Saturday, August 13, 2011


Our farmers here in central Texas, and therefore the farmers' markets, are suffering.  I heard today that the one in Buda had decided to shut down until the weather improves.  Luckily, one of my new favorites - the 150 Market that I mentioned not long ago -- is still hanging in there.

This particular market is actually held on the premises of an old farmstead that looks like it may have been around since before any of us were born.   We have loved it since the first time we saw it, long  before they started holding a market there, just for the beauty of the quaint farmhouse and all the rustic outbuildings that surround it.  The photo above is one John took there a long, long time ago, which he then photoshopped to make it look like a charcoal drawing.

We arrived at the market a few minutes early today, and found one fellow in the garden picking eggplants, which he then carried straight over to a table in the market shed.  Now that's what you call fresh produce!  Chickens and cows were just a few feet away.  That eggplant, some peppers, maybe some okra, are about all you're gonna find in the way of fresh produce, with the weather we've been having, and we're lucky they had that much.  A lot of farmers have just given up trying.

Fortunately, they carry lots of other good stuff besides produce.  There was fresh bread from one local baker, and pies from another, some salsas, and some potted plants.  One lady was there letting us sample honey from her hives in two different locations.  Turns out it really does make a difference, what plants the bees have been buzzing around!  I bought a jar from her S. Texas hives, where they've got a lot of mesquite mixed in with the wildflowers.  The real treasures though, are in the little shed they fondly refer to as "The Store."

They pack an awful lot of goodness into that tiny little space!  Today I grabbed me some more of that cow's milk feta, some greek yogurt, and a bag of baby bella mushrooms.

When we first saw this homestead, I had all kinds of romantic notions about what it would be like to live on such a quaint place, and how fun it would be to walk right out your door for fresh veggies, eggs and milk.  Now I know better.  It's a damn hard job, and I'm ever so grateful to the dedicated people who are willing to tough it out, for lazy doofuses like us.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I have never been much of a drinker.  I'd take a diet coke with a twist of lime over alcohol any ol' day of the week, and if I really wanted to splurge, I'd have a real Dr. Pepper!  There was a time when my siblings and I drank several sodas per day (though I would never let my kids do that), but when I realized how bad they were for me, I weaned myself down to one a day in the summer, practically none in winter, when I drink hot tea instead.  I especially try to avoid them in the evenings, because of the caffeine and acid reflux.  I've been trying to develop a taste for red wine, since one glass a day is actually supposed to be good for you, but I'm still at the "barely tolerates" stage.  So what's a girl to drink, when the occasion just really calls for an aperitif?  Well, how about a Kir?

A Kir is a cocktail made with 1/5 Creme de Cassis, a blackcurrant liquer,  and 4/5 white wine.  If you make it with Champagne, it is called a Kir Royale.  We went to a wine tasting in Dijon while on vacation, and it ended with a sip of Cassis.  I thought it was quite yummy, and would be delicious drizzled over vanilla ice cream, so we brought a bottle home with us.

When we reached Marseilles, and had some time to kill before a dinner reservation one evening, we stopped at a little sidewalk bar with tables looking out over the harbor.  I didn't want to appear the gauche American by ordering yet another Coke, so I decided to try a Kir, and I liked it.  Know what else I liked?  The little tray of snacks they brought out, free of charge!  I especially loved their version of salted nuts, which had large crystals of sea salt on them.  I've been searching for some to buy ever since, but to no avail.  This week, however, when I was working on my recipe notebook, I stumbled across something I had torn out of a magazine ages ago, but never tried.  According to the article, "You'll reach for this recipe again and again for its stunning simplicity and for how well it works with any aperitif." I plan to give it a whirl, just as soon as I find me some hazelnuts, and if it's a good 'un, next time you're at my house for aperitifs?  You can expect to be served something like this:

Cuz know what I really, really liked most of all?  In France, they actually believe that an aperitif course should just whet your appetite, not totally kill it!  So they don't go in for the hard liquor and heavy dips that are so popular around these parts, and which leave people not even wanting the beautiful meal you worked your butt off to prepare!

