Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Big City Dreams

One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years— Thomas Wolfe

I've been to New York several times. At one point my mom and I tried to make it an annual thing, but our lives got busy with other things. Mike and I even visited the Big Apple for our anniversary last year. For most of middle school and all of high school (and to this day) a postcard adorned with the Statue of Liberty was wedged into the frame of the full length mirror on the back of my bedroom door (next to a photograph of a goldfish I'd won at the fair and managed to keep alive for 9 whole months - miss you, Stan!). In a former life I wanted to move to New York, attend Julliard and perform on Broadway. Quite different from the reality of moving to Oklahoma to study Meteorology. One might even say the exact opposite!

I spent the last weekend of April 2012 in New York City with a totally new agenda: focus on my big goals and big dreams in a room full of like-minded and equally-motivated people with New York City as our backdrop. This all started sometime last year when I started following Jenny Blake's blog, Life After College. Next, I purchased her book, Life After College. Then I took her course about attacking your "big, hairy, scary goals," or "BSHGs," called Make Sh*t Happen (MSH). Due to demand and her own love of helping people, Jenny planned a "Weekend of Genius" for MSH alumni in NYC , where she now lives after quitting Google to pursue her own dreams. That's how I ended up in a room full of 15 other ambitious young people ready to support and be supported by other awesome people. 

I flew in on Friday night. Coincidentally, another girl from San Antonio, had taken the course and was coming to the Weekend of Genius. We made plans to share a hotel room and met at LaGuardia late Friday night. We took a cab to the hotel and made plans to go for a run in Central Park the next morning. 

It was much chillier in NYC Saturday morning than what I'd been used to in San Antonio. It was actually sort of refreshing to run with temps in the 40s rather than the 90s I was used to in Texas. We ran 5.5 miles before cleaning up and heading to the meeting space.
The morning was spend introducing ourselves, sharing our goals, and working in pairs doing some brainstorming. I met some really great people with really awesome and inspiring goals! Several of us had lunch together at the venue where we had the meeting, where we got to know each other a little bit better. It's strange how you can meet a roomful of strangers and feel like you've known them forever, but that's how I felt with this group. There was so much positive energy. It was amazing! 
Enjoying lunch on the patio! It was a bit chilly, but the sun was great!
During the afternoon, we did some more brainstorming exercises and helped each other dig deeper into our goals. That evening we all went to dinner (at 9:30pm!) at Almond. It had really good french food. I had salmon and it was delicious. After dinner, Lora and I walked 30 blocks back to the hotel. We stopped for a Starbucks drink on the way. It's surprisingly hard to find a Starbucks open late in the city that never sleeps! 

So although Saturday was sort of the "meat and potatoes" of the Weekend Genius, it turned out that Sunday was what really sealed the deal for me. Lora and I walked to Chelsea Piers where we met up with most of the group for lunch in the park. It was a bit windy and still a little chilly, but we were out in the sun enjoying each other's company. 
Jenny's NYC friends met up with us. They are so cool and doing such inspiring things! Again, the energy was just awesome. Jenny is a certified Yoga instructor. She and her friend, Mike, are quite good at what's called "Acroyoga." It's the coolest thing! 
Jenny lifting Lora
Jenny lifts a random girl who rode her bike to the pier and asked what we were doing.
Acroyoga can be done with 3!
In the end, even I gave it a try! It was so awesome and not that hard at all!
I had such a great time in NYC and it was so amazing to meet all these people doing great things. We're staying connected through a Facebook group where people can share their accomplishments with an audience they know will cheer them on. I can't wait to get together with this amazing group of people again soon! I'm ready for Weekend of Genius 2!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Feeding Friendship: Basil Pesto Pizza

This round of Feeding Friendship (for which I'm oh so late!) feature nuts! I'll admit, I had to scramble a bit as life has been hectic and I didn't get my act together quick enough. I did realize that something I had planned to cook anyway included nuts, however! My favorite basil pesto pizza! The pesto contains pine nuts!
Pine nuts!

This recipe is sort of just in my head, but it originated from the interwebs. A couple years ago I "Googled" how to make basil pesto and it went a little something like this:

2-3 loosely packed cups of basil leaves (I highly recommend growing your own. Smells amazing. Grows like crazy. WAY cheaper!)
1/4-1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4-1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2-3 cloves of garlic
1-2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
(Told you it was all in my head!!)

Naan bread or your favorite pizza crust option
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Other toppings of your choice!

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2) Place basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper in the food processor.

3)  If your food processor has a drip hole for olive oil (inside the "lid" for the round column part), pour the oil in there while processing the basil mix. Otherwise, simply add the oil before processing.

4) Taste periodically to see if more salt/garlic/pepper/cheese/etc is needed.

5) Smear the pesto onto your pizza crust. Add any toppings and the mozzarella cheese.

6) Bake for 7-10 min. Until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mom's Fiesta Visit

Happy Mother's Day!

