My Unofficial Guide to the Albquerque Balloon Fiesta

Starting tomorrow, Albuquerque will be home to a weeklong celebration of breakfast burritos, hot chocolate, tourists, and BALLOONS! In other words, the 40th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta kicks off this weekend!

The Balloon Fiesta  is something that I am excited to brag about on behalf of my hometown and I’ve hardly ever missed a year on the field. Even when I was in college way over in Northern California, I still found my way back home for it.

Circa 1986

With all those years of experience,  I’ve learned a few secrets along the way.  Of course, you can check out  the official website for some good information.  Here’s what they left out

1) Starbucks is not a vendor.  You’ll have to get it ahead of time (every year I have about 15 desperate people ask me where I got mine.  I have to break the news to them that I imported).  The closest one to the park is at Paseo del Norte and San Pedro, just east of I-25.  (See map below: X is Starbucks, A is Balloon Fiesta Park).

2) 4:30 am is a good time to start heading out to the park.  The big rush starts at about 5:00 am, so you’ll encounter less traffic.  Also, avoid taking the Alameda exit.  Tramway (the next exit North) moves faster. The nice police officers will redirect you back around toward the park.  You’ll also get a better parking spot if you head out early.

3) I’m always surprised to see people in shorts and t-shirts.  Albuquerque is pretty nippy at 5:00 am.  A jacket, a scarf, something to cover your ears, something to cover your hands, and closed-toed walking shoes are your best bet.  This week is set to be pretty warm, so dress in layers so you can take off all the winter clothes once the sun comes up.

4) The pottys are all Port-a style.  If you are like me and would rather do just about anything else than use a port-a-potty, I suggest drinking that Starbucks slowly. 

5) There are two lines for purchasing tickets.  The MUCH longer line is for people who are paying with credit card.  The MUCH shorter line is for people with exact change in cash.  Admission is $6 per adult over 12 (children under 12 are free).  Parking is an additional $10. CASH ONLY!

6) This is the most photographed event in the world.  Don’t forget your camera!

7) Come hungry.  You’ll have burritos, cinnamon rolls, and all sorts of goodies to choose from.  Our favorite burritos came from Pedro’s.

Enjoy! (And if you are visiting Albuquerque, WELCOME!)

My Puppy’s Favorite Halloween Costumes


Everywhere are reminders that Halloween (and Christmas!) are fast approaching.  As Giuseppe’s first Halloween, I couldn’t bear the thought of depriving him of dressing up.  What kind of cruel dog mom would I be?

Giuseppe is determined to win the best costume contest, and he’s begged me to help him achieve this goal.  I can’t say no to his cute little face.  So I’ve put together a group of possibilities. I think Giuseppe would be a superstar in anyone of these get-ups.

What I’m Loving Wednesday, September 28


The weather was warm, the week is more than halfway over, and two new studies have justified my coffee addiction (it reduces depression risk and my career choices warrant it).  Wonderful Wednesday so far!

Linking up with Jamie at This Kind of Love to list the other things that I’m loving this last Wednesday of September and first Wednesday of Fall!

1. Lululemon: I know I’ve said it before, but I love Lululemon.  They have great athletic wear, and since I now spend so much time working out, I really appreciate the quality and design of their clothes.  I just bought the Full Tilt Pullover, and it almost makes me want the weather to cool down so I can wear it! The selling point was the ruffled reflectors.

2. Pumpkin Flavored Things: I love the taste of pumpkin, so I get as much pumpkin stuff as I can during the fall months.  Pumpkin Spice Latte, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin spice cupcakes, pumpkin beer, you name it.

3. Pan Am, the ABC Series (though I’m sure the airline was cool too): This has also made my list before, but it premiered on Sunday night, so I can say with authority that I actually love it and not just the idea of it.  I think I shall be a Pan Am 1960’s stewardess for Halloween.

 4. Lion King (3-D): We saw the Lion King in 3-D last weekend.  I don’t think the extra price for 3-D was worth it, and the glasses hurt my temples, but Lion King is SUCH a great movie! We were easily the oldest people in there without kids, but I’m ok with that.

