Monday, April 30, 2018

Competition

I loath competition in real life. In real life, there is room for everyone. There is room for every creation of art. There is room for everyone to succeed or at least contribute. There is room for everyone to grow. When people compete in the day to day world of art, we see people who are angry, bitter, burned out, and feel the world is out to get them. It's the same in a non-art work environment. If your office mates think they must always one-up you, the work environment becomes rather tense.

But doesn't everyone want to rise to the top? Isn't showing off how you are the best and have the best ideas... isn't that what will get you hired or get the raise or whatever elevation you seek? I say, no. Cooperation, the listing of others, the noticing of others' gifts is what will help you rise and get the best results for everyone, the company or the audience of art lovers.

When I share a stage with someone, I see how they contribute, how we all contribute to the better of the whole situation. I may not LOVE their art/music/act/voice, but someone does and supporting them and their art, contributes positively to my art. Every artist does what they do to express something. Expression touches people who identify with that expression. Laughter, tears, and thoughts are the result of these expressions. THIS is the most important thing about art. Any art that reaches people in some way is worth existing... and therefor, ALL ART is worth existing. There is infinite space for all art, even if one person says it's "bad."

I wrote a "bad" review on my book blog for the book Beer Money by an Australian writer Matthew Freeman. BUT, I did not say simply this is a horrible book because that would be untrue. I said SPECIFICALLY what was wrong with the flow of the book from my perspective and why the characters seem to be lies. In this way, I feel I contribute, not rip apart, the art. I positively hate criticism with no information on the actual problem or how to repair the issue. This book deserves to exist. Before I wrote what I wrote, I looked up the book and looked at several websites where readers had written that they had laughed out loud. THAT is all the qualification that this art needs to warrant its existence... and furthermore that the artist should create more if it is in him to do so.

On all three of my active blogs, I do not expect anyone to read or respond to them. I write for myself. The author found my review. I'm not sure how much digging it took to find a blog post that has been seen less than 20 times or if my search settings are just that darned good, but I'm glad he found it, and HONORED that he wrote a comment. The fact that I had this much to say about art and the infinite space the world has for art is a testament that he should indeed write whatever and to whomever he wants. Words have power, good power if you let them. His comment could have put me in the dumps. I don't want to say anything is "not good," that's just not a normal part of my repertoire.  That blog is more a "notes to self" on writing than a "reviews" page. I read to learn from other authors. I get ideas and grow from everything I read. This book is no exception.

I hope we all, as artists, learn and grow in order to make our expressions reach the hearts, minds, and souls of even more art lovers. Yes, Matthew Freeman, laughter is a very good thing and makes every line of your book worth its existence in our vast wide world of art.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Fiddlers Frolics

This is THE Hallettsville event of the year. Fiddlers Frolics is a competition for Texas style fiddling. Saturday out-of-staters compete. Sunday, Texans compete. Both days have some good fiddlers, but Sunday is by far the more impressive player after player.

I'm taking Anne today to enjoy the music, the church-lady bake sale, the civic organization fried chicken and green beans, and the Shiner beer. I can't wait!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sigh

I'm getting so far behind on this blog that I am beginning to feel frustrated. I want to write. I have ideas constantly. I need to find a specific time and do it daily, but it seems like every day is so different and the demands of this place vary so drastically, that is extremely difficult to commit the needed time. I know I just have to commit or it won't happen. I've done four months... I can't give up now.

This has been my own personal pep talk... I could use some comments to cheer me on!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Alaska proofing

You know how young parents kid-proof their home, making the place indestructible and safe for their new baby? I'm doing a similar thing to the camper for our trip to Alaska.

Everything that has bothered us over our travels so far is being fixed - a box under the sink for miscellaneous appliances, a wall under the sink so that things do not slide to where you can't reach them, a place for garbage and doggy poo bags.

I am also prepping for the colder times, specifically for the dog. Her space is a large cavern under the bed. It gets cold on a floor with no insulation against the back wall that is also un-insulated. I blocked off about a foot of space with foam board insulation and made a foam mattress for her floor that snuggles a water and food bowl holder. Her space is now warm and secure.

Finally, The sun doesn't really set in Alaska during the summer. I made velcro tabs for our curtains to securely black out light. I also made covers for the two skylights and the window in the door. A trip is no good if you can't get any sleep!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Next trip

We've been home just a few moments, but as of today, the Alaska trip is ready! It is the highlight of our travels. It makes sense that it is the priority. It just feels a little funny to barely be home before turning around and finalizing the next departure.

