Four days in Texas

I made my first trip to Texas for a long weekend with the boy. And being the foodie that I am, I had to photograph all my food and the places we went to eat. Now, before we left Chicago for Houston, I had already decided that I needed to eat some BBQ. When I think Southern cooking, BBQ is usually one of the first things that comes to mind. But I was also open to trying new things.

The first stop on the trip was to No Name BBQ:

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It’s a small place with good food. I was told the restaurant was made out of shipping containers, which is appropriate cause it’s near the ports.

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I had a ham sandwich with fries. The sauce was a bit too smokey for me. But the ham is cut super thin and I loved the bread it was served on.

Next stop, Top Water Grill:

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This place reminded me of Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants, which was definitely one of my fave places to eat. We went to Top Water at night. I wish we had been able to go during the day because you can actually pull boats right up to the pier.

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Had the fried catfish. It was flakey and the fries were really good. I also used my salad dressing (honey mustard) as my dipping sauce.

TexMex time at Armenta’s Mexican Restaurant:

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There aren’t many TexMex places up here in Chicago, or at least I’m told there aren’t any “real” TexMex places. I’m not much of a Mexican food eater though, mainly because I can’t really handle spicy foods and I don’t eat peppers or onions. Chipotle is usually the closest I get to Mexican food although I have been to Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo, which is fancy Mexican food.

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I ate cheese enchiladas with refried beans and Spanish rice. I wish I had more of these. The sauce was delish and I love a good bowl full of refried beans.

Breakfast food at the hotel:

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A BBLTC … broken egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheese sandwich. Tasty and filling breakfast. I gotta make this at home. I always think about putting eggs on sandwiches, but I’ve never actually done it.

Dessert, Three Brothers Bakery:

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We went to the bakery to visit a friend. The name, Three Brothers Bakery, sounded familiar to me. Probably from a Food Network appearance or something. If only you could have seen the cases full of treats! I apologize for the lack of photos. We also got a tour of the kitchen. There are some really big mixers in a commercial kitchen. Make my 5 qt. Kitchenaid look puny.

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We ended up with a box of goodies. The pecan bar in the bottom left was amazing, although I only got a bite. The bottom right Hamantaschen was raspberry. Also really good. It reminded me of a Kolaczki cookie. The cheesecake slice at the top was also amazing. There’s a gingerbread man buried under there too.

Now for my favorite meal of the trip, BBQ from Rudy’s BBQ:

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I went here at the suggestion of my best friends. We have pretty much the same tastebuds, so I knew if they were recommending it, it was the place I had to go.

You stand in line before heading up to the counter to make your order. It’s a sit wherever sort of place. We just took our meal back to the hotel. But this place was hopping. We went to the NASA location in Webster. Slightly disappointed we didn’t get to try the new potatoes though, because they were in the midst of making more. But the manager was awesome and gave us free drinks and comp’ed the potato salad as a replacement side.

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Brisket, pulled pork, potato salad and creamed corn.

And then there’s Rudy’s signature sause. However, this was the Sissy version. Yes, Sissy Sause. Spelled with the extra S in sause. The boy said it was too spice heavy. I liked that you got a little kick. But I wasn’t dousing everything. The brisket was too smokey for me. Not a smoked BBQ fan. I am more of a sweet BBQ lover.

I ate the pulled pork with the sauce. OMG it was so good. And I ate all the creamed corn. I wish I had ordered a medium sized cream corn. But it’s a good thing I didn’t I did regret eating so much right after I finished. But it was so good!

And that would be my short trip to Texas in food form. I didn’t include the Caesar salad I ate at NASA or the basically plain breakfast I had at the hotel one day.

We mainly ate in the Houston burbs. I think next time we need to travel into the city to try some other restaurants. Anyone have any suggestions?



An Olympics/London Shadowbox

Finished shadowbox

During my vacation, my suitcase started filling up with items that I knew I couldn’t put into my normal scrapbook. I decided to create a tabletop shadowbox with all my souvenirs. I was debating with myself whether or not to make two, since I had the London 2012 items and a couple of items from the Harry Potter Studio Tour I went on. Using  a 40 percent off coupon for Hobby Lobby, it was better to get one large shadowbox instead of two different sized ones.

