Saturday, October 7, 2017

Venice Mares' Taylor Cafe

From the past few posts, you might get the idea that all we do is eat out! Not quite true, but we do love to find historic places to eat in little, quaint towns.

That's what we did on Thursday evening. Thursday is our "date night," and we usually just go someplace here in Temple - sometimes just fast food or deli; sometimes somewhere a little nicer. But this week Dan told me to be ready a little early, because we were going out of town, and that he was not going to tell me where we were going.

We headed south, through Academy and Holland, on Hwy 95, and, about 45 minutes later, arrived in the small town of Taylor. We took a little street that went down under the bridge, and ended up at Taylor Cafe, famous for its barbecue.

We parked on the side of the building, and Dan headed straight for the side door. I wasn't sure we were supposed to go in that door, but he strode right in. It was fortunate that he did, because just inside the door, at a table against the wall, sat an old fellow with a WWII Veteran's cap on. We stopped at his table, and he was really friendly. However, just then the train came through, right beside the building, and we couldn't hear a word or speak loud enough to be heard. We heard that he had served in France and Germany, and we thanked him for his service, but finally gave up trying to visit, because of that VERY loud train.

Inside the cafe were two counters with stools and several tables against the wall. Three or four fellows were drinking beer and watching a baseball game on TV. The server showed us to a table and took our order. The menu isn't complicated. You can have one, two or three meats; and the plates come with potato salad and beans. The meats are ribs, sausage, chicken and brisket. I took a two-meat plate with a beef rib and brisket. All of the food was good, but . . . the brisket was the best I've ever eaten, FOR SURE! Next time I'll get double brisket and forget the other meats.

We really enjoyed the experience. This place is in the heart of the old town, and we felt like we had stepped back many decades into the past. Great fun, and we highly recommend dinner at the Taylor Cafe.

When I began writing this post, I went on-line to see what I could find about the cafe's history. That's where I discovered that the old man we had visited with was none other than Vencil Mares, the 90-year old veteran who opened this barbecue place back in 1948, and still owns it. He was a medic in the Normandy invasion. I found THIS great interview with him. It's worth reading! That's Vencil Mares, sitting at the table at the far left of this photo (below).

We will return to the Taylor Cafe, and will also try out the Louie Mueller Barbecue place, just around the corner. It was opened just one year after Venice Mares opened the Taylor Cafe, and is also highly rated for its barbecue. Dan discovered both of these barbecue places on a list of the 25 BEST BARBECUE PLACES in AMERICA. Two of them from this small town of Taylor, Texas (population 16,000)!

Golden Friendships

Make new friends, 
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.
A circle is round,
it has no end.
That's how long,
I will be your friend.

These three guys were buddies at Abilene Christian College (now Abilene Christian University), some 47 or 48 years ago. They can tell some funny stories about their youthful escapades. We, the wives, were also students at ACC and knew each other, but the original friendships came through the boys. Since the six of us all live in Texas - spread out from Mission, to Georgetown, to Temple - we occasionally get together, as we did on Tuesday evening, at McAlister's Deli, in Temple. I especially like this picture of Dan T., Milt M., and Dan, sharing memories.

Here we all are, six ACC/ACU alums. Milt and Susie just took a cruise to Alaska to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Dan and Charlyn, and Dan and I, will be celebrating 50 years of marriage in two years.

Left to right: Dan T., Milt M., Dan Judd, Linda Judd, Susie M., Charlyn T.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Surprise Visit from the Ruckers

So . . . you have to know the back-story . . . My wonderful, long-time friend, Gloria Rucker, who lives in Washington state, had planned to come to Houston, while I was there with the kids. She was going to get a hotel room and stay for about three nights, so she and I could have some girl-time. We're long over-due for that! Then she was heading to San Antonio, where she was to attend a reunion of Battle of the Bulge veterans (her father was one of them, before he passed away) and their families.

However, Hurricane Harvey came, and Gloria wisely decided it wasn't the time to be vacationing in Houston. I was sad that we wouldn't see each other, but was in full agreement that it was a wise decision, considering the congestion and confusion still rampant in Houston.

But yesterday afternoon, not long after I'd gotten home from the kids' house, I got a call from Gloria. She and Ken, along with one of the Battle of the Bulge veterans and his son, were in Round Rock, about 45 minutes away from me, and were going to be driving through Temple on their way to Dallas. She wanted to know if we could meet up for dinner! I was so thrilled.

So, even though we didn't get our couple days of girl-time, I got to see Gloria AND Ken, and enjoy a wonderful time and good dinner at Olive Garden. Ken has been very ill, so it was a wonderful blessing to get to see him, share some good hugs, and recall some of the great history we all share. Sadly, Dan was in Houston for the race he's working, so missed out on seeing them.

