Saturday, October 02, 2010

Hello October!

September sucked slightly less than August.  I was sick in some form or fashion for the majority of it, but I made some personal progress that makes me optimistic for October and the rest of the year.  This is much improved over the dread I had before.

The rest of the year is gonna be good.  I can just feel it. 
  • I get to see my sister soon.  
  • My projects in my classes are gonna be fun.  
  • Curiously enough, I am really excited for Halloween.  I have an intense craving to carve pumpkins.  I have no idea what my costume should be.
  • NaNoWriMo site relaunched, and I am really getting eager to write again! Here's my author profile on the site.
  • It's the holidays! What's not to like! 

And now for other news and goal updates!

With my recent sickness and onset of the busy season for both work and school, I have decided to bow out of training for the Rock and Roll San Antonio Half Marathon.  I should have learned last year that training is just one thing too many on top of my other commitments.

I read a bunch of stuff. Mockingjay, Good Omens, and 13 Little Blue Envelopes were in the first part of the month.  Since then I've read a lot more: an additional nine makes the running tally 45.  Maybe this would be a good time to back off on the reading so that I can work on some other projects!
  • Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare.  The first of The Infernal Devices series, prequel to The Mortal Instruments series.  Shadowhunters gone steampunk!  Nice start to a new series.  I could see where twists were going to be, so it wasn't as much of a on-the-edge-of-your-chair read for me. 
  • The Laughing Corpse by Laurell Hamilton.  Second in the Anita Blake series, this one was more zombies, less vampires. I really like the Anita Blake character a lot, but don't know if I can continue to read the series. I might gag myself to death if I read anything else about vampire love.  It did contain some interesting asides about women working in male-dominated fields that make me think.
  • Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce.  A reread of a great YA duet.
  • Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund. Sequel to Rampant and another setup-for-the-third book.  Lots of information for plot and world building, but not really interesting on its own.  
  • Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. A TON of teenage drama and angst.  Loved the included lyrics. Made me think about teenage sex as portrayed in YA books.  To do it or not to do it? To show it or not to show it?  Probably a difficult decision for each author for each book, and probably also a difficult pitch to publishers. 

I haven't made a lot of progress on paying off my debt this month, but I'm still at 80% there with only 75% of the year complete.  With vacations and holidays coming up, we'll see how that goes. I was able to refinance my mortgage so reduce the APR by 1.5% and monthly payment by $100.  Also, switching ISPs saves me another $25 a month. So hopefully that will help a bit.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rebellion, Apocolypse, and Hostels

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is the much awaited final book of the Hunger Games trilogy. The rebellion takes hold in the Districts and finally takes on the Capitol. I liked it, and liked how everything was wrapped up in the end.  It seemed like there was less character development in this one since Katniss spends a lot of the book being disoriented.  My perception might have been caused by keeping myself slightly detached from the book because that some of the imagery felt too close.  I knew I wouldn't be able to deal with Katniss's emotions as well as my own at that point.  Good book, though my favorite of the three is Hunger Games.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) and Terry Pratchett was an incredibly awesome read. Two of some of the best contemporary SF authors combining forces in this hysterical account of what might happen if you put the Apocalypse into the hands of human free will.  It was a really great read complete with really great moments of pointing and laughing at real life. This is a must-read for any current fans of either of the authors. If I got a chance for either of them to sign a book, I would make sure to bring this one. (I have the white cover.)  After I drop it in the bathtub, of course.

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (@maureenjohnson) was my first time reading anything of hers.  She is fantastic to follow on Twitter, so I figured that I just had to read something of hers.  This follows seventeen year old Ginny as she wanders around Europe at the direction of letters given to her by her aunt.  This book touched on so many places in Europe that I really want to visit and only one that I have actually been to (London). From the little jokes I understood from the London events, I know I'm missing a lot more of the jokes in the other places. This futher solidifies my desire to do a very similar tour of my own.  I wonder if I would be able to leave technology behind me.  I wonder if MJ would be able to!!  On another note, does anyone know if there is any fan art of the tattoo Mari gives Ginny? Would love to see a representation of it.  I couldn't picture it well in my head.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Good Grief, August!

Yikes, August was rocky.  It was supposed to be a chill month.  With school out of session, my schedule was supposed to open up.  For some reason I think I got less done than possible.   A couple good things happened and a couple of bad. 

I got a haircut!  This length suits me so much better, though I'm still working out how to secure it when at the gym or lab.  I was able to donate ten inches to Locks for Love for my second time.  It's so cool to be able to do that. 

I was more social in August than when school was in session.  I was able to catch up with some friends and see some movies:  Despicable Me, The Good Guys, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  Scott Pilgrim was the best movie I've seen in a long while.  If you haven't yet, go see it!

I started running again!  I had a summer hiatus due to a way too hectic schedule.  I gained about ten pounds after my Professional Dining Class, so now I feel like I'm at a disadvantage going into half marathon training.  I'm now working out after my classes and that makes for some very late nights.  After completing 50 miles this month, I am at 241 miles year to date.  Finally crossed the 200 mile marker!

