At Home in Heath: All This and Friends on the Side

Last week as I told you about the ups and downs of building, I mentioned Reggie, one of the neighbors we’ve gotten to know here in Buffalo Creek.  Not only did we find the perfect lot and build a beautiful home.  We also moved into one of the friendliest places I’ve ever lived.  One thing we haven’t had to look for in our new home is friends – they’ve found us.

The first neighbors we met were Reggie and Rita.  They were considering a lot at the end of our cul-de-sac, but hadn’t yet signed on the dotted line.  We didn’t meet them on their best day.  Rita was madder than a wet hen.  She’d loved the house in Buffalo Creek that they’d just sold and moved out of.  Reggie’s dreams for a house at the end of our street weren’t translating into anything she understood yet, so there was a little discord on the day we met.

They did decide to buy the lot and we were soon commiserating with one another over the slings and arrows of building a home.  We quickly discovered that Rita’s sunny disposition was going to bubble to the top, no matter how concerned she was about the house and that Reggie is about the most even tempered guy we’ve ever met.  They have become our dear friends.  Chats in the middle of the street became dinner at their favorite local hang-outs.  We celebrated New Year’s Eve with them and have enjoyed their knowledge of the area.  They make us feel like natives.

Reggie passes our house almost every day when he plays golf.  More often than the builder would like to admit, Reggie’s daily golf habit saved us from loss and damage when a sub failed to lock up our house.  The first time he called us and asked if we’d like him to go in and lock it up.  After a few episodes of that, he’d just text us and let us know he’d been in there.  He got to the point where he knew almost as much about what was going on with our build as Bill did and Bill was there every day.

In the meantime, we met two more couples:  George and Janice and Pete and Sherry.  We met George one day when he was outside staking a tree.  Their house had been built on spec by our builders and we’d actually had meetings there several times before it became George and Janice’s house.

Like Rita, George was a little grumbly the day we met, over the state the landscaping our builder dumped on him, but it didn’t take him long to warm up to us and his wife is a delight.  The pond which brings us so much joy (and a water moccasin), has been leaking on their end and hampering the building of their swimming pool, but it hasn’t stopped we two couples from becoming friends and sharing the occasional happy hour.

Pete and Sherry are building on the other side of us.  They are the “senior statesmen” of our street, but they keep leaving us “youngsters” in the dust as they zip around the neighborhood in their shiny Corvette.  Pick a weekend, any weekend, and you’ll discover this pair has an agenda that would wear out a Marine battalion.  Still, they find time to be good neighbors.  On moving day it was Pete and Sherry who showed up with a care package to kept us going through the frustrations of our fire and rain move.  We can’t wait to return the favor.

Our HOA is also doing their best to connect dots between neighbors.  We’ve been to holiday parties, pool openings and HOA meetings and at every one we meet new people we’re glad to have as neighbors.  Take Omar and Nohilly for instance.  I’ve heard of parties looking for a place to happen and that is definitely this couple.  I met Nohilly at the Winter Holiday Party and she promised to keep an eye out for us.  Shortly after we moved in she knocked on our door and she’s been taking care of us ever since – amazing meals and happy hours happen at her place.  Two lovelier people don’t exist on this earth.

So yes, I am at home in Heath.  I’m still looking for a place to call my church home, but we’ll soon be wrapping up our return visits and doubling down on the churches we like the best.  It’s not a decision we have to hurry, because we’re not going anywhere!

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Filed under Heath, LIFE IN THE METROPLEX, Lifestyle Articles, TRAVEL

Travel There: Keeping Busy Until Showtime

San Antonio's Arneson River Theater

San Antonio’s Arneson River Theater

As soon as we moved in to the Hotel Contessa and got our ducks in a row, we hit the Riverwalk. First stop: Arneson River Theater to buy tickets for Fiesta Noche del Rio.

It’s not very often that buying tickets rates as part of the fun, but then it’s not everyday that you’re buying tickets on the Riverwalk for the Alamo Kiwanas Fiesta Noche del Rio.

Deb and I enjoy life as if we were still the twenty-somethings we were when we met.  We strolled over to the theater and found a cute Kiwanas guy selling tickets along the Riverwalk, just as their advertisement had promised.  By the way, the advertisement promised they would be selling tickets.  It said nothing about cute guys.  We just got lucky.

