Fifty Gifts Yule Love subhed: Forget cactus-shaped fruitcakes and barbed-wire bookends. We searched far and wide and found unique Texas treats—from prickly pear soap to Concho River pearls—for everyone on your list. summary: Attention, holiday shoppers: Time’s a-wasting (but help is on the way). This quirky compilation of Texas-made goodies—from mesquite dominoes to mohair throws—should have something for everyone on your list.
This holiday shopping season I decided that I wouldn’t set foot in one single mall. With a touch of Texas chauvinism (and a tendency to complicate everything), I was determined to keep my money in the state. Mind you, I’m well aware of the frightening consumer landscape the phrase “Texas gifts” conjures up: mountains of barn-wood furniture, prairies of horseshoe picture frames, and thickets of stuff emblazoned with stupid slogans—like the toddler’s bloomers that proclaim “I Messed With Texas” (at the state capitol gift shop, of all places). However, after logging 2,500 miles on the road and who knows how many on the Web, I can gleefully report that if you know where to look, the shopping scenery can be grand. I hope the following quirky list of fifty Texas gifts is greater than the sum of its parts. Some things are included to lure you into gift-packed museum stores, craft galleries, or small towns like Wimberley and Mason. Others—like the classes and memberships—might inspire you to think outside the material box (shopping directory, page 153). In any event, with so few shopping days left, don’t you think it’s high time you got started?
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY!
1. I took a gold box of Wiseman House chocolates ($22 for about 11/2 pounds) to a Texas Monthly editorial meeting. Big mistake: Believe me, this is one group that needs no sugar buzz. The frenzied attack on these helpless sweets—Black Forest bonbons, truffles, caramel pecan brag (like turtles)—hand-dipped by the Wenzel family of Hico convinced me they had made the cut.
Wiseman House, the northwest corner of U.S. 281 and Texas Highway 6, Hico (254-796-2565).
2. The mesquite-smoked peppered beef tenderloin from the Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap ($78) can make a vegetarian fall from grace. Imagine how pleased a relative (a mother-in-law, perhaps) will be to have two pounds or more of perfectly cooked meat delivered to her doorstep, vacuum sealed and ready to devour.
Perini Ranch Steakhouse, Buffalo Gap (915-572-3339, 800-367-1721; periniranch.com).
3. When Paula Lambert returned to Texas after living in Italy, the gastronomic pleasure she missed the most was fresh mozzarella, so she started making her own back in 1982. Now her Mozzarella Cheese Company handcrafts a variety of natural cow’s- and goat’s-milk cheeses in a little factory near downtown Dallas. Her Texas Sampler ($40, includes shipping) features a pound each of Texas basil caciotta (like Monterey Jack), ancho chile caciotta, and scamorza (a dense mozzarella smoked over pecan shells).
Mozzarella Cheese Company, Dallas (214-741-4072, 800-798-2954; mozzco.com).
4. I’m stretching the “hecho en Tejas” parameter a bit here, but Tequila Nacional—the 100 percent blue agave love child of El Paso Chile Company founder W. Park Kerr and a small distillery in the Mexican state of Jalisco—is too smooth to ignore. You can pick up a bottle of this sipping tequila at better liquor stores or even order one off the Internet ($38.57).
Tequila Nacional, Rio Bravo Spirits, El Paso (915-533-6162; tequilanacional.com).
5. It’s not only impossible to successfully ship the apple pies ($10.75) from the Deutsch Apple Pie and Coffee Shop, but it may be illegal as well, considering that the incredibly flaky crust is set to explode at any moment. Trust me: It’s worth a trip to this tiny shop in Blanco to buy one (or two or twelve). I like to lie and say I made it myself.
Deutsch Apple Pie and Coffee Shop, 602 Chandler, Blanco (830-833-2882).
6. Who needs a bunch of empty beer bottles lying around the house as evidence of excessive holiday spirit? A Party Pig ($24.99), a disposable keg filled with 2.25 gallons of suds from the Real Ale Brewing Company, a Blanco microbrewery, can solve that problem. And you don’t have to drink it all at one sitting: The beer stays fresh and bubbly for 45 days from the moment the Pig is tapped. No CO2 canister, no pumping, no cup o’ foam. “All you have to do to drink draft beer is push the red button,” says Real Ale brewmeister Brad Farbstein. “And if you can’t figure out how to push the red button, you don’t need to drink draft beer.” Or anything else, for that matter.
