Survived the Holiday Season

img_7721-final We did not take many pictures this year.  No, not even Joey!  Lee took this one of us together with the dogs on the night we put up our Christmas tree.

We went to the Mercado Christmas celebration with Grandma Margaret on 24 December.  We had a lovely Christmas Day meal with the Lupa/Carlson clan, Joan Jones, and the Reads.  It was pot luck, so we didn’t have to do too much cooking, but we wound up with all the leftovers.  Yum!  Joey did make plum pudding, and it was a hit.

George and Nancy joined us late in the evening on Christmas Day.  We went to breakfast with the Etheredges, Zimmermans and Schoors on the second day of Christmas, and then returned to our house to open presents.

Speaking of presents – after years of nagging and hounding, my husband finally gave me some earings from James Avery.  He feels that James Avery is too easy an answer, and prefers to be more creative.  While I certainly appreciate that sentiment, and I have gotten some fabulously creative presents over the years, a nice pair of earings is fun too!

Mom and Dad joined us on New Year’s Eve.  Lee and Billy came over to assist with the preparations for New Year’s Day.  We held our 6th Annual New Year’s Eve film fest.  This year’s theme was Bruce Willis.  The favorite movies were The Fifth Element and Die Hard with a Vengence.  Lee and Joey kicked butt in the kitchen – it was the most organized I think we have ever been.

On New Year’s Day we ate breakfast with the Mercados and Etheredges before George and Nancy had to leave for the airport.

The New Year’s Day party was a fantastic success.  The food was fantastic – the hoppin john really gets better every year!  It was fun to see all of our friends throughout the day.  I really missed Ross and Kat, and thought of them several times during the party.  Laura and Jason joined us late in the evening – I am so happy they were able to make the drive!  The first guests arrived at 14:15, and Jason and I left to drive Jacob back at home at 02:27 on 02 January, so the party officially lasted 12 hours and 12 minutes!

Despite the late night, on 02 January, Joey, Mom, Dad, Laura, Jason and I drove to San Antonio to visit with the Rodriguez side of the family.  We had a great time visiting and catching up with all our cousins and Aunts and Uncles!

On 03 January we had brunch at Zax with our cousin Ben, and then it was time for everyone to go their separate ways.  I left with Mom and Dad to go to Houston.  Jason dropped Laura off at the airport so she could fly to Albequerque so she could perform in Amahl and the Night Visitors in Santa Fe.  Jason drove back to Denton, and Joey went home to a empty house to begin the clean-up!

The Wedding – Monday – June 2008

Wedding60 Here are the first pictures from Troy and Christinne’s wedding.

We will write more later, but we wanted to get the pictures up as soon as possible.

Many photographers contributed to this collection: Aunt Jan, Marie, Joey, George, and Holly. A big “thank you” to all of you.

The Wedding Party Dinner – Sunday – June 2008

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When we returned to the hotel after the day at Paradise Beach, we rested up and then reconvened to go to dinner. This is the meal that would normally be refererd to as the ‘Rehearsal Dinner’, but there was no rehearsal, so I have named it the Wedding Party Dinner, for lack of a better term.

By the time we left the hotel, Uncle Ray and Aunt Jan had arrived, and they joined us for dinner. Now our party was fifteen strong.

We walked several blocks over to Prima. We were seated right away, on the roof. We could see the sky above us. I had a fantastic lobster bisque, and some fettuccine Alfredo. Joey had a seafood steamer plate. There were appetizers to share as well. The restaurant gave Troy and Tinne a piece of tiramisu to celebrate their upcoming wedding day.

After dinner we took a walk down to the main square. There was a band playing, and Tinne and Sarita danced. Joey and I made the circuit of the crowd watching people, and taking pictures and video. The singer in the band also happens to be the lovely Eva, who works at the Vista del Mar during the day.

Kari and Tinne found a stand that was selling luchador masks. They decided to try them out. After some struggle getting the masks on (they are meant for children’s heads), they hammed it up for the cameras – staging some mock battles.

We had a nightcap at the same restaurant and bar we went to on Friday – it is practically on the main square, so we could still hear the band clearly. We had the same charming waiter who helped us on Friday – he was dancing along to music when he wasn’t serving drinks (ask Joey to demonstrate his moves).

As we have done most of our nights here, we finished up the evening with a dip in the pool, and then hit the sack!

The Iceberg Cometh – Sunday – June 2008

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The whole group agreed that we wanted some relaxing beach time. Troy suggested that we all go to Paradise beach. Paradise Beach has a climbing ‘iceberg’, water trampoline, restaurant, bar, shop, and, as you might imagine, a beach. There are wonderful lounge chairs with umbrellas, too.

