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Buy handmade for the holidays PDF Print E-mail
Good Life Blog - Life
Written by Bernadette Noll   
Tuesday, 16 December 2008 19:50

noll-bernadetteIn Austin we are amazingly lucky to be surrounded by a huge variety of artistic talent. Painters, sewers, metalsmiths, crafters, sculptors and more, all making their stuff all year long. They need us—especially this time of year when $$$ is a bit tighter than usual. 

For the past couple of years there has been a pledge going around the internet about buying handmade. It's a great idea—buying directly from the artist or artisan—and this time of year I am always blown away by just how many amazing handmade options are out there. Of course there is the longstanding Armadillo Christmas Bazaar being held this year at the Convention Center through December 24. And though that may be the oldest, it is far from the only or the best—that's a matter of taste and style for sure. Blue Genie Art Bazaar is another ongoing sale that is quickly becoming as steeped in tradition and following as the Armadillo. That one goes until Christmas Eve also and has more than a hundred juried artists showing their wares. There are more out there, too, in churches, temples, neighborhoods in every part of Austin. 

We are lucky too to have stores like Parts and Labour and Moxie and the Compound that feature all locally made clothing, jewelry and gifts for every member of your clan. Find something near you and get out there and support your local artist of choice. And if you can't get out to an art sale, or find a piece you like for that special someone, you can always buy the latest book on the handmade revolution: Handmade Nation which features several amazing Austin Artists such as Jennifer Perkins and Kathie Sever. It will inspire anyone on your list to get creative.


The Environmental Community Celebrates PDF Print E-mail
Good Life Blog - Environment
Written by Karen Kreps   
Friday, 21 November 2008 07:51

kreps-karenThere's one annual holiday party that my husband I never miss: It's a bash put on by the Save Our Springs Alliance. All the tree huggers and salamander savers in Austin turn out for it. I see many of the folks I know from Barton Springs Pool, but others as well, friends and supporters of the work SOS does in the never-ending battle to keep the aquifer (a sole source of drinking water for more than fifty thousand people) from being overdeveloped, polluted and drained dry. This year, the party is scheduled for Thursday, December 4, at 6-11pm in historic Mercury Hall, 615 Cardinal Lane, near South First and Ben White. Tickets may be bought in advance from www.SOSAlliance.org or at the door. There's a cash bar and delicious appetizers. Smoked salmon has been one of the trademark treats. A couple of bands play and the crowd dances and dances and dances.

It's a friendly crowd, a good mix of singles and couples. Find me and I'll introduce you to everyone I know.

Everyone and anyone is there, local politicos to musicians who were playing at Antone's the night before. The Good Life is a sponsor of the Save Our Springs Alliance, and citizens and small businesses alike contribute to the fantastic silent auction. You'll find three copies of my book among the goodies on which to bid.

This year, we have a lot to celebrate:

This year, SOS continued to fight for our Hill Country water and wildlife, winning important victories against City efforts to build a massive water plant in the middle of the Bull Creek Nature Preserve and forcing a full, updated environmental impact statement of the planned Oak Hill-killing "Y" toll road. This not-for-profit organization supported City bond funding for buying more watershed protection lands, which led to the City buying a critical three-thousand-acre parcel over the heart of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

Then, last month Travis County District Judge Margaret Cooper threw out the attorney fee award of three hundred thousand dollars against SOS Alliance as "void and of no force and effect." The 2004 victory for developer Bill Gunn was finally slapped down.

The very next week TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration abandoned their plans for a sixteen-lane toll road over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone in northern Bexar County.

Now it's time to celebrate.

My only complaint about the holiday bash is how loud it gets in the old wooden structure. By the time the second band comes on, the amplification becomes unbearably loud. It drives me outdoors to the beautiful, torch-lit walkways and fountains in front of Mercury Hall. You'll be able to find me out there. Say "hello." We'll talk.

The Good Life columnist and author of Intimacies: Secrets of Love, Sex & Romance TrueIntimacies.com.

Children and Nature PDF Print E-mail
Good Life Blog - Nature
Written by Bernadette Noll   
Wednesday, 19 November 2008 07:30

noll-bernadetteChildren and Nature Network and Westcave Preserve held a small symposium last week at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center on the subject of, well, children and nature. It was facilitated by Alexis Sanford, a local social movement marketer. In attendance were approximately twenty-five people from the local "outdoor" community such as Texas Parks and Wildlife, Campfire USA, The Wildflower Center, Westcave Preserve, and a few others. Sorely and sadly missing were any representatives from A.I.S.D. who were invited, but who had not responded in a year of queries. Perhaps they were busy grading test papers or something.

The group was presented with the issue of how do we, as a society, get kids outside more in natural and exploratory settings. The whole topic , and in fact the Children and Nature Network, was inspired by the work and writing of Richard Louv who wrote the tome, Last Child in the Woods; saving our kids from nature deficit disorder. It was meaty stuff and everyone there was passionate about the topic. It was in fact why we were invited in the first place.

I was invited to participate because of my involvement with the Slow Family Living Movement, which I started with my good friend and co-creator, Carrie Contey, PhD.  One of the goals of the movement is to help families connect with each other, and we firmly believe that a connection built in nature, outside, is a connection that can be sustained lifelong. It's just easier outside. It's more spacious. There are fewer rules. And there are certainly fewer tasks that need to get accomplished, allowing more possibility for families to simply be with each other. Ta-da. Connection.

