Photo courtesy of Rice Village

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. Fort Worth's WestBend center scoops location of buzzy ice cream concept. The WestBend mixed-use development in Fort Worth's University District is booming, and now there's a slew of new shops and businesses lined up to join the mix, including Van Leeuwen, New York-based ice cream company that makes dairy and especially ice creams. It's opening its first store in Fort Worth.

The Key Lime Pie at Anderson Distillery. Photo courtesy of Anderson Distilling

2. Where to drink in Fort Worth right now: 5 best new bars in the 'burbs. New bars open in Fort Worth on the regular, but the ‘burbs are also buzzing with new drinking destinations. Northeast Tarrant County, in particular is hot, with several swanky lounges and new sports bars recently opened for business. Here are five new bars to visit that are the worth the trek beyond the 820 loop.

Pizza with mushroom and shaved asparagus. Funky Picnic

3. Funky Fort Worth brewpub unveils speakeasy bar with pizza on the side. A Fort Worth restaurant is about to debut an ultra-trendy new spinoff. Funky Picnic Brewery & Café, the brewpub in the Near Southside, is opening a speakeasy bar and pizza kitchen called The Back Room at Funky Picnic, which will occupy the space right next door at 401 Bryan Ave. #109 that was previously occupied by Black Cat Pizza.

100 Things to Do in Fort Worth Before you Die will be released on September 25. Courtesy photo

4. Fort Worth author’s new book compiles ultimate bucket list of 100 things to do in Cowtown. If you’re out of ideas of things to do in Fort Worth, one local author has you covered. Celestina Blok has compiled her top recommendations in her new book, 100 Things to Do in Fort Worth Before You Die. The new title, which releases Sept. 25, covers the categories of food and drink, music and entertainment, outdoors and recreation, culture and history, and shopping and fashion.

Coco Gauff is one of the top-ranked singles and doubles players. Julian Finney/Getty Images

5. How to see Coco Gauff, Iga Swiatek, and more WTA tennis stars compete in Fort Worth. Fresh off her US Open victory, the world's No. 1 female tennis player, Iga Swiatek, will lead the top eight singles players and doubles teams into Fort Worth next month for the 2022 Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals. The competition will take place October 31-November 7 at Dickies Arena, and tickets are now on sale.

Courtesy photo

Fort Worth author’s new book compiles ultimate bucket list of 100 things to do in Cowtown

Bucket-list book

If you’re out of ideas of things to do in Fort Worth, one local author has you covered. Celestina Blok has compiled her top recommendations in her new book, 100 Things to Do in Fort Worth Before You Die.

Blok, a third generation Fort Worth native and TCU alumna, has written about Fort Worth for almost 20 years. She is the author of Lost Restaurants in Fort Worth, which was published in 2017. She is also a regular CultureMap contributor.

Her new title, which releases Sept. 25, is part of the “100 Things to Do Before You Die” series (Reedy Press, $18).

The author says she’s seen the city evolve a lot over the years, and her new book describes both new and old attractions meant to entertain both Fort Worth locals and visitors. The 160-page book is broken down into chapters, separating activities into the categories of food and drink, music and entertainment, outdoors and recreation, culture and history, and shopping and fashion. The book will be available in all stores where books are sold.

We chatted with Blok about her love of Fort Worth and her memories at some of the attractions listed in her book.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

CultureMap: As a third generation Fort Worth native, what’s your favorite thing about the city?

Celestina Blok: There’s a motto or a saying I’ve heard over the years that Fort Worth is “the biggest little small town in Texas.” I actually refer to that in the book a little bit, and that’s something I think remains true. As fast as the city is growing, it’s so friendly. And people always comment on that. I hear that a lot that “everyone’s just so nice and polite” and really that’s one of my favorite things about Fort Worth.

Celestina Blok Author and Fort Worth native Celestina Blok.Photo courtesy of Celestina Blok.

CM: Fort Worth is the 12th largest city in the U.S., but I know some locals say it still gets overshadowed by Dallas. Was this part of the reason you wanted to spotlight all the great things to do in Fort Worth?

