It’s Fall, Y’all!

Well, it’s kind of fall. Technically, October has arrived – but the weather hasn’t exactly gotten it together in Texas. I might’ve unpacked my sweaters, but I’m still wearing short-sleeved shirts the majority of the time. However, that wasn’t going to stop me from visiting a pumpkin patch!

Our first attempt was rained out (and our second too, almost) but finally my friend Jenna and I were able to make it out to the middle of nowhere Texas – Gunter – to enjoy some good ol’ fall activities! We got there on a Saturday morning and realized this farm was mainly for families with small children, but we decided to just embrace it!

First stop: petting zoo! There were a bunch of stables filled with goats, sheep, cattle, and chickens. With our entry we were given a cup of feed to coerce them into coming closer. Full disclosure – I’ve pet a few goats over the past year and this livestock was pretty dirty. It was fun to feed them, but I was not about to touch them. Also let’s just say this portion of the day was done when I saw a cow’s tongue reaching for me (or me holding out food).

Near these stables was the corn maze! I’d never done one of these before so I was kind of excited. It was a bit small, but completely empty except for one (very lost) lady – haha. I will say I’d love to do one of these kind of mazes as a haunted attraction – finding my way in the dark with people popping out at me sounds like such a good time.

After exiting the maze – it took us a total of four minutes – we spotted the hay ride. Jenna’s dog, Florence, took a lot of our attention (and taking some photos) since we were pretty much just sitting there, but it was a nice little ride around a small pond. It was hot though, proving even though I was having a fall day, it was summer weather.

The pumpkin selection was pretty sparse to be honest, but it was fun seeing all the different kinds. I’d never really looked into pumpkins, usually just buying the grocery store ones, but there are actually a lot of different varieties and colors! My secret is that we didn’t end up buying at the farm because we’d both seen them for cheaper at Trader Joe’s. I’m living on a budget!

When we got home, I cracked some cider (because you got to) but then our weekend day got away from us. Between friends coming over and state fair plans, we decided to get our pumpkins and decorate another time. So because weekdays are slow, we stopped by Trader Joe’s on a Monday to continue living like it was fall.

We hadn’t even thought about carving tools until we’d purchased our pumpkins, so we hit up Dollar Tree for some cheap knives. (Being a terrible cook, I own one very small knife – haha!) Cutting the top of my pumpkin proved to be difficult for me. I just couldn’t get it to come out easily, but luckily the rest of the carving went pretty well. I searched some simple faces on Pinterest, and realized no matter what kind of face you decide on, they all look good. I went forward with that encouragement!

One of my bucket list items has been rewatching season one of American Horror Story, and funnily enough when we put it on it was time for the Halloween episodes! They were carving pumpkins just as we were! (Except like, they’re carving a macabre Marie Antoinette and I’m carving googly eyes.) Sure enough, after a bit of carving, cleaning out, and popping in a flameless candle – they turned out great!

Next was painting a quick ghost pumpkin! I think I love painting pumpkins so much more because it’s easier to get something cute. I did these little guys in about five minutes – the effect is so easy. By the end of all my pumpkin decorating, I was surprised how much more I enjoyed carving this year than painting – probably because I liked the challenging activity more! I’ll have to start making a point to carve a pumpkin each year.

Seeking New Ways to Be Active, Trial Workout Classes

It all started with an interest in trying Kickboxing. My friend Giselle and I have known each other for a long, long time, and for at least a decade have talked about doing a kickboxing class together. After finally going after the things I’d only spoken about doing, I knew it was time to make it happen. I got a Groupon for both of us to experience three classes at iLoveKickboxing.com.

I think both of us were pretty nervous stepping into the little gym. We’d been given big boxing gloves and got a peek at the big padded punching bags we’d be punching. But the staff there was so great with us! Usually they want you to do a one-on-one before your first class so they can show you the proper way to hit, but they were nice enough to let us do a two-on-one so we could learn together.

