Embassy Suites Austin Arboretum Review

For years I have wanted to take a little getaway at the beginning of the new year to refresh, renew, and reevaluate. We finally did it last week. My hubby and I traveled to the faraway land of Austin, Texas (about a 30-minute drive from our house 😂) for the weekend. We stayed in what used to be one of our favorite hotel chains – Embassy Suites.

We actually haven’t stayed in one in years so it was a bit of a step back in time, almost literally. It looked exactly the same as we remembered. The layout and decor anyway. We’ve never stayed at this particular hotel. One thing that made this Embassy Suites unique were the swans. Real live Royal swans living in the atrium.

We’d never seen that before. Their names are Butch and Sundance, and they’re brothers. Apparently British royalty used to keep these as pets inside the palace because they are basically defenseless against predators. We never heard a peep out of them and they seemed quite content in their indoor habitat.

Aside from the swans it was almost everything we remembered. Strangely enough I didn’t see that as a good thing. It felt like we had stepped into a time capsule; dated. It was in good shape. Nothing was run down, it just felt . . . dated. That’s the best word for it, I think. The atrium was beautiful, the room was clean and spacious – no valid complaints there.

One of the reasons my husband has always liked Embassy Suites is their complimentary, cook-to-order breakfast. That always felt a step above your typical Holiday Inn or Marriott. Who wouldn’t prefer a fresh, hot breakfast over a dry muffin, eggs of questionable origin, and so-so coffee?

I opted for the buffet breakfast while hubs went for his favorite, cooked-to-order omelette. I was not impressed. While it was adequate, the quality wasn’t what I remembered, and there was no bacon on the buffet table! What’s a vaca breakfast without bacon? Lacking, that’s what it is! My sweetie, on the other hand, was quite satisfied although he mentioned a slight decline in quality as well. Maybe it’s just a case of memory being better than reality?

All-in-all it was definitely a pleasant stay. We got a lot of planning done, slept well, and had no major complaints. Parking was free (something you don’t always get in the city), there were two pools and lots of lovely seating both indoors and out. There was a workout room, a 24-hour snack shop with coffee, and a complimentary lemonade station near the elevators. The staff were very friendly and accommodating, and for just over $100/night for a two-bedroom king suite we felt it was a weekend well spent! If you don’t mind a more traditional decor and you find yourself in North Austin needing a good night’s sleep, I would recommend the Embassy Suites Austin Arboretum.

Happy travels! 🚗😊💕

Not To Be Remiss

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Photo by Devon Schreiner on Pexels.com

It occurred to me this morning that I have been remiss in my travel journaling.  I have been to this place twice in the past six months and have yet to share it with you.  For this, I apologize.  ☺️

The place?  Branson, Missouri.  A bit of a mystery to some and home away from home for others.  I, personally, had never heard of the place until I moved from California to Texas.  California has it’s own playgrounds; Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe, Vegas.  Apparently Branson is a playground for the middle southern part of the country.  A lot of folks from Texas and Arkansas in particular visit there.  At least that’s where a lot of the people I’ve met were from.  Branson gets visitors from all over the world though.  I learned this on our last visit while signing a guest book at one of our favorite spots there.  So, if you’re unfamiliar with Branson and curious at the same time, read on.

The first thing I heard about Branson was the shows.  I had not been there yet, but my best friend goes frequently and was telling me a little bit about it.  What I pictured in my mind was nothing like the reality!  I basically pictured a strip of road lined with theatres, and that was it.  Ha!  Was I surprised when I actually saw it for the first time.

My first sighting was a lake and a beautiful bridge crossing over it.  It turns out, there are all kinds of water activities in Branson at Table Rock Lake; Lake Taneycomo, and Rockaway Beach.  Lake Taneycomo runs like a river alongside Branson to Rockaway Beach.  One of the best views of Table Rock Lake can be found at Top of The Rock.  A beautiful site to visit all on it’s own.  There is a museum, a golf course, restaurant, shopping, and Big Cedar Lodge.  A Branson “must-do” in my opinion.

I think of Branson as a combination of Lake Tahoe, CA.; Fredericksburg, TX; and Las Vegas, NV (without the gambling).  Branson is a very family friendly place.  I only included Vegas because of the shows – which are also family friendly.  The shows are too numerous to mention.  I will say, however, that if you go and there is a show at the Sight and Sound Theater – go see it!  I also recommend a group called “Six”.  My words can’t do them justice.  If you like music and comedy – see their show.

In addition to all the shows, there is shopping galore!  Thus the Fredericksburg reference.  Downtown and Branson Landing are my two favorite shopping areas.  There is also no shortage of restaurants should you work up an appetite while shopping.  Paula Deen even has a new restaurant coming at The Landing.  I saw the construction going on during my last visit this past April.

