Still time to share your favorite Christmas ornament

The holiday season can be stressful. I worry about how to afford the gifts, how to make sure everyone gets along at family gatherings, how to keep the kitten from eating all the decorations and just how much chocolate I can eat before I need to borrow Santa’s pants.

But as readers began to send me their most treasured Christmas ornaments, their stories and photos warmed my Grinchy heart.

Here’s one from Jill McCauley Bone of Georgetown:

“Back in about 1947, when I was less than 1, one of my aunts sent me this Santa for Christmas.  It has been in my Christmas tree every year since then.  I see it is getting a little raggedy, but when you are kissing up to 70, raggedy happens.  I love this old Santa and my whole family loves it.  ‘Twoundn’t be Christmas without him in the tree.”

I’d love to see your favorite ornament, too. Please email a high-resolution photo and a brief description of what the ornament means to you to equigley@statesman.com by noon Dec. 12. We’ll run all the photos in an online gallery, and a selection of our favorites will publish in print on Christmas Day.

 

Selena’s dad sues late singer’s husband over TV series

The father of Tejano superstar Selena Quintinilla has filed a lawsuit against the singer’s widower, Chris Perez, and the production company behind upcoming TV series “To Selena, With Love,” the Caller Times report.

Perez announced plans for the series, which is to be based on his best-selling book of the same name, in November. However, Abraham Quintanilla Jr. contends that the show doesn’t have the right to use the “name, voice, signature, photograph and likeness of Selena,” according to the Caller Times. This is not the first time the two have butted heads. Quintanilla also asserts that Perez did not have the right to write his book.

READ: Selena influenced style and beauty

** FILE ** Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman.
Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman.

The show and lawsuit come at the end of a year, 20 years after her death, filled with recognition for Selena. The singer was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. MAC cosmetics released, and nearly immediately sold out, of a line of makeup modeled after her.  Next year, the singer will be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A Texas Lowe’s hired a veteran and his service dog and now they’re internet famous

A Lowe’s in Abilene is attracting attention for one of its employees. She’s not a normal employee; in fact, she has four legs and doesn’t speak.

lowes

Charlotte is a 10-year-old golden retriever and started her work at the Lowe’s a few months ago. Her owner, Clay Luthy, got hired at the home improvement store after he realized Lowe’s welcomes service dogs, according to the Abilene Reporter-News.

Luthy, an Air Force veteran originally from California, can’t bend his left knee. Charlotte is trained to help Luthy back up should he ever fall. But Charlotte proved adept at something else: she entertains customers while wearing a dog-fitted Lowe’s “vest” when Luthy is on the job.

“Everybody loves Charlotte. This definitely was not part of the job description,” Luthy told the Reporter-News.

Luthy, who has a wife and three kids, was a C-130 loadmaster, and told the Reporter-News he feels right at home at his job.

“I can do pretty much everything. We grew up with nothing, so we fixed things and did it ourselves.”

Since news of Luthy’s hiring, photos of Charlotte and him have earned them quite a following. Lowe’s spokeswoman Karen Cobb told the San Antonio Express-News the store was “flooded” with calls and customers after a Facebook photo of the two was posted.

See photos of Charlotte and Luthy here.

 

 

 

The most popular TV show set in Texas is, well, a surprise

Justice for “Dallas.” Vengeance for “Friday Night Lights.” Blood for “King of the Hill.” According to TV Guide, the most popular show set in the great state of Texas isn’t any of these small-screen institutions. And if you can’t trust TV Guide about what people are watching, who can you trust in this post-fact world?

Linda Gray and Larry Hagman portrayed Sue Ellen and J.R. Ewing on the hit television show  Dallas.  Credit: CBS
Linda Gray and Larry Hagman portrayed Sue Ellen and J.R. Ewing on the hit television show Dallas. Credit: CBS

According to the TV programming experts, the most popular show set in Texas is “Game of Silence,” an NBC drama set in Dalton that was cancelled this year after one season. The pick is part of a countdown for each of the 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.).

READ: You can now download your favorite Netflix shows to watch offline

So, that begs the question: What does TV Guide mean by “most popular”? The programming experts say that they analyzed data compiled from TVGuide.com users who use their “Watchlist” feature. There’s probably more than a little recency bias at play, considering that the big three of Lone Star TV shows listed above have been off the air for some time.

Also a surprise: The most popular show set in New York is “Blindspot.” Sorry, Rachel, Ross, Jerry and Elaine.

READ: Would Matthew McConaughey reprise his role on ‘True Detective?’ He says ‘yeah’

A plea to Central Texans from a Czech girl: Please stop referring to sausage-filled pastries as ‘kolaches’

OK, Central Texas, we need to talk about kolaches.

