I live and love in Waco and I occasionally write about my adventures and where you should have a Waco adventure!
Yes,if you know me at all, you know I love Waco and I also love writing about my Waco adventures. I am a Contributing Writer for a new blog called Waco Moms Blog and my first article I wrote was, of course, about Waco.
The big W has become a tourist attraction, which still amazes most people who are from Texas but if you loveWaco and knowWaco, you understand and think ‘finally’!
As I was looking through my pictures this morning, preparing to write my continued blog on Waco, I found so many pictures of the Alico Building.
As I have said, I have taken an enormous number of pictures of it because I think it is so interesting looking, peering high over downtown Waco.
When I was a baton photographer for the ilovetexasphotosInstagram account, I did some research on the building.
The Alico Building, a 22-story structure with much character, was constructed in 1910 and completion was exactly 12 months later in 1911.
Waco hasn’t looked the same since. The Alico is still the tallest building in Waco and because it stands alone, so tall and erect, the building appears to be watching over the city as if it was a soldier standing tall. (the thought of that makes me happy!)
It is named after the company that was housed in the building, the Amicable Life Insurance Company, which was chartered in 1910.
Known as a tower of strength and stability, I believe it is a metaphor for Waco. This town has been through a deadly tornado and David Koresh, as well as the Twin Peaks shooting and now the Baylor athletic scandal. This city has always stood tall just like the Alico Building. Proud and tall.
My favorite time to take pictures of this landmark is when there is a gorgeous blue sky above her.
Or fall leaves around her.
Or trees blooming in the spring around her.
Or when I am headed down Austin Avenue, headed downtown.
I may or may not be obsessed.
My husband and two kids have an office downtown and those same two kids live downtown. (our third child lives in Austin)
This is the view from their office on 6th Street. (actually this is a reflection of their view)
I write for The Hometown News, a small newspaper in Waco and I also write for The Groove, an entertainment magazine, in Waco. I have written some articles about coffee houses and barbecue spots that might be helpful if you are visiting Wacotown.
Waco is a lovely place with actually quite a lot of activities going on every weekend. There is always something to do or go explore. One just needs to look.
If you can’t find that thing you are looking for, then just look up and stare at her.
Waco. Wacotown. It has a new place on the map. The map of destinations. People are actually traveling here. To see Waco. Visiting our Waco. It is getting recognition. Some good. Some bad. But we, as Wacoans, are getting noticed. And, everyone knows Magnolia is playing a large part. Baylor, good and bad, has also played a part in the notoriety.
Before you visit our Waco, read a few articles, (linked in this blog post originally posted in October 2016), I have written and discover a few hidden gems in our town.
Mark and I ate a lot of barbecue in less than a two-week time period in July. It was interesting trying all the different meats and sauces, (and sides!) and comparing them. I enjoyed every brisket, every potato salad and every BBQ sauce the article forced me to try.
One week, we had barbecue, for lunch and dinner three days in a row. It became comical. We forged through though-all for a story!
To read the barbecue story in the August edition of The Groove, click here
My daughter, Danni and I visited a lot of coffee houses, in August, and we loved every one and enjoyed drinking every cup. And I enjoyed being with her and experiencing it all with her.
Waco has many great coffee houses to try. Here is the link to the H.O.T. Coffee story, click here
Stop and enjoy your food.
“One of the nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti said that brilliantly.
Along the way, Mark and I have decided that every Thursday night will be date night. And of course, many of those Thursdays include trying a restaurant that includes my subject-of-the-month on the menu.
I have not minded this one bit.
After 29 happy years of marriage and three kids, we are alone in the house with two weenie dogs and a weenie dog-wanna be, our Lab. Empty nesters. We have actually become pretty comfortable at our new stage in life. Mark and I travel alone together, and with friends and family, and we have nights we go out with friends but this is our night and we have both enjoyed it.
We take turns, every other week, picking where we will go. (Of course it all depends on if I am finished with my story and need more research!)
Thursday night date night is something I look forward to every week. And I am blessed that he wants to go with me.
The great quote from Virginia Woolf says it all, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
When Mark asked me to marry him 29 years ago, before I said yes, I first asked him, lovingly-but-jokingly-but seriously, “do we have to live in Waco?”
