In the Texas Monthly Recommends series, Texas Monthly writers, editors, photographers, and producers offer up their favorite recent culture discoveries from the great state of Texas.

The great infielder Rogers Hornsby once said that he passed time in the winter, without baseball, staring out the window and waiting for spring. Alas, with an MLB lockout having commenced this week, we might all have to wait longer than a few months for our best sport to return. And many of us have spent much of the last two years staring out windows, so we’ll need some other activity to keep us occupied. The fortunate among us have personalities and interests. For the rest of us, there’s Spikeball.

I would try to describe what Spikeball is, but it is more about art and instinct than facts that can be captured by a player’s manual, so I’ll leave it at this: it’s a four-player game, vaguely like volleyball, with a grapefruit-sized ball. Instead of two-person teams being separated by a net, players huddle around a trampoline. Each team gets three taps to try to get the ball to bounce off the trampoline, and points are scored when that doesn’t happen, or when the ball touches the ground. You can play it on any relatively flat surface on which you can dive: the beach or a park where dogs are required to be leashed are ideal, but the only limit to where Spikeball can be played is your imagination. (I’ve tried on concrete basketball courts and asphalt driveways.) You can find a $70 Spikeball set—three yellow balls, an easy-to-assemble plastic trampoline frame, and a net for said frame, all packaged into a backpack-size drawstring bag—at any sports store or on Amazon.

If you’ve been looking for a competitive way to get a light cardio workout, Spikeball calls your name. If you’ve ever wondered how to fill an afternoon with three friends and settled, reluctantly, on bowling, you’ve found your new game. Or if you just want to spend a lazy afternoon in the park and make some new friends, if you assemble a Spikeball trampoline, know that people will come. With any luck, baseball will be back soon. Until then, America has a new pastime.

Ben Rowen, associate editor

Give the gift of a classy Styled Picnic

As the holidays approach, many Texans are spinning their wheels, trying to think up the perfect present for friends, family members, and partners. When in doubt, I always give a candle—nice, but uninspired. Thankfully, Styled Picnics in Houston has made the gift-giving season a bit easier. 

For my birthday in November, my sister, Savannah, surprised me with a picnic in Buffalo Bayou Park. This was not just any picnic. There was a table decked out with a custom cake, a bouquet of fresh flowers, and pink place mats and decorations. Cushioned chair pillows, a custom sign, and activities including painting and card games completed the scene. Not only was it beautiful, as we overlooked the Houston skyline, but also it was an experience. Savannah and I chatted while eating lunch and laughed while attempting to paint the skyline (one of us more successfully than the other). It was the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received. 

The company (which, full disclosure, is owned by one of Savannah’s friends, Karen Garcia) offers picnics starting at $150. Styled Picnics can accommodate up to eighty guests for an extra-special event, such as a baby shower or post-engagement party, and the company is also offering holiday-themed setups. The picnics are fully customizable; choose from a big-screen projector and speakers for a movie night or a thirty-minute private photography session. Don’t forget a customizable homemade cake (I recommend the cream cheese filling) and a charcuterie board. You can throw a private picnic at your home, or choose a more public location such as a park. To book, send Styled Picnics a message on social media or through the website

—Sierra Juarez, assistant editor 

Feast on pastries at Papi’s Pies

Along the Chisholm Trail in Round Rock, you’ll find a hidden treasure called Papi’s Pies. Surrounded by a white picket fence and a lush, inviting garden, this charming cafe offers a distinctive blend of Bolivian, Mexican, and French cuisine. Owners and partners Jose Parra and Julio Palacios started the company as a dessert business at their home, providing chocoflan and polvorones to an array of restaurants around the area; their venture quickly grew into a destination for foodies in search of award-winning cherry pie and an assortment of quiches and crepes. 

However, the star of the family-owned eatery is the salteña, from northern Argentina. The meat-filled pastry (there’s a vegan option!) is similar to an empanada, but juicier. Whether you bite off a corner and spoon out the soup or simply eat the whole thing like an animal, we won’t judge. Wash it down with a cool glass of hibiscus water or lavender lemonade, and you’ll never want to leave. The art-covered patio beckons to guests to sit a while and make conversation with friends new and old.

Lauren Castro, editorial intern