Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Night

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition.

Tonight is the night children anticipate nearly as much as Christmas itself.  Ironically, the significance of the two events couldn't be further from each other as far as meanings go.

I've always enjoyed the ghoulish night, the children in wonderful costumes shouting "Trick or Treat!"

Age has changed that a bit for me.  Since my son has gotten older, the excitement has faded.  Now that doesn't mean that he is not out there participating tonight, however, to see this big man child dressed in a Zombie mask and gloves wielding a bloody machete does take away from the childlike, harmless visions of Halloween I've known in the past.  I miss Darth Vader, Batman, Spider man and my favorite, the V character from V for Vendetta.  

I sent them out to do their deed and am enjoying the evening of quiet.  I suppose there are advantages to Halloween as long as you are not participating in the preparations, the walking, the crowds and the late night.  Since Halloween falls on a school night this year and my work day was beyond exhausting, I will sit out this year and let it pass as quietly as it possibly can.

My Town has a large festival in the Main Street area.  I've been numerous times.  It's simply dizzying.  I shall not miss that either.

I am grateful to my daughter for taking the children out on this evening.  Thank you Thank you Thank you!

Now I never realized, when moving into this neighborhood, what Halloween was in the downtown area.  I remember the first year I lived in this house.  I bought three big bags of candy, a really cool Halloween bowl and My Son, small at the time, prepared to hand out treats to the visitors.  People had said it was a BIG DEAL.  They did not lie.

First, the groups were small , a few kids at a time at my door.  Then with a small gap of time, there was a knock and the familiar shouts of TRICK or TREAT!!  I opened my door, toss candy into bags and looked down the sidewalk.  Honestly, it looked like a third world country had come to my house begging for food.  I gave away candy until it was all gone.  Disgruntled spooks and goblins walked on passed my house as I shamefully turned out my porch light, the universal sign of total surrender.

The houses on the street behind me must honestly spend  hundreds of dollars on candy.  People from everywhere come to the downtown area to send their children trick or treating.  Its an annual pilgrimage.  Cars filled with children stop, groups of kids exit and begin the quest for candy and treats.  Its an overwhelming sight.

But aside from the expense, the crowding and the conflict of a school night, Halloween has descended upon us.  It signals the span of time between Fall and Winter.  It is a necessary ritual of the ages, designed for the young and the young at heart.

For me, I'm heading to bed as its almost 8 pm.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One Fine October Day

This October day was ushered in by a strong cold front complete with strong winds and sparkling blue skies.  The warm 90 degrees of yesterday was replaced with a refreshing if not blustery 71 degrees.  Its simply amazing what the first cool day does for the body and soul.  There is new found energy and the uncontrollable desire to be outdoors.

Today was spent with my dearest brother.  He picked me up at 11:15 and off we went to a small town twelve miles to the southwest.  Smithville is a charming town with rustic buildings and friendly people.  Small town Americana at its finest.

Timing it just right, we arrived at the Back Door Cafe just before the lunch crowd filled the dining area.  My brother is a frequent guest at this fine cafe and is known by the owner and chef.  There is a delightful charm to this cafe and you often forget you are in the company of other guests.

We found a table for two on the side wall of the cafe and began talking about how amazingly delicious the food was.  As I said, my brother frequents this restaurant at least once a week. 

The cafe is located in a very old building.  Most buildings in the downtown area are original buildings from the turn of the century or older.  The culinary delight is sandwiched between a cabinetmaking shop on the left and an antique shop on the right.  The downtown area has many antique shops to browse through while visiting the town.

The brick interior of the cafe adds another dimension to the rustic environment.  You can feel the age of the building and while the staff is busy meeting the every need of the customer, you never feel the hustle and bustle.  I found it a most delightful environment.

I ordered water and my brother ordered fresh brewed ice tea.  After ordering, we helped ourselves to the salad bar and the cup of pinto beans.  It was interesting to serve beans instead of a soup but it worked!

Now one thing to remember when visiting the Back Door Cafe is that the menu changes daily.  There is only one staple on the menu and that is the Chicken Fried Steak.  The remaining entrees are determined by the most capable owner and chef.  This being my second visit to the cafe, I have not yet been even slightly disappointed.

My brother ordered the Baked Cod with cilantro tartar sauce, side of mixed vegetables and seasoned potatoes.  He did share a bite with me and oh my gosh, it was amazing.

I ordered the Southwestern Chicken and Pasta, side of mixed vegetables and fresh fruit.

