Obsessed With Travel – The Beginning

4 Jun

Maybe it’s withdrawal from wedding planning. Or perhaps a way to avoid planning for babies (I am newly married – don’t want babies yet!). Whatever the reason, I’ve become preoccupied with planning as many vacations and trips as possible. So far we’ve got 8 separate itineraries set up; some as short as one overnight stay in a nearby city for a wedding, all the way up to a two week trip to Europe.

It all started when I realized that I had built up an impressive (for me) number of points in my United MileagePlus account. I signed up for the United Mileage Plus card on a whim after the wedding last November. My husband has one, and he likes it. I received a targeted offer for 50,000 bonus miles, plus 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user. I’ve been using that card for pretty much everything, including final wedding expenses, automatic payments, and regular monthly spending. I even gave one couple a United gift card as a wedding gift (don’t worry, they registered for it!) With purchases at United garnering x2 points, I’ve been booking all my travel with the card as well.

The other thing that happened is I took a trip for work in November, and I learned that I had something to gain from hotel loyalty programs. I don’t travel for work very often; maybe once a year at most. This was an awesome trip – a conference at the Gaylord in National Harbor, Maryland (just south of DC). The conference was Monday to Wednesday, so Andrew and I went together Saturday morning. We packed four Smithsonian museums into Saturday afternoon and Sunday all day.

We also had drinks at [Smith Commons](http://www.smithcommonsdc.com/) (good drinks, friendly bartender) and dinner at [Granville Moore’s](http://granvillemoores.com/) (Belgian, mussels and frites, delicious, looooong wait.)

We stayed in the [Marriott Crystal City at Reagan National Airport](lhttp://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wascc-crystal-city-marriott-at-reagan-national-airport/) on Saturday night, which was great for taking the Metro from the airport (one or two stops) to literally drop our bags, then to catch it again to head for the Mall. I chose this property for the price and proximity to the subway, airport, and the Gaylord. The next morning, we packed up early, then took a cab to the [Gaylord](http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wasgn-gaylord-national-resort-and-convention-center/). They were fantastic, and allowed us an early check-in so we could again toss our luggage and head back out to museums. One disappointment – the next shuttle into town was at noon, so we had to cool our heels a bit. Sidenote – there are several restaurants in the Gaylord, but we particularly enjoyed the sports bar! We sat at the bar and ate dinner, then found a quiet corner with a golf screen simulator. Normally, they charge to use it, but we were able to play for free. Fun! I am moderately bad on the green and terrible in the simulator, Andrew is great on both!

After returning home from my trip, I received an email from the Gaylord touting the Marriott Rewards program. I hadn’t really thought about how the Gaylord was owned by Marriott. When I looked into the program, I realized that with the Saturday night stay plus the 3 nights at the Gaylord I could earn significant points. Even better, Marriott Rewards has an [airline miles program](http://www.marriott.com/rewards/earn-points/miles.mi) where you can earn miles rather than accrue points. For someone like me who is trying to collect as many miles as possible and doesn’t care about earning hotel points, this is awesome! I earned double miles on each dollar spent for a total of 1,961 miles. For my IAH-DCA, DCA-IAH flights, I earned 2,416 miles. If only I’d had the United card already, I could have really racked them up!

beginning MileagePlus balance: 29,362

MileagePlus balance 12/2/12: 33,739
– doesn’t include United MileagePlus credit card bonus or spending

MileagePlus balance 12/31/12:

Airline Activity: 1,091 (IAH-CLE)
Non Airline Activity: 53,423 (CC bonus 50k + $3,423 spend)
Ending Balance: 88,253

Honestly, this miles and points race reminds me of playing a video game. We manipulate our spending and our travel patterns to earn points, which can be redeemed in creative but restricted ways. I bet there are fascinating graduate dissertations on that topic.

There are so many interesting companies and blogs in this “travel game” world – and I’m a total novice. Here’s to learning how to play the game!

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Have You Heard of Warby Parker?

27 Jul

Buying glasses has always been one of those things that I’ve never understood why it was so painful and expensive.  I mean, yes, I want to look good, but due to my seriously poor eyesight, I’ve been stuck behind some coke bottle lenses that make my eyes look like pinholes.  So why do we feel like we have to spend hundreds of dollars for nice glasses?  Or maybe I’m just making excuses – it has been about 10 years since I bought new glasses.  I was a college student when I bought my last pair!  And they are terrible – way too strong for me, with a slightly cracked lens, and a bit crooked from 10 years of hard living.

