Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

On Friday, I have my very first class and was officially a student again. It was... drum roll... a three hour statistics lecture. Confusion mixed with boredom, probably how my students feel. I found some colleagues from my department so that was nice because it was a large class. We all hiked to an out-of-the-way copy shop together to pick up the course packets and then one of the women and I had lunch together at Veggie Heaven, a place I had been interested in trying. It did not disappoint and had lots of Falun Gong propaganda around, not sure why.

Austin and I tried to get our drivers licenses on Friday and went to the DMV (or whatever it's called here) armed with passports, WI licenses, insurance records, emissions test records, and vehicle registration records yet it wasn't enough. You had to have your SS card too; we thought with the passport we'd be in good shape but no (illegal immigrant fears maybe?). Also there were literally at least 40 people in front of us and it was looking like a multi-hour wait. We decided to bail and try again a different day though we need to do it soon.

Later I met a friend for dinner and margaritas and Austin had blocked his night off for gaming (one doesn't become a level 70 night elf hunter and guild leader without working for it!).

Today we have been very lazy and loving it. We went to buy a vacuum cleaner since we had to jettison ours in WI because it was the one last item that just wouldn't fit in the moving truck. We headed to Sears where we had a number of gift cards courtesy of my dear ol' dad (though he wanted Austin to use them for tools, lots and lots of tools) and a print-out of the Consumer Reports vacuum info. Yeah, we're nerds like that. Well, we ended up going a little above and beyond what we were initially thinking and got a Dyson. We joined the Dyson cult, that's right, and let me tell you it's worth it. I have already vacuumed a ton and I keep showing Austin the dust canister. How satisfying to see all the yucky stuff! He keeps looking over the machine and commenting on the engineering aspects. Like I said, we're nerds :-)

After the vacuum outing, we were housebound for awhile while we awaited our dining room table delivery. We had a college football game on and one of the guys lingered to watch it. We laughed and he apologized but we didn't care, they were working hard. I gave them some Cokes and Austin tipped them and voila, dining room set was in place! (I mean, not as a result of soda and cash but just sort of chronologically).

Then we went on a beer run; Austin has been really into Belgian trappist ale. We went to a new store that had been recommended to us and it was great. First we ogled the deli, cheeses, import foods, etc, then Austin found a Beer Man and got a serious ale education. I eventually got bored and sampled a few things and looked at the wine. They have a section separate from France for the Occitan region and it was labeled "Vins de pays d'oc" which I appreciated, being a Catalan separatist and all. (I know, I'm being kind of goofy here, maybe overly embracing the nerdy streak, sorry if my references are too obscure.) We also learned all about tequila making from another dude at the store. We told him we had just moved from Wisconsin and he said "welcome home." Oh, and I ran into a guy who had friends from Spooner, weird.

Now we're home and relaxing, ready for another low key night. I think tomorrow I need to shop for a backpack and we're going to do some cooking. I caught a glimpse of a Rachael Ray show today that looked really good. Disclaimer: Austin can't stand poor RR and finds her grating; I find her too bubbly, but damn the recipes looked good and the stomach overrules the show.

More later, perhaps photos of the new table and maybe the food or even the food on the new table.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

1st Day of Teaching

My first day of teaching is out of the way and it was both exciting and challenging. I had forgotten how comfortable I was at my last institution after teaching the same courses many times. I had also forgotten about life as a newb- getting lost just trying to find the restroom, learning new procedures, and meeting all the new people. I knew it wasn't going to be the same, of course, but reality is always different than how I imagine it (brilliant statement, I know).

Nonetheless, the hours flew by quickly and I learned a lot myself. I am excited to have a new type of course; I can't imagine teaching the same courses forever and ever. And I like that I have a good amount of freedom to run the classes the way I want. I think once I get in the groove, it will be really enjoyable and rewarding.

Today is my "off" day and Austin and I are going to try to get our vehicles registered and maybe even get our licenses too. Tomorrow I have statistics, the class I am most scared of :-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Teaching Eve

I teach tomorrow and I'm nervous. I always am; it's hard to present in front of a fresh group of strangers but this time around I'm more nervous because it's a class I've never taught before, geared at medical Spanish. It's also going to be a long haul because we meet once a week and I have two sections for three hours tomorrow, six hours total. Yikes! I know it'll work out fine but I might not sleep so well tonight :-)

Blogging From the Freaking Bus!

This is so cool, the buses here have WiFi. Talk about maximizing your time while in transit (or wasting it in a more fun way). So I just had to do a quick test post and it seems to be working well. The only thing is that the bus doesn't like Firefox but I'm not complaining.

I'm off to plan my class and get a few administrative details done. I start teaching tomorrow!

Monday, August 25, 2008


Sunday was decidedly quieter than Saturday and that was fine by us. We ran a few errands and then enjoyed the day with some pleasure reading (me) and gaming (Austin).

Austin is now at work in our home office and I'll be joining him soon to finalize my class details. Classes start on Wednesday and I begin teaching then too. Tonight I have another grad school open house/orientation. I will be happy to be back on a more regular schedule although having some time off to get settled was just what I needed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to the winery...

Today we woke up feeling rested and I mentioned that I wanted to have an adventurous day. We went to brunch at Chez Zee and Austin tried their famous Creme Brulee French Toast and I had their migas (same dish I had last weekend at a Mexican place). I had been to Chez Zee twice before and it was Austin's first visit; he thoroughly enjoyed it and we decided we'd like to have dinner there sometime.

Creme Brulee French Toast


After brunch, we found a barbershop since Austin desperately needed a trim. It was a true barbershop and was very old-school. They do shaves there too and you can get a big can of Lone Star Beer if you come later in the day. The dude who trimmed Austin had tattoos all over including barber themed ones. Nice to see a man dedicated to his work and he really was, he did a great job cleaning Austin up.

Next we decided to visit some wineries that were about a half an hour outside of town and had an errand to run near campus on the way out. It was move-in weekend so there were people and trucks and moving vans everywhere- totally crazy and we decided to skip a visit to the bookstore. As we were leaving the campus area, I heard the crunch of metal right behind me, saw a crash in the rear view mirror, and went into autopilot mode hoping I wouldn't be a victim of the domino effect. I pulled straight off the road and threw my phone to Austin who called 911. We saw an Audi fly up on the curb, crushing a small tree and garbage can. A few other vehicles apparently got tagged and pulled over. The emergency response was fast and they were really good about asking everyone if they were ok as well as containing the situation quickly. Austin and I had no damage to our vehicle in spite of the fact that a street sign had fallen down in front of it during the accident (Austin pulled it from the street as he was calling 911, giving a clear path to the firetruck since liquid was oozing from the crippled vehicle).


Shaken from the adrenaline, we got out of the way and happily found quieter roads out in the Hill Country. We saw buzzards and gazelle and a llama and then visited two wineries. The first had an Italian theme and was gorgeous, like a resort, and the second was more quaint but had an amazing view. We ended up with three bottles of Texas wine when all was said and done.

Beautiful Landscaping

Now we're coming down from the busy day and getting ready for dinner at a BBQ place across the street. I am guessing (hoping) tomorrow will be a lot quieter...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weekend Plans

It's gray and rainy right now and that provides a good backdrop to our plans- dinner and a movie in. We usually try to have a low-key Friday night and then have been trying new restaurants on Saturdays. Provided the weather cooperates, we're hoping to explore a few wineries tomorrow and do dinner at one of them.

It's my last weekend before school starts so I'll enjoy the study-free aspect and probably do more pleasure reading before it's too late. Austin wants to hit up the pool some more too though we tend to go at night when fewer people are around.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Getting Oriented

Yesterday I had my orientation and a quick advising session to get me started in the program. There were 10 new Ph.D. students, many of whom were from Korea, a few Chinese students, one Iranian, one Spanish-German man, and I was in the minority with one other American. Everyone was really interesting and seemed very pleasant; I think it will be a good cohort.

At the orientation, we went over the sequence of courses and the qualifying exams that (hopefully) lead to the "Ph.D. Candidate" or ABD (all but dissertation/ all but dead)status. I liked that there was a balance between some solid core courses but there was also a lot of flexibility for tailoring to specific interests. (Aside: thankfully I have an interest area! This is in part what made my M.A. work harder). The expectations and responsibilities were very clear and I feel like I'm walking away with a fairly reasonable idea of what I need to do. As my friend Sharon pointed out, orientations can range from waste-of-time-boring to info-overload-freak-out and this one fell right in the happy medium.

Today I registered for all of my courses and am now looking at the books. I am an absolute school nerd! We'll see where I'm at in December when finals are looming...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Busy Day

Here's what I did today:

-Spent the morning cleaning up the apt (I know, more cleaning, but in a small space with little storage, it has to be a daily task).

-Met a former student and now grad school colleague for lunch; it was a lot of fun and good to catch up.

-Took Austin's car in for the state emissions test and finally passed! Now we can get our vehicles registered, pay the new resident tax, and get licenses.

-Did a Target run.

-Found some materials for my Spanish class at one store and failed to find them at another.

-Did more address change and moving stuff for lower-priority situations (academic journals, mailing lists, etc.)

Austin worked hard today and is also doing a trial run on an office chair, trying to find the best thing for his work-at-home set up. We watched some Olympics highlights together and are now listening to the sounds of the pouring rain. It's nice.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Apartment Pictures

Click on the photo below to see our pictures so far; more to come as we continue to get organized and when our dining room set arrives.

Welcome to our apt

The Taste of Summer in Texas

It is all green and citrus and shrimp with salty chips, so good! Get the recipe here and go make some right now!

Shrimp Ceviche

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Yesterday, we decided to check out the Farmers' Market downtown. One of the main highways we take is called MO-PAC ("mow-pack") and is so named for the Missouri-Pacific railroad. On the way, we saw the train that runs down the middle of the track.

MO-PAC Highway and trains

The market itself wasn't super thrilling. It was a good farmers' market but there was a loud, terrible band playing and we got there around 11:00 so much of the good stuff was gone. We did, however, get some nice basil, peppers, and onions. We also observed a lot of "Texans for Obama" t-shirts; McCain gear was conspicuously absent.

Farmers' Market

After that, we hauled a last load of stuff to our storage unit which is now jam packed. We ran a few errands, had a late lunch, and later in the evening reveled in the Grapevine Market where I got cava, Austin got beer, and we got a take and bake gourmet cheese pizza to share. At home we watched the Olympics and chilled with our goods.

This morning, I was dying to try migas, the breakfast specialty of Austin that features eggs scrambled with tortillas, onions, and peppers and comes with potatoes, beans, and ham (which I removed) all covered in cheese. Throw on Tapatia's house salsa and it's a brunch experience, damn! It was so good.


Austin was thrilled with his egg and chorizo breakfast tacos. The total for our food and drinks came to $10.16. We are hooked!

Egg-Chorizo Tacos

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Buses = Conquered

I have this weird, childlike fear of city buses. I often worry that I will get on the wrong one and end up lost forever. I got over that quickly in Minneapolis and used the bus to get to campus all the time and it was no problem. Well, then I moved to Austin and the fear came back again. So I can ride buses in Mpls, and take anything from a metro to a ferry to a funicular in Europe in a whole other language but yet again I find myself scared of the bus in the good ol' U.S. of A.

Well. I'm over it all ready, check that off the list! I had a meeting on campus today so I went to a nearby park and ride. I got there really early and was the only one waiting for awhile, then other student-looking types showed up. When the bus arrived, I watched them pull out their ID cards and saw how they slid them through the card reader and that was that. I did the same thing and it worked! And I got to campus! And it was free! I even managed to repeat the process on the way back so that's that. As a special bonus, the bus has free wi fi, so maybe there will be some bus-blogging someday.

Another logistical item is checked off the list and the meeting, the truly important part of the day, was successful and yielded some good teaching materials. After I got back, Austin and I had some of the homemade vanilla bean ice cream that I made yesterday and it was divine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Not a lot to report today. I went to campus to get some of my teaching stuff squared away so I filled out a lot of paperwork, got a syllabus, got an ID card, and got keys. These tasks were spread throughout campus and I estimate that I walked at least two miles in my $10 sandals from Shoe Carnival.

When I got home I was hot and tired and my feet were sore so I did the siesta thing after lunch. Then I ran errands, made homemade vanilla bean ice cream, and did some cleaning. Austin and I got rid of some broken down boxes and brought out the recycling. We were surprised that they take plastic and aluminum but "not glass" signs were everywhere. We may have to look into that one.

Tomorrow's lunch has been rescheduled since I am going to meet with another instructor to go over more teaching details. It feels good to ease into the back to school routine, coming up August 27, earlier down here!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Not much to report today. Austin put in a full day's work, I battled with our new Rx insurance, did more work on the apt, more laundry (finally caught up on all the dirties we moved and the current stuff), and we both took care of some lower priority address change details. Maintenance came over to fix a few things that we noted on move-in.

Tomorrow I have a meeting on campus that will hopefully give me some direction about my fall teaching work and Thursday I'm having lunch with a former student from EC who is also starting grad school at UT (we found this out well after we had both been accepted, fun coincidence).

Things are moving along.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Today was another day of getting some moving tasks taken care of. First of all, I did four loads of laundry and that has been a change from our in-home facilities. Now I have to walk to a different building and use a little prepaid card to do the wash. I think that will get old fast but on the plus side, I can do multiple loads at once.

After that, I took Austin's car in for the state emissions inspection which it totally failed. I had already taken my car into the same place and the guys remembered me. Well, the drooled over the yellow WRX and then seemed almost sad to tell me it was rejected. I even got $3 off my next oil change and a car shaped tin of mints as a consolation prize. Anyway, Austin wasn't too surprised about the failure and we can get it rechecked for free within 15 days.

I spent the afternoon running errands and finally found a comforter that we both like. It is black and white so it works with some of the red elements from our old bedroom (the old bedspread is too big to fit on our Ikea bed now) but the new comforter will be different enough for a guest room some day.

The reason I am talking about guests rooms is because we have a short term lease and are hoping to buy something in 2009. This makes the laundry hike and other inconveniences about small apt living much more bearable; we're motivated to get out in the near-ish future. It will be really nice to have a guest room for our family and friends who come to visit us. Even back in Eau Claire, it was really nice to have a guest suite at Hotel LundeRoy.

Now we are just relaxing and going to hit the hay at a reasonable hour since we didn't sleep well last night.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Quick Recap

We spent a good chunk of the day working on the apt and got a lot done but it's still not photo-worthy yet. Soon, hopefully.

In the afternoon we went to Dark Night at the Imax, intense is all I can say right now while I'm processing it, and we grabbed takeout at Taco Cabana which was just so-so. Now we're watching the Olympics and laughing at DQ commercials because they are all "DQ Texas" because apparently DQ in Texas gets its own special treatment in advertising. And the song on the ad sounds like it's sung by Trey Parker if that means anything to you.

Not a bad weekend at all.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


The Dark Knight was sold out at the Imax so we changed our plans today and will see the movie tomorrow. Basically, we spent the morning assessing the state of our apt and made a plan of action [Austin's idea, I was just ready to dig in :-) ].

Then we left for Ikea and learned how to get there on the toll road. We got a TV stand for the ginormous 46" LCD flat screen that we now have and we drooled over all the other stuff we can't get until we move somewhere a little more permanent, like a condo or townhouse. After Ikea, we checked out the nearby outlet mall and then did other shopping. We were pleased to find a dining room set that is perfect and on sale for $250, day-um! We'll order it tomorrow and it should get here within two weeks so we won't have to eat off of Rubbermaid bins any longer.

We got a lot accomplished though we still need a bedspread and now we need to actually clean up and organize the apt. As soon as that is done, I will post pictures.

For now, we're relaxing and putting a few things away when we feel like it. We can't wait for this place to take shape!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Feeling More Texan

Something happened to a water main here around 11:00 and it changed some of my plans like dishes, laundry, and a swim so I went out to get a few things done. I now have a lovely Austin Public Library card, I did yet another Target run, and I got an oil change and at the same time, passed my Texas emissions standards test (yay, Subaru!). It looks like on Monday, I can go through the hoops to get my car inspected and possibly registered not to mention pay the "New Resident" tax of $90 each (but no state income tax so I can't be too annoyed). When that is all finally done, I can then get a TX driver's license and I'll officially be a Texan.

Looks like we'll chill tonight and then tomorrow we're going to see the Batman move at the Imax theatre and we'll probably go out to dinner.

Night Swimming

Austin and I went swimming last night and it was so refreshing. We went at night, hoping there wouldn't be anyone there and there wasn't (for awhile). The water was warm but cooler than the air, of course, and there were pink petals floating all around that had dropped from the surrounding trees. With the lights in the pool, the petals, and the stars and moon, it was very romantic. A few other people came out and we sat in the hot tub and chatted with a neighbor who is also new in town. It was a perfect night.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


We cooked dinner in our apartment tonight, woo hoo! Groceries are slowly inhabiting the refrigerator and pantry closet. It is feeling more like home here...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Getting Settled

We weren't able to do the Austin Ducks Tour yesterday for a variety of reasons but we did have a great evening at a wine class at Cork & Co. (sorry I'm too lazy to hyperlink right now). The topic was Latin wines and we tried three from Latin America and three from Spain- so much fun. The instructor, Miss Jane, is simply amazing and a blast to be around (Austin and I went to a class back in March and it was a must-do with my parents). We also had two fun women at our table who gave us some insider scoop on Austin. Austin the Husband and I will be back to see Miss Jane; I particularly want to go to her sparkling wine class. It was a smashing success and my parents had a ball.

Today I picked up my parents and we went to lunch at Chez Zee, a bistro recommended by good ol' Miss Jane. It's not far from our apartment and is beautiful- it has a leafy terrace area and a funky interior not to mention great food. My mom and I both had Aztec Corn Shrimp Bisque and Shallot Roasted Pepper Provolone Quiche- delish! My dad also enjoyed his clubhouse sandwich. Poor Austin was working but I hope to bring him there soon to try both dinner and brunch sometime.

Inspired by Miss Jane, my parents and I checked out the Grapevine Market which had an enormous assortment of wines from all over the world along with counters/deli areas featuring cheeses, cavari, pasta, gourmet foods, etc. It was marvelous and I also hope to go with Austin for lunch.

Right next to Grapevine was a place we stumbled on by chance, Water 2 Wine, which lets you make your own wine! Apparently they sell you "grape juice" and let you do as much as possible down to corking and making your own labels. Somehow this avoids taxes and makes some really cool gifts. The wines that we tasted were great and the owner was a lot of fun to talk to.

After the oenophillic adventures, I brought my parents to the airport. I am already looking forward to them coming back so they don't have to lift, move, clean, and haul with us! Austin and I will know the city better too. They were an amazing help and are now off to a well-deserved vacation in Sonoma.

Now Austin is finishing up work and we have plenty of errands to run. Just wanted to update on what we've been doing. there is still more unpacking and organizing to go but things are taking shape and, early though it is, we really think we'll like making our home here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Fun Starts Now

I just submitted summer school grades, there is no more lifting to do today, so it's time to finally do some fun stuff. We are going to show my parents the campus and take a duck tour of the city (like the ducks in WI Dells). Hopefully I'll finally post some pictures this evening/tomorrow.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

We Made It!

Quick post while we are in the midst of moving- we are here! The first day of travel started out fine but around 6:30, the rental truck got a flat a half hour north of Kansas City and we lost about an hour and a half while roadside assistance helped out. Then, in Kansas City, there were a number of detours and some traffic. Our goal was to get to Wichita and when we started calling for hotels, we discovered there was a basketball tournament and many places were booked. Finally we found a Super 8 in a Wichita suburb and rolled in around midnight.

The second day went really well, no problems at all, though Kansas and Oklahoma weren't the most scenic states. We got into Austin just before 9:00, went out for Mexican at Chuy's, and crashed.

Today we've been unloading things into both the apartment and storage. We're getting close to done but it's break time. Although it's 100+ degrees, it actually feels as hot as it did when we loaded the truck in 85 degree weather.

When we're all done, we're going to Baby Acapulco's for margaritas which are known for being particularly potent. Woo hoo!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Made it to Iowa!

We're in a barn shaped rest area enjoying free WiFi. My dad is gassing up the truck and then we're going to do a few more hours until we lunch in Des Moines. Random fun fact: a guy at McDonald's said he loved my Obama T-shirt and made a speech about politics. Hopefully the fun facts will get more fun as the trip goes on :-)