Judge Hatchett was very enthusiastic as she shared her stories and words of wisdom to inspire all the attendees. Unlike other speeches, Judge Hatchett meandered around the room and asked questions of attendees. She encouraged everyone to establish professional and private goals and to stick to them!
For us, the breakout session was an opportunity to learn from senior managers at the conference.
After the breakout session, she left us all pondering her powerful message: “on the other side of fear is your freedom!” Reminding us to not be afraid to act upon our dreams and do what we are meant to do.
Receiving a standing ovation from the audience, Judge Hatchett walked off the stage to converse on a more personal level with a few of the attendees. It was then that we realized what a small world we live in when we “bumped” into Scott Wayman, who, as it turned out, is married to Diane Gottsman! For those wondering who Mrs. Gottsman is, she comes to Sam Houston State University (brought in by Career Success) every semester to teach us about etiquette, and we very much enjoy her annual visits, where we pose with her in annual selfie.
So, we did that with Mr. Wayman!
As we got ready to leave, we said our goodbyes to Ms. Breland, Mr. Wayman, Mr. Stokes, and Judge Hatchett.
We are looking forward to attending the 2023 TCMA Conference in Allen, Texas!
As we sprinted to the last day of our conference trip, we prepared for our busiest and most fulfilling day. We headed to the Lost Pines resort for a delightful breakfast and one of our last opportunities to network and learn from other city employees. Our conversations soon came to an end when the World-Renowned ER Physician and Iraq War Veteran, Dr. Sudip Bose took the stage.
Dr. Bose spoke on how to be the best leader, even when while under A LOT of pressure, which is something that various city managers have dealt with through COVID-19 and its effects. Utilizing his military background as an analogy to various situations, Dr. Bose was able to relate with the many city managers in attendance.
Dr. Bose reminded us that “challenges without support are discouraging,” stressed the importance of knowing when to let go of a situation and move on, and highlighted the importance of knowing when a window of opportunity is presenting itself.
Perhaps most important was his message emphasizing preparation, a lesson he learned in the military: “the more you sweat in peacetime, the less you will bleed in war.”
Dr. Bose’s closer was perfect lead-in to the different sessions that we would hear, involving: (1) cybersecurity and (2) how and why it is important to address mental health needs.
The cybersecurity session focused on the importance of addressing and having a multi-layered defense and an Incident Response Plan.
Ryan Burns with Texas Municipal League (TML), who is a former SHSU graduate, led this session addressing all the concerns of its attendees as well as covering what he thought was most important.
Without saying too much, Burns advised everyone on how “it takes everyone to combat a cybersecurity threat and each city must plan, prepare, and test their plans, revising as necessary.” As city managers and employees, they must be PERFECT all the time compared to a hacker who only needs to get it right once.
Morgan and Isabel reported that the session covering mental health was comforting to see so many cities focused on the mental health of their employees.
TCMA has partnered with Deer Oaks Employee Assistance Program to provide mental health support for its members. Rep. Kristina Herrera, explained the various services that will be available for TCMA members and their families and the importance of utilizing them. The concept, as with all proactive health efforts, is that providing mental health services is not only the right thing to do, but will ultimately lead to a happier, more productive work force.
The City of Austin awaited us, so we left the conference early after enjoying a quick lunch!
We had the pleasure of meeting (and, for some of us, re-meeting) a passionate artist, Daniel Arredondo, whose work entranced us for almost two hours. One of most prevalent themes in his work is “what lies beneath,” the idea that what is beneath the surface is often more important than what is on the surface.
It may be appropriate, then, that his work often depicts trees. But he also showed us his landscapes and, in a new twist for him, his recent, more abstract pieces.
Arredondo’s passion was apparent throughout our visit. We asked him how he knew when a painting was done, and he simply described it as a gut feeling.
Morgan seemed to gravitate toward the pieces that were more southwesterly in appearance, a bit reminiscent of Georgia O’Keeffe landscapes. Jessica was fond of his signature style paintings of “what lies below,” landscapes of trees and their roots growing underneath–so much so that she bought one of them!
