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6 posts from August 2010

08/29/2010

LBJ's Texas White House

As part of our long weekend to San Antonio, we stopped by the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park outside of Johnson City, TX.

I'll be honest, it took us 20 minutes and about two lovers spats (we only argue when it comes to directions) to find the place. It totally threw us off that you have to go to the state park to get the pass for the national park--although we probably made it more complicated than it needed to be.

Good news is that we made it, put our CD in the car for the audio tour, and we were on our way.

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The ranch is still a working ranch, so they work cattle, grow and bale their own hay, etc. They are wanting to keep it as similar to it was during LBJ's 1960's presidency as they can.

We saw a ton of deer.

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The cows were fat! Well, a lot of them were pregnant, but this calf below seemed a bit big to still be feeding off his mom.

(Sorry Momma Cow, just my opinion, but do you think he may be getting too old?)

I don't think she liked us looking at her.

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Man, it was beautiful. The huge open Texas sky dotted by the clouds.

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I could live here.

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I had visited here back in 1997 with my parents, but since "Lady Bird" (as LBJ's wife was called) was still living here, we could only walk next to her home. She passed away in 2007 and the National Park Service took over her house. We got to go inside, but no photography was allowed. They are restoring it to the 1960's "look" as well.

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You could really see why LBJ wanted to come here as much as he did. The tranquility he must have felt over living in Washington D.C. . . especially since he was dealing with the Vietnam War. They had a lot of pictures of his cabinet and other important people that would come here for meetings. LBJ even had a phone wired to his pool so he could take calls wherever he was.

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A bit off the beaten path since it's about an hours drive from San Antonio, but beautiful country and a good way to see the other side of a presidency. Sometimes I forget they are people too. I get so caught up in policies and what I agree or disagree with.

Glad we have preserved it.

08/18/2010

A Food Tour of The San Antonio Area

I'm always up for a good meal.

When Cody gifted me a weekend trip to San Antonio for my birthday, we spent a good amount of time researching some places to eat. Our research did not disappoint as eating, as usual, was one of the highlights of our trip.

Rio Rio Cantina on the Riverwalk

We stayed on the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio and arrived late on Thursday night. We grabbed dinner at Rio Rio Cantina, a short 5 minute walk from our hotel. 

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The Riverwalk was hopping for a weeknight! Lots of good people watching and since we were seating right on the Riverwalk, we had a great view.

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The service and food wasn't spectacular (although we could have had just a bad waitress). We live in Texas so we have Tex-Mex food everywhere. Definitely not the best I've ever had, but I think the location made up for a lot of it.

And did I mention people watching? Definitely some interesting folks.

Silver K Cafe in Johnson City

After hitting the Alamo on Friday morning we headed out to Johnson City to check out LBJ's "Texas White House." We had seen the recommendation for the Silver K Cafe in Texas Highways magazine and we were not disappointed.

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The restaurant is located in the same place as the antique shop we bought our table at. Right in the heart of Johnson City, it offered home cooking with a certain elegance to it.

A good mix of people were there as well. Everyone from tourists (like ahem, us) to the Sheriff's department to business meetings and local retirees.

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We both got the prickly pear tea (not too different than regular tea, it just had a dash of flavor to it).

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At the last minute we ordered their Soup of the Day, broccoli and cheese. It was the best I've ever had, although I don't think I've ever had homemade. It makes a huge difference as it's not the plastic-taste stuff that you get at your average American chain restaurant.

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Cody ordered the Honey Pecan Fried Chicken and I opted for their special of the day, Watermelon Salad. 

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I had never in a million years thought to put watermelon on a salad. I would have liked it if the watermelon was a bit sweeter, but the combination of the red onion, cheese and salad dressing offered up just enough flavor.

The best part of the whole meal is pecan sauce that was on Cody's fried chicken. He gave me a little dollop and adding that to the salad REALLY made it good. 

The Dodging Duck Brewhaus & Restaurant in Boerne

Ah, does Google come in handy on road trips or what? We were headed back to San Antonio Friday night and were passing through some towns so I did a quick Google search on my iPhone for "best restaurant to eat in Boerne, TX" and the The Dodging Duck Brewhaus & Restaurant kept coming up in the search results. We exited off the interstate, drove through the cutest downtown area, and were sat immediately.

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Cody got one of their house beers (brewed right there at the restaurant) and we ordered fried green tomatoes for an appetizer. The sauce, creamy jalapeno cilantro lime, made the dish. I could have ate this as my meal.

