Category - Vehicles

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» Chattanooga Fun in the 2018 Mazda CX-9
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» Touring D.C. in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
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» Commuting in the 2017 Mazda CX-5
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» Houston, Star Fish, and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra
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» Zoom-Zoom in the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD
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» Pi Pizza and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra #Houston
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» Commuting in the 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring
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» Cherry Pie Hospitality and the Mazda CX-5 #Houston
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» Business + Pleasure in the 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5
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» Daddy + Daughter Trip in the Mazda6 (Houston, TX)

» Chattanooga Fun in the 2018 Mazda CX-9

Winter has really felt never-ending. Although it didn’t get super cold this year the Spring has still taken its time to come around, we’ve even had strange little snow days pop up here and there. The rainy and cold weather was really getting to us and we felt that a family weekend getaway was in order. Thankfully we live in the Nashville area and places like Chattanooga are just a quick two-hour drive away. The Mazda CX-9 was our road trip companion for this trip and it was an exciting departure from our usual eight-passenger minivan.


Here are a few things we especially liked about the car followed by a rundown of our Chattanooga visit:

Seats Seven – Outside of minivans and overly large SUVs, there aren’t many vehicles that can fit our family of six. With the deceivingly compact CX-9, we can even fit an extra family member or friend. Some mommas can’t succumb to the idea of minivan life and this vehicle would be a great alternative.

Interior – The interior of the CX-9 is just as sleek and sophisticated as the outside. Every detail is well thought out, down to the very placement of the cup holders. Everything you need is within arms reach allowing you to control the temperature, radio, etc. without distracting you from the most important thing, keeping your eyes on the road. 

GPS and Advanced Heads-Up Display – For many years we’ve utilized the phone GPS over the built-in car GPS systems. In the past they’ve tended to be hard, clunky to use and often give inaccurate directions. This built-in GPS is in another category! I love the addition of features like including the distance to the nearest gas stations and restaurants. 

The Advanced Heads-Up Display magically displays the speed limit, your current speed, blind spot warnings and more right onto your windshield. This eliminates the need to look away or down as you are driving. 


The CX-9 made the drive to Chattanooga smooth and fun, and of course the kids requested Kidz Bop radio on Sirius XM. As parents, we really appreciated the comfortable, adjustable seats. A comfy seat always makes the trip seem shorter!

Chattanooga Highlights and Destinations:

Westin – Downtown Chattanooga

  • Hotel Room window

The Westin is a new addition to the downtown Chattanooga scene (less than a year old at the time of writing this). It is located only a couple of blocks away from the free shuttle that runs along Broad Street. If you’re familiar with downtown, it’s near the Tivoli Theatre. In addition to the hotel, the area referred to as West Village is in the process of being renovated with new restaurants, shops, and office space. On Saturday nights, the block is closed off to car traffic and an amazing laser light party takes place outside with street vendors, live music and other fun surprises. The kid-focused light show starts at 6:45 and there’s another one geared more for adults at 7:45. This is REALLY fun, in fact we were pleasantly surprised with how much free fun we had during show. The kids absolutely lost it when MASSIVE balloons came raining down from the sky. We could tell how much thought and effort was put into making this a unique experience.

The renovated hotel (which used to be the BlueCross headquarters) has luxurious, clean and spacious rooms. The floor-to-ceiling windows create the illusion of an even bigger room. The outdoor pool is open year long with the water set at 80 degrees. Additionally the hotel is fully equipped with a coffee shop, quick service food area, restaurant and comfortable lounge areas. The staff and service were excellent as well. The bellhop who assisted us showed so much enthusiasm for his work and even shared interesting facts such as the preservation of the original elevators and circular stairwell in the building.

