Friday, November 8, 2013


On our second day in Austin, we started with a leisurely breakfast at our lovely hotel, then we put on our walking shoes and hit the roads. First stop was the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum.

It's a wonderful facility with amazing displays covering every facet of Texas history, but the very best thing it has going for it are the generous people who volunteer their time to answer any question you might have about their particular passion.

By the time we'd finished up there, it was time for lunch!

Next we headed off to shop "The Drag" (aka Guadalupe St.). When we were in school there, art supplies were in one corner of the textbook section down in the basement of the university book store, or Co-Op. Now they have a separate shop all to themselves, and boy, did I have some fun there! On our way back to the hotel, we cut through the campus, and stopped in at my old dorm. Hubby and I met working in the cafeteria there.

Don't tell my kids, but Hubby and I used to do some serious smooching hidden behind the columns on that very porch!

After a rest up at the hotel, we headed downtown for Hubby's next surprise -- dinner at Swift's Attic!

Swift's is a relatively new spot in Austin which specializes in Modern American small plates -- my favorite way to eat! I much prefer getting to try a little bit of several different things, to eating a whole bunch of just one thing. The name comes from their location, upstairs in an historic building that was the 1905 home of Swift's Premium Food Co. Like many restaurants in Austin these days, it favors communal seating.

We started with a small dish of Salt & Pepper Shrimp, followed by a Brussels Sprouts dish with edamame and watermelon radish wafers and who knows what else. Then we were halfway through a savory bowl of gnocci with goat ragu when we both paused and said "Wait. I don't remember ordering this, do you?" Turns out it was meant for the people next to us! They were really sweet about it though, since the waiter got a replacement out to them post haste, and we ended up having a nice conversation. Hubby's favorite dish was the Southern Fried Chicken served over a coconut cream sauce with spicy chile sambal.

My fave was the dessert we shared, which they called "Popcorn and a Movie." It actually consisted of some buttered popcorn gelato, house-made candy bar, caramel corn, and a root beer foam -- a fabulous combo for anyone like me who loves salty and sweet!

We worked off our dinner by walking all over downtown, then up one side of 6th street, and back down the other...

only to end up right back where we started. This time, however, instead of going upstairs to Swift's Attic, we headed downstairs, to the Elephant Room, to enjoy a bit of jazz.

This morning we capped off our little get-away by taking a different route back to The Drag, to have bagels for breakfast. On the way we discovered some promising B&Bs, for our next Austin get-away...

 and even got to stop off and say hi to Bevo!

When all was said and done we both agreed that, though we miss the sleepy college town of our youth, Austin still has a lot to love!

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Well, we're off on another one of Hubby's Big Adventures. Not too far from home, just to Austin, but he did all the planning himself, from booking the hotel to making dinner reservations -- and he's keeping it all a surprise this time!

We are staying here, at Hotel Ella. Pretty cool place, and just a couple of blocks from campus. They have a very strange statue out front.

The original old house is the main building, with restaurant and bar downstairs, and a ballroom upstairs for weddings and events. Love the wrap-around veranda.

The rooms and pool area are back behind the big house.

Dinner last night was here:

Lenoir is a French restaurant that I'd read about in Edible Austin a long time ago, stuck the name under a magnet on my refrigerator door, then promptly forgot about. I love, love, loved the atmosphere -- especially sitting up at the communal bar and chatting with the people around us. The food, though, wasn't quite what I was expecting. In fact, I'm not even sure you could call it French. I think they probably use French techniques, but they like to play fast and loose with the ingredients.

This freshly made naan with a green tomato chutney was delish.

This was a sweet potato-stuffed pasta with crumbled amaretti and little marshmallow meringues, which was kind of sweet for a main course, but I adored the crunchy kale with browned butter sauce that came with it.

John loved his goat schwarma served on a mint marigold crepe.

This Napoleon I had for dessert had a ricotta and roquefort filling, which wasn't sweet at all. Maybe I should have had it as my main course and the sweet pasta for dessert! Anyhoo, I loved it that they had a prix fixe menu that was based on local ingredients and changed weekly, but I probably wouldn't go there unless you are an adventurous eater.

Afterwards we came back to the hotel bar for a beer/hot tea and some people watching, then headed back to our room and found one of these on each nightstand.

