Posts Tagged With: Texas

Nice to See You Again Dear Texas

I’m back from the North Country to spend more time in a place that has become my second home, Texas. I will be picking up where I left off on this blog, sharing with you the wonders of my little corner of the Lone Star State. Watch for ideas for Day Trips, restaurant  and event reviews, special events, outdoor excursions and much more!

I’ve arrived back not only in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday season, but for what will be my second Autumn.


The first full day back, I headed to the Japanese Gardens which I had heard was beginning to show its full Autumn colors. I wasn’t disappointed. The colors are expected to peak over the next week, so if you haven’t made a seasonal pilgrimage yet, now would be the time to do so. Keep your eyes peeled for the opportunity to see a feathered friend or two, enjoying the scenery as well.

For more information and hours visit: www.fwbg.org

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Burleson Native Phil Hamilton Hits #1 on the Texas Regional Radio Report

Let’s face it – these days everyone thinks they can make a record, and true enough, if you’ve got the money and the right equipment you can self produce a collection of your favorite karaoke songs in your living.

Many people share the same dream, but few artists ever succeed in climbing to the top spot of a music chart. Nowadays, with the Texas music scene more competitive than ever, a #1 hit is even more of a momentous accomplishment.

This week Burleson, Texas native Phil Hamilton did just that on the Texas Regional Radio Chart with his hit single “Bad” from his sophomore album Renegade Rock n Roll.  ‘Bad’ is the album’s second single.  Hamilton’s personal favorite of the album,  the song was penned in the studio while laying down other tracks.

Needless to say, Hamilton’s riding the top of the wave with a smile. “I can’t even describe the feeling of satisfaction and gratitude, it’s a true turning point in my career for sure.”

Growing up in Texas, Phil Hamilton has been able to experience and support some of the best the state has to offer, and in turn they’ve given him inspiration. “I’m a fan of Pat Green and always will be, he brought change to the music scene years ago and the spirit of his music will always be a part of what we’re all doing, and of course my favorite Texas country artist, Tom Petty.”

Hamilton’s own presence on the music scene has been steadily growing over the past few years. While fellow high school graduating classmate Kelly Clarkson took her music to the top down a yellow brick road, Hamilton’s path was down a long, well traveled red dirt road. His  work ethic and perseverance has paid off, but along the way the landscape has changed. “It’s become very competitive, sad to say to say the camaraderie isn’t as strong as used to be. It’s becoming so challenging to break through in the business that everyone is scared and some feel threatened by another’s success.”

When asked what advice he’d give to those who are looking to break into the Texas music scene, his answer is straight forward. “I would say work hard, treat it like a business and seek out good people to work with such as management, etc. you have to work harder than any of the people or your band, only then do you get the respect and have a team willing to work along side you and follow you through the tougher times.”

That all said, Hamilton has persevered and kept his end goals in sight. He’s figured out what he’s had to do, and stayed focused.  Being in North Texas, as opposed to Austin, has been especially beneficial.  Although the Texas capital has been touted as the Live Music Capital of the World, its musicians struggle to make a decent living. Being able to make ends meet, allows for music to move from being a weekend hobby to a full time career. Hamilton understands this all too well. “It’s all about location, Austin TX is home to some of the most talented musicians and therefore there are a lot of great acts willing to play for cheap.” he shares,  “The key is to find new markets and build the fans, doing so you can control your own destiny and make more money each time you come back which in turn helps keep you on the road and finding more new markets.”

Business aside, Hamilton’s Renegade Rock n Roll is an album that has plenty of shelf life still in it. The current #1 single is the second release from the stellar red dirt rocker, and there are plans to release more to Texas radio. Based on the warm welcome all of his other single releases have received from the public and media, there will be plenty more opportunities for Hamilton to enjoy the view from the top of the charts. His songs are authentic and well written.

