Stories Along the Road

     Do you ever see an abandoned car and wonder how long it’s been sitting or how it got there?

     One of the most photographed sights in the Texas ghost town of Glenrio is an abandoned 1968 Pontiac Catalina that rests in front of the remains of a Texaco gas station. It’s not for sale, and the “Private Property” and no trespassing signs do their best to keep people at a distance. (And yes, I respected them!)

     There’s no shortage of old, broken-down cars along old Route 66 – at deserted gas stations, homes, and in empty fields, but this one is different. It has a story.

     In my last blog post, I shared a bit about Joe Brownlee’s businesses and family in Glenrio. If you missed it, you can find it here. In that post I mentioned Roxann, Joe’s daughter who grew up helping her father with his Glenrio gas station. It’s that station the Pontiac sits at now.

     In 1970 when Roxann was just 19 she married 22-year-old Larry Lee Travis, the quiet young man from the small farming community of Darrouzett. The young couple originally lived in Adrian where his father was the preacher for the Methodist church, but soon moved back to her hometown of Glenrio. By 1975 almost all of the small town’s businesses had closed after the new interstate had bypassed them three years earlier, and Larry and Roxann now had an infant son to support.

     The young father approached his former employer, Don Morgan, who closed his own Standard Service Station in Adrian to ask if he could rent the building to run his own station. Morgan, who admired the Larry’s work ethic, agreed.

     For six months, Larry climbed into his 1968 Pontiac Catalina and drove 25 miles to Adrian to run the gas station.

     These lonely stretches of road could be dangerous, and the previous year local gas, shop and service station owners had formed a vigilante force (encouraged by the local police) to patrol the streets and discourage criminal mischief. The lack of burglaries and robberies while the watch was active proved a success, but the participants decided to disband, thinking the hard times may have passed. By the beginning of 1976, the patrols ceased.

     That year on Sunday, March 7ththe 28-year-old father drove his Pontiac to work for the last time. His former boss Morgan called at 7:30 that night to ask if he was prepared to receive and order of fuel, and had a brief conversation with him.

     Just about an hour later, 23-year-old Lewis Steven Powell entered the station and demanded the money from the register. Though no one will ever know exactly what went on the in next few moments, Powell made Larry kneel before shooting him in the back of the head. I’ll spare you he gruesome details, as they aren’t necessary to understand the tragedy of the situation.

     At 8:45 p.m. two tourists pulled into the gas station to use the self-service pump. They were both made uneasy by the constant barking of Larry’s large white dog just outside the office. When one of them went inside to pay, they found Travis.

     The cash drawer and its contents were missing, and Larry’s keys were still in the register.

     As a side note, this was the second time Powell had killed in 36 hours, the earlier incident being in Dallas. He was apprehended after a shoot-out with authorities in Colorado. In a plea bargain to escape the death penalty he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life. He was paroled after just seven years, after which he faced a murder charge in Dallas, and a 40-year sentence for assault in Colorado. It’s horrifying that all of theses convictions resulted in only a few years served. As of 2017 he was back in prison for parole violations, after which I could not locate information about him.

     The Standard station closed after Larry’s death and no longer exists, although its concrete foundations can be seen via Google maps just one mile east of Adrian.

     Larry’s Pontiac Catalina came home to Glenrio where it was parked at the empty station in front of the home in which his young family lived. It sits there to this day, rusting and weather worn, as a silent tribute.

     Roxann still lives in the home behind the station, and the barking dogs you will hear if you leave your car in the vicinity are hers.

     If you come to Glenrio, please respect the Private Property signs and remember that the Pontiac is more than a photo opp, it’s a piece of Glenrio history.

Photo via Google maps

Pearland’s Art Trail Is Ripe with Fun

     As a colorful nod to its namesake fruit, Pearland installed a public art sculpture trail affectionately dubbed Pear-scape.

     Pearland’s original pear groves were devastated by the 1900 hurricane, after which the city changed its focus to other types of agriculture. But thanks to the Pearland Alliance for Arts & Culture, a different variety of pears now decorates the local landscape.

     Four-foot tall, fiberglass cast pears hand painted by local artists have been installed in ten locations throughout the city. There are 20 pears in all, sometimes solitary and sometimes in groups, but you’ll need a car to visit them all as they aren’t within walking distance of each other.

