Dallas, Texas

January 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Vacation close to home with a Tex-cation

By Dorothy Strouhal

Since the U.S. economy went south in 2008, people have been saving their money for essential items. For most, jet away vacays are not essential. Hence, the stay-cation.  Instead of traveling and exploring the world, people have been staying home during time off; now cabin fever has set in. The cure- Tex-cation. Save airfare and explore the great Lone Star State.

Dallas is less than four hours away.

The newly renovated Dallas Marriott City Center hotel is a stylish downtown home base. Modern, with state-of-the-art amenities and upscale dining, this treasure is within walking distance of Arts District attractions.

The Dallas Arts District was created in 2009 as an advocate for the arts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  It’s the largest arts district in the nation, comprising 19 city blocks with over 68 acres.  The District has the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, and the Winspear Opera House.

During spring and summer school breaks, the museums come together and host the Arts District Block Party.  They close most of the roads; many of the venues stay open until midnight and have free or reduced admission. Street performers entertain with music and acting and gourmet food trucks provide almost any type of food imaginable.  These Block Parties are a wonderful time to experience the flavor of downtown Dallas and the Dallas Arts District.

For theater, musical and dance arts lovers, the Winspear Opera House at the At&T Performing Arts Center provides stages for five resident dance and ballet companies. The 2,200-seat venue also joins with a wide range of programs including the Lexus Broadway Series, Patio Sessions, Sunset Screenings, and TITAS. It’s a great cultural destination and gathering place.

Shopping is bigger and better on a Dallas Tex-cation. You can take the Dart light rail system from the Marriott to NorthPark Center, the largest shopping center in North Texas. It was named one of the “7 Retail Wonders of the modern World”. NorthPark Center offers the finest luxury and trendsetting retailers including Neiman Marcus, Barney’s of New York, Macy’s, Dillard’s and 230 others amid 20th and 21st century art, award winning architecture, and extraordinary landscaping.  This is an experience for anyone wanting exceptional shopping options in beautiful, eclectic surroundings.

All this is just 236 miles north of Houston. Far enough away to be a vacation; close enough to save the airfare. Tex-cations are just right.




January 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

We’ve been rejected, turned down, dissed. The Obama Administration says Texas cannot secede. Actually, so did the US Supreme Court in 1869 in Texas v. White, and we can’t overlook Appomattox. Here’s the back story (pardon the cliché): after Barack Obama’s second presidential victory, his administration created a “We the People” website (petitions.whitehouse.gov) and said any petition with at least 25,000 signatures gathered in 30 days would receive a response from the White House. Before you can say “Kenyan socialist,”1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was inundated with electronic petitions.  This included petitions from all 50 states seeking secession from the Union because Obama had been re-elected.

That so many of us would rather live in another country than one headed by Obama speaks volumes. Perhaps they can’t accept that, despite many polls and pundits’ predictions, Obama stomped Mitt Romney by almost 5-million votes (4,970,508). In the GOP’s beloved Electoral College, which gave the world President George W., Obama walloped Romney 332 votes to 206. In Congress, the Dems picked up two Senate seats. Here’s something interesting: Dem candidates in House of Representatives races received almost 1.5 million more votes than their GOP opponents but, thanks to gerrymandering, didn’t get a majority of the seats.

Anyway, of all those states sending in secessionist pleas, Texas, as usual, was Number One, with 125,746 signatures. But Jon Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, issued a report to Texas saying that America was created as a “perpetual union,” and cited several reasons why the Lone Star State couldn’t once again be lone. This caused others to ask as one: “How could that many Texans be so chapped at Obama’s victory?” What non-Texans fail to realize is that it doesn’t take an unpopular political victory (here) to get us salivating to secede. Texans would sign a secession petition because the Cowboys were no longer America’s Team or “Dallas” was no longer on TV, or it’s Wednesday. Indeed, there has been a secession movement in Texas ever since there was an annexation, without success.

So let’s stop batting around ill-informed e-mails. First, the Texas Annexation Joint Resolution – it was NOT a treaty and there’s a big difference – does not allow Texas to secede from the Union. That legend won’t die if you drove a stake deep in its heart. Gov. Rick Perry said in 2008, “When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.” Someone must have read the Guv the law, not to mention history, because Perry has changed his tune – drastically.

Even John Steinbeck in “Travels With Charley,” wrote, “Texas is the only state that came into the Union by treaty. It retains the right to secede at will.” Steinbeck notes other Americans have heard Texans threaten to secede so often that he formed an enthusiastic organization, The American Friends for Texas Secession. He wasn’t far off the mark; a number of signees of the cut-Texas-loose petition were non-Texans, which is rather humiliating.

