Thursday, September 29, 2011

Identifying the Culprit...

So as you might imagine, what with all the luring of wild animals to our locale, that we might have some unfriendlies nibbling at the plants.  Don't expect me to be shocked when my wife reports that someone has feasted on her recently purchased hibiscus plants.  No, not shocked at all.  But I know an opportunity when I see one. After my wife put a temporary cage of sorts over her flowerbed, I mounted the deer camera low enough to get a good mug shot of any hungry varmints.
First up, as you would expect, the big dog, Gracie was sniffing around.  She lives here and is allowed to do that.
Next, a slightly curious Panda is less interested in the plants than she is the sound of the deer cam clicking on and off. 
But wait, who is this?  We don't even have a cat!  I'm sure he or she did not eat the hibiscus, but I can assure you that we have no rats or mice wandering around here.  If this little critter will stay on and solve my gopher problem, I'd be happy to toss out a few kitty treats.

Unfortunately, no sign of any plant eaters - but I got plenty of battery left on the deer cam and all the time in the world.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Report: Fall...

I know this is lazy of me, but here are a few more pictures from the deer cam.
Foxes. I think, anyway.
Nice racks.  We had seen the one buck but now there seems to be at least three hanging around.
It looks like my neighbor turned on her outside light causing a slight amount of interest by these deer.

I have a routine down in the mornings where I walk out with the dogs as the coffee maker finishes its brew cycle.  Over the last several months, the heat at 5:30AM has been quite noticeable, but this morning, there seemed to be a hint of fall.  Oh wait, perhaps it is fall and we are being treated to a slight change in weather.  The deer and other critters beat feet and the dogs hustle over to the fence wishing that they could all just be friends.  If only the deer and the foxes and the ring tail cats and the racoons would come play with Gracie and Panda, they would stop barking and chasing, right?

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We had a Eva's cousin from California stay with us several nights during the week.  It was nice to have a chance for us to show off the tri-city (Lytle, Natalia, & Devine) metroplex, and a few restaurants.

On Monday, we had planned to take her to Rocky's but when we showed up, we realized that they were closed on Mondays.  Instead of driving from Devine several miles up the road to Lytle to try one of the eateries there, we decided to take another chance on Triple C.  If you're not one to click the links, I'll just tell you that we had pretty much given up on the place after our last visit.
Anyway, we walked in and saw that they had a special on a "club" steak so that was what the three of us ordered.  I am told by friends who used to live out this way years ago that the Triple C was quite a place for steak.  I mean, it only makes sense that with all the cattle out here, you would have a place that could grill it up and serve it to order, right?
I won't dwell on it, but the salad bar at that place consists of a choice of lettuce, some celery and maybe a few beets or something to add on top.  The only thing good is the croutons which are actually really good.  In spite of several miscues by the wait staff, the real kicker was the nasty steak.  It may look slightly appetizing in this picture, but really, it wasn't.  When people visit Texas, they want a good steak.  This was not it.

I suspect that the only saving grace for Triple C is the catfish that I liked so much.  Perhaps I can get a pound of it as a to-go order some time.
Of course, we had to go back to Rocky's and of course we were very satisfied.  Working my way down the list of burgers, I tried the Philly Cheeseburger. Using the red peppers instead of green was perfect for me! Everybody was pleased with their meals and Rocky's stays on my list of excellence. 

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Now that the weather is cooling (anything below 100 is considered "cool"), I think we really need to take advantage of the beautiful scenery and and paved surfaces of our sub-division.  We learned this week the importance of even the slightest amount of exercise at least a few times a week.  Since moving out here, we have done a lot of hard work on the yard, but in reality, the heat outside has made some of that sort of exercise impossible.  It is so easy to fall into a trap of sitting inside an air conditioned house, sitting on a comfy recliner and dozing off to the flickering of a 65 inch screen full of CSI, NCIS, The Big C, and SOA, but it isn't all that healthy in the long run.

We are insulated from the realities of watching my father grow older and experiencing the loss of once strong body and mind.  Weekly phone calls do not convey the full range of emotions my mother has endured as she slowly watches my father slip away into another world, nor the personal sacrifices my siblings and their kids make trying to assist my parents.

