Wednesday, December 21, 2005

10 Great Things in Austin

This is a quick post, just an off the cuff kind of blogging. Driving to work and thinking of breakfast tacos inspired this posting.

  1. Juan in a Million's Don Juan taco. Super cheap breakfast taco that is too big for me to finish unless I am absolutely famished. They have the hottest salsa in town, too.
  2. Starbucks on every corner. We are slowly being taken over. Resistance is futile, but damn! What a great cup of coffee.
  3. Star Seeds Cafe's scrumptious Star Dip. Mmmmmm.
  4. Alamo Drafthouse. Dinner & a movie in one place. Even better, they have beer by the bucket.
  5. Jonathan at Rain. He is the most upbeat happy hour bartender ever.
  6. Tesoros on Congress. If you are looking for a t-shirt emblazoned with the likeness of Che Guevara or a Mexican wrestling star you are in the right place. Most of the time I don't find anything I really need to buy but it is a great place to kill an hour. They are your spot for ethnic greeting cards, colorful Mexican laminated oil cloth and Frida Kahlo coffee table books.
  7. Austin Land & Cattle Company's famous Black & Blue steak. I prefer the ribeye. If you go, make a reservation and request Daniel for your waitperson. He rocks! So do the goat cheese stuffed grilled green chilis. Get one for your appetizer.
  8. Bookpeople. They keep Austin weird & reading.
  9. Town Lake's hike & bike trail. Exercise and cruising the hotties all in one pretty place. Wear your sunglasses for less obvious "shopping".
  10. St. Mary's Cathedral. It is simply gorgeous now that they've renovated.

The list could go on and on since I love Austin. Why don't you leave me a comment and tell me some of your favorite things about our city?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Infamous Christmas Letter

Yes, infamous. Not famous. I call it that because most of the time the Christmas letter is simply a venue for someone to tell you how utterly fabulous they are, how much more incredible than your's their life has been and how their perpetually well-behaved children are members of Mensa. I have successfully resisted sending out a letter with my holiday greetings solely because of the ones I've gotten over the years. I've had the four page letter outlining the accomplishments of each member of a large family, the one page rhyming letter that was a painful attempt at poetry, the letter that was copied in mass quantities at a slight slant so that you found yourself tilting the page to read it, the letter accompanied by a group photo of six people in coordinating red and green corduroy outfits, the letter printed on stationery featuring calico clad kitties wearing angel get the idea. I've had bad letters.

Every once in a while when Christmas falls on or near a full moon I get a good letter. One that has me thinking "wow, I wish I spent more time with the ______ family!" This is the year that I'm going to write a letter and it is my sincerest wish that your reaction will be a positive one. However, if I'm guilty of the usual Christmas letter crimes, please feel free to tactfully critique me. Without further ado, here we go....

Merry Christmas!

In my way of thinking, Christmas is the ultimate season of giving. After all, think about Mary. Somewhere around March of that year several thousand years back she consented to what Christians believe is a virgin birth. She was betrothed but not yet married and she caused a scandal bigger than me moving in with Frank this fall. You can imagine the talk around Nazareth when Mary's EPT showed two pink lines. She was courageous and selfless and the epitome of generous. She gave up her good reputation because her faith was stronger than her potential embarrassment over the speculation of the neighborhood gossips. After pondering how difficult her situation must have been while she was enduring the general uncomfortableness of pregnancy in a land without indoor plumbing, air conditioning or heating my thoughts turned inward. What am I thankful for? What lessons have I learned?

This year has been one of growth, both physical and emotional. Thanks to my boyfriend's support, faith in me and several (okay many) swift kicks to the bum I amazed myself by completing a half marathon and a triathlon. For those of you who've never heard my tri story and are intrigued, you can read all about in in my archives. It was the singular most grueling thing I've ever done and there was no way I could've done it on my own. Without Frank, without my swim coach Jesslyn, without 'Chelle who is the world's greatest SAG person, without my awesome Cheer Squad I would have given up. What did I learn? That determination comes from inside but the job is so much easier when you are surrounded by people who believe in you.

Frederick has been a source of constant support. I am so thankful to have him and Jed in my life. One of the stellar moments of this year was watching the adoption video of their son Adrian. I can honestly say that the most peaceful stolen moments of 2005 have all been when I've had the luxury of putting Adie to bed. There is nothing in the universe like holding a warm and sleepy child in your arms and listening to his breathing become slow and steady, head down on your chest, snuggled against you as if you are his entire world as he relaxes into sleep. I always do the same thing when Adie falls asleep. I whisper to him how much I love him and how wonderful his life is and how much more there is to come. I tell him he can be anything, do anything, accomplish anything. The simple act of rocking him to sleep brings me to a level of thankfulness that defies description.

I've had many new people enter my life in the last year. I've moved into my fourth office in a year, thankfully on the same floor of my office building. I've been lucky in that everyone I spend 40+ hours a week with have been interesting, entertaining and fun. And Frank & I found that our hair stylist wasn't just cool when he cut our hair but also a helluva good time outside the salon. We scored a bonus when we met Jake's wife, Raquel, and clicked immediately. Frank has cultivated friendships at work as well, and through Yutaka and Laurie we've learned to worship at the foot of the Green Egg (see archived posts). Don't think that gaining new friends has diminished our love for those who were already in place in our lives. I am thankful for all of my friends who gift me with their love. Life without you would be empty and boring. What would I do without ya'll? Just because you aren't mentioned by name doesn't mean you aren't important. I treasure you all.

This year has been a good one for my Dad. We're approaching the two year anniversary of his diagnosis with esophageal cancer and subsequent major surgery, chemo and radiation. He's finally able to go eight weeks in between endoscopy procedures where his esophagus is dilated, stretching the tissue open enough for him to easily eat most foods. The doctor is optimistic that soon the procedure will be done once each quarter and possibly become unneccesary. He's retired now, making house-husbandry his hobby in between trips to our property in Burnet. It's wonderful to see Dad happy and healthy. Mom went back to work at the State and is happy to come home and find dinner on the table. What a nice change for her!

My life has been further enriched with the addition of Frank's family to my life. I'd met them before, but in the past year they have gone out of their way to make me feel not only accepted and cared for but truly a part of the family. I won over the patriarch, Frank's Grandpa, in August. My granny gave me an old cookbook that contained little quotes about food and life. One of them was "you can catch a man with face powder but you keep him with baking powder". Well, it wasn't my baking that did it, but a bowl of my menudo. Grandpa had decreed that if I was going to be a part of the family I needed to prove my mettle by producing a delicious menudo. I did and thought I was in scott free. Nope. Grandpa now says I need to become fluent in Spanish. He doesn't speak English and he wants to be able to talk with me. How completely sweet is that? I never thought someone would care enough about me to ask me to learn their language so we can have conversation. (And no jokes about how ya'll can't get me to shut up.) I am humbled by his request. I hope one day I have the opportunity to show someone that what they have to say is that valuable to me.

My work with Meals on Wheels has taught me to be thankful for the ability to still be able to change my health for the better. I've accomplished a lot, but need to do more. I can honestly say I've been lazy and lackadaisical this fall. When I'm delivering meals to my clients there are a few who aren't exactly elderly, but their failing health has placed them in an undesirable quality of life. Seeing people who should be enjoying their golden years but can't because they're dragging around an oxygen tank, their diabetes is uncontrolled, their hypertension is straining their body and much worse problems spurs me to think about what I need to do to live a long, healthy life. I've also learned that you can be in your 90's and still think firemen are hotties and flirt outrageously with the boys. Gotta love ya, Mrs. Spikes.

It's been a fruitful and fulfilling year. I have laughed a lot, cried a lot and loved a lot. Yes, cried. The only way we appreciate happiness is to know unhappiness. My year may sound rosy but there were rough spots along the route. All I can do is live my life as best I can every day. I can savor the moments and realize that not everyone on Earth has it as good as I do. It's my life. I live it and love it and hope that through this letter you get a glimpse of why. My Christmas wish for you is that the coming year brings more peace, happiness and love to your lives. And a healthy dose of fun.

~Happy Holidays~

Monday, December 12, 2005

Whole Foods is a Winter Wonderland

I went to the ice skating rink at Whole Foods over the weekend. The flagship store at 6th & Lamar has built a rink on the top floor of the store, an open air venue that normally houses tables and chairs for patrons to sit and enjoy a meal while overlooking a slice of downtown Austin. I thought it was a wonderful idea for a town where there are only two ice skating rinks and not a large amount of interest in either. Please, no hate mail from those of you who may actually skate on occasion. Let's be honest. Austin pays more attention to sports that can be performed outdoors than indoors. When a body of water in our area freezes over enough to be skated on, we better all be praying double-time because the end is near.

My friend's daughter, Marcella, skated on both Saturday and Sunday. She is a natural on skates: smooth, balanced, graceful. So unlike what I would be on ice. We all know I'm clumsy. I fall for no reason so I feel absolutely no pressing need to step out onto slick ice balanced only on a knifeblade attached to the bottom of a boot. Why tempt fate? My mother called while I was at the rink and was horrified until I assured her I was on dry land wearing my regular shoes. She mentioned broken bones at least twice. I promised her I was not flailing around on the ice like the brave pre-teen girl who, despite her windmilling and wobbly ankles, managed to mostly stay upright. I enjoyed watching the skaters go 'round and 'round, though. It made me think of the time I was in NYC and hung out for a bit at Rockefeller Center, watching the skaters. Come to think of it, the ice at Rockefeller Center isn't much larger than the rink at Whole Foods. I still don't know how come it looks so big on television.

The weather was great for skating. This morning I heard Lance Armstrong talk about trying to describe Austin weather to some of his Team Discovery guys who were in town training. He said "last weekend was 80 (degrees), this weekend was 70 and everything in between was 20". They just didn't get it until they rolled out of bed to ride on a windy, chilly 40º morning. Lance said he sat that ride out. He is retired, after all.

