Monday, December 15, 2014

Update

Our weekend was good.  Filled with Christmas merriment!
On Wednesday we went to the annual Christmas party for Amy's office.  It was nice.  There was good food, good drink, and good folks.  It was hosted at the home of one of her co-workers, Linda, who's nice enough to open up her home to her colleagues for the holidays.  There was a white elephant gift swap, and we walked away with dog shaped salt and pepper shakers as well as some record shaped coasters.  It's always fun to get a chance to chat with some of the people I hear about from Amy's work.
Navidad Bandidos!

Friday night we worked out and ate pizza.  Nothing too remarkable, but it felt nice to just chill out.  We frequently order pizza from a place called Giovanni's.  I'm here to sing their praises.  Giovannis is located inside a Valero gas station on South Lamar.  You wouldn't think you could get good pizza from a place inside a gas station, but you would be wrong.  It's owned and operated by a couple of Italian guys who make pizzas in several ovens located in a food stand in the corner of the gas station, and the place is sort of a poorly kept neighborhood secret.  Amy and I learned about it from one of her co-workers back when she worked at the Legislative Council, and it's been a go-to place for us for a while.  On Yelp it even gets 4.5 stars off of 130+ reviews.  Good pie, and it's generally no hassle.  As an added bonus, the Valero where it's located has a pretty great beer selection.  They go out of their way to stock lots of different kinds of craft beers.
So when you want a good but lazy meal on a Friday night, strangely enough the South Lamar Valero has got you covered.
On Saturday we did a few errands and chores.  I picked up a glider rocking chair from Babies R Us (I'm still punk rock- shut up!), and we did some grocery shopping.  Saturday night we went out to celebrate an Italian dinner with the family.  This is the second year that we've done this, and we're trying to create a bit of a new tradition with it.

This year we went to Siena (more properly Siena Ristorante Toscana).  It's a Tuscan-style Italian restaurant that's out near my parents' house at the inersection of Highway 360 and 2222.
We had a really nice meal, and a nice evening,  Dinner was a multi course affair with appetizers, salad, pasta, and entrees.  My entree was Cacciucco alla Livornese, which contained shrimp, scallops, fresh fish, calamari and fresh mussels sautéed with red chili, oregano, garlic, fresh tomatoes.  Very good.  I really enjoyed it.  We also tried gnocchi and ravioli pasta, and I really enjoyed both of those, as well as a bit of bruschetta al cinghiale, which involved wild boar from South Texas (I was skeptical, but it turned out to be very tasty).

jolly Christmas elves

the family

Ho ho ho!!!

 
The dinner was really fun.  The stone building where it is located is a really interesting, pretty place (I think they have what I would imagine to be a Tuscany-meets-Central-Texas feel going on).  Great way to spend the holidays with the family.  The food was great.  I don't mean to sound trite or cheesey, but the most important part of this yearly dinner is getting together with the family, and I had a really great time just hanging out with everyone.  The food this year was outstanding, though, and I really appreciated the experience.
As Ryan said later, next year we'll probably be eating somewhere that's a little more kid friendly.  ;-)

After dinner we went over to Mom and Dad's for dessert (I'm not sure we needed more food, but Mom made a cake in the shape of a snowflake, and it was good).  We looked at some family photos, and had coffee (well, I had a diet Coke).  Then we headed home and passed out!

On Sunday I did a little shopping and ran a couple of errands.
In the afternoon we ran up to Ikea to pick up a dresser for the nursery.  In the late afternoon/evening we went to a Christmas party up north that was hosted by one of Amy's co-workers, Tony.  It was a fun party.  A number of Amy's friends and co-workers were there with their spouses (Matt and Britney and Shelly and Kit and Kellie and Tommy and Mary and Chad).  There were good Christmas cookies and snacks and beer.  We stood out back under a giant inflatable UT Longhorn tent and debated movies, cooking, and automobiles.  A good time was had by all!

After the party we went home and ate a light dinner. 
I've been playing Grand Theft Auto V, so I played a bit of it while Amy stitched and watched.
I know that the Grand Theft Auto games catch a bad rap by people who think they're just about hookers and gang violence.  I am NOT going to sit here and say that the Grand Theft Auto games are for everybody.  They're rated R with a capital R.  They're about robbery and crime culture.  I wouldn't let a kid younger than 17 or 18 anywhere near them,
That being said, Grand Theft Auto has better writing than most current movies and does a better (and much more hilarious) job of satirizing modern American culture than almost any other media work that I've seen in recent years.  Drug legalization, consumerism, corporate culture, politics, celebrity worship, mass media, and even hipsterism all end up in the crosshairs of the game's extremely funny, but extremely cynical writers.
The game succeeds amazingly well on a technical, artistic, and even literary level.  The characters are definitely better developed than the majority of people currently occupying both the big and small screens.  The game succeeds by pointing out that the criminals in the game, despite their horrible failings, aren't necessarily that much worse than a lot of so-called "legitimate" people in the world around them.  The criminals in Grand Theft Auto aren't simply preying on society- they're a natural byproduct of it.  
People who are easily offended are certainly justified in skipping this game- but they can't really do so without missing out on something kind of awesome.

Anyway, that was our weekend.  It was good.  It was festive!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Update

Hello!  Is everyone feeling festive?
Our week/weekend was pretty good.
I can't remember what we did on Friday night.  I'm not sure we did anything, really.  I think we watched some Netflix and then passed out in bed.
Saturday we went out to breakfast and ran errands.  Lots of chores.  We went to the grocery store and ran into Ryan and Jamie.  They were buying food for their party on Saturday night.
Saturday night we went to that party.  It was fun!  Lots of good food, some festive decorations, and quite a few people that I hadn't seen in a while.  Also got to see Mom and Dad.  We had a really nice time!

Nothing screams "holiday season" like my brother in a Turkish fez
with a cocktail in his hand

On Sunday I got up and ran another errand or two and did a couple of chores.  Amy went to a baby shower for her friends and coworkers, Mary and Katarina, while I helped Mandy string a few Christmas lights and took Cassidy for a walk.  In the evening I went to band practice.  All five of us made it, and we practiced in a rehearsal space over at Music Lab.  We're having to find new places to practice now that my band room is becoming a nursery.  Reed hosts at his house when he can, but when that's not working out, we'll probably be renting space.  It worked well, though.  It's pretty cheap, and it's easy.  Nice option to have.
I got home from band practice and Amy was making baked potato soup.  It was really good!  We ate soup and watched the first half of Elizabeth, which Amy had checked out from the library.  Then bed!

The weekend went by too fast!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

One More Thanksgiving Pic!

Jamie's dad, Dick, took this picture on Thanksgiving and sent it to me last night.  It's a really good picture!  Nice to memorialize the family unit as gathered on Turkey Day 2014!  Amy and I were very thankful to have such great family to celebrate with.

Back Row:  Dad, Ryan, Mom, Jamie, Me, and Ciara
Front Row: Dick, Susan, Donald, and Amy

Monday, December 01, 2014

Thanksgiving Week in Pictures

On Wednesday we went in for an ultrasound.  We're going to have a boy!
Very cool!  I mean, it would have been cool either way, but it's just kind
of exciting to start to have more of an idea of who our kiddo is going to be.
After the doctor's appointment we spent Thursday afternoon and evening getting the house ready for Thanksgiving.  Amy did some cooking.


Ryan and Jamie showed up on Thanksgiving bearing gifts.


One of two tables to accommodate our guests


Mom got so excited about Thanksgiving that she was... dancing?  Twirling?
Some sort of performance art?


Amy doing one of the things that she does especially well- preparing
delicious food for hungry folks!


Yum.


The pies!


Post-meal backyard decompression.
We had Jamie, Ryan, Mom, Dad, Dick, Susan, Ciara, and Uncle Donald for dinner.  We had good company and good food.  We provided the turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and a really good apple pie.  Thanksgiving was a potluck affair, with Jamie bringing rolls, chocolate pie, and stuffing, and Mom bringing a vegetable (I think it was broccoli), a pumpkin pie, and something else...
Dick brought something, too (I'm having a hard time recalling all the food, but it was all good), as well as some wine.  Susan and Ciara brought a salad and some vegetables.  Uncle Donald brought a sugar free apple pie.  Dad brought wine!
After dinner was all over, I watched the UT-TCU game with Mom, Dad, and Amy.  It was awful.  We're not gonna talk about that.


On Black Friday I put up some Christmas lights


Friday night Jamie, Ryan, Mom, Dad, Amy, Susan, and I went to
the Saxon Pub to see Joe Ely with Jeff Plankenhorn.  Really good music!
Thanks for the tickets, Ryan and Jamie!


On Saturday Amy had to go in to work for a while, I took a bike ride.  During my ride I
came across a South Austin rockabilly cluster.  They were all dressed up to celebrate Christmas
with their kids in the traditional rockabilly way- with their hot rods.


On Sunday we put up our Christmas tree.  I also had Wastewood practice with Reed over
at his house, but I'm pretty sure Reed isn't pictured here.
That was about it, really.  We also did some shopping and chores and looked for a baby rockin' chair for our nursery.
Lots to be thankful for this year!  And thanks to all of our family for making our first Thanksgiving at our house so special!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Update

Well, fellow adventurers, the weekend was sort of a mixed bag. 
Thursday and Friday I had a trial at work (it was a contested competency trials, and I lost, so that's all I'm gonna say about that).
Friday night Amy and I went out for dinner.  It was nice.  Jury trials are always sort of all encompassing and draining, so it was nice to just go have dinner with Amy, relax, and enjoy her company without work stuff bouncing around in the back of my mind.
Saturday we went down to Congress to run an errand and pick up some baby shower gifts. (did I mention that we know a lot of pregnant couple right now?)
After shopping we had lunch at Homeslice Pizza.  That place gets really crowded (a waitlist in excess of an hour is not uncommon) and the parking can be difficult, so sometimes I get sort of negative about it (just open another location or two, Homeslice!).  The pizza is really good, though.  Amy and I are both big fans.  It was lightly raining when we got there, so we got a table relatively quickly.
While we were eating lunch, the skies opened up and it started to rain- and by rain I mean pour.
We finished our food, tried to leave, and ended up huddling under an awning in front of the store, watching the growing flash flood on South Congress.

There ARE down sides to bike commuting

Personally, I think if you find yourself standing in this kind of weather
to wait for a hamburger, you need to reexamine your relationship with food

When the rain lightened up for a minute, we dashed back to the car.  We got home, though, to find that there was a little bit of water creeping into out laundry room.  This was a bummer.  We've had drainage problems in there before, and we had talked about having some landscaping/drainage work done to fix the problem, but we decided to try to go with gutters first.  The gutters probably helped a little bit, but not nearly enough.  As the rain continued to pour down over the course of the day, we had to use the wet vac and some fans to dry out the laundry room.  the water never accumulated very much, but it was disheartening to see it come in.  At any rate, I put in an email to our landscape guy, and he's supposed to come help us out with the situation in January.  Let's hope we don't get any major flash flooding between now and then.
Saturday afternoon we had planned on going to a housewarming party, but we ended up on wet vac duty instead.  Saturday night Amy made some chicken tacos and we watched Friday night lights.
Sunday involved housekeeping and some other chores.  Amy went to a baby shower for Katie, a friend of ours.  Mom and Dad stopped by while she was gone, so I visited with them for a couple of minutes and picked up some supplied for Thanksgiving.
Sunday evening I went to band practice (pretty good- we all made it), and Sunday night Amy made stir fry. 
The weather was really nice on Sunday.  Amy and I took a couple of walks somewhere in there.

That was about it!  Hope you guys had a good weekend!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Update: Sedaris; Veterans Day; Shelly B-Day

On Monday night I went out to dinner at Curra's with Amy, Jean, and Greg, and then we all went to see David Sedaris at The Long Center.  David Sedaris is, I guess, what might be traditionally known as a humorist.(?)  He's primarily a writer, and his speaking engagements consist largely of Sedaris reading from his various essays and books while throwing in some personal anecdotes for good measure.  He's funny, of course, but also a good writer.  His insights and observations about everything from family to culture to technology are, by turns, hilarious, poignant, thought-provoking, and outrageous.
Amy and I had heard Garrison Keillor speak at the Paramount only a month or two ago, and so listening to Sedaris, I couldn't help but compare the two.  Keillor sort of came across like an amused, gently sardonic grandparent.  He quietly makes observations about modern American life from the vantage point of the resident of an idyllic, homogenous midwestern community.  In Keillor's work, people discover one another's differences and diversity creeps in, but there's a sort of confidence that equilibrium will always be maintained, and that eventually a sense of harmony and community will be restored.  Community is everything, and it will always survive any particular structural changes in the great American social fabric.
Sedaris, on the other hand, writes from the perspective of a 57 year old gay man who grew up in North Carolina.  He's observant, charming, and witty, but his humor comes from the viewpoint of someone who has developed self confidence and strength despite the dynamics of the community around him rather than due to the support of accepting neighbors.
I don't mean to make it sound as if Keillor is an utter conformist, and Sedaris is a crusading rebel.  Both of them are more complex than that, and I feel that their viewpoints play out in subtle ways (Sedaris seems to occasionally take delight in shocking his audience, for example, while Keillor seems more inclined to draw out chuckles of recognition).
Anyway, we had a great time listening to David Sedaris.  You know the guy has good material when he can just stand up there and talk for two hours and keep everyone thoroughly entertained.

Tuesday was Veterans Day, so Amy and I both had the day off from work.  I went out to Lockhart with my dad and Greg so we could eat barbecue.  We went to Kreuz Market.  I got some smoked turkey and a little sausage.  Dad and Greg had brisket and sausage.  It was  fun.  Nice to have a tasty lunch with the vets.  In the afternoon I went with Amy, Jean, and Greg to look for a rocking chair and a stroller for the baby.  Apparently I will need a stroller with tall handles so I do not become a hunchback from pushing the bebe around town.
Tuesday night Amy and Jean made some delicious Toscana soup.  We had it with salad and bread, and it was delicious (espeically good since the weather had turned cold outside).   

Wednesday Jean and Greg left town.

Thursday night I had Veterans Court and got home sorta late.
On Friday night we went to The White Horse to celebrate Shelly's birthday.  We did some Cajun dancing and listened to lively Cajun music and hung out with some of Amy's friends from work.  Heather, Amy, and Mary were all there, and all three of those pregnant, sober ladies were willing to brave a crowded East Austin honky tonk on a chilly winter night in order to celebrate the birthday of a friend.  Let that be a lesson to you excuse-making couch potatoes who are too lazy to meet up with your wingmen/wingwomen/wingpeople!  Tommy, Kelly, and Stephen were also there (along with other assorted people that I did not know. but who seemed friendly enough).

On Saturday we did chores and ran errands.  We had breakfast in the morning at Kerbey Lane.  Breakfast was good, but the cafe's computers were down, and the waitstaff seemed borderline panicked about having to write down orders and add up bills with a calculator.  You would have thought that they were resorting to cooking by candlelight over campfires.  It was kind of hilarious.  Maybe those people gained a new level of respect for people who used to wait tables in the 1980s.  Probably not...

Saturday night we watched UT play against OSU over at Tyran and Jamie's house.  It was fun.  Mom and Dad were there, as well as Jamie, Ryan, Nicole, Matt, and Juan.  Matt and Nicole brought some tasty chicken chili, and Amy made some artichoke/spinach dip.  I brought a veggie tray.  The game was good, too!  UT not only won, but looked fairly dominant.  Nice to pick up that win, given that our next game is against on Thanksgiving against a fairly formidable TCU.

Sunday was cold and dreary.  We got some chores and errands done (including a trip to the mall, where the Christmas decorations were up, Santa was taking orders from the good kids, and Christmas songs were blaring through the PA system). 
I played some guitar for a while (in lieu of cancelled band practice), and then watched Walking Dead while Amy did some reading.

That was it!
It's been busy!  Hope everyone is doing okay!



 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Update; Ryann's Wedding; Jean and Greg Visit

Hey! 
The weekend went by in a fun, crazy blur.
Friday night was a little more subdued.  We came home, exercised, got some pizza, and watched 1987's Overboard, starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.  Watching Overboard, it occurred to me that people in 2014 take things waaaayyyy more seriously than people did back in the 80's.  Overboard is essentially a wacky, lighthearted movie about a man who kidnaps a disabled woman (an amnesiac with a head injury) and turns her into a slave (she's incredibly wealthy, but he tricks her into thinking she's the wife and mother in his working class, hard luck family).  All of this because she owes him $600.
The movie is fun and goofy and harmless- and yet I'm sure that audiences (and especially critics) today would lose their sh*t if a modern comedy were released with a plot involving the abduction of a woman who was tricked into becoming some sort of indentured servant housewife.
But you know what?  It's funny!  Because it's absurd!!!
Modern comedy has lost something, and I think part of it comes from our inability to joyfully embrace the ridiculous.

On Saturday we got up and ran some errands and did a few chores.  Amy's parents are here for a visit this week, and they arrived in the afternoon.  We chatted with them for a little while, got some exercise, and then got ready to go to a wedding for one of my friends and coworkers, Ryann.

Ryann and her fiancee, Jorge, got married at Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd over off Windsor Road.  Their reception was at the Driskill Hotel.  It was a black tie wedding, so I wore a tuxedo and Amy wore a sort of formal black dress.  A number of people from my office were in attendance.
We had a really good time!  The wedding was an extremely tasteful, classy affair.  Good food, music, flowers, drinks, and decor.  Ryann and Jorge looked great.  Everyone enjoyed themselves.  We felt grateful to have been invited.

(this was sort of a candid shot, taken by Judge George)

(Me and Dan)
(just a typical Saturday night)

(Amy and I at the church.  Amy looked beautiful!)

(it's a monument to marital bliss- disguised as a cake)

(Ryann, Allison, and Brandy, with Greg and George
in the background)

After the wedding we went over to the condo that Jean and Greg are renting during their visit.  We hung out with them for a little while.  Amy gave them the details on the wedding.  Then we headed home and went to bed!
On Sunday we got up and went to meet Jean and Greg at Maria's for breakfast tacos.  Afterward we went over to our house and did some chores.  Greg and I took a ride over to Home Depot and picked up some hardware so we could hang a few racks that Amy had bought.  I the afternoon I went on a bike ride.  The weather was perfect.  I rode downtown, past Fun Fun Fun Fest, and then rode back home.
In the evening we (Jean, Greg, Amy, and I) joined my parents, Ryan, and Jamie for dinner at Steiner Ranch Steakhouse.  We had a drink and some hors d'oeouvres at my parents house, and then we carpooled over there together.
It was a very nice meal.  Nice food, drinks, and company.
Thanks to Mom and Dad for taking us out for dinner!

And that was the weekend.  Very nice, but over way too fast.
Congrats to Ryann and Jorge!  Best wishes to them as they launch off into marriage!