Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom

Cibolo Nature Center February 3, 2018

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 10:34 PM

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On a mild, partly cloudy day in January, my little family headed towards San Antonio for the day.  We left our school work behind (mostly – John graded papers while I drove) in order to spend a day together, in nature, away from our usual Saturday routine (lesson plan, play with James, grade papers, play with James).  I had a cold, but we were determined to get in a hike before John’s UIL season ramped up and took over our lives for the rest of the semester.  I also didn’t want to fail to meet my 2018 goal of going on a hike at least once every 2 months!

We selected the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne for our hike.  A San Antonio magazine given to us by a friend had featured the trails available in the center, and we were lured there by the promise of easy hiking and the beautiful photographs of the cypress-laded creek.  Neither of those would disappoint.

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Adjacent to the parking lot are replica dinosaur tracks of real ones found in the area.  James, who when he sees a picture of a dinosaur growls menacingly in reply, cared nothing about the tracks but “grrrr”d nonstop at the placard next to them with a dinosaur image.  This was where we started our hike.

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Now that James has surpassed the 25-pound mark, it was time to try out the back carry position with our Ergobaby.  James LOVED being able to take in the scenery more easily and swing his legs back and forth!  It took me a little while to feel balanced with the extra weight on my back, but in the end, I was firmly in the back carry fan club.

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As we set off on the marsh trail, we could easily pinpoint Cibolo Creek thanks to the line of trees a short distance away.

 

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Boardwalk trails are among my favorites, and despite the wintry environment, the marsh surrounding the trail was surprisingly beautiful.

 

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As we left the marsh trail and approached the creek, we lingered at GreenMan’s Lookout for an elevated view of the nature center.

 

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The creek was too tempting to ignore any longer, so next we hiked to the crossing.

 

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While I feel certain that the cypress trees in spring and summer, vibrant and green, are a sight to behold, the muted, neutral palette of the dormant trees and grasses in winter had its own allure.

We forded the creek and hiked down a path to the left until the trail disappeared.  Playing it safe, we turned around and walked back to the crossing and then hugged the creek for a while upriver.

 

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On occasion, it took some maneuvering to forge ahead.

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Cibolo Creek and its stately trees, however, more than made up for our slippery-footed efforts.

 

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After dallying near the creek for as long as possible, we bid the cypresses goodbye and embarked upon the woodland trail before concluding our hike.

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Full of shrubby oaks, the woodland trail was an easy, albeit run-of-the-mill, central Texas hike.  Perhaps we should have saved the best–the creek trail–for last.

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By this point, though, James was tired and ready for lunch, so we had to hurry our steps.  At the end of the woodland trail, we immediately left to forage for food rather than picturesque landscapes.

Cibolo Nature Center is truly a gem in the San Antonio metropolitan area, and I expect that we’ll return on another day.

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January Recipes: Lean and Green January 23, 2018

