Our Dixie Chicks Staycation at The Embassy Suites The Woodlands

StillLivingTheDream.com

We love staycations.

Taking a one or two night stay somewhere not too far from home has become our solution when we start climbing the walls and need a change of scenery. We love to travel, but time and money prevents us from taking a full week trip somewhere far away more than we’d like. And with a soon-to-be high school freshman who is in band and plays sports, our time and …. gulp, money are going to become even harder to come by.

We’ve taken several staycations at The Woodlands. It’s only 30 minutes from our house in Northwest Houston, but if feels like we have truly gotten out of town. When I heard that The Dixie Chicks were coming to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on August 6th, I knew I had to get tickets and make it a last summer vacation outing for our family.

We were very excited to be invited as guests to stay at the Embassy Suites by Hilton The Woodlands at Hughes Landing for an evening so we could see the new property (they opened last December 2015). It was perfect to combine our stay with our concert plans so we could relax and not have to make a late night drive home after the show.

We’ve stayed at several different Embassy Suites hotels over the years…most recently at The Embassy Suites Irvine when we took an Orange County vacation earlier this summer. We love that all the Embassy Suites hotels offer large, comfortable 2-room suites, complimentary drinks at a reception in the evenings and free made-to-order breakfast in the morning.

The Embassy Suites in The Woodlands is just minutes from the The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and within walking distance of Restaurant Row. After we checked-in at 4:00 p.m., we walked down the street and had appetizers at Del Frisco’s Grill and macarons at Macaron by Patisse. Other restaurants right by the hotel include California Pizza Kitchen, Escalante’s, Starbuck’s, Blue Fish, Local Pour and Fogo de Chao. While we were there we noticed they have free evening movies overlooking the lake. A fun family activity within walking distance of the hotel – but we already had plans!

StillLivingTheDream.com

Back at the hotel, the kids wanted to take a quick swim – Because – hello infinity pool!

Located on the third floor, the pool is small but elegant and it wasn’t crowded. A glass wall over looks the lake and restaurant row and they had several lounge recliners that we hung over the side of the pool so we could relax in the water. The kids didn’t want to leave, but we had to head to the room to get ready.

StillLivingTheDream.com

While many of the Embassy Suites hotels (and all the ones we’ve previously stayed at) have a large atrium in the middle of the hotel in which all the rooms overlook, The Woodlands location is designed like a traditional hotel. Our room on the 9th floor was on the corner and had a living room and bedroom with large, beautiful windows and a balcony.

Seriously.

Look at this view.

StillLivingTheDream.com

While standing on our balcony, we saw some people kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Woodlands  (wait – what? We LOVE to SUP!). You can rent them at the near-by Riva Row Boat House and we will definitely be back to do this when it cools off in the fall.

StillLivingTheDream.com

Before going to the Pavilion, we stopped by the lobby for free drinks (a glass of wine for mom and soft drinks for the kids!) and snacks…we weren’t the only Chicks fans there. While the Pavilion isn’t far, it’s a bit long for a late night walk. Many people took a cab or called Uber, but you can also drive. We were “Dixie Chicks Serious” about getting to the show on time!

StillLivingtheDream.com

photo courtesy of Ken O’Quinn, Storyteller Communications

The concert was so crazy, fun. This stop on the DCX MMXVI World Tour is the first time they’ve been back to Houston in nearly a decade.

They’ve been a long time gone.

StillLivingTheDream.com

photo courtesy of Ken O’Quinn, Storyteller Communications

Annie plays the violin so she loved watching Martie fiddle. I’ve been a fan for a long time. I used to sing Godspeed to the kids when they were babies to help them drift off to sleep at night. The crowd went crazy when they played a tribute to Prince (Nothing Compares 2 U), Wide Open Spaces and Cowboy Take Me Away – but we lost our collective minds with Goodbye Earl and their first encore, Not Ready to Make Nice.

We had a great time, but were hot and tired and so thankful we only had to travel 2 minutes to get to our comfy beds at the Embassy Suites. The next morning we had our complimentary breakfast in the lobby. Scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, french toast, bacon, sausage and biscuits with gravy. They also offered made to order eggs and omelets and had fresh juice and coffee.

StillLivingTheDream.com

In addition to the water fall in the lobby in the picture above, check out this fountain in the courtyard by the restaurant. I love water features like these. So calming.

StillLivingTheDream.com

We talked to several people in concert t-shirts about the show before heading to the pool for another swim. While we hated to leave, work and Jackson’s all day band practices that started the next day were calling us back to reality. But we’ll be back to The Embassy Suites to SUP on the lake or when another band comes to town we want to see.

Or when we just want to live life on the edge…. relaxing in the pool.

StillLivingTheDream.com

We were guests at The Embassy Suites and received a free night stay in order to review the property. No other compensation was received and all thoughts, opinions and sore throat from singing too loud at the concert are my own!

 

 

 

Share

My Chat with Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee and Dylan Minnette from Goosebumps

photo 2 (11)

I had the chance to meet with Jack Black along with the other lead actors in Goosebumps (Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee and Dylan Minnette) while they were in Houston promoting the film.

AHHHH!

Be cool, Jenn. Be cool.

For a detailed movie review (in summary – it’s great!) check out my previous Goosebumps post.

I wanted to share some of the other highlights I learned during our visit. First, let me just tell you – Jack Black is awesome and  just as cool off-screen as he is on. He makes you feel like you are friends and you could really just hang out. He walked into the room singing and then said he was excited about the Tex Mex (“a delicious blend of Texas and Mexican cuisines” he explained to actor Minnette who plays Zach Cooper in the movie) waiting for them on the jet.

