Thursday, April 28, 2016

An Intimate Evening with Sinatra's Iconic Music

Frank Sinatra
The Houston Arts Alliance hosted its third annual fund-raising gala tonight at the Hotel ZaZa, and, along with more than 300 other loyal supporters, I was there to enjoy it all.

The big event, "An Intimate Evening with Sinatra's Iconic Music," was a fitting tribute to Sinatra's classic sound and signature style and a celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birthday on December 12, 1915. 

The party was held in the hotel's beautiful ballroom. To set the appropriate stage, this ever-special venue was decorated in a style reminiscent of a 1950s supper club. Festivities included a four-course dinner and the music of "old blue eyes," played by a seven-piece Big Band and sung by the highly talented Cary Hoffman. 

Hoffman shared stories about his lifelong obsession with Sinatra and weaved in dozens of his most popular songs. Hoffman's voice -- which sounds just like Sinatra's -- was the spicy "extra" in his uniquely wonderful performance.

The audience loved the show and hearing, once again, "the voice of all generations." Many knew well the words to the songs performed, including The Way You Look Tonight, My Kinda Town, The Lady is a Tramp, and New York, New York). Few could help but sing along. And, a few, including Honorary Chair Trini Mendenhall, couldn't help but jump out of their seats to dance in the aisles. FUN!

The gala was co-chaired by Philamena Baird and Regina Garcia. The honoree was Marc Melcher, a friend, long-time patron of the arts and HAA's very own chairman of the board. 

Mayor Sylvester Turner was on hand to extend the "official thank you" to Melcher for his many contributions -- of time and treasure -- to Houston's arts community. 

Proceeds from the HAA gala will benefit HAA's programs and services for both arts organizations and individual artists.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Purse Snatching

This morning, my brand new red purse was stolen - right off the front seat of my locked car.

Yes, my locked car!

At about 11 a.m., while on my way to cover a luncheon, I pulled into an empty parking space right in front of a small local business.

I got out of my car, locked the car door with my remote control and walked into the building. Because I was expecting to be away from my car for only a few minutes, I left my purse in the car. As I said, the locked car!

Unfortunately, that brand new red purse was easily visible to passersby.

And, so it happened. A couple of young men (caught on video surveillance by the owner of the local business) walked by my car and saw the purse. In the wink of an eye, one used some new-fangled gadget to remotely open the car door. And, in another wink of the eye, they were gone. The men and my brand new red purse!

When I returned to my car, my own remote control didn't unlock the car door immediately. It took a few attempts before I was able to make entry. Apparently, the "remote" the thief used messed up (if only momentarily) my own.

Immediately, I realized my brand new red purse was gone!

I ran back into the building, reported the incident to the shop owner and, then, headed to my office to make the necessary calls - to the police department to file a report and to multiple credit card companies to report the snatching.

Before I got to my desk, alerts were going off on my iPhone. Already, one of the stolen credit cards had been used - four times in the same convenience store. Damn!

I spent the next three hours on the phone contacting all who needed to hear from me. 

Then, I remembered my checkbook. It was in my purse, as well. Hurriedly, I got online and checked to see if money had been withdrawn from my account yet. Luckily, it had not. So, I quickly transferred all the money into my savings account - where it would be safe!

Next, I drove over to my bank and had that checking account officially closed out.

Afterwards, when I got home, I thought about identify theft and what an easy target I am to that now. So, I called to the company I use to protect my identity to let it know what happened today. The woman I spoke to was helpful. 

She told me to keep an eye on my credit; watch for any attempts to open new bank accounts or apply for new credit cards. She reassured me her company would be doing the same on my behalf. 

Today was a waste. I missed the luncheon I had committed to attend and was unable to get any other work accomplished. 

A purse snatching is no small thing; it's a terrible distraction. But, more importantly, it can lead to more problems and bigger headaches!

Sadly, only time will tell. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Defining Moments

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher, Miss Dyson, gave our class a weekend assignment that I’ll never forget. She said, “Write a two-page essay about what you want to do when you grow up — and why.”

