Sunday, January 30, 2011

Traders Village Traffic Jam...

We had a sneaking suspicion that when they opened this new Traders Village on  Loop 410 South at Old Pearsall Road, there would be some painful traffic issues on weekends.  We found out just how popular this flea market was today.
No, we didn't go, we just tried to drive by there on the way home!  Coming from the direction of Highway 90, we were headed toward the I-35 South interchange at Loop 410 South.  We got just beyond Valley Hi and could already see a traffic starting to slow.  But of course, I was in the fast lane, so why in the world would we come to a complete stop?
The reason we come to a complete stop in the fast lane on a highway is because people are jerks.  They see that there is going to be a long wait in line just to exit onto Old Pearsall Road, so rather than get in the line, they keep going and then at the last minute hope to find a sucker courteous enough to let them in.  But of course, when nobody is will to be the chump, rather than going to the next exit and turning around, the people simply stop (on the highway) until someone recognizing the danger of the situation lets them in.  Now, repeat this over and over and we have a traffic jam.
This is the place - it is huge.  According to friends who have been, it is very much worth going and even better than Bussey's, our favorite flea market.
Oh, and people are coming from all directions to get there.  This is the traffic coming from the other way.  Looks like they need to do a traffic study. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

DVR Report...

We simply don't have the time to sit around and watch the hundreds of channels that are beamed down to our TV from some satellite flying overhead, but we have found that we can catch at least an hour or two here or there.  During the regular TV season, we have some favorites including Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, and any CSI show that does not include Horatio Cane.  Of course, we have been tempted by some of the newer shows offered on cable and I thought I'd offer up a few notes.

I am not embarrassed to tell you that we have been watching Shameless on Showtime and we love it!  William H. Macy playing an unfit drunk parent isn't even the good part.  In fact, he is pretty much the set-up just to remind us why the family of kids ranging in ages from a toddler still in diapers, some pre-teens, high school kids and an oldest sister in her early twenties, are making ends meet any way they can.  This show is not for the faint of heart with frequent nudity and really unhealthy family situations.  If you ever wondered where the people go after the Jerry Springer Show, this is it.   Please, don't let my description scare you away; Check it out.

And if we didn't get enough of dysfunctional family life from Shameless, we have been recording Intervention on A&E.  If you ever felt a little guilty about enjoying a frosty adult beverage before 5PM, watch a few episodes of Intervention and you'll feel like a teetotaler.  Who knew that laying down on train tracks and sleeping through a train amputating your leg from the knee down wasn't rock-bottom?

For good measure, we have recorded a few of those Beyond Scared Straight shows also on A&E. I'm here to tell you, going to a woman's prison does not have the same appeal as one might have imagined.  Yikes!

I know, we seem like a hardcore and depressing bunch.  Perhaps all this stuff makes us feel better about ourselves.  For instance, we watched a few episodes of Heavy, a new show about extremely obese people who go through a six month boot camp of sorts.  I'm not talking about a guy who weighs 300 pounds and trims down to a svelte 185, this is about really huge 500 to 600 pound people who need to drop half their body weight just so they don't die.  I have to admit, the attraction to this show is the continuous replay of the commercial where a really, really portly Rickywayne wearing a fancy chapeau screams at the fitness trainer to "leave me alone" and you see all four of his chins undulate in perfect rhythm with his gesticulating arms and bingo fat.  It isn't that I find fat people funny, after all, if that were the case I could just stare in the mirror for hours, but that one clip makes me giggle.

And if we didn't spend enough time sitting in front of the TV looking at people with problems, watching Hoarders on A&E tends to make us feel better about ourselves.  At least I don't have a path carved out between stacks of newspapers and piles of rat feces in my house.
 Our garage on the other hand is a nightmare (for now).  Somebody, contact A&E and get a camera crew out here ASAP!