My friend Katie told me about Warby Parker.  Y’all.  Seriously, this is one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever seen.  And the execution is FANTASTIC.  From their website:

A collaboration between four close friends, Warby Parker was conceived as an alternative to the overpriced and bland eyewear available today. Prescription eyewear simply should not cost $300+. The industry is controlled by a few large companies that have kept prices artificially high, reaping huge profits from consumers who have no other options. By circumventing traditional channels and engaging with our customers directly through our website, Warby Parker is able to provide higher-quality, better looking prescription eyewear for under $100.

We meticulously crafted our first collection of 27 limited run styles, plus one monocle, using only the finest custom acetates and materials. The Warby Parker aesthetic is vintage-inspired, with a fashion forward twist – and every pair is custom fit with anti-reflective, polycarbonate prescription lenses.

Available exclusively through the Warby Parker website, our glasses retail for $95.

So basically, they provide high-quality glasses with anti-reflective, polycarbonate prescription lenses for $95.  That is amazing!  Granted, the styles tend towards the thick rim, hipster-looking glasses that are popular right now, but I was planning to get thicker rims anyway.  But that’s not the only thing I love about this company.  In addition to having a “virtual try-on tool” where you upload your picture and can position the glasses onto your face, there is a Home Try-On Program.  You pick 5 styles to have sent to your house, try them on, and return them within 5 days.  For free.  No shipping fees, free return shipping, no obligation to buy.  FREE.

So, friends, I have taken advantage of the Home Try-On Program, and I ordered 5 pairs that seemed to fit my face shape.  (The website is really helpful about figuring out fit.)  I placed my order on Saturday, and I’ve been practically waiting by the front door for the UPS man to come!  And they came today!

I just love opening packages!  Isn’t the presentation amazing?  The box is so nice, it looks like no one’s used it before, but it’s not disposable.  So the styles I picked to try on are the Thatcher, the Miles, the Finn, the Zagg, and the Colton.  All the styles came in several colors, so I picked a random assortment of colors so I could see them in person.  So.  I am not a photogenic person.  To say the least.  However, I need to see what I really look like in them, and I would love to hear if anybody has any opinions.  So here are some pictures of me wearing the frames.  (Note: WP points out that the glass in the frames can look tinted, but the prescription polycarbonate will not have that problem.)

Thatcher - in Whiskey Tortoise

Miles - in Amber

Finn - in Sandalwood Matte

Zagg - in Striped Chestnut

Colton - in Whiskey Tortoise

So does anyone have any opinions?  Anyone want to vote for one particular frame style or color?  (If you vote for Thatcher, then I will know you are not really my friend.  UGH.)  I have two favorites that I’m trying to decide between.

So now I just send the package back to Warby Parker.  They provided a UPS return label, so I just packed the box back into the original packaging, and I send it right back.  I can order the glasses I want at any time, and all I need is my prescription.  I’m sure you are wondering: don’t they have to measure you the way the optometrist would?  Well, they do.  The measurement they need is the pupillary distance (PD) and it should already be on your prescription.  If not, you can call your optometrist and ask if they have it on file.  If not, perhaps they will measure you for free.  And if they charge you a fee to do the measurement, send the receipt in to Warby Parker, AND THEY WILL DEDUCT IT FROM YOUR TOTAL.  Fantastic customer service.

One more thing that is so awesome about this company:

I love this company!

Visit the website: www.warbyparker.com

Wedding No. 2: Boca Grande, Florida

24 Jul

Andrew pulled off the most amazing proposal on the small island of Gasparilla, in a town called Boca Grande.  His family has been going to Boca Grande for vacation for four generations, so it’s a special and meaningful place.  Not to mention that it’s gorgeous, and I for one would love to get married in a gorgeous, meaningful, special place.

Boca Grande Beach Club

The major player on Boca Grande is the Gasparilla Inn & Club.  It’s a gorgeous, “old Florida” style inn, surrounded by quaint, cozy cottages and a pristine golf course.  There are several places to get married at the Inn, including the golf course, the croquet lawn, in the main dining room, and at the Beach Club, located a couple of blocks away at the shore.  We got engaged on the beach right next to the Beach Club.  It has cheerful yellow umbrellas, panoramic views of the Gulf, and delicious rum drinks with fruit garnishes.  Fun place for a wedding, right?

