Houston

Houston has been a city slowly growing on me for quite sometime now.  With the recent devastation to that city I thought it would be a perfect time to highlight some of my most favorite places in the city.  No better picture to depict the city than that of Mr. Sam Houston himself proudly displayed in a very appropriate monument in Hermann Park.

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You know my fascination with museums, this city has a ton of them.  We spent one entire afternoon at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

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I was a bit giddy with their Hall of Paleontology.  I noticed right away that their display of the dinosaurs was unique… they were in action.  Not just on display, but they looked as if they were in action just frozen in time.  I loved it.  Their display of light on the animals played genius with the shadows, It was a perfect presentation.    IMG_7883IMG_5798IMG_4067IMG_1200

Cliff’s favorite portion was the Hall of Gems and Minerals.  We did not take one picture in that hall because we got a private tour from one of the museum curators.  He had noticed us reading the map of the museum and made small talk with us and that led to an extremely informative tour of the hall.  Gems and minerals is to Cliff what dinosaurs is to me, if this give you any hint at all of us!

As we continued to explore the museum we came to a room and both instantly thought “Jumanji”.  The Cabinet of Curiosities was a treasure!  The second picture depicts the room, lots of woodwork and specimens everywhere!  No pictures were taken in the room, you will have to see it for yourself.

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When you exit the museum you are in the McGovern Centennial Gardens.  The garden is just one part of Hermann Park.  It would take a full day of exploring to see all of the park, it has over 100 acres.   The McGovern Centennial Gardens was extremely well done.  It was so hot and humid that day… exploring outside was not an option.  I honestly wanted to jump in that water!  Texas humidity is no joke.

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Lets talk about food for a second.  I am from Southern California, and we take our Mexican food very serious.  Out in Texas they have Tex-Mex Mexican food, slightly different but similar so I tried to have an open mind if we were going to eat “Mexican” food on this trip knowing this.  We settled on a Mexican seafood place for lunch one day, La Fisheria.  I am a firm believer that there is no bad way to prepare seafood.  I will eat it prepared anyway!  After looking over the menu and wanting so badly to say one of everything please, we shared a plate called Trios de Tacos.  It had a beer battered shrimp taco, an al pastor marinated red snapper taco, and a creamy lobster taco.  It came with black beans and rice. They supplied the table with chips and salsa throughout our meal.  You know I am picky with my salsa so this one was defiantly not one of my favorites, but the tacos were delicious!  On our next trip back I want to try a dish they have called Steak De Atun Con Rajas – it is grilled yellow fin tuna steak served with defied black beans, potatoes, served in a green sauce of poblano peppers. OMG. YUM. *Currently on their website they state that they are closed due until further notice due to damage they sustained during  Hurricane Harvey.*  I cannot wait to come back and support them when they are open again for business.

La Fishería 213 Milam St., Houston, TX.

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What is Texas if we didn’t try a good BBQ place?  It wasn’t very hard to find BBQ, in Houston the question was which is the best place to try it at?  Cliff researched long and hard and we agreed to try Killens BBQ.    It came up on every list of BBQ places we looked… on every platform we researched.  We knew this was going to be good.  We also knew that the line to order was long, and that you could be waiting hours.  We were OK with this, all we had was time!  It was a bit outside of Houston in a town called Pearland, not terribly far from where we were, we hopped in an Uber and were on our way.  When we arrived there was virtually no line. We waited maybe 25 minutes.  It was almost cafeteria style.  You grab a tray, and you better know what you want by the time you get to the butcher.  Let’s say we were a little rushed and ordered a lot because we didn’t want to miss out on not ordering right.  Yeah… let’s go with that.  Didn’t really take pictures because we were hungry!  And this picture doesn’t even show the sides… you know we got sides!  I have a video over on my Instagram and it makes my mouth water just watching it…  this was our most expensive meal but well worth it.  We wanted to take that bone home so bad for Shosh!  I figured out I am definitely a fan of BBQ rub vs. BBQ sauce.  Killens is a place we want to take our girls to, they are meat eaters!!

