Hill Country Visit - Joubert & Roy
by Anne and Stewart French

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Friday, Nov 1st:

Anne took off all day Friday so we could have a leisurely morning then head down to Austin in the afternoon, trying to arrive late afternoon. Sandra teaches a terrific step-weights class at LA Fitness in McKinney, so we packed first then headed up there for class, showered and finished packing, got some lunch, and headed south.

It was a beautiful day for driving, about 70 degrees, sunny, comfortable. Dallas roads were busy but not packed, we worried about Austin. Google maps was showing red all through town on I-35 and the Mopac on the west side of the city. So we again headed down 130 from Georgetown on the east side. That road is amazing, with speed limits at 80 mph. We seem to always screw up, taking wrong turns, somehow on 130. Two weeks ago, on our trip to San Antonio to visit Melanie, we missed our turn west on 45, then missed our recovery turn west on 21, finally rolling into San Marcos on 80. Well this time we made real sure we turned west on 45 only to discover that 45 goes west _twice_, once on the north and again on the south. We took the north route, but should have held out for the south. Eventually figured it out, u-turned before we got into the Austin traffic jam, and made it no problem into Buda, TX, about 5:20pm.

Todd and Kim's home is in a new subdivision near Elm Grove Elementary school. Their new house is beautiful! They gave us a tour. Nice limestone, dark cabinets, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and many personal touches: plaques with homey sayings, old furniture and photographs from family gatherings over many years.

We gave them housewarming Henkel chef's knife, Todd really loved it since he's a great cook, watching many of the same episodes of America's Test Kitchen and Jacque Pepin that Stewart watched. For dinner he made us thick juicy steaks on his Egg grill while Kim made mushrooms and baked potatoes with all the fixins. We had also brought down some white and red boxes-o-wine, putting Anne's box 'o chardonnay in the freezer to chill quick, then cracked open Stewart's box 'o merlot to drink retiring to the back patio to chill and chat, discussing the major flooding in the area that week before we arrived (hundreds rescued from flooded areas, two people helicopter rescued from trees near Buda after four hours holding on). Kim and Todd had water 2 feet up on their fence in the back but no major damage, a good sign for new construction.

Sat, Nov 2nd:

Woke up Saturday morning to coffee from Todd's Technivorm MocccaMaster, a winner on America's Test Kitchen, really tasty and kept the temperature consistent from cup to cup. Nice! We've been hunting for a replacement for our old Braun and this was it. Placed the order right then and there. Breakfast was delicious steel cut oatmeal (Red Mill) and Honey Crisp apples.

Todd and Kim had got tickets for us all to the AIA Austin Tour of Homes, so we packed up and headed toward town. On our way we saw eight giant tour buses coming the other way. Kim guessed they were visiting from Kansas for the UT game and were on their way to Salt Lick BBQ. Holy Cow! How big is that BBQ joint?? (We were to find out later...)

The AIA Austin Tour of Homes had everything from new construction (simple lines, clear windows, chrome, quartz and bamboo) to renovations of craftsman homes (high windows, repainted wood framed walls and built-ins, boldly patterned rugs, stained concrete floors) all with windows framing massive oaks. One house had an inlet from Town Lake to accommodate its boat docks. One had louvered metal panels that simulated vertical blinds on their upper deck, allowing wind flow adjustment. High views of Town Lake from patios and porches. Hosted by architects, owners and their children. Some were in gentrified neighborhoods... new houses being built amidst early 20th century homes. They ranged from about 2000 sq.ft. bungalows to a huge 16000 sq.ft. monstrosity. We didn't go visit the big boy, one of the other visitors said it was "being in an Outer Limits episode". They wouldn't let us take photos during the tour. This was quite a bummer since they only had two photos of each of the homes in their brochure and on their iphone app.

For lunch Anne pulled up maps on her iphone and looked around. At the same time Todd and Kim suggested the Grove restaurant Anne saw it as close by on the map, so we headed there, sat outside under the trees, ate wonderful food, got breezed by a "Big Ass Fan" (that thing was _big_ !) right over our heads. Very pleasant and relaxing.

As we drove from house to house we passed by the Bicycle Sports Shop and stopped to pick up some tubes for Todd & Kim's bikes.

The tour of homes was more tiring than we expected so that evening we called to pick up BBQ from Salt Lick in Driftwood nearby Buda. Kim dropped off Todd, Stewart & Anne to pick it up since the gravel parking lot was PACKED! What a production! The place had live music, lots and lots of outdoor tables (don't even know if they had indoor seating it was so crowded outside), and long lines both waiting to be seated and waiting to pick up BBQ. There must have been hundreds of people there. After waiting in line several minutes while Anne wandered around taking pics, Stewart saw a bag sitting near a cash register and walked over to ask about it, found out it was ours, told the guy how much it cost and gave him a little more and we walked off with it. Score!

The meal was amazing! Tender, juicy brisket and ribs, cole slaw with sesame seeds and potato salad and BBQ sauce with spicy mustard tasted. Unique and delicious. Then it was game on!

We channelled Anne's sister Trina and brought out our dice for a game or two of 10,000 / Farkle. Kim turned out to be a risk taker extraodinaire! She rolled 123456 (worth 1500 points) on her first roll, and although we explained she had the option of holding, we pointed out that no one ever farkles on a roll of all the dice, so she rolled and guess what, farkled!