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 9:01 PM
This is my first blog installment of my 2018 cooking goal, done in conjunction with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law (the latter of whom came up with this idea), to cook at least 4 new recipes from a cookbook I already own each month this year.
It’s month 1, and already I’m cheating.
I didn’t select my recipes from a physical cookbook on my shelf because I’ve also started a new health plan from Optavia.  In order to stick with my “lean and green” meal guidelines, I chose recipes from Sandy’s Kitchen Adventures blog, which features a number of approved lean and greens.
So without further ado, here are my 4 new recipes that I’ve tried in January, in order of most liked to least liked:
1.  Avocado Cauliflower Rice – 4.5 stars
This is a delicious side dish that was approved by husband, toddler, and myself!  I made my own cauliflower rice with my food processor, and I’m glad I did.  I processed it down quite small (even smaller than typical rice grains), but that ended up working well for the dish.  In my experience, the store-bought cauliflower rice tends to be both a bit expensive and heavy on bits from the stalk rather than the florets.  I made this dish twice (doubling the recipe each time), but I made enough cauliflower rice the first time in order to make the dish again a couple of nights later.  That really sped things up on night 2 of making this, so if you can make your “rice” ahead of time, I would do it.
I used just regular olive oil instead of the flavored one Sandy mentions, and that worked great.  I ate mine with baked Cajun-seasoned tilapia both nights, but John had grilled fajita-seasoned chicken breast with it on night 2 and said he liked that even better than the tilapia (which he also thought was great).  He had his both nights with tortillas, diced avocado, and salsa, which he recommends.
We’re calling this one a keeper!
2. Thai Turkey Burgers – 4 stars
Turkey burgers have been a staple in our house, as patties are easy to find pre-made and they are quick and easy to grill.  HEB recently stopped selling our favorite brand of turkey patties, however, so we’ve been eating them much less.  As a result, this recipe caught my eye.  I liked the idea of infusing a turkey burger patty with Thai flavors, which I typically like.
I doubled the recipe, which therefore yielded 4 patties total.  The ingredients list isn’t long, so the patties came together quickly.  John then grilled them for me.
I ate my serving cut up in lettuce wraps, but John had his as a traditional burger on a bun.  He especially liked these, commenting on the flavorful addition of the green onions and cilantro.  I found mine slightly dry; adding a condiment to the lettuce wraps would’ve helped.
Despite that, they were yummy and different, and I do intend to make these again!
3.  Crock Pot Chili – 3 stars
I typically stay away from slow cooker recipes that require you to brown meat separately because that seems to defeat the purpose of a “one-pot” meal, but I made an exception for this dish.  With our recent cold snap, chili sounded good.  And this chili was good.  It’s not the best chili I’ve ever had (my father-in-law’s chili wins that award), but it’s a solid recipe.  It did fill the house with appetizing smells all day like Sandy promises, which was nice apart from the fact that it kept me thinking about food all afternoon!
I may or may not make this one again.
4.  Crock Pot Thai Chicken – 2 stars
This was my biggest disappointment of this set of recipes.  The Weight Watchers Slow Cooker Thai Chicken has been a favorite for several years now,  so I initially was excited to find a similar but “lean and green” approved version of it.  The problem with this particular recipe was that there wasn’t enough sauce to really keep the chicken moist and flavorful.  I served it with cauliflower rice, which made for an overall bland meal.  I highly doubt I try this again.
 

2018 Goals January 3, 2018

Filed under: Cooking,Hiking,Reading — skpierce12 @ 10:17 PM

My husband has inspired me to set my 2018 goals in writing on my blog so that I will be held accountable to them.

  1. Lead a healthier day-to-day lifestyle, which will hopefully also lead to me losing a little weight.
  2. Cook at least 4 new recipes from a different cookbook that I already own each month.  I’m doing this challenge in conjunction with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, the latter of whom came up with this fun idea.
  3. Read at least 30 books this year.
  4. Write at least one blog post per month.
  5. Go on a hike at least once every 2 months.
  6. Finish James’s baby photo book and keep relatively up-to-date with his current one.

Yay for goals!

 

Adventures in Flying with a Baby August 1, 2017

Filed under: Motherhood,Travel — skpierce12 @ 11:38 PM

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Part I: Flying to Calgary

Last month John, James, and I prepared to embark upon our first big vacation as a family of three.  Our destination: Banff National Park in Canada.  So not only would this be our first time flying with a baby, it also would be our first international trip with said wee one.  I would have been more nervous at the prospect were it not for the fact that I am a planner.  So, with John’s help, I began preparing several months ahead of time.  We applied for James’s passport in March, and after booking our flights online around that same time I called the airline to make sure we were set to go with having James as a lap infant for the trip.  Check and check.

We also planned our baggage very carefully.  Upon advice from friends and family who have flown with small children, we decided we wanted to take our own car seat instead of relying upon a possibly yucky car rental one.  I bought a car seat cover with backpack straps.  John volunteered to be the one to sport the backpack, but he didn’t promise not to accidentally take someone out with it as we moved through the airport.