CB: I always love spotlighting Fort Worth. As you said, folks either don’t realize Fort Worth is as big as it is or has as much to offer as it does, or they think it is Dallas. They loop it in with Dallas. Anyone who is here either their whole life or just here for five minutes, quickly realizes that Fort Worth is not Dallas, and Dallas is not Fort Worth. They’re both great cities, but there’s just definitely a different vibe, a more laid back vibe, and maybe a little bit more slower pace in Fort Worth. I’m hoping that the book opens the eyes of not only visitors here but locals of how much there really is to do here — even beyond the flashy and new that we always kind of seek out. There’s so much that’s tried and true that has been here for decades that we may have forgotten about.

CM: What was your process for narrowing your list down to just 100 things to do?

CB: Initially, when I told folks I was writing this book, some even said, “How are you going to find 100 things to do in Fort Worth? Are you going to expand beyond the city?" From the beginning, I said, “No, I know that there are at least 100 must-do activities here in Fort Worth.” And so, sure enough at the end of my writing, I did have to weed out some places that I don’t want to say “didn’t make the list” but maybe just weren’t a fit.

The book is broken out to chapters, so that further helps me narrow it down. It’s not just what I perceive as 100 things to do in Fort Worth, but it’s broken out by culture and history, music and entertainment, outdoors and recreation, and food and drink. For my own process, I really just tried to think about places that are iconic, that you may not go to every weekend, but you have to do it at least once. Just as the book says — it’s something to do before you die.

CM: You mentioned in your book that some of the activities have been around for decades but may have gotten lost in the limelight of newer attractions. Are there any activities in the book that you think locals specifically should revisit?

CB: A couple of examples are forms of entertainment. When we go to the movies or we go bowling, everything is flashy and new. The movie theaters have cushy lounge chairs that might recline and are maybe even heated, and you may have service at your seat. And there’s just some nostalgic places that have been around that are like a step back in time.

One of those is Downtown Cowtown at the Isis theater. This theater is nearly 100 years old, and it was restored. It is so amazing to go there. The seating is like classic movie theater seating, and everything they show is classic films, even like the '80s. I could go in there and take my son to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or something like that. What’s so fun and cool about that place is that if you are the first one there before a screening time, you get to pick the movie that comes on. And it’s free. All they ask is that you buy a snack and a drink, and they have a full bar.

Another example is bowling. I mention in the book that there’s a place called Cowtown Bowling Palace. That place has been there since the 50s. You walk in, and it’s just like a classic bowling alley. Even if you go just once to bowl a game with friends or family, it’s definitely a memorable time.

Downtown Cowtown at the Isis Photo courtesy of Downtown Cowtown at the Isis

CM: Can you tell me about the appeal of waiting in line at Joe T.’s, and do you remember the first time you went? (See page 2 of 100 Things to Do in Fort Worth Before You Die.)

CB: Oh gosh, I probably went when I was like a kid or a teenager. But this specific thing is to wait in line with a margarita at Joe T. Garcia’s. Anyone who’s from here or has been in Fort Worth for even a small amount of time knows that that’s a thing to do and it’s almost like a rite of passage.

It is definitely a scene, just like Franklin’s Barbecue in Austin is a scene, that line goes for blocks. Even if you do it just once just to experience that there’s this many people in line for this beautiful patio. You can go up, and get a pitcher of margaritas, and share a pitcher or two in line before you get to the front. Not every city has that. So it’s something to experience, whether you do it every weekend or at least once. Especially on a pretty day. And the margaritas help.

Joe T. Garcia's margaritas make the line worth it. Joe T. Garcia's margaritas make the line worth it.Courtesy photo

CM: When did you learn the origin of calf fries at Riscky’s Steakhouse? Were you turned off or was it something already on your bucket list to try? (See page 25.)

CB: My first book was called Lost Restaurants of Fort Worth, and in that book I cover restaurants that have been long gone. And there’s this place called Theo’s in the Stockyards, and history has it that that is the first restaurant that ever put calf fries on the menu. That place is home to Riscky’s Steakhouse today. If you’re from Fort Worth or not, you may or may not know what calf fries are. Once you find out, you’re like “oh okay, that’s interesting. Restaurants have that on the menu?” It was once actually considered a delicacy, and it still kind of is because you’ll find it on high end restaurants menus. But that venue is the first place that had them on the menu, so it’s just an interesting note. Even if you don’t order the calf fries, go check out that Steakhouse.

