Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Some folks hate Halloween. Witches and goblins and the devil, etc.

But ever since Fantasy Fest 1995, when I danced on the tropical oddical streets of Key West until the sun rose over the Atlantic Ocean,  I've loved October 31st.  

Fantasy Fest theme that year was movies and I went as Carmen Miranda.  No, I don't know why.  I was the only female Carmen in Key West.  Which would have been fine except that the others were better looking.  Especially the troupe of Swedish blonde six-footers with towering head-dresses.

Any holiday that gives you an excuse to laugh and dance into dawn gets my vote.

Hope yours is good magic.

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Art of Inspiration -- Palo Duro Canyon

You drive miles of High Plains flat and suddenly you're standing on the rim of depth.  Wind blows across your face. You don't think. The feeling wells in a tingling race up your arm down your leg one side the other round and round the breath in your chest expanding, your pulse singing in your ears your mind floating pure rock color.

Hidden in the Texas High Plains, Palo Duro Canyon tumbles steep red-rocked walls to wind-and-water carved depths snaking 120 miles, sometimes a mile rim to rim.  

I've always admired Georgia O'Keeffe's art. The way she painted her vision. The emotion of life, raw and fleeting, poised on the edge of death as we all are.

O'Keeffe had given up oil painting before she moved to the High Plains--a personal rejection of the stylistic rules of the day.   

Palo Duro Canyon was her inspiration to begin putting her own vision on canvas. 

<--Red Landscape, 1916, oil on board by Georgia O'Keeffe.  Photo courtesy of Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, TX.
In 1916, she'd taken a job teaching at West Texas State Normal School (now West Texas A&M University) in tiny Canyon, Texas, twelve miles from Palo Duro Canyon.  During her time there, she made the trek to Palo Duro frequently, even during winter snow.  On at least one occasion she walked from town to make the climb down the steep rocky walls.  Every descent was a different route so she could see the canyon and feel the canyon and hold the colors of ancient passion and weathered present in her mind.  

She made her first canyon paintings during her time at the Normal School, four evolutionary pieces, all slashed with Palo Duro red.

As we stood before the rocks I understood.  The Canyon will set you free.

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where the Wind Blows

First, I missed you.  My friends who stop by Hill Country Mysteries to share thoughts.  And those who write stimulating, amazing, amusing life in their own spaces.  Denny and I have been out of pocket.  I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone.

Texas is big.  I live here and I thought I knew that.  But I didn't really know until we drove across and north up near Amarillo--farther than the drives from Los Angeles to Tucson or New York City to Raleigh.

You can drive a long way in the Texas Panhandle without finding a bathroom.

Questions rise from the landscape. In hardscrabble Rockwood, estimated population 29, College Street is paved for a car length or two before rutting into dirt.  I wondered what kind of learning the optimistic founders experienced there, and what a Rockwood resident gets now.  

A little farther along, the scene posed this question:  Do you think goats see llamas as authority figures?

We rode on two-lane SH 153 into the High Plains, a quiet land mysterious in sameness, where blue sky washed vast overhead as harvest-ready hay and cotton stretched to the horizon.  

Until giants stalked the boundary of earth and sky, and the road passed between their pastures, forward into their turning blades before veering beyond sight. 

If travelers pause their journeys, standing at the edge, a constant wind flows a low-hum song.  

I brought 15 seconds back for you.


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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stepping Out

It's not my ears, it's my mind, grooved in musical habit.

That's why Denny and I go to the House Concerts at our neighbor's home--to hear what we don't know.  And experience the pulse of instrument and voice alive in the air, connecting people and cultures.
Bob Goldstein, Bill Hearne, and Lance Quadri, the Bill Hearne Trio, sing and play in a range of styles I don't choose often--folk, country and cowboy.  But the guys have great picking and sweet harmonies.  And I couldn't wait to see how many instruments Bob would play during the course of each song.  

Denny and I both had a good time rolling with the tunes. 

If you'd like a taste too, click the video below.  Feel free to tap your toes.

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Hill Country Woman's Gardening Wardrobe


A well-rounded wardrobe, with ultimate one-size-fits-all unisex versatility.

