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(Jane as a child)

Meet Jane Kellogg 

by Jennifer Marine

It's the kind of handbook you wish you could have when you visit a cool city, or first move there and drive around longingly, months after you've moved in. In the beginning, you can just feel it, all the places and people out there you just know you would dig: new friends to make, meals to eat, local haunts you're ready to adopt. But the question is always: how do you find them?

Enter AustindelSur.com -- the anti-Frommers guide to all things South (mostly) Austin.

Using free Web space that came with her Internet access, Jane Kellogg started Austin del Sur in early 2000. Now, with two years firmly south of her belt, the site is lovingly cram-packed with various links and info definitely handy to have in one place, such as media (TV, radio, written word), a few standard tourist-y attractions suitable for visiting relatives (the Wildflower center, the Ice Bats, etc.), and then… the good stuff: restaurants, music, video, art and -- for those casual days when one might strike up a sweaty, summer conversation with a neighbor -- a virtual encyclopedia of Austin and Texas-specific gardening links.

"Austin del Sur is intended to serve as a shrine to South Austin in particular -- now, and as it used to be -- and to some of what makes Austin, in general, unique among cities," Jane says. "Since it was several months before a counter was installed, it will forever remain unknown how many visitors have seen the site. How many site visits are recorded now is always a surprise, and I'm not really sure why Austin del Sur appears so near the top of so many search-engine results. Though I don't expressly solicit correspondence, I receive a considerable amount, most of it from people contemplating a move to Austin, but fairly frequently from those seeking to be listed on it. Austin del Sur is primarily my own browser home page, but it's also a memorial to the fast-disappearing Austin that won my heart. The first Austin house where I lived was built around a living tree and had an upright piano out back that was occasionally played (and well) by unknown visitors in the middle of the night until it mysteriously disappeared. My current Austin dwelling was marketed on the allure of having been a midwives' commune and 'full of good vibes.' Where did that Austin go?"

Here's what Jane had to say to AustinMama:

What two notable people would you like to see handcuffed together for a day?

In truth, I can't think of an answer to this question. So I'm going to answer an unasked question, the one about dinner guests. There would have been a time when all the people from the past would have been of an age to dine together. I'd like to be able to join them and draw on their opinions of, and hear them discuss, events and trends of our age in light of their cosmopolitanism and familiarity with great events and issues of their own times. We'd talk about the world, the United States, Texas, and Austin, not overlooking September 11 and ensuing developments. The Americans are Edith Wharton, Henry James, William Dean Howells, and Frederick Law Olmstead. I'd like to have Anthony Trollope and Charles Dickens join the party as well, since they both traveled in the United States, together with Molly Ivins, Sarah Bird, and Shannon Sedwick (of Esther's Follies). Then we'd have a table of ten, five men and five women, dining in Austin, though I can't visualize where -- maybe Jeffrey's, maybe Luby's, maybe the biergarten at Scholz's, I don't know. Olmstead knew Texas, so I'd be interested in his evaluation of changes in the historic plan of downtown Austin and other developments since he passed through in 1857. Anyhow, I'm sure we'd all have lots to talk about and I only wish it were possible!

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The Countess Galleria / Sarah Higdon

Who inspired you when you were growing up and how?

The grownups in our lives were chiefly relatives and close friends or partners of relatives. They were all great readers and conversationalists, who loved food, music, nature, games, walking, and gardening. Children were always welcome to listen and participate, on adult terms, but because [the adults] loved puzzles and games, they were always looking for solutions, partners, or full tables and enjoyed teaching. We probably played and have forgotten more card games, word games, board games, and elaborate outdoor games than most people have even heard of. Nearly everyone played the piano to some degree, and all enjoyed singing. Since family members in all directions either married late or not at all, and procreated late in life or not at all, cousins were scarce and not likely to be in the same age cohort. Many of the adults were born and grew up in the nineteenth century. I'm just slightly pre-baby-boom but very familiar with hand-pumps, privies, and wood-fueled cooking ranges. Those who were farmers kept their draft teams; when they felled trees, they never used chainsaws. The only indoor workers that were not somewhat looked down on were schoolteachers, which many of them were. They were all great appreciators and enjoyers of life. Because they were perfectionists, they tended to display more affection to children not their own. The universal Christmas present was a book, and the giver was expected to read it before giving it. Books made the rounds of the entire circle and were, in time, read by all. The short answer is that adults in the family circle were most influential and from them I learned to love reading and learning in general, to observe and appreciate my surroundings (the natural world and the works of humankind), to be playful and enjoy life at any age, and to beware the bad side of perfectionism.

You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?

Be bold.

What is the biggest contradiction you see mothers being faced with today?

Advice is abundant; help is scarce.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?

It's a personal one. I believe that determination can conquer a great many adversities, but, though I'm physically bold, I'm temperamentally shy.

What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to all new mothers? To mothers during trying times?

To all new mothers, I would grant a loving and helpful partner in child-rearing, a month's free errand-running and cooking service, six months of weekly visits from a trained and sympathetic advice-giver to answer questions and provide reassurance, and a year's economic respite at taxpayer expense for those wishing to stay at home without worry. To mothers during trying times, I would grant peace in this world and a safe home, good health care, education, and employment for every working family member that provides a living wage that's secure and earned from a job that contributes to the well-being of our society.

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Thanks, Jane!

Discover Fabulous South Austin.  Visit Jane's Austin de Sur!

And check out Jane's Web journal: The Rant-o-Mat.

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Dottie / Sarah Higdon