Sunday, September 30, 2007

Date Night

My wife and I don't have a date night very often, but we should. Our lives seem to get overly busy and we don't make the time. A friend offered to come by tonight and watch our screaming demons wonderfully well-behaved children so we could go to dinner. Woo-hoo! We are going to have some delicious Italian food and a bottle of wine at Romeo's Italian Grill, a favorite romantic spot of ours for many years.

I'm not sure which I love more, date night or Romeo's.

The Grilled Fontina Cheese appetizer is a staple of our dinner every time we go. I could eat only that as my meal and be satisfied, but there is so much more on the menu worth filling up on and bringing home in a to-go box.

Now if you will excuse me I need to go shower and get ready for my date!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Weekend Haikus

A break from the norm
Went to Nana and Papa's

To play at their house


Lots of good swimming
Means lots of good sleep for kids
That is a nice thing


Back home with Mama
All safe and sound in our beds
Happy as can be

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

OK, I'll Gloat a Little

I wasn't going to gloat about the Cowboys beating da Bears, but it was expected on my friend's blog so I will.

Woo-hoo! The first half of the game had me worried but the Cowboys dominated da Bears in the second half! The defense was picking off Rex Grossman left and right! Tony Romo had his way with da Bears secondary coverage, too, and put the ball in the hands of seven different receivers with T.O and Jason Witten as his favorite targets once again. Dallas is now the team to beat in the NFC. Super Bowl here we come!

I hope I didn't just jinx it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Today is the Day

Back in August, a fellow blogging dad buddy (who lives in Chicago) and I made a friendly wager on today's Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears game. If da Bears beat the Cowboys I will put their logo on my blog for 30 days. If the Cowboys beat da Bears he will do the same.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Recap: Day 3, Part 2 - Austin City Limits Music Festival 2007

By the time I was done watching Ryan Shaw I started to get hungry. My stomach was full of a liter of water and was begging for something of substance. I headed back in the direction of the food court around 1:00 pm while watching scores of people file through the entrance of the festival. Some looked fresh and ready to go like they had been dropped off, while others looked like they had just walked several miles to finally reach their destination. Regardless, they all looked happy.

I walked up and down the food court looking for just the right meal to satisfy my hunger but not keep me preoccupied with the aforementioned POP's (that's port-o-potties for you festival rookies) on a hot Sunday afternoon. Salt Lick chopped beef sandwich? As much as they sounded perfect I had to pass on this day. Personal pizza from Austin's Pizza? Just a little too much for lunch for me. Hot and Crunchy Chicken Cone from Hudson's on the Bend? Huh?

I settled on a 1/4 lb hot dog from Original Hoffbrau Steaks. Mmmm, mmmm, good. And not too messy, either, which was good because right next to the food court, The Jones Family Singers had just started a tent revival underneath the roof at the WaMu stage. I plowed through 3/4 of my 1/4 lb hot dog and had to ditch the remaining dog so I could get out my camera and shout praises to the Lord!

I really didn't shout praises out loud, but I thought them while I made my way to the front of the stage to get a closer look at the Jones family that was filling the crowd with energy as they raised the roof for young and old alike. I think The Jones Family Singers were one of the best shows I saw all day. There is something about a large group of people dancing and singing together without a care about what race, age, or gender the other is and they are all having a good time. It's how it should always be.

Around 2:00 pm I made my way to the media tent for a little break in the action and to rest my feet. It was nice to see they had free snacks on the table and a cooler full of ice cold water. I sat back and watched some artists being interviewed by 101X, KLBJ, and ME, while making a phone call to my wife and kids. Then it was time to hit the crowds with my feet blazing trails through stage squatters and left-handed smokers. A much more difficult task now that I am in my mid-30's. I took a wrong turn while following another guy and ended up deeper in the smoky squatting crowd as I tried to navigate my way back to the flow of traffic.

I finally made my way to the AT&T Blue Room stage to catch The National and I'm so glad I did. Their off back beat rhythm song, "Fake Empire," was one of the best live performances I have ever seen. The crowd went crazy when they started and went even more crazy when they finished. It was one of the few times at a live concert where chills went down my neck because of crowd appreciation for the creativity of the band's music. Well done.

Watching most of The National show also gave me a chance to sit down again and reapply the sunscreen chilling in my soft-sided cooler. Cold sunscreen applied directly under the watchful eye of a hot afternoon sun is very refreshing. Take that UV rays! It also gave me time to sit and drink my first cold beer.

