Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Corgidor Comfort

Lounging is a fine art and a skill. You have to really commit to it and leave it all on the line to achieve pure comfort nirvana. I think Bella knows what she is doing here:
This is the picture that I emailed to the Waco Humane Society to show them how our wonderful shelter dog is living now. Who needs a $1,200 Welsh Corgi when you can get an $80 Corgidor?

Update: The response from Corgidor owners around the world has been really cool. Your stories are great. I would like to publish some pictures of people's Corgidor friends. If you email to christopher.sieber at Gmail . Com , I will try to compile and share...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Friday...

Quick Updates (I'm typing these very fast, probably close to 45 w.p.m., but you can read slowly if you want to savor them):

Five Months:
Earlier this week, the Mad Dog Baby (Michael Duncan) hit his five month birthday. He'll be covering himself in a Cookie Monster 1 year old birthday cake before we know it.

Being five months old carries with it added responsibility and maturity. Among those responsibilities:
  • sitting up in a high chair like a big boy.
  • Attempting to eat rice cereal from a spoon, even if 99.86% of it ends up on your chin, neck, and onesie.
  • Sleeping in your own room and crib. Sorry, kiddo, but your days in mom and dad's room are numbered.
  • Sleeping almost through the night without parental intervention. We love hanging out with you, and you have the most beautiful crying voice, but 4 a.m. isn't convenient for us any more. Have your people call our people and set something up during daylight hours. K? Thanks, buh bye.
  • Drinking for a sippy cup. I'm not really excited about this one, as I'm sure that drinking juice from one of these cups leads to the distasteful grungy "stickiness" that I've long assocated with toddlers. Oh well, such is life!
  • Sitting up unassisted. The Mad Dog has a tentative ability to sit up unassisted. This works well, unless there is a slight puff of breeze from a passing insect or an imperceptible tremor from some undiscovered fault happens. In those cases, he topples over like an unbalanced drunk / Ohio State fan.

The Eyes of Me:

Keith and Patrick's outstanding documentary following the lives of four blind teenagers in Austin is continuing to impress on the festival circuit. After taking the South by Southwest film festival by storm with two smashingly successful screenings, they are showing in AFI Dallas Film Festival this week. The Eyes of Me has already picked up must-see recognition from The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Observer, and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

I've seen the movie, and it's fantastic. Congratulations to Patrick and Keith for all the well-earned recognition.

Alabama Trip Food Recap #2

There is a certain type of restaurant that pops up just about anywhere that has a picturesque body of water. You know the place; It's got a campy interior full of "flair". There might be nets, plastic lobsters, fish tanks, antiques on the wall, fake marlins, old license plates, or other maritime detritus. A gigantic bar serving potent tropical drinks always rounds out the decor. What about the food? Who cares, really. It's all about the atmosphere, being near the water, and having a great time.

Such is the case with Wintzell's Oyster House of Northport, AL. Wintzell's sits in a huge, open space right on the edge of the Black Warrior River. Glass garage doors open up for a quasi-outdoor experience with a great view of the river. The atmosphere is boisterous and cheerful due in part to the potent rum drinks many patrons can be seen drinking from large hurricane glasses.

Wintzell's is a well-known Mobile, Alabama institution. It is famous for its oysters which can be ordered "fried, stewed, or nude." My grandfather, Pappy, tells me that he and my grandmother used to eat there in the 1960's in Mobile. The other trademark of the Wintzell's are the thousands of folksy bumper sticker-esque signs with sayings covering practically every square inch of wall space. A few examples:

Honest bread is very well. It's the butter that makes the temptation.
If you don't learn from your mistakes, there's no sense in making them.
Any mother can tell you a teenager's hang-ups don't include his clothes.
Always put off until tomorrow what you shouldn't do at all.
Nowadays the rising generation retires when the retiring generation rises

I had a good time reading the signs, and I'll admit that many of them seem truly clever when one has had a couple of rum punches.
What about the food? Well, it was a mixed bag. The freshly shucked raw oysters were fresh and delicous. Wintzell's spike their cocktail sauce with what tasted like horseradish for a nice kick. We all enjoyed the complimentary bread, toasted slices of baguette slathered in real melted butter. Shannon, bless her heart, ate from an extremely limited menu due to her seafood allergy. She soldiered on and had some adequate pasta and a burger.

Both nights we ate at Wintzell's I ordered the J&O platter (broiled). Every gulf seafood joint has a monstrous sampler entrée like this. It featured tiny, but delicious crab claws, oysters, shrimp, tilapia, and a stuffed crab. The whole thing was swimming in cardiac inducing seasoned butter. I hear they also serve a good grilled fish and some of the best shrimp and cheesy grits around (another Gulf coast standard).

Overall, our group of ten definitely had a great time. It was a perfect place for a noisy and cheerful evening with family. The food wasn't half bad either.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Alabama Trip Recap Part 1 (Food)

We flew to Tuscaloosa for a quick spring break visit, and boy were our arms tired. We were also hungry. Luckily we dined on some pretty solid down home food. First on any dining hit list in Tuscaloosa should be Dreamland Barbeque.