I spent a good deal of the weekend trying to figure out exactly what she meant by “do.” You see, at that point in time, I thought little girls just grew up “to be.” To be wives, to be mothers!

Sure, some of my girlfriends back then talked about becoming teachers. Mostly, those whose mothers were teachers.

Well, my mother wasn’t a teacher, and my dad always talked about how undervalued teachers were. Even at the age of 10, I knew I didn’t want to grow up to be undervalued. So, for me, saying I wanted to be a teacher wasn’t a believable option.

Girls who didn’t faint at the sight of blood could write about becoming nurses, but that wouldn’t work for me. Back then, I would faint just thinking about blood. At Kerr Elementary, the weakness of my knees was legendary.

So, instead of making progress on the assignment, I spent most of that rainy weekend distracted. I talked on the telephone with friends, played the piano, slept and read for pleasure. As bedtime approached, and I had still not put words to paper, panic set in. Trying to help, my mother suggested I turn to my books for inspiration.

In the end, a particular one — a comic book — saved the day.

The hero, his adoring love interest and the adventurous lives they lived enthralled me. I couldn’t help but think: “I’ve got it! I’ll grow up and “do” what Lois does. Snoop around in big cities, write about interesting people and hang out with good-looking men! What could be better?” The comic book was, of course, The Adventures of Superman.

Writing that essay turned out to be a defining moment in my life.

Surprisingly, the words came easy. They were weightless, of course, falling like feathers on the page, and innocently naive. But, they were also passionately enthusiastic, as if pinned by a secret admirer suffering from delusions.

The next day I turned in the essay; I got an A for my efforts. Next to the grade, Miss Dyson wrote these words, “Well-written. You may have found your calling!”

Since then, there have been many more defining moments in my life, and glory is to God, most often I’ve recognized them as such. Like stepping-stones on a winding path, they’ve led me in only one direction: towards the telling of other people’s stories!

Over the years, the vehicle of exchange and the audience have changed often. I no longer hang out with good-looking men all day, but being around so many inspiring women isn’t all that bad!

The initial bite of that news bug still dominates my life; its venom still flows vigorously through my veins.

I consider myself lucky! So many people don’t enjoy what they do, and that’s sad. It can make the difficulties and disappointments of the day-to-day painful and without purpose.

I often wonder, “Do those people not also experience defining moments in their lives? Do they not interrupt them as divine messages from above? Do they not see them as hints of what their contribution to this community could be?”

Defining moments happen for a reason. Perhaps their role is to help us find ourselves? And, perhaps the parts of us that are uniquely special, the parts we were meant to share with others?

It comforts me to believe all that! 

This article first appeared in Houston Woman Magazine in July 2006.   

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Shakespeare 400

Today, April 23, marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, and people the world over are celebrating his life and work. Nowhere are the celebrations grander, of course, than in the United Kingdom.
April 23, oddly enough, is also believed to the birthday of the Bard.

Like so many others, I have always been fascinated by Shakespeare, the most famous writer in the English language. He is known, of course, for his sonnets and plays (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Midsummer Night's Dream, etc.). 

I have always marveled at his skills at storytelling and in his use of our language. At the same time, I was curious about Shakespeare - the individual. I wondered what he was like as a child, a young man, as a friend, a husband. What made him tick?
Birthplace of Shakespeare
Thus, more than 25 years ago, I traveled to England and on to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he was born.

Stratford-upon-Avon is a medieval market town in England's West Midlands. Historians tell us Shakespeare was born there in 1564 in a restored 16th-century half-timbered house situated on Henley Street. It was in this house that Shakespeare grew up and wrote some of his earliest work. 

Stratford-upon-Avon is now a shrine to Shakespeare, and going there a passion-filled pilgrimage for his most enthusiastic fans. 

When I was there, I learned a lot about Shakespeare, as well as about the visits by dozens of other celebrated writers, including Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, John Keats and Walter Scott. One can only wonder about their own thoughts and feelings as they walked around in in the footprints of the master.

