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Food & Travel

Love The Outdoors? Hit These Hiking Trails This Summer

hiking

hiking

We all look forward to summer break, but too often when it arrives we find ourselves stuck in boring jobs or just sitting around wondering what to do. There’s no reason to bum around the house, though, when the weather is beautiful; instead, take advantage of your summers to travel a little and see the most beautiful scenery this country has to offer by going hiking.

Here are 4 hiking trails that make for a great summer excursion, with a friend or on your own. Just remember to hike safe – we’re not advising you take a weekend and try to tackle Everest, which has claimed the lives of more than a few experienced hikers. These are gentle hikes that even beginners can handle. Now pack that daypack and hit the trails!

Doane Valley Nature Trail

Paths that are labeled nature trails are typically quite gentle, and the Doane Valley Nature Trail in Palomar Mountain State Park is no exception. And while the park features a campground, you can cover a good chunk of trail in a day and make it home in time for dinner. We recommend bringing a hammock – they’re easy to carry while hiking – and enjoy a rest near Pauma Creek.

Arches National Park

For a particularly short hike paired with an incredible landscape, the two miles from Devils Garden Trail to Landscape Arch is a great little trek. You’ll get to see the world renowned sandstone arches that give the park its name. And if you’ve got a little extra time or want to check out some more of the arches up close, you can easily lengthen this hike into a five miler, still well within the confines of a short day hike.

Santa Anita Canyon

When the heat gets to be too much, you might not be inclined to head outdoors but give Santa Anita Canyon a chance. You’ll be surprised by how Sturtevant and Hermit Falls produce a natural air conditioner effect outside. The trail is shady and misty, so comfortable you’ll want to stay there all summer.

Mount Mansfield

If you want to be able to claim serious summer accomplishment, Vermont’s highest peak comes in as only about 7 miles. It isn’t the easiest day hike, but entirely manageable. If you take the Sunset Ridge Trail you’ll get to see Cantilever Rock, the structure of which is hard to believe – it can only be described as gravity defying. To understand what we mean, you’ll just have to see it for yourself.

The ambitious hiker who takes on all four of these trails, you’ll hit the east and west coast, plus some territory in between, but even if you don’t have the time or money to traverse the U.S. during summer break, we guarantee that there are plenty of great options near you as well. In particular, our national parks are home to an array of treasures, including day hikes that will take you along mountain, across streams, and may even offer some incredible nature sightings. Now that’s a well spent summer.

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Food & Travel

The College Guide To Eating Out: Some Food For Thought

It’s Thursday night and the dining hall options are terrible. You’re sick of eating campus center pizza. What you really want is a nice meal where everyone isn’t yelling or staring at their biology textbooks. It’s time for a night on the town.

But before you pick up your friends and head to the restaurant, you’ve got some work to do. Tuck in your shirt, polish your manners and check your budget – here’s what you need to know in order to have a great and affordable restaurant experience.

Consider Your Finances

While it shouldn’t be hard to get a nice meal at a reasonable price, college is the time where you need to master the art of budgeting. Even if your parents are still sending you money, you need to prioritize – textbooks, activity fees, the occasional new item of clothing – there are certain things that need to come first.

Taking all this into account, before you go out, take a look at your bank account and set a limit. Include the tip in this amount and then you can make your decision. Look online at menus to determine where you can afford to eat, and not just off the kid’s menu. Don’t choose a restaurant where you’ll be tempted to overspend. You’ll have a better experience if you choose a restaurant where you’ll have options at your budget level.

Be A Coupon Clipper

Coupons are a college student’s best friend and your wallet will thank you for looking for local deals. While it can be easiest to find coupons for chains, plenty of websites have coupons for local eateries.

Local restaurants will likely have higher quality food and offer a nicer experience than chain establishments, so coupons for restaurants are especially valuable. They may also offer entertainment like trivia nights or local bands. These are the nights you’ll tell stories about after you graduate – take advantage of coupons that let you experience the local scene.

Mind Your Manners

Dining hall eating can do terrible things for your manners. It’s easy to forget how loud you’re talking when everyone is competing to be heard or to start talking with your mouth full when you’re hurrying to get to the library between lunch and chemistry. None of this will do when eating in a restaurant.

