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Finding Menil

Written by | Published November 23, 2010


Hiding in Plain Sight, the Menil Collection feature in the December issue reveals one of my favorite “hideaways” from the holiday frenzy when I visit family in Houston. Luckily, my brother Louis lives within a short driving distance, making the Menil a frequent museum haunt, plus admission is free.

I look forward to strolling through the Surrealist and Modern Art sections, and also visiting some of my favorites in the collection, such as Jasper Johns’ Gray Alphabet (if you’re not familiar with this work, the title says it all) and the Sumerian statue of Eannatum, Prince of Lagash in the Antiquities room, the piece I affectionately call “Chauncey Gardner” as it bears a resemblance to the Peter Sellers character in the film Being There.

However, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that there are areas of the Menil which I’ve never explored, such as the Cy Twombly or Dan Flavin galleries, vibrantly depicted in December’s feature. On my next visit, I’ll make time to experience it. And I’ll be sure to ride the red swing on the museum grounds, another “installation” I’ve never noticed.

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The Pies of Texas are Upon You

Written by | Published November 19, 2010

I want your opinions, but first ...

In the December issue of Texas Highways, I explored a few places that serve some sweet pies - the kind that warms your heart in a way few foods can.

Clearly unable to eat my way across Texas one slice at a time, there are some places that deserve mention that were not.

For example, I received a few nice letters from readers willing to share. Rhonda Cagle of Glen Rose shared that she and her friend Jean Ford run the Pie Peddlers there. She says her pies are 100 percent homemade and absolutely delicious. I can't wait to try it, myself.

I also received a letter from Ann Arbor, Mich. from a doctor who recalled stopping at Frank's in Schulenberg, year after year, for their pies. His favorite, he says, was the coconut cream pie with "meringue at least six inches high that took me back 50 years." (Frank's: 11 North Kessler Ave. (979) 743-3555.)

Where do YOU go for your favorite slice of pie? Please share so that we can explore these places, too. email this Share on Facebook Like this at Facebook! twitter Add this anywhere

More on the Trailer Trend in Austin

Written by | Published October 29, 2010

I had dinner last week with Dallas friends who had read about Austin’s ever-burgeoning trailer-food trend. “Was this going on elsewhere?’ they wondered. And had I explored many of the trailers’ offerings? From what I understand, I told them, it’s primarily an Austin thing–at least in the sense that no where else has such numbers or diversity. Take your pick around town—we have everything from chocolate-covered bananas and cherry-stuffed donuts to Cuban sandwiches and vegan chili.

And while I’ve enjoyed samplings from a handful of Austin’s trailers, I’ve barely made a dent. Just this past week, though, I met friends on the outside patio of Shangri-La, an unassuming cocktail bar on East Sixth Street, a few blocks east of I-35. After a drink, our group cruised across the street for takeout dinner from a group of trailer-restaurants that have joined together as “The East Side Drive-In.” (We could have dined on picnic tables scattered across the property, but instead we brought our dinner back to Shangri-La.) A few of us savored burgers and cheesesteaks; my husband had a BLT dressed up with basil from a trailer called “Pig Vicious,” and I made a culinary score with a walnut-and-cranberry-studded tuna melt, made all the more unusual with a fried egg. Delicious all around.

Coming up on November 6 from 11 to 8, many of Austin’s trailers (and there are at least 50 around town these days) will participate in the first annual Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival, held on Auditorium Shores. Admission is free. Live music by Junior Brown, Guy Clark, Jr., and others will set the mood, and you can sample portions of various trailer treats for $3 or less. Check out the Web site at, and if you go, tell us which tasty bits you like best.

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Blast into Space Center Houston

Written by | Published October 28, 2010

With the impending launch of Space Shuttle Discovery’s last voyage (and end of the Shuttle program in early 2011), it was about time that I finally explored Space Center Houston, if only for a couple of hours during a short visit to Bay Area Houston last week.

skylab-trainer-cropWhile I didn’t have time for the in-depth NASA Tram Tour or Level 9 Tour, I was able to focus my attention on several areas of the complex: Starship Gallery, which follows the progression of the Space Race from the 1960s through Skylab, complete with some of the actual capsules and equipment; the Astronaut Gallery, a dazzling collection of spacesuits worn by men and women in space; the massive-beyond-words Saturn V spacecraft housed at Rocket Park, and even took in a “Meet the Astronaut” talk given by Michael J. Bloomfield of Shuttle Atlantis and Endeavor missions.

