Arboretum’s new Ravine Trail


Derek and I go to the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center all the time. It is one of our favorite places in Houston. It is a good place to get away from the “city life.”

Last Friday I saw the Arboretum post on Facebook that their new Ravine Trail was open to the public. It was a beautiful day so Derek and I headed that way.

The Ravine Trail was always there, but its been closed for the last three years, and closed for eight out of the last 13 years.

It was closed because it was previously unsafe to the public. The trail goes over a ravine and it has experienced flooding and erosion.

The trail is different than the others at the Arboretum. This trail is a switch back trail with changes in elevation. There are two bridges that go over the ravine and the views are nice. When we were looking at the ravine we saw a snake trying to eat some fish!

I was able to write about the new trail for work. I am glad that I was able to use the photos I took for the article. You can read it here:

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Aunt Susie comes to visit


Aunt Susie visited for four days earlier this month, and I’m only now getting a chance to write about it. March has been a busy month, more on that later.

We spent the first day together in Galveston. We went to the Rainforest Pyramid in Moody Gardens. Derek and I also did this last December. A highlight of the day there was watching a snake eat a rat whole, (so fascinating) and seeing two different types of monkeys in the trees. Derek and I missed out on the monkeys the first time.

I took her to lunch at Shrimp ‘n’ Stuff in Galveston, which has become our new favorite place to eat. We also sat on the beach for an hour, and then shopped at the Strand district. We ended the day at La Kings Confectionary. At La Kings, Aunt Susie asked if they made egg cremes (it’s a New York thing) and the guy behind the counter said yes, they do get requests for them, but he had never made one himself before. So another worker, and Aunt Susie, walked him through it. You learn something new every day.





We spent one afternoon at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. We enjoyed walking around and seeing the different animals, and even got to see a milking demonstration from a cow named Pickles. I think our favorites were all of the babies that were just born that week, some that same morning. We also saw a sheep judging and a cow judging.

We stuffed ourselves on good rodeo food (cinnamon rolls and then perogies for dinner) and then we saw the rodeo and the Tim McGraw concert. Both of us were ‘meh’ about Tim McGraw, but he did put on a good show, and he played my favorite songs of his so I am glad we ended up staying for the concert.

We spent time with Aunt Susie’s friend Steve at the rodeo. Steve and Aunt Susie used to work together, and he moved out to the Houston area just a few months after we did. We met him before last year. He is a really nice guy. The three of us all had a good time. Steve convinced a young cowboy to lasso Aunt Susie. She was scared, but he did it on the first try!









We also spent some time at Hermann Park, and then did a little bit of shopping at Rice Village. We took Aunt Susie to Susie Cakes for dessert!


On her last day, we decided on a whim to drive out to San Antonio. We checked out the Alamo, where we met Bella the Alamo Kitty, and Aunt Susie helped her get a drink from the water fountain. We had Tex-Mex for lunch right on the River Walk, which was something new for us compared to the first time we visited S.A. We also checked out the Cathedral of San Fernando, a gorgeous Catholic church. Right inside the entrance was a tomb that held the remains of the Alamo heroes: Bowie, Barrett and Crockett. That was a bonus find for me, because I love the Texas revolution history so much. We also checked out the Bexar County Courthouse. Our last stop was Mission Concepcion, where a wedding had just ended in the church!


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We had a great time together and we were quite busy all four days. I’m glad that I will see her again so soon, next time in Italy!


Texian Market Days


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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Swamp sunflower season


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:

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.

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

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

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I loved the shapes these little tiny vines made!

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Weekend activities


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:









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:









Crazy 4th of July


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.

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