May and June have been and will be heavy with travel, so we’ve decided to have the letters I and J span together across both months. In keeping with the above we set out to complete our reading challenges for I & J in the same day. We accomplished this in the city of Denton.

The first thing we noticed as we entered Denton was that they are very clever in their naming of businesses. Our all-time favorite was Stinky’s Smoke Shop. It immediately put us in a laughing mood and Barbara almost wanted to start smoking so she could patronize old Stinky. (Luckily, she held back the urge). Next came Arsenal Tattoo. We pictured the owners tattooing, not with an electric device but by taking a weapon from their Arsenal and shooting the ink pattern into the customer’s body. After passing Call to Arms Gun Shop and the Sleepy Lizzard we came to the runner up for best/funniest name at Big Fatty’s Spanking Shack. We hadn’t even left the car and we’re already in a great mood!

We arrived in time to eat an early lunch and found the perfect place.

New restaurant: The Juicy Pig

How do we resist that name? The owners had commissioned a mural in the parking lot and here are the results. The children sitting at the bottom of the picture are the owners’ kids and we got a kick out of the names of the actors once we realized they were More Love, Compassion, Tolerance and Joyfulness.

“I” Reading challenge: Find an independent bookstore in the city that we visit. Try to support the store.

We completed this by going into Patchoulli Joe’s Books & Indulgences. One thing we love about independent bookstores is that the people working there really seem to love reading and always can recommend something. We bought a couple of books to support them.

Last but not least….

“J” Reading challenge: Have a cup of Java and take on the identity of your favorite author or fictional character when asked for your name at the coffee shop. See if anyone notices or comments.

Our plan was for one of us to give the name Agatha and the next one to give the name Christie and see if they ask us about it. Our story was that Agatha Christie was our mom’s favorite author but it backfired because all we ordered was coffee and so no one asked our names!

All in all a delightful day.

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Humor – Or Not

We went to the Eisemann to see a comedian, Maria Bamford, who seems to have a good reputation. Neither of us had seen her but we figured we’d get some good laughs. Thank goodness she had another comedian opening for her – Paul Varghese. He had made it to the semi-finals in Last Comic Standing and well-deserved, because we found him extremely funny. So, we were very optimistic when the headliner came on. Unfortunately, the only thing we laughed at was the fact that the audience was laughing at her.

We’ve never seen such a weird performer from the way she talked, to the things she talked about. Nothing was remotely funny to us, but the audience was apparently made up of all her fans because they were roaring and the woman next to Barbara was slapping her knee in laughter. We guess that’s what makes the world go ‘round.

New Movie Locale – Haiti

Laura: Prior to watching the PBS documentary “Undiscovered: Haiti with Jose Andres,” I mainly associated poverty and earthquakes with this Caribbean Island. But this film changed and broadened my perspective. Chef Jose Andres owns 21 restaurants around the world and he’s visited Haiti more than 20 times since 2010. His excitement over the food, rum, people and place was catching plus I enjoyed seeing the mountains, clean beaches and lush forests. I l also loved how he tossed in historical facts along the way. Did you know that Haiti was among one of the first places that Christopher Columbus landed on and that it is the only place in the world where slaves overthrew their masters, beat off Napoleon’s army and established a republic?  My main takeaway after watching this film is that Haiti is a blend of Caribbean energy, voodoo spirit and African roots and, with the right itinerary, would be a fascinating place to visit.

New activity -Solo Violin Recital

Barbara: My significant other and I love chamber music and a performance was nearby so we purchased tickets, not knowing anything about the performer, Augustin Hadelich.  We learned that he began studying at 5 but when he was 15 was badly burned in an accident on his father’s farm and had to stop playing for a year. He is now considered to be one of the major violinists of our time. His performance was unbelievable and actually brought tears to my eyes at one point. He well earned his roaring applause and standing ovations and I feel so lucky to have seen him.

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New restaurant – Honey Berry Pancakes & Cafe

We love discovering new breakfast places, so we were attracted to the name of this restaurant “like a bee to honey.” The first thing we noticed was that the breakfast options had neither honey in the ingredients nor in the names of the pancakes. We opted for a do-it-yourself omelet with fruit and pancakes or toast, figuring we’d each take one piece of toast and one pancake to sample. The omelets they brought were puffy and huge so we asked how many eggs were in it, figuring the waitress would say 3 instead of two. Oh no…there were SIX eggs in each omelet!  How does anyone eat this breakfast! We tried but had a whole lot left over. Unfortunately, the taste of everything was pretty unnoteworthy so the other two thirds of the omelet got left. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

And speaking of honey….


What food never goes bad?

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, honey never expires. Jars of honey have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs thousands of years old but still edible.

What we want to know is….who decided to open those tombs and try the honey???

