Brandon's Notepad

December 6, 2019

Texas Pecan Coffee Challenge

Filed under: Coffee,Food & Drink — Brandon @ 5:21 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Nothing says “Autumn” to me like a hot mug of pecan coffee. Yes, pumpkin spice has been all the rage in recent years thanks to a certain big-name coffee shop chain, but pecan coffee became a signature taste of the Southern United States long before that. Besides the baseline “Texas”, “Georgia” and “Southern” pecan coffees, there are variants such as butter, cinnamon, caramel, praline, bourbon and rum. I typically steer away from flavored coffees, but pecan coffee is a standing exception to that rule.

This year, the cravings started just before Thanksgiving with a grocery store sample. I thought it would be nice to have some at home during the upcoming holidays, but the question was, which one? I immediately pulled out my phone and started looking for options, but with so many to choose from, I just couldn’t decide. I wanted to try them all! And why not? It sounded like a fun challenge: to try as many as I could before the end of the year. So far, I have found about ten different brands that I could reasonably sample in that amount of time without breaking the bank.

In accepting this challenge, I have also decided to revitalize my Tea & Coffee Journal concept. For over half a decade, I kept a series of journals on my blog primarily containing reviews of various coffees and teas. I stopped this practice several years ago because it was too difficult to maintain in the format I was using and my plans for elaborate taste tests were starting to exceed my capacity in terms of both time and budget. Something that was started for fun was turning into a real chore, so I had to walk away from it for a time.  Now that I have set up a proper site for this sort of content, I can blog more freely about my hot beverage experiences and then aggregate the posts in an annual digest there.

On that note, if you would like to read more about this little adventure as it unfolds, please follow me here on WordPress, and/or on Twitter, and leave any pecan coffee recommendations you may have in the comments section below.

March 8, 2016

Where is Muriel, Texas?


Or perhaps the better question is, “Where was Muriel, Texas?”

The Back Story

I was looking at some old maps of the DFW Metroplex and was curious about what the landscape looked like before the behemoth DFW International Airport had been constructed. I was particularly interested in finding out how the roads used to connect from one side to the other, as there are now a very limited number of ways to cut through. And that’s when I saw Muriel, just a little circle bisecting an unnamed road in the middle of airport property. But where, exactly? And was anything left of it? I had to find out.

Map Analysis

To solve this mystery, I decided to employ one of my favorite map analysis techniques, the use of overlays. Basically, this means lining up the features on two different maps of an area for the purpose of comparison. When this is done using maps of different eras, it’s a form of map regression. This can be done in an analog fashion using tracing paper, transparencies, or even by simply laying one map on top of the other on a light box. The biggest problem is that the maps have to be exactly the same scale. Computers make everything easier, of course, and it’s very simple to import scans into layers using an art program and change the opacity (transparency) of one of the layers so that the other can be seen through it. For this analysis, I chose the undated “Dallas County and Tarrant County” made by the Ashburn Map company (c. early 1950s as best as I can tell) and a screen shot of Google Maps using satellite view. Here is the result:


It took a little trial-and-error, but I was able to match up enough roads to feel comfortable with the results. I focused on the neighborhood bordered by Hughes Road to the north, Watauga-Smithfield (now Glade) Road to the south, Euless-Grapvine Road to the east, and F.M. 157 (upon which S.H. 121 is built) to the west. Things don’t line up well as you move out from this location, but Fuller-Wiser Road (The ‘T’ intersection just below the word ‘SMITHFIELD’) is still in the right position, and Minter’s Chapel Road (most of which is now Airfield Drive) isn’t too far off. If the Ashburn map is accurate, this puts Muriel in the vicinity of the south end of runway 31L. Unfortunately, this leaves little chance that anything remains of this town or community in the way of buildings, though perhaps some other archaeological finds may eventually be unearthed.

Digging Deeper

Not that it would help establish the location, per se, but I did want to find some evidence that a place called Muriel did indeed exist in Tarrant County. I was able to find a couple of death certificates from 1904-1905 using that list Muriel as the place of death. It would appear that the folks at RoadsideThoughts found similar documentation.

