On Road Trips and Family Traditions

This past week we took a road trip up to Amarillo, Texas. It’s about a six-hour drive from Dallas, with stops, angling up the 287. The road is dotted with small towns, lots of fields with various crops, wind farms, cattle, and not much else.

My husband and I quite enjoy a good road trip. Usually we listen to a book, but the CD player got stuck, so we chatted about what we were seeing as we drove through the sprawl of Dallas and environs (which takes a good hour) out into the sometimes rolling but mostly flat vistas of western Texas. Or enjoyed the long, comfortable silences you can experience when you’re with someone you love.

You don’t realize you miss seeing horizons until you see them again after a long time. Growing up in Kansas, I had quick and easy access to vistas. Big skies with amazing cloud formations and below it, the stretch of land literally as far as your eye can see.

Color becomes important too, even as we descend (finally!) into colder weather here in Texas. The shadings of brown, the occasional pop of green. Of course, the ever-changing sky. It was mostly cloudy for our drive out, raining the entire way back, but even then the differentiation in grey tone was a marvel.

We saw tall grain silos, long trains, and fields of cotton. No, I didn’t know they grew cotton here, either. The fields look like a giant upended a popcorn bowl after their team scored a touchdown. I saw antelope too, a first for me. And tumbleweeds. Long, long trains, too. Double stacked with shipping containers, with three engines to pull it. Or, passing the other way, open cars filled with what we guessed was coal, but turns out is coke, a by-product of the oil industry.

The purpose for our road trip was to spend Thanksgiving with a bunch of folks who are pretty new to us. This is the gift your children give you as they grow up and have serious relationships. I love it, especially since we got to spend the day with 25 or so people. I say this as an only child. Most of my memories about Thanksgiving include having to dress up and then sit with just my parents and me at the dining room table, having stilted conversation or none at all. It didn’t generate warm feelings for the holiday. There, I’ve said it. Although I have always liked the pie.

This Thanksgiving changed all that. Our hosts could not have been friendlier or more accommodating. They went out of their way to welcome us, to fold us right in. And man, the food was great. Mac and cheese, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and corn casserole on the island. Relish trays, Jell-O salad (a fave for me), deviled eggs, bread and rolls, cranberry sauce. Beef stew, ham, and turkey. The kitchen table was stacked with desserts. Pumpkin, pecan, and chocolate pies, cookies, strawberry cake, pumpkin and chocolate cheesecakes, a rice Krispie thing with chocolate and caramel, and more.

The meal started with a prayer from the oldest person there, the great grandpa to most of them, a wonderful man who’s seen a thing or two. And then the eating and talking. Four hours passed by in a flash. We weren’t in a big house, but somehow those lovely people rolled us up and included us in conversation and friendship. It made me truly thankful and blessed, and something else, too. It made me enjoy Thanksgiving.

It was like the vistas we saw on the drive. Sometimes you just don’t know what you’re missing until you see it.

On Eating and Walking in Washington, DC

This past week my family and I flew into DC for our son’s graduation from his Master’s Program at GWU. Just like last year for his undergrad degree, there was no actual ceremony, but we gathered all the same, getting an Airbnb that was problematic but in a good location. More on the dangers of renting on VRBO or Airbnb in another post. Suffice it to say that NEVER AGAIN will we rent from either one, and that had it not been for the kind intervention of a lobby receptionist, we would have been scrambling for a place to stay.

After our rocky start, it was a wonderful odyssey of being together while eating and walking, with the occasional Metro ride or Lyft thrown in the mix. We’ve all been to DC multiple times and its one of our favorite cities; the monuments and museums, the diversity of neighborhoods, and of course the great restaurants.

A highlight of the trip was being some of the first to step back into the National Portrait Gallery and the American Museum of Art. They have huge collections thoughtfully curated. I always appreciate plenty of cushy places to sit down and contemplate art, and these museums (they are attached and flow into one another) have plenty. In the center of the two is a huge rectangular atrium with flowing water and lots of orchids. Do try and make your way up to the third floor where the conservationists work behind glass, like a zoo exhibit.


