Saturday, September 22, 2012


I recently (the last post) blogged about our little trek up to the Land of the Chocolate Mousse Muffin.  I know, I know, it was almost too exciting to bear, but I'm about to tell you that after that muffin, the morning just got better.

As is usual when I am within a half-mile radius of a TJ Maxx, I become pulled in to it's orbit.  I hate those commercials, but I probably am (as I shamefully admit) a "Maxxinista."  I have found many a good deal in the clearance racks of the TJ Maxx, and the opportunity for a good deal is hard for me to pass up.

The main problem with my love of the TJ Maxx is that Doug hates it there.  Ultimately it's probably a good thing, because I spend far less time in there than I would on my own, but I feel guilty whenever I want to go Maxx it up, because it's always when Doug and I are together and he considers that place one layer of his living hell.  He's a good sport about it and always says "take your time!" but we both know he doesn't really mean it.

On this particular visit, I did a whirlwind trip through the clearance section, tried on some stuff and then abandoned it.  I then decided I should try to include Doug in my shopping so that he might have a positive trip at The Maxx, so I found him and dragged him back to the lamp section with the intention of looking for a lamp to put on the end table on my "side" of the couch.

The lamps were awful, but we were drawn into a random aisle and I began looking at bookends, which is a new obsession of mine, as I have an excess of bookshelf space (for the first time in my life!) at both home and work.

In the bookend aisle, we found the most amazing thing:

It's a bust of a random old creepy dude, over a foot and a half tall.  We are pretty sure that it was supposed to go in the Halloween aisle (evidenced by the bat that is keeping his jacket closed) but our luck had it that he was just hanging out next to a sailboat and a big plastic horse.

I should probably mention that both Doug and I have a love of really weird tacky stuff.  This isn't something we found out about each other early on, but became clear over time, to the point that we have said that if we ever get rich and have a big house, we will make a room into the Worst Stuff Ever Home Museum.  To avoid this actually happening, we don't usually buy the great awful stuff we find, but this one was too hard to resist.  So he came home with us.

Then we decided we had to name him. After a few short hours, the perfect name came to me: Archibald.

Why is this perfect? Well, (a) he's bald.  Secondly (b), it's an old fashioned name, for clearly an old fashioned dude.  Third, and most importantly (c), the name has an Arkansas attachment.

I believe I've blogged about the weirdness of streets changing names around town.  One block a street has one name, and another block it's a different name.  We've got one (major) street that is called College Ave (though it becomes 'Thompson' once you cross the town border into neighboring Springdale) in the northern/central part of town, and School Ave in the southern part of town.  In between those, the street curves twice, and the curvy part is called Archibald Yell:

It's kind of like the street grows up; starts out going to grade School, then it gets Yelled at a bunch, it goes to College, and eventually becomes the adult Mr. or Ms. Thompson.

In any case, Archibald Yell is a small but important part of Fayetteville geography.  I like to call it "Taking the Yell" and almost every time we are on that stretch of road, I either just yell "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" around the curves, or Doug, adopting a deep paternal voice, yells (as if he's chastising a child or employee) "Archibaaaaaaaaald!"  It sounds stupid, but we have to find our amusement somewhere.

So our new housemate has been named after Archibald Yell.  We love him.  When it becomes winter, I might put hats on him to keep his head warm.  Even Margot loves him; she confides all her secret hopes and dreams to him:

We will find a rightful place in our home for him, and he will be visible year round.  To us, he's not a mere Halloween decoration.  He's our Archie.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mimi's Cafe

As most of you know, Doug and I were married a little over three months ago.  Of course, due to the commercialization of the wedding industry, we have received frequent reminders that we should purchase the remaining items on our registry.  Bed, Bath, & Beyond sent us a 10% off coupon awhile back, but a few weeks ago I got a notification that we could go into the store very early on a Saturday morning (8am; OK, so not *that* early) and buy the rest of the items on our registry for 20% off.

Most of the remaining stuff on the registry we don't really need, like a lazy susan serving tray or wall-mounted shampoo pumps for the shower.  But some of the things we really wanted, such as the rest of the dishes we picked out, a spice rack, and some little cool stuff like a corn stripper (it takes corn from corn on the cob and puts it into a little cup!  Awesome!).

So on a rainy Saturday morning, we headed up to Rogers to visit Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  I suppose this deserves a brief explanation as well.  Rogers is about 15 miles north of Fayetteville, but Fayetteville has it's own Bed, Bath & Beyond.  Why go to Rogers?  Well, Rogers was the place we originally registered when we happened to be up there, and now we had to go back there to complete our package.

