One Tank Trips

One Tank Trips

So, where do you like to travel for a day trip that takes less than a tank of gas to get there and back from Fort Worth?  I call that a one tank trip. I have a few suggestions to share in this blog but I am really interested to learn from you some unique, out of the ordinary, places to go in the north Texas region on one tank of gas.  Please share in the comments below.

So, my short list,  in no particular order:

Drive out to Eagle Mountain Lake and hike in the newly developed Eagle Mountain Park.  Pack a lunch as they have picnic tables, benches and clean, modern amenities.  Great views of the lake, deer crossings, birding and great trails. The park is located just north of the fort. It is free and open 7 days a week.

This summer, I explored  Cedar Hill State Park. The park has lots to offer including hiking, boating, fishing and picnic grounds but I enjoyed floating in the cool water of the lake in an area dedicated to swimming. There is no sandy beach so bring some shoes you don’t mind getting wet.  To get there from Fort Worth, head east on I-20 and follow your GPS to the front entrance to the park.  There is a nominal fee but Texas state parks need our support now more than ever. Take your floaties when the weather warms up or go now and enjoy the trails without sweating to death.  You can also visit Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center just down the road from the state park.  They offer hiking trails and a nice visitor’s center for learning more about native grasses and plants of our region.

Cruise to Denton, Texas, up north near the Oklahoma border, and shop in their vintage stores in the vibrant downtown and be sure to stop by their farmer’s market on Saturday morning just a couple blocks off the square. Check out the booth that offers a wide-variety of agua fresca and salsa. There is live music by local artists to entertain you while you shop and nosh.  Opening day for the market this year is April 6th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Follow them on Facebook

McKinney is an enjoyable, revitalized community with lots of great shopping, restaurants and they have a great butcher shop named Local Yocal Farm to Market just one block off the old-time town square. It’s less than an hour drive. We missed it on our visit, but there is a Saturday Farmer’s Market if you get there in the morning.

Check out Booked Up located in the Texas panhandle, just two hours northwest of Fort Worth in Larry McMurtry’s hometown of Archer City, Texas.  Booked Up carries between 150,000 and 200,000 books on any subject imaginable.  Wear good shoes as this day is full of standing as you pour over the shelves of books. All stock has been purchased over the last four decades by writer Larry McMurtry.  Remember the book, Lonesome Dove?  He wrote it.  There is a cafe on the square where you can rest your sore feet, grab lunch or stop by the DQ on the highway out of town.  There is almost, always, a DQ in small town America especially in Texas.

Are you a foodie like me?  Drive to Carrollton to the best Korean market in the metroplex.  It is called H Mart and is located about 40 minutes from the fort if you can skip peak traffic times.  Plan on getting there early to avoid the crowds.  Be sure to take your shopping list as this store is overwhelming with asian product lines.  They have at least 80 varieties of kimchi alone.  Plan to revive yourself at the french bakery inside the store.  Lovely pastries and the latte is the drug you need to keep going through all the stuffed aisles of eye-popping merchandise.  This place smells good too.

Take a short road trip to tiny Venus, Texas, south of Fort Worth on highway 67 for brunch at Casa Jacaranda on the square.  Everything in this mexican restaurant is house-made and prepared with so much love.  Alert.  There is a bakery inside — you won’t be able to pass up a sweet treat no matter the new year’s resolution.  Walk around the square to burn some calories and admire the architecture and imagine what it was like back in the outlaw days of the Great Depression.  Several of the scenes from movie, Bonnie and Clyde, were shot on the Venus square. These buildings still stand. Unfortunately, most of them are vacant now.

Of course, there is always Waco so you too can join in on the Magnolia craze by shopping at the Silos, taking the self-guided tour of the fixer uppers or eating at the Gaines family’s new restaurant.

And Fort Worthians, we could go to Dallas.  Currently, at the Dallas Museum of Art, there is an exhibition by Ida O’Keefe I plan to take in this week-end.  It will be interesting  to compare and most likely contrast Ida’s work to her more famous older sister, Georgia.  The Klyde Warren Park is just across the street from the museum so you can grab lunch from a food truck and relax on a bench soaking up a little Texas sunshine before or after touring the museum.  The Nasher Sculpture Center is just next door and it is always a treat with its outdoor sculpture garden and small galleries. Both museums have cafes offering wine by the glass, coffee or a just a place to rest a while. I can’t walk by a museum gift shop without buying at least a little memento of my visit.

