Spring BREAK!!

Yes, “break” is the operative word in that phrase and very much needed. It’s been a very productive (and because of it) busy year so far. I can’t believe I’m just over a month away from being done with my first year of Graduate School!! But this post isn’t about grad school, only what I’m going to do on my BREAK. Most is relaxing and fun, some is work/school related.

  • Saturday – clean the apartment and pack for a week in Austin.
  • Sunday – *Spring Forward with the time* Pack up the car and head to Austin!! (I might leave on Saturday if I can get it all done early enough). Crawfish time at Sam’s Boat (let me know if you’d like to join us).
  • Monday – Do a little clean up at my parent’s house and do a little research on permits for our builders. No, they haven’t started yet. 😦
  • Tuesday – Go chill out and rest with Cathy T at an undisclosed location. Hopefully, the sun will be out and I can do a little basking in it.
  • Wednesday – Trish’s birthday. Not sure what’s on the docket for that day so I’m leaving it all opened up for family.
  • Thursday – If something happens to our plans on Tuesday, we’ll go today. If not, I need to spend a little time at the UT library for my Research Techniques class. They have at least one thing I need that only exists in about 9 libraries around the world. In the evening, I’ll be getting together with “the girls”. It’s gotta happen! 😀
  • Friday – I can’t remember what I’m thinking about for Friday. Maybe nothing at all yet.
  • Saturday – St. Patrick’s day will be spent at the same bat time at the same bat place. If you know what I’m talking about (or call/text me or Cathy T, we’ll tell you) and want to join us, COME ON!! Be ready to start early, though. 🙂
  • Sunday – pack it all up and head back to Huntsville. Wow, that went by fast and furious but it was a really great week! (yes, that’s what I’m predicting I’ll say.)
  • Yes, it looks like a full week but for the most part, all this stuff only occupies a few hours of each day so don’t think my dance card is all full without you. There are SO many people I want to see and visit with that have a less flexible schedule due to work or kids. Please call me and tell me when you’re free and I’ll make sure we can visit during that time, even on days that seem like Tuesday or Wednesday.

    I really want this Break to be kind of epic. But not with activities so much – more time with friends. Lord knows, I can’t afford a whole bunch of activities and I have NO desire to spend a whole lot of time in the SXSW scene. I guess it’s because I’m not sure when I’ll be back in Austin and I want to make the most of every moment I can with all my friends. The next time may not be until late June or even July!

    Love you, mean it!
    ~C

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    Christmas 2011

    For the last 15 years (at least – I think it’s more like 17 or 18 years now), instead of exchanging gifts, we’ve enjoyed a family brunch at a nice hotel or restaurant. Most of those years, we’ve gone to the Four Seasons in Austin. They have a wonderful brunch for Christmas morning and they treat us so well, we go annually without question now.

    Round 1, I’m obviously not a food stylist.

    Round 2 was sushi and I ate it before I realized I hadn’t photographed it. They had several rolls that were doused in some spicy sauce they could/should have left on the side. It burned our mouths!

    Round 3 was from the carving station. OMG, this was SO delicious but I was getting full and needed to save room for dessert that I only ate half of this lamb. The mashed potatoes were PERFECTLY smooth and buttery!! The halibut was good but not quite the flavor I was hoping for, especially paired with the lamb and mashed potatoes.

    Round 4 – DESSERTS! Have I mentioned that stressed spelled backwards is desserts? This is why:

    There was plenty more to choose from in all categories as well. I just couldn’t fit it all on the plates or in my stomach! I keep saying that I need to take photos of the entire buffet but that just seems too odd. I think I get enough strange looks taking pictures of my plates of food. Maybe next year – we already have our reservation!

    We weren’t in Trio this year since we made our reservations too late but we were able to get a table by the window and this was our view. Nice and peaceful!

    While we were there, there was some excitement on Lake Austin (I just can’t call it whatever else they’ve named it now) – a party boat caught on fire and its 3 propane tanks exploded. It was all over the news for at least 2 days after so it was HUGE news in Austin. The explosion was so big, it popped open those doors in the last pictures at least 3 inches. After brunch, we walked around outside a bit and the boat was still on fire and adrift:

    We were glad to hear that no one was hurt. Property loss sucks (see “The Fire” post) but I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to loose a loved one. I still have no idea how that boat fire got started. I’m sure if they’ve figured it out, it was listed as “old news” so they either didn’t report it or reported it is as an after thought and no one caught it on the news.

    The Four Seasons always does such a beautiful job of decorating, too. They always have gingerbread houses and this year, the theme was Texas History or Significant Buildings in Texas or something like that.

    Some of the buildings are for sale. Who would have thought I could buy the Capitol Building for less than I bought my house for?

