Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 1, 2015


Filed under: Family,Food,Travel — Janice @ 10:32 pm

It is a sad state of affairs that it is has been so long since I’ve blogged that I had to hunt for the little icon to click to write this. I have to learn everything all over again every time I go to do something to my website. This is no way to build a skill.

But I am back at it because of Holidailies and that yearly reminder that I want to write, I should write, I like to write, and I CAN write every day during December. Or at least I can swear that I will on December 1.

I did have a lovely Thanksgiving last week and that is something to share. My amazing sister got home from a week-long trip to Italy with her entire family. I don’t mean just HER family of her husband and sons and their wives and the new grandbaby, but also all her husband’s Dutch relatives… mother, brothers, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and nephew’s girlfriend. They spent a week exploring Italy and enjoying good food and a beautiful (haunted) castle and flew across the ocean on Sunday. And then my sister immediately turned around, cleaned house, bought groceries, and started cooking for a fabulous lunch on Thursday. Incredible. I only marginally helped by baking 2 pies. They were delicious, but the meal was the centerpiece.

The Thanksgiving followed my mother having been here visiting at my house for 10 days. Some might groan if they thought about their mother coming for a stay like that, but my mother is easy company and fun. She sleeps late so we don’t even see her in the morning. We come home at night and she is happy to take us out to dinner, send us out to dinner, cook for us (she made potato/tomato soup that reminded me of all my growing up years), or eat cereal or cheese and crackers along with us. That’s our usual diet. She works Sudoku puzzles or Wordfind puzzles and watches old Westerns on TV Land and we’re all happy. After I got back from Thanksgiving I kept forgetting that she wasn’t here. I would be at work thinking I needed to get on home to see her and then remember that she was gone. It’s nice to be home with just the two of us, but it was really nice to have Mother here, too.

Now it is December and who knows where this month will take us. I have no plans to travel in December and I’ll be staying home for Christmas. But I would love to see my nephews’ homes at Christmastime, so I might have to make a quick trip to DFW to make drop in and enjoy their decorations.

September 13, 2015

Winter in Texas

Filed under: Childhood Memories — Janice @ 11:54 pm

There’s no good reason for this post except I found this picture tonight. This is for anyone who thinks it doesn’t get cold in Texas. It gets beyond cold in the Panhandle of Texas. It can get cold anywhere in the state (remember the white Christmas in the Valley maybe 10 years ago?). But it was cold that drove me away from Amarillo. If the winters hadn’t been so brutal or maybe if I hadn’t been in radio where you HAD to get to the station and work, even on the most treacherous days that the whole city shut down, I might still live there, who knows. This was 1973 (according to the date on the side). This is the orchard beside our house, a peach tree. I actually think this was a little unusual or we wouldn’t have been out taking pictures. I can’t remember the name of the dog I am holding, but it must have been one of J.J.’s puppies because J.J. is jumping up on me (kind of hard to see her among all the brown).


I zoomed in to see what puppy it was. I know it wasn’t Freckles, but other than that, I can’t say. We had a LOT of puppies over the years. I guess this was before the days that we were told to spay and neuter!


And for the record, I was probably 13, almost 14 here.

September 2, 2015

Where Does the Time Go?

Filed under: At home,Normal Life,Writing — Janice @ 10:26 pm

Here it is Wednesday night, almost midnight, and I haven’t done my Tombstone Tuesday blog over on my other site. Will it get done this week?


I would like to be one of those bloggers that we all love so much that tell all the details of their lives. They tell us when they are mad at their friends, family, coworkers…  I would love to be one of those freewheeling writers that confesses my sins and gripes in gory detail, but I think the truth WOULD NOT set me free when it comes to a blog. I am ever aware that not only do my family members and friends read this, but my real name is up there and anyone could Google it, not just now, but forever more. We all know jobs have been lost or certainly applicants have not been hired over things on the Internet, so I do try to be cautious.