High Point Climbing

Anytime we spy a Mellow Mushroom, we just have to eat there. It’s a good thing High Point Climbing is right next door. The climbing and physical exertion made us feel a little better after the heavy meal. We visited the downtown location of High Point Climbing. The beautiful facility allows climbing both inside and outside of the building. There is 30,000 sq. feet of climbing surface to enjoy including the best kids zone we’ve ever experienced in a climbing gym. The kids area empowered them to hook up and climb on their own without having to wait on us for assistance. As you all know, our daughter Lola is blind. This is probably her fourth climbing experience and she has grown to love it. High Point is an excellent place for expert climbers and those who are putting on climbing shoes for the very first time. Their friendly staff is great at giving guidance and encouraging families to get moving together.

Creative Discovery Museum – This is by far one of our favorite children’s museums. The museum boasts everything from an excavation area to a riverplay area. We found that our kids were able to engage in several sensory enriched activities while learning new things about Tennessee and surrounding areas. The museum is currently hosting America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. The cultural exhibit explores the diversity of Muslim cultures in our community, country and around the world! The exhibit represents 52 different countries around the world. It will be at the Museum through May 13th. Our kids loved learning more about the Muslim and Middle Eastern culture. Kudos to the museum for facilitating activities that help overcome fear-based perceptions regarding Muslim cultures.  Some of our highlights were getting henna tattoos (from Indian culture), baking Middle Eastern treats, and watching a science presentation in the auditorium.

Chattanooga Football ClubIf your household is anything like ours, soccer is becoming a big deal. If you visit Chattanooga in the Spring or Summer, Chattanooga FC might be playing a home game at Finley Stadium. The free shuttle will land you about four blocks away from the stadium. You can show up early and tailgate with the Chattahooligans (family friendly) and enjoy general admission seating. So come early and enjoy front row seating. After the game, we took advantage of walking down to the field and meeting the home team for autographs.

Chattanooga ZooThe zoo is a bit smaller than our home Nashville Zoo. We visited on Sunday morning before our drive back home. The crowds were low so it ended up being nice for us. We were able to take our time and read about each exhibit and engage the kids. Several of the animals were playful and the kids enjoyed interacting with them. During our visit the trainers showed the crowd how the chimpanzees get their wellness checks and train to keep them safe and healthy. The kids enjoyed seeing how the zoo cared for the animals in this way. The zoo is also very reasonably priced, under $10 for admission. 

Bonus: There’s a nice outdoor playground complex next door to the zoo you can make sure to visit if your kids need to get a little extra energy out at the end of your zoo visit. This playground is an inclusive playground and offers something for children of all abilities.

Conclusion about the Mazda CX-9

The daily commute with the CX-9 in Nashville was enjoyable and I already miss driving the car every day. The comfort and the handling of the car was very enjoyable. The back storage area was enough for groceries but offered a challenge when it came to our weekend trip. When driving to Chattanooga, our family of six had to fold one seat down to fit all of the suitcases. Fortunately, we were still able to fit three kids in the middle row with the fourth child in the back. We did notice we turned a lot of heads when driving and parking the vehicle which is a testament to the sleek new look and vibrant candy-apple red color! This vehicle could work for a family of six but would be ideal for a family of four or five. The extra room on a daily basis would be nice and comfortable with margin to add visitors or extra luggage for the longer trips.

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2018 CX-9 Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own.

» Touring D.C. in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Earlier this month, Calvin and I decided to spend our joint birthday present on a quick trip to D.C. Our last experience with the (2016) Outlander Sport in Houston was excellent, so I was excited when we were afforded the opportunity to test the 2018 model. The driving atmosphere is way different than Nashville with pedestrians and more cars at every turn but the 2018 Outlander Sport handled things nicely. We had an enjoyable trip, thanks to this fun small SUV.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

We thoroughly enjoyed both the vehicle and visiting places such as Georgetown Park, the grand opening for the Museum for the Bible (among all the other museums), Chinatown and tons of places to eat.