With a fair amount of grouching from the male side of this couple (due to the earliness), we drove up to Rogers and visited BB&B.  Afterward, we figured we'd make the most of our trek up to Rogers and visit the new Fake Whole Foods that just opened, go to Pottery Barn, and perhaps visit the glory of TJ Maxx.  Before doing these things, however, we needed some breakfast.

Although Bob Evans was on the possibility list, we ended up at Mimi's Cafe, a chain restaurant that is in the Pinnacle Hills Shopping Center (which Doug calls the Arkansas "uptown" for those of you from Albuquerque).  We've been there once before but never for brunch, and let me tell you....we'll be back.

Mostly because of this:

What you see on the right is coffee.  I cannot speak to that, as I didn't have any, and as a chain restaurant, I'm guessing the coffee was nothing special.  On the left you see a chocolate  mousse muffin.

All of the main entrees come with a muffin, so this was something that just came with Doug's meal, just like you can get a cinnamon roll with your meal at Ann Sather in Chicago.  Before I get into the details of the muffin, I should note that it was served with two little wheels of butter.  Who on earth puts butter on a chocolate muffin?  Or do they just serve butter with every muffin?  Why not ask before doing it? Or maybe it's because this is a New Orleans themed people from Louisiana put butter on their chocolate?  We spent much of the meal remarking about this oddity.

Let me not detract from the muffin itself.  Light but flavorful, where the top had a nice crustiness to it and the middle was slightly warm and quite moist, this might be the Muffin of Champions.  Ya'll, it has MOUSSE in the middle, mixed into the muffin, with frosting and chocolate chips on top.  We gobbled it up, sans butter, in a heartbeat.

The rest of the meal was good too, I had apple crepes (yes, two desserts for breakfast, don't judge me) and Doug had some kind of omelette with delicious crusty potatos on the side.  But it all kind of paled in comparison to the muffin.  Next time we're up there I sense us going into Mimis, sitting at the bar, and ordering a beer and a chocolate mousse muffin.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tulsa: Part II

I left off, blog-o-sphere, with us heading back to the hotel in downtown Tulsa after the beer hall.

The next day, Sunday, was my actual birthday, and I got some lovely presents from Doug after we woke up (DVDs of The Hunger Games and Mystery Team, and the game Settlers of Cattan). 

We found brunch at a place called Queenie's in a fancy shopping area called Utica Square.  Brunch itself was a nice taste of New Mexico--we both had breakfast burritos with green chile and black beans--and afterward it just happened to be when the stores opened, so I got to visit Anthropologie, one of my favorite stores of all time (which we don't have in Walmart Country). 

Our afternoon was spent at the Tulsa Zoo. Awhile back we purchased a Living Social (the Groupon knockoff around these parts) deal for the Tulsa Zoo which included a "zooper pass."  Neither of us remembered what that was, but it turns out it was an all-day pass for the little train that ran around the zoo, a souvenir cup and admission onto the carousel.  Here's the train:

Yes, the train has some tiger-print.  We rode the train around the zoo to the Sea Lion area and watched a short presentation about Sea Lions. I can now tell you how Sea Lions are different than seals, and I can also tell you that I like otters more than I like sea lions.

The short version is that we went to a zoo, so we walked around and looked at animals.  I think I've been spoiled in the zoo-world, growing up going to Minnesota Zoo and Brookfield Zoo, because I was not super impressed with the Tulsa zoo.  It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, but the animals were kind of old and pretty lethargic, and I didn't get to see any sea otters or penguins. 

For some reason it was an Elebration, so we made sure to go to the elephant show.  I can say that I haven't thought much about elephants before, but I noted (a) they looked really happy (elephant smiles are cute!) and (b) trunks are really awesome but kind of creepy. 

At the end of the day, we decided to ride the carousel before leaving the zoo, even though there were really no other adults riding on the animals.  I chose an Ostrich and Doug nabbed the zebra next to me.  It must have been fated, because the song we heard on our round-and-round trip was the classic Rockapella song Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, which we both knew most of the lyrics for.  So there were two early/mid-thirties people riding on ridiculous animals singing Rockapella at the top of our lungs.  The elderly fellow who ran the carousel was laughing at us, and I like to think we made his day.

We filled our souvenir cups and drove back to town, picking up Village Inn pie and KFC for dinner on the way home, where the cat had not actually ruined anything!  We spent the evening watching The Hunger Games on DVD, which I liked even more the second time around.

All in all, it was a fabulous birthday adventure.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tulsa Part I

For many weeks, Doug and I talked about what to do for my birthday.  Not because my birthday is particularly special, but it happened to fall on a Sunday this year (and curses! Due to this year as a leap year, no Saturday birthday for me until 2017) and we wanted an excuse to get out of town.  We talked about Memphis for awhile, a five-hour-away destination that could involve Graceland, blues, and barbeque, but I couldn't find any good hotel deals for Memphis and we kept hemming and hawing on plans.  Suddenly it was Friday night of my birthday weekend and we had no plans to leave town.

