FAQs with a Frequent Flyer Museum Member

Some of my earliest memories are of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, thanks in large part to my parents. When I was young, I didn’t go to daycare or preschool; I went to work with my mom every day, and every day at lunchtime, we went to the Museum. With just one visit per year (or, you know, like 200), our HMNS Membership was paid off, and, by age 3, I was hooked.

As an Ecoteen, I got to work with various objects and artifacts, including Leonardo, the Brachylophasaurus mummy currently on display in the Morian Hall of Paleontology.

As an Ecoteen, I got to work with various objects and artifacts, including a cast of Leonardo, the Brachylophasaurus mummy currently on display in the Morian Hall of Paleontology.

I was a summer camper at age 6, a Moran Ecoteen volunteer at age 15, an Xplorations summer camp employee at age 19 and, finally, a full-time employee at age 22. The Museum is almost a part of my identity at this point. One of my first purchases when I returned home as a college graduate was a Catalysts Individual Membership.

Over the years, I’ve fielded many questions from friends, family and visitors to an Outreach program I may be presenting about trips to HMNS, and I wanted to share some of those questions and answers with you all here!

“The Science Museum is too advanced for little kids, right?”

My young cousins love the Morian Overlook at the Morian Hall of Paleontology.

My young cousins love the Morian Overlook at the Morian Hall of Paleontology.

My young cousins love the Morian Overlook at the Morian Hall of Paleontology.
I’m the oldest of my generation in my family by a long shot; next in age is my younger brother, who is six years behind. But I started coming to the Museum before I had made any lasting memories, and, even today, my young cousins all enjoy HMNS their own way. True, HMNS is full of advanced science topics; if the only thing you were going to do is read the scientific names of dinosaurs and gemstones, a small child could get bored easily. But, as my coworker Allison puts it, there is so much to learn by just experiencing the trip to the museum. With her young son, she asks questions about size, shape and color, such as, “Which of these two dinosaurs is bigger?” or “can you name that animal?” or “What color is that gemstone?” The Museum exhibit halls are basically a giant three-dimensional learning tool and picture book!

“There’s so much to see, it just doesn’t seem like a good value.”

There is definitely a lot to see, but that just means repeat visits are necessary!

There is definitely a lot to see, but that just means repeat visits are necessary!

There is definitely a lot to see, but that just means repeat visits are necessary!
An HMNS Membership is the best value around. Coworker Allison from above saved $714 in a year full of Museum visits with her family! A Membership can pay for itself in just one visit, thanks to FREE access to the permanent exhibit halls all year as well as discounts on special exhibits, venues like the Cockrell Butterfly Center, souvenirs in the Museum Store and much more! And this way, you can come back as often as you want in case you miss something the first time around.

“I don’t have kids, so is there anything for me to really do there?”

HMNS Catalysts events are always a ton of fun!

HMNS Catalysts events are always a ton of fun!

YES! HMNS isn’t just for families. With stunning exhibits and a constantly cycling series of special exhibitions, there is always something exciting to see at the Museum for all ages. For the young professionals in town, it doesn’t get much better than the HMNS Catalysts group. The Catalysts Membership I purchased was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my post-grad life. This Membership includes four young professional parties at the Museum each year as well as FREE tickets to Mixers & Elixirs, on top of the benefits afforded to basic Members. It’s perfect for the 20’s and 30’s crowd in Houston!

“It can get pretty crowded on weekends! Any tips on how to make the Museum visit easier for all of us?”

I could write a book on insider tips to visiting the Museum, or I could direct you to the HMNS Members Welcome page! There are a bunch of great tips in the bullet points under the video, and I highly recommend watching the video to make the most of your Membership. A few of those bullet points I want to specifically mention:

  • Come to the Museum early in the day. Most crowds will come around lunchtime or in the afternoon. If you can get to the Museum before 10 a.m., you should be in great shape to find parking and explore before the rush later.
  • Take a tour with a Discovery Guide! Our Discovery Guide tour team is world-class, befitting an institution of this caliber, and they add an entirely new level to the visitor experience. My five-year-old cousin still asks if “Jurassic James” is free to give her a tour every time she visits.
  • If anyone in your family has special needs, please visit the Accessibility section of our website ahead of time. Our new accessibility guides and resources are extremely useful for planning your day as a family before your visit.
  • If things get a little hectic, head to the lower level of the Museum. It’s usually pretty quiet, and you can try to find one of the best-kept secrets of HMNS, the animal alcove. You can even look through the glass at some venomous snakes!
  • Buy a Membership! The visitor experience is vastly improved, and you will not be disappointed. It’s really quite the deal!

If you have any more specific questions you’d like to ask, feel free to contact us at (713) 639-4629 or email webmaster@hmns.org and it will get to the appropriate party. I hope to see you here soon!

National Watermelon Day

Written by A Fare Extraordinaire, one of our Museum’s exclusive caterers.

Watermelon Tomato Feta Salad

Happy National Watermelon Day! A Fare Extraordinaire is excited to celebrate this amazing fruit (and vegetable) with you. In honor of this day and the last month of summer, we would love to share some facts, tips and tricks to this refreshing treat.

