San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

Functional Girl: A column

Functional Girl CJ LEGARE

Dear Functional Girl: I’m a single gal who likes to travel. I was caught in a bad situation recently when, in the middle of Nowhere, Texas, my tire blew. CJ, I had never changed a tire in my life. I had to wait hours for someone to stop and help. I never want to be in that situation again. What are the most basic things a girl needs to know about her car? — Wendy R.

Dear Wendy: What a nightmare! I found myself in a similar situation several years ago. I blew a tire on I-10 in the middle of Nowhere, New Mexico during a solo cross-country trip. Lucky for me, I knew how to change a tire. Better yet, a kind gentleman stopped a few minutes later and did it for me.

Now, other than my whimsical desire to have my practical Corolla painted sparkly pink, I have no interest in cars beyond their functionality as a mode of transportation. But I think it’s extremely important for women to have a working knowledge of their vehicles and to be able to perform some basic tasks. I asked my mechanic, Brian Fennell, owner of Kyle Automotive, for a few tips and he had this to say:

“The most important thing is to keep your vehicle properly maintained. This includes oil changes, tire balancing/rotations, transmission service, timing belts and tune-ups. Every vehicle is different, so find a trustworthy shop that will clearly explain what your vehicle’s special needs may be and will work with you to develop a proper maintenance schedule. This will greatly decrease the odds of a major component failure, let alone a breakdown that results from what could have been a simple fix.

“In terms of what tasks you should be able to perform on your own vehicle, the very basics include: checking fluid levels and adding fluid when needed, checking tire pressure, and changing a flat. Knowing how to change a spark plug wouldn’t hurt either. Most of this information will be in your owner’s manual, but for a novice that can read like an ancient Latin text. Again, your local shop should be willing and able to explain and demonstrate these tasks.”

Now, ladies, one of the reasons why I like this teddy bear of a former Marine so much is because he has never once made me feel like a silly, inept girl when I’ve had vehicle questions. Brian has graciously offered to give an hour-long vehicle tutorial to one lucky female reader. If you’d like to learn a little more about your car, or if have a 16-year-old daughter getting ready to take to the open road, send me an e-mail telling me why you should win our “Cars 101 Giveaway.”

Dear Functional Girl: My new daughter-in-law is a vegan and she and my son are visiting soon. I’d like to make her some vegan cookies, but I’m afraid to select a recipe at random. Do you know a good vegan cookie recipe? — Jean A.

Dear Jean: You’re a fantastic mother-in-law! It is so very cool of you to accommodate your new daughter’s dietary restrictions. I promise you that she’ll be touched by the gesture.

Now, I must tell you that vegan eating is not for me. I really can’t fathom life without 2 percent milk. But I have a great deal of respect for vegan practitioners, and happen to know a few myself. My pal Cat DiStasio is a Ohio-based vegan foodie and authors the blog The Verdant Life. I knew that she’d be thrilled to help out! Here is her suggestion for delicious Snickerdoodles:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
1 tsp (real, not artificial, underlined!) vanilla extract
1 prepared Ener-G Egg-Replacer egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp baking soda
cinnamon sugar, for rolling

Cream the sugar, Earth Balance and vanilla extract together. Prepare the Ener-G egg by following the package instructions (1 1/2 tsp powder whisked with 2 Tbsp hot water until foamy), and add it to the Earth-Balance-and-sugar mixture. Whisk it all together until fluffy. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add 2/3 of the dry ingredients to the whipped mixture and whip until combined. Add in the remaining flour and mix by hand. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375º F. When the dough is chilled, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Make balls of dough (2 Tbsp each), and roll each ball in cinnamon sugar. Flatten each ball gently with your thumb or a fork. Bake for 10 minutes for chewy cookies, 12 minutes for crunchy. Remove from oven and let sit for 30 seconds. Gently remove the cookies from the baking sheet and let cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before serving.

Don’t worry if a couple of these ingredients seem a little foreign to you. You can find Earth Balance buttery sticks and the Ener-G egg replacer at Whole Foods and Sunflower in Austin. Also, check out Cat’s blog at for a list of vegan baking substitutes, including five egg alternatives. You may even find some delicious recipes for you and your new daughter-in-law to try out together.

Functional Girl CJ LEGARE lives in Kyle with her husband, Joshua, and is addicted to 2 percent organic milk. If you’ve got a question or comment for Functional Girl, email her here. She blogs at

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