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Posts Tagged ‘McKinney’

Happy Arbor Day! Today is (at least in the U.S. of A.) the day we celebrate God’s gift of trees. That’s easy for me, I’m quite fond of trees. Think where we’d be without them! Sunburned, for one thing, and what would we burn for warmth or use to build, well, most anything?

I have 4 trees on my suburban estate, 3 live oaks (sturdy, strong, and sheltering a multitude of birds) and 1 crape myrtle (a toddler among trees, but growing nicely). The crape myrtle is a new addition as of last year. Its job, as I carefully explained when I planted it, is to grow up and obscure the view from the street into my shower. It’s getting there, bless its heart. It should also, when the time comes, be covered in glorious red blooms.

Not my tree, but in my 'hood.


Most crape myrtles in these parts are hot pink, wimpy pink, white, or lavender, but my garden design demanded a warmer color. Fortunately, McKinney, Texas is the “Crape Myrtle Capital of the World” so I was able to pick up an “Arapaho” at the Crape Myrtle Society’s Annual Sale. (That’s coming up May 15, btw, so if you want a tree of your own, click here.)

I have other favorite trees that don’t belong to me. There’s a dark purple beauty down the block that makes me smile every time I drive by. I saw glorious copper beeches on my last trip to England (Blenheim Palace, I believe it was). And in Juneau, Alaska I saw upside-down trees used as planters.

No, seriously. The story goes that the man who owned what is now Glacier Gardens had a rented “life-sized Tonka toy” at an exorbitant rate to clear debris from an avalanche. He was under strict orders from his wife to return said equipment in pristine condition. All was well until the last day when he, uh, backed it into a rock. In frustration, he grabbed (with the equipment, not his hands) a nearby tree and slammed it into the ground head-first. Which was when it occurred to him, “Huh. That looks like a planter.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

Upside down trees

More Upside-Down Trees


At that same garden I learned about a condition that sometimes afflicts trees. Gesturing to what looked like a perfectly happy, healthy specimen our guide explained that sometimes those trees fell over dead. They suffered “heart rot” and were slowly dying from the inside out.

I wonder how many of the people we see around us are suffering from the same condition? They may look fabulous on the outside but be dying a slow death on the inside. We don’t really know. But God does.

1 Samuel 16:7 tells us, “People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (New Century Version) Only he knows what’s really going on. Only he can heal it. Since we can’t always tell whether a person is crumbling inside or solid to the core, maybe we should cut each other a little slack.

And hug a tree.
Happy Arbor Day.

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I can’t imagine what they were thinking, building such a tiny shop. It’s barely larger than my guest room, with stone walls—not the kind of stone you’re probably thinking of, more like small cubes of hand-hewn stone—and one wall with . . . well, we’ll get to that later.

The shop in question is in a new development in McKinney called Adriatica. This is so NOT your mama’s shopping center. The whole place is built of stone and designed to look as though it’s been there for generations. It’s full of nooks, crannies, courtyards and surprises, like the bell tower some eight stories high . . . a massive carving of the dove from Noah’s Ark . . . a tiny vineyard . . . a chapel-in-progress being built on a small peninsula that juts out into the lake, which can be rented for weddings but will be open at other times for personal prayer. Yes, there is a Starbucks, but the drive-thru is entered under a stone arch that looks like it was possibly built by craftsmen from the Middle Ages.

So. Not your average strip center. I was there with a friend last Friday for a special “First Friday” event, which involved booths of handcrafted items in the parking lot, surprisingly good live music, grazing on nibbles at each store, door prizes (I won a basket of some energy drink stuff.), bracelet lust (OMG, it was gorgeous!), and eventually dinner at my favorite wine bar/bistro, Zin Zen. But before flopping down in Z-Z’s comfy seats for pizza and a glass of smooth Pinot Noir, we wandered into the tiny little shop mentioned earlier.

Fleurs & Events, it’s called, and the “fleurs” in question were exquisite. Roses the size of my palm in glorious hues. I was mooning over an arrangement of flame-colored beauties massed in a beautiful black urn when Vikki called my name. “Did you see this?” she said, pointing at a carving on the wall. No, wait—not on the wall—in the wall. It must be a good 5 feet high (or more), and takes up a significant percentage of this small space.

Carving inside Fleurs & Events

Carving inside Fleurs & Events

The carving is a cathedral-window-shaped affair featuring a tower; at the bottom it firmly proclaims, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer.” As we marveled at this work of art, the owner of the shop came over. “That’s the reason I’m here,” she said, gesturing toward the carving. “I told my husband, ‘I don’t want to open a shop’ but when I saw that, I knew God wanted me here.”

Later, sipping our wine, Vikki and I pondered that little store. What company’s business plan includes building a space that’s tiny to begin with, then reduces what available wall space there is with a Scripture? In this day and age? In this “don’t offend anyone with your beliefs” culture?

That’s not the only Scripture in the place, either. If you look, you’ll find God’s Word sprinkled throughout the buildings, tucked under eaves and into odd corners. Who does that? Apparently the people building Adriatica, that’s who.

On the wall outside Zin Zen

On the wall outside Zin Zen

Whatever the space planner’s thinking may have been, God knew exactly who was going to fill that small space—and arranged it so a reluctant shop owner would know where she was meant to be. To me, it’s just one more example of God at work, going ahead of us to prepare exactly what we need.

Pieta on wall of another building

Pieta on wall of another building

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Cream Puffs & Cookbook

Dedicated food nerd that I am, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of the new movie Julie & Julia for months. Being of a social disposition, I thought it only right that my personal premiere should include food—and not just any food, but dishes from Julia Child’s seminal work, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

After scaling back my original party vision (handmade invitations, houseful of people, 5 course meal, Julia Child impression contest, fabulous prizes…) due to budget constraints, I ended up inviting a few friends over for a Julie Child pot-luck and trip to the movie.

