Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Weekend

Well, our Easter weekend was pretty good.  Friday night we went out and had dinner at Elizabeth Street, a Vietnamese restaurant on South 1st Street.  The food was good, and we had the chance to sit outside at a nice place on a very pleasant spring evening.
On Saturday we ran errands and took care of some chores.  Saturday night Mono Ensemble played at a party in North Austin.  The party was a benefit for a friend of ours (Heather) whose dog needs surgery.  Hope she raised some money!
On Sunday we went to church at Central.  Afterwards we went over to my parents' house for a nice Easter brunch/dinner.  We had a nice time.  There was ham and turkey and lots of other food.  Amy made some sort of minty orzo salad along with a key lime pie and banana pudding.  Attendees included Susan, Ciara, Uncle Donald, Ryan, Jamie, Matt, Nicole, Juan, Alex, Monica, Judy, Don, Sarah, Mom, Dad, Ben, Cindy, Amy, and myself. It was an unusually large Easter gathering, but it seemed like everyone had a good time!
So that was the Easter weekend.
Hope everyone had a nice one.


Mom and Amy get dessert ready while everyone else goofs off



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Miami Trip

Well, Amy and I went to Miami Beach, Florida, for an overdue honeymoon trip last week.  We left Thursday and got back on Monday.  We stayed at a sort of resort style hotel called The Palms.  It was on the ocean, just north of South Beach.  It was a really nice hotel-  a beautiful place by the ocean with a cool building and lush, tropical grounds.  It was very relaxing.  We spent a lot of time just lounging at the beach and near the pool.

The Palms Hotel at sunset

beaches make Amy happy

looking toward South Beach

the view from our room

breakfast at the hotel

apparently the best time for kite surfing is
later afternoon
 
the lobby at The Palms

evening on Miami Beach

a good porch sit at The Palms
 
















We ate at Essensia, which was a sort of farm-to-market restaurant in our hotel, and at Restaurant Michael Schwartz in the Raleigh Hotel.  Essensia was pretty good, but I think we were both much more impressed with Restaurant Michael Schwartz.  The food was better, the waitstaff more enthusiastic, and the setting was casual, intimate, and classy (although Essensia has a really cool colonial Caribbean motif going).

Dinner at Essensia
Restaurant Michael Schwartz
My wife!




We also stumbled upon a Peruvian restaurant called Chalan on the Beach while wandering around Miami Beach our first night.  It had sort of a bustling, cozy, fun neighborhood feel, and the food was pretty good.  I really enjoyed it.
On our last day we drove over into Miami proper (I realized during this trip that Miami and Miami Beach are practically two different cities) and had a late lunch/early dinner at a Cuban restaurant called Versailles.  It was really good.  We had a fun experience trying it out.


in this picture I have just eaten some really good
Cuban food
Our trip was relaxing and fun.  We had some good beach time, we ate some good food, and we got a chance to unwind and enjoy each other's company.  I had a great time

Love you, Amy!!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Update

Hello!  The weekend was pretty good, albeit overcast and a bit rainy at times.  Friday night we got home and exercised and went out for a nice dinner at Thai Passion.  Amy and I both like their food.  We had a nice time.
On Saturday we drove out to The Domain to meet my folks and do a little shopping.  We used a gift certificate that we had gotten as a wedding present (thanks, Magsigs!) to get some serving dishes, and then we walked around a bit and had lunch.  Then I bought a hat.


(this will make a great "Have you seen these men?" pic
after Dad and I have to go on the lam)

The Domain (a big ol' mixed use, residential outdoor shopping mall in North Austin) is interesting.  Part of me found it soothing and fun and relaxing- exactly the way it was designed to be.  Sculptures, landscaping, outdoor fireplaces, and energetic, nonthreatening music piped in through unobtrusive speaker systems along the walkways.  Another part of my brain was sort of wary of the fact that an entire small village had been artificially constructed with pretty much the sole purpose of making a person want to buy things.  Shopping malls are nothing new, I know, but something about the whole experience still seemed a little off.  Maybe it's the fact that with condos and apartments located in the Domain, the designers are trying to pretend that this is something other than a big ol' monument to commercialism.  I know I'm probably over analyzing things, but there's just something discomforting about the notion that people are being squeezed into the shopping experience instead of  stores springing up in an area in order to meet the actual needs of residents.  In The Domain, the residents seem to be present in order to accommodate the needs of the retail environment (i.e., presenting the impression to shoppers that they're buying in a small community instead of in a more traditional shopping mall).  I didn't see a lot of post offices, grocery stores, and pharmacies.  Instead I saw high end art galleries, expensive clothing, and gadget shops.  Most of the stores in the Domain must not actually fit the day to day needs of the people living close by.  So maybe I'm more comfortable when things work the other way around.  The Domain holds itself out to be some sort of pre-planned retail/residential utopia, but it's surrounded by parking lots and concrete, with large paved areas creating separation between The Domain itself and the surrounding neighborhoods.  I didn't see a lot of sports fields for kids to play on, and the parking lots and narrow streets between the shops didn't leave much room to ride a bike.
Anyway, our shopping trip was good!  I had a really fun time hanging out with my parents and Amy. It was fun to window shop and watch people at The Domain.  The place just feels a little like a retail amusement park- which is fine!  But it seems like The Domain takes itself a lot more seriously than that.

Saturday afternoon I went for a nice bike ride in the cool, cloudy weather while Amy worked out.  Saturday night we watched Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles.  Because my wife is cool.
Sunday we went to Juan in a Million for breakfast.  It had been a long time.  Still good.
We went grocery shopping and did some chores.  It rained a lot on Sunday.  Well, we didn't get a ton of water, but it rained lightly for much of the day.  Late in the afternoon I went to band practice over at Reed's place.  We had a good Mono rehearsal. 
Sunday night Amy made a good dish with mushrooms, pasta, and wine sauce.  It was tasty.

It was a nice weekend.  Kinda quiet, but nice.

Hope everyone is doing okay!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Update

Well, things have been a little busy.
On Friday we just sort of laid low.  We got some exrecise and took Cassidy for a walk, which resulted in us hanging out with Mandy for a bit in her yard for a bit (so nice to have some neighbors who are also friends). 
Last weekend was nice.  On Saturday we got up and went grocery shopping.  We had a carpenter come and look at our house.  He's reshaping the roof in order to accomodate an oak tree which has slowly, over time, grown into the side of our house and started to lean on it.  He came out on Tuesday and "boxed out" a small section of our roof so we could keep the tree without having it slowly push apart our house.  Looks like did a really good job (thanks to Mom and Dad for being there for the roof repairs!).  Saturday afternoon I went downtown for a bike ride.  I rode from my house to work, going across the bridge on the new bike lanes on South 1st Street.  It worked pretty well (just a little over half an hour).  The ultimate plan, when we get showers in our office building during our current remodel, is to start commuting to work by bike several times a week.  I kinda painted myself into a corner on this by drumming up a petition in my office to get the showers and then sending it to the county commissioners.  Now I feel like I sorta have to lead the charge with the bike communting or I'm gonna look like a jackass.  Gonna miss that air conditioning.
(Pye Jar Party!  That's us in the back corner)
The weather was beautiful over the weekend.  So nice!  Saturday evening we went to a party that one of my coworkers was throwing called The Pye Jar Party.  My friend from work, Laura, is thinking about starting a business where she will sell liquors, mostly vodka and bourbon, that have been infused with various ingredients (like vanilla, fruit, herbs, coffee, etc.).  The Pye Jar Party was sort of a tasting event to explore some ideas associated with this proposed business.  The party, hosted at another coworker's house out in Westlake, was fun.  Nice weather, nice folks, nice view over the hills, and tasty drinks.  Now to see see how the business goes.
(somebody taking somebody for a walk in the park)
On Sunday we went and had breakfast tacos.  Then we took Cassidy over to Garrison park for a walk.  We wandered around and sat on a bench for a while and did some reading.  I've been going through The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs.  It was fun to sit in one of our local parks and read Jacobs' thoughts on how city parks should be designed and used.  Afterward we ran some errands, and I went for another bike ride.  In the evening Reed came over and we worked on some songs for our two man (so far) side project, Wastewood.  Amy made a tasty asian noodle dish with a sort of peanut sauce. 
Very nice weekend.  Amy and I are both much happier people when the sun is shining.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Update

The weekend was pretty good!  It's been a little annoying that it's been so sunny and nice during the week, and then gets cloudy and overcast on the weekends, but...  a small complaint about what was still a good weekend.

Friday night Amy stayed home to do some reading and hang out while I pedaled my bike down to South congress for the Honk Festival.  Honk is a brass band music festival that takes place in various cities across the country.  The brass bands involve trumpets, trombones, saxophones, bass drums, and most of the instruments that you might see in your typical high school marching band, but the groups are relatively small, and the music is more in keeping with a New Orleans second line parade.  The music is typically swinging and funky and fun, and people where costumes and dance and sing.


Honk Austin took place down on South Congress on Friday night, and in a more central location, near Spider House, on Saturday afternoon.  When I first got down there on Friday night, there was a sort of modest-sized crowd, but it steadily grew throughout the evening.  It was a good time!  There's something about those brass bands that just puts you in a good mood.  I'm already looking forward to next year. 

After the show I rode home.  I hung out with Amy and just about fell asleep in my chair.












On Saturday we went out for breakfast tacos, took care of some errands, got some exercise, and did some chores.  Saturday evening Amy and I went over to Ryan and Jamie's house to eat some barbecue in honor of Jamie's birthday.  It was a fun time.  Jamie's dad and my parents were there along with Matt, Nicole, and Juan.  Mom made some good barbecue, and Amy made some good eggplant dip, and Nicole made a cake.  Happy birthday, Jamie! 

(here's Jamie, pictured in her usual Saturday outfit)

Sunday we went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel at the Alamo Drafthouse (thanks for the gift card, Sinex family!).  We both enjoyed it.  It had some moments that really made me laugh, and a few sort of poignant moments as well.  It was an amazing movie to look at, from an art direction perspective, and it had an interesting story.  I would rank it up there with Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums as being one of Anderon's better films (although Tenenbaums is still his masterpiece, I think).  Ralph Fiennes was great.

After the movie I had band practice at Reed's house.  It was good.  All of us made it.

That night Amy made tortilla soup.  As usual, it was awesome.  I am spoiled.

That was the weekend.

It was good. 

The end!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

SXSW, Rodeo, Birthday Update (mostly in picture form)

So last week was SXSW in Austin, Texas.  I've said this before, but SXSW takes a lot of heat from the locals.  It's too crowded, too loud, too corporate, too drunk, has too much traffic, brings in too many hipsters, and is just generally too much.
I hear all of those complaints.  Some of them have merit.  This year some crazy drunken psycho ran over about 23 people downtown, killing three.  It made the national news, and was absolutely horrible.
But that sort of thing (having some a**hole drive his car into a crowd) could have probably happened anywhere.
I still enjoy SXSW.  There are various aspects of it that will always be subject to debate and criticism, but I actually LIKE the fact that we live in a town that is willing to suffer some major inconveniences for a few days each year in the interest of celebrating live music.  Sure, the thing has gotten a bit corporate, and the big name acts have a tendency to steal the spotlight a bit, but there are still a ton of smaller acts out there every year who are doing their best to get noticed, playing their hearts out and hoping to get a record deal or at least reach a broader audience.
I saw a lot of music this year.
I took off Wednesday and Thursday afternoons for a little while, and I took all of Friday off.  I put my bike in the back of my car, and once I was done working, I would change clothes and go ride around to listen to music (parking is pretty crazy during South By, but shows can be sort of spread out, so bikes are a good compromise).
I saw a lot of music, and I don't want to go into detail about all of it.  I'm gonna post some pictures, and maybe write a little bit about it here and there.


 

This was the first group that I saw.  I was waiting for my friend Mark to show up.  They were shockingly good.  The trumpet player, Chihiro Yamazaki, was a bouncy, small girl, but she had a big, bright, powerful sound on the trumpet.  They were from Japan, and when I tried to talk to them a bit after their set, I found out only one of them spoke English.  They had at least one gig booked at the Elephant Room, though, so they had a little street cred.





Mark Kozelek at Central Presbyterian.  He plays under the name Sun Kil Moon.  Very cool and interesting.  Sort of a dark sounding singer-songwriter, with interesting lyrics and drums.  Different, and cool. 

Typhoon.  A large band with a big sound.  They were pretty tight, and pulled off some sort of nuanced, complex rhythms for such a large band.  I enjoyed them.

Real Estate.  Pretty cool.  Their music wasn't really slow, but still mellow.  As Amy said, they have sort of a "California sound".
Hurray for the Riff Raff at San Jose.  They do a pretty interesting country/folk sort of thing.  They had some songs that I really liked.

Los Lonely Boys on the roof at Whole Foods.  They're already pretty well known, but I've never seen them.  They put on a good show.  Texas bluesy rock with a little bit of Tejano/Latin flair (especially in the percussion).

Cassidy in the back yard.  Thanks for the fish eye lens, Jean!

