Friday Foto (09/26/14)


Sunrise on the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Texas


File Under “Awesome Things that I’ll Never Do”

A couple of weeks ago I spent an evening with one of my friends from college, and she took me to see her little plot of land she rents in her new neighborhood.  It’s a square of railroad ties filled with soil, part of a community garden.
I read about community gardens on the internet once.  They sounded magical and kind of weird.  I read that there was a large piece of land behind a bunch of people’s houses in a neighborhood, and so everyone just started planting stuff.  And only certain people could join in and if somebody didn’t show up to water their roses, well, somebody else had to water their roses for them.  It didn’t sound like there was much order to the garden.  People just showed up and planted things. It seemed like chaos and a new way for people to judge you: based on how often you came to the garden, or whether or not you chose to use Miracle-Gro.

It turns out maybe I have some issues.
You’ll notice I’m not linking to this article that I read about community gardens.  That’s because, while I did read something on them, I really think I’m making half that stuff up. But really, that’s what I remember about my introduction to the concept of a community garden. But, it turns out, I was wrong about all that.
Yes there is a fairly large piece of land, and it is behind and beside a few houses in the neighborhood.  But you don’t have to live in the neighborhood to take part, you just have to pay $40/year if you want an empty plot.  Then you do what you want.  You grow herbs or vegetables or flowers.  They have compost there, water hoses and hookups to use too.  You just plant what you want and get on with your life.  And everybody has their own plot divided and separated from everyone else’s. So while it’s nice if everyone works to collectively make the entire garden look nice, really you’re responsible for your own plot and what you do or do not do with it is your business.
I now think community gardens are waaaaay cool.  And my friend is excited to grow some more stuff once the oppressive Texas heat allows it.  The Guns and I are interested in eventually moving to the neighborhood where this garden is, and I could see him wanting to grow tomatoes or something and deciding to get a plot.  But we’ll have to file this under “Awesome things that I’ll never do” because I have no green thumbs. No green pinkies either.  I mean, I’m pretty sure I never even grew lima beans in a damp paper towel in first grade like everyone else.

Do you garden?  Would you ever participate in a community garden?

Food Trucks and hipster wannabes (that’s me!)

A couple of weeks ago, The Guns and I went to a food truck park in town.  Because we really want to be hipsters I guess.
For real though, I’d been hearing about the Fort Worth Food Park, and ever since we watched the Great Food Truck Race we were interested in trying out the concept.  Add in that it’s pet-friendly and we couldn’t get there fast enough. 

Well, not quite since we’re in the sweltering heat of Texas.  So we did wait until after 7PM so that we didn’t suffocate.

The park has trucks that are show up every Thursday thru Sunday regularly, and then a group of trucks that rotate in and out as they can.  It’s everything from Tex Mex to Southern to Bacon.

For real, there’s a truck called The Bacon Wagon.  In case you were wondering, the answer is nothing.  And the question is “What is more awesome than a food truck called The Bacon Wagon?”

Though, there is in fact, nothing more awesome than The Bacon Wagon, we did not eat at The Bacon Wagon.  Maybe we are not so awesome.  We are still working on our hipster cred.  Wait, are hipsters awesome? 

But seriously, there were so many great choices, and to be honest I had looked at The Bacon Wagon’s menu and saw their “wakinbacon,”` (eggs, bacon and syrup on on French toast, what???)  and was set on that, but sadly that was not on their menu that day (one of the exciting things about food trucks: changing menus!  running out of specific items!) so I just spun around and picked something equally awesome (shrimp and grits FTW) from The Drifting Bistro.  The Guns, ever the Texan, got a burrito from Salsa Limon, a Tex Mex truck.
Our review?  The Guns was not overly impressed with his burrito, but said that it was good. To be fair, Salsa Limon also offered the lowest prices of all the trucks, which I’m assuming means that they had less high end product that they used for their menu items (and also, let’s be honest, it’s annoying to spend more than $6 on a burrito), unlike my plate of what tasted like some very expensive (and thus VERY GOOD) shrimp.  The grits were quite awesome as well, creamier than I thought was possible.
Just to try it we also went to Red Jett Sweets for a lemon blueberry cupcake.  The verdict?  Really nice, fresh taste, but a little small.  I was really happy to get a “pupcake” for Bravo, who spent our entire visit panting and salivating on sensory overload.

