Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring break!

I'm on spring break from school this week, so I've been kicking back, enjoying reading a little fiction, and, oh yeah, writing several books. I feel bad because I promised I'd post a couple of pictures of last weekend earlier in the week, and then time got away from me. It's been raining pretty much all week though (spring break! woohoo!), so it's nice to remember the weekend when it was sunny and clear. 

I wanted to do something fun Saturday during the time I'd normally be in class, so we decided to go on a hike to somewhere we hadn't been before. That took us a little north and west of town to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. It's a 72 square mile preserve designed to protect the habitat of several endangered bird species. Part of it is open to the public for hiking though, so hike we did!
The hike we went on claimed to be a vigorous uphill hike, but elevation gains were small. 
Playing around with the selfie stick Sam got for Christmas. 
Walking through the creek. 
On Sunday, I had no class to enjoy skipping, but we still took advantage of the nice day. It was the annual kite festival in Zilker Park, which was fun to go to because last year it was too cold to really enjoy. H.E.B. was giving out free, cheap kites that were really pretty impossible to fly, but we enjoyed watching other people fly their real kites.

Sam claimed he had never flown a kite before. I think he's just forgotten his childhood. 

Kites aplenty!

After the kite festival we were volunteering at Illuminate, a walk to raise money for Safe Place, as well as awareness about domestic and sexual violence. We manned the tshirt booth, but I did get a couple of pictures of the walk.

Heading out to the hill. You can't really tell because it wasn't dark enough, but everyone was carrying lighted balloons to stake to the hill as part of the event. 
Better shot of the hill. 
Alas, this upcoming weekend is the last weekend of spring break, but I hope to enjoy this one just as thoroughly!

Monday, February 29, 2016

A visitor visits

We had a special guest in town this weekend: Sam's mom! We hadn't thought she'd be able to come down and visit us in Austin, so it was an exciting, and last minute, visit. While most of our time was taken up with necessary, but not terribly exciting things, we did manage to show her around town a little bit. Here are just a couple of photos from her short visit:

We took her out to La Fonda San Miguel which is a wonderful interior Mexican restaurant in Austin. The restaurant itself is beautiful with quite a gallery of eclectic art. The entrance also has this beautiful old wooden door, which is what we were trying to photograph in this picture, but it didn't come out at all. We also almost got dinged by the door when we tried to photograph us a bit closer, but that's one of the hazards of standing in front of a door (no matter how lovely it is) at a busy restaurant.  Still, it was an enjoyable and delicious, if poorly photographed, outing!
I insisted that we get a picture of Sam and his mom in front of our house as proof of their visit. The front porch seemed like a fitting place because they enjoyed sitting out there while I was in my Saturday morning class. We put a couple of chairs on the porch because it looked silly without something there, but to the best of my recollection we'd never actually used them.

I guess those two pictures and variations of them are the only ones I got. Which is a shame because I also encountered what had to be have been a 35 lb cat this weekend, and not recording that feels like a missed opportunity now. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Growth

I've become a rather spotty updater as of late. I'm sorry to say I don't see that changing any time soon. The masters program I started is intended for people going to work full time, but at the same time is busy enough that I can't balance full time work, reading and classwork, and rigorous blog maintenance. I will still update about exciting stuff like trips, but no guarantees on weekly updates about daily life.

That is with the exception of today which is both about everyday life and exciting things. Specifically, my fall garden has finally born vegetables. Edible ones. I mean I've been eating arugula and mixed greens for a while, but now there's also broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage. I need to document this exciting moment.
Arugula, greens, and in the back bed some brussel sprouts. I've yet to get anything edible from the spouts, but the plants themselves are thriving. 
My beautiful yellow cauliflower! It looks small here, but the plant is really big. It was slightly smaller than the cauliflower heads I buy at the grocery store, but now much. 

I have yet to eat the cabbage because I have no idea when to harvest it. Obviously something else has been eating it though and has not been dissuaded by organic pesticide. 
One of several broccoli heads. You can also see a red cabbage plant in the background. Those have not done so well. 
Thanks for any one out there still checking this thing! I promise to not abandon it entirely. I'll at least update every time my phone hits critical mass on cat photos, and I need to unload some.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A couple of pictures from 2016...and also 2015

Since it's mid-January, it's possibly too late to post pictures from Christmas/our time in New York, but I'm going to post a couple anyway. To make this post more timely, I'll also include a couple from my birthday this weekend. Yep, I'm 30 now, which feels remarkably like 29. Sam baked me an excellent cherry pie (actually two!) for the occasion, something he has only ever done twice since I've known him, so it did feel rather special. Otherwise, I just enjoyed having the day off, went for a nice hike, had a happy hour and then a dinner party with friends, and just generally kicked back.

At any rate, here are a few photos from both the beginning of the year and the end of last year:

Our attempts at getting tickets to Hamilton were foiled by all these people who were also trying to get tickets to Hamilton. Honestly, after talking to some of them, many of them definitely wanted it more than us.  
In Central Park. One of our engagement photos was taken in this tunnel. It looked a lot better than this does. 
We saw a few of our favorite New Jerseyans while we were in town!
Me at Pedernales Falls State Park. January 9 never felt nearly this good on the East Coast.  
More Pedernales Falls. It was actually crazy windy, but otherwise a beautiful day. 
Sam came with me naturally but none of our photos together came out. (He's still too embarrassed to take his selfie stick out of the house.)
I think 30 is going to be pretty great. I've learned a lot in the last decade. Except for Calculus and the soundtrack to Garden State which I've spent my 20s quietly forgetting. A friend made me a birthday card with a message in it she got from some birthday book she owns. She said that January 9 is the "day of ambition." I'm taking it as not exactly a mantra, but hopefully a sign of things to come. I've got a few things I'm excited about on the horizon, if not a fully fledged five-year plan, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the future's going go.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A short visit to Copenhagen

Sam and I are back in Austin after what feels like quite a while away (at least as measured in how abject and needy Dinah seemed by our arrival). I'll post a bit later about Christmas in New Jersey and New York (spoiler: we did not get tickets to Hamilton). Sandwiched in between our time on the East Coast, we took a short trip to Copenhagen. We were able to get some cheap flights, due to our usual strategy of going places at a time of year when no one else wants to. Copenhagen in winter is a bit light on daylight and chilly during the day, although really no worse than New York. While I got tired of the guide book constantly talking about how great it was to sit in the parks or cafe decks on a sunny day, overall, I'd say Scandinavia in the dead of winter has its own quiet charm. 

Nyhavn. Hans Christen Andersen lived in at least three of these houses. 
 When we first arrived, we were immediately committed to going to all the museums. Our reasons for trying to pack it all in were two fold. 1) We'd bought a 48-hour museum card that got us in anywhere, and 2) Everything would be closed starting on New Year's Eve day. I think we made an impressive showing of our 48-hour museum marathon though; we managed to fit in: the National Museum of Denmark, the Statens Museum for Kunst (Danish and European art museum), Christiansborg Palace, Rosenborg Castle, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Tivoli Gardens, and the Round Tower observatory. Here's a few pictures from some of those places:
The view from the top of the Round Tower. It used to be an observatory used by Tycho Brahe, but today it's only occasionally used by amateur astronomers. 
Inside the ballroom of Christiansborg Palace. It's still used for parliamentary functions. Note the awesome tapestries and Stanley Kubrick-esque flooring. Also, a rare photo with Sam in it. 
At the Louisana, there was a room where you could place polka dots anywhere you thought a colored polka dot was needed. It would have been very exciting to place the first one, probably. 
The Louisiana is a wonderful museum in part because of its beautiful sculpture garden overlooking the ocean. We would have enjoyed it even more if it hadn't been quite so cold and windy by the seaside. 
 Aside from museums and royal residences, our main goals for our vacation, as with any vacation, were to eat great quantities of food. Our AirBnB hosts were kind enough to point us in the direction of a great indoor food market that reminded me of the Ferry Building in San Francisco or Pike Place in Seattle. If we hadn't been traveling light, I most certainly would have returned with some expensive olive oil. Our food odysseys also took us to a microbrewery, a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat herring buffet, and most notably to a 12-course meal at a fancy restaurant, Kokkeriet.

Knowing that Copenhagen was a foodie city but otherwise having only heard of Noma (which closed permanently while we were there and thus we were unable to come close to getting a reservation), I'd done some research to find a nice splurge place. This particular restaurant follows the Noma methodology of using locally grown and foraged ingredients and redesigning traditional Danish food. Better still on Tuesdays they offered their 12-course tasting menu for the price of the 7-course one. That said, we still were talked into several wine choices that elevated the price from special occasion expensive to more-than-the-rent-of-my-first-apartment expensive, but I consider it worth it for the experience. The chefs would come out and serenely whisper a litany of ingredients that we would try to piece back together once we'd actually tried the dish. The only thing I know for sure that we ate is duck.

One of the things in this picture is celery root. That's about the best I can do. 
 We celebrated New Years in the city which more than made up for the fact that everything was closed before and after. After dinner at a tapas place that won our business by virtue of having seats open without reservations, we headed to the square in front of city hall.  We were told that people gather there to watch the Tivoli Gardens fireworks. The fireworks over Tivoli were nice, but I think the coolest thing about New Years Eve in Copenhagen is that everyone everywhere was just shooting off their own fireworks in the streets. Apparently it was all legal as we saw cops drive right by some kids shooting bottle rockets by a church and not stop. The sounds reverberated off the stone streets and buildings making it feel a bit like you were constantly under attack. Overall, not a bad way to ring in 2016 at all.
It looks like we're the only people here, but we were not. We stood clear of the main crowd after seeing an errant fireball head their way. 

New Year's Day swans.
As you know Sam was also on this trip, so these are only a fraction of the total photos taken. I've put a bunch more here (which again are only a small portion of the total number he took) for those who are interested in a more in depth look at our travels. Hope everyone is having a wonderful 2016 so far!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hamliton (not the musical)

I'd been wanting to visit Hamilton Pool since moving to Austin, but hadn't gotten around to it. A large part of that is because it's a popular swimming spot, but was closed to swimming all summer due to flood and later because of high bacteria levels. Nevertheless, biologically toxic waters notwithstanding, it's also a pretty spot, so we decided it was worth a little visit, just to walk around. Here's a few photos:
Sam got a selfie stick from his office Christmas part white elephant exchange, but we were too embarrassed to use it in public. 
I told Sam we should just tell people we're that couple, because if so this would be a fantastic picture of us. 
My attempt at take a panoramic shot from under the rock overhang. It's pretty cool, but I feel like you lose the scale of it. 
One more without the random couple. You can make out people behind the waterfall, to get a sense of the size of this place. 

Unrelated to Hamilton Pool, but we're going to try for the lottery to see Hamilton the musical when we're in New York. Seems unlikely since it's sold out until June and I've heard close to 1,000 people have been known to show up to the lottery. I've had good luck in the past though, so hopefully I'll have a post about Hamilton the musical soon.

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Things have been a bit hectic around here with holiday mayhem added to the normal why-did-I-take-on-3-books-this-season mayhem and a dash of annoying master's program application stuff. All of which is to say, I'm impressed with myself for staying with my (admittedly worse than before) track record of posting every other week. I'd like to think that now that I'm nearing the end of writing and applications (1 book + 1 application to go!) that it means that I'll have more time to blog. Then I remembered that theoretically I will actually be spending time taking classes next month, so we'll see how it goes.

At any rate, setting aside the boring GRE taking and book writing (unless you want to learn more about the Neolithic Revolution, as I am now a fount of information), holiday parties and get togethers have been aplenty. We were also excited to decorate the house this year. Hard to believe this time last year we were just seeing it for the first time and it was still several ugly paint choices away from being our home! We decorated the inside with the usual assortment of Santas plus a few additional ones that were donated to us this year (thanks, Barrie, for letting us raid your Santa stash!). While in our small apartments, the numbers of Santas seemed to fill the space quite nicely, in the house, I feel like the decorating seems almost a little too subtle. Nevertheless, I resisted the urge to buy more things. I'm liking the fact that we still have empty storage spaces right now and am in no hurry to fill them with Santas. Our two holiday decorating purchases were a wreath for the door and some twinkle lights. A modest display, but they turned out nicely.
You can't really appreciate the wreath or the twinkling, but I think the fact that our house is already painted in Christmas colors adds to the effect. 
In addition, to decorating, we've been doing a fair amount of eating and drinking. I've now attended a gingerbread house building party, a cookie swap, a Hanukkah brunch, and a holiday dinner party. It's been filling to say the least, and we're still only gearing up for the true onslaught of food that is Christmas proper (or any meal really) at Sam's parent's house. 

You may remember I made this bread last year. But this time I made it with 6 points instead of 8, to be more on theme for the Hanukkah brunch. 
Our finished house. For the record, he did the side with the candy canes. 
To theoretically counteract the eating, I signed up for the Trail of Lights fun run. Actually, the reason I signed up was there was Groupon deal for it back in September, and I figured it would be a less crowded way of seeing the Trail of Lights. Turns out, that's not the case. There were 6,000 people in the fun run, so it was just as crowded and involved just as much walking as normal Trail of Lights attendance. Our first clue that this 2 mile run was not at all competitive (other than the fact that it was called a "fun run" I guess) was when one man was carrying a plate of fried potatoes at the starting line. One friend, who was more dedicated to running led us in dodging and weaving through the crowd during the first mile, but at some point we gave up. We at least traveled the whole 2 mile course though, so some exercise did happen. 

During a more competitive run, we would not have had time to stop and take photos. 

Now I'm done with my holiday shopping and many of my other assorted tasks and I'm looking forward to enjoying a little rest and relaxation before the next batch of to-dos.