Friday, February 15, 2008

EUPHORIA (11/06) - Did Romans do the Gator?

I was planning to buy some mini pumpkins and gourds to decorate with, but by the time I got to Wimberley, there wasn't a one to be had. I looked around to see what else I could come up with, and spotted some beautiful, huge pomegranates, the exact rosy shade as my sofa. Then I discovered some cute little prickley pear cactus pods in the same pear green as my cozy lap blanket. Finally, I found some gorgeous mangoes that were brushed with both of those hues. When I got back to the house, I grouped everything together on the mantel, along with a few fall leaves and some votive candles. I do believe it is the simplest, yet most beautiful arrangement I have ever pulled together. I couldn't resist lighting the candles, and sitting down to gaze blissfully for a while. Then I offered up a little prayer of thanks, for the gift of being able to reach a state of bliss so easily. I'm not kidding - I really do have a gift!

People often ask why I never drank or used drugs, considering I went to UT at the height of its hippie, war-protesting days. Most assumed I was some far-righteous goodie-two-shoes, but they were wrong. I've spent a lot of time pondering this, and eventually came to a three-fold conclusion. First of all, I don't seem to get that happy buzz that everyone always talks about. I go straight from stone-cold sober to pukey sick in nothing flat. Actually, there is one dentist in Odessa, TX that I will never be able to face again, for that very reason. He was the first, and last, to ever give me nitrous oxide. He kept asking me if I was feeling happy yet, and I kept answering that I didn't feel a thing, so he'd crank it up a notch. The 3rd or 4th time, I finally said "No, not happy, but the room is starting to tilt, and I don't feel so hot. Where's the restroom?" , to which he replied "Uh oh. Somebody's drunk! I'm afraid I can't let you get up and walk around now." "You'll be sorry" I said. And he was. Very.

The flip side of this coin is that, tho I get no thrill from champagne, I can summon a sense of euphoria almost at will. The simplest things can set it off - a paragraph that resonates, tasting something divine, the ending crescendo of a great piece of music, the eucalyptus smell of a florist shop or the leather smell of a shoe repair shop. Even just thinking back over an especially good day at work is likely to send shivers up my spine, producing that fuzzy-headed euphoric haze. In fact, you know that opening scene from Phantom of the Opera, where the chandelier crashes up as the organ music bursts forth? Well, that was a near-orgasmic experience for me. So who needs alcohol?

Last but not least, I just really don't enjoy drunk people. In my half-century of usually being one of the few sober people at most parties, I've had plenty of opportunities to observe those who have over-indulged. Most think it just loosens them up enough to make them more charming or witty, but it really doesn't. Trust me on this. Every time I go to a party it just strengthens my resolve to remain in full possession of my senses, such as they are. However, lest you think I am just an old stick-in-the-mud, who doesn't know how to have a good time, feel free to ask Paula and Tim about the notoriously good parties we used to throw with them, back in the 70's and 80's. One particular toga party comes to mind, when I happened to be a couple of months pregnant. One lady sidled up to Paula and said "I can't believe Becky is pregnant and drinking! Doesn't she know that's bad for the baby?" Paula asked "What on earth are you talking about? She never drinks!" Joyce's eyes grew wide in amazement, then she blurted out "Do you mean to tell me she has that much fun when she is SOBER?" Well, what can I say? It's a gift.


John and I both had to work on the Friday before Thanksgiving, and I had much to do in preparation for a week in Wimberley with house guests. Most important of all, I needed to go over all my recipes for the Thanksgiving feast, to make sure I had all the necessary pots, pans, spices and cooking tools that I might need, since half of my stuff was in Houston, half in Wimberley. Therefore, I suggested to John that instead of driving up on Friday evening, maybe we should wait and get an early start on Saturday. He said yes, that was probably a good idea. We were in no rush, since guests wouldn't be arriving until Tuesday or Wednesday, and traffic would be lighter then too.

Things went well at work Friday morning, as I finished tweaking all my displays, and made preparations for the fresh Christmas trees, garlands, and poinsettias that would arrive during my absence. I finished up by lunchtime, and since it was a gorgeous day, I decided to try the outdoor dining area of the newly opened Dry Creek Cafe (owned by the same folks as Onion Creek - my favorite morning spot for drinking chai lattes and hanging out with fellow crossword addicts). It was so enjoyable, I stretched lunch out as long as possible. By the time I had stopped for yogurt and pecans, it was after 2:30, and as I drove into the garage, I remember thinking "Thank heavens we aren't trying to leave this afternoon." Then I stepped into the house, and heard the phone ringing.