Do you eat at food trucks?

Bucket List Round-Up

If you’ve only recently started reading you might not know about my bucket lists.  When I realized that we would be working at sea and leaving our town (Fort Worth) I decided we should really savor our last few months both in the fort and on land.  Do things that we wouldn’t be able to do after we left.  So that’s what I’ve been blogging about for awhile.  Anyway, I thought I’d do a round-up of all the bucket list posts.
Fort Worth Bucket List
1) visit the Water Gardens
2) visit the Botanic Gardens
3) visit the Fort Worth Zoo
4) visit Trinity Park (at twilight, so we can feed the raccoons…)
5) visit Six Flags (and spend some time with my theme park performer friends!)
6) visit the Amon Carter Museum
7) attend an event at the Will Rogers Memorial Center
8) visit the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
9) visit Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
10) attend Stars under the Stars in Sundance Square (outdoor movie showing downtown) technically, this was a fail
11) explore Sundance Square and downtown area, and ride Molly the Trolley
12) have brunch at Blue Mesa
13) visit the 7th St. Movie Tavern
14) explore the West 7th area
15) participate in doggie happy hour at a local restaurant
16) explore the Magnolia Ave. area
17) visit every area yogurt shop and rate them (we are nerds, nerds who love yogurt!)
18) Visit the Stockyards for the daily cattle drive  technically we cheated on this one…
19) Two-step and line dance at Billy Bob’s …and on this one too.  Call me out, I dare you.
20) Visit TCU (where we met!  where we got engaged!  where we’ve haunted for the past 6 years!)

Living on Land Bucket List
1) take Bravo to a dog park
2) visit a condo as potential buyers/leasers.  Potential can be years from now, right?
3) Spend an evening at a high end restaurant and splurge! technically we didn’t do this, but I’m counting our anniv. brunch… you can call me out on that if you want…
4) Wear 10 favorite outfits that I won’t be bringing with me
5) Host a party
6) “clean” out the pantry, by actually using the items, not throwing them away
7) Take a family photo
8) go horseback riding
9) go to a sporting event

PS- by the time you read this we’ll be en route to the ship!  YAY!

FW Bucket List: The yogurt shops

Have frozen yogurt shops hit your town?  They are taking over FW, so The Guns and I decided to check out each and every one (all 7!) and review them.  Because we’re yogurt nerds.  I thought about making a big formula that took a score for each locations combining their grades for taste, texture, atmosphere, price, flavor options, topping options, and service… but then I realized I’d have to do math and that you might stop reading, so I decided to just give you some qualitative data so that you can make an informed yogurt decision.

First, some things you need to know:
1) This is real frozen yogurt.  Remember the fro-yo of the nineties?  It wasn’t as fattening as ice cream but it’s not actual yogurt with live cultures (anyone else have to stop thinking about yogurt when people mention “cultures” and you realize you’re eating bacteria?  really, it’s better not to know, I think) that happens to be frozen. The stuff I’m talking about is not just lite ice cream… so it has a different taste, a tart freshness.  Some people like it, others hate it… but just so you know, I’m talking about the tart yogurt, not the old TCBY.

2) My first experience with this kind of yogurt was at Pinkberry in NYC.  To me, Pinkberry (at least in NY) is the standard in taste and shop atmosphere, so all other yogurt shops will be graded accordingly.

3) There are two types of yogurt shops: self- serve and clerk-serve.  Self-serve lets you dispense your own yogurt in as many flavors and toppings as you can fit in a bowl and charges you per ounce.  Clerk-serve is more traditional.  You go tell a clerk what you want, and what size and they get it for you, charging you per size and sometimes also per topping.

4) To keep my experiences comparable, I always got tart yogurt with some sort of fresh fruit topping.  Also, that’s my favorite anyway, so it worked out (ya’ll, if I wanted something sweet I’d go to an ice cream shop)

Got it?  Ok, let’s check out some yogurt shops!

