Bluebonnets

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The state flower of Texas is the bluebonnet, named so because the petals look like the shape of a women’s bonnet. Photographing bluebonnets was high on my Texas bucket list.

You can find bluebonnets just about anywhere in the state, but they are more prevalent the more west you go. I was figuring that I would have to take a road trip quite a distance out of Houston in order to find some. But then as bluebonnet season approached, I saw some pictures on Facebook of bluebonnets in Houston. Every time I came across a photo, I would comment, “Where was this picture taken?” But still being fairly new to the area, the vague answers I got did not help. I kept searching though. Eventually I found a picture of bluebonnets that said it was taken in Hermann Park. Ah hah! I know where Hermann Park was. That narrowed it down a bit. Then I saw in more pictures that the field of bluebonnets in question was by the Bill Coats Bridge. Google maps is my friend. The map showed me right where it was, on the southern end of the park.

That Wednesday I set out to find and photograph them. I was nervous though. Just because I had seen a picture of the bluebonnets weeks ago, would they still be there? I knew it was about a six week growing season, but had it just started, or was it ending? Well I had no worries because I walked from the parking lot smack into a huge field of them. They were beautiful, and I was not disappointed!

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Feline friends

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There is a small population of feral cats at our apartment complex. You can see them out and about but they tend to stay away from people. We noticed a kitten and due to it being so young, we got her to be comfortable around us by enticing her with food. Food is always the way to a pet’s heart, right? All of the cats look relatively healthy, so we’re probably not the only people feeding them, but I am glad I can help out in some way.

The kitten is black and white and just about the cutest cat we’ve seen (aside from our own cats of course!) and her mom is orange and white. We’re not sure if it is a biological mom since they look nothing alike. It may just be a foster mom. The mom is more skittish towards people, so for the first month or so, she just hung out in the background and kept a watchful eye on us. But eventually she realized that she was missing out on the food, so now she comes closer. We are able to pet the kitten, but not the mom yet, but at least she is getting some food now.

We kept calling them momma and baby so eventually we decided to give them names. Derek came up with both names. I said that I wanted to do something to do with a cow since the kitten was black and white, so he suggested Clarabelle, the Disney character that is a cow. I also suggested something to play off of momma’s orange color and Derek said Cheddar. I didn’t like it at first but it stuck eventually. So Clarabelle and Cheddar it is.

The only problem with feeding the two of them is that other cats have taken notice and boom, you have the crazy cat lady starter package. At least we don’t feed them every day. The cats hang out in a different part of the complex, by the front office, so they will only follow us back to our apartment if they happen to see us when we’re going to get the mail. At least it has not become an every day thing, yet.

Another good thing about feeding the cats is that our cats like looking at them out the window. Well, at least 2/3 of our cats enjoy it. Sabrina and Ginny seemed intrigued, but Chessie just hisses. Oh well.

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Crawfish season

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Crawfish season runs March through May. I happened to look at a post on the Houston Chronicle’s website for the best places to eat crawfish, and one of the places, Hungry’s had a midweek special Crawfish on the Patio special, which is perfect because my days off are midweek, plus the restaurant was nearby.

We went one night a few weeks ago, and it turned out to be quite the experience. We got a pound of crawfish for $7, which was a great deal. A pound seems like a lot, but the amount of meat inside each crawfish is small, so you have to eat a lot of them to get your filling. The meal is also served with corn on the cob and potatoes.

The crawfish are served whole, legs, head, eyes and all. It was a little weird and took some getting used to!

There is a technique to getting the meat out. I actually looked up YouTube videos on it in advance! You have to put two fingers on the head, and two fingers from another hand on the tail and you twist and pull apart. The meat is in the tail.

We found out that some people suck the head to get the fat and the juices out, but that seemed a bit to much for us, so we skipped that part. If you feel we’re truly missing out, please let us know!

The meal was seasoned with cajun spices, which, while they were good, was a bit too much for me. I wasn’t feeling the spices inside my mouth, but rather on the outside of my lips, which started to burn after a while! At one point I was close to crying.

