A NEW START: On the Road to New Braunfels…Eventually


Hill Country RV Park

New Braunfels, Tx

Before driving our pre-owned RV and pickup off the lot, last Wednesday, we had agreed to stay local for the first week. So, from May 25-June 1, we hung out at Treetops RV Village in Arlington, Texas, in case we discovered any kinks in either one. Both RV and vehicle behaved like model children who knew their parents were watching.

The week flew by, with Jeff and me learning our home’s whims and little ways. Almost every night, we blazed a trail to our storage facility where we dug out boxes of items we had hoped to use — such as the toaster oven and the standard toaster — only to realize they hogged our kitchen’s counter space. So, back to the facility they went, to be unearthed if we upgraded to a bigger RV.  But most important of all, we reduced the rubble from F5 status to at least F2 — F1 on a good day. We were finally ready to venture out.

Yesterday, June 1, we awoke with every nerve pinging. We were all dressed in our traveling clothes and caps and had already connected the RV to that doohickey that holds it in place in the truck bed when we discovered one of our three slides was stuck. Seeing our distress, Treetops employees Jim and Franny putt-putted over in their little golf buggies to assist us. Together, the three of them pushed, prodded, and flipped the switch that retracts or expands all three slides, one by one.Only  until Jeff called  Jeter, the Fun Town employee who led us through the walk-through before we left the lot, was he able to solve the mystery: a tiny, black reset button located near the battery. Once he mashed that button, the slide slid.

After we drove away from Treetops, we veered west on Interstate 20, and then south on Interstate 35. Jeff and I were close to Alvarado when it dawned on us that the A/C that had been turning my knees into knee-sicles, a week ago, was by no stretch of imagination, blowing  cool air,

As soon as we could find a gas station, we stopped to buy cans of Dr. Pepper, let me find a restroom, and Russet, a patch of grass. Jeff called his son, John, to ask him who he knew on his end who could fix our A/C. At the time, we thought it was a matter of stopping at a  Ford dealership. After calling the name of the person John gave, Jeff arranged to leave  the truck at an automotive shop, the next morning. Toward the end of the afternoon, the breeze grew cooler, reminding us of why God gave us windows.

When we pulled into our pull-through site at Hill Country RV Park, wind-blown and sunburned, we had just enough time to unhook, expand the slides, and brush our teeth before rushing off to watch one of Jeff’s grandsons play basketball. By the time we got home from one and a half games and stopped at Taco Cabana, we fell comatose quicker than you can say “fajita bowl”.

Yes, we were two pooped puppies. So, when Jeff told me that Russet and I should stay in bed and rest, this morning, I didn’t argue with Jeff.

“I’m going to go over there, drop off the truck, and be back. You rest, babe,” he said, before giving me a good-bye peck before he left for Landa Tire and Automotive. After he returned, we waited word from the “other” Jeff at Landa.

As I’m writing this post, we  have found out that our vehicle will not be ready until Monday, around noon. So we have a choice of putting our son and daughter-in-law out or renting a car to get around in the meantime. Something tells me we’ll choose Door Number Two.

So, once again, Life has been eavesdropping. We’re not only in Jeff’s hometown but, also, one of the prime summer vacation hotspots in Texas. Oh, well. We still have the next six days to see as many of the sights as we can see. Hey, with any luck, we just might get to see at least one or two of them.

Coming soon at your friendly neighborhood PC, iPad, smart phone, or tablet near you: a running account of our adventures in New Braunfels, as soon as we get our wheels back.


Surviving Triple Twisters in Canton


“First Monday” Trade Days in Canton, Texas.

We knew today would be the last time we would get to attend “First Monday” Trade Days in Canton, Texas. But little did we expect it to be, possibly, the last day of our lives when triple tornadoes flattened Canton, that afternoon.

Since we will soon leave the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Jeff and I got up early, this morning for the hour-and-a-half drive East. Although the Weather Channel had predicted thunderstorms, we didn’t expect them to be a problem, since we planned to spend most of our time inside the  Marketplace, on the hill.

