Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Sam's on the Square

Sam's on the Square is a (relatively) new favorite in the Waco lineup, having just opened a couple years ago. Owned by the same folks that have run La Fiesta for years and years, Sam's is slightly more upscale than its Tex-Mex cousin. Sam's operates out of a loft-style space in downtown Waco. Some nights you can find live music, other nights quiz-style trivia throwdowns. And all nights you can experience one or two (or even three) of their delicious gourmet-style tacos. 

We're not talking average, run-of-the-mill tacos, nuh-uh. We're talking tender, falling to pieces brisket topped with mango-chipotle salsa, cilantro-lime shrimp tacos with pineapple chutney, perfectly seasoned chicken al carbon with a spicy-sweet glaze.

Showcase sides include cinnamon-sugar french fries (to die for!), black beans, cilantro rice, etc... And the pies de resistance, the Mexican martini. I'm not sure exactly what's in it. I can identify tequila, lime, and brandy before my mind just melts and the deliciousness takes over. They have a major tequila lover's seal of approval.

Nearly ten months ago, we sat down with Grant and Jennifer Kemper at a table on Sam's outdoor patio. We talked and schemed and planned and instantly clicked, and from that evening began to form our Life Together Group. It all started there, at Sam's, over tacos and drinks with Grant and Jenn. And it's become one of the most important and significant things in our lives, this group and these friendships.

And one night last week, we came full circle, sitting over tacos and drinks with Grant and Jenn at Sam's on the Square and beginning to say good-bye. It was purely coincidental. We decided to head up to Sam's and called to invite the Kempers along, only to find out they were already on their way. I guess it's true what they say about great minds thinking alike.

Monday, July 25, 2011

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Schmaltz's

Moving on from a schmaltzy post to a post about Schmaltz's. Schmaltz's is an interesting phenomenon. It's one of those Waco places that you've either never heard of or you can't get enough of. Everyone who's had the opportunity to experience a sandwich from Schmaltz's loves it. And you'll hear everyone who's ever eaten there sing its praises loud and long.

But the first time you eat there, you'll wonder what the big deal is. Because it'll be (shrug) good (shrug) I guess. But it won't measure up to the amazingness you were expecting from all the hype. You'll enjoy it. And then you'll just quit thinking about it. For awhile.

Until one day. Suddenly. Maybe a week later. Or maybe several months later. Out of the blue. You will wake up with the most insatiable craving you've ever, ever experienced. For Schmaltz's. You must have Schmaltz's. Nothing else will do.

And at that time, you will smile. You will lick your lips. You will dip your sandwich into your cup of creamy-dreamy cheese soup. You will devour every last morsel. Every crumb. Every drop. And you will rave. And then you will (finally) understand.

Because it's absolutely the best thing you've ever tasted.

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Baylor University

There are three Waco places that are going to be nearly impossible to say good-bye to. Three places whose meaning I cannot even begin to articulate. Three places that will forever feel like home to Keith and I both, places we'll always miss. Baylor is one of them. Knowing before I begin that words will fail me in this task, it's hard to even try. I considered just letting the pictures do the talking. But that's not nearly enough either.

Suffice it to say that I love Baylor. That it holds a deep, huge place in my heart. That I grew up loving it and looking forward to it. And then I came here and I really began to grow up, for the first time. It was here that I took my first steps into the adult world. It was here that I experienced my first real triumphs and my first real heart-breaks. It was here that I learned who I'd been and who I wanted to be. I formed so many of my most treasured friendships here. I met and fell in love with and married a Baylor boy and we share a love for this place, a pride in it, and I'm so thankful for that.

I remember walking around the campus my freshman year, wide-eyed and wondering as I gazed on this place. This place that had reached the status of legend in my mind, and that was suddenly coming alive and coming true and coming real all around me. This place that had belonged to my parents and then had belonged to my dreams and then grandly became my very own. And my heart would just fill and fill and fill with hope and joy and love. And I thought it might just burst. But instead it spilled over, splashed all around me, and then just kept filling again.

And my love for Baylor overflowed into a love for the community and it led me to make Waco my home. And it has been a home for me for almost twelve years now and I can hardly even believe that. Now, suddenly, I'm leaving. And I find that thought even more unbelievable and almost unbearable but surely in a really good way because wasn't this the purpose all along? All those years. All those experiences. All those lessons and loves. The purpose was to become this girl, this woman, that I've become and that I keep becoming, and part of that means moving on, to the next thing. To keep growing, to keep becoming, someplace new.