We stayed about 15 minutes away from the Monument so we had to drive into the museum district each day to enjoy the sights and sounds D.C. has to offer. The Outlander Sport provided a smooth ride into town then responded well to the multiple turns and stop-and-go traffic that pedestrians often cause. We even enjoyed testing the vehicle with a longer 45-minute trip to Baltimore which also proved to be a comfortable ride. Here are a few things I especially liked:

Panoramic Moonroof – We were fortunate to visit during a mild, rain-free winter where we could enjoy this awesome addition. The moonroof spans across the front and back seats so all the passengers can enjoy the view. I love how this feature can make a car feel bigger than it actually is.

Folding Side Mirrors – The side mirrors on this Mitsubishi fold in automatically once the engine is off in park. This feature is especially useful in cities like D.C. where parallel parking is a necessity. In Nashville, it’s not as common to parallel park but even standard parking spots could spare the car from large purses and shopping carts. 

24/30 MPG – We have always tried to be conscious of our consumption for the planet and our wallet. This compact sport utility vehicle gets great mpg without compromising it’s size and speed.

Conclusion

We have had a small SUV as a second vehicle for a while now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I enjoyed the 2018 Outlander Sport and could definitely see us considering one when we’re due for a new vehicle. Whenever you’re in the market, give Mitsubishi a test drive!

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mitsubishi of North America for allowing us to test drive the 2018 Outlander Sport. As always, these opinions are my own.

 

 

» 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.

 

» 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

» Zoom-Zoom in the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD

Another work trip to D.C. means another opportunity I get to drive something other than the mom minivan. The 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD is a crossover vehicle with great handling that provides a smooth and quiet ride that also allows the driver to seamlessly control the extras while driving. Everything inside is thought out and nicely within reach or a voice command away. In fact, one of the most used feature for me was the voice command that allowed me to call my family as we are out and about. In addition, the CX-3 Grand Touring comes equipped with a Bose Surround Sound system which made any conversation sound good. With seven speakers and a lot of kick, music lovers will also rejoice.

The adaptive front lighting system is very useful for nighttime. I’m having a harder time seeing at night when driving so having a vehicle that properly illuminates the road is a necessity. The LED adaptive front lighting system means the lights on the vehicle turn with you as you turn through corners and curves allowing you to better see what lies before you. This is such a great feature to have whether you live in the big city or the country.

Conclusion

Overall, the Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring is a great sporty subcompact crossover that is comfortable with an interior that has a nice layout.  It’s a good looking vehicle that has strong performance with Sport Mode and great fuel economy rated at 34 HW MPG. Plus, I prefer hatchback vehicles since they typically allow more options to store oversized items.

 

 

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD. As always, these opinions are my own.

» Pi Pizza and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra #Houston

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

Trips to Houston are always hard. With only nine meals to plan and so many places to eat, it creates quite a dilemma. Usually they’re filled with old favorites topped off with one new hot spot. When we found out that Cherry Pie Hospitality had ventured into the pizza business, it was an easy decision on where to go this time around. Pi Pizza wasn’t the only first for me, so was Driving a Hyundai. The Scarlet Red Elantra was surprisingly fun to drive and has totally changed my perception of the car brand.

Here are some of our favorite things about the car followed by my first (but not last) visit to Pi Pizza.

2017 Hyundai Elantra

My first impressions of the new Elantra was it’s sleek design and roomy interior. 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:

You had me at CarPlay – Finally got to drive a car with Apple CarPlay! 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 Elantra has a 2.0L Atkinson cycle engine that delivers more standard horsepower (147 HP) than the 2016 Toyota Corolla (132 HP) and 2016 Nissan Sentra (130 HP). There’s no reason to just sit there when you can get up and go in an Elantra.

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.