    It’s a little blurry but I love how ornate they make their lobby:

    Love my parents!

    Merry Christmas from the Benfords!!

    Our walk

    I try to take Clipford on a walk 6 of the 7 days a week. There is a nice neighborhood next to my complex that’s safe and quiet (from cars zipping through) to walk through. We go pretty early so we get to see the neighborhood just starting to wake up, actually.

    This morning, the weather was beautiful. We went a little later and normally, it would have already been sweltering when we stepped out the front door but because of Tropical Storm Lee hitting land in Louisiana yesterday, it really cooled things off and we were able to go after the sun had started to come up. The wind sounded so beautiful as it buzzed through the tops of the trees and because it’s Labor Day, there were few people out. It was just Clipford, me and the elements of nature.

    When we walk earlier, there are lots of dogs that like to bark as we walk by their homes so I think that probably scares away a lot of the squirrels and birds that live in the trees from coming down to play. The first few weeks we lived here, we’d always see birds and squirrels playing in the yards and streets as we walked by. Not lately…until now. I guess lately, we’ve been walking much earlier so even they’re still asleep. Today, the dogs weren’t out but the other animals were. It was so much fun to be surrounded at one point by dozens of little birds hopping through the pines and squirrels collecting for winter to come.

    The only thing that made this beautiful morning at all sad was the smell of smoke in the air, reminding me of the devastation others through Texas are experiencing.

    Austin Comic-Con 2010

    Brad & I went to Austin Comic-Con this weekend and we had so much fun! We didn’t quite know what to expect but once we got there, “settled in” and the convention figured out, we had a lot of fun.

    There were a few talks we wanted to sit in on so we started with Billy Dee “Lando Calrissian” Williams. We got there about 1/2 way through so we had to sit in the back and it was hard to hear such a soft spoken man though a poorly set up sound system. I was sad that we didn’t get to laugh when others did because we just couldn’t hear about every other word that was said. Except that someone asked him about some show he had a guest spot in once and he couldn’t remember that he had done that show at all. How can you not remember a job?

    Walter Koenig From there, we walked across the room to listen to Walter Koenig speak about his time as Pavel Chekov on the original Star Trek. He was very interesting to hear speak. For being in his mid-70s, he sure did have his wits about him and knew how to convey his worldly knowledge to his audience. Other than Star Trek and Babylon 5, he has also written a graphic novel and done charity work in Burma.

    Yes, I typed “walked across the room”. I think this convention was supposed to have their talks housed in 2 large meeting rooms though the convention center but the Texas Art Educator’s Association convention was also being held at the Austin Convention Center and it seems someone got their wires crossed so there were no rooms for Comic-Con to use. They took the back room of the convention floor, partitioned off two opposite corners as meeting rooms and had their talks there. I should have taken a picture or something since it was such a ridicoulous set-up. I guess when you’re in a pinch, you do whatever you can to make things work.

    Yup, the line started here. The line behind me.
    After the Walter Koenig talk, we got in line to hear from the cast of the TV show Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. I never watched the show but Brad is a fan and watched the entire series so I figured why not. As the line slowly moved to the seating area, I started thinking that if we both sat through the Buffy talk, neither of us would have a good seat for the Adam West & Burt Ward (Batman & Robin) talk so I decided to see about getting in line for that instead. Low and behold, I was FIRST IN LINE!!! I got to hold the sign and everything. 😀 Turned out that a few others had had the same idea and had “started” a line at the end of the Buffy line but when they understood that I asked the girls with the “Line Starts Here” signs about the line and got said sign, they were cool about getting in line behind me. AND they were understanding about Brad joining me when he got done with the Buffy talk – mostly because some of them were in the same situation as well.


    So we were front row, center on the Adam West & Burt Ward talk. It was the best talk of the day! Adam West is kooky and funny and I think Burt Ward still thinks he’s Robin. Yes, Adam West did a bit of the Batoosie for us and talked about his role as himself on Family Guy. Turns out that there’s going to be a new reality show about Burt Ward and his Gentle Giants dog fostering coming out soon. He talked a little about that, too. It was great to listen to them tell all the old stories about times on the set. They told their stories so well, I felt nostalgic and I wasn’t there to experience it originally. That’s a good story teller!

    After the talks we made our way around the vendors area and most of the vendors there were selling toys – both collectible and not. There were lots of people in costume and lots of others taking pictures with people in costume. I just didn’t see how taking a picture with a complete stranger in a costume is something worth keeping. Maybe if someone had on a really cool costume to take a picture of them in it but I don’t know that I’d feel the need to be in that picture, too. You know?

    We got around the vendor area to where the various stars were and found that NO ONE was talking to Adam West or Burt Ward so we decided to stop and chat. We ended up talking to Burt Ward for over 20 minutes about his dog rescue. Brad wants a Kangal someday and since Burt Ward rescues giant breed dogs, we figured he’d be the one to give us a little info. We got A LOT of info! They also sell dog food and I think I’m going to switch old Clipford over to it. It seems a lot healthier than what I’m getting for him already and it might just be cheaper (even after shipping) than buying the food from Bark & Purr. A little more research is needed at this point. Oh, I invited Adam West to dinner the next time he’s in town. Let’s see if he takes me up on the offer. I doubt it, seeing as I didn’t actually give him any contact information…but wouldn’t that be cool if I had and he called us up? He’s just kooky enough to not put it past him.
    See, he WAS there! :) Adam West's doodles
    The Batmobile The Bat Phone
    Cathy & Erin Gray

    So everyone else we ended up talking to were:

  • Walter Koenig
  • Lindsay Wagner
  • Erin Gray (I even got my picture taken with her for the low price of $10 to her charity)
  • Ernie Hudson (well, I just shook his hand as he was talking to another fan for a long time as we did with some stars)
  • Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)
  • Larry Thomas (The Soup Nazi)
  • Ashley Williams (The Human Centipede)
  • I’ll post some pics once I get them onto Flickr. I thought I’d done that on Sunday but I think I shut iPhoto down too early and they didn’t all get uploaded. I’ve gotta close with saying that if you get a chance to check out a Comic-Con, don’t think it’s just for geeks. Just the opportunity to hear about the lives of these folks and see how personable they are. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

    Midwest, hats and ovens

    Midwest

    Midwest & Chicago was a lot of fun. I didn’t venture too far away from the Hilton area but I met a lot of nifty new people, as well as got a chance to hang out with folks I already knew. It was great to have dinner with BOTH Montoya brothers at once. We went to Eleven City Diner and had yummy open faced sandwiches. There was more food on each plate than any of us could have handled. Why didn’t we split plates, guys?

    I know you’ve read about the trials and tribulations of my getting to Chicago but I wanted to show you a picture of why I had so many troubles. Seems like the snow on Tuesday (when I originally wanted to fly out) never stopped. When we landed early Wednesday afternoon, I could definitely see why they closed O’Hare Tuesday night. A lot had been cleared at that point (I’m sure thanks to de-icing planes all morning) but that one point that had been driving through is still thick with snow.

    I went to a few clinics and concerts but I must say that my two favorite concerts were Betty Pierce and the Grisham Middle School Band from my very own Round Rock ISD and the Ensemble Liberte Wind Orchestra from Kawaguchi-City, Japan. I actually did a lot more walking the floor and talking to people than I did going to clinics this year. Networking is a huge portion of conventioning.


    Travis Ancelet and Damon Talley enjoyed the concert as well!

    Speaking of networking, I was very excited to see all the folks who were at the Jazz Education Network open forum. I’m really glad that this is going to be about jazz and education and about all the members instead of being about the big names, as the previous organization became by the time I joined. I’m excited that I’m a charter (and the first “regular”) member. They asked me to be the forums moderator so if you’re a member, check out the forums and say hi!

    I got to meet Ronald Carter while walking the exhibit halls. Paper is heavy and his new book is HUGE so I didn’t get to add his autograph to it (my buddy Ron McCurdy’s a co-writer and already signed it) but we did take a picture together. I think I’m going to ask TMEA to invite him to be an All State Clinician sometime.

    Martin is the Director of the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park Band in Michigan and their “regular” tour company gave him tickets to see the Blue Man Group one night and he invited me to come along. It was a great show and after, we went to the top of the John Hancock Center for a reception. Catching up with old friends is always great. Especially when you have an amazing view of Chicago! 😉

    The rest of Midwest was a lot of fun. Like I said, I got to catch up with a lot of people and meet new ones. I talked at length with Frank Ticheli (composer) and Col. Alan Bonner (Executive Director for Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma) and met composers Michael Daughtery and Eric Whitacre. Of course, I had a chance to hang out with Steve Bryant (congrats on the 2nd Revelli Award!!), John Mackey and Jonathan Newman. Always a great time at the Hilton.

    Getting home wasn’t the easiest but it was smoother than getting out there. I had a nice time waiting and waiting at O’Hare with JD Janda, Kerry Taylor and his wife Valerie, Jack Green, Paul Crockett and DJ Jennison. Hanging out with these guys made the wait not seem so long!

    Hat Parade
    Both needing to do some last minute Christmas shopping this week, my friend Crystal and I ventured out to the craziness that is retail shops a few days before Christmas. When Crystal and I shop, there’s no stress because we can always make anything we do full of laughs and fun things. And my always having my camera with me captures the fun for a lifetime (gosh, don’t I sound like a commercials here!). Regardless of what we’re shopping for, we always keep our eyes open for cute shoes and while stopping at Marshalls, we found some hats we wanted to try on. Hence, our HAT PARADE!!

    Gold and sparkly. I think there are Christmas ornaments or something on this hat!

    Purple…just like the purse Crystal REALLY REALLY wants.

    I do like how this hat fits but it’s wicker and that doesn’t work in the winter.

    Gold and sparkly on Crystal. And here, you see the other side of the hat better, too. 😉

    I was actually going to get this hat but it was over $10 and would have matched my sweater. We were looking for a bit more outrageous than matching.

    Plaid is fun.

    This hat just makes us sad.

    So, there you go. We finally picked these two hats to buy and wear the rest of the day. Fun hats make Christmas crazy not so…crazy! Yes, we wore them to dinner, even. 😀

    Oven
    If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I love to cook. I’m not much for baking but I LOVE cooking things. My oven went out last September or so and I’ve been going nuts. I even took all my supplies and made my lasagna at Keith & Jones’s house about a month ago just so I could make something in the oven. They certainly enjoyed the fruits of my labor but I really miss having my oven working. You must be asking, “Why didn’t you just get the thing fixed?”. Well, I get this really nifty (not) trait from my dad called “gotta fix it yourself if at all possible” and with him being an electrical engineer, we usually can for very little money. Thanks to a very long and busy marching season (Go Tigers!), time for that hasn’t been available. Finally, about a month ago, I did a bit of research on “the internet” and found that it might be so difficult to do the repair ourselves and dad came over to take a look. After taking things apart, we still weren’t sure and had ran out of time so we decided to hold off until more research and time could be found. So, yesterday, we narrowed it down to one part…that we couldn’t get disconnected! We were quite frustrated and I decided that I was going to break down and call an appliance repair place. Appliance Connection from here in Pflugerville came today, diagnosed the same part that I had as broken and replaced it in a matter of minutes…and $200. Oh well, I can use the oven now!

    So, this turned out to be quite a long post but I hope you enjoyed it. I thought maybe people had stopped reading my blog and I was going to stop blogging but it seems as though you haven’t so I won’t. Have a Merry Christmas, everyone! Cookies will be ready after I eat my frozen pizza….. 😉

    Take 3

    As they say in School House Rock, Three is the Magic Number. At least it was for me in getting to Chicago this week. My flight Tuesday evening was delayed twice then canceled. Thanks to the efficiency of American Airlines, I was automatically re-booked so I got the back I checked on Tuesday afternoon and went home. On Wednesday morning, I got to the airport probably about an 1:15 minutes before my flight and spent almost that entire time in line to re-check my bag. So, when I finally got to the front of a line, it was only 29 or less minutes before my flight so the system wouldn’t take my baggage and I was told that this caused me to “miss my flight”. Needless to say, I wasn’t all too happy about take 2 being denied as well. They re-booked me (yet again, mind you) on the 11:55 flight but tried to get me a spot stand by on the 8:25 flight with no luck. Not even any more stand by spots left on that flight. So, I sat in the airport, watching Casino Royale (a much needed watch after being oh so disappointed with Quantum of Solace) until a few folks I knew came to wait for the same flight. Despite the drama, I’m glad I’m in Chicago. It’s been a great time already. Long day tomorrow so I’m gonna turn in.

    Love you, mean it!
    ~C

    Ticket to Ride

    I was thinking about trying to do some traveling this summer but I’m thinking against it now. It seems like it’s going to cost way too much to fly anywhere, especially if there’s any car rental associated with where ever it might be I travel to.

    Last summer, I did some reorganization of my finances and I’m doing much better on saving money but I can’t just go spend it as soon as I have a little bit saved up. Not the most responsible thing to do with money. I have to save up so I’m not going into grad school flat broke.

    Anyways, back to the point – I’m not doing any long distance traveling this summer. I am thinking about going to Six Flags or the beach or something, though. I think I can manage that. I am, however, considering purchasing a second vehicle that could save me some money – a motorcycle or scooter. I’m actually leaning towards a scooter with some power. I still have to do some research on what’s a good deal but I’m looking at the Suzuki Burgman 400 or 650. To your right, you see the 2008 Burgman 650. Yes, I understand I just said I’m looking at saving money and yet I contradict myself by talking about a new major purchase. But I’m thinking that I can save quite a bit of money in gas by purchasing something that has good gas mileage and a small tank for my daily driving. I’ve also considered a Vespa or something electric like it to save on gas completely. I also don’t know what license (if any) I need for a scooter. Again, more research is necessary. Any input is always welcome.

    So, that’s it for now. I’ll keep driving the Mario Kart cycles and scooters until I can get one of my own. For all I know, this is just a whim and I won’t follow through with it. I do love my Honda!