The Most Beautiful Color

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Clear, amber, and warm.

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Bayou Bend, Houston Texas

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Bayou Bend
So before I tell you about my Houston day, let me just say I did my day in Houston all wrong.  And I hope very much to have an opportunity for a Houston Do-Over day in the near future.  That being said, I did have a good adventure, met some cool people, looked at some pretty stuff, and managed to find a killer good burger.Houston was more of a layover than a destination on this trip.  No matter how I played around with the flight schedule I kept ending up with a really super long layover either in San Fransisco or Houston.  So I weighed my options and decided to make the layover into a stop off and spend a day exploring the City of Houston since I had never been there.My first mistake was in underestimating how flat-out HUGE that Houston is.  I found a hotel near to the airport and figured I could catch a cab/train/bus etc… into the City Center to do some exploring by foot.  This was not the greatest decision, but did strongly contribute to most of my ridiculous situations.I found a nice hotel near the airport and sprung for a Deluxe King room and I have to tell you being one person on a king size bed feels simply decadent.  Especially if you are short.  The staff at the hotel was really nice & helpful.  They had this sweet interactive map in the lobby that showed exactly how far away from downtown Houston we really were.  The surprise on the girls face when I said where I wanted to go should have been my first clue that this was a poorly executed adventure… but off I went anyhow.

My cab driver was a French Texan who wanted to talk family, food & travel.  In the 45 minutes it took to go from my hotel into Houston I got to learn about his immigration to Texas, his wife, his family, his kids, their education, jobs, and all about how he felt about Houston, Texas, and America in general.  Let me tell you, it was equally enlightening and hysterical.

My destination in Houston was Bayou Bend, a historic house, museum & garden featuring the private collection of the Hogg family.  My driver dropped me off at the main gate of the museum and left me with his business card for if/when I decided I wanted to get home by cab.  The visitors center was a very modern building with a lot of information about the history of the Hogg family and details of their philanthropic activities.  I would have spent more time at the center but the nice lady who worked there pointed out we were nearing the last call for admissions into the house and my time would be better spent there.

Traveling alone does give you opportunities to strike up conversations with some interesting people.  While at the house I ended up being accompanied by one of the volunteer guards who knew a lot of extra information about the house, family, work done at the house, and pieces of art in the house itself.  He was a really great source of information and added personality to the place.  I’m glad I got a chance to meet him, but I am sorry I didn’t think to go back & ask to take his picture.

Photography is not allowed in the main house, however the grounds were open to photographers.  I spent a few hours wandering around the gardens and just generally enjoying the beautiful setting and various vantage points of the house itself.

I finally decided to head out of the gardens towards what I hoped was downtown Houston, but wasn’t.  Instead I went east on Memorial Drive and ended up in the middle of Memorial Park.

Like Houston, Memorial Park looks manageable from various online map sources.  However, when you begin by underestimating how big Houston is to start with… you will be royally lost in the park itself.  My second bad decision was choosing to continue walking along Memorial Drive instead of turning north on Memorial Loop.  In all fairness I did not know that section of Memorial Loop runs smack into the Golf Course and restaurant in about half a mile or less.  However, I kept walking in hopes I would find either some directions, a map, a parking lot, a restaurant or a way out of the park.  What complicated the matter was the fact I had not thought to pack a granola bar or anything to drink.  So I found myself getting lost in a giant, hot, dry, dusty, “park”, surrounded by a bunch of people who were at the park to seriously work out.  I finally did get some semi-helpful directions from a runner who said the parking lot & entrance was “just around the corner”…. which it was… however after consulting a map (when I got back to the hotel because that’s where I left it…. obviously) the point where I asked for directions to the corner she was talking about was about a mile away.   Which was not as close as her “around the corner” led me to believe.  By the time I made it to the Tennis club, they were closing up and the vending machines were inside locked portions of the building.  I consulted with another nice sweaty person who offered to drop me off at the gas station outside the park but also pointed out my other option would be to keep going to the Golf Course in hopes the grill would still be open.As I rounded yet another ridiculously long curve I caught sight of the back of the Clubhouse… I could smell exhaust from the restaurant.  It smelt like burger drippings and hot dogs… I kid you not… it was heavenly.  As I walked thru the parking lot which was packed full of BMW’s, Audi’s, Land Rovers, and various other super nice cars it dawned on me that this was not your average burger joint.  This was a super classy burger joint attached to a VERY nice Country Club.  And I was a sweaty, pudgy, pasty white, out of shape Oregonian, with a camera.  I was going to be a LITTLE bit conspicuous.You know those scenes in the movie where the stranger walks into the establishment… and everyone turns around and looks at them?  Yeah, that was exactly how it happened.And I am not sure if it really was the best burger I’ve ever eaten… but at that moment it was the best burger I’ve ever eaten.

