Thu 25 Dec 2008
Mon 1 Jan 2007
We had a medium sized gathering of friends and neighbors over for New Year’s Eve. Lots of people were introduced to “Speed Stacking”, we shared a champagne toast, launched a few fireworks, and generally just had fun. A couple of the craziest neighbors stayed over playing bar trivia and Golden Tee golf until almost 5 am.
“Harder dan dat!”
Mon 25 Dec 2006
We’ve got Christmas photos from several different locations. We spent Christmas Eve at Michelle’s parents’ house. We had Christmas morning and Christmas dinner at our house. We went to the Kowal’s home to exchange gifts before finally heading up to Oklahoma. We stayed at my sister Jamie’s house, and so did my Mom.
Tue 4 Jul 2006
Ellis County had been hurting for rain all Spring and early Summer, to the point that an official burn-ban was announced. This sure put a damper on our plans for a second annual “Big Fireworks Show”. I had actually told my North-side pals that no fireworks party would be happening at all. It turned out though, that we got a little rain on the 3rd, and an absolute drenching on the 4th. I quickly hustled up some fireworks money from the neighbors and houseguests, and we bought a decent supply of fireworks and planned a gathering at my house for the evening. Of course the amount of fireworks couldn’t compare to last year’s extravaganza, but we still had lots of fun, and some neighbors got to know each other a little better. Check out the photo album here.
Sun 16 Apr 2006
This was our second Easter in the new house. Since we had just completed our new landscaping, we had folks over to show that off, as well as to share food, fun, eggs, and candy. Because we didn’t have lemon juice or vinegar to add to our egg coloring dye, our egg decorating was the worst we’ve ever done. The dyes were so poor that I resorted to spray painting a few eggs to make sure we had something vibrant. (See the silver, metallic blue, and day-glow orange eggs in the photo.)
Michelle and Lisa had cooked a brisket overnight and other people brought side dishes for a proper holiday dinner. This was also the first time we’ve filled our new dining room table to capacity. As we enjoyed the outdoors in the evening, a hummingbird showed up to sample Michelle’s new flowers, and I was able to snap a decent photo of it.
Wed 15 Mar 2006
We had a pretty good Spring Break. We got the fun part out of the way early in the week so we would have plenty of time left to do the work part.
The fun part was quite fun. On Monday, we drove to Michelle’s sister’s place in Marble Falls. They live on a golf course, and their house backs up to a nice open fairway, so we had plenty of room for throwing boomerangs that afternoon. We taught some kids to throw and two of the three got their first catches, with one even managing an under-the-leg trick catch. That evening we went to dinner at a Russian-run Italian restaurant. Probably, the less said about how odd that experience was, the better. (But I did have an excellent “pink” sauce there.)
Tuesday morning, we headed down to Enchanted Rock, just north of Fredericksburg. Enchanted Rock itself is a 425 foot-high chunk of pink granite that covers 640 acres. It is huge, and for the most part, the main piece is one solid rock. There’s lots of interesting history and lore available at their website.
Now for a little history of our own: We had been to Enchanted Rock before, but Michelle had never made it to the top. The first time we were there, Michelle was pregnant with Holly and started having contractions part way up. She decided to sit in the shade while I went to the top by myself. We returned a few years later with the kids. This time, Holly’s asthma started acting up during the climb, so Michelle and Holly both stopped and waited while Andrew and I explored the top. On this current trip, nothing was going to stop Michelle from reaching the summit.
We enjoyed a pleasant drive with plenty of nice scenery along the way. We arrived from a different, more “country” route than we had ever taken before, and that probably saved us quite a bit of time waiting in a long line of cars trying to turn left to enter the park. Apparently we weren’t the only ones on Spring Break. After a short wait, we made our right turn into the entrance and not long after had payed and parked. We filled a backback with snacks and drinks and hit “Summit Trail”. The weather was absolutely fantastic. Sunny, breezy, and around 70 degrees the whole time. Michelle made the climb look easy this time. Andrew and Holly were so full of energy — taking longer routes, ranging ahead then rejoining us — that they probably could have made the climb twice while Michelle and I did it once. At the top, we rested and enjoyed the scenery for a while and were again astounded by just how many people were there.
To get away from the crowds a bit, we wanted to take an alternate route down. It didn’t look too treacherous as we looked down into the valley between the two main rocks. However, soon after we started down that way, we ran into a group of college kids on their way back up saying that they had had to turn back because that way was too tough. Michelle didn’t like the sound of that, but by sending Andrew to scout ahead continuously, we were able to convince her to keep going. It was actually pretty tough and at some points dangerous. Parts of the climb down were so steep that the insoles of my shoes tore lose. Finally we made it to the valley trail and that’s where we stopped for a snack. Michelle said that she was glad she now had the experience of making that tough climb down. The remainder of the trek back to the parking lot was leisurely. We took our time and saw some wildlife like eagles, lizards, scorpions, and roadrunners.
