Monday, October 5, 2009

Cheap Girls Night Out

For I am a recently made single woman, my friend suggested we take a trip to Howl at the Moon in Houston for a "Girls Night Out." When you think of going to a bar in Houston, you know there will most likely be a cover charge, and of course having to pay to park your car so it doesn't (gasp!) get towed. I was a little skeptical at first, as I have very limited funds being I have to support myself. Boy, was I ever surprised at how you can make a girls night in Houston cheap!

Cover at Howl at the Moon was only $7, parking $6, and to top it off, me and my friends decided to get a drink bucket for $22 to share. Yes, I know, $22!! But, when you think about it, split among three people, you would be saving all the extra money you would spend on tipping for each cocktail you would swig down in 15 min. Plus, the dueling piano playing and the sing along are what make this bar so worthwhile, half the time you forget alcohol is part of your party high.

After our oh so many buckets o' liquor, we of course needed food, preferably something really greasy and bad for us to soak up the alcohol. My friend, being the pro that she is, walked us across this dark and scary parking lot (btw, make sure you are in a group when doing this, we were pretty stupid) and low and behold in a small office plaza was Gotham Pizza. I felt like I was in New York all over again! I bought a huge slice of pepperoni, which tasted like heaven! I don't think I would have survived the next day if it weren't for Gotham Pizza! And at $5 a slice, how could you beat it?

Good atmosphere, good drinks, and good food, all for under $40! Man, I love Houston!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chappell Hill, The Birthplace of Texas!!!

One scorching hot Sunday, the boy and I decided to take his nieces and nephew on an adventure just down the road from us on 290, to a little place called Chappell Hill. For those of you born and bred in TX, you most likely know the town for their tasty sausage, but were you also aware of Chappell Hill being one of the first settlements in TX?

The Chappell Hill Museum offers detailed displays on the Texas Civil War era, with photos, descriptions and stories told of soldiers and how their families coped. The museum is in what used to be the Chappell Hill College for Women. You can actually sit in a replica of an old school room, which is fun for kids and adults alike! They even have old clothes and artifacts from the 1900s for people to try on and handle. It's free admission, with donations welcome.

Main St. in Chappell Hill is reminiscent of the Old West, charming and provincial. You can find the Visitor's Center, the Old Rock Store, Providence Baptist Church and the 1907 Historic Bank. It's fun just to walk down Main St. and view the old buildings.

Chappell Hill is rich in culture, known for it's history of higher education, cotton and Polish immigration. It's also close to the Brazos River, where you can go just off of 290 when heading back east, and take in the wonderful views of the river that was once used to ship cotton from Chappell Hill to Galveston Island.

A historic getaway that is educational and free? Now that's what I call a perfect family sunday!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Events to Check Out in August!!

Texas is known for it's plethora of state fairs and harvest events as we slowly ease into the Fall season. Here are some of my pics for fun (and let's keep it cheap, people) attractions in August:

Blues Fest, Navasota

Aug. 7-8th

Located on the Grimes County Fairgrounds, the event features local, regional and international musicians.

Lavender Fest, Chappell Hill

Aug. 8th

Immerse yourself in the aromas of fresh cut lavender as you enjoy arts and crafts and tour the local vendors.

22nd Annual Lions Club Balloon Festival & Fair, Highland Village

Aug. 14-16th

Float in a hot air balloon and take in all the scenery of the beautiful Texas landscape! Enjoy live entertainment and arts & crafts for the kids. A food court and vendors will be available.

The Texas Testosterone Festival, Austin

Aug. 15-16th

Try saying that three times in a row! This event is a total man fest, a barrage of all things men love: Sports, bikes, trucks, ultimate fighting, tattoos, poker and more! As Beyonce would say, "All the single ladies, put your hands up!!"

81st Annual North Texas State Fair, Denton

Aug. 21-29th

Rodeo, Carnival, Fiddling Contest, Barbecue Cook-offs!--Need I say more? Games, music, petting zoos and fun for the whole family.

Gartenfest, San Antonio

Aug. 21st

A German Festival held by The Beethoven Maennerchor in Garten & Halle. Enjoy German food and the sounds of live choral and band music.

Fourth Annual Bluegrass Festival, Wichita Falls

Aug. 21-22nd

Experience music from local bluegrass bands such as Star Canyon, Southbound Mule and Salt Grass.

