30 March 2017

No. 90: Twelve New Restaurants for 2017

No. 90: Twelve New Restaurants for 2017
Here's No. 2 for the Year  (Yikes! I'm already behind.)

Last weekend would have been my parent's 68th wedding anniversary. Sadly dad didn't quite make it to celebrate. But I felt the day needed commemorating so mom and I went to dinner.

I was looking for someplace quiet since mom's hearing isn't the best. That's hard to find in a restaurant these days.

We ended up at a small local restaurant called Off the Vine Bistro in Missouri City.  Tucked away in the corner of a tiny strip center, this little bistro was a delight.   While the decor was a little plain, the food and service was excellent.

I did snap this pic the next day. 
Very tucked away- we almost didn't find it.

I was so enjoying the evening out with mom that I forgot to take any pictures. I wish I had gotten one of the two of us. Guess we will just have to do it again....

Anyway,  the food was super fresh and yummy. I had a sampler of bacon wrapped dates (my favorite), bacon wrapped shrimp (amazingly fresh) and spiced meatballs served up with a side salad of some of the freshest greens around.

The interior- plain but friendly.

Mom had a turkey, bacon, cranberry relish sandwich and some home made chips. I didn't taste her sandwich but some of her chips certainly migrated onto my plate. Not sure how it happened. And they were good.

A sandwich pic stolen from their website.
Look at that yummy salad of greens. 

Dessert was a rosy lemon cake which was so-so...the only near miss of the night.

They also have an extensive wine selection and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights they have live music out on the patio.

We both 100% enjoyed our meal and mom even mentioned going back this weekend when she will be treated to a birthday lunch by my nieces. (I may have to join them.)

Ten more restaurants to go this year!!

28 March 2017

Springing forward...

Spring has Sprung....

It's Spring. Certainly it is in Texas. And we are hurtling towards Summer. The heat will be here before we know it and how will I manage? Haven't spent a full summer in Texas in a few years. Not sure I will be able to do it.

Anyway. Spring.

Three ways I know it is Spring for sure- at least in these parts- are bluebonnets, the rodeo and allergies.

I know the bluebonnets are in bloom by the adorable photos my nieces post on Facebook of their children plopped in a field of snakes bugs mice flowers.  Also we have a few little patches of blue flowers in our neighborhood.  I never got pics of my kids sitting amongst the bluebonnets (an act that surely brands me as a failed Texas mother) but I have gotten the dogs.
Proof that it is spring in Texas: My child in a field (patch) of bluebonnets.

 Carlos could not understand why I wanted him to sit and stay. 

So grateful to the neighbors for keeping their little bluebonnet patches. 

And here is the last dog, the amazing Jake, also posing in a field (patch) of blue.  Can't even tell he only has three legs at this point.

 Look at that sweet face. 
He had survived bone cancer and his leg being amputated 
by about 8 months at this point. Four months later he was gone. 

Good dog, Jake. 

Aren't they cute?

My allergies are also blooming. Ugh. Every Spring. And Fall.
In spite of 4 years of allergy shots, my sinuses still notice the change of seasons.
I am medicating myself daily with at least one of the available disagreeable options.
Nasacort, which clears up my sinuses and doesn't put me to sleep, apparently causes glaucoma.
Benadryl and Claritin-D both work wonderfully, but it seems they are going to give me dementia.

Talk about the lesser of two (three) evils.
Do I not breathe, not see or not think?
I'm going to have to go with my girls' attitude on this. By the time I develop whatever symptoms I end up developing, hopefully science will have a cure.
(I used to get this rationale from those girls every time I insisted on sunscreen. I gave up threatening cancer and instead threatened spotted skin like their sunbathing mother and now both of them are regular and diligent sunscreen users. It pays to know your children's weaknesses.)

And the last true sign Spring has sprung in Texas is rodeo.  Every March for almost 3 weeks, the city of Houston does rodeo. And they do it big time. Or is that bigly?

This was an amazing display.  
Starting with one grandma horse, all of her daughters and their daughters came out one by one
and ran through the arena. 
All bred to be bucking horses. 

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is one of the largest live entertainment and livestock exhibitions in the United States. The musical entertainment runs from rock, Tejano to country. There's mutton busting and bull riding and wagon races. Carnival rides outside have all the wonderful fried foods you could imagine. There's a Wine Garden for the adults and plenty of clubs with live music to entertain the volunteers. 

The beginning of an evening at the Wine Garden. 
Martha and I ran into Allison and her friends. 

And there are TONS of volunteers.  Thirty three thousand volunteers.  One of the benefits of volunteering for the rodeo is that you get to go to any and every show (that you aren't working) for free and bring a friend along. Friend Martha is a volunteer. She has been for 14 years. And this year I benefited from her volunteering not once but twice!  She loves to go to all the shows but her sweet husband travels a lot so she needs company. I am always (almost always) a willing date. 

The wine bottles are adding up and we've added another friend.

Thanks to Martha I saw Chris Stapleton one night and Chris Young another.  We ran into my high school friend Allison and her friends at the Chris Young concert and both nights saw many of her volunteering partners and friends.   

Several bottles in and the nice man at the next table offered to take our pic. 
He also volunteered to photo bomb.
We were all quite happy at this point!

Martha even got me out on the dance floor trying to teach me a line dance before we both realized that was a mistake. I have many talents. Dancing is not one of them. 

