Thursday, November 20, 2014

A day at the market

Tucson has been trying to increase the Farmers' Markets scene. And this is something I support 100%! We have great farmers doing great things, and this should be celebrated. I think my appreciation is heightened, as I have had many-a-failures on "Tucson Gardens".

Stay tuned, however. I have been picking brains of every single gardener I meet, and I am heart-set on growing a tomato garden this year! Seed planting begins in January! (indoors)

Ryan and I have a great love for food, and good food. So after church on Sunday, we decided to check out a festival in town that celebrates local farmers, food, and entertainers: Viva la Local Tucson.

We had so much fun, and will definitely start attending this bi-annual festival!!

The 1st section of the festival is the farmers market portion. This had local farmers/vendors selling their produce, olive oil, teas, ranchers selling their meat, local bee-growers with their honey, tamales, and the list goes on.

We go to the local farmers market a few times a month, so didn't spend a lot of time at this (since we are quite familiar with the vendors). But we did stop at our favorite stand to get some heirloom tomatoes. Always a delight.

The farmer always jokes that his tomatoes are a fertility agent, just because they taste that good. He makes me laugh. I will say they are pretty dang good. We got some heirloom tomatoes, some local home-mode mozzarella. (For dinner Sunday night I made fresh & local caprese salad and butternut squash soup!)

We ate a light breakfast to get an appetite for lunch, because we knew there would be some good food. And indeed there was!

We decided to share 2 things. So we got a pulled pork sandwich, and split it. That came from Rod's KC BBQ. This is a well known BBQ company in Tucson that has been open for years. The pork was melt-in-your-mouth good.

Then we made a stop at "Mexico In Season" for tamales. We got 2 small tamales. 1 was a green chile and cheese. And the other was a pork and red sauce. We both decided the pork one was better.

I've decided I'm not a huge tamale fan. But it's such a big thing in Tucson this time of year! We couldn't pass it up.

We passed on the local beer & wine stands, since we decided to save our money for produce and food. But it all looked awesome.

Our lunch was enjoyed on the grass as we enjoyed the sounds of a local band called Reno del Mar. They were awesome! It was a trio of violin & guitar playing jazz, latin, and western swing. I definitely want to get their album!! It was so relaxing.

It was also entertaining watching some of the "baby boomers" (aka Tucson hippies) dance to it. (I think some of them went to Woodstock at a different time of their life. But that's just a guess). In fact, at one point the violinist said, "As I look out on the crowd, I'd call this a family friendly style Woodstock!"

Check them out!! They are awesome:
(this is them performing at one of our favorite places by the university)

Here is my plate of deliciousness. 
And here we are enjoying the beautiful afternoon! It was a perfect 73 degrees out that day. Thank God fall was arrived at last!!

It was a wonderful day, and made me appreciate where we live. Which is refreshing, since our hot summer makes that very difficult!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fall Party

Finally, the temperatures in the Sonoran Desert have dropped below 90 degrees Fahrenheit!

Excuse me while I break into a fit of dance and attempts at cartwheels. (I never figured out how to do a cartwheel)

My girlfriends Michelle, Heather, and I decided to co-host a fall-themed party. We co-hosted the "White Party" right before Labor day, and loved entertaining together so much - that we decided to do it again. All 3 of us love parties, love cooking, and we just work together so well.

Menu theme: Chili bar. Heather made a traditional chili with ground beef and beans. Michelle made a chili with beef tenderloin. And Ryan and I made a Green Pork Chili with tomatillo and roasted chiles. (I have to give Ryan credit since we came up with the recipe together)

We had a bar of various "chili toppings" (chives, black olives, cheese, tomatoes)

For the desert we had s'mores. There was a bon fire, and Michelle made miniature mason jars filled with s'more fixings (grahams, chocolate bar, marshmallows, and oreo cookies). It was adorable. But I was having too much fun to remember to take a picture!!

For libations, I made a Bourbon Apple Cider and a Cranberry Vodka Punch. Delicious.

And our friends brought a variety of comfort foods such as queso dip, crock pot apple crisp, butternut squash pudding, sweet potato cheese cake, jalapeno popper dip, Ina Garten's cornbread.....There is never a lack of abundance of food & drink at parties with our friends!

This was such a fun gathering before the holiday craziness begins.

My face still hurts from all the laughter.

Here are a few photos we got of the night:

 Serrano Cheddar Cornbread Muffins I made. They were the perfect combo of sweet (from the honey) and spicy (from the serranos). And the cheddar cheese made them chewy and delicious!

Over the years, we have become rather fond of hosting parties. And I have found the best party is one where the food can be pre-made. We had the chili slow-cooking by 1pm. That way 2 hours before your guests are to arrive, you can sit on your patio with a book...:)

This was a shot taken of the girls at the end of the night, before we sat down for a feisty "match" of Cards Against Humanity. The guys weren't as thrilled about taking group photos.