Gasparilla Inn

I contacted Sharon, the Catering Manager at the Inn, and she helpfully provided me with a price list.  I won’t share their prices on here since they do not list them publically, especially as they are the nicest people and I don’t want to make them mad.  But I will tell you that the Beach Club is has a fee that is equal to about one fifth of the total budget we had originally discussed, and then a food and beverage minimum that is double that.  So all together, that would have taken up about 60% our total budget.  Doable.  With service charge and tax, it would be more like 73% of the budget.  We didn’t need those decorations anyway.

The key would be to keep the food and beverage total as close to the minimum as possible.  The Gasparilla Inn has a wide selection of buffet and seated menus available, as well as canapes, action stations, etc.  They also offer bar service by the hour, key for our particular guests, who have been known to consume remarkable quantities of alcohol.

I calculated that with the following basic inclusions: a canape buffet including coconut shrimp, salmon tartare, among other delicious offerings, barbecue buffet dinner with brisket, snapper, pulled pork and fried chicken and tons of fancy comfort food sides, and a full bar; we could have a wedding with 70 people.  Wow, I thought, we could actually pull this off!  If I don’t put any money into decor, my dress, invitations and other printing, any extras, we could have a fairly large wedding at a luxury location with our very average budget.

We started putting our list together.  We each put our own family and friends down separately, with a third list for mutual friends.  We got to 275.  And that was being conservative!  Even if each of us only invited 40 people (with the assumption that 5 from each list would not come) we would only be able to invite our immediate families, grandparents, close aunts, uncles and cousins, and NO FRIENDS.  I just couldn’t imagine getting married in this paradise with not even one of my friends there!  And I couldn’t not invite the family that is closest to me.

So we had to give up the Boca Grande dream wedding.  I had gotten attached too!

Want to see some gorgeous pictures from a bride who got to have her dream wedding at the Gasparilla Inn & Club?  Check them out on the Style Me Pretty blog!

Wait, no, this one might be my favorite!  This wedding looks so FUN.  The bride grew up vacationing in BG too, so you know she is totally taking advantage of how fun and laid back and special it is there.  I am so freaking jealous.

Wedding No. 1: Scotland

20 Jul

Technically, I did not plan this wedding after we got engaged.  Scotland is a dream vacation for both Andrew and me (though he’s already been), so when it was clear that we were on the path to marriage, we fantasized about a small, family wedding in Scotland.

NOT this:

No offense if this is your dress

No offense if this is your dress...

We were thinking a touch more restrained.  Scotland is famous for running off to get married.  In the mid 18th century, restrictive English matrimonial law led to the increase of English couples eloping across the Scottish border, where the age of consent was much younger.  Towns along the border, particularly Gretna Green, became the “drive-through wedding chapels” of the day.  Not so romantic, you may think.   The thing is, I love Scotland, and so does Andrew, so why not elope there rather than Vegas?

One thing Scotland has in abundunce: old houses, castles, towers, cottages, farmhouses, and inns.  And it seems like all of them are “for hire” for any kind of event or lodging you would need for a destination wedding.  In fact, you could randomly pick a part of the country, drop your finger on the map, and find at least 3 lovely places to stay for a weekend and get married.

Being practical (obviously, right?  I was planning a wedding thousands of miles from my home when I wasn’t even engaged yet.  The height of practicality!), I chose an area near Edinburgh, which allowed for minimal travel time and maximized our celebration time.   Searching the internet, I found the perfect place to get married in Scotland.

Winton House

Winton House.  It’s gorgeous.  It’s the home of Sir Francis Ogilvy, and sits on 2,000 acres.  It’s only 30 minutes from Edinburgh, so people aren’t traveling for a day to and from the international airport (and wasting all their vacation time in a car or on a train!)  The main house accommodates up to 16 people, and there are two additional places to stay on the property: Wintonhill Farmhouse and Winton Cottage, which hold up to 26 additional people.

GORGEOUS.  Right?  The two small houses are “self-catering”, which is a seemingly technical term in British hospitality jargon for “has its own kitchen”.  Presumably the rooms up at the big house are more like hotel rooms, so probably cost more.  However, I figured out based on their rates, and the time of year I was thinking (August and September), that we could rent both houses for a three day weekend, and have both our immediate families with us.  We could put any overflow and friends and ourselves in some or all of the 8 rooms at the main house, and easily cover those rooms in our budget as well.

