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!  🍕😊

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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!  🏕🗺😊

Friday Night Pizza Review!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Ok.  Here’s a new one!  Well, it was new to me anyway.  My hubby and I ran across it in our food delivery adventures (we drive part-time for Uber Eats and Grub Hub).  It’s called Mellow Mushroom.  How cool of a name is that?  The decor of the place is pretty cool too, and their icon is this cool looking little mushroom cartoon dude.

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And the pizza is bomb!  My favorite is the “Holy Shitake”.  It’s a mushroom lover’s dream!  Another favorite is their pretzel bites with beer cheese sauce.  They have a lot more to choose from though.  They even make burgers!

One of my favorite things about Mellow is that it tastes like they use high quality, fresh ingredients, and they pass my “salt block test”.  I don’t feel like I’ve eaten a block of salt afterward.  They’re a little pricier than Domino’s or Pizza Hut, but the quality is worth it to me.  It’s not “cheap” pizza.

I give Mellow Mushroom a five out of five anchovies!  For a true experience, I recommend dining in.  Say “Hey!” To E.T. For me.

Mangiamo!  😁🍕

Friday Night Pizza Review

My family LOVES pizza!  In fact, my oldest son and my husband love it so much that I would classify them as borderline fanatics!  😂  As a result, we are constantly trying out new pizza places.  I thought it might be fun to post a pizza review every Friday since Friday night is “pizza night” for a lot of us.  So, without further ado . . .  our first pizza review!

I’m going to start with a more mainstream pizza restaurant.  One that’s been around since I was young – Domino’s pizza.  For nearly thirty years I wouldn’t touch the stuff.  The crust tasted like cardboard and it was just all around bland.  Then, in 2009, Domino’s rolled out a new and improved pizza recipe.  I decided to give them another chance, and we’ve never looked back.  Domino’s is now our “go-to” for cheap and quick pizza night.

Pizza isn’t the only thing Domino’s offers these day.  Pasta, sandwiches, and chicken bites round out the menu.  My 11-year old loves the build your own pasta option and I’m partial to the Crispy Bacon & Tomato specialty chicken.  One of the things I really love is the option for white sauce.  My husband’s sensitive stomach doesn’t always react well to traditional pizza sauce, so the Alfredo option is perfect for him.  Domino’s also has a rewards program that allows you to earn free pizzas. That’s been fun.

Those are all the upsides to Domino’s. But, what’s a review without some negatives?  There’s really only one thing that my family and I agree is a negative.  After enjoying the crispy, gooey, cheesy new recipe we feel like we ate a block of salt. That’s an exaggeration, but you get the point.  We actually feel the rise in blood pressure and water consumption is at it’s highest point all day.

Is it worth it?  Well, delivery is always speedy.  The pizza is always hot and delicious, and we’ve never had a problem with them getting an order wrong.  So, once in awhile, if I don’t eat a whole half a pizza, I think it’s okay.  Truthfully, I have recently found wonderful alternatives, but that’s for another Friday Night Pizza Review.  😉

Mangiamo!  😊👍🏻

Wichita Walkabout

Experiencing new places is one of the reasons I love to travel so much, and Wichita, Kansas was definitely an experience.  It was October when my husband, 10-year old daughter, and I visited.  We were actually there for our son’s college bowling tournament.  Me being me, however, I planned things to do and see outside of the bowling alley.

The first thing I want to share about Wichita is the atmosphere.  It was a little strange, actually.  We got there early in the morning and around noon, my daughter and I headed to our first outing.  The streets were eerily quiet.  It was a Saturday, so it wasn’t because people were at work.  Even the freeway wasn’t busy at all.  To this day, I haven’t been able to explain it.  After the tournament, about 7:00p.m., when the whole family left the bowling alley the streets were bustling.  Traffic everywhere.  Where did they all come from and where had they been all day?  Is Wichita a town of nothing but night owls?  I have no idea and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the experience.

Aside from that, I found Wichita charming.  Our first outing was at a place called “Nifty Nut House”.  It’s a huge warehouse full of every kind of candy you could think of and more.  They have nuts of all kinds and flavors at a huge counter kind of like an ice cream counter only with nuts.  It’s amazing!

For our second excursion we headed downtown and walked around New Market Square and Old Town.  The weather was perfect and it was not crowded at all.  In fact, Old Town was practically deserted.  New Market Square was a little more inhabited as there were a myriad of restaurants and shopping; Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, On the Border . . . just to name a few of the restaurants to be found there.  It was a charming area with fountains and a small park area, clean sidewalks and modern architecture.  I would definitely go back and explore some more if given the chance.  I’d like to see more of Old Town as well.  It had a charm all it’s own with restaurants like Emerson Biggins and Bite Me BBQ.  There was plenty of shopping with boutiques, specialty shops, and several antique stores.

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We liked Wichita so much that after the bowling team went back to school, we decided to stay another day and that’s when we discovered what was the highlight of our sight-seeing for me.

I have five words for you – Keeper of the Plains Plaza!  Uh-Mazing!!  If you see nothing else in Wichita, please see this.  The Keeper of the Plains is a 44-foot tall steel sculpture standing at the point where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers join together.  The plaza is also home to the All-American Indian Center.  The sculpture is spectacular and the bridges over the rivers are beautiful as well.  The Keeper looks especially amazing when the “Ring of Fire” is lit every night at 9:00p.m. (7:00p.m. in fall and winter) and burns for 15 minutes.  There is a walkway around the river for strolling and the bridges are foot bridges, so there’s no car traffic to contend with.  The whole thing is free and just a gorgeous place to be at sunset in particular.  Words don’t do it justice.

