Have A Diva That Likes to Dance?

18 Apr

In the three years we’ve been here at Ft. Hood, I have had my youngest, Ella, enrolled in some form of dance the entire time. The first year I can honestly say I think I paid a monthly due so she could simply pose and primp in front of a mirror. (the picture below is proof) 🙂  Thankfully, these days I feel we are  finally getting our money’s worth.

Ella, my little ballerina

Our first two years here, she was enrolled at Texas Tumblers. It’s located in Harker Heights off of Indian Trail. (close to the new library) Overall,  I’d give Texas Tumbler’s  dance program a C+.

We loved the dance instructor there, however, I felt the place grew too big too fast.  Texas Tumblers undoubtedly has the monopoly on any kind of gymnastics program in the Ft. Hood area. In my opinion, they should stick with just that…gymnastics. The dance program always felt a little neglected to me. Classes were very full with only one instructor. Drop-off and Pick-up was AWFUL!  The parking lot (which isn’t big to begin with)  was always full and they release all gymnastics/dance students at the same time. I never understood why they didn’t stagger the times to make the routine easier for parents and kids alike. Also, the recitals were very long…unless you don’t consider 4 hours of dancing divas long????

This year, we enrolled Ella at Studio 203 off of Stan Schleuter Loop. She has been taking tap and ballet there since August and I feel she is really learning the basics of each dance form.  The music is very appropriate (little girl classic style)  There are also 2-3 dance instructors per class. We are preparing for the upcoming recital next month and the process has been very organized, precise and chaos-free thus far. Plus, they have split the recitals up so that they won’t run as long. (bigger kids =difference recital)

I take Ella  to Studio 203 twice a week for a tap and a ballet class.  For those two classes we pay $55 altogether. At Texas Tumblers, she was getting tap and ballet in a once-a-week combined class and I was paying $50. 

Luckily, there are a few other places that offer dance lessons in Killeen. I’ve also heard good things about A&K Dance and Acro including the fact that they do a recital twice a year.

Studio 203 Dance Centre

(254) 526-6778

www.studio203dancecentre.com

 

It’s Almost Summer, Do You Know If Your Sprinklers Are Working??? (insert scary-movie sound effect)

13 Apr

 

It gets mighty hot here in the Lonestar State! June can sometimes start out at a sweltering 104. Not trying to scare all you fair-weather friends off, but it’s the truth! 🙂

With tha t said, when buying  a home around here, a sprinkler system is pretty much the status quo.  Our home came with a in- ground sprinkler system already put in. Last summer,  however, we had a bit of a hiccup with our system.

A few of my sprinkler heads decided to peter-out and the temps were well over 100 degrees.  I’m a bit of a plant lover so any thing that threatens the livelihood of my  grass, plants, flowers, shrubs etc…gets me in panic mode 🙂

I knew the problem was way out of my league, so I called the experts in. After making 10 phone calls ( and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was 10) I finally got someone who said they could come check it out that week. Everyone else was well booked for the summer. Royel Johnson is the person who saved my day, week and eventually my summer.

Royel  had me fixed in a few days and was wonderful. He usually came in the evenings. (from what I remember, he is a retired Army EMT and began the sprinkler repair business as a side job awhile back) He even took the time to show me how to run my sprinkler system…something that had been very foreign to me. Now, thanks to everything he taught me…I’m the guru on sprinkler systems. If my friends are having a problem or need me to schedule their systems come summer time..I’m their gaL!

I’m thankful for folks, especially former Army folks,  like Royel. If yours sprinklers should need fixing, I highly recommend him ( and be sure to take notes..he’s full of knowledge on a variety of things)

 Johnson’s Sprinkler Service

Installation and Repair of Sprinklers

Lawn Maintenance and Fertilizing

254-258-4836

 

Our Pooch Person…

29 Mar

We are pretty big pet people. As of now our humble abode is host to three fish: Jesus, Sugar and Flour; two dogs: Jake and Ruby; and we recently were hosting a rabbit: Mia.

Unfortunately, this summer our friendly feline, Tortilla, (yes that was his kid-given name)  decided to take a permanent vacation, after leaving one night and never coming back.

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My recommendation for an off-post veterinarian goes to Killeen Veterinarian Clinic.  When we adopted Tortilla from the Killeen Animal Shelter we had to get him snipped and vaccinated within 30 days of adoption (city rules). I called around to get prices for the simple procedure and was shocked at how much places were charging.  We were getting quoted $350 for the neuter procedure under most clinic’s “cat wellness program”.

