May 23, 2016

Mmmm. Meat Candy.

Everything is bigger in Texas. Including our appetites. We ate an obscene amount of barbecue during our three day trip to Austin. Which leads us to our next question... is there such a thing as too much BBQ? The answer is no! It's a carnivores dream. Truly. Of course, Texas offers a whole lot more than smoked meat. But that's what brings us back again and again. There's just nothing else like it.

It was almost a year to the day that we returned to Austin. Airfare was $39 each way on Frontier. We stayed with Alice again via Airbnb. Her place is comfortable and convenient so there was no question that we'd return. We booked a car rental last minute via Hotwire and it worked out beautifully. I love it when the stars align.

You might remember it was last year's trip where I busted my ankle walking down Rainy street. Needless to say, I was eager to conquer the city this time and return home without injury. I'm happy to report we had an amazing time without incident.

Our first stop was the newest Cooper's location right downtown. We still favor the one in Llano, but this one couldn't be more convenient. Our eyes were a little bigger than our appetite, but we still crushed a fair amount of pork and beef ribs, burnt ends, sausage and macaroni & cheese. The pork ribs remain my favorite. The mac was outstanding, better than I remembered it. The next morning, we drove out to the Salt Lick. Having been before, I knew I like the sausage and burnt ends best. In fact, they have the best burnt ends in all the land. It's what I call meat candy. It's so fantastic I bet it could convert vegetarians and vegans. I saved room for black berry cobbler this time around. A bit of sweetness after the saltiness from meats is simply a match made in heaven.

Later on, we grabbed a snack at Rudy's. We have never been before, I typically have an aversion to gas station food. After so many recommendations I made an exception, and I'm really glad I did. Turns out they have the best brisket. The trick is to order it moist. It's perfection. Juicy, but not overly fatty. They have irresistible creamed corn too. We returned the next day for more. Rudy's has locations outside of Texas too, they can be found in AZ, NM, CO and OK. We'll definitely be making a stop on our next trip to Phoenix.

No trip would be complete without a stop in Lockhart. We again completed the trifecta by dining at Kreuz, Smitty's and Black's. It never disappoints. We couldn't possibly eat another bite so we took a drive with no destination in mind. We found ourselves in Gonzalez, TX and I saw that Shiner Brewery was nearby. Yes! But my bubble burst when I saw they are closed weekends. Fortunately, our drive was made worthwhile when we came upon Buc-ee's. Have you heard of it? Oh my! It's the ultimate convenience store. The New Braunfels location is the world's largest with 120 fuel pumps. The Gonzalez store is smaller, but still impressive. Among many things, they have a jerky counter. Incredible. What's most surprising was we walked out with only a small single serving of Blue Bell ice cream. Which was no small feat since the treats are practically endless, the retail portion goes on for days. Oh, and the best part? The bathrooms were spotless. Do stop if you ever get the chance.

Every time we've visited Austin, we've made the drive to Lake Travis. We enjoy the area and a stop at the Oasis always seems to be a must. This time, though, was much different. It wasn't a ghost town. There were hoards of people. Why the difference? The lake is now at capacity. Record rainfall after years of drought sprung the area back to life. It gives me hope for Lake Mead (it was just reported that it's at all time low) and Lake Las Vegas. Check out these photos from our three trips:







Pretty wild, right? We enjoyed a couple afternoons at Oasis Texas Brewing Company. The view is amazing. They have some tasty beers - I was fond of the IPA and Frank preferred Joe Dirt. He was able to enjoy a cigar on the patio, and we kept ourselves occupied with a competitive game of drunken Jenga. Good times!

Lastly, we spent time downtown at Craft Pride and Halcyon. Craft brews are alive and well in Austin. I wish there was more time to try them all. We only had one meal that wasn't BBQ and that was a quick stop at P. Terry's Burgers. With a "Fresh is Best" perspective we figured it was worth giving it a whirl, but it made us miss In-N-Out. Sure they offer bacon, but there's just no topping a Double Double.