Not that I’m mad at anyone or have anything to confess…

Except… Bluebell ice cream is back in the stores in Austin this week. Monday I went to CVS. Tuesday I went to Sprouts. Tuesday Mark went to HEB. Today, I struck gold. Finally. I really wasn’t even thinking about it this evening, but the Walgreen’s on South First has a big flashing sign and it said, “We have Bluebell.” I figured it was all just a come-on and I’d get to the freezer and they would be sold out, but they weren’t. They had Homemade Vanilla and Cookies ‘n’ Cream so I bought 10 gallons and came home and ate them. Okay, I bought one gallon and truly only ate one spoonful. I love frosted Cokes and ice cream with syrup on it, but I have to be in the right mood and tonight I could live without it. If I am lucky enough that Mark doesn’t finish it off tonight, I will hope to be in the mood tomorrow. Or it may be my breakfast.

Time really does get away from me. I feel like work keeps me so busy from Monday through Friday that I am just hanging on for the weekend to be able to catch up on laundry, rest, housecleaning, etc. I say that, but I went to see the awesome Cornell Hurd Band tonight at El Mercado on what may become a Wednesday night residency for them. Monday I went to see the LIttle Elmore Reed Blues Band at the King Bee and had a great time and stayed until the very end of that incredible display of talent. So obviously there is time for extracurricular activities if I make them a priority. 

I’m going to ponder the other blog post and maybe attempt it tomorrow. Or put it off to the weekend with everything else.

August 18, 2015

I Miss Letter Writing

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family,Writing — Janice @ 12:40 am

I was at the grocery tonight and I wanted to by a letter-writing tablet. My mother probably had to buy one every time we went to the store when I was growing up. A letter-writing tablet is the half-page size tablet with NO lines, but it does have the one page with lines so you can put it under the page and write straight. And these are the plain white pages, no butterflies or fancy designs. I’m glad they still sell them. Mother used to use up a tablet every couple of weeks. The letters flew between her and her mother, her dad, and her three sisters. Mom’s regular routine, as far as I could tell, was to get us fed and off to school and then she could enjoy her coffee, her cereal, and writing her letters.

I still enjoy getting letters. I don’t enjoy writing them as much. But even if I did, the letters just don’t seem as special when we have email and phones and Facebook to keep up with one another all of the time. There is little I can put into a letter that won’t be old by the time it gets to someone.

I did send a card to my friend Beth in Canton, Ohio, recently. I don’t even remember what the card was for, but after a month or so, it was back in my box, stamped NO SUCH ADDRESS-UNDELIVERABLE. (I am hearing Elvis singing in my head, Return to sender…) I emailed Beth to clarify her address. Her address is exactly what I wrote on the envelope. I am kind of stumped. If you write a letter and address it correctly, what else can you do? Well, this time I got Beth’s work address so when I get around to sending it again, I’ll try sending it there.

Back in my teenage years, some of the letters Mom received were read aloud or we might all just read them when we got home from school or work and looked at the mail. But there were some letters, I know, that were just between sisters and they would write “Advertisement” on the envelope, which meant, “Keep this one to yourself.” You could have a little more confidence in your words being kept private when it was a letter. With an email it can be forwarded so easily, or mistakenly sent to everyone when it was supposed to only go to one.

Now I am in possession of hundreds of these letters to and from Mother and her sisters. They are interesting to read to see what day-to-day life was like back in ancient times (the 70s). The mundane becomes the most fascinating.

I love the letters, but I wouldn’t want to return to only having the letters. My mother and her sisters (ages 84 to 92) are all adept at email and Facebook and keep in even more constant touch now. Their travel and communication was limited 40 years ago, but the travel is even more restricted now. It’s comforting to know they still have the open and instant lines of communication.

August 2, 2015

Close Cousins

Filed under: Cemeteries,Family,Genealogy,Taphophilia — Janice @ 10:15 pm

You know you never know when you are standing next to a cousin. Even I don’t know–as much as I try to!

