Texas Part Two

After saying good-bye to my sister and her family, we drove a short distance away to Fredericksburg, where we got some ice cream and took a short walk along the main street in their shopping district.  Fredericksburg is clearly a town of German origin, and many signs, storefronts, and even their wineries bore German names.  It was a lovely little town, and reminded me of little Fairhope, Alabama, near where we used to live.

Wall art for sale in Fredericksburg. I like this design on the lower right.

Sweet stop.

Ice cream for now, and one pack of candy for later.

Mama got some ice cream, too.

I have always wondered – what is ice cream that is not hand dipped? I guess soft serve?

Wanted to sit on his own.

. . . too bad! (Seatmates)

Sarsparilla.

Wagon wheel rocking bench.

After scarfing down our cones and taking a quick ride on the wagon wheel rocker, we climbed back into the car and drove on to Luckenbach – less a town, and more just a couple of weathered old buildings and a live music/dance hall venue.  I’m going to liberally plagiarize wikipedia here, because after visiting Luckenbach I *needed* to know what it ever was, and it has a funny little history – it was never even really a town:

On December 15, 1847, a petition was submitted to create Gillespie County. In 1848, the Texas Legislature formed Gillespie County from Bexar and Travis counties. While the signatories were overwhelmingly German immigrants, names also on the petition were Castillo, Peña, Muños, and a handful of non-German Anglo names.  Its oldest building is a combination general store and saloon reputedly opened in 1849 (1886 is more likely, based on land improvement records of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission) by Minna Engel, whose father was an itinerant minister from Germany. The community, first named Grape Creek (or more likely a poor transliteration in the records of ‘Gap Creek’, as Luckenbach comes from German ‘lucken’ = gap & ‘bach’ = stream), was later named after Engel’s husband, Carl Albert Luckenbach, who was then her fiancé. They would later move to another town which became Albert, Texas. Luckenbach was first established as a community trading post, one of a few that never broke a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians, with whom they traded.  Luckenbach’s population increased to a high of 492 in 1904, but by the 1960s it was almost a ghost town. A newspaper advertisement offering “town — pop. 3 — for sale” led Hondo Crouch, a rancher and Texas folklorist, to buy Luckenbach for $30,000 in 1970, in partnership with Kathy Morgan and actor Guich Koock. Crouch used the town’s rights as a municipality to govern the dance hall as he saw fit.  Today Luckenbach maintains a ghost-town feel with its small population and strong western aesthetic. One of its two main buildings houses the remnants of a post office, a working saloon, and a general store. The other is the dance hall. The post office was closed on April 30, 1971 and its zip code (78647) was retired. The general store remains active as a souvenir shop where visitors can purchase a variety of items, including merchandise featuring the town’s motto “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach,” postcards, T-shirts, sarcastic and humorous signs, and the local newspaper, the 8-page monthly Luckenbach Moon.

The Prof bought a t-shirt from this tiny ancient store.

The t-shirt in question.

Live music – it would have been great to have a beer and stay a while, but alas . . . children.

Do you see what I see, past Craig’s head?

It was a very bossy an aggressive rooster, waltzing around behind the open-air bar like he owned the place.

A view inside the dance hall.

The tl;dr of the wikipedia entry above.

We listened to a band for a few minutes, and Craig chased a rooster, but it was hot and the boys were worn and fratchy, so the Prof got himself a t-shirt and we were back on the road toward our resort.  The Prof had booked us into a room at the Horseshoe Bay Resort, on LBJ Lake near Llano, Texas.  The plan was to see some of the lake, lots of the pool, and enjoy hill country scenery.  I’m pleased to say that we executed the plan with precision!  We checked into the hotel and relaxed for a bit, exhausted from Krause Springs shenanigans.  Then we headed downstairs for dinner al fresco in the hotel restaurant.  I had a BBQ chicken pizza, which was just fine, and I’m pretty sure the boys had hamburgers again.  I also had an excellent margarita – my drink of choice whenever treating myself!

Dinner bell.

This was an “Italian margarita,” whatever that is.

After dinner, we wandered over to the free S’mores station.  I showed the boys how to perfectly toast their marshmallows, which none of them had the patience for.

S’mores!

One way to get ’em to stop talking – sticky marshmallows!

We then took a stroll along the grounds, the children running ahead.

Palmy

Take a picture of us, mom!

We all went pretty quickly to bed thereafter – Krause Springs is better than an Ambien for getting two old folks and three young folks instantly to sleep.  Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep well, because it stormed like mad all night – thunder, lightning, lashing rain.  We woke the next morning to that orangey-yellow weird tropical storm kind of light outside, and more rain.

Don’t know why
There’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather . . .

The rain didn’t last, though, and we ended up with a relatively cool, overcast day at the pool, which was just perfect.  We still put on sunscreen and stayed under umbrellas, but it was still so nice to feel comfortable and not cooked under a sizzling sun.  The resort had two pools – one just outside our window, and another at the yacht club on the lake itself (to which we had access as part of our hotel room rate).  We caught a free shuttle bus to that one, and Craig charmed the bus driver as he bopped on and off dressed in his swimming gear (including ridiculous goggles that don’t stay tight, but he insists on wearing even though the water “fills up up up” as he says, miming a water level rising from the bottom of the goggles to the top.)

Getting a picture by this artistic longhorn  in the lobby proved basically impossible.

Iron Man goggles, Iron Man kickboard.

Lightning McQueen, ready to go.

Middle Child, ready to go.

On the shuttle bus – WITHOUT A CAR SEAT, oh the thrill.

Seatmates.

The Prof and I enjoyed pina coladas in the swim up bar while we watched the children splash in the pool nearby.  We all spent some time in the hot tub, which looked nothing like a tub and was a giant, separate pool full of fake rocks and uplighting, which let you feel tucked away in your own nook even when there were dozens of people in it.

Two thumbs up

Craig just bobbed around all day in his life jacket.

The pool was situated right on the lake, and a separate area was set up for swimming in the actual lake. A shallow section of lake was walled off with a small opening, and beach chairs and sand toys were littered about for the kids. We enjoyed a beer while the boys splashed and collected rocks, and then complained mightily when we made them throw the rocks back in.

Lake life.

Cheers!

The picture does not do the lake justice.

Lush hotel landscaping.

Boys on the lake.

This boy.

Gotta do what brothers do.

Three towel turbans.

We spent essentially the entire day at the pool/lake.  We took turns swimming with the boys and relaxing with a book in a pool chair, ordered lunch delivered to us poolside, had a drink here or there.  Due to the occasional sprinkle of rain and the overcast sky (plus the fact it was a Monday), the pool was not heavily attended, so it was perfect.  And the pool didn’t have any deep areas – the big boys could stand everywhere, and Craig was in a lifejacket – so while we kept an eye on them, we didn’t have to stand and lifeguard.

From about 9am til about 4pm, we exhausted every inch of that yacht club pool.  Then we went home, dressed in dry clothes, and headed out for Llano and a pit BBQ restaurant that the Prof had read about and wanted to try.

Cooper’s BBQ in Llano.

I highly recommend that if you are ever in the vicinity of Llano, you give Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ a try.  It was pretty authentic, no frills, delicious stuff.  You walk underneath a giant hanging menu to an open area under a corrugated plastic roof, right up to an above-ground pit that is being manned by a wiry tattooed dude who lifts the lid and patiently waits while you peruse the giant slabs and point him (and his giant carving knife) towards your selections.  The meat is priced by the pound, and sort of like the deli counter in a grocery, you ask him for a half pound of brisket, or a pound of sausage, or a quarter chicken.  He helped us get the right amount, and then he deftly sliced off giant hanks of seasoned meat and flopped it all straight onto a cafeteria tray, then handed it to the Prof.  We then took our tray into the inside part of the restaurant, where you handed it to an aproned worker behind the counter to be sliced into edible portions, then handed back to you wrapped in paper.  Your order includes all the pinto beans, white bread, and pickles you can eat.  Giant containers of pickles and bagged sliced bread were laid out on long picnic tables inside, and the beans were in a giant cauldron in the back, next to a stack of small styrofoam bowls.  Takeout containers were stacked at a self-serve station, including industrial rolls of aluminum foil and parchment paper – nothing fancy here.

Craigie orders up some sausage.

Take my kids all the way to Texas so they can gorge themselves on white bread.

We ate at a long communal picnic table under taxidermied deer heads, our food laid out on squares of wax paper (which is what they use instead of plates), cold Lone-Star longnecks for the adults and root beer for the boys.  We ordered a side of mac and cheese, and three orders of cobbler – one peach, one apple, and one blackberry.  The boys had a few slices of sausage and about six slices of white bread apiece, plus gallons of root beer and one or two reluctant, forced bites of beans.  It was heaven.

After dinner, we once again waddled back to the car and drove along the lovely hill country, back to the hotel.  At one point, I said aloud to the boys “the Texas landscape is neat because the desert vegetation coexists with the deciduous trees, and the contrast is startling.” Liam replied, “wow, there are cactus sprouting right next to beautiful trees in full bloom. It’s like jungle mixed with Wild West.”  He won that contest of words.  Both of us were right – New Orleans is very tropical, ridiculously giant blooms, riotous foliage, fast growing green everywhere the eye can see.  Texas was very different – more scrubby, heading toward “desert” but not quite all the way there.  The hills and buttes were delightful – we come from flat flat flat land, so the boys screamed like they were on a roller coaster as we went up and down the undulating Texas hills, heading back to our last night in the hotel.

