Deep in the Heart of Texas
A Personal Blog of Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Our beautiful Texas and fellow Texans have suffered greatly from the devastating severe weather we’ve experienced over the last few weeks. I had the opportunity to travel to Van, which was hit hard by a tornado, and San Marcos, which suffered a devastating flood, and Greg visited Wichita Falls, Wimberley and Houston to survey the damage those cities experienced.
Even among the tremendous destruction, I remain amazed and inspired by the resilience and spirit of the Texans that I’ve met. From our first responders, law enforcement and local officials, to neighbors, businesses and volunteers, it’s so heartening to see everyone coming together to help each other recover and rebuild.
Texans are generous by nature. In the true spirit of Texas, I’ve heard from many who want to know what they can do to help their fellow Texans. While this list is not all inclusive, I want to give you all a few ideas of ways you can help:
Donating Your Time
In San Marcos last week, an American Red Cross volunteer told me that they are in need of helpers and volunteers who speak Spanish. Contact your local American Red Cross Chapter if this is a way in which you’d like to help.
For those wishing to volunteer, visit www.volunteertx.org for information on the Volunteer Reception Centers in Wimberley and San Marcos.
Keep San Marcos Beautiful is hosting a cleanup day this weekend to pick up flood debris and trash. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, click here.
Items to Donate
The Hays County Emergency Operations Center has released a list of items they need, which include work gloves, first aid kits, cleaning supplies, pet food and children’s clothes. However, they have asked that no adult clothes be donated at this time. To see the full list, and other ways you can help in Hays County, click here.
According to the Hays County Food Bank, the food items they need most are:
- High-protein canned meals with pop-top cans (ravioli, soups, spaghetti, tuna, salmon, chicken, beans, chili)
- Single serving meals that do not require refrigeration or cooked/meals ready to eat
- Single serving snacks such as raisins, granola bars, and nuts
- Peanut butter
- Canned fruits/veggies with pop-top cans
Make a Monetary Donation
If you’d like to make a monetary donation, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and your local food bank are a few examples. If you want the assistance to go to a specific region of Texas, make sure to donate to the local chapter of that organization.
Here’s a non-inclusive list of organizations you can donate to:
Capital Area Food Bank: https://www.austinfoodbank.org/
Austin Disaster Relief Network: http://www.adrntx.org/
Salvation Army Austin: http://www.salvationarmydfw.org/
American Red Cross Central Texas Chapter: http://www.redcross.org/tx/austin
The Houston Food Bank: http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/
Salvation Army Houston: http://www.salvationarmyhouston.org/
American Red Cross Texas Gulf Coast/Houston Region: http://www.redcross.org/tx/houston
As always, make sure your donations are going to a legitimate charity, because sadly, there are some out there who may try to take advantage of your generosity.
In Texas, we are all one family, and we take care of family. It’s just what we do. With everyone’s help, I have no doubt that the great State of Texas will emerge from this difficult time stronger than ever.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The issue of child abuse is often at the forefront of public debate. Every instance of child abuse is simply tragic — but unfortunately children are not the only ones who fall victim to abuse and neglect.
Sadly, thousands of elderly Texans are abused every year. Last year alone, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services investigated more than 81,000 reports of elder abuse. This abuse can be physical, either through active harm or passive neglect, or through financial exploitation. In either case, these actions are simply unacceptable. I had the pleasure of working for a senior health care provider for several years, and I know that senior Texans greatly enrich our society with their wisdom and unique contributions. And they deserve our respect.
A wonderful resource for elder Texans is 2-1-1. By simply dialing “211” – the same way you would dial “911” – Texans can find out about services available in their area. They will speak with a trained expert who can help connect them with the services including medical assistance, help with transportation, food, utilities, housing, counseling, disaster relief, and more. 2-1-1 is run by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day. To learn more, visit https://www.211texas.org/cms/.
I’m so proud that Greg has proclaimed May as Elder Abuse Prevention Month to raise awareness of this critical issue. You can read his proclamation here.