Bat Fest, Austin

Aug. 22nd

Watch out for those bats!! Also, includes children's activities and over 30 bands performing on two stages.

14th Annual Margarita & Salsa Festival, Waco

Aug. 29th

This fest includes some of the best country music in Texas and has a contest for many local restaurants and individuals on who has the best margarita's and salsa! Care to be a judge?

Be safe and have fun while playing it cheap, Texans!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Staycation: When You Can't Afford to Getaway!

Instead of the typical getaway to Disney World or Mexico this Summer, many families are choosing to explore in their hometowns without breaking their bank. "Staycation" is a popular term used among many parents and couples who want to take a break from the 9-5 grind, but need to tighten their wallets by becoming a tourist in their local surroundings. Texas is the perfect state to live in if opting for a Staycation. Not only is there Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, the coast offers many opportunities for day trips, like touring The Strand in Galveston or spending the afternoon on the beach at Corpus Christi. When you live in Texas, you don't have to go far to explore! Also, many museums in the major cities have free admission or special discount days for families. Here are a list of Websites I found helpful in order to plan your "Staycation":

Enjoy, Texas Staycationers!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Let's Go Tubing!! Whee!!!

When a co-worker of mine told me one Friday that her weekend plans were to go "tubing," I immediately reminisced about my summer's as a child being dragged by a speed boat across the lake on an inner tube and holding on for dear life. Yes, that's what us Yankees call fun. So, when I told my friend that story, she looked at me like I was crazy (I'm pretty used to that look by now) and told me "tubing" in Texas meant lounging on an inner tube and drinking beer while floating down a river. Sounds like my kind of downtime! A summer tradition for most Texans that I have yet to experience, but will hopefully get the chance before this season's end. New Braunfels, TX is an excellent place to enjoy river tubing according to the many people I've talked to. Bring your own tube, a cooler full of drinks and food, and enjoy the scenery with friends and family. Sounds like the perfect way to enjoy Summer in Texas!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Best Fish Fry in Texas! (Well, so far!)

Last Friday I was invited by friends for a fish fry at what they called a "Hole in the Wall" sports bar. "Once you see the trailers, you'll know why I call it that," my friend said as we were driving there, unaware that I am no stranger to bars with rickety bar stools and an aura of stale beer.

As we pulled into the gravel covered parking lot, I became a little worried. I saw the two double-wide trailers parked at opposite ends, and there behind a menagerie of pick-up trucks and 100 year old trees was a wooden shack that looked like it was stolen off the set of "Young Guns." I was afraid to be the first to walk in, but felt eased when I heard Justin Timberlake's "Rock your Body" playing on the jukebox. Phew!
A friendly face resembling a 1950s barbie doll greeted us with a "How y'all doin' tonite?" and as we sat at the bar, I noticed the friendly faces of the regulars, their welcoming grins making us feel right at home. Their fish fry was only $10, and was enough food for two! The cook graciously told us while he was sitting at the bar sipping on Shiner that Tues.-Thurs. are a can't miss, for it's all you can eat steak for $16!! I can only imagine how amazing their steaks could taste after feasting on the best fish fry I've ever had! Like my friend Chuck said "It's the perfect Friday night out." Not only were my friends and I well fed, we also enjoyed the country home-like atmosphere. If you live around or are visiting the Cypress, TX area, this is a definite can't miss! Wick's Sports Bar, 14600 Cypress North Houston Road, near the intersection of Cypress NorthHouston Rd. and N. Kolbe Dr.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

If All Else Fails, Road Trip!!

Last Sunday I was plagued by cabin fever and a low bank account. I suggested going to the beach for the afternoon to the boy, but he apparently wasn't up for another sunburn. So, we just jumped in our Jeep and went for a drive, heading West on 290 towards Austin. We decided to take our chances down Hwy 6 towards Bryan-College Station, not knowing what little towns we would find along the way. Cruising down the highway, we kept seeing signs for Navasota. Curious, we took a slight detour to this small town resembling the Old West, but with antique stores and a dance studio. It was interesting to see buildings from the 1800s left untouched, not remodeled for the 21st century. The downtown strip in Navasota only stretches about 6 blocks, perfect for antiquing.

Back on the road, we entered College Station about a half hour later. The town is beautiful, and Texas A & M University is so huge, it should just be its own city. We toured some of the campus and stumbled upon the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, which was just down the road from A & M. The boy had to ask a College Station police officer how to get to the museum, as our GPS was taking us in circles as usual.

