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 – our 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. 😉

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

Anyway.

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!

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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

guacamole

Guacamole

chicken tacos

DT’s crispy chicken tacos

veggie fajitas

My veggie fajitas

Nachi Cocom pool 2

Nachi Cocom pool 3

Poolside

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?! 😉

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!

Backgammon

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


Spicyland in Austin

Austin, Texas!

Here we are. We left our friends in Houston after lunch, and after a small snafu involving a major interstate being closed, requiring a detour and resulting in completely dead iPhones, arrived in Austin early evening. So….a bit longer than the anticipated ~three hour drive. No matter.

Rooftop bars on Sixth Street, here we come.

Austin rooftop 1

Austin rooftop 2

Beer me - Austin rooftop

Beer me. Okay.

Giant Jenga - Austin rooftop

Giant Jenga

The sun had long set but it was still sooo steamy out. Late night downtown Austin in August….we loved it.

Me, Austin rooftop

Austin rooftop 3

Austin rooftop 4

Come to find out, Sixth Street on the Saturday night before students at UT-Austin started fall classes was freaking NUTS.

Austin - Sixth Street 1

Crazy nuts, I say. And live music at nearly every doorway. LIVELY vibe, ya’ll.

Austin - Sixth Street 2

The next day, Sunday, was the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival. More about that in the next post!

Also, it was very, very HOT.

Austin, Texas in August – remember? HOT.

After we left the show early afternoon, DT and I were both sweating profusely. I know that’s a desirable description, and we both felt extra desirable after spending a good part of the morning and afternoon outside in the AUSTIN, TEXAS AUGUST HEAT.

Because it was HOT.

Austin Capitol 1

Austin Capitol 3

DT wasn’t entirely sold on visiting the Austin Capitol, but I was really interested. Not only is it beautiful outside, but it was AIR CONDITIONED [and also beautiful] inside.

Austin Capitol 2

Austin Capitol 4

Let’s just say DT changed his tune when we found a cool refuge. 😉

Austin Capitol 5

Austin Capitol 6

Austin Capitol 7

And it really was remarkable.

Austin Capitol 8

Austin Capitol House of Representatives

Austin, TX Capitol House of Representatives

Austin Capitol HoR

And, have I mentioned, air conditioned?

Austin Capitol 9

Austin Capitol 10

Look there in front, there I am!

Me, Austin Capitol 1

And here, a cannon and me. Historic.

Me, Austin Capitol 2

Me, Austin Capitol 3

Our accommodations in Austin were provided by Mike’s business partner. He was generous enough to donate his little A-frame cabin for our stay.

Austin A-frame 1

It was beautiful scenery as we drove about 15 minutes from downtown, along a hilly and windy road. We had no idea the terrain here was so rolling.

Austin A-frame 2

It was such a funky place! You’d never realize you were so close to a big, bustling downtown. This felt like wilderness.

Austin A-frame 3

Austin A-frame 4

Lake Austin could be found down a path coming off the deck. I didn’t walk down there because I was terrified of seeing a snake. There, I said it.

Austin A-frame 5

Ahhh! So, so PRETTY.

Austin A-frame 6

Austin A-frame 7

Once we unloaded our things and settled in a bit at the A-frame, we headed back toward downtown in search of dinner. Tex-Mex was the dream.

Austin skyline

We found Serranos – their menu looked like just the ticket.

Serrano's 1

Their patio was so nice and spacious, but everyone had flocked to the cool indoors. I would have loved to sit outside, but it was still so very HOT. We headed inside too.

Serrano's 2

Serrano's 3

DT ordered their fish tacos….

DT's dinner

….I chose the veggie enchiladas with their chipotle sauce.

Serrano's enchiladas

OMIGOSH we were so hungry! After a long day jumping around town and lots of time in the sun, we were ready for a flavorful meal like this. Totally hit the spot.

Veggie enchiladas

It was dark by the time we left the restaurant. Serranos also had this cool amphitheater space we noticed as we walked through the patio area again.

Serrano's amphitheater 1

We strolled through downtown while we digested, then headed back to the ol’ A-frame.

Serrano's amphitheater 3

The next morning we had plans to meet Lara, the gal behind LaLa’s Lemonade. DT’s sister and brother-in-law Tom put us in touch – Lara’s husband grew up with Tom here in Minnesota and they are now settled in Austin.

We met up at Magnolia Cafe, a popular breakfast-all-day spot.

Magnolia Cafe 1

Magnolia Cafe 2

Magnolia Cafe

Lara has been working away at LaLa’s Lemonade a lot longer than we’ve had Hellraising Hot Sauce, but it was fun to share small, local business stories and hear about her challenges, successes, and inspiration. Even though we make totally different products in totally different states, there were many commonalities, mostly the spirit of creating something you’re really excited about. We talked shop, man!

Magnolia Cafe menus

Magnolia’s food was really delicious too. 🙂

Magnolia Cafe 3

And that was our quick, toasty spin through Austin! Oh – and more about that hot sauce show up next!


Spicyland in Houston

Way back in August, when it wasn’t -1 degree below zero outside as it is today, DT and I took a little trip to Texas. Yes, Texas in August. We’ll get into more of that hot insanity later.

This long weekend allowed us to do a few nifty things: visit our dear friends Mike and Colleen in Houston, see Austin (a new city to us and about a three hour drive away), and attend the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, of interest to us with our little Hellraising Hot Sauce venture.

We spent the first couple of days in Houston with Mike and Colleen. They live in a gorgeous house in a gorgeous neighborhood right on Lake Houston. It was so much fun to see them again and catch up after letting waaayyy too much time go by. But we had exactly zero trouble picking right back up where we left off!

First things first after Mike picked us up from the airport….a boat ride to find lunch and margaritas.

Lunch on Lake Houston

Houston margarita

Check!

Lake Houston 1

Lake Houston 2

Colleen and me

Beautiful Colleen and me

We learned that Mike and Colleen share our affinity for Farkle (apparently also spelled Farkel?), except they upped the ante with a “Spicy” version that doubles points. This photo captures perfectly what a lot of our time in Houston looked like:

Spicy Farkle

Spicy Farkel/Champagne/Wine/Cider/Beer

Awesome.

We met Colleen’s sweet friend and neighbor Ronna. She and her husband have an absolutely stunning backyard and view of the lake. We spent our first evening on their patio, soaking in this scenery.

Ronna's yard 1

I mean, really.

I am pretty sure this is some version of Heaven.

Ronna's yard 2

The next day, it was very very WARM outside. Texas in August, eh? Thankfully Mike and Colleen’s pool was waiting for us right outside the door.

Their dogs Winchester and Genevieve also enjoyed a refreshing dip!

Afternoon at the pool 1

Hello, Winchester!

These two are hilarious.

Dogs at the pool

Afternoon at the pool 2

Afternoon at the pool 3

Afternoon at the pool 4

Afternoon at the pool 5

Genevieve at the pool

Hello, Genevieve!

That evening we took a sunset boat ride with Ronna and her husband. I think these photos speak for themselves.

Lake Houston sunset 2

Ronna, Colleen, and me

Ronna, Colleen, and me

Lake Houston sunset 1

Lake Houston sunset 3

Lake Houston sunset 4

Later, Colleen cooked a magnificent southern feast (she’s an Alabama gal) and Mike set off some fireworks.

Fireworks 1

More awesome.

Fireworks 2

Before we left to drive to Austin on Saturday, Mike took us to Tin Roof BBQ and we picked up lunch.

Tin Roof BBQ 1

Positively delicious southern BBQ, and this coming from someone who doesn’t eat meat and only enjoys the sides!

Tin Roof BBQ 2

And with that, we were on our way to Austin.

Honestly, visiting Mike and Colleen is like staying at a spa retreat. We were totally spoiled in their corner of paradise. Their friendship and company is just beyond and I cannot wait to see them again.

THANK YOU, Mike and Colleen!


Back in the Saddle

My poor little Life in Spicyland bloggie was neglected for much of 2014. Frown. 😦

I was dwindling a bit earlier in the year, but really fell off the grid in March when DT and I both found ourselves unemployed (or on the verge of being unemployed, in his case).

I think I mentioned this before – it would seem that I’d have all the time in the world, those months not working, but blogging seemed to be particularly difficult. Something mental, I’m sure.

Even after I went back to work I found it hard to focus in this space. It was an extremely busy fall, and then all of the sudden the holidays arrived, then POOF! The end of 2014.

I have photos to edit, posts to write, and ideas rolling around in my head….and still that damn fancy camera to break in after getting it as a gift LAST CHRISTMAS.

Yes, friends, I’ve fallen behind here.

My adage has become “Better late than never” for this blog, for now.

Although it’s been quiet lately from this corner of the interwebs, I hope your 2014 was wonderful and I hope your 2015 is even bigger and better. I’m looking forward to another year of LiS and chatting your ears (eyes?) off a bit more often.

Happy New Year!