Real Ale Brewing Company, Blanco (830-833-2534; realalebrewing.com); kegs available at Whole Foods and Central Market in Austin and San Antonio.
JUST FOR FUN
7. Nothing says “I love you” like the gift of an adrenaline rush. Would ten laps at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway ($325), at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, say it loud enough? Team Texas’ one-day course includes a one-hour training session, after which students are strapped into the driver’s seat of a Winston Cup stock car with a daring (suicidal?) instructor riding shotgun.
Team Texas High Performance Driving School, Fort Worth (940-648-1043; teamtexas.com).
8. Can’t decide whether to give kayaking or fly-fishing lessons? Then combine them in a one-day “flyaking” excursion for two on the Texas coast ($375, not including transportation to the launch site near Port Aransas). Hill Country Outfitters in San Antonio will arrange the trip, which comes with all the equipment, lunch, and a knowledgeable guide who’ll take you to the secret spots.
Hill Country Outfitters, 18030 U.S. 281 N., Suite 108, San Antonio (210-491-4416); and 109 E. Main, Fredericksburg (830-997-3761); hillcountryoutfitters.com.
9. There’s one surefire strategy for landing Junior in the winner’s circle: Buy his way in. At Retama Park, northeast of San Antonio, you can pay for the privilege of naming a race and then presenting the trophy to the winner ($150). Junior goes home with a little more self-confidence, a new appreciation for vice, and a photo documenting his moment of glory.
Retama Park, 1 Retama Parkway, off I-35, Selma (210-651-7200; retamapark.com).
10. Santa Anna seems like the kind of town where people still play dominoes, and those who like to play with style can pick up a set of mesquite dominoes ($65 and up), made by local father and son craftsmen John and Terry Loyd, at Mesquite Woods of Texas.
Mesquite Woods of Texas, 106 N. First, Santa Anna (915-348-9198, 888-443-4MWT; mesquitewoods.com).
11. Indulge someone’s flights of fancy with a helicopter tour of the Christmas lights of Dallas and Fort Worth from DFW Helitours in Grand Prairie ($35 per person; every evening from Thanksgiving through December).
DFW Helitours, 2600 Mayfield Road, Grand Prairie (972-623-3000).
12. A family membership to the Texas Zoo in Victoria ($35) gets Mom, Pop, and three munchkins a year’s worth of communing (through fences) with our native critters.
Texas Zoo, 110 Memorial Drive, Victoria (361-573-7681; viptx.net/texaszoo).
13. Anna Gene Moreland “sort of oozed into woodworking” after retiring as the band director at Goldthwaite High School, she says. Now she can’t keep her heirloom-quality circus trains, rocking boats, and other toys in stock. At first glance her rocking carousel horse ($650) looks finely painted. On closer inspection, you realize that the horse’s curly mane and fanciful tack are cut from contrasting woods like purple heart, walnut, sassafras, and aromatic cedar that are pieced together like an intricate puzzle.
Anna Gene Moreland, Goldthwaite (915-648-2470; support-base.com/annagene).
HOUSE AND GARDEN
14. Bill Arnold of San Antonio’s Tex Arts makes wooden birdhouses based on the city’s Spanish missions. They’re so handsome you might be tempted to collect them in your curio cabinet, but Arnold crafts them to withstand the elements and the nesting habits of feathered friends. Although the Alamo ($30, including shipping) is tempting, in a popular-icon sort of way, I liked the graceful Mission Concepción even better.
Tex Arts, San Antonio (trulytexan.com/texarts/index.htm).
15. Every holiday season, about the time the hundredth tin of throat-closing fudge is passed around, do you begin to worry about contracting acute diabetes? Here’s a sweet treat that won’t affect your insulin level: a Southern sugar maple ($29 for a five-gallon specimen) from Anderson Landscape and Nursery, a botanical wonderland in northwest Houston filled with hard-to-find native Texas shrubs and trees.
Anderson Landscape and Nursery, 2222 Pech, Houston (713-984-1342).
16. I stopped taking advice from rocks some time in the mid-seventies, so I ignore stones that command me to “hope” or “imagine.” But I will still trust a rock to identify herbs in my garden ($10 to $20). Texas Rock Art in Fredericksburg can also custom sandblast a pebble or a boulder with just about anything you want—even advice.
Texas Rock Art, 1436 E. Main, Fredericksburg (830-990-4420).
