Saturday, June 18, 2011


My very favorite shop of all was this one we happened to stumble across in Marseilles.  It took up most of a city block, and reminded me of those old timey hardware stores that Dear Hubby is ever so fond of -- only, instead of hardware, it held anything and everything to do with cookery!

I managed to escape unscathed, only because I was already worried about overweight luggage (Lex, you know I would have brought you a suitcase full of Le Creuset otherwise, right?).  Not so my husband.  He actually managed to pull himself away from the knife cabinets and step outside the door, but didn't make it very far before he turned around and went back in.

He just could not resist the call of this beautiful little corkscrew.

Can't say that I blame him.


One my kiddos would have loved in their younger days
One for my Hubby
And one just for fun
P.S.  Please pardon that big gap in the middle of the page.  Everyday when I come to this blog, it's as if someone has rewritten all the rules.  One day I have to leave space at the top of each photo, but none at the bottom.  The next day the opposite is true.  Today I accidentally forgot to leave any space at all between those two photos, only to end up with that huge gap - and nothing I have tried will get rid of it!  Go figure.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Our pebbled floor is in (Love It!), although they need to come back later to apply something called "stone enhancer."  Not sure what that is, but it will make all the colors in the rocks show up better.

My little shaving toe-hold is halfway done.  He came today and just attached this little metal triangle gizmo and filled it with cement.  When it dries he will come back and cover it with tile.

Glass guy was just here to take measurements.  Nothing is easy.  He said "Tell me what you want."  We said "Two walls and a door."  He said we needed to be a little more specific than that.  Then he pulled out a huge catalog and handed it to us.  Criminy.  At first we got excited about some glass with a texture called "Rain", which channelled the water down rivulets so you didn't end up with all those hard water splotches.  But then I realized that the texture would completely hide all my pretty tiles and pebbles!  "Never mind.  I'll take clear glass and a squeegee."

Drywall/paint guy comes tomorrow to start on this leftover space from where the tub was, so I guess Madame Designer and I need to get our rears in gear, and select a paint color for the walls.  Our contractor built a nice tall open-shelved cabinet that will slide right into that space at the back, and give us lots of good storage space for towels and whatnot.  Last but not least is installing the new flooring in both the bath area and kitchen, possibly to begin on Tuesday.  That means I have to empty out that huge china hutch in my kitchen, and get it scooted into the bedroom, without scratching the wood floors there, hopefully!  They will also have to remove the toilet, and reset it again once they have finished.  Wonder how long that will take?


People keep asking me why I haven't written more about the food we ate on our trip.  They know me.  They know food is the number one reason I've been dreaming about going to Provence for the last twenty or so years!  Well, I have a confession to make.  To tell you the truth, I was a little bit disappointed in a lot of what we ate, on a good portion of our trip.  Especially in Paris, before I figured out what was going on.

You see, I still remember my other two trips there, in my teens and twenties.  I remember my very first bites of Croque Monsieur, fresh croissants, and non-iceberg salads with made-from-scratch dressings.  Pretty much everything I tasted made me moan with pleasure!  This time, very little did.  Eventually though, I had an epiphany.  It wasn't Paris that had changed.  It was me.

That other Becky, the one who went to Paris in the 60s and 70s, was used to eating things like Hamburger Helper, mushy white Wonder Bread, and veggies from a can.  This Becky is not.  The bar has been raised, my friends -- by at least a hundred notches!  This Becky is accustomed to eating eggs straight from her friends' chickens and geese, and cheese from the high-school girl's goats.  In the cooler months, my salad greens come out of my very own garden, and once I discovered how easy it was to whisk up a fresh vinaigrette right in my wooden salad bowl, all my bottled dressings went directly to the trash bin.

Not only has my cooking improved, so have my options for dining out.  I may live in a tiny podunk Texas town, but I have at least a half-dozen good restaurants (probably more) -- restaurants that utilize fresh, local ingredients and change out their menus according to the seasons -- within thirty minutes of my house.  We've also got great new artisanal bakeries popping up everywhere you look.  So yeah, I guess that could have had some influence on my moan threshold, huh?

During our time in Burgundy and Provence, of course, we were eating almost all of our meals on the boat.  I thought the food there was quite good, considering they were serving almost 200 people, all at one sitting, most of whom were American senior citizens -- the kind that complain vociferously about anything that's too spicy or the least bit unusual.

On a scale of 1-5, I'd give them 5 stars for presentation, 5 stars for service, and 3 stars for flavor.  Unfortunately, I don't give a flip for fussiness.  All I care about is deep, rich flavor -- the kind that makes you moan.  I like food that's simply prepared, using the best of ingredients -- the kind of food you are more likely to find in French homes or in a Mom & Pop cafe that's off the beaten track, rather than in a Michelin-starred restaurant, in any area that caters to tourists, or on a large boat.

The things they did best on board, and I wished they had done more of, were the slow-cooked local specialties like Beef Burgundy and Coq au Vin.  These recipes evolved out of frugal homemakers' efforts to use what was at hand, and to tenderize the tougher bits of meat, such as a cantankerous old rooster that needed to be got rid of.  They were full of deep, rich flavor.

In general, the thing the French do best is their sauces.  I looooove their sauces, but not that tiny decorative drizzle that you see on so many plates these days.  That just pisses me off.  If the menu said my meat was going to be served in a certain kind of sauce, it durn well better be more than a decorative drizzle.  I expect to taste it on every single bite!

