Monday, December 18, 2006

The Most Dangerous Games

Check out this article about the most dangerous toys of all-time. It's good for some LOLs and some nice nostalgia. Back in my day, we didn't have any fancy product safety laws. Yes, we did throw lawn darts over the house...and we liked it.

Radar Magazine's Top Ten Most Dangerous Toys

Friday, December 15, 2006

We Have Prevailed


On an unseasonably warm night at the legendary Krieg Field kickball grounds, the Ball Busters made history. We won the first annual adult recreational co-ed kickball league championship 5 to 2.

This year we've all faced down adversity. We've fought through challenging traffic jams on the way to far, far south Austin. We may not have been the sleekest team or the most ambidextrous. We simply had the heart of a champion.

I remember hearing from Chris about our first game. Shannon and I were on our honeymoon, so we did not play. Our team lost 21-1 in a brutal exhibition game. Lesser teams would have taken this defeat, and gone off somewhere to die in the woods. Instead, we rose from the ashes and built an impermeable membrane that we like to call a defense.

The league was definitely worth the soul-crushing traffic jams, the strained quadriceps, and the ludicrously cold night games. We done good. We done good.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Two Sides to Every Story

Home Slice Pizza Contest Recap

Valuable Life Lessons


Perhaps the recent kickball updates were too exuberant. Maybe we grew a little too fond of our vaunted defense. Possibly, some of us were looking past our game to the post-game happy hour.

Maybe we were just due for a loss.

Whatever the reason, fate dealt us a wake-up call on Friday night. The Ball-Busters were kicked to the curb via a melt-down of Houston Oilers versus Buffalo Bills'ian proportions.

On yet another frosty evening in the majestic Krieg Kickball Grounds of far South Austin, we struggled to capture the magic that had been with us all year. Something was missing. It was like Siskel without Ebert. It was like sleeping in a bed without a pillow. It was like chicken strips without any dipping sauce.

The game started out normally enough. We built a 5-1 lead and played good defense. As the clock on the dilapidated scorecard began to approach its lightbulb/electrical problem-addled approximation of 0 minutes, a cold wind began to blow from the south.

All we needed was 3 outs to close out the game. Suddenly, we were less effective than the Iraqi provisional government. On a series of flukish infield singles, walks, and throwing errors, the Commandos erased our lead and stormed ahead. We were vanquished, 7 to 5. Strength had become weakness. Joy had become sorrow.

Our only consolation was that our opponents are probably the nicest people in the league. They are jovial graduate students who field a whole fleet of mascot dogs. I've never seen a basset hound wearing a UT orange sweater quite so impressively.

We posed for a few team photos and headed off to the traditional post-game, a little-disappointed but glad to be with friends'y hour.

A few photos will be posted tonight.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Periodic Table of Geek Happiness

Interactive periodic table

There's just something about the periodic table of elements that summons up pleasant geekly nostalgia. I remember my first real brush with The Table back in 10th grade chemistry. I had always wondered about this mysterious poster that adorned most science classrooms I had ever seen.

This poster had it all: Mysterious numbers in various corners, each one hinting at some deeper esoteric scientific purpose. It had a comforting structure and order, somehow arranging the chaotic diversity of elements from neon to uranium into a regimented array of perfect little squares.

The periodic table was also a fertile source for memory-based flashcard learning around. Memorizing the elements is a rite of passage and a fun one at that. Pb = lead, H = hydrogen, Ne = neon, Am = "....ammonia...no...Americium!"

It was a gateway to the exotic. I was always most fascinated by the bad-boy, outlaw elements in the bottom rows of the table. Sure, the noble gasses had a certainly regal glow about them, but the crazy radioactive, recently discovered elements really got the mind going. I always imagined them pulsing with a soft green glow of deadly, insect-enlarging radiation.

But, alas, the periodic table fades to irrelevance for adults. Like the history of the pilgrims or of the laundry list of the presidents, it is pretty much exclusively used by school children, then quickly forgotten. Take a few minutes to get acquainted with your old friend the periodic table.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Free Slice-O-Meter

As documented here, Chris F. recently won a pizza eating contest. The prize is free pizza for one whole year. We are going to track the free slices he cashes in here with the Slice-O-Meter.

Total Slices Year-To-Date: 19 free slices, ~2.5 pizzas
Estimated Value: $43
Recent Toppings: spinach, roasted red peppers, green olives, and onions; meatball and mushroom

Cashing in the prize has been somewhat challenging. We've had to fight the crowds to get in. This is a popular Austin spot in a trendy district. According to a recent Austin Chronicle review:

"From the moment Home Slice opened its doors, it has been packed. As you walk in (assuming you aren't just grabbing a slice from the convenient sidewalk "slice window"), you are hit by a wall of warm, pizza-redolent air and noise. Servers whisk by carrying pitchers of beer as they weave through the waiting crowd. Behind the counter, the pizza bakers toss wheels of dough overhead, and the red-toned interior causes an almost instant sense of familiarity and relaxation."

The Greatest Football Finish Ever

Watch in disbelief

I remember listening to this game on the radio at the Sants. When each of the two miraculously unbelievable plays happened, there was an impromptu dogpile. There has never been another football game quite like this one. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Dynasty Begins

We bundled and trundled our way out to the icy expanses of the Krieg Field 5 on Friday night. What kind of maniac schedules a recreational adult sports league game at 9:30 pm in the dead of winter? I wonder if the City of Austin gets a kickback for ever quadricep, hamstring, or pneumonia case that gets referred to a local doctor.

With some help from the Floyd-boy cavalry and a teacher friend of Shannon's, we fielded a full roster for the first time all year. This would be one of our best overall performances against a decent foe, Bust-n-Ballz.

Pitchin' Dirty:
I thought we had a monopoly on 'dirty pitching' until this week. Their pitcher was throwing some nasty, unpredictable bouncing rolls at us. This is the toughest pitch to hit, because striking the ball on its underside will lead to a sure out by way shamefully floating pop-up.

Despite facing a Phil Niekro-esque pitcher, we put a solid 4 runs on the board. The runs trickled in like customers cautiously approaching a poorly-advertised garage sale, thanks to our solid baseball fundamentals and aggressive baserunning. Special thanks to the Commish for teaching us so well in the Dawgs and Screenball days.

Good Fences Make Good Victories:
It was our defense that carried the day yet again. Following last game's shutout performance, we only allowed one run this week. A typical kickball defense is about as porous as Spongebob, but we are basically an Iron Curtain of unbreakable defensive fortitude.

It's been a good year in a surprisingly fun sport. At 5-1, we have secured the regular season championship with one final game to go. As a rapidly deteriorating, almost 30 year-old, it's great to get the old competitive juices flowing. And, it's great to win (and have a post-game pint of good cheer to celebrate.)

Some highlights:
The opposing pitcher tried a pick-off move to first base. Squisher, non-plussed as baserunner, caught the ball and tossed it back. This seemed to be vaguely illegal somehow, but nobody coud prove anything.

Patrick made a spectacular "diving" catch late in the game. I personally think the fall/dive was a bit of showmanship. As a member of the Olde School, Patrick probably believes that if you don't get your uniform dirty, you didn't play hard enough.

Our team was bundled up like crazy. We have to be one of the only athletic teams to win a championship while wearing bright blue fuzzy mittens.

I'll try to post some team photos and action shots from next week's game.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Home Slice-O-Rama


This weekend, good friend and prodigious eater, Chris Floyd competed in a high profile eating contest. A popular new pizza joint in the trendy South Congress district (SoCo for short), hosted the Home Slice-O-Rama.

This was essentially a pizza carnival with events including a dough tossing challenge, a "hands on an eggplant sandwich" endurance contest, raffles, cheap local microbrews, and, most importantly, a serious pizza eating contest.

For those who don't know Chris, he is a world-class eater. I've seen this guy eat two pounds of chicken fried steak and gravy in 8 minutes. He's beaten ranked professional eaters. And, more than one pizza buffet has had a profitable month crash into red ink after a visit from Chris.

So, it was crucial to get Chris into this eating contest, especially since the prize had been announced as free pizza for a year. More importantly, this would be another notch in Chris's belt as a professional-caliber gustatorial athlete.

The Slice-O-Rama was jumping and crawling with hipsters and the types of folks who help to Keep Austin Weird on a daily basis. There was an electricity in the air building up to the clash of the eaters.

The contest was a brutal war of mastication fortitude, owing to an unexpectedly dense, leathery crust. All nine competitors struggled mightily, especially at the crusty ends of each piece. In a sadistic twist, the contest organizers had added a rule, "No wetting or dunking the crust in water."

