Where I Was When I Wasn’t Here: San Antonio, TX


Colorful bat mosaic on wall at zoo.

“The world is a book. If you do not travel, you read only a page.”

The above quote, that I see every day when I’m at home, is on a framed piece of artwork that I have hanging on a wall in our home office.

I only mention this quote, attributed to St. Augustine, because I believe it to be true, a guiding principle.  Thus I said “hell to the yes” when I had the opportunity to spend a few days in pleasant and pretty San Antonio, TX.

You see, last week Zen-Den was in San Antonio for a conference.  Remembering how much fun we had there years ago, I joined him after the conference was over and we goofed off for a couple of days doing things in America’s 7th largest city that is celebrating its 300th birthday.

[Did not know either of those facts before visiting there. Feel that I’m a better person for having shared them here.]


• The San Antonio River Walk which is a meandering multi-level path around an urban waterway surrounded by restaurants, shops, and hotels.

• The Briscoe Western Art Museum which was beautiful, and wherein I saw Roy Rogers’s saddle, a real Wells Fargo Wagon, and ate a complimentary cupcake.

• The Alamo Quarry Market which is an open-air shopping area filled with stores and restaurants, not necessarily unique to San Antonio but a nice place to wander around in the warm sunshine.

• The San Antonio Zoo which was lovely, with more animals from South America, Australia, and Africa than any other zoo I’ve been to.

• The Alamo City Comic Con which was our first adventure into the happy, trippy subculture that revolves around comic conventions.  Here are my observations: 1) people, often entire families, were costumed like comic book or TV or movie characters [we were not];  2) people were standing in line waiting to pay to have photos taken with and/or objects signed by celebrities [we did not];  & 3) people were buying memorabilia and posters and t-shirts from the displays set up by many vendors [we did not].


And with that I’ll end this post with a hat tip to St. Augustine and his travel advice, suggesting to you, my gentle readers, that San Antonio, TX, is a fun + friendly place to visit for those of you inclined to want to read more than one page of this book we call the world.

As Our Summer Begins, A Dazzle Of Zebras

Last week was the unofficial beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere.  We were on staycation so we had to go to the zoo.

Had to, I tell you.

On the day we went to the zoo the weather was hazy and humid, drizzly, so most of my zoo photos weren’t amazeballs.  As I’d hoped they’d be.

In fact this photo of the zebras is the only one I kept from our visit. I kept it because it’s not half bad, from an artsy point of view, and because it lends itself to a good question of the day: how many zebras do you see in this photo?

I ask because I snapped the picture not realizing that there were three zebras standing together.  All I saw were two black and white zebra rumps.

That photographed beautifully.

Especially, I suppose, because the animals, known collectively as a dazzle, were standing still having a little nosh.

[Unlike the flamingoes who weren’t at their best, having been dipped in Pepto-Bismol then rolled in dirt, looking drab and confused by the weather.  Or the totally uncooperative gorilla who was a lovely shade of bricky orange, but wouldn’t stop moving for me to get a pic.]


Anyhoo, getting to a point here– I’m back from our staycation.

We had a nice time. We went to the zoo, and we went to an art festival, and we went to an English pub, and we did some much-needed pruning + weeding in the flower beds, and we read books.

Nothing too exciting happened.  Nothing too dull happened.  It was a staycation that was, to quote Goldilocks, just right.

And I do believe, if I might be paradoxical and pithy here, a perfect way to gear up for the summer… by slowing down. 😎

No Stories Here, Only The Remains Of My Inspiration File

It’s spring and you are on a tear to clean out your inspiration file. You have a vague idea about writing something about four cute images but you can’t get your head together to write anything.   


Well, kids, may I suggest that you put together a post about the stories that you couldn’t figure out how to write, add the cute images– and call it a Tuesday. 

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I took this quiz and got 11 out of 12.  

NO STORY HERE… just something fun that you, too, might want to do if you’re curious about how much you remember about baseball in the TV shows you watched as a kid.

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This is the color that Zen-Den painted our home office walls– and ceiling.

NO STORY HERE… other than to say that this a lovely warm gray color that when natural light reflects off the golden oak floor the walls look gray with a slight aqua cast to them.  Me likey.

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I did a screen save of the emojis that I use the most.