Monday, July 18, 2011

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Common Grounds

Oh, Common Grounds, how much I owe you. I have you to thank/blame for my ridiculous coffee addiction, first of all. You also served as the backdrop for so many memories. Moments big and small, forever friendship and fleeting crushes. So many events in my life at Baylor seem connected to Common Grounds.

Like many other Baylor legacy girls, I lived in Collins my freshman year. It was the same dorm my mother lived in her first year at Baylor, and it was right down the street from Common Grounds. As a freshman girl from a relatively small and completely un-hip South Texas town, Common Grounds epitomized the college experience for me. From the funky, eclectic decor to the constant bustling energy of caffeine-buzzed college students it felts grown-up and cool. Rush-dates with sorority girls, first-dates with frat boys, gossip and giggling with girlfriends, it all happened at Common Grounds.

I started off drinking mochaccinos, the frothy, whipped cream topped confections that are essentially coffee flavored milk-shakes, but quickly graduated to the hard stuff. Common Grounds is really THE place I learned to first appreciate and then desperately need coffee. My favorite (every one's favorite, really) is the cowboy coffee. A cowboy coffee is rich, black coffee shaken with creamy half and half and secret sauce, then poured over perfectly crushed ice. I drink it in large, greedy, delicious gulps. No one knows exactly what the secret sauce is, and Common Grounds employees seem threatened upon pain of death never to reveal it. Many have tried and failed to replicate it. It remains a delectable mystery that I will crave as long as I live.

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Shipley's Donuts

I'm not a big sweet-eater. I'd take a bag of flaming hot Cheetos over a slice of cake any day (unless that cake happens to be chocolate and served with a side of fresh berries) and I'd almost always choose french fries over cookies. So I'm not generally a big fan of donut shops. Shipley's however is an exception.

I think it was Libby Floyd (now Libby Starr) who originally introduced me to Shipley's delicious sausage and cheese kolaches. They're soft and doughy and filled with melted cheese and a slightly spicy link and they are one of my favorite breakfast treats. I usually like to follow one up with a chocolate iced donut, just for good measure.

When Keith and I were first dating, I liked to show up on his doorstep mid-morning on Saturday and wake him up with a bag of kolaches in hand and a box of donuts tucked under my arm. Like all good Southern girls, I knew exactly how much the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

Since our favorite Shipley's location is right on our way to church, we stopped by Sunday morning for breakfast to go. It was a good good-bye to our favorite donut shop.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Cafe Cappuccino

Generally I'm not a big breakfast eater. Mornings were always hectic growing up and I adopted a habit of grabbing a bite here and there. As I've grown older it's only grown worse. I am not what you'd call a morning person. Even a precious few moments of sleeps seems more important to me than the time it would take to actually prepare a breakfast. All that being said, there is nothing I love more than sleeping in a little bit on a weekend morning and then sitting over a long, leisurely breakfast at Cafe Cappuccino.

I waited tables at Cafe Cappuccino several morning a week during my senior year at Baylor. I tied a black apron around my waist and poured mug after mug of steaming, richly flavored coffee. I balanced trays of sweet, fluffy pancakes large as a dinner plate. I warmed jars full of sticky slow-pouring syrup and grew ever more dependent on my morning shot of caffeine.

The next year Erin and I lived together and made Saturday mornings at Cafe Cappuccino a regular occurrence. We'd wake up, brush our teeth and hair, and don a pair of flip flops without bothering to change out of our pajamas or put on any makeup and we'd make our way to Cafe Cappuccino. We'd split a breakfast quesadilla and one giant buttermilk pancake and we'd guzzle coffee while we talked gossip and boys and faith and love, before spending an hour or two winding our way through the aisles of dusty "junk" at Laverty's. Often it was just the two of us. Other times we were joined by Kelly or Lori or Michael or Alex.

Cafe Cappuccino is still a favorite weekend treat, although it's Keith splitting that pancake with me now instead of Erin. We stopped by Sunday after church and enjoyed coffee, pancakes, migas, the works. Nothing makes me smile like a steaming mug of coffee, cream and sugar swirled in, and a pancake so big you can hardly finish it.