Chris led for most of 30 minutes, employing a savage ripping technique to counter the uncooperative rock of gibraltar-like crust. He only paused briefly to play to the standing room only crowd which included a large contingent of his own fans.

In a photo finish, thanks to a last-second mouth cram, Chris took home the prize. We all win with this one. For the next year, he gets a free large pizza any time he visits Home Slice. Bringing friends along is encouraged.

Overall, it was a great event. Congratulations, Big Chompy.

More photos are here:
Slice-O-Rama Album

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Cold


Winter weather blasted into Texas this week. We went from balmy 80 degree weather, to "Holy cow, where is that extra blanket? Can you turn the heat a little warmer? Come on, I'm cold, and our last electricity bill was not that bad!"

It's winter, and everyone is cold. I know. But how many of you will be playing in a kickball game tonight at 9:30 p.m.? We will be braving the frozen tundras of Krieg Field 5 in Far South Austin.

Will we let this hold us back?
Did Hannibal balk at the foothills of the Alps?
Did Pyrrhus hesitate before the Battle of Asculum?
Did Sir Ernest Shackleton cancel his Endurance expedition to Antarctica?
No! And neither will the Ball-Busters. We shall kick our way to glory.

Yes, I would like a brandy between innings, good sir.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Jumping to Conclusions

Recently, a large construction project has begun adjacent to our humble abode. The crews have built a new road, and hundreds of huge trucks hauling rocks and dirt have come and gone. This flurry of activity piqued my curiosity.

It seemed possible that this could be a long-awaited road that would cut my commute by about 40%. Could it be true? I've considered asking one of the workers about the purpose of the project, but I never got to it.

Sunday, the appearance of a small sign at the entrance to the construction site ended the mystery:
"Improving Austin: Upper Walnut Creek Regional Detention Center"

Detention center! In my back yard?! Oh noes, there goes the neighborhood! I even started to think about how I would blog about this shocking turn of events. Oh how the sympathetic comments would pour in! Since we are planning on buying a house in the near term, I was going to take the position that living in an apartment can actually be a good thing. If a nuclear waste dump goes in, you can leave after the lease. If you are a homeowner, then you are well and duly hosed.

So, today, I got around to actually Googling the "Upper Walnut Creek Regional Detention Center". What type of miscreants would they be foisting on us, the innocent citizens of northwest Austin?

http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council_meetings/item_attachments.cfm?meetingid=32&itemid=1645&item=34

There will be no hardened criminals and insane inmates (constantly plotting escape) next door. Apparently, detention centers of this ilk are used to wrangle up and rehabilitate errant storm waters. This can reduce risk from floods and stream erosion in downstream areas. I felt pretty silly about this little leap to conclusion. The crisis has been averted. Our neighborhood is safe for the time being

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Finger Food Fotos:

My second place potato appetizer.
Shannon's championship Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream Tart
Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus. Check out the heart-stopping butter sauce.
Tastes so good makes a grown man cry
Mia plating her amazing bruschetta platter.
The Good Times Sandwich is under construction. Note the chaos.
Munch Madness: the bracket
Sweet, smokey bacon wrapped around the choicest sausage. Angio-Tasty
Jeff intently prepares his appetizer, face perilously close to the deadly knife

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Finger Food Fest Wrap Up

Finger Food Fest Menu:
Mini Apple and Cherry Pies: (Kristin)
Devil's Chocolate Mousse Eggs: (Patrick and Shannon)
Cinnamon Apple Ice Cream Tarts: (Shannon)
Hawaiian Chicken Skewers: (Roxanne)
Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus with Butter Sauce: (Rob)
Salami, Tomato, and Buffalo Mozzarella: (Jeff)
Baklava: (Kishore and Karla)
Cheese Bacon Hash brown with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes: (Chris)
Bacon-wrapped Sausages, "Angio-Tasty": (Carl and Jenny)
The Good Time Sandwich (pulled beef brisket with spicy cheese sauce): (Danny and Chris)
Bruschetta Platter: (Mia)
Black Bean and Banana Empanadas: (The Stockton's)

Turnout was great, and there was a loud and jovial atmosphere all night. We had even stronger attendance than the Guacamodown with most of the original participants coming back for more.

Our smallish kitchen prep area grew chaotic at times (ala Iron Chef, Top Chef, or Hell's Kitchen), adding to the ambiance. With crock pots, toaster ovens, the oven, and the microwave running full bore, those who couldn't take the heat were advised to stay out of the kitchen.

The 3 randomly selected judges for each food match up had the enviable task of tasting each food, making comments, and choosing a winner for that round. Judging was definitely not all fun and games. At one point, Carl was forced to resign his judgeship due to a sudden onset of fullness.

A great highlight of the evening was the dramatic reading of the judge's comments. Our MC's, Patrick and Chris would read selected comments, and we all tried to anticipate the winner based on see-sawing praise and critiques.

Munch Madness:
As we moved through the single-elimination bracket, the tension grew (and the stomachs grew fuller). The victorious food item advanced to the next round while the other entry was served up to the grateful masses.

Tangible excitement filled the air when each successive fallen finger food made the march of shame to the "Devouring Table", where the hungry masses fought for positioning to get the first taste. (hat tip to Chris Floyd for providing this paragraph).

At the end of the night, our kitchen was a low-grade disaster area, but it could have been much crazier considering the amount of food flying everywhere. We did have one small red wine spill and one knife to finger mishap (thanks to our uber-sharp Shun knives featured in an earlier blogging.)

The group brought some seriously good food with really impressive presentation. There was not a bad dish in the house, and the night flew by. The evening was a huge success.

Stand-out Dishes:
Roxanne and Michelle's Hawaiian Chicken skewers featured a jaw-dropping presentation built from the top half of a pineapple. I would eat the aloha out of this dish if given another shot at it.

Patrick and Shannon's The Devil's Mousse Eggs certainly featured the most unusual culinary concoction of the evening. Chocolate and hard-boiled egg whites is not an obvious pairing. Yet, the richness of the egg worked well with the bittersweet chocolate in a finish reminiscent of a chocolate custard.

The Black Bean and SautĂ©ed Banana Empanadas were perfectly executed. The puff pastry crust was flaky and flavorful, and the rich filling was accented with a little heat from a touch of cayenne. This item could be served at an upscale South American restaurant…totally cravable.

Danny and Chris Floyd brought some good vibes and an awesome sandwich creation with their Good Time Sandwich. It featured tender pulled beef brisket with a tangy cheese sauce served between miniature toasts. I would like to have this again as a full-sized sandwich.

Kudos to Carl and Jenny for creating a clever cartoon character and name for their bacon wrapped mini sausages. Apparently, the bacon in their crowd-favorite appetizer was selected for its prodigious fat content. The name of their dish: Angio-Tasty. How fitting.

Kristin's mini pies were cool. Even cooler was her theme song: Warrant's "Cherry Pie".

The Championship:
Congratulations to Shannon for winning best in show with her Cinnamon Apple Ice Cream tarts. She layered homemade apple cinnamon ice cream and apple dip into from-scratch tart shells to create a winning finger-food dessert. Judges raved about the combination of hot and cold temperatures, the delicious apple flavors, and excellent overall flavor profile. Incidentally, in a "House Divided" finale, it was my savory potato fusion dish that she vanquished.

What's Next?
With the Guacamodown and the Finger Food Fest in the books, we're already looking forward to the next food challenge. In a late-night brainstorming session, we settled on a preliminary working concept for the next event: Soup or Salad Showdown. So, dust off your Salad Shooters and your most soup-er recipes. We'll see you at the next Austin food challenge.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Nice Weekend...

Kickball...Defense Rules:
On Friday night, our intrepid kickball squad pulled out yet another victory. Once again, we played stellar defense (something that we Austinites have not seen much of this year. I'm looking at you, Longhorn secondary), earning the first shut-out in the league this year. We moved to 5-1 on the year with sole possession of first place.

Kickball defense may sound easy, but, folks, that red rubber ball can be tough to corral. It's a little too big to reliably catch with hands alone. One must use the arms and body to 'bear hug' the ball on pop ups. At the moment of the catch, there is a lot of recoil, as the ball is very bouncy. This is due to Newton's 2nd Law of kickball physics. The other challenge is in throwing out baserunners. An 8-inch rubber sphere has the aerodynamic qualities of a block of wood, and it's hard to grip. As a result, most throws to bases end up looking like Stephen McGee passes.