I started writing again!  Not a lot, but this month included almost 9000 words, which is more than May, June and July word counts combined.  And August included the first new fiction in a long while. A good chunk is a new short story which is now ready for submission.  In a good way.

Gwen was sick.  She's my first dog, so now that she's getting older (she's eight)it makes me scared whenever she gets sick.  She's okay now, but she had to have blood drawn and x-rays and everything.  Poor thing.

I'm going through another episode of depression.  My third.  I am trying a lot of different things, but so far it hasn't been great and I'm still not as functional as I need to be.  That was a major reason why I picked up Undoing Depression, but I still think I need medication and therapy.  I am also going to try some different supplements, pending doctor's okay.  Sigh. 

I have hope for September, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is rocky too. 

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Undoing Depression by Richard O'Connor

Depression causes brain damage, claims Richard O'Connor, author of Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn't Teach You and Medication Can't Give You. Studies have shown that not only the brain produce less “happy” chemicals, but that it looses the ability to detect the presence of the “happy” chemicals. I'm paraphrasing significantly, but that's the bad news.

The good news is that many of the habits comprise the depressive's behaviors are learned through repetition and can be unlearned. Most of it revolves around paying attention to emotions and thoughts in order to gain control over them instead of being controlled by them. This is difficult for most depressives because those emotions and thoughts have been blocked or ignored. It is a defense mechanism for the depressive who is not ready to deal with them, but too often it goes on for a significant amount of time. Even when ignored or blocked, the emotions can still cause mood swings. Then the depressive says the mood “came out of the blue,” though he or she was just not aware of what the trigger was.

O'Connor argues that medication and therapy are still effective treatment options, but they have limitations. Studies on either have only proven that medication or therapy reduces the number of symptoms that together made a Major Depression Disorder (MDD) diagnosis over a three month period. There have not been any studies on the long term effectiveness of medication, but most people diagnosed with MDD stay on medication for “maintenance.”

A diagnosis of MDD is compared to that of heart disease. Once you have it, you have to change your lifestyle to reduce the risk of a recurrence. Most heart patients will get instructions on what needs to be adjusted in order to continue life after heart disease. People diagnosed with depression are not given that type of information. It just doesn't exist. O'Connor lays out some exercises that are meant to better equip the depressive for dealing with emotions and thoughts, and by extension, stress. A quarter of the American population is suffering from MDD at any given time, but still a stigma exists against the disorder. It is perceived as a character defect rather than a disease. Like heart disease, it is something you have to live with every day. Some days are more of a struggle than others. It has been most difficult to explain how daily life is affected to people who have not experienced it. That has been where I feel the stigma the most. And, for those in the opposite position, saying “Just Be Happy” is not encouraging.

After reading this book, I wrote a short story, “She's Always Right,” roughly themed on depression. I have gotten it to a point where I can submit it to an upcoming competition. I want to thank my readers and editors for their help and advice: JD, Beth, Brittany, JT, and Amanda. It wouldn't be in its current form without you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mongolian BBQ - Dessert Course

Mongolian barbeque restaurants are becoming more and more popular for their endless possibilities of flavor and texture profiles.

Patrons select ingredients from a raw bar and hand them to employees to stir fry on a large griddle.  Many establishments offer several meat selections usually including chicken, pork, beef, tofu, and a token seafood item.  Noodles are also popular and range from lo mein to yakisoba.  There are lots of vegetables that include go-to stir fry veggies -  bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, baby corn - but also offer some more adventurous items - bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and cabbage.

Sauce bars are where the really creative stuff happens.   Most places recommend using 5-6 ladles of any combination of sauces for a single bowl of ingredients.  Venues have in-house versions of classic sauces - teriyaki, Thai peanut, and sweet and sour, to name a few - but also have unique offerings all their own.  Add some basic broths and oils, and you have a million different options for your sauce!  (Actually, HuHot has closer to 24 factorial, or 6.20448402 × 1023, if I remember my formulas correctly.)

The options are unlimited!  You will wish your stomach was unlimited when faced when going through the buffet!   Mongolian barbeque restaurants in the San Antonio area are limited to  HuHot and a few recent openings of Genghis Grill.  Hands down the best Mongolian barbeque place I've been to was Fire+Ice in Boston. 

With so many choices, it's easy to let your eyes get bigger than your stomach.  Most of the time you won't have room for dessert.  The offered dessert menu doesn't impress with items like an Attila the Hun themed cheesecake.  You're going to want to save room for this stir fry dessert!  It's simple, fresh, and a very light way to end a normally heavy meal. 

Grilled Pineapple and Coconut
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut  (Look for it at the toppings end of the bar!)
- 1 cup pineapple chunks 

Sauces, one ladle of each: 
- teriyaki sauce
- sweet and sour sauce
- lime juice
- sesame oil

Extra toppings
- more shredded coconut
- minced raw peanuts

Combine all ingredients and sauces in a bowl.  Let the guys grill it up for you.  Top the grilled pineapples and coconut with some peanuts for crunch and more coconut for an extra kick.  You're going to want to pass this around the table, if your dining partners have any room left!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recent Reads: Twenties Girl and Beastly

Sophie Kinsella is the writer of the popular book Confessions of a Shopaholic, another book I really loved. Twenties Girl follows Lara as she is haunted by her great aunt Sadie who convinces her to find a necklace of high personal value.  In the process, Lara discovers much more about her deceased relative and about herself than she originally bargained for.

