Outdoor options in Bell County


The newest issue of Bell County Living was just recently released from the presses. I had the pleasure of having an article on the Nolan Creek Project featured in their outdoor section of the publication. Feel free to check out several spreads and the full article below! And if you’re looking for some great outdoor activities, check out some of the ones I’ve mentioned toward the end of the article:


As an avid outdoor adventurist, the Nolan Creek Project is a pretty exciting addition to local Bell County. The Nolan Creek Project expansion was completed September 2016 after construction originally began in 2014. Outdoor adventurists in Bell County now have something to look forward to this summer season.

The Nolan Creek area of Belton has always been a popular social spot in Belton for many generations, especially during 4th of July festivities. The modern Nolan Creek project was conceptualized by Belton City Council, and the first leg of the Nolan Creek Hike & Bike Trail through the downtown area was a catalyst. This project brought more people downtown, and with the completion of the Gin complex, momentum picked up.

This project was prepped for completion after help from donors such as Texas Parks & Wildlife, CGI Group, HEB and several other small donors. Even the former Belton Mayor, Jim Covington, was excited when the state grant was awarded to the project. With several phases to finalize the project, the end result cost $521,000. The cascades, which provide rolling water behind The Gin, now called Creekside Park, were put into place by January 2015. Once these features were completed, the city saw tubing and kayaking activity increase along the creek with more waders taking advantage of spending time on the river. The second phase included a put-in location, complete with parking, near Chisholm Trail Senior Village on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. That particular area of the project could not begin until the new MLK bridge over Nolan Creek was finished in July 2016. By mid-September, the put-in location was completed around the same time as the new Nolan Creek Nature Trail.

The project’s completion in September 2016 was celebrated with a day of festivities that included tubing down the river with both local citizens and current Belton Mayor, Marion Grayson. She creatively coined the term, the Mayor’s Floatilla, for the experience. The unique ribbon-cutting event made history with Mayor Grayson lifting her “golf club paddle” into the air and slicing it through the ribbon strung across the creek by the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce. Once the Mayor and her floating crew arrived on land, inner tubes were passed out to the public for their own tubing experience. The city spent a couple hours taking people through the drops, and families enjoyed their time spent on the water.

Fun things to experience along Nolan Creek

There are now various activities visitors can experience along Nolan Creek since the expansion project has been completed. These include wading, tubing, kayaking, picnicking, bird watching, fishing, hiking, and biking.

Fishing: Twice a year, the creek is stocked with trout, and families are invited to come fish them out. Family, Fishin’, Fun is one of the best events of the year. Many residents and visitors gather at the creek in hopes of of catching a big trout.

Hiking, tubing and kayaking: Most people are aware of the Hike & Bike Trail with its fabulous 10-foot sidewalks. The new Nolan Creek Nature Trail is one of the best-kept secrets in Belton. Located on the UMHB side of the MLK bridge over Nolan Creek, it provides an ideal location for a picnic as well as a quarter-mile nature trail. To unload tubes and kayaks, visitors can use the small parking lot there as well. From this spot on Nolan Creek, it takes about two hours to float to the cascades downtown in Creekside Park, which is behind the Gin.

Picnicking: Picnic tables are located in Harris Park and Yettie Polk Park and both offer access to the creek.

Swimming– Some people prefer not to swim, while others are totally comfortable with it. It is recommended not to ingest the water as it is rated for kayaking, wading and tubing. If people want to make an informed decision about recreating in Nolan Creek, it is recommended to begin with visiting www.beltontexas.gov/creek.

Places to eat and shop near the Gin at Nolan Creek: Not only are there outdoor activities in Belton in this area, but for those who aren’t so in love with nature can definitely spend the day having their own version of fun. Visitors can eat at The Gin at Nolan Creek, grab some coffee at Amor Ciego coffee company, browse to their heart’s content at The Mercantile or My Giving Tree Gift Shop and Gallery, book a spa day at Woodhouse Spa and even have dinner at Coronas de Oro.