Dreamland has earned national recognition as a barbequed pork rib Mecca. The restaurant has since franchised and spread out over the south, but the shiny new locations are missing the soul of the original dive location in Tuscaloosa. We hauled the whole Duncan crew up the tiny winding road into Jerusalem Heights to find the shack that has held Dreamland for the last 50 years.

Ordering up barbeque in a dilapidated old shack just feels right, and kitschy, old, dark interior enhances the cultural experience. I remember my brothers and I getting endless juvenile amusement from the "No Farting" sign that is still posted over the front door. Aunt Che' remembers the old days when pig pens lined the outside of the restaurant, and you could catch a glimpse at the unfortunate racks of ribs-in waiting.

On to the meal: the pork ribs were delicious, but not quite as legendary as I remembered. The reputation of a great place can set the bar so high that some disappointment is inevitable, I guess. Don't get me wrong. We still had a great meal and experience on our pilgrimage. The unique vinegar-based sauce tasted addictively great as always, and I burned through many a slice of complimentary Sunbeam bread sopping it up.

The great thing about eating bbq ribs is that this is a messy unpretentious experience. There will be sauce on your face, sauce on your hands, sauce in your hair, and sauce on your shirt. Nobody cares. The important thing is to eat and enjoy the ribs, not to win a beauty contest. At the end of a meal at Dreamland, the sauce-soaked paper towels litter the area amid piles of picked over rib bones. It's a great experience, even if the ribs aren't exactly world class any more. The banana pudding is a must try as this is a perfectly executed example of this classic southern dessert.

Next up: seafood on the shores of the Black Warrior River: dinner at Wintzells' Oyster House.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


While Shannon gets ready for work, she often places a drowsy Mikey in the bed next to me in her spot. All I want is just to sleep for the remaining precious minutes before my alarm goes off.

Invariably, Mikey starts stirring, grunting, and fussing. His little arms are flailing and swatting at invisible bugs. The sleeper is awakening.

This is a crisis. If he wakes, he cries. If he cries, then I'm not sleeping. Everyone knows that the last 30 minutes before the alarm are freaking solid gold. Something must be done.

My first response is often the response of the tired and frustrated parent. I loudly say his name in the most disappointed, whiney voice I have, "Miiiikkkkeeeey, geeeze!" This, of course, is completely ineffective.

The fussing continues its escalation. We could have a baby Chernobyl situation here in seconds. Thinking quickly, I place my hand on his chest and "jiggle" him. Like magic, the squirming stops. The flailing hands fall limp behind his head, posing him in a dozing touchdown pantomime.

The gentle touch and jiggle is usually how you wake someone up. For Mikey, it's the magic sleep button. I guess he's got a wire installed backward somewhere.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Food Challenge Returns?

Preliminary plans are shaping up for another friendly Austin cooking challenge. We've settled on a theme for the competition. We're getting back to basics and going with with good old fashioned dip.

A food-centric party at which guests submit original culinary creations into a friendly competition. Contestants battle for the coveted golden apron and the bragging rights that come with having the best dish of the evening. The Commissioner's Cup is also awarded to the person who exemplifies a series of variable criteria that are generally considered good.

There have been several of these parties, and all have completely RULED. Prior themes include: GuacaMoDown (Guacamole), Dessert Challenge, Finger Food Faceoff, Soup or Salad, School Lunch Challenge, and Viva Tortilla.

The New Theme:
Guests will bring dip. Edibility, appearance, originality, and deliciousness are all considered good things. Things that taste bad and look terrible sometimes do not win the competition. But that's ok. I always get knocked out in the first round of competition, and I still have a lot of fun. There is wine, you see, and you get to spend the evening dining upon the dips made by your culinary betters.

From Wikipedia:
A dip or dipping sauce is a common condiment for many types of
food. Dips are used to add flavor to a food, such as pita bread, dumplings, crackers, cut-up raw vegetables, seafood, cubed pieces of meat and cheese, potato chips, tortilla chips, or falafel. Unlike other sauces, instead of applying the sauce to the food, the food is typically put into, or dipped, into the dipping sauce (hence the name). Dips are commonly used for finger foods and other easily held foods. Dip is a very widespread food. Forms of dip are eaten all over the world.
Probably at the Floyds' house on West 9th Street

Tentatively Early April (4th or 11th)

Dip Haikus:
Holy aioli
Scooped out of a shallow bowl
Tasting of garlic

Fondue? No! Fondon't!
Melting cheese burning my hand
A chip dipped too far

Monday, March 09, 2009


Babotage (bab-o-tage):
1. verb: To commit a sneaky act that avoids an unpleasant parenting task such as changing a diaper.
2. noun: a sneaky act that avoids an unpleasant baby task.