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Believe it or not but we don’t eat huge meals breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Sometimes we are good just with a snack.  One of the days we were in Houston we found the perfect snack places, Caffe’ Bene.  They describe it as a European coffee-house meets a Korean bakery.  Not to shabby to me!  I had wanted the banana walnut honey bread but they were out of bananas.. so I ordered the strawberry honey cream cheese bread.  Still delicious! Caffe Bene is an area downtown called GreenStreet in Downtown Houston. It is within walking distance from Cliff’s office so he met me here and we finished off this snack!   IMG_7196

Now we had to try a good fried chicken place while we were in Texas.  Who doesn’t love a good fried chicken plate! Punk’s Simple Southern Food is where we ended up.  The whole vibe and aesthetic of the restaurant was somewhere I would want to live.  It was so inviting, and smelled delicious!  It was another hot afternoon for us and the air-condition  felt amazing and the ice water never tasted better.  Cliff and I shared another meal.  The crispy buttermilk fried chicken.  We ordered the half bird, it came with 5 pieces of chicken, served with horseradish mash, brown gravy, buttermilk biscuit with honey butter, dill pickle, & punks sauce, all for $18.  Dinner for 2 for under $20?  SOLD!  And it was delicious to boot! We have frequented this restaurant a few times now and still split the fried chicken, but we have added appetizers.  So far we have tried the deviled eggs –  with b&b pickles, mustard, mayo & smoked paprika and the loaded tater tots – creamy rice loaded with bacon, cheddar cheese, and scallions, rolled in potato crisps and fried served with buttermilk ranch.  Still have a ton more on this menu to try.

Punk’s Simple Southern Food –

5212 Morningside Dr.,
Houston, TX 77005

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Punk’s was located in what they call Rice Village, it’s an area that is close to Rice University.  You know how cute college towns are, this is one of those cute neighborhoods.  After dinner on this particular night it was cool enough to walk around. We ventured over to Rice University and explored the football field.  We have never looked away from a football field, and this field was glorious!

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I guess we like the heat so to say…. another scorcher and the humidity was high again but we wanted to visit the Glenwood Cemetery after hearing about it.  It was established as a private cemetery in 1871.  It was one of four of its kind in the United States that are modeled after same garden like park cemeteries.  Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lauren Hill in Philadelphia, Greenwood and Brooklyn all share the same park like characteristics.  They wanted it to be considered not only a cemetery but a park as well.

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The tombstones were breathtaking!  They were all so unique.  This one in particular stood out, this gentleman was a woodman and his tombstone was to mimic a log.

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Prestigious families I noticed had their plot almost fenced off in a little section, then they fit a lot of plots within that one area.  It didn’t feel like a cemetery walking through the grounds, other that the tombstones you would never know.  It was beautiful.  It was hard not to stop and read all of them.  I was fascinated with doing the math real quick and coming up with their age at their death… I admit it was a little strange but I couldn’t help it.  A little interesting fact is Howard Hughes is buried there.

 

Onto less morbid things!  How about those Houston Astros?  We were able to walk to the field from our hotel which is always a win for me, you know we very rarely rent cars.  We try to use pubic transportation or our own two feet as much as we can!  Let’s talk Minute Maid Park home of the Houston Astros for a minute.  It’s basically a brand new park, being built in 2000.  It’s not one of the first to have a retractable stadium roof, in fact a bunch of stadiums have retractable roofs now a days.  What makes this park unique is the roof retracts completely off the ballpark to expose the largest open area roofs in any ballpark.  Now that is pretty spectacular!  It makes sense in this Texas climate, on this particular day it was humid and rainy.  But inside the ballpark it was perfect.  The next day was beautiful weather so I am sure they open the roof.  Still fascinating to me.

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It’s hard to get a good picture from a stranger on your phone… but you have to do it anyway!  Sometimes a selfie just doesn’t cut it.

Now look at this funnel cake!!  With ice cream too!  I had just asked Cliff to go find some ice cream because I saw a little girl eating some soft serve out of a helmet, (mind you I try to always get that and give it to my niece Alexa because the helmets they serve the ice cream in fits perfectly on her American Girl dolls) but he came back with this.  I can’t complain it was much better.  This also was a perfect scrapbooker moment because I had asked for another paper that the funnel cake came on because I would be able to use it in my scrapbook!  Did I forget to mention while Cliff was getting this funnel cake a home run ball came right at me and I was scared and went for cover so the guy behind me caught it???  Yeah, this is not the first time either… I think I need to start taking a glove with me.