After this little learning session, our first class began but our “private” instructor stayed with us to watch our form and answer any questions. We started with some fun, heart-pounding cardio and then it was time to put on our gloves. Punching and kicking as a workout was so fun! The class seemed to fly by, just like our next two would as well.

When deciding if we were going to continue kickboxing past this, we both wanted to, but we also were eager to try new workout classes now that we’d gotten a taste for a new way to make exercise fun. Giselle and I decided we’d try all the classes we’d heard about or ever wanted to try!

Next we got a Groupon for five barre classes. Having a small dance background (if I can even really claim it), I’d been excited to try barre. This workout used a lot of “ballerina” exercises, which strengthens your whole body by continuous trained movement of certain limbs. Also, after hearing how much my friend Tracy loved it I was beyond ready to try it for myself!

I was not disappointed. It was a very “easy” workout considering it’s one of the few workout classes that has zero cardio. But having a whole hour devoted to strength training was just what I’d been looking for. Two other pluses: working out in a near dark room and having a bunch of mirrors to watch your form (and your face haha).

I run on my own when I can, usually in the months of October to April because of the Texas heat, so I feel fine on cardio. But this is a class I definitely would love to do again when I can find a budget for it. I’ve learned through these special Groupon and trial class periods how expensive an actual membership is to these specialized classes. I’ll be back for you one day, barre class!

For now though, it was time to move on to our most exciting (and scary?) class yet – an unlimited month of dance classes at the Dallas School of Burlesque! (We got these passes as a super good deal on the Wine Walk!) Our first class was a hip hop class, which turned out to be pretty hard. Even as two coordinated people, the fast pace of this class was honestly a bit embarrassing. At least we had each other to laugh with!

We tried a couple of their other classes, but of course the highlight was the burlesque class! It was so fun getting out of my comfort zone, basically just walking slowly and doing subtle moves to show off my curves. The class was more about confidence and fun than a workout, but I could see how some of those hip shakes at a faster tempo could make you break a sweat!

I can’t wait to see what we try next! Keeping workouts interesting is so important to motivating me. Hiking and running is something I enjoy on a mental level because I always have a lot of good ideas, but these special classes train my body in new ways. I’ll be ready for any adventure!

Wear With Alicia

After my trip to Jefferson, Texas, I rediscovered my love of thrifting and by this point it’s steamrolled into a big obsession. Originally when I started traveling, I gave up a lot of my shopping because I had to redistribute my money. So when the bargain hunting at thrift stores came back into my life… it maybe completely took over. Haha!

Besides it being a current obsession, I was looking for a way to share more of my “regular day life” to show I’m not just non-stop traveling. (I wish!) I love taking pictures, obviously, but taking a picture of an item of clothing isn’t very fun, so I started making videos of my thrift journeys. I kept getting asked how I thrift and what I found, so deciding to share in a video format on Instagram has been surprisingly fun. Though I’ll admit, I’m still a bit awkward in front of the camera!

I’ve previously shared some of my go-to thrifting tips (Inspired to Thrift) but I want to share why I thrift. Definitely to save money of course, but also because I get sick of my closet quickly and this way I can afford more of a “revolving” clothing option. Not only that, but recycling clothes in this way is good for the earth! We throw away so many clothes all the time, and because companies are able to make clothes cheaper than ever before, more and more are coming out in stores. We are a society that has a big trash problem.

Part of this recycling of clothes that thrifting allows means I can give away old clothes to friends, sell, or donate. I never throw something away if I can help it. I’ll even repair clothes past their prime in some cases, especially because if it’s starting to show wear, I clearly love it – haha!

So I’m going to start doing regular videos of my thrifting adventures, which can be found on my Instagram (either in my story or on IGTV). Every time I go, there’s always something new to see! I hope you enjoy them and go ahead and send me questions you may have about thrifting tips or why you love/hate thriting.

My initial video is up and an “intro” video is coming later today! So far these thrifting videos have been a fun side project, so I hope you enjoy.

