Monday, July 29, 2013

Friends for Life!

The highlight of my time in San Diego was spending time with Rachel and her daughter Elie. I can't believe that my dear friend is a mom! To me, Rachel is still the girl who made up dances for the GFC talent show with me. And the girl who almost crashed her car when we ran into each other randomly at a 711 in Hillsboro. And the girl who I would talk to on the phone (actual land-line phone!) for hours at a time as we plotted our adventures in either Dallas or Tulsa.  Even though we are adults now, and our friendship is 20+ years strong, I suppose she is still all of those things. And now so much more.
Rachel + Elie + Me... and the mysterious babies from Jenna's shower. "Mama! Mama!"

Friday, July 26, 2013

San Diego Zoo Highlights

Live from my vacation in San Diego...San Diego Zoo pictures!!!  But before I begin, I want to say that the SDZ was incredible in terms of customer service and accessibility. Combine that with the most immense array of animals in a wildly (get it!!) fantastic park, I can't imagine a better zoo.  I remember being amazed back in 2011... and this visit topped it.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera so my poor iphone pictures will have to do. Doh.
Sleepy Bear

Look up in the tree! It's the Sun Bear maxin' and relaxin'.

I spot a spotted leopard!

It was a Happy Hump Day. Hehehe.

Thing Mr. Elephant is excited for some food?

The lion sleeps tonight.

Playful polar bear.

Think she would want to come swim in our pool?

Baby giraffe! She was 6 feet tall when she was born, and fell right out of her mama. Oh Nature.

It's Sam & June!!! Except that Sam isn't quite doing her job.

Perhaps the most chill animal in the zoo.

It takes years for baby flamingos to turn pink. So cute!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Beach Time for Puppies!

This weekend's trip to Port Aransas was one which Joe and I had the same amount of excitement as two parents taking their kids to Disney World. Why? We were taking Sam and June to the beach for the first time! In theory this was a great idea. Anyone who has met Sam knows how much she loves water. And June, well, June would be fine right? Right? Anyone?

Joe opted to work remotely on Friday, which meant we headed to Port Aransas on Thursday night.  While Joe and June stayed back at the hotel on Friday, I joined the rest of the W family at the beach with Sam.  As expected, Sam had loads of fun in the water. She swam and jumped and played with no trouble at all.  I borrowed a 20 foot leash so she could play "monkey in the middle" with Joe's brother-in-law and nephew.  She was quite a happy dog, as evidenced below.

When we returned, she had barely enough energy to guard her chewy for the rest of the afternoon.
I asked June if she was excited to join Sam at the beach the following day. Does this not just scream excitement?!
Saturday was the big day - we would take both puppies swimming in the ocean. (BTW, three to four years old still constitutes puppy-ness, right?) They both went right in! We were so excited!
And then came June's panic. With each incoming tide, June tried to flee. We finally got her into deeper water and she swam and swam. I swear if we hadn't been holding on to her leash, she would have swam straight out to sea and never looked back. We honestly weren't sure if she was enjoying swimming or not, but not wanting to inflict more trauma, we took her back to the beach to stay with Joe's family.  Sam played "monkey in the middle" again and swam some more. It was obviously she wasn't used to swimming non-stop without resting on the pool ledge, and Joe and I are full of claw marks that demonstrate that we made good ledge-substitutes. Luckily June was fine huddled in a mound below Joe's mom's chair. 

Despite June's trauma, I would say the day was a success and both puppies were completely exhausted.

Joe and I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Gaff, known for its famous belt sander races. Yeah, I didn't know what that meant either.  Gotta love America! While we didn't get to see the races, we still enjoyed hanging out with the family and being pirates. Arrrrr!

For dinner we met Joe's parents at the Beach & Station St. Grill. The food was incredible and reminded me how much I love seafood.  Note to self: learn to make stuffed flounder. Mmmm!!!
Overall it was a fun beach weekend. I doubt we will bring June back to the ocean any time soon, but she seems back to her normal skiddish self now.  For me, it was great to hang out with Joe's family, relax in the sun, finish up a book, and enjoy my remaining time of funemployment.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Picking Up Again

Lately I have been feeling like the last two years at McCombs never happened.  Nearly all of my MBA friends have either moved to their new cities, are just about to, or are still traveling to amazing places like Tibet.  There's no talk of MBA type things these days. Without a job at the moment, I feel much like I did during the summer of 2011 when I was also between work and school.  (Luckily there is no foot surgery holding me back this summer!)  It's hard to believe for the past two years that I was deep in classes, studying, assignments, exams, interviewing, projects, and living in Spain!

