Thursday, March 13, 2014

Meet our New Arrival

Meet Raider!
He came with a different name, but he didn't seem to know it, so we renamed him Raider. As in...
(Source) Cylon Raiders from Battlestar Galactica. We don't call it Nerds in Love for nothing! When I suggested "Raider" as a name, Dan said "As in 'Cylon Raider?'" He knows me. :-)
Dan and I adopted Raider last week. We had been talking about getting a dog for awhile. We almost did in November, but we had a week-long trip for Christmas already planned and I worried about boarding a dog for so long when he was so new to us. Finally the weekend before last we went to the Houston Humane Society shelter to pick out a new best friend.

We looked at an Australian Shepherd first, but this little guy stole our hearts. He was surrendered by his owners at the beginning of February, but they didn't give a reason. It was obviously not because he was a bad dog though. He's the sweetest!
He's really good at "sit." We're working on "down" and "stay."
He's definitely part German Shepherd, but only 43 pounds which is about half the size of a typical German Shepherd (he's 2 years old, so fully grown). I think that's good though, he's a good size! His body proportions seem a bit off, so we think the other half is Corgi... long body, short legs, big ears.
Are you my mother? (Source)
 We took him home Thursday after he got neutered and some shots and he took to the house pretty quickly. He's housebroken, sits on command, and seems to do fine with the crate (took some coaxing to get in the first time, but now he'll lay in there of his own accord when he wants a break). The only bad habit he seems to have is jumping up on people, but he'll get there.
Raider's likes: Food. All kinds of food. Will do anything you ask, for a treat. Snuggling. Making friends with other dogs. (He doesn't bark, just sniffs.)
Raider's dislikes: Toys. He will eat the treats out of his Kong but then immediately abandons it. And we bought him a plushy squeaky thing but he literally hides behind us/things to get away from it. He also doesn't seem to enjoy when other dogs bark at him. He's a lover not a fighter, I guess.
Thinks he's a lapdog.
Welcome to the family, Raider!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Austin Half Marathon, part 3 recap

Previously, the race story and our stats. Now, overall race impressions and the rest of the Austin trip.

We had planned to leave around 10am on Saturday morning, arrive in the early afternoon and enjoy a leisurely day in Austin. But on Friday night we got a frantic text from a college friend of Dan's who lives in Washington D.C. and was also running the race. Due to all the winter weather they were having, her flight to Austin was cancelled! They couldn't get her into Austin at all until Monday; instead they were suggesting she fly through Houston to San Antonio and then drive the almost-3 hours to Austin. We had no agenda, so we figured we'd wait for her. Her flight was all ready to go... and then ended up sitting on the tarmac for another hour due to technical difficulties. Finally she landed around noon; we were watching her flight status and swung by the airport to get her on the way out of town.

Our next stop was Kreuz Market in Lockhart, TX. Lockhart is central Texas BBQ country, and this place is Dan's favorite. We had planned to stop for lunch on our way to Austin, so we made it a late lunch. We ended up waiting almost an hour in line before getting our food at 3pm on a Saturday! You order direct from the smoker, meat by the pound. We ordered a huge pile of brisket, plus some sausage for those pork-eaters!
Me, Dan, and a pile of meat. (Stolen from Emma's fb page)
Their rules are: no sauce and no forks (eat with your hands). The fat from the brisket is really all the sauce you need. It was delicious! After that, we drove the last hour to Austin. When we arrived, the expo was closing in about 90 minutes so we headed straight there. Which brings me to my first gripe about the race: Expo traffic disorganization!
I think they must know it too, since I heard they were allowing race day packet pickup which was not previously planned. We arrived to a long line of cars waiting to turn into this narrow, winding, single-lane driveway to the parking garage entrance. There was a couple cops directing pedestrian traffic across the driveway, but nobody directing cars into the driveway: it was a free-for-all between people turning in left, people turning in right, and oncoming traffic trying to get through a very backed-up light and people trying to get out of the garage the same way. Also we found out later there was a much less crowded back entrance to the garage, but no people or signs telling you to go there. Terrible traffic handling. We finally parked with about a half hour of expo time left, grabbed our packets, picked up a couple freebies (most of the booths were packing up) and then finally drove off to our hotel to check in.