Seeing More than Doing, Driving Up the Coast of Texas

After a girls day in Mexico, we were ready to cool off along the South Padre coast. Perfectly along this drive between my friend Jenna’s home and the beach, was a National Park site (almost like we planned it, huh). The Palo Alto Battlefield was about to close, but we made it just in time.

As you probably know by now, I’m not super into the battlefields on my National Park stamp collection journey. But it was interesting to see the big light up map of the different borders of Texas being fought for. This Palo Alto battle was a vital event during the Mexican-American War and helped determine what would be Texas (and America) by the end. The battlefield itself was just a big field.

After this quick little stop we finally headed to the beach! It was getting late in the evening, but the sun was still out and the water felt great. Jenna and I swam for a bit, played in the sand, and had a great time people-watching. We stayed out enjoying the beach (my first to play in since a year ago in Belize!) until the sun started to set.

When it was time to head home, we made one quick stop for my favorite – ice cream! In Port Isabel, just over the bridge, there was a little square full of shops and an ice cream shop called Davy Jones’ Ice Cream Locker. I got the cookies and cream and it was the perfect cold treat after a day in the sun.

We picked up Mexican dinner on the way back to Jenna’s home and tried to find the effort to explore some nightlife. But after a full order of delicious nachos and the busy day in Mexico and the beach, we threw on a dumb Netflix movie and crashed early.

Having a lot of driving ahead of us, we got up early the next morning to get a good start. We drove along the eastern Texas border to the Padre Island National Seashore. After all the sun the day before, the rain surprised us by starting right around when we arrived.

It was a gloomy, cloudy midday at the National Park site, but there was so much natural landscape it was beautiful. The rain kept the crowds away and we got to check out the visitor center with a really cool turtle hatching exhibit. We got some shots of the vast coast around us and then decided we were done being rained on. We got back in the car for even more driving.

Rain is not fun for road trips, but we were driving through the wooded area of Texas. The two-lane roads were mostly empty so even though the weather wasn’t great, it was still a nice drive from the coast to the bayous along the Louisiana border. As usual on some of these trips to National Parks we lost GPS signal a bit, not even realizing we were in the middle of Big Thicket while looking for the entrance.

The Big Thicket National Preserve hosts nine different ecosystems that you can explore by foot and by water. Unfortunately, the rain had been steady all day and kept it up all through our time there. We’d planned for a fun hike on this trip, but the weather denied us some time to stretch our legs. As we’d become accustomed to on this final Texas National Park trip, we headed to the visitor center to learn what we could.

The coolest display was all about the pitcher plant, one of the four carnivorous plants found in Big Thicket. I’d never thought much of these kinds of plants besides the infamous Venus fly trap, but learning how they trapped ants and insects was morbidly cool.

We checked out all the displays on all the differing types of nature in this site, and then headed outside to check out the rocking chairs. To be honest, driving all that way and learning so much interesting stuff had us kind of bummed to be heading home without getting a chance to explore for ourselves. This will definitely be one of the trips I’ll have to make again, next time with clearer skies hopefully!

Another Country in Your Backyard; a Few Hours in Mexico

With only a few more National Park sites left to visit in Texas, it was time for a weekend road trip. All three sites were along the southern east edge of my home state, two being very close to my friend Jenna’s hometown. So it was a perfect time to visit the house where Jenna grew up (in the plains with big homes next to goats!)- and just over her town’s bridge you could walk to Mexico!

We left Thursday right after work and began our drive straight down the lone star state. Even though by this point I’ve driven every direction out from Dallas, it’s still crazy to me how many hours you can spend driving and still be in Texas. We made it to Weslaco after about eight hours, marking my first time in the deep south of Texas!

After what was a pretty leisurely morning sleeping in on our first day of the trip, we got up and got ready to head to another country. Jenna’s mom came with us, so we were ready to have a carefree girl’s day, but excitingly in Mexico (Nuevo Progresso to be specific)! We crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande, paid a fifty cent toll, walked by one security guard and then we were officially traveling internationally.