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Hooray for Howdy

Knowing we were both going to be altering our eating habits this month, we decided to have one last splurge on one of our favorite things: ice cream! Howdy Homemade in Dallas seemed like a great choice. As they say about themselves: “we’re all about two things: amazing ice cream served by amazing people.” Barbara had the Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip (delicious ice cream but the chocolate chips were a bit too large) and Laura had the Chocolate As All Get-Out (what’s not to love about that!) This is an ice cream shop that is making a difference – in creative flavors and in creating a place where teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities can find meaningful employment and stand as an example of how having a people plan is just as important as having a business plan. Started by Tom Landis in Dallas back in 2015, Howdy Homemade is a great shop to visit.

Activity – Hiking

Glad we got in that ice cream while we did because we are now trying our best to live healthy. So in that vein we went for a hike in a nature preserve we’ve passed several times but never stopped at, the Spring Creek Nature Area. Finding parking was a bit of a challenge but once on the path it was a lovely place to walk and in addition to the paved trails, there was a Nature Trail Loop that takes you further into the “wilderness.” Laura’s son pointed out to her that there was a difference between walking and hiking and she can now prove that she/we did indeed hike. It felt good to move and hopefully combined with our new healthy eating plan, we will feel a big difference. That is, if we can stay away from all the temptations that come our way each week. Fingers crossed.

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Activity – New Restaurant

We are starting off the new month with – what else – eating, this time at Hawaiian Bros. Grill in Allen, TX. We feel that this restaurant is better suited to take out than eat in. The menus weren’t posted so the workers were in the position of having to explain and show each dish on a computer screen. If the restaurant had been very busy, that would have caused a huge backup. Also, they had the most uncomfortable chairs we’ve ever sat on. But the good news was that the food we had was very tasty. We each ordered the Honolulu Chicken which came on a bed of rice and included macaroni salad or pineapple. The small was filling so if we take out next time, we’ll probably split the next size up.  

Learning Center – Fun Fact

Barbara’s significant other lost a lot of his hearing by contacts with very loud noises, so we found it interesting that the inventor of the first electric hearing aid, Miller Reese Hutchison, not only developed the hearing aid but also the klaxon horn which makes that extremely loud Ahooga sound.  

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Goodbye to “G”

New Activity – From Glamour Girl to Gin Game – Mary Tyler Moore

We have started going to a group that brings in professional “book reviewers” and this time we were looking forward to hearing about Mary Tyler Moore. We have fond memories of watching the Dick Van Dyke Show and then the Mary Tyler Moore Show and most recently watched Gin Game, a play with both Dick and Mary. The talented Kathleen Cunningham presented Mary’s life as written in The Mary Tyler Moore Story. There was so much we didn’t know about her life and sort of want to keep some of this new information repressed (e.g. alcoholism). But Kathleen was so entertaining; she really brought one into the pages of the book.

Reading Challenge – F and G

Continuing with our alphabetical reading challenge from Book Riot, we were tasked this month with “randomly picking a location on Google Maps anywhere in the world and then reading a book either that takes place there or contains the history and culture of that location.” Barbara’s finger randomly landed on Romania and we fortunately found a novel that we both enjoyed. I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys is an historical thriller about communist Romania. It follows a young student’s experiences during this time and the twists and turns of betrayal and violence that occur. This #1 New York Times and national bestseller is powerful and thought-provoking, and we both learned a lot about an area and an era typically overlooked by many. Eventually when our TBR lists allow, another Ruth Sepetys book will be tackled.

We also made up for the fact that we missed our “F” reading challenge which was: Write a fan letter to your favorite author. Know that no matter what nice things you say, it’s going to make their day, week, month, or maybe even their year. We didn’t think anyone really wrote actual fan letters anymore but Barbara posted a note to one of her favorite authors, Alice Hoffman, and her agent assured her it would be passed on to Alice.

New Author – Elly Griffiths

Laura: A little known fact about me (in fact, I didn’t even know it until about two years ago) is that I am fascinated by forensic anthropology. I discovered my interest by watching 12 delightful seasons of the crime procedural comedy-drama tv show Bones, which is based on true stories. So I was intrigued when I saw that Kindle Unlimited was featuring a debut novel, The Crossing Places, by Elly Griffiths. The story line concerns a quirky archaeologist, Ruth Galloway, as she investigates human bones found on a nearby beach. I really liked the characters, the author’s style and the flow of the book and I anticipate reading the other 14 books in this series. (Really? Now I just have to find the time. Yikes!)

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Grandscape is a large and highly entertaining development nearby that we have not yet explored – and it has lots to explore.

New Activity: Grandscape Ferris Wheel

As sisters we have many things in common. However, the dare-devil gene is far stronger in Barbara than in Laura. Barbara was all jazzed and eager to try the 200-foot Grandscape Ferris Wheel. Laura not so much.   Fortunately, the climate-controlled gondolas move much smoother than the ferris wheels at Coney Island (from our youth) or those at various Los Angeles county fairs (from our young mothers era). Plus, being enclosed, they didn’t offer the same exposure that open air ones do. Also, there was no stopping during the continuous 15-minute ride, so you didn’t have to experience the scary rocking back and forth. This was a ride that offered far-reaching views, although not exactly particularly picturesque. All in all, it is an experience that is far better suited for young families.

