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Posts Tagged ‘Houston’

I mentioned last week that my dad came to visit me in Houston, and we did a million things. There are many things I like about Houston, so if you’re thinking of visiting this city sometime in the future, hopefully this list will give you some ideas. Mostly I’m going to show you photos, but I would like to make it clear that the guide books don’t lie about the food here – there is a TON of delivious foods to experience in Houston.

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Before I go into all that, I have a few words about World Cup. Yes, it is over for another four years, and this makes me sad. I am delighted that Germany won, and it has inspired me to embrace my half+ German heritage more than anything ever has in my life.

But within seconds of the end of the game, Twitter and Facebook exploded with comments from many people in the United States expressing their glee that “soccer is over.” It’s possible that I am biased, because I am indifferent to not-caring about all other sports. But I usually keep those feelings to myself. I find it really frustrating every time I read one of these anti-soccer comments. Living in the United States, I find it EXTREMELY difficult to watch soccer. The only time it really gets any attention is during World Cup, and good luck ever seeing it broadcast on network television. Specific bars might play it on their TVs (particularly those designing themselves with other countries in mind). Nearly every other major sport in this country can be found on network television during each sport’s season. So reading those kinds of comments is like a reminder of how little my favorite sport (and, might I add, the WORLD’S favorite sport) gets attention in my home country. Thanks for rubbing it in, friends. That’s just SO nice of you. So please, even if you don’t like soccer, can you keep it to yourself? It’s painful enough that it’s so difficult to watch live in this country without you rubbing it in after the biggest tournament the sport has.

Ok, stepping down off my soap box now.

1. Onion Creek

Delicious restaurant with great outdoor seating. Hotdogs are a big deal here for whatever reason, so I had a really fancy one with fancy mustard and grilled onions with sweet potato fries. They also have a great selection of local and non-local brews. Good music, too.

2. Brazoria

If you like wildlife, the Brazoria Wildlife Preserve is pretty awesome. We saw three emotions of alligator.

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A. Friendly “feed me!” alligator. This guy came right up to the boardwalk dock. We could have touched him had we not been afraid of the thing chomping our hands off.

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B. Get the F*** Away from my Nest! alligator. This one hissed real loud and stalked toward our car as we slowly drove past/stopped to take photos like idiot tourists.

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C. Chillin’ in the Water alligator. This guy did not care about anything.

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3. Gulf Coast

We drive north up the coast from Brazoria to Galveston, and discovered a gazillion pastel-colored houses on stilts. As a geologist, I think it is absolutely moronic for these people to live here, considering the danger of hurricanes and the fact that a beach is an EXTREMELY unstable place to build your home, but it certainly made for interesting photos.

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4. Galveston

Galveston is extremely touristy. But we found this great Gumbo Bar for a delicious lunch (gumbo and fried okra), and briefly stuck our feet in the Gulf of Mexico, so that was cool. The water was freakishly warm.

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5. NASA

We arrived to NASA rather late, but managed to get a tour in, during which we saw the original command center (“Houston, we have a problem,” happened here) and a Saturn V rocket. We also saw the moon rock and a bunch of other stuff. If you have kids, it’s a great place for them to check out. The tour was great for adult-level entertainment.

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6. The Original Ninfa’s

Delicious Tex Mex food. I mean, REALLY yummy. My dad especially loved this place, and they have a stray restaurant cat that hangs around the outside seating area. Pretty sure my dad wanted me to take it home and feed it, but alas, I can’t have pets here, and I think the restaurant workers are rather attached to it (they’ve named it).

7. Soccer

We watched a World Cup game one morning. There are several British pubs here in Houston, which I found surprising. We went to Watson’s, which has a great outdoor area and a good beer selection, but the service and food leaves something to be desired.

