New apartment

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We have moved into a new apartment! Everything about it is bigger and better, which was sorely needed.

We live in the same neighborhood, but in a better, quieter spot. Previously, we were right off of the highway, but now we are on a side street. We are still walking distance to the stadium, just on the opposite side now, which is great. I foresee a lot more rodeo country concerts in my future! We are also now walking distance to the metro rail, which will be great for downtown events. Prior, we had to go to the park and ride and pay $3 in addition to our metro ticket.

Judging by some of our neighbors wearing scrubs, this complex seems to be a popular living spot for medical students and or doctors working at the Texas Medical Center, which is just a few stops away on the metro.

Our first apartment in Houston was a one bed and one bath which was a tight squeeze, especially since we were used to a three bedroom, two bath house in Pennsylvania. There was room for everything, but there was no denying that we were cramped.

The main goal was to get a second bedroom that we could turn into an office for Derek to do his school work in, and for me to do my scrapbooking! Previously, Derek’s desk was the first thing you saw when you walked through the front door, which meant you also saw his messes! I am much happier now that his mess is contained to a room that is NOT the living room. This will also help the both of us because now Derek can keep the light on at night if he needs to stay up late, and I won’t hear the click-clack of his keyboard either, so hopefully I will sleep better!

In the end we got much more than just that extra bedroom. Now we have two walk-in closets, two bathrooms, a new washer and dryer ( that we just purchased last week) and a private balcony! Something that we definitely did not need, but what made me fall in love instantly with the place was the big brick fireplace! It’s funny that it takes moving to Texas to get a fireplace.

When walking through the door, you can just FEEL that it is bigger, even with all of the boxes still laying everywhere. I can only imagine how it will feel when everything is done and put away. When we were in the process of moving in, Derek would call my name from somewhere within the apartment and I had to call back, “Where are you?” That is a good problem to have.

We thought it would be tough to find a place that we liked and we would have to see 10 different apartments and have a hard time making a decision. However, we only looked at two apartments and knew right away that the first one was the one for us.

I was initially worried because this apartment was at the top of our budget, but sometimes good things happen at just the right time: I got a raise at work! Now we are more comfortable and don’t have to worry about being stretched too thin.

Even moving a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment is tough work, and we had over a week to do it too! I hope that we stay in this new apartment for quite a few years, until, hopefully, we are ready to buy a home.

Stay tuned for pictures of the apartment, which will come once we are more settled in.

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Crazy 4th of July

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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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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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Exploring Rice University

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There are a ton of higher-ed schools around Houston. Rice University is just a stones throw away from us, right across the street from Hermann Park, which we frequent.

We have always seen the buildings from the roads as we drove past, but never stepped foot on campus until last weekend.

Rice University is a prestigious, private university. Their mascot is the owl. If you look hard enough, you can find owls all over campus.

Their campus was so peaceful, covered with large oak trees and plenty of tables and chairs for relaxing. The architecture was impressive as well. I felt as if I were at an Ivy League school in the northeast, or as someone else put it, Hogwarts.

We also stopped at Rice Coffeehouse, their cafe inside the student union, for some cold drinks. We also saw a French cafe/restaurant on campus called Flo, might have to check that out another time.

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Cockrell Butterfly Center

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Last weekend Derek and I went to the Cockrell Butterfly Center, which is a part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I think it was a good experience for the price, which was $9 a ticket, and Derek got in for $8 when he showed his school ID.

The main section, where the butterflies are, is a large glass dome that is a few stories high. An iguana and a few turtles live among the butterflies too. There are also two small exhibits though, one about being an entomologist (one who studies bugs), and another where there was various bugs on display (thankfully) behind glass.

There were so many butterflies! Every time you turned around you saw a different one. Lots of different colors and species. I enjoyed getting use out of my macro camera lens.

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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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Polish Festival

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Ethnic festivals seem to be a running theme for me and Derek. First it was the Greek Festival, then the Japan Festival and now the Polish Festival.

We both enjoy the little glimpses into different cultures, and of course, the food is always excellent.

I will be honest up front and say that I was a little disappointed with the festival, but overall we had a nice time. The festival was at Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish. The church area was decorated nicely with lots of paper flowers.

There were some vendors, but not a lot. There was much more at the Greek and Japan festivals. We enjoyed looking at the Polish pottery collections. When we got married one of our friends gave us a small set of Polish pottery – two mugs and two small plates – and we still have them and use them regularly. There also seemed to be a lot of Amber jewelry. I was not aware that it was a popular Polish jewelry. I also enjoyed perusing through some pierogi cookbooks.

Speaking of that, of course I had pierogi for dinner. It was delicious! Derek had polish sausage. Derek also tried a Polish beer, and we had dessert. Derek had a cheesecake and I had a lemon bar.

There was also a silent auction inside that we checked out. But aside from that, we had seen everything and were only there for about a half hour! I had wanted to wait for the Polish dance group Wawel, but they weren’t going to perform for another hour.

There was a band called Ziggy that was playing on stage, but they were playing popular hits! They were good, but it was kind of weird to hear Michael Jackson at a Polish Festival…

In order to waste some time we decided to wander across the street to the Polish food store, which ended up being interesting. We came away with some delicious Polish candy, and a new favorite called Buttersby, a brand of fudge. We bought the vanilla flavor. So good!

I should mention that we went to the Polish Festival on opening night, Friday night, but it went on all weekend too. So we got in for free, which was a bonus. However, when Wawel came out to dance, I was upset because they weren’t in their traditional costumes! The announcer said since it was opening night, they were only giving a preview performance. I wish I had known that in advance otherwise we would have waited and gone on Saturday. Anyway, even though they were in shorts and t-shirts, they still did two traditional dances and they were fun to watch.

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