You can get married in one of the gorgeous rooms in the main house, or in the garden, and then have a seated dinner and dancing after.  Including airfare, care hire, taxes, gratuities, plus all the stuff you’d need for any wedding – dress, accessories, tuxedos, flowers, invitations (though less 40 probably), and any other more casual events we might provide, I think this wedding could have been pulled off for less than $20,000.  (That being said, I did not get a quote from the Winton House, so possibly their prices are exorbitant.  But based on the rental for the cottage and farmhouse, it doesn’t seem that way.)

Downsides for this wedding?  Probably very few of our friends could have come, and many of our family members.  It would be a lot to ask from our family members who might feel obligated to come, including siblings.  Even if we paid for the lodging for a weekend, they would have to get plane tickets and car rentals, not to mention take vacation days at work.

So.  No Scottish wedding for us.

Planning 5 Weddings

19 Jul

After Andrew proposed, I made some blithe comment about not worrying about our wedding until my sister got married in September, 5 months later.

Clearly I am delusional.

I must have been suffering from temporary insanity, or the kind of total lack of self-knowledge that turns people into hypocrites.  You see, I would like to be the kind of person who is totally calm and clear-headed about wedding planning.  I don’t want to turn into the type of crazy woman who turns a deranged eye to the cameras on “Bridezillas” screaming, “It’s MYYYYYYY DAY!!”  I hate those people.  And I will try to avoid that level of crazy.

The fact remains, however, that I am an event planner by trade, and it would be extremely out-of-character for me to let an exciting event like a wedding go unplanned for nearly HALF a YEAR.  So no cool, calm and collected for me.  I jumped into wedding planning feet-first, ordering books, buying magazines, and reading the internet.

I realized something quickly though.  I have not really been a person who has always known exactly what I want for my wedding.  I could see us getting married in all different venues, times of year, and with all different sizes of wedding.  I realized the hardest part of planning a wedding was picking which wedding to plan.  (Well, and paying for it.)

Andrew was no help!  He says he planned the proposal (and, let’s face it, it was awesome), so I was in charge of the wedding.  I suspected that as time passed, there would be some things that we would all be surprised that Andrew had an opinion on, but until he was faced with a specific choice, he didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted either.

So I’ve planned 5 weddings, one after the other, abandoning each until we finally found the right one.  Not technically planned all the way through, have to go cancel contracts with vendors level of planning.  But you know what I mean, right?

And I could have gone through with each and every one of these weddings, but for one or two missing elements.  Most often, it was striking the right balance of budget to number of people invited.

Let’s say that Andrew and I figured that our budget was $25,000 (not our actual budget, but close to the Knot’s average amount spent on weddings.  And, well, pretty close to our budget too.)  We realized that that would get us a really nice wedding with 30 guests in Scotland to a relaxed party for more that 200 in Texas.  And we couldn’t make up our minds about which we wanted.

So over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share some of the weddings I planned.  Maybe someone else can use the information to actually have one of the weddings of my dreams!

 

Ten on Tuesday: photo edition

17 May

Thank you to Chelsea for hosting, and Molly for the questions!  Go here to play along!
1. Your favorite piece of furniture in your home.

Buffet we got for $175 at Salvation Army

2. Your favorite thing on your wall.

My diploma from the University of Texas at Austin and a photo of my grandmother when she went to UT. And yes, that is a burnt orange wall.

3. Your bed as it looks right now.

Grover posing for you all.

4. Your pantry.

Wordpress won't let me turn pics today. Not that you'd want to really see this mess anyway.

5. Your favorite piece of jewelry.

My first engagement present - from Andrew's grandmother.

6. Your favorite book.

Jane Austen. Particularly Pride and Prejudice.

7. Your most comfortable shirt.

See question 8.
8. Your messiest room.

My most comfortable shirt is in there somewhere.

9. Your house shoes.

My grandma has house shoes. I have bare feet.

10. Yourself.

Ugh wearing glasses today.  There’s a recent one in my post about getting engaged:  Click here.

The Proposal Story

16 May

Happy, happy news to share: Andrew proposed!

To answer the three most common questions:

1. Yes, I was surprised.  I mean, we live together, and we’ve had the grown up conversations that we want to get married one day, so it wasn’t out of the blue.  However, my sister is getting married this fall, so if I thought about it at all, I sort of vaguely imagined it happening after her wedding.  But to be honest, I tried not to think about the actual proposal too much because I wanted to be surprised.

