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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Winter Storm Inga

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Winter Storm Inga barreled through Texas, and much of the south, a few days ago. It could have very well been rain, but it was timed (not so) perfectly with an arctic front coming through the area. The day started off above freezing, but the temperatures quickly dropped, and with it came the most dangerous form of precipitation – ice.

Schools started announcing closures on Monday evening, including the University of Houston. This was kind of interesting, because this is twice now that school has closed at the beginning of a semester, before for Hurricane Harvey.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, I looked outside and saw that there was already a coating of ice everywhere. I emailed my boss, and he said to work from home. Thank goodness I was in a position to do that.

There is usually always a bit of uncertainty when it comes to a weather forecast, but Inga lived up to the hype. Roads quickly became ice skating rinks, and that was mixed with periods of snow too.

The Houston Chronicle reported that in a two day period, Houston police responded to nearly 1,000 accidents. Also, weather.com noted that, because of Inga’s contribution to snow in the south, all lower 48 states now have snow cover. Pretty cool!

Thankfully I was off on Wednesday to begin with, and UH closed down for Wednesday too, because the day started off so cold that the ice did not begin to melt until noon. In the middle of the night, Houston was 19 degrees. The last time the temperature was in the teens was 1996!

Also, according to local news channel abc13.com, “It has snowed three times in the winter of 2017-2018, marking the second time in Houston it has snowed three times in one winter. In the winter of 1973, it snowed three times.” (I would personally say, at least for our area, it only snowed twice. The other time was more like a short period of sleet.)

In a few days, it will be 68 degrees. I guess the saying does ring true in some places. If you don’t like the weather, just wait a day!

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Christmas eve in Galveston

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I was off on Christmas eve, and the weather called for a beautiful day – sunny and 68 degrees. Hmm. What could we do? Last year we went out to the park, so I didn’t want to do the same thing. Then I thought, what about Galveston? A winter’s day is the best time to convince (drag) Derek to the beach with me, since he has less of a chance to get burnt. Derek and the strong sun on a beach do not mix.

We did everything on a whim, and we ended up getting lucky a few times. For instance, we arrived about a half hour before the shops on the Strand opened, so I suggested walking to the pier. There, we saw a pod of dolphins!

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After that, we moseyed on back to the Strand, and made our way through the shops. At about 10:25, I suggested to go to LaKing’s Confectionery for coffees. When we got there, we saw a sign that said the next taffy pull demonstration would be at 10:30!

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We enjoyed the Christmas decorations, and took some Christmas type photos of our own with props that we brought with us.

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The last lucky thing of the day was happening upon a sandman!

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We both had a great day. Perhaps we can make this a new Christmas tradition?

USS Texas

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The USS Texas is located in the same spot as the San Jacinto Monument and battlefield, so we combined both attractions in one day. Here is the link to my post about the battlefield and monument. https://texastalesblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/san-jacinto-monument-and-battlefield/

The USS Texas was in service in both WWI and WWII. The USS Texas is the only remaining battleship that participated in both wars.

I really didn’t know what to expect about the USS Texas, but I was surprised in a good way. Even though a lot of the ship is blocked off because of restorations, we still felt like we had reign of most of the ship. Exploring all over is encouraged. We were going up and down hall ways, getting lost around corners, and going up and down all sorts of stair cases.

My favorite was seeing the beds, (yikes, couldn’t have been that comfortable sleeping) the soda fountain, and just other aspects of their daily life such as the barber shop and the dentist. Some of the machine guns on the top deck were steerable, so you could climb on up and aim the guns around!

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San Jacinto Monument and Battlefield

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San Jacinto Battlefield, about 20 miles from where we live, on the outskirts of the city, is the site where Texans won their independence from Mexico on April 21, 1836.

Any time someone found out I was into history, they recommended coming to the site.

The highlight of the battlefield is a large monument, larger than Washington monument in D.C. I guess everything really is BIGGER in Texas.

Driving up to the battlefield, we could see the monument from a few miles away. Derek commented that it was awful that there was so much built up right around it (it is right on the bustling ship channel) but that’s really no different than what you would see at Gettyburg. Once we were on the battlefield inside the park, the ship channel seemed further away.

The battle was a surprise attack and lasted 18 minutes.  The General of the Mexican Army, Santa Anna, was captured. In exchange for his freedom, he signed a treaty recognizing Texas’ independence.

There is a small museum in the base of the monument. Admission is free, but you can pay for extra exhibits and a 20 minute film. We paid to go to the observation level.

Afterwards, we took one of the few trails through the battlefields and found some monuments. The walk would have lasted longer, but being near the ship channel, the mosquitoes were out and we got bitten a lot! After that we stuck to driving around in the car.

It was a good day trip and we learned some more Texas history. It was great that it was so close to the city. After the battlefield we headed on over to the USS Texas, which was right across from the monument. Stay tuned for a post about that.

