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Austin Chamber Music Festival

Written by | Published June 25, 2009
Thoroughly enjoyed a free Austin Chamber Music Festival event (splendid Mendelssohn Piano Trio concert) at downtown Austin's Central Presbyterian Church today. Excellent program of Ernest Bloch's Three Nocturnes and Johannes Brahms' masterwork, Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8. The trio's talented musicians included violinist Peter Sirotin, cellist Fiona Thompson, and pianist Ya-Ting Chang. Festival dates run from June 19-July 11 at assorted venues throughout the city. Some concerts are free, while others have an admission fee. For more information, call 512/454-0026; Among the festival's featured performers are the Brasil Guitar Duo, the Eroica Trio, Michelle Schumann, the Jupiter String Quartet, the Wild Basin Winds, and the Turtle Island String Quartet.

Patagonia / Texas Travel

Written by | Published June 25, 2009
I'm a fan of Patagonia outfitters not only because the company designs and manufactures amazing gear but also because the folks at Patagonia have set a high standard for accountability and a commitment to causes they believe in. When you visit the web site ( click on the Environmentalism button to learn more about the company's projects. And if you're near a Patagonia store (in Texas, that means downtown Austin at 316 Congress Ave) enter the contest to win a birding trip to the Rio Grande Valley, a Big Bend rafting trip outfitted by Far Flung Adventures, or a fat gift certificate.

Lavender Daytrip

Written by | Published June 17, 2009

200606-365I'd wanted to go to the Blanco Lavender Festival for several years, so when my daughter-in-law, an Ohio native, said she wanted to see Texas' lavender fields, a daytrip was born: We drove from Austin to Blanco on Saturday to immerse ourselves in all things lavender. Knowing it was going to be hot-hot-hot, we packed a cooler full of bottled water and made sure to take along sunscreen. We needed both.

Aside from the heat, though, we had a great time. We started at the Lavender Market, on the grounds of the Blanco County Courthouse. Mixed in with the usual festival array of arts-and-crafts booths were vendors selling lavender-themed items from sachets to smudge sticks. Both of us like scented soaps, so we honed right in on bars labeled lavender-patchouli, lavender-lemongrass, lavender-mint, and spicy lavender.

Although many of the booths were shaded, we decided after a while to get out of the heat and check out the Redbud Cafe, across the street. We weren't ready for lunch, but in order to enjoy the A/C a little longer, we opted for two glasses of lavender lemonade and shared a lavender sugar cookie and a lavender-chocolate cupcake. Our verdict: All three had a subtle lavender flavor that we liked, but we thought the sugar cookie was best.

We drifted into Brieger Pottery next door, where we found not only Jon and Jan Brieger's wonderful pottery, but a variety of artworks and gifts, including a nice selection of lavender-themed items that the shop carries year round.

Then, we hit the food tent, which featured gourmet specialties, wine, and beer, all with Texas ties. Most of the food was available for sampling, and sample we did. We tried jellies in flavors of lavender (naturally), white zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, and peach-pecan-amaretto-jalapeno. Hey, it wasn't all about lavender. We also tasted locally produced feta cheese seasoned with roasted garlic; the cheese was preserved in olive oil, which was intriguing.

Besides sampling, we kept an eye out for a special kind of lavender tea, my daughter-in-law likes the combination of white tea leaves and lavender, and lavender-infused spices. We came up short on the tea, but we found culinary lavender, lavender-citrus sugar, and lavender-herb salt. I see some baking ahead....

From the market, we headed to the Wimberley Lavender Farm (one of the six area lavender farms on tour), where owners Neil and Karen Provost had lined up a tasting with recipes from two Terry Thompson-Anderson cookbooks, as well as miniature ponies that entertained both children and adults. Several large trees offered welcome shade. The drought has taken its toll on the farm's lavender, but we found lavender plants for sale and plenty of lavender goodies in the gift store. Best of all, we purchased a container of lavender ice cream to eat on the way home. Yum! Although the Blanco Lavender Festival is over this year, lavender usually blooms May-July, and many of the state's lavender farms welcome visitors through August.

Lavender. Good company. Daytrip. I recommend it.

Revisiting Wimberley

Written by | Published June 4, 2009

Showing a friend around sometimes results in making some discoveries yourself. Such was the case when I took my Lubbock houseguest to Wimberley recently. I had visited this artsy small town before, but it had been a few years. We wandered around the square, poking into galleries and shops and soaking up the relaxed vibe. I was surprised how easy it was to get into a vacation mode, just by getting out of the city (Austin) and going to a nearby town.