If you ever suspect abuse or neglect, I urge you to call (800) 252-5400 or visit the Texas Abuse Hotline website. Your report could save a life.
Monday, May 25, 2015
On this day, Americans all across our great country honor and remember those who gave all to fight for and defend our freedoms. I am forever grateful for their service, and I know that the liberties we all enjoy are because of their sacrifice.
And on this particular Memorial Day, I continue to pray for the Texans affected by the severe weather this weekend.
May God bless each and every one of you.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Today I visited Van, the East Texas town that suffered extensive damage as a result of a May 10, 2015 tornado. I stopped by Van Middle School, where I met with school officials, teachers and students affected by the tornado before touring Van Intermediate School, which sustained heavy damage as a result of the tornado and is closed for the remainder of the school year.
Following the school visits, I received a briefing from local and state officials regarding ongoing recovery efforts.
Even among this tremendous devastation, I remain amazed and inspired by the resilience and strength of the Van community. Many in Van lost everything, but I have no doubt they will reemerge even stronger than before. I am heartened to see so many Texans from across the state respond to this tragedy with their help and support. The State of Texas will continue to provide assistance and relief for Van and all those across the state affected by the recent severe weather, and Governor Abbott and I continue to pray for a quick recovery.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to talk about how immensely appreciative I am of teachers.
Texas teachers are helping to make sure that the next generation of Texans are prepared to lead our state. They are making a profound investment in the future of the Lone Star State, and playing an active role in shaping the Texas of tomorrow. But teachers don’t just teach – they inspire, encourage, nurture, motivate, and empower our children. Greg and I want to ensure that every Texas student receives a well-rounded, high-quality education, and enjoy it while doing so. We want to extend our sincerest gratitude for the teachers here in Texas that are making that possible.
I had the pleasure of being a teacher and principal in Texas schools for ten years, and both of my parents were teachers. And while I’m proud of all of the teachers in Texas, I’m especially proud of one in particular – Shanna Peeples, a high school English teacher in Amarillo who was named the 2015 National Teacher of the Year.
Thank you Shanna – and each and every teacher across Texas – for your hard work, your dedication, and your commitment to ensuring that every child in Texas has the opportunity to succeed.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Whether you like an adventure or are looking to expand your cultural horizon, Texas has a wide variety of opportunities for outdoor and indoor fun.
Texas is home to many state and national parks perfect for your next outdoor getaway. Palo Duro Canyon State Park – nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of Texas,”is the second largest canyon in the country and is great for horseback riders seeking the 1,500 acres of equestrian-only trails as well as 17,000 acres of hiking and biking paths.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is an ancient pink granite dome located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. A variety of outdoor activities are sure to keep visitors busy, including hiking, camping, rock climbing, birding, geocaching and stargazing. Enchanted Rock has its fair share of legends – in fact, the Tonkawa and Comanche Indians feared and revered the rock and continue to conduct ceremonies and leave offerings at its base.
Parks in Texas aren’t just for hiking and climbing peaks, however. At the Padre Island National Seashore, visitors can stroll along 70 miles of coastline – the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. The seashore serves as a safe nesting ground for sea turtles and haven for over 380 bird species. It’s also rich in history – it was the site of the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554.
Caddo Lake State Park is a truly unique natural area located in East Texas. Thick bald cypress and a tangle of aquatic plants thrive in the waters at Caddo Lake and the lush vegetation makes much of the lake a maze of sloughs, bayous and ponds. Popular activities at the park include fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing, boating, picnicking and nature studying.
Whether you prefer the beach, the bayou or the rolling hills, Texas’ state and national parks have something for everyone. To learn more about the Texas park system, visit Texas Park and Wildlife. And to see for yourself some of the swimming holes you can cool off in, watch the #TexasToDo: Swimming Holes film below.
For those looking to escape the heat, Texas is a thriving art and culture destination.
The Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex is home to some of the premier art centers in the country, if not the world. The Dallas Arts District is the largest arts district in the nation, spanning 68 acres of museums, performance halls, churches and even a school. Nearby Fort Worth is considered “the museum capital of the Southwest.” Many of the museums in Fort Worth tip their hat to the region’s Western influence, but there are museums of all varieties to fit anyone’s interests.
In Houston’s three-mile-wide Museum District you’ll find 20 museums dedicated to art, science and history. If you’re in Austin, a must-see is the Bullock Texas State History Museum, the official state history museum of Texas. But no matter where you are in Texas – whether in big cities or small towns, you’re bound to find a museum or street corner that proudly boasts the history and culture of our great state. To get a glimpse of the creativity that awaits, watch the #TexasToDo: Art Appreciation film below.
Saturday, May 09, 2015
The roots of Texas history are deeply influenced by Spanish heritage. The Spanish Missions in Texas introduced livestock, fruits, vegetables and industry into the Texas region. In all, 26 Missions were maintained within the present boundaries of the state, and Texans and visitors still have the opportunity to visit these centuries-old historical sites today.
The first and most widely known of these missions is San Antonio de Valero, commonly known as The Alamo. It was established in the early 1700s and played a crucial role in the settlement of San Antonio, Texas and the Southwest.
Photo courtesy of the San Antonio CVB.
The four southernmost Spanish colonial missions—Concepción, San José, San Juan and Espada—are included in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and have been nominated to become a World Heritage Site. San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, the “Queen of the Missions,” is the largest mission in San Antonio and was established in 1720 before reaching completion in 1782. It provided sanctuary and social and cultural community for more than 300 Native Americans, and was surrounded by acres of fields and livestock herds. Mission Concepción currently stands as the oldest unrestored stone church in the country and looks much like it did in 1755 when it was first dedicated. Some of the original frescos remain in the mission’s rooms.
Along the San Antonio River in Goliad stands the Mission Espiritu Santo, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Although the original brick and stone of the building has deteriorated, heritage travelers can tour the Mission building reconstructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, where artifacts from the original Mission remain on display.
Although the original stone and mortar structures of the Missions have not all withstood the test of time, their spirit certainly has. I encourage you to visit these sites for a unique learning experience you can’t get from history books alone!
Friday, May 08, 2015
From amusement parks to museums to the NASA Space Center in Houston, Texas is certainly not lacking in family travel destinations.
One of my favorite kid-friendly destinations in Texas is Schlitterbahn Waterpark – the top waterpark in the world for 16 consecutive years according to Amusement Today. The park has multiple locations across Texas and its newest park opens this summer in Corpus Christi. I can’t imagine a better way to cool off on a hot summer day in Texas!
Families looking for an out-of-this-world experience will love Space Center Houston, the official visitors center of The Johnson Space Center and NASA’s base for human spaceflight training and research and flight control. Open seven days a week, Space Center Houston offers attractions like a full size replica of a space shuttle, an interactive presentation of life in space, lunch with an astronaut and much more.
One of Texas’ most unique activities for families is cave exploration. Hidden beneath the rolling landscape of the Texas Hill Country are thousands of caves and caverns with vast chambers, waterfalls and fossils of ancient animals. Longhorn Cavern is an hour and a half northwest of Austin and home to Crystal City, where hundreds of calcite crystals sparkle from every wall, and the Indian Council Room, where Comanche Indians communed hundreds of years ago. Georgetown’s Inner Space Cavern is considered one of the best-preserved caves in Texas and one of the few places where prehistoric remains are found. Located in San Antonio, Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest commercial cave in the state.
Descend deep into the Earth and explore these unique and amazing formations by viewing the #TexasToDo: Caves of Wonder film, https://www.traveltex.com/texastodo/films/caves-of-wonder .
Throughout the year, the Lone Star State’s many fairs and festivals will keep the entire family occupied. In the fall, the Texas State Fair hosts cook offs, livestock shows, live music, carnival rides and an abundance of fried food. Rodeo season commences in the spring and visitors across Texas can enjoy live-action rodeo events, livestock shows, musical performances, barbecue cook-offs and carnival thrills. San Antonio is home to Fiesta, an annual celebration of the city’s culture including parades, live music, traditional cuisine hosted each April.
