Book Musings and Sale – Conroe TX

Having been raised in the Uinited States, I can understand how British literature and fiction can be difficult for some American born readers. There’s enough difference in style and syntax to drive a mind sideways. if you haven’t practiced at it, you may get bored and put the book down and walk away. Such heresy!

“But I’ve read the Harry Potter books!” you might say. In all liklihood, you’ve read a version edited for an American reading population. yes, they do that. Publishers want YOU, the audience, to by their books and they figure you won’t do it if the text bores you to tears.

How does this issue get fixed? Either an editor takes a manuscript in hand, you you the reader learn to read for yourself. I decided as a child that I was missing out on things and learned to read Chaucer and Shakespeare in the Queen’s English before in American English, quite stubbornly. I even worked my way into the Middle English on my own.

How many people bother with that in this day and age of mass marketed, easy to assimilate, romance novel pap who are not seeking higher education at university?

Try a book sale that handles gently used and new books, many of which come from area estate sales. It’s amazing the number of treasures that are hidden away in the boxes of offerings at one of these events.

The Library Friends of Conroe is a volunteer organization benefiting the Montgomery County Library System. Among the many projects they organize and run, they host a twice yearly Book Sale at the Central Library in Conroe, Texas. All of the books, dvds, VHS tapes, puzzles, music cds and other goodies available at the Book Sale have been donated by members of the community in the hopes that they will recirculate and bring needed funds to the Library.

If you have never been to one of the extravaganzas, it is an experience. There are three large rooms and an entire hallway filled with tables that are covered in books of all types. I have been able to find the most remarkable cookbooks dating back into the 40’s at these tables, and am always willing to go back and check for more.

Beginning on Thursday, October 5th, from 4:30pm to 8:00pm, is First Choice Night. There is no entry free and everyone is welcome. This is the first view of the items for sale and your chance not only to preview, but to make some awesome purchases for your own reading enjoyment and edification.

Also Thursday evening, a silent auction of themed baskets and books will begin at 4:30pm and run through Friday at 4:00pm.

Continuing on Friday, October 6th, 9:00am to 4:30pm, and Saturday, October 7th, 9:00am to 3:00pm, the sale continues in all sale areas.

The famous $2 Bag Sale is on Saturday from 9:00am to 12:30pm in the large meeting room only. The Library Friends will provide you with a bag that you are allowed to pile as many books into as you wish – for only $2. All other areas remain at regular price.

Join us at 104 I-45 North, Conroe, Texas 77301, October 6-8, for a Texas-sized Book Sale! Remember, however, it’s cash or check payment only – no credit or debit cards at this time.

If you happen to miss the Fall Book Sale this year, remember that here is another one in the Spring, and Vicki’s Book Nook at the Central Library which is open whenever the library is.

For more information, please call 936-788-3888 or email You may also visit the MCLS website.

Clean and gently used donations are accepted all year at the  Book Nook at the Central Library.

–Ann Cathey

China Delight – Conroe TX

China Delight is delightfully not a buffet! Everything is cooked to order, not sitting around in vats awaiting your attention. In this world of fast-food-this and on-hand-that, sitting down to some freshly made Americanized Chinese food is both charming and relaxing.

The portions are large enough for one really hungry person, or for two to share. You might also order three or four things and table them family style. All of the usual favorites are on the menu, such as fried rice, sweet and sour dishes, chow mien and lo mien. Recognizable names like Kung Pau, General Tso’s, Happy Family, and Po Po are all present, as well as some combinations one might not expect.

For our first real visit (some of us have had their take-away before), we settled for some old standby’s to give us an idea of what the kitchen would produce for us. We were not disappointed.


Shrimp Fried Rice


Almond Chicken


General Tso’s Chicken

On the 1-5 scale, China Delight has earned:
Cleanliness – 3
Service – 3
Quality of food – 4
Flavor – 4.5
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 3.5

China Delight
1108 A North Loop 336 W
Conroe TX 77301

–Ann Cathey

Joe’s Italian Cuisine – Conroe, Texas

IMG_0359You probably wouldn’t give this place a second glance if you drove past it, but it’s an amazing discovery. Joe’s Pizza and Pasta in Conroe, Texas, is one of those places that was built out in an existing building, giving it a second-hand feel. IMG_0368


There’s an old gondola out front to help you find it, too. Inside it still has a bit of the economy feel, but there’s a comfort zone that draws you in. The smells that fill the place encourage you to take a seat, review the menu, and start to salivate in anticipation.