17. Joe Gentry’s Adirondack chairs ($510) might outlast us all. They’re made from salvaged cypress timbers—formerly parts of oil rigs—pulled from the bottom of Caddo Lake after a decades-long slumber. The long, muddy soak has colored the normally bland lumber with streaks of color (we’re talking oranges, pinks, and purples). Says Gary Osborne, the fine arts dealer who sells Gentry’s works at his Port Aransas gallery: “When people sit in them, they can’t believe they’re sitting in a wooden chair.”
Gary Osborne Fine Art, 345 N. Alister, Port Aransas (800-867-2248; gofineart.com).
18. I got caught fondling the merchandise at the Ol’ Sonora Trading Company, but instead of banishing me from the store, the clerk, Dorothy Cramer, encouraged me. She knows that people can’t resist stroking the kitten-soft throws made by Sonora Mohair and Company from the fleece of goats and sheep raised in the area ($98).
Ol’ Sonora Trading Company, 121 U.S. 277 N., Sonora (915-387-5507). Also available from Sonora Mohair and Company, Sonora (800-533-9292, 915-387-3806; texasmohair.com).
19. Laura Jeanne Pitts, the buyer for the Ursuline Sales Gallery at the Southwest School of Art and Craft in San Antonio, described the lamps made by A. E. Jennings best when she said, “Set one on your desk and you don’t even need a window.” Jennings, a native Texan now being held captive in Brooklyn, reproduces her photographs—like the ones of Garner State Park on the table lamp I fell for ($197)—on plastic vellum panels, then whipstitches them onto sleek stainless-steel frames.
Ursuline Sales Gallery, Southwest School of Art and Craft, 300 Augusta, San Antonio (210-224-1848; swschool.org).
0. I lusted after everything at the Homestead Heritage crafts village: the longleaf-pine sleigh beds, the cherry armoires, the intricately patterned linen table runners, and even the showroom itself, a two-hundred-year-old barn with giant timbers and thick floors that was dismantled in New Jersey and reassembled in the rolling hills near Waco. But if I was forced to select just one item made by the craftspeople in this nondenominational Christian community, I’d pick the exquisitely simple end table ($575) made of warm, rich mesquite.
Homestead Heritage, 608 Dry Creek Road, Waco (254-829-0417).
21. The star-shaped perforated-metal sconces ($160) at Isaac Maxwell Metal are certainly beautiful by day, but they are positively ethereal when illuminated at night. San Antonio architect Isaac Maxwell passed away in 1998, but his lights shine on, thanks to his wife, Judith, who now runs the business, and dedicated artisans like Gregorio Rebolla and José Guadalupe Flores, who have crafted Maxwell’s designs of tin and brass for decades.
Isaac Maxwell Metal, 1009 S. Alamo, San Antonio (210-227-4752; by appointment).
22. I love Christmas lights, but I hate trying to artfully decorate my trees. Ed Mosley of Ed’s Lighted Yard Art, near Llano, has a better way for people like me to cope with seasonal sparkle. He bends and welds metal bars into various shapes—angels, stars, Nativity scenes, Santas on tractors—then his wife, Mary Ann, festoons them with Flexilights, a solid rope of maintenance-free lights. Plug in the six-foot-tall waving Santa ($350), and then move on to the next holiday chore.
Ed’s Lighted Yard Art, 3479 Texas Highway 29 E., Llano (915-247-2162, 800-549-1003; edslightedart.com).
23. Confession: I hate shopping. Really. But I love people who make stuff. Real stuff. And I don’t think it gets any more real than the creamy white organic cotton T-shirts (only $6!) made by SOS From Texas. The Oldham family—which has been raising cotton in Shamrock for almost one hundred years—turns cotton seeds into T-shirts using organic standards from start to finish. No chemical fertilizers, no bleach, no dye—just soft, sturdy shirts.
SOS From Texas, Shamrock (800-245-2339; sosfromtexas.com).
24. Maybe I would have had an easier time telling the two leading presidential candidates apart if they’d at least worn different ties. Textile artist Jeannette Guetersloh, whose wearable art is sold at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, would win my vote for Tiemaker to the President with her unique silk ties, patterned with subtle designs inspired by a year spent in Indonesia, Borneo, and Malaysia ($89).
Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, 5216 Montrose Boulevard (713-284-8250; camh.org).
25. In a modern variation on the old challenge to make a “silk purse from a sow’s ear,” Mary Mundy has created a sleek purse from sheet metal. Several sleek purses, in fact. Her minaudières ($130), carried at Dallas’ TieCoon, are shaped from flat sheets of brass, steel, or copper, then finished with decorative metal clasps and hinges and black cord straps. They’re surprisingly dainty, with room for only the essentials (lipstick, credit card, car keys), but hefty enough to ward off a masher if your aim is good.
