Moving to Texas

Sticky

My husband Derek and I have moved to Houston, Texas. This blog will be a way for friends and family to see what we are up to.

Derek  is pursuing MFA in Studio Art – with a concentration of graphic design at the  University of Houston. It is a three year program. While he is in school, I am working as a Publication Editor for Houston Community Newspapers, a division of the Houston Chronicle.

It has been an adventure, and a culture shock for sure. We have moved from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, which has a population of about 3,300, to Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., population 2.1 million.

Advertisements

Texian Market Days

Standard

Texian Market Days is a large living history event that takes place at George Ranch Historical Park, which is about 30 minutes south of Houston. The park follows four generations of a family through 100 years of Texan history, starting with an 1830’s farm, an 1860s home, a 1920’s Victorian home and a 1930’s cattle ranch. Each area had reenactors and demonstrations.

This was one of the first events that I wanted to go to, but was disappointed because of my original work schedule having mid-week days off. Two years later, I finally got to go.

The 1830’s area had Texian (residents of Mexican Texas and, later, the Republic of Texas) and Mexican reenactors. I got to watch some demonstrations of cotton batting, a cannon firing (they did it so differently than what I was used to!) corn husk doll making, and learned about some animal furs. There was a skirmish, but honestly it was not organized well. They told everyone to get behind the fence line, but not everyone did. So the people who followed directions (me included) could not see much. I was disappointed in that.

However, the Civil War skirmish was excellent, and it made up for the first one. They had a neat skit, with the Yankee’s ransacking a southern home. The Confederates won. We are in the South after all. In the Civil War section, there was a sugar cane press demonstrations, a quilting bee, a hospital tent and dance lessons. I enjoyed this area the most of all, obviously, because of my experience as a Civil War reenactor. It felt like home. At the same time though, it felt weird to be on the spectator side of things, listening to information that I mostly already knew about. One of my favorite moments of the day was getting to watch the demonstration on the 1861 parrot rifle, and I ended up getting an amazing photo of the cannon blast.

The park is over some swampy ponds, so you have to cross bridges here and there to get to different areas. I was happily surprised to see my first wild alligator. It only took over two years. (My parents saw one only two minutes into Texas at the welcome center!)

The 1920’s sections featured a temperance movement, a 1890s beekeeper demonstration, blacksmith demonstrations and cowboy camps. I think there might have been more to see at this point but I was petering out fast!

Same goes for the 1930’s cattle ranch area. I was getting tired, but I checked out some WWII camps, some old vehicles, and watched a dancing performance by the Ballet Folklorico Herencia Mexicana de Houston before calling it a day. I had a great time and I’m glad the opportunity finally opened up for me to go.

Texian Market Day1

Texian Market Day5

Texian Market Day11

Texian Market Day28

Texian Market Day42

Texian Market Day50

Texian Market Day76

Texian Market Day81

Texian Market Day83

Texian Market Day61

Texian Market Day91

Texian Market Day103

Texian Market Day129

Texian Market Day135

Texian Market Day137

Texian Market Day145

Texian Market Day148

Texian Market Day157

Texian Market Day162

Texian Market Day163

Texian Market Day176

Texian Market Day184

Texian Market Day189

Swamp sunflower season

Standard

In Pennsylvania I always looked forward to photographing tulips in the spring. Well now, seasons and flowers are flipped, and I look forward to photographing swamp sunflowers in the fall.

Here is the link to last year’s swamp sunflower post: https://texastalesblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/swamp-sunflowers/

The swamp sunflowers are in a meadow at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, a favorite outdoor location of ours.

This year is the first time Derek’s gotten to see the meadow in person. He enjoyed photographing the flowers as much as I did. It was a beautiful morning, so we stayed at the Arboretum for a few hours, and got photos of all types of flowers and foliage.

Day at Arboretum3

Day at Arboretum9

The above photo is American beautyberry. There were clusters of this everywhere. It looks very striking among the leaves.

Day at Arboretum17

Day at Arboretum75

Day at Arboretum78

If you look hard enough, you will find small signs of fall foliage…

Day at Arboretum24

Day at Arboretum28

Day at Arboretum42

Day at Arboretum48

Day at Arboretum63

Day at Arboretum82

Day at Arboretum83

I loved the shapes these little tiny vines made!

Day at Arboretum81

Day at Arboretum92

Day at Arboretum96

 

Weekend activities

Standard

Last weekend we attended two events in one night: The Texas Contemporary Art Fair, and MoonGarden, an art installation at Discovery Green park.

Interestingly enough, two years ago, when I was on my way to meet Derek for the Art Fair, was when my former boss (now retired) gave me a call and wanted to see me for an interview. (Next week I will have been at my job for two years!)

Derek is able to get free tickets through school. This is an event that gives us an opportunity to check out all different kinds of artwork, and we both enjoy it.

Here are pictures of some of my favorite pieces, and some shots of the overall venue:

IMG_7474

IMG_7478

IMG_7489

IMG_7491

IMG_7486

IMG_7484

IMG_7485

IMG_7482

When we had our fill of the Contemporary Art Fair, we walked across the street to check out MoonGarden.

