Friday, January 13, 2017

My Garden Update

Now that it is winter and my summer plants have officially quit on me, it's time for an update!  Do y'all remember when I planted my garden last Spring?  Well, my harvest was quiet plentiful for my first try, in my opinion.

Here is the count:

Okra: 208
Cucumbers: 27
Bell Pepper:  1! It was tiny but it grew in December
Cilantro:  0 so ummm, these died almost right away in the Texas heat
Eggplant:  0  the plants themselves look awesome, but no eggplants came to be

Obviously, the okra did the best out of all of them.  I planted three plants and all three were very fruitful.  Okra is easy!  I had originally planned to pickle the okra but I never learned how to pickle stuff so that didn't happen.  I mostly just cut them up into small pieces to add to gumbos or bake as a side dish.  On my next garden I will for sure plant these.

The cucumbers were growing great at one point but tasted awful!  I heard that when they taste bad they need more water but I watered them a ton!  Oh well, I won't plant them again.  Towards mid-summer they just died all of the sudden due to what we think was some type of bug.  The bug didn't touch any of the other plants, but it loved the cucumber plant.  Plus, the cucumber took over everything in the garden so if I were to plant them again, they would be in a separate garden.

The bell pepper was always a tiny plant that didn't grow over a foot tall.  I think the Texas heat got to it because in the fall it started to have flower buds.  In late November/early December it started to have a little pepper on it.  BUTTTTTTTTT when I picked it to bite into it, it had been sitting there too long and it was moldy inside.  I KNOW!  I am grossed out again just thinking about it, but it happened.  LOL. I learned my lesson about biting into vegetables (that I grew at least) before I cut into them.  #dontdoit

Will I grow a garden next year?  Ummmm.  I'm not sure. I have been travelling a lot lately and I'm not sure if I want another one at this time. It isn't fair for them not to get watered or someone else to have to do it for me. I want to buy some land eventually and can just have one there in the future.

So, I will not be applying to get a date on ;) haha

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My First Solo Camping Trip

Over New Year's Weekend I took my first ever solo camping trip to do three bucket list items.  I had just bought my first tent and thought it would be a breeze.  Well, it was and it wasn't.

Yes, I went by myself.  Why?  Well, I couldn't find anyone else to go with and I decided that I am not going to wait on other people to do stuff with me to have fun.  People are always invited of course, but I didn't

The Tent
I got my tent at Wal-Mart for $30.  Yes, it was the cheapest tent but I figured it was just me and I didn't need a fancy one for my first trip.  I figured I could get a bigger/fancier one if I needed to one day.  I know it's Wal-Mart but I figured I would give it a try (plus, I had a gift card).  I really liked it. It was roomy enough for one person, but the package said 3 people.  I think two (plus your stuff) would be the max I would want to be in there with.  Maybe if it was really cold and you needed body warmth, but two would be the max.
I spy flamingos!!!!!!

My Gear
I thought that an egg crate mattress, a wool moving blanket (that my dad insisted I bring), pillow and my quilt would be plenty for me to sleep on, but nope!!  I was SO COLD the first night.  I mean shivering cold where I got under my wool blanket and quilt but was still cold.

The 2nd night I wised up and went to Wal-Mart (after my Dino Dive) and bought a sleeping bag and a set of those hand warmer things that you shake to activate and last 18 hours.  I am so glad I bought those things because I was toasty warm in my sleeping bag.  I added a hand warmer packet to my feet area plus one by my knees to keep warm.  It kept me warm until the storm woke me up.

The Weather
I picked a random spot close to a picnic table and an electricity box.  I almost picked another spot but it was too far away from where I needed to plug my phone in.  Luckily, I chose my spot because the 2nd night the other spot flooded in the storm.

Yes, the 2nd night was one heck of a storm. I was woken up about 3 am to a storm raging around me.  It was loud at first and didn't bother me since I was being kept dry (go tent!) but then the walls started caving in on me.  Yes, the wind was blowing so hard that the wall started to bend in.  I just put my hand up to steady it so the rods wouldn't snap (I don't think they would have but I didn't want to chance it).