Before you head out to eat with friends, tidy yourself up and scrounge up those social niceties your parents taught you. If you’re eating somewhere with cloth napkins, remember that they should be placed in your lap before your meal. Push in your chair when you get up and speak at a reasonable volume. Most of all, be respectful to the staff.

Learn The Rules Of Tipping

Tipping is an art form, and it’s one that you should work to master during your college years, in all appropriate contexts – haircuts, tattoos, taxis, and so forth. But restaurants are where you’ll leave tips most often, so focus on those rules first. The most important rule: Tipping when you eat out is mandatory.

With few exceptions, such as when eating out with a very large group, tips are rarely included in your bill. Also, if you’ve never worked as a waiter, know that staff members typically don’t make minimum wage – they rely on tips to make up the difference. This is the main reason why you should always tip.

It’s also important not to penalize waiters for food quality – they don’t control the speed your food comes out, whether your steak is undercooked, or much beyond taking the order and refilling your drinks. When your waiter does go out of their way to help you, however, like keeping track of five separate checks, make sure to tip extra. College kids often have a reputation for tipping poorly – break the mold by doing the right thing by your servers.

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Food & TravelLifestyle

Exploring the New College City

city

Housing, shopping areas, day and night entertainment options are but some of the amenities that might interest college students who relocate to a different city to attend a local college or university. Numerous large communities across the country develop student guides that are designed to assist current and prospective college residents in quickly finding a wealth of information about the new environment.

Housing

Many students live in facility dormitories while attending school. If accommodations reach capacity or if students prefer living off-campus, researching student housing for a particular city proves helpful. The knowledge provided by local realtors is typically helpful. Real estate agents often recommend specific neighborhoods located near educational institutions. Some provide listings on individual websites. They also may display options for apartments or houses rented and shared by students in each area.

Public Transportation

If students do not bring their own vehicles to school, they need to know what public transportation services are available in the city. Student guides offer a great deal of information about bus, rail and subway options that the location offers. Guides provide the location of routes throughout the metropolis along with schedules. This information might also prove helpful when deciding upon a particular neighborhood of residence. City guides additionally feature a map of designated bike routes for those who prefer cycling from one destination to another.

Shopping

When searching for a restaurant, or Macy’s department store, for example, Hoursmap is one of a variety of online tools that offer extensive data on millions of locations in numerous communities. Merely enter the name of the store, click on the venue’s URL and visit the website. Find a particular store by location, see the store hours and phone number. Read about current sales, or other information, before setting foot outside.

Dining

Use the guide to find an ethnic cuisine or a specific type of food. The guide then displays listings according to the desired search. Find the closest Italian restaurant or locations that serve pizza. Students can save time and money, as millions of facilities allow consumers to pre-order food online using a PC or mobile device. Websites also indicate whether they feature delivery or carry-out options.

Employment

City guides are also useful if looking for employment or internships related to public service occupations. Positions might be available in local school districts, law enforcement, healthcare or through utility companies. Listings may also include volunteer opportunities. Local newspapers and school bulletin boards are other options that also provide information concerning part-time or full-time employment.

Entertainment

If cultural events are of interest, guides feature a list of galleries, museums and theaters with links to each venue’s website. Find concerts, facility location, hours and ticket offers. Outdoor enthusiasts learn about historic tours provided in the community. Find the addresses of city and national parks or festival events held within the community. Discover biking and hiking trails in parks and recreation areas. Learn about popular local attractions. Sports fans find the listings for local college and professional teams representing different sports.

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Food & Travel

Survival Tips for Your Winter Camping Trip

winter-camping

If someone asked you to go camping in the winter you’d call them crazy, right? There are actually quite a few benefits to camping in the winter compared to the dead heat of the summer months. Since it’s the off-season, public campgrounds are virtually abandoned in the winter, ensuring a secluded getaway you won’t find in August. Cold weather means zero bugs, so keep the mosquito spray at home. And best yet, the moon sparkles in the snow and provides an unforgettable aura.

