When a Texan plans a vacation away from Texas

This week I’m short on Texas topics because the last week was spent out of the state and now we are planning for another trip out of state.  This time to Cali!    It’s exciting!  I’ve always wanted to go to Cali.  This will be our first time to Los Angeles and the immediate fam is going!

Part of the fun is to plan the adventure!  In our small circle we have some very diverse interests.  My husband loves history, movies and sports.  My son loves sports!!!  And my daughter loves shoping and the boehemian/hipster/hippie vibe.  And I love nature (beaches, mountain hiking, anything active and outdoors).  So this makes it a bit of a challenge.  The entire trip was planned based on an invite to DreamWorks for my son who is interested in filming and editing.  I am so glad we are able to take the opportunity to be able to 1. go and 2. incorporate that invite into a family vacation.  We are going to squeeze a lot into a 3 night stay. (basically a long weekend).  It’s tough to line up schedules even for that.

It’s good that we are ok with splitting up.  My husband and son are going to DreamWorks and will probably fit in Hollywood before going to the Dodgers game.  So we are going to stay in Burbank for one night.   My daughter and I are going to visit Hollywood and Beverly Hills before heading out to Malibu and then onto Venice beach where we will all meet up again for a stay on the beach.  We still don’t have the itinerary completely planned.  We do know where we are staying and have booked travel.  So far so good!  My daughter is going to map out some places to eat which she really enjoys doing.

Despite my father’s warning of staying in non chain hotels, we are staying at two boutique hotels.  I like the chain hotels ok, but every once in a while it’s really cool to stay somewhere different.  I do rely on tripadvisor for advice and participate in providing feedback as well.  If it weren’t for the internet and these types of websites, how would you ever never know about some truly fantasic experiences?   The Burbank hotel was recommended by someone local and I checked it out on the same websites to be sure it was the one.   Googlemaps is really helpful too!  You can see how far everything is (with traffic) and can drop in on the street to check out what it looks like in the neighborhood before ever going!

I’m a bit of a planner.  This is so you can at least hit all of the places that are a must.  It’s good to leave some free time for spontaneity, however when I go on vacation it’s go, go, go!  There is not a moment to be missed!  As long as you incorporate breaks for rest and something that will be interesting to everyone, it should work out.




When a Texan plans a vacation away from Texas

Tribute to Dad

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dad’s today!  I’m grateful that I am spending time with my father this Father’s day.  We are separated by distance but we keep in touch quite often. My father is an amazing person.  He has been my mother’s care giver for years.  I rarely see that kind of dedication.  Coming from an era where women had specific jobs and men had different ones within a household, he adapted to doing double duty and has dedicated his life to the care of my mother with little complaint.  He is quite an amazing cook too!  I admire his loyality and  comittment to marriage.  He is one person you can count on and when he gives you his word, he will absolutely follow through.  And he has always been a positive person, this is tough to keep up in the face of the constant crisis of my mother’s medical emergencies.  And he is completely unselfish.

Not being near to help him out is hard.  I completely understand why he doesn’t want to leave Florida.  He has always wanted to live in the carribean and south Florida is about as close as you can get when you need to be nearby good medical care.  He loves sports (football) and contributes to and supports the university.  His challenge is to do the things he likes with my mother’s need for handicap accomodations.  Your world really changes when you need to incorporate planning a day with the handicapped.  The sacrifice in giving up his love for travel and adventure is sad, however when you want to do things with your partner and your partner isn’t able to do it, it is a matter of acceptance.  He is very appreciative for getting out there and doing as much as he could with my mom when they were able.  It completely makes sense to have dreams of winning the lottery to get a custom van to accomodate restroom breaks so you can travel!  That and using the money to invest in a robot company that can help with chores and transfers!

I am very fortunate to have my dad!  So here is to my dad…

F-un loving

A-lien believer

T-echnology lover

H-ighly intelligent

E-nthusiast of football

R-ole model

For father’s day I wrapped the gifts that he bought himself…funny!  He wanted some cooking pans.  I’m not so great with coming up with gift ideas, however I am definitely an act of service kind of person.  I would love to paint, clean, or do an electrical or plumbing project for a person any day. So this father’s day I will be installing a small lighting system for the office.  And we are having dinner at one of my dad’s favorite restaurants … Prime Catch! ❤


