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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tourists in Our Own Town

Last Saturday our daughter Lily and her dear husband returned home after a visit with their Austin relatives - but most of that special time is not the stuff of blog posts. We were glad to be together and also glad Austin displayed spectacular blue skies. It's been a long, cold, wet winter in the Pacific Northwest.Annieinaustin, Snowman
When guests come from out-of state, it gives us a chance to act like tourists in our own town - that's the part I want to share with you.

Annieinaustin, Peter Pan MinigolfA favorite place to take visitors is a funky mini-golf course on Barton Springs Road, south of the river. Nearly 60-years old, Peter Pan golf was created by the Dismukes family. It's not a tournament-type course, but can present interesting challenges to the players, especially at night.

Annieinaustin, Mellow Johnny's bike shopYou might not think of a bike store as a tourist attraction, but when the shop is called Mellow Johnny's and it belongs to Lance Armstrong, it's a must-go-there destination, especially for a guy who bikes in triathlons and a gal who will be part of the Livestrong Challenge this summer. Within the bike store we found a coffee shop named Juan Pelota cafe in ironic tribute to Lance's battle with cancer. It was very cool to see bikes Lance rode in races on display in the shop.
Annieinaustin, inside Mellow Johnny's
Even when we have no company to impress we occasionally head down to South Congress for Home Slice Pizza. What a fabulous crust on those pies - and such perfect toppings. And it's right across the street from Tesoros Trading Company. Lily & I bought identical oval black clay bowls. Here's mine with some beautifully decorated, blown-out eggs that our daughter made as a gift and hand-carried on the plane.Annieinaustin, Blue eggs, Tesoros bowlAfter we went to Tesoros, I realized that exactly one year earlier during Austin Spring Fling, Garden Bloggers from all over the country ambled together down South Congress in search of souvenirs. Shout out to Kathy Purdy & her friend Cynthia!

Annieinaustin,Bench at Natural GardenerWhen the Garden Bloggers met in Austin last year another place everyone wanted to go was the Natural Gardener. We love to take people there! Not only is it a wonderful nursery but it's a great place to stroll around and think and dream - with a butterfly garden, vegetable demonstration gardens and water features. Philo and I usually make a stop at the dig-it-yourself Soil Yard whenever we drive down. This time we had four people wielding shovels, so filling the back of the car with bags of John Dromgoole's Rose Magic and Revitalizer Compost was a very speedy process, giving us more time to wander the nursery lanes.

Annieinaustin,Turtles on Lady Bird LakeI couldn't resist snapping a stack of turtles in Lady Bird Lake. The name used to be Town Lake, but after Lady Bird Johnson died, the downtown section of the Colorado River was renamed in her honor. Annieinaustin,Off leash parkWe walked the part of the very popular hike and bike trail that passes the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue, the Long Center for the Performing Arts (just a few days after we'd been there for the Leonard Cohen concert), and the off-leash dog park. When we strolled the paved hike and bike trail it wasn't much of a workout, but it was a little hotter and dustier when we climbed up the trails at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve . This preserve is not manicured and you have to watch where you put your feet. Wildflowers grow along the trails, At some points there are views of Loop 360 to the West and a pond surprises you when it appears in this arid setting. It had been a few years since we'd been to Wild Basin with a different set of visitors. That hike turned out to be quite an ordeal because the temperatures were over 100°F...guess it took us awhile to get over the experience! It was funny to realize that because I can now identify more of the trees and plants in the woods, walking there was somehow more enjoyable than in the past.

Annieinaustin, Flat Creek Estate WinerySix of us went to the Flat Creek Estate Winery for a wine tasting - a fun new thing for some of us and a chance for the experienced to show off their sophistication. The drive out to the beautiful Tuscan-style buildings and grounds near Marble Falls was long enough to be interesting without being tedious.

Annieinaustin, Bucking horse red wineWe enjoyed the different wines, bringing home a few bottles. (If you go to the winery on the weekends the Bistro will be open. Because we were there mid-week, instead of snacking on Mediterranean fare after the tasting, we ended up at a roadside Sonic in the nearby town of Lago Vista.)

Our daughter admired the label on the Bucking Horse Red which featured an image of "Cage Johnson Spurs 'Em Up Aboard Cyclone" by famed Texas Artist Bob Wade.

