In memory of Tom Adams

For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.  -- Matthew 6:21

For some unknown reason I feel the need to roll back time to Friday afternoon while Tommy sat with Marie at the front desk sipping iced tea.  I have had sort of a bad day and I need a little pick me up. I walk up and the sight of that ol' boy just puts a smile on my face and he quickly makes some wisecrack about how crappy the refrigerators at the office smell and that makes me laugh!  Tommy ventured out from the house to go for a haircut.  He tells me he likes it high and tight and really, there is nothing that would ever suit him better than that.  His head was meant for a crew cut; his attitude was meant for a Marine; and his heart was meant for Marie.

Tommy is endearing in a crusty, redneck, hardass, old coot, butt head sort of way. I don't know why, but his "Grumpy Old Man" vibe somehow works and people are drawn to him.  What was it that someone said to Marie recently?..."Yea, I know Tom Adams. He's my cousin.  He should be in Huntsville!"  Seriously, he's not a criminal, he's just, well, Tommy!! Marie has told me various stories of how her older grandsons mimic Tommy from time to time and it leaves the family in stitches until they are in tears.  He has a presence that will endure long after he is gone from this earth.

I have this vision of Marie retired and likely alone someday.  She will bolt up out of bed from a sound sleep and start organizing things that might be needed to get someone through their day.  She will realize, with a start, that she is organizing and planning and focusing on herself and she will scratch her head and think really hard about what she needs.  Marie has never had this freedom, this health, this time, this selfishness and she is puzzled by it.  Her girls, her son in laws and her grandkids will come by everyday to see her and will want to do things for her to make her life easier or more pleasant only to find that there is nothing they can do that Marie hasn't already done for herself.

Marie has a heart of gold and knowing her is something I will always treasure.


Oh What a Beautiful Morning

I sit here rocking on the deck listening to the sound of the water spilling over the waterfall in the pool and am annoyed by the sound of the pump and the churning of the compressor at the house next door.  What is a beautiful and tranquil looking setting is in fact, anything but that.  A walk to the water's edge near the creek brings me ever so much closer to the pump and sound of the wind and the drizzle of leaves falling from the oak trees is masked by motor noises. 

In search of peace, I retreat, retracing my steps from my pre-sunrise walk.  I find my granite slab that rolls off the side of the road and park myself there.  At 5:00 a.m. this morning the only sound was that of my own foot steps and then, in a childlike scary moment, I imagine another set of foot steps following closely behind me and others walking towards me from somewhere in the darkness and I shiver. 

The moon is full and passing clouds takes the vision of my surroundings through a slideshow of pitch darkness and the lightest of nights, leaving me unsure and somewhat unsteady in the moving shadows.  I would like to say that my venturing out into the night was for the sole purpose of enjoying the peacefulness and the full moon, but no, that's not why.  The buzz of my silenced cell phone leaves my heart racing as I realize I've finally found enough of a signal so that an anticipated call can finally get through to me.

My friend from the great white north has also taken a walk out into the moonlight in search of a signal.  He finds one a short walk from his cabin along a highway teaming with logging trucks.  We regale each other about our weekend getaways; mine on a spring-like weekend with twenty-seven amazing women in the Texas Hill Country.  He, on the other hand, is on the North Shore of Lake Superior on an annual cross country ski weekend with two of his best friends.  I sit in the darkness of the South at 62 degrees.  He stands in the darkness of the far North at zero degrees.  He pauses my chatter to tell me he hears wolves howling nearby and holds the phone up in hopes that I can hear them.  I can't, but I find it quite endearing that he so wanted to share that with me. "Oh my God, Nancy, this is so cool!"

Yesterday, I walked around the area taking pictures and looking for writing inspiration.  My first stop was at the rope and log swings across the road from the house.  Swings are simply irresistable to me so I plop myself into the "single" swing with my hands full of pen, journal, phone and camera and almost flip over backward and fall out of the swing on my ass.  I catch myself just in time and find myself laughing out loud and all alone.  I tell my friend that story and he says he would have like to have seen that.  He tells me a story I've heard from him before about a rope swing which hung from an enourmous Ponderosa pine at his favorite place on earth in the mountains of Arizona.  The story is of a game with the purpose of terrifying a young one or a new friend. The kids would give a turn to the victim on the huge arching swing - get them swinging high and wild, then yell something about a giant monster bird coming at them.  Everyone would run screaming and leave the swinger alone and petrified and unable to stop the swing and save himself from certain death.