CM: Do you have a favorite childhood haunt that made it into the book?

CB: Every Sunday morning after church, my family and I would go to Esperanza’s, which is the sister restaurant to Joe T. Garcia’s. We would have breakfast there or brunch. They have a Mexican bakery connected to the restaurant there, and it is like a frenzy on Sunday mornings. Folks are in there in line ordering all their Mexican baked goods and pastries called pan dulce. It is a scene, and that is something I grew up doing.

Just to experience an authentic taste of Fort Worth that may be a little bit out of the norm is to go to that specific location and witness the tradition folks have every Sunday morning with getting that bread or those pastries and taking them back to their families. That’s exactly what we did. We would go pick it up and take it to my grandma’s house.

CM: So Oktoberfest is almost here, and it’s also one of the activities in your book. What sets Oktoberfest Fort Worth apart from other Oktoberfest events? (See page 70.)

CB: I included that particular event in the book because again, I don’t know that a lot of people realize we have our own Oktoberfest event here and how extensive it is. It’s a three-day event, it’s on the Trinity River — this year’s event has a new location, but it’s still on the Trinity River. There’s Oktoberfest events all over town. You have the stein-holding competitions, you have the German food, you have the polka dancing and live music, you have the food.

The Fort Worth version is just something in our backyard, it draws a lot of people, and it’s just a really fun time especially to experience a little bit of that taste of German culture. I think it’s worth going to at least once. It’s never a bad time, even if you’re just going to get a Bavarian pretzel or have dinner or get some German beer. It’s always a fun time, and it’s super family friendly.

Oktoberfest Fort Worth Oktoberfest Fort Worth moves to Trinity Park, September 22-24. Photo courtesy of Oktoberfest Fort Worth

CM: You also recommend visiting the waterfalls at Marion Sansom Park. I didn’t know Fort Worth has waterfalls until I read your book. Is it a hidden secret or am I just out of the loop? (See page 73.)

CB: I think for a lot of people, it is a hidden secret. These are not towering, mountainous, cascading waterfalls that we may see in movies or whatnot. But there are waterfalls that are at the bottom of this beautiful hiking trail that a lot of people bike as well. Even if you don’t make it all the way down to the bottom, it’s a very peaceful, hidden hike that can be pretty easy or you can make it challenging.

When you pull up, you’ll see that there’s a lot of people who do know about it, but it’s not something that may be at the top of everyone’s radar. Sansom Park has been there for many, many years. Folks that know it go regularly, and some are just now discovering it. My family did it a lot during the Covid shutdown. When businesses were closed, school was out, work was closed, folks were looking to get outside. So that was one of our regular spots.

CM: The last item on your list is to get a custom-shaped cowboy hat. When did you get your first, and do you think this is an activity for locals or should visitors go ahead and cross that off the list right away? (See page 130.)

CB: I think that locals more than likely are going to be invited to or attend an event where a custom-shaped cowboy hat or a cowboy hat of any kind is appropriate or even expected. It’s not like it’s a requirement, but it’s definitely something that you would have great use of if you did have one.

For tourists, that may be at the top of their list, as well — “I went to Fort Worth, and I got a cowboy hat!” We have so many great hat retailers here. And it may not even be that you’re getting a cowboy hat. Maybe you’re getting a fedora or some other type of hat, but because we have so many great custom hat outfitters, the options of getting a hat are something everyone should do at least once. And you’ll have it the rest of your life.

Hat Bar at Flea Style Flea Style is one of many places to create a custom cowboy hat in Fort Worth. Photo courtesy of Visit Frisco

CM: What’s the biggest thing that makes Fort Worth unique and fun that you wanted to convey with this book?

CB: I think that as fast as the city is growing, there is still a lot of tradition that is maintained here. A lot of iconic places that are mainstays even amid everything that is growing so quickly. There’s a pride in that, as well.