The Annexation document does allow us to split into four more states – five Texases – but this differs from what our schoolchildren vow each day: “I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible.” The annexation agreement also allows us to retain our public lands including six leagues into the Gulf, with all that oil and gas underneath. And oil beneath those public lands in West Texas bankrolled UT and A&M.

When it comes to Austin vs. Washington, Texas is a “tax donor state.” Using the latest figures available, for every dollar Texans paid to the federal government in federal income taxes, the state received approximately 94 cents in benefits. This is only income taxes. What skewers the figures is that we have so many military bases bringing in federal dollars. Speaking of the military, we donate more than money: 22,022 Texas troops were killed in World War II, a higher percentage than our share of the national population; another 3,415 Texans died in the Vietnam War. That’s also a higher percentage. As usual, we were a donor state.

Yes, you can buy bumper stickers reading “Secede” — one for $2, or three for $5. Yes, Larry Scott Kilgore, a perennial Republican candidate from Arlington, announced he was running for governor and would legally change his name to Larry Secede Kilgore, with Secede in capital letters. But with all the hoopla about secession, we might get the idea that an overwhelming number of Texans want to leave the club. Don’t let the squeaky wheel get all the attention.

Press articles show a 2009 Rasmussen Reports survey determined 31 percent of Texans say the state has a right to secede. They are wrong and don’t know it. However, just 18 percent of Texans would actually vote to secede. That 18 percent figure is the exact same as the percentage of all Americans who say they favor allowing their state or region to secede from the nation, according to a 2008 Zogby poll. As North Dakota goes, so goes Texas. In addition, three-fourths of Texans say they oppose secession. Then we have those who would secede from the secession: Caleb M. of Austin started his own petition on the White House Web site. He asked that, “in the event that Texas is successful in the current bid to secede,” the federal government should allow Austin to withdraw from Texas and remain part of the United States.

As mentioned before, this Texas secession business is nothing new. A Texas Congressman, Jim Collins, once introduced a resolution in the U.S. House: “And in conclusion, if Texas citizens favor the establishment of the Republic of Texas, I would ask that both the Senate and House in the U.S. Congress be provided the opportunity to confirm this transfer of authority to the Republic of Texas.” — April 13, 1978. That’s right, 1978.

Ashby succeeds at ashby2@comcast.net







Fredericksburg, Texas

January 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

The Days of Wine and Roses          By Laurette M. Veres

When you just can’t make it to Napa, the supple vineyards of the Texas Hill Country deserve a look.

You probably know about Fredericksburg’s Peach orchards, but are you aware of the thriving wine industry?  When German immigrants arrived there circa 1840’s they found mustang grapes. Today, in an area known for peaches, the wines of the Texas Hill Country are finally making a mark. In fact, there are more than 20 wine-related venues centered along a quarter-mile stretch of US 290, just east of Fredericksburg.

Most of today’s producing vines were planted around1995.  It’s taken some time, but Fredericksburg wineries are finally getting some legs; and, more importantly, some respect. The recent drought caused an early and successful harvest.

With Robert Redford good looks and a passion for good wine, David Kuhlken, a third generation wine maker at Pedernales Cellars has 16 acres of productive grapes; all reds. Sample their full-bodied Tempranillo on the patio and enjoy the panoramic Hill Country view. The grapes for this top-selling wine are hand-harvested from the family’s vineyard just a few miles down the road and the wine is made in the same manner as the “old world” Riojas of Spain.

As most Aggies know, the first Messina HofWinery & Resort in Bryan, Texas was established in 1977 by Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo, and is rooted in the union of their family heritage. Now one of the fastest growing and award-winning wineries in Texas, Messina Hof unveiled the site of their new 10-acre resort in Gillespie County. The new winery and bed & breakfast resemble the 34-year old namesake in Bryan and have a Hill Country feel. This location has a vineyard, as well as the Manor Haus B&B, a VIP Room, Wine Garten, and guest center.

“The new location combines 34 years of wine making and hospitality experience with the most award-winning wines. Our presence and expansion in the Hill Country region reflects our commitment to remaining a leader in the growing Texas wine industry as well as our passion for spreading our award-winning brand to wine connoisseurs throughout the state,” says Bonarrigo.

