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.
BayouBend (6 of 90)
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.
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Remember back in November….

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So back in November I went on a really cool trip to Mexico.

Since then I’ve been a little busy.

Which means that until last Thursday I had not even touched any of the pictures I took.  So here are a few of my favorites so far.

Puebla Street Scene

Street scene in Puebla Mexico

Pulque Aguamiel Extraction Expert

Aguamiel extraction specialist at a working Pulque producing hacienda.

Pulque Hacienda Views

Fields of corn & maguey surrounding the hacienda with a backdrop of fantastic scenery.

AKA Speedy G

My friend for the week, his real name was Speedy Gonzales but he had a big dog personality stuffed into a little dog so I re-named him Zander and would have taken him home.

Volcano View

View of the distant volcano out our back yard.

One of many church spires around the area.

Walkway surrounding the entry courtyard on our Hacienda tour. Fantastic arches & cobble stones.

An example of some beautiful iron-work at the Hacienda

Maturing Maguey Plan

The Maguey plant when left to itself will send up a flowering stalk, I wish we had seen one in bloom.

Hacienda Entrance

First entrance into the walled Hacienda. Cobblestones, brickwork, artisan woodworking & maguey plants.

Inside the Pulque Hacienda View

View of the surrounding countryside from inside the walls of the Pulque Hacienda

Barrells of Pulque

Pulque is briefly stored in barrels before being delivered to various eateries & pulque bars. Corked with some sort of cane to help it breathe and not blow up in the barrels.

Scenery en route to Hacienda

Surrounding scenery en route to the Pulque Hacienda. Beautiful countryside.

Streets of Puebla Mexico

I believe this was the view of a street in Puebla from our first day… but it could have been Tlaxcala where we tried to catch the mystery bus.

PS. I fully intend to organize things into a more coherent post.  Maybe by day, maybe by place, maybe by recipe… hard to say.  🙂

New As Illustrated by Orn

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New Illustration (1 of 1)

Hey, whats up?  Whats new?  Isn’t that what you say to friends?  So looking backward at the new things I experienced in 2012 here is what New means to me.  In particular what was new in 2012.

Lots of new music –  A Silent Films & the Band Barcelona were the saving grace to the Blue October Concert my sister and I attended, these two really great bands were brand new to me and I promptly went home and downloaded their albums.  Rebecca Ferguson is my girl crush du jour, an amazing voice that makes me think maybe Aretha Franklin and Macy Grey had a baby who listened to a lot of Tracy Chapman.  I also fell in love with Gotye… and I don’t mean the one pop song that saturated every radiostation… I mean the guy’s whole stinking catalog.  Then watching him perform live at McMenamins Edgefield on the Lawn with a Ruby Red in hand my family around me watching some of the coolest original graphic art work paired with his music sealed the deal.  Oh, and how on earth could I leave out my little Honey Honey Band?  With lyrics to their new song Thin Line “‘Cause I want whiskey when I’m sick, And a man when I’m well, But it’s nice to have them both sometimes, When I feel like raising hell” which resounded in a big way with this lil’ whiskey lovin’ girl.

New Experiences – The biggest of which was the trip to Mexico.  On a whim I signed up for a week-long cooking class deep in Mexico… on my own!  On the way down I spent the day in Houston, which was not long enough to see all Huston… but was enough time for me to get stuck in the barren and scorched patch of dirt they call a park.  I am sorry Texas people… but y’all don’t know what a park is till you’ve been to Oregon.  Parks have green in them, and not just at the golf course.  Mexico was a learning experience every single day, from new cooking skills, to new ways to think about food, to learning history, soaking in the scenery, and meeting new people.  I also got to drink Pulque on a hacienda tour while in Mexico and toured the underground pyramid in Cholula.  Two very uniquely new experiences.

New Four Legged Friends – Looking back on my facebook activity profile I’ve noticed a strong trend towards the dog-centric aspect of my life. From our very long babysitting of Buddy & Holly the Beagle Babies, to mega wrestling matches with Burton & Buddy, loudmouth contests with Haus, to spa weekends with sweet miss Daisy, to a chaotic weekend with Kona, the last year introduced us to lots of new dog-friends and gave my carpet a run for its money.  Saffy and I also completed basic obedience training for the second time with our new teacher Dina of Surf City Dog Training and it made a huge difference.  Next year I hope to do level 2 training with Dina and plan more dog-days where Saffy and I just do things that are fun for her… hikes, swims, beach, dog park visits.

New Skills – Once again my Mexico experience weighs in heavily with beefed up skills in the kitchen including but not limited to: stuffing chiles, making tortillas, de-stickering Nopales pads, and having a better grasp on making Mexican sauces and cooking beans.  I think overall it taught me more about using ingredients I’m familiar with in a completely new way, and that in itself has been very fun.  Also in the culinary department is more experience cooking for friends with dietary restrictions.  And since I already consider cooking for my friends a special way of saying “I Love You”, I now feel I can say it louder by feeding them things that dont give them tummy troubles.  In the studio its hard to say one new skill I learned, but with the help of some new tools my existing skills have improved.  I think my finished jewelery is starting to look like the real thing!  Er… most of the time!  And personally I made it a goal to schedule time with my friends and only missed a couple play-dates due to ill-timed colds & coughs.  It has been really wonderful getting to connect with my friends and to at least let them know I WANT to spend time with them.  Sounds silly, but it became a very important part of my year and a new habit I will try to hang on to.

There were so many other things that were new to Orn-land this last year and I am so happy to look back on my calendars and remember the fun times the travel and all the NEW that filled my hours.  I am already plotting and planning for what New things I can do in 2013!

How about you?  What did you do that was new to you?  Do you have plans to do something new in 2013?