My husband and I are always on the lookout for special restaurants. Places with great food and a calm, relaxed at atmosphere conducive to conversation. We saw an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette about a new Asian restaurant, A. W. Lin’s, and decided to give it a try. According to the article, this “is … Continue reading
This gallery contains 1 photo.
Sam and I just enjoyed a five-night stay at the Cosmopolitan B&B in Old Town State Historic Park in San Diego, CA. The cab driver had a bit of difficulty finding the hotel. The best place to be dropped off is at the corner of Juan and Mason. There is a heavy wooden gate there, … Continue reading
Sam and I enjoyed two great restaurants this week. One was Lanna Thai Restaurant (4871 Park St. N., St. Petersburg, FL). Being a sucker for décor, this restaurant had me wowing from the moment I walked in. The dining room’s walls appear to be constructed of ancient mud bricks. Massive elephants emerge from a wall … Continue reading
Years ago, I lived in Florida and SeaWorld was one of my favorite places. So when my husband and I were recently in the Orlando area, we took a day to visit the park. I was surprised to find that the Sea is gradually being removed from SeaWorld. Many years ago, I was disappointed to learn during … Continue reading
Day two on the road. It was Sunday and few restaurants were open on Alternate 19. InPerry, Florida, I spotted Mamma’s Italian Restaurant. It was filled with cars, and I took this as a sign that it was frequented by locals, who always know best. The food was tasty and ample. There was even the hint of décor. It’s definitely a place I’ll be stopping at again – perhaps on the way back to Arkansas.
After eating, I stopped for gas. I’d already filled up a few miles down the road; stopped again to wipe the lovebugs from my windshield. For those unfamiliar with these small black insects, they link end-to-end for mating, and fly through the air. They seem to congregate along highways, and leave a resilient, sticky goo as they splat onto the windshield and bumper. It takes some elbow grease to remove them.
Western north-Florida is a pleasure to drive. It’s very rural and dotted with small towns. About the time one reaches Weeki Wachee, things begin to change. Traffic grows heavier; becomes worse the farther south one progresses.
When one says “Florida,” it conjures images of expansive swampland and sunny beaches. The reality from mid-state south is four to ten lanes of heavy traffic, rimmed by a mish-mash of businesses and sweeping parking lots. Yes, there are pockets of beauty, glimpsed between condos and hotels — beyond the confines of steel gates and chin link fences — but there’s the impression that the scenic areas are for the well-to-do, rather than the common visitor. For instance, in Dunedin, there is a long sidewalk that wraps around waterfront – beautiful and inviting. The other side of the street is lined with expensive homes. The public parking lot holds perhaps ten cars.
At one point during the journey, a group of motorcyclists – I’d estimate 20 in number – roared up beside me. No problem, except that, from the way they veered and darted among the surrounding vehicles, my guess is that at least half were under the influence. We stopped at a light. A cyclist in the adjoining lane strode the line, so when the light changed I couldn’t progress forward without injuring him. I sat for some time, until he decided to move forward — and into my lane.
They zigged and zagged between cars. I found my stomach knotting with each nearly-missed bumper. My blood pressure rose. Adrenaline surged. A young woman slowed her barely-a-motorcycle to a near-stop in front of me to urge a more-timid companion to shift between lanes. But he wouldn’t join her. Instead of moving on, she continued to block traffic. I’m ashamed to say that I finally lost it and blasted my horn. In all honesty, she seemed not to notice. In retrospect, I should have pulled off the road and let the entire lot of drunken motorists pass. Trying to drive amidst the roaring chaos was only matching the insanity around me.
Last weekend, my husband and I tried a new hibachi restaurant – Sashimi Japanese Steakhouse in Maumelle.
A newspaper article had said it was “a cut above” similar restaurants in the Little Rock area. I don’t know if I agree with that, but the food was good nevertheless.
Of course, the cook and the people sitting at the grill can make a big difference, and we lucked out on both counts.
We sat at one end of the grill; another married couple at the other. It was their first evening out in nearly a year. His folks were watching the kids.
They had driven into town from his parent’s country home, where they’re currently living. Their own home was destroyed some months ago by a tornado.
They held out a cell phone and smiled, taking pictures to preserve the memory and to post on Facebook.
She asked the cook whether he fixed stir fry meals for himself every night.
The cook shook his head. Usually I have microwave dinners. “If I’m really tired, I go to Taco Bell.”
Maybe that’s safer. Once, when I was living in an apartment, there came the overpowering smell of smoke. I stepped out the front door to see where it might be coming from. My next door neighbor opened his door at about the same time; black smoke wafted out behind him. He worked nights as a chef, and had fallen asleep while cooking his meal—nearly set the building on fire.
As for our own minor catastrophe – the large maple split in two by high winds – someone is coming this week to remove the tree and grind the stump level to the ground.
Getting estimates definitely pays off. The first man I called quoted $750. When I balked, it quickly came down to $550.
Sam said he knew it would be expensive. “How much were you thinking?”
“Remember when I got a quote to cut down and remove that big hedge?” I said. “They only wanted one-eighty. I’m thinking it should be between two and three hundred.”
So I called several more places. All but one said they’d send someone out during the week. The exception drove out that afternoon and quoted three-hundred. He answered the call quickly; quoted a fair price; he’s got the job.
Sunday I participated in Stone Soup. Once every other month, members from First United Methodist Church of Benton travel to Quapaw Methodist Church in downtown Little Rock. Every Sunday, this church provides meals to the homeless. Volunteers from various organizations provide the labor for the program.
