Tag Archives: Texas

Amarillo By Morning, Lunch Time, Any Time

For many people, driving through Amarillo means stopping at a quirky display of spray-painted Cadillacs or the restaurant where you get your 72-ounce steak free if you can eat it in one sitting.

I like to think I drilled a little deeper in this oil boom-shaped town, venturing a bit off of Interstate 40 to discover its beautiful downtown architecture and a less touristyTexas Panhandle Cafe.

I’ll definitely come back.

Our lunch spot, Youngblood’s Cafe, was just a few blocks from downtown, It was so inconspicuous on the outside that we passed it by initially, but boy are we glad we turned around.

I bet I’ve eaten in 200 Texas restaurants during the past 35 years from Daingerfield to Pecos, but this has got to be one of the most authentic Texas cafe experiences that I’ve had. To get to our table, we passed by three massive dining rooms with its walls covered in Texas decor (from a longhorn skull painted like the Texas flag to  a cactus Christmas tree. We were served by a “sweetie-saying” waitress wearing a T-shirt saying: “I’ve got glitter in my veins and Jesus in my heart.”

The chicken-fried steak came topped with green chili sauce. After lunch, I read this cafe was once at the Amarillo Livestock Auction, one of the largest cattle auctions in the world. The owner was trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and was once executive sous chef at the Plaza Hotel in New York, but don’t let that deter you. Our two meals were great and totaled only $20.30 tax included. We would have gotten free banana pudding if we had gotten there earlier.

To walk off a little of that hearty lunch, I took in a few blocks downtown to look at the historic buildings. Amarillo had a building boom right before the Great Depression, and many of those buildings have been restored.

Santa Fe Building, Amarillo
Santa Fe Building, Amarillo
Paramount Building
Paramount Building

The most iconic of the buildings is an Art Deco high rise built in 1930  as the regional headquarters for Santa Fe Railroad. It now houses county offices.  Another landmark building is the old Paramount Theatre, which has been restored with its neon shining bright at night. Two classic Five & Dime buildings are well preserved.

Renovated Woolworth Building will house several restaurants.
The old Kress building now houses a furniture store.

Early afternoon on a late autumn day,  the West Texas sky was as blue as I’ve ever seen it. I liked the way this bank sign looked surrounded by it.

The Amarillo National Bank is the largest 100 percent family-owned bank in the United States. It was started by a cattleman and Amarillo early settler.

I only had about 20 minutes, so I didn’t see all of the historic buildings. Just before I left, I found this classic parked outside of a lawyer’s office: A man and his dog and a 1930 Chevrolet pickup.

I’ve heard the food is really good at the bright yellow Big Texan Steak Ranch, the steakhouse with the big steer at front and gaudy billboards and signs pointing the way along the interstate. We may stop some time on our way through.

Who knows maybe I’ll pull over at Cadillac Ranch for a photo op.

But I’m really looking forward to a return trip to see the progress downtown, maybe even checking out Old Route 66 Historic District, a mile-long stretch of art galleries, antique shops and restaurants, along the old Mother Road.

For more information, check out this Amarillo Visitors site.



The Oldest General Store in Texas

If you grew up in the rural South, you probably have at least one of these country stores tucked away in your memory.

For me it was Hughes Grocery near my grandparents house in Clay County, Mississippi. I remember the red Coca Cola chest cooler, the driveway paved with nearly as many bottle caps as gravel.

For many in Harrison County, Texas, that store is T.C. Lindsey & Co. General Store in Jonesville,  a curve in a country road just two miles from busy Interstate 20. The store has been around for 170 years, making it the oldest continuously-operating general store in Texas.

After bicycling the hilly roads of East Texas the other day, I stopped in to see if it looked the same as it did when I first visited 32 years ago.

I didn’t need any overalls, Lodge cast iron skillets or Raggedy Ann dolls (three major categories at the store), but I couldn’t pass up the No. 1 seller—hoop Wisconsin cheddar cheese sliced with a 100-year-old cutter.

Cheese at T.C. Lindsey General Store
Store manager Jon Miller slices hoop cheese.

