More Fun and Eats in Dallas

In addition to attending the State Fair of Texas and running the Carson’s Crusaders 5K, my weekend in Dallas was filled with more eats, activity and hanging out with a special pup named Waffles.

After the State Fair, we headed by lightrail to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The museum is located on the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository (now the Dallas County Administration Building) and details the life and death of John F. Kennedy. It is from this location on the sixth floor that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that would kill JFK.

The exhibition was sobering and intriguing because it seems after all of these years, questions still exist as to what really happened that day.
Outside on Dealey Plaza, white X’s mark the spots where JFK was hit. 

Also nearby is the John F. Kennedy Memorial.

For dinner, we headed to Plano’s Tasty Tails for two pounds of cajun-spiced snow crab legs, one pound of shrimp and corn and potatoes. Tasty Tails is located in an Asian food court with so many noms that I wanted to eat everything. Alas, I only had room for Tasty Tails. We took it back to the sister’s place to enjoy. It was so spicy and delicious. It hurts so good!

After we completed the 5K Saturday morning, the remainder of the weekend was pretty relaxed. We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant called Potstickers and Boba Tea located in Frisco. I must admit that I am quite jealous of the availability of good, cheap, authentic Asian cuisine in the Dallas area. I was very spoiled living in Los Angeles for so long. After living in the Mid-Atlantic and now Albuquerque, I understand what it is like to lack easy access to many of my favorite foods.

As the name suggest, Potstickers and Boba Tea serves potstickers and boba. I ordered an almond milk tea and the sister and brother-in-law shared a “Texas-size” green tea.

We also shared an order of pork potstickers. They were mouth-searingly hot and so tasty! We each also ordered bowls of beef noodle soup (one of my favorite Chinese dishes, which I sadly eat for too infrequently), but I forgot to snap photos of them.

For dinner, we headed to North Dallas’s Sushi Robata. I have been craving good, authentic Japanese food. The Japanese restaurants in Albuquerque are, by and large, extremely mediocre and not authentic.

We started off with a parade of small plates: takoyaki (octopus balls), potato salad and I had a tarako onigiri (fish roe rice ball).

Following our appetizers, we had our sushi and sashimi course, which included yellowtail jalapeno, oshinko maki (pickled radish roll), and an assortment of nigiri.

As you can see, the menu at Robata is varied, but they seem to do everything we tried really, really well. To round out our meal, we ordered some fried dishes: chicken and squid legs.

For our last course, we shared the fried bananas and mochi. I think we may have gone a little overboard but it was so much good food! 
We also spent a good amount of time relaxing at home. My sister is a collector of many different things, especially Disney. A few of her collections include The Little Mermaid and Sailor Moon merchandise, plus this collection of Chip N Dale pins. 

Another special part of my visit was meeting their 2 year old Welsh Pembroke Corgi for the first time. Waffles is a cutie!

My final meal of this trip was at Mash’d in Frisco. They are known for their moonshine cocktails, but I decided not to have one for lunch. Instead, I had a delicious fried chicken burger with slaw, pickles and lemon aioli. The fries were disappointing though. They were way too seasoned. 

I am so glad I got to visit Dallas for the weekend. It was great seeing my family members, and I love Waffles! Hopefully, he and Gus will get to meet some day. 
Have a safe and fun Halloween!

Fun at the State Fair of Texas

While I was visiting my sister, I got to attend the State Fair of Texas (aka Fried Everything Under the Sun Festival). The state fair has been going on since 1886 and is held at Fair Park in Dallas.

Big Tex is the symbol of the State Fair. Unfortunately, he burned down in 2012, so this was my first time seeing the new Big Tex. He sure looks spiffy!
Now, this was not my first time to this rodeo. I have attended the State Fair several times before: during my childhood when I lived in Fort Worth and after my sister moved back to Texas, so I know the main attraction for me is sampling some of the glorious fair foods on offer. 
First up is the must-eat: Fletcher’s corny dog

We usually share the items we sample during the fair, but we each had to have our own corny dog or else it just wouldn’t feel right. All of the other items consumed over the course of the day were shared between the three of us.

In my bid to eat something non-fried, I got a Mexican-style corn on the cob. Silly me. 

This was followed by some fried s’mores.

We took a break from eating to visit some of the pavilions. Yes, there are other goings on at the fair besides getting your arteries clogged. There is shopping.

You can check out the submissions to the Creative Arts Competitions. The variety of categories is astounding. They run from pickling to needlework to photography.

Don’t forget to check out the Butter Sculpture. What is a butter sculpture you ask? Well, it is simply a sculpture carved out of butter. Every year the theme changes. This year’s was wild mustangs. Impressive, no?

There is also a huge Auto Show that occupies two entire buildings. This little Fiat was being hand-painted for charity while we were there. So amazing.

There are also livestock viewings, dog shows and pig races. We checked out the bunny competition. Many of them were giving us looks of disapproval.

Bunnies gave looks of disapproval, were ready for take-off, or hid in hay
Besides that, there is also live music, a midway with games and rides and much more. We went back to our original mission and that was to eat. One of the last things we had that day was chicken fried bacon. I had this the last time I visited the fair, which was also the first year this item was introduced, and I remember it being much better last time. 