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Also along the Little Arkansas river is Riverside Park.  A huge park with three different sections; Central, North, and South.  We visited the Central section.  This section contains the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit, Celebration Plaza where there’s an interactive fountain, a large lake with a gazebo overlooking it, a playground, and more.

At the time we were there, the normally 25 wildlife exhibits were down to maybe 10.  The Kansas Wildlife Exhibit was a bit sad.  There were no attendants in sight, and no identifying markers or informational plaques on any of the exhibits.  Maybe it was undergoing renovation?  I’m not sure.  Hopefully it’s in better shape by now.  The playground was nice, the lake was stagnant, and the plaza was beautiful.  There is also a half-mile walking path with 12 historical markers along it with archival photos and text about the history of the park.  We spent several hours there and barely scratched the surface of all the park has to offer.

Before leaving town, we found this adorable restaurant called “Spangles”.  It’s a 50’s diner filled with Elvis memorabilia and all things “50’s”.  The food was delicious, the staff were friendly, and the atmosphere was fun.  I would gladly go there again!

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TRIP NOTES:

  • Northrock Suites is where we stayed and we could stay there again.  Nice hotel.
  • Keeper of the Plains was awesome!
  • A meal at Spangles is a must!
  • Riverside Park is great for photos!

Happy Venturing!  🚙😁

Movie Theatre Magic

I grew up in the days of the drive-in movies with the big speaker boxes that you propped into your car window.  Walk-in theatres are nice, but they lack the character and magic of sitting under the stars, in the night air, in the back of a pickup truck or the jump seat of an old station wagon.  Until recently, I kinda felt the magic of going to the movies was gone.  Enter, iPic Theatres.  This is an entirely different kind of movie theatre magic.

Instead of the usual fold-down theatre seats, you get recliners – like the one you have at home only nicer (unless your old Barcalounger is really nice).  The recliner comes complete with a pillow and blankie.  Which, if you’re like me, are necessary movie watching accessories.  For couples, there are pairs of recliners with a table in between them.  This table is very important for the waiter who approaches shortly after you enter the theatre to take your dinner order.  I’m not talking popcorn and theatre nachos either.  They’re serving real food.  Real GOOD food.

My hubby and I visited the iPic theatre in The Domain in Austin.  We ordered cheese biscuits as an appetizer.  Yes,  Cheese Biscuits, you read that right.  Actually, “Warm Cheddar Drop Biscuits” is how they’re listed on the menu.  And they were killer!  This wasn’t a Red Lobster cheese biscuit.  This was like nothing I’d ever tasted. But that’s not all!  We also ordered Angus Burger Sliders and Truffle Fries. At a movie theatre!  Other menu items included; Roasted Veggie Kabobs, Crispy Tempura Beans, and Shrimp Tacos.  That’s just a small sampling.

We nibbled, and drank, and relaxed in our comfy recliners without ever once having to get up and walk to the snack bar.  We enjoyed our movie uninterrupted (the timing of the wait staff was magic in itself) and in total comfort.  Was this experience an inexpensive one?  NO!  Was it worth doing at least once in spite of the cost?  YES!  One tidbit of advice:  Go see a movie you’ve at least seen the trailer for, or you may FEEL like it wasn’t worth it.

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Carmel-by-the-Sea

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One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is travel.  I particularly like travelling back to my favorite places and Carmel, California is one of them.  I lived in the San Francisco East Bay Area for 14-years before relocating to central Texas.  Places like Tahoe, Santa Cruz, and Carmel were in my backyard and I visited them as often as possible.

Recently, my husband and I went home for a visit and Carmel was the first road trip we took from our home base in Concord.  I couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather.  Down on the beach I even got to wear a sweater!  It was sunny, breezy, and most importantly . . . NOT humid!

Before heading to the beach, we took in a little shopping downtown.  I am convinced that if you can’t find it in Carmel, it may not exist.  The shopping there is incomparable simply because of the sheer number and variety of shops.  Not to mention, each shop is unique.  No cookie-cutter buildings here.  Stone paved alleyways, fountained courtyards, and lush greenery add charm and beauty.  Outdoor malls as well as family-owned shops carry everything from tobacco to artisanal soap and skin care.  There are quaint coffee shops galore, and cozy, tucked-away restaurants.

One of our first stops was Thinker Toys on San Carlos & 7th, where we found an awesome stuffed turtle for our daughter.  There’s the Hat Shop Carmel at Ocean and San Carlos if chapeaus are your thing.  We also stopped in at the Soiled Doves Bath House on Dolores St. and chatted with the lovely proprietress – Betsy Durnell. The shop is located in an historic cottage built in 1926 and originally owned by one of Carmel’s first business owners, a woman. Ms. Darnell sells all kinds of soaps and skincare from local sources as well as from all over the world.  There’s also an interesting story behind the name of the shop, which you can learn about on their website.

After strolling through shops, we stopped for a yummy panino at Salumeria Luca Italian grocery and deli, also on Dolores St.  It’s cute and quaint, like Carmel itself, and the food is delicious.  After lunch we hit the beach.  I’ll admit, I’ve never been to any of the famous beaches outside the U.S., so I can’t speak to those.  Of all the beaches I have seen, Carmel is the most beautiful to me.  The color of the water, the sand, the dolphins that can often be spotted just offshore, all make it incomparable in my mind.

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The beach is my happy place, and the beach I am the most happy at is Carmel.  The charming town itself is just icing on the cake.  I don’t need to travel outside the U.S. for turquoise waters and soothing ocean breezes.  Just send me to Carmel.