Thursday, July 28, 2011

Houston, Texas: Take 2!

Yes, in the space of 2 weeks, I visited Houston twice. The first time was nice, I got to go to this fun place with some coworkers. It was hot, it was new, I got to meet some new colleagues, and see how these meetings were SUPPOSED to roll out.

Then the second weekend, our team (2 of the same people, 2 different) took a more flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants approach, which made the weekend more interesting than a repeat would've been. Plus we had almost twice as many people attend the meeting (go recruitment!). Also, we were able to go here:

This is the wall and chandelier of the private dining room at Philippe, a tres chic dining destination in Houston.
I went with their bouillabaisse. It was pretty good (but I wasn't wowed). I also had their Ile Flottante, which definitely made me say WOW... (but then I've always been biased toward the sweets, we know this)
the lake where Andy Pettitte has a house near Conroe, TX
But besides all these different things, what made the second trip the most special was that I got to visit relatives- second cousins- that I've only seen a few times in my life! Glory be to Facebook for keeping us all in touch, sort of.
love love LOVED the cornbread in its tin!
The family members, especially Yvette, all pitched in to make "Texan food," which turns out to be the exact stereotype of 'grill-out food,' and since it was about 100 degrees, was perfect! Smoked brisket, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, and cornbread- talk about your Western smorgasbord!
when horses are a part of work, the tack is kept in the front office!
Here I am with Belle's little filly
And here's me on Suzie, with Shelly on Cutter
I think it should be explained that Suzie missed a growth spurt, so her awesome cutting bloodlines were put to pasture as it were, and now she hangs around the house as a beloved pet. Or at least I think that's what the arrangement is. At any rate, I got to ride her in the round pen without a bridle, and got to help in training her a bit, which was a new skill! :-) The family's opinion was that she takes after Ginger (meaning she's a brat and will only answer to my dad's cousin Louis!).

In front of the guest suite (super nice!) with a pint of Blue Bell ice cream Super yum!)
So the second trip was far more exciting! Go, Work-Life Balance!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Houston, TX, Take 1

Backtracking to the First Houston trip (cuz there were two), I have some evidence from it as well. I observed and took photos of things that struck me as potentially Uniquely Houston. For example:
 Starting off the adventure on Friday with a Jeep Liberty. Tres Texas.
Following another Jeep on the freeway that seemed to think a dangling rearview mirror did just fine. Yikes.
Spotting this and catching it right after an exclaimed "Look!" from Maria. Perfect timing! But no idea what it actually is. We dubbed it 'Mini Rushmore.'
Oh, and there was a lot of this: complicated freeway intertwining architecure (eep! someone call some engineers!). We also got a lesson in something called Texas U-turns. And of course we all got frustrated by the frontage road arrangement...
But one of the Uniquely Texan things about this First Visit may have been the decor in the Holiday Inn whee we stayed- oil rigs hard at work. I suppose it might make some visitors feel at home??

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Club bonding and blueberries

Last weekend I went blueberry-picking. This weekend I was in Houston for a Saturday meeting facilitation (read: work). While I have documentation of neither for you here, I do have evidence of the first activity.
It was a recipe I pulled up in a mad rush of trying to decide what to bring to my book club (which was reading this), since I had to take a shower, finish the book, and make something yummy to contribute in the space of an hour. I spent 20 minutes deciding, 20 minutes pulling it together, took a shower while it baked, and didn't end up finishing the book. Win some, lose some. Judging from the "Mmms" from the book-clubbers, I chose the right answer.
It produced a very tasty cake-y type of confection, but I would have liked more time to be able to do the biscuit-type topping instead. Next time...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Camaraderie, born on the Fourth of July

Hey, y'all!

It is still the 4th of July as I post this, and that means I had so much fun I couldn't wait to share it! (Or that I know if I wait, I'll forget to share it)
There was some covert nudging and elbowing going on in June that produced an invitation to a grill-out for the Fourth at my friends' house in Maryland, just outside DC-- but importantly, still accessible on the Metro. Kim and Juan have recently bought a house, and so we predict there will be many more such occasions to gather at. 

First rule of a happy marriage- be able to put up a badminton net together without anyone losing an eye: Check. (Note instructions booklet on the lawn)
First rule of a Fourth of July party- someone has to bring some mini firecrackers. These were the kind that could go on a fancy birthday cake, i.e. just my speed. Thanks to Doug!

First rule of a potluck grill-out- bring plenty of food. Luckily our hosts had a lot of spoons to go with. And the secret to drop-dead easy watermelon juice: a blender!

Oh, and side note: Juan was kept busy because he was very concerned about the flies. Here he is armed with a badminton raquet near the buffet table, awaiting the challenge.
We left in time to escape the drops of rain that threatened (but turned into nothing- just that juicy DC summer air), and as I exited at my metro stop, I could hear the fireworks on the Mall, a 20-minute walk away. As I climbed my infamous stairs, I had my own view of the fireworks- not anything to invite anyone over for, but it was enough for the fireworks gremlin to be sated:

Ah, home. And ready for my 4-day week.

I was in a rush to get to Maryland, but I made quickie versions (and severe alterations) of this, this, and this. Oh and by the way I made some pretty good chocolate chip cookies and Sin Bars for my weekend escapades- more on those later. :) Thanks to Kim and Juan for hosting!
And a bonus thank you for Mom sending me the Off-tastic battery-operated repellent fan. It worked- only 4 bites all evening!