31 December 2013

New Year's Recap Fall 2013

It is winter break again, and I am provided an opportunity to reflect over another eventful fall in Austin.  Joshua has begun a new career bringing local and natural foods to the hipster masses with Wheatsville Co-op, the only food co-operative in the great state of Texas, and is happier and healthier than ever.  They expanded to a second location in August, and Joshua took that as an opportunity to re-apply with the organization he has wanted to work with since our first day in Austin.  Now he works at both locations and has been able to see the new store become a success, while sharing perks with me including plenty of their trademark popcorn tofu, Red Rabbit donuts, and countless other treats.  We also get to experiment with the newest vegan products, and provide feedback, including some good and some not so good (soy seafood  anyone?). He is meeting new, interesting people and growing his beard out longer than any previous attempts, partially in anticipation of Heather's February visit, and partially thanks to the freedom of his new work environment.
Tough guys
Joshua was the face of Ugly Sweater Day

I am teaching government and sociology for the second year at Crockett High School in Austin, though my yearbook responsibilities have been replaced with roles as co-sponsor of both the National Honor Society, and the senior class.  During the fall semester, I filled my extra time mentoring three student interns from UT and continuing with my National Board Certification coursework.

We hosted Brian and Linda for a long weekend over Labor Day, and had a great time showing them around the city, despite the horrible heat.  Our first night together, with Sarah and Pip, we ate at Guero's, and later realized our table was across from Governors Rick Perry and Rick Scott and company.  We went on to see our first show at the Nutty Brown Cafe, and our first Monday night Dale Watson show at the Continental.
Guero's with Brian and Linda, Pip and Sarah
Cooling off at Jo's on another hot afternoon

Over the F1 weekend in October, we went downtown to check out the free music and cool cars, some pulling in to valet lanes at the big hotels, others displayed by corporate sponsors.  It turned into a wonderful last night of near summer temps, strolling around, listening to Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys, including a heartfelt La Bamba, along with many locals and many tourists, from Europe, Mexico, and South America.  It was a fun feeling, witnessing others experiencing the joys of our city for the first time, no longer seeing ourselves as visitors to Austin.  At The Ginger Man, we found a romantic spot near the outdoor patio, with a perfect view.
Los Lonely Boys

Ba Ba Bamba

Back in Big Sky Country
Thanksgiving allowed us to take 4.5 days off together, so we took our first true vacation since before we were married.  We drove west, and south, near the Rio Grande River and the border, to Big Bend National Park, where we hiked and camped for two nights with a cold, underwhelmed Geppetto.  It was absolutely incredible, we saw snow-capped peaks, tarantulas, javelinas, deer, roadrunners, and more surprising wildlife.  And we nearly saw a mountain lion, and a mama bear with cubs, when we were hiking, just a few minutes too slow.  I joined a family from France and Austin grad students in a natural spring on the banks of the Rio Grande and watched a man swim over to Mexico, just to do it.
Hiking to The Window

The Window 

Mountain Man

My private chef cooking up chili dogs

Petty is less than excited about eating outdoors, and camping in general

Even the view from the gas station is breathtaking!

Chisos Valley Hiking
It's not snow-just smooth, white rock
Making our way through the mountain pass

Nature's never ending color palette in effect

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Petty livin large in Marfa
We also camped in Terlingua Ranch, where locals walk their dogs armed with shotguns, and bars are self-service.  Big Bend Brewery of Alpine was a fun place to tour, and Joshua was happy taste-testing their multiple brews, still only available in El Paso, someday maybe Wheatsville.
Lonestars, margaritas and cowboy music on this Black Friday
We discovered funky outposts created by refugees from Dallas, Austin and the rest of civilization.  The
Volunteer Taste Tester

Beer coaster

Marfa is a city full of art, it seemed everywhere we looked was a photo waiting to be taken, it was truly unique, with amazing tacos.
Presidio County Courthouse

If you live in Marfa, are you a Marfan?

Funky auto shop turned pizza parlor

Marfa Chic

So wish this place was open

Moustache art?

Marfa Tacos, totally hit the spot

Marfa Mural
Our final night was in Fort Davis, where we treated ourselves to a hotel, and thankfully so since the temps dipped far below freezing, and we drove up into the mountains for a star-gazing party at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory.  It was an amazing experience, and we talked with people who live on the mountain and patrol the night skies all over the world.  Afterwards, we enjoyed perfect margaritas at the only bar in Jeff Davis County.

Petty had to keep warm in his fleece every morning

Camping at Terlingua Ranch

Joshua's requisite camping tools

Which way should we explore today?

Petty is unsure about these plants
The plant life in Big Bend was almost alien

There really are mountains in Texas!

On our last day, we stopped by Fort Davis, and the original drug store, where I ordered my first chocolate Dr. Pepper fountain soda, and Joshua got his first cowboy work shirt.  Despite the crazy busy roads, I would definitely plan a Thanksgiving weekend vacation again.  It was great to have a break before the madness of the end of the semester and the coming holidays.  On the easy 6 hr drive home, we were already planning our next visit, Big Bend was exactly the escape we have been needing!
Sunrise in the Davis Mountains

Deep fried pickles, fountain sodas and one awesome shirt made this a great stop
Leaving the mountains behind

Christmas Day at our complex and the fall colors are golden
Aside from our vacation, our Christmas gift this year, was a new couch.  We have been wanting one for a long time, since the set we inherited from Joshua's mom did not allow the two of us to both lay down, and we could not have guests over comfortably.  Our new living room set up is such an improvement, we just watched the incredible Packers-Bears NFC championship game from our new couch, on our new TV, such a clear picture from such a comfy seat, loving our home even more now and excited about entertaining!
Luckily the couch cushions are just wide enough for Bartleby's girth

Joshua's mother joined us for Christmas this year, she just returned to Kentucky, after a week and a half of hanging out, eating good food, shopping, and watching movies with us.  While Josh was busy at work, we hit most of the malls in and around Austin, and she also visited the Alamo Drafthouse theater for the first time, Petty's favorite park, and various Kerbey Lane Cafe locations.  Geppetto, Loki and Bartleby loved being spoiled, and our apartment has never been so clean!
Petty has tried so hard to be a good boy

Decorating and dancing

Fredericksburg Christmas Village

Stockings are stuffed!

Petty enjoying one of his many chews (and Bartleby taking advantage of an empty dog bed).

Tonight we will ring in the New Year's at an Austin institution we have yet to visit, The Parish, to taken in the sounds of local musician Shakey Graves.  It will be a true #ATX NYE in the environment we have come to identify with and love.  In 2014, we look forward to visits from Heather, Danielle and Jeremy, as well as my parents and maybe more to help us through the challenges of the spring semester.
In the midst of ATX NYE 6th Street mayhem
New Year's Eve at The Parish

Worth braving 6th Street for Shakey Graves

Here's to a clean start in 2014!

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