Finally, to lighten things up a bit, have you seen Storage Wars?  We love this show but despise one of the main characters, Dave Hester.  Of course, you are supposed to despise him.  In case you didn't know, the gist of it is, they follow a group of people who go to these auctions to purchase the contents of storage units that have been confiscated due to failure to pay the bill.  The idea is, people bid on them without being able to dig through everything to see what might be inside the boxes.  In the end, the show figures out who made the most money off of the winning storage units.  This Hester guy is really good at bidding on these things and his going in position is, if he wants a unit, he will out bid you and if he doesn't want a unit, he will bid up the price so you have to spend more money to get it.  The guy is a total jerk, but he knows his business.
 Interestingly, as I was driving down Southwest Military Drive today, I saw one of these auctions taking place.  This picture seems to show the end of the auction, but when I first drove by going the other direction, there had to be 75 people all peering into a 3 foot wide storage unit.  Good luck with that.

So there you have it, enough entertainment to keep us glued to the TV when we can get to it.  What's on your DVR?  Leave a comment, won't you?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

STOP!!!!

This is the view of traffic on I-35 South heading west into Lytle this evening when everybody in both lanes going a little over 70 MPH suddenly slammed on the brakes.  
Seems a guy in a pick-up truck lost several long metal pipes that were not properly secured to his truck, and he jumped out into traffic to move them off the road.  Bold move.  He was back out of the roadway in about 45 seconds to a minute and I was back on my way.

The good news is, apparently nobody was texting or reading e-mails when this happened because from what I could see, there was not a single rear-ender.  Of course, no telling what the case was behind me for half a mile or more.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Welcome, Isabella Sophia...

And just like that, we are grandparents.  My son and his wife, the happy parents welcomed their little girl into the world around 8PM this evening.  8 pounds, 9 ounces and according to our son, "about a foot long or so".  I guess the doctors will provide more accurate numbers.

All the required parts and appropriate numbers are in the proper places and Isabella Sophia is good to go. 

I know, this post is useless without pictures.  We'll work on that.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Painted...

That was quick.
The painter showed up Sunday morning and wasted no time.
I can just imagine how long this would have taken with a roller and paint brush.

He hit all four sides and knocked out the trim in under 2 hours.
This gives you an idea of how they matched the garage with the paint on the house.  Not bad at all.   

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Siding is Complete...

Things are suddenly moving fast on our garage/shed project.  After a few missed days for weather and other issues, our work crew was out Saturday to complete the siding and get it prepared for painting.
There was some question about whether or not we had plans to sheet rock the interior of the garage (we do), so they waited for me to get home from work on Friday to get the word and go ahead with attic vents.  With the vents done, they were able to finish up the siding and trim work.  

 It was funny watching the guys put up the home wrap in the wind.  But they got it done.
After some careful masking and tarp placement, a painter came out and gave the entire building the once over with some sort of primer that will help the paint work much better.
And with everything all primed, we think the painter will return this morning to do the actual color of the house and maybe the trim.  On Monday, the plan is to knock out the roofing shingles and we may even see the electrician on Monday as well.  We expect the garage door to be installed, probably Wednesday, and really, I think that is about the end of it.  From there, I'll take over with my mad electrician skills and do the wiring on the inside so I can put outlets and switches where I want.  Or I'll find an electrician who works for beer and fajitas.
 I'm pretty excited about all the pictures we have taken during the course of the construction.  I think I'm up to 400 or so.  When it is a complete wrap, I'll bust out the Pinnacle Studio which I haven't messed with in a while and make a movie showing the building from the ground up.  That should be a hoot.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lunch Report: Railhead Cafe in Lytle...

I was intrigued by the name and the location, but we had put off trying out the Railhead Cafe in Downtown Lytle for a while, simply because of some of the things others had written about the place.  As you might imagine, I have scoured the Google looking for new and interesting places for us to visit in this area and I really like to hit a restaurant's web page just so I can get a feel for the menu before we go in.  Several people took the opportunity to write some unflattering things about the place on the various places you can leave reviews.  I won't bother to link, but you can find them easily enough.  I'm not usually inclined to take as gospel what people write about a place, and as readers of mine have found, my opinion of a place can change from one visit to the next - probably why I would never make it as a food critic in a newspaper.
There was one thing we read about the Railhead Cafe that was absolutely true:  When you walk in, the smell of grease hits you like a freight train.  But you get used to it.  The strange thing is, the food did not seem greasy to us at all.  


