Where’s Soo?

 

The Question

Did you wonder what happened to me this year? Did you think I dropped off the face of the earth??? I admit it. There wasn’t much reaching out this year, but I’m still here. Really. I am.

 

The Explanation

For one thing, I became more active on Twitter. Quickly posting 140 character tweets, including images, is so freeing. And I learn lots by following amazing people in various fields of interest. I even won an ASUS tablet on Twitter! (Tell you about it in another post.)

The second reason is because we have been traveling quite a bit. Often, in my posts, I try to research places or subjects I mention to give you interesting tidbits and facts. That requires a little more thought and planning, which can be difficult to do when we’re on the go.

 

The Gratitude

But, let me tell you …

This has been a wonderful year! A blessed year! A year of thanksgiving!

A little one has come into our family and enriched our lives immensely. And to add to that, my husband and I have taken more time to travel our beloved United States and beyond.

 

January

DSC06416We visited Ice Land at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas. It was 9° inside! They brought in a team of experienced ice sculptors from Harbin, China. Also known as ‘Ice City’, Harbin is the acknowledged cradle of ice and snow art in China and is famous for its spectacular ice and snow sculptures.  

The Moody Gardens theme was a SpongeBob SquarePants Christmas and went into the first week of 2015. 

 

Before heading home, we had dinner at Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant, the largest fresh fish house along the Gulf coast. With over 100 years of seafood service in Galveston, this is the place we go when we want a view of the water and to be pampered in a lovely setting.DSC06488

 

Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the United States and has a large number of Asian residents. Understanding the need to educate Americans about Asia, a group led by former First Lady Barbara Bush and former Ambassador Roy M. Huffington established Asia Society Texas Center in 1979.

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I visited the Asia Society Texas Center when there was an exhibit of The Noh Masks of Bidou Yamaguchi. His 2005 mask of Johannes Vemeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” was so unexpected! Can you imagine being behind the mask, trying to feel what she was thinking?

 

 

 

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Oni Sadobo, 2011, was made of the treacherous monk from a famous Kabuki play. Very meticulous. Even the brown specks on his face replicated the foxing seen on the original woodblock print!

 

 

 

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I couldn’t resist trying on a mask! Like it?

 

 

 

 

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston offers free general admission every Thursday. Lots of wonderful things to see. One of my favorite pieces is by Mary Cassatt. Mary was one of only two women and the lone American to join the Impressionists. Her close friend, Edgar Degas, encouraged her to join and what a gift she has given us! “Susan Comforting the Baby” is such a lovely snapshot of a typical moment in everyday life.IMG_0561

 

Really like this sculpture by Robert Rauschenberg, born just down the highway from Houston, in Port Arthur, Texas. Only then, he was called Milton. The chairs are really metal, assembled to appear wooden!

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Interesting man. In the mid-1940s, Robert had planned to go into medicine, but after serving in the Navy, he enrolled in art school in Kansas. The following year, he went to Paris to study at one of the art Academies.

In the 1950s, Rauschenberg recyled found things like tissue paper and dirt into his art. Throughout the years, he designed costumes, sets and lighting for dance companies. He also founded or co-founded several organizations to help artists.

 

February

The Chinese Lunar New Year brought out some beautiful clothes. This shy young boy was kind enough to stop a moment and let me take a picture. (As with any recognizable close-ups of children, I ask their parents or guardians for permission first.)

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We head north to spend time with relatives. It snowed, which doesn’t happen often in the Houston area. It was lovely!

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This is also the month trail riders and wagons start the trek to Houston’s Livestock Show & Rodeo! It can take weeks for some teams. This particular team, Los Vaqueros Rio Grande, drove their five wagons the farthest: 386 miles!  It starts in Reynosa, Mexico, crosses into Hidalgo, Texas and comes right by our community on the three week ride into Houston. They have been riding into the HLSR for 42 years! I have only seen them go by our community THREE times in the 20 years we’ve lived here, so it was a real treat to take a quick shot as they rode by!

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March

I went to Arizona to visit my old roommate. We celebrated Palm Sunday at an inspiring, bonding outdoor mass. (I’m Baptist, but she didn’t know of a Baptist church, and well, we worship the same God.)

