Saturday, March 30, 2013

Baseball at the Alamodome...

San Antonio always comes up with new and exciting ways to get people to enjoy the beautiful downtown area and this time around, they came up with the idea of playing baseball in the Alamodome.  The idea has been discussed for years, but realistically, how do you fit a baseball diamond onto a football field?  Apparently, you do it by having a short right field.
 I don't recall the year, but I stopped watching Major League Baseball after the second time the players went on strike.  During my youth, it was easy to be a Cincinnati Reds fan, given that we lived in nearby Dayton and the players made it easy to enjoy.  Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffy and of course, Sparky Anderson as their skipper.  It is interesting to go back in time and look at the salaries of some of these guys.  In 1974, Pete Rose was making $166,000 (on the field) but most of the other players were making $15,000.  I read somewhere that A-Rod makes more money then the entirety of the rest of his team.  Not important.
What was important was that my son and I were more interested in the logistics of playing baseball in the Alamodome, and being part of a first in history sort of thing, so we payed for some cheap seats along the first base line and made our way up to the 300 level which provided a very good view of the action.  Nothing like the more intimate view you get at The Wolf for a Missions game, but very reasonable.
This image is taken from the outfield looking toward home plate.  I snapped it as we were walking to the opposite side where our seats were.
Before throwing out the first ball, the US Army had some guys fast rope down from the ceiling so they could provide the baseball.
Mayor Julian Garza Castro threw out the first pitch of the game.  His pitch was a lot better than the sprinkling of applause and chorus of boos he got from the crowd. They must have been thinking of the former Mayor, Ed Castro Garza.  Puro San Anto; classy.
There was what I thought to be a pretty good showing.  As the first inning proceeded, seats began to fill and frankly, I think the players appreciated the huge turn out.  You could feel that people wanted to get into it.  The problem was, the people at the Alamodome had no idea how to handle a baseball game.  After the initial applause at the beginning, the place was dead silent.  It would have been a perfect Verizon, you can hear a pin drop moment, because it was as if everybody was looking around, waiting for the announcer to say something, waiting for some fun baseball music to happen, or really, anything.  It was an uncomfortable silence interrupted by the occasional stating of the next batters name.  
It wasn't until local favorite, Lance Berkman got up to the plate that the organist showed up for work and then, once he struck out, the music was gone for the next 20 minutes or so.  Later in the 4th inning, the scoreboards along the outer walls flashed a "Let's Make Some Noise", but they only did it once or twice and that was the end of it.
But of course, that's just me wanting to be entertained beyond the actual playing of the game and perhaps that says something about me.  I recall back in the late 70's or maybe early 80's, the NFL had this idea of just showing football games on TV without any announcers.  They simply showed the game with no commentary or announcing.  Boring!  The reason why people in this country love the Superbowl, even those who don't otherwise follow football, is all of the energy surrounding the game.  We can't wait to see who sings the National Anthem, can't wait for the cheers of the opening kick-off, and most importantly, we can't wait for the very first commercial!

At the baseball game, there was more excitement in between innings when they brought kids down on the field to play the various games.  A kid tries to throw three strikes at a net (fail), or some people try to get huge foam French fries into a What-a-Burger French fry box.  That is real entertainment.

In fairness, there was some baseball excitement.  This is video of a great hit for Texas with runners advancing.
There was one other bit of excitement.  In the stands, people kept tossing around beach balls, and this kept people in the crowd happy.  Unfortunately, as you'd expect, one ball made it to the field and an usher had to run out and grab it.  We also saw ushers in the stands confiscating the balls.  Oh Well.

We left at the start of the 5th inning so we could get home to watch the Florida vs Florida Gulf Coast University basketball game on TV (much more exciting), but it was nice to at least have been part of the first baseball game at the Alamodome.  Let's hope they got some lessons learned from Friday night and make adjustments for the Saturday game.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Bluebonnet Visit Wrap-up...

This afternoon, my mom finished her visit to Texas which gave her the opportunity to relax, see a lot of small towns, eat at a few local restaurants, eat some of Eva's good home cooking, and enjoy the Bluebonnets she came to see.  I'd say this hasn't been a banner year for the roadside flower shows, but with the drought, I'd say it wasn't too bad.  We enjoyed having her here, and hopefully, they'll be more visits.

