Coastal Christmas

Instead of sleigh bells; we have seashells.

Instead of pine trees; we have palm trees.

Instead of snow; we have sand.

It is that time of year again. Christmas in the Coastal Bend is with its own twist. I love the beach-inspired Christmas ideas that folks here do. Have some fun and add some sea and sun to the season!

I found some cool coastal Christmas ornaments on Pinterest:

This jellyfish is from https://www.etsy.com/listing/59769965/set-of-3-jelly-fish-sea-urchin-christmas?ref=shop_home_feat_2. I just love it!
This jellyfish is from https://www.etsy.com/ I just love it!

Here is a cool diy ornament made with shells and a Styrofoam ball.

This cute idea was from: http://www.homestoriesatoz.com
This cute idea was from: http://www.homestoriesatoz.com

This next one is another diy where you can encapsulate your beach memories and use it year round. I have seen it before, but it is a really cute idea.

I found this one from completelycoastal.com
I found this one from completely-coastal.com

Looking for something cool to do with all of that sea glass you have been saving up? Check this out…

This one was featured on an ornament contest on coastalliving.com
This one was featured on an ornament contest on coastalliving.com

Finally, once you decked the halls inside, you can add some Coastal Bend character to your Christmas outside.

"I told Santa not to feed those birds!"
“I told Santa not to feed those birds!”

 

Merry Christmas from Coastal Bend Life!

Dia de los Muertos Street Festival in Downtown Corpus Christi

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Painted faces as skulls were everywhere.
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Colorful handmade arts and crafts vendors were abundant.
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Tons of music, dance, food, art, and fun

 

Source:  http://diadelosmuertoscc.com/

Background – Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos (DDLM) or the Day of the Dead is a traditional holiday in Mexico when deceased friends and family members are remembered and celebrated. It is a poignant time, both solemn and joyous, with colorful artistic traditions, pageantry, and whimsy despite the sobering subject. Dia de los Muertos is a joyful remembrance in which death is recognized as a natural part of the cycle of life.

In the arts, everyday life is represented in skeletal form. A common symbol of Dia de los Muertos is the skull or “calavera” often represented in masks, candy, and other curios. Traditional activities include making sugar skulls decorated with brightly colored icing, papel picaco (cut paper banners) and paper mache’ masks and figures.  Some people believe possessing Day of the Dead items, like tattoos, dolls, sugar skulls or jewelry, can bring good luck.

Souls of the deceased return to visit loved ones on the days of October 31-November 2.  In preparation for the reunion, families create altars to honor the deceased with ofrendas (offerings) of yellow marigolds, memorabilia, photos, favorite foods, beverages and trinkets of the departed.  Religious and spiritual symbols, like the Christian Cross and Virgin Mary often adorn altars, as well.

Because it is a national holiday in Mexico, schools and government offices close, and the streets are decorated.  People, young and old alike, participate in the festivities: parades, dancing in the town square, and processions to the cemetery.  At the cemetery, the spirits are honored with music, dancing, poetry and stories.  Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as people recall funny events and stories about the departed.  In some areas of Mexico, they picnic or even sleep at the gravesite.

This celebration has gone on for centuries in Mexico.  By presenting the Dia de los Muertos festival and educational programming, we are providing an opportunity for people to learn about this rich cultural tradition of Mexico, to create a connection to our past, and to honor and celebrate the deceased.

Our DDLM Festival assists with cultural tourism by drawing artists, vendors, musicians, and festival-goers to Corpus Christi and to the downtown area.  To enhance our DDLM programming, K Space Contemporary has added cultural art workshops during the month of October and a fine art exhibition. During November, a thematically associated exhibition will be displayed in the main gallery, including the Extravagancia de Piñatas, a contest and exhibition of piñatas constructed by area K-12 schools (groups/art classes/art clubs).  These student groups compete for cash awards for classroom supplies.