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When we fly out we try to do something close to either the airport with our luggage or close tour hotel so they can hold our luggage.  We close to do close to the airport this trip.  I packed light so it wasn’t so bad.. we just got a lot of looks wheeling around our luggage.  I was thankful for the stores who made me check my luggage at the counter!  We went to the Houston Galleria.  Now this isn’t the average mall, we are in Texas so it has to be big!  This mall has two hotels connected to it, an ice skating rink, not one but two swimming pools, and some of the best restaurants and shopping available.  Their mural movement was awesome to see within the mall and not outside.

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Not only is there two hotels but there is also three full service banks and even a post office.  We barely ventured around this mall before we had to leave.

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This picture below was taken on one of my morning walks downtown by our hotel.  I made the mistake of not recording what it was.  It was probably an impulse shot… but now I don’t know where it was exactly or what it was.  I will figure it out sooner or later. I just had to include it.

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I hope once the city is back on its feet and glorious again it will be ready to share Houston with lots of tourists.  I am ready for another visit.

We are in Houston a lot.  This is just one of our trips.  Check back and I will have information on Houston Heights, the Arts District, and our Rockets game experience!

 

**All photos were taken on my iPhone… sometimes I just don’t want to carry around my camera.  As for the quality, I can live with it.  The only other choice I have is to not have a picture at all.  A bad picture is better than no picture at all**

 

happy travels!

Chicago

I think I am on my 15 or so trip to Chicago, I know it’s over 10 and under 20 times.  Each time I go I try to seek out new places to eat, stay, and shop.  Some of my trips are planned way ahead of times some are just on a whim.  I scan the Southwest app for great deals weekly.  Cliff is a frequent flier of Southwest so I fly for free when he flies on his companion pass.. it makes travel less expensive.  This flight cost us $22 roundtrip I was free and he used points!  Next was to find an inexpensive hotel.  We usually Airbnb  when we can because we like staying in neighborhoods, but Cliff found a hotel deal we couldn’t pass up.

 

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FieldHouse Jones  was the choice for this trip.  They had me at great graphics and eye-catching photography of the hotel.  They had Cliff at the whole sport like themed decor of the place.  The pictures on their website we exactly what it looked like in person.  I was sold.

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The Lobby.
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Downstairs
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Downstairs you can cook,  eat, play games, relax, or socialize.
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When the elevators opened I was already in awe.
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They didn’t miss a beat decorating this place.

Not to mention the AMAZING coffee shop in the lobby, DropShop Coffee.  It really is perfect.  You will have to get a cup of coffee and walk around for yourself and explore the hotel.  Better yet order some lunch from DropShop and sit in the open air area by the lobby… I was dying to just sit there and relax but I didn’t have time to this trip.

 

We took an early flight out of LAX (mind you we never fly out of LAX but we could not refuse the price) and landed at Midway  in Chicago at 11:30.  I love flying into Midway because you can hop on the train (Orange Line) straight from the airport into the city.  We took the Orange line to the Brown Line and were at our stop in 25 minutes… walked off the train and immediately saw a Starbucks and a Paper Source… I was already in love.

 

First on the list after checking in and even before lunch was Cliff’s beloved Field Notes.  Cliff started collecting these notepads and using them long before I discovered them.  Something we both appreciate is a good notebook since we are always taking notes, writing stuff down or working.  I was just in Chicago a few weeks ago and wasn’t able to come by here but still managed to buy about $40 worth of stuff.  This trip I think I bought the same amount.  Worth every penny.

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We were able to get a quick tour.
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Outside the building.

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Inside you are able to shop.

 

What did I purchase?  A planner!!  And a Portland set of notebooks, Cliff bought some new pens, The green book on baseball, and pens,  (the coffee one we actually bought at the Starbucks Reserve at Wrigley Field).  He gave us the Chicago flag ones (I just bought those ones last week LOL) and some rubber bands to keep the notebooks together.