This week, a medical matter much too delicate to describe here was the result of not getting a proper amount of exercise; a simple walk is what we all need from time to time, but more often than once in a blue moon.  For the first time since the military sent my father to serve in Korea and Vietnam, my parents will have to live apart.  That is not something a short walk on a relatively cool morning in late September can prevent.      

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Deer Speak...

These are things the deer say...
What the hey! Settle down now.
You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out...
Lovely day for a picnic, don't you think?

Unfortunately, this is all I could come up with after looking at over 1,400 pictures taken over the last few days.   The deer around here just aren't that creative.  I actually wish the Ring-tail cat would come back.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rain!

Finally.
This is the view looking out on to the back patio and the garage.  In the front, two decorative windmills are blown over and a few unsecured items have flown about, but the important thing is, we'll take the rain.  I think we'd run outside and play in it, but there is quite a light show right about now.
In the mean time, Eva gets a solid and well deserved "I told you so" for insisting on putting in new Japanese Boxwood in the front this weekend.

Sunday Morning Report...

We were invited by friends from the old neighborhood to attend a Luau held at the Lodge of the Great Northwest.  In past years, the luau was held out by one of the pools, but the fear of rain (fat chance) moved the event indoors.
 For us, it wasn't the decorations or chance to dance in a conga line of inebriated people in grass skirts while wolfing down plates of delicious pork and pineapple, but rather an opportunity to catch up with neighbors and friends from what now seems like a million years ago. We left Silver Creek in December, and by now it just seems like a distant fond memory.
 So many wonderful people, but above all, we had some of the greatest friends you could ever ask for as neighbors.  We surprised Ruby and Gus with a cake to celebrate his birthday next week a little early.

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It's always about the food, isn't it?  I had mentioned that we went back to Rocky's Roadside Grill and I am intent on sampling each of the burgers he grills.  The problem is, the burgers are too big for Eva to eat. We asked before ordering and learned that they offer a kid's meal.
 Turns out, your little kid, or your wife can order the smaller version - only a quarter pound, of mouthwatering goodness.  So Eva did.
 I went with the Triple Cheese.  That isn't a triple burger, but three different cheeses.  A Half-pound of artery clogging goodness.  The only thing that could make this burger better is some grilled jalapenos and a few strips of bacon. 

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Which reminds me.  I guess I never followed up with my exciting medical news, where last we knew, I was laying in a bed in the ER questioning why if I had to ride to the hospital in an ambulance, they didn't run with full lights and blaring sirens. 

Anyway, rest assured I have been evaluated and tested by extremely competent medical authorities, an actual cardiologist and his staff.  I have been on the treadmill with radioactive material streaming through my veins and had special Xray and ultrasound investigations of my innermost parts, only to find that I am perfectly normal and not expected to keel over any time soon. 

By the time I had reached the 10th minute on the treadmill, and the tech halted the machine and the doctor confidently stated that the way my heart rate was dropping, he was sure the rest of the tests would be good.  I was supposed to go this coming Monday to have the results reviewed but by Friday, the office called and told me the doctor was cancelling the appointment, everything was fine, and I shouldn't need to return unless I can muster up a real heart attack.  Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit there, but the lady on the phone did tell me that they did not need to see me any more.

I know, I probably should still use this as a reason to eat fewer burgers, exercise more, work fewer hours at work and relax a bit.  Maybe I need a hobby.

------<<<>>>------

More deer.
I can't tell you how much I enjoy looking at the looks on their faces when they look up at the camera.  My neighbor just put out a lot of feed and corn and a mineral block not far from where I have this camera mounted, and along with the hint of moisture in the air and cooler (less than triple digits) temps, I think the deer around here a bit happier.

------<<<>>>------

But we still don't have any rain to speak of.  I saw on the news last night that there were parts of San Antonio that got a serious drenching.  There was flooding of low water crossings, causing the usual stories of idiots requiring rescue.  Dumbasses.

The rain completely bypassed our section of I-35, and aside from the smell of rain and a little bit of moisture on lawn furniture out back, it is still dry.  I do have hopes for today.  The sky is slightly overcast.  We really need it.

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Of course, we'll have to do our usual Sunday shopping at H-E-B today.  Just not this one in Lytle.  The good news is, due to the lack of rain, there have been no expected rain delays in construction, and our new HEB Plus in Lytle is expected to open early. 
 Sweet.  Now if they would build a Jim's, a Lowe's and a Home Depot out here, I'd never have to leave.  Well, except to go to work.