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Diamondback's with the Green Group Girls

I'm constantly amazed at all the different ways God has of bringing people together. He has so many ways of creating families and so many ways of binding groups of friends. Sometimes we're adopted rather than born into families, and sometimes instead we inherit a group of friends instead of having to make them from scratch.

When Keith came into my life, I inherited a wonderful group of friends, including the amazing ladies pictured below. These women have been a kind of family to me in the last few years. They've loved me and laughed and cried with me. We've prayed together and celebrated together. From day one they made me feel like I belonged with them, like I was part of them. And on Thursday night, they gathered to send me on with joy to this next phase in life.

Courtney, Erin, Me, Sara, and Dawn

When I look at Courtney, I think of summer breezes, the smell of jasmine in the air. I picture a warm gathering under leafy vines, I glass of summer wine in my hand. Music fills the night and drops condense around the bottom of my glass and leave rings across the glass tabletop. I hear laughter. I feel relaxed and free and surrounded by love. I see Courtney's beautiful smile and I remember how she gathered all the women at her home before my wedding to help prepare me for another grand adventure.

kobe beef sliders

Erin makes me think of dusky quiet, a baby's downy head under my fingertips, whispered prayers. I feel a sweet peace and a deep longing. I smell that delicate, inimitable baby smell. Over two sleeping heads we speak softly about our days, we share stories, we pray for each other. I see Erin's lovely smile, and think of how she shared such a precious gift with me, bedtimes with her two beautiful baby girls, and no matter how harried her life as a new mother of twins might have been, she always wanted to hear about what was new in my life as well, and always included Keith and I in the prayer-time ritual.

prime rib quesadillas

Sara brings to mind gatherings of familiar faces, cooking smells, the laughter of children. I see all of us, remember countless evening, circled around a heaping table, sharing meals and stories and lives. I feel warm and safe and home. I see Sara's graceful smile and think of how she gives a sense of home to everyone she encounters, how she brings beauty and love and creativity together, how she offers rest and stillness.

hot spinach artichoke dip

Dawn reminds of long lunches, words spilling out of mouths in a jumble, the delicious feeling of sharing experiences out loud together, of being understood and known. I remember rushing back to the office, late, but refreshed and filled with new energy. I feel strong and inspired and encouraged. Dawn's radiant smile is boldness and life and grace itself. She gives me courage and hope and she makes me feel accepted just the way I am while constantly inspiring me to be better.

These girls have been home and family for me in Waco, and on Thursday night they gave me little pieces of Texas to take with me as I go. Little do they know just how much they've given me over the years, what a well of strength our time together has been and will continue to be for me, how much I will miss them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Lolita's

Lolita's is usually a Sunday after church choice. It's better that way, because Lolita's gigantically overstuffed burritos are the kind of food that require a nap for proper digestion. But today we made an exception and picked up Lolita's for lunch.

Our standard order? Two George W's (one for each of us) and an order of salsa con queso with hot, fresh, corn tortilla chips. The George W burrito, also known as El Elefante, is a pillow-soft flour tortilla packed with everything you could ever want on a burrito.

Eggs, potatoes, cheese, beans, bacon and sausage all rolled together and stuffed in your mouth. With a healthy dousing of their stewed salsa roja on top.

The salsa con queso takes the same salsa roja as its base and adds globs and globs of the ooiest, gooiest white cheese, melted to stringy-stretchy perfection and stirred right in.

A bit of this on a homemade corn chip? Welcome to tomato-cheese heaven!

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Baris Pizza with Dawn & Steve

Last night we had the pleasure of combining two Waco favorites: Baris Pizza and Dawn & Steve Hall. The menu included raspberry beer, Shiner, and one round, saucy, cheesy pizza (half pepperoni and jalapeno, half pepperon, mushroom, olive, and onion) and two signature Baris salads.

Baris has long been a favorite of ours. It's local Italian done right. Must-taste items include the sausage calzone, meatball sub, baked ziti, chicken aristocrat, pink sauce, and of course the pizza. It's the go-to standard for takeout pizza in the Reich home. 

The pizza was delicious! The conversation even more-so. Dawn and Steve are always easy to be around, warm and welcoming, full of fun and laughter. Dawn has this incredible strength of conviction and purpose that I am always inspired by.