Watermelon Refresher


  1. The first ever recorded watermelon was found 5,000 years ago in Egypt.
  2. There are over 300 varieties of watermelon in the US and up to 1,200 varieties world-wide.
  3. The watermelon is the most consumed melon type in the United States.
  4. The largest recorded watermelon in The Guinness World Record book weighs in at 350.5 pounds.
  5. The watermelon is cousins to the cucumber, pumpkins and squashes.
  6. The watermelon grows from a vine-like flowering plant.
  7. Because the watermelon is cousins to these vegetables as well as being a sweet, seed-producing plant, it is both a fruit and a vegetable.
  8. Watermelons are 92% water.
  9. The watermelon is 100% edible. You are able to eat the entire rind as well as the seeds.
  10. The seedless watermelon was invented only 50 years ago.

Melon Crab Poke1

Our exclusive full-service caterers are trained in the policies and procedures of the Museum – making your event-planning process effortless. Each caterer is full-service and can customize your event to meet your specific needs. Learn more…

Cheese Please! Selecting Cheese for the Perfect Cheese Platter

Written by Chef Kevin Morris, Abuso Catering Co., one of our Museum’s exclusive caterers.

cheese 1

Cheese platers have been around for ages, and are a great staple to have whether at a formal event, or a casual gathering at your home. But with so many options how to you make a cheese plater everyone will remember?

Try to include a variety of textures and flavors. Most cheese belongs to one of four basic categories: aged, soft, firm, or blue. For a good variety, choose at least one from each group.

aged cheeseAged: Aged Cheddar, Comte, Goat Gouda

soft cheese

Soft: June’s Joy, Triple Cream Brie from Cowgirl Creamery, Cremont

Heap of diced semi-firm cheese on plate

Firm: Manchego, Texas Gold Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano

blue cheese

Blue: Gorgonzola Dolce, Buttermilk Blue, Red Rock, Stilton

You can also try selecting cheeses by the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep). This will ensure a range of different flavors on the plate. Also be sure to serve at least one very interesting cheese like Barely Buzzed (Cheddar rubbed with a mix of ground coffee beans and French Lavender.

How Much Is Enough?
It really depends on the event. For display during cocktail hour, use 1 to 2 ounces of cheese per guest. If I am doing a party where the cheese display is the star, I use about 3 to 4 ounces of cheese per guest. If you are going to bring a cheese platter to a pot-luck style party, then you should be safe bringing 1 to 2 ounces per guest.

cheese 2Accompaniments
Offer a selection of breads, including sliced baguette, bread sticks, and crackers in all different shapes and sizes. It’s a good idea to vary taste and texture among the breads as well as the cheeses. (I personally like to toast or grill some sliced baguette)

Jarred condiments and vegetables are quick and fuss-free. Try sweet fig preserves or honey, tart chutneys, and spicy mustards. You can also add artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and caponata. If you have a bit more time, prepare caramelized onions, which complement most cheese plates (I make this great cherry tomato jam that I like to put out with my cheese displays). One thing you could try is infusing the honey with interesting flavors like thyme, lavender, or even ancho chili.

Various other sweet and salty items are also great additions. Try cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, or candied nuts and pistachios. I like to use Marcona almonds, which I season with fresh herbs and olive oil. Assorted seasonal and dried fruits can include figs, cherries, apples, berries, melons and pears. I use fruit to make garnishes for my trays and displays as well.

cheese 3

Serving Tips

  • Set out a separate knife for each cheese, especially the soft varieties. Soft cheese spreads well with a butter knife; firm cheese might require a paring knife; and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane. We all have that set of cheese knives that someone gave us – you just need to find it in the closet.
  • Remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving―cold mutes flavor.
  • Spread out the displays. Place the cheese platters and the other nibbles on several tables to avoid guest gridlock.
  • Label each cheese so you won’t need to recite the names all evening. If you like, also jot down a few poetic adjectives describing its flavor.
  • When I need cheese for my clients I always call Houston DairyMaids. They can help you with your next cheese tray.

Good Luck and Happy Eating!

Our exclusive full-service caterers are trained in the policies and procedures of the Museum – making your event-planning process effortless. Each caterer is full-service and can customize your event to meet your specific needs. Learn more…

Summer Grilling Museum Style

Summer Grilling party 101 as done by the professionals! Take your summer grilling to the next level, learn what dishes are our exclusive Museum caterer’s favorites, and how they do it!

Skinny Pinchada
Recipe by City Kitchen
“Perfect amount of nuttiness to balance out the sweet!”



Grilled Watermelon Salad
Café Natalie
“This is our favorite summer dish as grilling the watermelon caramelizes the sugar providing a sweet, yet refreshing snack for any Summer BBQ.”


Grilled Caesar Salad
“It’s the new summer trend we are really excited about”

grilled ceasar salad
Dressing (Or use your favorite brand Caesar Dressing)

  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (found near the tuna fish in the supermarket)
  •  2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I like the brand Maille)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
  2. Add the mayonnaise, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper and whisk until well combined.
  3. Taste and adjust to your preferred flavor. The dressing will keep well in the fridge for a little under a week.