It’s an album he is feels proud of, and rightly so. Like a proverbial father of ten unique and special children, he has a hard time picking a favorite track. “It’s tough to choose one, that’s what is special about this record to me. It’s a collaboration of songs that I have felt and lived since starting this journey.”

Thankfully for all of us, Phil Hamilton has graciously taken us along for the ride.

So what does Phil Hamilton do to follow up a #1 song? By kicking back and relaxing on the Frio River, and inviting everyone to come and join him, of course. The 1st  Annual Philthy on the Frio is set to take place Jun 1, 2 and 3rd in Leakey Texas.  “It will be just a great time to party, cut loose and enjoy the beautiful Texas Hill Country and  live music,” he shares. “Floating the river is a Texas tradition and this will hopefully be the first of many Philthy on the Frio’s to come!” More details can be found on Phil’s website.

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Restaurant Review: Serrano’s Burgers, Arlington Texas

He came home from work last week with a handwritten map scrawled on piece of scrap paper. “We’ve got a new restaurant to try next time we’re in Arlington,” he told me, looking pretty pleased with himself. Truth is, he loves discovering new, out of the way, eateries as much as I do.

“What kind of place?” I asked.

“Burgers.”

I was quiet. Unless they’re homemade, I prefer a different type of meal. His one word answer conjured up thoughts of mass produced, cookie cutter fare on a sesame seed bun kind of meal. The recommendation had come from a co-worker he tells me, noting my silence.  Apparently, the two of them had be exchanging photos during a break at the factory, and after my guy had shared his Canadian vacation pictures, the other man shared some photographs he’d taken for the menu of his sister’s mom and pop restaurant. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, it had been enough to lead to a hastily hand drawn map.

The opportunity to check the place out came sooner, rather than later, as Saturday night had us making our way through Game Day traffic on I-30 to attend the Arlington Music Hall Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue show. We’d left a little earlier so we could try out Serrano’s Burgers first, before attending the show.

We had been warned that it was a small place, easily missed if you aren’t looking and sure enough, as our GPS announced that we’d arrived, a quick look around from left to right had us scratching our heads and doubling back to take a closer look. We finally found the location, in the center of a small strip mall,  cozily tucked away between a Hispanic Pentecostal Church and Jackson’s Groceries.

I’ve eaten out enough to know that one should never judge a restaurant by its exterior, so we were undaunted by the nondescript facade that greeted us. Inside, the venue was indeed as tiny as promised. “So small you’d have to go outside to change your mind” is the phrase that is most apt. The decor was pleasant, despite the size, with eye pleasing colors and wall coverings, that let you know this was not your typical fast food restaurant. There were four tables with ladder back chairs on one side of the small room, and an ordering counter on the back wall that displayed a large colorful menu sign overhead. A flat screen television set tuned into the customary sports network channel hung on an opposite wall. There were only two other groups dining when we entered, so we were in luck as far as finding a place to eat.

We approached the counter. For those of you who have been served by people who are irritated that they’ve had to leave an intense text conversation in order to do their job, you’ll know just what I mean when I tell you how pleased we were to be served by a  very hospitable young man, who patiently waited while we decided what to order.

The pictures on the menu board were indeed as mouth watering as I’d been told. Serranos serves meals all day long from breakfast tacos, to a lighter lunch menu that includes street tacos (pork, steak or lengua (tongue))  and tortas, as well as a selection of burgers. The house burger is the Serrano Burger, which included both serrano and jalapeno peppers.

“Are Serrano peppers hot?” I asked, my green Northern upbringing shining brightly for all to see.

A man sitting at the table directly behind where we stood, injected with one word “Hot!” Judging by his obvious southern drawl and wide opened eyes as he uttered the single word, I quickly concluded that the house burger was best left for the more daring.  We both settled for the Bacon Cheeseburgers for a very reasonable $6.50 each, that included fries and sat at a table.

The friendly man behind the counter, soon brought out or drinks, which earned further bonus points with me. This was definitely not a McBurger place. He reappeared again shortly after that, with the order for another table, and took the time to come and tell us that our meal would be right up. He was right.

