MY NECK OF THE WOODS

That would be just about anywhere in Texas.

Que Syrah, Syrah. Harvest Party at Arché.

Syrah Cluster I know this sounds a bit like Tom Sawyer trying to get you to whitewash a fence, but there is a Harvest Party at Arché Winery this weekend (Saturday, August 17th, 2013). You can unplug the family from the electronic devices and enjoy a day of plucking the Syrah grapes from the vine and watching them be processed to be put into my glass made into delicious wine. Yes, it’s work (didn’t anybody ever tell you that work is good for you?), but at the end there is a picnic and wine! You can’t whine about that. You might even meet some interesting folks while you are there.

The Mister and I got to spend a day at the winery last year harvesting the Merlot grapes working with the owners,Howard and Amy Davies, and some other fine people. We got to watch the big machines crush the grapes we had harvested and enjoy time just chatting with folks after the work was done. I can’t speak for my husband, but I enjoyed it immensely (and I told you all about it, if you follow that link back there)! Arché Winery is not far from the Metroplex in Saint Jo, Texas (228 Wagner Road), and the drive is lovely.

What do you need to bring? Gloves (definitely), hat, sunscreen, maybe some insect repellant, and a lawn chair for lunch time. Arché Winery will supply the awesome food, wine, good times, and plenty of grapes to pick. You need to let them know if you’ll be joining by e-mailing amy@archewines.com or calling (214) 536-6330. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the “vineyard experience” for those 12 and older. Expect to arrive between 8 and 9 a.m. but you will probably be finished around noon.

The best news (depending on how you feel about it), is that you don’t even have to get a pedicure … because they are not going to let you stomp the grapes. For me, that was a major disappointment, because I wanted to channel Lucy. I admit that the big machines were fun to watch, though.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to join the fun again this year, because I have to still be functional at 8:00 at night to give a ghost tour of the Denton Square. Otherwise, I’d be there in a heartbeat. But, if you go, you can bring me back a bottle of Roussanne (the “red wine drinker’s white wine). I think I deserve that just for telling you about it.

wine tasting at Arche Winery

Elvis At 21. I Can’t Help Falling In Love.

Elvis at 21

If you haven’t been to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History lately, then it’s time to shake, rattle, and roll right over there to catch the Elvis at 21 Exhibit! You only have until September 2, 2013 to experience the breathtaking photography of Alfred Wertheimer in this Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit.

When I was young, I admit that didn’t quite understand the “Elvis Experience.” These 56 photographs, chronicling Elvis before his superstar status was achieved, made me appreciate his magnetism. Now, I can understand why grown women wept when he died. These photographs are of a time when Elvis resembled James Dean, not the bloated parody of Liberace that he became as he aged. After seeing the exhibit, I was “all shook up.”

Wertheimer had unlimited access to Elvis when he was on the road, at home, in concert or in the recording studio for that brief time in 1956. His candid photos, and the stories written on the walls beside them, were powerful and compelling. In those days, Elvis wasn’t surrounded by a wall of security guards (in fact, most people didn’t even recognize him) and he had a unique intimacy with his fans.

There was a series of three pictures that stayed in my head when I left. They were snapped of a young girl, dressed in her best finery, whose Daddy brought her to see Elvis. She got to meet him! He walked over to her, took her gloved hand in his, and spoke sweetly to her. Then, he left to rehearse as Wertheimer snapped the girl breaking down in tears of joy and longing. The photography was so fascinating that I totally “got it,” as the hairs rose on my arms. I would have cried, too … in fact, I almost did.

When we had walked through the entire exhibit, I pined that I had been just a few years too young to fully appreciate Elvis when he was alive. The young man in those photographs was hauntingly handsome, extremely sexy, and seemed somehow vulnerable.

I did regret that the museum restaurant missed out on an opportunity to complete my Elvis Experience. They could cash in on this exhibit, if they offered fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I know they would sell like hotcakes.

While you are at the museum, take time to explore the other exhibits on display. Most of them are designed for kids, but let your inner child out and enjoy the Dino Labs, the Cattle Raiser’s Museum, the Energy Blast, the Air Park, and CSI: The Experience (it’s awesome!). My friend and I enjoyed it all immensely, even though she had to restrain me from pushing little kids out of the way so that I could play.

I would gladly return to see this magnificent set of photographs again. After viewing them, I “can’t help falling in love” with Elvis. Wertheimer’s photographs of Elvis at 21 are a masterpiece, but they won’t be there long so go see them. It’s now or never.

Impressions in Denton

Tile Countertop at Impressions

When I saw the tiled counter-top at Impressions (105 1/2 W Hickory St. Denton), I immediately wanted to commission a set of stepping stones for my garden. Unfortunately, I don’t think they make them … yet. Have you stopped in to visit this tiny shop on the Square? Although I pass it several times a week while giving ghost tours of the square, I hadn’t visited it in the day time until yesterday. I’m glad I finally did! The ceramics inside are lovingly crafted by individuals living at the Denton State Supported Living Center. It’s a great place to get one-of-a-kind gifts, and it’s very affordable.

Ceramics at Impressions

The walls are lined with a colorful assortment of interesting handmade gifts. They are adorned with unique textures, and are available in a rainbow of colors.

Blue hues of ceramics at Impressions

While I was there, I had the pleasure of talking to three of the artists who make their creations in the workshop behind the retail space. They were painting the glaze on the fired ceramics to prepare them for another firing in the kiln.

Painting glaze 1

One young gentleman explained his technique of making the ceramic pieces. He uses the “coil” method. Sometimes he smooths out the coils, but other times he leaves the lines as “texture.” Occasionally he uses stamps on the clay to get his textures, but he proudly showed me a planter he had for sale on which he had created the texture “free-hand” style.

freehand texture

A young woman grinned with pleasure as her technique was explained to me by the staff. She has a mold for the bowl, and carefully rolls balls of clay. She lines those bits of clay very precisely over the mold, flattens them smooth, and then applies textures with the assortment of stamps available to her.

finished ceramics

Another young woman explained that she makes her pots differently every time, I presume according to the wishes of her Muse at the moment of creation.

painting ceramics

Did I buy anything? Darn tootin’ I did! I couldn’t resist a whimsical footed bowl that called my name. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would do with it, but I put it on the counter and it walked over and hopped under a votive candle. Now, I need two more bowls with feet because the other candles are jealous.

footed bowl

Although the individuals residing at the Denton State Supported Living Center have had a ceramics program (taught by staff and volunteers) for eight years, or so, they have only been selling the work downtown since December of 2011. A few times a week, the individuals in the program are driven into town for an outing to create their art in the workshop. It’s not only a chance to express their creativity … they get an opportunity to be involved in the Denton community and they earn cash from the goods that are sold!

Next time you are downtown take a moment to browse the wares at Impressions (it is on the south side of the Square) to support our local artists. You might find an item that calls your name (but don’t get the footed bowls that I want!). If you are lucky the artists from the DSSLC might be in the store, and you could get a chance to visit with them, too. Getting to talk to them was a highlight of my day, for sure.