Double Feature! The Counter: Custom Built Burgers & Influenster Summer Beauty VoxBox

It’s been a little while since I have updated and I’ve finally made some time to do it. This one might be longer than usual because it will be a “double feature” to make up for lost time. Please excuse that they are completely unrelated topics, but typical postings nonetheless.

The Counter: Custom Built Burgers

Last Tuesday was actually my second time to eat at The Counter, which technically violates the rules of Tuesday Dinners, but I bought a Groupon knowing my mom and Billy had never been so it still counts. I know everyone probably has their go-to place when craving a good hamburger (for me it’s Whataburger) but let me tell you, The Counter isn’t just any old fast food burger joint. If you’re feeling creative and want a burger that’s gonna fit your mood, this is the place to go. They boast 312,120+ different burger combinations. Ridiculous, I know! The cool thing is they have all the typical burger toppings but they also offer many out of the box ingredients to spice up your burger style.
Although you do have a waiter, there are clipboards at your table so you can build your burger to order. Their options are almost endless!

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If you aren’t feeling so adventurous, no reason to fret, they offer Signature Burgers already built to order that are probably just as good. Since the menu offers so many options, I won’t go into detail about what we ordered but if you do try this place, I would definitely suggest using your creativity! The parmesan fries and the onion strings are must-order sides though.
Other items to note: 1) There is indoor, bar and patio seating. 2) They serve beers and wine (and maybe alcohol?). 3) The waitstaff was very friendly and helpful. 4) There is a parking garage or street parking.

Influenster Summer Beauty VoxBox

(Disclaimer: I received each of these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.)

As you know, based on some of my previous posts, I am signed up to receive a $10 BirchBox on a monthly basis. I am always super excited to get this small “gift” to myself in the mail each month because it’s fun to get new beauty products to test out. Well imagine my excitement when I got an email from Influenster.com saying that I qualified to participate in a similar program they were starting called VoxBox, cost-free?! I haven’t been a member of Influenster for more than a few months so it took me by surprise but I was like “SIGN ME UP!”

[Sidenote: For those of you who don’t know, Influenster is a website you can join, especially if you do any kind of blogging or are big into social media and sharing, where you can earn badges, share reviews and information about popular products and brands that you use and gain access based on your “influence” to deals that are personalized to your lifestyle.]

Before receiving the VoxBox, I was a little skeptical of the products that might be included, but upon its arrival I was very pleased to see that they didn’t skimp out on the samples and that all of the products were very usable for my day-to-day routine. BirchBox caters more to high-end beauty items which are sometimes out of my budget, so VoxBox was a nice change in that it allowed me to sample products I could pick up at Target or a local grocery or drugstore on my normal errand runs.

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So here is what the Summer VoxBox included:

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Lotion Sunscreen SPF 30. Typically when I opt for body sunscreen I go with Coppertone or Banana Boat, so I was interested to see how I would like this Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen. On first impression (before applying it), I thought the bottle was summery and feminine and it smelled really good — not the usual sunscreen smell. I think this was what I liked most about it. It works like any other lotion sunscreen and kept my skin feeling moisturized without being really greasy like most sunscreens. I will definitely be taking this with me to Puerto Rico this week!

Tampax and Always Radiant Collection. Although this isn’t a product everyone wants to hear about it, I actually really liked it and thought it was a very nifty idea. This came with a cute little wristlet to carry “lady items” in so you don’t have to tote your entire purse to the restroom during your workday or be walking down the hall with a tampon in your hand (awkward). I’ve restocked the bag and it fits nicely at the bottom of my purse for next month instead of taking up room in my side pocket where I keep my other daily makeup items.

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Sally Hansen Magnetic Nail Color. If you know me, you know I LOVE nail polish. This was definitely my favorite product included in the VoxBox. I had been wanting to try this new nail trend, but couldn’t convince myself to buy it or get it done at the salon, so I was excited to get a full-size bottle for free! The instructions on the back of the bottle are really simple and tell you to first apply a coat to all of your nails and then go back and apply a second coat to one finger at a time as you use the magnet. I honestly liked the color of the polish without even using the magnet, so that was the first plus and the polish seemed to dry pretty quickly, which was the second plus. After I was done my nails looked 3D and holographic, not to mention they had a tiger-ish feel to them *reow*. LOVE LOVE LOVE this product, props to Sally Hansen.

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Sally Hansen Nails and Cuticles Hand Creme. I used this product before my mini manicure with the magnetic nail polish, and to be completely honest, I didn’t think it was anything special. Sure it left my hands feeling moisturized, but so does the little tube of hand creme I already carry in my purse. So, not much to say here. Maybe I will like it better with repeated use?

Clear Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy. I had seen commercials for this new brand, and am all for trying new products, but seeing as I already have half bottles of shampoo and conditioner in my shower, I didn’t have the need to go buy a new brand to try yet. This product smells really good, which is obviously a huge must have for something I wash my hair with. I only wash my hair every 3-4 days and use dry shampoo between washes, otherwise my hair gets too oily from washing it too often. But the downside to that is that my scalp can sometimes get dry and itchy. I enjoyed this combo because it left my hair feeling clean and soft and my scalp feeling hydrated enough so that between washes I didn’t have any problems with dry scalp. Once I run out of my current shampoo and conditioner, I’m not sure that I’ll switch to the full size product, but it is a viable option. For now though, I will also definitely be taking these samples with me on vacation.