  • One large head of Romaine, sliced in half
  • 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  •  A liberal pinch of salt and pepper
  •  ½ Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
  • 1 or 2 pieces of your favorite baguette or white sandwich bread
  • Lightly oil, s&p, grill to desired doneness.
  1. Preheat your grill to high heat. The hotter the grill, the better the lettuce will caramelize.
  2. Rub each side of the Romaine with the EVOO and sprinkle with Salt and Pepper
  3. Once your grill is ready, carefully place your romaine on it.
  4. Flip after 45 seconds to a minute. The lettuce should be dark brown with a nice char. Do not burn or wilt.
  5. Chop lettuce and toss with croutons, cheese and dressing.


  1. Lightly oil your bread and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill bread on both sides to desired doneness
  3. Crumble or cut to desired size

Feel free to customize your salad with some fresh touches, such as diced tomatoes, corn, avocado, or even grilled chicken. Once you’ve grilled your first head of romaine, we guarantee you’ll make this salad again and again!


Bone-In Ribeye
A Fare Extraordinaire
“The perfect way to get your family and friends together for a summer soiree”


Executive Chef, Ryan Bouillet

The most important thing to know about grilling your steak is that there are lots of methods to the madness. If you are new to grilling, keep practicing, and eventually you will find your grilling, seasoning and temperature method of preference. Regardless of your experience, a steak grill out is the perfect way to get your family and friends together for a summer soiree.

The Grill: The first step to grilling the perfect ribeye is deciding on your preferred cooking method. We prefer a good old fashioned charcoal grill, but for you new-time grillers it might be easier to start with the gas grill. Both methods will cook your steak perfectly, but there are pros and cons to each method.



45 Minute Start Time
More Complicated to Master
Intense Flavoring from Charcoal and Wood Chips Infused into Meat



20 Minute Start Time
Easier and More User Friendly
Minimal Flavor, For Cooking Purposes Only


Seasoning: Set your meat out right as you’re lighting the grill or turning the grill on. If you allow your meat to sit out and come to room temperature, this will help in the cooking your steak faster. Once your grill is ready, season your meat with salt and pepper. We prefer to use Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper on our steaks. Some people also prefer to use olive oil to give their meat extra tenderness and moisture.

Grilling: We prefer diamond grill marks for the perfect grilling effect. Place your steak on the grill at a 45 degree angle for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, rotate your steak to 90 degrees for another 2 minutes. Once you have totaled to 4 minutes on one side, flip your steak over and repeat the 45 degree and 90 degree for another 4 minutes, totaling to 8 full minutes on the grill. There are many ways to tell if your steak is to the correct temperature. The most accurate way is to read the temperature of the meat. Your doneness will increase by 5 degrees.



125 Degrees: Rare
130 Degrees: Medium Rare
135 Degrees: Medium
140 Degrees: Medium Well


Cook Time: Your meat temperature is a personal preference. For most steaks, we prefer a nice medium rare. However, for Ribeyes, we have a personal preference of medium. Bone-In Ribeyes are a much fattier cut of meat. Cooking the ribeye a little longer, to medium, will allow the fat to render and avoids any gristle.

Resting: Once your meat is off the grill, it is very important to let it rest before cutting into it. If you do not allow enough resting time, then most of the juices will run, creating dryness in your steak. We recommend a resting time that equals half the cooking time. If you cook your steak for 8 minutes, then let it rest for 4 minutes.

skewers 1

Grilled Strawberry Shortcake Skewers

(Recipe makes 4 skewers)

  • 1/2 pound angel food cake
  • 12 strawberries
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp good quality vanilla zest of 1 lemon

These can be made ahead of time and grilled just before dessert.

1. dip
2. strawberries
3. cake
4. grill and serve!


  1. Whipped cream dip – Mix together the heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Beat until soft/medium peaks form. Caution – don’t let it go too long or it will turn into butter.
  2. Prepare the strawberries – Remove the hulls. You can do this with a paring knife the traditional way, or you can even use a regular straw. Push the straw up through the bottom of the strawberry.

    Melt some strawberry preserves in a small bowl. Dip the strawberries into the melted strawberry preserves. Use a fork to get them out and “drain” them as you go.

  3. Prepare the angel food cubes – Cut your angel food cake into cubes. You want them to be roughly the same size as the strawberries, and the same size as each other. If some are really large and some small, the smaller ones won’t touch the grill. Size and uniformity does matter in this one.

    Now just put them together. I am using these double skewers. If you are using singles, use two at a time. Hold them slightly apart while threading the food onto them. This will keep the fruit and cake from swiveling around.

  4. Grill and serve – When you are ready to grill them, brush the cake with melted butter on each side. The butter will help to prevent the cake from sticking, and it will also help form that lovely crust. Grill the kabobs on a medium grill or grill pan about 4 minutes per side. You should see some really nice grill marks on the cake. The berries will also get a slight char on them. Serve hot with the lemon scented whipped cream dip.

skewers 2