The tasting had proved to us that the inside of the bottle was as fine as the outside - this red was perfect with delicious pies from Reale's Pizza. For our group there is no such thing as too much pizza.
Annieinaustin, Pizza from Reale's
Mayfield Park was once the private home of the Mayfield family with the gardens developed over a long time by Mary Mayfield Gutsch and her husband Milton Gutsch.Annieinaustin, Mayfield Park peacock Some of the plants have been here since the 1920's with peacocks and peahens added in 1935. Philo & I first saw this park in September 1999, soon after we moved to Austin. Mayfield proved to me that beautiful flowers could grow in this climate. Maybe MSS of Zanthan Gardens can tell us whether these lovely red flowers are St Joseph Lilies or something else in the amaryllis family. Annieinaustin, red lilies, mayfield parkNot too far from Mayfield is a favorite place to buy plants, Shoal Creek nursery - we stopped there to walk around and look at the pottery. I couldn't make a decision on the pots, but found another Loropetalum and some Purple Nicotiana. Lily & BJ and Philo & I are all gardeners so if we lived closer to each other, visiting nurseries together would be a normal thing to do on weekends. We cherish these chances to act normal and just hang out!

Hanging out in Austin also means enjoying Tex-Mex restaurants. Our son suggested Serranos, which is especially fun on 2-for-1 Enchilada night when the chips & queso are hot and the margaritas refreshing. Taco Cabana is more casual, which can be handy when you're out touring.

Annieinaustin, Elisabet Ney museumThe Elisabet Ney museum is an old museum- so it's probably okay to use an old photo. I forgot to take a new picture when we visited this museum, the studio of early Austin's fascinating woman sculptor. Click to enlarge the photo so you can see another visitor we took to the Ney Museum...the paper person called Flat Stanley.

Annieinaustin, RealAle SiloWe all had one final outing the day before our guests flew home - a short ride out to Blanco for a tour of the Real Ale Brewery. This was too much fun - beer we like (and can buy locally) and an amazingly detailed tour and explanation of how beer is made. When we lived in Illinois, Philo and our older sons did some home brewing and the process is interesting to all of us. I'm fond of the Rio Blanco Pale Ale and Philo, who looks for high IBU numbers, prefers the Full Moon Pale Rye Ale. He also likes the Real Heavy, which is available seasonally but on draught, not in bottles. The Brewmaster AKA "Tyrant" was a wonderful tour guide, witty and ironic, languidly imparting quite specific information.

The vagaries of Texas law allows the brewery to give tours and samples of the various brews but unlike wineries, breweries can't sell any of the product to their visitors so we couldn't bring home a sampler 6-pack. This inequity has recently been a subject of much discussion in the beer-brewing and beer-loving community.

Annieinaustin, clematis at back doorThe backdoor clematis bloomed too late for our visitors and too late for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - but it opened just in time to be the end photo of this PLEASE COME VISIT AUSTIN post. Hope to see you soon!


  1. Wow. Quite a tour!

    Those blue eggs your daughter brought at just beautiful. How perfect for that bowl.

  2. What a fun time you had with your visitors. I bet you are exhausted! I would be. It has given me a few more ideas about what to do with our next visitors. I always swing by Shoal Creek when I am driving near there.

  3. Hi Annie.
    Wow, have you been busy!
    Enjoyed hearing about some places I knew and some I will check into...I am thinking the Flat Creek Estate Winery, and the Wild Basin? where is that exactly? That image of the creek looks so clear, good for a fishing fly!

  4. You did some fun stuff, Annie, and it sounds like a great week. It's a precious time when the kids come home these days, isn't it?
    Those eggs are so beautiful. Your daughter is very talented.
    She's pretty too :) Does she look like Dad, Mom, or a combination of both?
    Thanks for sharing the fun with us!

  5. What a wonderful visit you had...(I love when our son comes home for a visit...we get to act like tourists, too.) The eggs are incredible, design and color are perfect. Did she carry them in a small egg carton? A dear friend just moved back to Austin, so now I have a longer list of must see places for the next time we visit. Thank you for taking us along...gail

  6. I have not been to Austin for almost 30 years and the high rises in the back ground were a shock. I imagine the town has totally changed in its sophistication. Lovely visit...now I know where to go if and when I get out your way.

  7. You make Austin sound even more attractive with all you got out and enjoyed. It sounds like a wonderful time was had by all.

  8. Thanks for the fabulous tour - I feel like I've been to Austin now. Just from reading Austin garden blogs, I get the idea the best time for a visit would be early spring?

  9. I've never been to Austin but the more I visit the AustinGarden Blogs the more I want to at least go there. My niece, who lives in San Antonio, loves Austin, especially the SXSW music "festival".

    Sounds like you had a wonderful visit. I was most intrigued by the brewery tour, Jim is a homebrewer and really enjoys those places. He has recently graduated to wine making and we are trying out one of the wine kits that our favorite home brewing equipment place is stocking. We also tried last year's vintage of wine last night. He was racking it from one carboy to another to get away from the "sludge" that collects at the bottom as the wine ages, and we tried the young wine last night. It is going to be very good, I think.

    Thanks for the tour of Austin!

