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Updated: Aug 1, 2021

Howdy, folks!

In this first issue of Away We Go, I’ll chat about our stay in Hondo, TX and our visits to the surrounding areas.

"The three of you are moving into a tiny cabin? Have you lost your minds?"
"No. Quite the opposite. We just recently found them."

Hondo, TX

First settled in 1881 and incorporated in 1942, Hondo is home to over nine thousand residents.

"This is God's Country. Please Don't Drive Through it Like Hell."

Why Hondo?

Well, we needed a place to stay while waiting for our RV to arrive, so we headed south. A family friend who lives in the area pulled some strings which got us hooked up with a cute little cabin in Pica Ranch.

Friends, a quaint little one bedroom cabin nestled on a ranch without the distraction of the internet or television was exactly what we needed.

It took a few days for the three of us to detox from our addiction to screen time, but our son’s attitude changed for the better, the weight of the world lifted off our shoulders once we stopped glancing at the news, stopped obsessing over the drama, and our quality of time together spiked. We played board games (Ticket to Ride is one of our favs), cards, chess, and battled one another in the Beyblade arena. Purple Fury is still my blade of choice. ;-)

During the day we explored nearby towns and tried local eats. Then, in the early evenings we visited our animal friends at the ranch.

Cotton, the lovable yet naughty donkey, stole our hearts. He reminded us of a playful puppy or a Disney animal sidekick. His buddy, a sweet gelding, tolerated his behavior for only so long. A swift kick from Cotton's long-legged pal straightened the donkey's attitude. The mares tried to ignore the pesky fella while we fed them almonds and played with the ranch pups.

Hondo Restaurant Reviews:

Heavy’s BBQ: 5/5

The best BBQ I’ve ever eaten. You’ve got to try the sausage. Yummy.

HonDough Pizza Co.: 3/5

A family owned pizzeria. The red sauce was a little too chunky for my taste.

Billy Bob’s Hamburgers: 3/5

A quick stop for a classic burger and fries.

Review for Hondo, TX ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Entertainment Value: 3/5

Eats: 3/5

Charm: 2/5

San Antonio, TX

Sea World

I highly recommend the Ultimate Animal Adventure Experience. It hit every mark for entertainment and education.

We started the day by visiting the Sea Lions. Leon was Emerson’s favorite. They loved play time.

We then made our way to Discovery Cove, where we donned our wetsuits. Justin enjoyed making ridiculous comments about how snug the black suit fit around his nether regions. ;-)

The Beluga encounter blew me away. I adore marine mammals so getting into the water with one was a dream come true. The artic temperature was COLD…really freaking cold. I had never worn a wetsuit in such icy temperatures, but it didn’t take long for the layer of water around my body to warm me up. And honestly, who can think about the cold when a Beluga whale is staring into your eyes. Luna, the pregnant female, was such a sweetheart. We got kisses, playtime, and rubbed her pregnant belly.

We then headed to the dolphin area of the park. Ripley was a playful girl. Her shark impression had us giggling and her tail splash left us soaking wet.

After drying off, we swung by the penguin exhibit. OMG! Why are Rock hoppers so cute? I wanted to take DC home. I couldn’t stop smiling when she waddled into the room. Did I mention she loves hair? My long locks kept teasing her little beak. The trainer then took us into the penguin house. Burr. Flip-flops and snow don’t mix. Inside we saw the King penguins and the Chinstraps who don’t care for people as much as the Rock hoppers and Gentoos, but they were still adorable. The indoor exhibit mirrored their natural habit with special lighting and climate control. They seemed like happy little buggers swimming and sliding about.

