Why Top 45?

These are the things that float to the top of my list of activities that I want to do for the year 2012 when I am 45 years old. The list is comprised of things that I have either never tried or have wanted to try and just didn't have the courage or time to do it. Follow along and watch my progress and feel free to comment or add words of encouragement to help keep me going for the next 365 days!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lenoir Restaurant - By Catch Dinner

Instead of attending La Dolce Vita, that is an event that takes place at Laguna Gloria Art museum, Greg and I altered the list a bit to participate in one of the monthly dinner series meals featured at Lenoir Restaurant in south Austin.  I decided that I didn't feel like standing in multiple lines for food and wine with thousands of other people.  I have become quite spoiled and prefer smaller venues and more personal service for all kinds of events ranging from food and wine to music.

Lenoir is owned and operated by husband and wife, Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher, who source as much as their supplies from Texas producers as possible.  The restaurant is housed is a very quaint and whimsically decorated house-cum-restaurant just south of downtown.  When we first arrived we were directed to the adorable backyard where ambient lights were strewn in the trees and the Biscuit Grabbers entertained us with their unique jazzy music.


While listening to the tunes, we were offered a choice of beverages; bubbly, riesling or pilsner and tasty hors d'oeuvres; hake brandade, marinated blackfin tuna and fried menhaden.  We both started with a glass of the pinot nero-fanconia scarpetta and ended up with a glass of the riesling.  Of the hors d'oeuvres, one of our favorites was the fried menhaden that we renamed fish-bacon due to is presentation and the fact that it tasted like bacon with a hint of fish flavor as a nice after taste.  Greg and I had to resist eating the tray of appetizers placed at the end of our table because we wanted to leave room for the meal to come...we should have stopped at one a piece of the appetizers instead of the 3+ of each that we ate, just couldn't resist the fish-bacon.

Hake Brandade and Blackfin Tuna

Fish Bacon!

After a short time in the backyard, we migrated inside for the four courses to come.  Upon entry to the restaurant, we were greeted by the scene below.  I LOVE the multiple chandeliers.  The restaurant only has a few tables and seats probably about 30 or so people.  Most of the walls are decorated by thin strips of wood that have been painted black except for a wall painted a beautiful jewel tone of blue near the restrooms.  It was so cozy and inviting that I am looking forward to another visit very soon.
Lovely Interior Decor

Menu - a.k.a. Fish Feast

The first course did not disappoint!  I LOVED the two salads and in particular the salad with thai basil as the main greens paired with toasted rice, wild boar and egg crepe.  The textures and flavors were amazing and I ate way more of this salad then I should have...I was failing miserably on pacing myself for the remainder of food to come.  The cauliflower salad was lovely, too, with lots of additional flavors and textures.

Amazing Thai Basil Salad
Awesome multi-colored cauliflower salad
One of the really cool aspects of this meal is the intro to each course by the chef along with guest lectures by the fish monger, the sommelier and the local Austin sake maker.  If only they would have told me to pace myself better...no thanks to Greg either. ; )

The second course was an amazing rainbow runner green curry.  It had just enough spice to have some interest and not too much that you couldn't recognize and taste the other ingredients and spices in the soup.  I am not a big fan of okra, but it grows well in Texas and this wasn't too slimy, but I really enjoyed the additional flavors of the Thai eggplant and Jerusalem artichokes.
FlavorFULL green curry soup
The third course, or last savory course, was an entire grilled porgy and yummy roasted sweet potatoes.  The sight of the whole grilled fish made quite a presentation and while everything was served family style, Greg and I were the only ones at our table so we had a lot of fun taking pictures and dissecting the dishes.  We were quite full by this course so we were able to bring some of the food home.  I really liked the way the potatoes were roasted with some meyer lemon garnish because it had a bit of a lemony glaze on them.  Oh, and the green beans were divine with a lovely mix of seasonings to complement the fact that they were perfectly prepared, not too over cooked.  We loved most of the drink pairings although we were not a big fan of the sake.  As I am not a sake connoisseur, I really do not feel qualified to comment too much on it though.
Grilled Porgy





Finally, our fourth, dessert course, was a smorgasbord of sesame & almond cake, meyer lemon curd, grilled persimmon and frozen coconut rice.  Of this grouping, my favorite flavors were the lemon curd and coconut ice cream probably because I was so full from everything else, I couldn't really put too much into my stomach for fear of bursting.  As a matter of fact, I was so full that I forgot to snap a picture of the dessert.

The meal was a huge success in my book and as I suspected, I really enjoyed the intimate nature of the meal over the bustly chaos that sometimes prevails at something like La Dolce Vita or a different wine and food fest.

I have signed up for email updates from Lenoir because I hope to return very soon for another one of their special meals.

Next few posts:
Blanton B Scene
FirePit Ceramics
Chicken S*&t Bingo

Monday, November 19, 2012

Final List Update

Here is the final list.  I need to set the date for item #16 and I think it will be December 2nd, if you want to come along, let me know!  For the Art Class I have decided it would be a first to try to make some pottery so I am going to do that.  I still need to post about the dinner at Lenoir the restaurant that was amazing and will do so very soon.  Actually, if you see anything on the list that is remaining that you might want to tag along with me, shoot me an email.
 Hard to believe the year is almost up and it will be the end of this list.  Someone asked me if I was going to have a list of 46 next year and I emphatically said, "NO!"  Now that I have had some time to ponder, I may have a hobby that I attempt to do for 46 weeks, and that is the extent of next years list.
  1. Get physical exercise 5-6 times a week for 45 weeks - Ongoing
  2.  Austin 5k - Run for the Water
  3.  Danskin Triathlon - June
  4.  Highland Lakes Challenge - October
  5. 135/8 - Ongoing
  6.  Masters swimming meet/ 3x3 Challenge - TBD
  7.  Diva Dash - April
  8.  Change Hair - January
  9.  Passport Vacation - Caribbean Cruise
  10.  Trip to San Diego with Kim & Stacy and others – July/August
  11.   Paragliding - August
  12.    Surfing  - August
  13.    Swimming with Sting Rays - Grand Cayman
  14.    Horseback riding on the beach - Jamaica
  15.    Swim with dolphins - Cozumel
  16.   Chicken S*&t Bingo - December
  17.    Zip lining - March
  18.    Make bed each weekday morning - Ongoing
  19.    Plant garden/produce veggies and herbs - Spring
  20.   Get an egg from hens - Spring
  21.   Empty kitchen sink each weekday night - Ongoing
  22.   Redecorate Nicole’s room for 10th birthday - June
  23.   Blanton B Scene Art Party - November 30
  24.   AMOA Opening - Janauary
  25.   Lenoir Special Seafood Dinner – November
  26.    Opera – Lucia di Lammermoor – February
  27.    Broadway Across America – Wicked – February
  28.   Ballet – Fall
  29.   Paramount Theater – Summer
  30.   UT Football home game -Opening game vs. Wyoming
  31.    Symphony - December
  32.   Texas Advocacy Project – Handbags for Hope became KW Red Day
  33.    SXSW – Focus Movie – March
  34.   The Hobbit Feast - December
  35.     One handwritten note a month to Nicole for book – Ongoing
  36.   One handwritten note a month to a Friend or Family member - Ongoing
  37.   Photography Class - December
  38.   Ceramic Art Class - December
  39.    Top 45 at 45 Blog – Ongoing
  40.   Courage to Change Blog – Ongoing
  41.    The Artist’s Way morning pages and art dates – Ongoing
  42.   iPhone Apple class – January
  43.    Practice French – Ongoing
  44.   Whole Foods or Central Market Cooking class became Le Cordon Bleu Class - TBD
  45.   Organize Family Birthday Calendar - December

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Daylight Savings

     In about an hour and a half, the clocks on the computers, phones, ipad and TVs will automatically reset and fall back 1 hour.  I have already set the clocks, microwave and oven clocks back so when I wake up in the morning, I won't be alarmed by the difference in times.  Computers however, are not full proof in knowing the correct dates to change times as was evidenced last weekend when Nicole and I took part in the Run for the Water race.  As we headed downtown, some of the electronic signs had already adjusted to an earlier time announcing 5:30am instead of the actual 6:30am that we were at while driving on Barton Springs looking for parking to get to the starting line in time for my 7:15 5k kick off.

     I am fairly certain that the organizers of the race thought that the clock would change that weekend too, when they decided to start the 10miler so darn early in the morning.  Another explanation is that runners and organizers of runners here in Austin are just plumb crazy for setting a start time so early on a Sunday morning.

I know that Nicole was not too happy about getting up so early on a Sunday.  I had to use the parental line of, "We are lucky to have the things we have, including clean water to drink each day, because some people have to wake up this early to walk to get clean water," to help Nicole adjust her attitude about the wake up call (things you never thought you would say to your kids type of line).
      The race was a good bit larger than I had expected and Keller Williams Realty is a big sponsor for the race.  After meeting Gilbert Tuhabonye at one of KW Team Meetings, I decided to add this event to my list, substituting it for the Capitol Triathlon that I didn't do in September due to lack of training time.  The formation of the Gazelle Foundation was inspired by the story of Gilbert who was a survivor of the Hutu/Tutsi civil unrest in Burundi.  He wrote a book, This Voice in My Heart, that I intend on reading soon, and is an autobiographical account of his upbringing and tale of survival.

Right after signing up for the race, I posted on Facebook that I had signed up and invited some friends to join me.  Allison and Maria eventually signed up to run with me and it was nice to have the support.  Allison is currently training to run a marathon and has been logging quite a few miles each week in preparation and Maria is more like me, not quite as much running.  When I asked Allison how fast she could run a mile, she pointed to her iPhone that was securely attached to her arm and said that it depended on the music that was playing.  I knew that I wasn't going to be able to keep up with her when she said the first song to play would be Let's Get it Started AND that I had forgotten to even bring music to run to during the 5k.  Maria remembered her music but was nice enough to hang with me throughout the race.  Having her to talk to helped in two ways 1) I ran a bit faster than I have recently and 2) I actually ran the entire 5k nonstop.
     I finished the run in about 37 minutes, not my best time in a 5k and also not my worst.  From the results, I was 24th in my age group.
     Nicole and Hadley were signed up to run the Kid K that started right around 9am.  It was fun to see them lined up at the starting line and I was proud of both girls for participating for the cause of clean water. 

     I definitely want to send out a special thanks to Allison and Maria for running with me, and to their husbands, Dan and Matt, who came out to the race to watch Nicole and Hadley while we ran our race.  We celebrated with breakfast at NXNW and then Nic and I came home and I didn't do much the rest of the day as I was still recovering from the 5k swim and then the 5k run complete within days of one another.

New list update to come this week.
Time for bed..even though we set the clock back one hour, I don't need to push my luck.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Highland Lakes Challenge

On Thursday morning, I swam in the 6th Annual, Tex Roberston, Highland Lakes Challenge.  The annual event is organized by former Olympian, Sandy Neilson-Bell, and her husband, Dr. Keith Bell.  Sandy was a triple gold medalist at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany in the 100 meter freestyle.  She won three golds, one in the individual 100 free, one in the 4 x 100 free relay and one in the 4 x 100 meter medley relay.  My masters swim coach, Carolyn, is a swimmer on Sandy's master team, the Team Texas Masters and is basically responsible for getting me to put this event on my list for this year.  She will pay for this inspired me and made me believe that I could accomplish this, so lots of credit to her for believing in my abilities to complete this even if I doubted it from time to time.

The Challenge consists of 5 stages of swimming in Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls and Lake Travis.  Swimmers can swim in all five stages or just one stage, swimming distances ranging in length of 1 mile up to 4 miles depending on the course and the day.  I chose to swim in the Inks Lake stage because it was the best day to fit into my schedule and as it turns out, it was the right choice because the weather turned cold overnight between Thursday and Friday. Originally, I was going to do a 1 mile swim, however there were only 4 other swimmers other than myself and they were all going to do the great distance.  Since I didn't want to create any problems for the organizers (or disappoint Carolyn ; ) ), I opted to increase my distance from 1 mile to 3 miles.

This particular leg of the event began on the docks of Camp Longhorn, a summer camp that was started by Tex and Pat Robertson in 1939.  Coincidentally, I had been to Camp Longhorn years before when I was a nanny for a family whose children attended camp over the summers there.  It has grown significantly over the years and I got lost looking for the docks because it was so different from when I had been there before.

Camp Longhorn Lazy River
Overcast Pre-race sky
My Pre-race companion, Hank

It is fitting that the challenge is named after Tex Robertson as he is a former Olympian in Water Polo and former swimming coach for the University of Texas who is best known for inventing the flip turn and coaching Adolph Kiefer who was a world champion backstroker.  Flip turns are only permitted during the freestyle and backstroke races while, in butterfly and breaststroke, regulations require swimmers to touch the end of the pool with both hands before turning back for another length. 
Tex's Olympic bag
Tex Pool Dedication 
Tex Robertson's Medal Room

After meeting on the docks, we all climbed on a boat and Sandy drove us around a bend to begin the swim near a damn.  The water was fairly cold upon entry but since I typically get pretty hot during practice at the Y, I knew the temperature was not going to be an issue once I started the 3 mile trek.  We 'warmed' up a little before Sandy counted us down and we took off.  I was a little concerned early on because my left arm and shoulder were uncomfortable pretty quickly so I started alternating between freestyle and breaststroke to give other muscles a chance to kick in.  There was no choppiness for most of the swim and I am very grateful for that because the last time I did an open water swim, the small waves were hitting me to one side and I ended up getting really dizzy and nauseous that lasted most of the rest of the day after the swim.  The only regret I can think of was that I wish I had goggles that were shaded like sunglasses because the glare from the sun made it difficult to site the course.  Doing breaststroke did double duty, helping my muscles and helping me to site the course better.  I held my place in the middle of the pack for the entire 3 miles occasionally spotting Keith and Patty pretty far ahead and Bill and Paul a slight distance behind.  At one point, Sandy and Carolyn pulled up nearby in a boat to let me know I was pulling to the left and redirected me closer to shore.  As I got closer to the finish, the recognizable Camp Longhorn buildings helped to calm me down a bit as I knew that once I could spot them, I was coming to the end of the challenge.  The last 500-800 yards were pretty tough because the choppiness of the lake picked up considerably and luckily it was coming head-on instead of at an angle or to either side of my head.  When I saw the final buoy, I had enough energy to kick to the end to reach the dock and pull slightly ahead of Bill, as Carolyn told me after I finished. 

Carolyn said she felt like a proud momma for me and was impressed with my time.  I really didn't have any idea how I had done other than the time of 1 hour and 41 minutes because I had nothing to compare it to having never done a distance like this.  I was in the company of people who do this type of thing on a regular basis, Patty having just swam a 10 miler in Tennessee a couple of weekends ago for instance.  I am proud of the time and the fact that I pushed myself to do the entire 3 miles instead of the 1 mile but I am still recovering, several days later, and will play it by ear on whether or not I will do this event again. 

One final note, I was pretty surprised at how dirty my suit got, acting like a filter for the dirt floating around the top of the lake and was sure to take some Emergen-C to help prevent getting sick from the dirt and slime that I filtered through my nose while I raced.

Dirt filtered through my suit
 Tomorrow, I am running in the Run for the Water event downtown and will report on that early next week as well as do a recap of what is left on the list and how I hope to accomplish the rest before December 31!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Shrew

A few weeks ago, I went with my friend, Margaret, to see the Taming of the Shrew ballet that was put on by Ballet Austin at the Long Center.  It was awesome!

Before the ballet, we decided to have dinner downtown at Bess Bistro on Pecan.  For those of you who don't know, Sandra Bullock is one of the owners of Bess Bistro in addition to Walton's Fancy and Staple that is across the street from Bess on the portion of 6th Street west of Congress.  Pecan Street is another name for 6th street because, like many of the streets in Austin, any street that is any street in Austin, has more than one name.  Just check out this list put together by one of the title companies I do business with below.


There were no Sandra Bullock sightings, however I have seen her there before.  Margaret and I enjoyed a really lovely, relaxing dinner finally finding some time to catch up on each others happenings.  We both had a fish dish and I ate everything on my plate because a) I was hungry and b) I couldn't take any of it home because we were heading to the ballet and there was no way I was leaving any of the yumminess on the plate!  For dessert, we had their dessert du jour that had a Nutella-like flavor and was so light and the perfect thing to have after dinner with some decaf coffee.

Both of us were a little apprehensive about the idea of Taming of the Shrew, that is seemingly Shakespeare-dialogue dependent, turned into a ballet and we were both in for a surprise.  The troupe was amazing!  They did such a wonderful job translating their emotions into movement that you could tell who was playing which character from the start and their was no confusion which ballerina was the shrew.  There were two lines spoken near the beginning of the ballet that honestly weren't needed, but it was fun to hear some spoken word at a ballet.

I really enjoyed the simplicity of the sets too, that through minor changes represented very well the various scenes in the ballet.  Many of the extras spent time easily moving props on and off the stage and a few pieces of the furniture were made of a translucent material that I really liked.  For some reason, the translucent furniture had a big impact on me because I think it served a really good purpose and yet it did not distract from the ballet.

Ballet Austin - Taming of the Shrew

I am winding down the year and will be doing on last list update this week.  I need to motivate in these last 12 weeks of the year to finish up the last of the Top 45!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Swimmin' in the Rain

On the list, I had picked to do the Austin Tri Rocks triathlon and had to make a switch due to lack of training time.  Without proper training, I am pretty concerned about injury.  I substituted the "World Championship of Texas 3 on 3 Swimming Tournament" that took place this past Sunday.   The tournament consists of a series of games where a team of three competes with another team of three in various races and a team is eliminated after two lost games.  The pairs of competitors swim along other pairs of competitors in order to add a little bit of excitement and to prevent the tournament from lasting all day and night.  The games were in the following order: Free relay, 50 fly, 50 back, 75 IM (no freestyle), 50 free, 50 breaststroke then IM relay (again, no freestyle).  I was somewhat concerned the event would be canceled (and half hoping it would be, too) due to rain.  For those of you who have been in Austin for longer than a month, you know we definitely welcome the rain.  For those of you who know me, I get EXTREMELY anxious before any competitive event and I was semi-hoping it would start thundering...we only got rain, lots of rain, but nothing that would cancel the event.  At least it was swimming in the rain and not running or riding a bike in the rain.

Pre-Race (Carolyn MIA because she helped organize the event)

My master's coach from the YMCA, Carolyn, organized two teams.  The team I was on included our coach Carolyn, Courtney and myself and was named The Naughty Narwhals (our team at the Y is called the Narwhals) and the second team had Brian, Mitch and Christy called Sparkle Motion.  Apparently, Sparkle Motion is from the movie Donnie Darko and when I searched the name on google, it came up in the Urban Dictionary defined as, "Phrase that can be used to describe something awesome," and "Originally from the movie Donnie Darko, where Sparkle Motion was the name of a dance group composed of little girls."  I would say the first definition is more appropriate because Sparkle Motion at the tournament kicked some booty!

Courtney, Carolyn & Me

Brian, Christy & Mitch

In our first 'game', Carolyn warned us that we were swimming against some pretty tough competition and we may end up 'bagging' the races to conserve our energy.  Sure enough, one of the team members of our first opposing teams was apparently named one of the 10 fittest people in Austin.  Yes, you read that correctly.  In a city that has Lance Armstrong as one of the other top 10 people on that list, one of our first competitors is in his league.  Needless to say, we didn't win any of those games in that heat.  I came pretty close to winning the 50 free because I said to my competitor that it wasn't fair that they win all of them, but I still didn't win that race.

***UPDATE: I looked up our competition and sure enough, Kristen Turner was mentioned as half of one of the fittest couples in Austin in the Austin Fit Magazine's February 2011 issue.
We didn't have a chance....

Our second 'game' was not until the fourth heat which gave us a little bit of rest time.  We swam against a set of tween girls and when I looked at them I decided it was probably a better bet that we could with this game.  I swam the same events as the first time and we actually won.  About half way through the game, I realized this meant we were going to have to swim again and we had no idea if we would get a break because of the nature of the tournament.  I was a little bit worried that I had pushed a little too hard against our opponents AND it had really started to rain pretty hard.  I know that we were wet already from the water, but it was pretty chilly and there was a breeze.  We found it was better to stay in the water as long as we could before each race to keep our muscles warm.

Pre-Race and no rain.

Rain during tournament.

We won our second match up but then we had to turn around immediately and start our third.  We just couldn't pull out another win.  The three of us were warn out, tired and cold.

The tournament was a blast and I plan to do it again next year.  I am also hoping to recruit Nicole and some of her teammates for a group of younger Narwhals.  Other than the sore that I developed on teh bottom of my left big tow from having to start so many times on some rough starting blocks, I did get to bring home a prize from our 'win' set of games.

3 on 3 Booty

 We didn't win much, but we sure had a blast trying!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fly Like An Eagle

     There were many things that I _did_ do when I lived in San Diego for three years, and many things that I wanted to do that I didn't.  I worked at the San Diego Supercomputer Center for three years and it is located across the street from the Torrey Pines Glider Port.  For three years, I kept saying that I needed to go and check it out and I never did.  During those three years, my friend Greg, spent a good bit of time there, getting his pilot's license and spending hours learning how to use the equipment and fly on his own.
     When I was compiling my list of 45 things, I remembered how fondly Greg spoke about paragliding and how peaceful it was.  I told myself when I was making my list that it would not involve anything life threatening and technically speaking I guess paragliding could be borderline life-threatening, I had not heard about anyone dying from it.
     I called up the Gliderport on Tuesday morning and they said that conditions were right and the winds were favorable for flying so I put on a baseball cap and took off to fly above the cove.  My instructor/tandem pilot was Bob.  His description reads as follows:
"Bob Hammond is a lifelong resident of La Jolla.  Bob has been a Gliderport participant for over 40 years.  In the mid-70's Bob hang glided in the mountains, and in 2004 he transformed his dreams of free flight into paragliding.  Bob reflects a very patient and mellow approach to training newer pilots.  He works with students at their own pace to ensure that they receive a top quality learning experience.  Bob holds USHPA Advanced Paragliding Instructor and Tandem Instructor ratings."
Bob was definitely patient and gave me clear instructions on how the take off would happen.  He didn't just say, "Ready, set, jump off the cliff!," but it wasn't too much more difficult than that.
      It is amazing how the gentle wind completely grabbed hold of the chute and yanked us into the air with barely any sensation of falling.  We turned toward the north and we were off!  We spent about 30 minutes gliding alternatively past the Torrey Pines Golf Course to the north and multi-million dollor homes to the south of the gliderport.  One home that Bob pointed out to me was valued at about $80m and was owned by the man who started one of the grocery chains in California. 

Torrey Pines to the north.

I wasn't going to tempt fate and carry my camera or iPhone with me and risk dropping it the 400 yards to the beach so I have to rely on the photos taken by the gliderport photog.  And here is as close as he got proving that it was actually me.

It's Me!
I really enjoyed the ride and the peacefulness of floating above the Torrey Pines Cliffs.  However, since I did start to experience a slight attack of dizziness due to inner ear issues so while I probably won't paraglide again, I am very glad that I have tried it at least once and it is tough to beat the view from these seats!
Fly like an eagle!

Coming up soon:
List update and UT Football!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

World Champion

    A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Southern California to work on two of my list items and get a little break from work and relax.   No, I didn't instantly become a world champion surfer, but my surf instructor Alisa Schwarzstein-Cairns _is_ a world champion and legend in the surfing world.  You can read about her here, here, and here.  Special thanks to my cousin, Fabiola for introducing me to Alisa because she was the perfect instructor for me.  Alisa didn't waste a lot of time grilling me on popping up on my board on the beach nor did she take too much time instructing me on how to recognize when a wave is good to catch because she was going to do that for me.  She either did none of the above because a) she knew I was a quick learner or b) she didn't think I had a chance of getting up and staying up and didn't want to waste our time.

Surf Kooks!
     After wiggling and giggling myself into the wetsuit and swim booties and the requisite (according to Christianne) photo in front of the 'kooks' sign we were off to the beach.  The biggest thing that struck me on the descent to the water, was the image of about 20 surfers floating about 10 yards out in the water gazing out to sea watching for the perfect wave.  They looked like sea lions popping up through the waves as bad ones rolled by them.  I must admit it caused me a little bit of anxiety thinking about trying get up on the board around so many people, but that feeling quickly passed when I remembered that I would be out there with Alisa.  She went over the key points again, including that when I fall, the best way to go down is with my butt first.  A round of hugs to Fab and Christianne and we were off.  Masters swimming practice definitely helped with the paddle out as well as the pull up on the board.
     On the first attempt, Alisa told me to turn and start paddling quickly.  I did as I was told and suddenly received a huge push from behind, tried to pull up on the board and promptly fell.  In my head I was thinking, "Man, I thought I was doing great paddling myself, but that Alisa is so powerful coming from behind to push me."  After a couple more tries and falls....

Hang Ten!!!!
....I GOT UP!!!!!
   I can totally see why surfing can become addicting and it is probably a good thing that I don't live on the west coast because I would be out there watching for waves to ride like those 20 others.  It was truly exhilarating and exciting and just so much fun.  I could have gone on forever, but after about 2 hours and several successful rides, my body just wouldn't let me paddle out anymore and we called it a day.

Alisa and Me after surfing

Thanks to Fabiola for introducing me to Alisa, for Alisa and for Christianne my cheerleader and photographer.  The end of the day was enjoying a glass of wine, watching the Olympics with Fabiola and Chuck, and getting to watch the sunset of Laguna Beach from the balcony chez Kinder.

Laguna Sunset

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Which Came First

     We all know the line, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg," and of course, this post relates to my desire to get at least 1 egg from a chicken that lived in my backyard.  Many people have conjectured why I have this urge.  My friend, Alison, says that I am obsessed with the idea because of my impending menopause and that I want the egg from a chicken because I won't be producing my own sometime in the near future.  Thanks Alison.
     I believe that I have placed this on my list because of remnants of childhood.  I remember spending time on my cousins' farm as a child and also remember having a large garden at one of the houses we lived in when I was younger.  We didn't have chickens there, but at one point we did have rabbits, 52 at one time to be exact.   I had forgotten how many we had until I was watching one of those old home movies and in video from that time, there was a homemade "Vacancy" sign attached to the rabbit pen and I asked my mom how many we had and was amazed at the response.  I hadn't remembered that number but do remember that the fried "chicken" legs I ate from time to time looked a little different than I had remembered from KFC.
     Last year was a trial run with the chickens.  At Nicole's school, the 1st graders get eggs in the spring and place them in incubators while studying the life cycle of chickens and to observe the chicks pecking out of the shell and then get to have the chicks in the classroom for a bit.  My friend Susan had arranged for us to get some of the chicks and raise them in a pen in my backyard.  Since I was not a professional chick sexer a la Dirty Jobs and Mike Rowe (see the video below) it was going to be luck of the draw on hens vs. roosters.

     It takes about 5 months before you know the sex of a chicken.  Around the 5 month mark, one of the two white chickens started to crow.  Upon closer inspection, the two white chickens had spurs on their legs just above their feet, identifying them as male.  After a couple of weeks, I had gotten pretty tired of the crowing and also didn't want to annoy my neighbors too much.  I called a local farm store and they said they would take the two white roosters off my hands.  Since I didn't want the remaining, multicolored chicken to be lonely, I bought a hen from Callahan's when I dropped off the two offending roosters.
     The new chicken was multicolored like the 3rd of the original 3.  I could tell it was going to be trouble from the get go.  One morning while Nicole was letting them out of the coop to the chicken run, the new chicken got out and started to climb a tree attempting to escape to the greenbelt behind the pen.  We both tried to capture it and it just kept climbing higher.  I got the brilliant idea to try to use the pool net to snag him out of the tree and put him back into the coop, only the execution was not as smooth.  After using the 3-rung ladder that was close by to climb on top of the shed/coop, I couldn't net the chicken nor could I get down off of the coop.  Nicole had to have my neighbor, Suzy, rescue me with their tall ladder.  Nicole and I decided to take a short, breakfast break and we had to wait for Susan and her husband and son, Jon and Sean, to come and help us.  It took the three adults armed with a rake, long stick and swimming pool net and the two kids to capture the chicken and get him back to the safety of the chicken run.
     About a week after the new chickens arrival, the third of the first set of chickens decided to start crowing too.  As we were leaving on vacation, I didn't have time to take this rooster, disguising as a hen, to Callanhan's for an exchange, so I decided I would do so upon returning.  Unfortunately, last year's heat was brutal.  While in Savannah, I got a call from Susan who was caring for the chickens, that the third of the original batch had died due to the heat, which I have come to find out is pretty normal due to the Texas summers.  I didn't want to tell Nicole because I was worried that she would be upset but when I finally did tell her, her first reaction was, "Aw." then promptly exclaimed, "Friend chicken!"
     While trying to help the last chicken not perish from the heat, during the day I would prop open the door to the coop and attach a huge piece of 4X4 cattle guard to the doorway of the coop to let the air circulate even though the chicken also had a chicken run to the side.  One afternoon I had gone out to check on it and there were multicolored feathers on the outside of the cattle guard.  I felt horrible because I figured another animal like a fox or something had come from the greenbelt, climbed into the coop, and got the chicken.  Then, a day later, I saw the "hen" in the greenbelt just beyond the chicken wire the lines our property and it started to crow.  He tormented us for a couple of days walking back and forth along our property line crowing each morning.  I tried to help it come back by placing the chicken ladder that Jon had constructed over the chicken wire, but the chicken eventually disappeared into the greenbelt.  I did hear it about a week latter crowing deep in the mini-forest then the crowing ended.
     At first I thought I was not meant to have chickens, as did my vegetarian friend, Alison, then I decided I would not give up on this idea and put it on my list to get at least one egg from a hen in the backyard.   We eventually got some hens from a neighbor who was relocating and on the morning of Nicole's birthday...

Ta da!
Thanks to everyone who made this possible including Susan, Sean and Jon for helping build the chicken coop/run, my neighbors who put up with the crowing from last year and to Suzy for going so far as to buy some organic eggs to secretly place one in the coop in case this year was as disastrous as last year and being supportive of my goals.  Also to Kellyn who, as she says, "Does not do chickens" but has helped care for them from time to time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

List Update - End of Summer

Just a quick post to update the status of the list...I have had to change a few things in the interest of time and physical ability, but many things remain the same.  I am in the home stretch of the year and the list and truly hope to accomplish all of them.

  •    Get physical exercise 5-6 times a week for 45 weeks - Ongoing
    •    Austin 5k - Run for the Water
    •    Danskin Triathlon - June
    •    Highland Lakes Challenge - October
    •    135/8 - Ongoing
    •    Masters swimming meet/ 3x3 Challenge - TBD
    •    Diva Dash - April
    •    Change Hair - January
    •    Passport Vacation - TBD
    •    Trip to San Diego with Kim & Stacy and others – July/August
    •     Paragliding - August
    •     Surfing  - August
    •     Snowboarding/skiing – November/December
    •     Chicken S*&t Bingo - Fall
    •     Zip lining - March
    •     Make bed each weekday morning - Ongoing
    •     Plant garden/produce veggies and herbs - Spring
    •     Get an egg from hens - Spring
    •     Empty kitchen sink each weekday night - Ongoing
    •     Redecorate Nicole’s room for 10th birthday - June
    •     Blanton B Scene Art Party - November 30
    •     AMOA Opening - Janauary
    •     Lenoir Special Seafood Dinner – November
    •     Opera – Lucia di Lammermoor – February
    •     Broadway Across America – Wicked – February
    •     Ballet – Fall
    •     Paramount Theater – Summer
    •     UT Football home game -Opening game vs. Wyoming
    •     Symphony - December
    •     Volunteer for Thanksgiving or Christmas
    •     Texas Advocacy Project – Handbags for Hope became KW Red Day
    •     SXSW – Focus Movie – March
    •     Austin Film Festival – October
    •     One handwritten note a month to Nicole – Ongoing
    •     One handwritten note a month to a Friend or Family member - Ongoing
    •     Photography Class - TBD
    •     Art Class - TBD
    •     Top 45 at 45 Blog – Ongoing
    •     Courage to Change Blog – Ongoing
    •     The Artist’s Way morning pages and art dates – Ongoing
    •     iPhone Apple class – January
    •     Practice French – Ongoing
    •     Whole Foods or Central Market Cooking class became Le Cordon Bleu Class - TBD
    •     Organize Family Birthday Calendar
    •     Turkey Trot or Jingle Bell run 5K

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

10 Minutes . . .

I can't really apologize for not posting in a while since it has happened before ... I have been busy with work and actually took a vacation.  I figure it is time to get back to blogging.

2012 Danskin Race Number

I finished the Danskin!  Every year I say to myself, "This is the last time I do this race."  Not because I don't like doing the triathlon, however I just don't like this course.  As I mentioned before when I wrote about the Diva Dash, it is quite hilly and an unforgiving course.  The bike ride, for me, is really tough with 4 major hills and the run is even worse because in addition to the hills, the ground is covered in stones and large chunks of wood disguised as mulch and are both serious risks to my knees and ankles. 

2012 Danskin Race Results

Nonetheless, I improved my time from the Danskin 2008 (the last time I had done the race) by at least 10 minutes!  A large portion of that time came from the swimming and biking legs of the race.  From 2008, I improved the swim by 6 minutes and the bike by 4 minutes.  My transitions were a wee bit long in both years but the run stayed the same...no real surprise there since I trained mostly in the swim and bike.  To give an idea of how strong I am in the swim, I finished 27th of 821 total entrants with my time in the swim...it goes downhill from there.  My bike placement was 310 and my run was 572.  I of course have to have a new strategy of training and that is to spend more time on the bike and running while keeping up with my true passion which is swimming.

Needless to say, I felt great in the swim and was pretty much passing people regularly in the water and noticing that I was the only light blue cap getting out of the water with other various colored caps that represented the different waves of start times.  That changed too drastically once the bike started and I could see from the Sharpie numbers that people were passing me at a regular pace who I had passed in the swim.  I still thank my Masters Swimming teammate, Meryl, for all her help on the bike course.  The help from the advice was immeasurable to that portion of the race. 

I didn't feel great on the bike portion, merely adequate.  The hills were still pretty tough, I just felt like my recovery after the hills was better than in past years.  I was conscious of needing to be sure to hydrate and consume some calories to finish the bike part and prepare for the run.

Since I had just done the run portion when I did the Diva Dash, there were no surprises to overcome.  What is interesting to note for me is that the run time at the Danskin was pretty much what I had done on the Diva Dash minus the obstacles.  Of course during the Diva Dash, I did have a swim/bike warm up either.

I still am not sure if I will do the Danskin again, although it is tempting to see if I can improve my time once again by training better...only time will tell.  One thing is for certain, I don't do it for the medals...this years medal was a little too blingie for me, and heavy to boot!

Dankin 2012 Finishers Medal

Friday, June 8, 2012

Le Cordon Bleu - Grand Hotel Favorites

Boy I am really behind!  I have been so busy with work and clients that I don't often want to be on the computer after I am done and prefer to stare brainlessly at the TV or just the ceiling.

A couple of weekends ago, I took a class at the Le Cordon Bleu here in Austin with my friend, Samaneh.  We got a tip from my other friend, Melyssa, that Travelzoo was featuring half-price classes at the school and decided it would be fun to do it.  I looked over the class schedule that ran through the fall and had my favorites picked out and ended up choosing Grand Hotel Favorites because I liked the class description AND it was happening on a weekend when I was pretty sure I didn't have to work.  Not having to work was a HUGE part of the decision.  My second choice, All about Thai ( or a title close to that) takes place when I am supposed to be in San Diego attempting to surf so Grand Hotel Favorites it is!

Our instructor was Chef Macry and he really made the class enjoyable.  He had a really good sense of humor and really knows his stuff.

Chef Macry

We started out learning how to make a Ceasar salad from scratch, in other words, how to make the dressing from scratch using fresh garlic and anchovies, then we made a shrimp and scallop seafood cocktail.  The tricky part about both of them is that the recipe cards were not exactly how Chef M. prepared the dishes as our demonstration and I am not the best at following recipes all the time.  I could have drank the dressing for sure and kept dipping the homemade croutons into the 'sauce' while assembly my plate.  The seafood cocktail was pretty straight forward and you can see the image below of both apps.


The entree, Veal Oscar, was a little more involved with several steps that sort of slipped my mind when we went back to the kitchen to prepare it.  My biggest mistake was seasoning the veal too early so when I breaded it and cooked it, the breading didn't stick to the meat and the oil was a bit hot so it browned (in other words burnt) the breading before the meat was really ready.  Oh, and the crab cake was more cooked on the outside then on the inside so it kinda fell apart when I was plating it. You know how sometimes pictures don't do some things justice?  In this case, the picture does the entree WAY more justice than it was in person.   The veal tasted pretty good, however I was so full from eating the extra croutons from the salad, that I really wasn't that hungry.

Veal Oscar with butter reduction

We were at least 30 minutes behind finishing up so we did not make the dessert so Chef Macry prepared a dessert for us that was yummy even though I couldn't finish it all.  Below is a pic of the dessert and then one of Samaneh, Chef and myself.

Ice Cream with Chocolate Chambord Sauce

Les Chefs
I have run out of mental energy write much more in this post...I did have a great time with Samaneh and hope to do another cooking class even though I have met my quota for this year's list.

Next post, Danskin Triathlon!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sammy's House

Each year, Keller Williams gives back to the community by helping a non-profit organization on what's known as RED Day.  RED Day(Renew, Energize and Donate) is an initiative dedicated to celebrating Keller Williams Realty’s year-round commitment to improving our local communities.  Each year, on the second Thursday in May, tens of thousands of associates from across the United States and Canada participate in a wide range of projects, devoting their time to renewing and energizing aspects of the neighborhoods in which they serve.

This year, the day was devoted to helping Sammy's House. Sammy's House is a nonprofit organization that provides services for children who are medically fragile and/or developmentally delayed.  They operate a child development center, a respite care program and a therapy equipment loaning program.  One of our agents, Elizabeth Reilly, nominated Sammy's House as our recipient and I was so excited to participate. 

I knew when I arrived to Sammy's House that this is where I was supposed to do some of my volunteering hours this year because as soon as I pulled up to the place, I experienced deja vu.  In college, I had worked at this very location when it was a daycare center called Elsass Academy.  I worked with young kids as an assistant teacher and also taught some swimming lessons there after I got my life-guarding certification.  Once while taking care of a young boy who had had a #2 accident in his pants, I had to accompany him into the bathroom, take the offending underwear into the stall and try to clean them out before trying to wash them.  I remember helping with this as a young child when my mom used cloth diapers.  The idea is to do the best you can to remove the solids so you can wash the diaper, in this case underwear, in the washer.  Just as I was holding the underpants over the toilet and pushing the handle to flush down the solids, the little boy pushed his way into the stall and my not-so-secure hold on the undies was not strong enough to hold them and the toilet flushed just as the underwear fell from my hands....I was hoping that my memories of this day were not as traumatic as that event and I was fairly certain that that would be the case.  No one was going home with swim trunks as underpants and I was not going to have to tell a parent what happened to their sons underwear.

I signed up for the Child Interactive portion of the day and decided it would be fun to help with the Dance group.  I ended up working with Jill Leberknight of Emmy Award Winning Biscuit Brothers fame...I have no idea what I was thinking as she showed up in her Buttermilk costume and there was no competing with that! 

Seriously though, Jill is awesome and exudes fun energy that the kids really enjoyed.  Our first group of kiddos were under 2 years, closer to 1 year old, but it was fun to carry one of the infants and dance around to the music.  We eventually got to the kids that were 5 years in age on average and they took to the music and swinging the Texas bandanas around the space we had.  Eventually, we tied the bandanas around our waists and made them look like little Texas flag skirts.  Luckily, we were finishing up with one of the last groups as it started to sprinkle then rain so my shift ended on a high note.

I tried to import a video that played on KVUE News the night of the event, but I can't find it on YouTube.  You can however view it here.

Next up:  Le Cordon Bleu Cooking Class!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


     Remember when you were in college and you would go out with your friends for a night of drinking?  I am speaking hypothetically of course but picture this.  You pick a bar downtown that is playing some fun music and decide to be a little wild and start ordering shots.  After the first one, you think, I am not really feeling it so I should have another.  Then you repeat this same 'thought and action' routine say 2 or 3 more times.  It is after the last shot that you start feeling the effects of the first one.  You think, hey, this is feeling good...about 15-30 minutes later, the second and hypothetical third shot kicks in and that is when you start thinking, "Oh no, there are still a few more shots that haven't fully entered my system."  If you are lucky, you get off easy and all the dancing you do will help work off the effects of the tequila, aka tokillya, as well as the greasy burger/taco/BestWurstSausage you consume on your way home.  If you aren't lucky, you spend the night in the bathroom or in bed watching the room spin.
     Going to boot camp is kind of like doing too many shots of tequila.  At first you think, 'Wow!  Even though this is only the second time I am taking this class and I am feeling great!'  About 30 minutes into the class, you are still feeling pretty strong but your legs start to not perform from all the lunges and squats.  Finally, toward the last few minutes of class you can barely kick your legs out while attempting the 50th burpee.  One day I will be able to do them like this extremely fit woman on YouTube.

     You would think I would learn my lesson from the last time I did boot camp at 24 Hour Fitness with Kellyn, but I didn't.  The first time I tried the class was just a few days before I went zip lining with my buds Alison, Amy and Missy.  The timing was not good for having to trek up hills to reach the zip lining stands.  I made it through the zip lining adventure despite my sore-from-boot-camp body.
     Just like the slow integration of the tequila into one's system on a night out, so too is the slow progression of pain throughout my body after doing boot camp. While I am actually doing the class, I feel pretty good and strong, it is the 24 to 48 hours later that it hits me.  As I was laying in bed unable to move very easily 48 hours after this second time I did boot camp, the analogy dawned on me that taking boot camp is like playing drinking games or doing shots in college.  I start to feel a muscle twinge in say my neck and arms and eventually I can barely walk and resort to waddling around my house, to and from Nic's school and having to explain to my clients my slow motion walk while showing houses, not unlike the hangover walk.
     While I do want to do more boot camps very soon, I have decided that it is best that I NOT do another one until after the Danskin Triathlon in early June.  I have to devote my exercise time to swimming, biking and running, none of which I can do for 2-3 days after taking boot camp.
     Since I am back to regularly scheduled workouts of swimming, biking and running, this morning I decided to take a run around the neighborhood since I had an appointment that would keep me from swim practice.  The run felt really good, I was well hydrated and the temperature outside was pleasant.  My biggest concern in making the transition from running the neighborhood to running during the Danskin is twofold.  First, I have all my running accoutrement as seen in the photo below:

Running Gear
The biggest thing that I can't use during the Danskin is my iPod and Nike case....I should be able to wear my Nike Fuel band and Garmin to track my fuel points and heart rate and speeds on the bike and run.
     Second, as I mentioned in my post about the Diva Dash, I don't like the course as it is hilly and littered with large chunks of wood mulch and small stones and I won't have Kellyn there to motivate me up the hills.  I am sure I will do fine as I have run more, swum more and will be back on my bike this week, I just want to do better than fine.  I did have a good run this morning (see photo below), keeping a good pace and finishing better than I have in recent months, so I am definitely looking forward to June 3!

My swim team is doing an open water swim this coming Saturday and one of my teammates has offered to bike the Danskin bike course with me once or twice before the race so I am getting more training than ever.

Garden Update coming soon....