I'm excited. We have plans to stay with old family friends. Big fishing trips are in the works. Hikes, breweries, tour boats... So many plans!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Dewberries

Dewberries grow wild around here. They are basically smaller tarter blackberries. Every other day, we take a walk around the perimeter and collect all the blackest ones we can find along the fence and in the brush near the mowed path. The dog and cat go on these walks too. The dog follows eating things she finds on the ground. The cat gets distracted about every other minute and, so, also follows slowly.

When we make it back to the kitchen with our harvest, I slightly smash them and add a tablespoon of sugar. By the next morning, they are sweet and juicy and great to top off a tiny bowl of cantaloup, pineapple or any fruit we have in the fridge. The pint of sweet dewberries lasts us a couple mornings and then it's time for another slow harvest walk.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Summer Tanager

It's spring... in South Texas, spring is almost over! I've mowed the wildflowers when they started looking pitiful. The trees are bursting with new growth. The hummingbirds are fighting over the feeder. We are in a pretty good migration path for birds heading north from Mexico. It's really fun to notice the birds that are just visiting. This year, we spotted a pair of Summer Tanagers. The red almost had me dismiss the male as just a cardinal. We have tons of those. But then, I saw the yellow. Time to grab the binoculars. Turns out there were two! I'd love it if they became residents, but alas, not likely. Good luck, visitors!!! 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Homelife

This morning, we return to our tradition of breakfast tacos made of yesterday's dinner. Pork roast was dinner. This morning it became pork tacos with garden tomatoes and goat cheese crumbles. And as a bonus, I found some ripe dew berries yesterday. I picked about 20. They are smaller than blackberries and more tart. I pressed them in a bowl with a fork and added a tablespoon of sugar and let them make some syrup over night. I cut up a couple of canteloup slices and added the berries over the canteloupe.

Anne's been mowing the areas that the riding lawnmower can not reach. She is currently the color of dirt and says she wants to do just a little more before showering. The frogs and birds are chirping. Baby grasshoppers are everywhere. Macy goes outside on her own and finds the best patches of sunshine in which to lounge. The only thing we lack is Stoli. I go to Austin to pick him up on Tuesday.

I hope you all are having a lovely ordinary day.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Normal?

We are home, and we are both hovering over our computers writing. Seems like all is back to normal. It's chilly. That's not normal Texas weather. We both have colds. That's not normal. Everything is so green and flowery. If it was this way all the time, I would never even consider leaving. It's definitely a nice scene to come home to.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Cantaloupe

Anne's sick. I am too, but clearly not as sick as she is. Pretty sure we caught the same cold from our host in St. Louis. We've had scratchy throats since then, and there's really no hiding it now. Anne's sneezing her face off. She went to the grocery store and bemoaned the fact that she couldn't sniff the cantaloupes properly. As a result, we cut into a fairly bland unripe melon. I don't mind. It's still refreshing... and a little less messy.

In other news, upon inspection, it appears the automatic watering system I installed for the garden did not work. The plants survived but clearly need more water than they received. Sigh. As far as we can tell, that was the only fail around the property. Not so bad.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Driving

I have a hard time sleeping the night before driving. I always have. I woke up at 2AM and never went back to sleep. Anne had said yesterday that no time was too early to get on the road, but 2AM seemed a little excessive, so I let her sleep. At 4, she got up for a run to the girls' room. I hit the coffee button. It would be ok if she wanted more sleep, but if she was really ok with an early start, coffee would be needed. Stat.

She returned to the camper filled with the smell of fresh coffee. And we began the final pack-up. We were on the road by 4:30.

We plowed straight through Dallas at 9:30, hit some traffic, but did just fine. We drove with the wind pushing us along and made it to Los Cabos in Hallettsville at abou 2:30. Impressive. A long day of driving, but I felt great. Maybe it was the reward of a margarita and Mexican food that I knew would be good! Whatever it was, this was possibly the easist 10 hour drive. and we only stopped three times.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tulsa Day

We went on a lovely morning hike and then communicated with an old high school friend of mine about going into Tulsa for dinner. Turns out that lunch worked out for all of us even better.

We drove into downtown which is nothing like driving into downtown Austin or Houston. It is a nice downtown, just not so big and hectic. The first thing we noticed once we began looking for a parking spot was the signage. There were "two hour parking" signs attached OVER what appeared to be older "pay at the corner" signs. The "pay at the corner" was just visible but the words partially covered by the new "two hour parking" signs...  uh, so... is it pay or 2 hour? Or both? And what city hangs a new sign OVER old signs. It was weird. We looked for a corner pay booth, but there were none on our corner.

