Clouds and Leaves

As I drove home from work today, the clouds were pretty thick, but every once in a while a ray of sunlight would peak through and illuminate the sky.  When I turned into my neighborhood, one little sunbeam hit a tree full of yellow leaves bringing out glorious oranges and mustardy yellows.  Wishing I had my camera with me, I drove the rest of the way home to grab my little picture-taker, intending to run down the street to take a few photos, but was surprised to find the same type of tree sat peacefully in my own front yard covered with the yellow, orange and green leaves.

Forgetting the mountains of baked goods gifted to me by loving colleagues and students, I ran inside to grab my camera and had about five minutes of sunset left and got some shots of the tree in my front yard and some roses in the back.  What a beautiful sunset to close out the last day before winter break.

My tree I didn’t realize I had until today:

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And, some close-ups of the leaves:

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The neighbor’s roses sliding over the fence:

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New House Photos

Well, school started in August and I feel like I have only  had my head in lesson planning, grading and teaching.  Oh yeah, and I looked up for a moment when Peter and I bought a house in October.  It happened so fast, and I still can’t believe we are homeowners. We moved in on October 25 and have spent the last month getting unpacked and getting everything set up on evenings and weekends.

We are so grateful for this great house God provided for us and look forward to many years of memories in it.

Here are some photos.  It’s been rainy and/or overcast for the last few days, so we don’t have any exterior photos yet.  I’ll be on it!

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Lauren’s Visit Part I: Austin

So many of my new friends in Victoria have told me that I would love Austin because it is so different from any other city in Texas. Boy, were they right! Though it is still very hot and humid, Austin has a refreshing hipster vibe reminiscent of downtown Fullerton or Whittier in California. I really did like Austin and can’t wait to go find a reason to come back.

When my awesome sister Lauren came to visit me in mid July, Austin was definitely on our list of places to explore. Our adventure took us to Zilker Park in where we toured the Botanical Gardens, swam in the Barton Springs Pool and had dinner at Buenos Aires Café.

The botanical gardens were beautiful and lush, a refreshing blend of foliage, softly flowing water and naturally placed wood and stone walkways. The gardens also housed historical reproductions of building originally built by a group of Swedish settlers. It surprises me how diverse and long the history of Texas is, stretching back four hundred years.

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Unfortunately, we only lasted about half an hour in the botanical gardens because we felt like we might melt if we stayed in the sun any longer. So, we headed across the street to Barton Springs Pool to cool off. Lauren lives in Chico, California where they have a great little dammed up river where people go swimming called “One Mile.” My dad began taking us there over twenty years ago when we visited our grandparents (who also live in Chico). So, Lauren and I thought Barton Springs Pool would be somewhat similar to One Mile, but when we arrived, we realized it was at least five times as big and much, much colder! We set down our stuff and eased into the chilly pool; it felt so good after the heat of standing outside in the afternoon.

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After sufficiently cooling off, we headed over to a paleo-friendly restaurant over on 6th street, Buenos Aires Café. We shared an arugula and artichoke appetizer, which contrasted nicely with a glass of their house Sangria, and a beautiful strip steak, medium, with an extra spicy chimichurri sauce. We ended with a leisurely walk down 6th Street noticing a the striking old and new aesthetic of construction- beautiful new retro buildings standing next to an old Victorian or craftsman- that I realized I really miss seeing.

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Overall, a great day spent with my sister 🙂

Hello, California! I missed you!

We visited our family and friends in California June 10-25 and had a wonderful time connecting with everyone!  Here are some highlights:

My Nephew Sean’s Preschool Graduation

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Playing Miniature Golf with Alyssa

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Falther’s Day at Crystal Cove with Lauren (she’s so photogenic, isn’t she?) and My Dad

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A Nice Walk Through the CSUF Arboretum with My Mom

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Visiting Peter’s Brother Steve’s Family- Dana, Isabella and Sam, who drove from Visalia, CA to meet us halfway in Santa Clarita

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Visiting Carpinteria State Beach on the Way Home from Visiting Grandma Bromiley

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Eating at Black’s Barbeque on the Way to the Austin Airport: Yes, Peter at that whole Beef Rib!

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Visiting Claro’s, my favorite little Italian market, with my Mom and Alyssa.

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I was able to visit the school I used to work at, Segerstrom High School, and even participate in graduation!  After three and half years teaching the same group of students in a Seminar class, they finally graduated.  I surprised them by showing up and reading their names for graduation.  It was wonderful to see 33 of the original 35 graduate (the other 2 transfered schools their junior year).  They all gave me this lovely bouquet of flowers to say thank-you.  What awesome students!

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Eating at In-n-Out, the place we met in 2007!

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Riverside Park in the Evening

We are big fans of leisurly walks, especially in the evening whe the temperature drops a little, making the sticky combination of humidity and sweat more effective at cooling us down.

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Riverside Park follows the Guadalupe River for a little over a mile and is home to the zoo, a golf corse, an abandoned dog race track (I think that’s what is) and the nicest restaurant in town, The Pumphouse.  There are many places to have a picnic and a few playgrounds for kids, too.  On Saturday evening, Peter took me on a date to get some BBQ at Uncle Mutts (we decided to never eat there again…different story), and then for a little walk around the pond and river at sunset.

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All the animals come out at dusk.  The symphony of insects chirping to eachother, birds darting from branch to branch, frogs, turtles and geese all come alive as the sun goes down.