As I mentioned before, a lot of Fort Worthians do pride themselves on being super friendly and polite. That is something that really sets the city apart from other rapidly growing metropolitan areas. That Fort Worth-friendly vibe.

To learn more about the activities described in “100 Things to Do in Fort Worth Before You Die,” as well as book signings and events, follow @100thingsfortworth on Instagram.

Courtesy of Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott talks her new memoir and shining career ahead of Southlake appearance

kendra's Next Chapter

Celebrated Texas jewelry star Kendra Scott’s ability to juggle a work-life balance is seriously impressive. The founder of her namesake billion-dollar brand is a newlywed, about to drop her first memoir, Born to Shine: Do Good, Find Your Joy, and Build a Life You Love, and will be returning as a guest shark on the new season of Shark Tank.

Between a dizzying schedule of managing her brand, philanthropic efforts, a multi-state book tour, Shark Tank duties, and nurturing a new blended family of eight, we wonder when the Austin-based entrepreneur has time to breathe.

Apparently, queso, margaritas, and finding joy in the little things fuel the entrepreneur to keep going. Scott also credits her marriage to Thomas Evans (her wedding ring is the one piece of jewelry she never takes off) and the relationship with her family, including three sons — Kade, Beck, and Grey — as foundations of her success.

And while her jewelry has been a must-have accessory for over two decades, her first venture into the literary world has been one of vulnerability and determination.

She's bringing her book tour to the Kendra Scott boutique in Southlake Town Square at 1 pm Sunday, September 18; tickets ($35) are available here.

Ahead of her appearance in DFW, CultureMap sat down with Scott to get the exclusive on her next chapter.

CultureMap: How long did it take you to write Born to Shine?

Kendra Scott: It took a little over two years from when I decided to write the book, but really I have been writing this book for years. I never realized that my journal notes would someday turn into a book. It has been a long process, but after 20 years of our company being in business — it was honestly the perfect time to write this book.

CM: How did you juggle writing, managing the business and being a working mom?

KS: You know, it is always a challenge. If anyone tells you it is easy, and they have it figured out, I think they are lying. I wrote this during the pandemic, so I was home working with the support system of my closest people with me. All of our meetings were virtual, so it allowed me to have time for reflection.

I had also just stepped down as CEO and could just focus on being chairwoman, designer, and founder. I was able to focus more on our philanthropic efforts, like our school at the University of Texas (Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute), and concentrate on writing this book. It is something that I have always wanted to do.

CM: How personal do you get in the book?

KS: I get very vulnerable in the book and I feel that there is power in vulnerability. I hope that being vulnerable will allow other women or people to share their failures, successes, and ups and downs and be authentic.

I also hope that the stories of my childhood, marriage, divorce, starting a business and failing at a business — all of those things are part of what makes me who I am. In the book, I talk about the power of gemstones. Gems all have veins that are considered imperfections, but really it is what makes them beautiful.

CM: Was there anything that you wrote but then changed your mind about?

KS: I pulled out the entire first chapter, and I wasn’t going to put it in there. My publisher, who is also my editor, told me that the chapter was great and that she thought it should be chapter one.

It made me realize that I had to be honest because the book starts in a tough place but then takes readers on an unbelievable ride.

CM: Can fans look forward to more books in the future?

KS: You know, I thought about this. Now that this book is out there in the world, I don't think it will be the last one. It is a different way to be creative, and I think I have other stories to tell.

I would love to do a children’s book someday. My oldest son was one when I started this company; now, he is 20, so he has grown along with the business. Now I have a nine-year-old, and I’ve always read to him. I really hope that children’s books will be in my future.

CM: You are returning to Shark Tank for Season 14. How was the experience this time around?

KS: I absolutely love being on Shark Tank. I will be flying to Los Angeles for the premiere with all the other guest sharks on September 23, and it is exciting because there has never been a live premiere.

Nothing inspires me more than other entrepreneurs. There are long days on set, but they go by quickly because it gets me pumped to meet other entrepreneurs. Many of these people were thinking of ideas before the pandemic, and the downtime during the pandemic gave them the opportunity to put their ideas into action. I get to witness just a little of that in the tank – it is so fun.

