Thursday, July 9, 2020

Lunch Report: The Railhead Cafe Revisited...

So I'm not even going to link to it, but when my wife and I first moved to Natalia back in 2010 or 2011, we started hitting all the restaurants in the area, near and far, just because we are huge fans of supporting local and local area businesses.  This particular place is located on the main thoroughfare in Lytle, and I have to be honest, our single experience in January of 2011 caused us to never return, until a few days ago. 

Look, we have had places that were a favorite, and then all of a sudden, they start to lose the charm, or the food goes downhill.  There are any number of reasons why a place goes from a favorite to not so hot.  But I believe the opposite can be true.

On Monday, Eva just had to get out of the house and instead of doing takeout, we decided if we could find a place that was slow, we'd eat inside.  I looked online at reviews and to my surprise, The Railhead Cafe popped up with mostly positive reviews on both service and food quality.  I couldn't believe it, so decided we had to try it ourselves. 
First, when we walked in, we were immediately met with a cleaning station and instructions to sanitize hands, wear face masks, and take pictures of the menus if we needed to look at them.  Smart.  There were two other couples in the place, spread far apart.  Our waitress took our order, then seated us far from the others, who by the way all pretty much were gone by the time we got our food.

Eva went for a chicken fried steak.  Forget anything you have read here or anywhere else, this, this Railhead Chicken Fried Steak was top notch.  In fact, she actually whispered that it was the best she had had in quite a long time. I'm sorry I didn't take a better picture, but the steak was plenty enough for a serving.

I went with the catfish platter, had onion rings and their version of mac & cheese.

 First and foremost, my complaint back in 2011 was the catfish appeared to be filets you might pull out of a frozen bag and plopped in some dirty oil for a few minutes.  They have now switched to nuggets and they are not only very good, but it was a shock that I could finish it all.  And look at those huge onion rings.  Of course I shared at least one with Eva.  They were light and fluffy in batter, and done just right. 

I think the key thing we noted (besides the food being very, very good) was that the place was in much better shape than when we visited close to a decade ago.  The main reason we never went back was because it was as if you could feel the grease in the air when you walked in.  Not so anymore. 

Finally a word about service.  We want to support the local economy and we definitely do our part with take out, but the one thing that can stop us at the door is if the waitstaff is not wearing a mask.  We encountered three different employees at Railhead, all of whom were wearing masks the entire time.  Additionally, these folks cleaned and sanitized every table in the place.  They were quick to refill my unsweet tea and ready to go when I was ready to pay. 
I promise, it will not be another decade before we return to Railhead.  Great, safety conscious service and fantastic food.  I want to try more but it is hard for me to pass up catfish when I can get it.  That my friends, is a Tasty Treat!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

My Daily Deer and Other Things...

Okay, I'll try to knock this out and add pictures in a quick and efficient manner while avoiding a weird runny nose that is sure to ruin my expensive iMac keyboard.  Mac Snob's.  Ugh. 

So before the pictures of deers and ducks, I have to tell you that I have made zero progress on my Man Cave.  We made it safely through the 4th of July weekend without a single incident, aside from me nearly killing myself via heat stroke as I worked out in the 101 degree (probably 105) heat, to put in a much needed addition to my sprinkler system. 

Wives everywhere need to know, when you yell for your husband to get out of the hot sun, that is a signal to us that you appreciate our willingness to work hard, in spite of the horrible work conditions. I mean, think about all the coal miners who had a wife say, You shouldn't go back there and get that black lung.

As a husband, we see these remarks as challenges to be met, and for my part, I was completely useless on Monday.  But dammit, I planted some trees, some wagon wheels, and a new set of sprinklers on Sunday.

You know I miss my dog Gracie.  we have really toyed around with the idea of getting another, but I honestly think that this weekend, we decided we just aren't going to do it.  Eva had to actually disconnect from a constant feed of shelters sharing pictures and details of these poor dogs that need homes.  But we just can't do it for the time being.

My mom was kind enough to send us a check to buy a tree to plant Gracie under.  We took it and bought four fruit trees.  A peach, some sort of orange, a Meyer's lemon, and a key lime.  I can say that we still haven't placed Gracie under one of those trees, but perhaps someday.  For now, she rests peacefully above our fire place on a mantel where she haunts my son every time he comes over. 

