Friday, November 30, 2007

Chocolate-covered Friends

I could just eat these two up! Meet my best friend and her husband, seen here at their second wedding reception in his home state and their new place of residence, The Shire. First of all, let’s just state the obvious: Beautiful People. I can’t wait to meet their children. I’m already working on the jealousy thing because those kids are going to have the most amazing shade of skin.

In case you don’t remember, BF and her man met through a mutual friend and dated long-distance until getting engaged. He then made the sacrifice of temporarily moving to her city for the duration of their engagement. Meanwhile, I was living near neither of them. The idea of your best friend falling in love for the first and only time without you being there to witness it is not what you would call exciting. I knew she would pick wisely, but I wanted to get to know this guy almost as badly as she did if things were gonna get serious. The beautiful thing is that I was able to. Throughout the course of one year, I was able to see them together SIX times. And it really only took a couple for me to give him my stamp of approval. He is the sweetest, most wonderful husband I could ever pick for my best friend. And of course she is the sweetest, most wonderful wife so BOOM! Sweetest most wonderful couple!

I have asked them to please wait for me to get married, or at least start dating, before conceiving any children, because . . . well, I’m selfish . . and I want them all to myself for as long as possible. And double-dating sans children would be so much fun! But regardless of what happens when, I am so happy that we’ll forever be doing life together . . even if it is long-distance.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Adios to Austin

My last day in Austin was mainly full of errands with my aunt, taking new toys to her specialty toy stores, picking up lunch and ice cream for my uncle, and hitting the grocery store for only healthy, no sugar added, no preservatives food. I was able to see my cousins' private school, its beautiful campus with kids of all ages running around in their cute little uniforms and SUVs lined up to take them home.

Aunt Jill planned to make spaghetti for dinner, but Uncle Rich knew I needed to have my last dinner at another local restaurant, Hyde Park Bar & Grill. I had to do it right on my last night, so I ordered the chicken fried steak with creamed corn and buttermilk fries. After dinner, I treated the family to my favorite ice cream spot, Amy's, where I ordered "The Elvis" consisting of Mexican Vanilla ice cream, peanut butter cups, and bananas. (The Mexican Vanilla is a lot like the cake batter flavor you can find at other shops, a flavor whose special ingredient is apparently vanilla bean with a strain of orchid, something you can only find in Mexico.) Christian (who, may I remind you, is 8) tried to offer to pay for everyone's treats, not knowing I'd already paid. When he learned that I'd beat him to the punch, he scowled as if I'd stolen his idea. "Ugh! I'm so disgusted!" he said. What a little character, that kid!

Tuesday morning, I literally woke up to the smell of fresh tortillas with eggs, cheese, and salsa. Aunt Jill makes fabulous smoothies too, and this time, it was peach mango. Muy delicioso! I squeezed the cousins goodbye as they left for school, and Aunt Jill and I drove around the UT campus and grabbed some Einstein bagels before I was dropped at the airport.

The rest of the day was pretty much just as emotional as I expected. Two flights, a train ride, and two metro lines later, I had made it home . . eight hours later. My first day back at work didn't help out with the whole emotional thing, but God is good, and sadness and confusion are two things that always bring me even closer to Him.

Monday, November 26, 2007

a whole lotta thinking and feeling going on

Being in a place I love like this always makes me think. Makes me think about moving. Makes me think about where I am in life and where I want to be. Makes me wonder what's next for me. Being around family makes me think, too, so it's like a double whammy. And wherever there are thoughts, there are plenty of feelings to go along with them.

I'm afraid I'll be emotional tomorrow. I'm afraid I'm not ready to go back. But I've felt this way before, and thanks to my adaptable nature, the emotions don't usually hang around for long. It's probably because I know that God has me where He wants me. It doesn't mean I don't occasionally want something else or ask 'why' or 'how long' . . but it means that when I let go, when my eyes are on Him and not myself, He gives me a peace, assuring me that today, this is where He wants me, and that's all I need to know.

The Wonderful Wonderful Weekend

The rain did not even think about going away on Saturday, so I was given the car keys and my cousin Christian and sent to Main Event to play arcade games and laser tag. He insisted on being on the opposing team so that he could shoot at me as much as possible. Our points? Christian: 9,236, Laura: 2,100. This could be due in part to the fact that I didn't listen to directions and therefore wasn't properly operating my gun for a quarter of the game. Doh! We took the scenic route home through all the beautiful rolling hills, and I tried to soak up the loveliness of it all. Tried to do it without remembering that The Texan was staying in the very neighborhood I was driving through. Tried unsuccessfully.

Crit and I were not ready to head home just yet, so we hung out at the nearby mall for a couple of hours. He was determined to find something for $1 that I could buy him, because that was all the cash I had in my wallet. Confident he couldn't do it, I was shocked to hear the salesperson at Journeys say "That chain is 99 cents." Oh, the look on Crit's face!

Dinner that night at Central Market was delicious, much moreso than I expected, and we each grabbed our choice pint of Blue Bell (mine: chocolate brownie overload) and bulk candy for another movie night at home.

*You could stop reading now since I'm simply relaying nearly each and every detail of my vacation, but you'd be missing out on the fabulousness that was Sunday!*

Pink and I had planned to get together ever since we knew I was coming to Austin, but meeting up was even easier than we expected. It turns out that she attends the same church that my cousins do! We met in the foyer after the service, and it was easy to spot her across the room. Her family was just as adorable as they are in their pictures. After a deep-dish pizza at BJ's, we went ice skating downtown on top of Whole Foods headquarters. The day was perfectly chilly for it, and we warmed up with some hot chocolate afterward . . and a fruit tart. They took me up to Mount Bonnell to see some breathtaking views of Hill Country and Lake Austin, and her husband willingly snapped some excellent pictures of us. :) Thinking our time together might be over, I was excited to hear that he was willing to hang out with their boys while Pink and I went out, just the two of us! We worked up an appetite getting lost on our way to Salt Lick (out in the boonies), but the meal was more than worth the drive. It had been ten years since I'd tasted that bar-b-que, and it was every bit as amazing as I remembered. The brisket, the pork ribs, the potato salad, the bread, the beans, and the best bar-b-que sauce of my life! We sat on the old wooden benches next to the fire and ate to our hearts' content. And there was no way we were leaving without some blackberry cobbler and pecan pie a la mode. From there, we headed to The Continental Club, the only place playing live music on a Sunday night. What a perfect Texas experience though, as the well-known old hole has been around since the Fifties. The honky-tonk music put a big smile on my face, and I was able to do some two-stepping with a pretty talented dancer, fancy spins and all! Pink and I had a great time talking and sipping the Shirley Temples provided by my dance partner, and if the band hadn't taken a break, I'm not sure we ever would have left!

I feel so blessed that we were able to meet and spend such a great day together! Another testament to how rewarding blogging can be! Like I told the guy at the club, "We're not strangers. We've known each other for two years!"

*Pink wrote about our time together, too, and she caught some things I didn't mention in my post.*

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day After Thanksgiving

Yesterday was the only day I'd ever had any plans before coming to Austin, but plans had to change and fortunately God gave me enough contentment to enjoy my day. The Texan had invited me to a concert at Texas' oldest dance hall, and we were also going to watch the Nebraska game together. Obviously neither thing happened.

Aunt Jill told me bright and early that she wanted to take me to SoCo to shop. Although it's a neighborhood I really wanted to visit, I was so disappointed to miss the game. It's been a few years since I haven't watched or listened to a Nebraska game, especially the day after Thanksgiving game against Colorado! It just would not have been right to ask my cousins to turn off their movie or to tell my aunt "thanks, but no thanks" on the shopping trip, so I asked BF to send me updates and tried my hardest to put it out of my mind. SoCo was fun! And I found the coolest vintage belt buckle of a guy slalom-skiing at Uncommon Objects. I couldn't not buy it. Aunt Jill and I had lunch at an Austin pizza place, Home Slice, and it was mouth-wateringly delicious. Areas like SoCo are just one reason I like Austin so much. There are tons of local shops and restaurants that are based solely in this city or at least started here.

The idea of shopping and a movie that night didn't sound nearly as exciting as the country concert originally planned, but I was able to put it out of my mind again and just enjoy my family. We spent some time at a local mall, and I was able to find a couple of great buys, one of which I actually needed. We saw the cute Disney movie "Enchanted" and ate the candy we'd all picked out at Lammes, yet another Austin original.

We ended the night back at home eating some "Fat Boys"(as Uncle Rich refers to low-fat, low-cal Skinny Cow ice cream treats) and surfing the web to find a new hairdo for Aunt Jill.

It's raining this morning, and the forecast says it won't be letting up until sometime tomorrow. I'm totally bummed, because of all days, these were the two we planned on being outside. Rain, rain, go away!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Texas Thanksgiving

I've spent the last two days right outside Houston at my cousin's house. He has three cute little kids and a lovely home in an area called The Wo.odlands. They took us to a fantastic Mexican restaurant when we arrived last night. The place was called Lupe Tortilla, and I don't think I can ever eat Mexican north of Texas again. There is just nothing like homemade tortillas!

Aunt Jill and I stayed up until 1am talking to Cousin JP last night. He is one of the funniest people I know, and it was great to hear his stories about work and listen to his advice about my job situation and just life in general. It's nice to know that he's always looked out for me.

This morning, we were served a yummy crescent/cream cheese dish and fruit for breakfast, and I played football with the boys in the yard for quite awhile. Little Jake (4) was hit in the face with the ball and cried "It's not fair! I'm always the only one who gets boo-boo'd." But he's a tough little guy, and when his dad asked him "Player, do you wanna take a break or get back out there?", it didn't take him long to decide to keep playing.

Thanksgiving dinner was one of the best I've ever had. We prepared the turkey with rosemary and other spices and made a delicious mashed potato recipe from the "Real Simple" magazine. I have never liked sweet potatoes until today, but Aunt Jill makes a recipe with just the right amount of sweetness. Every dish was so flavorful, and it was hard to not go back for seconds. I also discovered that I love pecan pie! Especially with Blue Bell ice cream! Grandma called and asked me if the turkey was better than hers, "but you don't have to answer that" she said. I told her it was just "different".

Around the table, we listed three things we were thankful for and one of mine was just being able to be here.

But another is that my family loves the Lord more than anything . . and being surrounded by that is the most priceless gift of all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Uno, Dos, TRES

L___ Belle
Angel Baby
T (get it? Cutie)
And many more . .

Those are just a few of the nicknames being used around here. It's Nickname Central at this house, and it always has been.

In fact, Christian rarely goes by his full name anymore. Even his teachers call him Crit. And Aunt Jill has called me L___ Belle since I was two. I can remember trying to decide which I preferred - L___ Belle or L____ May, which my other aunt called me. Either way, having a little nickname was nice.

I was left alone in the house with Crit this morning. He watched "Ellen" while I worked on my computer, jumping up to do the "Crank That" dance with Soulja Boy. "Stoooop dancing!" Crit moaned. "That's just horrible!" But when I offered to teach him, he didn't object. When the show was over, he came over to ask "What should I do now?", expecting me to have some brilliant idea for how he could keep himself entertained. He ended up with a 10am bowl of peppermint ice cream and frosted animal crackers.

Late that afternoon, Austin had an interview scheduled with a WWII veteran at Camp Mabry for a school project. I was able to tag along, and it was so interesting to hear what the man had to say. He took us on a tour of the museum, telling stories and showing us a picture of himself as a teenager. He had lied about his age to get into the military, said he was eighteen when he was sixteen. He offered to be in the Reconaissance branch without realizing it was the most dangerous (eleven percent survival rate). All he knew was that they rode, not walked. He told of his experiences during the four years, eight months, three weeks, four days, and three hours he had fought in the war. His proudest accomplisment? Making it out alive. So many cool stories that I wish I could write about, but that would take all night. I also learned today that Uncle Rich's father was the General of the Texas Army for thirteen years! I knew he was a big deal, but I had no idea!

Tonight, Lynden and I spent a couple of hours baking pumpkin cookies, making cranberry sauce, and peeling sweet potatoes. I nearly made myself sick eating the dough and the thought of any food almost made me nauseous . . BUT we still went to dinner at la Madeleine and ended the night watching "Hairspray" on the couch while eating the bags of Jelly Belly's we'd picked up at the supermarket.

Tomorrow we leave for Houston to spend Thanksgiving with my cousin JP and his family.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day Two - Two much of Austin is never a bad thing

If I can write this post without falling asleep, it will be a miracle. I can't figure out why I'm so exhausted after a relaxing day and nine hours of sleep last night. I'm thinking I might be able to blame my menstrual cycle. It always feels good to be able to point a finger at that and say "It's your fault I feel like crap." The world suddenly makes sense.

Before I leave this place, it looks like I'll not only have had a wonderful time, but will also be on my way to getting in shape again. Last night it was biceps and triceps. This morning it was a two mile jog. Tonight it was pushups and crunches. My aunt is awesome.

The majority of my day was spent in front of my computer because I had some work to do, but we did get Whataburger for lunch, and it was really delish but not as good as In 'n' Out or Runza. But if asked, I'm sure I will of course rave about it. Oh, the fresh lettuce and ripe tomatoes! The onion rings were to die for! (Note: I don't ever say things just to please people. I'm just a positive person!)

To celebrate Lynden's birthday, three friends came over for a sleepover, and we all spent a couple hours at Bath Junkie creating our own scented lotions and other bath products. We grabbed ThunderCloud subs (an Austin original) for dinner, and they were every bit as good as Aunt Jill said they were. There was plenty of junk food waiting at home, including my absolute favorite - Blue Bell ice cream. I chose a pint of Banana Pudding and drizzled hot fudge and whipped cream on top. I am not even lying when I say that I think I could head south just for the ice cream. And I know you know me well enough to believe that. We curled up on the couch and watched "We Are Marshall" as I fought to keep my eyes open.

I can still hear the girls giggling in the other room with all their makeup on and pretty pink paintings laid out all over the floor. Wasn't I just twelve like yesterday? Wasn't I just shopping at Limited Too and looking forward to my monthly orthodontist appointment so I could choose new colors for my braces? And wasn't I just holding Baby Lynden in the checkout line at Central Market while the cashier told me how beautiful she was? And she was. Cute wasn't the word. She was like a beautiful porcelain doll. And now she's all grown up, tall and thin, with her hair parted on the side and her pretty olive skin. Where does the time go?

Monday, November 19, 2007

First Day in Austin

I was anxious to get here, and it felt like the longest plane trip of my life! Waiting for me at the airport were Aunt Jill, Uncle Rich, and cousins Austin (13) and Christian (9). (Lynden (12) was at a sleepover.) They took me immediately to Chuy's, the original location, and I enjoyed the yummy yummy chips in their various salsas and the Chuy's Special enchilada with stacked blue corn tortillas and chicken. Of course I bought another shirt, too.

They own two specialty toy stores in the city, so we stopped at the warehouse to put together some boxes for orders that needed to go out the next day. Austin said, "You'd be surprised how boring a warehouse full of toys can be." But we made it fun while popping Hot Tamales and listening to the Bee Gees, Christian's current favorite. He does a great (and hilarious) job of singing along!

We stopped by Target and the video store before heading home to hang out for the rest of the night. Aunt Jill and I bought matching shirts that we may just have to wear together this week.

Their home is lovely, but I didn't expect anything else. They gutted a good portion of a it a few years ago and put in stained concrete floors and a stone pillar in the entryway. I love it!

I'm so thrilled that I get to spend eight more days here, but it's too bad I have to work for three of those. I'm hoping there won't be much to do!

Aunt Jill and I are off for a run! . . .

Friday, November 16, 2007

No Expectations

He said (over email) that he "really enjoys spending time" with me and "does still want to continue hanging out" and "hopes to talk to me soon if I want to". BUT he also says that he's "not looking for anything serious" (could've fooled me) and is sorry that he wasn't "more direct to begin with". He is either saying that he wants to keep seeing me but isn't serious at this point or he is saying "let's be friends". I'm going to assume the latter and just move forward with no expectations.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

He wrote me

But I am going to hold off on writing more until I talk to him.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Jerk's friend said . .

"I can't believe he did that!"

"I am so irritated with him!"

"He was talking about how much he liked you after you left the game that day!" (The first day he didn't call when he said he would.)

"Oh I can guarantee you he's gonna regret this."

And it just gets weirder.

She told me that she'd let me know if she heard anything. I told her that, if he asked, she could just tell him I was disappointed and wished he would've said something.

Who knows if I'll ever learn more. She mentioned saying something to him, but she also mentioned that she didn't want to dig and might see if he brought it up. (He did know we were hanging out tonight.)

So what happened between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon? It's like unsolved mysteries. I will probably never know.

ready for a drink

It's 5:30, and I haven't had lunch yet. I have had an apple, two pumpkin cookies, and a frozen lemonade from Starbucks but that is hardly a sufficient meal.

Now I am going to Happy Hour with The Jerk's friends where the glass of wine will probably go to my head too quickly and I will spill my frustration all over the table.

Let's hope not.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Looking Forward

Now that the weekend has passed, it doesn't look so bad anymore. I should clarify that under normal circumstances I wouldn't have hung out with someone on such short notice. However, he had just cancelled his plane ticket home that day and changed the dates. But it's true, being unavailable never hurt anybody . . it just ruined their weekend, ugh. We won't be letting him know that, though!

I did end the weekend on a great note, babysitting for Cousin J's kids. They couldn't possibly be any cuter. When I walked up to the front door, two-year old Walker was sitting on a tall stool in his jeans, long sleeved RL polo, and a green Patagonia vest with his elbows on the credenza looking at pictures on the Macbook. Just like a little man. I wish I'd had my camera out. Six-month old Miss Michael smiled at me with her big open-mouth grin looking just like her brother had when he was that age. Walker and I spent quite a while on the sofa watching the Cowboys v. Giants game. He was mesmerized. He loves to repeat things, especially Tony Romo's name, and he thinks it's quite funny when they tackle each other and fall "on the ground". Ok, now I have to post pictures of them, although these are a couple months old.

So I have turned my thoughts from this weekend to the coming weekend when, on Sunday, I will be flying to Austin, Texas for NINE days! I have cousins living in both Austin and Houston that I will be visiting. I've been to Austin three times before, and I just love the Southern sophistication of the historical yet very hip city! I'm excited to go back! Coincidentally, I booked this flight prior to going out with The Texan, but he will be there for Thanksgiving as well, so we have plans to see a concert together and possibly watch the Nebraska v. Colorado game. Although I could make a long list of the things I'd like to do there, I don't want to have any expectations beyond just enjoying my cousins' company. Only six more days to go!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Random Picture Friday

I decided to pick a random picture from my flickr account and just write about it. Because I am oh so bored at work. I stayed two hours late last night and came in an hour early . . and now I’m done. Nothing really left to do this week. Except clean off my desk, but blogging is way more fun than that.

So here is the picture. And I wish I had randomly chosen another, but I literally closed my eyes and clicked.

When: December 2006
Where: New York City
Who: with New Girl, my former co-worker and friend

The first thing I think when I see this picture is: very good idea. Wish they would do this in D.C. Why do I wish they would? Because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to use the facilities and there are none available. Most places require you to purchase something or wait in line for a key before they will let you use their restrooms. And who has the time or money for that? Sometimes you’ve just gotta go . . NOW. No time to ride the metro home. No time to walk to your final destination. Can you tell that I’ve had a bad experience? You’re right, I have. I won’t get into it, but it was very unpleasant. Very uncomfortable. It was one of those days when Nebraska sounded even more wonderful than I already think it is. I never thought that one of the reasons I would ever give for missing home would be accessible restrooms. Speaking of restrooms, I may as well also post a picture of the most lovely publicly accessible restroom I’ve ever found. It is, of course, in the wonderful city of Omaha. And it is in a gas station. But I prefer to call it a convenience store. Because it is so convenient, so unlike anything here, so . . wonderful. I enjoyed my time in this restroom so much that I almost didn’t want to leave. I felt so at home. Can you see why?

It was large, cozy, clean . . and it even smelled good. I would rather go to the bathroom here than in some of my friends’ homes. And I can't say that I've ever felt that way about a public restroom.
I can't believe I've written an entire post about restrooms. Actually, if you knew me, you probably wouldn't be that surprised. I guess I will sum it all up with this: if you live anywhere that is not a big city . . don’t take your restrooms for granted.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Best Visitor

I love Best Friend.
And I love that she came to visit last weekend.
We certainly crammed plenty of fun into such a short period of time.

I picked her up late Friday night and drove her quite aimlessly around the District . . just for fun. (In fact, this weekend was the first weekend that I drove all over the city numerous times without any directions. I was extremely proud of myself for being able to get around so well! Nevermind the fact that I almost got into a few accidents. I knew where I was going!)

On Saturday, we walked a mile (slightly uphill) to my favorite bagel place for breakfast. The Nebras.ka game started just after noon, and as painful as it was, we stayed for the entire game. After the game, she and I went shopping in Geo.rgetown and ate at C.abana’s on the Water.front. I took her by my friends’ joint bday party at a nearby restaurant so she could meet the whole crew. We picked up ice cream at my favorite spot near and went back home for the night. My roommate Lyn taught us how to STEP (something we've both always wanted to do) and we watched one of our favorite movies “Love and Basketball”.
On Sunday morning, we attended my church and afterward met up with another Neb.raska friend at Lost Do.g. We went shopping in a cute little area near my apartment and walked through the National Gall.ery of Art. I drove her by The Aw.akening sculpture at Hai.ns Point, and we had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Then it was back to the airport, singing Garth Brook's Greatest Hits the whole way. I missed her even before she left.