The next morning, it was Pack Up and Go Home time.  We managed to get everyone packed up and out the door without too much trouble, and stopped in Blanco on the way home to pick up some famous Texas lavender.

Blanco’s town hall. It is not a big place.

We went to a charming store in the tiny town, where we got the boys some cold waters and I bought some lavender soap, lavender lotion, and a lavender plant.  The lovely proprietress gently and pleasantly pointed out all of the local goods she sells, and joked about the upcoming lavender festival – “Our thing here in Blanco, our only thing” – and told us to come back!  Perhaps we will one day.

Blanco store.  You can see the pots of lavender set out on a folding table on the sidewalk in front of the window.

We headed out of town, saying good-bye to our vacation.  We had Jack in the Box for lunch, and stopped at Waffle House in Morgan City, Louisiana for dinner.

Yum.

Cheapest meal we had all week, and so good.

We got home to an eager pup shortly before 9pm.  I had to catch a flight to Atlanta for depositions the next morning, departing at 10:45, so we did Strike Force Unpacking, put the boys to bed, and then I re-packed my suitcase.  Atlanta wasn’t bad – I stayed only one night and worked almost the entire time but still managed to work out twice, meditate twice, do yoga/stretches, take a hot bath, and enjoy a glass of chilled white wine while reading a mystery novel.  I go back to Atlanta tomorrow, this time for two nights, and I’ll try to make the most of it – running many miles, stretching many stretches, and resting from my “Second Shift” job of momming, even as I double up on the job job.  But I go away having been filled to the brim with good times with my boys – a great summer kick-off trip, perfect in every way!

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*Meals*

Quick interlude for meals, so I can keep the links together.  I’m out of town Mon-Wed for depositions (been traveling a lot lately), back on Thursday and then gone again Fri-Mon for a Richmond wedding.  Then the travel should die down.

This of course makes meal planning a challenge.  The Prof is not helpless and can handle it but his repertoire is limited (he reads this blog, he will not disagree), so I’ll prep some things ahead and choose meals that are Prof-proof.

Saturday: Orzo with summer squash and pesto, roasted broccoli and carrots, corn on the cob

Sunday: grilled tilapia, bok choy

Monday: Sausage pasta bake

Tuesday: Tacos with ground beef, refried beans

Wednesday: pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches, fruit

Thursday: go out for Liam’s birthday!

Friday: frozen pizza

Saturday: leftover pasta bake

Sunday: Father’s Day – I’ll be out of town (ugh), so I’ll arrange whatever the Prof wants arranged that is arrange-able from a distance.

 

 

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Lilypad 1 – Texas Trip

We decided this year to kick off the summer with a short vacation to Texas Hill Country. Our trip, from Friday through Tuesday, would include a couple of nights in San Antonio with my sister, her husband, and their baby. Then we’d head out to a day at a swimming hole and natural springs, swing by Luckenbach for a quick look around, and head to a hill country resort for a couple of days. I’m writing this first recap mid-trip – and it’s been just perfect so far.

The trip started with the stressful crush of preparing, as it always does. After a Thursday filled with frantic shoring up of all my cases in advance of leaving town for a bit, I had to leave early for a summer associate event. (I am in charge of managing the summer associates – it’s a LOT of work to add onto the billing, but I do enjoy it). We took our summer associates on a walking cocktail tour around the French Quarter, led by a tour guide who worked to incorporate some legal trivia into our evening.

We started with Ramos Gin Fizzes and Sazeracs at the glorious art deco Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel.  The bar was built in 1938, and has beautiful walnut-paneled walls, mahogany bar, and murals painted by Missouri artist Paul Ninas.  Our tour guide regaled us with stories of its history (formerly the Grunewald, then the Fairmont, now the Roosevelt) and famous residents (Louisiana Governor and U.S. Senator Huey P. Long lived in the hotel a while, and once famously flew its head bartender up to New York to teach the bartenders there how to properly mix a Ramos Gin Fizz), while we sipped craft cocktails and strained to hear over the ambient noise of the busy bar.  We next headed over to the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone (where we did not have a drink, it was too crowded). The bar, true to its name, looks like a fairgrounds carousel, and the main bar itself plus the seats around it all spin in a circle, completing one rotation every 15 minutes.   We heard a little of the literary history of the place, which was a favorite of numerous authors and is featured in works by Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Anne Rice, and others.  Truman Capote famously claimed to have been born there, although he was not – his mother was staying there at the time of his birth, but he was delivered in the nearby Touro Infirmary (where Liam was born!)

