Halloween when you are not a kid anymore

My family has always enjoyed Halloween.  It’s a fun time of the year.  There are parties, decorations, dress up and food!   And it seems like the holidays come fast once Halloween hits.  Around here because of the large Hispanic influence, the Day of the Dead is also celebrated.  It begins on November 1st this year and ends on November 2nd.  It’s a celebration of people that have passed.  The pumpkin is most always associated with Halloween as it would seem a candy skull is associated with the Day of the Dead.  These skulls are either edible or decorative.  I picked up a flower arrangement today, and had two choices.  An arrangement with a spider or one with the decorative skull.  I thought about the spider, even though festive, may not be a great choice for the table because of my family’s sensitivity to bugs….I’m serious!  So sugar skull it is…

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For some reason caramel apples have really sounded good lately.  I had a piece of one at a tennis match and now I am obsessed with the flavor.  You know what that means, yep on to Pinterest to find something cake, caramel and applely.   I found this punch cake recipe that is kind of cool in that it’s treated sort of like a tres leche (guess it’s cultural fusion this year!).   It’s a yellow cake mixed with apple pie filling and cinnamon.  You bake it then punch holes in and pour over a mixture of condensed milk and caramel topping.  Let that cool then sprinkle toffee pieces over it before layering cool whip and more toffee sprinkles.  It was good!  I’m going to serve it in little bite size squares in a cupcake wrapper.  (I’ve been around the tennis ladies enough to know they are not going to eat a whole piece).  Besides it’s so sweet that a bite is really enough.

I spent a Saturday with my daughter and really enjoyed it.  Running to appointments, then lunch in the Heights (inspired by the bike ride on Friday, the Onion Creek Cafe looked really cool… and it did not disappoint!)  then onto a search for a dress that will be incorporated into a Halloween costume for work.  She is going to be Eleven from the show Stranger Things.  I had never heard of this show, but definitely want to watch it now on Netflix.  Anyway, she found a dress online that was available in the store Forever 21 then she was going to make a Peter Pan collar.  Again more new things to me!  I helped with the collar, which was so much fun!

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So much has changed with my family.  I like where we are now, even though it has been really challenging getting here. Not a smooth ride and I wouldn’t change it.  Even though there were tears and heart ache and pure hell, we would not be the people we are without going through it.   And there is always room for improvement!   This seems to be a repeating theme that comes back in different eras of life.   It has really been important to remain teachable.

Halloween is on a Monday, can’t wait to see the little trick or treaters come to the door! I’m always grateful and appreciate the good stuff!

 

 

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Halloween when you are not a kid anymore

Critical Mass Houston

Critical Mass is a bike event held on the last Friday of each month.  With the weather as fabulous as it is, this is one event I did not want to miss.  I found it during my research of cycling groups to prepare for the MS150.  And since we are so close to Halloween, many dressed up.  The event starts at Market Square Park in downtown Houston.  It’s a great spot for night life.  There is an outdoor restaurant as well as a street lined with old buildings and really cool city restaurants.  Sometimes other events are held there like blanket bingo.    There was well over 1000 people that showed up for this event.  To find parking was difficult, I used a garage not far by in the theater district.  Not knowing what to expect, the first thing I saw was a solo slender man in a slim fit business suit riding a bike all lit up (the wheels especially) and trailing a bike trailer (also lit up) that carried a modern boom box blasting dance music.  This set the tone for what kind of event this was.  There were all kinds of people there, mostly young, but older people too.  There was a girl with the cutest puppy on her back in a backpack.  I tried to take a pic but it came out blurry.  We rolled out at a little later than 7:30PM.  One lady told me the path changes every month and is never announced before hand, and it’s usually about 20 miles.

Being that I did not have a light on my bike, I knew I had to stick to the crowd and ride the entire route.  Police are organized for this event because they allowed us through the intersections, we took up the entire road.  I was totally lost as to where we were going but we ended up going through the Heights which is a very cool part of Houston.  It’s hip and it’s established and it’s young and funky, it’s one of the best places near downtown.

We stopped at an HEB (grocery store) midway for about 15 minutes.  Some guy offered me Oreos (such friendly people, I did do this by myself).  I was a little unsocial, so I could have met more people, just not feeling well today, despite the drive to make it to this event since it only happens once a month!   I checked the map to see where we were and saw that we were 14 miles to Market Square.  I assume, since that was the midway point that it was closer to a 30 mile ride.  At this point I tried to move to the front of the pack, thought I was there, but it just kept going.  I really don’t know who was the leader, it just sort of happened.