Visiting Stratford-upon-Avon was fascinating. All lovers of Shakespeare should go, at least once. The memories made there will last a lifetime!

Full Disclosure: I love and admire the works of William Shakespeare so much that I once named a new puppy after him. My Shakespeare, like the man he was named for, was amazingly brilliant too.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Love Letter to Texas Women

I have just finished reading Sarah Bird's delightful new book, A Love Letter to Texas Women." And, I loved it!

Admittedly, I've been a fan of Bird and her work for some time. She is the author of 10 books now and has been published in Texas Monthly, The New York Times, The Daily Beast and O, The Oprah Magazine. She has also been a featured storyteller on NPR's Moth Radio Hour. 

Bird, a native of New Mexico, moved to Austin in the 1970s - as a college student. In A Love Letter to Texas Women, she tells readers what she believes distinguishes Texas women and explains, in a most  humorous way, how she came to admire them (us) so much.

Bird says Texas women are a combination of many good things -- graciousness and grit, wit and wisdom and moral righteousness that never wavers. She also points out: "Texas women have an unnatural fondness for Dr. Pepper and queso."

I cannot argue with any of that.

A Love Letter to Texas Women includes humorous anecdotes about Bird's first meetings with a number of Texas' most remarkable women, including First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson and Laura bush, Governor Ann Richards, U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan and the legendary political columnist Molly Ivins.

In the book, Bird also shares some interesting bits about her days living in the Seneca House Co-op for Graduate Women at The University of Texas and  her "intellectual, quinoa-eating roommates."

As the inside flap of the book's jacket suggests, A Love Letter to Texas Women is a must-have guide for newcomers to Texas, as well as the perfect gift to give a Texas woman who needs to know just how special she is. 

Already, I am making a list of some Texas women I know who need to get this book.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My First Car

When I was a little girl, my daddy surprised my mother with a brand new car for her 30th birthday. It was a bright red, 1956 Chevy convertible!

I remember well going to Red River Motors in Bossier City, Louisiana with my dad to pick it out. I remember sitting upfront, on the passenger seat, while my dad turned the steering wheel back and forth and "pretended" to drive it fast.

I remember perching myself above the back seat when the vinyl top was down. I remember feeling special up there. So special that I practiced waving like a beauty queen while my dad talked to the salesman, completed the paperwork and handed him a check.

I remember too my dad telling me that afternoon, "Beverly, one of these days this car will be yours!"

For more than a decade, my dad and mother kept that Chevy in mint condition. They were always saying, "We have to keep this baby for Beverly."

When the time came, my dad taught me how to drive - in that car.

Daddy was a good instructor. He was uncommonly patient with me as I attempted to master the needed skills.

Once I was driving and the Chevy was officially mine, my dad stressed a favorite belief of his: With privileges comes responsibility.

Thus, I remember well all the Saturday mornings I spent in our driveway washing that car. And, running the vacuum throughout its interior. And, when my dad thought I should, applying and removing polish from the car's exterior.

I never minded. I loved driving that car, doing so always brought me an unusual amount of attention. Especially from the boys in my classes at Bossier High.

I mentioned this to my dad one night. I suggested I must "look awfully good in that car to be getting so much attention,"

He laughed a bit, but then shattered my delusions.

He said, "Bev, you do look good in that car, but I don't think that's the only reason the boys are gawking. Most likely, it's the roar of the Chevy's 350 hp engine they like so much."

My dad had a talent for keeping it real.

Alas, I remember that too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Paul Harris and Rotary

“Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.” 

These are the words of Paul Harris, the man who founded Rotary International more than 100 years ago and whose birthday Rotarians - across the globe - celebrate today.

Harris was born on April 19, 1858 in Racine, Wisconsin, the second child of George and Cornelia Harris. In his youth, he was known as a prankster and a less-than-serious student. He attended the University of Vermont and Princeton before he finally settled in at the University of iowa, where he earned a degree in law in 1891.

