Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas à deux

This year, we celebrated our first Christmas in our home and miles away from the family. Well, we did have one furry little friend who got a special tuna dinner but that mostly resulted in him begging for more fish non-stop...

We were able to Skype for three separate events which was really nice. The first time we Skyped to my parents' house, I heard my dad's power tools going and my brother made the most of his camera time with some funny, um, gestures. I also got to say hi to my niece and see my new nephew; so sweet. Later I watched the traditional Christmas Eve party unfold and got to see lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was great. On Christmas Day, we were able to do a gift opening with Austin's family and watch nephew Conner's excitement with all his presents. It wasn't perfect but it was much, much better than just getting passed around on a phone call.
Later we made tons of snow crab for our dinner and it was fantastic. I also made a lemon risotto. A soup and salad were planned but turned into lunch the next day since the two courses were more than enough for dinner. It was quiet and low key and really nice, in its only little way, Christmas à deux.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Deck the Halls

We have a holly shrub in front of our house and it decided to don some festive red berries. We may not have snow but there is some cooperation by the fauna. We're just trying to get through the four day work-week until we are officially allowed to make merry.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shipping and Receiving Department

After endless ticket shopping, we made the difficult decision to stay in Texas for Christmas. One of my favorite things about the holidays, however, is wrapping presents. We finished our shopping on Wednesday night and I wrapped everything (using sub-standard bows but anyway...) while Austin packaged it to send across the country--no way would I ship unadorned gifts. For awhile, it looked like our living room was a corporate mailing center.

We also got a lovely gift basket from Austin's brother and sister-in-law. Stinky was very concerned because for a few minutes, a box and basket were in his space. He circled the items several times and mewed disdainfully.

We plan on Skyping home during the gift opening and making a nice Christmas dinner. I'm open to veg/pescatarian menu ideas if anyone has any. We mostly will spend time in front of the fireplace, eating good things, sipping wine, and hanging out. The only thing missing is everyone.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Julbord at Ikea

So as hinted previously, we went to the Ikea Swedish Christmas feast, or Julbord, on Friday evening. To be honest, it was sort of like this: Ikea particle board furniture is to hand-crafted, imported fancy-schmancy furniture as Ikea Julbord is to chef-prepared, fancy-schmancy upscale restaurant dinner. It just wasn't that good. But. But! The spirit of the whole affair was lovely and cheerful; the meal sold out, there were folks in traditional Swedish apparel (sadly, no one with a wreath of candles on her head as I so often had dreamed of donning as a girl), and live music. Much of the meal came from the frozen Swedish staples from the Food Store in Ikea. It was nice to get to try many of them. It turns out the potato gratin is deceptively tasty but has a permeating herring flavor on the finish (disagreeable to some, embraced by others?). The smoked salmon was delicious and the accompanying sauce was a wake-you-up horseradish number. The bottom line: it was fun to check out, very affordable, but probably not a do-again event.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quiet Weekend

We had a quiet weekend at home. On Saturday, we hit the Farmers Market but it was rainy and our favorite hummus stand wasn't there so we didn't end up getting anything. We ran some errands and decided to have some comfort food for dinner--green bean casserole. We watched Super 8 which we found to be a bit of a let-down.

On Sunday, Austin did some work on the cars and I enjoyed baking the best cookies ever (theseohmygodmakethemnow), working on cards, and watching the Packers game. It was pretty much a perfect day of simple pleasures.

It's been very chilly here with overnight lows dipping before freezing and our high today was around 38°. I'm a bit embarrassed at just how cold it feels to me but I embrace it with some of my favorite things- scarves, sweaters, lots of tea, soup, candles, fires... We have a running spreadsheet of features we love/hate in a home for future house shopping and Austin, observing my love of the fireplace, added that one near the top of the must-haves.

We're off and running with another busy week. I'm doing lots of writing, Austin is doing lots of writing, but Friday we'll get done a little early to hit up our Julbord Swedish feast.

Friday, December 2, 2011


What happens when you go to Ikea for a frying pan on a quiet Thursday night?

You end up buying tickets to next week's Swedish Christmas Dinner. Yes, Swedish food served in the awesome Ikea cafeteria, hello?! Couldn't pass it up. We plan for spontaneity around here, after all. Stay tuned for the review...

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.


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. ¡Mágnifico!

 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


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.

Monday, October 24, 2011

October Days

I can't believe only one week of October remains. Having a wedding trip/vacation in the middle of the month made time seem to fly. We've got a busy November coming up too so I feel like it will soon be Christmas.

We had a low-key weekend. Austin bought me some pumpkins, I made a caramelized onion strata for dinner (ok, but I'm not sure I'll make it again), and we watched the big Packer game on Sunday. We didn't get around to putting up Halloween decorations outside so hopefully we can do that early this week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The real reason we went to Arizona, of course, was to attend a wedding. When the bride wears red shoes, you know it's going to be a good time.

The wedding invitation had a "game of love" theme and the wedding didn't disappoint. The tables were named after board games and my sister, cousin, and our husbands just happened to be seated at the "Trouble" table. I particularly enjoyed the wedding because the bride's family was German so there was a lot of bilingualism going on. I spoke Spanish at our table with a fellow teacher and also with a bartender. Celebrating the marriage of a very cool couple with a side of language made the wedding extra enjoyable to me and hopefully others. What a blast!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Botanical Garden

Our pre-flight outing today. We loved seeing all the desert flora and a bit of fauna too as well as sculpture.

Taliesin West

While I'm waiting for our flight and using MiFi (courtesy of father-in-law, Mike), I thought I'd post a few pictures of our tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's winter residence. We really enjoyed seeing it and learning more about his work.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


We enjoyed breakfast at the crêpe restaurant yesterday. True to the French way, we got a basket of baguette with butter and jam. We also got amazing chocolate croissants and crêpes filled with omelets. Austin got trois frommages and I got smoked salmon. Best of all, we spoke French with the owner!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Perfect Day for a Wedding

Friday Night

We went out for dinner at Cove Trattoria. Kelly won a free appetizer by checking in with Foursquare and we enjoyed dinner with Kelly's sister , cousin, and their husbands. We ended the evening at a fantastic wine pub, Terroir, and Kelly found a crêperie breakfast venue for tomorrow. She was thrilled to speak French with the owner who complimented her on pronunciation. We've been having a wonderful vacation and look forward to the wedding tomorrow.