Inside, the place was filled with diners, mostly well dressed, but several as casual as we were in jeans and t-shirts and light jackets.  I liked the feel of the place with the wooden floors, train decor (obviously) and the plaster over brick design on the walls.  The cafe is not large so I can see how things could get tight during a lunch rush, but as we dined, there was a constant stream of people coming in and going out, so the service must be quick enough for people to get in, eat, and make room for the next guests.
We had one serious complaint about the atmosphere, and that was the fact that it was FREEZING inside.  We had to leave our jackets on.  We could see other diners obviously cold and finally, someone got a clue (maybe because Eva loudly mentioned how cold it was several times) and extinguished the Air Conditioner that was pumping out icicles.  Let's just hope that in the summertime, they are good with cranking it the same way!

The menu offered up a wide variety of eats and I was tempted to try one of the half-pound burgers, just to get an comparison of nearby KD's.  They had different sandwiches - a BLT, a Club, and even grilled cheese available and of course, things like chicken fried steak, chicken fried chicken, steaks, and catfish.  Of course I got the catfish.   
 Eva ordered the chicken basket which was wonderful.  Very lightly breaded and fried, it was not greasy at all.  The cream gravy had a nice flavor to it as did the Ranch dressing our waitress brought for us.  The fries that accompanied the chicken were done just right. 
 My dinner came with a side salad - lettuce, tomato slices and Ranch, and it was fine.  
 For the two sides, I selected the green beans and the onion rings.  The green beans were not bad, but nothing to brag about.  The onion rings were fantastic.  Huge, lightly breaded rings served up hot and worth ordering as an appetizer if you were so inclined.  
 I did something today that I have never done in the history of catfish eating.  I apologize for the gross picture, but the Mrs. Gorton's-looking fish planks were simply inedible.  I don't mean to say it was not as good as other catfish I have had, but I do not leave catfish (or much of anything for that matter) on my plate.  As good as everything else was, the catfish had a simply horrid taste to it. Honestly, they should just remove it from the menu.  When the waitress asked us how things were, we said fine but I promptly asked for a to-go box for the fish.  I suspect she has seen that move before.  I'm almost embarrassed to tell you that we mixed in with the dog's food this evening.  Gracie did eat it without hesitation, but I'll keep my eye on her.   

Thankfully, the chicken fried chicken basket that Eva ordered was enough for both of us and the fries and onion rings were good enough for the catfish not to ruin the visit.  We will go again and try the burgers or the sandwiches, or maybe even breakfast.  Aside from the disturbing catfish situation, we actually like the place.  

Do you have a catfish horror story?  Have you smelled something greasy?  The comments button below (if it works) is waiting for you.

Reader Insights...

It is always helpful to have the input from those of you who stumble upon this blog and that is why I so much appreciate the use of comments and e-mail.  One reader who followed us over from the old blog lives out this way and has quite a wealth of insight about the area.  He would have left comments but for some reason, the comments function is not working for him.  Perhaps you have tried to leave a comment and found an issue to.  If so, I always appreciate e-mails and make every effort to answer them as soon as possible.

So this is the big news:  First, a few posts back I mentioned the big rumor about the HEB in Lytle and how one lady had told my wife that they were making an HEB Plus out this way, but another insider seemed to think that was all a big, fake, false, fat, fallacious, rumor. Well, according to our reader, this week's edition of The Medina Valley Times, they are breaking ground on the new HEB Plus next to the old HEB.  That, my friends, is some welcome news.

