Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Village at Bayou Bend

Santa has set up shop at the Christmas Village at Bayou Bend! Little elves have transformed the Bayou Bend grounds into a festive winter wonderland with a Spiegeltent (visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus), story time for kids, and a tour of Ima Hogg's mansion with decorations and historical reenactments. You can read more about the event here. 

Dates for the Christmas Village at Bayou Bend:
December 17–23 & December 26–30, 6–9:30 p.m.

Entrance to Bayou Bend

Crossing the magical bridge aglow with lights

Little elf running through the maze

Spiegeltent for drinks, snacks, crafts, and Santa.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus in the Spiegeltent
Ima Hogg's Residence

While waiting in line for the house tour, visitors can watch a fun animation that was projected onto the back of the home.

Dates for the Christmas Village at Bayou Bend:

December 17–23 & December 26–30, 6–9:30 p.m.

Members: $12 adult (ages 13+), $8 youth (ages 5–12)
• Nonmembers: $15 adult (ages 13+), $10 youth (ages 5–12)
• Free for ages 4 & younger
Cash bar and light refreshments. Closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Enjoy the Christmas Cheer,
The Bayou Botanist

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Nymph's Treehouse

The Kitchen at the Dunlavy

For months, my run (or stroll) in the Buffalo Bayou would take me past Lost Lake and a structure being built so beautifully into the surrounding landscape. The much awaited restaurant The Kitchen at the Dunlavy is now open! For all the months of waiting and wondering, the new Houston restaurant did not disappoint. As you walk into the space, you feel as though you've stumbled into the home of a wood nymph.  The floor to ceiling windows bring in light that dances off of the dozens of eclectic crystal chandeliers. It's nickname as "The Glass Treehouse" is well deserved. Along with the bright light, diners are on level with the tree foliage surrounding the structure. There is indoor and outdoor seating available. While I sat inside, the light and greenery made me forget that I was not in fact in the open air. 
Following the path around lost lake from the right

Lost Lost and changing foliage can be viewed from the lower and upper balconies

Every detail of the restaurant is perfect, from the playing card order holders, to the mismatched chairs.
The Kitchen at the Dunlavy is open daily from 7AM- 2PM while lunch starts at 11AM. The menu is a healthy combination of light snacks, smoothies, salads, and sandwiches.  For breakfast, you can indulge in Smoothies, Toasts with toppings, and light options like Yogurt Parfaits and Fruit cups. For lunch, Smoothies, Salads (Kale Salad, Chinese Chicken Salad, Avocado Salad), Sandwiches (Turkey, Apple and Brie, Chicken BLT, Brisket,Veggie, Lamb Gyro), and sides (cheese plate, Red Quinoa, Israeli couscous, Prosciutto and Pate). There are MANY more options than listed so you'll have to go visit for yourself. Be warned: With the gorgeous surroundings and delicious food, you may never want to leave. . .

A View of the back patio from inside
The outdoor patio with whimsical lights and wildflower arrangements
The Kitchen at the Dunlavy is the perfect place to grab a smoothie after a morning run, to enjoy a  long conversation over a leisurely lunch, or to order a meal to take as a picnic in the Park! I'm sure you'll find me there with a sketchbook on many a morning. . . so stop by and say hello!

The Bayou Botanist

Monday, December 7, 2015

Zoo Lights

Escaped birds from the Aviary. . . luckily they stay in one place.
With over two million lights, the Houston Zoo is aglow and filled with Holiday cheer. From November 20, 2015 - January 9, 2016, you can take a stroll through the zoo at night while enjoying a spectacular light display. You are only able to see a few of the animals along the walk (we saw the Flamingos and the Giraffes in the Barn), so if your aim is to meet Jonathan the Lion, come back during the daytime. Treats such as Hot Chocolate and Kettle Corn can be purchased. Make sure to arrive early for parking and dress warm!

A Big Thank You to Eduardo Portillo for the beautiful photos of the Zoo!