After hearing about the Monteleone, we then stepped back out into the humid street and walked a few blocks to Hermes, the bar connected to the famous Antoine’s restaurant, where I had a sidecar and their famous potato soufflés.  The bar has a checkerboard tiled floor and warm wood paneled walls, and we stayed a long while there, just chatting and getting to know each other.  Our last stop was at French 75, one of the bars of New Orleans classic restaurant Arnaud’s and tended by Chris Hannah, one of the most celebrated bartenders in the city and beyond.  Our tour ended then and we just finished one last cocktail before dispersing – some folks went home, others went on for more fun, and I had to head back to the office for an hour, then go home and do some more work. It was a wonderfully exhausting day.

The next morning, I got up early and tied up a few more work things (it’s so hard to get away!), then packed the boys’ and my suitcase, while the Prof got the dog sitter situated and made sure the dishes/trash/car/etc. was all set. We left the house at about 10, and headed West toward San Antonio, where my littlest sister and her husband were celebrating their baby’s first birthday.

Bunches of boys and grapes, ready for a long drive.

The drive was not too bad – about 10 hours this time, due to a couple of accidents slowing us down a bit, but the boys handled it really well. They read part of the time, played part of the time, watched movies part of the time – they really were pretty great with being in the car.

Each of them reading a Dog Man graphic novel.

We arrived at about 7:30 pm, and baby Charles was still up and gave us all big smiles and big hugs (no stranger danger yet! So delightful to get an enthusiastic hug from my baby nephew!), before heading down to bed. Our boys had pizza on the back porch, while we had pulled pork sandwiches, and then we all headed to bed as well.

Arrived at last! I think this was the next morning actually, but pretend it’s night.

Everyone was up and at ‘em at about 7 am the next morning – including Charles, who had slept beautifully. We had a big cooked breakfast and the boys showed Charles all the little boy toys that they had brought for him as hand me downs. He particularly loved the stroller and wagon, which he pushed/pulled all over the place.

Toy extravaganza.

Jack. Loves. Babies.

The scene shortly before their ridiculous dog popped this soccer ball.

Baby Charles loves his mama.

Driveway chalk time with Aunt Corrie.

He had an early morning nap, and the big boys played around the backyard while the adults got showers and ready for the day. We eventually left Charles and his dad at home, and we headed out to the Pearl district of San Antonio, which was hopping with a giant farmers’ market, a central splash pad/fountain, and tons of street food, all along the river walk. There were rows upon rows of brightly colored sun shades set up, with all manner of goods set out underneath. Giant leeks with bulbs the size of a fist, stems as long and broad as your forearm. Creamy new potatoes, honey, nuts, silver jewelry, small carts selling Mexican street food that smelled delicious – we were surrounded by luscious sights and smells. All round us towered mission style architecture – shops, the Pearl Brewery, the Hotel Emma. It felt very much like we were not in New Orleans – we were Somewhere Western – and it was a glorious day, bluebird sky, not so hot first thing in the morning but warming up.  The kids splashed in the fountain while my sister and the Prof and I sat in the shade of a tree nearby and talked.

In the main square.

Bluebird day.

That’s Liam in the middle – blue top and striped bottoms.

Our view – from our spot outside the splash zone.

Eventually, Charles woke up and came and joined us, ready at 12 months old to get in there and splash with the big boys. Jack shepherded him around everywhere, a solicitous older cousin, while Liam somehow found a plastic cup which he repeatedly launched via fountain spray, and Craig slipped and smacked his face and got a bloody nose.

Just woke up!

Out of focus baby.

Center of attention!

After the kids had exhausted themselves, we put on their dry shirts and walked down the river walk to get lunch at a restaurant called La Gloria.

Getting hotter – we saw baby ducks on our short jaunt down this section of the riverwalk.

We waited outside in the shade for about 20 minutes until a table was ready, and I made the boys pose with all of the funky metal characters out there. Texas seems quite good at dealing with heat, and they had lots of shade, lots of benches, and fans that blow cold mist on you. Those amenities plus the pomelo margarita that the Prof purchased for me kept me from melting while we waited.

Boys. Smile. Over here. SMILE.

Let’s try this one. Give me a good smile. Stop squinting. SMILE.

One more try.

Aunt Corrie chats with Craig while we wait.

Rosy cheeked baby.

This restaurant serves Mexican street food, so it’s a little like tapas – all ala carte. The Prof and I got four small plates to share, except one of them was not so small – the pork torta (basically a giant pulled pork hoagie).  We also had a ground beef tamale wrapped in a banana leaf instead of a corn husk; a shredded beef tostada topped in avocado, tomatoes, and crema; and three tiny chicken-and-tomatillo tacos, which were by far the best of the four small plates. Our boys got hamburgers, because of course they did. We shared one more prickly pear margarita, and waddled out of the restaurant a half hour later, stuffed to the gills.