Fried Sriracha Balls was one of the new items for this year. Each year the new offerings sound stranger and stranger. By the way, we did not sample the Sriracha Balls.

We made it to the late afternoon and were appropriately stuffed to the gills. Now, I plan to avoid fried things for the next six months!

Carson’s Crusaders Foundation Trek or Treat 5K 2014 – Race Recap

I have now officially run in seven states! Last week, I was in DC for work for a couple of days and then visited my sister in Dallas for the weekend (more on that later).
My sister, brother-in-law and I are all in the midst of Wine & Dine training, so we decided at the last minute to do a run together while I was I town. We chose the Carson’s Crusaders Foundation Trek or Treat 5K, which was held at Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm in Allen, Texas. Despite what its name might suggest, Watters Creek is actually an outdoor shopping mall. That’s one setting I have definitely not run in before!
As races go, this one had a fairly late start time at 8:30 am, which meant the sun was up. 
Obligatory pre-race photo
The start and finish lines were both in the middle of the shopping mall. Too bad none of the shops were open yet though! The race started right on time and we were off.
The first part of the race made a loop around the shopping mall. 
I was surprised that behind the mall were beautiful tree lined paths. Most of the distance wound up being in this setting. The course was pretty much an out and back which meant we had to share the paths with runners coming back in the other direction. At times, this made the course very narrow and confusing.
The trail led to a gorgeous lake that we did a loop around. As you can see, the weather was just perfect for a 5K. It was sunny, slight breeze and no humidity. 
I have not run a timed 5K in quite some time, so before I knew it, I had reached the finish line! 
I grabbed a banana and some water and joined up with my brother-in-law who was right behind me. I rarely, if ever, drink milk, but there is just something about chocolate milk after a race that I love! Sister came through a short time later. 
Besides wanting to run with my sissy, I also really wanted to find out if I have really become super slow or if it is the altitude in Albuquerque that is doing me in. 
Turns out, I was able to PR in this race, so it is not me. Hooray! What a difference 5,000 feet makes!
I have been running about 12-13 minute miles in New Mexico, but check out my split times on this day:
Mile 1: 10:03
Mile 2: 10:45
Mile 3: 10:16
Official finish time: 32:19
I also placed 99th overall. Not a great feat but I love the number. It was a fun race and I am happy that I not only get to cross another state off the list but that I PR-ed! Thank you, Texas!

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Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2014

Our first Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has come and gone, and it was a bit of a disappointment for us.

If you are not familiar with the Balloon Fiesta, it is an annual hot air balloon event that takes place in Albuquerque. The Balloon Fiesta first took place in 1972 and is now the largest hot air balloon event in the world. It also has the distinction of being the most photographed event in the world and is one of the major tourist attractions for the city of Albuquerque.

We decided to go to the morning session on the second day of the festival, which was Sunday, October 5, 2014.

We left for the Park N Ride lot at around 4:45 am and arrived at Balloon Fiesta Park around 5:30 am. After arriving, we walked around the vendor area for quite a while, waiting for the action to start. Since it was so early and cold, we grabbed some hot beverages and purchased breakfast burritos to fill our bellies.

The time set for Dawn Patrol was 5:45 am. This time came and went with nothing happening. We headed down to the field at around 6:30 am, the time for Morning Glow. This time came and went. Still nothing. 

At this point, we saw a few balloon pilots inflate a few regular balloons and let them go into the air. It was obvious that it was far too windy for them to fly. The official festival flag was also yellow and flapping like crazy in the wind.

Balloon Basket Sitting on the Field

The sun finally started coming up and there still was nothing happening. By the time 7 am, the scheduled time for Mass Ascension, rolled around and there still wasn’t anything going on, I was ready to throw in the towel. We overheard one of the “zebras,” Balloon Fiesta launch directors, say that they would decide by 10 am whether to cancel or not. 10 am! We were in for a long day.

Balloon Fiesta Zebra

Finally at 8 am, after two and a half hours of standing in the cold, the Mass Ascension was cancelled and instead, many of the balloon pilots inflated their balloons for a ground display.

Balloons are finally going up!

This did not last long though, because the winds started to pick up again and the balloons quickly went down at around 8:30 am.

Sleeping Cow

Strong winds, they are. 

Although this is not what we were expecting to see that morning, I am glad we stuck it out until 8 am. Otherwise, it would have been an entirely wasted morning.

We planned on going to the Night Glow on Friday, October 10th, but this was also cancelled due to rain.

Since we both have to work and we had a lot to do during the weekends with our house, we couldn’t schedule another good day to visit the Balloon Fiesta. While the days we were able to go to the festival were bad days weather-wise, many of the other days went off without a hitch!

Hopefully, we have better luck next time because I am still waiting to see the amazing sight of hundreds of balloons launching at the same time!

