Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I have so many things to be thankful for: a loving family, everyone’s support, my new job, a nice home, and our many travels & experiences throughout the year. This year we traveled to: South Padre to visit Joe & Barbara’s condo (March), Riviera Maya, Mexico for our friends destination wedding which happened to also coincide with my 30th birthday (April), Las Vegas (June), our Family fishing trip at Nelson’s Resort in Minnesota/Canada (August), touring the vineyards in Napa Valley for Jay’s 35th (September), Iowa for Dr. Joe K. Moody’s distinguished faculty award ceremony (October), and a weekend trip to Austin on Jay’s actual birthday (November). Looking forward to a great holiday season with lots of dinner parties and visiting loved ones. Should be a nice wrap up to the year. Happy Holiday Season to you and yours!
It’s been a big year! I turned 30 this year and made my first big career change. After 6 years at Archiverde, I switched to Studio Outside to become a Project Leader. Studio Outside (sO) is relatively the same age as Archiverde. The main principles (Tary Arterburn, Chip Impastato, Mike Fraze, and Bill Millsap) formed sO in 2010. While based in Dallas, sO has significant commissions across Texas and the United States and significant experience in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia. The major differences between the firms is size and project type.
sO has over 40 employees and is still growing. The projects range from residential, ranches, public gardens, campuses, public parks, retail/mixed use, and subdivision/planned communities. I’ll primarily be focused in the commercial and retail/mixed use sector. A big change from high-end residential, but a welcomed new experience.
The firm itself is located at the entry gates to Fair Park in Dallas — only a 12 minute drive from my house. The office’s space was beautifully renovated to accommodate all the new hires over the past two years. The people are welcoming, smart, and focused. I would guess the average age of the employees would be around 37ish.The office has a good focus on team building by holding many social events, retreats, after hour happy hours, and volunteer opportunities.
One of the major perks of the new job is the benefits package: medical/dental/life insurances, disability, 401K, jury duty compensation, maternity/paternity leave, potential 7.5% yearly bonus, yearly continuing education stipend, holidays (with half days before all major holidays), and 3 weeks paid vacation for under 5 years and 4 weeks paid vacation for over 5 years, both with 40 hours of rollover per year. That means I could potentially have 4 weeks paid vacation starting in 2016 and 5 weeks paid vacation in 2020. Oh! and the other major perk: the office maintains a half day Friday schedule year-round: 9 hours M-R, 4 hours on Friday. Awesome!
It finally happened. 2015 is the first year I have to start my CE (continuing education). I guess it’s true, my profession is always evolving, growing, and changing… but really? I just went through a 5 year program to get my degree, a year internship, and then 3 years of professional licensing exams… only to have two years off before starting my yearly 12 hour CE requirement to renew my license (every year, BTW). It’s just… I guess I understand, it’s just frustrating.
All registrants must complete at least 12 Continuing Education Program Hours (CEPH) per calendar year. All 12 CEPH must include the study of subjects related to your profession and be pertinent to the health, safety, and welfare of the public:
- At least one of the twelve hours must be related to sustainable or energy-efficient design
- At least one of the twelve hours must be related to barrier-free design.
- At least eight of the twelve hours must be structured activities, (classroom/classroom equivalent)
- A maximum of four hours may be self-directed.
At least 4 of the hours can be self-directed. Such as, reading from books or professional magazines. Even touring and visiting buildings, historic sites or landmarks that incorporate elements of your design profession fall under self-directed study. But some activities that you would think would work, are not approved.
The other 8 hours are required to be structured classes (in a classroom or online course) — which cost money. Not only is my yearly license renewal fee $305, I have to pay for 8 hours of classes. At RedVector.com (a CE provider), they have online classes you pay for packaged or individually. The packaged Landscape Architecture 12 hour class is $377! Or you can pick and choose classes. Selecting the minimum requirements comes to about about 4 classes, totaling $288. With the cheapest option, renewing my license every year comes to about $600.
There is another option. You can go to the National (or State) Landscape Architecture Annual Meeting and EXPO. But if it’s not in the city you live, you have to factor in travel cost, lodging, and the registration fee. The Texas ASLA Meeting and Expo is coming up so I’ll use that as the example. The registration price (for early bird ASLA members) is $265. The event is in Galveston, TX, so we need transportation; flight from DFW to HOU is $220. But that’s only to Houston, so we need to rent a car for 3 days, coming to $180. Did we add the hotel yet? Additional, $226 (and that’s at the Red Roof Inn). Totaling a whopping $891 (not including food, tips, taxes/fees, entertainment, so on). And the national meeting is about double that price.
All in all it’s just expensive to be a Landscape Architect. I guess all this weeds out the people that don’t have a passion for it.
P.S. If you are just starting out like me, the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners offer a 1.5 hour course over CE Practice and Procedures for about $35. It gives a few helpful hints. For instance, 1 CEPH is a Continuing Education Program Hour. One CEPH equals a minimum of fifty (50) minutes of actual course time.
Merry Christmas everyone! Another Christmas has come and gone. This Christmas Eve, we went to the midnight candlelight service then went on a tour of christmas lights around Kessler Park, Texas and got home late. Christmas Day, we slept in late — noon to be exact. We had breakfast and started Christmas dinner. Of course, starting dinner at noon meant we were ready to eat at 8pm. After dinner — around 10pm — we started opening stockings and presents. We opened gifts, had mulled apple cider, and chatted until the wee hours of the morning!
