Hit the jackpot!

View from the boardwalk

View from the boardwalk

We didn’t exactly hit the jackpot playing slots, but I think we came pretty close finding this new jewel in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino Resort is conveniently located only two and a half hours from Houston, and makes a superb mini-vacation spot for all of us in east Texas.

We ventured here on invitation to join friends who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and wanted to share their excitement with us.

View of the grounds

View of the grounds

We were not disappointed! From the front entry with free valet parking to the beautifully appointed guest rooms overlooking the pool and lazy river, with the lake beyond, we were very impressed by the overall atmosphere. Our view was spectacular from the 19th floor, which offered a balcony for further viewing enjoyment.

View of the beach

View of the beach

With so many restaurant choices for dinner, we ended up at our familiar Saltgrass Steakhouse. Other choices were Landry’s Seafood House, Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine, Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar, Grotto Italian Restaurant or the Blue Martini overlooking the lake. And let’s not forget about the The Buffett, which every casino goer loves.

We visited Claim Jumper for breakfast, which is located near the elevators and nearby Starbucks, where we enjoyed a casual meal and conversation with our friends.

Cadillac Bar beachside

Cadillac Bar beachside

For sunning and swimming, the pool and lazy river looked enticing and so inviting, offering cabanas and daybeds. We found a beach with volleyball area and a boardwalk by the marina. Coming soon, visitors can book a tee time for golfing.

Room with a view

Room with a view

There are eight or more shops on the premises, meeting and planning rooms, a barber shop, spa and salon for ultimate relaxation and destressing.  The full service spa salon and boutique features treatments and popular products, sauna, whirlpool and steam room.

Shows and entertainment are presented in the Grand Ballroom and the H2O Pool and Bar. Speaking of bars, we found Cadillac Tequila Bar, Blue Martini, Rush lounge and Party Pit, Ice Bar and Bar 46, and there could be more! Oh, and the casino is huge, with every slot and table game imaginable.

RV parking is available, and interested parties are provided contact information for bus tours on line at http://www.goldennugget.com/lakecharles/, where rates and accommodations can also be found.

All in all, the Golden Nugget Casino Resort on Lake Charles is my number one resort choice within easy driving distance to Houston. Tilman Fertitta, the owner who calls himself the world’s richest restauranteur, has created an easily accessible mecca for vacationers who want restaurant choices, sunning, water and golfing activities, gambling and entertainment all in one neat package. Can’t wait to visit again soon!

Golden Nugget

H2001_thumbLazyRiver01_thumbLazyRiver02_thumb

Not second best — The Best!

Here for the wedding!

Here for the wedding!

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie made our day! My friends Arceli, Shalni and I made plans a week ahead to take in this movie and to do it in style – authentic Indian style, that is!

We discussed our options of what to wear; decided when and where to meet and marked our calendars. We decided to dress as if we were going to the wedding in the movie – Fun!

Sunday afternoon seemed to be the perfect time so we met up at the local ShowBiz Cinema. We were excited to see what each of us had decided to wear and were greeted at the ticket booth with, “Where did you get your outfits,” and “We love your outfits.”

So we laughed and sighed and cheered for the characters and enjoyed the movie immensely. In fact, we left the theater with plans to eat nearby, ready to talk more about the movie. The Three Foodies (that’s what we call ourselves) ate at Oriental Gardens, and drank two pots of tea, which was just enough to get us through our evening.

The Three Foodies enjoying food, tea and conversation at Oriental Gardens after the movie.

The Three Foodies enjoying food, tea and conversation at Oriental Gardens after the movie.

We arrived at the restaurant at 4 p.m. and stayed until the restaurant closed around 9:30. I guess we didn’t realize how much we had to talk about and reminisce. Now that’s a lot of catching up! We were hungry, the food was good, and we had the best time talking for five hours, laughing and sharing our life’s journeys. I guess this movie just puts you in that kind of mood.

Some of my favorite quotes from the movie are by Sonny:

“It’s the teamwork that makes a dream work.”

“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.”

“Coincidence is just a word for when we cannot see the bigger picture.” And my very favorite quotes are, “Sometimes it seems the difference between what we want and what we fear is the width of an eyelash,” said by Evelyn. And Muriel said she had heard someone say, “There is no present like the time.”