 

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Afterward, we walked the Labyrinth at the Franciscan Renewal Center. The labyrinth is a physical representation of the journey of one’s life, including experiences, changes, discoveries and challenges. As you walk the path, you are invited to remember the story of your life. For medieval Christians who couldn’t take the long, hard pilgrimage, labyrinths were the alternative form for prayer. The seven circles are shaped like the Cross and you can walk it any way you like.

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This particular labyrinth was designed by Taffy Lanser, a founding member of the international Labyrinth Society.

 

We also went to a festival in Scottsdale.The theme might have been Spain. They had gorgeous Andalusians (Pure Spanish Horses) walking about, singers and (I think) flamenco dancing. Gorgeous desert blooms!

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The only down side of the trip was when I was catching a flight back. I had just found out I had to change my flight and leave a day earlier, which was that day! The flight was moved to two hours before take-off and I rushed to find a taxi to take me to the airport. Compared rates and went with Discount Cabs. BIG mistake! Wished I’d taken the time to research it. I gave location and destination and was given an approximation, give or take a few dollars. The cab was late, it didn’t look like a cab, and the driver was new. I had to get in or miss my flight. When I asked the driver why he was so late, he said he didn’t take his phone in when he had to stop at a store. NOT very professional. The final bill was $17 more than the quote. I lost a few minutes trying to speak with a supervisor about the outrageous overage. Three people later, no refund. So, the moral of the story is to use Yelp or check the Better Business Bureau or Google search (or ALL of them!) when comparing prices. The least expensive may not be such a bargain in the long run. Beware Discount Cabs!!!

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“Happy Veterans Day!”

"Baba"

“Baba”

“Happy Veterans Day, Baba!”

That’s what I would have said to my father, were he alive today. “Baba” served in the U.S. Army during WWII. He was assigned to mess duty and used those skills to open a succession of restaurants years later. He re-enlisted in the the U.S. 14th Air Service Group, 407th Supply and Service Unit that supported the Flying Tigers stationed in China.

His good friend, Staff Sgt. Lewis Yee, taught him how to drive the big tankers hauling fuel for the airplanes. There were harrowing trips driving convoys through The Hump, that treacherous area of the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains. The Burma road was a deeply winding route between India and China that was taken with big, unwieldy tankers next to sheer drops that required drivers with nerves of steel to navigate. I’ll tell you more about my father and his friend, Staff Sgt. Lewis Yee, in a later post.

If you see or know a veteran, please, please, take time to thank him or her for their service to our country. It can be any day of the year to do it. We owe them much!

“God Bless America!”

 

 

“Happy July 4th!”

A reminder to my fellow Americans:

This female eagle was seen in Yellowstone Park.

This female eagle was seen in Yellowstone Park.

 

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” ~ from the Declaration of Independence

 

 

 

The teeny, tiny white dot in the background is the eagle. We had a wonderful time!

The teeny, tiny white dot in the background is the eagle. We had a wonderful time!

 

Last week, we visited Yellowstone Park. Matt from Buffalo Bus tours did a great job showing us bison, elk, a bear and deer in the park. More in a later post.

A “Happy July 4th!” shout-out to Em, Miss B., J., K., E., R., M. and all the lovely people we met on the shuttle!

 

This year is the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner:

“God Bless America!”

February 12, 2014 Meet Cricket!

You will love my lovely hometown!

You will love my lovely hometown!

 

 

 

Hola! My name is Cricket. I was born in the central plaza of La Antigua, Guatemala. I am made of twisted wires and two pretty turquoise bead eyes.

Are you my cousin?

Are you my cousin?

 

 

 

 

 

I have looked for other family members, but it seems that they are not nearby. It is good that I am curious and make friends easily.

 

 

 

Let me show you some of the lovely things in my picturesque hometown.Cricket 2

Rooftops are perfect for exercising and reading!

Rooftops are perfect for exercising and reading!

Exotic ice cream creations to tickle your taste buds!

Exotic ice cream creations to tickle your taste buds!

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"Painting" sawdust carpets for Semana Santa

“Painting” sawdust carpets for Semana Santa

Though not considered lovely, the painted public wash tubs have seen decades of dirty clothes.