After spending two to three hours in the building where we sampled  salsa, coffee, and wine coolers, visited with vendors, we bought our second Bionic Bands from our friend, Jackie Blalock  of Cross-b Sales who sold us our first bands, three years ago. Since we bought the bands, they have helped us “vintage youngsters” maintain our balance when, otherwise, the slightest little trip-up might have sent us straight to the floor. Other than  the time I tripped over the dog and went flying through the air on New Year’s Eve 2016, the bands have been well worth the expense.

Now with two of these bands, one on each arm, we were feeling pretty indestructible. We ventured out to the grounds where we found a turquoise RV mat. Wearing our bands, and dreaming of our plans, we felt invincible. That is, until rain pelted the roof overhead , forcing us to head back to the building where we were greeted by officials bearing sobering news: A tornado was coming.

“Y’all go the bathrooms, now!” they urged. .

“Go ‘head on, babe,” Jeff said. “I’ll stay with Jackie in his booth. We’ll be okay.”

Heeding  my husband’s advice, I made a beeline for the restroom where I crowded in with a gaggle of fifty-some women and girls all talking at once. At first, we were simply waiting out a storm, as instructed by a calm but vigilant woman in charge. In her hand, a cell phone showing  a weather map showing an area colored bright red.

“Everyone get away from the mirrors. Go back to the stalls, instead.”

Now, up to that moment, I had never been in a tornado, so I never knew how I would react until it actually happened. I was amazed at how calm I was able to stay, even though my heart was doing somersaults and backflips. Fixing my eyes on the bathroom tiles, I bowed my head and sent up a prayer before texting my husband and posting to friends about the event on Facebook.

You will get through this, Kim, I whispered to my frightened self. Hang tough, ol’ girl.

“The tornado has turned north!” someone suddenly announced.

I looked up to see women leaving the restroom.

So it’s over, already. This is good news, right?

“Thank you, Lord,” I breathed, as my pulse raced.

Only an hour earlier,  the same women had been strangers to each other hugs before we wandered out to be reunited with our husbands, only to be shooed back into the restroom long  when someone yelled, “Get back in there! Another tornado’s on the way!”

So back into the bathroom we bustled. Teenaged girls, blowing off steam, engaged in horseplay until they were sobered by our solemn faces. One woman quietly breastfed her baby from a chair in the corner. A white-haired woman riding a mobility cart, brought her little dog inside with her. Still, another woman held a tiny, recently-rescued kitten to her chest. Some standing on toilet seats and peered over the top of the stalls. Others who were limber enough sat on the floor. Children wept into their mothers’ laps. When the nursing  mother her got up from the chair, I plopped down in it to relieve my back that suddenly ached from trudging all over the grounds.

In an instant, the room went dark. Collective breaths caught as we listened for the characteristic “freight train” roar signalingtwister would soon bear down upon us.

“Hit the floor! Cover your heads!” someone yelled. Knowing that if I got down on the floor, it would take a crane to hoist me up, I bent over and covered my head my purse. Again, I prayed until I broke down and wept as a woman stroked my back and prayed  over me.

“We’re all going to be all right,” she whispered. In spite of the  terror in my heart, I nodded. I knew that, even at that moment, God was still  in control. We would indeed be safe.

“Are you here by yourself?” she asked.

“No,” I replied. “My husband is out there with our friend in his booth. But our car is out on the lot. I’m so afraid that –.”

About that time, someone walked in swinging a lantern that lit up even the darkest part of the bathroom. Meanwhile, the air grew really hot, muggy, and eerily still. We could have heard a proverbial pin drop.

Eventually, I began to hear that the second twister had shifted direction. Only for a third to follow close on its heels. I began to wonder when we would ever get to leave the building.

How long is this going to go on? Are we going to spend the night here? 

I thought of our little dog back home and whether the weather was as deadly in Arlington as it was where we were. There was nothing I could do about Russet, other than to trust she would be okay.