  10. So glad y'all had fun. I love Flat Creek wines. Will have to visit there once my nieces are old enough to drink wine! And your daughter's eggs are gorgeous.

  11. Hey, how come we didn't go to any wineries or breweries when we came for Spring Fling? Sounds like a wonderful and fun week! Next time I'm in Austin, you can be my tour guide!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  12. "The vagaries of Texas law" might be more aptly described as "peculiarities". Perhaps the wine lobby spends more money than the beer lobby.
    So how soon before visitors to Texas need a passport to travel there? Any timeline on the succession efforts of Gov. Perry?

  13. How fun to read your local travelogue, Annie. It sounds like you had a wonderful time with your daughter and her family.

    We spent this past week celebrating my son's birthday and then my dad's 70th. I'll be blogging this week about what we saw, including the Living Desert, Umlauf Sculpture Garden, and a roller derby!

  14. Nice tour and pictures and what a photogenic couple. I do love guests for the same reason-an excuse to do all the fun stuff esp laze on the beach and check out new restaurants! That winery tour sounded like fun.

  15. Yes, indeed, those are St. Joseph's lilies at Mayfield park. They also have the same Crinum bulpispermum and old yellow iris that I grow.

    You might have noticed a mass of St Joseph's lilies in front of the Doughtery Arts Center, across the street from Peter Pan mini golf.

    I can't believe you were just around the corner and didn't stop buy. Always free to invite yourself over even if I'm not home. At least in April when the garden is presentable.

    Y'all went to a lot of cool places. I do the same thing when relatives come to town. I'm trying to do it on my own too because we're so lucky to have so many wonderful places here and near Austin.

  16. I love the blown-out eggs your daughter made! My grandma used to decorate our front yard every Easter with dozens of blown out eggs, although none quite so elegant! What a great tour of Austin...I am so sorry I missed Spring Fling Last year. Maybe someday I will be able to come see some of those sites.

  17. Hi Annie,
    It looks like you all had a wonderful touristy time and packed in sooo much! Austin certainly has so much to offer.... That looks like a wild mini golf course with that huge bunny standing there!

  18. Looks like you had a wonderful time, Annie! If I ever visit Austin, I would like to have you as my tour guide:) How fortunate you are that your daughter and son-in-law like to garden, too. When I'm visiting my daughter, I'm the only one who cares to tour gardens. The Natural Gardener looks like a wonderful place to visit, and what fun to have a dig-your-own soil place!

    The brewery restrictions reminds me of a visit once to the Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee. We could buy bottles of Jack Daniels, but because the county was dry, they couldn't hold taste-testings; pretty ironic:)

  19. Sweet times together with family are to be cherished and thanks for taking us all along. Good luck to the athletes in their future endeavors. I am now inspired to eat pizza, drink beer and go ride a bike! Love that clematis.

  20. From the sounds of the commenters so far you ought to be on the payroll for the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Bureau. I agree there is much about Austin we natives and full time residents tend to take for granted and too often totally miss out on.

    Thanks for sharing the highlights and photos. Your kids are obviously great sports.

  21. It looks and sounds like y'all had a great time! I alwaysvisit Shoal Creek Nursery when I'm in Austin. My sister lives just a few blocks away but she doesn't garden ... such a waste of the proximity!

  22. We all came up with ideas, Pam - group think helped.
    Maybe it's the other way around since the eggs came first...bought the bowl because it was perfect for the eggs;-]

    Hail cleanup and a Divas meeting had us already exhausted before they deplaned, Lancashire Rose - then there's that emotional let down when they leave.
    That's just what I do - Shoal Creek is always worth checking out.

    Hi yourself, EastSidePatch - the Wild Basin is on loop 360/Capitol of Texas Highway, a few miles south of the Pennybacker bridge, but north of 2244. It's a sharp turn-in and the road goes uphill right away.
    No fishing or collecting - it's a Hill Country wildlife preserve. They have stargazing programs and have an annual Halloween event called Haunted Trails. You might even be lucky and catch a glimpse of the elusive Golden-Cheeked Warbler or Black-capped Vireo.

    The times we spend together is not only precious but rare, Kerri - who could have imagined being in a situation where everyone lives so far apart?
    My daughter amazes me with the things she makes - fabulous cards, too. I think her looks are a blend of grandparents rather than parents.

    The visits are always too short, but we have fun. She did carry them in an egg carton, Gail - good guess. She'd used spackle and sandpaper first so the eggs were perfect before the design was started. I hope you get to come back to Austin, and have a little time for garden bloggers.

    We've been here almost 10 years, Tabor, and since we came heard that we missed the years when Austin was small, mellow and really cool. There were high rises when we came, but many more went up in the last decade - that unusual pale, pointed structure top center in the Mellow Johnny's photo is the Frost Bank Tower, the first high-rise building built in the U.S. after 9/11.
    Glad you enjoyed the post.