I personally enjoy my own walks along the Hike and Bike Trail which feeds into the campus of the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. For families looking for summer fun, there’s also a Splash pad along the Hike & Bike trail located across from the Harris Community Center. Picnic tables, restroom facilities, fishing spots, playgrounds, basketball courts and horseshoe pits provide some great Saturday activities.
For more information, please feel free to contact Matt Bates, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Belton at mbates@beltontexas.gov or call at 254-933-4862.

Advertisements

The Creative side of Central Texas


Locals shop at Ten Thousand Villages and admire local art

After I relocated back to my home state of Texas during the holidays, I have had the opportunity to write for our local newspaper, The Belton Journal. My first assignment was the perfect fit for me. I covered an Artist event at The Hub in Temple, Texas. Imagine my surprise when I saw that The Hub was also home to one of my former volunteering efforts, Ten Thousand Villages.

It is such a great thing to have a fair-trade and ethical shopping opportunity right near my home town. If the words fair-trade sound foreign to you… go here for some more info! If you’re in the Central Texas area, you should definitely check it out. I have included the article I wrote for the Belton Journal below if you want to read about the event earlier this year:

—————————————————————————————————

The Hub in Temple hosted the first Artist Meet & Greet on Friday, January 13. Eighteen local artisans shared their creative work with the community. This included watercolors, acrylic and oil paintings, metal work, photography, custom leather handbags, art glass, sculpture, pottery, quilts and jewelry. Artists involved hailed from Belton, Temple, Waco, Salado, Troy, College Station and surrounding areas.  

In addition, a variety of central Texas arts organizations were represented such as Central Texas Art League, Temple Cultural Arts District, Waco Cultural Arts Fest, Bell Fine Arts Association and the Brazos Valley Art League.

While art lovers were treated to wine and food, they mingled amidst the booths as the artists shared the inspiration behind their pieces. One of the artists featured was a local veterinarian, Beau Whitaker, who specializes in western graphite pencil art.

“My inspiration comes from my everyday job,” says Beau. “I am an equine veterinarian, so I work all day, every day with horses and the western subjects I draw. Living and working on the Four Sixes Ranch also had an impact on my art.”

Another artist, Darrell Crisp, a wildlife photographer who focuses on endangered animal species as his subject, donates a portion of his proceeds to Habitat for Humanity, The Nature Conservancy and Land trusts in Molokai, Hawaii.  

His wife and supporter of this event, Karen Crisp, remarked, “We are excited because now there is a venue in the Temple/Belton area for artists to showcase their work in a synergistic creative explosion. These types of events are helping to revitalize Temple like Waco has done, and there is now a creative hub within The Hub.”

Joe and Pam Shepperd are the visionaries behind the Hub concept and construction. They approached Bonnie Chapa, President and Founder of Central Texas Art League, about organizing an event after seeing her artwork in The Belton Journal.

“The Temple Cultural Arts District is beginning a movement, and the Hub has joined in this endeavor,” said Bonnie Chapa. “People begged for more art events, and we listened.”

The Hub in Temple resides in a turn of the century building that was once a harness shop. It opened December 1, 2016 and houses 22,000 square feet of retail space, including an event rental space and Sweet Eileen’s vintage cafe and ice cream shop. For upcoming events with the Hub, visit their website at www.thehubtemple.com or call 254-598-2293.


So if you’re in the Central Texas area, check out The Hub in downtown Temple, Texas!

-lme

20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase


Here is an article I had the opportunity to write on the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase that was published this spring in the Belton Journal:

Photo Credit: C.A. Cash at Shot-in-Texas

Photo Caption: Krysten Harris plays live onstage with Bobby Flores

Just a Swingin’ at the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase

Texas heritage came alive as feet shuffled on the dance floor while performers entertained at the 20th annual Texas Western Swing Showcase at the Bell County Expo Center on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4. Bobby Flores and Judy Rountree co-produced the event for the first time this year. The musical lineup featured Jeff Woolsey & the Dancehall Kings, Bobby Flores & the Yellow Rose Band, Future Stars of Tomorrow Showcase and Coby Carter & 5 Miles West.  

“If we are going to preserve the music, we have to get young people involved,” said Judy Rountree, the Marketing, Promotions and Publicity contact for Bobby Flores and co-organizer of the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase. “We don’t want to lose it. It’s a part of history. We need to preserve the history of music as well. This music is jazz on cornbread.”