But we did sneak one of these 2.  :)

Me with my lovely co-hosts Michelle and Heather. We absolutely did NOT plan on wearing flannel shirts. We are just that awesome that we coordinated naturally. When we saw each other, we were laughing hysterically.
I absolutely adore these 2 women. We plan these parties during our "Book Club". Which is really just an excuse to get together and drink wine and catch up on life. We still read the same books - but we aren't very good about actually discussing it (besides via text while we are reading at night). This is the kind of friendship that is just comes easy! Thank God for girlfriends.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ragnar take 3: McDowell Mountain Trail

My 3rd Ragnar is in the books! The thought of these 24 hour races is rather daunting. But the more you do, it becomes addicting.

This was my 1st "trail" Ragnar.

For a refresher: Ragnar is a company that sponsors 24+ hour relay races. It's a company that makes tons of money. Because it attracts insane people from all over the country to pay hundreds of dollars to run with their friends for 24 hours on zero sleep. All for a medal, tshirt, and car decal. But great memories are always included!

I've done the Ragnar del Sol (Wickenburg to Phoenix), Napa (San Francisco to Calistoga), and now McDowell Mountain trail. I must say this trail Ragnar was my favorite. Here is my recap:

  1. Trail Ragnar is made up of a team of 8 instead of 12 runners (like on the road). It is also 120-160 miles instead of 200. Instead of going from Point A to Point B, you stay in one area and run 3 different trail loops.
  2. This race had 3 loops: 3.1 miler, 8 miler, and 4 miler. Every runner did these different loops in a different order.
  3. Hardest part of the race was running the trails in the dark. I thought trail running was technically challenging? Try it in the dark. You really have to watch your footing to not fall into a cactus, trip over a rock, or slide off a cliff ;). Especially if you have terrible depth perception like me!
  4. Best part of the race? You didn't have to be in a van in between runs. You got to sprawl out at your campsite!
  5. The camping area in the middle where all the trails started was called "The Village", which was a 24 hour party. There were camp fires, music, s'mores, hundreds of tents. It was so much fun!
  6. My muscles were more sore after this than they were after my half ironman! Especially my calves and ankles.
  7. The temps varied like crazy! When our team started at 3pm Friday, it was 84 degrees. Miserable. Then when the sun set at 6pm, it was in the 50's. Then by 9am Saturday, the sun came back out with a vengeance and it hit 86 degrees for the last runners! Luckily, all 3 of my runs were either in the dusk or dark, so I didn't have to deal with the hot weather.
  8. My team is already planning next years' event. And plotting out our campsite and food. :)
Here are a few photos I took, and some that I pulled off the Ragnar facebook page. These photos just speak "Arizona desert trail running"!

Here's a "pre-race" shot. We decided to take a picture while we were still clean. Our team name was "Running our AZ Off"

This is a picture I took off the Ragnar Trail website - they had some really great photos, and it gives you an example of the terrain we ran on!
Here is a picture one of my team-mates got of the sun setting behind the mountains...

This is an photo of "The Village". It was like a 24 hour race expo, obviously with a lot of Solomon gear, since they were the official race sponsor. Solomon is my choice of trail running shoes, by the way! They fit so well, and have great treads. My feet never hurt during the whole race experience!
Here's a night picture of Ryan and I with our headlamps! Being all sweaty in between runs, your body got super cold! So cuddling was necessary.
I took these 2 photos of the sun rising Saturday morning while I waited for Ryan to come in! He got to hand off to me in the relay all 3 times, which was super fun to get to hug him when he came into the "exchange shoot".

This is the finish line that you crossed every time you finished a loop, since all 3 loops met up for the last 0.4 miles.
They ran out of food Saturday morning. They were supposed to have "food vendors". Well, they had one food truck for approximately 3000 runners. I love Ragnar, but that did NOT impress us. Especially since you fork up $1800/team!  We ended up getting to have a conversation with the race director, and sadly she had no idea they ran out of food. She apologized profusely, and was able to get our team free sandwiches and beers. But I feel bad for the 1000 runners after our team who didn't get to eat!! 
Ryan was especially hangry. ;)
But he perked up after his pulled pork sandwich.

Our Tucson network of "Ragnarians" has grown over the years. And we actually had 2 teams out there this week. Here's our team with a few other girls.

Team "Running our AZ Off" relaxing our "AZ" off :)

We will definitely be back next year!! (We will just make sure we bring our own food!!)
(The tattoo on my leg is just a stick-on. No real in ink for this gal! Don't worry, Mom! Ha!)