All posts by Sue

Book Review – Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Book Review – Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

One of my new year’s resolutions is to read more in 2017.  There are many reasons I believe reading is good for you. But don’t take my word for it, read this interesting article that explains why.

 

Book of the Month Club

 

To help fulfill my newly minted resolution, my husband gave me a year’s subscription to the Book of the Month Club as a Christmas present. The subscription service selects 5 new books that go up on the website on the 1st of each month. Subscribers make their choice by the 6th of the month and the books are shipped on the 7th. A couple of caveats here. If you don’t like the month’s offerings then you can skip that month.  If you are eager to get your book quicker then you can pay an additional $1 and your book is shipped as soon as you make your selection. The book club encourages you to order more than one book a month and so offers pricing incentives.

 
January was my first month so I followed instructions and had my selection made well before the 6th. I’m guessing January is a busy month and perhaps the MLK holiday came into play, but sadly my book did not arrive at my house until the 17th. The good news is that a bonus free book by Gillian Flynn was included. The books were beautifully packed and came with a cute bookmark.

My Selection

 

For January I chose the book Lillian Boxfish takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney. I had not heard of this author before and made my selection partly because the story was set in New York. The book took a little time to get into but once I warmed to Lillian I found her story fascinating and quite thought provoking.

 

The book is the story of Lillian’s life, told as she walks the streets of NYC one New Year’s Eve in the 1980’s. I loved the subtle references to New York’s iconic landmarks of the time and how their story has unfolded since. Perhaps as a nod to Lillian’s intellect, the book is somewhat sesquipedalian in style (see it’s catching).

 

Lillian recounts her life story beginning in 1899 (although she doesn’t like to admit her age so says 1900 instead). Not a typical lady from that era I would guess. Lillian was a career girl who shunned the idea of marriage and family. Writing advertising copy for R H Macy, Lillian became the highest paid woman in this field. Lillian also published poetry books and was quite the minor celebrity of her time. And yet, when she did finally fall in love, marry, and become pregnant she was forced to leave her career. Note the book is based on the real-life story of a woman called Margaret Fishback.

 

The book explores issues such as women’s rights, mental illness, and societies value system throughout the years. Heavy subjects for sure, and yet Lillian’s storytelling is light with comical interludes. There is talk of a film version of this book. I look forward to my next visit to NYC and will remember Lillian’s story as I walk the streets she so beautiful described.

 

What’s next

 

The Book of the Month club has a discussion section on its website that allows readers to review the monthly selections. Kind of a virtual book club, it’s interesting to read other people’s opinions. The website also has a blog section that has a variety of articles. This month the author Gillian Flynn explains how she loves to be scared and to scare others.

 

In case you were wondering, the other selections for January were:

Lucky You by Erika Carter

Girls in the Moon by Janel McNally

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

 

 

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Ippudo, Canary Wharf, London – Restaurant Review

Ippudo, Canary Wharf, London – Restaurant Review

Arriving at Heathrow airport on a cold foggy London morning was quite the contrast from the 82-degree heat we had just left in Houston. By lunchtime we needed something warm and nourishing to keep us from succumbing to jet lag. A bowl of ramen seemed like the perfect solution.

 

Ippudo, Canary Wharf

The Background

 

The Ippudo story dates back to its founding days in Japan in 1985. Moving internationally in 2008, the chain now boasts 120 stores and counting in Australia, Korea, Singapore, China, Taiwan, US and now the UK.

 

“Ramen has become soul food in Japan with a wide variety and easy availability. IPPUDO brings the true and authentic ramen with much effort being invested on producing the highest quality soup, noodles and other ingredients in every place it operates”.

Ippudo, Canary Wharf

The Location

 

There are two London Ippudo restaurants. Our closest location is by the Crossrail Station in Canary Wharf. Opened in 2015 this store is nestled towards the middle of a row of restaurants that seem popular with the locals and tourists alike.

 

Ippudo does not take reservations. Groups will only be seated once all are present. The restaurant offers a counter area adjacent to the open plan kitchen, close to the bar, and in front of the windows. Seems as though this type of seating is popular with the single diners. There are also small tables with banquette seating along one wall.

 

The restaurant design is very sleek and modern.  The walls are mainly painted black and adorned with the red and white spoons in symmetric designs. Tables are light wood with red and white chairs.

 

Ippudo, Canary Wharf

The Ramen

 

Ippudo is known for its Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, meaning pork-based. The menu offers diners the option of classic Hakata-style or the modern version that offers a variation of seasoning such as garlic oil and their secret house spicy miso paste. There is a vegetarian option that uses an umami-packed seaweed and mushroom broth and topped with tofu.