The Future Stars of Tomorrow showcase on Saturday afternoon featured young musicians ranging from age 11 to 30.  They hailed from various locations across the state of Texas. All but one of the young performers in the showcase has attended Bobby Flores’s Annual Summer Music Camp Retreat for traditional country & western swing music held in Eastland, Texas. This camp is connected to his music school, the Bulverde Academy of Music.

“Most of it’s upbeat and it’s just the type of music you wanna dance to,” said Caroline Grace Wiseman, guitar student, performer and singer, 11 years old.

Another future star of tomorrow was Krysten Harris, the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Awards Western Swing Female Artist of the year.  Krysten was also named 2016 Western Music Association Entertainer of the Year, Two time Western Music Association Female Performer of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and the 2015 Western Music Association Western Album of the Year for “Down the Trail.” She currently performs in the United States and abroad.

“I love Western Swing, and it’s a sound not everybody is doing,” said Krysten Harris backstage a few acts before her set.

Photo Credit: C.A. Cash at Shot-in-Texas

Photo Caption:R.J. Smith, fiddler in the Bobby Flores and the
Yellow Rose Band, coaches and mentors Max Ryan Cook before he goes
onstage at the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase

Vendors included musician merchandise tables and Wildorado Silverworks, a jewelry company based in Amarillo, Texas.

“This whole Western Swing is like a big family,” said Norma Jean Leigh, co-owner of Wilderado Silverworks. “Everybody looks out for everybody.  We all pray for everybody.”

Texas Western Swing is the official music of Texas. Not only did the event showcase the official music of Texas, but attendees frequented the dance floor to partake in Texas dance favorites including the two-step, waltz and more. One highlight of the event included a drawing for a cabin for two on the 8th Annual Bobby Flores’ Western Swing Caribbean Cruise.  Lorenda Baldwin of Angleton, Texas, was the winner for the cruise setting sail on January 13, 2018, for seven days from San Juan, Puerto Rico to five ports in the Virgin Islands on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Bobby Flores, a 47 year veteran of the music industry, is a 2002 Grammy Award winning musician.  He is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, arranger, composer and first call session musician.  Bobby has been featured on over four hundred albums, singles and CDs, including performances with numerous, major label artists.  Bobby also composes music for radio and television commercials airing throughout the U.S., Australia and Europe.
To learn more about the Texas Western Swing Showcase as well as performers and upcoming events, feel free to visit www.texaswesternswingshowcase.com.  To learn more about Bobby’s Bulverde Academy of Music and other events, visit the school’s website at www.bulverdeacademyofmusic.com, and visit Bobby’s band site at www.bobbyfloresband.com.

Observations and Music Merchandise


DeathtoStock_NotStock10Photo Credit: Death to Stock Photos

I had the privilege of working the merchandise booth recently for a friend, and I observed some aspects that made me a think a little deeper about the realm of sales and the point of purchase. I wanted to share what I was able to procure from this experience:

  1. Presentation is important. People are drawn to things that look good. That’s just a pretty obvious point to most things in life in general. Attractive people, attractive homes, attractive clothing- you name it. So make it pleasing to the eye. Even small touches like how it’s arranged or the orderliness could go a long way.  So give some thought to placement and the “how” behind it all.
  2. Sales can be low, so make it easy for people to purchase. People seem to be purchasing more online these days, so music merchandise tables are no different. With comments like “oh yeah, I can just buy this online,” there’s a definite sign that the times of purchasing have changed. With the ability to purchase later online, there’s no sense of urgency. I mean, I can worry about this later so no need to whip out cash or card now, right? Another thing to consider is making your price points visible. People who might be willing to give 5 or 25 should all be made to feel welcome. Create a legible sign. Let your sign show that this is the 5 dollar price point, this is the 10, this is the 20 and on to the package deal at 25-30. Oftentimes, people already have their spending limit in their mind. If you had something at their particular price level, they could purchase on the spot. Whether it’s an online store or a brick and mortar, make pricing easy to read and available. There’s nothing more unsettling than not knowing price and having to ask. No one likes to think- If I have to ask, then I must not be able to afford it. That’s isolating and arrogant on the part of the seller. Be proud of your product and be confident enough to know that it’s worth every penny.  
  3. Interaction is imperative. Be friendly and engage with all people who may come your way. Ask people how they are doing and engage them. People may want to chat for a bit. If so, they may linger and purchase something. It is important that you have someone work your merchandise table while you play. If people decide to purchase any merchandise during your set and your table is vacant, they may move on and not come back later in the evening. If your music is strictly online, then make yourself accessible somehow. People sometimes need help, so be around when they need it.  