The officer snickered at his fashion statement of the day--a Texas Longhorns baseball cap and an orange shirt to match. We would have been crucified if school wasn't out for summer!! In our defense, "Eh, how were we supposed to know? We're from Chicago, okay?!". We were led by the cop to the museum, and to our dismay it closed at 5pm, so we strolled by the peaceful pond on the museum grounds and gazed at the beautiful scenery. We ended our road trip with a Sonic dinner (gotta love those chili-cheese tots!) and a relaxing drive home. Didn't spend much, still had over half a tank of gas, and saw three new places we would have never seen if we didn't detour onto Hwy 6. Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Texas!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

4th of July Events!!

Here are the descriptions of some of the best 4th of July celebrations in Texas. And the best part? Most of them are FREE!! Happy 4th!!

Fair Park Fourth

Enjoy a free of charge, fun-filled day for the whole family, which includes free admission to museums, musical performances, games and food. Fireworks will be viewed from the newly renovated Cotton Bowl!

Freedom Over Texas

This year's event will feature one of the largest land-based fireworks displays in the nation!! With musical performances from local bands and Clay Walker, along with rides and games for the kids, this is a can't miss!! Plus, admission is FREE!!

San Antonio:

Salute to the Union

Celebrate the traditional 4th of July in at Fort Sam Houston while they pay tribute to the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the United States by shooting off 50 cannons to represent each state.


HEB Austin Symphony

Enjoy the patriotic sounds of the Austin Symphony as you celebrate how proud it is to be an American! A spectacular view of the fireworks will be displayed over Lady Bird Lake. Admission is free!!

Fort Hood:

Freedom Fest

Come celebrate your freedom and view the best fireworks display in central Texas! Dierks Bentley will be performing, with a free carnival, games, food and fun for the whole family! From 1-10pm, fireworks at 9:30.


July 4th Big Backyard Barbecue

The fun starts at La Centerra at 5pm with live entertainment from area high school bands and local bands from Houston. Fireworks from Pyro of Houston at 9:15. Food and beverages available at the local restaurants.

Galveston’s 4th of July Parade and Fireworks!!

Kick-off your celebration with a parade in historic downtown Galveston and watch the Gulf of Mexico light up with an amazing fireworks display along the seawall!

Make it a safe and happy fourth Texans!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pleasing to the Eye....

The Menil Collection in Houston is the place to go when looking for an escape from the noise of the bustling city streets. Located on a campus known as the "Neighborhood of Art," this pristine building is surrounded by shady, tree-lined streets, giving it a homey appeal. The peacefulness of the neighborhood is reflected in by the tranquility of the museum. As I walked in, the noise was so minimal, you could hear a pin drop. Whispering to my niece "Use 4-inch voices only," I was afraid to even gasp at a sculpture that caught my eye, as the guards would peer around the corner to make sure we were on our best behavior. Even though all are welcome, the museum is not kid friendly. Some of the modern art exhibitions lean more towards the R-rated side, so beware when taking your little-littles. I had to cover my niece's eyes a few times so her parents wouldn't kill me!

The paintings and sculptures in the museum are plentiful, making it almost hard to believe there is no entrance fee. You won't find Monet or Van Gogh in this collection. The art is somewhat provocative, but from different eras such as Ancient Greece B.C., 1920s Modern, as well as tribal remnants from Alaska. The museum itself is beautiful, with the Texas sunlight peaking in through the canvas sailcloth ceilings, the soft light gleaming on the paintings of the gallery walls and the whit-oak floors. A huge monarch butterfly bid me farewell as I exited the museum, welcoming me to the pleasant neighborhood atmosphere. The bookstore across the street was useful in finding information on my favorite artists in the collection! If you're in need for a little tranquility in your life, along with wanting to view fantastic art and sculptures from centuries past, The Menil Collection is the place to be! Plus, it's free!! Parking is also free and conveniently across the street from the gallery.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Going Ga Ga for Hotel ZaZa!!

Having been born and bred in the Windy City, I've grown accustomed to seeing lavish hotels as I walked the streets of downtown Chicago, knowing there was no way I could possibly ever afford a night's stay there, let alone a martini in their "ultra classy" lounge. So, when I was invited to a charity event at the posh Hotel ZaZa in downtown Houston, I felt a bit intimidated. "What would I wear? (or what still fit?), How should I do my hair? Should I get my nails done?" were common questions rolling through my mind, as I was only invited 6 hours before.