Our first visit to Joe’s was several years ago. they still had plastic table cloths and folding chairs in the main dining area. We had followed a friend there, and knowing nothing about Conroe at the time, though for sure we were getting lost. It’s actually pretty easy to find.

We decided Joe’s was a good candidate for this blog based solely on that first experience. It’s a good things we went back for lunch last week. the place has really changed inside. Dark, cozy and intimate are all good descriptions of the current Joe’s dining area. Rat Pack era music wafted down from hidden speakers as a nice undercurrent of sound for the conversations that abounded.

IMG_0366We were seated in the back area, that now includes a secluded little corner with a romantic fireplace. The waitress was friendly, even with the busy lunch crowd. She made sure we had our drinks and a basket of garlic rolls as quickly as possible. She wasn’t pushy about taking our order, either. That’s always a plus for us as we like to peruse the menu and take our time.

Let’s start with the menu. It may look a little spare at first glance (the wine list takes up as much space as the Homemade Pasta Dish portion) of the menu, but that’s because Joe’s is an Italian place through and through. There are chicken, veal and shrimp dishes served with a variety of pasta styles including spaghetti, angel hair, ravioli, cannelloni and penne.

The brick oven New York style pizzas take up a large portion of the menu. They are available in 14″, 16″ and a whopping 18″ pie. You might feel the topping options are limited, but in truth they are about as traditional as pizza gets. The portions are large, even on the lunch menu. We didn’t order a pizza this trip, but we will try to squeeze on in soon and report back on it, with pictures.

Everything on the menu seems to be right out of one section or another of old Italy, with a very Sicilian feel and flavor. Tomatoes and spices are prevalent, but not exclusively used. The red sauces are very red, the cream sauce very creamy, and everything is a shade more intense without being overpowering.

IMG_0362The first item to hit the table was a basket of the house rolls. While they seem to be nothing more than fancied up pizza dough, let me assure you that the pizza dough here is more than adequate to the job. The rolls are allowed to rise to heights, then droned in a mixture of butter, garlic, and cheese. The look good and taste much better. The spicing allows them to accompany most of the menu items without clashing.


IMG_0361Both myself and my dining partner found it difficult to leave the rolls alone long enough to actually save some to eat with lunch!

The lunch menu is indeed small. It’s a header announcing Lunch Specials for $6.95 (at the time of that visit), and two lines of standard items including chicken or eggplant Parmesan, cannelloni, manicotti, and spaghetti with or without meatballs. We chose the chicken parmesan and manicotti.

The green salad served with lunch is a typical iceburg/carrot sliver/purple cabbage mix. tI as fresh with no cooler burn and included a topper of grated mozzarella on top.

IMG_0363I chose the chicken Parmesan and was not disappointed. The chicken breast was breaded, and took up half of my plate. It and the pasta were then doused in red sauce and topped with plenty of mozzarella. The chicken was tender and the pasta al dente. Neither arrived at the table with the overcooked-because-it-sat-under-a-heat-lamp feel.


IMG_0364My lunch partner chose the manicotti. He is a bit of a connoisseur of manicotti, it being his favorite Italian dish. He approved of the dish and wished there had been more of it. He proclaimed it delicious. The red sauce on his dish, while appearing to be exactly the same as on the chicken, had a sweeter flavor. The al dente shells were stuffed with a marvelous mix of cheeses, creamy and spiced just right. Overall an excellent balance spicing and cheese to sauce flavor ratio.

Joe’s menu is not a way to get skinny, but when you make the best Italian comfort food in Conroe, who cares?

Joe’s Pizza and Pasta is located at 1604 N. Frasier in Conroe, Texas, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am until 10pm. They offer dine in- take away and catering for all occasions.

IMG_0367On the 1-5 scale, Joe’s gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 4
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.5

— Ann Cathey
Photos by Christopher (or taken with his phone)

Opt to Adopt – Overcrowding Kills

Rescued kitten we are now calling "Muffin". She needs a good home. Any volunteers?