We are surrounded by little boys.

I have a lotta Teeth and Cheek going on here.

Just two kids on vacation.

Business in the front, party in the back.

I walked outta this restaurant with a giant checkerboard pattern pressed into my bare legs.

Stole my hat.

It was hot by this point – HOT – and after paying the bill, we staggered down a dusty path toward the towering Hotel Emma, a sort of mission architecture cum steampunk affair. We wandered through the lobby for a moment, and then beelined back for the car, small children melting into puddles of whiny tiredness along the way. (Mostly just Craig).

Hotel Emma.

They really committed to a Look here.

Texas Ranch meets Steampunk Industrial. It was cool.

A pretty, tiled courtyard.

Time to head home for naps.

We drove past the Alamo on our way back to the house, and it looked like I expected from the pictures but it also was right in the middle of downtown, which gave it an odd vibe.

Tried to snap a pic of a taxidermied longhorn as we drove by, and these random children wandered in the frame right as I took it.

Drive By Alamo Sighting

My little love

Once home, the boys played Wii, I snoozed, Craig full-on napped, and everyone relaxed after a full day in the hot sun. Once Craig woke up, we all took the boys to get haircuts – we wanted to see Charles get his first haircut, and then the big boys got one too. It was a bit of a fiasco and Jack ended up with a terrible mushroom cut that simply was NOT going to work, so my sister thinned it out a bit at home. She made it look so easy, I’m planning to go buy myself some clippers and scissors and then will try it once, botch it, and never try again, I’m sure.

Baby’s First Haircut.

Super chill, even with the clippers.

No more baby mullet!

FIX IT FIX IT FIX IT

Better already.

We had jambalaya at home for dinner, a little bit of wine, a little bit of birthday cupcake, a little bit of Wii, a little bit of Parks and Rec, and then early to bed.

Happy birthday cupcakes!

The next morning, we all woke once more at about 7:00 – perfect, not too early, not too late. We immediately got ourselves packed and moving out the door. My sister packed a giant picnic, I dressed little boys in their swimsuits, and by 8ish, we were on the road to Krause Springs, little boys giggling their hearts out over Mad Libs all the way.

Mad Libs!

Krause Springs, founded in 1955, is a property privately owned, with 32 natural springs, campgrounds, swimming holes, and a man-made pool.  We parked in the dusty parking lot, gathered our picnic and towels and children, and picked our way precariously down a steep set of stairs, followed by an equally steep and slippery rock face.

I could call this trip – Boys Posed On Metal Things: A Series.

Down down down into the ravine.

Precarious. I was ready to catch this baby if his dad slipped, but we all managed to get down into the ravine without injury.

Several of the springs feed a manmade pool, which has a constant flow of water in one end and out the other.  The pool is at the bottom of the path and the top of the stairs pictured above, a nice place to swim on the upper level of the ravine.  We walked by it in the morning, and went back up to swim there later in the day.

The pool, lovely and cool.

The outflow at the far end runs to a waterfall and swimming hole.

Above the waterfall is the pool, just out of sight behind those trees.

It is very much still a “play at your own risk” kind of place, which I loved – it has not been over-safety-fied, if that makes sense. The boys could scramble around slipping and sliding and scraping over rocks, and we swam in water that could be 8 feet deep in one spot, and then suddenly you slam your legs into a giant rock that lets you stand in water up to your shins. There were roots and waterfalls and caves and rocks and who knows what kind of wildlife, and the boys just loved every second of exploring it.

Charles had a great time too – dressed in a puddle jumper and thrilled to death to be out in the mix, he was completely unfazed by all the commotion. He really just dug being one of the group, it was so darling. He’s still a baby, but beginning to transition into a Big Boy, and he really loves his cousins (and they love him!)  A small number of families were there before us, and we set up a picnic blanket on a wide stretch of rock, and then slipped and slid down the mossy rock face into the water. I wore my trusty old Chacos – so glad I brought them – and helped fish boys out of tight spots now and again. We adults all took turns jumping from a rope swing, and told the boys it was only for age 14 and up (a little white lie that I do not regret).

Slippery! I wore my Chacos in the water and still slipped and slid everywhere.

Rope swing to the left, waterfall and spooky cave to the right.

Trying to clamber out. It was impossible to do this gracefully.

After a picnic lunch of PB&J for the boys and turkey sandwiches for us, I took Jack and Liam down the banks of the stream to explore. We scrambled over a mass of tangled, slippery tree roots, splashed through ankle deep water (toes squishing into who-knows-what), and made our way to a small waterfall of absolutely frigid water, where we rinsed off and screamed at the chill. We hiked the opposite bank before we came to an impasse, and then slipped and slid over rocks and roots and mess to doggy paddle back to the picnic blanket (Jack squealing with each step “what is this SUBSTANCE??! This is a slippery SUBSTANCE!”)

