Saturday, July 31, 2010

Avian Fashion

Who said pink doesn't go with orange?

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Blue Bonnet Cafe

Last Saturday, Denny and I went to the Blue Bonnet Cafe in the sweet little Hill Country town of Marble Falls.  The Blue Bonnet is known for home-cookin', has been since it opened in 1929.   

When I hear the words 'Home Cookin' I think of plates overflowing with fried meat and white gravy.  Not my favorite.  Yes, I know  Chicken Fried Steak is high up in Texas food tradition, just after BBQ brisket and a good plate of enchiladas.  And I also know that 'Home Cookin' probably means something else in other places.  Other places that are a long way from the Texas Hill Country.

But Denny and I were in Marble Falls researching a Texas travel article and I couldn't write about the town without talking about the restaurant known throughout Texas.  

And I knew there would be pie. My father, a man who knows his way around a piece of pie, loves the Blue Bonnet's pies.  With 87 years of pie-tasting behind him, he should know.  

I'll also admit I harbor a fondness for pie.  Not so far as to call myself a pie-aholic, but enough to think that a restaurant with a weekday Pie Happy Hour, 3-5 pm, $3.50 Pie & Drink, is worth a visit.  

We arrived at noon and found a line trailing out of the door.  And then a server came out and announced no-wait seats at the counter.  Great service and a better view of the plates being carried from the kitchen, we were happy.

Denny had pot roast and I indulged in smoked pork ribs, both good.  The salad greens were fresh and crisp, the soup flavorful and my pinto beans just right, not fatty or salty.  Add homemade biscuits and cornbread muffins, and we were full.

But save your fork, there's pie.  Southern Living Magazine recently gave the Blue Bonnet's German Chocolate Pie the only Honorable Mention in Texas in an article naming the best pies of the South.

So we ordered a piece of German Chocolate.  And a Coconut Cream.  I wanted to try the No-sugar Apple and the Lemon Meringue too--did I mention watching servers carrying slices of pie with mile-high meringue?  Denny talked me down before I took the plunge and I'm grateful.  If he hadn't, I'd probably still be walking to make up for the calories.

The German Chocolate reminded me of my Granny's recipe.  The Coconut Cream was good too, although I might give an edge to the Wimberley Pie Company's Coconut Cream, possibly just a bit coconut-ier.  But maybe I should taste them both again to be sure...

So if you're ever going west on Hwy 71 from Austin or north from San Antonio on US 281 into Marble Falls, and you get there on a weekday between 3pm and 5pm, stop into the Blue Bonnet Cafe, try a piece of pie and tell me what you think. 

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Butterfly Summer

Summer is Butterfly Season in the Texas Hill Country.

Actually we see a few  fliers year-round. 

<-------------Dogface Sulphur on lavender, taken 12-29-08.

But when the weather heats and our gardens bloom, the  butterfly population skyrockets like people flocking to  the beach on summer vacation.

Queen butterflies on Gregg's Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)----------------------->

Amongst the mating, some play hard to get. 

<-----------------Female Giant Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush (Buddleia sp.unknown).  Male Giant Swallowtail sneaking up on her. 

Others go for a drink. 

Bordered Patch butterflies on flowers on Gregg's Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)-------------------->

Or find a good spot to catch some rays. 

<-------------------Hackberry Emporer on calcite.

Planting butterfly habitat was hard on our thin-clay-over-limestone land.  But now, when the sun is hot and the air is still, I sit on the porch and watch the flying reward.  

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yesterday is Not Today

I was afraid.  

Last summer was a visceral endurance.  69+ days crackling over 100F and MONTHS without rain.

This year, the porch thermometer has yet to hit 100F and rain has nourished the gardens.  

Yesterday is not Today.

I want to remember that next time I fall into fear.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wimberley Market Days

The eastern Hill Country town of Wimberley is a place of old stone buildings, art and music. The Blanco River and Cypress Creek run through town, ancient bald cypresses on the banks guarding water and dreams. 