Hiking Elena Gallegos Open Space

From my first visit to New Mexico last year, I discovered that one of the things that sets Albuquerque apart is its gorgeous landscape. Enjoying the outdoors is one of the things I was looking forward to the most when we learned that we would be making this city our new home.
Over the weekend, we went on our first hike in Albuquerque since we moved here. It also was Gus’s first hike ever! We decided to head to Elena Gallegos Open Space or Elena Gallegos Picnic Area, which it is alternately called.
The location of the park allows for amazing views of the Sandia Mountains.
The weather was sunny and beautiful, and the sunlight illuminated all of the colorful desert plants.
We did not bother to look at the trail maps before we went because we did not think Gus would last very long, so we just picked a direction to go in and then turned back around when it seemed like he had had enough exploration of nature.
Gus was very curious about all of the plants. He was a little too curious about the cacti though because he wound up with a spine stuck in himself! Ouch!
The trails were well maintained and well-marked. We wound up going on a portion of the Pino Trail, but I can’t tell you how long the trail is or where it leads to because we had to turn back after about 0.7 miles.
The park is located at about 6,500 feet so we also had great views of some of the city below.
When it was time to leave, we hopped in the car and made our way back to the exit. I missed a turn and wound up in a different part of the park. Then I saw something in the middle of the road that made me exclaim, “That is awesome!” I put the car in reverse and there it was: a huge hairy tarantula!  It was at least the size of my hand. Normally, I would be grossed out, but seeing this thing out in the wild was….well, wild!
I hope to never find one of those in my backyard though! I would probably throw up and then faint.
Hopefully, we will have lots more visits to Elena Gallegos Open Space in our near future.
Elena Gallegos Open Space
7100 Tramway Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87111

{Product Review} Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Chips

Disclosure: I received a sample of Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Chips for the purpose of this review. No compensation was provided for this post. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here

If you have not figured it out by now, I am always looking for snacks. healthy snacks to satisfy my mid-afternoon work day cravings. One of my favorite snacks is potato chips (or as I call them, “chippies”), but I usually try to avoid them because they are so bad for you.

When I heard about Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Chips, I was definitely intrigued as I had never heard of this brand of chips before. The new stackable Garden Veggie Chips come in 5 oz. canisters and are available in the following flavors:

– Cheddar Cheese
– Sour Cream & Onion
– Sea Salt

The chips have no artificial colors or flavors and no added MSG. They are also GMO-free and gluten-free. The Garden Veggie Chips are available exclusively at Walmart for the suggested price of $1.98.

For this review, I received a canister of the Sea Salt chips. During shipping, most of the chips fell apart, but I managed to find a few that were still in one piece.

Canister of mostly broken chips

Unlike conventional potato chips, these had a green tinge to them, which I couldn’t decide if it bothered me or not.

In terms of taste, the chips satisfied my salty craving. The chips also had more of a baked chip texture than say a kettle-cooked or fried chip texture.

Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Chips are described as a “better-for-you” snack product. However, upon examining the nutrition facts, I did not find this to be entirely accurate. Maybe slightly better-for-you would be more believable?

Here is a comparison of the nutrition facts and ingredients list of the Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Chips and my go-to brand of chips (both sea salt flavor), which I will not name here.

As you can see, the Sensible Portions chips had slightly fewer calories and slightly less saturated fat. It has the same amount of calories from fat and total fat, but 2% more sodium. Additionally, my go-to brand of chips has only three ingredients, while the ingredients list for the Garden Veggie Chips is longer and has more dreaded “things I can’t pronounce” than my go-to brand!
What’s my take: While I did enjoy the taste and texture of the Sea Salt Garden Veggie Chips as well as the convenient packaging, the chips to me are not significantly better for you than my go-to snack chip. Since I eat chips only occasionally, I do not see myself replacing my go-to brand with the Sensible Portions brand. In addition, it is unfortunate that these chips are sold exclusively at Walmart because I avoid patronizing Walmart if I can at all help it. Therefore, they would not be available at the places I do shop at.  

Disclosure: I received a sample of Sensible Portions Garden Veggie Chips for the purpose of this review. No compensation was provided for this post. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here

Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2014 – Week 6 Training Recap

A little over 30 days to go for Wine & Dine and I am woefully unprepared. The last few months have been way too much for me to handle. On top of moving across the country, we moved into a new house that is needing about 100 percent more work than we anticipated – basically, we thought we would not be doing many renovations. Instead, we are needing to fix up each and every room in the place! We also brought home our little Gus two months ago. If you have ever had a puppy, you understand how much work and supervision a little puppy needs.
These two changes in my life have brought on a lot of additional stress, and making time for half marathon training has been extremely difficult. Not having time to work out is also stressing me out!
I did not have much of a goal for this race besides the fact that I wanted to run/walk with my sister. It looking more and more like I am going to either need a good training push over this next month or I am going to have to walk most of the race. I am a little disappointed with my training progress to date, but life happens.  

This week saw absolutely zero running miles.

September 29 to October 5, 2014
Monday: rest
Tuesday: Yoga – 25 minutes
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: Yoga – 25 minutes
Friday: Yoga – 25 minutes
Saturday: 1.28 miles hike with Raisin Bread and Gus
Sunday: Yoga – 15 minutes