Spanish Walk

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I love going to Tapas bars – and not just for the excellent sangria. I love Spanish food, I love sharing things around the table and trying bits of everything…and I always feel like meals eaten this way facilitate good conversation and fun times. I clearly put too much thought into this kind of stuff, but…oh well. Whatevs. Anyway, I visited San Antonio tapas restaurant and bar Espana recently – and had a gorgeous meal! I’ve been here a ton of times, but it’s been over a year since my last visit…and I can’t think of a single reason why I’ve stayed away so long. It was delightful!! Here’s a couple of pictures of the place:
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My obsession with light fixtures continues...I'm SO the daughter of an electrician!!

My obsession with light fixtures continues…I’m SO the daughter of an electrician!!

Let’s talk about the food! :-) (it’s really no wonder that my caboose isn’t narrow…I love food, I love going out to eat great meals, and I have such an appreciation for taste and flavor. Oh well….I’d rather be happy than skinny ;-) ) I ordered my first sangria as soon as my arse hit my seat – and I didn’t look back. First up was a cheese and spinach dip served with chips – the cheese used in this masterpiece was manchego….meaning I was a happy girl. :-) Manchego is YUM. :-) I had a piece of an Espanola pizza made with manchego again (happy happy) and some gorgeous Serrano ham, chorizo, and fresh tomato. It was lovely, but not the highlight of the meal. Here’s the manchego and spinach dip:
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Next up was a hot sampler, which included paella, tortilla espanola, albondigas (which are meatballs smothered in a garlic white wine sauce with fried potatoes – these things were the absolute bomb, no lie….AMAZING!), croquetas (crisp fried shells with a creamy center of cheese and Serrano ham), and pollo al jerez (beautifully cooked strips of chicken breast and green olives sautéed with sherry). I liked a lot of stuff on this platter, but the real deal was the final item – the meat and cheese platter. It was a beautiful mix of manchego cheese, Serrano ham, chorizo, and a third meat (which reminded me of Italian soppressata), with grapes and apple slices on the side. I LOVED this! :)

 

The hot tapas sampler :)

The hot tapas sampler :)

 

Mmm....cheese...meat.... :)

Mmm….cheese…meat…. :)

 

All in all, yet again another lovely meal (I eat like a queen some days, I know….sorry) – the atmosphere, the food, the people, the sangria. It just couldn’t be beat! Hope to see you soon at Espana! :)

 

xxx

Working Man’s Cafe

I saw the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey” recently, and pretty much loved it to pieces. Have you seen it? It’s probably not for everybody, but if you, like me, love France, French culture, food,  Bollywood, and korma sauce – then you’re going to totally dig this movie! :-)

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The reviews for this one have been largely mixed, with most everyone criticizing the simplistic nature of the story, and hammering the director for taking the easy route with the tale. While I agree that it wasn’t the most thought-provoking movie I’ve ever seen, it was visually stunning and completely sweet and pleasant….and, considering the amount of things that I have going on these days, sometimes sweet and pleasant is precisely what the doctor ordered. The movie is about an Indian family that moves to Europe for a fresh start following a fire that destroys their beloved family restaurant, and kills the family’s matriarch. They end up in a beautiful French village, and decide to open an Indian restaurant across the street from a Michelin star, Classic French restaurant run by Helen Mirren. Much hilarity ensues as Mirren tries her hand at sabotaging the competition, the father of the Indian family fires back with his own bag of tricks…plus, there’s lots of really yummy looking food. I found the movie to be visually stunning, and thought that the performances were all solid as well.  Helen Mirren is always wonderful, and the rest of the cast rose to the occasion as well. The village they shot in reminds me so much of some of my favorite places in France, and I was left feeling wistful for the dog days of summers past spent sitting in a cafe on the town square, drinking wine and coffee, watching the world pass me by. Did I mention the food? ;-)

 

I fancy the hell out of a chicken korma, naan bread, and mango chutney right now!! :-)

xxx

Monterey

I recently visited downtown San Antonio restaurant The Monterey for the first  time…and I cannot wait to go back!!! What a FABULOUS experience!! Have you been? If not, and you are local, RUN there now….you will thank me!! :-)

Yaaa!!!! The Monterey!!!

