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.