Gearing up for MS150

The MS 150 is a one hundred and fifty mile bike ride from Houston to Austin over 2 days. The event beginning in Houston is held once a year at the end of April and raises $16 million dollars on average ($13,000 riders) for multiple sclerosis.  MS effects 2.3 million world wide. You have to raise $400 in order to participate as a rider.   This  has been a dream of mine for a long time, and this year that dream is coming to reality.   With the purchase of a road bike last year, I am ready for the challenge.  I went to the new rider orientation this week and learned that after the almost 40 years they have been doing this event they have come up with 19 medications to help with symptoms and just 10 years ago there were 3.  They raise a tremendous amount of money for support of this disease ($232.7 million/year) and it makes me sad that no cure has been found.  I hope that the money that is contributed to this disease also benefits advances in repair to nerve damage.

How do you achieve that fund raising amount?  I have to admit, everything about this is a challenge.  Sure I have participated in giving and asking for funds, but never to benefit me directly.  I mean, it is for MS, but in order for me to ride in the event, I need to raise $400. That’s the way I look at it anyway. I posted on Facebook and told family and friends and business associates.  To my amazement and surprise I achieved the minimum. Apparently for ever dollar contributed 84 cents go directly to research and services.  About that, as I learned, events like this are responsible for about 63 percent of the overall fundraising for the year.  It is absolutely amazing how many volunteers it takes and the overwhelming logistics involved in running the event.  I guess you have to spend money to make money and that works better on a larger scale.  They make it easy to receive donations by setting up your own page

http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR?px=15548823&pg=personal&fr_id=28263&s_src=BF_emailbadge

A friend of mine encouraged me to join a team and went so far as to forward me an email from the team leader with an entire Power Point on the team.  Joining a team is a great idea because you get some additional support in that they provide a team tent for camping at the 1/2 way point in LaGrange.  (They will have generators and their own food/water, showers and toilets)  They also transport your gear to LaGrange as well as Austin.  If you don’t join a team, you can camp on your own in the general camp area and food is still provided (your luggage will be transported to LaGrange for free).  So now I am a part of Team Wood Group!  It does cost me $100 because I don’t work for the company.  So my investment so far is $200 (team+registration fee).  I am going to get the team jersey, don’t know how much that will be but expect it to be between $50 and $75. And since the team doesn’t transport back, I will need to take the event provided bus back from Austin for $35.

I learned that there are rest points every 10-12 miles, support vehicles to assist riders, lunch provided 1/2 way on day one and the day two ride as well as overnight camping, dinner, showers and rest rooms.

I now plan to leave from the Wood Group which is about 9 miles away from Rhodes Stadium (which is one of the three starting points).  The team captain will pickup the team member’s ride packet and have a night before food fest or carb load.  We leave at 7AM.

Now onto training.  At this point I need to do 20 miles a week, I have been doing 15 and I need to ramp up to 40 miles (will have to be over two days because I don’t have that kind of time in one sitting).  Also, they have plenty of rides in preparation with a group.  I am taking a group riding skills class offered for free and required by the Wood Group in February.  There are rides to register for almost every weekend around the state that can be used for training for distance and have the support vehicles in case you need assistance. Might try one of those.  And lastly, some additional gear.  Need a light, case with tube and CO cartridges as well as a tool to change a tire to carry on the bike.  Also need to be sure to have sun screen for face and lips, and sunglasses.  Will also find out during the group skills training what to pack for the Wood Group team tent for sleeping.  SO EXCITING!!!

The route:

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Gearing up for MS150

Tis the season to gift (ideas)

There is nothing like the stress of Christmas shopping.  With 1 week away the pressure is officially on.  Yesterday I woke up at 5am feeling inspired.  I finally did a bunch of Christmas shopping online.  I’m still struggling to come up with unique thoughtful gifts.  I do love to give, it’s hard to come up with new ideas for people that you have probably given to for years.

I’m on a kitchen theme this year.  There are just some things you need to replace.  So a gift of cutting boards, knives, measuring cups, etc.  (Meat thermometer that you cook with in the meat).  That’s the theme I’m going with.  In my Texas adventures this year I did really like the fact that you can get Texas olive oil.  So I found the olive orchard we visited in Wimberly Texas online and ordered a bottle for my friend.  It was pricey for olive oil.  The gift does have that unique factor I was going for.