T.C. Lindsey & Co. General Store is still jam packed with inventory, although the family is keeping it open for the memories rather than for profit.

I also came away with a couple of micro-brewed root beers . There is an extensive selection of vintage soft drinks and as many varieties of Spam as I have seen. Penny (well, nickel) candy. Honey and sorghum molasses from nearby farms. Bulk Spanish peanuts farmed 70 miles up the road in Naples, Texas.

You can get sun bonnets, kerosene lamp supplies and shoes from the 1970s, but many of the items are not for sale such as the rare 1896 wringer washing machine and the last cotton bale ginned in the area in 1973. The store just started taking credit cards a year ago.

It is such an iconic place that movies and TV shows have filmed there, most notably the 1985 TV movie remake of The Long Hot Summer bringing Don Johnson, Cybill Shepherd and Ava Gardner to Jonesville. One day, a limousine rolled up with Lady Bird Johnson, who came in to buy Cracker Jacks of all things. Her father ran a similar store in nearby Karnack.

A favorite tale is when an employee showed up for work drunk one day. At that time, coffins were sold upstairs. There was also a sofa upstairs, where the employee passed out. He was placed inside one of the coffins as a prank.

He never arrived at work drunk again..

Learn more about the store by watching this Texas Bucket List segment.

T.C. Lindsey & Co will be celebrating 170 years of operation with a birthday cake and bluegrass band on Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Can’t make that?.Another good time to stop by is Dec. 9 for its annual Christmas Open House from 11 a.m. to 2 pm.

T.C. Lindsey & Co. is located at 2293 FM Road 134, about 26 miles west of Shreveport. Take exit 633 off of Interstate 20. 




Kickstands and Nightstands: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

I love self-help books, anything to try to be more productive or happier.

I’ve  read The Happiness Project and other books by lawyer-turned-writer Gretchen Rubin and found some good takeaways.  At least I’m making my bed every day.

Rubin was in Dallas-Fort Worth last week to promote her newest book, The Four Tendencies. I was fortunate enough to meet her at a library book signing.

I became a Gretchen Rubin follower by first listening to the weekly podcasts she does with her sister,  a TV writer. The 35-minute podcasts are just enough to get me through Wednesday’s treadmill session. It’s my own version of “pairing” an unpleasant activity with something pleasant.” That’s a strategy Rubin suggests to build good habits.

Rubin has carved out a niche in the self-help genre by studying the relationship between habit and “tendencies,” or how we respond to expectations. Rubin describes them this way:

Upholder: Meets both outer and inner expectations  “Discipline is my freedom.”

Obliger: Meets outer expectations but resists inner expectations. “You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me.”

Questioner: Resists outer expectations and meets inner expectations. “I’ll comply if you convince me why.”

Rebel: Resists both outer and inner expectations. “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”

A tendency is a narrow part of the complicated personality, but Rubin maintains exploring our tendencies helps us in adopting better habits. If you want to know your own tendency you can take her quiz here.

I am an Obliger, the most common tendency. Rubin is the rarer Upholder,  a bit over the top sometimes. Not only does she uphold the good habit of making her bed every day, she makes it up in hotel rooms — even on the day of checkout!

But lest you think Rubin believes “Upholder” is the the most desirable tendency and “Rebel” the least, not so she says. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Gretchen Rubin at North Richland Hills Library
A moment with Gretchen Rubin at North Richland Hills Library

I find personality profiles such as Myers-Briggs, StrengthFinders and DISC assessments fascinating.  Many years ago, author Florence Littauer spoke at our church on personalities based on Hippocrates’ four temperaments – Sanguine, Melancholy, Choleric and Phlegmatic. I discovered I was melancholy, and it was very helpful in understanding how I do things. Subsequently, author Gary Smalley used animals to characterize personalities –lion, otter, golden retriever or beaver.

Rubin’s The Happiness Project: Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closet, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list. She’s written other volumes on human nature, including Better Than Before and Happier at Home with equally interesting (and lengthy) subtitles.

