One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Month: March 2024

Spring Break in Houston, TX – Day 2

We started day 2 with a Houston institution- TexMex breakfast tacos! With Houston having over 1 million people who identify as Hispanic (44% of the population) it stands to reason that there is some amazing Tex-Mex food to be found in the city. We decided to try Tejas Taco House and it was legit.

With full bellies, we headed back downtown where we were yesterday to hit the Natural Science Museum. There were not enough hours in the day to fit it in on Thursday and I knew we would want quite a few hours to see everything here. Norah was immediately drawn to the interactive periodic table of elements and spent a lot of time here.

We saw a show on the Universe narrated by Tom Hanks in the planetarium. Just absolutely mind blowing how big the Milky Way galaxy is..and then to learn that our known galaxy is part of 1000s of other full galaxies…and that just makes up the Virgo Supercluster of galaxies which is just one part of the observable universe. We are just unbelievably insignificant specs of space dust. and knowing this makes it easier to laugh at self-important people who think they deserve to cut in front of you at Starbucks. 🙂

The Natural Science Museum had a well laid out timeline of fossils starting in PreCambrian and leading through Jurassic, Triassic..all the way to modern era. They had an extensive trilobite and crinoid collection which I love looking at. Some of their trilobites even still had the spines on their backs!

We were able to see Sloth-Zilla, the largest ground sloth skeleton. Look at this beast! I do love my ground sloths…

Norah said she thought she had a resemblance to the Neanderthal. ha

The museum had an extensive gem and mineral collection as well as a special collection of Faberge royal pieces in a traveling exhibit. I can’t remember which photos were from which, so they are all together below.

The museum also contained a Butterfly Sanctuary which was a fun experience to be inside an enclosed greenhouse with birds, butterflies, turtles and other species just going about their business.

After the museum we headed to El Gato Coffeehouse- where you can have a coffee and hang out with some adoptable cats. Turns out you need reservations for the actual coffeehouse, so we were relegated to “the studio” with the extra cats in a big room… which was fine. Who knew you had to reserve coffee with cats? ha

After some coffee and hang out time, we headed to The Color Factory, an “art space” -aka a money-making Instagram photo op opportunity ha It was cute but its a one-time experience.

There was a giant gross stinky ball pit at the end that I had to get in with Norah. ha I just tried to forget everything I know about germs and disease transmission and make memories with my child ha

A full room with light-brite walls.

Norah and Kegan had to sit opposite each other in sound booths and draw each other without lifting the pencil. Norah’s turned out very Picasso-esque.

The next stop was dinner and we chose Xiao Long Kan – a fancy hot pot spot with very traditional Chinese decor.

We chose a dual broth- golden chicken and pork bone broth. We ordered plates to add to and cook in the broth that included beef and lamb slices, quail eggs, woodear and enoki mushrooms, greens such as lettuce, napa cabbage, pepper cress and chinese spinach, spam, handmade noodles and ramen, fish balls along with a smoky plum juice and fresh-pressed watermelon juice.

Overall, it was the 2nd best hot pot experience I’ve ever had, since we visited Xpot in Las Vegas and they had this out of this world Lobster soup base and Wagyu beef…but for a real-world meal (since I’d never spend the money on Xpot in my life again) this was so so good.

Next door was a newly-opened Moshi Moshi Japanese store with kawaii cute stuffies and Japanes beauty and snacks so we quickly browsed through to see what they had

Then I ran into Three Uncles Toast to grab a loaf of bread for breakfast in the morning.

We decompressed in the hotel room for 45 minutes or so and then headed out for out late-night shenanigans. Friday night in Chinatown is a hectic affair ha Every plaza looked worse than this with cars backed up every aisle.

We were headed to Claw Mania Kingdom

This was an arcade full of nothing but claw machines. You bought tokens for $1 each and each chance was 1 token. You could keep your stuffies or you could trade them up for a bigger stuffed animal or even a coin you could redeem on a future visit. Norah had 7 stuffies in the end and traded a few in for an anime figure she wanted from the case. It was a blast.