I was in Indianapolis, Indiana over Thanksgiving this year. On a tour of the city, we went to City Center where they erect a “Christmas Tree.” Well, I use that loosely. It’s actually strung lights on the permanent Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Downtown. It’s been called the worlds largest Christmas tree — I guess largest shaped Christmas tree would be more accurate. Even the Indianaians know it and have a personalized song to the tune of the Christmas Carol “Oh Christmas Tree”:
Oh concrete thing, Oh concrete thing, How lovely are your branches. Oh concrete thing, Oh concrete thing, You have no friggin’ branches. You are the largest Christmas tree. Well then again, no not really.
Oh concrete thing, Oh concrete thing, I see a mom who’s freezing, Dad’s been drinking whiskey. They drove downtown, Parking cost ten bucks, They stood around and froze their butts, To watch the tree and dear Daddy, Get lit up like Christmas.
Jay’s birthday is on 11/11 — and this year we went to New Orleans. We arrived late Thursday night. When we got to the French Quarter, and our Hotel St. Marie, we had to get our traditional Lucky Dog on the street corner. As an extra bonus, earlier that day, his parents arrived to spend the weekend too!
Friday, we all went to Acme Oyster Company for lunch and stuffed ourselves with amazing seafood. Afterwords, Jay and his mom went antiquing on Royal Street. He was looking for oyster plates from the late 1800s. He received a few oyster plates from his nana’s estate after she passed and recently decided to start a collection of his own. He found two amazing hand painted limoges porcelain plates circa 1890, both in the “turkey” style.
Jay’s dad and I went to the WWII museum. Joe had a VIP tour setup for us to get a behind-the-scenes tour on the restoration of the historic PT-305 boat built by Higgins Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana. For the American Navy the PT boat was a critical asset in the days after Pearl Harbor when the United States was short on larger vessels and facing an onslaught of attacks from the Japanese. During the war, almost 90% of all the navy’s boats were built New Orleans.
That night I took Jay to Commander’s Palace for his Birthday Dinner. We had sidecar cocktails, champagne, Turtle Soup, Commander’s Crisp Romaine Salad, Braised Osso Buco of Colorado Lamb, Filet of Black Angus Beef, and a free birthday Foie Gras “Du Monde” for dessert — a fabulous meal!
Saturday, we went to the Central Grocery for one of the best Muffaletta sandwiches in the city. That night, Jay’s parents took us to Arnaud’s. Arnaud’s is one of Jay’s nana’s favorite restaurants. It has been a tradition in their family for 50 years. Over four generations of thier family have visited. You have to sit in the main dining room with original crystal chandeliers, white ceramic floor tile, and crystal leaded windows that overlook Bourbon Street. The food is always perfect. This time around we had: sidecar cocktails, Oysters Bienville (an Arnaud’s original), Shrimp Bisque, Assorted Greens with Arnaud’s House Dressing, Veal Tournedos Chantal, Crabmeat Karen, and the Frozen Praline Souffle & Chocolate Bombe for dessert. FYI, you can purchase a table at Arnaud’s for $10,000 so you can always have a table waiting for you.
Sunday, we all went to the Court of Two Sisters for brunch. After we went to back to the hotel and packed for the airport. It was a fast trip, stuffed with good food and amazing company.
I became a Licensed Landscape Architect in the State of Utah today!
To break the monotony of the latter summer months we took several weekend trips to Jay’s family East Texas tree farm and oil fields. On our trips we discovered a great restaurant, Villa Montez. Once a residence from the late 1920s, it sits perched a top a hill, converted into a restaurant. Keeping true to the original design and architecture of the home, the restaurant still bears the Spanish style roof, exterior stucco, stained glass windows, and wrought iron railing. They source all the herbs and vegetables from the grounds surrounding the restaurant. It’s a latin restaurant that really sands out. There homemade salsa is so good, you can literally drink from the bowl — which we do every time.
The family property is located just south of Hawkins, Texas. It spans several hundred acres and is filled with Southern Yellow Pine Trees and oil pumps. Within the property lies an ancestral cemetery that dates back to 1853.
It’s a 2008 BMW 335i with the sports package and only 35,000 miles! Yes, I typed that right. Best part, he offered it to me at an unbeatable price! I took my Camaro to CarMax and had it appraised. To my astonishment, they quoted me almost $3,000 over what I owed! I sold it on the spot.
I then got a personal auto loan from my bank and they deposited the money right into my checking account. I wrote Jay a check and signed the car title. It was the fastest and most gratifying car buying experience I have ever had. I guess that’s all due in part to the car salesman — thank you Jay!
After a good year or two for searching for a new vehicle, Jay finally found a great car match for him. Never having a four-door before, he hated to sacrifice the sport and fun of a coupe, but needed the practicality of car pooling people back and fourth to the airport. After 4 BMWs, it was hard for him to switch brands, but the new 2014 Mercedes CLS 550 was a great fit. He custom ordered it from Sindelfinge, Germany in mid May 2014. After anxiously waiting for two months, the car was finished and delivered to the US early July.
Diamond white metallic, black nappa leather with custom contrast white stitching, and polished black ash wood — fully loaded, air suspension, 402 hp V8, 4.6 L twin turbo with 443 lbs of torque. To say the least, it gets us where we need to go…QUICKLY!