Monday, June 11, 2018

My Symphony

Today I came across this poem by William Henry Channing, a 19th century clergyman.  I have saved it and read it for well over twenty years and thought you might enjoy it as well.

                                                                         'My Symphony'

                   To live content with small means;
                   To seek elegance rather than luxury,
                   and refinement rather then fashion;
                   To be worthy, not respectable;
                   and wealthy, not rich;
                   To study hard, think quietly, talk gently,
                   act frankly;
                   To listen to stars and birds,
                   To babes and sages, with open heart,
                   to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
                   await occasions, hurry never.
                   .....To let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious,
                   grow up through the common.
                   This is to be my symphony.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Two Months in Texas

From pillar to post, I've packed and unpacked six times in the last two months.  Note to self - next time, if there is one,  bring disposable clothing!

Many adventures, visits with friends and family, meeting new babies in the family and catching up with long time friends rank high on the list in my heart.

Here are some of the photos from the last two months...............
                                    Trip to Chappell Hill to enjoy wildflowers and glorious trees.

 A MAJOR highlight was to spend the weekend with my daughter and granddaughters for my birthday in early April.  I could not stop smiling!

My sweet sister-in-law with her newest grandson, Taylor.  Taylor has two precious
brothers, Austin and Grey.  I could never get them all together for a group photo!

Must always include a sunset photo of Houston.  This was taken from the ninth floor of my dear, long time friends' condo on Montrose Blvd. Sheila and Mark now live on the ninth floor because they lost everything in Harvey and had to be rescued.  What a traumatic ordeal to have gone through.  I've heard horrifying details of people's experiences.  Tragic.

  Always there was Abby, enjoying the view from the front windows.  Such a sweet dog.  I think I might be weakening about having another dog!
Many, many good meals out with friends and family.  Houston has over 14,000 restaurants.  I tried to help their economy...........ha.  In the photo above is Ann Criswell, former Food Editor for the Houston Chronicle, my dear friend Martha who I met twenty-five years ago through the Houston Culinary Guild and my dear sister-in-law, Annette.  (I sincerely dislike the term sister-in-law as we are as close as any two sisters).  Is there a better title?

Another "tropical" sunset while visiting friends near Galveston in Omega Bay.  Aaah, I loved mornings on the porch watching the ducks, egrets and herons looking for food as they skimmed the canals.
        Dinner with Amanda and Patrick on the Wharf in Galveston.   Yummy seafood.

Next I moved on to Pearland to stay with a long time friend, Elaine.  Unfortunately I did not take photos of her glorious home or gardens or the times we ate at Auntie Pasto!  To say I was shocked at the growth in Pearland would be a major understatement.  It went from a two lane road thirty years ago, to a city of 140,000 today!  Amazing.  The farm land now houses subdivisions, restaurants, malls and medical facilities along with schools. 

Meeting Arden who is six months old was so special.  She is six months old and always smiling. Here she was eating her lunch.

 Arden's precious brother Alex who climbed into my lap and stole my heart was nearby.  I was so busy enjoying everything that I did not get photos of the whole family together.  My niece and her husband live in Ft. Worth. Hopefully it won't be a long time before I see this precious family again.

Last, but not least, I spent the day Sunday with my grandson, Christopher, and his girlfriend, Kayla. He is Jennifer's son.   What joy!  I'm so lucky to have so much love and happiness in my life.  I NEVER take it for granted.!  Now if I could figure out how to get EVERYONE together in the family for one day, including my son John who is in San Miguel with Matilda and Sebastian, I would be
the happiest woman alive.
Life is good.  This weekend is graduation for Emma and more family and friends.  Home next week on the 31st.  Woo hoo.  Onward.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Abby and I - A dog and her new friend

Abby is a darn smart dog!  She knows how to be gentle enough, but firm, when she wants something.
No words are necessary.  Actions speak louder then words.
Sitting in the back yard to enjoy the spring breezes, the fragrances of the gardenias and magnolias wafting toward me, Abby will either put the ball on the adjacent chair........or in my lap and wait.