 

First, let’s talk about the ambiance….it’s such a cool place. There is outdoor seating, which is really quite pretty, but there was no chance in hell that I was going to sit out there, as south Texas is currently hotter than the surface of the sun. Instead, I got a wee table in the corner, with a view of the place. It’s not terribly large, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in quirk and charm. There are tons of cool pictures on the walls, and the symphony of color is welcoming and exciting, all at the same time. I felt like I was home, and I can guarantee that if I lived closer, that place would be my Regal Beagle, and I would be Jack Tripper! :-)

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Now…on to the reason for the season – the food!! I started with an appetizer of house-made pickles….random, I know, but the palette wants what the palette wants.  Believe me, your palette is going to so want to try this!! I received a plate with a trio of pickled goodness – kimchi, curried pickled pineapple, and pickled watermelon rind with black peppercorns and anise. I’m aware that these probably don’t sound over-the-top appetizing, but they absolutely are! I’ve never had kimchi before, and the flavor was surprisingly pleasant, if a bit salty. The pickled watermelon rinds were fabulous – who knew? (Apparently the peeps at The Monterey) The real winner was the curried pickled pineapple….sweet and spicy simultaneously – bloody mouth magic is what that was!! Awesome!!!! :-)

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Here’s a couple of items from the entrée menu – the first is a brisket burger with umami cheese. I’m not entirely sure what umami cheese is, but I totally intend to Google it – I’ll get back to you. The burger was really, really juicy and flavorful – and the fries were simple, and outstanding. I will have to return here with the Wee One – she’s a lover of good fries. :-) Another entrée I tasted was the seared beef shoulder with shallot chimichurri, and a salad on the side. The meat melted in your mouth (for real), and was perfectly, simply seasoned. The vinaigrette dressing on the lovely salad (major eye appeal on that bad boy – it looked beautiful) was outstanding, and I remain hopeful that someday that dressing shall run out of my taps when I turn on the faucet. So. Good. However, the real star of this dish was the shallot chimichurri. No lie, when I  die I want to be buried in a tub of that stuff, so I can spend eternity just chowing down. It was THAT good. Yum. :-) Here’s more pictures:

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Overall, The Monterey is a super-lovely place to meet friends for drinks (their bar menu is out of this world, and remember I’m Canadian, so I know my way around a bar menu! ;-) ), a really great spot for a romantic dinner, and just an all-around great place to eat some damn amazing food!!! :-) I can’t wait to go back….let me know if you want to join me!! :-)

Xxx

Remember Me – Reposted From September 11, 2013

This post originally appeared a year ago…but I thought it fitting to share again today.

 

Never forget.

xxx

 

Every year on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, I think about where I was when this event happened. I had moved to England during the summer of 2001, and I was about a week into my new job at the loveliest Middle School in all the land. I was so happy to be there, and I was really loving my adventure – and then the world changed. It was strange to experience a life-altering event in a different part of the world, so far from home and my family…so many people in the UK would hear me speak, assume I was American, and offer condolences or say something nice to me. However, I also experienced a lot of hatred from people, telling me that those on ‘my side of the pond got what we deserved’…such ugly words. It was such a time of turmoil, with people either banding together in a show of tremendous unity, or drawing even further apart. The evening of the 11th, I sat with my roommates  (two guys from England and a girl from Germany – I didn’t know any of them prior to all of us sharing a house together) on the couch in the living room, watching the atrocities unfold before our eyes…horrified by what we saw. One of my roommates – Nick – was a paramedic, and his heart was breaking for his colleagues in New York….the pain was visible on his face. My other roommate, Matt, worked in London’s Financial district, and his company had sent him home early that day as a safety precaution…he would have the rest of the week off work. We ordered pizza from one of the remaining neighborhood places that was open (most everything shut down around us), and the three of us sat on the couch, for hours, under blankets, eating pizza, and watching in silence. The guys took turns holding my hand, but we hardly spoke…because there seemed to be no need for words. It was a night I – and pretty much the rest of the world – will never forget. I lost touch with Nick and Matt after I moved out of that house, but I’ve never forgotten them and the kindness that they showed me that night. I was 27 years old, by myself in a foreign country, without any family nearby…thousands of miles from home – the world seemed to be under attack, and I felt frightened. The calm, quiet kindness of these two virtual strangers helped make me feel safe, and restored some order to my life. Isn’t the kindness of strangers a beautiful thing? :)

I wrote about the town of Gander, Newfoundland last fall, but I felt that today was a good day to repost this story – here you go:

