Friday, August 29, 2014

Cinco Cosas aka Five Things Friday

As the seasons change and we are ushered into another fall season, the time is ripe to make some changes in my own life, starting with this little blog. So, yes, I know I'm copying 1 million other blogs by doing a Five Things Friday theme, but honestly, I don't know why I didn't do it sooner. I'm not sure who started this whole Five Things Friday, (my money is on Cupcakes and Cashmere), but I love the idea. Now, my friends do it, or versions of it, and many other blogs that I follow have adopted this brief summation of their week.

I want to follow their lead not because I want to be like those other bloggers (although, #letsbereal I kinda do), but because noticing five things throughout the week that give me joy is something I should do more of. It shouldn't even be limited to five! I'm hoping this weekly project will remind me to slow down and appreciate the little things that make me smile. So, without further ado, the first edition of my Five Things Friday:

A quiet Monday morning on a porch swing in the country with my journal and a cup of coffee.

Incredible hummus recipe in my aunt's awesome handwriting. We made some. It was divine.

Finding a kitty cat in the most unlikely of places.

Best birthday present from my brother. It reminded me of an incredible trip to Israel and a happy time with my family.

Cleaning my desk off for the first time in about a year. It's so nice to have a designated place to work/not work!


SO glad this isn't happening in Texas.

Have a wonderful long weekend!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A San Antonio Wedding and a Visit to the Country

The bride walked down the aisle with her father, and I had forgotten a kleenex. Weddings are always emotional for me and, well, for a lot of people. Something bubbles up when I am surrounded by love and the promise of commitment, and the emotion escapes through my eyes. I felt better when I realized I wasn't the only person in my row with tears in my eyes.

I drove to San Antonio Thursday to attend the wedding of a good friend from DC. I hadn't been to SA in at least five years, and even longer than that since I'd been to the River Walk, which is where most of the weekend's festivities took place. What a lovely area of town! Despite temps in the 90s, it was nice to lounge by the pool at the Omni La Masion, meander down the river, and enjoy time with good friends.

Beth and me at the Bridal Luncheon. Trying to beat the heat with our fans!

The bride was sweet to let me get ready with them on Saturday even though I wasn't a bridesmaid, and I loved having some extra special time with my DC ladies, whom I see so rarely these days. *sad face*

The wedding was at the San Fernando Cathedral. It was a beautiful, well-lit church near the river and provided the perfect backdrop for Olivia and Josh to say their vows. Between the ceremony and the reception (a time referred to as the Catholic Gap since Catholic weddings are usually so early in the day), we guests took a bus tour of downtown San Antonio. The bride and groom graciously provided the buses with beer while we toured. So we sipped the cold beverages and I gave a debatably-terrible recreation of the Battle of the Alamo to two non-Texan friends.

I can create the story for you, for a small fee.

Eventually we arrived at the McNay Museum for the reception. Y'all, this reception was amazing. The food was incredible, the toasts were sweet and thoughtful, and the band was spot-on. Olivia has been talking about their wedding band, Blind Date, for months, so my expectations were pretty high. This Austin-based band exceeded them all, and I danced the night away to incredible music in the air.

Awesome couple!

Miss these ladies! 
And my former roomie!!


The next day, I got up and made a necessary run to Whataburger with my buddy Beth. Because #texas.

I decided to spend Sunday night a few miles outside Bandera, TX at my Aunt Jenn's house. I hadn't been to their house in forever, so I took advantage of being so close to spend time with her, my uncle, and their three great kids. We went to dinner at a Bandera staple, the OST Restaurant, and then Jenn and I chatted underneath the stars for hours until bedtime. The next morning, in true country-living fashion, we baked buttermilk pies.

They have roughly 30 chickens and get at least 10 eggs a day! 

Beautiful morning in the Hill Country.

Dogs on the porch.

Homemade crust is the way to go!

Beautiful...and delicious

I drove the few hours back to Abilene yesterday afternoon listening to an audio tape I bought on the way down. Spending time with friends and family is about all I could ask for out of a weekend, and this one ranks pretty high on my list of favorites. Driving north on Highway 83, I watched a Texas sunset alter the landscape to my left and change the sky from bright blue to pink and orange. I'm pretty sure I smiled the whole way home.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Monday, August 18, 2014

An Extended Stay in Northern California

The San Francisco airport is cold as I wait for my plane to board. I am reflecting on my week in Marin County and the town directly to the south of it, aka San Fran. It is a beautiful city, and incredibly pleasant when comparing it to the sauna that is West Texas in August. The fog rolls in frequently in this area, and is almost as beautiful as the sun that burns through it every afternoon to reveal a bright blue sky.

It was a whirlwind two weeks. Last week, my parents and I spent time in Carmel, one of my favorite places in the world. We drank coffee, played golf, sipped wine, and built fires on the beach. I loved having some quality time with them after a month away, and cherished our little cottage and the quiet mornings we spent together. The only unquiet times were when Dad and I played golf, which was fun and frustrating. Pretty normal for golf, actually.

Last weekend, I drove the 2 1/2 hours to San Francisco. The first few days there I had a lot of alone time, which I'm usually pretty fine with, but I definitely started to feel lonely toward the middle of the week. I went to the Muir Woods and walked between the huge redwoods, wrote in my journal while lounging by the Palace of Fine Arts, and rode on the back of a friend's Vespa through town and up to Coit Tower to take in the incredible views of the bay.