My guest list included two of my Dallas Symphony Chorus foodie group friends. We’ve been singing together for 15 years, give or take, and for something like 8 of those years we’ve held several dinner parties each season, all themed around the music we were performing. Menus have included everything from schnitzel and spaetzle (we sing a lot of German music) to New York-style pizza (Bernstein) and borscht (Tchaikovsky). With all this experience (literally) under our belts, we felt pretty confident tackling The French Chef.

Unfortunately, only one of us actually owned the cookbook—and that someone was not me. On the plus side, the fabulous McKinney library does own a copy, and it was even on the shelf when I went to look for it. Considering this was the week before J-Day (August 7, the day Julie & Julia released), I took that as a sign of divine favor and left the library rejoicing.

After several phone calls, we had our menu. Rosemary would make vichyssoise, which while not actually in Mastering the Art… was a JC recipe. Vikki, who does have the book, offered to make coq au vin. Holly, who is not a foodie, brought a wonderful whole-grain baguette.

I—surprise, surprise—tackled dessert. But which dessert? I bake cakes all the time, so I didn’t want to go there. The apple tart sounded delicious but. . . I eventually decided on cream puffs. I really wanted to make a croquenbouche—it’s kind of a Christmas tree-shaped tower of cream puffs decorated with lacy sugar garland—but apparently one has to have a special form, along the lines of a metal traffic cone, to pull that off. So plain old cream puffs—filled with Cream St. Honore flavored with crème de cacao and topped with homemade caramel—would have to do. Cream puffs are ridiculously simple, btw, so if you’re thinking of trying to make them: do.

While I would have preferred opening night, we couldn’t give proper attention to both a gourmet dinner AND a movie after work on Friday. Saturday, August 8, it was, then. And what a fabulous evening. Vikki came in costume with a vintage apron over her dress and pearls; the rest of us made do with wearing my collection of bridesmaid pearls to the movie. And the food? Oh. My.

Vichyssoise

Vichyssoise

Here’s the vichyssoise, which Rosemary informed us was created by happy accident. Apparently it was meant to be hot potato-leek soup, but someone forgot to reheat it before it went out to the customers. Nobody complained, and a new dish was born.

Coq au vin

Coq au vin

Next course, coq au vin. As Vikki said, “I knew it was going to be good when the first step was ‘Brown the bacon in butter.’” The (almost) two bottles of wine that went in it didn’t hurt either. If you’ve never tried coq au vin, run, don’t walk, to the nearest grocery store for ingredients and make it tonight. It was lick-the-plate good. Those potatoes are roasted garlic and shallot mashed potatoes left over from an earlier dinner, btw.

Roused from a food-induced coma by the sight of the clock, we dashed to the movie. Fortunately the theater is just 5 minutes from my house. It was delightful—but we were SO glad we’d eaten before we got there. It’s a rare and beautiful thing to find a film that has very little bad language, no nudity—except for a couple of chickens—happily married couples, and a satisfying ending. Not to mention the food porn…which is why we were so glad to be well-fed.

Cream Puffs

Cream Puffs


Afterwards we went back to my house, resolved to make that boned duck in the not-too-distant future, and stuffed ourselves with cream puffs. And they all lived happily ever after. Amen.

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The Flag

The Flag

My charming hometown (well, it’s the town where my home is now) of McKinney, Texas does many things well. Yesterday I experienced another one of those things.

About a week ago, signs popped up on our medians advertising a Memorial Day program in historic Pecan Grove Cemetery. It’s one of the oldest cemeteries in north Texas and is the resting place of (as one description put it) everyone from governors to gunslingers, and veterans from every war since “The War of Northern Aggression.” I like it because they have actual statues and tombstones, not just flat markers. And because I’m a little weird and I like old cemeteries. So when the time came, I went to the program.

I found a space under a tree to leave the car; only afterwards did I realize it was also uncomfortably close to a Lieutenant Colonel from WWII (sorry sir, no disrespect intended). Grabbing my trusty blanket from the back of the car, camera in hand, sunscreen and hat in place, I ventured forth to see what this celebration was all about.

It was perfect. Volunteers handed out water bottles at the entrance, VERY welcome on a hot, sunny day. The area in front of the stage area was full, but I found a spot by the (middle school) band.

Back of the Band

Back of the Band

The honor guard and color guard marched in and presented the colors. Apparently it had been a while since the color guard had done their little routine…the gentleman in charge had to shout at them several times to get them where he wanted them, which tickled me (and the gentleman next to me) no end.

Color Guard

Color Guard

We stood with hands on hearts and said the Pledge of Allegiance. Someone sang the National Anthem. There were deliciously partisan speeches by our U.S. Representatives (one a former POW), a roll call of deceased military currently residing in the cemetery, a fired salute, Taps played by a lone bugler, “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes played by local firemen (who knew?)

Firemen Pipers

Firemen Pipers

Duh plane, duh plane

Duh plane, duh plane


a flyover by a historic plane, and much more.

Pecan Grove Cemetery Program

Pecan Grove Cemetery Program

It was everything a Memorial Day program should be. Afterward, I felt as though I had truly honored the day and those who made it possible.

And after that, the Boy Scouts served everybody lunch! Brisket, cole slaw, beans, cobbler, and what one young Scout solemnly assured me was “famous” Green Apple Pie.

Lunch a la Boy Scout

Lunch a la Boy Scout

I can’t think of a better way to spend Memorial Day. How did you spend yours?

The not-so-little drummer boy

The not-so-little drummer boy

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