Immediately we were engulfed in the crowd with sidewalk shops on either side. There were a ton of booths with souvenirs, brightly colored embroidered tops, and freshly roasted nuts and candies. Even though I had just been in Mexico a couple weeks before, the vendors were different in their eagerness. Luckily, we moved fast to our first destination: getting a good, cheap piña colada.

After that, it was time to head across the packed street for pedicures. We were doing this girls day perfectly! And of course after fruity alcohol, freshly painted toenails, the last thing missing was a bit of shopping! I found some really cute and colorful woven shoes and then while Jenna’s mom was looking at festive embroidered shirts, Jenna and I bought some fun flower crowns, because why not?

We all grabbed lunch on the side of the street, next to a big outdoor grill; I had a papa asada, which is a baked potato filled with cheese – did they read my childhood diary on what I’ve always been searching for?? By this time, I was pretty hot and sweaty, so we decided it was the perfect time to head back over the border and to the nearby coast to cool off!

Crossing back into America was a bit nerve racking because, believe it or not, I hadn’t taken my passport and the guard gave me a bit of a (teasingly?) rough time. Jenna had assured me she’d never had a passport doing this bridge walk, but I had meant to bring mine just in case. It all turned out alright, and soon I was on my way to the beach in South Padre!

Almost Left in Mexico (Because of a Backpack)

If you’ve ever flown Spirit Airlines you know they charge for every little thing, including a carry-on. Because my trip to Mexico would only be 48 hours, I was sure I could fit everything I needed into a little backpack approved by the airlines as a “personal item.” What made this idea even better was that I already had a little day hike bag on order that would perfectly fit the dimensions allowed.

Of course, this bag that would be perfect for both my California and Tulum trip (back-to-back weekends) showed up exactly one day after my flight had me due back home. In a last minute scramble for a small backpack that wouldn’t be a total waste, I went for a cute cheap one that cost me only eleven bucks.

I was so proud of fitting an additional day’s swimwear and outfit in this little bag! I’m pretty good at packing light, mostly because I can plan what I will wear for every thing planned in my itinerary. Knowing what I will need and be wearing makes it a whole lot easier to pack. Then with any leftover room, I’ll throw in an “option” outfit. Plus, I’ve been doing the “army roll” packing technique since I was twelve.

Unfortunately, even though I’d planned outfits perfectly, my cheapness would come back to haunt me (doesn’t it always?) and my zipper would be giving me trouble the first hour after landing. It just wouldn’t work right with everything I’d crammed in! So after less than twenty-four hours of struggling (even though I’d perfected the departure flight), my backpack was broke and I was traveling around Mexico holding my bag flaps together.

I spent a lot of my last night in Playa del Carmen scouring souvenir shops for a bag that would fit the Spirit requirements, wasn’t too expensive (like the gorgeous embroidered leather backpacks I kept seeing but knew I was too poor for), and would be something I could keep using even after returning home. Finally, I found a cute cotton tote that would be perfect for my light grocery shopping when I made it back home. I cleaned out my bag, only had to lose one swimsuit cover-up that just wouldn’t fit, and thought all would be well on the flight back.

Unfortunately, it would be this clean-out and not the new bag that would cause me to almost be left in Mexico. Ai yi yi.

Tracy and I, both being Type A, had gotten to the airport three hours early after dropping off the rental car. We wanted no stress of rushing through the airport, dealing with any customs stuff, and finding our yet unnamed gate. Even after the unnecessary line at the “one” Spirit ticket kiosk, we still had time to explore the airport shops and have a sit-down meal at the airport Margaritaville. We were living a very relaxed airport life. Then it was time to board and right as they were asking for my boarding pass it was mentioned that I also needed the customs form that hadn’t been needed since landing in Mexico two days earlier. Even as I dumped my new bag out, I clearly remembered disposing (carefully, I might add) of that little slip of paper that hadn’t seemed at all important at the time.

