Sunday, March 15, 2009

Nonna's New Ride

A couple of months ago, the LB decided she needed a bicycle to cruise the country roads. She tried to convince me it would be for the purpose of getting some fresh air & exercise, but I knew it was really some psychological attempt to recapture her youth or such. She found the fat-tired cruiser-style bike she wanted and I dutifully packed it home. All was fine until I went to air up the tires, which both immediately blew out. She seemed to think I was just getting old and didn't remember how to do it properly. New tubes were installed this afternoon and she set off on a trial run through downtown Naruna, accompanied by Sam, the flying beagle. I guess they are right about never forgetting how to ride.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Place to Eat

Anyone who has read my blog, knows that food in all its forms is important to me. Trips away from Naruna, no matter their original purpose, are usually combined with dining out. Vacations become gastronomic adventures as my Lovely Bride and I search out the new and different whether it's in Italy or at the State Fair in Dallas. Unfortunately, those pesky jobs which allow us to afford the occasional trip, also keep us close to home most of the time.

That being the case, anytime a new eating establishment opens in one of the small villages near Naruna, we are quick to try them out. On Friday the 13th, a new place opened its doors in Burnet, and I was there to see what they had to offer. It turned out to be a Cajun place which was still trying to get everything they needed to operate as a restaurant, with coolers being delivered while I was waiting for my order. Its name is "A Lil Taste of - The Real New Orleans Style Restaurant - Where Cajun meets Country", and it is aiming to be more takeout than dine-in. It is run by a group of folks who also started up "The Real New Orleans Style Restaurant" in Round Mountain, Texas not long after Hurricane Katrina.

I took home a quart of seafood gumbo and an order of fried chicken to try out with the LB. The gumbo was richly flavored, and full of shrimp, sausage and ham, with a subtle spicy bite which crept up on me gradually. The fried chicken was to die for...spicy, juicy, crispy all at once. I really should have taken a photo of the chicken since it was so beautiful, but after driving home to Naruna smelling the intoxicating aroma, I barely waited for a plate before digging in.

PET PEEVE ALERT!! One of the great tragedies of our society has been the disappearance of fried chicken from menus. It has been replaced by chicken "tenders" or "strips" or even "chicken fried chicken", none of which have much to do with real chickens, especially flavor. When was the last time you got fried chicken in a restaurant where they actually started with a real chicken?

If you have only heard bad things of the "refugees" fleeing the destruction in New Orleans, this group of restauranteurs can show you the other side. They are a church family who decided to leave as a group from New Orleans the day before the mandatory evacuation was ordered. They were staying in East Texas, when they were again displaced by another hurricane, Rita. They kept moving from shelter to shelter, trying to stay together, until they arrived in Marble Falls in southern Burnet county. After seeing how the rebuilding of New Orleans was going, and looking at what was available to them in the Texas Hill Country, they decided to stay in Burnet County and have become valued members of the community.

I sat and watched the interactions of the staff as I waited for my order to be ready. People wandered in and out, all in a state of excitement about the new restaurant, and the staff had a smile and a welcome for all. The waitress who took my order and also the cook both kept me updated on how much longer my order would be. When it was ready and I started to leave, the waitress apologized again for my order taking so long. I turned back and told her, "There are a lot of places I can go if I was looking for speed, but that's not what I'm interested in." She broke out in a big grin and wished me a great evening.

Burn Baby Burn!

One of the many challenges of living in the remote paradise which is Naruna is trash disposal. Residents of large metropolitan centers, such as Burnet or Lampasas, can just call some city department and ask for large item pickup, and their discarded appliances or tree limbs will magically disappear from curbside. Those who choose to put a little elbow room between themselves and their neighbors must be more personally involved getting rid of their refuse. Usually this means piling up any burnable trash including brush and tree limbs to be burned when conditions are right.