For the next five years, Harris worked odd jobs: for a newspaper as a reporter and salesman, on fruit farms, as an actor and cowboy, and on cattle ships that traveled to Europe.

Often I have thought about Harris' early years, especially the job he had as a newspaper reporter (which runs thru my life story too) and his travels throughout Europe. (Perhaps he too possessed a passion for travel and adventure?)

In 1896, Harris moved to the Beverly (really?) neighborhood of Chicago; he lived there for the rest of his life. 

A few years after establishing his law practice in the main business district of Chicago, Harris began to consider the benefits of forming a social organization for local professionals. Thus, in 1905, Harris organized the first Rotary Club "in fellowship and friendship" with three clients and local businessmen. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member.

Soon, Harris realized Rotary needed a greater purpose. 
In 1907, the club initiated its first public service project - the construction of public toilets in Chicago. This step transformed the small Rotary Club into the world's first service club. Its motto - Service Above Self - became its strong foundation.

Harris had great ambitions for Rotary's growth, and very early in the organization's history new clubs were started - first on the west coast and then all over the United States and in Europe.

By 1910, there were 15 new clubs in major cities. That August, the existing 16 Rotary Clubs held a national convention in Chicago. There they unanimously chose to unify as the National Association of Rotary Clubs. Eventually, the organization became the International Association of Rotary Clubs, helping to realize Harris' dream worldwide.

By the time of Harris' death in 1947, Rotary International had grown to more than 200,000 members in 75 countries. While the club provides a venue for both business and social networking, the primary focus is on local and international service projects. Currently, there are approximately 1.2 million members worldwide.

As I take these moments to acknowledge the birthday of Paul Harris today, I can't help but think about those words he said so long ago:

Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.” 

He could not have known how prophetic and immortal his words would become!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Houston's Tax Day Flood

Today is Tax Day. But, in Houston, nobody's talking about that. Instead, we are dealing with rising water. Lots of it.

For hours and hours, it's been raining cats and dogs and all kinds of other critters. The bayous - dozens of them - have inched up and out of their banks and their flood waters are rolling across the pancake-flat plains of our beloved city. Already, thousands of homes in more than 70 neighborhoods are taking in water. Rescues are happenings, but only by boat. 

Streets and highways have also been overtaken by the bayous. Early this morning, hundreds of drivers found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many had to abandon their cars to seek safety. Some of those were able to get out just moments before their cars became totally submerged in the rushing water. 

For many of us, the heavy downfall and the aftermath are reminiscent of the storm we had last Memorial Day and during Tropical Storm Allison, which hit us hard in 2001.

Even so, local news reports tell us "today's storm is even more widespread and devastating" than either of those incidents.

Thankfully, my home is located on ground higher than most others in the greater Houston area. My streets drain well. Rising waters are not threatening me here.

Still, like the rest of Houston's citizens today, I am home. 

The schools and universities are closed. The medical clinics are open only for emergencies. Scheduled meetings and social events have been postponed for another time. 

Sadly, in Houston, today has been canceled. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

'High Society' exhibition at MFAH

Checking out a new exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston is one of my favorite things to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Always, I get to see beautiful works of art and learn much about things I know little about.

Thus was the situation today when, along with a friend, I went to see the exhibition, High Society, The Portraits of Franz X. Winterhalter.

Today, I learned that German-born Winterhalter (1805-1873) was the 19th century's most renowned portraitist of European aristocracy.

I learned too that "he 
gained popularity in Paris and became the preferred portraitist of England's Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and his services were eventually in much demand throughout Europe. He was celebrated for his ability to capture likenesses and for his superb rendering of textures and fashionable details."

All agree, "His work captures the elegance and opulence of his distinguished sitters with an unrivaled brilliance." 

High Society showcases about 45 of Winterhalter's magnificent paintings, along with glamorous evening gowns and other couture garments from the period.

