Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I'm ringing in the New Year in lovely Sedona, Az!
This year I took a family vacation to come visit Sedona and hike some in the Grand Canyon. It's exciting as my aunt pointed out today, because it really is my WHOLE family and we're hardly ever all together like this, especially for such a big occasion. It's my parents, my 2 brothers, my aunt and uncle and 2 cousins and even my grandmother visiting from Buenos Aires. We've made reservations at a yelp recommended Italian place called The Hideaway and have some ice cream and apple cider to toast with later.

Must head out to dinner now but I hope everyone has a great night!

Look forward to a post about Arizona soon!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Houston, we have a problem...

No one knows how great a city you are!

Ok, so I'll admit that growing up I was one of those people that "couldn't WAIT to get out of Texas!"
But I don't know if it grew on me, or now I'm just mature enough to understand everything that goes into making a city a good place to live, but seriously, I LOVE Houston! It's really dawning on me now with upcoming travels, and real opportunities to move away that, even though I'm thrilled at all the possibilities I have in front of me and want to experience as much as possible, I do see Houston as the place where I could settle for the long haul.

Houston is just....easy. That's a strange word to use for a city, but really, life is easy here. Our cost of living is significantly lower than any other major city, and being such a huge city, there's a place for everyone. There's always something to do, places to go, people to meet, great schools, museums, art, diversity and culture, music, food... I could go on and on and on.

I consulted THIS amazing website (and finally discovered how to link, yay!) to help me get organized. I even ended up finding about a million things I didn't know about and still have to experience in Houston. I could be a tourist here forever! Since I already tend to be overly verbose and there's tons of information, I'm going to try to touch on all my favorite things to give you an insider's view and let you peruse the website yourselves.

First: Museums!
We have so many fun museums and all of them have at least one free day a week, in addition to probably hundreds of free art galleries. 
The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the most well known. They have beautiful permanent exhibits, and bring in some amazing artists. Thursday's and the first Sunday of every month are free, and they host workshops and activities for kids and adults alike. They show foreign films year round and also periodically have film festivals where they'll feature a specific country for about a week. They also have parties a few times a year for us over 21's where they'll bring in famous DJ's or bands, serve cocktails and free appetizers and let you dance the night away. These are so much fun! I'll never forget the party where we were waiting for one of my friends as they introduced Grand Master Flash and showed him walking in through the back doors on the big screen and suddenly we see my friend walking right behind him! They had closed the front doors so he went around and told a security guy he was with the press ha ha! Yes yes, I have sort of insane friends and I love them...or at least get to tell good stories about them. 

I haven't been to the Children's Museum  in a really long time but it used to be one of my favorites. They have interactive exhibits and recently remodeled and added a few more that I kind of want to go visit. I remember I used to love going pretend grocery shopping and checking out at the little register. 

The Museum of Natural Science is a favorite among my family and friends and I love going there. They have had some incredible exhibits recently, including Lucy, the oldest human, and the Body World exhibit has been here twice. I thought I'd be grossed out by it, but I found that one fascinating! And of course I am in love with all IMAX films. I went and saw A Christmas Carol a few weeks ago with my mom and brother in 3D and the graphics were soo well done! Def recommend that movie, 3D or not. 

One place I still need to visit and have no excuse for not yet doing so: The Orange Show
Houston has a bunch of "oddities" and this is one of them. It's a house full of some guy's random collection of junk that he's turned into art. He is obsessed with oranges, and they also sponsor our annual Art Car Parade. 

There are many more museums but let's move on....

While our theater district is top notch- The Houston Ballet, Alley Theater, Hobby, traveling Broadway shows, The Houston Opera,Symphony etc ...I'm poor and therefore do not really get the chance to attend these events :\

However there are about a million places to go see free or cheap music shows. Many cafe's and bars feature live local bands or bands on tour almost every day of the week. Recently I've also discovered a lot of smaller theaters and dance troupes that are more reasonably priced, so I need to start going. The larger organizations also offer a lot of special events at places like Miller Outdoor Theater and Discovery Green Park. Miller Outdoor used to be my go to place for all these shows. It's an outdoor theater (duh) with standard theater seating and a huge grassy hill behind that where you can pack a picnic and watch a show. I love going to see dance shows. This is also a really nice park to just go hang out on a sunny day, and when I was younger (ok ok not that long ago) I loved rolling down the hill. 

