Tag Archives: Houston

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


Sunday Stills (3)

15 Nov

Goode Company Taqueria

Goode Company Taqueria

Goode Company Taqueria

Goode Company Taqueria

Snuggie for Dogs

Lawndale sugar skulls

10 Nov

I moved back to Houston one year ago, and while I am constantly learning new things about this city, some of the best experiences are those that I’m finding again after being away for ten years.

In my junior year of high school, I had a wonderful art history teacher.  Not only did she make a potentially boring topic interesting and fun, she organized a trip to Paris for our class.  For the life of me, I can’t remember her name, but I am scouring my high school yearbooks as I type.  I guess it’s a sad commentary on my memory/brain function it cannot recall the name of a teacher with whom I travelled thousands of miles for a week.

Another wonderful gift my teacher gave me was teaching our class about Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday which honors the memories of family and friends who have passed away.  It’s more a time of reflection and paying respects than the ghoulish and gory Halloween, though the two holidays do share a sense of fun.  She taught us to create skulls from papier mache, taught us the history, brought us the candy skulls and other treats made especially for the holiday, and entered us into a revered Houston tradition – the Lawndale Dia de los Muertos exhibition.


Houston is a city with strong ties across the nearby border with Mexico, as well as an international port that brings us into contact with nearly every country in the world.  It’s not surprising that there are plenty of diverse cultural experiences on offer.  One of the best, and long-lived, is the Lawndale Art Center’s Dia de los Muertos celebration.  This year marks the 22nd anniversary, and featured an open call for retablos (small tin boards which traditionally feature homages to the dead), as well as a subsequent retablo exhibition and auction.

Here are some of my favorite retablos this year:





There are other programs during the two weeks besides the exhibition.  One night I was particularly excited to attend was the Sugar Skull Workshop.  The last day of the exhibit is Family Day, which features candy skull decorating, so they have a workshop the Thursday before to make all the skulls needed.

sugar skull

sugar skull workshop

Interested in making your own sugar skulls?  Here’s how!

Materials Needed: sugar skull molds, 2 rounded teaspoons meringue powder, 2 1/8 cups granulated sugar, paste food coloring, 2+ teaspoons of water, and a small, firm piece of cardboard

1. Mix the meringue powder, sugar, and water in a large bowl.  Best mixed with your hands.  Mix until the texture is that of “moist beach sand”.

2. Pack the moist sugar into the mold.  (Each mold has two pieces, one for the back and one for the front, or “face”.)  Make sure the mold is firmly packed, then scrape the back edge with a straight edge, like a ruler or spatula.  Pack again, and smooth all indentations.

3. Lay the cardboard on the back, then invert the mold to lay flat on a drying platform.  Gently lift the mold away from the sugar skull.  Dry for 8 hours.

4. After the skull is sufficiently dry, gently hold the skull in one hand, while scooping out the back with a spoon, until the skull is about 1/2 inch thick.  (Avoid the neck area, as it is the most fragile part and might break.)  Allow the hollow skulls to dry upside down on the drying platform for an additional 12 hours.

5.  Once the skulls are completely dry, they can be assembled.  Use a simple powdered sugar icing to fuse the two halves of the skull together.  Once the seam has dried, decorate with food coloring, foils, feathers, beads, and whatever you feel like!

Visit Lawndale’s website to check out more of their upcoming exhibits!

Variety Fair 5 and 10

4 Nov
Variety Fair Store Front

Variety Fair 5 & 10, since 1948

My dad’s criminal career began and ended one day in the Rice Village when he was about 11 years old.  He tried to shoplift some candy from the local 5 & 10, when he was caught by the proprietor, Mr. Klinger.  I’m not sure what Mr. Klinger said to my father, but it must have worked.  To my knowledge my dad was shamed and turned away from his life of crime.

Mr. Klinger

Mr. Klinger greets customers in the olden days, while keeping an eye on that kid


What you got in there in your hands, son? Dad resisting temptation.

The old 5 & 10 is still there on Rice Blvd., all 2500 square feet filled to the absolute ceiling with the kookiest wares available for sale anywhere.  In my post about Halloween shopping, I mentioned how we found the PERFECT wig there, and for $12 bucks it was a good deal!

I grew up in the same house that my dad grew up in, and while the neighborhood has changed quite a bit over the past 5 or 6 decades, the 5 and 10 is one little piece of continuity that hangs on amidst all the change.  They’ve stayed pretty constant through the waves of gentrification and economic hard times.  In fact, a shopping trip through the crowded aisles of the shop is like a trip through a pop culture museum.  Every aisle has some artifact of daily life from previous decades.

Need a child’s Halloween costume/pajama combo from 1983?

princess costume

from when children's costumes and pajamas were extra flammable!

Need toiletries even your grandmother finds outdated?

old toiletries

Fels-Naptha soap. The brand name you can trust.

