Category Archives: Travels

Austin Texas 2014 Part Two

I must admit, when Janet and I went to Austin this time I fully realized everything I missed. I miss the fact it can be 80 degrees in February. I also miss the music, food, our friends and our neighborhood.  I really like what’s happening on the eastside at the moment. Not everyone will agree with me but I like the changes.

It all started with Franklin Barbeque. They moved into the hood and it drew in the barbeque lovin’ crowd. Now, the Quickie Pickie has transformed from a dark scary place into a beer lover’s mecca. A new restaurant has moved in across the street from Quickie and it was packed with people sitting outside eating and enjoying the weather.

The only reason Janet and I left the eastside this trip was because we had to go to Chuy’s, one of our favorite TexMex establishments.  Janet developed a taste for Margarita rocks, I enjoyed a burrito as big as my face and we missed Austin terribly even as we sat surrounded by its glory.

We never made it out to El Sol y La Luna, our favorite spot for migas tacos, but I indulged my need for migas at Kerbey Lane Café. I had never been there before but I will definitely go back (even though they made their migas with tortilla chips). We also stopped by Hula Hut for Margaritas (!) and tres leches cake. It tasted better than it sounds.

I’m sure we did more than eat when we visited, I just can’t think of anything. We did go for a jog along the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake but that was mainly because we needed to burn a few of those margarita and cake calories. I’m glad I’m not tracking my eating habits at the moment.

I miss parts of living in Texas but I love most of living in Seattle. Solution? We talked about keeping the house on the eastside and being snowbirds…living in Austin during the winter and the rest of the time in Seattle/Portland. Yes, we had that much fun.

jenn

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Austin Texas Part One

Janet and I noticed, last year, that Jesse had a weird five day weekend in celebration of President’s Day and decided to take advantage by heading over to Austin. What a brilliant idea. I can’t remember enjoying myself that much on another trip in recent memory. It was all about the food. Oh…and we saw friends too, but it was mostly about the food.

It’s quite startling to get on a plane in Seattle and step out into Austin weather. It’s brutal in August but really lovely in February. We landed during the perfect Austin weather weekend: clear skies and highs in the low 80s. I can’t remember when I felt 80 in Seattle. August, maybe?

We dropped Jesse off with her BFF and immediately went to dinner. What can I say about our favorite barbeque place, Rudy’s? DELICIOUS! I swear I want to open up a Rudy’s in the Seattle area but I would not be as small as I am now. Janet ordered her usual moist brisket and I ordered the dry (I have issues with fatty meat). There was a long line and I love the fact they have bottles of beer and sodas lining the Disneyland like barriers.

We sat down like little kids and dug into our brisket, coleslaw, white squishy bread and delicious bbq sause. I hope the noises we were making didn’t go far beyond our table. You try and be discreet but sometimes, especially if it’s been a while, you just can’t contain the noises of joy. We had ordered enough for leftovers and rolled out to our rental Jeep, the sweet smell of brisket leaving a trail of delicious behind.

The next morning, fueled by a breakfast of brisket, we met a group of friends for a hike. We went to one of the gems of Austin: McKinney Falls State Park. I used to live just to the west of McKinney Falls, on William Cannon, and would go there to hike around and relax. I just love it there. The trail we hiked, the Homestead trail, hadn’t been too damaged during the October floods but parts of the park are still closed.

The women we went with, members of TOWN (Texas Outdoor Womens Network), were a joy to be around. I miss these women and their group immensely. I have never met a group of women who were as nice, caring, accepting and full of life as TOWN women. I miss them mostly because they made me realize how important friends can be in life. That’s what life’s all about, friendship; and brisket, of course.

jenn

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The Oregon Coast and Our Impending Bike Ride

The family and I just spent a few days in Newport which is located along the coast in the middle of the beautiful state of Oregon. I can honestly say the Oregon coast is much different from the Gulf coast. The major difference being in Oregon it’s freakin’ cold during the summer; the Gulf not so much.

Since we had two kids with us, Jessie and her visiting BFF from Austin, we had to eat more organized meals instead of the normal cereal I like to eat two or three times a day. Here are a couple of pretty good restaurants (and a candy store, of course) we found on our trip, in case you’re ever in the Newport area visiting.

Cosmic Soda Pop and Candy Shop – Okay, this one is actually in downtown Portland, where we made a pit stop on the way to Newport, but it’s worth a look if you’re anywhere near Portland and have a sweet tooth as big as my snarly toothed monster. This shop had a wonderful collection of old school candies and a large selection of soda for the kids and kids at heart.

