Monday, May 28, 2012

Miscellaneous Photos And Random Commentary...

I'm afraid I haven't had much time to provide updates as often as I would like, but that doesn't mean we put our cameras down and stop capturing the evidence of our daily lives out here.  So, as a way of playing catch up, I offer a few random photos taken over the last few weeks.
First off, who doesn't like puppies?  We still haven't figured out the exact type of dog Maggie is, but one thing is for sure, she is a hand full! But isn't she cute?
Did I mention that the HEB Plus in Lytle is getting a new gas station with an attached convenience store?  If you have ever been to the one in Floresville, you'll know what I mean.  We won't have to actually go inside the HEB Plus every time we need an item or two.  Plus, they have doubled up on the pumps.  The current gas station is always, and I mean always packed with people trying to fill up.  Things should be at least somewhat smoother once they open.  And the best part of all this is, they will have a What-a-burger right there!  We are so happy. 
Eva has been doing a lot of little odds & ends in the yard.  Here are just a few favorites she snapped pictures of.  That lantana in the back is something I dug up from the street in front of our house.  Yes, it was growing through the edge of the asphalt.  I can't tolerate an unmaintained street, so I picked it and we replanted it in the yard.
Our hibiscus plants are doing very well in the beds along the front of the house.  We are going for all the colors we can find. I think there is a yellow one out there somewhere.
We had one of our bird baths toward the front of the house that was being under utilized by birds, so Eva used it as a planter.  I don't know what these plants are called but they look nice.  And that little statue in the back is St. Francis.  He was one of the pieces of yard art that our daughter Roxanne gave a good painting to while she visited last week.
The sun really takes it toll on these things and it was nice to have Roxanne get everything spiffed back up.  This is also proof that if you visit us, Eva will put you to work.
Eva's garden has produced some broccoli that we ate, some peppers that we turned into pico de gallo, a bell pepper that we used in some yellow rice, and a whole bunch of tomatoes.  The problem is, the tomatoes refuse to turn red.  We picked a really huge one and have it sitting in the front window, but so far, still green.  We never have tried fried green tomatoes (though I enjoyed the movie), so maybe we will give that a shot if it doesn't turn. 
On Saturday morning we went to the little flea market in Devine to stop in and see a lady who sells plants.  As we were leaving, Eva spotted this old platform rocker and just had to have it.  Why?  Who knows?
She is going to reupholster it once she finds a pattern she likes and we are contemplating refinishing the wood too. Of course, we also need to figure out where the heck to put it.  We have a spare room (our old office) that is filled with furniture.  I suspect the people from Hoarders might have us on their radar.
I don't recall if I mentioned this or not, but somebody puked in the parking lot at HEB.  Either that or they emptied a bowl of oatmeal.  I didn't bother to do a taste test.
Finally, to wrap things up (as if oatmeal/puke wasn't a solid finale), we went to the county office in Devine and did our civic duty of early voting.  While there, we got a glimpse of the Medina County courthouse for this part of the county.  Eva just thought it was the cutest little thing, like something you would see on a TV show about a small town.   Yes, proof that our cameras are always with us (as if oatmeal/puke wasn't a solid reminder).


Memorial Day...

 Take a moment, won't you?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dinner Report: Two Step Restaurant and Cantina...