Don't you just love a hotel that leaves goodies on your nightstand?


Greetings from Austin, Texas! Hubby and I are here for a romantic two-night getaway before I head off for nursing duty, and for the first time ever, I have a laptop with me! Now all I have to do is learn how to use it. Our hotel is just a block or two from the UT campus, and we're about to head off for a day of wandering around the campus, finally visiting the Bob Bullock museum, and maybe checking out the art supplies at the University Co-Op. When we come back for our afternoon rest, I'll try downloading some pictures and see if I can manage a real blog post. TTFN!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Remember this old tree that sits next to our low water crossing? My favorite tree in the world? I talked about it here. I spoke of how much I wish I could communicate with it -- to see what it has seen over the years -- and about how it normally drapes its limbs over a beautiful stream, but how, during our two year drought, the family who owned the property at the time made the most of the situation by turning the dry creek bed into an outdoor living room.

I have loved it in all seasons and all conditions -- flood, drought, and everything in between -- and have taken countless pictures of it over the last nine or ten years. In all that time, though, it never once occurred to me that I would end up taking pictures like these.

Apparently this last flood was the straw that broke the camels back. My heart breaks a little, every time I drive past.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Years ago, when we were living down in Kingsville, Texas (home of the infamous King Ranch) our next door neighbor was an air traffic controller at the naval air station there. He and his wife, Big Red -- about a foot taller than either one of us, with unnaturally red hair -- had met in Germany when he was stationed there. One fall she had us over for dinner, and prepared something called rouladen, which she served with knodel -- a round potato dumpling. Ever since then, as soon as the weather turns cool and I start seeing ads for all the Oktoberfest celebrations here in the Hill Country, I get the urge to eat it again. Lucky for me, not only did she share the recipe with me, it's actually very, very easy to make!

ROULADEN (8 servings)

3 1/2 lbs. steak, cube or flank, sliced thin
lemon pepper
garlic salt
dill pickle spears
beef bouillon granules 
3 T. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet

Pound steaks to 1/4" thickness. Spread with mustard on one side and sprinkle with seasonings (don't skimp on the seasonings, or your gravy will be bland. I added a good bit of ground pepper as well). Cut meat into serving sized pieces. Place a thin spear of pickle on each piece, roll up and secure with toothpicks or kitchen twine.

Place in a large skillet. Add water to cover and about a tablespoon of beef bouillon granules. Bring to boil, skimming off any foam, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 1-2 hours.

Transfer meat to a warm platter and remove picks, then cover with foil to keep warm. Skim fat from broth if you wish. Blend cornstarch with 4 T. cold water and stir into broth. Cook and stir until thick. Stir in Kitchen Bouquet until blended and pour gravy over the rouladen. Serve extra sauce to go on knodel or spaetzle.

Now, I'm sure you can find a recipe for making knodel from scratch, but if these mixes are good enough for my German friend Big Red, they are good enough for me.

The good news is that I just happened to have one of each in my pantry when I suddenly got the urge to make rouladen. The bad news is that they were both more than a year out of date!

Fortunately, it was still pretty darn yummy, even with ordinary egg noodles. Now do yourself a favor. Go have a belated Oktoberfest celebration with your friends or family!

Monday, November 4, 2013


Lisa Seger, one of my instructors at Lucky Star art camp, made us all take a vow before we left her veggie-growing class. She made us all promise to go plant some radish seeds as soon as we got home. She said they were one of the easiest things in the world to grow, and we would have something to harvest in about 3 1/2 weeks -- some positive reinforcement to make us feel like successful gardeners.

I meant to do it, really I did! But somehow it just slipped my mind..until she posted a picture this week of her hand filled with these beautiful French Breakfast radishes -- radishes which she planted from seed right before leaving for camp. It was a gentle reminder that we too could be harvesting our own food this week, if only we had kept our vow.

Well I rushed right out and bought a packet of seeds. It says I can continue to plant them until 30 days before the first frost. That could be at the end of November, or it might not be until January. You just never know around here. Anyhoo, I think it's worth the risk, so I'm planting a few today. If they don't make it, well, I'll plant some more in February! A farmer must be intrepid, right?