Wednesday, December 26, 2012

End of the World Half Marathon (Rachel's First)

Ok, we all know the world didn't end and most people knew the world wasn't going to end on Friday. But it's still fun to play along and create playlists, etc. If it really was the last day on earth I wouldn't be running walking a half marathon!

The End of the World Half Marathon was advertised as a race for everyone including walkers. There was a cut off time of 9 hours because "why rush to the end"? This was not a Boston Qualifier because "there will be no Boston Marathon in 2013 because it's the end of the world." Yes, the race organizers had a sense of humor.

The race was on the other side of Houston so we left around 5:20 to make sure we got there in time to get parking and our packets. I've never been to a race in temps this low! Ever. I do not like cold. Brrrr!
Notice that Armageddon It by Def Leppard is playing. Appropriate for end of world.
 So we got there waaaay too early. They had us park in a field that really needed 4 wheel drive to navigate. Plus it was dark. We made our way to the tables to get our packets. Wearing capris and walking through tall grass that has frost on it is not very pleasant. Our shoes got damp and those feet really started to freeze.

Grabbing our packets, we shuffled back to the car as quickly as possible and got the chips put on our shoes and bibs pinned on our shirts and shivered. The heat was running in the car at this point and in the dark you could lots of runners all huddled in their cars doing the same.

We had almost two hours before our race started so Chuck, Rachel and I all took a little nap. Rachel was nervous since this was her first half marathon but sleep overcame us all as we snuggled down into the heated seats of Dash.

Finally it was time to make our way to the starting line at 7:45. The Grim Reaper on the banner can't be a good sign.
 Everyone waiting anxiously. The full marathon would start at 8 while our half marathon woulds tart at 8:15/
 Poor Rachel is nervous while Chuck is tired and keeps trying to talk me out of this. "We can just watch Rachel. We don't have to do this."
 I like to get a picture of the starting line so I'm walking around trying to find it. Ummm, a bit anticlimactic. It's a blue mat. Oh well.
 Now that it's daylight I can see we're starting at some unfinished condos that look like something out of a zombie movie. How appropriate!
 There is no starting gun, only a countdown and we're off. I was expecting something a little different than a mowed field as the running surface. You really had to be careful or you'd end up with a twisted ankle. There were tiny stumps and potholes. We were jogging at first but it didn't take long for the uneven trail to take its toll on Chuck's knee. So we walked and so did many other people.
 There were cute signs for some of the odd things we encountered along the trail.

 There were pretty lakes (ponds) along the way. These two aren't wearing smiles. Am I in trouble? Look, I swear I didn't force them to do this.
 You really had to watch where you were going. The unevenness of the trail was pretty tiring. Then you'd come to puddles that almost covered the entire trail. Is this an obstacle course race?
 It was so cold!! The temperature was 34* when we got there and it was 34* when the race started. There's still frost on the plants.
 The deep sand would suck the life out of you pretty fast. This was one of the tougher races I've done.

 You can see that Rachel is coming up to a mud pit we have to navigate around.
 And a huge truck on the course? The driver was moving branches out of the way. You can see all of the pine cones on the ground.
 One part of the course had us running in front of the unfinished condos right beside the lake. The trail was very narrow so you had to be careful.
 The course had several loops that caused people to be running head on at you so everyone had to be careful to navigate carefully and stay out of the way.

 There were plenty of water stations along the way. At one point, Rachel decided to take off and go on her own. Guess Chuck and I were too slow but his knee was hurting and I was in no rush. Plus my feet are just not happy. I wore my Newtons and it helped somewhat. Maybe it's time for a new pair of Asics?