What time is it? It’s time for lunch! (That’s a Bubble Guppies reference)

Some hungry little explorers.

We spent a great deal of time under that lush canopy and waterfall. I wish I could have gotten an up close photo of what it looked like underneath – emerald moss, rampant green foliage, clear and cold water in a steady trickle, small cave a dark slash in the rock face.

Dipping toes

My explorer buddies. Did not take my phone on our adventure as it’s not waterproof, but I have the mental picture of the two of them – Liam bounding ahead, Jack more cautiously picking his way behind us. Keeping my anxious eye out for snakes, but letting the boys run nonetheless. The second waterfall, this one on dry land, and the boys standing under it for a cool rinse on a hot day.  Slipping back into the water and paddling towards the picnic blanket, Jack good naturedly hollering about “SUBSTANCE” and Liam forging ahead, unafraid.  My boys!

It was time to pack up the picnic items – the swimming hole was starting to fill up with 20 somethings with coolers of beer, and we figuratively passed the torch to them as we single-filed it up the slippery steps to the upper level, with the swimming pool. The pool was MUCH chillier than the swimming hole down below, being less in the sun and closer to the mouth of the springs, but we all got in and the boys took turns leaping off the rocks on the far end, while we adults sat together in the shallow end and talked a bit, passing the baby back and forth.

Everybody jump on Uncle Andrew!!

Handsome boy, ready for a dive.

The outflow side of the pool.

Good-bye Krause Springs!

We all hosed off, dried off, got dressed, and hugged our good-byes, as the two family units were about to part ways – sister back home, us on to a resort, via a few other stops.  And that will be my next post!  Thank you for joining us on our grand summer kick-off adventure.

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Lilypads

*Edited to add pictures!*

The Prof is at graduation, shaking hands and shepherding graduates.  Craig is napping upstairs.  Liam is at a friend’s and has been for about 24 hours – not sure when we’ll see him again.  Jack is flailing around the house whining about being bored and kind of destroying my otherwise quiet afternoon, and frankly I wish he’d just buzz off.  His friend came over for a while, and quickly pegged Jack as being in a foul mood, so he went back home.   Jack did have a friend spend the night but they went to bed at a reasonable hour so I don’t know what his deal is, but I am ready for him to take a nap.

Meanwhile, I am drinking a La Croix and enjoying my gorgeous flowers on my back deck, which we finally purchased and potted this past weekend.  They have gotten used to their new pots and perked up, especially after Friday’s dumping rains.

Enjoying the sun after yesterday’s monsoon.

I got a Norfolk pine,

Piney

a gardenia,

If only I could upload the scent

some herbs and peppers and strawberries,

Perhaps one day, we shall have a strawberry from this tiny thing

Some kinda hot pepper

Basil (already a bit baked), thyme, and sage.

and all colors of vinca and marigolds and snapdragons and dusty miller,

We bought four of these window boxes from the Prof’s grandmother

Helloooooooo

Scooter parking

Daisy head maizie

Love a simple pink vinca

and one lonely little hosta, tucked in a shady spot.

Hosta la vist- no. I won’t.

Jack insisted we purchase a palm growing out of a coconut, as well as a particularly ugly succulent (cactus-adjacent, but spine-free).  So those are out there too.  He said “no one else is going to want to buy this” and I was like “I KNOW, RIGHT, WE HAVE TO SAVE IT,” so don’t ever let us go to an animal shelter together.

Oh lord this cactus is so ugly and floppy

This one’s kinda neat and also might be an actual tree.

In front, we have several succulents – some echeveria and sedum and aloe, since the sun out front is punishing and anything else we put out there dies.

Succulents out front

THEY’RE SO TINY AND CUTE

OMFG TEENY POINTY PETALS

Front porch succulents

BABEEZ

Tucked into a corner. To get onto our front porch you have to crawl thru the window which is *mostly* charming

We have a somewhat OTT collection of containers for our very tiny back deck, so it feels quite lush and tropical out there right now with flowers at your elbow no matter where you sit.  By July it will probably start to look tired and a little leggy, as even now it’s hotter than it should be out there, but it looks so lovely and springlike now.