Normally each person pays $10 US for the privilege of using their toys, but since we were there on a Sunday, we got to use everything for free, as long as we ate and drank. No problemo!

Joey and a couple of other people climbed the floating iceberg. There are handholds on one side, and a smooth surface on the opposite side, so once you scramble up, you can slide down. I attempted the climb, but got stuck about 2/3 of the way up. Joey was in the water below helpfully taking pictures. Our conversation went like this:

LisaDiane: I’m stuck!
Joey: Jump off.
LisaDiane: no.
Joey: grab the next handle.
LisaDiane: I can’t reach!
Joey: then jump down.
LisaDiane: no!

This went on for several minutes until I finally did jump in the water. My glasses nearly escaped, but some quick thinking and nimble toes saved the day, and my ability to see!

Everyone else had moved over to the trampoline. There was a walkway between two large, round, floating trampolines. When the appeal of just jumping on the trampolines has worn off, you can try to run from one to the other on the walkway, which is really two round floats that twist around in the water as weight is applied. Some people make it, some don’t, but either way, it makes for great fun, and pictures.

We punctuated our acrobatic feats in the water with lots of eating, drinking and laying around enjoying the day, and the company.

The group at Paradise beach included: Troy and Tienne, Mama and Papa, Dave and Sarita, Marie, Christi, Ryan and Tanya, Kari, Joey and me. We had such a great time relaxing and playing. Joey even took some underwater pictures (thanks to Ross and Kathlyne, who lent us the waterproof camera). Check out the pictures below.

Cozumel Day 2 – Saturday – June 2008

In the morning LD and I enjoyed some orange juice, rolls, and coffee in our room, got dressed, and went out to the lobby to check the board. Troy and Christinne had left a message inviting everyone to meet them at Jeanie’s for breakfast. Jeanie’s is a waffle house, restaurant, bar, and beach club just a few blocks south of our hotel. Mama and Papa turned up while we were in the lobby and after a bit of chit chat we decided to all walk together to Jeanie’s.

We caught up with Troy and Christinne as they were leaving Jeanie’s to run some wedding errands. We took over their table and ordered lunch. Troy reminded us that the big plan for the day was a trip to Playa del Carmen (on the mainland, just a quick ferry ride away) to go shopping and eat dinner.

We ate at a leisurely pace, strolled back to our hotel, and changed clothes for our trip. The ferry terminal is about four blocks north of Hotel Vista Del Mar, just across from the town plaza. Our group was a little slow getting out of the hotel and we had to hurry to the terminal. The afternoon sun beat down like an cudgel as we jogged up the street, bought our tickets, and boarded the ferry. The ride was choppy and we were all a little worse for wear by the time we tied up in Playa del Carmen.

Dave and Sarita said that they remember Playa as a sleepy, not very touristy town between Cancun and Cozumel. Thing have changed in the last 25 years. Playa is now a busy tourist town and playland destination in its own right. LD and I bought some souvenirs, pet a big iguana, had a few drinks, and played on the wide sandy beach. Compared to Cozumel, the beach in Playa provides room for people to play – we saw children playing in the surf, beautiful people relaxing in the sun, a family playing volleyball, the remains of sand castles – you know, beach stuff. Cozumel trades all of these sand and surf activities for clear water and a rocky shoreline – better water for diving, snorkeling, and swimming.

Troy, Christinne, Dave, Sarita, Christi, Marie, LD, and I had dinner together at a nice Italian place just off 5th Ave. The place had fabulous fresh gnocchi and ravioli – a nice change from the spicy seafood readily available here. We ate till we were stuffed, finished our wine, and made our way back to the dock. During the few minutes before the crew opened the ferry for boarding, LD and I took another stroll down the night time beach and shared a cheep and refreshing cup of fresh fruit we bought along the way.

Made it to Cozumel – Friday – June 2008

After landing in Cozumel, we ran into Chrisi just after we got off the plane, and kept each other entertained as we made out way through immigration and customs, and met up with Marie at the cab stand (Marie had cleared customs about 100 people ahead of us). We shared a cab from the airport to the Hotel Vista Del Mar. Nice place!

When we checked into the hotel, we met Eva, one of the three front desk clerks (the others are Linda and Martin). Eva pointed out the dry erase board that Troy and Christinne had posted in the lobby – our wedding party communication system for the trip. The board indicated that everyone was at a local beach club and that we should head that way without delay. We unpacked quickly and just as we were headed back through the lobby the desk phone rang and Eva told us, “Mr. Troy is on his way back to the hotel.” So we went back to our rooms and passed out for a while – nice to do after all the travel.

Troy, Christinne, and the balance of the wedding party showed up about forty-five minutes later. At this point the group consists of: Troy and Christinne, Dave and Sarita (Christinne’s parents), Mama and Papa, Tanya and Ryan, Marie, Christi, LisaDiane, and me.

Troy and Dave had rented a couple of big Jeep Wrangler 4 doors for the day. The whole group of us piled into the Jeeps and took off for an afternoon tour of the island.

First stop – Mr. Sancho’s Tropical Wedding Garden – the beach club where Troy and Christinne will be married on Monday. Pretty place – I’m looking forward to going back on Monday. LD and I managed to get a bite to eat (we hadn’t stopped for food since Cheerios with Ross and Kat that morning). The Ceviche was fantastic – nice fresh octopus and good HOT salsa.

Second stop – Bob Marley’s place at Punta Sur. Isla Cozumel does almost all of it’s big business on the west side of the island. Puntua Sur is the last beach club stop before making the turn to the more isolated outposts on the eastern side of the island or heading back to town. We watched the spray, shopped for shell jewelry, had a beer, and kept on moving.

Second and 1/2 stop – between Punta Sur and CocoNuts was a nice bit of seashore where tall breakers rolled over the shoals. The only marker I noticed was a painted sign advertising “Cold Coconuts”. A girl with a machete cut open a few coconuts for a few bucks and we walked through the surf, plastic straws jammed into the refreshing fruit, taking pictures of each other as we got soaked.

After a bit, some folks scrambled back into the first Jeep and drove away in search of some beer and a restroom. Dave loaded the rest of us back into his Jeep and tore off after them. We found their Jeep abandoned at the entrance to CocoNuts beach club.

Third stop – CocoNuts. The restaurant is at the top of a hill that overlooks a beautiful stretch of coral beach. We met the killer cockatoo, the aligator, and two old dogs (one which was gnawing on a small palm tree) and found the missing members of our group. The waves break against rocks at the bottom of the hill and the breeze drifts pleasantly through the cabana bar, so we stayed to have a beer while the sun set across the island behind us.

After about forty-five minutes we loaded up again, drove back into town, put some gas in the Jeeps, and returned to our hotel. Everyone took a few minutes to rinse off and change clothes before we headed off to dinner. We wanted our evening meal to be something local, and got a recommendation for a place a few blocks away from the waterfront called Tres Gatos. What a nice find. No liquor license, but fantastic eats – Panuchos stuffed with frijoles colados, Salbutes with shredded chicken, richly layered tostadas, and a few sliced tortas stuffed with various kinds of meat and cheese. The salsa was hot, the food was cheep and plentiful, and we stuffed ourselves.

Satisfied yet restless we wandered idly over to the plaza, attempting to walk off our meal, and found a sidewalk cafe where we had a few drinks while we listened to the band play. LisaDiane dropped out early and went back to the hotel to crash. I had a quick swim, chatted with Christi and Marie by the pool, went inside, and fell into bed.

Mayfield Park – May 2008

06-Joey and the Peacock Mama and Papa came to visit Daniel, Kay, and Andrew.  The day they left town, we had breakfast at Cafe Java (http://cafejava.info/) with Troy and Christinne.

After breakfast, we went to Mayfield Park to stretch our legs and get some fresh air, and walk of the yummy food.  Mayfield Park includes a wonderful garden, and has peacocks.  There was one peacock that really understood the program of showing off for the visitors.  He stood around for twenty minutes while we took pictures.  Here is a link with more information about Mayfield Park: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/cepreserves/mayfield.htm

We had a lovely lunch at home with Kay, Andrew, and Daniel. I got to hold Daniel for half an hour! After lunch Joey drove Mama and Papa to the airport.

Nancy and George Visit Austin – March 2008

11-Papa and Mama through window Mama and Papa came to Austin to visit with Kay before Daniel was born. During the stay we decided to spend a day out all together.

First we stopped by the fire station to visit with Troy. Then, in celebration of the lovely spring weather, we drove out to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  The Wildflower Center is a remarkable garden and research station situated in suburban south Austin. Take a look at the center’s website:  http://www.wildflower.org/

Kay and Andrew’s Baby Shower – February 2008

kayshower_24 On Saturday LisaDiane and the Zimmerman family hosted a baby shower for Kay and Andrew at the Zimmerman’s home in south Austin.

We stuffed ourselves on snacks from Central Market, tasty homemade deserts, lime punch, and lemonade. Here are some photos from the party:

A day with Papa in San Antonio – July 2007

CIMG0978 LD and I spent Saturday in San Antonio with Papa. Papa was in SA to attend Promise Keepers. We met him after the event and enjoyed an afternoon browsing in the shops on the Riverwalk, exploring the dragon exhibit at the Institute of Texan Cultures, and shopping in Market Square. We had dinner at El Mercado and bought desert at the candy counter at Mi Tierra.