On a whim, I looked at what was playing at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center and saw they had their last weekend of Neil Simon's classic comedy, The Odd Couple.  I then checked for a possible hotel deal in Tulsa and they had a 3.5 star hotel for $55 (Hotwire doesn't tell you the name of the hotel until after you book), so after a brief chat, we booked both.  Turns out the hotel was right next door to the performing arts center and right down the block from a fabulous beer hall we've been to a few times, so plans quickly fell into place.

We left around 1pm on Saturday after leaving enough food and water for the cat to survive for 24 hours.  This is a topic for another post, but our cat is kind of a nightmare; she's into everything, very whiny and wants to play all the time, so we were afraid of leaving her alone for a full day.  It was our first overnight trip without her since the wedding.

The drive to Tulsa is about two hours long, and a good chunk of it is a tollway in Oklahoma which I now love because we have the Pike-Pass, which is the same as an IPass or a SunPass or an E-ZPass or whatever your state calls the transponder that allows you to use open road tolling.  It makes me so happy to go through the open road side of the toll plaza, and Doug laughs at my glee.

We got a little lost in downtown Tulsa due to construction, but we eventually found our way to the hotel and snagged some free street parking.  Less than half an hour later, we'd checked into the hotel and made our way down to the pool for some afternoon sunning.  I neglected to take a picture of this, but the pool had a weird feature I've never seen before: half of the pool was inside, and half outside, with just a plastic flap over the top of the water.  So you could swim under water between the inside and outside segments. 

After pool time we headed out to an Italian restaurant called Villa Ravenna.  It had all five-star reviews on Yelp, so we thought we'd give it a try, and we figured it would be easy to get a table at 5:30pm.  Nope.  We walked in and the owner, an adorable middle aged man with an Italian accent, told us that they were completely booked with reservations (despite the fact that there were 4 open tables).  However, he offered to let us sit at one of the outside tables, and as it was 80 degrees and sunny, we happily agreed.

Dinner was delicious; I had a lobster ravioli and Doug had some kind of veal cordon bleu. We followed that with cheesecake for me and tiramisu for him...yum.

Now, dinner went faster than expected, so I figured we had about half an hour of free time to play with.  Of course my first thought!  I used my dangerous smart phone and found a TJ Maxx a few miles away.  We went there, I made a mad dash through the store and found a few things to buy, and we made it back downtown with plenty of time before the curtain raised.

I have always loved Neil Simon.  I went through a Neil Simon phase in high school where I bought some anthologies, read everything, and then tried to write in the style of Neil Simon (it didn't go well).  So when given the chance to see The Odd Couple, a play I've read but never seen performed, I jumped at the chance.  Too bad that one of the two leads was just terrible.  TERRIBLE!  The fellow who played Oscar (the sloppy one) was great; but the fellow who played Felix (the organized, up-tight one) was awful.  He did the blocking and said the lines, but there was no sense of character, no sense of urgency, no empathy.  He brought the whole production down.  On the up side, he vaguely reminded me of a blond (bad) David Schwimmer and I decided that David Schwimmer could make an excellent Felix Unger.

After the play we walked the three blocks to our favorite (read: the only one we've been to) Tulsa bar, Fassler Hall. I believe I have blogged about it before, but as a reminder it's a German beer hall type place with big long wooden tables and lots of German beer on tap.  Oh, and they make some of the best bratwurst/sausage I've ever had.  Also delicious duck-fat fries.  In any case, we had some beers, bitched about the play, shared a delicious cheese-filled brat, and generally had a merry time.

Part 2 coming next time!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beer and Bacon

We are occasional frequenters of a nearby pub called Tanglewood.  I'm fairly sure I've blogged about it before, as it's one of the only brew pub type places in Fayetteville.  It's walking distance from us (about a mile) and they often have live music of the folk/jazz variety.  That means either folk or jazz, not a rotating folk-jazz combo (though...that'd be cool!).

I became Facebook friends with this place after it opened, as they used to have a policy that you got a free beer if you could prove that you walked or biked there, and I also just wanted to support a local place.  I quickly had to hide them from my newsfeed, though, because they are among the Annoying in Facebookland.  Namely they post multiple times a day about stupid stuff that I don't care about, and simply seeing their posts started to annoy me.

Because I hid them, I forgot about one of the weekly specials: Monday night Beer and Bacon.  It's exactly like it sounds.  You go there on a Monday night, order beer, and there is a fishbowl full of bacon you can take handfuls from.  Now, the policy is that you can only take the free bacon if you're drinking beer; soda or water drinkers are not allowed the dip into the bacon pot.  

