Do I get points for tri-ing?

trigirls

(NOTE:  This is an old  (presumed lost) post from 2011, a follow up to the prior post.)

Well, after all the training, and worrying, the big event is over. We lived through another triathlon (sprint distance –I feel like I keep having to clarify that!)  In retrospect, that was FREAKING HARD!  I’m really proud of my girls, Jenn and Brandy… they totally rocked it.  I finished, and I’m really OK with that.  (BTW: This was Brandy’s first, and she had the best time! Way to go, B!)

This event should have been a cake-walk compared to that last one — way up in the steep, oxygen-free mountains of Colorado. This one was in my back yard… sort of… in Texas, anyway, where I’m perfectly happy breathing the hot, sponge-y air.  Somehow though, once again, I underestimated the hills, even though this was basically in the “Hill Country” region of Texas (near Austin).  We even drove to the race site the day before and failed to see the hills.  In our minds, the bike ride would be the soft, creamy filling between a short-ish swim, and a maybe challenging run in the warm Texas morning sun.

We also seriously underestimated the wind-factor.

The swim segment went pretty much as I expected.  I started out swimming, then panicked, and then swallowed a lot of water.  Then I swam like a frog trying desperately not to drown in a swirling toilet for the remainder of the long, long (500m) swim.

The event pictures aren’t up yet, so I have some artistic renditions.  Here’s me after the swim, in the first transition (T1 in triathlete lingo):

MeSwimT1

By the time I exited the water, Jenn and Brandy were well into the bike segment.  (They started in the group 3 minutes ahead of me).

This is how I imagined them.  They killed it, despite the demon winds.

 

BrandyJennBike 

 

Imagine my dismay, when after barely living through the swim, I rounded the first turn on the bike and found myself at the bottom of a hill!  Not quite the hellish inclines from Colorado, but still… hills. Imagine my further dismay when a big gust of wind nearly knocks me off my teetering bike as I try to figure out how gears work in the middle of the uphill climb.  Urgh.

My left hand went completely numb somewhere around Mile 3.  It hurt, but I was too terrified to take my hand off the handle-bars to shake it out. The skinny tires on the bike (I’m not really a road-bike kind of person) were scary to me, and the road was a little too bumpy.  About Mile 7 (of 14), I noticed that my crotch area felt like it had swollen ten times it’s normal size.  It hurt like a bitch, and no amount of shifting in the seat made it better.    

mebike

By this time, I figured Jenn and Brandy were about to start their run.  I was not jealous of them.  But, they rocked it.  Somehow they managed to keep moving, despite the gale-force winds…

JenBrandyRun

By the time I finished the bike segment, I hated the bike.  I wanted off the bike.  I really didn’t give a shit how fast I made it to the run segment.  Here is me going through the 2nd transition (T2):

meT2

 

Then I started the run.  In the hurricane-force winds.  Soon, I decided running was for chumps.  Or crazy people.  Or people that had eaten something more than a power bar at 4:30 am.  I had nothing left in me, and I was feeling pretty darned whiney. 

merun

I ended up walking a good part of the 3 miles.  But of course, just before the finish line, I managed to perk up for a photo-op.  How do I look?

MeFinish

 

I finished in 2:02.  Jenn was just a hair shy of her goal of 1:45 and Brandy came in just under that.   I’m amazed by those two girls.  They have something in them that I just don’t have.  But, I’m ok with that. I was just in it for the picture.  Ha!  🙂

Follow up:  The event pics are in!  And even though mine were not the most flattering (pretty typical of any pictures of me), I bought a couple only because the uncanny resemblance to my drawings totally cracked me up.  What do you think?

    

Gonna tri again

NOTE:  This is an old post – from 2011.  I thought it was lost forever, and was pretty stoked to run across a Live Writer back-up of it, so here it is.   (There is also a old follow up post to this one… coming soon!)

