Spring happiness: hiking, bluebonnets, and apple love.

Oh, spring. How you redeem the state of Texas for me. How you make up for the sweltering, sticky summers. Green, green, and more green has surrounded us this year.  It never gets old.

On a clear, cool spring morning recently, I met up with my dear friend Erin at Cedar Ridge Preserve, my haven just outside the city.   Erin is a kindred soul - we've been through thick and thin together and have so much in common like our nerdiness, love of Jesus, and crafting.  We both have toddler girls close in age, Luci and Lawson, who love to play together sometimes on Saturday mornings.   But what I love most about our friendship is how different we are.  I have the opportunity to learn from her personality and be spurred on to seek Christ in ways I otherwise might miss.  

Our walk through the woods was refreshing on a day when I really needed it - we've been steeped in multiple toddler tantrums every day around here lately, exhausted from the consequences of my husband hurting his ribs in a bike accident, and the ongoing small business/money woes. 

But a morning in the woods with a friend is the best medicine - the scent of mulch and mud, the sound of crickets and lawnmowers, sunbeams illuminating our hair through the trees, both of our heads nodding and our spirits quickening as we walked and talked.  It's so good to be with someone with whom you can agree, "Yes.  This is what life is about."

On our hike, we passed green prairie meadows with freshly-mowed walking trails...

...forested pathways...

...clear rainbowy streams...

...new growth sprouting with the energy of spring.

After the hike, Erin had to bid us farewell, but Luci Belle and I got to linger at the Preserve a little longer.  I fished inside my bag and pulled out a Fuji apple for us to share.

It was so simple, that apple.

But in the sunshine, with my daughter, time stood still and the multitudes of stress from the previous week seemed inconsequential.  I'm thankful for moments like these.  Does it mean the struggles don't exist?  Absolutely not.  But it makes them more bearable.

She asked for a bite, and then didn't want to let go.

MORE pictures, Mommy?  Yup, still holding the apple.

Meanwhile, her usual favorite snack of salted cinnamon pumpkin seeds lay untouched.

After licking that apple core clean, we decided to head home.  On our way out, we caught sight of an entire field of bluebonnets, the Texas state flower.  I swerved the car to the shoulder, hopped out, and snapped a few photos.  After all, they come and go so quickly.

No sooner were we on the road when I glanced in the back seat.  The ultimate sign of a successful morning outing?  A completely conked-out toddler...

...and a quiet ride home for a mom who's able to be a little more patient, a little more kind today, after having spent some time in nature with a close friend, wildflowers, and an apple.

Impromptu trip to Austin.

What's one of my favorite things about living in Dallas?  That we're only 2.5 hours away from Austin!  One of the best cities out there, in my opinion - excellent food, great shops, rolling hills and beauty, and a ton of hippies like us.

A few weeks ago, we had an important task for Urban Acres to attend to there, so our family of three went together.  What a fun day.

All road trips make me sentimental for Nashville, so we popped in my "Nashville Memories" track list and started the trip off right - belting out "Check Yes Or No" by George Strait as we cruised out of Dallas in the rain.

The little one was excited to finally face forward in her car seat, armed with a banana and a Dr. Seuss book.  What more could you want in life?  

Steven and I were happy to have some undistracted time together to talk.  That alone was worth the trip.

The drive to Austin was pretty uneventful...that is, until we pulled into the parking lot of our first stop, Daily Juice, Austin's famous juice/smoothie bar and home of the super fat straw.  At this very moment, after holding it in for 2.5 hours, our carsick-prone daughter decided to puke up her entire breakfast.  A shirt change and an entire case of baby wipes later, we made a dash for the front door of Daily Juice in the pouring rain.

Once we were inside and saw their amazing menu board, all things were redeemed.  You've never seen a smoothie bar like this place.  We ordered one of the Serious Smoothies - the "El Paraiso" with added raw pecan butter.  YUM. 

After some work stuff, it was time for lunch, so we shuttled our grumbly tummies over to the highly recommended Elizabeth Street Café for French Vietnamese food. 

Luci Belle tried to figure out chop stix while we sampled the Bánh mì - a warm Vietnamese bun stuffed with pork belly, cucumber, cilantro, and a delicious sauce.

