Saturday, December 26

Merry Christmas to all...

And to all a good night!

We had a wonderful Christmas day and details will be forthcoming... after a long sleep and a serious digest! For now let's just say that Marty had a brilliant day and was totally chipper - considering we left home at 9am and returned at 9pm! Much love to all <3

Friday, December 25

Christmas eve

It is Christmas eve here and we've had a relaxing day cooking and just chilling out (literally chilling since a huge wind storm hit last night, but at least we're doing better than most of the US). We made Christmas milk, ate a cheese plate and listened to carols streamed from Salisbury Cathedral. It is beginning to feel a LOT like Christmas... there's a happy buzz running through the house (or maybe that's just too much Christmas milk!) We're planning to really enjoy our last Christmas here in Texas and not get down about being far from family and some of our friends. Next year it'll be the reverse.

Our tree in all its glory. Not all of those prezzies are for us, some are to take to Christmas dinner tomorrow!!

Our very eclectic tree. We love our ornament collection which ranges from birds to dragons to day of the dead carollers and toys made by friends with everything in between.

Marty begged to be allowed to open some presents early (ok, one of his mums was busting and it wasn't this one! Well, ok, I was too...) He loved the paper!

We have only let him open a few so far (stimulation overload!) but Marty wants to let you all know that his new toys are friends (and to say a huge thankyou) and that you're welcome to come and play with them and him.

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Happy Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 24

'Operation: Learn to Crawl' is in progress

Our dearest babycakes is experiencing extreme frustration this week. He's so close to crawling but hasn't quite got it, but he's close enough that it has become his obsession. Every waking moment where his body is in the vicinity of a solid surface he's practising, practising, practising. Getting him to go to sleep now involves a good 10 minutes of waiting for him to stop sticking his booty in the air!

At this point he's progressed to the point where his hands and knees are down and ready to go (he's strong!) but he's not entirely sure what to do from there. So far he's inching himself forward by doing this:

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Hilarious yes, but it is 50:50 whether the final splat sends him forward or backwards!

Wednesday, December 23

Adventures of a budding gourmet

Busted! That's the wrong milk Mr.

I had all these grand plans about being a stay at home mum and having time to blog every day. Kind of like those plans I have for cleaning the ceiling fan in our bedroom before the weight of the gunk attached to it brings it crashing to the ground! But really, who has time for these things?

Marty and I have been having a lovely time establishing a daily routine. The first week wasn't so crash hot, given that the poor little tike was teething (one back molar is through, the other side is well on its way...no sign of much front tooth action though) and had a cold (or that could have been the teething - either way lots of snot was involved) not to mention missing his grandparents! We topped that week off with a tonne of shopping and a couple of big social engagements ('tis the season and all) which meant that he spent most of Sunday and Monday catching up on sleep! We probably should have done the same thing come to think of it...

We've been working on introducing some different foods. Not as a replacement for milk but just as tastes and to see how he'd go. He's been trying to take food off our plates for a while now. We were kind of torn between the advice of our fabulous paediatrician (start at 4 months) and the Australian Breastfeeding Association (start after 6 months) but the more recent medical literature I read the more starting before 6 months seemed like the best plan, and he was clearly ready.

Chomping at the... wrist-rest? This thing is perfect for protecting him from his own head-banging tendencies, plus it apparently makes a good chew toy!

Lucky for us he likes the highchair ($15 Ikea - these things are the bomb) AND he has very good spoon control (ie. eye gouging is a rarity)

Poggie feeding him zucchini.

We've been reading some other good stuff about starting with bitter green veggies and moving through to the sweeter stuff which seems to make sense. So far he's had avocado (his starter - no sign of the avocado baby yet tho), zucchini, apple, persimmon (!!), banana and sweet potato (with ginger and he loved it!) I think that's all... I've made some pumpkin soup that's basically just roasted butternut and nutmeg so he can probably have some of that for Christmas.

At this point we're only doing one lot of solid food per day, around lunch time after we've been for a big walk AND had some milk. He gets set up in his chair, we put on the Best of Play School and sing along, and chow down on some goodies. He's a pretty good eater though and will take anywhere from 1 to 3 tablespoons in a sitting (that's what goes down - he doesn't actually get too much all over him as he's so keen to get that spoon in the mouth!)