With (sprint distance) triathlon attempt #2 approaching at break-neck speed,  I thought it appropriate to give my first Tri attempt a brief revisit, and then light it on fire and toss it into the get-over-it-already files for good.

So, it was about a year ago that my friend Jenn and I first decided we should do a triathlon together.  Sounded like a fantastic idea, if not a sure-fire way to get super-fit and skinny (LOL!)  So, we picked a really cool one near Denver, and then found various training plans online that we tried to more or less follow.  What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s the breakdown:

SWIM.   As soon as I entered the water — in the exact second my chest touched the really cold water — my breath left my body in a big hurry, not to return for hours later.   After a few unsuccessful attempts to breathe, I decide to try to swim anyway.  Here’s where I discover that I can’t see a damn thing, even with my goggles on!  The water is choppy, and cloudy, and freaking cold. There are feet hitting me in the face.  I look around, and people are swimming with their heads out of the water!  (This is the back of the pack, mind you.)  Well guess what?  I didn’t practice swimming like that.  I immediately forget everything I thought I knew about swimming (which is not that much anyway).  Every time I put my head in the water and tried to swim the stroke,  the fact that I can’t see a thing or catch a breath completely freaks me out.  I ended up doing the backstroke, or some weird frog-style doggie paddle through most of it.  A half mile never felt so long.  The swim took me about 2 times longer than planned.  At one point, I remember being really grateful that I had the super-dorky yellow swim cap on, in case I needed to be fished out of the water.   Jenn actually circled back to find me just leaving the water after she had waited… and waited… and waited at the transition area.  As we made it back to our bikes, I thought I heard her say something like, “what in the hell is wrong with her?”  I could be wrong, though.

BIKE:  This is the easy part, right?  Save some legs for the run, right?  Did I mention this is Colorado?  Aurora, Colorado?   It’s in the MOUNTAINS.   When they say “rolling course”, or “fun, challenging hills”, they mean BIG FKING MOUNTAINS!  Holy shit!  I think there were 12 big-ass hills.  I don’t know why we didn’t expect that, but we didn’t.   (Side note:  All my training and living up to this point happens to have occurred at sea-level.  My “hill” in Houston is where the Braeswood bike trail goes underneath Stella Link.)   About half-way up the first hill, I remember saying something like “I don’t think I can do this.”   And I think I heard Jenn say something like “Don’t make me kill you”…   I could be wrong, though.

We managed all the hills,  but it was really hard.  We’d get to the top up one f-bomb inducing hill, only to get a glimpse of the next 3 bigger, nastier hills in our very near future.   My honest assessment:  that segment really @&$%#$ sucked.  About 3 hills to the end, I decided to try to save some leg muscle, and shifted into a (lower/higher/different?) gear, which was easier on my poor aching quads, but was basically as speedy as riding a stationary bike up the hill.   I lost Jenn, so she kicked my ass on this leg, too.

RUN:   Ok, this is my part.  I’m a runner, right?   Legs are shredded.  Haven’t had a decent breath in what seems like days.  I can’t find our playlist on my #@!&*$  ipod.   Here, thankfully, we kind of sucked equally, at least in the beginning.  At the first hill, we both decided that we were going to walk all hills.  There were really way more hills than necessary.   Just when we thought we were about 75 yards to the finish –- a quick trip through the transition area and then just a little further — we were instead pointed up yet another hill and around a corner (so maybe 120 yards to finish)…  and that’s when I started hyper-ventilating!  I mean, seriously wheezing and gasping for breath!  This wheezing business was all new stuff for me, and it completely scared the crap out of me, which of course made me wheeze and gasp some more.  There we both stood, finish line in sight, watching me die.  Luckily, Jenn had her asthma inhaler on her, so she hit me with a puff off that thing, and soon we were on our way again.  As we got close to the finish line, I thought I heard Jenn say something like “Outta my way, short stuff… you’re blocking my good side!”   I could be wrong, though.   (But you be the judge!)