CM: You have a lot going on, but is there anything else fans can look forward to before the end of the year?

KS: We just launched engagement rings and a whole bridal collection which is so exciting. We are expanding into other fine jewelry categories, including diamonds and gold and are adding more customization options than ever before.

Scott Brothers, the line I created with my boys during the pandemic, is also expanding. It is so fun that our male customers who were here to buy for the women in their lives can now buy something for themselves. We also just expanded into watches, so a lot is going on.

If you think about it, it took Ralph Lauren 25 years to expand into other categories. Our company has been around for 20 years, so I really like that the next phase of Kendra Scott will be so fun and exciting. From a philanthropic standpoint, we have given over $50 million since 2010 to women's and children's charities. We are, in many ways, a philanthropic organization within a brand. That is how we measure success, so I can not wait to announce our charitable efforts in the coming years.

We have a strong foundation and know what we represent and stand for — I feel like the best is yet to come.

Kendra Scott's first memoir drops on September 20th.

Courtesy of Kendra Scott
Kendra Scott's first memoir drops on September 20th.
Courtesy of Camila Alves McConaughey

Camila Alves McConaughey leads H-E-B's celebration of literacy across Texas

Just Try One Bite

Texas' favorite grocery store and the state's unofficial first lady are joining forces to promote literacy and a love of reading. Scheduled for September 30, H-E-B and New York Times best selling author Camila Alves McConaughey will host the Read 3 Big Texas Read-in both virtually and in-person at select locations.

Committed to literacy in the Lone Star State, H-E-B's Read 3 program encourages caretakers to read to children at least three times per week. This year’s Read3 Read In event invites Texans to participate in a state-wide reading event either in person at the Long Center in Austin, through local libraries, Texas Education Agency public schools, or virtually online at heb.com/read3.

“Since our humble beginnings in 1905, H-E-B has put a focus on supporting our community and making a positive impact. Our Read3 program is a passion project aimed to foster a love of reading and help every Texan child excel,” Christa Aldrich, H-E-B program manager, said in a release. “Our team at H-E-B is focused on empowering Texans to embrace furthering education and fostering literacy in order to help both communities and residents thrive in childhood and beyond.”

As part of the event, Camila Alves McConaughey will host a live reading of her best-selling book Just Try One Bite, a fun story of role reversal in which children attempt to get their picky-eating parents to try healthy, whole foods.

“As a mother, I wrote Just Try One Bite with children and their parents in mind. I wanted to create something that would tell a story but also foster a connection and strengthen family bonds through a shared activity,” said Camila Alves McConaughey in the release. “I’m honored to partner with H-E-B to emphasize how important reading with children is for both literacy and help enable that connection for families in Texas and around the country.”

Some of the events taking place as part of the Read3 Read In event on September 30 include:

  • In-Person Reading Experience with Camila Alves McConaughey: Thousands of Texans will join the author from 9 am to 11am at the Long Center for the Performing Arts for a live reading from her book, Just Try One Bite.
  • Virtual Reading Event Across Texas: The read-along will be livestreamed virtually on YouTube, Facebook and heb.com for participants across the country to read along.
  • School Reading Events: Select public and private schools across Texas will join together to read.
  • Laura Bush Foundation Grant Recipient Librarians: Texas school librarians will also host reading sessions at select school libraries across the state.

To learn more about the event or to take part in the H-E-B Read 3 Big Texas Read In, please visit heb.com.

Photo courtesy of Emberli Pridham

North Texas author pens enchanting new children's storybook about Princess Diana

Royal reads

“Here is the stuff of which fairy tales are made," the Archbishop of Canterbury famously declared at the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles in 1981. Of course, the British royal couple's real-life fairy tale did not end in a "happily ever after."

But now, 25 years after the tragic and untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales, a Dallas mom-and-author wants to introduce children to the parts of the beloved princess' life that really were storybook worthy. Emberli Pridham's A Real-Life Fairy Tale: Princess Diana will be published through Gatekeeper Press ($21.95) on September 1.