Before I even heard his voice, I knew who it was, and why he was calling. Next thing you knew, I was in the car again, careening towards the bagel shop, praying they would still have something left this late in the day. They didn't. Then I was back home, running around the house half-crazed, throwing things into coolers, searching for recipes, grabbing clothes out of closets, and making calls to arrange for plant watering and package pick-up. We were in the car and headed towards Wimberley by 4:30, and John had no idea what kinds of hoops I had jumped through for him, all because I couldn't resist his wistful little voice on the phone, saying "Are you sure you don't want to go ahead and drive up this evening?" Of course, it only took him five minutes to get ready. That's because he hasn't given a single thought to the feeding and entertainment of his relatives in the coming week. He just grabbed a couple of pairs of jeans and a few sweaters from his closet, hopped into the passenger seat of my Mini, and drifted off to dream of all the fun he would have with his brother, the football games they would watch, and the wonderful food that would magically appear before them whenever they were hungry.

* * * * *

Mmmm, good breakfast! John discovered a new bakery, Phoenix Rising, in San Marcos yesterday and brought home a couple of different artisanal loafs and some banana bread. When I was little, Mom had a great recipe for banana-nut bread. Often, when it was still warm from the oven, she would cut a slice for me and spread a bit of peanut butter on it, which would then soften and become oozey. With an ice-cold glass of milk and a banana, it was the best breakfast in the world. Of course, things rarely live up to your childhood memories, so imagine my surprise when I took my first bite from this new loaf, and found it to taste exactly like Moms!
Another thing I discovered is that it pays to be a bit picky.

Whenever I saw entire books devoted to the proper brewing of tea, I used to think "How much difference could it really make? There are only two ingredients!" I was quite content with plopping a tea bag into my cup of tap water, and nuking it in the microwave for 90 seconds. For my birthday, Lex sent me a can of Blood Orange tea bags, from the Republic of Tea. The aroma when I popped the lid off the can was wonderful, with a faint resemblance to the Cherry Blend Tobacco my father used to put in his pipe. For some reason, I got a wild hair and decided to follow the directions on the can - bringing fresh cold water to a rolling boil in my kettle, pouring it over the bag and letting it steep from two to four minutes. It was the best cup of tea I had ever tasted, and smelled just like Christmas morning, when everyone always peeled and ate the tangerines we found in the toe of our stockings. I had intended to take the tea back to Houston with me, but somehow forgot. I spent the next several weeks thinking about that aroma, and kicking myself for leaving it behind. Of course, I just assumed it was extra delicious because it was three times as expensive as my usual brand.

Imagine my surprise, when I finally got back to Wimberley, brewed a cup in my usual microwave manner, then discovered that it didn't taste at all like I remembered. In fact, it was somewhat bitter. And where was that wonderful fragrance? Could the tea have gone bad in just a few weeks? Did I fail to get the lid on securely? Before tossing it out, I decided to give it one more try, only this time, I followed the instructions on the can. Guess what? It was every bit as wonderful as I had remembered!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I WON'T GROW UP! (9/06)

On the way into town, we stopped at the bookstore in San Marcos. I was surprised to find an entire table devoted to local authors. On it were three books for young adults by Marcia Allen Bennett. Though I'm not exactly a young adult, I couldn't resist purchasing the one called Mystery At Jacob's Well. As I've mentioned before, I have this fascination for roads with interesting names. Not long after we bought our place, I came across Jacob's Well Road, which is where you turn if you are headed out to the VFW hall to play bingo on a Friday evening. Of course, soon as I saw it, I immediately started wondering about Jacob and his well. Wouldn't you? I was picturing one of those little wishing wells, of the sort that Jack and Jill lowered their buckets down into, but I was pretty far off the mark.