My mom brought me back, from London, a candy bar I absolutely adored called Crunchie by Cadbury…or something along those lines, I’ve forgotten already, and Cosmic actually carried it! I’ve had a heck of a time trying to find my new favorite candy bar. Especially when I have such a hard time describing it: it’s chocolaty, with a honeycomb thing in the center…I can’t remember what it’s called though…it’s crunchy and airy and delicious…do you have that?

Mo’s – I try not to eat too much fish & chips, I know fish is brain food but I’m pretty sure the grease they fry it in isn’t, but sometimes I just have to have a little F&C. Even better: Mo’s serves their F&C in cahoots with a cup of their world famous clam chowder. Yum. Mo’s clam chowder was delicious: creamy, flavorful with just the right amount of small clam pieces. Just how I like it.

My favorite part of F&C, the fish, didn’t disappoint. It tasted like they had just caught the cod that morning and fried it up before the poor fish knew what hit him. I would have to say Mo’s F&C are my second all time favorite, a distant second to Spud fish & chips mind you, but Janet swears the F&C are better in New England. I’ll be the judge of that!

Savory Café & Pizzeria – I just love pizza. I love cheese, marinara and meats loaded on a giant piece of bread! Janet and I ordered the Mexican pizza and weren’t disappointed. It was just what we needed: pizza and Mexican food wrapped into one tasty, spicy package. The kids had spaghetti with meatballs and a giant chicken and rice burrito which reminded me of Chuy’s (an Austin Tex-mex favorite) big as yo face burritos.

Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life Ride

For those of you super fit people (you know who you are) 35 miles on a bike probably doesn’t concern you much. To an asthmatic 44 year old, fairly out of shape woman who prefers to lift weights than actually move around, it’s a terrifying thought. So, of course, my better half, in a Snapple and chocolate induced haze, signed us up for the “short” route. On the bright side: Janet could have signed us up for the 65 mile route!

She registered us several months ago and you might assume that gave us enough time to actually train for said ride. You would be mistaken. I’m pretty sure we’ll survive the event but just in case we both got all our finances in order. Just in case. I did forget to say a long and emotional goodbye to Jessie, before she left to go camping with her dad, but she knows I love her.

The CF ride sounds like a well run, pain free event, with mechanics, support vehicles and rest stops scattered along the route. To say I’m terrified would be slightly exaggerating my feelings. I’m just downright scared. I’m glad we’re arriving at seven in the morning, for the ride, so I can sleep through the first part. I might just make it that way.

jenn

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How Do I Love Thee, Texas Barbeque?

Since Janet and I stayed at the Aloft this past weekend in Portland, we were situated directly across the street from a Famous Dave’s BBQ joint. After living in Texas on and off for about fifteen years, I hesitate to order BBQ in other states, but especially in the Pacific Northwest. We are known for a lot of things but BBQ and Ice Tea (which go hand in hand, really) are not two of those things.

Janet and I decided to try Dave’s because it’s been a really long time since we had our BBQ fix. Eating at Dave’s made me realize just how much I missed Texas BBQ. Famous Dave’s was fine but can’t hold a candle to our favorite Austin BBQ spot: Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q – where you can get BBQ and fill up your other tank with gas!

If you live in Austin Texas, you will have a favorite BBQ spot because I’m pretty sure they have a committee who won’t let you live there if you don’t like BBQ. A lot of folks will join one of three bandwagons: Rudy’s BBQ, the Salt Lick and County Line BBQ, and faithfully eat at their favorite choice. (There are lots of other BBQ joints, lots, but I’m narrowing my choices to these three and Austin only.)

Same thing goes for iced tea. You either like sweet tea or unsweetened tea and you’ll rarely meet anyone who will tolerate one if they prefer the other. Usually you’ll hear, “Oh, you don’t have unsweetened tea? I’ll just drink water,” and it won’t be in the ‘oh, goody, I LOVE water’ tone.

Why do Janet and I worship at the alter of Rudy’s? Let me just tell ya: it’s mostly the brisket, sause and setup. When you first walk in to Rudy’s, they have a large winding area you go through, to get to the counter (kinda like Disneyland), which is lined with glass bottled sodas and beers. Right after the drinks are the usual BBQ sides in a giant refrigerated display case. So, before you even order your meat, the drinks and sides are already in your hot little hands!