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We opted to split the "Hill Country Sausage" four link plate (the Texas Hill Country, the area that we were in, is known for the early German settlements . . . there is a lot of German heritage in these small towns). We got one of each, including:

  • Knackwurst (veal and beef)
  • Bratwurst (spicy mix of veal and pork)
  • Jalapeno Cheese (beef and pork with jalapeno and cheddar cheese)
  • Country Style (German style pork and beef)

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Oh. My. Goodness. I would highly recommend this restaurant and this plate. They had more "regular" American type food, but a forkful of bratwurst, sauerkraut, cheddar cheese and their tangy raspberry sauce--all together--was amazing.

The Salt Lick in Driftwood

This place almost deserves its own post. Seriously. This is a really well known local BBQ joint that we saw on The Food Network a few times. We hit up Gurene, TX in the morning for some shopping and took the 45 minute drive over to The Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX for lunch. We had to wait 45 minutes, outside, but they did a good job of making it a comfortable wait by providing lemonade, popcorn and cooling fans (lemonade and popcorn for a small price, of course!).

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Driftwood is an unassuming town. Not a whole lot there but a handful of houses. The Salt Lick is definitely why people head out this way. I'd say there were at least 75 people waiting for seating.

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Once you get in you will see that it is a meat lovers paradise. I ordered the chopped beef sandwich thinking that it would be a small plate to tackle, and about fell out of my chair when my order came. The sandwich is twice as large as I would have expected it to be. There was no way I was going to get even close to finishing the thing.

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I also got a side of their potatoes and loved that it was not the classic mayonnaise-based potato salad found at most BBQ joints. It definitely tasted as though it had a more German flare to it, similar to the German Potato Salad I ate growing up. Really good stuff.

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On our way out we were able to get some good pictures of the cooking process.

Just stop for a second and imagine how it smelled . . .

Iron Cactus on the Riverwalk

Even though we were pretty darn full from The Salt Lick, we still needed dinner.

Back in San Antonio, right across the Riverwalk from our hotel, we tried the Iron Cactus to finish off our weekend. (Okay, we technically ate McDonald's on Sunday morning for breakfast but we won't count that as the last restaurant on our trip. Although you're hard pressed to find better hashbrowns.)

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The Iron Cactus has flowerbeds to block off the outside seating from the business of the Riverwalk. We initially thought this would be better, but we found that it was just too hot since we were getting no air movement. (Word to the wise on these 105 degree Texas days.) Don't worry, we survived.

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The food was amazing. We got table side guacamole, which we never order but we figured we'd eat like kings this one meal. Cody got the salmon and I got the Chipotle Pesto Lobster Ravioli. Both were delicious.

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Maybe the best part was the 2 minute walk from the restaurant to our hotel? Nice!

08/17/2010

Remembering The Alamo, As Any Good Texan Does

I have to admit I'm pretty uneducated when it comes to Texas history. I first came here for college in 2000 and at our freshman orientation camp I met a girl whose last name was Austin. She was talking about how she was a decedent of Stephen F. Austin and everyone thought it was the coolest thing. I had no idea who Stephen F. Austin was and just didn't get it.

Then, I married a Texan. And not just any Texan, but a sixth generation Texan-to-the-core guy. He takes his Texas history very seriously, as do most Texans, and so when in San Antonio this weekend, we had to stop by the Alamo (and we were only a few blocks from the Alamo--I've been here a couple times, but as a kid, so seeing it as an adult was going to be good).

We got to the Alamo when it opened, around 9am, not just to beat the crowds but the heat as well. It was going to be in the triple digits all weekend (both in Dallas and San Antonio, which are about a 4.5 hour drive apart) and even at 9am it was 85 degrees.

There are a ton of details I won't bore you with, but I'll hit you with some highlights.

First, the grounds were amazing. I'm a sucker for old trees and there were some old trees here.

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I had to pose next the biggest pecan tree I've ever seen. Native pecans usually grow in riverbed areas and the big ones are hundreds of years old. This one was just amazing.

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We also saw a HUGE live oak. I wasn't too familar with the live oak until I moved to Texas and they stay green year-round. This one was transplanted when it was 40 years old and now has to be held up by a series of poles and cables. It just makes you want to climb it.

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The old structure around the Alamo. In front is a paddle cactus. That is just ONE plant, not a bunch of them together.

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So, without any further delay . . .

The highlight of the morning was seeing the Alamo itself. The church (which is the most famous part of the Alamo) wasn't complete during the 13 day battle between Santa Anna's Mexican army and the Texas Revolution fighters. It had no roof and was just a small part of the complex that surrounded it.