fathers day


Tribute to Dad

Nacogdoches Blueberry Festival

How can you pass up a weekend with your daughter who wants to venture to a small Texas town to partake in a blueberry festival?    This young adult really planned well!  I didn’t realize that Nacogdoches is home to Stephen F. Austin State University!    It’s just under a three hour drive from Houston.  We stayed in a well maintained, up to date Super 8…who would have thought?  I mean the hotel was extremely clean, staff friendly, cheap and close!   After checking in we decided to check out the town.  She Yelps everything so she found this really awesome restaurant called Macklemore’s “MaKs” that specializes in fried mac in cheese balls.  I don’t particularly like that kind of thing, but I tried it and it was pretty good.  I really love the rustic style building.  It was very nice inside.  There are lots of college students (even in the summer) working around the town.



After dinner we scoped out Main Street.  Nacogdoches is purported as the oldest town in Texas.  The streets were blocked off in preparation for the festival.  It was eerily vacant.  A bluegrass concert was playing in the park adjacent to Main street.  So we walked over there to see people in lawn chairs listening to the music.  Plenty of people exchanged a pleasant “Howdy”!

We decided to get up bright and early to make sure we would be able to have blueberry pancakes and get a shuttle ride for blueberry picking (the only way you are allowed into the farm) .  I’m such an early riser and most young adults I would guess are not!  It’s true what they say though about the early bird!  We were able to get pancakes and get a slot for a 9am shuttle ride.

The ride was short and the farm was so cool (basically in the woods/forest)!  The blueberries are on bushes that are at least a couple of feet over my head.  We got there just as it turned warm.  Blueberry picking is nice because the bushes have no thorns!  Why is it that blackberry bushes have thorns?   We spent about 40 minutes picking and then you weigh your berries and on the honor system pay for them.  We picked 3lbs for $8!  While you are picking you hear conversations and meet other people.  I talked to a couple that retired nearby in Texas from Wisconsin.   And sat on the shuttle next to someone who seemed like a super smart Leonard from Big Bang Theory.



blueberryfieldsWe went back to the town and had some catfish and shrimp (It was called Clear Spring and it sat next to a creek that was definitely clear) for lunch that was AWESOME!!!  We browsed around at some of the antique and clothing shops.  I thought it was so cool that my daughter picked up some conversations with the student helpers to find out what they were studying and what they thought about living in Nacogdoches.  There were kids from out of state and some from bigger Texas cities.  They all said there was not much to do in the town for leisure.  It pretty much sealed the deal for my daughter to confirm she is more of an urbanite.

On the way back we stopped in another tiny town (Corrigan) and picked up a watermelon and a Mexican folk art flying pig.  On the side of the road in the old abandoned gas station where the farm produce was sold, we were quizzing the lady about where the produce was grown and she was struggling with our questions.  We thought she might be reselling produce from the local super market…funny!   ❤  …perfect!







Nacogdoches Blueberry Festival

Active weekends in Texas

Well this adventure of training for the upcoming triathlon has opened my eyes of things to do for leisure and a great way to see Texas!

So in doing research  for a road bike that would work for both a triathlon and the MS150 I discovered cycling groups.  Tru-Tri sports sells things related to triathlons and has a group of people that meet up for that, however they didn’t carry the only bike brand I know, Cannondale.  In searching for a Cannondale shop, I was pleasantly surprised!  There is one close by and they have a cycle group.   You can do women’s only and mixed cycling.  The family is not exactly thrilled with me doing another activity, but it would be great if they participated too.  The group plans rides and they even have a trailer to transport your bike. June rides include Waxahachie, Italy, Dublin, Gatesville, Fayetteveille, and Graham TX. All new places for me.   Joining a cycling group has some benefits for race training as well. They teach how to ride in a group and “Time Trial Training”.  (which is just a way to get stronger  at cycling)

So for being a novice at triathlon training, I decided to make sure I practice all 12 weeks prior to the race.  What better way to keep fit for the summer?  Next, I figure a point of reference for my age group for race times in each of the categories would be good to know.  I looked it up and found one lady I know is about my age and finished last year with a

1/4 mile swim: 15 min

12 mile bike: 36 min

3 mile run: 31 min

overall 1hr and 27min she was 4th.  

Number 1 had a time of 1hr and 10min.   My friend’s time will be work to achieve and the #1 placer has a swim and run time that I feel after running for years is not realistic for me.  At this point I am not going to be a professional athlete. I want to push myself but I don’t see the point of pushing too far.

