Bruce & Betsy Blais
Richardson, Texas USA

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FAMILY EVENTS - 2020

Here is a snapshot of the things going on around Bruce and Betsy's place in 2020. These included holidays, birthday parties and other fun events.

Totaled Impala

Technically, this event occurred in December of 2019 and didn't wrap up until January of 2020.

Betsy was stopped at a light in center of three traffic lanes. A truck came up to her right, and in the process of making a right on red, had its rear end swing out and crush her passenger side rear quarter panel. The Impala was 11 years old, had 110,000 miles on it and was in pristine condition. Even so, the insurance company "totaled" it due to its age, value and repair costs. The car would have been good for at least another 4 years otherwise. The photo below shows the driver's side.

The collision damage didn't look that bad, but all the repair estimates came back with costs of about 80% of the value of the car.

Once Betsy had decided to replace it with a 2020 Chevy Equinox, it was time to give the Impala to the insurance company.

The last we saw of the Impala as it was carried away.

After comparing reviews, awards and shopping around, they settled on a 2020 Chevy Equinox Premier. The only real contender was a Honda CR-V, but it had fewer features and cost $3,000 more than the Equinox.

 

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New Year's Dinner

Bruce's heritage is French-Canadian, and the Blais family would gather on New Year's Day for a meal involving 50 or so family and guests and watch New Year's Day bowl games. Being away from most of the family members, he did not get to enjoy tourtiere or French-Canadian meat pie, so he decided to make his own this year. The results exceeded expectations as can be seen below.

Dinner for New Year's Day was tourtiere, black-eyed peas, candied yams with marshmallows, and collard greens.

He was hoping for a lucky 2020, but we all know how that worked out!

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Great Grandchild Reveal Party

Our number one granddaughter, Ariana was having a baby, so on February 9th, they had the great gender reveal party. They were able to keep the gender a secret to most everyone including Ariana.

Below is  granddaughters Ariana and Alissa receiving a special gift from their grandmother, Betsy.

Below is Betsy with her two granddaughters Ariana and Alissa getting ready to decorate for the party!

Colin, Amanda and Ariana after the reveal cake was delivered. Amanda is a family friend that made the cake.

The suspense was building as it was getting closer to finding out babyís gender. The cake was a hit, and delicious.

A colorful, tasty and refreshing Food platter provided by Collinís mom, Michelle.

A photo-op for the mom and dad to be..

Getting last minute pictures in before guests started to arrive.

Collin and Ariana with future Great Grandparents, Aunt and cousin on the Lopez side of the family.

Dad-to-be with more family and friends that came to reveal the gender. From left to right: Nate, Jack, Bret, Holly, Tim, Brian, and Collin.

Time for the big reveal, is baby Thompson a boy or girl? White baby items were pulled from the vase and the last article to be pulled would reveal the sex.

Surprise! Baby T is a little girl. Collinís reaction says it all!

Dylann Faith Thompson expected to arrive July 23, 2020.

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St. Valentine's Day

Betsy got a card, a dozen yellow roses and chocolate covered cherries for St. Valentine's Day.

Yellow roses and chocolate covered cherries are two of her favorite thing.

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Local Theater

Bruce and Betsy only made one show in 2020, and that was One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest at the Garland Civic Theatre. This is a top notch local theatre group that that has been around for 53 years and produces about 6 popular Broadway shows throughout the season. It is the best value in live theatre in the DFW area.

Bruce and Betsy went Saturday, February 2 with Tim and Anna, two of the kids.

As expected, the show was quite "nuts".

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Monster Jam

On March 3rd, Betsy when with her son Tim to the Monster Jam to see the "big pick-ups" do their thing. Below is a photo of her with one of the trucks.

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Ennis Wildflower Drive

On April 5th, Bruce and Betsy made their nearly annual trek south to Ennis Texas to drive the back roads and see the wild flowers, especially the Bluebonnets. Ennis is considered the "Bluebonnet Capital" of Texas.

Below are some fields along side a ranch at 3568 FM1181.

A house along FM1181, SW of Lone Oak Rd.