We visited Prairie Brew Pub. Amy showed up shortly after we arrived, and she looked EXACTLY the same as the last time I saw her more than 20 years ago. It was a lovely lunch with talk of our parents and her kiddos and Texas.

When we left, I half expected a ticket for not understanding the awkward signage, but there was no ticket... however, as we approached the truck, I saw a snake hanging out on the step rail under the passenger door. A good sized snake. As we got closer he tucked into the truck's under carriage. Not knowing this snake personally, we decided to give him some space and go have another beer.

When we returned, the snake seemed to be gone. Either that, or better tucked for the long journey back to camp or even all the way to Texas!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Keystone State Park, OK

Keystone State Park near Tulsa, Oklahoma offers all types of camping from primitive tent to deluxe cabins. They offer a small number of campsites for online reservation. We chose the one closest to the bathrooms minus the handicap accessible campsite. No one was in the HA site which was lucky. The row of online reservable sites were VERYVERY close to each other and if someone had been in the HA site, our trips to the bathroom would have been awkwardly long walks around their site. As it was, we got to walk directly through on a sidewalk to the restrooms and showers.

These were possibly our least favorite showers so far across the country. The water never got fully hot. One shower had a heater, the other did not. The shower with the hotter water and the heater had two sprayers, a crotch-level and a face-level. The crotch-level sprayer sprayed bullet-streams of water while the face-level sprayed a good practical pressure. Yes, there was a handle to change which sprayer sprayed. When turned, it cut off the UPPER sprayer leaving the lower sprayer to emit even stronger bullets of water. No amount of turning cut off the lower sprayer.

We were determined to hike here. This made showers very important. We did all the hikes we could on this first day. All that's left is to walk the loops of campsites. Being determined, we managed to hike loop upon loop.

It's a lovely park on a beautiful lake that is sure to become even more beautiful as the weather warms up. If we hadn't needed the use of showers, the visit might have been nearly perfect.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Quail

We drove away from St. Louis with two homemade sandwiches and a six pack of donuts from Strange Donuts our host gave us. We were now hauling about 200 extra pounds of cast iron stoves, so I was prepared to take it easy. The wind blew directly at our faces the whole way. Gas mileage tanked... but otherwise, the drive was uneventful.

We arrived at Keystone State Park just west of Tulsa, OK. I stopped and went into the camp office where they gave me a map of the place. In the brochure were sponsor ads... This included a map with those sponsors' locations noted. Very convenient! There were a couple of steak type restaurants in the neighboring town of Mannford as well as a grocery store that advertised delivery service. Sounds like we hit the big time!

We drove into Mannford and cruised the main drag which was only about a mile long. We located the grocery store and the two steak places. There were several cars at the one called Freddie's so that's the one we chose.

Upon entering the restaurant, we noticed that most people were in the bar, but even at 4PM, there were a few diners. We were asked if we were there for the crawfish boil - all you can eat for $$$. Interesting, but no, we'll just take a menu. Cajun music played in the dining room. Big windows looked out onto the lake. Kids were running around in the yard. It was just warm enough that most of them were wearing their sweatshirts tied around their waists.

There was a regular menu as well as two specials. I was having a very hard time deciding. I like it when restaurants have a menu of things they are truly proud to serve rather than a generic list of generically expected foods. We asked the waitress what the restaurant was known for. She quickly responded that the Lebanese items were very popular, the cabbage rolls, homemade hummus, tabouli, etc. I do like cabbage rolls. They were listed as a side. Still unable to decide, Anne told me I should try the quail that was one of the two specials. She said she, herself, wouldn't like it because the bones are too much work, but she knows how I can strip chicken wings like a velociraptor. Sold. I'd have the quail with tabouli for my salad and cabbage rolls as my side. Odd meal, but whatever.

Tabouli and Anne's salad were brought to the table. Quite tasty. Then my cabbage roll arrived. It was hearty so I tried not to eat the entire thing knowing the best was yet to come. My plate of 2 quails with lemon pepper sauce arrived... and it was delicious. Anne was right that she wouldn't have been happy with all of its bones. I carefully and methodically ate every tiny bit of those birds down to the tiny wings. I found the large portion of meat that allowed one to taste the actual meat rather than the manner of cooking. It had a flavor and fine texture closer to chicken liver. The rest was ordinary bird flavored by the lemon pepper. There was a hidden gem of fat just below the wing. This was my first quail. Good choice.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Free stuff

Free stuff is my favorite stuff. Surprise free treasure stuff I never thought I would find or be able to afford is the most awesome thing ever.

