Outdoor options in Bell County


The newest issue of Bell County Living was just recently released from the presses. I had the pleasure of having an article on the Nolan Creek Project featured in their outdoor section of the publication. Feel free to check out several spreads and the full article below! And if you’re looking for some great outdoor activities, check out some of the ones I’ve mentioned toward the end of the article:


As an avid outdoor adventurist, the Nolan Creek Project is a pretty exciting addition to local Bell County. The Nolan Creek Project expansion was completed September 2016 after construction originally began in 2014. Outdoor adventurists in Bell County now have something to look forward to this summer season.

The Nolan Creek area of Belton has always been a popular social spot in Belton for many generations, especially during 4th of July festivities. The modern Nolan Creek project was conceptualized by Belton City Council, and the first leg of the Nolan Creek Hike & Bike Trail through the downtown area was a catalyst. This project brought more people downtown, and with the completion of the Gin complex, momentum picked up.

This project was prepped for completion after help from donors such as Texas Parks & Wildlife, CGI Group, HEB and several other small donors. Even the former Belton Mayor, Jim Covington, was excited when the state grant was awarded to the project. With several phases to finalize the project, the end result cost $521,000. The cascades, which provide rolling water behind The Gin, now called Creekside Park, were put into place by January 2015. Once these features were completed, the city saw tubing and kayaking activity increase along the creek with more waders taking advantage of spending time on the river. The second phase included a put-in location, complete with parking, near Chisholm Trail Senior Village on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. That particular area of the project could not begin until the new MLK bridge over Nolan Creek was finished in July 2016. By mid-September, the put-in location was completed around the same time as the new Nolan Creek Nature Trail.

The project’s completion in September 2016 was celebrated with a day of festivities that included tubing down the river with both local citizens and current Belton Mayor, Marion Grayson. She creatively coined the term, the Mayor’s Floatilla, for the experience. The unique ribbon-cutting event made history with Mayor Grayson lifting her “golf club paddle” into the air and slicing it through the ribbon strung across the creek by the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce. Once the Mayor and her floating crew arrived on land, inner tubes were passed out to the public for their own tubing experience. The city spent a couple hours taking people through the drops, and families enjoyed their time spent on the water.

Fun things to experience along Nolan Creek

There are now various activities visitors can experience along Nolan Creek since the expansion project has been completed. These include wading, tubing, kayaking, picnicking, bird watching, fishing, hiking, and biking.

Fishing: Twice a year, the creek is stocked with trout, and families are invited to come fish them out. Family, Fishin’, Fun is one of the best events of the year. Many residents and visitors gather at the creek in hopes of of catching a big trout.

Hiking, tubing and kayaking: Most people are aware of the Hike & Bike Trail with its fabulous 10-foot sidewalks. The new Nolan Creek Nature Trail is one of the best-kept secrets in Belton. Located on the UMHB side of the MLK bridge over Nolan Creek, it provides an ideal location for a picnic as well as a quarter-mile nature trail. To unload tubes and kayaks, visitors can use the small parking lot there as well. From this spot on Nolan Creek, it takes about two hours to float to the cascades downtown in Creekside Park, which is behind the Gin.

Picnicking: Picnic tables are located in Harris Park and Yettie Polk Park and both offer access to the creek.

Swimming– Some people prefer not to swim, while others are totally comfortable with it. It is recommended not to ingest the water as it is rated for kayaking, wading and tubing. If people want to make an informed decision about recreating in Nolan Creek, it is recommended to begin with visiting www.beltontexas.gov/creek.

Places to eat and shop near the Gin at Nolan Creek: Not only are there outdoor activities in Belton in this area, but for those who aren’t so in love with nature can definitely spend the day having their own version of fun. Visitors can eat at The Gin at Nolan Creek, grab some coffee at Amor Ciego coffee company, browse to their heart’s content at The Mercantile or My Giving Tree Gift Shop and Gallery, book a spa day at Woodhouse Spa and even have dinner at Coronas de Oro.