The 7th Annual Dia de los Muertos Festival was held Saturday, November 1, 3 pm to midnight!  The festival is held in the 400-500 blocks of Starr and 500-700 blocks of Mesquite Streets in downtown Corpus Christi. Everyone is encouraged to wear a costume.  The event includes live music, Mariachis, Folklorico dancers, Hecho a Mano Art Expo, Kids’ Activities, community altar, food, drinks and more.  Texas A & M University Art Department’s “Hold Steady Iron Pouring Crew” will be on hand offering visitors a chance to create their own miniature iron sculpture while the Printmaking Department will be print customized t-shirts.  A community altar is located inside K Space Contemporary.

Many of  Corpus Christi’s favorite artists will be on hand selling their work and El Dia de los Muertos themed items.

The Hecho a Mano Art Expo features over 75 artists offering everything from jewelry to sculpture to all kinds of Dia de los Muertos related trinkets.  Those that are interested in being a vendor will find guidelines and registration information under “Vendor Information” on this website.

We are accepting sponsors and seeking volunteers.   Sponsorship information is available at http://www.diadelosmuertoscc.com.  Anyone interested in volunteering may call (361)887-6834.

Dia de los Muertos Street Festival is coordinated by the Electra Art*Axis Tattoo, K Space Contemporary, Corpus Christi Downtown Management District, and House of Rock. Proceeds from the event benefit K Space Contemporary, a 501 (C) 3 non-profit arts organization.

 

 P.S. I just had to buy 3 of Roel Palacio’s wonderful masks! They are just amazing!

September Skies

Keeping September is usually our rainy month, and has not let us down this year in the Coastal Bend. The skies have put on a show of their own. These were snapped with my phone, but you can see the cloud formations are really cool.

Bluff clouds (2)
Sculptural clouds form one morning over the Laguna Madre in Flour Bluff.
more bluff clouds (2)
Rain clouds billow like smoke over the Laguna Madre.
Rainbow over downtown (2)
Is there a pot of gold in downtown Corpus Christi?

A Snorkeling Surprise in Port Aransas

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Port Aransas for a few days for a teacher workshop at University of Texas Marine Science Institute. While there we were learning a bit more about our coast. During a break, another teacher and I went for a stroll next to the Port Aransas Ship Channel. We met a guy with scuba gear on. I asked him if he could see much. He said sure, as long as the boat traffic remains low. Once that happens, sediments get stirred up, and the water gets a little murky.

The next day, a couple of teachers and I bring our snorkeling gear with and vow to go check things out for ourselves either during lunch or after the workshop was over. We snorkeled by the rocks and by the UTMSI pier and found some fun stuff:

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Checking out a Sergeant-Major fish gliding past a barnacle-encrusted rock.
We found our state shell: the Lightning Welk.
We found our state shell: the Lightning Welk.
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Admiring the delicate colors of the corals and barnacles.
Toward the end of my underwater adventure, I encountered a tangle of bait fish.
Toward the end of my underwater adventure, I encountered a tangle of bait fish.

After a decent session of snorkeling, the boat traffic picked up and the waves were rocking us toward the rocks. When getting out, I just had to be wary of the sharp barnacles.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to see what I did. Now, it is not Caribbean snorkeling, but it was still pretty good for our area.

Running the Beach to Bay

beach to bay about us
Photo courtesy of http://www.beachtobayrelay.com

Lace up those Asics, it is time to run first and later play at the Beach to Bay Relay!

According to http://www.beachtobayrelay.com, “Since 1976, runners and fun-seekers have flocked to Corpus Christi, Texas to run the Beach to Bay Relay Marathon. To many runners, the annual event has become a tradition throughout the State of Texas.

Beach to Bay has grown to be the largest relay marathon in the United States. Attracting runners from all over the U.S. as well as Kenya, England and Mexico. Approximately 2,600 teams totaling over 16,000 runners compete each year.