Apparently crawfish, also known as crayfish, crawdaddies, mudbugs, can be found just about anywhere near a body of fresh water, but Louisiana¬†supplies 95 percent of the crawfish harvested in the U.S. Being so close to Louisiana, Houston gets to reap the benefits. I’m glad we went. It’s good to try something new, and we’ll probably go back for more each season.

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Rodeo concerts: Willie Nelson, Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley

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After the rodeo events are completed, there is a concert each night. Out of three weeks, the majority of the concerts are country artists, which is great for a country music fan like me. There are other genres of music featured though, like pop artists, and there are Tejano bands on Tejano Appreciation Day, and Alicia Keys performed on Black Heritage Day. Something for everyone, really.

Months ago, when the concert lineup was announced, I went gung ho and bought tickets for three concerts: Willie Nelson, Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley. The last two concerts were back to back on Friday and Saturday. I ALMOST dreaded going. Almost. But now that they are all done and over with, I’m glad that I did go overboard, even though I was super tired for a week!

I’m not going to claim that I am a huge Willie Nelson fan, because I am not, or at least wasn’t up until the rodeo. I am familiar with and love his more popular works like On the Road Again and Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys, but besides that I didn’t really know his stuff. So I listened to a lot of his music in the weeks before the concert to become more familiar, and I gained a lot of new favorites in the process. Basically I just knew that seeing Willie Nelson was quite the opportunity because he is a legend, and let’s face it, he might not be around for a lot longer.

I went to the Dierks Bentley concert because he is an old staple favorite of mine. I have seen Dierks Bentley three times now, also in Pennsylvania and New York. However, I admit that I kind of fell off the bandwagon with his music for a big chunk in the middle of his career, so I didn’t really know about half of the songs that he played during his concert, but it was still enjoyable. My favorite songs of his are What Was I Thinkin’ (his first single) and some of his more recent stuff like Different for Girls and Drunk on a Plane.

I was so burnt out by the time the Brad Paisley concert arrived that I almost considered skipping it. I am glad I didn’t because that concert ended up being my favorite. I bought tickets to his concert because I have liked the majority of his songs over the years. I guess I am more of a Brad Paisley fan than I thought, or maybe I just lucked out because Brad Paisley played all of my favorites including: Online, I’m Gonna Miss Her, American Saturday Night, Old Alabama, Mud on the Tires, I’m Still a Guy, etc. etc.

The prices for the tickets are excellent, which is why I was able to afford three. I got nosebleed seats for Willie and Brad (which weren’t all that bad to be honest) and first tier seats for Dierks, but I only spent about $75 total.

I’m already anticipating what the lineup will be for next year! I keep telling myself that I will not do three concerts next year, or at least not two in a row, but who knows! I am so excited to be living in a place where country music is at the forefront!

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Rodeo

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The first week of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo I explored just the grounds. The second and third week I attended the actual rodeo. I had been to a rodeo at the Pennsylvania Farm Show last winter, but wow, that didn’t prepare me for the sheer size of this rodeo, which felt at least 10 times bigger!

I don’t know the first thing about rodeos, but it is easy enough to catch on as you watch. Basically the goal for each event (with events such as steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing, bull riding and saddle bronc) is to just get the quickest or longest time. For events like the bull and bronc riding, you have to reach 8 seconds and you are also judged on how well you held on. One of the calf roping teams won in an arena record of 4.1 seconds. Wow!

I had the opportunity to be there on one of the championship nights, and the crowd was really hyped up! All of the winners took home $50,000! It may seem like a quick and easy way to make a lot of money, but you can really tell that these rodeo goers work hard, and the work is dangerous! One of the guys was bucked off his bull, and he ended up underneath the bull, hit his mouth, and he lost some teeth!