After a few minutes of sort of laughing at myself for being in a monsoon on my first solo camping trip, I realized that I had put my tent right under a tree and next to an electric box.  Duh, Stephanie!  Lightening!  A while ago I heard about this girl who was killed while camping because a tree branch had fallen on top of her (not sure where I heard that) so I decided to spend the rest of the night in my car.

I wasn't sure if my stuff would get wet (especially if my tent collapsed) so I gathered my overnight bag my wool blanket and my pillow to bring to the car with me when the rain settled down a bit.  I also stuffed everything else in my sleeping bag, hoping that that would keep it dry if the inside of the tent got wet.

The tent held up great though!  The next morning the polls were still up right and the pegs were still in the ground.

The  Food
I packed some snacks and bought a bagged salad mix, but I thought I would just eat the rest as I went along because I didn't have a camp stove to use.  Before I go camping again I will buy one!  I looked at Cabela's and also Academy and I found one for $40ish.

I need to find some camping food that I can make on site that is plant based.  I don't have to worry about keeping the veggies cold during the night like I would with me or cheese.  I need to create a recipe book to have on hand.

The Campground
I stayed at a RV park that had electricity and a bathroom so I wouldn't have to go in the woods.  I wanted to camp but I didn't want to get too crazy!  The campgrounds (Oakdale Park)were nice and quiet since it was the winter, but I can still see it being a great site.  There was a security guard who went around at night (and probably during the day too) to check on things.  Everything had to be quiet between 10 pm-7 am.  For $20 a night, I liked it.  My only complaint was that the shower water was so cold! I tried to let the water get hot, but it never did.  Maybe I missed a button to turn on our something but I just don't think the water heater is working.

What I Would Do Different
-I would come prepared for whatever weather and have more blankets.  I should be OK now since I have my sleeping bag but never underestimate the cold.

I would check the weather to make sure there wasn't a huge storm coming.  I would have probably gone anyway but you never want to put yourself in a situation where you are in harms way.  And I wouldn't put my tent underneath a tree either!  What was I thinking?!

-I would  bring flip flops for the shower-ewwww gross!  I just stood on a towel, not sure if that helped or not. LOL.

-I would bring a camp stove to make meals.  It really sucked when I needed to get food but all the restaurants are closed do to a holiday.   That probably won't happen too much since there are a lot less holidays during the year, but you never know.  Come prepared!

-I would buy this single person tent instead because it is off the ground and one person can put it together.  My current tent takes at least two people and if I go again I might not have anyone around to help me.  It is the Kamp-Rite Oversize Tent Cot that even folds into a lounger chair!  Kamp-Rite tent company, please send me a free tent!  We can partner together! :)  Your tent can come with me on bucket list adventures and be featured each time! :) Hint, Hint, Hint!!
All and all it was a fantastic trip and I can't wait to go again.  I am planning a backyard camping excursion with my niece and nephews soon!  I have also purchased a big, oversized tub to keep all of my camping gear in so I won't have to round it all up again the next time I go camping.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Visiting Waco, TX

My final destination for the weekend, Dinosaur Valley State Park, is 3.5 hours from Houston and you need to travel through Waco to get there.  I was reviewing the map and my bucket list when I realized that Jacob's Ladder was in Waco, too.  Perfect!  I can do that while passing through.

My GPS took me to the park easily and the signs inside the park led me directly to Jacob's Ladder.  Jacob's Ladder was originally an actual ladder but was replaced with  88 zig-zaging steps to the top of a steep hill.  It was just as hard going down as it was going up.  My thighs got a workout that day!

After Jacob's Ladder I had lunch at the Mad Hasher, which is a "hash" inspired food truck.  Mine was a potato hash with eggs (not plant based!), pico, assorted veggies, feta (??), and a creamy sauce.  It was so good and I highly recommend stopping by if they are open when you visit.  They were parked at a food truck area with several other trucks near the college, I believe.