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

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cutie Pies

I don't need a 12-Step Program, I'm not really a pie-aholic.  I can prove it--I don't eat pie every day, I can stop at one piece and I don't pie-binge on payday.

But I'm glad I don't walk the 1600 block of South Congress in Austin every day.  I might be too tempted.  And you can't miss Cutie Pies pink food wagon.  

Jaynie Buckingham, AKA the Pie Queen, serves gone-to-heaven-pie right there in the parking lot on the side of the road.

She makes and bakes her one-person-sized pies at home, starting sometimes at 2am, so she can bring smiles to South Congress Wednesdays to Sundays, from 11:00am-until sellout.

Not just any pies, either.  Five kinds of sweet-flaky-thin-crusted nirvana, recipes handed down by her Mama, Betty Lou.  Denny and I tasted four kinds the day we were there, all happy-making.

Some have won awards.   Southern Living Magazine named Betty Lou's Buttermilk Pie the BEST PIE IN TEXAS. (I'm wondering how many pies the writers had to taste, and whether the magazine has any job openings.)

But the two that made me swoon were MJ's Texas Twister, with a decadent deep chocolate, buttermilk tangy, coconutty, rich toasted pecan-good filling worthy of capitalization.  And Cherry-Blackberry, a waterfall of mouth-tingling ripeness balanced with sweet satisfaction.  And for which I believe Ms. Buckingham deserves another crown.
So the next time you're in Austin Wednesday-Sunday, early enough to find pie still in the cart, try some Cutie Pies heaven for yourself.  Your tongue will thank you.

UPDATE, October 2013: New location is corner of 24th & Nueces, Monday-Saturday 11am - 6pm, *closed on bad weather days* 

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thought for the Day

We've all gotta aspire...

Seen at Gourmage in downtown New Braunfels, a little shop with big cheese.

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Firebush (Hamelia patens)

Out my bedroom window bloomed an early Christmas.  The Firebush starts blooming in July, and continues through August, September, October and sometimes November too, as tubular red flowers light bright green leaves.  


Gardeners love firebush--great foliage, continuous summer flowers and no deadheading required.

Butterflies and hummingbirds love it too. In tropical climes the plants are evergreen and offer birds berries/seeds for winter fare.

This perennial is native to south and central Florida, but gardeners across the south and even southern Arizona and California know firebush grows more widely, zones 8a-11Mine dies back at first frost and we dock it close to the ground.  The well-mulched roots survive winter, even last winter's temperatures in the teens. 

I've read that firebush prefers fertile to sandy soil in sun to light-shade (afternoon shade in places like ours with scorching summers), but it's growing well in my rugged Texas Hill Country patch, planted in a full-sun, thin-clay-over-limestone area.   Our plants grow in the four-foot range but plants with deep soil and good conditions could grow to ten feet.

With an annual composting and mulching, firebush is modestly drought-tolerant, although a weekly summer watering will aid growth and flowering.  And the plants are largely pest and disease-free; even deer (usually) leave them alone.

So if you live anywhere in Zones 8a-11, plant a wiggly row to enjoy Christmas in summer.  

And as a mass call to migrating hummingbirds.

They'll remember your hospitality and visit again the next time they fly through.

For more great plants, check out the monthly blog carnival at Appalachian Feet.

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

Friday, October 8, 2010

Singing Water Vineyards -- Comfort, Texas

Up in the Texas hills, five miles from sweet Comfort, wine-lovers come to Singing Water Vineyards for locally-made, mostly Texas-grown wines.  
Turn in at the gate, vineyards left and right, 

goats beyond.  The goats offer grass and weed reduction around the vineyard--no pesticides required.  Plus poop for the compost.

See the box on a pole at the corner of the vineyard?  One of four bat-houses around the vines.  From May-October, over 800 Mexican freetail bats fly out each night to eat insects, including the glassy-winged sharpshooters that carry Pierce's Disease, fatal to vines.  The Vineyard built the bat-houses to BCI specs, an investment that will yield living dividends for many years. And subtract pesticides from the farming equation.

