Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #2: I Heart Houston!

Thirteen Things I Love About Living in Houston

I don't know about you, but when I start looking in a new direction, I like to spend some time reminiscing about where I've been, and how good it's been. So, now that I have officially set my eyes on leaving Texas, and The South, behind, well, I've done gone and got myself all nostalgic about it.

So far, I have lived in Texas for almost right at (I'm using my Texas lingo, can ya tell?) eleven years. Exactly nine of those have been at the same residence. Folks, that's the longest I've EVER lived in one house. It's home.

But that home is in the Houston suburbs. So, really, I feel more like a Houstonian than a Texan. (The only time I feel like a Texan is during an election, or when someone brings up where the current POTUS lives. yeesh!) So yes, Houston is home. And I have loved Houston all the while.

Here's why:

1. Proximity to Galveston

Yep, that greasy grey Limpopo version of the Gulf of Mexico coastline that made me choose Houston over Dallas, sight-unseen, when I had to choose where to live in Texas. I knew I wanted to live in "the big city" for the first time ever in my life, and, being a child of the ocean, and all things aqueous, I had to know that I could get in my car and in less than two hours, find myself toes in sand, wind in hair, surf in ears, regarding the limitless blue horizon. Ahhhhhhh! Voila...Houston!

2. The University of Houston

Ah yes, the alma mater. She taught me much. Met way cool people. Learned SO much about writing. Read LOTS of great books. "Learned" how to teach freshmen how to write better than they knew before (this was my major goal...teaching them to learn how to write excellently caused more stress...precision was up for grabs, progress was inevitable!) Oh, and got to wander aimlessly in awe while becoming intimately acquainted with the most fabulous library I have yet to lay eyes on (this in NO WAY implies that I've been to many, but it does reinforce that "small-town girl meets the big city" thing that happened to me here!).

3. FOOD: Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Forget chicken soup. If you have anything that calls for a bowl of healing soup, THIS is the soup for you. The spicy (jalapeno or serrano pepper), pungent (ginger), fresh (basil), alive (bean sprouts), flavor of this slow-cooked force of nature will have you breathing easy in no time, and feeling fine. (Did I mention it has noodles? That's the comfort part of the soup...ahhhhhhhh!)

4. ASTROWORLD (in memoriam)

Oh me, oh my! We had season passes at least two times that I remember and we loved the heck outta that place! My husband and I loved the rollercoasters (and my girls grew into them all and loved them too!). But the whole family's favorite event was Fright Fest. Every year there would be a giant black widow spider mounted on the country's oldest, and largest wooden rollercoasters, The Texas Cyclone. Eerie greyish lights illuminated all the rides and ghoulish faces covered the top of the "six flags" poles at the entry gate. Blood flowed from all of the fountains, and zombies chased you (or just stared menacingly at you, while standing in your personal space) around the park. And then there were the haunted houses. Such fiendish fun! Our very last visit, before the park closed, was on a Fright Fest night. We made t-shirts for the kids to commemorate. We miss you AstroWorld! You were a most fun friend in town!

5. The MFAH (Museum of Fine Arts Houston).

Can you say "free Thursday"? Yep, today and every Thursday, you can view the general collections for freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. The building is located in the gorgeous, live oak tree-lined Museum District of Downtown Houston, right down the street from the lovely triple fountain, The Houston Zoo, The Museum of Natural Science, The Children's Museum, The Health Museum, etc. etc. etc.

6. FOOD: Sushi/Sashimi

I will never eat a California roll from the supermarket EVER AGAIN! As Dr. Seuss would say "Oh the Places You'll Go" in Houston if you love sushi, or WANT to love it. My three favorite places are: Shogun (fun for the whole family, and the family's wallet. And they have "live," hibachi dining there too--where the chef throws his knives around to impress you while cooking your food in front of you.); Sushi King (For a romantic and nearly orgasmic meal tete a tete with your schweetheart. There was much moaning and eye rolling here when hubby and I tried the waiter's recommendations. Oh, and there's a piano bar too!); and Zake Sushi Lounge (a hip, happenin' modern nightlife spot with low light, high music volume, and the most mouth watering sashimi--just fish, no roll/rice--sampler presentations.).

7. The Harris County Public Libraries

What, you ask, am I talking about? Oh yes. I love me some books, and these libraries are just a little slice of heaven on earth for bibliophiles. Singly, they aren't large, but collectively, they ammass quite a fortune in books, videos, CDs, DVDs, books on tape, and the like. And if they don't have the one you want at the branch near you? No problem. Fill out an online request form, tell them where you'd like to pick it up, and they will deliver it for you. Gives a whole new meaning to inter-library loan. My favorite one also has an amazing set of computers available to the public. We spend a lot of homeschooling time there!

8. The Dump, and other stores like it

No, it's not full of refuse. It's a giant warehouse store for designer furniture and decor at closeout prices. All the top retailers send their remnants to The Dump, and every weekend (they only open Fri., Sat., Sun.), you can go find some amazing furniture at amazing prices. I have been once to check it out, once to torture myself with longing, and once to find a nice rug to cover the pet stains in my living room carpet that should have just been taken to the real dump! Houston has lots of great outlet retailers. It's a really inexpensive place to live, and live well, in my opinion, because of places like that.

