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A few months ago, we discussed what exhibits were being showcased in some of our states best museums. We figured it would be a good time to see what new things were going on. You know, just so you have something to do and stuff.

Dallas Museum of Art: Mark Bradford ~ The DMA focuses on this emerging, modern artist. According to the museum’s website, Bradford “ is best known for his large-scale abstract paintings made from a variety of collaged materials.” For many North texans, this seems like an exhibit that would typically be found in Ft. Worth, so it’s pretty cool to have it land in Dallas’ Art District.

Museum of Fine Arts Houston ~ We could stop with two words: King Tut. But we wont. This gem of Houston’s stellar museum district has too many other great thigns going on right now. If the lines are too long for Tut, or tickets are sold-out, we suggest the The Spirit of Modernism exhibit. Thanks to a gift from a friend of the museum, John R. Eckel, MFAH has only built a stronger case as perhaps the prime must-visit museum in all of the state.

Harry Ransom Center (Austin): Banned, Burned, Siezed and Censored ~ On the heels of wonderful, literary exhibitions (see: Kerouac’s scrolls for On The Road and the recently concluded Tennessee Williams exhibit), this Austin treasure’s latest exhibit ”reveals the rarely seen ‘machinery’ of censorship in the United States between the two world wars. It’s also more than worthy to note that the permenet collection of the Ransom center has one of the only five Gutenburg Bibles in the US. In terms of literary history, it’s pretty hard to top that one.

Kimbell Art Museum (Ft. Worth): Caravaggio & His Followers in Rome ~ What can be said about this museum that hasn’t been said by legions of admirers already? Not much really. In fact, the jewel of Ft. Worth’s excellent arts district is worthy of one simply showing up without even knowing what’s currently travelring through, thanks to the museum’s high standards and historically-proven track record of being beter than so many others at what they do. So, with that said: Just go.

There’s really not much to say or add to what you see below. If you’re not famililar with the site Daytrotter.Com, then you’ve been missing out n some serious (and free) music by some of the biggest names (Death Cab for Cutie, Social D, Bon Iver) and brightest up and comers (Yuck, Portugal the Man, Dawes) that the musical universe has to offer. Big time. But, there’s good news: It doesn’t really matter if you havent clicked onto the site ever before, as there is gold beyond measure awaiting you from years of not visiting it before.

What’s even better is that many Texas-based acts have visited the Daytrotter studios in Rock Island, Ill and laid down tracks to be listened to and downloaded from the site. There’s always a great write-up and whimsical artwork to go along with the 4-5 songs as well.

Well, let’s get to it. Below are but a sampling of Texans that have Daytrotted before. You’d be crazy to not dig deeper, OK??

Matt the Electrician | Fresh Millions | Dale Watson | Dignan | Doug Burr | Old 97′s | Ben Kweller | Black Angels | Centro-matic | Jesse Dayton | Meat Puppets | Asleep at the Wheel | Monahans | Seryn | Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis is a Texas country artist that isn’t like many so-called Texas country artists thesae days. In fact, he’s really just a straight-up stone-cold country twanger with a sensitive soul and a deft touch with a tune that focuses more on the writing than it does a thunderous, frat boy-approved backbeat. What’s refreshing is that we’re in a time where folk-artists with serious contry leanings that focus on soulful writing such as Justin Tones Earle, Josh Ritter and Joe Pug can become successful touring artists and critical darlings. In such a setting, there’s no wondering whether the 22 year old, long-haired Ellis will be a success. Signed to New West Records, the Houston native is label-mates with The Old 97′s, and John Hiatt, among others. Lately, he has regularly been stealing the show from the likes of Lucero and Dawes with his understated, folksy approach to country story-telling.

Ellis’ debut full-length album, Photographs, rarely rises above a whisper. It doesn’t need to really. The sparse production isn’t terribly unlike that of a classic Texas album, Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. Ol’ Willie didn’t need his amps cranked up to 11 to wow the masses, now did he? Indeed, there are some nods to laid-back 1970′s singer-songwriter stylings – whether it be James Taylor or even Jackson Browne.

Really, this is an album best enjoyed on a porch, after dark as the only light available barely flickers as you sit alone with only a warm glass of high-octane brown liquid to accompany you and the thoughts that are conjured up by Ellis’ rich, yet plain spoken imagery. It’s not like other’s arent noticing, mind you. The always excellent site Daytrotter.Com recently featured Ellis and had him in to record a few songs for their site (which you can download for free), and even Spin magazine had some nice things to say recently about the latest export of the Texas folk-country factory that now belongs to the entire country.

Robert Ellis – What’s In It For Me by NewWestRecords

OK, you’re right. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are so not from Texas. There might be some sort of ties to the Lone Star state, but I’m not familiar with them if there are any, to be truthful.

But, on August 30th, they’ll be all over the state. I mean all over it. In fact, they’ll soon invade our state’s (along with other states) movie theaters. To celebrate the release of their upcoming and hotly anticipated album, I’m With You, the band will debut the album in its entirety, live in concert and beam it to movie screens everywhere. Pretty sweet, right?