About the time Danni was in the third grade and Alex was in kindergarten, in Mesquite, my thoughts began to change and one day I asked Mark, “Do you want to move to China Spring?”
Confession time. Back then, I was a bit embarrassed to be associated with Waco. Sounds horrible, I know. When we traveled and people would ask us where we were from, I would always answer with “China Spring, a little town near Crawford, where the president lives!” That worked throughout the Bush years.
I don’t know why I was ashamed of Waco. Ashamed probably isn’t the right word, more like I wasn’t excited to let people know that I lived near Waco. Yes, there were things that shamed Waco in the past. Those things happen everywhere and shouldn’t define a city but sadly they kinda did.
Honestly, I never gave Waco a chance. I didn’t see Waco. I had my eyes closed to what Waco could offer. Shame on me.
Two years ago, I slowly started to open those eyes of mine. Mark, my husband, moved his office downtown. Alex and Danni moved downtown. I found myself seeing Waco for what it was-a small, lovely urban area with many opportunities to discover, eyes-wide open! And with time and new discoveries, I began to fall in love with Waco–downtown Waco especially.
We started eating, shopping, enjoying wine, and spending a lot of time downtown- two or three times a week. Being adventurous! Of course the Fixer-Upper, the HGTV show, was in full swing and others around the nation were also opening their eyes to see what Waco was about.
In early March, I was honored to be a baton-photographer for an Instagram account called @ilovetexasphoto. Check them out. The concept is really cool. Every three days, they have a different photographer, professional or someone like me that just loves to take pictures, from a different city across the state. I was able to venture through Waco and show the Instagram followers of that account, how I saw Waco.
So here is my Waco…
My first picture I posted on the I Love Texas Photo account was Austin Avenue. I love this tree-lined street, no matter what season. It has nostalgia and is loaded with history. And of course it is home to some of my very favorites in Waco- the Waco Hippodrome, Muddle, Dichotomy, Classy Glass, Jakes and Nick’s. Try these establishments out; think local and support!
Austin Avenue also is home to the green door. This “p” shaped door, next to the Hippodrome, has been the background to many people taking selfies, engagement and graduation pictures. Guilty. Through this one-of-a-kind and peculiar entry way, leads you to some downtown living I dream about, 714 Loft Studios. I received 1,027 likes on this picture!
(Unfortunately, I caught a nasty high fever-virus thing the night of the first day of my baton and I was unable to thoroughly enjoy the next two days-but I pushed through and muddled on but I wasn’t able to do as much as I would have liked.)
My next picture was of the Washington Avenue Bridge, otherwise known as the Waco Steel Bridge. I travel across this bridge to my husband’s office, located on 6th Street, and it makes me smile every time I cross. It was built in 1901 and crosses the Brazos River. It has a massive 450-foot Pennsylvania truss main span and is among the most historic bridges in Texas.
The sun was perfect that March afternoon and I was pleased with the outcome. (You can even see The Alico peeking through!)
From there, I included my most favorite Waco icon-The Alico Building. The Alico, as I call it, is another opportunity for me to smile. If you look at my Instagram history, I have taken many a picture of this tall soldier that seems to be guarding downtown. Look at the blooms that graced the Alico in early March! This was taken across the street at the building where you stand in line and get your sticker for your car. (I think you can do this online now because Mark hasn’t made me do this in years!)
The Alico, a 22-story structure with much character, was constructed in 1910 and completion was exactly 12 months later in 1911.
My next adventure lead me down Austin Avenue, through the Castle Heights residential area. This is another dream of mine-if I can’t live downtown, this will be my neighborhood. Someday.
The Cooper House is one of those historical houses located on Austin Avenue. I have always admired this beauty but never knew what it was until my research opened my eyes once again. It was built in 1907 (see a pattern here-busy time in those early 1900’s in Waco!). The Cooper House is part of The Cooper Foundation and started with a vision to “make Waco a better or more desirable city in which to live.” The historical house is on the National Register of Historic Places. People that follow the account really liked this picture-1,068 times!
The Brazos River is another smile opportunity for me. Especially on days when the sun sits upon her and dances around like little diamonds. It fills my soul because I see God’s beauty there. Perfection.
