Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Bucks have it

Six-point buck, photo taken 1-6-14 in my (then) front yard.  

We moved last May from a country place to a cozy home in a neighborhood where the houses are close together and everyone has a high backyard fence for privacy.  I'm planning gardens now without regard to what dear eat, although we'll still focus on native habitat.  We're happy our landscape won't be on the deer trail; I'm secretly sad I won't look out the window on a sunny morning and see a twelve-point buck grazing.

Twelve-point buck in the (former) front yard 1-28-14.

We thought we'd also be leaving raccoons behind. No such luck. The neighbor across the street feeds a family of raccoons on her back porch. That family soon invited itself to our porch, finding bird feeders full of seed. 

We take the feeders in at night now but our cats watch the windows and tell us when the raccoons stop by to see if we forgot.  Sometimes they score, which says something about which side is more consistent.  

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Finchy Days

On chilly winter mornings, the neighborhood house finches flock to our feeders.  I can't help but smile when I see them, so here's a short sequence to bring a smile to your day too.

The boys wear red; girls wear brown to blend in when they sit on nests.  For more info, see All About Birds.

What birds frequent your neighborhood? 

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Aunt Flossie's Carrot Cake

My long-time Hill Country Mysteries friends might remember Aunt Flossie's Jalapeno Cornbread, one of our family's favorites. Since I published that recipe, a lot of other families are enjoying it too, judging by the number of page views here and pins on Pinterest. 

Aunt Flossie was my grandmother's cousin's wife, known in her time as a good cook. When she brought a dish to the church supper, people headed to the line for "Aunt Flossie's __________" and her specialty recipes live on in her name in our family cookbook.

Her carrot cake is still my mother's favorite and I make it for Mom's birthday every year. The presentation would be more impressive if I made it as a layer cake, but a flat pan fits easier in Mom's fridge.

It's easier to cut too, which is good, since Mom eats it for breakfast and sometimes dinner. She's 89 this year and no one is going to tell her she can't have cake for breakfast. 

So I'm sharing the recipe here in case you have a celebration coming up.  I can't guarantee Flossie's carrot cake will take you to a healthy 89, but my mother looks great.

Aunt Flossie's Carrot Cake

1 1/4 cup oil (I use canola)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour (good with regular flour, even better with half & half whole wheat and white whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (a little less than a pound)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 9x13 pan (or three 9"  layer pans).

Beat sugar into oil, then beat in eggs one at a time. Sift in dry ingredients, then mix in carrots. 

Bake approximately 45 minutes (or ~ 18-25 minutes for layers). 

Cool completely before icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick softened butter
8 oz softened cream cheese
~ 3 cups powdered sugar (to taste)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter, cream cheese, salt and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and mix. Spread on cooled cake and sprinkle nuts on top.  Cover and store uneaten cake in the refrigerator.

Don't feel guilty about calling it breakfast.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Altered Direction

I've missed writing Hill Country Mysteries.  Seemed too hard to meet newspaper deadlines and write posts here too...but I miss the blog and you so I'm starting again. This time, more pithy and more pictures.  Same subjects--the idiosyncrasies of Texas life, excitement of travel, beauty of gardens, flora and fauna, and delicious flavors on the table and in the glass.

Gardens are on my mind these days, mostly because of the sweep of dead grass in our backyard.  Denny and I have a plan for the space, sort-of.  We argued until we were together on what we wanted but we're still a ways apart on how to get there--terrace and paths, fountain and raised beds--materials? methodology?  The only thing I really know is the kind of plants I want in the space.  How is it that planning a small space is so much harder than landscaping an acre in the country?

For now, we look at this:

Someday my herbs will have a proper bed. 
And my fledgling border plants, American beautyberry, Turk's Cap, yellow passion-flower, dutchman's pipevine, shrimp plant and red columbine--all chosen for wildlife value--will be lush and full, nourishing birds, bees and butterflies.

For now, we find other beauty.

