Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

No, not toppings for your toast. Tops for your toaster. And therein lies a story . . .

 Image

One day Julie Condy saw her husband spraying down the kitchen counter with cleaner. He must have gotten a little carried away with the spraying part because the toaster was sitting on the counter and some of the spray went down inside the toaster slots. “Right after that,” Julie says, “I was getting ready to make some toast and thought that’s really gross.” (And, when you think about it, it is.)

 So Julie started looking for some kind of topper for her toaster. She didn’t want one of those granny fabric cozies; she was hoping for something a little more modern. But there didn’t seem to be anything out there . . . so Julie decided to make her own. She applied for a patent, found a manufacturer, and started making Toaster Tops.

Don’t you love that kind of attitude? How often have you had a great idea but let it die on the vine? I spoke to Julie the other day about her Toaster Top adventure and asked about her biggest challenge getting her concept off the ground. “The hardest thing at first was to find the right manufacturer for the plates,” she told me. “Because it was a new idea and obviously I wasn’t going to buy a lot to start with it was hard to get anybody to even return the phone call.” But she persevered and “now I have one I’m really happy with; they’re actually here in Garland.” Garland, Texas, that is, home to the Toaster Tops empire, which is currently taking over Julie’s house. “The whole dining room has been converted. We have a sign that says ‘Toaster Top Studio’ because it has tables all around with shelves and the garage and now the office…”

Image

Not only are Toaster Tops functional, they’re adorable. Here’s the fun thing: the top itself is a metal plate that comes in various sizes so you can find one that fits your toaster. That part isn’t so adorable, but the knobs…they’re cute as all get out. They’re interchangeable, too, so you buy one plate then you can change out the knobs according to season, occasion, or mood. You get kitchen décor that doesn’t take up any extra space on your counter. Christmas shopping, anyone?

 Image

Now, I think the product is great but even more than that, I love hearing stories about people who saw a need and decided to fill it. Especially when they’re practically neighbors.

 Image

“It’s sort of a family affair,” Julie said. “My husband and I have a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old; they have been living and breathing this the whole time with us. Now my daughter is coming up with a whole line of clothing and starting her own business. It’s been great to see them getting so involved and learning so much from it.”  The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Texas!

 Image

 Quick Q&A w/Julie

How many toasters do you own? Nine.

Do you eat a lot of toast? I just went gluten-free so I’m trying to find gluten-free toast.

What’s next? We’re planning to open up a retail store then also sell toasters and wine stoppers—fun gift ideas.

Any plans to branch out into other appliances? We have so much we can do with the toasters right now.  We’re going to keep trying to make that work really well, then we’ll look at different areas. Maybe more decorative knobs, maybe get into wine stoppers. There are so many exciting things!

Image

You can see the whole line and order a Toaster Top or two at http://www.shop.toastertops.com/main.sc

 Image

Keeping it legal: this is not a sponsored post, but after we spoke, Julie did send me a sample Toaster Top. The little cat knob looks just like my Henry, right down to the slightly worried expression. Love. Guess I’ll have to break down and replace my dead toaster now.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Hangar Hotel sign, Fredericksburg, TX

South Pacific? Naw, just south(ish) Texas.

We now return to the Hill Country: I don’t remember now where I found out about this place, but who could resist? Not my group of foodie friends, that’s for sure! So off we went to the Airport Diner.

Airport Diner, Fredericksburg, TX

Airport Diner, Fredericksburg, TX

When they say “airport” they mean it—we had a view of the runway right outside our window. Yes, city folks, I said “runway” in the singular sense. It’s a small airport. We watched people land and take off in their small planes (and one helicopter) before/after their diner lunch.

The inside is a loving reproduction of a railway diner and it’s all gleaming and gorgeous. The food was . . . fine. Chicken fried steak was quite good but the sides were forgettable. Cherry cobbler had an excellent pastry-to-fruit ratio, but the fruit was obviously pie filling from a can. But what the heck. The food is only part of the experience, I guess. Besides, I rather like cherry pie filling from a can.

Next door to the diner is the Hangar Hotel, a plush place that looks like the setting for an Agatha Christie mystery.
Old car outside the Hangar Hotel

OK, so it’s only plush on the inside…and we were busy chatting with the manager and didn’t get any pictures so you’ll have to trust me on this one. They have a party space that just cries out for a Dallas Symphony Chorus party complete with big band orchestra. (Of course, we’d all want to sing with the big band, but that might could be arranged…any DSC-ers out there up for that?)

Alas, all too soon it was time to head home. But not without stopping at Grape Creek Winery…
Grape Creek Vineyard, Fredericksburg, TX

And one of my faves, Becker Vineyards, which is especially pretty when the lavender is blooming. I bought a lavender plant there in the spring and it’s doing nicely, thank you! Alas, lavender season is long over, so we could only buy lavender soap, spray, and wine. (Not lavender wine.)

We even got to try their amazing “Raven” malbec/petit verdot blend (sold out now, too bad for you!) and yes, there are a couple of bottles in the box…

Vikki & Rosemary with our haul from Becker

Looks like it's time we headed home, don't you think?


By this time the trunk was full and time was a-wasting, so there was nothing for it but to head home. So that’s what we did.

Read Full Post »

Gruene Water Tower
I own a timeshare in the Texas Hill Country and at least once a year they invite me down for a “meeting.” This is an opportunity (for me) to enjoy an extra weekend in one of my favorite parts of Texas and (for them) to try to sell me more stuff, which I’m not buying. This last weekend was one of those, and I mention it only to say that when I got to the meeting they were at a loss to explain why I was there. There was no reason to meet with them at this time, they muttered. Wonder why I was invited down?

