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Web Extra (Archive) (91)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008 12:16

Christmas-lights craze in El Paso

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TH intern Lauren Oakley interviewed El Paso resident Ed Hazelton about his neighborhood’s Christmas-lights craze.

How long have you been decorating your house?
I have been decorating for nine years now – Eastridge has the best six-block span of Christmas lights in all of El Paso, in my opinion.

Have you ever had any incidents while decorating?
It is usually pretty smooth sailing when it comes to decorating, aside from the occasional bleeding from being stuck by a yucca when putting the lights on them. I borrow a hydraulic lift to decorate my yuccas and it can sometimes be a very ‘sticky’ situation. I usually help the neighbors with the lift when I am done decorating.

Do you decorate your house the same way every year?
Most of the time, we use the same décor and props.  We usually obtain one or two new items and we carry out the Elf theme from year-to-year.  We change the lights around a little... maybe different colors here and there. I like to move things around some to change things up.  It can get complicated when it comes to sequencing the lights.  You have to make sure they are in the right order so they look right.

What would happen if you weren’t to decorate your house?
I would be the odd guy out. Everyone goes completely crazy when it comes to decorating. We all really enjoy it. All of the neighbors talk a big game as if our decorating is competitive, but it’s really not a competitive nature.  We like to put up as many lights as possible for people to enjoy and that’s our main goal.

How long does it usually take you to decorate your house from start to finish?
The weather dictates how long it will take. Usually it takes me two weeks. My wife and son help, along with every Tom, Dick, and Harry who wants to help.  I have two of my employees who have obligated themselves to helping me already for this year.

Monday, 10 November 2008 09:10

Crema del Sol Bananas Foster recipe

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La Bodega de Mitchell

Crema del Sol Bananas Foster

Submitted by Barb Parker of Homestead Vineyard & Winery in Ivanhoe

  • 3 T. light brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • Crema del Sol sherry
  • Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream
Combine sugar and spices, and set aside.
Place bananas on a hot grill, and cook until grill marks appear. Turn, and grill until marks appear on second side. Transfer bananas to 4 serving dishes, placing two banana halves in each dish. Sprinkle sugar and spices mixture evenly over each serving. Spoon on a heaping scoop of ice cream. Drizzle with Crema del Sol. Yield: 4 servings.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008 10:21

Web Extra: Gary Saurage

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In the November issue, Shermakaye Bass explores Beaumont and finds herself face to face with alligators, crocodiles, turtles and snakes at Gator Country.  Editorial intern Caitlin Sullivan spoke with the park’s owner, Gary Saurage, about preparing for Hurricane Ike and his staff’s commitment to protecting Texas wildlife.

How did Gator Country prepare for Hurricane Ike?

Preparation for a hurricane at Gator Country is far different than it is at 99 percent of the businesses in Texas.  Most restaurant owners lock up their doors and evacuate, but exactly the opposite happened for us.

The fence that houses the 50 alligators in front of the restaurant is wooden, and wooden fences are the first to go down in a hurricane.  We had to catch all the gators by hand and move them to a pond that has a hurricane fence.  The crocodiles’ pond had to be drained in case the water rose from nearby Taylor Bayou.  Generators were placed at the snake exhibits to prepare for power outages.  All of the outdoor buildings and the incubator house for the baby gators had to be secured.

What was it like during the storm?

During the hurricane, we were on standby inside the restaurant.  We scanned the park with a large spotlight every few minutes, and as the trees in the park fall over the fences, we ran out in the 85 mph wind to cut them off.  As we entered the park with the high winds and rain stinging our faces, we noticed that the biggest danger was the flying tin that was ripped away from the park’s pavilions.  We had to crawl alongside hurricane fences to keep the flying debris from hitting us.

What happened to Big Al?

Everyone wants to know about Big Al.  During Hurricane Rita, we cut most of the trees in his pond that would be affected by winds, but the problem with Hurricane Ike was that the winds were from the opposite direction, which caused really big oak trees to fall into Big Al's pond.  It was several hours before we saw Big Al, and I was worried that a tree fell on him and he drowned.