Rescued kitten we are now calling “Muffin”. She needs a good home. Any volunteers?

We had a need to visit the Montgomery County Animal Shelter on FM242 today.


Sadly it was to drop off a rescued kitten (half-grown) who had been picked up from behind a trash compactor behind a restaurant. We have a surfeit of rescued pets at home already, and didn’t want to add to their stress with a new resident cat.


When we saw the notice below, there was a change of heart.

Euthanasia Warning

Euthanasia Warning

We checked with the receptionist to find that the shelter is hosting 725 animals, as of right then. There were people in looking to adopt a new companion, but they were few this morning. There are kittens of various ages being kenneled in the reception area and halls because the shelter is so full.

So Many Kittens...

So Many Kittens…




A “recycled” pet may not have a pedigree, but if you are looking for unconditional love, does that really matter?


A shelter pet may even seem expensive. When you factor in the cost not only of intake, bathing, feeding, de-fleaing, and upkeep while the animal is being kept at the shelter, but of the shots, de-worming, veterinary exams, and spay/neuter, that companion animal is a veritable bargain.

Chelsea (Siamese Blue Eyes)

Chelsea (Siamese Blue Eyes) – longhaired Rag Doll mix


Remi – female short hair

DSC_0285 Play Room

Kitty Play-Room








There are two feline play-rooms where you can meet several cats all at the same time. These cats are proven to get along with other cats as is borne out by their presence in the kitty play-rooms.




Canine Play Area Out Front

Canine Play Area Out Front

For the dogs and puppies, not only are there the indoor kennels, but a lot of outdoor kennels available to peruse through as well. Most dogs are allowed to be taken out on a leash to the large runs so that you may play with them and get a feel for their character.



Not every shelter does this, but MCAS hosts the Diamonds in Ruff program offering dogs and Purrls for cats who have been at the shelter for more than 60 days for a flat $25 adoption fee. There are even some who have been hosted over 80 days!

DSC_0279 Take Me Home

Please Take Me Home

This is one shelter who as no-kill as possible, but overcrowding often calls for desperate measures. When there is no room left in the kennels or foster homes, what else can be done? Please help those pets who have been abandoned, thrown away on the road, surrendered because they are too old, the new baby is allergic, or because that cute little puppy grew into a very large dog. It’s not the pet’s fault that humans are so fickle.

All of the cats featured in this article are currently available for adoption.
My apologies for not getting all of their names and ID codes.


O’Brian – male ginger tabby

MCAS is open for adoptions Monday through Friday from 10am until 5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Their adoption application is available online if you wish to print one and have it filled out in advance.

For more information, please go visit their website.


As a side note, all of the pets in my home and my daughter’s home are rescues or shelter animals. They include a batch of cats, a Siberian Husky, an Australian Shepherd, an American Bulldog, and an American Pitbull Terrier. Not all stays are mixed breeds.

— Ann Cathey

Raising Cain’s – Hammond, LA

Warhol style dedication to Raising Cane I.

Warhol style dedication to Raising Cane I.

The story is on the wall of how Raising Cain’s was formed and named. It’s rather humorous and involves a dog. This is one of those neat success stories where the guy who started it was told that a chicken finger place “just won’t work” by individuals and lending institutions who reviewed his business plan. Guess what, people – you were wrong!


We first encountered Raising Cain’s in Hammond, Louisiana. We were lucky enough to stumble over another location in the Woodlands, Texas, that upheld all the quality we experienced in Hammond. There is now a location open in Conroe, Texas, too. Each location has had some local flare, but overall the sense of humor and decor follow a distinctive pattern.


Raising Cane’s in Conroe, Texas.



The dining area in each location we have visited has been very open and airy. There’s a lot of red brick, light colored wood, and cutesy local stuff on the walls. Not so much as to be distracting; it’s just enough to be interesting.

Airplane propeller ceiling fans add to the cool temps and the ambiance.

Airplane propeller ceiling fans add to the cool temps and the ambiance.




