Saturday, February 25, 2017

Perfect Weekend in Austin




As a gainfully employed engineer in the private sector, SMS doesn’t get that many Federal holidays off.  When I realized that he did have Presidents’ Day off, my travel-loving mind started scheming.  Result: weekend in Austin!  Neither SMS nor I had ever been.  It sounded like a lot of fun and, possibly, even warm!  

The weekend was awesome!  I booked an AirBnB in South Austin, which was a little further South than I originally thought looking at the map.  But we overcame with a combo of a rental car and the two bikes that we could use through our apartment rental.  I had looked for hotels downtown but they were really expensive.  I suspect it was a high-demand weekend because of the Austin marathon.  I briefly thought about running the half but then decided I’d rather spend all of my time with SMS and eating queso, not necessarily in that order.

We arrived around midnight and then spent the next hour and a half waiting to pick up our rental car.  Yuck.  I got a great rate through USAA but I think I’m also going to use a credit card benefit and sign up for the Rewards club to expedite car retrieval.  At this point, I have a few too many experiences with long rental car waits and I think I’ve finally learned my lesson.  

Farmacy
Maybe I could use a little of this in my life...

The next morning, we slept in a bit and then we were off to explore the city.  Based on the weather, it was going to be our one sunny day so we wanted to take full advantage.  But first, food!  We headed over to Hillside Farmacy, which had great brunch write-ups.  The restaurant was super-cute and had great coffee.  My dish, though, was way over salted and because I was so hungry, it took me about 1/3 of the way through to figure out what was wrong.  So, meh breakfast for me (it’s the grits in case you want to avoid!) but SMS had a great egg sandwich.  

Take Heart

Afterwards, we walked up and down E. 11th St.  We saw pretty mosaics and the insane tailgating atmosphere line of Franklin’s BBQ.  We also browsed in a beautiful shop called Take Heart.  It was full of Japanese ceramics and home accessories, all of which I wanted and none of which I needed.  You know the type of store.  I escaped unscathed but with the dull ache of needing a new aesthetic.  

Mosaic mural, E 11th St.
Franklin's BBQ line- the building with the green balcony is Franklin's

Afterwards, we walked down Rainey St, which had a lot of construction and is definitely more of a nightlife destination.  We walked to the shore of Lady Bird Lake and then went on an urban hike to find Amy’s Ice Cream.  We walked through a farmer’s market where I learned about tea made from a Texas weed.  Then we reached Amy’s, which was quite delicious.  SMS continued his streak of winning orders with his gingersnap ice cream although my ice cream wasn’t that far behind his in terms of deliciousness.

We took a Fasten ride back to the convention center where we had left our car.  Then it was off to Barton Springs swimming hole!  There’s no fee in the Winter, but unfortunately it was closed for the week for critical pipe maintenance.  Le boo!  A lot of people found out upon arriving and since traffic and getting a parking space was such a hard-won victory, we decided to stay.  It was such an amazing day with temps in the high 80s(!).  We went swimming in the creek below which is a little disgusting since there were so many dogs but we figured we would be ok as long as we didn’t submerge our heads.  We had a really fun time and it was a great dip.  No pictures, unfortunately.  I didn't realize until researching later but there are a lot of other swimming holes in the Austin area.  Next time, I'll bring better walking shoes and explore some of the other spots.

So.many.lines.  Because we love lines so much, we stood in both the dine-in (2 hour
wait) and the to-go line (left side of picture).

We went home to take a shower and then we went to Salt Lick BBQ.  Oh.my.lines.  There were so many lines.  Really, I felt like Austin was a city of lines.  I couldn’t get over it and yet, we stood.  Ultimately, we got into the “To-go” line and ordered delicious BBQ but I really don’t think I could ever find BBQ worth it enough to go through that type of wait.  Between the two of us, we ordered turkey, ribs and brisket on combo plates.  In fairness, it was really good.  But the two locals in line ahead of us assured us that the lines were not at all typical.  

I also learned “the rules” of bocce ball, at least according to SMS.  While I fully acknowledge that my rules might parallel Calvinball, I still find SMS’ interpretation suspect.  

Artsy?

Mellizoz Taco Truck
The next day, was cloudy and a little cooler.  We went to Seventh Flags coffee and ate breakfast tacos from Mellizoz taco truck.  It was delicious.  We had biked there on the rental’s bikes, which were single gear cruisers.  As Austin was hillier than I realized, it was a bit of a workout.  Fortunately, I ate about 7,000 calories that day so don’t worry about me!  After the bike ride and a rest, we went to Shake Shake, which I’ve read so much about!  I was so excited!  I got a cheeseburger and a Black and White shake.  So yummy!  I highly recommend and someday, I will definitely be back for a custard creation.  