We also got to see him in action! Arredondo demonstrated how he starts an abstract painting and described why he chooses the media that he does. He mentioned multiple times that he has never done a demonstration in front of others; it was such a treat! I loved how passionate Arredondo was, how detailed he was in his descriptions of his process, and the hospitality with which he welcomed us. Today was filled with so much laughter, great conversations, and fellowship. It was a great day to start the end of our trip!
At the end of our stay, Arredondo gifted us with pieces that will serve as reminders. Some of his earliest works adorned the front of the cigar boxes, and he was kind enough to let us choose ones that spoke to us.
Many, many thanks to Daniel Arredondo for showing us was art is from the other side of the canvas.
We switched gears from the roaming hills of West Austin and headed for the heart of Austin, the Texas State Capitol.
We began our capitol tour much like we do others, by commenting on the interesting or unique architectural features and designs. Professor Yawn walked us around the groups and explained that the extensions to the structure were fundamental in accommodating our Texas-sized legislature and staff. While the extensions and supporting features are new, they did not distract from the aesthetic of the Capitol established in 1885.
The red limestone exterior of the Capitol seemed to glitter in the setting sunlight, and we made our way into the north entrance. Upon opening the front doors, we of course stopped to look at the 7-pound door hinges, detailed with the Texas Seal.
We posed with Elizabet Ney’s rendering of a young Sam Houston…
…and pondered on the surrender of Santa Anna.
But, of course, from the rotunda, the most interesting piece is the interior of the dome, which is beautiful.
And we also followed toured the floors viewing the different governors throughout history, settling on our favorite.
As we were leaving the sun was just setting under the tree line and we snapped our final photos.
After a lovely tour of the capital and a relaxing drive around Austin, we were ready to kayak and spend some time on the peaceful water of the Colorado River.
And while Jessica and Izabella accomplished a peaceful journey, that certainly was not the case for Morgan and me.
I knew it might be a bit rocky when Morgan began our ride by saying, “Isabel…I’ll do my best not to yell at you.” Part of our problem is that we thought I, sitting in front, should be steering, when, in fact, that was Morgan’s job. (Editor’s note: both parties lacked any semblance of navigational skills, exacerbated by the fact that Morgan is often flummoxed by even simple directions.)
Our meandering, inefficient paddling, however, did not prevent us from seeing a beaver casually swimming along the shoreline!
While we worked just to paddle forward, Jessica and Izabella enjoyed a leisurely tour along the river, using what Jessica referred to as the “slow-and-steady approach.” Although we aren’t ones to judge, it did appear that Bella was allowing Jessica to do much of the work….
Around 8:30 pm we began to paddle to the dock. The trip back was where Morgan and I experienced the most action. We attempted to convince Jessica and Bella to tow us into the dock, but they selfishly refused to play along. This left us to our own devices which, at one point, rendered us fighting limbs and the shoreline, running aground (and encountering a spider–eek!) as we ineffectually tried to return to the dock.
Despite these misadventures–or perhaps because of them–we very much enjoyed our time on the water, and it was a fitting and madcap ending to a wonderful day.
…who introduced our keynote speaker for the general session, Nora McInerny, whose talk, “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” played on themes she discusses in her podcast and books.
She displayed her dry, witty sense of humor while also touching on loss, grief, change, and new beginnings. Most importantly, she addressed the ability to genuinely answer the question, “How are you?” I think we often answer with the word “fine,” which is okay, but sometimes, it’s okay not to be okay.
Following McInerny’s inspirational words, we had a chance to meet her and discuss her talk.
She was very generous.
Today was a unique day with their awards luncheon! Once the doors opened, we scurried off to get a table and save Huntsville’s City Manager, Aaron Kulhavy, a seat next to us. For most of the luncheon, we were conversing with Aaron to get to know him and learn more about city management.