I, of course, love the Canadian angle to the movie – it makes me proud to know that in a time of crisis, Canadians can be counted on to help…that’s kind of what we’re known for. Canadians have long been part of peacekeeping missions around the world, but they don’t tend to make the global news – which is probably the way they like it. That’s one thing I love so much about the homeland – Canadians do all sorts of amazing things for people around the world, but they’re pretty low-key about it, not tooting their own horns or requiring much fanfare. Canadians show up in droves whenever there is a crisis (Haiti, Hurricane Katrina – you name it, they are there), and the prevailing attitude seems to be that of course they would show up to help – that is what you do. I love that. :) One of my very favorite stories of Canadians doing awesome things is the tale of the town of Gander, Newfoundland, and how they welcomed 6595 refugees who were stranded during 9/11 and couldn’t return to the US until air space issues calmed down. As 38 planes rerouted and landed in Gander, the town sprung in to action: schools and halls became emergency shelters, residents invited people to their homes for showers, warm beds and meals, people offered the use of their vehicles, pharmacists filled prescriptions from all over the world at no cost, businesses emptied their shelves of food/clothing/toys/necessities, banks of phones were set up to allow people to call home for free…this little town of 10,000 reacted in such a way that I doubt the refugees will ever forget their kindness. (if you can believe it, so much food was donated by the gorgeous Newfie people that it risked going to waste…doesn’t that just fill your heart with a bucket load of happy??!) The coolest part is that when the people of Gander received a bunch of media attention about what they did, most of them got rather embarrassed, as if the fuss was totally unnecessary – one resident was quoted as saying, “I feel like, why all this attention? We only did what anybody would do to help these people.” That is the very best part of all. :) There has been a book written about this amazing and awesome event – “The Day The World Came To Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland“…I haven’t read it yet, but I definitely intend to. :) One reviewer described this book as a story about humanity’s finest hour…what a beautiful phrase. :)

:)

 

We must never forget. Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. – Edmund Burke

xxx

How Sweet It Is

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My Mom challenged me to one of those Gratitude Challenge things that’s been all over Facebook…and, while I really don’t like Facebook and rarely go on it, I can’t let a challenge pass me by, so….I did it. I was charged with the task of posting three things I was grateful for every day for three days. This turned out to be surprisingly easy, as I have so many wonderful things and people in my life that it really wasn’t too hard to find stuff to acknowledge. So, without any further ado, here’s my Gratitude Challenge:

Day One:

1) My Wee Muppet – she completes me, and life began when she arrived on the scene. I LOVE my girl to bits – she’s awesome! :-)

2) The rest of my loved ones near and far, family and friends flung all over the globe. They know the real me, yet somehow love me anyway. :-)

3) My job – most days I love it a whole lot…and even on the crap days, there’s still nowhere I’d rather be. Thank goodness for my parents for all they do to help with the Wee One, allowing me to work. :-)

 

Day Two:

1) I am grateful that I’ve inherited my father’s sense of humor – if you knew my Dad, you’d know he loved a good laugh, and his humor was definitely unique!! If I couldn’t laugh at some of the stupid things that happen in my life, I’d cry, so….thanks Daddy. :-)

2) I’m very grateful for all of the traveling that I’ve done. The best way to learn about the world is to get out and see it, and I think my experiences have made me a more tolerant, enlightened person. Every one you meet has their own story…and how beautiful it is to have the chance to hear those tales.

3) I’m grateful for the home that the Wee One and I live in, be it ever-so-humble. At the moment, it looks like a disaster zone as I’ve been painting and prepping for new flooring, but it’s ours, and it’s going to be great! The Wee One picked the wall color for the kitchen, and the accent stuff for the living room – so it’s a team effort. Yaa!! (I will post pictures when we’re done)

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Day Three:

1) I’m grateful that I grew up in a small town, and I’m massively grateful that the small town was Lundar. I was truly raised by a village, from the lovely and patient Lil Johnson serving me gummi candies at the bakery, to Lloyd McLeod lovingly tying my skates for me at the rink. The entire town kept an eye on me, and helped form who I am today. Yes, it was sometimes annoying when the gossip about the stuff I did made it home from the bar to my mom before I did, but there’s nothing better than the AMAZING people of the community of Lundar. I’ve never seen community spirit and volunteerism like I did growing up, and there is so much of that town within me and the way I see the world…thank goodness for that! :-)

2) I’m grateful for my Grandpa, and his passionate belief in the value of an education. He told me when I was small that I needed to learn French, because it would ensure that I always had a job. He was right, as pretty much every job I’ve had since has been related in one way or another to French. He taught me to respect and value teachers – he and I used to visit his childhood teacher in the Care Home…and education has been my passion ever since. He made me believe that I could be whoever and whatever I wanted – what more beautiful gift to give a child? :-)

3) Finally, I’m grateful to every student I’ve ever had…and there are a bloody ton of you! Some of you had to suffer through me early in my career, when I didn’t have a hot clue what I was doing, and I was barely older than you. Others got me later, when I’d found my groove and figured out my way around the job. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I learned far more from each and every one of you than you ever learned from me. You inspired me to try harder, to be a better person, and to truly learn the meaning of patience and compassion. I have never forgotten a single one of you, and I never will. I love seeing you, hearing from you, and sharing in the joys and successes of your lives. I’m so very proud of all that you’ve become. :-) Very few things have been as rewarding in life as teaching you has been – you’ve made me feel like a superhero. All I need now is a damn cool cape! :-)