This is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic that stands for eleventy billion calories.
Or it's just the Shake Shack logo.  Same difference.
Afterward, we went over to Lick and…yes, I got ice cream there too.  A lemon curd/pink peppercorn along with goat cheese and thyme.  The flavors were really subtle so it just tasted like delicious creamy ice cream although in fairness, my ice cream palate may have been blunted by that point :)

Mt Burnell

Texas Mountain Laurel.  It smells like Grape Jelly/Bubble Yum.  I mean this
in the best way possible!

Shacks.

Afterwards, we went exploring and headed to Mt. Burnell and looked at all of the mansions along the Colorado River.  I liked all the two-boat garages/docks along the river.  One boat just isn’t enough.  I’m such a plebeian but even I know that!

Pensive in Austin

Parkour Heaven!

Just a bunch of people, tagging at sunset.
Then it was on to the slightly more low-brow, but also awesome, Graffiti Wall at Castle Park.  People were actively spraying their names, along with a few talented artists working on larger projects.  If we ever go back, I would like to bring a can of spray paint with us!

We went to Gordough’s public house for a beer. There was an outdoor area with picnic tables and the weather was completely delightful.

For dinner, we went to Matt’s El Rancho Tex Mex restaurant.  It was pretty good.  It’s been around forever- LBJ ate there!  I ordered queso there too.  I would like to point out it was a small size.  SMS was still pretty disgusted with two queso orders in one day!  

There is a shirt with the donut man lifting a barbell that says "Body by Gordough."  I would have to either be in
way better or way worse shape to pull that shirt off.

Oh my.

The next day, I wasn’t particularly hungry.  What?!  Why?!  But we went out to Fair Trade Coffee and then ordered Gordough donuts.  I didn’t finish mine but it was a sugar bomb delicious treat.  Then we checked out of our AirBnB.  *sniff*

First European Settlers' boat.  Spoiler alert: It didn't go so well for them.

Texas-sized mosaic

We went to the Texas History Museum, which was interesting.  It’s amazing how tumultuous the State’s history is.  First, they were a province of Mexico.  Then, they became an independent country.  Finally, they became a U.S. state.  These changes all occurred between 1835-1845.  It must have been a head-spinning time to live through!

Cafe No Se.  I need similar interior decor!

My arteries are so happy to see you!
 Afterwards, we went back to the SoCo area and walked around looking for a lunch spot.  We ate at Cafe No Se, which was delicious and most importantly, rather healthy!  I was craving vegetables at this point!  The restaurant is located within the South Congress Hotel.  The hotel, shops and restaurants are beautifully decorated.  I had a grain bowl.  We followed lunch with a  coffee from MaƱana.

I thought this was very funny.

Another beautiful design.

Then, it was time to bid Austin farewell.  We went to the airport and hung out together for our flights.  It was a great weekend and we really enjoyed our first, and probably not our last, trip to Austin!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Checking in, list-format!

* My marathon training is going well.  If I keep it up, I think a 8:00-8:15 pace will be doable.  A lot will depend on temperature and health the day of the race.  Last week, I ran 14 miles with an average of 8:34 and felt pretty good.  My long run this week will be tomorrow afternoon- wish me luck.  The plan calls for 16 miles.

Friday dinner deliciousness!
* This past weekend was a lot of fun.  Friday night featured a birthday dinner for my friend.  Saturday night featured a great concert with Joshua Bell that I attended with my parents.  Today, I rode on a Vespa and got a pedicure.  Yeah!  What a great weekend!

Fries with three smears- yum!
* Next weekend, I'm off to Austin.  I cannot wait for BBQ, beer and music.  Any Austin suggestions are welcome!

Stamps!
 *Recent purchases: How cute are these Forever stamps?  I also like the funnies implied by the animal order and which animals are opposite the other: mouse vs snake, tortoise vs hare, goldfish vs. cat!


* I've been cooking more.  Above are mandoline'd zucchini and peppers for noodle-less pad thai.  It ended up more like a moo-shoo since the veggies were pretty soggy.  It was delicious though.  I've also made a West African Cashew (instead of peanut) soup, an egg and brussel sprout frittata, and a Crockpot pork loin.  I eat the same meal several times in a row but it's cheaper than ordering meal delivery online.