By the end of the two-hour session a lot of ground had been covered in a very clear and concise way. At meeting's end the general consensus was that the organization's task should be to inform, educate, fund, support and encourage people on all levels to get kids outside in a natural setting however they could for whatever length of time they could manage.

It was agreed that each organization represented could contribute drops in the bucket and hopefully build up a critical mass of allowing natural experience in natural settings that weren't overly structured or, as I like to call it, full of fact-packing.

Together we envisioned a new norm wherein nature would be the go-to entertainment for families and children everywhere. Where schools had wildlife preserves in their schoolyards. Where hikes were part of the curriculum and where every child, urban, suburban, rural or otherwise, knew what it was like to turn over a rock on the side of trail and explore and discover the world in which we live.

It can happen.

Barton Springs Mists PDF Print E-mail
Good Life Blog - Life
Written by Karen Kreps   
Tuesday, 18 November 2008 13:42

kreps-karenWhen the mists rise off the waters of Barton Springs Pool in the early morning after a chill Autumn night, I pad down the old cement steps toward the waters edge. It is auspicious to be here and see the chill water evaporate into the even colder air.

I am snug and warm in the many layers of clothing I wear over my swimsuit. The sun is just rising and glitters on the surface of the springs. I join the tens of thousands of souls who, throughout the eons, have risen with the dawn and been drawn to the shores to do morning ablutions and rituals.

My ritual involves doing Hatha Yoga and meditation under the graceful old pecan trees that grace the waters' edge, swimming, and bicycling home.  It's my laid-back triathalon.

Even in the middle of the day now, the summer crowds are gone from Barton Springs pool. A core group of regulars still come, building their reputations as "polar bears." They are my buddies. Most visitors are tourists who walk around but don't take the plunge.

"How do you it, every day, year round?" they ask me.

There are two tricks I use to get myself to swim in winter:

I wear warm clothes, wool in particular, before I go into the pool. As soon as I come out, I quickly dry off and don a warm cover-up. I use a wool poncho, which acts like a portable dressing room. It's important to be able to slip out of the wet swimwear fast and put on dry, loose-fitting garments. Warm moccasins, hats and gloves are valued fashion accessories in this season.

I don't think of it as "cold." Instead, I think of it as "interesting!" When I dive into the water, my skin tingles, my heart races and I live in the present moment. Aside from sexual orgasm, what else can bring such intense physical pleasure? By the time I've swam ten strokes, my body has adjusted and I'm distracted from the thoughts of temperature by the scenes of nature above and below the surface of the clear waters.

See you at the pool.

Karen Kreps is The Good Life "Intimacies" columnist and author of Intimacies: Secrets of Love, Sex & Romance.

Long Night's Journey Into Day PDF Print E-mail
Good Life Blog - Politics
Written by Ken Martin   
Wednesday, 05 November 2008 20:25

Long Night's Journey Into Day

(With apologies to Eugene O'Neill)

ken-2On election night, November 4, a score or so loyal Democrats gathered at a mutual friend's house to watch election returns in the Obama-McCain presidential contest. Over the hours we cheered as state after state returns showed most favored Obama. We flipped channels and occasionally landed on Fox, only to see the living example of all the ill wrought on the world by the man Texas Monthly magazine called "Bush's Brain," Karl Rove. Loud boos all around. We complimented John McCain's generous concession speech. As Barack Obama took the stage in Chicago to acknowledge his historic victory, we wept along with Jesse Jackson and tens of thousands of others as President-Elect Obama thanked his supporters and conveyed his vision of our country's future. We were more than impressed that Obama never gloated over his victory, in fact never smiled, and instead focused on laying out the overarching themes of his presidency. (At his request, there were no fireworks, either, The New York Times reported.) As McCain reached out to the victor and promised cooperation and support, Obama thanked McCain and reached out to those who did not vote for him and invited all Americans to close ranks as a people to focus on working to address the sobering challenges we face.

Later, in personally reflecting on the election of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth president of the United States, I thought about the national blight we've suffered for the past eight years under the inept leadership of George W. Bush. The interminable war in Afghanistan. The endless and unnecessary war in Iraq. Our shattered economy-indeed the world's panicked economy-brought about by reckless executives and foolhardy deregulation.

Yet even now in the waning days of the Bush Administration there is a push by this impotent leader, one of the most unpopular presidents in our nation's history, to further weaken environmental regulations that are supposed to protect the quality of our air and water. The minions of President Bush are as eager to wield the last vestiges of power as those in the financial industry were to extract profit no matter the risk. These Bushites pray to deliver a few last favors to the soulless profiteers who put Bush in office. One example: The Washington Post reported that the Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new air quality rules to make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wildlife areas—even though half of the EPA's ten regional administrators have formally dissented from the decision and another four criticized the move in writing.

Given Bush's basement-level approval ratings and given Obama's landslide victory, I'm left nearly speechless at the audacity of this last-gasp, last-grasp to exert power over the regulatory processes. I think the words of Joseph Welch, delivered on June 9, 1954, to then Senator Joseph McCarthy during the senator's abusive attacks on the reputation of a young attorney, are applicable.

Welch, aghast at the ferocity of McCarthy's assault, launched a strong counteroffensive.

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness," Welch said, according to the U.S. Senate's historical minutes. When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted: "Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?"

I would ask the Bush Administration the same question.

Ken Martin is editor of The Good Life.