Photo Challenge – A Favorite Place

How do you choose one favorite place?  I have so many “favorite spots.”  Some of those places I’ve only visited once, maybe twice, fell in love with them, but have not had to opportunity to return.  There are other places I love and return to them as often as I can

As much as I love to travel, when I saw the weekly photo challenge for a “Favorite Place,” my heart turned close to home.  This lovely pond is about a half mile from our home where my husband and I walk our sweet Bear almost everyday, no matter what the weather.

When we visit, we often see turtles basking in the sun and it is also a favorite spot for ducks, egrets and we recently saw a blue heron.  There are some huge coi that we feed tortillas and they will come to the surface so you see how big the are. 

It’s a favorite place for photographers, and it’s a lovely spot for photo ops to mark those special occasions in life!

But the best part of all is it’s the perfect sanctuary to escape the stress that comes in our busy world.  It’s peaceful and serene, a great place to meditate, read a book, or simply enjoy the peaceful ambiance. 

 Hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around my favorite place.  Blessings to all.  – Gerri

 

Spring is Upon Us in Tapatio Springs

Fall may come late to Texas, but Spring typically arrives early and we are thrilled with the warmer temperatures and blue skies!  My husband and I have just returned from our semi-annual trip to Lubbock to visit our daughter.  After a fabulous visit with her sweet family, we headed over to  Boerne, in the Texas Hill Country,  to see my brother-in-law and his lovely wife.  After what seemed like a rather frigid winter, ( at least for Southeast Texas )  it was perfect time of year to schedule a little getaway and enjoy the warming temperatures.

The drive through central Texas was fabulous with rolling hills and so green after all the rains.  Although the trees were still mostly bare and brown, there were some Flowering Pear and Redbud trees scattered along the roadside that signify in Texas that Spring is truly on it’s way!  

Visiting the Texas Hill Country is always a delight for me.  I have been captivated by it’s rustic beauty ever since I was young and I always look forward to returning for a visit.  The rugged, rolling hills covered with live oak and cedar trees never fail to soothe my soul and allow me to wallow in the joys of nature.  

Of course, while visiting in Boerne, my husband had to play a round of golf at the amazing Tapatio Springs Golf Course.  Tapatio Springs is on 220 acres in the heart of the hill country.  Several years ago an investment group which includes country music star George Strait purchased the resort community and have been making improvements on the property ever since.  You can read more about Tapatio Springs here.  Sadly, the newly renovated club house burned to the ground in early November, but the golf course and other facilities are open and they will be rebuilding the club house in time.

Although I’m not much of a golfer, I do enjoy riding in the cart and taking in the beauty of Tapatio Springs.  I always take my camera along with me so I can snap a few shots of the lovely golf course and the amazing homes surrounding it.  

To Create Sunshine Tapatio Springs, Texas Hill Country
View from the golf course of Tapatio Springs.

A visit to the Texas Hill Country never disappoints me.  There is so much to see and do in this region of the country.  The Hill Country has something for everyone from antiquing in one of the charming towns such as Fredericksburg, to enjoying the music scene in Austin, or taking in the beauty of one of the many rivers that meanders through the rustic, rolling hills such as the Guadelupe or the Comal.  

As always with out visits to the Hill Country, too soon it was time to make out way back to our home in Cypress, but I look forward to another visit to the amazing Texas Hill Country soon!

Sending many blessings your way today! – Gerri

This Crazy Texas Weather!

There is an old saying in Texas that goes….

“If you don’t like the weather, just wait about fifteen minutes!!”

Our crazy Texas weather has definitely been all over the map this year.  We have come from the torrential and devastating floods of Hurricane Harvey, to a Fall season of anticipating cooler weather that just didn’t happen.  Then, suddenly temperatures dropped and low and behold we had a surprising early December snow! 

Now that it’s January, we have had an unbelievable second snow!  This time the temperatures dropped into the teens and we did not reach above freezing for three days!  This is quite unusual for Cypress!  I guess my secret wish came true! 

