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More Adventures in The Woodlands

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Please continue to pray for the good people of Boston after the horrific attack on Monday. I saw an article online about how they went about mis-using a pressure cooker for this incident. Simple, quick and lethal. I’ve never bought one myself, but now I don’t think I want to. At least we know if we see one lying about somewhere, well, you know.

Also this evening, reports of an explosion here in the Lone Star State, in Waco at a fertilizer plant. Not much is known yet. Please keep Waco in your prayers as well–the casualties are much higher.

Anyway. . . .

As close friends of mine will tell you, I have a thing about The Woodlands, TX, a somewhat exclusive “planned community” north of Houston. It’s everything Clear Lake could be–clean, intelligent, well designed and thought out. I know that sounds like I’m being a snob, but I don’t mean to–I just like to go to The Woodlands. It’s beautiful with lots of trees, and so very nice. These last two days were opportunities to spend a little extra time there. I really did pick a doctor up there, but not because she’s in The Woodlands. She’s an excellent wellness doctor, recommended by Suzanne Somers (long story) and a smart lady, too.

Bragging rights: today’s BP was 120/70; pretty good for someone “over 21” and not on medications. OK, I’ve gained a few pounds back, but that’s temporary, and the least of my worries right now.

There is an area in The Woodlands called Panther Creek. I would like to move there, being a “human feline” (cat person) as I am. But only if there are real panthers walking around; otherwise, it’s just a name. There were people out playing golf in that area, even in the misty rain that kept the wipers going all day. Would have been a nice picture, but other drivers would have been a bit miffed if I’d stopped on Woodlands Parkway just to take a picture. Next time.

I should head up there one day just to spend the day; hotels offer weekend packages in The Woodlands. Since the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion offers great concerts, a hotel room is a great idea after the likes of Def Leppard, Chicago, or any other performance. I was exhausted after Def Leppard–what a show!– but drove myself home and made it safely.

So today I went back to Sweet Tomatoes for lunch again, but I either forgot or bypassed Joan’s Broccoli Madness; or maybe they just didn’t have any. That’s OK–I made it to the chili. Theirs has beans in it, so you know it’s not REAL Texas chili, but it’s pretty good, so I give them credit. After lunch I headed to the nearby Container Store, a place I wish I could live in–everything you need, it’s so neat!

Yes, I know–you don’t get organized by buying a bunch of organizing thingies. I didn’t actually, I bought a few things that I have a use for soon. Such as this item from OXO Good Grips made to clean water bottles of all kinds. Saw it on Facebook the other day, and knew I needed one. I got it because I have one of those large double-walled plastic cups with a straw and a screw-on lid. Use it all the time, keeps water cold a long time. I discovered that black mold grows and develops in the rubber gasket and the threads at the top. I tried to clear out the straw with hot water and soap, but didn’t have anything that cleaned it completely. This kit solved that problem, and now I’ve cleaned the whole thing using all three brushes. Highly recommended!

Since I’m slated to return to the land of the employed soon, I found this little item for carrying salt and pepper in your lunch bag:

Portable Salt/Pepper shakers for taking with you.
If you are thinking the tops come off the unit, think again:

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One piece with interlocking lid parts,and they end up closed like this, with plugged holes for safe transport. Neat, huh? (I bought two for good measure, and they’re cheap.)

After I left the doctor’s office, I found my way to the Frost Bake Shoppe on Waterway, not far away. (Although I don’t know that much about the topography, I am learning my way around The Woodlands.) Dr. Davis’ office has ordered cupcakes from them on occasion, and they were at the recent Wheat Belly Luncheon passing out samples of their very delicious gluten-free chocolate cupcakes. (They also were liberal in letting me sample during the luncheon.) So today, I made it to first their Waterway location walking distance from that Marriott. DUH. I could have gone there after the luncheon, but didn’t realize it was there. So I asked about the other location, which, coincidentally, was across the street from where I was headed next: the foodie’s cult favorite Trader Joe’s!