So here’s what I was working with:

Shadowbox items

From the top left: A 16×20 shadowbox, a London 2012 newspaper featuring Michael Phelps in the corner, the Official London 2012 Programme, Harry Potter souvenir guide book, Harry Potter Passport, ticket to Harry Potter the Studio Tour, a timeturner keychain, three Olympic postcards, a Harry Potter bookmark, some left over coins, my Oyster card, my event tickets from the Olympics, an Olympic logo keychain, a keychain of the Olympic mascot dressed as a Buckingham Palace Guard and the Olympic map.

Phew, that’s a lot of stuff. But I started laying out the items in a nice order and was culling down the items.

Background layout

I used some glue dots to fan out the tickets and to stick the Oyster card to the map. The backing of my shadowbox was like a pinboard. So I pinned the newspaper and the two postcards in place so when they went vertical they wouldn’t fall. I needed some extra glue dots to keep the newspaper from folding over too.

Making sure everything looks right

I threw the keychains into the bottom and also the tour ticket. I’m left with the coins, one postcard and the passport not fitting into my scheme. I like how the postcards call out to the event tickets and how London 2012 is a theme throughout. I also kept the darker postcards on the same side as the dark Harry Potter guidebook.

First shadowbox I’ve ever made and I think it’s very nice. It looks good on my side table.

A delightful, delicate treat

Macarons in several colors and flavors.

I have a new obsession: the Parisian-style macaron or macaroon, depending where you’re from. We’re talking about the meringue type cookie sandwich with a creme or jam filling, not the coconut covered cookie.

My interest in this little treat started a couple years ago. Then Whole Foods did their international cookie sale a few months back and they had chocolate macaroons and raspberry macaroons that were delish. Then there was this almond macaroon that was absolutely AMAZING.

Well, I was lucky enough to go to Paris before London and having an actual Parisian macaron (sorry I keep switching the spelling) was on my must do list. Lucky for me, the macaroon is quite popular and readily available. My first taste was off a cart in the Musee du Louvre (pictured in the photo above). I had a raspberry one and then a caramel one, because I had to share the other two in the cup. Perfection. Then I had a vanilla one and a chocolate one from another cup, also had to share the other two. I’m so glad I don’t count calories because I bet these packed a punch.

There are so many different flavors available too. Different fruits, chocolate, coffee, caramel… it’s so hard to choose if you are given a selection. Especially when you’re paying 8€ for a small bag of five. I am terrible at math and money conversions, but I’m guessing that’s at least equivalent to the price of two grande caramel macchiatos from Starbucks.

Since I’m now back home, learning how to make macaroons is on my list of things to do. I know they can be pretty temperamental and hard work. But, the reward is too cute and tasty! Ever made a batch of your own?

A few other photos of macaroons in Paris:

A pastry platter. The bonbons on the far left were not tasty. The macaroons on the far right were really interesting.

Bag of macaroons from Angelina on Rue de Rivoli in Paris.

Large dessert macaroon with fresh raspberries.

London 2012

Tower Bridge with Olympic rings

I am an anglophile. I love music, movies, TV shows and books coming out of the UK. The last time I was in London was five years ago and I fell in love with the city. It was spring break my senior year of college. While my friends were planning trips to Cancun or other places in the sun, nothing looked better to me than rainy London.

It was a pretty awesome trip, minus a little bit of trouble getting home thanks to a fire near the Chunnel tracks that required an extra couple days abroad and traveling from Paris by train, ferry, bus and another train. Who wouldn’t enjoy a little bit of adventure with their spring break?

After a year of planning, I spent the last week in London for the 2012 Olympics. It was absolutely amazing, although a bit tiring. I’m still trying to recover. 🙂

I got to see qualifying and preliminary rounds for singles tennis, artistic gymnastics (aka regular gymnastics) and men’s volleyball. The only USA performance I got to see live was Serena Williams, who ended up winning the gold medal this weekend. There was a huge upside to seeing Serena:

First Lady Michelle Obama sits next to gymnast Dominque Dawes and in front of Venus Williams.