I remember several years ago being at a show on the patio at Hill’s Café in Austin. I frequently tell anyone who will listen that I am related to Pinky Wilson who wrote the Aggie War Hymn for Texas A&M. I usually bring this up when someone has on one of those big gold rings they wear or an Aggie t-shirt, for instance. I ran into a friend who had heard that story before and he said, “Oh, you need to meet this guy.” He dragged me over to meet a guy that was a descendant of Pinky Wilson, so we were third cousins, I think. Pinky Wilson was his grandfather  and Pinky and my grandmother were first cousins. I know my first cousins really well and I know all of their grandchildren pretty well. But the chances of my grandchildren knowing their grandchildren well are pretty slim (well, in my case they are nil since I have NONE).

Tonight I found a picture of me and another cousin when I didn’t know her.

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I’m standing there in the Newburg cemetery a few years ago at a ceremony to honor our Texas Rangers. I’m talking to the legendary Comanche librarian, Margaret. She and I are distant cousins… fourth cousins once removed, maybe. This was a few years back, but last year she told me about a cousin I needed to meet that is also from the same family. I finally got to meet Cindy in person last March and we had so much in common. She has become a great friend and genealogy buddy. This weekend I am going to stay at her house when I am up there for my family reunion.

Cindy had told me she was at this ceremony years ago. In fact, it was her only trip ever to my favorite cemetery. This weekend I plan on taking her there and giving her the full tour and showing her EVERY SINGLE ONE of my relatives there. Ha. Even I don’t know every single one that is related. But I know a bunch.

But, as you have probably gotten ahead of me already, that is Cindy in the left of the picture. There were many folks there and I had no idea.

Of course, I found where my own grandparents were third cousins and they had both lived in the same community all their lives and you’d think they would know that they were related. But, if they did, they never told any of us about it.

August 1, 2015

Am I Back?

Filed under: Family,Genealogy,Normal Life,Writing — Janice @ 10:35 pm

I like have a blog and I like having an outlet. To vent. To create. To blah blah blah. And I have missed my blog. I haven’t even looked to see the last time I wrote, but when I broke my arm on June 2, that put a stop to any creative typing. I was stuck with slowly only typing the bare minimum of work I had to do. The cast came off a couple of weeks ago, but I am still trying to be back to “normal” with the arm and be able to use all the twist and torque I once had. You don’t realize how many muscles and tendons a hand, wrist, and arm have until you can’t use them all. My typing is getting stronger (probably because I am GOING to do it and make it stronger), but I still have difficulty with turning my palm straight up. I can’t accept change with my left hand, for instance. Or pour an aspirin from a bottle into it. I looked up some exercises to strengthen hands and arms and I am doing them and think everyone should do them.

Otherwise it was a flooding spring and now a long hot summer. We are into the really hot miserable time where any sane person would only stay indoors. But after two months of no yard work, I did get out today and pulled weeds and trimmed bushes and watered some thirsty plants. I wasn’t out too long, but it still took its toll. I was glad to retreat to a cool shower and fans and air conditioning.

It has been a year since I wrote the book for my family and took it proudly to the reunion. The reunion is coming up this next weekend and I will go empty handed this year. I always approach the reunion with dread and anticipation. The dread is mainly for the heat and the feeling that I want to do MORE—talk to more people, soak in more history, be by myself more and be with other people more. I have a deep desire to be able to just sit and play cards and sit in one spot at the reunion, but I can’t stop myself from getting around and visiting and meeting people, too. There are people I don’t like and I usually get stuck talking to them, but I try to remember that everyone has a story and everyone is interesting in some way, so I try to find that. I’ll be trying to keep an open mind next weekend.

Okay, I’ve written, a blog is done. I’m not even taking the time to go find a picture to put with it. Spending more time and putting more effort into it will come with use. Just like I’m exercising my hand and wrist and arm, I hope I will be exercising my creativity and perseverance and storytelling. But no promises. I may not write again until Christmas.

May 3, 2015

San Antonio y San Marcos para Cinco de Mayo! O Dos de Mayo.

Filed under: Cemeteries — Janice @ 9:55 pm

Just a short report of a great weekend enjoying some of the fun my state has to offer.