------<<<>>>------

Today we are going to take my mother-in-law out for lunch and do a little graveyard visiting.  Has it really been 11 years?
Eva and Nando on his last visit to Garner State Park.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oh, Deer!

A hungry crowd gathers in the lots between ours and our neighbor's property. The one little guy isn't much bigger than our dog Gracie.  Poor things.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

This Wildfire Thing is Getting Ridiculous!

Aside from the majority of our plants (the ones we purchased on huge discount) failing to make it through the blazing summer heat, and the fact that the gophers (or some mysterious unseen animals) are so thirsty that they chew holes into our hoses hoping for some water, the drought hasn't had a really huge impact on us.  Oh sure, we still have a huge pile of brush stacked in part of the yard since the burn ban has kept us from burning it, and we haven't put down any grass or replaced the dead plants; but from a quality of life perspective, it isn't like the drought is causing us loss of cattle or crops, because we don't have any.

And in spite of looking skinny, I think there are enough people buying deer corn and putting out apples and bread and such to keep the deer population alive, so we still enjoy the nice views.  Note to self: Don't leave a pile of deer food just outside the front gate or the neighbors will all have to dodge deer after dark.

No, with all of this drought business, for us it has really just been a minor inconvenience, not like the farmers and cattlemen who are really hit hard.  What is really starting to be of concern is the wildfire danger brought on by this drought.  The Bastrop fire makes you realize just how hot and fast these wildfires can move, and as a homeowner, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it, aside from gathering a few items and getting you and your pets out of harms way, hoping you don;t come back to a smoldering pile of nothing.

Closer to home, people in Fair Oaks and Stone Oak had their own scares with fires in the last week and on Thursday, I was driving home from work and just as I was several miles east of Lytle, I could see a huge plume of smoke in the distance.  The way I-35 takes a turn to the southwest, from my vantage point, it looked like the smoke was coming from my house!  Of course, I called Eva to have her go outside and spot the smoke, and I was relived that she could not see it from our house.
 I ended up behind this tanker truck from Lytle heading down to Devine where the fire turned out to be.  And on Friday, the huge fire near Texas Research Parkway at Potranco and 211 was visible from work and all the way home.  I know several folks who live out in that area and certainly makes you wonder if we're next!

Thankfully, aside from the huge pile of brush very far back on the property, our place is fairly cleared.  But the problem is, all the wilderness surrounding us.  It is a tinderbox waiting for one jerk to toss a cigarette butt out the window of a moving car, and the place will be in flames.  All along I-35, you can see huge patches of blackened out median where some idiot has tossed a cigarette butt.  Sure, a lot of the places have burned because the tire on an 18-wheeler blew and caused a spark or something, but I'm convinced that most of these fires we are seeing have been caused intentionally by somebody maliciously starting the fire or by some totally inconsiderate nincompoop tossing a cigarette butt out the window.

Yes, we desperately need rain out here and all over Texas, but we also need people to not be stupid.

Note:  it's "ridiculous", not "rediculous". (Thanks, Jeff).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Burger Report: Rocky's Grill in Devine...

In preparation for my visit next week to see the cardiologist where I will be performing a stress test, I thought I should make sure my body is in as normal a state as it can be.  I wouldn't want to do some sort of awkward fasting regimen and load up on vitamin waters and spend a weekend doing sit-ups or something; that might give the doctors a false impression of my stress levels.  We sure wouldn't want that, would we?