Not long after that,  I noticed that women began to filter out if the restroom. I got up to walk out to look for Jeff. Was I ever relieved to find him sitting in our friend’s booth. I ran out to him, buried my face in his chest, and cried from relief on his strong shoulders.

After we stayed with Jackie a little while longer, he began to shut down his booth for the night. After the three of us shook hands and excahnged one-armed hugs, Jeff and I wandered out to the parking lot where our car appeared none the worse for wear and headed straight home, as emergency vehicles whizzed toward the scene of destruction and drivers huddled underneath bridges to shield their cars from hail that sounded like cannonballs when it hit the windshield.

Around six-thirty p.m., as we were nearing Lancaster, the rain stopped and the skies began to clear up. Although we had considered grabbing a bite on down the road, we decided to grab a few groceries at WinCo and head home, instead, where we heated  some soup, held each other for a long, long time before falling fell asleep in each other’s arms.

On Sunday morning, as we rode to church, I looked down at my gleaming silver-and- gold Bionic Band. I couldn’t help laughing at our human tendency to place our trust in “stuff”. Up to about three o’clock or so, on the day before, Jeff and I had placed our trust in two pieces of metal on our wrists until three tornadoes in rapid succession bore down on the city of Canton and left it in shock after many of its people were injured or killed  and many businesses demolished.

After living through my first tornado, I realized, even more than before, that they are no respecters of persons or places. They don’t make sense in the people they randomly injure or kill or the property they wipe out.

Whoa, but neither do they make sense in the people and places they spare. Among them, folks like us who happened to wander into Canton for one last hurrah.

Bottom line: we survived. We are safe. And, once again, we realized that we are blessed.

So, dear readers, here’s the question I have for you: have you ever wound up in the middle of a dangerous situation?

Many thanks to the Storm Chasers for risking their lives to produce this YouTube video of the in Canton, Texas tornadoes.


LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, Part 4: Back to Reality

June 6, 2013

6:00 a.m.

Thanks to Cousin BeeGee’s hospitality, I have reveled in three glorious days on the coast. This morning, after hugging her and packing the rest of my gear, I set the GPS on my iPad, slip in a CD, and set out for Texas 361, the first leg in the journey. I have driven all the way out here and lived to tell the tale. By now, I consider myself a  pro at this traveling thing. I should have an easy drive home.

Key word, should.

After enduring 130 lonnnng miles on I-37, I’m pulling onto I-410 when I see a  tractor-trailer sitting cattywumpus on  the ramp. As this is part of my route and I’m still not familiar with alternate routes in this area, I power down my window and flag down a worker.

“I have to take this highway on my way home. What should I do?”

“If you’ll just wait a sec, he should get straightened out.”

True to his word, the driver straightens himself out, allowing me to drive on around. That settled, I breathe more easily. The northbound route should be every bit as smooth as the southern one.

Or not.

Around Austin, my body starts acting like a five-year-old.

“Stop! I’ve got a charley-horse!”

“I’m hungry!”

” And I gotta pee!”

Yes, I’m hungry, all right. But no McDonald’s or Burger King for me. No sireeee!  Touristy places are everywhere — so why can’t I get to them easily? Could it possibly be because of “road destruction”?

Nah, not a chance.

As I zoom along, I keep my eyes peeled for charming, out-of-the-ordinary places to stop in for a bite. After all, until I pull into my driveway, I consider myself still on my vacay.

Approaching artsy little Salado, my mouth waters. Certainly, I’ll find something here. But once I pull off on the access road, I discover my mistake. Like, don’t these nice people ever eat?  As I pull back onto I-35, I discover — after the fact — that when “GPS-lady” tells me to turn left, she means “a  hard left NOW” or else wind up in the “Neverland” between the construction  and the road.

This, folks, is exactly why I don’t  drive after dark.

Cranky from hunger, I sail into Temple. And, at last, I find a Mexican restaurant. I should be able to find something here.

