Thanksgiving International

We had some grad students over for dinner this year....you know which dish the boys from India liked best? Pecan Pie from Goode Co in Houston.


Curacao and Bonaire

Willemstad, Curacao on a rainy day

After the devastating hurricanes of 2017, I was looking for a nearby (short flight) summer beach destination, and googled “islands not damaged by hurricanes”. My search produced the ABC islands, off the coast of Venezuela, below the Caribbean hurricane belt. Aruba most folks have heard of, but I knew Curacao only from liquor ads in 1970’s National Geographic magazines - a source of inspiration for so many of my life’s adventures. Researching coral reefs, a particular hobby of mine (goal is to see/ experience each of the top 20 before they are gone), produced recommendations for Bonaire, nearby. Off we went!

 Mamba beach, Curacao

Curacao Liquor Distillery

Hubster touring the distillery, posing in front of an old fashioned still

 Breath-taking natural blow hole on the island of Curacao

One of the world's Top Ten coral reefs, in Bonaire (island next to Curacao and a short 15 min flight hop across the water). We made this a day trip and snorkeled the reefs with a great local company that took us into the middle of the channel in a catamaran sailboat, and dropped us into the water.

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Curacao was delightful for us for several key reasons:
1)As a part of the Netherlands, it was refreshingly 1st world, modern, plenty of folks spoke English
2)Not tropical but arid in climate, means no mosquitoes!
3)Dollars were universally swapable with the local currency, ATMs worked fine, no currency worries
4)Beautiful beaches, and completely uncrowded even in July
5)The total cost of this trip was cheap compared to a previous week spent in Hawaii
6)We stayed at an adult only hotel bc we are empty nesters and not really enamored with other people's crying kids and babies pooping in the hotel pool
7)The food was great

One of our best vacations, ever, and we will definitely return. I could even retire there. Seriously.


The fabulous Nancy Medina, instructing

Believe it or not, I was once considered a bit of a prodigy, as a child, for drawing and painting. I won several  local and state awards at ages 7, 12, 16 and more, and my father and I co-owned an art gallery at the famous (now defunct) Dallas arts and crafts gallery known as Olla Podrida. Ironically, I have almost none of my original childhood art laying about, as I sold it all through the gallery. Somehow, I put all my artistic yearnings aside for the past 40+ years to concentrate on adult hings like majoring in a "practical" degree in college, working full time to support myself, then spending every spare moment raising kids, husband aka "child #3",  and working.

There were moments, in my 20's pre -kids, where I tried to pick my art back up, but I was in an abusive dysfunctional marriage and had no personal space in which to paint. Every person needs " a room of one's own" as Virginia Woolfe famously once wrote. So one of my retirement goals was to dip back in to the pool, to see if I could reclaim some of my earlier mojo. I started with an internet search of local artists who offered lessons. Did a little research, found someone nearby whose style of painting I enjoyed. That person was the fabulous Nancy Medina, and over the summer I took two classes from her. (I'm sorry I am a messy painter and got splotches all over your beautiful home, Nancy.) Not only did she remind me of the joy to be had in working with bright colors and  happy subjects, but her karmic energy is just so positive it is impossible not to be inspired by her. I knew she was the right guide for me to begin my journey again when a casual get-to-know-you conversation turned up that we had both studied under fabled local artists Mary Berry, who exhibited at Olla Podrida, back in the 1970's. Talk about a small world? Karmic connection? Wow. She too loves Santa Fe and France and Italy as I do.


So now I am back to painting my little heart out. I am not very good yet, but I am getting better each day. I am rediscovering my joy in working with color and subject matter that dissolves my stress and takes me away to things and people and places I love.

Check out my online gallery : Karen Strecker Gallery on Facebook


Now that I am finally retired, I have time to explore all the fun crafty things I've put off for the past 40+ years. I grew up doing all these things, felt the pleasure of working with one's hands, making something beautiful, forgetting self and time in the process of exploring the skill.

Today's craft is indigo shibori dying. Real plant derived indigo, as used since ancient times, and learning to make a variety of designs in the fabric via the many different ways of folding, tying , and knotting the fabric. What a messy fun this was. Many thanks to my good friend Tonya who taught the class.  