My Favorite Part of Zoo Lights: these Dr Seuss-like fantastical plants

Toy Train Display
Lights and Globes in the African Section
Light Tunnel
Animal Sighting
The Moose is Loose!
May you have Joy and Peace during the Holiday Season!

Hours: Check the Zoo website for detailed information.

Value Nights:
Mon -Thurs  
6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
(Last entry at 9 p.m.)

Prime Nights:
Fri - Sun
6 p.m. – 11 p.m.
(Last entry at 9:30 p.m.)
Closed December 24 and 25

Value Nights: Member $9.95 Non-Member $14.95
Prime Nights: Member $14.95 Non-Member $19.95
Children 1 and Under – FREE

Enjoy the Lights!
The Bayou Botanist

Friday, December 4, 2015

New Installations at Discovery Green

Spin or lounge to your heart's content on Los Trompos!
Tis the season for all things that glisten and shimmer. . . and spin! In the holiday spirit, Discovery Green has outdone itself with two new temporary additions to the Park.  Los Trompos or 'spinning tops' is an installation of large scale spinning structures created by Mexico City designers H├ęctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena. Inspired by a common toy, each spinning top is unique in both form and color, and behave just like their smaller namesake. Los Trompos will be displayed until March 22 so make sure you stop by for a little magic!

A Field of color: Los Trompos
 My favorite visitor at Los Trompos

Bruce Munro's The Field of Light installation is back! It's one of my favorites from this past year so I'm delighted to be able to experience the multicolored wonderland for a second/third/. . .tenth time. Field of Light will be at the Discovery Green through February 21, 2016. If you think it looks magical during the daytime . . . wait until you see it lit up at night!

Thank goodness for the return of Bruce Munro's Field of Lights!

As an added Bonus, the skating rink is now open! The rink will be open from November 24 - February 2. $14 For 1.5 hours of skating (includes skates), or $30 for a Speed pass. Hours and days open here.

The ICE at Discovery Green is the largest outdoor skating rink in the Southwest.

Upcoming Events at the Discovery Green here

Every Friday, Discovery Green will host Friday Night Sights where local artists, musicians and dancers and actors will create a response to either Los Trompos or the Field of Light.  Friday Night Sights will be held from Friday, November 27 to Friday, March 18 (With the exception of December 25 and January 1). All performances begin at 7pm. Check website for updates. Upcoming dates below:

December 4      Cirque La Vie                                             Los Trompos
December  11   HSPVA Jazz and Dance Students               Field of Light
December 18    Dance Houston                                           Field of Light
January 8          Wildfish Theatre                                         Los Trompos
January 15        Suchu Dance                                               Field of Light
January 22        Rainbow on Ice!                                          Los Trompos
January 29        Aerosol Warfare and Houston Lowriders    Los Trompos

Happy December! Hope you are all enjoying the cooler weather and all the magical happenings this time of year!

The Bayou Botanist

Monday, November 30, 2015

Green Treasure Found: Finca Tres Robles

Fresh Produce grown by Finca Tres Robles; head out to their farmer's market!
A few weeks ago, I discovered a treasure on Houston’s East Side:  Finca Tres Robles; Finca Tres Robles is Houston's first private farm within the 610 loop. To get there, you drive past several warehouses and other industrial properties (and think you are lost 5 times) before finding a secret garden. Seriously, it looks as though the stunning 1.25 acre lot was just walled off and then given much love from an army of garden gnomes. I had the pleasure to sit down with one of the Farm's founders Tommy Garcia-Prats a native Houstonian who decided to return home after years of working on various farms around the world (including a small family owned farm in Maine, a larger vegetable farm in Iowa, and a large agro-forestry and educational farm in Nicaragua).  

Apprentice working in Garden
After many years away, Tommy returned to Houston to discover a huge new foodie community but noticed diet related health issues, especially in children. Tommy was also surprised to find that Houston only has a handful of farms for 4 million people. (As a comparison, in Maine, there are 350 organic farms for 1 million people.) He wanted to live in a city with farms and agriculture, so with great initiative, he decided to start his own. 

