Saturday, July 19, 2008
I want a cistern. In fact, I need a cistern. Just a few months after we bought this place, the Hill Country entered a two year drought. In typical fashion, we came out of it just long enough for my visiting siblings to almost get swept away in a flood last summer (sure wish we'd had one then), and we went straight back into drought mode. According to the papers, this area is now pretty much at its driest level in recorded history, with the San Marcos and Comal rivers being so dry that endangered species are being threatened. They say our only hope is for a hurricane off the gulf coast to bring us some rain. Can you believe it, after all our time spent in Indonesia and Houston, dodging that very thing, we are now reduced to hoping for one? How very sad.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I've had the blues lately, over my upcoming exile. Another sister is having knee replacement surgery next week, so I will be away from Wimberley for about 10 days, and away from John for three weeks. Then yesterday I saw something that cheered me right up. My friend Debi sent me a link to a video clip (http://ca.video.yahoo.com/watch/2977277/8534761) that one of her Earth Tribe buddies had sent her. I wasn't expecting anything earth-shaking, so it really caught me by surprise. There's this guy named Matt, who does an odd little dance. It reminds me of the pirate jig that my son Austin occasionally bursts out with, whenever he's especially happy. This guy Matt quit his job one day and used all the money he had saved to travel around Asia. His friend took a video of him doing his silly dance in front of some landmark. It ended up on YouTube. The people at Stride Gum saw it, and offered to pay for Matt to travel around the world, doing his little jig. They made a video of it. This is not that video.
This one was made a couple of years later, after Matt started getting tons of email messages from people around the world, who wanted to dance with him. I understand that, because by the time this video ended, I had tears in my eyes, a glow in my heart, and only one thought in my head: I WANNA DANCE TOO! It got me to thinking.
A while back, the Muses and I were floatin' and talkin'. We were talking about a poem by Mary Oliver. The last line goes like this: "What are you going to do with your one, wild and precious life?" That led me to thinking about my very favorite song, Unwritten, by Natasha Beddingfield. You know the one. "Live your life with arms wide open. Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten." And that led me back to Matt, the dancing guy, who "doesn't want to imply that college is bad or anything. He's just saying is all. There's other ways to fill your head." (taken from www.wherethehellismatt.com)
So, what are YOU going to do with your one, wild and precious life? In the words of Lee Ann Womack, "I hope you dance!" Care to join me at Gruene Hall?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
A couple of weeks ago, I had the world's best house guests. I debated over whether to even write about them, for fear my other friends would feel like I was holding these gals up as an example they should aspire to. Rest assured, I am not. And don't expect me to follow their example either, next time I come to stay with you!
The guests were my friends Lynn and Hazel, who helped me form a playgroup for our toddlers about 24 years ago, back in Houston. The first thing they did to win brownie points was to send me an email message saying I should not worry about feeding them, they would take care of their own meals. Then they proceeded to hit all the ethnic markets in Houston, and stock up on all the delicacies that are hard to come by in small town Texas. They brought exotic melons, mid-eastern breads, kalamata olives and French feta cheese, not to mention several bottles of wine, then insisted on taking me out to eat a couple of times, so we hardly made a dent in it all.
Second big plus was that Lynn knows her way around Wimberley even better than I do. At one time, she and her husband were planning to buy a house here, but then opted for a townhouse in the Houston museum district. Unlike John and I, who almost always buy a house after only a day or two out with a realtor, Lynn is an extremely thorough house-shopper. She left no stone unturned, and no neighborhood unexplored, when they were looking for a place here. Consequently, the girls didn't really need me to act as tour guide, and were perfectly happy to go off on their own to visit the tourist hot spots, which I have already visited untold times. I was able to stick to my usual routine, going to work out and coming back to write, then we met up for a nice float at the Blue Hole, followed by dinner out.
As if that weren't enough, Lynn has recently taken up jewelry-making. She brought along several matching earring and necklace sets that she had crafted, and insisted that I choose one for myself. I hesitated only a moment before grabbing the set, made of gorgeous green glass beads, which matches my new linen top perfectly. Now they have invited me to come stay in the townhouse, next time Lynn's hubby goes on retreat. We will be three not-so-hot chicks having a Sex-less in the City weekend, and I bet it will be a riot!
Monday, July 14, 2008
On my way back from Houston, I happened to be passing through San Marcos right at lunch time. I decided that I should do a little more research, to make sure I had enough information before reporting to you all. Sunday mornings are such a popular time at Casa Maria, I ended up having to park on the street. Inside, every table was filled with large family groups out for Sunday brunch, with strolling mariachis to add to the festive atmosphere.
