The 2012 Vegas Valley Comic Book and Children’s Book Festivals

Last year we attended the Moapa Valley Art Guild Pomegranate Festival (I guess November is festival month in Southern Nevada) but wanted to do something different for 2012.  I signed up in advance for a VIP ticket (the event is free, if you registered early you received a few perks, however) for the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival over at Clark County Library.  The event included panels and tables both inside and outside – it was a beautiful day and the kids and I had fun exploring on the morning of November 3rd.  We headed straight to Ralph’s Alternate Reality Comics Booth and who should walk by but Spider-Man and Iron Man cosplayers (pictured at another table below).  “Spider-Man” gave E and R little plastic spider rings that made their entire week.  Actually, R is still talking about it!  Spidey is one of my favorites so R will have plenty of reading material when he is old enough to be allowed to peruse my comic book boxes.

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The event, though welcoming to kids (a number of free children’s comics were being handed out and E recognized her Owly books at the Top Shelf booth), did not have too much for E and R in the morning (they needed to be home for lunch and naps) so we hit the road for downtown Las Vegas to check out the Vegas Valley Children’s Book Festival!  I had heard friends rave about the event and was not disappointed.  It was strange to drive downtown for something other than work, though.

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My husband and I used to eat lunch near the water feature pictured above. Seeing families enjoying the shade made me hope that someday downtown is a more vibrant place. The economic downturn hit just as the area was getting attention from investors but I’ve read recently that Zappos has made a commitment to improving conditions downtown.

We weren’t able to find parking except at some meters with a one hour limit – not a great amount of time – but even with spending most of our time at the Lowe’s booth (they had free wood crafting kits for kids to hammer away at) and the PBS booth (for puppet making) we still caught a presenter at the storytelling area (she was coaching the audience with the song “Did you feed my cow?”) and came away with an armful of new (and free) books.  We would have loved to stay to see David Shannon but our time was up at that point.  Running into Maggie Verderame of Kids Do Yoga on our way to the car had E so excited so I guess our timing was just right.  R fell asleep in the car while clutching his wooden fire truck.

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I enjoyed seeing the inside of Fifth Street School.  It opened right after E was born but I remember walking to Federal Court and watching the construction work to revitalize it with interest.

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Also, seeing so many families passionate about reading with their children was fantastic.  Anyone who says Las Vegas does not have a lot to offer families with children is simply not looking hard enough.  Add both events to your November calendar for 2013!

Halloween 2012 Activities

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The day of the Recycled 5K I took E and R to Acacia Park for a free plant project event presented by the Nevada Master Gardeners.  The kids got to make garlic necklaces (with real garlic, luckily I love the smell of fresh garlic), plant snapdragon seeds, and generally get their hands dirty.  I was a little bummed when someone broke out a box of cupcakes because I’d hoped that this would be a food free event but one of the other presenters remarked to me that it wasn’t part of the planned activities so I felt better.  E and R were a little sad to see everyone playing with rings that had topped their orange frosted cupcakes but playing at the park improved their spirits…I also promised to make our traditional Halloween vegan and gluten free apple pie early this year so I made it that weekend instead of waiting for the 31st.

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It is hard to see in the picture but I put a bit of crust shaped like a pumpkin on top so E wanted me later on to carve our pumpkin with an image of an apple to mimic the mix up (I guess apple designs should decorate apple pies?), which I thought was cute of her.  (We had picked up our pumpkins earlier in October at Gilcrease Orchard.)  E ended up changing her mind at the last minute and her pumpkin was a smiley face with a tongue sticking out and one eye open and the other closed.  She even modeled it for me as I carved.  Our pumpkin seeds were roasted at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes after being tossed with a little oil and salt and spread out on a jelly roll pan (amazon affiliate link).

On Halloween we just trick-or-treated inside the house both in the morning and in the evening, I am not sure if the kids will want to do something more extensive as they get older but we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.  They had a great time this year (E was a snow fairy princess and R was a heavy equipment operator, by the way) and best of all there were no holiday related reactions!

Calico Racing’s Recycled 2012 Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K Race

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Earlier this year I decided I’d set myself the goal of running the Vegas PBS 5k on October 6, 2012.  When the FAAN Walk conflicted as it was that same morning, I decided to find another October 5k to try.  Mind you, this was all before my spontaneous decision to run the Terminal 3 5K in the middle of my Couch to 5K plan.  I finished One Hour Runner at the end of September so I probably should have signed up for the 10K race for October but I had no idea I’d be able to be at a 5K distance at that point, let alone a 10K one!  We surprise ourselves sometimes…

Calico Racing is a local outfit with founder Joyce Forier at the helm.  I’d heard from other runners that Ms. Forier puts on great races and they were right!  I saw her at the start and at the finish cheering folks on and being genuinely happy to be there.  Her volunteers were fantastic as well.  Even though the theme of the Recycled race was that the shirts and finisher medals offered in exchange for a discounted race entry fee would be recycled, I never felt like the race was an afterthought.  Plus, the chosen charity of Calico Racing benefits cats so how could it be anything but an awesome race?  My husband and I arrived early at the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino and were directed to the parking lot near the registration table.  It was windy and cold on October 27, 2012 and we grabbed our packets, Calico Racing themed tech tees, and sat in the Subaru for a while to warm up before going into the casino to wait for the race to start.

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I hoped that things would warm up when the sun peeked over the mountains but the wind had other plans.  The half marathoners started first, then the 10K runners (pictured below getting ready to head out), and the 5K group (the largest contingent) went last.  Our loop was 1.55 miles out and back, though I had read in advance that there would be hills I don’t think I anticipated an uphill stretch right away.  The first incline began after the start line you see below, we turned left into an almost U-turn and were off!  My husband was very quickly a red blur in the distance but I am nowhere near as fast as he is so we had not planned to actually run the race alongside one another.

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When I ran Terminal 3’s 5K the majority of the crowd was ahead of me as I walked the first 5 minutes or so, but running from the get go was a different experience in crowd management for me.  I got into my pace for a little bit before weaving around walkers to find my own running spot on the course.  I ran the whole thing non-stop!  It was a goal of mine and I was really pleased about it.  Another goal was to beat my Terminal 3 5K time (43:53) and the hills made me nervous about accomplishing that.  A few weeks back a 12 minute mile was “pushing it” for me on a flat course but with my continued training I was shocked to realize that I was keeping an almost 11 minute mile pace the whole way out and back!

I saw my husband on the return loop when I was 15 minutes in so I knew he was going to get his goal of a sub-25 minute 5K – he achieved a 24:24 time to be 7th overall, I’m so proud of him!  I managed a time of 34:19 which was a huge improvement since June and you can tell by my smile in the official race pictures (1, 2, and 3 – I put my bib number on the back of my jacket because I worried about needing to unzip it during the race, the pig tails were just for fun) that I felt awesome heading for the final stretch.  I think downhill is the perfect way to finish a race, by the way, but my favorite moment was in the first mile when I reached the top of a hill and saw Las Vegas’ skyline stretching out in the distance, framed by the sandy colors of the mountains by the Lake Mead area.  Running somewhere so beautiful certainly gave me a boost.

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At the finish I loved seeing my husband waiting for me, he’d already had a snack and recovered considerably from his run.  I realized that my leg was shaking a bit when I was stopped for the removal of my timing chip from my shoe (thank you to the volunteer who stopped me, by the way, I would have forgotten to return it otherwise).  My “Recycled” medal was from Calico’s 2012 Once in a Blue Moon run and it had a recycled sticker on the back so I held that side up for my post-race photo.  My husband got the same medal so it helped when we came home and let the kids wear them.  E was all over the idea of wearing a medal but R was more interested in the banana I had brought from the finish line food.  There was a great selection of food and drink after the race but not much seemed vegan (though I think it all was vegetarian) so I opted for the banana.  Then it was time to head home, my mother in law was watching E and R (who both were awake when we left the house for some reason) and we had an event at the park to get to that morning.

I am excited for my next Calico race in January (a 10K!) and finally registered for the one after that: the Red Rock Half Marathon in March 2013.  My goal for the 10K is to run the whole way and finish smiling.  I think I can finish it in around 75 minutes but it is supposed to be hilly and it will be my first 10K race so I want to just do my best.  In January it will have been a year since I started on my journey as an adult-onset runner which is exciting.  I know you don’t have to race to run but I think the Recycled 5K boosted my spirits after the rough time I’ve been having just with life in general so I like having another race to look forward to when I need to stay motivated to train and exercise.

Food Find: Enjoy Life Not Nuts! Seed and Fruit Mix

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We are such big fans of the Not Nuts mix from Enjoy Life that we had a pretty regular Amazon.com Subscribe & Save order (amazon affiliate link) going for a while – well, until the weather warmed up and it wasn’t a good idea to get anything that could melt in the mail (amazon affiliate link).  The company recently changed their packaging (how adorable are the UPC codes pictured below?) and wanted to send me these samples to review and spread the word about the new look.  I received the samples for free but my opinions, as always, are my own.

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Mountain Mambo is our family favorite, it contains sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried applies, chocolate chips, and dried cranberries.  As a kid I’d avoid the raisins in trail mix and go for the chocolate but this mix is great and doesn’t leave me picking through for favorites.  The raisins are juicy which helps a lot.  I think R tends to go for the raisins and cranberries first and E loves the chocolate chips and sunflower kernels.  A 1/4 cup serving doesn’t seem like much just looking at it but the little protein boost from the pumpkin seeds and sunflower kernels make this a good snack choice for me when dinner seems too far off.

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The other variety is called Beach Bash and it doesn’t include chocolate which would make it a summer choice for us if it weren’t for the apricots.  R is still avoiding apricots after a bad run in as a baby (I suspect an allergy but have never tried it again to confirm it) but it is still a yummy combination featuring: sunflower kernels, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and dried apricots.

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The first time we spied these mixes at our local Whole Foods I was so excited – I think we take snack options for granted until we are faced with multiple food allergies.  I’ve raved before about Enjoy Life products also being oat free and I hope they stay that way because too often the answer to the top 8 allergens for food companies involves oats.  These are just the right mix of sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy – which combination of flavors sounds best to you?  I think the chocolate makes Mountain Mambo the winner for me!