Next we headed to Fredericksburg Proper to find our Hotel, the Fredericksburg Inn & Suites. We were surprised by how busy the town was and how much traffic we had to sit through. Once we got unpacked at the Hotel, the kids insisted on hitting the pool immediately. Unfortunately, the “heated” pool wasn’t as heated as they would have liked, so they didn’t spend too much time in it. While they were busy, Michelle and I sat at a picnic table. While she read a book, I was able to use Andrew’s Dell Axim PDA to take advantage of the Hotel’s free wi-fi to catch up with Slashdot and the like.
We walked to the Fredericksburg Brewery for everyone to have dinner and for me to enjoy some excellent micro-brews. After that, Holly and Michelle did some shopping and Andrew explored a magic shop while I carried our leftovers back to the room. After we all got back to the room, only Holly was brave enough to venture back into the cold pool, and soon enough, both kids were ready to stay in the room and watch TV (I guess they left some of their energy up on Enchanted Rock). Michelle and I took one more opportunity to walk back to the main street with plans of catching some live music, and maybe trying another kind of beer. Since we had told the kids we wouldn’t be gone long, when we saw that it would cost over $20 bucks in cover charges for us to get into the Auslander Biergarten, we decided to just go back to the brewery for beers for me and a desert for Michelle. By this time, I had tried 4 of the 5 types of beer they had, but I had to settle for a repeat of their Amber Ale since they were currently out of their “Helles”. Soon enough we were back at the room and everyone got to sleep really early. I couldn’t sleep well and ended up getting up and going to McDonald’s to pick up breakfast for everyone.
It turned out getting up early was something of a waste, because our next destination, Wildseed Farms didn’t open until 9:30 am. This place is just outside of Fredericksburg and it is quite impressive. They call themselves “the nation’s largest working wildflower seed farm” and that’s easy to believe. There are fields of flowers stretching out in every direction. They also sell plants and pots like any other nursery. We took some photos and purchased some wildflower seeds, and Michelle also bought a few plants, making sure they were small enough to fit in our SUV.
Finally, we were on our way to Longhorn Caverns near Burnet. This is a river-formed cavern that was used in the past by Indians, Confederate soldiers, outlaws, and strangest of all, by a nightclub owner for dancing and “speakeasy” activities during prohibition. I hadn’t been in any caverns in years and the tour was pretty neat. We got a very friendly and knowledgeable guide which added to our enjoyment. Before the tour, the kids had given up on buying some rock candy in the souvenir shop because the line was too long. They figured if they were first out of the cave, they could race back to the shop and not have a line to wait in. So as soon as the cavern entrance was unlocked, they were first out and off to the shop. Their plan worked. By the time Michelle and I had walked back to the gift shop, the kids had already completed their purchase.
At this point, we had visited everything we planned to, and because of landscaping commitments, it was time to head home. We arrived home just before dark, and started resting up for the “work” part of Spring Break.
Finally, after reading all this, you deserve to see the full photo album. Click here to check it out.
Mon 31 Oct 2005
They went Trick-or-Treating with friends throughout the neighborhood, pretty much unsupervised, while Michelle and I stayed home watching “Shaun of the Dead” and handing out candy.
Sun 3 Jul 2005
After our small but fun fireworks experience last year, I decided that I’d get some of my rich city pals to pitch in some dough to buy a huge supply of fireworks for 2005. My plan worked perfectly and we had a blast. We had enough contributions for “The Big Bang” pack and plenty of other stuff. Click the image to go to the gallery and see us in action.
Lots of folks came down from Plano, Richardson, and Allen. We also had relatives from in and out of town (Cedar Hill, anyway) and a few neighbors dropped in too. We decided to have the party on the 3rd, since the 4th was a Monday and like a “school night” for the grownups. People preferred to stay up late Sunday night instead of shooting things off on the 4th proper.
Because our neighborhood is outside the city limits, we weren’t the only ones who had the idea for a large party. ForÂ three nights in a row, anyone from the surrounding area could sit outside and a party within a mile or so was going on, offering yet another free show.
My 16 year-old nephew Cameron had already been staying with us for a week and was supposed to go back to Oklahoma to start football camp. After he realized just how many fireworks we were getting, it was easy to convince him to stick around an extra couple of days. He got to light way more than his fair share of the fireworks, which was probably a good thing, since most of the other nuts in charge were imbibing on a steady supply of Miller Lite.
After the fireworks show outside, a spectacular Karaoke show took place inside. Luckily for the bulk of our guests, most of them didn’t stick around for this. For those who did stay, I have blackmail video that I’m saving for when the time is right.
Our across-the-street neighbors had their fireworks party the night of the 4th, and were impressed enough with Cameron’s pyrotechnical know-how to put him in charge of their show. Either that, or they were too lazy to do it themselves.
Sun 27 Mar 2005
Sun 4 Jul 2004
For the first time in my Texas life, I was able to shoot off fireworks instead of only watching them. Andrew and I bought a modest bundle (spending around $130) and along with a couple of pals who were over, the whole family had fun setting them off. No photos of the action, but here’s one of our supply before we got started.