Check out the trailer for the film above and also give a look to see which theater the show will run near you. Regardless of where you live in Texas, you shouldn’t be too far from a Red Hot Chili Screen.

5k’s and 10k’s are great. Marathons are downright scary. The Tough Mudder, though, is what the Iron Man wants to be when it grows up and can have a few drinks.

Billing itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet,” the event which takes place all over the world year-round is certainly one of the craziest events on the planet. Which, by the way, makes it pretty darn cool in our book. Created by a British counter-terrorism specialist, this is far more than a muddy obstacle course for weekend warriors.

In each city the Mudder takes place in, a 10-12 mile course filled with mud-soaked obstacles that will test stamina, overall toughness and according to the event’s site, “mental grit”.

Over the course of the next 8 months, three Tough Mudders will take place in our great state, actually. Coming up really soon, Central Texas will host a Mudder in Paige, nestled in Bastrop Country. That event will take place on October 8 and 9. Soon after that one, the Gulf Coastal region will get a taste of mud and sweat in January of 2012. then, in the Spring of 2012, North Texas will see a Mudder come their way when Dallas will be covered in Mud for a weekend.

Crazy costumes, boisterous after-parties and what has to be a serious sense of accomplishment are to be enjoyed by all when it comes to the Mudders. As it turns out, this writer is planning on mudding it up himself (along with his brother), so you can be sure I’ll have a few stories of training gone wrong and a recap of how things all go down when my body becomes one with pain and mud.

One sunny, late fall day a few years ago, I had the pleasure of skipping the afternoon session of a trade show while in our state’s largest city. Knowing I needed to back in the Galleria area later that evening for a function or two related to the trade-show, I discarded a couple of ideas that would’ve had myself taking a serious day-trip, well out of the city limits. As it turned out, it was silly to even think of exiting the congested confines of what is an underrated artistic gem. Well, at least it’s underrated to many of us outside of the Gulf Coast.

Given the fact that Houston’s Museum District is as rife with time-killing goodness as it is, I highly doubt that it’s flying under the radar of any art or history-loving Houstonian. Growing up in the Ft. Worth area, as I did, it’s easy to think that everyone else in the state gazes enviously upon the historic and renowned Arts District (home to The Kimball Art Museum, among many others).

In one afternoon, I was treated to eclectic and edgy installations at the Contemporary Arts Museum, just after experiencing a more traditional, yet highly awe-inspiring visit to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. In fact, the Fine Arts collection is showcasing a highly-praised grouping of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work from The National Gallery, at this very time. Clearly, I focused on the art which the neighborhood offered, but the history is as prevalent and important as the collections of the museums I managed to visit. Perhaps on another trip, I’ll make it to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, or possibly to Houston’s Holocaust Museum, which is different than the one in Dallas.

There’s also something for the kiddos, too. The Children’s Museum of Houston is a colorful blast of interactive fun for both parent and child. And there’s the Houston Museum of Natural Science - which, as is the case in Ft. Worth, has an IMAX Theater.

So, next time you’re sitting in a convention in Houston, and the rest of the day’s docket looks pretty dull, act like you have to take a call in the hallway and hop in your rental and point it to the museum district!

Elgin’s Coyote Creek Farms can be found in bakeries, like Lauren Hubele’s Bona Dea Bread in Austin, but not in the way you might suspect. Dedicated to sustainable, organic farming, and ranching practices, coupled with the humane treatment of all farm animals, Coyote Creek Farm provides eggs, meats and more to locally owned and operated Central Texas businesses and farms.

But if you don’t live in the Elgin area, don’t fret, you can purchase the farm’s eggs exclusively at your local Whole Foods Market.

As they explain on their site, Coyote Creek’s claim of offering the “World’s Best Eggs” is not bragging, it is more of a classification. “Currently our eggs are very nutrient dense, higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and lower in cholesterol than eggs produced in confined conditions. One of the reasons that our eggs are more nutrient dense is that our organic pastures are treated with compost tea four times a year. Compost Tea, in simplest terms, is extracting the biology from organic compost into a water solution, multiplied with molasses, humic acid, volcanic rock, greensand and so forth. The result is a micro-herd of protozoa and nematodes that feed on the bacteria and fungi produced together in the compost tea,” says Coyote Creek farmer, Jeremiah Cunningham.

I guess the only thing missing is diatomaceous earth – sorry – just had to type one of my most favorite phrases to say. Anyway, the next time you’re shopping for eggs, so Texas. Being a farm girl myself, I can assure you that farm eggs in particular are amazing in both their flavor and color. Vibrant orange yolks and creamy texture and taste, farm eggs have no equal. And Coyote Creek’s eggs are no exception.

Hotel Galvez & Spa will host its third annual Holiday Lighting Celebration on Friday, Nov. 26 from 6 to 8 p.m.

