Monday, April 10, 2017

Adventures in Houston

If you are a lover of the outdoors, and enjoy interacting with animals.. then the Bayou Wildlife Zoo is the place to go. From 2 year olds to 99 year olds, this is a place that is bound to please. When you drive up to the entrance, you should buy some food at the stall there to offer to the animals. We went in March of 2017 and you could buy a box of food for $1.50. A worthy investment I promise.



 As you drive in slowly, the ostrich, emu's and llamas, as if on cue, will start walking toward your car hoping to get you to give them all your food. Feed them a little bit and resist the urge to offer all the food right there to them as there are so many more animals to interact with and feed so pace yourself! Bring a picnic with you, so you can grab a quick lunch in between the tram tours. If you have kids they will love it ... and if its just you... you will love it. Yes, you are welcome!

My daughters visit every six months from college which is really when we get a chance to explore the many treasures that Houston offers. We found another nugget that we were blown away by

The Natural Bridge Caverns are a sight to behold. There are plenty of different tours to choose from depending on how long and what intensity you are looking for, but whichever one you choose...it is beautiful




it is humbling and awe inspiring at the same time. An amateur photographer's dream. At one point they take you 180 feet below the ground and you get to truly experience what pitch black actually means. You LITERALLY cannot see your hand in front of your face no matter how hard you try. The tour guides are knowledgeable and make the information interesting and entertaining.

Those of you who know me, know how much I love the arts. We had a treat this year as Stomp finally visited Houston. If you have not experienced them yet.... do yourself a favour.. find out where they are performing and try and catch a show


The video clip above does not do it justice, but gives you an idea of what to expect. My darling husband who is NOT a theatre fan, absolutely loved this show and was blown away. Another gem to be experienced for sure!

The museum of Fine Arts, Houston is absolutely fabulous. If you can afford it and like to go often, its worth getting a membership. Otherwise, keep checking on their website to see what exhibitions they have going on currently. Right now, till August 13 2017, they have Ron Mueck's work which is unbelievable and a MUST SEE.


His life size sculptures are so detailed down to the hair on the arms and legs. He usually takes  a year on average to create each piece that he has made. The museum has on display 13 of his pieces and of course there are other works of art on display as well

I continue to discover and explore as I get time. If you have discovered something that is worth sharing, please do write to ayeshahalam@yahoo.com. I look forward to discovering and exploring your travels too!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

IS 2016 over already????

I have been meaning to come back to my blog for a while...but everytime I think about what I want to write... life gets in the way and here I am ... August 2016 and half the year is over already. Life is trundling along as it does, but you are not here to read about that. What new interesting stuff have I done in Houston? Ah, I wish I could say I lead an exciting life... I don't... its pretty banal actually... but we do find time to have fun every now and then. One of my noteworthy excursions was to a wolf sanctuary ... apparently the only one of its kind in Texas. Its pretty amazing how these people rescue these animals and look after them. Some of the wolf dogs are a little socialized too, and one even gets the chance to pet them. I am an avid animal lover so this was a treat for me. If you are looking to experience something different, then you definitely want to check out Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary . Everyone there is doing an awesome job, call them.. book a tour. They don't charge anything per se but they have a suggested donation. Its worth supporting such a wonderful cause. This is one of last havens for these wolves. 



I think those of you who have been following my work know that I have leanings toward standup comedy. Maz Jobrani still remains a firm favourite, but we were treated to Jeff Dunham coming in to Austin for a show. Now Austin is a mere 2 hours something away from us... and it was worth the drive up to see him perform. And he did not disappoint! I almost gave myself an asthma attack laughing so hard. I love that as Texans, (Yes I am starting to consider myself a Texan now) we get the opportunity to see many of the artists I love perform. Houston... Texas is quite the hub as I am discovering!


I love the outdoors. And this year in the summer, we went to visit my brother again in South Carolina. He is quite the outdoor buff and though we didn't really get a chance to do too much together, I did have my youngest with me and we decided to try zip lining for the first time. Now, don't get me wrong, as much as I have a penchant for putting myself in the line of death and destruction, this has been on my bucket list for a while... but yes... I was scared. Shitless if I am to be honest. But zip line we did... and the first step was the hardest... which was climbing up 100 ft of stairs..one would think an elevator could be invested in... but I dragged my sad body up to the top.. and by the time I finally arrived... panting and heaving... my youngest was already soaring off ahead of me... oblivious to the near death experience I was about to have. When you are up there... oh so high... for a second... one thinks about allowing total humiliation and turning tail and running back down the stairs... but the image of my daughter Aly's smug face in my mind... kept me going on. I will do this... and at the first lift off... I swear I physically felt my heart try to jump out through my mouth. But once the first few seconds of fear are conquered... and you relax... I have to admit.. it is fun!!! But be careful where you go to zip line. You want to check their records to make sure they are regularly doing safety checks. Just as a precaution!

