Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Astronaut Wives Club

Today's agenda included the launch party for Lily Koppel's new book, The Astronaut Wives Club. 

The event, hosted by book and author promoter Jane Moser, took the form of an Afternoon Tea at Ouisie's Table. On the menu were tiny finger sandwiches, scones and pastries, along with hot and iced tea - and, for some, champagne and chocolate martinis. The "adult beverages" were an appropriate nod to the 1960s when the Astrowives were at the center of the national spotlight.

The assembled group was an interesting mix of women. Some were professionals; some were not. Some were old enough to remember the start of our nation's race to the moon. Others were not even born until decades later. What they all had in common, however, was a love of reading and high interest in this book and the "stars" of the story.  Like me, all were delighted to find some of the Astrowives among us, including Jennie Bassett, Sue Bean, Barbara Cernan Butler, Harriet Eisele and Beth Williams.

The program began with welcoming remarks by Moser, followed by a reading by the author. A highly skilled storyteller, Koppel's introduction to the book immediately drew us in. As she read, we were transported back in time, to the start of the space race and our country's commitment to win it.

The Astronaut Wive Club recounts the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and the devoted women behind the bravest men of the 20th century.

Additionally, it is the story of female friendship and the strong bonds that developed between a bevy of totally different individuals when linked together by their shared and all-important roles in American history.

The Astronaut Wives Club is a must-read. And, tonight, reading this book - most likely straight through - is exactly what I will be doing!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Empty Bowls


After many years of planning to check out the Empty Bowls in Houston, I finally made it over to the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft today to see what the excitement was all about. 

Empty Bowls is a national grassroots effort to raise funds for to feed the hungry in communities across the country. Artists and craftspeople work throughout the year to create uniquely beautiful soup bowls to donate to the cause. Then, people like me (who love and collect hand-made pottery) show up and make a $25 donation. Donors are then invited to select a bowl of their choice and stay for a light lunch of soup, bread and beverage. (Of course, additional bowls may also be purchased.) The funds raised go to the Houston Food Bank.

As my friend, Faye, suggested, I got to HCCC shortly after the doors opened — when the selection would be best. But, even though the event had just begun, the crowd of supporters was big.

Many of the early birds had already picked out and paid for their favorites. Others were doing what I would soon find myself doing - walking up and down the aisles of pottery-laden tables, finding it difficult to make decisions. But, finally, inspired by the swell of the crowd and all the outstretched arms, I made my move.

I took home two new soup bowls; both about the same size and of similar colors. They will be displayed in my kitchen, so I will use them often. And, each time I do, I will be reminded of this great community effort and my own delight in supporting it. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Neil Cavuto

Neil Cavuto, senior vice president of FOX Business News, was in town today to speak to energy executives and experts at the Fourth Annual Houston Luncheon of the Institute for Energy Research.The event was held at the Hilton Americas Hotel. 

The Institute for Energy Research, based in Washington D.C., is a not-for-profit organization that conducts intensive research and analysis on the functions, operations and government regulation of global energy markets.

A private reception for sponsors and special guests was held prior to the main event, where Cavuto posed with all who welcomed a photo op. I took my turn and was delighted to be able to chat with him. He couldn't have been more gracious and generous with his time.  

Later on, when Cavuto addressed the crowd, he told us a lot about his upbringing, the strong influence of his parents and lessons learned from them. And, as expected by many who watch FOX Business News regularly, he poked fun at himself with gusto and aplomb.

Cavuto's praise for the energy industry, as well as jabs at the Obama Administration for its lack of appreciation for this economy driver, drew enthusiastic rounds of applause and more than a few Texas-size hoops and hollers. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem, whose name will be forever linked to the feminist movement, spoke today at a benefit luncheon for the Women's Resource of Greater Houston. And, more than 1,000 women showed up at the J.W. Marriott Hotel to enjoy the wit and wisdom of the 79-year-old activist and author. 

The crowd was full of enthusiastic fans, so the energy of the room for high. But, even more so when Steinem approached the podium and loudspeakers blared out the empowering tune, "I Am Woman."

During her remarks, Steinem referenced an earlier visit to Houston, back in 1977, when she participated in the first (and only) National Conference for Women and applauded our city for electing a female mayor, saying "you have had the good taste to elect a woman mayor." 