Roasted Hazelnuts with Thyme
(makes about 2 cups)

2 cups hazelnuts (10 oz.)
2 T. fresh thyme leaves
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt such as Maldon or fleur de sel to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F., with rack in middle.  Roast nuts in one layer in a shallow baking pan until nuts have a toasted aroma and skins are very dark, about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand 30 minutes, then, if desired, rub in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins.  Heat nuts with thyme in oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, shaking skillet, just until hot.  Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt.  Nuts can be roasted and skinned 1 day ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


See these cute kitchen accessories?  This is what I saw in just about every home decor shop I stepped foot in in Paris and Provence - same rustic weave, same ivory or taupe background, same navy or dark red stripes, same style ceramic casseroles and gratins.  Only guess what?  I didn't take this picture in France.  I took it yesterday -- at Tar-jay!  Think you might want some some of those cute towels for your own kitchen?  Well, before you rush over to Target, you might want to check this out...

I found these jewels at Ikea, thanks to a tip over on My French Corner.

I just love how soft and lightweight they are.  Perfect for polishing, shining and dusting!

Know how much these babies cost me?  A whopping 89 cents a piece!  Tres bien, non?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Not long ago I read a post on one of my new Frenchie blogs.  She was talking about the way French people shop for food, and the beautiful market baskets, or panniers, that they carry, which hold just enough for one or two day's worth of food; about their tiny kitchens and refrigerators, and their well-stocked pantries; and about cooking from ingredients rather than recipes.  As usual, I let out a heavy sigh and thought, "If only I could shop that way!"  For the first time ever though, after a moment's pause, I found myself thinking "Oh wait!  I guess that is the way I shop now!"

I did go to a big supermarket in a nearby city yesterday, but now it's a monthly thing, rather than weekly, and I was in and out in less than 30 minutes, instead of the two hours it used to take (more if I had tired, whiney kids with me, who wanted every horrible, unhealthy thing they saw!)  Here's how my typical week goes now:

Every other weekend I go online to see what The Bountiful Sprout has to offer that cycle.  I order a selection of whatever veggies happen to be in season, a bit of grass-fed meat or poultry, some eggs and cheese, and possibly something from one of our baker/producers, like the yummy peanut butter protein bars, or something I can divide up and freeze, such as spelt tortillas, rosemary focaccia bread, or maybe even a few of those little chewy almond cookies, which go so well with a cup of hot tea.  The following Wednesday afternoon I stop by TBS to pick up my basket of loot.  On the alternate Wednesdays, I stop by our local farmers' market instead.  Both are held from 3-6, which makes it easy for customers to stop by after picking the kids up from school, or on their way home from work.  Have you ever noticed the lack of whiney kids at farmers' markets?  Instead they seem to be having a grand ol' time!
Once home, I make note of what I bought in my seasonal-eating notebook, and jot down anything in the pantry or fridge that needs to be used up soon.  Let's say I had picked up some fresh green beans,  cherry tomatoes, and a chicken, and already had some carrots in the fridge, and fingerling potatoes in the pantry.  What would I do?  Well, I'd flip through my notebook to the section where I list all my favorite things to do with each vegetable, and look for a couple of items that combine these particular ingredients.  Maybe I'd decide to make a simple roast chicken with carrots and potatoes one night, and then use the leftover chicken and potatoes, along with the green beans and tomatoes, to make a lovely Provencal salad the next.  This week I broke down and ordered that eggplant you see, since there wasn't a lot to choose from, and was just wondering how I was going to sneak it past my hubby, when he announced that he had to go to Houston.  Maybe he saw it in the fridge.  Or maybe it was that pate' I picked up in San Antonio that ran him off.  Not sure, but whatever the reason, it's gonna be a foods-John-hates week of feasting!  I've even defrosted a few of those chicken livers that have been in the freezer forever.

Since I always have plenty of pasta, canned and dried beans, and frozen leftovers or pizza crusts in my larder, I can usually pull at least one more meal together without having to go to the store, especially if I can pull something fresh out of my garden to go with it.  This week I grabbed an onion, some garlic and a can of diced tomatoes out of the pantry, simmered them up with that eggplant until most of the juice had evaporated, poured it into a baking dish and topped it with some cheese I had in the fridge, to produce a lovely gratin.