The Beach to Bay Relay Marathon is a six-person relay running event that totals 26.2 miles of beach, pavement, a little sweat, an occasional tear and a bunch of smiles. Beginning on the sands of North Padre Island, winding through Naval Air Station Corpus Christi and ending at McCaughan Park along Corpus Christi’s scenic Shoreline Drive, the course is divided into six-legs of roughly 4.4 miles each.

Always held on the third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day, B2B proudly honors the men and women serving in our United States Military. It’s a tradition founded by Captain John Butterfield back in 1976.”

After the runners complete their legs, most teams gather at McCaughan Park to cheer on their last leg runners and later celebrate a good run with a little beer and pizza. The B2B website proclaims, “Pain now; beer later.”

So, if you want a little fun while you run, the Beach to Bay Relay is the way.

Crazy Coastal Creativity

When it comes to finding crazy coastal creativity, the Coastal Bend has its share…

Yep, that is a picnic boat...
Yep, that is a picnic boat…
The ultimate beach truck has everything...( but no bathroom!?)
The ultimate beach truck has everything…( but no bathroom!?)
Page by Michael Zamora - Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com
Page by Michael Zamora – Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com

Attractions in Port Aransas, Texas

One of many coastal birds in Port Aransas.
One of many coastal birds in Port Aransas.

Port A has always been a lazy fishing village since I moved here back in 1991. Now, it is a bustling small town with its own fun, laid-back vibe for anyone at any age.

Of course they have the usual things such as deep sea fishing going to the beach. I enjoy going to the park next to the fairy landing. There is plenty of people watching, fishing, birding, bike riding, kite flying, or any other outdoor activity to do there, especially with the kids.

The Park next to the ferry landing in Port Aransas is a good place to take the kids on a nice day.
The Park next to the ferry landing in Port Aransas is a good place to take the kids on a nice day.

Another thing I like to do on a slow traffic day is to take the short fairy ride to Harbor Island and watch the dolphins playing in the waves. We usually try to see how many we can spot. Once you get the idea on how to see them, they get easier to find. One hint: they are usually playing in the wake of an oncoming barge. Port Aransas is a great little fun spot in our Coastal Bend.

The following is an article from USA Today that discusses a few fun things about Port A:

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/attractions-port-aransas-texas

Lauren Miller, Demand Media

 

 

 

 

 

“Port Aransas is popular vacation destination in southwest Texas. The city is on Mustang Island on Aransas Bay with ferry service from the mainland. College students in Texas swarm to Port Aransas during spring break, and vacationers visit the town year-round because of its subtropical climate. There are a wide variety of attractions in the Port Aransas area.

Lydia Ann Lighthouse

Construction on the Lydia Ann Lighthouse began in 1851 to light up the Aransas Pass between Mustang Island and nearby San Jose Island. During the United States Civil War, Union and Confederate troops fought for control of the lighthouse. The lighthouse operated for decades, but began to decline in use after the mid-20th century. Private owners took control and restored the deteriorating landmark. The lighthouse is accessible only via a tour from Kohootz Boat Excursions.

Kohootz
440 East Cotter Avenue
Port Aransas, TX 78373
361-779-3188
kohootz.com

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center is rated as one of the top ten boardwalks by Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. The center includes a large area of fresh and saltwater marshes, which are havens for over 100 species of birds. Its well-known boardwalk is 500 feet long and extends into a brackish marsh, giving visitors prime viewing of birds and the center’s resident alligators. There is also a 25-foot observation tower on the property. Admission is free.