With the bountiful rain this week, the county called off its burn ban for awhile. In years past, I've learned the ban may be in place again as soon as the sun starts to shine, so I jumped at the opportunity to get rid of our burn pile. It has been growing for almost a year, and one of the last additions was our tree from Christmas. Of course, there are some problems with starting a fire when all the fuel is completely saturated after three or four days of rain. Trying to burn soggy brush sometimes causes otherwise normal people to do stupid things involving gasoline, diesel or kerosene. After taking care of some of these unfortunates in my operating room, a solution appeared last year. I purchased a brush burner which just connects to a twenty pound propane tank, allowing me to burn anything which will stand still and get my exercise while chasing those which won't. No flammable liquids involved and the LB is much happier.

Of course, any outdoor activity is more enjoyable with some company. In the first photo, you can see Sam and Rosie helping by checking the perimeter as I begin to light the fire. Even though their attention tends to wander when food is not involved, they still check in whenever I go back out to see how the burn is progressing. After all, they don't want to be left out of anything. The second photo illustrates why there are so many warnings about real Christmas trees, as our thoroughly soaked one almost exploded when the flames reached it.
As I finish writing, the bonfire has been reduced to smoldering hunks which will take some time to be completely consumed. Yet, even now, I am looking up at dead limbs and thinking that, tomorrow...the pile starts growing again.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Rain at Last

Naruna and Central Texas have been in a serious drought situation for over 18 months. The last time we saw any significant amount of precipitation was spring of 2007, when Marble Falls received 19 inches of rain one night. At the same time they were being washed away, Naruna got 3 1/2 inches. That was our last rainfall which amounted to much, and we have been under a Burn Ban for most of the past three years because of the critically dry conditions.

A fortuitous collision of several weather fronts over Texas this week brought some extremely appreciated moisture to Naruna. In the past 48 hours, a little over 5 inches of rain has fallen. Trees are budding, sprigs of grass are pushing up through the mud, and everything is wonderously damp and drippy. At the beginning of this week, we were setting records for high temperatures in the upper 80's and lower 90's, and now it is cool and comfortable, and a fire in the fireplace has been welcome the last couple of nights.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's About Time

My Lovely Bride and I have been keeping company for going on thirty five years, during which time we have lived in four different states with twelve or thirteen different addresses. We purchased homes together, had three children, 5 or 6 dogs and more cats than I can remember. We nursed each other through some pretty serious times and continued to put up with each other through all these years. With all this in mind, I recently decided to do the "right thing" and make an honest woman of her.
Now before everyone gets too excited, I'll try to explain. We took care of the legal details over thirty-three years ago in San Antonio, so all the cats, dogs, and kids are, what used to be referred to as, "legitimate". That's not a term that gets used much anymore and there are a bunch of people out there who obviously don't understand the definition or application of the word...but that needs to be another posting. Our wedding was wonderful, everybody had a great time and there are even a few who are able to remember some of the proceedings. Papa Wally was footing the bill for the rehearsal dinner, and wanted everybody to have a good time, so the bar never closed.
The one minor detail which somehow got overlooked during all that joining together involved wedding rings. Most of you probably realize that weddings and such are the domain of women. Men are involved only peripherally, and then only grudgingly. Wedding bands were selected by the blushing bride-to-be and her mother, and my contribution was to pay for her ring. With all the excitement and hangovers surrounding the big event, the LB went ahead and paid for the rings when she picked them up and never bothered to ask me for my share.
Fast forward twenty years or so, we retired from the Army, moved to the Texas Hill Country, and she managed to lose her self-purchased wedding ring. There was an interesting story around its loss, and a thorough search was made, but bottom-line is the ring went away, never to return. Another 12 years slipped by with the LB ringless, before I began to feel pangs of guilt. After all, I had never bought the woman a wedding ring! So on the recent Hallmark Holiday known as Valentines Day, we moseyed down to the mall, visited 5 or 6 jewelery stores and tried on a multitude of rings before deciding on the perfect one. Of course, it wasn't available in her size, so a special order was put in and within a month the ring arrived. Another trip to Austin secured the long awaited band, and saw it on the LB's finger where it really did look perfect. And it only took me thirty-three years.