24 hours in San Francisco

What an interesting 24 hours ! My Aunt’s 80th birthday was on MLK day and she asked that we have lunch with her in San Francisco to celebrate . The stars aligned and we were able to make it happen. Not without some twists. Have you ever missed a flight ? I booked a really cheap flight and looked at the 2nd stop departure thinking it was my takeoff time . When I checked the flight I saw that it was departing in an hour. Knowing there was probably zero chance of making it , I tried anyway . I actually got to the airport at 710am for a 735am take off time and they wouldn’t let me go through security and head to the gate . To my surprise they rebooked me but I would travel to Chicago first and into San Francisco arriving at midnight (no charge and I had a basic economy ticket) . I missed a day. However I still made it for my Aunt’s birthday .

San Francisco in 24 hours … I met my husband at midnight, we slept then got up and went to pier 39 to see the sea lions .  We took a cable car (F) train there for $3/per person.  It took about 20 minutes from the Palace Hotel and if you ask for a ticket you can use it for 90 minutes on other rides.

cable car

The seals were wrestling and pushing each other off the platforms . It looked like they were playing . It is about 50 degrees here , chilly.

sealions

We got back to meet my aunt at the Palace Hotel’s Garden Court . We had a nice lunch and I met her friends and travel buddies . My cousin was there as well .  The hotel is very classy, San Francisco-y.

About the Palace hotel, the building originated in 1875 by a shaky banker and was the tallest building in San Francisco for more than a decade according to Wikipedia.  In 1906 an earthquake and subsequent fire did major damage and what stands today is a restoration reopening from 1909.   The garden court is the centerpiece and has soaring glass ceilings and is decorated with elaborate chandeliers and marble columns.

gardencourt

The entry way to the hotel has this arched ceiling and more spectacular chandliers. The glass doors also have an elaborate decorative trim.

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The corridors are very nicely done with a soft color scheme and updated carpet in a unique design.  The lighted chandeliers and sconces are a little more modern with the drum shade shape and the doors look like they are older being made of solid wood with fancy brass door nobs.  The detailed molding in the hallway adds character.  Inside the rooms are very tall which is a surprise when you walk in to at least 12 foot or higher ceilings.coridoor

I also loved the artwork around the hotel.  There is a mix and a lot of it is from the 1950s.  I enjoyed seeing black and white pictures of young Americans and the clothing of that time period.  This particular picture is one of my favorites.

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There is a lounge called the Pied piper.  The painting in there is an original commissioned from artist Maxfield Parrish for the 1909 reopening.   He was paid $6000 for his art and it measures 6ft by 16ft.  The painting depicts the tale of the Pied Piper leading citizens out of the town of Hamelin, Germany (Wikidpedia).   It has moved 3 times once during the prohibition period.  The hotel tried to sell the painting and as a result to major opposition it was restored and brought to it’s rightful place…an amazing piece of history ❤

piedpiper

After a really nice lunch (I had a Thai chicken salad and my husband had braised ribs) and in the spirit of my aunt who loves to travel and explore, we went to Fort Point to view the Golden Gate Bridge.  This time we took an Uber .

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What can you say about the Golden Gate Bridge?  It is spectacular! We have been across before and toured Muir Woods and Sausalito, there was no time this trip . We saw surfers catching waves in their wetsuits . I spotted a light house on the pacific side of the bridge and as per usual we couldn’t get to it and it was closed for the Martin Luther King holiday .

Next stop, Ghiradelli square to purchase the famous San Francisco chocolate for the kids.

We had dinner at the Water Bar. Hoping for pacific fish, I ended up with a tasty striped bass from Maryland.  I do like bass, we thought being on the pacific side there would be more pacific options. We had an amazing view of the bay bridge which is lit up at night .

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Back to Houston early .  Again United was good to me, changed my flight to make it back to Houston ahead of the winter storm.   The airport is closed tomorrow due to weather !

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24 hours in San Francisco

End of the Year Wrap up

It is a challenge to keep up your cheer when you have things hitting you from every end.  Whenever you can go out and do something you enjoy…savor every moment!  It’s your time to recharge so you can think clearer.  On the way to visit family for Christmas I took advantage of some time to hike part of the Hill of Life in Austin.  Austin is so very cool!  They have lots of outdoor things to do.  Friends from the Big Bend trip told me about this hike.  It’s on Austin’s Barton Creek greenbelt.  The best I can guess is that this is a 6.7 mile hike one way.  I knew that I would only get a taste of this with my kids and figured we would walk to the water…which is spectacular and back and I was guessing it would be a couple of miles.  You have to know the capability of your company!  This trailhead begins in an older neighborhood.  There are many people hiking with dogs and even mountain bikers.

hill of life

You walk down to the water and the “hill” is the way back.  The rocks are a challenge, there are pea size to grapefruit size rocks.  A lot of unevenness.  When we got to the bottom we saw clear water.  There were two waterfalls not far apart.

