Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Something to Smile About

In these crazy times, it's fun to just smile and dance once in a while. A friend forwarded this link to me (thanks, Glenn!), and I thought I'd share it with all of you. If I were savvy enough, I'd just put the whole video here, but no idea how to do that. So instead, click the link for a 5-minute break from your day: Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth

p.s. I guess this guy has been around a while, but this is his most recent video. Interesting info about him at Wikipedia (the not-always-reliable font of knowledge on the Web).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Well Done, Mark!

Though I don't have the photos to prove it, this past weekend, Mark competed in The Plano Cycling Texas State Championship Sprint Adventure Race Series ™ (catchy title; not sure how they fit all that on the T-shirt). In 100+ degree heat. Crazy boy. Considering that Mark and his business/adventure race partner, Dave, had not really trained for the event--aside from going running and biking on a somewhat irregular basis--they did pretty well, finishing right about in the middle of the pack, and that's with a semi-deflated kayak, which should have been their strong suit. Anyway, it was actually the championship event in a series of adventure races that Dave's wife competes in (she and her partner came in 4th; apparently they were a little more prepared). Mark and Dave decided on Thursday that they would compete on Saturday, with the deciding factor being the free entry ($150 per team is ridiculously high, especially when you really don't get that much in return). Made me realize even more what an incredible deal all those kayakers and rafters were getting for the Gore Canyon Race!

The reason I have no pictures is that I was responsible for watching 11-year-old Lindsey and 3-year-old A.J. in something I call The Plain Crazy Texas State Championship Adventures in Babysitting Series. The kids were all-in-all pretty well behaved, considering the circumstances: 100-degree heat on a ranch in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do except kick around a soccer ball, hang out in the truck, throw rocks in the creek, or drop trou and poop right in the middle of the parking lot (that would be A.J.--potty training is grand). I tried to get them interested in hanging out by the creek a little longer so we could catch a glimpse of their parents or Mark riding through on their bikes or maybe even getting to the finish line to cheer them on, but the kids would have nothing to do with it. Some support crew they turned out to be!

A.J. The Drive Home
Post-post edit: The picture on the right is of Donielle, Lindsey, and A.J. all crashed out on the drive home. I woke up from my nap just long enough to snap this shot.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More Birthday Wishes

Well, we are ridiculously late on some of these well wishes. My excuse is that I did not have any recent photos (as evidenced by the horrible scan of a negative below), but I guess that hasn't stopped me in the past. And to top it off, we sent a duplicate e-card to our nephew Ariel (the same one we had sent to his sister, Lily). Apparently the memory of a six-year-old is a thousand times better than the memories of two rapidly-approaching-40-year-olds! A thousand apologies, Ariel, and you have every right to tickle Uncle Mark all you want next time you see him!

SO, without further ado.

Sorry we missed the party, but looking forward to seeing you in August to give you a proper birthday hug!

And one that's actually on time ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Weekend Update ... a Little Late

We started our weekend with a bit of dread as we headed out to the Denton County DMV. Mark was adamant that we get the license thing sorted ASAP, as this is the first time he will be voting ... ever ... and he wants to be in the rolls and ready to go. So, off we went, having written off our entire day, just in case.

Imagine our surprise when we were in and out of the license plate place in no more than 15 minutes. We were even more surprised that we dealt with a very pleasant woman who had a sense of humor and who even helped me remember our license plate number by deciding that LBC stands for lazy blue cat. Although that means nothing, it will stick in my head. Now I just need to work on the numbers.

We giddily walked through a little corridor to the driver's license section, feeling quite proud of ourselves. Of course, nothing is ever all easy. Turns out that we forgot (or didn't realize we needed) our social security cards AND our birth certificates. So we ran home, grabbed it all up (thankful that we hadn't sent any of it to be stored in my parents' home in Connecticut), snatched our passports just in case, and headed back. The driver's license woman had a case of grimness and barely cracked a smile, although I tried to be as funny as humanly possible, considering we were in a DMV. But other than that, it was relatively painless! So all in all, it wasn't a horrible experience, and we were out of there before noon. Now we just have to wait 30 days to see how the photos turned out.

We commemorated our new residency by going to an El Salvadorean restaurant I'd seen while out on errands. My goal was to celebrate with a margarita. But alas, not only didn't the restaurant serve much of an El Salvadorean menu, it also did not sell margaritas (although its menu proclaimed that it did). Oh well. After a little work at home, we spent that evening around Dave and Donielle's pool, sipping wine and scotch (depending on who was doing the sipping) and meeting some of Dave's neighbors and friends. Nice folks.

The next morning we got a not-so-early start (thanks to the remnants of the previous night's sipping) on my planned driving tour of the greater Dallas area (see the "Movie Texas" part of the article). Turns out that going for a weekend drive to explore Texas is nowhere near as interesting, pretty, scenic, etc., etc., as doing the same through the Colorado mountains or the San Francisco Bay area. So, it wasn't that much fun at all, though we did find a nice restaurant in Waxahachie (crepe/crape myrtle capital of Texas and home to more lawyer's offices than I think I have ever seen in any small town) where we enjoyed a yummy lunch at the 1879 Chisholm Grill, and Mark had his first experience with sweet tea. (When we asked the waitress how much sugar they put in the tea, she said it depended on who made it. She then relayed a story of how she once took a big gulp of tea, only to have her jaw lock up from the sweetness of it. WOW!)

After being in the car all day, having driven through downtown Dallas (past the grassy knoll), and on to Waxahachie, Maypearl (supposedly one of the prettiest little towns in Texas ... we highly beg to differ), and then downtown Fort Worth (which actually looks pretty nice, though by that point we were too exhausted to get out and look around), we worked our way back to Flower Mound, where I forced the issue of trying to find a margarita. We ended up at El Chico's, where we experienced firsthand what it means to live in a formerly dry town.
Downtown Dallas
Waxahachie Courthouse

Apparently, Flower Mound and Lewisville used to be dry cities. From what the bartender told us, they aren't anymore, but many of the private establishments keep up with the old system. In order to buy something other than beer or wine at a restaurant, you have to show them your driver's license (which, of course, we don't really have ... just a piece of paper right now). But they don't care about photos. They just enter the DL number into some machine, and we get a card that we have to sign stating that we are now members of their little club. And then we can get a drink. It's just one step up from knocking on a door and uttering the secret password through a slotted window.

The margarita wasn't nearly as good as I was hoping, but maybe it was just the long day that put a bitter taste in my mouth. So we went to pick up Kai from Dave and Donielle's, rented a couple movies, took Kai for a walk, and chilled out for the rest of the evening. A nice ending to a long, hot day. [Side note: Sunday we ate of TGI Friday's while running errands, and I finally got a surprisingly good 'rita, and also learned some TGIF history from an incredibly friendly waitress--both potato skins and Long Island iced tea supposedly started in a TGIF restaurant.]
Our walk with Kai
On the phone with the Asakawas during our walk

Last night we headed into Old Lewisville, one of the more charming towns in our immediate area, to see a live concert in the square: Big Daddy Alright, a pretty good 7-piece swing band. Good times!

Monday, July 14, 2008

E-mail Problems and Our Cute Dog

First of all, an apology to anyone who happens to be reading this. Apparently, ever since I spent my one week in the office, my personal e-mails (and even some work ones ... ACK!) were being stored in GoDaddy's bulk mail folder. I just discovered this today and spent the morning wading through 200+ e-mails, including wonderful pics of dad on his boat and of adorable little Isabella Meyer. So, if you've been wondering why you haven't heard any responses from me, just think how I felt, sitting here in Dallas, thinking no one likes me now that I'm a Texan!

Second, just a quick story of our adorable dog Kai, who has been suffering silently for the past three weeks without a bed of his own. (He used to have two separate beds). We left his beds at Jon and Val's because there was not an inch of space for either one of them in the car. But he seemed fine and has been sleeping either on our so-called bed (Thermarests and blankets on the floor) or in his crate on a blanket-yoga mat combo. Yesterday we finally splurged and bought a fuzzy little bed that fits perfectly in his crate. When we returned to the apartment, my hands were full, so I plopped the bed on the floor and went to put away the groceries. The bed hadn't been on the floor for two seconds, when Kai came up, didn't even sniff it, just grabbed it gently in his mouth, and carried it into his crate, as if to say, "It's about dang time. Didn't you know I wanted something comfier to sleep on, here? Sheesh!" Mark and I were too flabbergasted to laugh (this is the dog who is usually so cautious, he makes a meek little mouse look brave). So instead we just thanked him for finally doing his part in helping us get moved in.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Belated, Val! And other stuff ...

In addition to celebrating the birth of our nation, I also want to send out a big Happy Birthday to Val Babe (a little late)! Hope you had a blast! (Look at those young-uns!!)

And finally, photos from our trip so far. We would have more, but unfortunately our brand new camera is now on the bottom of Grapevine Lake

My fully loaded car, somewhere in Texas:

Our drive through Texas ... where'd the mountains go?

Our poor Kai dog on said drive in said overloaded car:

The view from our apartment:

Our first meal on our toolbox table (which has since been replaced with a real table):

Dave, Katie, John, and Tara in Grapevine Lake:

Oops, nope, that picture is now on the bottom
of the lake with our camera. Boo hoo!

We've been having a great time here. Last Friday, we saw the Gin Blossoms at The Glass Cactus, a great bar overlooking Grapevine Lake. A week ago Sunday, we went for a 25-mile road bike ride around Flower Mound/Grapevine. Apparently it was just a leisurely ride. I missed that part of it, as I was pedaling furiously trying to keep up with piston-legged Mark and veteran bike rider Dave.

For the Fourth, we went back to Grapevine Lake and had a wonderful day with Katie and John (the owners of the boat and wakeboard). [Katie works for Dave, Mark's partner.] We spent the afternoon lazing about, swimming, wakeboarding (not me, though ... way too choppy and crowded!), snacking, having a couple beers and a delicious mixture of fresh watermelon juice, lemon juice, a bit of sugar, and vodka. Mmmm,mmmm. After a gorgeous sunset, we anchored just below the Glass Cactus and watched the fireworks of at least three different towns (including the ones for Grapevine, just over our heads). The music blaring from the Cactus was an odd mixture of John Phillip Sousa, country patriotic songs, choral versions of patriotic standbys, the theme song from Forrest Gump (really?!), and a couple USA-type rock songs (conveniently leaving out the parts of "Born in the USA" that say anything bad about this country). It was an incredibly relaxing, fun day! Thanks, John and Kate!

Yesterday (Saturday), we headed off to Bonham, Texas, the home of Sam Rayburn, to visit Mark's old Terracom pal, Sean Hutchinson, at Sean's grandparents' ranch. It's still a working ranch, with a bunch of ponds his grandfather dug, filled, and stocked himself. We visited with the family, completely avoided any political or religious arguments (they are through-and-through conservative Christian Texans), and had some good ol' fashioned Texas food--fried fish (caught by Sean and his family in the ranch's ponds), fried chicken (bought fresh from KFC), sweet potato casserole, roast beef, baked beans, white bread, peppermint salt water taffy, ice cream, and on and on. Mark and I ate it all up and then headed off with the boys (Sean; his cousin, Jason; and his nephews, Kyle and Colton) for some fishing. I thought I would just sit and watch and keep Kai company. But it turns out Kai was in his element--wading out into the water, rolling in cow manure, being completely intrigued by whatever it was that we kept throwing out and then reeling in. So, I got a pole of my own and gave it a shot. And wouldn't you know it, I caught the biggest fish of the group that evening. My first fish caught since we went fishing with Uncle Paul when I was 10! I was sure it was about 5 pounds, at least. But back at the house, when Grandpa Hutchinson asked, turns out it was a whopping 1.5-pound bass. I'm still not thrilled with the whole idea of fishing (sushi-loving hypocrite that I am), but I was just a little proud of my accomplishment. I just hope they get it out of the basket and cook it up before it dies.

Now Mark is off for a 28-mile mountain bike ride (at high noon ... in Texas?!). I've decided to clean up, do some grocery shopping, and get some work done. Perhaps sit by the pool and read. Maybe even go to the gym to workout. Who knows! The options are endless.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!