Long Overdue

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It’s so hard for me to believe that the Christmas holidays are upon us and in 1 short week Gui and I will be en route to Paris to celebrate Christmas and ring in the new year with our family there. I am beyond stoked! I’ve already started a VIP list of places to visit and a seemingly endless list of things to bring back. It’s so funny how the tables have turned now that I’m back in the land of plenty Target Supercenters; I miss things like foie gras, baguette sandwiches and French hot chocolate instead of mac 'n cheese and salsa verde.

Time has been traveling at warp speed these past few weeks. Last week, I finished my final exam for the accounting course I’ve been taking, and I have to say I’ve never felt so free! Between night classes, homework and study-time, I’m happy to have some time back to myself again. Thanksgiving seems like it just came and went; Gui’s dad and step-mom came into town for that week, and, along with Gui, they experienced their first ever Thanksgiving in America. We enjoyed a beautiful feast at my uncle’s house full of family. It was a strange feeling not being in charge of hosting for once (I hosted Thanksgiving in Paris 2 out of the 3 years I lived there), but oh, how I’d missed my mom’s cornbread stuffing and banana pudding!

Of course, we were eating and entertaining non-stop while Gui’s family was in town, so time just flew by. And, now it’s December. For the first weekend in December, I flew up to Kansas to partake in a Christmas tradition for my sister and nephews – the Nutcracker Tea Party. I’d been dying to go with them ever since my sister started the tradition back in 2008…I mean it doesn’t get much cuter than watching my nephews all dressed up, drinking punch from champagne coupes while enjoying the ballet. And, the ballet performance (by an academy of 10-18 year-olds) was totally impressive, too. Watching it made me wish I’d been girly enough to learn ballet when I was a kid.

Here are a few photos of our Thanksgiving feast and from my time in Kansas. The next time I post, I'll either be in Paris or just returning, so stay tuned for Paris photos galore!

Chez nous

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It’s taken some time and lots of effort, but Guillaume and I have finally mostly settled into our new home in downtown Austin. Little by little (or more like lots by lots), we’ve been acquiring the furniture and supplies needed to fill up the corners of our space. When we started looking for an apartment, we had grand ideas to live in Clarksville in a large but charming space with an extra room and lots of storage. What we ended up falling for was a brand-new, 765-square-foot condo located downtown with one bedroom and no storage. Not one closet. We’ve eventually made do.

The tricky part about our small space is that we do a lot of living in one, large open space. So, we started with the all-important living and eating areas where our open layout called for larger pieces of furniture to distinguish the two spaces while keeping the floor plan cohesive. The most difficult decision we had to make was how we were going to cover up the 20-foot wall that spans the length of our living and dining areas. We searched high and low for the perfect bookcase and when we’d just about given up, our friend, Carolina, sensing we were near defeat, sent me a link to The Brick House where she’d stumbled upon the perfect solution to our problem: the DIY Ace Hotel shelving unit copycat.

I’d heard that doing things like this with your spouse can either make or break you. Well, if there was ever a home-project that defined our marriage, it was this one. From the beginning, we’d decided to take our time accumulating and altering the supplies before diving into the project. But, once we’d had everything ready to go, I’d become suddenly busy with work and without a moment to work on the shelf. Then, when things didn’t come together like they were supposed to, I became so frustrated with the project that we nearly abandoned it. Obviously, we didn’t, and now we have a lovely place to display our treasures and a physical testament to the strength of our relationship. And, I’ve learned a lot about myself, too.

So, after our DIY shelving unit accomplishment, we gradually started pulling everything together and slowly but surely, it’s mostly all fallen into place. There is still a rather blank canvas in the bedroom, but we've got a few plans to add our own touches to it soon.

The park and bike trail behind our building give us the feeling of having the outdoors at our back porch (quite literally). We’re within a stone’s throw from many of our favorite restaurants, entertainment and watering holes, not to mention our friends’ homes; which means we spend most of our weekend not driving a car. And for a couple of commuters like us, that makes our world just a little bit brighter.

Enter chez nous.

That odd-looking tripod in the corner? It's going to be a lamp someday. We hope.

Finally! A cuisine Américaine.

The currently very plain bedroom. We're installing closet curtains today (finally), but we still haven't settled on what on earth to do with the headboard space. TBD very soon though.

"The" shelving unit. A true labor of love.

Gui has officially become a Texan.

Maman's in town

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gui's maman arrived on Friday for her first visit to Texas. She'll be here for a couple of weeks, but we've been making the most of her time here already. This past weekend, we drove out to Lockhart for some good Texas barbecue and later that night we had a blast playing some intense games of bingo at the old VFW. We spent all day Sunday brunching with friends chez nous and enjoying some sun poolside before chowing down on a plate full of tacos.

We've been trying to cram in everything we love while she's here and this week we're planning a trip to Barton Springs, some divine dining at Uchi and hopefully a trip out to Fredericksburg and Gruene (pronounced "green"), where she can enjoy some small-town fun. Gui and I are both working most of the week, so she's been exploring a bit on her own, too. During a few of her walks, she's noted that everyone here has a dog, people go running at any time of the day despite the record temps, and folks say "hello" when they pass you on the sidewalk. So far, I'd venture to say that I think she rather likes Texas.

East Coast

Monday, September 19, 2011

Over Labor Day weekend, Guillaume and I had the opportunity to spend some time exploring Philadelphia and Shelter Island, NY before spending an evening in New York City where his gracious aunt and uncle welcomed us into their beautiful home. Much of our time was spent on-the-go – in a train or car or on foot – but it was a welcome change of pace from our current car-centric lifestyle.

Philadelphia was lovely. We spent an entire day walking around town, indulging in sidewalk cafes, street art and fancy supermarkets. We ended our day trip with a dinner at Tria – a local wine bar that we had stumbled across on our way to the hotel. The food was stunning, the service was correct and the beer and wine menus took us back to visits in Belgium. A clever concept, executed to perfection.

The bulk of our weekend, though, was spent taking in the island life of one of Long Island’s most north-eastern land masses, Shelter Island. We were thoroughly spoiled by Gui’s aunt and uncle who let us squat on their beachside vacation where we ate inappropriate amounts of lobster, tasted amazing local wines, basked in the sun on the Atlantic and hung out with the quirky locals. I managed to get in a Long Island iced tea during a lunch break at the local biker bar, and it was honestly too strong for this Texas girl to finish. Long Islanders are no joke.

Before hopping the train back to Philly to catch our afternoon flight back home, we spent a night in NYC, walking around Tribeca and SoHo on a mild, late-summer evening. Spending time in the city made me nostalgic for big-city life; for urbanity; for Paris. I never knew I could love living in a big city before I lived in Paris, and now I almost feel like there's no other place that feels more like home.



Statue of Columbus sculpted by Gui's great-great grandfather

Tonton et tata

A New York view

TEXAS SARAH. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.