 

So…that’s it! Three things I’m grateful for for three days!! This was super-fun (thanks Mom)…I don’t want to challenge anyone in particular; instead, how about you all do me a favor and look around yourself, take stock of the great things you’ve got going on in your life, and count your blessings? I hope you’ll need a calculator. :-)

 

xxx

Let’s Hear It For The Boy

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I saw Richard Linklater’s masterpiece “Boyhood” last weekend, and find my mind forever altered by the artistry of it…I’ve never seen aging and growth portrayed onscreen like that before, and I thought it was gorgeous. Here’s a review of the movie from Roger Ebert’s website (pay attention to this review – beautifully written):

 

The second shot of “Boyhood” doubles as the movie’s poster image: a young child named Mason, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) lying on his back in green grass, staring at the sky. He does not speak and there is no voice-over narration, so we cannot know what’s in his head. But the movie is contemplating, among other things, the fleeting nature of existence—the way that time, to quote “Life Itself,” slips through your fingers like a long silk scarf.

“Boyhood” became the instant subject of media buzz last year when Linklater revealed that he’d been working on the project for 12 years, following the same actors (including Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as the hero’s parents, Olivia and Mason, Sr., and the director’s daughter Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha) through the early part of the 21st century. We watch the children grow up and the adults thicken and grey. We see Olivia and Mason, Sr. in various relationships. Olivia is looking to replace her ex-husband and make her “broken” family intact again, and this search leads her into a series of arrangements that are wrong for her, sometimes horribly so. Mason, Sr., goes the other way, acting the role of bohemian free-spirit even as he works a series of rather typical jobs. The kids get taller and become interested in particular subjects, and in sex, and after a while they start to think about college and what they want to do with their lives.

It’s all a blur. The blur is indescribably moving. We’ve seen people age in movies and on TV programs—the kids in the “Harry Potter” and “Up” series, for instance, and little Ronny Howard on “The Andy Griffith Show,” and Kiernan Shipka on “Mad Men”—but we’ve never seen it happen in such a compact span of screen time. That’s what makes “Boyhood” singular. There is no other work to which one can directly compare it without distorting pop culture history. This movie is truly its own thing, as eccentrically unique as Linklater’s breakthrough “Slacker,” another Austin-set feature to which “Boyhood” feels (curiously) like a companion piece, or perhaps a bookend.

Mason is a child of divorce. He and his mother and his sister move around a lot, all over Texas, a U.S. state as big as France. Mason’s dad does not have custody, so has to accommodate his wife’s shifts in geography over the years, sometimes driving hundreds of miles to see his children. Even though Olivia and Mason, Jr. love their kids, there are moments when they resent them, because once they had them they were locked into a particular track and had to put their kids first, always. The trick, though—and this is where Linklater the writer shows how generous and kind he is—lies in realizing that sometimes when parents think they’re putting their kids first they’re really responding to conditioning, or doing what their society or their gender or their parents told them was the correct thing to do.

The movie’s about social conditioning as well as time. It asks basic, deep questions. What makes us “normal”? Is there such a thing as “normal”? What makes us identify as men, as women, as children? Is the traditional domestic arrangement—a wife, a husband and kids living in the same house—really desirable for every person, and genuinely good for society, or does it inflict distress on those whose personalities and desires cannot function within it? Two important men in Olivia’s life have drinking problems; alcoholism is a disease, but it’s also a means of forgetting, of numbing pain, of denial. Do we really change over time? Can we decide to change ourselves? Or is free will an illusion? Do we seize moments or do moments seize us? (“You are responsible for your own actions,” warns a sign hanging in the hero’s elementary school.)

Olivia seems, like many single moms, dispirited by the the responsibilities she bears. Early on we hear her arguing with her boyfriend, a single man who resents that she can’t just come and go as she pleases, as he does. (“I was somebody’s daughter, and then I was somebody’s fucking mother,” she says.) She’s chasing an idea of normalcy that may not be right for her. In an intense scene that occurs in a car outside of a school, not long after a period of domestic strife, Olivia asks for understanding because she’s trying to build “a family” with a new boyfriend, and Mason exclaims, “We already have a family!”—and he’s right. Olivia is a college professor and a liberal feminist, but she’s still bought into the husband-and-wife-and-two-kids-equals-a-real-family thing. She studies “unconditioned response” in one of her grad school courses but it takes a few years for her to figure out, in practical terms, what the phrase means.