The 1/4 mile swim, I discovered, in our community pool is 18 laps!!!  That is a lot!  I’ve played around with this after a few times and have found a swim cap is necessary to get the hair out of the way. Next goggles…really helps!!!  And finally recognizing that you don’t have to swim free style.  Of course it’s faster, however I just can’t get the breathing cadence.  So maybe by the end of the 12 weeks that will happen.  For now, my first try was 12 min 30 seconds with a lot of breast stroke!  The swim won’t be in a pool, fortunately that doesn’t bother me 😉


I purchased a Sigma bike odometer ($19) to see how fast I go. It was really interesting installing it and setting the measurements for accuracy.  My current Cannondale mountain bike with road tires tops out at 18 mph, pushing it on average is more like 16mph.  A new bike will help me about 7 minutes over 12 miles.  So I guess it’s not completely necessary. However, I discovered it is quite overwhelming the difference in price and manufacturer options.   How do you tell the difference between a $5K bike and a $500 bike? Which brand is better? I will say if you have a brand that you like, why not stick with it?  And it can’t hurt that if the local bike shop carries it, they probably work on them too.  And if you don’t know enough about the components that make it pricey, you probably don’t need to spend extra money on it!  So with that said, I got a lesson on some basic features and got fitted.  Here is the one I’m considering…It’s not a triathlon bike, however it will do fine and is great if I get into cycling on road trips.  I can see that happening!  Cycling is a great cardio no impact activity! Nice on your joints!



Active weekends in Texas

Wildtree – Get your grill on results…

What I liked about the Wildtree Get Your Grill On Work shop the most was the fact that I had 2 full chicken“work” weeks of meals planned for the family.  They were easy to prep.  It took me a little getting used to pulling the meal out of the freezer, but I caught on quick.  The family enjoyed rating the meals.  I’m like really?  It seemed a little too easy for them to sit back and rate them when I did all of the work.  I’m glad they enjoyed it!  I didn’t get pictures of everything, but I will share some feedback.

Meal 1: Asian chicken skewers.  They rated it a 7, however of all the meals my family said it was on the bland side.  The reason is probably because they wouldn’t eat the peppers with it!  I served rice with it.

Meal 2: Steaks with the blue cheese “crown”.  The steaks themselves got an 8.  However I think they scraped the crown off.  I’m not sure why that didn’t work out.  My crowns looked weird (maybe it was me?).  I didn’t get a picture of that one.

Meal 3: was the Herb grilled shrimp skewers with angel hair pasta.  This was so simple to make and it got a 7. shrimp

Meal 4: Rodeo blue cheese burgers.  Now, my husband says no burger gets higher than a 7 and this was a 6.7, so isn’t that almost a 10?  I would think it is.  Didn’t get the pic.

Meal 5: Agave BBQ ribs.  I have to say. This was the best.   The ribs fell off the bone.  I cooked them in the crock pot all day and then transferred them to the grill and basted them with the sauce to give it that sticky texture.  It was so important to get exactly the ribsmeat specified, country ribs.  I had a little bone on mine.   We served it with beans and potato salad.  Yumm.
Meal 6: Rodeo chicken.  This was my favorite chicken.  The first night we served it with potatoes lyonnaise.  Then out of the left overs, I made a chicken bacon wrap that was very good.  Wish I took the pic.

Meal 7: Asian beef tips.  Now this was down right yummy.  I used stew meat, so I basted the meat with the sauce on the grill and then added the extra sauce (from the jar) as dipping sauce.  Stew meat is a little on the chewy side.  Superb! beef tips

Meal 8: Herb grilled chicken with fire roasted veggies.  So I skewered this.  I don’t know what it is with me but I like skewering the meat. I added cherry tomatoes because they make it pretty 😉  I served it with pasta.  The meat had really good flavor.  With the final two meals I need to make modifications.


Meal 9: Turkey sliders..change up.  Ground turkey needs A LOT of seasoning to taste good.  I made empanadas instead of the sliders and added Sofrito sauce and potatoes.  It’s work but I think it’s worth it.turkey

Meal 10, grilled fish. My family doesn’t like grilled fish.  With that in mind, I’ve learned where to draw the line on forcing the issue.  I am going to use the fish (catfish) that I seasoned and make some of the fish blackened and the rest fried.

I like the idea of improvising.  Meats are versatile.  I accomplished getting my grill on, having meals prepped and tried a few new things.

Wildtree – Get your grill on results…