Defense requires concentration and a lot of coordination. It's a lot of fun.

Lending an air of credibility to our league is this nifty website with our standings.

Finger Food Fest Fabulous Fun for Friends and Family!
Saturday night, we hosted the hotly anticipated Finger Food Fest cooking challenge. The event was a rousing success, eclipsing the fun of the Guacamodown.

The head-to-head matchup structure worked perfectly, and the quality of the cooking was unreal. We have some serious culinary talent amongst our group of friends and family in Austin.

Some tidbits:
  • We had more than 20 attendees with 12 different and unique food entries
  • Props to Erin and Andy Chun for making the trip all the way from California for the event (well, they just happened to be in town, but it was great to see an old friend again)
  • Someone (to be revealed in the full writeup) actually entered a concoction called "The Devil's Chocolate Mousse Eggs". Yes, these devilled eggs featured a chocolate filling. Fabulous.
I'll do a more full write-up soon with pictures.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Are you a math moron?

Back when Shannon taught 7th grade math, she would often bring home her work in the form of gigantic piles of ungraded worksheets, tests, and homework. She still brings home the mounds of paper, but now, thankfully, they are covered in igneous rocks and simple machines, not fractions and algebraic torture.

Some of these ungraded items lacked the all-important answer key. Someone, usually Shannon, would have to work the assigment correctly one time to generate the key.

One day, I was drafted into this duty. "Piece of cake," I thought. After all, by profession I crunch through numbers like wafer thin saltine crackers. I calculate margin percentages on the fly, net out revenues, and tabulate margins with the best of em. Fractions are nothing. Ha! Our numbers are in the tens of millions, billions even!

Well, this stuff kicked my medulla oblongata. A familiar dull headache and a sense of suffocating claustrophobia swept over me as I waded into the math problems. 30 painful minutes later, the deed was done; the beast had been slain. My brow was drenched in sweat, and my neck ached with the nostalgic pain from the "Homework Hunch-over" of years gone by.

A wise person once said, "Math is not a spectator sport." I couldn't agree more. Broadway musicals, operas, and sporting events are for spectators. Math homework is something much more painful, and ticket scalpers would never be able to make a living off of it.

Since that day, I never touched another math homework or test. I had been humbled and shaken to my core. Math was as rough as I remembered. Kudos to all the math teachers out there who work on this stuff every single day!

Slate Article: "The Math Moron"

Monday, November 13, 2006

Finger Food Face-Off Countdown (5 Days to Go)


We have five days left until the fabulous finger food face off. In honor of the big upcoming event, we'll be posting some appetizer factoids:




  • Amuse-bouche (uh-MYUZ-boosh) is similar to but not to be confused with hors d'oeuvre. This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting for your first course to come. It gives you an idea of the chef's approach to cooking and the restaurant's attention to your appetite. [from www.wordsmith.org].
  • The correct spelling for hors d'oeuvre is hors d'oeuvre. This french loosely translates as 'outside the main work'
  • Appetizer sales are a key driver of restaurant profitability via higher average checks.
  • Pre-main course fullness can result from appetizer consumption. Diners must use foresight to avoid this unfortunate condition.
  • Fondue is a tasty opening course, but its 70's kitsch makes it too cheesy for most people to enjoy.

Super-Sizing Kiosks

Human behavior can be so interesting, especially when guided and influenced by marketeers. We all know that fast food is a big problem, but nobody told the corporations and franchise owners that sell the stuff. Their financial livelihoods are tied up in selling more of their food while weathering the threats and attacks that result from selling a harmful, yet appealing product.

At your local Subway sandwich shop, you may have already seen automated kiosks where customers configure their order without human intervention. These kiosks are coming to fast food restaurants and drive throughs in a big way very soon. These new robotic fast-food pushers are more effective at upselling than the usual minimum wagers. They also reduce the shame factor of making a huge food order. The result is larger orders and faster throughput.

We also get to avoid the inevitable message garbling that can sabotage a food order. How many burgers have been needlessly slathered with mustard, ketchup, and onions? Sure, you can use a napkin to crudely scrape this foul condimental melange aside, but then what do you have left to dry your tears?

So, thanks to the new kiosks, fast food just got a little faster and a little easier on the psyche (and rougher on the old lipid count). Yay? On the plus side, the McRib is back. Maybe I can find a non-judgmental kiosk to sell me one on the down low.

New fast food kiosk article

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Humor: Frito Lay Angrily Introduces Line of Healthy Snacks

Frito Lay has been forced to roll out healthy snacks, and they don't like it one bit.

From The Onion (Note: There is some adult language in this news story):
Frito Story

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ow.

Every recreational athletic league for adults has at least one "That Guy." He is the weekend warrior who pushes his frail and aging body way past its recommended tolerances. Every game is a life and death struggle, a war against a ruthless enemy. Inevitably, something snaps, pulls, or tears. The weekend warrior is unable to relive the fading glory of his past athletic conquests. Sadly, I have become "That Guy."

In my zeal to win a Ball-Busters kickball game several weeks ago, I pulled both stupid quadriceps muscles. They refuse to heal, probably because I have followed none of the treatments recommended online (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). I've hobbled around in every game this year because true weekend warriors must play through the pain.

Our last kickball match was a big one. We faced the juggernaut, Ivan Drago team of our rec league, "The Bumblebees". While the rest of us struggle to field a full roster each week, their dug-out floweth over with substitute players. While the rest of us saunter up the kickball fields in a mismatched array of sweatshirts and t-shirts, this team marches in with stunning yellow and black uniforms. They have spared no expense to win this league, as shown by the custom lettering on the backs of their uniforms.
Bumblebees: "I must crush you...in kickball"

We played a valiant game, but in the end "The Bumblebees" prevailed, 7 to 5. I'm sure we'll see them again in the year-end championship tournament. We may not have fancy uniforms, but we will have a few tricks up our mismatched sleeves.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

11/18: Mark Your Calendars

Finger foods, hors d'oeuvres, appetizers: these are the party animals, the social butterflies of the culinary world. Wherever, folks are throwin' em up to YMCA, clucking in the chicken dance, or just starting a restaurant meal these little morsels are probably somewhere nearby. In a meal of a hundred bites, they are the first step. They whet the appetite and appease grumbling stomachs. This might be the greatest food category in the world.

We are going to be harnessing the awesome party-starting power of the appetizer in another iron chef Austin cookoff. Unlike the fairly narrowly defined Guacamodown, the parameters for this cooking competition are wide open. Hot, cold, classic, or deconstructionistic culinary nihilism; it's all good. This is going to crazy fun.

The details are still in the works, but here be the prelim infos:
-Saturday night, November 18th around 7:00 p.m.
-Shannon and Chris' place
-Competition: tournament-style with a bracket and head-to-head, app-to-app matchups.
-Awards for creativity, presentation, taste, etc.

What majestic flavors will emerge from the collective genius of this gathering? Will we say buena sera to the next great antipasto? Domo arigato to cutting edge sushi? Will we surrender to the delicious power of canapes or crudites? Will we be graced by an amuse' bouche? That, my friends, is up to you.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Guacamodown


Several months ago, we hosted the first ever "Guacamodown." Several of our friends take guacamole very seriously, so the idea of a cookoff sounded like fun. Drawing inspiration from shows like "Iron Chef" and "Top Chef", we set up a guacamole showdown.

For those of you who are not familiar with guacamole, It's a simple concoction of avocado, onion, jalapeno, tomato, and some seasonings. The avocado is a fruit with lots of good nutrients and health benefits. It has tons of fat, but it's good fat, I think. Avocado is an odd cooking ingredient, as its creamy, fatty green pulp requires very strong supporting ingredients and flavors to bring any new tastes to the party.

We wanted to see how our friends could take basic guacamole to the next level. We sent out the invite a few days early for a Tuesday night Guacamodown. Surprisingly, 20 people showed up with 10 different guacamoles (comprised of more than 60 fresh avocadoes). We were not expecting the level of guacamole excellence that showed up that night.

We had beautiful presentations, including one guac with a cool mosaic design made of diced tomato, onion, and cilantro. We had innovative ingredients, like bananas, grapes, goat cheese, and nuts. Each chef presented his or her guacamole with a theme song playing in the background. We had LL Cool J, The Jackson 5, and lots of funky salsa type music. Oh, and we had plenty of Dos Equis to wash it all down.

The competition was a huge success, and we all agreed to have another cooking competition in the near future. This time, it would definitely not be guacamole. You see, eating a pound of guacamole can do frightening and disturbing things to a person.