8. Houston Museum of Natural Science

Aaaaah this place is amazing. It is my second favorite Natural History museum that I have been to, my first being that in London (mostly because the one in London is much bigger). They have an insane number of trilobites (I took about a thousand photos of them), not to mention a massive dinosaur and other creature bone collection. It’s worth the $15 admission fee just to see that collection. They also have a rather impressive mineral and gem collection. There is also an African animal display – beware if you have small children, some of the animals are presented in rather gruesome death poses.

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9. Underbelly

The chef of this restaurant is a native Houstonian, and since Houston is a melting pot of pretty much every ethnic food ever, he has designed his menu around what he thinks of as “Houston food.” You also don’t order single dishes. No appetizers, no entrees, just food. My dad and I shared 3 dishes plus a dessert, and that was enough. They also have a great wine list. It’s pricy, but totally worth the experience.

10. Catalina Coffee

We found a local coffee roaster and it was absolutely delightful and had a cute little outdoor seating area. I don’t have any photos of this place, but be sure to look it up if you’re ever in town.

11. Tacos-a-Go-Go

Breakfast tacos are a big deal in Texas. The internet told me about this place, and we were not disappointed. It’s sort of a build-your-own kind of deal. You get eggs plus 2 additional ingredients for under $2 (unless you go fancy like avocado or something), and each extra beyond those two are only $0.25. Pretty sweet deal, considering two breakfast tacos is enough to fill me up.

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12. Karbach Brewery

Houston doesn’t have many breweries, but this one probably produces my favorite beer. You pay $8 for a small glass and 4 beer tokens. Pretty sweet deal. Plus we got caught in our second thunderstorm of the weekend! #nofilter

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13. Auto Art Show

There’s a random Art Car museum that has very artistic cars as well as a few random pieces of art. The collection changes frequently, so here’s a small taste of what they might have.

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14. Beer Can House

This really needs no explanation, only photos.

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15. River Oaks neighborhood

We were driving around randomly, checking out the neighborhoods, and stumbled upon the place where rich people live. I live-tweeted the experience, so I’m sorry if you missed it. It was a rather ridiculous experience. My dad and I decided the thing to do would be to park your car somewhere, and bring your dogs for a walk, so you could pretend that you actually lived in one of these mansions. I swear, some of them looked like small castles. Crazy.

16. We finished our day with cockroach hunting, because my dad likes bugs, and due to an earlier incident I knew where to find them after the sun set. This activity mostly consisted of me running and screaming, or freezing when I saw one, while my dad walked happily along trying to startle them into movement.

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We visited a few other places, like the Rothko Chapel, at which I learned I don’t have a single spiritual bone in my body. Going in that place just felt oppressive and awkward. The outside garden area is pretty nice though. We also tried to see the Bayou Bend Gardens, but got there too late, and the bridge was broken, so I’d recommend checking that out if you’re here, because I’ve heard great things.

So while I certainly don’t love Houston (or its weather, ugh, please let it rain for five days I am so tired of the sun), there are quite a few fun things to do. I’d also have to say that Montrose is the most fun neighborhood. The Heights is also pretty good. Both of these have good food places and bars, and really nice homes. If I had to live here, it would be one of those places.

In other news – I finished editing my second draft outline for my urban fantasy novel yay! Now I can actually get back to the fun part of writing. If only we’d get a few decent days of rain here…

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Well, I appear to have survived my first week in Houston, TX!

This place is not at all what I expected, and I haven’t reached a decision about whether or not I could see myself living here for a couple years. Luckily, I have 2 more months to think about it and get to know the place.