More recently, I mentioned our visit to Brown's and pointed out how the shelves seemed bare but they had a good looking butcher section.  Our reader also offered some views that I think are worth repeating here: 
"Oh, in reference to your post on Browns in Natalia, it used to be a pretty good little grocery store/meat market. It's been family owned for something like four generations but over the last few years the grocery part has shriveled, likely due to HEB. They used to let some of the poorer patrons put their bills "on the tab" and let them pay it off when they could. Good people.

Charlie Brown, or his son Chuck, cuts a damn good steak though, so give him a try."
And I suspect we will!  Thanks for the tip.

Pizza Report: Eatza Pizza in Lytle...

We laughed at the name the first time we drove by - Eatza Pizza - seemed a little too cute to be any good. 
Later, we would learn that the Eatza Pizza was the meeting place for the monthly HOA meetings for our new subdivision, and in fact, that was the real purpose of our first visit.  Of course, I got the date wrong and the only group meeting Thursday night were a lodge of Woodmen.  We had never heard of that group, fine people I'm sure, and my wife kept thinking of that GEICO  commercial where the guy yells out, "Hey, you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood."  Whatever; we were there and we smelled some good vittles coming from the kitchen.
Once inside, wrong date or not, we were actually quite pleased.  First off, you have got to be hungry to order a 28 inch pizza.  That got my attention.  We stood there looking over the wide selection on the menu board and finally decided to get the smallest 12 inch pizza, a trip to the salad bar and an appetizer.  With drinks, our total bill was about $20.00.  Not bad at all for a pizza place. 
I don't mean to pick on the Triple C down the road in Devine, but my wife and I both felt as though the salad bar there was lacking.  We found everything that was missing - including the cheese - perfectly displayed in the well stocked salad bar at Eatza Pizza. 
I'm sure the picture doesn't do it justice, but this was what we were looking for in a salad bar.  Don't get me wrong - I am perfectly happy with a house salad like the ones you get a Chili's or Texas Roadhouse, but if you are going to offer a salad bar, make sure you have enough variety so it goes beyond what comes in a house salad.  Eatza Pizza passed the test and we were happy about it.

They offer quite a few different appetizers but we opted  for the fried pickles.  Served hot and lightly breaded, we both agreed that these fried pickles were top notch.  Seriously, they should offer a half (or even quarter) order.  Way too much for two people.  Fried pickles and pizza.  Is this the life, or what?

We were watching some Intervention-like show on TV the other night and one of the stories they had was a guy who was addicted to pizza.  Pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  No veggies, no fried pickles; nothing but pizza. I don't have it that bad, but over the years, I have found that if you place a pizza in front of me, it must be consumed.  I love a good pizza but a good pizza does not love me.  A few slices and my blood sugar levels do something crazy and I am out like a baby.  This makes driving difficult.
So, I have learned to limit my pizza intake dramatically, and when I eat it, I want it to be AWESOME.  We didn't ask for a specific crust option - I don't even know if hand-tossed, thin or deep dish was even an available choice - but what we got was this really thick, soft and delicious pizza topped with gooey cheese and a reasonable spread of pepperoni.  With a serving of salad and some fried pickles on the side, there was no reason I couldn't limit myself to two wonderful slices.  Okay, three wonderful slices. Oh boy, I need a nap.

We absolutely enjoyed the pizza and we were especially pleased with the folks running the place.  The manager or perhaps owner was in and out of the kitchen, constantly moving around to make sure things were running smoothly, the salad bar and utensils were stocked, etc.  He came out and chatted with us briefly and later made us copies of the menu so we could know what to order next! 
We love well prepared, delicious food combined with great customer service at a reasonable price.  At Eatza Pizza in Lytle, we got all of the above and that makes for a Tasty Treat!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guard Dogs and Delivery Guys...