Ken Maxwell’s family has been farming and making wine in Texas for more than 100 years.  His chemistry background gives him a unique perspective on wine making.  From the fruit-forward Blanc de Bua to the Primativo and Malbec, you’re sure to find something for your entire group.  At Torre di Pietra, they have fun with names.

“We sell bottles of Dirty Girl to almost every bachelorette party that stops by,” says Maxwell.



A lively stop on your tour de wine, the Becker Vineyard, established in 1992, was planted on a site of native Mustang grapes much prized for winemaking by German immigrants.  Enjoy a sip in the barn, part of the 10,040 square-foot winery.

Known as “Tuscany in the Texas Hill Country,” Grape Creek Vineyards’ owner Brian Heath’s attention to detail has lead to more than 100 medals in the last two years including a Gold/Best for their super-Tuscan style Bellissimo. The tasting room is an exceptional old world experience with rustic beams, rock and stucco, and a 40-foot bar, all nestled under a tile roof. Time stands still on the relaxing patios.  “We want you to feel like you are visiting us in our home,” says Heath.

Out of the Bottle Experience

Learn the story of the Pacific during World War II. Fredericksburg’s native son, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, was the Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces, Pacific Ocean Area. A recently expanded museum, built in his honor, is designed to engage a new generation of visitors. Exhibits are interactive and educational. New construction fuses elements of Texas Hill Country architecture and materials with Pacific War era elements. It’s like Hill Country on the high seas.

Where to stay

Pilots, history buffs and lovers of luxury step back in time at the Hangar Hotel.  Set in the 1940’s, guests enjoy the nostalgic airport diner as well as cold drinks in the Officer’s Club bar.  Private plane parking is right outside, but this converted hangar is not just for pilots.


Pedernales Cellars pedernalescellars.com

Messina Hof Hill County messinahof.com

Torre di Pietra texashillcountrywine.com

BeckerVineyards beckervineyards.com

Grape Creek Vineyards grapecreek.com

Hangar Hotel HangarHotel.com

Absolutely Albuquerque, New Mexico

January 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Barbara Veres

“Hot air balloon festival”, is almost synonymous with Albuquerque, New Mexico. Yes, Albuquerque is famous for its hot air balloon festival, but it is also a city full of enchantment, surprises, and hidden treasures.

Albuquerque’s pride is the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. This 16-acre campus covers 400 years of Pueblo history, art, humanities, and boasts a theater, performing arts center, restaurant, and a variety of changing art exhibitions. Dancers perform American Indian Dances outside on the grounds so they are close to Mother Earth. Frederico Vigil’s awe-inspiring Fresco takes you through the past, present, and future of Hispanic culture. Situated in a rotunda on the of the Cultural Center grounds, the Fresco projects vivid imagery, symbolism, and majestic colors.

The Sandia Peak Tramway is the world’s longest aerial tramway and covers 2.7 miles. The observation deck atop 10,378 foot Sandia Peak offers 11,000 square mile panoramic views of the Rio Grande Valley.

Not quite the pride of Albuquerque, but a heck of a lot of fun, Conductors Jess Herron and Michael Silva are tour guides on ABQ Trolley Company’s open-air trolleys. Knowledgeable, and entertaining, they cover Albuquerque’s history, unique neighborhoods, cruising historic Route 66 and local architecture.

Remember to take a walking tour through Old Town. The short, guided walk takes you through the heart of Albuquerque’s heritage. Unusual and hidden architectural, historical details are highlighted; engaging stories bring to life sights and sounds of the Civil War and the early pioneers’ daily struggle to survive.

The National Institute of Flamenco Arts preserves and promotes flamenco’s artistry, history, and culture. Dancers come from around the world to study at the Conservatory. They dance in an unassuming building without fancy scenery or costumes, yet are intimate, exciting, and highly professional.

Northern Italian food in New Mexico? Torino’s Trattoria Italiana & Café serves up fresh, made from scratch Italian goodness at reasonable prices. The restaurant is not fancy, but the food is gourmet; the staff makes you feel like you are in their home. St. James Tea Room pours a little excellence with their high tea. Fresh brewed and simply delicious, they serve their teas and delicacies (even gluten free) in a restful and traditional ambiance.

Albuquerque is a Hispanic treasure that combines history, culture, elegance, and fascination. It is a place where one can explore the unexpected ‘off the list’ hidden treasures. And remember to ride in the balloons!