There are points near the end of “Boyhood” when Olivia might remind you of George Bailey, the hero of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Of the movie’s two parents, she is nearly always the responsible one—the “boring” one. Even her worst decisions were made for noble reasons, but the constraints that motherhood placed on her freedom always gnawed at her. Over time, though, she grows by leaps and bounds, finishing grad school and becoming a teacher and then a person of considerable influence in her community. We start to see the profound, lasting impact that her moral rectitude has had on the world. She evolves, as surely as her ex-husband and children evolve, but the process is subtler. It’s not right out there, like her ex-husband’s delayed maturation.

The film’s title and choice of protagonist have been criticized (gently but firmly) for unthinkingly confirming that heterosexual men are at the center of the universe. But this reading ignores the movie’s constant (if empathetic) critique of American manhood, or what passes for American manhood: an entitled mental state that is really just boyhood with money and a driver’s license. Mason, Sr., for all the love that he shows his kids, is an example of this. He’s a great natural playmate for his son and daughter, joining them on the floor as they futz with toys and taking them on camping trips and trying to purchase their love with gifts as if every visitation were a miniature Christmas. But he doesn’t express much real wisdom until his kids edge toward adolescence and become tight-lipped and undemonstrative, and he pulls the car over during a family trip to demand that they have real conversations (amusingly, Samantha makes the same request of him).

He has to learn to give in as well as to give—and that giving in doesn’t always have to mean giving up. Even when Mason, Sr. is 30 or 40 he still lives like a 19-year old who just got his first place. He resents his ex-wife as a killjoy, and clings to his GTO the way little boys cling to their loveys. And yet he matures onscreen along with his kids, mellowing over the years and becoming less strident and arrogant and more generous, learning that it’s possible to be a person of integrity even if you aren’t insisting that every single thing go your way at every single moment (a pattern of behavior that only narcissists mistake for freedom). We get the sense that in some ways Mason the elder is un-learning what he learned during the first part of his life—an experience that his kids are now going through, with different details. It’s rough, this process. It’s emotional boot camp, with versions of hazing. And I love how “Boyhood” admits that, in certain ways, growing up stinks. Every character has a least one moment in which they have to heed the advice of Corinthians and put away childish things. None of them like it.

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The adults in Mason, Jr.’s orbit (including his mother and father and various teachers and authority figures) all want to parent or mentor him by turning him into reflections or extensions of themselves. In high school, a photography teacher tells the budding shutterbug hero that he needs to move away from arty compositions and learn to shoot sports so that he can make a living, advice which assumes that Mason, Jr. wants to earn a living with photography rather than treating it as an avocation, or as the visual version of a diary. The manager of a restaurant where Mason, Jr. works as a dishwasher wants to groom him as a fry cook. The man’s eyes light up as he describes this arc, as if he’s moved by his own generosity.

At various points during the boy’s life he’s pushed toward bad decisions by other boys who warn him that failure to act a certain way makes him a “fag” or a “pussy.” You sense the kid pushing back against these pressures. You realize that, for all their faults, and despite the geographical and emotional obstacles that they were up against, his parents did a good job raising him. Or maybe he absorbed their better qualities as if by osmosis. (Did he seize their better qualities, or did their better qualities seize him?) Linklater doesn’t explain any of this—the storytelling and filmmaking are intuitive; things that look like pointers or labels aren’t—and yet it’s all there in the movie. You can feel it. Perhaps without meaning to, the film exemplifies the best piece of advice that anyone gives the hero: “We’re all just winging it.”

“Boyhood” is broken into discrete dramatic chunks—this is really an anthology of short movies with a recurring cast—and there are no timestamps telling us that we’ve passed from 2002 into 2003 or from 2009 into 2010. We realize where we are on the timeline when we hear somebody talking about the Iraq war, or hear a song on the soundtrack that was big during a certain year, or realize that the boy has changed his haircut or gotten a little bit taller. The simultaneously nourishing and corrosive effects of time make the film quietly moving and humble-seeming, despite its three-hour length and conceptual audacity. Time is what makes the film cohere even when particular scenes, images or performances seem clunky or undernourished. Fixating on imperfections while discussing “Boyhood” would be as petty as criticizing the sculpting of individual stones in a cathedral. The totality matters. Even more important is our recognition that the totality is as fleeting as life.

Time, and our interaction with time, and the way in which we are all ultimately overmatched and worn down by time, and the notion of cinema as a means of sculpting with time: these and other aspects of temporality are at the heart of “Boyhood.” Time is the core around which all of this movie’s musings on childhood and parenthood are woven. It’s the river down which the scenes and characters travel without consciously realizing that they are on individual journeys that all have the same ending. If life is “about” anything, it’s about realizing and accepting that fact: that everything is fleeting. Time gives birth and nourishes and then obliterates as it moves ahead, like the family which, in an early scene, prepares to move out of a house by covering murals and hand-lettered height charts with white paint. The film ends and the credits come up and you ask the same question that you ask at the end of an evening spent with old, dear friends: where did the time go?

