Bruce & Betsy Blais
Richardson, Texas USA

HomeHappeningsProfessionalThe FamilyForumContact


Here is a snapshot of the things going on around Bruce and Betsy's place in 2018. These included holidays, birthday parties and other fun events. Bruce was on a contract with NASA in Houston to provide radio communications support for the International Space Station, so there were a lot of Houston and South Texas activities that year.

Swiss Guests at NASA

While working at the Space Center, Debi Studer, a friend Bruce made several years earlier mountain biking in Las Vegas, was were in the Houston area sky diving. Debi had her friend Sarah, also from Switzerland, was with her. They met Liu Pim from Beijing, China, at the Spaceland skydiving center, and all wanted to tour the Space Center.

Below is Sarah and Debi at the International Space Station Exhibit pointing out the Swiss participation.

Below is Liu, Debi and Sarah in the full-scale mockup and training building.

Debi, Liu and Sarah at the Mars weather station. The high in the Gale Crater that day was -18F or -28C.

Sarah, Debi and Liu at Rocket Park and the Saturn V.

After the tour, it was over to TGI Fridays for dinner and some Baby-Back Ribs.

Back to the top

Tyler State Park

In the spring, Bruce and Betsy took a camping trip to Tyler State Park March 15-18. Some of their friends say trailer camping with indoor plumbing and satellite TV is not really camping, but they feel otherwise. Below is the trailer on the campsite.

They had some friends from Houston and Dallas joining them. Below is Bruce and Lu Anne from Katy taking a break after setting the trailer up. Lu Anne is a regular on their camping trips.

Some of the campsites were over the top. Below is one with a 40'+ fifth-wheel, wedding chapel dining tent and screened room. Yep, it is a Texas thing!

The next day it was over to the Tyler Rose Garden. Tyler is the rose capital of Texas, and possibly the US, and the garden has thousands of roses.

Below is Betsy and Bruce on the steps leading down into the garden. The photo below shows only about 20% of it.

In the center of the garden is a Koi pond with a bronze statue of a boy and a frog.

Further on, Betsy found a St. Francis statue just like one she has in her garden.

Toward the end of the walk, Betsy and Bruce discussed additional rose plants for her garden.

Afterwards, it was off to Chamblee's for four new varieties. These were Sunny Sky, a pale yellow rose; Tutu, a red rose; Miranda Lambert, a pink rose; and Winter Sun, another yellow rose. Chamblee's is the leading provider of championship roses in Texas and the south-central USA.

Of course, Bruce couldn't go to Tyler without doing some trail riding. Below is Bruce with Lu Anne and JJ from the Houston area out on the trails. Bruce's friend, David also rode and made the photo.

What's a campout without grilled steaks. Below are some all natural tenderloins on the grill the night before breaking camp.

Back to the top


Another Great Vigil Celebration and feast in 2018.

Back to the top

House & Yard

The yard at the beginning of the spring restoration on March 9th, 2018.

The first step was to remove the old mulch and till in some organic compost.

Next, the soil was leveled and the drip irrigation was put back in place.

Betsy determining where to place the new roses from Chamblee's in Tyler.

Preliminary placement of the new roses.

Mixing potting soil and fertilize for planting.

The finished planting on March 31st, 2018.

First blooms started appearing in a couple weeks.

A close-up photo of the Winter Sun Rose.

A close-up photo of the Tutu Roses.

One of six mixed assortment of flowers in the hanging baskets on the fence.

Another mixed assortment of flowers, but in a basket and frame on the deck.

Amaryllis blooming on April 14th, 2018.

Betsy's gardening habit overflows into the driveway and alley behind the house.

The southwest corner of the back yard on September 16th, 2018.

Back to the top

Clearlake & Kemah

The weather the weekend of the festival wasn't very good, but by Sunday afternoon, it started to clear and become sunny. Bruce was glad to see this since Ruben Moreno and the Zydeco Re-evolutioln Band was doing the late afternoon show. Below is the entrance to the Kemah Boardwalk on Galveston Bay.

On the way over th the main plaza, Bruce passed this cute little smoker.

Once at the plaza, it was time to get down to the business of consuming a mess of mud bugs.

All the tables were occupied, so he asked a couple of gals there if they would mind him sitting at their table. Below is Jill and Christy from Texas City up for a girls weekend while their husbands went fishing.

