Phoenicia

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I didn’t expect to write about a grocery store, but Phoenicia is so much more than just a grocery store. It is a destination in its own right.

Derek first discovered Phoenicia back in the fall, and he suggested that we check it out together. The first time we were there we only did a quick look through and got drinks to go from the cafe inside, but we both knew we had to come back and thoroughly look around.

So, Phoenicia, located in downtown, is first and foremost a grocery store, but there is only the basics like meats, fruits and vegetables. Don’t come here looking to get everything on your shopping list like toilet paper and cat food. Their website describes themselves as “Houston’s one-stop gourmet, international food experience with more than 10,000 products from more than 50 countries.” It is most definitely an international food experience, but also an international people experience too! I think I must have heard four or five different languages spoken there.

Today we decided to go have lunch there. They have a bakery and cafe inside, as well as multiple deli sections. I decided to go Greek, and I got spanakopita and stuffed grape leaves. I also got a honey and lavender scone to go. Derek got a turkey, bacon and swiss sandwich with a brownie. The meal selection is expansive. It is hard to decide what to want because it all looks so good!

There is a section to eat inside, but there are also tables outside so we ate our food outside. There were tons of people there, most looked like they were with colleagues on lunch break from work.

After we were done with lunch, we decided to peruse the aisles. I was really impressed with all the selection, and happy to see tons of Kinder chocolate and Walker shortbread cookies. (Yum!) I was intrigued by the middle eastern section, and they had a ton of loose leaf teas that I will definitely have to purchase in the future. They have a upstairs section that has some more food, a bunch of kitchen gadgets and cookware, and a huge wine selection.

My recommendation is that if you know someone who is a food connoisseur, you could do some gift shopping for them at Phoenicia!

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Crawfish season

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Crawfish season runs March through May. I happened to look at a post on the Houston Chronicle’s website for the best places to eat crawfish, and one of the places, Hungry’s had a midweek special Crawfish on the Patio special, which is perfect because my days off are midweek, plus the restaurant was nearby.

We went one night a few weeks ago, and it turned out to be quite the experience. We got a pound of crawfish for $7, which was a great deal. A pound seems like a lot, but the amount of meat inside each crawfish is small, so you have to eat a lot of them to get your filling. The meal is also served with corn on the cob and potatoes.

The crawfish are served whole, legs, head, eyes and all. It was a little weird and took some getting used to!

There is a technique to getting the meat out. I actually looked up YouTube videos on it in advance! You have to put two fingers on the head, and two fingers from another hand on the tail and you twist and pull apart. The meat is in the tail.

We found out that some people suck the head to get the fat and the juices out, but that seemed a bit to much for us, so we skipped that part. If you feel we’re truly missing out, please let us know!

The meal was seasoned with cajun spices, which, while they were good, was a bit too much for me. I wasn’t feeling the spices inside my mouth, but rather on the outside of my lips, which started to burn after a while! At one point I was close to crying.

Apparently crawfish, also known as crayfish, crawdaddies, mudbugs, can be found just about anywhere near a body of fresh water, but Louisiana supplies 95 percent of the crawfish harvested in the U.S. Being so close to Louisiana, Houston gets to reap the benefits. I’m glad we went. It’s good to try something new, and we’ll probably go back for more each season.

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Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

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The three-week Houston rodeo is underway. I went last week and ended up being on the grounds for seven hours! And I was never bored; there was always something to do or look at. And I’ve only experienced the grounds so far. The real fun starts this weekend, when I have the first of three concerts/rodeos to attend.

Here are some highlights from my day:

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The shopping was amazing. Thank goodness I didn’t have much money to spend otherwise I could have easily bought myself a whole new wardrobe. I did buy one shirt though, which I plan to wear to the Willie Nelson concert this weekend!

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Lots of animals on display of course. My favorites were the baby chickens and the longhorn!

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This was a part of a neat exhibit called The Tour of Texas. There were sections dedicated to each area of Texas, and you got to learn about their native plants, animals, etc.

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The mascot of Houston Rodeo!

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The carnival area of the Rodeo was huge! There was a kids carnival and one for older people. I definitely wouldn’t go near most of the rides. I did however go on the nice, slow sky ride.

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Some type of herding event for riders. I had no idea what the premise was, but it was still interesting to watch!

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Pig racing is always a highlight!

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I also got to see an animal show. This is a bear cat. I’ve never seen one before. Apparently they smell like popcorn!