Race compliment number 1: The hotel was delightful.
We stayed at the Radisson, an older building that had recently been renovated. They had a lovely pool (although we didn't bring our suits, oops!) and backed up onto the Colorado River, with a private entrance to the path that goes along the river. Parking was included in our discounted race price (saved us $12 a night for self parking) and it was easy walking distance to the start line, easy stumbling distance home! Sadly our air conditioner was broken the first night, it only blew hot air no matter how much we turned it down. But I called the desk about it and they fixed it right away, which is the best you can hope for.

Race gripe number 2: I alluded to this in my previous posts, but they definitely needed more bathrooms on the course. There was actually a huge bank of probably 15 around mile 2, but after that it thinned out a lot. I don't think anyone really has to pee by mile 2, they should have conserved those port-o-potties for the later miles!

Race compliment number 2: The food trucks. I covered all our delicious eats last post. Suffice it to say, I wish every race would end with a few food trucks!
Overall I would definitely consider running this race again: Austin is a fun city and it's close to home. The finish chute and food trucks were done well, as was traffic control on the day of the race... but those bathrooms man! Nine whole minutes. Kills me.

After the race, we hobbled home, showered, and napped a little. Then we went out for a walk along the river. We turned north after that and wandered around the city until we found a wine bar to sit at. The weather was clear skies with a cool breeze, so we drank our wine outside.
After that, I had a craving for chocolate so we stopped in a yogurt shop on the way back for me to get a chocolate chip cookie and froyo sandwich. Randomly the shop had this remote control mosaic on the wall so I snapped a pic.

Me and my ice cream sandwich!
We ate dinner at an Austin institution, a food truck turned stationary restaurant: Torchy's Tacos. No pics, you'll just have to imagine how tasty it looked. (Very, very tasty.)
Our original plan was to explore a little more on President's Day Monday before heading back, but I had to go on the overnight shift Monday night, so we got up on the early side Monday, had breakfast at Jo's Coffee Shop (random and cool: they have a projector TV and they show the Walking Dead live on Sunday nights) and then drove back.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Austin Half Marathon, part 2 recap

Last, I posted a more creative nonfiction look at the race. Now, a "traditional" race recap with pictures and numbers and all that good stuff.

Dark, foggy view of the Capitol as we walked towards the start line. Dan thinks I'm weird, but I'm a little bit in love with the Texas State Capitol building. It's just really cool and interesting and "very Texas Republic." It was a cool start/end point for the race.

 My goals going into the race were:
A) Finish in sub-3 hours.
There were times this seemed possible, but also times when I wasn't sure we'd manage. One time that I didn't think it would happen is when we took a NINE minute bathroom break (45 seconds to pee, the rest of the time waiting in line)
B) Run a personal best.
Our last half (also our first half) we ran in 3:06, so this gave us a little margin beyond the A goal.
C) Not die.
You should always have "not die" be one of your goals, right?

At the aforementioned 9 min bathroom stop. We spent a lot of time contemplating peeing behind that abandoned building.

Mile 9-ish. See the Capitol (the finish line) wayy in the distance?

Finishers!
 So how did we do?
  • Mile 1: 12:59
  • Mile 2: 12:59
  • Mile 3: 13:15
  • Mile 4: 13:23 (includes a walked water stop)
  • Mile 5: 12:57
  • Mile 6: 22:01.
    But if you take out the 9 min bathroom break at 5.6 miles, this was actually our fastest mile at ~11mins. I think I sprinted the first 0.6 miles because I had to pee so badly, and then finished out fast because I was mad about all the time we lost.
  • Mile 7: 12:16 (includes a walked water stop)
  • Mile 8: 13:04
  • Mile 9: 12:23 (walked water stop)
  • Mile 10: 12:27
  • Mile 11: 12:50 (includes the world's most evil hill!)
  • Mile 12: 12:37 (walked water stop)
  • Mile 13: 13:07
  • 0.3 mile bit: 4:38 (13:12 pace) (although I forgot to stop my Garmin when we stopped running, so maybe a little shorter?)
After the race, we picked up our finisher t-shirts, our medals, our post-race snacks, and (well-earned) beer! We had decided to check a bag with some warm/dry clothes. It wasn't very cold, but it gets chilly when you're all wet and sweaty, so we changed before hitting up the food trucks.
(I'm sorry to the food truck worker who had to handle the super-sweaty $20 bill that had been inside my butt pocket during the race.)