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Now it was onto lunch.. I was starved!  Cliff had his list of must eat at places so we were off to Logan Square to Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits.

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Peach Pie
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Cliff had sausage with gravy biscuits with an egg on top.
duh.  I had a pot pie.  Did that surprise you?

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It was perfect!  Every single bite!  This is now going to be a regular stop on our Chicago trips.  Did you see that crust on my pot pie??

Ok now for some more shopping.  I had a few places on my list.  Steel Petal Press was our second stop of the day.  If you follow my Instagram stories I walked you through this store.  It was cute!  Love seeing the actual printing press right in the store.  Bought a few things that I loved for me.. and some gifts as well.

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I am going to use the large Chicago tag as a front cover for my Traveler’s Notebook!

We walked through Logans Square into a few more shops.  Play was a one of a kind toy store.  I wish we had more of them.  If you followed my Instagram story you saw the CD’s of Emeniem, Rhianna, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, and more sung to lullabies.  I should have bought them all!  I managed to pick up a few unique items as gifts for the holidays.. they even gift wrapped them for me.  Love that kind of customer service, so glad we have establishments like that still going strong.

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You can’t really see if but the theater was also showing, Pulp Fiction and Boys in the Hood!

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Explored Loagn’s Square and parts of Bucktown… still more to these neighborhoods we just ran out of time.  I think we walked close to 6 miles exploring… and we were not stopping now.  I was craving Greek food for dinner.  Another 2 mile walk from where we were and we were in Greek Town!

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Cliff had not walked this route before so it was great scenery.  We deserved every bite of whatever we were going to eat after that trek!  My go to restaurant in Greek Town is Greek Islands. My uncle took me there a few years ago and it has slowly become of my favorite restaurants ever!  One of my first trips to Chicago my uncle took me to Greek Town and we ate at Athena.  I have not been back since then so Cliff suggested we try it again.  It was no Greek Islands but the plate we shared was delicious!  We ordered Saganaki (the flaming cheese I always Instagram about!)  Its my favorite and we decided on seafood so we split an order of Shrimp Skordati.  No pictures… we were just two people at dinner that night.  Believe me it was delicious!

We were done for the night!  Headed back and were getting ready for the next day!

 

Cliff picked the breakfast spot again… he’s getting better than I am.  It was Batter and Berries. It was voted one of the top 10 best breakfast places in Chicago, so we basically were sold.  I didn’t stray off far from what I would normally get.. Banana Nut Waffle.  The butter that you see in the picture on top of my waffle was a maple sugar butter so you needed no syrup!  Cliff was adventurous and order one of the daily specials, Cajun blacked salmon eggs benedict with cheesy crusted hash browns.  His was so savory, they both were a big thumbs up for us!  _DSC1112edit500002_1edit500002_2

On to more shops that were on my list!  Foursided was just under a mile away.. an easy walk on any given day… but it started raining on us!  It was well worth getting wet for.  We spent a long time in there and almost $100!  I can’t wait to come back and shop some more!

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I got a canvas bag of Chicago by neighborhoods not pictured.

We had time for Cliff to drop into his Chicago office.. we haven’t really been in the city yet, we have stayed on the outskirts this whole time.  The office was in the perfect location on the water.

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Cliff’s office is right on the water.

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Not a bad view if you had to work in the same place every day.
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The offices look outward to this.

After touring his office we walked a couple blocks to the Goddess and the Baker.  Remember the picture of the rainbow cake from my Instagram?  It’s from this place.  What did I order this time?  goddess “almond joy” frappe: liquid chocolate, coconut cream, almond syrup, milk and espresso, blended. topped with whip, chocolate and toasted coconut flakes.  It was good!  _DSC1144_DSC1140

Now onto the highlight of the trip… The Cubs Game!!!

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Wrigley Field
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The firestation at Wrigley
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The Starbucks Reserve at Wrigley!  The Barista was excited we were buying the Field Notes  Coffee Origins she showed us her well used one!
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Sold only at Starbucks Reserve
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We were there early enough for batting practice.
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It’s no Dodger Dog but that celery salt makes it!
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I didn’t have my zoom lens but the silhouettes of the people walking as the sun was setting was so gorgeous!
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I think we were good luck tonight.. we saw some home runs and the Cubs won.