Where do you go when you have a free day on the calendar?  My resolution is to find more of those kind of days in 2019. So help me out, by sharing some suggestions.  Why not fill up the tank and take to the country roads, y’all?






Holidays on Ashland

Holidays on Ashland

In our little microcosm of the Fort, we enjoy the holidays in many different ways but especially at the annual neighborhood holiday party hosted by one of our neighbors in our tiny cottages on Ashland. Wish you lived in a neighborhood where people connected over holiday events? You can, by organizing your own holiday parties, events, and gatherings. In turn, you’ll help foster higher property values, strong schools, and lower crime rates in your neighborhood, according to studies by Dennis Rosenbaum, director of the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

At the Ashland holiday party, the host sends out the invite, sets up tables for the sharing of food, and provides a place for BYOB.  In recent years, the hostess tempts us with the spicy smell of steaming tamales when we arrive but all the other accoutrement is expected to come with the guests.  One fun loving neighbor always brings champagne and shrimp.  Some neighbors are known for their desserts or savory bites but it all comes together with folks dropping in and out over the course of three hours or more.

The party allows us to catch up on job changes, school milestones, new additions to the family, and kids are encouraged to participate in adult conversation for at least a little bit before heading out to the front porch or yard to run off all the sugar they just consumed.  There is never a limit to the sweet treats this night.  My kids favorite were always the chocolate covered peanut butter balls and chocolate covered Ritz crackers filled with peanut butter as well.  They still love chocolate and peanut butter combinations.  It’s the sweet and salty combination that gets them every time.

So, get to know your neighbors, spread some cheer, and let’s enjoy the holidays!

Looking forward to seeing all the Ashlanders next Sunday and thanks to Nancy and Gordon for hosting us once again.

Nashville, Smashville

Nashville, Smashville

Locals love their Predators.  They swoop to iconic, rowdy South Broadway for pregame libations at Tootsies and the Tin Roof, frenzied by a pounding, impromptu honky-tonk pep rally before streaming into the Bridgestone for their weekly battle on the ice equipped with hockey sticks and fueled by copious quantities of beer and Jack Daniels.  Hence, the fan name for their arena, Smashville.  They leave us tourists to navigate the snaking line into the Ryman for a live, radio show full of campy commercials, old-time country music, Hee-Haw like, as well as live performances by new artists testing their chops in front of a supportive, mostly older audience.  We were lucky enough to hear Kelsea Ballerini perform hits from her recently released Unapolegetically after her somewhat controversially performance earlier this week, just down the street at the CMAs.  I guess she was a little too pop for the hard-core country crowd?


The next day we spent several hours exploring the galleries of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum with its windows depicting black piano keys with an overhang fashioned in the shape of a bass clef.  Currently on exhibition is Outlaws and Armadillos exploring country’s roaring 70’s including footage of the Outlaws, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.  I fell in love with the graphic art on display, primarily created by Hatch Show Print.


Hatch Show Print, formed in 1879, first started printing handbills using hand carved wood blocks to later, single press, large posters promoting the various country music stars to marketing carnivals and ministal shows with posters so big they covered the side of barns and buildings throughout the south.  They hit their heyday in the 1950’s but today they still run a working print shop inside the museum building with a great little gift shop with a vast array of their printed products.  For three bucks, they will roll your selections in a sturdy tube for your plane ride home.


We ubered, all six of us, squeezed inside a too small van, to Antiques Archeology, home to the hosts of the television show, American Pickers.  We didn’t find much merchandise to pick there but we did enjoy the assembly of old factory machinery from Nashville’s only, long-abandoned manufacturer of automobiles, Marathon Motor Works, on display inside the building, now housed by local artisans and shops as well as the business owned by the famous pickers.


Later, we noshed, Nashville-style at Adele’s, one of the restaurants of Jonathan Waxman’s food couture.  JW’s half, roasted chicken, rosemary, fried potatoes and the cauliflower salad were the biggest hits.  We had an excellent waiter who guided us throughout our, nearly three-hour dining experience, in such a lovely space.  Formerly, a mechanics shop, it is now open and airy with large windows and white accents. The only drawback to the otherwise pleasant ambiance, was the giant, yellow McDonald’s sign outside casting a glow over our table near the window.

