A week ago…

A week ago, I climbed a mountain.

It was a slap in the face of my fear of heights. It was a grueling (for us) 10-hour round-trip. It was 16 miles of “fun”. It was one bathroom break in the woods. It was one peanut butter sandwich, one banana, 3 servings of trail mix, 1 package of turkey jerky and a desperate bite of 1/2 a Milky Way. It was 2 camelbaks and 4 water bottles. It was a girl, a guy, and a dog. It was awesome. It was totally worth it.

Chasing Part 2

Apparently, the whole thrill-of-the-hunt theme I had going on in “Chasing” was wrong. It’s not about chasing, it’s about seeing a big tornado. Here is the other side of the story:

All of these pictures are courtesy of my husband Tyler. As far as I know, the tornadoes shown were all in Oklahoma and were not responsible for loss of life.

Chasing

In meteorologist-ese, “chasing” means storm chasing. As far as I can tell, chasing is the favorite hobby of my meteorologist husband and his friends (well, aside from golfing). Many people are fascinated with storms and if you live in tornado alley, it’s likely you have jaunted off in pursuit of an attractive thunderhead at one point or another, but watching professionals hunt twisters is a totally different ballgame. For one thing, there is ego involved. Lots of ego. They are professionals, after all, and they thumb their nose at all but a few of the casual chasers. (Sometimes they have a point- danger is a concern) Being professionals, they have access to skills and even equipment that the casual chaser does not. This means that when chasing, they often land on the cusp of a storm that has produced or is about to produce tornadoes. So if a car full of these highly trained, extremely eager, egotistical scientists doesn’t witness a tornado on their outing, major pouting ensues. Fortunately, they often do. Or, at the very least, they get to enjoy some good “structure”, whatever that means.

Despite the inherently chancy nature of storms, enthusiasm for chasing runs high. I’ve never quite been able to get on board with concept of driving for 8 hours and going nowhere, but fortunately that does not dampen my husband’s enthusiasm for the pursuit. A handful of images (non-tornadic) from Oklahoma spring 2010: Continue reading

Europe, Here We Come!

Tyler and I will be celebrating our 1st wedding anniversary in just over a week. We wanted to do nice things for each other, and we’ve debated a lot of ideas. I even broke down and offered to combine our “present funds” (we each keep a running savings account to buy gifts for one another) and go on a *quick* Caribbean getaway. (I prefer longer trips but I know how much Tyler enjoyed Jamaica last year). After some serious discussion, we ultimately decided to do nothing. Go nowhere. Instead, we are combining our funds and beginning to save for a big European trip within the next (hopefully) two years.

I spent two weeks in Europe five years ago and loved it. The memories are still so vivid. I traveled to the four German-speaking countries with German-speaking high school classmates and visited places like Munich, Frankfurt, Innsbruck, and Lucerne. We still have plenty of time to hammer out the details, but I am already agonizing over whether we should head to the south of France or spend a leisurely vacation cruising the Mediterranean or hit up the hotspots of old Europe that I missed the first time (Prague, Vienna, Berlin, for starters). Tyler likes the idea of going somewhere with a beach. I wonder if Finland counts. I’m so excited to be able to plan another trip to Europe. I never thought I’d be able to convince Tyler to take a plane flight that long.

This discussion helped establish some things that are important to us. I *was* lobbying for a diamond band to accent my plain white gold one and Tyler might have been getting an iPad from me. As much as I love bling, Tyler and I would prefer to spend our resources on experiences; memories, adventures, than on ‘stuff’ – as nice and as fun as that stuff may be. Everyone is different, but this is what is important to us.

Highlights from Austin, TX

DSCN1093

My husband and I just returned from a long weekend in Austin, TX. This is the third time I have visited the area with him and we were eager to revisit a few of our favorite spots and try to add a few new attractions to the mix. He grew up in the area, so I am fortunate to have an excellent guide.

Friday August 28, 2009

Friday was a day filled with new experiences. We woke up early and visited Round Rock Donuts, a place I had seen on the Travel Channel show Man vs. Food. Although I was intrigued by their giant “Texas”-sized doughnut, we opted for a dozen original. They were buttery, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth good. These served as breakfast-on-the-go as we drove to the Enchanted Rock. This natural attraction is the world’s largest granite monolith, and oh yes, we climbed it. It was not too physically taxing and I was intrigued by the whole hill country area. Following the Enchanted Rock, Tyler took me to a spring-fed pool he and his friends used to visit called Krause Springs. I cannot express how beautiful and relaxing it was to swim in the cold water. I place it second only to the ocean, and I love swimming in the ocean. We spent a few hours relaxing in this oasis – it was the middle of the afternoon and there weren’t too many other patrons – before we dried off and headed in search of dinner. Dinner was another new experience for me – Texas barbecue at a famous spot, the Salt Lick. The establishment is committed to barbecue and nothing else. There are even signs posted encouraging you to keep your mealtime under an hour and a half so they can serve as many people barbecue as possible. We ate at rustic wooden tables and sat on benches. All the food was very good, but most notable in my mind was the sausage. The memory of the sweet, smoky flavor is still strong in my mind!

DSCN1060

Enchanted Rock - view from the parking lot

DSCN1088

Me, under a solid granite boulder

DSCN1110

Waterfall at Krause Springs

Krause Springs

Krause Springs

Saturday August 29, 2009

Saturday was dedicated to shopping. We headed south to San Marcos to check out the outlet malls and then back to Austin to visit another shopping center before we journeyed to Crate and Barrel to stock up on a few remaining wedding registry items. We finished our shopping at Anthropologie, where I finally found a knob for my desk drawer. After this, we managed to just barely beat the dinner rush and get in line for a good table at the Hula Hut. This restaurant is situated on the banks of Lake Austin and the outdoor eating area actually juts out over the water. Both the food and the atmosphere were great and I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area. We are still talking about the salsa! After dinner we headed downtown to the Congress Street Bridge to wait for sunset, when the resident bats make their nightly mass exodus. While we waited, seated on the grass with dozens of other onlookers, we chanced to encounter a flash mob pillow fight. It was completely unexpected, but really fun. That’s another experience you just don’t find in Wichita. The bats were impressive but I didn’t get any good photos. It turns out bats are small, fast, and difficult to see at dusk. After the “show” wound down, we headed to one of our Austin favorites, Amy’s Ice Creams for a little dessert.

View of Lake Travis from our table at the Hula Hut

View of Lake Travis from our table at the Hula Hut

The crowd begins to gather both above and below the bridge as sunset approaches.

The crowd begins to gather both above and below the bridge as sunset approaches.

Flash mob pillow fight!

Flash mob pillow fight!

Sunday August 30, 2009

Sunday was another shopping day, but this time we sought out local boutiques instead of the chain stores. The South Congress Shopping District was our destination and we enjoyed browsing the antiques, vintage items, records, and more. We found a Led Zeppelin record for my sister and nearly bought a walnut Danish modern credenza. For lunch we visited Central Market and had a bite to eat in the cafe and loaded up on tasty snacks. We were still hunting for records so our next stop was Backspin Records, a place we have visited each time we have come to Austin. They seem to carry high-quality products and their prices are reasonable, so it is our go-to source for records for my music-loving sister. Finally we were off to IKEA, an especially special experience on a Sunday afternoon. With IKEA done, our Austin to-do list was nearly complete. We stopped at Dunkin Donuts (another place Wichita sadly lacks) Monday morning and bought a dozen assorted to see us safely home.

Goodbye Austin, we’ll see you in December!