Now — just because the service was fast, let me promise you this was far from assembly line fast food fare. The meat is apparently not frozen which explains the quick turnaround time from order to table.

The burgers are handmade and the bacon is real. The over-sized buns were grilled and the produce used for the toppings was crisp and fresh. The serving sizes are more than ample for an evening meal. This was no sissy burger, but rather, an honest to goodness, two handed masterpiece that had me sighing contentedly after one bite. The fries were seasoned, and definitely not greasy. This was a five star burger served in a down home, mom and pop establishment, that I hope will be around for years to come.

After dropping just a little over $14.00 for two platters and two drinks, for a meal that was as delicious and fresh as it would have been if I’d made it at home, coupled with prompt, friendly service from someone who seemed genuinely happy to take our order, I know we’ll be going back again very soon.  This is hands down the best burger I have eaten anywhere, ever.

Serrano’s Burgers is located at 1821 S. Fielder Road, in Arlington, Texas.

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EVENT: Free Concert April 19th – Season 1 Finale of Troubadour, TX

WHO: Twelve artists from the Troubadour, TX television series: Zane Williams, Kylie Rae Harris (w/ Wayne Kirkpatrick & Gordon Kennedy), Beth Wood, Woody Russell, Susan Ashton, Cary Pierce (of Jackopierce), Little Brave, Nicolette Good, Kirk Thurmond, Guthrie Kennard, Ryan Edgar and Tom Faulkner
WHAT: FREE concert and live taping for Season 1 finale episode of Troubadour, TX
WHEN: Thursday, April 19. 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
WHERE: Addison Circle Park, 4970 Addison Circle Drive, Addison, TX 75001
NOTE: This is a FREE event with FREE parking. The festivities will be taped for the Season 1 finale episode of Troubadour, TX, which airs in the Dallas/Fort Worth market on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on TXA 21. Click HERE to see where TTX airs in your market.
For more information about the Troubadour, TX concert in the park, visit: www.facebook.com/events/377830872251738/
For more information about the Troubadour, TX television series and TTX artists, visit www.TroubadourTX.com.
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Restaurant Review: Summers Cafe

Last Sunday morning, we woke up to the aftermath of storms that had hit our neighbors to the north, with a vengeance. We’d been up most of the night watching the radar, and when Sunday morning arrived we felt as if we’d been placed in Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down, sans the beer. The last thing I wanted to do was cook our usual full country breakfast, so the solution was obvious. We needed to visit Summers and let them do the cooking for us.

The cafe is located on a lonely stretch of the Jacksboro Highway, and against the storm clouds that morning, it looked even lonelier as we were the first to arrive. Everyone else must have been hunkered down, eating cereal or toast.

To be honest, the outside of this place isn’t the fanciest, which, to be honest once again, is why we knew the first time we visited there, that the food was going to be great. We were spot on. There’s nothing fancy about their offerings — just the basics — biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon and hashbrowns just like I’d have made at home. They also serve lunch, but we’ve only ever gone for breakfast.  I call it an honest breakfast — simple, straightforward and affordable. Two cups of coffee and two hearty plates of country breakfast came to just over $10.00.

As the wind howled and rain poured relentlessly, we ate a meal that fortified us for the rest of the day as the storms moved on through.

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Restaurant Review: Drew’s Place

Drew’s Place Serves Up Home Cookin’ Southern Style

When I go out to eat, I prefer to feel as if I’m eating at home. I want to feel welcomed and I want the food to taste as if it came from someone’s kitchen, as opposed to out of a box or container and heated in the microwave.

We’d been meaning to try Drew’s Place out for awhile, but we usually remembered on a Sunday, which left us disappointed, since its the one day of the week that the restaurant is not opened. When you consider that it’s family owned and operated, it makes admirable sense. Finally this past Saturday we found the doors open, and the lunch hour rush had passed.