After overstaying our welcome at the penguin house, we had to run…in flip-flops to the orca stadium. Now, I’m aware of the controversy that surrounded Sea World after Blackfish released. For a while, I boycotted the facility because of the documentary, so why did I decide to go back? Well, things have changed. Orca breeding is no longer allowed and Sea World plans to phase out the theatrical shows. Yes, I would rather see these animals enjoying life in the wild, but they wouldn’t survive if released. A lot of naysayers forget about the thousands of rescues Sea World performs each year. I think it comes down to a simple question: Do we let nature take its course and watch endangered species vanish or do we get involved and help save them from extinction? I don’t know the right answer. But I do know this… animal conservationist are doing what they feel is right and so is Sea World. Please don’t shame those who visit zoos or animal sanctuaries. Not everyone spends hours researching facilities before they visit. Spread awareness with kindness, not aggressive comments.

Our last stop of the day took us to the shark aquarium. The sand sharks have quite the intimidating smile. I had terrifying visions of someone falling into the tank during our visit, but said thoughts vanished once the guide mentioned how the sharks were always full. (Insert side eyes) I found it fascinating how they clean and care for the tanks. Sea World has a ton of employees. Our guide, D’wayne adored his job and it showed in his passion for animals.

Alamo Plaza

A must stop for tourist. See the Alamo, swing by the wax museum, brave Ripley’s haunted house, explore landmark hotels, some claim to be haunted, pose by a statue of Teddy Roosevelt, visit Lego Land, etc. This wasn’t our first rodeo at the Alamo Plaza, but we still had a great time. Our son wanted to visit the Mirror Maze. Was it over priced? Absolutely. The downstairs maze was pretty cool. The ten-minute escape room on the third floor…not so much. We really enjoyed the dark maze. Warning: it's not for the claustrophobic. Imagine a pitch black indoor play scape were you must crawl and slide your way through the maze while only using your sense of touch. Terrifying? Yes. At first, but then it was pretty cool.

Sweating in the Texas heat is normal during July. After strolling about, we grabbed a drink at the famous Buckhorn Saloon and Museum.

“It is where Teddy Roosevelt recruited Rough Riders and Pancho Villa is rumored to have planned the Mexican Revolution,” says the

This place is a photographer’s dream. Where were my cosplay clothes when I needed them.

San Pedro’s Spring

FREE. Yep, you read that right. This beautiful swimming hole is free for the public to enjoy. The water is the perfect temperature for a cool summer dip and the surrounding park is gorgeous.

S.A. Restaurant Reviews:

The Good Kind: 4/5

A great spot for vegetarians/vegans/GF

Kilwins: 5/5

Ice cream and homemade fudge. Get ready to indulge.

Review for San Antonio, TX ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Entertainment Value 5/5

Eats 4/5

Charm 3/5

Bandera, TX

Known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, Bandera is a kick ass little town that advertises signs that read, “Cowboy Lives Matter Too.” We loved the beautiful park on the river, the people, and the delicious food.

Our trip to the Frontier Times Museum exceeded our expectations.

"Mom! Look at those creepy dolls."

I’ve never seen so many arrowheads in one place!

Restaurant Reviews:

The Fickle Pickle: 5/5

It's not really a restaurant but they make the most amazing pickles EVER.

Old Spanish Trail: 4/5

They serve delicious soul food. Justin said it was the best pork chop EVER. Emerson devoured the Texas chocolate cake.

Review for Bandera, TX ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Entertainment Value 3/5

Eats 4/5

Charm 4/5

D’Hanis, TX

There isn’t much to do in this small town, but its subtle charm and tasty food kept us going back for more.

Restaurant Reviews:

Bill & Rosa’s Steak House: 4/5

Known for their massive chicken fried steak and scratch made goodies.

Cowboy’s: 3/5

A little dive next to a train track that serves soul food.

Review for D’Hanis, TX ⭐️⭐️

Entertainment Value 1/5

Restaurants 3/5

Charm 2/5

Concan, TX

Want to escape your busy life and float the Frio River? Then Concan, TX is the place for you. I only have positive things to say about this little town. The rolling hills, the clear river, the gorgeous cypress trees; the list goes on and on. We were lucky enough to have private access to the Frio, which is scarce these days thanks to all the tourist.

