Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Benini Sculpture Ranch -- Johnson City, Texas

From the house on top of the hill, a big-sky view spills over rolling terrain.  Decades ago LBJ spent evenings behind his huntin' trailer here, miles from any town, watching a brilliant sun melt into inky horizon.

Today the ranch of 140+ acres holds 110 bigger-than-life contemporary sculptures plus a gallery of work by internationally acclaimed artist Benini, whose paintings draw the mind to depth.
Benini and his wife Lorraine, a writer and photographer, settled into the house about ten years ago, installing their private sculpture collection on the hill and down to the gallery.   

"On the Upside Down" by Ho Baron 

As word spread, art-lovers asked to view and artists asked to show.  Rules were established:  Contemporary works 10 feet tall or more and able to withstand Texas Hill Country winds, 60 mph. 

"Aspiration and Determination" by Loren Impson

The exhibition grew. 

So did demand to view, until the Benini Sculpture Ranch became a destination, open free to the public Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Sign in at the gallery and walk or drive the mile-and-a-half trail.  

360 degree access to art in a range of vision and style.  Representational and abstract, kinetic, interactive, stone, fiber, concrete, metal, wood.  

"The Bat" by Steven Harris

Some pieces feel as if they've grown into the landscape.  Bird nests now poke from this chrome, iron and stainless steer's belly.

Sculptor Bettye Hamblen Turner faces her creation, "Palladin".  Photo courtesy of Lorraine Bennini. 

The Benini Sculpture Ranch is a drive from most anywhere.  That's OK, the countryside is pretty.  And the destination is worth it:  Art you love, maybe some you don't but you get a bonus of thinking and feeling.

"Diana" by Scott Sustek

The Benini's have hosted the public for years now.  They're ready to return to a more contemplative life.  

The gates will close for good Labor Day Weekend.  

Don't wait for the end.  Life is short, go now. 

The Benini Sculpture Ranch
377 Shiloh Road 
Johnson City, Texas  78636

And give Lorraine and Benini our best.

Copyright 2009-2012 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gourmage -- Good in New Braunfels

Last Friday Denny and I celebrated the end of the work week by sipping and snacking at Gourmage.  Stephanie Richardson, the owner, stood behind the cheese counter, making sure everyone got what they wanted. She's owned this cute shop/cafe for a couple of years and the town is richer for it. 

The shop carries a blend of comestibles and decoratives.  I tend toward the food end--unique cheeses and matching wines, a quartet of good olive varieties, the best french baguettes in 50 miles.  Plus things I'd never think of, like house-made marshmallows in black cherry, dulce de leche, lavender honey, Chai Spice and tomorrow's inspiration flavor. 

And oh yes, house-made ice cream.  You wouldn't believe the tangy goodness of goat cheese ice cream or the hot bite of spice as cinnamon slides down your throat.  And rumor has it that sugar-cured jalapeno slivers will soon spike the avocado ice cream. 

The cafe section is open for brunch/lunch.  

Try the chocolate croissant for a worthy calorie-splurge wake-up.  

Lunch fare includes house-made soups and salads, and sandwiches you won't find anywhere else. I love the roasted duck breast on sourdough. Denny loves the chicken salad.  

But I'm having lustful thoughts about exotic grilled cheese -- Harvarti with rosemary ham, or Washed-rind Chimay cheese with salty-sweet house-made Bacon Jam or Nutty Manchego cheese with thinly-sliced salty prosciutto and sweet fig preserves. 

Don't take my word for the experience, wander down to New Braunfels' historic downtown and give Gourmage a try for yourself.  

Say hello to Stephanie for me.

270 W San Antonio Street, New Braunfels, TX 78130 
(830) 214-6471,
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Closed on Sunday.
Light breakfast and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
Copyright 2009-2012 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Thanks to the Meanest Mama on the Block

When I was a girl, my mother was the only adult in the neighborhood who jumped rope with the kids in the driveway.  She joined us for Monopoly and Clue on Friday Game Night.  

She created "Adventures in Eating" dinners with unfamiliar dishes from around the world and conversation about where the dishes came from--people, geography and culture.  I didn't love her curry but all these years later I still love new experiences.

We moved every three years, sometimes more often, and Mom made every move an adventure.  We could leave our friends and schools without heartache because the next great place was going to be so much fun. 

Our home was loving but it wasn't loosy-goosy.  Mother wasn't afraid to say no.  And nothing Susie's mother allowed was going to change Mother's mind.  She had a one sentence answer.  "I'm the meanest Mama on the block and don't you forget it." Unarguable logic.

Her example gave her three daughters the backbone to tackle hard things, the courage to reach out to others and the joy of life-long learning.

Thank you Mom. 

Copyright 2009-2012 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spring Flies Into the Hill Country

Last winter's Rufous hummingbird flew out in mid-March.   

He knows the early bird gets the best territory, key to mating.  

The migration map shows wintering grounds in Central America with spring migration far west of our Hill Country home.  "Our" Rufous is getting a head start on the birds that read maps.

The chattering flocks of Chipping sparrows began leaving in March, all gone now.  Our front feeding ground seems quiet without their busy thronging.

But we're hearing Carolina wrens as the males build nests and sing for mates.  In the wren world, females choose mates based on the male's quality of song and nests.  He may build as many as five to get her approval.

I hung a nest-building buffet of cat-fur, cotton and dried grasses to help him along. The cat-fur disappeared right away.


This first-spring Summer Tanager still has splotches of juvenile yellow but in his short life he's flown more than a thousand miles to and from Central/South America.  Now he'll compete for a mate and the chance to rear a family in our neighborhood.  

He and his family will eat wasps on my porch this summer, a benefit to both of us.  It works because we don't don't pesticide the property, allowing nature to balance the cycle.

I'm a Summer Tanager and I approve this message.-->

Soon another generation of Hill Country birds will brighten our gardens and lives.

Copyright 2009-2012 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.