For my dad I was really going for some good cookie sheets and remembered I love Pampered Chef cooking sheets.  So this can be a good thing or bad, I always read the reviews now (and participate in giving reviews as well).  For the pricey Pampered Chef pans a good percent of the reviews said they warp.  WHAT?? NO!  So then back to Google and a search for good pans, I found some on Amazon with good ratings.  I really hope they work out, cause that is what I went with.  What would we ever do without consumer reviews and online shopping?  This seriously is the best thing since sliced bread.

We do a white elephant at Christmas with my husband’s side of the family.  There are at least 10 adults plus.  We each bring a $50 wrapped gift and place them on the table.  Then all of us draw a number and the person with the number one picks a gift first.  The gift can be stolen a maximum of 2 times.  This is a nice idea for a large family when you don’t have the funds to buy for everyone. And challenging because what the heck do you get?  Believe me I have executed Google searches on this for years!  If I go with the kitchen theme, I may make some happy, but what about the people who don’t cook?  I mean last time I got a Victoria Secrets gift card, what if my father-in-law picked that?  LOL!

Next, when the boss invites you over for a Christmas party and likes wine what do you bring?  I mean, I’m good with any table wine.  I do appreciate a really good wine, and the wine served at his party was really spectacular.  My husband thought I should ask the Specs liquor store people for a good wine.  I wasn’t really sure about that.  When my husband hosted his party we did it at a really nice wine restaurant (they serve food, wine is the main attraction).  The wine we had was really good and they selected it.  So, we found that wine at Specs and at least have an idea that it was good.

What do you get a teenage boy?  Google and Pinterest are saving me again.  They have some really great ideas for giving gift cards and the presentation of them.

Last but not least.  We had two parties that required a gift for $10-$20.  One of the parties was a gift card exchange.  I tried to find a creative way to give more than $10 and found just that on Groupon.  I purchased movie tickets at a local theater that serves food for $5 a ticket (worth $10 per ticket).  I put two tickets in a popcorn box that I got at a party store and stuffed it with theater style candy (hot tamales and M&Ms) and a bag of microwave popcorn.  This we used for my husband’s office gift exchange as well.

Gifting can be fun and stressful.  I’m up early again to try and finish shopping.  Tis the season!

gift

 

 

 

Tis the season to gift (ideas)

Christmas Lights Houston

Never would I have guessed we would have such an amazing display of Christmas lights at the Houston Zoo.  With a cloud blanket over the city, temps in the mid 50s, and no wind, this was the most pleasant winter dazzling display of lights I have seen.  My son and his friend wanted to go, so I purchased tickets on line (smart choice).  Because of the amazingness and the fact that we live in a very populated area, there was a huge crowd.  My son suggested we buy tickets online which I did. ($20/per person for prime time…weekends after dark).  I figured parking would be a zoo…pun intended.  When I tried to turn into the zoo, it was blocked and I saw the sign to park at the overflow lot with shuttle in (shuttle free, parking $6, credit accepted…yay).  This was about 1.5 miles away and the wait to get onto the shuttle at least 20-30 minutes.  So very happy to have dressed warm (jeans, sweater, comfy ankle boots and coat).  My party of boys were dressed warm too thankfully!.

Once we got there, I saw another huge line to purchase tickets which we walked past.  Then finally onto some excitement….the lights dance with Christmas music.

zoolights

There are arrows that guide you through the park.  Most of the animals were resting and not visible.  The lights are very dim so you can’t see much in their habitats.  We did see a giraffe that was up.  What an amazing animal!  I noticed the parrot habitat had heat lamps and you can see the shadowy silhouette of the birds resting by it.   My son was hungry so we stopped for a bite, I noticed they were serving adult beverages and hot beverages at stands…different.

As we walked, we were mesmerized by lights.  So many lights and it was so nice to meander around the park.  This is a really nice zoo.  We are right in the center of the medical complex and Rice University. They did have white “statue” animals that they shined lights on that moved and changed color.  They decorated around the animal’s habitats, like light up flamingos by the flamingo habitat.  They had underwater themed lights, floral themed lights and so many trees covered in solid colors of red, green, blue, purple and white.

zoolights3

We saw this towering Christmas tree too…

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zoolights5

Tis the season!  Shuttling out of the park took much less time than in.  Even though there was a large crowd, it didn’t bother me because the display was so worth it.  It took about an hour to go through the park, you could spend more or less time.  It would be fun to go on a date or with family.   It did take the entire evening considering the drive and getting in and out of (that’s just more time to be with the people you love).