You order the most important part of the meal, the meat, at the counter and watch while the professional slicers cut your meat right in front of you. No need to sit down and have a waiter slowly make his way over to take your order, the front counter crew will have loaded up your food and removed a big chunk of change from your pocket in no time!

Since Janet can only eat regular brisket (wet) and I can only tolerate lean (dry) we both get what we like without annoying the other because Rudy’s has them both.  Because, you know, if Jenn ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! And the BBQ sause (not sauce)! It is, without a doubt, one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth (right behind their delicious, melt in your mouth brisket). There are some camps, in the BBQ world, who swear any kind of sauce should be banned from BBQ, but I think a truly great sause only enhances the meat.

I’m sure other states make great BBQ too I just haven’t found it yet. Famous Dave’s must be pretty good because it’s a chain and if it were terrible nobody would eat there, eh? And in defense of Franklin’s on the Eastside of Austin (within walking distance of our house), we haven’t tried it yet. Something about a line 30 or 40 people deep, waiting to get in every single day, lets me know something exceptional is happening there. I just don’t want to stand in line (it’s hot in Texas) because I’m lazy and I’m usually at Rudy’s.

So, if you are anywhere near Austin, please visit each and every BBQ joint in town, and a couple hugging the county line, so you too can jump on a bandwagon. If I’m in town, you might see me at Rudy’s, crying tears of joy, while eating lean brisket on squishy white bread drowning in Rudy’s sause. Either that, or I’ll be at Chuy’s…don’t get me started on Tex-Mex!

jenn

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Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting 2013

Janet and I spent this past weekend in Omaha Nebraska at the annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders meeting. We’d talked about going for a few years now and decided to quit talking about it and just go already. We went to see Warren Buffett and, now we realize, Charlie Munger. Not that we’re worried about Warren or Charlie (those two are so sweet, I’m sure they won’t mind me using their first names), but after Boston, you never know when your time is up.

I bought a share of Berkshire B stock (I really, really wish I could say Berkshire A) just to be able to go and it was well worth the money. As a matter of fact, I want to rush out and buy more shares; I was so inspired by the two leaders. For billionaires, they seemed pretty down to earth. Not that I know a lot of billionaires. Janet wishes she were one…does that count?

Janet and I both arrived on Friday night, ready for whatever the meeting may bring. We woke up bright and early Saturday morning at six A.M. (four in the morning to our bodies) and tried to catch a shuttle from the hotel to the meeting. After learning there were roughly forty thousand attendees in town and just two shuttles from our hotel, we decided to drive ourselves to the stadium. Well worth the $8 for parking. I think we’d still be there, waiting for the shuttle, had we not driven ourselves.

We were first shown a movie which was a little long but funny in parts. It ended with a Berkshire rendition of YMCA with Warren leading the cheerleading. He’s pretty spry for eighty-something-or-other. For the bulk of the meeting, Warren and Charlie were alone on their stage with a panel of three people from the media on their right and a panel of three lucky-a$$ people on their left. I’m not sure who they were…I was mostly asleep until after lunch.

From about 9:30 until 3:30 (with an hour for lunch), Warren and Charlie answered questions from the panels and from various attendees from different zones in the crowd. Warren talked first, after each question, with Charlie talking after, if he had anything to add. Sometimes he had nothing to say. I loved the way the two men interacted: like an old married couple who had seen and done a lot together over their fifty years.

They do have their fundamental differences: Warren is a Democrat and Charlie is a Republican but neither is the stick wielding absolutists you usually see when people show their politics. I loved their banter and they were slinging one liners like line cooks at our new favorite breakfast spot: Jimmy’s Egg.

Whenever Warren was talking, Charlie spent his time munching on Peanut Brittle and drinking Coke Zero. When the coin flipped, Warren dug into a box of fudge and drank his beloved Cherry Coke. I can so see sharing a burger and fries with either or both men. I can tell you Janet has a huge crush on Charlie. I’m not sure what that means but I’ll be taking a wait and see attitude with this situation. I don’t think I have anything to worry about: I don’t think Janet can keep up with Charlie!

I have no worries about Warren and Charlie as they were sharp, witty and passionate about Berkshire. I wish I were as sharp as they are at my age let alone when I hit my eighties. They reinvigorated my desires to be a businesswoman, reignited my passions lying dormant and stoked the flames for my vision to get Janet off the road. I would love to limit our travels to fun destinations and shareholder meetings. I think Coke (Atlanta) is coming up soon.

jenn

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Officially Without A Home, Again

Last Thursday the movers came and piled up all our stuff into the moving van.  Once again, we are officially without a home.  I learned a lot in Bend; mostly about what not to do on a short move.  But there were some positives that made the whole move worthwhile.

Bend, Oregon is a beautiful place to live.  I wouldn’t want to live there permanently (I am a city girl, after all), but a season or two is worth the time and effort.  I saw the sun a lot during the summer and the hiking and green spaces are impressive.

Some things I would do differently?  I wouldn’t take so many things with us just for the summer.  A fully furnished rental would have been nice and made the move so much easier.  Next time, I’ll research an area and the known allergens.  I think it would have been better for my body, and mind, had I know I was allergic to everything in Bend.

The last thing I would do differently, and most important to Jessie, is I will have to coordinate all future moves with the proximity to malls in mind.  I didn’t realize Bend didn’t have a mall, it didn’t occur to me to give it any thought, but Jessie quickly brought up the fact that Bend is sorely lacking in the mall department.

We did happen to find a Claire’s store, so I spent an awful amount of time sitting in front of the Claire’s store in Bend waiting for Jessie to look at every single thing in the store…twice.  How many fake mustaches and lip gloss does one small girl need?  More than I realized.

So, the movers came and packed us all in and on Friday, Janet and I drove from Bend to the storage facility in Vancouver Washington where the rest of our stuff lives.  It was nice to visit our stuff; it doesn’t look like too many things when it’s squished into a storage bin.  It’ll be weird having everything together again; weird, but nice and comforting at the same time.

Every time I move I lose/break/misplace/destroy something.  When we moved from Austin to Vancouver, it took me a while to realize what was missing.  We’d lost all the tops to our plastic containers.  How on earth does one lose only the lids, you might ask?  I have no idea how we did that trick.

We have yet to unpack every single box from Austin, so we might discover the lids were only misplaced.  Since we’ve already recycled the bottoms, when (and if) we find the lids it will be a seriously annoying thing.  This time, I made sure to pack the lids with their partners that way if I lose one I lose the whole kit and caboodle.

For this move, I’ve already misplaced the bike lock key for Janet’s bike.  So, Janet and I are moving back to Washington and Janet’s bike is still living in Bend.  I guess in the big scheme of things it’s not such a bad thing.  But our budge (Curse you, Budge!) begs to differ.  We already had to replace our plastic containers, now we’ll have to travel to Bend to retrieve Janet’s bike.  And you know how much I hate to travel!  (Budge knows I’m lying.)

Janet and I spent the night, Friday night, at the aLoft hotel near the Portland airport.  What a nice hotel.  I could live there if given the opportunity.  The rooms are laid out well and the bed felt wonderful after a long day of driving and unpacking.

The aLoft rooms reminded me of hanging out in the display rooms in IKEA, one of my favorite places to go and lounge.  (I’m a big fan of IKEA’s Swedish meatballs, too.  Am I the only person who likes to go to IKEA just to eat?)  The aLoft is a very modern and hip place to see and be seen.  I felt a little old and unhip when I walked in but everyone was very nice and accommodating.

Since we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) find a place to stay in the Seattle area, Janet and I are heading down to California to stay until we find a place we can call home.  But before we could do that, we had to make an excursion to North Carolina.

Janet’s cousin died last month and she lived outside of the Raleigh-Durham area.  Her memorial service, her celebration of life, really, was on Sunday and Janet and I wanted to go and celebrate her short but very full life.  It was worth the effort as Janet had the opportunity to see relatives and friends she hadn’t seen in a long time.

I lived briefly in North Carolina, in the High Point area, in another life, and hadn’t been back since the 90’s.  I grew up in Seattle and moving to North Carolina was a serious culture shock to my young system.  It was almost like moving to another country, the southern way of life was completely foreign to me and I didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I should, and could, have.

I swore I wouldn’t go back to the Carolinas and was a little concerned when I realized where Janet’s cousin lived.  I realized, once I’d landed in Raleigh, my concerns were unfounded and we had a short, but very sweet, visit.

Everyone in North Carolina was incredibly nice, especially the gentleman working at the Springhill Suites near the Raleigh-Durham airport, and we enjoyed our trip and the surrounding countryside a great deal.  I had forgotten how friendly and helpful southerners can be, even having lived in Texas for so long.

Tomorrow we’re driving down to California and I’m not looking forward to the ten hour drive.  It’s not a bad drive; I’m just tired of traveling now.  That’ll only last a week or so and then I’ll be ready to travel again.  California and Bend, here we come (again)!

jenn

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Discovery Bay, Washington

Yes, we are on vacation yet again.  Our trip to Discovery Bay was, originally, going to be our only true vacation this summer.  We booked it about a year ago.  I don’t include moving to Bend for the summer a vacation, although Budge seems to disagree.  Going to South Dakota was a late addition to our calendar and was time specific or else we probably would have separated the two a little more.

These two vacations, Discovery Bay and South Dakota, couldn’t be more different if I’d tried to write the stories.  Discovery Bay’s temperatures linger around 70 as a high (instead of 100), the views are amazing here (I could sit at the visitor’s center at Hurricane Ridge and breathe in the Cascades for days) and the condo here is large and private.

It’s cold, I’m not going to lie.  I would never leave this place if it was 85 or 90 degrees and sunny, not with the impressive views of the bay and surrounding mountains.  The fact that it’s 65 at noon and the sun has yet to show itself leaves me with a desire to take the ferry over to Seattle to see if it’s any warmer.  I shudder to think what it’s like here in January and February.

The views here are breathtaking.  When we are sitting at the table, eating a meal, and you look out onto the bay, it looks like we’re in the water and not just near it.  The views from the two balconies are unobstructed bay views and I couldn’t be happier with them.  Janet even saw two otters frolicking in the water the other morning.  We keep looking for whales but I don’t think they like coming into the bay much; too much like taking a bath for them.

Jessie’s best friend from Texas, we’ll call her Destiny, came along for this trip and we took them to the Olympic National Forest to check it out.  What a stunning chunk of land.  I think Destiny was impressed with her surroundings since she was born and raised in Texas, a much flatter and sometimes browner place to live.

Janet told me, before we made it to Hurricane Ridge, about the similarities to The Sound of Music I’d notice in the hillsides and I really had the urge to break into song when we stopped at the top.  I actually did break into song at one point until my clearly embarrassed daughter told me to stop.  She said the twirling was too over the top.

Staying in the condo is a much better setup than the hotel room on our first trip.  Not that I didn’t enjoy sharing a room with my mother-in-law and bed with my kicking, hitting, teeth grinder of a daughter, but separate rooms are really nice.  This condo is three floors and the setup is adult friendly.

When you come in through the front door, it’s a split level entrance.  If you go up to the left you come into the main living area: kitchen, dining area and living room with a nice gas fireplace (we use it every day – it’s cold here).  Off the dining area is a patio with a gas grill – Janet’s preferred form of cooking.  We’ve already grilled pork chops, sausage, and chicken; all delicious.

If you keep going up, on the landing between the main floor and the upstairs, the girls’ full bathroom is off to the left.  The girls’ room is up at the top with a beautiful view of the bay and two of the narrowest beds I have ever seen.  Yesterday morning, while Janet and I were up and watching the Olympics, we heard a loud thud followed closely by an ‘owwww’.  Destiny had fallen out of bed and I was surprised that was the only time it had happened.  I would just have to sleep on the floor.

If, after entering the unit, you were to go to the right and down you would find yourself in the master bedroom.  A wonderful, soft, king sized bed (a joy after sleeping on a double futon in Bend), a sitting area with a TV and a VCR (I didn’t know they still had those), a Jacuzzi bathtub, a shower in the bathroom, and our own personal deck.  The condo turned into quite the pleasant surprise, especially after sharing a hotel room for a week.  Not that I didn’t enjoy the perfectly lovely tiny hotel room with my mother-in-law and daughter.

I can’t begin to describe what our budget looks like after two vacation weeks in July.  Well, I could, but I will spare you the gore.  Budge does not look good; she is cowering in the corner, looking weak and anemic.  It helps having a kitchen in this unit, but we still went over (doubled) our budgets for dining out and groceries.  I’m so glad it’s August now and we can try and stop the blood loss.

We flew to the South Dakota trip (expensive) and drove to this one (not quite as expensive with the Prius), but having two weeks of vacation almost back to back:  this will be hard to recover from.  We’d been doing relatively well with Budge up to this point.  We’d been close to our goal amount, and when we did go over it was only by a couple hundred dollars.  But in July we went several hundred dollars over.

It’s a hard thing to justify, spending so much money on travel.  Should we stay at home and deny ourselves one of our true passions: travel?  Or should we ditch our goals (the main one being saving enough money to get Janet off the road) and travel and spend with abandon.  I’m a Libra, so I’m thinking we should try and find a balance somewhere.  That and I should stop getting all those travel deal emails.  Those are killing me.

jenn

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