Right near mile 7 I started hallucinating and thought these women were wearing chefs hats. Nope!
 We finally get to the turnaround point where we run over the mat as our checkpoint and head back on to the obstacle course trails to begin our last stage of loops.
 Really? Just mile 7? Where are the double digits?
 There were hills that went up and down (as hills tend to do) that had the runners really moaning by this point.
 Superman even showed up to save the day!
 Runners helped decorate the trail after the water stations.
 Hey! It's Superman again! The course route made several loops upon itself so you'd see people over and over again.
 Time for upchuck, Chuck? Come on! Mile 11! So close to being finished. By the way, mile 11 was the longest mile EVER. I didn't think we'd ever see mile 12.  This is usually about the point where I have my little mental breakdown and want to cry because I don't want to do this anymore. But it's so close to the finish that we can't stop now.
 We finally cross that finish line and Rachel is there to give us a high five. She finished 15 minutes ahead of us. We got pizza and a HUGE medal. Seriously, this is the biggest medal I've seen so far.
 We all enjoy our pizza but don't dare sit down because we all know that as soon as we sit down it's going to hurt to get up and move again.

Rachel said she felt like crying at mile 8. A runner stopped to help her stretch. Nice guy. Another runner cheered her on later on the trail. She did really good for being her first one.

I asked her if she would consider doing another in the future. The answer was maybe. :)

This is Rachel's take on the race:
Miles 1-5: okay, I got this.
Mile 6: okay....getting a bit more difficult
Mile 7: I'm only halfway done?
Miles 10-13: Keep walking. Try not to cry.

We had a good laugh and talked about the people we encountered and the trails and how we felt and the hallucinations (you were right, Chuck, they were pelicans and not bald eagles stalking us). It was a good race but a tough one. Though the temperature did warm up enough to make it pleasant, the terrain was pretty rough at spots. We still all had a good time but were happy when it was over.

After the race we went out for Mexican food sporting our new Flavor Flav medals. Then home to shower and collapse.

I was pretty sure I felt a blister on my heel. Yep. A big one too. Gross. And a rub on my ankle.
 The loot was great! Got a duffle bag, tech shirt, hat and mega medal.
This was the last race of the year for me. It's been a very fun year of running and walking and tackling obstacle courses.

Congratulations to Rachel on completing her very first half marathon!!!! That's quite an accomplishment. I would have never thought to do one at 17 years old. Way to go, Rachel!!!!!

Congratulations to Chuck on completing his third half marathon this year. Way to go! And he doesn't even like running.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Easiest Baked Chicken

Low carb. Paleo. Whole 9. Primal. Whatever. I just need to eat stuff that doesn't make me feel like crap afterwards. Unfortunately, that is not always what I want. I'm looking at you, pizza.

I just haven't been in the mood to spend hours in the kitchen so I've been looking for quick and easy. The easiest thing I can make is baked chicken and veggies.

Easy doesn't have to mean nasty. This stuff is really good and ready in 35 minutes. Make up a bunch and you have chicken for wraps, soup, salads, snacks, etc.
Ok, corn chould not be on there but don't judge.
You can also serve the chicken with any of your favorite sauces.

Easy Baked Chicken
chicken breasts
garlic powder
paprika (I use smoked paprika)

Sprinkle chicken on both side with all seasonings. Bake at 400* for 35 minutes. Done!

That's it. See? Crazy easy.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of going out to lunch with my lunch buddy. We only get to go about once every month or so but it's always fun. We are both trying to watch the waistline so we both has salads with shwarma meat. Soooo good. This thing was huge! No way I could finish it.

Let me tell you, it's not always easy to stick to healthy eating when going out. This place had an entire display case of baklava and I love that stuff. And dolmas stuffed with rice. Yum. We decided to come back at a later time and have a lunch of shwarma and dolmas and baklava.

It was a nice lunch and conversation is better than food anyway, right? Right?!

I've sometimes been given a hard time for taking pictures of my eats but it doesn't bother me (much). So what if I take pictures of nearly everything I eat.

Totally off topic but my mother in law gave me a couple of festive table runners over the weekend. I used the chicken one on my bar counter. Isn't it cute?
You probably didn't know I love chickens. :)

Not much else going on around here. Just getting ready for Christmas and the end of the world. Wondering if the kids should open presents before Friday so they can enjoy them before the end of the world. Hmmmm. (I don't really believe in the whole end of the world thing on Friday. Just playing along.)

Friday morning I'll be driving to Humble, TX to run a half marathon. It's the End of the World half marathon and it promises to have a nice medal at the end. Then that's it! I'm not doing another race until next year! It'll probably take that long to recover.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to be all good with my eats and Rachel is baking tons of goodies. Temptation.