Restaurant Reviews:

Neals: 4/5

Beautiful views of the Frio river from the patio, amazing chicken salad and chicken fingers and gravy.

Review for Concan, TX ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Entertainment Value 4/5

Restaurants 4/5

Charm 3/5

Castroville, TX

Driving through Castroville was a daily activity because we frequented the Walmart. The town square oozed old town charm.

Restaurant Reviews:

Sammy’s: 3/5

Family owned and established in 1948. We liked it but didn’t love it.

Julianna’s: 5/5

A golf club diner with an AMAZING menu. Justin found this little gem, and we visited it twice. The service and food were outstanding. You must try the spinach artichoke dip and homemade corn tortilla chips.

Castroville Cafe: 4/5

Quaint little cafe that makes you feel like you stepped inside of the Gilmore Girls. Located in the historic district.

Review for Castroville, TX ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Entertainment Value 3/5

Restaurants 3/5

Charm 4/5

Things we loved about our stay in Hondo, TX: Living off the grid, our animal friends on the ranch, staying close to family friends, the plethora of family owned restaurants, the rivers, natural springs, the cypress trees, and the peace and quiet.

Things we didn’t love: the heat and the humidity. Yep, it gets into the hundreds during the summer months.

The slow food service. Small towns don’t like to rush. Waiting lengthy times for your food is the norm.

The damned bugs. Good Lord, I’ve never seen so many critters. And they always found their way inside the cabin. The fire ants, mosquitos, and gnats drove us crazy. Grasshoppers, crickets, leaf bugs, beetles, moths, and butterflies were the least of our worries. Rattle snakes are a genuine threat in this area of Texas, but thankfully we didn’t run across any.

If you ever plan on traveling to south Texas in your lifetime, which I hope you do, I encourage you to visit during the fall or spring so you don’t sweat your ass off. South Texas is a beautiful part of the US and the majority of residents who call the area home are always willing to give you a friendly smile. If you’re lucky you might even get a cowboy hat tipped in your direction.

As always,

Set your intention and God bless!

J.M. Buckler

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Title: Ember of Night

Author: Molly E. Lee

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Synopsis: I’ve never been a stranger to the darkness. But when darkness comes knocking and looks that good, who wouldn’t invite him in? Draven is mysterious, evasive, and hot as sin. The only thing more infuriating than how much he won’t say is how obnoxious he is every time he does open his mouth. But when a group of strangers attacks me and he fights back, causing them to vanish into a cloud of black dust, I know Draven is more than he seems. He finally shows me there’s a veil separating the world I know from a world of demons living all around us. Turns out, good and evil are just words. Some of the demons don’t fall into either category. And I’m realizing just how easily I fit in among the ancient warlocks, the divine soldiers, and the twisted supernaturals... There’s so much more to me. To my past. And to what I am truly capable of than I ever thought possible. So when all signs point to me having the ability to unleash Hell on earth? I’ll have to decide if I want to do the world a solid and save it, or give it one hell of a makeover.

Review: Ember of Night started out strong for a young adult urban fantasy but fell short toward the middle of the book.

Moving on. That’s what crossed my mind after I finished reading Ember of Night. Trust me, I really wanted to love this one. I never enjoy leaving a mediocre review, especially if the publisher gifted me the book, but as a reviewer it’s my job to share my honest opinion. So, here we go.

Ember of Night had all the makings for a unique story: child abuse survivor stops at nothing to give her sister a better life while battling her violent father and terrifying demons. Hell yeah. Sign me up! I couldn’t wait to read. Unfortunately, the intriguing premise quickly dissolved once Draven, the mysterious love interest with a devastating past, appeared on the page. The same story has been told a thousand times. Insignificant girl who struggles with an external threat meets brooding boy after he waltzes into her life unexpectedly. After wooing said girl with a love potion concocted of sarcasm and disinterest, the girl falls for the boy while internally rationalizing her knee-jerk decision to play with fire. Drama unfolds, sexual tension between the attractive boy in tight fighting shirts and the girl builds, then climaxes too soon, dangerous threats come knocking, along with predictable plot twists, followed by an eye roll worthy ending.