Mmmmpanadas! I had soy chorizo with brie, and it was delicious. The outside was awesomely golden friend. One thing I really loved about Austin was all the vegetarian and non-pork options everywhere. Houston food is yummy, but this is really a porky town.

Next up, a BBQ chicken taco for me, pork banh mi slider for Dan from The Peached Tortilla:

And awesome fresh guac and chips from Guac n Roll. This one had tomatoes, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, dried papaya and pepitas on it... the peptias gave it such a great crunch!
We sat at some nearby tables set up by the race to eat all our food truck spoils before heading back to the hotel for a shower and a nap... as you do, after running 13.1 miles.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Austin Half Marathon, part 1 recap

Going to try a creative nonfiction style recap for this post, put that book learnin' to some use. Cold hard stats in the next post...

The alarm went off at 5:30am. "Doo doodoo doo do!" it said, from across the room, way too happy to be awake at this hour. I silently cursed the hotel for not having enough plugs next to the bed (do they ever?!) as I trudged to the desk to snooze the alarm before flopping back into bed. Five minutes later the backup alarm went off, and it was time to get up for real. It was dark, but not too dark. Wisely, we'd decided to leave the curtain cracked so the city lights could stream in, rather than wake to pitch black. Running is all about mind games.

I peered out the window. From our hotel room we could see the Texas Capitol building in the distance. Fog hung low in the sky, obscuring the top half of the rotunda. The facade was lit, the rust-red brick both inviting and imposing. Behind it was the start line, 15 blocks away; in front of it was the finish line, 8 blocks-- but 13 miles-- away. Too late to back out. I put on my clothes, which I'd laid out on the couch the night before, in reverse order of how they would be put on. I rubbed body glide all over my feet (I got blisters, anyways), taped my bad left foot (it bothered me for about 9 miles, anyways), and tied on my shoes.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to wear my sweatshirt, a Goodwill purchase meant for discarding at the start line. 65 degrees seemed too warm for a jacket so I left it behind; I should have brought it. Waiting in line for the race to start for 20 minutes... 30 minutes... an hour; mist began to fall from the sky-- droplets too small to be rain, just condensing fog. It was chilly. Shivering wastes energy, our friend had said at dinner the previous night. I would need that energy. We stood towards the back of the group, self-seeding with the other slow-pokes. We heard the national anthem, then an airhorn... and then the excited chatter from surrounding runners drowned out the announcements. At some point the sun had come up, and although it was still foggy, it was no longer dark. Sunrises happen gradually, and yet also all at once; it's dark and then it's not. The line began to move, we marched forward at a shuffle; nobody wanted to begin running until they crossed the start line. Finally we could see it, and then lumbered across it.

We joined the herd, running first east then south along the Austin city streets. We rounded the Capitol, headed south toward the Colorado River, took in the sights, the sounds, the spectators. "There are no refunds, so you might as well  keep running," said one sign. "Free nipple massages (women only)" said another, held by a man in a green full-body suit. "Do not say you know the Lord and his commandments," shouted the crazy street preacher, "for you are a sinner!" He wore a dirty olive military-style hat and a backpack, and had long, dirty hair and a scraggly beard; I wondered if he was homeless, I wondered why he wasn't in church this Sunday morning, I wondered how he was so sure we were sinners. I kept running (trudging, jogging) forward. We ran past our hotel, I told Dan "We could just quit now and go back to bed." We kept running.

Out into South Congress, the "weird" in the slogan "Keep Austin Weird." Past a food truck lot, and another; an antique shop, or several; a costume store called "Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds." I laughed. I kept running.

