Last year, I blogged about my familyâ€™s prehistoric experience at Dinosaur Valley State Park, near Glen Rose. Laurie Jasinskiâ€™s coverage of the 100thÂ anniversary of the tracksâ€™ discovery inÂ June Speaking of TexasÂ inspired our most recent dino fixâ€”a trip to theÂ 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), â€œamong the finest examples of dinosaur trackways ever discovered.â€ 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.Â My son even brought along fossils heâ€™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, â€œthe largest flying creature ever discoveredâ€ once soared over the Big Bend area. How did this giant ever get off the ground!Â Â
Inspired by a comment on my last post on dining in McKinney (thanks, Shelly from This Eclectic Life), I paid a visit to Cafe Malaga 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.
Originated in Spain, tapas are "small plates"â€”mini meals of vegetables, meat, seafood or a combination.Â I counted 28 of these on the menu, and among the items our group had were artichoke tapenade (kalamata olive & artichoke spread w/pita bread), smoked salmon crostini, roasted potatoes with roasted garlic aioli, chicken piri piri (hot pepper marinated grilled chicken breasts) and Spanish tortilla (a classic potato and egg dish).Â Â All were excellent, and we especially loved the smoked salmon for the smooth texture and subtle smoked flavor.Â We also indulged in dessertâ€”chocolate-covered almond cake was my favorite.Â My daughter had what looked like a coffee martini, served chilled with a mint garnish.
The next evening, on our way home to Austin, we returned to McKinney for an early dinner and found La Misha, which also serves Mediterranean-inspired cuisine in an sophisticated-yet-inviting atmosphere.Â We started our meal with the smoothest, most flavorful hummus I've ever tasted, served with light, delicate slices of pita bread.Â I inquired about the flavored iced tea on the menu, and was offered a box of six different tealeaf samplings which to select (and sniff) fromâ€”I chose the pomegranate-infused blend, which was exceptional, and even more so with refills!
For entrÃ©es, we had crab cakes with saffron sauce, oven-baked chicken in apricot sauce and tilapia in creamy dill sauce.Â The crab cake was meaty and flaky, and the chicken was the right balance of slightly dry-to-moist that I prefer.Â There were some luscious cakes available for dessert in the display case in back and we split some carrot cake, moist and just sweet enough not to overpower.Â Once again, McKinney mesmerizes me with its culinary gems!
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 Fenderâ€™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 Fenderâ€™s hit â€œBefore the Next Teardrop Fallsâ€ 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 â€œWasted Days and Wasted Nightsâ€ and â€œTeardrops,â€ as well as his roles in the groups Los Super Seven and The Texas Tornados.
Â I canâ€™t be there for the dedication of his memorial, but it promises to be a Â heartfelt and joyous occasion. Call the City of San Benito, 956-361-3804 Ex. 301, for details.Â
I recently visited Houston on some personal business, and aimed to make the visit more pleasant with some retail therapy.Â
In general, I love Houston; I like the heat and humidity, which allow most plants to flourish in wild growth spurts we donâ€™t see in more arid Austin; I like the museums, which showcase art and culture from around the world. And while I feel quite shallow admitting this, I really like the shopping. On my last trips to Hugetown, I did my civic duty to help the economy by pumping some dough into one of my favorite retail ventures: the Guild Shop, a resale-for-charity venture just north of Westheimer on Dunlavy. This place is chockablock with everything from handbags and housewares to paintings and jewelryâ€”most of it donated by philanthropic Houstonians who needed some extra closet space. Keep in mind that the Guild Shop is convenient to the deep-pocketed residents of River Oaks, and youâ€™ll get an idea of the quality of merchandise. That said, I walked away with a broiling pan (hu-hum, but much needed) in addition to some interesting costume jewelry and a few choice gifts. The Guild Shop is staffed by volunteers, and the shop closes at 3:30. And trust me, when the big hand reaches the â€œ6,â€ theyâ€™ll chase you out faster than you can scoop up those perfect Italian Ferragamo flats.Â Â
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.Â It was also a great pleasure meeting current and future fans of TH, and to see the faces behind the readership.Â May yâ€™all keep on reading and traveling about Texas!
The April issue marks my 14th year designing (and selecting images for) our signature Wildflower feature.Â I occasionally get asked if I have a favorite wildflower. Gaillardia pulchella, more commonly known as Indian blanket or Firewheel, has long been one of my favorites.Â According to the folks at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Gaillardia is found throughout Texas and is one of the easiest wildflowers to grow.Â I like to think of it as one of the unsung heroes in the Big Bluebonnet Show. Sure, itâ€™s fairly common, but to me the accessibility is part of its beauty.Â (For instance, Austinâ€™s Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail has patches of them along the north side)Â Â Gaillardiaâ€™s symmetric, daisy-like appearance and bursts of vibrant, distinctive color also appeal to my design sensibilitiesâ€”instant art direction in the palm of your hand!
Do you have a favorite wildflowerâ€”besides the iconic bluebonnet?Â Â Tell usâ€”and include a snapshot, too!
I stopped in at my local Barnes & Noble Saturday evening to say hello to longtime TH contributors Gary Clark and Kathy Adams Clark. The Houston-based author-photographer duo was there to sign copies of their just-releasedÂ Enjoying Big Bend National Park: A Friendly Guide to Adventures for Everyone (Texas A&M University Press). Gary, a naturalist who has been visiting Big Bend for the last 30 years, wrote the text, and Kathy, who owns the photo agency KAC Productions, shot the photographs. The result: a handy reference that makes planning a trip to this far-flung park a little less overwhelming. Filled with practical information and stunning images, Enjoying Big Bend is sure to make this challenging site more popular than ever. Seeing it made me want to pack up and head for â€œthe Texas outbackâ€ immediately.