Summer Camp Blues

Written by | Published May 29, 2009

Every once in a blue moon, I lament the fact that I never went to summer camp as a kid (Vacation Bible School doesn’t count, but thank you, Jesus.). I did the outdoorsy thing for years with my Bluebird/Camp Fire Girls, but I later grew up to realize that the "big forest“ where we learned to pitch a tent, make fire and turn a coffee can into a stove was really Bay Area Park in Clear Lake area of Houston. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely, wooded park next to Armand Bayou and I’ve canoed from there as an adult, but it’s not the wilderness. Maybe Hollywood images of summer camp (Friday the 13th aside!) makes me feel like I missed out on some real fun. It’s too late for me now (or is it?), but I want to live it out vicariously through our readers. Maybe I’ll get it out of my system. What is summer camp REALLY like? What kind of summer camps have you experienced? What are some of the top choices in Texas where you might consider sending your own children? I'd love to know.

Day at the Museum

Written by | Published May 20, 2009

Last year, I blogged about my family's prehistoric experience at Dinosaur Valley State Park, near Glen Rose. Laurie Jasinski's coverage of the 100th anniversary of the tracks' discovery in June Speaking of Texas inspired our most recent dino fix, a trip to the Texas Natural Science Center, in the Texas Memorial Museum on the UT-Austin campus. Outside the museum, a small building houses some of the Glen Rose sauropod and theropod tracks (awaiting restoration), among the finest examples of dinosaur trackways ever discovered. Inside, we explored the natural science of Texas on four floors, my six-year-old gravitating to the Hall of Geology and Paleontology. Here, impressive displays range from a 90-million-year-old (30 foot) mosasaur, which swam in the sea that once covered this area, to multiple meteorites that have showered the state. My son even brought along fossils he'd found in Brushy Creek for inspection by the staff paleontologist on duty. We started and ended our tour gawking at the Texas Pterosaur suspended from the ceiling of the Great Hall. With its 40-foot wingspan, the largest flying creature ever discovered, once soared over the Big Bend area. How did this giant ever get off the ground! 


Mediterranean in McKinney

Written by | Published May 19, 2009

Inspired by a comment on my last post on dining in McKinney (thanks, Shelly from This Eclectic Life), I paid a visit to Café Màlaga Mediterranean Tapas Bar for dinner on a weekday evening, after arriving from Austin to help my daughter pack after completing her freshman year at Austin College in Sherman.

European Culinary Discoveries in McKinney

Written by | Published May 19, 2009

A few days ago, I made the one-hour trek up I-35 from Austin to check out the old Santa Fe depot and train museum, and also to revisit the Czech Heritage Museum & Genealogy Center, the latter a repository of fascinating and strange stuff (everything from century-old marionettes to stamp collections) donated to the museum by Texans with Czech heritage.

I just received a phone call from a Tammy Huerta-Mallini from San Benito, who turns out to be the late Freddy Fender's daughter. She called to tell me that on June 6 at 10 a.m., the City of San Benito will host a memorial tribute to her dad, along with a dedication of a headstone at his grave at San Benito Memorial Park. Along with a headstone and six monuments commemorating his long career, the gravesite will also include a replica of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tammy says that Latin-country-pop start Rick Trevino will sing Fender's hit "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" after the dedication.

Fender, born Baldemar Huerta in San Benito in 1937, died in Corpus Christi in 2006. Today, most people remember him for his hits "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and "Teardrops," as well as his roles in the groups Los Super Seven and The Texas Tornados.

I can't be there for the dedication of his memorial, but it promises to be a heartfelt and joyous occasion. Call the City of San Benito, 956-361-3804 Ex. 301, for details. 

Retail Therapy

Written by | Published May 12, 2009

I recently visited Houston on some personal business, and aimed to make the visit more pleasant with some retail therapy. 

Bouquet of Thanks!

Written by | Published May 11, 2009

I just want to express thanks to everyone who stopped by the Visitors Gallery at the LBJ Wildflower Center this weekend to meet Rick Tolar and check out his incredible flower close-ups on canvas. It was also a great pleasure meeting current and future fans of TH, and to see the faces behind the readership. May y'all keep on reading and traveling about Texas!

Rick Tolar (seated) chats with visitors at his Flowers of Observation exhibit at LBJ Wildflower Center.  Managing Editor Jill Lawless is standing at left.Rick Tolar (seated) chats with visitors at his Flowers of Observation exhibit at LBJ Wildflower Center. Managing Editor Jill Lawless is standing at left.

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