The photo below shows a field with a ranch in the distance along Mach Rd. East of Walker Creek Rd.

The photo below was made near the curve between 950-1454 Sugar Ridge Rd,

A house on the curve near 1000 Sugar Ridge Rd.

A house near 7700 FM 879.

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Backyard Flower Beds

The winter of 2019-2020 was warmer and wetter than normal, so the weeds in the beds thrived.

Once the weeds were cleaned out, the drip lines were straightened out and the beds were ready for new mulch.

Betsy's poppys are always stunning.

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The Mr. Lincoln rose getting started for another year. That rose has been producing for nearly 20 years.

A rose back up next to the house. Variety unknown.

Another rose back up next to the house. Variety unknown.

Below is the Flaming Betsy rose in the main rose garden.

Below is the TuTu rose in the main rose garden.

Below is the Winter Sun rose in the main rose garden.

A close-up of the Winter Sun rose in the main rose garden.

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Echinacea or purple cone-flowers native to North America.

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Below is a variety of flowers at the back door.

Below is a bright orange Gerber daisy near the back door.

A pot with mixed flowers on a bird bath pedestal with ? and ? down in the bed.

Betsy grows her own cocktail limes in pots on the deck.

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Raising Butterflies

Betsy has had a butterfly habitat in the yard for years, but it seems lizards would eat the small larva and wasps would lay eggs in the larger larva. In 2020, she started raising larva in screened habitats. The photo below shows .

A close-up photo of a larva feasting on fennel.

With a bunch of larva, it doesn't take long to devour the fennel.

When they first emerge, their wings are wrinkled.

After a few minutes the wings fully straighten out.

Upon release, they headed straight to the flowers.

Bruce and Betsy plan to produce a video story of the process on raising butterflies, and Bruce plans to construct Betsy a walk-in outdoor enclosure for 2021.

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Mother's Day

It wouldn't be Mother's Day without flowers and candy. The light pink roses on the left were from her husband, Bruce.

Betsy with her son Tim under the shade on the deck.

Betsy with her husband, Bruce.

Betsy with granddaughter Alissa.

Betsy with her son-in-law Brian and son Tim in the swing arbor.

The family gathered for dinner. The meat was all natural beef tenderloins, grilled corn, baked potatos and coleslaw.

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Alissa's Birthday

Number 2 granddaughter, Alissa, hit the big 21 in May. Since grandma and grandpa had the biggest patio, it was hosted at their place in Richardson. Below is most of the party crowd at the main table on the deck.

The birthday girl with her boyfriend Zach.

Bruce and Betsy, the hosts for the event.

Ray and Bruce at the Grill Meister's table in the grilling area.

Grandson Bret with Lindsey on the swing arbor.

One of the party games played was rolling doubles with dice to claim prizes on the ground. Each prize was wrapped, and if you rolled doubles in a plastic bowl, you could pick up a prize. If not, then you passed to bowl to the next person.

Next, it was time to sing Happy Birthday and have cake and ice cream.

After cake and ice cream, it was on to the gift opening.

One final look towards the end of the party.

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West Fence Rebuild

Back about 2007, Bruce rebuilt the fence around the back yard. This fence came up along the drive way. There is another section of fence along the west property line that reached its end of life in 2020, so that rebuild project was undertaken then.

The first step in the process was to place some concrete curbing under the 2x6 planks used to skirt the shed. This was done in February and is shown in the photo below.

The next step was to extend the curbing around the corner and up the west property line. The photo below shows the skirting removed and the excavation work for the curbing.

The photo below shows the work on the inside under the stoage deck.

The finished curbing is shown below with the skirt reinstalled.

Next, the old fence pickets were replaced. The new fence was board-on-board construction.

Next, the old fence came down and the fence posts were yanked out using a ratchet hoist and a tripod made of landscape timbers.

New galvanized posts were installed and the concrete curbing was extended.

The photo below shows Bruce placing concrete.

Michael and Bruce loading the mixer.

The photo below shows the curbing complete.

The final step was to install the fence pickets. Below is a photo of the completed fence on the neighbor's side.