Chris Stapleton. An amazing concert. 
He seemed like such a shy performer but his music was beyond...

And Chris Young. 
Sadly the acoustics were off at this performance, but it
was still an amazing night of fun and music.

So YAY for Spring. The rodeo is over. The bluebonnets are almost done. And the allergies? They are probably here to stay. 

07 March 2017

No. 92: Visit the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern +

No. 92: Visit the Buffalo Bayou  Park Cistern plus
A New Restaurant for 2017 (No. 90)

Visiting a decommissioned underwater cistern doesn't really sound like something to look forward to,  but ever since I first read about it a year or so ago, it has been on my list. And that was before it was even open to the public.

The drinking water reservoir was originally built in 1926 to hold water for the City of Houston. Eventually it sprang a leak and was decommissioned in 2007, then slated for demolition.  The Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which has developed the park running along Buffalo Bayou,  realized the significance of the old cistern and stepped in to save it.

Opening to the public in May of 2016, the cistern is accessed through a tunnel and toured by walking the 1/4 mile path built around the interior of the reservoir. There are two skylights which allow light to enter for regular viewing. (This visit the skylights were covered because of an art installation.) Inside the 87,500 square foot space there are 221 evenly spaced 25 foot tall columns that rest in about 6" of water. The little bit of water is left in the reservoir to help protect the concrete structure and it also allows the columns to reflect, making them seem to project into infinity. 

Entering the ramp to the space, the temperature drops a bit and there is that lovely dank smell of water.  The lights go off completely for about 30 seconds to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark.  The longer you are in the space, the more acclimated your eyes get.   

Upon entry, they give you a minute to let your eyes adjust to the dark.

In partnership with the Houston Museum of Fine Art the cistern is currently exhibiting an audio visual feast, Rain by Magdalena Fernández.  The almost two minute light show is accompanied by the sounds of a thunderstorm. Bars of light are projected onto the columns, building with the storm until there is simultaneous flash of light and thunder . A Slovenian a cappella group created the thunderstorm sounds by snapping fingers, stomping their heels, and slapping their hands against their legs. The damp earthy smell of the cistern adds to the effect of a summer storm. The show repeated as the tour guide walked us around the structure, occasionally stopping so we could take pictures without bumping into each other in the dark.  As we travelled around the perimeter, I was able to see more of the light show as my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the space. 

The beginning of the exhibition, lights slowly coming up.

And it was amazing. I was silently clapping with each crash of thunder. So worth the trip.  
I can't wait to go back when the exhibit is gone so I can experience the cistern on its own. I'm sure it will be just as fascinating, albeit a bit quieter. 

Thunder and lightning!
O my!

After the tour, it was lunch time. The Kitchen at the Dunlavy had been recommended for lunch and it did not disappoint. 

There was a little wait- 
here we are outside in line!

Also in the Buffalo Bayou Park but a bit of a distance from the cistern, we drove rather than taking one of the many trails. Martha was once again my companion for this adventure because she is always game to try something new, bless her heart. I had the most scrumptious turkey and brie sandwich while Martha tried the chicken BLT. (We both agreed my sandwich was the better value and flavor. Her's was a little sparse.)   

Is this not just the perfect decór? 
Warehouse meets 40s glamour. 
And look at those happy diners!

Tummies full, we walked down to the Waugh Street bridge from the restaurant to listen to the bats twitter.  The path goes under the bridge and you can hear the bat colony rustling around, making sweet little sounds.  I need to go back at dusk to watch them all fly out in search of dinner. Maybe that needs to be added to the list? 

All in all it was a fabulous way to spend a Saturday. The cistern is a quick visit but it does not disappoint and the entire Buffalo Bayou Park is a jewel. Definitely I will go back. Maybe rent bicycles next time? Watch the bats? Who knows? 

Cistern and restaurant visited. Yay. 

(And thanks to Martha for the last three pics. My iPhone was declaring "no more room". Sigh)

01 March 2017

No. 7: Learn Calligraphy and No. 77: Continuing Education

No. 7: Learn Calligraphy and No. 77: Continuing Education- take a class.

Isn't that convenient when I get a two-fer? Twice now!

If you remember I TRIED Calligraphy while I was in Colorado. Bought some books, ordered a nib, tried to teach myself.

Major fail.

Ooo. Looking at this I see YUUUGE problems. 
Going about it all wrong. 

I quickly realized it was a sure-fire way to learn some bad habits.  The pens and ink went into a basket where they stay until this day.

And then I asked a friend who does beautiful calligraphy "Who taught you?".     She was quick to answer with a name and place.

Pat Leith on W. Alabama in Houston. Close enough for me to take some lessons.  And bless her heart: lessons are private and work at your own pace. It can take ten hours or 20 to learn, she doesn't care. When you have it down, you are done.

I have had one lesson.  I learned the "straight" letters. Next up: the "kinky" ones. She certainly makes learning to letter interesting!

See how much more consistent these are? 
That's what happens when someone is monitoring what you are doing. 

The most important thing from my first lesson? You are drawing the letter, not writing it.  You learn to make shapes which join together to make letters, you don't learn how to write a specific letter. I did pretty well as long as I thought about it as a shape. Once I got to thinking "this is a "U" instead of "two halves of a paperclip", my lettering fell apart.

I've still got a long way to go but this time, I am headed in the right direction.