Thanks to my new acquisition, I now know that the well is actually a large opening in the middle of a creek bed, where icy fresh water has been bubbling forth for hundreds of years, and which was revered by the Tonkawa Indians who once lived in the area. It is some of the cleanest, purest water you will find anywhere. While the water in most streams in the area will have a fecal coliform count of 830 colonies per 100 milliliters of water, the water in Jacob's Well will have a count of only 2 colonies. Some say that a long time ago, the water gushed out with such strength that it actually formed a geyser. At the time this book was written (2001), it still had enough force behind it to spill out thousands of gallons of water per minute. A great place to learn to swim, because you couldn't sink if you wanted to. Divers who wanted to explore the caves beneath the well had to weight themselves down in order to descend. Although it has been a popular swimming and picnic place for generations, it has also earned the reputation of being a very dangerous place. At least eight divers are know to have perished there over the years.

OK, maybe this wasn't the best book I have ever read (the pre-teen characters spoke like mini-adults from the 50's, and never used contractions). Still, I did manage to get caught up in their adventure, and got a real kick out of her mentioning things I was familiar with. It reminded me of the good ol' days, when kids could still stick a lunch in their backpacks, and take off on their bikes to go exploring for the day with their pals. Also, I picked up quite a bit of local history from it. It actually gave me the itch to go explore places which had barely ruffled my curiosity before. I plan to purchase her other books as well, and have them ready for future grandkids. The first time one of them says "I'm-bored-there's-nothing-to-do", I'll slap one of these books in their hand. Next thing you know, they will be begging us to take them to see the caves at Wonder World, or to see Jacob's Well, or to let them ride bikes to the cafe in the square to have some Blue Bell ice cream. Unfortunately, they will also want to go exploring in the woods and along the creek near our house, to look for Indian artifacts and ghosts and treasures. I'm such a nervous nellie, I will spend all of my time worrying about snakes and bobcats and who knows what else!

I think I also need to get a copy of the new movie How to Eat Fried Worms. It should make a great addition to my grandkid arsenal, as parts of it were filmed here at the famed Blue Hole (another popular swimmin' hole), and some of the Wimberley kids are even in it. The Blue Hole was on private property for years, but the owners always allowed the public to use it. Not long ago, word got out that it was in danger of being sold to developers, and would no longer be open to the public. The entire community rallied around, and managed to raise enough money to purchase it, and keep it as a public jewel forever. Now won't that just be a kick in the pants, after all they went through to rescue it, if this drought causes it to just dry up?

John and I are going to be really neat grandparents some day. The main reason we just had our fire circle built is that we can't wait to roast marshmallows and make S'mores in it (if they ever lift this dang burn ban!). John's the type that will probably be begging the kids to please, please, please let him take them to Schlitterbahn, so he can ride all the water rides. They will be rolling their eyes and asking their folks "When is he ever going to grow up?", to which Austin and Alexis will probably reply "Hopefully, never!"


Did you ever see the movie The Rainmaker? The one with Burt Lancaster and Katherine Hepburn? Well, around here, fiction has become reality. When I was in school, a professor told us that the next big war wouldn't be about oil, it would be about water. Not sure I believed him at the time, but I certainly do now. Everywhere I turn, the topic is water. I picked up a novel to read on the plane not long ago, and it wound up being about the war between the "waterbaggers" and the environmentalists out in California. Apparently, waterbaggers are companies who go pump the water out of one river and then sell it somewhere else. Who would have thunk? I suppose California has been dealing with these issues for quite some time, but it's just now hitting us full in the face.

At first it was just the creeks that were drying up, but the other day I saw kids walking on dry land out in the middle of the Blanco River! I opened the Houston Chronicle a couple of weeks ago, and saw a front page article about drought in central Texas. It featured the photo of a Dripping Springs woman bathing in her outdoor tub, so she can use the bath-water to irrigate her garden. The next week, the Wimberley View covered the big conference that was held here recently, to discuss protecting our water supply. This past week its two top stories were about Hays County hiring a water attorney and the fact that Jacob's Well, a local swimming spot since the Indian days, has now slowed to a trickle. It seems like every time we stepped into a cafe or shop this weekend, we heard the same thing. People were discussing the cattle that were starving, which family was the latest to have their well run dry, or they were voicing their opinions on who, or what, was to blame for it all. Some blamed the drought, others said it was misuse and waste, still others blamed overdevelopment. Regardless of the cause, it's obvious that something needs to be done.