However, to truly enjoy your winter camping trip, there are a few things you need to know. Check out these survival tips before you go trudging out into the snow:

Dress Warm

A no-brainer, but some people aren’t prepared for the chilly winter nighttime. Your body heat will ramp up during that cross country skiing or snowshoeing trek, but when you’re hanging out around the campsite you’ll need an extra couple of layers to keep everything toasty and safe.

Thermal underwear should be your first step and then add a light layer before going full-on wool or heavy synthetic. A waterproof outer shell is necessary if you’re going out during a seasonal transition. A couple of scarves and pairs of gloves are a must – if one pair gets wet it’ll be easy to warm back up with the spare set.

Boots and warm socks are required gear. Hypothermia and frostbite hits at the extremities first, so toes and fingers should be priorities when it comes to body protection. Be sure to pack several pairs of warm socks in case you need to double up.

Prepare for the Worst

Check the weather in the area you’ll be camping out in and get information about seasonal snowfall levels. You don’t want to end up at the base of a mountain the night before its heaviest snowfall period. Packing your survival kit (and then some) is essential and however long you’re planning to stay out, pack food for twice as long. Better to have too much than too little, especially in the event you get stranded.

Less serious preparation tips incoming, we promise. If you dread having to get out of your sleeping bag in the morning, try sleeping with your next day’s clothes in the bag with you. That’ll add an extra layer to snuggle up with and leave you with warm clothes come morning.

Also, to prevent water or snow accumulation inside your tent, open up those vents. We know, it’s really cold, but better to keep the condensation from your breath outside of the tent rather than in. If you’re planning to make your winter trek a regular tradition, portable tent buildings are a great way to beat the REI-brigade and survive the cold in style.

Protect Your Campsite

While wild animals like bears won’t be as attracted to your campsite in the hibernation months as they would in summer, it’s still important to completely seal and protect your food source. Leaving them in a car isn’t a good idea, so a tree stand or simple rope will keep your supply high above the reach of pesky critters. Better safe than sorry.

If you’re feeling the breeze a little too harshly, tie a large blanket or tarp against the direction of the wind to shield you and your tent from the chill. It’ll also keep your fire sheltered and burning more steadily.

Waterproof containers are a must. Keeping your firewood, matches, and clothing dry could be a life-saving (or at the very least a mood-saving) decision.

Of course, you can ignore all of this and just go glamping. Sheepskin slippers and satellite TV in the middle of nowhere sound pretty good to us, too.

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Food & Travel

Shedding the Stress of College Life

college life

The semester is over. It is time for a little rest and relaxation. You have worked hard all semester, and now you deserve a much needed break. There is nothing more disappointing than waiting for the moment when you will be able to get away for a while and realize you have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Most of your friends have already taken off out of state. Some of them even decided to take a NY to DC bus for the fun of it.

They invited you to tag along, but you really did not want to go to the Big Apple this time around. Your thoughts focused on some place a little less crowded. Some place like a nice secluded beach in Florida. Your Uncle, who lives in Tarpon, has often invited you to come down when you had a little free time to spare. You had always said you would like to go, but maybe now is the time to finally get away from it all for a week or so.

Hitting the Beaches of Florida

Sometimes the best way for a hard working college student to unload their stress is to get as far away from campus as they possibly can for a while. A change of scenery will truly help your mind to forget about deadlines and final exams. For a lot of college students, Florida has become a common choice for indulging in a little in between semesters vacation. While in Tarpon visiting your uncle, you actually are within driving distance from a few fairly nice beaches.

For starters, Fred Howard Park is a local attraction which gives you access to a popular local beach. It may be crowded on the weekends, but it is often not so busy during the week. Clearwater and St. Petersburg are also known for their beaches, because these are popular stops for the Spring break crowds. However, if you really want a nice beach experience, the beach at Sand Key Island is one of the nicest beaches in the area. It is usually not overly packed, since most of the tourists do not even know it exists. But, if a college student is looking to relax on vacation, then that is the beach to visit for sure.

Losing Stress In Tarpon

Though spending time on the beach is fun, there is more to spending your college vacation in Tarpon than simply catching the waves. If you enjoy village style shopping, while soaking up the local Greek culture, it can be loads of fun poking around in the Greek village with the other tourists on vacation.

