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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kick Your Bucket List up a Notch

Nothing can compare to the feeling of ticking another box off the old bucket list, but what about when the list starts running low? There are endless things to do out there, whether you’re looking for a crazy new experience close to home or you want to make a big jump and travel the world to find something new and exciting to try out there. I’ve already got a list of achievable ideas for your bucket lists, but these are more specific ideas and possibly slightly crazier ones that may be less achievable, but definitely just as much fun to complete.
If you’ve already tried snowboarding and loved the thrill of soaring down a mountainside with only a board strapped to your feet, why not try a slightly more extreme way to slide with volcano boarding? In truth, it’s more like sledging on hot coals, but you’ll reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour with only a flimsy board beneath you. The most popular destination for this is definitely far flung, at Cerro Negro in Nicaragua, but definitely worth the trip if you can do it. The volcano itself is still live - it erupted last in 1999 – so will be the ultimate thrill ride for adrenaline junkies. Run by a company called Bigfoot, the $29 price tag will get you transportation up the volcano, all the safety equipment you’ll need, beer and a cookie on arrival, and a mojito on the journey back.
The infamous Cliff Walk on Hu Shan Mountain in Xian, China, is certainly another popular bucket list idea for thrill seekers – watch this to see just how death defying it can be! Trekking more than 6800 feet above the solid earth below, you’ll reach the point at which you must traverse a series of rickety wooden planks more than a half a mile above the ground on a vertical cliff face. To say it’s a dizzying feat of strong nerves is an understatement! Those that complete it though will be rewarded with not only the most amazing sense of accomplishment, but some of the most stunning views the natural world has to offer.
If you’re looking for something just as terrifying, but want to be able to stay close to home, parachuting and sky diving are the easiest ways to get your fix and get checking things off your list. There are places all over the world to try out this sport as a tandem jump, or even alone if you’ve had experience in the past. Some of the most outstanding locations to give skydiving a go are across Britain, and companies such as Into the Blue have deals all over the country.

Let’s calm it down a bit though and step away from the more thrill indulgent ideas, not every bucket list item to be crazy and get the adrenaline pumping – it might just be something you’ve always wanted to do and need the kick to get it done. For example, something inspirational like finish writing that book you started years ago, or turn your skills into something marketable and start an eBook. It might even simply be a life goal you want to achieve such as owning your own home in a certain place or settling down with a family; a bucket list doesn’t need to be confined to one off experiences.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Marking off Seeing a Metal Show

This Thursday night I'm getting the wonderful opportunity to mark seeing a metal show off my bucket list. Back in the 80's I was really into the metal of the time. AC/DC, Ratt, Poison, KISS, and of course, Queensryche were all on heavy rotation`in my room. My musical tastes have changed a bit since those days, but I still have a spot in my heart for the bands I grew up with. This week I will be attending a concert at the Arena Theater for one of the most talented bands of the bunch, Queensryche. I remember when my older cousin gave me a tape of theirs for Christmas, and how I wore it out so much I had to buy a new one as a replacement. And they aren't just your Dad's metal either. Queensryche remains one of the most popular progressive metal bands today, with millions of albums sold.
Is seeing a metal show on your bucket list? If so, you should join me. They're playing with two of Houston's own bands, Helstar and Sid Seventeen, so it's a great way to support local musicians as well.

Tickets start at $25 and go up to $45 for mid-level seats, but I am giving a $10 off discount to my blog readers so you have the chance to mark something off your lists with me. Get your Queensryche Discounted Tix here and use promo code BG1. I'll see you at the Arena Theater on August 14th!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas cruise

In January when I made my new 101 Things list, I put down "Go on a cruise" without any idea how I would manage to cross it off. I have a 10 day trip to Europe planned for later this year, and another trip planned next year that will eat up all of my husband's vacation time as well as most of the money we could spend for travel. Being the firm believer I am in having goals that seem impossible, I wrote it down anyways and hoped for the best. I was quite shocked when I got my golden opportunity early last week. I belong to a Houston bloggers group on Facebook, and saw a post come up saying Royal Caribbean was looking for local bloggers who would be interested in participating in a free one day/night cruise from Galveston on their newly remodeled Navigator of the Seas ship. There were only 10 spots available, so I wasted no time submitting my name and details to the lady who posted. Amazingly I was one of the ones chosen to go. I was allowed to bring 3 guests with me, but they all needed to have proper ID, so that left my younger children out. I decided to bring along my husband, my 19 year old son and his best friend. I emailed the person who was handling our group all of our details, including the information for my son's friend, and was given the all clear.

