Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

July 27, 2011

Still Sitting in the Frio

Filed under: Food,Travel — Janice @ 10:48 pm

We’ll see if my patience lasts longer tonight or the Internet and WordPress work more quickly. I barely have the patience to write, much less upload photos.

But to continue our lovely journey, we spent the afternoon in the beautiful Frio. Nothing like sitting in fresh cold spring water…

When Mark had to go and set up and get ready for his gig, I lolled and napped and read in our sweet little cabin. It’s a weird experience to be somewhere without a TV or a radio, no Internet, no computer, and no cell phone! I zipped through a 100+ book about the history of Central Texas — including my beloved Comanche County– in no time.

The gig was fun. Lots of families come to these river lodges and bring the friends and all the kids and spend a week. There was lots of camaraderie and fun among the crowd and a packed dance floor on every song. Dads and Moms teaching their kids to dance and lots of 14-year-olds awkwardly shuffling around the dance floor trying to play it cool. Lots of little bitty ones, too, running circles around the dance floor and being awfully cute. Lots to watch and enjoy along with the very good music. A couple by me struck up a conversation and that carried on throughout the night, too.

Sunday we were totally on our own with no agenda or deadline, just lots of time to wend our way back to South Austin. First thing on the agenda was food and we drove straight up to Leakey, one of the sweetest little towns in all of Texas, to eat. We were sad to see that the pharmacy that served up the best chocolate malt I’ve ever had was now closed and empty. We went to a restaurant called The Feed Lot that apparently is on Texas Monthly’s list of best small town cafes. It seemed to be the place to start your Sunday morning. There were groups of older men enjoying breakfast together and another couple or two. It didn’t have that look of a diner or restaurant, more of a rustic cabin with picnic tables. They did serve up a breakfast taco like I’ve never had before (yum!):

Those homemade tortillas might be worth the trip back.

Back on the road we drove one of the most scenic drives in Texas from Leakey to Vanderpool across a ridge of mountains on a winding road. I snapped about a million pictures through the windshield and with my hand outside the window, but it is hard to get the camera to capture that scenic glimpse across dozens of miles from the lofty vantage.

Before you knew it we were in Comfort, Texas, and that’s where the story will pick up soon…

[Thanks for all the comments yesterday! I don’t know when I’ve had that many comments on a post.]

July 26, 2011

Down on the Frio River

Filed under: Travel — Janice @ 10:34 pm

Up until a few years ago, the Frio was only something I knew from George Strait’s song “All My Exes Live in Texas” (I remember that ol’ Frio River…). Then Mark and I made a great little trip out there for his birthday one year in the fall. We practically had the river to ourselves and the weather was ideal. This weekend was my first trip back there since then. Mark was offered a gig with a new band to play in Concan at Neal’s Cabins. Neal’s apparently has been there a long time with cabins and a dining hall. They have fabulous pictures going back to the 30s and 40s on the walls of the restaurant.

It may feel like it’s a million miles from Austin, but it is only about 200 miles. We took the long way, of course, and did some meandering on the way out, eating a great brunch at the bowling alley in Blanco (one of our stops on our honeymoon). We got to Concan in the afternoon and there was still plenty of time before Mark needed to set up his gear so we enjoyed some sitting and splashing in the Frio. The splashing occurred when I lost my footing and kerplunked into the spring just about as soon as we got there. With the drought, we didn’t know if there would be water in the river or not, but it is spring fed (and that’s why it is so cold). It wasn’t a full running river like it was when we were there last, but the springs provided enough water for the people down stream to swim and wade and set up their camping tents IN the water so they could lounge in shade while floating. We went farther upstream where there was no one but us for the most part.

Well, I have more pictures to share, but uploading seems to be slow tonight so I will wait and make you anticipate the rest of our journey. Still to come:  more river pics! food pics! and, yes, you guessed it, a cemetery with a spooky twist of an ending.

July 25, 2011


Filed under: Family — Janice @ 11:22 pm

I am singing the song Birthday by the Beatles in my head as my sister’s birthday winds down. I didn’t spend it with her this year, we rarely share birthdays anymore, but I have many happy memories of sharing birthdays before distance and jobs and things interfered as much as they do now (or is it laziness?). I’ve talked to her tonight and it sounds like she and our mother had a good time today celebrating and she celebrated with Theo tonight and the boys over the weekend.