     Whether you’re just visiting Pearland or doing a stay-cation, finding all the unique fruits can be a fun activity for families. Make the search more exciting by having a scavenger hunt for the pairs with clues to where to find them! Clues for either adults or a kid-friendly version can be found here.

     Or you can cut to the chase with addresses and a map in hand by printing this reference.

     Even with a map, some of the artwork is a bit more easily visible than others, but they are all worth the effort.

Let the hunt begin!

 

Remembrance Pear

by Sherri Harris

Hilton Garden Inn, 12101 Shadow Creek Parkway

Visible from street

A beautiful, sentimental tribute, this one should be on your to-see list even if you can’t make the rounds to see them all.

Because it’s located at a hotel, this stop also provides a restroom break opportunity (hello!). The restaurant is only open for breakfast and dinner, but if your hunt is taking place in the morning or evening…you’re in luck!

One World

by Emily Grygier

Reflection Bay Event Center, 12234 Shadow Creek Parkway

This one is not visible from the main road. The best way to find it is to go to the address, turn in by the Sherwin-Williams paint store and drive all the way to the back of the complex.

There is parking available at this one, but not much else to see while you’re there so it’s a quick one to check off your list.

 

Patched to Pear-fection

by Kathy Ericksen

and

Paint a Pear

and

Close Pear

by Joan Moody

Pearland Town Center, 11200 Broadway Street

Drive in and to the back of the center, and the pears are at the back of the shaded pavilion.

Plenty of parking since it’s a shopping district, and once you’ve marked these beauties off your list, you could easily spend the rest of the day here. Lots of shopping and dining options, and places to grab a quick cookie or pretzel as a reward for a successful pear hunt! For a list of restaurants and stores, click here.

I just love “Close Pear” with all of its brilliant circles!


Wildscape

by Robin Tatem

and

The Pollack Pear

by Hannah Levy

and

A Perfect Pair

by Suzette Schutze

This trio of sculptures is at Southdown Park, 2150 Smith Ranch Road

There’s plenty of parking and would make a great break spot for families. A nice playground and shade provide a great spot to enjoy a picnic or cold drink. If you haven’t prepared for ahead of time, you can grab to-go options from nearby Big Horn BBQ, Jack in the Box or Panda Express.

 

 

Whimsical Harmony

by Lee Ann Hillbrich

Pearland Golf Club, 3123 Flower Fields Lane

To see this one, you’ll go through a gated entrance, but the guard will wave you through when you tell him you’re on a pear hunt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pear Blossoms

by Celebration by Kathy Ericksen

and

Celebration

by Paulisa Winsong and Sandy Shiver

Zychlinski Park, 2243 N. Grand Blvd.

Though they’re all special and unique in design, I have to admit that Pear Blossoms is my favorite. Its neighbor Celebration is going to be a big hit with music lovers, too!

 

Pairing Together

by Kelly Kronfeld and Chris Garcia

and

Loving Life

by Josephine Eager

and

Peary, Peary Night

by Lisa Tenney

Independence Park, 3919 Liberty Drive

Van Gogh lovers are going to revel in this one. The Peary, Peary Night version of Starry, Starry Night is such fun. But be sure to take a closer look at its pear neighbors installed at the same spot to enjoy all of the details included by the artists. Can you find the Texas flag?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infinite Diversity

by Roberto Barron

and

Pearsonified

by Kelly Kronfeld and Chris Garcia

and

Rose Pear

by Kermit Eisenhut

and

Swirls of Gold

by Claudia Zopoaragon

City Hall Gazebo, 3519 Liberty Drive

This one rewards scavenger hunters with four pairs in one location! It also has a fountain and antique train depot with a caboose on site that make great exploring and photo opps.

 

Dream Birds

by Pelhong  Endris

King’s Beirgarten & Restaurant, 1329 E. Broadway Street

In front of one of Pearland’s best restaurants, this one has plenty of parking and would make a great lunch stop on your route. To find out more about King’s Beirgarten and their amazing German food, click here.

 

Life in Color

by Umanga Liyanage

BAKFISH Brewery, 1231 Broadway Street

And because grown-up pear hunters deserve a reward, too… we’ll wrap up our pear gathering at a popular local brewery. If you want to quench your thirst, check for updated hours the brewery is open by clicking here.

