Saturday, October 31, 2009

'Legend'ary Memories

Apparently Galveston Island has a host of Ghost stories and haunted houses. I grew up making frequent summer visits Bishops Palace, which is thought to be the most haunted home on the Island. Stories of ghosts that protect the mansion have been passed down from generation to generation. But, my own Galveston Island story is about the The Face on Ewing Hall (cue the spooky tunes).

The land and  building now belongs to UTMB and can be seen from the harbor, but is off limits to the public. The story goes that the face of a fisherman who originally owned the land in the 1920's peers eerily from the harbor side wall of the building. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

Apparently, he had sternly instructed his family not to sell the land prior to his death, but the money-hungry family went against all of his wishes. One the building was erected, his face showed up on one of the top panels of the backside of the building. His face has been painted over and sandblasted off several times and each time it reappers in a new place.

Currently the face resides in a panel just above the back door. There are three panels directly above the back door and it first appeared in the top one. Once sandblasted from that spot, it moved to the next lower panel. Sandblasted again, it reappeared in the panel just above the door. Legend holds that the University opted not to sandblast again in fear of moving the ghost into the door.

This time it was a cold and wintry night that I stood outside with wind whipping at my back and peered around the corner of a  great friend to see that eery face on Ewing Hall. It was there, just as predicted. The hair stood on my arms and chills ran down my spine. And again, I jumped in the car and was ready to go!

Next time your out on Galveston Island, be sure to take a quick trip around the building and take a peek for yourself.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Light on Bragg Road

Between 1901 and 1934, there lay a stretch of Santa Fe railway in the Piney Woods of Southeast Texas. It was a 9-mile spur from Bragg to Saratoga that cut through the deep, dark, dense piney woods now known as the Big Thicket. The line was built to haul oil for locomotives, the weary traveler, merchandise and lumber and promised to bring a newfound life to the community. However, the profitability was short lived and runs dwindled until Santa Fe finally opted to pull up the tracks.

Today, Bragg Road as its known is a two-lane dirt road that was stripped of its tracks in 1934. It cuts through some of the densest forestry of the Big Thicket today.

It was a steamy, summer night in 1992 when I found myself standing in the pitch black of night looking down this very road. Chills ran over my body and the hair stood on my arms as I timidly peeked around the corner of the friend I was standing behind.

And there in the distance, we spotted the low, swaying glow. The glow of a hand held lantern being carried by the weary soul of an old railman decapitated in a train wreck years before in search of his long lost head.

It took me less than half a second to get back into the car. It took a little longer to convince my friend that we needed to get the heck out of dodge as quick as possible.

So many theories surround the Saratoga lights, but the headless man is by far, the most popular one. Some believe that the lights are produced by gasses in the area or some sort of chemical reaction.

However, there are several other idealized theories including a guilded glow of burried treasure by a Spanish Conquistador, or souls of lost lives in a fire set by Confederate Captain John Kaiser to flush out a group of refugees that had broken freee from a wooden shack in Woodville where they were held hostage. Tails of a wandering ghost of a hunter claim that he was lost and still searches for his way home. Another holds that a crew of disgruntled Mexicans hired to cut the right of way haunt the ground that cost them their lives when their foreman killed them all on site. Then again, there is the farmer who gave up his entire life to work for Santa Fe and become a brakeman on the rail. Only to loose his job within a few short years. He wanders the road in search of the life that left him behind.

Still the locals hold to the eeriest of all theories, that there is no true explanation other than some type of paranormal activity. Stories have been passed down from generations well before the rail was ever laid about the mysterious light on Saratoga road.

Whatever the explanation, it creeps me out, but in a strange way intrigues me. I'm not afraid to admit that I am a scaredy-cat! Afraid of any little thing. I stay away from haunted houses, scary movies and anything remotely eery. What about you? Any fears that really get you worked up? What creeps you out and makes the hair on your arms stand on end?

Hope you all are preparing for a perfectly Spooktacular weekend!

pictures compliments of

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More chick, chick, chicken

A couple of weeks ago I petitioned you, dear readers, for suggestions on new restaurant ideas in the Houston area. Not one suggestion posted from you. Tsk, Tsk. But, that's ok. I'm guessing your dining experiences are limited to the familiar. So, I'm going to share some of our choices with you.

Honestly, (don't you just hate it when people begin a sentence like that? I do.) I had one suggestion, but it wasn't posted. And guess what? That's where we went.

Maybe the adventure bug will bite you and you can get out too and enjoy (or luckily avoid) some of the cuisine Griffin and I happen upon.

