Icy Day Workouts, Cupcakes and Puppies

What a strange combination, this really does sum up the highlights of the week.  In Houston we had the ice storm-ageddon.  Schools and businesses shut down, the roads were icy especially the many overpass bridges that are around here.  The city doesn’t have enough vehicles to salt the roads, we hardly ever have this kind of weather.

I love running at night, however with the patches of ice, I figured if I want to extend my ability to run, better do it safetly.  So that means the dreaded gym.  Moving to this apartment has the gym “perk”.   The overall goal is to workout for an hour. There are treadmills, cycle machines, elliptical and some kind of stair thing… Oh and weight machines too.  People were working out on these machines and I snagged the last one.  It’s kind of embarrassing when you have no clue what to do to get started.  After moving and just pressing buttons, I got the machine to work.  My goal was two miles, there was a TV playing a show I never watch without sound so the time goes by like a hamster running on a wheel…booooring!  The people cleared out and I pretty much had the place to myself so I moved to the cycle and eliptical machines and tried a few minutes of each, this time there was no one to watch my awkwardness of fumbling with the machine to get it to work.  Lastly I found what I call the Pilate ball, something I actually know!  The ball had exercises printed on it and they were things we normally do in Pilates.  The hour was finally over….by the end of the week we are in the 70s!!!!

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Many people trapped indoors put their culinary skills to work.  In the beginning of the week, we scrounged around to find things to eat because no one wanted to walk to the store.  However, a friend made a night of baking cupcakes and that sounded good to me!  Maybe a cupcake with fresh strawberries?  I came across this Martha Stewart recipe which seemed perfect.  Martha Stewart is the queen of all things home.  And her recipe for strawberry butter cream swiss meringue frosting is a considerable feat.  The cupcakes came out great, but the first time I attempted the frosting it was a flop.  My husband was irritated with all of the mixing that was going on.  I tried again and the frosting worked out for the most part, I used some complicated frosting piper that mixes three icings because it was the only one in the store with a coupler…frustrating!

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There is at least one shining star and that is baby Luna.  A puppy is like having a baby in the home.  I don’t like to leave her more than 3 hours.  The exercise pen connected to the cage thing didn’t work out.  Apparently she is a climber at 3 lbs she can scale the wall no problem.  She even figured out out how to get out of the cage, so I had to clip it closed.  This is for her own good because she puts EVERYTHING in her mouth.  I’m so afraid she is going to choke on something or eat something that will hurt her.  We took her to go see the house and I bought a puppy sling to carry her, she wasn’t too thrilled about it.  Oh well, most people love to see her and our few visitors come just to see her!

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Icy Day Workouts, Cupcakes and Puppies

January is Ruff

With most of the country in freezing temps, there hasn’t been much to do outside.  This is super frustrating, normally running in the cold isn’t a problem (upper 30s) below 30 is a too cold to do anything.   I guess working out in a gym inside is the solution.   I feel so bad not to move around!  This week has been about cooking and hanging with an 8 week old puppy who has exhausted me.   She does not like to be left alone.  Puppies are so cute and very demanding of time.   I went to potty training class today and will make a few adjustments to the potty training.

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I removed the pad in her crate which I learned needs to be earned (given after no mistakes) .  I have all rooms that have carpet closed off.  In her pen I put potty pads all over the floor and will remove them one by one as a week goes by.   She is allowed out of the pen supervised for safety.  Next week she will have her 1st vet visit.  And the interesting thing I learned is for good socialization she needs to be introduced to 100 different people and dogs.  As I looked at the class that had dogs the size of a 6 month old German Shepard, I thought, how am I going to accomplish the socializing with a 1 lb spunky puppy?  Other dogs will have her for a snack!  This is the challenge for the year!

Staying at home this week with no tennis means more time for cooking for the family.  On this weeks menu?  Potato soup, stew, meatloaf with spaghetti, chicken tacos and chicken tortilla soup.  I grew up with meatloaf as a weekly menu item, we never had it with spaghetti.  This was a friend of my son’s idea, he has it all of the time.  Their family is from Mexico, so I looked up recipes that might have a latin flare.  I found one that had a sofrito base, onions, celery and carrots.  You cook the sofrito base add worcestershire and ketchup.  Then you add raw ground italian sausage and ground beef, panko and an egg.  I bet his mom used chorizo for sausage given that chorizo is in a lot of Mexican dishes, but I didn’t try it.  I put the meat mixture in a a loaf pan and 50 minutes later in the oven it was done.  My son loved it served with spaghetti noodles in marinara sauce.  I had it over spaghetti squash, (once you mix it all together) yum!