My weekend has been picture perfect so far, filled with laughter, "super heros", spectacular food, affection and art.  His is also off to a glorious start with beautiful yet icey weather, lunch at a beloved eatery on the lake front, a hike through the deep snow and the sighting of two bald eagles.   I say, "Oh! I want to do that!" He says, "Yes. I'll  bring you here.  It's on our list, Sweetie."

Yesterday morning when I was little foggy after the night of wine, boiling hot tub water and crazy yet "spiritual" naked women, I thought it was Thursday when in fact it was Friday.  My friend says to me "How much wine did you have exactly?"  When I told Lisa about this exchange, she said "Did you tell him just enough wine to time travel!'  Last night as Lisa and I were getting into bed we decided to leave the windows open.  Lisa says "Lower the blinds just in case the sun comes up tomorrow."  My sis has a way with words!  She speaks and I just write it all down. 

Well, the sun did in fact come up and our weekend ended with 27 brilliant, fun loving, talented and lovely women embraced in a tight circle singing "Oh what a beautiful morning" at the top our lungs. And so it is.


Donuts, Spudnuts and Fried Biscuits

Every year when we took our summer trip to Spring Creek, we would stop in Gunnison so Mama could grocery shop before we went up to the cabins.  When Paul and I were young and under foot, we would drop Mama off at the store and Daddy would take us to a bakery on Main Street for a donut.  Daddy loved donuts. On a lovely, sunny, cool day in July, the three of us ate sugar covered donuts, not those icky glazed ones, while sitting on the curb of Main Street in downtown Gunnison.  We marveled at the little stream of water that flowed behind us in a trough built into the sidewalk...we don't have irrigation ditches in Texas that I'm aware of. We would take our time and stretch our legs after being in the car for many hours and Daddy would always have some great stories or little bits of trivia that would entertain us while we wandered around up and down the sidewalks. At some point, we would go find Mama and load up the back seat with groceries and continue on to Spring Creek.

On the way home from Spring Creek, we always stopped in Alamosa, Colorado for gas.  Right next to the station was a donut shop called "Spudnuts". This area is known for growing potatoes, so the donuts at this shop were made from potato flour aka "spud" flour, hence the name.  I'm not sure that the donuts themselves were any better than any other freshly made donut...but then again, have you ever had a bad donut?  Fried dough with bad can that be?

With that concept in mind, I still make donuts at home by using a Coke bottle to cut a hole in cheap canned biscuits and then frying them up in my iron skillet.  The donuts are then shaken in a bag of powdered sugar, granulated sugar or sugar and cinnamon.  You can't help but eat them when they are too hot and they burn your tongue.

Texas Weather, A Chicken Event & Trailer Food

Apparently good weather in Central Texas is saved up for the weekends.  How great is that?  Last weekend, I sat on the deck in the 75 to 80 degree weather.  During this past work week however, we had three straight days where the temperature never went above freezing (oh my God!!!).   We had record cold lows and rolling blackouts which shut power down to my office for part of a day.  Yesterday practically the entire State of Texas was shut down because of actual "winter storms" and in some cases "the possibility of winter storms".  It did indeed snow at my house, a whopping half inch or so, most of it sticking to the roadways.  I made the poor decision to try to make it in to work only to find myself sliding down Highway 71 toward the Bee Creek Valley before changing my mind and heading home.

After completely enjoying this extremely rare Snow Day yesterday, the warm and springy 68 degree day today compelled me to get outside.  I left the house after hanging some clothes to dry on the deck.  With no particular plan in mind I heard an ad on KVET talking about the Chicken Event happening at Callahan's General Store.  Hell yea!! I think it goes without saying that this was simply not the sort of event that I could pass up.  I called Marie, my personal guide to all things Texas, to get specific directions and promise in return to ask when their baby guinea hens would be available.  She lost her entire flock which she called "The Dirty Dozen" (or were they "The Magnificent Seven"?) last year to dogs, coyotes, skunks or something over a period of a couple of months.  She can pick up some guineas later in March, they told me.

