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!