This festive celebration, which will kick off with the lighting of the hotel’s new 35-foot Christmas tree, is free for the public and will feature:

A special visit by Santa Claus
Holiday entertainment by the Galveston Ballet
Bagpipers
Holiday greetings from Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski and Galveston’s own Queen Victoria.

Hotel Galvez will also be collecting new, unwrapped toys for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

Festivities will begin on the front lawn of Hotel Galvez with the arrival of Santa Claus by carriage. As part of the celebration, Mayor Jaworski will count down with the crowd and officially light the hotel and Christmas tree to mark the start of the holiday season.

Inside the hotel, Executive Chef Jerry Helminski will unveil his holiday gingerbread display, a replica of the Hotel Galvez made entirely of gingerbread, and the lobby bar will feature holiday specialty drinks. The event is sponsored by Mitchell Historic Properties and Hotel Galvez & Spa.

In concert with the Holiday Lighting Celebration, the hotel will also offer a special holiday package during the Thanksgiving weekend. The Thanksgiving Getaway package, available Nov. 24 and Nov. 25, includes a two-night stay, Thanksgiving brunch for two and complimentary valet parking. The two-night package is priced at $395 for a deluxe Gulf view room or $355 for a deluxe city view room based on double capacity. Guests can add a third night to their stay for $129. Pricing does not include tax.

Santa Claus will make special appearances at the hotel’s Sunday Brunch with Santa throughout the holiday season on Dec. 5, 12 and 19, where guests are invited to take pictures with Santa.

During the month of December, the hotel’s live entertainment will take on a holiday theme on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hotel Galvez & Spa wants you to embark on exciting ghost hunts and other spooky goings ons during the month of October.

Over the years, guests have reported seeing or feeling a presence in some parts of the hotel, primarily on the fifth floor. Hotel staff has often reported odd occurrences throughout the hotel, such as candles blowing out on their own and dishes breaking with no one around. The hotel is also known for its “Ghost Bride,” who has reportedly been seen in Room 501 and throughout the fifth floor. This October, the hotel will be included in an episode of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Stories entitled “The Ghost of Sister Katherine” and Hotel Galvez was featured on Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab in 2009.

The “haunted” hotel  - and did I mention that Hotel Galvez & Spa is a National Trust Historic Hotel and the only historic beachfront hotel on the Texas Gulf Coast - is extending its ghost tour, typically reserved for guests, to the public as part of a special three-course dinner special on Thursday evenings. Additionally, the hotel will offer special overnight ghost tour packages for guests on Thursdays and in conjunction with its Sunday Brunch.,

Beginning on Thursday, Oct. 7 and continuing through Thursday, Oct. 28, the public can enjoy a one-hour ghost tour of the historic hotel followed by three-course dinner at Bernardo’s Restaurant, located on-site at Hotel Galvez. The public ghost tour is only available as part of the dinner package priced at $35 per person. The tour begins at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Advance reservations are required for the dinner. Guests must contact the restaurant at (409) 765-7721 for reservations and you can go here to review the menu.

This year, Hotel Galvez has also revamped its ghost tour packages to offer two options for overnight guests. Priced at $179 per night, the “Dinner with the Ghosts” package is available every Thursday night in October and includes deluxe guestroom accommodations for two, a three-course dinner for two, the ghost tour and valet parking. The Thursday night package is based on double occupancy and subject to availability.

The “Galvez Ghost Brunch” package, priced at $189 per night, is available every Sunday in October, including Halloween, based on double occupancy and subject to availability. The package includes deluxe guestroom accommodations for two, the famous Galvez Sunday Brunch for two, a guided ghost tour on Sunday evening, valet parking and a 25 percent discount on a treatment of choice at The Spa at the Hotel Galvez, giving guests the opportunity to relax before or after their frightful tour.

During Thursday and Sunday tours, Hotel Galvez concierge Jackie Hasan will guide participants through the ghostly past of the hotel while using an electromagnetic field detector and infrared thermometer to conduct a paranormal investigation.

Read more Galvez Ghost Stories here and here and here

HomeAway announced this morning the the launch of its free HomeAway Vacation Rental Search iPhone application. The app, developed by Mobiata, creators of  FlightTrack and TripDeck, makes it easier than ever for travelers, especially families, to search, filter and share the more than 230,000 global vacation rental properties available on HomeAway.com.

So, say you want to rent a charming, artsy getaway house in Marfa…HomeAway has you covered. High desert not your thing? Check out this beachy rental on the Gulf Coast.

The app incorporates many of the same convenient features found on HomeAway.com including filter by number of bedrooms and price, but also enables users to search as specifically as “Lake Travis, pet-friendly, outdoor grill, with pool,” for example.

Additional highlights of the HomeAway application include the ability to:

  • Make it easy to share vacation rental options with groups of friends and family via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter
  • Rotate the iPhone to landscape view for travelers to see detailed property photos in gallery form
  • View the physical location of vacation rentals via Google Maps and search by proximity to landmarks and geography

The HomeAway Vacation Rental Search app is free to use, and iPhone users can download the application from the iPhone App Store, or at www.homeaway.com/info/travelers/iPhoneApp.