Berriblu– clerk serve
Prices: small, 3.75- kids, 2.75- large, 4.75- first topping .75
Options: 3 flavors including cake batter. 12-15 topping options
Taste: yum, but nothing special.
Atmosphere: calm, blue, modern interior, comfy leather seating
Go here if… it’s convenient.  But there are better yogurt options out there.

Frogberry– clerk serve
Prices: we paid 4.82 for a small with one topping, prices were not displayed (LAME!)
Options: 3 flavors rotating daily, plus extensive toppings including cereals, candies, and fresh fruit
Taste: I got the plain tart with mango topping.  The fruit was fresh, but sour.  The yogurt had a grainy texture.  Not a fan.
Atmosphere: cool modern look overall with sleek purple furniture and clear hi-top tables and chairs, but they’ve recently added some hippie murals on their wall (think- BIG purple peace sign…)… I guess they’re emphasizing their green-ness (they use all recyclable materials) but it felt like the Brady Bunch decorated.
Go here if… you don’t mind waiting (slow service) or cheesy hippy references

Menchies– self-serve
Price: .44/ounce- as many flavors or toppings as you want
Options: 12 flavors rotating daily- original tart flavors, plus lots of fruit based flavors as well as sweet concoctions like chocolate or red velvet.  Lots of sweet toppings, lacking in the fruit options.  Plus the fruit sits out, and never looks that fresh
Taste: fine, but I like my fruit fresher
Atmosphere: really crowded depending on when you go.  Can be a madhouse filled with sorority girls, young families with tons of kids, and high school girls.  When we went, 3 17-year-old girls were running the place.  But there’s plenty of seating.  Basically, it’s the Disney world of yogurt shops: sensory overload from the pink, orange and green decor and long lines.
Go here if… you love sweets but want to pretend that since you’re covering YOGURT with candy that maybe somehow it’s good for you?  Oh, also if standing in lines sounds like fun and if you’re avoiding the fruit toppings.

Tart Yogurt Bar– self serve
Price: one of the best values at .39/ounce
Options: 8 rotating flavors, lots of toppings.  Fruit was fresh!
Taste: it melted quickly, but the taste was a great tartness- clean and fresh.  A little too cold for me but not grainy
Atmosphere: very laidback, doesn’t seem to be crowded ever.  Orange and green decor.  Minimalist furniture, but comfy.
Go here if… you’re on a yogurt budget.  Best value, and a good taste, but not the most fun 

Yo– self serve
Price: .43/ounce
Options: 12 flavors rotating out of 30, lots of toppings of the sweet and fruit kind
Taste: yum…not too cold, not too melty, not grainy, and plenty of tart
Atmosphere: cool blue interior, again, modern sleek feel in lighting and furniture
Go here if… you need a study break (it’s practically on TCU’s campus).  Also go here if Yogolait is closed.

Yofe– clerk-serve
Price: 3.50 for a small serving plus two toppings and granola or pecans
Options: 2 flavors, fruit options, plus granola.
Taste: They put the fruit underneath the yogurt, which was a nice change.  This is a bit grainy and melts quickly but it tastes most like the yogurt you buy at the grocery store, just frozen.  It’s different but good.
Atmosphere: orange and green interior and furniture, nice place to chill… also, yofe is a yogurt and sandwich shop, and also serves non-frozen yogurt.  Seems like a health-nut place to go.
Go here if… you want real food with your yogurt, and you don’t mind having just a couple options

Yogolait- self-serve
Price: .40/ounce
Options: 9 flavors rotating weekly… they’re always trying new flavors like watermelon, banana pudding, aloe vera (????), peanut butter.  Personally, I stick to Italian tart, the tartiest, but if you like less tart you can try the classic tart (slight tart) or the California Tart (laidback who cares tart).  the 3 tarts are always in rotation.  Tons of toppings options, and the most options for fruit and mochi that I’ve ever seen, and all seem very fresh.
Taste: my personal favorite.  Creamy not grainy.  Perfection in tartness.  A little cold, but doesn’t melt too fast.
Atmosphere: bright colors, lots of wall art, modern lighting, comfy seating.  Always a movie or tv show on the flat screen on the wall.  FYI: they’re a Christian company (it seems) which affects their music choice as well as their hours (closed on Sunday… I respect it, but that’s usually when I want my yogurt…)
Go here if… you want the best yogurt experience (on a weekday or Saturday).  Laidback, great options, good price, very tasty, not too crowded.