“Do you have a senior discount?” I ask the man who takes my order.

“Yes, we do.”

“Great! Then I’ll have the number-seven lunch and ice-water.. Within a short time, here he comes. So far, so good, until I lift the lid and find flour tortillas instead of the corn ones I ordered.

Have I mentioned that I’m cranky, by now? Let’s face it —  I am not my charming self. I want food PDQ. So, when the server brings out the corn tortillas, I discover there is no butter on the table. I catch the server as he whizzes past me.

“Excuse me. May I please have some butter?”

“Butter? Okay.” Again, he whizzes by, setting a table, ushering in  customers, serving drinks…doing anything and everything except bringing me butter.

“May I help you?” asks another server.

“Yes, I  asked someone else for butter?”

“Ahh, butter,” she says, on the run, never to be seen or heard from again.

“May I help you?” asks the hostess. (Persona numero- tres)

“Yes,” I said, lip quivering, “You’re the third person I’ve had to ask. All I want is some butter.”

Her face clouds up. “But-tehr?”


Magic word, that one. Within minutes, she brings a bowl of “fake-butter” packets. By now, I have only one tortilla left. I am not about to ask for more.

All things considered, although the food at this place (which shall go unnamed) is still pretty tasty,  I am slap  out of adventure. And, by now, my neighbor’s sending me panicky texts that it’s raining sheets and buckets in Arlington.  Russet is about to become a soggy doggy.  But I know my baby-girl’s smarter than that.  She knows how to huddle up under the patio cover.

The last hundred miles until I-35 turns into I-35W drag on. By now, with Mexican food in my system, I start getting sleepy. Now, my car is yelling “Feed me!’. Stopping off at West, I pour my money into their gas pump, use their facilities, and guzzle a Red Bull, while I’m at it.

Before long, I see I-20 up ahead. Within minutes, I’ll pull into my own driveway, hug my dog, and call my sweetie. Shoot, I bet I can even scare up some butter.

In all, my first-ever solo road trip has been exhilarating and liberating. You tell me — which direction should I go next?

English: A pat of butter, served on a leaf, wi...
English: A pat of butter, served on a leaf, with a butter knife and bread (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, Part 3: Last Day in Paradise

image2:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 5:  Last day in paradise. It is also my last day to visit places to include in my new work-in-progress, Suffer The Little Children, plunked down in Port Aransas.

As I chart the territory for Burrneece Barefoot and Earl Savage (of Barefoot Savage Investigation),  I cross off  places I’ve already visited:  the Chamber of Commerce for brochures.The marina for pictures of boats. And  Port Aransas Police Department where Lieutenant. James Stokes graciously  explains who gets involved and what they do when someone finds a body on the beach.

After Beegee and I have lunch at Avery’s Kitchen (where Earl would take  Burrneece because he  “knows” owner, Avery Hernandez), I take on  the last sight on my agenda:  University of Texas Marine Science Institute. Keep in mind that, by now, I’ve walked two miles under sweltering Port A sun. I’m red-faced, sweaty, sandy, and crippled after walking in flip-flops and sand lodged underneath the  toe ring I purchased at Gratitude where Burrneece would spend Earl’s money on seashell-studded sandals and upside-down wineglass sunglasses.

By now, I have shown myself that If I wander around long enough, I smack into the water. With the help of my GPS, I  arrive at the Institute and trudge up the steps to an air-conditioned office. A  receptionist who apparently has not been tramping through heat and sand greets me with a sympathetic smile.

“Is there any charge for the exhibits?” I ask.  Please, please tell me there isn’t.

“No, but this is not the Visitors Center. You’ll need to go back outside, down the steps, and underneath the building. Look for a statue of a giant fish.”

Sounds simple enough until I see nothing but parking lot. Oh, wait!  Here comes a  young man who seems to know where he’s going. I’ll just ask him.

“Excuse me, I’m looking for the Visitors Center,”

His eyes cloud. His brow furrows.

“Visitor Center? Ooooh… not open to public.”

