Texian Market Days

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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.

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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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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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Rodeo Parade

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Recently my schedule changed at work. Originally my weekend was a Wednesday-Thursday, which had its pros, but mostly cons. I hating missing out on weekend events, and there are a lot of them in a city! But, at the beginning of the year, my generous boss said that it wasn’t really fair that I had to work weekends, so my days off are now Friday-Saturday.

The first big event that came up since the schedule switch was the Rodeo parade, which is probably one of the events that I was the most disappointed about missing last year.

The rodeo parade features all of the trail riders, who had been on the “trail” for the week prior. The trail rides started as a way to honor the cattle rancher legacy, and to drum up publicity for the rodeo. I wrote an article about it, which you can read here: https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/bellaire/news/article/Houston-Livestock-Show-Rodeo-trail-rides-raise-12627384.php#photo-7567488.

The parade was in downtown, on a Saturday morning. It was a LARGE parade. To be honest, after two hours, and the wagons and horses kept on coming, we left. Derek had to get home to work on homework.

It ended up being a much larger parade than I anticipated. The trail riders were the main focus I think, but there were also other groups in the parade, floats and school bands.

I absolutely love rodeo time in Houston. It makes me feel proud to be a Texan, even though I am just a transplant. Plus, it’s an excellent excuse to wear cowboy boots!

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New Orleans vacation

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I have a rather large travel bucket list. I have some favorites, but most are in no particular order, we’ll get there when we get there. When we made the announcement in March of 2016 that we were moving to Houston because Derek got accepted into UH, I immediately knew that New Orleans would be our next trip because it is a five and a half hours drive from Houston.

We went the week after New Years and my Aunt Susie came along. All in all we had an amazing time. We did everything we wanted to do, plus some extras that we were not expecting. The only thing that I could have dealt without was the cold. A cold front came through and temperatures were in the lower 40s, when it is usually lower 60s. We bundled up in may layers though and we ended up being fine.

We stayed at the JW Marriot on Canal Street, which was one block away from the French Quarter. There were a ton of shops and restaurants along Canal Street, including the street car line, so it was a great hub of activity.

We had three main attractions planned out: A river cruise on the Creole Queen, a cooking demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cooking, and a swamp boat tour through Cajun pride.

The Creole Queen was great. The guide was very informative and pointed out interesting things along the way. We had a short shore excursion at the Chalmette National Battlefield, which was the last battle of the War of 1812. It was windy up on the open deck, but there was a lower inside deck that was kept warm, with a optional lunch buffet.

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The New Orleans School of Cooking was probably my favorite thing we did on the trip, because it was so different. We watched Pat cook gumbo, jumbalaya, bread pudding and pralines. We got to eat everything, which was great because it served as our lunch, and got the recipes to take home. We also learned a lot of cuisine history. I love gumbo and jumbalaya but was always too nervous to try to attempt it myself. Seeing how it all goes together, it is fairly easy.

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The swamp tour was also informative. We learned a lot about the Cajun lifestyle, and all about the different types of animals and plants that call the swamps home. Unfortunately, because it was too cold, we didn’t not see any alligators, but the scenery made up for it. It helped that our tour guide pulled out a surprise baby alligator for everyone to hold!

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When we arrived in New Orleans, we quickly found out that Mardi Gras season was starting soon, on the night of Epiphany. We had no idea, and we did not plan it that way. The events started with a Joan of Arc parade, for her 606th birthday. Joan of Arc was known as the Maid of Orleans (France.)

We got good spots for the parade right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, where we watched the blessing of Joan’s sword. The parade ended at the other end of Jackson Square, where everyone took part in eating the first King Cake of Mardi Gras. We of course had to join in on the revelry. Later that night, we saw fireworks on the river front.

We also found out that New Orleans was founded in 1718, so the city was celebrating their tricentennial. Good timing, right?

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Other highlights consisted of wandering around the French Quarter daily, the Louisiana History museum, and the aquarium. We listened to jazz music almost every night, and of course we stopped for beignets at Cafe Du Monde. We also checked out the garden district and walked around Lafayette Cemetery.

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On our way home, we visited Oak Alley Plantation. It is about an hour west of New Orleans. It was a good way to break up the drive home. Unfortunately, the big house exhibit was closed when we went, but they lowered the admission price which was good of them, and there was still so much to see. (We did peek through the windows and took some photos that way.)

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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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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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