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The above bird is a yellow crown night heron.  Having a biology professor husband is like having my  own personal naturalist to answer or look up all of my queries.  Peter pulls out his copy of Birds of North America every time we get home from the park or a day trip to figure out what kind of birds we saw.  When we go to the park during the day, I usually see a pretty little red bird called a summer tanager, which looks like this, but I haven’t been able to snap a photo of the one in the wild.

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These larvae entwined in spiderweb made Peter smile.  Apparently, the larvae, which would become some type of insect, were building a nest over a spider’s web.

While studying the larvae, we stumbled upon one of the only type of insect that are acceptable to me: fireflies.  Peter had told me a few years ago that the two scientific phenomena he really wanted to see are the northern lights and fireflies.  We decided that we would have to take trip both to northern Canada for the first and to Louisiana or some other swampy place in order to see the second.  Now that we live in beautiful, humid Victoria, we can see fireflies just a mile from our apartment.

Fireflies look like a split-second of a lit match.  During early twighlight, the lights are a yellow-orange color, but as the sun completely disappears, the lights transition to a soft green glow.  We’re not sure if it’s just the way we can see the light or if the two colors come from different species of fireflies.

While walking along the river bank we witnessed a firefly casual encounter just before sunset.  One firefly flashed his orangy light, another nearby firefly flashed right back.  In one quick motion, the second firefly flew over and landed on the first one’s back and they flew off together in a blaze of flashy lights.  Peter told me that the firefly flashing is a way to attract mates, so he was pretty sure we just witnessed their courtship.

Even trying to use the video feature on my camera, I couldn’t get a good picture of the fireflies.  They flash their glowy orange or green for only a fraction of a second.  I’ll keep trying and put up photos if I’m lucky enough to catch the fireflies with my camera.

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We ended our walk overlooking the Guadalupe river as the sun slowly set.  With no mountains or even small hills around for miles, the sun sets peacefully over Victoria, creating a softer and softer glow on the river, grass and trees, echoing the the rhythms of life here: leisurely winding down the day.

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A Drive North

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I had to drive north a few months ago to get my fingerprints taken in La Grange, Texas. The Victoria branch of FAST (the fingerprinting agency) was down for a few weeks, and I needed my fingerprints taken immediately, so I found the next closest branch- in La Grange, about 70 miles away.

Getting out of Victoria is easy as there is only one main road running north and south, and as soon as I got a little bit outside of town, farms began to appear. Quaint little farms of country lore. Farm houses set deep into the crevices barely visible from the road. Ponds and barns set beside vast grazing acreage. Cattle standing, walking around, eating from the clover grass, laying in the shade. And everything was that soft grassy green or deep-hen house-red. Like I was driving into a nostalgic memory of the midwest as remembered by previous generations. This tranquil scenery lasted for almost an hour before I approached the cities of Hallettesville, an older home to businesses supporting the local farming industry, Schulenburg, a city known for dairy, and La Grange, a hip, small town where I saw a cafe, something I hadn’t seen since my move to Texas.

I had heard about people taking a “country drive,” but like a true southern Californian at heart, I see driving as mostly utilitarian, getting to where I need to be. After sitting in Orange Country traffic for 45 minutes to an hour coming home from work each day, I don’t see any fun in taking a drive. So I dismissed the idea of a “country drive” as redneck practice that used up valuable gasoline and time. This all changed the day I drove to La Grange, when I just go to soak up the scenery, driving at my own pace with almost no contact with other drivers. So peaceful, so calming, so bucolic. A novel should be set there.

Since my first trip to La Grange in early March, I have been looking for a reason to drive up in that direction again. I had been reading about the health benefits of raw milk recently, and decided I needed it to procure it for myself. This presented me with the option to drive 60 miles south to Seguin to purchase $10/gallon raw milk or travel 62 miles north again to Moulton (just south of Shulenburg) to for $5.50/gallon raw milk. No brainer: I drove to Moulton to the Four E Dairy on Thursday, where I was able to see the scenery from my previous drive, but also experience the softly rolling hills of the farm roads. Farm roads don’t even have names, just numbers. No sidewalks or lanes, just miles and acres of corn fields, pastures, ponds, barns, country homes, grass, sky, clouds and cattle. I’m just in awe of the endlessness of the land surrounding me.

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I paid for my milk and took the scenery in as I drove back and began to realize I was experiencing pleasure from driving as I had never before done. For that moment, time and space ceased to exist; there was only me and the the farm country surrounding the road. What a beautiful gift God gave me, especially reminding me “a heart at peace gives life to the body. . .” (Proverbs 14:30). My heart was at peace. I didn’t expect it, especially not while driving, an activity that used to bring me so much stress. Truly, God restores us with the great beauty he created in nature.

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Though you can’t tell from the picture, it’s raining. A rain shower if I ever experienced one! I wish I had taken more pictures.

Where is Victoria?

South of Houston, north of Corpus Christi, southeast of San Antonio, southeast of Austin, Victoria is the “crossroads” of South Texas.

Victoria is a small city around with a population of about 62,000. The southwest end of Victoria is more of a historical area and the north end has more recent construction.  Every part of Victoria is flat; there are no hills or mountains anywhere.  Looking off into the distance over the road or a field seems like the earth just stops at  a certain point.  As Peter pointed out, the biggest structures around are buildings.  There are many some trees, especially lining the back roads on the southeast end of town.

We see some wildlife: many birds and lizards.  We even saw a deer at Riverside Park one day.

I have driven to Houston three times–twice to the airport, and all three times have been surprised at how far it is.  On the map, there is very little in terms of cities or towns between Victoria and Houston which makes me think they are should be closer together.  So far, Victoria to Houston has been a long, boring drive.   I look forward to driving to Austin and San Antonio this summer which is (slightly) closer.