I started this blog post a couple of weeks ago… before life got real again. Before school meetings and then classes started. Lord have mercy. How on earth did I manage it all when I had two little boys depending upon me to feed them? Anyway… back to finishing what I started.
I have wanted to visit Austin, Texas for several years. Why? Good question. Here are a few theories:
- Blake Shelton’s song “Austin” maybe? This was in his younger, long-haired days. I love this song because, well, it’s Blake, and it tells a story.
- Durham has been compared to Austin.
- I love music. There is live music everywhere, especially on 6th Street.
- I am a huge fan of Tex-Mex food. I could eat my weight in guacamole. I could.
- The top reason actually has to do with the University of Texas. They make so many great materials for teachers free… yes, for free. No cost. Through COERLL, the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning. There is Français interactif, a first-year French course and there is Tex’s French Grammar,
The site is intended for older students, but my 8th graders love it. Tex is an existential poet and French tutor at the university. But as far as the French language goes, the grammar explanations are clear and concise with a lot of examples. The kids can listen to the dialogues, which are funny because the characters have very interesting voices. Joe-Bob is a squirrel from College Station. Paw-Paw, Tex’s grand-père is a Cajun. There is a love triangle between Tex, Tammy and Bette. And more. The passé composé is taught using a drawing of the Alamo. And so on.
Anyway, back to Austin. I am on the university’s email list and got an email about a summer workshop on proficiency. Voilà! My chance to go to Austin. The Ex-Ex decided to go with me and we made it into a little mini-vacation. (We’ve done this a few times before– San Antonio, New York City, Mt. Airy.) Yes, it’s hot as heck in Austin. It’s hot as heck in Durham. It’s much less humid in Austin. We came upon a Splash Mob our first day there-
The city announced that the intersection would be closed and everyone came armed with water balloons and squirt guns. Everyone there was fair game for 30 minutes. My right arm got caught in the crossfire. Cool, huh?
We toured the Capitol and I now know more about Texas history than I will ever need or remember. They are very proud of the fact that their Capitol building is taller than the one in Washington, DC. Bigger is better in Texas. (I cannot believe that I did not buy that t-shirt about France.)
The inside is pretty impressive, too.
The grounds are beautiful. Lots of statues.
We roamed around the campus of the Texas Longhorns.
I wanted to see the famous Bell Tower. We couldn’t go up to the top, but we walked through the air-conditioned bottom from one end to the other.
6th Street? Have you ever heard of it? Well, if you go to Austin, don’t miss it. Bars, restaurants, live music every night.
A sign out front–
We went in. Wouldn’t want to be accused of cheatin’.
A bathroom sign, featuring Johnny, Dolly and a fact of life–
I loved the San Jac–
And since bats are a thing in Austin–
Speaking of bats. 1.5 million of them live under this bridge–
and come out to feed every night. People line up to watch. We decided to take a boat tour.
I wasn’t sure if I believed Han Solo, our captain and tour guide… but lo and behold-
Once they started…
it took a while for them to all fly away. Amazing. Off to rid the local farmers of all their bugs.
It was a beautiful evening.
We walked over to the park to see the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn-
My workshop was great. It was on written and oral proficiency. I wish I lived closer so that I could go to more of their workshops. Hélas.
I ate a sinful amount of guacamole at this place after the workshop while relaxing with some of my new colleagues–
And had this concoction made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. When in Austin…
I could have had two.
While we were at the visitor’s bureau, I picked up a copy of Edible Austin. And found this recipe. I bought some postcards with recipes on them but haven’t had time to make any of them yet. I will and will post more Texas delicacies. I promise.
Strawberry Skillet Corncake with Buttermilk Glaze
from Edible Austin May/June 2018 issue
Makes a 9-in round
For the cake:
1/2 c. (1 stick) softened butter, cut into large chunks (plus more for greasing the pan)
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 c. coarse-ground yellow cornmeal
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 c. buttermilk
1 pint (8oz) fresh strawberries, hulled, halved or chopped, divided (I think that sliced peaches would work well, too)
For the glaze:
2 Tbsp. buttermilk
1/4 c. powdered sugar
Heat the oven to 375˚F. Grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or another heavy baking pan with butter. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, once again stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the cornmeal. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients a bit at a time, alternating with the buttermilk until just mixed. Gently fold in half of the strawberries using a spatula. Scrape the batter into the greased pan. Place in oven.
About halfway through the baking time (25-30 minutes), arrange the other half of the berries on top of the batter to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about another 25-30 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool slightly, then drizzle with the buttermilk-powdered sugar mixture while still warm. True Texans serve it right from the pan.
Bon appétit, mes amis! Keep traveling and eating good food! It’s fun to get away and see how others live and play. Austin did not disappoint! Happy beginning of school to all my teacher friends! Here’s to a great year!