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!).

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