Dudes: none of these yogurt shops knew I was reviewing them (although, aren’t we all under constant review when we put our services out there for customers?  yeah, chew on that) and no one gave me money or freebies for what I’m saying here.  I’m just saying what’s on my heart because I love yogurt of the frozen tart variety.

Also Dudes: a new yogurt shop opened just as I completed this task… yogurtland… have no idea where it falls in all of this, but refused to add it to my list of things to do.

State of FW Bucket List: 17 down, 1 failed, 2 cheated, 0 to GO!

FW Bucket List: COMPLETE

FW Bucket List: FW Zoo

Growing up I went to the Atlanta Zoo usually once a year or so, and I was pretty spoiled because it’s one of the better zoos in the nation, might even be number 1 if it weren’t for pesky San Diego!  I’d been to the FW zoo, but it had been a few years for both me and The Guns so that’s why it got on the list.

It’s a pretty awesome zoo ya’ll, rated in the top 5 in the US!  Also, it’s pretty cheap to go in comparison to Atlanta or San Diego ($5 for parking, $12 for adult admission), so if you’re in the Fort, check it out.  For animal lovers that are zoo skeptics: these are all habitat living animals, no cages, very open, and a lot of the animals were super active while we were there, which tells me that they’re not miserable (it’s very sad to go to a zoo/animal park and see a wild animal just sitting in a corner of a small cage, not going to happen here).

I took way too many photos, but here are some of my favorites (after the jump):

anyone else notice that flamingos are always the first exhibit in a zoo?  Also, where exactly are flamingos from?  These are the things I should read on those little signs they post…
Soo, Fort Worth gorillas pose.  
Left Gorilla: “come join me in my yoga session”
Right Gorilla: “I’m ignoring you, stoically”
For real, he’s stretching!
Working the profile shot
He literally walked into the middle of the exhibit, stopped, and gave us this pose.  
Tyra would have been so proud.
Umm, he at that orange.  Whole.  Juice came out of his mouth.
Can we just talk about how beautifully odd giraffes look?  They must be aliens.
Notice how all these deer-like things are all clustered together… well, earlier in the day we heard a roar, which we assume was from the lions (though it sounded like it came from Jurassic Park). The lion exhibit was right across the walkway from these poor little deer… I think they were scared for the rest of the day.
I think he’s trying to remove his food dish…
I imagine all Aussies lounge like this.
me with my favorite animal
penguin feeding!
I’m just a jaguar, laying on my back
This was the Texas area of the zoo. 
Only a Texas zoo would feature their own wildlife in a ghost town…
River otter gets the gold for the underwater backstroke
Why yes, that is a horned frog!
Me, petting Texas marine life.
this bear was like “hey!”
And now, for the best part of the zoo.  I took a little video for you.  Of chimps
You’re Welcome

State of Fort Worth Bucket List: 16 down, 1 failed, 2 cheated, 1 to go

FW Bucket List: The Stockyards and Billy Bob’s

Confession: This is *technically* a bucket list fail.  Well, a bucket list cheat…

All of these photos are from visits we made previous to the formation of the bucket list.  In my defense, we’ve clearly been before, and we were just running out of time.  Plus, there are certain windows of time that you have to go in order to really appreciate this area, and our schedule just didn’t allow it.  So while we failed, we had good reasons, and I can tell you all about an area of our town that really shows its true character.

The Stockyards represent Fort Worth’s historical district, and have been at their current location in some form since the late 1800s.  Millions of cattle were driven through Fort Worth (that’s how we became known as “cowtown”) since it was the last stop for rest and supplies for cattle drivers heading west across the Red River.  Once the railroad through Fort Worth was completed, the stockyards were developed as an area to buy and sell cattle.