There are lots of places to eat around the Sponge Docks. There are also a few shops where you will even be able to buy a souvenir. If you really want to unwind, there is ample opportunity for you to head out on the waves to spend the day deep sea fishing. According to Yelp, Tarpon is alive at night with a lot of local hot spots, such as the Tarpon Tavern, Zorbas Lounge, and the ever famous Wine At The Docks, where you can find the right wine for that special evening out.

After letting go of your stress in Florida for a week or so, you might decide to transfer to USF.

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Food & Travel

Why College Students Are Now Traveling More Than Ever

travel student

College is the perfect time to travel. At least, it seems that way from the huge amounts of students who do it every year. Some of them just take road trips and explore the country on their summer breaks. Others enroll in study-abroad programs and spend entire semesters in other countries. Why are students traveling as part of the modern college experience?

travel student

Learning from the World

As The Huffington Post indicates, there are many things that traveling can teach you that you will never learn in college. For instance, it can push you out of your comfort zone, showing you just how big the world is and how many options and opportunities you really have. You can never truly grasp that if you just stay in your college town and never get out.

The Internet Makes It Easy

Another reason why college students are now traveling so much is because the Internet has made it easier to travel in the last decade than it was in the past. There is so much day-to-day information that can help on a trip. Many college students will use online sites to track store hours and locations so that they can know where to go even when they are in a new town or a new country. For example, they may check out the listings that are found on HoursMap, which can be searched based on addresses, zip codes or type of store.

It Provides Opportunities to Create

Many college students are very creative and energetic, and they want to use these abilities and this energy in any way that they can. Travel often gives them the chance that they may not find in the working world after they graduate because of job constraints. This is their chance to get out and do something that they love, creating something interesting and engaging along the way. For example, these girls are traveling to all 50 states in the US, and they are going to do it in just 50 days. While they do it, they are filming a documentary that they can use both to remember the trip and to show other people what they can get out of traveling.

Travel Can Be Cheap

Finally, this may be one of the only times in a person’s life when they can travel inexpensively. A lone college student has to pay far less in airfare than a woman with a husband and three children. College students can also use sites like StudentUniverse for great deals on airfare and lodging. At the same time, college students will often make use of cheap options that most people would not pick with their families, like staying in hostels with communal sleeping areas. These places can be as cheap as $20 per night. Hotels often cost at least five times as much. Often, a student will be able to pick up a temporary job in a foreign country if finances get tight.

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Food & Travel

Was Spring Break a Drag? Try One of These Unforgettable Trips Next Year

spring break

spring break

Was spring break not all you’d hoped this year? Plan ahead for next year so you aren’t disappointed again.

No matter what you’re looking to get out of your spring vacation, there are plenty of options. For some, the best way to wind down after midterms is by dipping their feet in the sand of a beautiful beach. For others, spring break should be adventure you’ll remember the rest of your life.

Whatever you’re looking for, here are some great spring break destinations that other college kids have flocked to.

Las Vegas

Vegas has always been a top spring break destination. That may be because when college kids turn 21 during the school year, the best way to celebrate legal drinking is with a trip to Vegas.

But beyond that, Vegas has activities to occupy many days, which makes it great for a week of spring break. Vegas hosts plenty of casinos, shows, and more, so it’s a great option for students who are looking for a variety of things to do.

South Padre Island

South Padre Island is located in Texas, which means great spring break weather. South Padre also has a great downtown area with plenty of bars and clubs located right across the street from the beach.

You can stumble your way back to your hotel or condo right in the heart of downtown after a night of pleasure. South Padre is about as far south as you can get in the U.S., and it’s a great option for students looking to party.

Cancun

If you’re thinking of leaving the country and heading to Mexico, Cancun offers plenty of fantastic options for spring breakers. It has plenty of resort-style locations, which makes it easy for students to enjoy all the amenities while on vacation — without having to venture far from your hotel.

Plus, Cancun can be relatively cheap when you convert money, which means it’s a good option for people on a budget. Finally, Cancun isn’t in the U.S., so you can head back to class after spring break and tell everyone how cultured you are now that you’ve been outside the country.

