Finding the birthplace of Texas

Exploring the wonders of Washington County

Last fall I found myself on a media tour of Washington County Texas with more than a dozen other travel writers. I’m a resident of the Houston suburbs, so I was not unfamiliar with certain parts of our tour. But it was thrilling to get the perspective of a tourist. My discoveries were amazing,  and I want to share them with all my readers: Finding the Birthplace of Texas; Exploring the wonders of Washington County.

While many in our tour group stayed at peaceful bed and breakfast properties or on a working cattle ranch, I found myself in downtown Brenham enjoying a luxurious Victorian room in a historic 1800’s renovated grain building at the Ant Street Inn, a boutique hotel. This was amazing for me, as each room presents with authentic Victorian furnishings, which I love! You can feel the history there.

I’m so excited about the newly renovated Simon Theater, and the Antique Rose Emporium was blissfully delightful. Most of our group took a turn at sitting behind the president’s desk in the mock setting of the Oval Office at the George Bush Presidential Library.

There are so many places that exude Texas history, such as the Barrington Living History Farm, the Cotton Gin Museum and Independence Hall at Washington-on-the-Brazos, the actual birthplace of Texas.

March is usually the time the year that almost everyone I know in the Houston area goes to Washington County to photograph their kids, wives, husbands, pets and grandkids among the Texas bluebonnets and Indian paint brushes, especially near Brenham and Chappell Hill.

Don’t miss a tour of the wineries in Washington County…it’s worth your time: Star of Texas Winery, Saddlehorn Winery, Windy Winery and Pleasant Hill Winery. I hope you get an opportunity to stay at Ant Street Inn, Lillian Farms Country Estate B&B, Southern Rose B&B or Texas Ranch Life working cattle ranch. Some of the places we ate included Must Be Heaven Café, Funky Art Café, Nathan’s BBQ, Ninety Six West and Brenham Grill next to Ant Street Inn.

I’ll be back soon with another travel adventure. Right now, I’m packing for our next cruise, TBA at a future date. Until then, happy spring!

Enjoy a glimpse of Washington County and enjoy my travel story in The Tribune at http://www.ourtribune.com/article.php?id=19926

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Little Garden

Today I’m so excited! When I planted my little tomato and pepper plants, I wasn’t sure if enough sunlight would reach them to survive and produce.  
But this morning I picked three banana peppers, three jalapeno peppers and two green tomatoes!
My hubby loves fried green tomatoes, so he’ll get a few for lunch today!
My tomato plants have grown to about 5-6 feet tall and have a ton of blooms. However, there’s a tropical system in the Gulf, so I’ll have to wait and see how they weather the storm.
If you’re thinking, “I wish I could grow vegetables and herbs,” just know that you can!
My herbs are still doing good, except the oregano, and it didn’t like all that rain we had in Texas recently. 

Here’s a look at the tomatoes and peppers in my tiny garden!

 

Expanding my little garden

 

Herb gardening in patio pots is fun!

 Recently, I made an impromptu decision to start an herb garden. For now, my herbs are in pots on my patio, and they now include Rosemary, lemon thyme, apple mint, hot and spicy oregano, sweet basil and cilantro. 

  Other favorites in my pots are minuature roses rescued from another spot in the yard; gardenia start-ups from one of the huge gardenias here (one for each of my two granddaughters, Emily and Anne); a peach tree sapling that I’m nursing for Emily and a pot of cockscomb seeds just now peeking through (which my sis Sonja mailed to me). 

 Recently added to an island by the patio are three tomato plants, two bell pepper plants and two hot pepper plants. I had help from hubby, although I didn’t really need it but he enjoys gardens, too. 

 

Cockscomb seeds are coming up!

 This is my first try at growing vegetables and herbs at this home, since we bought here in 2011. So I don’t really know if there’s enough sunlight peeking through and around all our big trees to make a go of it or not. Nothing ventured; nothing gained. 

Wish me luck and sunshine!

That’s all for now from Trilla’s Garden.  

Butterflies in my garden

I’m excited to see what appear to be Monarch caterpillar eggs on one of my milkweed plants.  

 

I’ll keep a close watch to see if, indeed, a baby caterpillar hatches. 

This discovery reminds me of the passion I have for watching the miracle of  this ultimate life-changing event. God does amazing things in our gardens. 

A few years ago, I wrote a fun blurb about how to do butterfly farming with your kids. Maybe it will inspire you.  Here’s a link: http://ourtribune.com/article.php?id=7532  

Herbs in my garden 

 

 I had no idea I was starting an herb garden. Have you ever just spontaneously decided to start a new hobby?

Actually, I was on a trip to the local grocery store, when I had this epiphany!

I brought home plants of coriander (cilantro), sweet basil, apple mint and oregano.  Oh, my, do they smell good! 

 

As my plants grow, I’ll need to find bigger pots or make a garden spot for them. Just getting started is exhilarating. 

So now I’m looking for easy recipes to incorporate them.