National Institute of Flamenco Arts

Torino’s Trattoria Italiana & Café, 7600 Jefferson Street

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

St. James Tea Room, 320 Osuna NE

The Sandia Peak Tramway Experience



January 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE KITCHEN CABINET – When a lampshade needs cleaning, I turn to Maid in the Shade, my cleaner especially created for this task. Make those pesky dust bunnies flee with Rabbit Transit. Need your dog’s bloodsuckers removed? This is a bottle of poisonous soap, Tick Tox. Here is my broom designed for cowhide rugs, Sweep Steaks. The next can makes no sense: Easy-Off. It’s oven cleaner for my self-cleaning oven. What a worthless product — rather like driving instructions in Braille or an ethics guide for Texas legislators.

Have you inventoried your cleaning supplies lately – like since 1990? Granted, this is not a top priority question. It doesn’t compete with whether Hurricane Sandy finally performed a mercy killing on Jersey Shore, but you should check out all that stuff you have amassed over the years. Unlike our pantries and refrigerators and even our freezers which contain items that grow mold and start to ooze as a reminder that they need to be eaten, our cleansing products don’t rot or rust, they just sit there, gathering the very dust and dirt they are supposed to fight. Only when the containers are empty do we discard them, and I’ll bet you also have a lot of cans on your shelves containing dried-up boot creams and cracked silver polish.

For example, I purchased this can of Brass Ban to polish a brass candlestick holder for the Y2K power grid meltdown. The goo may have solidified, because whatever is in there rattles. Next to the brass polish is a can of silver polish, another for bronze. Why are there different cans for each metal? Are they able to tell the difference? Brick polish. Why did I buy that? Soap to clean up bat sweat. Same question. Some people simply toss away the contents of their dustpans, but we experts carefully pour the refuse into this aluminum foil envelope: Dirt Reynolds.

Joan Rivers once observed: “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.” Environmentalists would love Rivers, because many of your cleansers come in pressurized cans containing aerosol which, the tree-huggers tell us, pollutes the atmosphere. Every time you spray on a deodorant or take the Pledge, another butterfly dies.

In my neighborhood a grocery store has opened, about the size of a dirigible hangar. It’s so big, even children use a Lark. Half of this “grocery” store is not groceries at all, but is filled with the inedible – light bulbs, greeting cards, motor oil and, yes, aisles of cleaning items. We buy them and take them home, and they never go away. Our collections of cleansers grows like the mildew on my Rolling Stone Moss Kit. It sits next to my can of spray-on rust.

How do I lathe thee? Let me count the ways. This is dishwasher soap. You can buy it in powdered form in a bucket and measure it out. Or you can let someone else do the measuring, and all you have to do is grab one of those little packets filled with powder. The latter form costs 50 percent more. From dental floss to vacuum cleaners, from Windex to Clorox, we work mightily to keep ourselves and our pets, pot plants and plumbing squeaky clean.

If cleanliness is next to Godliness, it is also close to Proctor & Gamble. P&G is the world’s largest and most profitable consumer products company, with nearly $84 billion in sales a year and 25 billion-dollar brands. What does a 25 billion-dollar brand mean? I didn’t know P&G was in the cattle business. That company produces much of what you are buying, clean-wise: Tide, Oral-B toothbrush, Ariel washing powder, Head & Shoulders, Clairol, Cover Girl, Crest, Gillette — 53 products. You probably spend more on Proctor & Gamble items each year than you give to your church or bookie.

Here is a depressing mystery: On the label of this container in big print reads, “Resolve,” then in tiny print, “Formerly Spray ‘n’ Wash.” Does this mean that for years I was spraying the very same ingredients on my shirt collars that I was spraying on the dog poop stains on my rug? Like I said, that’s sort of depressing. For laundering money, I use Dead Presidents Delight, but we won’t go there. My can of Pledge Lemon Clean. You don’t want dirty lemons, do you? My favorite: Bored Walk. You spray it on your TV screen and it blocks any mention of Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan or Donald Trump.

On the next shelf is Lysol, which I spray on countertops to kill varmints. It leaves a distinct odor that fairly shouts: Dead bugs! This is Febreze, which I then spray on the countertops to take away that shouting odor. Fantastic, 409, Scrubbing Bubbles — all in pretty containers meant to catch our eyes as we go down the grocery store aisles. Do you get the idea that, like Wheaties and Saltines, the packaging cost more than the contents?