Combination of the words baby and sabotage

This morning you babotaged me! When you handed the baby over, he had a dirty diaper that you pretended not to know about. You were out the door before I noticed. Well played.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Eyes of Me

Over the last several years, our friends Keith Maitland and Patrick Floyd have toiled away on a really cool documentary film, The Eyes of Me (formerly Keep Your Ear on the Ball).

Following the lives of four blind teenagers over the course of a school year at the Texas School for the Blind, The Eyes of Me is a thought-provoking look into the day-to-day thoughts, emotions, highs and lows of adolescents who lost their sight at different stages of their childhood.

Patrick and Keith have poured in thousands of hours of hard work to get to this stage. It's amazing that the film is completed and that the good news keeps coming.

First, their film will be debuting during the SXSW film festival with two screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse South on March 18 and 19th! The Austin American Statesman newspaper recently chose The Eyes of Me as one of a handful of recommendations out of 150+ movies.

On the heels of the SXSW debut, The Eyes of Me (formerly titled Keep Your Ear on the Ball) has been selected for the AFI Dallas Film Festival! There will be two screenings in Dallas on saturday (3/28) & Sunday (3/29)Follow this link for screening info & to purchase advance tickets: http://filmguide.afidallas.com/tixSYS/2009/filmguide/eventnote.php?EventNumber=2474

I've seen some sneak previews of The Eyes of Me. This is a compelling and well-crafted movie about a community that is not well publicized. Everyone is welcome to attend the screenings, so we'll see you there!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Guest Columnist: A Gulf Shrimp

Look, the life of a shrimp isn't all fun and games and singing Under the Sea. We scoot around eating gunk all day. We also have the good fortune of being the most delicious creature in the sea. Great. Everybody wants a piece of us. I'll probably be taking a one way cruise through the GI tract of some random fish next week or something. A few of us are choosen by our deity, the Great Net, plucked out of the sea to walk with Him in the paradise known to us as Grille or Hor Derve. Most of us just end up floating around till we go belly up.

I'm getting to the point! Do you have any idea how hard it is to write when you don't have a brain, just a distributed nervous system through your exoskeleton?

One of the few joys we have in our lives is that of parenting. Man, my antennae twitch with pride every time I gaze upon my little ones emerging from their gelatinous egg sac. I carefully mark every milestone. Little Scampi just rolled over for the first time, Popcorn just caught his first zooplankton, and Prawnetta has started scuttling around on the ocean floor! My kids rock!

Here's my advice. Don't be so paranoid about your kids. Don't treat them like helpless krill. You can't always fight their battles, and it's ok if you lose a few to a passing stingray or flamingo. You have 52,000 other ones left who look up to you. They need to learn to stand on their own 8 legs and scuttle.

Don't spoil them. You don't need to put another Barbie on your shrimp. They need to work hard for what they get because life isn't always fair. They need to work hard and learn how to put plankton on the table.

Finally, be there for them. Your work will always be waiting there for you. Do you really want to miss the precious moments in their lives? With a 1 year life span, they really do grow up fast.

What? No, I don't want to lay down in that lime juice. What are you doing with with that butter and garlic clove? Don't look at me like that.

The End.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Monday, March 02, 2009

Weekly Update

Richard Thompson at the Cactus Cafe:
We joined a big family outing (10 of us!) to see legendary British folk-rocker Richard Thompson play the Cactus Café at UT. I felt out of place because I left my beret and pony tail at home. We got to see an absolute master of the guitar play in a venue the size of a Starbuck's café. It was a real humdinger of a show. The highlight of the night was the always hilarious "Hots for the Smarts".
Salt Lick in Round Rock:
Our big posse also dined upon giant piles of fine smoked meats at the new Salt Lick Barbeque location in Round Rock. The setting and atmosphere can't match the flagship original in bucolic Driftwood, Texas, but it's still some solid bbq in gut-busting quantities. Please note that the original Salt Lick is a BYOB facility, and a giant cooler full of Shiner Bock makes everything taste better.
Four Month Milestone:
Mikey visited the pediatrician for his 4 month check up. Four months already? Our skinny little elf has filled out into a cherubic little, err, cherub, jumping up a couple of levels on the growth charts. After a pretty pleasant visit, he appeared quite surprised and perturbed to receive several shots. So far, there are no signs of autism or of mutated super powers. He received a cool "Bolt" sticker for his troubles.

Devil Teeth of Doom:
Benjamin Franklin once wrote that "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." That's great. Conversely, I think that teeth are proof that God maybe doesn't love us so much. Baby's first tooth started trying to scratch and claw its little enamel self to the surface this weekend. Our happy little cherub was transformed into a singularity of misery overnight on Saturday. He was a sleep-destroying harpy of doom. All that trouble for one little future tooth. Once we get this one to come in, I guess there's like 20 more to go. See you at the coffeeshop. I'll be the one with the triple espresso and the dark circles under my eyes.