So, get ready. Saturday, November 18th at Chris and Shannon's place: Finger Food Fest aka the Appetizer Cook Off is coming. We'll see you there.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Science of Playing Dead


The Texas A&M football program is apparently not the only beast that plays dead. Nature is full of examples of animals that feign death when facing down predators. Laying motionless, versus fleeing, seems counter-intuitive. As one scientists notes: ""If you're a pizza and you play dumb, I'm still going to eat you." Yet, this behavior may actually work, according to scientists.

Some animals really get into it. The little hognose snake actually rolls on its back, mouth agape, creating a very cadaverous look (not unlike Joan Rivers). The linked article delves into this fascinating natural behavior. Read it to make your brain more smarter.

The Science of Playing Dead

Week 4 Kickball Update

Our intrepid kickball squad faced its toughest foe of the season Friday evening: Austin rush hour traffic. The kickball fields are in the Southeast corner of Austin, and a 6:30 pm game time made for a brutal hourlong drive down I-35.

There's an old joke about giving driving directions in Austin: you always start out with the phrase, "First, you want to stay away from I-35..." Kickball is vitally important, so we took our medicine this time.

Only seven players from our squad actually showed up, but our friendly opponent lent us a female player to reach a quorom. This week we played a green-clad band of Mass Communications graduate students called the "Commandos."

Grad students generally aren't the most atheltic folks out there (apparently less so than our merry gang of rag-tag players). We won this one 8 to 4.

Game notes:
-The Ball-Busters played one player short in the field, but we were still able to hold the Commando offense in check. Shannon played another solid game at first, including a tough catch on a pop-up. Her eyes were completely shut, but she made the grab.
-Chris Floyd and I continue to completely lock down the entire left side of the field on defense. We are also a combined 20 for 24 at the plate (.833 batting average)
-Manny pitched a wicked kickball game with fast, erratically bouncing, borderline-illegal pitches.. I spotted some brown gunk on his pitching hand that turned out to be a chunk of dirt.

We're still rolling, but a game with league powerhouse "The Bumblebees" looms ahead next week. Will we pull off a shocking upset and remain undefeated? Stay tuned to find out later this week.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Drawing a Blank

I'm drawing a blank for posting today, so here's some random stuff for you to enjoy:

Daylight savings is coming this weekend. This means that I will be even later to work on a regular basis.

College Football: Baylor battles Texas A&M in the "Battle of the Brazos" this weekend. This game has become very amusing in recent years thanks to an improving Baylor and a floundering A&M program. This is the game that also endangers the marriage of good friends Sarah and Clay (Baylor and A&M grads, respectively...almost a crime against nature). We'll see if Franchione brings the extra-powerful little Debbie snacks this weekend.

Shannon's 30th birthday is this Saturday. We're celebrating at Buca Di Beppo. Drop her a line and some metamucil/geritol if you get a chance.

We all grew up with Nintendo. I remember feigning illness to get some sweet, sweet Super Mario and Zelda time (with a little Fall Guy and C.H.I.Ps mixed in). Well, the next generation of Nintendo is on it's way, and I've got some major geek gadget lust. The Nintendo Wii sports a new motion sensing controller that will actually reward my spastic body language.

Koala bears are not really dangerous, but they will hug the everloving heck out of you. Did you know that they have remarkably human-like fingerprints? With a Koala, you could commit the perfect crime.

Finally, The Ball-Busters have a crucial kickball game this evening. It's so important that Chris Floyd is shortening his Dallas trip to make the hellish drive down I-35. Here's hoping for another stunning victory.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Of Mice and Miatas


You pull into a crowded parking lot and begin weighing risk and reward. Do I risk driving up into prime parking territory for the reward of an anomalous open space? Or, do I take the safe bet at the back of the lot to avoid driving around like a fool (also emitting greenhouse gasses, warming the global climate, melting the ice caps, and drowning some poor polar bear who was just about to crack open a Coca Cola.)

Well, this time, you take the gamble. And your gamble pays off. A tell-tale gap between parked cars appears up ahead. Smugly, you slow down and turn the wheel slightly to enter your parking glide path. Suddenly you see 'It'.

It's small, red, and dingy. A cloudy clear plastic rear window hangs loosely from a tattered convertible top. This is some sort of child's toy, not an automobile. And it's in the parking space you so coveted. Yes, you just got Miata'ed for the umpteenth time in your parking career.

The Miata is an abomination in our Super-sized world. Cars have gotten bigger, morphing into asphalt crushing U.S.S. Nimitzes. Yet, this annoying rodent of a vehicle dares to scurry among us.

How many hopes and dreams of a better parking space must be crushed by the sudden appearance of a Miata? Luckily, our government is working to ensure that noone should ever have to drive a car smaller than, say, a Ford Explorer. Until the last accursed Miata sputters into oblivion, please be careful. That open parking space up ahead may not be what it seems.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Keep Your Ear on the Ball


A quick blog plug: Old friends Keith Maitland and Patrick Floyd are currently working on a worthwhile documentary film project, Keep Your Ear on the Ball.

Shot on location in Austin, TX, Keep Your Ear on the Ball explores the lives of students at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Spanning the ‘05-’06 school year, this film follows two blind seniors, Chas and Meagan, and their teammates on the school’s goalball team. Forced to confront the world without sight, they share their inner-visions of the outer world.

Pat and Keith are uber-talented and creative guys, and this movie is shaping up to be something special. They have set goals to premiere at presigious film festivals like Sundance, Cannes, and SXSW next year. This is a true independent film effort with the team working literally 7 days a week for as long as I can remember out of their own pockets to keep the ball rolling.

They're currently in post-production (editing, scoring, etc.) and fund-raising mode. They are telling a compelling story here. I look forward to supporting Pat and Keith and this film. Check out their web site, watch the trailer, and learn more. (Donations are fully tax deductible if you are so moved).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

In Vino, Veritas:

Many of you have asked about the wine that was served at the rehearsal dinner at Castle Hill Cafe. One of the red wines stood out and paired great with the food that evening. The wine: Seghesio Zindfandel: Sonoma County 2004 bottling. This stuff was stunningly good, and it sells for under $20 at mid to upscale wine stores. I'll probably snag a case (or two) soon.

Tasting Notes:
SEGHESIO Zinfandel Sonoma County Sonoma 2004 Pushes ripeness to the edge of jam, with juicy, complex boysenberry and blackberry fruit. Has ripe, integrated tannins, with a touch of cedar and plum on the finish. Drink now through 2009.

Regarding the Zinfandel Varietal:
Zinfandel, also known as Zin, in Europe known as Primitivo, is a red-skinned wine grape. It's also popular in California for its intense fruitiness and lush texture. Typically, Zinfandel tastes of bramble and fresh or fermented red berries.

Try this wine. You won't be disappointed.
Rating: 5/5 Bloggies

Monday, October 23, 2006

Blog Feature Mea Culpa: Comment Issues

Faithful Blog Audience,
The comment feature at this blog has not worked well over the last few months. Many of you have been thwarted and prevented from posting your thoughts by the clunky, dysfunctional comment interface here.

This child attempted to post a comment using the old system.

So, on Sunday, we deployed a fix that should make commenting much easier (and anonymous). A log-in is no longer needed. You may post anonymously and quickly.

So, please try to leave us your thoughts using the new, simplified comment interface. It should work smoothly now, and we would love to hear from you.

Top 10 Television Shows

With the growth of the internet and of video games, television faced a dire challenge. Insipid sit-coms just wouldn't cut it any more. I know I wasn't watching any television. These days, it appears that television has responded. With the rise of Tivo, the development of show with deep, continuous story arcs (that aren't 'soaps'), and the maturation of reality programming, these are good days to bask in the warm glow of television.

Here are ten of the best shows:
10. Project Runway: We get a fascinating look into the bizarro world of fashion.

9. Mythbusters: This show appeals to the inner prankster and intuitive geek in all of us. We're talking about thirty minutes of subtle humor, cool explosions, and great takes on urban legends. It's like live action Snopes.com.

8. Heroes: I'm not entirely sold on this series, but so far, it has the feel of a decent dark sci-fi movie.

7. America's Funniest Videos (post Bob Saget era): You Tube is all the rage now, but this show started it all. Man, I love watching kids get chased by homicidal geese, and there's just something beautiful about the cataclysmic, frothing failure of chintzy above-ground swimming pools.

6. Good Eats (Alton Brown): The jokes and skits that Alton does are really, really terrible…but the tips and science textbook explication of cooking is great.