If you are feeling so inclined and are in the Carolinas... there are other spaces out there but I like to write about what I know... check out the US National Whitewater Center. Apparently the Olympic team used to train there but not any longer. They have rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, zip lining... prepare to be exhausted


We went kayaking as well. Clearly I had a strange notion I had the same amount of energy as my 18 year old... which much to her amusement I discovered I didn't. So after kayaking I called it a day. She however did do some rock climbing. Humph.. whatever.


After all this excitement, its only fitting that one should take a breather and we tried. Then my elder daughter Rachel came to visit, and since its summer in Texas... translation... BLOODY HOT... water sports seemed to be the logical activity to pursue. So we found a place to go water boarding... not too far out from Houston... The place for that is  Hangar 9. People are awesome there.. there are picnic tables for those of you who don't want to venture into the water... just bring your food and plenty of water...and remember to take your trash back with you or dispose of it properly


Another wonderful summer activity is a visit to some of the beautiful water holes. My personal favourite so far is Jacob's Well. The water is ICE cold and clean and clear absolutely beautiful. You do need to make reservations online before heading out... so make sure you do so. Be careful jumping in, as there have been a few fatalities there due to carelessness...so be warned


The picture above is very serene but in the summer...there are quite a few visitors... but its a fun place to be at.. alcoholic beverages are NOT allowed here. Well aside from our own shenanigans, work and a summer full of visiting friends kept me very busy but I hope I have made up for my absence with a lot of info on fun stuff to do in Houston. Hasta La Vista!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Diversity of Houston

I am so impressed by the diversity of Houston. Its a huge city and like New York.. a tremendous melting pot of all kinds of cultures, languages and cuisine. Apart from that, there is so much to do, if one ventures out to explore. I have been fortunate enough to carve out some time to get out there and do some fun stuff! Some of it is off the beaten path kind of activities, which are the kind I enjoy more :) Some may not be to normal people's taste... I never claimed to be normal or have normal taste, so...




If you are looking for something diferent to do, try out the Zombie Escape Room Houston if you are looking for an evening of fun and hysterical laughter. NO, you won't get eaten up... it will be very hot,  so dress appropriately.. go with a group of friends and it will be an evening you will remember!!

You must have heard of the Cirque Du Soleil. Guess what? They come to Houston around once a year!!! and my oh my.... its worth the ticket price. If you are tech savvy.. go sign  up on Goldstar or download the app. You can find some great deals on tickets with them from time to time!  My husband is not one who is big on the performing arts, but absolutely fell in love with this group


if you want to look at a stunning video of a portion of the performance.. take a look at my instagram post here

If you enjoy stand up comedy... Houston has its own comedy club. We usually go to watch Maz Jobrani as he visits at least once a year. If you want to know when he will be here next... you can subscribe to his website and get updates on his tours


Well that's my update on my Houston life so far!! If you have any suggestions as to fun stuff one can try out... Please let me know....and if you are new and I was able to enlighten you... fantastic!! 


Monday, March 14, 2016

Slowly Edging My Way Back In....

So... as some of you may know... though not necessarily care.... I took a hiatus from everything. Stopped writing.... basically disappeared. Much of it was due to getting used to my new life here in America. Its amazing how work can take over every aspect of one's life. I would have to say the first two years of my life here in Houston, were probably one of the hardest times of my life. Happily, we got through it and aside from the few cursory hiccups that life throws our way... things are much better. 



My eldest daughter is at college in London, the 2nd one is at Stony Brook and youngest is getting ready to take off as well. Now that I am starting to get a grip on what my life is really going to be looking like, I feel like I want to go back to exploring my creative side. I even auditioned for  a community theatre group, and started rehearsals. Except, I realized I don't have the energy I used to have ... had to bow out regretfully because of time and energy constraints. To be fair, the rehearsals were way too far to follow up with every day and may still try and find something closer to home :) But if you are in Houston... go check this play out. The tickets are reasonably priced and its a very well written play. 