The 48-page hardcover book is a charmingly illustrated biography intended for children ages 3 to 8. It succinctly chronicles Princess Diana's life, from her childhood to her life as a royal and mother, and showcases her impact on the world as "the people's princess."

Famous vignettes from her life — including her engagement, wedding, charity work, and White House twirl around the dance floor with John Travolta — are also depicted in whimsical illustrations by Danilo Cerovic. The foreword is written by her friend and well-known interior designer Carleton Varney.

The book will be the first in a series of "Real-Life Fairy Tale" stories about inspiring and influential people that Pridham intends to write. She is no stranger to writing books for young people. Pridham, along with her husband, David, co-authored the Amazon best-selling STEM book series, If Not You, Then Who?

But this one had extra special meaning, she says, because of her desire to share Princess Diana’s legacy with younger generations like her daughter — who inspired the book.

The Pridhams live in Dallas with their three children, Brooke, Noah, and Graham, and are involved in a number of philanthropic organizations throughout the city.

We donned a tiara and chatted with Emberli about the new Princess Diana book, her fairy tale series, and the inspiration she hopes it will provide for a new generation of little princes and princesses.

CultureMap: Why did you decide to do a children's series on the topic of "real-life" fairy tales? Are these the kinds of stories you enjoyed as a child, or read to your own children?

Emberli Pridham: My daughter Brooke, actually! I was reading to her a fairy tale one night and went down a bunny trail of wanting to read to her about a real-life princess. And Princess Diana was the first to pop into my head. She is someone who I thought would be an incredible role model that I wanted my daughter to learn about and be inspired by her incredible compassion, kindness, and empathy.

CM: How did you decide which vignettes from Princess Diana's life to focus on, and what kind of research did it entail? Were you a fan of hers as a child?

EP: I chose Diana because she was a real-life princess who exemplified grace and dignity. She gave so much of her time to important causes and to the most vulnerable of people in the world. I decided to highlight all the positive aspects about her life.

I also read her biography Diana: Her True Story In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton, which really helped paint the story and life of Princess Diana.

I have always been a fan of Princess Diana and I will never forget the morning of her funeral; it had quite an impact on me, watching it back as a young 10-year-old girl. It was so apparent how much she meant to people around the world.

CM: Did you have to work with any official royal family channels to use her name or illustrate her likeness?

EP: We didn’t have to work with any official royal channels. This book is an illustrated story based on her life, intended to highlight the positive aspects of her character for children. Similar to how people work who write historical fiction books.

CM: The release coincides with the 25th anniversary of her death (on August 31, 1997), when there will be a lot of public remembrances about her. Was that intentional?

EP: No, not intentional. I wrote and released this book because I really wanted to educate children of this generation (that were either not born yet or too young to remember her) so they know about this incredible and amazing woman.

CM: The story is written like a poem, with some sweet rhyming patterns, but still covers a lot of history. What was your writing process like, writing specifically for children?

EP: As a little girl and still to this day, I love children’s books with a rhyme. I wanted the story to sound beautiful to readers, much like reading a poem. Diana was beautiful inside and out and I wanted the story to reflect that.

CM: Tell me about your illustrator and how you worked together on the charming yet detailed illustrations.

EP: I wanted the illustrations to be different, and my own. I researched a lot of different illustration styles. When I was growing up, I was a big fan of The Secret Garden and watercolors and wanted the illustrations in my book to be like a work of art that you can hang up on your wall.

Our illustrator, Danilo Cerovic, did a wonderful job; we worked well together. He was magnificent and really understood and captured what I would convey in my words and translated them into these dreamy images, truly making the pictures come to life!

CM: You're giving 10 percent of book proceeds to Centrepoint, a UK organization that Princess Diana was patron of, and now Prince William has been its patron since 2005. How did you decide on this nonprofit?

EP: We looked up which charities Princess Diana was most involved with and this one really struck a chord with me. (Note: The organization provides young people experiencing homelessness with accommodation, health support, and life skills to get them back into education, training, and employment, according to the website.)

CM: Where can Dallas readers find A Real-Life Fairy Tale: Princess Diana?

EP: You can find the book on our website, as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (There are also paperback and Kindle versions.)

