Gypsy's Travels

Monday, April 28, 2008

Odd Shot Monday - "Locks & Lovers"

This statue on the Via Ponte in Florence, Italy, is surrounded by a wrought iron fence.

Tradition says that lovers who put a padlock on the fence and toss the key into the river, will be together always. Apparently the number of padlocks became such a problem that the tradition was outlawed.

That law has not stopped committed Italian lovers .

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Fun Fashion Fling

I went wild partying Friday night! That's a euphemism in our family for "I left the house." Even an Aggie can decipher which sounds more exciting.

Friday night was the University of Texas Fashion Show that is put on annually by Senior design students. I have been trying to get there for several years and finally made it. It was well worthwhile! My sister, a (costume designer), a friend (a UT professor and curator of their textile collection), and I, arrived in time to view the interesting exposition prior to the show. Students' juried pieces were modeled and the designers were present to explain construction and answer questions.

One of the features in the exposition was silk scarves. The scarves, designed by students were examples of "technical textile trend boards created with Adobe Photoshop."

A sampling of two new donated collections were highlighted. The UT Professor who donated the ethnic clothing collection, searched the world for authentic folkware, documenting the origins and construction of each piece. Five decades after she began her search, many of the pieces in the marketplace have become shadowy reproductions of the originals, and are now made only for the tourist trade. The second collection was an assemblage of haute couture clothing worn by a Montana cattle woman who evolved into a socialite. Students will be able to study the construction and design of the designer label clothes, to apply and expand their knowledge bases.
Design students receive a Bachelor of Science degree and must take a number of biology and chemistry courses before focusing on design. I believe it is the only University to require its design students to take a calculus course.

We could have perused the exposition at greater length, but we did not want to miss the Runway Fashion Show. It was spectacular! I am not sure any other University affords its students the opportunity to participate in a show this professionally done. Lighting, music, Power Point presentation, trophies, and monetary awards, topped off a very professionally modeled runway presentation. The fashions easily rival some of the popular "Project Runway" TV series offerings. Granted, this was a whole semester's work and "PR" is a much more limited time, but the UT students are younger and less experienced. There were some well-coordinated, comfortable looking, items that could actually be worn. There were also some less street friendly designs and quite a few, as my neighbor calls them, "Chicky-Babe" outfits. Among the ones that brought spontaneous "oohs & aahs" were a ruffled-tiered red dress, an elegant purple gown sheltered by the bones of an umbrella, and a "picnic" dress with a checkered tablecloth skirt and "grassy" top.
It was a fun evening!

We left the auditorium in time to be greeted by a torrential rain and tornado warnings. Horizontal lightning spread across the sky in skeletal streaks as the energy generated from both East and West appeared destined to collide in the center. It was a fitting climax to the excitement we had witnessed inside.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

PhotoHunt - "Unique / Funny Signs"

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For more photos go here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Quick Trip to San Antonio

San Antonio is a lot closer than I had thought it was. I guess it just seems a long way when you have to sit in a car and fight traffic for 2+ hours. We stopped about halfway to visit my sister's shop, Costumed Occasions. She designs and makes some very elaborate costumes each year for the National Costumer's Association (NCA) Convention.
"Everyone in the shop learns to bead," she said. Indeed, when they are not doing anything else, the employees have needle, thread, and bead in hand. She turns out some wonderful, award-winning work.
A view from the Tower of the Americas lounge.I
We had no difficulty finding our way into San Antonio,we just followed the signs to the Alamo. We parked nearby and headed to the Visitor's Center across the street to find out about Day Passes for transportation, $3.75 each to ride the trams and buses all day. I have always walked everywhere when I have visited previously, but it it can be very hot and tiring.
We still did our fair share of walking over the course of the day, lunch at Mi Tierra (although I have had better Tex-Mex food, this is a San Antonio landmark, open 24 hours), visiting El Mercado in the historic Market Square, the Alamo, La Villita, touring the Riverwalk, and topping it off with a drink in the 750 foot tall Tower of the Americas Lounge. I had water and a lot of it. The observation deck in the Tower was closed for a private party, so we opted to sit in the sparsely populated, air-conditioned lounge and enjoy a respite before heading home. No charge for the exhilarating elevator ride.
A side view of the Alamo. There were too many people in front.