If you’ve never been here before, this is what it’s like. There is green EVERYWHERE. All along the bayou, on the boulevards, the sidewalks, in yards and gardens. The plants here are absolutely amazing. I imagined a desert or industrial type landscape, but it hasn’t been like that at all. Many parts of the city I’ve seen so far are actually very beautiful. The humidity is real, though. I’ve hardly spent any time outside since I’ve been here, because the air is not very comfortable to just sit in. I’m learning that less cloudy days have lower humidity, and one of these days I’ll be brave enough to go lounge by the pool while I read. But then you have random 5-minute rainstorms come through, and you must run for cover. I’m used to bi-polar weather, but this is on a different level. I’m also learning the joys of air conditioning. I’m from Seattle, where we usually must fight against the cold to find a house temperature that doesn’t cost too much on the electricity bill, but still keeps us warm enough to function. Here, it’s the opposite. I’m trying to figure out how much warmth I can stand before I desperately need the air conditioning to keep me at a reasonable temperature. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s also nice to be comfortably warm for a change. A bonus for this climate, though, is the amount of volume it adds to my hair. I keep it short, so a little climate-controlled volume is actually pretty awesome.

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Being from Seattle, I’m used to everyone ignoring each other when they pass in the street. When I moved to Montana, the opposite was true. I got used to politely nodding and/or smiling at people as I passed them in the street (though less so on the college campus). Houston is a massive city. Once again, everyone goes back to ignoring each other. I ran into someone at the gate to get into the apartment complex, he was struggling to open the gate. He finally opened it just as I made it to the gate to try to help, and as we passed each other, I tried to smile at him, because hey, he’s probably my neighbor. No response. So, it’s weird going back to that after being in Montana for so long.

As for my job, I’m an intern for an energy company. So far, my job has essentially consisted of looking at squiggly lines all day and trying to interpret them. I’m not even kidding. Squiggly lines. Theoretically they mean something, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

This internship has so far been an interesting experience, and not so much for the job itself, but for the… setting. For one, I’ve got a swanky office all to myself. My name is even on the door! I have two computer monitors and a huge desk! I’ve never experienced an office job like this – the Google office I worked in was all open plan, no cubicles or anything, and tiny desks. Not that that was bad or anything (it was much easier to talk to my friends that way, or lean over to my neighbor to ask for help on a difficult task, etc.), just different.

I’m also used to jobs that keep you to the clock. You clock in when you arrive, you clock out for lunch, you clock back in after, and you clock out when you leave. No cell phones or personal calls or fun internet breaks while you work (those were the rules, anyway). This internship, though? Totally different. As long as you get the work done, and can show you’re making progress, there’s actually a lot of freedom. It’s taking some adjusting to get used to. I mean, I made a phone call to set up my internet installation at my home during business hours and NOT on my lunch break! I was allowed to leave a few minutes early to go to happy hour with the office mates! I’m not going to lie, I could get used to a job like that. Plus, I’m actually using my geology knowledge and skills, which is more than I can say pre-graduate school.

The one weird thing about this job that bothers me is the lack of women in science-related positions. Maybe it’s just this company, but I’m the ONLY woman on my team. Most of the men are much older than me, too. Almost all the women I’ve met are in administrative or assistant-type positions. It’s really strange to be sitting in a big meeting, and be the only woman in the room. Every other job I’ve held, and all through school, the gender divisions have been pretty well split down the middle for all positions. I suppose the fact that I’m a woman in an internship position should be encouraging for the future of the company, but it’s still a little hard to get used to.

I’ve also had the pleasure of trying to sleep on an air mattress. A friend of mine was successful with this for his entire 3-month internship. But my air mattress? Somehow magically developed a pin-hole puncture after two nights. Pro-tip: Three layers of rubber cement plus tens of layers of duct tape won’t work.

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Rather than fight with the mattress for the rest of the summer, or straight up buying a new one, I decided I didn’t want to wake up feeling like I was in a water bed for any more mornings/middles of the night. So I went to IKEA and bought the cheapest roll-out foam mattress I could find, and I have slept well the past few nights. I do not regret the expense.

On the major plus side of doing this internship over the summer, I have no school work to deal with. Sure, I should probably type up my field notes (which I will, I promise), but other than that – I’m basically on vacation when I’m not at work. So, I’ve started working on my novel again! Typed up 3 pages of edited outline material. It’s a lot of work, but I’m getting through it. 11 more pages to go! I forgot how much fun I have while working on it, and how excited I am to begin re-writes. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get through these outline edits, send them to my writing partner, and get started writing some scenes before the summer is out.