And then of course, Phở.  A steaming hot bowl of beef broth and noodles on a cold, rainy day?  Yes, please.

It hit the spot and gave us the energy to traipse around S. Lamar Blvd. in the rain looking for some new TOMS, to replace my beloved plaid Cordones that had worn holes through the toes.

Luci Belle was unfazed by the rain and was in heaven jumping in puddles, but Steven and I were soaked and just about to give up when we decided to seek shelter and warmth at Whole Earth Provision Co.  Just in case, we checked the sale rack, tucked into a dark corner on the second floor.  And there they were, just one pair, in my size, in the right color, and for $30 less.  Seriously?  I tried them on, and they were so comfortable they felt like socks.  Then as I was modeling them tentatively, Steven remarked, "Oh, those are SO you," and it was a done deal. 

I love them.

Even the rain couldn't keep us from a successful road trip - delicious smoothie, the perfect noodles, new shoes, and the companionship of my two favorite people in the world.

Food As Gift.

Image: Art House AmericaI'm honored that my essay "Food As Gift" has been included on the Art House America blog today!  I hope you'll meander over and check it out...

While you're there, don't miss the lovely essays "In High Cotton" by Kierstin Casella and "Believing The Seeds of Wonderland" by Alice Smith, two creative and inspiring friends and fellow mamas from Nashville.

"Somehow, my little family’s efforts combined with that of so many others is a gift to the community, a voice shouting over the din of this big city that knowing where your food comes from does matter..." read more

Where we should be.

"It is simple. We are where we should be, doing what we should be doing. Otherwise we would be somewhere else, doing something else."

~Richard Stine

"The smell of mulch is good for my soul!" I said aloud at the moment my feet touched the soft mulched pathways.  A bit overdramatic perhaps, but a typical statement for this idealist. I had returned to my beloved Cedar Ridge Preserve after a very long time, and it was good. Very good.

From the moment I awoke today, I've felt almost an audible call from God to get outside and commune with Him in nature, to take my little girl with me to play and explore and enjoy all the gifts that are waiting outside our front door.  I've been wanting to go back to the Preserve since having had a baby but was waiting for warm enough weather.  Then, the warm weather came {80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky today!}, but none of my girlfriends were available to come with me - one had plans with family, one was working feverishly on a book proposal, another was in line at the Apple Store for a new iPad.  But God said, "Just come!"  So it was me, and Belle in the Boba carrier.

I need nature.  This is something I know very surely about myself now.

On the short 15 minute drive to Cedar Ridge, I felt myself getting excited, as if I were about to be reuinted with an old friend.  And I guess in a way I was; I couldn't wait to introduce my daughter to this place that was a refuge for me, whose trails were worn many times by my running shoes before she was in my belly.  The sign at the entrance had changed, but everything else was just as I'd remembered it. 

Here we are at the entrance - this child is so utterly happy when she is outdoors, and I couldn't be more proud. 

Let's go!

I nestled Luci Belle into the carrier on my back and set my feet to the trails.  The trees waved and creaked overhead just like always.  So many treasures awaited us, even though spring has yet to bloom in full form...

By the time we came to the clear stream that flows under the wooden suspension bridge, the little wiggly pack on my back was ready to be free.  So I carried her down to the sandy edge and dangled her inflate-a-feet in the water.  At first she jumped at the chilliness and then started bouncing up and down with glee.

Crimson berries seemed strategically placed just at the spot where you needed a bit of color, a break from forest brown.  A strip of blue sky peeked through the branches of a Bradford Pear in full bloom.

And at the end, we made a quick stop in the Butterfly Garden and actually found one alighting on the branch of a Cherry Blossom tree!

The entire time, we saw only three people: two passersby on the trails {who both grabbed my daughter's chubby ankles for a little tug}, and a volunteer gardener named Sharon who was vigorously pruning an Autumn Sage.  When we got in the car, I felt refreshed.  So refreshed.  It really is simple.  The Preserve was undoubtedly the "somewhere" we were meant to be today, enjoying nature the "something" we were meant to do.