TH reader â€œSteveâ€ from Liberty Hill just emailed us about Melissa Gaskillâ€™s â€œTrips to Bountifulâ€ in the new April issue (available on newsstands): â€œThis is regarding a special wildflower located on the drive route within Melissaâ€™s very nice Wildflower Drives story,â€ Steve says. â€œShe mentions Park Road 4 off Texas 29 west of Inks lake. Tell readers to be on the lookout for a special variety of Indian blanket that are all red; their ray flowers are not tipped with yellow. There are very few patches of these in western Burnet County. One spectacular patch is located on Texas 29 between the Inks Dam and Park Road 4 to Inks Lake. Look for the big patch located near two small roadside ponds; it is quite dramatic.â€
Â The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centerâ€™s plant database lists the red Indian blanket (Gaillardia amblyodon),Â also known as maroon blanketflower and red gaillardia.
Â Tell us about your favorite wildflower finds!
This yearâ€™s April Wildflower Issue, 22 pages of the best of Texasâ€™ spring color, marks my 15th year designing this spectacular feature. One of my biggest challenges each year is in presenting flower photos that are fresh yet timeless, and composing striking image combinations. This could not be possible without the hundreds of photo submissions we receive from photographers throughout the state. Much, if not most of the credit goes to Photo Editor Griff Smith for reviewing all of the submissions and paring them down to just over a hundred. Of these, only 22 were selected for this yearâ€™s feature. The criteria for selection includes such things as whether a particular flower is mentioned on one of the four wildflower drives, the region where the flower was shot, and of course, visual impact, color, and composition.
Although there are a few â€œgo-toâ€ wildflower-photogs we count on year after year to provide stellar flower coverage, Griff and I are always surprised and amazed by the new discoveries we uncoverâ€”photographers whose work graces the wildflower pages for the first time. This year, Steven Schwartzman, Aja Martin, Randy Heisch, and Erik H. Pronske, M.D. (actually, this is his second year) join forces with stalwart WF shooters Richard Reynolds, Tim Fitzharris, Lance Varnell, and Joe Lowery, who provided the front cover image, as he has for many Aprils. And there are some returning WF veteransâ€”welcome back, Wyman Meinzer and Al Braden!
So you think you can shoot? If youâ€™re interested in submitting your wildflower photos to us, start by taking a look at the Photo Guidelines on our website before sending. And please refrain from sending wildflower images featuring babies or other loved ones. In the pages of TH, flowers are the focus!
More photo opps.: Mark your calendar for May 3-9 when the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Canon join us in presenting an exhibit of Texas-size, larger-than-life wildlflower images from the April issue at the Wildflower Centerâ€™s McDermott Learning Center. Keep checking our website, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter for the latest details on this very special event!
Itâ€™s becoming a familiar scenario: A friend comes in from out of town, and I discover a new Austin restaurant. Usually, itâ€™s just a matter of my wanting to try a place Iâ€™d heard about and good timing. Recently, though, when my friend Candy was here for a convention, she came armed with her own recommendation. Of course, this particular friend knows Austin better than I do (although she lives in Victoria now), so it didnâ€™t surprise me. Whatâ€™s more, sheâ€™s a foodie, so I figured her choice would be a good bet.
I give a solid thumbs-up to a City Weekend in Dallas. Iâ€™d heard a lot about the new developments in downtown and the nearby Arts District, so I decided to investigate this past weekend. My husband, Randy, and I booked a room at the beautiful new Joule Hotel, a few steps away from the original Neiman Marcus, on Main Street. Downtown Dallasâ€”with its gargoyle-festooned buildings that date to the early 1900sâ€”is still primarily a financial district, but thatâ€™s gradually changing. Restaurants, clubs, and hotels are drawing more nighttime visitors downtown, imbuing the streets with fresh energy.
Â You can find a great rate at the Joule (as low as $99) if you â€œfriendâ€ the hotel on Facebook), and on the weekend we visited, the hotel offered a $129 rate online. Well worth it! The standard rooms meet my criteria for comfort: high-thread-count sheets, luxurious bath products, reading lights on both sides of the bed, etc. But the dÃ©cor and attention to detail really put the Joule in another league. Artwork by the likes of Andy Warhol and Julian Stanczak decorate the public areas, books on fashion invite reading in the library, a 30-foot water wheel languorously rotates in the lobby. We enjoyed brunch at the hotelâ€™s romantically lit restaurant, Charlie Palmerâ€™s; I can recommend the salmon and sautÃ©ed greens for an instant jolt of health and vitality.