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
Ross Avenue
Port Aransas, Texas 78373
361-749-4158
cityofportaransas.org/Leonabelle_Turnbull_Birding_Center

The Tarpon Inn

The Tarpon Inn is a historic hotel in Port Aransas known as the birthplace of Texas sport fishing. The restored building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. There are many local legends associated with the inn, many of them linked with the hard-to-catch trophy fish tarpon or “Silver Kings,” which were abundant in the area when the original inn was built in 1886. The walls of the inn have scales of tarpons caught by guests, including famous guests like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, actress Hedy Lamarr, circus owner Clyde Beatty, and cake mix maker Duncan Hines, who spent his honeymoon at the hotel. Guests who stay at the inn are encouraged to relax, therefore, the antique-filled rooms do not have televisions or phones.

The Tarpon Inn
200 East Cotter Avenue
Alvarado, TX 76009
361-749-5555
thetarponinn.com

The Beach

The beaches in the Port Aransas area draw visitors year-round. The 18 miles of unspoiled beach are a part of the world’s longest barrier island. Popular vacation activities included surfing, Jet Skiing, parasailing, sea kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, and taking scenic cruises. The city is the home to over a dozen fishing tournaments during the year.”

Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Bureau
403 West Cotter
Port Aransas, TX 78373
361-749-5919
800-45-COAST
portaransas.org

 

Fish Lips Sink Ships: Adding to the Nearshore Reef Project

Fishing and diving playground planned 10 miles from Packery Channel and Port Aransas.

"This 155-freighter could become part of an artificial reef for fishing and diving offshore of Packery Channel if the Corpus Christi City Council agrees to pony up $100,000 toward the $500,000 effort." Photo courtesy of Caller.com
“This 155-freighter could become part of an artificial reef for fishing and diving offshore of Packery Channel if the Corpus Christi City Council agrees to pony up $100,000 toward the $500,000 effort.” Photo courtesy of Caller.com

Sometimes treasure can be found around sunken ships, only this treasure is of the marine-life paradise kind. As part of the Ships-to Reefs Project, these submerged ships and structures provide a foundational surface for marine life to attach. After a while, the surface builds up with coral and other marine life and the submerged ship or other structure provides shelter and a strong ecosystem for overfished reef fish species such as snapper and grouper. This project will help replenish some habitat that was destroyed when several offshore oil and gas platforms were removed in recent years. If the City of Corpus Christi agrees to foot $100,000 of the bill, the ship could be in place by the end of summer 2014.

Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Artificial Reef Program
Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Artificial Reef Program

The reefs and marine life attract other forms of treasure, fishermen and divers. This ongoing, Near Shore Reefing project has had plenty of bang for both the local and the Texas economy since off shore and recreational fishing generates 2 billion per year for Texas.  The Coast Bend, namely, Port Aransas has been known as the “fishing capital of Texas.”  The Caller Times reported that according to Mike Hurst, who chairs the offshore committee, Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association (SEA),”This will be one of the best dive and fishing sites long the mid-Texas Coast. We have secured the ship and are in the final stages of permitting.”

This project is set to enhance the local ecosystem for both marine treasure and human treasure, So, fish lips really do sink ships. Who knew?

Sources: The Island Moon Newspaper; KIIITV.com; Corpus Christi Caller Times; Texas Parks and wildlife

 

 

Want a Beach Where You Can Avoid Spring Breakers?

Page by Michael Zamora - Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com
Caller Times by Michael Zamora – Andrew Baggett, a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, uses beads as bait Tuesday as he casts his line during spring break on the beach. Photo courtesy of http://www.caller.com

If you are like me, you have young kids who want to go to the beach as soon as warmer weather kicks in. However, throngs of crazed, hormone-filled Breakers descend to our beaches mid-March. So, I have a couple of suggestions…

The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.
The entrance at Rockport Beach Park.

1. Rockport Beach in Rockport, Texas
Rockport Beach in Rockport, Texas  one of my favorite beaches for people with young kiddos. Why? The beach is one of the safest in my opinion. The surf is non-existent which makes it a relatively safe place for young ones. The water is super-shallow for a long way. You can wade out for a long time and not get past knee deep. Behind the beach there is a road with parking for the length of it, so there are no cars actually driving on the beach. Also, the beach there is extremely clean since they rake it daily. It also helps that visitors there seem to respect that, and tend to leave it the way they found it. So that you know, there are no pets allowed. That rule is there to keep the beach clean from little messes.