9. FOOD: South of the Border

Did you think I was snubbing? No, no, no! What would life be like without thin, warmed tortilla chips and fresh, roasted salsa, a salty and cold Margarita on the rocks, and some of the rockin'est food you've ever eaten? There's Cuban, Venezuelan, Salvadorian, and yes, Mexican food galore. Ole! That being said, I am not a big fan of the average stuff: enchiladas, tacos, fajitas. I love that stuff, but I can make that at home. When I go OUT, I'm gonna get specialty stuff. Ok, and fishy type things. The grilled tilapia (mild, but meaty white fish) dishes alone are to die for. Usually they have a lovely cream sauce with mushrooms, tomato, avocado, and some crawfish tails on top. Or maybe it's ceviche, with lots of lime juice and cilantro. Or maybe some fried octopus dipped in chili sauce. Yuuuuummmmmmm. Whatever you want in this category, Houston has got it all.

10.The Weather

I really have loved not having a winter, in terms of low atmospheric temperatures anyway. I have missed snow terribly. Skiing. But I haven't missed having three to four sets of seasonal clothing selections, buying new winter coats ( I do have gloves for those two weeks when my hands get too cold), snow tires, shoveling--that kind of thing. My birthday is in February and it was always cold, and I was always sick. Here, once I became immune to the Houston influenza (had that the first three years), I could enjoy being outside in the warm sun with only a t-shirt on in my birthday photos. We won't mention July, August, and September. I just think of it as our reverse winter, with no shoveling. Woohoo!

Birthday in Feb. Family Foto:

Best Affiliate Program

11. Neighborhood Swim Teams

This goes right along with the weather. Living in suburbia, there are not just neighborhoods, there are "housing developments," and those almost all include swimming pools. And almost all of those pools are equipped to become competition pools with lane ropes and portable diving blocks and built-in flag pole (for the backstrokers) inserts in the cement decking. Very nice! And my kids loved to swim, so there ya go, their signature sport, right in the neighborhood. Funny though, it only lasts about 10-12 weeks, from the end of April until the first Saturday in July usually. But it's great fun! And then the kids can swim on the school teams...starting in junior high. Amazing.

12. FOOD: Seafood

Ok, so I spent the last five years of my life in Massachusetts on Cape Cod. My family owned a seafood restaurant. I worked there. I love seafood. Needless to say, I was biased when I came to Texas. Having said that, I have to admit that I am a convert to Texas style seafood. Can you say Gulf Shrimp? Oysters on the half shell? Crawfish boil? Although nothing can beat Maine lobster, and you can't find a clam to save your life down here, seafood in Houston ROCKS my world! (Remember, I almost always get the fish dish at the "South of the Border" restaurants I go to.)

13. Lonestar College, North Harris

Formerly known as North Harris College, the first of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District campuses, this is the place I got my first "real" job after earning my Master's degree. I will be there again starting in June, and I'm excited. I really do love to teach, I just hate giving grades and getting paid half of what a full-time instructor gets paid to do the same job. But hey, it's "home" to me too, and I am looking forward to meeting all of my new students!

So there you have it! Thirteen good ole reasons for making Houston home. Hey, by the time I skedaddle on outta here, I will have been here for a little over thirteen years!

As one of the "fattest" cities in the country, it should really be of no surprise to you that four of my reasons are food. Honestly, I could have (maybe I should have...hmmm...) done a whole list just on food. It's just that good. And we have eaten so much of it. We have wondered if we'd like it so much if it weren't for the food sometimes, but that's why this list has other things on it--because there ARE other reasons to live here than to stuff one's face!

Where's your favorite place to live? Please leave me a comment to let me know you stopped by, if'n you got the time, ya hea? (Ok, so I laid it on a little, but trust me, it sounds like home.)

Muah! =D

© Nicole J. Williams, 2008, all rights reserved.

(Sorry so late again...computer issues!)

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Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife said...

Ok, you know if you leave the state that you'll never experience "South of the Border" food that is worthy of your praise again! Unless you come back for a visit!

I've never lived anywhere else, but there have been some places that I loved visiting! Chicago would be one, Florida would be one, Boston, New York City...

Anonymous said...

Reading your list brought back may memories from my childhood when I lived outside of Texas. My first real rollarcoaster ride was on the Texas Cyclone and my right arm was in a cast (I broke it on the last day of school playing kickball). I went on the coaster with my dad and loved it. Thanks for the memories. - Melanie

Camellia said...

Houston always been TOO BIG for me. Now you make me think I've never seen it all.

Allyn Evans said...

You are right, not a post to read when you are hungry.

I had fabulous sushi today for lunch. My favorite restaurant where I live is the Sushi House!

Thanks for another fun thirteen posting.

Doing the math...if I did so correctly...sounds like you are waiting two years before moving? Is that correct?

sarah in disturbia said...

That post did make my hungry! I've been to Houston once . . in July . . and thought I would die from the humidity. I did have some good food while I was there though. I am from Oklahoma but live in Pittsburgh now. I love it here! My first visit to your blog . . where are you going??

Nicole said...

Allyn...your math is better than mine! It will actually be three years from right now, but still might be under the 14 year mark...I moved to Houston in July of 97. We'll see! =)) (Don't want to abandon any chicks or anything!)

Phyl said...

Nicole...thanks for stopping by my TT...I enjoyed reading yours...feel like I spent the day in Houston!