I know exactly why; it was a God thing. My friend, Vikki, wanted to come down with me so we could drive into San Antonio to visit her husband, Lance, who now resides in the military cemetery there. This trip had nothing to do with my latest “opportunity” and everything to do with Vikki. So we came down, had an unusually entertaining meeting with the puzzled timeshare guys, and proceeded to enjoy our weekend.

As we are both foodies (you’ll see Vikki’s hands in the duck) we naturally organized much of our trip around culinary opportunities. On the way down, we stopped at the Koffee Kup in Hico for their famous pie. After paying respects to Lance, we chowed down on a fabulous burger at Centerpoint Station in San Marcos. And Saturday night, thanks to a recommendation from Rob at the timeshare, we had dinner at Gruene River Grill.

Gruene (pronounced “green”), is a small town on the banks of the Guadaloupe (that’s “gwah-duh-loop” for you non-natives) River and one of the places I always go when I’m in this part of the world. It boasts Texas’ oldest continuously operating dance hall, a multitude of antique stores and quirky shops, and some darn fine food. I’ve eaten several good meals at the Gristmill (behind the dance hall under the water tower), but Rob insisted Gruene River Grill (a few doors down) was the place to go.

Look for this sign

He was so right. Everything about it was wonderful, starting with the décor. It’s what I call Hill Country chic, a mix of recycled barn wood and modern pottery, exposed brick and sophisticated sofas, old tin ceiling panels and silk curtains. The sort of place where you can comfortably park your cowboy boots under the table and idly discuss the technological impact of the Roman Empire on the development of modern civilization while enjoying a fine Cabernet and an elegant meal before wandering outside to go boot-scootin’. It was dark when we arrived, but I’m sure the large glass doors along the back wall open onto a charming patio where, in warmer weather, one can relax and gaze down on the river below.

In the interest of moderation, Vikki and I shared our meal, which turned out to be perfectly proportioned for the purpose. We started with Shrimp Won Tons, jumbo shrimp with mixed cheeses, bacon, and serrano peppers bundled in a wonton wrapper and fried, served with cherry mustard sauce. Crunchy, chewy, and delicious with just the right amount of heat—I want these at my next Superbowl party. Heck, I want these at my next meal.

Gruene River Grill Shrimp Won Tons

For our entrée we followed Rob’s advice and chose Chicken Marsala. A perfectly cooked butterflied chicken breast, moist and delicious, nestled in just the right amount of lovely sauce with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and green beans (also perfectly cooked with red pepper flakes for a little extra interest).

Then, because our pie from the day before had long since worn off, we had dessert. Tara, our server, pitched the Dove chocolate crème brulee, but we opted for the brownie a la mode. This turned out to be a Texas-sized square of fudgy chocolate goodness topped with vanilla ice cream. Yum.

In summary: wonderful décor, excellent service, delicious food, reasonable prices. Should you happen to find yourself between Austin and San Antonio and need a place to park your boots for a spell, take a brief detour off the beaten path to visit the “city” of Gruene and the Gruene River Grille. It’s not far off 1-35 and well worth the trip.

You might have to go old school and use a map to find it, though. Our GPS just looked confused when we entered “Gruene”. We followed our noses and found it anyway. And now that I’ve found it, I will definitely be back.

Read Full Post »

The Flag

The Flag

My charming hometown (well, it’s the town where my home is now) of McKinney, Texas does many things well. Yesterday I experienced another one of those things.

About a week ago, signs popped up on our medians advertising a Memorial Day program in historic Pecan Grove Cemetery. It’s one of the oldest cemeteries in north Texas and is the resting place of (as one description put it) everyone from governors to gunslingers, and veterans from every war since “The War of Northern Aggression.” I like it because they have actual statues and tombstones, not just flat markers. And because I’m a little weird and I like old cemeteries. So when the time came, I went to the program.

I found a space under a tree to leave the car; only afterwards did I realize it was also uncomfortably close to a Lieutenant Colonel from WWII (sorry sir, no disrespect intended). Grabbing my trusty blanket from the back of the car, camera in hand, sunscreen and hat in place, I ventured forth to see what this celebration was all about.

It was perfect. Volunteers handed out water bottles at the entrance, VERY welcome on a hot, sunny day. The area in front of the stage area was full, but I found a spot by the (middle school) band.

Back of the Band

Back of the Band

The honor guard and color guard marched in and presented the colors. Apparently it had been a while since the color guard had done their little routine…the gentleman in charge had to shout at them several times to get them where he wanted them, which tickled me (and the gentleman next to me) no end.

Color Guard

Color Guard

We stood with hands on hearts and said the Pledge of Allegiance. Someone sang the National Anthem. There were deliciously partisan speeches by our U.S. Representatives (one a former POW), a roll call of deceased military currently residing in the cemetery, a fired salute, Taps played by a lone bugler, “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes played by local firemen (who knew?)

Firemen Pipers

Firemen Pipers

Duh plane, duh plane

Duh plane, duh plane


a flyover by a historic plane, and much more.

Pecan Grove Cemetery Program

Pecan Grove Cemetery Program

It was everything a Memorial Day program should be. Afterward, I felt as though I had truly honored the day and those who made it possible.

And after that, the Boy Scouts served everybody lunch! Brisket, cole slaw, beans, cobbler, and what one young Scout solemnly assured me was “famous” Green Apple Pie.

Lunch a la Boy Scout

Lunch a la Boy Scout

I can’t think of a better way to spend Memorial Day. How did you spend yours?

The not-so-little drummer boy

The not-so-little drummer boy

Read Full Post »