NO STORY HERE… except that it seems like there should be a story here in which my inner-most self is revealed through my use of emojis.  But, alas and alack, my inner-most self remains a mystery.

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This is a tweet in which I shared how to kill a scorpion.

NO STORY HERE… because I’ve only seen a scorpion in the zoo– and even though the zoo sells alcoholic beverages, those zoo people are fussy about visitors not murdering the zoo residents.  Go figure.

Of Blogs, Beans & Bears

All the cool kids are telling their stories about how & why they chose the names that they did for their blogs.  Read this.

Naturally, I want to be a cool kid, too.  So here’s my story of how this blog came to be named, The Spectacled Bean.

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SHORT VERSION:  I am nearsighted and wear eye glasses (aka spectacles) all the time.  My blogging nom de plume is Ally Bean.  Ergo, I am The Spectacled Bean.

LONG VERSION:  I knew that I wanted to start a blog, but was dithering around about the whole thing.  I kept thinking that if I could figure out the perfect name for a blog, then I’d do it.

Well, one sunny winter’s day Z-D & I went to the zoo.  Many of the animals were at their best, loving the coldness.  As a result of this, we stopped to watch some animals that until now I’d never paid much attention to.

One of said animals was the spectacled bear.  He was moseying around his enclosure and looked rather dapper.  Reading the information* about him I knew that he was just the sort of animal that had the right attitude.

I was smitten– and in a moment of divine inspiration I realized that by using a modified version of his name for my blog’s name, I could describe myself.  Hence, this blog is called The Spectacled Bean.

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{ source }


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*  Often described as small, adaptable and elusive, spectacled bears  can “… while away the hours in treetops, occasionally feeling the urge to become productive when they build huge platforms out of broken branches, to help them get at out of reach fruit.”  

Lots Of Fun, Slightly Different

Last night Z-D and I went to dinner, and then to the zoo, with some people who Z-D knows through business.  Technically it was a business event but these people aren’t in the least bit uptight, so it really was quite fun.

[Not all business events are, you know?  Trust me.]

We went to a small, old-fashioned Italian restaurant for dinner.  I’d heard of the place, but had never been there so I was psyched to try it.  The restaurant was charming in that hodge-podge way of older establishments– rooms added every which way over the years and decorated in a mix of 1970s tables & chairs + fake plastic flowers + framed b&w photos + updated 2011 light fixtures.  Unique, but very practical.  Clean and friendly.

The menu was only Italian fare, and the food was good and plentiful.  But what caught us all by surprise was that along with the usual Chianti and beer selections on the menu, this Italian restaurant offered flights of Bourbon.  Apparently, they are known for having one of the best Bourbon tasting menus in the area.  So, naturally we ordered one flight, lots of glasses and started tasting Bourbon.

[Bottom line: I like Bourbon and appreciate the differences in flavor of the various distilleries.  But I feel that lasagna + bourbon are not a tasty combo.  Either one separately is delish.  Together– not so much.]

After dinner we went to the zoo to see all the holiday lights– 2+ million LED lights to be exact.  The weather was dry (finally) and the temps were in the 40s so we were comfortable while walking around.  Programmed music coordinated with the lights to create a fun series of colorful displays.  And, of course, the little kids were fun to watch watching the lights.  They were really into it.

Most of the animals looked tired and were trying to ignore the lights– and us crazy human beings wandering around after hours.  That would be all the animals except those animals in the petting zoo who were very interested in the human visitors to their area.  Especially the large herd of goats that live beside the 25¢ Goat Chow Dispenser.

Goats are born hungry, pushy, noisy– so I’m accustomed to seeing goats stand by their fence with their front legs on the horizontal supports and their skinny faces staring alternately at the dispenser and passing human beings.  *bleat, bleat*  Ever hopeful.

But what caught our attention and kept us laughing all night was one large fluffy sheep who had infiltrated the goat-herd.  This sheep had adopted the exact stance of the goats, sticking its wide dopey head above the fence rail hoping to get a handful of Goat Chow.  And then, oddly enough, eating the Goat Chow from the hand of a human being.

This I’d never seen before and it entertained me to no end.  Not enough to squander 25¢ on a handful of Goat Chow, but enough to tip my hat to the one uppity sheep in the zoo.

Here’s to the crazy ones…