Our entrée for lunch consisted of Ham with Barbeque sauce, and grits, accompanied by a variety of vegetables such as corn and some delicious carrots. Once we finished our main dish, we started on our dessert which was a delicious fruit tart with oranges and strawberries. Countless city officials were recognized for their outstanding work and accomplishments throughout the years. It was truly an amazing and rewarding experience.
Once the luncheon was over, Aaron Kulhavy took us around and introduced us to multiple people from the surrounding areas before we split off to the breakout sessions.
Isabel enjoyed the economic development conference presented by Imelda Speck, the Economic Developer in Irving, Texas, which is Isabel’s hometown! Speck along with the other panelists talked about the effects the Covid-19 pandemic had on their cities and small businesses. Isabel found it interesting to hear about the programs the City of Irving implemented to try and soften the blow. Jessica found this session particularly easy to understand and follow thanks to her Finance Internship with the City of Huntsville.
In ways, her internship with the Finance Department helped her understand things in different sessions such as previously mentioned and the strategic plans session. However, this can also be said of Morgan after interning with the City Secretary.
Morgan’s favorite conference, All Disasters are Local, Your Emergency Program Should Be, Too, by Nim Kidd. Kidd talked about three new technologies that they are putting in place to cover more bases regarding emergency management. It was also intriguing to know how they are also starting the first academy in the nation for emergency management and will be placing 100 new agents in 100 new counties.
Despite many good sessions today, my all-time favorite was the opening session with Nora Mclnerny.
Dinner in Downtown Bastrop
Once the conference wrapped up for the day, we were beyond excited to explore downtown Bastrop and eat at a local place. On our way to Piney Creek Chophouse, we took a moment to admire the various bookstores, coffee shops, and beautiful homes in their downtown. Piney Creek Chophouse is a nice neat little local restaurant that has a unique architectural design and interior that adds to the character of the place.
Often Professor Yawn forgets to feed us, but makes up for it when he treats us to a fancy steakhouse. Never failing to get us appetizers to hold us over until our entrees arrive, we ordered Crab Cakes, Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms, and Bruschetta.
We were also provided with a delicious, crafted artisan bread accompanied by butter. The crab cakes were bursting with flavor, and we even convinced Jessica, who isn’t a fan of crab or seafood, to try a bite! We couldn’t get her to try a mushroom, but maybe we’ll have some better luck next time.
As we waited for our main entrees, Professor Yawn gave us a quick crash course about dining etiquette. Soon enough, our main entrees were brought out to us, Morgan and Izabella shared a Filet Mignon served with Mashed Potatoes and Haricot Verts. Jessica and I both shared a New York Strip accompanied by Mashed Potatoes and Haricot Verts as well.
Professor Yawn enjoyed a Strawberry Salad and a side of fried Brussel Sprouts which we all absolutely loved.
Each dish had its own quality that made it special, and each dish was full of different flavors. We all had our own unique experiences. After our main dish, I was sure I was full and had no room for dessert…. I was wrong.
Dessert included an exquisite Bread Pudding, A Molten Lava Cake, and Banana Foster. I found the Banana Foster the most interesting since our waitress brought the dish out covered in flames which certainly made for a cool and unique presentation. The Banana Foster had a very strong cinnamon taste and a slight hint of coconut, it was one of the favorites and there was not a single piece left on the dish. The Bread Pudding had more of a sweet, rich taste and the Molten lava cake was very neatly presented, and the brownie was super rich and paired with the ice cream, it made for a wonderful combination.
We all had a great time at dinner, and it was the perfect way to end a long eventful day.
Prior to the kickoff of the TCMA Conference, we went to the Blanton Museum of Fine Arts, where we got to learn, look, observe, and interpret various kinds of art! For some of us, it was our very first art museum.
Morgan’s favorite exhibits were American art and Modern American art. Her favorite artist, Albert Bierstadt, had a painting that she liked called “Sioux Village near Fort Laramie.”
