Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks! It's More Than Something You Buy

Come with me for a short stroll... through my front door, around the dining room, past the family room and into what I like to believe is the warmest room in the house. Yes, it's my kitchen – a warm, sweet-smelling place that will nourish your hunger pangs as well as your soul. If you take a few more steps through the kitchen, you will find yourself standing under an arched wall that, from a distance, appears to be filled with a bunch of scratches or sadly in need of a fresh coat of paint. To me, however, this is my wall of thanks. For those that look closely, some will see the stereotypical "growth-chart" wall used to track the changing heights of family members. But for those that look a little closer, maybe you will see what I see.

I see the scribbled names and dates of my children over the past 11 years of living in Austin. Thank you God for making them such happy, healthy and amazing people that continue to open their hearts to others in so many ways. Thank you God for trusting my husband and I to raise these very special gifts of life.

I see the names of friends old and new who have blessed us with their presence both in our home and in our hearts. Our friends are the family we have chosen over the years and the ones that will continue to watch us grow. I see family members that don't live here but have graced us with their joy and love and vacation visits.

I see the names of visitors from other countries who came into this house as strangers and left it as forever family members. They gave us a taste of their culture and left those memories forever imprinted on our hearts.

I see cracks and chipped paint, which reminds me that life is constantly in chaos yet the walls are still firm because the foundation of our family is strong and stable.

Each person who has signed their autograph makes me realize just how unique each of their personalities are and what a profound impact they continue to have on my life.

Of course this wall is near the entrance to my laundry room making it a high-traffic area and as such, dog hair can sometimes collect at its base - what a wonderful reminder of how important those furry creatures are, adding warmth to our family. I always say they rescued us and not the other way around.

Kitty-corner to this wall is a double-wide pantry that holds so many creative possibilities. I am so thankful for the years of conversations I've had with friends and family about there culinary adventures. It has kept my passion alive and continues to spark my imagination everyday.

What's that? Looks like an empty spot on our wall to me! And that is truly the one thing I am the most thankful for because that empty spot reminds me everyday that there are always new people to meet and invite into our hearts, as well as old friends who still need to come out and visit. It's only a marked-up wall. So simple yet so precious and something money can't buy. After all, reflecting on the things we are thankful for does not cost anything but time... I'm jus' sayin'!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Purple Houses & Warm Smiles

I know that I have mentioned one time or another that there are a few perks to being married to a writer. If you are lucky enough to accompany them when they go out to conduct research or attend events, you may have keen opportunities to learn all kinds of new things. I have also learned that when you are invited to a stranger's home based on a common interest shared with your spouse, don't hesitate to grab your stuff (pen, paper, camera and, in this case, maybe a bottle of tequila)!

This past weekend, I had the honor of meeting Lucinda Hutson, yet another deep, creative Austinite who has been living in her amazing purple house for 35 years. I am always filled with joy meeting such interesting people. From the moment she greeted us with a soulful hug at the gate of her garden I knew we were not going to be just dropping in for a quick "meet-n-greet". I'm not exactly sure if it was her whimsical garden that first took my breath away or the bright purple colors of the house. It was as if you stepped back for a moment and found yourself transported into one of those intricate pop up books. It was all quite surreal and nothing was nudging me to think about that "to-do" list or the errands we were actually out running. With the sounds of babbling water fountains adorned by mermaids and the constant bits of nature catching my eye (butterflies galore and a little squirrel chomping on a front porch pumpkin) I instantly forgot about the city around me. I think it's safe to say that I could write a volume on just her front garden alone. I will try to give you a quick tour from memory but I think the pictures below provide a much more vivid account.

Just seeing her front yard inspired me and with each step I took on her pathways my creative garden juices that have quite honestly been dormant this year due to our state-wide drought began to return. I particularly enjoyed her "salad garden". Full of herbs, lettuces and all things waiting to be adorned by a tasty dressing, it was thriving quite well. The specs of orange popping out from kumquat trees and the beautiful Meyer lemons greeting me on the pathway of joy! Particularly eye catching is the clever way her love for the Latin culture is so predominately portrayed, from mosaics to pottery to agave plants. Oh, I mentioned agave! Before I continue with my story I must say that not only is Lucinda a well known food writer but she is also a tequila aficionado that has been drinking, writing about and enjoying the world of agave way before it became the latest trendy "new spirit". Her love for the juice and it's culture humbly comes through in her lively stories and the way her eyes light up while sharing them. It was because of her love of the agave that we were there in the first place. Lucinda was doing some research and contacted my husband after finding his tequila blog. After trading a few emails, she invited us out to her home and that's where we now found ourselves. As her gardener worked his magic around us, we wandered throughout her garden and unique backyard spaces. Then we were invited into her casa.

The inside was just as whimsical as the outside. I felt as if I were stepping into a casa straight from old world Mexico. Lucky for me, Lucinda still had her Día de los Muertos decorations out as beautiful sugar skulls adorned her dining room. The moment I was waiting for came when she took me into her kitchen. The colors, the food, and the energy were just seeping through the pottery and mosaics. I had no doubt that in that small oasis the inspiration for her books were found and her recipes tested. She quickly fixed us a refreshing "coctel" in lovely Moroccan mint tea glasses. While Bob discussed tequila I found a cozy place to sit down and skim through her tequila cookbook, first published in 1994, and ordering one for myself quickly became the first item on my to-do list (and which I did later that night). It was hard to say goodbye (I truly believe we could have stayed well into the night chatting) and I quickly realized that Lucinda was the true epitome of "Mi Casa, Su Casa." I'm already looking forward to going back to her lovely casa and hearing more stories. Thank you Lucinda for bringing such joy to my afternoon "to-do" list!

It's been over 10 years since we moved from California and I only knew one person in Austin. Now we are surrounded by friends that have become La Familia and I can't imagine having my casa anywhere else. Now if you will excuse me I have some creative gardening to attend too I'm jus sayin!

Delicioso Coctel by Lucinda Hutson

In small glasses
2 part fresh pomegranate juice
1 part good silver tequila
1/2 key lime (squeezed and dropped in)
5-6 frozen pomegranate seeds
1 Allspice leaf
1-2 ice cubes

I plan on making some more of her recipes in the future and posting them.