Texans love their Alamo, so it was an eye-opening experience to see how people who did not know the history of this venerated landmark could pass through it so quickly. If I could have explained Texas History, in German, in five easy minutes, they surely would have been more impressed. Of course, our history is so recent compared to that of most other countries, that we are mere babes.

There was a lot going on in the city. "Fiesta San Antonio!" was about to explode in the streets, only waiting for everyone to get off work. The remnants of spent "cascarones" left a colorful trail for the exuberance to come. A lot of people were wearing special "medals" which, I assume, were associated with the Daughters of Texas and/ or similar organizations. One gentleman was dressed all in white with his medals proudly pinned on his chest. The town was fairly quiet with an underlying air of expectancy, but there were already indications of the festivities.

We left late enough to miss most of the Austin / Round Rock traffic. Fortunately, it is not even remotely comparable to the never-ending Houston traffic. Even the German visitors remarked on how friendly and courteous the Texas drivers are.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sharing My Home State

DD Kr has visitors from Germany this week, but she has to work. I have the distinct pleasure of introducing them to Texas. Yesterday, we spent the day at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This was my 4th visit and it was a complete bust as far as I was concerned. The first two times I went, it was great, but the last two have been devoid of much interest. The highlight of the trip there was seeing some empty chrysalises and talking to a nice volunteer who had been searching for caterpillars and/or eggs in the garden. There were more wildflowers on the roadsides than at the center.

There was, however, an exhibit of paper sculpture by Shou Ping. These examples give some inkling of how talented she is. They depict some of the wildflowers we should have seen.
We made a few small stops on our excursion. A special stop to see "Madison,"the Longhorn sculpture. A visit to some real Longhorns who graze in a field in front of a business on I-35. They were too lazy to even get up. My children always remind me that I told them many years ago that when cattle lie down in the pasture, that means it is going to rain. I don't recall telling them that , but I do think I read it somewhere. It did not rain yesterday, but there were a few sprinkles. We had a quick, light lunch at Wendy's, a real treat according to the visitors. We drove home on the roadways that had been cut through some of the hills that give "The Hill Country" its name. I always enjoy seeing the beautiful cuts that show the geologic formations of the area.
We are off today for a quick trip to San Antonio. The visitors are having a hard time with the heat, but they are troopers. She keeps telling me how "wide" everything is here. "In Germany, everything is so small," she says as he moves her hands from showing great expanse to compact area.
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Saturday, April 19, 2008

PhotoHunt - "Thirteen"

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Thirteen cows in a field of bluebonnets.
More PhotoHunt here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Feeling Safe

The tree story was cool, but so was the fact that they felt safe printing her home address.

The above quote was from a visitor to one of my posts (see Wordless Wednesday - "An Uncommon Tree" ). How perceptive!

When I was growing up, we did not lock our doors - not to our homes and not to our cars. This was an early source of contention when I was a newlywed. My new husband insisted everything be locked up tight - all the time. This, of course, made me feel caged.

"My mother taught me that locked doors don't keep dishonest people out!" I told him.

"Well, my mother taught me that locked doors keep honest people honest!" he retorted.

In truth, both mothers were probably right. My mother was from small-town, Texas; DH's mother was from an agricultural community in California. Over the years, I learned to lock everything up. This got me into trouble a few times when I locked my keys in the car.

As a nation, we have progressed from leaving our doors unlocked and publishing names and addresses in the newspaper to protecting our identities from being stolen and keeping everything as secret as possible. Locking doors is only a small part of that protection.

Identification by name and address seems to have been replaced by identification by age. I am amazed that almost all the news stories will refer to the person by name, followed by the person's age. Are there so many people in the area by the same name that this qualifying identity is required? Did the person act in a newsworthy manner based on her / his age? I wonder when that phase began.

My great-aunt grew that papaya tree from the seeds of a fruit she bought at the grocery store. I don't remember when the article was published; it appears to be in the 50's. She was identified by name and address. I wonder if she would consent to its publication now if she were identified only by name and age. In this day of Internet research, who believes someone couldn't track her down?