The painting featured a native encampment in 1859 that was centered around a sense of calmness and was overall, a beautiful, timeless piece. I can understand why Morgan liked the piece, as well as the artist!
Isabel admired Cilado Meireles’ artwork called, “How to Build Cathedrals” which was created in 1987 and composed of 600,000 coins, 800 communion wafers, 2,000 cattle bones, 80 paving stones, and black cloth. This piece was probably the piece that everyone had different interpretations of, which again, is the beauty of art!
The cattle bones were hanging from the top, almost like a ceiling, while the coins were scattered around the bottom, and the wafers acted like a spine from pennies to the bones. It was overall a very dynamic and intriguing piece.
Jessica loved the beautiful Ellsworth Kelly Chapel, which I believe was another of the group’s favorites! It was comprised of a circle of squares and a sun-colored glass that had all the vibrant colors.
When the sun shined through, it was even more beautiful! Its walls were decorated with Ellingworth black and white paintings that brought out the colored glass.
Whether a piece is simplistic, challenging, controversial, disruptive, or detailed, we learned it’s ultimately up to the viewer on their take always of art.
Clay Pit, Jessica Cuevas
We then ventured to a neat Indian cuisine restaurant, Clay Pit, for lunch. For many of us, it was our first time having an Indian dish. Our appetizers consisted of Naan, Samosas, and Papadum which was like a flattened-out tortilla with lentils.
The appetizers were delicious, but we mostly enjoyed our flavorful and savory meals which ranged from medium spiced Butter Chicken to Chicken Kabobs and Coconut Curry Chicken. One of the great things about traveling with LEAP is that they encourage and provide us with opportunities to try new things.
Texas City Management Association, by Isabel Behm
Once we finished our delicious lunch in Austin, we began to make our way back to Bastrop to kick off the Texas City Managers Association Conference. On the drive into the resort where the conference was being held, we were met with a beautiful scenery surrounded by nature.
The first event we attended was Career Development. The presenter, Larry Gilley, is Vice President and Executive Recruit of Strategic Government Resources.
We also heard from four panelists, Matt Mueller (Town Manager of Little Elm), James Childress (Town manager of Flower Mound), Dalton Rice (City Manager of Morgan’s Point Resort), and Chrystal Davis (Assistant City Manager of Carrolton).
The recurring theme of this session was how to strengthen your resume, as well as your interviewing skills. We got to hear first-hand about what these specific city managers looked for and how exactly they dealt with balancing and managing their workload. Some of the main points of the presentation were to get to know the position you’re applying for prior to an interview by either reviewing the city’s website as well as their city council members and knowing why you are the right fit for the position itself.
When the panelists were given time to speak, they gave countless pieces of advice about how exactly to be successful in those positions. The biggest piece of advice that stood out to me was the advice given by Chrystal Davis. She stressed the importance of being able to take time to breathe and assess your priorities so that you can have a work-life balance and be able to manage your home life as well. Some other things mentioned were the importance of knowing your own personal strengths and weaknesses and being able to let your team succeed and learn from their mistakes. It was an amazing experience to be able to hear from these city officials firsthand and get an inside look at how exactly they managed their specific towns/cities.
Interestingly, we finished the night at a reception, where we spent more than two hours…
…meeting with people, learning new things about city government, and networking in the hopes of landing a job when we graduate!
TCMA Session: Inaugural University Competition – Managing Today for Tomorrow (a.k.a. “College Bowl”)
Conference “Day 2” started with the Inaugural University Competition. The “College Bowl” Tournament was comprised of teams from universities with Masters of Public Administration (“MPA”) and Masters in Public Policy (“MPP”) programs, including: The University of Texas at San Antonio, St Mary’s University, The University of North Texas, The University of Texas, Texas State University, Texas A&M University, and The University of Texas at Dallas. These MPA/MPP students started work towards becoming the First College Bowl Tournament Champion months ago by engaging in various activities: (1) a community-service project, (2) a research component; and then (3) by earning points on Conference “Day One” by networking and connecting with professionals before and after the sessions.
