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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!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The End of 101 Things #1

The deadline for completing my first 101 Things list came and went on Saturday March 1st. It was a mad scramble to fit in a few last minute things that I had put off too long.

Such as -

Dressing up fancy and going somewhere mundane. I bought the dress for this at Goodwill at least a year ago, but I had always planned for a group of my friends and I to all dress up like it's prom and go out together. Unfortunately no one could ever go at the same time, and some people would be upset if we went when they couldn't go, so I finally just did it alone. We woke up at 5am and I started getting dressed. Iwanted to do my hair really big for this, but it was too early and I was very tired. This was the best I could do that early on a weekend.
Our original plan was to go to a Waffle House and eat breakfast, but we weren't able to find one. Mason was running late, as he was going to Dallas with his brother in just over an house, so we pulled in to the first McDonald's we could find instead. Mason took pictures but did not dress up. I wanted him to at first, but then I realized it was even funnier that I looked so dressy and he didn't. I wonder where people thought we were going or had been? McDonald's was pretty packed at 7am, and we ate inside, so I got plenty of very strange looks. No one said anything. I was expecting someone to ask me what I was dressed up for.

After breakfast I still needed stamps for the other projects on my agenda, so we headed over to HEB (a local grocery store for my non-Texans). Some strange looks again from the workers and other shoppers, but no one said anything.

Mason dropped me back home and left to go to Dallas, and I began the next few items. First, I wrote letters to 5 people who had positively influenced me in my life. A couple of them were no-brainers, like my Aunt Brenda, my favorite Aunt who was really great to me as a child, and an former school teacher who had instilled confidence in me and helped me believe in myself. I was afraid that choosing one person and not another would hurt a lot of feelings, but in the end I went with my gut. The people I chose actually did have an positive impact in my life, not to say anyone else did not, and I am happy with my decision. 

Along the same lines, I finally made a postcard to send off to Post Secret as well. If you don't know about Post Secret, it's a community where people anonymously send in postcards with a secret on it. Every Sunday some of these are added to their blog. Sometimes they are pretty depressing, sometimes uplifting, but either way they give a great insight into humanity. I don't know if mine will ever be chosen, but that's okay. I put it off for so long because I could never find a postcard that really fit with what my secret was. I ended up going to Walmart and buying a Greetings from Houston, TX one, then taking it home and gluing cut out pictures from magazines all over it that fit the theme. I'm not going to post the front here, as proud as I am of my cut and glue job, because it just won't feel like a secret anymore if I do. Here's the back - 

And last, but definitely not least, the most embarrassing thing I've ever done. A karaoke rap in public. I put this one off because I wanted to go to a proper karaoke bar and do some rap at night, in a crowded place, after I had a legitimate amount of drinks in me. Alas, it didn't work out that way and I was facing a deadline with nowhere to go. I thought to myself, well, I didn't say it had to be at a bar, right? What is more public than the internet? I sucked up my pride and decided to record myself doing a rap. I tried California Love by Tupac first but it didn't sound right. I went with Ice Cube's Today Was a Good Day (no, it didn't sound great, but better at least) and recorded it at least 15 times before I kept the final one. I messed up in it too, but I was just tired of doing it at that point. It's not like anyone was going to be impressed by my rap skills regardless. I'm really bad at it. Like, really, really bad. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do for your lists.