While I still love Miller, Houston has a recent addition to its downtown that tops EVERYTHING. It's the new Discovery Green Park and is like an oasis in the ghost town that is usually our downtown. They have several free exercise classes every week like yoga, pilates, and zumba. I only managed to get to zumba once but found it was one of the most exciting ways to exercise ever. I felt like I was at a dance party! They also have a stage and feature bands and shows every week. In the summer and spring they show silent films, so my friends and I like to host pot luck picnics for these. They have a playground, and a big fountain- which is an ice skating rink at the moment, lots of grassy space, a dog park, traveling art exhibits, a low key burger place, and a fancy restaurant next to it. 
All of this was built on what used to be an old parking lot for our Convention Center that they moved underground. The Convention Center is also cool, or at least HUGE and brings a lot of international conferences to Houston. From the outside it looks like a big cruise ship, so I've taken some funny photos there, even though I can't find them at the moment.  

But here's my brother and dog at Discovery Green.

See that beautiful sunny weather? That also happens a lot here. Yes we get hurricans, and sometimes, like the last 2 weeks, it's non stop rain, but just as often it looks like that photo up there. And in the summer, even though it's a little unbearable unless you're indoors or in a pool, we manage to get nice tans (through my spf 50 of course).

All that great weather makes for good outdoor activities. And conveniently, Houston has several parks and trails, bayous, rivers, and lakes to do just that. I personally am a huge fan of biking (note to self: talk about the bike I got for Hannukah in next post, yayayay!) I do like going to the trails in Memorial Park and they have a very nice arboretum, but usually I just use my bike to get around my neighborhood and run errands or go to the local cafe's. I'd love to have more space to get into all the diverse neighborhoods but I think I've probably already lost all my readers. So check them out here. I live in Midtown, but grew up in the suburbs where the majority of people still live. Houston is quickly becoming more city like and high rises and new condos are popping up all around me.

Here's a group I led on a tour of Houston's many amazing farmer's markets! During college I worked as a bike tour leader for the University of Houston's Outdoor Adventure Club. We also took students on kayaking, canoeing, hiking, surfing trips, and many other outdoorsy things, and had a rock wall in the student gym too. I miss that job!

I can't talk about Houston without mentioning our gastronomic delights, but they are many and merit their own post. After all, we are one of the fattest cities in the US. I'm not sure what number we are now, it's #3 or 4, but it used to be #1. Come on Houston, what happened?!

Ironically, I'm off now to get to eating my dinner and maybe single handedly get Houston back it's 1st place title. Hope you've enjoyed this overview of my 'hood!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Snow in Houston!

Hi readers! I just wanted to quickly update because, get this: It's 30 degrees and snowing in Houston!
Actually it has snowed the last few years in a row. Yes, it's only for a day usually and only just barely accumulates an inch or two before turning slushy, but it's still such a novelty for us native warm weather people. I find it super exciting!
The photos from my 10th floor balcony don't look like much but I'll take more and post them if it accumulates later. My parents might get some nice snow out in the suburbs. I live in the downtown area, which is also not the norm for Houston.

This brings me to my next point, since this is a travel blog, there are a lot of great and unexpected things I could share with you about my own hometown. Maybe I'll convince some of you to come visit! I promise it's not all big oil, astronauts and cowboys!
Of course I want to plan this out and do some research before doing a long Houston post but I wanted to get you all excited for it. So is there anything you want to know? Any myths or anything you've heard about Houston? I'd love to share all the cool things that have been going on in Houston lately and the improvements that have been made in the last couple of years. Houston is becoming a real city!

So be prepared for this post, and in the meantime, I didn't want to leave you hanging with nothing to read for so long. I've been busy with LOTS of interpreting, friends and family visiting, game nights and lots of cooking and baking. My friend gave me her bread machine because she never used it, so I've been having fun with that along with inventing new dinner recipes such as this one:
and hosting a nice dinner party to test it out. Go and vote for me! There are sooo many great recipes though so I'm feeling the competition, but it was fun nonetheless to participate.
I have a lot to be thankful for! My thanksgiving was huge, over 30 people at my parents house. I loved it! Everyone was together, my brother came home from Austin, family was here from Argentina and we put ourselves into a pleasant food coma and sat down and watched Religulous  by Bill Maher to finish off the night, haha. I hope that gives you a good insight into what my family is like.

The snow is still coming down hard so I think I'll leave you with some pictures and maybe bundle up and go play! Hasta la proxima!

This picture makes me really happy! We're almost never all together like this. These are my "little" brothers. There's David, me of course, and Michael. Interesting tidbit: I'm almost 5'9, so they're really not so little anymore :\

Awww my puppy! Percy is 13 years old and has gone completely gray. 

What's Thanksgiving without pie?