So, consider the details, because they are important. Don’t minimize the preparation and attention you give to your merchandise and your merchandise table. If you actually take care about the tiny things, the larger things in your career and life may just take of themselves.

Be faithful in the small things 🙂

~lme

Ambrosia Tea Room


Tea for two was the theme for a lazy, late lunch one Saturday afternoon on the first of April 2017. My mom and I visited Ambrosia Tea Room in Salado, Texas for our midday meal. Upon entering the tea house, one can quickly observe the care and attention to detail that has been placed into the creation of the tea room. Each room has relics of days gone by, of a sweeter time, menus don feminine fonts and shabby chic adequately describes some of the final touches. One of the decorative highlights is the glass tea cup chandelier hanging above the register in the main dining room.

Lunch was unique and delicious. We both drank the sweetened cranberry tea, and it reminded mom of wassail. A springtime wassail if you will. I had the turkey, cream cheese, avocado and cranberry spread on a croissant while mom had the same on wheat and a side of zucchini soup. The sandwich was the ideal pairing of sweet cranberry, rich cream and a little salt with the turkey. The perfect touch was what they call the “Ambrosia Salad,” which came in a little dish on our plates. It’s the amazing mixture of heavenly fluff composed of strawberry yogurt, whipping cream, cheesecake mix and probably some kind of magic 🙂

If you haven’t been to this place, you definitely need to check it out on a shopping day out in Salado, Texas.  They have also been the recipients of the KWTX Clean Plate Award! Ambrosia Tea Room is located at 102 N. Main Street, Salado, Texas 76571.

A Comman Case of the Shoulds


deathtostock_lonely_commute-09

Photo Credit: DeathtoStock Photos

We spend a considerable amount of mental time and energy in the world of the “shoulds.” I should have been farther by now. I should be married. I should look like him or her. I should not still be struggling with this. This should not bother me. I should have gotten so much more accomplished today.  I should, I should, I should…. let’s breathe. And consider a few things about the should thoughts that tend to float into our minds or rather attack our minds…

  1.  You are where you are today. And that’s ok. One powerful thing a therapist once told me was- “you’re exactly where you need to be.” There’s purpose in that. There’s power in the process, in learning how to gradually grow. There’s beauty in realizing how vulnerable and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. No matter what the struggle, no matter how deep, no matter the pain, or how big that heap….. every mountain can be conquered step by step if you keep moving forward.
  2. How much of the “shoulds” are actually imposed perceptions by others OR supposedly imposed perceptions by others? Begin to ask yourself questions when a should pops up suddenly. Do you honestly want the things others want for you? Do you have the same worldview as them? Do you care about the same things they do? How much should their opinion affect you like the ankle weight they are? What if we began to challenge what others decided for our lives and decided to consider what was truly best, healthy and balanced for ourselves.
  3. Let the “should” only be used as a short emotional spurt of inspiration to spur you onto greater accomplishments. Want to conquer a goal and say I “Should” be here in my career? Then turn that statement quickly into a “how could I accomplish that” or “how might I find that purpose or enjoyment in another area of my life if I can’t be there today?” Then begin to map out small steps for improvement in that area. Even the tiniest incremental changes are STILL CHANGE 🙂

All in all, the “should” statements and thoughts focus on what we lack in our being. What if we were less harsh to ourselves and encouraging of the growth, gifts and goodness we did see in ourselves. Lovingkindness should be directed not only to others, but also to ourselves. And THAT is a “should” statement I think we can all get behind.