The paintings are complemented by select items by sought-after fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth and several of Worth's contemporaries. This major survey features works drawn from public, private and royal collections around the world.
Although many of Winterhalter’s iconic portraits of European nobility predate the entry of couturier Worth (1825–1895) into the field of fashion, their client lists among elegant women of the European courts overlapped. 
High Society will remain on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston until August 14. And, throughout its time there, a number of related special events will take place, including lectures, workshops for children and a concert, Deeply Mozart, on Mother's Day afternoon.
A Mozart concert! Oh my! 
I can't think of a more fitting complement to High Society, a very special exhibition. Already, I hear the music!  

Friday, April 15, 2016


I am a logophile. I didn't realize it until today, when I accidentally discovered this word and its meaning.

Logophile = a lover of words. That's me, for sure!

I am a logophile who is always trying to increase her vocabulary and incorporate "new" words into her work.

Already, logophile is a new favorite. It's a simple noun; it will be so easy to use in a sentence and so easy to remember.

Curious about this word, I did a bit of research. I learned that is was first used in 1923 (but not by whom) and there are two other words that share the same meaning - philologue and philologer. All have Greek origins. 

Ok, so now I have learned three new words. Still, I am partial to logophile. I will keep it as my own.  

Logophile = a lover of words.

Yep, that's definitely me!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Detroit '67

I was a teenager in 1967, one who paid little attention to events outside her hometown in north Louisiana. To me, Detroit was a faraway place of which I knew little about, except, of course, for the amazing music that was coming from there. I loved all of it; Like my friends at school, I knew the words to all of the songs of Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Temptations and The Four Tops. Dancing to these songs on the weekends was a common event.

Somehow, back then, I was only slightly aware of how much the world was changing and of the racial tensions that were disrupting other families and other communities. Somehow, I was only slightly aware of the riots that took place in Detroit in 1967. Thus, I was intrigued when I heard about The Ensemble Theatre of Houston's production of Detroit '67. 

The play takes a serious look at the tensions and civil unrest of the time. And, while the actors do their dramatic things on stage, a vibrant soundtrack of Motown hits plays throughout. The pairing heightened my interest; I couldn't wait to see it. 

So, tonight I did. 

Detroit '67 centers around Chelle and her brother, Lank. Together, they run an after-hours club in the basement of their late parents’ house. 

Tensions mount when the siblings discover their dreams have diverged, and each wants something different. How to best use the inheritance they have received from their parents becomes a major point of conflict. And, then, their safety and security are threatened by the arrival of a mysterious outsider, and the city around them erupts in violence. 

Though this powerful play is sprinkled generously with moments of fun and good humor, it is also riveting. The play's script was first-rate; the five characters were uniquely well-developed, and the five actors who portrayed them did so masterfully.

In a word, The Ensemble Theatre's production of Detroit '67 was perfection. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Shopping at Ranch Interiors

On my recent trip to Historic Downtown Brenham, I popped into a few of the charming retail establishments. As always, I was hoping to find a few one-of-a-kind treasures to bring back home.

The first place I walked into was Ranch Interiors on Commerce Street -- a gem of a shop that has been part of the the commercial district since 2004. Ranch Interiors specializes in custom furniture and decor for the ranch, home, patio and office. (If you don't own a ranch, you'll want to buy one after you browse about here.)

At Ranch Interiors, I found beautiful items from North, Central and South America, as well as from Turkey and Italy, including one of my favorites, Vietri tableware. Ah, so many pretty things! Mugs in bright colors, pottery plates in soft pastels! If only my kitchen cupboards could hold another thing.

Ranch Interiors also carries a great selection of decorative pieces by Jan Barboglio (another favorite of mine), I saw a lot of her glassware, candleholders, napkin rings and jewelry (to wear and/or to hang on the wall as art). 

Warning: Giving in to one's temptations is easy here, especially when a storewide sale is underway. I spotted great markdowns on candles and artwork, as well as on so many beautiful objects d'art -- all just waiting to be picked up and taken away.

