Polish Festival

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Ethnic festivals seem to be a running theme for me and Derek. First it was the Greek Festival, then the Japan Festival and now the Polish Festival.

We both enjoy the little glimpses into different cultures, and of course, the food is always excellent.

I will be honest up front and say that I was a little disappointed with the festival, but overall we had a nice time. The festival was at Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish. The church area was decorated nicely with lots of paper flowers.

There were some vendors, but not a lot. There was much more at the Greek and Japan festivals. We enjoyed looking at the Polish pottery collections. When we got married one of our friends gave us a small set of Polish pottery – two mugs and two small plates – and we still have them and use them regularly. There also seemed to be a lot of Amber jewelry. I was not aware that it was a popular Polish jewelry. I also enjoyed perusing through some pierogi cookbooks.

Speaking of that, of course I had pierogi for dinner. It was delicious! Derek had polish sausage. Derek also tried a Polish beer, and we had dessert. Derek had a cheesecake and I had a lemon bar.

There was also a silent auction inside that we checked out. But aside from that, we had seen everything and were only there for about a half hour! I had wanted to wait for the Polish dance group Wawel, but they weren’t going to perform for another hour.

There was a band called Ziggy that was playing on stage, but they were playing popular hits! They were good, but it was kind of weird to hear Michael Jackson at a Polish Festival…

In order to waste some time we decided to wander across the street to the Polish food store, which ended up being interesting. We came away with some delicious Polish candy, and a new favorite called Buttersby, a brand of fudge. We bought the vanilla flavor. So good!

I should mention that we went to the Polish Festival on opening night, Friday night, but it went on all weekend too. So we got in for free, which was a bonus. However, when Wawel came out to dance, I was upset because they weren’t in their traditional costumes! The announcer said since it was opening night, they were only giving a preview performance. I wish I had known that in advance otherwise we would have waited and gone on Saturday. Anyway, even though they were in shorts and t-shirts, they still did two traditional dances and they were fun to watch.

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Froberg’s Farm

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The growing seasons here are all strange to get used to, because it is basically growing season year round. In Pennsylvania, we lived near Murphy’s Blueberry Farm, and we enjoyed picking each summer. I missed that, so last year I was in search of places to pick berries. I stumbled upon Froberg’s Farm in Alvin, about 30 minutes south of where we live. I was ONE WEEK LATE for strawberry season, which is from February to the beginning of May! Back in Pennsylvania strawberry season is in June. I should have known the timing would be different!  Well, I just kept it in the back of my head and remembered for this year.

Derek just finished school for the year yesterday, so now we can reclaim our weekends together again. The first thing we had to do was Froberg’s.

It is the end of the season, so there was slim pickings overall, but, with little bit of hunting, and going out to some of the further areas of the patches, we still found plenty of berries to fill our bucket. We picked over three pounds! There were also sunflower patches near the field, and I was excited to see a train go by! The patch is right next to tracks.

Froberg’s is a great place to spend half a day with your kids. We saw a tractor ride pulling kids around and rubber duck races! There is also a large market where you can pick up just about any kind of fruit and vegetable. There was also a bakery inside. This felt like Stony Fork General Store, which we frequented back in Pennsylvania. It feels great to find something so similar. Aside from the strawberries we picked up local honey, dried mango slices and peanut brittle.

Froberg’s is open year round, so even though the strawberries may not be in season, there is always the market, as well as some other seasonal activities such as a fall festival.

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Family visits Texas

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My family (my parents and my Aunt) were here for a week. My dad had moved us to Houston, and my Aunt visited last October for a long weekend, so they already knew what to expect somewhat, but this was my mom’s first time to the Lone Star State.

We had a full itinerary with multiple things to do every day. I did NOT bring my camera, which was refreshing, since I had already done everything before, and did not need photos of the same things. So, this post will be photo free, and more of a review of what we did. Many of the activities that we did are featured in previous blog posts.

The first thing that we did that ended up being a hit with everyone was dinner at the Gorgeous Gael, an Irish Pub in Rice Village. We ended up doing this the last night too.

We went to Old Town Spring, where mom and dad loved The Little Dutch Girl shop and we also went to Hermann Park and rode the train.