We’d like to properly thank Oriental Gardens in Kingwood, Texas, for giving us our table for most of the evening. For location and more information visit http://orientalgardensrestaurant.com/.

If you haven’t seen The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie, visit their Facebook page and website:  http://thesecondbestexoticmarigoldhotel.com/

Here’s hoping all your journeys are happy ones, and remember there’s no present like the time!

Trilla

Begin again, and again…

Welcome spring!I haven’t been on my computer for what seems like years. In actuality it’s only been months. Why? Because when my laptop crashed in December; I was devastated.  It was my own doing; I didn’t have my files backed up. Yes, I know – always back up your files.

Along with that crashed laptop went not only my writing files, but also my photos and my self-confidence. How did I lose my self-confidence on my computer, you might ask? Well, let’s just say that my work as a blogger, travel writer and journalist had suddenly vanished, and what I thought was my persona was no longer valid – I felt.

So how does one go about finding yourself when you have nothing to fall back on? That was my dilemma, and still is. But I’m determined to start over and try to reclaim myself, and a few files along the way.

My husband gave me a new computer, and he also rebuilt my old laptop. I’m happier with my old friend, the HP laptop, even though it deserted me and left me to self-destruct!

Yes, I can reclaim some files by looking up all my published works and saving them again, if I can find them. It will take some time, but in the end it will be worth it. And I take heart knowing that some of my photos were stored online – Facebook, for example.

In any case, let’s just try to pick up where we left off and go from there, even if we take baby steps. That’s better than taking no steps at all.

I recall that following my laptop crash, I’ve enjoyed adventures with my granddaughters that I wanted to share but just couldn’t find the momentum. Also, outings with my girlfriends (The Three Foodies) have come and gone, and I didn’t find the heart to post.

I suddenly realized that I’ve been missing out on what I love to do and that is writing about my travels, adventures and life’s journeys. It’s time to catch up!

So today is a day of renewal; a day to start again. Welcome spring!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day (tomorrow) to all!

Trilla

Holiday Trail of Lights – Northwest Louisiana’s hidden gems

HolidayTrail of LightsThe Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights is featured in my new article that can now be enjoyed in the NATJA magazine, WorldTravel International. Many colorful photos help tell the stories about eight towns that make up the Holiday Trail of Lights: Shreveport-Bossier, Minden, Monroe, West Monroe, Natchitoches, Alexandria and Pineville, LA. Here is the link to the article (story on page 42): http://issuu.com/travelworld/docs/_twi_magazine_nov_dec_2014.

The Nov/Dec issue of WorldTravel International Magazine is full of exciting holiday travel stories from around the globe! I’m excited and delighted to be in the company of the many talented writers who make up this issue. Thank you WorldTravel International Magazine!

Namaste! Welcome to a new adventure of The Three Foodies

Once again The Three foodies are on the go! We had been looking forward to this outing for a long time, it seemed. Shalni, Arceli and I are ready for lunch and shopping — what else is new?

Premium Veg. Thali

Premium Veg. Thali

Our quest was to find more of the best Indian food in Houston, and we did!

Shalni led this expedition to the Mahatma Gandhi District in Houston, where we found the Maharaja Bhog Premium Veg. Thali Restaurant on Hillcroft.

A wall of spices greeted us at Maharaja Bhog, and the atmosphereMaharaja Bhog 8

Indian food at its finest!

Indian food at its finest!

was definitely Indian. Friendly service and colorful, flavorful food was the icing on the cake. Speaking of cake, we toasted Arceli’s birthday with the special Indian sponge cake, Rasmalai. Proprietor Bhagwan Taparia was interested to know how we liked everything, and explained which sauces to eat with which dishes. He also told us that the silver on the cake was truly edible!The premium veg Tali is an unlimited Thali and the menu can be found on their website at http://www.maharajabhog.com.

This was an authentic Indian food experience, from top to bottom. And the food kept coming, as long as we wanted!Maharaja Bhog 1

Maharaja Bhog is located at 8338 Southwest Freeway, Houston, and three more locations in India and Dubai. This one is conveniently located not far from the shopping experience we had planned.

Maharaja Bhog 6While we enjoyed our meal, torrential rains hit the Houston streets causing temporary flooding, but we had bigger fish to fry with some shopping at Harwin and Namaste! So, braving the rain, we ventured out!