The first Saturday of the month, every month but January and February, an intermittent community springs alive on FM 2325 in Wimberley. Folks come from miles away for  Wimberley Market Days, a congregation of 550+ sellers offering everything you never knew you needed, spaced along wandering oak-studded lanes.

Market Day gates open at 7:00am and close around 4:00pm, when the vendors disappear until next month.  Smart visitors go early before parking lots fill and Texas heat builds.

A person could almost get lost in wandering unless she remembered birdhouses and bottle trees like signposts to the entrance.

Much Texana for sale.

New merchandise...

<-----------------------This is not your ordinary cowgirl attire. 

And previously owned. 


Stories line the stalls.

In a poor African country, local artists use surplus telephone wire to weave the ebb and flow of time in a cup.

In South America, artisans hand carve gourds in themes unique to their villages, each carving a man's interpretation of his home-place.  The young man who brought these told us about the villages close to his family.  We bought one he'd carved, a lidded jar twined round with birds and vines.

Rand Schwarz sells his Hill Country photographs, digs post holes and plays Santa in winter.

This woman had a story too, I could feel it.  But I didn't ask.  Where she had been or how she came to sit alone in a booth behind a few pieces of chipped pottery.

It's the way of life, how stories blend; bright, shaded, joined in time and place.  Like a walk at Wimberley Market Days.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Unusual Immigrant

A couple of weeks ago I went for a walk at Lady Bird Lake in Austin.  The Lake was dirty with city grime.  Trash, sticks, algae.  And floating in the center of the mess was a pure white swan.

Then the bird turned its head.  An American White Pelican.  

Austin is about 190 miles from the white pelican's wintering grounds on the Texas coast.  And July is three-to-four months past the white pelican's Texas season.  This bird's flock is now in northwest Canada tending fledglings.

I took pictures and walked on.  The bird sat so still in that scum.  The white pelican didn't belong in my picture.  Something was wrong.  It was lost, maybe injured.  White pelicans are endangered, a legacy of DDT. Every bird is precious.

I lived near white pelican winter grounds in Florida.  They're one of my favorite birds, sparkling in the sun when a flock flies overhead.

You never see a white pelican alone.  They sleep together, fly together, loaf together. And they feed in groups, paddling to herd small fish into close schools where the pelicans stand a good chance of scoring with every scoop of the bill.  They have bird confederates too.  Double-crested cormorants swim beneath the schools of fish, snaring laggards, forcing the schools toward the surface.

A white pelican alone can't herd.

I was fretting as I walked across the pedestrian bridge and down the path toward the rowing center, looking straight ahead, focused on my thoughts.  

But when I turned back toward the bridge,  a single soaring bird crossed the sky in front of me.  It turned in profile and my right brain knew pelican before my left brain caught up.

I watched the sky and got to the bridge in time to see the pelican glide above the water and splash in a headfirst dive, coming up beak raised and shaking, the movement of a bird with a fish in its pouch.

I don't know this bird's story.  How it came to Austin out of place and time.  But I have hope he'll make it to rejoin his friends in Corpus in December.   

We're not the only ones who Keep Austin Weird.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


No Hill Country mystery to the source of our joy.
Four generations welcomed a new baby this weekend.  

There's nothing sweeter than holding a newborn.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.  

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Texas Sacrament

For Texans, BBQ is a subject as serious as God, Mother and Apple PieYesterday, in the grocery store parking lot, I saw the proof.  
Permanently affixed to the transportation.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


We never know what we'll see along our Hill Country roads. One night in June, we were driving the farm-to-market road on our way to our Texaversary dinner.  Denny drove and I looked out the window, hoping to see my favorite cattle.  What, you don't have favorite cattle?  I know you're not a Texan.

It's not a sure thing, seeing the small herd of longhorns in their pasture next to that two-lane road. I'm tickled any time they're out.  They all sport horns, some flaunting a span of 7 feet or more.  I think of Queen Elizabeth when I see them, how much stamina it takes to hold up a heavy crown.

I've been waiting for the day when the longhorns are near the fence, with the sun casting a golden glow, and I'm set with the camera.