I personally enjoy my own walks along the Hike and Bike Trail which feeds into the campus of the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. For families looking for summer fun, there’s also a Splash pad along the Hike & Bike trail located across from the Harris Community Center. Picnic tables, restroom facilities, fishing spots, playgrounds, basketball courts and horseshoe pits provide some great Saturday activities.
For more information, please feel free to contact Matt Bates, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Belton at mbates@beltontexas.gov or call at 254-933-4862.

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Ambrosia Tea Room


Tea for two was the theme for a lazy, late lunch one Saturday afternoon on the first of April 2017. My mom and I visited Ambrosia Tea Room in Salado, Texas for our midday meal. Upon entering the tea house, one can quickly observe the care and attention to detail that has been placed into the creation of the tea room. Each room has relics of days gone by, of a sweeter time, menus don feminine fonts and shabby chic adequately describes some of the final touches. One of the decorative highlights is the glass tea cup chandelier hanging above the register in the main dining room.

Lunch was unique and delicious. We both drank the sweetened cranberry tea, and it reminded mom of wassail. A springtime wassail if you will. I had the turkey, cream cheese, avocado and cranberry spread on a croissant while mom had the same on wheat and a side of zucchini soup. The sandwich was the ideal pairing of sweet cranberry, rich cream and a little salt with the turkey. The perfect touch was what they call the “Ambrosia Salad,” which came in a little dish on our plates. It’s the amazing mixture of heavenly fluff composed of strawberry yogurt, whipping cream, cheesecake mix and probably some kind of magic 🙂

If you haven’t been to this place, you definitely need to check it out on a shopping day out in Salado, Texas.  They have also been the recipients of the KWTX Clean Plate Award! Ambrosia Tea Room is located at 102 N. Main Street, Salado, Texas 76571.

A Comman Case of the Shoulds


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Photo Credit: DeathtoStock Photos

We spend a considerable amount of mental time and energy in the world of the “shoulds.” I should have been farther by now. I should be married. I should look like him or her. I should not still be struggling with this. This should not bother me. I should have gotten so much more accomplished today.  I should, I should, I should…. let’s breathe. And consider a few things about the should thoughts that tend to float into our minds or rather attack our minds…

  1.  You are where you are today. And that’s ok. One powerful thing a therapist once told me was- “you’re exactly where you need to be.” There’s purpose in that. There’s power in the process, in learning how to gradually grow. There’s beauty in realizing how vulnerable and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. No matter what the struggle, no matter how deep, no matter the pain, or how big that heap….. every mountain can be conquered step by step if you keep moving forward.
  2. How much of the “shoulds” are actually imposed perceptions by others OR supposedly imposed perceptions by others? Begin to ask yourself questions when a should pops up suddenly. Do you honestly want the things others want for you? Do you have the same worldview as them? Do you care about the same things they do? How much should their opinion affect you like the ankle weight they are? What if we began to challenge what others decided for our lives and decided to consider what was truly best, healthy and balanced for ourselves.
  3. Let the “should” only be used as a short emotional spurt of inspiration to spur you onto greater accomplishments. Want to conquer a goal and say I “Should” be here in my career? Then turn that statement quickly into a “how could I accomplish that” or “how might I find that purpose or enjoyment in another area of my life if I can’t be there today?” Then begin to map out small steps for improvement in that area. Even the tiniest incremental changes are STILL CHANGE 🙂

All in all, the “should” statements and thoughts focus on what we lack in our being. What if we were less harsh to ourselves and encouraging of the growth, gifts and goodness we did see in ourselves. Lovingkindness should be directed not only to others, but also to ourselves. And THAT is a “should” statement I think we can all get behind.

~lme

Open scars


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Photo Credit: Death to Stock Photos

I burned myself recently on the heating element of my oven…. yes, cooking accidents are my forte.  And that burn was a doozy.  And as I’ve watched it heal recently, I began to think about it.  I thought about how I hadn’t covered it with a bandaid, and I hadn’t even really doctored it.  I just kept it clean and watched the skin began to re-construct the layers that had been melted.