Pi Pizza
181 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

Although I never got to enjoy Anthony Calleo’s Pi Pizza food truck, this brick and mortar is proof that Pi has come a long way. Linking arms with Cherry Pie Hospitality, this new concept brings a great atmosphere (punk rock but warm and welcoming) with ample seating and fun decor featuring custom-painted skateboards on black-and-gold calavera wallcovering. You can definitely find unique combinations and flavors of pizza, on paper you might be a little skeptical, but just give it a chance.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

My favorite part, Pi uses the highest quality ingredients in their pizzas, boasting a 98% “from scratch” kitchen meaning none of their pizza toppings come from a bag. Do yourself a favor and make sure to get the Mac n’ Cheese balls, the jalapeno ranch dip takes it to another level.

» Commuting in the 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring

I am blessed to work from my home office. Apart from a few weeks in Ethiopia and Uganda here and there you can typically find me working away under a heated blanket on my couch. I love it, but I also miss office life from time to time. That’s why I love getting the chance to spend a week at the America World corporate office in D.C. Not only do I get to spend time with our staff, but I also get to take in the sights of beautiful Washington D.C. On my last trip in I had the chance to give the 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring a spin… and I’ll tell you… it was hard going back to my Honda Odyssey.


2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring

The Mazda3 was built for traffic. I had a crash-course in D.C. driving and found that the Mazda3 had me weaving in and out of traffic with the zip that only Mazda promises. Add the sporty moonroof for viewing Christmas lights and we were set. I drove the 6-speed manual (standard on the Touring model) which was an added bonus as I put my race-car driver moves to the test.

Things I loved:

Style – The photos say it all. The exterior and design is great and will definitely turn heads. The Mazda3 looks much pricier than it really is. And this particular color was to die for. Not only was the car a looker, the interior was able to comfortably seat up to 5 people. Talk about making the carpool to the office a bit more enjoyable! Another great bonus was the ample trunk space. You can easily fit 3-4 full size suitcases in the trunk. This was particularly nice because we all packed our fair share of shoes.

Performance – As expected, this car can go. D.C. streets can be a little (or a lot!) busy at times but this car didn’t have any problems. In addition, Sport mode came in handy when we needed that extra get up and go. The 6-speed manual that I drove was really fun once we hit the open road.

Safety – Similar to some of the other Mazda’s we’ve driven in the last year, this vehicle had an array of safety features: forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring. A new camera is now part of the package, which Mazda says expands the speed range at which pedestrians can be detected for the automated emergency-braking system. Cars equipped with the i-Activsense package (like ours) can now also recognize traffic signs.

 

Conclusion

The Mazda3 was comfortable, classy and functional with a bit of fun throw in. From USB ports, to heated steering wheels and traffic sensors I felt that this vehicle met all my needs and even a few wants. Who knew how much I would miss that heated steering wheel?? What impressed me most was the versatility of the vehicle, this car can fit a family of four nicely and still serve as a really good option for long work commutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own.

» Cherry Pie Hospitality and the Mazda CX-5 #Houston

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD. As always, these opinions are my own.

(this post is from Calvin who visited Houston in July)

Let’s face it, summers in Houston are morbidly hot! When we found out that Cherry Pie Hospitality had ventured into the ice cream business, we were super excited to say the least. So the kids and I decided to buckle up and visit Cherry Pie’s restaurants for ourselves. The company owns and manages some of our old but mostly new favorite Houston restaurants. It was appropriate that Mazda USA sent us out in a Soul Red Metallic CX-5 Grand Touring, like a cherry.

Here are some of our favorite things about the car followed by some great eats with Cherry Pie Hospitality:

2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

I had a blast driving the Mazda6 but the CX-5 is definitely more my kind of car. The sport mode (again) was useful, and many times necessary, in the crazy Houston streets. We were even able to pack 5 people, fishing poles, and all the gear we needed for a fun fishing day trip to Galveston.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

Things we loved:

Style – The whole 2016 Mazda line looks great and the CX-5 is no exception. I can definitely see myself owning a car like this. The black leather interior and black rims are worth considering if purchasing this vehicle.

Interior – All of the driver controls were thought out really well. Nothing seemed out of place or odd and easy to figure out. It became natural within a day to navigate all of the features of the digital display in the center.