On the morning of the cruise we got up early and set out to the Port of Galveston. We were able to park in a free overnight parking area and take the shuttle bus to the ship. I believe parking for longer cruises was $40. Once we arrived in the terminal, which was a lot like being inside an airport, I was told to have our "set sail" passes ready to show. Our what now? No one had given me anything of the sort. I frantically rechecked all the emails I'd gotten, and nope, no one had given me or told me to print out any set sail pass. I told one of the staff people, and they told me it was no worry, I'd just need to fill out some extra forms. We made our way through security and up to the front where our ID's were checked and extra paperwork was presented. They handed me a sheet of paper and immediately I noticed my son's friends' last name was written as Roberts, the same as our, instead of his actual last name, Edwards. Again I checked the email correspondence I'd had with the person in charge of our group, and I had given them his real last name, Edwards. The lady helping us looked perplexed. I'm sorry, she said, he won't be able to join you since the information isn't correct. His ID had to match what was in their system. I explained that I had given the correct information and showed her the email proof. She told me to wait a moment and she would do what she could. Since we'd arrived extra early perhaps there was still time to change it. She called over some other people, and in a few minutes they were able to change the name and let us all on board. Crisis averted. We went up the ramp, scanned our handy new cards we'd gotten from our angel at the desk, which acted as a room key, credit card and ID while on the ship, and headed inside.
The ship was incredible on the inside. I felt like I was walking into the first class area of the Titanic, only hoping it wouldn't end the same way. I haven't ever been on a cruise ship before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I was stunned at how nice it was.The elevators were glass, so you could get a great view of the ship as you sped up or down to your destination. We found our balcony room on the 7th floor and put our bags down. We were all starving at this point, so we used the touch screen signs to locate the Windjammer Cafe which was open for lunch. The Windjammer had a very large seating area, most of which had excellent window views. At this point we hadn't left the port though, so our view was the fairly
unspectacular Galveston Port. I tried to make note of all the food that was offered at the lunch buffet. I saw stations for pizzas, tacos, baked potatoes and hamburgers. At the buffet tables were chicken, paella, various soup, salmon, mashed potatoes, fries, green beans, root vegetable medleys, mac and cheese, and a dessert table with jellos, cakes, and such. There was an ice cream machine as well. I'm sure there is much more food offered that I just don't remember. On the sides were tables with ice cold tea, lemonade and a fruit drink that tasted a bit like strawberry kool-aid. You could order other drinks such as cokes, beer, bloody marys, mai tais and such from the wait staff. All the food in the Windjammer was free. I had some salmon, veggies, a bit of paella and a bloody mary that was a bit too strong for me. I'm not a big alcohol drinker though, so it's probably just fine for others. The food was good, about on par with other buffets.

After we'd had our fill at lunch, the boys were ready to go try out the FlowRider surfing simulator. We got changed into our swimsuits and used the touch screen system to find the sports area outside. When we walked out into the sports area there were several ping pong tables, a large basketball court, a mini golf area, and a place to sign waivers and get wristbands to use the FlowRider. We got our wristbands and made our way behind that station to the surfing area. I got in line and watched to see how the other people in front of me fared. They were doing body boarding first, which was great as I have never surfed in my life. If you see the video of me attempting to skateboard, you'll know I pretty much suck at that too. The first guy who went on wiped out and his shorts were blown off by the force of the waves. Note to others : do not wear loose