Some of my favorite parts of the rodeo weren’t the actual competitive events, but the just-for-fun ones. There was the Mutton Bustin’ where little kids held on tight to running sheep and tried to make it to the end of the arena. They were all so cute! Then there were the chuck wagon races. One of the drivers actually fell from the wagon on one of the other nights that I didn’t go and had to go to the hospital. Ouch!

At the end of the night, after all the events had ended, United Airlines had a “Flying High Award” in which they awarded two free plane tickets to the person who was deemed to have the worst injury. They would show a replay of the cowboys “flying high” off of their broncs or bulls, and the person who got the most cheers from the crowds would win the tickets.A nice way of giving back and showing their support!

But my absolute favorite part was the horse legacy. They showed a horse family that was four generations, including a filly named Honey that was born right at the rodeo. The announcer talks about how they help keep the rodeo tradition live on. Then all of a sudden a ton of horses come out and they all run free in the stadium under a bunch of spotlights. Even if you don’t know a thing about the rodeo, I assure you, if you saw it, you would get misty eyed. I know I sure did, and I saw it three times!

The rodeo only just ended last week, but I’m already looking forward to next year! It was definitely a quintessential Texas experience.

Pictures:

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Houston Zoo

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Derek and I went to the zoo this week. We had a good day! It is a fairly large zoo, and even with spring break crowds, it didn’t feel all that crowded.

Some photo highlights:

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We really loved the blue feathers on this kookaburra!

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An ocelot.

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Stick bugs! The bug area of the zoo was actually quite fascinating.

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This tiny owl was so cute!

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This chimp has the right idea. Nap often!

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This baby tapir was born in February. Their baby stripes are so cute!

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All of the big cats are my favorite!

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A mother’s love. Awww.

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These cuddling cloud leopards were adorable.

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I was most excited to see Shasta the cougar. He is the mascot for the University of Houston. Some trivia from Wikipedia: “Shasta VI was born in September 2011 in the U.S. state of Washington, and was adopted by the university as a cub.¬†Shasta’s mother was killed in 2011, when a hunter shot her. After a search from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Shasta VI was rescued, and transported to the Houston Zoo on December 11, 2011. In March 2012, the University of Houston Alumni Association announced that the cub would be adopted. Shasta VI is the first live mascot since 1989.”

 

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

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The three-week Houston rodeo is underway. I went last week and ended up being on the grounds for seven hours! And I was never bored; there was always something to do or look at. And I’ve only experienced the grounds so far. The real fun starts this weekend, when I have the first of three concerts/rodeos to attend.

Here are some highlights from my day:

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The shopping was amazing. Thank goodness I didn’t have much money to spend otherwise I could have easily bought myself a whole new wardrobe. I did buy one shirt though, which I plan to wear to the Willie Nelson concert this weekend!

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Lots of animals on display of course. My favorites were the baby chickens and the longhorn!

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This was a part of a neat exhibit called The Tour of Texas. There were sections dedicated to each area of Texas, and you got to learn about their native plants, animals, etc.

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The mascot of Houston Rodeo!

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The carnival area of the Rodeo was huge! There was a kids carnival and one for older people. I definitely wouldn’t go near most of the rides. I did however go on the nice, slow sky ride.

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Some type of herding event for riders. I had no idea what the premise was, but it was still interesting to watch!

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Pig racing is always a highlight!

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I also got to see an animal show. This is a bear cat. I’ve never seen one before. Apparently they smell like popcorn!

It was overall a great day. I’m glad I went on a Wednesday because it was value day because you get in for $5 instead of $10. It was so overrun with school kids though! One would have to have a lot of patience when going through the exhibits. (I usually do not.) But had I gone this week, during Houston School District’s spring break, I’m sure it would be much worse. The amounts of food were ridiculous. It took me forever to decide what I wanted to eat. First I had to sort out the crazy food from the normal food. (Alligator on a stick, anyone?) I ended up getting a bowl of chili and later had a cinnamon bun as a snack. Also, it was so neat seeing just about everyone in cowboy boots. I kept thinking to myself, “These are my people! I belong here!”

Stay tuned for more rodeo and concert pictures!