The Smoky Mountains

If you’re looking for a more laid-back vacation where you aren’t surrounded by parties and clubs, then try the Smoky Mountains. This region offers an alternative for spring break that’s just as memorable. You can stay in a national park, which gives you the option to see plenty of wildlife and explore during the day.

At night, you’ll see the sky light up with stars and meteors that you probably don’t see if you’re normally in the city. The Smoky Mountains may not be the first spring break destination that comes to mind, but you won’t regret it if you go.

You can have a memorable spring break no matter where you go. But the places on this list will be sure to give you memories you’ll never forget and help you relax until you get back to school.

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Food & Travel

Your Travel Options in the 21st Century

no thumb

Travel is a fantastic way to take your vacation. There are many great options for traveling in the current century, whether for a married couple looking forward to a passionate anniversary on a cruise, or a family headed to a famous theme park for a week of fun.

But before you go, here are some of the things you should consider before going on a travel excursion.

Luggage matters

Some people still think that all you need in terms of luggage is to retrieve an old suitcase from the closet and stuff it. Others like to go to a garage sale, thrift store, or discount store in order to find something cheap and inexpensive.

While these approaches can save you a little money, the temporary savings make cost you dearly later on. The fact of the matter is that good strong luggage is the best way to take clothing and personal items on a trip. If a suitcase is damaged before your trip, it can turn a happy excursion into a disaster when the case tears open completely.

There’s luggage available today that includes a wide variety of sizes and shapes that are ideal for any travel. A newly married couple will want to take less luggage then a couple with five children, obviously. Having the right luggage can prevent unplanned problems from occurring.

Finally, if you’re carrying high-quality luggage, that can give you and your companions a great look that will impress others, from fellow sightseers to service people.

A good working camera

Taking pictures with a camera has never been easier. Digital cameras have never been more versatile. It certainly beats the old days when film was necessary to take a picture.

At the same time, it’s important to have a decent camera when you’re traveling around the country or the world. Incredible moments happen every day while you’re enjoying a travel excursion. To ensure these moments are captured for all time, you’ll want to have a quality camera that takes great pictures.

Nowadays a photograph can be emailed, printed, downloaded, or put posted on the Internet almost immediately. While these ideas are great, keep in mind that lots of other people will be able to see and even capture these photos. One of the top commercial photographic image companies, Getty, has had to deal with this problem.

The skies are friendly

Whenever a tragedy or mystery occurs in the air, people get quite concerned. The reality is that flying is very safe. You’re safer flying than you are driving your car from home to work.

Governments across the world have sought to keep flying a pleasurable experience that’s also incredibly safe. Mechanics and engineers spend countless hours to ensure that planes are safe and secure. This enables people to overcome their doubts about flying.

Being prepared for traveling can make a trip quite enjoyable. It’s important to have a terrific suitcase, and a camera that works dependably and well when needed. Knowledge about the friendly skies helps as well, since getting to your destination is part of the thrill.

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Food & Travel

Is Fido Safe in the Car? Study Tackles Car Harness Safety

dog

What’s more joyful than the sight of a dog hanging his head out of a car window? Tongue lolling and eyes squinting against the breeze, Fido is in a paradise of sights and smells.

These days, people want to make sure their furry best friend is as safe in the car as he is happy. In-car restraints for dogs are becoming popular as safety awareness grows in importance, but do they work?

The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) partnered up with Subaru to find out. The results of their inquiry suggest that we have a long way to go to guarantee a safe ride for Fido.

Safety standards for traveling pups

In a mere 30-mph collision, a 60-pound dog can turn into a 2700-pound projectile. Several international campaigns are bringing increased attention to canine car safety, and many dog owners are turning to third-party harnesses to secure their dog while traveling.

Unfortunately, there are no regulated safety standards for such harnesses. Most companies use child safety seat guidelines for their products, but few have the resources to perform extensive testing.

Crash test dummies for dogs?

CPS and Subaru proposed to test 11 car harnesses for dogs. In the first round, they tested the harnesses to see if they were strong enough to hold up during a crash at all. Only seven harnesses were strong enough to move on to the second round.