There is hope, however, because guess what else in in the immediate area? Minter’s Chapel Cemetery! The Minter’s Chapel Methodist church was established in the 1850s, and remained in the same location (though rebuilt at least once) until the property was taken over by the new airport a little over a century later. At the time I wrote this, I have an outstanding request with the office of the descendant church for any information they may be able to share about Muriel.

UPDATE! Someone from the church responded to my phone call and in comparing notes, we discovered the following. First, she directed me to the article for Muriel in the Handbook of Texas. It confirms that Muriel and Minter’s Church (in all other cases referred to as Minter’s Chapel) are indeed one and the same. It was established in 1890 and there was a post office there from 1899 to 1905. She did mention that the 1890 census records no longer exist, so the only census that might contain information on Muriel’s residents would be the 1900 census. Second, she confirmed that the two people whose death certificates I found are indeed buried in the cemetery! James William Vine died on April 3, 1905, though his grave bears the middle name Washington, and Lula Florence Woodall (named Woodale on, probably due to a transcription error), whose maiden name was Page, died November 2, 1904.

March 2, 2016

Coffee 2016

Short URL:
Home > My Lists > Food & Drink > Tea & Coffee > Coffee Journals > 2016

Coffee-related journal containing info, news, opinions, recipes, tips, tricks, hacks, and reviews for the year 2016.

Journal Contents

#1 Kindred Coffee Company
#2 Butter…in Coffee?
#3 East African Peaberry Coffee
#4 Central Market Tanzania Peaberry
#5 Addison Ethiopia Sidamo Peaberry
#6 Stir Crazy
#7 Addison Kenya Peaberry
#8 Coffee Year in Review

Journal Entries

#1 – March 2, 2016 – Kindred Coffee Company
I thought I’d kick off my 2016 Coffee journal on a positive note and write a review of one of my favorite North Texas coffee establishments, Kindred Coffee Company in North Richland Hills. Formerly named La Familglia Caffe, this spacious restaurant occupies a store front on the Southwest corner of Davis Boulevard and North Tarrant Parkway on the northern fringes of town. Spacious is, of course, a relative term, as it is huge in comparison to your typical coffee bar. The exposed ceiling and full length wrap-around windows really open up the place and the posh ’60s-retro furnishings add the sophistication of an upscale diner. Despite the chalkboard menus and burlap coffee bean sack decor, this is not your cozy sit-on-the-couch-by-the-fire coffee house. And I think that is what I like most about the place: atmosphere. The level of conversation in the room is usually constant but quiet, making it easy to chat with the person you are with or even just to get lost in your thoughts for a while. Yes, there is free Wi-Fi, but the password is posted on a wall, presumably to detract folks from taking up parking spaces without coming in for a drink. Speaking of the drinks, I have tried most of their espresso-based offerings and have yet to be disappointed. I have it on good authority that the Turkish coffee is made the “right” way, and I must agree that it is pretty tasty. The coffee of the day, usually a blend, is good too, and they make a mean matcha green tea latte. My wife and I usually split a dessert, which like the coffee, has not failed to impress. For breakfast, they offer what most (non-Czech) Texans incorrectly refer to as kolaches (it’s called a klobasnek, people), but theirs is made from a two- to three-inch hunk of smoked sausage wrapped in a croissant and heated to just the right temperature. I have yet to try the ham and swiss “kolache” (which actually looks more like a Hot Pocket) but I’m sure it’s up to par as well. And, if you are just too busy to sit for a spell and soak it all in, you can text your order directly to the kitchen and they will deliver it to your car when you arrive. Now that’s service!