The art installation consists of large blowup spheres that light up in time to music, and some of them also feature light up dioramas inside that show Houston history. You were able to peek inside and see the moving parts too, which was interesting. It was organized by Lucion Traveling Light, a Montreal-based art collective.

The show was only there for about a week and a half so I am glad that it timed up nicely with the Art Fair for us to go see it

Photos and video:

IMG_7561

IMG_7556

IMG_7550

IMG_7507

IMG_7501

IMG_7499

IMG_7508
IMG_7559

 

30th birthday activities

Standard

Another year has come and gone. This birthday is a little more meaningful than most, because I am now 30. I was initially depressed when the day arrived. Let’s be real, I was actually depressed all summer long by the thought of the impending day.

It was rough to see all of the surprise 30th birthday pictures and events on my Facebook feed from friends, but I had to remind myself of all the quietly passed birthdays that did not make it to social media.

I felt like my birthday was doomed from the start, being on a Wednesday, also being the day that Derek has a night class. I did not expect much the day of, and so we planned to go out to dinner during the weekend.

I was pleasantly surprised though; my co-workers made sure I had a nice day.  There were cards to open, and my co-worker Tracy brought in a cookie-cake and balloons tied down with a tea mug. I share my birthday with my boss, so we all shared the cookie together.

That night, I went to Cavenders and I bought a new pair of cowboy boots for myself. I wore them the next day and I got a few compliments, including from a stranger at the grocery store!

On Friday night, Derek and I attended UH’s College of the Art’s Party at the Grove. It was an open house event for all of the art programs. It was nice to get out of the apartment for the night, and see some of Derek’s classmates and professors. One of the activities was a sketch artist, so Derek and I got our portraits done. I thought they came out well!

On Saturday night we went out to dinner. I picked the Black Labrador, a British pub. This is a restaurant that we have passed many times. The outside of the restaurant LOOKS like England. There is a phone booth, a Union Jack flag hanging, and lots of greenery and ivy.

The inside carried the theme well. We opened the front door and were greeted by a mannequin dressed like a Buckingham Palace guard. We both ordered burgers and got spinach and artichoke dip as an appetizer. The food was great. We will most likely come back here again.

I’m trying to feel better about being 30, because why worry anymore now that the birthday has passed? Derek and I are both successfully working at our goals, and I guess my life is in as good as a position as I can be right now. I know that by the time I am 31, life will be totally different, in a great way.

IMG_7328

IMG_7330

IMG_7327

IMG_7331

IMG_E7332

IMG_E7352

IMG_7356

IMG_7363

IMG_7357

IMG_7358

IMG_7361

Derek at the University of Houston

Standard

I have written all about our day to day life and our little adventures on Texas Tales for two years now, but I realized that I hardly ever mention what Derek is up to at school, which is the number one reason why we moved here in the first place.

Derek is starting his third and final year in the graphic design masters program. I am impatient and I want the year to go by fast, and he is the opposite. He wants it to s-l-o-w down.

This year he will be quite busy. He has to spend the whole year working on a thesis project. He has narrowed down the topic he wants to do the project on, now he just has to just figure out exactly WHAT to do. The third year students will have a thesis show at the end of the school year in the spring.

The University of Houston has provided Derek with some great opportunities, but he has also chased a few opportunities on his own time as well.

Derek has taught two graphic design software classes to undergrads. This opportunity is offered to the best students during their second year of the masters program. He will continue to teach this year as well. In addition, an unexpected teaching opportunity popped up as well. There were some summer openings, so Derek, along with one of his classmates, taught a six-week summer software class.

Derek also was the Teachers Assistant for one of his professors last year, and was set to do that again this year for a print production class. However, this professor was recently named the interim associate dean, which is making her extremely busy. She has trusted Derek enough to let him teach the class on his own! This is perfect, because when Derek was in the workforce (seems like ages ago) his job was in print production! He is excited to get this class started.

Last fall, Derek submitted a pitch for a session at the National College Media Convention in Dallas, and his pitch was picked! We went to Dallas for the weekend and he spoke to college students about typography.

Derek, and one of his classmates, also submitted a research poster for GRaSP (Graduate Research and Scholarship Projects). The event showcases research taking place at UH and is typically a STEM event (science, technology, engineering and math), so it was new for a graphic designer to join. It gave the graphic design program good publicity.  Here is a link to an article about the event:https://www.uh.edu/kgmca/about/news/2017/11-01-grasp-research-posters.php.

He also spent a year working for Gulf Coast Journal, which is a literary magazine that is published on campus. He helped design pages of the magazine. He was specifically recommended for the job, because of his magazine experience, and was able to get class credits for this.

All of this reinforces the idea that moving to Houston was a good thing. Derek hopes to be a professor after graduation. We are hopeful because there are plenty of higher education places in the city.

New apartment

Standard

We have moved into a new apartment! Everything about it is bigger and better, which was sorely needed.

We live in the same neighborhood, but in a better, quieter spot. Previously, we were right off of the highway, but now we are on a side street. We are still walking distance to the stadium, just on the opposite side now, which is great. I foresee a lot more rodeo country concerts in my future! We are also now walking distance to the metro rail, which will be great for downtown events. Prior, we had to go to the park and ride and pay $3 in addition to our metro ticket.