Ironically two of the women on my trip live in Houston and were both mortified that I spent the day alone wandering around the park.  So the next time I am in Houston I’ll be looking them up for some help seeing more of the Houston that is in the travel guide… and less of the Houston that made me think I was going to have heat stroke.
Moral of this story… go see Bayou Bend, its worth the trip!  Don’t attempt to walk thru Memorial Park.  Do rent a car when traveling in Houston, and for the love of all that is good… CARRY A MAP!
 Bayou Bend Visitor CenterLush lawn & walkway towards the house.
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Bridge walkway access from the parking lot to the house.BayouBend (9 of 90)
Easy to imagine lots of interesting things living in the Bayou below.BayouBend
One of my favorite sculptures from the garden, peaceful & wise.I don’t know what this building was originally, but now it houses the restroom, drinking fountains, lockers & some administration offices.  BayouBend (22 of 90)Side garden entrance to main house.
BayouBend (24 of 90)Another really beautiful flowering tree in the garden.  I love going to gardens where I can’t name the plants, it’s so exciting!BayouBend (28 of 90)
Main fountain & lawn looking toward the house.BayouBend (45 of 90)Small fountain looking towards the house.
BayouBend (54 of 90) Creepy victorious cupid.  BayouBend (61 of 90)
Another shot of the house from the main entrance.BayouBend (69 of 90)
Walkway around the back side of the house & a really beautiful iron verandah.BayouBend (81 of 90)
Each section of garden had some sort of sculpture, all really beautifully done & nicely focused on.BayouBend (87 of 90)
If anyone knows what kind of plant this is, please let me know.  BayouBend (90 of 90)
This last shot is a terrible picture, but shows a section of the pathway around Memorial Park.

What is Beauty?

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A couple days ago I caught the tail end of a Ted Talk NPR program discussing Beauty. What beauty is, if it can be quantified, and if it fulfills a fundamental role in our life or if its simply a surface “perk” of being alive. I had to laugh at a few parts of it. Some of the questions surrounding the topic felt so very much like the “what is IS” sort of questioning. Take the seemingly simple question “What is Beauty?” We are all familiar with the adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think that applies to this question. Beauty is individually perceived and because of that is remains a deeply personal sense. To me the blue of my post-it notes is pretty & attractive, that’s why I bought them. I think the sun reflecting off my purple glass tea mug is beautiful. I think Bryce Canyon is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been able to visit. I know of a couple scenic spots along the Oregon Coastline that are so beautiful they take my breath away EVERY TIME I visit. And in a more personal vein, are the people who I know and love and are Beautiful to me. So can Beauty be quantified? defined? measured? compared?

It seems to be a part of human nature to try to define and measure things. We have so many options available to us anymore that occasionally we become choosy about Beauty. For example, you can go to a jewelery shop and see HUNDREDS of gems. There’s a scale for gemstones, cut, clarity, etc… But does the comparison shopping take away the individual beauty of each gemstone? I may see a perfect diamond which may meet all the standards of a perfect gemstone… but I may still find a piece of sapphire more beautiful.  I am reacting to it individually despite the fact that, from an analytical standpoint, it is a lower quality stone. And although I may desire the sapphire more so than the diamond, it does not diminish the beauty of the diamond.   Side note, this example me in the jewelery store has much more money than the actual me… who does not generally go gem shopping as a hobby.

