23 September 2012

Summing up our Supersonic Summer

Joshua's Mustang Island friend
Tasting the saltiness of a steady seabreeze

Petty's first time at the beach, very wary of the waves

Summer 2012 is officially over, and it was so action-packed, so transitional for us that it was almost dizzying.  It began with my future as a French/journalism teacher with Hays CISD uncertain and Joshua working hard in North Austin as an assistant business office director, then ended with both of us landing new positions-for me, a high school social studies position with Austin ISD and, for Mr. Fallin, a promotion to business office director at a San Antonio facility.  After lots of applications, resume updates, interviews, and anxiety over our futures, we are excited and striving to keep this positive momentum going. 

June started with me trying to unwind from the stress that comes with the end of the school year, and trying to force myself to study for the French certification exam that I attempted one last time on Bastille Day, July 14.  Joshua and I squeezed in a few nights out doing Austin things, enjoying the summer weather before the inevitable intense Texas heat arrived in full force.  We took Geppetto to Blues on the Green, which he thoroughly enjoyed.  Kelly and JR decked him and Ona out in glow stick collars once the sun set, and they got a lot of attention for their rave-ready cuteness.

Johnny's guitar has seen lots of playtime
At the end of the month, Joshua's mom arrived for her first visit to Austin.  We love showing off our city, and the longer we are here, the more places we discover.  We introduced Tammie to iconic places like Kerbey Lane (known for their queso, pancakes, and 24/7 hours), Bouldin Creek Cafe, Amy's Ice Cream, the Hey, Cupcake trailer, The Oasis on Lake Travis, and a blues show with some local legends at The Saxon Pub.  It was incredibly hot while she was here, though we did get one overcast day to lounge at the pool while Joshua toiled away at the office.  Petty and the kitties loved having someone else around to give them treats and attention, of course, and I enjoyed the distraction from the job search.
Time for breakfast!

Tammie's sister Pattie and her husband Tim joined us for the 4th and we discovered a few new Austin gems.  The Mesquite Grill satisfied Tim's taste for some BBQ, and the recommendation from Guy Ferreri on Triple D was spot on, the screen door and monster bowls of chilli were authentic Texas.  The tip for Matt's El Rancho led us to some great Tex-Mex, including french fries with onions and jalapenos.  (As a new Texan, I'm realizing that just about anything is good with a little pepper kick).  Pattie and Tammie loved the fun shops on South Congress, and we satisfied our sweet tooth at the Big Top Candy Shop.
Crazy Californians with their crazy nephew

Cooling off in the shade oft he Ginger Man

After drinks at the Ginger Man and Iron Cactus, we tried to check out the bats, but they seemed to be waiting for the festivities to die down before making their appearance, so we left downtown for the new hot part of town, the east side.  A favorite local musician of ours, Dale Watson, who reminds me of a unique combination of Elvis Costello and Johnny Cash, was crooning while girls dressed like 1950s style pin-up models in cowboy boots danced the two step on a dance floor decorated with holiday lights and Joshua and JR took advantage of the Lonestar/whiskey combo special.  It was the best people watching of the whole day, we could have stayed all night taking in the crazy scene, but our stomachs were growling and it was way past bed time.  On the way home, we stopped at Kerbey Lane for a late night meal to end our perfect 4th and squeeze in a few more calories to our tally (a visit to Austin can definitely add a few pounds, to both the tour guides and the travelers. :)
Dale Watson rocking it at The Sahara on the 4th of July

JR and JD
The Fallin crew enjoy their Spotted Cows on the lawn
The next day Mr. and Mrs. Fallin, along with a certain Pomeranian, left for another cross-country road trip in good old Elliewood.  After leaving Geppetto with Grandma and Grandpa in McFarland, we met up with friends and family for a fun-filled weekend of Dave Matthews Band at Alpine Valley. We saw two amazing concerts, and spent our days catching up with Joshua's sister and brother, and their Illinois crew-Danielle and Kenny, Kristen and Allen, Jamie and Mickey, and Chooch.  Brian met up with us on the lawn on Saturday night for his first Alpine experience.  
Tailgating on the second night

Alpine Valley Saturday show

Joshua with the girls at Mareva's

Connor chatting up Grandma over mac'n cheese
We finished off Joshua's first real Midwest visit since our move with two days hanging out with my family and Peggy, Nina and their kids.  Joshua hit it off with our one year old nephew Grant from the first moment they met and was holding him and carrying him around before I could even get out of the car (it took me days to build up that much trust with the little guy).  Olivia and Connor showed Uncle Joshua their newly decorated rooms, and their awesome playroom.

