Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Take Me Back to the Place Where I Believed

Do certain things take you back to your childhood?  You know, the moment you think of a certain something or smell a particular smell, you are taken to the sweet innocence of your youth?  Christmas definitely does that for me.  I have nothing but fond memories of Christmas.  I never remember feeling disappointed Christmas morning despite my mom always promising that this year "isn't going to be great".  I know my mom did EVERYTHING she could to make every Christmas spectacular for us kids and every Christmas was MORE than I ever expected. 

You might wonder why I have 20 totes of Christmas decorations in the attic.  Well let's just say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  Like mother like daughter.

Decorating our house for Christmas when I was a kid was an all day affair.  I'm not sure where the Christmas items were stored or how they magically appeared to be put out but I remember all the fun we had doing it. 

I remember the smell of the artificial tree with remnants of last year's tinsel and the lovely gold garland.  Don't you just love the 80s?

Putting the electric train under the tree was always something to look forward to.  I would spend hours watching that little electric train go 'round and 'round the track.  Stopping to pick up "passenger" and delivering gifts to all the little houses.  It too had a distinct smell.  I think it was the smell of exposed wires and was quite the fire hazard but that's not important.  That smell is something that brings back the feeling of Christmas and the spirit of this special time. 

Another big hit was the Sugar Plum Tree.  I think it was actually meant to hold gum drops but we had miniature glass Christmas ornaments that we hung from each of its branches.  I would take each ornament off and put them back on in a different pattern probably 20 times each Christmas season.  There was something about doing it that was peaceful and wonderful.  Who knew all that could come form a "gumdrop" tree.

One of my absolute favorite things about Christmas was the advent calendar, aka the countdown calendar.  There was something about waking up every morning and peeling back that little cardboard door to see what was inside.  It might have just been a picture of a Christmas mouse hiding in a stocking or cookies on a plate for Santa but it still gave me something special every morning. 

When Ella brought home her countdown calendar this afternoon, I was immediately taken back. 

No her calendar doesn't look anything like mine did but it was the excitement, the innocence and the look in her eye that was the same.  After all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Plan for a Perfect Christmas

Oh the weather out side is frightful delightful but my to do list is delightful frightful.  I can't believe in 2 days it will be December 1st and I will have basically 3 weeks or so to get everything ready for Christmas.  None of the things on my list are things that HAVE to be done, and I realize this, but I really want to accomplish everything on my list for a "perfect" Christmas.

The Makings of a Perfect Christmas

Find all the perfect gifts for the kids and everyone on our list.

Make the annual Tirch Family Calendar with a plethora of perfect pictures from the past year.

Take 86 pictures in hopes of getting ONE good one for the perfect Christmas card. 

Bake seven different kinds of Christmas cookies in order to have the perfect selection.

Ride the Polar Express (or this year's North Pole Flyer) in order to create the perfect Christmas atmosphere.

Travel somewhere (haven't figured that out yet) to see the perfect "pretty lights". 

Finally, sit on Santa's lap and tell him what this year's perfect gift will be.

Even if we're squeezed tightly in an apartment this year and many things feel so different, I am embracing the season and trying to do all the wonderful things that make Christmas perfect FOR US!

Bring it on December, you ain't got nothin' on me! And if I don't get it all done?  Well, nobody's perfect!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Susan vs. Food

It's been quite the exciting holiday visiting with PaPa Dan.  In case you missed any of our shenanigans.  Check them out.

Eating Our Way Through Austin

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Gobble Gobble

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

My family likes watching Man vs. Food and a lot of other shows on the travel channel.  Adam Richman, the star of the show, is a food fanatic on a journey to find the BIGGEST and BEST eats our nation has to offer.  He has been to several establishments in Austin.  Even before we ever thought of moving to Texas, some of the places Adam had been to seemed like places you had to try.  Today we hit up TWO Man vs Food establishments. 

First up, Juan in a Million. The neighborhood was a little lot sketchy.  As a matter of a fact, there were bars on the windows of every establishment.  NOT a place I'd like to see after dark.  In the light of day, it was actually fun to see some very cool and very authentic Mexican establishments. 

Juan in a Million is home of the Don Juan Breakfast taco.  "DON JUAN" - El Taco Grande A secret combination of potato, egg, bacon and cheese in a deliciously hot tortilla.  

This thing is huge and I was hard pressed to finish half (and we all know I can eat).  The current record holder ate NINE!  Man (Adam Richman) ate 4.  George ate 1 and a halfish.  Amazing breakfast that held me all the way through dinner.  Definitely "Juan" in a Million.  Dad rating:  A

Next stop on our adventures was at Lake Travis.  Lake Travis is a reservoir on the Colorado River.  It is a site that has to be seen.  There are beautiful house lining the lake all nestled in the hillside and intertwined along a winding road.  To me it looks more like the French Riviera than Austin, Texas. 