    You know how it goes, Lisa at Greenbow - it's more fun when you have a group and everyone is showing off for each other.

    Our kids hit perfect weather, Entangled - after the hail and before the record we had today of 94°F. Lily & BJ had ice when they ran the February Marathon a few years back, but it was perfect last year when our oldest son ran and brought his family for a week. No one ever knows what kind of clothes to pack.

    SXSW is a huge event, healingmagichands - a really big deal now.
    I think homebrewing is pretty popular here, too - but with the heat you don't just need space...you need air-conditioned space. Hope the winemaking goes well!

    The Flat Creek Moscato Blanco really appeals to me, Vertie - we brought home a couple of bottles and wonder if they're hard to find. Turning your artistic nieces into oeniphiles and critics sounds like something Auntie Mame would do.

    #1, you didn't stay here long enough to fit one in, Carol and #2, I didn't know about the tours then so couldn't have suggested it. If you come again, we'll see what we can do ;-]

    Hiya ShellyK - some of the articles I've seen suggest it's a remnant of prohibition, others blame the timeworn Texas tradition of Public Puritanism/Private Hedonism, and still others blame the beer Distributors who have a big lobby.
    I don't know if Gov Perry will get Texas to secede, but might also threaten to break Texas up into 5 states so we can have 10 senators.

    I saw the first fun post, Pam/Digging - didn't get to comment yet but as Tina Fey would say:I want to go to that.

    We think they're pretty photogenic, too, Nicole - looked like movie stars at their wedding. And agree trying restaurants is fun.

    I was pretty sure they were St Joseph's from your photos, MSS at Zanthan Gardens - didn't see the bulbispermum but there were Iris pseudacorus in water areas.
    When we were in your neighborhood we were usually on our way from one thing to another...even more stuff went on than is on the blog, LOL. We even had those kids help us go get free rocks.

    When she was a little kid we made blown out eggs but then there were salmonella scares in the late-1980's and we got out of the habit I guess...never put them in the yard though.
    In just a few weeks you'll be at Spring Fling Chicago, Leslie- bet it's wonderful!

    Hello IVG - my daughter took a photo of her husband with the bunny - we all had Donnie Darko flashbacks. A lot of the statues are rather odd versions of characters in children's stories.

    I'd enjoy hanging out in gardens and nurseries with you, Prairie Rose. The other two sons like plants too, so we are the visitors to their nurseries when we go to Seattle and Chicago.
    Dig it yourself is rough on my old car, but good for the budget.
    What a funny story about the distillery tour!

    These times don't happen often enough, Layanee, but we do cherish them. I'm glad to inspire you to eat pizza & drink beer, but to be safe, maybe the bike ride should wait a few hours ;-]

    We had a couple of groups of visitors within months of our arrival in 1999, TexasDeb, so bought a guidebook right away. Some of our guests take such suggestions as a challenge or a checklist.

    It would be fun to live that close to Shoal Creek - but maybe your sister is staying out of danger by not gardening, Cindy from Katy...at least three garden bloggers started out in that neighborhood, including Tom Spencer.

    Thanks for the comments and y'all come to Austin,


  23. That sounds like a much better time than I had in Austin when I visited several years ago! Pizza, even!

    So many states have weird, anachronistic liquor laws. I say, get rid of 'em!

  24. What a grand tour, Annie! I now have a list of places that I want to visit if I ever make it down to Austin... and I admit, I'm jealous of the dig-your-own soil concept! Way too cool.

    Glad that you took a pic of the side of the building where Mellow Johnny's is, btw. That's some gorgeous artwork there.

  25. Hi Annie,
    LOL... Donnie Darko was exactly what I was thinking when I posted that comment, but hesitated bringing up Frank! The only big bunny I like to invoke is Harvey, of course! :-)

  26. What fun! I really enjoyed seeing the sights vicariously, and those eggs are simply amazing!

  27. You got a lot of my favorite places ... and gave them a WONDERFUL taste of Austin. I'm glad y'all had such nice weather so you could enjoy The Greatest Town to the max!

  28. Hi Annie,

    What a wonderful visit you had with your family. It's fun to see all the places you took them. I love the photo of everyone at Peter Pan Mini Golf. That place has character! We have a similar photo of my son in front of the same ancient white rabbit. My mother & sister will be down to stay with us in a couple weeks, so I'll probably borrow some of your ideas; especially Mayfield Park which I've not visited yet.

    BTW, I finally rented/watched "Baghead" and saw your lovely self in the scene you'd mentioned. I must say seeing you was the highlight of the entire film from my point of view. You were great! :-)


  29. What a great tour of Austin! My mom visited recently and was really thrilled by walking the Town Lake path! Those turtles!


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