I finally called Killeen Veterinary Clinic. They were one of the cheaper quotes, so I questioned their services. Three years later, I am still impressed with their animal care, service and prices.  Our veteriarian there is Dr. David Smonko. He has now helped us through numerous cat appointments as well as provided us with ample canine support. His assistant, Jovana Pardo, is wonderul with pets and is such a joy to be around.  They also provide bathing and boarding for pets, which was a lifesaver one Spring Break for us after last-minute vacation plans.

I will say that out of my friends that live here, I am one of the only gals who uses Killeen Veterinary Clinic. Not because they are bad, but because they are located right off of Ft. Hood Street, about a 15 minute drive if you live in Harker Heights.  A few of my friends would recommend Aztec Pet Hospital in Harker Heights.  I’ve heard their prices are good and their staff is friendly, but  they also accept walk-ins so your wait can take a little longer, even with an appointment.

As a side note…..if anyone sees a white,  fluffy cat with a green and a blue eye who answers to the name of “Tortilla”, please contact me! 😉 We miss you big guy!

Killeen Veterinary Clinic

1321 Pershing Drive, Killeen – (254) 634-0242

or

Aztec Pet Hospital

104 West FM 2410 Road, Harker Heights  (254) 699-6725 

He’s On My Speed Dial….And It Ain’t My Hubby

26 Mar

I’m starting this blog off on a sad note despite the title. I had something happen to me recently that really put things in perspective.  I was at Kohl’s picking out a new steam cleaner for the house when I noticed a sweet young girl next to me doing the same thing. We started comparing cleaners, prices…and then life. After talking to her, I discovered that she had been recently widowed. Her husband, an active duty Soldier, died six months ago while on a training mission at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. She has an 11-year-old son and despite the tragic hand her family had been dealt, seemed to be taking it all in stride.

 I became more choked up than her in that small Kohl’s aisle, but truth be told…we were both crying.  I was happy to hear that her experience with the Army after her Soldier’s death had been a good one. We always hear the horror stories of the casualty notifications and how they can go wrong, scarring a family for life. Although I don’t know the details, she told me that she knew she was going to be taken care of and she had the Army and it’s people to thank. She will soon be finishing her pharmacists degree and plans on living  and working here in the Ft. Hood area.  She’s very involved with Ft. Hood’s Army Community Services, SOS (Survivor Outreach Services) program,  and now spends most of her free time speaking to Army groups on how they can better the process for families when there’s a casualty.

The point of this story, is that while talking to this brave, strong woman…she told me the hardest thing for her now is when something in her home needs fixing. She had always relied on her husband for those things…and now was doing it all herself.  After telling me this, I immediately, whipped out  my phone and looked up the man I keep on my speed dial. He’s a local handy man named Wayne White. He works mostly in the Harker Heights area, but he is good, polite and very reasonable. She took his name and  number as well as mine, and we made plans to have coffee down the road. I hope it wasn’t just small talk, and that we really do sit down for that coffee. 

I am a firm believer that God crosses people’s paths for a reason and I know that on a day I was too concerned about getting my carpets cleaned for my next social function…God stopped me and introduced me to this remarkable woman. I hope that my simple gesture of handing her a phone number, will help her in the future.

I’m sure there are many handymen in the Ft. Hood area that are very good, but if you’re in need…here’s mine.

Wayne White 254-535-5873

Ay Caramba!! Where’s the good Mexican food?!?!??!

25 Mar

I’ve been on a bit of a food kick here lately.  Must be the time of year. The time when us gals deprive ourselves of the good stuff so we hope the summer swimsuit season is a successful one!!!

That must be why I’ve been blogging on the best  burgers, Thai food, italian food restaurants, etc… in the Ft. Hood area lately!

Being that I am a Garcia (married) and before that was a Trevino, I am definitely a Mexican food junkie. I tend to think no restaurant can do it better than my mother-in-law. Her rice and beans are something to brag about for sure. FYI…here’s her beans recipe . 🙂

Luckily, if you get orders to Ft. Hood and are a Mexican-food-fan, you’re in luck! There are some amazing places to eat in the Lone Star State, especially Central Texas.