When we arrived, we found there’d been a scheduling mishap. Another group had also been requested to help, so we were over-staffed. However, the large number of volunteers made things easy and efficient. I scooped large tubs of potato salad into a metal bin. Others cut onions, heated tubs of barbecue, sliced pound cake, decorated tables with tiny vases of artificial flowers, and wrapped plastic utensils in paper napkins. Later I scooped ice into Styrofoam cups, and then handed the cup to someone else who added iced tea.
Near the door, there was a small disagreement between two men standing at the head of the line. One accused another of cutting in. The woman who runs the pantry spoke to them, assured them that there was plenty for everyone, and things quieted down.
Once everything was in place, people were allowed through the line. There was more than enough for everyone, and anyone who desired could have seconds and thirds. For the most part, the recipients of the meal were friendly, humble, and very appreciative. After finishing his dinner, one man played the piano.
A little boy, the son of a volunteer, went among the tables with a pitcher of tea, refilling empty cups.
When the last person left, metal chairs were folded and stacked on tables. The floors were swept, and the dishes washed. We were only there 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Definitely something I’ll participate in again.
Saturday we went to Zing, Zang, Zoom, one of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s traveling circuses. It was the first event I’d attended inLittle Rock’s Verizon Arena, which was much smaller than I’d imagined. We sat in the first row, right on the exhibition floor.
There was a single ring and the acts were small-scale – definitely targeted toward younger children. My favorite (of course) was an animal act featuring horses and camels. There were two dromedaries, two horses, and two miniature horses, and they pranced and danced around the ring. Watching the animals move in sync was actually quite beautiful.
There were no lions or tigers – instead a trained cat act. But there was an elephant act, and we were close enough to look into the eyes of the pachyderms and see the wrinkles in their skin. A motorcycle rolled across a wire above our heads; beneath it a woman sat on a swing. A pair of tight-rope walkers performed, but were only about eight feet off the ground.
Between acts, I enjoyed the first cotton candy I’ve had in roughly fifteen years. Yum! Just as good as I remember! (Not like candy corn, Pixi Stix, and those candy necklaces, which definitely become less appealing with age.) Like most items, the cotton candy came with a souvenir item to warrant the $10 charge. I gave the tall hat that came with mine to the little boy next to us.
We’d had so much fun at the circus, that Sam and I wanted our date to continue. So we decided to make a day of it and go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It was pretty good. My only complaint was that, no matter how many apes got wiped out, they seemed to magically multiply. Also, some of the distant scenes showing groups of apes terrorizing the city didn’t look natural. However, the animals’ expressions in close-ups were quite convincing.
After that, we ate at the Rib Crib in Benton. Not bad. Not great. But better than ending the day by cooking and cleaning up at home.
July 16, 2011
Friday, we spent the day in eastern Texas. In the morning, we visited the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin. It’s small – takes perhaps three hours to see at a leisurely pace – but has a nice selection of animals. The paths are well shaded. There are peacocks everywhere.
We then drove to Huntsvilleto visit the Texas State Prison Museum. The exhibits and stories were fascinating, and left me with a strange mix of emotions. There were times when the prisons were under the direction of individuals intent on helping prisoners to become contributing members to society. Both the prisoners and community ultimately benefited. But then these men would be replaced with others intent on punishing rather than reforming those incarcerated. Conditions degenerated and those in charge abused their positions. Eventually things became so bad that the Federal Government had to step in and take control of the entire Texas prison system.
On a looped recording, those responsible for performing and witnessing executions, related their experiences. It made me want to cry. Perhaps the death penalty should be abolished, if only because of the anguish it creates among the innocent.
An excellent article about the museum can be found at RoadsideAmerica.com.
We spent the night in Crockett, and had dinner at Tchoupitoulas (Chop-eh-too-las), a local favorite in the oldest section of the historic downtown. The food showed a rare attention to detail. The salad was a mix of romaine and fresh vegetables. The cucumbers were crinkle-cut. There were shaved carrots, and a sprinkling of bacon bits. The blue cheese dressing was outstanding. The salad was served with warm, fresh-baked bread.
I ordered the surf and turf. The filet mignon, ordered medium-well, was done perfectly with just a hint of pink. The marinated meat was flavorful and tender. It was accompanied by a soft-baked sweet potato.
The waiter was friendly and attentive, without being intrusive. The owner stopped by to see if everything was to our liking.
A definite thumbs-up!
July 15, 2011
Yesterday afternoon, we drove to Lufkin. Once we got to the hotlel, hubby took a nap, while I worked on my blog. Later, we were off to dinner at Ralph and Kakoo’s [New Orleans-Style] Seafood Restaurant. It was tempting to order a steak, because the prices for beef were much more reasonable than they are inArkansas. But it seemed wiser to order a dish that a restaurant specializes in. As though to stamp their cuisine authentic, a group sitting next to us spoke Cajun.
I had the Catfish Acadiana, catfish stuffed with crabmeat. It was a little heavy on the salt, but otherwise quite tasty. The steamed vegetables were done to perfection – tender with just a hint of crispness. The blue cheese dressing on the mostly-Romaine dinner salad was the best I’ve had in years. The rolls were fresh0-baked with just a hint of garlic.
Getting back to the hotel, which was less than 3 miles away, was a real challenge. Most cities are laid out in a grid systems. Here the streets seem to be a series of loops, with slightly overlapping loops running nearly parallel to one another. It’s hard to get a sense of direction – and hard for the GPS to determine which similar street you’re on at any given moment. After driving back and forth past our hotel several times – without being able to actually reach it – we finally saw a pet hotel that we’d passed on the way in. From that point, my husband remembered how to get to the hotel. Had I been alone, I’d have tried to reset the GPS from that point, since it had directed us in earlier without problem.
This morning, Ellen Trout Zoo. This afternoon, The Texas Prison Museum.