2.  We haven’t picked a date yet.  I’m thinking Fall 2012, as Andrew and I will be paying for most of the wedding ourselves, and that will give us some time to save.  The added bonus is that we won’t be getting married right on the heels of my sister.

3.  How did it he do it?  It was awesome!

At some point in February I think, Andrew asked me if I wanted to go to Florida to visit his grandmother and have a long weekend break.  He made me feel like it was totally my choice; as though he was just wondering if we had time and money to go.  This year we have been saving up in order to go to every wedding and out of town event that we have the desire to attend.  Andrew grew up going to Florida to his grandparents’ house every year, and I feel like if we have an opportunity to go, we should take advantage of it – particularly if we get to see his family.

So I of course said yes, and then promptly put it in the back of my mind.  Not because I wasn’t excited, but because I had one event after another coming up in March and April and I was stressed out.  About two weeks out, Andrew reminded me that we were going to Florida for Easter weekend, and that became the goal, the light at the end of the tunnel.

The final week leading up to Easter weekend, I had four events.  The first was the Smith Announcement on Wednesday, which was planned by others and I just helped out at.   The next was the Silver Tea on Thursday afternoon, one of the three major events I plan for work each year.  I went straight from the Silver Tea to Kiss My Grits, the awesome new event the Young Texans Against Cancer held Thursday evening.  (Check out the link to read the write  up from Jay Ducote at Bite and Booze.  Yummy!)  I am a board member for YTAC, so I chipped in for the event by organizing volunteers and doing some of the printing.  Mostly, though, I thoroughly enjoyed myself while indulging in a bit of overdrinking and undereating.  Which made it very difficult to get moving for the last event of the week, a Day in the District tour on Good Friday.

One nice thing about ending the week with Day in the District is that I wear scrubs all day, so even though I was totally exhausted and dragging through the rigorous and physical schedule of the all day touring, I didn’t have to wear a suit.  Plus, Andrew picked me up from Ben Taub General Hospital and we went straight to the airport, so I was already dressed comfortably for the plane.  Andrew is absolutely adorable, and dresses up to fly, so we were a rather odd couple.  (I have now had to fly twice while wearing scrubs straight from work, and I’ve joked that I hope no one has a heart attack on the plane.  “Doctor, we need your help!”  ” But I’m only an event planner!”  Ha.)

So we made it to Florida, met his parents at the airport and drove on to Boca Grande.  Boca Grande is such a magical, beautiful place.  It’s quiet, relaxing, and there is so much to do without really needing to do anything at all.  It’s a place that means a lot to Andrew, and his whole family.

We got there late on Friday night, so our first real day there was Saturday.  We went out on the boat with Andrew’s parents all day, which was amazing.  AMAZING.  Andrew got to spend quality time with his dad driving the boat, and Andrew’s mom and I did nothing but enjoy ourselves.  Here are some pictures from that day.  I love looking at these and remembering how I had no clue what was going to happen later that evening.  And how every single other person on the boat did!

Lunch at Useppa Island

"Shower With A Friend" - Afternoon drinks at Cabbage Key

View from patio at Cabbage Key

After going out on the boat all day, we made it back to the house just in time for a nap before dinner.  (Still trying to convince Andrew’s family that southern women take naps regularly.  Not for nothing is my family nickname Scarlett.)

I did manage to sleep for about an hour, then got up and dressed for dinner.  Another nice thing about vacationing with Andrew’s family is they tend to eat at home in Florida.  It’s so relaxing to not have to eat out every meal.  So while his dad got the grill going, Andrew mixed drinks, and asked me if I’d like to walk down to the beach.

Andrew is a sneaky guy.  The way he asked, I could have very easily said no.  He totally made it sound like my idea.  But we hadn’t even been to the beach in Boca Grande since we’d been out all day, so of course I wanted to see it.  We took our cocktails and walked a couple of blocks away to the 7th Street beach, where the teenagers on the island have always met up to do teenager-type things, according to Andrew.  So romantic!  We pulled our shoes off and walked out onto the sand.

My first clue that this wasn’t just a walk on the beach was when Andrew, with a frustrated expression, looked up and down the beach muttering, “Why are there so many people on the beach?”  There were maybe, maybe, three families in either direction.  I started teasing him for being a snob.

