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.

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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:

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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

Pandoland 2015 was amazing!!


pandolandLast week, I attended my first entrepreneur conference in Nashville called Pandoland 2015 and got to hear fabulous speakers including Andy Sparks of Mattermark, Marc Ruxin of TastemakerX, Bijan Sabet, General Partner at Spark Capital, James Freeman, Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox and many others.  It was great to be in a room for several days with such movers and shakers, people who have ventured into the unknown, learned many lessons and have come out on the other side as stronger beings.  It made me realize there are people in the world who are working hard for something they believe in and not just following the status quo whatever that may be.  I think the human spirit loves to know there are still people willing to hurt for something and to work super hard to strive for it.  In true entrepreneur fashion, the audience got to witness 10 startups present over the course of 2 days time and the winner, an innovative clothing company called Umano, started by two brothers and based out of Georgia, received a grand prize to help fund more of their endeavors in the world of many clamoring entrepreneurs. Congrats guys!!

One of the greatest talks for me personally was by Ryan Leslie, Musician and Entrepreneur.  I love that he has created a way to interact with his fans directly and has not just dumped all of his marketing faith into various platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  I appreciate someone who is willing to interact directly with his fans and actually gives his email and his number out at conferences for people to contact him.  Might it get out of hand in the future, sure.  But I think there is something about him that makes you relate to his bootstrap effort to get out in the music industry and think of it in terms of business rather than in terms of fame.  He is really working hard to marry his skills with his business savvy to see some career longevity in a difficult industry.

Overall, the conference was wonderfully organized, and Sarah Lacy is absolutely the best host of Pandoland.  I absorbed so much useful information, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to attend and learn.  Check out their site here for helpful articles and more information!  Did any of you attend this great conference or are there other entrepreneur/music conferences you recommend for independent artists?? Feel free to share in the comment form below!

~lme

Sugar in the Shoreline


“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are getting back from whence we came.” ~John F. Kennedy

The open road is a reset button for the mind. A simple roadtrip can clear the senses, help one take in the scenery from a new vantage point and gain fresh
perspective. You merely watch the frustrations, irritations and pain of life disappear in the rear view mirror with each passing mile. As we drove through the mountains of Asheville, I was able to be in the moment if only for a moment. Winter was melting away as the water rushed down the hills and shot off the rocks in tiny waterfall fashion as if dancing for me and shouting- Spring is here! For us wandering spirits, the open road holds promise, possibility and the pursuit of something new. Charleston was our home for a long Easter weekend, and we soaked it in like a bowl of creamy, delicious grits. We met new characters, allowed our taste buds to revel in both savory and sweet, ambled amidst the sea colored cottages and smiled as we heard the swelling song of the ocean in all her glory. Charleston can boast of a slower pace, a calmer smile and a wealth of historical connections. From the marshy and peaceful beauty of Cypress Gardens to the pasted painted perfection of Rainbow Row, Charlie-town (as Brianne named it), did not disappoint us in the least.

Travel, like music, is a process of changing with a movement of ourselves from one place to another. Perhaps musicians are at times signified as vagabonds, because music and travel clasp hands like the ocean and the shoreline. A longing for freedom and a sense of cutting the strings tied to our wrists by the infringing world of doubters, naysayers and realists. To seek a wealth of experience as opposed to a wealth of money is a noble aim. Charleston, the ocean and the moments of respite from our frantic lives were a welcoming haven for us.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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It’s No. 41 day!!


IMG_1216I have had the pleasure of meeting up with Tara Clapper recently, founder of No 41, an organization out of Rwanda by way of Nashville. Tara’s story is amazing. After traveling to Rwanda for mission work at a young age, she began to see a need and found a way to help.  Here is the Story of No 41, and I hope you will find it as encouraging and full of hope as I have found…

When No.41 started, there were, roughly, 100 young adults over the age of 18 living in the Noel Orphanage. With no family and limited resources, the prospect of university or becoming gainfully employed was low. Along with that, confidence was low, dreams were small and hope was almost non-existent. It was important, not only to provide a means of sustainable employment doing a culturally relevant trade for these girls, but also to remind them that they were created for a great purpose, by an even greater God. We all have been given gifts and talents and, once realized, we should spend those helping others and that is where the feeding program came in.  In our village there are three secondary schools, grades 7-12, and these students go to school all day, most without eating. The schools, generally, offer a 20-minute break for lunch where children who live close enough or have money, may go home to go to the market to eat. Most do not.