Anne all of a sudden remembered and pulled her white wine out of the freezer. After a bit it had melted enough to make a go of it, along with a few more glasses of the red boxed wine and / or beers. It was an absolute blast. We played until 11:30 and Anne inexplicably won all three games. Well, she only kept score on two of them. Kim pointed out that squeezing the unmelted liquid out of a box of frozen wine is likely mostly alcohol since it doesn't freeze. Hmmm, that explains a lot!

Sun, Nov 3rd:

We woke to the fall time change so we luckily got an extra hour of sleep, then had more great coffee, and Genesis bread with peanut butter and honey crisp apples. Yum! Our ex-neighbor Deepika had invited us to their new home in Austin for Diwali celebration, the Festival of Lights and sweets so we agreed to meet there at 3pm. There was time enough in the morning for Kim and Todd to take us on a bike ride to Blanco River near San Marcos. It was chilly about 50 degrees so we had arm warmers, some had jackets, and Anne had ear warmers. a base layer and long fingered gloves. Kim opted out of extra layers and hauled us halfway there. There was a good headwind going south and a few decent hills. Unfortunately Kim wasn't feeling so well but she held on and she started feeling a bit better by the time we stopped at the river. We grabbed some photos near the rushing water with the barriers added due to recent flooding. Although a little uphill the trip back was _fast_ with the great tailwind. We were doing 24mph despite chatting regularly the whole time. Sweet!

Lunch at the house was leftover Salt Lick barbeque: delicious! With a little time left we rejoined the home tour. One craftsman style home had a giant built in bookshelf on the front inside wall. There was new construction on a tear down next door that sold for $850,000. It was built around a giant live oak but just looked like a normal wood frame house other than that. Anne texted Deepika to find out what we should bring and they were cooking vegetarian so we opted for hummus from Zoes Kitchen, picked it up with some pita and cucumbers on the way there and arrived about 3:20pm.

The Roy's house is amazing! We were able to get through the front gate without entering the key code Deepika sent since there was an open house going on. The drive past the gate was much like 17 mile drive, lots of beautiful vegetation, winding roads, low profile signage. We managed to find, and pulled up out front as Deepika came out to greet us. Somdipta met us just inside the door and we found Mimi, Rohan and Tim nearby. All met Todd and Kim quickly and we got started on touring the stunning house and grounds. Mimi and Rohan pulled Anne out to the tree house... a real house in a real tree with railings and windows wrapped around the trunk in a remote corner of the house. Amazing. They had magic markers and Mimi had a little table with two colorful chairs pulled up where she holds tea parties. So cool!

We enjoyed a glass of wine in the kitchen and caught up on neighborhood Halloweens and other events. The Roys are definitely planning to come join us in Allen for Halloween next year.

Then the Roy's led us down the hillside toward the river where there was a stone lined opening where you could sit and soak in the nature scene for hours. The pyrocantha bushes were aflame in orange and some tall yellow daisy variety covered the hillside.

We got a tour of the home with Somdipta's touches including the 20+ speakers and the programmable LED storage system, the gorgeous paint colors throughout including the mint and brown cabinets, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances which were balanced with the mint, silver and brown tiles in the floor to ceiling fire place. The light fixtures in the kitchen, dining room and stairwell were amazing along with the metal railing. The fireplace with the tiles that looked like bamboo aligned nicely with the white and silver tile surround. And the kids rooms were incredible: Tim's array of guitars, keyboard and sax on one side with the bookcase of awards including the signed astronaut photo, Mimi's pink room with her own tent design, and Rohan's awesome Star Wars ceiling.

Back on the deck we admired the view from above the pool with the Austin skyline visible in the distance and the sun just starting to set. Deepika recommended we take a walk before the sun went down so Mimi and Rohan grabbed their new bikes, and Deepika and Somdipta put leashes on Lucy and Maxie. We walked the steep and beautiful hills, hearing the stories of the democratic fundraiser who hosted Bill Clinton, the $900K garage, the deer gathering houses. The kids did well with their bikes, with Mimi benefitting from Stewart helping her with her new gears, but the downhills were too intense and Kim ended up pushing Rohan's bike back up the hill. We saw four deer in a yard near their home but they scooted when the dogs came by.

With Diwali underway, Deepika recommended some sweets to start so we tried the doughnuts soaked in syrup with fennel and the gouda in half-n-half with cardoman. Delicious! Deepika started lighting candles and set them on around the house and out on the stone window sill and deck railings. What a great holiday!

Dinner was cauliflower and yellow peas/ lentils with basmati rise. It was amazing, with lots of texture, aroma and full flavor yet light. Thanks so much for the Diwali experience, Roy family!

Back at the Joubert's house we were all in a slightly vegetative state, sitting comfortably on the couch, enjoying the tunes and conversation until Stewart fell asleep.

Mon, Nov 4th:

Early up and out for the drive back to Dallas. More great coffee, bread, and apples then we packed up the bikes, said our goodbyes, and headed north. The drive was easy except there was rain and drizzle most of the way. It didn't really slow us down any and we arrived back home about noon.

Thanks Todd and Kim for hosting us and driving us around Austin!

And Thanks to the Roys - Deepika, Somdipta, Tim, Mimi, and Rohan for the great Diwali dinner!