Criteria Number One was met as soon as we walked in the door, as were led to a table by a waitress with a welcoming smile, and a warm demeanor. It was as if we were guests in her home.

 We ordered sweet tea, and by the time she arrived back at our table with mere minutes later, we knew what we wanted to order. The menu had no shortage of southern favorites – fried chicken, catfish and pork-chops, but we had our heart set on the special we’d seen on the sign outside the front door — chicken fried steak.  The special stood out to us for two reasons. First, chicken fried steak is one of our favorite eat-out choices, and secondly the special of $7.99 included our sweet tea. As experienced diners, we knew that most restaurants more than made up for the discounted specials, with the prices they charged for the beverages.

Choosing the sides was a little more difficult – we had a choice of two each, and narrowing it down wasn’t easy, when presented with choices such as collard greens, mac n cheese, and beans. In the end I we both chose the mashed potato and I settled on the candied yams, and my dining companion chose fried okra. We had a choice of cream or brown gravy, and cornbread or toast, as well.

In a matter of the same amount of time that it took for our sweet tea to be served, our dinner was brought out from the kitchen. The chicken fried steaks were each served on its own plate, with the sides individually accompanying them, on another. We were both pleasantly surprised and appreciative that the mashed potatoes were cooked just the way we like them, fried – just like Grandma used to make them. The candied yams were delightful and the fried okra, a vegetable side that we find difficult to master, and easy to ruin, was wonderful. I could tell my partner was enjoying himself, because he didn’t utter a single word to me until we’d finished eating and then, he did something completely out of character — he ordered dessert – a lovely, moist, to-die-for piece of chocolate cake for us to share.


In the end, we both walked out with full bellies and a smile, and our wallet was only just under twenty dollars emptier. We’ll be going back very soon.

If you’re looking for a meal, that makes you feel as if you’ve been invited to sit in at friend’s dinner table – I recommend Drew’s Place whole-heartedly. The service is friendly, without being overbearing, the prices can’t be beat and the food is as good as Grandma makes! It’s the kind of place friends recommend to friends.

Drew’s Place is located at 5701 Curzon Avenue  Fort Worth, TX  and their phone number is (817) 735-4408.

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Mark Your Calendar – Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival April 20-21

This weekend is the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival
April 21-22
Antique Car Show and John Denver Tribute Concert…(free) – April 21
Historic Preston St. Garage Sale – April 20-21
BBQ Cookoff at Knights of Columbus Hall – April 20-21
Don’t miss it!
More information here 

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RECIPE: Crock Pot Pinto Beans and Ham with Maple Cornbread

The best part of holiday feasts, can be the multitude of recipes you can make with the leftovers. We’d purchased a full sized spiral ham last week and since there are only two of us, we’re going to be eating  the leftovers for quite awhile. My goal is to find enough varied recipes that will make the process enjoyable, rather than boring. We’ve carved it up, and separated into freezer bags, but I wanted to use the hambone first. We’d been given a large bag of pinto beans from a friend, and we’ve been looking for recipes to help use them up — so it was a natural to pair those with two of them together. As an accompaniment I made a pan of maple cornbread that turned out perfect! Here are both of the recipes…. enjoy!

Crock Pot Pinto Beans and Ham

Soak 3 cups of pinto  beans overnight in enough water to cover them. Check to see if you need to add water, as the beans will absorb most of it.

In the morning rinse the beans and boil them in fresh water for 30 mins. Strain and add to the crock pot.

Add the hambone and 2 cups (give or take) of chopped ham.

Add:

1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Add enough water to cover. Cook for 9-11 hours on low, checking water levels occasionally and adding as needed.

Maple Cornbread 

Ingredients

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/4 maple syrup
6 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in 8×8 pan.
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, and remaining wet ingredients in another. Mix each well. Combine into one bowl. Pour into 8×8 greased pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes of 425 degrees.