It was overall a great day. I’m glad I went on a Wednesday because it was value day because you get in for $5 instead of $10. It was so overrun with school kids though! One would have to have a lot of patience when going through the exhibits. (I usually do not.) But had I gone this week, during Houston School District’s spring break, I’m sure it would be much worse. The amounts of food were ridiculous. It took me forever to decide what I wanted to eat. First I had to sort out the crazy food from the normal food. (Alligator on a stick, anyone?) I ended up getting a bowl of chili and later had a cinnamon bun as a snack. Also, it was so neat seeing just about everyone in cowboy boots. I kept thinking to myself, “These are my people! I belong here!”

Stay tuned for more rodeo and concert pictures!

 

Breakfast at Hotel Derek

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We pass Hotel Derek every once in a while on the 610 inner loop, depending on where we are headed.

It cracks us up, because obviously, my husband’s name is Derek. He thinks it is cool because growing up he always knew Derricks, and had assumed that his spelling was the odd ball spelling.

We started talking about checking the hotel out just for the fun of it. I looked it up online, and discovered that there was a restaurant inside. Lunch and dinner prices are out of our budget, but breakfast was doable.

We went yesterday morning, and it was a good breakfast. I had a waffle with fruit, and Derek had a broken yoke sandwich.

Friends and family joked that Derek should get a discount, and we did, sort of. Tea was listed on the menu for $5, and but we were only charged $3! Perhaps it was because Derek ordered a certain flavor that was only available in the Starbucks variety, because it came in a Starbucks to go cup.

The hotel looked nice itself, and there were lots of cool decorations.

It was something different to do for the day. I enjoy coming up with little things like this, and I am sure there will be plenty more.

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Siphon Coffee

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One of our top places to find in Texas was a good coffee shop. Derek and I practically live in coffee shops. (And I don’t even like coffee, haha!) No, I was in search of the perfect chai tea latte.

The Starbucks ones are too sweet, and you need to put a pump of flavoring in them to make them taste any good. The best chai I ever had was at the Wired Rooster back in Wellsboro, but that place ended up closing down. I’ve been trying to find a replacement ever since. Siphon Coffee comes pretty close! The key to a good chai is that it is equal parts sweet and spicy. Siphon sprinkles cinnamon on top, which does the trick.

I discovered Siphon Coffee when it was suggested to me by a person I was interviewing for an article in OutSmart Magazine. (More on that soon…)

We like Siphon because of the atmosphere. It’s rustic meets industrial. Wooden countertops and tables, leather seats, and exposed pipes in the ceiling. Plus there are some cool knicknacks around and artwork. There is also a great seating area outside.

The menu is large and diverse. Some of their staples include lemon tarts, (I have yet to try it and lemon desserts are my favorite!) hobnobs, (oatmeal cookie covered in chocolate) and sweet and savory scones. The last time we went over lunch, and I tried a warm cheddar and green onion scone.

I am so happy that we found a coffee shop that we both like, and so quickly too!

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Birthday at Coco

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A few weeks ago, while browsing the internet, I found a restaurant in Houston called Coco. They specialize in crepes and waffles. I checked out their menu, and wow, I found multiple crepes that I wanted to try. That is a big deal because I am such a picky eater!

I thought it sounded like a nice new place to try for my birthday. So we went earlier this week. It did not disappoint! It was a good testament to the restaurant that there was a steady stream of people in to eat.

Coco has both savory and sweet crepes. I tried a savory Mediterranean (tomatoes, olives, greens and feta) and Derek tried the sweet Banana and Cinnamon Apples kind.

I should also mention that they also have a good selection of coffee, tea and smoothies. Ever since Wired Rooster closed down in Wellsboro, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect chai latte. Most places just make it too sweet with no hint of spice to be found. I am happy to say that Coco is a winner!

This will definitely be our favorite place to eat here!