On Saturday, we took a really scenic drive through Floresville and saw a much better showing of the Bluebonnets along Highway 181 and a lot of really beautiful patches along some back road that took us from Loop 1604 into the back side of Floresville.  Lots of incredible views, none of which I captured on camera, due to the curvy nature of the road I was on.  I simply love the look of huge pastures with cattle, the occasional tree off in the distance and barns that have seen their better days. 

Since we were in the area anyway... we stopped off at The Maverick Grill on Hiway 181 between Floresville and Elmendorf.  I'm happy to report that since our last visit, which I wrote about here, the place is still just as good, both in service and quality.  We had steaks, and we ate them!  If you haven't been out that way, you owe it to yourself to stop in. 

On Sunday, we did some of our usual shopping and such in the morning, then ran some errands out in the Alamo Ranch area.  No sense in wasting the day, so we drove into Castroville and La Coste to check out some small antique shops.  People in Texas are very friendly and I like how visitors are treated.

And speaking of treats, Tasty Treats, Sunday evening we closed out the grand tour of Texas with a trip to Rocky's in Devine.  I know I mentioned Rocky's not too long ago, but I have got to tell you just how much my mom loved the place. 

There is so much on the menu to choose from, but we all had a hankerin' for burgers.  As we waited, Rocky came out and provided a farmer's almanac-like explanation of some of the local crops my mom asked about.  He also told us about a huge cattle operation a little further up the road that, after dinner, we promptly took a drive by in order to be amazed at the huge population of walking steaks and burgers on display.

You cannot prepare someone for how good Rocky's burgers are because they are generally used to the usual fare at most places.  And it isn't to say all other burgers are bad, but when you see what great care is involved, from the freshly baked bread, to the huge, gently cooked hunks of meat he serves up, you then realize that this is something special.
 My mom ordered the mushroom Swiss burger.  And she wanted it pink.  I know some of you can't handle the thought of your burger being undercooked, but if you have quality meat and a clean kitchen, you'll be okay.  Look at how thick this thing is.  The bun is made right there in the kitchen and is so soft and fresh and delicious.  Half her burger ended up in the to-go box and made a wonderful breakfast for my mom before flying out today.
And just for good measure, here is a picture of Rocky along with my mom, both looking forward to the next visit when she can check out some of the other menu items.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Friday Fish, Bluebonnets, and Movies...

Is it Easter yet?  Eva can't wait since she gave up Facebook for Lent and feels completely disconnected from the world.  Oh, and there is more.  She won't eat meat on Friday's and by extrapolation, neither can I.  I'll make up for it today, I'm sure.

With my mom visiting, it has given us an opportunity to consider different fish options for Friday's - you know, instead of Fred's Fish Fry or the fish sandwich at What-a-Burger.  My mom actually knows how to fry fish without us whipping out the Fry-Daddy and getting grease all over the place.
 First up, a quick dunk in an egg mixture and some Italian bread crumbs.  The fish is called Basa or Vietnamese catfish.  HEB Plus sales these things in individually wrapped packages for a dollar a piece.  I like regular catfish but Eva just can't deal.  This Basa has zero fish taste, cat or otherwise.
We set-up the little electric skillets outside on the patio since it was so nice out, plus, no need to take a chance on the small of fish, shrimp or onion rings lingering in the kitchen an hour or two later.
Eva had a second little skillet going with onion rings and shrimp.  We made way more food than we could eat but I assure you, it won't go to waste!

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 I've noticed the height of the Bluebonnets in the yard is increasing.  When this is all over, I suspect it is going to be quite a chore to mow all this stuff down.  I've already installed new blades on the mower.  Anyway, while they are still here, I offer up a few more shots randomly taken with the camera (Canon PowerShot A2200 HD) set on Auto.
 Imagine what it would look like if we broke down and watered our yard.

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Our DVR is working overtime during my mom's visit.  There are several shows we watch that just aren't her cup of tea - like Shameless and Archer.  So, as time allows we have been watching some of the movies that stack up on our DVD shelves. 

As an aside, are you like us when it comes to movies?  First, I do not go in movie theaters, and haven't for years.  For the same price, we just buy the DVD and they sit watched once on a shelf, perfectly alphabetized in case someone needs to borrow one, but other than that, collecting dust.  On the top of the shelf are the movies we have purchased but haven't watched.  It's at least 10 deep right now.  And the first two seasons of Game of Thrones is patiently waiting there, too.