Even though the thought goes through my mind to ignore the gesture, somehow it is just not possible.
Somehow, those sweet, pleading eyes say, "Just one?".  Which of course, it never is.  I throw.  She catches.  I throw again. She catches it in the air.  It could go on forever or for as long as I'm willing to keep throwing.

The fun is when the ball goes in the pool.  Talk about patience.  Abby will stand there watching the breezes blow it to the edge of the pool so she can reach down and get it........for another throw. No matter how long it takes.

My sister-in-law, Annette, has such a green thumb that her gardenia bushes have hundreds and hundred of blooms.  Never have I seen this many blooms on a gardenia bush.  Add to that the
magnolia tree which astounds me with the number of blooms and buds on it.

Neither of these are prolific in Mexico.  Two favorite flowers of mine.  They signify the fragrances of Spring and Summer nights in the South.  Something that was part of my growing up. 

Gardenias remind me of wrist corsages in high school while magnolias remind me of large floral arrangements.  In the Fall, the pods too were used in arrangements.  Isn't it interesting how one
thing or two can trigger all kinds of memories from our past that we have not thought of in eons?

Much time has been spent outside this week while the humidity has been low and the temperatures have been in the high 70's and low 80's.  Perfect,  Meditating, reading, playing with  Abby.  Ahh yes, life is good.

The only untoward thing that happened was on Tuesday, a tooth of mine had to be extracted!  Not planned.  Not expected but gone.

I waited all night for the Tooth Fairy to come, but, to no avail.  Bummer.  Maybe there is an age limit on rewards for losing a tooth?  Probably.

Have read a couple of fascinating books this week. "Lost in Shangri-La", by Mitchell Zuckoff.  A true story of crash survivors rescued during WWII before the people of New Guinea had seen "white people".  Extraordinary book.  The other totally different book was "That Summer in Sicily" written by Marlena de Blasi.

And, so it goes...............

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Life is ALWAYS a Surprise!

One of the reasons that I jump out of bed each morning, usually with enthusiasm, is to see what the day will bring.  Seldom is the day disappointing.

That was the reaction last Saturday when a trip to my nephew's house along with his lovely wife was in the plans.  Off we went early.  Greeting us in the front yard were Austin, who has grown a lot since
last year.  He wanted to show us how great his golf swing is, among other things.  He asked me to take his picture.  I quickly did so as later he wanted absolutely "no photos".  Kids say the darndest things.

The newest addition to the family, Taylor was brought outside to watch the fun in the front yard.  Grey, who is two was there as well.  Three boys - what a beautiful family!

Austin with the leaf blower was a show in and of itself.  Then the "show"began.  It was discovered
that if you put tennis balls IN the leaf blower, it would shoot them out.  Hilarious to watch the little boys and the grown up boys having fun with this new discovery.  Who needs toys when you can make your own fun?

It was amazing how long we all sat and watched this "magic" show............

The next evening, another surprise was having dinner with friends at their new high rise home.  My old time friends, Sheila and Mark, were rescued from the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey, literally by boat.  Their house of many, many years was flooded for the second time and that was more.  They lost just about everything and now are ensconced on the fourteenth floor of a high rise near the MFA and Hermann Park.

It is astounding to see the amount of trees in Houston from up high.  In addition, the sunsets are
always magnificent in Houston.  Here is a view that we experienced after a scrumptious dinner.  It was so much fun to spend time reminiscing about our thirty-five year friendship.  That friendship started out as a business relationship and then grew to be so much more.  I'm grateful for friends.  It is such a joy to look back over their lives from marriage to near retirement now!

 Early in the week, I discovered a Cajun restaurant near to where I'm staying.  It was fun to go there and have red beans and rice, which is a dish I grew up eating as a child and teenager in Louisiana.
Surprisingly, even though the State of Louisiana is adjacent to Texas, there are few Cajun restaurants in Houston.  It was a treat to find this one.  They also make "real" po-boys, the way they are served
in New Orleans.

