Search Results For -year of less

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» Year of Less: Birthday Update
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Easter baskets during the year of less
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» A year of less
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Can I overuse the word blessing?
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» Christmas in Nashville 2017
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» 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide
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» Commuting in the 2017 Mazda CX-5
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» Double Digits: My Oldest Turns 10
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» Pillars of Remembrance
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» Houston, Star Fish, and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra

» Year of Less: Birthday Update

We are steadily continuing the year of less and it gets easier with each event. This week brought another opportunity to put our resolution into practice. Charlotte is turning 8 years old! She’s a bit of an old soul so while she still has the remainders of a baby face it seems completely probable and appropriate that she’s a full 8 years old. When my kids were very little I made a promise to soak in each day and stage and do my best to stay in the moment, this has made the passing years seem more realistic even if they do feel faster than I would like.


This year a few of our kids were at various camps during Charlotte’s birthday and Calvin had taken Liam to Houston with him. This gave Charlotte and I a golden opportunity to share some quality time. We started the birthday festivities with pedicures and talked about what event she might like to do for her birthday gift. She requested a surprise and I took that as a challenge. I discovered through a random Facebook ad that something called China Lights Nashville was currently set up at the fairgrounds. After viewing the press release and videos I knew this was just the event to celebrate my half-Chinese princess.


I’m a firm believer in dressing the part for celebrations. I told her to choose a favorite dress and chose one for myself as well. We put on lipstick and drove the 30 minute drive to the fairgrounds. I kept the surprise until we arrived and she began to see the lights. It was beautiful! If this event comes to a town near you I highly recommend a visit!


When we substitute events for presents we are in favor of going all out. This means dinner, dessert and specials drinks. This means that the gift recipient gets the royal treatment. It’s a full out attempt to create very fun, out of the ordinary moments and memories. It means saying yes to all the things that we often say no to. When you are one of four kids there aren’t as many moments like that so that makes days like this even more special!


During the evening I made sure to fill her head and heart with affirmation, I told her how wonderful she was and about all the ways she makes our home joyful.

The year of less has become less about reducing the stuff and more about amping up the intentional moments. The removal of things has caused us to focus more on what we do and say during celebrations. I hope that when we come to the end of this year our kids have unforgettable moments and a knowledge of their importance and place in our family.

Easter baskets during the year of less

As I previously shared in this post, we chose to try out a year of less. A year with no physical gifts for birthdays, Christmas etc. Even though we have always been conservative with stuff it was still feeling out of control in our home. Here are a few ways we are planning to replace the traditional Easter Basket in our home this year.

For Elliott, our 9 year old:

A giftcard to a local arcade to spend some time with dad. We are also donating, in honor of his favorite sport, to provide soccer gear for kids who do not have equipment.

For Lola, our 9 year old:

A day pass for rock-climbing with mom, this is her favorite activity and she is so empowered when she’s climbing! We are also donating to provide food for a baby for a week through Samaritans Purse.

For Charlotte, our 7 year old:

A certificate for spa time. Nothing makes her happier than pretty pink nails. We will also donate in her name to provide baby chicks for a family in need. Also through Samaritans purse.

For Liam, our 5 year old:

A giftcard to the arcade for bonding time with Dad and big brother. In Liam’s honor we will donate to provide “comfort lambs to children. He is our babe who loves to have a stuffed animal tucked under his arm.

Each child will receive the gift of time and an experience with a parent and also know that another child will receive something that they need. We hope that these early experiences will foster a spirit of generosity and empathy for others.