5. Battlestar Galactica: Sometimes the real world parallels are a bit ham-fisted, but overall this is one of the best series in years. You gain instant membership as a nerd if you are into this show.

4. Six Feet Under (in syndication on Bravo): We get a dramatic look at life, death, and deeply characterized, flawed characters behind the doors of a family funeral home. Bravo shows this former HBO series, but the best way to watch is by renting the seasons on DVD.

3. Lost: Yes, the show is riddled with goofy, unresolved plot lines. I keep watching just to figure out just what the heck is going on.

2. My Name is Earl: Red-neck and slapstick humor taken to its pinnacle.

1. The Office: The US version will never equal the brilliant BBC series of the same name (ran for two tragically short…but absolutely perfect seasons). But, as an office drone myself, it's great humor.

Agree? Disagree? What are you watching? What's the deal with the polar bears on Lost?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Bloggings of Dot Commish

Commish (Michael Floyd) is an old family friend and a great blogger. It's not updated incredibly frequently, but the stuff there is pure gold. Check it out:

Hungers I Have Known

Kickball Update: Defense Wins Championships

On a brisk Autumn night in Austin, the Ball Busters played championship caliber defense, recording a 9-5 victory. With a 9:30 p.m. start, there was some concern of a sloppy start or of a post-happy hour hang-over. These concerns were quickly set aside thanks to a great team effort.

Girls can catch, indeed:
Shannon caught everything in sight at first base. On this night, she was battling more than just a bouncy, elusive red playground ball; she was battling naysayers and critics from her past.

Years ago, she was a pig-tailed grade-schooler playing first base in a kickball game. That's when a chance encounter with a deeply troubled schoolyard bully changed her life forever. Between innings, Tony Cox approached suddenly and slammed her in the stomach. Before walking off laughing, he snarled, "Girls can't catch!"

Years passed, but Shannon never forgot his words. And so, when kickball began she wanted to face the haters and the critics and prove them wrong by playing first base. And prove them wrong she did. On play after play, she was implacable. Her hands infallible. The outs: innumerable.

Other Highlights:
Chris Floyd played another great all-around game with clutch hitting and his trademark kamikaze base-running. He made the catch of the night with a diving snare of a fast-dropping ball at the edge of the infield.

The rest of the defense was solid. We turned several double plays, and we caught virtually every ball kicked into the air. And so, we take our 3-0 record into another tough matchup next Friday. Can you see us now, Tony Cox? Picture us rollin.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I've Autumned, and I Can't Get Up.

The first cool weather of the year arrived yesterday in Austin. Autumn took its sweet time getting here! Fall is one of my top 4 favorite seasons:

1. We finally get a reprieve from absurd electricity bills (~$200 per month). Windows are in perma-opened state these days.

2. I dust off some old favorites from the 'cold' section of my closet. Long sleeves and sweaters are back, baby! Some items do look a little faded and funky though. I wore that all fall last year?

3. Pumpkin freaking pie. Enough said.

4. A dying holiday, halloween, approaches. Trick-or-treating is on the way out. What's so wrong with taking candy from strangers, anyway? Kids today are so weak. For adults, the party heads down to 6th Street for crazy costumed debauchery. Estimated percent of males dressing as pimps: 42%.

5. Shannon's birthday is on October 28th. She's going to be 30. We're not as young as we used to be, for sure.

6. Our cat becomes friendlier. I know Velcro uses us as a heat source. He does at least go through the whole purring and acting sweet act to make us feel better about the arrangement.

7. Good old Thanksgiving is coming: Gluttony, family bonding, and Texas Longhorns crushing the Aggies for the 7th straight year.

This is a great time of year!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Believe it or not, the venerable old schoolyard game, Kickball, is in the midst of a nostalgia-fueled resurgence. And Shannon and I are right in the middle of it.

We play on an adult co-ed kickball team with some of Shannon's old co-workers from her Austin nature center days. Our team name is (sigh): The Ball-Busters. We're not very polished. We're a a little 'Bad News Bears', and we make plenty of mistakes. We're an awful lot like the sants Dawgs baseball teams of yore (inside reference from my youth). You see, we specialize in fun. Well, most of us do. I specialize on being way too intense and competitive, but that's just me.

A Hard-Fought Victory:
We won our first real game under the Friday night lights in a heated, testy match with a squad of trash-talking teachers. We taught them a few lessons, took their lunch money, and sent them home to mommy with a note to be signed.

Dear Mr./Mrs. Kickball Foe:
_______ did not demonstrate good citizenship or winning kickball today. He/She lost 7-5. We are very disappointed him/her as we have very high expectations for our students. Please sign and send this note back to school. Best regards, The Ball-Busters.


We had some great moments. Chris Floyd impersonated an umpire, tricking one of their base runners into dejectedly leaving his base for an easy tag out. Shannon made a clutch hit to drive in a much-needed run (she was running faster than I have ever seen her move). Finally, we came from behind with a game-winning 3 run homer and a 1-2-3 out defensive stand to preserve the win.

Mojitos: The Adult Take on Post Game Juice Boxes:
The game was followed by a nice evening of Mojitos, Mofongo, and plantain chips with mojo at Habana. The post-game happy hours are a huge part of the adult kickball experience. We've come a long way from juice boxes and orange slices.

Weekly Ball-Buster Watch:
Record 2-0 *(one forfeit victory)
Last Game: 7 to 5 victory
Embarassing Moment of the Week: Male teammate (now possibly nicknamed "Bulldozer") levelling a female opponent with an overzealous tag.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sometimes Left Behind...But Never Forgotten

Q: What is titanium, round, size 10.5, and sitting on my bedside table?
A: D'oh!

I've never worn jewelry. Well, I think back in middle school I had a series of ill-fated gold chains that never seemed to last long. I got them at the mall. They were the type of gold-plated bling that could turn skin green and that definitely should not be taken into our neighborhood pool.. Oh, I suppose I wore a woven friendship bracelet or two in elementary school. I think I also wore a few of those 'jelly' bracelets back in the day. The Textile Embodiment of Friendship

Thankfully, I never pierced my ear. That's about the only bad jewelry fad I missed.

This wedding band thing has thrown me for a loop a few times. I take it off to sleep, and sometimes, in my horrific pre-coffee morning state, I forget to put it on for the day. Symbolically, this is not a good thing.

Overall, I have failed to wear "The Ring" 3 times since September 16 for a success rate of about 90%. A ring is a small piece of metal. Don't sweat the small stuff, they say, but they never had to face down a disappointed Shannon.

Gift Showcase Happy Time!

Gift #3: Le Creuset 3 Quart Dutch Oven
Uses So Far: Now this is some serious cookware, right here. A hearty hand-cast iron core surrounded by gleaming enamel gets hotter than a Ford Pinto in a fender-bender. This baby has transformed many pairs of chicken breast into sustenance. Is it a little odd for a male to be this excited about cookware? Probably. But I don't care. It's fabulous!

Overall Thoughts: This is another absolute treat for an aspiring cook. This cast iron cookware does pose a hernia risk if we try to lift it, so it stays on the stove, ever-vigilant and ready.

Gift #4: Staccato Place Settings
Uses So Far: We've been putting food items onto and into this gift. Then we use our brand new Nortica flatware to shovel it down. This food is transformed into energy so that Shannon can mold the minds of tomorrow and I can tinker with spreadsheets.

Overall Thoughts:
We're finally all grown up now! Our plates, bowls, saucers, and mugs all actually match. We've been carting around a hodge podge of not-so-fine china. Now, the cupboard is a monument to sweet dishwasher-safe homogeneity. We need to find some fresh-faced college student to take our old dishes so the circle can begin anew.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Congratulations to Mrs. Sieber

The world's greatest science teacher (even cooler than Mr. Wizard, in my opinion) has earned high praise from her students at Ratemyteachers.com

From one student's rating:
"mrs.kennedy is pretty cool. she gives a lot of homework sometimes. but i loved her as a teacher. she was totally awsome this year. she has the best eye for gum so watch out."

That goes for the rest of you. Gum in the trash can now. She's only going to ask once, then it's detention city.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

New Blog Feature: Gift Showcase

We are in the exciting honeymoon phase where everything is sweet and happy...and we get to start using our fantabulous wedding gifts. So, to pay tribute, we'll feature some of the gifts we have received. So, without further ado:

Gift Showcase Tuesday:
Gift #1: Shun Classic 8'' Chef's Knife and Shun Classic 6'' Santoku Knife:

She isn't just beautiful, she's sharp as a tack, too!