#2 – March 30, 2016 – Butter…in Coffee?
I first discovered this trend via social media. It was listed in one of those “17 Things You Should Try” type of write-ups, only this one was about popular coffee hacks. As you can imagine, there is must debate surrounding the wisdom of consuming large quantities of butter, especially in lieu of a healthy breakfast, but I won’t be able to settle any of that here. If you want to read more about that, I recommend starting with Nextshark’s 5 Reasons Why Everyone Is Suddenly Putting Butter In Their Coffee, and Kris Gunnars’ 3 Reasons Why Bulletproof Coffee is a Bad Idea, and then move on from there. You will eventually find references to a man named Dave Asprey, who is a self-proclaimed biohacker and the creator of Bulletproof Coffee, a recipe consisting mainly of butter, MCT oil, and some magic coffee beans he found one day (though legend has it that he may have gotten them in a trade for an old organically-raised grass-fed cow). He was featured by Bloomberg in the article Buttered Coffee Could Make You Invincible and This Man Very Rich. So, maybe it is healthy for those on a low-carb diet, or maybe not. Perhaps science will eventually tell us. My big question is “How does it taste?” I hadn’t thought much about this until recently, when I happened to be in possession of some Kerrygold Irish Butter. Why is this relevant? Because you aren’t supposed to use just any butter. It’s only “healthy” if you use butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows. And despite the photos attached to just about every story on the topic, if you have a pat of butter floating around in a cup of Folgers, then you are doing it wrong. The butter must be blended into the coffee, and most authors (who, like myself are coffee snobs writing articles for the reading pleasure of other coffee snobs) will tell you to use only the highest quality beans, or at least a nice strong pot of your favorite roast. The butter is used, of course, in lieu of cream and sugar. To be honest, it isn’t bad at all, quite good actually. The mixture is velvety with no sign of an oil slick on top. I have grown accustomed to drinking coffee without sugar, so that doesn’t bother me, and while I won’t claim that the butter made the coffee sweet, I can say that it wasn’t nearly as bitter as usual. In short, it’s worth a try at least once, but like other skeptics, I wouldn’t make this a frequent luxury (much less a daily part of a hardcore diet) until some conclusive health studies have been conducted.

#3 – April 9, 2016 – East African Peaberry Coffee
I was perusing the bulk bins at Central Market the other day, looking for an interesting coffee to review, and three things jumped out at me: peaberries, Africa, and Texas. Not literally, of course. I just happened to notice that the word peaberry kept showing up on the bin labels and I realized that I didn’t know exactly what that really meant. I looked it up using my smart phone. Peaberry coffee beans come from cherries in which only one of the the two seeds is fertilized, resulting in a single roundish bean instead of two beans with flat sides. This is a natural mutation which can occur in any region, and the resulting brew is typically more acidic and complex, though lighter than that of the more common double bean. There are tons of websites that explain this, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to link any particular one here. I would like to point out an article by the Coffee Detective that warns the consumer that while peaberries do produce a different taste, that difference is not necessarily dramatic enough to warrant a higher price. In other words, the hype over peaberry coffees is just that: marketing hype. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth trying, so I started looking for peaberry coffees to sample. That’s when I noticed that almost (if not) all of the choices available came from African origins, and specifically East African. What was it I said about Texas you ask? Well, it just so happens that Central Market favors local roasters, and by that I don’t mean just Dallas-based companies, but roasters from all around the state. The coffee roasting business seems to be particularly popular in Austin, which seems fitting when one considers the food and art scene there. So that’s my theme for upcoming journal entries, a focus on East African beans, peaberries in particular, roasted right here in the Lone Star State.

#4 – April 25, 2016 – Central Market Tanzania Peaberry
I started my excursion into East Africa with Central Market’s own “In-House!” brand Tanzania Peaberry, which originates in the Mbeye region of Tanzania and is roasted in Austin, Texas. Based on what I have read so far, I should expect more from the Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees, and this being a store brand, I figured that I would start with the lowest perceived quality and move up. The bin label in the store described this coffee as “sweet and tangy with flavors of vanilla, lemon, honeydew, and toffee.” The only one of these flavors that I could really pick up on initially was the toffee. The brew was very light with a weak body, even in the French Press, and the overall taste was tangy. After several cups I was about to give up on this one, and then I tried it cold. Using no sugar or creamer, I simple poured a cooled cup over ice. The flavor really came out, and I could finally taste the hints of vanilla and lemon. The aftertaste, which was not to my liking when served warm, became sharp and crisp. The light body was now an asset, making this iced brew a refreshing rival to iced tea.