 

 

» A year of less

We recently committed to a year of less. Specifically a year of NO tangible, hold-them-in-your-hand gifts. This includes Easter baskets, car trip surprises, birthday presents and YES Christmas presents too. It’s not happening in this house this year. The why of this decision has many forms. First of all, our lives have become very indulgent. I recently read a book about Abraham Lincoln with my daughter. She delighted as she read about his sister Sarah’s first toy… a corncob doll she made herself. Would our children treasure such a thing today? Probably not. Toys today leave little to the imagination. Imagine the depths little Sarah went to with that single corncob doll made by her own two hands. In Uganda, Haiti and Ethiopia I’ve seen children completely content with homemade wagons and cardboard boxes or stacks of smooth stones. Our initial reaction is sadness… but just watch the joy and ingenuity in their method of play for a moment and wipe that sadness away.

Secondly, we have toys. We have stem toys and mounds of Legos. We have paints and clay and paper. We have a swings and a trampoline. And most importantly we have bikes and sticks and mud and dogs to play with. We have everything they need and want.

Lastly, we want to invest in experiences this year rather than things. I would prefer to spend money on travel or helping others. I would prefer to heighten the quality of the time I spend with my children and create more room for memories. And really it comes down to the simple fact: enough is enough. When I spend more time managing clutter and crap in my house than I do with my children that’s a problem. This feels like a giant, deep breath of crisp cool air to my weary soul. It’s like painting the whole house white and just sitting in the middle of a blank slate. It’s a good start to good things… that aren’t actual things.

We let the kids in on our plans earlier this week. They weren’t terribly shocked, but they were definitely ready to help plan our experiences for the year! There isn’t a grand plan that I can lay out for you. We are simply going to plan experiences for the events that we would typically purchase presents for. Intentional substitution of time for stuff. This may range from visiting Six Flags to riding bikes at a park and grabbing ice cream. This plan can be tailored to fit your budget, lifestyle and interests.

So here’s to a year of less stuff and more togetherness. Anyone else?

Can I overuse the word blessing?

Just wondering, because I’m about to use it again.  Just like I overuse commas.  So… on to the blessing.  Last night Calvin and I met with our Pastor of Volunteers/Adoption.  I know what you’re thinking, who has a Pastor of Volunteers??  Long Hollow Baptist Church ladies and gentlemen.  Pretty awesome.  Any way, we met with Rob and it was so reassuring to find out that our church offers us some pretty amazing services when it comes to adoption.  They have access to a lot of information that will be abundantly helpful as we are preparing to welcome our next child.  They will help us go through all of our paperwork with a fine tooth comb, so as to ensure we don’t get stuck in Ethiopia or some other potential disaster.  And on top of those wonderful things they have paired us with a family who has completed an international adoption… mentors!  My anxieties are eased.  However, if you know me very well you would say “what anxieties?”  True, true.  I tend to leap before looking.  Perhaps a little anxiety is a good thing.  If we don’t prepare for potential problems we won’t know how to handle them when the inevitably arise.   So thank you Lord for Long Hollow and their commitment to adoption.  Thank you for your provisions!

Side Note: Rob gave me a bracelet (live strong style) that reads: “Share the Joy of Adoption”  and I snatched it out of his hand like a two-year-old and slid it onto my wrist all the while admiring it like it was encrusted with diamonds.  Yes, I would say I’m in the romantic stage.

» Christmas in Nashville 2017

Nashville has a lot to offer when it comes to the year of less. If you haven’t been following along, 2017 for our family has the been the start of attempting to buy less stuff, but instead have more experiences together together. Our family has spent the last few Decembers at home and we’ve found lots to look forward to in doing so. Here are a list of events we are especially making plans to attend in December.

1. SCHERMERHORN SYMPHONY CENTER

The Schermerhorn is a breathtaking venue that feels special no matter what you’re there for. Dave Barnes’ Christmas show has quickly becoming a Christmas tradition for Calvin and I, but there’s definitely some others worth checking out. Make sure you view the Schermerhorn’s upcoming schedule.

We’re most excited about A Johnnyswim Christmas (12/8), Drew and Ellie Holcomb’s Neighborly Christmas (12/10), and a Very Merry Christmas with Dave Barnes (12/18). Also Handel’s Messiah, which has really become an annual holiday tradition for (four performances to choose from) for many families.

