Houston Arboretum and Nature Center

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I am making my way around all of the green spaces in Houston. A few weeks ago I set my sights on the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, which is entirely located within Memorial Park. It is about 10 miles away from where we live.

I got there very early, about 8:30 a.m., because I was warned that the parking lot fills up quickly during the weekends. Plus it made sense to walk before the heat of the day settled in.

I was pleasantly surprised by the A&NC. There are lots of little trails to choose from, and it seems like each one featured something different, such as a pond or a meadow. Each trail is small, so it is a good place to take your kids or your dog for a quick loop. The largest trail is the “outer loop” and even that one is only two miles round trip. I stuck to a bunch of the smaller trails near the nature center, but I would like to go do the loop some other time.

The highlight for me was the meadow trail. It was a huge field filled with sunflowers. It was breathtaking. At that moment, I felt as far away from the hustle and bustle of Houston as one could get.

Another interesting find was a very large spider in a web! I am terrified of spiders, and wanted to leave immediately, but the urge to photograph it was stronger!

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I got a job!

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After ten weeks of being in Texas, and applying to over 75 jobs, I finally was hired, and not a moment too soon either.

I am a paginator for Houston Community Newspapers. Paginator means designer. I will be designing a group of weekly community papers. The Houston Chronicle (the largest newspaper in Texas!) recently acquired HCN. So technically, I work under the Houston Chronicle Media Group umbrella.

I’ve been here for little over a week, and it’s been good so far. Everyone is friendly and they have been helpful. There are a large amount of newspapers that need to go out every week, so the pagination takes up 3 and a half days of my work week. The other day and a half I will be gathering up and compiling press releases, calendar of events, etc. I will also be reporting a bit when time allows.

I attended a new employee orientation yesterday morning. The group watched a short YouTube video of the history of the Hearst Corporation (the corporation that owns the Chronicle.) I had this moment of awe, because I remembered learning about William Randolph Hearst (founder) in my earliest journalism classes. I’m pretty luck to have gotten such a job.

Getting a job was the last piece of the puzzle for us to get settled in, and I’m glad that we can both settle into a routine now.

 

Galveston Beach

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I went to Galveston for the day a few weeks ago. It was a beautiful October day that still felt like summer, so I thought, why not take advantage while I still can?

I decided to park along the Seawall Boulevard. The night before, I downloaded the PayByPhone app. Parking at the seawall requires you to pay by phone. You can park at the seawall by calling a number posted on signs every couple of spaces, or you can do it on your phone, which I think is much easier.

I preloaded my credit card information, so when I parked, all I had to do was type in the parking space number into the app. Easy. They charge $1 per hour, and that fee starts at 10 a.m. Get there early, and you can get some free parking time in to maximize your day.

That day on the beach was half to relax, and half to get my bearings. Growing up by the Jersey Shore, we had a specific location that we went to every time. I wanted to stake out a spot for myself in Galveston as well. I found it around 61st street.

There is a fishing pier there (good for people watching) and if I feel like spending $2, I can get admission to the top deck of the pier, which looks like a nice seating area, plus a free cold fountain drink. Derek gets bored easily on the beach, so I think he would be willing to spend the $2 to get on to the pier, if he chooses to come with me in the future. You can also buy snacks in the little gift shop at the entrance to the pier.

The main reason why I picked 61st street is that I noticed that directly across the street from the beach there is a Jimmy Johns sandwich place, and a Rita’s Water Ice. Rita’s???? Here? I thought I was back in New Jersey for a second when I saw it. It will be nice to know that we can go to the beach for a day, and then get lunch/dinner and dessert before we head back home.

Walking up and down the seawall, I also noticed that there was a lot of artwork on the seawall itself, and statues. It was really neat to stop and look at all of it. There were beautiful wild flowers growing on vines all up and down to seawall too. I also came across the former spot of Fort Crockett. During the WWI, Fort Crockett served as a Army artillery training center.

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Siphon Coffee

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One of our top places to find in Texas was a good coffee shop. Derek and I practically live in coffee shops. (And I don’t even like coffee, haha!) No, I was in search of the perfect chai tea latte.

The Starbucks ones are too sweet, and you need to put a pump of flavoring in them to make them taste any good. The best chai I ever had was at the Wired Rooster back in Wellsboro, but that place ended up closing down. I’ve been trying to find a replacement ever since. Siphon Coffee comes pretty close! The key to a good chai is that it is equal parts sweet and spicy. Siphon sprinkles cinnamon on top, which does the trick.

I discovered Siphon Coffee when it was suggested to me by a person I was interviewing for an article in OutSmart Magazine. (More on that soon…)

We like Siphon because of the atmosphere. It’s rustic meets industrial. Wooden countertops and tables, leather seats, and exposed pipes in the ceiling. Plus there are some cool knicknacks around and artwork. There is also a great seating area outside.

The menu is large and diverse. Some of their staples include lemon tarts, (I have yet to try it and lemon desserts are my favorite!) hobnobs, (oatmeal cookie covered in chocolate) and sweet and savory scones. The last time we went over lunch, and I tried a warm cheddar and green onion scone.

I am so happy that we found a coffee shop that we both like, and so quickly too!

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The Menil Collection

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Last weekend Derek and I spent a Saturday afternoon checking out the Menil Collection, which is the largest private art collection in the gallery.

I was not allowed to take pictures inside the galleries, but photos were allowed in the corridors.

Some highlights of the collection included indigenous people’s art (the masks, carvings and the woven blankets were fascinating) a room dedicated to Pablo Picasso’s drawings, and Andy Warhol paintings.