Santa Fe Opera

The fabulous outdoor ( yet semi-covered) Santa Fe Opera House. What the photo doesn't show you is the incredible view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, behind the open air stage, that serve as a backdrop for every opera. 

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Every couple of years or so, I get to visit Santa Fe during the opera festival held there, generally during August. One of the best destination opera festivals in the USA, not just bc of the quality of the stars / shows held there, but bc Santa Fe is such a beautiful place, with many interesting things to do. See art museums and galleries, tour historic sites, shop and eat gourmet food all day long, and see a breath-takingly beautiful opera, a different one each night! 
opera picnic before the show

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This year, I visited when my childhood friend Bill was there, working as a journalist. Bill and I have been attending operas together since we were 13 years old, and he has educated and shared his passion with me, as well as his opera tickets, ever since. Together we have seen Beverly Sills and countless others,  all the way to today's opera stars. 

I stayed at this marvelous little B&B just 5 minutes from the square in Santa Fe, called Ravens Ridge. It was a lovely, serene place to stay, peaceful and restorative from the social la ronde of opera going. Ravens Ridge B & B has a beautiful garden, full of hummingbirds, and serves breakfast each day out of doors in the garden. Beautiful rooms, delicious food. I highly recommend it and will stay there again next time I visit. As an added bonus, the owner of RR B&B is also an oil painter, and we spent many a happy hour discussing her work, as well as my own.


While in Santa Fe this time, I visited "Meow Wolf" , a sort of modern pop art installation meets indoor playground, full of tiny rooms with wacky themes, escape hatches, colorful lights, campy decor, and general creative fun. Here I am entering a refrigerator, about to slide down a chute into another room. There is always something fun to do in Santa Fe - I've been coming since I was a little girl, when my parents took our family, as many Texans do, to escape the summer heat. (Yeah, SF is a dessert, but at nearly 8,000 ft elevation, it's significantly cooler than Texas.) I've spent years visiting Ghost Ranch, Abiqueu, Taos, Ojai, museums and  art galleries, the Cathedral w the spiral staircase, shopping, sampling restaurants, etc. All the things one does in SF. It's good to know that there  is always something new to experience. 


During a recent trip to Santa Fe, I signed up for another class from the fabulous Santa Fe School of Cooking. I first learned about this place 20+ years ago, and took all their basic Tex Mex and SW NM Mex cooking courses prior to moving to the New York area, preparing myself for the dearth of Mexican food while living there. Those skills have stood in good stead ever since, and I was excited to add to my repertoire.

You can choose from a diverse selection of  classes, either hands on or demonstration, but I mostly prefer hands on - I think I learn it better that way. Both versions come with wine! In this most recent class, the topic was "Chile Rellenos Four Different Ways" - it must be noted that I had never particularly liked chile rellenos, prior to taking the course. (It was the only one that fit my schedule.) However, the four different versions we made were delightful, and significantly better than the canned crap one gets in most chain restaurants. Like so many things in life, making it yourself from quality ingredients makes a huge difference. I highly rec this store/ classes/ experience, if you are in Santa Fe, make an effort to take a class. I would even recommend it as a destination! It's a fun two hours, then you get to eat what you cooked.



                                                             Goliad Courthouse
Goliad, Texas is a beautiful old little town in south Texas, between San Antonio and Corpus Christi / Victoria. One of the earliest settlements in the state, it is the location of one of the 3 famous battles for Texas Independence (the most famous of which is the Battle of the Alamo). It is also the family homestead of one of my oldest friends, whose father passed away in August.
Family reunions these days seem to increasingly only happen at weddings and funerals. My own family of origin is small and mostly deceased or estranged, and long ago I was sort of adopted into my friend's . These people are kinder and more loving to me than my own ever were, and I feel fortunate to know them and be part of them.
My childhood friend Bill has been godfather and mentor to my sons for their entire lives. Lord knows he and his parents have bailed me out of some sticky situations, most notably a terrible divorce in my youth. Bill is the closest thing to a sibling I have; I call him my brother. I have loved his parents as my own. While we were sad in the passing of Bill's father, a widely esteemed kind old man, coming together on his father's behalf was joyful in and of itself.