I would not be allowed on the plane without it and there was only twenty or so people left to board before take off. I was freaking out. I got instructions from the flight attendant twice on where I had to go to get a replacement. Tracy handed me two 20 dollar bills quickly – because of course they would only take cash – and then I began to run through the airport. My destination was outside of security and by now it was midday so those lines were long, very long. I ran to the side where it looked to be a handicap access area and said, “I’m getting a new customs form. I’m coming right back through here.”

Without waiting for approval, I ran out to the main entrance of the Cancun Airport. I got a new customs form (thankfully I’d brought along my passport with my wallet – my bag was with Tracy back at the boarding line). And then ran back to the security checkpoint. The lines were so long it looked like it would take me at least half an hour to get through – but no, I ran back to the side line and rushed back under the handicap sign. I nodded to the woman who I’d spoken to without waiting for confirmation, threw my stuff on the conveyor belt, and ran back through the duty-free shops. At the gate, it was just Tracy and the flight attendant left, the later giving me a surprised, “Oh, you made it.” So some people don’t make it?!

After wasting more time by checking all my stuff, dangerous chemical test swabs and a pat down, they finally let me on the plane. Tracy was a trooper for waiting; I would’ve hated if she got stuck in Mexico because of me! We could somewhat laugh about it after taking our seats, but mostly my heart was still pumping and I couldn’t yet appreciate crossing a new experience off my bucket list – running through an airport.

Pamper VS Play in Playa del Carmen

Yet again, checking into our next Airbnb in Mexico would turn out to be rough. Tracy and I had moved on to Playa del Carmen for our last night, wanting to be closer to Cancun where we would fly out in the morning. Even though it was a pain to find, once we did we realized we found our second paradise! Not only did it come with a “hot tub” and a freaking rope swing(!), we got beach access passes as well.

With less than two hours to head to the beach, we quickly changed and walked over to the Martina Beach Club. It was pretty dead for a Saturday, but because of this off-season lull, we got our passes upgraded to full access to the pool area. The ocean had a lot of seaweed washing up, so after ordering a fun drink we mosied on over to the pool to cool off.

To be honest, this private beach club access wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The pool music was so loud and no one was swimming (lots of kissing and picture taking instead) and the beach area was full of basically naked butts sunbathing. Still, I did have a fruity drink with some star fruit!

After a bit of drying off and a quick outfit change, we headed out to explore some of the night life of Playa del Carmen. We were pretty close to one of the main strips, which was several blocks full of trendy restaurants and souvenir shops. Since we were nearing the end of our weekend, we were rationing out our remaining Pesos, trying to strategically plan it so we didn’t have any remaining.

After a bit of souvenir shopping where Tracy scored a cute blanket and I got a new bag (more on that next time), we had enough to try some local brews. After finding a little bar with local drafts on tap, Tracy got a beer recommended by a friendly fellow and I opted for a La Paloma instead. We were both very pleased with our choices – and especially loved finding the cute trendy bar!

We were having such a chill last night, we even ended up hoping one spot over to grab dinner. They had massive margaritas and great food. It was nice to just sit out on the patio and watch the other tourists walk down the busy street. It was such an easy-going, relaxing time, we decided since we had spent basically all of our money (with just enough leftover to buy a coffee in the morning) we would just head back to our Airbnb and continue taking it easy.

We inspected the “hot tub,” which was really just a free standing bath tub that didn’t even really run hot (haha). Luckily, we’d spent the whole weekend being hot so having a lukewarm foot soak was still fine by us! Tracy had brought a couple of face masks and we had just enough tequila for one last drink. It was truly a perfect night of pampering!

I usually never do this kind of relaxation – a lot of my time is spent go, go, go – especially when I’m traveling. But I’d been treating this Mexico trip as a true vacation and it had been so different. There was little to no stress, I did whatever I wanted without a time crunch, and I was just able to enjoy my time catching up with Tracy. It was such a good time!