This lunch entree was simply amazing.  That's angel hair pasta, chicken in a light sauce that is out of this world, tomatoes, cilantro, black beans and feta cheese.  I simply don't have the words to describe how delicious it was.

We savored each bite and when finished, we ordered dessert.  As recommended by my brother, two pieces of the chef's Jack Daniels Chocolate Pie came to the table.

Another feast for the taste buds, this pie has light as air handmade whipped cream.  Simply delicious!

All this amazing food, four courses and a bill of 12 dollars.  You can't ask for a more wonderful lunch.

After our meal, we took a walk around the downtown area, in and out of the antique shops, walking up sidewalks, looking at old buildings and sneaking seeds from interesting looking plants.

            Star Biscuit Company, one of the many inhabitants of this building downtown at one time.

        In interesting piece of decoration, one of many that beautify the downtown Smithville area.

                                 I loved this old building and the plants residing beside it. 

Another old building in historic downtown Smithville.  You can see all the different companies that have called this building home.

If you ever get a chance to visit Smithville, Texas, be sure to visit the Back Door Cafe.  I promise, you wont be sorry you did. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Visitor And The Vine

There is no doubt the seasons are changing.  The long dry summer didn't leave much variety to the landscape and if our leaves change colors they will simply be to different shades of brown.  Leaves have been falling all summer due to the stress of the heat and drought.  It did indeed look like Fall for most of August and September, just not as colorful.

Two weeks ago as we were driving to work and school, I noticed in the sky, the familiar pattern of geese in formation.  This delightful sight of birds, harbingers of  Fall, were headed south.  Their journey in progress with seasonal changes chasing them to warmer regions.  Seeing them was as good as hearing them.  Anyone that has heard geese on their migrational route knows their sound.  Their fluttering coo is unmistakable.  The sound makes one look up and around until finally you find the flock either in formation or in complete albeit temporary disorganization.  A sign and sound of Fall.

Listening to a radio gardening program brought a migration recording site to my attention. is a place where people can  record migrational sightings of various birds and insects.  It was not long before I saw the first Monarch butterfly in my back yard.

I joined Journeynorth and soon began recording the sightings of the Monarchs as they passed my way.  I would only see one butterfly at a time but really, one is magnificent enough.  These darling creatures, alone or in massive groups, are a sight to behold.  There really is nothing like the Monarch. 

Every child knows a Monarch when they see one.  There are thousands of other kinds of butterflies but you know a Monarch instantly.  Their brilliant orange and black colors stand out more than enough to catch one's eye.  Monarchs flying solo have fluttered around my back yard, passing through, checking out the landscape and resting on this one  particular vine growing on my side fence.  Each sighting was reported and recorded on the Journeynorth site.  There seems to be a great deal of participation as this journey has been charted for all to see.

This evening, after work, I noticed yet another lone Monarch flitting and fluttering around my back yard.  It lingered around the vine and the fence.  Flexing it's lovely wings, it inspected this vine that the summer could not kill.  I begged my daughter to grab her camera and within minutes we had the following photo of our visitor.

The camera revealed what my eyes could not detect.  This hardy vine that has endured searing temperatures and only one rain in six months had growth.  Perhaps it is the making of the little purple flowers I have seen on the vine in the past, perhaps it is simply stretching to new lengths.  Whatever it's doing, the Monarchs love the vine.  Love it enough to linger and spend great amounts of time inspecting and resting on it.

The Monarchs make their annual pilgrimage from the USA to Mexico following a route they have never followed before, heading to a destination they have never seen.  Driven my instinct, they fly thousands of miles to one single place where they remain protected from the harshness of Winter.

It's a fascinating notion. A mystery flying delicately before us for a short time, then on to another yard and another vine.  If you happen to see the Monarchs this Fall, take a moment to ponder their journey and soak in the sight.  Soon they will be gone and we will have to wait until Spring to see them again.

A simple yet remarkable gift from Mother Nature.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Value Of The Familiar

Love them or hate them, they have been a part of our lives for 70 plus years.  Most women remember having seen them at least once, for many, they are seen each day.  I speak of the beloved Soap, the daytime dramas that used to permeate the airwaves of daytime TV.

I can remember growing up watching the Soaps with my mom during the summer when school was out and the drama was on.  I recall it went like this, Young and the Restless, Guiding Light, Edge of Night and then dinner. We would stay busy getting the housework done so we could relax and watch our favorite characters wrestle with those grown up problems like gossip, mayhem, infidelity, amnesia, car wrecks and comas.  There is nothing like them and their era brought an escape to the real problems of our every day life.