Oh, and then there's the bread.  They turn out a darn good loaf of bread in France!

Thankfully, our trip ended on quite the high note.  I don't remember who exactly left this comment (might have been my nephew Geoff and his wife Jessica, who are quite the adventurous travelers), but before we left, I mentioned that I was a little bit worried about our stay in Marseilles, for that was the only part of the trip where we would be completely on our own, and we knew absolutely nothing about the place.  Someone left a comment that said "Mark my words!  That will end up being your very favorite part of the whole trip, for you will be going in without any expectations or agenda, and it will force you to go out and explore, get off the beaten track, and make your own discoveries."  How right they were!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I guess it's true.  The best surprises really do come in small packages.  Towards the end of our river cruise we docked at a wee little hill town called Viviers, right at dinner time.  Two enterprising British expats happen to live there, and some years back, they started coming down to greet the occasional riverboat that docked there for the night, and invited its passengers to "Come, take a walk with us."

Those after-dinner strolls were so popular that they became an official part of many itineraries.  What is so special about this town?   Well, unlike most, the oldest part of town, the part up on the hill, has long been protected by a "trust" -- a sort of historical preservation contract -- and thanks to that, it is completely unspoiled.  Our tour guide (with her delightfully dry, British sense of humor) told us that the entire metropolitan area had about 4,000 residents, "but here on the hill we are 53, and 22 of those are nuns!" (one of which, she swore, is such a terrible driver that people run screaming when they catch sight of her little white car)

The sun was just setting as we began our climb up the hill, bathing everything in its rosy glow.  The cobbled streets were narrow and winding, and if it hadn't been for brief glimpses of modern families, caught as we passed a window here and there,  one could easily have forgotten that this was the 21st century.

It was a steep climb, and there were a few in the group who weren't really up to it, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat, just for that view from the top.  By the time we reached the windswept overlook, it was completely dark, and lights twinkled all along the river and streets below us, but up on the hill there was just the faint glow of a few ancient-looking street lamps.  Magnifique!


Oh my word!  I just realized that I never even told you about the amazing thing we did last Thursday!  You know how we enjoy going to those Susanna's Kitchen concerts here in Wimberley, where we get to see people like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Alejandro Escavedo and Slim Ritchie, in a small, intimate setting?  Well, someone once told us, if you like this, you'd loooove the Blue Rock concerts!  Huh?

The Blue Rock sits in Lone Man Creek
Turns out, there's this couple here, Billy and Dodie Crockett, who have an amazing piece of property overlooking Lone Man Creek.  In fact, they built their house on the same spot where there used to be a tower that local folks used as a lookout --  for Indians!  This is no ordinary house, mind you.  It's also a recording studio, Blue Rock Studio, to be precise, complete with guest quarters in which to house any musical groups that might be there working on a project.

This house just happens to have a huuuuuge living room that seats at least 50 people, and parking space for at least 25 cars.  Why?  Because the Crocketts enjoy hosting little soirees -- what's known hereabouts as "house concerts."  Sometimes they invite well known people to perform in their living room.  Other times they showcase up-and-comers, such as Joy Kills Sorrow, the jazzy, bluesy blue grass quintet that we were there to see.

During the break they welcome you to go explore the recording studio, or climb to the top of their tower.

The suggested donation of $30 a person goes directly to the performers, and everything that goes into the kitty for those yummy desserts you see spread out in the kitchen, gets donated to Wimberley's wonderful after school program, Arts from the Heart.

Dodie and Billy get nothing whatsoever out of it -- other than the joy that comes from giving back to one's community, which, in my opinion, makes them Hill Country Heroes!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Especially this building, which was covered on all sides!

Even more fun than the historic notables featured on the upper stories...
is the fact that this town holds a lottery each year, and the winners get to be featured, here on the ground floor, for the next twelve months!


Leaning out over the balcony railing, and biting into my first fresh Hill Country peach of the season, as the juice rolls down my arm and drips off my elbow.  Mmmmmmm!  In fact, I'm pretty sure I started moaning on the way home from the farmers' market, when that peachy fragrance seeped out and filled my car.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I do so love the colors in this glass tile border!

Tomorrow?  The pebbled floor, I hope!


Just got back from Gossip Central, otherwise known as Curves (the place where I work out).  Seems I was waaaay behind on all the juicy news from Wimberley's own Dynamic Duo, Rachel and Matthew of the Leaning Pear.  Exciting things are afoot!

First of all, it looks like M&R are about to join the very hip trailer eatery crowd, over in San Marcos!  Look for a place called "The Hitch", right behind the now defunct Picasso's on RR12/Hwy.80.  Apparently Michelle's family owns the piece of property that Picasso's sits on, and if this trailer thing continues to grow, they may even consider razing the building, to make room for more trailers.  But wait, there's more!

I guess having a toddler, a new baby,  the hottest restaurant in the hill country, and a new food trailer just isn't enough of a challenge for M&R, because it sounds like they are building a brand new, larger building for The Leaning Pear here in Wimberley, there on the same piece of property.  They are also considering converting the cute little historic rock building, which currently houses their cafe, into a fun little market where you can pick up their yummy dishes, and other local goodies, to go.  Whew!  So much energy.  I see an empire in the making!