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This iron spike, found in the ground where Santa Anna camped, may have been used to secure his tent.

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Personal items belonging to Stephen Austin (whom the capitol of Austin, Texas is named after.)

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Personal items belonging to Sam Houston. Houston fought in the battle, and later became the president of the Republic of Texas. When Texas became a state, he served as governor.

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View from the observation floor.

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Snow in Houston

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It has snowed 35 times in Houston since 1895, the last time in 2009. That number seems like a lot, but I have to remind myself that in Wellsboro, it could easily flurry every other day all winter long. So 35 times in 122 years is rare. And we were here to experience the 35th time.

On Thursday, it was forecasted that there could be a 5 percent chance for it to snow overnight. Well the forecasters had a field day with that. I like all of the local news channels pages on Facebook, Twitter, etc, and it was all anyone could talk about. The chances got greater – up to 20 percent! The excitement was growing. You think I’m kidding.

I woke up the next morning and opened up the blinds, and was initially disappointed when I looked below and saw only wet sidewalks, but then I noticed that the tops of the bushes were white. Yes, we did get snow! And pandemonium ensued. I thought just the anticipation was crazy.

I’ve seen enough snowfall to last a lifetime, but throughout the day I probably looked through hundreds of snow photos and videos, feeling just as happy as everyone else. I even made my own mini snowman. I saw a post that circulated around the internet that said: “Hosted the Superbowl. Survived Hurricane Harvey. Won the World Series. Played in the snow. What a year, Houston!” It made me laugh, but I can understand how Houstonians are feeling. I had a friend tell me, “Perhaps this happy weather event can provide some healing from the bad weather event.” Seeing grown adults excited on Friday morning, I think she is right.

I said when we moved here that I wanted to experience snow here just once, to see how everyone else reacted, and I was not disappointed. Now that we’ve had a few days of cold and snow, I’m reminded of one of the major reasons why I wanted to move here in the first place. It went back up to 60 degrees a few days later, and I am totally okay with that.

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Old Town Spring

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On Thursday Derek and I went to Old Town Spring, which is a little shopping village in the northern suburb of Spring, TX. I had seen commercials on TV about Old Town Spring and it seemed to fulfill some of what I had been missing in Houston. I miss shopping in small mom and pop shops, the onesthat line the Main Streets of all the small towns in the rural county we lived in. Once, I Googled, “country store in Houston” and I got hits for grocery stores and a Cracker Barrel. Not exactly what I had in mind!

We probably went on one of the nastiest days weather wise, but that was okay. It was raining and in the mid 40s, which is super cold for here! But we bundled up and made the best of it. At least we were in and out of the stores, and not out in the rain so much.

There are so many different stores, I think we only saw half of them (partially the weather’s fault.) A lot of them had a mashup of things, but some of them were specific. We saw a shop called “Just For the Birds,” a “Connie’s Bath Shack” too, and of course there was a Texas themed shop, where I couldn’t resist buying a small stuffed longhorn.  A few of the stores had beautiful home decor, and I think Derek and I might be making another trip there once we have our own place again. There were a bunch of little cafes to choose from to eat lunch at. We ate at Ellen’s – the soup was delicious. A bonus was that there were railroad tracks at the edge of the village, great for someone who loves trains (me).

My favorite store was The Little Dutch Girl. Funny story –  a few months ago, I was searching everywhere for stroopwafles, a Dutch dessert that is a thin wafer like waffle, with caramel syrup in the middle. We couldn’t find them anywhere, but I saw that they were at The Little Dutch Girl. That was definitely a reason to go to Old Town Spring. But then, suddenly, I had more stroopwafles then I knew how to deal with. We ended up finding them at two stores, plus my parents sent some over in a care package. So I no longer had a need to buy them at the store, but I was sorely tempted by everything else. I ended up buying two tiny pieces of delft (a pair of clogs and a cat) and I bought spiced windmill cookies, a staple at my Gram’s house while growing up.

I think I would definitely come back again, next time when it is warmer out!

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Christmas lights in River Oaks

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A few days ago I saw a short 20 second video on Facebook of a drive through of Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood covered in Christmas lights. I immediately sent the video to Derek and said, “let’s go.”

River Oaks is one of the more affluent neighborhoods in the city, and it backs up against the Memorial Park golf course. I don’t think that really has much to do with the fact that their Christmas light displays are spectacular, but it helps that all of the houses are grandiose.

I did some research online, and it was all the same: Start at River Oaks Blvd, and from there turn on all of the side streets. Easy enough, but Derek and I were still skeptical because we’ve never done this before. However, it was clear that we were in the right place when we turned onto the Blvd. Wow.

Lots of people were driving around slowly with their flashers on like us, and I can only imagine it would be crowded on the weekends and as it gets closer to Christmas. It was a great night out  – for free – that helped get us in the Christmas spirit.

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