The garden didn’t just happen over night. Tommy spent 6 months just talking and asking questions, going to local organizations for help, more research, and looking for a plot of land in a part of the city where land would be affordable and also where a garden would be the most beneficial. Once he found the perfect plot of land, he had to have the soil tested and start a sustainable business plan. The result?  An Oasis in Houston’s east side.  Finca Tres Robles was recently awarded a Young Farmer’s Grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture which enabled them to hire an apprentice and support improvement projects around the farm; currently, there are 2 interns/apprentices and 5 volunteers on the farm.

Before working on the farms in Maine, Iowa, and Nicaragua, Tommy had no previous gardening experience, so he had no preconceived notion of what a farm was supposed to be like.  In fact, most people with whom he worked had never worked in farming. Tommy recalls, “I went to each farm just wanting to learn where my food comes from – without knowing that I would later open a farm of my own.” When asked what advice he would be give to those who want to grow a small garden of their own, Tommy laughs and replies, “People think that if they kill plants that they’re not a good gardener.  I’ve killed more plants – You just have to keep trying. Shifts in weather, pests, and difficult places to grow (Houston) will all affect your garden.”

Tommy hopes that Finca Tres Robles will help show Houstonians that agriculture is sustainable and belongs inside a city. I, for one, would love to see the project expanded to other parts of Houston. So support your local farm and head out to Finca Tres Robles to discover what a little imagination, a lot of hard work, and an overwhelming love for nature and your community can create. You can visit the farm during their open hours listed here or donate to the farm here.

+++++Volunteer Days and other events are listed on Finca Tres Robles website; so keep an eye out for their changing schedule. You can receive a small discount on fresh produce for volunteering or for donating your compost (yard leaves included).

+++++A cool fact about the garden: the soil is created from raw tree trimmings. The layer underneath is clay which is no good for growing.

VISIT the finca! View the location and the Hours here.

Buy local at the Farmer’s Market:

On the Farm Market :
SAT  9-1PM

(Finca Tres Robles
257 N. Greenwood
Houston, TX 77011):

East End St. Market:
10AM – 2PM

(Navigation Esplanade
2800 Navigation Blvd.
Houston, TX 77003)

One of my favorite new places in Houston.
Until our next green adventure, 
The Bayou Botanist 

Jungle Studio

We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

It may be winter in Texas but my studio is in full jungle swing.  When I'm stuck indoors, I like to make sure that my space feels like a greenhouse (with books to journey to faraway places and textiles from around the world to add a dash of bold color and pattern).

View from the Jungle Studio; Studies for Tapestries
Never too many books about Artists, Gardens, Textiles, and Folklore

Only a few more* (1000) plants to go. . .
 Sneak peak to come of new works for "The Bayou Botanist." Get your green on!

The Bayou Botanist

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Find your creative side in Smither Park

If you want to add a little whimsy to your life, take a trip to Smither Park. What makes it so special? Highly complicated mosaic walls, a grotto in the form of fish jaws, comfy bench swings, an interactive tower, and a covered "tree-house"pavilion.  Located in Houston's East End, the recreational green space is ever evolving with over 60 mosaics made by artists (both trained and untrained) from across the US and plans for new additions always in the works. Visionary artist and builder Dan Phillips is lead designer on the project. Under the umbrella of the Orange Show Center for the Visionary Art, Smither Park is Houston's first "folk art inspired green space" and is also Houston's first sculpture garden made from all recycled materials. The Park is named in honor of the incredible arts supporter John H. Smither.  You can read more about Smither Park here.  
If you're interested in contributing to the mosaics in the Park, read more about the call for entry section here.

"The  Memory Wall" is a 400 foot mosaic wall that spans the length of the park; On the right is "The Tree of Life" created by Houston artist Debbie Wetmore.

Creatives hard at work putting the finishing touches on the Marilyn Oshman Meditation Garden. Such a beautiful place to take a break from our busy lives.
Mosaic Artists use a vast array of materials from ceramic and pottery shards, to keys, glass, and license plates.