Neither Deb or I have any use for any guys (on a permanent or even semi-permanent basis), because our husbands are more than enough, thank you very much.  But if you’ve got to buy some tickets anyway, it’s nice to do so from a personable young man who also happens to be cute.  He was probably young enough to be a child of either one of us, but we won’t go there.  As he rattled off the price of the tickets, he mentioned that seniors got $5 off regular admission.  We asked what age made you a senior.  Thankfully, he looked at us as if to say, “Not any age either one of you will be any time soon,” but what he actually said was, “No gentleman asks a lady her age.  If you’re willing say you’re seniors then that’s good enough for me.”  When we revealed our actual ages he remained incredulous, so he was immediately installed as one of our favorite people – but we did get the tickets for $15 instead of $20.

And there she is - The Alamo!

And there she is – The Alamo!

The show would start at 8:30 so we still had hours and hours to fill.  We decided to head over to the Alamo.  Deb had a friend who said a relative of hers was in a picture on the Gift Shop wall.  We also felt somewhat obligated to go take a picture.  It’s like a rite of passage each time you visit San Antonio.

The landmark was about to close for the day, so we high-tailed it to the gift shop, but they must have remodeled since the Alamo defender’s descendant last visited.  No historical photographs were displayed in the gift shop.

With the obligatory picture in our cameras, we decided to hit the Menger Bar for some Margaritas.  Now the Menger Bar is another of those spots I’ve wished to visit, but I never talked anyone else into it.  “You mean it’s just an old bar?”, I’ve been asked several times.  Well, nanny nanny poo poo, Deb and I went and we had fun.  The proximity of the bar to the Alamo and the prospect of margaritas, probably had as much to do with Deb’s cooperative nature as anything else, but who am I to complain about getting what I want.

Tom and Lula Mae on their 20th wedding anniversary.

Tom and Lula Mae on their 50th wedding anniversary.

See, the Menger Bar is not just any old bar.  It’s been around for a very long time.  Notable figures ranging from Robert E Lee and Theodore Roosevelt to Lillie Langtry and Mae West have sidled up to the Menger Bar to wet their whistle.  It’s most famous for Teddy Roosevelt using it as a recruiting station for the Spanish American War, but it’s also the place where barbed wire got its start.  I’m partial to the Teddy Roosevelt story, because my grandfather, Thomas Byron Mobley, fought in that altercation and Lula Mae, his wife, was the last one to receive widow benefits from that war.  A senator showed up one day to give my grandmother the check in person, but I don’t think Tom signed up down in San Antonio.  At least not that I’ve heard.

All that being said, the bar is a small dark hole in the wall with low ceilings and some historical memorabilia spread around.  It was great for people-watching, because several large family groups were there scarfing down their evening meals.  I can assure you the toddler who was so entertaining didn’t know or care about Teddy or Tom.  The bar also had a GREAT Margarita.  Perhaps the best we had the whole time we were there.  Certainly the best on that particular night.

Well, I’ve about worn out my welcome for the day, but it’s still not time to go see Fiesta Noche del Rio.  Come back next week for a tour of a few more Margaritas before the show.

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Filed under Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Restaurants, Road Trips, San Antonio, Shopping, Texas, TRAVEL, Travel Writing

At Home in Heath: Our Home Online!

From wjcustomhomes.com

From wjcustomhomes.com

If you think we’re proud of our new house, you should talk to our builders, Whittle and Johnson Custom Homes (W&J).  They just put us on their website.

The first Whittle we got to know was Rob Whittle of Whittle Development.  He found us wandering around a parcel of land in his Buffalo Creek development.  Sure, he wanted to sell us some land, but he was also a very nice guy.  He’s so in love with Rockwall County that he wants to share it with everyone.  He showed us several lots before we happened on to the one we bought and the one we picked was one for which he’d already had plans drawn.  Still , he was almost as excited about our plans for the lot as we were.

Now that we’re in the house, he’s just as excited about us as he was the first day he found us.  We had some tough days during the build, but Rob was a straight-shooter every step of the way and took the hit a few times when others might have stuck it to us.  Not everybody in town is as fond of Rob as I am, but I appreciate the vision he had and still has for the area and the determination and perseverance he’s applied to making his vision a reality.

Once we were the proud owners of our pond-side lot, Rob handed us over to a couple more Whittles, Mike and Aaron.  Mike is Rob’s brother and Aaron is married to Rob’s daughter.  If you go over to their office you’ll find more of the Whittle clan.