 We have heard about Two Step, this great new restaurant out near Braun and 1604 from several folks and just hadn't made the time to try it out for ourselves when friends from our old neighborhood suggested we meet for dinner.  We had anticipated the meal all day long, skipping lunch and ready to dig in by the time we made it from out here to the northwest side of San Antonio.
 Our friends introduced us to Steve Warner, executive chef and one of the owners, who was kind enough to show us to our table in the old barn section of the place, and tell us about the history.  I'll let you read about it here, but the gist of it is, when we used to live in our old neighborhood, we often would drive by these two old stone buildings never knowing that they were a farm house and barn built by the Ruempel family, who were related to the Braun (as in Braun Road) family. 
As housing developments and shopping centers took over the area, those buildings stayed abandoned waiting for someone with a good idea.  That idea was finally realized when Two Step was created, incorporating the two buildings into the restaurant and resulting in an incredible atmosphere for dining.  If your are like me, easily fascinated by old stuff, your are going to appreciate Two Step.
One of the specialties at Two Step is the Margarita.  While Eva and I enjoyed the incredible iced tea, one of our friends tried the El Jefe,  and awesome looking Margarita on the rocks.
 From the large selection of appetizers, we enjoyed two.  First, the smoked chicken stuffed avocado could be a meal by itself.  But with four of us, we made it into a nice, healthy snack.  Eva was immediately trying to decipher the ingredient list and I suspect this may be something she adds to our home menu. 
My favorite though, was the Gulf Shrimp "Firecrackers" with red pepper jelly.  They were like shrimp wrapped in a light egg roll sort of wrap.  The bottom of the cup was filled with this not too spicy pepper jelly that added great flavor.  Eva is not a fan of anything spicy, but she was able to enjoy this.  I could see a guy (not saying it has to be me) sitting at the bar with a tray of these things and a couple of those El Jefe's and just calling it dinner. 
I am tormented by large menu selections and I agonize over the decision of what to eat.  It's true.  As we scanned the menu asking our friends (who are regulars) if they had tried the various items, I was torn between the idea of catfish, or trying the beef ribs or even the brisket.  How do you ever know?  You can only eat so much so you can't order one of each.  Right after we ordered, the table next to us was being served.  I suddenly was having choice regret when I saw the huge plate of catfish and the incredible roasted corn being served to some other lucky guy.  This would only guarantee a return visit in the not too distant future.
 Our friends shared this incredible loaded rib.  Not loaded like a baked potato, but loaded with meat!  Of course, I had a few samples, and all I can say is, I must have my own!  The meat was cooked to perfection and honestly, it was wonderful.
 You order sides a la carte and you can get either a family order that feeds many or go for the smaller size which can easily feed two.  We had a lot of  broccoli cheese and rice casserole.  Outstanding. 
 Eva went with half a Smoked Freebird Chicken.  This is not like going into some chicken place and plopping down a piece of barbecued chicken on your plate, the chefs provide a tender chicken with some fancy sauce dripping over the plate.  And there is enough for everyone to get a sample.
So just as the word catfish was about to slip off my tongue, I made a last second switch to the fork tender chicken fried steak.  Yes, I must still have the catfish, but there was something inviting about the idea of CFS that doesn't require you to fight it.  The crispy crust was light but what was amazing was the steak itself.  Clearly, it had to have been marinated with something because I found myself just skipping the creamy gravy and enjoying the mouthwatering taste of the meat.  That is unheard of as chicken fried steak goes.  I also had a small cup of the borracho beans. They were a great compliment to the CFS. 

We had a great time and in spite of the more than generous portions, there was no need for a doggie bag;  we were all members of the clean plate club.   Before leaving, we took a walk around the place to see the rest of it.  A newly married couple was just finishing up a small reception in the farm house dining area. It really is an incredible space. 
 If only to see how Two Step was transformed from old abandoned stone buildings, you owe it to yourself to visit.  The good news is, if you stay long enough to eat, you'll be in for a Tasty Treat!       

Friday, May 25, 2012

Travel Notes...

I had a short up and back for a meeting in DC on Thursday and as it turned out, our daughter Roxanne and I had the same flight from San Antonio to Atlanta.  We were able to get seats together and then share a quick lunch before racing to different terminals for our next flights.  So I'm not sure if we are both just incompetent, unable to read the monitors in the airport, or if it is that Delta likes to play musical gates, but we both went to gates we thought were the right ones for our connecting flights only to find they had changed.  At the first stop on the tram, we jumped off for a quick goodbye, then Roxanne got back on to go to the next terminal.  I texted her when I found out my gate was in a different terminal and she replied that hers was wrong too.  Like a scene from a movie, as I was getting back onto the tram, Roxanne was coming off and we passed once again.  It gave us both a giggle.

I heard a lot of people complain about Delta during the boarding process.  I have to admit, I prefer Continental and, don't be shocked, Southwest, but in general, the enemy of all air travel is stupid and inconsiderate people combined with the growing girth of Americans who fill the ever straining tiny seats on planes.  It has gotten to where most airlines charge an additional fee if you want the premium Aisle or Window seat.  I have an idea.  Why not increase the size of the middle seat by 2 or 3 inches so that it isn't such a nightmare for anyone who weighs over 125 pounds or has normal man sized shoulders?   I saw several big guys just stuffed like sausages in middle seats between two equally uncomfortable normal sized people on either side.  It is miserable for everyone.

The other big issue is carry-on items.  I'm not telling you anything you haven't heard before, but let's face it, this is a problem created by the airlines.  They now want to charge you $25 to check a bag, so the people who won't pay for a premium seat sure as hell don't want to pay to check the bag.  Add to that, you are allowed to bring a carry on, plus one additional item like a computer bag.  They never consider a woman's purse in that equation.  If you are in the last boarding group, there is zero chance that your luggage is going to make it into the overhead bin above your seat. 

So I was seated (with my one carry on item under the seat in front of me) when a family of three adults comes on, all if them with at least 2 fully packed bags each, not to mention laptops and such.  They make the way to the back of the plane which, by now is completely full and start this unbelievable inventorying of the bins, suggesting that if they moved this piece of luggage over there and this back pack here, they could fit the first of their 6 items in this one.  Usually, it is the flight attendant who will take charge and start moving things around.  As they began rummaging through the bin above my seat, a man seated behind me started freaking out asking them to please stop and allow him to help them move his bag.  Don't get me wrong; I understand because I have had  jackasses try to force their roller-board into a bin where my laptop was sitting, and it just pisses you off.  But this guy went from trying to be protective/helpful to weirdly concerned, as if he had some nitro in his bag or something.