The cool breeze, sunshine and ice skating finally has me in the holiday spirit. Yes, sunshine. This is Central Texas. Normally we can wear shorts on Christmas day although most of the time it's with a long sleeved tee shirt or sweatshirt. I've started my Christmas shopping and have finalized my travel plans for the holiday. I am trying to unearth my Christmas cards from whichever unpacked box they are currently living in so that I can write them all out only to realize I'm missing addresses for a third of my friends. I keep in touch so much better by email or blog. (So if you want a card from me you probably should e me your snail mail addy.) I've even thought about putting up decorations, nixed the idea, thought about it again and nixed it again. I'll continue the internal debate until it's too late to do anything, thus in my own chaotic way resolving the To Have Twinkle Lights or Not argument.

How was your weekend? Do you have your shopping finished or are you last minute like me?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What a Weekend!

This weekend was jampacked full of activity from the minute I got off work on Friday. Friday night was spent prepping for a garage sale the next morning. The best thing I can say about garage sales is that you get paid a little for the stuff you would've just given away to Goodwill. Guess what we did with everything that was left after the sale? Yup, it went to Goodwill. Frank & I ended up with $160 we didn't have before the sale, so it was all good.

Saturday evening was big fun. I met up with Leslie, Jessica and Darla to decorate the patio & party room at Juan in a Million for Jed's surprise birthday party. Last year, home renovation that needed to be done before the guys completed the process to become adoptive parents took up Jed's entire birthday weekend. His 30th birthday weekend, a milestone. After a year of hearing how "the house ate my birthday" Frederick planned a super surprise for Jed. The family had ventured out to L.A., to visit Jed's best friend Amy and celebrate Adie's adoption finalization. They flew back on Jed's birthday at the crack of dawn. Unbeknownst to Jed, Amy took the next flight out so she could be here, too. How cool is that? Frederick arranged the day so that it was low key and relaxing and included meeting Leslie and her husband for dinner at Juan in a Million. To say Jed was surprised when he walked in and the lights came on, confetti flying, and all of us screaming "Surprise!" is an understatement. He was floored. Happily.

The party was a rousing success, complete with a "Turn Back Time" group card showing a clock with hands pointing first to 31 then back to 30, a cake with 31st crossed out and 30th written in, good TexMex party food and karaoke. Freddy started off the singing with his rendition of Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time", dedicating it to Jed. We even got the birthday boy up on stage wearing a silver wig with a definite mullet shape to it singing Joan Jett's "I Love Rock & Roll" and smashing his guitar shaped piñata at the end. It was filled with his favorite fruit flavored Tootsie Rolls that Leslie moved heaven and earth to find in Austin. (They're more abundant during Halloween).

I only hit the stage twice, to help mangle "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and "Love Shack". Little John and Sean held true to tradition and joined the girls onstage for the Cyndi Lauper song. Amy & Freddy rocked the crowd with "Summer Lovin'", Leslie sang her beloved Neil Diamond tune and Caley broke out with "Brown Eyed Girl". The only tradition we didn't stick to was our Tom Jones panty tossing. I forgot to buy XXL polyester granny panties for us to throw & autograph for the honoree. There's always next year, Jed!

Sunday morning we scraped ourselves out of bed for the Decker Challenge, a 20k (12.43 miles) run over the hills around Walter E. Long park. The temp was in the low 30's with winds between 15-20mph. Not runner friendly weather. I left Frank in the Expo Center, staying warm before the start while I took off to help set up the Mile 4 waterstop. As you can imagine, pouring water & Powerade in this weather was a challenge. You had to start to fill the paper cup as soon as you set it down or it would blow away. Handing out the drinks meant wet hands and wrists for most of us, as the runners grab them while running by. Luckily, we had mimosas to help us feel somewhat warm. The picture above is of us toasting before the first runner arrived. Note: the high school students did not drink anything, not even plain o.j.

The race would have been difficult just for the terrain, but the headwind made it worse. I am very proud of Frank's time, as he finished in 2:05:45. Ten minute miles in those conditions is pretty damn amazing. He's on course to pare a whopping 45 minutes off his last marathon time. Way to go, baby! I was glad that our water stop was packed up in time to see him cross the finish.

I was thrilled to see Gerard Martinez, who zoomed by me at the water stop had finished at #9 overall. He's simply a great runner with his 1:13:38 time. I bumped into Tom Wills after the race, who started running a month ago. He's training for Freescale and looks like he'll pull a 4.5 hr time for his first marathon. I heard that one of the attorneys I work for had run but never saw her. Aimee Reneau ended up with a time of 1:55:47 for this race. Wowsa!

I will admit that the mimosas went straight to my head. After a yummy Threadgill's lunch with the Tanner clan I went home and straight to bed for an afternoon nap/recovery. Ahhh, what fun we had this weekend! There were other good times in the course of the weekend, but in order to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent I'll simply say that there doesn't always have to be a barfull of people for everyone to have fun. You guilty parties know exactly what I'm talking about. Hope your weekend was just as entertaining as mine. Let me know what you did!