I’ve also got time to cook delicious things like butter chicken with broccoli and mushrooms.

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AND I’ve had time to have a bath. With a candle, a glass of rosé, and my kindle.

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I am, of course, also taking this time to catch up on some TV shows and fiction reading (The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead just arrived and it is SO good and I’m only 50 pages in!). Which brings me to the next thing I want to share with you all…

I know I already wrote a post about book-shaming, and how it infuriates me when someone tries to tell me (or anyone else, for that matter) that I should be embarrassed about the books I like to read, an article recently came out from Slate that has me swearing at my computer screen as I read. Don’t read it unless you want to get angry about something. I firmly believe that you should read whatever you want to read, regardless of other people’s opinions. What you read literally has zero effect on them, and if they’re going to judge you for it, you probably don’t need them in your life. Since I’ve already articulated how I feel about this, I suggest taking a look at these two responses to the Slate article that made me really happy.

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Well, I made it to Houston, for my second adventure of the summer! While here, I’m going an internship with an energy company. It’s all rather hush-hush as to what I’m really doing, but basically I will be using my geology knowledge to figure out where some oil might be in the rock formation they’ve assigned. I promise I haven’t sold me soul yet, and yes, there is the whole environmental issue, but the point is, we still need oil. Until we can mass-produce sustainable energy, and people are willing to buy it and go cold turkey off petroleum, we still need it. But I don’t want to get into that right now, because I’m still not entirely sure where I stand on the issue.

Anyway, Houston! It’s a strange place. I was expecting desert, but instead I got tropical rain forest? Seriously, it feels EXACTLY like the tropical rain forest exhibit at my hometown’s zoo. It freaked me out when I first got here. I’ve also experienced 2 thunderstorms, and I’ve only been here for less than 48 hours. The wildlife is obviously different as well. I’ve seen a couple new birds already, and I can’t wait for my zoologist dad to visit me next month and tell me what they are.

On my first drive through the city (my friend picked me up at the airport, I didn’t feel safe bringing my ancient Jeep with me on this trip – I don’t think it would survive the climate), I saw a church sunk into the ground.

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Um… what? Why? No signs anywhere? I was immediately reminded of a Sunnydale-style apocalypse, circa Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 6. A friend of mine joked it must have been satanic, and was trying to get closer to its leader. Make of it what you will, but not an hour into my stay in this city I had decided it was a strange place.

That night I had my very first crawfish, and was instructed on how to consume it.

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I made a huge mess, but I actually thought it was pretty good. I saw a few people order platters of them. I wouldn’t say no to splitting one with someone, as it turns out.

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So far, the food I’ve had here is pretty delicious. I wasn’t lied to about that. I’m currently in this funky little breakfast cafe that functions a bit like a cafeteria. Mostly I’m here because they advertise free wifi, and I don’t have wifi set up in my apartment yet, but the food is actually pretty delicious (despite the fact that my “fresh fruit” came in a pre-wrapped dish…).

My apartment is adorable. It comes with air conditioning (yay!), a tiny office nook, and a bedroom that’s almost as large as the living room. I even bought a little “dragon tree” from IKEA so it would look more lived-in. But it’s a cute little spot, even though I have to live very minimalist while I’m here (two and a half months isn’t long enough to be worth really settling in, especially when you don’t have a car to haul everything back in).

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The bathtub is also enormous enough to make bubble baths a possibility. I already bought the bubbles for it. Oh, and did I mention it has 2 pools and is a gated community? I’m like a poor person living in a rich person’s body!

While I am here, I will have very little school work to do, though I will be working something like an 8-5 job. This means that I’ll have evenings and weekends to do what I want. Hopefully, this means more writing and definitely more reading is in my near future! Honestly, this is probably the part of this adventure that I am most excited about. But I’m also looking forward to seeing what my future after grad school might look like. This heat and humidity will take some getting used to though!

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