JennFinishLine

(This is actually a picture of Jenn crossing the finish line.  If you look closely, you can see me… or at least an arm…  coming up behind.  Left in the dust! Rolling on the floor laughing )

We did have fun… but oh, it was hard!   The next one has to go better, right?

On Coming Home

Years ago, in my early 30’s, I took a trip to Mexico with my friend, Jenn.  (At the time, we were new-ish, met-at-work-and-now-we-are-soul-mates kind of friends, but now we are actual life-long kind of friends.)  There are so many stories from that trip that can only be told in person, or, maybe you just had to be there, but oh my goodness… that was a fun trip!   It was my first (and only?) time in Mexico, and perhaps my first actual “vacation” as an adult.  So, we got there, and headed straight to a table on the beach.  We ordered Sol beers and chips and hot sauce from Roberto.  And I sat there… on the edge of my seat, fidgeting, eyes wide, good posture, big grin — like some kid on the first day of school — and asked, “What are we gonna do now?”  And Jenn just looked at me, and laughed and said “We are already doing it.”

“Oh!”

Sometimes you just miss life if you are thinking about it too much.

This year – this last year of my 40’s – has felt a bit like a journey, dotted with these same kind of “Ah-Hah!” moments.  It’s like I’ve been on this quest of re-discovering, re-connecting, re-grounding, and re-finding where I belong in this life.  Finding HOME, if you will. The first thought I had this morning – ok, maybe not the very first, but the first one that hit me in the face and made me stop for a second – was “How fucking beautiful is this place that I now call home?”

I grew up in Houston, and so,  you look left, you look right, you look ahead, or you look behind… and you pretty much see a building.  Here, I can look, and see as far as I can see. The town is small, but the world feels so much bigger.

Sometimes, looking off into that forever, I get this feeling… a split second of almost-clarity.  It’s a bit elusive and I can’t quite grasp it — like a word that you can’t remember but you know it starts with a certain letter –- but it goes something like this:  Let’s just say I was sad. For whatever reason.  And maybe I was sad for days.  (Or, yikes, maybe I was sad for years!)  But then I think, just FEELING that sadness is good, in a “I’m alive” kind of way.  It means I feel things, and that is good. And acknowledging it means I can also see past it.  I can take that emotion, and roll it around like a marble in my hand, and just hold it, and feel it, and then I can let it go when I’m ready to.  And I put it up for safe keeping, with all the other marbles.  I may go back to it later.  Is that weird?

So, I recently moved (back) to a little town.  The town I did the last 2 years of high school in, the same town my grandfather came to as a boy from Scotland, the town my dad grew up in.  I didn’t grow up here, but it feels like home.

I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember.  We’d start out early in the morning,   seven of us piled into the car, heading from Houston to Llano.  It would take us all day, even though it’s just under 4 hours if you don’t dawdle.  But, we dawdled.

There are landmarks that I will never forget along the way:

  • the long stretch of I-10, dotted by rice fields and Brookshire and Sealy –towns you would miss if you sneezed or looked the other way
  • that bridge in Columbus that we drove under (before they built the highway out of town)
  • the Bon Ton in La Grange, where we stopped every time and there was always chicken-fried steak
  • that stretch right before Bastrop where the highway is separated by a grass boulevard (but I don’t think that’s the right word)
  • My cousin’s house in Austin where we’d stop and climb a big oak tree (and maybe someone would fall off )
  • Houses on the hill, and the winding, hilly road heading out of Austin
  • that bridge that crosses the Pedernales,  where you can see forever, and it’s so pretty it hurts
  • the cut-off (281) to Marble Falls… so close, but still so far…
  • The lights of town if it was night or the bridge if it was still daytime.

Once we got to my Grandmother’s house, there was the big table in front of the living room, and then a little table in the kitchen.   Just  through there was a bedroom where her feather bed lived (and another bed), and the red stool next to the phone (4245…  those are the only numbers you need to know).  You had to walk through that room, and then another room to get to the bathroom, where the door locked via a hook and eye latch.  The clock in the kitchen tick-tocked all night.

My Grandma Ima would wake up early, before anyone else.  She had hands that were old and strong, and thick glasses, and she could do ANYTHING!  She would make divinity and cake out of almost nothing, and never consulted a recipe.  She would give us buckets to go gather dewberries out of the yard, and then make a cobbler that could make a grown man cry. She always had that kind of vanilla ice cream that came in the big red gallon buckets.  At Thanksgiving, so many people piled into that tiny house, the kids had to go sit on the steps outside.  It would take at least 3 plates to try everything, and that’s even before dessert.

Growing up, I always just assumed I’d live in Houston forever.  It was the place I first went to school.  The place I met my first friends.  The place I married.  The place I divorced.  The place I knew. The place where my own kids grew up. The place I finally figured out how to navigate in my car.  The place I got my first “real job.”  The place I became who I am.

Seems weird to just up and move, but that’s what I did, and it somehow doesn’t seem so weird now.  When I leave here, I can’t wait to come back.  And that is how I know that I’m HOME.  I love my  friends back “home” in Houston, and I love all of my old and new friends here at my new “Home”.

Well, I just lost my train of thought, or I didn’t have an ending in mind.  That’s all for now.  Thanks for taking this trip with me.

Awesome Sauce

Awesome Sauce

The first time I made this Awesome (habanero) Sauce, I just started throwing stuff together that I thought would be good – habaneros, pineapple, garlic, spices, and even pickled carrots.  When I took a taste, my first thought was “Oh, my damn! This needs some sausage!”  So, I grabbed my car keys and made a mad dash to the grocery store.  I’m pretty sure I looked like some sort of deranged tweaker — darting around in all directions, wild-eyed, and mumbling to myself — looking for things to eat with this sauce.   “Sausage… Shrimp… ohhhhh…. breakfast tacos… no wait, ALL the tacos!… spinach quesadilla?…  uh, yeah….. how about a really good sub sandwich? (duh!)… meatballs… pizza… mmm… ”    I’m not exactly proud to say that my meal plan that week consisted entirely of “things that go good with Awesome Sauce.”

Awesome Sauce ingredients

(The name I first came up with was “Oh My Damn Sauce”.   But, I’ve since settled on Awesome Sauce because it’s way more fun to say,  and is also annoying to some people – which is fun.)

I have also recently found that Awesome Sauce goes really well with fried catfish and boudin.  Which, coincidentally,  rank pretty high on my food pyramid these days.

My food pyramid

This sauce might look a little like mustard, and definitely could be used as such, but it packs a really nice bit of heat and way more interesting flavor.   Pineapple juice gives it just enough sweetness to tone the habanero down a tad, yet it’s not too sweet.  I like it medium hot, sort of along the lines of Sriracha sauce, but you could go way hotter (or less) if you like by adjusting the habaneros.

Continue reading “Awesome Sauce”

Quickles!

Quickles

What’s a Quickle?  A Quickle is a quick pickle for those of us who just “aint got time for that!”  These suckers are ready overnight, and that’s plenty long enough to have to wait, in my opinion.  I love having a big jar of these around.  They are fresh and a little crispy and the perfect thing to go with everything that I like to snack on.  Sometimes I just stand at the counter, gazing off into the distance and eating them one by one right out of the jar.  Or I’ll stack 3 together, and think “Hey! I made a pickle sandwich!”  But I do like them with lots of other things…. sandwiches, boudin, anything rolled up in a tortilla, fried catfish, random slices of lunch-meat… and of course on a slider, as that is the perfect ratio of pickle to burger.  Behold:

Quickle Slider

I like to put a good bit of onions in mine, because something magical happens when you pair cucumbers and onions and a bit of vinegar.  But, we are talking about pickles now, so it all starts with some cukes.  Kirby, or pickling cucumbers are great if you can find them.  Or those funny English cucumbers that are usually wrapped up in plastic work well, too.  These will have thinner skins than the regular old slicer cucumbers. Get about 10 of the Kirby ones to make a big jar, or about 6-7 English cucumbers.

Kirby Cucumbers

The process is pretty simple.  Slice them up and put in a big bowl so you can distribute the salt and spices evenly.  Add some hot pepper if you like, garlic if you like… whatever!  These are your pickles!

You’ll be surprised at first at the small amount of liquid, but trust me, the salt will pull moisture out of the cucumbers and make an amazing brine in no time.   Note that these are refrigerator pickles… they are not “canned”, and as such, you should not store them in your Doomsday Prep food dungeon.  Please.  They will stay delish in the fridge for around 2 weeks.  So, go ahead and get your fill before the zombie apocalypse starts.  (To prepare for THAT, you will need to learn some proper canning skills.  That’s for a different day. Today is all about Quickles.  Pay attention.)

quickles bowl

Use your hands to mix the cucumbers  (and onions, carrots, peppers, garlic as you see fit) and salt and spices in a large bowl.  Then put them in a big jar.  I like to let this sit for a few hours on the counter first BEFORE adding vinegar. This is to make sure the salt has maximum surface time on all the slices, and can do it’s magic and pull that brine out.  After that, you can add the vinegar and put in the fridge – and then give it a little shake whenever you think about it.  (Basically, whenever you open the fridge door to see if any new snacks have appeared since the last time you peeked inside.)  Let them sit overnight, and by the next day, they are perfection!

I hope you like!

P.S:  Just wait until you meet Awesome Sauce (that’s next!)  Because Quickles and Awesome Sauce pair so nicely with so many things!!

Quickles

Ingredients

  • 10 Kirby Cucumbers (or 6-7 English Cucumbers)
  • 1 medium Onion, sliced
  • 1 large Carrot, sliced thin
  • 1 Serrano pepper, sliced (opt)
  • 10 Garlic Cloves (opt)
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (opt)
  • 1 teaspoon Pickling Spice
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard Seed
  • 1 teaspoon Celery Seed
  • 1 teaspoon Dill Seed
  • 2/3 cup White Vinegar

Instructions

  1. Slice cucumbers, and other veggies, then place into large bowl. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix together to distribute spices evenly. Place in a large jar and let sit at room temperature for a few hours. Add vinegar, gently shake and store in the refrigerator. Give it a shake several more times over the next day. Allow to sit overnight. These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

Lessons from Dog

It’s OK to be happy.  Let yourself.  Sit in the sunshine, hear the birds, let the wind rustle your hair. Exhale.  Just be.

Not everything needs to be mulled over and over and dissected and examined into infinity.  Not everything needs to be understood.

I think I decided to up and move in the time it took me to blink.  It was one of those “why not?” kind of moments that just came out of nowhere.  But it made so much sense.  Once that train started rolling, it all happened pretty quick, at least in retrospect.  I mean, some things felt like an eternity (waiting on the appraisal, for example) but in the end, everything just fell in place.  Like it was meant to be.  And now, here I am.  Sitting on my back porch on my own little piece of Texas.  Spring has arrived… the bluebonnets are popping up all over, and everything turned green almost overnight. (Well, except for the dust-bowl that I call a backyard… but working on that!)  There is sunshine, and birds, and plenty of space for dogs.  I call it… wait for it… the Dog Ranch!

My first foster dog arrived last week. His name is Elroy, and he is a hot mess.  You know that’s just how I like them.  He doesn’t have much hair,  he’s shy, and he’s skinny.  His face looked like concrete when he was rescued, but he looks better every day.