Last window box

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One of the things I most love about Craig right now is how earnestly he gives me complicated lists of instructions that I have no intention of following, and I think he knows on some level that I won’t, but nevertheless he presses on.  Sometimes this is a stall tactic (i.e. the hoops he expects me to jump through right when it’s naptime are pretty laughable), and sometimes it is a ritual (every morning he asks me for “new batman shoes and a milkshake and some batman cookies” or some similar list when I drop him off at daycare, and I say “absolutely bud, will do, after school,” and of course we never do).  Sometimes he’s just trying to communicate in his four year old way, and my eyes sort of glaze over as I wonder when this lengthy nonsensical spoken checklist will cease, but also I find it so interesting to imagine what’s going on in his little four year old mind.  I have almost zilcho memories of being four – I mean there’s one or two in there, but it’s mostly gone – and what a mystery, those tiny brains are!  How silly and not-quite-right, but also figuring-things-out, sprinkled with surprise I-can’t-believe-you-remember-that.  Today he apparently notice the giant sprawling red birthmark on his leg for the first time, which is surprising as it covers his whole calf, but he asked me what it was?  And ‘maybe it’s from Wyoming [our neighbor] took us on a picnic, and I stooded on a ant hill, and the ants crawl on me?’  No love, it’s a birthmark you’ve had your whole life, but also wow!  That picnic was months ago, and you remember it, and bring it up.  He still talks about ‘that time we took a bike ride and waited under a bridge,’ and I believe that was not long after Mother’s Day last year.

Anyway, today I pushed him a mile in the stroller to the library – just him and me.  For some reason he thought the library had cookies, and he kept charming the circulation desk by asking politely where the cookies were please.  So we got him a library card and checked out some books and signed up for summer reading, and then I promised we would get cookies after we got home.

A cookie hopeful

Baby’s first library card

Only due to other children shenanigans we didn’t manage it before naptime, and I promised him daddy would bring some home after nap, and out came his fingers – “first [pointing to index finger], they need to have cream.  Next [points to middle finger], they also need to look like fingers. And some need to look like hats, and then the big cookie is on the 12 and the little cookie is on the 8. And that’s what daddy needs to get.  And we put them in a bowl so it’s full but they don’t spill out.  Make sure it’s the right size.”

Yes darling.  OK.  Finger-hat-cream-clock cookies, in a properly-sized bowl, coming up.  Now go take a nap.

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Years ago the Angry Redhead – a woman who no longer blogs, and was she angry? Or some other emotion? I no longer recall – wrote about the concept of lilypads – those special events through the year that punctuate the humdrum everyday.  I’ve got quite a few coming up, and I thought I’d share them here.

  • Texas Hill Country: in just a few short weeks, we’re taking a short jaunt over to Texas.  First we’ll visit my sister in San Antonio, and then head over to a resort in hill country for a couple of days swimming and relaxing – a good kick-off to the summer.  We plan to spend a day at Krause Springs (I think – the Prof planned this and he told me the name and this sounds right?) and we also have to go to Luckenbach Texas so he can get a t-shirt to replace the t-shirt the last time he went to Luckenbach.  If you’re unfamiliar with the inspiration for this visit, please click here and feel just a tiny measure of my lifelong pain.  This is a long weekend – I take Friday, Monday and Tuesday off, and then on Wednesday I fly to Atlanta to take a deposition.
  • The Prof’s Hometown: in early July, we are going to spend a full week in the Prof’s hometown.  I don’t normally go on this trip because of work, but since I work remotely from all of my partners anyway (they’re in CA or NY, generally), I just said ‘what the heck’ and agreed to go.  I’ve told everyone, and it seems fine.  I’ll take the week as it comes – I definitely will need to work, but can also take some afternoon/mornings or perhaps even a full day off here or there.
  • My Parents’ House: in early August, my parents get a turn.  I’m going on this one, too.  My firm technically gives me four full weeks of vacation and you cannot carry them over or cash them out, so Imma use it, sort of, while paranoidly checking email constantly and probably let’s face it working quite a lot.
  • My Birthday: I turn forty in early September, and I’ve decided I want to spend it in some giant beautiful place, where I am insignificant.  This place will either be Big Bend or the Guadalupe Mountains, just me and the Prof, camping and hiking and kayaking and sleeping in a tent.  This is what I want.  After three days or so of this, we will head back to hill country and float a river, spend a night in a fancy resort and get some spa treatments on our likely achy forty year old bones, and then go home.  Perfect.
  • Thanksgiving will be with my in-laws, Christmas with my parents, though beyond this rough idea we have no firm plans.

There we are.  A lovely list of things to enjoy.  How I’m going to bill 2000 hours in there, I can’t tell you, but I’ve already got well over 1000 so . . . (our year goes November 1 – October 31, so April was halfway through, and I’m on target. So at least not going in on these back half in a deficit!)