Anyway, this week we knocked out a few.

Argo was fantastic.  You already knew that though, since we are the last ones in the world to have seen it.  Thanks for letting us know.  And any time we can see Walter White with hair on his head, you know it is a good movie.

Zero Dark Thirty was touted as this must see masterpiece.  The topic certainly interests me.  But seriously, this was the longest, mostly boring snoozer I think I have seen in a while.  Can someone explain to me why this movie was so long?  Even the exciting action at the end, you know, the part where they kill UBL, was so slow and agonizingly drawn out.   I would have rather seen a documentary.

I will say that James Gandolfini really stood out as Leon Pannetta, but I like him in most shows.

Flight with Denzel Washington just reminds me of what a great actor he is.  What an utterly depressing movie, but what a powerful story.  Don Cheadle also delivers another powerful performance.  He is a lawyer just trying to help Denzel's alcoholic, drug addicted character to get through the situation.  So even if you are not a pilot, this story has an important message:  Don't drink and fly (or drive).  No matter what the cause of what goes bad, if you are drunk, it is your fault. 

Also, if you were a fan of the show, My Name is Earl and you always wondered what Nadine Velazquez looks like nekkid, now you'll know.  She plays Denzel's partner in crime for the first few minutes of the movie, but I won't spoil it for you. 

That's it in the movie department for now. 

My Daily Deer: Little Kitty Edition...

For several weeks now, we have had a little mystery brewing out here.  The stray cat who adopted us, Little Kitty, lives in our garage.  I have a block of wood under the garage door that leaves enough of a gap that she can squeeze in and out while keeping the door closed enough that the dogs or a coyote walking by wouldn't be able to get in.

Naturally, I was concerned about what might else be able to get in, but as we have seen, Kitty has done a great job at keeping the field mouse population down, and ditto for any little lizards or small birds that come within her reach.

Between the aforementioned snacks of prey, we keep her fed with your standard variety of cat food.  She is not fat by any means, yet, she goes through a lot of food.  This got us to wondering if she was sharing her food with others.  Bring in the deer camera and let the mystery be solved!
So we know that it works, here is Little Kitty in action.  The food and water are just behind her.
What the hey?  I know I have seen this cat wandering around the neighborhood, but have no idea who he/she belongs to.  Hopefully not us!  I never hear any loud cat fights, so I suspect this cat may be here with the permission of Little Kitty. 
Of course, Panda has to sniff around, but dogs don't eat cat food, so she is banned from the garage henceforth.
This was the shocker.  How the heck did that fat raccoon squeeze itself under the garage door open to the width of a 2 X 4?   That is seriously as big as Panda.

Little Kitty has plenty of little hiding spots in the garage, so I'm not all that concerned that the raccoon would try to get her, but I'm not so sure I want to be feeding the entire raccoon population of Natalia.    We may have to rethink our lodging situation.
 UPDATE:  We've decided to leave the food bowl empty at night in hopes that the raccoon will decide there isn't much reason to visit.  This was his reaction Saturday night.  If you notice to the very left edge of the picture, you can see Little Kitty looking at him as if to say, "Nope, not tonight!".  I'll see if this works. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lunch Report: Wheeler's in Fredericksburg...

