Back from Houston, heavy one Expedit bookcase

We took a short road trip this weekend to Houston, the main purpose of which was to get to IKEA to pick up our new Expedit bookcase. The gift-giver offered to have it shipped to us, but when we realized that shipping would cost more than the actual bookcase, we decided to make a little trip out of it. We also weren't 100% sure that the boxes would fit in our car, but Jack had measured, and I had enough optimism for both of us, and we had some straps to tie down the trunk in case my optimism didn't carry us through. Luckily, it did. IKEA was our last stop, though, just in case it didn't quite fit, because we didn’t want to be driving around town for a day and parking at our hotel with an open trunk.

In the spring of 2007, before Kent was born, we took our last vacation as a childless couple in Houston. We saw an Astros game, looked for a vegetarian restaurant I had found online, and spent the rest of the trip exploring. The vegetarian restaurant (which is all Asian food) and another place we randomly found for brunch were both so good that when we started planning this trip, I knew we needed to go back to both of them.

I also started trying to figure out what we'd do on Saturday afternoon when we got into town, and I found a nice-looking public park online that I thought we should check out. Hermann Park ended up being the best part of a very lovely trip; they happened to have a Japanese festival going on this weekend, so in addition to seeing the cool reflecting pool, playing on not one but *three* playgrounds, and running through the kiddie fountains, we also got to watch an amazing show of Taiko drumming by Kaminari Taiko (a local drumming group). Our trip was full of reminders about why I'd like to live in a big city, and this was a big one. The cultural exchange is so important. Also, I really *really* want to take up Taiko drumming. It's percussive, choreographed like dancing, kind of macho but musical at the same time, and looks like a fantastic workout. It's everything I need in my life right now. Maybe they'd give me lessons over Skype. Heh.

All three of us were mesmerized, Kent especially, as you can see. He was barely interested in seeing the train drive by or the other attractions at the festival once we got to a place where we could watch the drumming. Kent wants to take lessons too; he keeps remembering the experience and yelling "Guy... play... big... drum... out... SIIIIIIIIIIIDE!" at random moments. When he gets super excited, he starts flapping his arms like he's going to take off. That's how we know he's not just being fickle.

After all the fun at the park, we headed to dinner at Pepper Tree, a vegetarian Asian buffet restaurant. I remember the food from two years ago, and back then, I was more excited on Jack's behalf than I was about eating the food myself. Now that I'm more comfortable with a lot more of the things on their buffet, like sushi, tofu dishes, gyoza dumplings, and sesame desserts, I was happily satisfied, basically to the point of feeling stuffed. Kent ate a lot of lo mein noodles and a little bit of edamame, and not much else that I put on his plate until dessert rolled around, when he happily crammed a sesame ball and some coconut cake into his little mouth.

I told the proprietors several times how good everything was, and at the end, I asked one of them if I could take pictures of the buffet. The husband who owns the restaurant was talking to me afterward, and he asked whether we were from Houston. I told him no, we had come from Louisiana. He said, "Oh, I figured once you pulled out the camera that you were a tourist!" I grinned and said, "Well actually, I just like to take pictures of my food. It doesn't have anything to do with being a tourist. I take pictures of the food I cook, too." He responded, "Ah. Interesting hobby." Yep. He should see my folder on the computer of food pictures, or read my food journal.

Dinner ran a bit past Kent's bedtime, so we were glad to get him in bed when we got back to our hotel room. He slept horribly all night, probably because he's getting too long for his pack and play but we didn't have another sleeping option for him. I guess we'll need to start looking for hotels that can bring a crib into our room, since he rolls and scoots all over the room and ends up under the furniture if we just let him sleep on the floor.

On Sunday morning, we were up pretty early. Kent and I watched part of a Bollywood movie while Jack was taking a shower, and he really enjoyed the weird, melodramatic singing and dancing. Once we were all ready to check out of the hotel, we decided that we should go back to Hermann Park and ride the train that runs around the park, since we didn't have a chance to do it on Saturday. We got to be among the first people to ride the train, and Kent excitedly exclaimed "K... sit... down... TRAAAAAIIIIIN!" several times throughout the ride. After we left the park, we popped over to the Hard Rock Cafe for me to buy another couple of guitar pins for my collection, and then we headed to brunch. I was starving by then.

We were eating at Dry Creek Cafe, a restaurant we found by accident when we were driving around, lost, on our trip in 2007. It's in a sort of bohemian section of town and is a very kid-friendly and vegetarian-friendly restaurant, lots of dark wood and vintage furniture, young waitstaff in jeans and black t-shirts with interesting piercings and dyed hair, open doors with a couple of patios, and good coffee that multiple people attempt to refill for you throughout your meal. It would be a great place to go sip a beer with friends on a warm spring evening, too. Baton Rouge has some restaurants in this category, and they're some of our favorite places to eat, so we had a good time and an excellent meal.

It was finally time for the pièce de résistance, our IKEA run. Kent fell asleep about two minutes before we pulled in, so I gingerly removed him from his carseat and told him he could go back to sleep in his stroller, which he did. He *never* sleeps in his stroller, so I knew he must be pretty wiped from his sleepless night. He napped while Jack and I walked around and stuffed a few things into our yellow bag, but I think this goes on record as our shortest trip inside IKEA, ever. We were there for maybe half an hour of shopping, not counting the time it took us to take Kent to the potty afterward and then get the huge boxes into our car and pack everything else in around them. It was a magical moment when we realized everything was going to fit. Jack doesn't call me a Spatial Engineer for nothing.

The trip home seemed to take forever, even though it was the same four and a half hours of driving it had been to get there. We got home safely, got Kent to bed, pulled out our bookcase boxes to begin to assemble our cool new piece of furniture, and realized that instead of the 54 small dowels we were supposed to have, we had 53 and 1/2. For some reason, one of them was half the length of all the others. I went on their website and was able to order another one pretty easily, but it could still take a week or two to get here. Sigh. If we lived near a store, we could just go pick one up, but as it is, we have to wait for them to mail it. All of the pieces are sitting on our guest room floor right now, but we'll have it up soon enough and can start geeking out about aesthetically-pleasing home organization. I've been so inspired by all the photos people post online of what they do with their Expedits. Just searching for Expedit on Flickr yields some amazing results.

Houston is great. Really. I highly recommend it. Actually, I also highly recommend exploring a city within driving distance of you, just to get out there for a quick road trip. Even with a baby or a toddler, it can be a lot of fun.

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You have a food journal as well???

My nephew is also very fascinated by Taiko drummers. His parents take him to a concert every year--it's so cute!
Looks like a great time! If you liked those drummers, you would like the Kodo drummers: http://www.kodo.or.jp/news/index_en.html They just came to the Kimmel Center last month and we went. Very entertaining and awesome!
philly is a nice big city to live in...if you're taking suggestions
Oh, we know, diber. We figured it out right around the time we were moving away.
Never underestimate the allure of the great state capital of North Carolina.
I'm going to have to find some of those drummers. And an IKEA.
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