TieCoon, 4015 Villanova, Dallas (214-369-8437).
26. When I saw Rhonda Kuhlman’s bottle cap jewelry at Women and Their Work in Austin, I initially thought I’d try to make a dress for my sister from beer bottle caps. But I soon realized that it would take me more than a week to save up enough caps, so I hope she’ll settle for one of Kuhlman’s barrettes, a trio of bottle caps fitted with vintage cartoon images ($10).
Women and Their Work, 1710 Lavaca Street, Austin (512-477-1064; womenandtheirwork.org).
27. For nearly two decades designer Kathleen Sommers has been selling her fashions at her swank shop in San Antonio’s Monte Vista neighborhood. Although she may be best known for her easy-to-wear linens, her hot ensemble this season is an Asian-style jacket and pajama pants in jewel-toned Vietnamese silk ($154 each piece).
Kathleen Sommers, 2417 N. Main, San Antonio (210-732-8437).
28. Act nice, and Oliver or Doris Grote will open the safe tucked in a corner of their Mason store, Country Collectibles, flick on a light, and dazzle you with a rock that would make even Liz Taylor swoon: a 587.15-carat light blue Texas topaz. “It’s comparable to the Hope diamond,” brags Oliver of this eye-popping specimen of the state gem, which is found only in Mason County. Oliver is not exactly aching to sell his prized find (and, since it’s priced at $58,715—or $100 a carat—there’s slim chance that he will), but he is ready to part with other topazes in his collection. He carries a variety of pendants and rings, but I was most taken with the loose stones, particularly a 5.5-carat star-cut beauty in a soft blue ($467.50).
Country Collectibles, 424 Fort McKavitt, Mason (915-347-5249; sig.net/~masoncoc/member/countrycollectibles/index.htm).
29. C. L. “Bud” Ennis had painted (on canvas) as a hobby for years, but when he retired, and his dreams of life on the links were thwarted by arthritis, his wife, Carter, encouraged him to take a course in fabric painting. He was smitten. Now he covers silk squares with vivid watercolors of leaves, poppies, dancers, animals, and abstract designs, drawing inspiration from works at the Dallas Museum of Art, where he’s a docent and where his colorful Enniscarves are sold ($100 to $150).
Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 Harwood, Dallas (214-922-1256; dm-art.org).
30. It’s not too late to snag a pair of custom-made cowboy boots. Of course, the ones we mean weren’t custom-made for anyone you know and love, but surely you can find a pair the right size for someone on your list from among the hundreds of secondhand boots at Houston’s Texas Junk Company—including sought-after vintage pointy-toes ($15 to $200).
Texas Junk Company, 215 Welch, Houston (713-524-6257).
31. Austin-based Tula Hats has been designing personal shade woven from palm fronds since 1990. If only someone had glued one of owner Alice Eichelmann’s sun-busting creations—like the wide-brimmed ranch hat ($23 and up)—on my head back then, maybe I could’ve saved a fortune on bogus wrinkle creams.
Tula Hats, Austin (888-232-4287; tulahats.com). Call for retail outlets.
32. One ten-foot-long display case at Legend Jewelers in San Angelo is filled with Concho River pearls in luminescent pinks, lavenders, apricots, creams, and even a wild goldish-green, in shapes and sizes ranging from spherical BBs to free-forms called baroques. “The only consistency is no consistency,” says owner Mark Priest. A sixteen-inch strand of graduated pearls attests to their individuality: It took more than seventeen years to collect the 68 comparatively uniform specimens. The price of such patience? A cool $36,000. But Santa, if you’re reading this, I’d be perfectly happy with the simple white gold ring with one blushing-pink pearl flanked by two modest diamonds ($529).
Legend Jewelers, 18 E. Concho, San Angelo (915-653-0112, 888-655-4367; legendjewelers.hypermart.net).
33. So what if Soular Therapy’s products are suddenly all over the pages of InStyle, W, and Jane. I discovered them first! When company founders Kevin Elkins and Andrew Goodman went shopping for aromatherapy candles to sell at their now-defunct San Antonio antiques store, nothing on the market flared their nostrils. So they spent a year and a half in R & D and last year unleashed their astrologically based scented candles ($26) on a public obviously starved for heavenly guidance.