Steve is the kind of laid-back relaxed that makes you want to kick off your shoes, stretch out, and stay awhile. We shared stories, caught each other up on the new developments in life, and hugged with no trace of good-byes but lots of see you soon's and you will be missed's.

Monday, July 11, 2011

We Heart Waco Farewell Tour - Spice

Stop one on the farewell tour was Spice. I ran by on my lunch break today to pick up a few bottles of their "signature" scented oil. It's a delicious blend of vanilla, almond, and spices that smells warm and homey.

I always wished there was a way to bottle up the smell of that store, and those geniuses finally did. The smell reminds me of linens and cedar closets and something gooey baking in the oven and childhood and elegance and rain and leather, all at the same time, without actually smelling like any of those things. It's pretty amazing.

Spice is a collection of shops nested in the top of an old warehouse. It's an eclectic blend of old and new and includes everything from clothing and jewelry to furniture and photography.

I never fail to walk away inspired with a few new ideas. I also never manage to walk away with as much money in my wallet as I when I started, which can be a little dangerous. Maybe it's a good thing we're going to be so far away. 

Still, I will miss it. The perfect place to pop by and pick up a gift for a friend's wedding or a perfectly "worn" vintage-style Baylor tee-shirt or a few pointers on how to utilize that old kitchen cabinet mom's had in storage for years. 

Brooke & Keith's We Heart Waco Farewell Tour

We are beginning to count our final days as Waco residents. There are now a mere 18 days left before Keith loads our entire lives into a rented moving truck and begins a cross-country trek that will include three days, thousands of miles, numerous bathroom stops, and four wailing cats. Meanwhile, I'll get to stay behind for about 10 extra days, wrapping up work stuff before I drive up to join him. Every day left, every hour that passes, feels precious. These are all moments that count.

We are living by lists these day. What to move, what to sell, what's been packed, what's left to pack, questions to ask, errands to run, tasks to accomplish. And today, we started on the most important list of all. It's a list of goodbyes, essentially. Restaurants that have been regular favorites. Shops full of items you'd never find anywhere else. Places that mark the occurrence of special moments, our best and most-loved haunts, worn in like an old pair of shoes until they fit us perfectly. And of course, and especially, it's a list of people. People who have made our lives so rich. People who have laughed and cried and shared their lives with us. People who have shaped who we are and who have given us courage and strength. Who have loved us and who have been dearly loved.

It's not that we'll never see these places and faces again. We will. We will return to Waco on a pretty regular basis and we'll revisit these haunts. We'll taste the tastes and smell the smells and feel those arms around our shoulders again and again. But we won't be here, we won't live here. This will no longer be our day to day. And we want to say farewell properly. To honor the importance of this time in our lives. These places. These people. We want to mark it, to acknowledge it. We want to carefully, lovingly, intentionally bring things to a close here before we pack it all away and take it with us to make a new place our own. It's a ritual. A sacred thing.

It's becoming a long list. And a really good one. I'm calling it Brooke and Keith's We Heart Waco Farewell Tour, and I'll be blogging through it as we mark the days, one by one, before we go. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

We Have a House

I've been quiet on the old blog recently. Those who know me well will recognize that this is not always a good sign. Usually it means I'm too busy to think or too busy to dream or too busy to post. This time it's all of the above. With a good healthy dose of if I think too hard about this I'll freak out. The end result is a lot of activity it my life and my poor addled mind and very little activity online.

But...we do have a house under contract in our new hometown of Murfressboro, North Carolina. What's that? You want to see pictures? I thought you might. So without further ado....here is our new home.

Front-Left Corner View

Front-Right Corner View

Front Straight-On View
This is the view that faces the street.

The Darling Front Porch

Living Room

Living Room Some More

Dining Room
Doorways ahead lead to kitchen (right) and bedrooms/bathroom (left)


More Kitchen

More Kitchen
We are getting to keep the new fridge, range, and microwave!

Singular. As in there's only one.

First Bedroom

Second Bedroom
Haven't determined which should be the Master yet. You tell me, which is bigger?

Dining Room.
Living and Dining Rooms are all one big open space.

I think that my home office will be going down on that far end.

Sunroom From Opposite End

Laundry Room

Back View

Back View Some More
We plan to build an arbor over the patio area and cover it will delicious-smelling vines like jasmine and honeysuckle.

Back/Side Yard View