The Grandkids!

For many weeks I've been looking forward to staying with Clara and Robert, in September, while their parents took a well-deserved get-away to Rome and Venice. And then came Hurricane Harvey. In the midst of all that weather, Kelsey told me, "If our house floods, I'm not going to Rome." But, as I mentioned in an earlier post, their house was spared, so the trip was still on.

Dan and I drove to their house on Monday, September 18. Chris was already in Rome, working, and Kelsey left on Tuesday morning to join him. We were in charge from then until Chris and Kelsey returned, the evening of Wednesday, September 27. Although I've kept the kids before, this was my first time to keep them during the school year. I worried, a bit, over the new responsibilities of getting them up and off to school in the mornings, making sure homework was completed, keeping their allergies under control, and signing all of the take-home sheets that needed "parental approval." But it was a little like riding a bike - all those skills from my mommy-years were still there, and came back to me quickly.

The most challenging part of the day was the morning, making sure each child got up on time, got ready, ate breakfast, and had a lunch packed to take to school. Clara was pretty independent; all she needed was an occasional prompt to keep her moving. I packed Robert's lunch and walked to, and waited at, the bus stop each morning. There are six boys who wait for the bus together at his stop - no girls. Each morning they play a rambunctious game of tag, while they wait for the school bus. The manhole cover is "base."

Morning game of Tag.

Robert is a man after my own heart - a Beatles fan! This is his lunch box that I packed every morning.
The children were so amazing! There wasn't even one "Let's test Grandma" moment. I must have the best grandkids ever! I did have to make three trips to Clara's school . . . once to bring her some Benadryl for her allergies, and twice to bring her lunch, which she had packed but forgotten to take with her when she went out the door.

Besides Clara and Robert, there were two other youngsters in the house. Chris and Kelsey have opened up their home and their camper (and their hearts!) to a family who has been displaced by Harvey. They have two daughters, one Clara's age, and one who is a freshman in high school. They also have a chihuahua/rat terrier mix, named Brady, and a parakeet named Max, who joined in the fun. Someone asked Robert, while I was there, how it was having three "big sisters" now, instead of just one. His answer, "A little worse than before!"

Both Clara and M..are learning musical instruments in their first year of junior high school - M the clarinet and Clara the violin. 
Robert, reading a Ninjago book while Brady rests on his lap.
 On Saturday Dan and I took Clara and Robert to the theater to see the Lego Ninjago Movie. Robert is a real Ninjago fan, but all four of us agreed that the movie was really fun and entertaining, and deserved a "thumbs up."

On Saturday evening we met up with Dan's cousin, Rand Baker and his wife, Jane (who live in Katy), at Pappasito's Cantina for dinner. Clara had a rocky start, complaining of a tummy ache. But once she put a few warm, home-made tortillas down, she was feeling much better.

Here we are with Rand and Jane Baker at Pappasito's.

The kids - all four of them - spent as much time as possible in the backyard pool. See those wrinkly, "pruney" feet?!

One evening, after dark, I happened to look out the breakfast nook window and see a lizard climbing on the window screen. I took a picture of it, and tried to convince the kids, the next morning, that an alligator had been swimming in their pool, but they were way too smart to fall for that!

We had lots of fun -- baking cookies, playing a game called "Googly Eyes," having a build-your-own pizza party, and doing art projects, including making a "Welcome Home" door-banner for Chris and Kelsey.

Here I am with my "Googly Eyes" glasses on. They distort your vision, making it pretty hard to draw pictures that the other players have to guess.
M, Clara and T, enjoying the results of their pizza party.
The door-banner. It included lots of questions for Mommy and Daddy to answer about their Italian trip, some of them in Italian, thanks to Google Translate.

On Sunday morning, it was Robert's turn to have a tummy ache, so I kept him home while Dan and Clara went to church. Clara wore a new dress that their house guests had given her, and looked cute as a bug in a rug!

 Sunday afternoon, Chris and Kelsey Skyped us. The kids loved talking to them. Kelsey held the laptop up and gave them a tour of their suite, and let them see the views from the hotel windows - including, of course, canals and beautiful architecture.

Skyping with Mommy.

 I left for home on Thursday, the morning after Chris and Kelsey returned. Dan had already gone home, on Monday, to get himself ready to come BACK to Houston for the car race he had to work over the weekend (thus we had to bring two cars to their house). I was expecting to be completely wiped out, but it turned out to be a fun, enjoyable week, and I wasn't that tired. It was a great bonding time for grandparents and grandkids. Love, love, love those two kids!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What's Been Happening?

I guess it's time to update my blog. It's been a little bit chaotic around here.