The drive back to Austin included an overnight stop in Illinois for dinner at Mareva and Joey's.  Baby Cecelia seemed to be very comfortable in Joshua's arms, and Julia showed us how big she's gotten since we last saw her.  The next night, we stayed with Tammie and Bob in Eddyville, and visited with Josh's Grandpa and Grandma.  Joshua got to itch his trigger finger, target shooting with Bob.  Geppetto stayed behind for his summer retreat in the woods of Kentucky with Delilah.
Shootin' cans

Catching up with Grandma

Nina and Mateya got silly with us
On Saturday, July 14th, though I longed to be back in Wisconsin at Connor's construction-themed 3rd birthday party, I was at Texas State University in San Marcos with dozens of other hopeful foreign language teachers, testing in a room for 5 grueling hours.  The next morning, I was on a plane to Madison, trying to put my nagging thoughts about each answer to rest once and for all.

My two weeks in Wisconsin were packed, I tried to see as much of my friends and family as possible.  I spent a few nights in Verona with the Lavins, sleeping in Olivia's pinktastic bedroom, and surprising Connor when he awoke--"Why are you still here?" The whole Peters/Lavin clad had a memorable day on Green Lake on the one day of my trip that saw clouds and temps below 80, hey, at least we didn't need to worry about burning.  

Angel face
Captain Olivia keeps warm in her frog towel
All smiles when we are together on the Lake :)

Connor helps Grant with opening their birthday gifts
Grandpa with a happy Captain Connor

I took a drive up to Oshkosh for the chance to catch up with Molly, Holly and Kristen, and their adorable kids, including Baby Sydney.  Nina brightened me up with a fabulous new 'do, and I had a fun afternoon with Mike in 'Tosa before meeting Tanya and Matt and Pierce (and even Ben and Julie for a bit) at Tyranena Brewery in Lake Mills for a picnic and a Kissers show.  Tanya, Peggy and I met up in Johnson Creek for an extended happy hour and serious gabfest.  I also squeezed in dinner with Holly and Lisa, a few visits with my Grandparents, and some Food Network with Mom and Dad. Phew!
Leaving Anaala with my new 'do

Grant's pool at Gma and Gpa's
Dinner at Riley's Pub in  Green Lake after a day on the water
Connor keeping us smiling on Grandma's birthday
To make the journey back to ATX, I had our newly purchased Dodge Caliber hatch back, filled with stuff (all good stuff, that I was grateful for, still more stuff just makes me dread our next move).  After hitting a nasty storm in Southern Illinois, I finally arrived back at the Trumbull Compound in Eddyville to rest before the long second leg of my first solo cross-country drive, and to pick up Geppetto from his retreat with Grandma and Grandpa.  Turns out that he had become buddies with Bob while I was away, and had gained a little belly and the nickname 'Meatball'.  Day 2 of driving went well with my audiobook from Grandpa and Grandma Peters (Killing Lincoln) and Geppetto reminding me to stop every few hours.  We were in Dallas by 10 pm, and just had to keep going to get home, arriving back in South Austin by bar time.

Hanging out with Kate and Baby G
Grant is always ready to go
The best thing out of all that 'stuff' in the car, as far as Joshua was concerned, was his bass amp, which had been sitting in Dan and Nina's garage for two years.  He immediately brought it up and plugged in his guitar, I was happy to see him so giddy and into his music groove.  I jumped back into my own groove once I was rested up from my journey, searching for the perfect teaching job, or just any secondary social studies job within a reasonable commute.  Soon I was deep in applications, letters of intent and internet searches.  It was exhausting, and I struggled to keep my anxieties from taking over.

Petty's summer trim

Joshua sporting his bday gift-a Grateful Red T
Next came a fun weekend celebrating Joshua's birthday, including dinner at the first Thai restaurant we ever tried in Austin, and another Dale Watson show, this time on the roof of Uncle Billy's overlooking Lake Travis, with JR and Kelly.

The following day, I dropped Joshua off at the airport for his week in Denver for the annual Emeritus conference.  He got to experience the mile high elevation, as well as a Rocky's game and some microbrews while rubbing shoulders with the higher ups.

Kelly and I at Uncle Billy's
Dale and the boys between us and the sunset over Lake Travis

Texas' oldest Live Oak tree, Goose Island State Park

After countless sleepless nights, and a rollercoaster of emotions, I was able to end my contract with my former district and accept an offer from Crockett High School in South Austin, teaching Government and Sociology (and serving as yearbook advisor, can't escape that one).  My commute has gone from an average of 30 minutes to 10 each way, and I am teaching subjects that I have a strong background in through UW and Norwich to students who are young adults rather than adolescents.  It was for those reasons that I had to jump on the position...even after learning that I had passed my French certification exam (c'est incroyable!).

The AISD school year kicked off with the Superintendent giving the Convocation from Crockett to the entire district, beginning with this fun video parody of "Call Me Maybe", starring some of my new students:


Outside our apartment, sporting Joshua's new hat

We decided to celebrate with a weekend camping trip to the Gulf before school started, and after I finished my two weeks of training with my new district and campus.  Goose Island State Park gave us a taste of the sea and our first night sleeping in Elliewood since moving to the Lonestar State.  It seemed romantic and spontaneous, and we enjoyed a picnic of Josh's delicious barbeque seitan at sunset overlooking the bay, but then we remembered what sleeping in the Element in hot, sticky weather is like, with Geppetto panting next to our heads.  By 10am we were back in Austin, though we did stop to see the 1000+ year old Live Oak tree on our way off the island.

Our summer ended with one last road trip, over Labor Day weekend to surprise Tammie for her birthday.  Jeremy and Heather arrived the night before, and she was really excited to see us all.  We hunkered down in the thunderstorms left behind by Hurricane Isaac, played Wii, watched movies, and cooked yummy comfort food, perfect weekend.
Petty taking in the sites

The iconic Caldwell County Courthouse  in Lockhart

Petty found the shade at our Goose Island campsite
Gulf shores
Yesterday marked the first day of autumn, football is scheduling our weekends (Go Pack go! and C'mon Crockett Cougars!), and the weather is finally cooling with high temps in the 80s-90s.  We have been getting back into the rhythms of the school year, and both of us are struggling to stay ahead of our demanding workloads.  Taking advantage of this city helps us escape, like last Thursday night's Chris Robinson Band show at Antone's, an amazing rock concert in a packed downtown bar.  Austin City Limits music festival is just a month away as well, but next on our horizon is our big move across the hall to a 2 bedroom unit, can't wait to spread out and have room for guests!

07 June 2012

Springtime Resurgence-Recap

2012 has proved to be a very exciting year of growth for both Joshua and myself.  Steady income, challenging work environments, and a sprinkle of weekend travel and concert-going has invigorated us after over a year of stress and uncertainty.  This year began with our first holiday season away from other family since 2003/2004 when we were living in Wellington, NZ.  It was a little lonely, but we were so tired from hectic work schedules, it was a relief to know that we had a few days with no plans.  Working together in the kitchen, me taking the role of sous chef to Head Chef Joshua, we created a Christmas feast to gorge on for a few days.

The next day, we drove to San Antonio to visit Mission San Jose, one of the four San Antonio Missions, run by the National Park Service.  It is still an active Catholic parish church, with many of its parishioners descendants of the Native Americans who built it and the surrounding missions in the early 1700s after Spanish monks, sponsored by the monarchy, braved the Texas frontier.  We tried to capture some of the architectural beauty still visible today with our cameras.

For New Year's Eve, we hit up one of Austin's oldest, most legendary clubs, Antone's, to see Gary Clark Jr.  He is a local guitar player/singer/song writer who is starting to get serious national attention.  We took a bus downtown, I wore my sequined skirt, and we had a New Year's to remember.  The show was great, including the opening blues singers, and so were the margaritas, seriously amazing bartenders.  Somehow, we got lucky after stumbling around for a while, and found a cab to see us home safely not much after bar time.  
Happy New Year's!

In January, we spent a work week apart while Joshua was in San Diego getting in training for a new software program at his company.  He got to see the Pacific again and even got out one night to see the Alabama Shakes, a band we had vainly waited in line to see just a week before in Austin.  I was busy trying to pull together the yearbook after a nearly wasted first semester, and I was going strong with student council too, selling Val-O-Grams and preparing for our Lock In.  
View from our balcony at Tween Waters

February brought a much-needed get away to Captiva Island, Florida for my cousin Dominick's wedding.  It was a fun-filled long weekend, catching up with family we hadn't seen since together since our own nuptials and trying to keep up with them all at the bar. :)  The resort allowed us to do our own thing, catch up poolside or at the breakfast buffet, all with the beautiful weather and sea breeze maintaining a completely relaxing environment.  I definitely recommend a destination wedding to anyone who may be considering it...your guests who attend will love you for planning a fabulous vacation.

Mr. and Mrs. Dominick Marino
We clean up pretty nice after a night at The Crow's Nest!

That Florida escape helped me get through another month until spring break.  Mom and Dad were in San Antonio the same week, so we took them out to a real cowboy bar in the tiny old town of Gruene to see Texas legend Joe Ely.  Gruene Hall has the original wooden floor and signs and wood-burning stove to make you feel you have stepped back in time.
Joe Ely rocks the stage under the Texas flag

Best find in San Antonio-yummy, homestyle, organic vegan food at The Green-gotta love a restaurant with their own garden!

View from our River Walk hotel
I stayed with Mom and Dad a few more days in San Antonio, and Mom and I shopped nearby and braved the tourist-crazy River Walk.  It was a lot of fun-we saw the bar where Teddy Roosevelt rounded up the Rough Riders, had a few great margaritas, got some new clothes, checked out cool galleries and more.  I just felt guilty days later when we learned that Mom's cold was actually pneumonia and she had been going strong with me all week, despite being terribly sick, what a trooper.

Spring break ended back in Austin for South by Southwest's music festival.  Joshua and I spent two days downtown scoping out a variety of bands at very different venues.  Friday we wandered around from Waterloo Records to Wando's to Sixth Street with some local friends showing us some new places.  It was crowded everywhere with people from all over the world, so many accents and trendy clothing and hairstyles, it could make you dizzy.  Then, we walked across the bridge to Auditorium Shores to enjoy our picnic dinner from Whole Foods and listen to The Counting Crows.  It was a fun, romantic evening, but the Crows were a dread-locked disappointment and we had walked at least five miles over the course of the day, so we headed back to our car early to rest up for Saturday.

Freshly stamped hand after getting in just before showtime
Gary Clark Jr. rocks it
Saturday we were back downtown by 10am to secure a parking spot and a place in line outside one of our favorite venues in Austin-The Mohawk.  On the line up were Gary Clark Jr, Blitzen Trapper and The Roots, among others.  Waking up early and witnessing the emptying of the porta-potties ended up all being worth it when we walked in and scored the perfect spot to take it all in-above stage left.  We camped out there all day, holding our perfect vantage point for the headlining Roots.  Although a few people tried to elbow their way in, we held our ground and saw Questlove and the Boys from spitting distance.

Questlove sporting an Austin City Limits shirt
The tuba player worked it 

Joshua scored a set list

Joshua at The Clay Pit pondering his pakora...
All dressed up

The adventures continued following our amazing spring break week.  We worked hard throughout April as I finally, after several weekends of all night work, finished the yearbook editing and Joshua clocked overtime hours at another facility.  We even put in a joint effort at the student council lock-in, working as co-chaperones for the first half of the night.  It was intense, directing a group of 50 13-15 year olds in games inside and outside, and monitoring a scavenger hunt that included Joshua hiding in dark hallways and scaring students as they searched for clues. 

For my birthday, we hit the town, dinner at The Clay Pit, a wonderful Indian restaurant, followed by drinks and people watching on Sixth Street.  JR and Kelly, Caroline and Jordan all joined us for margaritas and checking out the mayhem.  There were bachelorette parties, leftovers from Eeyore's Birthday, Spurs playing on the jumbo screen, people being over-served, live music, and more craziness, just another typical Austin weekend.                                  

After the show Joshua got this great shot with the capitol dome in the background
The next weekend, the celebration continued with a Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers concert at the Frank Erwin Center on the UT campus.  We sang and danced and rocked out, so much fun!  It had been years since our last Petty show, so we were thirsty for American Girl and Last Dance and the many other favorites that they dug out for us to enjoy,
Ready for Petty!
Wait, there's more, I'm telling you, spring is the busiest time of year in the land of triple digit summers.  Next up, Relay for Life!  After fund-raising for weeks, we raised over twice as much as last year,  $5000+ from our middle school team alone! Thanks to all who supported our team, we ended up as the 2nd highest earning team at the Buda/Kyle RFL.  Because we met our goal, our supportive principal allowed students and teachers to dye their hair unnatural colors for the final 2 weeks of school (normally against school rules).  So I went from the above look to the below look with my stylist and some violet hair coloring.  I chose violet because it would show up best on top of my current color and because Grandma Jack used to like a poem called "When I'm an old lady", which included a line about dying her hair purple and other things she would do to show that she was free.  It has been a lot of fun having purple hair, though it is slowly fading out, it looks different with the lighting or what I'm wearing, I'd keep it longer if I could get away with it.
Our WMS RFL team, or as many members as we could round up!
Relay for Life morning, violet hair and tie-dyed team shirt, check!

Relay for Life just cannot be contained indoors!

The Relay was moved indoors due to the soggy conditions of the track and field it is normally on, and thunderstorm warnings.  I didn't get the full effect, so I hope to walk again next year.  Still, it was very moving to see all the luminarias in decorated bags light up the hallways and see the students' reactions to the memorial service.  Some of them have seen the horrible truth of cancer at a very tender age and it is hard to see that pain.  At the same time, it was therapeutic to listen to their stories and share my own.  Once I began counting up the many people I have known affected by this disease, it was a little overwhelming.  It seems like the list multiplies every year...
Luminaria bag decorated for Grandma

The next day, we relaxed downtown, breakfast at Whole Foods, walking the lake trails, and touring record stores in search of a good find, which turned up in a Prince album at Waterloo Records.  Geppetto was finally feeling better after a long recovery from a back injury earlier in the year, so he got a much needed grooming, leaving him very happy, with a rainforest-scented mohawk.
The following weekend called for a road-trip, destination--Dallas!
Saturday morning, May 19, I was up and at the ACC testing center at 7:30 AM to take the Social Studies 8-12 certification exam.  It was 4.5 hrs, 130+ questions, but I felt like I knew most of them and left fairly confident.  Joshua and Geppetto picked me up at 1:00 and we headed north.  Petty guarded the hotel room while Joshua and I found the Gexa Pavillion downtown, near the Cotton Bowl arena.  Luckily for Joshua, they had a great selection of local beer, and luckily for me, there was Dave Matthew's own Dreaming Tree wine, which I really enjoyed despite normally avoiding chardonnay.  Oh right, did I mention that the reason for this road trip was to see the Dave Matthews Band tour kick-off, our first show since The Woodlands as new Texans, back in September 2010?  Well, if you haven't gathered it yet, the reasons behind our road trips are usually based on concerts, historical sites, visiting friends, or a combination thereof.
Just another violet-haired fan enjoying a little vino before the show
Dallas bed head
After an amazing show, including many of our favorite songs, including "Loving Wings" as an opener, "Save Me" and "If I Had it All", "So Damn Lucky" and a few new songs off their upcoming album, we headed back to our hotel room and 'crashed'.  :)  The next day, we hit the Spiral Diner and Bakery for their wonderful vegan breakfast, including a chocolate chip pancake appetizer, amazing tofu scramble and homemade sodas from their own fountain.  We took a few bakery goodies to go, and then drove a few miles to one of the historic Dallas landmarks we had decided to check out, Daley Plaza and the surrounding area, which made up the parade route that saw the assassination of JFK.  It was a surprisingly small, compact area: the plaza, the corner, the 6th story window of a book depository, the infamous grassy knoll (complete with its resident conspiracy theorist/historical exploiter), and a few blocks away, a poignant, simple memorial to the President, which reminded me of the Rothko chapel in its use of lines and stone to protect and send a strong message of peace and hope.
Joshua smirking at Spiral Diner
Petty and I on the "Grassy Knoll"
Joshua takes it all in
How did we top that weekend in Dallas?  ...we just added to the month the following weekend by taking a day trip out west to Fredericksburg and the heart of Hill Country.  With only a week of school left and beautiful weather beckoning, we had to get away, if only for a day.  The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, which we have decided will always be when we celebrate our anniversary, we drove west, stopping first at Pedernales State Park where we picked up our State Park pass and a little sunburn after a hike down to the falls and back, which turned out to be much more of a work out than we anticipated when we left with only a single bottle of water and no pack. It was a gorgeous view as we walked down, and we met families from around the world along the way.  We took our shoes off and enjoyed the water swirling past our feet...there hasn't been that much rain lately, so it wasn't much of a current, still no swimming allowed at the top of the falls.
Next up, we drove on to Johnson City, and then Fredericksburg, passing a dozen or so vineyards along the way.  We stopped at one that we liked the look of, and it turned out to have a great white wine we both liked the tasting of called Texas Dirty Girl, which felt appropriate after our hike.  We took a bottle, and tried one of the peach bellinis as well, made by blending white wine with fresh local peaches and ice.  We sipped our bellini outside, taking in the view of the vineyard and sounds of the country music band playing on the nearby stage.  It was a perfect afternoon, capped by a stop at a roadside farm stand for some peaches, which Joshua tuned into peach pancakes three-ways for Sunday breakfast (diced up in the batter, sliced on top of the pancakes, and infused in the syrup, I married a culinary genius!).