Instead of the two red salsas that had been served on my previous visit, they brought me one of those thick, bright green salsas that I love. Probably a blend of tomatillos, avocado, and a passel of peppers, this one was extremely spicy. I ordered Migas this time: eggs scrambled with onion, bell pepper and corn tortilla strips, then topped with cheese. Mighty tasty. I was too full after that, to want anything else, but decided to choose something from the bakery to take home. Strictly research, don'tcha know. I zeroed in on the most chocolatey thing they had. "What do you call that?" I asked. It sounded like he called it "Piedras", but I couldn't be sure. When I tried to mimic what he had said, he just laughed and shook his head. "It means rock, in English, because it's big and heavy." Just what I need!
That evening, being short on groceries, I decided to just make a zucchini frittata for supper. I heated up half the "Rock" to go with it, and discovered that it really wasn't heavy at all. I would say it was most like a scone, but probably made from something other than white flour, and the dark chocolate ganache-like topping was divine.
Alrighty then, that's enough food talk for a while. I promise to report on something else next time. I could never be a food writer full time. If I were, my husband says, I'd have to change my name from Hill Country Hippie to Hill Country Hippo!
Just as I was chomping at the bit to surprise John with my new find, it turns out he had one for me. Saturday evening, as we were heading out for dinner, he said my six favorite words: "Are you ready for an adventure?" Yeah, I am!
Down in Houston's warehouse district, you will find an unassuming white building with red trim. It sits on Nance St., and looks as if it may have been formed by 2 or 3 different structures being patched together. It began it's life as a whorehouse, called The Last Concert Cafe, back in the early 40's. This could explain why you must park on the street, walk up to the door and knock, then wait for someone to let you in. Once inside, you will find yourself surrounded by a festive jumble of pink and turquoise stucco, flowered oil cloth, and folk art. A cool, glass brick bar is tucked in one corner, but out back in a vacant lot shielded by bamboo, you will find the true heart of this place, which is still called Last Concert.
Unfortunately, we arrived way to early to witness it in full steam. Unlike most people, we actually came for the food, which was some of the best Tex Mex I've ever had. Most people are "here for the party", which includes live music, barefoot dancing in the sand, drum circle during breaks, hula hoopers, and a group of about 75 loyal regulars who think of this place as a second home. They call themselves family, and are tickled pink that the neighborhood is just edgy enough to scare some people away, for that is what has saved Last Concert from going mainstream thus far. When I went on line afterwards to do a little research, one reviewer called it "a little bit of Austin tucked away at the north end of downtown Houston." He was exactly right, and if you are going to be in the area July 26th, I suggest you check out their annual Watermelon Dance & Summer Social. (the truck belonged to the guys who were there doing some work on the stage out back)
Sunday, July 13, 2008
We have moved around a lot during our 33-year marriage. At the top of our priority list upon arrival in a new town, before locating doctors, subscribing to the paper or even unpacking the last box, is finding "our joint." Our favorite Tex-Mex joint, to be precise. Once we have located that, we begin to feel at home. We don't want anything fancy: no high-priced gourmet, no slick franchises, nothing California-style. Just a nice little Mom & Pop, neighborhood joint. For us, that's our comfort food. Unfortunately, we've had some trouble finding just the right one over the last several years. We've tried plenty, and some were pretty good, but still....
On Friday, I had to stop in San Marcos for a mammogram, before heading on to Houston to spend the weekend with John there. On the way to my appointment I passed a place called Casa Maria, on Guadalupe near I-35. Just as I have the other two times I've passed it, I thought to myself "That looks interesting, we should try it some time," then 5 minutes later I forgot all about it. By the time I had finished with the mammo, I was starving, and trying to think of somewhere to grab a bite before heading on to Houston. I had almost settled for a fast food joint, when suddenly Casa Maria came back to me, and I decided to give it a try. The minute I walked through the door, my sensors started to tingle! Could this be the one?
Homey neighborhood feel? Check!
Fresh crispy chips, not too greasy? Check!
Fluffy flour tortillas? Check!
Great salsa? Check - two kinds!
Fajitas just the way I like them? Check!
Decent prices? Check - the fajita plate was only $6.99!
Lime slices for my diet coke? Check!
Decent bathrooms? Pristine clean, with granite counters even!
Bonus? It's a bakery, too!
Oh man, I can't wait to tell John! (to be continued...)