We haven’t even touched the bathroom, with all its soap, shampoo and toothbrushes. Incidentally, the English like to rib Americans for being overly concerned with our hygiene. True, the English invented the toothbrush, but if Americans had been the inventors, it would have been called the “teethbrush.” Here’s my candlewick cleaner and my Mace remover. Do you have a can of Roach Glow? This seems to be a six-pack of Computer Delete. I bought a powder to get rid of unsightly muscles: Ab-Stain. Ah, a product that actually works like it’s supposed to: Wine B’ Gone. I discovered it in a restaurant when the drunk sitting next to me spilled his red wine all over my white shirt. Quickly, the waiter pulled me up from under the table, slapped on this liquid, then slapped me to consciousness, and told me and my wine to B’Gone.

What I need is something to clean out all these cleansers.


Ashby is squeaky clean at ashby2@comcast.net










January 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE SLAVE MARKET – At the time of the American Revolution this place, Charleston, South Carolina, was the richest city in the 13 colonies. Rice, indigo and slaves were the cause, slaves making the first two possible. This is a slave market, set up in 1856 because the city fathers didn’t like to see human beings bought and sold on street corners.

Bad for tourism, but good for the economy here and elsewhere. (In the musical “1776” a South Carolina delegate notes that hypocritical New Englanders profit from the Southern slave trade, ending: “Boston, Charleston, which stinketh the most?”) The old neighborhoods reveal that prosperity – blocks of elegant mansions in this town’s French Quarter. I didn’t know any other American city had a French Quarter except New Orleans. This one is much bigger and a whole lot cleaner. There’s much to see and do here, so let’s look around.

Oh, you’re wondering why we are in Charleston instead of, say, Amarillo, which is so much closer. The reason is simple: for the second straight year, readers of Conde Nast Travel named Charleston the No. 1 tourist destination in the US. The survey also ranked this place as the top travel spot on the globe. I have never heard of Conde Nast Travel, but the Charlies sure have – two different cab drivers told me about the rankings. Then I saw it plastered on the side of city buses. Then I read it in the newspaper – twice.

True Grits — One of the categories in the magazine’s rankings is restaurants. A doorman told me, above the clanging of church bells which permeates the air, “We’ve got two things here in Charleston: churches and restaurants.” There seems to be a nice little pub, mom and pop café, or elegant restaurant on every block. You like crab and shrimp and oysters? I do, and have been eating them constantly. Southern cooking? Pork and catfish, biscuits and cream gravy. And grits. I get grits with fish, with steak, with more grits. I could probably order ice cream and be asked, “Yo want grits with that?”

This is my hotel. It looks like a citadel complete with gun slits, turrets and towers, mainly because it was The Citadel – a lovely hotel made from the former military college, now moved, where Pat Conroy attended and later wrote about in, “The Lords of Discipline.” The novel chapped his fellow former cadets who shunned him, but 40 years later Conroy was awarded an honorary degree and asked to deliver the commencement address the following year.

A word of warning: I am here in the cold, crisp dead of winter – this is about as far north as Dallas – still, the French Quarter and most cafes are jammed with tourists. What’s it like when the spring gardens are in full bloom, or in the fall when the leaves turn to gold? Remember Yogi Berra’s observation: No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.

Fort Sumter – People keep mispronouncing its name as sumP-ter. The fort sits on an island in the harbor and received the opening shots of the Civil War. The commander of the Confederate forces was Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, who had been taught artillery tactics at West Point by Major Robert Anderson. The commander of Fort Sumter receiving all those artillery shots was Major Robert Anderson. No one was killed. Incidentally, the federal’s second-in-command was Abner Doubleday, who is credited by some with inventing baseball. He did live in Cooperstown, NY. Is that close enough?

Is there is any connection between the city of Charleston and the dance? Composer James P. Johnson wrote the song for a Broadway musical, and explained he got the characteristic beat from Charleston dockworkers. Moving on, this is the old customs house where the British held an American army colonel, Isaac Hayne, until they hanged him even though he was a POW. Sad story. There are a lot of redcoat stories around here, too. A good way to see the city for the first time is to take a carriage ride with a guide. There are Civil War tours, ghost tours and pirate tours. Pirates came here, and their real story is not at all what the movies portray. They were not all outlaws, few had peg legs or hooks for hands, and their reign only lasted a few years.

The H.L. Hunley – This is a submarine, sitting in a big tank of fresh water, mainly because it sat in salt water out in the bay for more than 136 years. It was found, then raised in 2000, and now is in rehab. H.L. Hunley came up with the idea, but most of his first crew drowned in a test. So he got a second crew, including himself, and it drowned. Somehow the Rebels got a third crew, which sank the federal warship the U.S.S. Housatonic, then, uh, the Hunley sank, again. Total Rebel loss: 21 men. But it was the  first sub to sink an enemy ship, and no other submarine did that for another 50 years.

