Friday, October 31, 2014

West Texas: Not All Downhill

Post 5 of 5.

To get everyone to sign up, my friend Anne had told everyone that this race was all downhill into Marathon. This is not true for anyone except maybe the 5K runners. So now you’ve been warned. And honestly no race is ever as downhill or flat as someone else might describe it. Yes, I’ll say never.
Due to the nature of the course for the races (the buses took us the appropriate distance from town and we just had to make our way back!) the marathoners started at 7:30 a.m., the half marathoners at 8:30, we 10K-ers started at 10 and the 5K started at 10:30. So even though we were up early we had some time to kill.  Very unusual for us to have so much time in the morning on a race day. But it was nice to have a leisurely morning.
We popped into town for coffee, wished our half-marathon running friends good luck and then basically continuously waited in lines for bathrooms until the race started.  I think that’s one of the things I like about running in the morning. No time to over consume other liquids that would mean more potty breaks.  The coffee couldn’t have helped either.
All smiles before the race!
Awesome running buddies!
As it turned out the half-marathoners started about 10 minutes late because of the port-a-potty line and then us 10K runners started about 15 minutes late for the same reason.  They asked for race feedback and I think most everyone would agree that the port-a-potty situation is one thing that could be improved upon. Although it wasn’t like they were going to start without everyone being ready to go, we all just knew it was getting warmer by the minute and as beautiful as the route is there is no such thing as shade in the Texas high desert.
Cheering on our half-marathon running friends on as they passed we then waited for the start.
“On your mark. Get set. Go.”
Literally. This was how our race started. You have to love a race put on by a small town where most of the citizens are volunteering too.
And we were off.  I quickly realized what a poor decision it had been to wear completely unsupportive flip-flops to putz around in Alpine the day before because my calves told me so.  At that moment they were definitely the boss of me.
Our race started on a very minor incline, but an incline nonetheless.  After about the first mile it was time for a walk break and at the two-mile water stop I was super excited to get some ibuprofen.  Seriously my calves hated me and I wanted to burn my flip-flops.
Despite my painful experience, Justin was in a zenful state of mind thanks to the beauty of our surroundings and was happy to walk with me as needed. We decided to just enjoy our time on the course together while maintaining a comfortable walk/run pace to the finish.
The last uphill was the hardest because
  • It was the last uphill and we knew it
  • We didn’t know where the top of the hill was- I’ll call it a desert mirage
  • You could see the town (and ostensibly the finish line) from the top of it but knew you were still miles away
We finished strong and completed the 10K in approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes or about 13 minutes a mile.
Determined to always get the at least the same time as Justin.
35 races in 34 months. Woot!
At the finish line we got our medals, changed into fresh shirts and then drank some beer as we waited for everyone to come together so we could enjoy the brisket lunch that was available after the race.

All the awesome finishers wearing their custom shirts that Denise designed. She rocks!
The recently opened Famous Burro was quite hospitable and we watched some football and played some shuffleboard (I redeemed myself!) and then decided that naps before dinner were a good idea.
Before dinner at 12 Gage,  we met up at The White Buffalo, the bar at the Gage Hotel. Justin and I tried to recreate the magic of the mezcal Margarita Verde but they didn’t have mezcal.  FYI Xochitl is not a good substitute.  Learn from our mistakes people.
Dinner was a fabulous celebration with everyone at the table being toasted at least once.  The post-race party was the perfect way to end the night under the west Texas starlight with live music and a little two-stepping.
The evening was magical.
It was a trip that everyone agreed they would love to repeat next year.  Some said they would run longer distances, others said they would drink more. Everyone has to have a goal they think they can achieve, right?
Is this view in your future?
Maybe we’ll see you there!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

West Texas: Carbo Loading

Post 4 of 5.

