Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Success Blooms From Opportunity – The Brookwood Community

While Al was home focusing on his domestic chores (i.e. cleaning out the garage), I decided it was time for a girls day out and I had the perfect destination in mind. There are some places in Texas that deserve all the attention they get. If good food, unique shopping, beautiful flowers, a relaxing atmosphere and helping others is what you are searching for as you travel Texas, then a visit to the Brookwood Community in Brookshire, Texas should be high on your bucket list. Located a short distance outside of Houston off Interstate 10 and FM 1489, the Brookwood Community is an oasis  in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the nearby Houston metropolis. 

As I arrived with my dear friend Pat in tow, I was struck by the peaceful, relaxed atmosphere we found. Everyone we encountered was more than just friendly, they seemed deeply contented. The pace was leisurely and it was clear that a trip to Brookwood is a time to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

We were a bit early for our lunch reservations so we had time to start our tour of the facilities in the on-site gift store. The front section is devoted primarily to home décor items. Yard art, vases, pillows, candles, urns, comfort bowls and much more were displayed artfully with something for just about any color palette.

As Pat and I moved into the art gallery area in the center of the gift shop, we were greeted by an enthusiastic young man who told us more about the Brookwood Community. Brookwood is a residential facility that services and trains adults with disabilities to become productive citizens with pride in their work. These citizens create the pottery for the gift shop; work in the green houses or in the café. The proceeds from these businesses all go toward supporting the Community. The art in the gallery is donated by well-known artists and the proceeds from the art sales are specifically designated to the Brookwood scholarship fund, to cover the living expenses of individuals who are no longer able to work, but want to stay at Brookwood.

We had only finished browsing half of the large gift shop when it was time for lunch. The elegant and graceful dining room had the same tranquil atmosphere as the rest of the facility. The menu was quite diverse and the food was fresh and flavorful. With a clear view of the beautiful gardens on one side and a cozy fire place on the other, it was easy to see why the café is a popular spot for celebrations and gatherings.

After a leisurely lunch, Pat and I ventured outside to tour the vibrant, fragrant gardens. Colorful flowers greeted us in grandeur as we walked around the water features and explored the extensive garden store. The greenhouse held more exotic plants as well as urns and other outdoor décor items that beckoned us to view their beauty and tempted us to take them home. All of these plants are grown on-site by the citizens.

Returning to our first stop, the gift shop, we explored the wide range of gourmet food items, bath products, scarves and accessories. Brookwood citizens make two different patterns of dishes, including my favorite bluebonnet pattern, which is now carried by local HEB stores. 

In a day filled with pleasant surprises, the last find of the day was the most unexpected. The back section of the gift shop houses the Shudde Brother’s Hatters. In business since 1901, this famous maker of cowboy hats has served Roy Roger’s, Tom Mix, John Wayne, Gene Autry, Dr. “Red” Duke and many other cowboys.  

It felt great to spend the afternoon in a relaxing environment with great food and an opportunity to support a wonderful cause. Whether you are looking for a venue for a wedding, a social event, or just a great afternoon out with a friend, you shouldn’t pass up a fantastic opportunity to help others as you travel Texas Thru My Back Door. Hmm... I wonder if Al has finished that garage.

We want to hear from you!  Let us know what you think of the places we visit or suggest new places for our next adventure.  Don't forget to like us on Facebook!  See you next week...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Coldspring – A Tiny Treasure

On a recent trip to the Trinity River Authority at Lake Livingston dam for a permit, Suzanne and I took a route that led us to Coldspring, Texas. The quaint, bustling small town encouraged us to stop for a look. Spying a sign pointing to Historic Coldspring, we took the bait and turned down the road. A few blocks away we found our destination. A collection of old buildings anchored by a historic jail house greeted us to view.

After exploring the historic buildings, back to the main part of town we went. We found a parking spot on the Liberty County Courthouse Square area and decided to look around. Coldspring is one of those little towns that is tucked away far from the freeways and main highways of the state, but once you discover it, you will want to share this treasure of a find.

On this particular day of the week, most of the antique and collectible shops were closed, but we were not disappointed. We roamed the shops and peered through the glass windows and doors, looking for those items that would encourage us to return for a weekend jaunt. At noon, the bells of the courthouse played a beautiful old hymn to remind us of times past.

Suzanne spied a courtyard entrance to some businesses tucked behind a store identified by a historic marker as the oldest building in town. The pathway led us to a cute, eclectic Bed and Breakfast. The friendly owners were outside and encouraged us to take a look at their labor of love.

Following the tiny house trend, this enterprising couple turned a two story storage building into a comfortable guest house. We were surprised to find that such a small building could be organized and decorated so that you actually forget about the size of the place. Eclectic, diverse, modern, and vintage might all be adjectives you would use to describe the place. Every corner had something of interest to check out.

The courtyard patio area was just as interesting with its unusual artisan decor and beautiful flowers. One could imagine sitting on the porch in the morning, sipping a hot cup of coffee watching the world around you slowly wake up to a wonderful new day.