There are very few lots left to build on here in Buffalo Creek, so Rob’s primary concern these days is a huge development called The Heath Golf and Yacht Club.  What was nothing but some empty land this time last year now has roads, sewage, utilities and more.  Were you to attend a meeting of the Heath Planning Department, I’ve heard you’d have to listen to a lot of chatter about the new development.   The Whittles also have projects in Royce City and other places.

We absolutely adore our house, but you guys know I am very honest here in this space.  I tell you what I love, but I also tell you what I don’t love and why.  I love Rob Whittle’s vision.  I also appreciate that when the results of a routine inspection came in after we’d purchased the lot said our lot might benefit from water injections for the foundation, he didn’t sweep it under the rug (which he could have done), but revealed the findings to us and split the cost of it with us.  I love his enthusiasm for our area and the way he keeps plugging away at developing it, even in the face of a lot of conflict.  If you Google him or Whittle Development, you’re going to read a lot of ugly things, most of which are based on mis-information.  You have to have a tough skin to be a developer, that and the heart of a salesman.

I’m also fond of Mike and Aaron.  How could you not like Aaron?  No matter what we threw at him, and we threw a lot, he always had a smile for us – and still does.  If his name were on our deed, he couldn’t be prouder of the finished product.  Mike, too, is a nice guy.  He works hard and his heart is definitely in the right place.

Even though I happen to be a personal fan of Rob, Mike and Aaron, I haven’t come away from our building experience with complete satisfaction.  It’s not that they don’t know how to build a house.  It’s that they are first and foremost a builder of spec homes and “custom” isn’t their usual gig.  I’d have no problem going out and buying a house built by Whittle and Johnson, but I’d never have them custom build for me again.  We know that we couldn’t have built this house so economically with any other builder, but the headaches and heartaches sure made up the difference in sweat equity.

Basics to the custom home building process like, “tell-us-before-you-spend-our-money”, seemed impossible for them grasp. We’d ask what the standard was for a Whittle home, go out and research other options, and then we’d ask, “What would it cost to do it this way?”  Either they’d go ahead with it before telling us any price or they’d start the upgrade while we were still negotiating a price.

This would happen, in part, because they use the same subs for their custom builds as they do for their specs.  The subs are used to doing things the “Whittle Way” and that didn’t always line up with our way.  For instance, the brick layers showed up one Saturday in December and started putting down brick.  Our build was the next project on their schedule, but we were still discussing ornamental treatments with Aaron.  A neighbor called us and alerted us to the fact that the walls weren’t going up as we’d told him we’d planned.  What a nightmare!

Another challenge was making changes.  This wasn’t our first build, so we knew the difficulty of change orders, but this project took the frustrations to a whole new level.  Because W&J have been using their subs for so long, the subs, like the brick layer, make assumptions about the way things are going to happen.  Compound this with a lag time between when we’d tell Aaron what we wanted and when Aaron would tell the subs.  Pure frustration.

Far too many times we walked into the house and what we saw going up was not what we wanted.  We’d stop the sub and try to contact the Whittles.  Everything would then come to a screeching halt and the sub would move on to their next project.  It could take months to get a sub back to finish something.  Sometimes the other subs would just have to work around a project on hold, but sometimes everything would have to stop. During one of our many complaint sessions, I was told one of the reasons we were having so much trouble was because we were interfering with the sub-contractors’ rhythms.  That explained a lot, but it does not recommend W&J as “custom” builders.

Another issue was that their spec sub-contractors aren’t familiar with custom features.  The builder’s tile guy is one of the sweetest, hardest working subs we had working on our house.  We have a lot of tile in the house so we really got to know him and like him a lot, but Carrera marble on the shower wall with black grout and a glass tile feature, slate laid in a Versailles pattern on the patio and other custom features were either just at the edge of his capabilities or in the case of the Versaille pattern, beyond them.

Bill actually had to sit down and figure out a pattern which would properly utilize the tiles which had already been purchased and then supervise the installation.  Bill is not in the tile business, but even after we googled Versaille pattern and gave it to the tile guy, the tile guy couldn’t figure it out.   Our wooden stairwell with slate trim and rod iron balustrades?  I don’t even want to go into the challenges we had trying to get three subs and various suppliers to cooperate with our design.