Though not considered lovely, the painted public wash tubs have seen decades of dirty clothes.

Senor Crepe makes Cricket a complimentary dessert

Senor Crepe makes Cricket a complimentary dessert

 

There are many pretty flowers here.

There are many pretty flowers here.

 

Magic Day 5: Belize City, Belize

Thursday,  November 7, 2013

"Sorry, what can I do?"

“Sorry, what can I do?”

We’re told to not venture outside of the tourist areas, so Lonnie & I sign up at Belize Caribbean Tours to visit the ruins. We hope that a small group with a guide will be a nice experience. It was a mistake … a BIG mistake. They herd four of us around for almost an hour, to three different “waiting areas” as they try to get more people to fill up the van. There are about a dozen of us who finally leave. But not before the agent gets an earful, even after he offers to add another stop along the route (that would squeeze the schedule’s timeline). If there’s a long wait time, passengers should be told. They probably didn’t want to lose customers, but it’s still a poor policy. We know better now that unless you already have a group going, DON”T sign up for a van!!!

Mayan ruins

Mayan ruins

Imagine their lives ...

Imagine their lives …

To be fair, our guide, Richard, is quite good. With 16 years as a guide under his belt, he’s a constant stream of Belize history. He says to ask him anything, even about his family. (We now know how much it costs for his child to go to school and what color her uniform is.  We also go by the school she attends.) There’s a short tour of the city, then countryside, before taking an hour long trip to the ruins. Okay, it’s fun speeding past the huge, lumbering cruise buses that sway along the horribly pockmarked excuse of a road. Thinking positively, our oft times jarring ride can also be seen as an invigorating seat massage. An advantage of a small group is that we can listen up close to the commentary – we definitely would not be able to hear as well in a large group walking the ruins. 

If you plan to visit for a while, this is some of what Richard shared with the van as we went hurtling along. Belize’s top four industries are agriculture, aquaculture, tourism and oil. There is no local paper, but they have electricity and lots of cable shows to keep them connected with the world. Water is 1/2 a U.S. cent per gallon. Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America. Thirteen years ago cruise ships began docking in Belize and Americans came, buying property and building homes here. Every citizen in Belize who turns 18 is gifted property from the government – in the city, a small property, in the country, up to 10 acres. A 2000 sq. ft. home in a decent neighborhood in the city runs about $250 for property tax. If you have someone working for you (maid, gardener), you have to pay income tax, about 7%.

June to November is the rainy season. We come at a good time. Last week everything was flooded and all tours were canceled! The last big hurricane here was in 1961. The crime rate is very low, 89 homicides/murders so far this year for the whole country. Richard talks about concrete homes, delicious fruit, the population, and much more! 

Happy image compliments of the house photography team:

A magical Elegant Night

A magical Elegant Night

Dining room dancing! Add another performance from Marlon, the Singing Waiter:

Day 42: Montreal

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In the car, we listen to the CD of an older man who sang on the boardwalk yesterday. He sang French songs beautifully, but only had American songs on the CD. Our son can’t stop laughing as the man used an over-the-top Louis Armstrong voice in ALL of his songs!

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal

Even with the GPS, we take a wrong turn and finally figure out how to get back on track. We visit the visitor’s center on Rue Notre Dame and get a walking map of notable landmarks. We view many, including Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. In the chapel at the back of the basilica, world renown songstress, Celine Dion, was wed.

Notre-Dame Basilica chapel

Notre-Dame Basilica chapel

Lighting a candle in the basilica

Lighting a candle in the basilica

Inside Notre-Dame Basilica

Inside Notre-Dame Basilica

Restaurant Oh! Dumplings

Restaurant Oh! Dumplings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My son pops into Restaurant Oh! Dumplings for a quick snack on the run. He says it’s, “Oh-kay.”

Les 3 Basseurs

Les 3 Basseurs

 

 

 

Lunch at Les 3 Brasseurs (The 3 Brewers) was alright. My goat cheese flatbread was good. Lonnie’s schnitzel with bratwurst was average. Our son’s beer-battered poutine was good.

Decorated pumpkins take over the Botanical Garden greenhouse!

Decorated pumpkins take over the Botanical Garden greenhouse!