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We also would take our Pack-n-Play, a diaper bag, and our Chicco lightweight umbrella stroller for James.  Despite having more baggage items due to the baby, we ended up packing more lightly than ever before for a vacation.  We fit clothes and toiletries for all three of us into one large rolling suitcase (although we would have to do laundry at least once during the trip).  I could not help but comment about how I used to completely fill the same suitcase plus a carry-on with just my clothes, shoes, and toiletries.  My, how times had changed.

James is typically an easygoing baby as long as he a) doesn’t get hungry and b) gets sleep.  So our plan for the travel day was to a) keep him regularly fed and b) pray he would take a nap on the plane.  As soon as we cleared security and made our way to the gate, James had his breakfast.  We were off to a good start.

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Once on board, James quickly began assessing his new surroundings.  We were glad to see him smiling cutely at the people sitting behind us.  If he could get the grandparent-types on his side early, we thought we might be able to avoid mean stares later on should James not take to flying.

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Soon it was time to buckle up for take-off.  James thought the seat belt buckle was the coolest thing ever.  (On the return flight, he would figure out how to unbuckle it himself.)

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He did great sitting in my lap or standing between my knees during the flight.  He loved the barf bag and safety brochure in the seat pocket.  We also had bought some new touch-and-feel board books (a current favorite activity of his) to bring out one by one as needed in the air.

An hour into the flight I nursed him, and he fell asleep for a good 45 minutes.  Now we were on a roll!

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Before long, it was time for lunch and then time to land.  The end was in sight!

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James did incredibly well on the flight to Calgary, which lasted about 3.5 hours from DFW.  I’m not sure if it was the planning, the rocket ship polo and pilot socks we’d dressed him in for the flight, or sheer dumb luck, but the travel day went so smoothly.  At the Calgary airport, he was calm and curious in his stroller while we fumbled our way through customs and getting the rental car.  Then he fell asleep for the entire drive from the airport to our first destination: Canmore, Alberta.  Whew!

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It had been a long day (even with things going well), but that evening we were all smiles.  We were thrilled to be in the mountains with a week-long vacation stretched out before us!

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Part 2: The Return Flight

We left Lake Louise a little after 9 AM on the day of our return home.  We had a 2-hour drive ahead of us back to the Calgary airport, but with our flight not leaving until 2:30 PM, we felt great about the extra time we were leaving ourselves.  Oh, if only that ended up being the case.

We did make it to Calgary in about two hours, but as we approached the airport we needed to a) let me nurse James (remember how he doesn’t like being hungry?) and b) find a gas station in order to fill up the tank before returning the rental car.  We thought we could do both of those things at once.  We also thought it wouldn’t be a problem finding a gas station as we approached the airport.  Surely there would be one or two visible from the highway, right?

Oh, if only.  Our GPS hadn’t worked the entire trip, and neither of us own smart phones, so when we didn’t just see a gas station outside the airport, we drove around in search of one.  Soon we came across a Tim Horton’s restaurant.  John went inside to use their wi-fi with his iPad while I fed a by-now very hangry baby James.  James, by the way, was atypically fussy to begin with on this day.  I started to get very, very worried.

John located a gas station nearby, but when we got there it was all-diesel except for one pump, and you had to be a member in order to activate the pump.  What?!  So then we had to drive away from the airport to get to the next closest station.  By now it was after 12:00.  We still had plenty of time, though, right?

We finally got gas and went back to the airport, turned in the rental car, and walked into the terminal.  It was now about 12:40, and I let out a big sigh of relief as we went up to the ticket counter to check in.  As it turned out, we would be there for the next hour.

Apparently James didn’t have a ticket, and while this would normally not be an issue for a lap infant, it is an issue when you are trying to clear customs to re-enter the US.  We would have to pay customs taxes for him, which amounted to around $16.  Not a big deal – I took out my wallet.  I was slightly annoyed, as I had called the airline way back in the spring in order to take care of such issues.  But no matter.  We would just pay the fee and continue on.