Oh ya, Michelle Obama made an appearance. She sat in the players’ family box and gabbed with Venus Williams (sitting behind her) and Dominique Dawes sitting next to her. Remember Dominique Dawes? She was part of the Magnificent 7 who won the gold medal for gymnastics at the 1996 Atlanta games. You should have seen all the people clamoring to get photos of FLOTUS too. The secret service kept them all back though.

Serena Williams waits for a serve.

Roger Federer

Also got to watch Roger Federer’s first match, which was pretty rough for him. I was thinking there was a chance he’d be knocked out in the first round. He ended up ok, silver medal overall.

I spent a lot of time glued to my room’s TV and the TVs in the hotel’s common areas to watch Michael Phelps in the pool and the US gymnastics teams perform. I was reading all my friends’ posts on Facebook and Twitter about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics and I have to say, the BBC’s coverage really wasn’t much better live. It felt like they jumped all over the place and there was a lot of dead air. During the women’s gymnastic finals, I had to call out on Twitter for the standings because they weren’t showing who was where.

Although Ian Thorpe being poolside was a huge plus. There was also a lot of focus on the home team, which is understandable.


So for artistic gymnastics, don’t get it mixed up with rhythmic gymnastics which is the ribbon/ball type, we got to see the teams of Brazil, Italy and Australia and a bunch of mixed groups. Mixed groups were girls who were competing for event finals and the all-around. Their teams didn’t qualify.

While it was awesome watching this, it was super hard to focus on the different apparatuses. Besides the fact that the entire arena was this hot pink color, the floor exercise pulled so much focus. But these girls are totally superhuman. I have no idea how they are able to flip and fly and stay on that beam.

I was a volleyball player from 4th grade to junior year of high school. I also managed the men’s volleyball teams in high school. So volleyball is my sport. We saw Serbia vs. Germany and Australia vs. Bulgaria. The Serbia/Germany match was long. Serbia had Germany two games to none and then Germany won the last three games of the match. Then Bulgaria took down the Aussies in three sets.

Bulgaria vs. Australia

The Aussie fans were doing the Oy Oy Oy chant and the Bulgarians had their own chant. I have no idea what they were saying. I’m sort of jealous that the stands seemed stacked with these teams’ fans. I have no idea how they knew their teams would play. Cause I would have loved to see the USA vs. Brazil game.

Ok, let’s get to what is huge news: The seat issue. Ya, it was truly disheartening to see huge amounts of seats empty in events we had really wanted to see, namely swimming and gymnastics. But it was worse to hear from all the Brits we were talking to who said they had tried to get tickets to the games and they were shut out. I had been under the impression that UK and Europe had gotten the best tickets. But that turned out not to be true. I’m glad they were opening up the seats to fans later in the week though.

While the seats were sorta sad, what was worse was Olympic Park. The torch is hidden in the stadium where it first was lit, aka the stadium where track & field was being held. So fans who come to London can’t see it. I can’t remember a time when the torch was hidden from public view.

Also, unless you have a ticket to a venue which is enclosed in Olympic Park, you can’t get in. We got a few different stories from people working at the games about this. The trip to Olympic Park is not a short one, at least from where we were in the city. And we were told you could pay to get into the park, cause there are a few shops there and there’s that big sculpture. Ya no. Also, we were told you could get in with your ticket from one of the other Olympic venues on the day of that event. Ya, nope. So we were shut out of that area. We could only take photos from the shopping mall which is right next door.

Oh, and the travel. People had been talking about how crowded the underground could possibly be. Traveling by the tube was fine. The trains ran quickly and efficiently. I think my only complaint is that, after a day out in the sun or at an event, it’s not going to be a pleasant-smelling ride. I think driving around the city was a bit worse. Just because of that Olympic lane that’s only for official vehicles. I felt sorry for drivers and those who didn’t plan at least an hour’s drive to get to places.

Olympic Mascot dressed up as a Beefeater near the Tower of London

So that was my time in London. Few complaints and lots of fun. Oh, and check out the cute little mascot above. They had different ones all around the city dressed up in different ways, sort of like the decorated cows Chicago did a while ago. I think the Beefeater one was the cutest.

I’ll be doing a craft that’s Olympic related later this week, so be on the lookout for that.