Round two was a basic crash test. They used dummies that mimicked a 25-pound terrier mix, a 45-pound Border Collie, and a 75-pound Golden Retriever. They put the dummy dogs through a standard 30-mph crash and used the same guidelines applied to child safety seats to interpret the results.

The results? A drumroll please …

Out of seven harnesses, six had major design or construction flaws or underwent what researchers called “catastrophic failures.” With those six, either the dog, the driver, or both would likely suffer injury in the case of a crash.

The remaining harness, the Sleepypod ClickIt Utility, was the top (and only full adequate) performer. While it aced all the study’s tests, it fails the unofficial consumer friendliness test.

Online reviews are mixed, with many reporting it’s difficult to get on and off, does not fit all dogs properly, and doesn’t have the best customer support to back it up. Manufacturers still have a long way to go before they perfect a design.

What you can do

These results don’t have to spell the end of adventuring with your dog. A few brands are altering their harness design based on the test results. Sleepypod has commissioned CPS to do further testing as it tweaks the product.

You can also secure a padded crate to your back seat or cargo area. While not at good as a perfect harness, it’s better for your animal than no restraint at all.

As the demand for safer canine restraints rises, we’re certain to see better safety options in after-market restraints and perhaps even in cars themselves. Traveling with your dog could become relatively worry-free in the near future.

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Food & Travel

5 Smart Tips About How and Where to Eat in Austin

tcs austin food

The local flavor and atmosphere in Austin is unlike anywhere else in Texas. You simply cannot skip the food scene the next time you are in this city. One of the best clues to the nature of the capital of Texas is that its unofficial motto is to keep the city weird.

It’s a diverse city — the fourth largest in the state — and the locals like the rest of the world to know that this is one city that isn’t afraid to think outside the box. The food scene makes that clear. Read on to learn about five of the most important tips regarding your Austin dining experience.

1. Good pizza isn’t hard to find

One of the biggest challenges facing the Austin food scene has long been the absence of truly great pizza. In recent years, however, the opening of Bufalina’s Pizza has introduced this eclectic city to amazing hot pies.

Using a simple menu that consists of five Italian pizza recipes, and simple but decadent appetizers and salads, there’s nothing fancy or flashy about this Austin pizzeria. But the fact that you won’t see an empty seat in the house no matter when you show up speaks highly of the fact that making time to eat pizza here is one of the best dining tips you’ll get.

2. Food trucks are hot

One of the biggest trends in dining to hit Austin has been the growing number of food trucks around the city. One tip you’ll need when traveling to the capital is that if you see a food truck, stop for a bite.

You’ll find food trucks in Austin to suit every palate, from sophisticated and vegan to hardcore meat lovers and ethnic choices you might never have encountered before. Grab a seat in the park or on a bench, because you’ll need to sit down for this meal.

3. BBQ is always king

You can’t come to Austin without a stop for BBQ, which is, after all, king in Texas. The best advice you’ll get when it comes to finding the best BBQ in the city is to head straight for the Pit BBQ. Wear your casual clothes and come hungry.

After an encounter with authentic down-home cooking and real Texas BBQ, you’ll leave wondering if it’s possible your pants could get any tighter. Real Texas BBQ is hard to find anywhere else in the country, and the people in Austin know how much the rest of the world wants a piece of it.

4. Tradition wins every time

Here’s a tip: When you’re eating in Austin, an authentic Texas-style meal is something you have to try. No matter what your personal taste, a visit to the Frisco is in order. It’s your run-of-the-mill greasy spoon restaurant with a real Texas menu and even a waitress that’s been on staff longer than your mother has been alive.

5. Party time

You might plan on hosting a party in Texas, and that means you’ll need to know what to serve and how to make the party interesting. Real southern food is always a plus; hiring food trucks to come sit in your driveway is another popular approach these days.

What really makes a party memorable, however, is a great band. The best party bands are the ones that can cover the songs everyone knows while getting them on their feet and on the dance floor.

Austin is a city with a great deal of diversity. What this means is that you can’t come here and expect upscale, high-end restaurants for every meal. When you come to Austin, prepare for casual meals, down-home cooking, and traditional Texas favorites.

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