Stuffed deer head on a wall with a Santa hat at Frank's
Restaurant Review: Frank’s Restaurant

BF took me to one of his favorite places in Baton Rouge, Frank’s Restaurant. Or Smokehouse. Or Breakfast Place. We went without warning, and I was without coffee. But it was an enjoyable morning.

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

Following the wonderful feedback I received from last week’s blog post on the wedding of Rafael and Carmen, I have started to work on the second part of that saga about the rest of our Houston trip. But this morning’s activity made me want to pop in and write a quick blog post before then.

Errands in Baton Rouge

We had some errands to run today, and BF asked me if I’d like to go with him. When the alarm went off at 5:15 am, I really didn’t want to get up. But then I realized it would be a morning riding around with BF. So, I got up and off we went. Unfortunately, I did not have any coffee before I left. Therefore, I was unprepared for BF’s intentions.

Picking Up A Car Part

We had an errand locally that required the early morning hours. Once completed, then it was off to Baton Rouge.

The place we had to go was a small shop called Cam Motion. They opened at 8:00 am, and we wanted to beat Baton Rouge traffic–which is nothing like Houston traffic, let me tell you. Well, we didn’t actually do that. What we ended up doing was getting off the freeway and taking the surface streets. Many of them are a complete mystery. But we walked in, picked up the part, and left. We were there less than 3 minutes.

Of course, BF thinks it’s funny when we drive on those other surface streets because I am completely lost. (It’s the same on the odd occasion when we head to the New Orleans area since I know where we’re going and he doesn’t.) Once we get off the freeway, my Baton Rouge area landmarks are Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Joann Fabrics, and the Perkins Rowe shopping center where Sur la Table used to live. I don’t spend a lot of time there, but he knows where most things are located.

I mentioned getting some coffee, and we passed two or three Starbucks on the way. But he smiled and said, “It’s all good.” Oh, geez.

We were supposed to be back home at about 9:00 am, but we ended up home at about 9:30 am. There’s a reason for that.

A Stop At Frank’s Restaurant

As I said, I left the house without coffee. He offered to stop at a Circle K, but I passed. He mumbled something about Waffle House in Baton Rouge, and I said, “Sure, that’s fine.” But he had something else up his sleeve.

We finished the first errand and got into Baton Rouge at about 7:15 am. Cam Motion did not open until eight. So what were we going to do? I thought he said something about Waffle House, but he had another idea.

On a few occasions, BF has mentioned going to a place called Frank’s.

Picture of Frank's Place

Source: Franks Restaurant website

He pointed it out once or twice when we passed by, but it wasn’t open. But of course, BF has been there many times, and talked about its greatness. But never having been there myself, I had no idea. That changed this morning. He pulled into the parking lot, parked, and we went inside for some breakfast.

Sitting By The Deer

Remember, I’ve had no coffee, no tea, no nothing at this point. And I’ve been up since 5:30 am. But here I was, on a cold December morning, walking into a place that looks much like the inside of a Cracker Barrel. Actually, Cracker Barrel’s interior design is based on this kind of décor. However, what you see in Frank’s is the real thing, not something that’s “manufactured vintage.”

BF led me to a table and said, “Let’s sit here.” I agreed, took off my hat and sweater, looked up, and saw this on the wall:

Stuffed deer head on a wall with a Santa hat at Frank's

Yes, we really sat under this. Thanks, Honey.

No kidding, we were sitting right here, under that beast. Once again, he thought it was funny. I’m not awake yet. Fortunately, the waitress understood this predicament, so she kindly and promptly bought me some hot, fresh, coffee. It was my first of three cups, including the one I left with.

I didn’t catch the waitress’s name, (even coffee doesn’t work that fast) but she was a very nice blond woman. She told us that a veeegan recently came in and was mortified to see this stuffed deer head. The vegan in question insisted on being seated in a closed area because she was so triggered by the animal. I said, “Because vegans are weird.”  

I posted a picture of this. . .rather interesting décor on Instagram. Within minutes, Neighbor E in Houston saw it and said, “The look on that face.” I responded, “You should have seen mine.” 

It’s probably not shedding anymore, either.

What’s On The Menu?

Because this was my first visit, I wasn’t sure what to order. Their entire menu is online, and it’s what you might expect from a place in Louisiana—seafood, breakfast, etc. An interesting selection of locally influenced dishes.

Of course, BF already knew what he wanted, eggs and bacon, with hash browns and biscuits. All was right in his world at this point. I needed a little more time for the coffee to initialize its processes so I could decide what I wanted to order.

As it turns out, everything on the menu comes with biscuits, even biscuits, ha, ha. They are “the best homemade biscuits in the world,” as they will tell you. Take a look:

Six large biscuits on a plate

Yes, they are huge. (Source: Frank’s Restaurant website)

If you’re thinking, “Those are some pretty big biscuits,” you’d be right. They’re the size of a grapefruit. Butter (and half and half) are on the table already in small round containers, so you can get right to work on your biscuits.

No, I do not eat biscuits. They were all for BF, who humorously suggested I try The Amite Alligator, a breakfast dish that includes alligator sausage. No thanks, along with the liver and onions on the menu. He’s enjoying my pre-coffee fatigue while flashing his best Cheshire cat grin. I glared at him because I was only on my first cuppa. Finally, after the first refill, the caffeine receptors were working again and I was smirking right back. Then we were onto our usual back-and-forth antics.

No, they didn’t ask us to leave. (This time.) We weren’t loud.

Oh, and if you decide to peruse the menu, you’re not seeing things when you come across “Breakfast Cocktails.” Diners can order a Bloody Mary and one of two versions of Mimosas. I wasn’t awake enough for that one. Proceed with caution.

What I Ordered

My dilemma: I liked the vegetarian omelet, but I also liked the bacon omelet. What to do? Well, The first thing you do is tell your wait staff. And she offered this solution: A vegetarian omelet with bacon added. No, It’s not a “vegetarian” omelet anymore, but it sure was good. Naturally, it was picturesque, and I forgot to snap a pic. But mushrooms, green onions, spinach, bell peppers, and tomatoes certainly enjoyed the extra layer of flavor from the bacon. Now it’s a bacon-veg omelet, or whatever name you want.

They do offer salsa and/or sour cream on the side for a small charge. I meant to ask for it and forgot. Well, one bite, and I declined the salsa. It was good on its own. Much as I like salsa on my eggs, this is one instance where it would have been too much.

When our very nice waitress brought our check, she also brought me a take-out cup of coffee and take-out boxes so that BF could have his biscuits and potatoes later. Keep reading.

Hash Browns

What also came was what they called “Hash Browns”. These were actually diced potatoes fried up, not the shredded ones that most people think of when they order hash browns. That’s not a bad thing, really.

Diced fried potatoes in a black takeout container.

Taken home to have later.

I was busy concentrating on my omelet while BF was enjoying his own breakfast, plus a biscuit and a few of the potatoes. We ended up bringing most of them home, along with softball-sized biscuits. BF can enjoy them for a few more days, and the potatoes will heat up nicely in the countertop oven.

Two Locations

This third-generation family-owned Louisiana restaurant has been around since 1964, and is located at 8353 Airline Hwy in Baton Rouge. They’re open from 5:00 am to 2:30 daily, including Sundays, for breakfast and lunch.

There is also a location in Prairieville, at 17425 Airline Hwy.  That location is open Sunday and Monday from 5am to 3pm, and Tuesday through Saturday from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm. This location serves breakfast as well as both lunch and dinner. Frank’s also handles catering.

Both locations offer curbside pickup. Fans can follow and catch specials from both locations on social media, where each has an account on both Facebook and Instagram. There is also a single company page on LinkedIn.

Next time BF is out and about and tells me he’s having lunch at Frank’s, I’ll know he’s not telling me a story and hanging out at Hooters.

Happy Dining!

Rafael & Carmen’s Wedding In Magnolia, TX

It’s the beautiful wedding of Rafael and Carmen Cruz Rodriguez in a rustic, peaceful setting in Magnolia, Texas, just north of Katy. Finally, the blog you’ve been waiting for. Me too. TL:DR: Everything was just lovely, and of course, the food was delicious. Take a ride with us to The Springs of Magnolia.

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Hi Again, Dear Readers:

So, I’ve been procrastinating for over a year with these blog posts and it’s time to just get it done. I know, there have been been a couple of other occasions where I put it off before. But seeing as the married couple just celebrated their first wedding anniversary, well, here it is.

Going to the Chapel of Love

Rafael And Carmen Had a beautiful wedding on Saturday, November 5th, 2022 at a place called the Springs in Magnolia. A year before, Raf texted me the date and they later sent out a “save the date” card to their guests.

This was a big fridge magnet, and I framed it later.

The pictures are perfect. But one thing it does not show is that Carmen is at least a foot and a half shorter than Rafael! That’s OK. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t see it in the engagement pictures. But it’s obvious in the wedding pictures, as you’ll see.

Later on, the wedding invitation arrived.

Yup, framed that one too after the wedding.

Rafael and Carmen did the design work themselves. Nice work, well done. The design was in full view throughout the reception.

