July 18, 2008

It's been a while...

...since I updated our escapades. At first, I had nothing to write about. We were bums and were doing anything exciting. In the last week, several things of interest have occurred. So, let me just do a quick run through!

Last weekend, Joe and I went home to Houston to visit family and pick up the pooch (who by the way, was beside herself when I got there). Mom and I took a day trip with the Plumeria Society to visit Shangri La Botanical Gardens in Orange, TX. It was a gorgeous place, that could have been enjoyed a little more if it hadn't been so miserably hot. After a 5:30 wake-up call, and a 2 hour bus ride, our day started with some life jackets.

Life jackets at Shangri La

The first part of our official tour was on a pontoon boat. We rode down Adam's Bayou to see the great mounds of Cyprus trees growing along the water's edge. The "survivor," a Pond Cyprus that is 1,233 years old, was a highlight. It is older than the state of Texas and has survived diseases, axes and the most recent Hurricane Rita.

The Survivor

Other highlights included baby pineapple plants, green (earth-friendly) building materials, blue bottle trees, nifty green houses and giant spiders.

spider green house
bottle trees baby pineapples

On Monday, Joe and I tested out his new bike (with the help of my old one) on the trail around Lady Bird Lake. I think we rode about 4 miles - or about 45 minutes - and got some good exercise in. Joe just likes to feel the wind in his hair.

Tuesday was another interesting, and exciting, day as I finally got a job offer. I am now the Community Relations Assistant at the Capital Area Food Bank. I start on July 30 and can't wait. I will be supporting development and volunteer services. I'm sure there will be more updates on this soon.

Wednesday was a long one. I went to AWC's July Luncheon where I learned about what the San Antonio Spurs marketing team is doing with Web 2.0/social media. Cool cool. Then I went to a long, sweaty, tiring rehearsal.

Last night, we went to see the Beauty and the Beast musical at Zilker Park. Joe and I snuck a pic with a dancing napkin during intermission!

napkin

June 25, 2008

Lady Bird Lake

On Sunday, we decided to take an outdoor adventure since we both had to return to work on Monday. We debated on whether we should visit the greenbelt and take a new entrance or visit the Nature and Science Center where they have animal exhibits of local wildlife. In the end we decided it would be fun to finally walk the full trail around Lady Bird Lake.

We parked by the Long Center, walked towards Lamar and over the foot bridge and then made the loop back around. Because of construction we couldn't take the normal bridge back across, so we walked a little further to the Congress bridge. Because of more construction, Congress was closed off there and we got to stand in the middle of the bridge and snap some cool shots of the view into town.

It was terribly hot, and once again, we took our trip around 2:30, when it's scorching. Luckily we hit shady spots and we had Gypsy's portable water bowl for frequent stops. We were pooped after our walk (I think it was somewhere between 3 and 4 miles). We ended our exercise-tastic adventure with some Bill Miller BBQ. I had a baked potato and fruit salad; Joe had chopped beef sandwiches; we both had TALL glasses of sweet tea.






On Tuesday, Joe bought a bike and he has already ridden it twice. Once on the way home from buying it, and once to get Subway sandwiches. He's super excited for me to bring mine back from Houston so that we can go on excursions together.

June 15, 2008

The lights are bright on a Saturday night

If I had to create a list of top reasons why I love Joe, the contents of this post would be one bullet. Or maybe two.

Not only did he willingly venture out to the gay bars during Pride Weekend last night with me, Caleb and Stephanie, he actively participated in conversing and dancing. He was even accepting of the fact, though it was uncomfortable, that three gay men were attracted to him. And danced with him. And wanted to unbutton his shirt. And took his hat and traded it around.

The only negative aspect of the night had nothing to do with Joe. It was DAMN hot. We were already glistening before we started dancing as we had to wait in line for, oh say 25 minutes, in the 100% humidity, before setting foot into the sweltering club with no AC and just a few measly fans placed in unaccessible positions. They should have had more fans and misters. OOH misters - that would have helped A LOT.

Another highlight of the night was Stephanie making awesome fruity mojitos before we cabbed it to 4th St. Those were my drinks for the night, plus a beer earlier at Little Woodrows on Slaughter, our new favorite location. That's another post, for sure.

If it had to be put in one sentence, reason #1538 (or whatever number I'm at now) for why I heart Joe is "He is willing to actively participate in whatever he thinks will make me happy." And he does it with a smile and sometimes a really uncomfortable girly squeal.

Joe's new friends are Luiz, Scott and Fernando.


June 13, 2008

Delectable AND healthy!

I snagged this recipe from my cousin Jenn, but it is apparently a popular recipe from Weight Watchers. Joe and I love them as chocolatey snacks and my co-workers loved them when I made some for a Fun Club meeting on Monday.

1 Muffin is 180 calories, 2.5 G fat, 37 carbs, 2.5 G fiber, 2.5 G protein = 3 WW points

Ingredients:
1 Box of Devil's Food Cake Mix
1 Can of Pure Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

Mix well, and even though it's tempting to add other stuff because it is very thick, DON'T! Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray and fill. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins. It's not fatty and it has oh-so-good-for-you-everybody-needs-some fiber. :)

June 12, 2008

Out on the town

Tuesday night was a break from the ordinary. We ventured to 6th so that Joe could try karaoke out at Shakespeare's. The drink special on Tuesday is $2 Long Islands, so we each got one. Unfortunately, they were mediocre and had too much gin in them. We branched out to beer and wells, and I even got a free Sparks (beer and energy drink in one) from the waitress.

Joe was the second singer of the night and made a splash with Big Poppa by Notorious BIG. One of the Karaoke Jockeys (KJ) told him later that his performance was "hot!" and I think some of the women up front even took pictures of him while he sang. Does he have new followers?

We had to wait some time before he got to sing again, but luckily he got to perform his talents for a nice size group of CPK co-workers, who had shown up right before his second stage appearance. He swept them away with Forgot About Dre by Eminem and Dr. Dre.

Shakespeare's Karaoke Review: The KJs were ok, but did not seem to have a reliable rotation system. They did not have a projector showing the words on the big screen behind the singers, which is one of the things I enjoy about watching karaoke. I like to sing along in my head! And, it was hard to hear the singers because the music was too loud and the vocals were turned down.

Once done with that the group walked back towards 5th and Lavaca and then a few people, including Joe and I ventured in the direction of 4th street and the gay bar district. Joe is accepting and always down to try new things. Tuesday night is a pretty slow night, so we didn't stay long at either of the very empty Oilcan Harry's and Rainbow.

*It was actually Rain that we visited... I had a memory lapse and a confusion of words when I typed this post.

We concluded at some bar on Lavaca (I think) and then Caleb, Stephanie, Joe and I had our "Fourth Meal" at Jack in the Box. My late night, up till 4 am, equaled a hard early morning for the work the next day. But it was worth it!

Here's Caleb with Joe and I.

Caleb, Emily, Joe

June 8, 2008

Gypsy versus the vacuum

Today was a cleaning and straightening day while Joe was at work. When I pulled out the vacuum today, I decided to show everyone Gypsy's normal reaction to it.

video

On another note, Gypsy's favorite toy right now is her old, half-chewed rawhide. She brings it to us to throw for her.

Gypsy and rawhide

June 7, 2008

Technologically advanced

Last week Joe got ants in his pants to go to Best Buy (a dangerous place for someone with money to spend). We wandered through music and we were a little surprised at how expensive some old CDs still were, like Robert Earl Keen's "Farm Fresh Onions" - $15?! Still?! We then passed through video games looking for the Wii Fit, which I have an interest in) and then SLOWLY passed through the tempting and very colorful LCD flat screen TVS. Finally we walked into the sound system, home stereo, home theatre, whatever you want to call it area. Needless to say, we walked out with a Samsung system that included a DVD player and five speakers. Two trips out for various wires and chords, and several hours later, Joe was immersed in Xbox 360 Call of Duty 4 surround sound heaven.

However amazing the surround sound is for his video games, he could not get over the fact that his 1980-era TV just wouldn't work with the system. So, today we went to Best Buy and with the help of a Best Buy credit card, Joe made a well-thought out decision to get a Samsung 32" LCD TV. He loves it, I like it and it's pretty awesome to watch TV with surround sound. Which I am doing right now as I type this.

The only thing that would make it better is a nicer apartment with a better layout for the speakers. Their placements in the room are a little wonky.

June 5, 2008

Puppins want a treat?

Sonic is dog-friendly, and most of the time when Gypsy is in the car with me, they will offer me some dog treats (Milk Bones). Joe and I went the other day and accidentally left the bag with one and a half treats in the car.

Yesterday, we gave those treats to a homeless man with a Doberman. That dog was SO HAPPY to get real dog treats! :)

May 31, 2008

I have a love for interesting leaves

Mayfield

Yesterday was a warm one and I am hesitant about what temperatures the summer brings. But, it was a day off together, which meant we needed to go on an outing. We talked about swimming - I want to go to Deep Eddy Pool and Barton Springs sometime soon. But in the end, we decided on visiting Mayfield Nature Preserve, which was mentioned last week with our peacock picture.



We gathered Gypsy and some water and headed out. Upon arrival we discovered that dogs are not allowed - understandable in the garden area because of the peacocks. We trudged through the preserve trails for a little bit where my flipflop-feet got covered in dust and stabbed by a stick. After taking some pictures in a tree we headed home. Mayfield is still on our list of places to see, as the garden area looked really nice!



Joe in Tree

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May 28, 2008

DIY Fun

I'm always looking for ways to decorate and I prefer to do it myself ("DIM"). I have been reading DIY blogs recently and found one of today's projects at Design*Sponge. I started out with IKEA's Dalom Pedestal Table and added a bunch of patterned paper circles. It came out really well!


DIY IKEA table DIY IKEA table



My other project today involved painting and upholstering two barstools that have seen better days. They were originally in Joe's mom's kitchen and were handed down when he moved to College Station. After a sitting in the rain and mud at one his parties they were never the same.

Here's the before and after, respectively.

DIY barstool DIY IKEA table

I haven't finished covering one of the stool seats since the glue gun sticks that I bought today are too large for my glue gun. :( Oh well, I'll finish tomorrow.

Joe's only comment about these was that they look military. Thanks babe!

May 27, 2008

Updates

We haven't been anywhere new in Austin since Mt. Bonnell, but I wanted to post what's going on. We went to Houston over the weekend where Joe and I spent most of the time apart. We did get to meet up with a bunch of friends on Saturday to sing karaoke (or in my case, enjoy and cheer) at the Mezzanine Lounge. After watching the tail-end of the UFC fight (and me counting down the everlasting minutes because it was dreadfully boring) the karaoke began. The KJ even remembered Joe from times past. She said she loved him!

She did lose Joe and Andrew's second requests until the very end, but at least they both got to sing for a second time before the end of the night.

Here's a clip of Joe singing "99 Problems" by JayZ. (It's very dark and some of the lyrics are explicit)


video

We were excited to visit with a bunch of friends. Andrew just got back from Spain, Heather has been in Houston, and we haven't hung out with her since moving to Austin.

I also saw my bestest from high school, Michaela. I finally got to meet her boyfriend, as well as checking out her new apartment, which was fully of Kayla-crafty style, inspiring me to finally get going on some apartment updates. Tomorrow's project = upholstering and painting our bar stools. Crossing my fingers.

May 21, 2008

Mount Bonnell - hot, hot, hot!

We both took a day off of work (for different reasons) and made it a day of fun activities. It started with a little bit of sleeping in, which is always nice in the middle of the week. Once done with that, we hung out with some friends for a little bit, and Joe played story teller - something he does very well.

We then grabbed some Einstein Bros. and headed to Mount Bonnell. According to AustinCityGuide.com, "Austin's Mount Bonnell is one of Austin's oldest tourist attractions being documented as far back as 1850. It is the highest point within Austin City Limits at 785 feet." Like everything else we try, Mount Bonnell has been recommended by several people for beautiful, scenic views, which sparked our interest. It did not disappoint.

We went at a pretty toasty time of day, around 2:30 p.m. The puppins came along with us, of course. Mount Bonnell is located off of 35th Street, west of Mopac. The winding road takes you through West Lake Hills and some lovely houses. Once you turn on Mount Bonnell Road, you know you're climbing a mountain - Joe's Honda got a workout driving uphill.

After parking, we walked up a steady flight of rocky stairs in the shade. We came out on a round sitting area with several sets of natural rock benches and a lookout spot with the most gorgeous view of the Colorado River and the wealthy bits of Austin. By this time, Gypsy is panting like she just ran a marathon.

Mount Bonnell



We continued down a rock path with lookouts on our left of boat docks, mansions and hillcountry scenery. After walking for about 10 minutes, while sweat dripped in our eyes, down our backs and through our hair, we realized the poppins pads were burning up and it was definately time to go. I wish it hadn't been so hot or we would have kept going.

Mount Bonnell

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Luckily we had a cup of ice water for Gypsy to drink out of, because I have never seen her pant this hard or this much. I carried her little scalding body back up the hill and down the stairs to the car, where we blasted the AC and headed home.

Gypsy dog


But before we made it back to Mopac, we passed the Mayfield Nature Preserve (now added to our list of to-do's) and saw a colorful and stoic peacock.

Peacock



Joe and I concluded the evening with our first Capital City A&M Club Happy Hour. We did our best to meet and greet and make friends. Joe even found out about National Karaoke League from the president of the club. We'll see what happens with that! :)

May 18, 2008

Balcony Garden

The heat and the sun are doing wonders for the plants on the porch. I have some blooms consistently popping out on some plants, a few new blooms and some plants that I am actively watching and waiting for blooms.

Heartleaf Ice Plant
"Heartleaf Ice Plant"

Sedum "Gold Mound"
"Sedum Gold Mound" - hey mom, look I found out what it is!

Geranium
My long-living "Geranium" - very good bloomer this season!

Adenium
"Adenium" - not quite as lovely as my mom's, but it will get there :)

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This is an unidentified succulent that I picked a piece off of a plant near Auditorium Shores. It already has a bloom popping out!

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And, although this doesn't have any blooms, I'm so excited that it is finally growing back some leaves after the move. This is a "Triangle Ficus" or Joe's nickname "Super Mario Plant"

May 16, 2008

Gypsy romps at the Greenbelt

Green Belting in Austin

After work today, Joe and I relaxed at the Barton Creek Upper North Greenbelt. We were supposed to meet some of Joe's co-workers, but as usual, it ended up being us two and the pooch.

We first learned of this area right after we moved to Austin, when a girl we met on 6th told us about it. She suggested we go to Twin Falls to really involve ourselves in true Austin culture. We went out in January to hike around a dry, but beautiful, wilderness trail. Now that we have had several downpours, the creek bed is flowing nicely and there are two waterfall areas that actually tumble with water - Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls. I have yet to see the latter, but Joe went a few weeks ago.

The weather was beautiful today and we found a small nook that was off the beaten path, somewhat. We trekked past Twin Falls and the party nest of people and dogs. Instead of being next to the large pool of water, we settled on big rocks along a little feeder creek. People passed by on the trail with bikes and dogs occasionally, but otherwise we were secluded. Two women stopped by to take some pictures of our view and deemed us lucky, because we "had the best view." We agreed.

Joe Green Belt


Austin Green Belt


Emily Green Belt


Joe Gypsy Green Belt




Gypsy even ventured into the water a little, after I made her. When you set her on wet pebbles in the middle of the creek she has to get out somehow. Once she jumped around a little bit she was ready to run - as usual. The video doesn't seem to want to embed, so I will post it seperate.

May 13, 2008

my Chi-town (pronounced shytown) extravaganza

Last week I spent Wednesday through Saturday in Chicago. I went for my internship as part of a global communications conference for the company. I stayed at the Omni downtown, right off of the Magnificent Mile (MM) and listened to various presentations in the ballroom surrounded by fellow public affairs people.

Since it was "global," I met PA people from all over the world, including Denmark, France, China, Spain, Brazil and Switzerland. There are lots of things to tell about but I'll just list some of the cool parts.

1. I visited the Field Museum.



2. The MM was lined up and down with tulip mini-gardens. Most of them had an interesting sculpture or water feature and were filled with every color of the rainbow. I definately had to snap some shots.

tulips

tulips

tulips

tulips



3. I tried some great food, including Chicago-style deep dish pizza from Gino's East and fabulous popcorn from Garrett's (twice!)

4. Talked to some pretty high up people in PA about where they started after college and how they got to where they are today - inspiring for me while I look for my next career step.

5. Chatted about social media a lot.

6. Slept in a magnificent king size bed.

7. Learned what it's like to have cocktails with work people - and how my international colleagues play drinking games with towels.

8. Spent some quality time with my favorite cousin named Jen!

At the end of the conference and after a little shopping with the boss, Jen picked me up so that we could spend some time together. I don't think I had seen her since she moved to Chicago eight months ago. We had some delish sushi at a pretty snazzy place and then watched P.S. I Love You - a sweet, tear jerker, if I can put those two descriptions together. One of the great moments of the trip was going up in Hancock Tower the next day and looking out over the city and Lake Michigan. Pretty amazing! I took a lunch break while working on the beams and then washed some windows :)

Chicago

Chicago

Chicago


Besides almost missing my plane home, the trip was fabulous! With all of these great pictures, I neglected to get any of Jen and I together - and none of sweet kitty cat Chloe.

Chicago

May 10, 2008

Recipe: Mexican Casserole

This was written on May 6 to be posted today while I am in Chicago.

Another favorite from campbellskitchen.com

Mexican Casserole
1 lb ground beef
1 can tomato soup
1 cup Pace Picante
1/2 cup milk
3 flour tortillas - cut in 1 inch strips
1 cup shredded cheddar
-Brown beef and drain. Stir in soup, salsa, milk, tortillas and half cheese. Spoon into baking dish. Cover and bake 30 min. at 400 degrees. Add remaining cheese on top.

May 8, 2008

Recipe: Country Chicken Casserole

This post was written on May 6 to be posted today while I am in Chicago.

I have been getting some really great recipes off of campbellskitchen.com recently and thought I would start sharing some favorites.

Country Chicken Casserole

1 can cream celery soup
1 can cream potato soup
1 cup milk
1/4 t dried thyme (I never have this so I don't use it)
1/8 t black pepper
2 cups cooked cubed chicken
1 can green beans
1 can carrots (substitute any veggies you like)
4 cup prepared Peppridge Farm seasoned stuffing

Mix all ingedients, top with stuffing. Bake at 25 min at 400 degrees.

Super easy comfort food!

May 6, 2008

round trip

I should not have had coffee at 4 o'clock because I need to go to bed right now!

I am wide awake - due to the caffeine (I'm sure of it) and probably a little bit of excitement.

I am flying out to Chicago tomorrow at 7:35 a.m. I will be attending a big public affairs conference for work as well as sight-seeing at the end with my cousin. Details and pictures to come on Sunday or Monday. In between that, I'll schedule some recipes to post this week and maybe *cross your fingers* Joe will throw in his two cents on the family reunion. There are some items I left out in my post because only he can tell them correctly.

Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts

A little kooky, very jokey (hmm no wonder Joe is a trip)... the Fraser clan is fun.

After leaving Gypsy in San Marcos, Joe timed our departure so that we wouldn't arrive in Bellville before his mom and dad. We rolled the windows down for part of the trip because the weather was sunny and breezy and made a pit stop in La Grange to visit the tiniest Wal-Mart I have ever been in. I will never live somewhere with that small of a Wal-Mart.

After grabbin a Sudoku book and some Pizza Combos, we were back in the car. Our next passing was through Fayettville. The cutest town I have ever seen. It almost seemed a little cult-like because it was so tiny and everything was so close. It's too bad we couldn't stop to take a look at their art festival. I snapped a few shots while there...


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When we finally made it to the shindig I was overwhelmed with smells of brisket, deer sausage and other fixins. Thankfully we missed the rush and were able to fix plates freely without waiting in line. Joe's uncle Tommy got a kick out of learning the difference between stand-up and improv comedy and also out of making me smile (not too hard).

The food kept coming, desserts were plentiful and my apple bread went over well once I told people what it was. Drinks were readily available, as well. Peach Bellinis, beer and Crown.

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One of the perks of this lodge we stayed at was the outdoor activities - paddle boats, canoes, sand volleyball, basketball. The weather was perfect for this.


The lake had a pretty area full of lilypads...

While we were there,
- Joe taught one of the younger kids a magic trick
- Bubba sold some tonic to cure migraines to Mrs. Fraser
- Joe and I stayed up till almost 2 a.m. with Aunt Gloria playing Rummikub
- We ate a ton of brisket, listened to a lot of stories, saw some old scrapbooks and watched a really old video of Mr. Fraser's childhood.

We also slept in some pretty sweet bunk rooms.



I am excited to go back! Here's a final parting shot of Joe and I with his mom and Great Aunt Gloria, the "matriarch" and planner of this wonderful event each year.