There were so many kinds of bikes, BMX, mountain bikes, road bikes.  And some people wore helmets.  I personally witnessed a guy use his front brakes and completely flip over the handlebars (without a helmet).  He was ok, I’m glad I wore one.  This is a ride that you have to be comfortable being extremely close to others.   Before I left I decided to take my older Cannondale, because if I needed to stop and lock it up with my cheap lock, and it got stolen, I wouldn’t cry as badly as I would with my nice road bike.  Plus it has the regular petals. (not clip ins) I only saw one guy wear clip in shoes.   I asked him about it and he said his were easy to get out of.  Mine are not!!! So it was a good call for me to go with the bike I did.  There were parts of the ride that were slow and parts that were fast. I’m happy with the bike I chose for this event.  I really did take a risk in that I didn’t have any tools with me to change a tire in the case of a flat.  And that does happen, I’ve gone for rides close to home twice and had to call home for rescue.  I didn’t really see bike medics, so I will wear a backpack and prepare for that in the future.  That could have been UGLY!

Overall, this was an extremely cool event to go to on a Friday night.  Time well spent!

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Critical Mass Houston

Fall Cooking

With the lower humidity and the absolutely gorgeous sunny 75 degree day, how can you not be fall inspired?  I wanted to cook something different for our Sunday dinner.  (the usual is spaghetti) .  Pinterest, as I have mentioned is my go to place for anything cooking and I saw a recipe for gumbo !  I’m a very small bit Cajun if you claim having lived in Louisiana 🙂  My very Texan husband says that it does not count. Anyway, I’ve always heard you start with a roux.  The roux takes patience.  Like 30-45 minutes of patiently stirring until you have a light brown mixture that turns dark brown.  For me, this is no problem with a good bottle of wine.  Yep, easy passing of time.

So the roux recipe called for 1 cup of flour and 2/3 cup of vegetable oil.  Of course we only had 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.  As it turns out you can use any fat. So I added olive oil.  The picture on the left is what you start with, then 40 minutes later you get the picture on the right.

rouxrouxdarkI thought the gumbo came out a little bland.  So I kept adding Tony Chacheres.  I even added a little Tabasco sauce.  My son thought it was great and my husband says it was too spicy!!  The end result looked like the picture at least!

gumbo

It might have been a little better if I had used homemade broth.  And the recipe suggested “Joe’s Stuff Cajun Seasoning”.  Which I have never heard of.  I love a good gumbo.  This one had andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp, onions, green pepper and celery.   At least this one was made from the  heart with the best intentions!  That’s how it is around here.  I have a picky bunch.  My husband and son eat pretty much meat with very little vegetables and my daughter eats vegetables and fish only.  I would prefer to eat like her, but I do have the boys as I call them to feed as well.  My daughter commented on the huge mess that is left behind. There are three pots to clean and bowls and cutting boards to clean and put away.  I think I get an “E” for effort…there is some self validation!  Here is the thing, at least I know what was in my gumbo.  We went to a restaurant in Galveston and my nephew ordered gumbo.  Let’s just say that the ingredients are not what I would put in my gumbo.  I love my family, and will always try to make things they will enjoy. Somethings are a hit and some things are a miss and that is just life.  I have a friend who says she can’t cook.  Nonsense!  Anyone can cook.  Not every dish has to be perfect.  If you are hungry enough, you’ll eat 😉

 

 

Fall Cooking

Fall Gardening

The summer heat took a toll on some of our plants.  Knock out roses are so beautiful unless they are half dead!  This time of year the nursery is advertising 70% off.  These kind of sales are most likely a gimmick.  You know, they post a crazy price then with the “sale” you pay a decent price.  Who cares, the price is good right now for the little 3 gallon roses ($6/per plant).   Fall is a perfect time to plant!

Here is before and after pics.  It’s funny when you look at something and think, I’ll get that done in no time…no problem!  Then, you discover the plant really doesn’t want to go and it becomes a battle!  To remove 6 half alive mature knock out roses, it took at least 3 hours.