130914 CALDWELL, TEXAS: A selection of just-judged entries in the kolache baking competition are pictured at Caldwell's annual Kolache Festival on Saturday, September 14, 2013. The streets were crowded with entertainment and vendors. Andy Sharp / For the American-Statesman.
CALDWELL, TEXAS: A selection of just-judged entries in the kolache baking competition are pictured at Caldwell’s annual Kolache Festival on Saturday, September 14, 2013. The streets were crowded with entertainment and vendors. Andy Sharp / For the American-Statesman.

Before we get started, take a peek at my last name. It’s as Czech as they come. The name Pšencík is actually a nickname for a peasant (I know, I know). It comes from the Czech word meaning “wheat.” I grew up in the heart of the “Texas Czech Belt.” So, trust me, I know a thing or two about doughy Bohemian pastries.

Texas is a pretty heavily Czech region, with immigrants from Bohemia settling in the Texas Czech Belt in the early 1800s. They brought with them one of the best pastries known to mankind, and even now kolaches are a pretty big deal around these parts. A “kolach” (that’s the singular form of the word, though colloquially people use “kolache” as singular and “kolaches” as plural, so that’s how I’m referring to it here) is a round or square-ish pastry made with sweet yeast dough and filled with fruit or cheese.

Notice I said fruit or cheese — not meat. The traditional kolache fillings include things like plums, prunes, poppy seeds, apricots and just plain farmer’s cheese, due to the availability of those tasty flavors in poor immigrant families in the 19th century. Later, those fillings were expanded to include cream cheese, blueberries, pineapples, nuts, cottage cheese, cherries…you name the fruit or cheese, and you could put it in a kolache. Notice, again, I haven’t mentioned meat.

At some point over the course of history, somebody started taking that sweet yeast dough and stuffing it with sausage, sometimes with cheese and jalapeno. Don’t get me wrong, these little pastries are delicious. But they are not kolaches, although many people refer to them as such. Kolache, for those of Czech descent, contain only fruit or cheese, never meat.

A little Czech lesson: Those sausage-filled pastries you’ve been calling kolaches for years actually were never brought over from the motherland. They’re called klobasniky, and they were invented by Czech families settled in Texas (The Village Bakery in West, Texas takes credit for the delicious treat). You may have heard of one of these delights referred to as a “pig in the blanket,” which is what I grew up calling them, although pigs in a blanket can include hot dogs wrapped in croissant rolls, which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly Czech. Slight difference there.

So now that we’ve had a little history lesson, I call upon you, people of Central Texas, to stop referring to these meat-filled delicacies as kolaches, and call them by their rightful name: Klobasniky, or klobasnek in the singular. The Czech community will thank you.

This monkey is Austin’s next up-and-coming artist

The Austin Zoo is home to one of the city’s hottest new artists. But she’s not human.

Katie the capuchin monkey had her first painting session this week, and she’s got serious potential.

Screenshot via @austinzoo on Instagram
Screenshot via @austinzoo on Instagram

According to Austin.com, the Austin Zoo recently started introducing primates to using paintbrushes. Katie, who’s been at the zoo for 10 years, reportedly enjoys flexing her painting muscles. It sure looks like she’s having a good time.

Several commenters even said they’re interested in buying Katie’s artwork. The zoo is reportedly ordering canvas and frames for Katie’s artwork, and the zoo’s executive director told Austin.com that prices would be available soon.

Many of the posts on the zoo’s Instagram page focus around animal enrichment. For example, lioness Amara got a new toy this week.

And these cougar cubs get to go bowling.

 

‘Battalion’ says Texas A&M students drink more Starbucks than any other campus in America

America may run on Dunkin’, as the slogan goes, but according to an article in The Battalion, Texas A&M University runs on Starbucks.

In this Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, photo, Starbucks holiday cups appear on display at a store in New York. (AP Photo/Joseph Pisani)
In this Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, photo, Starbucks holiday cups appear on display at a store in New York. (AP Photo/Joseph Pisani)

A recent story in the school’s student newspaper examining the increased intake of campus caffeine consumption around finals week found that the university’s three Starbucks locations sell 119 gallons of coffee a day. That’s the equivalent of 1,270 cups of tall-sized (12 ounce) cups of coffee.

The Battalion even made an infographic out of their findings:

The Battalion.
The Battalion.

Assistant director of Chartwells dining services Ben Walters said that number places A&M’s Starbucks locations first in revenue among college campus spots in the country.

“At the Hullabaloo location we do about 700 transactions a day,” Walters told The Battalion. “At Starbucks Evans, they do close to 2,000 and the Corps store being close to 1,000.”

More: Starbucks: Schultz to step down as CEO, focus on innovation

And according to Walters, A&M students are consuming more and more caffeine as finals week draws near.

“We’re seeing more of, ‘I’ll have drip coffee with shots of espresso’ or, ‘Iced coffee with espresso in it.’ We’re constantly having people ask us how to get more caffeine,” he said.