CM: What can you tell us about forthcoming books in your fairy tale series?

EP: I’m thinking about so many great women, it’s hard to narrow down. I know for sure the next book will be about Princess Grace of Monaco, but after her I am not sure who will follow, so stay tuned.

A Real Life Fairy Tale: Princess Diana releases September 1.

Photo courtesy of Emberli Pridham
A Real Life Fairy Tale: Princess Diana releases September 1.

Star-studded Texas Book Festival lineup includes legendary Arlington author

Book Smart

After two years of virtual and hybrid programming, the Texas Book Festival is returning in full in-person force November 5 and 6 in downtown Austin. With a sizable list of impressive literary talent for readers of all ages, the beloved bookworm gathering has uncovered 15 authors that will headline the fest.

The festival will feature Arlington resident, Texas literary legend, and author of 73 New York Times bestsellers Sandra Brown; Screen Actors Guild Award recipient and nine-time NAACP Image Award winner Omar Epps; Good Morning America Book Club Pick author and Women’s Prize finalist Angie Cruz; Pulitzer Prize finalist and Guggenheim Fellow biologist David George Haskell; NYT bestselling children’s author-illustrator and Caldecott medalist Michaela Goade, and many more.

“This announcement marks the beginning of our Festival season, and we are very excited to bring talented authors and thousands of readers together again at our beloved annual event, ” says Lois Kim, the festival's executive director. “We hope all Texans, young and old, newly Texan or seventh generation, are marking their calendars to join us for an epic literary weekend.”

Included in the sneak peek on July 13 is actor-producer Omar Epps, known for his roles in House, Shooter, This Is Us, and many more television shows and feature films. Epps will present his debut young-adult novel Nubia: The Awakening, an epic Afro-futurist saga billed as perfect for fans of Black Panther.

Returning to the festival is Angie Cruz, the award-winning author who debuted her first novel, Soledad, at Texas Book Festival 2001. Cruz will present her new work, How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water, about a woman who, faced with an unexpected job loss amid the Great Recession, re-evaluates her life. Texas native, DFW resident, and former TBF First Edition Literary Gala emcee (2003) Sandra Brown also returns, presenting her latest novel, Overkill, in which a former NFL superstar struggles with a crisis of conscience and juggles a life-or-death decision.

"There’s something special about seeing authors in-person again," says TBF literary director Matthew Patin. "Virtual programming provided us, and continues to provide, creative opportunities, yet nothing quite matches an author visiting Austin once more. In pre-COVID times we took a physical appearance for a given, but now it feels that much more valuable and important. And the fifteen names here are only a fraction of what’s to come.”

The full list of sneak peek authors includes:

  • Vishwesh Bhatt, I Am From Here: Stories and Recipes from a Southern Chef
  • Sandra Brown, Overkill
  • Sandra Cisneros, Woman Without Shame: Poems
  • Angie Cruz, How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water
  • Erin Entrada Kelly, Those Kids from Fawn Creek
  • James Kirchick, Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington
  • Omar Epps, Nubia: The Awakening
  • Sidik Fofana, Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
  • Michaela Goade, Berry Song
  • Xochitl Gonzalez, Olga Dies Dreaming
  • David George Haskell, Sounds Wild and Broken: Sonic Marvels, Evolution's Creativity, and the Crisis of Sensory Extinction
  • Elizabeth McCracken, The Hero of This Book
  • Matt de la Peña, Patchwork
  • Mary Laura Philpott, Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives
  • Roger Reeves, Best Barbarian: Poems
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'Lightscape' shines bright in this week's 5 most popular Fort Worth stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. What to expect at 'Lightscape,' Fort Worth's new walk-thru winter wonderland. Fort Worth’s most Instagrammable new holiday lights display is best enjoyed without clinging to a phone. “Lightscape,” which made its North Texas debut at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Friday, November 18, walks visitors through a winter wonderland experience unlike any other in DFW.

2. Hoffbrau Steak fires up the grill for new location in Grapevine. A longtime steakhouse is coming to Grapevine: Hoffbrau Steak & Grill House, a small family-owned and -operated chain that's been in Dallas-Fort Worth for more than 40 years, will open a location November 28 at 700 W. State Hwy 114, previously home to a Brick House Tavern & Tap, which closed during the pandemic.