A typical January day in Cypress would be much like today, a sky of blue,  full of bright sunshine and hardly a cloud to be found.  We’re expecting a high in the mid sixties which is quite normal for this time of year.

However, last week we were huddled around the fireplace as the temperatures dropped below freezing and the city virtual came to a stop as schools closed and people were encouraged by the mayor to stay off the roads.  I know you might laugh at this if you live in the north, but this is really exceptional for south Texas.  Our city is not prepared to handle ice and those crazy drivers need to stay off the roads!

Although I have to say, I’m enjoying the return to normal temperatures, I did love the splash of cold and snow.  It was lovely to look at and wasn’t too bad for a winter walk if you bundled up!

I was surprised to find this bit of green palm frond among all the cold and snow!

Well, for now temperatures have returned to normal for us.  It’s an absolutely gorgeous day and I won’t have to bundle up for my walk later!  However, come August when temperature are soaring into the nineties, I will be treasuring remember these memories of snow days and hoping they will come again.  

Wishing you many blessings today – Gerri 

 

Magnolia Market at the Silos

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If you are a fan of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, chances are you’re already familiar with the Magnolia Market at the Silos.  It seems that everything that Chip and Joanna Gaines touch turns to gold, and the market is no exception.  If you happen to be traveling anywhere near central Texas, and you are a fan of shiplap and farmhouse style, the Magnolia Market is quickly becoming a definite must-see in the heart of Texas.

For our visit, we arrived around 11:00am on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and there were already crowds buzzing around the grounds.  However, there is so much more to see than just the market, the crowds really didn’t bother us.  

The first place we headed was the large grassy field with artificial turf that is perfect for tossing a soccer or football, ( which are provided with a few other games.)  Since, we were traveling with a two year old, it was a great place to allow her to run a little energy off!  It’s also the perfect spot to drop off Dad or Granddad with the kids while Mom shops at the market.

Surrounding the play area are plenty of food trucks providing everything from crepes to pizza and hot dogs.  There are plenty of picnic tables, lounge chairs and over-sized swings for a picnic lunch or just relaxing while the kids play.  Of course, the decor is in Joanna’s sweet style filled with hanging baskets of flowers and plenty of reclaimed wood.

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The market itself is a shoppers paradise filled with everything farmhouse that you could possibly want for your own home.  There are lots of Joanna style vignettes displaying the goods which makes the store itself a bit unique.  Although the store was extremely crowded, the line to purchase moved very quickly which was a present surprise.  

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I have to admit, my favorite part of the Silo’s was the Magnolia Feed and Supply filled with live plants, seed packets, garden style decor and even a section for your own personal fairy garden!  The garden area is truly an inspiration even to the most novice of gardeners.  The raised bed are filled with Snapdragons and Sweet Alyssum.  The gardens were so sweet and charming that I was eager to get home and add some more flowers to our own garden!

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Most importantly, Magnolia Market is more than just a place to shop.  With the large grounds, seed shop and bakery, it truly is meant to be a fun stop for the whole family!

If You Go …..

Waco, Texas is located in Central Texas about a 90 minute drive from either Dallas or Austin.  About twice that if you’re coming from Houston.  It’s best to get there early when they open or after 3:00.  The lines for the bakery were quite long the day that we visited.  We opted not  to wait.  There is free parking in the back by the food trucks.  You will see signs to pay for parking, but check the back first.  There are usually spots available.  Check the Magnolia Market website for store hours for they may vary seasonally.  They are always closed on Sundays.  There are lots of cute vignettes for photo ops so make sure your phone is charged! 

Hope you enjoy your visit!  xxoo Gerri 

 

Chacchoben Ruins, Costa Maya

If you are a lover of nature and history, the Chacchoben Ruins are surely not to be missed!  Located about 100 miles from the Costa Maya port, south of Cozamel,  these three excavated pyramids are surrounded by a lush, tropical jungle filled with an amazing variety of trees and plants.

You can follow a well maintained circular path that leads you to these ancient structures, while a guide gives you a wealth of information about the Mayans ancient religion and customs.  You cannot climb the pyramids, but there are stairs to climb to a raised area with a very impressive view of the area below.