In the essence of discovery, another new restaurant was  experienced on Wednesday.  Prior to a review in the Houston Chronicle by Food  Critic, Allison Cook, my friend, Ann Criswell former Food Editor for the Chronicle for thirty-four years, had suggested that we gather for lunch at a new Ecuadorian-French restaurant in the Heights.  The name is a mouthful - Maison Pucha Bistro.  Pucha is the name of the three Ecuadorian brothers who oversee the kitchen, the pastries and the front of the house.

Four of us gathered to dine al fresco at about 1:30.  A great time to dine because usually the rush is over.  What an amazing treat we experienced.  Going without expectations always works for me.

Never could I have imagined that I was in for a "complete" dining experience.  Something that
rarely happens.

From the waitstaff who noticed the sun was beating down on us and circled the umbrellas so no
sun was on us to the service of the meal.  What a magnificent meal.

The main entrees we ordered were Trout Almondine (divine); Lobster Ravioli; Steak Sandwich and Duck Confit.  Everyone of us were thrilled with our choice.

As if the entrees with their delicate sauces and flavors was not enough, we just "had to" try
the desserts that everyone was raving about.  Believe me, from the chocolate souffle to
the creme brulee to the peach melba, we were thrilled both with the exquisite presentation
to the last taste of each dessert.

As you can see, our contented smiles said it all.  The waiter enjoyed our enthusiasm and praise
for the whole "event".  It was a three hour lunch.  What a delicious and fun afternoon of food
and friends and family.

By the way, that luncheon was held on the day that I was supposed to have had knee replacement surgery.  This was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more pleasant.

So far next week has nothing on the calendar.  It will be delightful to see what happens!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

From the "sublime" to the Concrete Jungle.

Here is the final photo in our road trip to Austin and back last weekend...........ALL of us, before the four of us headed back to the Concrete Jungle known as Houston.

This return trip was just that a stops except for gas and bathrooms and then on to my daughter's home.  I then headed back on the freeways to my friend's house.  Sunday evenings, I discovered, are a time to travel the freeways.  Thankfully, there was very little traffic.  Whew.

After spending two weeks at The Hallmark with my dear friend Martha, it was time to move on.
On Tuesday, I relocated to my brother and sister-in-law's house for a couple of weeks, at least.

They were prepared for me as this was going to be where I stayed after surgery.  Now that there is no surgery, it is just a nice, relaxed visit.

EVERY ex-pat, I presume, when making a trip to the USA, has some shopping to do.  I had basically not even paid attention to my list since arriving.  My list is not big, but there were many places I needed to go to get things like new pillow shams, fabric to recover the chaises on the downstairs patio, some new Merrill sandals and various other things.

Yesterday, my sweet sister-in-law and I took off at about 11AM with a list of five stores to go to.
She was driving and we headed to Sugarland.  Yes, that is actually the real name of a suburb of Houston because there used to be a big sugar mill in that area.  I was SO happy she was driving as
she knew exactly where to go and had a plan, as she knew what store was near to another, etc.

I figured we might make it through two, maybe three places.  Me, of little faith.  We got to all the stores and got everything on the list!  It was unbelieveable. We were gone about five hours.

Two things surprised me.  How many stores there are - mile after mile after mile.  Also amazing is the number of restaurants, everywhere!  Another interesting thing to see was the number of people
out shopping.  We did not enter any store that was not full of people.  People of every race and creed.
I had forgotten the diversity of Houston. 

To top it off, everyone is very courteous and helpful.  At least, that was the case yesterday.

Our last stop was at JoAnne's fabric to get outdoor fabric for the chaises.  While waiting in line
we had a conversation with a woman who teaches quilting at that store.  Then the woman who waited on us was a delight after we had waited and waited to be "waited" on!

Her name was Sandy.  She had had a rather difficult task before waiting on us, but she shrugged it off as "just in a day's work".  THEN I needed more fabric then she had in that store, but she kindly offered to check other stores and made arrangements for the rest of the fabric to be sent to the store we were shopping at so we did not have to "journey" to Fry Rd, wherever the heck that is - it was
at least thirty minutes away.