I don’t travel with kids so much anymore, but I know there is plenty for them to do in Branson as well.  Miniature golf courses and go-kart tracks are all over Branson.  I’ve heard tell that Silver Dollar City theme park is a great place to hang out with the kids.  I don’t think there’s really anything you could do in Branson that the kids wouldn’t be welcome to and even enjoy.  Some of the smaller ones may get bored with a show or two, but even that’s questionable.

Branson has something for just about everyone whether you’re into hiking or your idea of hiking is browsing the shops along the main.  Good food, good fun, good people.  That’s my experience of Branson, Missouri and I would be remiss to not share it with you.

Happy Travels!
🛵😊

The Biggest Little Zoo in Texas

Recently, my sister and I were in the city of Victoria, Texas with two of my grands looking for something to do.  My sister knew there was a zoo in town, but had never been.  So, she did some searching on her phone and found the Texas Zoo.  It was obvious that it was small, but we decided to give it a try anyway.  It turned out to be a surprisingly nice little zoo.

It was an overcast and cool weekday, so we practically had the place to ourselves, which only enhanced the experience for us.  Fortunately, the animals seemed to be enjoying the weather as well.  They were all fairly active.

This guy was full of personality.  Any time a zoo worker came into sight, he acted like he was sure they had food for him.  Unfortunately for him, none of them did.  He remained optimistic, however, and very close to the fence.

There were peacocks roaming free and they were absolutely gorgeous!  The kids got to feed them and loved it!

We also got to listen to the Red Wolf and the Coyotes singing, which was a totally awesome experience!

I loved this guy!  I could have watched him all afternoon.  He was so beautiful and powerful looking.  I like the word “majestic” for him.

Just the size of his paws was intimidating.

Please forgive my ignorance for I do not know the name of this breed of owl, but I found them to be quite beautiful.  There was no placard as the zoo is still recovering from the effects of the last hurricane.  Some areas are still under reconstruction and not all of the animals have been returned to their exhibits.

There were actually quite a few birds both inside and out.  I particularly like these next two as well.  I’m going to guess that the first one is a Gray Parrot and we all know the colorful Macaw.

Absolutely gorgeous birds!

Feeding the goats was a blast for the kids.  They actually like goats!  Personally, I don’t care for them, but, to each his own.

At one point, a goat actually ripped the bag of food out of my sister’s hand  After that, we called him “Greedy”.  It made for a pretty good photo “op” though.  📸😁

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Texas Zoo, just as much if not more so than any large zoo we’ve been to and we’ve been to some of the majors; San Francisco, San Diego, Houston, San Antonio – we like zoos!  The staff here are super friendly and the zoo hosts some pretty cool events

So, if you ever find yourself in Victoria, Texas with some time to kill, I recommend a visit to this little zoo with big heart!

Great place to visit!  🐆🦉🐻😊

Tony & Luigi’s

My family and I have lived in Georgetown for 12-years and for the very first time last night, my husband and I dined at Tony & Luigi’s. From what I understand, this restaurant has been here longer than we have, so how have we missed it all these years? I have no idea, but we have definitely been missing out! I am honestly a little embarrassed to admit all of this because Italian food is my favorite and we eat out quite a bit. There is absolutely no excuse for not having tried this place before now. And now that we’ve tried it, we’re kicking ourselves for the wasted time.

It’s a simple little white building with not a lot of parking. The only thing pretty about the outside is the sign.

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Inside, however, is a completely different story. The ambience is warm and cozy. There are tables everywhere with a wall of booths. We were promptly greeted by a friendly waiter who brought us drinks and a basket of heavenly rolls complete with a spread that seemed a combination of Boursin and butter. My husband ventured out a bit and ordered a Mediterranean Margarita (we’re not big drinkers) and liked it so much he had to make himself stop drinking it. If he weren’t driving, he would have finished the whole thing. I enjoyed part of a lovely Peach Bellini.

For starters, we ordered the stuffed mushrooms and they were marvelous!  (We dove into them before I remembered to take a pic.  They bring you six altogether)

For dinner, I ordered Pasta Carbonara and my husband had the Chicken Alla Madrid.

We each also had a Caesar side salad. I have to comment on the salad!

A lot of Caesar dressings are extremely sharp as are the Parmesan shavings that accompany it. This one, however, was a very pleasant surprise. The cheese was mild, nutty, and buttery – like a good Parm should be. The dressing was beautiful and not overly sharp. One of the best Caesars we’ve ever had. Our main courses were almost beyond words. Delicioso doesn’t even cover it! Ethereal might be a better word.

