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Yoga amidst the BODIES

Written by | Published February 5, 2010

A few months ago, I joined a group of my girlfriends at the Blanton Museum of Art for one of the museum’s monthly “Third Thursday” programs. We enjoyed the opening of a new exhibit, a stroll through the museum’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.

I’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 haven’t heard of it, BODIES showcases real human bodies, preserved by a process called “plastination,” so that you can study human anatomy in detail—muscles, organs, blood vessels—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. I’m not a squeamish sort. But doing yoga amidst it all? That could be too real even for me.  

From Valentine, With Love

Written by | Published February 3, 2014

Looking to put an little extra love in that card? Consider sending your sweetheart a valentine postmarked and stamped from Valentine (Texas, that is). More than a dozen post offices across the United States - including Valentine, Texas - offer special postmarks for the lovely occasion, to help impress your loved ones. This special touch is easy as pie to achieve, and the effort could yield priceless benefits.

You ARE Texas

Written by | Published February 3, 2010

Everything's big in Texas, in fact, Texas is so big, it's gone global  ;) Or so it's been pointed out in a Facebook thread that started with "Good morning, Texas!"

New Mexico and Australia chimed in - "What about us?!" To which we replied with the simple truth: "If you love Texas, you ARE Texas."  That good morning goes a long way. That's how Texas rolls.:)

So now, I'm curious where, in the world, are you if you're not living in Texas now?  Did you use to live here? Just wish you could live here? What is it you love so much about it?

Share, please.

Groundhog Day Report (CMigrator copy 1)

Written by | Published February 2, 2010

Having just made my annual end-of-January trip to southeast Texas, I can report that despite any prognostications from Punxsutawney Phil, the signs of spring’s approach are visible in at least parts of the Lone Star State. I didn’t see any wildflowers except for dandelions and henbit, but peach trees are beginning to bud and lettuce is harvest-ready in backyard gardens. Best of all, bluebonnet seedlings are popping up in pastures and along roadsides.

I know, we’ve got at least a month of winter left and probably some nasty weather ahead, but I love the anticipation of February. It doesn’t hurt that we’re now working on our annual wildflower story in the April issue—22 pages that spotlight four wildflower drives in different parts of Texas. My prediction: If you don’t already have wildflower fever, you will by the time that issue arrives, in early March. Anticipate it, and be ready to take a drive.

Groundhog Day Report

Written by | Published February 2, 2010

Having just made my annual end-of-January trip to southeast Texas, I can report that despite any prognostications from Punxsutawney Phil, the signs of spring’s approach are visible in at least parts of the Lone Star State. I didn’t see any wildflowers except for dandelions and henbit, but peach trees are beginning to bud and lettuce is harvest-ready in backyard gardens. Best of all, bluebonnet seedlings are popping up in pastures and along roadsides.

 I know, we’ve got at least a month of winter left and probably some nasty weather ahead, but I love the anticipation of February. It doesn’t hurt that we’re now working on our annual wildflower story in the April issue—16 pages that will spotlight four wildflower drives in different parts of Texas. My prediction: If you don’t already have the fever, you will by the time that issue arrives, in early March.  Anticipate it, and be ready to take a drive.

 

Dinner is Served—Trailerside

Written by | Published February 2, 2010

The trailer-café craze that has consumed Austin tends to be a mostly daytime affair, with many if not most in my neighborhood rolling up their windows by sunset.  I was delighted to discover that Odd Duck Farm to Trailer at 1219 S. Lamar begins serving at 5 p.m., perfect for “cook’s night out” (the “cook” in this case being me).

An intriguing menu, which changes daily, also piqued my interest. Odd Duck offers up appetizers and entrées that adhere to the rediscovered “nose-to-tail” philosophy, which means using ingredients from local farms, and with meats, using every edible part.  (Read more about restaurants using nose-to-tail principles, including nearby Olivia in March 2010 TH Taste).