fitting clothes! An older gentleman was next, and he wiped out as well. He came back around, got in front of me in line and said "I'm going to do it again". The instructor lady let him go before me, knowing he'd just come off. Oh well, I thought, I'm next anyways. No big deal. He wipes out yet again,  and as he passes me, he stops to let me know how much falling off hurts and that I'm probably going to break my arm or get the wind knocked out of me. Thanks, guy! Finally it's my turn and I go to grab a body board. "Sorry", the instructor says, "body boarding is now over. You have to either stand up surf or get out of line." Wait, what? You just let a guy cut in front of me for a second go, and you won't let me go now? She doesn't seem sympathetic to my plight a bit and ushers me down to the stand up surfing area. I pass by the cutter, who tells me again it's going to hurt when I fall. Now I'm scared. She makes me remove all my jewelry, including a necklace I haven't taken off in 8 years, but I'm already there so I remove it. She holds my hands and tries to steady me on the board, and tells me where to place my feet. I am not exactly sure what she wants but I try to put my feet where she wants them. No good. She uses her foot to kick mine into place. She asks me to place my weight towards the back side and bounce up and down as she pushes me toward the waves. I've never done anything like this before, I confess. I'm nervous. She holds on to my hands as I try to loosen up and find my center. Apparently my center went out for free drinks because I never did find it. She pushes me out into the waves and I crash. Not only did I not break my arms or get the wind knocked out of me, it didn't even hurt.

I laugh it off and go sit down to watch the boys try. 

Take that, Rude Old Guy!!

(more to come soon) ...



Monday, May 5, 2014

Marking off the #1 thing on my list!

I don't think there is anything like the feeling of marking off a bucket list item that you've been trying to accomplish with all your heart, but I was able to do that very thing Friday night when I met Mr. JJ Watt. I have been on TV about my bucket listing, making sure to mention how much I wanted to meet him, and when I signed the Before I Die wall at Distinctive Life in front of a news crew, I wrote "Meet JJ Watt" as my #1 thing I wanted to do. I even carved a foam pumpkin in his likeness hoping it would buy me an "in".
I was too late to the punch to get tickets to the JJ Watt Charity Classic softball game, and I really thought I had lost a golden opportunity. I would have, indeed, had it not been for the wonderful people at Charitabulls who had a contest to win 2 tickets. I won, and my husband and I were able to attend the game. I brought the pumpkin I'd carved, thinking maybe it would get his attention. I asked all the staff "If one was hoping to give JJ Watt a pumpkin carved in his likeness, how might one best do so?" and they pointed me to the JJ Watt Foundation table. I told them I wanted to donate it to them to auction off at their next event. They told me "Let me go get JJ's Mom and show her." I about had a heart attack when they said that! They couldn't find her at the time, but I promised to come back after the event and give it to them then. We found our seats, and I waited down at the bottom in hopes some players, one especially, would come by and sign things. The ladies who came up to stand next to me started chatting about the pumpkin and said they had just seen Mrs. Watt at the tables. I wasn't sure whether to go back up or wait where I was. They assured me they would save my spot, so off I went, pumpkin in hand, back to the Foundation set up. Sure enough, there she was, posing for pictures with other fans of her son. I showed her the pumpkin, as well as a picture of it lit up, and told her I wanted to give it to her to keep, or auction off, or whatever she wanted to do with it (promising to carve another for the Foundation if she chose to keep it.). She told me she loved it and would be sure to make sure he got it. I told her I was sort of hoping to meet him, but she said no, you won't be able to meet him tonight. You can give to me, or take it with you, but you can't meet him. I struggled internally for a moment, knowing if I gave it up I wouldn't have anything to grab his attention on the field, but I decided I really wanted her to have it, so I gave it up. She was kind enough to pose for a picture with me, but I really wish I'd gotten a picture of her holding the pumpkin, too.


