Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

An outdoor Thanksgiving, with Chris, Kelsey and the kids, has become our tradition, ever since moving from Albuquerque to Temple. Last year's plans were sidelined, and moved indoors, due to weather, but 2012, 2013, 2014, and this year we've been blessed with good weather and the beauties of nature.

This year we met up with them at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park, near Jasper, Texas (which is about 40 miles from the Louisiana state line). We spent most of Wednesday and all day Thursday at the campground with the kids, and then, as is Dan's and my habit, "camped" at a hotel with a comfy bed and hot shower, while the kids and grands all stayed in their cozy camper trailer. 

The campground sits alongside a large lake (B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir), and several sloughs meander through the park, providing some really interesting scenery, like none I've ever seen before. I'm told there are alligators in the water, but we didn't see any.

Wednesday was pretty relaxed. It was Robert's birthday - his 7th! Although he'd had a party last weekend with some of his school and church friends, and although he had already received his brand new bicycle from Chris and Kelsey, we saved our gift for his actual birthday, when we'd be able to be with him. We got him a Modarri car kit, as suggested by his mommy. It has a little screwdriver that can be used to customize and modify the car. Seemed right up his alley! He played with it off and on all day, and into the night. 

Chris cooked up a great batch of chili and some cornbread for dinner Wednesday night. He has become quite the outdoor chef, cooking in his cast iron Dutch ovens. He puts coals beneath and on top of the pots, and cooks up some delicious dinners. 

After a good night's sleep in Jasper, we came back to camp for Thanksgiving Day. Soon after we got there, I went across the road to the restroom, and was met by a little fawn, nibbling the grass. I went back to get the kids, so they could see it. The little deer wasn't at all frightened of people. The kids walked up quite close. Eventually it did move away a few feet, but didn't run off. Clara was glad to get some pictures of it.

We ate our Thanksgiving meal in the early afternoon. Chris and Kelsey did all the preparations, and it turned out great. 

Kind of a blurry picture, but I liked it anyway.
The ecosystem in this part of Texas is so different from anything I'm familiar with. The trees are a combination of pines and deciduous trees. At the edge of the water are cypress trees, which I haven't ever seen before.

On Thursday afternoon, we all went on a little hike. The kids were hunting for a "letterbox," which was supposed to be on the trail we were hiking. They didn't find it, but it was a great hike, anyway. (I didn't know what "letterboxing" was, either, until Kelsey and Clara educated me. If you don't know, check it out on Wikipedia, here.)

Here's a REALLY tall tree we saw along the way. Robert thought he wanted to climb it, but changed his mind when his daddy boosted him up. 

Grandpa and I relaxed in the late afternoon, while the younger crew went on a second hike and succeeded in finding the letter box they were hunting for; and while they went on a short canoe trip out into the lake.


We drove home Friday and ran into rain part way home. We are grateful for the good weather we had for our time together; and most thankful for our family - Chris, Kelsey, Clara, Robert and Tim (who is still in far-away Albuquerque, and couldn't be with us for Thanksgiving). 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Bonny Good Village, Church and Festival

Over the summer, Dan and I made the difficult decision to change church congregations. After visiting different ones throughout the summer, we finally decided, this fall, to make the Salado Church of Christ our new “home.” This congregation is in the village of Salado, Texas, just a few miles south of Temple, where we live. 

We’ve already grown to know and love many of the members there. We’ve been welcomed so warmly, and invited out to lunch, into homes, and to church and community events. We've also been impressed with the preaching and teaching.

So, we are really finding it a blessing to be worshipping with the Salado church, but we are also finding it a joy to become more acquainted with and connected to the little town of Salado. What a special community it is! There are not many towns left, for instance, that still have a community-wide Thanksgiving service, with a dessert fellowship following! And THIS weekend Salado hosted, as they have done for 55 years, the Scottish Gathering of the Clans and Highland Games. 

I’ve gone to this festival before, but this weekend was Dan's first time. Two of my great-grandparents were Scots (a McIlwrath and a Patterson), but Dan doesn’t think he has any Scottish blood in him. Still, he agreed to go this year, and I think enjoyed himself. He mentioned to someone there that he wasn’t Scottish, and they asked, “Well, do you like the bagpipes?” He said he did, and the other person assured him, “Then you're Scottish!” 