Truly, I was as fascinated by the beauty of the massive trees and lush jungle as I was by the ancient pyramids.  The Spanish moss and Palm trees not only offer inviting shade, but also enhance the majesty of the pyramids.  The combination of nature and history creates an awe inspiring harmony that leads you to imagine what life would have been like for the Mayan civilization of so long ago.  

I think I would have been content to just wonder the path and relish in the magnificence of this amazing, tropical, jungle.  I am not aware of the age of some of these trees, but by the size of the trunks, I would think they had been there quite awhile.

If you choose to visit these amazing ruins, remember you are in a jungle and you might want some bug repellent for the mosquitoes.  There is some walking involved, and I think it would be rather warm and humid in the heat of summer.   Our visit was in October, and while there were a few mosquitoes, I found the weather to be fairly comfortable.  

Being an avid nature lover, history buff and photography fan, this magnificent archeological site turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  

“Wherever you go, Go with all your heart.”   –   Confucius

Hope you all have the opportunity to satisfy an adventurous spirit.  –  xxoo Gerri

 

Anticipating Fall

The time has come to say goodbye to the long, lazy days of summer as we welcome in the coming of fall.  With this change there is definitely an air of excitement and anticipation.   You would think there might be some sadness as the lingering days of summer disappear into fall.  After all, summer is often a time of frolic and play.  But mostly I’ve observed eager anticipation for the change of seasons.

With the coming of fall we say so long to shorts and flip flops as we eagerly don jeans, boots, and sweaters.  Stores are filling their shelves with new fall decor and coffee shops are calling us to come try a pumpkin spice latte.  The beauty of the season is magnificent as the leaves transform from vibrant greens to the cozy red, orange and golds of fall.  As the days grow shorter and the air becomes chillier we anticipate quiet evenings by the fire with a warm blanket and hot cocoa. 

Autumn comes late to Texas, especially here in Cypress. It stays pretty green here until about mid November when a few of the leaves show a glimmer of color for a brief moment before falling from the trees. But even here, the subtle change of fall is in the air as the heat of summer gradually melts into the cooler days.  There is a noticeable difference in the coolness of the  morning and the evenings feel fresh and alive.  With the cooling temperatures, people have emerged from the comfort of air conditioned homes to take in the beauty of the season and enjoy walking, bike riding, and visiting with neighbors.    

Fall in Texas is like no other season.  Along with slightly cooler temperatures, festival season is right around the corner and soon each church will be filled with their own welcoming pumpkin patch.  A favorite fall activity is to attend one of the many festivals occurring either in the city or in one of the many small towns close to Cypress.  If you are a fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV television show Fixer Upper, you may have heard Joanna mention the Round Top Antiques Fair that will be open for the next two weeks.  Literally miles of shopping with everything from fine antiques to flea market finds.  

Other popular festivals include Scarecrow Festival in Chapel Hill which benefits the preservation of history and historic buildings in the area.  This event takes place Oct. 14-15 and features gardening, artists, craftsmen, delicious food, live entertainment and activities for the children.  There is no charge for this event other than $5 for parking and is just a short drive outside of Houston.

On that same weekend and one of my personal favorites is the Bayou City Art Festival featuring a wealth of artists from around the country and benefits numerous nonprofit partners.  This event takes place right in the heart of downtown Houston surrounding City Hall and Herman Square.  Tickets are $15 and $5 for children ( children under 5 are free).  

Whatever your plans are for the coming month, I hope you take the opportunity get outside and enjoy some beautiful fall weather.   xxoo Gerri

 

 

Hurricane Harvey – Waters Rising

I truly never believed this could happen to our city!  

I’ve been through Hurricanes Alicia, Allison and Ike.  I thought I knew what to expect.  I’ve been through hurricanes with the wind howling and the rain pouring down. I’ve stayed in my home and watched the pine trees bend down and almost touch the ground.  I’ve been through storms where we’ve lost power and were lighting candles and lanterns to see in the dark.  