I was kind of surprised he didn’t invite me to join them after the interview, but it was probably because it was a small jet. And maybe they didn’t get enough food for another person. Anyway, that’s how down to earth he is…you think he might actually invite you to hang with them.

Jack Black, Goosebumps movie

Rush (who plays his daughter, Hannah, in the movie) said that she was initially nervous about acting with Black because she’s a big fan of his work, but “he puts everyone at ease immediately because he’s so approachable,” she said. “He makes fun of himself and made us feel so comfortable every single day, that you kind of forget what a huge star he is, because he’s so down to earth.”

Lee agreed, saying he grew up watching Black’s movies so when he met him during a Super 8 press junket, “it was so cool.  I never thought I’d get to work with him!”

Black’s natural ability to spin a yarn might be one of the reasons why he is so authentic in his movies and so likable to so many people. I posted about meeting with him on my personal Facebook page and 200 family and friends immediately commented about how much they love him!

Black said his sons (who are seven and nine years old) don’t want him to tell them his stories now because they just want to go to straight to sleep, but for a long time he would make up adventures to share with them before bedtime. “I would tell them ‘this is the story of the Lord of the Rings’ and then I would just make up stories about hobbits and dragons and adventures and I’d leave it with a cliff hanger – ‘and tomorrow you’ll find out what happened with the Dragon of Algernon,’ ” Black said, pronouncing”Algernon” in that rocker way that he often does with regular words.

Jack Black, Goosebumps movie

Black’s sons loved the movie after screening it at their school in L.A. with their friends (which is not the School of Rock, by the way). Black knew when he read the script that they would “dig” the movie (even though they have not yet started to read the Goosebumps books) because they like “scary stuff”.

Black has a drum set in his basement for his sons, but has not yet pushed formal music lessons because he doesn’t want to demand – “You have to be a rocker!” or else they might rebel. He’s just going to let it happen naturally. Black is obviously a natural musician himself and in the band, Tenacious D, but did you know that Minnette is a rockstar as well?

Minnette is singer/guitarist for The Narwhals, a classic rock band that plays frequently in L.A. venues. During breaks while filming for Goosebumps, Black and Minnette had guitars on set and played together in Black’s trailer. And when The Narwhals played a show in Atlanta last year during filming, Minnette said “Black did an epic introduction and sang a song on stage from Nacho Libre…a very proud moment for me.”

“I love talking music with (Minnette) because he’s super knowledgable about music happening today and I have an encylopedic mind of old school rockers, said Black. “It was interesting to find what bands we both liked… we came together on The Strokes, Arcade Fire and RadioHead.”

Black spoke highly of working with Rush, Lee and Minnette in the movie, referring to them as “the most talented kids in town” to work with. “They are real…they are really good actors and you don’t get that hot blast of cheese,” said Black. “If there’s even a whiff of insincerity with these scenes the whole movie collapses. The relationship here is powerful. It hooks you in and you root for them…you might even shed a tear at the end because it really works…it resonates,” he said. “And they are fun to hang out with. Goofing off on set…translated to great stuff on camera.”

The end of the movie is set up nicely for a sequel, but will there be one? Black said, “It all depends on how this movie does and how well the script turns out for the next one. There should have been a School of Rock 2, but that never happened.”

Truth.

goosebumps movie

I had the opportunity to visit with Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee in order to gain perspective in the making of the movie Goosebumps but did not receive any compensation for this post (Tex Mex on the jet would have been nice, though). All opinions expressed are my own. Except that Jack Black is awesome. Because that’s a fact.

Share

Rod Stewart Album Review: Time

I am a big fan of Rod Stewart so when I heard that his new CD, Time, was being released this month (actually tomorrow, May 7) and One2One Network was giving some folks the opportunity to review the music ahead of time…I quickly signed up! (see full disclosure at end of this post).

rod stewart bigger album cover

This is Rod Stewart’s first album of new material in almost twenty years. I love songs from his past like “Maggie May” and “You’re In My Heart” and I hoped his new songs would follow suit.

I wasn’t disappointed. Starting with an upbeat “She Makes Me Happy”, Stewart brings us tunes in the same raspy singing voice we remember. In “Can’t Stop Me Now” he sings about life as a musician and staying true to his roots with lyrics like “It’s my turn to stand out in the crowd…i’m gonna make you proud”. Then he slows it down with a sad look at divorce in “It’s Over”  singing, “What’s the use in keep on fighting, all the tears, all the crying, why do we keep denying it’s over.”

My favorites? “Brighton Beach”  – where he reminisces about youth and love lost and “Live the Life” with a sound that takes me back to his songs from the 70’s and inspiring lyrics “Love the life you live, Live the life you love”.

rod stewart

Stewart wrote and produced 11 of this album’s 12 cuts. He said he rediscovered his love for songwriting while working on his memoir. “Suddenly ideas for lyrics were piling up in my head…And now I was getting up in the middle of the night and scrambling for a pen to write things down.”

Sounds to me like he’s living the dream.

You can find Time on Amazon. Check out Rod Stewart tonight on Jimmy Kimmel LiveThe Voice on May 8, Good Morning America on May 9, and Live With Kelly & Michael on May 11. He starts his Live the Life tour on June 1st in Europe and then he’ll hit the states with Steve Winwood starting October 17th.

I participated in this campaign for One2One Network. I received a free copy of the CD to facilitate my review. By posting, I am eligible for incentives. All opinions stated are my own.

 

Share