We didn’t stop at dinner though. After all, we were in an Italian restaurant. To leave without sampling their Tiramisu would be a crime! 4E070070-A241-49C6-996E-36E4CE9C209F

Suffice it to say, they know what they’re doing in that cucina! The Tiramisu was heavenly! We Left Tony & Luigi’s vowing that it was now our “go-to” for Italian food in Georgetown. The service was friendly and efficient, the ambience comfortable, the food amazing, and the prices reasonable! If you’re ever in Georgetown with a craving for Italian, Tony & Luigi’s is THE place! And if you go on a Thursday night you can enjoy Frank Sinatra style entertainment.

I’m gonna go eat my leftovers now!

Mangiamo!  🍽🥂😊

Friday Night Pizza Review

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Our spotlight this week is on a new kid on the block – Yaghi’s Pizza.  Started in 2014 by a transplant to Texas from New York, Cal Yaghi.  His family already owned a restaurant in New York and Cal encouraged them to come to Texas and open a pizzeria.  Their first locations were in Austin, but we discovered them right here in Georgetown in the HEB shopping center on Williams Drive.

Yaghi’s New York Style Pizza claims stone baked, authentic New York style pizza from dough made fresh daily and in-house made from scratch meats.  As well as 100% all natural mozzarella cheese and top quality tomatoes and spices for their secret sauce.

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I believe their claims because I can taste the quality.  Not only is it good pizza, it’s inexpensive pizza!  I don’t want to say “cheap” because to me that implies low quality and that does not apply here.  It doesn’t stop at pizza either.  They offer calzones, salads, pasta, pizza rolls, buffalo wings, subs, and cheese sticks!  I don’t think you’ll leave there hungry!  😉

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Yaghi’s New York Style Pizza passes my salt test, they’re easy on the wallet, and they deliver hot food in a timely manner!  I give them four out of five anchovies and feel pretty confident that if you give them a try you won’t be disappointed.

Mangiamo!  😁🍕

Friday Night Pizza Review

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Tonight’s spotlight is on a relative newcomer to the pizza scene.  PizzaRev opened their first franchise in Southern California in 2012 and now have locations all across the country and in Mexico!  It’s an awesome concept, in my opinion.  The pizzas are all the same price and the same size, except for a plain cheese which is a couple dollars less.

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The concept is basically Subway for pizza.  You choose your crust. Your choices are thin, “double dough”, and gluten free (preference) or gluten free (allergy).  I’m not sure of the difference between those last two.  You choose your sauce, and you have eight choices including barbecue sauce and no sauce.  You also get to choose from five different cheeses including feta, bleu, and a vegan option.  Then move along the line and choose your toppings.  Regardless of how many toppings you choose, the price doesn’t change.  They have all the basics and a few extras, like fresh Basil, jalapeños, and arugula.  Their protein choices are pretty nice too, ranging from meatballs to bacon to a vegan sausage.  You can also choose a finishing sauce if you’re so inclined.

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My family and I have eaten at the Round Rock, Tx. location several times and it has always been delicious!  Everything tastes fresh, their crust is tasty, and the service is always friendly.  And you can’t beat the price!  If you’d prefer to have your pizza brought to you, they deliver through GrubHub and DoorDash.  They pass my salt block test and I give them five out of five anchovies!  If you’ve never tried PizzaRev, join the revolution and give them a try!  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Mangiamo!  😊🍕

Friday Night Pizza Review

vegetables italian pizza restaurant

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Today’s pizza review is a bit of a throwback for me.  It was THE place when I was in college, but I think I’ve ordered from them maybe twice in the past ten years.  Weird, when I think about it, and I really don’t have a definitive answer as to why.  I ordered from them a few weeks ago and was reminded of how much I loved their pizza and came up with a possible reason as to why they went to the bottom of my list.  The crust on my favorite type of pizza from there is greasy and decadent.  It’s a good kind of greasy, like a grilled cheese sandwich, but not helpful when you’re trying to be a bit healthier.

Have you guessed it yet?  Yup!  Pizza Hut.  Specifically their pan pizza.  Only now, they’ve kicked it up a notch and added crust flavors!  Toasted Parmesan, Garlic Buttery Blend, and Toasted Cheddar are just a few of the options you have to choose from.  Their entire menu has changed from my college days and it’s a whole new delightful pizza world at the Hut.

If you haven’t tried them in awhile, I would recommend giving them another chance.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the menu options.  Pizza Hut’s flavors have always been good in my opinion and there’s not a lot of change there, thankfully.  Their prices are definitely competitive and their delivery service good.  They pass the salt block test, barely, and if you want to be a bit healthier go with a thin crust and lots of veggies.  Stay away from the Pan Pizza!  If you’re looking for some decadence, however, the Pan is definitely the way to go!

