finally, can we talk about broccoli for a minute? Because I have found a new way to fix it that is so good, I may never microwave another stalk in my life. I think I heard this on the radio show Splendid Table; I’m not really sure. But whatever its provenance, you will love it. Here’s the drill: slice off good- sized florets and then peel the stalks a little bit before cutting them into planks. Toss them in a bowl with some olive oil. Heat oven and sheet pan to 500. (yeah, that part is kind of a drag in the summer…..) Spread broccoli out on hot pan and roast for 5-8 minutes, until the tips are nice and charred. Then pull them out and add salt and pepper, and if you’re feeling fancy, some shards of parmesan cheese or minced ginger. It’s so good that I make a big pan in order to have leftovers, which, by the way, are delicious on pizza or mixed up with brown rice or another healthy grain. Broccoli: it’s what’s for dinner.

After scrutinizing the master calendar, we managed to come up with 4 days that all five of us could get away together this summer. Last Saturday we flew to Isla Mujeres, Mexico for a quick but therapeutic family vacation. Leaving Houston at 7:30 am, we were able to have lunch on the beach by 1:00. Muy bueno.

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While under the beach umbrella I read Elizabeth McCracken’s new collection of short stories, Thunderstruck, which were dark and lonely and wonderful. I also read a new book called Family Life by Akhil Sharma which I highly recommend.

Finally, to end the month, I am off to Virginia tomorrow for my college reunion. I am primed for lots of laughs and cocktails and can’t wait to see my crazy friends again.

June will be enjoyed in Houston and in Austin, and then we are back to Paris! I know there will be a green chair at the Tuileries waiting for me.

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I hope your weekend includes a comfy chair, old friends, family, and something with browned butter.

 

 

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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

There Is No Place LIke Home. Unless It’s The Other Home.

I have been back in Texas for exactly a month now.  It has been great  re-connecting with friends and resuming a (minimal) level of productivity.  It’s nice to wake up and have a purpose for my day, other than simply wandering, slack-jawed, around the most beautiful city on earth.  That said, I am very much looking forward to flying back to Paris this Thursday for a 10-day visit with my sweet husband and the city I have grown to love.    As I have mentioned previously, my ex-pat experience  has been a constant state of embracing one home and missing the other.  I am always happy to be in Paris, while simultaneously missing my first home in Houston.  And when here in Houston, I luxuriate in the comforts of home, while pining for Paris and all of her allure.

After a month in Houston, here is a sampling of what I am loving and what I am missing.

LOVE:

1.  Being close to my family

Having all three kids in my time zone feels like a luxury, and how nice to say goodbye to my family  in Austin without tears!

2. The quiet of my bedroom

A month of not hearing car horns, car alarms, drunks, or crazy people outside my bedroom at all hours of the morning.  Guess what I hear?  BIRDS!  I had almost forgotten about those little creatures!

3. Familiarity

Good Morning America as I make breakfast, NPR in my car, knowing where to go to get anything I might need.  It’s such a relief not to feel like a total  idiot every single day.

4. Friendliness of Strangers

I know many French people think we are shallow and phony because we tend to smile at people we don’t know (and sometimes even people we do), but to me it’s a way of acknowledging that everyone around us is sacred and worthy and struggling.  Is it so hard to smile at  people we may never see again?

5.  Customer service

It’s a beautiful thing.

6.  Regular gym attendance

Yes, I walked much more in Paris, but not at a pace that elevated my heart rate.  Unless I was worried that the boulangerie was about to close, of course.  And yes, I did join a gym in Paris, but for some reason it was much more difficult to get myself there.  Maybe because there were always 999 things that sounded more appealing on any given day?

7. Well- stocked grocery stores open all day every day

You know how I feel about that.

8. No cigarettes

If it weren’t for my next door neighbor, who smokes on our shared front porch, I wouldn’t have inhaled any second-hand smoke in a month.  Ahhhhh.

9. The livin’ is easy

SO much easier, in almost every way.  The daily challenges of Paris can be wearisome.

MISS:

1.  My husband!

2. The eye-popping beauty that is everywhere you look in Paris

Buildings, streets, bridges, the Seine- they’re all so beautiful, and I never get desensitized to it.

3. Hearing French

Yes, while the language contributes to much of my Paris frustration, I never tire of hearing it spoken around me.

4. Walking

Walking, walking, and walking some more.

5. The bread and butter

You knew I would sneak that in somewhere, didn’t you?

6. Sitting at cafes for as long as I want

7. Riding the bus

8. Gorgeous fresh produce grown locally, still wearing the soil it sat in the day before.

9. The stimulation

Everything is a mystery to me in Paris.  What did that guy just say?  What is that thing in the street for? How does she walk in those shoes? What is that green drink everyone seems to be drinking?  Constantly trying to figure out the world around me, and how to make a dinner reservation over the phone, while exhausting, is also very stimulating.  My life in Paris is never dull or ordinary.