Mileage – After driving around Houston for a full week, we put a lot of miles on this vehicle. I found the 26 city / 35 highway mpg to be accurate and friendly on the wallet.

Conclusion

I loved the CX-5 Grand Touring AWD more than the Mazda6, simply because I prefer a crossover SUV over a sedan any day. The car was perfect for our trip and would make a fun commuter or family car. Driving through the stop-and-go traffic in Houston in this car made for a comfortable ride, even when it was 100+ degrees outside. The back seat can get a little tight with three people riding but you also have to consider that we are in the booster seat phase.

Cherry Pie Hospitality

1. Lee’s Fried Chicken and Donuts
601 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

Ever since last year I’ve made Lee’s a mandatory stop whenever I travel to Houston. Hot chicken is a big thing in Nashville and Lee’s has recently added a Hot chicken of their own. The flavor and taste was great, and to my friend’s surprise, still crunchy on the reheat later that night.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

We won’t be surprised if we see Lee’s hot chicken make an appearance at next year’s Nashville Hot Chicken Festival. Other new notables are the Hot Chicken Taco and the Donut Double Scooped Ice Cream Sandwich! Yup, Lee’s Fried Chicken is one of way to get Lee’s Creamery Ice Cream, more on that below.

2. State Fare Kitchen & Bar
947 Gessner, Ste. B190, Houston, TX 77024

This was my first visit to State Fare and it was quite amazing. My favorites included the Dill Pickle Dip, Texas “Caviar”, the Hicksburger-Beef Pattie, and last but not least the Mac Daddy, a Mac n’ Cheese dish with short ribs and Roasted shallots. The portions are very generous at State Fare so come hungry. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves and I know what you’re thinking… yes these were taken by us (on an iPhone)!

all photos © Goodbye Normal

The Frito Pie is under the bowls category but I would argue that it should be an appetizer, either way it’s a must. The space is inviting and is a great place for a business meeting, date night, or even a family night (yup, they have a kids menu!).

3. Petite Sweets
601 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

Earlier this year, we visited Petite Sweets as they added Suzie’s pies and cookies by the slice. They have a large variety of treats but the macarons will always be our first love. This time, the kids and I were able to join in on treating ourselves to Lee’s Creamery.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

This premium ice cream is made from milk from grass-fed Jersey cows in nearby Tomball, in addition to cage-free Texas hen eggs and all-natural ingredients. The creamery will produce more than 50 rotating flavors. Two flavors that were surprisingly good for me were the Sweet Cream Corn and Avacado Lime. Vietnamese Coffee which sounds great (wasn’t available at the time so we’ll just have to come back) is also on the rotation.

 

» Business + Pleasure in the 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own.

This was my first trip to Orlando that didn’t involve plans to visit a certain mouse. And I have to say… that made me a little bit sad. BUT, going there to represent One Orphan at Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) Summit was definitely the next best thing (btw: Thanks Carlos Whittaker for representing Nashville well!). I did take some time to visit Universal’s City Walk and Disney Springs. And oh my goodness! Did y’all realize that Downtown Disney has morphed into Disney Springs? It’s huge! Tons of restaurants, shops and free entertainment. We enjoyed an authentic Cuban dinner at Bongos and strolled around for a couple of hours. Definitely a great way to enjoy an evening without heading to a park.


2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 Grand Touring

This was definitely the perfect Orlando car. My co-worker Johnna joined me as I zipped around town and we both felt pretty fancy. It’s just a FUN car. Quick pick up, very responsive… and obviously, a convertible. The feature we enjoyed the most. The car also looks slick, so we turned lots of heads. Or maybe that was Johnna… she’s cute and single.

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#messyhairdontcare

Things we loved:

Style – The photos say it all. The exterior and design is great and will definitely turn heads. And it’s kind of adorable too. Like a mini luxury item that tucks neatly beside other cars. We could park almost anywhere, no space was too small. Even with it’s small interior, the design is creative to still allow cup holders and a glove box.