In Twenties Girl, Kinsella uses the same tone of a twenty-something woman that I really identified with in Shopaholic.  It made the book real and personable for me.  I'm pretty sure I'm the target demographic, so maybe it won't work as well for others.

It was a really good read - some fluff that I knocked out in a weekend.  I wasn't expecting the warm fuzzies after finishing it.  All the twenties gadgets and products used by women of the era to accomplish the unique style were quite intriguing.  Once Lara got over her complaining, her drive was quite admirable.

I would recommend this book to any woman who likes contemporary adult fiction. Try reading it while indulging in a bubble bath!

Beastly by Alex Flinn is a modern retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast tale, set in New York City and told from the Beast's perspective.  This young adult novel is another fast and easy read.

The plot is a given, so the book shows the Beast's metamorphosis as he deals with his infliction.  The Beast acquires the library that impresses the girl during his grieving process.  He spends hours a day reading in or watching passersby from the top floor of an isolated abode. Some of the titles that are mentioned feel more like name dropping than actual allusions - The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jane Eyre, The Count of Monte Cristo, etcetera, ad nauseum.  Roses become an obsession for the Beast to the point that he builds his own greenhouse so that he can have fresh flowers even in the winter.  Overall, a good read, but it immediately went into my "to donate" pile.

This retelling is being picked up for a film to release in March of next year.  It is set up for a new teen heart-throb to take center stage,  Alex Pettyfer.  In my opinion, Alex is much better looking and deserves the idealizing to come more than Robert Pattinson.  Mary-Kate Olsen stars as the witch, her first feature film since 2004.  Neil Patrick Harris also has a starring role as a blind live-in tutor.  The movie is on my radar and while I don't think I'll be knocking down the doors of a theater with screaming pre-teens, I will probably sneak into a late show.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fleet Feet Sunrise 10K Race Report

Distance: 10K
Goal Time: 1:17:30-1:28:30
Actual Time: 1:26:32 (13:55 min/mi)

This was my second time to do this particular event, and their third time hosting it.  I had a couple goals for this particular run: to get in my hill intervals for the week and try out running with my backpack-style hydration pack.

The run part was hard. For some reason, running outside during this time of year does not feel great.  There's still the ridiculous heat of the summer around, but with some spare humidity thrown in just for fun.  The temperature at the start was 80 degrees with about 80% humidity.  The course goes through Alamo Heights, which is one of the hilliest parts of San Antonio.  I bring your attention to the elevation map below.  The overall difference in elevation is only like 50 meters, but the inclines are pretty steep and quite repetitive.  They definitely began to hurt in the last couple miles.  I ended up doing a bit of run/walking due to the hills. I will definitely need to be hitting up some more hill intervals before the half-marathon. 

I am what they call a "sweaty runner."  I end up caked with salt, head to toe, after my long runs. Add the humidity to that and I sweat even more.  So I tend to imbibe quite a bit of fluids on my runs, more than is held in the dinky little eight ounce bottles that come in the belt-style hydration packs.  For me, the belt style packs tended to require a lot of fidgeting since they tended to ride up and not stay on my hips as intended. Getting the little bottles in and out of the holders was a bit of a pain too. But the backpack-style pack was awesome. There were several others who used Camelbaks at this event, though mine was much bigger the ones I saw. It strapped down pretty tight so that there wasn't much sloshing around. I didn't have to fiddle with it near as much as I did with the belt.  I could carry a whole lot more fluid too. The best part was having the fluids on demand, especially during those hills where I really needed it.  I think that allowed me to knock almost a minute off last year's time (1:27:24).  I think this will do me well for the half-marathon so I don't have to drink the gross Lemon-Lime Cytomax.  I still have yet to master catching my breath while sucking on the tube, but I still have a few weeks to work on that. 

Mission accomplished for this race. I did have some issues earlier this week and didn't get to the gym as often as I should have. There are still twelve weeks until the event, so I think I'm in decent shape. Next week starts the fall semester of classes, so here's hoping that I can manage work, school, training, and my sanity. 

Race Photos, bib 253:  Start, Finish, Finish  
Official Results

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Reading List Has Been Pirated!

My reading list has been pirated by none other than the cunning Brittany (@BLandgrebe).  She so sneakily planted sleeper agents on my bookshelf that came out and attacked me during a lull in my reading.  I can hear her evil laugh now. Perhaps we have similar tastes in fiction, but my pirated reading list has actually benefited me.  I probably wouldn't have picked up either of these books on my own, but now will probably sing their praises to anyone who asks.