My wife and other females in our party – this is a family trip — discovered Charleston has stores. A four-block-long (very long) market called the Market. The shops accept Yankee money. The land for the market was given a few centuries ago by the Pinckney family, who did everything: signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, served in state government and Congress. A distinguished looking man approaches us on the sidewalk and asks if we like Charleston. I say yes and mention that the Pinckneys are buried in that cemetery a few feet away. Signed this and that. Philanthropists, etc. I explain it all. As he leaves, he sticks out his hand and smiles. “I’m Albert Pinckney.”

Now I am headed off to my between-meal meal. Hey, you cannot let a meal of oysters, shrimp, crab and grits with hot cornbread go uneaten. Wait. There in the café. Isn’t that Yogi Berra?


Ashby is gaining weight at ashby2@comcast.net








2013 Predictions

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby




It looks like the Mayans were wrong and the year of 2013 has arrived right on time. This is certainly going to be an interesting time, since it lasts 365 days. At the beginning of each year, as America’s leading soothsayer, I always say the sooth. Clip and save. Ready? A great person will die, there will be war in the Middle East and a blizzard will hit North Dakotans, who will blame the press.

January – The last of 58 college bowl games is over. No one cares. The Koch brothers put out a bounty on Karl Rove, demanding their $400 million back. US Census Bureau says, due to growing demographics and new customers, some Texas restaurants should change their menu to Mex-Tex. Pat Robertson blames the Mayans’ “sacrifices of perfectly good virgins” for the world not coming to an end. The stealth US senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, appears in public but is not recognized.
February – The Texas Legislature votes to make itself the official state joke.

Fox News wins Pulitzer Prize for best fiction writing. TV weatherman learns the difference in “further” and “farther” and is promptly fired. TxDOT announces it will build a high-speed “bullet train” in Austin from East 4th Street to East 6th Street. “We’ve got to start somewhere,” a TxDOT official says. NRA chief Wayne LaPierre fires back, “Bullet trains don’t kill people. The black plague kills people,” adding: “And I don’t ‘fire back.’ If did, you’d be dead, you Godless commie.”

March – Showing his talent as a master politician, Tom DeLay redistricts his cellblock. When asked what advice he has for those who stand in the snow for two days to pay $1,200 for a pair of his sneakers, Kobe Bryant, answers, “Get a life.” Russian President Vladimir Putin vetoes law to block adoptions of Russian babies by Americans after discovering that he was born Billy Bob Tumbleweed in Pampa, Texas.

April – NRA says our schools would be safe if all the kids were carrying AK-47s.  Sen. Ted Cruz authors a bill to outlaw global warming, rising tides and evolution, then falls off the fiscal cliff. David Petraeus returns as head of CIA. President Obama cites “his exhaustive undercover work.” Gov. Rick Perry says he doesn’t understand the connection between cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood and the sudden spike in pregnancies among poor teen-aged girls.

May – Texas’ State Board of Education approves printing new school books “so long as the quills last.” Karl Rove forms a new PAC, “Give Me Another Chance – And a Hundred Million.” There are reported sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch and a Texas Democrat. A Texas State Board of Education member moves that schoolgirls no longer be required to wear a burka. It dies for lack of a second.

June – President Obama is honored by the Association of Late Night Comedy Hosts as “the dullest president since Calvin Coolidge” and begs him to have an affair with an intern “or at least start a needless war.” With advent of hurricane season, New Yorkers suddenly show interest in storm patterns, evacuations and FEMA. “We always worry about the Bolivar Peninsula, and Sandy had nutten to do wit it,” Mayor Bloomberg says.

July – Anti-NRA protesters picket opening night of “Annie Get Your Gun.” The Longhorn Network finally explains why no one can receive it on TV: “We’re a radio network, dummy.” Shopping malls begin putting up Christmas decorations. The Mayans, looking for a virgin, sacrifice Pat Robertson.

August – Gov. Rick Perry orders all Texas courthouses to display a copy of the Nine Commandments. President Obama, feeling chest pains, orders Joe Biden to dial 911. “Right,” says Biden. “What’s the number?” A dark cloud appears over Cuba and New Yorkers demand that FEMA stop looking for Miami and rush to NYC.