Have a wonderful End of the World on Friday!! I'll see you back here afterwards. Give those you love a big hug. You know......just in case it's the end of the world.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Happiness and Sadness

I am happy to report that the entire household is well! Finally. That was a tough one. Hope you all are doing ok because there was/is a nasty bug going around.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you about the horrible shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut. Such a senseless tragedy. My heart hurt for those kids, teachers, parents....everyone involved. I'll never understand the evil that some people are capable of doing.

Chuck and I were talking about it: what could have been done to prevent it, what could be done in the future, what the parents must be going through, what can we possibly do, and why this is more devastating than some other tragedies. There were no easy answers. I've read political statements and religious statements. None seem to offer a viable solution in my eyes. I won't armchair quarterback this one today, but I do have my own ideas. Believe it or not, I don't think guns are the first answer even though I live in a well armed house. 

There was a certain picture of the kids being led out holding hands with their eyes closed. I front of one crying girl was a little boy wearing glasses. Somehow he reminded me of my little Charlie and that made it hurt all the more. Of course the kids received many hugs this weekend. I'm so happy that mine are safe but am deeply saddened for the loss of the others. The heroic efforts of teachers to save their students is nothing short of wondrous. 

There is a blog post made by a mother of a son with severe mental issues. This kid sounds like a ticking time bomb and my heart goes out to her. It's a very thought provoking read in light of everything that has happened.

While all of this tragedy was consuming our lives this weekend, there was also much happiness and celebration. My sweet twelve year old son Charlie performed at his first piano recital.

Rachel, Chuck, Chuck's parents, cousin Dena, and I were all there to support him and cheer for him. Watching him play was a little emotional for me. Though I tried to put it out of my head, I couldn't help but think of all the little kids who would never be getting the chance do this and the parents who will never quite get over this whole ordeal. But it made me appreciate my little ones, who aren't so little anymore.

Charlie taught himself Moonlight Sonata by watching a Youtube video. He then started taking piano lessons and his teacher helped him polish the song and is teaching him how to read music.

Here is a little video I made of Charlie's performance. I couldn't be more proud!

Afterwards we went out for a celebratory dinner with family then Charlie spent the night with his grandparents and got spoiled rotten.

In other news, it's a low carb week for me. I'll start posting pics of food again. My family makes fun of me for taking pictures of my food. I try to tell them people really do care what I eat but somehow they don't believe me. Haha!

Life is precious and fleeting. Hug someone you love today and make sure he/she knows how you feel.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Catching Up with the Happy Texans

**I apologize for any misspellings, etc. Doing this on an ipad and it won't let me scroll down to check the rest of my post. Darn it!**

**I'm finally feeling better. Still got a little cough *hack hack* but I'm on the mend. Yay!

**I'm a very sharing person so I spread my sickness around to the whole family. Yep, they all got it. It hit Charlie the hardest but he also recovered the fastest. Chuck is still home from work trying to get over it. Whatever this is, it's not fun. Seems a lot of people are getting it.

**I got an ipad with retina display. It's really nice. I haven't had an apple product in a while. Still hate iTunes just as much as I always have but it's a really nice tablet. Why can't they have a floating calculator though? Seriously, Apple. Would make my online banking experience so much nicer. (I'm also noticing that writing a blog post on it isn't an enjoyable experience. Lol) First world problems.

**To b(ake) or not to b(ake). That is the question. I usually bake a ton of goodies at Christmas. Who doesn't?! But I worry about sabotaging my family's efforts to lose weight or get healthy. Including my own, might I add. So I'm trying to decide of making Oreo balls, almond rocca, peanut patties, Martha Washingtons, etc. is a good idea. Should I just say, "It's my once a year thing," and go with it or be mindful of people's struggles to get healthy? 