Callahan's is this great store out near the airport.  They carry so many different things it's hard to describe.  Of course today there was a big pen of probably forty chickens on the front porch in a simple big wire enclosure with a floor of hay.  A big barbecue grill loaded with brisket and sausage is cooking in the parking lot.  Right inside the door is a pen with a mama and baby goat next to a display of every size and shape of galvanized buckets and trays. You know how I love goats by now, so I lean over and scratch the baby one and look like a complete and utter goon talking baby talk to it.  I am however, wearing my ropers, so maybe I fit in just a little and maybe they'll think I'm in the market for a baby goat -- am I? I window shop iron skillets and dutch ovens in every possible size.  The selection of cast iron cookware alone here is amazing.  I see meat grinders and sausage stuffers, Chuck Wagon cookbooks and hoof cream, blue jeans and humane traps, seed catalogues and animal feed...really, probably everything a farmer or rancher in these here parts could possibly need (sorry, this place brings out some southern slang in me that's been itching to get out).

Did I mention that live music is playing from a stage near the front of the store? Nobody stands near the stage actively listening to the duo playing, but we all sing along as we shop and stop to clap after every song.  At one point the two guys announce a break and someone from Callahan's brings up a friend to do a live audition in the store. Seriously, I hear the guy say to the band, "...this is a friend of mine and he'd like to audition for you if you don't mind"...and off he goes!

I could buy so many things from this place but I'm restraining myself because really, I'm in the process of getting rid of stuff not acquiring stuff.  I like finding interesting journals and those are never very pricey and are always good to provide a little memory of an experience that will also be put to good use.  Callahan's has all kinds of little country looking types of stationary and very Texas themed note cards and post cards, but are lacking in anything journal-like.  The closest thing I find is a pretty good little lined steno pad with a spiral binding at the top.  The only real problem is that it has two characters dressed as cowboys about to have a is a cat and one is a rooster and the captions above each, respectively say "Chicken!" and the other, "Pussy!"...Funny, but not quite what I had in mind...I settle instead on a tiny little book on cafes in Texas.  I'll have some fun with that!  I mosey out, giving one last look at the chickens and the fruit trees in the parking lot, then head toward downtown Austin.

I've been wanting to hang out at the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery for sometime now.  Now, ok, if you're not from here, you are scratching you're head and saying to yourself, "Yea, now Nanc says she wants to hang out at a trailer park?  She already lives in a double wide in the middle of nowhere...what now?"  Ok, y'all don't get your britches in a bunch!!! (sorry residual southern slang spilling forth again).  "Trailer park eateries" are extremely hip BTW, and they absolutely fit the criteria of "Keep Austin Weird".  This one is on South First Street and is fenced in and a little more formal than the trailer parking lots on South Congress or Barton Springs (again, I see you scratching your head, so maybe you just need to come on over here for this particular Austin experience!).  You park within the fencing on a crushed granite lot.  There are only a few trailers open at this time of year,  but the place is still packed and the picnic tables near the street as well as the ones in the covered pavillion are full.  The back of the lot behind the trailers and pavilion is bordered by one of the Austin creeks, I'm not sure if this is Shoal Creek or Bouldin or what.

I read the menues painted onto the front of Man Bites Dog and Torchy's Tacos.  Obviously very different places, I decide on Man Bites Dog, because the line to Torchy's is really long.  I love a good taco, but I also love a good hot dog, and this place is really really Austin Weird.  The special today at Man Bites Dog is called the "Cartoon" which is a beef frank topped with PB& J and a light sprinking of Captain Crunch. The guy working the trailer assures me it is awesome.  I am actually tempted to try it.  Ok, here's the deal, I did, in fact, order the specialty of the house, the Bacon Peanut Butter Burger, at Mutha's on Bourbon Street (they specialize in burgers and tequila), but no, I just can't bring myself to this level of hot dog mayhem, so I settle instead for the Buffalo Hottie, which has blue cheese, buffalo wing sauce and green onions. Hot, hot, and tasty and I give thanks to the fact that heartburn rarely happens to me!!!!

I'm watching two young men together in their hipster vests and scarves trying to decide what to order from Holy Cacao - Chocolate is Good For You. They decide on Cake Balls On A Stick. Okay.... This place also sells "Cake Shakes" made with your choice of cake and ice cream.  What the heck is Frozen Hot Chocolate?  They claim that Travel & Leisure Magazine voted them Best Hot Chocolate in the U.S., and I wonder if it was the "frozen" version. I kind of wish I had read that when I first got here, because I can't begin to think about ordering some of that to go with this crazy spicey dog I'm oinking out on.  Urp.

On the way home, I cruise down South Congress and see the trailer eateries set up there on this winter day. Among others, there are:  Coat & Thai, Mighty Cone, Wurst Tex, and, of course, Hey! Cupcake.