September – Mitt Romney announces he is going “peasant hunting.” A guide explains to Romney that he actually means “pheasant hunting.” Romney bags 46 peasants, one under his 47 percent limit. In a special election to fill the vacancy for US senator after Ted Cruz’s demise over the cliff, Texas Democrats nominate Sasquatch for the vacancy.

October – The Dallas Tea Party demands Texas secede from the Union, noting: “Texans are opposed to unions.” However, the Anti-Secessionist Party changes its name to Santa Anna so it can go around saying, “Read my lips, no new Texas!” MSNBC hires Grover Norquist – as a test pattern. House Speaker John Boehner reveals that he does not frequent tanning salons but, like Barack Obama, is half black. Noting that the fiscal cliff was avoided, Ted Cruz wants his old job back, but is rejected by the GOP as “too liberal.”.

November – Southeastern Conference members demand recount in admitting Texas A&M, explaining, “Their Texans keep beating our Texans.” In an effort to make amends to the Gulf Coast, BP underwrites the Biloxi production of “Grease.” Fox News’ Chris Wallace reveals that Barak Obama spelled backwards is “Kenyan terrorist” – “with some minor adjustments.”

December – The first of 120 college bowl games begins. No one cares. FEMA arrives in New York City. Texas State Board of Education bans any school holiday skit that uses the lyrics, “Don we now our gay apparel.” Bill O’Reilly declares “the war on Christmas” has been called off in favor of “the peace with Ramadan.” Sasquatch loses the special election, blames the press.


Ashby is soothful at ashby2@comcast.net




Haak Vineyards & Winery

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Join the award-winning Haak Vineyards & Winery, the first and only working vineyard in Galveston County, for their romantic, February line-up of events. Just outside of Houston, Haak is open to the public and offers tours and tastings daily.

Cupid’s Romantic Dinner for Two
Thursday, February 14
First seating: 5:00 p.m.; Last seating: 7:00 p.m.
FEE: $175 per person (plus tax); $157.50 per person (plus tax) for San Pasqual Wine Club Members
Enjoy a 4-course meal paired with Haak’s award winning wines. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: www.haakwine.com/haak/2012/12/cupids-romantic-dinner-for-2/.

Valentine’s Dinner and Tango Performance
Saturday, February 16; 7—9:00 p.m.
FEE: $62.50 per person (plus tax); $56.25 (plus tax) for San Pasqual Wine Club Members
Enjoy a 4-course meal and entertainment provided by Tango dancer Susana Collins. For more information and to purchase your reservation, visit: www.haakwine.com/haak/2012/12/valentines-dinner-with-a-side-of-tango-from-susana-collins/.

Concierto de Amor
Sunday, February 17; 1—4:00 p.m.
FEE: $5 per person
Stop by the winery for a Sunday concert and Flamenco dancing by Jando Rhumba in the Haak Pavilion. For more information, visit: www.haakwine.com/haak/2012/12/concierto-de-amor/.

About Haak Vineyards & Winery
Established in 2000, Haak Vineyards & Winery is an award-winning, family-owned winery located in Santa Fe, Texas. With Founders Gladys and Raymond Haak at the helm, Haak has become most known for producing two unique wines from two grapes that are new to the wine world, including Blanc du Bois, a grape with Florida origins, and the Black Spanish or Jacquez grape, which produces a particularly distinctive wine: the Haak Madeira. The first and only working vineyard in Galveston County, Haak is open to the public where tours and tastings are offered daily. For more information about Haak Vineyards & Winery, please visit www.haakwine.com  or call 409.925.1401. Follow Haak on Facebook  and Twitter .

Kessler Canyon

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

Carefree Colorado Canyon

Enjoy a honeymoon in the wild out doors.  Jessica Darensbourg goes deep.

Miles and miles of breathtaking landscape welcome honeymooners to Kessler Canyon. Located on the western slope of the Colorado Rock Mountains, only 45 minutes east of Grand Junction, this canyon offers an adventurous getaway for the bride and groom.

With over 23,000 acres of beautiful Western landscape, Kessler Canyon seeks travelers ready to awaken their daring spirits. Originally a private ranch, the Homestead now invites guests to relax and engulf themselves in nature’s true beauty.

Greeted by the friendly staff of Kessler Canyon, all guests feel right at home. After checked-in, enjoy the scenery with a walk around the ranch and immerse in the true picture of nature. After a long day of traveling, you are sure to drift away to nature’s music of whistling trees and animal callings.