Since I have always preferred being pro-active over reactive, I think it's time to pull out all that water-catchment literature I've collected over the years. I first toyed with the idea when we lived in a Dallas suburb, about ten years ago. That was when I really became passionate about gardening. One day I took my kids to the local living-history museum - a small farmstead from the turn of the last century, that had been preserved intact, right in the middle of the city. My pet peeve has always been waste, so I was fascinated by how self-sufficient, independent, and ecologically sensible farm families were then. The whole farm was like a well-oiled machine, with each part working together in harmony. Bath water was used to water the garden, and soapy dishwater was tossed on the plants to keep the bugs from eating them. Scraps were either fed to the animals, who in turn supplied meat, eggs and milk to the family (not to mention good ol' manure), or they were used to make compost, which fertilized the plants and improved the soil. Every single part of the pig was used for one purpose or another, and not one scrap was wasted. Vegetables from the garden were canned or stored in the root cellar below the garden shed, and rainwater was collected and stored in the cistern. It all epitomized the environmentalist slogan "Rethink, Reuse, Recycle", and it made me much more self-conscious about how much waste their was in our own lives.

It was around this time that I was given my first compost bin for my birthday. For Christmas it was the chipper-shredder. Then came the first rain barrel. My sisters feared I would divorce John over these "dreadful" gifts, but I was ecstatic. Not long after that, we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, near Austin. John was snapping flower pictures right and left, but I just couldn't drag my attention away from their amazing water-catchment system. It wasn't just practical, it was gorgeous, and I knew that someday I would have one of my own, here in the hill country. John loves buying me souvenirs from museum gift shops, but with all the great gardening stuff available there, he was quite disappointed when the only thing I wanted was the video about their water system.

The video got tucked away for future reference, and traveled with us from house to house. I wanted a catchment system just because it made sense not to waste water, but I certainly never dreamed that it might one day be a necessity. When the first wells began to run dry, I was still rather complacent, thinking "Oh well, there's no big rush. It can wait a few years, until we move to Wimberley full time. After all, we don't use all that much water, just being here every other weekend. Right?" Wrong! It was recently brought to my attention that, when there are too many straws in the same milkshake, it doesn't matter who's sucking fast and who's sucking slow. You're all gonna run out of milkshake at about the same time. Now isn't that a pisser?


"Farmers' markets are great gathering places - and healthy, like an open-air pub without booze. Hurray for those who create that morning friendliness where you enjoy the freshest of fruits and vegetables, the fragrance of morning coffee and warm muffins, and exchange recipes!" - Liz Carpenter

Well, I've been encouraging people to eat seasonally, shop locally, for quite some time now, but until this past Saturday, I don't think I've ever managed to prepare an entire meal using only items raised or grown within 150 miles of here. I'm so proud of myself, I can hardly stand it!

A few weeks back, while I was in Dallas on business, John and Austin (the son) came to Wimberley to do some male bonding. They drove over to Austin (the city) one day, and while there, just happened across the Austin Farmer's Market. Since I had been so excited by the little tiny "growers only" markets that were popping up in Houston and Wimberley, they knew I would go bonkers over the one in Austin. It too was growers only, with the stipulation that they had to be located within 150 miles of Austin, and it had at least five times as many vendors as those others. With so much to choose from, I knew I could at last reach my initial goal of preparing an entire meal seasonally and locally (eventually, I hope, an entire week of meals?). The guys were correct in their prediction of bonkerness.

We had loaded a cooler into the back of my Mini that morning (yes, I couldn't resist, despite the deer issue - it's just so damn CUTE!) , and headed to downtown Austin. The first thing that impressed me was the amount of free parking available. Despite the fact that there was a triathlon going on in that area, we had no trouble at all finding a great parking spot in the four-story garage directly across the street (FREE parking!). Since it was already hotter than blazes out, we were going to be very grateful to come back to a nice, cool car when we were all done (a triathlon, in Texas, in July? What morons!).

The second thing that impressed me was not just the number of vendors, but also the number of shoppers. As I strolled around and eavesdropped on conversations, it became obvious that this market was supported by a strong contingent of people who did serious shopping here on a regular basis, and not just a few who came occasionally on a lark. I was also impressed by their willingness to share their knowledge with us novices. For instance, at one booth I came across elephant garlic, which I had never used before. I asked the grower how the flavor compared to traditional garlic, and he said it was both milder and sweeter. Then others who were shopping the booth started giving me ideas on how to use it. Since I just love tossing big chunks of fresh veggies with some garlic cloves, a drizzle of good olive oil, and a few grinds of kosher salt and fresh pepper, then spreading them out on a baking pan and roasting them at 400 degrees until they start getting charred patches, I decided to try this new garlic out with the zucchini and new potatoes we had picked out at another booth.

