Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Texas Christmas

Man, did the holidays go by like a blur!  How was everyone's Christmas? Ours was a good one spent at home in Texas, first with my husband's family in Austin and then with my family in Paris (Texas, not France). We drove a lot, we laughed, we cooked, we ate a lot, we caught up with old friends, we watched Christmas movies, and of course, presents were involved.

Austin Highlights:
When we flew into Dallas, our sweet friends the Ranges put us up for the evening. They took us out for TexMex, gave us stockings full of treats, let us play with their adorable little boy Noah, fed us a great breakfast the next morning, and then sent us on our way to Austin!

We drove through central Texas, happy to be amidst the wide open spaces of home, and eventually made it to Austin.  We spent our time leisurely, enjoying being home. We helped my mother-in-law make fudge (and helped her eat her homemade divinity and candied pecans), we put together a Christmas puzzle featuring trains (I'm married to a man who loves trains), we decorated gingerbread houses, I stocked up on used books from Half Price Books, we looked out over the dry lake bed of Lake Travis for the third year in a row, my mother-in-law made us wonderful biscuits and gravy on Christmas morning, and we opened presents while sipping mimosas. Afterward, we drove over to Grammy and Pampa's for Christmas dinner, playtime with all of our adorable baby cousins, and a raucous White Elephant exchange! I took away a huge foam hand for holding my beverage of choice. Just what every girl needs!
Austin Food Highlights:
And since one of our favorite parts of traveling home is all of the food, how could I leave out my favorite foods while visiting Austin?

Grammy's for Christmas Dinner
- While this option may not be publicly available, I couldn't leave it out. You can't beat a grandmother's Christmas dinner prepared with love for her family!

Tamale House East - My husband's brother was playing a gig here during brunch, so we stopped in for a little live music and some of the best breakfast tacos I've had. I ordered a classic bacon, egg, and cheese (plus a generous sprinkle of cilantro for good measure).

Texas Chili Parlor - Their migas and chili is the true breakfast of champions. Also, $2.50 mimosas are hard to beat (if you feel like a stiffer beverage, try the Mad Dog Margarita, made with mezal).
Vintage Heart Coffee - A friend opened up this darling little coffee shop in East Austin, and I finally got to stop in for a visit. It's warm, welcoming, and best of all, the coffee is delicious. My favorite touch was a basket of colorful cloth napkins for patrons to choose from.

HOPE Farmers Market - Down the street from Vintage Heart and Tamale House East, we stumbled upon a little farmers market. Though it wasn't large, there were some great vendors. Our favorite items were Curious Confections' English Toffee with Pecans and Wunder-Pilz's kombucha (we loved the Heart made with Yaupon Holly, apparently the only caffeine plant native to North America).
Rudy's - Is an explanation required for this one? No trip home is complete without BBQ.

Rosie's Tamale House - We never miss out on visiting Rosie's, my husband's hometown TexMex joint. Their menu even boasts a Willie's Plate thanks to a famous local patron!

Summermoon - We always try to stop in here and get a bag or two of their wood-fire roasted coffee to bring home with us.
Freebirds - It may not be the trendiest place to go these days in ever-changing Austin, but I still crave their burritos.

The Candy Jar - We had the best time decorating gingerbread houses in their back room!
Road Trip Food Highlights:
The day after Christmas, we began the long trek to Paris, heading north on I-35. I've made this drive many times, but the trip is more fun these days now that I have someone to share it with. And the best thing to share on the road? Kolaches from the Czech Stop Bakery in West! My favorites are apricot and the sausage with cheese!
Paris Highlights: 
My husband always teases me that just when you think you've reached the middle of nowhere in Texas, you have to drive 30 miles further to reach Paris. When we finally rolled into town, we couldn't believe the tree damage still evident from a terrible ice storm earlier in the month. Branches were piled like barricades along the streets. Trees were split down the middle or toppled over. Smoke rose from temporary brush burning sites. It looked like a war zone, and this was two weeks after the ice had melted! Though my parents' front yard was a mess of brush and limbs, inside the house was warm and welcoming! My grandparents joined us for Family Christmas Part 2 and Chorizo Soup thanks to some fantastic Mexican chorizo that my brother brought in from West Texas. We spent the rest of the evening in the living room catching up, opening presents, eating cobbler, and watching football (would you expect any different in Texas?).
We spent the rest of our time lounging, antiquing with Mom, cooking, you name it. One night Mom made us her Bar M Beef Stew, named after my Dad's cattle ranch. Another night I helped make Chicken Spaghetti and crustless caramel pies. After dinner one night, my husband got a fire going, and we sipped hot tea while watching White Christmas (an annual tradition). We caught up with old friends, we took a walk along the Trail de Paris, and we strolled through the square in Downtown Paris. 
Paris Food Highlights:
And these were our favorite eats in Paris!

Paris Bakery - I love coming in here for a pastry and coffee or for a sandwich with a cup of soup. This time we met up with my friends Philip and Sarah for lunch! (They also do Saturday Night Pizza and Live Music that I'm still dying to check out.)
Bois D'Arc - Paris can now boast its first "upscale" restaurant! An abandoned gas station has been turned into an adorable restaurant dishing up really good food. We stopped in for brunch, which was an incredible deal -- $10 entrees and complimentary mimosas. Who does complimentary mimosas?? I'm so glad that my parents joined us to finally try this spot!
Magels - The best chicken fried steak in town!

Hot Dog on a Stick - I know these are usually located in malls, but ours is a little trailer at our shopping center that's been a local institution since the 70's. With one of their cheese on a sticks and a big cup of fresh lemonade in hand, I truly feel at home.

La Familia - Dishing up some of the best TexMex in Paris, you can't go wrong with anything on their menu. My favorite is the cheese enchilada + sour cream chicken enchilada combination plate!
Paris Coffee - Last but not least! I wish this place had been around when I was growing up, because I'm a coffee shop girl to the core. Few things make me happier than camping out a table with a good book and a large, steaming mug of coffee. This time I was joined by Alison, my friend from the womb!
All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas, a wonderful trip home, and a wonderful vacation. I'm so thankful for the times we have visiting Texas! But here we are, back to the real world. A new year is upon us, and I think it's going to be a good one!

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