We said sayonara to Marfa and headed into Alpine.  
Alpine was by far the largest of the towns we visited and we had another picture perfect day for exploring. We went to the Sul Ross University and explored the awesome and free(!) Museum of the Big Bend.  We learned a little more about this beautiful area by wandering through the exhibits and also appreciated a photo exhibit of aerial photography of the region.
I mean seriously picture perfect.
While in Alpine we captured Bewster County’s Courthouse on camera and also enjoyed a lovely lunch at Reata.  I highly recommend you start off with the pork tenderloin tamales with pecan mash. Again, another starter that I could have made my meal.  After lunch we wandered around town a little bit appreciating the murals off the main drag and some of the art galleries and of course a local book shop.  
Almost hard to pick which sky is bluer.
The colors are just so vibrant.
I highly recommend popping into Front Street Books. They have a great used book section and even have a cart in the back with some freebies.  Justin told me I wasn’t allowed to take the whole cart because
  • We didn’t have room in the car
  • That would be rude
  • Just no
After our one shopping trip during this entire trip, we went and did a tour at Big Bend Brewing Company.  Our tour included a sampling of their beers on tap and were lucky because there were six available to sample.
  1. Terlingua Gold
  2. Tejas Lager
  3. Big Bend Hefeweizen
  4. 2014 Oktoberfest
  5. Number 22 Porter
  6. La Frontera IPA
I love their branding.
This was my kind of carbo loading.
Our tour guide Amy did a fabulous job and told us about their process from getting the grain from their big red silo out front to start the brewing to the end of the process where they can everything themselves and then slap a six-pack ring on top. Yes, by hand. So if you ever get to drink some Big Bend Brewing Company beer in a can, you should feel the love.
Departing from the brewery we made our way to our final destination on this trip- Marathon. Our friends were all there and it was time to pick up our race packets and enjoy the pasta dinner included with our registrations.  I ended up enjoying the gluten-free quinoa pasta and we all enjoyed each other’s company as we worked through pre-race jitters.
Our view from dinner. Meta.
That night we did a little stargazing from the back patio at the house our friends had rented and I couldn’t help but marvel over and over again at the ability to see the Milky Way with the naked eye. We also saw our fair share of shooting comets too! Just.So.Many.Stars.  
We called it a night and within 5 minutes of deciding to go to sleep Justin was out.  Knowing that we had a long day ahead of us I finally put the Candy Crush down and turned in too.
We'll see you tomorrow.

Relive day one here.
We saw space on day two.
Day three was artsy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

West Texas: Art, art and more art.

Part 3 of 5.

This was the day when we actually showered in the open air.  And I will again emphasize that it was seriously invigorating.
We packed out of Pinky and went in search of breakfast and I devoured some cheesy grits with over easy eggs on top at Buns N' Roses. Fueled for the day we went into town for county courthouse picture numero dos.  Marfa is the county seat for Presidio County and again had a lovely idyllic looking courthouse off the main street.

Some forward-thinking entrepreneurial folks in the area have combined the concept of a coffee house and a fluff and fold and we wandered into there for another jolt of caffeine and to kill a little bit of time before heading out to the Chinati Foundation for our 2.5 hour tour of art works by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain.
Q. What is the Chinati Foundation?
A. “The Chinati Foundation is a contemporary art museum based upon the ideas of its founder,
Donald Judd. The specific intention of Chinati is to preserve and present to the public permanent large-scale installations by a limited number of artists. The emphasis if on works in which art and the surrounding land are inextricably linked.“ Judd has two primary installations at Chinati, this first of which is his 15 works in concrete which is made up of 60 individual units measuring 2.5x2.5x5 meters with concrete slabs that are 245 centimeters thick. The second is his 100 works in mill aluminum which are 41 x 51 x 72 inches each having unique interior divisions.
I don’t fancy myself to be one who really “gets” contemporary art, but there was something very cool and interesting about these installations in their habitats at Chinati.  Truly one of those things where you you need to be there to get it.
These concrete works were installed over a 1/2 a mile of property.
The old POW barracks that house the mill aluminum works are in the background.
This man is good with the camera.
After wrapping up the tour at Chinati we drove out to the iconic Prada Marfa exhibit that is 40 miles from Marfa.  The side trip took us through the sleepy town of Valentine with a population of 217 and no gas station, but they did have a public library and post office!

Prada Marfa was pretty much what one would expect it to be and it’s just one of those things that you might as well say you’ve done it if you are going to be out there anyway.
We then checked in to the historic Paisano Hotel for our second night in Marfa.
The view from our room!

The evening started with a one-hour tour of “The Block” which was Donald Judd’s personal residence for the majority of the time that he lived in Marfa. Time was split between Marfa and SoHo. He and his two children lived there and his kids attended public school in Marfa!  Judd left Marfa to work on some things in New York and Europe and due to a diagnosis of advanced nonhodgkin's lymphoma his health deteriorated rapidly and he never returned to Marfa.  Now The Block is a museum showcasing Judd’s home, library and onsite works as he last left them.

A Margarita Verde before dinner!
With mezcal of course!
After the tour we were ready to enjoy a meal at one of Food and Wine Magazine’s must dos in Texas- dinner at Cochineal Our menu for the evening:
  • The house bread with rosemary butter
  • A wedge salad with yummy blue cheese dressing and pork ribs that I probably could have made a meal by themselves
  • Beef tenderloin with blue cheese butter (duh) and homemade potato chips
  • Freshly baked date pudding with whipped cream
I probably inhaled had a piece of bread before I took this picture. 


This is a place for a special dinner if you are looking for a reason to dress it up a little bit, even if the locals are super casual.
We capped the night off with a few games of shuffleboard and dancing at Padre’s around the corner from Cochineal.  