Planning to rob banks, and want a mask of every presidential candidate since 1992 to protect your gang’s identities?

political masks

all sold out of Nader, I see

Did your favorite knitting needle company go under?  Want some AUTHENTIC tie die, from 1973?

tie die

a campaign for the nascent green movement - color recycling!

Anything you can possibly never need nor want.  All in one place.  This is truly a Houston treasure.

vf wares

plastic gavels and wedding rings are in this section, next to the sport ball charms. in case you were wondering.

spinner cap

you know you want this cap.


Andrew browsing. His first 5 & 10 experience left him breathless with excitement (possibly clausterphobia).

cash register

the old register, still in use. where Dad would have paid for his candy, had he not attempted to steal it!

klinger sign

Mr. Klinger is still greeting his customers.

There is a Variety Fair website.  Before you get impressed about how terribly modern that is and congratulate them, you should know that, true to form, it hasn’t been updated since about 1998.  I love this place!

UPDATE:  I’m including this post in the Texas Photo Roundup at Wandering Off!

Election Day in Houston

3 Nov

For the first time since I can remember, maybe since I turned 19, I did not vote today. I apparently never registered to vote in the first place! My only excuse is that I got my new driver’s license last year in Austin, and never really got wrapped up in the mayor’s race, removing the two major reasons I would remember to register.

I tried to get excited about the mayoral election, particularly when my friends and coworkers began talking about the different candidates. Since the election is technically “non-partisan”, it becomes a little bit harder to pick your preferred candidate. Not that that’s a bad thing; on the contrary, I think it’s probably the best situation. It’s so easy to claim to be a member of one political party or another, and end up voting for someone who is pretty much against everything you are for, and vice versa. Party politics is generally about idealogy, while local elections are about how many police officers we have or how well our sewer systems work.

Before I realized that I wouldn’t be voting in this election, I made an attempt to learn about the candidates. I found a quiz on the Fox 26 website purporting to “match” you with the candidate that fits your views best. A candidate matchmaker – riiiight. I don’t think you’d fall in love with any of these candidates:

Question: How would you bring more jobs to the city?

#1 The Socialist Workers campaign puts forth and fights for a massive federally-funded public works program to put millions to work at union-scale wages that can be used to build quality, affordable public housing; schools; public transportation; daycare centers; hospitals, to meet the needs of all working people.

#2 We need to use every tool available to bring more national and international businesses to the city. Houston has all the tools to become the center of the new renewable energy industry. We will pair viable alternative energy ideas with local entities that have the ability to bring those ideas to market and create a forum that allows Houston to showcase new technologies.

#3 Because the downturn in the national and international economy is the biggest problem in retaining and attracting good jobs, I have proposed a Hire Houston First policy that will encourage the city to contract with local businesses that create local jobs. I will offer economic development incentives tied to measurable job creation. Houston is the oil and gas capital of the world, and I will use my 20 years of experience in the energy sector to transform Houston into the renewable energy capital of the world, creating new, good-paying jobs for Houstonians.

#4 To keep Houston’s economy growing and attract new, good-paying jobs to the area we need a to start with clear vision and a commitment to keeping Houston business-friendly. My strategy will help grow existing businesses and attract new companies, top level talent, and new, good-paying jobs to Houston with an Office of Economic Development and Job Creation, tasked with recruiting new business, developing existing companies, and helping start-ups and small businesses thrive.

With the exception of the #1 response (clearly Amanda Ulman, the Socialist Workers Party candidate, who in another answer glowingly referred to Cuba’s response to Hurricane Ike), all of these answers are the boring, pat responses you’d expect from politicians. Admit it – you probably skimmed right over them!

If you voted in the election, I defy you to pick your candidate’s answer from that list. I’ll give anyone who can do it something delicious. Like a Hershey bar.

On an unrelated topic, I got stuck in the horrible traffic omnipresent on Kirby between Plumb and Bissonnet and decided to take some photos. Enjoy.

The Big Easy

The Big Easy and the big condo tower

Annise Parker campaign sign

Annise Parker sign

UPDATE: Looks like there’s going to be a runoff … I think that means I still can’t vote. Don’t you have to have voted in the election to vote in th runoff?

UPDATE II:  Petrelis Files makes a very interesting point.  “To Win, Avoid Gay Inc Help; Houston’s Lesbian Parker Top Vote-Getter?”, noting the loss of Proposition 8 (for gay marriage) in Maine.

Sunday Stills

1 Nov

Houston Freeway at Sunset

Pappas Bar-B-Q

Pappas Bar-B-Q

Pappas Bar-B-Q

Pappas Bar-B-Q

Pappas Bar-B-Q

Pappas Bar-B-Q

Pappas Bar-B-Q

IPappas Bar-B-Q