“Is so,” I want to blurt. Instead, I thank him and  hobble onward. To a  parking area, picnic tables, and — what’s that ahead? A giant fish?
According to the South Jetty,  the  Visitors Center is only one part of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI), offers “free self-guided tours of exhibits…aquaria with Texas coastal species and habitats, photos, and research projects past and present.”  (82)

The Wetlands Education Center is the other. According to the Port Aransas newspaper, the Wetlands comprise  “3.5 acres between the UTMSI and the South Jetty. A stroll along the boardwalk allows… a marsh/seagrass pond with a wildscape of various seagrasses and coastal vegetation”  as well as “migratory waterfowl and resident marshbirds”. The interior boardwalks, according to the South Jetty, are “limited to guided tour groups”. (82)

Having covered the last place, I retrace the path back to my car, to Avenue G, Eleventh Street, and LaJuana Court where the Wahoo, my rented oasis, awaits.   After a shower and a re-charge, I’m ready for The Fish House and The Back Porch with Cousin BeeGee and our friend, Maryanne.

The last three sun-splashed  days, although exhausting, have given me the break I’ve needed. Early tomorrow, I leave at first (or fiftieth) light and head home.

Up ahead,  Part Four, ” Returning to Reality”.


LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, Part 2: “Feelin’ All Right”

English: Tourist shops at Port Aransas, Texas.
English: Tourist shops at Port Aransas, Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


6:30 a.m.

As I stepped out on the patio of the Wahoo, one of the cozy beach homes offered by BeeGee’s Coastal Quarters, the sun was staining the sky a soft gold on her way up. Salty breeze caressed my face as I  sipped espresso from my French roast pot and munched a Cheerios bar. Below the  table, Cousin Beeg’s short-haired, orange-and-white cat, Rusty, wove around my legs and meowed. As I twirled his tail, I leaned back and drank in the serenity of the moment.  I came down here to research Port A, but I would have to wait until the sleeping town woke up.

Chill out, Kim. You’re island time, now.

After washing out my coffee pot in the full-sized kitchen, I dressed in white crops, Skechers, and a black tee-shirt from the 2013 DFW Writers Conference, and grabbed my tote bag. Within minutes, mugginess shrink-wrapped  my body. The black tee, I decided, would have to go.

Around nine a.m., I parked at the Islander, a souvenir and beach shop on South Alister Street,  for a  lighter-weight tee in a cooler color.  Seeing their sale on four tees for $20, I went inside and chose a powder-blue tee-shirt with the logo,  “Port Aransas: Feel All Right.”

“I’m also here to research my next mystery, which I intend to set in Port Aransas,” I told the sales person as I offered her my card.

“Oooh, really? Well, come with me,” she said, leading me to a bookshelf and handing me Images of America: Port Aransasby J. Guthrie Ford and Mark Creighton.

According to information appearing on the back cover of the book, aficionados of  Port Aransas and Mustang Island have Dr. Ford to thank for  establishing the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association, and writing the four-volume Port Aransas Historic Series. And hats off to Mark Creighton, a Cornell University graduate, for over 8,000 archived digital images of Port Aransas and Mustang Island.

Recognizing a super source when I see one, I added it to the bill.

After dropping the purchases in my bag and changing into my new shirt in a neighboring restroom, I followed Avenue G to the beach where I shed my Skechers to sink my toes in the sand. It had been too long — January 2009 — since my last beach-fix.  Wet sand and cool water felt heavenly on  tired, sweaty feet!  One thing I have always loved about Texas beaches is that I do not get winded walking on them.  By the time I  walked all the way down to Horace Caldwell Pier and back to my car, I had logged about two miles and sweated off about ten pounds.

Around 10:45, that morning, I returned with face flushed and tummy growling. Time to poll the locals.

“So, where’s your favorite place to eat?”

