A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from friends whom I have known since my teenage years, (again avoiding the phrase 'very old friends',) saying that they were coming to Austin, and asking if we would be able to meet them for dinner! Without a second thought, or consulting my husband's diary, (being that his social calendar has as much empty space on it as mine,) I replied that it would be wonderful to spend an evening in their company. Austin is not a place that many of my comrades from home can say, "I was just in the neighbourhood". To come to my new hometown, takes a dedicated visit!
Without thinking, I confirmed the date and we agreed to finalise matters nearer the time. After reporting to Dana that he would be 'busy' on the 19th November, after work, I looked at the empty calendar, and there were two notes on that very day. The nineteenth day of the eleventh month is the anniversary of my mother's birth! However, as I am about five thousand miles away from her hometown, there was no chance that I would be 'in the neighbourhood' to celebrate in person, so this would not be an issue. The second note was that the nineteenth day of the eleventh month, landed on a Thursday, which just happened to be the third Thursday in the month, to wit, 'Neighbour's get together' night. Ordinarily, I would have sent my apologies, and let the very gracious hosts know that we would not be able to attend. However, I had promised, (after our very brief attendance last month, due to Samantha's birthday falling on the third Thursday of the month,) to provide supper, in the form of a shepherds pie! I charged Dana with the task of emailing and asking for a 'stay of execution', and postponing my offering until the third Thursday in December.
Last weekend started with a guilty faced husband meeting me at the door upon my return home from the grocery store. "I have some bad news", he said. The phrase 'bad news' is always the catalyst that starts me on a downhill spiral to despair, and quite often, before waiting to hear the rest of the paragraph, I metaphorically sink to my knees and cry. However, the guilty look prevented me from a complete meltdown, and I waited for the rest of the story! It appeared that my request to email my neighbours had not been granted, and the monthly invitation had been sent to all announcing that there will be shepherd's pie! It was not as big a disaster as first imagine, and as my weekly routine was going to be altered, I could cope with a little more change!
I had forgotten, perhaps conveniently, that Samantha and Edward were planning a trip out of town, to meet her father in Las Vegas. This, in turn, meant that we would be playing host to the quadruped, from Wednesday evening! To add icing to the already very dense and crumbling cake, Dana had booked his car in for an overhaul on Tuesday, as the idiot light telling us that the brake pads were at a dangerously low level, appeared on his dashboard, and an oil leak was also suspected! Booking the car into the mechanics meant nothing to Dana, other than financially, as it was expected that I would be the one to make the trip to deposit the ailing vehicle with its surgeon. As much as I was excited about meeting my friends on Thursday evening, I had to overcome a track full of obstacles before I could begin to contemplate a night out!
Arranging my mornings became my focal point, and I left my house early on Tuesday and headed to Joe, so that I could enjoy a cup of coffee before taking the car to the mechanic. I did enjoy a cup of coffee, some scintillating conversation, and wonderful company. The car was late for its appointment, albeit by fifteen minutes, but as rain was pouring furiously, the need for excuses appeared to be unnecessary. I was loaned a very nice crossover, and drove back across the river to the office. By the time I arrived, the sun had started to shine through the clouds and the puddles that had formed were drying quickly. I left work at the end of the day later than anticipated, in the mini, which my husband had commandeered to take himself to the office, and Dana returned a little later, rather flustered, as he was not as impressed with the loan car as me! He had taken rather a long time to work out where all the switches were, and by the time he had found how to put the seat back, and turn on the lights, the rain had started to pour again, and the wiper switch was not "Where it should be!" Trying not to laugh, I sympathized as best I could, although empathy was not forthcoming as I thought the car was incredibly comfortable, and a very enjoyable ride!
The good news on Wednesday was that the 'dangerously low brake pad linings' were nothing more than a faulty sensor! However, the oil leak was not the imagination of the on board computer, and it had to be dealt with. The car would be ready for collection at the end of the day. The phrase, "I have good news", was accepted cautiously, as I waited for the rest of the paragraph! I knew that Dana had just spoken to the mechanic, and that it would be my agenda that would have to be altered to collect the car, so putting two and two together, I could not see that there was a possibility of anything 'good' coming from the scenario, other than someone perhaps coming to collect the loan car, and returning our car to the office. "You can pick the car up in the morning", he continued. Resisting the opportunity to correct my (long suffering) husband, and suggest that this was merely a statement, I smiled and said that I would gladly take care of the task. Judy and David, my friends from England, had arrived safely in Austin, and I had received a call asking if I would like to join them for breakfast the following morning. I had reluctantly declined, as Samantha was not going to be in the office, and as she had been ferrying Jason to and fro, whilst his truck was out of action, I thought that we were going to be short staffed. However, Jason had arranged to be brought in by one of our servers, and Dana suggested I reverse my decision.
Wednesday got longer and longer. We finished work, ate dinner, and then heard the pitter patter of tiny dachshund feet bound up the stairs and body slam into the closed door of our bedroom. Happily watching television, and enjoying the few moments of peace before the storm that is Frank, we knew that life as we know it was over for a few days, and our focus would be on this very needy animal! Cases were loaded into the loaned car, and four people with one dog took their seats for the journey to the airport. Recognising the path that was being taken, the dog started to whimper, and as we took the exit for the terminal, the whimper became a very prolonged whine. Two people exited the car, and the whine became a distressed bark as we waved goodbye to the travelers. By the time we were back on the highway, the dog had settled down, and Dana had found the switch that operated the wing mirrors, so my life became a little less stressful!