meatloaf

I was really excited that my daughter’s Christmas gift came in this week.  I wanted to help her cook her first meal in the toaster oven.  Her studio apartment doesn’t have an oven.  Sadly she wasn’t happy with the dials on the oven.  It is a Cuisinart which is a great brand, and it’s compact size which is important to conserve space.  I made her ziti (actually a recipe she found).  OMG that is really good.   To the pasta, I drenched it in my simple alfredo sauce (butter, whipping cream and Kraft parmesan cheese) then mixed the marinara with it and I added browned ground sausage. Then you just melt the mozzarella cheese in the toaster oven and it did that well!  I tried out toasting, all good.  And finally baking cookies!  It didn’t work at 350 degrees, the top of the cookies got too brown too fast.  I changed the setting to 300 and had perfect cookies!

toaster oven

January is Ruff

Luna New Year

Our New Year began with welcoming baby Luna. Coincidence that it’s also a full moon?  I wanted to get another dog after enough time past since we lost our first dog in April.  I have been over to friends houses and left early after spending time with their dogs and missing mine so much.  I ran with my sister-in-law’s dog over Christmas…again missing the companionship of a dog.  Since we are in an apartment my thought was that we would wait until we moved into the house, however, another thought was that we can get through some of the puppy training in a smaller space.  I have been following some breeding websites online and decided to call the one near me.  They didn’t have any babies posted, but I figured I would find out when they might have puppies again.  To my surprise they had two available.  I asked the family to go with me and see.  Our last dog was really nice to me and my husband and the family for the most part, but was really mean to everyone else.

We walked in and saw two Bichon puppies.  My husband immediately picked one out and my son liked the other.  My daughter also liked the one my husband picked out, a spunky runt.  This is much like our first dog.  The difference this time is that I promise to train this dog and to socialize her.  I see how we failed last time.  These dogs are so tiny I was over protective of the fragile little body.  That feeling came back again. I am going to fight it.  She is about the size of a guinea pig.

I am going a little crazy.  I got a small crate for her and she cries to be let out. So of course she is sleeping in our bed already.  When I leave, she has to be crated.  I thought I would try a pen, I even connected it to the crate (usually animals like a place to go that is covered).  I went to the store and within 5 minutes my husband couldn’t take her crying and when I returned she was happily snuggling in his lap.  Oh no!  We are in trouble.  The little pup is already trying to rule the house.

The breeder was crate training the puppy, she tries to only pee there.  NO! So now I’m trying to train her on a potty pad next to the door.  This is a hit or miss on day two.  Oh boy, we have some sleepless nights and a lot of work ahead of us.   I love the breed.  The Bichon just reminds me of a companion, loyal and will just hang out with you, they don’t shed and I love their curly frizzy hair.  She follows me everywhere.  Currently she is at my feet with her head on them.  I spent the last two days bonding.  I don’t normally like moving only a little, however, I believe this was necessary time together.  And it is below 30 degrees outside, so what else are you going to do? (There is no skiing in Houston!)

luna

Luna New Year

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.

falls

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

Ready for the Holidays

Here is a reason to stop fighting the Christmas creep.  By decorating early it helps with motivation to get into the season especially when you have plans celebrating with friends and family! I have been a big procrastinator.  Not this year.  I am embracing what I see every week on the Pilates wall…

DETERMINATION

is doing what

needs to be done

even when you don’t

feel like doing it

I usually do a Christmas photo and letter to family we don’t see often and managed to actually get it done.  Maybe it is slighly easier when the kids are older.  The boardwalk has an enormous tree and it seemed like the perfect place to take our family photo.

towne lake tree

And this year we don’t have storage for our artificial tree so it is the first time we got a real one.  The grocery store sells Christmas trees and we walked over to the grocery store “Christmas tree forest”, selected and walked home with our tree through the parking lot.  This is truly a suburban version of selecting a tree from a tree farm, a traditional all day event that took maybe 15 minutes.  It may not have been the highlight event for the entire family, but it was an event that I think was fun.

For years I have been talking about changing the decorations.  For whatever reason my husband only likes white lights on the tree, so white lights it is to keep the peace.  And I did a silver, gold and white theme.  The tree is topped with sparkly winter branches inclusive of a Harry Potter snowy owl.  My inspiration came from, Pinterest of course!  To duplicate the beads I saw on the Pinterest tree I found these glittery balls that I guess you put in a bowl, but I thought, why not string them like popcorn.  It was a little time consuming, but the outcome was what I was going for and it did bring back memories of strung popcorn we did at my aunt and uncle’s house.

christmas tree

Now for blending shopping, baking and get togethers with friends.  The good stuff.  The first of a few Christmas parties was last night.  It’s fun to see how people theme their parties.  The party last night was one of a friend of mine.  It was also her husband’s work Christmas party.  They did a chili competition and provided sides.  You could either participate in the chili competition or bring a desert or bottle of wine for the chili winner’s gift basket.  The winning chili was a korean chili (go figure in Texas!!!).  What a cool idea!

