Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Turkish food!

Last night, Bill and I met a couple of friends at Mediterranean Turkish Grill.  We happened to spot the restaurant's location on Sunday, when we went to The Cheesecake Factory.  The Mediterranean Turkish Grill is in a strip mall right next to North Star Mall in San Antonio.  Our friends had eaten there before and had a Groupon, so we met them there.  We each brought bottles of wine, since the restaurant has no liquor license.  In Texas, you can bring your own wine to places that don't serve alcohol.

I was kind of excited about the prospect of Turkish food, since I spent two years living in Armenia and while I was there, had the chance to go to Turkey for a couple of weeks.  Turkey is one of the neatest places to visit, even though I went with a female friend and we both got harassed a lot.  What can I say?  We were young, female, and from the West, and some of the men thought we were whores.  Aside from that, we had a great time.  It was a trip in which we really roughed it.

So we went into the restaurant and it looked like a quaint, unassuming place with plain tables and modest Turkish decor and Turkish pop played from the kitchen.  A very handsome young man, obviously a member of the family who owned the place, handed us menus.  There was lots of lamb, beef, and chicken on the menu.  No pork, obviously!  They brought out wonderful, fresh, hot bread, which we garnished with flavored oil… it tasted like garlic.  


We ordered hummus and eggplant salad.  The waiter also brought out babaganoush, which is an eggplant dip.


I went vegetarian with falafel…  The falafel was very good and I had plenty leftover for today.


Bill had lamb kebab...


Our friends both had the same dish… which I can't remember the name of just now.  They'd had it before and said it was outstanding.


I think we'll be back. This place had a lot of character and charm and the food was very good.  I like to support restaurants that aren't a part of chains.

The restaurant was pretty quiet last night.  There were only a couple of other parties in the place when we were in there.  One party appeared to be from Turkey.  I heard them speaking Turkish.

It was fun seeing our friends again.  I need more nights like last night to help me get into the Texas lifestyle.  Our friends had also seen the Book of Mormon Musical at the Majestic Theatre before we went and they loved it as much as we did.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Azores...

As I sit here pondering the last year of Bill's active duty Army career, I realize that soon he will likely have less leave for good trips.  He will also have lower priority for trips on military hops.  I have never been to Portugal.  Neither has Bill.  The Azores, which is a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is part of Portugal.  It's also stunningly beautiful.

Bill and I noticed that there are regular flights going to the Azores every week that usually have seats available.  Looks like they also have regular flights back to the US with seats available.  So last night, we were talking about visiting the Azores.  One of my friends lived in Portugal in the 1980s and visited the Azores.  He said it wasn't a very interesting place to visit.  Having looked around on the Internet, I am inclined to disagree.  From what I've seen in photos, the Azores look like a cross between Hawaii and Ireland.  Parts of it are very green, with deep blue ocean and volcanos.  There are hydrangeas everywhere.  And anywhere there's that much ocean, there is bound to be great seafood.

I have a friend who visited the Azores courtesy of a military hop.  She said when they visited, she and her husband were able to pick up some delicious port.  I am also a port fan.  I like laid back vacations, beaches, friendly locals, and unusual non-touristy places.

I don't know if that's where we'll go next… I do think our next trip will probably be via a military hop, though.  We don't have as much money in Texas as we did in North Carolina.  We will in February, when we're done paying off my car… Then things will temporarily be better… but we will also be preparing for Bill's retirement.  I was hoping we could take a good trip after he retired.  I think that a hop may be the best way to do that.


Dog Park!

We took the dogs to the nearest dog park in Universal City, Texas.  They had a great time and I made a film…



I made a musical track to help cover up all the wind noise…

Tonight, we met mother-in-law at the Cheesecake Factory at North Star Mall and had a nice dinner and cheesecake…  Drove home with the top down and am now sitting here with some wine…

Bill is taking tomorrow and Tuesday off so we can become Texas drivers once and for all.



Friday, October 25, 2013

Moving abroad with pets...

Back in 2007, Bill and I moved to Germany for two years.  We took our two dogs, Flea and MacGregor with us.  Moving with pets was stressful and a little scary, since I had read a lot of horror stories about what can happen to pets on airplanes.  At the very least, we knew it could be expensive to fly with the dogs, since we had to buy tickets for them and travel crates.  I also knew that it was possible that they could suffer an accident.  Some animals have died on airplanes.

Fortunately, we were able to move our dogs with no serious problems.  It cost a few hundred dollars to pay for their passage.  We flew from Washington, DC to Frankfurt and when we landed in Frankfurt, we could actually hear Flea's indignant barking at being stuck in a crate for so long.  A customs animal inspector came over and inspected our paperwork, then sent us on our way.  We picked up the dogs and they happily adjusted to life in Germany.  When it was time to go home, Flea was ill with prostate cancer.  But he was strong enough to make the flight from Stuttgart to Atlanta and was with us for about two more months before we had to have him euthanized.  Flea charmed people on both ends of the travel, despite being so loud.