About 4:30 PM, Ruben Moreno and the Zydeco Re-evolution Band, one of the top Zydeco bands in the country took the stage. Not long after they did, folks were dancing in the plaza and having a great time.

Back to the top

Tim's Birthday

Another year and another birthday for Tim. This year, it was the big double-nickel (55). Below is the family resting up in preparation of the festivities.

Next it was time for a lasagna dinner.

After dinner, it was time to see who could shoot their marshmallow the farthest with a sling shot.

After the shooting contest, it was time for the cake.

The events concluded with the gift exchange.

Back to the top

Italy Vacation

Betsy and Tim went to Italy, Switzerland and Austria in late April and early May. A few of the more sensational photos are below, but for the full trip, head over to the Vacations section. 

Lake Como & Bellagio, Italy

The Garden at Villa Calotta.

The church and village square near Bellagio.

The Villa del Balbianello or Bishop's Palace at Lake Cuomo.

Lucerne, Switzerland

Betsy at a lake-side garden in Lugarno, Switzerland.

A river-side walkway in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Innsbruck, Austria

Betsy standing outside the flagship Swarovski store in Innsbruck, Austria.

Salzburg, Austria

Betsy at the Mirabell Palace & gardens in Salzburg.

The Austrian Alps below Hitler's Eagle Nest in Austria.

Vienna, Austria

Betsy in front of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria.

Betsy at the fountain in front of the Shonbrunn Summer Palace in Vienna.

Venice, Italy

St. Mark's Cathedral, Venice, Italy.

Gondolas on the Grand Canal in Venice.

Betsy and Tim on a Gondola ride on the Grand Canal in Venice.

Milan, Italy

Betsy at the world's first shopping mall, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, in Milan, Italy.

The plaza outside the Galleria showing the famous church, the Duomo di Milano on the right.

Back to the top

Collin's Birthday

In 2018, we celebrated Collin's birthday up at their place in McKinney. Colin is granddaughter Ariana's husband. Weather was nice, so we ate outdoors.

After dinner, it was time for the gift exchange.

And finally, cake and ice cream.

Back to the top

Southern Junction

Southern Junction Restaurant and Dance Hall in Irving is one of Bruce and Betsy's favorite places for a night out. Dinner and dancing: doesn't get much better.

Eating steaks floor-side.

The dance floor and stage. They go early before it gets crowded and you have a bunch of drunks colliding with you. As you can see from the stage, the interior decor is quite impressive, being made up of murals and storefronts depicting Texas scenes and landmarks. There are a lot of store-fronts around the perimeter inside. 

Below is the "photo area" inside the club.

Betsy with the rodeo grandstand mural inside the club.

A close up of the mural showing better detail. Nice detail, interesting characters.

The right-hand side of the entrance lobby.

The left-hand side of the entrance lobby. Cowboys and Indians shooting it out.

Back to the top

Alissa's Birthday

The birthday celebration for Bruce & Betsy's number two granddaughter was held at her older sister's house in McKinney. From left to right is aunt Holly, grandma Betsty, Alissa, her sister Ariana and her mom Chrissy.

Being late spring, the weather was perfect for eating out on the patio. The men in the photo are Ariana's husband Collin, cousin Bret and uncle Tim.

After dinner, it was time for the gift exchange.

The final event of the evening was the cake and ice cream.

The last photo is Alyssa with her grand parents, Betsy and Bruce.

Back to the top


Several times a year, Betsy and Bruce tend to the family plot at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery. In 2018 they repaired and repainted St. Thomas which had been cracked by vandals.

They dug out the lilies that had started to run out of control at Ariel's plot.

They also dug out the out of control lilies at her parents and brother's plot.

The lilies near Robby's plot were also removed.

Back to the top

Bruce's Birthday

The birthday celebration this year had two steps: the first was the weekend of his actual birthday in Kemah with Betsy and Tim coming down to the Houston area, and the second was in the Dallas area with the rest of the family.

Below is Betsy on the Texas City Dike in Galveston Bay. They had planned to go fishing, but no one was getting anything, so they decided to make it a sightseeing event.

The shrimpers were in action. They had plans to eat at Joe Lee's that evening and wondering if those shrimp would make it back in time for dinner.

