Thursday, July 30, 2009

Austin, Texas!!

Just got back from a LOVELY (but REALLY, REALLY HOT!) visit to Austin, Texas! I went down with a couple of coworkers/friends for an IB Conference. They went to the sessions on "writing", and I went to the THRILLING sessions on "assessment".

It was good for me to go, because, as the new IB coordinator, I'm CLUELESS, in general, and assessment isn't one of my strong areas anyway! I picked up some good tips, tricks, and information, so am glad that I went. Plus, it's always good to network with teachers and administrators from other IB schools, and several states were represented in my group, including Michigan, Alabama, Florida, New Mexico, Texas (of course!), and Colorado.

We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel (a Courtyard Marriott), and were bussed each morning to Canyon Vista Middle School, a VERY nice school in a VERY nice part of Austin. Every morning we had a catered breakfast including "burrito fixings" (tortillas, eggs, bacon, cheese, salsa, etc.), cereal, rolls, bagels, fresh fruit, yogurt, etc. Lunches were also catered and included bbq (I'm okay if I NEVER eat brisket again...long story!), salads, etc.

Everything went very smoothly, the IB Texas people coordinated everthing very well, and, as far as conferences go, it was a very good one!

OF COURSE we managed to cram a TON of fun into the evenings after the conference, and that's what I'll focus on for the rest of this post.

We flew in on Sunday evening, and made it just in time to register for the conference. We attended an introductory "plenary session", then headed to our rooms, dumped our luggage, and went out to explore the area. We found a GREAT Mexican place called "Serrano's" at which to have dinner.

Diane and Pat in front of Serranos

Look...over there...it's a bird...it's a plane!

Pat and Diane "enjoying" the art at Serranos!

My friend Chad lives in Austin, so I called him, and he joined us at the hotel for a drink after we explored the area a little bit (including a stop at a GREAT ice cream place called Amy's!). It was SO good to see him again! It's been about 4 or 5 years since we last saw each other, so we had a GREAT TIME catching up.

Compliment or insult, "the girls" said he fit right in with us INSTANTLY, so he spent the next two nights showing us around his city.

Monday night, after the conference, Chad picked us up (it was SO NICE not to have to deal with taxis!) we started our evening with a trip to one of Chad's favorite bbq joints: Rudy's. It was REALLY good! I was a little "surprised" to see that it was also a gas station, but that didn't detract from the food.

Chad warned us that "newbies" to the place got singled out and shouted about, so Pat and I TRIED to pretend that we'd been there before. Would have worked, had Diane not shouted out "they've never been here before, and neither have I!!!". We pretended that we didn't know her, and grabbed our food and ran to get a table...




Me enjoying my "baby back ribs"!!


They had GREAT bbq sauce!


Chad working on his sandwich


Diane REALLY liked the sauce!




After Rudy's, we went downtown to experience the "bat bridge". I've been hearing about this since LAST YEAR'S group went to Austin. There's a bridge, just at the edge of downtown under which live 1.5 MILLION bats. Each evening, they fly out to find bugs to eat. People visiting Austin line up along the bridge (and along the river bank) to watch this happen.

We went down an embankment, and found a GREAT dock on which to sit, dangle our feet in the Colorado River (or Lady Bird Lake, or Center Lake...depending on who you talk to!), and watch the bats. It was probably my FAVORITE part of the trip. The water was cool and there were turtles floating around us. We also saw a pair of swans, who swam by for handouts, as well as some ducks, and OF COURSE the bats!

At the edge of the bridge before finding a place
from which to watch the bats


Pat and Chad on the dock


Me and Pat


Me and Pat again!


One of the swans, looking for a handout!


Another shot of the swan

A SMALL part of the "bat parade"!


More bats!


It was interesting to see them spin and loop in a group!


The "bat bridge" at sunset


After watching the bats for about 45 minutes (there was a steady stream like in the pictures above almost the entire time!), we went to a wine bar called "Cru". It was a nice place, and Diane, Pat, and I had different white "flights" of wine, while Chad enjoyed a glass of Reisling.


One of the guitar statues downtown (it IS the
"Live Music Capital of the World", after all!)

It was REALLY dark in the wine bar...we had to use my cell phone to
light up the menu so that we could read it!


Diane with her "flight" of wine!


Me and Chad at "Cru"


After the wine bar, Chad showed us around downtown, then we headed back to the hotel to go to bed (but OF COURSE made another trip to Amy's for ice cream first!).

After the conference on Tuesday, we shopped at a strip mall near the hotel. They had a TJ Maxx, and Pat and Diane BOTH found dresses to wear for our THIRD evening "out on the town".

