Our friends at Lubbockâ€™s American Wind Power Center have sent an update to E. Dan Klepperâ€™s windmills story in the September special issue. On October 17, the center plans to unveil a 5,500-square-foot mural created by artist La Gina Fairbetter, an instructor in the Department of Architectural Art at Texas Tech University. The two-year project illustrates American windmill history, from 1700s Dutch-style windmills to todayâ€™s massive wind turbines. All of the whirring wonders depicted are represented in the centerâ€™s collection. Another good reason to make the AWPC part of your next High Plains adventure!
Long ago, I blogged about watching a troop of paper wasps attack a nasty web of webworms in one of my pecan trees, and now those same trees are providing the setting for yet another insect drama.Â
Ever since Austin's incredibly hot summer has endedâ€“suddenly, it seems, with temperatures in the pleasant range and enough rainfall to coax long-dormant flowers to bloom and grasses to green upâ€”I've noticed that in the mornings, when I'm getting ready to drive to work, my car is covered with an irksome sticky substance that appears to have rained from the sky. I assumed this goo-sprinkling was the work of my pecan trees, grateful for the rain and spitting out pollen or sap or something, aspiring to procreate.Â
But when I spoke with Sharon Truett, the general manager Â The Natural Gardener in Austin, she told me I was wrong. Though she couldn't make a diagnosis without looking at a few leaves under a microscope, she told me that the sticky goo was likely the "honeydew" (excrement) of aphids, which were attacking my tree. Stressed from the drought, pecan trees all across Austin were easy Â pickings for hungry aphids. There's not a lot I can do, she said, except to pray for ladybugs and other beneficial insects, which devour aphids, critters Sharon described as "the cows of the insect world--succulent, slow-moving, and full of tenderness."Â
Come on, ladybugs! Supper is ON!
Working for Texas Highways has many rewards, but seeing an idea morph into print that is read around the world has to be one of the greatest. It was especially gratifying to see the Speaking of Texas article I wrote about Texana, the first town in Jackson County, in the July issue since my mother lives near the former town site. She had sparked my interest by telling me about attending a wedding at the 150-year-old Historic Texana Church, one of the few remnants of Texanaâ€™s existence.
Of course, the magazine business involves collaboration on many fronts, so â€œmy ideaâ€ was enhanced by the efforts of othersâ€”other editors, the art designer, and, of course, the photographer. In fact, itâ€™s thanks to photographer (and TH photo editor) Griff Smith that the print version of this idea morphed into a second reincarnation: a stained-glass depiction of the quaint antebellum church.
My friend Kathleen Martin, who also lives near the old town site, sent me this photo of a stained-glass piece made for her by her 86-year-old father, Ralph Shanafelt, a self-taught stained-glass artist in Seguin. (In addition to creating original works, he stays busy restoring broken stained-glass windows for area antiques stores.) He said he was inspired by the TH article, which I think is pretty cool. I also love the stained glass, which Kathleen now has hanging in her dining room.
We didnâ€™t have room in the story to describe the church in detail, but itâ€™s beautifully restored, and in its woodsy setting (only a few miles north of its original location), looks like the proverbial Church in the Wildwood. To see the July article, go to http://www.texashighways.com/departments/speaking-of-texas. To tour the church, call 361/782-5456: www.brackenridgepark.com.
I just returned from an action-packed, three-day trip to South Padre Island, and wow--the beginning of fall is a fantastic time to be at the beach. Not only is it "off" season right now (meaning that hotel rates are low--my room at the Palms Hotel--a place right on the beach, with a restaurant & bar, plus a fridge in the room--ran around 75 bucks a night), but you won't have to wrestle for space on the beach, in restaurants, on snorkeling boats, or dolphin-watching tours. Vacationing families leave in August, and the Winter Texans typically start arriving in November, so during September and October, island merchants are extra-glad to see us.Â
Same is true for other Texas coastal destinations, like Port Aransas--one of my favorite spots in Texas. In fact, a group of friends and I have rented a large house in Port A for a Thanksgiving celebration this year. We found a 5-bedroom place with multiple porches, a full cook's kitchen--just a few blocks from the ocean--that will cost us each about 70 bucks a night. Even accepts pets! I found the listing on a link from the Port Aransas Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site--just google Port Aransas, and you're golden.Â
We're talking about abandoning the turkey tradition this year and going for paella instead.
