In comparison, 2008 was rather tame: no New Year’s Eve Red Cross sleep-overs, Reba and Muddy were not smited, and Joel and I are still in Austin at our same jobs. But, much like all of you, we’ve stopped opening 401k statements, we close our eyes at any mention of the Dow, Nasdaq, or S&P, and our idea of living dangerously is a night in to wash the dogs.

Erin and Joel, Photobombing One Another

Erin and Joel, Photobombing One Another

Get It Trashy

Ok, Austin does lots of stuff better than other cities: dog parks, Tex Mex, and all manner of live music. However, one thing that does not garner much attention but most definitely should is Austin’s trailer food. It’s fantastic. Really. We wouldn’t lie about this. There is the SnoCone trailer, the Hey Cupcake! trailer, and our personal favorite, Torchy’s Tacos. I thought Joel was kidding the first time he drug me down there, but then I discovered just how right he was. Delectable taco options include El Diablo, Fried Avocado, and The Democrat. Oh, you also have the option of getting it “trashy,” meaning hold the lettuce and add queso. I highly advise getting it trashy—with a side of guacamole.

Taste the Bacon Molasses Explosion!

The Randall family has this annual tradition we call SalsaFest. We (meaning the women) spend the day in the kitchen, adding copious amounts of Dave’s homegrown tomatoes, Texas-raised habaneras and serranos, and beans, corn, onions, and a few other secret ingredients to institutional-size stock pots. Said stock pots are then hoisted out to the garage where Dave and his minions cook the salsa down and then can it. This year’s efforts spawned 84 quarts of salsa. The thing is, we’re all a little worried that we really did make this year’s salsa waaaaay too hot. Why worry? Because we used 16 pounds of the aforementioned habaneras and serranos, which for all intents and purposes is like bottling napalm. Caryn got her salsa stash home and couldn’t resist trying a bit, this despite the quarter-sized chunk of habanera there right in top. In her exact words, “Taste the bacon molasses explosion!!” So, just remember
that if you should find yourself in possession of one of the coveted jars, we’re serious about the “en fuego” warning label, but we do make darn good salsa.

Resistance Is Futile

While on a flight to Albuquerque this spring, I heard Joel sigh and rattle the paper. He must have decided that there was no way out, so he leaned over to show me that Patrick Stewart was playing Macbeth in (you guessed it) “Macbeth” in New York. Now, Joel is a wise man. He knows that I have a slight crush on Patrick Stewart (hey—the man enunciates, a skill not often found in today’s world), so he pretty much knows that it is a sure thing that we’re going to New York. So, we call Brian to give him the happy news that we’re coming to visit and that he gets to see Patrick Stewart as well. For those of you wondering, Patrick Stewart is even better in person. “Macbeth” was pretty good, too. And don’t listen to Joel if he tells you that we all dozed off—he also claims to not snore.


Channeling Your Inner Oy

Admit it—there are times that you just need to get someone’s attention. My friend Cordelia (who is Mennonite, for those of you who were curious) channeled her four years spent living in New York to rouse one of her drunken neighbors from her apartment’s pool. It was quite effective, so much so that I’ve begun using it at work, while driving, when trying to get the dogs’ attention. It wasn’t until later that Cordelia and I found out that, by default, we should use the European Oi!, not the Yiddish Oy! Apparently, you need to be Jewish to use the Yiddish version. Who knew?

Scene and Overheard…

  • “Joel, why are you breathing like Darth Vader?”—So, one night Joel crawls into bed, wheezing like an asthmatic Darth Va-der. Apparently, the dentist had recommended that he get a mouth guard so that he would stop grinding his teeth (not that I would ever give Joel cause to grind his teeth), but I had no idea why he was making such a racket. Further questioning re-vealed the existence of some type of mouth thing recommended by the dentist. “Joel, we spent nearly $3,000 getting Muddy’s leg fixed so that she could continue to leap with abandon into the water. Don’t you think we could get you a proper mouth guard?” “Well, yeah, but I found this version for $9.99 at Walgreen’s. It molded to my teeth with hot water.” “But now you breathe like Darth Vader!”

We now know our true worth: Joel is $9.99, Muddy is priceless, and I guess that means I’m free.

  • “You think, Barry White?”—Allergy season here in Austin hits me like a ton of bricks, this de-spite the fact that I visit the allergist weekly for shots. I thought that ragweed was my only real foe, but it turns out that the spring oak trees aren’t my friend either. I spent a couple of weeks this spring coughing and hacking my way through life. Because of Joel’s Barry White comment, I’m guessing that my voice change didn’t go unnoticed.
  • “Lower the drawbridge!”—Hank and Julia did a lot of landscaping work to their house this past year. In the early stages before the plants and trees were added, it looked a bit like a me-dieval castle. Joel and I weren’t certain if we needed to wave the family crest or break out the catapult and battering ram in order to get inside. Fortunately, our call to “Lower the draw-bridge!” did the trick and they let us in.
  • “Cracker and Magnesium”—This was Joel’s comment on yet another of my sunburns (and I still have the line to prove it!) Now, having seen both Joel and me, it’s a fair bet to say that we’re pale. Glowing. Translucent. Fish belly. We are just not a melanin-friendly pair. It’s your call on which of us is cracker and which is magnesium (please don’t get us the t-shirts).
  • “Just keep the leather above the waist.”—While driving up to Dallas for a Rangers’ baseball game one Saturday afternoon, we passed an old guy on a Harley, the kind with the really high handlebars. And while he lacked the Kaiser helmet, he did have the chaps (fortunately, every-thing was covered). We couldn’t help but reminisce about Dad and his own Harley outfit, mean-ing that you get to do so as well.
  • “I haven’t seen a line like this since Star Wars.”—Really, pal, you aren’t helping. Most people thought I was nuts when I said that I was getting up at 5:00 a.m. to go wait in line for an iPhone, but there I was there along with over 100 other fellow nut jobs. Even at that early hour, I was 16th in line as some people had spent the night there. Joel had been teasing me that the only other people up that early would be wearing Jedi costumes, but for once he was wrong. Not a soul was wearing an “I’m with Locutus” t-shirt, a Yoda outfit, or car-rying a light saber. And yes, I did manage to get an iPhone.
  • “The only salvation to be had in that car is once its doors open.”—Here’s how to rank yourself as a houseguest: when parents and grandparents visit, we take the cars off to be detailed (which is a polite word for power-cleaned). If you are a close friend or coworker, I just start chucking stuff from the passenger seat to the back and try to keep Muddy out of your lap and ear. To say that my car is pungent is an understatement. Joel pretty much summed the Reddy Betty experience up with his comment about salvation.
  • Two words, people: Dyson Animal. This vacuum will change your life. Trust me on this one.

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 the spare bedroom is all yours. We’ll even try to keep the dogs off the bed for you!

Eating Watermelon at Sunrise in the Grand Canyon

Eating Watermelon at Sunrise in the Grand Canyon