Uses So Far: Chopping an onion for tortilla soup, slicing up chicken breast like it were warm buttah, mincing garlic into subatomic particles (garlictrons), slicing tomatos into tissue paper thin slices, and scaring Shannon by throwing a piece of paper in the air and chopping it in half midair with this ginsu blade of doom.

Overall Thoughts: I'm an aspiring cook, and having a great knife enhances the whole cooking experience. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I don't need to be with these.

Gift #2: Krups Ice Cream Maker

Uses So Far: Made the the best vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberry that I have ever tasted. We also made Reese's Peanut Butter Cup gelato last night.

Overall Thoughts: This was the first gift we received in the mail, so it was a special moment. Shannon grew up eating homemade ice cream, so she and "I screamed" (get it?) when we opened it.

I'll post more of these mini showcases in the future. If your gift doesn't get featured, please don't be sad. We still love it!


Monday, October 02, 2006

My 16 Days as a Sieber

Well, I've been a Sieber for exactly 16 days. The signed marriage license is in my posssion, my kids are calling me, Mrs. Ken...Sieber, and I'm trying to find new ways to answer the question, "does it feel different?"

The negatives:
  • I've found that initialling SK is much less difficult than my new SS on passes, and my former signature which consisted of "shlkdy" now is a mushed up version of shlksieber. It's hard when you've perfected a signature over the last 15 years of your life to all of the sudden change it!
  • Doing all of this name changing stuff is HARD! Social Security Cards, Driver's License, Passport, oh my! At least I get to change the signature on my social security card from my 5th grade handwriting!!!!

The positives:
  • I've found that my husband (teeheehee-I said "husband") has become much sweeter now that I am his wife! I know that wasn't part of our vows, but I'll take it all the same!
  • When my school e-mail changes, that "i" before "e" can seriously benefit me by drastically reducing the number of parent e-mails! Woohoo!
  • I think the cat has taken kindly to being Velcro "Charzar" Kennedy-Sieber, he's hyphenating!
  • Christopher now owns 49% of the cat, that means 49% of scooping the poop!

I can't wait to have many future years as Mrs. Sieber. I know the initials and signature will come in time, the school parents will probably replace my preferred e-mails with phone calls, and Velcro will start urinating on all that is Kennedy very soon, but I'm looking forward to my new adventures with my new husband and family.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cruisin' But Not Losin (Part 1)

Sunday, September 17th: Getting to the Honeymoon:
We awoke extremely groggily at 7:45 am on Sunday, September 17th. It was not a pretty picture. Our cruise ship would depart Galveston at 4 p.m., so we had some work to do to make it aboard on time for our honeymoon. Of course, we both hadn't packed our bags, and our apartment looked like a wedding fairy had thrown up on it.

So, we get home and begin frantically throwing clothes, toiletries, and bottles of wine into suitcases. It's about 8:45, and we still have an hour to go until "road time". Things are looking good.

Then, I hear the sound that every cat owner dreads: "HUHR-RUK. HUHR-RUK. HUUU. Splat". Thanks, Velcro! Even after cleaning up Velcro's gift, we're still on track. Minutes later, amid still more frantic packing, we notice Velcro has left another surprise for us on the carpet. Bodily function #2. Nice try, tabby, but we're still going.

Disaster Strikes:
It's now 9 a.m.: one hour until road time. Shannon opens her halfway packed suitcase to discover that our friend Velcro has used her nicely folded clothes as a urinal. To quote Shannon, "Ohhhhhhh Nooooooo."

No Problem, Mon:
Through this adversity, we actually made it to Galveston in excellent time. Our conversation went something like this repeated every 10 miles or so: "The wedding went really well. The whole night went really fast. I hope everyone had a great time. Did xxxx have a good time? What do you think, husband/wife? Tee hee hee. I called you husband/wife."

Sweet Ending (as a result of Shannon's training):
Hand in hand, we boarded the ship, ready to begin the first of what would be a lifetime of wonderous adventures together.

Monday, September 25, 2006

We Made It!

The wedding was an amazing whirlwind of an experience for us. We weathered all the chaos and last minute actions with absolutely tireless help from true friends. Those of you baking cookies, running errands, decorating the site, driving people around, printing pages, and keeping us sane and on track...Thank you!

It's funny; since that fateful evening, January 7th, 2006 we have been in planning mode. Months and months of preparation and anticipation came down to a beautiful evening that I can barely remember. The whole evening felt like about 5 minutes. Several people had warned us that that would happen, but it was shocking.

Shannon and I were touched and honored to have so many friends and family travel from all over the place to be at the big party. We really wanted the whole thing to be about great friends, great food, and great times, and I hope that showed up in the details.

Again, thank you to everyone..We love y'all...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

License

The marriage license is in hand and ready to go.

Travis County marriage licenses are issued at the same County Clerk's office where I renew my automobile registration. It was amusing to have the normally disinterested county employees stop in the middle of form printing, signing, and stamping to congratulate us.

I also chuckled when we received the actual marriage license. I was expecting something like a temporary driver's license. The fancy lettering and gold seal on the certificate were a really nice touch!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bachelor Party (Part 2)

I promised a part 2 to the Bachelor Party weekend so here are some more thoughts.

The Irresistable Charm of Natty and Matty:
Ryan and Nate, your boundless energy and effusive charm sent shockwaves through the female citizens of Austin. They eagerly await your return this weekend.

Drinking and Driving is No Bueno (Tahoe-Nooooo!):
Some foolish schlub crashed his Chevy Tahoe into a light pole right next to us on the way back from 6th street circa 2:30 a.m. He tried to pull back into traffic with his newly pimped ride ("Yo, we added a custom V indention to yo' front end. If your clothes are wrinkled, steam 'em out using your busted radiator! Word!). An Austin Police cruiser also witnessed this event, so the Tahoe driver was hauled off to jail.

Please, please, please be careful and smart this weekend.

Something Else to Love About Austin:
Say what you will about immigration, I think it's pretty awesome that there are multiple shops in east Austin that will custom-make a pinata to any likeness. Nice find, Chris.

I've Got Some of the Best Buddies in the World:
My nickname is The Big Hurt. I'm way too competitive. I'm a horrible loser at poker games. I don't go visit my friends nearly enough, especially the ones up in Dallas. In spite of all this, there were a bunch of guys from all over Texas and Austin at the bachelor party to celebrate with me. Thanks for one of the best weekends I can remember.




The Day is Nigh

We are inside of 168 hours until the big wedding day. We're in the middle of the whirlwind with last minute details to handle. I want to apologize in advance if we mess up any of the 'little touches' that are required for throwing one of these shindigs.

We are wrapping up the music with the DJ, meeting with our reverend this week, moisturizing rose petals, finalizing dinner plans for the rehearsal, trying to get a wedding band to fit my 10 3/4 size ring finger, getting the marriage license, packing and shopping for the honeymoon, penning thank you notes, closing out on gifts for folks, managing a mountain of gifts, and doing other things that I have forgotten about (sorry, Shannon)

A wedding is a logistical nightmare tied up in a pretty white bow, but the memories and experiences so far are already irreplaceable. I love that this occasion lets us reach out across the years and across the miles to bring our friends and families closer to us again.

And so, the big weekend in Austin approaches. The support, best wishes, and love sent our way from all of you is palpable. Here's to everyone having a safe trip and to the Caribbean remaining hurricane free!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Moms, Bowling and Blowing

I've found that unlike most mom's my mine has a tendency to get less crazy as time progresses. She is a little more laid back, a little less uptight, and overall very pleasant to be around. She is easy to talk to, and so easy going that I can tell her when I don't like it when she does something, and we work out our problems without anyone getting offended!

Yes, in all of the pre-wedding hoopla, people learn your lingerie sizes, and many of your personal tastes. What is your favorite design of silverware, or a place setting, but in an e-mail to my brother, my mom got a little too personal!

Subject: Wedding activities invite for Thursday evening

You should have an e-mail from Chris Floyd. It is an invitation to the blowing on Thu. evening. I know you are getting in late, but I thought you might like to look at it and call us the minute you get in. I do not know how long we will be bowling. I can hardly wait to see you!!!!!!"

Mom, it is SO important to read your e-mail's before you send them!

I love you, and it was Danny's idea to post this on the blog!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bachelor Party Weekend (Part 1)

This last weekend, a great group of guys assembled in Austin for my bachelor party. Nostalgia, debauchery, thrills, spills, and hilarity are words that begin to scratch the surface of this experience.

