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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.

Flowers for Mom

Written by | Published May 4, 2009
Heading out to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in southwest Austin this morning, where fine-art  photographer Rick Tolar is busily setting up his Flowers of Observation exhibit, which opens tomorrow in the Center’s Visitors Gallery. Cosponsored by the Wildflower Center and Texas Highways, the exhibit features 20-plus of Tolar’s eye-popping wildflower close-ups on canvas, and coincides with the Center’s celebration of National Wildflower Week (May 4-10). Rick will be in the Gallery from 9 to 4 on Saturday, May 9th, to sign copies of April TH, which features seven of his stunning images.  He’ll also have signed 5x7 prints of his work for sale ($20 each) that day. The exhibit stays up through Mother’s Day (May 10th), so treat mom to a day at the Center—enjoy a relaxing stroll through the glorious gardens and see the vibrant Tolar show. Better than a bouquet!

Does Anyone Want the Mosheim School?

Written by | Published April 29, 2009
Back in August of 2008, my Up Front column included a photograph of the abandoned and derelict Mosheim school, an Alamo-like building located about eight miles west of Valley Mills at the intersection of FM 217 and FM 215. TH reader Elliot Herndon sent us the photograph, and Phil Murphy of the TxDOT Waco Maintenance Office identified it at the request of photo librarian Anne Cook. Now it turns out the building is scheduled for demolition. The April 9, 2009 edition of the Valley Mills Progress (mailed to me anonymously) presents a front page photo of the school building with a story about the proposed demolition, explaining that the owner can't afford to repair or protect the structure.

Will the Baker Hotel Live Again ?

Written by | Published April 29, 2009
Everyone who visits the long-shuttered Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells hopes for a revival of this voluptuous landmark that dates back to the Roaring 20s. All lament the empty swimming pool, the broken windows, and the generally forlorn visage of the once-lavish destination for "taking the waters" and generally living the high life. Now there's a glimmer of hope. At last week's Texas Travel Counselors Conference in San Angelo, I spoke with Ninfa Holly of Mineral Wells who shared the news that an investor group has taken an interest in the hotel and has plans to refurbish up to 120 rooms for stage one of a building renovation. Cross your fingers that this project will work. If you'd like more details, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 940 / 325 - 2557.

What's Your Favorite Wildflower?

Written by | Published April 27, 2009


The April issue marks my 14th year designing (and selecting images for) our signature Wildflower feature. 

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