Local peanut butter candy is a real treat. Plus: Sparky's Hot Dogs and a look at tipping during the pandemic.
BONUS WEEKEND ISSUE DECEMBER 4, 2021
Temple-made Bliss Peanut Butter Candy is available at eight Temple locations.
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
Dictionary.com defines “bliss” as utter joy or contentment, and according to a growing number of Central Texas residents, that’s a perfect description of Blane Walker’s peanut butter candy.
Walker, a 1978 graduate of Temple High School, has been making his sweet Bliss treats since February 2020.
“At first I made it at home and sold it directly to consumers at local events and festivals,” he said. “It started getting very popular, so I decided to explore my options.”
Those “options” led Walker to Old Jody’s Restaurant and a food manufacturer’s license.
“Jody’s is my commercial kitchen, and that’s where I make the candy,” he said. “I do it all — cook it, cut it, bag it and deliver it.”
While he does sell retail for large orders, Walker prefers providing his goods wholesale to local businesses and boutiques. So far, Bliss Peanut Butter Candy is available at eight Temple locations — First Street Roasters, Precious Memories Florist & Gift Shop’s downtown store, 3 Texans Winery, Old Jody’s Restaurant, St. Francis Gift Shop on Hickory, Emporium Spice, The Hub and Corky’s Wine Bar.
“I’m always looking for new retailers,” Walker said. “I have eyes on Belton and Salado.”
Bliss candy is available in three flavors.
“It started with Original peanut butter candy,” he said. “I describe it as a softer, kinder, gentler style of peanut brittle. It’s really soft.”
Walker introduced a Red Pepper-flavored candy in November 2020.
“It has a spicy kick,” he said. “Lisa Walker of Emporium Spice suggested that I add a little cayenne pepper to the mix. I did, and it’s been a big seller. Emporium Spice even supplies the pepper.”
A third variety of Bliss came about after a conversation with Kim Langston, one of the three Texans at 3 Texans Winery.
“Kim mentioned she liked coffee-flavored candy,” he said. “It sounded like a good idea, so after a little experimentation, I launched a coffee-infused product.”
A fourth style of Bliss is available on special orders, and another flavor is in the works.
“I do make a chocolate-glazed Bliss,” Walker said. “It’s similar to a chocolate-glazed doughnut. I’m also working on a culinary lavender-infused candy.”
Bliss is available as a promotional product that incorporates a business name and logo on the front and back labels.
“Any business — a Realtor for example — could have their name on the label and use Bliss as a nice giveaway,” Walker explained.
Bliss continues to grow, but Walker already is selling several hundred bags of Bliss every month.
“We started out at Little River Dragway and sold out.”
Sparky’s Hot Dogs features gourmet dogs, brats, sausage wraps and barbecue.
Hot Dogs and more in Academy
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
A new Academy-based food cart is serving up gourmet hot dogs and a whole lot more.
“We have gourmet hot dogs, complete with all the toppings — mustard, mayonnaise, pico, cheese, sauerkraut, chili, just about anything you would want,” said Nanci Kelly, who owns Sparky’s Hot Dogs along with her husband and chef, Scott.
“We also have brats, jalapeño-cheddar sausage wraps, pulled pork and barbecue,” she said. “Of course you might want a pie or cake for dessert.”
Sparky’s opened in November and business has been brisk.
“We started out at Little River Dragway and sold out,” she said. “We’re usually at the Dollar Store in Academy, especially on Thursdays and Fridays,” she said. “On weekends we usually go to a local event. We usually open at 11 a.m. and close about 2 p.m. or when we sell out."
Nanci said the hot dog cart will be coming to Temple in the near future, and they are taking orders for Christmas.
“We’re taking care of the permits — that sort of thing,” she said. “We plan to do business in Temple and Salado as soon as we can. People can find us on Facebook. That’s where we post our locations.”
Nanci and Scott named their business in honor of a close friend and veteran, the late Fred Price of Academy.
“We met Fred in 2019 after we opened a barbecue food truck,” she said. “Scott needed a little electrical and plumbing help, and this guy showed up and said he had experience. He was an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, and we all became good friends.”
“One day, Fred came to ground the trailer,” she said. “Before it was grounded, if you were barefooted, you’d get a little tingle when you stepped into the trailer. Our dog Scrappy reared up on the trailer and got a shock. From that day on, Fred called him Sparky.”
“Fred was a good person and we wanted to pay tribute to him with our food cart.”
For additional information and to see Sparky’s location schedule, visit http://Www.Facebook.com/sparkyseats.
Sparky’s Hot Dog cart is named in honor of the late Fred Price, a US Army veteran who served in Afghanistan.
“We need to help these businesses make a comeback.”