Full schedule and tickets available at NashvilleSymphony.org

2. NASHVILLE’S NUTCRACKER
Nashville Ballet is celebrating 10 years of Nashville’s Nutcracker December 2-23, 2017, at TPAC’s Jackson Hall with all-new magical elements to mark the occasion. Our family spent the day in Nashville last year, anchored by this great performance! If this has also become an annual tradition for your family, your kids will be surprised by a few new elements this year in celebration of its 10th year, including snow falling in the audience during the snow scene!

Visit magical lands with the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Mouse King, the Nutcracker, the Dancing Bear and many historic characters from Nashville’s past.

Nashville’s Nutcracker at TPAC’s Jackson Hall has grown to 16 performances:

  • Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 3, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Friday, December 15, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, December 22, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Friday, December 22, 2017 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Tickets available at NashvilleBallet.com

3. NASHVILLE PREDATORS

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The only cold temperature we enjoy is from the Nashville Predators ice. Our kids love hockey when it comes to the food, the chants, and the crazy fans. Liam still loves singing (and shaking it to) Tim McGraw’s “I like it I love it” every time the home team scores.

There are plenty of home games in December to check out. Tickets available at Ticketmaster.com

4. Gaylord Opryland’s A Country Christmas

Nashville friends, looking to do a staycation? Look no further. In addition to the expected 3 million holiday lights and 48-foot tall Christmas tree, Gaylord Opryland will be hosting a brand new Broadway show for its 34th annual “A Country Christmas.” Cirque Dreams Holidaze will showcase 20 acts and feature original music and seasonal favorites at the Grand Ole Opry.

This year’s theme for the ICE! attraction is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The exhibit will include 2 million pounds of ice sculptures completed by 40 master artisans.

Opryland will also host an outdoor snow tubing hill covered in 1.5 million pounds of real snow.

“A Country Christmas” runs from Nov. 10 through Jan. 1. Click here for more information.

 

» 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide

I realize we’ve committed to a year of less… but I have to interrupt for just a moment because I know some of you are desperately looking for Mother’s Day ideas. So in spite of promoting less I’ve rounded up a few ideas for mom that I would be happy to receive. Although… I won’t be this year. I’ve tried to bring a variety of things you may have never seen or thought of.

1. Clay Mug from Haiti

Clay cookies are a known “food” in Haiti. Feed My Starving Children has created a market for artisans from Port-Au-Prince to use the same process to make mugs instead. These coffee mug purchases enable these Haitians to sculpt their way out of poverty and support their families! I cannot think of a more meaningful gift for mom. Check out Feed My Starving Children’s other items, too. You’ll fall in love quickly.

Feed My Starving Children website

 

2. Magnolia Journal Magazine Subscription

I love a gift that keeps on giving. And I LOVE Fixer Upper. Magnolia Journal comes out four times per year and is full of all the shiplap and chippy paint that mom craves. Additionally, make sure that you serve up some quiet time and coffee when that magazine arrives.

buy on Amazon

 

3. Ninja Coffee Bar System

A coffee system complete with a variety of brew types and sizes (single cup to whole pot), a built-in frother, and tons of specialty (hot and iced) coffee recipes — Caramel Macchiato, Iced Mocha Latte, and a Vanilla Flat White just to name a few — you can create and enjoy at home. Read our full review here.

Ninja Kitchen website

buy Ninja Coffee Bar System on Amazon

 

4. Netatmo Smart Home

You know how much I love smart home products. Netatmo makes some beautiful products that compliment your home interior rather than cause a huge distraction. Now that our kids are getting older and more independent, the Welcome camera has helped me keep tabs on everyone. Face recognition technology has been really accurate so far so I know who’s inside (or outside) the house at all times. If that wasn’t enough, the unit also listens for alarms—whether it be a smoke alarm, CO alarm, security alarm or siren—it will send a notification and record a video. For the health-conscious moms, the Healthy Home Coach monitors the air quality level (CO2 levels) to make sure the home environment is healthy. I particularly love monitoring humidity levels for my son, who deals with asthma. The Healthy Home Coach measures what matters, notifies you (via phone app) of potential problems, and gives suggestions on how to fix them. I wish I had one of these years ago for an infant’s room.