Chad met us at the hotel bar, and then we went to a place that I'd found on a website (localeats.com, or something like that) called "Shady Grove". It's a bbq place where most of the seating is under a big pecan tree outside the "cookhouse". We got a table up on the stage (no live music on this night, apparently!), and it was a HOOT of a place!

The food was AWESOME, and the atmosphere was really fun. The bathrooms were in an AirStream trailer!


The pecan tree under which MOST of the tables are situated





I do NOT claim responsibility for this photo...our
waiter took it for us. My photos are MUCH clearer!!!

After the "Shady Grove", we headed over to SoCo, an artsy, funky section of town, to explore. All of the fire hydrants in Austin are SILVER. Don't know WHY I found this so fascinating, but I HAD to take a picture of one or two of them! Here's one of them:



SoCo has a lot of funky art, and cool cafes and shops. The photo below was taken outside one fo them.


the Austin skyline


SoCo also has an area where there are AirStream trailers that have been "rehabbed" as food stands. The photos below are from one called "Hey Cupcake", which sells...you guessed it...cupcakes!!!





After walking around the area for a little longer (and taking the photo below beside one of the buildings), we headed to the bars.


Pat wanted to learn to "two step", and Chad knew JUST the place!

Chad and Pat learning the "two step" at a bar called the "Rusty Spur".


After learning to "two step" (well I should say after Diane, Chad, and Pat learned the "two step"...I SUCKED at it!), Diane wanted to have a picture taken at "Coyote Ugly", so we walked down the street to check it out.

Interesting place...just like the movie. We tried to sit at a table along the edge of the room, but the bartender, a LOUD, brassy thing, said that NO ONE sat along the edges, and that we had to come up to the bar to sit. She called Chad "Mr. Clean" and me "Calvin" (from Calvin and Hobbes!)...AS IF!!!

She then took Pat's camera (to take a picture of us), but turned it toward herself, and took a picture of her cleavage. She DID eventually turn it around and get a picture of us, but it was CERTAINLY an interesting experience. There was some "dancing upon the bar" (names withheld), and we then headed back to the hotel.

It was CERTAINLY an interesting evening!





After the conference ended on Wednesday, we checked out of the hotel, stored our bags at "guest services", had a BLAND lunch at a salad bar buffet place near the hotel, shopped the stores nearby, had a photo op on the cow statues behind the hotel (see below), then boarded the SuperShuttle to the airport, and headed home.



Everything went VERY smoothly (the lady in our district that takes care of travel arrangements ROCKS!), and it was a FUN trip. I WON'T miss 105 degree days, brown grass, and riding on a school bus twice each day, but I WILL miss seeing Chad on multiple days in a row, GREAT bbq, and exploring all of the cool spots in Austin!

Hope YOU stayed cool this week, and spent time with old friends too!!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AND FINALLY...Richard Marx!!!

What an AMAZING voice!!! I listened to this song OVER AND OVER when I first got to Japan...missing friends...and Stephanie (my girlfrield at the time I left...don't ask...!).



Thanks for sharing this NOSTALGIC "videos of the 80's tour" with me! Back to "real" blogging again with my next post!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stryper

The group was a little too "out there" for me, but I really did LOVE this song!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Peter Cetera

Ignore the Spanish subtitles...couldn't find another version!!!!



What a VOICE!!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pet Shop Boys!

LOVE this one too!



Dusty Springfield ROCKS!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Kids on the Block!!

This was one of the "theme songs" for promos for Sony Music TV...LOVED this song!



...and hasn't little Joey grown into QUITE the hunky guy??!! Hubba!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

...And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled 80's Videos...

Glenn Medeiros...what can I say??!! A little bit of him goes a LONG way, but I really DO like this song!!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We Interrupt This Tribute to 80's Music Videos...

...for a quick blog entry on Amy's visit!

She arrived on Thursday morning, bright and early. We headed almost IMMEDIATELY to the new location of Haupt Antieks. They are now located in a strip mall in Apple Valley. The shop is still nice, but was REALLY crowded (first day open), and the place lacks the charm it had when it was in the old house and back shed in Rosemount.

After the antique store, we went to the General Store on highway 7 (NO IDEA which suburb it's in...). I found a few fun things...hadn't been there in ages, so it was nice to see what they had (during the non-Christmas season!).

I spent the afternoon at home catching up on stuff (and NOT working on my Gilbert & Sullivan music...as I SHOULD have!), then went back over to Robin and Dave's. We went to Fuji-Ya on Lake Street for Japanese food, and then to Cafe Latte for dessert after that.

Friday, we met EARLY (again...what's up with that??!!) to drive to Camp Lebanon to pick up Emilie after a week at jr. high church camp. It's a LONG drive to Camp Lebanon (St. Cloud is HALF WAY THERE!).

After the closing camp rally, we headed back to St. Cloud, and had lunch at Granite City (where my bad restaurant karma CONTINUED...they had to remake my lunch because the first attempt at the flatbread pizza didn't work...or something like that...).
After lunch, we headed to the big craft outlet store (I found some stuff to decoupage for the Christmas "travel tree" I'm working on), and made a BRIEF stop at the outlet mall in Albertville.
Friday night, Duane and I took Amy to Cosetta's for Italian food (the Nordhues hosted their dinner group that night), and then went to the Titanic exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota. I've always been FASCINATED by the sinking of the Titanic, and the exhibit and IMAX movie were AMAZING.

It seems so BIZARRE to me that things like a pair of pants, socks, crystal water vases, suitcases, shoes, and glass dishes can be recovered from a ship that slammed into the ocean floor at about 50 miles an hour, THOUSANDS of feet below the surface of the ocean, after 90 years, and these things are still intact and look like you could pick them up and use them.

The exhibit was REALLY well done. As you enter, you get a "boarding pass" which lists a passenger on the ship. As you go through the displays, you try to figure out if you survived the sinking. My character was male, and in 2nd class, so I was fairly certain I/he was a goner. Sure enough...he didn't survive. I think of the three of us, Amy's was the only passenger to survive...very sobering, very interesting, very well done...

The Nordhues dinner party was still in "full swing" when we got back to the house, so Amy and I sat on the sun porch and chatted for awhile, then I came home to go to bed...it was a LONG day!

Saturday, we headed to the farmers market (not QUITE so bright and early, and, in fact, an hour later than planned. Robin called at 11:15 Friday night to say that her dinner guests had just left, and that instead of going at 8:00, we'd be going at 9:00. Earlier in the evening, I'd asked Duane if he wanted to go, and he thought NOT, because of the early hour, but, left it that if he DID manage to get up, he'd come over. After getting Robin's late call, I left a note on my door, with the time change, in case he got up. Well...OF COURSE he did, and wasn't TOO HAPPY that we'd changed the time, when he'd managed to get up, get dressed, and get out the door...oops!).

Anyway...we LOVE to take visitors to the Minneapolis farmers market, because it's such a cool place to go! The food is awesome (we ALWAYS start with a breakfast sausage at the Tollefson Family Meat stand, then work our way through pastries, coffee, and the olive stand as well! I found some rhubarb that still looked pretty good, and hope to make a rhubarb cream pie later today...we'll see if THAT happens! I also found a GORGEOUS bunch of summer flowers for $5.00...what a deal!


Oh those farmer's market breakfast sausages...YUM!!!




Duane found coffee cake!
Awww...Davey sharing his corn!


Posing by the big chicken!

Nice, Davey...

That's better!


After the farmers market, Duane and I came back to Eagan. I went to the grocery store to pick up stuff to make dinner. Found a recipe for Chicken Alfredo Lasagna (from that AWESOME "9X13: The Pan that Can" cookbook). It's definitely going into the 2nd edition of FLAIR (although I'm afraid it's not going to be a published work, as FLAIR I is...the website on which I created it seems to no longer be functional. I'm hoping it's a temporary glitch, but their e-mail links aren't working either, so I'm fearing the worst...!).

Everyone came over around 5:00, and we had a GREAT evening chatting and eating! To complete our evening, Duane and I even went out after everyone left, in the Riviera, to cruise the strip in front of Porky's Drive In on University Avenue. APPARENTLY, it's the thing to do if you own a classic car. There's a car show in town this weekend, so there were even more classics than usual on the strip. People were lined up, sitting in lawn chairs, all up and down the street...CRAZY!!!

Today, we met up LATE (finally!), and headed over to the Midtown Global Market to look around, and have lunch. I was unhappy to find that the oriental market I used to shop at is no longer in business, but I DID found some AWESOME Jamaican pocket sandwiches at one of the booths. The girls had pasta from the Italian stand. Dave, Robin, and Amy had seafood tacos from one of the Mexican booths. (Dave, ever the food adventurer, had octopus tacos...mmmmmm....).






After the Midtown, we went back to Robin and Daves for awhile. Amy left for the airport around 1:30, and now I'm back home catching up on laundry, and all the other stuff that I haven't managed to get to yet this weekend.

Hope YOU had a weekend full of fun and friends too!