We played a clean game.
Justin won best two of three in the shuffle board game which is surely a sign of the apocalypse so if there’s anything you want to do in life you better get to it. Might I suggest a trip to West Texas?

Relive day one here.
We saw space on day two.
Day four was a good day!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

West Texas: Wide Open Space

Part 2 of 5. 

We woke up before the sun did on Wednesday and went to the Black Bear restaurant for breakfast.  

The lobby had free coffee available from 5-7 a.m. but we were up too late for that, so as it turns out our early is not the same as early for others.  
Once we filled our bellies we grabbed a trail map from the front desk, asked advice on what trail to take and were off.

During the hike some clouds started to roll in and Justin and I almost turned back out of fear of rain and also possibly getting struck by lightning because of all the palms that appeared to have been struck by lightning because of their charred black appearance. Turns out they all looked that way because of a controlled burn. But being the tallest things on the top of the mountain I still think our fear was legitimate.
Controlled burn tree
As we hiked I was most afraid of twisting an ankle and not being able to run the 10K. (2 years ago I don’t know that I would ever have such a thought) Justin later admitted his only thought with every step we took was “no snakes” knowing fully well that had he expressed that thought to me before the hike we would not be on that trail.  The fear is real people.

That's the view from halfway up the mountain. 
Mountaintop groupie
After the hike we cleaned up and checked out of the beautiful Indian Lodge and made our way to the Fort Davis National Historic Site.  We enjoyed the reconstructed barracks, commissary, and fort commander’s house.  Not surprisingly we learned some interesting facts at the hospital where they exhibited the types of tools used in medical practice in the late 1800’s.  Let’s just say medicine has come a long way since germ theory was generally accepted.  The Site also plays recordings over loud speakers of the types of sounds you would have heard throughout the day at the Fort including the daily muster call.  It was a nice touch and added to the overall ambience of the excursion.

Fort Davis National Historic Site
As we were leaving the parking lot we also saw this randomness.  Some horses and goats just walking around like they owned the place.

No hyperbole here.
Then we were off to the Jeff Davis County Courthouse to begin Justin’s spirit quest of taking pictures of the county courthouse in each and every single one of Texas’s 254 counties.  The courthouse was as idyllic as one would expect it to be.

254 counties in Texas. Oh my.

Grabbing a quick lunch we then blasted off to explore space.
On Justin’s Texas bucket list is a star party at the McDonald Observatory. And it’s still on the list because we only managed to make it there for a day tour.  

What did we do? Well we watched an active sunspot, climbed 70 stairs at 6,000 feet above sea level and Justin got to move around an 107” telescope.

We clean up pretty well!
The bottom of the 107" telescope.
We learned about the HET-DEX project in which scientists will be trying to learn more about the expansion of the universe. It’s amazing that we are looking at the past to try to figure out the future.

Where the HET-DEX telescope is housed.
From the observatory we set our sights on Marfa to see what all the fuss was about and hope for a sighting of Kevin Spacey. No luck on the Spacey sighting.

Accommodations for our first night were in Little Pinky at El Cosmico.  Pinky was cute and cozy and had a private bath and shower. It was just that the private bath and shower were outside. Although we knew this was the situation going into the stay we were trepidatious about how it was actually going to work. Turned out there was nothing to worry about and I think there is something oddly freeing about showing outdoors and being able to see your surroundings while you are washing your hair.  Justin says I’m not supposed to have enjoyed it as much as I did, but I honestly dug it.
This might be the best picture of the trip.

Dinner and its accompanying drinks were at Jett’s Grill at the historic Paisano Hotel and while the food got the job done, what we really loved were the Margarita Verdes. There was a happy accident with the margaritas because they ran out of the jalapeño infused tequila and used mezcal instead. It was so good that the next night we had cocktails there and requested the mezcal for the drinks again.
We then went to see Marfa Lights.  Someone believes this is a thing. It’s not the Barbours.
El Cosmico was literally rocking after dinner with live music acts lined up to play until about 11pm. You can either feel old/most definitely your age when you go there or it can make you feel young again. We chose the later.

Missed day one? Read all about it.
The day after today was art overload.
On day four the weather was still perfect.

Monday, October 27, 2014

West Texas Road Trip

Part 1 of 5! 

Why West Texas?  Well there’s a not so little running distance called a marathon and a not so big town in west Texas also called Marathon.  A few years ago someone cleverly decided to create the Marathon to Marathon. Fortunately they also offered the distances of a half marathon, 10K and 5K. Justin and I did the 10K.
We decided that if we were going all the way out to this area of Texas (an area we shamefully hadn’t been to before) that perhaps it would make sense to make this more than just a long weekend and we made a real trip of it.

