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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Swamp sunflower season

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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: https://texastalesblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/swamp-sunflowers/

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

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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:

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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:

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Weekend explorations

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We were pretty busy last weekend. We checked out new murals in downtown on Friday and we went to the Arboretum on Saturday.

Six new murals have been painted on McKinney street, just around the corner from Phoenicia Specialty Foods and Discovery Green, two of our usual hangouts.

A game changer for us has been discovering that Phoenicia customers can park for free in designated spots in the parking garage the building is located in. I am sure we might come here more often now knowing that.

The murals are really bright, and feature catchy, and Houston/Texas related sayings. My favorite one was “Smile, y’all are in Houston.” It was a good opportunity to get some fun photos. I think these will become popular for photos because they are on sidewalks, opposed to in a parking lot, which a lot of Houston’s murals are.

We also then took a stroll around Discovery Green and snapped some shots of all of the flowers and water lilies.

On Saturday we went to the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. We go here often, but Derek hasn’t been since they have done the latest expansions and restorations. I have been writing articles about it for work, so I knew that their second parking area, along with new trails and ponds, had just opened the week prior.

The Arboretum is trying to restore the natural ecosystems, as well as give the visitors a more immersive experience. Before, the parking lot was just that, a parking lot. Now when you get out of your car, there are trees and plants everywhere, and the trails run right through the middle as well.

There is one new feature that I love in particular. It is a long curving boardwalk over a pond. It is peaceful.

With all of the restoration efforts, more animals have been seen at the Arboretum. We saw two different yellow-crested night herons on our walk.

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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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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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Family visits Texas

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My family (my parents and my Aunt) were here for a week. My dad had moved us to Houston, and my Aunt visited last October for a long weekend, so they already knew what to expect somewhat, but this was my mom’s first time to the Lone Star State.

We had a full itinerary with multiple things to do every day. I did NOT bring my camera, which was refreshing, since I had already done everything before, and did not need photos of the same things. So, this post will be photo free, and more of a review of what we did. Many of the activities that we did are featured in previous blog posts.

The first thing that we did that ended up being a hit with everyone was dinner at the Gorgeous Gael, an Irish Pub in Rice Village. We ended up doing this the last night too.

We went to Old Town Spring, where mom and dad loved The Little Dutch Girl shop and we also went to Hermann Park and rode the train.

Thursday was a full day at the Rodeo. That was the one thing everyone was looking forward to the most. The highlight was seeing sixteen piglets that were born just 12 hours before! Everyone was amazed at the size of everything. My Aunt expressed concern when we entered the grounds at 10:30 a.m. and the rodeo/concert wasn’t until 6:45 p.m., but we kept busy all day. None of my family had ever seen anything like a rodeo. Luke Bryan was the performer, and he was excellent. (Stay tuned for a separate post on the rodeo.)

On Friday we checked out the University of Houston, with Derek as the tour guide. Everyone was really impressed with the student union center, which is about 10 times the size as the one in Mansfield University. Then we headed to the zoo. The highlights, at least for me, are always the big cats. Mom was excited to see Shasta, the UH cougar mascot. Both times we visited the cougar enclosure, she was sleeping. All cats are the same, right?

On Saturday we walked around downtown. We checked out Discovery Green, and wandered the streets for mom and dad to get a feel of the city. They were shocked that there was hardly anyone around compared to New York City. We went to Allen’s Landing, the birth place of Houston, and caught the end of the Buffalo Bayou Regatta, (canoe and kayak race) so a free party was included. We also took them to the pop up location of Niko Nikos in Market Square Park, and introduced them to some Greek food. It was funny when my dad made me order, because he could not pronounce anything.

Sunday was a day in Galveston. We stopped at the Ashton Villa, a house where General Gordon Granger announced the end of the Civil War to the people of Texas on June 19, 1865. We also went to the Moody Aquarium, at my mom’s request, because she loves penguins. We caught the penguin feeding in the morning, which was cool to see. To be honest though, it was a small aquarium, so I do not think the money was worth it. At any rate though, I was glad to get to do something new. We also wandered the beach, drove around the historic east end district to ogle at all of the large houses, and shopped on the Strand.

Monday was a day trip to Waco. I will post about that separately. We went to Magonlia at the Silos for my mom, who is a Fixer Upper fan. We also went sightseeing here and there in downtown Waco.

Tuesday we stayed close to home, because we were all so exhausted from the day before. We went to La Madeline’s for breakfast and then we headed to the Galleria for some shopping. My mom and dad got a kick out of a revolving sushi bar in the food court! We dropped off my Aunt at the airport in the afternoon.

Wednesday was my parent’s last day. We hiked around the Arboretum and then we went back to downtown to check out the underground tunnels since they were closed when we went before on the weekend. We went right during lunch break rush, and my parents were amazed. We also stopped back at Rice Village, and walked around a couple of shops.

All in all it was a good trip, and I think my family had a good first impression of Houston, and the state of Texas. It might be a few years until they visit again, but I am sure I can easily come up with a whole new itinerary since there is never a shortage of things to do.