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Meals last week were really excellent.  I made the Romano chicken with skin-on, bone-in thighs, which I tried to butterfly – it definitely would work better with a breast, but still the breading was divine.  The kids were not feeling the lemon pasta, and next time I’ll put Parmesan in it as well.  The fritters were A++ – super easy, held together well, very good.  Next time I’ll spice them up a little more – they were a tiny bit bland, though the kids enjoyed them that way. The green chile and chicken lasagna is a great idea but needs work – it was just a LOT of really salty cheese.  I need to adjust the cheese – type and amount – and I may throw corn in it next time for some sweetness.  Worth working on, though, because it was so good, even though could be improved.  And last, for the salmon I just sprinkled some lemon pepper on it and broiled it, and roasted some potatoes tossed with Cajun spice, and then roasted broccoli.  Really simple, really good.  This week, I have a lot of potatoes and a lot of squash and a lot of sausage, so that somewhat informs my choices.  I’ve made all of these before (and loved them) except the last thing, so we’ll see how that goes.  On with the week!

Pan roasted chicken thighs with garlic roasted potatoes and squash.

Baked cream cheese spaghetti

Homemade Pizza

Zesty Burrito Bowl

Roasted Smoked Bratwurst and summer squash

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May in NOLA

Last weekend, the boys’ bestie across the street had a sleepover.  His parents have a pretty large property for our neighborhood (where generally the “yard” is the size of a picnic table).  Their house is pretty small, maybe 900 sf, but they have a giant outdoor courtyard area and a back-house with a tiny upstairs bedroom, even tinier under-the-stairs bathroom, and small main room with two daybeds.  The boys stayed in the back-house with another friend (the 14 yo girl from the last post), and they had a blast.  The mom snuck in briefly at 11pm to see if they were asleep, and they were not – they were all in the upstairs bedroom having a serious heart to heart about bullying.  She eavesdropped a second, and then quietly asked that they turn out the lights soon, and left them to it.  Gah, love it.  Love their little independence, their friendships, their hearts.

The next morning, I ended up taking just Liam to Costco after church, while the Prof took the other boys to a Sunday School teacher appreciation picnic (he is a Sunday school teacher for the 5 yo class, is that not darling?)  We had limited time to do the family chores, so we had to divide and conquer, and Liam was kind of terrible in church so he was forced to go with me.  He whined and complained at first, but then once we got there he got really into it, in a way that Liam occasionally does, and it was actually really kind of fun.  He enthusiastically ran and fetched things, he got thrilled by getting to choose cereal and juice and really agonized over whether to get our favorite tortilla strips or try a new brand.  He has always thrived under individual attention, and while not every solo trip with him is glorious, every glorious moment with him I’ve had has been with him solo.  Chalk that up to the curious enduring character traits of the middle child, I suppose.  After we finished, he helped me push the cart to the car and unload it, and then we rewarded ourselves with a slice of Costco pizza.  He was just happy as a clam – such a delight.  It was a good weekend.

Then this week, several basic, easy things that should happen in a civilized society just didn’t work in that particular way that NOLA has of failing to meet basic needs that other cities seem to find easy – like mail, and education, and basic street maintenance.  Last weekend I was sure we would live here forever, nourishing our children’s hearts and independence in the jasmine-scented, urban streets of humid magic New Orleans for the rest of their days, and this weekend I am ready to pack it all up and move somewhere more functional.  I will never not have this two-faced feeling for this city, I guess.  Its good moments are sublime perfection, and its bad moments are just maddening.

Today we plan to take the boys on a bike ride.  I have an abusive client (it’s actually 3 people on a very dysfunctional in house team) that email me over a hundred times yesterday, and they have already started in on the abuse this morning, and I am ignoring them.  Stick a fork in me.  If anyone in my reading audience is a lawyer, all of this nonsense is over Rule 26 Initial Disclosures – INITIAL. DISCLOSURES. Like, one of the least important things EVER.  I need to get out of these weeds and get some perspective, so they can shout into an echo chamber while I shepherd three little boys along a paved path and enjoy spring in NOLA before it gets so hot we can barely stagger through the day.

We are tentatively making plans for my upcoming 40th birthday, which conveniently falls over Labor Day weekend.  The plans involve a camping trip to a national park with sweeping vistas, and no cell service – just the kind of calm and perspective that is called for on a Big Birthday.  I want to take the whole week off.  I want to do long hikes, and be so tired out at the end of the day that sleeping on the ground poses no problem, and answer/read zero emails.  At the end of it, I want to stay one night in a luxury resort and get a massage and a pedicure and drink champagne and eat chocolate covered strawberries, and pamper a body that I will have overworked during the prior week.  Details are still being worked out, but this is the rough idea.

This week’s meals are listed below, mostly for my own edification.  I will also note that I made this Lentil shepherd’s pie a couple of weeks ago and it was AMAZING.  The BBQ sauce is vital.  Highly recommend.

Wishing you all a good week – with minimal maddening moments, and lots of joy.

Meals:

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