Lois Lowry's The Giver was cleverly disguised as a Christmas present.  It took me six months to pick it up and now I can't believe I didn't read it sooner.  It wasn't a grade school reading list item for me like it was for a lot of others I know.  I don't think I would have understood it much when I was younger.  I'm not sure if I really understand it now.  It's the first utopia/dystopia I've read in a long time.  It did start some trains of thought like: differences between people should be recognized and celebrated; the appropriateness of a governing body's interference into the lives of individuals; the benefit of unsheltered experience and pain.   It was a really quick read and very well written.  It's definitely going to remain on my shelf for a long time to come.

The next book, also cleverly disguised as a gift, came later in the spring: Rampant by Diana Peterfreund.  When I first received it my reaction was closer to, "Killer unicorns? Um, sure."  Then after finally opening the book and immediately getting into it my reaction was more, "Dude! Killer unicorns!!!" It followed what I call "The Harry Potter Format" wherein a tween/teen discovers a hidden talent, gets sent to a special school to develop said talent, then uses the talent to save the world.  In this case, a bunch of teenage virgin girls get sent to a convent in Rome to learn how to hunt unicorns.  My favorite part was probably the incorporation of Roman mythology and history into the back story.  It got a bit angsty with the pack of hormonal teenage girls at each others throats, but the story line was riveting.  There were some threads that were left unresolved, but there are more books planned in the series, the next of which comes out in September.

The piracy is expected to continue with Shiver by Maggie Steivater, currently on my to-be-read shelf. 

In other unrelated news, does anyone know how to ninja-proof a house?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Missed the McNay Museum

For the life of me I still can't figure out why it took me so long to go back to visit the McNay Museum (@mcnayart).  I haven't been since they opened their new wing in 2008.  It's a fantastic new space that really brings the museum up to date with an incredible amount of room for more collections.  I was also extremely pleased to find out that admission is free for current students.  (Another bonus for attending night classes.)

The Mathews Glass Art exhibit was very neat - art deco glass vases and bowls and things that were absolutely exquisite.  The Janet Lohr exhibit had a Dia de los Muertos feel to it, but it was interesting to see how the final product was created.   And really intriguing was the Gary Lang Dividing Time installation.  It is a projection of moving lines, a real-time version of some of his other works.  It was like seeing each piece being layered on top of each other as the piece evolves.  Of course, the newly acquired Picasso paintings were a must see.  I absolutely loved the current exhibit they have going on now called "Neither Model Nor Muse: Women as Artists." It showed exclusively female artists in several different mediums, even including one done by Ms. McNay herself! 

In the new wing they have a sculpture exhibit that you can actually tweet to @mcnayinfo a certain number and get a piece of trivia about the particular piece!  I totally nerded out with that.  I love learning those little things, and this is a genius way to update the old school cassette tape audio tours.  Granted, they still have a call-in system for some of the other pieces in the other galleries, but I despise talking on the phone, so this was much better suited to me.  The delay on the return message was a little long, but the info was neat enough that I actually went back to the previous pieces.  It also was a kind of electronic notice to not rush through the exhibit too quickly- to take my time to enjoy it and really look at what I'm seeing.  I feel like I appreciated the pieces more when I knew more about them, so for me it greatly added to my enjoyment of the exhibit.  I only wish it were expanded to more of the galleries!  

I loved the new wing and the Twittering.  It felt like the museum got a great update that can make it more accessible to an increasingly techie population.  The only Going to art museums always makes me wish I knew more about art history and theory.  Perhaps then I can understand the artistry more than just feeling moved by beautiful things in a small space.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday News Edition

I have a few pieces of news, none of which merit their own blog post.  So here's the digest version of everything.

  • I just passed 200 miles run in 2010!  The goal for the year is 500, so I'm behind.  But for taking a six week break, I think I'm still in an okay position.  It'll take me about 15 miles per week for the rest of the year to meet the goal, which is still very doable.  It's even more doable when you factor in my training plan for the 2010 Rock'N'Roll San Antonio Half Marathon.  The 15-week plan ranges between 16 and 28 mile weeks.

  • First week of the 2010 RnRSA plan I believe I must call a success. I ran most of the plan, even after the hiatus. Only running 12 miles of the 16 makes me feel a bit disappointed, but it's the most miles per week I've completed since April.  Coming out the other end with no injuries has to be counted as an accomplishment. Here's to next week!  May it be filled with 17 miles including a quality speed interval day.

  • My eyes are paid off! My expensive self-splurge this year was on LASIK surgery, which has been pretty awesome.  Sometimes when my eyes are dry, I can't help the feeling of wanting to take out my contacts.  However, I have gotten over the habit of groping my bedside table for my glasses in the morning.  I think I'll appreciate this more in the years to come.  But for now, I will appreciate that I have no bills for it!  So I've taken care of 80% of my pay-down-debt goal with only 60% of the year gone by. 
  • I'm behind in my movie watching.  Here's the rundown of ones I've seen recently. Loved the A-Team.  In my opinion, a better series remake than Get Smart or StarTrek. Karate Kid was okay, but my favorite part was the credits for the photography and the Justin Bieber/Jaden Smith song.  Inception was freaking awesome, as everyone should know by now.  The Sorcerer's Apprentice was cute, but not as good as I was hoping.  Despicable Me was very funny, but the trailers were misleading. The dude laughed a lot more than I did.