I “read at” those books before discovering the podcast, which I find more entertaining, mainly because of the repartee with her sister, Liz Craft. The podcast tips can be easier to digest. One I plan to try soon  is a Power Hour, a time set aside each week for those nagging tasks–changing the batteries so my garage remote works, sewing a button on, etc. One of Rubin’s so-called Secrets of Adulthood is nothing is more exhausting than the task that’s never started.

Rubin uses a lot of catchy names  to help us understand ourselves and others. I have discovered I am an “underbuyer,” one who avoids making a purchase until the laundry detergent and gasoline tank are down to their last tablespoons. I think my husband is an “overbuyer” and the reason why we have four jars of bay leaves in the pantry.

On the Wednesday podcasts. there’s a lead topic with a “Try This at Home” takeaway. Last week, the lead  was “Write a ‘Ta-Da’ List” to recognize accomplishments. Another week, it was “September, the Other January.” On another episode, it was the less conventional “Do 10 Jumping Jacks” to boost energy.

I actually tried the latter at home, which I had not done since 1980s aerobics class. I did feel a little pepped up afterwards.

The podcasts end with  “Demerits and Gold Stars” where Rubin and her sister share their own good or bad habits of the week.

As far as making your bed every day.  Rubin says it’s her most-applied resolution.  Completing a task quickly can spark continued productivity throughout the day.

So, go make your bed, and have a great day!


Presidential Libraries Are Worth Visiting

I trace my fascination with presidents with a couple of childhood events. I was in first grade and home sick that November Friday when Walter Cronkite cut into As the World Turns with the tragic news that JFK had been assassinated.

The next year I was home for two weeks with the flu just after my mother bought a set of World Book encyclopedias. Bored, with no videos and only two channels on TV, I began memorizing the presidents in order and the state capitals as well.

Since it’s President’s Day, I’m remembering some of my visits to presidential libraries. My love for presidential history and my tendency to prefer museums showcasing narrow topics (rather than the massive Smithsonian) are reasons why I find presidential libraries so appealing.

I have been to four of them – Bush 41 & 43, Clinton & LBJ and came away with new appreciation for their service, even for the ones I didn’t care for politically. When visiting comprehensive museums such as the Smithsonian, I am overwhelmed, but I can manage presidential libraries since they focus on only four to eight years of history. There are only 13 official ones administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Texas has three of them.

Here are my brief takeaways from the four that I have visited:

George W. Bush, Southern Methodist University, Dallas: I thought the 9/11 exhibit especially touching with details of the President’s, Vice President’s and first lady’s schedules during that time. The $16 admission is a bit pricey compared to the other libraries visited in the $7-$10 price range.

Since this was the museum we visited most recently, I remember more details about the whole trip. On the day we visited the museum. We opted not to eat at “43,” the museum’s restaurant and went to Rise!, a great soufflé place about three miles away. Rise! has presidential tie-ins as we were seated at the  “Bush” table,  the 43rd president’s regular table evidenced by family signatures on the underside. George W, then the former president, was eating a crab soufflé at this table when advisors called to say Osama bin laden had been killed. Another regular Rise patron is Chandler Roosevelt Lindsley, granddaughter of Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt, who lives in the Dallas area. You can purchase her cookie booklet there.

Bananas Foster Souffle at Rise!

Also, you can include a trip to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas to learn more about the John F. Kennedy assassination.

Daughter Mary Grace poses by the Presidential limousine at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library on the Texas A&M campus.

George H.W. Bush, Texas A&M University, library in College Station covers the Gulf war, but it was the Bushes public service and their time in China with the CIA that I found most fascinating. A good time to go is in May when the drive leading to the library is surrounded by Texas bluebonnets.

LBJ, University of Texas, library in Austin featured a life-sized mechanical LBJ wearing a cowboy hat sharing folksy stories when I visited 10 years ago. That exhibit has since been replaced by LBJ in a suit in the Oval Office. I haven’t seen it, but I think the former captures his persona better.

Bill Clinton, Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas: The middle of the first floor has an interesting timeline of important events during the time of the Clinton administration, 1993-2001, with the daily schedule of Clinton’s almost 3,000 days in office. Press the appropriate button, and you get “a day in the life.”  The museum gives great views of downtown Little Rock and the Arkansas River. Through April 2, there’s an exhibit on Beatlemania!