A 6 Piece Meal

A 6 Piece Meal




The chicken – that’s all they serve is chicken tenders – is outstanding! The breading is light and crispy. The meat is consistently, across three locations, tender and never hard or dry. The fries are crinkle cut, but they are thin rather than thick. This gives them a lasting crunchy texture. The Texas toast is light and lovely, being a very soft bread that’s butter grilled to a crispy outer layer that accentuates the spices and textures of the chicken. The coleslaw is fresh and not pretentious – it’s green and purple cabbage, slivered carrots and a light sauce that doesn’t overpower the cabbagy goodness. It also has a hint of melon that accentuates the natural sweetness of the veggies.



IMG_0239While everything else on the menu is good, the sauce deserves it’s own paragraph. At first glance,it seems to be just another ketchup and ranch dressing concoction. Upon first taste, you will find this to be a gross underestimation. There is plenty of black pepper and cayenne, without being too much. Notably, there is a hint of curry underlying the general sauciness that can make you overlook all the other spices that have been included. No one flavor is strong enough to be overpowering. They all work together to delight the palate and bring together all the other flavors on your plate. It’s so good, it made me forget all about ketchup for my fries.

No leftovers here!

No leftovers here!

A friend of mine in Louisiana has been saddened that she is allergic to coconut, and there appears to be coconut in some form in the Raising Cain’s recipes. Whether it is oil in the sauce or ground coconut in the chicken batter, we do not know, and the employees cannot confirm or deny it for us. If you are allergic to coconut be aware. If you are not, go find a location and try them out!


IMG_0241If you are into supporting your favorite eateries by wearing their gear, Raising Cain’s is ready to oblige with an online store. They offer apparel, koozies, and the ever present gift cards. They do not, however, offer their sauce (yet) or the recipe!






On the 1-5 scale, Raising Cain’s gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5


Christopher – photo by Ann.

Ann - photo by Christopher

Ann – photo by Christopher



–Ann Cathey

Culver’s – The Woodlands, Texas

While I prefer to write about independent eateries, some chains just have to creep in and be talked about. One of those is Culver’s.

We have encountered this lovely, somewhat upscale burger joint in several locations, including Conroe and the Woodlands. They actually have locations in several US States. It is consistent across the board. The decor, the friendly employees, the frozen yogurt, the quality and flavor of their food – this place has it down. It offers a’la carte items, baskets, dinners, kids’ meals, snack packs, along with a nice variety of drinks and desserts.

Culver’s is the home of the “Butter Burger” and “Fresh Frozen Custard”. They are rightfully proud of their very tasty products. From the “Fried Cheese Curds” all the way across the menu, everything is fresh and delicious. They offer a Reuben sandwich, which can be hard to find outside of a deli. Their fries are thick and crinkle cut, offering a delectable crunch as well as a hearty potato flavor.

DSC_0157On our most recent visit, my partner-in-chow ordered the fish sandwich. They call it the North Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich. It also comes in a plate version. When first confronted by the sandwich, he wondered how he would get a bit of fish in each bite. it turns out that if you squash the sandwich like you would a tall hamburger that the crispy crust will crack and the meat will flatten out to fill the bun nicely. After that, it was a matter of biting, chewing, moaning, and swallowing, repeating as long as there was sandwich left to bite into. I took this is a favorable sign.

DSC_0159I was able to sneak in a bite before it was all gone. The fish itself has a very light, clean flavor. The breading has a nice crunch, offering a complimentary set of flavor.I may have to order that sandwich next time we are in just to have the pleasure of those flavors again.

Personally, I appreciate their Reuben sandwich a great deal. This is, for me, a comfort food. While not as magnificently built as the Reubens found in various delis, it is crammed full of flavor and of a satisfying size. If you think you want more out of your sandwich, the folks at Culver’s will happily double stuff the darned thing.

DSC_0160I mentioned that they do dinner size portions earlier. We had a few friends along with us and one of them ordered the fried chicken dinner. It comes with a load of chicken, a potato side (he chose fries), and a veggie side (he went for the green beans), and a dinner roll. These dinner plates include fried chicken, roast beef, fish, shrimp and chopped steak among the offerings.

DSC_0158The Culver’s website offers a plethora of information for diners, not just a menu and their locations. They list nutritional information, ingredients, and high on my list, an allergy warning.They also have information available on their sustainability practices for those who prefer an informed, responsible restaurant.

Excellent food and a hometown atmosphere will lead us back to Culver’s again and again. The more we run across it in our travels, the more delighted we are with it’s consistency and outstanding menu.

