The Canadian physician Sir William Osler once said, “No bubble is so iridescent or floats longer than that blown by the successful teacher.”  I have always adored bubbles.  I even had them at our wedding reception instead of birdseed (which I learned was actually detrimental rather than beneficial.)  One of the things that first drew me to my husband, as silly as it might seem, was that his email address had the word “bubblegun” in it.  Recently I got our little one (OK both of us) a bubble machine and we were out playing the other evening.  I cherish this picture I snapped on impulse.  It managed to capture a candid moment of time in her life where she was just out enjoying the night air and marveling at the magic of the bubbles’ colors, sizes, and ascent.  Thinking back to Sir William’s quote, I started examining my own bubble and all who have helped shape it thus far.  Without a doubt my bubble was strengthened and rose to new heights thanks to my parents.  I had teachers who helped it take on different hues, and the arrival of my beloved child enlarged its size — literally and figuratively.  To me bubbles are an ageless joy that hold magic for all with an open heart.  As long as one maintains an open heart — whether it is toward learning about another culture, trying a different food, or discovering something new — life will always be full of bubbles.


What Binds Us

As I have written before, our little one is gluten intolerant, which means her small intestines cannot properly digest things containing gluten.  Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley.  It is used in the states at least as both a filler and a binder.  The hubs balked initially at having a gluten free kitchen but I think, after over a year, he is finally coming to see its merits.  First, if pet food companies are advertising they do not use gluten as a filler and that is for cats and dogs … one would think their human counterparts might start to question their own food as well.  The trouble is, the public has not been told.  A popular fast food restaurant chain uses gluten to puff up their meat.  So one believes they are eating beef when in fact they are consuming various fillers and binders with it.  Being a vegetarian, I am not touting the slaughter of animals.  In fact I think it is yet another reason why we should not be eating meat.  The U.S. is allowing a lot of “Frankenfood” these days, full of heaven only knows what, including pesticides and chemicals similar to that of paint and agent orange.  I applaud Mexico’s farmers for fighting against GMOs in their corn.  I believe India is now refusing genetically modified food, God bless them.  The French have resisted as well I believe.  Anyway, I confess I have not cooked very much in terms of pasta or baked goods (foods that generally rely on wheat) because frankly I have not had the time to devote to making apt substitutions such as flax seed, almond paste, etc.  But now grocery stores have created gluten free aisles (another warning sign people seem to be blithely ignoring) and it is making my culinary life MUCH easier.  We have found a delicious macaroni and cheese made with chickpeas and the best frozen pizza around has a cauliflower crust!  My beloved has not turned his nose up and my little one has been devouring the things she has been missing.  I snapped this silly picture as my two little wolfies were playing and waiting near the kitchen for dinner to be served.  OK so one is huge but the one with the bloomers on her head is still pretty little.  An Emperor of Ancient Rome, Marcus Aurelius, once said:

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

Cooking and sharing meals are timeless and without borders; they are what binds us.


Well Hello Toads!

Much to my husband’s seasonal torment, I am delighted to say that for years now our pond has attracted toads.  At first I thought they were frogs but I have since discerned the difference.  I love to hear them at night (my husband does NOT) and there is an even greater joy in seeing countless tadpoles in the water covering the rocks like tiny black dots.  Few will survive into adulthood.  I realize that is nature but I still pray for them all.  As for their parents, once a cycle has completed they will start up their nightly chorus again.  We are not overrun with amorous amphibians; I believe that is nature’s way as well.  But we have been blessed to have several generations now and the whole processes is amazing to watch.  I should qualify that my pet peeve is the word “amazing.”  Clothes do not qualify as “amazing.”  Food most definitely does not qualify as “amazing.”  And shortcuts (do not even get me STARTED on the word “hacks”) do not qualify as “amazing.”  The word has been so misused and overused I will go so far as to say I have not used it in my daily blog of over a year and a half so much as once.  Suffice to say I do not use the word lightly.  Now that I’m writing I realize at some point I have blogged about the toads, tadpoles and babies.  I suppose I would have placed it under the nature column as I have done here.  The funniest story ever is when my husband “rescued” a pair of toads that were on top of each other.  “The big one was saving the little one from drowning!” he innocently exclaimed and I wondered how we had ever had a child.  I instructed him to put them down IMMEDIATELY and to just leave them alone.  Of course I always pick them up, pat them, and kiss them before sending them on their way.  As the Scottish writer Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, once said:

“It’s never the wrong time to call on Toad.  Early or late he’s always the same fellow.  Always good-tempered, always glad to see you, always sorry when you go!”

Anytime I am lucky enough to encounter them I always begin by saying, “Well hello toads!”