PHEW! That’s a lot of fruit!

Which design is your favorite?

Galveston’s Coastal Grill – Tasty & Priced Right

     There is no shortage of great places to eat on Galveston Island, but if you’re looking for a fresh catch on the seafood scene add Coastal Grill to your list.

     Open just four months, this restaurant already has it figured out.

     Don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you. The interior is bright and clean with plenty of seating.

     Sitting at the west end of the Strand just a block or two beyond where most tourists wander (1827 Strand), it would be a nice spot for a date night, family dinner or girls’ night out with a varied menu to satisfy everyone in your group.

     We were pleasantly greeted as soon as we entered the restaurant. The gentleman then invited us to sit wherever we wanted (it was just before 6 p.m. on a Saturday night, so the dinner crowd hadn’t arrived yet) and look over our menus.

     Guests then go to the counter to order (take a peek at the dessert case while you’re there!), and the food is brought to the table when ready.

     Looking over the menu, I wasn’t sure which direction to go in since the dozens of choices all sounded so good.

     I always look over menus for items that might intrigue family and friends with different tastes, and I can honestly say that there was something for everyone … seafood, steak, burgers, loaded baked potatoes, tacos, tortilla soup, shrimp or beef kabobs and more. And everything was reasonably priced.

     My husband and I finally decided to stick to our original thought of seafood as a type of ultimate “test” of a Galveston restaurant. We weren’t disappointed!

     The stuffed mushroom appetizer was a bit surprising in presentation, using a large amount of stuffing with button mushrooms beneath. Both the stuffing and mushrooms were perfectly prepared and tasty.

Stuffed Mushrooms

     For the main course I ordered grilled shrimp and my husband had the grill red snapper. The “Mmmmm-ing” fest immediately began ( as in “mmmm that’s so good).

Grilled Red Snapper, Grilled Shrimp & Cole Slaw

     It was immediately obvious how fresh the seafood was, and we expected nothing less being just blocks from the docks. The seasoning was the perfect level to enhance the dishes without masking the natural flavor of the items, as well.

     And let me add here that my husband is a lifelong recreational fisherman, so when his picky seafood palate is impressed it’s a very good sign.

     I recommend the slaw as a side, as their version is just as fresh as the entrees and not the “soupy” type I so often unfortunately encounter.

     Everything was attractively plated, and the friendly staff kept our glasses filled and checked on us often.

     We were discussing which dishes we would try on our next visit before we even left the restaurant.

     And…yes. We “had” to try a dessert, too. We split a piece of key lime pie which was made in-house. Just the right amount of sweet and tangy, in a thin-but-perfect graham cracker crust, it was the wrap-up for our meal.

Key Lime Pie

     Coastal Grill also has a newly constructed back patio and performance stage ready for some summer music and gatherings. I can’t wait to try that out!

     There’s parking in the front as well as a bit in the back. If you’re in a hurry, grab a to-go menu from the display by the front door.

 

     I can imagine visitors wanting to get back to their beach houses to enjoy a sunset, while enjoying delicious food they’ve picked up at the end of a busy day on the Strand.

     I’m looking forward to a return visit. Who wants to meet me there?

COASTAL GRILL

1827 Strand, Galveston

409-765-5386

www.coastalgrillgalveston.com

Calling Dr Pepper

     It’s my biggest weakness…Diet Dr. Pepper. Guess that’s part of what makes me a true Texan. The same goes for my sister.

     One of the sites that sends heart emojis through my brain when I’m on the road is spotting a Sonic Drive-in, where I can order a Route 44 (yep, 44 ounces!) Diet Dr. Pepper with vanilla. Oh…my…goodness. Especially since I don’t drink coffee, these caffeine boosters really come in handy!

     So when my sister and I were in Waco recently, of course we HAD to visit the Dr. Pepper Museum.

     We were pleasantly surprised by how interesting and large it is.

 

     The drink itself originated at Morrison’s Old Corner Drugstore, which is represented with a charming reproduced facade at the museum. Go inside and you can hear an automaton of Charles Alderton talk about how he invented the beverage through a series of experiments with fruit syrup mixtures in 1885.

