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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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.

Touring in Tulsa


 

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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


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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

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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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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

Not Fans but Friends


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Photo Credit:  Library of Congress photostream

So, they tell you if you can procure 1000 true blue fans as a musician that you will be able to make a little living for yourself.  Perhaps it would help to not focus on fans (people who adore you or your music) but rather try to meet and develop real relationships with people who believe in more of a mission than just a face or sound.  There are concepts larger than ourselves and maybe it’s time we focused on that instead of ourselves as musicians.  I haven’t obtained this selfless sense as a musician, but it would be a good goal to stay grounded as we grow as artists.  Though, I’m not exactly sure what my fans turned friends would look like, I do know some characteristics I imagine they would possess and characters they would be.

  1. Genuine-ness- whatever they do, they do it heartily and sincerely.  They try their best to live every day with some purpose and include others in the process.  They don’t pretend to be something they are not and they don’t speak loftily to make themselves sound like more of a big deal than they are.  They accept who they are, what they do and are accepting of their strengths, flaws and those who have helped them get to where they are.  They appreciate art, music, and action of any kind with substance and meaning.
  2. Givers- they believe in the art of contribution, giving back and even in small ways making the world a better place each day.  They know change isn’t easy and sometimes it takes more than one to get something off the ground.
  3. Dreamers- those who are a little different, who people deem as strange or too idealistic.  They know that ultimately others’ opinions are merely just opinions and letting themselves be swayed by them is often unprofitable.
  4. Believers- they believe in things beyond themselves and Someone higher than they.  A spiritual nature is something that is manifest in their everyday life as well as something that touches everything they do, say and think.
  5. Innovators- those who are pioneers and believe in things that have not yet been created.  They ask why not more often than not.  They live in a realm of hopefulness rather than pessimism.

All of that being said, I should like to announce that I am currently in the studio working on my first EP.  My goal for the end of 2013 and all of 2014 is to begin sharing music, stories and a vision larger than myself with others through shows, service and relationships.  I have some great people who are eager to help, so if you’d like to hear the EP once it is out and possibly book a house show, please feel free to drop me a line in the contact form below.

And if you feel like hearing some demos as a pre-cursor to the EP, feel free to visit www.facebook.com/leahemusic

Thanks for being supportive and keep living creatively and thankfully! ~lme

French Pastries


Where shall I go

To find myself

The me I do not know

What window shall I choose

To gaze upon a flowering field

To find myself a better view

To where shall I flee

To satisfy

Each tiny need

And which foreign land can host

My daily joys

And all adversity

To whom shall I give

To bestow

My life

Like a mayfly lives

Who owns the crafted hands

That will hold me close

Spinning yarns over fortune

Love as full from coast to coast.

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Photo Credit: US Library of Congress photostream (love this place live)

~lme

Etude of Four Homes


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Photo Courtesy: Swedish National Heritage Board photostream

I long to live in a cottage by the sea

Built especially just for me

Where you have come, because all you want

Is to only be with me

We shall live

Overgrown with ivy green

In our own quaint cottage by the sea

While the waves lap

And the wind blows the salt against our skin

The water must refuse to settle

We, too, must continue on again

Then we shall live on a mountain

In the cleft that is hewed

Where we sing a hymn

Of me, you and blue

Safe from the hate and insults

Of the world

Hidden in our mystery cave

Where truth can be unfurled

When they pass by to find

We hold our breath and close

Hidden in a space

No one else ever knows

On a vessel, out at sea

Where there’s only what yet will be

We hoist the sails and batten hatches

to let ourselves roam free

Leaning gainst the edge of her weathered side

By day

Barefoot on the deck

By night

The whispers of God

Will redirect the mast

I count every shooting star

Sink next to you as moments pass

In a gypsy wagon, our home

With our wares and potions scattered round

Each night we stoke a fire

and let ourselves be lost and found

Characters pass by

We welcome them near

Some we hope keep moving

Others we forever hold dear

And as travel we through an earth

We don’t pretend to own

We will embrace uncertainty

Preparing for a distant home.

~lme

May 2013