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If you want to see anything special from my upcoming trip to Paris, let me know and I will try to get it on here for you.  I suspect that the unusual snow of last week will be gone, but I would be thrilled if I could capture  the magic of Paris in white.  The pictures on Twitter have been amazing.

Last Saturday I happened to hear a radio clip of David Sedaris reading from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.  The segment included his account ( I wish it were fictional but it’s probably true) of being on the Paris metro with four Texans who were discussing (loudly) the relative merits of Paris and Houston.  I found the segment in an archive of This American Life (which I also miss when I am in Paris, even though it’s available on the computer, because I never think to listen to it there).  Here it is:

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It was July, and Hugh and I were taking the Paris Metro from our neighborhood to a store where we hoped to buy a good deal of burlap. During the summer months, a great number of American vacationers can be found riding the Metro, and their voices tend to carry. It’s something I hadn’t noticed until leaving home, but we are a loud people.

On the first of our two trains, I listened to a quartet of college-age Texans who sat beneath a sign instructing passengers to surrender their seats and stand, should the foyer of the train become too crowded. The foyer of the train quickly became too crowded. And, while the others stood to make more room, the young Texans remained seated and raised their voices in order to continue their debate, the topic being which is the better city, Houston or Paris?

[LAUGHTER]

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It was a hot afternoon, and the subject of air conditioning came into play. Houston had it, Paris did not. Houston also had ice cubes, tacos, plenty of free parking, and something called a Sonic burger. Things were not looking good for Paris, which lost valuable points every time the train stopped to accept more passengers.

The crowds packed in, surrounding the seated Texans and reducing them to four disembodied voices. From the far corner of the car, one of them shouted that they were tired and dirty and ready to catch the next plane home. The voice was weary and hopeless, and I identified completely. It was the same way I’d felt on my last visit to Houston.

I don’ t know if David Sedaris still lives in Paris, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t live in Houston.  He clearly has never had a Sonic burger.

Au revoir, mes amis!  Next stop- Paris!

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My First Week Back In Texas

Mosquitoes.  98 degrees in the shade.  Wonderchien, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Paris anymore.

But guess what? I’m not complaining.  I’m so glad to be home, in the land of Everyone Understands Me and Endless Grocery Aisles, that I welcome the pesky insects and the blazing heat.  This is the honeymoon, you see, before I start missing the city I just left.  I am learning this about the Ex-Pat experience.  If I am not missing Houston or Paris, it must be because I just left one and arrived in the other.

So what have I been doing since my arrival a week ago?  A lot of staying home, or close to home.  I have been nesting in my Houston townhouse- cleaning, organizing, provisioning, and breaking in my new stove.  (And on that note, whoever came up with the idea that ceramic would make a good cooktop surface clearly did not do a lot of cooking.  But I digress.)  The best part of being home is that I have had all three of my kids around my table for a few meals, and even had their help in preparing one or two.  The space feels a little small at times, but my heart is full when my kitchen is full of my offspring.  And then they quickly fly out the door, leaving me with all the dishes.  Huh?

I think I have been pretty clear here that I  sorely missed fresh jalapeno while I was in Paris.  I have been making up for it this week.

Is there a limit on how many of these I can buy at one time?

I have been cozying up with several new cookbooks that I didn’t have or wasn’t able to use in Paris, and I intentionally chose recipes featuring jalapeno.

First I made Homesick Texan’s Pico de Gallo and then put it on everything except my morning oatmeal.  Just the smell of it in my kitchen made me happy to be home.  I also picked up some fresh corn on the cob (no corn in Paris!) and cut off the kernels and sautéed them in butter, salt, and minced jalapeno.  Sooooo good sprinkled on my chef salad!  Or on anything, right?

I made a polenta crusted quiche from Cowgirl Chef’s new cookbook (Cowgirl Chef- Texas Cooking with a French Accent), which included chorizo and canned green chilis.  That tasted like home, too.

This morning I tried Homesick Texan’s Kolaches, but replaced the fruit filling with Lil Smokies, American cheese, and minced jalapeno, as my friend Martha suggested.  They were pretty darned good for a beginner!

Of course, all this cooking has required several trips to my favorite grocery store, which still sends me into an altered state of euphoria when I cross the threshold into the vast space of way too cold but infinite possibilities.  I’m not sure how long that will last, but I’m enjoying it while it does.  I have also reintroduced myself to my gym, which sends me into a completely different kind of altered state.  Two days ago my right tricep was so sore I could hardly lift my hand to my face, which made both eating and oral hygiene a challenge.  Fortunately that has passed, and I was able to heft not one but two of the afore-pictured kolaches to my mouth this morning.  I guess that means it’s time to go back to the gym.  Sigh.  It’s a vicious cycle.

I have enjoyed running into many friends and acquaintances on my trips in and out of the grocery store and the gym.  Some give me a quizzical look that says “Wow- I haven’t seen you in a long time.  Where have you been?”  Others, who know me a little better, say “I thought you were in Paris now!”.  And finally there are those precious souls who actually read my little blog and so are not surprised to see me and just welcome me home.  I do love those people!  Thanks, y’all.  It’s so good to be home.

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