Travel Arrangements to Houston

And then BF and I made our plans to attend. We found a suitable pet sitter on She was a nice young lady who took care of our two dogs and two cats for the duration of our trip. Once we arranged that, I made our hotel reservations.

Rafael suggested staying in Katy because it was the easiest and best way to get to the wedding. I used, and it was easy. For the wedding, I booked us into the Katy Hampton Inn, right off I-10. For after the wedding, I booked the Extended Stay Suites on Nasa Road 1 for the second half of the trip. It made no sense to stay 50 miles away in Katy when we were going to spend time in Clear Lake visiting people there. BF didn’t understand this until we started driving around Houston.

When I asked BF about his preference for hotel chains, he just said that since he’d stayed in foxholes with a bunch of guys, it didn’t matter to him. So, I booked our hotels based on location. I just wish that I had done a tad more research into hotels before we went. Next time we will stick with Hampton Inn. But eventually, everything was fine.

A few things went wrong for us. But we made it to the wedding on time and saw Raf and Carmen get married. We enjoyed everything, talked with some great people, and made it home safely. And of course, the food was delicious and beautiful, too.

Friday, November 4th, 2022

Finally, The day came when we drove from the Casa de Rurale to Katy, TX. We began our packing a day or two before leaving. Every day, our pet sitter kindly sent us pictures of the Casa de Rurale Zoo residents.

The day before we left, BF went to someone’s house to install a motor by himself. It had to be done, he said. But it was a bit more difficult than he expected. He hurt his hip somehow and was in pain for a couple of days, walking around carefully. He talked about dancing at the wedding, but thank heavens, he didn’t. I would later find out that he was blathering to make me worry a little. He was successful.

We left home mid-morning and made it to Katy in the early afternoon. The hotel was a little hard to find because I’m not as familiar with Katy as I am with Clear Lake. But after a lovely Mexican lunch, we found it and checked into our hotel room.

Early Voting in Texas

What I didn’t know from looking at was that The Katy Hampton Inn was also used as an early voting station. That’s right, it was around the time of the 2022 election, and the hotel lobby was used for early voting. In Clear Lake, that early voting area is the Freeman Library on Diana Lane where I’ve early voted many times. But there was no way to know that the hotel was an early voting station when I booked.

We discovered this when we saw long lines of people trailing out of the lobby door. I went inside to check us in and get our hotel room, while BF began removing our luggage from the truck. Ever the smart alek, BF handed me some of my luggage, and carried the rest, loudly announcing to everyone in the parking lot:

“Hello, My name is James and I’m Amy’s pack mule.”

Yes, he actually said that, out loud, where everyone could hear him. There must have been 200 people standing out there, waiting to vote. He got a few laughs and a few funny looks, but not everyone in line was a Texan, either.


One of the things we did was to get a big lunch and takeout boxes so we could eat later. After driving 300-plus miles, we didn’t want to go out again, and the second half was enough for a good dinner. Besides, it was real Mexican food in big Texas style, and worth savoring. (More on that one in the next blog.)

BF’s brother also checked in with the animals in the evening, letting them out again on his way home.

After texting Raphael and letting him know we’d arrived, and BF talking to his brother, we could finally relax in our hotel room. It was lovely and very comfortable, and we looked forward to breakfast downstairs the next morning.

Saturday, November 5th, 2022

Breakfast was great. We had plenty of options and I had some delicious coffee. Because we did need a few small things, we headed to the Katy Target store a few miles up the road on I-10 first thing in the morning. BF wanted a new tie, that sort of thing. Once we got everything, we returned to the hotel to get dressed for the wedding.

Just to let him know what we were doing, I texted Raphael a few times that morning. Additionally, we had the venue and address loaded into the phone so we could find our way without any trouble. We didn’t realize what a long drive it was, and of course, BF was unfamiliar with the terrain.

Rafael told us to leave early since the wedding was scheduled for 3:00. He suggested we leave about 1:30 or so from the hotel. I’m glad we took that advice because we missed the onramp to the Grand Parkway twice. We were not prepared for driving laps on the Katy Freeway. Finally, we got onto the Grand Parkway and headed North.

The Drive

At some point, you get off the Grand Parkway and get onto a road that takes you to The Springs in Magnolia. That road gets smaller and smaller and more rural. It was almost like driving around our little rural area. Then we saw the sign.

Wedding venue

We made it!

And then the sign that told us we were at the correct hall:

And in the right place, too.

As I mentioned in my last blog, The Springs of Magnolia is a beautiful rural spot ideal with two reception halls for such an event. Take a look:

Wedding venue landscape

Isn’t it gorgeous?

And this:

Wedding venue landscape

And the weather was perfect.

This was the chapel-like altar setup behind the hall:

Wedding venue landscape

Isn’t that gorgeous?

Another shot of the wedding area:

Wedding altar area

A closer look at where the wedding took place.

After parking, they directed all the guests around the back of the Stonebridge venue. We sat down, and took a selfie:

Amy and James at the wedding venue, The Springs of Magnolia

We made it!

Then I texted our selfie to Rafael to let him know we were there. I also managed a great picture of BF:

James at wedding venue wearing a suit

He’s so cute!

Because you don’t see him in a suit every day. I have this one framed on my desk, and why not? BF exudes “FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder” vibes here, too.

My Designer Dress

Because I sew—and I can’t help myself—I had to have a new dress. BF has a few suits, and he just picked one from the closet. But no, I needed a new dress and something stylish. After changing my mind about 187 times (vintage or modern?), I decided on Vogue 1776, a Badgley Mischka cocktail dress from a holiday season or two ago:

Vogue Pattern #1776, Badgley Mischka

Isn’t it fabulous?

I showed it to Rafael, and his first question was, “You’re going to wear white to a wedding?” I forgot to tell him I was making it Navy blue before I showed him the pattern.

And you know I had to have that FRINGE! A quick trip to Etsy and I got some that arrived a week later. I stitched it to the drape and removed it when we got home to wash the dress. The intent was to have snaps to hold the fringe onto the drape, then remove the fringe for washing and storage. But I didn’t get that done on time. (I did the snaps a few weeks ago, as I’ll explain in an upcoming blog post.) It’s fully lined, too.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good picture of me wearing the dress. . .so, it’s Navy blue, and yes, it does have the long fringe hanging off the drape. And I can’t say it looks just like that on me. Plus, I won’t bore you about how it swings when you walk or how it gets in the way when you’re seated.

The Wedding

Although everybody arrived and was seated on time, the wedding started just after 3:00 pm, maybe 15 minutes or so. But once it did, everything went smoothly. A few of Rafael’s groomsmen were members of the Texas State Guard. They were dressed in uniform for the wedding.

Wedding groomsmen

Three are military; Rafael is the big dude on the left.

Then came the bridesmaids, one at a time.

Bridesmaid #4

Get a look at that dress!

Isn’t that an interesting color?

There were four ladies:

Bridesmaid 2

Same color, slightly different style

I say “interesting” because bridesmaids’ dresses are usually pastel colors, like pink or blue, or darker colors like red, blue, purple, etc. Not here. These ladies were all were drop-dead gorgeous:

Bridesmaid 4

Yes, I know, I got the cameraman’s equipment in the shot.

They used this gorgeous and dramatic fall color for the bridesmaids’ dresses and throughout the entire wedding. The flowers all matched, from the bouquet to the cake and table flowers.

Here Comes the Bride!

And then it was Carmen’s turn to walk in her very intricate gown.

Carmen and her son walking up the aisle

Just a few days before the wedding, Carmen’s abuela (grandmother) in Puerto Rico passed away suddenly, and her father had to go back to Puerto Rico to tend to her final arrangements. So, it was up to Carmen’s son to walk her up the aisle. He handled the job perfectly.

Carmen and her son

Here she is!

We were in aisle seats, so I got some great pictures, even if the official photographer’s equipment was in some of the shots.

WEdding ceremony

I told you he was taller. And Carmen is wearing heels!


The wedding ceremony went off without a hitch—well, none that we noticed. Once the minister pronounced them married, they walked back down the aisle together. Now husband and wife:

The sun came in at the right time, yes?

Raphael was impressed at some of the pictures I showed him, so he asked me for copies. Since they’re uploaded into Shutterfly, I just shared a link to the online album with him. He could easily see and download the entire collection. I think he even used one or two of my shots in his social media.

Then, they posed for a bunch of pictures, naturally! When the pictures were all finished, they went in first. I took this one, which I thought was pretty good:

Carmen and Rafael married

They look fantastic!

And they both released this one from their official wedding photographer on their social media accounts.

Married! We were literally sitting right there when this was taken.

Then it was time to socialize and have a reception for these two.

Pre-Reception Appetizers

We were led onto the back veranda until they opened the hall an hour later. The workers wouldn’t let us into the hall just yet, so there were appetizers outside in the beautiful cool sunset:

Appetizer menu

Oh, my word. Ceviche!!!

I didn’t mind. . .except that the sole split from my right shoe as we were walking up the stairs, and my um. . .Spanx was showing a little from the bottom of my dress. Well, it wasn’t our wedding, right? Someone was kind enough to discreetly tell me, but the staff wouldn’t let me inside to fix the Spanx.