Long story short, it turned out that Mr. Nervous had three of his own bags up in the bin and he was just feeling guilty about taking up all the space.  The inconsiderate family finally had their items stowed throughout the length of the plane and we were able to depart for DC.  Like I say, I blame the airlines for creating this situation, but if most people are willing to abide by the rules, the airlines ought to enforce it at the gate.  When someone starts to board the plane with an ass-load of luggage, they just need to make them check it and be done with it.
I'm not a proponent of light-rail in San Antonio because it would never be self-sufficient, but in DC, it works.  I didn't have to get a rental car and I went easily from the airport to within a block or two of my hotel and then to within a block or two of the building I was attending a meeting at. 
And speaking of hotels, I stayed at a Holiday Inn in Rosslyn.  The view outside my balcony at night was nice.  The only lights we see out here at night are the stars, so it was certainly an entertaining change of pace.  Frankly though, I think we'll stick with the stars.

I always have to simply suspend my imagination when I stay in a hotel.  I cannot allow myself to consider that the rooms are not totally steam-cleaned and magically sanitized from one guest to the next.  If I lay my head down on the pillow in a hotel, I want to be soothed into slumber with the aroma of bleach, just knowing that somehow or another, they are able to hose down and chemically neutralize all 4 pillows on the bed.  To think otherwise would just give me the creeps, imagining that the previous occupant of the bed was one of those really large unfortunate sweaty guys stuffed into the middle seat of the flight I was on. 
Skymall to the rescue.  Don't want bedbugs or hotel-borne cooties?  Get a sleeping cocoon.  You call it a sleeping cocoon, I call it a fart-sack.  Honestly, you should wear one of these onto the airplane because you just know those seats don't get cleaned all that often.

The good news, I made it back home and now I have a 4-day weekend to unbreathe  all the hotel, Metro and airplane air I took in.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guilty...

The little dog, Maggie has wasted no time making her presence known in our house.  Trips out to the back yard at 2AM are the current norm.  Gracie has been extremely standoffish thus far, though we think we are making some progress in keeping her in the same general area.  It is a work in progress.
But this doesn't help.  Maggie climbed up onto Gracie's dinner table and jumped right into lunch.  Gracie was not amused.
Payback is easy though.  While the little dog slept, Gracie chose to play with her toy.  Well, she looked at it for a few minutes, anyway.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Meet Maggie Mae...

Our dog Gracie has a new little friend, even if she is still a little stand-offish at this point.  We saw one of those San Antonio Pets Alive trucks and went in just to look.  The sad thing is, all the animals on the truck were facing euthanization and we can't save them all.  But we could take one, and we did.
The first night and this morning, Gracie has been a little skittish, but she is usually that way around new dogs, so hopefully within a few days, all will be well.  Maggie sure hopes so, because she is eager to play!
Look at this little face.  We really aren't sure of the breed, though she is small and there may be some chihuahua involved.  She is allegedly 2 months old but I'm sure within a few more months we'll have a better idea of what she is going to look like and how big she will get.

West, By Goddess, Texas...

We actually sat there and tried to recall exactly how it was that I met Jackie Sue via the Internet several years ago.  No, it wasn't one of those sort of things.  We both were regular readers of one of the blogs I follow, and since we both tend to follow other bloggers from Texas, it was just a matter of time before we would find each other.
 Jackie Sue has been blogging for years.  Her blog, Yellowdog Granny is not for the thin-skinned Republicans in the group, and if you'll get all nervous about the views of a Pagan, she's not your gal.  Having provided all the necessary caveats and warnings, what you will find is that Jackie Sue is one of the nicest, honest, and friendly folks you will ever meet.  
We told her that she should really be a spokesman for the chamber of commerce in West.  She has singlehandedly lured a dozen or more fellow bloggers to West to drive beyond the touristy kolache store just off of I-35 and instead drive a few blocks up the street to try the really good bakeries that represent the small town.  This is a woman who genuinely loves her town and the people there.  She follows the school sports teams (The West Trojans and Lady Trojans enjoy great success in baseball and softball), judges chili cook-offs and volunteers her time with the senior citizens of the community. 
On our trip back home from Wills Point, we stopped in and met Jackie at the Pizza House of West for lunch.  During a previous trip, we stayed in West overnight but because we arrived later in the evening, didn't get a chance to meet in person.  This time, there was no excuse and we had a fine lunch and got to catch up on things.
We had the pizza last time we ate here, and Roxanne and I split a small one.  Good stuff!
Eva had the BLT with these huge onion rings that were great.  How can you pass up on something like that?
When it was time to get back on the road, we walked over to Gerik's Bakery which is next door, and grabbed some kolaches, pastries and a cinnamon roll.  We'll be trying to eat that for days and walk it off for months.  Even if you don't end up eating lunch with Jackie, you really owe it to yourself to stop off in West, next time you are up just north of Waco on I-35, and try some of the wonderful Czech delights found in town.