October casts a spellbinding aura, enticing us to surrender to the realm of imagination. In this edition of American Lifestyle, we embrace this mystical month by taking a closer look at the enchanting story behind Austin’s treasured bats, exploring seven marvelous museums scattered throughout the country, and much more.
Bats are often unfairly regarded as evil beasts, but in one Texas city, they’re considered to be welcome friends. This issue ventures into the world of Austin’s bats, unveiling how the colony of over one million made its way to the city along with the best ways to watch their nightly flights.
Halloween candy holds a special place in all our hearts, bringing joy to people of all ages. This year, unleash your creativity by transforming your extra piles of sweets into two mouthwatering delights: Butterfinger brownies and Halloween candy Rice Krispies treats.
Antique pieces have become all the rage in recent years, with more and more people seeking to infuse their homes with timeless charm—including Ivy Karlsgodt. When the pandemic left her without a job, she harnessed her costuming skills to craft a handmade vintage-style lampshade for her room. Find out how the hobby grew into a profitable business in the enclosed article.
Museums are extraordinary repositories of knowledge, offering valuable insights into previous eras and providing a platform to bask in the creativity of artists from around the world. America is home to some of the most captivating of these institutions, and this issue offers a curated selection of them that you’re not going to want to miss.
Here’s hoping you have a magical month! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
Halloween is approaching, and with it come the familiar symbols of the holiday, including one classic, winged beast—the bat.
Unfortunately, bats have long gotten a bad rap. Throughout history, they have been portrayed as ravenous bloodsuckers lurking in the shadows, frequently linked to evil characters such as Dracula and even the devil himself. In modern times, the myth of the menacing bat persists, but significant progress has been made to rectify this wrong. This is thanks in part to increased education and awareness provided by organizations like Bat Conservation International (BCI) and Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation.
Today, no place in the United States celebrates these creatures more than Austin, Texas. Known as Bat City, Austin merrily welcomes scores of migratory free-tailed bats, affectionately known as the Austin bats, from Mexico every year. The city is so enamored of its flying friends that it named its professional junior hockey team after them and holds a Bat Fest each summer. The free-tailed bat was even named Texas’ official flying mammal in 1995. As the largest urban colony of its kind in the world—reaching up to 1.5 million by late summer and early fall—these bats are certainly a must-see attraction here.
But the story didn’t start out quite so amicably.
Within a few years after they first arrived in the eighties, persistent, irrational fear nearly caused the Austin bats’ demise. Residents became increasingly hostile toward the bats once they started calling Congress Bridge (a.k.a. the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, named after the state’s renowned governor) home. One man is largely responsible for halting this disaster: Dr. Merlin Tuttle. A world-renowned ecologist, environmentalist, and bat expert, Dr. Tuttle was running BCI when he relocated it to Austin in part to save this city’s bat colony. Together with his colleagues, he successfully changed the politicians’ and residents’ hearts and minds about their guests, and both parties have since embraced the bats as their own.
You may be asking, “Why do the bats flock to this particular bridge?” As it turns out, there are a few practical reasons. When the bridge was redone in 1980, the new construction created small crevices perfect for bats to shimmy into, providing warmth and allowing them to nest far out of reach of predators. Its location on the Colorado River is also ideal for them: bats subsist on insects, and the water serves up a delicious feast for when they emerge for food each night.
Such a diet actually plays an important role in the area as well. A free-tailed bat can eat two-thirds of its body weight a day, and this colony consumes a whopping 10,000 to 30,000 pounds of bugs every night. (Another reason to love the bats during summer.) Equally impressive is their flying ability: they can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour and soar up to 10,000 feet high.
If you want to view these fabulous creatures, you need to know the proper place and time. Many people stand on the sidewalk of Congress Bridge to take in the experience; the recommended viewing spot is between its north and middle spans. Other options include renting a kayak or canoe or catching a charter cruise to get a river-view glimpse. Naturally, the bats emerge as night falls, so you should plan to be situated long before sunset. They often begin bursting from beneath the bridge at dusk, but patience may be required. Depending on the weather and other conditions (warm, dry weather is ideal), it may take up to forty-five minutes or so for the entire colony to come out.
For a less crowded, more serene experience, you may want to anchor yourself on land—specifically, southeast of the bridge, where you’ll find several viewing areas. A prime location is between the edge of the river and the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, which runs parallel to the bats’ flight path and is next to where the first wave of bats exits. (Just watch out for poison ivy along the bank.) You can also relax on the lawn of the city’s dedicated bat observation area, a more elevated space located on the trail parallel to Congress Avenue.
When you go, show the Austin bats the respect they deserve. To prevent scaring them and keep them safe, stay silent, don’t shine lights at them, and don’t try to touch them. Simply observe and take in the phenomenon.
Getting a firsthand glimpse at the wonder of nature is a rare treat. So while you may visit Austin for its music and culture, be sure to also stop by Congress Bridge to experience the city’s incredible bats.