One of my friends, Diana, is always up for an adventure and she took me on a great one Saturday. We made plans to meet up so she could give me a tour of the San Marcos Cemetery, where her family members are buried and so many people she has known. She has been in San Marcos her whole life and her grandparents were immigrants to the area, so she really does know everyone. But at the last minute we expanded our fun zone and started the day in San Antonio.10914950_10152687003775356_573296219455526282_o

I have lived in Austin 16 years, but I still forget how close San Antonio is. It is easy to go there for lunch on the weekend or even dinner during the week, if you are willing to put up with a little I-35 traffic. We started there Saturday and went to the mercado in search of flowy tops and dresses and maybe a Mexican wedding dress. If you aren’t from Texas, that doesn’t mean you wear it to marry a Mexican or that Mexicans wear it at their weddings or that I needed to be getting married or going to a wedding to wear one. As it turns out, I didn’t get a Mexican wedding dress, though they were lovely. The one I liked best was about as expensive as my real wedding dress so I held off for this trip. We did find some nice flowy tops and I will wear one tomorrow and hope I like it.

We ate wonderful Mexican food and drank margaritas outdoors at the mercado, too. It was fun to people-watch and gossip and hear the mariachis. In these dangerous times in the real Mexico, I’ll take this All-American Mexico anytime.

On the return trip we were in desperate need of a Diet Coke. Diana pulled off to go through whatever fast food joint was closest to the highway. I realized she had exited at Exit 191 where the famous Buc-ee’s is. I said, “Well, go anywhere but Buc-ee’s.” I said that, not because I don’t like Buc-ee’s, but because I had been in a Buc-ee’s a couple of weeks ago in Temple and it was super crowded and I had to stand in line for the bathroom and I didn’t want to go through that again. But Diana said, “I’ve never been in a Buc-ee’s.” What? That’s like saying you’ve never had a Whataburger. Like saying you’ve never been to the Texas State Fair. Like saying we put stars on too many things. So we remedied her Buc-ee’s inexperience quickly. And I have to admit that when you have time to stroll and shop and gawk, Buc-ee’s is a lot more fun. Also when you can do that with someone who gets what you laugh at and point to. While we were there I bought the first book I have bought for my new niece EJ. It is an indestructible book that can be chewed on and handled and it has lots of bright colors and drawings. I hope she likes it.

Diana1Back to San Marcos, we toured the San Marcos Cemetery. Diana just needs to write a book. Every grave we walked to or drove by had a story. Of course I believe that is true in EVERY cemetery, but I happened to be with the person that could tell me the stories of each of these occupants. Well, I started to retell one of Diana’s stories about “Joe, the babysitter,” and I realize I cannot do it justice. We’ll have to wait for Diana’s book.

We both like the Woodmen of the World grave markers, so I had my tour guide pose for me.












We were not alone in the cemetery. San Marcos seems to be a haven for deer. I know people in Austin say we have lots of them, too, but I rarely see them here. But the cemetery was full of deer, just lounging and sleeping and enjoying the peaceful, beautiful day. Occasionally one would jump and run, but mostly they knew we wouldn’t bother them and they didn’t bother us.

After the cemetery, we did make a quick stop to see the Kentucky Derby run and then I headed on home to Austin. I am a total homebody and only reluctantly get out of the house on a weekend, but I’m so glad Diana made time for me and we had this chance to not only go to the San Marcos Cemetery, like we’ve talked about for so long, but we got to go on our San Antonio adventure, too.

April 27, 2015

Massive Bluebonnets

Filed under: Austin,Bluebonnets — Janice @ 12:25 am

I had a wonderful wedding anniversary on Friday. When we married in 1993, we planned the time of the wedding to be bluebonnet season so we could spend our honeymoon driving down country roads full of bluebonnets. Many years since then we have had an annual bluebonnet trip to celebrate our anniversary. When we moved to Austin and lived right among the bluebonnets, we began slacking a little on getting out for a real trip. We still tried to make a day trip of it, but we even missed out on that from time to time. This year, I really thought that the bluebonnets would all be gone by our anniversary. In town on the banks of MoPac and I –35 they have already gone to seed and gotten weedy.