For a thrilling adventure for the whole family, don’t miss Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio and Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Six Flags offers a wide range of amusements including pulse-racing roller coasters, family rides, a water park, entertaining shows, dining and shopping.
These are just a few examples of the family-friendly fun awaiting you in Texas!
Thursday, May 07, 2015
The Texas Gulf Coast is full of endless possibilities when it comes to beach vacations. Texas has more than 600 miles of coastline, with activities such as dolphin watching excursions, deep sea fishing, bird watching and surfing.
For a fun family adventure, Corpus Christi is a must-see and one of the top kite-boarding destinations in the world. Be sure to take a tour of the USS Lexington, the oldest working aircraft carrier, which served in 21 out of the 24 battles in World War II. South Padre is a gem too – if you visit, be sure to check out the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark.
In Port Aransas, you can charter a boat with a local guides that will take you out for a deep sea fishing experience that will have you reeling in red snapper, wahoo, grouper, blue marlin and more. Take a look at this #TexasToDo Gone Fishing film highlighting offshore fishing in the Lone Star State, https://www.traveltex.com/texastodo/films/gone-fishing
Another great Texas beach is in Galveston, a historical 32-mile beach town. Galveston boasts one of the largest and most historically significant collections of 19th-century buildings, with over 60 structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, Galveston Island is one of the top locations for birding in the United States, and is home to more than 500 species of birds, including the Reddish Egret and brown pelican.
With mild weather throughout the year, tasty seafood and beautiful beaches, I hope you get the chance soon to sink your toes in the sand on the Texas Gulf Coast.
To learn more about the Texas Gulf Coast, visit https://www.traveltex.com/.
Wednesday, May 06, 2015
Texas is home to a music scene as diverse as its population. Legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin, Selena, Beyoncé, Buddy Holly, and Willie Nelson call Texas home, and you’ll find passion in every dancehall, festival and honky tonk across the state.
Not only is Austin the state’s Capital City, it is also the Live Music Capital of the World, and home to two of the nation’s most popular music festivals, Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. The South by Southwest Music Festival is one of the largest, most influential, and most anticipated music events of the year! ACL Festival is a two-weekend fest that brings together more than 130 acts from all over the world to play rock, hip-hop, R&B, country, folk, electronic and more. No matter which festival you attend, you are bound to hear some of today’s top musicians and possibly spot the next big star.
For those looking for a larger-than-life music experience, Billy Bob’s Texas, located in the historic Forth Worth Stockyards, is the world’s largest honky tonk. Another great Texas honky tonk is Gruene Hall, which is the oldest dancehall in Texas and has hosted its fair share of country music superstars over the years since it opened in 1878.
Take a first-hand look at Gruene Hall, featured in the #TexasToDo: Two Step Across Texas film.
This summer you can find music festivals dedicated to every style of music under the Texas sun, starting with the KNBT 92.1 Americana Music Jam in New Braunfels, followed by the Memorial Day Gospel/Bluegrass Festival in Grapeland, National Polka Festival in Ennis and more. The Kerrville Folk Festival is one of Texas’ most popular music festivals, featuring 18 days and nights of music at Quiet Valley Ranch.
But not all music in Texas has a twang. In fact, there are two dozen symphonies in Texas where you can immerse yourself in history’s greatest compositions, performed by world-renowned classical musicians.
Between sounds, you can visit one of Texas’ many music museums. There’s the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame in Port Arthur, the Texas Polka Museum in Schulenburg, and the The Heart of Texas Country Music Museum in Brady, just to name a few. Other museums featuring individual musicians across the state include the Freddy Fender Museum in San Benito, the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, the Selena Museum in Corpus Christi, and the Bob Wills Museum in Turkey.
Come on out and hear the many sounds Texas has to offer across the state, and when you do, don’t be too shy to sing along! To learn more about the music scene in Texas, visit https://www.traveltex.com/ or http://gov.texas.gov/music/.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
West Texas is a truly unique region of the Lone Star State. The beauty of the Big Bend National Park in Big Bend, the Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis, and the Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso are truly astounding.
