Friday, June 28, 2013

A Newborn Fawn is only the beginning

Take a close look at the doe hoovering-up birdseed in our front yard.  Think that belly looks like twins?

I learned about deer habits the year a doe hid her newborn fawn on my front porch next to some herb pots.  Now I get antsy when pregnant does put our yard on their maps.  

Deer are habitual--eat along the same routes, sleep in the same places. You don't want a deer to adopt your personal landscape.  Deer nosh on garden plants even when times are good...they'll eat ANYTHING if they're hungry enough, even poisonous oleander.

So the sight of a pregnant doe making herself to home in your front yard is a fawn-spotted promise of a future herd.  Just do the multiplication:  A deer lives about 10 years if her teeth hold out and she doesn't run into a car one dark night.  She'll have one fawn in hard years, twins in good ones.

The fawns will follow in their mother's hoofsteps. By the end of year five after the first pregnant doe claims your yard, you've got a good shot at a baker's dozen calling your hacienda home.  Not that you'd shoot them since it's against the law to shoot deer on plots the size of yours.

You understand why I've been hoping the doe likes someone else's yard more.

And then I saw this in our front yard on Tuesday.  


Time to invest in deer fencing.

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Sunday was one of those days.

I wasn't the only one intent on breakfast Sunday morning.  When I glanced out the window, a two-foot-long black bird with a wing-span of six feet was just a few flaps away.

Which explained the smell in the garden. A smell for which I hadn't found the source.  But a smell grown strong enough to lure a black vulture from the sky. 

I can do almost anything but I still subscribe to the theory that some jobs are by definition Blue Jobs. Removing dead things is a Blue Job.  

Might have been a raccoon; hard to tell after the Texas heat, encrusting larvae and vulture pickings.  

We held our breath when Denny picked it up by the tail.  It didn't fall apart in squishy pieces. A small blessing.

The other blessing came at the tail-end of the day.  

The car wouldn't start when I came out of the store at 6:00pm.  Didn't even make an rrrr-rrrrr sound.  

Denny had to drive out and jump it.  Then he followed me home.  Good thing.  When I got off the freeway, the engine cut off and he had to jump it again.  And again.  Dead as soon as the cables came off.

It was a warp-speed intersection at the end of the weekend when well-lubricated drivers leave the Hill Country behind and hit the road home.  I thought they might all be texting too. 

But the lane to our left was blocked off for repair and Denny pushed the car in front of the barrier.  A big convenience store stood nearby.  He drove his truck into the parking lot, we bought BBQ and ate in the parking lot as the sky darkened and we waited for the tow truck.

In an hour the car was on the way to an overnight berth at the repair place and we were on our way home. 

Losing power in traffic was scary.  Repairs cost money.

But the vultures didn't have to come for us. 

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Adventures in Eating

My mother used to do Adventures in Eating nights when I was a child.  Mom would pick a dish we hadn't tried from another country and we'd learn about the country as well as the food.  

She says now that it was a way to stretch the budget by making hamburger du jour.  What I remember is learning about India on curry night and Italy on pasta night.

I had a brainstorm last week for a Texas Adventures in Eating dinner.  It came while I was pruning the prostrate rosemary out back.  Rosemary limbs were rooting and taking over an herb bed, the mulched paths and soon the world.  I had a bagful of clippings...

The idea was to use the rosemary as a cooking bed on the grill for carefully seasoned, lean grass-fed beef patties.  Over a low fire, the rosemary fronds would smoke, the meat would pick up the sharp, piney scent, we'd love it.

Denny thought the patties would disintegrate into char but he agreed to try it if we put the rosemary on the unlit side of the grill with the meat over the fire, lid closed to keep in smoke.

I don't have a photo of what I saw on my second trip out to check on Denny and our dinner.  

But I can tell you that our cedar-lined porch ceiling didn't catch fire, thankfully.

Not one of my mother's Adventures in Eating nights...

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, June 17, 2013

They Swear This Works

Fly-prevention technology at a restaurant on the eastern edge of the Hill Country between San Marcos and Wimberley.  

We didn't stay to find out if it worked; from the looks of things, they might have been expecting a Biblical number...

Now I'm wondering if water-bag prevention is an only-in-Texas solution, so to speak.  What do you think?

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Braunfels -- More to do than you knew

Saturday night at the Phoenix Saloon in downtown New Braunfels.

Small-town Texas ain't what it used to be.  

Take the edge-of-the-Hill-Country town of New Braunfels, for example. Time was, folks knew New Braunfels for three things:  tubing rivers, sliding at Schlitterbahn and indulging in beer, sausage and oompah music at Wurstfest.  All fun, but now there's so much more.

These days, the historic downtown district draws visitors to town.

The county courthouse, recently restored to 1894 splendor, is open for self-guided tours. Don't be surprised by the pink courtroom. 

