Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December update

My goodness but time does fly. 'Seems just yesterday we were pulling into the driveway, saying goodby to the road for a few months and planning our approach to unpacking the rig (a daunting task if there ever was one!)

All that unpacking, reorganizing, making a few repairs on the travel equipment, and mowing the grass took care of the first week home. We fluffed out the guest room in preparation for our friends from Nevada, who arrived for a week-long visit. What a good excuse to take a day trip over to Shiner!

Shiner is a quaint little town that began life in the mid 1880s as a trading post/ post office named Half Moon, some say for the arrangement of the orchards of fruit trees. In 1887 Henry B. Shiner donated land for the town that eventually came to carry his name. Shiner, "The Cleanest Little City in Texas", is now well known for it's restaurants, shops, and the brewery.

The Spoetzl Brewery produces our favorite beer (and the one for which our dog is named) a German/Czech style brew called Shiner Bock. They produce several other varieties too, which we had the opportunity to sample while we waited for the tour to begin and shopped for collectables. Shiner now has a beautiful red collar with her name on it!

The brewery is situated right near the railroad tracks, convenient for shipping I would guess, so very easy to find. Opened in 1909 under the name Shiner Brewing Association, the brewery soon felt the creative touch of brew master Kosmos Spoetzl. He leased the brewery from the association in 1914, did a bit of renovating, then began producing his own old-world recipe brews. Kosmos' recipes and his special touch made the brewery what it is today. A few years ago the brewery was sold, not to a large company, but the relatively small Gambriunus, owned by Carlos Alvarez. 'A smart man who knows a great beer when he tastes one! The business is still managed as if it was owned by the original small family firm, and the result is a contented production staff and great beer.

We really enjoyed the tour, which takes one through the history of the brewery as well as all phases of the brewing process, and includes a great recipe for beer brownies: just replace the water in any box mix with Black Lager. . . you can also combine Black Lager (which is similar to a porter) with softened vanilla ice cream, re-freeze and serve with the brownies. Yum!                         

After the tour we drifted over to 7th Street, which is the main street paralleling the railroad tracks on the northwest side. An excellent lunch at the Shiner Restaurant and Bar restored our energy.

 The restaurant's centerpiece is the beautiful richly carved original barback that extends the full length of the room. 

 Authentic tin ceiling tiles, stained glass windows, and the antler chandelier add to the opulent Victorian decr. The larger dining room has photos of early times, so you can spend quite a bit of time soaking up the history of the establishment.

Of course, I had to pop in to Martha's, the quilt shop just two doors down. A quick tour of town yielded a bakery selling kolache's, a Czech or Polish baked treat our friends were craving. There's something for everyone in Shiner!

A few days later our friends treated us to a fantastic dinner out at Bordeaux's, a cozy little restaurant in one of the few original old buildings in Kyle.  Good friends, excellent food, and a very relaxing ambiance, what better way to cap off their visit.

Once our friends departed for home we regrouped and headed north to the airport in Austin to pick up Steve's mother, Daphna. Yes, practically the same name as mine, and things do get confused around here at times.

We managed to tuck a few Duck games on TV into the schedule, and we're making sure Jax is raised up as a proper duck fan. Though he does have trouble sitting still long enough to watch a game, he enjoys the accessories very much.

Mom was here through Thanksgiving, and for the momentous occasion of Jax's first birthday.

A Dr. Seuss theme set the mood, and in spite of having her arm in a sling (as a result of shoulder surgery) Kendra had things so well planned that the day went perfectly. I can hardly believe Jax is a year old already. Curious about everything, and very "busy", Jax is already racing Grandpa around the ranch, and going to keep us all on our toes for years to come!

Now we're preparing for the holidays, which should be more fun than ever now that we have Jax to spice things up. Oh yes, we have done a bit of work around the place, in between parties, dinners out, etc. Our list of "to dos" keeps growing, and we seem to add two items for every one we scratch off, but at least we aren't going to run out of entertainment any time soon.