I was looking for a picture of Mackie to share and it is hard when I don’t have my more recent pictures as organized as the old pictures. So I’ll share an old one instead. I’ve always liked this picture. It was in our house for a long time and then it was one of those pictures that got lost under other pictures in a frame. I found it a few years ago and love it and those sweet girls in their matching dresses.

July 22, 2011

Citizen USA

Filed under: Family — Janice @ 11:43 pm

Mark and I just watched an HBO Documentary called Citizen USA. It is a short documentary about some of the one million foreigners who become naturalized US citizens each year in our country. It was a VERY moving documentary and I wish every citizen of Arizona and Georgia (… well, and every other state in the union) would watch it.

We take so much for granted in the United States. I remember a joke I read in Reader’s Digest one time where some women were discussing what modern day convenience they wouldn’t want to do without. The microwave? The dishwasher? They were stating their preferences and the 90-year-old grandmother said, “Not me, I’ll take running water every time.” We have so many blessing each and every day, we look right past them. The people in the movie — from Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, and on and on– loved having 911 to call in case of emergency, the fact that when a school bus stops, the cars in front and behind stop and her children are safe, and being able to walk around the block with a stroller without fear of being kidnapped. A Muslim in Michigan expressed joy that there were churches and mosques side-by-side in Michigan and that the country was founded on religious tolerance.

The movie was made by filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic former Speaker of the House, so I am sure that many people will view it as a liberal mouthpiece without even seeing it, but I would challenge them to find the things they don’t agree with within the movie. Hard to disagree with one immigrant after another praising America as the country where you can come with nothing and work your way up, get an education and a job and a home.

So all that made me think of my brother-in-law. Today is his birthday and he is a naturalized citizen and I’m very happy that he chose the United States to be his home. Coming from Holland, he didn’t face persecution or have to go to the river for his water. He came from a very modern society and was very educated and came to the U.S. to pursue more education. But Theo was looking for freedom in his own way. He has said that it seemed to him that in Holland, people were happy with the status quo and there wasn’t the drive to succeed and achieve. He had that drive and it was not nourished there. He came to the United States to pursue that dream here and has succeeded in so many way.

[I may be playing fast and loose with statistics and quotes and feelings, and I invite Theo or Mackie to chime in in the comments and correct anything I remember wrong from our 30 years as family.]

Theo spoke English and several other languages when he came to the United States on a student visa in 1977. Almost like the movie The Terminal, Theo spent a night at the DFW airport when he first arrived, unsure of how he was supposed to get to town or where he would go when he got there. He did quickly learn and adapt and he met my sister in 1981 and they married in 1982. While he was a student, he was also working as a diamond dealer and learning the trade. He began his own business (Anschar Diamonds) and has been growing that business for almost 30 years. There have been many times when I discover that someone I know knows Theo because they bought jewelry from him or someone in their family bought their engagement ring from him. His network is amazing. Not only do his customers come back again and again, they send their co-workers and family and friends. I certainly have.

Side note…  When Mark and I were talking about engagement rings, Mark had a friend that owned a jewelry store. Mark consulted me and said, “Do I have to buy your ring from Theo or can I buy it from my friend?” I thought it over and told him that I knew that for the rest of our marriage people would notice my beautiful rings and ask if I got them from my brother-in-law. I didn’t want to have to explain why we might not have. I’m so glad we bought our rings from Theo. He got us exactly what we wanted (and I wish I had a great close-up to show you how perfect they are).

Theo became a U.S. citizen in 1997 in Dallas after 20 years in the US. I wish I had been there for his swearing in ceremony. Happy birthday Theo. I’m so glad you are family and the best father to my two nephews and husband to my sister. Thank you for all you’ve done for our family.

July 17, 2011

Home Cooking

Filed under: At home,Childhood Memories — Janice @ 9:29 pm

I miss having a garden. No, I think I mostly miss my PARENTS having a garden. I have had some terrific cherry tomatoes and eggplant and zucchini in my own gardens, but the gardens I grew up with were the memorable ones. And the ones that didn’t require nearly as much effort on my part.