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If it were warmer, I would be swimming!  My daughter got me some Chacos for Christmas, very cool water shoes.  It was too cold to wear them this day.  We met a man with a Brittany and a black dog, they were well behaved despite their venture way ahead of the man who brought them.  We made our way back up the hill in time to travel an additional 5 or so miles to the Austin 360 bridge also known as the Pennybacker bridge before sunset.  This was my daughter’s idea and a great one it was!  So my husband is not the hiker, however my kids were intrigued.  I’ll take whoever will go with me.

360bridge

You have two paths, one steeper than the other.  At the top, to the left you can see the Austin skyline.  Once we climbed to the top we saw a marriage proposal in rose petals with sand and lined rocks.  So sweet this was done at sunset.  You can also see cedar trees lining the highway, people decorate them as Christmas trees.

cedar trees

This was an amazing day.  We had a great time together and then had a really great dinner.  Christmas was amazing, the food the company, everything.  I know how lucky I am.  I hope you find your happiness too.  This is the BEST part of life!

End of the Year Wrap up

Girls Weekend Corpus Christi

I had a great opportunity to play up a level and was on a tennis team that made it to sectionals.  I didn’t earn it, played three singles matches during the season and lost all three. Shortly, I was replaced by better players, understandably.  I have been working on improving.  Progress is slow.  The two better players couldn’t go so I was invited to play! We rented a condo by the beach for 11 of us.  I only really knew 2 of the girls, however when you get an opportunity like this, it’s great to go for it.  People can be quite competitive.  You have to be a pretty strong person to know that you probably don’t have what it takes to compete, and try anyway.  I do have some things going for me, but controlling the entire game at the 4.0 level is not there yet.  Hopefully soon I will earn a spot to be there.

The one friend I went with waited for me and we left Houston late.  It’s a little over a 3 hour drive.  She is one of the best people in the world!  We arrived around 8PM and ate at a local restaurant called Doc’s which is just off Padre Island.  The first thing I noticed was the absolutely beautiful sunset.

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I had some amazing fish tacos and the other ladies had salad.  This tennis group has many very fit ladies.

The condo we rented was nice.  It had three floors.  Two bedrooms downstairs, two in the middle and one up.  I think there were 3 or 4 bathrooms.  The top floor had the living room, dining and kitchen.  It was decorated in such a cute beachy theme.  Our group brought a lot of food for breakfast, dinner and plenty of drinks.  We actually had 4 coffee pots.

The first match of the tournament was held at the HEB tennis center.  HEB is a big grocery store in Corpus Christi.  It’s tough to play in 100 degree weather, you really have to condition for it.  I was hoping my opponent would struggle with it, but she didn’t.  We played another match at Al Kruse tennis center.  My opponent was nice to let me crawl under her umbrella for shade on the change overs, I asked.  I would imagine if I was kicking her butt,  I may not have gotten any shade 😉

The next day we played in the morning at the Corpus Athletic center, got my butt whooped again playing a leftie.  I have so much work to do.  I hope my coach is up to it. Then we had a pool day.  The pool had some shade, the beaches, while nice, have absolutely no shade.  Padre Island is a barrier island and has even less on it than Galveston.  It’s very similar to Port Aransas.  It was pleasant walking on the beach at night.  Mornings were nice sipping coffee on the patio.

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I thought it would be awkward going for a weekend with ladies I didn’t know well.  I’m thankful for the opportunity, the experience and it was a whole lot more fun than work. If I could ever find a way to get paid to play tennis, that would be good.  For now, it’s back to the grind.

Girls Weekend Corpus Christi

Houston World Series Dog Show

It has been in the 100s this week mid day!  So we found something cool to do!  Visit the dog show at NRG.   It was held at the convention center.  Parking was $12 and adult entry $15 cash!  On the agenda:

  1. Meet the breeds
  2. Agility showcase
  3. Breed judging
  4. Visit breed rescue booths.

And for me, find a Bichon!  And pet as many cuties as possible.  We first went to the meet the breeds and found this little cutie.  It’s a Miki.  The ones we saw were so tiny.  You could tell they have such little fragile bones.  I love small dogs, however when they are this small, I worry that they are too fragile.  This is Morgan.

miki

The agility showcase was pretty cool too, the dogs would race over obstacles, through tubes and weave through obstacles.  I think the star of the agility show is the border collie!   Right next to the obstacle course was a grooming showcase.  They had poodles decorated with different kinds of spray color and hair styles.