All that has transpired at No.41 is beyond our wildest dreams. We have had ten girls move themselves out of the orphanage and we now have 19 enrolled in university. We have career fairs and business trainings, bible study and English class. I never believed this couldn’t happen, but I never imagined it would happen like this. No.41 is a testament to all that God wants to do in you and through you, if you’ll just say, yes. -Tara

Tara and I have discussed some joint ventures in the future involving music and her non-profit, so stay tuned for some future announcements!  So here’s my call to action- today is No 41 day. She is asking everyone to take what they would have spent (I know, I’m late with my blog post) on lunch (or dinner!) and give to this organization.  I invite you to read more about her and all the great work she is doing.  We have been discussing some exciting future events for No 41 and myself, so stay tuned!

Instead of April Fool’s Day- let’s consider today No. 41 day- a day where we can create change, do good and help others!  To donate or purchase other items for this cause, click here!

~lme

The start of an Italian love affair


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Italy. Few places have pulled me in so tightly initially and held me in their warm embrace. Italy was different from the trips before, and I completely fell in love with the culture. I enjoyed soaking up the cultures of Peru and New Zealand, but Italy is, well, brava. The people are warm, inviting, loving and willing to hug you, shake your hand and kiss both of your cheeks. When they talk in an animated way, they’re not mad. They just use their hands and speak with passion and can be intense, because they mean what they say about the food! Oh and the food- fresh fish at the fish market, cheeses (especially the water buffalo mozzarella), vegetables, olives, olive oil, Sorrento lemons, fresh baked breads, tomatoes, meats, lightly dressed salads and the ultimate local meal with all food taken from 100 feet of where we sat to eat Christmas Dinner at Chef Luca’s house on the coast, were perfecto. I felt at home there.

Travel is part of what makes the world a  more beautiful and better place to live. I truly believe that if more people saw more of the world, there would be fewer wars, less hatred toward others and a more peaceful and kind place to live.  We think others are different because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, the way they dress and the food they eat. But really, deep down, there are countless common threads woven within our makeup as human beings.  We all want safety and peace, freedom to go where we choose, worship how we choose, pursue our dreams, raise children in a healthy and safe environment, be fed and sleep calmly with a roof over our head.  I believe our similarities far outweigh our differences if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves. I think that’s why i’ve always felt so emotional watching an Olympic Opening Ceremony. It seems that for a brief moment in time the world, full of some many different nationalities, languages and races can all come together to celebrate something we love and be at peace. That coming together has always been something I love about the Olympics (maybe I should be doing their marketing or something).

This trip was only the start. I have to return. I have to see what people, adventures, stories await me in South Italy on the coast. Positano bites deep- said John Steinbeck, and I can see why. It grabs a hold of your heart and doesn’t let go.  The village nestled on the side of the mountain is unforgettable. It’s magical and frozen in time with no shopping malls, fast food, Wal-Marts or massive American commercialism. It’s a haven for simplicity and connection with nature.

The narrow cobblestone roads in Rome to the little marketplace alleyways of Sorrento that offer hours of strolling and searching for scarves, pasta and more, and the Italian fashion, refuse to disappear from your mind. They merely linger as if to whisper- come back and please come soon. It’s hard to ignore the beckoning of the Italian coast once you’ve been.

Here’s to the future and travel adventures yet to be had!

~lme

Upcoming Gig at Evins Mill


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Photo Courtesy: Marie Ellen Photography

Hello friends,

Wanted to let you know that I will be performing at the new music series, Music at the Mill, at Evins Mill Bed and Breakfast in Smithville, TN on February 21st at 8 pm.  The talented guitarist, Luke Metzger, will be joining me onstage for the evening.   Here is a write-up about the event for you to check out:

http://evinsmillevents.blogspot.com/2014/12/music-at-mill-sat-feb-21-2015.html

In addition to the concert, the “Music at the Mill” package includes hors d’oeuvres, four-course dinner and a hearty gourmet breakfast and is $295 to $360 per couple depending on the room reserved. Reservations for dinner & concert only are also available at $120 per couple. Call 615.269.3740 (Nashville) or 615.286.2090 (Smithville) for reservations.