Steinem also mentioned her hope that a commemorative plaque will eventually be placed where the conference was held. 

Among those things, Steinem spoke at length about the pay gap between women and men and suggested equal pay would be "the single best stimulus package," putting $200 billion more into the economy each year. 

Gloria and Me 
After the luncheon, a handful of reporters were granted interviews, and I was thrilled to be among them. We all asked a number of questions, and she answered quickly and with the same passion for women's rights she first exhibited over 40 years ago. 

I asked Steinem about the possibility of another National Conference for Women. She smiled but reminded me that funds for the first one were appropriated by Congress. Then, with a sigh, she expressed her belief that our current legislators weren't likely to do the same. 

I couldn't help but think, "That really is too bad."

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Night at the Cabaret

Hundreds of supporters of the Houston Area Women's Center donned their trendiest cocktail attire and filled the ballroom of the Omni Houston Hotel tonight to enjoy a Night at the Cabaret. The evening included a cocktails, a seated dinner and a stage performance by the ever-captivating Christine Ebersole.

Ebersole, a two-time Tony Award-winning actress, has charmed audiences throughout her performing career - from the Broadway stage to a television series, films, concert appearances and recordings.

Ebersole recently finished filming the new Martin Scorsese crime drama, The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. She also appears in The Big Wedding with Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton. On television, she currently stars in the hit TBS sitcom Sullivan and Son.

The gala benefit honored Andrea White for her long-time support of HAWC and Memorial Hermann Health System for its long-time enduring care for the Center's clients.

Event Chairs were Betty and Stephen Newton and Karen and John Orton. All deserve a huge round of applause for putting together a fabulous evening of fun and raising an unprecedented amount of money for the Houston Area Women's Center.

For 35 years now, HAWC has been helping individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence. HAWC provides shelter, counseling and advocacy to support them in their efforts to build new lives free of violence. The services of HAWC are confidential and available to everyone.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mickey Gilley

I can't think of another place I'd rather be than where I was tonight - at the Texas Legends Gala honoring the country music singer and musician, Mickey Gilley.

The big event, held at the Houston Omni Hotel, featured a reception and book signing, seated dinner and a tribute to the legendary singer and musician. Before and after dinner, party-goers also enjoyed bidding on great items in the big board and silent auctions.

ABC Channel 13 anchor Dave Ward served as emcee and did a great job moving things along at a harmonic pace. 

Gilley started out singing straight-up Country and Western,  but his music became more pop-friendly in the 1980s,  bringing him even greater success. Among his biggest hits are "Room Full of Roses" and "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time."

Gilley's nightclub in Pasadena, known as the "world's biggest honky tonk," was highlighted in the movie, Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta. In the film, Gilley's remake of the Soul song, "Stand By Me," was also featured. The song became a favorite of just about everybody. It climbed to the top of the Country charts in 1980 and made the Pop Top 40. 

Thrilled I was tonight when Gilley stepped on stage, with guitar in hand, to sing "Stand By Me" one more time! 

The Texas Legends Gala, which benefited the Galleria Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Program, was chaired by Vicki Garcia Lehner and Kim Padgett. Honorary co-chairs were Donna and Tony Vallone. Kudos to all for a job well-done! 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tempe Mission Palms

I arrived at the Tempe Mission Palms about 3 o'clock this afternoon, and the first thing I did was breathe in slowly and say, "Ahhh!"

Admittedly, I was delighted to find the accommodations for the upcoming Niche Magazine Conference for Publishers was being held at such a beautiful, upscale hotel. No doubt, the next few days were going to be nice!

Upon inspection, I saw the interiors and exteriors of the Tempe Mission Palms reflect the area's serene desert landscapes and rose-colored vistas. Being inside or out is both refreshing and relaxing. The dry environment is a nice change from my hometown of Houston and its usual high humidity. The decor design features delicate doses of peach and rust, teal and brown and, already, it is having a calming effect on me. Nice!

The Temple Mission Palms, just 10 minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, is situated in the heart of Arizona State University. It is also just steps away from Tempe's shopping, dining and entertainment district. The well-used sidewalks of the district are anchored by Mill Avenue, named for the street's historic and long-defunct flour mill. Mill Avenue is a fun and happening place; it boasts the same youthful vibe of the ASU students who frequent it. It is, most definitely, a must-see part of Tempe!