SPEAK at Whole foods.  At first I was turned off a bit by the hipster garb, but they were actually pretty good.  Good guitar parts and keyboards.  Good vocals and harmonies.  Tight band.



Josh, me, and Mark in a selfie on the roof at Whole Foods
Dame.  From Los Angeles.  They were pretty good.  Pretty much good ol' fashioned rock.  I liked the lead singer's voice.  Apparently her name is Michelle Armstrong.
 
Dark Rooms at the GSD&M day party.  Interesting band, but I'm not sure that their sort of brooding, ethereal, electronic infused music was ideally suited for a bright, beautiful, sunny afternoon in ATX


Bone, Fur and Feathers at GDS&M.  They were also pretty good, but maybe not suited to a sunny, mid day show.  They had a bit of a psychedelic, trippy feel.  I was at this show with my friend, Mark.  We met the band's lead singer, LouLou, and found out that she had been performing for many years with Thievery Corporation.  Pretty cool


So I went to see bands on Thursday and Friday afternoons, and on Friday, Amy and I both took the day off and went to see music on South Congress.  We saw Fly Golden Eagle at San Jose (who were okay, but didn't blow me away) along with Hurray for the Riff Raff.  On Thursday and Friday evenings we volunteered at Central Presbyterian.  We checked badges and wristbands and made sure people were in the right spot.  Thursday night we saw Curtis Harding and Typhoon.  I hadn't heard of Curtis Harding.  He was pretty cool.  He played rock, and had a good voice.  Friday night we were there for Sun Kil Moon and Real Estate.  Both acts were good. 
Saturday we took the day off to do errands and chores, and Saturday night we went over to Mom and Dad's house for dinner with our family friends, Aleda and Charlie.  We had a really nice dinner, and it was great to see them.
Sunday we went to the rodeo and went to see Dwight Yoakam.  We had a really good time.  Dwight Yoakam put on a good concert, and we really enjoyed watching the rodeo events as well.  I would definitely be interested in seeing Yoakam again.  He has a really cool voice and good songs.

On Sunday we went to the Austin Rodeo!

Bronco bustin'!!

Amy happily awaits the arrival of Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam!  He was really good.  Definitely lived up to his reputation.  When your only complaint is that you wish he woulda played a little longer, you know it was a good show.

So that was pretty much the weekend.  It was a really good one. 
My birthday was on Monday, but I was a little pooped after South by Southwest and the rodeo and whatnot.  We mostly laid low on my birthday.  On Tuesday we got together with my folks and Jamie and Ryan for dinner at Cypress Grill.  It was a really nice evening.  We had a good time, and I appreciate everyone making it out on a Tuesday night to celebrate my birthday.
So that's about it!  I wrote about some of the local acts that I saw over on my local music blog, ATX Notebook.  Check it out if you are interested!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Update

Hey!  Hope everyone is doing okay.
Our weekend was pretty good, but sorta low key.
Friday night we got to visit with our friends Jaci and Josh.  They were in town from Washington, D.C., for SXSW interactive.  We met up with them for dinner at Curra's.  It was really good to catch up with them.  They're good friends, and we were bummed when they moved away.  It seems like they're doing well, though, and it was great to see them.  They're in town for part of this week, too, so we'll see if they have time to meet up again.

Saturday was a rainy day pretty much all day.  Sunday was overcast and sort of dreary as well.  Kind of a bummer, given that last week was so nice.  Oh well.  We need the rain.

Saturday morning we had a guy come by and give us a bid for windows.  We're talking about putting some new windows into our house, so we're going through the process of pricing them.  Could be pretty cool...
Other from that we did grocery shopping, and then Amy went and got her hair done.  I took care of a few things around the house, got some exercise, and did some reading.
Saturday night Amy made a salmon dish from her Rick Bayless cookbook that involved a sauce with tahini in it.  I thought it was different, and I liked it, but Amy was a little less convinced.

Sunday we went out for brunch with my family to celebrate my mom's birthday.  We went to Jack Allen's Kitchen.  It was a good time.  Good to see everyone.

Sunday afternoon we took Cassidy for a walk, and I tried to trim the branches off of some trees in the back yard.  I planted an oak back there a few years ago, and I'm trying to make sure that the other trees aren't totally choking off its sunlight. 
Anyway, I did a little yard work, got some exercise, and then I had band practice with Reed, Jim, and Eric while Amy went to the gym.

Amy made shrimp creole, which we ate after band practice.  As usual, it was very good.

And that was the weekend!

Hope it's a good week for everyone.