This is what I actually had, being the newly gluten-avoiding person that I am:

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They call it “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.” No kidding. Now, it’s a baked cupcake, but it’s intended to taste like raw cookie dough. Go figure! This is what it looks like when you peel the paper off:

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How about that? You bite in–somewhere–and you get a bite of soft cake and nearly liquid creamy icing. Not too sweet, totally satisfying and melts in your mouth. I’m sorry, you just don’t get this kind of incredible taste from a grocery store. They’re freshly baked and hand-frosted every day. Like wedding cake, it’s not something one would have every day.

Did I mention that it’s gluten free? Yes’m. They can make any variety of cupcake  gluten-free on request, but in the store they are whatever the baker chooses to make that day. No complaints! I’ll write more on them in a separate post–and post more pictures, of course. Here’s one more:

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Isn’t that beautiful? All fondant. . .they’ll make anything you want.

If I could have brought home a cupcake for my two neighbors, I would have. But now that it’s basically summer here in Houston, the icing would have melted all over the floor by the time I got it home.

Trader Joe’s, for those who aren’t familiar, is a California-based specialty grocery store, that’s, well, what I’d call quirky. In a nice way. I was in Seattle 2 years ago and never made it into one, but everyone kept telling me, “you gotta go to Trader Joe’s, it’s so great.” I won’t dispute that–but I will also add that it won’t change your life overnight. Glad I went, great place, and will make it a regular part of my in-town shopping, too.

I did ask to take pictures in the store, but they asked me not to. I agreed, but have shots  of some the products I bought after I got them home. It’s a small store in The Woodlands in the Indian Village area, so I don’t know if that’s the norm or what. (No sign of anyone named Sanjeev, either, or is that not what they meant?) Their stock is mostly store branded, but they do have some national brands as well. Nice people, very helpful, and they enjoy what they do.

I bought stuff I would normally buy, but this included Trader Joe’s branded products that were, by the description, same as national brands, but less expensive. I saw, but did not purchase, a clam shell package of two fennel bulbs completely trimmed and cleaned for $1.99. Trust me when I tell you I definitely WANTED to, but could not remember all the ingredients for my favorite coleslaw recipe, which calls for fennel bulbs. (It’s in Suzanne Somers’ third cookbook on page 220, and is absolutely delicious.) I also bought a bottle of their Italian olive oil, $4.99, and of course, a requisite shopping bag, as I’ve done on several occasions while visiting out-of-town grocery stores like another favorite, Publix.

Trader Joes!

Their produce section yielded these beautiful little jewels, as well as the best price on Manchego cheese I’ve seen in a long time, as well as goat cheese which will become a Corsican omelette now that the mint is growing back.IMG_1965

Guess where some of those gorgeous heirlooom tomatoes went? Yep, on top of the last jar of lettuce, with freshly whizzed-up dressing, which was perfectly crisp nearly one week out. Woo hoo! Don’t worry–I bought more lettuce to seal up in those jars. Here’s the rest:

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All told, I spent about $39. Now, this is not retail therapy in the Galleria; these are foodstuffs and sundries I would buy anyway at my local HEB, Target or Wal-Mart, with the cheeses being a bit of a splurge. Sometimes I go to my local Bed, Bath and Beyond to get sundries because I have coupons that come in the mail. On an ordinary day, it would cost more in gas to drive up there to get these items than I would save buy getting them there. However, I was already in The Woodlands today, and there are two more Trader Joe’s in the city, one of which is close enough to be convenient to the SGI-Houston Buddhist Center. So just like IKEA and Central Market, I can, if I want, do a little shopping at the Trader Joe’s after a Buddhist meeting.

Don’t YOU plan your shopping trips that way?

Dear readers, I hope you have enjoyed my adventures this week as much as I have. I’ll write again soon. I’m getting tired and need to hit the sack. Tomorrow I have phone calls to return and fresh lettuce to pack in to jars for the week. Today and tonight, though, even though I have stuff scattered about, and the cat’s fussing about her food again, I count my blessings, one and all, and if you’re reading this, I encourage you to do the same.

Enjoy, and happy dining.

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