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You can tell who is not meticulous about the lawn, by the weeds in the cracks.   There are some yards in the neighborhood that I really admire!  I do my own lawn.  It usually only takes about 45 minutes a week to maintain and it is enjoyable! My parents hated  yard work, and by contrast my aunt and uncle loved it!  Consequently, my aunt and uncle are outdoorsy people…and I love that vibe!

Most suburban Texas lawns are sod with St. Augustine grass.  Which is supposedly durable in standing up to the extreme heat and water conditions.  By the time summer is over, the lawn looks completely done!  With pest damage like chinch bugs, fungus, drought and sun damage the lawn looks pitiful.  This year we have web worms which produce some kind of moth and it really damaged the lawn.  Of course those lawns that I admire don’t seem to have this problem.  I wish I knew their secret!  So in looking into repairing St. Augustine, I thought seeds!  Seeds should be good, but no one sells St. Augustine seeds.  I’ve read St. Augustine seeds don’t really take and instead you need to patch the lawn with plugs of sod (or 2 foot squares).  If you’ve ever pulled up sod, you know this is a horrible way to spend time in your day. And, if you think fertilizing will do the trick, you might discover it only causes further damage to the lawn by burning it.  One other thought is to sprinkle bermuda seeds.  Bermuda is a different kind of grass, and in the summer the St. Augustine may crowd it out, but I’m pretty sure we tried that before and it wasn’t a good solution either.   This year, we are going to try grass paint.  Yep fake it till you make it.  I’m pretty sure that the lawn will go dormant and then when spring comes all will be better.   Sometimes to fix things you just need patience and time.

 

 

Fall Gardening

Texas Friendship

The people in Texas are generally very friendly!  I have to say when I moved here from South Florida, I was pleasantly surprised at just how friendly the people are here.  And the fact that we have cultural diversity makes it even more awesome!  There are so many opportunities to do things in Houston, it’s great!  This weekend we had the Italian festival in downtown Houston held at St. Thomas University.   There was also a Korean festival going on somewhere in town as well.  My husband met up with some friends to check out the Italian festival.  Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours on the weekend and the entry fee was $8.

I was really looking for an Octoberfest.  There are a lot of German settlements in Texas!!! However the the Italian festival was nice. It had music, food and some entertainment.  Arriving hungry is the best so you are ready to taste!  I tried the meatballs, and they did not disappoint.  With so many food choices, it was great that one of my husband’s friends is Italian.  She wanted Italian Ice which sounded good to me too.  There were so many flavors to choose from. She said that lemon or cherry is always a good choice and she was right!  The lemon was so refreshing!  It’s still 90 degrees in mid October!  I also tried some wine. I tried the Prosecco also at her recommendation.  It was a bubbly wine, not champagne and it was really good!  She cracked me up when mentioning that the people belting out tenor on stage are usually half drunk.  They sang Frank Sinatra type songs.  And That’s Amore a couple of times.

I stuck around to see the grape stomping.  This was interesting. Three people competed to stomp out enough grape juice to fill a pitcher in one minute time!

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The street art was pretty cool too!  It looked like a school competed on this.

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In the evening I experienced my first wine tasting party , Wine Shop At Home.  This is the second event of at home “sales party” this year that I have attended, the first one was Wildtree (cooking meals).  We sampled 5 wines from their winery in California.  They don’t produce their own grapes, they obtain the grapes and make different wine blends.  And they are always changing them to make new wines.  It was nice to learn about the sight, smell and taste of wine.  And what type of cheese to pair it with.  I really can’t tell, whenever I drink wine if it tastes good, then I don’t care what I am eating with it.  Drinking wine will definitely stimulate the appetite, so I don’t think it really matters.   Their wines are about $20/per bottle and I think better than what I get at the grocery store so I bought a couple.  They also have a wine club so that you can get bottles delivered monthly. My friends are so much fun to be with, you  can’t go wrong with wine tasting and being together.  So enjoyable!

I just have to say that friendships are so important.  Meeting new people is a lot of fun, as well as getting together with the friends you have had for such a long time.  Nurturing those relationships are really worthwhile.  In Texas, making friendships is relatively easy and what a blessing that is!  I really look forward to meeting new people!  There are so many awesome people around!