After playing claw machines it was time to head to Exit Lab Houston where I booked “the hardest double escape room experience”. It was a combo of two rooms in 90 minutes and was classified as the hardest escape room around…

And let me tell you…. It was hard. Ha we did not escape. We made it out of the first room in under 60 minutes but then we got into the 2nd room and with only 30 minutes left there is no way we would have made it. After we ran out of time, our game master showed us the remaining puzzles we had to solve- about 3 more major puzzles- but I don’t think I would have figured them out even with 20 hours left haha. So, we have to finally admit defeat and say we did not escape! And that’s OK. It was a huge challenge and it was humbling to see that there are apparently people out there a lot better at escape rooms than us! Ha

Spring Break 2024 in Houston,Texas – Day 1

Hello! Its been a while 🙂 Life has been “life”ing to say the least. It been a bit since we’ve been able to coordinate even a quick trip somewhere with Norah’s school schedule, visits of others to New Orleans, Kegan finishing his dad’s cabin in Indiana and me trying to start a whole new client project without dropping anything I already had going on. ha It has been an absolutely crazy 6 months or so… and not really slowing down until Summer… BUT I always say we have all the best problems. Too many people who want to hire you, a kid too involved in fun things at school, too many friends wanting to visit? Give me those “problems” any day. We are happy, healthy and living life. Soon enough we’ll be sitting in our rocking chair begging Norah to come see us…so for now we’ll just live our crazy life as it comes at us through a fire hose 🙂 ha

So, when we finally figured out we had a few days of spring break we could go somewhere, we had a few ideas.. quick flight to New York, quick flight to Ft Lauderdale, a flight to LA and spend some time in California? Chicago might be a fun 4-5 days… eventually we decided to just drive to Houston since we haven’t spent any real time in Houston in over 10 years, we didn’t need flights that I might have to cancel if something came up.. and bonus-a lot of my dad’s side of the family lives around Houston, so we were able to fit in a bit of extended family time along with playing tourist.

We picked Norah up after school on Wednesday and immediately headed west on I-10 from New Orleans through all of Cajun country Louisiana. Our first stop was for Billy’s Boudin and Cracklins.

We were headed to dinner so we kept it minimal getting 1/4 lb of cracklins- the BEST we had ever had… along with a shrimp ball, a boudin ball and a crawfish ball to share. They had tons of frozen cajun items, but we couldn’t consider those and have to keep them in a cooler for 5 days. ha Boudin is a cajun sausage that is cooked pork, rice, vegetables and cajun seasonings all stuffed in a casing. Everything we ordered was amazing and we may have to hit this again on the way home.

Our dinner stop was at a true local Cajun restaurant called Prejean’s outside of Lafayette in a town called Carencro.

Kegan got the crawfish nachos and the duck and andouille gumbo they are famous for. Norah got a kid’s shrimp and fries and I got the Crawfish enchiladas. Kegan’s was great. Norah was happy with hers… I expected chunks of crawfish and cheese in my enchiladas, but it was like a crawfish boudin mushy filling that was slightly reminiscent of cat food. ha I’m sure if I had expected that, it would have been fine, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I tasted Kegan’s gumbo and it was fantastic.. smoky, spiced, dark rue… it was definitely the winner of the meal.

Mine came with a side of “cajun rice dressing” that was soooo good… and a side of maque choux (pronounced mock shoe). Cajun rice dressing is similar to dirty rice, with browned meat, charred veggies and seasonings. I think this one had poblano peppers and grilled pork sausage. Maque Choux is a cajun side dish that’s a mix of corn and peppers sautĂ©ed in bacon grease and this version was on a cornmeal crust.

The first time I had seen this on a menu- the restaurant listed every single supplier for their restaurant as well as all chefs and artists contributing to the interior.

After we left the restaurant, we headed to our hotel in Houston crossing the Texas state line.

and continuing until we could catch the Houston skyline at night.

It was almost midnight, so we got unpacked when we got to the room, but quickly fell asleep.

Thursday morning we started off right by heading to Dim Sum breakfast at Ocean Palace. Dim Sum is basically Chinese brunch. Its usually a group activity, social occasion with tea and lots of small plates.

I purposely booked our hotel in the Chinatown district of Houston… because almost all of the food, coffee and desserts I love are all asian. Bubble tea, Vietnamese ice coffee, dim sum dumplings, hot pot, Vietnamese Pho soup, Korean BBQ and kimchi, sushi, even Korean fried chicken is the best fried chicken. So… I wanted to make sure we were in walking distance of amazing food at all times 🙂

Our dim sum spread did not disappoint – with taro cakes, beef tripe, shu mai with truffle, Chinese broccoli, eggplant, egg rolls, bbq pork buns, shrimp and chive dumplings, hand pulled noodles with roast pork, custard buns and egg custard tarts.

Once we were nice and miserable from a late breakfast, it was time to head towards downtown Houston to Hermann Park. Parking was a bear… after driving around a few loops through some parking lots, we ended up just going and finding a pay garage at a hospital nearby and walking back.