When The National was done I moseyed on over to check out Robert Earl Keen at the AMD stage. I like REK on the right day. He is surely a crowd pleaser with "Feelin' Good Again" and the rest of his good laid back tunes.

So as not to miss Ben Kweller and the Infamous Nose Bleeds, I scooted my way towards the AT&T stage at the other side of Zilker. You can't come all the way down to ACL and not see if Ben can pull off another show all bloody in the heat! To my dismay (just kidding, Ben) he was blood free but still put on a great show.

On the way to see Ben Kweller I did stop by to catch Kara Grainger at the BMI stage. Wow. Great voice. Thank you, Kara, for that ten minutes of beauty.

I received a phone call from some friends that were coming out to see Wilco. I would finally have somebody to hang with, even if it was short lived. We met up and went to watch Regina Spektor at the AT&T Blue (but really orange) Room. Regina was by far the happiest person at ACL Fest including the patrons and all the staff. She smiled all throughout her performance and said how happy she was to be playing here. The musical talent that she has is mind blowing to watch. I'm a new fan.

Is that a Polaroid camera that guy has? I think it is.

I missed the end of Regina's show because I made the mistake of drinking a 22 oz beer right before she started. As I made my way towards the food court again to find long lines at the POP's, I was fortunate to catch the Preservation Hall Jazz Band playing, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

I went back to the AMD stage to catch Wilco since that's where I knew my friends were going while I emptied out my bladder. I hung at the back of the crowd and just watched Wilco perform. It was 6:45 pm and my legs were tired so I sat down to enjoy the show. When it was over I tried to talk myself into staying for Bob Dylan but the show put on by Ghostland Observatory on the next stage over (AT&T Orange Room) was my headliner. I had heard that Ghostland put on an incredible show and I heard right. It was just becoming dark when out came the green and purple lasers dancing in the sky to the techno beats thumping from the speakers. I was a pretty good distance away from the stage but felt like I was right up on it.

When Ghostland Observatory completed their awesome performance I glanced over to my right to witness thousands of people rushing to the other side of Zilker Park to catch Bob Dylan.

"No thanks," I told myself. It had been nine hours since I had arrived at ACL and I was ready to go. See you all next year.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thoughts From My Desk - 9/18/2007

I sealed my fate for the Father of the Year Award tonight when I took my kids to 7-11 for dinner. What can I say? They love processed cheese sauce and drinks that are void of any nutritional value. I don't let them eat like that every day. I swear.


On the way to the 7-11 for our gourmet healthy dinner of nachos, hot dogs, Slurpees, and a cookie with Dallas Cowboys frosting on it, a woman on a bicycle (with no helmet) attempted to turn left in front of oncoming traffic going straight. When the cars wouldn't stop for her she threw her hand up at them and came about a foot away from being a hood ornament. When she finally turned left she looked back in disgust as if to say, "How dare you not let me turn left on an unprotected green light in front of your car! Can't you see I'm trying to have a conversation with my friend on my Bluetooth!" Yes, she was on the phone while riding her bicycle in the street without a helmet on - and breaking traffic laws.



Have you ever noticed that when the graffiti removal department of the City paints over graffiti that it really doesn't look much better? They use a different color or shade of gray, tan, or light blue in the same areas. Why not use the same paint every time? Why not get a paint that is a match for the concrete? Why not just plant some shrubs in front of the wall that fences off the water retention pond? That way they wouldn't have a place to paint and we wouldn't have to look at the eyesore of the retention pond while driving by. What is the cost of shrubs vs. the cost of paint and labor to come cover up the graffiti? My guess is shrubs are cheaper and they look nicer. Thanks for spending $11,000,000 on the road I'm referring to and not splurging for a couple of hundred bucks (if that) for shrubs. (insert eye rolling emoticon here)


Speaking of emoticons! Happy Birthday to the Smiley! You are 25 years old today and have changed the face of emails, blogs, forum posts, and more. We wouldn't be the same without you!


Did anybody have OJ for breakfast? I did. It was a delicious way to start my day knowing that "The Juice" could spend the rest of his sorry life rotting in jail where he belongs. He should have known somebody would come along and set him up since he really doesn't have any friends. The ones he did have will be the ones sending him away in an orange jumpsuit. A fitting end for a rotten piece of fruit. Is there an emoticon for a rotten piece of fruit?