More: Austin among top 10 ‘cities for coffee fanatics’

Recently, Texas A&M health researchers released an infographic that listed eight reasons to quit drinking coffee. Among the reasons were increased stress hormones, which may not help when you’re cramming for that biology final.

But, no matter how much coffee Texas A&M students drink, Austinites can rest assured that they still live in Texas’ most caffeinated city (at least, according to WalletHub).

 

 

‘Fixer Upper’ stars’ church ties spark internet storm about LGBT views

Waco real estate stars Chip and Joanna Gaines found themselves in the middle of an online controversy this week, one that was stoked by a Buzzfeed Entertainment post about the couple’s non-denominational church in Waco.

Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia House has begun booking reservations for 2017. The couple appears on the HGTV show "Fixer Upper." (HGTV)
Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia House has begun booking reservations for 2017. The couple appears on the HGTV show “Fixer Upper.” (HGTV)

In “Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage,” author Kate Aurthur explores the “Fixer Upper” stars’ relationship with Jimmy Seibert, their pastor at Waco’s Antioch Community Church. The church is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch, according to its website.

More: HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ stars rethink contracts as clients rent out homes

The Buzzfeed article asks if, like Seibert, the Gaines’ also believe that marriage “is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime,” as outlined in the church’s “Beliefs” section on its website. It also questions whether they believe that homosexuality is a sin, as Seibert claimed in a sermon on June 28, 2015, the Sunday after the Supreme Court of the United States legalized gay marriage. Seibert also believes in gay conversion therapy, according to the same sermon mentioned above. (The American Psychological Association declared conversion therapy “harmful” seven years ago.)

The article also mentions that “Fixer Upper” has never featured a same-sex couple on the show.

From Buzzfeed:

“So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s ‘House Hunters’ and ‘Property Brothers’? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. Nor were emails and calls to HGTV’s PR department.”

After the Tuesday publication of the piece, which does not include any firsthand quotes from Chip or Joanna Gaines, many Buzzfeed commenters derided the article as a “witch hunt.”

An opinion piece that ran in the Washington Post on Thursday defended the couple and called the Buzzfeed article “dangerous.”

“[The story] validates everything that President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters have been saying about the media: that some journalists — specifically younger ones at popular digital publications — will tell stories in certain deceitful, manipulative ways to take down conservatives. (And really, I can’t for the life of me imagine any other intention of the Gaines story.)”

The author, Delaware writer Brandon Ambrosino, also writes in the same piece about planning his wedding to his same-sex partner.

RELATED: From flat broke to HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ for furniture maker Clint Harp

In the wake of this controversy, HGTV released a statement concerning the original Buzzfeed article. A network representative, responding to a request for comment from the Huffington Post, had this to say:

“We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”

The Gaineses have not addressed their views on homosexuality since the controversy arose.

Some conservative publications have published their takes on the Buzzfeed article, and many people have shared on social media their agreement with the Washington Post opinion piece.

https://twitter.com/seanmdav/status/804324239822229504?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith has defended his website’s article on Twitter, claiming the burden of proof is on HGTV, not the Gaineses.

This isn’t the first time a Christian celebrity from Texas has caused conversation with gay marriage views. Earlier this month, Austin author Jen Hatmaker had her books pulled from LifeWay shelves after she claimed in an interview with the Religion News Service that she believes an LGBT relationship can be holy.

Which celebrity made a surprise appearance at Lupe Fiasco’s Austin performance?

FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2016 file photo, actor Bill Murray attends an NCAA college basketball game between Xavier and Villanova, in Cincinnati. Murray was the first and last guest on David Letterman’s late-night show, and Letterman will return the favor by making a rare public appearance when Murray is presented with the nation’s top prize for humor. On Tuesday, Se[t. 14, 2016, The Kennedy Center announced the lineup of performers for next month’s celebration of Murray, who’ll receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
In this Feb. 28, 2016 file photo, actor Bill Murray attends an NCAA college basketball game between Xavier and Villanova, in Cincinnati. Murray was the first and last guest on David Letterman’s late-night show, and Letterman will return the favor by making a rare public appearance when Murray is presented with the nation’s top prize for humor. On Tuesday, Se[t. 14, 2016, The Kennedy Center announced the lineup of performers for next month’s celebration of Murray, who’ll receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
How do you get Lupe Fiasco to perform an encore? According to Lupe Fiasco, be Bill Murray and “force it.”

Bill Murray might be among the last people you’d expect to see at a Lupe Fiasco show, but if you made it out to his performance at the Belmont last night, that’s exactly who you saw (khakis and all).

Several concert-goers tweeted out pictures of the actor dancing along to what was apparently a show good enough to warrant a demand for an encore. Lupe Fiasco himself took to Twitter to excitedly announce that Murray made an appearance.

https://twitter.com/cmcgreggor54/status/804199159624597504

https://twitter.com/AlecAndSoul/status/804192861113765888

Check out our A-List pictures from the show here.