*can be served as is, or with butter and maple syrup on top.  This recipe is a winner. You’ll be making it over and over again.

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Fort Worth’s Water Gardens — An Oasis Amid a Concrete Jungle

Fort Worth has many green spaces, peppered across its landscape of cement and glass, and fortunately. most of them are free for the offering. One of these such places is located in the middle of the downtown core. The contemporary park stands in stark contrast to its history. The area known as Hell’s Half Acre was notorious in Fort Worth’s early years, for its brothels, gambling and gunfights.

The refreshing oasis was a gift to the people of Fort Worth from the Amon Carter Foundation, and designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Built in 1974, the futuristic park is best experienced first-hand because pictures just don’t do it justice. Although the expanse appears to be almost completely taken  up by water and cement, the area also touts over 500 species of plants and trees.  In the hot days of summer, the Water Gardens offer heat weary visitors a refreshing place to unwind.

Although swimming is definitely prohibited in the all of the pools located on the site’s 4.3 acre spread, the abundance of shade trees and cool misted air from the pools themselves will definitely help you cool down. It’s a great place to walk, relax and think, with its three very distinct pools set amid an artistically designed urban landscape of tiered cement blocks, against the backdrop of Fort Worth’s towering skyscrapers. The entire park is a vital, moving piece of art.

Quiet Pool

Philip Johnson, the architect for the project, took inspiration from the childhood literary classic, Alice in Wonderland, when designing the park and nowhere is it more evident than when you go down the narrow stairs to the Quiet Pool. As you descend the staircase, you can’t help but feel larger than life, but as you reach the bottom, the space opens up. The pool is large, towered by bald Cyprus trees with the towering skyscrapers of Fort Worth for the backdrop. You feel as if you’ve entered a land of giants. Taking into account all of the ways a body experiences a space, the architects paid particular attention to the element of sound in its design, and its effect is tangible as one embraces the serene calmness of the park’s Quiet Pool, as a sheet of water cascades down the walls, and enters the tranquil stillness of the pool.

The downtown core serves as a backdrop for the sereneness of the Water Gardens' Quiet Pool

Aerated/Dancing Pool

The architects considered the Aerated Pool the most difficult, in terms of moving from vision to reality. The space, built  forty feet under ground, consists of forty evenly spaced fountains that continuously spout droplets of water, that dance across the pool’s surface. The tiered blocks surrounding the pool, offer many places to sit and watch the mesmerizing display.

Forty fountains are used to make the water dance on the surface of the Aerated Pool

Active Pool

The Active Pool will take your breath away the first time, and every time,  it comes into view. Cascading waterfalls drop down 36 feet of the labyrinth’s tiered cement walls into a shallow pool below. The site sadly is also where a tragedy of epic proportions occurred in 2004 that resulted in four deaths. The city closed the park for an extended time, until the adaptions could be made to the design to make it safer. Although the safety measures are significant, as a parent I would caution you to watch your young children carefully around the pool area, particularly as you descend the stairs down into the pool’s center.

The Active Pools live up to their name, and are the Water Park's most photographed pool (photo by Brian Roper)

The Water Gardens are one of the architectural treasures of Fort Worth. The list of reason’s why a visit to the park is a must, is a long one, but topping the list for me is that it’s free of charge, dynamic and a great place in this busy city to relax and cool off on a hot day.

The Water Gardens are located adjacent to the FW Convention Center in the downtown core, between Commerce and Houston Sts. Pack a picnic lunch, a book you’ve been wanting to read, or someone special and experience the serenity for yourself.

Categories: Culture, Places to Visit and Explore, The Great Outdoors | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Get Them While You Can

Be sure to get out to see the wildflowers while you can

This past weekend we went to the spot where we found the first bluebonnets of 2012, and they are beginning the process of going to seed.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, this weekend might be one of the last best chances you’ve got to enjoy this year’s banner year of wildflowers in full bloom.

Enjoy!

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