Copyright 2009-2015 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Kitchen Chick -- Cool classes in Galveston

I spent a chunk of last week in Galvestoneveryone's favorite Texas island, researching a Christmas shopping article.  

My family will laugh at the 'shopping' part since I'm the least shopperly of three sisters.  So I was happy to find unique and fun gifts to feature; "unique and fun" being words I've never used in conjunction with shopping.

Chef Mary Bass, teaching me how to pipe icing at The Kitchen Chick in Galveston.

Just a short walk from my hotel in the historic Strand district was The Kitchen Chick, a boutique cooking store, where I joined a wine-fueled cooking class in making cupcakes. 

Outside of the fact that everything tastes better after a couple of glasses of wine, the cupcakes were delicious and we took home recipes to go with our memories.  

The spicy gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting might even make me break our rule of no-sweets-in-the-house. 

In case you'd like to try them yourself, here's the recipe: Martha Stewart's Gingerbread Cupcakes.  Use your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe, remembering to have the ingredients at room temperature and whip until light and fluffy.

Then "Take Whisks in Life" (a motto I adopted from The Kitchen Chick) and plan your own unique and fun trip to Galveston.

Copyright 2009-2014 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Good Eats in a Cool Town -- Fredericksburg, TX

In downtown Fredericksburg, Der Lindenbaum was a favorite of Lady Bird Johnson, whose letter to the owner hangs on the wall.

Fredericksburg is the kind of small town that feels like home, but better. To start with, the town is located at the foot of perhaps Texas' best wine trail, the Fredericksburg Wine Road 290.  

Then there's an historic downtown that appeals to the eye with limestone buildings of Texas-German stone architecture, still well kept and home to unique shops, businesses and entertainment venues.  

And visitors find a lot to do--monthly art walks including more than a dozen galleriesfestivals almost every monthwildflower drives in spring, peach stands in summer, grape crush in fall, holiday lights in winter and year-round hiking at area parks.  

But the first question anyone who's planning a jaunt asks is, "Where should I go to eat?" because this village of around 10,000 souls boasts more good food than many towns ten times the size.

Our friend Jack recently asked the question so I'm sharing a few favorites:

Der Lindenbaum--heartfelt, old-school German food served in a century-old stone building. Known for their schnitzels, hand-cut from heritage pork grown on a farm near Austin. Moderately priced. 312 E. Main St., Fredericksburg, 830-997-9126,

Fredericksburg Herb Farm--The stone restaurant is surrounded by flower, herb and vegetable gardens accented with sculpture. Inside, the chef focuses on fresh local foods, creative preparation and beautiful presentation, including house-made focaccia bread with airy texture and buttery crunchy crust. Moderate to expensive. 405 Whitney St., Fredericksburg, 830-997-8615 

The Cabernet Grill's menu could be described as "Texas with a twist," delicious favorites dressed for a night out, such as Pecan-crusted crab cakes and Grilled Texas quail, jalapeno-rubbed and bacon-stuffed.  Plus a great Texas wine list. Moderate to expensive.  2805 S State Hwy. 16, Fredericksburg, 830-990-5734, 

August E's serves up a combination of fine dining and art, “Nouveau Texas Cuisine,” a delicious amalgam of fresh ingredients and creative preparation, served in an atmosphere reminiscent of an art gallery. Expensive. 203 E. San Antonio St., Fredericksburg, 830-997-1585,  Photo Credit: Cynthia Lively

And for dessert, the Fredericksburg Pie Co. may make the best pie in Texas. Fillings such as soul-soothing coconut cream or chunky tart peaches or buttery toasted pecans nestle in tender, flaky and flavorful crusts. Inexpensive.  108 E. Austin St., Fredericksburg, 830-990-6992,

If you go, I want to know..."Where did you eat?"

Copyright 2009-2014 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The "True Women" house in Seguin

OK, I confess.  I've been vegging at night instead of blogging.  But you knew that, by the number of posts I wrote in September --0.  Not that I haven't done things to's a short list: renovating, traveling, giving programs, writing articles and exploring. 