Our dog Gracie is the burglar's best friend.  She is very observant in that for the most part, nothing gets past her.  I still don't get how she can sit in the house casually watching TV and sense that the family of deer (Bubba, Leslie & the twins) are lurking around on the property across the street.  I suppose dogs know these things.  There is a minor problem though, and that while she tends to immediately recognize that we might have visitors, she does not find it necessary to alert us, the homeowners to her findings.
Take this morning for instance.  Of course, I ways already at work by now but Eva was just getting ready for the day.  We had no expectation of workers showing up to work on our garage project since they were waiting on the delivery of the roof gables which were not expected until Wednesday.  I suspect you can see where this is going.

I'm sorry I won't offer pictures as proof, but as my wife was being all naked as a result of a shower and such, the delivery guys (the ones expected tomorrow) were trying to determine if anyone was home so they could deliver the roof materials.  Ordinarily, a naked person is alerted to delivery people by the family dog who commences to bark loudly.  Gracie simply wags her tail and smiles.  I guess at some point, Eva got the clue.  No need for a tip, I suppose.
Here we go with the first gable in place.
 If I had the skills and the knees, I think I would love doing this sort of work.  Thankfully, as a fall back I have a nice job in a climate controlled office.  Even though, I appreciate the guys on the roof.
 I was amazed at all the bracing inside just to keep things square as the gables went up.
The addition of the roof suddenly makes things look much more complete, I'd say.  Now all we need is a little bell on our gate.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just Add Water and Electricity...

The slab has cured enough for us to have the jacuzzi moved into place.  In spite of all these ideas that we had about moving it ourselves from our under the carport into place on the patio about 30 feet away, we opted to call Family Leisure and arrange to have the professionals come out and do it.  
In the end, I suspect it was worth $175 to have it exactly on the lines that I had measured out and not be suffering from a hernia or some other groin related injury.  As soon as the electricity gets installed (they won't be doing that until the construction on the garage is complete), we will fill'er up with some water, fire up the heater and jump in, rain or shine.  Can't wait!

Oh, speaking of water...  One of the minor irritants we have endured over the first month living out here has been the water pressure.   In our old house, the water pressure in the entire neighborhood was way over the top too high.  In fact, most of the people on our street (including us) at one time or another had pipe blow-outs resulting in minor (or sometimes major) floods.  The usual answer is to install one of these pressure regulating devices at the meter, and that solves the problem.  We never did.  Instead, I reinforced all my in-house water lines and we let the water flow, baby!

When we got out here, we were both stunned by the comparative dribble of water slowly leaking from the faucets.  Oh sure, perhaps I exaggerate, but the point is, the pressure was not enough.  And then I had an epiphany of sorts the other day.  I thought to myself, "Why don't I just walk out to the water meter and see if it is turned on all the way?"  Well, it was turned on all the way but the flow of water was being constrained by one of those evil water pressure regulators.  Don't tell the water company, but I busted out a few wrenches, lowered my jeans to the point of ass-crack exposure and commenced to do some quick plumbing.
I am happy to report that we now have an acceptable flow of water coming into the home.  No, nothing overboard like fire hose strength, but suitable enough to take a shower and not feel as though someone is pissing on your back and telling you it's raining.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Views of Natalia...

During our short breakfast trip into the cozy town of Natalia on Saturday, we stopped into a place that we have been curious about for a while.
Brown's seems to be a butcher shop but with the size and shelving space for a small supermarket.  Since technically, Natalia is closer to our place than Lytle, I thought why not see if Brown's might be a suitable substitute for the HEB in Lytle for quick emergency trips.  

That thought was short lived though.  This is no jab at the fine people at Brown's because they seem to have developed their own niche market:  people who don't want to drive the extra 5 miles east to Lytle for HEB and those who don't care to drive the extra 3 or 4 miles to Devine and the SuperS.
I only took a few pictures.  I'm guessing that someone went to Sam's Club and purchased a barrel of sugar, then bought some ZipLock bags in bulk and commenced to fillin' em up for a substantial profit.
Too embarrassed to stuff a few extra Splenda packets in your pocket at McDonald's?  Not a problem.  You can get a baggie full for only a few bucks.