By the time I've used up Wednesday's booty, it's usually the weekend, which means we will probably go out to eat one night, and can go to a fun Saturday market in one of several surrounding towns to get more good grub.  There is a grocery store right next the place where I exercise and take Zumba classes several times per week, so I can always stop in there if I'm running low on milk or toilet paper, and anything they don't carry (or charge waaaaay to much for -- such as John's favorite cereal, which he eats almost every day -- $5 for a tiny box there, but only $3.50 or less at HEB!) get's picked up on my monthly trip to the supermarket.  I just love it that, not only are my shopping trips quick and hassle-free now, I have also eliminated the ordeal of making out seven day's worth of menues and lengthy grocery lists each week.  Now that's what I call livin' the good life!

Main Course
Know what might make it even better?  Trading in this mish-mash of totebags I carry around in the back of my car, for just one of those oh-so-chic panniers!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Well, those two tea cozies are still sitting on the coffee table, unfinished, but we do have some very snazzy new knobs and handles for the kitchen and bathroom.  They're not all installed, but at least, we have 'em!

I am so in love with the way these retro-glass drawer pulls look in the kitchen.  Could there be anything cuter?  Why yes, there could!  Check out these "melon" knobs and pulls in the new bath area.

Trying to use these drawer pulls on doors was a bit problematic.  Because of their width and shape, and the narrow vertical space they had to fit in, John couldn't use the exact same holes as the original pulls, so there will have to be some creative putty-work before it's over with.  But aren't they just the bomb?  It must be the ridges.  I seem to have a thing for ridges.


Monday, August 8, 2011


One last meet-up in the hotel courtyard before checking out.
On Saturday we checked out of our hotel and drove over to the area of the old Pearl Brewery.  When my daughter and I made a trip out there a year or so ago, the place had seemed pretty dead, but not so this time!  Guess we just chose the wrong day of the week.  On Saturdays, that place is a-hoppin'!
There were chocolate croissants to be tasted, and some dang good Cajun music to put a little pep in our step...

demonstrations to watch, and food purchases to be made...

a couple of neat shops to explore, including a cookery shop with a Mexican flair, and a great little bookshop that was hosting story time to a SRO crowd...
and of course, there was lunch to be had!  We opted for Mexican street food at La Gloria's this time, but there was also an Italian place I've heard good things about, which opens at 8:30 for those early morning shoppers in need of cappuccinos and sustenance, and a place called Sam's Burger Joint that definitely needs to be checked out.

Once we'd had our fill, we piled back into our cars and headed to a little town about 20 minutes south of there, to see the new home that the Sanfords son and his wife just bought, and where their first grandchild is expected before the end of the month.  My one wish for them, and for my own children, is that they too will someday have friends such as these, who manage to stay connected to them, no matter where, or how often, they might roam!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Wimberley's not the only town that has more than one side to it.  You may see several different faces on San Antonio as well.  It all depends on your point of view.  For instance, when you mosey along the famed Riverwalk, you are surrounded by hordes of tourists, and all the businesses you pass are the hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops that cater to these tourists.

If, however, at one of the many bridges which span the river, you were to climb up to the street level and walk along the sidewalks on the other side of these very same buildings, you would see something altogether different.  You would see local people running errands, waiting for busses, going to work -- just going about their daily lives, pretty much oblivious to the throngs down below.  You would find that many of those buildings house altogether different businesses on their upper levels, and you might even stumble across a bit of history.  We happened across that unusual cage-thingy in a garage-like space next to a Marriot hotel.  When I paused to snap a picture of it, a nearby workman asked me if I knew what it was.  Since I had seen something similar in Europe, I guessed "elevtor."  He said I was right, but that it was a very special elevator.  That Marriot hotel used to be a convent, and this particular elevator carried the nuns down to its basement, where they would walk through a tunnel that ran underneath the street and took them to the church on the other side.  I'm so glad he told us that story, for it made me look at the whole block through new eyes.