I found the deal of the month at Goodwill today - a kids table with two chairs for $8.99! It needs sanding and repainting or staining, but that will be a fun project to keep my kids busy for a few days. Earlier they had Goldfish crackers and apple juice at it while watching cartoons. It was the quietest thirty minutes of my day.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Recap: Day 3, Part 1 - Austin City Limits Music Festival 2007

I returned Sunday morning from the store and packed up my two liters of water, sunscreen, a camera, extra batteries, bands schedule, notepad, two pens, some cash for food and drinks, then threw on my running shoes and headed out to try and land a prime spot under the Mopac bridge at Lady Bird Lake. Lady Luck was on my side as I bounced my truck into one of the last spots in the dirt across from the pedestrian bridge.

A short ten-minute walk was no problem. I actually found myself walking faster than usual due to the anticipation of the day's music I was about to experience. I went alone to ACL this year and was looking forward to meeting up with friends if they decided to make it out for their third day, but I wasn't holding my breath. It was going to be a hot one and three straight days at ACL can take it's toll on the human body.

I didn't mind going alone and I actually preferred it that way so I could roam around and see as many bands as possible. As much fun as it would be to have my wife along, she is not a "festival girl" and I am definitely a "festival guy." The port-o-potties at a festival rank up there with tubing down the river for her. She doesn't care much for bodies of water that she can't see the bottom of and is also not a big fan of hovering above a toilet seat that has been urinated on by countless drunk concert goers. I can't say I blame her and told her the trick is to go into one that another woman just came out of since they wiped the seat when they got in. I found out later in the day that this theory did not hold water when I went in a port-o-potty after a woman came out and apparently urinated all over the seat like a drunken frat boy. Nice.

ACL Fest 2007 - Photography by James Grayson

Upon arriving at 11:30 am and entering through the gate at ACL, I stopped and looked around in all directions to take in the view of Zilker Park and the small crowd forming at the BMI stage where Jennifer Niceley was playing. And let me tell you, Jennifer really does play nicely. Her bluesy voice caught my attention so I parked myself under the watchful eye of the blazing sun to listen to her performance of "Blind Woman" while cracking open the seal on my first liter of Ozarka water.

Jennifer Niceley - Photography by James Grayson

After that song I headed down to check out the AT&T Digital Oasis to see how cold it was in there and to post a blog entry. It was extremely comfortable in there with dozens of laptop computers setup and some flat panel TV's. An oasis to say the least. I'm glad I went when I did because two hours later there was a line to get in. I thought it was cool, but not cool enough to wait in line for. AT&T should have sprung for at least five of those oases to handle the sweaty throngs of people wanting to feel what air conditioning felt like in a park.

AT&T Digital Oasis - Photography by James Grayson

On the way back up the hill in Zilker Park I stopped by and caught a few songs from The Little Ones and Amy Cook before catching the last of Nicole Atkins & the Sea. All three were pleasing the early arriving crowds that were already fanning themselves with Heineken fans and orange AT&T personal motorized fans. I picked up one of those, too, and it proved to be a worthy item to have.

When Nicole Atkins was done I took off in the other direction again to catch some of Ryan Shaw on the AT&T stage, that was blue unlike the AT&T Blue Room stage that Nicole Atkins was playing on. It was orange. I'm sure I'm not the only one wondering why that was, but I scratched my head in disbelief and headed in the direction of a vibrant show put on by Ryan Shaw.

Ryan Shaw - Photography by James Grayson

To be continued...

Next post: The Jones Family Singers, people watching, free snacks, The National, Robert Earl Keen, Kara Grainger, and more photos!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2007

I'm heading out to ACL Fest today. Should be hot, sweaty, and loud! Hopefully I'll meet up with some friends out there but it would be their third day in a row so they may be exhausted. When you're past your 20's you seem to lose some stamina to handle 3 days, 130 bands, for 8-10 hours a day.

But I'm covering the last day for Quirkee and may or may not end up with a band interview on-site. Either way I'll be people watching, taking photos, and jammin' alongside 64,999 other music lovers - and will report back next week on

I could think of worse things to write about.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Slow Down You Move Too Fast

Being a generally happy human being with not too much to complain about, I rarely ever use this space to rant about things. The only times I recall doing so were when people in positions of power abuse them and it gets under my skin.

The other day as I was coming home from picking up my son from preschool we were traveling through a school zone that is part of our daily route. This school zone is on a very busy road in South Austin and I always make sure I am going slow so I don't kill or badly injure any kids. One of Austin's finest police officers wasn't thinking that way on this day. I was hovering right around 20 MPH when the patrol car cruised by in the right lane at probably 28-30 MPH. I thought maybe there was an emergency but his lights were not on like the big yellow flashing light on that very tall sign next to the street.

I followed him for about three more miles as we just happened to be going the same direction. I kept waiting for him to pull somebody over for speeding back in that school zone since that had to be the reason he was going so fast through it. I then noticed he was looking down at his computer a lot. I guess that's why he didn't see that big yellow flashing light on that very tall sign next to the street.

To be fair, I've sped through school zones before on accident. Once when I was a teenager and new to the driving world, I got a ticket for going 29 MPH supposedly just minutes before the light stopped flashing. There were no children anywhere in sight and I'm pretty sure the light wasn't flashing. I got ticketed and had to write a three-page paper for the teen court judge to get out of it. He let me off easy!

So, I'm really in no position to pass judgement on the police officer who accidentally cruised through the school zone faster than he should have. I thought about flashing my lights and honking my horn behind him to see if he would pull over and I could write him a ticket from his book. Not wanting to take the risk of a ride downtown to jail with my two little kids in the car, I decided to let him off the hook.

It would be nice to see him spending more time in that school zone stopping the arrogant high school students from walking out into traffic. They ignore the lights at the intersection and roam out in front of moving cars. They ignore the pedestrian crosswalk and cross wherever they please. Almost daily I see a student inches away from being hit.

I know high school kids don't need a crossing guard, but maybe they need an Austin police officer stationed there to stop them from jaywalking and getting run over by a speeder, civilian or otherwise.

No matter what city you live in, please slow down in school zones.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me

Ever since turning thirty I have had this thing about my birthdays, like not wanting them to come. I have indifferences about getting older and my birthday is just another reminder of that. Maybe it's because I am happy with my life where it is. My kids are still nice to me, I am healthy, I have most of my hair left, and I don't have any unsightly nose or ear hairs to pluck. Yesterday, my wife got frustrated with me because I didn't really care if we had friends over to hang out for my birthday. She said, "I'm not mad at you; I just wish you'd be excited about your birthday instead of moping around about it. It's something to celebrate, and you're making it kind of blah."

Like 99.9% of the time, my wife is right. I have been moping around about it for five years now. I wasn't interested in everybody making a big deal out of me getting older so I just shrugged off the birthdays like they were any other day. But she is right - it is something to celebrate and I am happy to have lived another year and will hopefully have many more to grow on. So let's party!

In honor of the day my Mother birthed me into this wonderful world, September 6, 1972, I am going to write a little poem for you.

But you have to click here to read it...

Quirkee logo

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Reunions, Brisket, and Longhorn Caverns

For the last 16 years we have had a family reunion at my Grandparents house in Marble Falls, TX, about an hour outside of Austin. Normally it is held the last weekend in June, but Marble Falls was under water that weekend. My Grandparents postponed it until last weekend so they could dry out, redo the back room from the flood damage, and so we could actually cross roads that were previously impassible to get to their house.

We missed a few family members but still had fun. My sister and her family came and our kids always have fun playing together. You could give them a pile of dirt and they would be happy. Luckily, Grandpa had one so all was good.

Here are a few shots from a huge sunflower patch in one of their fields. That little bug posed for several minutes while I snapped away.

Aside from devouring tasty brisket, chicken, and all the sides in various colors, we spent time visiting with some family that we only see once a year, watched our dogs play, and took the kids to Longhorn Caverns. These caverns are about 20 minutes away from my Grandparents house and it was my first time to go. I know! I can't believe it either! It's no Carlsbad but still an underground wonder with a great history of safe havens for bank robbers, Indians, and a speakeasy. I love caves, caverns, and even basements. I'm not sure why I like basements so much. Maybe because I like the private seclusion and quietness that comes with it.

Here are some of my favorite photos from Longhorn Caverns. I was unable to locate my battery charger before the trip so I burned through 18 AA batteries in about an hour and missed a few shots while changing out the pack. I was the caboose in the tour and the guide was very nice about letting me shoot while juggling batteries and holding up the others. There are still some photos I want to go back and get. The way the rocks formed in there are truly amazing.

These photos don't really show all of the visual beauty of Longhorn Caverns. You should go check them out for yourself. It has been years since I have visited any other caverns and I plan on making it back again to all of them around Central Texas very soon.

A Fellow Austin SAHD

Another at-home dad here in Austin has started a new project titled "A Year In Photos" where he will post a new picture he has taken every day for the next 365 days. He started on September 1st and all really great shots! I have yet to meet him but hope to do so one day soon. Check out his blog here,or click one of my favorites so far below titled

best shoes ever...

Project 365

Photo by Bryan McNeal