The following photo shows the inside of the completed fence facing the house. The project also involved building a new door for the storage area between the shed and fence.

The total length of the fence including the gate is 96' It took over 2 months working evenings and weekends to complete.

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Bruce's Birthday

The tradition at the Blais household is to celebrate birthdays twice: once on the birthday with a small party and them again with the whole family gathered for a big party. Below is Bruce on Thursday evening with his cards, and enjoying a piece of German Chocolate cake and some single malt.

For the party Sunday evening, Betsy made one of her acclaimed yum-yum cakes.

Betsy believes in lots of decorations. Here is the deck on Sunday afternoon before guests arrived. Tables were set up to seat 12.

Dinner was Angus burgers. Below is Bruce at the grill cooking away.

Next, it was time to eat. Below is Betsy and Bruce at the patio dining table.

One of the party games played was rolling doubles with dice to claim prizes on the ground. Each prize was wrapped, and if you rolled doubles in a plastic bowl, you could pick up a prize. If not, then you passed to bowl to the next person.

A close-up of folks rolling dice in the bowls.

Later, it was time for Bruce to open his gifts. He asked of tools and made out well.

Some got things that were on his list and others gave gift cards. Below is the result after a shopping trip to redeem the gift cards.

Finally, it was time to sing Happy Birthday and have cake and ice cream.

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Mountain Bike Racing

While working for NASA in Houston, Bruce met Scot Schaefer on the local trails. Scott is the president of the Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association (TMBRA). He asked Bruce if he raced and Bruce replied he quit when he turned 65 because it was just too hard to compete against the 60 year old bunch. Scott indicated TMBRA had a 70+ open class if Bruce was interested. Bruce thought he would give it a try and ended up being the Texas State Champion in the 70+ Master Men's class for 2020.

 

The photo below shows Bruce coming down "Dive Bomber" on his way to a first place finish at Flatrock Ranch.

Below is a photo of Bruce's championship jersey and race bib, along with other "hardware" collected during his various races.

After winning the championship in 2020, he is now planning to compete in 2021.

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First Great Grandchild

Ariana at about 6 months.

Sonogram at about 6 months.

Nursery in July just weeks before Dylann's birth.

The day after.

Great-grandma Betsy with her first great-grandchild.

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Betsy's Birthday

With COVID running rampant, Brtsy's birthday party was a personal affair. She received pink roses and a dinner out. 

Below is Betsy and Bruce at Saltgrass, their favorite "chain" steakhouse. Betsy is eating too. She just moved to Bruce's side of the table for the photo.

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Dinner with Tim at Arthur's

Restaurant week in Dallas was the end of August in 2020, and Arthur's offering a special dinner at about half the normal price.

Arthur's is one of the finest 5-star Continental Restaurants in Dallas, and being one of their favorites, they jumped on the special offer.

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Grilling & Miscellaneous

With the "lockdowns", the deck area got more use than normal, with most of the activity in the grill area. One August evening while grilling beer brats, one of the local hawks perched on the chimney cap. Bruce grabbed his phone and made several photographs with the one below being the best. A truly magnificent bird!

With all the time spent at home, the AV system got more use than normal. One evening while watching an action move, they blew out one the rear surround sound speakers. The original Rebel Satellite speakers were installed in the fall 1996 and lasted until fall, 2020. A 24 year lifetime for speakers is great. The photo below shows the RP-500M Reference Premiere replacements.

The main receiver was old and was upgraded to 7.2 surround sound in the process.

Bruce grills or smokes about once every week or so. The photo below shows the smoker in action with some brisket and smoked beans.

Everyone raves about Bruce's St. Louis style baby back ribs.

Their most favorite meat is all-natural Nolan Ryan tenderloin steaks.

Bruce and Betsy's favorite seafood is bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp on the grill. The mat makes them easy to grill.

During football season, Bruce and Betsy would normally attend an Alumni Association game-watching at the Fox & Hound. For most of 2020, the bars were closed, so the parties were held at home with a few close friends.