By far and away my favorite place “locally” is Chuy’s Mexican restaurant. I say “locally” very loosely because the closest Chuy’s is in Round Rock. It’s about a 45 minute drive from our home in Harker Heights but the food is AWESOME and worth the drive. If you ever have company fly in and you have to pick them up in Austin, this is an ideal place to stop and eat on your way in.

 While you’re waiting for a table (and yes…you will wait) head over to their bar area where you will find a trunk of a car that has been turned into an all-you-can eat chips and hot sauce source…

 

 

Their menu is as eclectic as Austin. But no matter what you order, you can’t go wrong. Everything’s a winner there. My favorite are their fajitas..and of course…their mango margaritas. Man, I’m getting hungry just writing this!

Favorite Mexican Restaurant #2 is much closer. My vote goes to Taqueria Mexico #3. Yes, there are a few of them around these parts. We are lucky enough to have the #3 version just down the street on Knight’s Way in Harker Heights.  The food is very good. I’m particularly fond of their hot sauce or salsa as many  Northerners call it. When I’m entertaining I tend to stop at their drive-thru and order a large tub of it. It’s a crowd-pleaser. Their tortilla soup and beef fajita tacos are our usual orders.  It has also become a Saturday morning favorite thanks to their drive-thru and amazing selection of breakfast tacos!

 

 One complaint I have against them is the fact that they don’t serve beer/alcohol. From what I understand, they aren’t able to get their liquor license because they are located in close proximity to a church. But the good thing about that…is that it’s BYOB. (not always a bad thing either!)  Happy Eating!!!

Taqueria Mexico

  526 East FM 2410 Road, Harker Heights, TX 76548-5687

(254) 690-0155

Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant

2320 N Interstate 35, Round Rock, TX

(512) 255-2211 ‎

 

Lawnmower Repair

24 Mar
 
 
When Murphy’s law kicks in…it’s never pretty. Murphy decided to rear his ugly head on the one day I was in the mood to throw myself a pity party…the day my husband left for a year-long deployment to Iraq. That morning, in order to distract myself from the inevitable heartbreak, I decided to get out the lawnmower and mow my front yard. What should happen 2 minutes into my venture??? I hit a large rock and bent my mower blade. Did I mention it was the first time I had used my brand new mower?  Talk about bad luck!
 
I asked around and someone told me about this little place in Copperas Cove that did a pretty good job repairing lawn mowers, AJ’s.  That day, I loaded the mower up and took it on over. (Copperas Cove is about a 15 minute drive away)  Within 10 minutes of pulling into the place, the nice man had pulled out my mower from my backseat, took it to the back, and came out just a few minutes later  with a brand new blade and an invoice that didn’t leave me broke. They were nice, quick and cheap. What more could a girl ask for???
 
I highly recommend them…especially on a day when Murphy was wreaking havoc on my mentality.
 
AJ’s Repair and Services
 302 East Robertson Avenue
Copperas Cove, TX 76522-2930
(254) 542-8000

Fish Tacos

22 Mar

My cousin, Catie, recently moved out of our downstairs guest suite after living with us for a year and attending Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin. It was a fun experience for my family seeing her progression as a educated artist in the kitchen. The weekends that she was with us, she was usually in the kitchen whipping up some amazing dish she had learned to cook at school. 

Weeknights, when the kids were asleep and hubby was deployed we’d usually open a good bottle of wine and watch some cooking shows for inspiration on what we could cook that upcoming weekend.

One dish that became a big favorite were fish tacos. We saw a recipe on the show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri.  We liked the idea of a traditional fish taco but putting an Asian twist on them.

Below is the recipe we concocted. It’s a light, wonderful meal that is great for entertaining. We serve it with an asian slaw on top. It’s a nice tangy compliment to they buttery fish.

Fish Tacos:

1 to 1 1/2 lbs of white cod (cut up into inch-size pieces)

3 cloves garlic

2 tsp olive oil (to coat pan and not make fish stick)

1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp minced fresh ginger

salt/pepper to taste

lime – to taste

handful of cilantro

Other garnishes: jalapenos and avocados

tortillas (I like them with corn but you can use flour if you prefer)

Coleslaw:

Bag of already prepped cole slaw (not the kind that comes with a dressing kit)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup white vinegar

1-2 TBS sugar (some people like it less sweet…add according to preference)

1/4 cup green onions – chopped small

1/4 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Make cole slaw ahead of time and put in refrigerator to chill. Add olive oil to pan, med-high heat. Add fish, Fish doesn’t take long to cook. Cook for approx. 5 minutes. When almost done, add sesame oil,  minced garlic, fresh ginger, lime juice from about 1/2 fresh lime, handful of fresh, cut cilantro and salt and pepper.