The vivid timelines that accompany the Starship Gallery and the Saturn V rocket brought back memories of seeing Apollo launches on (mostly black & white) televisions in elementary school. Peering into the Mercury capsule in the space-simulated display and imagining myself in that tiny crawl space gave me a claustrophobic chill. I also touched a moon rock and saw how moon artifacts were processed and analyzed. In the Astronaut Gallery, I marveled at the contrast between the enormous “Michelin Man” bubble suit worn during the early days of the Gemini program, and the sleek blue jumpsuit worn on the Shuttle mission by Sally Ride.

Next time you find yourself in the Bay area, don’t discount a trip to NASA for lack of time. You’ll be amazed at how much "space" can be compacted into two hours.

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Eat, Drink, and Be in Fredericksburg

Written by | Published October 21, 2010

As if the gorgeous autumn weather isn’t excuse enough to cruise the Hill Country ... the 20th annual Fredericksburg Food & Wine Festival takes place this Saturday on the town’s Marktplatz (on the 100 block of West Main St.). Some 50 food and arts vendors and more than 20 Texas wineries—including Val Verde Winery, Fall Creek Vineyard, and Messina Hof—will be on hand, along with the sweet sounds of Texas musicians like Jeff Lofton. So listen, sip, and sample to your heart’s content!

Texas Highways staffers will be there, too, sharing copies of the magazine and selling some of our favorite TH products. And our own Lois Rodriguez will present her delectable Tres Leches Cake in a Grape Expectations Cooking School session at 1:15. Warning: Side effects of the spongy-creamy concoction may include prolonged euphoria. Delicioso!

Find ticket information and more fest details at

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Costumes and Remembrances (CMigrator copy 1)

Written by | Published October 20, 2010

Every year around mid-October, when I receive that much-anticipated invitation to my friends’ annual Halloween costume party, I scramble around to various Austin thrift stores (and then dig through my costume bin) to see what sort of ridiculous outfit I can come up with. The stars must be in alignment this year, because I just got word that Cirque du Soleil—that Canadian-based, all-human theatrical circus that highlights grace and strength, with elaborate costumes, music, and sets–is bringing its new insect-themed touring show, Ovo, to Frisco and Houston in 2011. (“Ovo” means egg in Portuguese.) I can’t wait! Not only do I have inspiration for an over-the-top costume (though I’ll admit execution may be tricky), but I’m firming up plans to be amazed in 2011. I’m envisioning acrobats on giant spiderwebs, suspended over the stage. I can’t help it, I’m a Cirque nerd.

And speaking of Halloween, El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the traditional celebration of life & death embraced by many Latin American cultures, follows a few days later, on November 2. You’ll find celebrations in San Antonio and other Texas cities with prominent Hispanic populations, so seek them out if you’re of the mind to embrace the cycle of life and remember loved ones who have left this mortal coil.

In Houston, Lawndale Art Center ( celebrates El Dia de los Muertos beginning this Friday, October 22, with its 23rd annual Dia de los Muertos Gala and Retablo Silent Auction. One of Lawndale’s biggest fundraisers, the gala ($45) offers attendees the opportunity to bid on small artworks (retablos) created by well-known Houston and internationally known artists. The works—both reverent and irreverent— will be on display through November 6 in the Lawndale galleries. Other Lawndale events in conjunction with El Dia de los Muertos include a community ofrenda (offering), during which guests are encouraged to bring a personal item to the community altar to honor departed loved ones (October 18 through November 6); a papel picado workshop on October 28, during which guests can learn the traditional art of Mexican paper-cutting; and a Family Day Fiesta on November 6, featuring performances by Mixteco Ballet Folklorico and the Houston Grand Opera.

How will you celebrate the season?

Costumes and Remembrances

Written by | Published October 20, 2010

Native Plant Week is here!

Written by | Published October 19, 2010

A few years ago, after writing a story on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, I got the gardening bug, big-time. And since the only lawnmower I owned (and still own) was a rusty push-mower, I decided to till up my water-greedy Saint Augustine grass and turn my lawn into a giant native-plant garden. And now that the plants have matured, it’s a jungle of Lindheimer senna, agaves, Texas sage, butterfly bush, and dozens of other plants whose names I promised I’d never forget… but did. I’m not the most organized landscaper, it’s true.

But in honor of the second annual Texas Native Plant Week (October 18-24), a commemoration sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the National Wildlife Federation, and the City of Austin, I’m going to spend some time in the garden this weekend, trying to re-identify the plants that make me smile so often. They require very little care, and their blooms and foliage bring interest year-round. But what I most love about my little jungle is that it provides homes for all manner of bees, butterflies, praying mantises, toads, birds, anoles, and other interesting creatures. Never a dull moment out there.

Poke around the dedicated Web site,, to learn more about which plants and trees will do well in your part of Texas. You’ll find lists of native plant & seed providers, as well as recommended plants for any of the six regions of Texas, along with loads of other information.

