Written by Texas Highways
I push open the weathered metal-and-glass door of Naegelin’s Bakery and immediately face a dilemma. On one side of the narrow room, bakery cases display an array of goodies—kolaches, cinnamon rolls, colorful cupcakes, candies, brownies, cakes, and pies. On the other, shelves are laden with rolls, bread, coffee cakes, gingerbread men, cookies, and bags of fresh tortillas.
For restaurateur and cookbook author Sylvia Casares, the road to becoming Houston’s beloved “Enchilada Queen” started mid-career. “I was 42 when I left the corporate world,” she says. “Looking back on it, I surprise myself when I think about what I did: Leaving a secure, nice job with great pay and great benefits, and diving in feet-first without any prior restaurant experience.”
My 15-year old was skeptical when I told her we were going to see the Zoo Lights at the Houston Zoo for New Year’s Eve. Wasn’t that for babies? Wasn’t she too old for all that now, and didn’t she have better things to do, like play games on her smartphone, watch video clips online, and text her friends? Nope, I told her. We were going. With only a few precious years of child-rearing left to go, I didn’t intend to waste a single season, and soon my powers of persuasion (or coercion) would lose their effect. Plus, I suspected that the outsized holiday spectacle would dazzle her back into childhood enchantment.
Not exactly lost but not exactly in plain sight, the community of Jonesville sits near the Texas-Louisiana border, just as it has since Texas’ earliest days as a state. Visitors will notice the deteriorating wooden structures along the Union Pacific railroad, relics of the area’s cotton-shipping past. But Jonesville refuses to disappear, thanks largely to its only private business—the T.C. Lindsey & Co. General Store, which has operated continuously since 1847.
Strictly speaking, Georgetown isn’t exactly a small town; with just under 65,000 residents, it can probably be better described as small-ish or maybe medium-sized. But anyone who has spent time here around the holidays, when every tree and building on the square is ablaze with lights, can see that in spirit, Georgetown is the epitome of a small town. Despite its designation by the U.S. Census Bureau as one of America’s fastest-growing cities, it remains the kind of place where folks greet each other by name, regard their neighbors as extended family, and welcome visitors as if they were old friends.
The holiday season includes a multitude of traditional activities, but one that some people may not be familiar with is the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count.
One of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit can be to experience Christmas past. Several of the state historic sites in the Texas State Parks system have holiday events that show visitors how Christmas was celebrated historically. The annual tree lighting ceremony at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park on Dec. 18 marks a 47-year tradition started by the Johnsons. People are invited to listen to the carolers, see a live nativity, meet Santa Claus, enjoy refreshments and watch the tree lighting in the courtyard. As part of this event, visitors wander the trail to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Park, where park staff and volunteers dress in period clothing and welcome visitors to explore the decorated 1900s German family farmstead, see the holiday tree and enjoy traditionally baked goodies. It also presents a rare opportunity to see the farm at night.
Big Bend National Park contains a fascinating collection of fossils. For a long time, the park had no specialized display to provide information to visitors. That will change with the Jan. 14, 2017 grand-opening celebration of the park’s new Fossil Discovery Exhibit.
Texas Tech University’s National Ranching Heritage Center extends its interpretation of bygone Texas ranch life to the holiday season with Candlelight at the Ranch. On the nights of December 9-10, 2016, about 4,000 glowing luminarias will light the center’s historical park, where 15 vintage structures (including the 1909 Barton House, pictured above) will offer visitors a glimpse of holidays past with period decorations and hosts dressed in period clothing. In the 6666 Barn, which was originally built in 1908, sip hot chocolate and apple cider as the band Brazos West plays cowboy Christmas songs. Santa Claus and a Christmas choir will also be on hand.
Each November, my credit card starts trembling as I begin to contemplate the blank canvas that is my holiday shopping list. I, long ago, put away all notions of camping outside of big box stores in search of deep, deep discounts on tube socks, DVDs, and flat-screen TVs. Gift cards are fine as stocking stuffers, but they don’t acknowledge the recipient’s individuality. Since part of the joy of gift-giving is choosing something that speaks specifically to the recipient, I wanted to find a place where I could find unique gifts for the loved ones on my list. That place is Canton’s First Monday, Texas’ largest and oldest flea market, which is held Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday of each month.
Houston-based artist David Adickes estimates he’s created about 5,000 paintings, drawings, and three-dimensional artworks over the course of his 70-year career. But he is best known for the largest of those creations, which cover two disparate themes—monumental concrete statues of heroic figures and monumental concrete statues of whimsical phrases.