Moving to Texas

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

Derek will pursue a 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 will work. I do not have a job yet, but time will tell. (Update: I am a paginator (page design) and reporter for Houston Community Newspapers.)

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

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Cockrell Butterfly Center

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Last weekend Derek and I went to the Cockrell Butterfly Center, which is a part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I think it was a good experience for the price, which was $9 a ticket, and Derek got in for $8 when he showed his school ID.

The main section, where the butterflies are, is a large glass dome that is a few stories high. An iguana and a few turtles live among the butterflies too. There are also two small exhibits though, one about being an entomologist (one who studies bugs), and another where there was various bugs on display (thankfully) behind glass.

There were so many butterflies! Every time you turned around you saw a different one. Lots of different colors and species. I enjoyed getting use out of my macro camera lens.

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Art at the Cistern

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Two weeks ago I wrote an article for the paper about a new art installation at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern.

The Cistern is Houston’s old underground water reservoir. It opened up in 1926, and was in use for decades until it sprung an irreplaceable leak. It was going to be demolished, but then Buffalo Bayou Partnership found out about it and decided to turn it into a space where art could be shared. There are also guided tours to learn about the historical aspect of the space.

The Cistern is a spot that has been on our radar. The media preview of the installation was in the morning, and it timed up nicely that Derek was able to tag along. I am glad I asked if he wanted to go. I figured he would enjoy it even more than me, being an art student and all.

The interesting part about the installation is that the artist, Carlos Cruz-Diez, is three years older than the Cistern itself, born in 1923. Wow! The installation is called Spatial Chromointerference, and it features many light projectors. One way to describe it was psychedelic. We were given white lab coats so that our bodies could interact with the light too.

Here are some pictures, and here is the article I wrote about it for the paper:

https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/bellaire/news/article/Buffalo-Bayou-Cistern-hosts-second-art-12913297.php

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Polish Festival

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Ethnic festivals seem to be a running theme for me and Derek. First it was the Greek Festival, then the Japan Festival and now the Polish Festival.

We both enjoy the little glimpses into different cultures, and of course, the food is always excellent.

I will be honest up front and say that I was a little disappointed with the festival, but overall we had a nice time. The festival was at Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish. The church area was decorated nicely with lots of paper flowers.

There were some vendors, but not a lot. There was much more at the Greek and Japan festivals. We enjoyed looking at the Polish pottery collections. When we got married one of our friends gave us a small set of Polish pottery – two mugs and two small plates – and we still have them and use them regularly. There also seemed to be a lot of Amber jewelry. I was not aware that it was a popular Polish jewelry. I also enjoyed perusing through some pierogi cookbooks.

Speaking of that, of course I had pierogi for dinner. It was delicious! Derek had polish sausage. Derek also tried a Polish beer, and we had dessert. Derek had a cheesecake and I had a lemon bar.

There was also a silent auction inside that we checked out. But aside from that, we had seen everything and were only there for about a half hour! I had wanted to wait for the Polish dance group Wawel, but they weren’t going to perform for another hour.

There was a band called Ziggy that was playing on stage, but they were playing popular hits! They were good, but it was kind of weird to hear Michael Jackson at a Polish Festival…

In order to waste some time we decided to wander across the street to the Polish food store, which ended up being interesting. We came away with some delicious Polish candy, and a new favorite called Buttersby, a brand of fudge. We bought the vanilla flavor. So good!

I should mention that we went to the Polish Festival on opening night, Friday night, but it went on all weekend too. So we got in for free, which was a bonus. However, when Wawel came out to dance, I was upset because they weren’t in their traditional costumes! The announcer said since it was opening night, they were only giving a preview performance. I wish I had known that in advance otherwise we would have waited and gone on Saturday. Anyway, even though they were in shorts and t-shirts, they still did two traditional dances and they were fun to watch.

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Froberg’s Farm

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The growing seasons here are all strange to get used to, because it is basically growing season year round. In Pennsylvania, we lived near Murphy’s Blueberry Farm, and we enjoyed picking each summer. I missed that, so last year I was in search of places to pick berries. I stumbled upon Froberg’s Farm in Alvin, about 30 minutes south of where we live. I was ONE WEEK LATE for strawberry season, which is from February to the beginning of May! Back in Pennsylvania strawberry season is in June. I should have known the timing would be different!  Well, I just kept it in the back of my head and remembered for this year.

