Monday, December 21, 2015


A bit of a miracle it was, too! I thought I had them crammed to the brim already, when I got a desperate call from Mr. Austin, begging us to squeeze in a few more things for him. If I can ditch my fancy toiletries satchel and scatter that stuff in little pockets here and there, and stuff my special pillow in the outside compartment, I just might pull it off -- and just in the nick of time, for today is the day! Miss Areej left for Sudan last Monday, and has spent the rest of the week being pampered, smoked and beautified. We'll meet Austin at the airport after lunch, but won't actually arrive in Khartoum until Wednesday morning at the crack of dawn. One helluva journey, no?

Meanwhile, guess what Santa and my kiddoes gave me for Christmas? Why, more color-madness, of course!

Santa managed to find me a couple more Happy Blouses, each more beautiful than the last!

Austin and Areej gave me a block printing kit to go along with my new screen printing obsession, and a certificate for supplies, while Lex and Nate hit the jackpot with these three awesome books!

By the time we get back from this epic adventure, I think I will be more than ready for a few blustery winter days -- the kind that give you an excellent excuse to stay home in your jammies all day and play with all this wonderful artsy stuff.

Merry Christmas Ever-Buddy!  See ya on the flip-side!

Friday, December 18, 2015


The best gift I gave to anyone this year was this t-shirt, designed and printed by friend Becky Dawson of One Lane Road -- the same Becky Dawson who taught the hand screen printing class which I loved so much at art camp this year! I went to her website looking for the print depicting our Lucky Star camp adventures, but found this instead.

Now, if you've been reading this blog for long, you surely know that most every adventure we embark upon is instigated by my hubby -- ergo his nickname, Adventure Boy. So how could I resist?

Just in time for our biggest adventure ever!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Visas, plane tickets, passports, shot records, travel insurance, travel journal?


First Aid Kit?


Malaria pills and antibiotics (in case the infamous traveling trots should strike)?


Permethrin to make our clothing mosquito-proof, and DEET to make our skin mosquito-proof?


The fewest pieces of modest, skin-covering clothing (mostly black) that can be combined to give me the most different outfits, suitable for both the heat of Khartoum and the chill of Barcelona?

Check! (although I'm still working on the color-mad accessories that will make all that black somewhat tolerable)

Sparkly, fragrant gift bags for our hostesses?


Yee-Haw Texan gifts for our hosts?


Something special for the mother and father of the bride? Perhaps a little family history album that lets them know a bit about Austin's family roots, and shares pictures of him growing up?


Sooooooooo, what am I forgetting???!!!

Monday, December 14, 2015


Christmas is over and done for Hubby and I, I'm sad to say. We celebrated with the kiddos over at Lexi's house this weekend.

Hubby is the type who doesn't stop shopping when he has enough. He stops when he runs out of time. So maybe it was a good thing we celebrated two weeks early this year. As it was, we had to take two cars to transport it all!

Do you ever have Christmas Crackers at your holiday table? The tubes where each person grabs an end and yanks, and out tumbles a goofy paper hat, a joke, and a small toy? Well, Lexi found some special ones this year, where each one held a little wind-up reindeer toy. Plus, there was a race track in the box as well!

What a disaster. Not one of them made it across the finish line! However, the hats are rather fetching, don't you think?

Check out hubby's new t-shirt! I got one that says "What happens at Nana's, stays at Nana's!"
Especially when worn with the Lucha Libre wrestling masks we brought back from Mexico for the boys.

My hubby's family wasn't really into stockings -- especially not for grownups. However, once I introduced him to the Thomas way of doing things, that first year in Indonesia, well, he took that ball and ran with it! Since then, the stockings have always been our favorite part of the celebration.

I just love my boys in their new beanies. If only we could convince Papa John to wear one.

These two, I swear. Not only do they look alike here, they also have the same profession (computer security), and now work at the same company! Hard to believe they aren't blood relations.

Anyhoo, though I am kinda sad that Christmas zoomed by so quickly for us this year, I am extremely grateful to have the rest of this week free and clear to finish getting ready for The Epic Sudanese Adventure. Can you believe it? One week from today we'll be boarding our plane for parts unknown. SQUEEEEE!

Oh yeah, one other thing was kind of unusual, but awesome, about our Christmas celebration this year -- getting up when it was all over, and just walking away from a living room full of gift wrapping detritus, and a kitchen filled with heaps of leftover food. I felt pretty guilty about that, but I'm sure I'll get over it in time.

Many thanks to Lex, Nate, Izzy and Little Goober, for treating us to such a wonderful celebration.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Picking up where we left off yesterday, this is something I probably should have mentioned first...

9) Don't even think about spending just one night here. Two is the minimum, and just allows you to lightly skim over the downtown riverwalk area. San Antonio is a huge place full of great museums, a fabulous zoo and botanical gardens, as well as too many wonderful restaurants to count, such as La Fogata, up on Vance Jackson. Don't cheat yourself!

Sunrise on Houston St.
10) If you are an early riser like me, you will probably need someplace to hang out until the rest of your traveling companions decide to haul themselves out of bed. Last time we stayed here, I found a great little bagel shop a short walk down from our hotel, and was devastated to discover that it is no longer in business (darn you carbophobes!). However, thanks to a super-friendly doorman, I found something even better, just around the corner on St. Mary St., with the best breakfast tacos around!