The famous top you see below was actually added years later by the U.S. Army. 

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All the men fighting for the Texan Revolution died during the battle, including the famous Davy Crockett. What amazed me the most was how diverse the men that fought and died were. They came from various countries and various states, and there were even a couple freedman that fought, i.e. slaves that were free but chose to fight.

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We got to stand in front of the same rocks that witnessed a huge part of Texan and American history.

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After the fall of the Alamo, Texas was able to regroup for the Battle of San Jacinto. The Mexican army was taken by surprise, and the battle was essentially over after 18 minutes, with Texas coming out on top. During the fighting, many of the Texan soldiers repeatedly cried "Remember the Alamo!" I'm glad we're able to preserve and remember it too.

And, as any good Texan, I now have the pictures to prove it.

08/16/2010

Exactly How I Envisioned the Computer Desk to Be

I've mentioned before that I've been looking for a computer desk for our kitchen/dining/family room. Our house in Illinois had a built in desk and it was a great place to catch all the daily paper crap that builds up (bills, mail, etc.) as well as a place to put our computer, which is a huge part of our daily life.

This weekend Cody and I headed down to San Antonio for some R&R. He gifted me the trip for my 28th birthday and we planned a weekend out doing some tourist stuff in downtown San Antonio, but spending most of our time in the towns surrounding the city.

(I also got a four day break from Spangler. Not that I needed a dog-mom break, but I really really really needed a dog-mom break.)

Friday we were in Johnson City, TX (home of our 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson) for lunch and walked into a cute little antique shop next door called "The Old Lumber Yard."

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I was in the front of the store and Cody had already headed to the back (he's the in-and-out-I've-already-been-around-the-store kind of a shopper). He came back and got me, pointing out this desk:

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Oh, I loved it immediately. I'm all for simple lines (no turned legs please!) and the signs of age, small marks here and there, are beautiful. It is the perfect finish, and the exposed nails in the top sealed the deal. It is functional, as the desk is tall enough for Cody to sit at, and it has a super deep drawer, enough to keep the paper crap we have in our house nice and organized.

Since I'm such a great planner, we had no idea whether or not the desk would fit the spot we had for it. Luckily, we conned our friends, who have a key to our house, to come and measure the spot Friday evening so we knew we had plenty of room.

It wasn't exactly convenient to drive back to Johnson City on Saturday afternoon, but we made it right before they closed. We got it home and the finished product is:

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And I know, another horrible picture, but you can see the detail of the handle. Love it.

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A fantastic birthday present. And, I'm so happy to finally have what is in my head in real life. While getting the stacks of mail off my counter.

08/05/2010

All Dressed Up With Somewhere (in Dallas) To Go

I've talked about our friend Norm before. He led our trip to Kenya, Africa in December and I guess he liked us enough that he cooked us the longest/best dinner we've ever had. Norm is a total foodie and has continued to show us the finer things in life.

We made plans last month for dinner (finding an open Saturday that worked for everyone was next to impossible!) and he recommended a place called Old Warsaw, located in the "Uptown" neighborhood of Dallas.

It's old-school Dallas. Think oil, big hair and lots of money. Three key things that made us not fit in, yet they seemed to let us in anyway.

We got all dressed up. Cody's tie matched my skirt. Love it when we match.

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Okay, these are phone pictures since I wasn't sure if old-school Dallas people would like it if I brought in my big camera . . . But trust me in that it was super good.

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The funniest part of the evening was when Jacque noticed the bread knife at each of our plates. In the midst of old, heavy and real-silver flatware, the bread knife had "IKEA" stamped on the side.

All of a sudden I didn't feel quite so out of place!

08/04/2010

Spangler's Version of a Cookie Jar

Spangler has made great strides over the past week. Some good, like swimming. Some not so good, like discovering toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom.

It's like having a toddler at home.

He'll go into the bathroom and unwind the entire roll, then drag it out into the living room. Or, he'll just go in and take a huge bite out of the roll, literally biting through dozens of layers.

(Reminds me of Will Ferrel in Anchorman: "You pooped in the refrigerator? And you ate a whole wheel of cheese? How’d you do that? I’m not even mad . . . that’s amazing!”)

What's funny is that I caught him in there this morning and he was acting as though he wasn't doing anything wrong . . . As he walked around the house he had some toilet paper still stuck on the side of his mouth, and sure enough, I found the evidence in the bathroom.

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