Â Or so it felt when we set off on foot to explore the nearby Arts District, a mere 15 minute walk away. Major change is taking place here. The Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Nasher Sculpture Garden, and the Meyerson Symphony Center have been joined by the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, a complex that includes the stunning Winspear Opera House and several other venues for art, dance, music, and theater.
Â Our downtown location proved perfect for exploring other destinations in central Dallas, too: We hopped across the Trinity River to explore the former Industrial Boulevard (now renamed Riverfront), where a number of vintage furniture shops have opened since October. (Fuel City, a much-lauded truckstop-taco-joint that serves killer picadillo tacos, is on Riverfront, too.) We ventured south of downtown to have tapas at CafÃ© Madrid, in the hip Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff. (My favorite tapas here: the artichoke hearts with pancetta, plus the salty fried smelt.) And finally, we returned to Oak Cliff en route back to Austin, where we had brunch at Smoke, the new restaurant at the hipster Belmont Hotel. Huddled over plates of barbecue, eggs Benedict, pancakes, and other stick-to-your-ribs items, diners awakened and recovered from late-night debauchery. Or so I imagine. I was asleep by 10:30, lulled into sweet dreams by Spanish wine, crisp sheets, mellow hotel lighting, and the pleasant fatigue of exploration.Â
Winter wonderlands are hardly clichÃ© in Texas.
Thatâ€™s why drivers freak out when the flurries start to fall. We donâ€™t know how to drive (or walk!) in icy or snowy conditions. Northerners like to laugh when us southerners become incapacitated by the weather, but thatâ€™s like a teen laughing at a baby for not walking more gracefully. They get a LOT more practice with it than we do, so for us, itâ€™s still new.
But despite all that taunting, we have something they donâ€™t when it comes to snow â€“â€“ a child-like awe when even the slightest flake falls. Itâ€™s still magical to us. Or at least more magical.
This week, friends across the state had the chance to experience the snow. Texas Department of Transportationâ€™s Travel Services Section has 12 travel information centers at various entry points across the state. Our friends at the Texarkana, Waskom and Denison travel information centers shared some of their snow photos and stories, so I thought Iâ€™d share.
Waskom travel counselors made use of the ice melt they had on hand and made their own shovels (not like snow shovels are easy to find in Texas!).
â€œMost travelers enjoyed the snow and someone made a snowman on our grounds,â€ says Waskom travel counselor Donna Watson.
Even in our glee, we understand that snow comes with some inconveniences, too.
Waskom Travel Information Center Supervisor Melissa Wilson says, â€œSome of my employees didn't have electricity at their homes. They had to fix their â€˜Texas hairâ€™ at the center.â€
Wilson added, â€œWe've had several Winter Texans say they left their homes, up north, to come to Texas, so they could get away from the snow.â€ One Winter Texan said, â€œIt must have followed them from Pennsylvania."
For that, weâ€™re (sort of) grateful.
By the way, if you have not visited a Texas Travel Information Center, please make a point to stop by. They are informational havens â€“â€“ with sophisticated, and locally-inspired architectural designs â€“â€“ that serve the traveling public. The travel information centers also just happen to be staffed by some of Texasâ€™ best ambassadors.
You can find a list of Texas Travel Information Centers here.
The cold front blew through and some of our Texas friends found themselves with snow ... a pleasure or a curse, depending on Waskom travel counselors made use of their ice melt supplies and made their own shovel (not like snow shovels are easy to find in Texas!).
Most travelers enjoyed the snow and someone made a snowman on our grounds," says Donna Watson.
[caption align="alignright" width="200" caption="Photo by Alice Liles"]
There were already a few cars parked beside the road when weÂ arrived at the site. One of them belonged to an accountant from Brenham, who had set up two tripods, one with a camera and the other with a spotting scope. Wearing a heavy coat and wool cap to ward off the cold wind, he had obviously been there a while. He invited us to take a look through the scope, and filled us in on the latest activity in the nest. He said at present the two eaglets were visible in the nest.