I bought a some things I didn't need but couldn't resist: a trio of black-and-grey, horn covered boxes (in three sizes). They will be displayed on a sofa table in my living room, and they will hide a bunch of the clutter of my life: electronics, matchbooks, coasters, notepads and pens, reading glasses, etc. 

I also bought a black-and-grey Tibetan wool throw. Again, not something I need, but the longer I looked at it, the more I felt compelled to claim it as my own. 

Later, I realized my new items had a few things in common. They were of the same colors, very textural, a bit exotic and, most definitely, visually pleasing. 

I loved them in the store; I love them more in my own home. And, best of all, they remind me of a wonderful day trip to Brenham; they always will. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Sunset Capital of Texas

For more than 30 years, the Oasis on Lake Travis has enjoyed a reputation as the "Sunset Capital of Texas." Go there, and you easily see why. 

The Oasis on Lake Travis was built in 1982 by Houston entrepreneur Beau Theriot. It sits on on a 500-acre track and on a cliff 450 feet above the beautiful Austin waterway. It boasts an unrivaled view of the lake and to the horizon beyond. 
The Courtyard at The Oasis 

The outdoor restaurant, at 30,000-square-feet, is the largest in Texas. It houses eight event rooms and multiple decks overlooking the lake. It can accommodate parties of two to 2500. 

My first visit to The Oasis on Lake Travis took place in the mid-80s, not too many years after it opened. Already, It was Austin's most popular restaurant and a must-go place for Happy Hour and first dates. When people talked about The Oasis, they always talked about the view and recommended others to go there just before sunset. 

The Oasis specializes in Tex-Mex cuisine and bar drinks. Everything is pretty good, but it is still the view that everyone raves about. 

Tonight I was lucky enough to make another return visit to The Oasis. This time, I was there with my daughter, Nicole, and my two grandchildren, Alexandra (8) and Andrew (6). 

Yes, The Oasis caterers to families too!

Only moments after we were led to a table, our waitress showed up and, immediately asked Andrew if he would like to "ring the bell." Of course, he said, "Yes!"

I had forgotten about "the bell" and The Oasis' custom to have someone ring it two minutes before sunset but Andrew had not. 

Remembering exactly where the bell was positioned, he jumped out of his seat and ran off in its direction. Seconds later, the sounds of the bell rang out, and eyes on the decks turned west! 

It was a beautiful moment.

Shopping at The Domain

Today, my daughter and I went shopping at The Domain, Austin's premier retail district. It boasts 100 stores and restaurants in a uniquely charming outdoor setting.

It was my first visit to The Domain and, admittedly, I was 
taken with The Domain's lush landscaping and custom art elements. Everywhere I looked, there was something pretty to see --  like the small park and waterfall positioned at the heart of the center.

Nicole and I both liked being able to browse around in the designer and high-end retail shops (like Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Tumi and Tiffany's), as well as in a number of smaller shops and boutiques, exclusive to The Domain. 

One of my favorites was Loft Home, an independently owned shop that carries an array of contemporary furniture and home accessories, including sofas, tables, chairs, arts, rugs, table lamps and bedding. According to a staffer there, "all of the products carried at Loft Home are made from eco-friendly materials." 

My daughter spent a lot of time looking at tables (for a casual eating area in her home), while I spent most of my time there looking (with great interest) at the home accessories, including several large pieces of art. I didn't walk out with any new purchases, but I'm sure one particular painting will still be on my mind tomorrow - and thereafter!

Atar'd State was another great shop located at The Domain. It features adorable clothing, footwear, jewelry, fashion, accessories, decor and gifts for women and girls.

Atar'd State, though new to me, has dozens of locations in more than 20 states across the U.S. Its slogan is "stand out. for good." 

I asked a young employee about the slogan while I was in the shop. From her, I learned the company is committed to giving back and has three pillars of philanthropy: 

* Donate a total of one percent of all sales to local and international charities
* Fund employee volunteer hours each month
* Work with vendor partners who share its mission to give back

I love that!

When I got back to my computer this afternoon, I researched Altar'd State online. The more I read the information on its website, the more impressed I became, the more I wanted to support their efforts. 

