For Meredith McCord, looking at a piece of pottery brings back decades worth of memories. McCord started The Mad Potter in 1998, and since those early days, she's used her kiln to immortalize countless special moments. She traveled to hospitals to capture the footprints of newborns, helped a young man create a dessert plate with the words "Will you marry me?" emblazoned across it, and auctioned off items for charity. Yet some of her fondest memories center on the day-to-day interactions with customers, specifically when they return to pick up their fired pieces and utter three words of amazement: "I did that?"
The Mad Potter has since expanded into three Houston-area locations, where children and adults come to paint their own works of art or create replicas of their ancient ancestors' garden gnomes. More than 500 bisqueware items line the shelves of each studio, including coffee mugs, plates, and figurines. Staffers then help visitors select from more than 54 available colors of paint and supply them with everything else they might need, including brushes and stencils. The staff can even take things over and create more intricate designs—while still consulting closely with the customer. Whatever route a person chooses, there's always time for a sip of wine or beer; the River Oaks location sells wine and beer while Bellaire and Woodway maintain a BYOB policy.
A crackling fire warms guests perched at white-draped tables in the candlelit wine cellar. Upstairs, diners marvel at the picturesque views of the vineyard and rose garden filling the glass-enclosed patio's windows or deeply inhale the aroma of wildflowers drifting onto the vine-covered porch. It's against these intimate backdrops that servers at The Vineyards Restaurant deliver steak, seafood, and other upscale dishes to tables, which come aglow with candlelight as dusk falls.
The chefs work hard to make each bite as special as the surroundings. They age beef-tenderloin fillets for 45 days before plating them atop garlic-and-mushroom sauce and slowly marinate chicken in a spicy chipotle-garlic oil before nestling it in a bed of pasta covered in cilantro cream sauce.
With such food in such a setting, a regular night out at The Vineyards is one to remember, but a special occasion there is truly magical. For marriage proposals, anniversaries, and the reunions of long-lost pairs of socks, staffers lead guests down a candle-strewn path to a private table set for dessert among the vineyard's rows of grapevines. The Vineyards has held more than 500 weddings in its open-air pavilion, and its on-staff wedding coordinator and floral designer help plan picture-perfect ceremonies.
There was a time when looking down the barrel of Clyde Barrow's gun wouldn't have seemed too appealing. But now people visit the second floor galleries of the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture just to get a glimpse of the infamous weapon, which shares space with more than 1,000 other artifacts, including the first traffic light in Dallas County and handcuffs worn by Lee Harvey Oswald. Taken together, these artifacts trace Dallas County's past from prehistory to the present day, a timeline visitors also explore via the museum's 41 touchscreen computers, four mini theatres screening specially commissioned films, and hands-on activities on topics such as architecture and pioneer life. More hands-on activities await in the education center, where youngsters learn about their local heritage thanks to exhibits on Dallas County children.
Housed in the Old Red Courthouse, a restored Romanesque building from 1892, the museum is practically a large-scale exhibit unto itself. Its many architectural flourishes include a four-story grand staircase, a restored clock tower, and two original stained-glass windows from the courthouse's original collection of more than 100. Tours of all four floors grant visitors access to areas not otherwise open to the general public, including the courtroom and the judge's tightly guarded gavel shed. The historic building makes a fitting setting for the special exhibits that grace the first floor gallery several times a year.
Andrea Martin founded Jackie's Play & Stay so no dog owner would have to endure the same experience she had after boarding her four-year-old border collie, Jackie. After dropping her off on a Friday, Andrea picked an ill Jackie up on Sunday. Her rapidly declining health suggested some form of poisoning, and she soon passed. Determined not to let Jackie's death be in vain, she founded a daycare and boarding facility where owners could feel secure every time they parted with their best friends.
Today, Andrea and her caretakers earn owners' and dogs' trust by getting to know each four-legged guest individually to ease their transitions in and out of Jackie's Play & Stay. They also keep the 14,000-square-foot facility meticulously clean, using disinfectants that target canine viruses and fungi. Believing that a tired dog is a happy dog, the staff supervises indoor and outdoor play and socializing. They provide small dogs with their own play space, and welcome dogs to relax on their own if that's what they prefer. The facility’s suites for overnighters are climate-controlled, with dog beds and relaxing music that plays through the night. The staff also encourages owners to leave their pets with a familiar item, such as a favorite blanket or the neighborhood fire hydrant. Beyond daycare and boarding, Jackie's Play & Stay extends to grooming and training, where dogs learn everything from basic obedience to how to drive stick. Today, Andrea and her caretakers earn owners' and dogs' trust by getting to know each four-legged guest individually to ease their transitions in and out of Jackie's Play & Stay. They also keep the 14,000-square-foot facility meticulously clean, using disinfectants that target canine viruses and fungi. Believing that a tired dog is a happy dog, the staff supervises indoor and outdoor play and socializing. They provide small dogs with their own play space, and welcome dogs to relax on their own if that's what they prefer. The facility’s suites for overnighters are climate-controlled, with dog beds and relaxing music that plays through the night. The staff also encourages owners to leave their pets with a familiar item, such as a favorite blanket or the neighborhood fire hydrant. Beyond daycare and boarding, Jackie's Play & Stay extends to grooming and training, where dogs learn everything from basic obedience to how to drive stick.
After becoming an all-American at the University of Houston, qualifying for the U.S. Open twice, and making the cut at The Masters during his professional career, seasoned golf instructor Jim McLean has added one more accomplishment to his resumé: Jim McLean Golf Schools was touted as one of the country's top 25 golf schools in 2008 by Golf magazine.
Following Jim's innovative philosophy of biomechanics, a team of instructors—with levels ranging from certified, master, and lead master—teach the components of a successful golf swing, focusing on each player's physical capabilities and limitations and developing a tailored lesson plan. In order to become a Jim McLean golf instructor, pupils must pass a rigorous certification process that includes one to three years of teaching at the club, conducting their own extensive golf-swing-research projects, and learning to grow natural spikes out of their feet. During private lessons and clinics, golf gurus use 3-D graphical imaging and data analysis to provide instant feedback.
At Jim McLean Golf Schools, players hone their games with indoor and outdoor practice facilities that include a 50,000-square-foot short-game range, a lit driving range, and a practice bunker. The complex is also home to the Legends Scoring Nine course, which, along with the practice facilities, has been a training ground and putter-jousting arena for rising PGA star Jason Day, who placed 3rd at the 2013 Masters.
While her husband was in Iraq, KinderJam founder El Brown struggled to entertain her toddler with high-energy, enriching activities that would prepare him for kindergarten. Drawing on her master's degree in early-childhood education and more than a decade as an educator for children around the globe, Brown devised a program that has since become a preschool franchise reaching more than 1,300 children in four countries. The KinderJam curriculum, designed to mesh with NAEYC framework and Developmentally Appropriate Practice standards, fosters creativity and school skills with vibrant props, creative movement, and boisterous music. For younger participants, weekly BabyJam sessions strengthen bonds between infants and parents through music-fueled tickling, cuddling, and trigonometry-proof analysis.