We started walking towards the beach club, and it was nearing sunset, so it was gorgeous and perfect.  Andrew was saying all these very nice things (which, lucky me, is not unusual), and I was being my usual smart ass, when all of the sudden he hugged me and then knelt down in the sand.  He pulled out a ring and asked me to marry him.  I totally started laughing, and said something like, “Oh, that’s what we are doing!” and “We have cocktails!” and finally, “Yes! Of course!”

The best part about it was that neither of us brought phones or a camera or anything.  Not one of the three families on the beach noticed what we were doing.  It truly was a moment where only the two of us were present.  We sat on the wall next to the beach club, and watched the sunset while I laughed and made Andrew tell me every little detail about how he’d done it.  (Like, how did you know my ring size?  How did you make this all seem like this was my idea?  Who else was in on it???)

The beach

After the sun set, we walked back to the house.  Honestly, that was the first time I really became emotional.  It was finally sinking in, and Andrew told me that both his and my parents knew, but that we were going to be breaking the news to his grandmother.  I don’t know why, but that’s what finally made me start crying!

So when we walked up to the house, it was all hugs and cheering.  After thanking everyone (especially Andrew’s mom, who had helped him get the ring, wore it through security and on the plane, and had been dying all day waiting for him to get it over with), I went downstairs to start calling family.  Of course I called my parents first, and my mom answered after a .00003 second ring with, “Where have you been??”  Apparently, Andrew had paid them a visit right before we left to get their blessing, and told them that he would be proposing at sunset on Saturday night, weather permitting.  My parents totally pulled up the sunset and weather information for Boca Grande on the computer, and spent Saturday evening refreshing it over and over.   The visual of that still makes me laugh out loud!

I called only family that evening, so that Andrew and I could enjoy dinner kind of normally, but the phone kept ringing with well-wishers.  After dinner, Andrew and I went to the Pink Elephant on our first date as an engaged couple.  That’s where we started trying to refer to each other as “fiance” and “fiancee”, which still trips me up.

About the ring…I’m sure every girl says this about her engagement ring, so forgive me for gushing a little.  The ring is gorgeous.  I couldn’t have picked out a ring for myself, knowing that I would be wearing it forever and ever, so I was more than happy to drop that one in Andrew’s lap.  His mom helped him last November (! I can’t believe he kept all this a secret so long!) by giving him some diamonds she had inherited from family.  I love that.  They brought them to a jeweler, who created a beautiful custom ring to fit, and added some more diamonds to make it extra glittery.  It’s impossible to see in pictures, but it has an Art Deco feel to it, with a very modern, ziggurat-motif in profile.  I will post a picture, but it doesn’t do it justice.  Andrew did an amazing job, so much better than I could have.

notice how I picked the picture with the *bling*? haha

So that’s the story.  I think I answered all the questions people had, but let me know if I missed one!  Here are some other pictures from the weekend.  Enjoy!

Andrew's happy when he drives a boat

Island picnic on Easter. We are trying to practice the "engaged couple" pose.

Heaven is under a yellow striped umbrella.

Sunset at Cabbage Key

As you can probably imagine, it was so incredibly difficult to come home from this trip.  However, my parents are awesome, and look what greeted us when we pulled up to our house:

“Congratulations on your Engagement Courtness and Andrew” from my amazing parents

I feel so lucky that I will be joining Andrew’s wonderful family, and that he will join mine!  Now if only I didn’t have to plan a wedding…or just one wedding.   But more on that later.

Ten on Tuesday

19 Apr

Yay, today Chelsea’s Ten on Tuesday is a book edition! To answer the questions yourself, go to Chelsea’s blog.

1. When someone asks you for a book recommendation, what is your go-to book?

It depends on the person. I usually recommend authors for particular genres: Bill Bryson for non-fiction/travel/science history, Mary Balogh or Liz Carlyle for historical romance, Ngaio Marsh and Jacqueline Winspear for mystery, and I could go on and on…
2. Do you buy your books, or are you a library patron?

I like libraries, but rarely have time to go to one to find books. Plus, I like the instant gratification of the Kindle store.
3. E-readers, yay or nay?

A whole-hearted YAY. I think of my Kindle as a book that I can never finish reading. Heaven.
4. What was your favorite book as a child?

I loved, loved, loved Nancy Drew books. I still want to be Nancy Drew when I grow up.
5. If you could be any character in a book, who would you be?