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Differences between TX and PA

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Derek and I have been taking note of some of the differences we have noticed between living in a city – and in Texas in general –  and living in rural Pennsylvania. Here are some of the ones we’ve come up with so far:

Roads:
A major difference is the roads. First of all, the majority of them are concrete. They are loud, and when it is raining out, they reflect in such a way that makes it hard to see the road! Not to mention the cracks in the concrete. Texas’ concrete cracks are akin to Pennsylvania potholes after a bad winter! Trying to learn the rules of the road, we quickly learned that there are no rules to the road. Some u-turns have their own lanes, some have a yield sign. Some exits are the “left two lanes” or the “right two lanes” and some are just one lane. Roads will go down from 4 to 3 lanes fairly quickly, and the same goes for 3 up to 4 lanes too. You have to pay very close attention! On the way to the University of Houston, there is one section where you literally have to keep right, then keep left, and then keep right all to get onto one road towards an exit! I am sure we will get used to it eventually, but thank goodness for GPS for now. Also, there are so many intersections that not all of them are named! When I am driving to the Target, I have to remember to “turn on the street after McNee,” because the street after McNee isn’t named!

The radio:
I thought I would be so happy having a ton of radio stations to choose from. Back in Wellsboro, there were only three to four stations to choose from, and I didn’t like the music on two of them. You were S-O-L most of the time when bouncing around from station to station. Plus, when you did find something you liked, it didn’t last very long, reception wise. Now we’ve got too many stations to choose from. Half of them aren’t in English! It took two weeks worth of driving around to find a country station that I liked, which was unexpectedly overwhelming. And to my surprise, the station lasted the entire hour drive to Galveston. We have a winner!

Stores:
We were joking around saying that we had been to more stores in two weeks than we had in the seven years that we were in Pennsylvania. Not too far from the truth! There are SO MANY stores/shopping plazas. We found one plaza about three miles from our apartment, and it is like a gold mine. So many good stores, I may not need to step foot into a mall once. Not to mention how HUGE the stores are. We had only been here about two to three days, and we went into a Kroger (the local grocery store) and the super target in one day. That was enough for us to realize that we definitely weren’t in a rural area anymore! The Kroger was at least double the size of our grocery store back in Wellsboro. We also went to a Lowes, and then it was my dad’s time to gasp at the sheer size of the store.

Grocery stores:
Diving a bit further into stores now, specifically, grocery shopping. We soon discovered that there were about five or six grocery stores to choose from. The Kroger we soon found out was a bit on the expensive side (bear in mind we are used to non-city prices) so then I started panicking over the circulars that came in the mail for the different grocery stores. Was I really going to have to shop at each one before we found a good fit???? We decided to start with the super target, since it is the closest to the apartment. That ended up being a good decision, for the most part. The craziest thing I have gotten anxiety over while being here is the meat department. Usually I buy ground beef in various sizes. Some dishes I make require a bit over a pound, and some a little under. Here in stores (both in the Kroger and the Target) they only come in one size only – one pound. Plus, the meat is just TOO EXPENSIVE overall. So then we went over to Fiesta Mart (another grocery store) which is branded as being an inexpensive option. There the meat selection was more what I was used to seeing in Wellsboro. So, I may have to go to two separate grocery stores to get what I want, but at least we got that sorted out fairly quickly. The Fiesta Mart in itself was amazing. There was a whole international foods section. Some day I just want to go and browse it all. The strangest thing we saw there was cactus pads in the produce aisle!

Weather:
The weather here is unreal. In the last three weeks, I feel like maybe only two days have gone by where there hasn’t been a thunderstorm. And the storms are BAD. Just today the lightning and thunder lasted at least an hour. When it rains, it POURS. I am glad that we live on the second floor. I am surprised we haven’t needed a boat yet. With all this moisture in the air, the humidity is unreal. Humidity doesn’t necessarily bother me, but no denying it is there when you go outside and our glasses immediately fog up!

Texas, Texas, Texas:
People in Texas are proud that they are from Texas! Texas flags everywhere, everyone wears Texas themed shirts, Texas bumper stickers, etc. Grocery store aisles have rows and rows of “made in Texas” salsa, and Texas beef (way more expensive than the already expensive meat I mentioned previously.) When we were in Galveston for the day, nearly everyone had a tent or chairs that was branded with some sort of Texas school or sport team. I just can’t recall seeing so much “Pennsylvania” branded items. Maybe the maple syrup? But I think that is less obvious.  “Made in Pennsylvania” is one thing, but having a huge Texas flag label with cowboys, horses, long horns, armadillos, etc, is another! In Buc-ees and in the campus book store, there were Texas themed cookware. I’ll admit I “oohed” at the Texas shaped cutting board, but does anyone actually buy and use these things? Maybe it is more of a novelty, for the people visiting Texas, instead of the people who live here.

That is all of the differences I can think of for now, but I am sure there will be more as time goes on!