~lme

Open scars


DeathtoStock_NotStock2

Photo Credit: Death to Stock Photos

I burned myself recently on the heating element of my oven…. yes, cooking accidents are my forte.  And that burn was a doozy.  And as I’ve watched it heal recently, I began to think about it.  I thought about how I hadn’t covered it with a bandaid, and I hadn’t even really doctored it.  I just kept it clean and watched the skin began to re-construct the layers that had been melted.

And then I thought about what a perfect metaphor and reminder it was of scars in general and the struggles we endure in this life.  And I thought…. What if we didn’t hide our scars?  So what if I wasn’t able to keep my left index finger from scarring.  A blemish- the horror of horrors! What if each time I saw it, I was reminded of that painful memory?  And what if I didn’t try to cover it up, make it heal prettier or sugar coat what really happened to that piece of skin? Why not leave the scars and the stories on myself of all the things I’ve experienced or lived through in this short life on earth.

And just like letting my skin scar, I thought a little more.  What if we were more open about our blemishes, struggles, failures and imperfections.  I know we claim pretty openly to be imperfect, but do we really believe that and own it?  Or do we still feel we are trying to reach some unattainable goal the world or culture has set for us? In a world fixated on perfections, fancy creams, liposuction, tanning beds, hair dyes and spanks, it’s rather hard to want to accept and be ok with the shortcomings, blemishes and limitations we all deep down realize we have.  And to that I say- stop it right now, self and world.  I’m human, and I struggle.  I know others have had their share of struggles too.  But what if it was ok.  Ok to not uphold some image of feminine fabulousness. Ok to be not ok at times.  Ok to not always know what the future holds.  Ok to show your imperfections to others.  Ok to not try to cover up every little so-called flaw on your face.  God loves this mess.  He blessed me and many others with creativity, time, talent and heart that wants to find joy in the world around me.  So it’s time I, and you, stopped listening to the voices of negativity that try to tell us to cover up things that aren’t perfectly perfect.  Accept the imperfections, work on the things you can and be really thankful for God’s grace as he fills in the broken pieces of your vessel 🙂

~leah

 

Touring in Tulsa


 

lakescountryTahlequah_@ merch_1
Campbell_1

I recently returned from such an incredible first tour in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.  I wanted to detail a little about our travels for that weekend of shows.  I would love to give a shout-out to the absolute greatest Airbnb hosts out in Tulsa.  If you’re ever in Tulsa, check out staying with Heather and her sweet family.  They were so supportive and kind to us.  Check out their listing here.

Our first day we set out West and drove through the Arkansas country.  Nikia Burns, my talented violinist, my best friend and jack-of-all-trades, Kayla Bogs made a fabulous team.   We arrived in town on a Thursday evening and got to catch the tail end of Jared Tyler’s show.  He recently played on the John Moreland album, so that’s pretty cool!  He also co-owns a violin shop in town called

Bright and early on Friday morning, we had the pleasure of playing Lakes Country 102.1 with Lou, Blake and Faith.  They were so welcoming, and we enjoyed playing live.  To hear the entire broadcast, visit this link.  It was fun to play on live radio for the first time- you really have to be able to think on your feet.  Hopefully they enjoyed the Paradise donuts we picked up on the way for them 🙂

We spent Friday in Tahlequah visiting the Cherokee Prison Museum, a local coffee shop and a music studio.  We invited people around town to our show for Saturday night at the Branch.  It was a great experience to actually meet people in the area and feel like we got a little taste of the local culture.  We especially loved the fabulous silver and turquoise rings we drooled over at the Cherokee gift shop later that day.  We headed back to Tulsa that evening to get ready for our gig at the Campbell Hotel in downtown Tulsa.  This is such a neat hotel, and they have recently renovated it and invite people from the community on a certain Saturday of the month.  A new friend, Scott Ayecock, from Folk Salad Radio, came out to hear us play live.  It was great meeting him and his wife and chatting about music.

Saturday was a great field trip day.  We had brunch at Dilly Diner downtown Tulsa which was so yum!  After that, we headed to the Woodie Guthrie Center which I highly recommend to anyone visiting Tulsa.  It was a great place for some pre-gig inspiration as we walked through the exhibit, read inspiring quotes and learned a little about the man behind the music.  After this, we headed to our sweet friends house, the Jarrett’s, to get ready for our gig that evening in Tahlequah.