I took advantage of Austinâ€™s Free Museum Day to catch up on a few exhibits Iâ€™ve been meaning to see. One of them, Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America Through Galveston Island at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, documents early 20th Century immigration through Galveston Island. Most of us are familiar with Ellis Island as a port of entry. However, lesser-known ports such as Galveston served as gateways for millions of immigrants; in Galveston, many were of southern and eastern European descent, including Italians, Greeks and Polish Jews. Packed with artifacts and documents of the time, interactive dioramas, and videos, Forgotten Gateway illustrates the sacrifices and severe hardships these immigrants endured, including interrogation, detention, and quarantine in their quest for a better life. The exhibit runs through October 11. It has been designated a We the People project by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and will travel to other institutions, including Ellis Island Museum and Moody Gardens in Galveston (Opens Nov. 21). One curious aside: One of the displays prefacing the Galveston saga of Forgotten Gateways features a Christmas ornament and figurines of the holiday scene created by the Timmermann sisters were on view (see Happy 100th, Wanda Timmermann blog), with a brief description of the German familyâ€™s ill-fated journey through Texas in 1849.
Visits with my 13-year-old niece, Kaitie, tend to be enlightening, and not just about whatâ€™s going on with teenagers these days. When she comes to Austin, I always try to plan some new experiences for her and often wind up learning something new myself.
On one of her recent visits, I took Kaitie, whoâ€™s a budding artist, to a small gallery on West Sixth called Haven, which offers a wonderful selection of artworks, from sculpture to jewelry. (The Havenâ€™s self-description on its Web site is â€œan eclectic mix of two- and three-dimensional fine art and fine craft.â€) We were both entranced with the array of large, colorful, freeform glass pieces and some amazing â€œwoven glass,â€ gently curving sculptures that look like pieces of fabric, with irregular strips of glass forming the warp and weft.Â I fell in love with a periwinkle-blue glass bust that featured a silhouette of a face inside. Kaitieâ€™s favorites were a group of bird sculptures, made of antique odds and ends, brass, and other metals (not surprising, since she was sketching birds a lot at the time). Some of the items here are costly, but many others are surprisingly affordable considering the excellent qualityâ€”as low as $25. And weâ€™re talking handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Something to keep in mind for holiday shopping.
Â The owner of the shop, Mindi Partee, answered our questions, gave us a minitour, and told us about some of the artists, many of whom are from Texas, which I always find appealing. I donâ€™t know if Kaitie was inspired, but I certainly was, if only to add a few special things to my wish list. Haven Gallery & Gifts is at 1122 W. Sixth St.; 512/477-2700; www,havengalleryaustin.com.
In the photo: From Texas Highways, Dec. 1981: As she often does for Christmas visitors, Wanda Timmermann stands on the stairs to read reminiscences of Christmas 1849 while her sisters listen. Standing, from left, are Hulda, Willie Mae, and Melitta behind Tekla and Stella. Meta sits in front.
Since I moved from Houston â€“ and an office smack dab in the middle of the cityâ€™s incredible Theater District â€“ I have to admit that Iâ€™ve been woefully neglectful of taking in as much live theater. I mean to, and I do miss going as often as I did. Lately, Iâ€™ve been getting back into the swing of things. Iâ€™ve seen a couple of touring musicals (â€œWickedâ€ and â€œMama Miaâ€), enjoyed readings by the legendary Maya Angelou and the hilarious writer David Sedaris, as well as some local performances.
I forget, until Iâ€™m there, how important and good it feels to witness the art of live performance â€¦ of people entertaining people â€¦ sharing and communicating in music, dance, words, comedy and movement. This kind of creative expression, I believe, is inherent to our humanity. Thereâ€™s nothing like it. The best thing is, no matter where you are â€“â€“ big city or small town â€“â€“ there are plenty of opportunities to take in a show.
It would do us good to get back to being better audiences â€“â€“ in major performance halls, restored historic theaters, community halls and in wide open spaces under the great Texas sky.
So when you travel, or stay home, consider live performances as one of the options when asking, â€œSo, what should we do today?â€
What performance/venue would you suggest for your neck of the woods?