At prices ranging from $3-7, Odd Duck offers an affordable foodie foray from an inventive chef, Bryce Gilmore. Gilmore, a California Culinary Academy alumnus who has worked at Moonshine and Wink in Austin, Café 909 in Marble Falls, Boulevard in San Francisco, and Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen, got his start in the kitchen of his father Jack Gilmore’s Z’Tejas Grill in Austin.

For my dinnertime adventure, I chose rabbit braised in pale ale and mustard with poached duck egg over creamy turnip grits. A hint of Parmesan in this luscious stew gave the dish a slightly tart and pleasantly salty taste. The flavor and texture reminded me of Chinese jook or congee (rice porridge), especially when combined with the turnip grits.  The rabbit was tender, and had a slightly smoky aroma, which further enhanced the combination.

The entree portions tend to be on the small side, so on my next visit, I’ll be sure to order more!

Pack light, go green

Written by | Published January 28, 2010

We’re starting to put together the April issue, and one story about sustainable travel especially holds my interest. The author makes the point that people in general are growing more aware of lessening their impact on the environment when they travel, and she provides suggestions on restaurants that source their food locally, hotels that make an effort to be energy-efficient, and destinations that focus on conservation. It’s a topic I suspect we’ll revisit from time to time, especially since most places don’t expect us to relinquish any of our creature comforts. In most cases, after all, conservation is about efficiency.

 I was poking around on the Web to learn more about this timely topic, and I stumbled across a concept that hadn’t occurred to me—one aspect of traveling green means packing light.  Obviously, transporting less weight means using less energy. As someone who has made great strides in the art of packing but has yet to master it, I appreciate any and all advice about lessening the packing burden.

  I’ve erred on the side of packing practically half my closet for a two-day trip to Dallas, but I’ve also erred on the side of packing a single T-shirt and a pair of pants for a weeklong (unfortunately unfashionable) trip to Costa Rica. These days I’m shooting for the middle ground. A packing list helps—that way I don’t wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I’ve remembered to stash my sunglasses in the suitcase; I can throw them in my case, check them off the list, and move on.  But still I recently went to Saint Louis without any socks. Go figure.

 I’ll be making trips to Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and beyond in coming months, and I imagine I’ll wrestle with the packing conundrum each trip. Like I said, I could use helpful suggestions. Bring ’em on, please. 

All A-Twitter About Birds

Written by | Published January 27, 2010
Winter in Texas is a very good time to chase birds. And, if expanding your bird life list is your goal or you just like seeing unusual birds, this winter is shaping up to be an interesting season, particularly in south Texas. So far there have been great opportunities to see birds like the Bare-throated Tiger Heron has been lurking in Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, a Northern Jacana has been making itself at home in Choke Canyon State Park, a Northern Wheatear is lingering at a private property near Beeville, and now an Amazon Kingfisher has been discovered in the Laredo area. Besides the great-sounding names, these birds have wandered way out of their normal range into our neck of the woods. Birders are flocking to these locations to get a look--sometimes just a glimpse--at these rare visitors to the lower 48 states. To keep up with rare bird sightings across Texas, check out the Texas Rare Bird Alert link or try subscribing to the Texbirds listserv.

A Day in Fayette County

Written by | Published January 25, 2010

Sunday I decided to bird around La Grange. The Travis Audubon Society is offering a series of monthly field trips called the Outer Limits Bird Survey. It’s a chance to explore some of the less-well-traveled counties around Austin. This weekend’s survey was in Fayette County, so it became my excuse to check out some parks I’d never visited. The group spent most of the day around Lake Fayette at the two LCRA parks on its north shores—Oak Thicket and Park Prairie (www.lcra.org). While these parks are very popular with fishermen, I really enjoyed the hiking trails along the lake. They traverse a mix of habitats—woods, water and prairie, which makes for more diverse (and interesting) birding. I’d like to come back during migration—who knows what may show up here. I was also curious about the cabins at Oak Thicket and plan to check those out some day for a longer weekend trip.

By lunchtime Sunday this group was ready for a break (some had been at it since early Saturday). We stopped at Las Fuentes in La Grange for a Mexican food fix and to compare notes. The species total came to 90. Not too shabby for a weekend’s work!