This storm was different. It was sneaky.  Just a bit of rain. No howling wind.  No bending pines.  Over time the rains began to come down harder.  Pounding.  Constant.  

Over the past few days, our neighborhoods have become a collection of islands.  The news reports 95% of our roads have high water or are impassable.  However, through all the rain, many of us have never lost power.  We’ve watched the news to see what’s happening across the city.  We see the people standing on rooftops.  We watch the helicopter rescues. We text our family and friends “Are you okay?”  We pray.  And so many citizens have come out to assist those in need.

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Even in their own distress, so many people have turned to help their neighbor.  I’ve known people who offer their warm, dry homes to strangers that were left at a holding station in the rain.  I’ve watched people that were evacuated return to be sure their neighbors were  out and safe.  I’ve seen others come volunteer in the shelters or bring whatever supplies they can offer, anything they can do to offer assistance.

I am so proud of our city officials and first responders.  I am so amazed by the entire Houston community! People helping people.  People leaving their own comfort behind to assist those that are in trouble.  There are so many volunteers coming from smaller communities outside of Houston bringing their boats to assist in the evacuations.  The Cajun Navy is coming from Louisiana to assist.  Volunteers are on their way from Lubbock bringing food, bottled water and supplies.  Volunteers from Oklahoma.  Thoughts and prayers from all over the country.

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As I watch the people of Houston being rescued, they are smiling and their hearts are filled with gratitude.  Houston you are truly setting an example for the rest of the country.  You are showing the world not only how to handle a catastrophe, but also the way to live each day, hand in hand, helping each other, hearts filled with love for one another.  

In every cloud there is a silver lining.  Our silver lining is the compassion that is being shown for the well being of our fellow citizens.  

If your looking for a way to help and show your support in the wake of Hurricane Harvey:

Feeding Texas – coordinates with the state and other providers for quick relief to those in need

Food Bank of Corpus Christi – click on the link donate

Houston Food Bank – they are currently closed due to flood waters and will reopen as soon as possible, they do have a link where you can click to donate

 

 

Hurricane Harvey – A Cypress View

I’m sure many of you have seen the news of Hurricane Harvey hitting the Texas coast and the destruction that followed.  As I write this we are into Day 2 of this catastrophe.  I live in Cypress, a suburban neighborhood northwest of Houston, and we are very fortunate here.  Although there has been what feels like an endless amount of rainfall and some flooding in the neighborhood, our street is draining and we are safe.  

 

Hurricane Harvey, Cypress, Texas

However, other Houston residents have not been so fortunate.  In a metropolitan area of six million plus residents, the city is at a stand still.  Businesses are closed.  The buses aren’t running. Schools are cancelled until after Labor Day.  Our church even cancelled services this morning because city officials have asked for everyone to just stay home!  And the worst is that many people are stranded in their homes and neighborhoods and can’t get out!  They are frightened which is understandable.  The streets are flooded and impassable.  The rainfall is hard and constant.  It is as if bucket fulls of water are being continuously poured on this city.  Yes, we get little breaks in the rain, but it is not a long enough time for the streets to drain before they start filling up again.

 

The miracle in all this is how the city residents are coming together.  People helping people.  Not just first responders and rescue teams.  People that own boats are out there offering to assist those in need.  There are no haters.  Just good people coming together to help in anyway they can.

 

Hurricane Harvey in Cypress, Texas

Some have criticized the news media for their hype.  However, I applaud the news media and our city officials.  How do you plan to keep an area of six million plus people safe from wide spread unprecedented flooding?  They asked people to stay home.  They warned people repeatedly of the dangers of driving into flood waters.  You get the word out about the possible dangers and worst case scenarios.  Many people are new to our city and have no idea what a hurricane and Houston streets can be like.  

 

There has been loss of life and I fear for what will be discovered as the days go on….and yet the rain continues.