Christmas Lights Houston

Christmas spirit mood

Finally we are getting some cooler weather.  And the days are definitely darker.  This is exactly the type of inspiration to get into the holiday spirit.  Little by little the decorations are coming out.  I struggle with liking the same decorations every year, but once they are up I love the atmosphere.  Especially at night or in the early morning when you look at the soft glow.  It’s cold outside and raining.  We’ve enjoyed a fire in the fireplace twice this season.  With it usually so warm in south Texas, when it gets into the 40s, it’s cold inside. I have fought not to put on the heat and so far haven’t had too.

christmasfireplace

Another big mood setter is Christmas baking, every year I bake something to give away.  This year I wanted to try making Christmas tree brownies.  I always give myself an opportunity to try in case it doesn’t work out, that way adjustments can be made before the final product is gifted.  So this recipe called for an 8×8 pan, when I made the brownies they came out way too thick.  So I cut them in half and will use half the batter next time.  I guess I could use a bigger pan, but the brownies at 1/2 the size are perfect! My nana always made brownies, blondies, toll house cookies and rum balls for Christmas ! I really loved that ! Miss her ! I aspire to be like her , active, friendly , helpful, fun ! She was a beautiful person !

christmas-tree-brownies

I made chili too.  Texas is FAMOUS for chili.  Tonight couldn’t be a better night for it.  I have adjusted my recipe over the years and this is the one my family really likes.  The most important ingredient is the meat.  The grocery stores will provide chili meat which is usually chuck 80% lean and it looks like 1/4 inch thick tubes.  Here is our recipe for 4 people:

1 lb of chili meat

1/4 green pepper (diced)

1/4 onion (diced)

1 clove garlic

1/2 can of 14 oz pinto beans

1/2 can of 14 oz kidney beans

1/2 can of 28 oz crushed tomatoes

seasoning (1 tablespoon of cumin, 1-2 tablespoons Gebhardt chili powder)

Directions: Brown beef and add to a crock pot.  Then add diced peppers and onions, garlic, drain beans and add crushed tomatoes to the pot and put it on low to warm for 1-2 hours.  It may seem wasteful to leave the rest of the can.  If we liked leftovers, we would add more meat and use all of the contents of the cans.  Otherwise, we can just use the beans and tomatoes for something else.  We top it with shredded cheese and serve it with frito corn chips (just the regular kind) I guess I would name it low key chili.   It’s not really spicy and it doesn’t give anyone indigestion.

The rest of this evening needs to be spent next to a roaring fire with a Christmas movie. Just need the football game to finish 😉

Christmas spirit mood

Orange Theory

A fellow fitness enthusiast friend of mine told me that Orange Theory (which is a workout place) is offering a free trial class and suggested we try it together.  Inspired by my blog, I thought, why not try it and write about it?   I do plenty of fitness (sometimes every day of the week), but sometimes you have to change things up a little.  There will be less tennis during the holidays, so maybe a little new fitness routine may be in order.

orange-theory

The Orange Theory studio is definitely new and kind of small.  The lighting in the studio is lit with big brilliant orange lights.  The class can have 20 people (maybe a little more) and depending on the popularity of the class they can have multiple groups.  The first thing you do is put on a heart monitor.  They call their class types endurance, strength, power or a combination.   We spent about 20 minutes on a tread mill, and the rest split between a rowing machine and some floor exercises that incorporated some Pilates like movements and equipment like the TRX.   The treadmill exercise was at heart rate intervals.  So the theory, as they say, is to keep your heart rate in the orange zone when you “push it”(for me that was about 150 beats per minute) for about 20 minutes of the class.  That way you will keep burning calories for up to 36 hours (that would be the after burn effect, or a speed up in metabolism).  They split the treadmill work into three groups: “base pace”,  “push it” and “all out”.  And that was split into three more categories based on if you are a power walker, jogger or runner.  There are monitors with your name on it so that you can see your heart rate and the percentage of time you are in the target zone.  This is also important because your goal is to stay in that zone 84% of the time.  And then there is something called a splat point which is earned by remaining in the target zone for a minute.