I looked through the scope, and sure enough, I could see theÂ backs of two little heads peeking up above the nest. Not much to see at thatÂ point, but still, two mounds of fluff in a nest of twigs and branches. AÂ squirrel running around the edge of the nest and under it made it easy to tellÂ that this was one huge treetop construction. Several of the spectators madeÂ jokes about the squirrel not being very smart, considering the parents couldÂ come back at any time and make a meal of him. But maybe he was smarter than we thought, and eagles intent on feeding their young aren't looking for squirrels.
Alice and I took turns looking through the scope with the otherÂ spectators and a few new arrivals. The accountant welcomed one and all and proved quite knowledgeable about birds and the history of the nest. He saidÂ he'd spent a lot of time watching the eagles over the years; he had a notebook full of photographs that he'd taken to prove it. I figured he was setting us up to buy some of his photos, which were quite good, but no, they weren't for sale. He took them just for his own and others' enjoyment.
Later, as I was looking through the scope, I saw one of theÂ parents swoop in and land on the side of the nest. What a dramatic arrival! ItÂ caused a mild commotion among the group, all of whom wanted a glimpse of the majestic creature. Thanks to the spotting scope, everyone had a chance to see him. (And yes, the accountant thought he was a male.)
As we huddled around the scope, waiting for our next turn, we visitedÂ with our companions. It turned out that there were several schoolteachersÂ in the bunch, and a couple of people figured out that they had gone toÂ Stephen F. Austin State University together a few decades ago. I couldn't help but think about the unusual nature of this gatheringâ€”total strangers connecting on the side of a road as they enjoyed watching a family of birds.
By the way, the accountant/roadside birder told us that the eagles would probably stay around until at least April or May. If you havenâ€™t made it to the viewing yet, itâ€™s worth a trip.
For my sonâ€™s seventh birthday, we forewent Chuck E Â Cheese, and packed up the car for a San Antonio daytrip. Our main destinationâ€”the San Antonio Zoo, which we had only half-explored when he was three. I visited the zoo many times as a child on summer stays with my grandmother, who, in the interest of preserving my good time, gracefully masked her sadness over the pacing cats and other creatures in tight enclosures.
Fast forward to last Saturday, one of those rare, rain-free days of lateâ€”contented grizzlies snoozed in the sunshine, Lucky the elephant trumpeted (loudly), brilliant lorikeets sucked nectar, then flitted from branch to branch, and blubbery hippos balletically swam in the new Africa Live exhibit. Is it the Alaskan Peninsula? The African savanna? The Australian rainforest? Lake Malawi? None of the above, but the zoo has come a long way. Grandma would be glad.
Check out the March issue of TH, which includes a Speaking of Texas piece on adventurer Frank Buck, for whom Gainesvilleâ€™s zoo is named.Â
A few months ago, I joined a group of my girlfriends at the Blanton Museum of Art for one of the museumâ€™s monthly â€œThird Thursdayâ€ programs. We enjoyed the opening of a new exhibit, a stroll through the museumâ€™s permanent collection, and live music in the foyer, but the main draw for us was the opportunity to take a yoga class in one of the galleries, surrounded by beautiful paintings. The refined ambiance lent a whole new energy to our poses, and we were able to view the works from a new perspective. I mean this quite literally, as we were standing on our heads at least once during the class.
Iâ€™m intrigued by the many special activities museums are hosting to attract new audiences: Happy hours with live music, film screenings, book discussions, hands-on art lessons, and now, yoga and other exercise classes.
So my interest was piqued when I got word of a yoga class (Feb. 21 and Mar. 14) in conjunction with the controversial touring exhibition BODIES, currently at the West End Marketplace in Dallas (866/312-3931; www.bodiesdallas.com). In case you havenâ€™t heard of it, BODIES showcases real human bodies, preserved by a process called â€œplastination,â€ so that you can study human anatomy in detailâ€”muscles, organs, blood vesselsâ€”the whole kit and kaboodle. I saw a similar (competing, I think) show (BodyWorlds) at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, a few years ago, and I found it simultaneously fascinating and macabre; it certainly made me mindful of how complicated the human body is. Iâ€™m not a squeamish sort. But doing yoga amidst it all? That could be too real even for me. Â