Written by Lori Moffatt
A few years ago, as I swam laps at the YMCA in Austin, I came up for air to find a sickly beagle circling the pool, watching me. Somehow he had wriggled between a break in the fence andâ€”I like to thinkâ€”decided Iâ€™d make a fine new owner. First, though, I had to nurse him back to health, and for that, I have Animal Trustees of Austin (ATA) to thank.
Along with other symptoms of neglect, my rescued beagleâ€”whom my husband and I named Oscarâ€”had an advanced case of heartworm disease, a dangerous disease that left untreated, leads to death. Treatment is expensive and grueling, but since I eventually adopted Oscar through a rescue organization called Austin Hound Rescue, I was able to take advantage of the mightily reduced treatment cost offered by ATA.
So Iâ€™m pleased to hear that â€œCelebrating Paws,â€ a new program offered by Lake Austin Spa Resort, not only benefits spa visitors who bring their canine friends but also donates 100% of pet guest fees collected throughout 2011 to ATA.
As part of the program, animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell will speak about the documented health benefits of pet ownershipâ€”including lower blood pressure and reduced stress levelsâ€”during spa stays February 2-6 and November 2-11, 2011.
McConnellâ€™s topics will include â€œThe Power of Pets: What Science Has to Tell Us about Our Love for Animals,â€ â€œAre You Thinking What Iâ€™m Thinking? Whatâ€™s Really Going on in a Dogâ€™s Brain,â€ and â€œThe Other End of the Leash: Understanding How to Communicate with Your Best Friend.â€
Other pet experts participating in the program include dog trainer Cara Shannon, who will lead classes in manners training and etiquette and author Susannah Charleson and her dog Puzzle (both members of the Metro Area K9 Rescue in Dallas), as well as canine photographers, massage therapists, and professional dog-walkers.
Iâ€™ll be honest: Oscar wouldnâ€™t stand for one moment for a pedicure, but a massage is another matter.
For details about canine programs at Lake Austin Spa Resort, call 800/847-5637; www.lakeaustin.com.
And now Iâ€™m curious: whatâ€™s the most indulgent thing youâ€™ve ever done for your dog?
With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, I’m wrapping up loose ends at the office while occasionally daydreaming about tomorrow's feast. I’m particularly excited about making a sweet potato pie, and then there's the ever-popular Brussels sprouts.
I had dinner last week with Dallas friends who had read about Austinâ€™s ever-burgeoning trailer-food trend. â€œWas this going on elsewhere?â€™ they wondered. And had I explored many of the trailersâ€™ offerings? From what I understand, I told them, itâ€™s primarily an Austin thingâ€“at least in the sense that no where else has such numbers or diversity. Take your pick around townâ€”we have everything from chocolate-covered bananas and cherry-stuffed donuts to Cuban sandwiches and vegan chili.
And while Iâ€™ve enjoyed samplings from a handful of Austinâ€™s trailers, Iâ€™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 â€œThe East Side Drive-In.â€ (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 â€œPig Vicious,â€ 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 Austinâ€™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 www.gypsypicnic.com, and if you go, tell us which tasty bits you like best.
Every year around mid-October, when I receive that much-anticipated invitation to my friendsâ€™ 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 Soleilâ€”that Canadian-based, all-human theatrical circus that highlights grace and strength, with elaborate costumes, music, and setsâ€“is bringing its new insect-themed touring show, Ovo, to Frisco and Houston in 2011. (â€œOvoâ€ means egg in Portuguese.) I canâ€™t wait! Not only do I have inspiration for an over-the-top costume (though Iâ€™ll admit execution may be tricky), but Iâ€™m firming up plans to be amazed in 2011. Iâ€™m envisioning acrobats on giant spiderwebs, suspended over the stage. I canâ€™t help it, Iâ€™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. Youâ€™ll find celebrations in San Antonio and other Texas cities with prominent Hispanic populations, so seek them out if youâ€™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 (www.lawndaleartenter.org) 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 Lawndaleâ€™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 worksâ€”both reverent and irreverentâ€” 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?
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, itâ€™s a jungle of Lindheimer senna, agaves, Texas sage, butterfly bush, and dozens of other plants whose names I promised Iâ€™d never forgetâ€¦ but did. Iâ€™m not the most organized landscaper, itâ€™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, Iâ€™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, www.txnativeplantweek.org, to learn more about which plants and trees will do well in your part of Texas. Youâ€™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.
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 celebrationâ€“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 www.wurstfest.com.
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!
Now that Texas Highways' July story on Austin has hit the stands, I'm reminded that one of my favorite â€˜restaurant rowsâ€™ in town is an admittedly unattractive stretch ofÂ Lamar Boulevard north of 183, where you can find dozens of interesting restaurants serving Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Pakistani, and Indian fare.
I give a solid thumbs-up to a City Weekend in Dallas. I'd heard a lot about the new developments in downtown and the nearby Arts District, so I decided to investigate this past weekend. My husband, Randy, and I booked a room at the beautiful new Joule Hotel, a few steps away from the original Neiman Marcus, on Main Street. Downtown Dallas, with its gargoyle-festooned buildings that date to the early 1900s, is still primarily a financial district, but that's gradually changing. Restaurants, clubs, and hotels are drawing more nighttime visitors downtown, imbuing the streets with fresh energy.
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.
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.