Dr. Pepper himself

     He dubbed his creation  “Dr. Pepper” (the period was dropped in the 50s). In 1891 the bottling operation  was founded that later became the Dr Pepper Company.

     Once the drink was introduced to a larger audience at the 1904 World’s Fair, it’s popularity spread like wildfire.

     During the 1920s and 30s researchers discovered that sugar provided energy and that the average person experiences energy “letdowns” during the day at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. It was suggested that drinking a Dr. Pepper (no sugar shortage there!) at 10, 2 and 4 would avoid that.  This was incorporated into an advertising campaigns for about 20 years, and helps to date any old advertising (including outdoor murals) that includes “10, 2 and 4.”

     There’s so much more history to see at the museum including a working bottling line and a dizzying peek into the 27 1/2 foot deep, original artesian well that provided water for the product.

     There are also period delivery trucks, promotional toys and even a miniature town diorama that will steal your heart.

     This is one of those rare tourist attractions that would be great to see with multiple generations of your family, as they can all find things that will jog memories and bring a smile.

     And at the end of your visit you can treat yourself to something from the on site ice cream parlor and soda fountain!

 

Operating soda fountain and ice cream parlor

     To find out more about the Dr Pepper Museum including hours and admission, visit Dr Pepper Museum .

Destination: Friendsgiving!

Looking for a reason to travel this fall, and get together with friends spread far and wide?

Plan a Destination Friendsgiving celebration!

 

     The Thanksgiving holiday season is an ideal time to show our friends what an important role they play in our lives. A “Friendsgiving” is a gathering of those people for a feast and time spent enjoying each others company.

Photo by Tamara Underdahl

     If your friends are coming from different parts of the state – or further, it will simplify things to find a bed and breakfast or rental hall as centrally located to everyone as possible. You might even put a fun twist on things by finding a town with a name perfectly paired to a Friendsgiving feast:

Turkey Texas

Blessing, Texas

Holliday, Texas

Salty, Texas

Moore, Texas (for the group that’s sure to want seconds)

Friendship, Texas

My Texan Pumpkin Pie

     If most of the members of your group live in cities, consider a country setting where there are fall colors and outdoor trails to enjoy together.

     Small town girls might consider staying in the city to enjoy the city lights and shopping.

     For accommodations, check Airbnb, VRBO and the local Chamber of Commerce. Finding an inn with room enough for everyone to stay in one place will extend the fun.

     For our meal space, we found a local small event venue in a historic building (and you know that makes me happy!) that wasn’t booked on the weekday we were getting together, and was having some work done on the property, so gave us a terrific deal.

     The location doesn’t matter as much as the friends.

     Next, choose a date that works for everyone. This usually means it won’t actually be the official week of Thanksgiving – which is great. It takes off some of the packed-schedule pressure. The added advantage is getting everyone away from the holiday stresses that at home.

     Social media can make the planning easy, but keep things as simple as possible.  It’s about the time spent together, after all!

     Set up a Facebook event to invite friends, and have everyone add to a master list of dishes they’re bringing. Pie and cookies are the most important, of course (I’m entitled to my opinion), but you’ll want a few sides and at least one main dish too. Since everyone likely will have a traditional Thanksgiving celebration with their families soon, you may even decide to have a more non-traditional potluck meal, with Italian or Mexican food. No rules!

     Well . . . maybe ONE rule. There must be pie. (It may be MY rule, but I think everyone will benefit from taking this one to heart!)

     If you’re traveling to a destination Friendsgiving, consider picking up smaller essentials at a local grocery store to save on packing lists and ice chest space.

     To really put the focus entirely on fun and togetherness, everyone can pitch in on ordering a dinner prepared by a local restaurant and to be picked up the afternoon or evening of the event.

     Once the time and place have been decided, do a little online investigating to search for nearby holiday events that your group might enjoy attending together.

     So what’s stopping you? Get busy contacting your favorite gang, choose a merry destination and celebrate your own Friends-giving.

     I’d love to hear where you go!

     And when you’re sitting back in a Friendsgiving food coma, take the time to check out the instagram accounts of some of my talented friends who gathered for our special occasion: Kathleen (mine, of course!), Stacy, Tamara, Amanda, Hailey, Christine, Vashti, Lauren, Tia, CourtneyLaShanta, Rachel Marie, Sarah and Sammy.