Itcy Feet


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I can see the desert

or life there by the sea

or somewhere that’s less traveled

somewhere in between

In the bustling city

or a smaller town

or maybe overseas

where I cannot be found

Do you ever feel it

The itch under your feet

to be somewhere far away

maybe it’s just me…

As I contemplate these final 10 months living at this great house in Nashville, Tennessee, I have begun a new research project.  What new, where to live, what to do at the end of 2015, beginning of 2016 in my life?  Here’s your brown bag, breathe.  I have various ideas such as take a vacation and work on an organic farm before I move to my next locale I’ll call home.  I’ve considered by the ocean that I love, possibly out West near a desert or a small but vibrant little town where I can grow, connect and relate as an artist to a community.  I would like to be near my family, but I’m not certain currently whether I’m ready to settle back down in the Lone Star State.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the biggest fan of cold.  If I’m bundled properly, then ok.  I want to be in a good area, but I also want a slower pace than a bustling city life.  At moments, I’ve thought about New York City and also the DC Metro area, but I’m just not sure it’s calling me strongly enough.  I’m currently a little messy-headed and trying to pray about it and decide what my next move should be.  After our travels to Italy (which I will post about in the upcoming weeks), I feel strongly that I would like to live there within the next several years.  Should I look for some exciting, adventurous and new job or should I launch into trying my music full-time.  I’m at a precipice here people.  I welcome advice, thoughts and encouragement.

But here are some thoughts, places to visit, things that seem to draw me to themselves:

~South Carolina- Charleston and Beaufort

~The Pacific Northwest- particularly Seattle and Portland

~Wilmington, North Carolina- a place where various movies and television shows have been filmed- quite quaint and on the water

~Sedona, Arizona

~Simplistic and healthful living- a job in this realm

~the travel industry- being a travel writer is not easy, but something in that field would be of interest

~I want to possibly visit places that hold some negative meaning for me and create new and beautiful memories there to retrace those memories in goodness.

~the concept of making music my career for a year, just to try it.  Because honestly, there are always jobs to be had to fall back on in a few years.

~Family- not more than a 2-4 hour plane ride from them

~possibly overseas for a time being

~a short stint working at an organic farm and staying there

~Sheep farm work in Ireland- sounds fun

I welcome thoughts, connects, advice or anything else as I grow through this research project in the next six months.

~lme

Recent Happenings


columnsI had the pleasure of playing the annual Southern Festival of Books in downtown Nashville a few weeks ago. It was a great festival put on by Humanities Tennessee that hosts writers, readers, publishers, literacy organizations, booksellers and more. Despite rain that came, I was given moments of reprieve to load and uload my gear, play a nice set, meet vance the great sound guy (who also does sound at the Acme Feed and Seed downtown Nashville) and play some music for some open ears. The banners hanging from the great architecture downtown made the event seem stately, astute and almost as if I had transported back to the Greco-Roman empire.

Closely tied to this, I realized how amazing it is that I live in a place with the opportunity to read, grow and dream. Not many have that opportunity. Not many have parents who taught them to read, explore a library and get lost within the adventure of a book. I’m so thankful to have had an upbringing like that. May the literacy numbers be higher every year as people are taught to read and think for themselves thanks to the hard work of various organizations. Thanks to Humanities Nashville for having me!

~lme

Feel free to say hello and let me know what other festivals around town you love to frequent and hear great live music!

Exciting music news!


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Hi there!  Just wanted to let everyone know who has been so supportive of me that Pandora let me know that you can now hear my music on the channel Leah and the Blackland Ballad! SO COOL!!! There are various other artists including The Vespers, Jessica Campbell and more.  So give it a listen wherever you are!

Also here are some show dates for anyone who would like to come out and hear some live music…

~Southern Festival of Books in downtown Nashville at the corner of Charlotte and 6th at the Music Stage from 3-4 on October 10th.

~Fiber in the Boro in Murfreesboro, TN November 1st in Rutherford County- check it out here

If you or someone you know would be interested in hosting a house show, feel free to shoot me an email at leahemusic@gmail.com.  Or just say hey and let me know where you’d like to hear me play in the form below…