The final portion of the competition, the “College Bowl,” started with a spirit contest for each university.
Following that, each university team selected five students to compete in a series of game-show styled events. The first event, “Jeopardy”…
…included questions about categories such as: City Manager, Economic Development, Human Resources, Planning, and Budget & Taxes.
Then, the teams with the two highest points (UNT and UTSA) played “Family Feud” to determine the winner.
To gather responses for Family Feud, TCMA surveyed 100 City Managers with questions ranging from “What should you not touch in an office?” to “What game should never be played at the office?”
In the end, UNT won the tournament and became the first ever TCMA College Bowl Champions.
It was inspiring to watch the process unfold – so inspiring that we are started making plans for next year – for Sam Houston to put together a highly competitive team.
TCMA Session: Ethics
From watching the fun of the College Bowl unfold, we moved back to the TCMA’s regular programming. The Ethics session was presented by Julie Couch (City Manager, Fairview); Paul Hoffman (City Manager, City of Bellaire), and Nicholas Finan, TCMA Ethics Chair and Executive Director of Management Services, City of Texas City.
Mr. Finan had an engaging assignment with the audience through a questionnaire. Most questions were directed for members of the TCMA, but I enjoyed learning much about the ethics of city management in particular. While a member of TCMA, you cannot endorse anyone for public office, run for public office, or, of course, take substantive gifts of free services.
We also learned ways to create an ethical culture within an organization through implementing and incorporating values, ethics training, and written policies and procedures, working directly with vendors and organizations, having an employee commitment statement, and conducting roundtables. Employees’ actions impact and reflect the organization and both employees and the organization benefit from learning to be ethical, or people of strong character.
Fort Worth Segway Tour (Nation Tours)
In the early evening we had the opportunity to tour Fort Worth – on a Segway. As we approached the building where we would start our Segway tour, I was nervous. (Well, we both were!) Sure enough, Esmie struggled a bit with turns and balance during the trial run….
…but she soon got the hang of it and began enjoying it!
For Miranda, fear a bit more palpable…
..but she too got comfortable and enjoyed the tour.
“Team Mom” Stephanie joined us…
…as did Huntsville City Manager Aron Kulhavy…
Although it was distracting to listen while trying to get comfortable at first, by the end of the tour, we both felt like champions for not falling off or getting injured (well, “no bloody kneecaps!”). And Tour Guide Jimmy was good – patient and helpful in getting us up to speed on the Segway, and then with stops on the tour.
The tour began with Fort Worth’s Tarrant County Courthouse.
There we learned the origin of Fort Worth and more about the early days of the city. Through the beginning of the tour we were able to see historic buildings like the city’s first fire station (currently a yoga studio, and so small, Jimmy explained, because the 1900s horse-drawn fire trucks were much smaller than our current motorized ladder trucks)…
…the building where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were photographed, Bass Performance Hall…
…and others. Esmie was most intrigued by the antique AMC theater—AMC theaters are much modernized today, but more atttractive. Jimmy informed us that it was the 9th AMC theater to be built.
The Flatiron Building stood out the most, though, because of its unique “flatiron” structure. The inspired design for the building was Manhattan’s Flatiron building, in which William Jenkins Worth—after whom Fort Worth was named—was buried in the basement. The Fort Worth Flatiron Building was one of the first steel-framed buildings and one of the tallest commercial buildings in north Texas is the early 1900s, even though three stories were cut from the building due to budgetary constraints.
The Flatiron Building, along with other areas dotted around downtown, has the presence of a panther. Jimmy explained that Fort Worth is known as “Panther City” after the indigenous animal was spotted sleeping in the streets of downtown, back in the day.
The panther is a symbol of hope and strength that remains today as part of Fort Worth’s history.
Finally, we had a chance to visit the JFK Statue that is, incidentally, just across from our hotel. As it turns out, JFK stayed at our hotel in November 1963, the night before he was assassinated in Dallas. The hotel (Hilton Fort Worth) not only has numerous JFK-related memorabilia inside, but also the memorial outside.