Justin and I skedaddled out of town as quickly as possible on a Tuesday evening to avoid the after work rush hour traffic.
We headed off into the sunset, because we were driving west after all, and naively thought we would get to enjoy some good BBQ on the way out. As it turns out most things close early in some small towns and we ended up eating some Hunger Busters from Dairy Queen.  I don’t think I’ve seen as many different Dairy Queens over the course of 5 days as I did in West Texas.  It is definitely the most prolific fast food chain in this area of the state.

The view of the sunset from the road.

Our destination on day one was Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park and while we pulled in rather late- around 10pm- their desk is open 24/7 and they have what must be some of the nicest people working for them.

Despite being in a place with absolutely no cell service we had a great TV in the room. 
We determined that the bamboo in the ceiling covering was not from the area. 

The wood furnishings were no joke. I was a little afraid someone would stub a toe! 

I loved this extra little make-up seating area in our room.
Plus the mirror frame matches everything else!
Unfortunately (for us but good for mother nature) they were getting some much needed rain at the time we arrived so we didn’t get to do any stargazing that night.  Feeling pretty beat from the drive out there, we hit the hay so we could wake up early the next morning and go for a hike in our beautiful surroundings.

Ready for day two? You bet you are.
Can it get even better? Maybe it did on day three.
F is for fun and day four!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Don't Get Used To It

I'm working on editing a five-post series about our recent adventures in west Texas. I haven't posted anything in about a month so I wouldn't expect this to be a regular thing. I also don't typically have five hour drives in which to type up posts. So there's that. Justin's already day dreaming about the next trip out there.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hunger Action Month

Did you know that September is Hunger Action Month?

Now you do. In 2013, 20% of American households participated in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A household qualifies for assistance when the household is at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level, at this time 100% is at $11,670 for a household of one person.  Working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year equals less than an hourly minimum wage ($5.6/hour).

I knew about Hunger Action Month but I'll admit I'd never really educated myself until this year because The Junior League of San Antonio is partnering up with The San Antonio Food Bank to eradicate childhood obesity in San Antonio.

In the spirit of this partnership, Junior League of San Antonio is going orange (the symbolic color of Hunger Action Month- #JLSAGoesOrange) and challenging it's members and the community to participate in the SNAP Challenge. 

Obvious question: What's the SNAP Challenge
Answer: It's a challenge to live on $4.50 a day for food. This is per person, not household. Why the $4.50? It's comparable to the daily food budget of a snap participant $1.50/meal. 

Of course I got Justin to join me, partly cause I wasn't sure I could shop for one person for $22.50 for 5 days worth of food for just me. I'm pretty sure I spent that much at happy hour in the last month. On drinks alone. 

So $45 seemed more manageable for 30 meals. Read that again. 

Turns out there are pros and cons to buying for two. One loaf of bread is enough for 8 lunches, but I needed enough for 10, so I needed another loaf. How do I stretch that loaf out so that I'm spending my money efficiently? We're having sausages for dinner this week. All week long. So things like that would pop up while shopping.

I ended up spending $45.48 on food.  I feel pretty good about that.  I did a lap around the grocery store to assess my options because, honestly, I rarely pay attention.

And I came home feeling pretty good.

My Receipt:

What all those lines translate into:

 The fixings for our chicken salad sandwiches:

What we'll be seeing more of this week for lunch:

The menu for the week will basically be...
Breakfast: 2 eggs and 1/2 banana (Justin will likely have coffee that we already have in the house. I can go without)
Lunch: Chicken salad sandwich made with canned chicken breast, celery, almonds (I bought almost 60 cents worth from the bulk organic section) and mayo.  The sandwiches also have some mustard we already had in the fridge, a slice of swiss cheese and spinach. And a half a green apple!
Dinner: A sausage or bratwurst that will be cooked on the grill and likely wrapped in a slice of bread.  We'll split one of the containers of chopped broccoli pieces and maybe each get 1/2 slice of swiss melted on our portion.  I also have butter in the fridge, but I feel like the mustard is already a "cheat" of sorts. 
Snacks: I used the tiniest pieces of celery for the chicken salad so there's enough piece left over for us to enjoy with a tablespoon or two of peanut butter. And we have the yogurt which can be a daily snack or maybe dessert. 

I have stuff going on in the evenings on Wednesday and Thursday and then a friend coming in to visit on Friday, so I will likely eat dinner out of the house, but I went all in when it came to the grocery store trip and already know what I could have done to cut the 48 cents. I bought two 8-packs of yogurt and could have just bough two individual yogurts, but the bulk mentality that usually resides prevailed and so it goes.

While I'm excited about these tiny successes, I have to admit that thinking that hard about every grocery trip seems like a daunting task. But let's see where the week takes us.