The festival runs all weekend, including today. Our friends, Andy and Kay, both have Scottish roots and always take part in all three days of the festivities. We saw them yesterday, after the parade, and I took their picture. 

This morning, at church, there were a number of people wearing their tartan plaids. Some of the men were even in their kilts, including Andy, again, but this time he wore his fancy Prince Charlie jacket. He is our Sunday morning Bible teacher. I doubt that there were many, if any, other churches in America today, with a kilted Bible class teacher. He looked good!

Marching in the parade, in this photo, are more friends from church, Kelly and Trish. Kelly (second from right) is blind, but that never stops him from going and doing. He is being assisted, here, by his granddaughter. Over on the left, waving, is Trish.

I saw quite a few dogs wearing kilts, as well, such as this one. 

There were lots of bagpipes. This was one of the larger clans in attendance.

The gentleman to the left was the grand marshal of the parade.
Hay pitching. There were lots of other Highland Games in the afternoon, but we didn't stay for them.

Parade, Scottish food, Highland Games, bagpipe contests, Scottish dance contests, clan booths and vendor booths. It was a lot of fun. By next year I hope to have my own clans identified, so I can get a sash or scarf in my tartan. It will take some research. It's not as easy as just looking up your family name in a book, Ive learned. My initial research tells me I might be in either the MacDonald or Frasier clan (on my great-grandfather's side), and the Farquhar clan (on my great-grandmother's side). More research is needed.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Remember the Alamo!

or: The 2nd Annual Grandma/Granddaughter Weekend Road Trip

Last year Clara and I explored some of the interesting attractions in Waco on our weekend road trip. We had such fun that we both agreed we wanted to make it an "annual" event. This year we went to San Antonio.

A little before noon, on Friday, we headed west on I-10, stopping along the way for lunch. We checked into our San Antonio hotel around 2:00 p.m., and took off, on foot, to the River Center Mall, just a few blocks away. The mall is the the gateway to the beautiful river walk and the river boat tours. We spent a fantastic afternoon and early evening taking it all in, including a boat tour, which was really enjoyable.

Clara stands none of the bridges that span the river.

The River Center Mall looks out onto the river and river walk.

A Mexican feast, on the river walk.

We slept well that night, and were up and eager to get going the next morning. Some of our plans were de-railed, but most of them worked out well. We had intended to watch the IMAX movie about the Battle of the Alamo, before visiting the Alamo, itself. But the timing just didn't work out, so we skipped the movie and went directly to the Alamo. Clara had already learned about the Alamo, in school, so the movie would have been a review, anyway.

We happened to visit the Alamo on a special day: The Alamo Militia Muster is a free interactive living history event, with lots of demonstrations, including the (incredibly loud) firing of muskets.  

Clara learning how to make a corn husk doll.

Hers turned out great.

We spent quite a bit of time outside, enjoying the demonstrations and taking in the beautiful Alamo grounds.

When we were finally ready to go inside, we found ourselves at the tail end of a long line of people, waiting to enter. The line moved rather quickly, though, and walking through the historic mission was definitely worth the wait. No pictures allowed inside, though, so you'll have to take my word for it, or better yet, visit it yourself. There is no cost for visiting the Alamo.

It was a long line, but the weather was pleasant, and the line moved nicely.

Clara's and my toes on "the line" drawn on the ground by Colonel Travis (see plaque below).

Later that afternoon we found a museum that Clara really wanted to visit, because we had heard that Santa Ana's sword was inside, and Clara, quite "up" on her Texas history, could hardly wait to see it. But it turned out to be what we both considered an over-priced and disappointing museum. And . . . we never found Santa Ana's sword. You win some and you lose some, I guess. 

The day was getting late, and it was time to get back in the car and move on to our next stop, the welcoming home and ranch of my long-time friend, Terri, and her husband, Gene, in Kingsbury. We feasted on a dinner of barbecued brisket, ribs and sausage, with all the trimmings. Terri took us with her as she fed their beautiful little pony, Shadow; and miniature donkey, Daisy. She also drove us around to see the pond, the cattle, and one of the two horses that are stabled on their property. We also joined her as she fed the chickens. 

Sunday we went to church in New Braunfels, with Terri and Gene, back home for some brisket sandwiches, and then drove to Clara's house in Houston, our tummies full of brisket, our heads full of wonderful experiences, and our hearts full of love. 

Where to next year?