After filling my belly it was off to the Waco Mammoth National Monument to see some still in the ground mammoth bones!  At first I was not really feeling this place but I figured that I  had some time to kill before I needed to leave and it might be cool. Let me tell you, it was one of the coolest things I have seen.

You have always seen pictures of fossils on TV or maybe fossilized rocks but these were actual bones that are still partially in the ground on a real live excavation site.  I LOVED it.  The tickets are only $5 and it is well worth the $$.

They take you to the actual dig site where some college kids back in the 70's thought they found a cow leg bone but it turned out to be a mammoth femur bone I think.  They turned it over to Baylor where they knew a paleontologist and they started excavating the site not too long after.

The area was a narrow strip of land between two rivers at one time and a flash flood came and wiped out about 20+ mammoths that were part of a nursery herd.  They figured out what had happened because the bones were sticking straight up as if they were caught in the mud when a flash flood came along.  They said that some of the mothers were even holding the babies in their tusks out of the water to try and save them when they died. ;(
These two were interesting!  They think they might had been in the mating process (not at that exact moment).  They also know that this male had been in a fight a few years earlier because of some extra calcium building up on one of his ribs.  

They have found a ton of bone sites, even on layered on top of each other spanning years.  So the area must have been known for flash flooding because they would dig a little further down and find more, like the mud created layer upon layer of accidental cemeteries.

This is a real life example of the size of the mammoth from back then!!

There are  more animals that they found in there including a camel and a sabor tooth tiger.  They believe there was a tiger cub den that collapsed at one time in the area.  So interesting!

The building itself is on the actual dig site and can move to protect more fossils as they unearth them and can be expanded as the dig site uncovers more.

So, Central Texas is full of pre-historic animals between this site and Dinosaur Valley State Park. I can only imagine what they will uncover in the area next!  For $5, it is well worth the hour you will spend there.  Go visit it!!

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year's Weekend at Dinosaur Valley State Park

For the new year this year I didn't feel like going out but I didn't feel like being an old lady and staying home either.  Lucky for me I remembered my bucket list and decided to cross off a couple of things.  That's right, this New Year I crossed off two bucket list items:  Seeing Dinosaur Valley State Park's dinosaur tracks and doing a polar plunge!  This post is about the dinosaur tracks and I will write a few more about the entire weekend.

I headed out on my first solo roadtrip and camping experience to Dinosaur Valley State Park (DVSP).  I knew I wanted to do a bucket list item but which one?  I started searching online and somehow came across a first day hike posting for a majority of hte Texas State Parks.  Two of my bucket list parks (within a weekend driving distance) were having a first day hike:  Dino Valley and Colorado Bend State Park.  I almost chose Colorado Bend State Park so I can see Gorman Falls, but I figured they would be better in the spring time plus DVSP was having a dino dive (polar plunge)!

All of DVSP's campsites were sold out so I needed to find alternate accommodations.  I thought about staying at a B&B but it was just me and $150 a night was not in my last minute budget.  Camping it is!  I found an RV site that allowed for tent camping at $20/night with electricity and a bathroom.  Score!  I set up my (newly purchased) tent and only needed three random people to help me put it together.
I spy flamingos!
That night was New Year's Eve and I thought there might be some fun things to do in town, like a bar or something.  NOPE! Apparently (according to my friend Savannah), pasture parties (it is just like it sounds) are the rage in town but everyone else stays home with the bars/restaurants closing early.  In one of the building on the property they were having a Bluegrass concert/event that sounded fun.  And when I said sounded fun, I meant that there wasn't anything else to do except look at my shoes so I went so I would not be bored.

I thought it would have tons of people but it was a bunch of older people sitting in a circle playing instruments and singing.  No dancing, hardly any chit chat.  I decided to make friends though and a lady even taught me how to play spoons! It turned out to be a fun night.  The group travels all over the country in their RV's and meet up a few times a month in various places.  Pretty cool
I didn't catch her name but this lady was so nice to teach me to play!