BF very kindly went out to the truck to get my other shoes.  I wore a pair of Navy Crocs flats with a fancy Badgley Mischka cocktail dress, including the long fringe on the drape. The other option was black duct tape around my shoe. Oh, that’s classic, right? (Classic dork!) I later wished I’d gone with the duct tape, but I’ll explain why later. (I have since found some shoe glue on Amazon, which I’ll add to my next order.)

We met many great people, all friends and family of the now-Mr. & Mrs. Rodriguez, while enjoying some delicious nibbles:


I could have stayed here for the whole reception, but thankfully, we didn’t.

Ceviche And Empanadas

The servers were passing these cups of ceviche, the South American fish dish that is “cooked” with lime juice.

Ceviche in a cup with guacamole

Ceviche! It was SO GOOD!

This picture of the ceviche came out pretty good, yes? It was delicious, and it included a dollop of guacamole. I also plated it to show the details:

Plated ceviche

Naturally, BF wouldn’t touch the ceviche–too exotic, even if he does like shrimp. He doesn’t know what it is or what to do with it, and lime is involved so that’s a no. That’s just more for me! But he enjoyed the charcuterie nibbles. Servers also passed around these delicious Puerto Rican empanadas, but I only had a beef one.

Emapanada on a plate

These were also delicious.

BF had one or two, and he enjoyed them. I kept saying “gracias” each time I was near a server because everything was so tasty.

Yes, I’m afraid “gluten-free” went out the window this time. But like everything we had, it was delicious. I can’t tell you what “Puerto Rican style” meant, but I may ask Rafael one day. When we worked together, I used to tell Raf that if ever I had a Hispanic boyfriend, his mother would be on the hook for Spanish cooking lessons.

Inside The Hall

The staff were putting the finishing touches on everything, I suppose, and getting ready for the delicious dinner meal. We sat with some nice people and had some great conversations. After about an hour of hanging out on the back veranda in the beautiful weather, they directed us to the front door. We were greeted by an enlargement of one of the engagement pictures:

Seating arrangements were posted, and we found our way to our table.

Notice how the design matches the wedding invitation, too.

We signed the little hearts:

And I think there was a book, too.

The tables and arrangements were perfectly arranged, and included the rust color from the dresses and flowers we saw earlier:

Let’s put it this way: nothing was left to chance, and every detail was taken care of to the letter, in the same fashion as Southern Oaks Plantation does.

Cocktails, The Dinner Menu, Including Dessert

I knew about the dessert menu in advance, because Raf showed it to me. But the dinner menu was a bit of a surprise:

Dinner menu

Interesting, no?

New York Strip Steaks? Yes, thank you! And the addition of chimichurri sauce was nice, too.

Everything was so good.

I also tried the Pollo Tropical, aka “Tropical Chicken.”  BF also had the steak because Pollo Tropical was too exotic for him. Besides, there were cute little desserts to sample after dinner.

Longtime readers may remember the day I made my chimichurri sauce after being gifted an oregano plant. Chimichurri normally includes vinegar, so I suggested to BF that he pass on it, which he did. But guess what? It was very delicious and garlicky but with no detectable vinegar taste. They must have omitted the vinegar. I offered to let BF try some, but he declined. He did enjoy the steak and everything else on the menu.

Yes, there was a wedding cake, keep reading. But we also checked out the mini desserts.

Because, why not?

I don’t have a picture of it, unfortunately, (or I can’t find it) but there were also his-and-her specialty cocktails at the bar. The “her” cocktail was a Mango Margarita, and I had to have one. BF was driving, and he doesn’t drink, ever, so me drinking one wasn’t a big deal. (There was also champagne somewhere in there, and I only had one.) Although it was quite a strong cocktail, I didn’t feel it, probably because of the nibbles and dinner. Even if I had become a bit tiddly, we had our phones and Google Maps to get us back to the hotel, and he would be driving anyway.

The Cake!

Of course, because there was a wedding, there was also a beautiful wedding cake.

Lots of lovely details. The flowers and pearl detail are just exquisite:

Closeup of wedding cake decoration and detail

That’s a lot of work, for sure.

Oops! That’s one detail nobody asked for:

It was a big cake and needed careful handling, so a fingerprint shouldn’t be a surprise, really. Everyone handling or serving food wore gloves. We each had a slice of this delicious vanilla cake with a rich vanilla frosting. Two thumbs up here.

Other Reception Activities

We found our table and were seated with another couple who have known Rafael for many years. During the reception, we met many different people from all over Texas (I think we were the only ones from this side of the Sabine), and for me, it felt like “home.” I’m used to being around lots of different kinds of people, especially after working in the Houston Medical Center, Rice University, Compaq, and Boeing for eight years. (I was the only Boeing alumni who attended, although others were invited.) BF spoke with lots of new people that night and throughout the trip.

Remember when I said everything was perfectly matched? I wasn’t kidding. Even the napkins on the tables were that beautiful rust color.


The table settings were just gorgeous, especially with the rust color infusion:


Our table was sort of in the middle of the hall. We were right by the stairwell when the happy couple came down the stairs to join the reception from upstairs.

Rafael and Carmen Descended the stairs

They were not only happy but enjoying the music that accompanied their descent.

The back of Carmen’s dress was also quite intricate:

I suppose they were taking more pictures up there, but I didn’t ask. And these two were just so happy.

Wedding Pictures of Rafael and Carmen

Of course, the photographers kept Rafael and Carmen busy posing for pictures the whole time. When it’s your wedding, that’s what you do.


They were the only dancers:

I’ll wager a guess that their picture of them with the fog machine looks better than mine:

Family pictures were also nice:

I don’t have any pictures of Carmen tossing her bouquet. If I remember correctly, I stood with the rest of the women for the catch. Normally, I stay far away from that activity. Well, I didn’t, but I wasn’t looking to catch it anyway. Maybe they decided who would catch it, and that’s OK, too.

I managed to get a quick selfie with Rafael:

Amy and Rafael at his wedding reception

My Boeing Brother.

Didn’t get to talk to him for very long. Then again, nobody else did, either. And guess who forgot to say Hi to Rafael’s parents? I know, DUH. But it was a busy night for them, too.

Reception Amenities

Everyone received one of these cute little favors, best described as a coaster, or maybe a Christmas tree ornament if you leave it in the little bag:

Either way, it’s a pretty reminder, and BF and I both brought one home. They’re nice keepsakes for some great memories. We’ll enjoy them for many years to come, along with the next souvenir.

The Sketch Artists

We noticed people were gathered around two sides of the hall, one in the front, and one in the back. After dinner, we investigated. It seems that the happy couple brought in a pair of sketch artists to make drawings for attendees.

Sketch artists

These ladies were SO BUSY!

Wasn’t that nice?

I think they did Rafael and Carmen’s first, then sketched others as they approached the tables. We really didn’t know about this ahead of time.  Both ladies worked hard to get everyone’s beautiful sketches done. We waited until they got less busy so they could catch up a little, and this is what she gave us:

Ours was also nice, and I did see Doctor Who and his Companion vibes here. Maybe that’s just me.

Of course, the sketch captured my dorky flats with a designer cocktail dress. Now you see why I wish I’d gone with the black duct tape instead. It’s not a big deal, but again, it was their wedding. Later, I framed this little sketch, and it’s hanging where we see it every day.

Photo Booth With Video

I don’t know how to describe the second amenity on the other side of the hall. It’s a photo-booth thing where you can take still pictures and make a 30-second music video in front of a 360-degree circulating camera. We went with the pictures, but not the videos, and this is what came out:

I know, I look awful here. The dress was too big because I didn’t get to fit it correctly before we left. Bright lights, no filters, and other reasons, but lots of photogenic props for posing. BF had to lean on me a little because he was still hurting from Thursday’s motor installation. This was my one chance to wear a tiara, so I did. BF just had fun with the “wedding crashers” sign, the prop gun, and looking “gangsta.”

If you’re reading this and laughing about it now, you should be. I may try to use some photo editing apps to make a nicely framed headshot of us from one of the pictures.

We could have walked to the next “attraction” with the tiara and pea shooter in the middle of the stage and made a 30-second dance video with flashing lights and the camera racing around 360 degrees. Honestly, we had to ask about what the heck it was so we could decline! It’s hard to describe, and I don’t even know where to find something online to show it to you. Everyone was having fun making their videos, and BF was still in pain, so we just watched.

Eventually, I want to add all our pictures into a few of those little books from Shutterfly.

The Texas Military Delegation

I’ve told BF before that Texas has its own military, to which he would respond, “Oh, you mean the National Guard.” You see, he was in the Louisiana National Guard for a long time with a couple of active duty stints overseas. As a veteran, BF knows all about that sort of thing.

Except in Texas.

Someone showed us this, it wasn't sewn onto a uniform.

Louisiana has a National Guard delegation, but not a formal “state militia” as Texas does. That’s because Texas was an independent country before it became a state. BF didn’t understand, and I don’t know enough about it to give him a proper explanation.

