Shopping with Mom and Laura

My dad had surgery on his back yesterday. My sister, Laura, and I came up to Maryland to be with my mom and dad for a few days. The surgery went very well, and Dad is resting and recovering. After visiting with Dad today, Mom, Laura and I went over to the mall and went shopping.

Laura trying on a gown

Laura tried on some fancy gowns. She found a beautiful gown that looked amazing on her. Hopefully some wonderful patron will read this post and donate the money necessary to make the purchase. We left the gown on the rack, but I did get a picture.

We shopped for a purse for mom, and pants for me. Both of those goals were a bust. Mom is still searching for the perfect bag: not too big, not to small, a strap long enough to put over her shoulder, classic but fun design. She found two she liked, one was Burberry, and the other was Jimmy Choo. So she has great taste, but the amount of money they were asking was crazy talk, and just not something any of us could get behind!

Mom after a long afternoon of shopping

I am looking for taupe, tan, or camel dress pants that are not stretch, and are lined. I think I must be looking for the unicorn of pants. It seems that no one makes lined pants any more. I just don’t know what this world is coming to if I can’t find lined pants at Nordstrom’s! The sales lady said that the lining was originally part of pant construction to “hide the flaws”. I am thinking, “don’t we still have flaws to hide?”. But she clarified that it was to hide the flaws in manufacturing, and now that the computer controlled machines are so much more accurate, there is no need for the lining any more. I beg to differ! I will be looking at Macy’s when I get to North Carolina, where the Southpoint Macy’s has never failed me on the business clothing front.


View from 31st floor of Sheraton Dallas
I dashed off to Dallas on Friday for the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SoCRA) Annual Conference, where I gave a presentation on Audit Readiness. The conference was really great, with many good speakers and interesting topics. I got to stay at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, and had a room on the thirty-first floor!

An added benefit of the trip to Dallas was getting to hang out with Laura and Jason the day after their return from Amsterdam. I drove up to Denton to see them. Naturally I asked to go to Sweetwater for ceviche, and Beth Marie’s for ice cream. Reading that sentence, it dawns on me that beer, seafood, and ice cream sound like a terrible combination, but it is what I have whenever I go to Denton!  Beth Marie’s actually had Courthouse Pecan, which is my favorite of their ice creams.  They had been out of it my last couple of trips to Denton, so I was extremely pleased to get some!

I made it back to Austin in time for the All Saints’ Twenties and Thirties BBQ at Father Mike’s house. I am happy to say that Joey and I both plan to be in Austin through the end of 2010!

More pictures from NY Trip – July 2010

5th and BroadwayJoey got all of his pictures from our trip to New York and Tanglewood uploaded to Flickr.

Lisa has also added more pictures to her NYC Staycation 2010 photo set on Flickr. Lisa’s pictures include some great photos of Laura singing at Tanglewood.

Tanglewood – Summer 2010

ldAndLauraAtTanglewood My sister, Laura, spent the summer at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, MA.  She was one of the handful of vocal fellows who were invited to participate in the festival.

During our time visiting Brooklyn, NY, Joey and I travelled with Lisa to Lenox, which is in the Berkshires.  Lisa commented that the trip to Tanglewood made our experience of New York City in the summer very authentic – extreme heat and humidity, several days of riding the subway and pounding the pavement, and then an escape to the much cooler country!

Tanglewood is an amazing place.  It has all kinds of musical artists: instramentalists, singers, composers, and conductors.  There are multiple venues and practice areas.  When we visited we were able to simply walk around the grounds and listen to the various rehearsals that were going on.  We got to hear Laura during her vocal coaching.  We also happened to be there on the right day to hear Yo-Yo Ma practicing with the orchestra.  Amazing!

hall We saw Laura sing a cycle of Cuban folk songs in a vocal recital.  She sang Luciano Berio’s Circles during the Festival of Contemporary Music.  We got to hear her practice this piece a little bit.  It is very modern and unusual, with bursts of vocalization.  She really got excited about performing something that was new and challenging.

Sadly we could not attend the performance, but she got rave reviews from the New York Times, which said, “And on Sunday Laura Mercado Wright, a mezzo-soprano, gave a stunningly agile account of Berio’s Circles, in which she occasionally played percussion (and provided gestural cues) as well.”  The Boston Musical Intelligencer, a virtual journal and blog of the classical music scene in Boston, also had good things to say, “Mercado-Wright may safely call this “her own” now with her masterful performance and the perfect voice for it: rich but not fat; a low range that speaks, and a high one that is graceful; and perfect diction for projecting words or sounds.”

As always I am so proud of all that Laura has accomplished.  I just cannot help bragging.

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!

Opera in Dallas, A Weekend in Denton – May 2009

Last Saturday LD and I loaded Ela into the car and made a roadtrip to Denton to visit Laura and Jason and to take in Laura’s new opera in Dallas. Ela stayed with Laura and Jason, and was well behaved around the cats (although she did knock over that one flowerpot in the livingroom).

We visited our favorite stops on the square – Beth Marie’s Ice Cream, Jupiter House Coffee, and Recycled Books, and added a new favorite – Laura’s new business, Massage on the Square. Laura and her partner Wendy have opened a very comfortable beautifully appointed studio right next to Recycled Books. LD blogged about it here, but this was our first chance to see her new space.

The Opera was on Sunday night at the Rosewood Black Box Theater – We saw the “Voices of Change – New Music Ensemble of Dallas” production of “Transformations” by Conrad Susa, adapted from the book by Anne Sexton.

The book is a collection of semi-autobiographical poems Anne built by retelling Grimm’s Fairy Tails in a mental hospital. And it is creeeeeppy.

The opera wraps selected poems taken word-from-word from the original work and brings them to life in music. And it is creeeeeppy too. Here are a couple of scenes from the “Transformations” telling of “Hansel and Gretel”:

Massage on the Square

You may or may not know that in addition to being an amazing opera singer, my sister Laura is a registered massage therapist (RMT) in Texas.  From the time she was a little kid she would volunteer to give people a neck rub, and everyone always said she did a great job.  She took her natural talent to the next level when she attended massage therapy school between her undergrad and graduate degrees.  She has been working as a massage therapist for about five years (I could be wrong here).  She does all kinds of massage from hot rock to deep tissue.  She is always looking to improve her technique and learn new ways of working.

Laura and her friend Wendy started a massage business called Massage on the Square. Their first official day was 01 April 2009.  It is located in Denton, Texas, over the Recycled Books. As the name suggests, the location is on the main square in downtown Denton. I am very proud of her, and her new enterprise. If you make it up to Denton you should definitely take time to get a massage!

Laura sent these two pictures of the space to me, and I thought I would share them. Notice the text at the top of the wall in the second image. It is hard to read in the picture, but it says, “The best thing you can do for those you care about is take care of yourself.” That is the motto for their business – it is also on their website. Laura and Wendy have done such a great job designing their business, and I am taking this opportunity to brag on my little sis just a bit ;-)

massage-on-the-square-1 massage-on-the-square-2_0

Trip to Fort Worth

DSC01657 Joey and I drove to Fort Worth on Friday night. The main purpose of the trip was to see Ross and Kat before they leave Texas and move to Baltimore, Maryland.

Joey got us all packed for the trip, and arranged for Elanor to stay with Lee, Billy, and Cali.  Troy came over to pick up Katy for the weekend.  As he left our house, he was holding her bed, and the bag with her food, etc.  He called Katy, she followed him into the driveway.  Katy was confused about what car to get into, since the tailgate of our CR-V was open, she she stood behind the CR-V  waiting to be lifted into the car (she is too old and arthritic to jump into the car on her own anymore).  Then she got fed up with waiting, and went to find her Uncle Troy, who loaded her into his truck and drove away.  It was pretty cute.

After a crazy day of work on Friday, that included many projects, and a child with chicken pox, we finally made it out of the house at around 5pm.  I had foolishly decided that I would be able to escape work by 2pm.  It did not happen.  My wonderful co-worker, George, asked me to take over some tasks for her because her son came down with the chicken pox.  Now, before those of you who have opinions about vaccines start in on George – I will inform you that you that she lives in the UK, where they do not routinely vaccinate for chicken pox.

We made it to Fort Worth around 9pm.  The furniture had already been shipped off to Maryland, so the house was mostly empty.  We helped Ross and Kat clean the house a bit, but mainly kept them company while they finished packing up the last of their stuff, and scrubbed walls and floors, and cabinets, etc.  We also got to hang out with their neighbors, Margot and Otto.

On Saturday Joey and I slept in a bit – we continued trying to be as helpful as possible with the cleaning, and then we went to lunch at Byblos.  Yum!  After lunch we drove over to Bethany Boba for some Bubble Tea.  When we made it back over to Ross and Kat’s house, Joey and I got into the car and drove up to Denton to visit Laura and Jason.

DSC01678 Jason was working, so we ate at Chili’s.  Joey’s insane cat allergy meant that staying at Laura’s house with her cats, Lee and Macy, was not advisable.  We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Denton.  I cashed in some of my Hilton points, so it didn’t even cost anything!  Laura hung out with us at the hotel after we ate dinner.  We had a great time, just visiting and enjoying each other’s company.  We went down to the lobby to get ice cream, and then we found a luggage trolley in the hallway, and decided to see how it worked as transportation for people – not so well, it turns out.  However, it did turn into a good photo op – Joey was ready with the camera, as per usual.

Sunday morning we went to breakfast with Laura.  Then we drove back to Fort Worth and spent a few more hours with Ross and Kat before driving back to Austin.

We had a great time, but it was bittersweet…  too short a time with our friends.  And it is really sad to see Ross and Kat clearing out their house, and know that someone else will be renting the space and living there soon.  Joey took lots of pictures of the house, so we will be able to remember it!

Hopefully we will get to visit Ross and Kat in Maryland.  My mom is voting for that option, and that is clearly all for the benefit of our friends – she cannot possibly have an ulterior motive, like getting Joey and me to her part of the country.

9th day of Christmas

Laura and I started the morning with a trip to the gym.  We took a Body Pump class.  Laura did great, and even got a compliment on her performance from the lady standing behind her.  The class was at the Hester’s Crossing gym, and I decided I don’t like the group exercise room as much as I like the one at Tech Ridge.  It is much harder to see the teacher, and I am uncoordinated enough to really need to see the teacher!  It was a good class, and we got a great workout.

After our workout, Laura and I dropped by to see Rachel, Asher, and Chiara.  Asher was kind enough to show Laura his trampoline.  We all got a chance to jump on the trampoline.  As I was climbing on I broke the step stool that Asher uses to get onto the trampoline.  Yikes – back to the gym – maybe if I reach my goal weight, a step stool will be able to hold me ;-)  Rachel assured me that it was already cracked, and while I do believe her, I also believe she might have told me that anyway so that I didn’t feel bad about my weight.

After my step stool mishap, Asher took me on a trip on his boat.  We sailed to Algeria, Andora, and Argentina, specifically Buenos Aires, which just happens to be one of my favorite cities!

20090102 Laura, Elanor, and LD When we got back to our house we ate some lunch and rested a little bit.  Then we went with Joey and Elanor to Walnut Creek park for a hike.  The weather was fantastic, and we had a lot of fun.  Joey showed Laura and I a tree that he had found while riding that was decorated for Christmas.  Elanor chased a stick, met several new doggy friends, and played in the water.  She actually got into water deep enough that she had to swim!  She wasn’t too fond of the actual swimming, so she resorted to hopping through the water.

Mom and Dad drove to San Antonio to attend my great-aunt Francis’s funeral.  She was my grandma Margaret’s older sister.  She passed away on 23 December.  She had been a sargent in the army, and we found out after the funeral that she had been awarded three bronze stars.

Jason had to work on New Year’s Day, so he drove down from Denton today.

By the time Laura, Joey, Elanor and I made it back to the house, Mom, Dad and Jason had all arrived.  We spent a pleasant evening together.  We watched Big Fish and Almost Famous – my mom and dad had never seen either movie!

New Year’s Day

Yesterday Joey and I hosted our tenth annual New Year’s Day party.  A great group of people showed up!  We ate hoppin’ john, bean soup, and sausage balls (aka meat cookies).  Dad, Asher, Laura and Joey decorated the garage and side walk with chalk.  The Etheredge siblings were all present, and our nephew Daniel was charming, as usual.  Chiara played with Elanor.  Lee and Billy brought their friend Melissa, who talked physics with Dad, and then discussed opera with Laura and Alissa!  We finished the evening with a round of Apples to Apples.  In short, it was a wonderful day, a perfect start to 2009.