Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Have a Happy New Year’s Eve with Fireworks!!

Several Texas towns have firework displays with food, live music and other entertainment. Towns include Austin (Lady Bird Lake), Karnack (over Caddo Lake), San Antonio, and McAllen, Texas. For more information, check out these events under each town’s Entertainment, Food & Events tab.

Fireworks     Drierp CC BY

 And don’t forget the dance and live music at Luckenbach, Texas!

Luckenbach Dance Hall      Gruenemann  CC BY

Saturday, December 26, 2015

TX State Parks First Day Hikes & Runs All Over Texas!!

Enjoy the many Texas State Parks and Parklands host First Day (January 1) hunting and running activities! Annual hikes are held at Abilene State Park, Balmorhea State Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Bastrop State Park, Blanco State Park, Brazos Bend State Park (day and night hikes), Caprock Canyons State Park, Cedar Hill State Park, Cleburne State Park, Colorado Bend State Park, Cooper Lake State Park (both units), Daingerfield State Park, Davis Mountains State Park, Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area (to the cave), Dinosaur Valley State Park, Eisenhower State Park, Enchanted Rock SNA, Falcon State Park, Fort Parker State Park (at midnight), Franklin Mountains State Park, Franklin Mountains State Park (Wyler Aerial Tramway), Galveston Island State Park, Goliad State Park, Government Canyon SNA, Guadalupe River State Park, Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site, Inks Lake State Park (morning and twilight hikes), Lake Arrowhead State Park, Lake Casa Blanca International State Park, Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, Lake Brownwood State Park, Lake Colorado City State Park, Lake Livingston State Park, Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway, Lake Tawakoni State Park, Lockhart State Park, Lost Maples State Natural Area, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park, Martin Creek Lake State Park, Martin Dies Jr. State Park, McKinney Falls State Park, Meridian State Park, Mission Tejas State Park, Monument Hill SHS, Mother Neff State Park, Mustang Island State Park, Mustang Island State Park, Mustang Island State Park, Pedernales Falls State Park, Purtis Creek State Park, Ray Roberts Lake State Park, San Angelo State Park, San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, Sheldon Lake State Park, South Llano River State Park, Stephen F. Austin State Park, Tyler State Park, and Village Creek State Park.

Franklin Mountains State Park Hike  TPWD Copyright

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Make Every Holiday Steak Dinner an Event!

All it takes to make the perfect steak dinner is a good cut of steak, Bearnaise sauce, a Caesar salad, and a Big Green Egg, or your barbecue of choice! I love to cook and will occasionally add recipes to the blogs. 

Bearnaise Sauce The Right Way:

½ Cup White Wine (Gallo is Fine)
½ Cup Heinz Distilled White Vinegar (or other store brand)
1 Palm full of fresh dried Tarragon (HEB or Central Market)
1 Tablespoon Minced Green Onion (I usually am out)
2 Sticks of Salted Butter at Room Temperature
3 Whole Egg Yolks from Large Fresh Eggs

Put wine, vinegar, onion, and dried tarragon in a small sauce pan. When measuring the tarragon, cup your hand palm side up and fill it up! Simmer until there are approximately two tablespoons of liquid left. Let cool. Some people hate the smell of this step (my daughter!). And do not burn the pan as it will take you a month to clean it!

In a food processor, blend the butter and egg yolks. Add the above cooled mixture and blend until thoroughly mixed.

Because raw eggs can make you sick, put the sauce in a small sauce pan on low heat and cook until you think the eggs are cooked. At this point, the sauce will separate and you will have to throw it out. I have absolutely no idea why, but for the past 20 years I have totally forgotten this last step! Instead, I store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to six weeks and take out only what I need at each meal. BĂ©arnaise sauce is also good on salmon and asparagus.  

Needs Bearnaise Sauce  Michael Gras, M.Ed. CC BY

Caesar Salad:
This is the real recipe! Years ago at Pepe’s Grill in Cozumel, when they still made the salad table side, a waiter measured everything out for me. He gave me a pen and told me to write it down on my napkin, which I did. You should not eat this dressing because it has raw eggs which can make you sick, though it does not make my family sick.

½ of Juice from a 2 Inch Round Lime
4 Large (fresh) Egg Yolks
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce (French)
4 Anchovies from a Small Tin Can
¼ Teaspoon Dry Mustard
5 Cloves of Garlic from a Two Inch Garlic Bulb
2/3 Cup Olive Oil (Bertolli Classico or Kirkland) – Not Virgin!
Pepper to Taste

Graded Reggiano Parmesan Cheese
Romaine Lettuce, cleaned
Garlic Seasoned Croutons

Peel the garlic and drain the anchovies on a paper towel. In a wooden bowl, combine most of the lime juice, and all of the egg yolks, Worcestershire Sauce, dry mustard, olive oil, and the anchovies and garlic (pressed through a garlic press, Mix well. If the dressing has a tart taste (anchovies), slowly add in more lime juice, tasting after each addition. Chill.