Mangiamo!  😁🍕

New Canyon Restaurant

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Canyon, Texas is sporting a brand new restaurant on its downtown square as of January of this year.  Joe Taco calls itself a “Mexi-Cafe”.  Whatever that really means, “awesome food” has to be somewhere in the definition.  Let me be totally clear.  The name is “Joe Taco”, not “Joe’s Tacos” or “Taco Joe’s” – all of which we ourselves called it at first.

The former automotive business turned restaurant has been an instant success.  That could be partly due to the fact that there’s been another Joe Taco just up the road in Amarillo since 2007, so the locals aren’t totally unfamiliar.  Still, no restaurant is a success if the food is no good.  Such could never be said of Joe Taco.  The food is amazing!  My family and I have been there twice now and had a fabulous experience both times (keep in mind we live 8-hours away.  If closer, we’d be there more often).  Great prices, healthy portions, good service, and a fun atmosphere!  This picture only shows a small part of the restaurant.  They also have larger tables.

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The menu is extensive and too much for me to list here, so here’s a link to their dinner menu.  They also serve lunch.  Every time we’ve been it has seemed busy, but we’ve never had a long wait.  Joe Taco is located at 502 15th St., in Canyon, Texas in an historic building.  The restaurant has two dining rooms, a bar, and plenty of outdoor seating. Open 11:00a.m. – 9:00p.m. during the week and until 10:00p.m. on the weekends.

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For us, a trip to Canyon is no longer complete without a visit to Joe Taco!

Happy exploring!  😊👍🏻

 

Friday Night Pizza Review

Tonight’s highlighted pizza joint is a local favorite, Austin’s Pizza.  There are 10 locations around Austin.  An Austin original since 1999, they have been a real player in the biz’ since being taken over by J.D. Torian in 2005.  Mr. Torian is a big fan of the farm to table movement and all of Austin’s Pizzza’s meat products are sourced locally.

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We mostly frequent the location at 2800 E. Whitestone Blvd as that’s the closest one to us.  My favorite menu item is the White Pizza with chicken, but there are many more to choose from.  With cool names like; Zenyatta Formaggio and Pesto a Go-Goat, the menu is really fun.  There’s even a pie named after Mopac.  They offer sides like pizza rolls, wings, and cheese sticks – even gluten free cheesesticks.  They have daily specials, lunch specials, and even cater.  The menu also includes salads and desserts, as well as five sauces to choose from for your pizza!  Now THAT’S awesome!

Most importantly, they pass the salt block test!  Their pizza is fresh tasting and delicious!  The prices are more than fair, in my opinion.  As I’ve said before though, quality costs a little more.  Austin’s is definitely a notch above the mainstream pizza chains.  For a really cool, neighborhood-type vibe I recommend the store on Cuernavaca Drive in Austin.  The building is kind of rustic, surrounded by trees and sporting an outdoor patio.  I would guess the building has been there awhile.

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Whichever store you choose, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by the food.  They deliver, but we’ve never been able to test that out because we’re too far outside their delivery area.  No matter.  We gladly go into town to pick up what has become one of our favorites!

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Mangiamo!  🍕😊

Palo Duro Canyon, Tx.

The “Grand Canyon of Texas”.  The second largest canyon in the country.  That’s Palo Duro Canyon in Canyon, Texas.  My son has been attending school there and is starting his third year next week.  In all that time, all those times we visited him in Canyon, we had never been to the actual canyon . . . until this month.  My husband, youngest daughter, and I finally made the short trip from town.  The canyon is a site to behold and my pictures don’t do it justice!

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It was a beautiful 80-something degrees in the town of Canyon and 90-something down in the canyon.  We were told that that’s the norm – about 10 degrees hotter in the canyon than out.  Admission is $5/person and 12 and under are free.  There are camping sites, hiking trails, horseback riding, a scenic bus tour, an information center, and an “outpost” where you can get a bite to eat and all the souvenirs you could want.  The information center houses a gift shop as well as a small museum where you can learn the fascinating history of the canyon.

We weren’t prepared for hiking, unfortunately, so we took our own driving tour into part of the canyon.  Here are a few of the shots I took:

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It’s a bit ironic that such a large canyon can be found so close to such a small town.  I’m not sure that a lot of people even know about Canyon.  When we tell people where our son is attending school, we get a blank look and then the question, “Where’s that?”.  Well, it’s about an hour and a half north of Lubbock and a hop, skip, and a jump south of Amarillo.  I believe they call that portion of the state “West Texas”, which seems weird to me since it’s way north.  Either way, it’s a neat place to visit and I’m glad we finally got there.

You can check out more about it here.  If you go in the summer, just be prepared for hot weather – plenty of water.  And don’t forget your camera.

Happy exploring!  🏕🗺😊