The thing that impressed me the most though, was just the fact that you actually could do some serious shopping here. There was such a wide variety of merchandise that you probably could plan a weeks worth of meals from what was available. We decided to grill some bison steaks for our entree. It tastes exactly like beef, but is much leaner (be careful not to overcook it), and is higher in Omega-3s than salmon. Then we picked up some ciabatta bread from Texas French Bakery and a little tub of roasted red pepper-almond pesto to spread on it. The final touch was a small packet of chocolates from Kakawa, an award-winning local chocolatier who was featured in Saveur magazine. We christened our almost complete home-renovation by eating in our newly-enclosed dining area out on the porch. The only blip in the whole adventure was that I wasn't paying attention when John opened a bottle of wine to go with our dinner. Here we are, surrounded by vineyards, and he chose a non-Texas wine! Still, when all was said and done, I had to say "It just doesn't get any better than this!" (Yes, I know, I say that all the time - but this time I really mean it)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Paula and Tim came to Wimberley this past weekend - at last! Each time we see them, we swear that we won't go so long between visits next time, but somehow, stuff always manages to get in the way. First their son was in the hospital, then we were involved with Alexis graduating and moving off to California, then there were weeks of activities surrounding Chase's wedding. Next thing you know, it's been eight months since we've seen them! It's always worth the wait though. The Sanfords are that one couple that you always dream about finding - the one where the two husbands enjoy hanging out with each other just as much as the two wives do. No matter how long it has been since you were last together, you pick right up where you left off, as if it were yesterday. Luckily, we met them early in our marriage, and have been able to keep the friendship going for thirty years, despite living in separate cities, and sometimes separate continents, most of that time. We met as newlyweds, while living in Bahrain. John had been sent to work off-shore, and I was left living alone in town, not knowing a word of Arabic. He often mentioned his wild and crazy roommate "Toad" in his letters, who also had a new wife from Texas. Being fairly bright fellows, they figured out that if they managed to get their two wives together, they wouldn't have to feel so guilty about leaving us to our own devices in a foreign country. It was no surprise that Paula and I hit it off right away, as we had much in common - both being non-athletic book lovers who had hardly been out of Texas and were prone towards severe motion sickness. The guys were a different story. My husband is about as quiet as they come, not much into sports, and could spend the entire day sitting in front of a computer and be perfectly happy. Tim, on the other hand, lives for sports, loves to sing and dance, hates computers, and is the center of attention in any room. Not long ago I said "Tim, something has always baffled me. You and John are so different. What was it that drew you together in the first place and made you such good friends?" He sat contemplating for a moment, then replied "Well, I guess it's because I like to talk, and John likes to listen. You might say we're a match made in heaven."

They arrived at the house just before lunch on Saturday. The men headed off to San Marcos to have lunch at the River Pub Grill, where you can sit out on the cool, covered deck and watch the rafters and "toobers" in the river below you. They also planned to pay a visit to their favorite little cigar shop on the town square. Paula and I stayed in Wimberley and had mushroom quesadillas at Juan Henry's, shopped for vintage western wear at Wall Street (it's never to late to be a cowgirl!), and when it got too hot to shop, we took the stairs that lead down between two of the shops to a great, hidden little place called Inoz's. We ordered a couple of big icy sodas, sat out on the tree-shaded terrace overlooking Cypress Creek, and caught up on news of the kids, great books we had read, and just discussed life in general. Paula, like me, enjoys reading all kinds of books, not just one genre, so we always have plenty to talk about. We both adored Under the Tuscan Sun a few years back, so I told her about the new book I had just finished, called On Mexican Time. As in both Under the Tuscan Sun and A Year in Provence, this one was about a couple who felt that something was missing from the hectic lives they were leading in the big city, and who were on a mission to find the perfect location in which to create the life of their dreams, just as John and I had been. One where they could slow down enough to hear their own thoughts. The couple in this new book finally discovered their heart's home in the small Mexican village of San Miguel de Allende, just as we found ours in Wimberley.

