Sunday, June 17, 2018



Sometimes you just gotta get away and go treat yourself.  Now I debated, why does a woman who lives in a house by herself, with a community pool need to stay in a fancy hotel 30 miles away for a mini vacation? Because this woman doesn't know how to relax and has way too many temptations at home to keep her jumping from one project to the next. 

Last Sunday through Tuesday I packed my bags and checked in to the 
Lost Pines Hyatt Hotel and Spa. 

Here is the view from my room. 

After unpacking my things (because living out of a suitcase drives me nuts, and because hotels have dressers!), I headed to the Lazy River at the water park and floated around for a few laps. 

I then enjoyed a nice buffet dinner in the Firewheel Cafe. It's kind of odd eating by yourself in a dining room with nearly nobody else eating alone. I left my cell phone in my room and just enjoyed some me time with yummy food. My goal was to dramatically decrease my plugged in time. 

After leisurely reading for much of the evening, it was time for bed. 

 I untucked the silly tight bed linens, and drifted off to sleep... 

Good morning Monday! 

I have no other pictures from Monday day because I left my phone in my room all day long!  I started my day with a run at the fitness center (even on vacation, my body just doesn't seem to know how to sleep in). I ordered room service breakfast  knowing it would be pricey but  didn't imagine that my $15 breakfast plate would turn in to $26 with deliver feed and 21% gratuity added to it. Yikes!  Oh well, lesson learned. I then headed to the pool where I planted myself in the Adults only pool area on a lounger, partially shaded, with brownies, and a good book. For nearly 3 hours I alternated between reading, sipping my virgin pina colada, and floating in the river. I discovered the lazy river without a tube is nice too.   By 1:30pm I was headed to the Spa Django for my body scrub, body mask, and massage. That was a glorious 90 minutes. I liked it so much, I decided to book another massage (minus scrub) for the next day.  

Dinner was at another restaurant. Here are the obligatory food pictures. 

lime and garlic shrimp tacos

fried avocado on queso

That evening I walked around the property and roasted s'mores by the fire pit. 

I ended my day reading once again and enjoying a coconut face mask. 

no really, I did like it, although the pic would imply otherwise

Tuesday was my last day. Check out from the hotel was at 11:00am. I devised the perfect plan. 

I started with a hike to McKinney Falls State Park.  After going almost a mile in the wrong direction from the Lost Pines Resort, I find the actual trail head. It ran along the Colorado River. I never made it to the falls, never intended to, just wanted to spend an hour in nature. 

I think this picture shows just how stinkin hot and humid it is here in Texas already! 

After my hike I enjoyed a buffet breakfast and then packed up my stuff and dropped all my luggage in my car and checked out. THEN.... checked in to Spa Django.  I now understand what a spa day is. They had their own pool. I planted myself on a lounger under an umbrella and continued my ritual of reading and dipping in the pool.  Then I went inside to the eucalyptus steam room, and relaxed in the women's relaxation room reading until it was time for my massage. I opted for a therapeutic massage this time in an attempt to get rid of the trigger points that plague my shoulders and upper back. She did a good job, but some still linger. After I went back to the steam room, then had a luxurious shower with 6 jets and an overhead rain shower head. Yep, more spa days shall be in my future! 

Moral of the story, sometimes you have to treat yourself. I am so glad I am comfortable in my own skin, and not afraid to go off on adventures by myself. Myself is great company! 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Zooma Half Marathon

ZOOMA Half marathon Lost Pines Bastrop,Texas 

March 10, 2018

The night before my race stayed at the Lost Pines Hyatt Hotel, where the race was held. I had a nice room with a balcony overlooking a butterfly garden. My friend Michelle (who was running the 10k) came and stayed with me. We dined on a nice Buffet with scrumptious dessert, then both crashed early so we could be well rested for the race. 

(I know, 2 weeks of no sweets and I blew it the night before the race, oops! Notsosorry)

It was 65°,cloudy,and humid when the race started. About an hour into it the sun started to come out but it didn’t get too hot. It probably was 75° by the time I was done running. We started at 7:40 am. Another friend of mine also was running the half, Jeana. 

(Michelle's first 10k!) 

They had us line up roughly by our pace. 

The day before the race I told some friends that I wasn't nervous about the race, just excited. While waiting at the start line some nerves started creeping in. Thanks to experienced racer Jeana, I learned what the numbers on sticks were, pacer times.  My goal was to beat my previous race of 2:26:51, so I had to stay between the 2:15 and 2:30 pacers. 