Judging by some of our neighbors wearing scrubs, this complex seems to be a popular living spot for medical students and or doctors working at the Texas Medical Center, which is just a few stops away on the metro.

Our first apartment in Houston was a one bed and one bath which was a tight squeeze, especially since we were used to a three bedroom, two bath house in Pennsylvania. There was room for everything, but there was no denying that we were cramped.

The main goal was to get a second bedroom that we could turn into an office for Derek to do his school work in, and for me to do my scrapbooking! Previously, Derek’s desk was the first thing you saw when you walked through the front door, which meant you also saw his messes! I am much happier now that his mess is contained to a room that is NOT the living room. This will also help the both of us because now Derek can keep the light on at night if he needs to stay up late, and I won’t hear the click-clack of his keyboard either, so hopefully I will sleep better!

In the end we got much more than just that extra bedroom. Now we have two walk-in closets, two bathrooms, a new washer and dryer ( that we just purchased last week) and a private balcony! Something that we definitely did not need, but what made me fall in love instantly with the place was the big brick fireplace! It’s funny that it takes moving to Texas to get a fireplace.

When walking through the door, you can just FEEL that it is bigger, even with all of the boxes still laying everywhere. I can only imagine how it will feel when everything is done and put away. When we were in the process of moving in, Derek would call my name from somewhere within the apartment and I had to call back, “Where are you?” That is a good problem to have.

We thought it would be tough to find a place that we liked and we would have to see 10 different apartments and have a hard time making a decision. However, we only looked at two apartments and knew right away that the first one was the one for us.

I was initially worried because this apartment was at the top of our budget, but sometimes good things happen at just the right time: I got a raise at work! Now we are more comfortable and don’t have to worry about being stretched too thin.

Even moving a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment is tough work, and we had over a week to do it too! I hope that we stay in this new apartment for quite a few years, until, hopefully, we are ready to buy a home.

Stay tuned for pictures of the apartment, which will come once we are more settled in.

Crazy 4th of July

Standard

I was planning on writing a post about 4th of July, but this post is not at all what I was expecting to write about.

Our original plans included the Bellaire 4th of July parade in the morning. (Bellaire is a nice small-town community that is entirely surrounded by the city of Houston.) I was planning on taking a few photos of the parade and then putting them online for our newspapers. We were also going to check out the new H-E-B grocery store, and then just relax the rest of the day.

Let’s just say that rain changed a bunch of our plans.

It was forecasted to rain for most of the day, but Bellaire administration said that the parade would go on, basically rain or shine, unless if there was a downpour or lightning and thunder.

We left at 9 a.m. for the 9:30 parade. We were barely on the road for a minute when the downpour started. We found the start line of the parade, in a shopping plaza, and everyone was soaked. It looked as if they were trying to wait out the downpour and then the parade could start. We snapped a few pictures of everyone and the floats in the rain. At about 9:25, you guessed it, lightning and thunder started. So much for the parade.

We were right in front of a little coffee shop called the Dandelion Cafe. We ducked inside because it was still pouring. It ended up being a nice little place. We will probably put this coffee shop into our rotation. We always enjoy finding new places like this.

After being there for an hour, we headed to the new H-E-B Grocery that had just opened up in Bellaire. I wasn’t originally expecting to buy a lot of things, but we did most of our bi-weekly shopping there, because prices were good. The H-E-B was cool, because it was a two story building, with a cart specific escalator. I was amused by it, and embarrassed Derek when I took video and pictures. Also, the H-E-B had its own parking garage, and there were lights at the end of each space in the ceiling which indicated if the spaces were open or not. Red for occupied, green for vacant. How handy! This is what living in the future is like.

Unbeknownst to us while we did our shopping for an hour, it was still raining heavily all this time. We left the grocery store and we were driving through pretty deep water. It was splashing up over the sides of our tires up onto the windows. But then all of a sudden it got too deep, and the water was going up over our hood. It quickly got scary. Derek said, “We have to get off of this road, NOW.” Luckily we saw a parking lot that was higher ground, and a bunch of other cars were there too waiting out the storm like us.

So we sat. And we waited. And we sat some more. I was getting worried about all of the perishables that we had just bought! Eventually, after about an hour and a half, we saw that the waters had receded a bit, so we cautiously headed out. We went a few blocks and ended up at a Walmart near my work. We couldn’t go any further, towards home, because we saw there was more high water ahead.

Walmart was good though, because we were able to buy a bag of ice to keep the perishables cold, and wandering around Walmart was better than sitting in a car.

We finally were able to get home around 3 p.m., about four hours after we originally tried to get home. It was an exhausting morning!

I now understand why some drivers accidentally end up in high waters and have to abandon their cars. It comes out of nowhere. You think you are okay, and then suddenly there is more water. We never had to be outside during Hurricane Harvey, so this was a new scary experience, one that I hope to not repeat.

Parade rain3

Parade rain1

IMG_7091

IMG_7090

IMG_7093

IMG_7101

IMG_7097