* Not a recent purchase, but I always appreciate a good pun!  Plus, I love singing this duet at kareoke!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Thoughts during a no music, 13.1 mile run

* I like starting the run at a place with a bathroom.  That is very nice!
* Yay, mile 1 went fast!  This is a great day!
* I mean, not that fast.  I definitely need to run more, distance and frequency.
* Cars make me so nervous, pick-up trucks more so.
* This road is flat and long.
* Ooooo, a trail.  This will make things more interesting.
* I love the songs I heard while driving here.  They are horrible amazing ear worms and they definitely put me in a good mood.  It was like I was supposed to run today!
* I like the rolling hills on this trail.
* (Thinking back on a conversation with a friend last night)  Hmm, I understand that the term "snowflake" can definitely be used dismissively by people who feel that white women have nothing to complain about but it's not the worst word.  Maybe we could emphasize that each is unique and together, we can be a powerful force.  This is cheesy but I like i-
*Huuuch-OOOOFFFF!  owowowowowowowowowow!  ouch ouch ouch!  (I have just tripped over a tree root and have hit the ground hard).  Ok, pause watch.  Ouch.  Shit.  That really hurt.  Casualties: left knee and right chest. (I will discover a crazy amount of road rash-y bruises later in the evening.  Sheesh.  At least none of my clothes tore.)
*  Is there Uber in a forest?
*  Ok, let's go.  Gentle jog.  :(
* I think I hate my Hokas.
* Shopping list: new Asics, new pillow, immersion blender, maybe new skincare product.
* Buy into the Rodan + Field hype or not?
* In The Underground Railroad, it was too bad the mother wasn't given more credit and everyone just assumed she was a selfish, child-abandoning person.
* *Mindless running for a few miles*
* Water fountain!  Yes!
* Well, I meant to run 11 but it looks like this will be a half marathon.  That is cool.  I am starting to feel sore though.
* AUGH!  That siren startled me so much.  Maybe I am too tightly wound?
* Hello car!  I am so happy to see you!

Ha, ha.  Did you think there would be anything awesome!?  Nope!  It is nice to have some silence and just run at a nice steady pace.  The fall was not my friend and the run was just ok, but there is a very real reason why: I have not been running enough.  But I will get it together!  I will gamba my very best for Boston!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Steamboat Springs Family Vacation

Looking up the mountain
Every year, my family gets together for an annual vacation around the holidays.  Before, during, after- we're not picky about the exact date and over the years, timing shifts slightly to accommodate jobs and academic schedules.  This year, we met up at Steamboat Springs for a week of skiing.  It was extra special because it was the first time since my wedding (3 1/2 years!) that we had all been together!  I had missed the first get-together, and then Joe has been deployed over the last two years' vacations.  It was really, really special to have him this year and have the six of us + partners in tow. 

Hanging out on the lift!
I arrived on Saturday after a plane delay, which was made immeasurably better by being let into the United Lounge.  Yay!  Although the American Express Lounges are the most luxe by far, it was great to have comfy chairs to sit it while I waited.  In total, it was a three hour delay which wasn't terrible.

Experts only!  My brother is a seriously amazing skier!
We stayed in a 5BR/5BA house (!) so everyone got their own room.  Sweet!  My parents, brothers, significant others and my nephew all arrived on Saturday.  My sister and her boyfriend were coming later in the week due to her vacation schedule and SMS came later in the week because he has negative vacation days at his work.

Valley floor
It snowed the whole time we were there.  The conditions were amazing- groomed trails with 2-7 inches of powder depending on the day and previous night's snowfall.  We went on Morningside, which is ungroomed with deeper powder and that was so much fun.  My favorite runs are Kuus' Cruise, Valley View, Vertigo, Rolex, and our Tomahawk Cruise to our favorite mid-day ski stop, Ragner's at Rendezvous Lodge.  There were no sunny days but except for Wednesday, the visibility was decent and we could see the valley floor most of the time.
Ham!
We had our Christmas dinner and gift exchange on Thursday.  The dinner was feast with a spiral ham as the entree.  Mom and Dad gave the funniest gifts, collected from souvenir stands from places they visited in the last year.  My brother in a Roman gladiator apron topped with an Eeyore hat was a hilarious sight, but probably a photo I should keep off the internet! 