I loved getting to see some Paris friends and meeting new ones. Some incredible writers and publishing gurus at the conference inspired me. Not to mention Book Passage is where I want to retire. In the actual store. I would just live in there.

The only sad part of the trip was when Robin Williams died. He was a fixture in San Francisco, so it was odd that he died during my first trip here.

I return to Abilene today, and am excited for my birthday tomorrow (26!) and a wedding in San Antonio this weekend (hey Olivia!). The gate person is saying it's time to board, so for now, I'll grab a coffee and say goodbye to cloudy and cool California.

Hello, my pretty.

At a winery in Carmel Valley, they sold these, and I loved it.

A little Monterey action.

This will probably be the title of my memoir.

Doc's place from Steinbeck's Cannery Row.

With the madre.

Yes, I did take a dreaded selfie.

Jack Kerouac alley.

Andrew McCarthy and Tim Cahill. What inspiring writers! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Simple Guide to Paris, Part 2

There are few places in the world to find a better meal than Paris. Waiters and retail workers have a reputation of being a little snooty to Americans, but I've found that if you try to be polite, in French first, they will likely switch to English as soon as possible and be very helpful. A simple "Bonjour" when entering a store or a restaurant will do wonders.

Now that you've got that down, here are some of my favorite places for eating, drinking and shopping. As I said in Part 1, I spent most of my time in the Saint Michel-Latin Quarter-Luxembourg area, so naturally, my favorite places are in that area. But every area has its own charming restaurants, shops and bars. Other favorite areas: Le Marais, Bastille, and Monmartre.

Food and Drink

Not counting the fancy, reservation-required restaurants, choosing a place to eat in Paris is done on more of a "stumble upon" basis. Unless you are unlucky, most cafes have amazing food and you won't go wrong sitting at any cafe along the streets of Paris. 

That being said, here are a few places that I loved:

Le Jardin d’en Face – In Monmartre. Tiny restaurant but delicious food. It’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Ever.

Brasserie Lipp and/or Les Deux Magots – Boulevard Saint Germain. These two restaurants are almost right across the street from each other. They were both famous Hemingway haunts. Because of that, they run on the slightly more expensive side. I’d recommend Deux Magots; the atmosphere is not quite as stuffy as Lipp.

Laduree – On the Champs Elysses. Famous for their macaroons and tea.

The Best Falafel in the World – in the Marais, Rue de Rosiers. That is literally the name of the place.
L'As Du Falafel is also on that street and is incredible. The lines for both of these are usually pretty long, so I'd suggest going early.

Restaurants on Rue de la Huchette – Saint Michel metro stop. Il Gigolo Italian is great for pizza/pasta. The gyro place to the right of it (they put the French fries in the sandwich) was my favorite.

Crepes – Street vendors are all over the place, especially in touristy areas like Saint Michel and Jardin de Tuileries.

Le Loir Dans La Theieri -- Brunch place in the Marais on Rue de Rosiers. It's an adorable little tea restaurant with incredible fried eggs, coffee and fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice.

The Pink Flamingo -- Near Canal St. Martin. You order your pizza, they hand you a pink balloon, then they will find you with your order out by the canal. It's a cool experience in a beautiful area of Paris where few tourists go. And the pizza is incredible. I recommend the Paella Pizza!

Good for big groups, too!


Rue de Rivoli – From Rue Saint Jacques, walk north across the river and the Isle de la Cite until you get to Rue de Rivoli, which is where all the H&M-type places are located. You can follow it all the way down to the Louvre and Champs Elysses.

Boulvard St. Honore/Champs Elysses – Higher end places but fun to go to.

Shakespeare & Co. – The famous English bookstore and another Hemingway place. I would get lost downstairs among all the famous titles, and then take my journal upstairs to sit by the window facing Notre Dame and write. If you buy something, make sure you ask for the official Shakespeare & Co. stamp to mark your book!

Boulevard St. Germain -- Lots of fun shops on this street, some unknown, some well known like Zara and LOFT.

Rue Mouffetard – Cobblestone street with cute shops, and places to buy cheese and wine. Place de la Contrascarpe is a great plaza with restaurants flanking its fountain.

Nighttime Activities
Similar to the Food section, bars work on a “stumble-upon” basis. That’s the best way to do it, in my opinion. Nighttime is also the best time for picnics that I discussed in Part 1.

Wide Open Spaces -- on Rue St. Jacques, an English bar with great original cocktails and a fun atmosphere.

Piano Bar -- on Rue de la Huchette. Drinks are kind of expensive, but the live music always makes it worth it.

Requin Chagrin – Irish bar in the Place Contrascarpe off Rue Mouffetard. It has a great little outdoor area where I've spent hours people watching (a typical Parisian pastime).

CafĂ© Universel – Jazz Club on Rue Saint Jacques. The mojitos are fantastic, and they have jazz every few nights. They're also open for lunch and made a great cafe au lait.


Paris has been written about so much, that often times it's difficult to find anything new to say. I would encourage anyone who is going to Paris for the first time to not get stressed out if you don't see every single tourist attraction on the list. If an American's pace is "go-go-go," a Parisian's is "enjoy-enjoy-enjoy." The Mona Lisa will always be there, but the kind waiter willing to help you with your French will not, nor will that gorgeous sunset sinking over the Seine on a summer night. So enjoy, and discover the Parisian in you.