Rafael joined the Texas Army several years ago and continues to do technology-related work for them. During the reception, we approached a couple of these Texas Military members, introduced ourselves, and asked them to explain it to BF. They were happy to talk about it, and BF learned some interesting things he didn’t know. Military guys are in their zone when they start talking about their service tenures! I was glad to see him chatting with these fellow veterans, and he learned a lot he didn’t know before.


On the return drive to the Katy Hampton Inn, BF called his brother. The first words out of his mouth: “Did you know that Texas has its own Army?” I just smiled while he explained everything to his brother.

The next morning, we also had breakfast with one of the groomsmen, also a Texas Military man. We didn’t know he was staying in the same hotel. He was going home to Austin while we were headed to the Extended Stay in Clear Lake for a couple of days. When BF told me who it was, I took a picture and sent it to Raf, who got a kick out of that one. We had a nice conversation over breakfast and coffee with him, including a little more about Texas’ military forces before parting company.

The Remains of the Night

After we got our portrait drawn by one of the two sketch artists and had a small bit of the wedding cake, we left the reception.

Sketch with two empty plates and forks after wedding cake.

The remains of the day, or night

We were there until about 9:00 pm, I think.

Before we left, we saw Rafael again, congratulated and hugged him and Carmen, and walked out to the truck to head back to the hotel in Katy.

It was a lovely wedding that evening with delicious Puerto Rican-style food and a great time with a diverse group of friendly people. The weather, the venue, and everything else was just perfect. The Mango Margarita added a little tasty je ne sais quoi, but not too much.

Congratulations to Rafael and Carmen, and Happy Anniversary. We hope we’ll get to see them again one day soon.

What’s Next In HeatCageKitchen

I’ll try to get these done sooner rather than later, but now that the wedding blog is done, it should be easier.

The rest of the trip to Houston

The next blog will include the rest of our Houston trip, including a visit to the Houston IKEA store. We also visited some people: Aunt Ruth, Aunt Kathy, and Neighbor E. I’ll also tell you what went kind of sideways. That will be a blog of its own.


Miss Alice and her daughter N came for Thanksgiving last week. That was a busy couple of days! We were so glad to see them, but a couple of obstacles that meant I wasn’t entirely ready when they got here. But Buddy was so happy to see his friend B-Dog, who is ten years older. I got a few pictures, but not many, because I was so involved in getting a turkey in the oven and dinner on the table. Whew!

Another wedding

Guess what? We went to another wedding, a year after Rafael’s. This one was closer to home, in the Knights of Columbus Hall in nearby Ponchatoula, LA, and one of BF’s business cohorts. It was also nice, in a smaller venue, and every bit as enjoyable. Admittedly, I wore the dress from Rafael’s wedding with a few tweaks, including the removable fringe. That wedding will be a separate blog, too.

The Holiday Season is here whether we want it or not, so buckle up and stay warm. Winter is starting to show itself, and we hope we’re ready if we have another big winter freeze before spring.

Until next time, Happy Dining!

Sign for Fleur De Lis Tea Farm sign on North Cooper Road
Fleur De Lis Tea Company & Farm

Tea is a favorite drink worldwide with multiple types, formulations, and flavors. And in our little region of Louisiana, there’s a tea farm, too. Tour a local tea farm with me on a beautiful October Saturday morning.

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

No, three tea blogs this year weren’t enough. I had to blog again about tea. But this isn’t the stuff in the grocery store–it’s locally grown here, no kidding, and incredible. And no, I’m not growing it myself–yet.

The weather has been particularly bipolar this year. It was cool when I went to the farm on the Saturday morning before my birthday. I was wearing summer clothes on my birthday and bundled up a few days later on Halloween. It’s like that sometimes this time of year. Last week news came that El Niňo will be giving us some snow in the South this winter, but how much snow is anyone’s guess. BF has not forgotten being cold nearly three years ago, and the news didn’t make him feel better.

Let’s take a ride to a tea farm.

Finding New Local Things

As a copywriter, I do a lot of research. It’s nothing for me to open a search engine and look for something anytime I’m online. At any given point, I may be researching from case law to telecom to AI and everything in between. I usually go between two or three browsers if I’m having a hard time finding additional information or the exact same thing on all the websites.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was bored and looking for something. I think it was for local attractions and “things to do.” All of a sudden, I found in the search results a place called Fleur De Lis Tea Company located in the nebulous area between Amite and Loranger, Louisiana.

Screenshot of Fleur De Lis' website

Source: Fleur De Lis Tea Company website

There’s a tea farm? Around here? And they grow tea? SAY WHAT?? I had to check this out for myself.

First Stop: Website

Naturally, the first thing I did was check out their website and their social media. They have both a Facebook and Instagram account for the place along with a YouTube channel. You can see a short minute-and-a-half tour of the place. (Or you can look at the pictures I took while I was there.)

David Barron is the farm’s owner, who began growing tea from gifted plants in the area in 2017. He has a woodworking shop on the premises, and the products of that shop are in the following pictures.

Gazebo over the lake

The gazebo, outside on the grounds, usually used for weddings.

Guess what happened in 2017 in this area? That’s right, it snowed–six inches, to be exact. While Houston, Galveston, New Orleans, and other close-to-the-coast cities were reveling in a half-inch dusting of snow, we had half a foot, and so did the farm. But the tea plants survived.

Fleur De Lis’ website has plenty of great pictures of the place that really do it justice. Their blog also has plenty of information about them, including Scottish tea expert Beverly Wainwright, who came over to work with the team on their teas and bring them to market.

And then I saw it–book a tea tour! This weekend! (It was October 21, and the next one will be November 25, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.) You can buy a ticket to a public tour or book your own. The ticket wasn’t expensive, and I was going it alone anyway since BF had to work (and wasn’t interested, of course.) So, I took myself out on a little birthday excursion.

The Tea Tour

On a beautiful and slightly cool October morning, I drove out to the tea Farm for the tour.

Sign for Fleur De Lis Tea Farm sign on North Cooper Road

There it is!

I’ve been in this area before, but I did not remember seeing the sign. It’s a long rural drive once you get past the farms and residences. Turn right at the motor shop on the left. The farm and the tea house are nestled in the woods, literally. The very nice Hans Marchese, the manager, greeted us when we drove up.

Hans Marchese giving a talk

That’s him, both effervescent and knowledgeable.

He’s the tea harvesting and processing guy who works hard every day picking and processing the leaves. Hans is also a vocal proponent of the place that will tell you anything you want to know. I was surprised to see so many people there. About 30 or 40 attendees arrived for the tour, including several who drove up from the New Orleans area. (The drive from there is about 90 minutes one way.) I had no idea that so many people knew about the place. But there we were, walking around and looking at tea plants about two feet high.

The Plants

The tea is grown from nursery-grade Camellia Sinensis plants. They are a variety from Georgia in the old USSR. Russia had a wish to have its own variety of teas. This type grows at low elevations, so it grows nicely in Louisiana, just like the rice that grows here.

Tea Growing

Aren’t they pretty? And the little flowers were growing, too.

Hans carefully cultivates and cares for the tea plants and prunes them regularly. He explained that the soil’s acidity must be 4.5 to 5.4 for an ideal growing medium. Deep pine needles in the area offer acidity and mulch to the ground. They’re planted under the tall pine trees so they don’t grow too fast. If that happens, the aromatics in the tea plants will dissipate.

These tea plants need just the right amount of water and copious amounts of nitrogen. Too much water and the plants drown. Fortunately, they have have a great irrigation system for years like this one where we had so little rain.

Irrigation system

Just right for a tea farm.

Everything made it through the summer!

Someone in the group asked about organic growing. Hans explained that they use inorganic fertilizer out of necessity. Growing organic results in a 40% reduction in production, so it’s not feasible. Organic is fine for home gardeners like myself. But organic isn’t really suitable for larger-scale farms. The good news is that they have no need for pesticides or herbicides.

There are also beehives and bees on the farm.

Beehive on a post

I think we saw one or two bees, but I wasn’t looking much.

The flowers offer supplemental food for the little pollinators, especially during the winter months. They also dehydrate the flowers and blend them into the teas.

Not all the fields are mature yet, so Fleur De Lis’ output has varied. In 2022, they’ve harvested 50 pounds, and so far in 2023, they’ve harvested 150 pounds. So a harvest in 2024 could be equal, more, or less than previous years. The amount depends on several factors, primarily the weather.

Fleur De Lis Tea Farm also harvests their own seeds for themselves and other suppliers. The Camellia flowers grow only from seed, not from cuttings. The seeds offer biodiversity in case of a future hazard that can wipe out all the plants. That’s why Tabasco has its signature peppers growing in different parts of the world, not just on Avery Island.

Processing Tea

Hans explained the four-step process for the tea leaves. Everything is time-dependent, he explains, and one must pay complete attention to the process. He even showed us the equipment:

Drying racks

I think this was for sorting after the harvest.


Round drying racks

I think these were for drying after sorting.

Pressure machine

This presses the leaves and gets all the liquid out

Three weeks on, I don’t remember what this was for, but I’m guessing it’s drying or another process:

Japanese made machine for tea

I should have written it all down!