 

While I do like ramen, I’m not a connoisseur so I was happy to see a menu with quite detailed descriptions, plus photos. The menu mentioned about selecting the hardness level of noodles but we didn’t get asked our preference when ordering. Perhaps our server could tell we were rather novices at this.

Ippudo, Canary Wharf

Our Selections

 

David decided to try the Karaka-men (GBP 12).  The original tonkotsu broth with homemade noodles topped with Karaka spicy miso paste, pork belly chashu, bean sprouts, sesame kikurage mushrooms, spring onions, roasted cashew nuts, sansho pepper and fragrant garlic oil.

 

I selected the Akamaru Modern (GBP 11) A bolder translation of the original pork broth, enhanced with miso paste and garlic oil. Served with homemade thin noodles, pork belly chasu, bean sproupts, sesame kikurage mushrooms and spring onions. We opted for the combo addition (GBP 10) at the suggestion of our server. The two main dishes didn’t seem too different to us, but I have mentioned we are not authorities on ramen.

 

The bowls of ramen soon arrived at the table, shortly followed by a plate of additional ingredients to add to the broth (presumably the combo addition). The soft-boiled egg had been marinated in a special sauce that transformed its color from white to beige. I think this is a pretty hearty meal.

 

Piping hot broth with an abundance of fillings makes it somewhat tricky to eat. I’m told the way to do it is to hold the chopsticks in your right hand (if right handed) and use them to raise the fillings to your mouth. Ensure that your mouth is close to the bowl or this could get quite messy. Use the spoon for the broth and to help guide the larger ingredients towards your mouth. Don’t worry about slurping. Be careful not to let the food fall back into the broth and splatter you (can you tell I talk from experience here).

 

The Service

 

We had quite a late lunch at around 2.30pm and yet the restaurant had a steady stream of people coming and going throughout our stay. The servers are kept busy and do not stop by the table that often.  Not really a problem, I guess I just notice this more as I spend so much time in the US where the servers are usually far more attentive.

 

The Verdict

 

We visited specifically to try the ramen but noticed plenty more on the menu that make us want to return. Lunch for two with no alcohol came to GBP 41 before gratuity. I guess I need to readjust my thinking to UK prices as I thought this was pretty steep for essentially a no-frills restaurant.

 

Ippudo, Canary WharfThe Fact Sheet

 

Address: Unit CR28, Level Minus One Crossrail Station, London E14

Phone: 020 3326 9486

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 11.30am-10pm, Sun & Bank Hols 11.30-9pm

 

Ippudo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

 

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51Fifteen, Saks Fifth Avenue, Houston

51Fifteen, Saks Fifth Avenue, Houston

Shopping and Cocktails at the Houston Galleria

 

While celebrating my birthday month (why settle for just one day) my girlfriends took me on a day’s outing to the Houston Galleria. After a little shopping and a makeup tutorial at Nordstrom, we headed to the newly refurbished Saks Fifth Avenue.

 

51Fifteen

We began with a cocktail

 

Before lunching at the main restaurant, we stopped at Bar 12 on the first floor. What a great idea to set up a bar in the middle of a department store. We noticed that the bar seemed very popular with the male shoppers.

 

“Bar 12 serves as the perfect gathering space to enjoy a selection of coffee beverages and pastries in the morning, or to relax with a glass of champagne or handcrafted cocktail with bar bites in the afternoon or evening”

Now I do love a good cocktail but am usually torn as my all-time favorite drink is champagne. So, the bartender suggested I try a French 75. This cocktail is made by mixing ice, gin, lemon juice, with a little simple syrup, and then topping with champagne. Oh, it was delicious but quite deadly strong!  We decided we needed a little snack to go with the cocktail and ordered a shrimp starter. Three huge and very ‘meaty’ shrimps served on a bed of veggie strips and in a spicy sauce were just perfect.

51Fifteen

51Fifteen

 

Elegant Design

 

Next, we headed to the main restaurant located on the second floor.

 

“globally inspired, locally minded cuisine utilizing seasonal ingredients” Executive Chef Pedro Silva

The décor is quite beautiful. Read a full description of how the designer created the elegant and sophisticated interior in this Absolutely Memorial editorial.

51FifteenThe food

 

Our first taste of the cuisine soon began as our server delivered a bowl of freshly baked pretzel rolls. The whipped butter only enhanced the slightly sweet coating on the bread. We could have easily indulged with bowl after bowl of these light and airy rolls but decided to save our appetite

51Fifteen

 

The lunch menu had quite a few options that sounded yummy so we decided to order a few dishes to share.