When she wanted my name and information, I gave her my card, which she promptly attached to her apron so she would not lose it.  The rest of the fabric was ordered, and I have no doubt when we return to that store next week, she will be there and so will the fabric.  Another six yards!

We DID stop midway through this shopping marathon to have barbecue for lunch.  You cannot come to Texas and not have barbecue.  So far I had had none.  But, how we got to the restaurant was interesting.  Annette, my sister-in-law, asked me what kind of food I wanted and I said "BBQ?"

She then put that word in her phone to find out where the nearest BBQ place was located!  Then there was a map to get us there.............a GOOD reason to have a "fancy" phone!  The BBQ was delicious as were the sides of potato salad and fried okra. Dessert was banana pudding.  Yup, no doubt, I'm in the Heart of Texas!

The weather here has been all over the place.  From hot and humid to high 30's, windy, cold and raining.  Today is the latter.  When the highs in Houston in April are the high 50's, low 60's, that is considered cold.  It makes me realize how predictable the weather is in San Miguel - usually sunny.

All kinds of fun and interesting things coming up in the next week.  Who knows what I'll have to tell you this time next week?


Monday, April 09, 2018

A LOVE Fest!

It would probably be better to call this past weekend, my birthday weekend, a LOVE and LAUGHTER Fest.  There was plenty of both.

I had made no plans for my birthday on Saturday.  On Thursday a message from my daughter, Julie, asking if I wanted to celebrate with she, my granddaughters, Jessica, Hannah and Emma was
answered with a resounding "YES".

It began early Saturday morning with me driving to Kingwood, about forty minutes from where I
am staying, and the FUN began............

First, of course, we stopped for sustenance for the LONG drive, ha, (three hours) to Austin!  COFFEE was at the top of my list and the others got their goodies as well.  The waitstaff took our
first photo of many..........and then, we were off.

One of the GREAT things was, I did not have to drive.  Beautiful drive and beautiful wildflowers.....
except it was raining, the wind was blowing and the temperature was dropping like a rock.
Next thing I know we are stopping at Buckee's - a glorified gas stop with a building filled with food, tschotkes, goodies and clothes.  My kids could not believe that I had never been to Buckee's!  I was astounded at all they had to sell that no one actually needs.  Yes, we walked out with two bags full of stuff..........Note the jackets and sweaters.

The manager saw us having so much fun and took this photo!

Onward we went.  The wind was blowing so hard there were whitecaps on the ranch ponds and steam was rising off the water!  I tried and tried to get a photo as we whizzed by - no such luck.

Next stop, Freebirds in Austin, where my granddaughter, Jessica, who is manager there, greeted us
with hugs and love.  Then someone took this photo of us all together!

It is hard to believe that my whole family (except for Matilda and Sebastian) are taller then I!  I'm not that short...........
We managed to get out that night for dinner at Kerby Lane.  By that time it was 38F April Texas,  The wind was still blowing hard.  Gosh it was cold.  The great meal - lots of laughter and all kinds of storytelling capped off the night.

Somehow five of us managed to sleep on air mattresses, a futon and a bed in a small one
bedroom apartment.  More laughter, on Sunday.  Ultimately, we had to leave Austin.  Sadly we all
hugged, with me declaring it "my BEST birthday ever" and off we drove.  Back to Houston.  Whew,
what fun - what memories and what laughter. 

I cannot imagine another birthday ever being better!  Thanks to my family, my friends and all the ancillary people (waiters and stander-bys) who made it all possible.


Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The Saga Continues............

The saga continues.  The above photo was taken on a street in San Miguel of the jacaranda trees which were blooming profusely as I prepared to leave for the USA.  They are such grand, exquisite trees.