Avery’s Kitchen,” chimed the Islander staff, almost in unison. They pointed to a blue frame building with white trim, located on the other side of Spanky’s Liquor.  In celebration of the annual SandFest, someone had built a sand castle beside the balcony. The sign outside Avery’s Kitchen read “Keepin’ It Simple.”

“Actually, we’re still serving breakfast, but you’re welcome to wait,” said Meredith, who fixed me up with a tall glass of ice water, a menu, and a copy of the South Jetty, Port A’s newspaper.

“Great! What is the best thing you serve?”

” Breakfast or lunch?”

“Both, really.”

“Well, our egg platters are really popular, particularly the corned-beef hash-and-egg one. For lunch, our hand-breaded fish and chicken-fried steak are good, too.”

My mouth watered. “Is the owner here where I could speak to him?”

“Sure! Just be careful back there. It’s slick.”

When I pushed through the swinging door, owner Avery Hernandez was covering a vat of cole slaw. After i shook his hand and introduced myself, I got him talking about his food.

“We hand-bread all of our own fish. And I make my own corned-beef hash. Basically, we serve comfort food.”.

“Yum! Here’s my card. While I’m here, I might grab some breakfast.”

“Sure,” he said. “In fact, I’d like to buy your dinner.”

As I dug into the corned-beef-and-eggs platter, my mouth told me this was not the  run-of-the-mill canned stuff. No siree-Bob! As Avery himself said, he had cooked the corned beef, chopped it, and mixed in potatoes. It went down smoothly with two eggs over-medium,a homemade biscuit with strawberry jam, and coffee.

Not only was the breakfast blog-worthy, so was lunch. Avery’s fish-and-chips, advertised on a blackboard outside, was $7.95. Having eaten fish and chips  at Long John Silver’s and Captain D’s, I asked Meredith about how Avery fixed it.

” It’s grouper, freshly-caught and hand-breaded.”

The grouper was so tender that it self-destructed in my hand. No “fake” fish, here.  The fries were so well-seasoned that I needed no additional salt.  Chunky cole slaw in a light, not overly-sweet dressing complemented the meal..

I was wiping my mouth and shoving my plate aside when Meredith approached me, again. After pouring more ice water, she pointed to a table where a cake and bowls were set out.

“When you’re ready for dessert, you’re welcome to a complimentary piece of our lemon cake.”

When I finished the square of cake — satisfyingly tart and sweet and just the right portion —  I paid for my meal and waved my thanks.

. “I will be back!”

Still on my agenda, the marina and the Chamber of Commerce. I had a lot of ground to cover in three days.  This was only Day One.

ADVANCING TO THE RETREAT: The Westin — Best Campground Ever


Ahhhh….Spring Break, at last! The countdown began on January 14, the first day of school.  Four on-site Freshman Comp classes, a  Distance-Learning class-in-the-works, and  essays out the wahzoo have made me one tired teacher. So, what better way to kick off the first part of the break than a camping trip at the Westin Hotel? Yes, you heard me right. Tents and campfires are highly overrated. And, after all, isn’t it better to hole up in a four-star hotel than to stay home where dirty dishes distract, rumpled laundry lures, and a feisty Finnish Spitz…well…spits?

My past Westin adventure, in August,  led me to Historical Grapevine. However, the plan, this time, was to hang out in my room and bang out my book and even a blog or two. So, after plying my neighbor with  wine,chocolate, and Russet, I grabbed laptop and other high-tech addictions, toothbrush, and  enough  clothing to keep me decent and hit the road.

Hotwire helped. Thanks to their $65-a-night rates, I was able to return to my favorite perch. As if last my August experience was as good as any could get, this time was even better. The nice folks at the Westin did not disappoint.  I had already registered with SPG (“alphabet-soup-speak” for Starwood Preferred Guest) in August. Thanks to Janina, at the front desk, I stayed on a peaceful Starwood-Preferred  floor. And, this time, the fridge was built into the dresser. Soon after I requested a microwave for my popcorn, a young man delivered it within minutes. To complete the better-than-home feeling, there was even an armchair and ottoman. Now, I could write with my feet up. Wasn’t that how all  literary giants churned out their works?