Everything has to be absolutely dry before packaging, or the tea will turn moldy. That’s why they seal the tea packages packages tightly. Once opened, use it soon or reseal it tightly.

Hans will tell you that although they can’t compete with Lipton on quantity, they are better on quality. As an artisan tea, nearly everything is done by hand. So, it takes much longer than the automated processes Lipton and others use.

The Tea House Venue

I know I’m very late on the blog post from our Houston trip last year. (Happy Anniversary to them, yes, it’s been a year.) The trip will be split into two blogs, not just one. There was the wedding of Rafael and Carmen as well as the rest of the trip. I mention that because Fleur de Lis Tea Farm looks very much like the venue where they got married, The Springs of Magnolia. That’s not a bad thing of course. Not everybody wants a large venue. Let’s face it, everything is bigger in Texas, right?

View of the Fleur De Lis Tea House

View from the driver’s seat

As gorgeous as it is, Fleur de Lis Tea Farm is similar in style but smaller, and you won’t mind, either.

Table and chairs outside


Plenty of trees are everywhere, outside of the city, and it is just a beautiful place to be in nature. One difference is the presence of fleur de lis shapes decorating throughout the place, but you knew that, right?

Long view of Fleur De Lis

Lovely, isn’t it?

The land is not as developed as The Springs, like the little bridges over the creeks on the grounds. The whole farm and tea house is as nice as The Springs–and they grow tea there, too.

Inside the tea house, tables and chairs set for tea

Yup. Nice. And set just for us.

Fleur de Lis’ tea house has only been open since July, and only open for events.

Alleyway view on side of tea house

It’s not open every day like PJ’s. The tea house’s capacity is about 50 people, and the place is available for private gatherings like parties, small weddings, corporate events, and of course, tea tours. The farm recently hosted a 1920s-style evening called SpeakTEAsy. I wanted to go, but couldn’t get BF interested.

The Woodwork Part

Remember when I said the owner David Barron has a woodworking shop on the grounds? They do all of the woodwork in the onsite workshop. Much of it is from locally harvested cypress. Take a look at the wood features–and incredible detail–he and his partner, Jessie Marsh, built in the tea house. This little awning–indoors–is reminiscent of the Morning Call in the French Quarter:

A little awning near the kitchen

Cute, yes?

There is a small mezannine upstairs. I thought I got a picture of it, but I didn’t. Here is a wider view of that area:

Wider view of the kitchen area

Very nice. We weren’t invited to go behind the screen and I didn’t ask. I guess it’s a stockroom.

The highly detailed French Quarter mural:

Wallpaper mural of a French Quarter balcony

The feel of the French Quarter

Now, not to harp on this, but this is the door and entrance to the restroom, made from cypress:

Ornate bathroom door with fleur de lis design

And it’s even more elegant inside!

With swirled glass that looks like wood:

Covered glass made to look like wood

It’s totally opaque

See what I mean about the incredible details? Oh, wait, you haven’t seen the best part–the bar:

Tea bar at Fleur De Lis Tea Company

Now that’s a bar!

That’s the very nice Alex, who served us our tea and also answered a few questions.

What’s that blue thing, you ask? Well, it’s a “river bar,” representative of the multitude of rivers that run throughout the Pelican State:

Blue river bar in Tea House

Isn’t that interesting?

The little shells are actual shells that came off the locally and ethically sourced cypress wood from underwater prior to harvesting. They removed the shells, cleaned them, and then added them to the wood before filling and finishing with plenty of epoxy. And in this table off to the side, another one just like it:

Another river bar table

One of the most interesting features of the Tea House

You won’t find that at Wayfair.

Let’s have a drink!

After the oohs and ahhs inside the tea house, we sat at the tables as Hans had more to tell. (Hans’ girlfriend handles their marketing and social media.) The very nice Alex served everyone their signature Friendship Tea tea in beautiful china cups while Hans continued his talk. The tea house was so nicely done for the tour that I felt under-dressed. But it was a walking tour, not a party, and everyone dressed comfortably and casually.

I sat with Debbie, who also attended by herself:

Amy with Debbie at the Tea House

No, I haven’t used the Beautify app on this one.

And I met some nice people.

Hans says, “it’s OK to slurp your tea!” My grandmother would disagree, but she’s not here. I don’t slurp, especially when the tea is rather hot.

The first bit of advice: when making good loose-leaf tea, you shouldn’t use boiling water, only water off the boil. If you boil it, leave it to sit for 30 seconds, or your tea will become bitter. The same happens if you steep it too long. Three to five minutes is tops, and you can steep this tea up to three times. The caffeine is strongest in the first pot and mostly gone by the third.

If you don’t drink it all at once, refrigerate what’s left, or it will mold.

How Was It?

In a word, delicious. It’s not like drinking grocery store tea, that’s for sure. I think I had all three cups from the first steeping.

Tea plain in pink rose china cup and saucer

Very fancy!

Oh, BOY was I feeling good! Hans called it “tea drunk.” Then I had a headache–way too much caffeine, then a drop-off, and on a Saturday morning, too. We all had a great time, and I’m glad I went.

Hans also says that good tea like this is good on its own, without milk, sugar, or lemon (if you’re British.) I had the first few sips fresh from the pot (in my cup). Later, I acquiesced to the habit and added stevia and milk.

Tea in china cup with cream and stevia

It’s OK, I drink it this way all the time.

Two Types

Fleur de Lis’ has only two types of tea, their Friendship Blend and their Big Easy Black Tea, available on their website. I brought home a 5G bag of each.

Fleur De Lis Tea

The ingredients:
Back of tea packets

The shop also has some lovely teapots and other accessories, including the cups and saucers they use.

I haven’t opened either packet of tea since I got home. BF isn’t touching it (if it’s not Coca-Cola, he doesn’t want any.) I’m saving it for a special occasion, I suppose, even though I can get more tea easily. It is pretty strong but very delicious–and nothing like the tea you get at the grocery store. (Sorry, HEB!)

Where should I go next?

I had a great time at Fleur De Lis. If I can drag BF out there, maybe we’ll go for one of their tea house events. The biggest objection is that he doesn’t drink tea. No kidding. He goes into a coffee shop and buys a carton of milk (or Coke) and a pastry. Sometimes, he will go with me to PJ’s, but only if I don’t stay. BF believes “there’s nothing there for me.” It was a stretch when I was out one day while he was at work, and he asked me to bring him a sandwich. So I bought him a nice one from PJ’s since I was in Hammond already.

I’ll look again and see what other places I can find to visit in the area. Fleur De Lis also carries locally grown honey and elderberry products from Cockeyed Farms in Folsom, so that might be my next excursion.

I would like to go to the Tabasco factory again one day and take lots of pictures for the blog. That means BF probably won’t be going with me. . .oh, well. We went to the wedding last year. And I need to do those blogs and publish them.

Until next time,


Aldi balloon with now open sign
The New Aldi Store In Mississippi

Aldi—it’s the newest little grocery store around. Do you have one nearby? (TL:DR version: Aldi’s is a great place to grocery shop with great prices.)

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

We’re halfway through the first month of 2023. BF corrected me on my earlier statement that he has no resolutions, he does. He’s already got one of them checked off, although the process isn’t complete yet. Long story there. Two others are a little farther off, but reachable.

I didn’t make any “resolutions,” but I would like to start getting up early in the morning again. I’ve been able to do that with BF’s work schedule since he returned to work after vacation, but he’ll be back on his usual day/night alternate rotation soon.  When he goes back to sleep, so do I. So. . .we’ll see how it goes.

The “New” Aldi In Our Area

Sort of.

A few days ago, we received a card in the mail letting us know that there is a new Aldi store that’s actually less than an hour from us—just north in Mississippi. No kidding. Because we’re so close to the state border, it’s closer than Baton Rouge or New Orleans. The announcement included a $5 coupon off a $30 purchase, which I happily accepted. So, I made my plans and drove north.

Aldi bag with "you guac my world"


I know this sounds a bit odd, going to another state to grocery shop, but people in the smaller northeastern states do cross-border trips all the time. Remember that in Houston you can drive 100 miles in a day and never leave the city. You can drive for days and never leave the state. So going to Mississippi to visit the newest and closest Aldi store isn’t a big deal. Even if BF thinks it’s a bit bonkers. (Bonus: the sales tax is also 3% less than in Louisiana.)

Aldi on opening day

The place was quite crowded!

HEB is a long drive from here, but I’d happily go as far as Beaumont to get to one. (I’m not sure about the ones in Vidor and Orange, I’ve never been.) But because the Mississippi border is just 30 minutes away, McComb isn’t the hour-drive to get to the Slidell Aldi location. Might as well go to Baton Rouge if I’m going to drive that far, because Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Joann’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Cost Plus World Market are also there, too. (Just not all in the same place.)

Aldi balloon with now open sign

I just made it!

Admittedly, I wasn’t impressed with Aldi when I went to the one in Friendswood in 2014. It was on the way home from LK’s place, but I didn’t find it to be a better option. Reminded me of a convenience store, really. Lots of boxed mixes, junk food, and a little fresh food.