Mid-afternoon we headed back to the house to meet up with the hubbies. Since this happened to be the weekend for the Second Annual Lavender Festival over in Blanco, we decided to go check it out. Blanco is now known as the Lavender Capitol of Texas, thanks to National Geographic photographer Robb Kendrick and his wife Jeannie Ralston. A few years back they were in France doing a story on the lavender fields of Provence, when they realized that the terrain and climate there were much the same as in the Texas hill country. They came back to Texas, built a beautiful home near Blanco (which has been featured in several magazines), and started growing lavender. The venture was so successful that they convinced other farmers to give it a try, and now there is a plethora of lavender fields in the area - hence, the festival. Since we didn't have time to visit all of the farms that afternoon, we decided to go straight to Jeannie's new gift shop and field that had just opened up close to town. That was probably a mistake, because our husbands can get rather goofy when they are together, and they gave us a good bit of grief about the "lavender field" there. Since it was newly planted, the shrubs were all rather tiny, and because we have had a serious drought and a late cold snap, the timing of the blooms was delayed. There was not a speck of purple to be seen. Perhaps in my enthusiasm, I lead them to expect too much. Paula and I went into the gift shop to peruse all the lavender infused products, and the men wandered off to the produce stand next-door, to have a little fresh peach ice cream.

I was delighted to discover that Jeannie was actually there in the shop, and I was able to visit with her a bit. Ever since seeing pictures of their home, and reading about what they were trying to accomplish in the Hill Country, I have felt that they must be kindred spirits. When I asked why they had planted this new field and moved the gift shop, I was completely shocked to learn that they had sold their original house and fields. She said "That's what happens when you are married to someone who looks upon a house as an investment rather than a home." Well, I can understand that. My father was a home-builder and my mother loved to decorate. They were house-flippers before flipping was cool. They raised me to be the perfect wife for someone in the oil industry. Each time John came home and told me we had been transferred, instead of crying like most women I knew, I started doing a happy dance at the thought of all the new gardening and decorating projects ahead.

When I asked her what their plans were now, she said "Well, that has all changed just recently. Originally, we were going to move into our guest cottage, while we built another house. When we decided to pack the whole family up and go to Mexico to take Spanish lessons, our plans got turned upside down. We have now decided to build a home in a small town in Mexico." Remember what I said earlier about kindred spirits, and about how all the couples in my favorite books seemed to be searching for the same thing? After staring at her in shock for a moment, I suddenly blurted out "You wouldn't, by any chance, be moving to San Miguel de Allende, would you?" Her eyes widened in surprise, and she replied "Yes! What made you ask?" I grinned and said "Oh, I don't know. Just a hunch." I asked her if she had ever read a book called "On Mexican Time" and she said no, but a friend had just loaned her a copy to read. I explained that after she had read it, she would understand where my hunch had come from, and why I recognized her as a kindred spirit. After our thoroughly enjoyable visit, we wandered off to see what mischief the boys had managed to find. We rounded the corner just in time to hear John hooting with laughter as he snapped pictures of Tim, who had stepped down from the port-o-potty with a ten-foot tail of toilet paper trailing from the waist of his pants. I did mention, didn't I, that they can be very naughty when they are together? Paula and I took a sharp turn in the opposite direction, hoping that no one would realize we knew those nut jobs, only to be followed by voices calling "Baby, what's the matter? Where are you going?" On the whole, a truly wonderful day!

JOY RIDE (4/06)

Since it was such a gorgeous day yesterday, John and I decided to hop in his car, put the top down, and go for a drive. We took off down the road towards Blanco, and stopped in at an RV resort I had heard about. They had a great covered deck with outdoor seating, a couple of pool tables, and festive paper lanterns hanging overhead - just my kind of place. The couple that owns it greeted us as we walked in. The wife apologetically explained that their regular cook had been in the hospital, but would be back in a couple of days. In the meantime, our only choices were burgers or brisket sandwiches. That was fine with us, but I felt kind of sorry for the missing cook, who is apparently in her late sixties. I was thinking how tough it must be for an "elderly" person who couldn't afford to retire, and had to drag themselves into a job each day, where they had to be on their feet for hours, even when just out of the hospital. About that time the husband came back over to chat with us, while his wife worked on our burgers. He said the reason the cook was in the hospital to start with, was that she had injured herself while skydiving! He called her a red-headed spitfire and said she also enjoys riding in sports cars at speeds up to 140 mph. I don't feel sorry for her anymore.

