Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Bayou City: A Love Letter to Houston

From the outside looking in, Houston is a tough city to love. As a native Houstonian, I get this… the TERRIBLE traffic, the UNRELENTING heat + humidity that seems to last all year, the inability of my beloved Astros to be relevant… but there really is much to adore. Danimal and I normally head back, on average, five times a year for weddings and holidays. However, this year only twice. In order to make up for this, we spent the entire week of Thanksgiving ‘at home’. The lack of weddings enabled me to finally show Danimal some of the best things about Houston. So, let the awards continue, starting with ‘hoods.

The Heights!

Favorite Neighborhood: The Heights Houston is known for its sprawl. And, while there are several nice suburbs, I am a city girl and was obviously going to pick an in-town ‘hood. The Heights is northwest of downtown and we spent this past Tuesday exploring all it has to offer.

Funky + Eclectic

19th Street is a mix of consignment shops, antiques, home decor, clothing boutiques, sandwich shops, and the one and only, Venus Hair. Spend an afternoon perusing this block to find your next hidden treasure. From there we headed to Lola for lunch, I would like to recommend… everything.

I mean EVERYTHING...

Runner-Up: The Museum District / Rice I consider this the cultural center of Houston. The beauty of the old homes and tree-lined streets are the perfect backdrop for the Museum of Natural Science, the Zoo, Museum of Fine Arts, and Rice University.

Mi Amor

Best Mexican Food: El Tiempo (the original) I gave my shout out to BBQ on the last post. When I go to Houston, there is only one other thing I insist on eating other than Goode Co., Mexican food. And, if I’m lucky, its El Tiempo. We actually took some of our clients from Saudi Arabia there in January so they could experience some real Texas culture. I normally don’t order fajitas when I go to Mexican restaurants, but at El Tiempo I just can’t say no.

Runner-Up: Jalapenos (posthumous) R.I.P. Jalapenos, you are missed.

If I’m not careful this will become the longest blog post of all time, I could really devote an entire blog to Houston and Texas. So in closing, I will mention just a couple of other things not to be missed.

  1. The Houston Livestock Show + Rodeo Take a rodeo and your state fair, multiply by ten, and then add crack. (It last for two weeks each February.)
  2. The Beer Can House Every frat boys dream come true…
  3. Beavers… just south of hooters. No really, that IS on their t-shirts. The food is crazy good and crazy bad for you.
  4. Wabash Antiques + Feed Store Only in Texas would there be a feed store in the City Center. Chickens anyone… or a Beyoncéperhaps?

    City Chics

  5. Patranella’s Sometimes all you need is an old house (turned restaurant) to create incredibly memorable meals, Italian style.

I must stop myself… I could go on and on and on… oh and Crapittos. You must eat at Crapittos. Really, I promise that is it.

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A Texas Thanksgiving

To quote my all-time favorite BBQ restaurant, Goode Company,

Specht's Country Store in Bulverde, Texas

“You better give some serious thought to thanking your lucky stars that you are in Texas.”

And Texas remains at the top of my list of things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I spent the first twenty-three years of my life in Texas, and once a Texan… always a Texan. In celebration of my week here for Thanksgiving, the next several blog posts are devoted to our GREATEST state – The Lone Star State – TEXAS. Today I will start with my list of ‘best-of / favorite’ awards, clearly a very prestigious designation, and will keep the awards flowing all week.

The State Capital

CITIES:

Favorite City – Austin Austin is the state capital and, in my opinion, the coolest city in Texas. People who live there revel in the city’s trademark slogan, “Keep Austin Weird”. The city has an incredible music scene and plays host to SXSW each year. The proximity to great outdoor activities along with the food, shopping, and personality make this a must visit. I suggest staying at the Hotel San Jose if you head that way.

The Riverwalk

Runner Up – San Antonio The Riverwalk has its touristy annoyances, but it is still one of my favorite spots. Quality Mexican food, fabulous Hispanic culture, and I can’t leave out the Alamo.

Danimal Remembers the Alamo

BBQ:  disclaimer- as a Texas girl, brisket BBQ is my thang…

Favorite: Goode Co., in HoustonThis is my go-to BBQ each time I return.  I have ordered the same thing for over twenty years… chopped beef sandwich extra sauce, jambalaya rice on the side, and root beer. Others swear by the pecan pie, but I like nuts and dessert separate so I can’t validate their obsession

Chopped Beef Sandwich Por Favor

Runner Up – Hinze’s BBQLocated in Wharton, Hinze’s is the real deal with flavorful sauce.

Congratulations to our first round of ‘Thirty4Thirty‘ winners!

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Scars

On Sunday in SoHo, Abbey and I stumbled upon a gallery that took us by surprise and was also incredibly moving. The once empty retail space had been transformed into an art exhibit for The Scar Project. Abbey and I are both very chatty, but The Scar Project left both of us speechless. The oversize portraits featured young women, ages 18 – 35, who have survived breast cancer. Photographer David Jay was inspired to develop the project because of a personal friend who was diagnosed at 29.

The SCAR Project

The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors shot by fashion photographer David Jay. Primarily an awareness raising campaign, The SCAR Project puts a raw, unflinching face on early onset breast cancer while paying tribute to the courage and spirit of so many brave young women.”