For students majoring in Political Science (as well as MCOM and CRIJ–we are double majors), it was a fitting and interesting end to the tour.
For dinner we visited Bird Cafe in Fort Worth’s downtown Sundance Square. Our appetizers included Smoked Pimento Cheese, House Made Hummus, and Roasted Bone Marrow.
We shared entrees Shrimp & Homestead Grits and Duck and Dumplings. The diablo shrimp and jalapeno gravy packed a pleasant, spicy taste. The duck was very tender, and the dumplings had a savory delicious flavor to them. We finished off dinner with blueberry bread pudding and peach cobbler.
After dinner we walked around Sundance Square and downtown Fort Worth. Our favorite part was re-seeing some of our favorite stops on the Segway tour like the Bass Performance Hall and the historic AMC theatre illuminated in the evening.
The Texas City Management Association’s (TCMA) Annual Conference started on Friday with a warm welcome from TCMA’s President and City Manager of Granbury, Chris Coffman, followed by other welcome messages by the Mayor of Fort Worth, Dennis Shingleton, followed by the City Manager of Fort Worth, David Cooke, and Karen Pinkos, President of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). Pinkos spoke about the important role city managers hold, and how their job is not only to value, but also to include people in the community. Pinkos also spoke about a new ICMA program for assisting service members transitions into local government. Cooke then introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Bertice Berry. In her keynote address, “Living and Working in Purpose,” Berry captivated the audience with her humor and her sincere message.
Dr. Berry also encouraged the audience to leave a legacy–not when you pass away, but every time you leave a room. “When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.” Dr. Berry’s keynote speech made the audience laugh, tear up, and excited for the conference’s start.
The speech definitely worked for me, and I was fortunate to get a photo with her after her speech.
Texas A&M University School of Law (Esmeralda Mata)
I had the opportunity to meet Jeff Green, Graduate Programs Coordinator, and tour the beautiful campus building, from the library to classrooms and even the administrative offices.
Since purchasing Wesleyan Law School, Texas A&M has worked hard bring in top law professors, recruit good students, and make the law school competitive in every way. This is great news for students, but it also means that each year the school becomes more competitive. Mr. Green explained this on our tour, while also describing TAMU’s rich traditions, such as the “12th Man” and “The Big Event,”activities that “demostrate A&M’s core values.”
Mr. Green was also helpful in discussing the general process for getting into law school: preparing for the LSAT, taking the LSAT, getting letters of recommendations, and, of course, earning great grades.
It was a great tour, and I am very appreciative to Mr. Green for his time and insight.
Second Morning Session:
To maximize the coverage and education we will receive, we split up and attended both the “Valuing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” session as well as the “Managing Health Case Costs” session.
“Valuing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” included three panelists: Karen Daly (ICMA, Mountain Plains Regional Director); Carla Scales (Founder, Scales Consulting), and Mike Land (City Manager, City of Coppell). They emphasized the importance of qualifications; as Ms. Scales noted, “If my house catches on fire, I would like the most qualified firefighter to go to my house.” But they also emphasized strategies for getting diverse applicants: recruit from top and key institutions; post openings in a wide geographic range; and be thorough in your vetting. With Texas being a majority-minority state very soon, the emphasis on diversity becomes ever important.
These cities have taken different approaches to reducing costs, such as (1) negotiating with companies for the cheapest rates, (2) making preventitive care mandatory (penalties are actually imposed if you don’t get a checkup, for example), and (3) not covering spouses–only if spouses have access to care from their own jobs.
Lunch at the Little Red Wasp
Walking into Little Red Wasp, the bright red chairs and minimalistic arrangement drew our attention immediately. Our server was attentive, and the food was amazing. For lunch, we weren’t very adventurous, choosing the boring (but really good) crispy chicken sandwich with cabbage slaw, spinach, tomato, and tapenade…
…while Professor Yawn ordered a roasted Portobello sandwich with goat cheese, spinach, tomato, and tapenade. We were all pleasantly surprised with our options – and agreed that the various ingredients and condiments corresponded well with each other. We recommend!
