Friday, May 25

One ring to bind them...

The other bit of news, which I'm hoping most, if not all of you know by now is that I proposed to Jo on her birthday. No big surprise to anyone really, but we want to be able to have some kind of celebration of our relationship at some point down the road to share with all the people we love so dearly and who have been so supportive of us and such a good example to us. And also the fact that Jo has been going on about wanting a "sweet ring". Lucky for me I had already bought one! I bought it last year when she was still in Australia, and had been carrying it with me everywhere because I couldn't find the right 'quiet' moment. Anyhow, it's from Tiffany's (because I'm a romantic sucker for the film) and not too flashy and the stone is peridot.

And now for all of you who have been demanding a squiz...

We are just as happy as always, but it's been lovely to share a little of that with you all.

Jo's Birthday

Hi everyone, just a quickie to let you know that Jo had a wonderful 30th birthday and to thank every who helped to make it so special.

We did all sorts of lovely things... On the Friday after work we went to a real Texan outdoor drinking establishment (La Tuna - I've mentioned it before) for beers and wine served out of a little shed and drunk at outdoor tables under pecan trees. It's the place where the ground is covered in bottle caps instead of pebbles! The plan was to move from there through some of the other boutiquie pubs on that edge of downtown, but it was such a lovely afternoon and we were all enjoying it so much that we just stayed!

Later that eve we went to one of the well known Mexican restaurants here, La Fogata, well known for its margaritas that is! Jo was serenaded, not once, but twice by the mariachis, much to her delight. We also had a unique kind of birthday 'cake' with all sorts of yummies (including chirros, my favorite).

On the day of her actual birthday we had a big fry up at home, then she set to opening presents (many of which made her cry!) We had a lovely visit from Oscar and Leo who brought her a ziplock bag full of mud and water with a few flowers in it, as only kids can. Collected with much love I am sure!

That night we had an amazing dinner at a restaurant called the Grey Moss Inn. Grey Moss is on the outskirts of San Antonio in a place called Grey Forest and it was so beautiful to drive out there and be in almost rural countryside, but with trees and even the odd hill! Again it was a truly magical night for sitting outside, and we did so under the enormous oaks strung with long tendrils of swamp moss. The food was gorgeous. I had fresh Hawaiian tuna with foie gras and a leek custard and Jo had an amazing looking filet (yes, steak) cooked on the charcoal grill. I won't go into too much detail because I know some of you complain about the blog being all about food (I love food!) but amazing desserts, wine and even hot tea were present and accounted for. It was also a lot of fun because we all decided we'd frock up for the night (yes, even me, in a dress).

The next Saturday night we had a birthday bash in the evening which was pretty much a repeat of the superbowl party, just with a different reason for celebrating. We made chili and sushi and I became the bar queen and made mint juleps and mojitos with the fresh mint we'd been growing on our deck. It was pretty amazing to see all the people there and realise just how big our social network here is. We are very lucky to have so many good friends both here and at home.

Friday, May 4

A general life update

I thought I should put up some kind of more general update on what's currently happening in the lives of Jo and Jac, because there's actually quite a lot going on!

On Tuesday Jo found out that she's been offered a job here at the Foundation! The job has the swanky title of "Research Coordinator" and it's primarily a PA position for my boss that will involve grant management and all that other fun stuff that keeping a team of scientists on the ball involves. Jo has also been volunteering for the library here on a collection of personal and historic documents they hold from one of our key philanthropists, so we're hoping that part of her job will also involve a more formalised component of this work. The paperwork for the job should come through today, then we need to leave the country to apply for a new visa for her (yay) but more about that in a sec.

I put in an abstract for a conference in Italy and it looks like I've been given an oral presentation. The conference is in Torino at the end of May (26-29) so we're off to Italy! Jo is coming too (of course), and we're going to Rome after the conference finishes so that we can visit the US consulate there and apply for her new visa. There are still a few kinks to work out, but here's hoping everything will be fine. I spent a frustrating few hours on the phone to USCIS the other day trying to work out what to do about her nearly expired B2 visa and ended up having to trick the robot into letting me talk to a real person (going silent doesn't work - it just obstinately says "I'm sorry, you did not answer" and repeats the question over and over and over). The problem is that we applied for an extension to Jo's official "length of stay" and have a receipt from USCIS to say that they received the application and they're processing it (there were at least speedy in cashing the $200 cheque). The instructions said to send the application in 30-45 days prior to expiry (which we did)... However, on checking their site, it seems they're only just finalising applications that they received in December, 2006! Anyhow, after much swearing and then having to pretend that I'd filled the application out wrong and needed to change the address, I got to speak to a real live person who said it was ok, Jo didn't need to leave the country immediately (which was our big fear) and that the USCIS receipt to say the application was received allows her to stay until we hear back from them. Weird system!! I don't think that leaving the country on an expired departure card will be a problem, it would only be a problem if the visa application in Rome is denied but I'm hoping that is unlikely. But who knows, I certainly don't pretend to understand it all...

Um, so the short version is we're going to Italy on the 25th of May and coming home on the 5th of June, or something like that! Should be fun :)

It's Jo's 30th birthday tomorrow (Saturday) so we've been busy planning for that as well. Tonight we're going downtown, to a side of San Antonio known as Southtown, which is the artsie part of the city. On the first Friday of every month they run something called, well, First Friday... which, by the way, I've never managed to get to! From what I've heard it's a mix of galleries, pubs and restaurants opening up along a stretch of Southtown and you kind of wind your way through it. This Friday seemed to be perfect timing, so we're taking some of the after work crowd and going to check it out.

On Saturday night we're going out to dinner with a smaller group of some of our closest friends from here. Not entirely sure where we're going yet but of course there will be a follow up food post - this blog would not be the same without one! Then next Saturday (slightly delayed to fit around everyone's busy schedules) we're having a bit more of a party type get together. Drinks, nibbles, that sort of thing. I'll make some sushi and I might even see if I can replicate my superbowl chili recipe!

As for other news, it's well and truly warming up here. We've had to put the AC on in order to get any sleep, and it's unusually muggy at the moment which only makes me more sticky and irritable. The days are up in the 30s, and only dropping to the mid 20s at night (and this isn't even summer!) We're also well and truly into the spring storm season and we've already had some amazing thunderstorms. Eerie green skies (that usually mean hail) pink lightning, the works! This year we've also had a lot of tornado watches (which means the weather is favorable to producing one) and a few tornado warnings (which means one has been spotted nearby). We didn't get any last year, not even watches, because we didn't have anywhere near as much moisture. There actually haven't been any tornadoes in the San Antonio area yet, but the ones that you might have heard about on the news recently were in Eagle Pass, which is only about 200km away. They've had a few bad ones recently :(

That may be enough of a wall of text post for now! I'll leave you with a few pics of the amazing bromeliad that Jo bought me from one of the nurseries here. It has the most incredible flowers ^_^

Wednesday, May 2

Hamster Cam - Part 2

Here's a slightly smaller one in case you're having trouble streaming the other one. This one has a bit more character, with Lumpy sitting in the foodbowl stuffing his cheeks then burrowing, and Busy just keeps on running.

I'm not sure if you can tell from these vids but their cheek pouches are really full! Cheek pouches is kind of misleading because they actually full up near their shoulders, so they have little bulges above their front legs.

Hamster Cam - Part 1

Here they are...

As you can see...two in the wheel doesn't work so well!