  • I had to abandon the re-read of a book I loved in high school: The Spellsong Sorceress by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.  Twenty pages in and it had all of the writing sins now shunned in recently published books.  The ones that irked me the most were his paragraphs of laundry-list descriptions and flip-flopping verb tenses.  Pairing that with the high fantasy genre, it just felt snooty.  Alas, there goes a fond memory of a childhood read.

  • Douglas Adams' sequel to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, was another excellent book.  This particular book had more commentary than narrative, and the time-travel aspect got a bit confusing, but I still very much enjoyed it. His writing style is fantastic, putting character-driven narrative next to laugh-out-loud, snarky, satirical social commentary.  I don't know of any other writer who has achieved both or done it with such a light heart.  My favorite part is the mathematical proof of why there the universe has a population of zero.  Oh, "and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination."
I think it's been a good week, though not very productive.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Twin Sisters

No, this isn't a blog about me and my twin, but another set of twin sisters who started a restaurant in San Antonio.  Twin Sisters Bakery and Cafe is a local favorite for "healthy" sandwiches and soups, and fresh baked goods.  I went to the Alamo Heights location and it was a really relaxed, cute place with very personable staff.   Everything on their menu was so tempting!

That day they offered Jalapeno Lemonade which was much more awesome than it sounds.  It added just a hint of the jalapeno flavor, but not too much of the spice.  It tasted a bit like they used the leftover juice from pickled jalapenos and dumped it into the lemonade batch.  Either way, it was really, really awesome.

The Greek Salad was familiar to most other venues.  The dressing on it was heavy on the olive oil with some thyme and olive tapenade.  But the soup was a cold Cucumber Avocado Soup and it was fantastic.  It had some flecks of red onion and cilantro throughout, but was fresh, bright, smooth, and tangy.  All around wonderful.  Perfect for the increasingly warm summer San Antonio days.  The Turkey and Cheese sandwich was also very excellent mainly due to the in-house made bread it was on.  It was a very soft wheat that actually added to the  flavor of the sandwich.  With the soup and sandwich came a cornbread muffin that was grainy and not too sweet.  Loving that adding excess sugar was not in that particular recipe.

Twin Sisters is probably more well known for their baked goods.  The Sweet Potato Muffin was quite yummy, similar in taste and consistency to zucchini bread.   The Lemon Bars were particularly excellent.  There wasn't a delineation between the filling and the crust.  One just kind of morphed into another.

If you're a local in SATX and haven't been to Twin Sisters yet, GO!  I lived in this city way too long before visiting this establishment.  If you're in town visiting, then there's a downtown location open for lunch just for you!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Clay Casa

I had an artistic urge recently and I decided to make myself a new clay coffee mug.  There's only one clay painting place in town, Clay Casa in the Embassy Oaks area behind 281 and Bitters.  It had the obligatory cute funky artist type people working there.  The selection of pieces was decent, but my previous experience at Clay Dreams in Boston had a bunch more.  I was intrigued by the dog-tag like pieces made for necklaces, but they were out.

I decided on two travel coffee mugs, one for me and one for the dude.  They're a solid color background with a free-handed pattern on the top and monogram letters.  His was blue with black diamonds; mine was yellow with a dark green Celtic braid.  It took me a couple very relaxing hours at the shop to complete the painting. It was the perfect things for me to do that day.  Something out of the house, relaxing, and creative. 

I went back a week later and they were good to go.  His turned out darker than I was expecting, but he liked it well enough.  I am really proud of  myself on the braid design on my mug.  It turned out really great!I can't wait to bring it in to show off at work.   Added bonus: if you do another piece when you pick up a previous piece, the studio fee is waived!  I picked a vase that I did in the same scheme as the candlestick I did in Boston that I'll use as a pencil holder on my desk at home. I still want to do the dog-tag pieces later on.  I'm just hoping they're there the next time I stop in. 

Monday, August 02, 2010

Samurai Sushi Review and Local Fave Rolls

I really love sushi, but it seems everyone in San Antonio has a particular go-to place for it.  I finally went to one that I know some people swear by: Samurai Sushi at Babcock and Wurzbach. 

It's a really unique atmosphere.  The decor was more of a family diner than the Japanese minimalist that you normally see at sushi places.

I normally opt for rolls over sashimi and house special rolls over classics. I ordered Edamame, the Ultra Tuna roll, and the Baked Lobster roll with a Kirin Ichiban to wash everything down.  The Ultra Tuna roll was your basic Spicy Tuna roll with an additional piece of tuna on top.  The Baked lobster roll was the basic California roll with a piece of lobster on top, covered in a sweet chili sauce and baked.  The tuna roll was pretty good, but not fantastic.  The lobster pieces were slightly overdone such that they were on the rubbery side, but the chili sauce was very yummy.  I ended dinner with a tempura ice cream, which was too big for just me, but quite tasty.  It was plain old vanilla ice cream, but the tempura had been sweetened.