Also, I discovered Altar'd State has two locations in the Houston area - in Baybrook Mall and The Woodlands Mall. Delighted to know that!

Nicole and I spent several hours at The Domain today, but it was not enough time to pop in and out of all of the shops. We will have to go back. Hopefully, we will do that next time I'm in Austin to visit her.

Southern Flyer Diner

Though we had been to Brenham many times, it was not until this morning that my family and I had the opportunity to get over to the Brenham Municipal Airport and stop in at the charming, and ever-popular, Southern Flyer Diner. 

Southern Flyer is the airport's FBP (Fixed Base Operator). Owners are Jack and Janet - pilots themselves - and they are out to change the way people think about small town airports.

"Pilots want to land where there are good eats on the field," says Jack. "All pilots want to get up and go, because they love to fly, but it's hard to find someone to go with them if there's nothing but a vending machine at the end of the flight. We are out to change that."

The Southern Flyer Diner is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It's situated near the airport's runway. From the outside patio, diners have great views of the country landscape, as well as the ongoing arrivals and departures of small (and not-so-small) private planes. 

The decor inside the diner is a throwback to the 1950s. For many, the red vinyl and metal chairs, the black-and-white tile floors and jukebox stir up old memories. In my case, the scene was a nostalgic look at my childhood. 

In their advertising, the proprietors of the Southern Flyer Diner promise "good food, good music and good skirts." I'm happy to report: all three lived up to the billing.

The food: As you might expect, the menu lists hamburgers and fries and milk shakes. But, it also features dozens of other things, including chicken-fried steak and chicken-friend chicken. And, to my delight, a fried catfish platter is also there for the taking.

The Music: Yes, the jukebox works, and out of it comes the classic tunes of Pat Boone, Bobbie Darin, Doris Day, Elvis Presley, Debbie Reynolds and others of the era. 

The Skirts: The servers are cute and perky high school girls. All wear poodle skirts, white starched blouses and saddle loafers. All have long hair, and they wear it pulled back into ponytails that bounce around like crazy as they scurry about from table to table.

Having lunch at the Southern Flyer Diner was fun and, in many ways, even better than expected! My family and I will go back. Most likely, via a Texas highway, instead of by private turbo. Still, it will be a much-anticipated flight of fancy. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Texas Bluebonnets

Like most native-born and got-here-as-fast-as-we-could Texans, I'm obsessed with bluebonnets. The romance started when, as a young woman, I first moved to Texas. For me, it was love at first sight!

I was charmed by this showy plant with its silky-haired leaves, its clusters of purplish-blue flowers, its center markings of white and yellow!

And, I ask, "Who would not be smitten by something so special?"

Every year, in early April, I re-ignite the sparks of my youth by taking a road trip into the Hill Country. Like so many others, I go right after Mother Nature has painted the grasslands along the highway with sensuous strokes of blue.

History records that even early-day Spanish priests were taken with bluebonnets. They gathered the seeds and planted them around their missions. This practice, I understand, gave rise to the myth that the padres had brought the plant (Lupinus texensis) to Texas from their homeland.

But, of course, we know this cannot be true; the two predominant species of bluebonnets grow naturally only in Texas -- not at any other location in the world. 

Historian Jack Maguire so aptly wrote, "It's not only the state flower but also a kind of floral trademark, almost as well knows to outsiders as cowboy boots and the Stetson hat."

He want on to say, "The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England and the tulip to Holland." 

And, so it is that we Texans head to the countryside in April, with mom and dad and kids and dogs in tow. We drive on and on, taking in the beautiful blue sights and, then, when one particular plot of ground seems prettiest of all, we park the car and pose (once again) for the traditional family photo. 

Some of these photos will be posted on Facebook. Others will be printed (as in days of old) and put in scrapbooks or frames around the house. Still others will show up on holiday cards, with a message that says, "Greetings from Texas."

Still others, like mine, will say, "Greetings! See what you're missing!"