A well-known male celebrity from the UK is a big fan of Aldi, too. He lives in Palm Springs with his partner and has many times touted Aldi’s food and its greatness. He even did a video in his local Aldi, and it wasn’t a paid promotion–he was just a fan. That Aldi was nothing like the one I visited. After my original experience in Friendswood, I just never went back. I’m not naming him here because I later found him to be quite foul. Therefore, I don’t want his name in the blog or ranking for his name, either.

However, our friend Beverly loves Aldi and told me that they’ve upped their offerings in the fresh food area. Beverly and her husband drive to an Aldi about once a month or so to stock up on staples. Aunt Ruth loves her local Aldi as well. So, I decided to revisit Aldi’s and see what I might be missing. Beverly was right!

The Trip to McComb

It was a lovely day for a drive. It was cool, and sunny, with no traffic. Until I got there.

I drove myself because BF was working. I guess he was glad because he didn’t want to go anyway. He’d rather watch shows about Bigfoot and that weird guy who lived among the bears and became bear food. (I really need to repossess my little Roku.)

Aldi front doors open

Everyone was anxious to get in and shop

Two things to know about going to Aldi: bring a quarter to unlock your cart and bring your own shopping bags. These are two of the ways Aldi keeps costs down and passes along the savings. (New Orleans readers may remember The Real Superstore from back in the late 80’s introducing the “quarter for the basket” trend from Europe.) Stores are accepting reusable shopping bags again, so wash them and take them with you when you shop, especially at Aldi.

But because I wanted to make the grand opening (and I did!) they were not requiring shoppers to use a quarter to unlock the carts. I made it in time to see the grand opening but not to get a picture. The local newspaper, the McComb Enterprise Journal, was also on hand to record the opening. You can read the nice article here, and the picture of the ribbon cutting is available here.

Aldi shoppers

And when people returned the baskets, they offered them to other shoppers rather than fuss about the quarter. Remember, I was in Mississippi. Everyone was nice and as crowded as the place was, they were all happy to be there.

The first 100 shoppers—designated by numbered cards—received a “swag bag.” That is, an Aldi shopping bag that contained some bagel chips and a quarter holder. They gave me a shopping bag on the way in, but it only had a cute little quarter holder (no complaints from me):

Aldi quarter holder


I was going to buy a bag anyway, but it was nice to be gifted one.

Aldi quarter holder says shop differentli


On the way out, someone gave me two more, and those will be gifted to others.

Aldi shopping bag


And if you lose that quarter holder, you can actually buy them on Amazon, no kidding.

While waiting for the opening, I spoke with a lady who said that not much happens in McComb. Nice place to go if you don’t want to be found, am I right? She laughed. We saw the Mayor and a few of his people go in and walk out with a swag bag, but I don’t think he did any shopping.

As it turns out, our friend MY went to college in McComb, no kidding. She’s going to rustle up her gang and pay them a visit.

Once we got inside, it was a madhouse.

Again, everyone was polite and nice, and no one caused any problems.

Another customer asked me a question about something. Suddenly she began telling me about something she makes in the air fryer, “while you make your chicken and biscuits.”  I held back my “keto-mostly” self as I listened to her description. She was also nice, so I just smiled and agreed, then thanked her because I couldn’t follow everything. I still don’t know what she was telling me to make, honestly. I guess I looked like I needed to know.

It probably won’t be crowded like that every day.

Shopping Haul

There’s a deli area right when you walk into the place, on the left:

Aldi fresh case

That’s where they have the cauliflower pizza, on the far left. I thought I got a better picture of it.

I saw the words “cauliflower pizza” and it was all over:

Aldi cauliflower pizza in box

Lunch! No wheat in the crust or anything, so that was first since BF was working late the next day. Then tortillas, including some marked “keto” for our next Taco Tuesday adventure:

Aldi cookies and pastries

BF would love this area

Plus a nice selection of cookies and pastries. Lots of snacks on the right side:

Aldi snacks

And more snacks!

Against the back wall are bacon and other meats:

I’m going to go ahead and admit that we needed a bag of onions:

Right next to them were little roasty potatoes, aka, Triston’s potatoes:

And salsa!

I forgot the tortilla chips, but these didn’t last long:

Sweet potato chips are my kryptonite

This quinoa meal will absolutely horrify BF if he ever finds it because he wants to know what it’s doing in his house:

Aldi quinoa meal

I’m currently hiding this from BF

Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy are laughing as they read this because they’ve met BF and they know I’m right. But it was so weird I was compelled to get one. I haven’t tried it just yet.

I’m not going to disclose how much I spent. . .let’s just say I got some things we needed, as well as some extra things, plus something for dinner. This definitely won’t be my last trip to McComb, that’s for sure—especially with a Starbucks, Hobby Lobby and Walmart in the same spot. It’s an enclosed mall called Uptown McComb, but I didn’t realize that until I was leaving. Next time.

How Was The Pizza?

Regular readers know I’m a fan of Caulipower pizzas, and get them occasionally. So far, nothing beats Caulipower, and I’ve tried a couple of them that Walmart has available. (I may try the new Walmart brand one day soon.) So this caught my eye, although they only had Veggie available. That’s OK, too.

The Aldi’s pizza isn’t frozen—remember, it came from the deli section as you walk in the front door.  (There’s only one way in and out, and that’s a thing with Aldi, too.) The crust is rather “floppy,” because it’s a “grab and go” thing. So you want to be extra careful sliding it onto the oven rack.

At $7.99, it rivals Caulipower and is also larger.

All you do is preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put it directly on the oven rack. I had to use the big oven because it’s too big for the countertop oven, but it was chilly so that was fine. In about 16 minutes, you have pizza:

I think I should have left it in the oven a bit longer because the crust wasn’t as crispy as I anticipated.

The toppings were all cooked, of course, and it was quite tasty. Just don’t want to burn the pizza.

Pizza wheel cutting an Aldi cauliflower pizza

Giving Caulipower a run for its money.

No complaints here, it tastes pretty good, and it’s big enough to have a leftover half for the next day.

Slice of Aldi Cauliflower pizza on a white plate

That’s a bit of red onion, not beet, thank heavens.

I like to have both the regular and cauliflower pizzas in the freezer for us, but of course, we tend to go through them quickly. These pizzas from Aldi can be frozen, apparently, because it has directions for cooking from frozen. So, my next Aldi trip may involve getting more of these for the freezer, plus a couple of the non-cauliflower ones for BF.

Sweets For Your Sweet

I did manage to get a few things for BF. He loves chocolate as I do, so:

These were just too cute to pass up:

These cookies from Germany look just like the Krakus cookies from Poland that I used to buy at Phoenicia Foods in Houston in several flavors:

Aldi German cookies

I have tried to straighten out this picture to no avail.

I hope they taste as good, too. If so, BF will love them. And for myself, chocolate and raspberry are together again:

I didn’t eat it all at once, honest. And it was only one. I passed on the chocolate truffles, because, well, I can get into trouble with those.

Aldi has an aisle full of sweet treats and other non-food gifts like candles and pajamas for Valentine’s Day.

So there’s something for nearly everyone, including yourself.

Non-Food Items

Unlike Trader Joe’s, Aldi’s has an entire center aisle of non-food items:

There you’ll find all manner of things, like these cute things for your kitchen or coffee bar:

“May your coffee kick in before reality does.” Oh, yes, seriously!

Coffee pots and cups are also available, as well as their own espresso maker:

Aldi Finds are lots of different things, including rugs and small pieces of furniture. Presumably, you must assemble them just like anything from IKEA. But maybe it was because I was in a hurry that I didn’t see any of those, or maybe the store didn’t have them. I wanted to look at a storage ottoman from the app, but that may be coming next week. Gives me an excuse to go back, doesn’t it?

Well, this was just what I wanted:

And magically, it made its way into the cart. Guess what? It takes a range of vacuum seal bags. Those vacuum freezer bags and replacement gaskets are easily available on Amazon. I’ll check our local Walmart for availability too. I sealed up the pork chops and the ground turkey I bought at Aldi, and they’re already in the big freezer. More vacuum seal freezing and a blog post on this one soon.

We’ve been talking about getting a vacuum food sealer for some time, but they are kind of pricey, so we waited. After reading this article by Jill Nystul on One Good Thing By Jillee, I told BF that we should consider getting one to start making our food last a bit longer.

You can find a huge selection of them on Amazon. In fact, Dash has a brand new model of its own. When I brought up the subject, BF just nodded his head “OK” and that was the end of the discussion, although we have talked about it since. Even though this was a rushed trip during a busy time, I saw it and was glad to see it was $30.

Not Just A. . . .

BF’s favorite comment about Trader Joe’s is, “it’s just a grocery store.” He just doesn’t get excited about that sort of thing. Between TJ’s and Whole Foods, there were too many guys wearing man buns and skinny jeans for his military buzz-cut comfort level. He never lets me forget about “ManBun/SkinnyJeans.” In this store, there were none of those, as MY tells me that it’s mostly country folks. Everyone was happy about the new Aldi, that’s for sure.

