Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 5, 2015

Austin Christmas Outing

Filed under: At home,Austin,Food,Music — Janice @ 11:26 pm

I just got in from a fun night feeling the holiday spirit.

Each year, KUT radio has a carol sing-a-long on the steps of the State capitol and they light the city’s downtown Christmas tree (as opposed to the Zilker Park “holiday tree” created from the moontower there). I have never been to this downtown event, although I have admired the downtown tree many times. In my early days in Austin, it was always a real tree and was brought in from somewhere. It wasn’t a giant tree like in Washington or Rockefeller Center, but big enough. A few years ago the city changed to an artificial tree. It’s a cone-shaped, quite obvious fake tree, but still pretty and festive. 2015-12-05 19.24.01

I heard the commercials this week for the singalong and asked my friend Deidre if she might want to go. She had plans for later in the evening, but we decided we could do it all. So tonight I met up with Deidre and two of her friends that have become my friends and we went downtown. The whole event was bigger than we expected. Finding parking wasn’t easy, but with the beautiful weather we didn’t mind the walk.

In front of the capitol were truly thousands of people in the dark, under the trees, singing Christmas carols along with a piano player and a songleader/disc jockey from the radio station. Programs with lyrics were passed out so everyone could sing all four verses of Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Giant projectors were casting big stars in kaleidoscopes across the building front. We sang along with great gusto on Feliz Navidad and Jingle Bells and many more. Then there was a 10 down to 1 countdown the tree was lit.

Along with the tree lighting was a whole little festival down on Congress. Booths selling food and drinks and homemade products and crafts and artwork. We strolled a bit before we got to the singing to see what they had. And then there were bands playing on each end of the street after the singing ended, so there was lots to do and see. I didn’t know there would be so much.

2015-12-05 19.24.49After, we walked down Congress and enjoyed the lights and the people-watching. Deidre knows MANY people and she was greeting someone about every block. We found a semi-fancy Italian pizza place to have some food. From the street it seemed like a bar and a utilitarian Italian restaurant. Getting inside, though, it was easier to see it was a little more upscale than I usually frequent and full of many young urban dwellers. They did have great food and we had some awesome pizza.

We ended the night where Deidre had planned on going originally: a beer garden south of the river that had a reunion of a band she had loved in the past, Black Before Red. I had never heard of them before, but they did have interesting songs with really unique melodies and chords and great lyrics, too. I may never get to hear them again, but it was a really good experience and a good night. 11058118_10153756154829346_7686185045814933066_o

Deidre’s friend Rebecca has lived in Austin a year longer than I have and comes from the Panhandle just like me. She and I were discussing how we don’t DO these Austin-y things like we once did. When we moved to Austin we were exploring different parts of town and going to the festivals and trying new restaurants. Now we do the same things over and over and stick to the familiar. She said, “You know the nickname of Austin, right?” I said, “What? The Violet Crown?” She said, “No, the new nickname is the Velvet Rut.” That described it. It’s comfortable, beautiful, and yet too familiar. I was glad to get out of the rut tonight.

I’ll steal Deidre’s selfie to show you the girls celebrating on Congress.

December 4, 2015

Lost Day

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family,Food — Janice @ 6:11 pm

I had every intention of writing EVERY DAMN DAY, so I can’t say where yesterday went to. I think it was the combination of having been at the computer all day long, doing my late night wrap-up work I have to do, and having the pull of a good football game distract me. Then the football game was such an amazing finale that I forgot about coming back to type. Oh well. It’s only a goal, not a law.

I saw a post today about what Christmas was like in the 1970s. I related very much to some of the items on the list, like receiving the Montgomery Wards, Penney’s, and Sears Christmas catalogues in October and poring through them circling everything we wanted or making long elaborate lists, making sure to note the full name and page number and letter so it would make it easier for mother to write on the order form and order them all for us. You had to order, ON PAPER, and mail it to someone to take out of the envelope and, for all I know, walk into their warehouse and pick out the items from the shelves themselves.  It was a little bit slower than our process of clicking one-button on the computer and then wondering why UPS didn’t have it with them the next day when they delivered.

Christmas at our house involved a lot of foods throughout the season. We always had Chex mix close at hand. Fudge, too. Mom would make divinity (if she had a bright sunshiny day to make it on because it wouldn’t work otherwise was what she always said), peanut patties, peanut brittle, or other Christmas candies. We usually had a fruitcake that someone made or gave to us and I never went near it. Now that I am older and LOVE fruitcake I wonder what I missed out on. We also had some eggnog close at hand. I think I liked it earlier rather than later, but there was probably a time I wasn’t sure about it.

I can remember lots of Christmas Eve’s at my grandmother’s or there were a couple of trips to see the out-of-town grandparents at Christmas. Some holidays had cousins or grandparents visiting us. But if I listed the favorite Christmases in the 70s, I am quite certain that I’d start with the Christmases where it was just our little family of four, Mom, Daddy, my sister, and me. I think we laughed and had more fun when it was just our little group than any other time. The others were memorable in many ways, but if I could go back, I’d pick one with just us.

December 2, 2015

Am I Sick?

Filed under: At home,Food,My Job — Janice @ 10:30 pm

No, I am not sick, but something’s up. I’m cranky. That’s never a good thing. And I just looked at a web site full of recipes and they all made me think, “Gag, that sounds awful.” Maybe I am sick. That certainly does not sound like me.

I did leave work to come home early today. I didn’t leave sick. I left sick and tired. But I didn’t stop working. I came home and worked the rest of the day. The office building has been doing something with their smoke and fire detection systems for way too long now. We’ve gone through it before and it started again, today. They have to prop open the doors of the stairs, the fire escape, and blow lots and lots of outside air through it to test something. I don’t quite understand the concept. What I do understand is that the stair door is just across a “hall” from my desk. Except it is a hall without walls and I am in an open cube. My 10 coworkers of my department are all grouped together in this cubbyhole area, but most have at least one cubicle wall blocking the wind from their faces. I do not. We put a thermometer on my desk today and it dropped to 64 degrees in a flash. That temperature can feel good when you are outside in it in the sunshine, but not inside when you are facing into a gale wind and trying to work. The last time this happened half of our staff in our department got sick from the cold or from the airborne allergies it forced into our faces. Today I picked up my work and came home and didn’t fight it.

But I went to the doctor today, not because I’m sick, but just for a check-up/follow-up. All is well, tests were fine, I’m a healthy girl. So I came home and took a nice nap to celebrate. I made some healthy soup for dinner, though I would have eaten chips and cheese for dinner if I had only had some. I cannot go to the grocery store when I’m in this cranky, poor-me mode. I do that and come home with way too much chocolate and crunchy salty things. I must wait until lettuce and salmon sound good to me.

Bottom line. I hate to write when I feel cranky and have nothing to write about. I hate to complain in a permanent blog where future employers (heck, current ones) can read it and judge me. But I swore I was going to write every day this month (let me hedge that — as much as I can), so here it is. Done.

December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving

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).

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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!

jj

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?

8ball

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.

reunion 059

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.

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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.

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