 

 

Tonight, we go to the Montreal Botannical Garden. We visit the greenhouse and Insectarium first and are disappointed to have not gone to the Mosiacultures Internationales first!

Unusual insects such as this lovely winged specimen fill the Insectarium

Unusual insects such as this lovely winged specimen fill the Insectarium

A sad fact ...

A sad fact …

Watch out!

Watch out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mosiacultures Internationales is winding down, with exhibits being dismantled.

Love is all around

Love is all around

Catch a ride!

Catch a ride!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada 3We walk over to view The Magic of Lanterns. Hundreds of handmade silk lanterns from China illuminate the Chinese Garden. This year’s theme is “The First Emperor’s Procession.”Canada 1

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In the teahouse, a talented performer creates magic!

Meat lovers could be happy here!

Meat lovers could be happy here!

For dinner, our son takes us to a friend’s recommendation, Schwartz’s Deli. It has got to be the best meat sandwich I’ve ever had! Must be the authentic atmosphere and teasing waiters. It was special enough to have a musical made of it. For a quick dessert, a walk over to Ripples to enjoy Mint Oreo and Cardamon ice cream! My cardamon scoops are chock full of nuts – pistachio, almond, etc. and tiny bits of savory cardamon. It was great at the beginning, but a bit strong toward the end. A good choice for something different and a piquant end to a satisfying day out!

Day 4: Biloxi, Mobile, Panama City Beach

Saturday,  September 7, 2013

Biloxi, Mississippi has a lighthouse smack in the middle of a highway.  At one time, it was a working lighthouse.  Eventually, the town grew around it.  Built in 1848, the lighthouse has a rich history with two generations of one family operating it from 1866 to 1929.  We’re too late for the last tour at 9:30am, but are able to glean more information about it from the Mississippi Visitors Center next door.Biloxi lighthouse

The center is the most beautiful visitors center I’ve ever seen!  Rising like a grand southern mansion, it’s a mini museum of exhibits, a theater, and an event venue.  There’s a model of the lighthouse, a video on Marlin Miller’s journey to beautify the Gulf Coast, Elvis Presley’s jacket, Bo Diddley’s square guitar and more.  On the wide veranda, two sisters are enjoying the beach view. They came in for a Girls’ Week.

Off we go to Alabama!  The Visitors Center that we visit may be an older building, but they sure make us feel welcome.  An enthusiastic young woman, by the name of Amanda, greets visitors with a mile-wide smile.  Every guest I saw her interact with was treated with attention and lots of suggestions for places to go and what to expect, her ponytail bouncing as she emphasizes points of interest.  So far, she’s the best visitors center employee we’ve encountered.  Wished I’d asked her for a picture so you could see that mega-watt smile.

We stop by Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile to see the USS Alabama and decide we didn’t have time to tour it and still make it to Panama Beach City, Florida at a decent time. But, we did get some photos …

USS Alabama

USS Alabama

This beautifully rendered American flag was painted on the side of one of the buildings two days before!

This beautifully rendered American flag was painted on the side of one of the buildings two days before!

U.S. Coast Guard plane

U.S. Coast Guard plane

Minutes down the street, we have a late lunch at Felix’s Fish Camp Grill in Mobile. It was very pleasant. My husband had Grilled Red Snapper with Green Beans Almondine. I enjoyed the Ahi Tuna Salad. We’re trying to eat lighter as hours of sitting in the car doesn’t burn many calories.

Lunch at Felix's Fish Camp Grill

Lunch at Felix’s Fish Camp Grill

We come into Panama City Beach as the sun begins to set and pull over to see our first Florida sunset on the trip. I’m so happy!

Another gorgeous Florida sunset!

Another gorgeous Florida sunset!

When asked where to go for dinner, the hotel front desk clerk recommends Capt. Anderson’s. We drive a mile or so down the street to the Marina. There’s a one hour wait at Capt. Anderson’s, so we decide to try the Marina Cantina next door. We had Chicken Chapatula and Fish Tacos. The food was alright, but the view of the marina was better.

Capt. Anderson's Marina

Capt. Anderson’s Marina

To top off the night, we went to Bruster’s Ice Cream next to our hotel, where the ice cream is made fresh daily.

Dessert!

Dessert!