Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The End of the Day

Slippers, fire, tea, a good book, and a kitty. I love this time of year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I canceled our Thanksgiving dinner party on Tuesday, knowing I wasn't feeling well and I didn't want to have friends over while our house should be quarantined. Still, the turkey breast was already defrosting and there was no turning back. Austin bravely forged on, ready to eat the entire thing himself, if needed. He roasted a beautiful bird and learned the art of carving.
We had our usual meal with over-the-top cheddar ranch mashed potatoes, lemon-hazelnut green beans, and stuffing. I always include the canned cranberry blob for nostalgic reasons but it really is a good blast of sweet/tart at the end of the meal. Our other addition this year was yeast rolls. I've heard several people mention them down here and it wasn't anything Austin or I had ever had. We just bought some frozen ones to see what the fuss was about before considering making our own. Well. Those little golden-brown nuggets make delightful dinner guests and will be invited to future meals for sure. I've never been one to get excited by a dinner roll but these were wonderful. I look forward to making them from scratch next time.
Austin laughed while I spent way too much time making the little garland that was over our table, saying I didn't need to decorate for two. Nonsense! I like it so much I may consider it part of our Christmas decorating. Who knew that a little tissue paper and ribbon could make me so happy?
And ever the lover of flowers, I had to have a bouquet for the table. I love the combination of traditional oranges and russets with hot pink and chartreuse. Again, a simple pleasure.
All in all, Thanksgiving à deux was a success. The Packers won, Austin conquered the turkey from beginning to end (making stock today), the meal was fantastic, the leftovers plentiful, and today we'll laze around and maybe put up the Christmas tree--if we feel like it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Brock William

While I was in Denver, this little guy arrived into the world.


My brother and his wife had a baby boy on Friday, November 18th. I checked my phone as soon as I woke up and there was the first picture of my nephew. Now Hailey has a brother, my parents have their first grandson, and Austin has another nephew to shower in Legos.

Denver

As I mentioned, I was at a conference for foreign language teachers in Denver starting last week. I have been to Denver several times before and was a bit wistful for a new city but fortunately, lots of exploring was still possible.
I met up with some colleagues from Wisconsin when I got into town Thursday night and, because on of them is half-Polish, we went out for Polish food. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but it was definitely an enjoyable experience. I started with a borscht-like soup that was cut with sour cream so it was a gorgeous raspberry color. I had to try my friend's pickle soup which was probably my very favorite-- a recipe has been promised to me. I then had a cabbage roll stuffed with rice and smothered in a bright tomato sauce and we shared a fried dessert. It was wonderful to catch up, hear my friend speak fluent Polish, and try a new cuisine.

On Friday it was time to hit the conference. The first stop was the always overwhelming exhibitors' hall. This time my mission was to collect swag for my dissertation participants. The Japanese booths were fantastic; one had a sushi chef preparing food sample and even giving lessons on how to make rolls. I got lots of great materials there. I also got some French materials from the very generous Swiss embassy. After that, I attended some sessions. One of the best was given by the educational ambassador from Spain who happened to be based in Austin, TX. He discussed the multilingual schools in Spain and I was blown away to learn that one successful school near the Pyrenees teaches five subjects in five different languages. ¡M√°gnifico!

 Later that day, some colleagues and I gave a workshop on encouraging student writing. It went well and our room was packed with 150 audience members. We had the audience engage in some of the activities we had designed and I was so impressed with the creativity. For dinner, we went out for Native American fry bread tacos at a place that Guy Fieri (of Food Network fame) had featured. The food was outstanding and affordable. I am going to have to track down Guy's episode and watch it.

Saturday was another day of sessions and I also participated in a focus group about a textbook for a hybrid online/face-to-face class. It was interesting to see the kind of feedback publishers get from instructors and the instructors' beliefs about what their students would or would not do well with. I had to leave a little early to get to my panel discussion, presentation #2. The discussion session was also enjoyable to present and I liked that we had scheduled time to really talk with the audience members in smaller groups. It seemed as though we had barely scratched the surface when we came back to the larger group to end the session. After the panel, I had a meeting and gathering to attend and both offered wonderful appetizers and drinks so I didn't need to head out for dinner again.

Fortunately, there was time on Sunday to get one last meal in Denver. Four colleagues and I went to a place called Lola that I immediately fell for since it was decorated with my very favorite art media- stained glass, metal sculpture, and mosaics. Unfortunately, it was too dark to really photograph. I was to busy enjoying some table-side guacamole and my brunch entree, butternut squash-goat cheese enchiladas garnished with chile rojo and lime crema. Beyond wonderful and I'm already pondering recreating this at home.

Finally, with a little time to kill before heading to the airport, we stopped at one of my favorite bookstores in the world, Tattered Cover. One of the many reasons I love it- the shelves and shelves of non-English magazines. I scored Hola, my source for all Spanish gossip.


Then it was off to the airport and back to Texas, home, sweet home. I slept for about 10 hours last night with a cat on top of me and woke up with a cold. I am hoping to fight it off since I am so looking forward to hosting Thanksgiving for four of our friends.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Autumn in Austin

I've been looking everywhere for fall. Today it was sunny and 80 degrees, unseasonably hot yet again. We're expecting lows in the 40s tonight and more reasonable weather as I take off for CO. I just love the leaves in the morning and evening with the slanting sunlight; nature's stained glass.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another Week

We had a quiet weekend at home since we have been busy and traveling a lot lately. On Sunday evening, I went to a girlfriend's house to watch Miss Representation, a documentary about women and girls and the media. She made sweet potato-chorizo soup and the other guests brought some wine and cheese. The documentary was good but not great; I liked the message and learned some new things but I felt it could have been put together in a better way. I can barely sit through a regular movie so what do I know about film production, though? Last night we threw healthy eating to the wind and had nachos and beer/cider for dinner while watching the Packers game. Fortunately, the game did not make me nervous but my cheering drove Stinky from the room. We finally got rain today, for the first time in ages. We still need much, much more but we'll take it. I am finishing up some conference work and love having candles light around me. Tea is a given but it's even more enjoyable on a dark, dreary day. I leave Thursday for Denver and will be back on Sunday. I've got some good friends I'll be meeting up with and presenting with so I'm really looking forward to the conference.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Comfort

The past four weeks or so have passed in a blur. Tonight we needed comfort food and both wanted tuna casserole. Stinky also benefited from this because licking out the tuna cans is one of his very favorite things.

As noted on the blog, we were in Arizona for a wedding in mid-October, headed to Minnesota at the beginning of November to pay our respects to Grandpa Mel, and just spent the past five days with my aunt and cousin who had promised they'd visit Austin since we moved here. While these events have stemmed from very different situations, they have all involved connecting with family and friends and for that we are grateful. We are also grateful for a quiet night in with a cozy dinner, a fire, and, more than likely, Stinky breathing tuna breath on us.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Celebrating my mom today and wishing I were there to have a glass of wine with her at Pillar's.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Goodbye, Grandpa

Austin's Grandpa Mel passed away on Monday. I always found him to be a lovely, kind man but attending his memorial service made me aware of the many lives that he touched and the extraordinary life he lived.

Look closely at the flower spray; his favorite tractor is hidden inside. What a great touch. The other pictures are from our time at Acorn Acres, his farm. It was a perfect fall day to kick through leaves, tromp around the grounds, and just breathe deep and honor a great life.


So long, Mel.