Snow in Summer

When I was a little girl I used to visit my Choctaw Grandmother who lived in Oak Cliff, which is a part of the city of Dallas.  It was unbearably hot in the summer, particularly in my father’s old station wagon, which had no air.  We would leave the “white” part of town and enter into a large section of southern Dallas which was first black, then Mexican, then American Indian, then lastly whatever the most recent groups of immigrants were at the time.  I found it a fascinating study in socioeconomics, race, culture, and class division.  My greatest joy was lining up on foot to this tiny shack that had the BEST snow cones!  I used to think I was so cool ordering a “Tiger’s Blood” (really strawberry and coconut) and now I have a been a vegetarian so long I cannot even manage that.  The place was famous and the wait was long … interminably so with the Texas summer sun beating down.  Oh but the reward was sweet!  My daddy told me he’d been coming there since he was a kid.  Now I live in a part of town where there is a small snow cone stand, very similar to the one I knew in my childhood.  Only now I can drive up and I get what you see here — cherry and bubble gum.  My little one thinks she’s so cool, just as I once did, getting Tiger’s Blood.  And so the circle continues, of Texas heat and sweet snow in summer.  The British photographer and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy said:

“Occasionally I have come across a last patch of snow on top of a mountain in late May or June.  There’s something very powerful about finding snow in summer.”

Dallas may not have mountains, but there is definitely something very sweet and magical about finding snow in summer.


Calling Willie Nelson

Country music legend Willie Nelson said, “Great songs stand out wherever they’re from.”  I inherited a vast musical appreciation from my mother.  She had an ear for effortless voices and did not discriminate with regard to musical genre.  Among her favorites were the country music legend Willie Nelson and Latin legend Julio Iglesias.  I will never forget when they teamed up for that seemingly incongruous duet — my mother was in absolute heaven.  I think they were pioneers in that respect; at least I cannot recall any disparate duos that were so huge prior to them.  My mother also adored Luciano Pavarotti’s voice, and I know she would have loved his duo “Holy Mother” with Eric Clapton.  It has been around for years but I am just now discovering it.  CDs have become something like old record album covers … obsolete, nostalgic pieces of memorabilia.  I love a cool “repurpose” and there is a restaurant we like which does not take your name in order to be seated.  Rather, they give you an empty CD case to hold.  It find it hilarious and it just never gets old!  You’ll see some huge guy answering to Beyonce or hear an elderly woman saying, “I’ve got Guns N’ Roses!”  It’s so much more fun and interesting to see who’ll you’ll be or what you’ll get until your table is ready.  It brings back memories and sparks conversation, even among strangers.  On this day they gave my little one Mama’s beloved Willie Nelson.  I know she would have been thrilled.  I took this picture while we were waiting on our table and told her after we’d finished eating I’d play my favorite song of his, Texas, from my phone through the car.  We knew we were up when we heard “Willie Nelson?  Calling Willie Nelson.”


A Siamese In Love With A Tiger

My little one has roped me into watching a new cartoon with her called Shimmer and Shine.  Unfairly, I was prepared to dislike it from the onset.  Aesthetically, the colors are vivid and beautiful and the opening theme song is really good.  Also, three girls are the central characters which, as the mother of a daughter, makes me happy.  All I had as a kid to see mostly was the bombshell ditsy Daphne or the unfortunately drawn Velma who was portrayed as the smart girl on my favorite Saturday morning cartoon Scooby Doo.  In this series these girls are smart and pretty (proving the two are not mutually exclusive) and, best of all, each episode centers around correcting their mistakes and remaining positive.  In an age where everything is three dimensional (which is cool, don’t get me wrong) it is somehow comforting to see just an “old school” cartoon drawing.  I love the Indian influence and lately I have found myself watching movies like, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Bend It Like Beckham, and Bride and Prejudice, an all-time favorite Bollywood movie of mine that remade Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice.  Even our Siamese is in love with Nahal, the girl tiger cub on the show.  You can see from this picture how he watches her on TV.  I know some parents do not allow their children to watch any television, or very little.  My feeling is, it’s summer and our little girl is five.  She is still taking swim lessons, reviewing her work to start kindergarten, and practicing taekwondo.  Plus I’m speaking French with her.  The Chinese born American lawyer Amy Chua, author of the book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, said:

“Tiger parenting is all about raising independent, creative, courageous kids.  In America today, there’s a dangerous tendency to romanticize creativity in a way that may undermine it.”

I believe that without a little freedom one cannot learn to be independent, creative, or courageous.  My parents were very strict but also empowered me.  If a little girl can’t spend part of her time watching magical flying carpets soaring over rainbows I do not see how she is to find satisfaction in the mundane.  She lives in a house where anything is possible, including watching a Siamese in love with a tiger.


A Green Thumb

Since I do not seem to be a very prolific gardner, I thought I might convert our vegetable garden (read dead plants) into an herb garden.  Possessing my father’s tenacity, I refuse to fail … I just thought I might simply try a different method.  Behold!  You my friends are looking at my humble herb garden in all its raised glory!  It might be hard to discern, but at the very back are scallions (I ADORE them,) and on both the left and the right sides are spinach.  I forget what type they are; I was stunned when a neighbor of ours called them out by name.  I was doing well just to know they were spinach.  In the very center you will see mint growing, which I love for tea … and for “killing” the taste of water.  To the left underneath are some rather scrawny oregano plants (I’m trying) and to the right in the bottom corner is a type of “creeping” rosemary.  Completing our somewhat circuitous clockwise circuit in the upper right corner is my solitary oregano plant.  It is all organic, from the plants, to the fertilizer, to the soil.  And they are all still managing to survive in the merciless Texas heat and despite my novice clumsiness.  It may seem paltry, but it is a lot for me.  The American vegan physician and creator of NutritionFacts.org, Michael Greger, said, “Ounce for ounce, herbs and spices have more antioxidants than any other food group.”  So my family may not have any vegetables from our garden as of yet, but at least they will have herbs.  Since I have apparently failed with our vegetable garden, I hope to be more successful with our herb garden.  And, in the process, maybe I will be able to grow a green thumb.