We took a nice scenic drive up I-10 to Comfort, then over to Fredericksburg, mostly with the hopes of showing my mom some nice highway views of Bluebonnets.  Disappointing would be an understatement.  With only a few clumps of Bluebonnets every 10 miles or so, we made up for the lack of flowers with the nice views of the hills and interesting little towns along the way.
Each time I go to Fredericksburg, I threaten to stop and take a picture of this old barn with the ripped-up roof.  This time I did stop, and I'm glad I did.
Once we got into Fredericksburg, I took a right turn and we headed straight over to Wildseed Farm.  My mom pointed out that the coloring of the Bluebonnets there were a lot prettier than the color of the ones in our yard.  Amazing what actually watering the flowers will do for them.
It is a pretty place with lots of pretty things to buy, and it gave my mom a chance to buy a few Bluebonnet related items.
 After all that walking, we needed to grab some vittles and we saw a  restaurant called Wheeler's serving up some German vittles.  I think seeing the sign for Reuben's was all I needed to get my attention.
 Inside, nothing but a clean diner with not a whole lot in terms of swag on the walls.  Our friendly waitress got right to it and grabbed our drinks and took the orders.   We had a chance to watch other folks getting their lunches and there were quite a few interesting plates coming from the kitchen, but clearly, the Reuben was popular.
Eva, not a Reuben fan, went with the bacon cheeseburger.  The bun was good and soft and the fixins were all there.  Especially excellent were the two huge onion rings that came with the fries.  Delicious. After all that, the burger patty itself was most likely of the frozen lunch room style, and it seemed to detract from the overall goodness.  Too bad.
The Reuben plate came with German Potato Salad, or in other words, sliced boiled potatoes in grease with some red cabbage.  My mom took the standard sides.
I subbed the red cabbage with some home made potato chips which were quite good.  The sandwich itself was quite yummy and certainly hit the spot.  I think in hindsight, I would have skipped the potato salad as well as the cabbage and gone with some more of those onion rings.

Overall, we enjoyed the place.  Admittedly, I could have come up with a list of several other places I'd liked to have tried, but when you are hungry and you find something that catches your eye, well, you go with it.
After lunch, we stopped by the Market Platz in town.  We've been there before but never bothered to look at the little Friendship Park with statues and such.  It was a nice way to walk off the lunch and get a few pictures.  Overall, whether was a bit chilly and windy, but given the alternative was blaring sun or rain, I'd say we did alright.


Monday, March 18, 2013

My Daily Deer: Bluebonnet Edition...

I have been moving the deer camera (and the places I throw stuff out for the deer) so they won't trample the precious Bluebonnets that have overtaken half the property.  What would be really cool would be a picture of a deer surrounded by Bluebonnets.  I know, but they don't seem to want to come when I whistle and have a camera at the handy.
So instead of deer pictures, I offer you a few of our other assorted pets.  Of course, Gracie always looks lovely.
And Little Kitty just walked over to where I was kneeling with the camera and laid there for a picture as if she was born to do so.
For long time readers who remember her, Panda is back.  Yes, with my daughter and son-in-law moving to San Antonio in a few months, we have "custody" of Panda until they get moved into a house.  Panda loves the Bluebonnets and is a natural in front of the camera.  She is glad it is not snowing.
Did I mention that my Mom is in town to view the Bluebonnets, and (since she is here anyway) to visit us?  It could not have worked out any better.  Here she is posing with the kids. We were so worried about the timing of her visit and there not being anything to see.  As you drive through the sub-division and even along I-35, the drought has left us with a less than spectacular showing this year, so far (18 March) anyway.  But something incredible happened that we could not have predicted or planned. 
Several months back, we had the new lot leveled again with a disc.  It turns out that turning up the soil at that exact moment in time was just what we needed, combined with just enough rain to give us a true bumper crop of Bluebonnets in our own yard!  
On Saturday, we had a small get together at the house and we took more than a few pictures of kids and adults sitting in the Bluebonnets.  You can see, Mya the Bee with her parents, preferring to come and sit with me, rather than pose for pictures.
 And her cousin, our granddaughter, Isabella did not care to pose at all.  I'm sure I looked like a dork, running ahead of her trying to take pictures that contained her face and some Bluebonnets, both at once! Next time!

Too bad we don't have any grass under the Bluebonnets to make the blue and white show up more.  The best Bluebonnet pictures, in my opinion, are taken on the side of the highway where there is a slight hill allowing the flowers to be fully seen, and, you never know what sort of expressions you'll get on the faces of the people posing at an 18-wheeler whizzes by, leaving a gust of wind and dust, scaring the bejeezus out of them.  Good times.
 The downside of all this wonderfulness right here in our own yard is that, my eyes are watering and my nose is running, and my sinuses are in serious pain.  I did the unthinkable and actually left work early, partly because I felt bad, but mostly, because so many people looking at me told me I should really just go home.  Who am I to argue with sound medical advice?   I have taken a combination of Airborne and Zicam for the past 24 hours and I think a Claritan slipped in at some point.   I have never been the type to suffer from allergies, so it could be that I am just randomly sick.  Hoping tomorrow is a better day.