I had the camera in my lap.  The sun was perfect gold.  And I'd put Denny on cow-alert for a possible sudden stop.  So I was longhorn-ready, my eyes searching the roadside ahead when a syncopated vision appeared on the shoulder of the road a few feet from my window.  A guy in a starched white shirt, bow-tie, and Harley-logoed black suspenders clipped to black tuxedo-striped pants.  Riding an electric blue Harley, wind streaming his long black hair and beard.  Passed us like we were waltzing and he was an Olympic sprinter.

A man on his way to his wedding, late, ring in his pocket, fear in his mind.  She'd walk out if he didn't make it to the ceremony before starting time.  He knew it.  She wasn't the kind to put up with sh*t.  He wouldn't have fallen for her if she had been.

He passed us and was gone four cars ahead before my brain caught up with the story.  And I raised the camera too late.

It might have been too late for him too as the railroad crossing arms fell and traffic stopped.  I could see him ahead, one foot on the pavement, hands clutching the handlebars.  I was tempted to jump out and run up and take his picture and wish him luck.  But who knows how long a train will cross a road.  And drivers get frustrated and it was Saturday night when some folks start drinking early.  I didn't want to hold up traffic.

The crossing arms lifted, the Harley roared, traffic began moving.  As our car pressed forward, I looked back and realized we'd passed the cattle while the rider's story was playing out.  I missed the perfect picture.

The longhorns have been out by the road a couple of times since. Now when I pass, if I squint just right, I see Queen Elizabeth off to the side, and with her, a lonely black-haired Harley rider.  

Stranger things have happened in the Texas Hill Country.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Braunfels --A Hill Country Fourth of July

 July 4th, 2010 being a Sunday and New Braunfels being a God-fearing town, the town Parade was held on Saturday the 3rd.  Denny and I drove over for the morning, ostensibly for the new-and-wonderful Farmer's Market (a post for another day), but early enough to get good spots for the parade.

Denny's good spot was inside the Crosswalk Coffeehouse; great coffee and free WiFi in an historic building across from the Courthouse.  He says he participated in enough parades during his West Point years, he doesn't need to see any more.

I love parades so I trotted outside to join youngsters, oldsters and mans-best-friends on the side of the road.

The town circle has a center island with a bandstand, fountain, big trees, and room for celebrants.

For 52 seconds of feeling like you were there, click below:

The parade started with the big guns, police and Texas Highway Patrol (look closely, that picture may the the ONLY time you ever see a Queen-Elizabeth-handwave from a THP officer).  Followed of course by the fire truck. 

Flags, babies and horses...Texas favorites.


Dressed for the occasion---------->

Carrying the flag...
Everyone does his or her part...

And for your grand finale, the marching broom corps, a Hill Country original.  These 25 seconds will make you smile.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)

Male Painted Bunting

Red, white and blue are Fourth of July colors. But for folks in the Texas Hill Country, July is the season of red, blue and neon green.

The first morning in our Hill Country house, June four years ago, I rose creaky from sleeping on the floor, wondering what life would be like in central Texas, so far from the Atlantic Ocean. Happy and anxious at once, knowing salt water would never spill into my house again, but dolphins and sea turtles would no longer be neighbors.  Gain of safety, loss of magic.

I moved to Florida in 1987 for the magic.  Left everyone I knew and loved so I could scuba dive without getting in an airplane.  Miami was a city of creative chaos, where music, art, orchids and birds spilled into the streets.  And I spent thousands of hours hovering weightless above coral reefs, living an alternate universe.

Outside my Texas bedroom window was sun-baked clay, rubble and weeds bounded by an Ashe Juniper thicket.  

And then flashes of wild color fluttered among the weeds.  Painted buntings, maybe the most beautiful species in the Americas.  Eagerly sought and declining from cropland poisoning, paving North American habitat, and clear-cut/burning in Central America.
Female Painted Bunting

That first summer and every summer since, painted buntings have shopped our yard for bugs and brought their babies to our birdseed and baths.  

A different kind of magic.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.