A section of the Memory Wall designed by John Gregory

The Bench Swings: Looks like the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon

The Lindley Fish created by Matt Gifford resembles a fish mouth chomping through the grass; made from frame samples, street signs, and mirror shards, the grotto is used for performances throughout the year.

The hypnotic insides of the grotto

A detail from a Mosaic "The Garden" designed by Esther Lee and completed with help from her family

While you're in the neighborhood, stop by the Orange Show just two blocks down. A playful architectural maze, the Orange Show was created by former postman Jeff McKissack "in honor of his favorite fruit." He worked on the Orange Show between 1956 until his death in 1980 - never fully accepting the title of "artist." You can read more about the Orange Show here.


A view from one of the many upper balconies

A play boat rests in the middle of the maze
Beautiful Quotes and Proverbs (such as the one above) cover many of the Orange Show's walls

 Thank you, Texas. You are always full of surprises.

Until the next adventure,

- The Bayou Botanist

Monday, October 26, 2015

Lean Urbanism: An Introduction

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by Andres Duany at Rice University. The lecture was part of a three day People + Nature Conference in Houston. The Conference focused on how to create cities that are "well connected, walkable, bikable places designed for human connectivity (. . .)  rich with nature, wildlife, and local food."

Andres Duany is an architect, urban planner, and founder of the Congress of New Urbanism. You may know him as the developer of Seaside, Florida (the town featured in the Truman Show). I had visited Seaside a few years back and was charmed by the personality of the town, the easy accessibility of restaurants and stores, and the seemingly effortless integration of nature with architecture. During his lecture, the charismatic Mr. Duany concentrated on the concept of "Lean Urbanism"; Lean Urbanism is "is small-scale, incremental community-building that requires fewer resources to incubate and mature." My favorite highlights of the lecture include: Detroit as "the next Brooklyn," Pink Zones, Tony Goldman's development of the Wynwood Arts District, Woodbury University, Auburn University's Rural Studio, and the Vietnamese District in New Orleans.

While not the same lecture, you can listen to Andres Duany speak here:

To learn more about his work visit his Website here.

To view more videos featured on People + Nature website about nature in our cities here.

Keep Exploring!
The Bayou Botanist

Thursday, October 22, 2015

An afternoon at Rienzi: You had me at Porcelain

A view of the back of Rienzi in the Gardens 
Some of my favorite museums around the world are in former private homes; the Rodin Museum in Paris, the Leighton House in London, The Contemporary at Laguna Gloria in Austin, and the Bayou Bend in Houston. Down the street from the Bayou Bend, the Rienzi is the former estate of philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III who generously donated the home and grounds to the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston to house it's European decorative arts collection, including paintings, furnishings, sculptures and one of the largest collections of Worcester porcelain in the United States. The variety of color and form of the individual pieces in the collection makes the tour through the Rienzi feel like a treasure hunt.

The grand ballroom of the Rienzi house 

Every Wednesday, Rienzi opens its doors for open drawing sessions from 1:30pm -4:30pm.  I spent the entire afternoon engrossed in drawing one of the porcelain vases in the main Ballroom.

Sketching in the Rienzi

After a tour of the house, take a moment to wander through the Rienzi Gardens. The grounds are 4.4 acres of Texas woodlands and formal gardens including stunning southern magnolias. Also, make sure to include the Rienzi as part of your annual Azalea Trail in March 2016.

Magnolias and hedge gardens leading up to the entrance of the main house 

Finished version of drawing from the Rienzi; color added in my studio 

The Annual "Punch Party" will be hosted by MFAH tomorrow night from 7-9pm at the Rienzi! Try a historic English punch while wearing your pompadours and listening to a string quartet on the terrace!

Keep Exploring!
The Bayou Botanist

Read more about the Rienzi here.

Rienzi Hours: 
Wednesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Sunday, 1–5 p.m.Visits are by docent-led tour only.

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