So, when my wife left a message for me at work recommending we sneak down to Devine and slip into Rocky's Grill for dinner, I was all in - purely for medical purposes, you understand.  I've already told you that I like Rocky's and if you missed it or don't recall, feel free to click here for a reminder.  So, I have had the fish and and the pizza and the wings and such, but for some inexplicable reason, I had failed to try one of the many burgers offered on the menu.  The last time he was in town, my son tried the Triple-Cheese burger (three cheeses, not three patties) and it just looked so good.  
Tonight, Eva had the big ol' half pound bacon cheeseburger.  The first thing you should look at is that awesome hunk of bread, baked fresh on site at Rocky's.  I am one of those people who really does think that the bun is a critical factor in how good a burger is.  Served warm and fresh, you would be tempted to slather on some butter and just commence to eating it all by itself and taking the fresh made burger home for dessert, but don't do that; you'll want to enjoy what comes between the buns. 
 The bacon is thick, not too greasy, and I am told that in the grand scheme of things, quite healthy for you.  The fixin's including lettuce, pickles and freshly sliced tomato look good and taste good too.  I don't know if we paid extra for the fries or not.  They were good but once you've had the burger, there isn't much room left for fries.
 I went with the Jalapeño cheese burger and it was a solid performer.  Everything I mentioned about the bread, the fries, the fixin's and all that is the same: good stuff!   
 The picture does not do this burger justice.  It almost looks like the jalapeños just ain't right, but I assure you, that was a crappy photo taken by me.  A lot of places won't give you the option of asking your burger to be cooked a certain way, but Rocky had no problem at all cooking mine medium with some pink clearly visible.  Biting into the soft and delicious bread, catching a few jalapeños along the way and enjoying the feel of the delicious half pound of burger covered in gooey cheese just melting in your mouth; I may have just found a replacement for the hole that was left in my stomach when KD's closed down abruptly.  
I am kicking myself for not having tried the burger sooner, but I was already enjoying the other stuff they have.  I am seriously going to have to hit the treadmill for real because Rocky has about five or six other versions of his burgers and I'm going to need to try them all.  If you want to make the drive down I-35 to Devine, I think you'll agree that Rocky's Grill on Hwy 173 South is a Tasty Treat!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lunch Report: 54th Street Grill & Bar

I think it would be a good idea for one of these TV reality shows to take a bunch of blindfolded contestants and place them inside various restaurants that have had all the identifiable company logos removed and then see who can guess where they are at based upon the food.  I have come to the conclusion that all of these places, Chili's, TGI Friday's, and the ones who pay the American Picker guys to fill them up with antique or reproduction junk are all really just the same place on a different corner.  
 Please note: I am a huge fan of all this old junk and artwork, my complaint is that it has already be done by everyone else.  I also think it works much better when you are in a non-chain restaurant and the junk on the wall has some relevance to the town, location or family of the owner.  But enough of my little outburst.
 We had to run several errands in the Alamo Ranch area yesterday and since we failed to pack a lunch, we decided to stop in to the recently opened 54th Street Grill & Bar.
The Five Four, as they call themselves has an entertaining array of the previously mentioned collectibles protruding from every wall and shelf and numerous items including a motorcycle and race car hanging from above. 

The menu was loaded with more options than you really need, and our waitress was fairly quick with iced tea refills.  These are important things.  And in spite of a very large Sunday afternoon crowd, we only waited about ten minutes to be seated and another ten minutes or so to have our food served.
Eva had the Monterrey Chicken Grill sandwich, which according to the menu is a fire-grilled chicken breast with bacon strips and Monterrey jack cheese. Served with french fries and your choice of mayonnaise or honey mustard.  It was good and the bacon was nice and thick.  The fries were especially good because they were seasoned with something. 
 I went with the Grilled Reuben just because I love me a good Reuben.  According to Five Four's menu, it is premium corned beef thinly sliced and piled high with sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and Swiss cheese on grilled marble rye. I substituted the fries for onion rings (and pretty sure I had to pay extra for the benefit).  Stick with the fries.  My only complaint about the Reuben was the weird marble rye bread.  This isn't the first time I've been some place where they used that bread for a Reuben.  May I ask in all candor: What's up with that?  Goofy bread aside, it was an otherwise nice sammich and I'd probably order it again if a reality show left me blindfolded in the middle of the place.

One thing I noticed about 54th Street was that the bar seemed to be sealed off in some sort of glass enclosure.  My first reaction was that perhaps it was some special set-up to allow for smoking in the bar area but I'm pretty sure they are within the San Antonio city limits and there is a ban on smoking in restaurants.  Who knows?
We have been to most all the restaurants in that general area and I have concluded that for me, none of them really stands out as any better or worse than the others.  I am not opposed to chain restaurants per se, but I wish that all the chains didn't seem to be exactly like the others.  The good news is, the more restaurants available, the easier it should be to get into one during the busy times, and 54th Street Grill and Bar is not a bad choice. 
 
 

Never Forget: Dane Balcon...