Samurai Sushi was okay, but not great.  It was less stuck up than another local sushi chain and a smidgeon cheaper, but I'm not sure if the food is worth going back for.

Of the San Antonio Sushi places I frequent, these are my go-to rolls:
  • Kona Grill's Picasso Roll - a California roll topped with yellowtail, jalepeno, and chili sauce.  It's not on the menu, so you'll have to ask for it!
  • Sushi Zushi's My Spurs Roll - yellowtail, serrano, tomato and cilantro.  Light, fresh, and spicy, hits the spot on a hot summer day. 
  • Godai Sushi's Z-Roll - yellowtail and green onion roll topped with spicy tempura crumbles.
    Love the crunchies, so unique and fun!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

DOUGH Pizzeria Napoletana

Hands down my new favorite pizza joint.  What's not to love about hand-tossed dough, exquisite toppings, fresh made desserts?  They even have a mozzarella bar! 

DOUGH Pizzeria Napoletana is new to the Castle Heights area at Blanco and 410.  They specialize in certified Neopolitan style pizzas which means they follow very strict rules as to what ingredients to use and how the pizza is made.  But not only do they have fantastic pizzas, but their appetizers and desserts are also fantastic.

The day's appetizer special when I went was pancetta wrapped asparagus topped with a poached egg and shaved white truffle. It was positively amazing.  The pizzas are are big enough for two or three people, so share with some friends.  We added Sopressata salami to the Fontina pizza, which was Fontina cheese, oak-roasted mushrooms, caramelized onion, and Parmigiano Reggiano.  We ate all of it, including the crumbs.  The Italian sodas are perfect to wash it down on a hot summer day, or you can select from a very nice wine list.

This place definitely isn't for someone who is a picky eater or for someone who loves the super-cheap super-large super-greasy pizzas from the closest chain.  The pricing is up to twenty dollars for a pizzas, plus other toppings up to three dollars each, which is expected for top-notch sometimes imported ingredients.  They make whatever they can in house from cheese to desserts and get all the ingredients they can locally.

Follow @DoughPizzeria on Twitter for everything from announcements of daily specials and upcoming events to internet gems.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Breakfast Just Got Better

I've ventured out to a couple new breakfast restaurants that have been awesome. Egg and I is a national chain, but Sugarbakers is unique to San Antonio. 

Finally!  Something different for breakfast instead of heavy pancakes, greasy meats, and super sized omelets.  Granted, Eggs Benedict aren't the healthiest breakfast out there, but it's not something on the menu at most places.   I have been to a few of the San Antonio locations and the quality is consistent across the board.   The Crabcake Benedict is something a little different, but order it without tomato.  The measly slice doesn't add much and makes it hard to eat.  I think my favorite thing so far is the Breakfast Sundae, which is a yogurt and fruit parfait with a side of toast and a poached egg.  Their signature side that comes with everything are "ranch potatoes" - plain ranch style potato bits tossed with ranch-dressing-packet seasoning.  To me, they don't taste like much and I prefer a side of fruit instead.  There's still a lot of things on the menu that I'd like to try - omelets, scrambles.  And that's only on the breakfast side of the menu!  There are tons of sandwiches and salads served for lunch as well.  This may be my new go-to breakfast place.

You really don't want to go healthy if you head to Sugarbakers off Basse Rd behind the Quarry Market.  You'll miss out on their specialties!  It's a local find that bakes everything on their menu right in their kitchen.  Breakfast varies from omelets to french toast to quiche.  The Caramel Apple French Toast is phenomenal.  The Florentine Scrambler is good for someone who doesn't want a sugar overload in the morning.  The biscuits are also fantastic.  I plan to head back there to stock up with armloads of their baked goods.  The cookies they had on display looked so tempting, but I was too full!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Holly Black Double Header

I've been following Holly Black (@hollyblack) on Twitter for a while, but hadn't actually read any of her books! I figured this should be remedied sooner rather than later.

"When Cassel Sharpe discovers that his older brothers have used him to carry out their criminal schemes and then stolen his memories, he figures out a way to turn their evil machinations against them."  - Copyright Summary

White Cat was a great read.  I was surprised by the turn of events all the way to the end.  The magic system created for this world is unique, particularly in the toll it takes on those able to use it, called curse workers. .  Using magic causes a "blowback" to the caster so that using magic to kill someone means something of the caster dies as well.   I loved how Black weaved different explanations for historical or political events: presidential assassinations, mob machinations, and legislation.  The wrap-up at the end of the novel was so bittersweet, it was almost heartbreaking.  I had one question that wasn't answered to my satisfaction, but I expect that it will turn out to be an unexpected twist sometime later in the series.

