Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review: Bamboo House


Typically in East Texas (or across much of the U.S.) "Asian Cuisine" is usually found in strip mall buffets filled with radioactive red sweet sour & sauce and deep fried shrimp that would best be used as packing material.  Occasionally though, you can find the rare cherry blossom tree among the thorny briar patch of subpar "Take All You Want, Eat All You Take" establishments.  Which brings us to the Bamboo House in Bonham, TX:

The outside windows boast "Sushi" and "Pho" so that's what we decided to try.  But the menu was fairly extensive and could surely provide enough options for the most eclectic groups of dining companions.  So let's head inside:

The mellow, intimate atmosphere easily lends itself to cozy conversations regarding menu selections and topics like: "Wow, that looks good!  Let me try some!"  We got there a little after the lunch rush so the crowds had gone which makes it hard to gauge the quickness of service with very few other patrons needing to be served.  But everything came out in a timely manner.  So let's start with the first course:

Let's start with something simple:  "Salmon Sushi."  It's a simple starter that's reasonably priced but it sets the scene for a satisfying meal in the simplest way: with the high caliber ginger and wasabi.  You might not think that there is a big difference between great garnishes and mediocre ones but the sinus clearing effect of even the tiniest amount of this wasabi proves that the good stuff makes a big difference.  Let's keep eating:

Course #2: "Tuna Roll"!  Sure, we're keeping it simple as far as sushi goes but it's not too hard to be hesitant when ordering raw fish this far away from the ocean.  But fortunately this one was also a winner and could easily go toe to toe (or fin to fin) with the equivalent from some fancy pants place.  Onward we go:

Final Course: "Pho Dac Biet"  We finished off our meal with a big bowl of their famous pho described in the menu as "Rice noodle soup w. special combination of steak, well done brisket, & meatballs"

The great tasting, flavorful broth compliments the three types of meat, each with their own unique taste.  It's a great finish to a not so common Texas meal and a great way to refuel on the road to your next adventure. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Look What I Found

Awhile back we visited the Audie Murphy Museum in Greenville but that's not the only tribute in East Texas to the World's Most Decorated Soldier.  He made a big impression in the area and there are roads named after him and statues erected in his honor.  Not to mention, Audie Murphy Memorial Park in Celeste, TX which we stumbled across recently:

It's a small park maintained locally with a nice garden, a few flags, and, of course, a historical marker.

The marker reads:

     "Most decorated soldier in World War II. Born 4.5 miles south, June 20, 1924, sixth of nine children of tenant farmers Emmett and Josie Killian Murphy. Living on various farms, Audie Murphy went to school through the 8th grade in Celeste -- considered the family's home town. He had to quit school to help support the family, acquiring marksmanship skills by hunting to provide food. On his 18th birthday, after being rejected by the Marines because of his size (5 feet, 7 inches; 130 pounds), he enlisted in the Army while working in Greenville.
     For unusual courage and bravery, he received 24 decorations, including the U. S. Congressional Medal of Honor; the French Legion of Honor, Chevalier: the Distinguished Service Cross; and a Silver Star.
     After the war he became a successful actor, his most prominent role portraying himself in the film "To Hell and Back," his war career autobiography.
     Following his untimely death in a plane crash in Virginia, May 28, 1971, and burial in Arlington National Cemetery, the U. S. Congress paid him a final tribute, dedicating a new veterans' hospital in San Antonio to the memory of this American hero.
     Survived by widow Pamela, sons Terry and James."

We also noticed this mysterious handled receptacle of a sort: 

And like so many museum exhibits with handles, we had to lift it up.  And here's what we found:

A small notebook in a plastic baggie?!?  Oh, yeah!  This could ONLY be instructions for a dangerous and sexy spy mission!  Let's crack it open:

Ok, so it's not a Mission Impossible type of impossible mission but rather a a geocache!  Right here in our own backyard!  If you are not familiar with here is a quick definition from Geocaching.com:

And HERE is the link to the actual thread on the Geocaching website about this specific geocache.  So look around on you next road trip or even your next trip to the market.  You'll never know what you'll stumble across.

