The Wind Brought Them to Texas

My friends Caitlin and Jed are on a world tour for the next 365 days. They quit their jobs. They sold their condo in Chicago. They packed up 6 pairs of underwear each (no, seriously…I’m not joking).

And one of the first stops on their journey was to visit us in Texas!

So this past weekend, we gave them our best Texas tour (within 200 miles). We took them to First Friday in Downtown Bryan where we introduced them to our College Station friends and to Big Red margaritas. We took them to Bryan’s only gay bar, Halo, for a night of dancing and drag queens. We took them to Lexington for BBQ (Caitlin and I ate kind bars and yogurt, since we’re both not the beef-consuming kind).

Along the way, we stopped and took obligatory bluebonnet photos.

Caitlin and Jed at Snows

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On Saturday night, we took them to the eastside of Austin to enjoy food truck pizza and beers at Violet Crown Social Club. We showed them a little of 6th Street. After no luck finding a decent place to stay, we threw caution to the wind and settled on a Super 8. It was not so super (particularly the plethora of cop cars in the parking lot when we got back from our evening out), but it worked out. On Sunday afternoon, we gnoshed on vegetarian vittles at one of my favorite Austin restaurants, Bouldin Creek Cafe, and then parted ways in the parking lot.

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Caitlin and I have been friends since freshman year of college. She was one of my bridesmaids. This girl is like family to me. I’m in awe of her courage. Not everyone has the cojones to give up the life with which they’ve grown comfortable and go out in search of the unknown. If there’s anyone who will be a pro at it, it’s Caitlin. In college, she studied abroad in Belfast. After we graduated, she was in the Peace Corps in Zambia for two years. I was always amazed by her enthusiasm and her adaptability. And, really, anyone who can poop in a pit deserves some kind of award.

I am hoping to take a page from her book as I prepare for my trip to Brazil. Thanks to her infinite knowledge, I’m learning about things like traveler’s underwear, which I’ve already purchased three pair of. I’m hoping that I can be as easygoing as she is, as willing to open myself up to new experiences… as willing to go wherever the wind takes me.

Safe travels, my friends. Hope to see you soon, perhaps on the other side of the world.

 

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Lately I feel like my patience has worn thin. I feel judgmental and harsh and quick to take a negative stance. And as a result, I’m angry at myself.

I consider myself an open-hearted person, someone who sees the good in others and tries to give people the benefit of the doubt. I’m someone who chooses to trust before I cast doubt, even at my own expense. But certain things can easily set me over the edge: I don’t have much patience for carelessness, laziness or–perhaps worst of all–bad pet owners (who frequently embody the former two traits).

The other morning, I went to a gas station before work to fill up. My parents always warned me to never let get my car down to E, but I didn’t heed their advice this time–shame on me. Low and behold, I swiped my card to get an error message. So, I got back in my car, drove to a second pump and got the same message.

As I walked inside to ask the attendant what caused the problem, I had to silently tell myself to be kind and compassionate. It wasn’t her fault, after all. She told me there was a technical glitch and all pumps were down. But that didn’t quell the riptide of rage that rolled inside of me. “Why the hell didn’t you put a note on the pumps?! Now I’m going to be late to work!”

If you close your eyes, you can hear the fabric of my patience ripping every so slightly.

And now for the bad pet owner part of this post.

Recently, a good friend found a dog in the park. She and her husband kept the dog for three days and tried to find the owners, posting pictures on every public message board in town and making calls to the local shelters.

When the dog owner eventually turned up, she was rude and ungrateful. Ultimately, she refused to reimburse them for the vet bill my friends had incurred to make sure the dog was healthy. Instead of gratitude for not taking her pet to the shelter, the woman posted hateful comments on her public Facebook feed. That same feed, by the way, was bereft of any “LOST DOG” posts.

Rrrrrippppppp. Another tear, this time much wider.

I’m also not very patient with myself. With every subtle change in my weight, I find myself making self deprecating remarks out loud–at the very least I should censor myself.

I become exasperated when I don’t keep up with housework as I should, instead of accepting the fact that three animals create a junkload of fur that blows around my baseboards like tumbleweeds. I’m not getting rid of my pets, and I’m not shaving them, so fur is inevitable. I might as well deal with it and move on.

Last night, I found myself sitting in my friend Astrid’s living room talking about beauty and creativity. She is an expert quilter, and I had asked her to help me learn the art of quilting. As we sifted through her overflowing scrap bins, I felt a bit calmer.

The serene feeling continued to envelope me as I started sewing; the gentle hum of the machine connecting unmatched segments of fabric became an Om. Yellow to gray to striped to spotted. The monotony of the needle going up and down. The refilling of the bobbin. The cutting and connecting of cloth.

Quilting is tedious and time-consuming and it hurts my back… but it’s a perfect exercise in patience.

The castaways of past sewing projects and torn pillowcases become reborn into a beautiful blanket that will keep you warm for years. What a glorious reminder and a true labor of love.

Hopefully with continued practice, I will gradually stitch up the tears of impatience I’ve created within myself. After all, every soul needs to be wrapped in a patchwork quilt. And I have quite a lot of scraps that need to be mended.