 5. Hibachi/Teppan/Japanese Grills: We have several of these in our town, but a new one just opened up in our neighborhood so we tried it out with friends Rebecca and Dave last weekend.  Totally cheesy I know, but I love having a nice chef cook my meal in front of me while telling jokes and playing with fire. Also makes for some tasty leftovers.

6. Balloon Fiesta: Albuquerque’s claim to fame fires up again this weekend! I can’t wait to have the sky sprinkled with hot air balloons every morning for the next week.

7. Journey: I won’t say they are the greatest band that ever was (not even I think so), but boy do they know how to create a catchy tune.  I don’t really like any of their new stuff, but I am perfectly satisfied to watch them relive their glory days in concert (minus Steve Perry)!

2 days until (Balloon Fiesta) Weekend!

Training Tuesday Week 7 and Running Emo

I saw this picture on pinterest, and decided it was probably written about me!

We’re more than half way through our training program and I’m starting to feel a little blah about it.  We’re putting in over 30 miles per week of running, which is a lot of hours spent doing the same repetitive motion over and over…and over.  And while I am SO FREAKING EXCITED over the progress I’m making and the speed that I’ve been able to reach (you have no idea how excited I am), I still don’t feel like a superstar while running.  I keep hearing about this “runner’s high” but I have yet to experience it.  The last time I felt super energized and excited about a run was over a year ago, and that has happened exactly once.  

For the most part my hips hurt, I feel thristy, I have sweat dripping in my eyes, and all I can think about is how much I want it to be over.  Music helps a little bit, and sometimes I can trick myself by repeating “this feels GREAT!” over and over in my head, but soon my body realizes that my brain has been lying to it, and punishes accordingly.   I will say that I feel great after reaching a milestone for the first time, but that usually comes AFTER the run, not during.

This weekend I also got to experience chaffing for the first time.  My cotton shirt rubbed so much against my collar bone, that it actually rubbed the skin raw.  Lesson learned…don’t wear cotton when running 10.5 miles.

Basically, I’m spending a  chunk of my life doing something that feels downright miserable at times.  Right now I think my main motiviation is having race times worth bragging about.  I’m hoping that someday I’ll reach some magical level where I feel like running is liberating and exhilerating, but right now I’m just ready to not feel like I’m a gross and sweaty looking disaster when hitting the pavement.


Saturday: 4 mile run

Sunday: 1 hour and 35 minute run (we got in 10.5 miles)

Monday: easy 3 mile run, strength training

Tuesday: Speed intervals:  2 half mile sets at racing pace with a quarter mile recovery jog in between each half mile;  4 quarter mile sets at racing pace with a quarter mile recovery jog in between each; 6 1/8 mile sets at racing pace (half way around the track) with 1/8 mile recovery jog in between each….NOT looking forward to this workout

Wednesday: Easy 3 mile run, strength training

Thursday: Tempo Run: 10 minute warm-up, 25 minutes at a 10-k pace, 10 minutes cool-down

Friday: Rest Day


My I Love Lucy Grape Stomping Moment

I love wine, I love wineries, I love the history and culture associated with grapes and vineyards.   I’ve wanted to stomp on grapes a la I Love Lucy since I watched a rerun more than 20 years ago (before I even knew what wine was I’m sure).

So, two weekends ago, Aaron and I volunteered our Sunday morning to help the nice people at Casa Rondena pick their grapes in exchange for free wine.

We got to the winery nice and early and we were handed a bucket and a knife with a quick reminder that the grapes we picked would actually go into bottles of wine.  In other words, if we picked the wrong grapes, we’d be drinking bad wine next year.  No pressure.

We picked and we picked and we gathered and we gathered.  I sliced my finger a few times (think of that the next time you drink up), and then we poured the grapes into large bins (rather, Aaron poured the grapes into large bins).

The grapes are poured into a big machine where they are squished and pressed, releasing all the juices (and hopefully straining out all the ants and spiders that were ALL OVER).  The liquid is pumped into large metal barrels where they ferment into the wine we know and love.

No grape harvest would be complete without the traditional wine stomp.  This is kind of the whole reason I volunteered to pick grapes all morning. Before you start grossing out over drinking my toe juice, you should know that this is completely ceremonial, and this juice doesn’t get put into any wine (at least that is what they told us…).  Also, men’s feet aren’t allowed.  I don’t know if it is because men’s feet tend to be dirtier or if men are less pure and squish less desireable wine, but for whatever reason, Aaron was not allowed into the bit vat of grapes (though he definitely tried).


Getting intimately aquianted with the wine process from vine to glass was extraordinary.  Knowing what goes into each bottle makes it taste a little sweeter if you are able to forget about sliced fingers, ants, spiders, and dirt.  I helped create a wine experience for someone else in the future which is both a little terrifying and completely satisfying.  And I’m pretty sure I need to open a winery now!

How My Autumn Should Play Out

I am constantly disappointed that my life isn’t more like a movie. 

For example, I want my Autumn to look like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’ Autumn in You’ve Got Mail.  Chances are this will be another disappointment because I don’t live in New York or own my own charming little children’s book store with the world’s quirkiest coworkers.  And Tom Hanks doesn’t love me.

However, I figure if I plan enough in advance, I can get my Fall to be almost as cool.   We’ve already gotten a good start by grape harvesting and going to Oktoberfest, and we have some big plans including a trip to San Francisco and the much anticipated half marathon.  I think if I get to do the following I can have a Fall worthy of a Pottery Barn picture if not a major motion picture.  I’m hoping to have a better showing than the 58% that got done off my Summer list.  (Also linking up with Neely and Amber at A Complete Waste of Make-Up for their Fabulous Fall Blog Challenge).

As Summer Fades Away….

Today is officially the last day of summer.  Even though people seem to have been celebrating this for weeks now, I am finally accepting that the days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler, but I’m not happy about it.  All I have left is the memories of the last few months of warmness and being outside.  When I think back to the Summer of 2011 I will remember it as the summer we went to Jamaica, got Giuseppe and trained him to be the world’s most amazing puppy, ran A LOT, tried something/someplace new almost every weekend, and had some crazy times with some crazy (and not so crazy) people. 

On the first day of summer back in June, I made a To-Do of all the things I wanted to do during the summer (I’ll do one tomorrow for fall).  Here’s how that turned out.

1) Dine al fresco as much as possible.  DONE

2) Spend an afternoon on a lake. DID NOT DO

But I did kayak on the ocean….so I guess that counts for something?

3) New Mexico Wine Festival: DONE

As an added bonus, we also went to the Santa Fe Wine Festival!

4) Fireworks: DONE

We didn’t see fireworks for 4th of July, but we did get our chance at the Rockie’s game!

5) Accomplish gardening success: IN PROGRESS

This is definitely more Aaron’s accomplishment than mine, but we’ve already gotten some green beans, peppers, and eggplants out of the garden!

6) Go on a road trip: DONE

We weren’t supposed to, but due to some crazy circumstances, we ended up DRIVING to Denver last weekend instead of flying. 

7. Go whitewater rafting: DID NOT DO

8.  Go to the Zoo: DID NOT DO

9.  Practice my golfing skills: DID NOT DO

10.  Practice my tennis skills: DID NOT DO

11.  Crash a pool party: DONE

12) Get my puppy potty trained: DONE

I think we are finally ready to shampoo the carpet!

I managed to accomplish about 58% of what I set out to do this summer, but regardless, we had a wonderful time soaking up the sun, hanging out with friends, drinking cool beverages, and incorporating the puppy into our home.  Goodbye, Summer.  We knew ye well.

What I’m Loving Wednesday: Denver Edition

This weekend Aaron and I made our way up to Denver  (story coming soon about the crazy adventure we had trying to get there). 

I love Denver.  If an opportunity presented itself, we would move there in a second.  It combines things we like about Albuquerque (outdoor/active lifestyle, mountains) with a bigger city atmosphere, better shopping, better dining, and less crime.  I think the winters might be pretty brutal, but at least they get rain!

I’m linking up with Jamie at This Kind of Love  for What I’m Loving Wednesday: Denver Edition!

1. The Curtis Hotel: This is a boutique concept hotel at its finest.  Each floor has a different theme and everything is quirky and fun.  It is also one of the cheaper hotels in the downtown Denver area, and is close to all the action.  They are dog friendly which means we can bring Giuseppe on our next visit!

2. Coors Field: I don’t like baseball.  I think it is boring and repetitive.  But when I am seated 27 rows up from just left of home plate at a professional stadium, I can deal with it.  We went to a Rookies vs. Giants game.  As a girl who left her heart in San Francisco, I claim the Giants as my adopted team when I have to discuss such things.  Just don’t tell my Yankee loving husband.

3. Oktoberfest: This was one of the main reasons we went to Denver.  Apparently Denver has one of the top 10 Oktoberfests outside of Germany.  We got to eat brats and pretzels, drink beer, watch some German dancing, and watch people as they tried to hoist steins! Pretty much my idea of a fantastic afternoon.

4. Microbreweries:  We made it to two of the three big Denver microbreweries.  Wynkoop has good beer and a charming, turn of the century atmosphere.  Rock Bottom had great beer (we didn’t try the IPA’s, but everything else was great), and the restaurant is huge so you are bound to find a seat. 

5. Broncos Game:  Unless we are talking college basketball or World Cup Soccer, I don’t really care about sports, but I do enjoy football ten million times more than baseball.  We got to borrow some box seats for the Broncos/Bengals game, so our bathrooms were cleaner and the beer lines were shorter.  The game itself was super exciting, and we weren’t sure who was going to win until the last 30 seconds.  Also, Broncos fans are much more loyal/rowdy than Rockies fans…it felt like a real sporting event!

6. Shannon Sharpe: I’ve kind of heard of Shannon Sharpe, but I was excited to see him get his Hall of Fame ring at the Broncos game.  And I was even more excited to see John Elway on the field! I know who he is!

7. Turn of the Century Charm: A lot of the downtown architecture/design is turn of the Century, and absolutely amazing.  I LOVE old brick buildings, tin ceilings, stained glass, and old remnents of what used to be.  Albuquerque chose to tear a lot of historic buildings down.  Denver incorporated them into the urban renewal.  

8. Denver Quirkiness: This town has a sense of humor.  From pig snorting noises coming up from the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve, pianos along 16th street, and “Wellness Centers” (where you can get your medical marijuana), Downtown Denver has plenty to marvel at!

Just 2 more days until the weekend!

Training Tuesdays Week 6 and a 21:05 5-K

I am so behind in blog life.  Like, in the I have a 20 page paper due tomorrow and I haven’t started yet kind of behind.  I guess I can use a birthday and a quick weekend getaway to Colorado (along with old age) as my excuse, but I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever get pictures of my Grape Stomping Experience up.

As it is, today is Training Tuesday, which has been more like Training Wednesday the past couple of weeks. So I thought I would actually do something on time! (Sidenote: In my career I am a deadline superstar…it just seems that I can’t say the same for my personal life). 


(c) Ski Pix

On Saturday, Aaron and I ran the Das Hustlehoff 5-K which was part of Denver’s Oktoberfest.  This is more of a run in a crazy costume and drink beer at the finish line (if you hadn’t started drinking already) type of race, so it wasn’t super serious.  But I won’t qualify for Boston by prancing around the course in a giant toilet costume, plus it was chipped timed and some of the National Running Team actually participated, so I didn’t feel like a complete killjoy in putting forth my best training effort. A few weeks ago I set a goal for myself of a 22 minute finish time, which based on last year’s results, should have put me in the top 10 women finishers. 

Up until the last moments of the actual race, I didn’t think I would be able to pull it off. 

I am SOSOSOSOSOSO happy to report that I finished my 5-K in 21 minutes and 5 seconds! If a psychic had told me a year ago that I would be running that fast, I would not have believed them.  In fact, when Aaron told me at the finish line what my time was, I told him that I didn’t believe him (in between gasps for air and deep exhales to prevent puking…which I seriously thought I was going to do).

(c) Ski Pix

I did not feel like I had a strong race.  I was expecting complete and utter defeat the whole time I was running.  My legs had some weird numb sensation in them, and I couldn’t feel them moving underneath me.  And not in a angels carrying me- to the finish line type of way either… It felt more like the clamminess you get right before you faint (if you have been so lucky as to have this experience as I have….in the airport security line)  Plus, they didn’t have mile markers so I  had no idea where I was or how far I  had to go. 

I ended up finishing 12th (I would have finished 8th last year if I had run at the same time), which burst all of my hopes and dreams, but it is always pretty awesome to have some really athletic looking chick come up to you after the race, saying that she tried but couldn’t keep up with you.  And, I’m pretty excited about improving my 5-K time by 3 minutes since April!


So, it is with that renewed enthusiasm that I continue training for the Half Marathon.  As you can tell, we are so not on our training schedule this week.  But, the following is what we SHOULD be doing:


Saturday: 1 hour and 35 minute run

Sunday: 4 mile easy run

Monday: 3 mile easy run, strength training

Tuesday: Hill Intervals: 2 mile warm-up, 8 uphill sprints (quarter-mile long) alternating with downhill recoveries, 2 mile cool-down 

Wednesday: 3 mile easy run, strength training

Thursday: 45 Minute Tempo Run (10 minutes warm-up, 25 minutes @ 10-K pace, 10 minute cool-down)

Friday: Rest Day

*NOTE: The pictures are copyrighted by Ski Pix, the official event photographer.  You can visit and hire them on their website  I am probably not supposed to have these on my blog.  If you are a Ski Pix person, I am sorry. 

Training Tuesday Week 5 (on a Wednesday) and a Ten Mile Run


Yikes.  2nd Week in a Row that I’ve had to post about Training Tuesdays on  Wednesday.  I will use the excuse that yesterday was my birthday, so I wasn’t doing as much training as I was eating cupcakes.  If I had been doing less cupcake eating yesterday, this is what I was planning to write….(let’s just pretend this was posted yesterday).

I think I should be thrown a party!

Not just because today is my birthday, but because I did something on Saturday morning that I never had too much interest in actually doing (and  I’ve often pitied the people who did).  I RAN 10 MILES!

When I signed up to do a half marathon, I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that I would, at some point, have to run 13. miles, but I didn’t REALLY accept it.  But then on Saturday in an hour and a half long process, I ran 10 miles (more than half of which was slowly climbing up the mountain).  I don’t even care that to seasoned distance and endurance runners, 10 miles is less than half of a marathon.  I don’t even care that eventually I will be running 3.1 more miles.  10  miles seems like such a huge deal, and I’m not even afraid to brag about it (if you couldn’t tell)! I mean, I could run to other towns if I had to! And I didn’t even feel completely worn out or like death afterwards!

Naturally, after that run, I indulged in the world’s biggest green chile breakfast burritos and some breakfast beer (I think running 10 miles warrents some breakfast beer).  I was quite sore for the next 2 days.  My legs have never felt so completely tired.  But with several weeks to go, I’m feeling a little more confident in my ability to run an 8 minute mile half marathon.


SATURDAY: 1.5 hour run (we got just over 10 miles)

SUNDAY: 4 mile run

MONDAY: Easy 3 mile run, strength training

TUESDAY: 1.5 mile warm-up run, 8 sets of alternating 5-K speed and easy jog quarter miles (16 quarter miles, 8 at 5-k speed, 8 at jogging pace), 1 mile cool down run

WEDNESDAY: Easy 3 mile run, strength training

THURSDAY: 45 minute tempo run (10 minute warm-up run, 25 minutes at 10-K speed, 10 minute cool-down run)

FRIDAY: Day of Rest!

 Now, we are a little off this week’s schedule because I wasn’t about to spend my birthday running (sorry, I don’t love it that much), and we are running a 5-K race on Saturday (still hoping I will have enough adrenaline to finish in 22 minutes), but in an ideal world, this is the training plan we’d be following this week.