Derek just finished school for the year yesterday, so now we can reclaim our weekends together again. The first thing we had to do was Froberg’s.

It is the end of the season, so there was slim pickings overall, but, with little bit of hunting, and going out to some of the further areas of the patches, we still found plenty of berries to fill our bucket. We picked over three pounds! There were also sunflower patches near the field, and I was excited to see a train go by! The patch is right next to tracks.

Froberg’s is a great place to spend half a day with your kids. We saw a tractor ride pulling kids around and rubber duck races! There is also a large market where you can pick up just about any kind of fruit and vegetable. There was also a bakery inside. This felt like Stony Fork General Store, which we frequented back in Pennsylvania. It feels great to find something so similar. Aside from the strawberries we picked up local honey, dried mango slices and peanut brittle.

Froberg’s is open year round, so even though the strawberries may not be in season, there is always the market, as well as some other seasonal activities such as a fall festival.

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Japan Festival

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A few weeks ago the 25th annual Japan Festival was held in Hermann Park. This was an event that I had wanted to attend last year, but could not due to my work schedule. Now that I work more normal hours, (my weekend is now Friday-Saturday,) this year has been spent attending things that I missed last year.

The day started out cold and rainy, much like the Tall Ship festival in Galveston the week before, but eventually the sun came out and it warmed up. Even with the dreary weather in the morning, there were tons of people there. It seems to be a very popular event, especially with kids dressing up like their favorite characters.

There were a ton of food vendors (we had teriyaki kabobs – delicious!) and merchandise vendors. I bought a bunch of cat themed items, including a maneki-neko, which is a popular white cat figurine with a raised paw that symbolizes good luck. There were also a bunch of games for kids. We also enjoyed looking at displays of bonsai trees. 

The highlight were all of the different stage performances. I saw a couple of dance performances, two singers, a J-Fashion Show, martial arts, and a shrine ceremony.

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Tall Ship Galveston

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Last weekend I attended Tall Ship Galveston, a part of the Tall Ship Challenge, where tall ships race each other from port to port. This was the first year it was held in the gulf coast.

I heard about this festival months ago, and made up my mind to go right then, because, where would I see a tall ship in my landlocked part of Pennsylvania? I am always trying to find new and different things to do, and this fit the bill.

There were a number of visiting ships, including: Oliver Hazard Perry, built in 2015 and based in Rhode Island (the newest tall ship built in America), Picton Castle, built in 1928 and based in the Cook Islands, and Oosterschelde, built in 1918 and based in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Also participating was the Elissa, built in 1877, and based in Galveston. There were other ships participating, but these four were located at the pier where the festival was located.

I paid extra money to go on board the ships, and I think it was worth it. I can’t say there would have been much to do without the ships themselves. There was a few vendors and some music entertainment, but the festival grounds seemed smaller than I expected it to be.

Perhaps this was because of the weather, which left something to be desired. It was cold, wet and windy! A cold front came through during the day, and you could tell which people had bothered to look at the forecast and those who didn’t. I started out fine in a long sleeve shirt but quickly had to put on a fleece, and I’m glad I brought the umbrella. That may have kept some of the crowd away, (and some more vendors and entertainment.)

I was very impressed with the size of the ships. They don’t look all that big when you’re looking at them from land. The Oosterschlede in particular, its lower deck was beautiful, all done with wooden details. They even had a piano! The Oliver Hazard Perry can fit 17 crew members, plus up to 32 other guests. Wow! She is used for sailing school.

I really enjoyed photographing all of the details. So many ropes, so many sails and levers and pulleys! I guess the crew is just used to it. I heard one crew member of the Picton Castle say, “The ship is my home. Where she goes, that’s my latest address.”

I was happy to go on board the Elissa. I have seen the ship many times, but it costs extra to go on board. I felt that the ticket price was a two for one deal because of that.

After spending the weekend in Galveston, the ships raced to Pensacola, Florida, where they held a festival this weekend. On Monday they will head to New Orleans.

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Portraits in the bluebonnets

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Last year I took photos of the bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, but this year I also wanted photos of myself in the bluebonnets, which seems to be a Texas tradition for just about anyone.

Here is an humorous essay I wrote for the Houston Chronicle about the experience, and see some of the photos below:

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/bluebonnets-photography-springtime-texas-12788419.php

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