Soular Therapy, San Antonio (210-737-8811, 877-737-8844; soulartherapy.com). Or call for retail outlets.
34. As every know-it-all has told you two thousand times, this December 31 at midnight is the start of the new millennium. And since this time around airplanes aren’t predicted to fall from the sky and clock radios aren’t expected to explode, why not celebrate fearlessly with a New Year’s Eve party for two at Rough Creek Lodge outside Glen Rose ($5,000 for a two-night “platinum package”)? The price includes helicopter transfers from DFW, beluga caviar, Dom Perignon, a five-course candlelit dinner, a couples massage, carriage rides, and dancing to jazz (can you dance to jazz?) under the stars.
Rough Creek Lodge, 5165 County Road 2013 (call for directions), Glen Rose (254-965-3700; roughcreek.com).
35. Cross a Japanese teahouse with a Victorian parlor and you get Serenity Massage and Spa Retreat in Wimberley. “It’s Tex Zen,” says owner Sherry Elkin, a registered massage therapist with nineteen years of experience. After a whirlpool soak in the tiny Asian-style bathhouse and an hour-long massage ($60), my husband, Richard, had metamorphosed from stressed to mellow to contented mush.
Serenity Massage and Spa Retreat, 15401 Ranch Road 12, No. 400, Wimberley (512-847-8985).
36. My aunt Dot lived all over the globe and brought back tales of her worldly experiences on her Texas visits. When I was little, she showed me a trick for softening hands that she had learned in the Land Without Lotion: Pour a little olive oil and a little salt in your palm, rub your hands together, and rinse. Now Rosie Herman of Mommy’s Magic in Houston has come up with the One Minute Manicure, improving on what I thought was a family secret by combining Dead Sea salt with jojoba, vitamin E, and essential oils like orange, rosemary, and peppermint ($29.95 for thirteen ounces).
One Minute Manicure, Houston (866-ONE-MINU).
37. Prepare to have your boots kissed by the foodie on your list if you enroll him in the Chef for a Day Cooking School at Dallas’ Mansion on Turtle Creek ($1,600). He’ll work elbow-to-elbow with chef Dean Fearing and his staff, cooking up lobster tacos and crème brûlée for the Mansion’s lunch and dinner patrons. Then he and a guest (and it had better be you) will sit down for a grand meal. By the way, the price includes one night at this most elegant of Texas hotels.
Mansion on Turtle Creek, 2821 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Dallas (214-520-5846; mansiononturtlecreek.com).
38. As if I needed another excuse to visit Room No. 5, that homage to home style in Fredericksburg, it now stocks some of my favorite soaps: prickly pear, Hill Country rosemary, and mint-comfrey from Del Jardin in Poteet. Longtime soapmaker and organic gardener Grace Lovelace and her husband, George Thompson, grow all the herbs and roses that go into their fresh-scented bars ($5.50).
Room No. 5, 302 E. Main, Fredericksburg (830-997-1090; homesteadstores.com). For more retail outlets, call Del Jardin (830-276-4880).
39. It can take Jon Fish and Larry Osborn of Good Foundations in Wimberley a year (or two) to complete one of their one-twelfth-scale custom mansions with parquet floors, crystal chandeliers, elaborate moldings, and totally believable exterior details of brick and carved stone, so save this gift for someone with a mature sense of delayed gratification. (Anyway, we’re not talking child’s play here: Prices start at $20,000.)
Good Foundations, Wimberley (512-847-9699).
ARTS AND CRAFTS
40. Twenty minutes west of Austin, near Dripping Springs, sits a straw-bale building light-years from mall mania. Here, in the gift shop of Sunset Canyon Pottery, the on-site studio’s extensive line of clayware is showcased alongside the works of other local potters and craftspeople. The vibrant dishware by San Antonio’s JoAnna Amundson caught my eye, with its crisp bands of bright glazes etched with graceful designs. Even oatmeal would be elevated to haute cuisine when served up in one of her colorful bowls ($26).
Sunset Canyon Pottery, 4002 U.S. 290 E., Dripping Springs (512-894-0938, 800-846-6175).
41. If the clerk at the Austin Museum of Art gift shop hadn’t been watching me, I would have licked the fused-glass bowl by Austin artist Kathleen Ash ($290), because its vibrantly colored polka dots reminded me so much of lime, blueberry, and cherry lollipops.
Austin Museum of Art Museum Store, 823 Congress Avenue, Austin (512-477-0766; amoa.org).