We visited Pronto Cucinino.

Isn't that fun to say? It just sort of rolls of the tongue. Pron-TO Cu-ci-ni-no.

I like to say Pronto. Prrrron-to. Sort of roll the r's. You like it too, huh?

It reminds me of my dad beckoning me for the car on Sunday mornings for church. "Let's GO girls! Get in the car. PronTO!"

It's Italian cuisine. Italian cuisine on the cheap. Delicious, inexpensive, Italian goodness.

And little did I know, it was part of the Mandola family's restaurants. No wonder the food was so good. If you aren't familiar with the Mandola family, you should be. They have these great little places close to downtown called Nino's, Vincent's, and Grappino's di Nino. Those are Italian goodness too. Not so much on the thrifty side. But, worth every cent you spend there.

Back to Pronto's. Pronto.

It's a little like a deli on the inside. You pass all kinds of baked goods, beautiful wine racks and Rotisserie chickens in an open-brick Rotisserie as you walk up to place your order.

Make your way through the crowd on a Friday night and choose a table to wait for your food to be served. Pronto!

Basically, you get chicken when you order. Any way you can imagine it prepared. Italian style of course. But, it's all about the chicken. And boy, is it good bird. Probably slightly better than mine.

The chicken marsala with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus were a treat for the pallet. One great thing that I absolutely loved was the portion sizes were spot on. Nothing extravagant like you get in most places. This was fairly healthy, scrumptious cooking, served in the right proportions.

So, get your butts on over to your nearest Prontot Cucinino and enjoy the heck out of some chicken, my friends. Pronto!

PS. Don't forget to leave suggestions anytime. Griff and I have many more date nights ahead and need suggestions.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's been cooking in your kitchen?

Last week I roasted a chicken.

The result: Utterly delicious. Subtly simple. Very versatile.

The reactions:

Griffin thinks it ranks right up there with his favorite meal; Gorton's Fish Sticks and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

I think...why the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks haven't I done that before?!?! It was so delicious, easy and inexpensive. The trifecta of a working mom's dinner planning!

So here's how it goes.

Buy yourself a whole chicken. I know, it's a little scary, but you can handle it. I promise. It's funny though how easily we all become boneless, skinless, chicken breast snobs. Isn't it?

Here are the rest of the players in this story:

4 Tbsp of butter
1 lemon
1 bulb of garlic
salt and pepper
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Now, here's how it's done.

Pull out anything stuffed inside the chickens' cavity. You may want to set these items to the side in case you have the urge to throw together a gravy similar to the one you see your grandmother prepare at Thanksgiving, but I tossed mine. Please don't get mad at me for wasting perfectly good chicken parts. But, baby steps. I'm still working to overcome my skinless, boneless, snobbery. Remember?

Wash your chicken inside and out thoroughly and then pat dry. The dryer the better.

Generously season the chicken inside and out.

Slice up a couple tablespoons of butter and slide it under the skin of the chicken. Try to get it as evenly as possible around the chicken. This helps create a nice, brown crispy layer of fattening deliciousness out of the skin.

Slice up the remainder of the butter and shove inside the chickens cavity along with the lemon cut in half.
Then, lop off the top of that bulb of garlic and shove it inside their too.

Room for one more thing? Sure there is. It wouldn't be complete without the rosemary sprigs.

Now, truss the chicken with kitchen twine. What? What's that you say? If you're like me you may better understand the concept if we call it hog-tying. Only it's a chicken. Chicken-tying? Doesn't quite have the same ring, does it? Basically, you get the twine and tie the legs together so it roasts more evenly. But, more formal directions are here.

But, now that you have seen that beautiful process I'll share my little secret. No trussing for my bird. Just shoved its little legs right under its body and it stayed put pretty well. My bird was really small though, so this may be a bit more helpful with larger birds.

Put that bad boy in the oven at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until juices run clear.

The things I loved about this, besides how simple and tasty it turned out, is that it can be so versatile. I mean swap up the seasonings, add some different herbs and you have a totally different chicken. My next experiment is to try and replicate the honey roasted jalapeno one that I have picked up at the grocery store before. I'll keep you posted on how that one turns out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Lesson to All

Here is my child. Ain't he cute?