Arise the next morning greeted by the smell of fresh, home-style cooking by the one and only, Chef Lenny and his sous chef, Buck. Chef Lenny will satisfy your favorite food cravings; he’s also good for entertainment, and a few laughs. Chef Lenny and Buck will surprise your taste buds with a resort guest favorite  – Candied Bacon, or biscuits and gravy, made like the cowboys did in cast-iron pans. Planning on a daring hike that day, ask Chef Lenny to pack you a lunch unlike anything your momma ever made you for school. Enjoy a stacked sandwich with fresh fruit, a drink and of course, a side of bacon. After a long day of fun in the sun, freshen up for a family style dinner. Meet and greet other guests as you experience new types of foods like Mountain Lion, a ranch favorite captured by the Kessler family themselves, or trout, personally fished out by Chef Lenny. Your taste buds will be singing as you finish up the meal with a chocolate cake topped with a peanut butter mousse. But the fun does not stop there, Chef Lenny transforms into his entertainer alter ego, The Black Mamba. Relish in cowboy songs near the campfire. With canyons surrounding you while you sit around the fire listening to The Black Mamba sing, you will truly be lost in this awe-inspiring outdoor setting.

Opportunities are endless when it comes to daily activities for you and your sweetie. Travel 8,000 feet high as you wind up the side of the mountain on an ATV tour. You take control with this courageous drive, seeing wildlife and a 360 degree view of the entire Kessler Canyon property. But remember what goes up, must come down. The thrilling ride down the mountain provides perfect photo opportunities.

Shooting, hunting and fishing are an experience everyone can learn to enjoy. With the certified staff at Kessler Canyon, everyone can learn to shoot a gun. Skeet shooting is available for everyone from beginners to experienced shooters.  Stay amongst one of the immaculate accommodations for a hunting getaway, including the perfect location to start off your big game hunting and bird hunting. After a long day of hunting, enjoy a gourmet meal freshly prepared from the day’s catch. If fishing is more your forte, take a swing at fly fishing in the lake and try catching this evening’s meal. With the outdoors as your playground, Kessler Canyon provides numerous activities, for you to get in touch with your outdoorsy side.

With Kessler Canyon held so dear to the Kessler family’s heart, they welcome each and every one of their guests to come experience the beauty at this grandiose canyon.  As their motto reads, and they fully believe, every guest will be “Moved, Challenged, and Changed” when visiting this truly awe-inspiring ranch. Whether it is getting in touch with your courageous side and trying something new, or just taking in the musical styling of the canyon, every guest can enjoy this retreat to Colorado.


Barton Creek, Austin Texas

January 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Austin is less than three hours from H-Town.

Austin is home to live music, great bar-b-cue and all-night fun on Sixth Street; we recommend a more upscale version of Austin for your Tex-cation.

Barton Creek Resort and Spa offers the same luxurious amenities you can find at world-class resorts in Arizona and California.  We say save on the airfare and have more massages! This resort is located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, is home to some of Texas’ best golf courses, has a full spa, and offers tennis and swimming.

Enjoy hill country hospitality throughout the facility.  Most rooms have great views of the pool and golf course.  Throughout the property, enjoy the high quality offered at this AAA Four Diamond resort. For a Texas-style culinary experience, enjoy 8212 Wine Bar & Grill.  The Charbroiled Ribeye Steak is a standout on an outstanding menu.

If you enjoy golf, chose from four championship courses that consistently rank among the best in Texas. Courses here are very female friendly; you’ll enjoy the generous placement of the ladies’ tee. Hop onto the Fazio Canyons course. With beautiful vista views, scenic holes lined with Red Oaks and Sycamore trees, and wildlife sightings, it’s hard to worry about your score.  This course continues Fazio’s tradition to protect and preserve the environment and was the first course in Texas to be certified as an Audubon International Signature Sanctuary.

The spa is a welcome respite.  Three Springs Spa derives its name from the three springs that meet at Barton Creek.  A recent renovation revealed a rock quary; today each treatment room has a view of the native rocks.  Also, the meditation room focuses on this quary with stunning views of the natural rocks.  Head down to the spa level before your treatment to relax in the Jacuzzi or sauna.  Enjoy a purity facial ($145), which is customized to your skin’s needs.

Early in the morning is the perfect time to enjoy the Nature Trail.  The ½ mile self-guided tour offers the chance to see Central Texas’ unique flora and fauna. The rest of your time should be spent lounging by the pool.  Relax and unwind and let the wedding worries melt away.

All this is just 165 miles west of Houston. Hill Country roads are beautiful. Tex-cations are just right. -Laurette Veres