A brisk walk back, bellies full, warm with libation, with my dear family, over the bridge that spans a large train yard that locals call, The Gulch, to our hotels. We all agreed it was a day well-played.  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families large and small. Safe travels and happy trails.




Love of Reading

Love of Reading

I acquired my love of reading from my mother.  She was a more voracious reader than me but I inherited, by osmosis and lots of observation, my anything goes reading book style from her. Interestingly, her mother didn’t read at all for pleasure  and preferred games of chance in her spare time.   It doesn’t matter what it is that I like to read, really, so long as there are pages with words on them, or an e-reader with words on it. I especially like to read when I travel in a car or train or on a plane.  I like to read in my sunroom or in my bed late at night (or early in the morning if required to finish it). I even read while taking a bath, stopping occasionally to run more hot water to keep me cozy until I get to a good stopping point or my toes prune.

When the kids were young, I read while they played around me on the floor, only stopping if they grabbed the edge of the spine to get my attention.  I read late into the night so that I could find time to finish the book.  Sometimes I would read a book in one setting.  When I was in college, I majored in liberal arts which required lots of reading but I would still find time for a novel especially if it was something by Stephen King, Alice Walker, Jean Auel or Tom Clancy.  Yes, I started college in the early 80’s.

My mother checked out all of her books from the library.  She read anything that was related to Watergate and the Vietnam War.  She liked autobiographies and historical fiction. She read some mysteries and a few romance novels but really, like me, she would read just about anything.  The books didn’t even have to be good for her to read them or even books.  She read Reader’s Digest, Women’s Day and Family Circle magazines. She taught us about sex by leaving a copy of the Joy of Sex and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask) casually on her nightstand.

Perfect spot for a good read

Growing up in a small town, we were encouraged at a very young age to walk by ourselves to the library to check out books without any adult supervision (except for the watchful eyes of the librarians).  I learned a lot about romance by reading anything with an illustrated picture of a doctor or nurse on the cover.  They would let you check out as many books as you could carry.  One time, on my walk to the library, I was attacked by an angry blue jay and only survived because I threw a hardback book at him and used the rest to duck and cover until I could get a safe distance on down the street.

Books literally save lives.

In general,  from a survey conducted by the National Coalition Against Censorship, kids told us:

● This book made me more empathetic, tolerant, and accepting, of myself and others. It helped me relate better to others and talk to them about things we never would have discussed otherwise.
● This book made me realize that I’m not the only one with problems; it helped me feel more normal and less alone.
● This book saved my life. It helped me confront a serious issue and deal with it.
● This book turned me on to reading. It was the first book I ever read all the way though.
● This book understood me the way no one else does. “I don’t know how I’d have gotten through adolescence without it.”
● This book inspired me to want to do something with my life.

Happy reading.  If you need suggestions of good books to read, you can check out my reading list on Goodreads.




Edinburgh is pronounced ed-in-bruh not like with the hard “g” sound heard in Pittsburg. Edinburgh Castle is the most popular tourist attraction in the city.  The castle is situated on a huge rock outcropping called Castle Rock, located in the city center.  This rock formation is due to a volcano eruption over 340 million years ago. The edifice that is known as Edinburgh Castle was built during the 12th century by David I, son of Saint Margaret of Scotland.  So old compared to our short history here in Texas.  There is a chapel located inside the castle walls that is original but all the other structures are modifications and updates made over time.  The towers got taller, then short and taller again.  Walls came down and walls went up.  A real DIY in the making. 

castle 1

The views of the city from the castle are worth the seventeen pounds for admission.  We bought our tickets in advance online and it sped up our entry considerably.  We also bought the first ticket time of the day at 9:30 a.m. to help beat the crowds and that too worked to our advantage.  There are lots of walking on deep cobblestones and up steep and narrow passageways inside the castle so wear comfortable shoes.  No high heels.  I was so glad I did my walking challenge last month to build up the strength in my legs and knees.