It's true.  You can believe in dog spirits or not, but Gracie's was beside my bedside for quite a few nights and every once in a while I wake up in the middle of the night and feel her.  But my son spent the night with his kids over here and he ended up on the couch in the living room.  Gracie kept him up all night.  Her shadow walking back and forth.  I don't believe in ghosts, but what are you going to do about a dog who wants to stay?  During her last few months, she was a pacer.  The poor thing was out of her mind and I constantly regret not acting sooner.  But she did love it here.  That we know.

So let's talk about the deer.  We have been slowly moving the deer feed and my camera closer to the house.  For us, the grand plan is to sit in the hot tub and stare out into the yard while the deer come in, eat some corn and move along.  We have experienced that exact thing several times now, and I think my most recent move (this afternoon) has us where the deer and the ducks can get a free meal while we can sit back and enjoy.  The pictures are a bonus, when they come out. 

I did tell you that a fox came into the yard in the middle of the day, ate something then smiled at us looking at him through binoculars, then left. Right?

The deer are a little more timid during the late afternoon.  I've determined that we have three regulars and maybe a few occasional visitors.  The ducks on the other hand bring the whole flock.  Eva sat in the hot tub and counted about 32 ducks in one sitting. 

So either way, please enjoy a few pictures.  I'll also add a video on YouTube when I can put it together.  I used a cast iron griddle tonight to whip up a few steaks for us.  My work day went on from 0530 to just after 1630 today.  I needed to eat and Eva was ready to smash the screen on my laptop if people at work didn't stop calling me.  Better to be needed on the job than not. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Deer and Ducks and Trees... You Can Fill in the Rest...

We moved into this property in Lytle with hopes of seeing the deer that were so prevalent on the old Stoney Island, only five miles as the crow flies south of us.  There are deer here and we have seen them, but they seem to be few and far between.  Instead, we have ducks.  Over two dozen or more seem to live on our property and the property next door.  They fly back and forth between us, having no understanding of property lines, just where the food is. 

We can sit back on the patio and admire them, but the real enjoyment is the cat from next door trying to sneak his way to where the ducks feed.  The times we've watched him try to sneak up, he is always foiled at the last minute by an alert duck who warns the others.  They just fly to the other yard and finish dinner.

I had moved the deer camera a few times between the back of the property out by my burn barrel and the side of the yard by a gate between the two no longer used pastures.  We had seen a few deer crossing the yard during the day, but just didn't have any luck with catching them on the camera.  

Then, one day I thought I'd go check the camera and I got a few nice shots of a little guy.

As long as they don't come to the yard and eat my bushes, I love having deer here.  I really like that last one with the deer looking at the ducks wondering why they are eating his deer corn.  You can watch an entire five minutes of deer, ducks, raccoons, a coyote, and other stuff here.

In other news, we have been working on several projects here.  It never ends.  We needed to get some painting done outside the house so we decided to ask the Handy Man whose parents live next door to us help out.  We have changed the color from a cream or yellowish sort of trim to one called Sable Brown or Saddle brown.  Between the heat and the rain, it has been slowly coming along and I expect by this weekend to have the new color completed.  I'll post some pictures when it is done.

We also put in some new fruit trees.  We went to a place called Fanick's Nursery on the east side of San Antonio.  I was very happy to see that, though it is obviously an outdoor nursery, everyone was masked up, the customers were directed to social distance, and we didn't feel like you do when you go into a small restaurant and everyone looks at you like you are an idiot for wearing a mask.  Don't get me started.

Anyway, they had this cool yard display. It makes me think we should try some weird yard art since we have so much space.  I'm sure the grandkids would like it.

We ended up with a peach, orange (of some variety), lemon, and a key lime, plus a few assorted bushes that hummingbirds like.   

Our other big project that I'm working on is converting the garage into a huge man cave.  I'll do a separate blog post on it, but so far, I've run the wires, put up crown moulding and am building out the movie screen which will be 127" diagonal.  If there is ever sports on TV after the apocalypse, this will be the place to see it.   In the meantime, I'd like to link back to the video of the man cave we built when we lived in Natalia. 

Finally, enjoy the view of my occasional drive to work.  Working from home isn't that bad, but I do miss the interchange with my coworkers.

And thank you to Josh and Dawn of the Real Life, Real Love podcast based out of Lytle, TX who mentioned my blog on their last episode.  Very nice people, and very kind of them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Beast... No, The beasts...