Aside from actual bags of dog food and containers of night crawlers, the rest of the stock seemed to follow the self-packaged baggie format.  Okay, I can work with the Splenda packets, but the baggies of plastic forks and spoons made me wonder if grandchildren had been put to work stocking the family store, and I wondered quite frankly, if hands had been washed.

Sorry I didn't take a picture, but the butcher section did seem top notch.  Things were clean and it looked like there was a fine selection of meat for sale, which ultimately made us think that the rest of the stuff was just odds and ends for sale but that the mainstay of Brown's is the beef.
So if you had ever driven down Highway 132 in Natalia and wondered what Brown's was, now you know.
Just east of Brown's are two really delightful landmarks that are next to one another.  The first one is this old store that caught my eyes years ago.  I just love this style and I think this would be a perfect shooting location for a scene in a movie.
The second one always makes my wife giggle.  It is a small little chapel of sorts.  To get an idea of the size, note that the front door is full size.  I think you could fit a preacher, a bride and a groom, but the best man and maid of honor better be thin midgets.  Of course, it is ADA compliant.

Breakfast Report: La Tejana in Natalia,,,

Directly across the street from El Tropiko, the place we enjoyed last weekend, my wife and I were told is another good taco place in Natalia serving up HUGE tacos that must be tried out.  Who are we to pass up on a solid lead?
I haven't bothered to look into the history of this particular building which sits on the corner of Highway 132 and Depot Street, but it has the looks of an old filling station.  I suspect that parking was not so much a problem back when only a handful of cars passed by every few hours, but for a place to get your taco on, things are a bit tight.
Inside, the place was clean and there was a common theme of varnished plywood tables and La Tejana logos.  
If you don't understand what La Tejana means, just look at the menu!  It's a pretty Texan cowgirl who knows how to rustle up a huge yummy taco.  
Before we ordered I mentioned to the waitress about hearing that their tacos were grande, compared to normal breakfast tacos and she confirmed it.  Just to get a sense of size, those tacos are sitting on a full sized dinner plate.  And look at those delicious, fattening hand made king sized tortillas.  Not to be wasteful, this would force me to choose to drop one of my regulars in the standard trifecta.  
My wife also switched up her line up.  Instead of the normal papas con chorizo on flour, she tried out the Picadillo which is basically seasoned hamburger meat and potatoes. Good stuff!

She also went with the standard bean & cheese.  On a taco that size, that is a lot of beans.  You can never have too much cheese.  At this point, it is no longer breakfast; just call it brunch and plan on a late afternoon snack for dinner.

I had to order the carne guisada with cheese and I was very pleased indeed.  The gravy was very creamy which is sort of different, but I loved it!  I think you either like carne guisada or you don't but sprinkle on some shredded guv'ment cheese and you will love it, especially when the meat is cooked just right.  You don't ever want to have to fight it to chew.  The gravy will always be a tad bit runny as you try to eat your taco, but the thick creamy version helped manage things.  My wife recommends you fold it like a burrito, but I prefer to let it spill out one side so I can have a little reminder of my breakfast on my shirt throughout the day. 
My other selection was the chorizo & egg which I promptly doctored up with both the red and green sauces.  Caution, one of the sauces is seriously pica, but both are really good.  I honestly got the hiccups from the heat, and I love a good kick from the salsa.  The chorizo itself was standard and the eggs were not over cooked.  Bonus.  
We had attentive service with several coffee fill-ups and friendly chat from both the waitresses working the room.  One of the ladies told us about some huge super monster taco that they only make early in the morning while they still have the masa being rolled.  She said they make this big potato, egg, bacon and some other thing, then wrap it all up and serve it to you, and presumably the rest of your family.  
 In the end, our bill was under $10, we were completely stuffed and totally contemplating a 9:30am nap.  If you are super hungry or you just want to share a really good taco, get into La Tejana for a low cost Tasty Treat.