A place I like to visit is Cameron Park. One of the areas in the park I love to take Charli and Jemma (and Tegan, if Cameron is in town) is Brazos Park East. This park is located at MLK and Herring Avenue and features boat ramps, a pavilion, horse shoe pits, Frisbee-golf and of course many scenic and peaceful views for walking, running or just sitting. The view across the river is one to see. (so thankful I opened these eyes of mine!)
Waco is full of nature. You can escape the concrete and find peace, however you need.
Cameron Park, an enormous urban park located in Waco is one of those places to escape to nature. I enjoy taking the long, slow way home, driving through Cameron Park. Again more smiles. The park spans 416-acres and was dedicated on May 27, 1910. It was named in memory of Waco philanthropist and lumber baron, (ironic?) William Cameron. The park has playgrounds, bike trails, hiking and a beautiful zoo- all of this- alongside the Brazos River.
I always admire the courthouse downtown, and on this particular day the blue sky was in the background and spring blooms in the foreground. Picture perfect.
The McLennan County Courthouse was built in 1901 and is located on Washington Avenue. It is known for its neoclassical exterior and the courthouse pilasters and columns are Corinthian. Many notable legal cases have taken place in this courthouse, including Clyde Barrow, of the in-famous Bonnie and Clyde fame, in 1930.
One of the cool, artsy places to go in Waco, especially on First Friday, is Anthem Studios, located in the Praetorian Building, built in 1915. Along with the famous owners of Pokey-O’s, Waco’s favorite cookie masters, the building is now home to more downtown residential-living, the Praetorian Lofts. On the back of the Praetorian, there is a restored three-story mural of Jesus Christ, extending his arms, the work of a Russian artist. My daughter, Danni lives across from this gem and her view is the front side of the building.
Just down the street from the Praetorian is my husband’s office building. It has a beautiful arch in the entry-way and on a nice day, as I open the door to go inside, I can see The Alico in the reflection. Smiles.
My last picture I posted on the I love Texas photo Instagram account was actually not from March but from one of my favorite Waco days ever. Cameron and I were able to attend the media event for Magnolia Market, in October. I was writing a story for The Hometown News about the silobration and the grand opening of the market downtown. We toured the entire silo-fortress, met Joanna Gaines and interviewed her. The day was glorious and I am so happy I was able to share it with Cameron, my official newspaper photographer. Smiles.
This picture was taken from the top level of the Market building. The skyline is pretty against the blue sky. Waco is little. She is full of charm, history, and things apparently built in the early 1900’s. And she opened my eyes and for that I am grateful.
*I am in the process of writing an article for an online magazine called Culture Trip Texas. It is an onlne travel magazine that has stories about travel destinations all over the world, the US and our big state and the many things to do while you are visiting there (here). I am writing about Waco and what there is to do other than Magnolia Market. People are traveling to Waco, from all over, to go stand in line and shop at Magnolia. And then what? I want to give them some ideas of other interesting, adventures so that they can see Waco as a fascinating place to come visit again! I will let you know when my story is published but until then-Check the webpage out, at http://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/texas/
The day I spent at the Magnolia Market Media event with my daughter, Cameron, still tops all the amazing days I have had in the new writing-life I am blessed to live.
The invitation to the Magnolia MarketMedia Event~
Friday, October 23, while enjoying the rain, I opened my email and noticed something that said “HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines” in the title. Being confused but intrigued, I opened it and the shouty capitols started flowing. I text my daughters, my husband, (my son wouldn’t have known the wow factor of this so I didn’t text him!), my two best friends, my mother-n-law and called my parents to tell them that I was invited to a MAGNOLIA MARKETMEDIA EVENT TO MEET, AND HAVE Q&A WITH CHIP AND JOANNA GAINES!! CHIP AND JOJO!!!
I was able to bring along a photographer so naturally I invited my daughter, Cameron, with me to not only help me by taking pictures(she has a better camera!) while I took notes, but also to keep me grounded and not act like a fan-girl! I had to be professional!
After picking up our credentials, Cameron and I headed to the Magnolia Marketat the Silos, in downtown Waco, excited and ready to go.
We had both already been to the new market on Webster, so that wasn’t where the excitement was focused on; the excitement was all focused on meeting Chip and JoJo! This was about to happen! And THAT, is what had my heart racing!
We were able to see the actual reveal screens that they will use in the HGTV show Fixer Upper. It felt so real. I could hear Joanna in my head saying, “Are you ready to see your fixer upper?”