Brothers and significant others!
Friday was our last day and another awesome day of skiing.  At that point, a few of us were affected by a virus that, not to blame the baby but...I felt queesy that day and had to call it earlier than I would have normally done but it was an incredible six days of skiing. 
Sister and boyfriend.  Her effort to help him up is staggering, ha ha.
On Saturday, we were majorly delayed by ground fog.  We finally all got out of there but most of us had to overnight at an intermediate destination.  For SMS and I, that meant San Diego.  Yeah!



Friday, January 13, 2017

Washington DC New Year's Weekend!

Happy New Year!
SMS and I went to Washington for the New Year's weekend.  We arrived Friday evening and met Mom and Dad at the Old Ebbitt Grill.  SMS and I split half a dozen oysters, yum!  I had a delicious Nicoise salad for my main course and overall, it was a great dinner and fun to spend time with Mom and Dad.

The next day, Mom and Dad headed off to Wintergreen for a wild and crazy New Year's Eve.  SMS and I went into the city.  First, we went to Eastern Market where we ran into a friend of mine from freshman year of high school.  It's a little hard to catch up on 20 years in the course of 15 minutes, but it was really cool to see her.

Art!
We went to 7th Hill pizza which was...ok.  Not great but it did the job.  Afterwards, we drove over to the Mall.  We looked at the Hirshhorn sculpture garden on the way over to the Sackler.

Red
The Sackler had some great exhibitions.  We saw the Art of the Qur'an, Turquoise Mountain and Red: Ming Dynasty/Mark Rothko, a visual dialogue on the immensity of the color red (sure).  There was also a modern installation inspired by Whistler's Peacock Room, which is currently undergoing renovation in the Freer.  Although I didn't love the modern take, it was pretty cool to see   

Beautiful Qur'an

Turquoise Mountain: Modern Craftsman, Traditional Techniques
Our New Year's Eve was really mellow.  The next day, we went to the Udvar-Hazy museum which was really cool.  The layout is really logical and the collection is amazing.  I highly recommend visiting, even if you're not the biggest aviation fan.  I liked the space exhibit and the stunt planes.

SR-71 Blackbird



Saturday, January 7, 2017

December Travels

In early December, I traveled to Newport Beach for a SMS' side of the family Christmas party.  We had a really nice time hanging out the weekend and it was pretty low-key.  No new Newport Beach recs, other than SMS' cousin has a pretty cool leggings line called Goldsheep.  I have a pair and I recommend the line although to be completely honest, it's better for fashion than for fitness.  Or maybe I should say, they're not the best for running- yoga and Pilates are fine.   The prints are amazing and cutting-edge.

The end of December, SMS and I traveled to San Diego for Christmas weekend.  We stayed at the La Pensione, a cute and affordable boutique hotel in Little Italy.  I love that neighborhood!  SMS and I met up with his friend for drinks at Craft & Commerce, a very cool bar in Little Italy.  Then we went to SMS' parents' house for Christmas dinner.  It was delicious!  We had fillet mignon, salad and mashed potatoes.  It was really delicious and so nice to celebrate with family.  We exchanged gifts and SMS' parents gave me a gorgeous print of SMS' Thailand sunset photo and a gift card to Lululemon which I cannot wait to use.  SMS got an Open Table gift card which I hope we can put to good use :)

The next day, I went for a run from Little Italy up to Cabrillo National Monument for a total of 14 miles.  It was a gorgeous day and man, do I miss San Diego!   We went to his parents for brunch. Later in the afternoon, we went to his sister's for a Christmas dinner.  It was amazing!  Perfectly roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, incredible dressing with bread from Bread and Cie (I think), cranberry, green vegetables...I was in heaven.  Don't get me wrong- I loved our Thanksgiving meal but to have all the sides be homemade?  I was in Heaven.  A Heaven where I ate too much :)
San Diego find- Coffee + Flower, an incredible coffee and...um, flower shop!  

The next day, SMS and I headed home.  It was a great Christmas weekend and hopefully, we'll stay in SoCal longer next time!

Tumbling Pandas


So, the above gif is of my favorite panda, Tare.  SMS and I first saw him when we were taking Chinese classes last Spring.  We were in a Japanese classroom at Palo Alto High School and I was captivated by his (?) doleful eyes as we obediently and repeatedly butchered Chinese phonetics.  

Anyway, isn't he cute!?  I also love the below picture of a baby panda doing a faceplant.  Part of the hilarity is the completely ineffectual attempted intervention of the caretaker.  I also feel that the photographer knew this was going to happen and thought, "Wait for it...wait...for...it!"