#5 – May 5, 2016 – Addison Ethiopia Sidamo Peaberry
The Sidamo Peaberry, roasted by Addison Coffee Roasters located in (you guessed it) Addison, Texas, just north of Dallas, led to a completely different experience than the Tanzanian variety. The brew is much deeper and redder in color, and the taste much more bold. The aftertaste is smooth, not nearly as acidic, and the flavor far more balanced, giving it a pleasant aftertaste. It rolls in the mouth very easily. I was pleased with the taste brewed black, with no cream or sugar. I tried this one iced as well, with less than satisfactory results, so I don’t recommend it. This is labeled as a limited edition, which may be why it is not currently listed on their website.

#6 – July 29, 2016 – Stir Crazy
There has been a movement in the last few years to revive some of Fort Worth’s older neighborhoods, especially around the arts and medical districts. Magnolia Street in the Fairmount District is one of these, as new restaurants and other shops seem to have sprung up almost overnight. Looking for an afternoon treat one day, we ventured into Stir Crazy Baked Goods at the corner of Magnolia and 5th. I make it a point not to review an establishment after the first visit (unless I don’t see myself returning) and this is no exception, but I left that day wanting to write something to their praise. I resisted. Now, after a few more visits, I feel confident in recommending this as a great place to grab a piece of cake and cup of coffee with a few friends. The building they occupy was built in 1923, and though I have no idea what businesses were located there before, it is easy to imagine the place as a diner, soda shop, barbershop, or clothing boutique. Huge plate glass windows allow light to flood the dining room. Walls and fixtures are painted in a low-sheen black to contrast the white tin ceiling tiles and ductwork. And nothing screams “local start-up” like a mishmash of wooden tables and chairs from various genres of dining room furniture. The pastry case contains a medley of sweet offerings, but I am rather partial to the cakes displayed in glass domes above. As for the coffee, they serve locally-owned Avoca coffee, which I have not had time to review yet, but it is on my list. It is served from steel, self-service, pump-action airport dispensers in porcelain tea and coffee cups (if you are staying). And the coffee tends to be a bit on the weak side for my taste. That’s it? That’s my big rave? Yep. Sometimes its not about the coffee, but about the coffee experience. This place has a great atmosphere, and to be fair, they don’t claim to be a coffee house. It is a bakery that serves coffee. And it is great.

#7 – September 7, 2016 – Addison Kenya Peaberry
This is my third and last sampling of East African Peaberry coffees. I purchased the beans last Spring, along with the others, tasted it, formed my opinion, took notes, and then got too engulfed in the stuff of daily life to write the journal entry. The summer passed. I lost my notes, probably while cleaning my desk, and had to start over. Usually, when I sample several coffees like this, I buy just enough beans of each kind to make two or three small cups. However, when I went back for more Addison Kenya Peaberry, I knew that I was low on coffee at work so I filled a larger bag with about a quarter of a pound of beans, a decision I would eventually regret. Had I not lost my notes, I would have remembered that I did not like this particular coffee. This is nothing against Addison, as I rather liked their Ethiopian Sidamo. The profile of this coffee is different than the other two. It is not tangy like the Tanzanian, and not as smooth as the Ethiopian. It is very bold and I do not care for the aroma of the grounds. With enough beans on hand, I started to experiment. In the end, I found that a very light brew made with half of the coffee I usually use and creamed with frothed milk (no sugar) made for a very nice cup. Even then, this is far from my favorite coffee.

#8 – December 30, 2016 – Coffee Year in Review
As 2016 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on things that went well this year and things that could’ve been better. Professional development dominated my time and attention, which was a big plus, but it cost me the freedom to read and blog at my leisure. As a result, my backlog of research topics grew and I often had no choice but to save off information with no real plan for integrating it into my work. All I could do was make a promise to myself that I would eventually get back on task. This coffee journal is no exception. I was pleased to expand my entries to include reviews of local coffee establishments and I enjoyed the dive into East African coffee, but I had plans for much more than I managed to accomplish. Hopefully, 2017 will bring about some pleasant changes.