Butler’s Courthyard

 

 

 

 

Cozy Cottage with a Historic View

I recently learned that the former Ranger’s Cottage at Varner-Hogg Plantation in West Columbia is now available to rent for overnight stays. I didn’t hesitate to make a reservation immediately!

The Varner Hogg Plantation is a State Historic Site featuring the original plantation home and several outbuildings. See my previous post for more about it:  https://bit.ly/2Nxki0L

Though the website had basic information about the cottage, the photos online don’t do it justice. Being a Girl Scout leader, I know that the word “cottage” sometimes means extremely rustic and bare bones. While that won’t scare me away, I was pleasantly surprised with this location.

Built in the 1920s, the Ranger’s cottage sits slightly back across the site road from the main house, beneath large pecan trees that probably predate my grandmother.

Rocking chairs and a bistro table and chair set wait on the porch, inviting guests to linger and enjoy the immense trees, heavily draped with Southern moss. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d get much further, since I have in incurable weakness for porches, but I’m glad I did.

 

 

 




The entire cottage has been updated and decorated with comfortable, modern furnishings. No detail has been overlooked in making each room a welcoming space. The living room even has a basket of monogrammed blankets so family or friends can curl up on the sofa to enjoy an evening movie.

 

To the right of the living room is a brightly colored, spacious master bedroom with space enough to do a little dancing before bedtime. The master bath has a dressing room with sink and mirror, and a separate room with shower and toilet. The amenities (towels, shampoo items, gels) are more who I would have expected from a hotel than a historic cottage on a state historic site! 

The kitchen was the next pleasant surprise (and by the time I saw it I was regretting not bringing a group of friends with me!). Stocked with serve ware and basic cookware, it features a full size refrigerator/freezer, microwave, range and coffeemaker. It would be such fun to stay here with family or friends and gather on the barstools at the counter to chat while fixing a meal! The attractive concrete counters, by the way, were made by one of the site employees (and I wonder if he would mind stopping by my house to make some for me!).
Just outside the kitchen door is a small back porch big enough for a couple of chairs. It would be a relaxing spot for a chat and cup of coffee or cocoa.

A stairway from the rear of the cottage leads to the second floor, and an additional full bath and two large bedrooms. Again, I was surprised by the size of the rooms, considering the age and original use of the cottage!

The yellow bedroom with twin beds and floral bedding seemed bright and cheery even on the dreary rainy day that I arrived. 

The second upstairs bedroom was decorated in a lovely shabby chic violet, with full beds.

The cottage was so comfy, it would have been easy to just nest inside, but of course one of the major advantages of staying on site at the plantation is being able to explore the grounds even after visiting hours. Everything on site is within easy walking distance, including the main house, the ruins of the sugar mill and slave quarters, picnic grounds, the old family cemetery and more.

It was a special treat to wander around after an evening rain taking in the beauty and history while being serenaded by the frogs in Varner Creek.

I’m already planning a girls’ trip to share this wonderful find!

For information about making a reservation for your stay at the Varner-Hogg Plantation, visit https://bit.ly/2oHdpkB

Have you ever stayed at a historic site? If so, which one and did you enjoy it?

Stepping Back in Time at Varner-Hogg Plantation

Don’t you just love visiting a place that makes history come to life?

The Varner-Hogg Plantation in West Columbia is one of those sites.

When most of us think of plantations, our thoughts go immediately to Louisiana or Mississippi. But just an hour south of downtown Houston an enchanting reminder of the past sits tucked backed on acreage covered by magnolia trees and a pecan orchard, beside a lazy, winding creek.

The Varner-Hogg Plantation Historic Site shares the story of three owners and their families.

Martin Varner came to the area in 1824 and was granted 4,428 acres by Stephen F. Austin. Along with the two male slaves they brought to the area, his family raised a small amount of livestock and established a rum distillery.

Ruins of sugar mill

Ten years later, Columbus R. Patton moved from Kentucky with a large number of slaves. He became active in politics and served in the Texan army. During the years the plantation was known as the Patton Place, between 40 and 60 slaves made bricks by hand, constructed a plantation house, smokehouse, sugar mill and their own living quarters.