 

Hurricane Harvey in Cypress, Texas

 

How you can help Hurricane Harvey Victims

American Red Cross  – call 1-800-red cross or text HARVEY to 90999 to make a donation

Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services – call 1-800-SAL-ARMY to help

Catholic Charities USA – they have set up a website devoted to Harvey relief

Austin Pets Alive!– they have created a page on their website specific to Hurricane Harvey needs

 

**sources via abcnews.go.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Lovely Gardens at Baba Yega Cafe

When I can’t escape the city, the next best thing is to slip away and visit a lovely outdoor venue with a garden view.  I love to be able to sit back, relax  and enjoy the peace and serenity offered from this charming garden at the Baba Yega Cafe.

To Create Sunshine Baba Yega Cafe, Houston

Tucked away in the heart of Houston’s Montrose area, Baba Yega’s has been offering an eclectic American cuisine for over forty years.  The lush gardens offer a sprawling patio and courtyard that feature a waterfall, fountains, and Koi pond underneath sprawling 100 year old oak trees.  It is a delightful place to enjoy the sunshine and feast on not only the delicious menu, but also the sweet serenity of their garden atmosphere.

To Create Sunshine Baba Yega Cafe, Houston

To Create Sunshine Baba Yega Cafe, Houston

As with many of the quaint Montrose eateries, Baba Yega’s was created from a renovated bungalow.  The Montrose area of Houston, developed in 1911, was originally a planned community filled with bungalows and cottages with wide porches and tree-lined boulevards.  Many of the charming homes remain private residences as they once were. However, the area is now quite diverse with many of the bungalows now becoming restaurants and boutiques.

The cafe has recently expanded under new ownership after the original owner retired. An adjacent bungalow was bought and renovated to host more of the atrium dining filled with quaint antiques and the bohemian flavor the Montrose area is known for.

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The menu offers everything from soups and salads to burgers, pastas, grilled chicken and salmon.  The cafe is known for it’s vegetarian and vegan options as well.  I enjoyed the Tortilla Soup on my last visit and wasn’t disappointed!

I honestly can’t think of a more delightful spot to while away some time than this lovely garden cafe!  Bon Appetit!  – Gerri xxooxx

The Hills of Tapatio Springs

If you are a lover of rustic charm found in nature, the Texas Hill Country is the place to go.  A few years ago my brother-in-law and his lovely wife moved into the exquisite resort community of Tapatio Springs.  This was a double blessing for my husband and me because not only do we get to visit with them more often, it gives us more opportunity to explore one of our favorite regions in Texas.

To Create Sunshine Tapation Springs, Texas

Tapatio Springs hosts the perfect mix of Texas nature with deluxe resort.  This awe inspiring golfing community is nestled in the heart of the hill country, just outside the charming town of Boerne.  I have to tell you the brief ten minute drive on Johns Road from I-10 to get to Tapatio Springs is just as sweet and charming as the lovely community itself.  Once you exit I-10, the road twists and winds through the rustic and hilly countryside that gives the area it's name.  As you drive be sure to keep your eyes open for deer, sheep, goats and various other wildlife you might see as you drive.

As you take one last turn around the bend at the top of the hill you get your first breathtaking view of Tapatio Springs. The resort was bought several years ago by the country/western singer George Strait and a group of investors and they have been making improvements to the resort ever since.  The 18 hole golf course has recently been renovated by architect Tripp Davis and Associates and features an amazing panoramic view of the rolling Texas hills that surround the golf course.

I'm honestly not much of a golfer, but I do enjoy riding in the cart and taking in the beauty of the surroundings. I also enjoy photography so this seemed the perfect opportunity to practice my amateur photography skills while Dear Husband practiced his amateur golfing skills.

To Create Sunshine Tapatio Springs, Texas Hill Country

As you tour the golf course, you get an amazing view of not only some of the highest hills of the area, but also some of the beautiful homes surrounding the golf course.

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The 18 hole golf course offers a spectacular venue and is filled with auspicious live oak trees, rolling terrain and abundant with water features.  This serene Hill Country Resort offers both a photographers and a golfers delight!

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As always, when it's time to pack up and return to our busy lives in the city, I'm thankful for the opportunity to have spent some relaxed time in the serene beauty of the Texas Hill Country!

Until Next Time – xxoo- Gerri