Our first stop was the Harwin Stores, and inMaharaja Bhog 3 particular the Jewelry Factory with locations on Hillcroft and Harwin. We each found silver rings and earrings with genuine semi-precious stones on sale for 50% off. Arceli found some other odds and ends for her boutique. We also shopped in the Jewelria at Harwin and other stores in the area.shopping1

Next we visited a store called Namaste at Hillcroft, where we met the owner and friend of Shalni’s, Koshik. This was an excellent shopping experience, and we liked that everything in the store is from India.shopping3

NamasteThere is no way to see everything in one day, so we will probably make a return visit to the Hillcroft/Harwin part of Houston in the near future. You can bet on it! So, see you next time The Three Foodies are making their rounds.Namaste6Namaste1Namaste7Namaste8

Come on back and leave your comments!Namaste3

Recapping Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights

Loyd Hall Plantation

Loyd Hall Plantation

In November of 2013, I joined a media tour group to explore the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights. From Shreveport-Bossier City, then east on IH-20 to Minden, Monroe-West Monroe and south on IH-49 to Alexandria-Pineville and Natchitoches, each town and each day brought new adventures, sights, tastes and scenery.

Thinking back, I remember visiting each town as if it were yesterday. I found it most impressive that Natchitoches is celebrating it’s tri-centennial! This town with brick-paved streets overlooking the Cane River was one location I decided to return to with my husband. Other very exciting events were The Tree Lighting on the Louisiana Boardwalk, and staying overnight at Loyd Hall Plantation Bed and Breakfast, which is rumored to be haunted! Oh, and I was thrilled to get to see The Steel Magnolia House, which is now a bed and breakfast, also.

Steel Magnolia House

Steel Magnolia House

This week I hope you’ll read my story about the Louisiana Trail of Lights, which appears in The Tribune at http://www.ourtribune.com/article.php?id=17583.

Here is a link to the pdf file of the newspaper. Scroll down to page 6C to view my article as it’s seen in the actual newspaper: http://ourtribune.com/apdf/tn.pdf.

Thrilled to see the "Steel Magnolias" house!

Thrilled to see the “Steel Magnolias” house!

Next month, another version of my story on the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights is scheduled to appear in TravelWorld International Magazine with “Holidays” as the theme for the November issue. When the magazine’s November issue is published, I’ll post a link here.

Thanks for visiting my blog, and remember, I appreciate your feedback!

Until next time…

You’re in Almost Heaven!

My family originates from the beautiful Appalachian mountains of southern West Virginia. We grew up in and/or near the small, quaint town of Pineville in Wyoming County. This little town has the quintessential courthouse, and boasts a well-known landmark — Castle Rock.

Courthouse and Castle Rock landmarks in Pineville, WV.

Castle Rock, a well-known landmark in Pineville, WV.

 

Pineville Courthouse

Pineville Courthouse — Wyoming County Seat. Reminds me of a scene from the movie “Back to the Future!”

During the 1950’s when I was a kid, I can remember what a special treat it was to get take-out food from the Pinnacle Drive-In, where “car hops” came to take your order and deliver it to your car window. While waiting for your order (this was not fast food), there would, undoubtedly, be other people pulling up to order. Folks talked and laughed, listened to their car radios, while waiting on their meals. It was a whole other time! Sometimes I long for those days…

As we grew up some things changed, such as new schools being built or combined, and subtle little changes in the landscape around  the small towns. But nothing drastically ever changes there. And that’s a good thing, because it makes one who has moved away feel that there is such a thing as going home again.

Submarine

This is the authentic Pinnacle Drive-In submarine sandwich that I ordered in October 2013…that was way too long ago!

The large submarine served at the Pinnacle Drive-In, Pineville, WV.

The Pinnacle Drive-In, Pineville, WV.

My husband and I made a visit to WV in October 2013, and reinforced our knowledge that one thing that has never changed is the Pinnacle Drive-In. The small parking space in front, combined with the intimate chrome tables and chairs of yesteryear inside, keep customers happy. What are they so happy about, you might ask?

