When I was but a lass, and a lass much younger than my mother’s claim to 29 years, I could never understand why my father always grumbled that he’d just finished the annual holiday letter and it was time to concoct the new one.  And now that I’m responsible for writing this holiday missive, I suddenly see what he meant. I just made this joke last year, and it’s already time to pass it off again? Not possible!

Joel,Erin, Muddy, and Reba at Red Bud Isle --photo credit Oscar Silva

Joel,Erin, Muddy, and Reba at Red Bud Isle
–photo credit Oscar Silva

In a nutshell, it was a year of blistering summer heat and record-breaking drought, and sadly, I think next year will bring more of the same. In better news, we’re still employed, Joel at NFP and me at StoredIQ (I know, I know, you’re all thinking that this must be some kind of record for me). We sold my red Subaru, Crusty, and actually received money in return, causing dad to laugh uproariously. We also remodeled a bathroom, had a little fun and a few more adventures, and neither of us are worse for the wear. So, in 2011….

We Went to France—Finally!

After many long years of threatening to go to France, we finally did just that. We started in Paris, headed north through Giverney and up to the D-Day beaches (when traveling near the D-Day beaches in early June, hotel reservations are a smashingly good idea), over to Bayeux and Mont St. Michel (see the tapestry and climb lots of stairs!), down to the Loire Valley and the Lemans races (didn’t that car just go by, and why is this so loud?), then south through Toulouse, Carcassonne (have fun storming the castle!), over to Aix-en-Provence (wine and lavender), then up to Dijon (good mustard) and back out through Paris. We had a fantastic time together, managing to navigate a rented Peugot throughout France and its numerous toll roads. In fact, our new favorite word is pèage, from the French, meaning “good road for which you will pay through the nose.” We returned home with a nasty Nutella addiction and a fondness for Maille moutard. And for those of you who followed the saga of our lost bag, British Airways did indeed pay the claim. In full. And I only had to write four letters.

Patience Is a Virtue, Just Not One of Mine

If Joel were Catholic, he would speed directly through purgatory without collecting $200 based on these two words: tech support. More specifically, Joel is tech support for his dad, Ed, he of the double-clicking, “how do I dot com” fame. Ed started making noise about getting a computer, and Joel wisely tried to steer him towards Apple products in general and an iPad in particular. In November, Joel got a call that Ed “went to the fruit store, and it was the most amazing experience ever!” Now, by “fruit store,” Ed actually meant the Apple store, and I’m thinking that some  I should have sent the  staff of the genius bar a bottle of something potent. I have to commend Ed, however, for leaping into the unknown and trying something new. Joel is still trying to break me of my militant list habit, so Ed is ahead of me by a long shot.

Big Wheel Keep on Turnin’

My father is the world’s most difficult man to buy a gift for, so this year I threw up my hands in despair and went to spend a weekend with him. We drove down into Wyoming and hiked up to the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, and then headed back for dinner with my grandparents. Originally, I’d planned to make a big dinner for us all, and I’d dictated a grocery list that included purslane. I don’t know who was more worried–Dad or me. Dad being dad, however, he looked purslane up on Wikipedia and thought, “You know, that looks a lot like pig’s weed.” And sure enough, purslane and pig’s weed are the same thing, and he happened to find it growing right outside the house. So if you ever need to make a big salad, just look outside your door—your answer might be in your own yard.

Ray and Erin at the Big Horn Medicine Wheel, 2011

Ray and Erin at the Big Horn Medicine Wheel, 2011

Flashing the Peace Sign

We ventured to Seattle in late August, ostensibly for my birthday but really to see my cousin Ross and the Seattle Mariners. For some reason, the three of us concocted the idea of hitting Seattle’s major tourist attractions and taking photos with Japanese tourists while flashing the peace sign. This turned out to be shockingly good fun. We got a lot of very confused looks, but every person we asked got in the photo with us. Although we never did obtain the elusive photo with a Japanese girl sporting copious amounts of Hello Kitty gear, we think we did our part for international relations.

Erin, an Unknown Japanese Lady, and Ross at the Pike Street Market, 2011

Erin, an Unknown Japanese Lady, and Ross at the Pike Street Market, 2011

Scene and Overheard

Joel usually marks the start of autumn with my frantic cries of “Say something funny! Say something funny so I have something to put in the holiday letter.” No more! I found that I could troll through my Facebook postings and find the best of his comments, many of which I post all year long for your reading pleasure. So my apologies if you’ve already seen these in previous incarnations as status updates, but these were just too good to not share again.

Joel Sports Oscar's Mayhaw Queen Crown

Joel Sports Oscar’s Mayhaw Queen Crown

  • Number One Fan—Our trip to Lemans didn’t exactly turn me into an auto-racing fan, so I told Joel that the next time he wanted to go watch cars drive in circles, he should take Oscar. (By default, when one of us wants to do something that doesn’t appeal to the other, we’re told to take Oscar as he is usually a good sport and can be convinced to watch experimental theater and puppets and sometimes even random sporting events.) However, when Oscar was informed of that decision, his response was “If I wanted to watch that kind of thing, I’d tie some bacon to Muddy’s butt and watch her run around in circles.” Something tells me that we better find another victim.
  • They’re My People, Too—This past summer, I made the mistake of telling Joel that I wanted to see the movie “Cowboys and Aliens” when it came out because “it’s two of my favorite genres combined!” “Which two?” he said. “Dork and nerd?” (Even I had to admit that he got me there. Also, skip this movie—it’s that terrible.)
  • My Eyes, My Eyes!—Joel returned home from coaching his baseball team one summer afternoon to my greeting of “Nice farmer’s tan!” He responded with “Guess I’m officially a Randall then.” And yes, the entire Randall clan does indeed resemble that remark.
  • Superiority Complex—Joel came home and asked me what BBC series I was hooked on now. “Wives and Daughters,” I replied. His response–“Isn’t that more like ‘Gods and Generals?'” When I passed this story on to dad, he chortled and agreed.
  • Walking Is Always an Option—Erin: “Oh look–a couple on a tandem bike!” Joel: “We’re not doing that.”
  • New Terminology—Joel was on the phone with his dad, who asked him, “So, are you into this whole twixting and spacebooking thing?” Yes, especially while we drive.
  • Gettin’ Jiggy with It—I surprised Joel in the kitchen one afternoon while he was making himself a sandwich and asked him if that weird little dance he was doing was the Bears’ infamous Superbowl Shuffle. He said “No. It’s the bacon dance. I learned it from Muddy.” And for those of you who remember Joel’s dance floor moves, you know that he can work it.
Colton, the World's Best Chicken Wrangler

Colton, the World’s Best Chicken Wrangler

And in 2012…

Joel and I have already planned a return trip to France and Switzerland (I need to practice my Mongolian and Italian). I suspect that he has a trip to the Monaco Grand Prix in mind. Mom and I have decided to go hike in Peru for a couple of weeks. (She actually used the line “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do something like this,” at which I snorted but did agree to move Peru onto the 2012 docket.)  And between all that, we’ll find time for SalsaFest, baseball games, brunch, or a weekend on your couch—you won’t get off that easy!

We hope this letter finds you and yours happy and well. And should you find yourself down this way, the beer is cold, the salsa mind-blowing hot, and it now has tequila in it! Should you need the spare bedroom, it’s all yours—we’ll even try to keep the animals off the bed for you. Much love and happy holidays to you and yours!