Thursday was a full day at the Rodeo. That was the one thing everyone was looking forward to the most. The highlight was seeing sixteen piglets that were born just 12 hours before! Everyone was amazed at the size of everything. My Aunt expressed concern when we entered the grounds at 10:30 a.m. and the rodeo/concert wasn’t until 6:45 p.m., but we kept busy all day. None of my family had ever seen anything like a rodeo. Luke Bryan was the performer, and he was excellent. (Stay tuned for a separate post on the rodeo.)

On Friday we checked out the University of Houston, with Derek as the tour guide. Everyone was really impressed with the student union center, which is about 10 times the size as the one in Mansfield University. Then we headed to the zoo. The highlights, at least for me, are always the big cats. Mom was excited to see Shasta, the UH cougar mascot. Both times we visited the cougar enclosure, she was sleeping. All cats are the same, right?

On Saturday we walked around downtown. We checked out Discovery Green, and wandered the streets for mom and dad to get a feel of the city. They were shocked that there was hardly anyone around compared to New York City. We went to Allen’s Landing, the birth place of Houston, and caught the end of the Buffalo Bayou Regatta, (canoe and kayak race) so a free party was included. We also took them to the pop up location of Niko Nikos in Market Square Park, and introduced them to some Greek food. It was funny when my dad made me order, because he could not pronounce anything.

Sunday was a day in Galveston. We stopped at the Ashton Villa, a house where General Gordon Granger announced the end of the Civil War to the people of Texas on June 19, 1865. We also went to the Moody Aquarium, at my mom’s request, because she loves penguins. We caught the penguin feeding in the morning, which was cool to see. To be honest though, it was a small aquarium, so I do not think the money was worth it. At any rate though, I was glad to get to do something new. We also wandered the beach, drove around the historic east end district to ogle at all of the large houses, and shopped on the Strand.

Monday was a day trip to Waco. I will post about that separately. We went to Magonlia at the Silos for my mom, who is a Fixer Upper fan. We also went sightseeing here and there in downtown Waco.

Tuesday we stayed close to home, because we were all so exhausted from the day before. We went to La Madeline’s for breakfast and then we headed to the Galleria for some shopping. My mom and dad got a kick out of a revolving sushi bar in the food court! We dropped off my Aunt at the airport in the afternoon.

Wednesday was my parent’s last day. We hiked around the Arboretum and then we went back to downtown to check out the underground tunnels since they were closed when we went before on the weekend. We went right during lunch break rush, and my parents were amazed. We also stopped back at Rice Village, and walked around a couple of shops.

All in all it was a good trip, and I think my family had a good first impression of Houston, and the state of Texas. It might be a few years until they visit again, but I am sure I can easily come up with a whole new itinerary since there is never a shortage of things to do.

 

 

 

New Orleans vacation

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I have a rather large travel bucket list. I have some favorites, but most are in no particular order, we’ll get there when we get there. When we made the announcement in March of 2016 that we were moving to Houston because Derek got accepted into UH, I immediately knew that New Orleans would be our next trip because it is a five and a half hours drive from Houston.

We went the week after New Years and my Aunt Susie came along. All in all we had an amazing time. We did everything we wanted to do, plus some extras that we were not expecting. The only thing that I could have dealt without was the cold. A cold front came through and temperatures were in the lower 40s, when it is usually lower 60s. We bundled up in may layers though and we ended up being fine.

We stayed at the JW Marriot on Canal Street, which was one block away from the French Quarter. There were a ton of shops and restaurants along Canal Street, including the street car line, so it was a great hub of activity.

We had three main attractions planned out: A river cruise on the Creole Queen, a cooking demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cooking, and a swamp boat tour through Cajun pride.

The Creole Queen was great. The guide was very informative and pointed out interesting things along the way. We had a short shore excursion at the Chalmette National Battlefield, which was the last battle of the War of 1812. It was windy up on the open deck, but there was a lower inside deck that was kept warm, with a optional lunch buffet.

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The New Orleans School of Cooking was probably my favorite thing we did on the trip, because it was so different. We watched Pat cook gumbo, jumbalaya, bread pudding and pralines. We got to eat everything, which was great because it served as our lunch, and got the recipes to take home. We also learned a lot of cuisine history. I love gumbo and jumbalaya but was always too nervous to try to attempt it myself. Seeing how it all goes together, it is fairly easy.