"Sixteen-year-old Kaye, who has been visited by fairies since childhood, discovers that she herself is a magical faerie creature with a special destiny." - Copyright Summary

In Tithe, Black weaves a faerie world into modern New Jersey. It focused a lot on the evil side of faerie tales, feeding off tales of stealing human babies and causing deaths in the name of avoiding boredom. This is another faerie world full of very angsty teens and very slow faerie politics.  I didn't get into this one as much as I was expecting to.   I didn't particularly care for any of the characters and got annoyed by all the teen emotions flying around.  For me, there was a deus ex machina moment at the end when the two faerie courts meet and Kaye figures it out all the sudden.  I would probably only recommend this to anyone who is a hardcore Wicked Lovely fan since it has a very similar feel.

I am definitely going to pick up another Curse Workers book if Black comes up with a sequel, but probably won't touch the two follow-up faerie books.  I do highly recommend following Black on Twitter though!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hill Country Goodness

Needing a short getaway and fun-in-the-sun activities, I packed up the car and the dude and headed out to Fredericksburg last month. Probably one of the best trips I've taken in a long while.

We stayed at a Starstruck Cottage which was super cute and absolutely perfect for our purposes. It was about a block off the main street, but still really convenient to everything. The two-person jacuzzi was exactly what I needed to rest and relax, but I found it somewhat difficult to use for getting-clean purposes.

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but Texas is big. Really big. Filled with little towns. Among them is Luckenbach. This marked my first visit to this particular little town. I learned how to pitch washers, but unfortunately still lost to the dude. I didn't care for the opening band, but Doug Moreland was very cool. They have (mostly fried) munchies available, but the jalepeno poppers were the best.

The next day we packed up early and headed out to Enchanted Rock. I haven't been since high school, and it was much cooler than I remember it being. We hiked up the easy side and climbed down the hard side. I sustained only minor injuries. (I wouldn't be me unless I hurt myself somehow!) We picnicked near the primitive areas and then took the long way back to the car. It was an awesome workout. Climbing down between all the boulders was challenging, but so much fun. It made me feel strong and outdoorsy.

We tried out a bunch of gear while at Enchanted Rock. We took our lunch with us in an REI backpack cooler, which worked out really well. We used one compartment for our food and another for towels, knives. We had some extra room, which we used to hold trash we picked up while on our hike. The food stayed cold even though we were out in ninety degree weather. We also grabbed a hydration pack that I was so pleased with. It is meant for biking, so has a lot of pouches to put bike gear in, but it held our bandages and sunscreen as well as two liters of water. It also kept chilled while we were out and about. I'm itching to try it on a run, but alas that hasn't happened yet. I also wore my Vibram FiveFingers Sprint on the hike. I got laughed at for using my “monkey toes” when climbing down the rocks, but I was really pleased with them. I am a huge Vibram fan and sing their blessings every time someone asks me what's up with my shoes.

While in Fredericksburg, we went to a couple restaurants that I hadn't been to before. We had dinner at Hondo's on Main Street. I ordered the nachos, which were decent as far as nachos go. The dude got chicken fried steak which came with a phenomenal poblano cream sauce. They also serve some very wicked margaritas, so watch out for those. On the way out of town we ate at Sunset Grill which honored a coupon from the B&B. It was a great find, recently reviewed in Texas Monthly. We had a little bit of everything from their breakfast menu and were incredibly satisfied. 

 All in all, a great trip!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Where Did 2010 Go?

Okay, so April, May, and June went really really fast. 2010 is now halfway over and time is going by faster than ever.

  • I am very surprised that I'm actually on target for my reading goal this year: 27 books read out of 50.  I'm also already met the 10% nonfiction goal, already have read 6. I'm discovering "adult paranormal romance" is my preferred genre to read.
  • Of the total debt amount I hope to pay off this year, I'm already about 75% through it.  I'm almost done paying off the LASIK surgery from April, then it's back to hacking away at my second mortgage.  If I keep on track, I should be ahead of the goal by the end of the year. Take that silly interest rates!
  • My writing has been blog only in the last few months.  I have finally resigned to leaving my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel unfinished.  I've completely lost momentum on it and have no love for it anymore.  I have decided to work on the planning for my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel in the upcoming months instead. Scenes from that have been jumping in and out of my thoughts more recently.  It might be time to get those out of my head and onto paper. 
  • I am absolutely loving my culinary class this summer.  My chef actually went with my plating design for the dessert for the Scholarship Donors dinner this past week and chose me to be the student wine steward for the evening too.  Class is a lot of work and makes the week feel really long, I am enjoying every moment. 
  • I have not been running a whole lot in the last couple of months, but so far I've run 191 miles in 2010.  I don't think I'm going to make it to do the half marathon this fall.  I love the weight training that I've been doing, but I'm still trying to find a balance between work, school, gym, and the rest of life.  I did manage to get two 10K PRs in April. 
  • Life in other ways has been good. I've gone to some great restaurants, seen some great places in Texas, and done things that I haven't done in years.  And I've been having a blast.
All in all, life has been good. I hope it keeps it up! 

    Sunday, June 27, 2010


    This weekend hosted the sixth annual Alamo City Tattoo Show, where I spent the majority of my weekend.  It had more than eighty booths, some of which where merchandise and supplies, but most were of out of town tattoo artists.  Most of those were from Texas. My original goal for attending this event was to review portfolios and interview local artists to get some work done sometime in the future.  I drug Courtney, Andrea, Brittany, and Amanda to attend with me.  And with them supplying second opinions and support, I surpassed my original goal and got inked.