In all seriousness, Trader Joe’s is the grocery store, while Aldi’s is groceries and more. Both stores focus primarily on their own private brands with some national brands alongside. Aldi also carries a selection of limited-time goods from small stuff to all manner of things. Most of it is seasonal, and they don’t last long before they’re replaced with something new.

They Didn’t Forget The Furbabies

Aldi also carries pet food and supplies:

This smells like stinky cat food, but the dogs couldn’t get enough.

But the cats were not impressed with these offerings.

Some apparel, kitchen items, and even fitness things:

All in that aisle for Aldi Finds.

Great Stuff In Store

Like Trader Joe’s, Aldi also has devout fans. This article from The Kitchn talks about a bag of frozen vegetables that the author says to get at least one more since they’re “ready to roast.” They have carrot and sweet potato and a Mediterranean blend with yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Before you ask, no, BF won’t eat this because of the zucchini.

Because Aldi was so busy, I didn’t really get a good look at the freezer section. But what I did recognize immediately was the Texas Tamales!

And they were $2.50 less than Rouses. The bad news is that they only had pork tamales, no beef.

What Aldi’s isn’t is a salvage or overstock place like Dirt Cheap (the top retailer of major brand returns, they say) or Ollie’s Bargain Center (“Good stuff cheap—up to 70% off the fancy stores!”) Aldi sells fresh and first-quality product for less than other grocery stores.

These tea bags are a good example of what that means. Chances are the two different brands are from the same producer with different labeling.

The bag on the left is from Aldi’s, and the one on the right is from Winn-Dixie. Taste about the same.

Aldi’s was $2.19, and Winn-Dixie’s is about $2.69. Sometimes Winn-Dixie puts them on sale, two for $4, or buy two and get one free. Next trip to Aldi’s I might buy a couple of extra boxes.

An Aldi Fan Story From Down Under

Although Aldi is growing in the US, this Germany-based company is not just in the States. This blog by Australian copywriter Pauline Longdon describes her and her partner Rae’s adventure getting themselves a couple of Stand-Up Paddleboards, or SUP. If you’re not familiar with them (and I’m not either), you can get an idea of what they look like from what’s available on Amazon. (There’s a bit of language and self-deprecating humor involved, too.) Note: I’m friends with Pauline and Rae on Facebook but have not yet met them in person like other copywriters I know who have.

Admittedly, I know little to nothing about stand-up paddleboarding, and Pauline’s blog is also written primarily for writers. But the story is interesting enough that I wanted to link to it here, because it involves Aldi, and researching a purchase. If you have a few minutes, click over to Pauline’s website, and read the story in her words. Pauline kindly gave me permission to link to her blog, so she knows why you’re there.

Why Shop At Aldi?

It’s a little like going to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or even the Rouses in Hammond—they have what you want or need. They’re not as big as a Rouses, Winn-Dixie, or HEB, but they’re a good basic grocery store with, well, basics. Eggs are the notable exception since they’re currently as expensive as controlled substances. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) But Aldi’s prices are good on their store brands, with their store brand offerings being considerably less expensive. So far we’ve noticed no difference in quality, either.

They’re all golden eggs now, aren’t they?

For example, this jar of Aldi’s store brand Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce was $1.95.

By comparison, the one we usually buy, Classico Tomato & Basil, runs $3.79, and sometimes $3.00 on sale at Winn-Dixie.

Used it for dinner and BF gave a thumbs-up. Unlike Winn-Dixie, Aldi doesn’t have a rewards program. Their prices are what they offer, no reward points are needed. So there’s that.

I’d like to go back to Aldi occasionally and stock up on canned and jarred foods, frozen things, and other foods to stash and keep on hand. We’re planning a pantry reboot soon to utilize the wasted space (thank you, Pinterest!) Once we have that completed and the pantry cleared and sorted, it’ll be easier to keep track of what we have and need. Stocking up on basics at Aldi will help keep our pantry full for less.

In a quick chat with Rafael, he says has an Aldi store about two miles away from his home with Carmen. He said they have some nice European products, which he prefers because they “tend to make cleaner stuff.” Agreed—and he has access to more of that kind of thing than we do.

I mentioned to the very harried manager in a red shirt that this new Aldi is an option if we need to travel north again for a supply run. During the two weeks our area was running on generators, we traveled north first to Brookshire and then McComb, Mississippi, to get food, fuel, and other supplies. That Aldi is close but probably would have been filled with people like us getting food and things. It’s an option, and it’s literally right off the freeway. You can see it before you get to the exit because it’s on the furthest corner of the mall. (That’s one of Aldi’s trademarks when they look for real estate.) Even if there was a closer store, it’s good to know Aldi’s is in McComb if we need it one day.

Besides, it’s nice to get away occasionally and do something different, isn’t it?

Third Fastest Growing Grocery In the US

That’s right, they are. And much as I like HEB and Trader Joe’s, Aldi is a nice place to shop, too.

Fast and easy to get out, too.

I did write the company to tell them about the fun grand opening and request a store in Hammond. Someone wrote back and said they were always looking for new sites that fit their criteria. Hopefully, Hammond will fit, and they will build one. Southeastern Louisiana University is there, so there’s bound to be enough interest. I think that’s why Trader Joe’s is so close to LSU.

You can find more on Aldi’s website, and they even have an app you can download. Look for a store near you at their Store Finder, and sign up for their emails too.

More To Come

In addition to the overdue posts on Rafael & Carmen’s wedding and the rest of our Houston trip, I’ve got a few more topics waiting. The vacuum food sealer is going to get its own post, because now I want to seal up everything. I just need more of the bags.

I still have no idea what we’re doing for Valentine’s Day, but hopefully, we’ll find something on the Roku we can both enjoy.

Of course, I hope to have more tasty recipes to cook up in the New Year. Because feeding BF can be, shall we say, challenging, and requires more effort.

Happy Shopping!


Teapot with tea in the cup
The Tea Blog, Part 3

In this final installment on tea, I show you a few more teas and the contents of the box LH sent from California.

Follow me on Bloglovin’

Hi, again, Dear Readers:

I promise this is the last blog post on tea, for now. If I find something new I’ll let you know. Besides, there are plenty of other subjects in the pipeline. Missed the previous posts? Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.

Beverly’s Chanterelle Mushrooms

Our friend Beverly is currently enjoying a plethora of fresh chanterelle mushrooms, which she is fortunate enough to find on her property. There are occasional mushrooms growing here at the Casa de Rurale, but they don’t look like that. I’m afraid of finding the wrong kind of mushroom so I don’t even bother. Beverly says that they smell fruity, like apricots, so that’s a strong indicator.

She and her husband harvest them daily and dry them:

mushrooms drying on a wood block

Look at all the mushrooms!

Beverly will either use these delicious morsels immediately or dry them like this. Chanterelle mushrooms don’t last once they’re picked, so they need to be used that day or dried for longer-term storage. Dried chanterelle mushrooms are available in many grocery stores and online (and at Amazon, of course.) They’re not cheap, so you understand why Beverly is excited about being able to harvest them for free. Same reason I like the wild blackberries that arrive in late April and finish in late June.

Coming Soon: Easy Dirty Keto

I’m now in possession of a review copy of Emilie Bailey’s new Easy Dirty Keto cookbook, (thank you, Emilie!) and it’s looking pretty good so far.

Cover of Easy Dirty Keto Book

Woo hoo!

Spaghetti Squash with chorizo? Oh, YEAH!! (When BF is not home, of course.)

I’ll explain more in a future blog when I’ve had more time to review and of course, try a few recipes. The release date is scheduled for August 23rd, next week. The Kindle version is available now, and you can pre-order the paperback book.

Easy Dirty Keto Cookies and Desserts


BF will, of course, be pressed into service as a taste-tester, along with anyone else who shows up at the house when I’m making some of these. Hey–he liked the broccoli cheese soup from Emilie’s Vegetarian Keto book, so there just might be something he likes here, too.

Dirty Keto French Onion Soup

Another great soup recipe?

Most of the ingredients are technically “keto,” or “low carb,” but some are a bit less conventional. Many recipes use ingredients that are technically “low carb,” but not the usual “clean eating” type. Why didn’t anyone tell me that there is now a sugar-free version of Cool Whip?

Emilie made the announcement on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and in her email to her list. This book, she says, is likely to be her last–unfortunately.

Blog post coming. Back to the subject of tea.

Lipton Found

A couple of months ago, I went into the pantry and opened the jar of decaf tea bags that I kept on my desk at Boeing.

jar with variety of decaf tea bags

I kept these on my desk for the afternoons.

It just collected dust. The tea bags are wrapped. The jar has a tight-fitting lid, so the contents were fine.

And then I saw it: three Lipton decaffeinated tea bags, at least ten years old. I remember the original conversation with LH, so I posted this on Facebook and tagged her.

Compendium of tea pictures

The pictures from the original post

She commented, “Omg that Lipton needs to go!!! It wasn’t any good when it was fresh lol!!”

Honestly, I only posted the picture because I thought she’d get a kick out of it, and I was right. Those three tea bags did go out. After trying real British tea, you can’t go back to Lipton. it just doesn’t taste right anymore.