3. Yellowstone and 1883 stars cowboy up at Fort Worth gala honoring Taylor Sheridan. Fort Worth has always been "where the West begins," and now it's where TV's hottest Western drama begins, too. The 2022 Lone Star Film Festival Gala - held November 11 at Hotel Drover in the Stockyards - leaned hard into the city's connections to Yellowstone and its prequel, 1883, with signs and programs that boasted "The Road to Yellowstone Began in Fort Worth."

4. Divine doughnuts and tempting tamales top this Fort Worth restaurant news. This roundup of restaurant news around Fort Worth has tidbits about doughnuts, Cajun food, vegan tamales, and gourmet ice cream, culled from press releases, social media, and the occasional hot tip. Here's what's happening in Fort Worth restaurant news.

5. Here comes Santa House, back to Grapevine for a very charitable 2022 Christmas season. After taking a much-needed break last year, Louie Murillo and his family are once again decking their halls, yard, and rooftop to bring back the Grapevine Santa House — a smash hit during the 2020 holiday season. The half-acre property is a "Where's Waldo?" maze of more than 1,000 Santa statues, which visitors can walk among, snap photos with, and then, they hope, make a donation to Grace Grapevine's Christmas Cottage program.

Texas parks beckon throughout 2022 holidays with festive events and peaceful escapes

If roasting ‘smores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Avoid the Black Friday madness with the 15th annual “Walk-off the Bird” Bird Walk, a 2.1-mile walk by the lakeshore at 9 am November 25. Bring your binoculars to relax and enjoy the bird life of the East Texas Pineywoods. At 2 pm the same day, enjoy a Fall in the Savannah fall foliage hike. Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive from November 25 to December 19. Come back December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 a.m. December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Walk off your Thanksgiving Day meal and explore nature in the cool fall air during the three-mile Thanksgiving Nature Walk 7:30-9 a.m. November 26. Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm. December 17.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
The park’s annual Gobble Till You Wobble hike November 25 has been canceled due to predicted rains. However, you can still follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 a.m. to noon December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Attend Deck the Halls, 10 am. to 3 pm November 26 to explore how early Texans at the Sauer-Beckmann Farm got ready for the holidays by stringing popcorn and decorating cookies to hang on their Christmas tree; learn how to make wreaths out of local cedar and dip candles as the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am to 2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
Take a Giving Thanks Guided Hike and learn how the Civilian Conservation Corps built the park from 3-4 pm November 26. On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 p.m. December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm. December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2 to 5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Livingston State Park
Learn about your favorite Thanksgiving food (the turkey) during Campfire Turkey Talk on November 26. Rangers will cover the history of Thanksgiving, the habits and behaviors of wild turkeys, and share interesting facts about turkeys, including how it nearly became our national bird.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
Pack your Thanksgiving leftovers and hike 1.5 miles up to Aztec Caves during the park’s Turkey Trot at 11 am November 25. On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park 6-8 pm December 10.

Affluent Fort Worth neighbor leads list of lavish holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Flower Mound as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Flower Mound is $3,531 per person, the third highest in the nation.

The town's 2021 population of 77,243 (per the U.S. Census) boasts a median income $139,703 and earlier this year was named by Ventured.com as the richest city in Texas.

In spite of an increase over last year's gift list totals, Flower Mound dropped to the third spot after being ranked No. 1 last year with a budget of $3,427. Newton, Massachusetts (budget $4,233) and Palo Alto, California (budget $3,920) edged out the Texas city this year.

Flower Mound was the only Texas city in the top 10, but there's plenty of holiday cheer to be found in the report, and not just for Flower Mound Santa fans.

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

This could be good news if your Christmas wishes are on local shopping lists. Eight other North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630

Fort Worth landed at No. 366 with a budget of $890, while Dallas landed at No. 401 out of 558 cities with an average holiday budget of $845.

Elsewhere in Texas, spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Santa's bag could be a mixed bag in the Houston area with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, Connecticut, with a budget of only $211.