Oct 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

iphone_picLast Halloween I had all these big plans for how I was gonna make this Halloween the best one ever. I followed through on 1.5 of them: never leaving the candy unguarded and continuing to sit on the porch with a glass of wine (but this time without a magazine).

And despite my lack of follow through, I would say it's been a pretty stellar Halloween. First, Ross and I carved this fantastic Grim Reaper jack-o-lantern.We did it in record time too. Less than 45 minutes from first cut to candle.

Second, this Halloween was spent chatting with the neighbor couple. The hubby came over early in the evening, with a Coors Light, and we discussed how celebrating Halloween with an adult beverage is the best way (just one though, there are kids involved after all). Then a little later his wife came over and we chatted it up for about 30 minutes while greeting trick-or-treaters.

Third, candy was guarded thoroughly. No mean big kids stealing my candy this year.

Fourth it was really nice weather. Perfect for pants and my Happy Halloween 2008 t-shirt.

photo(2)Fifth, we got a picture of Lexi with the pumpkin. She's definitely skeptical about this carved pumpkin thing but hey, it's still a picture.

And sixth and most important - we're 1 holiday closer to Christmas! And like Neiman Marcus, Team Black strongly believes in celebrating holidays one at a time and thus refuses to put up Christmas decorations until definitely Halloween and usually Thanksgiving are behind us. But let's be honest, we love Christmas more than both of those combined so...yeah, we're excited to be one holiday closer to Christmas.

Happy Halloween y'all! 

Oct 30, 2011

Flashback: New Zealand

Sky diving overlooking Mt. Doom, Oct. 2006
(and I totally wore that shirt yesterday, still a fav)
I've been wasting an impressive amount of time on social media tonight. I could probably have done 100 productive things like fold laundry or wrap the remaining loaf of pumpkin bread. But no, I've been Facebooking and blog reading.

Blog reading took me to my old Australia blog. I am so glad I wrote this while I was abroad. Like so many memories, the more time between you and the memory, the more it fades. However reading about my adventures there takes me back to 2006 and the land down under.

I'm especially loving the New Zealand spring break posts as that was quite possibly the best vacation of my life. I always remember the highlights - black water rafting, skydiving, geyser park - but reading the blog helps me remember little things too like hikes we went on or naturally heated hot springs.

Maybe this is part of why I've always loved history. I mean really, our blogs, diaries, photo albums are our personal histories, full of the amazing moments that make up our lives.

What amazing moments in your life do you love to relive?

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

iphone_picInspired by pumpkin bread recently served at a Junior League brunch, I decided to give the classic Grandma Betsy Pumpkin Bread a chocolate twist. About 40 minutes into baking, I sprinkled one loaf with semi-sweet Nestle chocolate chips. Back in the oven for another 20 minutes and ta-da!

I've had one piece and the jury is still out. The chips are still pretty melty so most of the eating was preoccupied by the mess being made of my fingers. I'm going to take it to the office tomorrow and we'll see if it's a hit.

If I do it again, I think I'll add the chocolate chips a little earlier, maybe after 25 minutes of baking when hopefully the top of the bread will still be batter like.

In other news, I'm finally able to breathe and thus was able to enjoy the delicious smell of the baking bread. I really must find out how to embed that smell here for you. I bet I'd have a lot more blog readers if the experience included the smell of baking pumpkin bread...

Oct 29, 2011

Make it stop

This week has been the worst allergy week of my life. At the risk of sounding like an old person who has a new ache to tell you about every time you call, I'll give you the brief summary.


At least I think that's what it is. It's been awful. I've taken Claritin every day. I had to go home from work early one day because I wanted to claw my eyes and contact lenses out. There was the night in the guest room with Lexi due to excessive stuffiness. I had a massage one day and had to ask the masseuse to stop twice so I could blow my nose. (Thinking about your snotty nose during a massage and hoping it doesn't drip really puts a damper in the relaxation.)