Sorry, Lipton.

The Gift Of Tea And Nibbles

LH said on the post, “send me your address and I’ll send you some good tea.” I did, and a few weeks later, a heavy box arrived. The mail lady, as usual, gave me a funny look.

Box of British tea and sweets

She sent a British grocery!

I wasn’t expecting all this! But LH was very kind and sent me all kinds of delicious British things, some of which I’d never seen before. Obviously, I am very appreciative. I’d like to send her something, but as of yet, I haven’t figured out exactly what.

Understand that LH lives in Southern California, where, like Houston, Dallas, and other big cities, you can buy things like that. (No, not New Orleans, and not Baton Rouge, either, except in Cost Plus World Market–sometimes.) There was the packet of Typhoo (I still can’t find the picture) and Yorkshire tea, LH’s favorite:

Box of Yorkshire tea on stove

A fine tea to have in the morning.

Plus, something I knew about from watching a great Britcom called The Thin Blue Line, but had never tried: Chocolate Hobnobs.

Box of Chocolate Hobnobs

If you’ve never had these before, they’re worth a splurge.

These cookies are the favorite of the show’s protagonist, played by Rowan Atkinson. Oh, my GAWD they are so good!

They are neither sugar-free, gluten-free, nor keto. Save these for an occasional treat, and don’t eat more than two at a time in a 24-hour period. Trust me on this–they are that good, and hard to resist.

There was the shortbread from Scotland which is divine:

Walker's Shortbread

BF loves these and was very appreciative.

We can also get the regular Hobnobs at Cost Plus World Market in Baton Rouge, along with BF’s favorite Jammy Dodgers. I don’t see the chocolate ones there. Yes, Amazon has them too–but if you order them in warm weather the chocolate may melt. I’ll look around next time I’m at Whole Foods or a bigger Rouses to see if maybe they carry them locally.

WF told me later that she likes the regular Hobnobs, but not the Chocolate Hobnobs. Of course, it’s funnier when you hear Rowan Atkinson talk about his Chocolate Hobnobs. They go well with tea or coffee, or in BF’s case, milk.

LH also included a couple of British candy bars, which, thankfully, didn’t melt because it was April and not that hot yet. Cadbury’s Flake is interesting.

Flake candy bar in wrapper

What’s this?

Cadbury Flake bar

It really does flake.

We realized on the second one that it’s crumbly:

Crumbled Flake bar

Eat this carefully.

The other one is also from Cadbury, but called Crunchie:

Cadbury Crunchie Wrapper

Don’t have a picture of the inside of this one, but it’s quite tasty.

The sweets didn’t last long enough for the blog post, although we didn’t have them all at once. We tried to wait. Everything was delicious and appreciated. We enjoyed these with respect.

Earl Grey/Lady Grey Tea

Earl Grey Tea is a specific blend of tea, not a brand. It’s a standard black tea blended with bergamot, a type of citrus fruit. The result is a sweeter type of tea than the usual black teas. This is not to be confused with what’s called “sweet tea” in the south, iced tea with plenty of sugar.

Box of Earl Grey Tea

One of the many Earl Grey brands available

The story goes that this blend of tea was created for Charles Grey, the Earl of Grey, who served as the British Prime Minister from 1830 through 1834. He introduced it to British society, and the tea became well known in the years since. He allegedly saved the life of a Chinese mandarin’s son, and the mandarin sent him a gift of Chinese tea. The Earl requested that a tea vendor re-create it (allegedly teamaker Richard Twinings, according to their website) complete with oil of bergamot, and it’s been Earl Grey Tea ever since.

But the Earl never set foot in China, so there’s that. And it may have been created to cover the taste of hard water in Northumberland.

Lady Grey was created as sort of a counterpoint to Earl Grey by Twinings in 1994, although many brands now have their own version.

Picture of box of Twinings Lady Grey TEa

The counterpoint to Earl Grey

It’s a nice tea that’s permeated with a fresher flavor and distinct orange taste that replaces the stronger bergamot flavor in the Earl Grey variety.


Ziplock bag of Lady Grey

So what if they were in a Ziplock bag?

LH didn’t have a box for the tea bags she sent. I just said, “thank you.”

Which One is Better?

If you try them side-by-side as LH suggested, you definitely taste the difference. It’s not that one is necessarily better than the other, although LH’s preference is for Lady Grey tea.

Two Teacups with tea

They’re both delicious!

Comes down to personal preference, as always. As it turned out, I had a box of decaffeinated Twining’s Earl Grey in the pantry from my desk at Boeing.

Four packets of Twinnings decaf Earl Grey Tea

It’s sealed in a plastic-type wrapper.

I have no idea how long I’ve had this tea, but I suspect it was bought between 2010 and 2012. The tea tastes just as good as it did when I first bought it. Twining’s, like a lot of tea manufacturers, puts their tea bags into sealed plastic packets, unlike the porous paper wrappers around Lipton Tea bags.

LH insisted I try them side-by-side, so that’s what I did. They’re both very good but have different and distinctive flavors. Pick the one you like best and enjoy it in your favorite cup.

Green Tea

Then there’s green tea, which is described as having a “vegetal taste.” The first time I tried it (years ago!) my first thought was that it tastes like someone mowed the lawn and brewed the clippings. I know, I know, it has its devotees, and it’s full of antioxidants and the like. It’s the same thing as black tea but not oxidized. Mostly it’s popular in China and Japan, and very caffeinated. If you like green tea, go for it.

But because LH sent me a little box, I decided to try green tea again:

If you sip it without anything in it, that “vegetal taste” comes right through.

Cup of green tea brewing

It’s green.

It’s not like chamomile.

packet of English Tea Store green tea

It’s green.

But if you add cream and a sweetener, it tastes like. . .tea. Your choice. I can’t say that it’s bad, of course, it’s just not as exciting as English Breakfast tea.

Tea Pots

After watching many episodes of multiple British TV series, I eventually bought a few teapots too. Why not? I have some from Cost Plus World Market, and one from IKEA, that I like for the colder months.

picture of IKEA Riklig teapot

A great teapot for any time. (Source: IKEA website)

They also make a smaller version of this teapot, which may be in my next order.

I also started making teapot cozies from a sewing book and I have them for all the teapots. They work well and look good, with obvious American touches like a southwestern print for one of them.

For my birthday last year, I ordered two boxes of Typhoo decaf from The English Tea Store. I also bought myself this little cutie:

Tea for one pot next to measuring ruler

It’s not terribly big. Nor does it hold much tea.

I just didn’t realize it was that small when I ordered.

See, I used to have a “tea for one” set that I bought somewhere in Houston. It held a fair amount with a nice-sized cup. I don’t remember where I got it, and I don’t have it anymore. Decided that I’d get another one because this is what I normally drink tea from these days:

Green tea in a cup with the Texas flag

I have two with a Texas design, bought from Shutterfly with images from Pinterest.

It’s what the British call a “beaker.” With the Texas flag on it, right? So, the little red tea-for-one set, well:

Teapot with tea in the cup

Well, it makes the tea very nicely. Just not very much tea.

Yes, it’s tiny. The price was right, and it’s cute. It will probably go into the china cabinet I’m planning to get from IKEA, one day.

When I sent a picture of it to our friend WF in Turkey she sent back a voice message on Facebook Messenger. Mostly, she was giggling. WF and her husband were very amused at my tiny little red tea-for-one set.

Finding British Tea In America

Well, online, of course, unless you’re lucky enough to live near a place that sells this sort of thing like LH. Two of my favorites are:


You can also just do a search to find tea sellers in the US, too. That’s how I found both of those. When Teadog was out of something, The English Tea Store had some.

Remember that import stores that carry multitudes of incredible things from around the globe were just a car ride in Houston. Phoenicia Foods is one of the biggest, and I bought so many things there in addition to tea. Those cookies from Poland were delicious. And they ship, too!

HEB and Central Market, of course, are also repositories of all manner of incredible foods, ingredients, and imported things in the larger stores. Unfortunately, they no longer ship–everything is curbside pickup or delivery if you’re lucky enough to be in the area.

Also, understand that “imported” to a Texan means “from outside of Texas.” 

There’s always Amazon, which is the source of all the affiliate links in the blog. Don’t forget that Amazon is also a great place to research just about anything you’re interested in, even if you don’t buy it there. Be forewarned that sometimes food things sit in an Amazon warehouse for quite a while.

Until Next Time

There’s one person I know who probably won’t try British tea (but maybe the Chocolate Hobnobs if he hasn’t already.) That would be Neighbor E in Houston, bless him, who is a fan of the chai latte, and he makes them at home. Anytime I see this, I think about you, Dude:

Tazo Chai Latte in a box

His drink of choice! (In our local Winn-Dixie.)

Admittedly, when we went to the opening of the big new HEB in Clear Lake, he was right next to me getting free coffee. That’s the only time I ever saw him drink any. Well, it was free, after all.

Tea is a huge world, much like coffee and wine. Finding a new favorite may be as simple as a visit to your local grocery store, or to an online vendor. You can drink a different tea every day and never try every tea available. Once you find one you like, bookmark it and try another one.




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