Knock, knock. “Who’s there?” Aida.

Photo credit to Farbs01

Photo credit to Farbs01.

Knock, knock
“Who’s there?”
“Aida big piece of watermelon!”

While parts of our nation are enjoying brisk 40, 50 and sweet 60-degree fall temps, Texas is, as usual, sweltering. We’re in the high 90’s, with cooler weather nowhere in sight, and chilled watermelon is the perfect treat.

Watermelon, that quintessential summer fruit, is available in Central Texas from May through November, according to this handy dandy produce availability chart from the folks at Go Texan.  When I was mulling over side dishes for my father’s 82nd birthday barbecue, watermelon was on my mind.  Not only would I have two picky eatin’ children underfoot laughing and spreading joy and sweet chaos around the ranch, but adults who had possibly grown bored by the usual side dishes. Most of the US thinks of barbecues as a hot weather event.  Our summers run roughly March through December, and a long time ago we collectively threw our hands in the air in surrender and declared that barbecue is in season all year long. It’s about the only time Texas willingly surrendered to anything.

I chose to make a watermelon, feta and mint salad, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It’s easy, quick, and intensely flavorful. I’ve always liked combinations of salty and sweet. For the littles, I cut triangles of watermelon, and sent them outdoors, as they were begging for food when lunch was still an hour away. “We’re staaaarving!”

My father made his inaugural brisket on his new Orion smoker, which delivers on its advertised claim of cutting down traditional smoking timeframes. I predict one will appear on my back porch, soon. I also kind of like that it looks like a still, not a smoker. Hmmm…a watermelon moonshine cocktail sounds delicious, doesn’t it? I know the clean, crisp ‘shine and sweet fruit would pair well with smoky, fatty brisket. And his brisket was divine, with its fork-tender lean portion, and succulent, juicy, fatty part.

It was a watermelon weekend, with brisket, birthday cake, target practice, dune buggy v. tractor races, a lot of love, laughter and fun. I hope your weekend was as good as mine.



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Road Trippin’ from Austin: Port Aransas

Texas is a big state, but you can easily road trip to the beach for a weekend’s worth of fun. Recently, I packed my family up in a brand spankin’ new 2016 Chevy Malibu, graciously loaned to me by the company, and steered toward Port Aransas. I used Onstar for turn-by-turn directions, and we requested a route that would take us through Rockport and Aransas Pass, in order to ride the ferry. Because what’s a trip to the coast without a ferry ride?

I didn’t know what to expect with the Malibu, but man, oh, man, those seats are comfortable! It’s a hybrid, and ultra quiet on the road. I’m rethinking my car choices now, after enjoying it for the weekend.

2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid. Photo credit:

2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid. Photo credit: Chevrolet.

I have to tell you, I absolutely love the technology that comes with this car. The car I’m driving now, affectionately known as The Mamawagon, has the standard cd player and radio, with the ability for me to plug my cell phone in and stream music. The Chevy Malibu came with all the bells and whistles: Sirius radio, bluetooth for hands-free phone calls and text messages, and much to the delight of my son, built in 4G LTE wi-fi. This was the most pleasant road trip in a while, with my kiddo happily Minecrafting, playing Roblox, or watching videos. The wi-fi allows you to connect up to 7 devices, but since it’s bluetooth, there no wires everywhere. Love that!

Happy. Very, very happy.

Happy. Very, very happy.

We did torture my son a bit, singing along to songs. My husband is a musician, and sings well. My voice is best listened to in a karaoke bar, where everyone has had way too much to drink. We would stay on a station for a while, then shop for the next hot tune. I discovered the controls on the backside of the steering wheel, that allow you to switch stations without having to reach over to the touch screen. Safety first!

Slow Ride

Classic road trip music!

We love to stop at little locally-owned gas stations and convenience stores on road trips. I’d never driven a hybrid, and it was a happy surprise to go all the way to the coast and halfway back before needing to fill up. And even then, it was only 8 gallons. Eight! Still, we made a few rest stops before the coast and I indulged in tradition and bought a lottery ticket at each one. Sadly, I’m still not a millionaire. I did, however, find out how to check my tire pressure without getting my hands dirty.

I never did well with those tire pressure gauges. This is much easier.

I never did well with those tire pressure gauges. This is much easier.

I had a few prerequisites for our weekend abode. It must have a kitchen, and it must have at least a view of the ocean. We stayed at the Sandcastle Condos, on the beach. I love being able to wake up before anyone else, make coffee, and savor it while watching the sunlight dance across the waves. The view from our balcony was perfect, and I was able to relax and recharge.


My son and husband played Pokemon Go in every small town, since the reduced speed made it easier. When we hit Port A, we stopped for dinner at Virginia’s on The Bay, and hit the jackpot with Pokemon stops. As soon as the food hit the table, though, all devices were off. I’m still thinking about the hushpuppies the restaurant served. Savory, with bits of green onion, these little flavor bombs were the best I’ve ever eaten. Their seafood is tasty, and they seem to easily handle large groups just as ably as tables of two or three.

The day we checked out, we adjusted our route home to go through Corpus. Once there, we explored the USS Lexington. My father served on a ship like that one, and I was texting him like crazy the whole time, telling him what I had seen, and asking him questions. I’ll have to arrange a trip for my parents sometimes soon, so he can visit the ship. There were thunderstorms rolling in, and the wind coming across the flight deck was strong.

Ryder hopping around on deck.

Ryder hopping around on deck.

The size of the ship is astounding. There were at least 8, maybe 12 planes on the flight deck, and it wasn’t packed at all. On one end is a “walk the plank” observation deck over the water. I went all the way down to the end, but got a little spooked, with the wind blowing so hard. I made my husband stand for pictures, though, machismo and all that jazz. Never show fear!

Hanging on for dear life, at the end of the plank.

Hanging on for dear life, at the end of the plank.

On our way home, we talked for a long time about the spirits that are said to still linger on the Lexington. We googled, found a few videos (thanks, wi-fi!) and pretty much decided that any ship that’s seen as much action as the Lexington is bound to have a few things that go bump in the night. I highly recommend visiting it on your next road trip. If you’re lucky, it’ll be in a Chevrolet.

Disclosure: Chevrolet loaned the fancy Malibu Hybrid to me free of charge, and in return I’m giving my honest opinion of it. It’s a fun car, affordable, and great for the environment. 



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Fancy yourself a pitmaster? Smithville BBQ spot on market again.


An acquaintance who lives out near Smithville passed on the tidbit that Smithville Pit BBQ is for sale. ‘Cue aficionados know the restaurant’s location as that of award-winning Zimmerhanzel Bar-B-Que, which closed in January. The building sold, and almost immediately re-opened as Smithville Pit BBQ. And now it’s back on the seller’s block, a mere five months later. The barbecue biz is a tough one, not only because Central Texas has a host of stellar spots, but also because of the almost 24/7 requirements of running that type of restaurant. Fancy yourself a pitmaster? Check out the craigslist ad for the sale of Smithville Pit BBQ.

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