Tipping for deliveries is much higher during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Temple, America tipping more for deliveries and dining services
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
The pandemic has been tough on the service industry, but consumers in Temple and around the nation appear to be digging deeper into their pockets for bigger tips.
A survey by bankrate.com found that 62 percent of American who have had food delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic are tipping more than they did before, and 21 percent say they are tipping “much more.” And that increase in generosity is evident at restaurants, bars, salons and elsewhere in the service industry.
“I used to be a waiter in college and I have always tipped 18 to 20 percent,” said Vince Delisi of Temple. “But that’s gone up during the pandemic. We need to help these businesses make a comeback.”
Another Temple resident also has increased tips, but her thought is to help the employee.
“I tip my delivery people at least 15 percent, and I usually add a cash tip on top of the app tip,” said Isabel Eaton. “I appreciate what they do.”
According to the bankrate.com survey, 30 percent of Americans have not changed their tipping habits during the pandemic, 6 percent say they have been tipping less and 6 percent said they don’t believe in tipping at all. But, of those who have increased their tipping, 38 percent said they tip servers and delivery drivers 20 percent or more and 61 percent said they tip at least 15 percent.
“I always try to tip 20 percent,” said Cathy Weinblatt of Temple. “An extra few dollars won’t kill me but it might help them.”
Some of those who said they tip less are not eating inside restaurants.
“We haven’t returned to indoor dining just yet,” said Nancy Varley Smith of Temple. “Because we do takeouts or curbside, we tip less — not our usual 20 percent.”
While the majority have increased tips to servers inside restaurants and delivery personnel, the same does not hold true for at drive-thru windows.
“I don’t tip at the drive-thru,” said Temple’s David Lancaster. “ I tip dine-in and delivery, and I never tip less than $5.”
Instacart, a national grocery-delivery service that is popular in Temple, says it’s “shoppers” — workers who fulfill and deliver orders for customers — have seen tips nearly double during the COVID outbreak.
Service workers often rely on tips to make ends meet, and since March 2020 many have risked their own health to work and earn an income while serving diners. That increases their own chances of catching the virus, and they are often asked to do unpleasant chores such as policing mask and social-distancing requirements.
The current tipped minimum wage in Texas is $2.13, which means workers rely on tips from diners to pay their rent, bills, and expenses. The typical standard for tipping is 20 percent of the check.
“The pandemic has created a more giving America when it comes to tipping restaurant staff,” said Ron Doerfler of Belton Lake. “People know the service industry has been hit hard and they want to support their favorite eateries, especially staples of their local community.”
Pandemic Tipping at-a-Glance
Experts suggest these tips for services during the coronavirus outbreak, if you can afford them.
Grocery delivery: 10-20 percent
Meal delivery: 15 percent
Restaurant dine-in or takeout: 15-20 percent
Personal services: 20-25 percent (or double your usual tip amount)
AROUND TOWN: FIRST FRIDAY ACTIVITIES
Former Texas Parks & Wildlife photographer and Temple resident Earl Nottingham (right) signs one of his new books for a friend at Precious Memories downtown location during First Friday.
Customers admire the artwork on sale at the Artist-2-Artist Showcase during First Friday. Activities and discounts were prevalent throughout downtown.
A guitarist jams on 1st Street in front of Mexiko Cafe during First Friday.
A big smile from Lupita’s Food Truck during First Friday in downtown Temple.
WHAT’S HAPPENING, CENTRAL TEXAS?
Central Texas largest and most complete calendar of event:
Temple Public Library
TEEN CRAFT CORNER: Every 4th Monday at 5 p.m. Join us for Teen Craft Corner! Take a break from the stresses of school and life, and create something fun during our monthly craft program! Our crafts will include projects such as string art, painting, learning about artists and their techniques, mixed media, and so much more! All supplies provided. (254) 298-5557
GREAT BOOKS ADULT BOOK CLUB: 2nd and 4th Mondays at 6 p.m. Seminal texts of Western civilization, pre-20th century philosophers, scientists and novelists. Readings span from Homer and Plato to Nietzsche and Freud. (254) 298-5557
BABY BOOKWORMS (Ages 0-12 months: Every Tuesday at 11 a.m. A half-hour of book sharing, rhymes, songs, exercises and parachute play. (254) 298-5557
SCHOOL-AGE STORY TIME (K-3rd Grade): Every Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. A half-hour of short films, stories and constructive play. (254) 298-5557
PRESCHOOL STORY TIME (Ages 3-5): Songs, stories, and a variety of literacy activities. (254) 298-5557
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (Ages 12-18): First Thursday of the month at 5 p.m. Looking to explore the world of D&D but not sure where to start? Join us at the Library for our Beginners Dungeons & Dragons Program!
Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum
FACING THE INFERNO: THE WILDFIRE PHOTOGRAPHY OF KARI GREER: Colorful, intimate, and intensely dramatic images that capture the work of wildland firefighters in this new exhibit that runs through Jan. 15. Amazing photography. First responders and immediate family will be admitted free through Dec. 3.
December 4 - Christmas on the Chilsom Trail, Central Avenue and East Street in Belton. 6 p.m.
December 4-5 — Disney’s Aladdin Jr. at Temple Civic Theatre.
December 4,10,11 — “A Christmas Carol” at Tablerock Amphitheater in Salado. 7 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - The Elks Hoop Shoot, funded by the Elks National Foundation, is a free throw contest for children 8-13. Celebrating 50 years of developing gritty kids. Held at the Ralph Wilson Youth Club.1515 S. 21st St., Temple. 11 a.m.
December 4, Saturday - Fleece Fun Over Cocoa Class at Sammons Community Center. 10 a.m. to noon. Bring your grandchildren to Sammons to create a memorable experience by working together to make a fleece scarf! Enjoy some hot chocolate and refreshments to celebrate the completion of your unique creation. Each person who signs up will walk away with their very own handmade scarf. All materials are provided. Pre-registration is required. $7 Per Person, all ages welcome!
December 4, Saturday - Photos with Santa at Horny Toad Harley-Davidson. Bring your own camera or smartphone and get Free photos with Santa! Limited 3-photos per group.11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Proctor Victory Garden's Mobile Mercantile full of artisanal pickles & pepper jellies will be at Barrow Brewing Company’s Christmas Market during The Salado Stroll. Drop by 108 Royal Street in Salado to sample our briney faire! Noon to 7 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Todd Snider, Cultural Activities Center, 7:30 p.m.
December 4, Saturday — Marcus Lindsey at Bo’s Barn, 9 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Preschool Story Time at Temple Public Library. 10:30 to 11 a.m.
December 4, Saturday - Barrow Brewing Christmas Market, Salado. Noon.
December 4, Saturday - Santa at the Depot, Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum, 5-8 p.m. Put on your jammies, grab your favorite stuffed animal and come enjoy a magical evening with Santa at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum. Visitors can marvel at the sights and sounds of the holiday season as they wander through the winter lights on the Santa Fe Plaza and enjoy Christmas music. Enjoy delicious hot chocolate available for purchase from Kona Ice while waiting to see the man in the big red suit! TICKETS ON SALE at https://bit.ly/3CfFHFE. ALL tickets are ADVANCE purchase only. Tickets are required for admission. Limited ticket quantity is available. Tickets are $5.00 per person, children 2 and under are free. Ticket includes visit with Santa and a gift bag for children. General museum admission will be closed on December 4th to prepare for Santa's visit.
December 4, Saturday - Lance Wade Thomas rocks O’Briens. 9 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Temple Symphony Orchestra Holiday Concert featuring soprano Priscilla Santana and tenor Brian Joyce. Temple High School. 7:30 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Chisholm Trail Christmas Ball featuring Rick Trevino. Bell County Expo Center. 6 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Game of Thrones Trivia Night at Fire Base Brewing. Free to play. 7 to 9 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Epically Hogwarts Holiday at Mayborn Science Center in Killeen. 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
December 4-5 - Kris Kringle Mart presented by KC Council 3444, 2218 W. Avenue D, Temple. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
December 5, Sunday - Organ & Piano Christmas Concert at First United Methodist in Temple featuring Dr. Carl Bradley on the organ and Sam Davis on the piano. 4 p.m. in the church sanctuary.
December 5, Sunday - Adoration & Benediction at Saint Luke’s Catholic Church, 2807 Oakdale in Temple. 9 a.m. to noon.
December 5, Sunday - Elks Rest Memorial Service at BPO Elks Temple Lodge No. 138. 2613 Airport Road in Temple. Please plan to attend in honor of our Absent Members! 1 p.m.
December 6, Monday - The 75th Annual Christmas Parade and City Christmas Tree Lighting will begin at 6:15 p.m. This year's theme is “The Magic of a Traditional Christmas." Details will be made available on templeparks.com.
December 6, Monday — Belton Lake Parade of Lights at Dead Fish Grill. Watch boats on the lake decked with Christmas lights. Hot chocolate and chocolate bombs filled with marshmallows. 6 to 9 p.m.
December 7, Tuesday — Baby Bookworms ages 0 to 12 months at Temple Public Library. 11 to 11:30 a.m.