Rockport Beach Park offers clean, safe beaches which are great for kids!
Rockport Beach Park offers clean, safe beaches which are great for kids!

Another cool thing is that there are many palapas where you can shield the young ones and your ice chest from the sun. However, you need to arrive early to get one, otherwise, just bring your own umbrella or canopy.

If the kids actually want to get out of the water (really?), there are multiple playgrounds dotting the length of the beach. The play equipment is maintained well, so it tends to be safe. Plus, the playgrounds are there on the beach, so you can park your beach stuff at a nearby palapa, and watch them play right next to you or you can go play with them! Oh, a word to the wise, be sure to bring shoes or sandals since to the play areas since there are sticker-burrs there where the grass grows. Those pesky things can be painful to toes. If people actually take a moment to throw them into the trash, instead of throwing them on the ground, then they won’t take root.

Finally, when nature calls as it usually does, there is a pavilion with restrooms. The centrally-located pavilion has showers and changing rooms too, so you can clean up and not have to get into the car and drive home all sandy. This is a plus if you have kids who tend to fall asleep in the car after a vigorous day at the beach!!

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2. North Padre Island National Seashore: Malaquite Beach

This is another favorite beach of mine for a good beach for families. Here you can grab a covered picnic table if you arrive early and enjoy a picnic lunch. Cars are not allowed on the beach, so it is very safe and clean for kids. Also, at Malaquite, there is a Visitor’s Center with a gift shop, educational center, covered deck, observation decks, and a small snack shop, restrooms, showers, and changing rooms. (yippe!)

A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.
A view of the Gulf from the boardwalk at Padre Island National Seashore.

There are events year round such as guided beach walks, educational talks, and classes are held at the Malaquite Beach Pavilion Visitor’s Center. Beginning late Spring into Summer, the famous Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Hatchling releases happen at various times during the early morning hours.  Evening talks are held to learn more about the stars and constellations as well as other activities held by park rangers who discuss the natural flora and fauna and the coastal ecosystems.

You can spend a full day here or several and have quite an educational and fun-filled experience with the family. This place is on the way to literally nowhere, so it is very quiet and a great natural place to have fun with the family.

These two beaches are my favorite places to have  a great time with the kids with no Spring Breakers!

Get your Springtime on!

Playing with the butterflies was a total hit with both the kids and adults!
Playing with the butterflies was a total hit with both the kids and adults!

It is Spring Break here in the Coastal Bend, and the beaches are packed with Spring Breakers. So since I was home with the kiddos this week, we did a few family friendly things away from the crazed throngs at the beaches.

Spring Break on North Padre Island, Texas. Photo courtesy of http://entertainment.caller.com
Spring Break on North Padre Island, Texas. Photo courtesy of http://entertainment.caller.com

The weather was gorgeous, and we wanted to be outdoors, but we did not want to go to Padre Island. My friend told me that she and her daughter and friends went to the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens. Good idea!

What better way to enjoy Spring's bounty, but to be among it.
What better way to enjoy Spring’s bounty, but to be in it.

I took the kids and they enjoyed the day and fresh air with the gorgeous flora and fauna. We spent several hours out there and had a fabulous time, and the kids had fun with a little learning mixed in! Best of all, it was family friendly fun!

The kids enjoyed the flowers, ladybugs, and butterflies.
The kids enjoyed the flowers, ladybugs, and butterflies.
The kids loved the variety of colorful birds at the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens.
The kids loved the variety of colorful birds at the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens.
Watching the wildlife at the wetlands area of the Botanical Gardens.
Watching the wildlife at the wetlands area of the Botanical Gardens.
The colors of Spring were abundant.
The colors of Spring were vibrant and abundant.