Oh, if only.  There’s apparently a glitch in the American Airlines software program that often doesn’t allow the agents to ticket infants at the ticket counter.  So the agents called the central American Airlines number.  And they were put on hold.  (I would have laughed at that had it not been a stressful situation).  Then they talked for a bit and I thought we were making progress…only to see them be put back on hold.  This went on for an hour.  Literally.  I am proud of myself for not losing my cool or mistreating the ticket agents who were trying to handle the situation as best they could, but I was frustrated.  We still needed to clear security and US customs as well as buy some food for ourselves, feed and change James, and hopefully give him some time to crawl and play before boarding the plane.

Finally, finally we got our tickets and boarding passes and were on our way to security.  I was frazzled, so I nearly left James’s food (which had been pulled for a special screening) behind at security.  I would have, too, if it wasn’t for the security agent who came after us as we were walking away.  Bless you, security lady.

By the time we cleared customs, we had just enough time to grab some food to take on the plane before our flight was called.  Even after getting our seats on the plane, we were still reeling from the events of the previous three hours.

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James, however, was ready to play.  He had been strapped in to either his car seat or his stroller for almost the entire day up to that point.  He wasn’t going to be content with sitting sweetly in my lap this time.

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He spent the first hour of the flight alternately reaching for anything and everything he could and trying to make friends with every single person sitting behind us.  At one point he was using the water bottle in his hand to raise and lower the divider screen between us and first class over and over again.  While I purposefully kept my eyes averted from all nearby passengers, James would stand up in our laps, turn around, and smile gleefully at everyone on the plane.  Sometimes he put his hands up behind his head just to amp up the cuteness factor.

Then he fell asleep, and all was calm.  He napped for over an hour, thank goodness.

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I finally was able to relax a bit myself, and before long we were on the ground at DFW.  It being DFW meant, of course, that we taxied for 10 minutes to the gate.  That was the only time in two days of flying and a week of travel that James came close to all out losing it.  Luckily his smiles from earlier in the flight had earned him some fans, and we avoided dirty looks once again.  Several women even came up to me in the airport bathroom after we all deplaned to tell me what a good baby I have.  I smiled and thanked them, but inside I disagreed.  James isn’t a good baby; he truly is the best baby.  He was a joy to go on vacation with, and even though we were more stressed at times traveling with a baby, we also had bigger smiles and laughs throughout the week because of him.

 

Colorado Bend State Park: Gorman Falls June 13, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 9:35 PM

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Yesterday morning we ventured out for our second hike of the summer.  The day’s destination was Colorado Bend State Park.  Twice last year we visited the park, but it was this third trip in which we made the hike to the park’s most famous site: Gorman Falls.

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We headed out on the trail at 8:45 AM, as we wanted to beat the heat.  The weather was in the 70s and rather humid but also partly cloudy and breezy, which is about as good as it gets for a hike in Texas in June.

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The first part of the Gorman Falls trail was a combination of open grasslands and oak groves.

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A lovely vista presented itself as we hiked toward the falls.

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James was a little too sleepy to fully enjoy the view.

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The path was rocky, so we had to watch our step as we trekked down the trail.

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Once we passed the 1-mile mark, we could hear the falls in the distance.  Suddenly, we were upon them!

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The trail first led us to a view of the upper part of the falls.

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By then, James was wide awake and very intrigued by the falling water.  We couldn’t get a good picture of him in front of the falls because he kept squirming around in order to look at the water!

After taking in the upper part of the falls, we carefully descended the rocky hill to the base of the falls.  Holding on to the metal railing was necessary to prevent slipping down the rocks.  But what a reward awaited us!

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Taking in the beauty of the falls was especially memorable because we were the only ones there.  What a rare experience that is at a popular hiking spot!  We were able to be still, listen to the water and other nature sounds, and take our pictures without jostling or interruption.

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We also took a family selfie.  Clearly James needs further instructions on smiling for the camera.

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He was more interested in playing with his daddy’s hat strings.

The hike back to the trailhead was mostly uphill, but it was easier than we’d feared on the way in.  We hiked the 3-mile out-and-back trail in an hour and a half.