On the 1-5 scale, Culver’s gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5

-Ann Cathey

Leija’s Mexican Cafe – Cut-n-Shoot, Texas

Leija’s is a neat little place tucked away in the wilds of 105 on the east side of Conroe. Given that it is generally crowded with work trucks at lunch time, it promised to be tasty.

Leija’s is family owned and operated, giving it an atmosphere of caring – about the food, the service, and the customers – and not just another franchised operation where the wait staff gets stiffed all the time. It hasn’t been open long, just a few months, and already has my devotion.

Visitors are always set up with the obligatory chips and salsa selections. Be careful if you are capcasin sensitive. Both the red (tomato) and the green (tomatillo) salsas have some heat to them.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and Salsa

Last time we visited we ordered the nachos. My son has tried them and found them very pleasing, both to his tastebuds and his nose. This time it was our turn!

My partner and I order the beef and chicken nachos, respectively. As we have come to expect at Leija’s, the portions were definitely dinner sized. These nacho plates are meant to be shared.

Nachos Beef

Fajita Beef Nachos

Nachos Chicken

Fajita Chicken Nachos

Rather than having the additional salad goodies heaped on top and potentially making some of your chips soggy, they are served on a salad plate, You may partake or not, as you prefer.

Nachos Salad Plate

Salad Plate

They do not yet have a website to link to, but information other than what we tell you is available all over the web about this place. Here’s a sample with lots of info.

On the 1-5 scale, Leija’s gets:
Cleanliness – 4
Service – 4
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Low to Moderate
Overall experience – 4.5

-Ann Cathey
Photos by Christopher O.

Conroe Farmer’s Market – Conroe, Texas

Conroe, Texas may still be a pretty small town on the big city map, but it hides a lot of interesting things in its borders. One of those things is a Farmer’s Market. Rain or shine, hot or cold, all year round, local produce growers and other artisans gather every Saturday morning to share their wares with the public. They start setting up around 8 am and are ready to greet all comers by 9am.

The Conroe Farmers’ Market is currently located in the large parking lot behind the theater on Main and Collins under a series of pop-up sun-shades. The vendors offer an interesting variety of goods from locally grown organic fruits and veggies, pickles and preserves, hand-made soaps, and baked goods, to jewelry, and other treats that await those who venture out to visit this little known venue. Each Saturday brings different surprises!

The first time I visited the market in person, I found all the vendors to be friendly and helpful without being pushy. They were even welcoming to the potential for competition in their market niches. All the prices are reasonable considering that none of the goods are mass produced and the creators are generally on hand to answer questions and offer information about their products.

The folks at PEAS Farm were offering jalapenos and other peppers, sweet tomatillos, squash, tomatoes, and plenty of other organically grown veggies. They also had eggs, honey, and several varieties of peppers pickled, in salsa, and in sauces. Want to know if they have something available in advance? Contact them on Facebook. They are friendly and knowledgeable about everything they grow!

Creekwood Creations offers a wide selection of baked goods, from cookies and brownies to breads of all kinds. Marli is available for just a snack, or for corporate gatherings. Standard sugar and white flour are available, though the baker prefers natural ingredients. She is also available for low-carb and gluten free goodies. For more information, contact Marli at if you don’t catch her at the market.

The Black Bear Soap Company offers a lovely variety of scents and applications in their hand-made cold process soaps. They even make a shampoo bar just for dogs. All the ingredients are listed on the label for each bar – and you can easily pronounce every ingredient! They are located in Montgomery, Texas, and if you don’t catch these guys at the market, look them up at Black Bear Soap.

Off Your Rocker Jewelry, created by the lovely Nancy, offers a delightful selection of neck, ear and wrist adornments. All of the work is hand-made as befits the rules of the market. Many of the pieces were built around antique beads and findings, and is quite suitable for period re-enacting and steampunk wear. If you don’t see Nancy at the market, look for her on Etsy.

There are more vendors who come out on various weekends, but these are the lovely folks I was given the opportunity to meet and chat with. For advance information about which vendors will be out on a given Saturday, check them out on Facebook.

Come on out on any given Saturday morning to the Conroe Farmers Market and see for yourself some of the hidden treasures in this corner of Texas!

–Ann Cathey