**While me and the family have been recovering, I've been hooked on reading and watching lectures from The Great Courses. May as well learn something while I'm down. Current book is kind of odd: Dawn of the Deed about the evolution of sex. It's not as thrilling as it may sound. But I have wondered how T. rex got busy. Right now I'm only learning how prehistoric fish and sharks got busy. It's not a pretty picture. Ewwwww.
The current lecture series is the Origins of Religion. Now THAT is interesting. Wow. So many strange customs throughout time. A lot of human sacrifices including children, unfortunately. Just to please the gods and get good crops.

**All of the Christmas gifts have been bought for the kids! Yay! But still no idea what to get the older family members in my life. What do you get for the person who has the money to get what they want?

**Rachel will be doing her first half marathon with Chuck and I on December 21. It's the End of the World half marathon. Should be fun. She's trained some and read a book by John Bingham. Since there is a 9 hour cut off for the race, we're just going to take our time and make it an enjoyable experience.

**I think I need another 30 days of Whole9 or something. It's just way to easy to get off track this time of year.

Miss talking with you all. Hope all is well with you and yours. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I'm sick

Just a quick note to tell you why I haven't been around this week. I'm sick! Darn it. I hate this. I feel terrible and am so foggy in the head that its difficult to think straight. So I've been laying low and trying to recover. 

Before I got sick, I did make a cute little movie trailer that I'd like to share with you. This was made with an app called iMovie. Enjoy! Now I'm going back to bed to recover from this mess and enjoy some NyQuil induced dreams.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Camping, Turkey Day and Zombies

What a great week that was! It sure went by fast but it always does when you're having fun.

Let's see....the Saturday before Thanksgiving we went to Beaumont and I got to hang out with my bff from high school Wendy and her hubby. Lots of fun. Why do I always forget to take pictures?!

The next morning Chuck had a shooting match in Beaumont and came in second. Congrats.

Came home that day and passed out. The next day (Sunday) I made my lists, ran errands and packed for a 4 day camping trip to Stephen F. Austin State Park. Our truck is having transmission issues so we couldn't bring the travel trailer. Sadness. So we stayed in a screened shelter with concrete floors.
 We packed everything in my Ford Flex! It was like a Tetris game. Chuck did a great job packing it all in. We even brought our mini fridge. Easier to just keep things cold in it instead of bringing a cooler and constantly changing the ice.

There was nature watching at the Brazos River.
 There were woolly bear caterpillars!
 There was daily bike riding on trails until our rears were sore.
 Cluck Gable's reaction to the bike ride.
 During the day there was football and lacrosse games; at night there was laughter and campfires.
 It got pretty cold in the evenings. Somewhere in the low 40s. But we were all snuggled down under blankets on the floor. Concrete is the hardest mattress EVER.

At night the owl would hoot and you could hear raccoons and other critters outside. It was really nice. But as soon as the sun came up the birds would wake you up. The early sunrise and sunset changed up our sleeping patterns during that week. We were in bed by 9 and up by 7.

It was a much needed camping trip and I don't think anyone was quite ready to leave.

We got home Wednesday and the very next day we drove to my mom and dad's place. There was a 150 car pile up (or something around that number....never got an exact count) so we had to take a longer alternate route to get there.

I made my sweet potato casserole and bbq green beans. Oh dear, it's just sinfully good!

Mom always makes way too much food. This is just some of it. There are 2 hams, 2 turkeys, gumbo, smoked brisket, dressing, deviled eggs, enchiladas....just a ton of food. This isn't even all of it! My mom, dad, my family, Rachel's boyfriend, and my brother, his wife and his two kids were there.
 After we ate until we hated ourselves, we rolled into bed.

Friday I got up and played with the chickens.....
 ....then off for some geocaching and hiking. We stopped at Village Creek State Park which is around the block from where I grew up. Then we headed to the coast for Sea Rim State Park and walked the boardwalk where we saw lots of blue crab. Suddenly I had a craving for stuffed crab.
 Drove home Friday and passed out again. Lots of travelling.

Saturday morning was pretty chilly and breezy but Chuck has a zombie shooting match.
 The range was pretty packed. Here are a few of the cars. My Dash is parked beside the red truck. :)
 Chuck was the safety officer for his squad. He tells them how to shoot each of the 8 stages and watches for any safety or rule violations. Plus, as an SO, he gets to shoot for free.
We were at the range for 7 hours. Yeah. But in the end Chuck won the entire match. Congratulations.