There was more – like locking up at night.  It’s one thing for a builder to decide they can live with the risk of leaving a spec house open overnight.  They do have insurance after all.  But when clients have installed one-of-a-kind or hard-to-find features, the risk of theft and vandalism escalates. We were lucky to have befriended a guy that on most afternoons plays a late game of golf.  After seeing the house wide open late in the day as he played the hole next to the house, he gave us a call and offered to lock up for us.  Then, the situation repeated itself so often that he just got in the habit of locking our house up each night. Never build01222015

I think you get the idea.  All this and more is why, even though I love the finished product, I hated the nightmare of the build.  We’ve been here for three months and W&J are still working their way through our first punch list.  It’s been tough; a real love-hate relationship.  Building a house is always a challenge.  We can tell you nightmares about the house we built in California too, but those have more to do with tree-huggers, slow-growth proponents and restrictive CC&R’s.  Don’t build a house unless you are really ready for a lot of headaches.  Were the headaches we had with W&J out of the norm?  You’ll have to be the judge of that.  I’m never, ever going to build a house again.  Next time Bill suggests it, I’m going to show him this blog post and this napkin.

Come back next week and I’ll tell you about that nice guy that kept locking up our house each night and some other wonderful people we’ve met here in Buffalo Creek.

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Filed under Architecture, Heath, LIFE IN THE METROPLEX, Lifestyle Articles, TRAVEL

Travel There: Hotel Contessa – Royalty on the River

From HotelContessa.com

From HotelContessa.com

Deb and I knew one thing as we planned our San Antonio Stroll: We were staying on the River. That wasn’t a very restrictive idea. The Riverwalk is chock-a-block with great hotels and I’ve stayed in a number of them: Omni’s La Mansion del Rio, Hilton’s Palacio del Rio and once there was even a Four Seasons down there.

The first Riverwalk hotel in my memory bank is the La Quinta Riverwalk, but that was way back in high school and the river was several blocks away in those days. I’d been selected as a delegate to a convention by my Home Economics teacher. ( Don’t laugh, I’d just won an award for a table setting.  I still can’t sew  a hem that will hold.)  I stayed at this La Quinta several times since high school, but never since the Rivercenter Mall was next door and the hotel has grown into a high rise since that happened.  It was once just a little La Quinta.

I’ve stayed at the Marriot Courtyard Market Square several times, because it’s convenient to downtown and the Riverwalk, without having the Riverwalk price.  (It doesn’t hurt that I can use the points from my Marriott credit card there.)  On the trip just before this one, I stayed at La Mansion and that is an experience everyone should enjoy, but I have a new favorite – Hotel Contessa.

As Deb and I perused our Riverwalk choices, the words “luxury suites” kept bringing us back to The Contessa.  So we booked one of their suites, but being the frugal ladies we are, we didn’t opt for a Riverwalk view.  We figured we needed to stay on the Riverwalk, but that didn’t mean we had to see it from our room.  Besides, we congratulated ourselves on our wisdom by pointing out to one another that some people had complained of the noise on the Riverwalk side.

Due to my research, I knew the only parking for the hotel was valet parking and it was quite a chunk of change.  I also read there was a huge, much cheaper, parking lot catty-corner to the hotel.  So we pulled into the big public parking and rolled our suitcases across the street to the Contessa, like paupers approaching their liege with all their earthly goods in a wheelbarrow.

There is nothing about the outside of the Contessa to signal what’s inside.  It’s just another building.  If it didn’t say it was the Contessa, you’d wonder why someone had built a new office building right on the river.  Then you walk inside.  The bustling lobby has a cool chic that says, “You’ve arrived!”  On your left is a huge full-length portrait of a lady in Spanish-looking garb – the Contessa I presumed.  Further to your left is registration.

The registration desk was busy, but not hectic.  I didn’t have to wait long.  The greeting was cordial and the clerk asked me the reason for my visit.  I explained it was a belated birthday celebration – and then I got my birthday present: an upgrade to a River View room.  Hot diggity dog!