Needless to say, the trip was over much too fast. Keep on keeping it weird, Austin. See you soon.

May 10, 2016

A Day at the Park

My sister moved her family to Las Vegas last July. It seems they are beginning to settle in, Amy started working a couple weeks ago after taking time off to care for Addison and Alexis. Jeff is gaining new responsibilities at his job, their blood is thinning (it is wild when 70 becomes "cool") and Nick is doing better in school. It seems the change to a year-round school took a bit of an adjustment. Initially, Amy was missing rainy days, but we've had an abundance of them this year thanks to El Nino. So, she's really only been longing for grass, water and trees.

Mother's Day was the perfect opportunity for us to make a trip to Floyd Lamb State Park at Tule Springs. I'm a little embarrassed to say I've never been. Even after 13 years here in the desert, there are still plenty of firsts yet to discover. It's about a 45-minute drive from our place so we all piled in the Suburban and took a cruise. We arrived about two o'clock so the park was fairly crowded. We brought blankets, fishing poles and a cooler loaded with beverages. We first settled in near one of the smaller ponds just passed the entrance, but it was pretty chaotic. There was a lot poop (fowl & dog) on the ground and we had a run in with mouse that was originally thought to be a snake. Amy doesn't dig snakes and I have issue with mice so we were both uneasy.

As luck would have it, a friend texted Frank, he also happened to be at Tule Springs. He was with his family fishing on the big pond. Fortunately, there was space nearby and he didn't mind us crashing his party. We relocated and found the new spot much more to our liking. It was near the petting zoo too. As an added bonus, the kids were able to get in for free right before closing. We invited more friends to join us, and by the end of the day we had a large group of twenty. The park itself was smaller than Amy had imagined, but it did in fact deliver on water, grass, and trees. It was a beautiful afternoon and a good time was had by all.

May 6, 2016

My Mother's Day Wish

February, 1980 - My mom eagerly waiting my arrival.

I am a daughter, sister, wife and friend. Being a mother has never been on my to do list, but what an incredible job. I have great admiration for all moms out there. I don't think there is anything that is more challenging, nor rewarding. Honoring moms one day a year hardly acknowledges all they do for us - they should really be celebrated every day. The least we can do is tell them how much their love and sacrifices mean to us. I know I told my mom over the years, but I, now, know the extent of which I took her for granted. The void I've felt for the last 233 days is proof.

I was pretty independent from a young age. After being an only child for seven years, I so desperately wanted a brother or sister. When I got both, I was over the moon. I had more interest in tending to them than being a kid myself. I took on a great deal of responsibility, I was self-reliant and didn't need much guidance. And that didn't change as I entered adulthood. I never felt the need to go to my mom with the little things or the big ones. I just sailed along; I'd casually mention when things were particularly great or when I'd meet bumps in the road. It wasn't until she was gone that I realized that I never really needed her because she was always there.

It becomes so apparent when you can't just pick up the phone, send a text or email. You try so hard to fill that void with memories. I find myself grasping for as many as I can recall. I dig through old photos desperate to fill in blanks and recover forgotten times. The worst part is no new memories can be made. All I can do is cling to those I gathered over my 35 years, and wish for more. So, this Mother's Day, I ask that you take a moment on Sunday and let your mom know you care. This could be with a phone call, laughs over brunch or a longer hug that usual when you say hello or part for good bye.

You'll earn bonus points if you snap a photo of mom when you celebrate this year. One day, it's sure to be the greatest gift to your future self. Take the time to record the memories that will later be cherished by you and loved ones.

If your mom is anything like mine, she was never fond of having her photo taken. Growing up, she was always the one behind the lens. When I found the love of photography she'd so rarely stay in frame, mostly she'd squirm away or conveniently vanish the moment a camera was in sight. Fortunately, I was rather sneaky and I nearly doubled the photos of her since Nick was born. I suppose the joy of her grandchild distracted her from the click of the shutter, and boy am I glad too. Those are the photos we'll turn to when we tell Addison and Alexis about their "Horsey Grandma" and the ones I will hold most dear.