To serve, add fish to tortilla and add about 1/4 cup of the asian slaw on top.  Hope you enjoy!!

The Texas Bucket List

21 Mar
 

 

Lake Whitney, Texas

Having only a few more months left in the Lone-Star-State, we are trying to squeeze in all this big ol’ state has to offer an adventure-seekin’ family. One thing I learned…if you’d like to go camping in one of the 93 Texas State Parks…plan ahead…WAAAAYYYYY ahead. We thought a month out would be ample time to schedule a two night camping trip in one of the Hill Country regions. Come to find out, those prime parcels are booked up to a year in advance. After spending an hour on the phone with a gal who was trying her best to find us a place, she came up with two nights during Spring Break at Lake Whitney.It was literally the ONLY place available within a two-hour drive of Killeen, Texas. I booked it, hoping it would at least offer my young family a fun, first-time camping experience.

All in all I give Lake Whitney a “B”. I think the highlight for us was the camp site we were assigned..Site 128. It literally was right on a bluff that overlooked the lake.  Very scenic…a little windy, but the view was totally worth it. We splurged and rented a pop-up camper from the Ft. Hood MWR. $40/day plus a $50 deposit. The site had electricity and water. We had to walk about 1/4 mile to the closest bathrooms which were brand new and in very nice shape.

The lake itself is pretty basic. There is a main beach area which is open to the public. We were turned off by the number of people there, so we found a nature walk that took us right to a private beach. We were able to let the dogs off their leashes and clown around without seeing a person for hours.

The park is clean and quiet, maybe not as “pretty” as some of the other places you can find in the Hill Country, but all in all it was a fun and pleasant experience for us.

Other state parks you must visit:

Garner State Park – Hill Country

Guadalupe State Park – Hill Country

Pedernales Falls State Park – Hill Country

Enchanted Rock State Park – Hill Country

Best Burger In Town..

15 Mar

Five Guys

Having lived in Washington, D.C. a few years, you can only imagine how stoked we were to see the familiar “FIVE GUYS” sign going up just down the road at the Market Heights shopping center.  Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries originated in 1986 in Arlington, VA. Their juicy, filling burgers (a regular burger is not one..but TWO greasy patties), are right on the money!  Here are some interesting facts about the restaurant itself I found from a Tampa, Florida reviewer when a Five Guys popped up in her neighborhood:

 -Free in-the-shell peanuts in a big box at the entrance (people with peanut allergies beware; fries are also cooked in peanut oil).

– Spectacular fries, served in no-frills, no-logo, brown-paper bags that get tantalizingly besmirched with grease.

– A white board that tells you the provenance of the day’s potatoes, plus big sacks of spuds are spread around the dining room as decor.

For the whole story:

http://www.sptimes.com/2007/09/20/Food/Five_Guys_Famous_Burg.shtml

For the best burger in the Ft. Hood area, I’d say it’s Five Guys hands down….BUT because I am a Texan…I have to give props to my native burger you can easily find at any local Whataburger. If you happen to live in Texas for any amount of time without trying at least one Whataburger…SHAME ON YOU!  They are soooo good (especially if you are of the mustard variety)  and have been a family favorite for quite some time!!!

In a hurry… for some curry!!!

11 Mar

No matter where the Army takes us I hope it will always take us close to a good Thai food place! I say at least once every two weeks, I crave a good serving of spicy curry! My favorite Thai place here in the Ft. Hood area is not in Killeen, but in a small dive closer to my home in Harker Heights. Orchid Thai is a little hole in the wall resturant across the street from the Indian Trail HEB grocery store. Don’t go there for it’s ambiance. There is none. I’d guess 60% of it’s business is take-out. The rest probably comes from a healthy lunch rush. I’m not saying it’s not a good date place..it’s just nothing fancy. A few tables, small kitchen, no alcohol served…BUT….GREAT FOOD!  

Our usual meal:  fresh spring rolls (with rice paper), chicken pad thai (spicy), yellow curry (spicy) and an extra serving of steamed rice.

Orchid Thai

600 Indian Trl # 204
Harker Heights, TX 76548-1370
(254) 680-7014