Now I am helping a friend launch his clothing line by the name of Razail. Looking forward to seeing our idea come to fruition and then may even delve back into theatre. I miss it. I know I have always loved the performing arts and now that I have taken such a long break... its as if my soul craves it. Lets see what opportunities come my way and what wonderful people I come across as we all meander about our journey of life. It's past midnight, and perhaps time to get some rest before I get sucked back in to the practicalities of life

Monday, January 6, 2014

What A new Beginning Really Means... IN Houston... For ME

Well, so far living the American dream so to speak means going to work, coming home, collapsing in exhaustion and waking up the next day to repeat. In that order. I recently decided it was time to make some more friends. and so discovered this blog for expats


Expat in Houston

So will be exploring that now... hopefully that should render some fun people I can hang out with. Not to say I haven't found them... There are a few Pakistani friends I have reconnected with here in Houston and I am thankful for that. We even had a girls night out the other day which culminated in all of us hanging out in my friend's car towards the end.. as she had a flat tire.. but I digress... 


The other day I was craving Vietnamese food.. so I decided to try out this restaurant and I think I hit the jackpot. I discovered a place... that was of course pricey compared to what we are used to paying for Vietnamese food... but it was delicious and authentic.. heck of a lot better than Pho Saigon


Its located on 10830 Bellair Blvd in Houston... and yes.. this is where I will be going when I am craving Vietnamese food... I am hoping to discover another once closer to where I live.. will keep you guys posted on that

Another wonderful discovery I made is a wine lounge. Great ambience and quite a selection of wines. This is The Cellar Door in Katy and definitely a great place to hang out with friends.


The other day when I was at work I had a hankering for Turkish food..and found this little tiny space that has the best Baklava I have had in a really long time. It was sooo good that I bought a whole bunch to take back to share with my colleagues at work. But they do all kinds of food which was pretty good.. have to say I was quite impressed. This place is called Ephesus Mediterranean Grill. YUM



In case you think that all I do is stuff my face all day... I actually ventured out to watch a theatre presentation. So it was free for people to come watch and done in this very interesting art space. Everyone was plied with wine if they wanted as they watched. It was more of a reading as the actors were reading from scripts but I just loved how deconstructed everything was. Held in this very different theatre space .. I thought it was a brilliant idea.. you guys must check out The Obsidian Art Space



And before I leave you I have one more eating space to share with you. My friends know how much I love sushi.. found a great place.. its a chain... but great food.. Sushihana


Definitely worth going to. Well that's it for now from me. If any of you have any suggestions of places I should try... please do let me know... till next time..!!




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

For Pakistanis moving to Houston... don't worry! Its another Karachi!

There is such a huge Pakistani community here it is not even funny. And you will find all kinds of Pakistanis. Generally hard working people who have come here to make a better life for themselves. I don't really miss Pakistani food much as I can find just about anything here. If you have a hankering for Halwa Puri or samosas or even bun kebab... Bismillah Cafe in Hillcroft is where you want to head off to


I love my gannay ka rus (sugarcane juice) and we have an Agha's juice right here in Houston... Sugarland... They do kulfi's... mango shakes.. I did try their chiku shakes... but nah.... didn't quite cut it... their kulfis are amazing though :) Not to be linked with the Agha Juice in Karachi.. apparently no relation whatsoever. In Ramazan .. you can see many Pakistanis outside after Iftari hanging out.. its almost like walking down Boat Basin


A place I have been told so much about and really need to get down to is the Hong Kong Food market. If you have a hankering for anything to do with food from the far East... here is where you will find it. Some excellent Vietnamese restaurants are rumoured to be here by Bellaire which I plan to explore at some point. 


Tomorrow I take off for my road trip. Having Thanksgiving with a some friends in Dallas. I was supposed to leave today but it was freezing weather and raining and after watching tv for a few minutes (not FOX) and watching how many accidents were piling up on the highway due to the sleet.. I decided to hide away in my warm apartment and set off tomorrow as that is when the sun is threatening to show up again. Finally in my own apartment... a tiny little place..but enough for me at the moment... absolutely no furniture except for a mattress and a sofa bed incase I have friends who want to come over and crash... reminds me of my earlier single days when I was just starting out in Karachi at the age of 19. I remember my apartment ... didn't even have fans... and I was on the top floor. But what an adventure that was... I wouldn't change a thing as I learned the value of working hard for everything one got. 