I grew up on a farm and we had a nice big plot for a garden. Big enough that some years Daddy would pull a plow across it with the tractor to cultivate it at the beginning of the season. I remember him doing that, but that must have been before we had trees and impediments in his way. I don’t think he could do that in later years.

When I woke up in the summer — late, around 11 –I would wander out to the garden in my pajamas to say good morning to Mother. That was usually where she was, hoeing the weeds and watering. I would visit and wake up out there and sometimes dash for the house when I would see a farmer’s pickup coming up the road. That didn’t happen too much because we lived at the end of a road so only the farmer that farmed right next to our house ever came up that way.

In our garden back then we grew everything, but I remember the onions more than anything. We had row after row of 1015s and they would grow into absolutely huge onions that we would dig and hang in old pantyhose with a knot between each onion to separate them and keep them dry. Mostly I remember eating those onions. We would make a pile of onion rings like you’ve never seen at a fast food restaurant (or any restaurant for that matter). They were absolutely mouth watering and we would almost make a meal out of fried onions alone.

We also grew zucchini and one of our favorite summertime dishes was zucchini and onions and canned tomatoes smothered in cheese. Bacon. Yes, it had bacon to get you started. Healthy summer vegetables. Yum!

Those summer meals of fried onions, cheesy zucchini, and a big plate of fresh tomato slices were usually served about 9 o’clock. Daddy would be out plowing until the last hint of sun was gone and then he’d come in and we would eat. I don’t know how he kept a schedule like that because he had a full time job that kept him away from the house from about 7 in the morning until 6 at night, but I guess plowing and farming were more of a stress release and relaxation technique than anything else could have been.

We had beans and we had peas. I wasn’t nearly as fond of snapping beans or shelling peas, though the results were worth it. I miss fresh peas a lot. That truly requires a trip to the farmer’s market to get them and I might have them once a year now.

We probably tried to grow corn in our early experiments and didn’t have much luck. We were lucky though. There were some years that the farmer next to our land — Donny McRoberts –would grow corn. He gave us an open invitation to eat all we wanted. Mom would send Mackie and me across the road to pick some corn and we’d bring it home, shuck it, drop it in the boiling water and have it eaten 30 minutes after it was picked. That is a true plus of living on a farm.

Daddy built some chairs from old tractor seats with a disc from a plow as the base and those were at the north end of the rows in the garden. Many evenings Dad and Mom would sit there as the sun sat, watching the irrigation make its way down the rows from north to south. Usually only Dad and Mom enjoyed those evening because there was prime time TV for me and Mackie to be watching inside. We may have grown up on the farm, but we didn’t truly embrace the farm life.

After I became a Master Gardener in Dallas, I was surprised to find that putting coffee cans around your tomato plants was not practiced in all parts of Texas. I learned at that late point that we had to have those cans, or the end piece of pipelines that Daddy would bring home, to protect the tender plants from the constant Panhandle wind. At least until they got big enough to fight against it themselves.

We planted carrots and lettuce and had plenty of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and cucumbers. We had a few melons and pumpkins along the way, but that didn’t become a yearly requirement. I learned a lot about gardening on that plot of land. Of course, I haven’t lived anywhere since that had such good, easy-to-deal-with soil.

I started this blog tonight to say that we had corn on the cob for dinner tonight. And potatoes and good Aunt Fanny’s Squash Casserole (that recipe is all over the web if you want it). Oh, and a little tomato salad with green onions and tomatoes. I was feeling like we had one of my childhood-type dinners as I made it. Sadly, now that I write about those dinners in the 70s I know that we most certainly did not. These vegetables were good, but lacked that incredible flavor I remember.

July 15, 2011

Blast from the Past – 2000

Filed under: Austin,Blast From The Past,Writing — Janice @ 10:40 pm

I have seen other writers go back to a previous year and take a glimpse at what they were doing on that date in previous years. I was just fooling with other “blog” (I use that term just so you can imagine what it is, it isn’t a blog) that I have had online for years and thought I would see what I was doing in a previous year. Sometimes when I read something I wrote in the past it makes me laugh out loud. Since this blog was written only for a few special friends, I didn’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings if they were to stumble upon my writing. And now, with 10 years distance, I’ve forgotten this girl’s name and she’s forgotten mine, so I think I’m safe to repost this. Let me take you back to the second summer we lived in Austin… a hot July night in 2000…and ACTION:

I had a truly Austin experience this week that I will not soon repeat. I felt like I was in a sitcom or a candid camera episode. A woman I know is in an Improvisational Dance class at Austin Community College and invited me to her performance this week. I went to be polite and went to see where the campus was. It is a really cool campus where Austin High School used to be. Great neighborhood at 12th and Rio Grande. So I go to the school and find the auditorium. The auditorium would probably take you right back to high school days. At least it did for me. Same vintage as my old Canyon High School auditorium except this one was pretty small and only had about 300 seats. I get there late and four girls are on stage doing a very ethereal and spooky kind of dance to some very rhythmic and strange music. It ends before I see much and their instructor gets up and talks about the “piece” and takes questions. I couldn’t make heads or tails about the questions or answers. “It seemed like this was an organic piece, did you have an organic intention?” “Oh, yes, I had the robotic structure in mind but the plantlike movement as the complement to the blah blah snnnnnooorrre…..” Sorry, I nodded off through this point and was itching to leave already. I wanted to see enough of my friend’s part so I could say I was there. Finally these people cleared the stage and a different teacher took over. Now, believe it or not, this is where it got weird! She asks us all to come and SIT on the stage for this performance. Slowly, like cattle to slaughter, we shuffled to the stage and sat with grunts around the periphery. I am an ample woman and my legs were asleep under me before the first “dance” begin. I put dance in quotes because it was unlike any dance I’ve ever seen except maybe in those old films of kids on drugs at Woodstock or in San Francisco. Each “dancer” (hippie would probably be a better word) took to the stage while a boy played the drum and another performer read words. The words were sort of like a poem but not. The dance was sort of like a witch doctor’s dance but again not. Imagine a full grown person throwing a tantrum like a two-year-old and slinging their toys around the room and running around like they’d had two Mountain Dews for lunch while a friend shouts “Redemption, peace, motor oil” and you’re too busy looking at their hairy armpits to really get much out of it at all. That was my evening. Cindy was performer number five and, thank God, my requirement was over. If only my legs would wake up and let me crawl off the stage unnoticed. The gods smiled on me and I was able to make it and slowly creep out of the auditorium without having to witness more. Miraculously, cutting funding to the NEA seemed to make much more sense

Weekend Chores

Filed under: At home,Music,Website complaints,Writing — Janice @ 9:29 pm

The weekend is here and I’m glad to have my blog back. I know it needs some sprucing up.

When I had had an issue with Yahoo in January, we fixed that issue and suddenly lots of the picture links no longer worked. Now that it is back up after moving to a new host, I see lots of “symbols” that have changed into weird things on old posts, like random A^ everywhere. Why? So I hope to go through some of the pages this weekend and make things cleaner. And I hope to get something BIG AND SUBSTANTIAL written. That’s a tall order.

I also think I will add new categories, or new tags, or whatever. Lots of new, recent readers have commented that they like my “childhood memories” so I might need to make that a category. I’m sure there are others. I didn’t really start categorizing much until much later on in the blog. If you have seen anything you think is weird or think of categories you think I should create, speak now so I don’t have to read 4 years of writing a second time.

There is also a yellow sign at the top of my page that says I need to update. That frightens me. Not in general in the real world. I update software as often as it tells me to, but this has instructions that involve a lot more than an auto-download-and-install. I don’t want things to crash again. Sure, I found a web guy to fix these first issues, but it cost money and he wasn’t as quick or responsive as I would really like.

All this to say I am really glad to be back and glad to have this creative outlet. I have a need to write. I was not a little girl that wrote stories, though I read about them in books like the Betsy and Tacey books and I’ve always wanted to be that girl. I didn’t really keep serious diaries growing up either. But I’ve kept handwritten diaries for a lot of years now (I’d guess at least 25 years offhand). They don’t crash, which is kind of cool. And I’ve written a lot of letters and emails over the years. I write in my head ALL THE DAMN TIME. At least here I have a place to put it where people can read it as a diary or a letter to them or a peek inside my head.