I went back down to the spot where the ladies had kept their word and saved my place. My husband, who was to be my photographer in case the big moment did happen, left to go to the restroom. Not 5 seconds after he walked off, who should run up and give me a big ole high 5? JJ Watt! As thrilled as I was to have that brief encounter, I was also a bit disappointed I didn't have any pictures or witnesses that it happened. I wasn't even sure that counted as meeting him. Soon the game started and I sat and enjoyed the show.
The game only went to 7 innings, so toward the end of the 6th my husband prodded me to go back down to my spot from earlier so I could be there if the players came up to sign autographs after the game. I had to do some security guard dodging and lay a bit low, but I managed to not be chased away. The game ended, the fireworks went off, and I stood waiting. My heart sank as I watched JJ Watt go all the way to the very opposite end of the field to sign things, but I was cheered up when I saw Mr. Case Keenum heading my way. He not only signed my bucket list, he also posed for a picture with me and stole my phone and took a selfie with it, with us in the background. What a great sense of humor he had. It was getting late and my husband was tired, and seeing as how JJ Watt was as far as he could possibly be away from me, I thought it was probably time to throw in the towel and just be happy that I was able to meet Keenum.

Right as I was about to walk away I saw what looked to be a mountain running straight toward me. It was dark, but wasn't that mountain running from the area JJ was just signing stuff? Soon he came into view and was standing right in front of me. The crowd pushed from behind me, people were shoving footballs and photos into his hands, women were screaming "JJ I LOVE YOU!!!" at ear splitting levels. I leaned in and said "You have to sign my bucket list! You're in it!". He looked straight at me, smiled his MegaWatt smile and said "Oh that's so cool!". He signed it, upside down, but that's just fine with me. I turned to make sure my husband had captured the moment this time and he said he had. And what a picture it is. This, friends, is what it looks like to cross off your most desired bucket list item. Pure joy.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Fandom #3 - World of Beer Sugarland TX



This one would seem pretty strange to people who know me well, because I'm not a beer drinker. My husband Mason is the beer guy in the house. When I saw World of Beer was opening up a location in Sugar Land by First Colony Mall, I knew he was going to love it. His birthday was on March 15th, and I thought

what better place to celebrate than there? Mason loves trying new beer almost as much as I love trying new crazy food. Lucky for him, WOB boasts an impressive amount of beer from all over the world, over 500 of them actually, to keep him busy for quite some time.


 The part that caught my eye, however, was their loyalty program. For only $10 you can join the club, get a loyalty card and a great t-shirt. For every NEW beer you order, you will receive points. For every so many points, you get perks. What a great way to get people to try new things! I immediately thought, what a wonderful bucket list item that would make for beer lovers. Try 100, 200 or even all 500 different beer selections at World of Beer! I began speaking to our beautiful bartender (or Beerista as I called her) about it and she asked if I'd like to try some for myself. I told her I wasn't a beer fan, but she insisted she had something even I would like. I knew it was a hopeless endeavor, but since the samples of their draught beers are free, I figured why not. She gave me a little bit of a raspberry lambic beer and wow, that actually WAS good! She smiled and offered me a Stella Artois Cider. Again, yum! I never in a million years would've guessed I could find something I enjoyed at HOB, but thanks to Layla, I did. She, and shift manager Jose, also helped Mason find some beers he greatly enjoyed based on his current favorites like Guinness and Heineken. He ended up with three of his own different beers on his loyalty card, as well as mine. You see, if you are really striving for the loyalty perks, you can do a little bit of fair cheating. If you bring friends who try new beers, you can put it all on your loyalty card and have it count for you. Also, I was informed that, for instance, Guinness Draught and Guinness in a bottle will count as two different beers and Guinness dark, light and other variations of the same type of beer also count separately. A nice little way to pad your numbers with your favorites. In case you're worried about remembering what you've had and haven't tried, yes, there is an app for that.
While you're knocking back a few new drinks, there are a multitude of television screens to watch the game. Jose was nice enough to switch the screen in front of us to the game we were most interested in, which was very nice. I inquired about the little stage and was informed that they have live bands come in and play at night. I am making it a point to catch one soon. They also have trivia nights, a cornhole game, jenga, and

other fun things that can only be more fun with friends and beer. If you get hungry, there's a menu of typical tavern food available. Sandwiches, onion rings, hummus, shrimp, steak and more. I had the shrimp and it was oh so good!
If you enjoy trying new things, good beer, and fun or if you're like me and never thought you would like the taste of any beer but you're willing to let WOB show you how wrong you are, come on out to World of Beer, located just outside First Colony Mall. Tell them the Houston Bucket Lister says hello!















Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Fandom #2 The Rodeo and Insect Pizza

No matter what kind of music you listen to, if you are a Houstonian, you have to visit the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. A lot of people think it's just for those who are into Country and Western, but as a life long lover of rock, alternative and yes, even some rap and a husband who is metal all the way, we know there is a little something for everyone.

Last night we attended the Maroon 5 concert, which is a favorite band of mine. As much fun as it was watching Adam Levine, the real fun is the carnival. There are lots of rides, ziplining, a giant ferris wheel, games, and of course, the food. Once I mentioned on my Facebook page  that I was going to the rodeo, I immediately had people telling me I just HAD to try the bug pizza. There's a food stall close to the camel rides that sells mostly normal pizzas, but with three very interesting specialties. Cricket, mealworm, and scorpion pizza. We arrived a bit early before the show so I could find the place, but as it happened, it was fairly easy to locate.
I walked up to the stand and proudly asked the server for one of each. He gave me a grin and seemed very happy to give me my order. I leaned over and watched what was going on behind the scenes, and saw him grab three giant slices of cheese pizza, open up packets of insects, and place them on top of the pizza. These weren't small slices, and for $8 a slice I would hope they wouldn't be. As he handed me the plates I asked him if very many people ordered the bugs. He replied oh yes! I asked if many -women- ordered them and he laughed and told me I was only the third that he knew of. Where are all my brave Houston women?







We sat at a bench close by and I proceeded to taste test my dinner. I attracted a small crowd as other people sitting around me were very curious about the insects. I took a bite of each slice, with a beautiful, juicy bug right in the center of each bite. Truth be told, they all tasted like regular pizza. The taste of the sauce overpowered any insecty taste that might've been there. The scorpion was easy to chew, also. I've had them before that the shells were too hard to bite through.





In a fun twist, a random stranger named Jabari showed some interest in trying a bug, and I was more than happy to oblige him. He seemed hesitant at first, but he popped in a cricket and .... it wasn't that bad! I love when I get to see people prepare themselves for something gross then realize it really isn't gross. I also enticed my children to try the scorpion. They've all tried bugs and various weird dishes before, but they were curious what scorpion would be like. They seemed to think it tasted like candy. I'm not sure if I agree with that, but they insist.



What do you think? Would you dare to try the insect pizza? If so, which one?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

#TBT Eating Balut

This is something I did years ago, but since it's Throwback Thursday, I figured it was an excellent chance to share this old journal entry with you now. WARNING : If you're easily grossed out, the duck fetus pics may upset you.

April 18, 2008

Today our balut arrived! I admit, I was half excited and half nervous as I was waiting for the postwoman to bring it. After the durian incident I wasn't so sure I trusted my own judgment and curiosity any longer.
Before it arrived though, we went to an Asian grocery in Chinatown called Welcome Foods. I heard they had Grass Jelly and some nifty drinks that I wanted to try so we thought we'd stop in and check it out. We ended up getting the grass jelly, and several drinks. The drinks included Basil Seed drink, tamarind juice, grass jelly drink, milk peanut, chrysanthemum tea, black soy milk, congee drink, white gourd juice, pennywort, and birds nest drink (yes with real birds nest).





The balut arrived shortly after we got home, actually when we were pulling out of the driveway to go get batteries for the camera she came. I took the package with us to the store and amused myself with thoughts of what would happen if a thief stole the package from the car only to realize once they got home that it was balut eggs.



When we came back home I boiled some water with a generous amount of salt. In the meantime we wanted to see what the inside of one looked like raw so we cracked one and put it in a pot in the backyard. Mason's cat came over to inspect and ended up eating the entire thing. I was relieved that the duck was much smaller than I had feared. Still, watching the cat slurp up and devour the fetus made me wonder if I would have the nerve to do it after all. Unfortunately this occurred as I was putting the batteries into the camera so I don't have a picture of it for you.


I decided to pop open one of my drinks to go with the balut. I chose the basil seed drink. I read the ingredients and it listed "basil seed, sugar, honey, banana flavor". It tasted a bit unusual at first, but not bad at all. The only strange part was the basil seeds floating in the drink. They were tiny seeds, but were in a thick, clear, chewy, jelly like bubble. When you took a sip dozens of them entered your mouth for you to chew up and swallow. Interesting.