Prior to my flight to Arizona, I knew I wanted to have lunch today at an historic Tempe restaurant. So, I  asked my friend, Mary Jane, to pick a place she thought I would enjoy. She settled on Macayo's Mexican Kitchen!

I was pleased with her selection even before I got there. I love Mexican food and was eager to see how the dishes in Arizona would differ from what I am used to in Houston. 

We got to Macayo's  slightly before noon and the arrival of the usual Saturday crowd. We passed thru a large courtyard, known as the Depot Cantina, to get to the establishment's front door. I could just imagine what a hot spot this must be during Happy Hour or on a hot summer day!

Going inside, we were led by an attractive, smiling hostess to a cozy booth in one of its main dining rooms. The room was large and tastefully decorated in traditional Mexican-style. Large windows and skylights above made the room especially bright and cheerful. 

The waiter showed up quickly and took our orders. MJ opted for the Fiesta Salad; I chose the Grilled Chicken Fajitas. 

Soon enough, I learned Macayo's features not only great-tasting entrees, but also big portions and pretty presentations! No wonder it's a local favorite!

Macayo's was founded in 1946 in Phoenix by Woody and Victoria Johnson. From the beginning, they were committed to using quality ingredients served in a warm and friendly environment. 

Still family-owned and locally operated, the Johnson family now has 17 restaurants — 14 in Arizona and three in Las Vegas. The company is run by daughter Sharisse and sons Gary and Stephen. Together, they focus on fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine. 

But, I also learned, the family's heavy commitment to the community has been a key ingredient in its recipe for success.

Flying High with Wi-Fi

I had just settled into my seat on Row 11 this morning when the lead attendant on Southwest Airlines Flight 802 made the announcement. "This plane is equipped with Wi-Fi; it will be accessible for the duration of your flight. The convenience fee is $8."

Sweeter words were never heard!

Immediately, I unpacked my laptop, logged into the new service and checked my email. Dozens of new messages were sitting there. Instead of stressing out about the endlessness of the process, I was delighted to be able to read and answer my mail right then!

Afterwards, I found myself posting on Facebook, tweeting, pinning and shopping. In short, I was able to make productive use of my travel time, and it felt great!

I've always enjoyed flying Southwest. Now, I enjoy it even more!

Thursday, February 7, 2013


A few days ago, I received an invitation from Y. Ping Sun to attend a luncheon at OEDK to hear Z. Maria Oden speak on the subject of "students making a difference by solving real world engineering challenges."

OEDK is the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen at Rice University, and Oden is its director.

The Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen is the center of activity for undergraduate engineers at Rice. Students from all eight engineering departments, as well as from other departments, team up and collaborate on design projects for credit, as well as on extracurricular activities in the OEDK. 

Currently, ODEK is large enough to accommodate about 36 tables and the same number of teams. But, interest here is high, and a space twice this size is needed. A major capital campaign is underway now to renovate the building to provide upper level work spaces and a number of new offices. 

While I was there, I walked around and talked with several teams about their projects. I was impressed by the complexity of the work and the enthusiasm of the students. Clearly, there is a story here — one I will be working on right away!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Huffington Award

Jon Huntsman, Jr. with Honorable Michael Huffington
Today, I joined some 500 others watch Jon Huntsman Jr. receive the 2012 Roy M. Huffington Award for Contributions to International Understanding at Asia Society Texas Center's inaugural Huffington Award Luncheon. The big event was held at the Hilton Americas Hotel at noon. Serving as mistress of ceremonies was Channel 11 anchor Shern-Min Chow.

Huntsman, an adept politician, businessman and diplomat, served as the 16th governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009  and was a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. 
Huntsman has long and close ties to Asia that date back to the late 1970s when he lived and worked in Taiwan. After having served in a number of government roles, President Barack Obama asked him to serve as ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (2009-2011), noting his intimate understanding of the region and his proficiency in Mandarin Chinese. 
At the luncheon, Huntsman was questioned by Baker Hughes' Alan Crain about the state of bilateral relations between the U.S. and China. The governor acknowledged that, to date, it has been easier for the U.S. "to say what we're going to do to China than what we're going to do with China." 
Following the luncheon, Huntsman met with a group of local students for an intimate question-and-answer session, where he spoke to the importance of service and involvement in the political process.