42. The outstanding photography in the Days of the Dead Calendar from the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth ($14.95) perfectly captures the animated personalities of the drunken, pensive, exuberant, or befuddled skeletons in the museum’s collection of Mexican folk art. The clever three-dimensional calendar opens up like the retablos found in churches throughout Mexico and Latin America.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 1309 Montgomery, Fort Worth (817-335-9215); and the Modern at Sundance Square, 410 Houston, Fort Worth (817-738-9215); mamfw.org.
43. After slogging through Houston’s renowned shopping districts, I’d almost despaired of finding any local crafts in Pottery Barn-Gap Land. Then I revisited the Heights neighborhood. (The last time I was there, in 1959, I was busy being born at the Heights Hospital and had no time to shop.) At the October Gallery, an eclectic store full of Texas-made stuff from furniture to fountains, one of Kathy Wheatley’s vases bejeweled with frosty blue and amber beach glass caught my fancy ($30). I love the fact that the Texas shore where she collects the translucent nuggets is her closely guarded secret.
October Gallery, 244 W. Nineteenth, Houston (713-861-3411).
44. In a woodsy studio in Wimberley, Heather Carter makes finely crafted journals and notebooks ($16 to $32). Each features imported paper, hand-stitched binding, and her signature little window in the cover, filled with tiny leaves from Spanish oaks or other native plants. If I had one to write in, I think even my shopping notes for this story would read like poetry.
Heather Carter, 15401 Ranch Road 12, No. 300, Wimberley (512-847-0192; hcarter.com).
45. I stood in Fort Worth’s Earth Bones far too long, staring dumbly at Carl Crum’s four-foot-long 3-D photo montage of Fort Worth icons ($675). The layered images of Cowtown’s signs and landmarks made me sound stupid too: “Look, the Flatiron Building,” I exclaimed. “Oh, and Griff’s Hamburgers and the Water Gardens. I’ve seen those. Look, Mr. Sno-Cone.” But I still like Crum’s work, despite its harmful effect on my I.Q.
Earth Bones, 308 Main, Fort Worth (817-332-2662).
46. Even shopping can take on deep historic significance if done beneath the watchful gaze of the pterosaur hovering in the entrance of the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin. (Okay, so it’s a reproduction of the museum’s 70-million-year-old fossil.) For a memento of ancient local history, check out the gift shop’s coffee mugs ($7.95) decorated with drawings of Texas points (arrowheads). They’re made by Antigua Designs, an Austin company formed by two women archaeologists with an obvious fossil fetish.
Texas Memorial Museum, 2400 Trinity, University of Texas campus, Austin (512-232-4278; texasmemorialmuseum.org). For more retail outlets, call Antigua Designs (800-776-9256; antiguadesigns.com).
47. The book of county road maps from the Texas Department of Transportation, in color and about seven hundred pages long, provides reassurance that deserted country roads—free of construction and congestion—do still exist in our car-crazed state ($32.55).
Texas Department of Transportation Map Sales, 118 E. Riverside Drive, Austin (512-486-5014).
48. For those haunted by the ghost of Texas past, how about a gift membership to the Texas Historical Foundation ($35), which helps fund projects ranging from archaeological digs to documentary films? The membership comes with a subscription to Heritage magazine, a quarterly publication featuring history-rich articles on such subjects as the state’s painted churches and the turbulent past of the border town of Candelaria.
Texas Historical Foundation, Austin (512-453-2154; thfonline.org).
49. Help a loved one truly find his place on this earth with the gift of perspective: an aerial photograph from Aerial Viewpoint in Houston ($85 for a twenty-by-twenty-inch black and white enlargement, $95 for color). Simply fax the lab a map—say, a city map for an urban locale or a U.S. Geological Survey map for rural spots—with the desired location clearly pinpointed, and the staff will dig through their extensive archives for a bird’s-eye view; they claim to have every square inch of Texas—past and present—covered.
Aerial Viewpoint, Houston (713-532-7301, 800-784-5801; aerialviewpoint.com).
50. Late at night, while the rest of San Antonio sleeps, a lone Alamo ranger is busy running as many as thirty U.S. and Texas flags up and down the flagpole. Choose a date, choose a flag, and buy a certified piece of history, however contrived, at the shrine’s gift shop (three-by-five-foot nylon flag with certificate, $39.95).
Alamo Gift Shop, the Alamo, Alamo Plaza, San Antonio (210-225-1391; thealamo.org).