Basically, as my mother would say, we couldn't afford a toothpick here. 

We still enjoyed the sites and imagining what the homes would look like on the inside and of course admired their spectacular views.  Until we move up a little in the world our views will be from the boat launch.  Even still, they were impressive.

We had fun kicking up our heels on the rocks. 

We stopped at home to rest for awhile and eventually the guilt of all the over indulgence set in.  I knew I had to go for my scheduled 7 miler.  I really don't know what's wrong with me, and I've been trying to do some soul searching to figure out why, I just don't feel like getting in my runs.  I know running always make me feel better once it is done but getting out the door lately has been HARD.  I made myself get out there (ok once again George guilted me into it).  I told myself if I ran hard then I could stop at 6.5 miles.  Why 6.5? Because I can run an out and back route on a nice stretch of sidewalk without having to cross a busy road and run awhile in the grass and rock. 

In order to get in my "speedy" run I new I needed to start off hard and fast.  For whatever reason it is so hard once I start at a slow steady pace to pick it up.  And so I began. 

Mile 1:  9:46 SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mile 2:  10:16
Mile 3:  10:06
Mile 4:  10:35
Mile 5:  9:55
Mile 6:   10:12
Mile 6.5:  5:02 (10:04 pace)
Total:  1:05
Average:  10:08

Three words:  I'll take it!

I came home and qucikly showered and we set out for our next Man vs. Food destination.  This establishment was rated the #1 place to eat on Travel Channels top 100 restaurants.  NUMBER ONE!  Salt Lick BBQ was AH-MAZ-ING. 

Pulling up at Salt Lick I really felt like I was in Texas.  For this Pittsburgh girl, it was a new and charming experience.  The atmosphere alone was enough to draw you back but I'm pretty sure it's the food that packs the parking lots.

The anticipation as we waited was killing me.  I couldn't wait to get inside and see the BBQ pit for myself.  Again, this isn't something I'd ever see in Pittsburgh. 

The only way to describe this food is mind blowing!  This food melted in your mouth.  If this doesn't get you to Texas then I don't know what will.  Dad Rating:  A+ 

This was most definitely a ONE in a million kind of day. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Eating Our Way Through Austin

The adventures with "PaPa Dan" continue.  I'm not sure my waistline can take much more.  We've been eating our way through Austin taking my Dad to our favorite places and some new places too.  We didn't eat a solitary meal at home today.  YIKES.

We started off at Round Rock Donuts.  If and when you visit you WILL go to Round Rock Donuts.  This is THE BEST donut you've ever eaten.  I don't care who you are.  Dad Rating:  A+ (These pics are from our first trip this summer.)

After our first round of eating we headed downtown to The Austin Children's Museum.  

There were some cool things to do and we got right to it. 

We even milked and kissed a cow. 

There was even a bat cave with a bar so you could test your ability to hang like a bat.  None of the kids could do it, so I had to show them how.

I don't embarrass easily. 
To be honest, I felt like the Children's Museum was kind of lame.  Despite the kids having a REALLY good time, it did not live up to MY expectations.  Of course I compare everything to the Indianapolis Children's Museum (one of the top rated children's museums in the country) so I knew I wouldn't be overly impressed.  Dad Rating:  D-  Kid Rating:  A+ (and that's all that matters).

With all the activity we worked up an appetite (of course).  We decided to hit up Fran's Hamburgers.

Fran's was featured on an episode of Man vs. Food so we thought we were in for a really big treat.  The atmosphere was great but the food was just ok.  It reminded me of Sonic, so it was good but nothing special by any means.  Dad Rating:  C-

After all our eating we took a pit stop at home for naps.  All that eating is exhausting.  In the early evening, after naps, we contemplated turkey sammies for dinner but decided instead to press on.  My dad had never been to Ikea so I wanted to take him just because I think it's a cool place.  Plus it was a good excuse for me to do some shopping.  You know it's a good shopping day at Ikea when you wind up in the "trunk".

Wouldn't you know that there is an Austin's favorite Mexican place right near Ikea called Chuy's.  Wouldn't you know!  Even though Chuy's gets rave reviews I think it is just ok.   Dad Rating:  B  

At this point, I'm barely recognizable as a human.  I'm just an eatin' machine.  Don't worry, 7 miles on tap tomorrow (and lots more good eats).