New Year, New Opportunity

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Happy New Year! I know that I’ve been a little behind on posting, but, hopefully, this year will bring new opportunities that will motivate me to do my best–including managing this here blog. On the first day back to school (Monday, January 2), I gave my kiddos a pledge to fill out entitled, “New Year, New Opportunity.” They had to give themselves a final grade goal and three ways to capture that goal. They signed and dated it, and I plan on returning them to their owners sometime in May, our final month together. I also gave the “you-have-a-second-chance” speech for those who failed, came barely close to passing, or could have definitely done better all-around. Yep, I’m that teacher. Ha! However, as I gave them the speech, I could not help but think how I should push myself to do the same. The end grade does, after all, matter. Here’s to a new year and a new opportunity to improve!

In celebration of New Year’s Eve, Erik & I took the newly acquired family van and our ol’ canoe that didn’t make it for the first journey to Austin out to Town Lake. We dropped in at Redbud Park and paddled all the way out to the South First bridge just south of downtown. It was a gorgeous 75 degrees on December 31, 2011! I felt so inspired watching the wildlife, people, and landscape, surrounding me. I think this little excursion into nature may become a tradition for us. Here are some photos:

New White and Ol' Canoe Pal

After the trip, we were famished. So, we decided to treat ourselves to seafood. Eh-hem, a crab boil at The Boiling Pot on the infamous Sixth Street. We had dungeness crab, shrimp, corn, potatoes, and sausage. It wasn’t Louisiana good, but it was close enough! On to getting prepped for the night’s festivities at some new friends’ place, the theme was Roaring ’20s! We had a lot of fun celebrating with the Austin skyline at our reach with champagne and sparklers and fabulous people at our side! I finally got to show-off my Urban sale find; this wool grey dress was perfect!

Happy New Year!

I hate resolutions. I feel as though they set you up for failure. So, I don’t really do them. Instead, I think of what I’d like to do more/less before each new year. For example, I’d like to do even MORE in Austin (and weigh less, but who doesn’t? I’m not going to hamper on the cliche topic). To begin doing more, Erik & I visited the Zilker Botanical Gardens. Although Texas has suffered an incredible drought this past summer and the weather has taken guise as a psycho, the gardens were still incredible! I could not believe how expansive they were and varied. They’re located right off Barton Springs Road, just a few miles from downtown. So pretty! I’d encourage you to visit when you get the chance–even this month! Here are some photos of our canoe trip and the gardens:

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We’ve also enjoyed great eateries like Chuy’s and the oh-my-yes! Salt Lick BBQ… At Chuy’s, I opted for the healthy and filling Chicken Lite option, which included a chalupa and a taco. So yummy (even though it was a bit messy!). At the Salt Lick, I chose the 3-meat (sausage, brisket, ribs) meal with potato salad, cole slaw, and baked beans. Comparable to Carolina-style? Maybe. It was mostly just different, but a heavenly different. I fasted for the entire day in preparation for the larger-than-life meal. I even made room for peach/blackberry cobbler with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream (and shared with the table). I will be dreaming for days about the smoky, tender meat parts. It definitely lives up to its reputation here. If you visit, you MUST stop there! You will not be disappointed, even if you call yourself a Carolina-BBQ snob (as I do). Oops! 😉 Hey, I’m still improving, and I have a whole year to do so! 😉 Enjoy your every day this 2012. What do you wish to improve about yourself?

-STIT

Chuy’s!

Closing Time, 2011.

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It is now Day 7 of work vacation, and it’s lovely!

We got in from Groves yesterday evening where we had a great time with new family and friends! I think all I did whilst gone was eat. I know; I’m disturbed, too. The menus were enormous and elaborate, and the cooks: elegant! I’m now in serious diet & exercise mode. Today, I slept in and met Erik at Wahoo’s Fish Taco Bar. I treated myself to a *healthy* grilled whitefish bowl (the small size) with black beans and brown rice with a water and lime. I highly recommend this place for lunch or dinner. It really hit the spot and didn’t leave me begging for mercy in the ladies’ room! (Fast tangent: I’ve recently been revisited by a hateful case of acid reflux, and my relationship with food has been less than friendly. I’ve been watching everything I eat very closely.)