And to the motherless, this mother's day honor your mom the best way you know how. Maybe by telling a favorite story, reminisce over old photos or carry on a tradition? It will be hard, but no more difficult than every day that's passed since she were last able to tell her, "I love you."

May 4, 2016

Eat. Drink. Nap. Repeat.

It had been over a year since I'd last been to San Francisco. So, when Frontier was offering $19 one-way fares it didn't take much else to be lured. When I mentioned it to Frank, he was immediately on board. Booking accommodations on Hotwire has worked out really well for us in the past, so it's always my first stop when researching rates. The wharf was extraordinarily expensive this time around, it forced me to look at other neighborhoods. I secured a great rate at the Intercontinental in SoMa. The various booking sites, nor Airbnb could not come close to their rate.

It was a mighty nice hotel with excellent customer service. Great location and the most comfortable pillows. I really enjoyed our stay. We spent more time in the room than usual because I wasn't feeling that well. I was just sick in February, too. As a matter of fact, I don't feel like I ever fully recovered. I thought allergies had taken a hold of me, but the nasty cough returned and wiped me out. I was really happy we had such a nice place to lay my head. The view from the 23rd floor was pretty great too. Forgive the quality of photos - I failed to pack my camera this time around so everything was captured by cellphone. By today's standards my S3 is practically a relic.

You may recall a stop at Petite Deli was always a must on previous trips. We made friends with the owner, Young. She was simply the kindest and had a special knack for whipping up sandwiches. She's now retired, and sold the business to a long time customer. Frank paid it a visit, but it lost its magic. We didn't feel compelled to return so it gave us and opportunity to try something new. Next door to our favorite dive bar, Toronado, is Rosamunde Sausage Grill. It's a small spot with outstanding sausages. It's the perfect stop after a couple pints. M'mmm beer sausage and german potato salad! I do believe we found a new tradition. Of course, we felt right at home when we bellied up to the bar for some Pliny. I also had a fantastic beer by Anderson Valley, it's their blood orange gose. I'm not typically a fan of fruit beers, but the sourness of this won me over. Yum.

We grabbed bites at old favorites like the Crabhouse, Saigon Sandwich, R & G Lounge and Hot Cookie. They never disappoint! We also had lunch at Scoma's which is always worth repeating.

We also returned to Suppenkuche. We found it several trips ago. They have really delicious German treats. I'm not sure if I'm most fond of the food or the beer!? We went for brunch and opted for potato pancakes and german ravioli with eggs and ravioli. Which just so happened to be one of my favorite breakfasts... ever. Delicious doesn't begin to cover it. I told Frank he has created a monster. This would be a must from now on, brunch has never thrilled me - until, now, that is.

No trip would be complete without ample time spent near the Maritime Museum watching the world go by. It's Frank's favorite and it is a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. The people watching is never dull and the view is incredible.

We used Uber/Lyft to get around. Mostly, carpool fares. It takes a bit longer, but it saves cash. We had a couple really great drivers and a surprising number of pretty poor drivers. It was a bit sad to see the quality of drivers decline. The worst was on the way to SFO. The ride we picked up outside of Hot Cookie was a woman driver that seemed to grow bored with the ride and claimed her car wasn't properly accelerating. She stopped at a gas station, suggested we find another ride and promptly bailed. Maybe there was a real problem, but it certainly didn't seem like it. Frank offered to look under the hood, but she seemed disinterested. Just odd. Meanwhile, we called for another ride and the driver managed to drive past us three or four times. Then, once we finally waived him down he drove like a mad man the entire way to the airport. It was like we crossed into some sort of weird twilight zone... just bizarre in every way.

Aside from that hiccup and not feeling so well, it was a great trip. San Francisco is such a fantastic city.