For one thing, the Pinnacle serves a unique sandwich that is simply listed on the menu as a “submarine.” This sandwich is unlike any other submarine, as it is always made exactly the same way every time…no cold cuts here, nosirreee! This submarine comes large or small and consists of a fine-textured turkey salad, bacon, cranberry sauce, lettuce and tomato on a French bun that has been “crisped” in hot oil. If you haven’t tried it, you don’t know what you’re missing. In addition to these outrageously delicious subs, the Pinnacle serves other menu items, of course, and one of those is their famous hot dog! Served with chili and coleslaw on a bun that is butter-toasted on both sides, makes this hot dog one of the best ever, bar none!!!

This is no joke! Folks travel from far and wide to return and reclaim these delectable memories of their youth! Whether you’re a fan of the subs or the hot dogs, you’re in “Almost Heaven,” literally, when you have one in your hand and let the tastes and smells take you back to those distant memories!

Some of my family members still live in Pineville or surrounding areas, in fact, our ancestors settled in the area and built towns there, including Pineville, Oceana and Mullens. But some of us have moved away in search of better employment and opportunities for our children. A handful of us ended up in East Texas. We like to get together every once in a while to create what we consider the equivalent of Pinnacle Drive-In subs, which we call simply “West Virginia Subs.”

Some of our Texas family enjoying homemade WV subs (imitating the Pinnacle Drive-In subs) on our West Virginia Subs Day!

Some of our East Texas family enjoying homemade WV subs (imitating the Pinnacle Drive-In subs) on our West Virginia Subs Day!

One such get-together happened last week on September 26 in Jacksonville, Texas, where ten of us gathered to re-create our long, lost Pinnacle subs – our West Virginia Subs. We’ve done this enough times now, and we know how much of each ingredient we need, so we assign a list to each person. We set up an assembly station and start the creation process, down to the last detail – wrapping the subs in wax paper, complete with the toothpick sticking through it! Oh, man, we are truly transported back to those West Virginia hills that we love so well — if only for a moment in time!

Robin

Robin gives the sign of approval!

Homemade WV subs made with loving care!

Homemade WV subs (small size) made with loving care!

Janie and Delma

Everyone helped, except the guys, and they just reaped the rewards!

Sonja

Sonja started preparations the day before!

Trilla and Delma

Three dozen small size subs were prepared and almost all were eaten at once!

If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Pineville, West Virginia, do yourself a favor and pull up to the Pinnacle Drive-In and place your order – submarine or hot dog! You won’t be disappointed!

You’ll find this little eatery on Rt. 16 and Pinnacle Avenue in Pineville, WV, phone 304-732-7785. If you’re looking for an awesome, picturesque setting for a nearby vacation get-away, try Twin Falls Lodge, which is located in Twin Falls State Park just up the road.

Twin Falls

Until next time, this is yours truly, with all my memories old and new of the Pinnacle Drive-In subs…priceless!

 

Antiquing in Livingston with the Three Foodies

Fun Americana Day!

The Three Foodies take in the Courthouse Whistle Stop

The Three Foodies take in the Courthouse Whistle Stop

Three friends, each from different countries and culture, yet we came together in friendship to share our love of food, life and the good ol’ USA.

After our previous daytrip outings to sample Indian cuisine at Bombay Sizzler in Spring, Texas, and Filipino food from Sarap Pinoy Restaurant in Humble, Texas, the Three Foodies were up for some local East Texas fare. We may be in what people consider the southwest, but there’s plenty of southern cooking going on here, too!

So we set the date, and off to Livingston we went. In less than one hour we were shopping at Downtown Treasures Antiques, while waiting to have a leisurely lunch next door at the Courthouse Whistle Stop!

The Courthouse Whistle Stop is aptly named, as it sits directly across the street from the Polk County Courthouse in Livingston, and the railroad passes by the courthouse, as well. Their serving dishes are vintage plates and saucers, none of them matching, which lends to a very down-home, country feel.

photo 3 photo 4 photo 5

From the menu, I ordered the southern-style appetizers for our group, such as fried green tomatoes, fried okra and jalapeno poppers. For our meals, each ordered a different dish, including chicken and dressing (a casserole recipe), grilled chicken sandwich, chicken tenders and chicken Alfredo. Yes, we ate lots of chicken! But the appetizers were what set the stage! We talked about old movies, such as “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Steel Magnolias.”

The view from our table inside the Courthouse Whistle Stop

The view from our table inside the Courthouse Whistle Stop

Joining us for lunch was a good friend from Onalaska, Nita. My vehicle was full of donations that were delivered to Nita to benefit a favorite local Onalaska charity, Kids’ Free Clothing Exchange (KFCE), which serves the clothing needs of struggling families from seven surrounding counties. So, today was a good day all around!

After lunch, the Three Foodies explored enticing antique stores along Highway 59-S to look for more “treasures.” We found trinkets, gems and more at Junk in the Trunk, West Lake Antiques  and Antiques and More Consignor’s Mall. Arceli found a treasure — a sterling silver blue topaz ring, and for a very reasonable price. I had to drive back a few days later to buy the framed Egyptian papyrus that I spotted that day and should have bought, but didn’t. These things often happen when you’re antiquing or flea-market shopping. It’s all part of the adventure!

Looking for treasures at Antiques and More Consignor's Mall

Looking for treasures at Antiques and More Consignor’s Mall

On our way back, we stopped for dessert at the Happy Days Diner on S-59 at Shepherd. We were hoping for pie, but found cobbler instead! Arceli and I tried two: pecan cobbler and the blackberry one! Both were toppled with soft-serve ice cream! Shalni stuck with the ice cream.

Shalni and Arceli are happy at Happy Days Diner in Shepherd, Texas.

Shalni and Arceli are happy at Happy Days Diner in Shepherd, Texas.

 

Another full day of shopping, fun, food and friendship! Now, we’re thinking about where to go next. Shalni wants to take us for more Indian food in Houston – shopping, too, of course!

 

Can’t wait!

The Three Foodies search for Filipino Food!

photo 3 photo 4 photo 1 photo 5

On what was to be our second outing for The Three Foodies, Arceli, Shalni and I had our taste buds set for Filipino food!

Arceli said she knew just the place right in our own community. So off we went to the Sarap Pinoy Restaurant in Humble, Texas. This place offers Filipino-American cuisine for casual dining and take out! It was perfect for our lunch, as it is located on our direct route to shopping at the outlet mall on Rt. 290! Bingo!

This restaurant is indeed very casual — a small steaming hot buffet with aromas that drew us in as soon as the door opened. We sampled all the items on the menu, and some of us even ate the adabong posit, or squid!

We had to try the “Halo Halo” for dessert, and it did not disappoint! Just look at the photo — it is heavenly!

Our shopping trip this time took us to the Houston Premium Outlet Mall, where some serious shopping was about to take place. We all were happy that Arceli brought her fold-out cart for our purchases! We browsed the shops for designer purses, perfumes, shoes and you name it! Finally, we took a break for a drink at Smoothie King, before heading home before dark.

Now, that was a fun day!

Friends, food, shopping — a great combination!

Shopping after lunch at the Spring Antique Gallery!

Shopping after lunch at the Spring Antique Gallery!

Here is how two friends and I became “The Three Foodies!”

I’ve been friends with Arceli, a native of the Philippines, for several years, as she is also my hair stylist at Mills Branch Salon and Spa, which she owns. I met Shalni, a native of Sri Lanka, under different circumstances, when she owned her dry cleaning business near me. The three of us have become “The Three Foodies” for the love of food and of native culture.

Both of these ladies are strong, smart business women, and I admire their personal sense of style; but most of all I love their spirit! We often get together on Arceli’s day off to explore new and exciting foods, and we like to throw in some shopping along the way! Whether it’s antiquing in the Spring area of Houston, in Livingston or the outlet mall on Rt. 290 — we shop like we mean it! Sometimes we find treasures or bargains we can’t live without. Sometimes we just look and celebrate with the other ones who found their perfect something!

It all started one day when we decided that we should plan a day to go try a restaurant featuring Indian food, with Shalni as our guide. Although there are other fine Indian restaurants in Houston proper, for our first outing Shalni took us to  the Bombay Sizzler in nearby Spring, TX. The menu consisted of a wide variety of Indian dishes, which were served buffet style. We tried everything, including a couple of kinds of curry! The meal was complete with a mango lassi! So good!

On our way home, we happened to be passing by The Antique Gallery of Houston in Spring, so I mentioned that it would be a good way to spend the afternoon. We were there at least two or three hours but only made it through approximately half of the gallery! Next time we plan to search the other half!

Our next outing will be to find some local food of the Philippines!

The Three Foodies discover Bombay Sizzler!

The Three Foodies discover Bombay Sizzler!

Enjoying the Mango Lassi!

Enjoying the Mango Lassi!