Last month, my mom came down to San Antonio for a visit. It was during Fiesta so we took in some of the events while she was here.

When she arrived on Saturday, Mike, Rhonda, and I picked her up at the airport and we all went up to Bulverde, north of San Antonio, to view a new home being built "off the grid." It had it's own solar power and water tank. I guess technically it wasn't off the grid, it was connected and could supply power to the grid, but it generated enough electricity to power the whole house. It was a very modern and luxurious house and it was about twice as big as ours! Very cool stuff people are doing around here!

After that, we came back down to San Antonio and made a stop at Central Market to pick up some stuff to grill out at the house. We got stuff to make burgers along with chips, salsa and guac!
Rhonda and I enjoying the patio!
Mike is in his doman...
On Sunday morning, we made plans for Ellie and I to ride our bikes along the Salado Creek while Mom and Rhonda walked the same path. Mike and Geoff would then meet us at Los Patios and we'd all have some brunch.
We're ready to ride!
Walking off our brunch on the grounds at Los Patios
Mom really enjoyed going to collect the chickens' eggs each day. On Sunday, we got 2!
The chickens have been laying their eggs in a bag of leaves for  about 4 months now...
Later that day, we opted to check out the Andy Warhol "Fame and Misfortune" exhibit at the McNay Art Museum. I had seen many pieces at the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh, but there were some different ones. We also took a guided tour of the exhibit and I learned some new things.

On Monday evening, when Mike and Rhonda got off work, we went down to Market Square to check out Fiesta de los Reyes, basically a block party type event. It was free, with street food and live music. We ate at Mi Tierra on the patio where we could people-watch.

On Tuesday, Mom and I laid out by the pool for a little while. Then we got some picnic fixin's and we all went down to Brackenridge Park for a picnic to celebrate Mom's birthday before checking out the Fiesta display at the Witte Museum.
The perfect evening for a picnic by the river!
The Witte has some amazing Coronation Gowns in their collection.
While we were there, we took in a few of the Witte's permanent exhibits, also.
Me in the Weather Center (of course)!
"Hey! I think I see our house!"
When we got home, we finished celebrating Mom's birthday with some cupcakes and ice cream!
On Wednesday, we took in some more Fiesta at the Lackland Military Parade. A couple years ago, Mike marched in the parade. This year he met us in the stands to watch with us.

The next day, Mom had to go back home. We had a fun visit and we enjoyed getting out to celebrate Fiesta 2012!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Mexico Continued: Do you know the way to Santa Fe?

Ok, so that's really the only Santa Fe related quote I know...

Mike has another LSU friend, Jack, who currently lives in Santa Fe with his wife, Amy. We went to their wedding in New Orleans in 2010. Absolutely beautiful! They let us know that we were always welcome to visit them in Santa Fe, which sounded amazing! So, the day after Jen and Mike's wedding in Albuquerque, Mike and I headed north to Santa Fe. The terrain in that part of the country is so different from what I'm used to.

Since Jack was at work (he's an ER doc!), Amy met us at a local "greasy spoon" type restaurant and I got to enjoy Green Chile Enchiladas! (About 90% of my meals included green chiles on this they should.) After that, Amy led us back to their lovely home in the mountains. Almost every room had skylights so there was a lot of beautiful natural light in their house. It had several levels since it was built on the side of a mountain. My favorite part was the unique guest bathroom.
The mountain is IN the shower!! How cool is that?
Then we drove back to town to check out the art scene along Canyon Road.
Mike and I relaxing on some surprisingly comfortable "rock chairs."
Amy and I with the dancing sheep!
When we got back home, we convinced Amy to break out her violin and play us a couple songs. Mike was extremely interested and Amy generously showed him how to play it. Because Mike is naturally musically talented, he started playing recognizable tunes right away!

When Jack got home form work, we drove up the mountain to see the sunset. There was snow along the side of the road and it was very chilly when we got out of the car!
We had sushi for dinner (including a roll with green chiles, of course!) and then came back to play a round of Scrabble. Amy is very good at Scrabble and neither Mike nor I are wordsmiths, to say the least, but we held our own! I was sure Jack was going to come up with some crazy medical words for lots of points, but he didn't!
Amy won!
The next morning, Jack, Mike and I went for a hike along the trail across the street from Jack and Amy's home (Yeah, they have a hiking trail across the street from their house! How awesome is that?!)
Gorgeous day for a hike!

Mike and I shared Jack's hiking poles
When we returned, it was almost time for us to head back to Albuquerque to catch our flight. We cleaned up and the four of us went to have lunch at Le Pod, a food truck which serves French street food like crepes and frog dogs (hot dogs in a baguette). 

It got a lot colder by lunchtime so we had our frog dogs in the car!
After lunch we loaded up the rental car and drove back to Albuquerque to catch our flight home. We had a really great trip and big thanks to Jack and Amy for hosting us! We're glad we got to visit you guys in Santa Fe before you move to Louisiana!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Albuquerque Wedding!