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The swamp tour was also informative. We learned a lot about the Cajun lifestyle, and all about the different types of animals and plants that call the swamps home. Unfortunately, because it was too cold, we didn’t not see any alligators, but the scenery made up for it. It helped that our tour guide pulled out a surprise baby alligator for everyone to hold!

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When we arrived in New Orleans, we quickly found out that Mardi Gras season was starting soon, on the night of Epiphany. We had no idea, and we did not plan it that way. The events started with a Joan of Arc parade, for her 606th birthday. Joan of Arc was known as the Maid of Orleans (France.)

We got good spots for the parade right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, where we watched the blessing of Joan’s sword. The parade ended at the other end of Jackson Square, where everyone took part in eating the first King Cake of Mardi Gras. We of course had to join in on the revelry. Later that night, we saw fireworks on the river front.

We also found out that New Orleans was founded in 1718, so the city was celebrating their tricentennial. Good timing, right?

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Other highlights consisted of wandering around the French Quarter daily, the Louisiana History museum, and the aquarium. We listened to jazz music almost every night, and of course we stopped for beignets at Cafe Du Monde. We also checked out the garden district and walked around Lafayette Cemetery.

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On our way home, we visited Oak Alley Plantation. It is about an hour west of New Orleans. It was a good way to break up the drive home. Unfortunately, the big house exhibit was closed when we went, but they lowered the admission price which was good of them, and there was still so much to see. (We did peek through the windows and took some photos that way.)

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Greek Festival

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I usually miss out on any type of festival because I work weekends. Therefore, I am extra vigilant when it comes to finding things to do. Imagine my surprise when I found a a Greek Festival, which started on a Thursday night! I perused the festival’s website, and I knew I had to go.

It is clearly a popular festival; it is the 51st year, and the grounds were packed for a Thursday. Silly me, I thought it would be empty. The festival is hosted by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

The biggest draw was the food. I got my staple spanakopita, which is a spinach and cheese-filled pastry and Derek tried a tiropita, which is a cheese-filled puff pastry. We shared a Greek salad as well (one can never have too much feta cheese!) Round two for food included Souvlaki, which is beef cubs with onions on a skewers (it was so tender!)  and Koulourakia, which are butter cookies that are popular during the Easter holiday.

In-between filling our stomachs, we caught the Greek dance program which was all traditional dances and costumes. There was also live music on the grounds as well. There was a huge marketplace, with all kinds of vendors.

We both had a good time; it was nice to get a glimpse into a different culture.

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Birthday dinner

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I’ve celebrated two birthdays now in Houston. Can’t believe how fast time flies!

This year, we decided to go to The Gorgeous Gael, an Irish pub in Rice Village. We had only just noticed it a few weeks prior, and decided that we wanted to try it.

The food was delicious! I had Irish beef stew with mashed potatoes and Irish brown bread. It was thick and hearty, a good comfort meal. I had leftovers for lunch the next day and it tasted even better then!

Derek had the deluxe grilled chicken mac and cheese. We tried each other’s food and we both liked the other dishes as well.  We also had mozzarella bites as an appetizer, which in hindsight probably wasn’t such a good idea because our dinner portions were so filling!

I love trying new restaurants. The only problem is that we have liked everywhere we have gone, and our list of favorites keeps growing!

We walked around Rice Village afterwards to digest a bit, but a lot of the stores were closed already. But we did get to see a beautiful cat named Misty in one of the store windows!

 

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la Madeleine

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Have you ever passed something hundreds of times without giving it a thought, and then finally discovered it, to realize that you had missed out?

This happened to us with la Madeleine French Bakery and Cafe. It is located a few miles from our apartment, in a big shopping plaza that we go to often.

We have already been three times in short amount of time; once for lunch, for dessert, and the most recent time for breakfast. The menu is expansive. For breakfast I had quiche Florentine and Derek had french toast. For lunch I had french onion soup and a pasta salad and Derek had a ham and Swiss baguette. For dessert I had a lemon tart and Derek had a creme brulee cheesecake. We also bought a baguette to take home for dinner.

While we arrived early in the morning for breakfast when it was still quiet, the two times we went in the middle of the day the cafe was packed – a good sign.

While the food is great, I love the atmosphere the best. When stepping inside, it felt like we were in Belle’s village in Beauty and the Beast. la Madeleine truly lives up to the French name.

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