Downtown Little Rock view from Clinton library

Ulysses S. Grant Library at Mississippi State!

Presidential  libraries are 21st century creations, but some earlier presidents have foundations that administer birthplaces, libraries and museums. In an ironic move, Mississippi State University is now home to the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library. Yes, you read that right, a former Confederate state houses the library of the former general of the Union army. After a complicated and fascinating dispute that is still in litigation, a MSU history professor had the Grant papers and artifacts moved from Southern Illinois University to MSU in 2012. Read more here.

Harry S. Truman

A couple of years ago we were traveling and found our hotel in Independence, Mo, just outside Kansas City, and the home of Harry S. Truman.

Truman Walked the Streets
Truman Walked the Streets

There wasn’t enough time to visit the presidential library. However, I loved seeing the silhouette signs around town of Truman to depict how he walked everywhere. I’m also amazed at how just spending 30 minutes in a place where a president lived lived piqued my interest in the Truman administration – so much that I downloaded David McCullough’s wonderful biography of the 33rd president.

A Bit of Presidential Trivia

I’m still fascinated by this information I picked up on a trip to Washington, D.C. last May. Two grandsons of our 10th president, John Tyler, are still living! Read more here.

So on this President’s Day, I think I’ll forgo the furniture store sales and read up on one of the presidents. Can anyone suggest a book or a movie?

Kickstands and Wedding Plans-Bridal Gown Shopping

Saying yes to THE dress means having to say no to some wonderful dresses and a wonderful bridal boutique.

In planning a wedding, there are a lot of side stories that don’t get shared in the Sunday newspaper write-up or even in the reception toasts.

My older daughter, Claire, is getting married in April, and we spent last weekend bridal gown shopping.  I’ve got to say we have more pictures of that experience than we have from my entire wedding and honeymoon .

In fact, we have more photos from the places where we did not buy than from my wedding. On that note, I want to give a shoutout to Bridal Boutique in Lewisville, Texas for their customer service.

The bride ended up buying a gown elsewhere and is thrilled with her choice. But she was momentarily sad that Bridal Boutique didn’t get the sale and Carol, our consultant, didn’t get the commission.

I’m enjoying learning about the bridal industry, and Bridal Boutique is the poster child for customer service. For starters, you walk in and a chalkboard lettering welcomes the brides with appointments –25 on the Saturday we were there — by name and wedding date.

Soon after check-in, your party is offered champagne. The consultant brings in the gowns that match your style and Pinterest postings. The consultant seems genuinely interested in the bride, the engagement ring, how she met the groom, how the proposal went and how the lighting in the wedding and reception venue will be. The store manager swings by a couple of times with more words of welcome and more champagne.

Behind the scenes, Bridal Boutique has adapted well to technology and warranted this article in Entrepreneur magazine. Apparently, they are doing a lot of things right. Bridal Boutique opened in 1990 in Lewisville, 25 miles north of Dallas. It has expanded several times, taking in what was once a bank and a Masonic Hall downtown. In fact the entire town of Lewisville has embraced the wedding industry–there’s a bakery, wedding rental business, alterations, separate shop for bridesmaids and mother of the brides, even a wedding chapel in its historic old Main Street.

As I am learning there is money to be made in this industry, I am particularly interested in small town bridal gown destinations. Although Lewisville is a fast-growing Dallas suburb, it’s old downtown has small-town charm. We didn’t make it to Brinkley, a town of little more than 3,000 in Arkansas, but many friends have and walked away with a gown from Low’s there. Low’s opened in 1977 when a pharmacist’s wife began selling a few gowns upstairs above the drug store. It’s now housed in  a restored railroad hotel and sells more than 5,000 gowns a year (The Lewisville store,  no small volume store, sells 1,500 a year)

Claire ended up finding the perfect dress in a nice boutique but the  the decor looked more like the waiting room at H&R Block than the fairy-tale like baroque furnishings of the Lewisville store. And the customer service was lacking.