I am happy to report that we had no arrests, fights, or ejections from any businesses. For concerned family members, we did not attend any businesses of ill-repute.

Special thanks to Chris Floyd and Carl Sieber for stepping up and making the weekend very special.

Some highlights:
  • We shredded the waters of Lake Travis in our own party armada (a ski boat and a pontoon boat). One boat broke down and was nearly dashed upon the jagged rocks of Devil's Cove (well, it nearly slowly drifted into the bank), but they were towed to safety. Patrick Floyd and Ryan Matthews impressed with some totally X-TREME tube riding skills.
  • The guys surprised me with a custom made pinata likeness of myself dubbed "Little Big Hurt". The thing was scary, but really spot on. Little Big Hurt was a hit and a source of amusement to everyone at the lake who saw me and mini-me.
  • Family-style dinner at Buca Di Beppo was great. We were fighting over the shared food platters like a pack of wild dogs.
  • We partied downtown till the early hours of the morning. Let's just say that some people were VERY thirsty that night. We met up with the lovely ladies from Shannon's Bachelorette Party for some dancing and hijinks.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I've Fallen and I can't Get Up!

Christopher's last post made me come to the realization that in the very near future, I will be walking down and back up 27 steps in a dress with a train and three inch heels while holding my dad in one arm and a bunch of flowers in the other!

Recently, I was in a rush to get to a training at a near by high school. I had on my Lucky Brand Jeans and my Old Navy flip flops. Now, I know for some, walking up stairs could be challenging in flip flops, but generally I manage to get up stairs with no problem. This trip however, was different. I got up to the second flight of stairs, and I felt my entire frame start to move out of control as if there was a lumber jack near by saying, "timmmmmbbbbbbbbeeeeerrrrr!" It turns out my Old Navy flip flops and my Lucky Brand Jeans, aren't so lucky after all! My head was where my feet should have been, my bruised arm was contorted underneath, and I all of the sudden felt like I wasn't the "cool" teacher I like to think I am. I soon after suffered from a bit of uncontrollable laughter, but the daunting thought of my future walk down the "isle" AKA 27 steps in September came soon after. Wish me luck!

So, You're Not Getting Married in a Church...


The traditional wedding invites guests to congregate at a church for the ceremony and then travel to a reception site afterward.

I can vividly recall such weddings: This is Texas, so after the short walk from the parking lot, a base layer of sweat incubates beneath layers of pinstriped wool. The pipe organ fills the air with the strains of Pachelbel's Canon. The organist struggles with the dense and complex sections in the middle of the song, eliciting nervous looks from attendees, but it's no big deal. This is good ole comforting, soothing traditon.

The chapel itself is large, airy, and dignified. This place is pre-decorated, with an air of reverence and decorum. It suits a wedding ceremony perfectly.

Something Different:

Yarr, mateys! We should be having a Pirate Wedding! Shannon said no!

We are taking a different path with our outdoor wedding on the shores of Town Lake in Austin.
A wedding is a tricky balance between the protocols of tradition and the need to have something that is unique and true to yourself.

Our ceremony will follow tradition with an ordained minister: it's simply transplanted to a unique spot in our beloved hometown. Instead of the reliable old organ music, a talented musician friend of ours will be performing a really cool selection of songs.

Weddings Just Wanna Have Fuuu-un!
Moving out of the quiet reverence of a church lightens the atmosphere. This is a a celebration of a pretty darn cool life event. And, after the ceremony, the party with food, music, and open bar are only few steps away.

So, here's hoping that there's a healthy balance of tradition and unique quirks. Let's also hope:

  • Global warming, El Nino, or whatever relent and give us a cool and breezy evening
  • No rabid bats, squirrels, lemurs, or Austin City Limits concert-goers crash the ceremony
  • That Shannon doesn't fall down the numerous stairs in our 'aisle' at Shoreline Grill

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mutant Names From Mars!


When it comes to weddings, tradition is always colliding with Hot New Trends! Nowadays, some newlyweds eschew the old name change tradition for the "Meshing" approach. The bride and groom combine their last names to create a mutant hybrid last name.

It's more fair this way, and both people have to learn new signatures.

So, how would meshing work for us? (not too well, I think)
  • Kennedieber
  • Siebennedy
  • Kenneber
  • Siebedy


Try it on your married / maiden names! I suspect that meshing doesn't work for most people.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

No Time Like the Present...

It's crunch time. Americans around the country now have an opportunity to make their voices heard. Will they pile into planes, trains, or automobiles? Will they journey to the heart of Texas for the weekend of September 16th?

Will Shannon's multi-color predictive spreadsheet have forecast the correct number of attendees for the wedding? Just how many hand-passed goat cheese tarts are we going to need?

Only you, our aunts, uncles, friends, parents, grandparents, coworkers, and other loved ones can answer that question.

So, please, whether it be twinged with regret or exuberant with affirmation, let your voice be heard! Don't fall prey to intimidation, butterfly wedding invitations, or hanging chads.

Rise up! Take what is yours! No response cards, no peace! Attendee counts by whatever means necessary!

Respondez Si Vous Plait!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Do Not Be Alarmed

Check your mail some time soon. The invitations sminvitations of the previous post have now been safely handed to the fine people at the U.S. Postal Service. There were a few challenges, but what is life without a little adversity to spice it up?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Invitations Smivitations, Who Needs 'em?

I find myself in a situation that tests the magnitude of my patience, and I think that I've almost lost this battle. It all started with a dream several weeks ago. Our wedding was going to be happening in a week, and there was a multitude of things that hadn't been done, in particular, invitations were not sent out. We were expecting that people would actually come having not been invited. I was scared and distraught, and I awoke to the banging sound as if an old car was backfiring that my A/C currently makes everytime it turns itself on or off (that story is for a different blog). I didn't get too upset about my nightmare as this is not the first wedding nightmare that I have had, and I'm sure it won't be the last.

The cliffnoted version of what followed...
  • Mom calls Party City to get an update on invitations-Party City Doesn't Answer
  • Mom thinks Party City is closed-Shannon thinks mom has a serious case of FBSS (Female Bad Scenario Syndrome), it does run in our family
  • Mom and I go up to Party City-in fact, they are closed (A mother's instinct is almost always correct!)
  • Lots of phonecalls to lots of people
  • Conclusion: After 5 weeks of waiting-Invitations were NEVER ordered by Party City!
  • Enter: Bridezilla Shannon
  • Invitations ordered-RUSH, should be here Friday
  • Invitations not here on Friday-"apparently" UPS tried to deliver them on Thursday, but it didn't happen.

It is now Monday and yet, no invitations are in my hands. Am I stressed? Of course! Have I cried? Multiple times! Am I ready to throw down with some Party City employees? They should seriously watch their backs!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Reception Food Tasting

The preview tasting of the caterer's reception food totally rocked. Shannon, Chris Floyd, and I spent two hours at the Shoreline Grill wining, dining, and working on The Plan(tm) for The Day.

Everyone says that the bride and groom don't get to eat during the reception due to the amount of Hubbub and the excitement. Based on this food tasting, I am going to be eating at the reception no matter what it takes. I apologize in advance if we're catching up, and my conversation sounds like "Hmmph, chomp, Hurrrmph..."

Without giving away too much, there were a few all-stars:
  • The parmesan-crusted chicken over penna pasta with preserved lemon sauce
  • The best darn grilled shrimp I have ever tasted
  • Some fancy little tart things
For the Commish, there was a fine assortment of absolutely delicious sauces ranging from a fresh basil to chipotle aioli. Feel free to sauce it up.

The food is going to be good. I look forward to seeing yall there. I'll be the guy in the tux at the front of the buffet line.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Honeymoon: Bodacious

The Honeymoon:
We will be departing on an action-packed sailing of the Carnival Conquest in a balcony suite. We leave on the Sunday after the wedding, so please don't let us drink too much champagne.

Itenerary:
Ports of call include Montego Bay, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cozumel, Mexico.

Planned Activities:
  • Having a cold 'girlie' drink with a name like Bahama Mama, Goombay Smash, or Caribbean Breeze
  • Flirting with serious sunburn but emerging merely lightly browned/pinked
  • Not competing in the "Hairy Chest Contest" at the pool deck
  • Definitely trying to compete in the Newlywed Game show on board
  • Sleeping my rear off on the balcony with the ocean below
  • Getting my hair braided in Jamaica. lol.




























So, like, I pay you a lot of money to do THIS to me, Mon?