We then drove to the other side of the park for a picnic lunch in the day use area by the river.

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We spotted a turtle making his way across the picnic area in order to reach the river.

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After eating, we showed James the murky Colorado River up close.

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James was more interested in getting my hat.  James likes hats – unless they are his own.

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Our morning at Colorado Bend could not have gone better.  The falls are well worth the moderate hike it takes to see them!

 

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Loop Trail revisited June 11, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 10:22 AM

For our first hike of the summer, John, James, and I made a return visit to Enchanted Rock to hike the Loop Trail.  John and I hiked the trail last year while I was 6 months pregnant, so it was fun to revisit the hike with baby James in tow.

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I carried James in our Ergobaby, which I have loved.  James likes being in the Ergo as long as I keep moving, which means we don’t linger at sights like we used to.

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After some quick pics at the pavilion, we embarked upon the Loop Trail.  Someday we’ll hike the Summit Trail together, but it’s going to be when James is able to hike up it himself.  He’s already weighs 20 pounds, after all.  That’s a lot of baby to carry around!

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We hiked counterclockwise around the loop this year, so we began by crisscrossing Sandy Creek.  Unlike last time, the creek area was deserted.  We would encounter few hikers on the entire trail; it seemed most of the park visitors set their sights on reaching the summit.  The park was the least crowded I had ever seen it in general.  I’m sure the summer temps had something to do with it, although we also were there on a Thursday morning.

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We set out on the trail around 8:30 AM.  The forecast had been partly cloudy, but the morning would be bright and sunny.  We were glad we made the early start, as most of the trail is unshaded.

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James fell asleep early in the hike, so he missed seeing the rear view of Enchanted Rock with the “slip and slide” rocks.

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We did not divert to Moss Lake or the scenic overlook this year, as the morning was warming up quickly and James was hungry after waking from his nap.

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We briefly paused to take in the rock outcroppings and hill country vistas near the end of the hike, but we all were tired and hot.

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Especially James.

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Overall we thoroughly enjoyed hiking the Loop Trail again, and I’m positive it’ll be one of our go-to hikes in the future.  We decided we prefer to hike the trail clockwise, as it’s a slightly easier hike than the counterclockwise version.  We also decided that we are out of shape and that we have a lot of training to do before hiking the Canadian Rockies next month!

 

The Forgotten Garden January 2, 2017

Filed under: Reading — skpierce12 @ 11:53 AM

For my 11th book of my 2016 reading challenge, I chose The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  It was my mom’s recommendation for my list, and she picked it for me after enjoying the audiobook version.

 

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I was supposed to have read this in November in order to stay on track for completion of the challenge by the end of 2016, but I was in the midst of Ron Chernow’s George Washington biography when November started.  The plan was to wrap up Washington: A Life by mid-November, but my reading pace is at a crawl these days with Mr. Baby being in the picture and me being back at work.  I ended up setting aside the biography and picking up The Forgotten Garden at Thanksgiving break.  It then took me until Christmas to read Morton’s novel, which is fairly lengthy at over 500 pages.  I’m tackling my final book of the challenge, The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier, here at the start of 2017.  After that, I’ll finally finish the Washington bio.

 

The Forgotten Garden is centered around a core question: Why was 4-year-old Nell put on a ship bound for Australia from England in 1913 by herself, with no paperwork identifying her or her parentage?  Many other mysterious questions revolve around this main one, and Morton, as the novel progresses, slowly reveals the answers.  For most of the book, I thought Morton’s revelations were well paced and her shifts in point of view and time well plotted.  The characters span 4 generations of women, and each in turn has her own secrets to reveal.  My one qualm with the novel was Morton’s execution of the big reveal.  She had given so many hints in the 100 pages ahead of the big revelation that it was no revelation at all.  Instead, her characters come across as either blind or incompetent to the truth that is so apparent to the reader.

 

This slight annoyance, however, was not enough to severely dim my enjoyment of the book.  I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to lose oneself in a solid fictional tale.