But my sweet husband found a great mass of bluebonnets for us to visit on our little one-day road trip on Friday. I had never heard of the place he took me and he said he only heard of it within the last couple of weeks. It is Mule Shoe Bend, a recreational area from the Lower Colorado River Authority. It is somewhere north of Spicewood. I have looked at a map since we’ve been home, but I’d still need a guide to get me back out there again. Mark as going to surprise me so we headed out highway 71. I thought we were going for barbecue, and I was right but it wasn’t the first stop. Along about Spicewood he turned north and went through the country a long long way. The bluebonnets alongside the road were beautiful through here and that was a good dose of flowers already. I didn’t know we were heading for more.

When we got to the gate of the LCRA recreational area for Muleshoe Bend, the park ranger said “Are you here for the bluebonnets?” That was my first indication that there was something  GOOD up ahead! She let us in 2 for 1 since the bluebonnets were beginning to get a bit weedy and go to seed, but  they were still fabulous! Roadsides are great, pastures of bluebonnets are great, but to see rolling hills  just covered in bluebonnets and to also be on the shores of Lake Travis… it was amazing. And so many sweet birds and butterflies and bees. That was the only wildlife we saw, but I expect if you were there in the evening you’d  spot some deer and more down that way. I am not a camper (but I sometimes think I would like it), but there were primitive campsites all through the park. I can imagine it would be awesome to wake up to fields of bluebonnets and the rising sun over the lake.

Mark is the best photographer ever. Here are a few of his shots from our Friday trip.





March 30, 2015

Cemeteries in Comanche County

Filed under: Cemeteries,Family,Genealogy,Travel — Janice @ 11:05 pm

I spent the weekend in the cemetery and now I am just dead tired.

Doesn’t work quite as well as the “And boy are my arms tired” joke, but I’m trying.


Saturday was the annual Newburg Cemetery Association meeting. I had never even heard of the association or knew they had annual meetings until last year. I don’t know how I was so uninformed about my favorite cemetery in the world, but now I know so I will attend the meetings. It isn’t just a dry meeting. It is a lively meeting of family interested in the welfare of our favorite cemetery and then there is a really nice potluck lunch with the group.

It is also a “Decoration Day,” as we call them in the South. I did not take any flowers for my family graves this year and I should  have. I usually take flowers in August when I go to the Cunningham reunion. All our flowers were pretty well faded so they do need a replacement soon.

I have 8 direct ancestors buried in the cemetery… my great-grandparents (Ed and Henrietta Hallford) and her parents my great-great-grandparent (Bill and Mildred Cunningham) and his parents (Capt. James and Susannah Cunningham) and then great-great-grandparents from another branch,  Joe and Trissia Moore. There is also 3 great-aunts and their husbands, several great-great-aunts and uncles, and so many cousin I would never be able to count. I know I’ve been to 4 funerals in that cemetery, including my very first one when I was 6 (for Grandma Hallford).  [Full disclosure: the picture of the cemetery is not from this year, it is from 2010. I didn’t take a good scene-setting picture this time.]

I got there early and went to the Albin Cemetery first and took more pictures there. It is just down the road and I have at least 4 direct ancestors there. It was a pretty day. I like this picture of the Albin Cemetery in panorama:

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2015-03-28 10.14.37

I love the rock walls on these old cemeteries… can you imagine how much time and energy that took?

Now I am home and I’ve been wasting time researching some of the graves I saw (well, the people in them).

There’s just not enough hours in the day for the cemetery visits and research time I need.

March 26, 2015

Tulips for the baby

Filed under: Family — Janice @ 8:39 pm

I bought myself some tulips today. But they really are for my new niece, EJ. I couldn’t resist the tulips.

I have always had a love of tulips. Tulips were easier to grow in Amarillo where I grew up and we always had them in the garden and as a little girl I remember vividly going out each morning, counting the tulips, and coming back  to tell Mother how many tulips were blooming. I felt like that was my job.

When my sister married a man from Holland, tulips became even more sentimental to us all. We all love the country and the people we know there. My new niece is slightly more than one-fourth Dutch since her grandfather is solidly Dutch, but her grandmother is at least a tiny portion Dutch. I know the mother’s side of her family is Italian, but I don’t know much more. Once she can hold a pencil, little EJ and I will start work on genealogy together.

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