When the water was at a full boil I gently added the 19 remaining eggs (we could only buy in boxes of 20 and no less) to the water and set the timer for 15 minutes. Soon the timer dinged and Mason called out to let me know they were done. I turned the burner off, poured out the boiling water and gently cooled them with cool water. Mason noticed one was cracked already so we decided to peel it and see what we were dealing with.



The first thing I noticed was there wasn't any "soup" inside. The soup is the liquid inside the egg you are supposed to slurp up after making a small hole in the top of the egg, before you peel it. This was as dry as a desert inside. I thought perhaps it was because it was cracked though and maybe the soup leaked out before we peeled it. Mason looked at me and questioned "will I be the first to try it?". I watched closely as he took his first bite. He went straight for the duck. He paused and chewed as I eagerly awaited his opinion. "It tastes like...a hard boiled egg". He popped the rest into his mouth, only to remember the warning about the inedible piece at the bottom. Out that came and was discarded with the peeling.

It was my turn. I was the one who wanted to do this, right? Wasn't it my bright idea to try all sorts of strange and unusual food? I've eaten things way worse than eggs before. I can do this. I told Mason to bring the camera outside to photograph me eating my egg in the better natural lighting. I grabbed my egg, a bag to put my peeling in and all the courage I had inside me, and walked out the back door.

As I peeled my egg I told Mason "this really isn't any different than eating duck and an egg at the same time, right?". He just gave me a strange look. What can I say? I am a Gemini, I am allowed to both want and be scared of something at the same time. I noticed that my egg also had no soup inside. I was looking forward to eating my balut the correct way, slurping the soup first, but alas mine had nothing to slurp.

I took my first bite, going for the yolk instead of the duck at first to sort of ease my way into it. To my pleasure, it did indeed taste like a regular boiled egg. I added some salt on top, which I had forgotten until that point and went for another bite. "Oh eat the duck, sissy!" my husband called out. "I'm getting there!" I whined back at him, eyeballing the feathers now emerging from my egg. I took another bite. Nothing left but ducky now! Some foods are better eaten quickly and not stared at too much. I wish I had remember that saying when I stared down at the duck head in my hands below. I pulled off a bit, looked down and it was a tiny leg and foot. Oh well, here goes. It was surprisingly soft. I took the last bite into my mouth and chewed. Not so bad. I was expecting to feel the feathers tickling my tongue or the crunch of the beak, skull and bones on my teeth but no. It was just like eating an egg, only with more texture and a richer taste. Aside from the appearance, which would rate a 10 on the strange food scale, the taste and texture were not very weird at all.




My daughter Miaoxin was with me and decided she wanted an egg too, so I went inside and grabbed her one. I peeled it for her and took a photo of her holding it, but once she got a good look she started saying "No, I don't like ducky egg! I don't want!" Girl, you ate durian with a smile and balut grosses you out? Have priorities! Mason took her egg and finished it off.



I went inside and called out to all the kids "Who wants a hard boiled egg!?". Immediately my sons Jacob and QiQi came running. Jacob began to peel his then looked at me sideways. "What kind of eggs are these?" he asked. "Duck" I smiled. I wasn't lying. He took a bite and quickly realized there was a prize inside this egg. He paused for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and ate it anyways. Gage came downstairs in time to find out that it was balut before peeling one. He passed on eating one. QiQi happily grabbed an egg. It took him longer to peel his but once he did, he had no qualms about eating it whole. After the second bite or so I noticed the duck fetus go into his mouth. Knowing a good photo op when I see one I called out to him to open his mouth. Mason said "He doesn't even know what he's eating!". I showed Qi the little duck to him and he nodded knowingly. He gulped it down and asked for another. I obliged.




Mason is planning to take a few of the remaining balut to work with him on friday to give to his co-workers (he plans to only tell them they are duck eggs and let them figure the rest out on their own). I have asked him to record it for me! I know it sounds mean, but his friends are always playing practical jokes on each other. This one should be the ultimate!