Sugar mill boiling kettles

The two-story sugar mill, which sat across Varner creek within sight of the front porch (now the back) of the main house, made Patton highly successful.

View of main house from site of sugar mill.
The original front entrance now serves as a back porch.


His long-running, open relationship with a slave named Rachel was unpopular in the community. She had many of the rights a white wife would have, and was known to have ruled over the other slaves in a harsh manner.

Patton’s extended family also disapproved, and his nephew and brother were disinherited by Patton because of their actions against her. The extended family had Patton declared insane in 1854, and had him committed to an asylum in South Carolina where he died in 1856. After his death and a prolonged court battle, Rachel was granted her freedom and an annual stipend.

Between 1869 and 1901, the site changed hands several times. Many of the original buildings, including the slave quarters and sugar mill were destroyed during the 1900 hurricane.Governor Hogg purchased the plantation in 1901, convinced that there were oil reserves beneath the land. His 1906 will recommended that his children retain the mineral rights, and the discovery of oil a short time later made the family extremely wealthy.

His daughter Ima was a renowned collector of antiques and decorative arts, and furnished the main house with exquisite pieces before donating the plantation to the state of Texas in 1958.


 

 

A stairway leading from the second floor to the third floor, where the boys of families of former residents would have slept, is off limits to current visitors. Luckily, I was allowed access so that I could share these phots with my readers.

Stairway to third floor.

Though the quarter round windows would have originally allowed light into the space, it’s hard to imagine how the heat of summer would have been tolerable.

The original, covered quarter-round windows as seen on the third floor.

A much smaller set of stairs, tucked beneath what was possibly an original eave, then leads from the third floor to the glassed-in cupola atop the plantation house.

Stairs from third floor to the cupola.
View from cupola
View from cupola.

A feature of the plantation site that kids find especially fun is

“Governor Hogg’s Tub” and Swimming Hole.


Fed by a natural spring creating a small fountain from a pipe, the water is retained in a square, brick lined “tub” before continuing to a small lake. The well-maintained feature is now enjoyed by local wildlife.

One of the things this site does so well is to preserve the beauty of this time period and lifestyles, without romanticizing the sacrifices of others that made them possible. In the outbuidling known as Ima’s cottage, where she stayed on her visits in later years, a fascinating account has been gathered of what the lives of slaves on the plantation were like. Visitors can even listen to recordings of reminiscences of former slaves in their own words.


During your visit make sure you visit the barn, where you can see antique carriages. The yard to the barn is now used for special events.







The visitors center, immediately to the left as you enter the grounds, has a small exhibit room as well as a great selection of local history books and souvenirs.

In my next blog post, I’ll share a special place to stay overnight when you

visit the Varner-Hogg Plantation! 




 

 

Start Your Own Dia de los Muertos Party Tradition

    Texas traditions can originate from almost anywhere in the world, thanks to our diverse history of immigration. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that some of Mexico’s customs have been brought north of the border. The most colorful, and thought by many to be mysterious, celebration is Dia de los Muertos.

This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases made through these links keep this blog running.

Stacy Anderson Photography

    When I first approached a group of friends about having a Dia de los Muertos party, they were a bit hesitant. “Isn’t that kind of morbid?” “Isn’t that a celebration of death?”

    The simple answer is no – it’s something much more upbeat than you may think.

    Luckily, a few of them had seen the Disney Pixar movie “Coco” that familiarized American audiences with the celebration through a powerful story about family, community, tradition and remembrance. Think about Memorial Day, and the concept doesn’t seem so strange.

Dia de los Muertos vignette at the National Museum of Funeral History

    The gist is to celebrate the lives of our ancestors, rather than mourn their passing, by incorporating food, drink and activities they enjoyed in life. Family members create “altars” in their homes with photos of loved ones surrounded by offerings of food, flowers and mementos. Others visit family cemeteries to decorate ancestors’ graves and share stories about their lives. The days of the celebration surround the Catholic “All Souls Day” on November 2. (So it isn’t really a ‘Halloween thing” like many think.)

Stacy Anderson Photography

    Many of us no longer live in the communities of our ancestors, so circles of friends tend to become our new families. That’s why I thought having our own Dia de los Muertos celebration together would be a fun chance to celebrate all of our families and have some fun and great food at the same time! (Plus, I have some talented friends, so we’re always up for a reason to celebrate together!)