Best of Times, Wurst of Times

Written by | Published October 15, 2010

In our November issue, we delve into the joys of traditional (and not-so-traditional) hot dogs, with a sidebar on New Braunfels' upcoming sausage celebration–Wurstfest-which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.The fest, which takes place October 29 through November 7, features live music and dancing fueled by lots of German sausage and beer.

And I just got word that the Wurstfest Association, the dedicated team of enthusiasts who have organized this popular event for the past half-century, will debut a 17 X 75-foot Wurstfest-themed mural on Monday, October 18, at noon. The mural, painted by local artist Brent McCarthy, is at 124 Elizabeth Street in New Braunfels, next door to the Circle Arts Theater. The unveiling party will offer a preview of the big Wurstfest bash, with live music and refreshments.

Hey, those Wurstfest folks know how to throw a party! (Practice your chicken dance now.) See

Book Some Humor at Texas Book Festival

Written by | Published October 15, 2010

Amy Sedaris in the Cooking Tent promoting "I Like You," her first book on entertaining. Amy Sedaris with David Rakoff in the Cooking Tent promoting her book, "I Like You" in 2006.

Little known tip: The humor and satire book events at the Texas Book Festival (this weekend, Oct. 16-17 at the Capitol) are as entertaining and hilarious as what you’d expect at a comedy club minus the hefty cover charge, rude hecklers, and the two-drink minimum. And you don’t even have to like books to enjoy the show.

In recent years attending the fest, I’ve been regaled with such performances from the editors of The Onion (presenting clips and quips from “Our Dumb World: Atlas of the Planet Earth”) and Amy Sedaris promoting her book (“I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence”) in the Cooking Tent.

I look forward to Saturday’s roster with such LOL luminaries as P.J. O’Rourke, The Onion’s Jean Tisdale, and National Lampoon's Rick Meyerowitz. There’s even a panel titled "Funny Business: Good Reads for Guys.”

Scanning the lineup for Sunday, another panel with “funny’ in the title: “Not All That Noir: Wickedly Funny Crime Fiction.”

Preceding that, perhaps with equal parts style and satire, is “True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World,” from the author of the '80s classic, “The Official Preppy Handbook,” Lisa Birnbach, with noted book designer Chip Kidd.

If you go to the festival this weekend, bring your sense of humor, and maybe even a book bag. Even if you’re not a book lover, you may still be overcome with laughter after hearing wild and crazy antics from the National Lampoon session.

P.S. Look for the Texas Highways booth at the festival's exhibitor tents. Some of our staff will be handing out free copies of the November issue, which includes a special subscription offer at our lowest rate. Also, Editor Charles Lohrmann will be moderating various panels, but alas, not National Lampoon’s.

It's Texas Wine Month

Written by | Published October 12, 2010

Hello, there! It has been awhile since my last blog, and it's good to be back!

It's Texas Wine Month, and I know what I'll be doing this evening--cracking open a bottle of vino to celebrate this and other recent toast-worthy events. In my cabinet at the moment are several new-to-me bottles from East Texas' Los Pinos Vineyard, as well as a few tried-and-true wines from Central Texas' Alamosa Cellars, so I'll have to see what sounds best when I get home.

The Texas wine biz has grown tremendously in recent years, and now contributes more than $1.3 billion to the state's economy. We're the 5th-largest producer in the United States, bested only by California, Washington, Oregon, and New York. (That last one is a surprise to me.) Currently, Texas boasts some 200 wineries, and most offer tasting rooms and tours.

I spent some time exploring the Texas Department of Agriculture's website, and I found a lengthy (and inspiring) list of upcoming wine-focused events, including the upcoming La Dolce Vita Food and Wine Festival in Austin (Oct. 14), the Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest (Oct. 23), the Grapevine Hallowine Trail (Oct. 30), and Addison's WineFest 2010 (Nov. 6), and that's just for starters.

Cheers to autumn!

Eastland's Majestic Theater

Written by | Published October 6, 2010
Eastland sits next to Interstate 20, about 1.5 hours west of Fort Worth (and about the same distance east of Abilene). The town square -- anchored by the Eastland County Courthouse -- lies one mile from the Interstate, and just off the square, on Lamar Street, is where you'll find the Majestic Theater. The city owns the theater and it shows current films four nights a week -- Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Even if you don't make time for a movie at the Majestic, take a few minutes to drive to the square and see the theater. Walk around the corner to visit the restored Connellee Hotel (now the civic center) or stop in at the historic Eastland Hotel (next door to the Majestic). Note that you can see the Majestic's multi-story marquee in the September Texas Highways cover photo. email this Share on Facebook Like this at Facebook! twitter Add this anywhere
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