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

 

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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
View from the golf course of Tapatio Springs.

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

Rustic Charm in the Texas Hill Country

I know that there are many places of awe inspiring beauty in the world. Colorado has the most majestic mountains I’ve ever seen.  I am enthralled by the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.  I have been astounded by the breathtaking beauty of Hawaii.  Thailand fascinated me with it’s exotic culture and charming people. I long to visit and see more of these amazing places.  However unique and fascinating those places are, they are far from my home.

So, when I need a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, I escape to the Texas Hill Country. My husband and I load up the Tahoe, along with our schnauzer, Bear, and head west until the flat lands gradually turn into rugged, rolling hills covered with live oak and cedar trees.  Nestled between San Antonio and Austin and encompassing 25 counties, the Texas Hill Country boasts of a rustic charm filled with a a rich Texas history, charming architecture, and a natural beauty that soothes my soul and brings me peace and serenity.

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I have to admit, the weather was less than desirable the weekend of our last visit. After our arrival the fog and rain set in, and temperatures dropped into the 30’s.  No worries though.  We loved being there no matter what the weather.

The Texas Hill Country is known for it’s numerous small town venues, restaurants and antique shops all filled with quaint, rustic charm.  One of our favorite hidden gems is the Welfare Cafe. Located off IH-10, between Boerne and Comfort, the Welfare Cafe is an out of the way kind of place that is not too be missed.

The Welfare Cafe began as a General Store way back in early Texas history opening around 1848.  The local post office was later established in 1880 inside the General Store.  Welfare became a railroad shipping point and the small town thrived. By 1892, the town of Welfare consisted of a whopping 275 residents, along with a schoolhouse, saloon, hotel and cotton gin.

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In 1916, the original general store and post office burned down, but was rebuilt that same year.  As time passed, the small towns population dwindled and bad times haunted the small community.  The boll weevils destroyed the cotton crops, and of course there was the  great depression.  The population dropped to a mere 25 residents.  Through it all, the post office and general store continued to be an important meeting place for the community.  A place to collect your mail and exchange stories, borrow books and talk about the weather. Over time as the population of the small town dwindled,  the local school closed and the few students  that still lived in Welfare would take the bus to the school in Comfort.  At the end of the day the bus would drop them off at, where else, but the general store.  In 1966, the trained stopped running past Welfare and it wasn’t long after that the post office closed, followed by the general store in 1978.

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Today, the fascinating history of the small community of Welfare is being revitalized by Gabriele McCormick and her husband David.  In the early nineties, Gabriele and David were looking for a change from corporate life in the city and fell in love with the charm of the hill country,  as so many of us do.  They purchased the general store, post office, and various barns on about 150 acres.  Slowly, they began to restore the old buildings and began the transformation to what we now enjoy as the Welfare Cafe.  The restaurant has thrived, and over the years, Gabby and David have continued to make improvements on the land.

In 2005, the Goat Barn was built using reclaimed wood from the original barn.  There is now an intimate wine bar in the loft. The Welfare Cafe frequently offers special events and is the perfect venue for a rustic, but charming hill country wedding.

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As mentioned previously, the weather was dreary the day we visited and the charming, rustic gardens were showing the effects of the recent freeze.  I have to admit, I enjoy wandering the grounds almost as much as I enjoy the fabulous cuisine which has a touch of German influence.  The day we were there, we enjoyed a delicious Sunday brunch complete with German sausage and strudel, croissants, an assortment of fresh fruits and cheeses, quiche, pancakes and so much more.  Of course, what Sunday brunch is not complete without Mimosas!

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The Welfare Cafe is a delightfully charming venue filled with nostalgia and relics from the past.  This is a delightful spot for a lovely lunch or dinner.  Be sure to check out their website and calendar for special events.  They offer special holiday celebrations and often have live entertainment.

The charms of the Texas Hill Country are endless.  If I had my way, I would spend my days wandering the many small towns and visiting all the lovely shops, restaurants, historical sites, and possibly a winery or two.

I hope that someday you have a chance to visit the Texas Hill Country and explore the many fascinating venues that the area has to offer.

“Texas is a State of Mind.”  –  John Steinbeck

xxoo – Gerri

* I would love to hear a comment from you have visited or plan to visit the Texas Hill Country or the Welfare Cafe and Goat Barn.

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