The elevators are glass, giving you a view of the inviting atrium as you glide to your floor.  We went to 401, a corner room which overlooked the Briscoe sculpture garden on one side and looked over the river on the other.  Heaven!  But the view was only part of the charm.  It really was a luxury suite.  The den had a sectional sofa,a large coffee table, a tall side table with two barstools and the requisite TV.  The next room was a sort of dry kitchen connected to the bathroom, with the honor bar, frig, coffee pot, ice bucket etc, but we used it as a second vanity, because though the bathroom is quite luxurious, it’s really not set up for two women getting ready at the same time.  That worked fine, because of the huge mirror over the honor bar.  And there was a TV.

The bedroom was functional, not palacial, but adequate.  The accouterments were luxurious and there were lots of drawers, but closet space was limited.  And there was a TV.

Because of the other generous spaces, the bedroom seemed a little tight by comparison, but how much space do you need to sleep?  You could get in on both sides of both beds, so what more do you need?  This is not a complaint, just a description of what you’ll find.

We loved that room.  The whole hotel has a very modern feel, but on the warm side of modern, not the sterile, “”don’t-move-that-magazine” modern.  On the following night, we would come back to the hotel right after dinner, just so we could luxuriate in it.  We also enjoyed the Cork Bar, down at the river level.  Las Ramblas, their Spanish restaurant on the same level as the bar, also looked marvelous. We just ran out of time.  We also didn’t make it up to the pool on the roof or the spa.  That’s for next time – and we will make sure there is a next time!

I read a lot about extraordinary service when I was shopping the hotel.  I’d have to agree and my favorite guys were the doormen.  Once we parked the car, we didn’t go back to until we were ready to go home.  We’d set forth from the hotel with all sorts of questions and the doormen would have answers for us.  They also had a warm greeting for us every time we came “home.”  Yep, I liked this hotel.

There are great reasons to stay at all the wonderful riverside hotels, but for my travel dollar, the Contessa is the queen.

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Filed under Accommodations, Road Trips, San Antonio, Texas, TRAVEL, Travel Writing

Travel There: San Antonio’s King William District

The Guenther House

The Guenther House

If it’s art, I love it. If it’s Decorative Arts, Architecture and History, well I’m there.  That’s the reason we spent our first morning in San Antonio at the McNay.  It’s also the reason our next stop was the King William District.

To be exact, our  next stop was The Guenther House, because I also like food.  The Guenther House is one of the jewels in the crown of The King William District.   The Guenther Family founded the Pioneer Flour Mills.  Ever hear of Pioneer Biscuit Mix.  Yep, that’s them.

The mill is still producing and you can sample their wares at the restaurant, right there at the home of their founder.  The home also serves as a museum and has a great gift shop.  Deb and I took a look at it all while we waited for a friend to arrive.  I met Clark in my SFA days and stay in touch on Facebook, but it’s always great to get a chance to chat in person.  We were able to get a seat right there on that covered patio.  Deb had a salad, I opted for the Champagne Chicken Enchiladas and Clark just kept us company.

Of the two dishes, I think Deb chose the better one.  Not that mine was bad – it just wasn’t everything I’d dreamed of when I read, “Tender slices of chicken breast and Monterey Jack cheese wrapped in Pioneer’s White Wings flour tortillas.  Baked in our special sauce made from San Antonio River Mill Champagne Chicken Gravy mix, garnished with jalapenos and cilantro.”  The tortilla was a little tough and by the time the melted cheese made it out to the patio, so was it.  The flavor was great, but I’m a real stickler for texture.

Soon Clark had places to be and I had a walking tour of King Williams in my hand.  Now I’ve been to the King William District numerous times, but I’ve never been to San Antonio with anyone else who is as patient with my passions as Deb is.  Every time I’ve been to San Antonio I’ve told my traveling companions how great it would be to walk through the district and spend some time looking at each house.  So far no one had taken me up on it.  I’d been through it on a trolley tour, I’d gone on the Steve’s Homestead Tour and I’d driven through on the way to Guenther’s, but walking tour and San Antonio had not clicked with any of my potential walking tour companions.

Of course, Deb thought it was a great idea and it turned out to be just that.  We left Guenther’s and figured out where we were on the walking tour map.  Then we did just what I’d wanted to do, strolled along and discussed all the beautiful homes with the walking tour map and guide as our reference.  Along the way we did take in the Steve’s Homestead Tour – delightful, by the way, but we were a few minutes late for Villa Finale, so we just enjoyed the grounds.  As beautiful as these homes are they only scratch the surface.  Each home in the five block area is a treasure.