Our hostess, Lucy, took us to this used outdoor gear store. It's a small shop with carefully chosen inventory that changes frequently. She and her family visit the store with regularity. We looked around and found lots of great stuff but nothing we HAD to have. The store had a large cast iron pot belly stove along with a smaller cast iron wood burning stove. I commented on how much I loved those kinds of stoves and had looked for one for my container house project. Alas, they were always too expensive or in horrible shape. Lucy immediately said, "I have one in the backyard. You want it?" I looked at her with confusion. She then told us how she had rescued a Ben Franklin fireplace from a house that was being torn down and how she had a second wood burning stove similar to the little one in the shop. She repeated, "You can have it if you want it... both if you want." Seriously? YES!

Now, my container house is now finished. I don't want to remodel to include this fireplace, tempting as that idea is. But I do have a few other ideas! The only way I accept a gift like this is if I can acctually put the gift to use. By the time we made it back to Lucy's, I had several ideas and several back-up ideas.

Both stoves were in the backyard under a tarp. Lucy told her husband that I wanted them and he instantly sprang into action. He had been trying to urge her to get rid of them for some time. I got to work making room in the back of the truck. The Ben Franklin is a heavy monster that took two men and some cussing to load. The little stove is much more manageable.
They fit!
I can't wait to get them home and clean them up!

Friday, April 13, 2018

An Ordinary Day

It's laundry day. We were invited to do laundry at our hosts' home, but with a few loads to do, we find it easier to go to the laundromat and be done in an hour. There is a brand new one near the house, easy peasy.

Since we were already out, and with the truck, we decided to stop by the grocery store in case they had beers we needed to take on the road. And there is Penzy's spices. Oh, but wait. We decided we should eat first. An old counter style diner called Tiffany's was our solution. The man at the flat top cooked us a grilled cheese and a bacon cheese omelet and gave us both a side of hash browns. Watching him cook, dipping a paint brush in greasy buttery substance, slapping that substance onto everything, made my arteries tighten a wee bit, but turns out it was so delicious, I didn't mind.

Anne grabbed a couple of spices at Penzy's and home we went.

We relaxed most of the day. Our hosts grilled pork steaks and brussels sprouts for dinner. Afterward, we played Cards Against Humanity and called it an early night. Simple day with friends. Good food, good laughter.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Eggcellence Update

Today is my day to post in the Eggcellence blog.... The week's event: HERE!

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Stupid Internet

My fabulous friend Kelly volunteered to take us to one of her favorite hidden gems of Ohio. The museum of things swallowed by people. She drove is to Lima, Ohio to the Allen County Museum. There are other things of interest and she descreibed them all with flair as we decided this was indeed where we should spend our day.

We arrived and the very first thing the museum clerk told us was, "part of our museum is closed for construction." Ah, the very parts of the museum we had just driven an hour and a half to see were ALL closed. We visited the rest of the museum and sadly left never seeing the most unusual and amusing parts.

Kelly was the most sad because she had even checked their website to be sure of hours, etc. No mention of this closing had been on their website. Oh well...

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Elizabethtown

We are on the road today from Natchez Trace State Park in Tennessee to Caesar Creek in Ohio. Once again, we have our site and GPS set to a brewery as a break in our travels. This time Elizabethtown is our chosen destination rather than trying to battle the traffic of Louisville which is also on our path.

Elizabethtown does not look terribly interesting, and according to our bartender, it's not... yet. There seems to be a movement to bring in and/or build businesses such as this brewery. Flywheel Brewing had its own beers available on tap as well as a few other locals. The pub is big and open with an amazing stained glass window. Good stop for the day.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Worth Buying

I have this thing where I must make large purchases "worth it." Campers are particular pet peeves of mine. People, too often, buy them planning to travel only to end up sitting and rotting (the camper, not the people).

This Egg Camper is the most expensive camper I have ever purchased. It needed no real work, just customization. It is the right size and the condition was great. Now, I have to make it worth it!

I have a journal where I enter the places we camp, how many days that makes in total for this camper, info about the park and our site if we should ever choose to return. In the corner with how many days we have camped, I divide the price I paid by the number of nights. So far we are at $300 per night by my calculation. Plus the cost of the campsite...