The Texas Outlaw Challenge Poker Run was being held that Saturday, and below is one of the Cigarette boats competing in it.

There were some nice motor yachts on the water too.

Around on the lee side of the dike, the kite and wind surfers were having a good time.

From the dike, it was back to the travel trailer to clean up and head over to Joe Lee's for a seafood dinner. This is one of their favorite seafood restaurants in the Kemah area.

After dinner, it was over to Buck Wild for some dancing. This south Houston club is what Gilley's used to be.

The next day, Tim picked up Betsy for the trip back to Dallas, and they had seafood at Tookie's, another favorite of theirs.

The celebration with the rest of the family was held the following weekend up in the Dallas area. As usual, Bruce's birthday celebration began with some family socializing. This is typical of most of their parties.

Next came the birthday dinner.

Dinner concluded with cake and ice cream. Bruce is the only one in the family that likes German Chocolate cake, so he gets a special portion. Everyone else has regular cake.

Bruce with a tee-shirt from the grandkids saying "Dads know a lot, but Grandpa's know everything". Bruce is remarking about how this is true.

Since Bruce is an avid mountain biker, many of the gifts were gift cards to Richardson Bike Mart. The following day, he made a trip over to RBM to stock up on some biking supplies.

And finally, a photo of Bruce in his Grandpa tee shirt.

Back to the top

North College Park Neighborhood Assoc. 4th of July Picnic

Each year on the 4th of July, the North College Park Neighborhood Association organizes a community picnic. They have events and contests, and of course, food.

The first event was the three-legged race.

Next was the Hula-Hoop contest.

Bruce and Betsy's neighbors were there. From left to right is Betsy, Gary and his wife Michelle, Jeff, his kiddo and his wife Mary.

The event also included a parade with decorated wagons, strollers and dogs.

Back to the top

Betsy's Birthday

This is the year Betsy hit a milestone birthday - 75. The weekend festivities began with a steak dinner for two at the Saltgrass Steakhouse, one of their favorite restaurants.

The next day it was off to their granddaughter's house for a family celebration. Bruce had a custom cake made by a company that does special cakes. Betsy was surprised!

Here is Betsy with the cake out of the box.

A close-up of the cake with the birthday banner and roses.

Next, it was the traditional family birthday dinner.

The festivities wrapped up with the gift exchange.

Back to the top

NASA Manned Space Flight Vehicles

In August, the announcement for the first commercial crews was going to be made, so the engineering team was treated to a viewing of the manned spacecraft that would be flying in the next year. Below is a test version of the Orion capsule that will be used to test the Ascent Abort system. The Ascent Abort System is is the tower on the very top of the rocket that pulls the manned capsule to safety in the event of a failure of the SLS booster. 

From the Orion area, it was over to the Building 9 mock-up area. Below is a display of ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) suits used during the Space Shuttle era.

The first stop was an Orion mock-up used to train astronauts. This is the deep space capsule that will be used to travel to the moon and beyond.

The International Space Station (ISS) has been continuously manned for over 20 years. Crews are rotated every 3 to 6 months and resupply missions happen monthly. The Boeing Starliner behind Bruce will be used beginning in 2019 to ferry crews and supplies to the ISS. It can cary up to 7 astronauts.

Below is Bruce with the SpaceX Dragon crew module. This capsule will also be used to ferry up to 5 astronauts and supplies to the ISS.

While in Building 9, Bruce took the opportunity to be photographed with a prototype Mars exploration vehicle.

Back to the top

Twins Birthday

A group photo of Betsy's kids at the beginning of the festivities. Left to right are Chrissy, Tim, Betsy and Holly. Chrissy and Holly are the birthday girls.

The party game this year was pop a balloon for a cash prize. Some of the balloons had currency in them, and if you popped it, you got to keep the money.

Next, it was inside for the gift exchange.

Then there was cake and ice cream.

And finally, one more family photo.

Back to the top

New Smoker

Several charcoal-cooked meals were prepared after buying the grill, and on November 17th the first "smoke" was done on three racks of baby back ribs.

Shelly, being a woman of class, brought flowers for the hostess.

The baby back ribs were prepared St. Louis Style with mustard and a rub, and went on at 1 PM once the temperature was right. They were kept moist with spray every 30 minutes consisting of a mix of water, honey and molasses. About 3 hours later, they were wrapped in foil with butter, brown sugar and honey, and then put back on for 1 1/2 hours. At the end, they were taken out of the foil and finished for about 30 minutes with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce.