New Restaurant: Barley and Board

After the ferris wheel, we were eager to try a new restaurant and Grandscape had plenty of options. We chose Barley & Board, advertised as a gastropub. It’s a spacious eatery with an interesting atmosphere and a few built-in round tables for six and eight (perfect for a friend or family lunch or dinner). They are known for their many in-house brews (thus the Barley) and hand-crafted cocktails and creative charcuterie boards, but we opted for their goat cheese flatbread (with artichoke hearts and roasted grapes) and the pecan bread pudding. So delicious. We oohed and aahed throughout the meal and told the waitress we wanted to live there.. We will be back.

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New Activity – CELTIC MUSIC

Barbara: I’m pretty sure that neither Laura nor I have a drop of Irish in our blood but ever since I went on my trip to Ireland a few years ago I’ve loved Celtic music, so what better way to go green than to see a Celtic band perform on St. Patrick’s Day? Cleghorn is a Celtic Rock Band spearheaded by Texas guitarist John Cleghorn and his son Dylan who designed and plays a really mean, acrylic fiddle. In addition to the fiddle, he played Uilleann Pipes which are similar to the Scottish bagpipes, plus a strange instrument called a Didgeridoo that looks like a long wooden pipe. Just the name alone made me a fan of that instrument.

The performance was high energy and great. The only thing I forgot to do was have a glass of Guinness but I’ll take care of that later in the weekend.

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Activity – New Cuisine – GUATEMALAN

When it comes to Hispanic food, we are both big fans. We’ve been trying all different types lately and so it was only fitting for “G” month that we chose to sample food from Guatemala. We went to Lily’s Cafe in Plano, and it was a great choice! Surprisingly, their menu offers a lot of Tex-Mex food, but they have a large menu insert with Guatemalan specialties. We ordered from the breakfast menu and the Huevos Rancheros and Huevos con Salchicones delivered quality food with amazing flavor. Both dishes had seasonings that were new to us and were served with a traditional slice of cheese, Guatemalan cream, and homemade tortillas (thicker than those served in Mexican restaurants). The grilled pork sausage and fried plantain were the stars of the meal and were definitely worth returning for more. Our waitress was very helpful in answering our questions about the food and told us that pineapple was a big deal in Guatemala. Naturally, that was all the push we needed to take home a pineapple empanada for dessert. It was amazing!

New Movie Locale – Guatemala

Laura: I wanted to extend my Guatemalan experience, so I turned to the film Living on One Dollar, where four young guys decide to live in rural Guatemala on less than $1 a day for two months. It was a very interesting, enlightening, and inspiring film. Although the guys encounter hunger, parasites, and discomfort they also discover that the strength of the community can lend support, help solve problems and provide hope. Poverty is no joke – it presents young families with horrible choices, such as feed their family or send the kids to school. Being a bit snobbish about using lard, I was humbled to learn that lard is used purposely to increase their caloric intake, so they have more energy. I was impressed how neighbors pull together to save collectively so that one neighbor each month can get a sum that will help them with a larger purchase. But on a more personal level, I now more fully understand how Kiva.org (make a loan, change a life) is so instrumental in helping people in impoverished areas around the world by helping them access loans. Our friend Jane introduced us to this organization some years ago and it was very rewarding to see in real time how this type of loan service really makes a huge difference in providing people around the world with a means to better their lives.  

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This month has been getting away from us so even though the weatherman said rain, we forced ourselves out. Garland was a close city that we actually never spent any time in so we looked up some things to do there. Google found us a cowboy hat plant that gives tours, a nice museum with the history of Garland, a downtown to explore and a farmers market. Laura was on a quest for bread, so she was happy about the latter and off we went.

First setback – the plant no longer gives tours. So we headed to the Farmers Market and the next setback – no Farmers Market. Laura found another Garland Farmers Market online so we continued on, laughing as we went since every time we came to a light it turned red. When we got to the “Farmers Market” it was a small store that wasn’t at all appealing to enter so we called the Landmark Museum to make sure we weren’t too early. Well we were – by about a week as it was closed for repairs. By this time we were laughing so hard Barbara could hardly see to drive. The icing on the cake was getting to the downtown area and finally seeing a bakery. Eureka, bread at last! NOT – bread was the only thing this bakery did not sell. Oh, well you win some and you lose some.

We did find a nice GREEK restaurant, Little Greek Café, on the way home and had a delicious GYRO there and a Greek Salad AND found a farmers’ market near home to buy bread.  

Speaking of laughing, a Fun Fact: “Laughter that comes from tickling is called gargalesis, and aside from primates the only animal known to experience it is the rat.”

So don’t try tickling your pet bird; it won’t work.

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