We had a close encounter with the dog that I've been writing about for a while.  This time, my wife pointed out to me that two big dogs were coming towards me as I was facing the wrong direction.   Sure enough, one, a St Bernard I suspect was stand offish, but the other, the suspected Pyrenees dog just came to my calls.

When I really began trying to take pictures, they just turned and headed away.  I followed on foot whistling and calling for them, but it was funny.  They slowly retreated, never running but just staying ahead of me until they casually, and I mean with no effort, slipped through the barbed wire fence at the back of my property into the pasture behind us.

Fast forward to this morning.

I woke up and did my usual thing checking e-mails and logging into my work accounts.  I answered some e-mails and did a few things, then decided I should take a shower and get going for work at the office.

I would normally shower in our master bath, get ready for work and take off, but the morning looked nice outside and I thought to myself, this is an outdoor shower day!

I was in my robe and walking out onto the back patio when I saw a huge dog in front of me, just off the patio.  I slowly backed into the house to grab my phone and friends, that damn dog was gone!

So, I walked in flip flops and a robe to the back of my shed where I found this guy, our mysterious beast!

He isn't as big as a lama, but he is a big damn dog, and I love him. (I'm going to call him George).

In this picture, he looks like a big dog but not as big as we have imagined him.  But I promise, this thing is way over 100 pounds. 
Either way, the mystery is over. This guy is the one that had me thinking we had a huge animal in the back.  And his friend, the shy one is probably a St Bernard.

I am pretty sure I know who the owners are, so I'm good with it all.  But I may hold the two dogs hostage to see if I can get my quad copter that I lost in their pasture back! 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Weekend is Complete...

If I started the sentence, "With everything going on...", you might assume I was referring to all the COVID business.  But now, after everything that has happened in the last week, The COVID seems like old news.  I can only say, I'm saddened by the continuing mayhem, and selfishly, the vandalism that took place AFTER a very peaceful and righteous protest in the city of San Antonio.  I would only ask of you this:  If your are a defender of all police, all the time and will say, don't look at these isolated cases and blame all police, then I can only ask you to do the same with the protesters.  Do not look at the actions of hoodlums waiting for the next opportunity to vandalize and loot, and paint the peaceful protesters with that same brush.
On to more pleasant things.  We have been trying to keep up with the yard and our ever continuing list of projects.  We had some serious weather this past week including just sidestepping the big hail storm that went through San Antonio. 

We keep Mavis, my dad's old Chrysler 300 parked in the garage, and park our two trucks outside.  Well, let me tell you, we did a quick rethink of that idea late in the evening and scootched my new truck inside and the hood portion of Eva's truck.  In the end, there was no hail for us but we sure got some rain.

And I have to say, with all the rain, it looks great.  There are times when we can't decide if we should sit out front and enjoy the view of the yard and the cows across the street, or sit out on the back patio and enjoy the view of the yard and the ducks and birds.
I had moved my deer cam closer to the patio and put deer corn out, hoping to get pictures of the deer I've seen sprinting through our yard.  No luck.  Instead we got lots of ducks.  But it is nice to watch. 
I had a lot of scrap wood leftover from our shower project so I made a few random bird houses.  We have had a problem with the Barn Swallows trying to swoop down and smack people on the head.  So I bought some bird deterrent which smells really bad but won't harm them.  They just don't like the smell.  Anyway, I tossed a few of these bird houses into the trees in hopes they might make a new home.  Next thing I know, I have orders from Eva's family all wanting this one and that one and this color and such.  So I made probably seven bird houses of various shapes and sizes this weekend, though I can't even show you pictures since Eva already loaded them up in her truck.

Okay - finally, I promise, this is the last picture or pictures of our outdoor shower.  We have decided we are officially done.  No more plants, no more accouterments.  We added a little palm tree of some sort, an old tool box with a plant in it, a mirror.  Good grief, this is the best room in our house!   I was taking a shower Saturday morning outdoors and noticed a small plane flying over head.  I guess he got a view.  I hope that wasn't a plane from Google making maps of the neighborhood!

Stay safe out there people.  Wear a mask whether you think you need it or not, and if you do go out to eat, please tip generously.  With the limiting of numbers in dining rooms, these folks need all the help they can get.

Monday, May 25, 2020

This Memorial Day...