I didn't notice the timing strip at 5k. I had to pee. There were no port-o-potties. Finally we passed some-- 6, in a restaurant parking lot, with a line of ~10 people. No thanks, I said to myself, there'll be another. There wasn't. Not until mile 5.6. Here the line was longer. Too bad.

After that, we kept running. Up a hill, down a hill, around a bend. "Free nipple massage (women only)" guy was back, still in his green suit. A woman jumped up and down in a red fleece onesie; a baby gave out high-fives and looked very confused why so many people were grabbing his hand. More shot blocks, more water, more running. At mile 10 I noted that the winner of the marathon had already finished. We kept trudging along. The mother of all hills, sadistically located at mile 11.8. I almost made it to the top, but ran out of steam with 15 feet to go. Briefly, I stopped running and gasped for air. "Come on!" said Dan. So I kept running.

Another little hill, and then we ran around the Capitol building again. The finish line was in sight. I sprinted. 13.1 miles done! But the hotel was still 8 blocks away...

Friday, February 7, 2014

Semi-Homemade Super Bowl

Do you watch Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee?
To be honest, she kind of annoys me. A little too perfect and chipper for my taste. What can I say, I like my cooking shows grittier? Um, something like that... But, she's kind of right about this whole thing right: use some things fresh/homemade with some things store-bought so it tastes good but doesn't take you all damn day.
As I wrote on Wednesday, we had a Super Bowl party for almost 50 people at our house Sunday night. After our long run on Saturday (12 miles, what?!) we spent the afternoon prepping (cupcakes have to be baked in advance so they don't melt the frosting!). Then on Sunday we worked basically the wholllle day getting ready before people arrived around 4:30 to start the party.

So I decided to be sensible and not make everything (I love cooking from scratch, but I do not have infinite time).



Store bought  Homemade
Drinks Beer, Soda Sangria (I <3 alcoholic fruit)
Appetizers Sour Cream and Onion dip
Tomato basil dip (SO good)
Salsa
Spinach and Artichoke in slow cooker
Guacamole
Dinner Pre-marinated fajita beef
Refried beans
Tortillas
Marinated chicken breasts
Mexican Rice
Peppers and Onions
Dessert Box-mix cupcakes (2 kinds)
Leftover wedding cake
Frosting (2 kinds)
Chocolate chip cookies


We ordered a keg of Southern Star Bombshell Blonde (made in Conroe, just north of Houston) and it was nearly emptied out. We recently exchanged our AT&T UVerse Receiver for a wireless version, and we were able to set up an extra TV in the garage. We had beer pong going in the garage while the game played. (I tried to put on the puppy bowl but was overruled...)

Inside, I put out my appetizers on the dining room table, and booze on the kitchen table. Most people showed up with either an appetizer or dessert, so the tables filled up quickly and spilled over to the kitchen counters.

We grilled the fajita meat and veggies earlier in the day and cooked the rice, and stored it in disposable aluminum pans. Shortly after the game started, I put the beans on the stove and the rest of the food in the oven at 250 degrees. At halftime, we set dinner out.

After that, I pulled everyone's desserts out of the fridge and set them on the raised kitchen bar. People trickled out when the game ended, but some of us stayed up snacking (and doing shots) until almost 2am!

By the way, you need our fajita marinade recipe:
(Adapted from Food Network)
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 coarsely chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and pour in some of the sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- pinch of salt
-1 lb chicken of your choice (skinless works best for soaking up the flavor)

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bag and let marinate in the fridge overnight. Grill. Eat.
That's it! Of course we like quintupled this recipe for our party, but it was still fabulous.

Here's my guacamole recipe:
- 2-3 avocados, mashed
- Half of a white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Juice of one lime (flavor + anti-browning)
- ~1tsp of kosher salt (seriously, its better than table salt for this)
- Cayenne pepper to taste (how spicy do you want it?)

It's simple but delicious. I could eat avocado on EVERYTHING. I also tripled this recipe (ended up using 8 avocados) for the party, and it was scraped clean. I went through a guacamole phase a few years ago where I would make this and eat it with my roommates like twice a week for dinner. Just this and chips, for dinner. Yum-o!

And there you have it, a semi-homemade but entirely delicious Super Bowl Party!