This morning I had my first sinus headache. We were out at a friend's country cabin and we scoured the place for meds to keep me from murdering someone. When we couldn't find Advil, Ross doped me up on Benadryl figuring sleeping me was more pleasant than murderous me. And tonight I had to miss Kassie's fourth birthday party because I was wheezing in bed, slathered in Vicks vapor rub and drinking hot tea in an effort to breathe. I tried to sniff the Vicks container like some kind of crack addict but my nose was too stuffed to smell it. My nose is rubbed raw and I'm keeping Kleenex in business like a champ. Through it all the hubs has been making me tea, getting me drugs and telling me I'm beautiful, Rudolph nose and all.

Dear God, please let this end. Give us rain, something to wash it out of the air. Or just make me not allergic. Either way, make it stop. This is miserable. Love, Cheryl

Oct 27, 2011

My Cuddle Bug

lexi being perfect, as usual
Anniversary couch cuddling
earlier this week
Allergies in Austin are ridiculous right now. Last night instead of making Ross suffer through my sneezing and sniffling, at 1a I grabbed my pillow and a blanket and hiked over to the guest bedroom to sleep.

Just as I laid down I felt a wet nose from the edge of the bed. There she was, the puppy princess. She took one look at my and jumped straight into the little twin bed. She laid down with her head at my shoulders and her whole body stretched out next to mine, the little spoon.

And there we slept  until 6a, me and my little cuddle bug.

Oct 24, 2011

Hotel Weisses Kreuz

First hotel of EuroTrip 2012 - BOOKED!

Late last month we booked our plane tickets to Europe. And then I was on the road on and off for a couple weeks and I did nothing in relation to EuroTrip. This past weekend I sat down and looked at hotels in Rome again but let me tell you, overwhelming.

I think it's just the overall unfamilarity. What part of the city is convenient to the things we want to do? What part is safe? What's a 3 star hotel like in Italy? What's the exchange rate today? What does this imperfectly translated sentence on the website actually mean? Like I said, overwhelming.

In true Type A fashion, I made a plan. Each month I'll book our lodging in one city. And in a few months when that's all done, I'll tackle the train tickets. And then it will be time to go and all the big things will be done, stress-free like.

I kinda cheated this month. As in I took the easy way out and booked a hotel that I had already done all the research for. But hey - it counts.

In Innsbruck, Austria we are staying at Hotel Weisses Kreuz. Interesting things worth knowing about our hotel...
  • It began operation in 1465
  • Mozart stayed here with his old man in 1769
  • In 1945, after the fall of the Nazis, American Major Eliot set up shop here
  • Breakfast is included :)

Oct 23, 2011

Friday Morning Fun

As you probably remember, I joined Junior League  of Austin (JLA) this year. Our first year project is the Food In Tummies (FIT) program. I'll give you the thirty second summary: there are two elementary schools in East Austin with 96+% of the kids on free or reduced breakfast and lunch and the area is strangely void of regular grocery stores or even a Walmart. Thus between financial need and a lack of nearby grocery options, these families often don't have enough food to feed their kids on the weekend. Enter JLA's FIT program delivering backpacks of food to students on Fridays so that they get healthy meals over the weekend and come to school Monday ready to learn.

This past Friday morning I did my first volunteer shift of delivering the backpacks to the classrooms. At first, I have to admit, I was unenthused. I was going to the farther away of the two schools, had to be in the car by 6:30a and was worried I'd be late to work. However, I was wrong, wrong, wrong. The benefit of being on the road so early was the traffic wasn't a problem, even going through downtown and the school wasn't really that far.

And the kids were adorable! We fill these over-sized tupperware containers in each classroom and the kids would ask if they could help or they'd hold the door for you or say thanks. And they are all so little and with such smiley faces. The teachers were also very nice, thanking us and making sure we had everything we need to deliver the food.

I loved it.

I can't wait to do my next backpack delivery shift and am making a point of signing up for as many as I can. It was the best way ever to start a Friday.

Oct 20, 2011


I say "gardening" complete with the quotes because...well, we rarely plant anything. And even more rarely do we plant anything that grows. The blossoming cactus pictured below is a freak of drought-stricken nature.

But in the past week we've both been "gardening" ie pulling out the ugly junk that came with the house. Things we never would have planted because 1) not so pretty in the first place, 2) we live in TEXAS state of perpetual drought and 3) we know ourselves better than to think we could have kept it alive.

Saturday I tore out some elephant grass and as you saw, xeriscaped along the front walkway. Today Ross undertook a much bigger task. He ripped out this God-awful bush thing in the front. It took him more than four hours. We had two more of these in the yard that we've ripped out in the past two years so I can attest that if done single-handedly, four hours sounds not just right, but impressive.

In a couple weeks the city of Austin in conjunction with TreeFolks will deliver a free tree to our house. We'll take more pictures then and you can see the full front yard transformation.

Until then enjoy this:

 A Photographic History
The Lone Successful Gardening Project

Rosemary, the family shame, attempted to exclude in all photos
extended more than a yard into the street and at least 9 inches onto the sidewalk

Death of Rosemary

Cactus Garden Birth

Mama's Little Cactus Garden,
all grown up

Oct 19, 2011

Happy Brittany

Wow, this work travel thing is really taking a toll on the old blog huh? Add into that our increasingly active social life* and man oh man. If you don't live in Austin and thus cannot be a part of that active social life, you have no idea what the hell is going on.

It's about time for a glass of wine and my 30 minute bliss with Diane Sawyer so I'll just take a second to say: HAPPY BRITTANY!

Huh? Well first, today is Brittany's birthday. So happy birthday to her.

Second...Brittany is making me an auntie!

Since she posted the big news on her blog, I decided it was more than OK for me to post it here. 

I told you I was collecting nieces and nephews and Brittany and Ken have come through for me. That'll bring the count up to EIGHT. (5 from Ross' step-brothers, 1 from AJ and Joe and 1 from Becca...yes I realize that those aren't technically all nieces and nephews but relationships, if you ask me, aren't in the blood and technicalities, they are in the love and awesomeness.)

And as if getting little-person-who-I-didn't-have-to-birth number eight wasn't fabulous enough, this little person is going to be my birthday buddy. Brit is due just one day before my birthday. I can't wait to meet him/her!

*Please note our active social life isn't because we are any cooler. We aren't. There's just been British coworkers to entertain, football games to watch and now a World Series. It's just that time a year. We'll start being lame again soon enough I'm sure.

Oct 15, 2011

Back Again

After a speedy one-night jaunt to Philly, I'm back home again.

Thursday I flew to Philly for a biz trip. As soon as I landed I raced my American Studies major butt to the hotel and then 13 blocks down to the Liberty Bell. The museum closed at 5p and I didn't land until 3p so it was me against the clock.

001But I won!

I toured the Liberty Bell museum and saw the bell itself. Then I wandered around the outside of Independence Hall before moseying back to my hotel.

A little work from the room then off to dinner with Christen at a firehouse themed restaurant. And in true Cheryl fashion, I managed not to get any pictures taken with her. I'm officially batting .000 on pictures-with-people during biz trips. Maybe I'll refocus my goal to go the whole year without taking one photo with people on biz trips, in which case I'd be an all-star.

Friday morning was the main Philly event: speaking on a panel for the La Salle University Nonprofit Center. There were six speakers and my niche among the bunch was the role of social media in fundraising. In a nutshell my argument was you unlikely to raise many dollars via social media platforms (like a donation form on Facebook) but you can build deeper relationships with your constituents and empower them to spread your message, thus influencing donations and overall engagement.

But anyways...back to Austin Friday night where Ross, Lexi and my new iPhone 4S awaited me. I paid attention to the first two immediately and started playing with the third today.

Lexi helping me show off our new
xeriscaped & solar lighted walkway
Also on today's agenda, plenty of domestic bliss. Xeriscaping another part of the front yard, Target shopping (for the record - half of my purchases were for children, interesting since I don't have children however it seems our friends are procreating at a fantastic rate. Birthday gifts, shower gifts and one welcome-new-baby gift), laundry, DVRed Thursday night TV, homemade quesadillas, gym and now UT football before taking a British coworker out for a Tex-Mex dinner tonight.

And then tomorrow the honey's home and it's Bears-Vikings, Ross and Ryan's favorite trash talking game of the year.

Oct 9, 2011

GFD Pinning Ceremony

photo(2)Last week while I was in Baltimore, Ross was pinned with his firefighter's badge at GFD. Up until this point he's been a probational firefighter at GFD but no more. He's now in the union and an official badge-toting firefighter.

Since I was in Baltimore, Nancy had the honor of pinning him. Yes, I was a little jealous but at least we have pinning ceremonies for every promotion and mark my word, I will move heaven and earth to be at the next one.

So anyways, Nancy, Jack and Meg went to the ceremony and between them nailed the pinning, photo-taking and video-making. Courtesy of an iPad, here's our collective peek into Ross being pinned as a real-live, union member, firefighter for the city of Georgetown, Texas.

Oct 8, 2011

Bucket List Concert: Dolly Parton

Last night I checked seeing one of the greatest female performers off of my bucket list. (Actually I need to add and then check it off of my blog bucket list...will do ASAP.)

I went with my in-laws, my sister-in-law, her parents and Nichole to see Dolly at the Cedar Park Center. You know something like this is going to be a good show just from the headliner but throw in floor seats and no opening act, just the woman herself, and well, you have fabulous.

Dolly was such a great performer. She chatted with us, thanked people (including local firefighters for their efforts with our wildfires, you know this scored her huge points with us), told stories, sang and danced her butt off.

I've got a Moustache Party to get to so instead of writing all about the show, I'll leave you with some photos. Enjoy!
027 024

Oct 7, 2011

Hello again!

OMG we haven't talked all month. I've missed you so.

Here's what's been happening.

October 2 I flew to Baltimore for the Convio Summit - ie our client conference. I was there for four nights and three days of conference craziness. The event went really well over all. I led two presentations and I'm pleased with both. And on Wednesday we had the coolest moment ever with a couple from two client organizations. In fact ya know what, here's the video.

So that was really cool.

Also Wednesday night October 5 we had our big wrap party at Roy's in Baltimore. I hadn't heard of Roy's but apparently it's a small chain owned by celebrity chef, Roy. Turns out that night they were celebrating the 20th anniversary of Roy's so we got to be part of the party. Martinis from a fish-shape ice luge, the best slides I've ever had, ceviche, mushroom ravioli and lots of other really tasty food. To top it off, my director asked me to listen for his raffle tickets and he won! Which really meant I won which meant Lori, our event planner and Summit queen, won. We won a giant bottle of chardonnay, signed by Roy, which will be enjoyed at Lori's wedding next month.

October 6 I flew back to Austin and spent the afternoon being lazy with Lexi and enjoying a pedicure.

Today Ross is finally home from shift and we've been lazy together all day. In fact I just woke up from our family nap which he is still enjoying and Lexi simply followed me from the bed to the couch and continued her nap there. Soon though we'll make a big adventure to the party store to buy moustaches.

Confused yet? Why would we be buying moustaches? Because tomorrow is the annual Moustache Party in honor of the UT-OU game, ie Red River Shoot-out, and if you don't come with a moustache, purchased or grown, you are given one...via sharpie. So yes, we are buying moustaches.

Other random things that have been going on
  • Ross was changed from B shift to A shift. At first he was upset
  • But then he was put on engine 1 which as he says "the show." It gets the most calls and will give him the most experience. He'll start engine 1 duty on Wednesday and is very pleased.
  • Suite 102 is in business. As in our guest room has been frequently occupied lately and there's a bit of a waiting list for it. If you are coming to Austin and are interested in a lilac bedroom with a flo-blue bathroom, please make your reservation early.
  • Ross was pinned up at GFD. I couldn't make it due to the Baltimore trip but Nancy took video and I'll share it here soon. I'm so proud of him!
  • We had our first FaceTime experience. I realize this is so 2010 but we were a little behind. As a congrats gift for his pinning, Nancy and Jack got Ross an iPad. We FaceTime chatted with Meg on it today and it is cool! 
  • I pre-ordered the new iPhone! Of the many reasons I'm excited two are 1) FaceTime with the hubs when he's at work and 2) no more lag time when typing texts/emails due to having the stone-age version of the phone.
  • Dolly Parton concert tonight!
  • The Brits are coming...er, they are here. The Convio UK team is in the States and much time is being dedicated to their cultural education. Specifically focused around boots, Mexican martinis and two-stepping.
  • Ross kicks off Movember soon. Three words: moustaches, fundraising, cancer.
OK enough blogging for now. Must go wake the sleeping honey and go moustache shopping.