How our times and feelings of safety have evolved.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

Odd Shots on Monday - "Meet Madison"

Longhorns are big in this part of Texas since we are close to the University of Texas in Austin. In the early days, real longhorn cattle were frequently seen on the Chisholm which runs right through Georgetown, Texas. We celebrate those cattle herding days with an annual event called, appropriately, "Stampede."

Meet "Madison," an anatomically correct, eight-foot tall, 800 pound metal sculpture of chrome, stainless steel, and iron, most of which was found in automobile graveyards. An auto bumper forms the chromium jaw and the mesh may have come from automobile grilles. Rusting iron provides artistic contrast. Artist, Betty Hamblen Turner, created the commissioned piece.

More thought provoking sculpture may be viewed at the Benini Sculpture Ranch.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Who is Your Neighbor?

It is definitely enough to renew your faith in the friendliness of Texas. Of course, everyone knows that "Texas" comes from "Tejas" which translates as "friendly." At least that is what we were always taught.

I am a backup for, DD Kr , a single mom, when she runs into problems and cannot pick up the boys. That works well until I go out of town. Of course, Murphy's Law says that is when I will be needed. Such was today.

Kr called to tell me her car had cratered on the side of the freeway on her way home from work. Too far away to walk home. She had forgotten I was in Houston, too far away to help. Nevertheless, with the wonders of modern technology and some super nice people, we worked it all out. While Kr and I were communicating by telephone, DD Ko accessed the Internet to find telephone numbers. My neighbors, retired and having no children of their own, dropped everything, picked the children up from school, took them to McDonald's, and won their hearts for all time.

An APD Officer called a tow truck to move the car off the freeway, made a tentative diagnosis and bought some water, with his own money, attempting to restore the car to temporary running order. The tow truck driver stayed with Kr for 45 minutes to show her how to flush the radiator.

We hear so many terrible things these days that it restores my faith in human nature to know there are still wonderful neighbors and some chivalrous men out there. God Bless You all.

A Library and a Laptop

I don't have a photo for Wordless Wednesday so I guess this will be a Wordy Wednesday.
I have been in the library for the last two days, the genealogical library in Houston. Clayton Library is one of the top libraries in the country for genealogical research. I hadn't been here for a while, but I used to visit at every opportunity. Now it is a catch as catch can visiting style.

The rules at the Library have changed significantly since I first started using it. The original library was an old house, overflowing at the seams with books and people. Part of the back section of the house was full of books that we were allowed to access ourselves, as opposed to the "closed stacks" of other libraries, but we were supposed to go back with the filing numbers, pick up the book, then return to our seats. That was an almost impossible task, Almost everyone would peek in the books to see if their long sought names were there. At frequent intervals, a staff member would burst upon the scene and announce, as a reminder, that we were not supposed to look at the books back there. This announcement was punctuated by books being quickly returned to selves and people squeezing by one another in the too-narrow aisles, to carry a books back to their seats. The situation was not ideal, but the information available far outweighed the negatives.

Then, we built a new library. I say "we," because it was a grass roots effort, in conjunction with the Houston Public Library system. Now there is a two story facility that houses a collection that can be browsed to our heart's content. Books, microfilm, microfiche, computers, Internet, access for personal laptops - you name it, they have it. As for the lovely old home that was used to house the books. It was the depository for family histories. Now, it is closed for renovation and the family history books are available in the main building.

I used my laptop to access my genealogy files, while searching through the library books. I was also able to use the laptop to cross-reference files on the Internet. Except for the chattering women behind me, it was a surreal time. I wonder what happened to the library etiquette we learned in school. If you are doing any genealogy, be sure to visit Clayton Library. It is Texas, and user, friendly.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

PhotoHunt - "Glass" in Italy

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Pinnochio in a little glass house in Collodi, Italy.
I am puffed up with pride at having been named PhotoHunt's site of the week for the "High" theme last week. Thank you, tnchick! I urge all of you to visit her site and have a look at everyone's photos. She has a new theme every Saturday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - "Putto"

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