 UPDATE (04/27/17):  Still there:


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Junk Find Five: First Monday Oct 2016

It's time to revisit one of our favorite recurring blog entries where we go to flea markets and swap meets in East Texas and find five interesting things for sale. They may provide some interesting insight into Texas Culture or they may not.  But they are the five items that caught my eye on that particular trip.

Once again, we return to First Monday for multiple reasons:  it's one of the biggest, some say it's the best and, most importantly, it's relatively close to where we live.  Let's see what we found!

So this time, instead of just scoping out an arbitrary selection of oddities, I decided to go with a theme.  Let's call it "Nature."  All our finds today either had to be dug up, skinned or otherwise liberated from mother nature.  Here's what nature's bounty had to offer:

5. Skulls - Various Animals/Sizes

The best part here is the variety.  If you're in the market for the a small mammal skull then odds are you can find what you need at this booth.  What's your pleasure?  Muskrat skull?  Skunk skull?  With jaw?  No jaw?  One stop shopping.

4.  Barite Rose Rocks

The official state rocks of Oklahoma are so rare that they are almost only found in the Sooner State.  These aren't the best formed ones we've seen but their still pretty good.  The unique way they are formed makes them look like their namesake roses and the Oklahoma red dirt gives them their appropriate color.

3.  Bear Skin Rugs

So apparently bear skin rugs are a real thing.  They usually only exist in cartoons and 1970's cologne advertisements but it looks like they can also be found at First Monday.  Even though the usual cliche is to relax on one of these in front of a roaring fireplace, these guys seem a little too creepy to be relaxing.

2.  Big Honkin' Rock Slab Tables and Chairs

If you ever wanted to feel more like Fred Flintstone in the comfort of your own home then these beauties are for you.  Sure they're a little pricey and probably extraordinarily difficult to move but you can't deny how cool these things look.  Can't wait to see their rock slab recliner and loveseat.

 1.  Cobra Vertebrae Necklace

You may be "cool" but are you "Cobra Vertebra Necklace cool"?  Probably not.  Only a certain kind of person could pull off adorning themselves with the bones of a poisonous snake.  If you're not sure that's you then you can work your way up to it with the Cobra Vertebra Bracelet. 

It was a great haul this time around.  We'll see what we get at the next flea market...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

History in the Making

A recent trip along the back roads of East Texas led us to a quick stop at the Rusk County Depot Museum which had tons of history on display in the form of documents, antique equipment and restored buildings.  There is way too much to cover in one blog entry.

I also didn't have a lot of time for this stop so I spent most of it strolling the grounds to check out the old buildings.  One thing I learned was that I was genuinely interested in knowing how brooms were made.  I honestly didn't know this until I came here.

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All right, so brooms don't grow in the wild...we've learned that today but there's an even bigger lesson to take away here.  In my opinion the most memorable building on the location is the "Arnold Outhouse":

Sure, it may not be as exciting as the See-Thru Bathroom in downtown Sulphur Springs but it is historically significant.  So much so that it has its own Historical Marker:

The marker reads:

     "Prominent Henderson businessman and civic leader John R. Arnold moved his family to this property in 1908. He added a second story to the home (razed in 1966) that already existed at the site. He also built a number of structures around the property, including this outhouse. It was larger than most standard outhouses of its day, and the milled pattern on the door and window facings matched that of the large Arnold house. The Arnold Outhouse is preserved to illustrate part of the lifestyle of 19th and early 20th-century Texans."

But that information is no substitute for witnessing an outhouse firsthand:

Yes kids, that's how it used to be.  This was the best case scenario for getting your "thinking done."  Ask your grandparents why there are catalogues and corncobs in there.

And when you start thinking about how bad the world is now, I would encourage you to always look on the bright side.  Despite political, economical and environmental turmoil...at the very least...we get to poop inside.  And sometimes that makes all the difference.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Eat and/or Be Eaten

As you can imagine, the "East Texas Gators and Wildlife Park" in Grand Saline is packed with various wildlife but the main event is definitely the gators.  And the best part of watching gators is: feeding time!  Each day at 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM a park employee will bring out the feeding bucket the frenzy begins!