My favorite Picasso was a series called “The Bull.” In each drawing, the drawing of the bull gets stripped down of the basics.

Here is an article describing The Bull, along with pictures: http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/animals_in_art/pablo_picasso.htm.

I enjoyed seeing one of Warhol’s famous chicken soup can paintings, and a large bright painting titled “Flowers.”  Check this link to see the series: http://revolverwarholgallery.com/power-behind-andy-warhols-flowers/

My personal favorite was a drawing by Henri Matisse, because I wrote a paper on him last year in school. It is awesome to be able to learn something, and then actually be able to go see it.

Here is a link to that drawing: https://www.menil.org/collection/objects/16662-studies-for-the-spire-of-the-chapelle-rosaire-des-dominicaines-de-vence-etudes-pour-l-aiguille-du-chapelle-du-rosaire-des-dominicaines-de-vence

Some history: Towards the end of Matisse’s life, he helped design a chapel in the south of France. This drawing features sketches of the spire of the chapel.

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An Andy Warhol painting titled “Ice Box.”

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UH Football

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Last month we went to our first University of Houston football game. It was an experience in itself!

There were fireworks, push-ups, flames, flags, and a mobile helmet, just to name a few!

To explain: When the team entered the stadium, there were flames on either side of them. Was not expecting that! UH celebrates touchdowns in a big way: Each time UH got a touch down, fireworks were shot off, and a group of ROTC students plus the mascots, Shasta and Sasha, did the number of pushups for the number of points that UH had on the board. Plus, the cheerleaders and a group of guys called “The Frontiersmen” run up and down the field with the Texas flag, and flags that spell out “HOUSTON COUGARS.” AND, as if this all weren’t enough already, a mobile helmet drives up and down the end zone!

The stadium is huge, compared to Mansfield University’s (where we got our bachelor degrees in Pennsylvania) tiny bleachers. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought I was at an NFL game!

The student section was wild! They really get into all of the cheers. Within a few minutes, I knew most of the basic cheers. “C-O-U-G-A-R-S… Who we talking about? We’re talking ’bout the cougars!” It helped sitting next to the band!

It was a great game, vs. Lamar Cardinals, and UH won! The downside of the game was that there was a lightning delay for almost three hours!!!! I have now learned that every time there is a lightning strike within eight miles of the stadium, there is a 30 minute delay. Once the game had finally resumed, about half the stadium had left, and it was getting so late that we could only stay until the end of the third quarter.

We are going to attempt to see a second game in November. Hopefully we will have better luck time-wise.

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Differences part 3

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I thought it was about time to write another “differences” post seeing as my list of observations is getting long again. So here we go, differences between Texas and Pennsylvania, part 3:

The local wildlife:

We have lizards, cockroaches and cicadas here. The first time a lizard darted out in front of my path I freaked out. Now I think they are cute. They are tiny, maybe a few inches long. They vary from brown to green. The cicadas are SO LOUD. The first time I heard them making an awful rackett I had no clue it was a bug. My first thought was that the noise was some kind of weird sounding tool, like a buzz saw. They have quieted down now that it is fall though. Our first week here, we saw a very large cockroach walking on the sidewalk. They really are ugly bugs! We expected cockroaches in the apartment based on reviews, and we did have a few tiny ones in the first few weeks, but again, we probably aren’t seeing them now that it is “cooling down.” Which, in Texas speak, means highs in the mid 80s!

Traffic reports:

One morning while watching the news and checking Twitter, I realized how odd it is to get the traffic reports every day! Our idea of a traffic jam in Wellsboro was getting stuck behind a tractor or a gas industry truck. In Houston, you really need to pay attention though before you get ready to go somewhere. Some days it could take you 20 min to get to work, but an accident could easily double or triple that! And, even though it really is impossible if you have a typical 9-5 job, you have to try to avoid rush hour traffic like the plague. No such thing as rush hour traffic in Wellsboro.

Southern chain stores:

When we were still in Pennsylvania, I wondered what chain stores we would see in Texas. In Pennsylvania, grocery stores like TOPS and Weis were the norm. Here in Texas, it is Kroger, Fiesta Mart and HEB. Tioga County was so small that we just had national food chains, such as Taco Bell, KFC and Wendys. But here, in additional to the nation wide ones, there are chains I had never even heard of like Fuddruckers and Whataburger. (Whataburger’s rootbeer milkshakes are so good!) In the north, Dunkin Donuts reigns supreme. Down here, it is Shipley’s Donuts. Sonic is also big here. I had heard of Sonic before, but I had never been to one before now. I still think that the drive-in concept is weird, but hey, whatever works!

Central time:

It is one thing to remember the one hour time difference when calling and texting friends and family back home, but it is entirely different when all of your fall shows come back on. I watch Survivor, and for the last 15 years or so, it has been engraved in my brain that it comes on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. So the Wednesday that it premiered, I almost missed the show! It was about 6:55 p.m. when I had a light bulb go off in my head and I remembered TIME DIFFERENCE! Then a few days later, I did the exact same thing with another show. Whoops. I do like that the shows are on earlier though. This is awesome for football games. I can now make it to the end of a Monday night football game instead of going to bed at 10 p.m. during half time.

Cold water:

Who would have thought something as simple as cold water would be a luxury? Here our cold water is cool at best, and sometimes just downright warm.  We now get into the habit of using our britta filter as a pitcher to keep some drinking water cold at all times. We never used to use ice cubes, and now we always make sure the tray is full. Hot water is, of course, not a problem. The hot water is scalding, and it gets hot quickly. We have to remember to turn it down before we burn ourselves.