Just as daybreak arrived, I entered Big Al's pond and splashed the water and called his name.  A few minutes later, I saw that familiar black cloud rising from the water.  It was my old friend and Texas' most famous alligator.  I gave him a tap on the nose before I moved on to the rest of the park.

What did you and your staff do once the storm was over?

Hurricane Ike was devastating to Southeast Texas in many ways.  The human tragedy alone was horrible, but so was the toll that the storm took on our wildlife.  Two days after the hurricane, a state representative and I were discussing the toll that the storm had taken on the alligators.  He asked if we had the resources to go and rescue some of the alligators that were dying on Highway 73.  We got a pond ready for the alligators and went to the highway.

We worked in contaminated water for three days, and we caught over 40 alligators. We would either lasso the alligators, or in most situations, just jump on them. The alligators had so much oil on them that the tape we used would not stick.  We had to use sand paper to wipe off their mouths before we could secure their jaws.  On two different occasions my staff and I took pretty nasty bites on the arm. Most of the alligators had infections in their eyes, and my other concern was that biologists were discovering botulism and several flesh-eating bacteria in the water.

After three weeks at Gator Country, we released all of the gators we caught back into the wild.

La Bodega de Mitchell

Crema del Sol Bananas Foster

Submitted by Barb Parker of Homestead Vineyard & Winery in Ivanhoe
  • 3 T. light brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • Crema del Sol sherry
  • Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream

Combine sugar and spices, and set aside.
Place bananas on a hot grill, and cook until grill marks appear. Turn, and grill until marks appear on second side. Transfer bananas to 4 serving dishes, placing two banana halves in each dish. Sprinkle sugar and spices mixture evenly over each serving. Spoon on a heaping scoop of ice cream. Drizzle with Crema del Sol. Yield: 4 servings.

Monday, 29 September 2008 13:10

Web Extra: Bad Bob's Bend Store

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Kathleen Kaska stopped by Bad Bob’s Bend Store on her Upper Colorado River road trip, featured in the October issue.  Editorial intern Caitlin Sullivan spoke with storeowner Bob Fullerton about how he got to be so bad.

How did you end up with a name like “Bad Bob?”

I am a guitar player, and I used to play in a band in Austin that had two
“Bobs.”  The other Bob was much better than me, which led to me being the “Bad Bob.”

The store is more than 75 years old and has had various owners.  What made you want to take your turn with Bad Bob’s Bend Store?

I bought the store because I liked the idea of not having to go anywhere and people bringing me money.  I named the store “Bad Bob’s” because I used to be a DJ in Lampasas, and I used “Bad Bob” as my DJ name.  I thought maybe people would remember me from that.  Also, several of the store’s previous owners had to close up, and I wanted to make sure nobody confused me with anybody who owed money to someone!

So far, what have you enjoyed most about running the store?

Meeting all of the interesting people and giving the locals a place to hang out. I also enjoy when other musicians come and jam with me on the patio.

If Bad Bob’s Bend Store really has “Everything You Need… Almost,” what’s the one item you especially enjoy providing?

My favorite things to sell are sports cards.  People are so surprised that we carry them!

Have there been any memorable moments at the store?

We have had several bike rallies come through, and it’s neat to see all the different bikes.  Also, there was one day when about a hundred goats got loose from someone’s place, and they all decided to shop at Bad Bob’s.

When people come to the Bend store, what do you want them to remember about their visit?

That Bad Bob’s is the place to be for a different shopping experience and for the best burgers in the Hill Country.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008 11:27

Web Extra: Interview with Laurel Waters

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Intrigued by writer Maxine Mayes’ August article on The Laurel Tree restaurant in Utopia, editorial intern Lauren Oakley visited with chef Laurel Waters about her departure from fashion to food, along with the restaurant’s emphasis on local ingredients.



You studied fashion at the Paris Fashion Institute. What made you return to France to focus on food?


Honestly, I just wanted to go back to Paris again and get a breath of fresh air because I liked it so much the first time around. I wanted to stay there again and I always loved food, so why not? I was there for three years my second time and I traveled all over France on the weekends between classes and work. I made so many good life-long friends, and I like to go back and visit the chefs I worked with who taught me so much.