What's my point in all of this? It's that I have been able to pick up with all of my pre-MBA friends as if no time has passed at all. I am so glad I choose to stay in Austin this summer so I am able to reconnect with everyone.  To be honest, it doesn't really feel like "reconnecting" because I don't feel like my friends and I ever disconnected.  When Katy texts me to meet her for a run, I show up as if I saw her a few days ago.  When Charles wants help picking out art, it doesn't feel like I've only seen him a few times over the past two years. When Mike wants some advice on his business proposal, it doesn't feel as if I haven't worked with him for over two years.  Or when ETG agrees to meet me for a walk, I feel like we walked together last week too.

I feel really blessed to have friends that have stuck by me when I wasn't active in my normal Austin scene. This gives me a lot of hope for my future time in Dallas, when I will only be back in Austin on certain weekends. 

I know I am rambling, but that's what my blog is for. I just wanted to say that I have some seriously wonderful friends in my life!

Monday, July 08, 2013

I'm in a New York State of Mind...

After four trips to New York City in the winter, I finally visited the city in the summertime! This was also the first time since 2001 that I have visited entirely as a tourist, with nothing work-related to do.
Angie and I had planned on staying at her apartment, but luckily Kyle let us stay with him. (In addition to the fact that he has furniture at the moment, he also lives in a super luxurious high rise in midtown. See pictures of his view? Yeah, pretty awesome.)

Angie, Kyle, and I took the ferry from Hoboken to Manhattan on Friday afternoon and settled in to his place for the evening. We ordered sushi and enjoyed the amenities of his place, which included games of pool and basketball. (I'm pretty much Michael Jordon, right?) I could definitely get used to living in a place like his!

Future all-stars right here!
On Saturday we headed out to try our luck at the Book of Mormon lottery. While we didn't win tickets, Angie and I decided we wanted to say a Broadway show anyway. Based on Chris's recommendation, we bought tickets for The Nance.

Nathan Lane delivered!! It was an incredible show that had Angie and me totally hyped up on musicals. This meant that Angie and I were motivated enough to hang out in the "standing room only" line at Book of Mormon. Since we had been thwarted before, I knew well enough to count the number of people in line (plus tickets they were each buying) to see if we would have a shot at tickets. We were right before the cut-off, so we decided to try our luck. The advantage of these types of tickets is that first, they are actually available, second, they are only $27, and third, despite having to stand the views of the show are excellent. Kyle came and joined us, and after 2.5 hours of patience we got tickets. Wahoo!!

We grabbed a beer nearby before the show, and then proceeded to laugh like crazy for over two hours. I admit that I wasn't sure what to expect from this show. All I knew was that Trey Parker and Matt Stone (Southpark) joined forces with the Avenue Q songwriter to write a story about Mormon missionaries. It was offensive sure, but it was hilarious. I highly recommend it! (Just no kids. Trust me.) After dinner we went to a hip Thai food restaurant (that doubled as a club I think? Crazy New York.) By the time we were done, it was midnight and I was done.

Sunday morning started with a trip to one of my most favorite places on earth... the Museum of Modern Art! Fun fact: In high school and college, my dream job was to be the marketing director of the MOMA. We spent a few hours in the museum before heading to view the "Rain Room." We opted for viewing (10 minute wait) versus experiencing (6 hour wait) and were quite happy with that decision.

The rest of the day was spent shopping around Fifth Avenue. With Angie gone, I don't have anyone left to offer fashion guidance or veto powers while shopping. So I decided to get her help while I could, still keeping my mission of not buying anything unless I needed it. Luckily I could justify everything I purchased and the day was a success. We decided to grill at Kyle's for dinner and take it easy. Overall a great day.

So goes my weekend in New York City. It was so great to have a final big weekend with Angie, who has been one of my best friends since starting the MBA program. Until our next adventure...

East Coast Road Trip

The bad news: Angie moved away from Austin. I'm probably going to remain in denial for quite some time.

The good news: The fact that her movers wouldn't have her stuff to her for at least eight days provided the perfect excuse for us to take a trip. It just so happened that she would be in Mississippi at the same time I was in Birmingham, and she needed to get her car to Hoboken. Thus... our second annual road trip was born. (Can I say annual if there will likely only be two roadtrips ever? I digress.) Our plan was to meet in Birmingham and make our way up the East Coast, arriving in Hoboken by Friday. I would then fly back to Austin from New Jersey instead of Alabama. (Who loves flexible Southwest flights? This girl!)
What do roadtrips with Angie look like? Ta-da! We have lots of stuff.
Jenna dropped me off at Angie's car on Sunday morning, and off we went towards Savannah. Much like our road trip last year (from Austin to Washington, DC), we had only a loose agenda and no reservations at all. We would book hotels while driving towards a location, and learn about the city only upon arrival. Luckily we had some help in Savannah, as our friends James & Kristin have special ties to the city. We ended up spending two nights there and saw the following:

Moon River Brewery
In our defense, we split this tasting moon.

Bonaventure Cemetery
Tybee Island

St. John the Baptist Church
This is supposed to be on of TripAdvisor's top destinations in the world. It was pretty, but we call a big PR bluff here!

 Dinner at the Cotton Exchange
Mmm! Fried green tomatoes, y'all!

A night ghost tour
That's a haunted bell, ya'll!!! Everything's haunted!

We really liked Savannah overall, even though we didn't find it to be as haunted as the city claims. We also agreed it would be a nice spot to return with our significant others.

Next we headed to Charleston, South Carolina. Jenna had sent me some tips on things to see, but we still weren't sure what to expect. We assumed we could spend an afternoon there, and I think that was plenty of time for us. (Angie and I move quickly and efficiently when it comes to travel!) Our highlights were:

Lunch at Poogan's Porch

Also, but not pictured: Rainbow Row, Battery Park, Downtown, City Market, and South Carolina Pralines. Mmmmm!

Next we made our way to Asheville, Virginia. Neither of us had heard of this city, but our friends told us that we would love it. While we only saw the downtown area, Angie and I both indeed loved it. The entire area was so green, with flowers and rolling hills and trees everywhere. The downtown had a very Austin-feel to it. We had dinner at Doc Chey's and breakfast at Over Easy Cafe. There was definitely an artsy vibe to the area which hit home for both of us.
Meet Virginia.
 This was our view for most of the drive. Even through the rain, Asheville is pretty!

From Asheville, we headed to Charlottesville. Confession: I wanted to go to C'ville because I read a blog (Kath Eats) and I've always been enamored by the city. Since it was on the way, we decided to spend a night and explore. While on the road, Angie spotted a sign that said "National D-Day Memorial." We exited the freeway and headed in that direction.

I started researching the site while we drove and learned that the Memorial serves as the national memorial for D-Day veterans. It is located in Bedford because the town suffered the greatest loss of life (per capita) during D-Day. (We were told Saving Private Ryan was based on Bedford.) Having just visited Normandy, I was once again overcome with emotion at the memorial. It was beautifully done, divided into three parts representing the planning, execution, and aftermath of D-Day. The middle section was a tribute to the day, and representations of a Higgins boats, soldiers, bunkers, gunfire, bombs, and the Rangers at Pont du Hoc were heart-wrenching. The pictures obviously do not do it justice.

Another highlight of the Memorial was meeting Ted, a veteran who was on Omaha Beach on D-Day. We were so honored to talk with him. When I asked him if he has been back, he answered "Why? I don't think I left anything there." I showed him some of my pictures from Normandy and we talked with him for a bit. It goes without saying that it was an honor to meet him and listen to his story.

Onwards to Charlottesville. My first impression was that the people were so friendly. We had been expecting a bit of the opposite, so it was a great surprise. We spend the evening in historic downtown, and had dinner at Citizen Burger. The next morning we drove around the UVA campus and had frozen yogurt at Arch's Yogurt. (While I am not eating ice cream these days, I made an exception for the infamous gooey brownie/yogurt combo at Arch's. Worth it.) We had considered staying longer in C'ville, but since it was July Fourth, a lot of things were closed. So, we decided to hit the road.

Our next stop: Philadelphia! What better place to spend the Fourth than the birthplace of our country? Plus, Philadelphia has one of the nation's largest free events and we managed to get a hotel nearby. After walking around downtown, we headed to the event area and grabbed a seat. We had planned on eating at the event, but moving around was near impossible. The concert included the Roots, John Mayer, Neyo, and other local favorites. I was definitely underwhelmed by John Mayer who looked like he was about to fall asleep. But I loved Neyo - he was an amazing performer. After the concert came the fireworks!

Big square with giant toy pieces! Can you guess which toy I'm on?
Angie says, "I am sorry."
Yes! We got a spot! Little did we know it would be insanely crowded in just an hour.
Looking back towards downtown.

Midway through the fireworks came perhaps one of the scariest moments I have had in a very long time. Apparently someone had a BB gun and was shooting into the crowd. This obviously caused a surge of panic and people were running and pushing and shoving to get away. At that point we only heard that someone had a gun and was shooting, so I grabbed Angie's hand and we ran. On the plus side, nothing too serious happened (except some $&%*# idiot with a BB gun). On the negative side, Angie lost her phone and a flip flop, and I scored a massive bruise on my leg from the chaos. When we went back to look for Angie's things, the place was a mess. We found another phone (which I hopefully got back to it owner) but not hers. This was definitely not a fun way to end the evening, but in the end we are just thankful to be safe and that nothing too serious happened.

The next morning we took our final leg of the road trip - onward to Hoboken! Upon arriving at Angie's new place, we unloaded our stuff and reality that Angie is no longer a Texan sank in. But at least we had a great weekend in NYC ahead!

First time at her new place!