There is yet another side to most cities -- one you aren't likely to see unless you are a very early riser like me.  Since most of my travel-companions tend to sleep way later than me when they are on vacation, and since there is nothing worse than having to sit still in a dark room for two or three hours if you are wide awake, it has become my habit to go out in search of a cup of tea or hot chocolate (depending on the season), and then to wander the streets while they are totally deserted, except for the odd jogger or two.

Without all that hustle and bustle around you, it's not so critical to watch where you are going, and when your eyes are allowed to wander, there's no telling what you will see!  Take, for instance, those grey bumpy things sticking out from the wall above, at the Mexican cafe where we lunched the day before.  Did you realize what they were?  Molcajetes!  They decorated the wall with hundreds of the giant Mexican mortars, for grinding corn and herbs and such, but I bet most people never even notice.

Most amazing are the things you will discover when you allow your eyes to drift upwards -- something we almost never do when there are lots of people around.

I had never noticed how many gorgeous old movie houses San Antonio has.  They remind me so much of the ones my parents used to take us to, in downtown Dallas.  Thank goodness they have been preserved rather than torn down!

I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to live up there above the old Texas theatre -- to be able to step out of my living area onto one of these exquisite balconies!

Slowing down enough to see the same old stuff through brand new eyes?  This makes me so very happy!

What about you?  What did you do this week, to slow down and enjoy a few of the simple pleasures life has to offer?
Slow + Simple = Happy!


We met our friends Paula and Tim in San Antonio on Friday, to celebrate Paula's upcoming birthday (one of those landmark birthdays - the kind that ends in an "O"!).  Since we were only staying one night, we decided to splurge and stay somewhere nice, right on the riverwalk -- a place we had never stayed before called Hotel Valencia.  We had lunch at a little cafe right next door, and loved how cool and shady it was on their terrace overlooking the river, even though it had reached about 1,000 degrees up on the street level.

After lunch we started strolling down the riverwalk.  It was very pleasant at first, but as the afternoon wore on, we passed more and more tourists drinking things like this...

and this...

(what's with the upside down beer bottles?), which made us kinda thirsty, so the guys made us stop here...

at the Esquire -- one of the oldest bars in Texas. Or was it the longest bar in Texas?  Don't remember.  All I know is, it was deliciously cool inside, and the bartender was willing to fix me a diet coke with two lime slices in it, which made me a happy camper!

By the time we made it all the way down the river...

to La Villita, it had climbed to 2,000 degrees out, and our energy was seriously flaggin', so we decided to take one of these cute little trollies back to our hotel.

That's us, sitting on the trolley, with no driver!  Soon as we got on, he got off, and just left us sittin' there, with no explanation.  Luckily, he came back about 5 minutes later.  We asked him to tell us when we got to the stop closest to our hotel.  He gave us kind of a funny look, and said something about it being just around the corner.  Ha, I don't think so!  Sure enough though, he drove around one corner, and said "Here ya go!"  Could the river really have looped around and brought us right back where we started?  Maybe so.  So we got off, and he drove away.  Only when we looked around, we realized we were nowhere near our hotel, and we'd just paid that sucker four and a half bucks to drive us half a block!  When we realized the trolley was still at the next light, Tim took off running.  Luckily, the driver had realized his mistake, and was waiting for us.  "Oops, my bad!  I was thinking of another hotel."  Yeah, well, he's just lucky one of us didn't have a heart attack trying to chase him down, what  with it being 3,000 degrees out!

After a nice shower and a nap, we felt rejuvenated enough to head out for an early dinner at Boudro's: A Texas Bistro on the Riverwalk.  We are ever so grateful to the fellow blogger who recommended it to us.  We all had lovely meals, and Dear Hubby even went to far as to say his steak was the best he'd ever eaten (and he's had quite a few!).

The piece de resistance, though, came after dinner.  We hopped into a cab and headed down Commerce St. to the little Cameo Theatre on the other side of the freeway, where we had tickets to see a show called High Hair and JalapenosExcept for that one little part where it looked like they might be planning to drag me up on stage and give me a mile-high beehive hair-do (that's what you get when you sit on the first row), I'd say the whole evening was just a hoot 'n a holler!