Do you have any tips on growing fresh ingredients?


Well, I have what they call a kitchen garden. I grow squash, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, etc.  In order to have a healthy garden, you have to love what you do...cook. You can’t neglect the things in your garden… you have to treat them like they are your closest friends. I grow a lot of my ingredients in pots. I have found that they turn out better growing in a container. I grow 10 types of basil and five types of mint in my garden. I cook a lot with sweet basil, purple ruffle basil, lemon thyme, chocolate mint, orange, and pineapple mint.


Do you have a favorite recipe?


I don’t write anything down when I cook. I cook my dishes by taste and color, what goes well with what, and how I can pair ingredients differently. I like to cook quick, simple, and fresh dishes.


What were some of the challenges you ran into when opening your own restaurant?


Finding a good staff was one of my biggest fears. I have a great staff though… I always say they work with me, not for me. We are like a family and we work so well together. It’s so much fun. Another thing I was worried about was if people were actually going to travel out to a place so far away from everything just to eat. I haven’t advertised Laurel Tree at all and people are still coming like crazy. People can stay in the Hill Country all day and make an evening out of it. A lot of my guests have asked me why I don’t start up a bed and breakfast. I always tell them, “I don’t even cook breakfast for myself, why would I wake up and cook it for you?”


If you could have one last meal, what would it be?


Wow that’s tough … one last meal. There are so many things that I love and it’s hard for me to only pick one. I know that it would involve some very gooey cheese, fresh artichokes, and French mushrooms!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008 11:19

Web Extra: Interview with Henry Chappell

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Editorial intern Caitlin Sullivan spoke briefly with author Henry Chappell about a good glass of wine and his August feature on North Texas winemakers.

What was your favorite part about researching the feature on North Texas wineries?


I most enjoyed seeing the varied grape-growing terrain—from the rough, dry Cross Timbers region to the humid, forested bottoms in northeast Texas—and then tasting each winemaker’s interpretation of his home region in his chosen varietals and blends.


Have you always been a wine fan, or did you ever prefer anything else?


Actually, I was in my early forties when I developed an interest in wine.  Until then, I rarely drank alcoholic beverages of any kind, and wine is still the only one that I drink often.


What made you take an interest in wine?


Several years ago, after the publication of my first novel, my publisher held a literary event at Cap*Rock winery, just south of Lubbock.  The winery staff served different wines during the meal and afterward, during the signing.  For the first time, I noticed the variety of flavors and their interactions with food.  Over the next few years, I read some of the wine and food magazines and tried wines that interested me.


On another trip to Lubbock, I looked through a pamphlet on South Plains wineries.  I sat down in my hotel room that afternoon and typed a query letter to Jill Lawless, Texas Highways’ managing editor.  A few weeks later, she called to assign the article that became “A Taste of the High Plains.”  I’ve been a huge fan of Texas wines ever since.


What are your favorite wines?


I have to list two.  I probably drink more Llano Estacado Shiraz than anything else.  It’s a very versatile red wine with delicious berry flavors.  It’s very smooth and approachable and doesn’t have to be tamed by a big red cut of meat.


I have to confess that my other favorite isn’t a Texas wine.  I love Italian food, and to me, nothing goes better with lasagna than Santa Christina Sangiovese—a reasonably priced, medium bodied Italian red with a pleasing suggestion of black cherry.


What’s the most unconventional meal you’ve had with a glass of wine?


A glass of Llano Estacado Sweet Red with a chili dog.  Highly recommended.


What advice do you have for people who are interested in learning more about wine?


I recommend that new wine enthusiasts visit some local wineries and try several wines.  Nowadays, no matter where you live in Texas, you won’t have to drive far to taste locally produced wine.  Most wineries have knowledgeable employees who can tell you about their offerings and answer questions, and they’re delighted to help beginners.  At smaller wineries you may find yourself being served by the winemaker.  These personal connections make wine tasting fun and can add an element of regional pride if you find local wines that you really like.  Above all, relax and enjoy the journey.  Ultimately, it’s not about subtleties of taste and texture, but about whether or not you’d like to have another glass.

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