November 23, 2014

My Texas Map Collection

Filed under: Maps,Texas — Brandon @ 2:06 am
Tags: ,


My collection of Texas maps began as a stack of street maps that I bought over the years just to get around. Eventually, I started comparing maps from different years to see how things had changed (map regression) and felt compelled to acquire even older maps to see the lay of the land before my time. Antique stores, used book shops, and garage/estate sales are great places to find old maps, but I never have had an inventory of my collection handy to prevent the purchase of duplicates…until now.

Just a few notes about the list below. The maps are grouped by region/city and ordered by year. The titles given are what appear on the ‘cover page’ of the map and not the title or legend block on the face of the map. Some maps bear no year of publication and are therefore listed according to an estimated year followed by a question mark or a string of four question marks if the year cannot be reasonably deduced. I may add the ISBN numbers and other identifying marks in the future.

Texas State Maps

1992 AAA Texas
1992? MAPSCO Texas Road Map
1995 Gousha Texas Roadmap
2000 TxDOT Official Travel Map

Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex

Regional Maps
???? Ashburn’s Dallas County and Tarrant County
???? Ashburn’s Dallas Fort Worth Streetmap
1966 Dallas Fort Worth Turnpike Metrpolitan Area Map
1994 Rand McNally Dallas, Ft. Worth & Vicinity

???? Rand McNally Dallas Street Map
1986 Travel Graphics Int’l Dallas Metropolitan Area Illustrated Pocket Map
1994 Rand McNally Dallas Metro City Map
2001 Rand McNally Dallas City Map

Fort Worth
???? Southwest Map “Rattikin Title Company” MAp of Metropolitan Fort Worth
???? Ashburn’s “Rattikin Title Company” MAp of Metropolitan Fort Worth
1969 Gousha “Phillips 66” Fort Worth Street Map
1971 Ashburn’s “Shannon’s Funeral Chapels” This is Fort Worth
1973 Rand McNally “Texaco” Fort Worth Street Map
1975 Ashburn Map of Greater Fort Worth, Texas
1978 American Map Distributors Street Map of Fort Worth and vicinity
1979? Rand McNally Fort Worth
1984 MAPSCO Map of South Fort Worth
1992 MAPSCO Fort Worth, Texas City Map
1999 Rand McNally Fort Worth Street Map
2000 MAPSCO Fort Worth Street Map

1972 Ashburn “Arlington Bank & Trust” Map of Arlington Texas
2001 Rand McNally Arlington/Grand Prairie, Texas City Map
2001 Arlington Street Map & Visitor Guide

Other Cities
???? Map of De Soto Texas (local advertising map)
???? ADMAR Inc. Welcome to Duncanville Texas (local advertising map)
1976 A.I.D. Assoc. Inc. Cedar Hill Texas (local advertising map)
1979 Southwest Map Map of Duncanville Texas Street Map and Community Guide
1998 Mapsco Collin/Denton County Map
2 maps to record…

San Antonio

1972 Bookmap Corp. Brochuremap San Antonio Texas
3 maps to record…

December 31, 2009

Things To Do & See

Filed under: Travel — Brandon @ 9:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This is a combined list of sites I’ve either seen or want to see. Some I want to see again. Some look like good family day trips or side trips, things to keep the kids entertained. Details can always be found elsewhere on the Web, but having a consolidated list should make vacation planning much easier.

Locations In Texas

The locations in Texas are segregated by region. this map is a rough guide to regions in Texas.

Texas, Prairies & Lakes (includes “North Texas”)

Texas, Hill Country (Central Texas)

Texas, South Plains (South Texas)

Texas, Piney Woods (East Texas)

Texas, Gulf Coast

Texas, Panhandle

Texas, Big Bend Country

Locations In Other States

North Carolina
Nelson’s Nantahala Hideaway, Topton, NC.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Locations In Other Countries


January 30, 2008

TX SH 161 Project

Filed under: Local Interest — Brandon @ 8:46 pm
Tags: , ,

For information on the Texas State Highway 161 expansion project…

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