When I was grown myself, a family of my own, I didn't stay glued forever to the daytime dramas.  I eventually went to work and the chaos of Genoa City and Springfield spun daily unbeknownst to me.  For decades, I let them go.

I was delighted to be reunited with them several years ago and thanks to the Internet and replays in the evening, I soon found myself lost in their worlds and lives again.  I could come home, get everything done that needed to be done, and then turn on the day's episode.  I was thrilled to see so many character from long ago, still played by the original actor and actresses.  They had aged as had I.  But they still had the same problems only now they carried their cell phones and got information online.  They had evolved as had the real world.

Just when I thought all was right with the world, the axe fell upon my beloved As The World Turns.  The longest running daytime drama with millions of fans.  It seemed women had left the home during the days to labor at a place of employment and no longer watched the Soaps or their sponsor's commercials.  It was so hard to say goodbye to all those characters, to know they would never grace my view again.  A year later, Guiding Light came to an end.  It was like watching the slow death of a family member.  The end of an era that tied me to my youth and to my mom.

Searching for the link to what was, hungry for what used to be,  I found myself back with The Young and The Restless.  There they were, the same characters I had grown up with, characters I had watched with my mom.  It took very little time to catch up with the mayhem of all those years I had not watched.

And while you might say that it is a waste of time every day when it is obvious that daily viewing isn't necessary, I beg to differ.  It is not the action or the talent of the players that brings us to watch.  It is the constant.  The assurance that the familiar will be there.  That the link to the past is still in tact and that repetition of watching is comforting.  It is me and mom sitting on a summer afternoon, watching a soap and talking about the story.  It is me and I'm sixteen again and mom just brought us a snack for the next show.

I would imagine those that see the dirty bottom line of the daytime drama see little value in those little shows.I wish they could have had great summers like I had and those years spent at home cleaning and cooking, all the while keeping a watchful eye on those reckless, spirited and sometimes villainous people of Springfield.

They reminded me just how calm and tame my life really was.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Looking Magnificent in Yellow

The word magnificent came to mind and the only one that seemed appropriate.  Glorious was adequate but just did not capture the moment.

After almost a year of no measurable rain, a month of wildfires, a weekend of high winds, I awoke to the sound of thunder early this morning.

Knowing that thunder meant lightening and lightening on dry terrain meant nothing but trouble, I kept the fire dept scanner going throughout the night.  Having another fire start while our world slept is one of my worst nightmares.

Everyone knew that the rains on the radar last night out to the west of us had the potential to give us rain and just as likely the potential to pass us by.  It was the lightening that worried us most.  We watched the last night's radar and the lightening strikes and held our collective breaths.

I laid in bed in the wee hours of this Sunday morning thinking about that Sunday morning not long ago and the series of events that created the most frightening day I can remember.  Ordinary days that become extraordinary.  Extraordinarily awful and terrifying.  I thought about the smoke, the fire, the sirens and helicopters, planes, radio transmissions, packing essentials and the day to day worry of the next fire that was just waiting for all the right elements to converge in that next game changing moment.  I held my breath as the I listened to the thunder and watched the flashes of lightening dance on the curtains by my bed.

Then I heard it.  The sound of rain hitting my window.  Softly at first then I heard that low roar of rain pouring on the roof.  I exhaled.

I waited for the morning light to go out on the porch and see what I've been waiting to see for the better part of a year.  Isn't that simply unimaginable?  Anyone waiting for almost a year to see rain.  Can you even imagine?

By the time I could see the back yard, water had already begun to stand in places.  This would indicate that it was a good rain indeed.  Prior to this morning, when I had set the sprinkler in the yard, it would take hours for water to puddle on that thirsty powdered soil.  All I could think when I saw the water standing in the back yard was that it was all going to be absorbed into the ground, into the plants and into their very thirsty roots.

I noticed my rain barrel was overflowing, another wonderful sight.  In my world, there is no such thing as too much rain.  While its too late to undo all that has been done by it's absence, so much has been prevented by it's presence today.  Today, not one person in My Town will worry about a fire starting.  Not one single person. 

To find My Town, locate Austin on the map then look for the little circle with the plus sign inside.  That's me in all that magnificent yellow.

I must admit, we look magnificent in yellow.