And then I thought about what a perfect metaphor and reminder it was of scars in general and the struggles we endure in this life.  And I thought…. What if we didn’t hide our scars?  So what if I wasn’t able to keep my left index finger from scarring.  A blemish- the horror of horrors! What if each time I saw it, I was reminded of that painful memory?  And what if I didn’t try to cover it up, make it heal prettier or sugar coat what really happened to that piece of skin? Why not leave the scars and the stories on myself of all the things I’ve experienced or lived through in this short life on earth.

And just like letting my skin scar, I thought a little more.  What if we were more open about our blemishes, struggles, failures and imperfections.  I know we claim pretty openly to be imperfect, but do we really believe that and own it?  Or do we still feel we are trying to reach some unattainable goal the world or culture has set for us? In a world fixated on perfections, fancy creams, liposuction, tanning beds, hair dyes and spanks, it’s rather hard to want to accept and be ok with the shortcomings, blemishes and limitations we all deep down realize we have.  And to that I say- stop it right now, self and world.  I’m human, and I struggle.  I know others have had their share of struggles too.  But what if it was ok.  Ok to not uphold some image of feminine fabulousness. Ok to be not ok at times.  Ok to not always know what the future holds.  Ok to show your imperfections to others.  Ok to not try to cover up every little so-called flaw on your face.  God loves this mess.  He blessed me and many others with creativity, time, talent and heart that wants to find joy in the world around me.  So it’s time I, and you, stopped listening to the voices of negativity that try to tell us to cover up things that aren’t perfectly perfect.  Accept the imperfections, work on the things you can and be really thankful for God’s grace as he fills in the broken pieces of your vessel 🙂

~leah

 

Liberation through Limitation


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Photo Courtesy: Maria Ellen Photography

Limitation. What an unpleasant concept to us, creatives and more. We hate being limited by time, talents, energy and finances. We want everything now and to be able to do everything we want when we want to with unlimited funds (I mean, that’s realistic right?). But what if our limitations are really something that liberates us? And what if those limitations actually help us instead of hurting us like we think. Allow me to expound.

Limitation provides:

  1. Context– Limitation gives us a field or a boundary to work within.  It’s a good thing we aren’t able to do everything with our own two hands.  By learning where our skillset lies, we are able to focus, hone our craft and really find where we can excel and best serve. Limitation actually helps us narrow that search. Surely we can learn and grow, but some people have stronger aptitudes for certain areas.  I don’t personally consider myself a super strong instrumentalist, but I have other gifts in a different facet of music.  Once you begin to see where your skillset lies, you can begin to center on where you would experience a truer fit and ideal opportunities for yourself. The ability to say no to things that aren’t well-suited for us actually leaves openness in our schedules to say yes to things that are a better fit.
  2. Creativity– Limitation actually make us stretch our creativity. If I’m not proficient on an instrument, I may try to make that same sound using an instrument I do know how to play. Throughout that process, something innovative can be born. We learn by our limitations in time, talent and finances how to be effective where we are right now. So you can’t afford to fund a massive marketing campaign, so you roll up your sleeves and get to work making your own things, building connections and going out and networking in your area. Despite seeing limitations as hindrances, you might do better to see them as actual gifts.
  3. Cultivation of acceptance and community– Early on, we believe that we can do it all. Every super mom and wonder woman leading her team at work makes you think you can do it all (or you are lacking when you can’t). But let me tell you, it’s a big fat lie we’ve been fed. I’ve been told early on that there are trade-offs for everything, and I can see it very clearly now. You may think you are doing “it all,” but you cannot do everything to an effective level by cramming as much as possible into your day. You will choke out the moments of realization, creativity and joy. Some facet of your life will not be excelling. Now almost a year into my 30s, I’m learning how valuable it is to have a grasp on reality. I cannot expect myself to be at a level where I am not. accepting that you aren’t a rockstar at everything, you begin to employ the use of other talent, fostering community and building relationships. You develop a mutual respect for people and their skillset that is stronger where yours is weak. You are humbled by the fact that you do not “rock” at everything and are stronger as a team of people striving for one goal. You also learn to appreciate the level of talent you see in others and working with them is a pleasure.

So, go create, accept your limitations, but be willing to work to press them where you can. Also work toward a better version of yourself despite those limitations. Happy weekend 🙂

~lme