When Joanna came out to cut the red ribbon for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting ceremony for the new market, that’s when it got real.
Down to earth, dressed in comfortable jeans and boots, hands in pockets, not uptight or concerned about the thousands about to visit the silos, coffee in-hand, she led us through the tour of the silo compound, along with Brock Murphy, the Director of Public Relations for Magnolia. She answered our questions and made jokes, especially about her husband, Chip, that had yet again pulled a characteristic stunt and hurt his back. (Oh, Chip!)
Joanna Gaines was a perfect host for the media group that included, The Dallas Morning News, The Waco Trib, all three major TV stations in Waco, and other news agencies, and little ol’ me, a reporter for The Hometown News.
As Oprah would say, “This was an aha! moment”.
Then there was the moment when I asked her a question, got a bit of laughter from my media peers (my who???) and she looked right at me and answered.
The garden, the roof-top, the market, the reveal screens, JoJo, the entire morning was unbelievable. Exclamation point. One of the top moments of my life.
Being able to share it with Cameron; took it over the edge.
In January 2014, someone I consider a friend, and happened to be my boss at the time, asked me to do something that scared me to death. He asked me to actually use my degree and write some articles and try to get them published. After talking to my husband about this, who encouraged me and told me I could do it, I knew I couldn’t say no; but I didn’t know if I could do it. I knew I had to challenge myself and agree to try. I was scared to death; over the edge.
I not only said I would try, I did it, and the first thing I wrote made it into the Trib. No by-line, but it was mine. I wrote it. The second thing I wrote was published in The Enterprise. I called my parents and told them that I was finally being paid to write and that degree they paid for, back in 1988, was finally being used.
This lead to more bravery.
I quit my job, (sorry friend), and started writing full time for The Enterprise, 26 years after graduating with a journalism degree. He pushed me to the edge and I jumped. And when I landed on my feet, I ran.
Since then, I have slowly become a person that I sometimes don’t know. But I like her a lot. I have pushed myself to do what some people might think is not brave at all; but to me it was heart-racing and uncomfortable, but when it was over I was left, standing, in my new shoes, upright and alright, and better for it.
After all, Marilyn Monroe said, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
These things that challenge me, could hold me back or I could push through them and have new experiences and success, either by writing a new story or going to new places, and sometimes both. The momentary fear is scary but by pushing myself, I push toward the payoff.
Darling, let’s be adventurers.
I have now done new-to-me-things like go to the Food Truck Showdown, the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, eaten lunch by myself in public, attended events by myself for the paper, taken my dogs to a dog park by myself, walked in a pet walk for charity, went to London with my daughters without my husband and I interviewed Waco Police Spokesman Patrick Swanton. I have also spoken to Sheriff Parnell McNamara, and called people on the phone that I didn’t want to but had to for a story. Simple things for some. Over the edge for me.
And sometimes, I bring my daughters along, pushing them, also, which helps me be braver.
The Over the Edge for Communities in Service event was the biggest by far. When I was asked if I wanted to rappel down ten stories, 138 feet down the Texas Life Building, as a media person, I was shaking in these new shoes I now wear. Thrilled, excited, heart-racing and scared to death, all at the same time. Who am I? All for a story. For charity. For all those kids that CIS-HOT help challenge daily and help graduate. I can do this, I told myself.
Well, I did do it. I am proud of myself but still a bit in shock that I did it at all. While walking backwards, down the perpendicular sidewalk, gripping for dear life, praying to get to the ground safely, I realized I am now a different person because I stood up to me fears, conquered them and lived. On to the next metaphorical cliff.
Thank you, Dr. Marc Faulkner, for pushing me, out, over the edge.
*So this, my first blog post, is an editorial that I wrote for The Hometown News, a weekly-small-town-newspaper that covers Waco and all small towns in McLennan County. I was reflecting on how I seem to be growing as a person, a writer and how I am trying to “push” myself daily. My life has changed since I began writing. I feel I have been a writer my entire life but put it aside while I did the most important job of my life-raise my three blessings, otherwise known as children. And I strongly believe in “All in His time.”
Writing a blog has been a dream of mine for about a year. I took another leap over the edge with this. Bucket list stuff. I always say “but I have nothing to write about” and still maybe I don’t. I may never write another post, or I may write everyday. At this point who knows.