The First Day Hike

First day hikes are a nationwide event where everyone meets at a designated spot on the campgrounds to do a group hike.  The purpose is to get out and move on the first of the year and (hopefully) continue to be outdoors doing lots of activities the rest of the year.

Everyone met at fossil site #3 at 10 AM and we split off in a short hike and a long hike.  I wanted to do the long hike but Clarissa was due to be there soon so I went with what I thought was the short one, but it turned out to be the long hike.  I was talking and wasn't paying attention. :/  Oops!

We had to wade in the river (shoes off) to get to the hike and I got to see my first set of dinosaur tracks!  The big holes are dinosaur tracks of a huge oval shaped foot and you can also see a three toed foot too.  (more pictures here-PW is flamingo)

We passed by the area where the short hike was going and then I turned around.  There was another girl in my group that came back with me and hung out with me until her friend was done hiking.

We waited for about 15 minutes before Clarissa got there!  See part two tomorrow!!

My Spectacularly Cold Polar Plunge

Part Two of my weekend in Glen Rose, TX.

After my first day hike, I did my dino dive!!  I chose this park because I could do two bucket list items at once.  I can go to Gorman Falls any time, but you can only do a polar plunge when it's cold and New Year's Day is a perfect time to do it.  In Canada, it is a tradition to do a polar plunge on New Year's Day.  Plus, this Dino Dive was a fundraiser for the park to purchase new bike racks (or something like that).

Since I was only about an hour from my Dallas, I convinced my friend Clarissa to meet me for the day to hang out and watch me dino dive.  I didn't want her to stand around waiting for me to finish my first day hike, so I chose the shorter hike.  After we got done on the hike I met up with Clarissa at the gift shop to look around and take pictures by the big statues.

OMG!!  RUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!  T-Rex is chasing us.

OOOPS!  I fell!!!  Save me, Clarissa!!!!!!  Save yourself!!!

After running for our lives from metal dinosaur statues, we headed to the Blue Hole to dino dive!  I got my goodie bag that had a free beanie hat and a certificate that says I did the Dino Dive.  I felt official. I love how they drew dinosaur pictures on the bags.

I loved how well they thought out the dino dive.  They had different stations that you could do while waiting for the event to start.  A write your bucket list (!!!) station, a "dig" a fossil station (a plastic swimming pool where you "dig" a fossil out of the sand), a ring toss station, face painting station, a costume contest, and  a few others that I can't remember.  Plus they fed us with hot dogs and hot chocolate and let us warm up with the firepit.

After a crowd gathered, we were able to start the dive.  They had a walk a short distance down the path and then wade into the water.  It was so neat because they showed us actual dinosaur footprints and we were able to walk on top of them while walking towards the area where we 'dove' into the water.  How cool is it that I got to walk on the same area where dinosaurs walked 113 million years ago?!?!?!?  (no pictures because I didn't want my camera to get wet)

We each got to take a turn diving into the river.  They said the temperature was 53 degrees at the surface but probably a lot colder down underneath.  Let me tell you,  it was cold!!  I came out of the water and almost said a curse word, but then I remembered there were kids around.  I got out quickly.

Clarissa was able to take a video that she needs to email me.  I will try and update this post when I get it. This is the only shot of me in the water I have right now.  I am Instagram famous on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Instagram.  Look at that, 1,800 likes. :)  I'm in maroon towards the right.
We all did a group dive (if you wanted to) at the end after everyone had gone.  I swallowed water that time and was gagging when I came up.  The water didn't taste bad but it was cold and not drinking water!  It was unexpected.

I would absolutely love to do it again next year!!  Depending on if I can do it again (you never know where God will take you in a year) and if the park holds it again, yes I will!  If you are wondering if kids can do it, yes!  There were several kids who did it and there was even a canoe life guard within 15 feet of where we jumped off to help anyone who needed help.  I would recommend a life jacket if kids aren't too strong of swimmers.  The cold water shocks you so even the best of swimmers can need help.  The park was prepared with a canoe (like I said) and a life preserver. You can kind of see the canoe in the picture below.