Ember of Night tried to stand out from the crowd but plunged into the, “Look at me! I can be like A Court of Thorns and Roses too," trap.

Exhibit A: “You’re mine.” Sigh. As a fan of A Court of Thorns and Roses, Draven’s copycat line left me cringing. No Draven, you’re no Rhysand. Hmm. I think I may have said that aloud while reading.

Speaking of Draven, I struggled to connect with the moody syphon and I’m not sure why. Perhaps I’m tired of reading the same story over and over again.

I cheered for Harley at the beginning. Halfway through, I tired of her internal dialogue. I didn’t agree with a lot of her decisions, but then again, I’m not eighteen anymore. So, there’s that.

Ray, Harley’s younger sister, was a sweet character, but her dialogue sounded more like a teenager instead of a young child. It kept throwing me off. Are you seven or seventeen, Ray?

Now, let’s discuss the high marks that Ember of Night earned. I had zero complaints with the pacing or author Lee’s writing style. Yes, overused words frequented the pages, but they didn’t distract me from the story. I appreciated the varying sentence structure and loose storytelling. It felt natural for Harley’s point of view, and it kept me turning the pages. The visual descriptions used by author Lee painted a creepy picture of the demons, and the dialogue flowed effortlessly.

Overall, I didn’t hate the book, but I didn’t love it. I don’t plan on reading the next installment because the ending of book one squashed my desire to see what happens next.

Triggers/Warnings: child abuse, adult language, sexual content

Plot: 3/5

Pacing: 4/5

Escapism Factor: 3/5

Emotional Connection: 3/5

Character Development: 3/5

Star Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️

Completed Read: July 2021

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Title: Greenlights

Author: Matthew McConaughey

Publisher: Random House Audio

Synopsis: I’ve been in this life for 50 years, been trying to work out its riddle for 42, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last 35. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges - how to get relative with the inevitable - you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights”. So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is 50 years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops. Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears. It’s a love letter. To life. It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights - and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green, too. Good luck.

Review: Alright. Alright. Alright. What’s better than reading Matthew McConaughey’s biography? I’ll tell you. It’s listening to the Oscar-winning actor share his life story without a filter.

I wanted a break from fantasy fiction, and I needed some positive vibes, so I downloaded Greenlights on Audible. Curious, I pressed play. Within minutes, the intro had me hooked. McConaughey’s soothing voice warmed my soul like a crackling fire on a winter’s night. His “bumper stickers” moments gave me the pick me up I needed, and his kernels of advice burned bright.

Yes, there’s adult language, yes, there’s flowery prose, and yes, there were parts that rubbed me the wrong way…but I appreciated every second of McConaughey’s fascinating memoir. His raw and honest retelling took me on a wild ride. Live under the hand of a stern but loving father. Check. Build a giant tree house in record time. Check. Stay sane while living in Australia with overbearing strangers. Check. Discover one's destiny in wet dreams. Check. Yep. He talks about those too. Getting arrested—naked. Check. Bongos anyone? The list goes on and on. McConaughey’s colorful journey will keep Hollywood enthusiast entertained for hours, especially those who enjoy a hot cup of celebrity tea.

Matthew McConaughey is one of my favorite actors. I might not agree with all of his political and social views, but I respect his craft as an actor and an author. If you enjoy peering into the mind of celebrities, I highly recommend listening to this audiobook.

Triggers/Warnings: adult language

Plot: 5/5

Pacing: 4/5

Escapism Factor: 4/5

Emotional Connection: 4/5

Character Development: 5/5

Star Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Completed Read: July 2021

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