Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hardison's Houston Visit and House Upgrades!

Matthew's parents came to visit us last weekend here in Houston!  It was nice having people to show around our new town!  We (or should I say David and Sandra) spent most of the weekend doing various home improvement projects.  Incredibly awesome to get some more things done around here!  Since I've started work, M and I have been so busy during the week, we haven't had the time to tackle our growing house "to do" list. 

Project #1.  Finally recovering our kitchen table chairs!  I've been wanting to do this since we lived in Bham! We got a great deal on the fabric at Joann's.


Project #2- Fixing our garage door!  It is now functioning properly!  Thankfully our cars don't have to sit out in the sweltering heat anymore!
Project #3- Repainting our bedroom furniture.  M bought this furniture 5 years ago when he first moved to Bham.  Needless to say, I wasn't too attached to the "manly" look of them... Leather hardware involved...  So we decided to paint them and put on new hardware.  David did all the work! I picked an antique white paint color. 

Project #4-  Teach Andrea to sew!  Success!  I have been intimated by sewing for years.  I finally took the plunge and bought a sewing machine.  Since, we had leftover fabric from the chairs, Sandra and I made pillows!  Sandra was a very patient teacher.... I didn't catch on too quickly!  Unfortunately the fabric for my curtains for the kitchen hasn't come in yet... We'll see how I do on making those on my own!

Saturday night we went out to eat for an early celebration for M's birthday.  We went to a 5 star restaurant in Houston called Mike's American cuisine.  Food was exceptional.

Finished project!  Having them dry a little longer before putting them back in our room.

Sunday afternoon we took them to the Natural Science Museum in the Museum District downtown. 

Now for some before an after photos of our bedroom.  A long time ago, I posted about how M and I were going to use an antique door as a headboard.  Well it's finally done!

Before picture of the furniture and bed.  I left it unmade cause I figured it would make it look more sad :)

I started out by washing the door with a solution of soap and a little bleach. 

After 4-5 hours and 6 trips to Home Depot, M finally got it hung on the wall.  Let's just say, there's no way this thing is coming down for the 3 years we'll be here!

And now After!  We bought risers for the bed too.  We didn't like being so close to the ground.  Matthew's old bed is currently in our "catch-all room".  It's possible we may have it set up with mattresses before my parents get here... but not likely!  No worries, there's another guest room down the hall..fully furnished!

The room still isn't completely finished.  We only have a few things hung, need curtains, etc... we eventually want to put a chair in the corner as well. 

But seriously... how good does the furniture look?  Thanks David!  Way to be a professional painter!

Friday, July 15, 2011


It's possible that some anonymous readers of this blog could be wondering how in the world we ended up in Texas.  It's more likely that I don't have any anonymous readers, but I feel that for myself and for the future book form that this blog will eventually be converted to, I should revisit how we got from Alabama to Texas... Sit back, it's sort of a long story.

Towards the end of Matthew's last year of grad school, we started contemplating what our next move would be.  In theory, we wanted to end up back towards "home"- being the Nashville/TN/KY area....  Sidebar: God sure does have a sense of humor.  Through a contact at Vanderbilt, Matthew became very interested in this program/fellowship called Molecular Genetics.  After some research, M decided to apply to various programs that offered this fellowship, but we had no idea what to expect, because this field is a COMPLETE departure from what he has been doing for the last 4-5 years.  Through all the applications, he found out that Vanderbilt, Spokane, WA, Baylor (in Houston), and Harvard wanted to interview him for the position. 

His Harvard interview was first.  I blogged about this trip a long time ago.... We absolutely LOVED Boston.  I remember walking through the streets of Brookline Village and saying, "If they offer you a spot, we are definitely coming here".... Oh the irony. :)  He loved the program....and again, Boston was amazing. 

His second interview was at Vandy.  He liked it, but didn't love it like he had loved Harvard.  So we began conversations of, "If they both say yes, how would we turn down moving close to family/friends to move far away", to the next day, "How could we turn Harvard down to move to Nashville?". 

A week or two after his Vanderbilt interview, he got a call from the head of the program there.  She was personally calling him to inform him that they had decided to go with someone else for the spot.  Up until that point we didn't know if they were only going to be taking one person, but that ended up being the case.  She wanted to let him know because she thought he had been an excellent candidate, and she felt he deserved to hear it from her and not from an impersonal letter in the mail.  To say we were bummed would be an understatement.  We felt like if Vanderbilt was saying no, surely Harvard would say no.... not to mention we were heartbroken over the realization that moving "home" was not in the cards.. for now. 

A couple of days after the bad news, I am being shaken awake by M.  Harvard had called and left a voice-mail... they said yes.   How you can go from extreme sadness to utter excitement in such little a time is pretty amazing.  We were ecstatic.  We spent the next few days looking at apartments on-line, job openings for me.  As far as we were concerned, we were moving to Boston. 