Wearing my "little black dress" (it's because of last-minute invites to swanky events that every woman should have one), we pulled up to the hotel with about five people waiting to help us out of our cars. I had a reason to feel intimidated. Although, walking into the hotel lobby, I felt like I was in the lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, but with a "homey" Houston feel, immediately drawn to the huge gold cow they have presented under pink and purple lights. Our event was poolside, which had a balcony that overlooked the beautiful museum district. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect night! The staff was very attentive and friendly, even when we went down to the Monarch Lounge for drinks and appetizers. Here's a tip: The Steak and Sticks were phenomenal!! Their appetizers are big enough for 2-3 people, and are the way to go if you're on a budget like me. :)
Hotel ZaZa is definitely a place to relax and have a martini in when visiting Houston! The staff and atmosphere will make you feel right at home!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Big Ass Beer!!!

Molly's Pub in Downtown Houston is the place to be for good beer, great bar food, and a friendly staff! While bar hopping on a Sunday afternoon, my crew and I decided to embark this tiny little Irish pub while I was stumbling on Main Street (don't fall on the Metro track), which sits next to a dance club of all places!! Having been to other pubs in Houston, and being semi-impressed, I was starting to become discouraged at the fact that an authentic Irish pub was simply too much to ask for in Texas.

Low and behold, Molly's Pub met all of my expectations!! Not to mention, the staff was extremely attentive and personable. It almost felt as if I was visiting a college campus, because it felt like a party atmosphere during a Sunday afternoon. The only downside to my experience would be climbing a lengthy staircase to get to the toilet. After quite a few beers, you could see how that would be an obstacle.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Carnival by the Bay

As I approached the Kemah Boardwalk, I was suddenly reminiscent of my younger days, when going on roller coaster rides and eating cotton candy till I turned queasy was just another glorious day! Not only does the boardwalk have a merry-go-round, a roller coaster, and an Aquarium, it also has some of the best restaurants in Texas, from the typical tourist traps to fine dining. I was amazed that all of this, including a hotel, was on this boardwalk. I have never been to the Santa Monica Pier, but I can only imagine this is a smaller version, a cliff notes, perhaps.

Immediately overwhelmed by the amount of people (I went on Mother's Day, SO not recommended) , it appeared to me that this is one of the only places in Texas where families can eat, drink and play, without having to walk much. Parking is free, unless it's one of those lazy days, then it's $6 closer to the boardwalk.

If you decide to go for the free parking, and it's one of those adult adventures, try stopping by a few bars along the way before spending a fortune on cocktails on the pier. The Monkey Bar was a nice, friendly neighborhood dive, with live entertainment on the patio. Palapas is a biker bar that plays loud rock music, but has a tiki-beachcomber theme to it--go figure! There are also a myriad of little shops and restaurants if you don't like what the boardwalk has to offer.

It was a little too touristy for me, but I did enjoy walking around Kemah and seeing what the boardwalk has to offer for my future little-littles. I was impressed to see a live band in the center of all the madness, with room for people to sit and dance! The later you arrive, the more adult-friendly the boardwalk becomes. This is a definite can't miss for anyone visiting the Houston-Galveston area.,

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Piece of Texas History

During an ultra laid-back Sunday, my boyfriend and I decided to explore the old battlegrounds at the San Jacinto Museum and Park in La Porte, TX. Now mind you, not being from Texas and only just learning of the "Battleship," it was tricky to find, with all the offshore oil distribution companys nearby. Alas, we spotted the Texas State Monument, which led us to a huge park with families picnicing under the shadows of the great battleship. We decided to skip the battleship, which costs $10 to tour, so we instead scoured the old battlegrounds and spotted a few graveyards and took in the great view of the bay. It's free to picnic and walk the grounds, where you can take awesome pictures of the battleship.

I wore gym shoes as I knew we would be doing a LOT of walking, but I wasn't prepared for the mosquitos there that ate me alive! Also, wear lot's of sunscreen, especially if planning to walk on the battleship. My fair, Irish-skinned self should have worn a hat and sunglasses, so if you are sensitive to the sun as well, make sure to wear both.

It was interesting to see so much history in a public park. You could bring the family there for a lazy Sunday picnic, pets are also allowed. It's also a nice place to stop at on your way to Kemah, as it is only 20 min. away! Beautiful scenery along with a piece of Texas history, makes me feel proud to be a Texan!