Monday, December 15, 2014


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!

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