Next, the food. I already knew the cuisine Blue Fire Grille was scrumptious.  The Texas Dip, their spin on the French Dip, surpassed mere deliciousness. Prime rib stacked high and thick on a toasted roll and served with au jus and homemade potato chips with chipotle ranch dip and washed down with Merlot that Liam delivered to my table had me doing my shopping-cart dance in no time.

Tomorrow, I will pack up and say “See-you-later” to Janina and Lisa at the front desk and Liam at Blue Fire Grille. Shoot, I might even swing by Grapevine to buy my neighbor an extra gift and say “Hi” to the locals. Either way, I have proven to myself that the DFW Airport Westin  is my favorite campground, ever.

ADVANCING TO THE RETREAT, Part 4: “Hello, Again, Grapevine!”

English: Main Street Grapevine, Texas, USA Fra...
English: Main Street Grapevine, Texas, USA Français : La rue principale (Main Street), Grapevine, Texas, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


10:00 a.m.

Woman-up, Kim. This is doable!

Driving 114 to Historical Grapevine, that is. On my way home from my last retreat, I had traveled the treacherous highway with fear and trembling. Because of the marking of the lanes,  I was in one lane, one minute, but, the next, straddling two of them.  Even worse, the spitting rain threw my wipers into overdrive.

Before I set out, I checked The Weather Channel on my iPhone: scattered showers for Tuesday. But Monday’s cloudy but cool, rain-free weather shouted, “Get out while you can!”

Which I did.

Nosing my Toyota into one of many public parking spaces and saving my location on the “Find My Car” app, I walked up to Main Street where I heard Christmas carols  over a loud speaker while workers dismantled  garlands, wreaths, and Christmas trees until next year.

Proud  of myself for braving the drive from Irving to Grapevine, I strolled the streets and window-shopped. Since  the holiday retail rush was over, many shops were closed on Mondays. Others opened at eleven a.m. After finding the doors to a number of shops closed,  I happened across a boutique not listed in any of the  brochures. According to its sign out front: Crowned By Grace.  It should have warned, “Cute Purses Ahead.”:

Crowned By Grace,  a resale boutique, featured clothing and accessories at prices tailored  to style-conscious but budget-minded women.

“We like to make [women] feel good about themselves,” explains Mindy, the store owner. “Anything I can get down for you?”

I can go for boosting someone’s self-esteem, so I lingered a while before starting for the door. Well, in the words of  Jack Nicholson‘s  incorrigible Garrett Breedlove character in Terms of Endearment, I was “inches from a clean getaway”  when a roomy burgundy hobo with brushed-gold buckle trim  called me by every name I ever went by. “Ms. Burgundy” might as well have been the Serpent in the Garden of Eden.

“Hey, girlfriend,” she hissed, in a sultry Mae-West, “Come On-a My-House” voice.  “Need pockets? I’ve got ’em all over my bodddddy.”

For the next second or two, a dour voice in my right ear warned, “You’ll be sorry.” But in my left, “Burgundy” wheedled,  “C’mon, it’s for a greater good.”

“Sure I can’t take something down for you?” Mindy asked.

“As a matter of fact, yes.” I said, stepping back inside the door. I pointed to Burgundy. “That one, please.”

Keep in mind, that I belong in a twenty-four-step recovery program in Purse-a-holics Anonymous. Like an alcoholic stumbling into Happy Hour, I lose all control in Sam Moon and Charming Charlie.

“What about me?” whined the beautiful but pocket-challenged green bag I had purchased in a foaming-at-the-mouth, green-purse mania on the day after Christmas. “Am I not enough for you?”

I took a deep breath and handed Burgundy back to Mindy.

“On second thought, could you hold this for me, please?” I asked. “I’ll be back for it in a while.”

Self-control reclaimed and money returned to wallet, I moved on down the street.

