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Two of my favorite things: books and Texas!
As you walk into the doors of The George hotel in College Station, with first thing you’ll see is an enormous Texas flag. And boy does it make a Texas-size impact. Now walk over and take a closer look – it’s made entirely of books!
That’s 10,000 books as a matter of fact, including works of fiction, non-fiction and even textbooks. Artist Thedra Cullar-Ledford spent months collecting books with red, white or blue spines from bookstores and thrift shops to create the floor to ceiling installation. Even more challenging, she included many Texas-centric subject matter like barbeque, agriculture and Texas biographies.
It’s fun to get up close to see what titles you’ll find. I got a special kick out of the Eyes of Texas by Ray Miller- a book that was well loved in my home when I was growing up.
She then sorted them by color, nailed the books together, and screwed groups to the wall to create the pattern of the Lone Star flag.
It’s the most photographed spot in the Century Square complex.
The art piece was recently renamed in honor of former First Lady Barbara Bush as a symbol of her dedication to literacy – a touching tribute. Oh, and George W. Bush’s book “Decision Points” is among the books in the flag.
Of course that isn’t where the hotel’s connection to the Bush family ends. The George, which was named for the great Georges in history, is just three miles from the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. And the nearby Century Square restaurant is named Poppy, former president Bush’s boyhood nickname. If you’re a fan of the Today Show, you’ve probably heard Jenna Bush Hager refer to her famous grandfather by that name.
The George, which is a property in the Valencia Hotel Group, has also instituted a “Round Up for Reading” program in which guests can donate any amount to the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation. Ya gotta love a company that gives back to its community.
So next time you’re in College Station swing by The George (or better yet, stay there!) and see this impressive creation. Oh and…drop your spare change in the literacy foundation container at the front desk. You’ll come away with some great pics and feeling good about doing something nice for others at the same time.
It’s a tradition at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels to gift guests with a fresh baked cookie at the end of their day. And I’m not one to turn that down! As far as I’m concerned it’s a step up from the traditional “mint on the pillow.”
But since most of us aren’t traveling right now, Doubletree has kindly decided to share the recipe for their signature cookie so people can treat themselves at home. My kitchen may have gotten a bit messier this evening, but it was SOOO worth it.
If you’d like to try the recipe for yourself here it is, courtesy of Hilton.
DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe
Makes 26 cookies
½ pound butter, softened (2 sticks)
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ¼ cups flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups chopped walnuts
Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice, blending with mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl.
With mixer on low speed, add flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, blending for about 45 seconds. Don’t overmix.
Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
Portion dough with a scoop (about 3 tablespoons) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart. ( I didn’t press my scoops flat like the hotel does, and they cooked just fine.)
Preheat oven to 300°F. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and center is still soft.
Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 1 hour.
If the batch of batter seems like more than your household can eat right now, there’s good news. You can freeze the unbaked cookies, and there’s no need to thaw. Preheat oven to 300°F and place frozen cookies on parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cook same as above. Now you can have a fresh, warm cookie whenever the mood strikes you!
The majority of cookies that emerged form my oven are headed to my Dad for Father’s Day, and are definitely going to be a hit.
Pour a glass of milk and enjoy.
This time of year, Texas travel can take on a spookier theme when tourists seek out the most haunted hotels in their area.
Our state has no shortage of hotels with stories of resident spirits and unnatural occurrences. Some are based in fact. Some are more of a “reach.” If you want to test your nerves by staying at a property that might be home to unearthly beings, here are a few to try:
The Hotel Galvez, Galveston
The Driskill Hotel, Austin
Sheraton Gunter Hotel, San Antonio
Menger Hotel, San Antonio
Nutt House, Granbury
The Excelsior Hotel, Jefferson
Jefferson Hotel, Jefferson
Baker Hotel, Mineral Wells
The Ott Hotel, Liberty
Renaissance Casa de las Palmas, McAllen
Gage Hotel, Marathon
Le Meridien Stoneleigh, Dallas
Queen Isabel Inn, Port Isabel
Of course, this list is far from complete, but it’s a good place to start…or a lucky 13 places.
If you’re planning to brave a potentially haunted hotel in hope of having your own other-worldly experience you may make your reservations pretty far ahead of your stay.
Read the stories about the resident spirit(s) and experiences of others. If there is a particular room in the hotel that is purported to be the center of the activity and you want to stay in it (like room 501 at The Hotel Galvez), plan to book your room MONTHS in advance. These rooms are incredibly popular! If you’re thinking about staying there in October, you may need to book even further out.
Don’t trust your own senses, but don’t have expensive “ghost hunting” electronics? No problem. Just download one of the many apps available that claim to detect the presence of spirits…but if the information they give you creeps you out, don’t blame me!
A few to check out:
Ghost Radar: Classic by Spud Pickles
Ghost Communicator by Andrew Gronek
Ghost Detector Free by Purple Penguin.com
Ghost Locator by Sebastien Mougey
Ghost Observer by AKEV
Ghost Recorder by MEDL Mobile, Inc.
Ghost O Meter by Adrian 3
But remember, if all of this ghostly talk isn’t your style, there’s no shame in checking into a brand new hotel, cuing up “Hocus Pocus” on pay-per-view and digging into some Halloween candy instead!
I’ve ALWAYS been excited about traveling. Can you guess which one is me? Yep! Even at age six I had trouble controlling my enthusiasm for exploring.
This is a photo of me with my mother (whose red hair I inherited, but not her demure nature) and my beautiful big sister (who I’m sure more than once has wondered if we are really from the same gene pool), on a visit to the Franklin Mountains State Park in west Texas. Dad was usually the one behind the camera, as that was one of his hobbies.
Whether it’s playing tourist in your hometown or discovering new places, travel is full of surprises. The love of these discoveries is why I’m going to be sharing more places around Texas, old and new, to give you a peek at some of the fun to be found out there . . . and hopefully inspire you to take a trip or two to see it for yourself.
I’ll be visiting small towns and big cities, locations close to home and on the far side of the state, historic hotels and unusual B&Bs, classic soda shops and Victorian cemeteries . . . just to start things off.
It’s a wide open state with so much to see, so let’s fill up the tank and hit the road!
What are your favorite Texas destinations, and what do you like to do there?