Local soldier lost, 5 September, 2007.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

UTSA Football: Still Undefeated!

Probably one of the most excited sporting events I have ever been to, my son came down from OK City so we could see the inaugural football game for the UTSA Roadrunners, and it was an absolute hoot!
Prior to the game, we went to Sunset Station for what is being called Roadrunner Station on game days.  Lots of free stuff being handed out like it was sample day at HEB Plus or something.  We listened to several different bands, sampled sports drinks, ice cream and such, but opted to pass on the shrimp being passed out by the good folks at Sea Island.  It was pretty warm outside.
 And can you imagine how hot it had to be for Rowdy?  My son, the one on the right, is a class of 2008 UTSA graduate, and loved the school even before they had a football program.  This only makes it better.
When the team arrived via bus at Roadrunner Station, they were led buy Coach Larry Coker through a huge crowd of appreciative fans, along with cheerleaders, dancers, and a huge UTSA marching band called SOSA or Sound of San Antonio.
To us, the players seemed very small and honestly, they looked like they were shell shocked.  In spite of the festive atmosphere, I think the general feeling was that this UTSA team was just a few hours away from having their asses handed to them on the gridiron.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.   
 Within the crowd of excited spectators, numerous people had dressed for the event.  The Mexican Wrestler guy turned out to be very popular as we saw him several times happy to pose with other fans.  I don't know that anybody asked the blue and orange haired server guy to pose.
After the parade from Roadrunner station to the Alamodome, we walked over to the area where people were initiating what is expected to be a weekly event during home games - tailgating.  Two full lots were packed with happy tailgaters and several sponsored teams really went all out.  Somebody in the Alumni area gave us some awesome sausage wraps, which were muy bueno and appreciated.  I know you can't see it in the bottom picture, but posing in front of the bus is former SA Mayor Phil Hardberger.

Speaking of celebrities.  Once we were actually inside the Alamodome, we were making our way to our seats and I spotted retired Spur Bruce Bowen (a UTSA Alumn) walking with his kids.  I nodded to him and he nodded back - who knew he recognized me from this blog?  I liked the fact that people weren't trying to stop him and pester him for autographs.
I did have one complaint about the Alamodome.  That is, they wanted people to come early to enjoy the pre-game events, but they did not open the doors to get inside in the air conditioning until exactly 11:30.  It is entirely too hot outside for that.  
 On top of that, by the time we stood in line to buy T-Shirts and souvenirs, hob-nobbed with sports celebrities, then got in line to grab a cool beer for the game, the festivities on the field were already getting started. 
Once in our seats the atmosphere was simply electric.  People in San Antonio have waited so long for this and the excitement in the air was goosebumps-worthy.
When the team took the field to explosive fireworks, the crowd welcomed them enthusiastically and the roar of cheers and applause was spectacular.
My camera doesn't do justice at any sort of distance so if you'd like to see actual pictures of the action, you can go to this UTSA page.  What I did capture was that after the first quarter, UTSA had a 21-0 lead.  My throat was and still is hoarse from yelling and cheering.  I actually mentioned to my son that we could leave then and there because the game had already been 10 times better than we could have ever expected.  The UTSA players who we seemed to think appeared small and somewhat nervous looking when they entered the dome must have been playing possum as part of a bigger strategy.  The offense scored on the first three drives, handling the crowd and cheers and the excitement of it all like pros.  On the very first defensive play, UTSA met the opposing offense in the backfield and truly dominated the Northeastern Riverhawks almost without exception for the remainder of the game.


When the announcer reported to the attendees that we had broken an NCAA opening day record for new programs with just under 57,000 fans, the crowd roared with excitement. It really was impressive to see San Antonio come out and surpass the previous record held by my now second favorite college team, South Florida (Go Bulls!)
 And when the final moments of the last quarter ticked off the clock, announcer Stan Kelly advised the excited attendees not to rush the field under any circumstances.  This was met by chants of "Rush the field, rush the field!" 
And of course, as you might expect, the student section flooded the Alamodome field in jubilation.  There were several kids chased down and arrested (or at least taken away in handcuffs) but for the most part, police and dome security allowed the celebration to happen, mainly guarding the goal post from being assaulted.  We stayed and watched the celebration for a good ten minutes before finally heading out. 

Go 'Runners!