Like many Americans, we had our flag at half mast today to commemorate the loss of military members, a tradition on Memorial Day.  For years we did this out of respect for the lost military members we didn't know, but appreciated for their sacrifice.  As a military family, this is just something we had always done.

That all changed in September of 2007.  That year, We would forever know someone close to our family who had made that ultimate sacrifice in support of our country at war.  I wrote about that on the original blog, and you can read about it here.

Dane Balcon continues to touch our lives in so many ways.  His wonderful mother, Dr. Carla Sizer is herself a retired military member.  Following a meeting in my squadron several years after the loss, she walked by my office and our eyes met.  She stopped, and an entourage of squadron members stopped with her when she smiled and said, "I know you."

"I'm Roxanne's father."

She immediately hugged me and burst into tears.  The hug was a lot longer than you'd expect in a military organization and on the cue of the commander, the group of people moved along.

Dr. Sizer has done an amazing job in keeping the memory of her son Dane alive.  There is an annual charitable golf tournament, there is a bridge over Hiway 151 in San Antonio, the Dane Balcon Memorial Bridge.  The road in front of Warren High School now bears his name.

My daughter Roxanne and Dane were great friends and I can tell you that she will never forget that friendship, nor will her youngest daughter, Lyla Dane, who knows all about the young hero she was named after.

Tomorrow, the flag goes back up to full mast, but in our home, the pictures of Dane and the memories we have of him, remain year round.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Learning to Fly... Sort of

So I'm going to post this little gem I created using Mac's iMovie program.  My son purchased me this small little quadcopter a few years ago and I really couldn't try it out when we were living back in Helotes.  Our yard was just too cozy and full of trees.  But now, we have lots of wide open space.

Without further ado, here is a little video I created while trying to practice flying.  I think I have some better video that I'll put together soon, but this was just the clips I had to work with.

There is no rhyme or reason to the order of clips.  If the music fits, it was by pure blind luck.  Enjoy.

By the way, I do post stuff on Instagram (though not a whole lot) and you can find me there at dave.stone.tx.

Music is from YouTube's Audio catalogue and is called  Nothing on Me, by Patrick Patrikios. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Shower and the Burn Pile...

I had really put a lot of thought into how I would get hot water to our new shower enclosure.  In fact, I had actually started thinking this out before we even closed on the house.  In the master bath, there is a walk-in closet that is up against the outer wall.  I had this idea that I could just run pipes from under the sink, through the wall to the closet, then out to the outside.  But that seemed like a lot of exposed pipe, and we do get the occasional freeze.

Eva had proposed an idea of putting a small hot water heater outside, run water and electricity to it, and then we would have a separate source of hot water to the shower.  My concern about that was running yet another run of 220v power which I'd want to bury, along with water. 

Pinterest to the rescue.  I always hear about people using Pinterest as a source of ideas for crafty things.  I can see how you could get sucked into that for hours, just looking at one thing after another.  In this case, I started looking for ideas on out door showers.  The next thing I know, I learn that they make portable propane camping showers.  I'm not talking about a bucket of water hanging from a tree, but a no electricity required, instant hot water tank, suitable for use outdoors. 

And thanks to Amazon, a week later, I had mine installed.  I went ahead and got one that was probably overkill for our needs, but I never wanted to be in a situation where we have the grandkids over and need to get them rinsed off after the hot tub, and we run out of hot water. 

Since the first post on the outdoor shower, we've added some plants and a few decorative items and a teak bench to have a place to sit inside.  
And that brings me to the burn pile.  My first use of the shower took place after several hours of burning off the rest of branches and logs left by the previous owners.  I like having a burn pile, but this thing was a bit worrisome, given the fact that I'm not a huge fan of spiders, snakes and especially scorpions. 

By the time I had finished for the night, I was quite smokey and smelly.  I get up to the house and Eva pointed to the outdoor shower.  She had already put out a towel and fresh clothes.  That camping shower worked like a champ!
After a few days, all that remained of the pile of brush was ashes and a huge mound of dirt.  Though I wore leather gloves, I have a huge open sore on my thumb from raking and shoveling.  But the end result is, all that remains is a much smoother mound of dirt and a single cactus plant growing out of it.  

Eva is not a fan of cactus and insists that it must go.  But I do like it.  We'll see how long it stays on the top of my little hill.