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West Sidewalk

There was a small grassy area between the end of the shed and the sidewalk on the west side of the house. It didn't get much sun, so the grass didn't grow well and the soil was often muddy. Bruce decided to pour a slab and set some flagstone to improve the situation. The photo below shows the condition at the beginning of installation.

The end of the slab over the easement is already excavated, has the steel in place and is ready to pour. This section is installed as a separate piece so it can be easily removed since it is on an easement. 

After the easement section was poured and paved, it was on to the main section. The channel drain seen on the left was installed at the very beginning of the project. The black pipes in the corner are for the French drain for the gutters and irrigation lines going further back on the property.

The next step was to pour the main section.

The final step was to set the flagstone and some paving stones. The removable pavers allow access to water and gas lines in that area.

The rain barrel catches rain water for Betsy's indoor plants.

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Bret's Birthday

Grandson Bret hit the 32 year mark in November, so the family gathered to celebrate the event.

After a bit of socializing, it was time for the gift exchange. Below is Bret opening gifts as Josie and Lindsey look on.

After the gift exchange, it was time for cake and ice cream.

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Sara's Visit

Early in November of 2020, Bruce's daughter was passing through the Dallas area and stopped in for a short visit. Below is Sara, Bruce, her father, and her brother Michael.

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Thanksgiving

Bruce and Betsy cook their thanksgiving turkeys a variety of ways, mostly by baking or deep frying in peanut oil. In 2020, the deep fryer got the call. But before you cook your turkey, folks in these parts "brine" them first. That year, they had an 18-pound turkey and brined it for 18 hours. The photo below shows the turkey in the brining bag just before it was removed and rinsed.

Before taking the turkey out of the refrigerator, the fryer was started. It was set on the stone patio wit a plastic drop-cloth to protect the stone and a sheet catch any splatter. The sheet also eliminated a "slip hazard" in case some oil got on the plastic drop cloth. A fire extinguisher was also kept handy.

Once the oil hit 350 F, the turkey was slowly lowered into the oil. This is the most critical step as water in and on the turkey will boil off, and if it goes in too fast, the boiling water will force hot oil out onto the burner and surrounding area.

It takes about an hour to fry an 18 pound turkey. during this time the rest of the meal is prepared in the kitchen. At the end of the hour, the bird is lifted out and put in the roasting pan.

From this point, it is just a matter of letting the turkey cool down a bit so it can be carved and then dig in!

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25th Wedding Anniversary

With the pandemic surging, Betsy and Bruce downsized their 25th wedding anniversary and opted for an elegant luncheon at the up-scale Cafe Pacific in Dallas.

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Christmas

Bruce made a few enhancements to the outdoor lights for 2020. These included adding the lighted Christmas bells, extra lights for the garland, a "Santa Gator" lighted display and a new bow for the wreath. The red lights on the roof were converted from incandescent to LED lights.

The family room decorations were about the same as in previous years.

Betsy and Bruce had their Publisher's Clearing House moment the evening of December 22, 2020. The doorbell rang and it was the Neighborhood Association awarding them the "Yard of the Month" for December. They were quite honored. Winning this award in December is the ultimate recognition.

Betsy with her first great-granddaughter Dylan

Great-granddaughter Dylan with her parents opening her first gift.

Arianna, uncle Bret, Dylann and Coin opening gifts.

Granddaughter Alyssa with boyfriend Jack.

Betsy with twin daughters Chrissie and Holly.

Family hosts, Bruce and Betsy.

The family gathered for Christmas dinner.

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New Year's Eve

Bruce's heritage is French-Canadian, and it is traditional to have Tourtieres (French-Canadian meat pie) during the holiday season. After Christmas, he gathered up the pie shells, meat and potatoes to make a couple.

On New Year's eve, he prepared the filling. The pies are made on New Year's day.

Also on the stove are Betsy's black-eyed peas. She makes them with makes them with fried bacon, diced ham, onion, chicken stock, garlic, black and cayenne pepper and cloves.

One of the finished pies the following day.

There was enough filling for 3 pies. Two were made New Year's day and a third was made a few days later. Below is a photo of Betsy, Claire, Tim and Michael at New Year's Day dinner.

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