The gators' menu seems to consist of (at least during scheduled feeding times) chopped up chicken parts.  When a piece hits the ground it doesn't take long to end up inside a gator's belly.  Here's a little glimpse at supper time:

 If watching that makes you work up an appetite then the Park has a way to turn the tables and put you in the role of predator by offering a small selection of dishes with alligator meat at the Park's Grill (bottom left):

Behold the Gator Kabob!!

A little small for the price but the gator meat was fantastic.  It was perfectly seasoned and well textured.  The old cliche is that it "tastes like chicken" but this had more of a red meat vibe, probably since it was grilled with similar spices that would be used on a steak.  It wasn't gamey at all.  The veggies were good too!

So whether you're interested in gators eating or eating gators, this place is definitely worth a stop!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Founder's Keepers

A quick look at the annual Founder's Day event and some of the history of Rains County and the town of Emory, TX in an all new episode of "East Texas Explorer":

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tragedy in New London

Tragedy struck the small East Texas town of New London when a freak accident caused a massive explosion that destroyed the New London School and took the lives of over 300 students and staff.  Today, in the center of town, visitors can see a monument to the 1937 catastrophe:

The giant cenotaph was constructed two years after the explosion.  Composed of granite, it stands 30 feet tall and sits across from the current New London school.  There is also an official Texas Historical Marker commemorating the event:

The Marker reads:

     "On March 18, 1937, a massive explosion destroyed the New London Junior-Senior High School, instantly killing an estimated 296 students and teachers. The subsequent deaths of victims from injuries sustained that day brought the final death count to 311. The explosion was blamed on a natural gas leak beneath the school building. Within weeks of the disaster the Texas Legislature passed a law requiring an odor to be added to natural gas, which previously was odorless and therefore undetectable. This memorial to victims of the explosion was erected in 1939."

Across the road is the London Museum Cafe & Soda Fountain that serves old fashioned breakfast and lunch:

I got there little after lunch so the kitchen was closed.  Thankfully though, the Museum portion was open.  It contains an exhaustive collection of antiques and memorabilia about the explosion, the school and the town itself:


Two of my personal favorites were personal keepsakes of the students.  On the left is a text book and pocket knife belonging to student Perry Lee Cox.  On the right is a bar of soap carved into the shape of the Alamo belonging to sixth grader Glendell Sutherlin:

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The explosion was covered on a news reel at the time which you can watch below:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Halt and Catch Flyer

The Hunt County Fair in Greenville is in full swing so we had ourselves a fair day.   It's a great little event with tons of kid friendly activities.  Instead of trying to cover all of them we decided to pick our favorite this year.

Disc-Connected K9s were performing multiple shows in the Big Tex Kids Zone.  The organization travels the country with their furry phenoms performing stunts and tricks for packed crowds.  Here's a taste of what they do:



The Fair runs through May 1st so you still have time to grab a turkey leg, ride some rides and catch the dog show! 

BONUS:  For a little historic perspective, check out this pic of a young stud showing a Black Angus heifer at the 1988 Hunt County Fair:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Texas Education on iTunes U

Our podcast, East Texas Explorer was recently selected to be a part of Texas Education on iTunes U, a free multimedia content to educators, students, and parents in Texas and around the world from the Texas Education Agency!  You can find it on iTunes HERE.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Of Goats and Spoons

A lot can be said about Tyler's Caldwell Zoo.  What is most often said is that it's a great "smaller zoo."  Which means you can see it all in a couple of hours.  So if you are chasing around a couple of young kids (like I was) then it's perfect.

Like most zoos there are a ton of educational opportunities.  Snakes and rhinos and tigers and many others are on display but I learned something about a more common type of animal and their predilection for a particular kitchen utensil.  What's up with goats and spoons?


 So as it turns out there were several spoons along the fence of the petting zoo and they must have gotten tons of questions about them and their relationship to the goats.  So many questions, in fact, that they put up a preemptive sign explaining the phenomena:

So goats and spoons, huh?  Who knew?  Also worth noting, but not particularly relevant, is the awesome hand washing station right outside the petting zoo.  I can't imagine a more worthy entry into the East Texas Hand Washing Station Hall of Fame: