The Bucket List That Didn’t Get Crossed Off

Way back last December, inspired by other bloggers, I decided to nix the idea of New Year’s Resolutions and instead create a 2012 bucket list of experiences I wanted to have before the year was up.

If you don’t follow through with resolutions, you have failed. Failure is sad. If you don’t follow through with bucket list items, nothing happens.

Nothing especially happens when you don’t get very many of your BL items in the “DONE” category like me.

I did do some things.  Just not as many as I would have wanted.

I’ve decided to keep this sucker running.  I’m working on my 2013 list with 25 new items to be revealed tomorrow.  The rollover from 2012 will stay on there with the hopes that I’ll eventually cross those items off the list.  And as the years progress, I’m sure I’ll establish a pretty decent list of “gotta do before I die which hopefully won’t happen for 100 years” items.

My actual level of BL completion is below, listed item by sad un-crossed off item.

Items categorized as UNSUCCESSFUL didn’t happen or even come close to happening.  Items listed as ATTEMPTED were at least approached with cheerful effort.  SUCCESSFUL items (the few and far between) were ones that I was able to cross off the list.

How Amy Fared on the 2012 Bucket List

1) Get Passport stamp #4: UNSUCCESSFUL.  Though the possibility is MUCH higher in 2013 thanks to some college graduating sisters and their graduation present vacations.  I’m hoping we get invited (hint, hint, Daddy).

2) Pay off credit card debt: UNSUCCESSFUL: I don’t want to talk about this.  At all.  However, still thankful that my credit card debt load is tiny compared to the average American.

3) Ride in a hot air balloon: UNSUCCESSFUL. Shit’s expensive. And I’m kind of scared to go with the cheapest company because I don’t want to die.

4) Run a full marathon: SUCCESSFUL!!! Definitely a lifetime bucket list item.  AND I think I get bonus points for the BQ.  That was also a HUGE bucket list item that I didn’t bother adding to the 2012 list because I didn’t think it would happen for many many years.

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5) Run a race every month: ATTEMPTED.  I ran 10 road races and 1 virtual race, so I missed it by 1. I think doing the smaller ones helped me get better at racing, plus I snagged some age group awards, but the more longer races I do, the less excited I am about paying $10 per mile in a 5-k with no medal and a sad cotton t-shirt.  Sorry.

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6) Compete in a triathlon: UNSUCCESSFUL.  But I think I’m more prepared mentally to take on this challenge in 2013.

7) Learn to swim: ATTEMPTED.  I think I’m closer than I was this time last year.

8) Read my way through Newsweek’s Top 100 Books of all time:  UNSUCCESSFUL. I knew this would take more than 1 year.  I’ve read some books that I hadn’t heard of that I ended up  loving. But I’ve also been stuck on the 180 pager The Souls of Black Folk since August. I read 7 books this year (on the list anyway…I think there were 2 that I’ve picked up that weren’t on the list) which is better than the 1 I read in 2011.

9) Go on a White Water Rafting weekend expedition: UNSUCCESSFUL.  I’m starting to rethink this one.  I was pretty bored after a couple of hours of kayaking down the river in September. Could I really spend 4 days cold and wet with sore shoulders followed by sleeping on the ground for 4 nights?

10) Start dressing my age:  ATTEMPTED. I think some progress has been made. I tried to avoid stores where the majority of salespeople are in high school and I haven’t worn flip flops since it got cold out. I did however walk around Chicago dressed like this, so whateves. Although, maybe wearing black stretchy pants IS dressing my age. Sigh.

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11) Visit a new state: SUCCESSFULGot to experience Illinois in all of it’s finest! And by finest, I mean Chicago.

12) Send a birthday card in the mail to people on their birthdays. SUCCESSFUL. I did this at least twice.

13) Learn how to use my camera and take awe-inspiring photos: ATTEMPTED. I started looking up tutorials on Pinterest.  I’m still not Ansel Adams, but I least I know how to change shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, even if I have no idea what any of them mean. I did get a bokeh photo in of the Christmas tree!

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14) Relearn French: UNSUCCESSFUL. Although I’m listening to the French Cafe station on Pandora right now, so maybe I’m picking up a little bit? However, one of the potential graduation trips might require that I learn, at the very least, how to say, “I’ll take another glass of wine!” in order to get around (“plus de vin, s’il vous plaît!”).

15) Go horseback riding on the beach: SUCCESSFUL. It was fun.

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16) Write a novel: ATTEMPTED: I totally started one! I am 5 pages in.  At least I have the idea and the characters and the general plot line.  Now that the gingerbread house is done, I’ll have more time to devote.

17) Buy a new car: SUCCESSFULAnd I’m in love.  Aside from the fact that I spend twice as much money on gas. 

18) Do a massive house cleaning and reorganization: ATTEMPTED: I think this will happen pretty soon into the new year.  I’ve cleaned out a few closets and drawers.

19) Take the GRE: UNSUCCESSFUL.  I do want a masters degree, but at this point, I don’t know if it would be incredibly helpful or financially responsible.  And I still kinda don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

20) Go to a live music festival. UNSUCCESSFUL. I think this will require choosing one and planning a year in advance.  But with all of these potential vacations and Boston which is quickly shaping up to be as expensive as an all-inclusive week in the Caribbean, I don’t know if this is the perfect year for it.

21) Choose an NFL Team to cheer for: SUCCESSFUL. Though, now I’m questioning my decision.  How can a team go from winning the Super Bowl to scoring once in two weeks???

22) Win something (anything) in a radio contest: UNSUCCESSFUL.  I seriously tried though.  I even put in for a pair of Uggs last week.  I hate Uggs.

23) Invest in a piece of artwork: UNSUCCESSFUL.  Though I have decided that I want an abstract painting with warm colors.  So now I can be on the lookout!

24) Finish a Tough Mudder: UNSUCCESSFUL, mostly because it didn’t happen in Albuquerque like we thought it was going to, however it is scheduled for my birthday in 2013.  I’m rethinking this one because thanks to blog land and some detailed recaps, I’m not sure that I would have the best time.  I mean, cool that you are tough enough to do it, but it sounds mostly miserable. And I could think of better ways to spend a birthday.

25) Figure out what in the world I’m doing with my life and take steps to get there: UNSUCCESSFUL: but 2013 WILL be my year.  I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I still feel like I’m just in a holding area until my life really starts.  Considering I’m about 1/3 of the way through life already (if I’m lucky), I want to at least feel like I’m on the right path.

So, over the course of the year, I successfully completed 7 out of 25 bucket list items.  Here’s hoping that more items get conquered in 2013!

Are you creating a bucket list for 2013? 

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Chicago Has Food (and Lots of It!)

So, a couple of weeks ago we went to Chicago.  The marathon was obviously the whole point, but seeing as how neither Aaron or I had ever been there, we decided make a vacation out of it and do some exploring.

Vacations include testing out the regional flavor.

For Chicago, this means deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs.

Don’t mind if I do!

In the days before the race Aaron was really keeping to a gluten free diet, but after the race, when stomach issues wouldn’t ruin mile splits, his inner garbage disposal came out and the Chicago style gorging began.

I will say this though.  Chicago is lacking in the local microbrew department.  We did find PBR at every restaurant (like, even the really snazzy ones) but since we can get that here for 75 cents on college night, we refrained.  Even though 75 cent PBR was the first drink Aaron bought for me before asking me out.  Big spender even bought a round for the whole table. Ah, memories.

Also to be noted that in addition to the 38,000 + people in town for the marathon (and their loved ones), a big football game between Miami and Notre Dame was held on Saturday, so the city was PACKED with runners and football fans.

Amy and Aaron’s Adventures in Chicago Eating

I forget the name of the restaurant where we got these martinis, but it was some sort of chop house a few blocks from our hotel.  It was an “Amy” type of place as evidenced by the the photos of my best friends on the bathroom wall.  They had a cool martini menu.  I’m usually a dirty martini type of girl, but who can resist a martini with chocolate swirls?

An added bonus was witnessing a lady trying to get a very drunk man she met at the bar to ask her out. I mean, he couldn’t figure even out how to spell Julie in his phone. How romantic.

On Saturday we stopped by The Berghoff which was down the street from our hotel.  Turns out it was a German themed microbrewery and the building has been there since the late 1800’s.  The beers were actually pretty good, and the Reuben sandwich was perfect.   

So happy to be at Berghoff’s!

Our carb loading on Saturday took us to Elephant Castle, another pub across from our hotel.  I wish Albuquerque had more pubby type places because I enjoy a good black and tan surrounded by British memorabilia.  It proved to be a great “pre-race” choice because of their special marathon menu.

We ran into a very drunk man who said as long as he stopped drinking by 10, he’d be ok for the marathon the next morning.  I wonder how that worked out for him.

The official beer sponsor of the marathon was Goose Island which is a Chicago microbrewery and it seems like the pride and joy of Chicago beer.  Aside from PBR.  Apparently they have a tasting room in Chicago that we didn’t get to.  The 312 Wheat Ale was pretty good as was the Matilda.  Aaron tried out the Bourbon County Stout at a restaurant which was AMAZING.

Our post marathon dinner on Sunday was at the infamous Lou Malnati’s (sounds suspiciously like Illuminati…I kept thinking we were in a Dan Brown novel).  Thanks Allison for this suggestion! This place did not disappoint (and with an hour long wait, we weren’t the only ones vying for some pizza goodness).   Fantastic deep dish pizza, and some great people watching.

A bunch of former frat boys in town for the Notre Dame game (who still were acting like idiotic 21 year olds despite being about 30) kept trying to pick up a pair of British marathon runners. Very unsuccessfully.  Made me a bit embarrassed to be American. Luckily the pizza made me happy again.  And seriously, even though it was good…I still prefer thin crust. Sorry. 

Monday evening we stopped by Paddy Long’s (I think it was in the area by Wrigley Field).  This was the bacon and beer bar.  They had an ok beer selection, but the bacon board was heavenly.  It was also the first place we went to that wasn’t crawling with people.

This place was also really cool because if felt “local.” So many of the other places we went to were overridden with tourists.  I felt like a Chicagoan! On Monday for lunch we headed to Portillo’s (thanks Hyedi for that suggestion) for their famous hot dogs and chocolate cake.  The place was a bit overwhelming and set up kind of like a food court (it took us a few minutes to figure out where to stand in line), but there were a lot of fun pieces of Chicago memorabilia.  And it was CHEAP. And tasty.

Aaron, staring dreamily at the hot dogs.

Monday night, on the recommendation of our Paddy Long’s bartender who understood our plight to find good beer that wasn’t IPA (way harder than it sounds), we headed to Clark Street Ale House.  I think Dominick, may have also recommended it, but I can’t find evidence of that conversation.

The beer selection was big, but most of the stuff we found was stuff we could buy in Albuquerque. The place was really empty too.  Apparently people in Chicago are too responsible to go out partying on a Monday night? We still made friends though. 

These dudes were like, “take a picture of us!”  I would kind of be surprised if homeboy actually knew what Livestrong was.  The other guy actually had a job similar to Aaron’s  and had lived in a similar part of Phoenix (and he was relatively sober), so they were able to talk for a bit.

“Seriously?” Or, “Bitch, please.”

NOT PICTURED: We had a post marathon breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s which was a cute mid-century diner.  I was seriously too sick to enjoy the meal (or take pictures), but it was a really cute place that has apparently been in a lot of movies that I’ve never seen.

IPO was the hotel restaurant.  REALLY trendy interior but the food was TOO trendy.  Oh, and pork belly is just pure fat. I didn’t realize that.  I was hoping for a bacon sandwich.  BLECH. The hotel (The W City Center) also had a really swanky bar/lobby, but it was pricey.

Chicago isn’t a cheap place to eat/drink.  We were really surprised every time we got the bill.  But people watching was better here than it has been anywhere else we’ve gone.  And I did love the feel of being in places that had been there since the turn of the century.

Thank you, Chicago, for feeding these very hungry and thirsty runners!

The W Lobby/Bar.  They had giant lamps.

Rain and Wine: Two of My Favorite Things (But Not Necessarily Rain IN Wine)

(This was written this morning, but I ran out of time to spell check and edit before having to head inside….And I was waiting on a few pictures (ahem, Aaron).  So, just pretend that you were reading this 5 hours ago for optimum effect!)

I am currently sitting outside in the perfect, cool, overcast early morning doing my blog catch up.  We had another fantastic, slow drizzle last night, so everything smells dewy and rainy (try topping that scent description, Pottery Barn!).  Add the yummy chai flavored coffee that I discovered at Trader Joe’s, and you get an Amy who has no desire to head inside to get ready for work.  I wonder if I could work from home today…

*Also, just a point of clarification.  When I said my long run this weekend was within my goal pace, I definitely did not mean that I ran it at my marathon goal pace.  I ran it at my long run goal pace which right now is between 1 minute and 90 seconds slower than my marathon pace (by the end I want it to be between 30 seconds and 1 minute slower).  This is the first long run of marathon training that I’ve actually hit those numbers, so I’m really excited, however I’m not quite cool enough to be running 14 miles at an 8 minute mile pace without actually being in a race situation.

This past weekend we headed up to Santa Fe for the Santa Fe Wine Festival.  If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of wine.  We have two local wine festivals that we go to every year.  The New Mexico Wine Festival is the next town over from Albuquerque during Labor Day weekend, and is the largest in the state.

But our favorite is the Santa Fe Wine Festival held over 4th of July weekend.  It is much smaller, but the lines are shorter, and the servers are usually actually the vinters as opposed to help hired off craigslist who wouldn’t know a dry red vs. a sweet red if it bit them in the face.  I wish I was kidding.  New Mexico is actually the oldest wine region in the country. Before Napa, little monks were growing and fermenting here way back in the early 1600’s.  Most wineries here still are family owned and have that “quaint” feeling as opposed to the ones in Napa that herd you in on guided tours (not that I’m complaining…I love Napa and Sonoma.  I’ll hang out at the Chandon complex anyday!).

I wrote an extensive post with lots of pictures of both the Santa Fe Wine Festival and the living history museum that hosts it last year, so I didn’t feel the need to go picture crazy this year.  We also didn’t buy any bottles since we’re still working on the 4 cases we bid on during the silent auction last month.

{We were pretty “wined” out, so we got glasses of bubbly}

After the wine festival, we were hungry, so we headed to a microbrewery near our house to get some grub.  The ladies next to us asked the server which beer was closest to Bud Light.  In a microbrewery.  Now, as far as running goes, I am 100% supportive of everyone and the journey they are on.  Fast, slow, short races, ultra distances, whatever.  I am excited for each and every one of you and where you are at.  But, if you ask for something that tastes like Bud Light at a microbrewery, oh my goodness I will go beer snob on you.  Might as well go to a Wolfgang Puck restaurant and ask for the thing on the menu that tastes most like a Big Mac (This may not be the best comparison…I’ve never actually been to a Wolfgang Puck  restaurant.  For all I know, they could offer something that tastes like a Big Mac).

I let out my rage on Facebook (which in retrospect, wasn’t the most classy thing I could have done, but at least people agreed with me!). For the record, if Bud Light is your drink of choice, more power to you.  I myself was a fan in college.  But maybe don’t advertise it at a place where someone has made it their life’s work produce something much better…and maybe try some of the good stuff every once in awhile.

Later, that same lady said something about the lack of domestics on the beer list.  Because beer brewed in the next room definitely isn’t domestic.

We took a picture of them, but I decided that it probably was a good idea not to post it lest they be part of the mafia.

SIGH. I’m fun to be around, I promise.

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Last night Aaron and I suited up and took Giuseppe for a run/walk in the rain.  I knew I wanted to vary it up a bit yesterday after all the running I did this weekend, so we walked around the neighborhood, let the puppy splash in the puddles, then found our way to the park to jog around the perimeter before heading back home.  Aaron splurged on some of that K-T tape because he’s willing to try just about anything right now to get back in the running game (you should see the arsenal of homeopathic products he’s been putting on his foot).  It is supposed to stay on for 4 days (good, since it is pretty pricey), and we definitely put it to the test by running around in the rain!  It might not help, but at least it stayed sticky.  Jogging on the grass also seemed to be more comfortable for his foot than jogging on the pavement.

We were soaked! You can see the one little dry spot on Aaron.

Eventually, we think we’d like to settle down somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.  Even though I LOVE my sunshine and warm weather, I’ve been really craving a rainy climate lately.  I think becoming a runner has made me appreciate cooler/less barren desert places. And I get really jealous anytime one of you posts pictures of your green, lake/beach side runs.  Anyone want to give us jobs in Portland or Seattle?

I finished out the remaining .8 miles of the 3 on the treadmill which actually worked out pretty well.  I got a good combination of walking, running, and splashing into my workout!

It looks like we have one more day of rain before the temps start heating up and drying out again.  But this Tuesday morning has been perfect.

A Grumpy Shamrock Shuffle Race Recap

In keeping with my goal of doing a race every month, I decided March’s race would be the Shamrock Shuffle 10-miler.

Aaron has been out-of-town all week, and I didn’t really want to do a race alone, so I needed to convince some other weirdos to come out and race with me.

Luckily, I knew just where to find some! 

I had a great St. Patrick’s Day yesterday!  The weather was perfect for sitting outside all day drinking Guinness (in responsible increments) with friends.  I took Giuseppe with us, and he was a big hit in his little kilt!

Then, this morning I got up to get ready for the race and woke up to a not-so-fun surprise of the lady kind (sorry for the overshare) . I knew that I would not be able to make it through 10 miles so I decided to switch down to the 10-K. 

The twins were in town for spring break and had decided to do the 5-k along with my dad (one twin backed out) so my family came to pick me up. 

We have been having the most amazing weather this past week.  But then today, we got a storm blowing through and the winds really kicked up.  The race was held at the edge of an Albuquerque suburb with no buildings to block the wind, but a lot of dirt and sand to blow all over the place.

I’m not exaggerating when I say the wind was bad.  Reports of gusts up to 58 mph, businesses closing down for the afternoon, the entire west side of the city losing power, and stuff like billboards getting town down.

From local news anchor Antoinette Antonio's facebook page

After we got to the race central and I switched events, I made my way down to the starting line. Each event started about 5 minutes late which was annoying because it was so windy, but whatever. 

The blow horn went off, and we started our race. About 1 mile in, I passed a baseball field, and this guy asked me and about 5 other people in our little cluster if we could cheer for his son who was playing.  I was pleasantly surprised that all of us actually cheered!  Have I mentioned how much I love other runners?

The course itself was by far the most uphill course I’ve run on.  It seems to me that we ran up 10 hills, but only ran down 3.  Every corner we’d turn, I’d see another hill, and I’d say impolite words.  And the wind.  At points, I’d be on a decline, and the wind was blowing so hard that I could feel myself actually being pushed back uphill.

Still, I was doing ok.  My splits weren’t my best ever, but I ran mile 3 in 7:37, and I was actually feeling pretty good and even started passing some of the people who passed me early on.

THEN.

I’m not actually sure what happened, and I don’t remember it at all, but at about mile 4.3, I tripped on one of those miniature bottles of alcohol that happened to be laying in the middle of the track, and fell down.  I looked up and was so thankful for a nice lady who stopped to help me up.  I tried standing on my left foot, and I couldn’t.  The nice lady shouted back encouraging words like “Come on! You’ve got this!” to me.  Meanwhile I was thinking, I SO don’t got this.  I was scraped up and bleeding, and my ankle was so hurt.  I tried walking on it for a few steps, but it hurt too bad.  Unfortunately, I was kind of in the middle of the course, there were no medical aid stations, and really no way for me to get back to the finish line except to limp my way there.

Hand scrapes. Ouch.

More impolite language.

Then I remembered the awards ceremony at Rock n’ Roll Arizona, and the lady who came in 3rd for the marathon pulled her groin very early on in the race (she literally couldn’t walk onto stage), and she still ran 20 crazy fast miles in pain.  If she could do that, then surely I could run on this ankle for less than 2 miles. 

So I started very slow, and then managed to get back to a run.  It obviously wasn’t broken, but it didn’t feel good.  I was able to get my pace back down and even finished mile 6 at just under 8 minutes.

I ran to the finish (the course ended on an uphill…thanks race peeps) with my wonderful family cheering me on.  I came in at 51:38, which is more than 2 minutes slower than my last 10-k time, and almost 15 seconds slower per mile than my last half marathon.  I suppose despite the circumstances, I did ok, but I just hated all of the bad stuff that had to happen.

I don’t think anyone had a great race. My poor sister has asthma, and was having a really hard time breathing and everyone came into the finish with face fulls of dirt.

I still managed to finish 14th overall, 4th female overall, and got 1st in my age group!  I have a hard time being excited about placing when this was so far from peak performance.  I did try as best as I could considering the circumstances, but I still kind of feel like I don’t deserve to celebrate it.  One day I hope to place after running a race I feel good about and with a time that I’m proud of.  Plus, I’m just grumpy.

My dad got 3rd place in his age group, so we both got medals!

I got home, and immediately iced my ankle. I think it will be ok in a few days.  It isn’t broken and I don’t think it is even sprained, mostly just tender, although it does hurt to walk right now.  I have a half-marathon planned for April, so I’m hoping I won’t be off it for very long. 

Oh.

And then when I was icing my ankle, the puppy ate his breakfast too fast, and puked it up.  Lovely.

AND THEN, Aaron called from LAX to let me know that his flight back home was cancelled due to the wind over here.  I’m not sure yet when he’ll get home, but after having him gone for 6 days, and after the day I’m having, I just want him here.

(UPDATE: I picked up a very tired Aaron from the airport at 1:00 a.m. this morning, 12 hours after he was supposed to be home).

Until then, I guess I’ll just have to sit here with my wine and my ice pack.

Drinking Wine, Playing with the Camera, and Pot Shopping

Saturday was National Drink Wine Day!

I honestly don’t know how such an important holiday went under my radar for this long (though it is quite possible that this was the first ever National Drink Wine Day), but luckily I was informed with enough time to celebrate adequately. 

Would I have drunk some wine on Saturday anyway?  Most likely.  Is drinking wine more fun when you are obligated by decree of a national holiday? I think yes.

Saturday was one of the nicest days Albuquerque has seen since fall.  We had blue skies, perfect springtime temperatures, and no wind (unlike today). 

We started out the day with a 6 mile kick-off run. After a month-long break, we have a 10 miler in March and a half-marathon in April to start getting ready for.

Then we headed to our favorite winery hangout, Casa Rondena (where we did our grape harvest and stomp last September), did a quick tasting, then shared a bottle of Meritage in the vineyard. 

The property is beautiful (well, right now the vines themselves aren’t so fabulous). Almost like having a little bit of Napa here in the desert. A friend is thinking about doing her wedding here which will be quite lovely.

I sat back and enjoyed the afternoon while Aaron fiddled with our camera, experimenting with different colors, soft focus, and who knows what (two months after getting the camera, I’m still using auto setting).  I asked him to figure out how to make retro looking pictures.  I think we’re getting closer. At least we’re more aware of the possibilities. Someday, we will understand what all those little icons mean.

{Auto -Setting Aaron}

{Soft-Focus Amy}

{Warm-Toned Amy}

{High-Contrast Amy}

{High Speed Wine Pouring}

{Playing with shadows}

This morning when we were downloading the pictures onto the computer, we noticed that there was a smudge on our lense.  So almost every picture has a little blurry spot. Either that, or we had a little winery ghost following us around. In any case, picture-taking fail.

{HUGE left hand side smudge}

After visiting the winery, Aaron was in a good mood.  I was happily surprised when he pulled into the Jackalope parking lot and offered to buy me a pot for our living room.

A couple of January’s ago, in order to fill the Christmas Tree void, we bought a palm tree type plant, but it has been living in an uninspired, plastic, planter. I’ve been talking about getting a prettier one for a while.

Jackalope is the perfect place to go pot shopping because they have a huge selection.  Plus, you can pretend to be a cultured tourist browsing in a foreign Mercado (they have “global” music blaring in the background) but without the ability to bargain over the price. 

I’m in love with our new pot.  It has just the right amount of imperfections to make it charmingly authentic, and I think it fits well in our living room.

So this weekend has me excited for Springtime.  Being able to hang out outside on a Saturday afternoon and enjoying the New Mexico landscape only made me more anxious for warmer weather.  But first, we’ll have to deal with a few more months of unpredictable storm systems and lots of wind.

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!

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.

Not At All A Bad End To Summer

Well, Welcome to fall, I guess….(P.S. I am rather sleep deprived, work stressed, and worried about my poor little puppy who is getting his you-know-whats chopped off as we speak…so this may make no sense whatsoever.  AND I mostly wrote it yesterday, so it sounds kind of present tense when it really isn’t).

I’m amazed every year how, magically, the weather seems to know that it is Labor Day.   Thursday night was rather warm but by Saturday night, temperatures cooled, and now the reality of the ending summer is hitting me. 

Although, if this has to be the last “real” weekend of summer, then at least we took full advantage of the fleeting warm weather to be outside and have some fun!

1) Homemade Happy Hour!  Last week I put in enough hours to leave a couple of hours early on Friday without feeling bad about it, so our weekend got to start a little bit early!  I had been feeling a little under the weather all week and wasn’t looking so cute by Friday, so instead of going out for happy hour, Aaron whipped up a feast with a little help from our friends at Trader Joe’s and Santa Fe Brewing Company.  We had Freestyle Pilsner, grilled pineapple, sweet potato fries, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, turkey meatballs, grilled shrimp, and pita chips.  Definitely a feast worth staying in for!  

Poor Giuseppe had to spend the first part of the weekend in a little cast that my mom made him to help repair a small cut he got on his paw.  We called him Pirate Giuseppe because he looked like he was walking around with a peg leg.

2) New Mexico Wine Festival!  Saturday kicked off one of my favorite events of the year:  The New Mexico Wine Festival!  Aaron and I take our wine festivals pretty seriously.  Because most of the wineries are small and locally owned, they don’t distribute, so we have to stocking up for the year at the wine festival. We make sure to try out everything, take lots of notes, and then buy plenty of bottles to take home.  Because this wine festival is typically very crowded, we usually  have to fight off sunburned drunks who try to get as many free tastings as they can.  This year however, we got there right at the opening, and left just as the crowd was starting to accumulate.

We came home with 7 bottles to add to our wine rack!

3) Bachelorette…I mean 40th Birthday Party:  Saturday night, our friend was having his 40th birthday, and based on the decor, I think the party had a bachelorette  theme.  Representations of male anatomy everywhere!  As a result, I found 1 picture that was blog appropriate.  Always a fantastic time with those wild and crazy friends!

 

4) Sunday Funday…er Family Day (not that family isn’t fun):  Sunday was a family day so we had brunch with my family, and dinner with Aaron’s family.  We went to Chama River Brewing with my family, and ate like rabbits with a salad that looked like a rabbit.  Aaron’s dad BBQ’d some chicken and we got to enjoy one of our wine festival purchases!  AND Aaron worked on his bike in between.

5) The much anticipated arrival of the PSL: Monday, I got to catch up with friend Kay, and since we went to Starbucks, I decided to ask the nice barista (baristo? ) if he could please make me a pumpkin spice latte, AND HE DID! They officially come out tomorrow (even though facebook is full of early PSL drinkers), so I kind of feel like a very special person because I got one BEFORE I was supposed to. (By the time I post this, they will be readily available).

AND I was dumb and took a picture of my cup, but took a picture of the wrong side that doesn’t say PSL, so I had to scan the receipt in order to prove that I did in fact have a pumpkin spice latte instead of just saying that I did. 

5) Another BBQ:  Monday night we were invited to a BBQ with some of Aaron’s coworkers.  We had to bring a side dish, so we called on Trader Joe’s again for all of the fixings (sidenote…how do people eat without Trader Joe’s?).  Unfortunately, we don’t have a party platter, and the only one Aaron could find  was a bright green one.  We left it there and are  not hoping to get it back!  (Aaron was almost too embarrassed to let me take this picture).   The BBQ was very pleasant, and I learned way more about outdoorsy stuff in Yellowstone than I ever cared to know. 

 So, now after eating more BBQ this weekend than anyone should eat, I’m sitting here watching the season premiere of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills because I am a RHOBH addict.

Tomorrow Giuseppe is getting fixed.    I’m personally ok with the procedure because I know it will prevent unwanted neighborhood puppies, aggression, humping, territory marking, and an extra $150 fine from the city.  But I am giving him a little extra love tonight because he will be having a long day tomorrow.  (UPDATE: Giuseppe has been taken in and left in the vet’s office…I’m kind of having an anxiety attack).

What I’m Loving Wednesday, August 31

Doing the weekly list of happiness link-up with Jamie at This Kind of Love.

Yikes.  Kind of had a long day today.  After staying up all night with a sick puppy, I had to stay at work way longer than I wanted to.  I wasn’t really feeling the love by the time I got home.  Luckily, after a couple of glasses of wine  and some surprise flowers from Aaron, I’m back on track! This is what I’m loving on this last Wednesday of August (but this time it really IS the last Wednesday in August…unlike last week).

1. Labor Day Weekend Straight Ahead!  I’m a sucker for any weekend, but 3 day weekends really make me happy.  This weekend we have birthday parties, Labor Day BBQ’s, and of course, the New Mexico Wine Festival among other festivities!

newmexicowinefestival.com

2. J Brand Jeans: I consider these jeans to have magical powers, like making my legs look 10 times longer than they really are. Plus, Dutchess Kate wears them, and I try to live my life my What Would Kate Do.

jbrandjeans.com

 

3. Grape Stomping: I Love Lucy is directly responsible for me wanting to do this.  I’m finally going to get my chance!  I will be grape harvesting and stomping (followed by drinking) in a couple of weeks at Casa Rondena!

mamapop.com

4. Aaron-made Eggplant Parmigiana: I don’t know how to cook, and I’ve never felt particularly compelled to learn how.  Chef Aaron on the other hand is spectacular in the kitchen.  His amazing eggplant parmigiana made my week.

 

5. Monsoon Season: I really am not a desert person.  Unfortunately, I’ve lived most of my life in the desert.  Usually, during the summer months we get a little bit of rain to help sustain life, but not so much this summer.  Until now.  We’ve had some glorious thunderstorms over the past couple of weeks.  Waking up to the fresh smell of rain is heavenly.

"Monsoon Season" by TheBlindHog redbubble.com

 

6. Britney Spears: As hard as I try not to, I LOVE Britney.  I’m happy that she’s come out of her dark days, and I’m happy that she’s being productive.  Her VMA tribute reminded me of all her songs I’ve loved throughout the years.

people.com

 

7. Mushroom Picture: I took this when we went on our hike on Sunday.  It really makes me want to transform into a faery and make it my home.

 

8. Daily Pinterest Find: I love vintage travel posters, and I love San Francisco.  This reminds me that I will be on vacation there soon!

andersondesigngroupstore.com

9. First Wives Club: This movie was on some obscure movie channel last night, and I was immediately taken back to freshman year of college when my friends and I would watch it over and over again, and sing and dance to “You Don’t Own Me.”  The cast is glorious, 90’s chick movie heaven.

eonline.com

10. Anthropologie Birthday Pouch: My birthday is coming up here pretty soon, and all of the stores that I spend lots of money at are sending me special birthday discount cards.  This little surprise from Anthropologie just goes way beyond in its attempt to get me into their store to buy something for my birthday.

Two days until the long weekend!

Another Weekend Comes to Pass

Even though the Lavenders all had a rather long and mediocre Monday (Aaron got so frustrated that he went out and bought 2 Powerball tickets), in our minds we are still basking in the gloriously (and dangerously) sunny weekend.  Not that I’m complaining about the amazing sunshine, but we could use a lot of rain.

This was the last weekend before our half marathon training begins.  Even though I know the first few weeks of training won’t be too much different from the mileage we put in on the weekends now (we did  5. 75 on Saturday and a little over 3 yesterday), knowing that next weekend I will have to start a dedicated regimen of weights, core work, distance running, yoga, and track workouts makes me feel sleepy and sad.

BUT, that is in the future.  For this weekend, I got away with eating bad food, drinking cheap wine, and running 3 miles at an average of 9:30 a mile (which is even bad by my standards).  Stupid Garmin and its stupid reminders at how slow I run…

Saturday was my mom’s birthday, so it was spent doing mom birthday things like shopping for presents and trying to get the wait staff at Trombinos to do a loud obnoxious birthday song for her (that mission failed miserably).

After a rather tasty, rich, creamy Italian feast that won’t as possible starting next Saturday, Aaron and I decided it was time to try out our new Houdini!

A couple of weeks ago in a moment of epic Friday night failure, Aaron broke the cork screw.  Luckily it was broken in the process of getting the cork out so we were still able to have our wine.  The next day we headed over to William Sonoma to pick out our new cork screw only to realize that we are not yet so pretentious that we are willing to spend $95 on (a super fancy amazingly beautiful) cork screw.  So, we got the slightly cheaper cousin at Target: The Houdini.

I’ve heard a lot of good about the pricey Rabbit cork screw, but I’m not quite sure what the rabbit does that the Houdini doesn’t. I haven’t been more impressed with a household knickknack… maybe ever.

Step 1: cut the foil in one fast, neat swirl.

Step 2: Place the Houdini over the cork, and push the lever (which screws into the cork without much effort on your part!).

Step 3: Retract the lever to painlessly pull out the cork.  No broken cork parts in your wine, no wasted time trying to get the stupid cork out.  Just pure cork extraction perfection.

Step 4: Get nice husband to get the cork out of the Houdini while you enjoy the wine.

Now, we are Casa Rondena members so we get 2 bottles of good wine a month,  not to mention we have a  wine rack full of impressive bottles.  However, sometimes Saturday nights call for buying a Costco sized bottle of Barefoot.

On Sunday morning, after our 3 mile run (and after Crazy Aaron got back from his 26 mile bike ride following our 3 mile run), I figured he deserved some Mimosa, and I thought I would join in because no one should have to drink Mimosa alone.  Luckily, we had a bottle of St. Clair mimosa waiting in the refrigerator for the occasion.  I figure since we will have to be eating for fitness very soon, a celebratory Mimosa was more than necessary.

Sunday afternoon found us at Hallenbrick Brewery, which is one of those little dive pubs in the middle of the Industrial District behind Jefferson.

Hallenbrick usually has 2 or 3 of their microbrews (I love the Adobe Stout) and a limited selection of other local favorites.  We like going there because it is hardly ever crowded,  it is pajamas casual, AND Giuseppe is more than welcome.  Plus, the bar seems to attract friendly people.  Definitely the type of place where you stay longer than you anticipate because you’re having such good conversation with strangers.  This was the case yesterday.

What lovely taps

Not only did we chance upon ANOTHER Westie, but we also met a group of people who have a running/socialization group (“a drinking club with a running problem”) and they even talked us into joining their Red Dress Run Fundraiser on August 20th.  Basically, I will have an excuse to buy a new red dress (I think Aaron is even planning on squeezing into one!), and the total run is only 5 miles but you stop at 4 different breweries along the way.  Seeing as how 4 of the 5 people who were part of this group were guys, I think this has the potential to be a very interesting event.  We were even invited to join one of their runs, though from the sound of it, there is more socializing than actual running so we may have to participate sparingly now that we will be doing our”serious” training.

Giuseppe and his new friend (or mortal enemy) Oso

We ended the night and weekend with a viewing of The Goonies, which reinforced my belief that Oregon is cool, and that I have a chance of one day stumbling upon a pirate ship.

And then it was Monday again.