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Written by Jane Wu

On a recent visit to Houston, I had dim sum with my daughter and my siblings at Yum Yum Cha Cafe in Rice Village. Dim sum, sometimes called "Chinese tapas," are bite-size dumplings, buns or tofu filled with meat, seafood or vegetables. Houston's Chinese food aficionados know that most of the city's dim sum restaurants are clustered in the southwest area's Chinatown, so Yum Yum Cha, nestled near the Museum District in the 610 Loop, is a rare find. Even better, Yum Yum Cha also serves dim sum on weekdays and most evenings. Traditionally, this diminutive treat is only served during weekend brunch-time.

Whenever I have a rare burst of Saturday morning energy (and a craving for homemade soup or a special salad or stir-fry), I head over to Sunset Valley Farmers Market, just outside of Austin in Sunset Valley. Summer happens to be an especially favorite time for me to go, despite temps hovering close to 90 degrees by 11-ish, when I usually arrive there. Despite not getting there at the opening hour of 9 a.m., I can still find excellent selection. You see, I love making gazpacho, and there's no place or time of year better to find homegrown, organic tomatoes—the key ingredient—than the farmers' markets. I can also find fresh homegrown cucumber, onion, garlic and jalapenos, the supporting ingredients there. Plus, once you've cooked with garden-fresh garlic, store-bought never quite measures up.

4th of July fireworks displays never cease to give me a rush of excitement and ooh-and-ahh wonder. Despite the crowds and heat, I viewed this year's spectacle from the Ann Richards/Congress Avenue bridge in Austin over Auditorium Shores. I fully expected the usual teeming crush of humanity, and was not disappointed.

This picturesque strip of buildings, which appear in several recent films, including The Tree of Life and the upcoming release Doonby, characterize Smithville’s Main Street. (Photos by Michael Amador)

Could Smithville, the Central Texas crossroads that calls itself “Heart of the Megalopolis,” soon change its slogan to “Movietown Megalopolis?” Already known as the pastoral setting featured in the 1998 romantic drama Hope Floats, Smithville has boasted considerable movie-making activity in recent years, notably with Austin director Terrence Malick’s 2011 Cannes Palme d’Or winner The Tree of Life. Two more productions with big-name talent have been shot since Tree was completed two years ago: Beneath the Darkness, a teen thriller, and Doonby, an offbeat drama. And several more independent films have been “made in Smithville” as well.

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