This trip we walked from the Mall around the tidal basin, and saw the Jefferson, FDR, and MLK memorials, along with the “forgotten” patriot, James Madison. They were right, I didn’t know who he was – without really saying so, the memorial lets you know that Mr. Jefferson cribbed a lot of his material from Mr. Madison. I found the Jefferson to be disappointing. As one of our party said, it seems to be last on the list to get repaired. There’s a small museum underneath the giant rotunda. You take a very slow, creepy elevator down. It takes so long that you start to wonder if you will end up trapped and entombed there yourself. The museum (when the elevator door finally opens) is dingy, sparse, with a sad little gift shop. The poor clerk in there was so happy to see people. We bought magnets out of pity.

The FDR monument is fantastic. It is completely outdoors, and is built with giant blocks of stone. Water was planned to move through the whole thing, but that seemed to be a repair that has been indefinitely on hold as well. Bronze statues and carved paragraphs highlight the events and words (All we have to fear is fear itself) of his four terms in office. I was struck by something Eleanor said about him – that it was his disease that gave him both the compassion and the resilience to become the President we needed.


MLKs monument makes it look like he is striding out of a mountain and it has his wonderful words and thoughts carved into the walls surrounding it. The whole walk around the basin was pleasant and not too strenuous. That said, we were walking an average of 20,000+ steps a day (roughly 10 miles a day) so you might want to take that last sentence with a grain of salt.

Another jaunt was to Georgetown and the oodles of cute townhouses all snugged up against one another, painted in various colors. The waterfront was enjoyable, if a bit stinky, and I finally got to cross off a bucket list item – climbing up the 75 steep “Exorcist Stairs.”

Taken by my son Steven, who had run up ahead of me. Show off.

We had our share of coffees and snacks as we did our walks, and ate at local faves such as the Old Ebbitt Grill by the White House. It’s a stuffy dark wood place where I had a great Caesar Salad. We also popped up to Union Market where you can get your choice of street food. My kids opted for Miso soup and a tasty breakfast, while my husband and I shared a really good eggplant parm sandwich.

Other tasty places were Poets and Busboys (hint: get the Vegan Nachos and share – they are pictured at up top) and the fun Fisher’s Farmers Bakers by the waterfront where I had the most delicious sandwich of Brie, Avocado, and Roasted Veggies on a fantastic apple walnut raisin bread. I did not share. Don’t forget to grab some chocolate there too – they sell it by the half pound. However, highlights of the eating portion of this trip were all found by our graduate. He picked several winners. The first was chef Jose Andres’ Zaytinya, which featured Mediterranean mezze plates and fortified sangria. We shared plates, ate, and talked for three hours as the staff whisked away empty plates and replaced them with more tasty bites and an endless supply of flatbread. I’ll dream of the lemon sorbet for a long time.

The second was located just off of the DuPont Metro stop, Mission, which had a fun bar scene vibe, and lots of outdoor seating if you wished it. The food was tasty tacos (the vegan mushroom ones were outstanding) as well as some good sizzling fajita platters. You are not going there for the service, or the comfortable seating, so just enjoy your tangy margaritas and the company.

The topper for me was our final fancy meal, at Rasika. It’s Indian food to the nth degree. Stunningly delicious food and impeccable service made this my favorite meal. I even hopped off my vegetarian diet to have the Halibut Malai in creamy yellow curry as my main dish. I love a good curry, and this was by far the best I’ve ever eaten. It came with its own side of fluffy basmati rice. The kids all had super spicy dishes that made my nostrils quiver, such as Lamb Mirchi Korma, and Chicken Tikka Masala. Sides included delicious truffle Naan and a variety of chutneys. If you go you MUST get the side dish of the crispy spinach called Palak Chaat.* Palak, I learned from our quirky waiter, is a type of spinach you can find at Asian markets. I’d fly back to DC just for that dish. We went all out on the desserts here, sampling a black rice pudding with an edible silver garnish (ooo lala) and a spectacular apple/cardamom sorbet.


Needless to say, with all that eating, it was a good thing we clocked about 60 miles of walking on our 6-day trip. Side note: folks seem ready to travel, the planes and airports were packed. And even though we had our shot cards laminated and ready to show if asked, nobody did.

*Here is a version of the Chaat from THE CURRY GUY: just click the link to get to it.

 Spinach Chaat | Crispy Spinach Snack THE CURRY GUY (greatcurryrecipes.net)