When Life Gives You a Penske

This past weekend I went to Austin to see one of my best friends in the world. Nina and her boyfriend needed to escape Chicago’s never-ending winter and picked a perfect weekend for Texas spring. (Coincidentally, I will be escaping the 90-plus-degree weather here next weekend with a trip to Chicago.)

While in Austin, we did what everyone does on a weekend trip to “the big city” (Austin is, after all, the big city to us). We ate, we drank, we went to a concert, we met the locals and we bought furniture.

Patrick and I had previously purchased a couch but it would be months before it was ready for pick-up. Since delivery fees are through the roof when you’re talking about a 60 mile span, we opted for renting a truck and hauling the couch ourselves. We didn’t realize at the time of this decision, however, just how difficult it would be to navigate a 16-foot truck through downtown Austin. The Little Blue Gem got to guide the way with me as its nervous pilot. “Serenity, Confidence, Strength,” I repeated to myself over and over as I weaved through Mopac traffic, leading a bright yellow truck and its fearless driver.

We survived.

And since we had success with the first leg of the trip (i.e. getting the couch), we decided that on the way out of town we should kill another proverbial bird with a single stone. Remember our lack of dining chairs? We lack no more, my friends. Our new couch got to ride back to College Station with company to share the oversized truck cabin. Thanks to our impulse buy, we can now eat and sit at the table at the same time — who would’ve thunk it?!

I’m overwhelmed by seating options. And clearly, so is Fish Taco.

Friends and Frittata

Merry Christmas to you and yours! I’m home with my family this holiday eating anything and everything you can make with butter. Cookies, pierogi (my grandmother and mom both immigrated from Poland), fried potatoes… There are certain staples during the holiday season that most American families can’t live without. Butter is one of them. And glitter is another.

Santa was too good to me. I’d settle for a new pair of slippers, but Patrick and my parents gave me a new camera, which I’m interpreting as their subtle way of encouraging me to keep blogging. His parents also spoiled me. They got me a gorgeous mixer, which I’m interpreting as their subtle way of encouraging me to keep baking and sending them cookies.

Being home means a whirlwind of visits with old friends and family members. It’s true what they say about our closest friends in life. You can go months without talking and when you see each other you pick up right where you left off… Which in our case, is talking about the Spice Girls.

Back then we were Charlie’s Angels.

This morning, my aunt and uncle came over for breakfast, and I made a spinach and artichoke frittata. It’s a light entree great for serving at a brunch. It’s the kind of dish you can make ahead of time and serve warm or at room temperature.

Spinach and Artichoke Frittata


Ingredients
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained and diced
1 roasted red pepper (directions follow)
1 12-ounce bag of baby spinach
8 eggs
2 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp dried dill
3 tbs parmesan cheese
3 tbs feta cheese
2 tbs pine nuts
salt and pepper

To roast the red pepper: coat the pepper in olive oil, salt and pepper. On a cookie sheet or small oven-proof pan, bake at 375 for 15 minutes then switch to broil. Broil the pepper for 5-10 minutes or until the skin is black in areas. The pepper may need to be rotated throughout this process so that the skin is easier to peel. When the skin is bubbling and black, take the pepper and transfer to a paper bag or a bowl that you can cover with plastic wrap (this helps the skin bubble off). When the pepper is cool, peel off the skin and dice.

For the frittata: Whisk together the eggs and cream. Add the parmesan and dill and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in an oven-proof skillet, melt the butter (if you have any remaining olive oil from the pepper, add it to the butter) and sauté the onion. After the onion is soft, add the garlic and artichoke hearts. Season with salt and pepper. Then add the diced roasted red pepper and the spinach.


Cook until the spinach is wilted, then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables.

Cook just long enough for the mixture to begin to set (about 4-5 minutes). Crumble the feta cheese on top and sprinkle with pine nuts, then bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Let cool long enough to fully set and transfer to a serving platter.

Fling Into Filing

While my friends in Nashville, Chicago and Cleveland were digging themselves out of mounds of snow this weekend, I dug myself out of mounds of paper. If there is one thing I could change about myself, I would be more organized. I HATE filing so much that I have approximately 4 years of filing I’ve been putting off (I’m only slightly exaggerating). And my kitchen cupboards frequently look like little mice crawl through them and dance around with cans on their backs, flipping over spices and packages of pasta as they go. Gross. Now I’m going to worry that mice really do go through my cupboards.

And you may remember my closet

They say that opposites attract though, and when it comes to Marianne, I’ve met my organizational match. What I lack in neatness and order, Marianne makes up for ten-fold. So when my amazing friend offered to come over on her Sunday and help me file, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I don’t think she knew what she was in for. But she showed up ready and eager, patiently teaching me what to keep and what to toss. She will never know how much this means to me.

It’s not quite done, but the pile is shrinking and slowly chaos is turning into order. And since I probably won’t see much snow in Texas this winter, I’m thinking of shredding the old papers into smithereens and making my own white Christmas. It may be a few days before the living room is back in order, but at least the Christmas tree looks nice.

And I think Simba agrees.