<------Lupe, the winery's Director of Hospitality, came out from the tasting room to walk us in.

Singing Water is the definition of Boutique Winery.  Small-production, high standards, family owned and operated.  The customers feel like family too.  300 people belong to the wine club, many coming to the winery to pick up their shipments.  

And lots of folks come out for the Second Saturday music parties.  Free music from great musicians, shady seating, wine and food for sale.  Doesn't that sound better than anything else you wanted to do on Saturday?  

We heard Mike Blakely and enjoyed his speak-to-the-heart Americana music.

A man of overflowing stories, he's also written 16 western novels and one he co-wrote with Willie Nelson.
The care of land and fruit shows in the wine.  We tasted five wines, two whites and three reds. I'll share my notes but you know your own palates, go taste and find your own favorites.

2009 Pinot Grigio --Light wheat in color with pears and peaches on the nose.  Dry and crisp with pears on the palate too.  From 100% Hill Country grapes, of which 50% were estate-grown. $14.95/bottle.

2009 Sauvignon Blanc --Light wheat color.Grapefruity flavor with a nice acid tang and a complementary grassy undertone.  Good food wine.  From 50% Hill Country grapes, 50% California grapes. $14.95/bottle.

2009 Merlot --Burgundy-garnet color.  Great nose of cherries and caramel.  Full berry flavors supported by silky-smooth tannins and perfect acid balance.  This was our favorite and a bargain at $16.95/bottle.  We brought some home, not nearly enough, we'll have to go back soon, darn.  Next time we'll get more and qualify for the 1/2 or full-case discount.  Estate Grown.

2008 Texas Reserve Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon (60% Merlot 40% Cab) --I was less drawn to this one, thinking it less fruity, more structured, with a slightly sour tang, but maybe it needed time to breathe. Texas-grown. $23.95/bottle.

And the surprise wine of the day:
Sweet Lupe--nonvintage, 100% Merlot, semi-sweet (3% sugar).  I knew I wouldn't like it--a sweet red wine?--and knew too I should taste it for completeness.'s the perfect summer BBQ wine, juicy, fruity, fun. $15.95/bottle.

Singing Water ships in Texas and wines are available in select stores.  For more info, call or e-mail (see below).

I hope you take a day off soon, drive into the Texas Hill Country, drink good wine.  And feel good about life.

Winery:316 Mill Dam Road, Comfort, Texas 78013
Tasting Room: 830-995-2246, Office: 830-995-2146
Tours - Tastings - Sales
Thursday-Saturday: 11 am-6 pm, Sunday: Noon-5 pm

PS When you go, USE THE WINERY'S DIRECTIONS to get there sooner than later.  Guess how I know that? 

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Walk Around

Sometimes I'm surprised at the strength of life.  How little seeds and plants can grow beyond bounds.

<---Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).  Favored by hummingbirds and through-the-window-birdwatching cats.

Left foreground, Firebush (Hamelia patens), beloved by hummingbirds and butterflies.  On the right is American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), seen close-up in the next picture.  And yes, the cardinals, wrens, mockingbirds, robins, eastern phoebe, jays, etc. love it.

Waiting for the birds...

It looks bare, but unseen seeds will grow into Standing cypress, with red blooms like little upraised trumpets, and hummingbirds will go to war to claim the patch.

All this bloom and color is drought-tolerant and hardy. When we pickaxed the little planting holes in our limestone clay, I didn't know it would eventually grow into a hummingbird resort, but I'm glad.  

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

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Autumn Thoughts

Denny and I take an autumn trip every year to celebrate.  Fourteen years ago today, I had surgery for breast cancer.  Ten days after the surgery, we married in a sweet ceremony in our backyard by Biscayne Bay.  We didn't know then if we'd have one year together, much less fourteen.  

The time since has included struggle--illness, hurricanes, and financial issues; along with renewal, new directions and health.  We've grown with each other.  It seems now as if we've always been together.  

Our life in Texas is like that too.  Weeds in the lawn, wildflowers next to the driveway.  

An anniversary is only one day.  But every day is only one day.  It's good to remember the start, to renew for tomorrow.  

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