Monday, July 10, 2006

What I've Learned From Bridezillas

There are many tips to be found from those all women networks, We, Oxygen, etc. One show I’ve found to be most helpful in planning the wedding is Bridezillas.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from this underrated show…

FASHION

  • If your car can’t fit your veil and/or dress, you need to seriously rethink the fashion statement you are trying to make.
  • Veils are expensive, but if you are paying $1,500.00 for a wedding veil, you are getting robbed.

LOVE YOUR WEDDING PARTY

  • Your girlfriends are most likely spending hundreds of dollars on dresses they probably won’t wear again, hosting parties in your honor, getting you intoxicated at your bachelorette party, coming in town for every shower, and generally doting at your every need. It is best not treat them like they are still in their terrible twos on your wedding day.
  • If you are choosing to get married in your late twenties like I am, chances are, most of your wedding party has been in a wedding before. Although your wedding may be in a different place with a different dress or tux, the procedures are probably the same. Most likely they know how and when to walk down an isle, and after little direction, they know where to stand. If by chance someone in your wedding party has yet to be in a wedding or at least gone to a wedding in the last 30 years, I find it very unnecessary to bark and yell at them. They probably like to take direction just like you do, in a calm, even tempered manner, and they will probably respond better as well.
  • It is best not to belittle, threaten, or make your fiancĂ© cry uncontrollably in the weeks prior to your wedding. He has not tied the knot with you yet, and you may be spending extra money on sending out those, “We regret to inform you that our daughter Suzy Q, will not be marrying Billy Bob,” announcements.

BE PREPARED AND HAVE FAITH IN YOUR GUESTS

  • Bridezillas are a direct result of being unprepared. Bridezillas are often very nice people who waited until the day of the wedding to do many things that could have been done weeks in advance or that don’t need to be done at all. I watched a recent episode where a bride was stressing out about the table placements. She was still making the list up until minutes prior to the ceremony. Yes, in her beautiful dress, she was writing down who was going to sit where at her reception. She was talking about how this person doesn’t want to sit by this person, and how many problems were caused by this. Solution: let your guests sit where they want. I’m assuming if Billy Bob doesn’t want to sit with Suzy Q after their horrible break up, Billy Bob, will choose a place other than Suzy Q’s table to sit! Have faith in your guest’s ability to make these decisions on their own.

DECORATIONS

  • Your guests are not keeping track of how many Japanese lanterns you have hanging, or how big the flower arrangements are on your table. They don’t notice the green hanging thing that you spent an extra $1,000.00 to have in the centerpieces. Quite frankly, you are lucky if they notice the centerpieces at all. I’ve yet to go to a wedding and think, “those centerpieces really sucked!”

In conclusion, besides figuring out that I will never choose to be in a wedding for a friend with a type A personality, I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff, delegate often, trust the talents of your friends and family members, and focus on what is really important…that you are uniting with someone you plan on spending the rest of your life with. In the end, most Bridezillas let go of their controlling nature, if not to portray the perfect bride, but because they finally see what they had been missing the whole time, that the wedding is all about you, your soul mate, and most of all LOVE.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

How We Met

A good part of the story of a relationship and a wedding is the "How We Met" story. There are really two parts to this narrative. First, under what circumstances did these two people out of the random billions in the world happen to cross paths. Second and most importantly, why did these two people start holding hands, cooing at each other, and travelling to family christmas' in places like Abilene and Tuscaloosa?

Ours is the good old fashioned friend of a friend story. I like friends of my friends, because someone who has befriended me probably has pretty good taste. Well, the lovely miss Shannon started showing up at some social activities in Austin at the behest of SuperFriend/Groomsman to All, Chris Floyd.

In particular, I can recall a Super Bowl Party and a bowling night here in Austin. At this time, both of us were not looking for dates. I just remember being surprised that a girl was actually hanging out with us guys.

A funny thing happened on the way to the American Idol finale. One day, Shannon sent an e-mail to her group of friends asking if anyone could record the upcoming episode of the American Idol television show. As a southern gentleman and owner of Tivo, I sprang into action.

When I delivered the tape, we started talking. Hours later, some kind of little radar in my heart started blipping and picking up a reading. This beautiful, intelligent teacher (COOL!) girl suddenly seemed very intriguing. One thing led to another, and suddenly we're sitting down for our first date at uber date spot, Romeo's.

Fantasia: Bringing People Together Since 2004

This has been a wonderful life-changing couple of years. And it all started with a tape of American Idol Season 3. (I'm just hoping that we find more success than Fantasia Barrino did)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

State of the Union

Captain's Log, Stardate 06.13.06:
We seem to have been propelled forward through time at an accelerated rate by some sort of time warp gravitronic field. That has left a gap of several months in this blog. Have no fear, we have the situation under control.

Random factoids:
  • The rehearsal dinner will be at the ridiculously delicious Castle Hill Cafe in Austin
  • We did an engagement photo session at the State Capitol building. This was one hour of making goo-goo eyes at each other and snuggling at the foot of various oak trees. The photographer informed us after we arrived that many of her clients find it helpful to drink beforehand.
  • Shannon somehow survived another year of teaching the youth of today
  • We have our cake designed and ready to roll from the illustrious Simon Lee Bakery. I hope you're ready for a white cake with cream cheese filling and fresh strawberries. I sure am.
  • I'm having some trouble finding a cat tuxedo for Velcro. If anyone can assist, please comment.
  • We can't wait to party with friends and family at the upcoming events and parties leading up to September 16th.
We're back online. Much more to come.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Countdown...


To Paula and Sherman (my wonderful future mother and father-in-law):
We have about six months to go until the wedding day, and the planning is coming together.

This weekend, we locked in on floral decorations, so we can mark another vendor off the to-do list. The world famous Whole Foods Market flagship store will be providing amazing floral arrangements. I'm especially excited that I get to wear one of these. Once again, we have found the best vendor with the best value.

We wouldn't be able to do this without your incredible support and generosity. It's easy to get caught up in the hoopla and the traditions, and this definitely is not a little pizza party down at the Chuck E' Cheese's.


So, here's to you. I look forward to joining the family and borrowing the motor home for Alabama versus Auburn football weekend.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Precious Moments Preserved...


Remember when photo day rolled around? Mom would make sure you were wearing your ugliest, yet fanciest outfit? After winding through a serpentine line in the cafeteria, you finally stepped in front of the draped blue cloth and took a seat on the strange wooden stool. There he was, backlit and poised behind an odd boxy camera: the photographer.

The photographer has come a long way since then. They prefer to be called photojournalists, I think. They don’t take pictures, they document stories. Anyhow, the wedding photographer turns out to be one of the biggest and most expensive line items out there.

After all, they are the ones who freeze time and capture the special moments. Time will march on, the tuxedos will go back to the shop, and fat will begin to accrue in various places. But, the moments (and the soon to be out-dated and ridiculous hair styles) will be captured forever. These images will be precious to future generations, especially future impetuous teenagers who will snicker at their goofy-looking parents.

The photographer will also kindly place these photographs in a fancy art leather album for a fee matching the gross domestic product of several sub-Saharan nations, but that is a tale for another posting.

The point of all this: We have selected our wedding photographer. Amelia Tarbet produces very nice work, and she is a great person to work with. Here’s a link to her website:

Amelia Tarbet Photography

Friday, February 17, 2006

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Reception: Absolutely Banned Songs

For crimes against human dignity and eardrums everywhere, the following songs will not be played at our wedding reception:

YMCA by the Village People
Sure, it's fun to do the hand signs, and, yes, I do have a YMCA basketball championship ring. But, this song is just plain creepy.

All My Exes Live in Texas by George Strait
No explanation is needed here.

All Line Dancing Songs
My grandfather is a dancing purist, and he does not like line dancing one bit. Neither do I.






Not Gonna Happen.

The Chicken Dance by Various

I assure you. That is not how we dance.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What a year so far...

Welcome to the Shannon and Chris in '06 blog. It's been a very interesting year. First, my Texas Longhorns won the national championship. Then, about 3 days later, I won the relationship championship when Shannon and I were engaged in Austin.

This place will be a source for information and for regular updates as we navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of wedding planning.

Thanks for visiting. Stay tuned for some uber exciting wedding-related content including:

  • Our story! How did Fox's hit show American Idol bring us together?
  • Who exactly is this person that my relative or friend [Shannon or Chris] is marrying?
  • The story behind the magical KitchenAid mixer and "The Proposal"
  • Wedding logistical details and factoids, as it begins to take shape
  • Anecdotes, video game reviews, wine tasting notes, and pictures of Shannon's cat, Velcro
  • And MUCH MUCH MORE!