When we finished eating, we headed back toward town, but decided to take a detour when we came to Fischer Store Road. I have always loved streets with interesting names, and can't help but wonder how they came to have them. For instance, the name of our street is Lone Man Creek. Wouldn't you just love to know who that man was, and what he was doing on that creek? Anyway, we took off down Fischer Store road, and guess what we found? Fischer Store! Not to mention Fischer Hall, where dances and weddings are held (and is rumored to have appeared in that Willie Nelson movie "Honeysuckle Rose") and the nine-pin Fischer Bowling Alley. The store started out around 1886 as a dog-trot cabin and served as a mercantile for the surrounding area. Later it also became the post office, bank and saloon. Around 1900 it was expanded into the frame and tin structure that's there today. A descendent of the original owner recently reopened the store as an antiques shop, but walking through the long low building with both ends open to the cool breezes, and old-fashioned display cases lining both walls, it was easy for me to picture ranchers and their families pulling up in their oxen-led wagons, to load up a month's worth of supplies. The only jarring note in the whole idyllic scene, was the new brick post office building that was put up not long ago. Apparently I'm not the only one who despises it. Many would like to see it moved back into Fischer Store, where it resided for nigh on a hundred years.


As you know, I usually watch the sun come up from my rocking chair on the porch. No matter how chilly it is when I first sit down, once the sun is full up and staring me in the face, it is uncomfortable enough to drive me indoors. That's a good thing, actually, for it reminds me that there are chores to be done, errands to run, weeds to pull, and so on. If not for the sun, I might be tempted to linger here all day, and just become a total slacker. As it is, I usually head inside to clean up the kitchen and make the bed, then I either go for a walk, or I head into town to workout at the ladies-only fitness club where I have a membership - the only exercise place I ever didn't hate. A friend I met there says her daughter refers to it as "gossip central", but I prefer to think of it as my information network. There's a good reason why these franchises are spreading like wildfire. Where else can you catch up on all the latest news, find out about new businesses and restaurants that have opened up, enjoy good music and good conversation, find answers to any dilemma, all while burning calories and building muscle? I've been known to have so much fun there, that I accidentally went around the circuit four times, instead of the required three (you'd have to know me to realize just how amazing that is)!

Since I am most definitely a morning person - one of those obnoxious types who pops out of bed feeling perky at five a.m. - I run at full steam until three or four in the afternoon. That's when I usually suffer what Mom always referred to as "a sinkin' spell". For her, it signaled time to fix a little tea party, switch on the television, and enjoy the company of her good pals Merv, Phil and Oprah. Not being much of a TV watcher myself, I prefer to bring a good book and a tall glass of iced tea out to the porch, where it is once again deliciously shady, and the sun has made its way over our hill, and is now sliding down behind us. If I'm lucky, I might even get one whole chapter read, before I drift off into a little power nap for ten or fifteen minutes. I then awaken feeling completely refreshed, and ready for the evening's festivities.


A cool front blew in Friday night, and brought us some glorious weather. Saturday we got up and drove down the road to try a new breakfast joint we had discovered - the Hays City Cafe. It's actually a little filling station/grocery store, with a small lunch-counter style cafe in the back. They serve everything from your traditional bacon and eggs, to chocolate chip pancakes, breakfast tacos, and migas. For you Yankees, migas is a Tex-Mex specialty that involves eggs scrambled with bits of corn tortillas, chilies and cheese, and served with a good dollop of spicy salsa. I have always found them to be mighty tasty, but these at Hays City were outstanding! I think I will have to come back and try this joint for lunch some time. I hear they do a mean tortilla soup.

By the time we got back to the house, Lex was up and ready to go exercise with me. John dropped us off at the gym, then headed over to the hardware store to get supplies for his "project of the day" - installing a reverse osmosis system on our kitchen sink. I can't remember where I read it, but some witty person was describing how the well water here is so hard, it can stand up on its own, but the water softeners leave it tasting like the Dead Sea. She was right, ergo the R.O. system. John came back to fetch us, and after a quick stop to sign the Kinky Friedman for governor petition, we headed home.