The big thing in our family life these past few weeks was Hurricane Harvey. Here in Temple we didn't get more than a couple days of rain and some gusty, but not excessive, wind. But our kids, Chris, Kelsey and the grands, experienced the full force of Harvey. A couple days before Harvey hit land, Kelsey gave a lot of thought to whether she should pack up the kids and head to our house before the storm arrived. But already there were a lot of people evacuating Houston, and the traffic on the roads was not something she really wanted to get caught up in. Besides that, she didn't know how long it might be before she could get back home. In the end, she decided she and the kids would stay home with Chris and ride it out.

They stayed home until the day the city released water from the Addicks Reservoir, near their house (I think that was on Monday, August 28), when they evacuated using their kayak, which they store in their garage. Their camping trailer was stored somewhere else, and they were able to get to it and have it towed to some friends' driveway, where they cozied up for a few days. 

We were all so thankful that our prayers were answered in such a wonderful way. The water never did enter their house, and they were able to return home on Sunday, September 3.

Now they are hosting a family from their church congregation, whose house was destroyed by the flood waters. They are packed in pretty tight, but are thankful to have a house to share, when so many others lost theirs.

These are some pictures that Kelsey sent to me, showing the condition of their neighborhood street when they evacuated.

Kelsey and the kids launching the kayak from their house.

There they are down the street.

Even their cars were spared damage from the flood waters.

With summer, comes vintage car races for Dan to work. He worked one in Oklahoma in August, and is looking forward to one near Houston in a couple weeks. Besides working on the tech team, he has also taken on the role of chaplain for the group. His first time to serve in this way was in August, and he was encouraged by the response to his short, early morning devo.

Fall means football in a big way in Texas. On September 1, Salado played its first game of the season. We met a group of friends from church at Miller's Smokehouse, a great barbecue place in Belton, for dinner, then we all went to the game, which was held on the campus of Mary Hardin Baylor University (Belton). Salado stomped its rival, Troy, with a final score of 33-0. It was a fun night out.

Salado cheerleaders
Here they come!

In case you can't read that - the final score is 33-0
I'm really enjoying working with he Salado Village Artists. Most of these artists are far more talented and advanced than I, but that gives me so much opportunity to learn. We held an art camp for Salado school children during the summer. It ran for four Tuesdays in a row, and gave me a chance to work with children, which is one of the loves of my life. Lately my art interests have shifted to watercolor, and I've been trying my hand at making greeting cards.

We are so blessed with a network of good friends, and they seem to be ready at the drop of a hat to go have fun. Many times we just go out for a meal together, but at other times we go to events, such as concerts. This past Sunday six of us went to lunch after church. We went to Cotton Patch, and the server called our attention to their new appetizer, Chicken Fried Bacon! Talk about a cholesterol party! Since six strips came in one order, Kay decided we really should have the experience, at least once. Oh, my goodness! It really was good.

This past Saturday was a work day at the church building. Dan and I were there from about 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. It was a wonderful day. So many showed up to do outdoor work - cleaning up the foliage and flower beds, power washing the buildings and sidewalks; and indoor work - cleaning every nook and cranny of classrooms, nursery and bathrooms, and painting some of the classrooms. When we all showed up on Sunday morning, the place was shiny and fresh. Oh, and did I mention . . . some of us went out to lunch after our work was finished. No more chicken friend bacon, though!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Great American Eclipse

Today was the day many people have been waiting for, the day when a total eclipse marched across much of our nation. Here in central Texas the moon only covered approximately 68 percent of the sun.

Dan and I watched and definitely noticed a dimming of light, but no darkness. Over the entire course of the eclipse, the temperature dropped a couple of degrees, according to our thermometer. Dan used a couple of paper plates to make a pinhole projector, and it worked perfectly. Here's what the eclipse was like at its maximum. The second picture is just an enlargement of the first one.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Oh No!

See these little cards - the size of sports trading cards, but with ancestors on the fronts and interesting personal facts on the backs? I'll actually blog about this - another big project I've taken on - later, when it is finished. Suffice it to say, for now, that on Thursday I picked up a few of the cards from the print shop because they wanted me to fix something in the layout before they printed a preliminary proof-set for me.

They sent me home to make the changes, and let me take all but one of the six cards that they had already printed. I got in the car and tossed them on top of the sliding door that covers a compartment in my center console. Here are a couple pictures of what I mean.

I laid the cards down on top of the little sliding door,  just like I've laid the pen down in this photo.

As you can see, when the door slides open, there's a handy little compartment inside.

I stopped at the first traffic light, and those slippery cards slid forward, and disappeared under the top of the frame (above where the top of the pen is pointing). Two of the cards still had corners sticking out, so I was able to retrieve them. But the other three were gone from view. When I got home I tried to open the compartment, but the door was jammed because of the hidden cards. Oh no!