IMG_4038

Zip – As expected, this car can go. The Orlando streets can be a little busy at times but this car didn’t have any problems. In addition, Sport mode came in handy when we needed that extra get up and go.

Safety – I was honestly a bit nervous at first. The Miata is very small compared to my normal mini-van. But I was quickly as ease after realizing there were blind spot alarms. This really helped with the limited visibility when changing lanes.

IMG_3908

Conclusion

The Miata was FUN. Especially for this momma who is used to being a taxi rather than a stylish gal out on the town. It was easy to handle, fast and good-looking. What more could we have asked for? I will say, I’m glad I packed light. There is only room for two carry-on size suitcases in the trunk. And literally nothing else, unless you stick it in your lap. But the Miata is all about zipping around and having a blast… not carrying capacity. For those with long commutes, this little car could bring lots of joy with the top down, especially with the 36 hwy EPA est. mpg.

» Daddy + Daughter Trip in the Mazda6 (Houston, TX)

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2016 Mazda6 i Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own.

(this post is from Calvin who visited Houston last week)

This was my first trip back to Houston in 2016, and it was Charlotte’s turn to come with me. One-on-one moments with my children are always memorable but cruising around in the Mazda6 made our trip even more special. With a short four days in Houston, we were determined to eat (of course!) and check out some of the city’s free offerings. Here are three places we visited followed by some of our favorite things about the car.

1. Children’s Museum of Houston

If you’re visiting Houston and happen to be there on a Thursday night, the Children’s Museum is a great place to be. The best part, it’s free! It’s a big-city museum, so you’ll easily last two-three hours in this place.

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2. Sam Houston Boat Tour

I’m not sure how long the Port of Houston Authority’s free tour has been going on, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. Experience an unforgettable waterborne voyage through one of the busiest ports in the world. For locals, it’s not something you’d want to do often but I think everyone should at least go once. You end up sailing for about an hour and half with lots of room to roam around and see some really fun parts of the city.

3. Lee’s Fried Chicken and Donuts/Petite Sweets
601 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

A must for any visit to Houston. You can read my updated post from my last trip to Houston but in summary, these two places have only gotten better. Some notable additions since my last visit include the Double Donut Fried Chicken Sandwich (two fried chicken tenders between two glazed donuts) and the Pulled Chicken Chopped Kale Salad. Yum!


After Lee’s, everyone should take a quick trip to Petite Sweets to grab some dessert to enjoy in the shop, or take it to go. The newest addition is Suzie’s pies and cookies by the slice, without losing any of the other tasty treats (macaroons!) from the restaurant’s offerings.

2016 Mazda6 i Grand Touring

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This was my first time getting behind the wheel of a Mazda and I had a blast driving the Mazda6. The sport mode was useful in the crazy Houston streets and Charlotte was loving the ability to request the Kidzbop station on XM radio.

Things we loved:

Style – The photos say it all. The exterior and design is great and will definitely turn heads. The white leather seats in the interior and bright LED lights give a nice, clean look. Charlotte was especially enamored with the Soul Red paint.

GT Technology Package – This optional package is worth it in the long run. The features include: adaptive cruise control, forward-collision and lane-departure warning, automatic high-beam control, active grille shutters, and i-Eloop, which stores energy during braking to improve fuel economy.

Safety – I saw a sticker on the car we drove that said “2016 Top Safety Pick+” so I decided to look it up and found this article. In addition, I love the blind spot monitoring with simple light-up icons on the mirrors and a beeping sound that’s noticeable but not annoying.

Conclusion

I’ve never owned a Mazda and have always felt their cars were mediocre. After driving the Mazda6 for a week, my perceptions have changed greatly. The interior was comfortable and the entertainment dash controls were at an easy, reachable distance. I’m still hoping to try a car with Apple’s CarPlay so I’m hopeful that more cars, including this one will add this function. The next time I’m market for a vehicle, I’d definitely consider a Mazda.

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal