Dam to Dam 2015

DT and I headed south last weekend to run Des Moines’ big Dam to Dam half marathon.

I was extremely slow on the uptake with photos over the¬†weekend….I just didn’t have the ol’ shutterbug in me. I’m a little bummed that I missed some good shots, but I’ll also get this post out quicker without much to edit. ūüôā See? Trade-offs, I guess.

While I’m missing the visual flair, I still wanted to write about the weekend because we found some new little treasures (and revisited some old favorites) in Des Moines and I didn’t want to forget them. AND I wanted you to know about them too.

First – big, fun news. Hellraising Hot Sauce has officially entered the Des Moines market! Through family/friend connections, DT and I met Rory at AllSpice Culinarium in the East Village neighborhood. We dropped off an order of sauce on our way into town and got to see his fantastic shop.

Hellraising Hot Sauce at Allspice 1

Hellraising Hot Sauce at Allspice 2

We ate our ritual,¬†pre-race meal at Tavern Pizza Friday night. Nightcaps at Charlie’s Filling Station (their specialty – Screwdrivers with fresh-squeezed OJ) before a quick, restless night of sleep.

Saturday/race day was much cooler and wet than we expected. It wasn’t pouring ran, thankfully, but misting enough to be annoying and downright cold as we waited at the starting line.

I borrowed/stole this selfie from my brother-in-law Tom.

Dam to Dam 2015

Up front L-R: friend Pat, brother-in-law Tom. Behind L-R: DT’s sister Jill, DT, me.

DT and I crossed the finish line together and it felt so good to be DONE. High five!

We headed to Exile Brewing for celebratory post-race beers at 9:30 am. They were delightful.

DT, me post-race

DT and I ate lunch at Court Avenue Brewing Company. We nearly fell asleep at the table once we had food in our bellies. Sooooo….nap time!

Later, we met up with Jill, Tom, and a group of friends for drinks at MALO. It was packed! Next stop for drinks was Royal Mile.

We’d heard so much about Fong’s Pizza, we had to check it out. The rumblings were true –¬†Fong’s makes delicious pizza.¬†Super thin and chewy crust, zippy sauce, and a bunch of topping options.

It was a whirlwind of a weekend! I always feel like our time in DSM goes by way too fast. We’re already plotting a return summer visit so we can get another Iowa fix. ūüėČ


Spicyland in Costa Maya 2015

Our last stop of Winter Cruise 2015 brought us to Costa Maya, Mexico. This was a brand new port for both DT and me, so we were excited to check it out.

DT always does so much research for our trips, I’m lucky that way. Here, he found us another gem in Maya Chan, a day resort about 20 minutes away from the cruise port.

It was a verrrrrrrrrrrrry bumpy cab ride….the twisty backroads were either under construction or badly needed to be. The drivers to and from took it slow and dodged bumps and potholes as best they could.

Maya Chan entrance 3

Maya Chan is a family-run operation. Kevin greeted us at the entrance and proceeded with the tour. As you can already see, the grounds were spectacular.

And yes – that is a dog lying in the sand below….but don’t worry, he’s alive! It’s a little jarring to see that figure in the photo. We counted¬†four dogs that hung out at the resort and on the beach. To be a beach dog….whatta life!

Maya Chan entrance 1

our cabana 1

It was a very rustic place – wood Adirondack chairs and huts lined the beach.

Here was our home base for the day.

our cabana 2

The friendly Maya Chan staff brought welcome drinks along with chips and salsa/guacamole. Their guacamole = SO fresh and delicious!

welcome salsa and guacamole

Maya Chan kayaks

Most of their equipment (kayaks, inflatable floaties and rafts, etc.) was¬†included in the cost of the day pass. We didn’t get too ambitious, though – we stuck close to the beach and explored up and down.

Maya Chan bar 1

Maya Chan beach 1

You can see the cruise ships off yonder.

Their tree house was a fun little perch!

Maya Chan treehouse 1

It was cozy up top but had great views of the water and surrounding resort.

view from treehouse 1

view from treehouse 2

me in the treehouse

The steps back down, though….ayyyyy! Steep and skinny. Those railings got the death grip from me!

Costa Maya beach 3

It was another AMAZING day….the weather on this trip was surreal.

One definition of paradise could include a sunny day on a beautiful beach in the Caribbean, a glass of wine, and a/an [e]-book.

iPad on the beach

I’d say I accomplished all of those things pretty¬†successfully at Maya Chan.

Costa Maya selfie

Maya Chan bar 2

Maya Chan beach 5


When it was time for lunch, Kevin gathered us around their counter, filled with freshly prepared food. A make-your-own-taco bar!

Choose your meat, then add some or all of the authentic fixings Рsauteed peppers and onions, pickled onions, beans, cheese, rice, homemade salsa, guacamole, and hot sauce.

lunch buffet

They were so accommodating and offered a vegetarian plate for me.

veggie fajita fixins

I loaded up those tortillas with the beyond-flavorful ingredients….sooooo tasty! Easily one of the best meals we had on this trip.

veggie fajitas

bar kitty

Bar/beach kitty! And can I just say – about a THIRD the size of our big, fat, slobby felines at home!

Costa Maya port 1

Back on the ship, waving goodbye to our last port. Where has the week gone??

Costa Maya coast

The sixth night's little towel friend

The second-to-last night dazzled us with another fiery sunset.

Night 6 sunset 1

Night 6 sunset 2

Night 6 sunset 3

And with that, another cruise in the books. Another wonderful, relaxing, beautiful, fabulous, amazing, leisurely, FUN, have I also mentioned WONDERFUL and AMAZING?, cruise.

Until next winter, then!

Spicyland in Roatan 2015

Wednesday morning….I stepped out onto our balcony as the ship was docking in Roatan.

docking in Roatan 1

Perfect timing!

docking in Roatan 2

Another gorgeous (HOT!) day ahead.

Caribbean skies – morning, noon, and night – just slay me. Unbelievably beautiful, without fail.

Mahogany Bay morning

Since we did excursions of some kind at the other three ports on this cruise, it was kind of nice to just hop off the ship here and walk to a fantastic beach straightaway.

Remember two years ago at Mahogany Bay?

Mahogany Bay entrance


I didn’t take as many photos this year, but it was just as we remembered.

view from the pier 1


view from the pier 2

After sufficient Roatan beach/sun/lounging/reading/drinking time – and sweating our ears off, this by far was the warmest stop – we headed back to the ship for a late lunch.

Psssssstt….do you see what I see??

Hellraising Hot Sauce planted

DT and I planned a little covert operation with our Hellraising Hot Sauce on this trip. We planted a bottle of Sweet Suffering at the Blue Iguana Cantina, where made-to-order burritos and tacos are served for breakfast and lunch.

There’s a condiment bar and you can accessorize your meal with a slew of fixings – a variety of salsas, vegetables, crema, cheese, and that’s right, HOT SAUCE. Two big, long rows¬†of hot sauce bottles.

We slipped ours in the first day and made a game of passing by each morning and afternoon to see how much had been used.

The situation was a bit puzzling at times. Some instances Sweet Suffering would be right there in the lineup Рothers it was nowhere to be found. So we thought we were totally busted; that the keeper of Blue Iguana hot sauces recognized the invader from outside the usual inventory and it was tossed. But then the next day it would be back again. But then two days later, gone once more.

It TOYED with our emotions! Kidding, kind of. It was just fun to see it, standing proudly on a Carnival cruise ship, holding court with the other sauces. And when we could see that it had been used, when there was less sauce in the bottle than there was before….very cool. (DT: “Sweet Suffering is out there, I checked the level – it’s DOWN!¬†People¬†are using it!!” Me: “SHUT UP! Can you believe it??”)

You know, we’re just big hot sauce nerds now. This is how we spend our time.

Roatan sunset 1

Roatan sunset….

Roatan sunset 2

Roatan sunset 3

leaving Roatan

….like I said at the top of this post – Caribbean skies, man.


Roatan sunset 4

Night five's little towel friend

The fifth night’s little towel friend.

Our cruise is winding down….waaaaahhhh! Our last port is coming up, and it was a new one for us – Costa Maya!

Spicyland in Belize 2015

We took an excursion to Bannister Island two years ago when our cruise stopped in Belize for the second port. That island has since been renamed Starfish Island and yes, you guessed it, we went back.

Belize sunrise

morning in Belize

Beautiful Belize morning sky!

Belize sunrise 2

Belize sunrise 3

Belize tender 1

Belize tender 2

Belize tender 3

Starfish Island 1

Starfish Island entrance

Starfish Island beach 1

There was good reason to name the island what they did – there are starfish all over in the water. I can’t believe we didn’t notice them the last time we visited.

starfish 1

starfish 2

starfish 3

Our time there was super relaxing….I mean, we were on this little island in the middle of the Caribbean. Just a wee¬†blip in the sea with the sun shining down.

Starfish Island beach 2

off in the Caribbean

DT and me, Starfish Island

It is at this time I will tell you the sad story about my left baby toe. I never thought I’d post such detail about¬†my feet on this blog, or online anywhere for that matter. I know how I am about seeing people’s feet, and I know some people are twenty times more disgusted about it than I am. I’ll keep this brief.

my feet

I think I broke my left baby toe. Broke, or significantly dislocated it. Our second night in South Beach Рour room at The Richmond was relatively small and had some funny corners going on. On my way back to bed in the middle of the night, in the dark, little room with strange corners, I very forcefully ran my left foot into the bed frame. I heard a rather unfriendly SNAP and then, ohhhh OUCH.

broken toe 1

It swelled and bruised pretty quickly overnight and the next morning when I pathetically limped my way aboard the ship Saturday. These photos are the aftermath three days later. What a dumb, stupid injury.

broken toe 2

Gross! I know, I’m sorry.

I spent the week with the ibuprofen DT would set out for me and makeshift ice packs while we lounged throughout the days. No big whoop. Just ugly and sore. ūüėČ

I won’t ever show you my feet again, I promise.¬†Well, at least not black and blue and mangled.


seabirds 1

seabirds 2

The tender back to the ship left relatively early in the afternoon, so I’m glad we made the most of our¬†morning on the beach.

Starfish Island beach 3

Belize selfie

Glory in Belize

Belize view

my Belize selfie

I must take photos of me because my husband does not. Hiiiii!

leaving Belize

We witnessed a beautiful Caribbean sunset….

Belize sunset 1

Belize sunset 2

Belize sunset 3

DT and me, Belize sunset

Belize sunset 4

Belize sunset 5

Ahhhh! This isn’t quite like what we see back in Minnesota. Exquisite.

Wednesday brings us to Roatan, next post!

Spicyland in Cozumel 2015

This year’s cruise brought us back to Cozumel, a port we visited two years ago and discovered Nachi Cocom. About that creature of habit thing mentioned in the previous post….it was a no-brainer, we had to return to this beautiful day resort!

Cozumel port 1

Cozumel port 2

Nachi Cocom beach 1

Nachi Cocom beach 2

We easily fell into the pattern of two years ago….lounging and reading with drinks on the beach in the morning, ordering lunch, eating their delicious noon meal, then spending the afternoon poolside. Not a bad day, right?

Nachi Cocom restaurant

Their lunch was served with fresh ingredients, just as we recalled. Lots of flavor and spice.

habanero salsa

Habanero salsa



chicken tacos

DT’s crispy chicken tacos

veggie fajitas

My veggie fajitas

Nachi Cocom pool 2

Nachi Cocom pool 3


Nachi Cocom pool 4

It was pretty much just as wonderful as we remembered. And as you can see, the weather was perfection.

DT and me, Nachi Cocom

DT, are you wearing the same shirt as the last time we were here?? Hahahaha

back to the ship

Back to the Glory….one port down. This is when the cruise really starts to fly by.

Carnival Glory hull

Carnival Sunshine, Glory

Carnival’s Sunshine (formerly the Destiny) parked alongside our ship.

Cozumel selfie

Carnival smokestacks

We hopped around the upper decks as our ship was preparing to depart Cozumel. Fun to peek next door and see what’s happening on the other ship.

view from the top

coast of Cozumel

Cozumel selfie 2

Kind of love this pic.

leaving Cozumel

Adios, Cozumel! Adios, Sunshine!

The third night's little towel friend.

The third night’s little towel friend.

Up next – we make a return stop to Belize and the former Bannister Island, now Starfish Island! Oooo….

Spicyland in South Beach 2015

I’m sure I sound like a broken record when I talk and post about our annual winter cruise getaway. We’ve been doing this for seven (SEVEN!) years and I must say, we find ourselves in a bit of a rut. A warm, sunny, beachy kind of rut, so I guess it isn’t all bad.

I especially am a creature of habit – of course I love adventure and seeing/trying new things.¬†But for a vacation where you just want to relax and escape the extreme temperatures of the winter months where we live, I find I’m pretty okay with returning to the familiar.

Oh Mexico 1

Back to Oh! Mexico, a favorite spot on Espanola Way.

Oh Mexico 2

That said, we love, LOVE South Beach. I know I’ve said it before in previous South Beach posts¬†(cue broken record) – it’s like our little mini vacation before the other vacation. I actually feel pangs in my heart when we have to check out of our hotel and head to the cruise port (oh, the agony!). I know.

South Beach 2

Our first morning’s walk on the beach.

South Beach 3

South Beach 5

South Beach 7

We know our way around, we have our favorite spots, even our favorite rituals while we’re there. We get South Beach once a year and those two days are just so special, we have to soak it all in.

The Richmond pool 1

The Richmond pool 2

The Richmond pool 3

An afternoon spent by The Richmond’s pool.

The Richmond pool 4

Airplane over the pool

Anyway, I wanted to share some photos from our time there this year (likely some will look very similar to last year’s, oh well). Ohhh, South Beach….I heart you!

South Beach from the ship

We embarked the Carnival Glory Saturday morning. One of our first stops was the traditional beanbag game.

beanbag game 1

I let DT win. Wasn’t that nice?! ūüėČ

beanbag game 2

Norwegian Getaway

The Norwegian Getaway left just before our ship.

The Glory departed from Miami around 5:00.

Departing Miami

Glory smokestack

Downtown Miami 2

Departing Miami 2

Departing Miami 3

Departure selfie

Goodbye Miami 1

Goodbyyyyyyyye, Miami!

Goodbye Miami 2

Departure selfie 2

Off to sea!

We played a TON of Farkle/Farkel on this trip.

Farkle 1

Farkle 2

Night 1 towel friend

The first night’s little towel creature.

DT retaught Backgammon to me and we played that a bunch too. So much fun!


Sunday was a day at sea. The Seattle Seahawks played the Green Bay Packers in one of the championship games that day. It was shown on the big screen by the pool, so we pulled up a chaise lounge and watched.

Poolside football game 1

Poolside football game 2

Viewing a football game on a big screen, poolside, somewhere in the Caribbean, under the blue sky….very cool. It was an exciting game to boot – lots of disappointed Packers fans on the ship that night!

Poolside football game 3

Night 2 towel friend 1

The second night’s little towel creature.

Night 2 towel friend 2

Monday will find us in Cozumel, up next!

2014 Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival

As I previously mentioned, one of the reasons we traveled to Houston and Austin last August was to attend the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival. It took place at Fiesta Gardens, about 10 minutes from downtown.

Austin Hot Sauce Festival 1

Let’s all gather in 90-100 degree, sunshiny Texas heat and eat some SPICY FOOD? Okay!

This show started in 1990 and has become one of the most popular in the hot sauce/salsa biz. About 15,000 people attended in 2013. Admission was $5 or free with a donation of three non-perishable food items, going to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.

Austin Hot Sauce Festival 2

Fiesta Gardens was hoppin’, that’s for sure.

RO-HO’s Creamy Chipotle Sauce was so, so GOOD. I went back for a second sample.

Creamy Chipotle Sauce

Stellar Gourmet

Austin Hot Sauce Festival 3

Bravado Spice Co.’s sauces – our Hellraising Hot Sauce’s Sweet Suffering is also a pineapple and habanero blend – it was fun to compare recipes and flavor. They may have the same/similar ingredients, but they taste totally different.

Bravado Spice Co.

Honest Ember, Two Hot Mamas,  Red's

Hobo Jim's

Sanderson Specialty Foods was giving away a free jar of their Texas-Texas salsa if you liked them on Facebook. Of course we liked them! Their salsa is really deelish.

Texas Texas

Fiesta Gardens pavilion 1

Austin Hot Sauce Festival 4

The pavilion held a sauce competition, divided into two categories. The line to walk through, sample, and vote was extra long, so we scoped out what we could from the outside.

Austin Hot Sauce Festival contest

Fiesta Gardens pavilion 2

After a couple of hours meandering and tasting spicy sauces under the beating sun, we were ready to seek shady coolness.

It was a great festival, I’m so happy we had the opportunity to go. Based on sheer crowd size alone, this has become an annual event that folks¬†flock to attend, never mind that Texas heat!

True dedication to spicy food. DT and I LOVE that!

Austin Hot Sauce Festival 5