Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Keeping Austin Weird and Cap10k recap

Happy almost weekend! Late Wednesday does in fact count as almost weekend because it's more than halfway through. This week has been pretty relaxed anyways. Last week was insane! I was working for market research projects from 9am to 10:30  almost every day. It was exhausting, but thankfully that makes my financial situation a little less dire for now. I can only hope that work keeps picking up like this.I had some interpreting work Mon/Tues, and now I'm also in charge of our accounting/ secretary's job while she's in Mexico, so I'm in charge of all calls, emails, making sure everything gets entered and updated on the computer, and making sure all interpreters are where they need to be. 
I don't think I mentioned it, but I was supposed to be in Frankfurt this week. Mom and another interpreter were supposed to be working for some oil negotiations and I was going along to babysit the other interpreter's daughter while there. It was going to be an awesome trade-off!! But then of course all the craziness ensued with the volcano eruption, flights canceled, my mom was "stranded" in New York (not a bad place to get stranded in my opinion) for an extra two days while there was talk of moving it to Madrid, and finally the entire meeting was called off.

I do wish I were in Europe...I ALWAYS want to be in Europe. But there has been a lot going on here in Houston at least and this weekend is packed! Earth day festivities, charity events, vegan potlucks, and my second ever 10k for Earth Day to benefit one of Houston's largest parks and conservancies. I'm so excited to run again! But before I can run again, I have to recap my first ever 10k two weeks ago in Austin.

I ran the Cap 10k 2 weekends ago after starting on my quest to become a "runner" at the beginning of March. Prior to that I had never been able to run. I've done every other sport, I've always been active, but running to the end of the block would leave me wheezing. But after reading so many running blogs and meeting many runners at my yoga studio and among friends, I felt really inspired to become a part of the community, be able to enter all these charity races, and do something good for myself in the process. I think my inability to run has always been largely due to a sort of mental block. I just didn't like it, it made me tired, and so I never really tried. Because once I really got started, I progressed in leaps and bounds and began loving it! I still have problems getting over the mental hurdles, sticking to my training plan, or making myself do the longer runs, but I love how I feel afterward. Ironically enough, the day after my very first run, I was talking to a friend of mine in Austin about when I could visit her and she mentioned she was running a 10k, so I told her I had JUST started running and somehow decided to sign up with her, despite the race only being 5 weeks away. Not wanting to pass out on race day was great motivation, and kept me a little more on top of the training plan than I would have been otherwise. Race day came around and it was soooo exciting to be running with her! The Cap10k is one of the biggest races there is, 18,000 people, costume contests, live music along the course and lots of free stuff afterward. It was so much fun! I loved the adrenaline rush, the crazy dressed up people, and even conquering the hills (Houston does not make for good hill training). I ran the 6.2 miles in about 67 minutes, which was actually the fastest I had ever run any distance at that point. My friends and I also think we should subtract a few minutes from the beginning since it was so packed it took quite a while before we could spread out enough to actually do any more than walk through the crowd.

I'm hoping to beat my time this weekend, but I really just want to have fun and keep up this new love of running. After growing up competing in things like gymnastics and swimming, and then going to doing nothing but yoga, I think I've missed the rush of competition, really getting to "beat" people, or even reaching my own goals and then surpassing them. I absolutely love yoga, particularly because it is so personal, peaceful, and non judgmental, but I think I need a little of both worlds.

I don't have any pictures from the race because I didn't want to run with a camera, but I'll try to get some from my friend and there are photos on the website.

Question: Are any of you runners, or what sports do you love? How do you keep yourself motivated? 

Just to keep this post a little more colorful though, here's a picture of one of the crazy Austin squirrels.

I know I have more Austin pictures somewhere but my computer seems to have lost them. But some of my favorite Austin things:
- Shopping the vintage stores on Guadalupe
- Abundance of vegetarian friendly places to eat --> Mother's Cafe!!
- Barton Springs for freezing swimming
- Green Belt for hiking, swimming, boating, and spelunking if you're brave enough to enter a cave called the "birth canal". I am not.
- Downtown and the whole foods.
- Super biker friendly and the cycling culture, everyone has a bike, everyone uses it to get everywhere.
- Enchanted rock, about an hour outside of Austin. Best hiking and climbing and caves that I did in fact enter and had the greatest time crawling through!
- Driving there in Spring. I was mesmerized by the fields of wildflowers along the road throughout the whole drive! It was actually a little dangerous considering how hard a time I had concentrating on the road in front of me.

That's what comes to mind now, if you're heading to the area, message me and I'll give you more tips!

Jon Stewart/ Colbert Time!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Becoming an active citizen of Blogville

Back so soon? Why YES I am!
This is just a brief interlude from my usual travel writing to post a few things I've learned about from reading blogs. While I'm terrible about updating my own, I've become quite the avid reader. I like checking my google reader every night, and I've "met" so many wonderful people through reading blogs and have tried my best to comment and let you all learn a little about me so I don't feel like a total stalker. I love that I can learn so much from you all, that I have found so many people with interests similar to mine and who I feel really understand me. No offense to my real life friends! I love you all equally and that's why I want to share these things with you.

The first thing I've heard about from several beautiful women in Blogville is Operation Beautiful. Since I'm interested in fitness and eating well, happiness and health, etc, I read many blogs written by women who are striving for the same thing and are actively trying to change the way society views health and beauty as well as the pressure to fit the mold. Seriously, the diet fads and advertisements and obsession with losing weight/ bulking up, slimming down, or being "bikini ready", or losing "20 lbs in a week" is way out of control. This is where Operation Beautiful comes in. I think it's a wonderful project and though I've thought of ways I could contribute, I was finally compelled enough to act yesterday. I'll try and post the picture I took with my phone, I'm sorry for the terrible quality!

You mean you don't have supernatural vision? Okay, this was an ad for a local plastic surgeon in a magazine and the tag line was "Love your body". Obviously my reaction was "What the...?!?!" Yeah right, love your body after paying lots of money to "fix" it? So I found a highlighter, did a lot of crossing out of the plastic surgeons info and under "Love your body" I added in "...Just the way it is". I felt very proud of myself, and put the magazine back on the shelf. Oh and in case anyone was worried, I did not mess up anything that was for sale! This was at central market, just one of the old magazines they have to read while you eat.

The second thing I did was participate in another recipe contest. You know I can't pass up an opportunity to experiment in the kitchen! Especially when it involves peanut butter because I'm addicted to the stuff. Almost to the extent of needing help for my addiction to all things nutty, but if I got help then I might not eat as much peanut butter and then what kind of life would that be? See what I mean? 
This is my entry for the Great Peanut Butter exhibition #8 being held by the incredible Peanut Butter Boy. The only thing we had to do was create a recipe using peanut butter and ____ (a second ingredient). Easy huh? But of course you have to be ultra creative with it, the crazier the better. So my fill in the blank ingredient is ....drumrollllllllllllllllllllllll.....BEETS!!! I love beets, I love peanut butter, why not? I eat really weird things anyways and have actually eaten sliced beets spread with peanut butter before and I swear it works. 
While it didn't turn out to be the greatest dessert recipe ever, it's quite good. Good enough for me to eat half the casserole dish in one day. Without further ado, here it is: 

Peanutt-y Beet Souffle
16 oz can of beets
1 package silken tofu
1/4 cup of sugar (feel free to use any other sweetener such as agave, honey, etc to suit your needs)
1/4 cup of flour (any flour will do here, I actually used quinoa flour and it worked perfectly, so gluten free readers, you can still enjoy this!)
1/4-1/3 cup of peanut butter
pinch of baking powder

 *Throw all of that in a blender and mix until smooth

* Mix together- 
1/4 cup of coconut flakes
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup sugar

*Sprinkle on top of beet blend

*Bake in 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes

*Then I warmed up about another 1/4-1/3 cup (just use several spoonfuls!) of peanut butter with agave and drizzled it on top. 

While it didn't turn out as bright purple as I was hoping it would for aesthetic purposes, the pictures still show the nice gooey texture of the souffle and the crispy peanut-y topping :) Some crushed peanuts on top would be good too. Next time! 

Enjoy the pictures, and if you're brave enough, I encourage you all to both try the recipe, or at least the beet/ peanut combo. And also keep Operation Beautiful in mind next time you're out or reading magazines, or watching tv, or going shopping (or doing anything involving not living under a rock). 


(EDIT: I added a few substitution ideas to my recipe in order to also enter it into the SOS Kitchen challenge hosted by Kim and Ricki who are both great resources for people with special diet needs, or people who just like really great recipes)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wine tasting and uphill walking

Though not advisable to do at the same time.

This post is about SAN FRANCISCO!!! What a gorgeous city! I would describe it as hill after hill of beautiful row houses all painted in different colors, parks and open green spaces, and an abundance of quirky atmosphere. It has several museums, tons of outdoor activities, nightlife, funky shopping, and places to eat. I would really love to spend more time in the parks bike riding, reading, or walking, and of course picnic-ing! I do have to warn you all that if you're not a native SF-onian (?) your legs might be rendered useless after one day of climbing up and down to get everywhere! I managed with only minimal soreness this time, but last year I decided to climb to the top of the twin peaks the first day for the views and OUCH. Everyone that lives here is in fantastic shape.

I was there for the second time about 2 weeks ago for a conference at UCSF on Multiple Sclerosis. My parents were interpreting lectures led by leading specialists from the University for doctors visiting from Spain. One day I'll do the same, but for now I'm just there as the technician/ assistant.
This was my second time in San Francisco, I was there for a similar job last year, but last time I had a lot more time to see everything. And the way I tour, I literally do see everything!We still enjoyed ourselves this time with the few hours we had after conference activities had ended to walk around and find good places to eat.

The first day, though, was so much fun! My parents picked me up from the airport and we drove straight to Napa. As it turns out, two friends of mine from college moved out to Napa Valley 4 months ago. Talk about a lucky couple! They were married last year after graduating.She's studying to be a pastry chef at the Culinary Institute of America and he found a job at a small fancy winery giving tours and helping to run administrative things, etc. Wine? Pastries? Adopt me? We drove to his vineyard and he gave us a personal mini tour because one of his scheduled tours had canceled and he had a bit of time. The place was beautiful. The machines and wine making processes are so interesting! Not much was going on now because it's not really grape growing season, but I can only imagine how cool it would be to see the rows and rows of grapes in the vineyards, and see all the grape squishing in action! Oh, and of course we tasted :) In order to taste several I had to learn to spit some of it. I know that's how you're supposed to do it, especially for my friend who works there and gives several wine tastings a day, but it kind of feels gross! So that was my great first experience in the wine country!

After that, we returned to San Francisco and had a day to do some touring before starting the conference on Tuesday. I was lazy this time and didn't take many pictures, and the ones I did take are on my mom's camera. But I can post some from last year!


This is the Castro District. We stayed close to here this time because it's very central.If you can take a guess from the picture, it's known as the "gay capital of the world". Those words are taken straight out of the tourist guide. It's true, for you Houstonians, it's like a crazier Montrose. It's filled with bars and trendy vintage shops.

China Town! This area is so much fun! It's 24 blocks of shops filled with imported goods, clothes, and food, restaurants, and temples. 

Excuse the shadow across my face. This is Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world! Well, I don't know about the world, but it's very crooked and very famous. 

Did you know San Francisco is the home of sourdough? I did not until last year when we went to the place where it all started- Boudin bakery. There's a restaurant and a deli, and you can watch them make cute little (or very large) animal shaped breads, plus all the traditional loaves. I don't like sourdough at all, but I could tell this was good bread, and I really enjoyed their multigrain! It's also a great place to eat in Fisherman's Wharf with a nice view of the bay. 

Pier 39, where all the seals like to hang out. They're so cute! And they like to make a lot of noise. The aquarium is also here and the Ferry to the Alcatraz prison is nearby on Pier 33. Unfortunately it was off season so the ferry wasn't running. The prison tour would be really fun, so do some research before you go!

I had a picnic here. It's a plaza between the 3 art museums and the Jewish Museum and it was beautiful! 

The pictures from the wine tasting remain lost, but here is a link to my mom's facebook album from this year- Belvedere  These are mainly from the adorable bed and breakfast we stayed in called the Belvedere. You can also read my Yelp review on here. The two reviews that follow that one are for the well known restaurant Greens, and the other one is a small German place called Walzwerk. I loved Walzwerk! 

So question: Are any of my readers on Yelp? Just like my blogging style, I'm an infrequent reviewer, but I love being on there, finding out about cool new places, or old undiscovered ones. And my favorite thing to do is find out what's going on around the city! There's always fun events listed and I've been able to participate in some really fun activities and met nice people this way. If you're on it, add me as a friend! Also feel free to add me on facebook (Be sure to add "Gaby" not Diana who is my mom and will be confused) I love to find bloggers on facebook :) 

Hope you're all enjoying the long awaited  spring weather and having wonderful, or at least productive weeks like mine!