Sunday, November 29, 2015


Our Thanksgiving crowd dwindled throughout the holiday weekend, with one couple not coming at all due to illness, our four kids just being there for the day, and another pair having to leave the day after. By Friday afternoon it was down to just my little bro and his family, who are major foodies. When I mentioned that we were going to stop for an entire week in Barcelona on our way home from Sudan, he may have turned a wee-bit green with envy. When I said I planned to try a different tapas bar every day that we are there, he asked "Have you been to Barlata in Austin?" How sad is it that my baby bro, who lives near Ft. Worth, has been to more great restaurants in Austin than we have?

I decided we needed to remedy that situation post-haste -- do a little tapas test run with someone who knows the ropes, so we'll have a better idea of what and how to order when we get to Barcelona, where there may, or may not, be any English on the menus!

Tapas is not a style of cooking, it's a way of eating -- many small plates meant to be shared by all at the table, along with a glass of wine or a cocktail, as a precursor to dinner, which isn't served until around 10:00 PM. I'd eat this way all the time, if I could, as I've always preferred having a few bites of several different things, instead of a whole bunch of just one thing, such as the ginormous slab of chicken fried steak that is so popular here in Texas.

We opted for Sunday Brunch, which was perfect. We were able to walk right in with no reservation, and the number of items on the menu is limited, so the choices are not so overwhelming!

Gambas Ajillo - shrimp with garlic and adobo. Be sure and ask for some bread to sop up those juices!
Jamon Iberico -- ham made from acorn-fed black pig, melts in your mouth like butter!
Bravas -- fried potatoes with spicy tomatoes and alioli.  Crunchy on the outside, silky inside. We needed two orders of these!
Vanilla Porter Braised Pork Belly - more juices that will require bread for sopping.
There were also plates of Serrano ham on tomato-rubbed toast, a roasted beet salad with goat cheese, a plate of Manchego cheese, and some yummy grilled lamb brochettes with a bit of cucumber salad. The only thing I wasn't super crazy about was this Morcilla sausage with baby white beans. Now I know why.

Turns out it's blood sausage, which has never been right at the top of our list of favorite sausages. Next time I think I'll opt for the grilled chorizo with chimmichurri sauce. 

Now I'm headed back to their website to create my own little food dictionary to carry with me on the trip.

Many-many thanks to brother Will-Bill and family, for yet another fabulous foodie experience!

Friday, November 27, 2015


Reckon he'll get the hint when he wakes...

 that I'm ready for my tree to go up?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


The first members of the Thomas clan should arrive by lunchtime today. From that point until Sunday afternoon it will be a bit of a zoo around here. I may not make it to the computer at all, which is a good thing!

I think we all need to give it a rest every now and then, in order to pay more attention to our loved ones, and all the wonders that surround us.

May you all find much to be grateful for in the days to come!

Monday, November 23, 2015


One of the things I've missed most about the brief span of time when daughter Alexis lived here with me -- when she first moved back from California -- was baking together. I've hardly baked since, it being a really bad idea to have a whole batch of freshly baked anything lying around the house, when there's no one here to eat it but Hubby and I. Much better to occasionally share one piece of something, at a cafe. But, it being the holidays and all, and with my daughter now living just 30 minutes away, I thought maybe it was time to make an exception to that rule. I sent her a message suggesting a baking day but, since she is still dealing with morning sickness off and on, I told her to just let me know one day if she woke up feeling good.

Saturday was that day.

I had everything set up and ready to go by the time she arrived. Or, so I thought. Turns out I missed that bit about one recipe (her favorite) needing paper liners in the miniature muffin pans. After some debate, we realized it wasn't worth taking a chance on doing it without them, so we decided to make a quick trip into Kiss The Cook to pick some up. Hubby loves Kiss The Cook, even though he doesn't cook, so he decided to go along for the ride. Once there, he kept pointing out cool kitchen gadgets to me, and I kept telling him I didn't need any more kitchen gadgets. I didn't have room for any more kitchen gadgets! Finally he pulled out his cute little pouty-face expression (the one I can never resist) and told me I was making him feel grumpy, and that I was putting a damper on his Christmas spirit. I feel kinda bad about that now.

Of course, by the time we finished browsing that shop (and a few more) it was lunch time, and little-mama-to-be was hungry for some pasta, so we headed over to Marco's for the lasagna lunch special. Eventually we made it home, and actually started baking. The first pan didn't turn out so well, even with the fancy paper liners.

Turns out you really shouldn't fill the pans more than half full.