Oh wait, I accidentally answered that in the last question! Besides Nancy Drew, I would love to be Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice.
6. What book would you love to see turned into a movie?

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb. It’s futuristic noir. It could be an amazing movie if they didn’t screw it up.
7. What is your all-time favorite book?

Pride and Prejudice, of course.

8. How many books do you read at once?

Usually not more than two, but I read quickly, so I often will finish a book in one sitting without opportunity to pick up a second one.
9. What is your favorite book genre?

Impossible to pick one. My top five are science history, historical romance, fantasy (like Harry Potter, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis), early 20th century murder mysteries, and travel narratives.
10. Which Harry Potter book is the best? Or haven’t you read them at all?

All of them, read right in a row as one gazillion page epic novel!

Houston Bucket List – 2011 update

18 Apr

I have been such a bad blogger!  But I have excuses reasons!  Besides all those many, many reasons, I have accomplished one or two things from my bucket list.  I also want to add a few more items….

(My original Bucket List post is here.)

Things to see and do:

1. Monica Pope’s farmer’s market

2. Rice University football game

3. watch a Dynamo game

4. visit the Holocaust Museum – Done.  I visited on an Agency Visit with the Junior League, so I didn’t get to explore at my own leisure.  I did request to get a community placement there through the Junior League, so hopefully I will be spending a lot more time there.

5. visit the Contemporary Arts Museum

6. visit the Printing History Museum

7. go to the George Ranch (as an adult) – that’s a real, live, working Texas ranch.  Yee-haw!

8. go to Washington-on-the-Brazos

9. see a movie at the Angelika – Dang it.  Should have done it while I could.  The Angelika closed for business not long after I posted this.  BUT a new theater is coming to that space called Sundance, so I will probably go check that out!

10. see a movie at the old River Oaks – Done!  Saw The King’s Speech there.  It was amazing, both the theater and the movie.  The theater has a bar, and you can bring your drinks in with you.  It’s no Alamo Drafthouse, but it’ll do.  Hope to see many more movies there this year.

11. ice skate at the Galleria (as an adult)

12. visit the Cockrell Butterfly Center – Okay, I kind of did this.  During the whole “Corpse Flower” craze at the HMNS, we went in the middle of the night to smell it see it bloom.  The line wound through the butterfly exhibit, but it was dark out, so hard to see any butterflies.  We need to go again to make it count.  I did see the most INCREDIBLE thing there though: a working apiary.  The bees live inside a clear beehive inside the museum, with a tube to the outside so they can gather pollen and nectar or whatever.  It was awesome.  

13. visit the Planetarium

14. see a show at Miller Outdoor Theater – Done!  Saw an Elvis movie.  And part of “Little Shop of Horrors”.  Good times.

15. visit the 1940s Air Terminal Museum

16. visit the Art Car Museum

17. visit Bayou Bend Museum

18. Find Howard Hughes grave at Glenwood Cemetary

19. visit all the old houses at the Heritage Society site in Downtown – Done!  We brought Andrew’s sister when she visited from Boston.  I loved every second of it, she was probably bored to tears.  Oh well.

20. make a retablo for Lawndale’s Day of the Dead event

21. visit the Menil Collection (as an adult) – Done!  Again with Andrew’s poor sister.  She was dragged all over town.

22. visit Rienzi

23. visit the Officer Lucy Dog Park

24. visit the Danny Jackson Dog Park – Done!  We walk there from our house occasionally.  Grover does NOT like other dogs though, so it’s mostly for us humans to enjoy the other dogs.

25. walk all the way around Memorial Park

26. watch the Houston Marathon –  Done!  I am on the board for Young Texans Against Cancer, and we are one of the Run For A Reason charities who benefit from the Marathon.  We got up early on Sunday morning to man a “hoopla station” and cheer our runners on.  So fun!

27. Opera in the Heights

28. stay at the Magnolia

29. visit the Jade Temple

30. visit the Forbidden Gardens – DOUBLE DANG IT. I missed this one too.  Closed forever.  The expansion of Grand Parkway ate into their property and they decided to close instead of operating next to a busy road.  I HATE THE GRAND PARKWAY.  

31. kayak the Buffalo Bayou

32. Arboretum – Done.  We had a staff meeting there.  It was beautiful, and a very different spot for a meeting (in a good way).  Though we did have to ask the funeral next door to turn down the rock and roll so we could hear each other.  I am not making this up.