A few months ago, Mike and I received a wedding invitation for a friend of his, Jen. Jen and Mike were in ROTC together at LSU. I've met Jen several times, she even stayed with me for a night in Norman as she was passing through, so I definitely consider her a friend of mine as well.

I was so excited to see where the wedding would take place. I knew she lived in Boston and her fiance, Mike, lived in Albuquerque, where they met while she was stationed there. I also knew she was from Louisiana. I was so excited at the prospect of any of these locations that I tore the invite open as soon as I recognized it in the mail.

"We're going to Albuequerque! We're going to Albuquerque" I sang as I danced around the living room! Mike laughed. Really, though, when else would we have an excuse to visit New Mexico? (Despite the fact that I keep begging Mike to go skiing with me and I had a great time in Taos when I went, like, 10 years ago.)

So a couple weeks ago we packed our bags in preparation to catch our free Southwest flights to Albuquerque via El Paso! As we were packing, I had a realization: "THERE'S AN IL VICINO IN ALBUQUERQUE!!!!" I screamed as I ran down the hall. Again, Mike laughed. (For those of you who don't know what an Il Vicino is, it's my ALL TIME favorite restaurant. There are two in Wichita, and they also have locations in understatedly cool towns like Albuquerque and Colorado Springs). So, with that being said, we didn't have to wonder where to go for dinner!

We arrived and picked up our rental car. It sure is deserty out there! We stayed in a boutique hotel on the "main drag" (Central). It was VERY nice! :) We located the Il Vicino (just down the street!) and headed that way. I've been to 3 Il Vicinos in my time and they're sort of notorious for being small and crowded on Friday and Saturday nights. This one was no exception. A woman was there to take our drink order as we stood in line, so that made it easier to wait! I asked her where the original Il Vicino was and she said that we were standing in it! I was at the Motherland!! I had my favorite: pizza and salad! After dinner, Mike and I went to the rooftop bar at our hotel to enjoy some drinks before bed.

On Saturday morning, after an amazing free breakfast at the hotel, Mike and I went to the ABQ Biopark which features a zoo, an aquarium, botanical gardens and a "beach." We started at the Zoo.
Here's a quick rundown of the highlights:

Jelly fish
Train ride between the aquarium and zoo 
Mamma and Baby giraffe
We used Yelp to locate a lunch place. We decided on Marble Brewery. Mike got to taste some of the local brews and we both enjoyed meals featuring the local flavor: GREEN CHILE!
My green chile grilled cheese sandwich!
We took it easy before the wedding that night. Mike took a nap and I laid in bed watching The Weather Channel with the Wichita radar displayed on my iPad. I knew the storms would be bad that day, but it was taking them a long time to get to Wichita.

The wedding was beautiful. It was a very rustic space (the woodworking workshop of a friend of the couple) and there were many personal touches.
Flowers in mason jars sprinkled with pictures of the couple.

Before hand, select friends and family were asked to make silhouette designs in celebration of the couple.
Benches were formed from cinder blocks and 2x6's. An alter was constructed out of wooden stakes.
Jen and Mike filled a wine box with momentos (and wine) to be opened on a distant anniversary so they can reflect on these happy times.
The wedding cake was his and hers "Chucks"
During the reception, I kept a close eye on my phone as I knew the storms would be drawing nearer to Wichita. I contacted my Dad to make sure all of my family up there was watching. From what he told me, they were all more than prepared. As the reception was winding down, this is what I saw on my phone's radar app:
For those of you who don't have radar interpretation training and/or don't know where my dad's house is on the map, this image (and the associated warning issued by the National Weather Service) basically said to me that there was nothing left of Dad's neighborhood and he had better have been in the basement or else he probably isn't alive.

I called my dad after the storm passed (I didn't dare call anyone during the storm and distract them!) and he said he was fine, but didn't have electricity. My mom was keeping me posted as she was watching The Weather Channel as the reports came flooding in. In the end, no one died (miraculous), but there was damage to Spirit and Boeing plants as well as many homes and a trailer park was destroyed. My aunt, uncle, 101-year-old grandmother, dad, best friend, and her dad were all sprinkled on either side of the path of the tornado. It did strike within a mile of my dad's house and a half mile from my school. Amazing.

Once I had confirmed that everyone was ok, I could continue with the fun of the wedding reception! After some drinks, dancing and cake, we all got on our bikes (out-of-towners had rented them ahead of time) and went on a bike parade from the wedding venue to downtown Albuquerque! Mike was more than ready to get the bike parade started!
The bride and groom took a pedi-cab. Jen wore a nice coat during the ride as it was quite chilly!
We finished the evening at a billiard hall. We got to talk to Jen a lot about their upcoming honeymoon (to the Dominican Republic) and their big drive across the country as they move Mike to Boston from Albuquerque. It was a great wedding for a great couple! :)

Coming up next.... the rest of our New Mexico trip!