Currently the area is still used as a livestock exchange area, but it’s also built up as a tourist and entertainment all around it to reflect the historical area.  So there’s lots of restaurants featuring local cuisine (everything from barbecue to authentic Mexican cuisine), lots of shops featuring western wear, and lots of Texas entertainment.

The Stockyards feature a cattle drive through the main street twice daily.  Cowboys mosey down the road on horseback and warn tourists to stay out of the way of the longhorns.  It’s pretty humorous to watch.

A big draw in the Stockyards area is Billy Bob’s Texas.  Billy Bob’s is the world’s largest honky tonk.  It’s a HUGE venue that hosts country music concerts, professional bull riding, and a dance floor with a silver saddle hung from the ceiling that acts like a disco ball.  People come to line dance and two step.  It’s a popular spot for college students- during the year it’s free for students on Thursday nights.

line dancing lesson!
Texas Two Step!
The Guns and I have been to both the Stockyards and nearby Billy Bob’s several times together, and it’s definitely a must-see if you’re ever in Fort Worth.

State of Fort Worth Bucket List: 15 down, 1 failed, 2 cheated, 2 to go.

Bucket Lists: a collection

A few of these bucket list items just plain don’t stand by themselves in one post, so I’m collecting them here.
For the Fort Worth Bucket List (and also for our anniversary), we went to Blue Mesa for their Sunday Brunch.  $18 for all you can eat buffet plus free mimosas.  Blue Mesa is a southwestern restaurant (kind of an upscale Tex-Mex rather than authentic Mexican cuisine) so the buffet was filled with migas, enchiladas, fajitas, chips and salsa, fruit salad, and waffles.  Plus there was an egg station for omelets, huevos rancheros, and eggs benedict made to order.  If you’re in Fort Worth and looking for a reasonably priced brunch, Blue Mesa’s is definitely worth it.
The Guns and I went to Six Flags to visit former co-workers and friends and catch most of the shows.  It was great to be in the audience knowing what I know now about being a theme park performer.  I know I’ve said this before, but if your local theme park has shows, they are probably filled with some super-talented people.  I would show you photos from our visit, but I forgot my camera.  Anyway, it was great to see my friends, catch up, and see them perform.
One of the more daunting tasks on the land bucket list was to use our pantry items rather than throwing them away.  I still hope we don’t throw much away, but if any of you are like me, you may find that your pantry items multiply behind your back and before you know it you bought items to bake a cake that it turns out you already had a perfectly acceptable cake mix at the back of the cupboard.  Anyway, here are some of the things I made with items that were either forgotten about or just needed to be used up:
-brownies (from a mix)
-banana bread, 2 loaves (frozen bananas I’ve been saving to make banana bread, plus flour and brown sugar)

-darn good chocolate cake (cake mix, pudding mix, chocolate chips, vegetable oil, etc.)
-grits (quick grits, leftover from a Pioneer Woman dish I made awhile back, make a great breakfast or a side item for dinner)
-sauteed chicken cutlets (breaded with flour, cooked in olive oil)
-muffins (box mix)
-lemon cupcakes and white sheet cake (cake mixes plus canned frosting)
-chocolate chip cookie dough (flour, sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips)
-pasta (dried pasta, canned sauces)
-maple-soy glazed salmon (maple syrup, soy sauce)
-pineapple pork (canned pineapple)
hot and sweet drumsticks (ketchup, apricot preserves, soy sauce, garlic)
-baked pork chops with sauce (ketchup, soy sauce, vegetable oil, worcestire sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar)

As you can tell, I’d collected lots of baking items. This may or may not seem like a lot of food, but it managed to keep me from buying a lot at the grocery store, and many of the cakes we brought to parties or gave away in some other fashion.  There will still be plenty that is left over, I’m sure, but we’ve definitely made a dent.  And we gave the leftovers to a newly married couple to help them jumpstart their  pantry, which I love since that means we can help someone out and not waste our items!

State of Fort Worth Bucket List: 15 down, 1 failed, 4 to go
State of Land Bucket List: 6 down, 1 in progress, 3 to go