Extra candy always seems to haunt homes both before and after Halloween. If you find yourself with an overabundance of it, these recipes will help you transform it into frightfully good treats.
These easy-to-prepare brownies include morsels of crispy peanut butter candy throughout.
Treat lovers will find two kinds of sweet surprises in these marshmallow-and-rice cereal bars.
recipe by patterson watkins
photos by patterson watkins
These chocolatey desserts contain a sweet candy surprise.
Tip: This recipe is for homemade brownies. If you are short on time, you can use a boxed brownie mix instead—just fold in the chopped Butterfinger bars before baking.
recipe by patterson watkins
photos by patterson watkins
Enjoy the gooey marshmallows and chocolate candies in this tasty treat.
Makes 1 dozen
When Ivy Karlsgodt, owner of Ace of Shades, found herself temporarily unemployed during the pandemic, she turned to making vintage-style lampshades as a way to generate income and fuel her creativity.
Where did your love of creativity come from?
I remember making beaded jewelry in elementary school and falling in love with design. Then my grandmother taught me how to crochet and embroider. And in middle school, my other grandmother taught me the basics of sewing; she had always made clothes for me growing up and nurtured my interest in fashion. Soon I was designing and making my own clothes with her guidance.
How did that lead to a degree in costume design?
In high school, I designed and made costumes here and there for our plays and musicals. My first one was a sea-foam green Regency dress for our production of Pride and Prejudice. I also did all the alterations for each production’s costumes and ran the wardrobe crews. Costuming was a convergence of a lot of my interests—fashion, history, design, and literature—so I decided to go for a bachelor of fine arts in theatre design and technology with a focus in costume design. I attribute a lot of my advanced sewing skills to my costume construction professor, Jean Nelson.
What work did you do with costume design?
I got a lot of costume design experience in college and at a few internships, which helped me realize I was much more interested in the construction process. After graduating, I got a job at a costume shop called John Kristiansen, which makes costumes for Broadway, film, TV, etc. I learned so much in my three and a half years there and made some amazing costumes for productions like Six, Diana, Tina, Dickinson, Fosse/Verdon, and Tootsie. I even designed a costume for Cher once.
What was the impetus for turning to lampshade creation and reconstruction?
In 2020, I was laid off from my job temporarily and needed a creative outlet. I redecorated my room and decided that a vintage-style fringed lampshade would be an amazing addition. It was out of my budget, though, so I tried making one myself and ended up loving the process.
Did you know how to make lampshades, or did you teach yourself?
I learned a lot of my techniques from Mary Maxwell’s instructional DVDs on the subject. It was super easy for me to pick up given my sewing background; it’s similar to hat making, actually. It uses only one type of stitch, so it’s fairly simple but time-consuming.
When did you know this hobby was heading somewhere bigger?
I began selling my lampshades as a side hustle soon after I started making them, mainly to recoup the cost of materials. About a year after going back to work at the costume shop, I was getting so many commission requests that I realized there was no reason to keep overworking myself with two jobs. I eventually quit the costume shop and have been focused on my small business ever since. Honestly, I’m still overworking, but I love the freedom of being my own boss.
What’s your process when a client comes to you with a commission?
Typically, they either have a lamp that needs a replacement shade or want something new. Some clients have a lot of ideas and preferences, while others simply suggest a couple of colors and leave the rest to me. I always start by having them pick a shape and then move on to their color and fabric preferences. Once I have all the needed information, I draw a preliminary design.
What fabrics do you typically use? Is there a certain era you are most often recreating?
I usually use silk charmeuse as a base layer, sometimes with China silk beneath to help opacify it, and layer fabrics like pleated silk chiffon, lace, burnouts, and netting over top. Sometimes I’ll use vintage kimono silk. I am especially drawn to Art Nouveau and Art Deco aesthetics; the latter is probably what I pull from the most.
How long does it take you to sew a lampshade?
Lampshades take me anywhere from five to thirty hours to complete depending on the design and size. The average is about ten hours, though. It all must be sewn by hand, so it’s a slow process. I make and sell about fifteen lampshades a month, including commissions.
How much do your custom lampshades cost?
The price can range from $300 to $1,000 (with occasional outliers) depending on the size, design, and materials used.
Is there a community of sewers you can turn to with questions about lampshades, or are you the expert?
Vintage-style lampshade making was popular as a hobby from the 1970s to the 1990s, so there are a lot of experienced lampshade makers out there. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, from many of them. New lampshade makers do frequently contact me, though, asking for advice about a lampshade they’re working on or requesting tips on certain techniques, and I’m always happy to help.
You’ve amassed over one million followers in a few years. Was it difficult to put yourself out there on social media?
