Remember being young when the school year lasted an eternity and Santa’s visits never came soon enough? Adults were always saying crazy things about “time flying”? (If time really did fly, where was it going? Did it fly steerage or was it upgraded to business class? Does it come back to visit or is it gone for good?) In hindsight, 2012 had some big changes in store for us. My grandfather passed away in October of this year, but my grandmother is still here and we love her to pieces. I managed to stay employed at the same company, although it was recently purchased by IBM. Joel is still with NFP, meaning that he is (still) the stable one. Here in Austin, it was a hot hot summer, although not quite as bad as last year. We fixed the pool, painted the house twice, invited too many people over at the same time, had fun and a few more adventures, and neither of us are worse for the wear. So, in 2012….

Erin and the Muppet Dog --photo credit Oscar Silva

Erin and the Muppet Dog
–photo credit Oscar Silva

We Went to France—Again!

Only this time we focused on southern France, thereby limiting some of the driving and number of times we encountered tolls. We started in Geneva, then went up up up up to Chamonix and Mont Blanc, down to Antibes and the Riviera, back up to Avignon and Lyon, and then back out through Geneva. We walked city streets, window shopped in Cannes, toured perfume factories in Grasse, and marveled at the French Rivera. While descending from Aguilere du Midi in the French Alps on the tram, there was the touching scene of me clutching some poor man in front of me as I chanted “Please don’t die! Please don’t die!” while Joel just looked on at me and laughed. Ah, the bonds of true love. Joel’s favorite part was undoubtedly taking in the Monaco Grand Prix; mine was spending each and every day with baguettes, cheese, Nutella crepes and beignets, and macarons. (My mouth gets happy just thinking about it!) Joel is pulling out all stops in his attempts to make an F1 fan of me. He’s gone so far as digging up footage of Patrick Stewart (that’s SIR Patrick Stewart to you all) talking about what a fan he is of Formula 1 racing. His other devious trick was mentioning F1 races in Belgium and Hungary and Singapore and any place he thinks I have the slightest interest in going. The man has no shame, but it must be working because we going to Belgium in 2013. Patrick Stewart better be there to greet me.

When All Else Fails, Climb…

Mom convinced me that her age (still 29) and frailty (mental, from what I’ve seen) meant that we should do Machu Picchu sooner rather than later, so she planned an Inca Trail trip that including hiking and camping up to Machu Picchu along with a few other sites. The trip she had planned for us was changed a week prior to our departure, meaning that we instead saw Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, hiked a 15,000-foot pass near the Salkantay glacier, camped by rivers, survived lost tents and chickens trying to enter said found tents, crawled around Machu Picchu for a day, and took a ride on a very questionable boat on Lake Titicaca. All told, it was a great trip. My mom is a fantastic hiker, procurer of alpaca sweaters, photographer of crabby llamas, packer of blister band-aids, and all-around good sport. Heck, we even got to wear our sexy ponchos that made us look like hunchbacked gnomes with drinking problems while running a taxi gauntlet during a rainstorm. I also learned that Peru has more rocks than any country I have ever seen. If your little corner of paradise is missing rocks, Peru has them. All of them. You should probably ask for them back.

Erin and Marilyn, Peru 2012

Erin and Marilyn, Peru 2012

Added Mongolian Bonus!

This is of me and Enkh-Amgalan, one of my Mongolian students from my Peace Corps days, in St. Andrews, Scotland. In February, I discovered that Amga was in the same graduate program as dearest Wen, and since I was crabby that I’d missed my winter camping trip to Big Bend, I thought a quick Scottish jaunt was just the ticket to cheer me up. Amga and I spent a happy Saturday wandering graveyards and the beach while catching up in St. Andrews, leaving
plenty of time for dearest Wen and I had a lovely boondoggle up through Scotland’s Speyside region (this means excellent whiskies, in case you were wondering), hiking along the River Braan, sheepspotting, impromptu roadside picnics, and the raiding of the cashmere selection at the renowned House of Bruar.

Enkh-Amgalan and Erin, St. Andrew's Church, Scotland

Enkh-Amgalan and Erin, St. Andrew’s Church, Scotland

Master and Commander, or How I Bought a Paddleboard

My friend Diane asked me one fateful Saturday if I wanted to go down and try stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) with her on Lady Bird Lake. Sure thing, I thought—that always looked fun, and it was. I wound up enjoying myself so much that I scoured and purchased a used board off of craigslist. Here is what I learned:

  • Neutrogena’s new Wet Skin Sunblock really does work, so no, I did not have to don a neoprene burqa in order to be out on the lake for most of the day.
  • Bring a LOT of water with you. And a snack. And don’t spill fresh lime juice on your leg and then be out in the sun as that will give you a really weird burn mark.
  • Lady Bird Lake is a festering cesspit. Wear bubble wrap if venturing into the water down by the Congress Avenue bridge. And stay away from the drips underneath the Congress bridge, as those bat drippings smell REALLY awful.

Joel took to asking me if I would be “Master and Commander”-ing it on my suspected SUP days. He also thought about getting me an eye patch, but neither of us could decide whether I should put my glasses over or under said eye patch.

Scene and Overheard, or Stuff Erin Learned the Hard Way

I set `em up, Joel knocks `em down. Here is an edited selected of some of Joel’s funnier comments and observations over the past year. (Okay, a few can be attributed to me, but not many.)

Joel, Seriously Funny

Joel, Seriously Funny

  • “I mean the singular, not plural version of ‘we.’ As in ‘you.’”—Whenever your beloved says that “we” ought to do something, he really means that you ought to go do it. Nope, ain’t gonna happen. If you think it’s such a fine idea, then you do it. I learned this lesson in Marriage 101.
  • I told Joel that I wanted something small and red and zippy for my birthday that begins with F and ends with T. “You want a ferret?” he said—Needless to say, I’m still driving a Subaru. (But for the record, the dogs and I would look FANTASTIC in a Fiat. We could zip all over Austin, comfortably sausaged into said zippy car. You’ll recognize it as the tiny red car with stretch marks from all the dogs and people and crap that I never cleaned out of Crusty wedged into it.)
  • A happy butt is a waggy butt!—If you pet Muddy while she eats her morning egg off her breakfast kibble, her tail wags even harder. Friends have said that the same is true of husbands.
  • You want me to downward whaaaaat?—Wine and whisky may make for a festive Friday night, but they aren’t so hot for a Saturday morning yoga class.
  • “Chicken‐fried bacon just screams Sunday!”—Joel and I were bundled into Bill and Lydia’s Suburban for a pilgrimage to Sodolak’s Country Inn in booming Snook, Texas. I didn’t know that you could chicken-fry bacon or that many other things, for that matter. As it turns out, you can. (But for the record just because you can does not mean you should, and Bill and Joel disagree with me. Vehemently.)
  • “I’m officially Texan”—A friend took me to tea at the Four Seasons hotel in Austin to celebrate my 40th birthday. We did skirts and heels and the whole nine yards. Our chariot was her husband’s pickup. I laughed when she pulled up to the house, thinking that this would happen only here in Texas.
  • “You do not have the Chuck Norris ‘Seal of Approval’”—I must have worn the dreaded green dress or Pilates pants in public, because neither Joel nor Chuck Norris approved of my fashion that fateful day.
  • “I’m like an annuity in that I’m appreciated daily!”—Every worry that Joel has too high an opinion of himself? He doesn’t think so. Obviously.

Other Good Things

Mom was named AQHA’s Professional Horsewoman of the Year (way to go, mum!)…Colton’s pumpkin picture earned second place at the Waller County Fair…Joel and I did an old-school date night by seeing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at the cinema…cracked-pepper Triscuits and brie make for an excellent dinner…roses do better when you talk to them in your best Julia Child voice…there is no such thing as too much walking in New York…decorating cookies with friends is far more entertaining than you think…returning to a flea-infested house after two weeks in France is funny only after said house has been bug bombed (and I’ll bet you scratched after reading this sentence)…And remember, tomorrow is always going to be the best day of your life!

We hope this letter finds you and yours happy and well. And should you find yourself down this way, the beer is cold and the salsa mind-blowing hot! ChiliFest 2013 will be held here in Austin, and I can nearly guarantee an Oscar sighting. Much love and happy Christmas to you and yours!