 

Lovely, eh? The movie gave me so much to think about and marvel at….and I cannot recommend it enough. Go check it out!! See what you think – be sure to let me know! :-) I’ll be waiting to hear from you! :-)

 

xxx

Summer Loving

I’ve finally taken a few days totally away from work this week, and the Wee One and I got away from San Antonio for a change of scenery. We spent last weekend in Humble, a suburb of Houston, with friends from my hometown in Canada (fun fact – the friend that we visited was my childhood babysitter!)…and we had the best time! We spent a lot of time swimming in the pool (I started teaching the Wee One how to dive, which was terrific…I was SO proud of my tiny baby friend!! :-) We went to Discovery Green, a park in downtown Houston (near Minute Maid park, home of the Astros) on Saturday to see a Mad Scientist show for kids (good in theory, but the execution was pretty rough….the scientist wasn’t great), and had a nice walkabout in the beautiful park. We also went to a pool party, ate lots of good food, and had a really lovely, relaxing time. After a productive and wonderful trip to Ikea (I love Ikea with all my heart and will until I take my last breath….love!!! :-) ), we headed back to San Antonio. :-)

After two days at home, we hit the road again and spent a couple of nights at the YO Ranch Resort in Kerrville, Texas. It was nice, despite the fact that it rained a fair bit while we were there (odd for summer in South Texas, but we need it, so….it’s all good). We spent a lot of time swimming in the pool (sad bloody trombone, though….the swim up bar isn’t open during the week – noooooo!! I loooooove swim up bars!), cuddling, playing games in our room….all good stuff. We did a lot of reading, took a trip to Ingram, Texas to see a replica of Stonehenge – pretty random and awesome! We took a bunch of pictures this week, and had a good time just being together. She and I have been discussing our next Fancy Girl Trip – and while I’m certain that it’ll be incredible, these little close-to-home jaunts are pretty great, too. :-) I’m such a lucky mama. :-)

At Discovery Green in Houston! :-)

At Discovery Green in Houston! :-)

 

The flowers at Discovery Green were stunning! :-)

The flowers at Discovery Green were stunning! :-)

I LOVE water lilies! :-)

I LOVE water lilies! :-)

My friends have this sign at their house...it's a philosophy of mine. ;-)

My friends have this sign at their house…it’s a philosophy of mine. ;-)

This is Maggie, and she might be the cutest, sweetest little pup I've ever met! :-)

This is Maggie, and she might be the cutest, sweetest little pup I’ve ever met! :-)

Living the life :-)

Living the life :-)

Even Merry the Mouse had a great time! :-)

Even Merry the Mouse had a great time! :-)

In Ingram, Texas....crazy, eh? :-)

In Ingram, Texas….crazy, eh? :-)

Stonehenge! :-)

Stonehenge! :-)

Isn't this awesome? :-)

Isn’t this awesome? :-)

Pretty :-)

Pretty :-)

Cuddling in the pool! :-)

Cuddling in the pool! :-)

Happiness :-)

Happiness :-)

 

So. Much. Happiness. :-)

xxx

Tattoo

What do you think of tattoos? I generally like them a lot, as you will know if you know even a bit about me…I admire them on others, I have some, and I’ve always been really, really happy with mine. I got my first one when I was 18 – it’s a dolphin (named Alice, thanks to one of my childhood friends and a night in the hometown bar), a Van Gogh sunflower, a smiley face, and a Canadian maple leaf. Each of these tattoos was deliberately chosen to represent some important things to me – the dolphin is representative of my lifelong love and passion for water, for dolphins, and for the fact that I grew up feeling awkward every moment of the day…except when I was in water. When I swam, or dived, I was like the dolphins, and all of my awkwardness and self-loathing disappeared. The Van Gogh sunflower symbolizes beauty and passion to me, a commitment to art and self like no other. The life story of Vincent is one of he most tragic of all times, yet out of great hardship and difficulty rose beauty and passion like a phoenix from the ashes. Vincent sought success in Paris, my favorite city, and lived his life like an outcast….not unlike good ol’ me. The smiley face represented a new beginning, one where I committed myself to my own happiness. I have faltered a bit here and there, but most days since I got that one added in 2000 have been spent pursuing those things which will make me happy and leave me feeling enriched and fulfilled. :-) The maple leaf is obviously an homage to my beloved homeland, the true north strong and free. I don’t live in Canada anymore, but Canada sure lives in me. I got that one at the base of my neck/top of my back…to remind myself of where I’m from, and that my solid Canadian upbringing will always be behind me to guide me onwards. :-)