I arrived in Houston and dealt with all the things that come up when you arrive somewhere, like getting a rental car, getting my US cell phone turned on and one unexpected inconvenience, my computer would not link with any "open" wifi and I could not get the password initially for my friend Martha's internet site.  It took five days of patience and persistence to rectify that situation.  Thank goodness for a service called Geek Squad. And, the patience and persistence of a young man named Robin at Best Buy who spent two afternoons plus a phone call to get the computer and me connected to wifi.  Whew.

I did get out one evening with my old friend Bob to see Chris Smither, musician and song writer extraordinaire who happened to be in town last Friday night at the Mucky Duck.  It was a last minute thing that worked out for me to go.  So welcome and enjoyable.  I love live music!

My friend Martha, who I am staying with at present received this lovely bouquet of flowers from a granddaughter who lives in Maine.  The two of us have oohed and aahed over the fragrance and beauty since their unexpected arrival last Saturday afternoon.

By the way, I have no idea why these photos are floating all
over the place and not in their usual place. Whatever!

As I arrived at my brother and sister-in-law's house on Monday to head to the doctor appointment, finally, this is the view that greeted me of their front gardens!  It just made me smile with joy.  My sister-in-law, Annette, is an avid gardener.  It certainly shows when you see their home.

Off my brother and I went to meet with the orthopedic surgeon to find out the process prior to surgery that was scheduled for April 18th.  You are not going to believe what I am going to write.  There is NOT going to be any surgery..............Yes, both knees are "bone on bone" but the doctor wants to take  a "conservative" approach with other methods and surgery as a "last" resort.  Of course, you can imagine, after thinking about this, making arrangements and planning this for the last eight months, I was speechless.  Totally.  All of his comments and suggestions made sense, but I just "wanted to get on with it and get it over with".  No way.  Instead I received cortisone shots in both knees.  I have been pain free since yesterday morning.  The doctor wants to see how long this lasts and try this for a while............his reasoning is that it is major surgery.  Not all is successful and if I can return to my way of life comfortably without the surgery, I would be better off.  We'll see.

I truly have not been able to wrap my head around all of this.  I'm still in a quandary as to what to do.
Get a second and third opinion; take it as it is; or what.

I now have almost two months in the USA to do whatever............At this point, "one day at a time."

Plans had been made prior to my arrival to go to see the Texas wildflowers yesterday.  Rather then sit around and try to figure things out, I went.  Never even thought about my knees all day.  A LONG day, but so worth it.  Here are some of the scenes we saw as we drove to Chappell Hill for lunch, then went to see the wildflowers and ended up at a magnificent ranch in the Hill Country before heading back to Houston which was only a 45 minute drive, but truly another world away.

Enjoy the shots of the bluebonnets. Indian paintbrush, the farms and ranches and the pond at the ranch that we stopped at prior to returning.  Beautiful day.  Beautiful country.  (You can click on the photos to enlarge, if you wish)

                 The ranch and this magnificent oak tree.  We even saw some larger then this! 

Scene after scene of bluebonnets with sprinkles of Indian paintbrush along with a dab of buttercups.  Oh my, a panoply of color.
To be away from the city, in nature, was just what the doctor ordered, even though he did not know it!

                          Texas back roads always include farms and barns with great Texas skies.

This ranch had the largest herd of longhorns that I've ever seen.  Quite amazing and beautiful.

Back at the one hundred acre ranch of Mr. Smith, he told us the story of he and his wife buying this property in the 1960's, having an architect from Brenham designing the house, the pond, the tennis court and moving a couple of houses already on the property around.  It was fascinating to imagine.

As you can see, we are near the edge of the stocked fishing pond.  The back story is, there were seven of us in this van, on this little dike driving around this pond.  Of the seven occupants, one is wheel chair bound, one uses a walker and the other three of us use canes.  Mr. Smith wanted to drive around.  The ground was a bit soggy.  The driver was so terrified that we were going to bog down (me too).  But, we finally made it around it and drove up the incline back to the ranch house for drinks and appetizers.  Can you imagine, if it had gotten stuck, the seven of us either trying to walk through a field to the house or pushing the van or whatever?  It made me chuckle inside myself to think of it and be grateful that it did NOT happen.  Life is definitely an adventure!