December 7, Tuesday — Tarok Card Party and Lessons at Czech Heritage Museum & Genealogy Center. We play for fun! Come learn to play Taroks, the 1400s European card game Czech brought to Texas in the 1800s. It’s just as popular today and tournaments are held all over Texas. Jimmy and Carolyn Coufal are award-winning tournament champions who teach and advise us purely for the love of the game. No fees or admissions. Just come join us! 7 to 9 p.m.
December 10, Friday - TISD Jazz Band – Merry Christmas and All That Jazz at Meridith-Dunbar Early Childhood Academy Auditorium, 5:30 p.m.
December 10, Friday — Vista’s Jingle Jam 2021 at Vista Community Church. Join us for the most fun, biggest, Christmas party of the year for your whole family. We'll play games, sing Christmas songs, have Christmas cookies and cocoa, and hear the Christmas story in a way kids can understand. And it is totally FREE! We’ll have a Jingle Jam session at 5:30pm and 7pm.
December 10, Friday - Bone at O’Briens. 9 p.m.
December 10, Friday —Branded Heart at Bo’s Barn. 8 p.m.
December 10-12 — Disney’s Aladdin Jr. at Temple Civic Theatre.
December 10-12, The Texas Nutcracker, performed by Classical Ballet Conservatory of Lisa's Dance Connection, performance at the Cultural Activities Center.
December 11, Saturday - Holiday Bazaar at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, 6608 W. Adams Ave. in Temple. Photos with Santa, Santa’s Workshop, food, perfect last-minute gifts. Vendor spots still available. www.holytrinity.com. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - Photos with Santa at Horny Toad Harley-Davidson. Bring your own camera or smartphone and get Free photos with Santa! Limited 3-photos per group.11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - Proctor Victory Garden's Mobile Mercantile full of artisanal pickles & pepper jellies will be at Barrow Brewing Company’s Christmas Market during The Salado Stroll. Drop by 108 Royal Street in Salado to sample our briney faire! Noon to 7 p.m.
December 11, Saturday — Winter Wonderland at Wilson Park Recreation Center. Santa’s coming to visit all the good little boys and girls at the Wilson Park Recreation Center. 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Join us for cookies, hot cocoa, gifts, and pictures during this special family event.The event is FREE; however, registration is required. Register today here: https://bit.ly/3CZEKBV.
December 11, Saturday — Downtown Temple Holiday Market & Food Truck Frenzy. Its Holiday Season! We are excited to partner our market series with another Food Truck Event! Come join us in Downtown Temple and spread some holiday joy by supporting local businesses in our area!We will have plenty of vendors, food trucks to satisfy anyone's cravings, live music and activities for kids! Come find that perfect gift for your loved ones - whether it be a new piece of jewelry, some unique bath products, or a fun knickknack. 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - 5th annual Holiday Extravaganza at the Troy Community Center. Shop with local small businesses. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - Tucka Texas Takeover with LJ Echols, Fat Daddy and Mr. Smoke. VFW Post 1820, Temple. 7 p.m.
December 11, Saturday — 35 South at Bo’s Barn. 9 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - Holiday Laser Light Show at Barrow Brewing Co. in Salado. Part of the 61st annual Salado Christmas Stroll. 7 p.m.
December 12, Sunday - Temple High School Band Winter Concert in the THS Auditorium, 2:00 p.m.
December 13, Monday - Temple High School Orchestra Christmas Concert at THS Auditorium, 7 p.m.
December 14, Tuesday - Temple High School Choir Holiday Gift at THS Auditorium. 7:30 p.m.
December 17, Friday - Matt Cearley & The Rowdy Few, O’Briens. 9 p.m.
December 17, Friday — Hyway Traveler at Bo’s Barn. 8 p.m.
December 17, Friday — “It’s a Wonderful Life” at The Beltonian Theatre. 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
December 18, Saturday — “It’s a Wonderful Life” at The Beltonian Theatre. 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
December 18, Saturday — The Real Gun Show at Bell County Expo Assembly Hall. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
December 19, Sunday — The Real Gun Show at Bell County Expo Assembly Hall, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
December 19, Sunday – When Harry Met Sally… (1989), free movie at Cultural Activities Center. Boy meets girl, boy sees other girls, and girl sees other boys. Maybe boy and girl should have seen each other. “I’ll have what she’s having.” The event will include a pre and post-movie discussion with Dr. Joseph Taberlet. 2 p.m.
December 18, Saturday - Shinyribs, Cultural Activities Center, 7:30 p.m.
December 18, Saturday — People’s Choice at Bo’s Barn. 9 p.m.
December 23, Thursday - Santa & Elvis at Fire Street Pizza. 6-9 p.m.
December 25, Saturday — Christmas Dance at Bo’s Barn featuring Secondhand Rose, 8 p.m.
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