I had a good playlist to listen to, not as regimented in songs attached to people as last year, but still fun associations in my brain. For example, "Thunder" by Imagine Dragons I associate with the football game I went to last Thanksgiving with my brother Devin and sister-in-law Marnie. It's also a great song to run to.  I downloaded another app specifically for this race called Motigo. Friends could record messages to be played at certain mile markers. Some race sponsors also left messages during the course that were motivational. At mile One Virginia left me a message, she said she picked mile one because I’m number one! I almost started crying listening to her message, I hadn't expected to hear from somebody so soon and certainly didn't expect to get all emotional about it. At mile number Four I got a message from Virginia's daughter Evelyn, she said she picked number four because she is four. She said, “ go Tia Tamera, run fast Tia Tamara, you can do it to Tia Tamara, in the name of Jesus Christ amen, and remember Jesus loves you”. I LOVED this! 

Miles 2-4, then 7-10 were the toughest for me, it included a lot of hills. The first time around my legs were fresh though and at the 10K mark I had done it in an hour and that made me really excited for my time. However repeating the loop a second time was very challenging for me. At mile seven I got a message from 2 year old Nicholas telling me go go go, and said he loved me. That helped. Also by mile 8 the water stop had Gu- a gel with carbs, electrolytes and a bit of caffeine to help fuel depleted system. This is also around when the sun came out and it got hotter. 

At some point the Motigo app had a message from a sponsor that gave me the mantra, "Forward is a pace".  Who knew something so simple would help me. Around mile 9 I wanted to stop. It was hard, hilly, and I was slow. Much of the hills I walked for 20-30 second periods, but at mile 9 I started to stop on the side of the road, but then I said to myself, "No! Forward is a pace", and I kept moving. 
I knew at the end of mile 10 I was going to get a long stretch of downhill, then it would be 3 miles of golf course and I'd be done! 

And at mile 10 Nick left me a message telling me to keep pushing it and to treat myself to pizza afterwards.
I also got messages from Michelle sister Laura and her mother, and Michelle. Having encouraging messages was very awesome.

Jeana found me with less then 1/4 of a mile till finish line

Second half marathon, official time 2:26:41. My first was 2:26:51. This one was significantly harder so I’m very proud of my time. It was also great knowing that Michelle was going to be at the finish line as well as Jeana Baldwin. Jeana finished in an hour and 47 minutes taking second place in her age group. She’s awesome. Michelle did the 10K, her first 10K in an hour and 17 minutes I think. I felt so accomplished and so very sore the same time. 

Jeana got 2nd place in her age group!  She pretty much rocks. 

And Michelle said she would consider doing it again. 

My right hip held out pretty good, and the tiny cut on my left second toe did bother me at all!

I celebrated my personal victory by going to Alamo Drafthouse to watch "Wrinkle in Time" with Bridgid and in addition to her company, enjoyed my favorite Chocolate Peanut Butter shake and a pizza (see Nick, I ate pizza!)

This morning I am hobbling around owning my stiffness like a badge of honor.  I can do hard things. I CAN DO HARD THINGS!  Now if I was to subject myself to that again I would train for hills better, and strengthen my hip abductors better as well...but I can do hard things. 


Friday, August 25, 2017

New Orleans 2017

New Orleans, Louisiana 2017

Last weekend I took my very first trip to my neighbors next door. 

Here is Henderson Swamp as viewed from I-10. Good ole real life swamp. I did not see me a gator as we were on an elevated freeway and did not stop. 

We arrived on Friday, August 18th. Our hotel was a 15 minute walk to the start of the French Quarter on Royal Street. 

The architecture was charming. 

Some ways it reminds me of Pelourinho in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. 

This is Bourbon Street. We walked on it, glanced down it, but we didn't really need to stay. 

Royal Street was charming. Lots of shops. 
Pralines are the most popular sweet treats. 
Then there are the hot sauces. 

I sampled a mango habanero one. It wasn't too crazy. 

One store we stopped in had antique guns and swords and coins. We saw a display of "pirate money". We asked the guy if that was actual coinage used only by pirates. We learned that pirates went for Spanish coins because they were valued universally. Spanish coins could be used as far away as China. So the Pirates liked Spanish coins the most. 

Being the town of Marti Gras, there are plenty of shops with masks and ornaments. This store was my favorite. It had a display of Merpeople ornaments and a sign that read, "Please do not twirl the Merpeople".  I mean really? It was enough of a problem to have a sign? 

Friday we made it to Cafe Du Monde. If you look to the left of my head, you can see the back of the saxophone player with no pants. We thought he had chaps on, but really it was more like a scarf keeping him "modest". Sure dude, whatever. 

Cafe Du Monde is home of the beignets, square-fried-donut-like-yummy-goodness smothered in powdered sugar. 

We also visited the St. Francis Cathedral. It is the oldest Cathedral in the United States. 

Not only was it beautiful, it was air conditioned and provided great refuge from the heat and humidity. 
It was so incredibly HOT and HUMID. 

We walked through Jackson Square to see the Mississippi River. We asked these fine folks to take our picture after taking theirs. 
She took a selfie first. 

Here is the Mississippi River Folks! 

Saturday was another grand adventure. We had breakfast in the French Quarter at the Royale House Oyster Bar. My poached eggs on crawfish cakes, smothered in crawfish sauce was a winner! It was delicious!  Now I need to try to learn to poach eggs. 

We then tried to go to the cemetery where the famous Voodoo lady is buried (above ground because New Orleans is 10 feet above sea level at the highest point). Sadly they only let you in with a guided tour and that one, cost $20, and two, wouldn't have given us enough time for our food tour. 

So we bought some water at the gas station, and then ploughed on through the heat and humidity and visited Armstrong park. 

Here I am with Mr. Armstrong himself. 

As we walked down St. Anne Street to Decatur St to meet up with our food tour, we began seeing a lot of police, barricades, and emergency vehicles. We didn't know what was happening till we started out tour. Our tour guide told us that there was a protest planned regarding some statutes in New Orleans. Some white supremacists caught wind and were rumored to be coming to town. We aren'y sure how we actually missed the protest march, but it started at Armstrong Park, went down St. Anne street, and ended up at Jackson Square. Luckily only a dozen supremacists showed up and it was fairly peaceful. 

But let's get to the food... 


First stop on our Tastebud Tours was TUJAGES. It is the oldest bar in New Orleans. It is the home of the Grasshopper Cocktail. 

Here we ate Brisket Po'Boys. The recipes at this bar and restaurant are 150 years old. We learned the Po' Boy sandwich originated as a sandwich to feed poor day laborers. As another one came by the originators establishment, they'd yell,
 "here comes another poor boy". 

This was delicious. It has horseradish sauce and was amazingly moist. Loved it! I'd like to try a shrimp Po' Boy. 

Here I am drinking my water in Tujague's while our other fellow foodies sampled the Grasshopper Cocktail. 


Here we learned about creole vs cajun. Creole in reference to New Orleans are the descendents of the European colonials, whether European and mixed European, and also used to describe the descendents of the Africans and Natives. New Orleans was ruled by the French, then the Spanish, then the French for like 20 days before the Louisiana Purchase and the Untied States obtained it. As in most places, when you settle in a new place you bring your home cooking with you, and then you adapt. Jambalaya can be thought of as Spanish Paella without the saffron. It is tomato based. Gumbo, in African Bantu language, means okra. Okra is the thickening agent in the stew/roux. We sampled a light roux shrimp gumbo. I'm now interested in learning to make roux. 

Next stop was the CREOLE COOKERY. Here we sampled a bread pudding. Think about all the French Bread in this cuisine, day old bread gets soaked in milk and BREAD PUDDING is born. It was dense and delicious, not mushy at all. 

Our next stop was a Spice Shop that blends salts, sugars, and spices. I bought a few samples that will be fun to cook with. We mostly stopped here so our tour guide could pick up the Muffaletta from Johnny's Po Boy shop that we took and ate on the steps of a plaza next to the Mississippi. MUFFALETTAS are a Sicilian-Creole creation. Bread, ham, cheese, and olive salad. It was good too. A bit thick, but good. 

Our tour ended at Laura's Candy Shop. We sampled some pralines and I bought some to take home, as well as some Mississippi Mud- chocolate, caramel, and pecans. Sweet treat to end our three hour tour. Our tour guide was excellent. I'll be doing more Food Tours in my future. 

Our tour guide definitely loves her city. She said it is better to think of New Orleans not as a Southern city, but more like the most northern city in the Caribbean. It made total sense. 

After returning to the hotel to crash for a bit, we eventually decided we could eat one more mean in New Orleans. We travelled across the street to "Walk On" Sports Bar. 

I had my first grits. This had corn in it too. The shrimp was stuffed with jalapeno and cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, and grilled! Yummy! 

And a crawfish Etoufee, and Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo. 

And a Krispy Kreme bread pudding. 

I said I was going to eat my way through the weekend. I did... It was great. I'd go back! 

Thanks NOLA!