So before another day goes by, I'll share one of my latest adventures, a Spaces lifestyle article about a home built in 1887 by Euphemia Texas Ashby King, a woman who came to this region when it belonged to the Comanche; before Texas was a country, let alone a state.  

Her family still lives in that home, the fifth and sixth generations among furniture, keepsakes and family history accumulated over more than a century. As her great, great grandson Wayne Windle told me, “It's quite comforting and reassuring to live here. When you think about what my ancestors survived while they lived here, my problems seem trivial.” 

Here's the home's story: If walls could talk.

Want to know more?  Check out the book True Women by Janice Woods Windle, or cruise Netflix for the TV mini-series of the same name, starring Angelina Jolie.

I'm off to Galveston tomorrow but I won't be away from Hill Country Mysteries so long this time. Promise.

Copyright 2009-2014 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The downtown Dallas you haven't seen

When the San Antonio Express-News travel editor asked if I'd do a "what's new" article on downtown Dallas, I wanted to say no. I don't love large, high-traffic cities.  But I value my relationship with the editor; and the assignment was low-hanging fruit...

The first great experience was staying in The Joule, a luxe hotel with a fabulous spa and a contemporary art collection. 

Eye, a 30 foot tall sculpture by Tony Tassett on The Joule's lawn. 

The Perot Museum of Science and Nature had TWO exhibit halls filled with dinosaurs, one a special exhibit and the other permanent, plus 10 other permanent exhibit halls. 

The museum was so much fun I didn't mind sharing it with 2,000 field-tripping school-children.

And of course I ate and drank, ending with the best dinner in Dallas, a five-course chef's tasting dinner and wine-pairing at FT33 in the design district.  

Chef Matt McAllister and his team work so fast you can't see their hands moving. Matt's dishes have unique flavor combinations of local ingredients, some of which he grows or forages.  His menus change "all the time" because "I get bored doing the same thing".  A good reason for a diner to go again.

In case you're thinking you might like a head-start on a downtown Dallas weekend of your own, my whole story is here: The downtown Dallas you haven't seen. Let me know how your visit goes. 

Copyright 2009-2014 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Just across way of New Mexico

I'm not saying our move across town was an ordeal. It just felt like one. 

In hindsight, things might have been easier if I hadn't spent a week in southern New Mexico in the middle of packing time. 

But I don't regret the untimely travel.  I discovered treasure in the tiny town of Truth or Consequences, NM where volcanic hot springs issue sweet-smelling water so thick you couldn't drown if you wanted to.  

Soaking in hot springs overlooking the Rio Grande in Truth or Consequences, NM.

Along the road from T or C to Silver City.

A delightfully slow mountain road away, I came to quirky Silver City, a community known for art, food, nature and fun. Also home of The Virginators, anonymous artists creating Virgins of Guadalupe, rewards hidden in the homes and businesses of the meritorious.

Virgin of Guadalupe in an eggshell, discovered in the refrigerator (where else would you keep an egg?) at Bear Mountain Lodge.

Did I mention more than 40 public murals, created through a collaboration of paid professional artists, school-kids and the community?

Plus creative dining?

Dishes at The Curious Kumquat are like lessons in old-master paintings--each layer creates a new dimension.

I can't wait to write about southern New Mexico and to go back.

Now that my computer works I'll also get back to sharing Hill Country mysteries and beyond.

Copyright 2009-2014 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hummingbird Haven -- Spring Migration 2014

Female black-chinned hummingbird

The last six weeks might have been the hummingbirdiest migration ever at our country home. We're moving closer to town in mid-May so I wanted to share the sweetness of this time with you before we go.

A minute of flying miracles waits for your click. 

P.S. We'll start a new smaller bird refuge across town. And the new owners here plan to feed the hummingbirds and take care of the plants. Good for everyone.

Copyright 2009-2014 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.