His last interview was at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.  He almost cancelled the interview, because at the time, we didn't want to move to Texas, and Harvard had said yes.  But, Baylor had already paid for the flight, so we decided he might as well go.  Once there, Matthew loved it.  The program was fantastic, he loved the facility where the department was located, he was awe-struck by the amount of funding/money available...and on top of that, they would allow him to do a dual fellowship in Biochemical Genetics after he completed the Molecular portion.  He came home speaking of how impressed he was by everything he saw.... One problem, Harvard wanted an answer, and Baylor was a week or two away from making any final decisions.

Through Divine Providence, the lady at Harvard agreed to give M more time to make his decision.  So we waited... and waited to hear from Baylor.  Matthew even called the head of the program at Baylor to explain that Harvard was waiting to hear from us.  Even at this point, if Baylor said yes, we still didn't know which to choose, we just wanted to know all of our options.  A few days later, Baylor calls, and it's a yes.  Now the decision-making really began.

How do you choose between 2 really great programs?  Through talks with the head of this particular program at UAB, Baylor's program was better, they were offering a dual certification, but how do you say no to Harvard?  It was also essentially choosing between 2 different lifestyles: apartment-living vs. house-buying, public transportation vs. 2 car driving, small to non-existent churches to big church family, Democrats vs. Republicans (ok, not really, but seriously how different could Massachusetts and Texas be?!)

We were torn.  We had our families/friends praying fervently that God would lead us to the right decision.  But we almost felt like we couldn't make a bad choice.  We were still undecided the day before we were to make our final call.  The night before, I told Matthew that I was ok with either choice, and that I felt that as the leader of our family he needed to make the decision.  I would be supportive either way....after all, it was his career in the first place :) Matthew spent most of the night downstairs in the den praying, and the next morning he earnestly explained that he felt God was leading us to Houston, he knew that at the beginning it was not our first choice, but that he was positively sure that this was the right decision.....  So here we are..  Loving it so far!

I'm sorry Boston.  Maybe we will buy a second home off the Cape sometime down the road :) ha. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday"

We're 2 1/2 weeks in to our Houston adventure, and it seems more like 10.  We were so blessed to be thrown not 1 but 3 going away parties before we left Bham!  Here are the pictures to recap:

Our first going away party was at Amit and Shilpa's house.  It was the "lab party".  All of the PhD's, MD's, medical students, grad students, post-docs, etc... that work(ed) or were affiliated somehow with Matthew's lab.  Amit and Shilpa had catered authentic Indian food, and it was incredible!  

Old Roomies

Love me some Shawn!

For so long it was just us 3!

Going away presents.

Doctors Brown and Wells...or Mike & Mikes :)



They framed Matthew's first paper and had everyone in the lab sign it!

Thank you Amit and Shilpa!

 "The" Ed and Shawn

Katherine and baby Samuel

The night after the lab party, we had dinner at Ed and Shawn's.  Shawn made our absolute favorite meal he's ever made: prime rib (roasted for hours!), potato gratin, English popovers, and asparagus.

Ed and his favorite grad student.

Backyard renovation!  It's more gorgeous in person!

The view from their new deck.

Slow roasted to perfection.

Here it is in all it's glory.

The night after our 5 star meal at Ed and Shawn's, we had our church going-away party thrown by the Newtons, Bootons, Guesses, Harrises, and Elliotts.  Due to our move to the Wild West, our theme for the party was "Cowboy". 

SID brothers :)

Cupcakes made to look like the Alabama State flag... too cute!

Our favorite toddler.. T-Bone! (Thomas)

HBH and Stonewall

Sweet Cara

We love the Elliotts!

The Ashley's

Our Lextown buddies, the Newtons... and Baby Newton #2 on the way!
Anyone who knows us knows that our FAVORITE restaurant in Birmingham is Chez Fonfon.  It is owned by Frank Stitt (a James Beard Award winner), a famous chef who is the owner of Highlands Bar and Grill (voted top 5 restaurants in the U.S... and it deserves it!), Bottega, and Chez Fonfon.  Our friends in Birmingham have heard us incessantly talk about our obsession with Frank Stitt, so they surprised us with his cookbook and had signed it with sweet notes throughout the pages.  Something we will hold dear for years to come.

It's hard to sum up 3  (5 for Matthew) years in one post.  As you can tell from the pictures above, it was very hard to leave a place where we felt so loved.  We really began to view Birmingham as our true home, and we are so glad that the Magic City was where our marriage began. We miss our friends everyday, but we know that we will share many more life events with them! While we may not physically be there, they will never be far from our hearts and minds,  because thanks to Lynyrd Skynyrd it may be years before M and I hear the lyrics to "Sweet Home Alabama" without a little mist in the eyes :)