Living in America is teaching me a lot too. Learning how to do a lot of stuff on my own that one would never do living in Pakistan or Vietnam. Like how to get my curtains up. Step 1. learn how to use a drill! Or have a friend who does. I thankfully have the latter... so for the moment won't need to learn how to put stuff up! 


Thank God for dishwashers!! That certainly does make life a lot easier. That is one thing the Americans have mastered... how to make life easier and more time efficient!! I am now toying with the idea of going to college and taking a course in something I enjoy doing. Either Baking or cooking for a restaurant. Maybe one day I will finally open up a cafe like I have been dreaming of doing for so long. One thing is for sure.. now that I have a little more time on my hands... I would like to take on another dream and see if I can make it happen. Having said that... still have not made my film which I wanted to get done by now... but then again... you never know! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Getting To Know My Way Around

Well...its been almost 3 months since I made Houston my new home. I have to admit when I first moved here... my spirit felt crushed! Coming from the East Coast... Houston seems more like Dubai with lots of flat spaces and not much greenery. In fact Dubai is prettier because they have made some effort into beautifying their city. But Houston is a city that grows on you.

First order of business is trying to find a hair stylist. Now if you remember I had similar struggles in Vietnam till I finally found Cindy. I imagine this will be an eternal struggle no matter where I go. So I can tell you first where not to go. 


So don't get fooled by the celebrity endorsements. Yes you can buy all kinds of products there.... yes they have a little salon at the back of the store (should have been my first red flag) but their stylists there have no idea what they are doing. So I went in to get my roots done... (yes I am vain and getting old... two terrible combinations) and the lady nodded profusely like she understood completely what I wanted. Next thing I knew... my colour went from a mouse brown to a dark brown. I started to look kind of like Morticia Adams from the Adams Family



When I asked her to blowdry my hair... I felt lucky to get out of there with my hair still intact on my head. I personally suspect the lady was trying to make a new wig for herself and was using unsuspecting clients for their hair in order to get it done. I gingerly asked her if I could get someone else to do the blowdry... at which she snapped at me and told me to sit still... my hair is just crazy and behaving badly and that's why she was having a hard time


Relieved to get out of there in one piece I of course vowed to NEVER go back there and would strongly advise all my friends who are looking for a decent place to do your hair... ULTA is not the place to do that... no matter what anyone says

Next advice I got was to go to the Paul Mitchell's school. Now I have used Paul Mitchell's products. I think some of them are fantastic. So the idea of going to the school seemed like a good one. Yes they are students... and theoretically if one is working with the students who are about to graduate it should be a safe bet...? right? WRONG!!!! So If I thought I looked like Morticia before... this hopeful young thing took me from dark brown and notched it all the way up to a black!!! Again... I explained I wanted roots.. but I guess that doesn't mean enough money for them... so they just went ahead and coloured my whole head!!!!!!!! 


So .. my lovely friends.. if you are a perfectionist as far as your hair is concerned... and you are in Houston... I would advise against the Paul Mitchells school. But ... just when I was running out of hope that I would ever have a decent haircut again unless I went to Pakistan or back to Vietnam... I had a Eureka moment and pulled up reviews of salons on Yelp! and THAT is where I discovered  a hair salon that is now the only place I would go to if I need a haircut or a colour done. 


First of all the interiors are fantastic... which gave me a sense of relief as I figure... ok...so these guys do have some idea of style! Then I was introduced to Danny. I have a feeling that pretty much anyone they will introduce you to will probably know what they are doing... but I LOVED how Danny was patient through all my nervous questions... which is understandable considering my Houston experiences thus far. Finally got my colour back to almost where I wanted it to be... and he gave me a great cut too!!! So.. have finally found my salon of choice !! Word of warning: they are very expensive... so this would probably be a place I would visit once every six months... can't afford to do this every month for sure

That done... next step is to find cool things to do and places to eat at... That should be the fun part... have discovered a few places that are fast becoming my go to fav places... but will divulge those in my next post! If you know of a place or something I must check out in Houston... please feel free to comment or write me at ayeshahalam@yahoo.com. 


To PRINT