Lately, with the prospect of Bill's Army retirement looming before us, we have been thinking about where we'd like to live next.  If you have read my main blog, you know that I'm not wild about the house we live in and would really like to live in Europe.  Bill has found job openings in Germany, Belgium, and Ireland.  It's likely he will apply for jobs overseas, though we don't know if he'll be successful in getting one.  Given our goals, I'm looking once again at information about what it takes to import animals into European countries.  I'm not too worried about a move to continental Europe, though a move to Ireland or England might be difficult because they are island nations.  I read that the regulations are less strict than they once were, but they still require planning and foresight.

I just found a very interesting Web site for people who need to move abroad with pets. PetRelocation.com is based in Austin and helps people move their animals anywhere in the world.  Likewise, PetAir Carrier also relocates pets.  I know there was also an airline specifically for pets called Pet Airways, but it looks like that concept went belly up.  I'm sure it was too expensive and too limited to be of use to a lot of people.     

Moving abroad is a pain, especially when you're traveling with animals.  But it was worth it to us, last time, to have our dogs with us in Germany.  If we move overseas again, we will try to choose a country that is pet and owner friendly.  If we go back to Germany, I have a feeling our dogs won't be quite as annoying as Flea and MacGregor were.  Zane and Arran are a lot less noisy than they were.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A day in Copenhagen...

Back in the summer of 2009, Bill and I took our very first cruise on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas.  It was a four night cruise.  We were "getting our feet wet", as it were.  Neither of us had ever cruised before and it was an economical way to see parts of Scandinavia.

One of the ports we visited was Copenhagen.  I had been curious about Denmark, even though that's where Bill and his ex wife got married and the start of so many of the problems from which we have spent ten years recovering.  Granted, if they hadn't married, I'd probably be a single woman... or married to some guy I don't like as much.  But maybe I'm just being cynical.  Surely there are other guys out there who could tolerate life with me.

Anyway, we enjoyed our June day in Copenhagen, wandering around the city.  We even got caught in a rainstorm...



This band played music as we got off the ship...


A still shot



Colorful bum...


Downtown Copenhagen



One of many lunch options...


7-11s are all over Scandinavia and they seem to enjoy selling pornographic looking hot dogs...


Signs in Denmark...


This was a massive outdoor exhibit...


 Some were pretty clever...


They loved George W. Bush...






Explanation please!




This wino could have been a street performer...



We had lunch here...

The inside of this place was really cool... murals and paintings all over the walls and only one other American there for lunch besides us...


The door to a beautiful church...


And this man played violin as we walked around the church...

We really only got a taste of Copenhagen during our day there.  I would love to go back sometime and really experience Denmark.  Something tells me I'd love it there.  But then, I feel very much at home in most parts of Europe.  I could spend many years there and be happy as a clam.  It was cold when we visited in early June.  Bill had to buy a jacket.  I bet it's beautiful in July and August.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Flashback to Washington State...

The very first trip I took with Bill that didn't involve visiting family was in September 2005.  We decided to take a trip and I asked Bill to make it a surprise.  I told him to plan everything...  It was right after Hurricane Katrina hit and Bill was working his ass off at the National Guard Bureau in the DC area.  We were afraid he'd have to work after that huge hurricane hit, but fortunately we were still able to take that vacation.

Of course, I ended up figuring out where we were going...  But I have to give Bill props, because we went to Anacortes, Washington for three nights and stayed at a first class, beautiful B&B called the Heron House Suites.  It was on Fidalgo Island, right on the water, and just freakin' beautiful.  We drove all over Whidbey Island and walked around Coupeville and Langley, then stopped for a wine tasting at Greenbank Farm, where they were selling loganberry wine.

While we were in Anacortes, Epinions.com was having a Meet and Greet in Seattle.  Although Bill had wanted to go to Victoria, B.C., I wanted to meet some Epinions members from the west coast.  So we went to the Meet and Greet and actually had a pretty good time.  We were pretty jetlagged, though.

I wish I'd had a camera when we went on our all too brief trip out west.  I would have loved to have taken photos of the B&B and Deception Pass... and all the beautiful things we saw.  We stayed a night at the Alexis Hotel and ate dinner at Brasa in Seattle...  Sadly, it looks like Brasa closed, as did the Heron Suites...  I think the lady who ran it when we visited sold it and the new owners weren't able to make a go of it.  Too bad... that place was spectacular!  I was so sad that we could only afford four nights away.