   

He is hella goofy and a little unsure about me, but he took right to my girls.  Novella has taken him under her wing – she’s so good like that.  She’s teaching him about Tug and Chase and about really good naps.  About feeling the wind and the warmth of the sun.  About chasing birds and scavenging for the bird seed that falls from the feeder.  About just being happy.

He didn’t know about soft beds, but he does now. He just found out that he likes squeaky toys.  It takes me 10 minutes to coax him into the house every single time I let him out, but he eventually comes to me.

I packed up my house 2 months ago, and I left Houston for the hill country.  I walked away, and I packed up the broken parts of me in a box and I taped it up so good.  I still haven’t unpacked that box, and maybe I just won’t.  That stupid box of shards and tears.  Not everything has to be dealt with.  Not right away, anyway.

For now, I am just letting myself be happy.  And it feels good.  I hope you can be happy, too.

Let yourself be happy.

Novella

Pepper Crack

Pepper Crack

If you had visited this space before, you might notice that I deleted my entire blog.  After not finding the time to post for nearly a year, I just deleted the whole thing and didn’t even keep a backup.  Of course, then I had a change of heart within just a few days.  So, here we go with a whole new start!

I was a little sad to lose some of the stories, but they aren’t really gone.  If you’ve met me or anyone in my family, you will know that one thing we never do is let a good story die.  If it was worth telling once, it’s worth re-telling a thousand times!  Just stop by any family gathering and bear witness to the 35th annual retelling of “That time Granny Gran got arrested for stealing a beer”.  Stick around a little longer, and you’ll probably catch my brother Robert re-enacting (in slow motion) “That time Granny Gran copped a squat on I-10.”  Fun times!

And so, for my inaugural post… behold Pepper Crack:  The best stuff to ever grace a pizza,  breakfast taco, sandwich, or guacamole!  It’s like Chicago Style Giardiniera, but with a shit-ton of garlic.  Make a big batch, because it takes a few days to become just right, and you wouldn’t want to accidentally run out. We’ll skip story time and get right to the recipe because some people have been asking.

You ready?  You’re gonna need a lot of peppers…

Peppers

My first rule:  Don’t cheat on the knife work.  It’s a lot of slicing, but it’s so much prettier when you don’t hack it up with a chopper.

Pepper Crack

Second rule:  You really should share. (But, the big jar in back is all for me!)

PepperCrackJars

Pepper Crack

Hot Pepper mix that goes with everything! Try on pizza, eggs, sandwiches, and in guacamole. This recipe will yeild 6 mason jars.… Continue reading →

  • Yield: About 7 jars

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Serrano Peppers
  • 6 Celery Stalks
  • 1 cup Kosher Salt
  • 6 cups Water
  • 40 Garlic Cloves
  • 12 ounces Spanish Olives (stuffed with Pimiento)
  • 1 tablespoon Oregano (dried)
  • 2 cups Canola, Avocado, or Grapeseed Oil
  • 2 cups Vinegar (white, cider or combo)

Instructions

  1. Rinse peppers and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick. (WEAR GLOVES!) Dice celery. Dissolve 1 Cup Kosher salt into 2 cups warm water in a large (non-metal) bowl. Add the peppers and celery and additional water as necessary to cover the peppers. Refrigerate at least overnight, or up to 3 days.
  2. After the peppers have brined, rinse and drain well, and return to the bowl. (I rinse a couple of times, shaking out some of the seeds.) Chop the garlic (I like not-too-small pieces), slice the olives, and add into the bowl with the peppers. Add the Oregano and about a 1/4 cup of oil, and mix together.
  3. Transfer the pepper mix into clean jars, and then top off with vinegar and oil (approximately half and half, or more vinegar if you prefer.) Let the pepper mix sit for 2-3 days in the refrigerator, gently shaking the jars occasionally. Use within 2-3 weeks.

 

There are endless ways to use up a jar of Pepper Crack.  My mission is to find them all.  My new favorite is Pepper Crack Avo Toast.  Yummmmmm!

Pepper Crack Avo Toast