The Second St. Mark’s

I have always been partial to the name Mark, as it was my father’s.  After Paris we visited Venice on our horneymoon.  I loved St. Mark’s Basilica, among other reasons, for its curved archways and its prolific use of exquisite, tiny, dark blue mosaic tiles.  I have blogged about it in the past under this travel section.  This was to be the second St. Mark’s that we would visit — only this time we were a family of three and we were in Texas.  Completed in 1877, it is an active Episcopal parish and listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The church is located in the heart of the River Walk district, only four blocks from the Alamo.  The Texan and former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife were married right here in 1934.  Now that I have visited Europe several times I realize practically all churches seem like plain babies by comparison.  I would use the word “colonial” but I have found churches in Mexico and Guatemala to be much more ornate, perhaps owing to their Catholic roots.  Regardless, it is not intended as an indictment; rather my own observation.  The Texas church’s facade is covered in white rock, or Austin Stone, named after the limestone rock quarries in Austin, Texas.  The stones are set in orderly rows with somewhat irregular patterns, which I found enchanting.  We were strangers yet we were welcomed repeatedly and without question.  I found it to be a lively, loving parish and I was so grateful we were able to visit.  Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “We must open the doors of opportunity.  But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.”  I would say Burk and I were not particularly equipped to walk through either of the doors of St. Mark’s in Venice or Texas; the difference is that one was vibrant, alive, and filled with the spirit of Christ.  Prior to entering the one in Venice a gyspy spat upon me and cursed me, which was very disconcerting.  The little Texas church may have been more simple and not as famous but I believe I would choose to walk through the doors of the second St. Mark’s.


More To Discover

It was the second day of our weekend getaway and we decided to introduce our little one to the joys of schlock shopping.  One could also refer to it as souvenir shopping.  (We just like our term because we generally do not buy very expensive things.)  My husband and I tend to enjoy finding small momentos of our travels.  Our baby took to it like a duck to water!  She wanted it all and we had to reign in our little shopping señorita.  The Historic Market Square (El Mercado) has been a favorite of locals and tourists alike for generations.  It has long been said to contain the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico.  I have to say I am stronger about telling our little one “no;” her Daddy pretty much just caves.  So we decided to stop for lunch at another one of our favorite San Antonio haunts.  A testament to our little one loving it was that she drank the salsa.  It seemed to shock people and I forgot that restaurants in Dallas were used to seeing her slurping down salsa.  Seated in the booth behind us with his grandchildren was the former rector of a downtown Episcopal church which we’d known nothing about.  Of course we had visited all the Catholic churches but we had never thought to see if there might be our own denomination, which is Episcopalian (or Whiskeypalian as I always like to joke.)  We had a lovely time speaking with him and his wife and decided to visit the next day.  That’s another beauty of travel:  no matter how well one thinks they know a place, there is always something new to discover.  Lakhdar Brahimi, the Algerian born member of The Elders, a group of world leaders working for global peace, said:

“What again I tell my people is that no matter how much you know, it’s never enough.  You will always discover, after the fact, that you’ve missed something.”

One thing I have learned is that, whether at home or abroad, there is always more to discover.



I Carry The Beautiful With Me

Do not adjust your screens.  Today we are time traveling a bit.  Yes, I have written about San Antonio before.  I just like to catalog our trips in the travel section as we’ve taken them.  They have become even more joyful now that we’ve been blessed with our daughter.  This was a few years ago but I’m trying to post them chronologically for my own memories.  It was our first road trip with our little one and she did great.  For my international readers who may not know this, the state of Texas can literally fit into the entire country of (my beloved) France.  So folks often drive long distances here.  Anyway, we made it in pretty good time and arrived in the afternoon to check into an old, historic hotel right on the plaza across from the Alamo.  Just as I cannot pass up a trip to the Eiffel Tower, my husband never turns down an opportunity to visit the Alamo.  In 1836 the famous battle took place and was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution.  Pictured here is what remains of the fortress and compound:  the chapel.  It is known as the “Shrine of Texas Liberty.”  Afterward, on a lighter note, we got some ice cream and sat on a bench to relax and enjoy the last rays of the spring afternoon’s sun.  We have a tradition of always eating dinner the first night at Casa Rio, the Tex Mex place right on the river with all the colored umbrellas.  Afterward we took a boat tour down the beautiful San Antonio river and our little one fell asleep with her rump in the air, literally sleeping like a baby.  The American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”  My world has become more beautiful having my husband and even more beautiful with our daughter in it.  If we never got to travel, I am so blessed to have a family of my own … I carry the beautiful with me.