We recently had our first beer and bacon experience, and I can tell you it was as magical as it sounds.  First of all, the bacon itself was excellent.  It was on the crispy side, as I like it, in both small and medium-sized strips, all curly and salty and delicious.  I mean, it's kind of hard to screw up bacon (because it's BACON) but clearly these people have done the beer and bacon nights enough that they've got the art of bacon down.

Also new news to me, though unsurprising: beer goes well with bacon.  I shouldn't be surprised because bacon is salty, and the salty-plus-beer combo is a time-honored classic (think lederhosen, steins of beer and big salty German pretzels).  I had a "classic," the Rogue Dead Guy Ale, and Doug had a Stout of some variety.  We sipped our beer, munched on bacon, and listened to the jazz trio, all on a leisurely Labor Day Monday early evening.  Doug also tried Tanglewood's own craft brew, their porter (on the left below), and it was delicious, particularly alongside bacon.  But really, what doesn't go with bacon?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vegetable Bake

Broccoli is one of my least favorite vegetables. I can't stand the way cooking it stinks up the house, and the combination of its taste and texture literally makes me gag when I try to eat it. Way to go, broccoli, you upset three out of five of my senses. I'm willing to bet that if broccoli made a noise, it would sing my most hated songs incessantly.

I've made the attempt at trying to coax myself into liking broccoli. I used to dislike bananas and onions, and now I'm fine eating them (not together, obviously). I've even turned a corner with tomatoes. Maybe it was a matter of time before I accepted broccoli. I started making it for dinner, much to Jenn's delight, but I just couldn't do it. I would chew as little as possible and wash it down with whatever I was drinking. I decided to give up.

She and I recently had people over. In preparation, she sent me a few recipes to try out on our guests. The one that caught my eye was the Easy Vegetable Bake. The person who posted it online boasted that she "had a recipe that might just get everyone to eat their veggies." I'm guessing that's what caught Jenn's eye. One of the main players in the dish is broccoli, and I'm led to assume that she's looking for me and broccoli to finally get along.

The recipe calls for broccoli, cauliflower (broccoli's less offensive, but still undesirable cousin) and carrots. You take the vegetables and mix in cream cheese, cheddar and some spices. Put it in a dish and cover it with crushed crackers. No, not just any crackers; buttered crackers, like Ritz. Only, for this recipe, there isn't enough butter on those crackers, so you're supposed to melt some butter and mix it into your bowl of crushed pre-buttered crackers and then sprinkle the double-buttered crackers onto the top. Throw it in the oven and there you have it.

I figured that if ever there were a set of circumstances in which I would be able to handle broccoli,  it would be covered in cream cheese, cheddar and buttered butter crackers. I was willing to give it a try.

I have to admit, the cooked broccoli smell just wasn't there. Though the taste was dulled a bit, broccoli will always feel like broccoli in my mouth. So, I think we're just going to have to accept the fact that broccoli and I just aren't meant to be.

Just a side note about the person who posted this recipe and said that it was a good way of getting children to eat their vegetables. I have to wonder if all of the other fattening (but delicious) garbage in this dish cancels out the nutritional benefits that comes with the veggies.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Shirt*, No Shoes, No Service

Greenhouse Grille is one of our favorite restaurants in the area. This place doesn't seem to have a dress code, but there seems to be an unspoken understanding; don't show up looking like a schlub.

A couple of months ago, Jenn and I were eating there at the table where we have coincidentally been seated multiple times. We like this table because it's in a section a few steps up from the rest of the place. It's a good people-watching spot.

On this evening, there was a large party eating at a long row of tables. One of the men in the party was wearing overalls. No shirt, just overalls. I wondered why this place, of all places, not only let this guy in, but also seated and served him.

As the summer progressed, and triple-digit temperatures became commonplace, I saw a few other men sporting the same look in public. They were in stores or businesses wearing overalls without a shirt. How are these guys able to skirt the universal "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" policy? It's almost as if there's an asterisk on all of those signs that lets people know that overalls would do fine in lieu of a shirt. That just doesn't seem right.

Although, now that I'm thinking about it, overalls offer the same amount of cover as tank tops of sleeveless shirts that I see guys wearing. While I wouldn't go out in public wearing anything like this, I wouldn't think twice about seeing someone wearing one of those in a supermarket or a Jimmy Johns. I wouldn't expect to see it in Greenhouse Grille, but whatever.

So, I guess one could argue that overalls fill the shirt requirement, as it does cover most of the torso. I guess my real problem is that these guys don't seem to mind being a walking cliche. I honestly want to walk up to the next person I see in just overalls and say, "You're what people think of when they think of Arkansas. You know that, right?"