Almost as soon as John got started on his project, he discovered something else he would be needing, so he headed back to the hardware store. I got cleaned up and did some writing, then Lex and I decided it had been way too long since we had been to a good chick flick together, so we headed over to San Marcos to see the new one where Antonio Banderas teaches inner-city kids to tango. Oooh Mamma, sign me up for lessons! By the time we left the house, John was already heading out for trip number three to the hardware store.

When we returned, we were relieved to find him still in one piece, with only a few nicks and cuts, and having made only one more trip to the hardware store. He was quite proud of his accomplishments. Turning to me with a grin and a twinkle, he said "I'm kind of surprised you were willing to leave me here alone, working on a project." I glanced sideways at Lex, then we both started laughing. "Funny you should mention that" I replied. "As we turned into the neighborhood, I suddenly felt myself tensing up, and started thinking that maybe the movie wasn't such a good idea after all. Apparently Alexis was having similar thoughts, because just about that time, we spotted you up by the garage. We both let out a sigh of relief, and Lex said 'Well, at least he's still alive!' " Poor baby, I think we hurt his feelings, but after a while he started grinning mischievously. He said "Too bad I didn't think of it in time, or I could have been laying there spread-eagle on the driveway when you drove up." I turned to him in fury and said "John Lane, if you ever pull a stunt like that on me, you probably will be dead, 'cause I just might murder you myself! That is not even one bit funny!" Apparently he didn't agree with me, because he was still smirking as he turned and sauntered off.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


My little truck has 120,000 miles on it now, and I guess it's about time to find a replacement. It hasn't actually given us any trouble, but it is making John a bit nervous, since I do so many road trips by myself. I've spent months trying to make up my mind about what to get next. First of all, it must be very fuel-efficient. Second, it needs to have a hatch-back, with seats that fold down, so it can hold several flats of plants. Third, it must be very reliable, and last but not least, it must put a smile on my face each time I see it. And the winner is....the Mini Cooper! Or at least, I thought it was, but now I'm not so sure. Apparently there is one thing I forgot to factor in. Deer!

This past Friday we were almost to Wimberley, right at dusk, when a deer bounded across the road, coming from the left. John happened to have his hand up, scratching his left eye, and didn't see it in time to stop. It bounced off our bumper with a sickening thud, and did a good bit of damage, but at least the truck was still drivable. We were both too terrified to look back and see what kind of damage we had done to the deer. John's eyes were full of tears as we drove away, and he hardly said a word the rest of the evening. Thank heavens it wasn't a fawn. I don't think he could have handled that.

When we were first married and living in Indonesia, I had an unfortunate run-in with a rat. We were getting ready for bed one evening, when suddenly we spotted one. John quickly pulled on his boots, for protection, and grabbed the only weapon he could find - a wooden tennis racket. He didn't catch it, but at least managed to chase it out of the bedroom and slam the door, so we could safely go to sleep - or so we thought. Sometime during the night, with no clue as to why, I sat bolt upright in bed. When John flipped on the light, we discovered that the tip of my finger was bleeding. I inched my head down over the side of the bed, and there were two glowing red eyes, staring back at me. John took me in to see the company medic the next day, which happened to be Christmas. He just gave me a tetanus shot and said "Aah, nothing to worry about", but I couldn't help wondering if I might turn up with rabies or the plague, somewhere down the road.

Now, fast forward a few months, and we have been transferred to Bahrain. We were sitting in the living room, watching TV, when suddenly something gray and furry streaked by, and darted behind a door. Not wanting a repeat of our previous incident, John grabbed a broom, and started pounding away at whatever was back there. When he finally stopped and pulled the door out, he discovered not a rat, but a mouse.....a tiny, cute, baby mouse. And it was not actually dead. It was hurt, and trembling. He scooped it up carefully in the dust pan and carried it outside, with tears sliding down his cheeks, then spent the following weeks feeling tormented by what had happened.

So, like I said - good thing it wasn't a baby deer. I couldn't help thinking that if we had been in his Miata, or in a Mini, when this happened, we could have been in a world of hurt. Now I'm having second thoughts about what car to buy. Do you think maybe we could get one of those big ol' metal deer guards installed on the front of a Mini?