Welcome to Blanco Cafe. I knew I was gonna love it, as soon as I peeked through their windows!

And it's not just a breakfast place either. According to those banners hanging above the counter, they've won awards for their enchiladas four or five years in a row. Must go back and try those sometime!

11) Spend a morning shopping around the Market Square/El Mercado area. Yeah, the merchandise is mostly cheesy stuff geared towards tourists, but it's still a wonderful, color-mad place to have some fun.

12)When you've had all the color-mad, cheesy fun you can take, head over to Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia ...

and have the best cup of Mexican hot chocolate ever.

Seriously! I probably shouldn't say this, and I hope Paula will forgive me, but it's actually kinda lucky that her son Chase, a teacher/coach, caught strep from one of his students and passed it on to her. If not, she wouldn't have gone in for meds and told her PA about needing to get well in time for a trip to San Antonio, and then the PA wouldn't have told her about going downtown with her friends every year in high school, to see the lights and drink Mexican hot chocolate at Mi Tierra! So thank you Chase, we owe ya!

13) Follow that with an afternoon of real shopping. If you have a thing for art supplies, you might want to go here.  If you have a think for hats, you'll definitely want to go here.

14) Last but not least, when you've checked out of your hotel and retrieved your vehicle, you should head over to the King William district, and cap your trip off with a sumptuous brunch at The Guenther House restaurant, housed in the beautiful old home of the original owners of the Pioneer Flour Mill, which is still in operation. Amazing biscuits, pancakes, waffles and other pastries made from their own flour!

The even have a cute gift shop upstairs, where you can purchase their biscuit and pancake mixes, and lots of other stuff too!

Plus, if you are there at Christmastime, you can see the amazing replica of Guenther House which their master baker creates out of gingerbread, cookies and candies each year.

I guess that's it for my San Antonio Must Do List. What about you? Got any wonderful things to eat, places to go, or things to do in San Antonio? Please share!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Hubby and I have made more than a few trips to San Antonio since moving to the Texas Hill Country. In fact, we just got back from there yesterday. Based on our latest intel-gathering, here are a few things to consider when planning a trip of your own.

1) Don't go in summer. San Antonio weather sucks in summer. Go sometime between late October and late April. Better yet, go between Thanksgiving and New Year, when the Riverwalk looks like this...

and the parks look like this!

Travis Park, in Front of the Historic St. Anthony Hotel
2) Go with longtime friends who make you feel young, and just a wee bit wild, whenever you are with them.

3) Choose a hotel that is right smack dab in the middle of things -- right on the river, about halfway between the Alamo and Market Square. Last few times we've stayed at the Valencia. Kinda dark and gloomy in the lobby area, but the rooms are nice, and you just can't beat the location, right next to the old Majestic Theater on Houston St. (where great shows like Postmodern Jukebox, Book of Mormon, and Kinky Boots are currently booked). Plus, they frequently offer specials like stay two nights, get one free. Furthermore, if you sign up for their VIP program (no charge) you occasionally get free upgrades from the cheapo rooms to a river-view deluxe!

4) Try to get there before lunch. You need to squeeze all the meals you possibly can into your brief stay. Since you won't want to get your car out of the garage again, once you drop it off with the hotel valets, and since your hotel room probably won't be ready until mid-afternoon, and since the Pearl Brewery area is a pretty good hike from the main part of the Riverwalk, you might as well start there.

This whole area has just exploded since the last time we were there, with a brand new hotel in the old brewery building itself, and at least a half dozen new restaurants, and of course, a ton of new condos! If you go on the weekend, you can enjoy the farmers' market and lots of food stalls, some hosted by the chic new restaurants. On the other hand, you will have a much longer wait for a table at any of those restaurants. We must come back in the middle of the week sometime, so we can try Cured or Boiler House or Bakery Lorraine.

5) Take a peek inside Hotel Emma, while you are there. Yes, there is a sign out front that says "Hotel Guests Only", but if you're brazen enough, like my hubby, and just waltz on past the doormen like you own the place, they won't bat an eyelash!

The library, above, is freakin' awesome!

It's way out of our price range, and too far from all the action for us (though some might see that as a plus) but definitely worth seeing! Also, I highly recommend that you follow the link above to their website, and read the bit about "The Three Emmas". As my hubby said, "You just can't make up shit like this!"

6) If you can't make up your mind which place to have dinner at on the Riverwalk, try having appetizers at several different ones instead.

7) Just make sure you save enough room to have dessert here.

Hotel Havana is about five blocks north of E. Houston, where N. St. Mary's and Navarro crisscross, near the Tobin Center.  There was lots of good stuff on the menu, but these my friends -- the fresh fried churros with cajeta and mocha café con leche for dipping? Well, they were to die for. My photo just doesn't do them justice.

You'll just have to trust me when I tell you that they were ten times better than the ones we had at the famous café in San Miguel -- the one that specializes in churros. Yes, that good.

You'll be draggin' by this time, and ready to tumble into bed, but there's lots more to do and see on your second day in San Antonio, so stay tuned!

8) Oh Yeah! One more thing. Forget the trollies and buses and taxis. Just walk. Walk everywhere. You'll be so glad you did, once you get home and step on the scale, and find you didn't gain an ounce on this trip, despite all the yummy things you ate!