Dan wasn't able to solve the problem, either, and said I should call the service department and make an appointment. So, on Friday I went down to Georgetown to get some help. The only way to get the cards out and get the sliding door functioning again was to remove the console assembly, AC control head and bluetooth antenna; retrieve the three cards; and reassemble everything. What a surprise: "Retrieving cards from inside the console" is NOT covered under the warranty! Yeah . . . this fun genealogy project is becoming much more expensive than I had anticipated! Ugh!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Just a Little Walk in the Woods

Last evening Dan and I went to Chalk Ridge Falls Park, about a 15-minute drive from our house, and hiked the portion of the trail that leads to the first of two falls - the one that gives its name to the park. I was hoping to get a few pictures, and that's what a got - only a FEW pictures. The sun was still a wee bit too high in the sky for completing the assignments from my great on-line photography class I'm enrolled in. The park closes at 8:00, so we couldn't stay for the sun to set (about 8:15) and still walk the trail back to the car.

The scenery was lovely. We were in the shade of tall trees almost the entire time. Getting down to the level where I could get some good shots of the falls was a little tricky - steep trail and stairs - but it was worth it.

From the trail

Fishermen on the bank of the river. Pretty steep stairs to get down there.

A little pond

Finally, Chalk Ridge Falls! 

With a fast shutter speed, and . . . 

with a slow shutter speed - all "foamy."

While down at the falls, Dan struck up a conversation with a young couple. We talked for about a half hour, and really enjoyed listening to the fascinating experiences they'd had in their world-travels. They were newly-weds, having gotten married on 7/7/17 in an underwater wedding at Stillhouse Hollow Lake. The young man is a photographer and a diving instructor, and his bride, who was one of his diving students, is from Venezuela.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Robert's Summer Visit - Part Two

Sunday morning we drove to church, stopping at Starbuck's for breakfast, which is our normal routine. Robert went to Bible class and seemed to enjoy it a lot. During the worship service, that followed, he was good as gold. I was very proud of him. We went to lunch, afterward, with six other church friends. Chicken strips were on the kids' menu, so our boy was happy. We sat across the table from our friend, Kelly, who happens to be blind. At first Robert was very shyly mumbling answers to questions put to him. I explained to him that Kelly was blind and, if he didn't speak clearly and a little loudly, Kelly wouldn't understand him, since he couldn't see his lips. That little prompt was all Robert needed. He immediately began speaking clearly and loudly enough for Kelly to hear him, and the two of them carried on a pretty nice conversation.

On Sunday afternoon I took Robert to the splash pad to cool off properly (remember - AC was acting up). He seemed to be having a great time . . . but not for long. Within about ten minutes he came to me with a hangdog look, saying, "I want to go home. I'm bored." I couldn't convince him otherwise, so we came on home.

Monday, today, was a stay-at-home day. Robert did several art projects - mostly painting. One of his paintings he titled, Our Beautiful Planet Earth. As you might guess, it was a painting of the earth, as seen from outer space. His plan is to paint this same picture every time he visits here, and see how much his painting skills improve between visits.

We also played a new game with the deck of cards Robert got in his McDonald's Happy Meal. I Googled "card games for kids and adults" and came up with one called "Trash." It was really fun for both of us (I rate it 5 out of 5 stars for a G-ma/G-kid game), and Robert was very good at it, in fact he won more hands than I did. He's excited to go home and teach Clara how to play. Watch out, Clara!

Finally the HVAC repairman came and got our AC up and running properly. It was an easy fix, and since we are on a twice-a-year service contract with them, he didn't charge us anything. That's the good news. The bad news will come when we call the flooring people to repair the damage this caused to our hardwood. 

This afternoon was the time Grandpa had set aside to watch the Formula 1 race with Robert. According to his daddy, Robert loves watching the races, but not so much today. He was busy playing with his own cars, although he did keep his eye on the status of his favorite driver, Louis Hamilton. And, in the end, when Hamilton came in 4th, he insisted that the 3rd place winner had definitely cheated. 

Today flew by. We spent some time reading a fun book, Howie Bowles, Secret Agent and Robert watched some Angry Birds cartoons. We had tacos for dinner - a meal that Robert helped me plan and shop for. Before we knew it, it was bath and bed time. Tomorrow we will be taking him to meet up with his Mommy at our half-way meeting spot, Sommerville. As always he's been good, and we've enjoyed our time together. 

I've learned a lot from my grandson over these few days. He's a walking-talking encyclopedia, and his favorite sentence-starters are: "Know what?"; "Well, actually . . .", and "Well, technically . . ."

Know what? God's blessings on earth don't get any better than grandkids!