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Tuesday, December 22

Texas BBQ at its best - the Salt Lick

One of the by-lines of the Salt Lick is 'you can smell our pits from miles away' and it's a darn good thing too, otherwise you might never find the best BBQ I've ever had! The Salt Lick is tucked out the back of whoop whoop kind of near Austin... (but only kind of as we discovered last time when we had a flat tire in the rain and had to navigate the back roads from the Salt Lick to Austin on the stupid 'donut' wheel that passes for a spare tire in this country!) We've been a few times before but I wanted to post again since we visited again recently with the Bears and our friends Gene and April (major food lovers). The day was perfect for it, cold and drizzly, so sitting inside a wood hut not to far from a delicious BBQ pit was wonderful.

This be the pit! Amongst other delights there's beef brisket, sausage links and the best sticky ribs EVER. The ribs are basted with the secret sweet sauce in the tin pot. I love the way the snags hang in the hood to catch the smoke!

We eat family style. It's about $18 per person but basically amounts to a constant topping up of the delights you see before you! The meat is brisket, ribs and sausage. Then there's a gorgeous potato salad and pretty good beans - but it is the slaw that I just can't get enough of! It doesn't have a creamy sauce, more light and vinegary but with toasted sesame seeds and gah...so good. Oh and of course the necessities - pickles, bread and secret sauce (not shown)

Marty loved watching all the people. We should have given him a rib to munch on!

And to finish, for those brave (and amazing) souls with room, I hear they do a great pecan pie. I can't attest to its greatness myself because I never have room!

Wednesday, December 16

Our last Thanksgiving in San Antonio

It just shows how far behind I am when it is nearly Christmas and I'm only just getting a Thanksgiving post written!

Today marks day 2 of my 'stay-at-home-mumming' and I'm still feeling mostly sane. It is a horribly cold and windy day, although thankfully not wet so we still went out walking; Rooey all bundled up in his stroller with the wind/rain shield on and me freezing my booty off. He's a good shopper though :D

Back to Thanksgiving... This year was a lot of fun because we had the Bears with us, but it was also sad since we knew it was our last real Thanksgiving with the wonderful friends we've made here in Texas. This year is was a slightly more intimate crowd, with 16 people as opposed to last year's 26+.

We did the usual thing, headed to John and Jo's in the morning to start cooking for a ~4pm feast, caught the rerun of the Macy's parade and watched the National Dog Show (go Sadie the Scottie, best in show again!) The menu was pretty close to the usual, turkey, baked ham, chicken on the BBQ rotisserie and a huge spread of vegies.

Most of the dinner menu. Roughly clockwise from the turkey centrepiece: Mashed red-skinned spuds, assorted roasted root veggies, two batches of Lorena's green bean casserole (one spicy and one not), grilled asparagus, steamed green beans with lemon and crispy garlic, potato bake (x2), turkey, chicken, ham and a huge batch of chestnut and bacon stuffing! There was also gravy and Brad made some exceptional fresh cranberry salsa.

What kind of Thanksgiving would it be without a great bar? We had some good champagne with dinner too ;)

There was a huge spread of desserts including lemon meringue pie and chocolate meringue pie, but I only had eyes for these beauties.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving! We are super thankful for all our wonderful friends here, whether they were at the table or not!

Tuesday, December 15

What you been up to Mr Roo?

Marty is sleeping and I'm sitting here at the computer having breakfast, the world is good...until I remember that this is Day 1 of 'Jac the (far from amazing) stay at home mum' and the panic sets in once more!

A boy and his Poggie

Experienced readers will notice that I am giving up my precious baby free minutes for you all. I thought I'd take this opportunity for a mega catch-up post since one is well and truly due. The Travelling Bears headed for home on Saturday, after spending 10 weeks with us helping to look after Marty so that Jo could keep working. She finishes as Research Coordinator of the Genomics Computing Center (the kind of job she's unlikely to have again) at the end of the year, hence my foray into the world of stay at home parenting (I have a collection of vacation time).

Marty and the Bears

Saying goodbye to the Bears was doubly hard because it very quickly became clear that while their flight from San Antonio to Dallas was fine, their flight out of Dallas (to LA to make their international flight) was delayed coming into Dallas! Jo went to bed because she was exhausted but I stayed up until nearly 2am watching the blessed flight tracker, knowing that Jo would want an update in the night. It is a horribly helpless feeling watching the progress of a flight, willing it to move faster, but knowing there's no way it'll land in time to make the connection. Only falls short of actually being on the flight and knowing that. Anyhow, they eventually made it back to Australian soil via Sydney so thankfully no bonus night in LAX!

I don't really believe in the idea of milestones but for the sake of blog news Marty has passed a bunch lately. Today he has his first cold, poor little thing, but he's being a trooper about it. We think he's popped his first tooth. I say think because it is a back molar and I can't see it, but it certainly feels like it is through (especially when he clamps down hard on my knuckle). It didn't seem to upset him much, just lots of drool and attempting to stick things back there to chew on; tricky at the best of times!

I just can't see back there!

He's also had his first few tastes of solid food,starting with avocado and then zucchini. I'm stewing some apple for him as I type this. We've been reading a lot about introducing the bitter greens before the sweet stuff, so trying to work down those lines. He wasn't sure about the first lot of avocado but has been getting better and better and he practically fed himself some of the zucchini. Definitely tending towards right-handedness too. He's pretty good at holding the spoon already (we have a lovely soft boon one) and only occasionally tries to stick the long end down his throat (I think so he can bite on that back tooth). His Poggie has a phobia about babies covered in food, but I'm getting over it!

First taste. I have more food pics but they're trapped on my camera until I get a new card reader (mine died)

What else can I tell you about Mr Roo?

He loves to go walking in his front pack. All new parents should be given a baby bjorn along with their 'bundle of joy'. Like the baby bonus - Government issue, absolutely essential! The white dribble cloths that attach to it are just an added bonus (or in his case just as necessary, since he likes to chew that edge, and anything else that comes within range...)

He's a smiley boy and has a laugh like a squeaky screen door! Seen here sporting his gorgeous cardi made by his GA Kate.

He's not showing any sign of losing those bright blue eyes yet! Still looks deliciously chunky in the arms and legs but they mustn't be very dense since he's bang on the 50th percentile.

He absolutely loves tummy time and if you dare lie him on his back he'll be on his tummy again within about 5 seconds.

Roo is very engaged and will systematically seek out everyone in the room until he has managed to get direct attention from everyone! He loves different faces and will charm the pants off complete strangers by grinning at them :)

Ok, so I started this post while he was napping at 9am - it is now 2.30pm and he's napping again (sleepy from the cold) but I'm not doing too badly. We've done 2 loads of washing, some cooking, played 'which toy can we drown in drool' AND been out for a walk to do some christmas shopping and get Poggie a coffee!

I hear a squeak, got to go!

Monday, November 30

Coming home!

Forgive me for the terrible lack of posts. I have no excuse except that Lord of the Rings online is just that good! (yes, I have been lured back to the world of online gaming)

Anyhow, back to the important stuff. I have attempted to get this little fragment of news out to most people but I'm now at that point where I have no clue who knows and who doesn't so if you're finding out for the first time via the blog, my apologies... We are coming home!

Before I jump too far ahead let me backtrack for a second. For those of you new to the blog, Jo and I are both Australians, Tasmanians to be precise. Yes, we are from the little island state at the bottom of Australia that gets left off most maps. Tasmania is more beautiful than any one place really has a right to be! See for yourself...

About 5 minutes from the middle of Hobart, the capital city.

Yep it gets cold, but doesn't tend to snow in town. This is Mt Wellington, again only a stone's throw from the city center. The grocer on the corner (the Salad Bowl) is also one of my favourite corner stores and a great spot for finding local cheese bargains!

Oops how did this get in here? Local Tasmanian sheep/goat cheese, sausage, wine and pinot paste from Grandvewe.

Ahh, the view from my outlaws' beach house in Boat Harbour, one of my favourite places of all time.

Boat Harbour again...sigh

We ended up in Texas because when I finished my PhD (statistical genetics) I was offered the kind of job you just can't refuse, even if it does mean moving to San Antonio! So I moved here in March 2006 and had to wait nine horribly long months before Jo could join me here (she also had a PhD to finish but hers in is something much more conversation friendly - literature! See, you can even say it without swallowing your tongue). We always planned to return to Australia but it was dependent on me getting a job (not a whole lot of places for me to work in Oz) and the 'where?' was very much up in the air. We thought maybe Melbourne or Adelaide and were resigned to the idea of being a short flight from home, but by some fortuitous twist of fate I have been offered a job in Tasmania! It starts in April so we'll be leaving here around the end of March, which will be exactly 4 years for me!

The whole thing is bitter sweet because of course we are busting to go home and we want Marty to be closer to family and dear old friends, but it means leaving behind all our fabulous friends here, my incredible job and all the fun that comes with living in another country. I plan on keeping the blog but of course it is going to need a new title so I might open up a suggestion box. Jac Wabbit went to Texas and came home again is a little cumbersome but I could always go with 'there and back again' ;)

Wednesday, November 11

Días de los Muertos - Days of the dead

Over the last week or two we've been celebrating the days of the dead in their various forms. San Antonio is brilliant; not only do we get the usual American Halloween fun including work celebrations, dressing up, lots of sugar and trick or treating but we also get the Mexican / Catholic celebrations of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which is both a memorial and celebration of those who have passed on.

First off there was the work Halloween party which included a hallway decorating contest, costume contest (I was a judge, ha!), mummy wrapping game and dessert contest! The photo below is our friend Katy's 3rd place dessert entry (I think it should have won).

Katy's jelly brain dessert with berry sauce

Then there was the actual night of Halloween. I made a big pot of my Tassie Devil chilli (and a vegetarian version - neither of which actually include devils) and we headed on down to John and Jo's since their house is in a better neighbourhood for the festivities (you don't really get trick or treaters at apartments unless organised by the complex). There were a bunch of us going, some to trick or treat and some to man the door and hand out candy, but the deal was we all had to dress up. We thought we were all organised with Marty's costume since we had this fabulous chilli-pepper outfit we bought before he even existed... but at the last minute we discovered a wardrobe malfunction! Every time he moved his legs it popped open! It was too small!! (Actually, I think it was designed by someone who had never seen a real baby...maybe one of those people who design costumes for dogs) We did manage to get a few pics before retiring the chilli.

Awww

He was remarkably chipper all through the dressing up process!

Hot stuff (aww come on, someone had to say it!)

RAWR!

Luckily his mama did some fancy footwork and secured him a replacement outfit at the 11th hour... even if I did have to drive to the back of whoop whoop to pick it up!

It's a rainbow glow bug, I think. We'll it's cute whatever it is! (Poggie not in costume at this point)

Rainbow bug and his Papa Bear - make sure you check the Bears for more pics and news

Halloween loot for just one child o_0

Our church also does a lovely and very moving day of the dead celebration where members bring photos and stories of people they want to remember.

Altar of remembrance

Finally, to wrap up all this celebrating death/life we popped down to First Friday, which is a arts/beer festival in Southtown, the San Antonio arts district. This particular first Friday included a day of the dead parade as well as a Muertitos Fest!

We started First Friday with drinks, fried mushrooms and jalapeno poppers at our favourite Texan icehouse, La Tuna. We met up with friends and their little girl Camille and then headed down to Muertitos Fest at Say Si, arguably our favorite gallery in San Antonio. Say Si is a student art program but the quality of the work is excellent, as you will see in a moment.

Some of the incredible altars at Say Si

More altars. Call it my Catholic roots but I love these!

Some of the artwork. Hard to tell from the pic but these were gorgeous.

This was our favourite piece by far and we would definitely have bought it if it hadn't already sold! It is a combo of found paper, block printing, woodwork and resin.

After we'd checkout out the artwork we popped outside to catch some of the traditional dancing, including this incredible routine where they danced with real candles on their heads!

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After that we did catch the parade, but my photos suck so if you want to see better ones check out the Bears.

Day of the dead parade at Say Si

And of course we dressed Rooey for the occasion so that everybody stopped to goo over him!

Wednesday, November 4

Foster Botanical Gardens - Honolulu (or an excuse to post pictures)

We visited the Foster Botanical Gardens while in Honolulu - totally worth the short cab from the hotel. I have no idea what most of these plants are (other than pretty) and frankly I'm too lazy to work it out. This post is just an excuse to post lots of photos.

(Remember that, as always, you can click on any of the pics to see the big version)

A tiny bit smaller than coconuts but waaay more plentiful, I was pretty nervous of standing anywhere near this tree!

See, not just one or two cannonballs but enough to scone you several times over!

And wicked thorns to boot (this is still the cannonball tree) but I did risk getting close because the flowers were so pretty... Ahh, tricksy!

See!! Look at that flower. It looks as thought it could just eat you up... wait... aaaghh!

Jo and Roo at the gardens

Some kind of large, toothy palm

Jac messing with the camera

Still messing with the camera...

Nuts! Big as grapefruit!

Jo by one of the trees she's had photos taken with at 3 and 14 years old

Giant squid monster tree?

Looks like fireworks to me

This one reminded me of a cylon resurrection ship... clearly due for that holiday!

We'll eat you up we love you so!

This tree rebelled by flowering from its trunk

A lunch fit for for a lizard

A huge and glorious painted gum

Munch crunch lunched

Josie, Roo and the Bears - proof that we all survived unsconed