Before heading home I decided to check out Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site (www.tpwd.state.tx.us). It’s a scenic little park on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River and La Grange. And though I’ve seen pictures of the monument, I didn’t realize that the environment is kind of unusual for this area, it’s a small outcrop of Hill Country. The canyon trail around the ruins of the old brewery and along the little creek felt like I was west of Austin. It was a very relaxing way to end the day.

Winery Passport toasts to success

Written by | Published January 25, 2010

I just received word that the Texas Department of Agriculture’s wine-marketing folks are celebrating the 1st anniversary of its popular “Winery Passport” promotion with additional incentives for wine travelers. What’s a wine passport, you ask? Here’s the deal: Request one (it’s a little booklet) online. Then, each time you visit a Texas winery (more than 180 to choose from), write its number down in your passport. You can redeem your passport for wine-related prizes, ranging from a Texas wine journal (4 winery visits) or a corkscrew (16 visits) to full wine-related weekends, complete with private wine tastings, sommelier dinners, and overnight lodging. (The big packages require more than 200 winery visits.)

Seems as though there might be a good money-making opportunity in chauffeured wine excursions. Would it be fun to pile onto a bus or van and tour a group of Texas’ almost-200 wineries? Personally, I think this is a great idea.

On another note, this weekend I learned another acceptable “descriptor” used by wine aficionados. I had opened a bottle of grenache-syrah to use in a fancy beef stew, and I poured myself a glass to sample while dinner simmered. While the wine tasted fine, I heard myself say to my dinner guests, “Well, this smells a bit like…..old socks.”

My friend Kim told me that in wine circles, this aroma is called “barnyard.” And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Playcations

Written by | Published January 22, 2010

A few years ago, when economy woes hit the headlines and everybody reined in their vacation spending, travel-biz folks started talking up the concept of the “Staycation” (whooping it up close to home) and its related concept, the “Daycation.” But I just now received the strangest email, from a company promoting what it calls a “Haycation”— aimed at city dwellers who want to explore the country—assuming, I guess, that all country adventures include a hayride. 

 So I started wondering what’ll come next. Gaycation—if it hasn’t been thought of yet, it will soon. Smart cities like Houston have already started promoting travel opportunities for gay and lesbian travelers, so I expect we’ll see more of this. What about Praycations—trips to various places of worship and/or meditation? Nowaycations for workaholics who require WiFi in hotels, parks, restaurants, and sites they visit? Lamécations, for sartorial-minded travelers who want to ditch their conservative workaday wear for glitzy spangles à la 1960s Las Vegas?  Outstaycations, for travelers on a budget who crash on friends’ and relatives’ sofas and don’t offer to clean up or buy dinner? Disobeycations, for travelers who are upstanding citizens during the workweek but want to explore their rebellious sides? Olécations, for folks who want to practice Spanish and familiarize themselves with Texas’ Hispanic heritage?

 Paycations (blow the paycheck on something extravagant). Raycations (sun and fun). Spraycations (could be sailing, could be a graffiti workshops). Cafecations (tour of pie and coffee). Ospreycations (for bird specialists, of course.) Résumécations (seeing the sights while looking for a job). Outrécations (outrageous, unpredictable, and a lot of fun).

 What say you? Am I on to something?

 

Architecture at A&M

Written by | Published January 21, 2010

I just received word that Texas A&M University recently dedicated its first two architect-designed buildings—physics buildings named for university benefactors George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell. Both structures were designed by architect Michael Graves and boast numerous "green" features, including heating & AC systems that use natural convection currents and  a rainfall collection cistern.

Hmmmm. Seems as though national and internationally known architects have always been eager to have their works represented in Texas. Just off the top of my head, I'm thinking of Tadao Ando's beautiful Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, the Renzo Piano addition to the already-wonderful Louis Kahn-designed Kimbell Art Museum (also in Fort Worth), the recent expansion of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio by French architect Jean Paul Viguier, and —back to campus architecture—the many iconic, Moorish/Spanish-inspired red-brick buildings at Trinity University in San Antonio, designed by Texas architect O'Neil Ford. Makes me think an architecture-tour might be great fun. Road trip!

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