I remembered the next store from the last time. Where Doris, the “Head Elf” treated me to a Sioux City Prickly Pear soda. But she was nowhere in sight. Instead, a young man in a ball cap greeted me with a smile and a handshake.

“Good morning! How can I help you?” .

I looked around. This looked like the same store, yet different.

“Must’ve stumbled into the wrong store. This is  Main Street Station, isn’t it? I was looking for Doris.”

“Doris moved across the street. This is Market On Main, now.”

While we talked, something warm and furry nuzzled  my leg. A Golden Retriever. I bent down and ran my fingers through her thick, honey-blonde fur. I could tell, by the gray around her muzzle, that she had earned some serious mileage.

“Beautiful dog! How old is she?”

“That’s Sugar’. She’s about seven, by now.”

Besides for selling curiosity and nostalgia items, Market on Main had once been a car dealership and a roller rink during the past twenty-some years. His dad had run the store until he needed help. That’s where David came in.

After we chatted some more, David pointed to a jewelry store. “Say, if you wanna holler at Doris, she’s  just up the street.”

After offering my card, I thanked him and left.

Up ahead, even more shops to browse: Willow Cottage, with its children’s wear. And a chef’s dream, Grapevine Olive Oil Company, with its vats of gourmet oils and balsamics, both owned by Kathy Diamond.

Ooh La La, offered clothing, accessories, jewelry, and gifts.  Holy Grounds, a combination Christian book store and coffee store. At Paloma Boutique, I met customer Andi McDonald. While Tino shaped her cowboy hat. she and I struck up a conversation. She had just blown in from her sister’s wedding in North Carolina and stopped off in Grapevine. Hearing that she was from Australia, I flipped through my mental Rolodex for “Australians I Have Known and Loved.” The one on top: Hugh Jackman. Instant ice-breaker.

“Oooh,” she said. “I’ll have to go see Les Miz while I’m here. Think it might be at the theater at Grapevine Mills?”

“Probably. It’s making the rounds.”

“See how that feels,” said Tino, handing her the hat.

“Perfect. Thanks,” she replied before turning to me.

“See you on Facebook. And I’ll be sure to look up your blog..

My rumbling tummy reminded me that the fluffy scrambled eggs and crisp bacon I  fed it at my hotel, around 8:00 a.m. had just about worn down after all my walking. Time for lunch.

Earlier, before I left each shop, I polled the owners about their favorite places for lunch. I even asked Sally  at the Visitor’s Center where I picked up a fistful of brochures on wineries, shopping, and dining.

“So,” I asked her. “What are some popular lunch spots?”

“I hear there are many good ones: Wilhoite’s for  salads and soups. Tolbert’s, for chili. And Farina’s for  Italian food and wine.”

Farina’s. Funny how that name kept popping up. The owner of Antique Revival, where I had seen a beautiful ceramic urn was also the owner of Farina’s, one door down.

“…amazing Chicken Alfredo!…,” raved one store manager. “…Chunks of moist, white meat, mushrooms, artichokes….” added another. “You will not be disappointed.”

As I sat at my table, admiring the grape-cluster chandelier, twirling my glass of crisp and fruity Pinot Grigio, munching on warm garlic bread, and savoring the Chicken Alfredo, I knew that these shop owners knew  good food.

Feeling stuffed and tired, and seeing my cell phone battery glowing red, I decided to swing by D’Vine Wine  to sample  Decadence — an apt name for the chocolate port — for my sweetie, and Homestead Winery, where I bought Moscato for the neighbor watching Russet while I was gone, and sampled some luscious Chocolate Rose which tasted like chocolate-covered cherries.

Almost four o’clock.– I’d shopped, dined, and wined. I was on my way back to the parking lot. I’d lived an idyllic woman’s dream. So why was there still a hole in my heart?

Wait…Should I?  Yessiree!

Doing an about-face, this hard-core purse-polygamist marched back to Crowned By Glory  to claim her umpteenth “spouse”.

When I get home, I’ll just toss the green one back in the closet. Let her duke it out with the “sister-wives”.