A weekend of food and companionship.

What a beautiful evening in May.  As I sit on the front porch right now at 6:33pm, the distinct  smell of high spring is in the air - grass has been freshly cut, sprinklers are running in the neighbors' yards, mockingbirds are chirping wildly.  It's been one of those spring days that you wish would last forever - blue sky with a few scattered clouds, a slight breeze, and a warm sun that has yet to turn into the Texas scorcher.  Perfect for lying on a blanket and reading for hours, really.

This weekend has been pretty ideal, one that I want to document and remember.  It's not some monumentally big thing that happened, but a thousand little things that have whispered to me over and over - it's the people you've been given to walk through life with that matter.

On Friday night, Steven spontaneously asked me if I wanted to drive to Austin on Saturday so he could check out some new Texas farmers for the farm store.  It was cloudy and rainy in Dallas but the forecast in Austin was sunny and 85.  Yes, please.  It's been years since I've been to that wonderful laid-back city that is only 2.5 hours away.  It's honestly ridiculous that we don't go more often.  Our friends Tommy and Linda agreed to come along for the adventure so we groggily awoke at 6:30am on Saturday to get an early start and piled into our small VW Rabbit. 

I love road trips, however small.  The wildflowers across Texas were in full form as we flew down I-35 through small towns like Italy {yes Italy, TX - pronounced "it-ly"}, through Waco, and finally into the Austin area.

Austin has farmers markets in locations all over the city, all throughout the week, just teeming with local Texas goodies - freshly-picked produce, vibrant bouquets of flowers, homemade baked goods, handmade clothing, art, prepared foods.  It's like a healthy state fair every day of the week.  We had mapped out our plan for the day, and our first stop was Barton Creek Farmers Market.  It was still overcast, yet the sky was brightening...

We meandered through the rows of booths, stopping at this artisanal baker who wooed us with his beautifully-decorated breads.  We simply had to have a pain au chocolat.

Next we came to a stand where the farmer himself was unloading fat, round carrots from bins and packaging them into folded-over paper bags.  He gave us a sample to try...SNAP!  They were perfectly crispy and sweet, as fresh carrots should be.  We purchased a bag as well as four banana peppers.

After we'd finished our rounds at Barton Creek, we headed for our next stop, one of my very favorites in Austin: Kerbey Lane Café - the original location in a cozy house on Kerbey Lane. 

Just driving down that quiet street to the café conjures up all kinds of nostalgia - I was first introduced to this hippie 24-hour food joint way back in '98 or '99 when I lived in Houston and worked at Grassroots Music, and Amy, Jenni, Kierstin and I used to take weekend trips to visit Jenni's parents in Austin.  I've only been back a few times over the years but knew we had to stop by Kerbey Lane for a wonderful breakfast featuring their famous gingerbread pancakes. 

As we sat outside waiting for our table, the sun finally peeked through the canopy of trees above us, and the place was bustling with that carefree Saturday morning feeling - folks chatting, drinking coffee, reading the morning paper.  Tommy and Linda sat cross-legged on the ground and Steven and I on the steps.  We all four were so content, so peaceful, just simply enjoying the day, fresh surroundings, and being together.  I said aloud, "I just love Austin.  I could totally live here..."  Everyone agreed as we observed the friends and couples and families dressed casually around us, so different from the brunch crowd in Dallas that can be so upscale and snooty.  Yup, Austin is our kinda place.

Finally at our cozy table, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast of eggs, gingerbread pancakes, of course, and some delicious all-natural sausage.

Linda and Tommy

After brunch, we hopped in the car and headed to our next stop: The Downtown Austin Farmers Market.  Whoa!  It was just a bunch of tents in a parking lot, but what goods!  As Steven went off on his own to meet some new farmers, Tommy discovered Bona Dea Bread and came running over to Linda and I - "You guys have to try this scone and these cookies immediately!"   He opened his palm and offered us the crumbly heavenly-smelling goodness.  The cookies were - I'm not kidding - the best cookies I've ever had in my life.  Perfectly round and soft and falling apart and - bonus - gluten-free!  I could have eaten about a bazillion of them and started scheming how we could get our hands on them back in Dallas.

The farmers market started shutting down around 1pm so we headed down Lamar - because we had all the time in the world and because we could - for the 80,000-square-foot flagship Whole Foods to see if they had a special beer Tommy wanted.  Meanwhile, Linda and I marveled at the adorable organic cotton sundresses in the clothing section {they have an entire clothing and bedding section!}.  Once again, we remarked how much we love this city - even their Whole Foods manages to be unpretentious and laid-back, just like Austin's citizens.

Finally, we drove down S. Congress, past funky boutiques and unique homegrown restaurants, for our final stop of the day.  Steven had already told us about this new trend in Austin right now where people are opening specialty mini-restaurants in Airstream trailers all over the city.  Literally, you'll drive by a random parking lot where one of these adorably decorated trailers is parked, and there's a line all the way down the street.  There's one that only sells Vietnamese sandwiches, another crepes, another BBQ, another cupcakes, whatever.  They find their niche and do it well, and the food is good and fresh, not like funnel cakes from a carnival trailer. 

On S. Congress, there's an entire parking lot where all of these specialty trailers are parked in a row with picnic tables and umbrellas outside for casual seating...

If we'd had any room left in our stomachs, we probably would have eaten some BBQ, but instead we went down to the end of the row to hey cupcake!  How adorable is this?

We ordered the 24 Carrot, Snowcap, and Vanilla Dream in a to-go box to save for the ride home, although they only lasted 5 minutes in the car!


When we finally arrived home around 6:30pm, I kept saying to Steven as if I was a child returning from summer camp, "That was sooooo fun!  Seriously, that was SUCH a fun day."  We went to bed early and slept hard for 11 hours.

* * *

Fast-forward to today, Sunday morning, when a small group of us gathered at Josh & Terrica's for a time of worship, sharing, and prayer.  As Steven and I drove across town to their house, we were both completely quiet in the car.  "Hey babe, are you tired?" I asked. We had slept so much the night before, so I supposed it wasn't tiredness that was contributing to our lack of conversation.  "No, just mellow," he said.  It was exactly how I felt too - mellow and peaceful and just content.  Life could not be more up in the air right now, yet today, in this small precious moment, I just felt happy and relective and somehow excited.

The Garden CaféAt Josh and Terrica's, we grasped hot cups of tea and coffee and spent a few hours talking about how Christ is stirring our hearts right now in so many unique and beautiful ways.  Afterwards, we went to lunch with our dear friend Kyle at The Garden Café, a little hidden gem in a historic Dallas neighborhood.  It was, like I said at the beginning of this post, the most perfect spring weather, so we sat on the back patio which is literally in the middle of a garden where they grow lettuce, herbs, and other produce that they cook in the restaurant.  I had a chicken salad sandwich with fresh fruit and a few bites of whole wheat pancakes that actually smoked the ones from Kerbey Lane. 

But more importantly, we talked with Kyle, a true heart-friend, about what God is doing in our lives right now and also dreamt about the future.  We hold those dreams loosely in our palms but they are still there, and it's wonderful when you are in a safe friendship where they can be vocalized.

Earlier that morning, Terrica had shared a passage from the book A Thousand Days in Venice where the author explains that the root of the word "companion" comes from the words "com" meaning "fellow" and "panis" meaning "bread."  So a companion is a friend with whom you break bread. As I reflect on the current unpredictability of our lives and the simple joys of this weekend, I am reminded that life is nothing if not for companions with whom you can enjoy it.  Sometimes it's sharing your deepest hopes, dreams, and fears, and sometimes it's just pancakes on a Saturday morning.