My goal is to bring that cost per night down to $20. If we do that, this camper did its worth! Even at $30 per night for the campsite fee, $50 per night is cheaper than one would pay to stay nearly anywhere with the added advantage that you have all your own things clean and tidy where you like them.

We have a few more nights to go... but I'm thinking, by the end of the Alaska tour, we will be much closer... all in its first year of travel!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Mexican't Food

I know better than to expect much out of a "Mexican" food restaurant east or north of Texas, but I get hungry for the food of my Texas home made by the people that feed Texas... Texans, by and large, would starve without Mexicans.

We ventured into town after a three mile hike. We ran in to WalMart for any long sleeved shirt that might be on sale. The we ran into the Food Giant which had all sorts of local foods that we do not see in the usual Texas market. By this time, I was ready for a small lunch. There was a Mexican food place that had cars in its lot for lunch and it looked well established. Luckily, there was beer, but that was where the lucky ended. We ordered a small nacho... I ate it because I eat everything, but it was not very good. Oh well... I knew better.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Hike finally

We were not hike-lucky in Arkansas. We knew the weather would be cooler here in Tenessee, and they had also had plenty of rain. Luckily, there was sun and a four mile hike to be had. It felt good to stretch our legs and breathe some fresh air.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Hot Springs

Today, we drive. We've mapped out two stops - one in Hot Springs, Arkansas and the other close to our next camp in Jackson, Tennessee.

Hot Springs is beautiful. We arrived before the brewery opened. With the trailer, I have to scout a place to park, and we did so down a side street. We walked the main road and through part of the park where you can see one hot spring reserved for squirrels as humans could not reach it. The squirrels appeared content and relaxed, so I suppose the therapeutic properties of the springs were doing their job. Superior Bathhouse is now home to a brewery. Anne liked their Juicy O the best and I enjoyed my Foul Play Stout as well as a big fluffy fresh baked pretzel served with three delicious dipping sauces.

We drove through the national park campground for the use of their bathrooms, if you must know. The place was clean and full of friendly looking retirees. We might have to check it out later, but patience may be in order - the place looked fully booked up.

The drive to Jackson, TN was mostly uneventful. Rock n Dough was our destination with both brewery and pizza. Pizza was great and so were the beers. Our waitress was rather young and seemed unimpressed with her job, but she managed.

We arrived to our campsite in pouring rain. We decided to crack open a beer and wait for a break before getting out and setting up the trailer. After just one sip, the rain stopped long enough to unhook the camper... Whew.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Random

It's colder now and into the forecast than I had planned. A trip to the local Wal-Mart is the best we can do to make up for my lack of long sleeves and pants. Anne has the same problem. She took my advice and had agreed based on her forecast watching. Oh, well. Long sleeves should be on sale by now... and luckily they were.

On our way home from our shopping trip, we stopped at a place called Hooked Up. The boast bait and burgers. That's pretty much it. It was worth the stop. We ordered. The woman made the burgers, handed them to us. When I tried to pay, she said to wait until we finished our meal. They were simple, real, good sized burgers with the normal fresh fixings.

We tried to take the one remaining hike in this park. It had been under water when we arrived. It's been a couple of days with no rian. Sadly, it was better, but not THAT much better, and of course, the mosquitoes were way worse. We retreated. After leisurely packing up our outdoor things, we enjoyed some more of our book and decided where we would stop en route tomorrow.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter Fool's Day

Can't help it if Easter and April Fool's Day fall on the same day - Happy Easter Fool's Day! We took a Sunday drive since we had already done the one hike we could do. There were several streets and "towns" that seemed worthy of a quick drive.

Jacks Isle turned out to be a tiny community with absolutely zero shops or restaurants.

In Ogden, population 180, we were intigued by the sign that said "business district." We found a closed shop and a volunteer fire department. That was it.

Yarborough Landing had a restaurant that had good reviews online. It was closed on Sunday.

Finally, we drove through Ashdown, the town closest to the park. It is a large enough town with a Domtar plant. The place smells like fertilizer or fire ant killer. I looked up Domtar. It claims to be a sustainable paper mill. There are certainly enough logging trucks driving around the area to give credance to the paper-mill idea. But, heavens, do paper mills really smell that bad?

As we finished up our Sunday drive, I was going to get some gas in Ashdown. The card readers at two places did not work. Fine. We need to come to town tomorrow to get more food anyway.