On Saturday evening, despite the rain, we had the pleasure of playing at the Branch in Tahlequah.  It was a nice restaurant and some old friends as well as new-found friends from Tahlequah came out to hear us play.  It was so great to have the support from them.

The people were the nicest souls ever and Tulsa was so receptive to music and opened their hearts to us.  They were super generous and hospitable, and I feel so blessed to have spent my first tour dates in Oklahoma.  Thanks Oklahoma for all you did to make us feel welcome!

~lme

30A Songwriters Fest Spotlight on Caroline Cotter


30A-Songwriters-Festival-2015-Lineup-Poster

I wanted to feature my next 30A Songwriters Fest songwriter, Caroline Cotter. With a voice as sweet as a budding flower and the fabulous content of a travel diary, she’ll pull you close like a warm embrace. Her music transports me to some farm in Connecticut as if were going to pick apples and get maple syrup or across the ocean to another country in Europe.  She’s a lovely storyteller, so you have to listen carefully to her lyrics or you’ll miss a page of the story.  Journey in C is one of my favorites. She sings, has harmony, snaps the whole song and it’s a travel dialogue. You know it’s a good song when you can just listen and there’s not even any instrumentation but the vocals. Love it! You can hear it here.

Her strong love of travel is something that connects me to her story. From her Biography online:  “Music has always been at the heart of Caroline’s life, alongside an insatiable passion for travel and global exploration.  In the past ten years, Caroline has lived in and traveled to 27 countries on five continents. While writing and recording Dreaming as I Do, she spent the last few years working for the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) in Portland, Maine. CIEE provided amazing opportunities for international community and travel, and further inspired Caroline’s songwriting.”

So, please check out her music and drift off into a world of peoples, places and ideas. I think you’ll find it absolutely perfect for daydreaming on a Tuesday afternoon.

~lme

cotter

The start of some 30A Songwriters Fest reviews


View More: http://jackieo.pass.us/annalise

Hello all,

I’ve been asked to play the well-known 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida in January 2016. It’s so exciting!  So with 8-9 weeks before the festival begins, I’d like to do a review each week on some fellow 30A Songwriters that will be playing at the Festival this year!  Today’s review is Annalise Emerick, a talented songwriter who has made a name and niche for herself in the music scene.  With a voice as soft and sweet as honey and songwriting that calms the soul, Annalise Emerick has found her sound.  She has taken care to document the world around her, allowing outsiders some insight into the mind of a whimsical wanderer.

From her bio on her site, the inspiration for her music is evident. “Eternally a free spirit with an insatiable wanderlust, Emerick comes by it honestly. ‘We moved around a lot when I was a kid, so I feel like my life on the road was kind of inevitable,’ she laughs. ‘I’m always exploring the notion of home musically, emotionally, and geographically.’ The singer claims a scattering of cities as her muse, growing up in the rich musical heritage of both Seattle and Austin before eventually making her way to Nashville to attend Belmont University. In Music City she honed her craft, but it was several charmed summers as a camp counselor in Maine and New Hampshire that inspired her relocate to Boston and start her musical career…..Now, three years after the release of her first EP, fresh off of a first place win in the New England Songwriter’s Competition and a relocation back to Nashville, Emerick returns with Field Notes, a folk-inspired, markedly more mature turn for the singer that demonstrates just how much her endless days on the road and years of hard work have fostered her growth as an artist and performer.

Annalise and I share a bio fact that we have both lived in Austin.  We’ve never met, but I bet we would get along in the music world.  I’m flattered to get to play in the same songwriter lineup as Annalise.  I wish her the best as she performs and perhaps I’ll run into her around the 30A stretch.  Enjoy all of her music here!

I’ll leave you with some lyrics from her song, Born this Way, a country-esque tune with ragtime vibes in it:

Nothing comes easy

To a travelin girl

And I’ll fight my way

Through a desert storm

But that’s how I like it

And that’s how it will stay

Because I was born

This way

 

Happy listening friends 🙂

~leah marie