This week, I added two more to the collection! The first one is a small, cute Eiffel Tower, to commemorate my beautiful trip to Paris with the Wee One, our tremendous love of all things French, and the gorgeous memories that she and I share. This one is on my right shoulder blade, and I love it!! :-) The second new addition is a honeybee on the top of my foot. This little bee is to remind me of the importance of working hard, of buzzing along, of trying your best….so that someday sweet rewards will be yours. I had them done by a local artist that I’d met about four years ago, when I went to him to have Alice and the gang touched up. At the time, we spoke a lot about schools and education, as he had a daughter getting ready to head to high school, and he had a lot of questions for me about secondary education. He has changed shops since I last saw him, but he remembered me at once when I went in this week (partially because he was obsessed with how easy and awesome it is to tattoo my lily-white skin!). Turns out that his daughter is a student at my school now (small world or what, eh?),and he did another brilliant job on me. :-) Here’s the proof:

image image

Cute, eh? My mother will be unimpressed, but…c’est la vie. The ship of trying to impress her set sail a very, very long time ago. They make me happy, which is all that really matters to me…and the Wee One thinks they are fab. :-) The pursuit of happiness is something we should all aspire to, don’t you think? :-)

Xxx

Lucky Star

I visited new San Antonio eatery Starfish last Wednesday night, and I can’t wait to tell you all about  my visit! I ended up there accidentally, as my friends and I had a different dining destination in mind. However, one of the hostesses came out and spoke with us outside when she saw us stop to take a look, and as the door opened, the most gorgeous smells wafted out behind her…and I was sold!! While the service was odd (too much crossover between servers on our table, unusual timing on food delivery, and a never-ending friggin wait for bread), the experience was pretty much incredible…and since this was their fourth night of dinner service since they’d opened, I know that their lovely manager Logan will rectify the front of the house hiccups very quickly. Here are the highlights of our meal:

 

I started with Bread Salad - I've never had Bread Salad before, but this very simple dish is one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. The ingredients were simple, but the depth of flavor was incredible. Love!!! :-)

I started with Bread Salad – I’ve never had Bread Salad before, but this very simple dish is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. The ingredients were simple, but the depth of flavor was incredible. Love!!! :-)

Grilled Calamari - my dindin. Mighty tasty, friends....the sauce was divine!! :-)

Grilled Calamari – my dindin. Mighty tasty, friends….the sauce was divine!! :-)

One of my friends ate shrimp and grits - this bowl had a chorizo vinaigrette in it that pushed the dish to a whole other universe. A-ma-zing!!! :-)

One of my friends ate shrimp and grits – this bowl had a chorizo vinaigrette in it that pushed the dish to a whole other universe. A-ma-zing!!! :-)

Their bouillabaisse was extraordinary...just look at it! It was served in a very cool angled bowl (I'm a sucker for good presentation),and the broth....oh,friends, the broth....insane. The very delicious bread they served was unreal dipped in that broth. Yum. :-)

Their bouillabaisse was extraordinary…just look at it! It was served in a very cool angled bowl (I’m a sucker for good presentation),and the broth….oh,friends, the broth….insane. The very delicious bread they served was unreal dipped in that broth. Yum. :-)

This pork chop was one of the most beautifully-presented dishes I've ever seen....and it reportedly tasted incredible!! Juicy and flavorful, bursts of yummy in every bite! :-)

This pork chop was one of the most beautifully-presented dishes I’ve ever seen….and it reportedly tasted incredible!! Juicy and flavorful, bursts of yummy in every bite! :-)

The kitchen action - check out the jellyfish lights!! :-)

The kitchen action – check out the jellyfish lights!! :-)

 

Dessert #1 - fruit, peanut butter, some tasty cream stuff. Good,but not worth the moolah.

Dessert #1 – fruit, peanut butter, some tasty cream stuff. Good,but not worth the moolah.

