Friday, August 3, 2012

A Year In Review

We left off exactly 1 year ago with our 1 year anniversary trip to Estes Park, CO. Shortly after returning home our mercury thermometer broke due to the excessive and prolonged heat that occurred in Texas during the 2011 summer. We had to break out the multi-meter to see just how hot it was on our porch.

In late September John and Carla came to town for Austin City Limits Music Festival. We all had a great time. The festival is well done. The grounds are very clean and everyone is super friendly.

In October my parents came down for about 10 days to spend some time with us and enjoy Austin. They were here over Halloween so we carved pumpkins.

Near the end of October Leah received the great news that she was accepted for a contract position at PayPal!

Over Thanksgiving we traveled to Phoenix to spend the holiday with Ian and Julie's family as well as John and Carla and Julie's parents Jon and Kathy. Ian and I decided about 3 months before Thanksgiving that it would be a great idea to grow our beards out for the holidays and pictured below is the result. Not bad. Ian had also recently purchased an International Scout. I was super excited about this and he let me take it for a drive. Way cool!

We celebrated Christmas here in Austin as we did not have the time nor the finances to travel back home. We did everything right though, tree, stockings, presents and a big dinner.

In early February I built up a new mountain bike. It is a full suspension Kona Hei Hei 29'er. In June 2011 I broke my tailbone mountain biking and so needed something a bit more plush for the exceedingly rough Texas trails. It takes care of me well! The best way to describe the ride is to imagine riding down trails on a Lazy Boy.

In mid-February a good friend of mine from college, Ben Bittner, came to town and visited for a couple of days. We took him out for some Home Slice Pizza and a bike ride in the hill country.

About a week after Ben's visit Chris and Jackie came down from Denver for the weekend and we had a great time. They were only here for a short while but we managed to have fun, which included a sunny walk on the greenbelt and Salt Lick BBQ.

During Spring Break Marie and I traveled to Big Bend National Park in SW Texas for a few days of backpacking. The park was even more magnificent than we expected. It provides high alpine climate and scenery at the southeastern corner of one of the world's largest deserts. This picture is looking towards Mexico over the Rio Grande Valley, about 7,000ft below us.

April and May went by pretty quickly. The last 2 months of school finished up as well as they could have and Leah was busy with work. In late April John and Carla came down for a visit. It was pretty quick but we did have a good time. This picture was taken at Abel's on the Lake.

In June, Leah received the great news that she was being converted to a permanent position at PayPal. It has proven to be a giant leap forward for her professional career! She enjoys the work and the environment.

Near the end of June Leah and I traveled back to Michigan to see family for 6 days. We spent the first 3 days at Horsehead Lake with my side of the family. Leah and I were even able to go sailing together!

We spent the second 3 days at Crystal Mountain/Crystal Lake with Leah's side of the family. The weather was superb and a great time was had by all. I also got to take my first ever ride in Leah's 
    namesake Chris Craft that her Dad restored!

On the 4th of July we flew from Traverse City to Minneapolis. Neither of us had ever flown from Traverse City. I would do it again just for the view below of Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.

Upon arrival in Minneapolis we sped through their hyper-efficient airport and retrieved our rental car, which we drove to Duluth for their spectacular fireworks display. We stayed in Canal Park and could see the fireworks from our balcony.  For those of you who have never been there, Duluth is certainly worth a look. Canal Park was beautiful.

Finally the reason for traveling to Minnesota in the first place, the wedding of Ben and Joy Bittner. The wedding was about an hour north of Duluth right on the shore of Lake Superior.  Both the event and the setting were great. The ceremony was literally on the edge of the lake, very cool!

Leah and I found some time to do some sightseeing while we were there. We hiked to High Falls in Tettegouche State Park and viewed Split Rock Lighthouse on the way back.  Ever since I looked through my first lighthouse calendar as a young kid I had wanted to see Split Rock firsthand. The lighthouse itself can just be seen in the background. The park was charging some obscene admission fee to get close to it, so we found an alternative.

Earlier in the summer Marie and I had considered a quick backpacking trip to the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. Unfortunately the area was experiencing the worst wildfire in it's history. By mid-July we were back from up north and the wildfire was 95% contained so we decided to give it a shot. When we arrived we were told that there was no way that we would be able to access the trails as the wildfire-induced flash flooding danger is far too high. With our backpacking plans up in smoke we embarked on a semi-epic car tour of the mid-latitudes of New Mexico, including the Gila Cliff Dwellings, Signal Peak Fire Lookout, The Aldo Leopold Wilderness, The Lincoln National Forest, Carlsbad Caverns and dinner with our Uncle Jack! All in all a great trip.

Leah's birthday was Saturday July 21. We started the day with donuts and mimosas at home. Next we went paddle boarding on Town Lake with Marie and Ryan. And then dinner at Abel's on the Lake with a group of friends followed by "Better Than Sex Cake" for everyone at our place. Leah is now 26!

July 31 was a very special day for Leah and I. It was our 2nd anniversary! We can hardly believe that 2 years have gone by already. Leah put together a little re-creation of our wedding on July 29. I never did get over the fact that I didn't get a piece of cake at our wedding so Leah made the same kind and now I must forever hold my peace! We celebrated the official day with dinner out at The Driskill Grill here in Austin.

Coming up in the near future is a partial move to Houston, TX for approximately 20 months as I will be attending graduate school at The University of Texas Health Sciences Center. We have an apartment lined up not far from a dog park and are sort-of looking forward to the change in scenery. Leah has the opportunity to work from home 2 days a week and so will work from Houston 2 days and stay with Marie and Ryan in Austin for 3 days each week. In a perfect world it would be considered less than ideal but in reality it should work out pretty darn well.

Way out in the future is a very big event in the wedding of Chris Lane to Jackie Larson! October 2013 can't come soon enough. We are very excited to say the least.

We hope that you've enjoyed this review of our past year and that you're all doing very well. As always please keep us updated on the current events in your lives.

Love Leah and Jay.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Looking at the frequency of entries over the past couple of years: 15 in 2009, 8 in 2010 and 3 thus far in 2011, it appears that I will either write 0 or -0.57 journals in 2012. Perhaps I can persuade Leah to log on and defy mathematics.
Anyways, May brought a very busy time at work as well as our move to a new apartment on May 7. I did make a mid-May trip out to California to visit Jeff and Katie as well as watch the Tour of California bike race. This was my second consecutive year spectating. This trip was even more fun than the last. I arrived on a Thursday night and we went mountain biking Friday, rode the Mt. Baldy hill climb stage on Saturday and hiked up Mt. Wilson on Sunday.

I am glad to report that Jeff and Katie are doing exceptionally well. They are in a nice house in Redlands, CA and they have orange trees in their backyard!

My return flight arrived at around 2am on Monday of the last week of school, which was a bit challenging logistically but well worth the extra planning.

In preparation for a visit from family near the middle of June, I built a bookcase to house all of our books that were scattered about the spare room.

Shortly after completion (perfect timing) John and Carla came to visit and we all had a great time. We went for a few hikes on the greenbelt with Max, ate our fair share of food, and John and I went on a tour at a place called Colling's Guitars. They manufacture custom guitars that range from $3,000 to $20,000! The precision and care that the craftsmen exhibit is very impressive.
Their visit ended with me dropping them off at the airport on my way to the first day of summer school. That continued for a couple of brutal weeks. Neither the hours nor the work were brutal, arriving home in the heat of the day was brutal. There are a few precious hours in the morning here when outdoor activities are even remotely enjoyable, and to give those up for work was a tough sell.
Summer school ended a week early for me as I volunteered to give up my students to teachers who wanted to stay for the full three weeks. Summer school is designed so that kids can leave whenever they finish. This results in diminishing class sizes and consolidation of sections.
The reason that I volunteered was the news of grandmother Prescott's deteriorating condition. I was able to make it back to Michigan with time to have a precious few last words, which I will forever cherish. She did pass away about one week later on July 2nd.
A great advantage to having extra time in Michigan was to be able to spend some time at the cottage with my Grandma Harrison.

On the way to the cottage I spent an afternoon at Sleeping Bear Dunes as a tourist and experienced some incredible scenery for the first time.

Sometime near the beginning of my trip, Marie left for a wedding in Wisconsin. She took the Badger across from Ludington to Manitowoc, WI.

The original purpose of the trip was to be in Michigan for the burial of my grandfather Harrison's ashes, and so during the second week of the trip we all drove to Lawrence for that occasion. I was able to see and talk with a few relatives whom I have seen only about twice during my entire life.
The 4th of July holiday fell in the middle of my trip to Michigan and fortunately Chris and Jackie were visiting Paul Lane in Holland. Chris rented a sailboat that we all went out on,

we watched the fireworks over Lake Michigan

and Mr. Lane hosted a wonderful dinner that included such distinguished guests as Gary Millikan and Bob Kahle. The couple of days spent with friends in Holland were a pleasure. Chris and I even had the chance to chop some wood and cut down a small dead tree, just like the old days. The following is my new favorite sequence of pictures:

After that trip I returned back to Leah. Two weeks was effectively an eternity and so we were both glad to be in the same place again. July 21 was Leah's birthday and we celebrated with cake and dinner out.

July 28 marked the date of our departure for our one year anniversary trip to Estes Park, CO. We flew into Denver and had dinner with Chris and Jackie. Chris fixed up some bacon wrapped chicken shishkabobs that were delicious and Jackie baked and assembled super cool cupcakes that were modeled after hamburgers.
The next day we drove up to Estes Park, where we would stay for the weekend, and promptly fell asleep for three hours in the middle of the afternoon. With the river right outside the window drowning out all unwanted noise and the cool, comfortable mountain air, it seemed like the only thing to do. Saturday we did the standard Rocky Mountain National Park tourist activity, the driving of Trail Ridge Road, along with about 50 million other people. Although busy, it was nevertheless magnificent. Sunday was the day of our one year anniversary, which we celebrated by hiking a trail to Ypsilon Lake, 9 miles round trip with nearly 1/2 a mile of elevation gain. The scenery along the trail was beautiful, the trail was incredibly well maintained and Ypsilon Lake, nestled in the Rockies at over 10,000ft in elevation, was a suitable reward. Monday we drove towards the southern end of the park and walked to Alberta Falls. The falls were tall, roaring and beautiful. The worst part of the trip arrived much too quickly, our departure on Tuesday morning. The weather had been beautiful the entire time that we were there. It thunderstormed one night, which we thought was great, now that we live in droughtville. The days were generally sunny with highs near 80 while the nights were clear and dry with lows near 50, a very welcome and needed respite from a Texas summer.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Lastly, we have been doing a fair amount of cooking since I've been off work for the summer and there are a few of you who I have promised to share recipes with. Links to the recipes are below:

Poached Grouper with Mango Salsa and Coconut-Cilantro Rice Pilaf

Eggs Benedict Rancheros

Mediterranean Grouper

We sincerely hope that you are all doing well in your preparations for the busy fall season.

As always, please stay in touch, we love to hear from everyone.


Leah and Jay

Saturday, April 23, 2011

5 month hiatus

Here I will briefly cover our very busy past 5 months.
The winter saw us spend lots of time with our dog Max. He requires a large amount of exercise. Unfortunately the more exercise he gets the stronger he becomes, and the more exercise he needs. You can imagine how this cycle will continue.

This picture was taken near the edge of a cliff in the Barton Creek Wilderness Preserve. We don't trust Max 100% near these cliffs. He's pretty smart but still a bit wild.

Over Christmas Break my side of the family came down and stayed with us in Austin. They were here for about a week I think. I don't seem to have any photos documenting this trip, so if you happen to have any I would be happy to add them here.

New Year's found us in Phoenix where Leah's brother and sister-in-law Ian and Julie live with their two kids Carter and Iris. Leah's parents John and Carla were there also, seen below with their beloved granddaughter Iris. The bottom photo is of the whole family taking a walk in a nearby park.

Sometime in mid-winter we actually had a snow day. The temperatures last winter seemed to be abnormally cold. We were often wearing our winter clothes from MI on our morning and evening walks. There were a few mornings when the thermometer read 19 deg F. Below are a couple of photos from our snow day. It was amazing what 1 in of snow did to a city the size of Austin-shut down almost completely. Judging by the reaction that Max had to the snow, we are fairly sure that it was his first time seeing it.

One week later it was T-shirts and shorts time.

Leah and I decided to treat ourselves to a mini-vacation for Valentines Day. We booked a night at the Lake Travis Resort north of here a ways. It was nice to get out of town for a bit and it was very nice to be on the water, even if the water was a low reservoir in the middle of Texas.

During this time I had been busy building up a new mountain bike. My previous bike was very much past it's prime. I could happily add a ton of photos of the build-up in order from first to last but I'll limit it to 1 of the finished product. The new bike has increased my riding ability two-fold and makes the ridiculously rough trails here much more fun.

Near the end of February the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was in Austin. It was way cool. On display were hundreds of custom bikes and components. And I got to meet Dario Pegoretti, maker of, in my opinion, the most beautiful bikes in the world.

The next big thing on our agenda was Breckenridge for Spring Break, the result of a very generous wedding present from Paul and Chris Lane. We decided to drive there, about 15 hrs. The trip north was surprisingly easy. Neither of us had ever experienced anything like the desolation of far west Texas and northeast New Mexico. We stayed in Snyder, TX the first night, right in the middle of fields of wind turbines as far as the eye could see. It was a bit surreal looking driving through them at night. Each one had a blinking red light on top and the fields were synchronized.
Interesting fact, nearly 2/3 of our 950 mile trip to Denver was completed within TX.
In contrast to my high school ski trips with Chris and Tim, we only downhilled one day. The other days we XC skiied, snowshoed, hiked and relaxed. Eating was our most common activity. It was great to see everyone in Denver and spend a little time there. The trip back was a bit slower than the way up but it was worth it. We stopped at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. I don't remember the specifics but I believe the tallest dune was around 750 ft.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Other than the above mentioned happenings, it's been mostly business as usual. Leah is still working towards her webmaster certificate. Currently she is in the middle of learning java. It quite literally blows my mind, but she claims to enjoy it, so more power to her. I recently studied for and passed the math 9-12 certification test, so now I am technically certified to teach high school math, even though I have no intention of doing so. I only took the test for a grant program that Marie and I were accepted into.
On the future, I have 5 weeks of school left. We're moving into a new apartment on May 7, a two bedroom in the same complex. It is just down the parking lot a little ways actually. We are considering going to the gulf for memorial day weekend. John and Carla are planning on coming down sometime around the first or second week of June, which we are looking forward to. I will be teaching summer school from June 13-30 and then heading back to MI from July 3-9.

That covers it.

Happy Easter!

Love Jay and Leah.