33. Explore the Downtown tunnel system

34. ride in the Moonlight Ramble

35. hang out and explore Discovery Green

36. Go to an Aurora Picture Show event

Places to eat:

1. Reef

2. Shade

3. Vic and Anthony’s

4. the breakfast klub

5. Kim Son

6. Tiny Boxwoods – Done.  Delicious.  Haven’t been back as I’m never in the mood to fight people for tables.  Although they are opening a second location in the old JMH grocery store by my house, so I will probably walk to that one.  

7. Hobbit Cafe (as an adult)

8. Mark’s

9. Black Lab pub – Done.  Delicious.  Sat outside on a gorgeous day, and drank mimosas.  La.  Andrew ate a piece of salmon fried in a ball of cheese or something.  Possibly his personal heaven.

10. Glass Wall

11. Candelari’s – Done.  Meh.  

12. Ocean Palace dim sum

13. Mucky Duck

14. Daniel Wong’s Kitchen – Done.  This is now our delivery Chinese food.  They have fantastic fried rice.

15. Fogo de Chao

16. Brennan’s  – Done.  Visited during Houston Restaurant Week (Now Restaurant Month, I hear.)  Had the turtle soup, something delicious that I can’t remember, and the bananas foster.  DELICIOUS. 

17. Coco’s Crepes and Coffee

18. Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen – Done.  On the same night that we saw The King’s Speech at the old River Oaks Theater, we ate at Tony Mandola’s.  It turned out to be the last night at the old location, so I was thisclose to missing this one too!  They are reopened in temporary space by Chuy’s on Westheimer, but parking sucks, so no thanks.  Food was good, though.

19. Bar Annie/RDG

20. Himalaya

Why I am a bad blogger. A list of excuses.

16 Sep

I have analyzed the reasons why I am such a bad blogger and left this poor thing neglected and unupdated for months. I have decided to list them here.

1.  April 23: I got a dog.  Not just any dog, but the dog I’ve been wanting for years.  I prefer to rescue animals rather than pay for a puppy, but I wanted a young, male bichon frise – and you generally can’t be that specific when you rescue.  I have said, though, that the right dog would find me.  After a few false starts, a friend who is plugged into the rescue scene emailed about a little white bichon who had been hit by a car (!) and tied to the door of a vet and abandoned (!!) and who only had three more days until they euthanized him (!!!!!)  I called to save his life, only to find that Bichon Frise Rescue had beat me to it.  I signed up for him as soon as possible, and then harassed they poor rescue woman until she relinquished him.  Would you like to see how cute he is?

Grover Cleveland Hurst-Hoyt

I know.  So stinking cute.

2. May 5: Andrew’s birthday.  I planned a party at the Gingerman, which has a sweet, dog-friendly patio.  Andrew grew up blissfully in Ohio not realizing that his birthday is actually Cinco de Mayo, so we have to remind him occasionally with a fiesta.

Can you tell it was a fiesta?

3. May 8: Houston Crawl For Cancer.  Did you know that I am the organizer of the Houston Crawl For Cancer?  This year we had about 1500 people crawling all over Midtown to benefit Harris County Hospital District Foundation and Young Texans Against Cancer.  So much work, but so much fun.

Aren't my friends so good looking?

4. May 14: DBMAT Golf Tournament.  Seriously, this is an important organization; they raise money and awareness to benefit the deaf-blind multi-handicapped and their families.  I will be hitting you all up next year.

We hired models to show off the auction items.

5.  May 31: Memorial Day weekend in Cleveland.  Andrew tries to convince his family he hasn’t gone native in Texas.  They remain skeptical.  (Might have something to do with the cowboy boots he wore to his 10 year high school reunion.)

Also, he wore a Luckenbach shirt the whole time. Not convincing.

6.  June 16: Work trip to Washington D.C.  So wonderful, I’m posting two pictures.

Sackler Gallery

7.  June through next May: Joining the Junior League of Houston.  Best experiences ever.  Takes a lot of time commitment.  Not very many photos yet.

8.  August 27: Nerdy Thirty.  Need I say more?

At least I'm not the only nerd.

9. September 2:  My sweet, adorable nephew was born.  Evidence of sweetness and adorability:

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Other things: a promotion at work, a new charity board, and a diet.  All of these things, and more, conspiring to keep me from blogging!

I am going to try to post once a week.  At least one of the thousands of photos that have been stacking up in my phone.  Maybe.  Don’t hold your breath.