Texas Friendship

Pumpkin Spice Fashionista

It is fall.  People are thrilled with the low 70s temperature this morning…It’s been hot around here.  We don’t have the pretty fall color yet, however stores are advertising pumpkin everything (cereal, snaps, cakes, coffee/creamer, even pumpkin kale!).  Looking for fall signs in south Texas is tough.  Maybe you notice the sun is slightly less intense.  It is beautiful outside and the lower humidity is refreshing!  With the outdoor landscape not screaming fall, we do have lots of pumpkin things around!  For sure if you go out, you will see retail telling you it’s fall.   You will definitely see something pumpkin.

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My daughter wanted to go shopping this weekend.  What could be better than to grab a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (they are abbreviating it this year for some reason so PSL for the cool people) and heading out to do some shopping?  Latte straight up is better, but we are going with the season.  We have a nice outdoor “outlet” mall.  They don’t necessarily sell things for cheaper, just like anywhere you have to hunt for the sales.  The experience at the outdoor mall is really nice when the weather is good!  They have plenty of shade and cover, it’s just so much nicer than the traditional indoor mall.  We went to Charlotte Russe and Pacsun.  In my opinion, Charlotte Russe is great for young people.  I love the store.  I know I’m already at that point where I probably need to be dressing for a different age.  However, I still like the clothes.  My daughter is really opinionated on what goes with what.  She does dress cute, so I listen to some of her suggestions.  I have not been shopping in a while and am due for a change.  With the holidays and some parties coming up, now is a great time!  My daughter suggested some over the knee boots with a dress I found.  I actually googled if people my age wear over the knee boots…lol!  It’s not like you really need the internet to give you the go ahead.  It was my curiosity that peaked there. One article said yep, go for it if you can.  Well I did!  Never before has anything like this been in my closet.  They sure are warm and different!  It’s hard to see, but they have a heal on them and they tie in the back, Target had these beauts. Dress from Pacsun.

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It was fun to go shopping in the evening for a change.  This was my night out!  The weekend hair appointment messed with the ability to change up the routine and plan something to go explore.  So shopping was the adventure.

 

Pumpkin Spice Fashionista

New Endeavor

Fall is here!  When the temperature dips into the 60s with highs in the 80s it’s here!  If only for a day!  The milder weather is a welcomed change.  People are starting to break out the pumpkin decor.  Summer is coming to an end and football is in high gear.

With the weather as gorgeous as it is, I couldn’t wait to get outdoors.  Today was a perfect day for a bike ride.  At 8AM people are already jogging and walking around the big 2 mile path around the park lake.   You really can’t keep at a high speeds because people take up the entire width of the path.  There are lots of walkers, joggers, kids, dogs and people fishing.

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Finally it’s October and registration is open for the MS150. This is my new endeavor!  It was so much fun training for a triathlon over the summer.  I’ve now signed up for the MS150, the ride is April 29&30 2017.  This is my new endeavor.  I can’t believe it has taken me so long to do this.  I really don’t know why I didn’t do it before.  One of the biggest hurdles is the fundraising commitment. You have to raise or pay $400.  That is pretty steep.  Not sure sure if this is what held me back before, but I’m willing to try to raise the funds.  They want to raise 16 million dollars for this event.  It’s easier now to spread the word with social media and the internet.  I can’t wait to see how this works out, it’s another way to push my limits.  It is a great cause.  Multiple Sclerosis is when your immune system fights your central nervous system.  The disease is relatively rare, the internet says 200,000 US cases per year.  The disease results in nerve damage. Symptoms and severity varies from person to person. Victims experience vision loss, pain, fatigue and may loose the ability to walk.  I think there is a lot of work that can be done in this area on repairing nerves.  And in this case finding out what causes the immune system to attack the nerves in the first place.

I have a road bike.  The two day ride starts in one of three places, I’m planning on starting in Waller (the shortest path!).  You stay overnight in LaGrange.  I’ve heard you can get a hotel, and am pretty sure they will all be booked.  Hmmm, camping overnight in late April. Lows will most likely be in the mid 60s and highs in the mid 80s.  Apparently they transport your gear/luggage (tent).   And once you get to Austin, you can get a ride back (with your bike).  So, I can do this by myself.  I do want to look into joining a cycle club.  I would meet new people and go with a group if I do.   This is totally doable!   Me and 13,000 of my closest cycling friends.

There are lots of logistical things to plan out.   I look forward to it!   Bike to Austin…heck yeah!  I AM IN!

http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Challenge/General?px=15548823&pg=personal&fr_id=28263#.V_GiGfCiffQ.facebook

 

 

 

 

New Endeavor