Separate the leaves and clean the romaine lettuce. Drain on a towel. When almost dry, put in a Ziploc bag, press out extra air, and seal the bag. Place in the refrigerator for several hours until the lettuce is crisp.

Mix the lettuce and dressing in a large bowl. Place on salad plates and top with the grated cheese and garlic croutons.

Caesar Salad           Jessica Spengler CC BY

Onion Soup: Bonus Recipe
This recipe is so simple and so good. This is perfect with Caesar Salad on New Year’s Eve!

2 Whole Three Inch Onions, Peeled and Thinly Sliced
1 Stick Butter
2 14.5 Ounce Cans Swanson Beef Broth (Other Fancy Brands do not Work)
Garlic and Onion Flavored Croutons
Mozzarella Cheese Slices, Cut in Strips (I Use Kraft)

Sauté onions in butter on low heat for about ten minutes until tender, but not brown. Add beef broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour soup in four oven-proof soup bowls. Top with croutons and then top with several strips of mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted. Serve with Caesar Salad for a Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Exciting Christmas Ice Skating Rinks in Texas!!

Annual Marshall, Texas Wonderland of Lights & Ice Skating, Late Nov Through Dec:
This event features stunning lighting displays with over 10 million Christmas lights on buildings, the 1901 courthouse, homes, trees and decorations. The event kicks off with an official Wonderland of Lights Lighting Ceremony in November. Neighborhoods decorate using a central theme. Bus tours or horse drawn carriage tours are available. The town square is beautifully decorated and features an ice skating rink, ice performances, Santa’s Workshop, Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, strolling carolers, a chuckwagon breakfast, train rides, a snow tubing hill and more. Choirs perform on the square every Tuesday and Thursday night. Other activities include weekend music concerts at the Marshall Convention Center, a Lighted Parade, and hourly bus tours and the Wonderland 5K Run and Walk. Walking or driving tour maps are available from the Wonderland Information Center booth on the second floor of the Weisman Center on the square at 211 North Washington Avenue. (800) 953-7868.

In 2010 Barton Creek opened a 3,800 square foot outdoor ice rink in their newly renovated Resort Pavilion. 2010 ice skating dates were 24 November through the first Sunday in January. The skating rink is open to local residents, club members and resort guests. “The holiday Shop” sells gifts and showcases a variety of theme decorated Christmas trees with themes ranging from the traditional “Winter Wonderland” and “Peppermint Twist” to the more eclectic “Christmas on the Ranch,” “University of Texas” and “Keep Austin Weird.” Barton Creek Resort and Spa is located west of the town of West Lake Hills off Bee Caves Road. (800) 336-6158. (512) 329-4000. 8212 Barton Club Drive, 78735.

Annual Whole Foods (Austin - Lamar Boulevard) Ice Skating On The Plaza, 29 Nov Thru 9 Jan, 2015:
The ice skating rink is open daily, 10am-9pm. Admission is $10. This wonderful skating rink is located on the Rooftop Plaza at Whole Foods Market, 525 North Lamar Boulevard, 78703. (512) 542-2200. Email

Annual Northern Lights Ice Festival in Prosper, Texas, Late Nov-Jan 3:
This is a favorite annual family festival presented by the Prestonwood Baptist Church. The ice skating rink is open on select days from late November through December. The Northern Lights Festival is held on two December weekends. Activities include Christmas cookie decorating in the Gingerbread House, letters to and from Santa, Polar Express Rides, photos with Santa, Mrs. Santa and several Disney characters, and much more. (972) 820-5000. 1001 West Prosper Trail, 75078. 

Annual Moody Gardens Festival of Lights, Ice Skating, Snow, Galveston, Texas, Nov-Dec:
This event features over one million lights within 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays, ice skating, Saturday nights snow play area, Friday night bring a canned good night, dinner at the Garden Restaurant, photos with Santa, holiday movies, Imagine Christmas (a Holiday Musical Dinner and Show), and nightly live entertainment. Admission to the Rainforest Pyramid, Aquarium Pyramid, MG 3D Theater, Ridefilm Theater and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat can be purchased for $6 each with a Festival of Lights ticket. Tickets to the 4D Special FX Theater can be purchased for $10.95 adults/ $8.95 child. Bring your own skates or skate rental is also available for just $6. (800) 582-4673. One Hope Boulevard, 77554. Moody Gardens is a public, non-profit educational destination.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thanksgiving Picnic & Christmas Train Rides

Welcome to the Events Blog where you will read about many of the exciting annual events happening in Texas! Vattman, Texas’ Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church Thanksgiving Picnic is a favorite in the Kingsville area. If you plan to attend and are from out of the area, plan to eat some of the best seafood on the Texas Coast at the Kings Inn in Loyola Beach! With the Christmas Holidays just weeks away, we will be listing some fabulous holliday events that for some will require making advanced travel arrangements. The listed Christmas trains and train rides will appeal to children of all ages! Future blog updates will include Christmas Tree Farms, Special Ice Skating Rinks, Holiday Lights Trails, and more exciting events.