Thankfully, the rest turned out better, but by then we were all pooped and ready for a nap, so decided not to bother with the second recipe. We split up our meager booty and my half went straight into the freezer, to await the arrival of our guests.

Wondering what they taste like frozen...

Friday, November 20, 2015


I just have one thing to say about hand screen printing, and that is, it's a heck of a lot easier if you have a talented instructor standing at your elbow, talking you through it every step of the way! My first big mistake was assuming that this nifty little notebook, which Becky D. included in our kit, was full of step-by-step instructions.

Therefore, there was no need for me to take notes during her demonstrations, right? Wrong!

As it turns out, this notebook is filled with nice blank pages to hold all of your notes. Those notes I did not take.

Secondly, I was always told that mixing blue paint plus red paint gives you purple paint. Right?

Wrong again! It gives you a muck-ugly brown. If Becky D. had been there at my elbow, where she belonged, she might have kept me from going back and forth between "More red?" and "More blue?" until I had wasted so much not-so-cheap paint that I couldn't bear to just throw it out.

Most importantly, she might have warned me that, sometimes, it's really not worth trying to salvage a bad screen. Because, if you end up having to fill in all the missed spots with a paint brush, you're liable to end up with a fuzzy, blurry mess.

Ah well, you know what they say. If at first you don't succeed...

And the bib is kinda cute, dontcha think?

Thursday, November 19, 2015


I just love Christmas. Seriously. And the time leading up to it, with all that thinking and dreaming and planning and decorating and cooking and singing and smelling? Well, that's the best part of all! I know there are lots of other people who don't feel as I do, so I do my best not to shove it down their throats too early, but this year? This year is a problem. You see, we actually leave for Sudan before Christmas, so we've arranged for Santa to come early, on the 12th. I now have less than a week until my Thanksgiving guests begin to arrive. The week after that we meet up with our BFFs to spend a couple of nights on the San Antonio Riverwalk, enjoying all the lights and decorations, and then? That's it. Santa will be here! And I haven't even started listening to carols or wrapping or baking or  anything!  Last week I finally realized that, if I didn't begin soon, I would never have time to get into the proper spirit of things, and Christmas might just slip through the cracks altogether. Well, I couldn't let that happen, now could I? So I began to pull out a little bit here...

and a little bit there.

No Santas or elves or anything that would make my Thanksgiving guests go "AACCKK!!!" when they walk through the door...

just a few festive winter touches.


How did that guy slip in?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


On our last full day at Lucky Star we always have the afternoon off to swim or ride horses or get a massage or whatever, which means all of the classes are just 3 or 4 hours long. So, how were we to learn all we needed to know about the art of Shibori folding and tying, and the mixing and processing of indigo dye baths,  and still have time left to actually make anything? Well, you'd be surprised!

Our class was to be held in the pottery shed that day, behind the gorgeous wall of hand glazed tiles made by past campers. 

Our instructor, Erin Lane (no relation, as far as I know), is a high school art teacher in Austin. That's Erin there on the left below, mixing our indigo dye bath. Somehow I failed to take a single picture of her from the waist up!

As you can see, the rains came down with a vengeance the night before, and the smart campers came prepared with waterproof footwear. (Note to self: add Wellies to Christmas wish list!)

Guess what Erin had waiting for each of us when we walked in?

Inside the little bundles was everything needed to host a similar Indigopalooza with several of my friends here at home!

The interesting thing is that the dye bath is actually green when you first mix it. Once Erin had given us a little tutorial on a few of the many, many Shibori folding and wrapping techniques, we dampened our little packets with water, dropped them into the warm dye bath, snapped on a tight fitting lid to keep the air out, and let them soak for 10 or 15 minutes.

Then we removed the bundles, placed them on a drying rack, and let the "magic" happen -- for it's the exposure to oxygen that causes the dye to turn from green to deep indigo blue.

When you first unwrap the bundles you have this amazing ombre effect going from light green to deep blue. "Stop! I want mine to stay just like this! I don't want it to turn solid blue!" Alas, that wasn't an option.

And then, we ran off to tie up and dye any and every thing white we could get our eager little hands on!

Soooo, having the chance to make much of anything in such a short time? Not a problem! 

I ended up with a new blouse for moi, the Hill Country Hippy (made from an old one, which was starting to yellow), several scarves for my HCH friends...

and the cutest little onsie ever, for my HCH grandchild-to-be!

And now, here's a little something for you, in case you ever want to try this yourself!