Walking in my opinion is the best way to see any city but especially Edinburgh.  So many Victorian gothic and medieval structures as well as Grecian columns dot the skyline especially along Princes Street and the Royal Mile.  From the eighth floor of our hotel, I took this photograph from our window looking out towards Edinburgh Castle during the first night of our stay when I was wide awake with excitement about our journey.

During our stay in late September, the weather was chilly but we escaped, for the most part, heavy rains just a steady drizzle a couple of days but otherwise, we had grey skies with short moments of sun breaks.  I wore a thermal vest with a hood the entire time to keep warm over layers of thinner fabrics.  As I mentioned before, be sure to wear comfortable shoes.  I wore Adidas Tubular


In Edinburgh, we also visited the Royal Botanic Gardens and the National Museum of Scotland.  The fall colors were spectacular in the gardens and the museum resembles the pictures I have seen of the old Crystal Palace in London.  I highly recommend a fall trip to the Athens of the North — you will miss the festival crowds and the summer warmer weather as we didn’t stay at any hotel that had air conditioning, only fans.  Happy trails.

Scotland, here we come

Scotland, here we come

We leave tomorrow for a week in Scotland leaving behind the ragweed and pollen of a long, hot summer in Texas for cooler fall temperatures in the U.K.  We are staying at the Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh for the first part of the week before heading to Glasgow and a stop in Stirling via train.

We have a full itinerary including time tickets to tour the Edinburgh Castle on Monday as well as dinner reservations at Tuk Tuk Street Food and a class at the Crossbill Gin School in Glasgow on Wednesday.

For RM and me, Edinburgh must sees include:

  • Walk the Royal Mile
  • Tour St. Giles Cathedral
  • Coffee at the Elephant House – birthplace of the writing of Harry Potter
  • Princess and Victoria Street for shopping
  • Greyfrier’s Church
  • Old Town
  • Tom Riddell Tomb and Terrier Dog Bobby
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Hike Arthur’s Seat
  • Tea at Clarinda’s
  • Walk through Dean Village and the Royal Botanical Garden
  • Cadenheads Whisky Shop
  • Hike up Carlton Hill
  • Drinks at Port O’Leith
  • Hit a golf ball at Brunstfields Links
  • Dinner at Mussel Inn
  • Sip a pint at Sheep Head Inn
  • Tour palace of Holyroodhouse
  • Find the archivist’s garden
  • Walk along the Water of Leith
  • Listen to live music at Whistle Binkies

In Glasgow, we hope to do a walking tour of the Mackintosh Architecture and tour the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.  Stirling highlights include the city’s castle as well as the Wallace Monument.

We are packing rain gear and good walking shoes as we are expecting some rain and temperatures in the 40’s, 50’s and maybe low 60’s. Bon voyage.

Artisan Cured Meats

Artisan Cured Meats

Besides learning to preserve foods by canning and fermenting, I am now experimenting with curing different types of meats to build more flavor and learn new techniques.  Five weeks ago, I bought two pork tenderloin and following Jacque Pepin’s recipe for saucisson, a dried salami similar to lean prosciutto. I cured them in my refrigerator.  It was so easy and yummy as a snack, similar but softer than beef jerky, or added to the top of a pizza. You just have to be patient enough to let them cure for several weeks in your refrigerator and remember to turn them over every once in a while. Link to recipe:  Pork Tenderloin Salami

Next, inspired by our recent visit to Sonoma Valley, I tested a pork pate recipe with great results infused with dried cherries and hazelnuts.    I had a large pork butt and extra pork fat in my chest freezer so I put them both to great use. At Fiesta Grocery Store on 8th Avenue, I ask the butcher for extra pork fat and she packaged it up for me for a very minimal cost.  I used my food processor with the metal knife blade to chop up the partially frozen meat.  I also have a grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer that works great too.  The pork and the fat must be cold, nearly frozen to grind well.

I was guided by a recipe I read from the proprietor of The Girl and the Fig, a small french-inspired cafe located on the small square in the town of Sonoma, California.  I purchased her cookbook as a souvenir of our gastro journey though the valley this summer. This recipe makes a lot of pate by the way so plan to divide and freeze portions for later.  I don’t have a pate mold so I used a loaf pan and divided it vertically down the middle with a thin piece of wood that RM made for this purpose.  You can also use small loaf pans for individual pate molds if you like that look. Read more