Hermann Park is a 445 acre public green space and was given to the city of Houston by George Hermann in 1914. Today, it contains a golf course, the Houston Zoo, a miniature train, a reflecting pool, pond with paddle boats, a pioneer log cabin museum, fountains, gardens, sculptures and more…

As we walked in from the north we passed this monument to Sam Houston. The American General, senator, governor AND President of Texas when Texas was briefly its own independent country. He is famous for leading the Texans to victory over Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto which was a key victory in their war for independence.

The Pioneer Obelisk was erected in 1936 to honor the Texas centinnial and as a dedication to the pioneers who settled in the area.

Norah had never done a paddleboat, so we took one out onto McGovern Lake and Paddled around for a bit. Well, Kegan and I paddled and she lounged on the backseat. ha Then midway she decided she wanted to paddle so we got to do a mid-lake driver exchange where Norah and Kegan tried to swap seats without tipping the boat over! ha We were successful luckily.

We were stopped by a panhandling father and young son selling homemade chocolate bars in the park….why not… Norah chose the Coconut Milk and Honey and surprisingly Kegan and Norah ate it… so I tried a piece too haha. It was pretty decent.

Our next stop was the Houston Zoo… a typical city zoo. A few favorite photos below.

This monkey had my heart because every time anyone got close to the fence, he did a big wind up to throw his poop at them and they’d scurry off. haha I like my peace and quiet too, buddy.

After the zoo, we took a train ride across the park and walked across the Centennial Gardens towards the Health and Science Museum.

It was a neat cross between a children’s museum and a science museum… very interactive stations and fun life-size exhibits like the colon you could climb through.

Kegan revisited his childhood and did the PE Class bar hang. He made it over a minute…but this was the last photo I captured at 49 seconds… can’t post it without giving him his full credit! ha

Norah got to touch pig lungs and a pig heart. The lungs were healthy lungs, then smoker’s lungs with a tumor. Cool display, but all I could think about is how did we give a pig lung cancer and smoker’s lungs? I probably don’t want to know…

Lastly was Norah’s highlight of the day, we got to go into the CellLab and run experiments. Norah selected extracting DNA from Wheat Germ… and Blood Typing.

I think we may have found something Norah really likes to do… follow instructions in a lab. ha She was VERY into doing everything exactly right… keeping samples separate and seeing the end result.

The funny thing about the blood samples… Patient 1 was O+ (Kegan’s blood type), Patient 2 was AB- (My blood type) and Patient 3 was A+ (Norah’s blood type)! We thought that coincidence was pretty cool.

After the lab, Norah got to see an iron lung! She had been wanting to see one for years. We found a medical museum in Iowa last year that had one on display but the lady at the front wouldn’t let us go see it because we weren’t visiting a patient and they still had covid restriction policies in place.

Our last stop of the night was at the Museum of Fine Arts. Thursdays the museums are open until 9pm…so I scheduled this full museum day to take advantage of that. We started in the Cullen sculpture gardens and by getting Norah some pizza in the cafe. We were still full from Dim Sum at 5pm and didn’t really want to consider dinner.

The museum was HUGE and consisted of at least 3 full multi-floor buildings.. but a few captures that were my favorites:

There was a special exhibit by an artist named Kehinde Wiley that had very vibrant gigantic murals. Kegan and I both found them very intriguing.

A punch dagger in the middle eastern exhibits

An elephant ceremonial headpiece from Cameroon

This painting that just really captured the eerie reds of a giant fire.

This Norwegian silver serving platter with real ivory walrus tusk and green gems.

and lastly… this weird painting, that has to be the weirdest thing I’ve seen I’ve seen in an art museum. It has such a Salvador Dali surrealism to it… but it was painted in the late 1400s or early 1500s!

The closer you look, the weirder it gets. It is supposed to be scene depicting Saint Christopher Carrying the Christ Child Through a Sinful World. But the “sin” came from a very weird mind. ha

Very rarely have I ever wanted to take a painting home from an art museum.. but this one I would have carried off and hung proudly above my fireplace haha

After the art museum we had an Escape room booked at Escape Hunt Houston. We booked the Emperor’s Jewels since we had never done a samurai or Japanese themed room. We escaped quickly, 30 minutes or so… overall it was a fairly simple room but fun!

On the way to the hotel, we hit Walmart to replace my headlight since it burned out and Kegan is awesome and can just replace things like that in 5 minutes lol. Then we ordered Jack In the Box since it was 10pm and Norah had never had it and had declared it a “must do” on the trip. haha She reported that it was very good and definitely worth it.