So, yes, if you go to San Antonio you should do the walking tour.  San Antonio is notoriously hot and humid, and we walked the whole thing in ninety something humid weather, but it was fine.  In fact, the tree-shaded sidewalk made it very pleasant.  On the way back to Guenther’s we dropped down to the River and enjoyed the serenity.  This is one of my favorite memories of this trip.

But the Riverwalk was calling.  We had reservations at Hotel Contessa and we wanted to see the Fiesta Noche del Rio at the Arneson River Theater.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you all about it!  In the meantime, enjoy these pictures from the King William Walking Tour.

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The Steve's Homestead

The Steve’s Homestead

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In the Villa Finale Garden

In the Villa Finale Garden

The Joske House - important because my Mom worked for Joskie's Department Store for years.

The Joske House – important because my mom worked for Joskie’s Department Store for years.

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Filed under Architecture, ART, Decorative Arts, Gardens, Museums, San Antonio, Texas, TRAVEL

Travel There: Morning at the McNay

Incoming Message from the Big Giant Head!

Incoming Message from the Big Giant Head!

Diverting Diversity

There’s more than one reason I have a blast traveling with my bestie.  One of the benefits I truly enjoy is her encyclopedic knowledge of movies and TV – especially movies and TV she enjoyed with her boys.  Since I didn’t have kids at all and tend to know more about concierges than coneheads, I can be seriously entertained by things that everyone else already knew.  Enter the sculpture garden at the McNay.

You can usually tell what is most important to me on a trip, because I will schedule it first on the agenda if at all possible.  That’s why the McNay Art Museum was our Friday morning destination.  As we pull into the beautiful grounds of the wonderful museum, Deb says, “Incoming message from the big giant head.”  This made no sense whatsoever to me.  Yes, there was a large sculpture of Marion Koogler McNay‘s head there on the lawn, but what was that “incoming message” stuff about?  That’s when I got a lesson on coneheads.  Most of you don’t need an explanation, so I’ll leave it at that.  We arrived a few minutes before the museum opened which gave us some time to explore the garden.  Deb posed before the big giant head in the appropriate stance and we captured a few of the other lovely sites on the grounds.

Welcome to Sunset Hills

Welcome to Sunset Hills

Though I’ve mentioned the McNay before, I’ve never really told you how wonderful it is.  Marion Koogler McNay was a patron of the arts and one of her husbands (she had several) built her a palace in what was once a rural area outside San Antonio.  Now the estate is just minutes from downtown, surrounded by accouterments of the bustling metropolis.  Learning more about the heiress’ life is just one of a plethora of reasons to visit the McNay.

Getting to Know Marion Koogler McNay

Ms. McNay is one of those people who had everything other people want, but was denied the one thing she really wanted.  Over the years as I’ve visited the museum, I’ve learned tidbits about her life and it is a haunting story.

Born in Ohio, to a family with money, she was exposed to great art at a very young age and it captured her heart.  She was one of the first to collect works of Impressionism, which led to an appreciation of the schools which followed it, like Cubism and Fauvism.  But the modern art of her day was not her only interest.  She collected religious images from the Middle Ages and classic sculpture also.  She was an artist in her own right and played a role in the artistic community of Taos New Mexico.

But all she really loved was Don McNay.  She was still quite young when the pair met and married.  Though she was well-to-do, her husband was not.  He was just a soldier who was about to be posted to an assignment on the Texas-Mexico border. She came along and they lived very happily in a very modest house near his posting.  In spite of her affluent upbringing, this was the best time of her life.

Unfortunately it was not happily ever after.  Don was reassigned and shortly after leaving the border area, he died from the Spanish Influenza epidemic.  Ms. McNay had not followed him on his second assignment, but settled in San Antonio, where the two had honeymooned on their way to the border town.  There were other homes and other husbands, but her heart would always belong to Don.

From the courtyard

From the courtyard

One of her husbands built this beautiful mansion called Sunset Hills for her, and even though she made it a beacon of art and beauty for others, she had sad experiences there.  It took years to build the complex residence and when it was done, our country had fallen into the Depression.  She held a gala housewarming, but the pictures of it seem to echo with disappointment, rather than glee.  In just a few years her marriage ended and she took back Don’s surname as her own.  I can imagine her walking the halls of her beautiful home wishing she could trade it all for just a little more time with the love of her life, Don McNay.