    I had a unique request for the concept of my tattoo.  At least, it seemed unique to me.  I wanted a visible secret, something that you wouldn't notice unless you looked for it.  I already had the design picked out too: a dual Celtic trinity knot.  In the pagan Celtic mythology, the trinity knot was a kind of homage to the female deity.  It represented the three stages a woman goes through in her life: the virgin, the mother, and the crone.  After the Christian invasion of the area, the trinity know was adopted by the Church as another symbol of the Holy Trinity.

    The artist who finally did my piece was Erica Long from Majestic Tattoos in Pasadena, Texas.  She was able to match an ink color to my skin tone.  When it heals, you'll only be able to see my tattoo if you're looking for it.   This is my first tattoo, and I'm not gonna lie, it hurt, as evidenced by the expressiveness of my face during the process.  It only took thirty minutes or so to complete the piece, as much time as it took to set up.

    Andrea was inspired by the design I chose and got the same for her, again in her skin tone color.  She said getting it on her wrist was more painful than either of her other tattoos.  But it didn't hurt near as much as Courtney's, whose stretched down her side from rib cage to hip bone and took five hours to do.  Her tree piece is beautiful and she showed so much strength in the process of getting it.

    There was a lot of skin showing at the convention center this weekend.  Male, female; tall, short; skinny, not-so-skinny.  The fabulous thing about the popularization of tattooing in recent years:  appreciation of the human body in all its forms, acceptance of individuality, and a higher prevalence of healthy self image.  The Miss Tattoo contestants had pin-up hair and makeup styles which, to me, juxtaposed classic beauty themes with the more modern expressions.   Though the large woman walking around in a thong to display her leg and butt tattoos was a little too much for me, I appreciate the obvious display of her comfort in her own skin. 

    After a couple of long days out in Live Oak, I count the time well spent.  I wonder though, if anyone else noticed that they forgot to print the hand stamps in mirror image. 

    Saturday, June 19, 2010

    May Book Review Mash-Up

    Okay, so I'm still catching up on blogging. Sorry for such a hiatus!

    Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison.  This is the newest of the Rachel Morgan series where Rachel is targeted by several groups who have determined her unique background is a threat to the status quo.  Really, Jenks is the star of this book.  He's my favorite in the series, though I identify a lot with Rachel.  I think this is starting so solidify my favorite genre to read as paranormal romance.   Again, Harrison kept me riveted until the end and I'm looking forward to the next iteration of the series.

    Guilty Pleasures by Laurell Hamilton. The Anita Blake series has been pretty popular over the last few years, so I decided to try it.  I gave it a good shot, but I'm still really tired of vampires.  Anita Blake is reanimator by trade, meaning she raises people from the dead as zombies, to let them complete the unfinished business left when they died.  But when a bachelorette party forces her to work for vampires she has to investigate a series of vampire murders in order to save her friend.  Hamilton focuses on the fear aspect of the vampire phenomenon, preferring disassociation from them rather than joining them.  Hamilton did a good job with the mystery and investigation, something that I'm never good at.  I never figure it out until all the cards are shown at the end. I enjoyed this particular book, but I probably won't read the rest of the series.

    The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson. I found Pettersson in the Unbound anthology I reviewed a couple posts ago. It is so unique that the characters are zodiac based comic book heroes.  This was the first book of the series that follows Joanna Archer as she discovers her part in this world.  Pettersson creates a very strong female main character who I totally identified with.  She also delves into the strength in beauty itself, particularly in Barbie-type women that hit on some prejudices I know I have had in the past.  It was a very well done book and I plan on reading more in the series.

    Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.  This is the sequel to Hunger Games where Katniss has to deal with the political and emotional fallout from her victory in the Hunger Games.  I didn't get into this book as much as I did the first one. It was much slower, spanning a lot more time than the original.  It really felt like it was a lot of prep work and drama to set up the next book where the revolution really will take place.  I didn't really care as much about the characters or the drama.  I might read the next one just to find out what happens but I'm not on the edge of my seat for it like I was after the Hunger Games.

    Female Body Breakthrough by Rachel Cosgrove.  This I actually picked up at my sister's suggestion.  It's actually by the wife of the guy who wrote the workouts for New Rules of Lifting for Women.  There were two unique things about Cosgrove's plan.  The first was actually planning your workouts around your menstruation cycle so that you don't attempt to do your hardest workouts during the week you feel the worst.  She recommended to use a PMS week as the week to change your routine, but not expect to peak at all that week.  The other was the most vague nutrition plan I've ever seen in a fitness/health book.  It only really offered the now-standard advice: lots of water, no processed food, and a lot of fruits and vegetables.  It has no numbers based planning of metabolic rates, how much you burn in a workout, etc.  I've done three workouts on this plan so far, lining it up with when my company kicks off its internal weight loss challenge.  Here's wishing me luck!