“Breaking into the Profession,” featured a panel including City Managers Sereniah Breland (Pflugerville), Robert Camareno (New Braunfels), and Gina Nash (Sachse), and Karen Daly, ICMA Mountain Plains Regional Director. All the panelists spoke about their own untraditional path to being a city manager. Several emphasized the importance of networking and forming connections whenever you can. Our favorite portion of the panel was the advice from Sereniah Breland to the young professionals: “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never do anything. Do it, and if you’re scared, then do it scared.” We would meet Ms. Breland again on this rewarding trip.
Kimbell Art Museum
After the conference we had the opportunity to visit the Kimbell Art Museum, designed by architect Louis I. Kahn. The sun was still shining in the early evening which allowed the natural light to pour into the building and illuminate the paintings, which appealed especially to Esmeralda, on her first visit to an art museum.
The Kimbell has pieces by several famous artists such as…Rembrandt van Rijn….
…Vincent Van Gogh (whose painting was prohibited from photographing)…Piet Mondrian…
The Kimbell’s current special exhibition is “Monet: The Late Years” which showcases a collection of pieces from Claude Monet’s works in the twenty years or so years prior to his death in 1926. The exhibit is laid out in a more or less chronological progression of his works from 1900 to his final piece in 1926.
Throughout the exhibit you can see how Monet’s struggle with cataracts influenced elements of each painting in the colors he used and the size of each brush stroke. For example, the detail in this piece suggests it was one of the earlier pieces in this exhibit.
And, indeed, the piece above was painted in 1904. The piece below, on the other hand, was painted in closer to his death, when his eyesight and style had changed, moving him in a more abstract direction.
Miranda’s favorite painting from the exhibit was entitled “Roses,”
and Esmeralda’s was “Weeping Willow.”
We both enjoyed seeing the layout of Monet’s estate, and his garden, where he drew his inspiration for his paintings.
Reata Restaurant was definitely a new experience — a mix of country and fancy, with expensive cigars displayed at the entrance, and raised candle centerpieces. Given the atmosphere, we were surprised that it was a more “Mexican” place to eat, evidenced on the menu. For starters, we ordered jalapeno and cheese elk sausage…
tenderloin tamales with pecan mash…
and Reata’s classic cornbread with butter. Those who had them especially enjoyed the tamales – they were nontraditional to say the least. For our entrees, we ordered boring food…grilled chicken breast topped with tomato bleu cheese salad, and chicken chile rellenos served with roasted corn chowder, and one slightly more adventurous chef’s special = quail. With a few minor exceptions, everyone else seemed to enjoy their food (Esmeralda was not a fan of the bleu cheese on her entrée). For dessert, we shared molten chocolate cake with drunken berries and vanilla cream, and a cappuccino crème Brule.
Miranda absolutely loved her dessert; it was my first-time tasting crème Brule, and while I was a bit anxious, I enjoyed it – it tasted like a melted cappuccino from Starbucks, with a buttery texture. We all agreed while it was nice to try new things, we had eaten too much over the course of the day!
To walk off a few of the calories from dinner, we decided to visit “Sundance Square” in Fort Worth, which features places for people to congregate, water fountains, and a beautiful Richard Haas Mural, “The Chisholm Trail.”
This location held particular interest for Esmeralda, who is interning with Linda Pease at the Wynne Home. Ms. Pease was responsible for having Richard Haas do some fourteen mural projects in Huntsville in the 1990s, and it was definitely interesting to see another of his large-scale works.
We also made our way over to the Forth Worth Water Gardens, which were designed by the great architect Philip Johnson in the 1970s. The site was used in the science fiction film “Logan’s Run,” as evidenced in this scene:
We made sure we used this opportunity to get some nice photos.