    You can easily put together your own party as well.

    Be sure to incorporate photos of loved ones who’ve passed, and share their stories. It keeps their spirit and your family lore alive.

    I not only included photos of my mother, who we lost last year to Alzheimers, but also made tissue paper flowers for decorations – a craft she taught me as a child.

Stacy Anderson Photography

    Attention to the smallest details can make a theme like this really come together. The talented Evangeline Event Designs made adorable sugar skull invitations and colorful menu cards, and I found some adorable small decorative accents, as well as a beautiful embroidered skull dishcloth at Hendley Market. The bright Fiestaware plates and platters are from Yesterday’s Best.

Stacy Anderson Photography

    No Mexican theme meal is complete without tamales. We loved these from Pennie’s Tex Mex Takeout.

Stacy Anderson Photography

    Alicia from The Kitchen Chick made chorizo with apricot sauce, Bob Armstrong queso (from the “Queso!” recipe book she carries in her store), and an amazing  Blackberry Mezcal Smash Cocktail.

    Our friend Stacy, otherwise known as the Hurried Hostess, made amazing fruit tacos and a churro bar. Yum-ola!

Stacy Anderson Photography

    But the item that really  had us all gasping in disbelief were the gorgeous cookies created by Jennifer from Good Gosh GanacheI mean, really…look at these beauties!

     Our friends Hailey and Tamara used their styling talents to help our buffet look amazing. Making this event such a group effort made it even more special.

    Many communities in Texas offer the opportunity to experience Dia de los Muertos, including San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Victoria and Austin. Check your local community calendar to see if there’s one near you, and celebrate!

Legends, Mystery & Romance

   I love a good mystery, and a dash of romance just makes it better, right?

Rose Window

   The iconic Rose Window at Mission San Jose in San Antonio is one of the most famous windows in the world. Along with other features of five Spanish missions in the area, it is listed as one of the details that distinguish it as the first World UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas.

   Sculptor Pedro Huizar carved the quatrefoil shape entangled with the images of pomegranates, said to symbolize fertility, in 1775. Yet the ten foot tall, six-foot wide window sits only about four and a half feet above ground level. And its position in the sacristy wall (where windows were traditionally plain) and the purpose of steps leading up from the interior remain a mystery.

   But what intrigues most visitors who come especially to see this ornately carved window are the legends behind it.

   One version of its creation says that Huizar’s sweetheart Rosa either died or disappeared in a shipwreck on her way from Spain to be reunited with him in Texas.

   Another that he carved the window in the throws of despair after the woman who he came overseas to make a fortune to win, betrayed him.

   Yet another story relates that Huizar carved the masterpiece after falling in love with a wealthy woman whose family shunned him.

   Which version is true? Perhaps one…or none of them. The tales most likely took shape during a period of romanticism after the 1870s in order to attract tourists.

   But does it really matter? Sometimes the legends can be more intriguing than cold, hard facts.

   Whatever its origin, the Rose Window has become one of the most recognized architectural features in the Southwest. Miniature replications of the window can be seen in several buildings in downtown San Antonio, and there’s even a massive version at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Beaumont.

   Which version of the story would you prefer to be true?

Travel Out Loud

   I’ve ALWAYS been excited about traveling. Can you guess which one is me? Yep! Even at age six I had trouble controlling my enthusiasm for exploring.

     This is a photo of me with my mother (whose red hair I inherited, but not her demure nature) and my beautiful big sister (who I’m sure more than once has wondered if we are really from the same gene pool), on a visit to the Franklin Mountains State Park in west Texas. Dad was usually the one behind the camera, as that was one of his hobbies.

     Whether it’s playing tourist in your hometown or discovering new places, travel is full of surprises. The love of these discoveries is why I’m going to be sharing more places around Texas, old and new, to give you a peek at some of the fun to be found out there . . . and hopefully inspire you to take a trip or two to see it for yourself.

     I’ll be visiting small towns and big cities, locations close to home and on the far side of the state, historic hotels and unusual B&Bs, classic soda shops and Victorian cemeteries . . . just to start things off.

     It’s a wide open state with so much to see, so let’s fill up the tank and hit the road!

     What are your favorite Texas destinations, and what do you like to do there?