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I was on the hunt for a bichon.  Since ours died a few months ago I want to find a breeder or a rescue.  I found Audrey who was about to compete.  She is absolutely gorgeous!  One day I will find another bicon frise…

bichon

We saw some of the dogs being judged.  We were allowed to walk where they are preparing for show.  Some of the handlers are friendly, others are quite unfriendly.  I mean come on, it’s dogs!  I love watching the bouncy happy dogs with the sparkle in their eye, it’s all I can do to contain myself from running up to them and petting them or talking to them like they are babies.  Ok so maybe that’s why the handlers ignored me.

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We browsed through the pet food and accessories and made our way over to the rescue booths.  I was able to hold a Shih Tzu named Sugar.  She was 10 years old and the sweetest thing you have ever seen.  I would love to have her, I don’t think I could take only 4-8 years then a broken heart again.   It’s something to consider.  They didn’t have a Bichon Frise rescue sadly.

Just look at these cuties… Dogs are very special ❤

Houston World Series Dog Show

Taste in Texas

One thing about Houston is the amazing diversity in available food options.   Just because we live in Texas doesn’t mean it’s just BBQ.    As in most big cities, I’m sure, you get a really nice diversity.  You do at least in Houston, especially downtown.   You can get African, Indian, Chinese, Mediterranean, Cuban, Venezuelan, German, Cajun and of course Mexican it goes on!   Believe it or not Houston is famous for Czechoslovakian Kolaches (breakfast food).   Downtown has more specialty grocery stores and more choices for people interested in vegan and organic healthy choices.  I have noticed in the more rural areas, it becomes harder to find the variety.  In Livingston in particular, you can get hamburgers, fried chicken and fried catfish there are not many restaurant choices.    With the expense eating out, I’d rather eat at home anyway.

I’ve probably mentioned my daughter and I like to eat healthy.  She texted me today a picture of a dish that she got from Ruggle’s Green which has some amazing dishes.  I had some salmon in the fridge and thought maybe I’d make my own dish.   Her cost, $16 . Mine, less.  I think the salmon was around $3-$4.  And I only used a portion of the veggies.

Can you tell which is the restaurant version?  I could have added some crushed pistachios and maybe a little shredded parm. some hummus with pita triangles if I really wanted to be fancy.  (But I had already had some nuts earlier).  Anyway, it was VERY satisfying.  The salmon was baked with feta, chives, cilantro and a lemon vinaigrette.

My son and husband ate What-a-Burger.  A Texas legend!  Interestingly enough my son gets the chicken.  He also refuses vegetables except potatoes and occasionally broccoli.  The only fish he will eat is fried.  I ask him all of the time what do you want to eat?  This week, his breakfast request was Pop Tarts.  I have bought them in the past, but my daughter’s non GMO ways are rubbing off on me.  Really it’s more about the ingredients in our food.  I disagree with her on several things.   I think it’s necessary to make modifications to grow more to feed more (farmers have been doing it for years).  But, to her point, there have been some unsafe additions to the food supply that have been pulled out like transfats.

Anyway, I told my son that  I didn’t think Pop Tarts were nutritious.  What if I make “Pop Tarts”.  He made a face that indicated he didn’t like that idea, but I’m going to do it anyway.  My daughter and a friend did a school project with home made “healthy” Pop Tarts and entered a State contest.  They didn’t win, however, the younger generation’s trends may prevail eventually.   I hope the healthier ones will anyway.

So where did I go? Pinterest of course!  How does homemade compare to the real deal?  Nutritiously, there is nothing nutritious about it!  It’s a desert.  I compared a chocolate fudge Pop Tart to a home made Nutella tart.  For the Pop Tart, it’s 400 calories for 2, 10g of fat, 38 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 74 grams of carbohydrates and 460 milligrams of sodium.  Cost about $3.68 which has about 3 servings (6 tarts).  The home made ones are 320 calories for 1!  Oops!  Come on though!  If they  don’t taste good what’s the point?  I’d rather make them 1/2 the size and taste better if I’m going to compete on the calories.  Cost, it’s about $5.19 …ouch.  I’m not doing good here…  I made tarts that are more expensive and have more calories. I used pie crust for the pastry.  I am going to try some homemade preserves as a filler (at least that is real fruit and should have a little more nutritional value).  Anyway, it was fun.  They do taste better and have about 1/2 the sugar . For $5.19 I can at least get a variety.  And the preserves were a gift.

poptarts

Taste in Texas

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.

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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

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!

criticalmass

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Critical Mass Houston