Happiness is: walking into the Xoco-latte bakery in Sugarland, Texas and staring at the cabinets piled with gluten free goodies. The bakery's name originates from the Spaniards, who learned of a "magical" energizing drink that the Aztecs made with cacao. We tangled our tongues over the French pronunciation, laughing at our failed accents.
|Can you pronounce it?|
The number of shelves was overwhelming. Four types of cookies. Our favorites? I devoured the dark chocolate chip, whose sweet dough was peppered with tiny chocolate chips. Mom preferred the cacao butter cookies. We tried to nail down what made them taste so spectacular - creamy with only the slight sweet edge of cacao - but ran out of cookies before we figured it out.
Then there were the house-made chocolates, like a pumpkin bread truffle covered in dark chocolate that I sampled. Swoon. Against the sweetness of the pumpkin bread, the dark 72% chocolate gave a delicious bite. We walked out of the store with bags full of cookies, breads, and cupcakes. The entire week of our visit, we devoured them. Happily.
|All the choices...|
Happiness is: walking through a giant mouth in the Houston Health Museum, awed by the theatrics that is the human body. I don't give mine its full credit some times. I rant about its shortcomings, push its limits and wish for quicker healing. Yet, the entire time we walked around the museum, I couldn't help but be amazed.
|The giant head...|
I was amazed by the amount of other organisms (most of which we are - happily - oblivious of) that our body hosts and the feet of organs that are stuffed inside our skin. Our smiles were the widest, though, at the Mirror of Heredity, a station that takes your picture and alters your gender and/or race.
As I stared at the male version of myself, I couldn't help but laugh. Not my most attractive alternative...yet, it was astounding, too, to think of the chances. The chances that I could've been Christopher instead of Casey. The chances that everything would've been so different. I'm happy it isn't.
|Me and my alter ego|
Happiness is: gorging at the Ruggles Green with family. When my aunt gave me the mission to find a gluten free friendly restaurant near the Heights to eat at, I chose Ruggles Green for its overflowing local, fresh and GF options. You know you're in a place that takes organic seriously when they have a wall full of dozens of different organic mustard flavors...
For lunch, I tried their turkey burger on a gluten free bun with the quinoa side salad. The turkey burger tasted fresh, fully cooked yet moist. I loved that I could have daiya cheese melted on the top - and could even choose between mozzarella and cheddar cheese.
As for the bun, it tasted soft and springy and held its own against the (gargantuan) burger. The quinoa side salad was a new experience for me, but the mix of quinoa, cucumber and tomato offered an awesome, slightly fruity crunch. The ticket to happiness, though? The gluten free label on my plate!
We also ate at Ruggles Green for dinner and I downed the salmon salad. It was probably the best salmon I've ever tasted - moist, packed with flavor and spiced in chipotle and honey sauce. The salad greens, shaved carrots and cheese also disappeared quickly. No complaints here!
|My salmon dinner!|
My favorite happiness? Family.
All the family.
|The grandma, uncle and sis!|
And all the pictures!
|Girls day out!|
I savored the food that filled my belly and treasured the knowledge that filled my mind, but the people that filled my arms during our visit were the real highlights of my trip. Because, as hard as happiness can be to find, family is always the place to start.
Have you traveled this summer? What are you happy doing? Comment below!