Netatmo website

buy Netatmo on Amazon

 

5. Kitchen IQ

I love high-quality kitchen items that don’t need replacing every year. I finally tried Kitchen IQ’s knife sharpener after feeling the urge to replace an “old” set of knives. I also love their flexible cutting boards, kitchen scales, and graters.

Kitchen IQ website

buy on Amazon

 

 

» Commuting in the 2017 Mazda CX-5

As you know, we recently moved to another part of Nashville. We needed to situate ourselves closer to the kids’ schools… this also meant, unfortunately, the work drive would increase significantly. Nashville traffic has only gotten worse over the years, pushing our daily commute to a little over half an hour each way. If you’re like us and spend 5-6 hours+ in a car every week, a comfortable and fuel efficient car is a must. That’s where the CX-5 fits in. The 2017 CX-5 Grand Touring AWD in Machine Gray Metallic is a great looking car! So great, in fact, that Mazda didn’t change much from the previous year model.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

The ride is so smooth that I could barely feel the change when accelerating from 15 to 50 mph. Driving home from work can get dangerous with stop-and-go traffic and the additional fatigue from a long work day. The Grand Touring package has an Advanced Heads-Up Display that almost magically displays the speed limit, your current speed, blind spot warnings and more right onto your windshield. This definitely brought more awareness and kept me alert throughout the long commute. Not to mention reminding me to slow down! Don’t worry, I’m not driving and taking a picture!

We Love the Look – The entire 2017 Mazda line looks great and the CX-5 is no exception. The minor changes they’ve done from previous years were definitely welcome. Other moms will take notice, for sure.

We Love the Interior – The interior is very roomy. Even with three kids in the back, the touching and bumping (that leads to fighting) was kept to a minimum. And no, we didn’t ditch a kid, sweet Lola takes the bus to her school and missed out on the Mazda fun. The automatic trunk open and close came in handy as they were able to load and unload their backpacks without having to worry about reaching the door. The leather seats provided seat warmers for both the front and back along with a vent that blows onto the steering wheel for those early mornings! The one thing that brought the fights? Arguing over who got to push the “butt warmer” button. (good grief.)

We Love the Fuel Efficiency – Commuting can get expensive. I found the 24 city / 31 highway mpg to be accurate and a happy medium for the speed, size, and comfort of the vehicle.

Conclusion

With our family size, four kids and two adults, I’m not sure a sedan will ever be in the cards. However, I truly enjoyed the Mazda CX-5, this CUV would be a great option as a second vehicle for us. If you have a family of four or less, this might just be the perfect primary vehicle. It met all of our basic vehicle needs and then excelled way beyond that with tons of extra features. If you’re in the market, definitely head to your nearest Mazda dealership and give it a test drive!

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD. As always, these opinions are my own.

 

» Double Digits: My Oldest Turns 10

Ten years ago our first son entered the world. It was a blazing hot September in New Orleans and I was REALLY over carrying an extra human. I was in the middle of graduate school and that only added an extra layer to my extreme exhaustion. Elliott should definitely receive an honorary Masters in Missiology, as he peacefully kicked and squirmed his way through many classes in the comfort of my expanding belly. Calvin and I had been married about six months when I experienced the classic morning sickness symptoms and realized our 5-year-plan was definitely going to include a baby.

We headed in to Tulane the evening of the 24th and after 26ish hours of labor our very blue baby was born. I remember my joy turning into just a bit of panic as they worked on him; the cord had been tightly wound around his neck. The nurses were quick but the minutes seemed like years as we waited to hear those classic cries. They came… and a few minutes later a very wrinkly little man-baby was placed in my arms. I felt, in that moment, like I had perhaps given the world my best. I had carried and pushed forth a gift that would make the world just a little better, at least those were my hopes. Moms, I’m certain we should all feel that way about our precious cargo.

His legs were skinny and long. I compared them to an organic chicken. I’m not sure, at this moment, that the comparison is correct but that was my comment. He was small but lean and long and just the tiniest little guy in our arms. His hair was jet black and and very full. It stuck up everywhere and garnered him quite a bit of attention.

We stayed in our hospital room for another night, soaking up his sweetness, and then headed home to our small apartment on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

I laid him down in his crib surrounded by the hundreds of tiny bubbles and fish that I hand-painted on the walls. And within five minutes Calvin and I realized that this sweet baby of ours was not going to lay, sleep or be alone for a very long time. In fact… if he was not nursing or held he was quite the unhappy baby. There was no parenting book that could have prepared us for the level of “I need my parents” that Elliott James brought to the table. There were those who called him spoiled, but in my heart I knew that certain littles just need a little more physical contact than others. And so we held and bounced and baby-wore, before it was cool. And I knew we were doing the right thing. However, this determined baby decided that at seven-months-old climbing his crib rail was the perfect way to seek us out in the night. Once he discovered this new ability he continued to climb up and on top of the rail, only to dangle in peril and cry until we rescued him. It only took a few times for us to decide, for good, that he was no longer a candidate for the crib life. After all our little seminary apartment boasted linoleum floors laid over concrete. One fall would spell disaster for a small one.

I believe that he probably smiled smugly, knowing he had chosen a path that led to his desires… being super close to mom and dad all day and all night.

As little boys do, he grew and grew and grew. I’ve delighted watching this transformation over the years. Seeing his flaws, merits and internal struggles manifest themselves as his physical body stretched and grew strong.

Ten years old. Two digits now. He has the look of a young man, with careful adjustments spent in front of the mirror… combing his hair just so. And yet if I look carefully I still see the wrinkled man-baby who was handed to me ten years ago.

I don’t have plans for him. Those are his to make. He has callings to respond to and a great God to serve. His path is his own. Truly, I’m waiting and praying for the man he is becoming. I’m discipling and smacking my head. I’m hugging, and holding tight and I’m sneaking in to his room in the late hours to absorb him while he’s here with us. Above all I’m hoping beyond hope that we are equipping him to be a gift to the world that seems darker by the hour.

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.
Psalm 127: 3-5

» Pillars of Remembrance

This morning I walked barefoot through my quiet home. The sun was coming through the window, sneaking down the wooden floors and spilling up and over my feet. It was bright, silent and eerily familiar. And suddenly an overwhelming moment of recognition came over me. August of 2016 was calling, late August and her heavy warmth was reminding me of an unexpected trial I walked through just a year ago.

On August 22nd I found myself at the Sarah Cannon Cancer center for a parathyroid tumor removal. There were many assurances that I would wake up from surgery feeling better than I had in years. But that was not the case. When I went home on the 23rd my body revolted. I spent months in a recovery that was supposed to take days. I was readmitted to the hospital at times and had a few ER visits as well. I was never sure when walking was a good idea because passing out or nearly passing out became normal. Making my bed was more than my body could handle. My friends and family had to swoop in to care for my family. My husband took the entire load of parenting at times. And in the thick of it I lost the ability to even sleep at night. I remember begging God to speed me to recovery. I also remember the clarity in those moments… understanding that this was a trial that would pass and be looked back on from another time with wiser eyes.

How quickly I forgot the pain after those months passed. How quickly I forgot the kindness of my friends and family. And most importantly  how quickly I forgot that God delivered me. At one point I was told that when the body reacts this way one can expect to remain in this state for 18 months to 2 years. I recovered in 5 months. Those 5 months felt like 5 years but they were 5 months nonetheless.

I was so quick to forget the pain and the deliverance from pain once the trial subsided. We humans are a forgetful bunch and that’s not altogether okay. I am a firm believer that our trials and stories are to be memorialized as testimonies to the way God works in our lives. I also believe that God is honored when we take time to remember our stories. In the book of Joshua (chapter 4) God instructs Joshua to have twelve men gather twelve stones from Jordan to serve as a reminder and memorial for future generations. Forty years of mere survival and difficulty were becoming history and God did not want them to forget what they had been delivered from. Additionally, during this time, God moved miraculously and rolled back the Jordan river, allowing the Israelites safe passage into the promised land, He did not want them to forget their deliverance… and His might.

And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’  For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

Joshua 4:20-24

I am thankful for the gentle reminder from my deliverer this morning. His kindness in my life is not overlooked, but I did not take the time to set up my own pillar of remembrance. I forget to tell the story of His faithfulness in dark hours. Today and in the future let that not be so. I’m testifying today that I remember what was done for me. I remember when the fog lifted and I walked without falling. God you are great and mighty and active in our lives. You are good even when the answers are not what we want. This is my pillar today, a digital testimony and reminder that You are faithful.

What is your story? In what ways has God delivered you? Take time today to remember and honor Him.

 

» Houston, Star Fish, and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra

Special thanks to Hyundai USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Hyundai Elantra. As always, these opinions are my own.

Cherry Pie Hospitality is hard to keep up with. It seems that every time I’ve visited Houston in the past two years, Cherry Pie has opened a new restaurant. The latest being Star Fish which has a seafood-filled menu that can accommodate all appetites. This time around I hopped in a Scarlet Red Hyundai Elantra and headed down to Star Fish to see (and eat) what the fuss is all about.

Here are some of our favorite things about the car followed by my grand experience at Star Fish in Houston.

2017 Hyundai Elantra

My first impressions of the new Elantra Value Edition was it’s sleek design and roomy interior. Besides the interior trim, there didn’t seem to be many noticeable differences compared to the Sport Edition I drove last time around. The inside fits four comfortably (five technically) with decent sized trunk space. I know I’m always in for an adventure driving the streets of Houston so the sport mode was a necessity.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

Things we loved:

CarPlay – I’m looking forward to how CarPlay will improve over the years. Built-in car GPS systems are so inferior compared to maps on smart phones. CarPlay was able to mirror Apple Maps onto the car’s display along with Spotify. iMessage is also another major component of CarPlay which took more time getting used to. Nonetheless, having the car’s display look just like my phone, squashed the learning curve and I was ready to go right away.

Style – Hyundai has come a long way with their designs. I have to admit that in the past, I might’ve been embarrassed with driving a Hyundai but those days are now gone.

Power – The Value Edition still offers a sport mode for the demands of driving in a bustling city. I was not disappointed at all by the performance needed to keep up on the Interstate.

Conclusion

A car with CarPlay is a huge selling point for me. The car was perfect for our trip and would make a fun commuter for anyone. The additional horsepower (vs. some of the other vehicles in the same class) is a benefit in a city that gives little grace for those that can’t keep up. The lane assists is a natural extension of the car and keeps anyone safer on the road.

Star Fish
191 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

Step in and see the 300-gallon freshwater aquarium, you’ll know you’ve made it into the right place. The back wall at Star Fish is busy with a raw bar, which cranks out freshly shucked oysters, seafood cocktails, and massive chilled platters. We sat down and had a little of everything, some of my personal favorites were the Sizzling Shrimp, Lobster Puff Tacos, Steak Taretare and of course the Raw Oysters (Gulf, Maryland, and Maine). You’ll also want to make sure you save room for the White Chocolate Bread Pudding. Click through these photos to see more.

 all photos © Goodbye Normal

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal