Monday, August 22, 2016

Oh Canada!

I'm afraid this blog may be succumbing to the grad school curse. (This is real affliction that affects blogs when their owners start putting their writing energy elsewhere. It sounds slightly better than just saying I gave up.) I can't guarantee I'll keep recording things as they happen on a weekly basis, but I do promise to make exceptions for really cool things like our recent trip to Canada. As many of you know, I spent the last week in Banff National Park in Alberta with family. I have a million photos, but I'm culling it to a reasonable number.

For those concerned, Carolyn and Aileen are only pretending to stumble on the thin and rocky precipice that was the last quarter mile of this hike. 
Our longest hike on the trip was from Lake Louise to the Plain of Six Glaciers. My guidebook said it would take 90 minutes each way, but the guide was clearly meant for more motivated hikers than we were because it took us pretty much all day. The hike provided beautiful views of the lake for the first mile or so before snaking up the mountain. After a couple of miles we were rewarded with food and beverage at a rustic tea house. There's no electricity and all the ingredients are brought in periodically by horses, and then everything's baked on a wooden stove. In addition to a great tea selection, they had some excellent apple cake. I would definitely recommend it, should you find yourself on this particular mountain in the Canadian Rockies. After our little tea break, we continued on to where the six glaciers were visible (see photo above). We heard and saw a big ice fall as some came crashing off the glacier. A beautiful site, and I hope those glaciers survive the century.

I like this photo because it looks like Sam has a dog on his head. 
In the photo above you can see the Fairmont Lake Louise in the background of the lake. It was very cold and dipping our feet in was plenty. There's a polar bear swim every year where everyone jumps in (I think in honor of Canada Day?). Had it occurred while we were there, I don't think I would have participated. At 39 degrees year round, this glacial lake makes Barton Springs feel like bath water.

Banff from above
We were staying in the town of Banff within the park. National parks in the U.S. (at least the ones I've been to) don't have towns within them, so this was a new experience. There are actually a ton of shops and restaurants (some of them quite good). There are also a lot of sights to see quite near Banff. From our rental house, we could walk to the trailheads of several hikes, including up Tunnel Mountain. That's the one visible in the center. It looks quite shrimpy there, but it did take about an hour to climb up. Banff is also home to a wonderful hot spring and gondola that you can take up Sulphur Mountain. The gondola takes you to an observation deck where the above photo was taken. For those playing Pokemon Go, there's also apparently a Pokemon gym up at the top of Sulphur Mountain.

Vermillion Lakes, on the outskirts of Banff. 
Downtown Banff on our morning walk to the bakery. My mom's shirt matched the flowers perfectly 

Our home for the week. It has an indoor lap pool, which seems important to mention. 

Moraine Lake 
The above photo shows the glacially fed Moraine Lake. It's an even more brilliant blue than this photo can really show. You can also see from the clouds on the mountain that this was our one rainy day, which meant we skipped our original plan of canoeing the lake. We still took a lovely hike here though. I definitely recommend this song while looking at photos of this lake.

Two of my favorite hikers in Johnston Canyon.
Our final hike was apparently one of the most popular in the park. You can hike into Johnston Canyon along metal walkways attached to the side of the canyon. Leads to some great views of the Bow River and some waterfalls (none of which are seen in the photos I'm posting, actually). It's nicely paved which makes it more of a walk than a hike, especially since you're dodging strollers at times.

Ground squirrel at Consolation Lake
We didn't see a ton of wildlife while we were there, which in the case of grizzly bears was perhaps for the best. We did see one elk in town and a couple of pika. The one thing we saw in abundance was ground squirrels. There's apparently a $25,000 fine (Canadian dollars, but still!) for feeding the animals, but clearly some people ignore those because (as evidenced by the photo above, courtesy of Aileen), these guys were not shy. 

Castle Mountain. We did not attempt to climb this. 
Overall, it was a wonderful trip. In addition to hiking, we went horseback riding, enjoyed high tea at the chateau-like Fairmont Banff Springs, soaked up the mild weather, and caught up on our Canadian Olympic coverage. Already looking forward to the next family vacation!

Monday, July 4, 2016

The last two weeks

Happy 4th of July, readers! I've been lucky the last two weekends to get to hang out with some of my favorite family members. Last weekend my aunt, and loyal reader, Barrie came to see us in Austin. It was mercifully not so hot, so we were able to go on a decent hike on Barton Creek without melting. We also tried a Thai place in South Austin that was spicy enough to lead to some melting on my part, although it was also delicious. 
I think we meant to photograph the food as well, but at least we got a photo of Barrie at the Thai place. 
On Saturday, we did some farmer's market peach buying and then (because it still wasn't brutally hot), some yard work. Thanks to Barrie's excellent hedge cutting instincts, we dramatically improved our house's curb appeal. Turns out there were little bushes under the large, overgrown bush, the whole time! Now we just need to update our siding and we'll have the cutest house on the block and can start judging our neighbors with impunity. Thanks, again for all your help, Barrie! You're welcome back in Austin anytime.

The finished product, in as much as landscaping is ever really "finished."
This weekend, Sam and I traveled to Houston and were put to work ourselves. I know many readers will be interested to see some photos of my parent's new house. We hung a lot of pictures this weekend, and it's really starting to come together. Our greatest triumph was the dining room photo gallery:
The Safari Room, as it will henceforth be called, and the architect of the installation. The artist herself is of course not pictured. 
This didn't come out so well, but those plates were a chore to hang, or so it sounded like from my vantage point of reading on the couch while Sam and my mom fussed with them. If the lighting were better, you would see that they look awesome. 
The living room with two longhorns staring longingly out the window at the open range (golf course) just out of reach. 
The last couple of weeks have certainly instilled in me that houseguests are best when plied with wine and food and put to work on house projects. Hope everyone else had an equally productive and happy independence day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Taste the rainbow

It was our turn to host our monthly wine club last weekend. Truth be told, as much as we maintain the pretense of caring about wine, it's really become more of a dinner club where we just happen to get drunk. The focus is 100% on the food. We normally pick a region, country, or cuisine style as a theme, but this time I got a little more conceptual. Inspired by a book Sam gave me (specifically this one), the theme for each course was a color. With so much fresh summer produce right now, it didn't seem like too much of a challenge. Plus it finally gave me a chance to buy the purple cauliflower I've always been curious about. 

It seems fitting that I include some photos of our escapades:

Orange: pimento cheese dip and monkey gland cocktails to start

Green: salad with greens avocado, shaved asparagus, and cucumber

Purple: Blue corn tacos with chorizo, purple vegetables, and a purple potato based salsa. Yellow: corn salad

Most of our colorful menu was all natural colors, but we certainly weren't going to say no to these rainbow cupcakes
As a bonus, here's the purple vegetables before roasting. Aren't the beautiful? 
 Definitely a very tasty and fun meal! I might spring the extra $1 for purple cauliflower again sometime.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Gulf

Last weekend, we took a little drive south and east to the Port Aransas/Corpus Christi area. I had been craving a beach trip for a while, and since at that point I hadn't just read an article about someone getting flesh eating bacteria from swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, it seemed like a swell way to spend a weekend. We left on Friday night after work which meant hitting a bit of traffic and just barely making it to the Dairy Queen before it closed (apparently freeway exit Dairy Queens that are the only thing to eat for miles close at 8 pm on weeknights), but otherwise it was an uneventful, and actually rather scenic drive. 
The sunset as viewed from the Dairy Queen. Some days I think about getting an Instagram, but then I remember I already have a blog.
Prior to the trip, there had been a 90% chance of rain forecasted for the weekend. We vowed to bring martini fixings and to suck it up and make the best of it. As it turned out, it didn't even rain once (although we did experience some actually rather pleasant cloud cover). Now I feel vindicated in my usual lack of trust in and ignoring of the weather app. We didn't spend too much time at the beach, which is how I managed to not get sunburned despite negligent reapplication of sunblock, but I did take a few photos. These are from the random public beach near Mustang Island State Park.

Under the fishing pier. Don't know if people were having any luck, but there were tons of fish jumping in the waves.
The beach we went to was nice enough and pleasantly uncrowded, although that could also be because some people are more scared of foreboding weather than our crew. There were decent waves to make attempts at body surfing, and the sand wasn't outrageously hot. That coupled with the lack of jellyfish made it an instant win over Galveston.

Those skies look ominous, but it was all for show. 
Sam kicking back with his monster margarita at a restaurant by our AirBnB.
All in all, it was a fun trip. I didn't quite get my fill of the beach, so I might try to go back later in the summer. Flesh eating bacteria be damned!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

3 Years

This past Memorial Day weekend, we did a great deal of errand running and moving. The good news is Sam's parents have made a lot of process. The house is really looking like a home. I think they're starting to settle in, although it's done nothing but rain since they've been here, so at some point they may think we lied to them about Austin having a sunny, arid climate. They arrived on Sam and my anniversary, which was an enjoyable gift! We did sneak away to have dinner the next night at a restaurant and apiary out in hill country. I wanted to post a couple of pictures because, after all, we will only have one three year wedding anniversary. Posterity demands we record these things.

Flowers Sam got me. The rest opened up over time. 

Sam at Apiary with his amuse bouche. 

Our first course
I included the last photo because the presentation of my scallops was really interesting. You can't really tell in the picture, but it was served on a large shell on top of a bed of kelp-like seaweed and little rocks. I was in the process of remarking on how funny I found it, when the waitress rushed over to make sure I knew not to eat the seaweed and rocks. I assured her, I understood they were intended to be decorative, but she said it happens all the time. The seaweed, I can understand, I guess, even though it was not the kind typically served as a garnish, but pebbles?

At any rate, the last three years seem to have just flown by! It seems like just yesterday I was getting ready to head to Queens Farm to meet up with Sam and feed some llamas. Although in that time, we've moved across the country and bought a house, so I suppose some things have changed. Looking forward to the years ahead and all the new joys and changes to come!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Camping while the sun shines

It rained all last week and seems likely to rain this week as well, but we did have a brief respite this weekend, which was lucky because we had a camping trip that had been planned for eons. Sam and I are more day hikers than campers, but I do enjoy the part where you get to sit around doing nothing and eating lots of junk food. The seasoned campers in our group even adjusted the camping location based on those of us who preferred electricity to power up our air mattresses. Perhaps we'll rough it a bit more next time, but I've got to say: I really didn't miss sleeping on the ground. 

Anyway, here's a few photos from camping:
I lied, this one isn't from camping. This is from a Hall and Oates concert. It was supposed to pour rain that night, but instead the weather was perfect! A theme for this post. 
I saw a thing on Pinterest about making cinnamon rolls in hollowed out oranges. It was the main thing I was looking forward to about camping. It took about a half hour longer than the Internet said, but it turned out delicious. 

Approximately half of the campers in our group and a third of the dogs. 

Sunset over Lake Georgetown

This was taken on our walk to find the fishing dock. The dock was floating but the stairs out to it were underwater due to the aforementioned heavy rains. Luckily, we all brought bathing suits, so we made it out to the dock. No fish were caught, but it was a nice place to consume chips and beer. 
This week the forecast is more rain, I believe. In exciting news, Sam's parents arrive this week. We're planning to spend much of our Memorial Day weekend helping them get settled in their new place.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


So...I haven't updated since spring break. I guess the semester really took hold their for a bit. Luckily, I'm now officially done with classes. This means I have less of an excuse not to update. That said, I don't really have a lot to write about (yet). I've been mostly spending my weekends writing papers and books. Since spring break I have managed a trip to Houston for my mom's birthday and a trip to Arlington just for a visit. However, I went through my phone and found very few photos of these or any other events. Once I get out of the blogging mindset, I forget about documenting things full stop. Nevertheless, these are the best four photos I found:

Birthday cake! It was a pretty big cake, but something about the angle of this shot makes it look enormous. 

Dinah, in repose. Naturally, when I stop documenting everything else, I never quit with the cat photos. How can I when she's always looking so cute? 

My first year growing plants from seed. So far they're doing pretty well, and I should have my first batch of tomatoes soon. Luckily the stinkbugs haven't seemed to have found us this year. 

Started the cucumbers a little late, but we'll see how it goes
Anyway, now that I'm back to blogging and doing non-boring, non-school things, I hope to have more to write about/take photos of soon! Until then...