Weirdly enough there is something similar for human faces and form. A face that displays certain qualities, angles, and symmetry is commercially considered to be more beautiful than another. And yet despite the fact that your Mother/Sister/Grandmother/Wife/Girlfriend will probably never end up on the cover of People magazine as the year’s Queen of Beauty isn’t hers the face the you would prefer to look at? Another participant in the show ended the radio segment with the questions: is Beauty trying to tell us something? Is it fulfilling a fundamental part of human nature?  I say yes, it absolutely tells us something fundamental about our existence.

We have the ability to see, appreciate, and create beauty all around us.  That is a precious gift we need to be thankful of every day.

 

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Envious of a dead man

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I’m a little more than halfway through Into the Wild.  I started the book fully aware that this is a true story of a boy who died in the woods.  And yet I find myself constantly surprised that this fearless young man is gone.  His personality is so much bigger than his own body could contain, and there are so many hearts broken in the wake of his passing.  A senseless death, and yet the force behind his choices is admirable.  I keep finding myself at odds with my own feelings about this story.  Part of me feels emboldened and envious of his freedom and fearlessness.  But another part of me feels deeply annoyed and irritated with the lack of regard he showed to the people who loved him.  For every person you connect with and who will mourn your passing, don’t you owe them something?  Shouldn’t you make choices that balance the person you are, and the truth you live by with a consideration for the people who live in your world?  No one can own your soul, but if you have laid claim to a heart, it is your duty to care for it gently.Granted, he did not intend to die.  He was in such love with life & being alive, and it seems like he equated backing down from a challenge as a personal failure.  Whether that challenge be his classes at school, or navigating a river.  I can’t say for sure, but just from looking at the choices he made there was a slightly bulletproof air about him.  Such a beautifully intense person who drew his own lines and conclusions but lived and eventually died too soon with the choices he made.

And at this very moment, after reading more about the kind of person Chris was… I think he would be mortified that his story bears the “Now a Major Motion Picture” stamp across its cover.  It feels like a betrayal.  I honestly can’t picture him penning, let alone publishing, his memoirs if he had made it out alive.  And yet I am thankful for the book that shares his story.

I think it is that conflict that we can relate to.  Life is complicated and messy.  It takes time to realize what relationships influences us, why, and to what degree they should both positively and negatively.

Missy T Graduation Photos

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A few weeks back I got to go do photos of Missy T for her graduation.  She is an incredibly talented young woman and I am so happy to call her a friend.  So my goal for our photo dates was to just be her annoying friend with a camera and get some shots that show the beautiful girl I know.

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Far flung places

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It has been a while since I did something REALLY out of my comfort zone, and even longer since I went on a trip that I just WANTED to do!  So last December when Groupon put out an offer for a Mexican Home Cooking School in Tlaxcala, Mexico I thought about it for about a week, consulted a couple of friends, and then signed myself up for the deal.

Well last Saturday night I returned to Oregon from my week-long adventure in Mexico.  I’m still searching for the right words to sum up my trip.  I learned a lot about hospitality, communication, and of course cooking!

In the next few weeks I plan to try various recipes from the trip and report back on my success or failures as I try to recreate the food of Central Mexico in my Pacific Northwest kitchen.   For today though I am starting out slow with Ensalada de Nopales, Frijoles Negros, and maybe some Salsa.

Yes I know you can buy them in a jar… but where is the fun in that?

Signs of a good day off

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1) You kind of forget it was a Wednesday cause it feels so much like Saturday

2) You get to spend most of it with friends & family

3) You’ve completely destroyed your kitchen

4) The majority of the day was spent without shoes or socks on

5) You successfully tried out a new recipe of which NONE came home with you! 

 

So according to my standards… yesterday was a GOOD DAY OFF!!!

And here is the beautiful recipe that was inhaled by my friends… and myself too truth be told.

Chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting from Kimberly Taylor at Blackberry Farm

Gillian & Lemon Powderd Sugar

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Gillian Welch & David Rawlings rocked the McDonald Theatre tonight.  Perfect harmony & clever lyrics.  Whats not to love!

Here’s one of the better YouTube vids I found of her singing Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor.

We followed up the show with doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts on the corner of Broadway & Willamette.  The perfect thing to give you a little sugar buzz for the drive home.  Went for the Lemon Powdered Sugar for myself, but accidentally had a few bites of the Mango Tango one my Mom bought.  Both were quite delicious.