Dessert #2 - Key Lime Pie. I know,I thought this thing - pretty though it is - was unlike any key lime pie I'd ever eaten,either. But guess what? It's earth-shatteringly delicious!!!!! Woohoo!!! Plus, anything that throws a macaron on top is cool with me. :-)

Dessert #2 – Key Lime Pie. I know, I thought this thing – pretty though it is – was unlike any key lime pie I’d ever eaten, either. But guess what? It’s earth-shatteringly delicious!!!!! Woohoo!!! Plus, anything that throws a macaron on top is cool with me. :-)

Dessert #3 - the menu calls this Banana Story, which I hope they change because that's a dumb name. What's not dumb, though, is this dessert: banana bread, chocolate mousse, brûléed banana....it was freaking amazing!!! :-) Don't let the name out you off! (Perhaps they'll rename it Leanna Banana in my honor??! ;-) )

Dessert #3 – the menu calls this Banana Story, which I hope they change because that’s a dumb name. What’s not dumb, though, is this dessert: banana bread, chocolate mousse, brûléed banana….it was freaking amazing!!! :-) Don’t let the name out you off! (Perhaps they’ll rename it Leanna Banana in my honor??! ;-) )

Dessert #4 - Basil sorbet, with a mint macaron. It comforts me to think that there might be a heaven...and they might serve this there. Otherworldly, my friends....for realz. :-)

Dessert #4 – Basil sorbet, with a mint macaron. It comforts me to think that there might be a heaven…and that they might serve this there. Otherworldly, my friends….for realz. :-)

 

Starfish is located on South Alamo, my favorite neighborhood in San Antonio. Here are a few pictures of the things I saw in their neighborhood:

The Friendly Spot - my favorite watering hole :-)

The Friendly Spot – my favorite watering hole :-)

I want a letter box like this on my house SO much...and I don't even have mail delivery to my house.

I want a letter box like this on my house SO much…and I don’t even have mail delivery to my door.

Few things are more beautiful than a secret garden! :-)

Few things are more beautiful than a secret garden! :-)

 

 

I hope that things go well for Starfish, and that they are super successful. Everyone there seemed to be really great, and there is a heap of talent in that kitchen…I was humbled by the artistry that went into this meal. I hope you’ll check them out…let me know if you need a date!! ;-)

xxx

 

Brooklyn Baby

I spent Saturday evening at home with the Wee One, sprawled on my bed, reading the newest Jennifer Weiner, listening to Lana Del Rey and playing Words With Friends. It had been a day – the dog got scared by fireworks on Friday night and did a runner…and I walked the neighborhood streets from midnight to 4:15am before giving up. Thankfully he reappeared at home at around 5:30am, but by then the night was pretty much toast. I spent the day painting my front door red (see below), and watching the entire first season of the AMAZING series The Fall, from BBC Northern Ireland…if you’ve not seen this one yet, rundon’twalk to Netflix and stream it now. There’s only 5 episodes, an hour each…and it is bloody riveting. SO good. Anyway, I watched that while coats of paint were drying, I started reading the Jennifer Weiner book, and then moved on and listened to Lana’s album. Her music left me wanting to lounge around outside of some impossibly hip pub, drink in hand, contemplating life, the stars, and destiny with a hipster in horn-rimmed glasses, skinny jeans, and a cardigan. The album sounds like summer, yet had me wanting to buy shoes for school in the fall. The more I listened, the more I felt as if I was in on her secrets, that together she and I were on the outside looking in on the popular kids. Listening to that album had me feeling all the feels, which is rather odd, as I haven’t had that happen in bloody ages. Strange! What music moves you, my friends? :-)

The old door :-(

The old door :-(

Midway through the process

Midway through the process

The door!!!

The door!!!

Ta-dah!!!! :-)

Ta-dah!!!! :-)

 

Last Saturday night, the Wee One and I drove up to Austin to a graduation party for my dear friend. It had been a hellaciously long day, and I was afraid of falling asleep, so I started singing with the radio. I found out that I was kind of loud and preventing the kid from sleeping due to my volume, so I was happy when she joined in. For me, the easiest way to ensure there’s no falling asleep at the wheel is by singing – and, because I’m an equal opportunity pain in the arse, I will also sing to someone else who is driving to make sure they stay awake! I have a good friend who I know probably still has nightmares about driving home with me from Austin at 4:00am, singing along with the old country tunes on the AM band on his radio *which he’d purposely picked thinking I wouldn’t know the words to those songs – fooled him!!!* I was jet-powered by a lot of beer that night, so my singing game was really on. The things I do for those I care for!!! ;-)

I’ve heard three great albums recently – the Lana one, Sia’s album is friggin DIVINE (Google her singing Chandelier on Howard Stern…you’ll weep, I guarantee), and Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour is CRAZY good!!! His voice is fabulous – LOVE!!! :-) I’m so excited for great new music – it’s been awhile since I’ve been excited about something like that. Yaa!! :-)

What excites you, my pretties? :-)

Xxx

PS: If Sam Smith’s Stay With Me doesn’t rip your bloody heart out and make you want to touch someone you love as you cry into their shoulder, then you had best make your way to the nearest ER, because you’re dead or about to be. Sorry about that. :-( That song is a heartbreaker…wowza!