In addition to hiking through scenic mountain ranges, West Texas is home to a plethora of other outdoor activities. Swimmers can take a dip in the cool waters of Balmorhea State Park’s spring-fed pool. Balmorhea is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool, and visitors and families can enjoy swimming, scuba diving, picnicking, playing sports on the sport court area or just relaxing under the trees. Other adventures include horseback riding, white water rafting on the Rio Grande River, kayaking, canoeing and more.
Watch the video below to get a glimpse of some of the beautiful West Texas scenery.
While West Texas is certainly an outdoor mecca, the region is also home to unique arts and culture. At the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, visitors can stargaze or even join a Star Party to experience constellation tours of the night sky.
One of the most unique finds in this region is the town of Marfa, which is known for its robust art scene, ghost lights, and was the location of James Dean’s final film, "GIANT," which also starred Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. The beautiful, historic Hotel Paisano served as the center of activity during the making of the movie and remains a visitor favorite today. A must-do for visitors is to catch a glimpse of the Marfa Ghost Lights, which can be seen from a viewing station east of town. First seen by early settlers to the area, the lights glimmer across the Chinati Mountains and continue to mystify travelers, as their origin is unknown. And of course, you can’t miss the Prada Marfa.
I encourage you to make a trip out to West Texas to explore the region’s eclectic vibe and iconic natural beauty! To learn more about wonderful West Texas, visit https://www.traveltex.com/.
Monday, May 04, 2015
May 2 - 10 is Texas Travel and Tourism Week. All week long, I’ll be posting about a few of my favorite things to do and places to see in Texas. First up, some of my favorite things to eat and drink that you can only get in our great state!
Here in Texas, we are known for our famous barbecue, wineries and breweries. In fact, the Texas Hill Country American Viticultural Area (AVA) is the second largest in America, covering an area of over 9,000,000 acres. Those looking to take a tour of the Hill Country wineries will enjoy exploring Wine Road 290, which encompasses 13 award-winning wineries along US Highway 290 outside of Fredericksburg.
While in the Hill Country, you can’t miss eating Texas barbecue! An iconic favorite is The Salt Lick, which is located in the town of Driftwood and features family style platters overflowing with tender pork ribs, luscious brisket and savory sausage. Just a little ways down the road from Austin, the town of Lockhart was designated as the official state barbecue capital by the 76th Texas Legislature. In Lockhart, BBQ joints include Kreuz Market, Smitty’s Market, Black’s Barbeque and Chisholm Trail Barbeque, each serving up lean brisket and superbly smoked meats all around.
The small town of Lexington, about an hour east of Austin, is home to Snow’s BBQ. The spot seems unassuming - a red shack and some picnic tables - but its barbecue is anything but. Lucky visitors get an opportunity to meet Tootsie Tomanetz, one of Texas’ great pitmasters. To see what the big deal is about Tootsie and Snow’s BBQ, you need to view this #TexasToDo: BBQ Obsession, https://www.traveltex.com/texastodo/films/bbq-obsession.
After some delicious barbecue, a beer from one of Texas’ more than 80 microbreweries is bound to quench your thirst. Austin is home to several breweries, such as Hops & Grain, Independence Brewing Co., Austin Beerworks, and Jester King. In Houston, Saint Arnold Brewing Company is Texas’ oldest craft brewery, operating for 20 years. In San Antonio, the city’s rich brewing history parlays well into the craft beer trend and visitors will enjoy Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling, which offers both beer and bourbon, and Branchline Brewing Company. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is also home to a number of craft breweries, such as Rahr & Sons and Peticolas Brewing Company.
If this doesn’t tempt your palate, I don’t know what will! I encourage you to pull up a chair and enjoy your explorations of Texas’ iconic cuisine. To learn more about Texas’ one-of-a-kind cuisines, visit https://www.traveltex.com/texastodo/films.