We hoped on the red line and it took us back to our hotel after a little walk.

The next day we were flying out so we had to be quick in what we had plans for.  First off is to find a food truck I follow and get the sandwich I drool over looking at each week.  After walking over 1.5 miles out of the way we find them.  The Corner Farmacy.  They have this one turkey sandwich covered in sprouts!!!!  If you know me you know I love sandwiches and sprouts!!  Cliff and I shared a sandwich and it was perfect!  I have to come back in the fall for the other one I drool over.. it’s an asparagus grilled cheese!!!!!  Its seasonal so I will see you in a couple of months again Chicago!

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I liked this museum and everything it stands for so much I bought a membership here last year.  Anytime I can actively support the arts and sciences I will.  The museum of Science and Industry  is a full day of science!  The Hyde Park neighborhood is spectacular just to explore.

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After a day full of science we were ready to eat before we headed out on our flight back home.  I got to pick both places to eat at today and I was doing pretty good.  So I went for it and picked a ramen place… we are super picky with our ramen so this could go bad real quick.  Ramen-san it was.  It did not disappoint, and we were very happy people!  I ordered the tonkotsu, and Cliff ordered the special for the day, the beef brisket ramen.  We are adding Ramen-san to our  list of must trys for Chicago.  If you follow me on Instagram you saw my story – YUM!

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I ordered the Tonkotsu

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That was our quick trip to Chicago!  We spent less than $150 on the airfare and hotel room.  Do your research and seek out the less popular hotels.  The small boutique hotels are amazing.. give them a try.  Or if you want to try an Airbnb you can find some really inexpensive ones!  Get out there and travel… to anywhere!  Doesn’t matter how you get there… it’s what you do once you land.

 

happy travels!

The Bags I Travel With

Must Have Bags

We all have to start somewhere right?  Why not with the bags you travel with!  First off, I never leave home without my Tumi carry on.  It fits all my outfits, shoes, and cosmetic bags with room for shopping.  How does this magic happen? With a Tumi you can pack your items on both sides of the suitcase…. not just one side and then you zip it closed. Two full packing compartments people!!!  Don’t quite understand?  You must see it for yourself to understand.  Visit a Tumi store, or outlet store.  They are pricy but so worth it.  They even have their own GPS on the luggage so you will know where it is at all times.  My Dad got me my first Tumi for Christmas one year (and another one since then) and now I am a huge fan.  I have spotted them at the Nordstrom Rack too, so keep your eyes peeled for these.  Don’t even get me started on the swivel and how easy it is to push this thing around!  Go give it a swirl.IMG_8248

 

My next go to bag is my Betsey Johnson backpack.  Any backpack will work… I like to keep my hands free, and a backpack is perfect!  It has so many different compartments, pockets and zippers, it is just perfect. I picked a Betsey bag because it is just so darn cute not to carry around!  I found mine at Marshalls, but you can find Betsey at any major department store.

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You need to have a few different cosmetic bags to separate your toiletries.  I have three small zipper pouches.  One for my toiletries like my toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, deodorant, etc.  The next one is only for my make up.  The last one is for my hair accessories, bobby’s, rubber bands, and headbands.  Once again I could not refuse any Betsey Johnson bag.  They are durable and come in a million different patterns and sizes.  Look at stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross to find some at a great price.

 

My last favorite must have bag is a laundry bag!  I keep my clean clothes far away from my dirty clothes!!  It makes it easy to just come home and dump them in the washing machine!  I also stick a couple of dryer sheets in there to keep it smelling somewhat fresh (if dirty clothes can smell fresh).  I have from time to time put a bar of soap int there when I didn’t have a dryer sheet on hand.  I got mine from the Container Store and I love it.

 

Baby Soul

You know when someone just has a good soul?  When they are destined for miracles?  That is pretty much this gal right here.  I was a tad nervous photographing this most intimate time in her life, for one she is a fellow admired photographer and two big brother is pretty much hugging a tiny miracle of love.  We treated the day as any other day.. just two friends hanging out at this magical place, never mind the 110 degree weather!  That afternoon we created magic together.