Three slabs gave each guest a half-rack.

Bruce's guinea pigs for the first batch of ribs on the new smoker were a few of his camping and mountain biking friends.

Left to right is Jaclyn, Shelly, Betsy, Bobby and JJ.

Back to the top

Bret's Birthday

The family gathered at Ariana's house to celebrate Bret's birthday. Ariana is Bret's cousin and Betsy and Bruce's granddaughter.

The big gift that year was a new grill for Bret. He and Lindsey are buying a house, so he wanted a "real" grill.

The obligatory happy birthday song and candle ceremony. The cake was made by Bret's mother, Holly, standing in the background. There were also "cake balls" on sticks that were quite good. The "poop cake", now that's another story.

Back to the top


The crew, mostly the women, getting it all ready.

Bret, #1 grandson at the head of the serving line.

Lots of folks, so banquet tables were set up in the living room.

With folks facing four directions, needed multiple photos to get everyone in. Oh yes, Cowboys were beating the Redskins, and that made it oh so much better!

The final photo getting everyone in.

Since the photographer was not in any of the previous photos, here is one of him with his loving wife.

This was the first Thanksgiving gathering hosted by their granddaughter, Ariana Thompson, and it was a success!

Back to the top

Ariana's Birthdays

Granddaughter Ariana, second from left, hosted her birthday party in 2018, as well as for her mother-in-law, Michelle on the left, and brother-in-law, Zach on the right. Zach is opening one of his gifts.

Ariana's Uncle Tim, Aunt Holly, son Bret and Bret's girlfriend Lindsey looking on.

Michelle happy with one of her gifts.

After the gift exchange, it was time for dinner, Subway!

Finally, it was three cakes and ice cream.

Back to the top


Bruce and Betsy took the camper down to Fredericksburg for a 4-day "anniversary get-away." Fredericksburg was founded in 1844 by German immigrants sponsored by Prince Frederick of Prussia.

Brice and Betsy stayed at the Fredericksburg RV park.

Below is the camper on site No. 16.

Museum of the War in the Pacific

On Friday, December 7th, they attended a Pearl Harbor Day memorial service at the National Museum for the Pacific War. The museum is a result of the efforts of Admiral Chester Nimitz, Fleet Admiral and Fredericksburg.

The museum is huge and Bruce felt it is the finest war museum he has ever seen. He plans to do a separate page just on the museum at some point in the future.

LBJ Ranch

The following day, it was over to the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch east of Fredericksburg. There are two parts to the ranch; the State Park and National Park. Below is the entrance to the State Park side.

The original Johnson Settlement started by Samuel Ealy Johnson, LBJ's grandfather.

The house below is the birthplace of LBJ.


From the LBJ Ranch, it was over to Luckenbach. Below is Betsy at the old post office, now a general store and gift shop. Yes, it was cold that day.

Next it was over to the Luchenbach Dance Hall, one of many historic dance halls in Central Texas. They couldn't stay since the event was sold out the night they were there, but they plan to go back soon.

It is appropriate their "anniversary get-away" ended with a trip to Luckenbach, for after all, as the lyrics go, it was all about "Getting Back to the Basics of Love."

Back to the top


Bruce and Betsy in front of the house the weekend before Christmas. The decorations are typical of what they do every year except Bruce added the Star of Bethlehem. This photo was used as their electronic Christmas Card in 2018.

Bruce typically uses the same outside light design each year. This year, he decided to add the Star of Bethlehem to change things up a bit. With a three pieces of 1x4 lumber, table saw, paint and two strings of lights, he created a star over 8' tall in one afternoon.

The way the family room looked prior to the festivities.

Not too many folks send Christmas cards like they used to. Electronic media is taking the place of real cards.

The mantle and hearth decorations.

Even the Gators got into the spirit as seen by the Gator Nutcracker below.

The tree and gifts.

The gifts were distributed and everyone took turns opening theirs.

In about an hour, all the gifts were opened.

Here is Betsy and Bruce with their gifts.

Next, it was time for Christmas dinner.

The festivities wrapping up with a family photo.

Back to the top


Version 0.5, December 28, 2018