Folks visit local merchants in the  district for antiques, art, children's wear, unique homegoods, women's finery and more.

As they have been for more than 150 years at Henne Hardware, where people find everything they didn't know they needed

Say Hi to the resident cat when you go in.

When it's time for lunch, Olive's Italian Market & Deli makes sandwiches and salads with delectable house-made mozzarella


A few blocks away, Gourmage offers some of the world's best sandwiches, along the lines of Chimay cheese with salty-sweet house-made Bacon Jam, washed down with a glass of Spanish garnacha.

Murals enliven building walls around the district. Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels led the first band of German settlers into what became the town of New Braunfels, later returning to Germany when his fiance refused to follow him to Texas.

His story and many others are re-enacted in videos accessible via smart-phone (or computer).

A day of wandering can work up a thirst and there are plenty of places to find a cure. The house-made beer at the Faust Hotel is one good option.  Or a glass of wine at Kork Wine Bar.  

Followed by dinner at Huisatch Grille, a favorite of those who call New Braunfels home, housed in historic buildings just off the main drag.  

The Huisatch specializes in New American dishes with a Texas twist. Add in a Wine Spectator Award-winning wine list, patio seating overlooking shaded gardens and a charming encampment of specialty shops, and the Huisatch is a destination in its own right.

But the night will still be young when dinner is done; and there are multiple live-music venues just down the street. Easy walking distance. 

In fact a traveler can visit New Braunfels, park the car at the Prince Solms Inn B&B or the Faust Hotel and spend an entertaining weekend without ever having to start the engine again.
Sophie's Suite at Prince Solms Inn, rumored to occasionally host a ghost.

Among other venues, downtown holds a couple of piano bars--one for cosying and one for singalongs, a smoky pub with dirty blues, a couple of sports bars and the Phoenix Saloon.  

The Phoenix lives in a restored historic site with brick walls, old wooden floors, original tin ceiling and a long antique bar.  Live music most nights, room to dance, better than average Texas-style pub grub and about 30 taps for draft, including Blanco's Real Ale and other Texas brews. Nonsmoking so you can stay late and still feel good.

No, small-town Texas ain't what it used to be.  It's better.
Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Green Chile Heaven in New Mexico

Harvest Cafe green chile dishes at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

I've written before about the transformative power of Hatch green chiles. A hit of heat, the taste of green, an acid tingle on the tip of your tongue...and the feeling as you finish your first bite that the stars are aligned for happiness.

Denny and I toured New Mexico in April, interviewing chefs and green chile experts and sampling green chile dishes and drinks.

Green Chile Margarita from Sadie's, the old 4th Street location, in Albuquerque. 

New Mexico green chile adds a fine mean streak to a margarita.  Not to mention a substantial hit of vitamin C, which makes a margarita a health drink, right?
My assignment was to interview chefs about the unique flavor of New Mexico green chiles and how cooks can use them at home, finishing with recipes from the chefs.

At Golden Crown Panaderia in Albuquerque, the dough for their trademark Green Chile Bread is also made into a tasty green chili pizza crust.

I'm working on the article now.  Recipes will include the margarita you see above, toothsome Turquoise Trail Sliders, the famed La Fonda Santa Fe Huevos Rancheros and more.   The newspaper story will run in a couple of months but you can enjoy this glimpse of green chile heaven right now.

Albuquerque's Gold Street Caffe serves a best-in-the-west Green Chile Cheese Biscuit. 

In downtown Albuquerque, Hotel Andaluz's fine-dining restaurant Lucia offers a Roasted Green Chile Stew. Upstairs at the hotel's terrace tapas bar Ibiza, Green Chile Strips with Cucumber Aoli are a crowd favorite.  

Lest you think green chiles are restricted to Old New Mexico cuisine, Chef Andrew Cooper at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe serves flavorful Green Chile Braised Short-ribs.

And an amazing Dark Chocolate Souffle with Green Chile Cream.

Which proves New Mexico green chiles enhance virtually everything. 

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Carlsbad Caverns - a lesson in time

When I unfolded this Sunday's San Antonio Express-News travel pages, one of my Carlsbad Caverns pictures covered the top quarter of a page.  My story, Desert meets caverns, followed.

More than 118 caverns lie within Carlsbad Caverns National Park boundaries, but most visitors find themselves sufficiently cavern-struck with visits to two, the Big Room and Kings Palace.

There are two entry points, the original surface entry, with a walk  of 1 1/4 miles down to the openings of the Big Room and Kings Palace, or a downward elevator ride of 750 feet.

Pinnacles, stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, soda straws and more festoon walls, floors and ceilings.  Most are still growing, minerals precipitating from water drop-by-drop, the passage of centuries measured in inches.  Time made stone.

Photo by Peter Jones, courtesy of NPS

If you sometimes think you'd like time to slow and your mind to open to the unknown, plan a trip to the caverns.

Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.