Linda Stevens, the owner of the guest house, also owned the store out front, Findings, Etc. She graciously offered to open up the store for us so that we could browse around inside. We accepted her invitation and were amazed at all the diverse items inside for sale. Her stories of where or how she found each reclaimed or repurposed item were just as interesting as the items themselves. You could tell she enjoyed what she does for a living.

As usual, all this walking made me hungry. For some reason, Tex-Mex food sounded good. Thanks to Google, we located a place not far away. It seems like every little town in Texas has a Tex-Mex restaurant to check out. We were not disappointed. The fajitas were tender, the enchiladas were tasty.

Once back on the road back home, we were so happy to have found Coldspring. We had a wonderful time exploring this little town as we roamed Texas Thru Our Back Door!

We want to hear from you!  Let us know what you think of the places we visit or suggest new places for our next adventure.  Don't forget to like us on Facebook!  See you next week...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Johnson's Rock Shop - A Hidden Gem

Outside of Livingston in a remote area of East Texas you will find one the largest rock shops in Texas. As you follow your GPS to this remote location, you may just think you have rocks in your head because of the difficulty of finding this place. But when you finally reach your destination, you will find the trip was well worth the drive. This is not your typical small rock shop in a strip center; it is a large complex of small buildings filled with unique treasures and a yard containing some of the largest petrified wood specimens I have ever seen.

Suzanne and I were amazed to see all the various rock samples. Some were in their raw state; some were cut into slabs to reveal their interior beauty; and others were incorporated into jewelry and other finished products. One of Suzanne’s favorite was a wind chime made from thin slices of beautiful natural colors. Listening to the striking music of these natural substances in the whispering wind of this day was quite relaxing.  The Johnson’s gathered many of specimens locally, but make no mistake, this is an international business with visitors from all over the world.

The people who run the operation are even more interesting than the vast collection of minerals and gems. It is a family business. The patron of the business is Otis Johnson.  We were lucky enough to chat with him. One would think he might want to talk about all the rock specimens on the property but you would be wrong. His real passion is music and poetry. He has played with many of the old greats of country music. He even has a small music museum and recording studio on the property. Listening to his stories as he sat in a chair on the porch of the main building was an unexpected treat!

As we walked around, other members of the family offered assistance and information. They treated us like family and we felt like we had the run of the place. We made several rounds through the small buildings, visiting each several times, finding something we missed before with each visit. One can spend hours rummaging through all the rock samples. My favorite was the polished petrified palmwood slices. Not only is petrified palmwood the state rock of Texas, it’s cool looking with all the little dots through the interior wood. Can you envision this area of Texas as a resort area with swaying palm trees in the wind? That’s what it must have looked like millions of years ago. 

As Suzanne and I left the rock emporium, all I could think about was looking for petrified palmwood in my part of woods in Trinity County. No telling what treasure is out there waiting to be found as we see Texas Thru My Back Door!

We want to hear from you!  Let us know what you think of the places we visit or suggest new places for our next adventure.  Don't forget to like us on Facebook!  See you next week...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Annette’s Touch of Class

As Suzanne and I drive up Highway 45 to our place on Lake Livingston, we noticed the construction of a unique building, north of Conroe near New Waverly on the west side of the freeway, named Annette’s Touch of Class. With an old 1950’s era car embedded high on the wall of the building, a porch made of old car hoods, and an old theater marquis, how could we resist checking out this new Texas business.

When we pulled up into the parking lot, we saw many architectural antiques lying outside. Inside was a different story. The owners, a mother and daughter team, have successfully blended antiques and collectibles with interesting one of kind gifts, women’s fashion accessories, clothes, shoes and jewelry. Annette’s Touch of Class has been operating for over 10 years in marketplaces such as Canton Trade Days and the Houston Nutcracker Market, but this storefront is a new venture.

While Suzanne enjoyed looking through ladies apparel, shoes, accessories, and  the unique T-shirts, printed exclusively by Annette’s, I was intrigued by the man cave items created from re-purposed antiques and all the old signs displayed on the walls. The cool use of old car doors for the dressing rooms, an old car hood used for a bed headboard and the old fashion soda fountain area caught my attention as well. Whether you are a lady or a man, it’s easy to spend quite a bit of time browsing through this store.  They have a child friendly play area to boot!

As difficult as it was to do, I managed to pull Suzanne out of the shop and out to the adjacent tin barn and surrounded by more antique signs and architectural pieces.  Annette’s has an impressive collection of old car parts and other distinctive items that can be used to create the vintage decorator items displayed in the store. Just looking at this impressive collection is enough to inspire creative project ideas.  The owner’s determination to pursue business growth with this new store has yielded impressive results. 

So if you are tired of roaming the boring shopping malls of the big city and looking for some unusual and unique items, check out this one-of-a-kind Texas shopping experience near New Waverly as you see Texas Thru My Back Door!

Join in our fight against breast cancer.  Visit Suzanne's new blog "My Equations for Life" as she reflects on life B.C. (before cancer) and A.D. (after diagnosis) and help support new early cancer detection research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center with our Go Fund Me project below.