After the dinosaur dive we packed it up and went to lunch.  It was New Year's Day and not many places were open in the tiny town we were in and then I promptly went back to my campsite to take a nap!

Thank you Dinosaur Valley State Park crew and also to the gift shop crew!  I think the gift shop was in charge of the fundraiser.  By the way, the gift shop has amazing prices!  My souvenir ornament (well, it's a magnet I will turn into an ornament) was only $3.  They definitely do not try to gouge you on the prices, which I find refreshing.  Hopefully they get a lot of business.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Texas State Parks

Texas is the best state of them all-I truly believe that!  Anywhere you go in the world, people always know where Texas is at on the map.  We are a world wide legend.  Texas is also so diverse in terrain where from side to side and tip to you can see everything from beaches to desert to swamps to mountains to prairies to piney woods.  Texas has it all!

In each part of the state there are state parks where you can enjoy each landscape and learn about the area.  You want to see the 2nd largest canyon in the USA?  Try Palo Duro State Park.

You want to see actual dinosaur tracks from 113 million years ago?  Head to Dinosaur Valley State Park.

Want to view the stars with a fancy telescope?  Make your way to Brazos Bend State Park, which is super close to Houston.  Watch for the gators!

I want to pay homage to my favorite state by heading to each one.  I am going to attempt all 54 state parks for sure and perhaps among those times I will head to the other places listed.

The Texas State Parks are currently having budget issues and are in need of help.  I will try and do my part each year to save our parks!  Click on the link to read about all of the state parks.  I will try and update this post as I visit each one.

Texas State Parks List (source)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

LaPorte By The Bay Half Marathon Take Three

I just realized I never wrote about my ½ marathon!  I completed my eighth half marathon on November 20th in LaPorte, TX as part of the Texas Bridge Series running events.  Originally I was going to run all three races with my Aunt Laura, but she ended up dropping out of the last race so she could watch my cousin (her son) in a swim meet.   I was thiiiiiiis close to saying screw it and not participating but I kept chanting in my head “you never regret a workout” and “you paid $65 for this thing, get your money worth” and “I really want my two extra medals I get when I finish this race”. 

I started the race figuring I could at least walk the entire way, even if I couldn’t run that far.  It might be painful, but I knew I could finish it.  The course looped around really close to my car and I sooooooo wanted to turn that direction and head to my car quietly, but I decided to keep going.  I can do this thing!

I made friends along the course as I usually do.  Why suffer in silence for 13.1 miles when I can talk to keep myself busy?  I’m a talker, y'all!  I can’t go without talking for that long (even though a bucket list item is to go to a week-long silent retreat!).  The miles past relatively quickly and before I knew it I was on my way back over the bridge. 

My feet felt great with my new shoes and I made sure to stretch while eating my race recovery food.

The funny part is that you get a finisher’s mug that said “Beef Loving Texan” but I am plant based and don't eat meat at all anymore.  I could still use the cup but I have so many that I just gave it away to my Aunt since she couldn’t be there. 

Half Marathon #8 in the books!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What I’ve Been Up To Lately Volume 13

I have so many posts I need to write and catch up on!  Look for a few over the next few days.

I needed new black flats because my sparkly Toms were dying and I found these cute rhinestone ones at Kohl’s.  I could not decide between the gray ones and the black ones, even though I came for black ones.  Decisions, decisions. I chose the black ones but I have a very strong feeling that Santa will be bringing the gray pair to me for Christmas.

My friend Tracy invited me at the last minute to a Rockets game against the Utah Jazz.  Rockets won!

A vendor at gave me these super cute Christmas tree earrings!

We went on a walk in my parent’s neighborhood one night and saw lots of lights.  Kali loved the Paw Patrol Lights.  

I loved the flamingo lights the best.  That’s my kind of house!

I found a new natural deodorant that I love and wanted to share it with you.  My grandma has Alzheimer’s and they have found a connection between it and aluminum (also it is a link to breast cancer too).  So, throw away all of your aluminum deodorant!  It’s better to be safe than sorry.