The McNay Today

Though her own life was sad, she brought opportunity and great art to San Antonio for others to enjoy.  A visit to the McNay to learn more about Marion and enjoy Sunset Hills is more than enough reason to make the pilgrimmage there, but on top of it all is the art – some of it hanging on the walls, other items actually a part of the walls, like the beautiful mosaic in the courtyard.

Membership having its privileges, Deb and I got in for free, thanks to my membership at the DMA.  Then we began to roam the museum enjoying first the permanent collection, then wandering back to the theater area for some special exhibitions out there.  One was called “All the Rage in Paris” and it had posters, costumes and other artifacts from the days of the Ballet Russe in Paris.  What and interesting and beautiful collection!

While there we watched a video on Ms. McNay’s life, which reminded me of some of the things I’d learned about her and relaxed in the courtyard.  I love that courtyard so much that there is even a chance that I actually go there for the fountain and mosaics rather than the art. (Don’t tell anyone!  I’m still trying to impress people with my art appreciation skills.)  They also have a whimsical and wonderful gift shop, but I managed to leave without buying anything this time.

After a couple of hours, it was unfortunately time to move on.  We had many plans for our day and lunch at the Guenther House was one of them.  Come back next week and find out about Champagne Chicken Enchildas!  In the meantime, enjoy a few more pictures of the McNay.

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A More Modern Part of the Museum

A More Modern Part of the Museum

 

Arches in the Courtyard

Arches in the Courtyard

The Koi Pond in the Courtyard

The Koi Pond in the Courtyard

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Filed under Architecture, ART, Decorative Arts, Gardens, McNay Art Museum, Museums, Road Trips, San Antonio, Texas, TRAVEL, Travel Writing

At Home in Heath: Equal Opportunity for Methodists

In an effort to be sure we’ve left no stone un-turned, we visited First Methodist Rockwall recently. Growing up Baptist, Methodist always seemed like the biggest rival in our evangelical conference, so I felt like a traitor as I walked in the door.

In my single days, Lovers Lane Methodist was sort of the “it” church.  I actually went there for several weeks and attended a Sunday School Class that was studying a book you may have heard of, How to Survive the Loss of a Love.  It’s a great book and I’ve used principles from it in many situations, but at the end of the study I realized we hadn’t opened our Bibles once.  This wasn’t my style of Sunday School.

Shortly after that I discovered Northwest Bible Church and I didn’t have to look any further.  Even though I’ve journeyed through many other churches with Bill, for a variety of reasons, I still feel like my home church is Northwest.

My next Methodist experience was a phone conversation with one of their ministers.  Someone from Northwest introduced us (long before I met Bill) because they thought we’d be a match made in heaven.  I never actually met this minister in person and I don’t remember his name, because our theological differences became immediately apparent in the first phone call.  I simply believe what the Bible says about sex and he felt it was up for interpretation.  His interpretation was that when he was dating someone he expected them to put out.  That relationship wasn’t going to go anywhere.

Theology is important to me, so that was sort of the end of the line for me and the Methodists.  Enter Mr. Bill.  Coming from a liturgical background he’s not a fussy about theology.  He saw a nice building and thought it might be a nice church.  He’s not as wary of snake handling.

Let me tell you, if you are looking for a great Methodist Church, it’s right over there across from the new county courthouse.  The facilities are lovely and a new building is coming up right now.  We were greeted and welcomed and greeted and welcomed to beat the band.  The seats are comfortable, the sound system is good, the music was great – the selections, soloist and the choir.  It’s obvious that they have a whole lot of ministry going on.  High marks all around.

The sermon was about Crabby and Grabby…I mean Esau and Jacob – Crabby and Grabby were the nicknames the preacher tagged them with.  Somehow the story skipped from youthful competition to end of life reconciliation without really addressing all the tough stuff in the middle.  Bill tagged it Theology Light.  You can’t judge a whole church by one sermon and Bill liked a lot of things about FMR, so who knows, I might be destined for Methodology – or would that be Methodism.  I’ll have to find that out before we visit again.

There’s really only one more church on my list.  After that we’ll be doing the second round, which will be Sunday School Classes.  You may think I’m crazy for blogging about this, but in my world, it’s more important than granite!

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Filed under DFW Metroplex, Heath, Lifestyle Articles, Texas, TRAVEL