Thursday, December 31, 2009

Live Music Capitol of the World

As most of you know, we specifically chose the suburb which we now call home because of its close proximity to Austin, Texas...self-proclaimed "Live Music Capitol of the World." Austin has a lot to offer for people with a myriad of interests, but the one driving force always comes back to the music. Two of the largest, most anticipated music festivals in the world, Austin City Limits Festival, and South By Southwest (SXSW), are both held in Austin. When I first visited Austin, back in August to look for a house, I got to see M.Ward live, who I'd never seen play before. The show was at historic Antone's, one of the first music venues on legendary 5th & 6th Street, Austin. Many famous musicians have performed there, including Stevie Ray Vaughan who basically started his career at Antone's, so it was cool to live a little part of music history.

Wolfmother, Live At Stubb's

All up and down 6th Street are venues and bars with windows that open onto the sidewalk so live bands can catch the ear of passersby. One particular band which caught our ear during the Old Pecan Street Festival, was The Travis Brown Band, a tight blues band consisting of three high school-aged kids! As we were walking past the club, I heard the easily recognizable notes of "Voodoo Child" coming from inside, so we decided to stop and check out who was playing. To our amazement, 14-year-old Travis Brown was the one absolutely ripping a flawless rendition of the Jimi Hendrix classic.

The Travis Brown Band

In the video you'll notice him glancing out the window, laughing at the huge crowd which had formed on the sidewalk outside.

The next band we saw was one of our long-time favorites, Austin Latin band, Del Castillo. They played at Antone's and we got a spot right next to the stage. If you're not familiar with Del Castillo's music, you might have heard their work on such movies as Desperado or other Robert Rodriguez movies in the El Mariachi trilogy. The band is named after the two guitarists, brothers Mark & Rick Del Castillo. Even if you're not into Latin music, I highly recommend this band if for no other reason than to witness the unbelievable talent of these guitarists. It is quite an experience.

Rick Del Castillo

Mark Del Castillo & Singer, Alex Ruiz

Mark & Rick Showing Off

The next band we saw was another longtime favorite of ours, Australian band Wolfmother. They played at Stubb's Barbeque amphitheater to a sold-out crowd. Unfortunately we weren't able to get as close as I would have preferred, but we still got a few good shots and it was a really great performance. Wolfmother just released their new record, Cosmic Egg and it's definitely a keeper.

Waiting For The Show To Start


The last show we saw, we didn't get any photos of because they didn't allow cameras in the venue. The band was the highly anticipated super group, Monsters Of Folk, which consists of Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and M.Ward. This was also a sold-out show and was an awesome performance. They played for over two-and-a-half hours, covering original songs from the MOF record, as well as many original covers from each of their individual bands. Three bands for the price of one!

Some shows we're looking forward to in 2010: Patricia Vonne & Del Castillo, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Niko Vega, The Famine....the list really could go on and on.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas day

On Christmas morning, the children managed to sleep in until nearly 8:00AM, then came to wake us up:

I had formed two trays of doughnut dough the night before, so I pulled them out to rise on the counter while we opened gifts.

Thank you to all of our extended family for your generosity!

After they were opened and the wrapping was cleared away, we baked the doughnuts, which were tasty, as always (recipe from 101 Cookbooks -- I make my dough in the bread machine, form the doughnuts, and then put them in the refrigerator overnight).

After that, we had a laid back day of spending time together, and eating leftovers. After the children were tucked into bed, Greg and I put together a beautiful spread of Spanish cured ham (mail ordered from La Tienda).

Click here for my tasting notes on the photo in Flickr - hover your mouse over it to reveal the text boxes.
It was quite an experience, bringing Spain to our table, and a beautiful way to end our Christmas day.

The next morning brought yet more gifts, in mail that had been delayed!

Two beautiful outfits from Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Bob -- one for Lavella, and one for Jonah, were put into use this morning:

For even more pictures of our 3-day Christmas celebration, you can click on over to our Flickr set.

Christmas Eve

Christmas often has a way of spiraling out of control in the Stuff To Do category, and I often find myself sacrificing my sleep and sanity to try to pull everything off. This year, I wanted to do things differently, so Greg and sat down with some Brandy Alexanders, and came up with a simple, streamlined menu for a Christmas Eve lunch. (OK, so mostly Greg came up with the menu, and I knit, but who's counting?)

First thing in the morning on Christmas Eve, I put the ham in the oven. It was a Country Style dry-cured ham, which I've never baked case you ever want to do this, make sure you soak it in water first for at least 12 hours. Maybe even 36, changing out the water occasionally to get rid of excess salt. And no, I did not do this. OHMYGOSHTHESALTOVERLOAD. I'm pretty sure that my family is now at our sodium intake quotient for the year. And next year.

I baked it with brown sugar, onions, parsley, cloves and 2 bottles of Shock Top (a beer that's brewed with citrus and spices) poured over the top. The flavor was great, but the intense salinity made it a little difficult to eat much of. Sad, because I am kind of a ham fiend. Well. At least I know what to do next time.

Greg made a big bowl of his famous Smashed Potatoes:

And a delicious, sweet Mango chutney, which went perfectly with our (super salty) ham:

I threw together a fresh green salad with spring greens and cucumber slices, tossed together, loosely following David Lebovitz' formula for French vinegrette.

We invited the family next door, Josh, Alex, and "Pea" to come and eat with us.

The children ate quickly and then went off to amuse themselves. They were so peaceful that we adults had the luxury of lingering long over lunch and visiting.

We finished up with some Espresso Cheesecake Brownies from my favorite baking book.

Just as lunch was over, I happened to glance out the window and saw SNOW! It was in the low 30's, and none of us were dressed for it, but of course we all took a run around the yard to experience the rare gift of snow flurries.

Since we got our main holiday meal out of the way, the rest of of the day was freed up for relaxing, cuddling, and enjoying being together as a family.

After the children went to bed, Greg set the gifts out under the tree.

I love the moments of stillness before Christmas morning...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Communion

Our church had a "silent" Christmas Communion last Friday. I'm in the band now, so I sang for several of the songs, and the children participated in a sign language performance of "Silent Night". It was a little tough to have all of the children in the program, especially during the silent moments (the babies -- all 20 of them -- suddenly got SUPER bored, and made their own fun!), but overall it was beautiful, and completely worth the effort. Even if I was juggling Jonah in the back of the room for most of it.

I must also note: Lavella not only "lost" her little pink shoes just before walking out the door, and had to wear her big shiny red boots, but she also missplaced her coat...and arrived at the event in a pink-and-green polk-a-dot raincoat. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Thankfully, at least the raincoat wasn't needed during the actual performance.

Also: I have no idea what's up with Elijah's red hat. Apparently it was Very Important. I try to choose my battles.

Here are the children, practicing just before it all started:

And then the actual performance (Lavella is off camera -- she was so distracted by the band that she spent the entirety of the song standing behind someone, facing the stage, mouth agape.)

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus:

O Holy Night:

Merry Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We wish you a merry Christmas...

The time has come for rest and peace.

And a cup of hot cocoa.

A good mug of hot cocoa has never hurt anyone.

Especially when the whipped cream is refreshed every time it melts down. Now THAT'S a mug worth lingering over.

I still have 85-million things that I NEED to get done before Christmas...

But Christmas, it seems, is upon us.

There will always be time later to Get Things Done.

In the meantime, however, there are moments that will pass by, if I do not stop to look, listen, and enjoy them.

Today I dropped all of my plans.

Because really, is there anything that can possibly be more important than this?

Eating rocks. Now THAT'S important.

And swinging babydolls.

The time has come for rest.

And peace.

And joy.

I hope that each one of you, my dear friends (and family), have a blessed and joyous Christmas.

And many, many precious moments with those you love.