After the chilly days of winter (fortunately no snow here in Texas), I look forward to getting our small yard and pool in shape for warmer weather. Like last year, I'll fill four large planters with colorful flowers and some smaller ones for the covered patio. I've yet to master the art of getting things to grow in hot weather, but I'm learning. Yesterday, I ventured to our local nursery, now filled with a wealth of gorgeous plants and flowers, to check out the possibilities. I plan to put a few more flowers in the front planting area and then get our lawn mowing service to install mulch, as the bags are too heavy for me to lift and I don't want Andy to do it. I did come home with enough small succulents to re-plant my small terracotta dish garden, which seems tolerate the hot weather beautifully.
We need to clean off the pool deck and covered patio, getting rid of accumulated debris. The pool guys will come out to clean the filters and check out the pump. The little robot that continuously cleans the pool bottom needs cleaning and the surface of the water must be skimmed. Then we'll bring out the cushions for our furniture that have wintered in the garage and arrange the furniture. The kids can't wait to get in the pool--probably well ahead of the time their neighborhood water park will open.
I'm also excited by another project. My talented son-in-law, Matt, is going to build a stand-up planter box so that I can grow some herbs, tomatoes and other veggies. I downloaded the plan from the internet and this afternoon we'll make a trip to Home Depot to purchase all the materials. I've tried to grow herbs and tomatoes in smaller planters with only limited success, and am now convinced that they need deeper soil to thrive.
It's nice to have some fun things on the horizon, after a worrisome couple of days. Late last week, our dachshund Toby had to undergo surgery to remove a quarter-size mast cell tumor near his front leg, leaving him with a four-inch incision and a big patch of bare skin where his fur was shaved. He's recovered nicely with the help of pain meds and eating well. The pathology report will come in the next few days, but we're hopeful that will bring good news for our beautiful boy.
With several days off from child care responsibilities, Andy and I took a three-day jaunt through the Lone Star State. While sailing along Interstate 37, we enjoyed seeing carpets of Texas bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers, as well sweet acacia trees with Kodak-yellow flowers. En route to Corpus Christi, we passed many refineries, a reminder of how oil-dependent our nation is. After a brief rest in our beach-front hotel, we headed for Port Aransas, a barrier island community and enjoyed a waterfront seafood dinner. Next morning, we traveled down Shoreline Drive, where there is an art museum, Texas National Aquarium and the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, which is open for tours.
Then we headed north to San Antonio--familiar since we had been frequent visitors in the years Alison and Hannah lived there. Ali suggested that we try Cured, one of many restaurants in the Pearl, site of the historic Pearl Brewery. It has now been converted to a bustling area with many places to eat and shop, a farmers market, and beautiful open plaza It is also the home of the Culinary Institute of America. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch in what was once the brewery's administration building, with the original brick walls and tin ceiling. The Hotel Emma is named after Emma Koehler, who successfully ran the brewery after her husband Otto was shot by a jealous mistress! The hotel has retained much of the machinery used for making beer and cleverly incorporated it into the decor.
Then it was off to the State Capitol of Austin. We stayed right downtown, which was in a frenzy with participants in South by Southwest (SXSW), a week-long celebration of technology, music and more. Andy remembered a restaurant called Foreign and Domestic featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Well away from downtown, this tiny place, housed in a former skateboard shop, featured innovative entrees and a great wine list. Fueled by breakfast at one of Austin's funky diners, we headed for home, vowing to return and spend more time in these interesting places.
When our kids were young, we pulled them out of school for a week and headed for Key West, a place we had never visited. We flew into Miami. rented a van, and headed south through the Keys. Andy knew of a place that offered a small house and courtyard with a pool - perfect. In the lazy mornings. Andy would walk a block or so to get strong Cuban coffee and delicious rolls and the kids would complete their school assignments. Then it was time for a swim and a bite of lunch before we set off to explore. We strolled down Duval Street, stopped in the little stores and looked for a place to have dinner. One day we rented bicycles for everyone and rode by President Truman's "Little White House". Another day, we visited Ernest Hemingway's home with its six-toed cats. Each evening, we'd join the throngs at Mallory Square to watch the sun sink colorfully into the sea, laughing as we saw a hippie selling marijuana-laced brownies from her bicycle. We enjoyed Cuban cuisine and great seafood and walked through the touristy shops.
Our landlord suggested snorkeling, so we showed up at the marina to be outfitted with the necessary gear, including bright blue wet suits for Andy and me. We looked like giant Smurfs. I've always been prone to motion sickness, so I took over-the-counter medication and thought I had it covered. Right. We boarded the boat along with a very large, friendly German guy with a bushy beard. Although it was a bit choppy, I enjoyed the ride to the point where we would drop anchor. Then the boat stopped. Instantly, waves of nausea overtook me and I upchucked over the side. I got in the water with the kids and barfed into the sea. Then I got back into the boat and spent the rest of the voyage lying on the floor hoping for a quick death. By the time the trip ended, all of us had been sick. We slouched back to the house with aching ribs and slept for hours, exhausted by the wind, waves and sun.
All too soon, it was time to head home, tanned and full of stories to tell. I think of this trip each Christmas when I hang my little wooden snorkeler ornament on the tree. The kids still laugh about that boat trip and their un-seaworthy mother.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.