I know. I know. I should be protecting him from the likes of the many distrubed strangers that may stumble across this blog who would want to risk their lives to take on the challenge of abducting and raising this gnarley thing as their own. But, I'd rather share him with you. All five of you who read this thing and the ocassional stranger who wanders across this site. I'm sharing him with you because I promise he will light up your life almost as much as he does mine. And, if you (yes, I'm talking directly to you, crazed internet stranger) get any ideas that you might want to try something funny with this guy, let this post be fair warning that there will be consequences. Consequences that you will not want to face. I promise.

On with the story.

Griffin attended the girls volleyball game last night at school. This is becoming a new routine for him and I am beginning to wonder about his newfound interest in volleyball. Or do you think it could be the girls? Hmmm...I'm sticking with the volleyball because that is more comforting to me. Anyway, who wouldn't be interested in such a great, competitive and exciting sport?! I mean really.

I arrived just a little after 7:30pm to pick him up and to my surprise I found him wandering the school grounds with a friend. It's dark outside y'all. Dark with danger lurking around every corner. Besides what happeneded to sitting on the bleachers in the gym showing your school pride and cheering on your schools team to an exciting vitory?

Needless to say, my parental concerns kicked into high gear. So, things went like this. He got in the car and the ramblings began. To save some time and spare some of the meaningless detail my arguments in list form sounded something like this:

1. Something bad could happen to you out there alone.
2. You weren't where you told me you would be.
3. Do you know that something bad could happen to you out there?
4. The girls on that volleyball team needed your support.
5. Do you know that some football players were threatened with pellet guns by a bunch of vagrant kids after school the other day and something bad could happen to you out there alone in the dark?
6. How do you even know how the volleyball team played?
7. What happens if a group of 15, crazed, gang members come and jump you out there in the dark? Something really bad could happen to you.
8. The cheerleaders just can't keep up the entire school spirit on their own. They need audience partipation. That means they need an audience.
9. How do you plan to protect yourself, young man if someone approached you out there in the dark?
10. Your friends on the volleyball team were counting on you being there.

Get the idea?

We return home and I promptly ordered a pizza for dinner because of course, I was famished from all of the worrying and ranting and Griffin was really, ready for me to shove something in my mouth so I would just shut up already. As Griffin was on his way out of the door to walk into the dark night across the street to pick up the pizza he turns and says...
"oh and mom, don't worry about me getting jumped by a group of 15 boys while I am gone. I have my pocket knife with me for protection."

Don't say you haven't been warned, internet stalker.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sailing the Ocean Blue in 1492

Oh, Chris. My dear, Italian born friend. Thank you for setting out on that crazed expedition so many years ago, only to stumble across this undiscovered land which I now call home.

I truly want to thank you for this extra long weekend, as well. In fact, in your honor I am thinking that an Italian treat may be necessary to pay proper respect to your Italian heritage.  Tiramisu anyone?

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'mm Baacckk!

I'm back. You knew I wouldn't stay away forever did you. Did you?

Maybe you did. But, oh well.

I guess I should start with sincere apologies for dropping off the face of the earth like that. Forgive me? Good. Glad we got that squared away.

Now, on to the fun stuff...

Click here (I really hate it when that embed feature is disabled. Sorry for the diversion from this page, but please don't forget to come back after you have laughed at yourself a little. Yes, you will laugh at yourself. I promise.) and watch this. Please, please, please watch this. And laugh, friends. Because it is downright funny.

Now that your done with that bit of humor, you have to laugh a little more at this one.

Seriously, I know you have better things to do with your time than watch these silly videos. But, I also know that Bacon is good for this kid. Bacon is also good for me. Believe it or not, bacon is good for you too.

Just needed to get that off my chest.

Now, for the real fun.

Tonight is date night with the boy. Every other Friday night, also known as PaaaAAYYyy- DaaayyYY (imagine a little Jame Brown edge on those words there and also note that this refers to his $12.00 bi-weekly allowance), we hit the town in search of an adventure. We have vowed to not go to the same place twice and to always find a place we haven't been before. Good thing we live in a place the size of a small universe with an outstanding number of places to eat! Only, that's the bad thing too. It makes it so hard to decide which one to try next. So, I need your advice. Any fun places in H-town you like to eat? Something culinarily delicious, preferrably.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Conversations with "G"

I should rename this blog to Conversations With "G." They are the highlight of my days. I'm sure they would be the highlight of yours too. In fact, let's try it out today and see how it works.

Scene: Driving in the car at 9pm at night to CVS to purchase throat lozenges for the sore throat he has had all day and not informed me about until now.

Mom: (after taking in a whiff of one very rank odor) "G," did you fart?

G: Yes.

Mom: Thank you.

G: It was my pleasure.