It’s no problem finding mouth-watering uses for cilantro. Here in Texas we use it like Italians use oregano – on everything. When I think Tex-Mex, I think jalapeños and cilantro.  I especially love to cook Charro beans using pintos and throw on some cilantro when serving. Also, it’s an excellent garnish for black beans, tortilla soup, quesadillas or enchiladas, just to name a few. 

 

Of course, here in the south, there’s always a place for mint in our tea or maybe a mint julep. I’m happy just inhaling the aroma!

I’m asking for any favorite recipe you have for sweet basil or oregano. Just post it here in my blog in your comment, if you have one to share. 

With tons of information online, here’s a link to help you start an herb garden:

http://diyhomedesignideas.com/garden/herb.php

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

The Three Foodies search for Filipino Food!

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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!

Modern day meets antiquity in Egypt

Tourists at the base of the pyramid, like ants at an ant hill!

Tourists at the base of the pyramid, like ants at an ant hill!

Pyramids of Giza!

Pyramids of Giza!

The City of Alexandria is a modern day port city once the capital of Graeco-Roman Egypt and the learning center of the ancient world. The Pharos Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood here. It was founded by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.
I’m still speechless – our excursion on Friday, May 10, through Alexandria to Cairo, anticipating the experience of the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, and the Mosque of Mohammed Ali, was a trip back in time.
The tour guide with our bus was an expert on all things Egypt. Her expertise on our tour, along with the photos we took, will make a long lasting impression and many good memories.
Our tour guide warned us about the souvenir vendors before we arrived at the pyramids, so we could be prepared, but even that warning did not help. The only unpleasant experience of the tours was the relentless pursuit by the vendors, even when we said a firm “no.” We paid for photos with a camel (on our own camera), a few small souvenirs, but other vendors never gave up. It’s a poor city with more than 30 million people, so this explains their desperation.
But nothing prepared us for the overwhelming size and majesty of the pyramids! Or the mystique of the Sphinx! We walked inside the Sphinx temple among the many tourists, like little ants on an ant hill…it is just so surreal!
Lunch aboard The Pharaohs, a unique riverboat on the Nile River was also surreal and a very pleasant surprise. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but this boat and river cruise for lunch did not disappoint. It was a buffet lunch, including dessert with coffee and tea. We enjoyed entertainment by local folk dancers, including a whirling dervish and a belly dancer.
Views of Cairo from the Nile River were like no other…it made the city a lot more photogenic! Imagine, we actually were on the River Nile in Egypt…the cradle of civilization!
Two more exciting stops along the way included the Mosque of Mohammed Ali, where his tomb is found; also, the Merit Papyrus Shop, where we saw a demonstration of how papyrus paper is made, and scouted out souvenirs.
We are resting on The Mariner of the Seas in the Port of Alexandria today, after that long day’s excursion (13 hours) yesterday, Friday, May 10! Some cruisers are touring more of Alexandria today. Tonight, we will celebrate our impending arrival into the Suez Canal in the wee hours of the morning (1:00 a.m., May 12). We will leave the Mediterranean Sea and tomorrow we will be in the Red Sea…how exciting is that? Just the name “Red Sea” brings all sorts of biblical history to mind.
I’ll give an update from Safaga, Egypt next time. Our excursion there will take us inland to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings! See you back here in a couple of days…
Find the link for Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com.

Nassau here we come!

The first 24 hours of the cruise was awesome and continues to be! We are now passing through the Straights of Florida, which puts us smack dab between the Florida Keys and Cuba!  We’ll be in Nassau tomorrow morning! In the meantime, we’re enjoying the blue waters, awesome food, sunshine and smooth sailing.
We had a slow start out of port Sunday night, but no further explanation about the six-hour delay was mentioned at Captain Flemming’s Welcome Aboard Reception Monday night.
The first formal evening was last night, and it’s always fun to dress up on this special night! This is the night when everyone poses for photographers in front of the many beautiful, usually tropical backdrops. Who can resist?
The Mariner of the Seas feels open and grand, with staterooms that have more space than we’re used to having on a different cruise line. It’s clean and there is an abundance of storage!
There are nearly 3,000 passengers and another 1200 crew on board, but when we took a stroll to the rear of the ship early Monday morning, it seemed that we had the place to ourselves. Soon the walkers and runners could be seen on the track toward the front– they say this boat is equal to the length of three football fields.
It is surprising to see families with small children on a 41-day cruise. They were seen taking advantage of the miniature golf, ping pong and basketball courts. There’s also a rock-climbing wall, in-line skate track and several pool/spa areas.
The center of this ship holds The Royal Promenade, which is where you’ll find various shops, such as jewelry, watches, liquor, boutiques, etc. Live music is usually heard near the coffee shop and pub. The restaurants, too numerous to mention, have excellent service and food, with a crew from 40-45 different countries.  The entertainment last night was fabulous in the Savoy Lounge — The Vegas Tenors!

Tomorrow morning we will dock in Nassau! Our excursion includes a beach day at Atlantis and some shopping! In eight days, we will arrive at Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, for another excursion…

Hope you’ll join me for another update soon! Sorry, but photos will have to wait for better wifi!