Quaker Soft Baked Bar in Banana Nut Bread. I ate this right up as soon as I saw it was banana nut bread flavor, lol! It tasted yummy, chewy and not terribly sweet. I also felt like it was a little more substantial than the Quaker granola bars I normally buy for on the go. I read a few other reviews of this product that suggested putting it in the microwave for a few seconds, so on my next grocery run I will have to pick up a box of these for those mornings I don’t have time to make my smoothie or eat a bowl of cereal and try heating it up.

So that’s that! Overall, I would rate my first VoxBox a success! Influenster gave me some nice products to consider on future purchases. I really hope I get chosen for the next batch they send out!

Have you tried any of the above products? I would love to hear your take on them.

Dining in the Heights

I will rank tonight’s family dinner among the top of the list. My mom chose Zelko Bistro in the Heights and it did not disappoint.

It is a fairly small establishment but there was a small parking lot behind the restaurant and plenty of room to park on the street, which was convenient enough. It is an old converted house that probably sits about 50 people max inside. But, they also have a pretty good size covered patio area for some extra space. They do not take reservations and I wouldn’t suggest going with more than four people.

On first impression, the tight space between tables kind of turned me off but after being seated and taking in my surroundings I realized that the atmosphere was neighborly. Looking around I saw people who were genuinely enjoying themselves, in food and company. Although some may view the tight seating as a con, I think the intimate atmosphere added significantly to the experience.

After reading through many delicious sounding dishes on the menu I was having trouble choosing between the fish tacos, the blue crab cake or the shrimp and grits. Ultimately, I decided on the fish tacos because they came topped with queso fresco and mango salsa with a side of fried plantains. My mom ordered the Captin’s chicken and Billy ordered the Rueben sandwich with parmesan fries. We decided to take the advice of some Yelp reviews and ordered the fried pickles to start. They came in a deceiving bowl that seemed kind of small but ended up being more than plenty. The pickles weren’t chips, but mini halves that were piping hot, salty and crunchy with a refreshing homemade ranch dip. The food was all very fresh and flavorful. We had to save room for dessert because their options seemed too good to pass up, so we ordered the lemon icebox cake. It was the perfect creamy, tangy finish to the meal.

Typically when I hear “bistro” I think of high-end prices for less-than-filling plates. This was not the case at Zelko; the serving sizes were not overwhelming but certainly not stingy.

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The wait staff was friendly and we even got to speak to the owner for a bit, who was also very sweet. Although we didn’t take advantage of their great wine selection and pairing, Zelko is definitely a place I’d recommend to any fellow foodie.

It seems as though they change the menu seasonally, but I will definitely be back to try some of their other menu items. Too bad the boyfriend is currently 1,400 miles away because this is a perfect place for a date! Overall, 4.5 stars in my book!

Tuesday Dinner Dates

I don’t know why I didn’t start this blog over a year ago when this weekly family tradition began, but I guess better late than never, right?

After graduating college, moving back to Houston, being busy with work and my social life, my mom began to complain about never seeing me despite living 15 miles apart and working less than 5 miles from each other. Complain is probably a strong word considering my mom has never really objected to my life of independence and full social schedule. But, I will admit, I missed my mommy too. So, sometime around February 2011, my mom, her boyfriend (Billy) and I started meeting once a week for dinner to catch up on each other’s lives. Somewhere within the month we decided to make it a Tuesday routine and decided that each week we would rotate turns picking a new restaurant around town that we had never tried. We have had some really great finds, others that were so-so and only one or two duds.

Anyway, enough about the back story! Each week, I will report back with our latest find in hopes of giving you guys some new restaurants to add to your “to-do” list. That’s one thing I love about this city, it never lacks in restaurants – the perfect place for a foodie!

This week we hit up Saint Dane’s in Midtown. The place was pretty crowded with only a few empty tables rotating out and is half “indoors” and half patio; great place for the nice patio weather we have been having lately. The crowd here seemed overall pretty young, 20s or 30s, but it is bar-like and located in Midtown, so that’s typical. They have specials everyday, but Tuesday was $1 taco night, so we definitely took advantage. The tacos were pretty yummy! Between all of us we tried all of the ones they had, except for the fish — chicken fajita, beef fajita, grilled shrimp and barbacoa. The chipotle mayo they top each taco with gave them a little kick too. Mom made a good call and ordered a basket of the fried green beans. Seriously killer. I would go back solely for beer and a basket of those to snack on. We got out of there with a bill under $35 and had very satisfied bellies. Looking over their other menu items, they had your typical bar food, but also had other items, like pork chops, that I would be interested in trying.

I give this place a two thumbs up. It was good on all fronts — drinks, food and atmosphere. I will definitely be going back with some friends.