I would like to take another trip west.  Actually, I'd like to visit California or Oregon... never been to either place.  But I'd also love to go back to Washington... and if Bill doesn't get a great job after he retires, it may be most prudent to visit the west coast and get to know more of America.

Now that we're in Texas, maybe it's time we visited parts of the USA I've never seen before.




Sunday, October 20, 2013

A trip to Chester's Hamburger Company...

One of these days, we WILL go on another real trip.  For now, I have to be content with getting to know Texas, a state with which I previously had no experience.  I had been reading the San Antonio Burger Blog, which had a post on Chester's Hamburger Company.  This chain restaurant is apparently a local favorite here in San Antonio.  Indeed, there's a big sign out in front of the Universal City location that announces their burgers as the best in the state and in town...  Seems to me that if the burgers are the best in the state, that would automatically make them the best in town. Oddly, Chester's doesn't seem to have a Web site.  Their signage is pretty dated looking.  I see it and it sort of screams 1980s to me... but for me, that's not a bad thing.  I love the 80s.


Right next door is a McDonald's, complete with huge golden arches.


The inside is pretty much like all the other burger joints... lots of license plates, beer signs, and other bits of Americana.  The inside of this restaurant was also decorated for Halloween.  I liked the lighting, because it wasn't very bright.  Large flatscreen TVs were on the walls showing football while rock music from the 60s played on the sound system.


Bill's BIG iced tea.


There was a very impressive beer selection, including Belgian and German brews.  We were impressed because they were reasonably priced, though we chose to go non alcoholic on this trip.  Wine is also available.


The queue line was kind of full at one point...


Supposedly the shakes and malts are delicious... I think it would have been more than I could handle.


Another shot of the beer cooler.


Order up!  Bill got fries while I got onion rings.  I don't usually get onion rings, but had heard Chester's fries were "limp and greasy".  They kind of were, but I don't mind that so much.  The onion rings were sweet and crunchy.  We had leftovers.


Bill and I both got cheeseburgers.  The poppy seed buns are unique and tasty.  Prices are reasonable.  A regular cheeseburger costs $5.49 while a double costs $7.29.  We both got singles and they were plenty for us.


A shot of the inside...  It was very tasty.  Don't know that it was the best I've ever had, but it was definitely good and hit the spot.  I would go back again.  Chester's also has chili and a fish and chips basket.  The lady sitting nearest to me had chili.  It smelled good.  You can get it on your burger as well.


Another shot of that silly sign...

All in all, I think our visit to Chester's Hamburger Company was a success.  It was a nice little outing on a beautiful Sunday.  Now, it's time for beer.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Soul Train Cruise...

I'm always tickled when I see themed cruises offered on the Internet or TV.  If you're a nudist, chances are good you can find a nudist friendly cruise.  If you are LGBT, you can find cruises that cater to gays, lesbians, and transgendered people.  Want a cruise that caters to seniors?  You can find one offered by a certain British travel agency.  There are all sorts of cruises out there for a broad gamut of people.

However, today I was watching TV and saw an interesting cruise being advertised.  Are you ready for a Soul Train Cruise?  I remember watching Soul Train when I was a kid.  I really only watched it because my sister was a fan.  Every Saturday, it would come on in the afternoon and Don Cornelius would wish all views peace, love, and soul.  There would be a dance line and the latest funk and soul music... in the 70s and 80s, anyway.

The week long Soul Train cruise features a big line up of black entertainers, including: the Isley Brothers, Roberta Flack, Jeffrey Osbourne, Peabo Bryson, The Commodores, Morris Day and the Time, and the Chi-Lites, among many others.  The ports of call will take revelers round trip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and down into the Caribbean, with stops in St. Barts, St. Maarten, and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.  The ship is Holland America Line's Eurodam.

It looks like a good time.  I'm not really a fan of big ships and the crowds that come with them, but I do like some of the folks who will be performing on this cruise.  I have a feeling it would offer a prime opportunity to people watch.  And it is taking place at a time of year when I typically crave a vacation...

I doubt Bill would go for it, though.  He likes the smaller ships and all inclusive pricing...     

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Staying home...

Bill and I didn't really go anywhere this past weekend.  It was a long weekend for him, since he typically gets both Friday and Monday off when there are government holidays like Columbus Day.  I would have liked to have gone and done something, but the weather was kind of bad.  Also, Bill wanted to brew some beer, which requires some time at home.  We had other things to do as well.

I hate the fact that we're wasting these precious long weekends and not going on trips.  Of course, Texas is more expensive than North Carolina was, so it's not as easy for us to go on trips anymore anyway.  But last night, Bill did bring up the possibility of taking a "hop" before he retires.  Lackland and Randolph Air Bases are near us and have occasional space available flights.  We could probably get one to California from here.