The former town of Vattman is located at the intersection of FM 626 and FM 772, east of Riviera. On Thanksgiving Day the women of Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church host the annual Vattmann Community Thanksgiving Dinner from 11am to 2pm. Over 2,000 people from the surrounding area attend this event which started in 1914. The dinner menu includes home cooked turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, garden salads, cranberry sauce, breads, dessert, and beverages. Other activities include a turkey shoot, arts and crafts, a country store, a raffle and a silent auction, a moonwalk, a fish pond, a country/western dance, bingo, and a hayride. From south of Kingsville, go five miles east on FM 628 towards Loyola Beach and the Kings Inn. The church and hall are located on your left at 204 Palm Avenue, Riviera. The church is visible from FM 626. (361) 297-5255. Nearby towns include Kingsville, Riviera, and Riviera Beach. Email

This is an absolutely fabulous train. The Holiday Express was created in 2001 after volunteers dedicated over 8,000 hours to the rigorous transformation of the retired freight train. The train was built on the tradition of the former Gateway Western (GWWR) Santa Train, which made stops in small towns from East St. Louis, Ill. to Blue Springs, Mo. (GWWR was purchased by KCS in 1997.) In 2000, KCS employees noticed that the Santa Train was the only Christmas some children had, and that some children did not have essential items such as coats, hats and gloves. The employees were so touched that they committed to elevating the project to the experience that communities throughout KCSR's service area enjoy today." The Holiday Express train distributes gift cards to the Salvation Army to provide warm clothing and other necessities for children in need at stops along the Holiday Express route. Donations are accepted. The six-car train with Santa Claus and his elves makes stops in 25 or more communities in seven U.S. states.  Access to the train is free and open to the public. Led by KCS’ Southern Belle business train, the Holiday Express train includes a smiling tank car “Rudy”; a flat car carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a gingerbread box car; the elves’ workshop; the reindeer’s stable; and a little red caboose. New in 2010 was the addition of a G-gauge Holiday Express model train that will run around the flat car during Holiday Express stops. The route varies slightly each year. The 2015 Holiday Express Schedule includes the Texas Cities of Beaumont (28 November at KCS Yard, 4095 South Martin Luther King Parkway), Beasley near Kendleton (29 November at KCS Intermodal Shipper Facility), El Campo (Evans Park on 30 November at 112 East Monseratte Street), Victoria (on 1 December at U.S. Business 59 at Burroughsville Road), Ganado (2 December at U.S. Business 59 at FM 172), and the Wharton depot at 100 North Sunset Street. It will also stop at Shreveport, Louisiana on 4 December at the KCS yard, 4500 North Lake Shore Drive, Gate 5, 71107. Shreveport is located 45 miles southeast of Jefferson, Texas, 42 miles east of Marshall, Texas, approximately 36 miles southeast of Uncertain and Karnack, Texas, and 22 miles slightly northeast of Waskom, Texas. (816) 983-1372. (816) 983-1668.

Activities on this one hour train ride include reading "The Polar Express" story, music from the Polar Express movie, a visit from Santa, caroling, and a stop at the North Pole. Cookies and hot chocolate are served by dancing chefs (yes, chefs). Children are encouraged to wear warm pajamas. Group reservations are available. (888) 987-2461. Trains depart from the Palestine Depot on Park Road 70. Rides are scheduled on weekends from Mid-November until after Christmas. (903) 683-2561. (877) 726-7245.

The Grapevine Depot is decorated with thousands of lights, and animated characters. The train ride is based on the bestselling children’s book and movie, "The Polar Express." Children are encouraged to wear their warmest pajamas for this 30 minute ride. Entertainment includes hot chocolate, a commemorative gift for all children, a journey through a Christmas tree maze, story time, a visit from Santa, and photos with Santa. The Grapevine Depot offers live entertainment, food, drinks, children’s activities, and shopping opportunities. The tickets go on sale the third week in September, and usually sell out. Rides are offered the last week of November, and the first 3 weeks of December. (817) 410-3123. The depot is located in Grapevine at 705 S. Main Street, just north of Dallas Street.

The train offers round trips to the North Pole during the Christmas holidays. Activities include a Christmas story, a visit from Santa, caroling, hot cocoa, and a treat and special gift for each child. Children are encouraged to wear warm pajamas. Call or click on the above link for dates and times. Tickets sell out very early. (877) 726-7245. 103 North Steck Avenue, Wolfforth, TX 79382. Wolfforth, Texas is located at the intersection of U.S. 62/82 and CR 1400, 25 miles west of Slaton, and 11 miles southwest of Lubbock, Texas. Wolfforth Texas Map  Wolfforth Area Map