Out of respect for the bride, I’ll save pictures of the dress until the wedding day. Suffice it to say she looks stunning. It was the  right choice, but we’ll always remember the place in Lewisville, Texas where she didn’t say “yes.”



Small Town Bicycling: Jefferson, Texas

I’ve cycled on city streets,  rural roads and traffic-free paths in urban and rural settings. But the cycling I like best is riding the streets of a small town.

I like quiet streets, where your bike is transportation  — from the bed & breakfast to the library, to the bakery for lunch, to the grocery store and to church.

When I moved to Shreveport more than 30 years ago, people told me about the east Texas town of Jefferson, an hour away. It has been a favorite bicycling destination ever since. Jefferson is similar to my hometown of Aberdeen, Mississippi, as it was once was a prosperous river port that was bypassed by the early railroads.

Jefferson eventually got a railroad, but not before other Texas rail cities grew faster. Thankfully, must of homes and historic buildings from Jefferson’s heyday have been preserved. At least 70 or so are on the National and Texas historic registers.

Downtown is filled with antique shops, restaurants and an old-timey general store. The downtown district is entirely walkable too, but on a bicycle you can pedal along the side streets and see more of the historic homes. There are antebellum Greek Revivals, gingerbread Victorian mansions and cottages, Italianates and just about every architectural design.

Jefferson isn’t as affluent as Fredericksburg  or other tourist towns you might find over in the Texas Hill Country. But Jefferson has an interesting blend of historic charm, eccentric personalities and authentic everyday experiences you would expect in a southern town of about 2,000 people trying to make it in today’s world.

And as a former newspaper person, I’m amused that Jefferson’s weekly newspaper is the Jefferson Jimplecute. The name is an acronym for the paper’s motto: Joining Industry, Manufacturing, Planting, Labor, Energy, Capital (in) Unity Together Everlastingly. But I like the legend that a former publisher dropped the type tray, and the letters that spilled out spelled “Jimblecute.”

Jefferson is full of those kinds of stories that you can hear over breakfast at the B&B, on the ghost tour or over a 5-cent cup of coffee at the Jefferson General Store.

Here’s a photo gallery taken from two recent  trips. Click on the photos to learn more about the places. We recently went on a sleepy July day, but if you go to jefferson-texas.com you can learn about special events throughout the year when the town is more alive.

A few of the bed & breakfast homes may have bicycles  to use, but you need to plan on bringing your own. You also can expand your sightseeing options by taking a carriage ride, riverboat ride on the scenic Big Cypress Bayou or a steam train during special events. 

If you’re looking for another nearby town to bicycle around, I’d recommend Marshall just 17 miles away. There’s a wonderful old downtown department store that has been renovated into shops. You can read about it here.

And if you are more of a road cyclist, USA Today has some suggested routes around Jefferson and nearby Caddo Lake in its Travel section.

David and Jane after a hot July bicycle ride
David and Jane after a hot July bicycle ride



Tomatoes Day 20: Maters, Taters and Skwash in Lindale, Texas

On my way to pick up a bicycle in Mineola, Texas, last month, I passed Duck Creek Produce on U.S. 69 north of Lindale. The phonetic spelling of vegetables got my attention, and I had to stop.

Apparently, it’s creative marketing that has attracted not only highway passengers but notables such as comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who posted about it on his Facebook page. You can read more about Duck Creek Produce here.

On different days the sign may tout Qcomeburs or Hallopinyos.

In the photo above I was trying to figure out the sign. Does it say “Lois Aggie Onion?” I wondered. No, it was  straightforward. The “1015 Aggie Onion” is a super sweet onion developed by a Texas A&M horticulture professor.

We bought some and also picked up a jar of peppers and some jelly.  We passed on the tomatoes because we have plenty in our backyard, but they looked good. Much of the produce is grown on a farm right behind the stand.

Owner Jack Roach, who has farmed the area for more than 40 years, didn’t want his picture made. And, frankly I found the “No Change” sign a little off-putting. We made sure we had the exact amount for our purchases.

No change
No change

But judging from the phonetic signs (including this one near the check out — any one item $1), I’d say Farmer Jack must have a friendly side with a sense of humor.

Lindale Any One (756 x 803)