I’m going to start using numbers a lot here, too. I was flipping through some blogs today and that always seems to be the way to get attention:  5 ways to improve your email, 7 ways to get out of bed in the morning, 12 ways I’ve tricked you into reading my blog. Tonight I’ll limit myself to 2:

1.  I’m glad this blog is here and I’m glad you are reading.

2. I’m worn out and I think I’ll go read my Sarah Bird book.

(or is that 4?)

July 14, 2011


Filed under: Genealogy,Writing — Janice @ 10:08 pm

Well, now that I’ve gotten the dadblasted thing working again, I need to write in it, don’t I? I tried writing posts while it was out of commission, thinking I could have them ready when it returned. That didn’t work. And now that it is ready, I can think of a million reasons to procrastinate and not write. But I am ever so grateful to have a blog again. So I will write.

This is a picture that fascinates me:

As I get ready for my big Cunningham reunion in August, I’ve been studying some of the pictures from past reunions. This one is from about 195 and is just a small portion of a much bigger picture. But look how fancy! It really makes me want to wear a hat to the reunion. I don’t know where you’d obtain a fancy had like these women were wearing, but I believe it would involve time travel. We think of these people being off conquering the Texas wilderness, but I’m sure by the time this was taken, they felt like all of that had happened in their grandfather’s time and they were now in the modern era where you just took your new buggy into Comanche and bought a new hat or even took the train to Fort Worth if you wanted, too. Their dresses are so pretty and starched and clean. This was in August! And they all look as fresh as if they were sitting in an air conditioned photo studio. I can’t identify any of the women in this picture, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to track down some relatives that might be able to shed light on them. As I’ve begun studying picture of my great-grandmother’s sisters, I’ve found I’ve been able to pick them out of these large group pictures.

In preparation for this giant reunion next month, I got a haircut this week. I need to make my preparation list because I always get to about the night before I leave and suddenly realize I need to have new clothes and food to take and flowers for graves and a tablecloth and on and on. Every year when I get back I draw up a long list of things to remember for the next reunion. Each year I misplace that list or it is buried deep within the computer somewhere.

The weekend is approaching and I still have high hopes of catching up on stories that go back as far as Jan. 1 of this year to tell. The telling is half the battle (or less). It’s the pictures and the posting that is the battle, but I will be back at it tomorrow.


Filed under: At home,Website complaints — Janice @ 1:28 pm

Is it really working? Let me know if you aren’t seeing what you are seeing. Some links from some shortcuts might not work, I don’t know. I’ve changed so many things I can’t remember how they once were.

But I do think my site is all now happily on the new server. Or at least it is on the new server. I don’t know how happy it is yet.

This certainly makes me worry… how do you save the writing and the photos of 4 years? Do I leave a trust to pay for server space until the end of time? There’s no guarantee if I save each webpage onto a hard drive that browsers in the future will be able to interpret it. Maybe I need to just print each page and put it in a notebook.

My grandfather had row after row of those plain blue cloth 3-ring binders above his desk and each was full of his poetry writing, chronicling day after day after poems. He was good at keeping them, indexing them, storing them. Where are they now? Who knows? I think an aunt may have the bulk of them and that’s fine. None of us really want to inherit Papa’s poems, to tell the truth.

I have so many stories to tell that I may be stymied for days not knowing where to start. Or trying to get the pictures up to the website so I can use them nicely. I don’t know. I will see how it all shakes out tonight.

But right now my anxiety levels may be on a downward trend if this is fixed. Amazing how not having the ONE outlet I really like for my creativity put such a damper on every aspect of my life. There’s a lesson to be learned there.

July 2, 2011

And here we are…

Filed under: At home,Website complaints — Janice @ 12:12 pm

I do believe everything is finally in order. Whew. I was beginning to worry that I would have to call this the “old” blog and start a new one somehow. But this one seems to work again under the new server and we are good. Of course, I haven’t yet canceled the old server so we’ll hope that when it is canceled that all continues to work. I think it will.

So now there are so many stories to tell and pictures to post and things to catch up on. I’ve been to Padre with my family and done genealogy and gotten laid off in my part-time job (one of them), etc. Lots to tell and ruminate about. I am going to work on the Padre trip first because some people haven’t been able to see my pictures correctly, so we’ll see if I can make them visible here for them. I am working on getting those pictures to the new website and we’ll see — soon, I hope– if I can make that happen.

If not, I’m going to a movie. It’s a holiday weekend!

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