Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Xmas Leg LampIt’s finally that time of the year, when we put up the outside lights, hang stockings on the electric fireplace, and wrap hugely expensive and exquisite presents that we’ve bought for our wives.  Of course, nothing portrays the festive spirit of the season like a beautifully decorated leg lamp, and ours took center stage in our window complete with ornaments and a stocking cap.  I am, as you can imagine, the envy of all of the men in the park.  The women, not so much.   Brenda’s been busy baking cookies, cakes, and cheesecakes, while I’ve been doing my part by sampling and offering important suggestions (more chocolate!).  It’s a fun time,and we’ve been kept busy as we share some of our favorite places with our next-door friends Rollie and Carol.  We took them on a shopping trip to Seguin to visit the Pape Pecan House, where you can buy any of six varieties of pecans (that’s pee-cans here in Texas), along with all types of nuts, spices, and jams.  From there, we headed for Buc-ees’s, a beehive of activity along I-10 where we could load up on some delicious Kolache, filled with poppyseed, (my favorite), cream cheese, and various fruits.  Buc-ee’s is a phenomenon, always packed with people, and with the most palatial  bathrooms you’ll ever find at a roadside convenience store.  Read about it here.
We decided a road trip North was in order, so off we went – first stop Blanco, where we had lunch at the bowling alley cafe that serves great burgers, fresh-cut fries, and best of all,  pies with 6”  of meringue. Don’t believe me?  See hereLBJ Ranch House Mightily fortified, we continued on to the LBJ Ranch, the “Western White House” during the administration of President Lyndon Johnson.   An interesting place to visit, the ranch is now open to self-guided tours instead of the former bus tours, and you can now tour some of the rooms in the house itself.  It’s a beautiful home, striking in the fact that it’s not at all pretentious, just a very comfortable and warm home.  Rudolph on TreeOutside, it was a little disturbing to see where Rudolph ended up during last year’s Christmas Eve deliveries – judging by his position on the tree he must have been going pretty fast when he overshot the roof and punched through this large oak.  Don’t bring the kids here.

Luckenbach Jam SessionWe always stop at Luckenbach when we’re in the area, and this time the little, very little, town was jumping in anticipation of the evening’s Cowboy Ball.  It’s such an interesting place, and this time we watched as an informal sing-along began next to a warming fire.  Brenda on Bull
Brenda surprised us all by volunteering to ride a local longhorn steer (it’s real, folks!), and by the look on it’s face it seems to be thinking “how much pie did this woman eat, anyway?”. 

Johnson City LightsWe continued on for a quick shopping visit to Fredericksburg, then headed back towards home, stopping at Johnson City to experience the lights in the local park.  It’s an amazing scene, every tree is covered with thousands of lights, and they claim over a million lights total.  Walking through the park is a magical experience we’ll remember for a long time.
Xmas CoachBack home in the park, we also put on a light show, although on a much smaller scale.  Brenda and I hope your Christmas lived up to all your dreams and that your new year starts on a positive and happy note.  We’ll see you next year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting Into the Christmas Spirit

New Braunfels Choir
New Braunfels SquareThe Christmas season is upon us, and we’ve been taking advantage of the shopping, dining, and entertainment available in the area.  Here in New 

Braunfels, we visited 
the Wassailfest, an annual event held in the city square.  It was a beautiful, warm night, and the Christmas lighting and decorations, especially at the courthouse and gazebo on the square, were magical.  
New Braunfels GazeboWe checked into the Wassailfest booth, where we picked up a map of the many Wassail-dispensing tables.  Provided by merchants and organizations, each Wassail was given a score and then tallied to determine the festival’s best.  We had fun wandering around with the crowds, sampling Wassail and checking out the stores.  Shelter SantaFor those who haven’t tried it, Wassail (at this festival), is hot spiced cider, and each of the 40 or so booths offered a different variation.  After a while, it became difficult to assign points on the voting sheet since they all began to taste the same – but then came #38, with the usual spices plus RUM!  It quickly became our number one favorite; too bad they dolled it out in little 2-ounce cups.  All in all, it was a great night with friends, festival food, and wassail – just the right start to the holidays!
Casbeer's at the ChurchIn a world of chain restaurants with walls full of fake memorabilia, we’re always in search of a unique dining experience.  We certainly found one this weekend, when with our friends Rollie and Carol, we visited Casbeer’s at the Church for their once-monthly Gospel Brunch.  Casbeer’s is housed in a 100-year old former Methodist church, complete with pressed tin ceilings and European-style Tiffany stained glass.  The downstairs is now the restaurant and bar, and the sanctuary, complete with original pews, is now the music area.  We first visited Casbeer’s on Thanksgiving, where we had a great buffet followed by dessert while sitting in a pew and watching the movie “Alice’s Restaurant”.  What could be more fitting for a Thanksgiving afternoon?  And afterward,we didn’t even have to take out the garbage!  (you have to remember the song or movie to understand this). 
This visit, we were treated to a buffet brunch, with all of the standard items plus chorizo and eggs, carne asada, and enchiladas.  Gospel BrunchThe food was delicious, but the intriguing thing about this restaurant is that everyone is amazingly friendly, and you’d think it was a reunion the way that complete strangers start talking to one another – maybe it’s the “spiritual” environment.  Casbeer's Gospel BrunchWe had a leisurely meal, with a second trip (the one for dessert doesn’t count), and then settled back for the “Gospel” part of the brunch, provided by Miss Neesie and the Earfood Gospel OrchestraMiss NeesieWhat a surprise – not just a couple of performers, but a truly professional group – three horns, two guitars, an accordion, drummer, and of course, Miss Neesie,  who amazed us with her wonderfully bluesy, throaty voice.  Rollie, Carol, BrendaWe sang along, clapped, and generally just had a great time – after all, how can you beat a great meal, great friends, and outstanding music?  Sure beats a visit to Applebee’s. 
Brenda and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a truly happy and memorable Christmas season!  May you have good health, great fun, and a tailwind in your travels!