We spent the Memorial Day weekend in Chappell Hill, a small rural community about 70 miles from Houston. We almost didn’t make it due to heavy rains and flooding in the days prior to our arrival — the area received nearly 18 inches of rain in 24 hours, and the Brazos River was overflowing in areas. Where we were staying wasn’t affected, but our prayers are with others in the area who lost their homes, property, livestock, and in a few cases, their lives. Just outside of Chappell Hill we passed this completely submerged farmland:
I cannot get this image of a cow that drowned out of my mind, and seeing it (and another one), was heartbreaking:
We rented Rockstar Ranch last fall, and were excited about returning.
The spacious and comfortable house, guest house, and property make for a great place for “city folks” like us to unwind.
There was a large porch with lots of rockers — perfect for watching the sun rise and set:
I especially enjoyed the beautiful flora around the property:
Mariesii variegated lacecap hydrangea
??? — anyone — ???
Commelina erecta (white mouth dayflower or slender dayflower)
Buddleia (butterfly bush)
And we all got a kick out of the fauna in the area:
Little green frog on the kitchen window
Up close and personal with the neighbor’s cows:
Does this weed make my butt look big?
Rocking on the porch while watching the deer was a favorite activity:
And then there was this little fella that was in the pool — we think it must have washed out of the pond with the heavy rains:
There were lots of insects too, most of which we weren’t too thrilled about — except for the fireflies. Yes — fireflies have returned to the Texas hill country! I’ve been in Texas since 1981 and have never once seen a firefly. Each time one lit up, someone would squeal with excitement. Well, maybe not squeal, but at least one of the kids would say “cool.”
Much of the weekend was spent just hanging around the ranch — swimming, cooking, rocking, reading. But we did venture out to a few local places. Our first stop was for barbecue lunch at the Chappell Hill Bakery & Deli.
There was the usual assortment of smoked meats, and a wide variety of sides to choose from:
The barbecue was OK, and none of us liked the barbecue sauce, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the sides, including the creamy mac ‘n cheese, the tangy pepper cole slaw, and the loaded mashed potatoes:
On the retail side of the store, there were shelves full of pickled things, salsas, condiments, jerky, and refrigerated cases of meats, sausages, and cheeses.
But what makes this place worthy of a visit, in my opinion, is the bakery. Treat yourself to some pillowy kolaches and giant pralines loaded with pecans (there’s also cookies, cinnamon rolls, breads, and cakes).
And whatever you do, don’t leave without a pie!
I don’t know how many different types of pies they bake, but the one that we flipped over (and made a second visit to pick up one to take home) was the pecan pie–not too sweet, and brimming with pecans. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it had us all swooning.
We also had lunch at the Southern Flyer Diner in nearby Brenham. The restaurant is located at the Brenham Municipal Airport, and is open every day from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
The diner’s 1950s decor, complete with waitresses in poodle skirts, cherry-red vinyl clad chairs and booths, and a jukebox is cute and kitschy.
Part of the fun is watching the small planes fly in and out.
As I stood there watching the planes, one landed and parked right in front of the diner. Two older women got out and went inside the restaurant for lunch.
As a family that thinks twice about having to drive more than 10 minutes to go out to eat, I was fascinated by the idea that people would actually fly there for lunch. But according to the owners, pilots are always looking for a reason to fly, and a burger is as good a reason as any. The burgers are jokingly referred to as $100 Hamburgers — pilots call them that because they burn about that much in gas to fly there for a burger. (In fact, there’s a subscription website called the 100 Dollar Hamburger, where pilots can find places to eat at or near an airport.)
The food was classic diner food, all freshly prepared. The portions were generous and the food was very good. Highlights of our meal included chili with cornbread (onions, cheese, and jalapeños available):
Boneless Buffalo wings (all white meat):
Fajita beef quesadilla:
And a juicy 1/2 pound burger topped with sautéed mushrooms and swiss cheese.
There were also root beer floats and milkshakes made with Blue Bell ice cream (this is Brenham, after all, home of Blue Bell Creameries):
We also took a stroll down Main Street in Chappell Hill. There’s just a handful of establishments, all with an old-timey feel, and many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places:
My favorite was the Post Office on Main Street, with its charming garden maintained by the Chappell Hill Garden Club:
I long ago gave up on my fantasy of owning a ranch. Being able to rent one as lovely as this is the next best thing to owning one. I’m already looking forward to our next weekend at the ranch, whenever that may be.