This was the side of breast cancer Abbey + I had never seen, the side that so few speak about, the physical and emotional scars that remain. I encourage you to see the exhibit if and when it comes to your city, and, until that time, to explore the book and website, or even donate to this poignant tribute to survivors.

Memorial South Pool

On our final morning in NYC, we headed to lower Manhattan and made our way to the 9/11 Memorial. We had reserved tickets on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks almost two months earlier. Due to the ongoing construction of the new towers, security is high. You need reserved tickets, a picture I.D., and go through screening similar to that at the airport.

The Names

The effort is more than worth what awaits. You are transformed into a space that allows for mourning, reflection, and celebration.  The pools of water cascade in a manner that drowns out the noise of the busy city. Then as you run your fingers over the names of those who weren’t able to make it out, you look out and into the pools that seem to go on infinitely.

One World Trade Center

 On September 11, 2012 the Museum opens on the plaza. I look forward to returning then and seeing the urban plaza + museum knit into the fabric of lower Manhattan.

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It’s A C. Wonder(ful) Life

If Day #1 of NYC was about living out childhood dreams, Day #2 was about the urgent matter of stimulating the economy. #OccupyMyCloset We stepped out of our first deal of the trip, our hotel – the Nolitan  (can’t wait to stay there again)- purchased on Jetsetter, and spent the day shopping and eating and then shopping and eating some more. That is precisely when we stumbled into what we have dubbed “The Happiest Store in the World”.

C. Wonder is just that… wonderful. It is bright and inviting from the moment you see the green apple doors embellished with the C. You walk in to find a DJ and a small army of preppy-hipster associates ready to help you with anything. C. Wonder is the brainchild of Chris Burch (formerly married to the one-and-only Tory Burch). The premise is that great style should be affordable, and it was. From the clothing to accessories to housewares, there is something for every price point.

Follow the Green Doors to Happiness

After we popped into a few more boutiques in SoHo, we stumbled upon Sabon. If C. Wonder caught our eye, Sabon aroused or nose. Sabon is a natural bath and body shop that should not be passed by. You all know that I am a stickler for customer service, and this is some of the best I’ve experienced.

The Hand Wash Station

It is tradition at the store, whether it be your first time or thousandth time, to have your hands washed. You begin with a soap, follow it with a scrub and finish with the body cream… your choice of fragrance.  The only thing that exceeds the customer service in this place is the quality of the product. I don’t remember the last time my hands felt this soft. If I had not been limited by my carry-on suitcase, I would have really cleaned house here. Good thing you can order online.

Shopping makes me H-angry!

At that point it was time to celebrate, we grabbed the sampler plate and two cups of vanilla almond tea at “The Best Chocolate Cake in the World”. You almost miss this tiny shop, but it is the perfect respite from the bustle outside.

The Damage

We left TBCCITW to return to the hotel… and we may have made just one more stop at C. Wonder. I mean, I needed to enjoy the customized music in the dressing room just one more time.

Confident music leads to "Power Shirt" purchases.

C. Wonder goes live online in ONE more week.

Photo Credit – C. Wonder Image #1: www.madparknews.com

 

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XOXO… Gossip Girl Here.

Spotted. HOK twins taking the Upper Eastside by storm. That’s right… Abbey (my work bestie) + I finally had our long awaited trip to New York. The theme of Day 1 – Living out our childhood dreams in THE City. Our first stop was Tiffany’s, of-course. I had no idea that the flagship store was six stories, but what I did expect, $1.5M engagement rings, were rampant. Miss Abbey walked away with a little blue box of her own.

The Little Blue Box Never Disappoints

Stop #2 – Ladurée… Now Ladurée is a Parisian institution. Trust me when I tell you they have the best macarons. Period.  If it wasn’t for the fabulous Callie Burnette, I would not have even known they had opened their first North American store.

People, it's all in the details...

We waited in line for an hour, half an hour outside, half an hour inside. As we stepped in the store, it felt like Paris. While the best part of the experience is the actual macarons (my personal favorites… Salted Caramel and Rose Petal), there is no detail left unnoticed. For example, you can’t shouldn’t buy just the macarons. You have to buy the silver-embellished box. Two please.  (Moment of growth #3 for the year… not eating ANY macarons until I was back in the ATL.)

Everybody is doin' it

From Laduree we walked a block back to Central Park and made our way to the ice rink. Ice skating was Abbey’s pick. I was excited, but nervous. I had never been ice skating outdoors, and had not been skating since middle school. I was 90% sure a broken arm was in my future. When we had discussed this before the trip, Abbey said she was a good skater. I was definitely going to be more confident with her by my side. (Just like Sophia Grace + Rosie) Turns out I maybe should have been a bit concerned.

Abbey: I’m a little nervous. I’m not very good at ice skating.

Me: WHAT! You said we were good and that we could couple skate?

I'm skating... I skate.

No broken bones, loads of fun, and I don’t remember the last time I felt this much like a kid. That being said, thirty minutes of ice skating have left my calves sore for three days. At least we looked the part.

Couples Skate

And all of this happened in just the first six hours of the trip. Danimal, why don’t we live here again? And really, if it is another accounting / financial reason, I’m going to cry. (Moment of growth #4 for the year… I only asked Danimal once over the course of the weekend to move to NYC.)

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