I’m not a big fan of the treadmill, but I do like the interval training that this offers.  The rowing was more momentum oriented which for me, a big Pilates advocate, is abnormal. The floor work was the same, too fast.  Just because you do more reps at a fast pace doesn’t get you results if you think of working out in Pilates terms.  Slow and controlled is the Pilates way.  I had some questions too, the instructor demo’d the exercise once and was almost too busy to spend additional time explaining.  I guess I am really spoiled by the attention I get at the Pilates studio.  My Pilates instructor is really careful with the 8 in her class watching to make sure your position is correct so that you don’t get hurt.   I don’t feel like this level of attention is given because the instructor has so many to look after.   That is a big red flag, especially as you get older.  I need to be careful working out.  Fitness is something that can turn into injury that will prohibit me from playing tennis.  And I’m not about to let that happen.  I like the slow and controlled strength training you get out of Pilates and the balance work.

Overall the best thing about the class for me was the interval training for your heart.  And for me that is important with tennis.  So many times you go all out in tennis, then have to recover.   The rest, was concerning for me because of the possibility of injury.  I don’t know how places like this make it with easy injury risk.  I think my friend and I were the oldest in the class, but we “killed it”…for first timers.

studio

The cost was not bad.  It’s $59 for once a week for a month.  And $99 for two or three times, and $159 for as many times as you like.  No contract.  And you can just show up for $28. I burned 400 calories. Whoo hoo!

finisher

 

Orange Theory

What the Lululemon girls say

This week I played in a league doubles tennis match against some ladies from Katy.  These girls were very fit and had on Lululemon skirts.  Each lady wore a complementary color to the other so it wasn’t matchy match.  Anyway their appearance was a bit intimidating, but you can never judge a book by its cover!  One of the ladies was from Canada, (Lululemon happens to be an athletic store based out of Canada, and in my opinion is pricey).   We lost in a third set tie break, but I was pretty happy we gave them some competition.   Tennis ladies come from all different places, sometimes we play yuppie types from clubs and sometimes we play people from regular community centers.  One of the ladies at this match was talking about a restaurant in downtown Houston called Ruggles Black.  I was intrigued with talk of chicken enchiladas and coffee served with a chocolate spoon and a macaroon.  They said the food was is mostly healthy.   My husband and daughter happened to be downtown, they asked if I would like to come down for dinner.  I thought, perfect timing to try this place.

ruggles

The food was spectacularly presented.  My husband ordered a crab tower, I ordered the chicken enchiladas (the girl’s recommendation) and my daughter ordered Pho.  What is Paleo?  Well for one, it’s what 80% of the dishes served at this restaurant are.  Paleo is a diet of lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds and healthy fats.  Foods that are not Paleo are dairy, grains, processed food & sugars, legumes, starches and alcohol.  Supposedly the benefits are reduced allergies, balanced energy and improved sleep patterns (overall healthiness).  I was told the tortillas were made out of almond flour (lower in carbohydrates and starch than regular flour).  They were tasty so I didn’t miss the refined flour.

My daughter wanted a bite of my mashed potatoes, and said oh! That is smashed cauliflower.   Needless to say my husband said that he only went there for me.  And the food was way too expensive.  On a scale of 1-4 dollar signs it got 2 which Yelp says is between $11-30 a person.  To me I would rate it 4 dollar signs, just because I thought it was really expensive.  We did order 2 – $10 deserts and a drink so maybe that’s what made me think it was so much more expensive.  Still, eating out IS expensive!  I think it was worth it to save up for this experience by eating pretty much peanut butter and banana sandwiches for the week.   The experience was nice. I would have no problem eating food the Paleo way…tasty!  It sucks that healthy food is more expensive.   Back in suburbia, most of the time I think it’s more fun to try new recipes off of Pinterest rather than going out.  To keep costs down it helps to cut down the recipe so that you don’t make so much if you are not going to eat all of it.

What the Lululemon girls say

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…

dayofdead

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!

eleven

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!

 

 

Halloween when you are not a kid anymore