Bill and I took a space A flight to Germany in 2012 and had a GREAT time.  I am dying to do it again.  I told him if he wanted to plan something, I'm all for it.  We could still do space A flights after he retires, but his priority would be less, meaning the chance we'd be stuck somewhere beyond our desire to be stuck would be greater.

I would love to be able to go somewhere soon... I have the itch to travel.  When we went to Germany in May 2012, we ended up going to Cologne, Munich, Salzburg, and Luxembourg.  It cost us about $40 for the two of us to go to Europe.  We did spend some money while we were there, but you sure can't beat that price for flying abroad.


The plane that brought us home from our Space A trip to Germany...

Friday, October 11, 2013

SeaDream's turnover...

I probably shouldn't blog about this because I'm definitely not "in the know"...

Over the past year or so, there has apparently been quite a bit of turnover at SeaDream Yacht Club.  The UK Director of Sales who worked for the company for years left in January of this year, as Pam Conover, former big wig for Seabourn took over.

On our cruise in May, there was a new cruise director named Nat Green aboard.  Bill and I got to meet him and really enjoyed him.  But then this morning, someone on Cruise Critic said Nat was "long gone".  Our cruise was only a few months ago and Nat was new then, so it makes me wonder what happened if he's really already "long gone".  He seemed excited to be onboard and had told us about some big plans.  Other people who had met him seemed to like him a lot.  So if he left, I wonder why...

One of our favorite waiters "jumped ship" and moved on to Seabourn, while a few others now work for Azamara.

And then there's been the complaining about kids on the ships as prices have gone downhill.  I don't know what's going on at SeaDream, but it's troubling.  Bill and I have enjoyed all three cruises with them, regardless.  I sure hate to see such a nice cruise line go downhill.

As for our upcoming travel plans, they haven't really been settled yet.  I think we'll probably go to Europe again, though.  I don't know where or exactly when.  Right now, we're just trying to deal with all the government shutdown business and my dental woes.

Speaking of Seabourn, I would like to try them at some point... they definitely have nicer prices than SeaDream has.  On the other hand, I love SeaDream's staff... those who haven't jumped ship, that is.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Back to Lockhart...

We visited my cousin's house in Lockhart again yesterday, because both of his daughters are pregnant and will be giving birth within weeks of each other.  Yesterday's event was a baby shower for Andy's younger daughter.  We took Zane and Arran with us and they had a blast running around Andy's big yard.

Bill and I had a great time.  It was fun catching up with family and friends and it was even more fun watching Zane and Arran book it around their big yard.  Zane was able to run full throttle for the first time in awhile.  The dogs got along fine with the other dogs in attendance and with the folks who were there to help celebrate.  My cousin's older daughter was especially charmed by the hounds.  She commented on how thin they are-- they aren't thin, really... they just aren't fat.  

I could get used to living in a place like Lockhart.  It's a small, quiet town with a charming downtown area and plenty of space.  I know I used to complain about Sanford, but I do miss country living.  I love space and privacy...

Maybe we can get back to that soon.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sam's Burger Joint and the quiet end of the Riverwalk...

Yesterday, Bill asked me what I wanted for dinner.  I said I wanted to go downtown.  So we went to Sam's Burger Joint, which is near the Pearl Complex close to downtown San Antonio.  I had read about this place on a very entertaining blog written by a group of folks in search of the perfect burger joint in San Antonio.  The burger bloggers didn't really give it high marks, but I was intrigued by it, especially since Sam's Burger Joint is also a local music venue.

Bill and I got there at around 6:00, ordered our sandwiches and fries, and then got a couple of draft beers.  Shiner Oktoberfest was selling for $3 as was Bud.  I don't drink Bud anymore, but was curious about the Shiner, which is a Texas brew.



The place has an interesting decor... lots of concert posters, license plates, and beer lights...  It looks a bit like a grungy, greasy spoon.  You can also eat outside where there was a live musician playing last night.


Waiting...


Obamacare, here I come!  The cheese on that burger was actually falling off when I picked up this sandwich, which I cut in quarters.


The beer list.


After we ate, we walked around the quieter end of the Riverwalk.  There was a free concert going on and the guy who was playing was pretty good...



An old beer relic...


Culinary Institute of America campus in San Antonio.


Ducks!


Nice shot near the Pearl Brewery Complex.


Waterfalls...


This was near where the guy was having his concert.  As we passed this area, a young guy ran past us.  He had a pudgy looking bulldog trailing him, the leash flopping along.  A few minutes later, we somehow passed this same duo, only they were now walking and panting.


A grotto...


We almost missed the face...




Fishes near the San Antonio Art Museum...

We had a nice time and got home by 8:30.  I took a very quick dip in the pool and then we listened to some music and went to bed...  It was a pleasant evening.