After lunch, I headed across the street to Hudson’s Sausage Co. and purchased four links of pork & venison sausage and ground wild boar breakfast sausage. I can’t wait to try! If you have any recipe ideas for these unfamiliar items, please comment below! Next, I worked out, ran a few errands, and giggled at some Portlandia episodes on Netflix. I really enjoyed this one: Put a Bird On It. I may or may not have snoozed a short while in the later part of the afternoon. Vacationing is so tiring! After 5 o’clock, I met Erik over at Black Sheep Lodge for MexiCAN Monday (all Mexican canned beers are $2 and all tequila is $2 off). We split a burger, and I ordered a side salad to go with, instead of fries. After some football watching and shuffleboarding, we headed out. I stopped into Target to grab some more holiday cards and found some cute navy blue sweater tights(!). Erik went to Best Buy to grab MW3, which he is currently playing. Boring. Boring. Boring. Well, I hope to get out and do some solo exploring tomorrow. On Thursday, I will be getting a custom designer facial and a 30-minute Swedish massage at Viva! 🙂 Erik’s Christmas gift to me! I’m SUPER EXCITED! This spa visit will be my first (and hopefully not last).

Apologies for a less-entertaining post. Hopefully, tomorrow will bring more entertainment! I hope that you all are recovering from your holiday feasts and are taking time to relax and appreciate this time of year! I’m already starting to think about what 2012 could bring… I’ve got my heart set on one of these:

G’night, y’all!

Hello, Christmas Vacation!

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It is now Day 2 of my Christmas vacation, and what am I doing? Still grading narratives! But, I only have 26 (out of 130) more to go! I see the light, and, well, the colored lights of our tiny Christmas tree:

Oh, Christmas tree! Oh, Christmas tree!

It’s nice having lunch with my husband every day and placing faces to all the names of his co-workers. Today, we had lunch over at Central Market and shopped at Whole Earth Provision Co. (a place similar to REI or Mast General for all you Carolina folk!). I’ve finally finished all of my Christmas shopping! After lunch and shopping, I picked up some necessities from Randall’s (our closest grocery store): coffee, chicken legs, razors, and a Creme Brulee Latee from the housed Starbucks. I bought the chicken to make a curried chicken and potato one-pot dish because I already had ALL the other ingredients. Don’t you love when things work out like that?

Here’s what it looks like and the recipe:

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Curried Chicken and Potato

1 package of chicken legs (5 for under $3)

1 cup of frozen peas

1-2 cups of fresh baby spinach

Maybe 8 fingerling potatoes (what I had, but 1-2 Yukon golds would probably work), cubed

1 onion, cubed

4 cloves of garlic

2 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon of Patak (mild paste with coriander and cumin)

The Process:

Step 1: Brown chicken in pot. Salt and pepper. Take chicken out.

Step 2: Put in onion and garlic with Patak paste. Let cook until fragrant.

Step 3: Add broth and simmer.

Step 4: Add all seasonings.

Step 5: Add potatoes and chicken.

Step 6: After about 15-20 minutes, add spinach and peas.

Step 7: Wait another 10-15 minutes. Let cool, and enjoy with white or brown rice! 🙂

It’s pretty delicious. If you’re not into Indian seasonings and would like an even milder flavor, cut the seasonings in half.

I’m hoping to catch the new Sherlock Holmes flick tomorrow and maybe go on a long walk or run in the park. I hit the gym for the first time in awhile tonight and have a lot of catching up to do! Hopefully, I’ll lose weight instead of gain, this holiday season. Good night, y’all! Let me know if you try out the recipe and what you think!

Q: How are you spending your holidays?

-ST

 

McKinney Falls State Park

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Last Saturday, I needed nature. Badly. So, I suggested that we’d visit McKinney Falls State Park. Why? 1) It’s about 20 minutes from our apartment and 2) It has natural things.

We geared up and gathered the necessities: water, sandwich, snacks, backpack, and coffee (Starbucks’ Creme Brulee Latte to be exact–oh, thank you, ‘Bucks!). When we arrived, the park attendant told us that we were in luck because they were having a Holiday Twilight Hike that evening. Fun! So, we decided to hike (or walk) on different trails around the place for about 2-2 1/2 hours before the hike began at dusk (5:30pm). Unfortunately, the falls were nothing impressive, but, still the creek was beautifully nestled between limestone rock slabs and deeply-rooted cedar and evergreen trees. There were blue birds, finches, a family of ducks, and a heron within view. I loved smelling the freshness of the surrounding greens after a good, light rain. On a side note, the limestone ground was very strange to me. I had never gallivanted on so much rock before; it was like tromping on Mercury! As I viewed the upper and lower falls of Onion Creek, I missed the upper and lower falls of Linville, which made me miss Appalachia, which then made me miss my North Carolina home. Ugh. Stop thinking, Trina! Just breathe and enjoy!

Erik and I really needed that walk. It was so refreshing! Oh, and, I learned two things from our Twilight Hike: 1) I do not want to have children anytime soon and 2) hot chocolate, made by our Park Rangers, is the best! 🙂

Enjoy our photos!

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Lately, I’ve been busy buying last-minute Christmas gifts, grading personal narratives (only ~60 more to go!), and giving finals to my kids. I hope they do well! I’m looking forward to wrapping this week up at school, so that I can begin to enjoy the luxury of being a teacher and having the next two full weeks off! Merry Christmas to me! Oh, and look at these quiches that I prepared for our last grade-level meeting of the year: the closest to the camera is a bacon, spinach, cheddar cheese one, and the farthest is a broccoli, scallion/onion mix, and cheddar cheese.

QUICHE!

Over the break, I plan on doing some at-home projects, visiting Fredericksburg (a German town about an hour away), and exercising outdoors. With mild temperatures (60s/70s), it won’t be hard to do! Erik and I leave for Groves, TX, next Thursday, where we’ll meet his cousins, aunts, parents, and sister. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone! Happy Holidays to you! Always take the time to treat yo’ self (and, I guess, others during this season of giving…)!

Good night, y’all!

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble in Groves, TX!

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Happy belated Turkey Day, folks!

As you put the finishing touches to your Christmas tree, bake sweet treats, and get your holiday groove on with Pandora Christmas radio, take a moment to reflect on the good in your life. This post brought to you by: a Thanksgiving holiday with new family near a new home in Texas.

Because of the traveling and constant grading and planning, I haven’t had any breathing time–let alone blogging time–to update everyone on our first Thanksgiving in armadillo country. Erik and I traveled to Groves/Port Arthur, TX, to gobble down some goodness with his cousins, Roxie & Ronnie, Granny Fontenot, and Tante Tina. The following timeline will give you a feel of how things went down:

4:30 a.m., Thursday (Thanksgiving Day): Woke from the dead.

5:00 a.m.: Hit the wide open Texas road (mostly to eliminate any possible traffic issues, namely, near Houston).

7:30 a.m.: Called Roxie to let her know that we were in Houston–she was surprised but excited.

9:00 a.m.: Pulled into the Broussard driveway, not a minute passed nine o’clock. Proceeded to eat breakfast (I was starving!) and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. And, then, football (of course!). We didn’t have the Turkey feast on this day, so we managed to lounge, converse, and enjoy one another’s company!

11:00 a.m.-ish: Granny and Ben arrive. Tina followed soon thereafter. Things get hazy from this point, mostly because I was sleepy and too caffeinated for my own good. But, good times were had!

9:00 a.m., Friday: Get into Turkey Day mode. Begin warming delicious foods.

1:00 p.m.: DIG IN! I ate: Baked AND Friday Turkey, Pork Roast, Rice Dressing, Cornbread Dressing, Green Beans, Sweet Potato Casserole, Cranberry Sauce, Waldorf Salad, and rolls. For dessert, I brought my Granny’s made-from-scratch Raisin & Pecan Pound Cake, and others made, Cherry Pie, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, and Blueberry Cheescake-y Pie. Bon apetito!

2:00 p.m.: Slug time. The rest of the evening we played games like Scattergories and Dominoes and watched more football. 🙂

8:00 a.m., Saturday: We took a day trip to Galveston Island and actually rode a car ferry across the sound. It was mostly rainy, but it was still really interesting to visit a beach in Texas. Basically, there were no real surprises. Same beach community that I’m used to visiting in the Carolinas. The most interesting info tidbit: Galveston was severely damaged by Hurricane Ike a few years ago. The damage was so extensive that it cleared out all beach homes (all except ~20 houses) and most of the aftermath was still strewn across the fields on the sides of the road. Because of this clearing of land, some private investors have even set up oil drills right on the beach sand! I’m not so sure how that affects the beach environment, but I don’t think it’s good. Anyway, Galveston is a quaint beach town with a lively group of denizens and tourists. Not trashy like Daytona or Myrtle. There’s also great seafood, we ate at Fish Tales and got the Crab Cake Sandwich with fries. We made it home by dinnertime and devoured on more Turkey Day leftovers. So good!

6:00 a.m., Sunday: We headed back to Austin. Ate some “kolaches” at a gas station paired German bakery. By the way, “ko-la-sh-es” is pronounced by Texans as “ko-la-chee-s.” Ha! Whatevs.

When we got back home, it was 10:00 a.m. and we both quickly realized that it’s pretty awesome waking up early on Sunday. Normally, we sleep until 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. but, when you wake up at 6:00 a.m., it’s almost as though you’ve doubled your Sunday day. Needless to say, we got a great deal accomplished and got to bed at a decent hour.

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So, there’s how we spent our first Turkey Day in Texas! Enjoy the photos! We had a great time visiting with what has become our closest relatives (used to be the farthest away)! I’m looking forward to the opportunity of celebrating future holidays with new family! How did you Thanksgiving go? Any good recipes for Turkey Day leftovers that you want to share? Comment below!

Have a great rest of the week! I am busy winding down the year with my seventh grade lovelies! Here’s to only nine more days of school before the holiday break!

So totally grateful,

Small Thing

Mason, TX

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Hello there!

The weekend before last, a co-worker of mine (and her fiance) invited Erik and me to a little retreat with friends to Mason, TX. Sounds like a  typical Texan town, and you may be correct in that regard. Mason is about 2-2 1/2 hours northwest of Austin (google it!) and is smack dab in the middle of true Hill Country Texas. The hills here remind me of little mountains–they’re nothing like the hills of the Carolinas, but they sure are mesmerizing.

We stayed out on a ranch property where there was plenty of land to run and play in as well as the Llano River to admire and kayak through. Erik vanished like a magician about 10 minutes upon arrival to grab a kayak and reconnect with Mother Nature. The land was beautiful–unlike any other climate I’ve ever visited. Well, take that back, it was very Spanish to me while simultaneously being very American, er, Texan. Dry, hot, and little green vegetation. Consequently, my sister was snowboarding in Boone on this fine summer’s (I mean, fall?) day. (Oh, Boone, how I miss thee and you’re snowy mountain tops!)

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During our retreat, we indulged ourselves in several fun group games like Scattergories, Set, Kubb, and Sardines. Kubb, a “Viking” game, is very entertaining and addictive. It reminds me of chess, cornhole, and redneck golf–all rolled into one. Check it out: KUBB.  In addition, Sardines was played for maybe three hours straight Saturday night. If you (aren’t cool) and don’t know the deal, yo: Sardines is a hide-and-seek-ish game where when you find the “it” person, you must hide closely beside them and remain quiet until the rest of the group filters in. By the way, the game is played completely in the dark, so you probably want to put away the breakables. It’s pretty hilarious hearing the last one banging around and talking to him/herself, trying to figure out where in the world everyone else has disappeared to. You hear a lot of, “Guys, this isn’t funny, anymore” or “Where the–has everybody gone?” Ha-ha! Fun times.

We made veggie lasagna on Saturday evening and woke up to egg-in-a-hole and coffee for breakfast on Sunday, courtesy of my co-worker’s fiance. Of course, I was like the second of ten or so to wake up in the a.m., so I took myself on a nice, quiet kayaking trip on the Llano River for about an hour and enjoyed the wildlife, water, and land. It was serenity and tranquility at its finest. I saw cows, donkeys, ducks, turtles, and catfish. Hooray, nature!

After cleaning from the aftermath of Sardines and lasagna, we all loaded up and went into the grand town of Mason for gorditas at a local Mexican restaurant. I had THE BEST GORDITA OF MY LIFE there–although it did take awhile to get our food–but it was worth it. Oh, how I love thee Mason for your gorditas saborosas! Afterwards, we bid our farewells and parted ways. Erik and I took a lap around the town square and peered into shops that were open (most were closed because of Sunday, the day of rest). Take note of photos in the slideshow above.

Overall, the trip to Mason was much-needed and much-appreciated. The days have gotten longer, and my patience with middle schoolers seems to be wearing thin as the holidays near. May you take moments between now and the end of our upcoming holiday, Thanksgiving, to observe the things and people that you’re grateful for. I am thankful for my supportive husband, loving family, and new and old friendships that continue to blossom daily. I am grateful for the comfort that nature gives in trying times. Sometimes, a short walk outdoors can clear the mind of all the mess that goes on up there. Of late, I have found myself getting caught up in the stress and overwhelming expectations that are accompanied by my profession as a teacher. And, I can tell you, it’s just not worth it. Continue to observe the many graces of your life, and I’ll do so on my end of things, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! Erik and I will be heading to Port Arthur/Groves, TX, for Turkey Day with his cousins, grandma, aunt, etc. We’ll also be visiting Galveston for the first time! No worries–I’ll let you know all the details upon return! 🙂  Eat lots of really good things!

Remembering the Alamo in San Antone

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It wasn’t coincidental that I heard Patsy Cline crooning these words last week before our day trip to San Antonio:

“Deep within my heart lies a melody,
A song of old San Antone.
Where in dreams I live with a memory,
Beneath the stars, all alone.

Well it was there I found, beside the Alamo,
Enchantments strange as the blue up above.
For that moonlit pass, that only he would know,
Still hears my broken song of love.”

What sweet lyrics to get you in the mood for a historical trip! We got up, grabbed some breakfast tacos (our regular weekend b-fast now), and headed down I-35 to San Antonio for a day with an agenda. First, we toured the Alamo (duh!). It was pretty amazing. I love visiting places rich in history. It reminds you of how much bigger, deeper, the world is around you. We’re only one part of it all. Before I walk down hippie lane, let’s talk about this small but impressive fort. I’d forgotten what this structure meant to Texas and our history. Basically, these brave men from a slew of different states (including SC & NC, holla!) held their ground for days just to prove that they weren’t willing to give up their ground. William B. Travis, a young man from South Carolina, was the Texas commander stationed at the Alamo. He studied law and acquired land from Stephen F. Austin here. The battle royale all went down on March 6, 1936–old. It’s pretty neat seeing how one of the states I call home (SC) had a hand in this Texas business. Believe it or not, I came out of that tour feeling more connected and comfortable to this new land that I hang my hat… err, purse.

After we remembered the Alamo, we began our stroll downtown. As we walked, we passed the tourist traps i.e. Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not, et al. Immediately, I thought Myrtle Beach land. But, it’s definitely not. We found the River Walk. Gasp! It was not what I expected it to be, and it was even better! We did the loop to scope out our lunch options and to explore. San Antonio is what I’d equate as a mini-Venice or something. The river taxis were my favorite, and I waved to every. single. one. Because of Erik’s trap, we ended up in Rainforest Cafe. Yes, that ultra-commercial place that’s about the “customer experience” and wayyy over-priced. That one. I wasn’t too happy about it. But, I ordered a oversized Mai Tai and a small grilled chicken caesar salad and became content with it all. I actually enjoyed the “rainstorm” that occurred every 20 minutes and the robotic pandas that fake-chomped on fake-grass in the corner behind our table. Whatevs.

Time to get out of this place. Next, I made the executive decision to find the Spanish Governor’s House and the Market Center where the Museum of Art is located. The Spanish Governor’s House reminded me of Charleston, except without the humidity. The building is small but quaint. Workers were busying themselves with cleaning after a day wedding and prepping for an evening one. I did think about staying and pretending to be a guest. I’ll admit that to you all.

The Museum of Art was free on this particular Saturday! (Win!) This museum is a Smithsonian affiliate and displays beautiful pieces of Spanish art. My favorite galleries included the Day of the Dead and Revolucion! works. Hm… so time for another snack and drink, right? Sure! We found La Margarita (a Mexican restaurant that had too many people of staff–we kept a count because it was so ridiculous). The chalkboard sign seduced us with “Oysters on the 1/2 Shell.” Done. Oh, and lovely margaritas, too? Double-done. The oysters were tasty with the tart margarita.

We sauntered into the square, meandering our way through the vendor tents and stages. At the end of the market square, we found the farmer’s market, which was NOT the typical farmer’s market, but, basically, an indoor merchant market. We enjoyed browsing the goods from Mexico (and, I guess, America?). Fun Day of the Dead things. Fun leather bags. Fun traditional wear. Fun everything. There was even a kids’ folklorico dance troupe putting on a show for the public (or their parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles). Entertainment, yes! We went outside the building to listen to some mariachi-style music, and I rode a child’s mechanical bull. They had a height limit, but it was cool with those guys if it was cool with me, so I gave it a go. I’ll post a link to the video feed later. I’m as graceful as a swan!

It was around this time that we realized that we had a lengthy walk back to our parking space, so we decided to start heading out. The sights, sounds, and overall culture of people has a completely different feel from Austin but was really intriguing! We shall visit again soon! (It’s only about an hour and a half away from us.) Enjoy the photos!

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I will post about more new places that we’ve visited, including good ol’ Mason, TX, a beautiful small town in the middle of hill country where we stayed at a friend’s parent’s house on the Llano River. Be ready!

I am winding down classwork before the much-needed long Thanksgiving holiday. My students did pretty well on their CBA (Curriculum-Based Assessment) so I’m on Cloud 9 right now. Girls’ basketball has also started up, and we had our first home game tonight. The girls lost 6-12. There’s middle school for ya. Bless their hearts! I hope that you are enjoying your life–seizing the day and accepting everything that is offered to you. Words, sounds, actions–all of it is so good when it comes to living it.

Adulthood

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Dear lovely, wonderful Reader!

I know, I know! It’s been awhile. Adulthood comes at you really fast after that undergraduate (and graduate) degree is handed to you. I will attempt to NOT make this a woe-is-me blog post. But, WOE IS ME! The excruciating day-in, day-out monotony of adulthood is, well, painful. The daily stresses of deadlines, lesson plans, grading, networking, professional socializing, etc. smart my brain and in the most uncomfortable manner. That’s it! What I’m getting at: adulthood is uncomfortable. I don’t like the idea that spontaneity has waved its goodbye between the hours of 6am and 6pm, Monday through Friday. I do not find it comforting that I must do things even if I do not feel motivated or have the desire to. Procrastination runs deep in my blood, and adulthood does not like it. I feel like I’ve been undergoing some crazy blood transfusion since the start of my teaching career a.k.a. the Ms. Donham part of me. Alas, I have to remind myself during these lower points of life that I (a) have a job, (b) make some sort of impact (I think?!) in the lives of at least 130 young people every day, and (c) am surrounded by really, really great people, especially the Mr. Donham of this complicated equation [P>A?]. The students that I have keep me going because they do express their gratitude and love so often and the husband that keeps me around despite my complaints adds significantly to that boost of life and adrenaline.

Lately, life has taken over and has been placed on auto-pilot. I’ve spent my days adjusting to my new school and this incredible city. We’ve had visitors from out-of-state and of the canine disposition as well. So, for the next few posts, I will be highlighting the sights and tastes seen and devoured throughout this macro-Asheville called Austin. Where shall I start…

Chuy’s, just off Barton Springs towards Zilker Park, has a deep dark, scary secret within its walls! Not really. But, they do have something that NC doesn’t! They have a FREE taco bar. Gratis! You can eat all the nachos, taco meat, beans, queso, pico de gallo, etc. between the hours of 4-7pm (I think…I’ll recheck those times)! Magnifico! Are you kidding me? Plus, happy hour boasts great tequila-induced drink specials like bountiful margaritas for $5! Whoa, mamacita!

Tonight, Erik and I went to Phil’s, a burger joint conjoined with Amy’s Ice Cream (another delish treat!). Phil’s is located on South Lamar at Barton Skyway. I got a regular ol’ burger and Erik tried the bleu cheese one. There’s something about their buns… a little sweet… like yeast buns that Mama pairs with Sunday dinner. In addition, have you ever been in that conundrum where you couldn’t decide between regular or sweet potato fries? No need to worry! Phil’s gives you both in a “mix” style side of fries. YUM! Chomp. Chomp. Yes.

I’m going to stop with those two as a teaser for what’s to come… many more things that we’ve seen, imbibed, and consumed to come!

Here’s to hump day, tomorrow!

FreeFALLing!

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Hello, dear Reader!

It is fall–my favorite time of year! 🙂 Although I have been slightly perturbed by the continual 90-degree temperatures of Austin, Texas, I have found ways to welcome this special season!

Step One: Visit Ikea. I probably should have visited Ikea years ago, but the closest store was three and a half hours away in Charlotte, NC, and I just never made it there. So last Saturday, we headed out in the morning to try and beat the traffic and were shocked and awed at its monstrosity. Ikea is a beast of a store. We spent several hours winding through the display rooms, narrowing down our choices for purchase and walked out heavy-handed with several jewels, including the Chicken Caesar Salad and Curried Lentil Soup in my belly. (By the way: there was a special running where if you ate at the Ikea cafe, then they’d deduct that food purchase from your store bill–say what?!) So, here’s a peak at what we’ve purchased:

Ikea Lamp and Armchair

TV Stand from Ikea, found in the "As-Is" Section for $130

 

New Blue Idea Cross-Hatch Duvet

Yep, things are shaping up here in the Donham residence. Thanks Ikea!

Step Two: Buy a moped. Since Erik will be starting school at UT next fall, we’ve been discussing whether or not to invest in nice road bikes or a moped. Well, moped ruled over bikes. Here’s mainly why: UT is just far enough from our apartment that Erik probably would not want to ride every day to and fro. Austin is very hilly and parking sucks, so the moped won. It’s pretty cool–I must say. I’ve already taken “el gato negro” for a spin around the block, and it really gets your adrenaline pumping. Our little guy only goes about 30-32 mph, but, once we put a longer pipe on it, it will top towards 40 mph. Sweet!

El Gato Negro

Step Three: Go to an outdoor, homegrown Shakespeare play. On Saturday, I was researching UT’s performance (Actors from the London Stage: The Tempest) found out it was sold-out, and then found a diamond in the rough: Present Company’s A Winter’s Tale at Rain Lily Farm on Shady Lane just outside I-35 near the airport. The performance is BYOB/BYOF, and it’s encouraged to picnic before the show. There’s port-o-potties and even food and drink available for purchase as well. The entire set-up is so fairytale-like and, well, cool! I wish I had pictures, but, unfortunately, I left my camera at home… 😦 If you’re in the Austin area, looking for a new adventure, go see Present Company’s show! Oh, and, bonus: it’s donations only! 🙂

Step Four: Bake pumpkin bread. Erik actually did the baking. Man, oh man, how just the taste of pumpkin in your mouth places your body and mind into a warm, autumnal state!

Step Five: Buy Yankee Candle’s fall scents like “Autumn Rain.” I don’t really need to say anything more here.

In addition to making adjustments to the seasons, we’ve been busy checking out several places around town like Red’s Front Porch and Freddie’s for washers and happy time food and beverages; Hopdoddy’s (where I had the delish Greek Burger [lamb patty] for $8!); Sprouts, a natural foods grocery store; and Azul Tequila (margaritas and apps). These estalishments were all impressive, and I recommend you to visit sometime!

I am so wiped out. I have sleepy eyes. Therefore, I am going to sleep in preparation for a busy week of middle school teaching! Interims go out this week, which means a push on grading and parent contacts! Wish me luck!

Oh, almost forgot to mention our weekend guest, Russell! Our neighbors went out of town for a wedding in Vegas, so we got to house a sweet rescued pit-bull!

RUSSELL!!!

Question: What artsy fartsy events do you participate in your community? If you haven’t, you should check ’em out! Support your local businesses!

 

 

 

 

Austin City Limits 2011

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Hello readers!

Apologies for not giving an immediate post on the wonderful happenings of ACL 2011. After leaving the festival on Sunday night with a golden glow infused by the melt-my-face-off goodness, I headed straight into “teacher mode” and felt almost as if I had passed and rebooted into the life of another very professional person–not the person I had felt like mentally or physically. ACL is everything you’ve heard and more. The three-day festival features the biggest names in the music world as well as those that you will know in a few months or years. First off, how did we happen upon ACL tickets? One word: Camelback.

On Friday evening, Erik and I ventured out to South Congress (SoCo) for some Cajun grub at The Original New Orleans PoBoy and Gumbo Shop. Delicious oyster po-boy, by the way! As we walked in exploration of SoCo evening activities, we dove into Doc’s, a normal sports bar, to watch some college pigskin thrown. After about an hour or so, ACLers began to flood in. We shared a long table with bar stools with a group and started making small talk. We found out that Coldplay was awesome as well as all of the other Friday performers. We also learned that one of the guys worked directly for Camelback, ACL’s main sponsor this year. We were chatting with his brother who was pretty enthusiastic to talk with us, especially once he heard that we were newbie Austinites. So, as the conversation droned on, the brother slipped us two three-day passes to ACL ever so discreetly. WHAT!? At first, we thought they were just showing off their ticket stubs. Then, we saw that the ticket stubs were, in fact, in tact. Next, our thoughts wandered more, and we thought they were pretty ridiculous fakes. Five minutes must have transpired before we realized that we just found our golden ticket inside the Wonka’s chocolate bar that was Doc’s. Instantly, celebrations ensued. Why us? What did we say? Do? Who cares! Erik and I would be joining the 75,000+ festival goers the very next morning and couldn’t be more thrilled to don our wide-brimmed hats, 50+ sunscreen, and hot, hot summer clothes!  🙂  So much luck, here.

OK, fast forward to Saturday morning. We woke up early got geared and took the Capital Metro bus to the Barton Springs intersection. We picked up some lunch at Sandy’s hamburgers and followed the masses to our mecca: Zilker Park. Going to a music festival is a strange, religious-like experience. Everyone is all-smiles, ready to listen to great music with great people and maybe enjoy some cold beverages whilst basking in the sun and the glory of intricately-designed tunes. The first performer we saw was Aloe Blacc & the Grand Scheme, a thirty-something black man that kept on keeping on! His catchy “I Need a Dollar” had my booty-shakin’ and feet-tappin’! What a voice and show to start el sabado! Next, we saw J. Roddy Walston & the Business. We had heard tons of great things from some friends from Raleigh about this classic rock band, and, after hearing them, we became instant fans. J. Roddy has such stage presence and breathes new life into old rock. He sang a Little Richard song like none other, and I’m sure that Lil’ Richie would have been proud. Good stuff, here. At this point, we realized that we should eat a snack as for the next few hours we would not have time to eat in between the shows that we could not miss, so we hit the food court, which was conveniently loaded with local fave food trailers! At 4:00pm, we headed back to the Bud Light stage for… Alison Krauss & Union Station! So beautiful! It was raining during her spot, but she didn’t seem to mind. We didn’t either. After all, Austinites hadn’t seen rain for nearly four months. 🙂 Her voice was pristine; I found myself tearing up throughout her solos. Bonus: Union Station played “Man of Constant Sorrow,” too! At this point, I’m feeling very lucky and happy with all things happening before my very own eyes. After Ms. Krauss, we headed to the Google+ stage to join thousands of high schoolers, twenty-somethings, and oldies alike to immerse ourselves into the techno-perfect beats of Skrillex. The show was amazing, and the best part was definitely the small child that was picked up by Skrillex himself to throw a couple of dance moves and run the DJ box for a number or two. Awesome! After Skrillex, we headed back to Bud Light for Cee Lo. I think “I’m crazy” for Cee Loafter that one. He was so typical (of himself), which made his show pretty satisfying despite the beating, bright sun overhead. Following Cee Lo, we headed to catch the first half of TV on the Radio and then the second half of Chromeo. Both bands are incredible; I only wish that we could have heard more music from both! Then, to top off this insane experience, we saw Saturday night’s headliner: Stevie Wonder!!! I still to this day cannot believe I was so close to Mr. Wonder himself and heard him sing LIVE! Amazing. Simply, amazing.

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As we left Zilker, I was in some sort of a daze. I couldn’t comprehend how what happened just happened. And, there was still Sunday!

On Sunday, we headed into the festival with our upstairs neighbors. The first show we caught was The Head & the Heart, a bluegrassy/folky group with a great sound that invited all music-lovers into what seemed like an invitation-only party, but totally wasn’t–thank goodness! I am getting their latest album this week… Because Erik and I were so pooped from Saturday, we went under the “Football Showing” tent and relaxed. I actually took a nap underneath the crammed tent next to strangers who were at both my sides. Ha! Whatever. I felt refreshed afterwards! We then listened to the opening for AWOLNATION. Unfortunately, I was not very impressed; however, I must say that they have a huge following. The stage grounds were packed! We needed agua, so we went to the Camelback filling station to reload. While we were in line, we heard Chiddy Bang, the rapper, and were really happy about it. He was great! Of course, we couldn’t miss the next Colombian mega-band, Bomba Estereo! I am in love with this band. We heard them live last year in Raleigh at Raleigh Wide Open on the Cherry Bomb stage. Their music is high-energy and just doesn’t quit. They work so hard to make their show an experience like none other, and, frankly, they succeed ten-fold. If you haven’t heard them yet, do it! You won’t have any regrets. I listen to them during work-outs and grading; it really gets you pumped and motivated to accomplish things! The next show we caught was Manu Chao la Ventura whom reminded me of a Mexican Jack Johnson/Dave Matthews/Rock Star, and I say this with utmost respect. The man is incredibly talented! Another good, new listen for me. Next, we saw EMPIRE OF THE SUN, another fave band! The show was everything I hoped it would be. EOTS stays true to his music and the theatrics of his music videos. I still cannot believe that happened. I’m so glad it did. Finally, the night ended with Arcade Fire. We were completely exhausted after sweating our clothes out to Bomba and Empire that we just stayed back and laid out on our beach towels. The sound wasn’t great, but Arcade Fire is anyway so it didn’t matter.

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And, that was it. That was Austin City Limits. All that goodness crammed into a two-day one-of-a-kind experience. It was like tasting Milk & Honey and then having it taken away…until next year that is.

I don’t know why or how these awesome things are happening to Erik & I, but I am feeling truly blessed. Until next year, ACL! 🙂

Next blog: Red’s Porch, Pecan Street Festival, Free Museum Day, and Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder, Carolina-style!

Question: What was the best music experience you’ve ever had?