Ready for the Holidays

A Day for Thanksgiving

There is so much to be thankful for this year.  Too many reasons to list!  This year we are staying in our tiny apartment instead of traveling to see family so that my son can go to work.   My husband is picky about what and how the traditional dinner is prepared, so there is no culinary modern day enhancements to our turkey day spread.

On the menu, the usual turkey, giblet gravy, cornbread stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, store bought (this is important) pecan and pumpkin pie, canned cranberry sauce, brown and serve rolls and fruit salad.  You can spice up the wording of the menu, however this is your back to the basics turkey day meal.  The main spices are salt, pepper and butter.

I really wanted to rent a table and decorate, but my son’s schedule didn’t come out until 6PM last night.  So it’s a buffet serve your self style and you eat either at the couch or on the small patio table.  This is what my husband prefers anyway.  A plate of food and a front seat in front of the football game…preferrably dressed in PJs.

I put the turkey in at 7:30am thinking a 12 lb turkey would take 3 hours, it took 6.  I think it was because it wasn’t completely defrosted.  I bought a meat thermometer and cooked it to temperature (the only way to make sure).  Overall it was pretty good.  I used my father-in-law’s method which works every time.  You rub butter all over the bird, put on salt and pepper, then put a stick of butter in the cavity, cover it loosely, put water in the bottom of the pan and baste it every 20 minutes or so.  And most importantly, cook to temperature.  It never fails, it’s a moist turkey.  I don’t have any other secrets.  That’s it.  My moto has been “do the best you can with what you have”.   To conserve space,  I used the slow cooker to cook the sweet potatoes and added water to cover them.  I cooked them on high for 4 hours and they came out soupy.  Oh well, they still taste good, but if you are a texture person you wouldn’t like it.

In the end you are always waiting on the turkey to finish so you can throw in your side dishes in the oven for the last 45 minutes before serving while you try to keep everything hot.  The kitchen was a mess.  We improvised everything.  Out the window goes any type of formal meal that looks pretty… are you kidding,?  By 2:30pm we want hot, now and tasting good.

It looks like a mess, but it is really good.   For a very long time this traditional meal has been served.  It’s the best autumn day meal and for the amount of time and preparation you make for this special meal, it’s no wonder it’s once a year!

turkeyday 2017

Here is our table improvison.  The party really is happier than they look I think.  Maybe it’s because of the table?  I really enjoy everybody.  I don’t think it matters how put together or lack there of it is.  The point was to have Thanksgiving together.

thanksgivingguest

 

A Day for Thanksgiving

Big Bend Part 3

After hiking into the Boquillas canyon, we drove a short 5-10 minute ride to the border crossing.  You don’t need your passport to leave but we were given instructions on things not to bring back. (certain kinds of stones, walking sticks wrapped in snake skin… not what we were going for!)  Six people at a time could sit in the row boat while a man rowed like mad against the swift current to get to the other side.  The cost was $5, then another $5 if you wanted to ride a donkey (round trip) approximately 1 mile into town.  This was a really cool experience.

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Next we needed to go into the Mexico immigration station and show our passports.  It was another $7 to enter.  There are about 50 familes that live in this tiny town.  Immediately children come up to you to sell handmade trinkets and wrist bands.  Our plan was to have lunch at one of the two restaurants (both serving Mexican food) and walk around.

IMG_0602We had a nice view of the Rio Grande and they had really good beef tacos, margaritas, chips and salsa.  Their guacamole was really good too… and they ran out.  The closest store to replenish….3 hours a way.  Not much really grows in the dessert, it would be hard to survive here.

After lunch some of the group bought t-shirts and we walked around the town.  It’s pretty obvious how the local population feels about the current political view of the United States leadership.

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You have to pass by immigration once more to check out and hop on the donkey to ride back.  Customs processing is electronic now on the USA side, you slip your passport into a machine/kiosk and talk on the phone to a customs officer and your back in.  By this time it was pretty hot and the hot springs were close by.   Time to take a refreshing dip?

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It’s about 3/4 of a mile to the hot springs and we had some people that had been here before.  On a hot day like this, one very adventurous lady jumped in the Rio Grande and rode the current to the springs.  Looking at the mini rapids, you can see that is pretty daring.  When we did the kayak trip there are parts that are shallow and deep, you can’t really see when it’s deep or when it’s shallow.

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The spring is about 105 degrees and you can hang over the side and be in 75 degree water.  This place was pretty popular, many people started coming in.  We hung out and enjoyed every bit of it!

The last night dinner was a chicken fajita bowl and we all sat around an off the ground fire pit.  I wasn’t close enough to see how they made it, but we weren’t able to have wood burning.  The plan was for the last night to be a costume party.  Some dressed up, others did not.  Either way it was entertaining.

Upon sun up, everyone started breaking down camp.  I took US 90 back and followed a person from Houston home.  The ride back was pleasant.  There are some really desolate towns on the way and it’s interesting to see that there are people who live in these tiny towns.

Best road trip ever!  I am now inspired to do more.

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Big Bend Part 3