 

We began with the Maryland crab cake. One large crab cake was served on a bed of lobster bisque and came with an additional bowl of bisque and a rather tangy mayonnaise. Not sure if it was the crab cake or the sauce but there was some definite heat going on with this dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

51FifteenNext we tried the seafood salad. Lumps of lobster, crab, and shrimp were spread over a salad of avocado, cucumber and lettuce. A light cilantro basil citrus vinaigrette finished off this dish.

Our final appetizer was a grilled blackened chicken wrap served with spicy coated fries. The whole-wheat tortilla was packed full of chicken, avocado, tomato and combined in a creamy chipotle lime aioli.

51Fifteen

For dessert

 

Dessert was a hard decision. Our server recommended the white chocolate bread pudding as she said it’s a great sharing dish. We almost went for the Godiva chocolate cake with butterscotch, raspberry and butter pecan ice cream (yum right!). But finally, we decided on the Pecan Pie. Not a boring choice at all as the warmed pie also comprised of dark Belgium chocolate and coconut flakes and was topped with vanilla ice cream.

 

Now I guess you could call us ladies that lunch (just on this occasion) but I’m sure that even a ‘serious foodie’ would enjoy the dishes served up in this sophisticated restaurant.

 

51FifteenThe Fact Sheet

Address: 5175 Westheimer Road, Saks Fifth Avenue
Phone: 713.963.8067

Hours: 51fifteen Hours Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m, Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m, Sunday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m, Happy Hour: 3 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Brunch: Saturday: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m, Sunday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Additional: Valet parking available, Private Events, Reservations taken.
51fifteen Restaurant & Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
 

 

 

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Federal American Grill, Houston

Federal American Grill, Houston

A last-minute lunch date gave me the opportunity to visit a neighborhood I don’t get to explore that often. Driving along Durham Drive in the Rice Military area I’m struck by just how many restaurants there are here.

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The dogs are famous!

The dogs are famous!

I’m a proud pet mama this month as my four-legged children are featured in the February edition of the Hedwig Village Living magazine. Get to know my furry friends a little better by reading below.

 

Precious Pets: Meet Brinkley and Louis!

 

Written by Elizabeth McCabe

 

Everyone loves a furry friend and the Oxley family is no exception. David, Sue, Charlotte, Amy, Liz and Rebecca Oxley enjoy the constant companionship of not one, but two dogs, Brinkley and Louis. Brinkley turned 2 in August 2016 and Louis turned 8 in September 2016.

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Reds Porch in South Austin,Texas

Reds Porch in South Austin,Texas

A Dog-Friendly Restaurant in Austin, Texas

 

I recently spent the day in Austin with my family and come lunchtime we were very ready to enjoy some delicious Texas food. We decided to try The Oasis as it has such a picturesque setting overlooking Lake Travis. It also has an extensive outside dining area. But to our surprise, The Oasis does not have an area where dogs are welcomed.  We had no intention of leaving our puppy in the car while we dined. A quick search for dog-friendly restaurants online and we discovered Reds Porch.

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A Romantic Packing List

A Romantic Packing List

Eight packing ideas to make your getaway extra special

 

Romantic Packing List

Candles – Think of the setting – scented candles around a bubble bath – it’s not just for the movies. Travel candles come in convenient tins making it easy to transport and to clean up after use.  But do remember to pack a lighter or matches or this idea is a non-starter.   Yankee Candles make a great selection of miniature candles that would work well for this use.

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Valentines Day – 5 Gift ideas for the Foodie in your life

Valentines Day – 5 Gift ideas for the Foodie in your life

Valentines Day is fast approaching. Let me help you think outside the box this year when it comes to buying a gift for the foodie in your life.  No need to buy those overpriced roses. Forget attempting to get a reservation at that fancy restaurant. And put down anything fluffy and pink and read on. Here are my top picks to ensure that you put a smile on someone special’s face this year.

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Super Bowl L1 in Houston

Super Bowl L1 in Houston

On Sunday, February 5th my hometown of Houston will be hosting the Super Bowl L1 at the NRG Stadium. This is the largest watched annual sporting event of the year. Some of the figures associated with this event are just astounding:

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Bernadine’s in The Heights, Houston – Restaurant Review

Bernadine’s in The Heights, Houston – Restaurant Review

January is my birthday month. I take the view why confine celebrations to just one day when you can have a month of fun. To celebrate with my husband and daughters we looked for a new restaurant that we had not tried before. That’s not hard in Houston as we are rather spoiled for choice with a huge selection. After much discussion, we decided upon Bernadine’s in the Heights.

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