Sunday we didn't do much. Visited Chuck's parents. We needed that day to relax and catch up.

Now that all of that is over, it's time to get myself back on low carb/paleo. Chuck has actually been asking me to cook low carb because he feels so much better.

My jeans are a bit tighter from all of the fun. Time to get serious!

Hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Butterflies, Dinosaurs and Gyros

Last weekend I had a friend from high school come visit with her family. I haven't seen her in years! We reconnected through Facebook and she made the trip from Louisiana to Houston for a visit.

What a fun and busy weekend it turned out to be!

Rachel baked a cake for her since the previous weekend was her birthday. So Friday night we all went out for dinner, came back to the house where the kids played video games, and celebrated her birthday with cake.
Saturday we had a full day planned. We couldn't even do half of all I had planned!
We headed out to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I brought along my chicken which I have named **Cluck Gable. He needs to get out too. He was astonished most of the time.

Lunch time. There's a McDonald's at the museum so we grabbed our lunches and headed outside. Cluck Gable was very upset about the choices.
Then it was time to head to the butterfly center. The kids rode a Texas sized caterpillar. Cluck was scared to death.

Everybody played a game style bug quiz. Not sure who won.
That's Chuck, Charlie, and our friends.
In the butterfly center, there are several types of butterflies flying around everywhere. It's a surreal experience and absolutely beautiful! This butterfly followed our friend Randall everywhere. It would stay on his arm. Very cool. I think this was called a rice paper butterfly.
 Rachel with another butterfly. They weren't afraid of people and would just sit there for you to look at them.
 And if you were lucky, they would land on you for a while.
 Chuck befriended this big butterfly that stayed on his back the entire time we were in the center. We finally had to remove it before we walked out.
 The center is beautiful and weddings are even held here. I can see why. A nice place to sit and relax when it's not crowded.
 Charlie and McKenzie waited and waited for a butterfly to land on them.
Then it was time to head to the new paleontology hall. I LOVE this place. Cluck Gable found it....astonishing.

 Sooooo many fossils.
 This female still had babies inside of her. One in her birth canal. Poor mama.
 A little pterosaur with large teeth. Since they are pointed forward, it is believed this guy would dive into the water to spear its dinner.
 The big guys always draw the kids. Love their little arms. One hypothesis is that they used their arms for "tickling" in courtship. There is also evidence that some had feathers. As a matter of fact, today's chickens are related to T. Rex. Chickens even have the genes to make teeth but they just aren't activated today.
 The crown jewel of the paleontology hall is this near complete skeleton of a triceratops. Not only was this skeleton found but also mummified (not merely an imprint) skin of this dinosaur. The skin showed evidence of quills! I spoke with a museum employee and she showed me the places where the quills came out of the skin. Was truly amazing.
 Then there were the mammalian fossils. This one reminded us of a dog dragging its rear across a floor. LOL Yes, we're juvenile sometimes.
 A shark's mouth so large that it could swallow entire mastodons. It's hard to see the scale of it. Watch out, Charlie!
Before we knew it, it was almost closing time for the museum! Time went by way too fast. We scrapped our other plans and grabbed some food then went home.  While the kids played video games, we sat outside and enjoyed a cool breeze, a cold beer, and good conversation until midnight.

Sunday our friends headed home. We had a great time and can't wait to do it again.

That evening Chuck and I made some paleo/low carb friendly gyros wrapped in lettuce leave. Yum!!!! The tzaziki was so good we were using it as a dip.
Tomorrow we head out to visit my parents and my friend Wendy. Also get to see my brother's new house! And Chuck will be shooting a match in Beaumont. The day after we get home we're going camping for 4 days and will come back home the day before Thanksgiving. So, as you can see, it's going to be a busy time for this Happy Texan.

If I don't get to talk to you before then, I'd like to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

**Please refrain from mentioning Cluck Gable's feather loss. He suffers from male chicken pattern baldness and is sensitive about it.