Saturday, August 29, 2009

Aunt for the Afternoon

Emily had a lot to do today, so I volunteered to have the kids over.
I took them swimming,
then fed them otter pops while they were on the driveway and still in their suits,
then I put Sophie in the bath
and told Ethan to take a shower
and made them lunch.
After lunch we played with Lady Mortimer
and any toys I had around.
I don't have a lot of little kid toys,
but I have a large basket full of stuffed animals
and plastic crocodiles.
Here is Sophie going through the collection.
And below, here are Sophie and Ethan playing dress-up:

Ethan gravitates towards the cloaks (and anything wizardly).
Sophie likes fluffy sparkly princessy things.
In this incarnation of dress-up
(she went through several)
she is wearing Aunt Elaine's old velvet house robe,
a belly-dancer scarf with jangling spangles that I picked up in an Egyptian market visit,
and my wedding veil
(I recently made the decision to add the veil to the dress-up collection--
it's not like I am ever going to wear it again,
and I know how much my nieces love stuff like that.)
I much prefer a day of this to TV.
Emily came over later in the afternoon
and took us all back to her house for dinner.
After dinner I read Ethan several chapters of
"The Hobbit"
while he played with his Legos:

And Sophie dug about in the yard and got dirty again
and needed ANOTHER bath.
She is so cute in the tub,
but she is getting old enough that tub pictures can be embarrassing,
except I figured that this one is still pretty safe:

I did have a great day.
For one thing, we did physical things rather than just TV,
and I needed a mental break.
It felt good to do absolutely NO academic work for 24 hours.

No, No, Darling

Sophie likes Lady Mortimer,
except now and again when she (Sophie) gets spooked
(see my post below for a classic spooked-Sophie face).
She is also very motherly toward her.
(Sophie is this way toward her toys too-
her favorite thing is to tuck toys into bed.)
She has overheard me calling my snake all sorts of pet names,
and remonstrating with her when she begins to slither off.
It didn't really register with me
that anyone might find my behavior odd,
until I saw Sophie see Lady Mortimer slither off to the bed edge,
and catch her and scoot her back,
saying in a very concerned voice,
"No, no, darling!"
It was pretty funny to hear Sophie imitate me, dead on.

Snakes as Bookmarks

Hey, Lady Mortimer, Ethan can't read his Greek myths!
(Ethan is really into Greek myths,
courtesy of the Rick Riordan books,
which we all think are GREAT.)

Sophie seems less perturbed that "A Child's Garden of Verses"
now contains a snake.

But when Lady Mortimer comes slithering up taking Sophie by surprise,
she does get a bit nervous:

We had a great time playing with Lady Mortimer today.
The kids really enjoyed it.
She was very mellow about being handled,
but all the noise and excitement frazzled her a bit--
she didn't want to eat.
Now I have four noisy mice in my back bedroom,
waiting for Lady Mortimer's system to calm down
until she can fancy her dinner again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wading at Bridal Veil Falls

As part 2 of our Grand Day Out,
Emily & I took the kids to Dairy Queen,
and then we drove to Nunn's Park up Provo Canyon,
and walked up to Bridal Veil Falls,
and went wading.
Well, Ethan and I waded.
Emily's sandals were giving her a blister,
and Sophie was doing the usual 3 year old thing
of bouncing all her energy in every direction except forward,
so Emily stayed up near the park entrance
while Ethan and I went up to the falls.
The water was pretty darn cold,
but the hardest part about wading
was that the rocks were very sharp,
and I have feet like the Princess and the Pea,
so I didn't go very far.
But Ethan posed on a rock for me.

It is a gorgeous spot and I haven't been up there for ages.
We need to go again!
(And next time I will wear sandals I can wade in!)

Feeding the Ducks

Emily & I took her kids on an outing yesterday.
(She had the day off for family business in the morning).
We went to the duck pond on campus to feed the ducks.
As soon as we stepped out of the car
and produced a box of stale crackers,
the ducks practically mobbed us.
Sophie was a bit nervous at first,
and tended to throw the crackers and then hide behind her mom:

She felt a little more at ease throwing crackers
to the ducks still in the pond,
but it was hard to get pictures of her face.
(She moves too fast).

We had a great time.
There were white ducks,
even turtles.
All were very tame,
and Emily even got some of the ducks to eat straight out of her hand.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Texas Sunrise

Leaving Austin at 6:30 am,
our little plane rose into the clouds,
up into a gorgeous sky,
with the sun just breaking the horizon:

A closer view of the sun,
glowing bright red:

Within minutes the sun had cleared the horizon
and the dramatic color contrasts began to fade out.

It was a peaceful quiet flight,
and nice to be home.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Austin's Bats

Austin is famous for a bat colony
that lives under the Ann Richards bridge,
not too far from the hotel.
But we kept forgetting to go there,
or being busy,
or tired.
So Emily bought some bats at ToyJoy.
They are very cute bats,
with suction cup attachments.
Also, after Emily and I had taken a long, luxurious nap
on Saturday,
we woke at dusk and saw shapes swooping outside the hotel room window.
(We are on the 26th floor.)
At first I thought they might be swallows,
skittering past the sunset clouds,
but they were the wrong shape
and they were fluttering differently than swallows.
So we knew they were bats!
We were so happy!
We sat with ice water by the window
and enjoyed watching them for a few minutes.

Texas Barbecue

The same friend who told us about Toy Joy also mentioned Ruby's BBQ
as an authentic and yummy Texan place.
It is officially a dive, but a fun dive
(I personally like dives.)
Here's Emily dividing out the brisket we ordered--
it was amazing!
(It's been a really, really good food week.
After this I'm going on a celery and oatmeal diet,
I swear.)

We got seven different sides: beans, cole slaw, mustard potato salad,
collard greens, garlic mashed potatoes, home fries and crawfish etouffe,
plus brisket, pulled pork and sausage.
(Pretty much a sampling of everything!)
It sounds like a ton of food, but it wasn't too huge,
and we didn't eat everything, either.
But it was great to try.
The collard greens were fiery spicy
and only Charles could eat them.
The garlic mashed potatoes and beans were also hot.
The sides and bread were just ordinary,
but the barbecue itself was great
(and served on butcher paper, on trays:)

Happy siblings!

It's been a great trip,
but I'm ready to come home.

Move Over, Cheesecake Factory!!

Emily and I adore the Cheesecake Factory,
and we really like their Lemoncello Torte,
as well as their cheesecakes.
But on our last evening in Austin,
we went to an Italian restaurant called Carmelo's.
The food was good,
but the desserts were AMAZING.
We shared two pieces of cake,
a lemon cream cake,
and a chocolate mousse cake.
They were so divine!
I have seldom had cakes that good,
and they surpassed Cheesecake Factory by miles.
We had a hard time not making indecent noises
while we were eating them.

Fantastic Food

There are some great restaurants in Austin,
and my sister & brother & I have been enjoying the culinary scene.
Above is room service at the Hilton-
with the most amazing cheese steak sandwich I have EVER had
(even in Philadelphia)
and also delicious pasta and chicken.

We also went to the Cheesecake Factory.
Now the real reason to go there is the desserts,
but the food is also pretty good:

There's PF Chang's, which we all love:

And then there is Pappadeaux,
which is a Cajun-style seafood chain
(I think of it as a southern version of Legal Sea Foods,
our Boston favorite).
I had the crawfish platter, fried crawfish
and crawfish etouffe and dirty rice.
I had never had crawfish before.
They are extremely tasty chewy little things.

The funny thing is that these are all chain restaurants,
and normally I have a lower opinion of chains,
but these aren't your average Golden Corral type places.
Today, though, we are going to seek out a local BBQ place.


Toy Joy is an incredibly fun store in Austin, TX.
A colleague of mine who went to UTexas told me about it,
and my sister and I decided we needed to check it out.
(They have a website, too, but the store is more fun):

Check out the rows and rows of toys-
stuffed animals,
rubik's cubes,
whimsical and humorous things of all varieties:

Here I am with a fanged and horned puppet-thing.
And Emily is highly entertained by the chili pepper magnet-pen.

I took tons more pictures, but not all turned out well.
There were some truly bizarre and hilarious items,
like inflatable toast,
strings of R2D2 lights,
electronic yodeling pickles,
and much much more...

Austin the Armadillo

This is Austin the Armadillo.
Here he is relaxing on my bed at the Hilton.
I got him at ToyJoy (which I will blog about later),
and though I realize he is a bit fuzzy for an armadillo,
he is awfully cute.
(I like armadillos a lot.
They are fascinating creatures.)

Anyway, I took Austin with me down to San Antonio.
I had wanted to go on a longer tourist tour to see more of Texas,
but I don't enjoy solo driving much,
and Texas is so very big.
San Antonio, however, is only an hour away from Austin (the city).

I had a great time, despite the 104 degree heat.
Here I am with Austin at Mission San Jose:

And here we are at the ALAMO:

Perhaps the fellow tourists who kindly agreed to take our picture thought I was nuts for wanting my stuffed armadillo in the photo with me.
Do I care? No.
Having Austin with me made me happy and helped me to have a good day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sightseeing in 104 Degrees

I really like mission churches,
and San Antonio Missions NHP has some good ones.
Good enough to trudge around even in incredible heat
(the car-monitored thermometer reached 104 degrees by mid afternoon).
I had a great time,
and I'm still having a great time in Austin,
just an hour's drive to the north,
but it's much better now that rain has cooled it down,
to about the low eighties.
I have more adventures to write about on this trip
(keeping my sister company;
she's at a conference and I got a plane ticket with my miles
so that I could come along)
but I'm really, really tired right now,
so I will write more later.