Definitely! I never expected to grow the following I did. I’m a fairly shy person and hardly post on my personal media accounts, so being seen by so many people is very strange for me. Luckily, 99.9 percent of my followers are super sweet and supportive, so that’s helped me come out of my shell and feel confident about my work.
Does being an entrepreneur come naturally?
I’m really not business savvy at all. I’ve been picking things up on the job, but the administrative duties will never be my forte. Learning how to make this a sustainable and lucrative career for myself has been an uphill battle, and I’m still figuring it out, but the response to and demand for my work has been amazing.
For more info, visit aceofshades.co
Museums are invaluable features of our urban landscapes. Beyond their gallery walls and glass boxes, these institutions weave knowledge, creativity, curiosity, and historical wisdom into a cultural tapestry. The United States boasts some of the world’s greatest of these establishments, each of which curates breathtaking works that people of various ages and lifestyles can appreciate. This fall, take a virtual tour of or a trip to one of these seven storied landmarks.
The Met is consistently ranked among the top museums in the world. In the 150-plus years since it first opened on the perimeter of Central Park, it has amassed an enormous collection of over two million objects spanning 5,000 years of art and history. Here you will find famous Egyptian artifacts, treasured artwork like Washington Crossing the Delaware, and the Costume Institute’s attire collection, which chronicles the evolution of fashion since the fifteenth century. If you visit this fall, make time for exhibits like paintings by the Dutch masters and artifacts marking the birth of human civilization in Africa.
This southern destination famous for its creole cuisine and boisterous street parties also hosts one of the nation’s greatest historical institutions: the National WWII Museum. Its austere structures contain numerous exhibits documenting the countless sacrifices, clashes, and brave strategies that changed the course of history. Sit back and watch Beyond All Boundaries, a 4D film journey through various WWII events, then stroll the galleries dedicated to the Eastern, Western, and home-front theaters of the conflict. While there are other locales that chronicle the war, this New Orleans institution preserves artifacts that express unique stories, offering profiles of specific fallen soldiers and their spirited contributions to the Allied efforts.
This magnificent campus of twenty-one museums and a zoo offers much to admire, making it a favorite for students and erudite adults alike. While the central Smithsonian Castle is currently closed for renovations, its iconic red structure dating back to 1855 remains an excellent starting point for exploring these extensive grounds, which span from the Washington Monument all the way to the US Capitol Building. Science enthusiasts will love the famed National Air and Space Museum, and the Smithsonian’s latest addition, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, is an architectural wonder that hosts a heartening collection of cultural artifacts.
One of the newest additions to the legion of great American museums, this quirky and downright bizarre gallery by arts and entertainment company Meow Wolf is a thought-provoking landmark in Sin City. Grab a shopping cart, and stroll the aisles of Omega Mart, an exhibition featuring wall-to-wall installations that represent an outrageous, alien-like American supermarket. This collaboration between local and international artists is enjoyable for all ages as a sheer immersive experience, but its odd lanes and inventory conceal a compelling story for those who choose to seek out its clues. Meow Wolf also has sites in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Denver, Colorado, and Grapevine, Texas—each of which deserves a visit.
For those who find museum visits too stodgy for their liking, there’s a Midwest institution dedicated to the thrill of all things music. Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame features world-class music exhibits and preserves a fascinating timeline of this art form’s developments. It even periodically stages live performances by legendary voices. But the museum isn’t solely devoted to toe-tapping entertainment. Rock-and-roll history has often aligned with—and even influenced—the tenor of our nation’s culture and politics, so to explore the museum’s exhibits is to develop a greater understanding of the American people. If you visit this fall, check out the Signature Gallery, which celebrates Hall of Fame inductees throughout the years, and a special exhibit dedicated to the Beatles’ creative journey.
If the name Getty instantly brings to mind stock photographs displayed across the internet, then you’re at least partly familiar with the Getty estate’s astonishing legacy. High in the hills above Los Angeles sits another of its cultural touchstones: the J. Paul Getty Center. This campus features art and cultural artifacts ranging from the Middle Ages to modern day—including works by names like Van Gogh and Monet—alongside structures that perfectly represent fine postmodern architecture. For the best experience, reserve separate guided tours of the museum’s collections and intricately landscaped grounds. Admission is free, so be sure to pay a visit this fall to catch temporary exhibits of graphic design in the Middle Ages, photography by Venezuelan artist Alfredo Boulton, and other amazing acquisitions.
This world-renowned institution holds such famous masterpieces that even the casually interested would likely recognize them. Here you’ll find Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Hokusai’s Under the Wave off Kanagawa, and Wood’s American Gothic as well as works by names like O’Keeffe, Rivera, Matisse, and Picasso. The museum hosts a jaw-dropping 300,000 pieces of art from around the world, but its convenient map of “What to See in an Hour” makes it easy to find the most revered works throughout the campus. Should the tour awaken your creative side, stop by the museum’s Ryan Learning Center to participate in a hands-on art-making experience with your loved ones.