I peeled about eight pounds of potatoes and browned a large pot full of meat first thing Thursday morning. I had sent a message to Judy to ask what time she had planned to eat breakfast, and had already suggested somewhere that I thought may be suitable. They were staying at a hotel on Sixth Street, so I would be able to detour on my way back from the mechanic. The shepherds pie was made and put in the oven, which was set to come on at 4:30pm. I thought it would be better to take it in to my neighbours house almost cooked, and let them 'finish it off' in their oven, ready for 7pm! At a little after seven thirty I headed across the river, and dropped the loan car back, paid the piper and drove back towards the centre of town. Driving around the one way streets, I found the one upon where the cafe that I had recommended sat. It was closed! I had not considered that it may not open early enough for an early bird breakfast. I tried to contact Judy, but my phone was not open to that suggestion! I drove past the hotel, but did not spot my friends.
Arriving at the office a little after nine, I set to work. It was a busy day. I took my constitutional at around midday, and was pleasantly surprised at the temperature. However, by the time I left work, the wind had picked up slightly, and I felt it necessary to put on a jacket! The shepherds pie looked delicious, and I took it out of the oven after I had changed out of my work attire, and donned an outfit that was more casual and befitting of the venue where we were going to eat. My neighbours were not at home, and when I called they said that the traffic was so bad that they would not be home before we had to leave! This caused two problems. Firstly, where would I leave the pie, and secondly, had we left ourselves enough time to get downtown? The first problem was solved, as I was able to leave the rather large container of meat and potatoes on their patio, which I did. Walking along the back of the condos dressed in jeans, stetson and boots, with a silver dish sat upon a large tray, held with marmite oven mitts, I was rather glad that no one else was around. I headed back along the alley just in time to see Dana being dragged around the corner by a very frisky dog! I felt the guilt rising as I knew he (the dog) would not be happy at being left alone after being abandoned by his parents the previous evening.
The trip downtown took less time than anticipated, as Dana decided not to take the conventional route, but to criss-cross around the highway. All was going well until the 'road closed' signs appeared, and we were forced in the wrong direction. However, being familiar with the back streets we managed to get back on track and arrived at the restaurant on time! Having worked a block and a half away from Stubbs Barbecue for ten years, it had always been a mystery as to why I had never frequented this most famous of barbecue restaurants in that time. The sauce that is made for their meat is legendary, and now sold world wide! As one of David's 'top five' (I believe) favourite musicians was due to be singing at the venue that evening, he had bought tickets and suggested we eat there. This was acceptable to us, as when I had been asked to suggest somewhere 'typically Austin', and 'special', I was at a loss. There are some wonderful restaurants in the area, but if you want 'typically' Austin, 'special' does not really come to mind. However, I am now putting Stubbs on that list! We were directed to the terrace, where we were told that 'a couple who are expecting another couple' were sitting, and sure enough, I espied my old friends on the patio. It was a wonderful reunion, and although I had seen them a couple of years ago, when I visited their home, it was very special to see them in my new city. They were on a holiday that was mixed with a little business, and were going to spend the next day with a few of the local music legends of Austin. It all sounded very exciting. After introducing them to Dana, we sat and chatted for some time. Dinner was ordered, and the appetizers filled the table. Everything was delicious. Tex-mex at its best, with lots of meat. (I made a mental note to readjust my 'typically Austin' and 'special' for any of my friends whom are vegetarian, as it would be a nightmare!_ We discussed a few 'old times', talked about how we all met, and before long it was time for the concert.
My husband is not the most social of creatures, and when it comes to music, he is very 'limited', in his preference. The artist that was due to appear was not in his 'comfort zone', and he politely asked if it would be acceptable to 'leave the table'. I had forewarned my friends of the possibility that we would not make it to the end of the evening, and they were very gracious. As they were leaving town on Saturday afternoon, we arranged to meet for brunch before their departure. I was thoroughly delighted when Dana said, as we left the restaurant, "What a nice couple. I do like your friends"! Knowing my husband as I do, this is not always an easy phrase!
Frank was ecstatic to see us when we arrived home. He leapt into the air several times once Dana had freed him from the confines of the house. We took him for a walk around the front of our condo, and heard the sounds of laughter and merriment coming from my neighbours unit. As we walked along the back of the units, we saw that the door to their patio was open, and we stuck our heads around the corner to say "hello". I was greeted with a round of applause, as the host espied me and announced, "She made the shepherd's pie". Apparently, it had been an enormous success! I stood and accepted the praise and gratitude, with as much grace as I could, and chatted for a while, about many things non culinary. Dana had taken Frank back to our home as he (Frank) was creating a scene, not being able to cope with the large crowd. Also, he (Dana) was exhausted after the previous late night and early start. By the time I retired for the evening, I was feeling very blessed and happy. It had been a wonderful evening!
We worked another long day on Friday, and at my suggestion brought in some Greek food at the the end of the day. I did not want to leave the dog alone for another evening, as I felt he believed he was being punished! His eyes control my emotions, and my guilt level goes through the roof! We took him for a walk after dinner and he (Frank) appeared to be happy that no one was around, and that we were not going to have to endure another party at which he (Frank) would have to behave, and be socially acceptable! (Although I think at times, that is also true of my husband!)
Dana left for work early on Saturday, and I completed my weekend tasks. We drove downtown, parked on Congress, and walked around to the hotel. I was surprised at Dana's willingness to park and walk, as he usually tries to park within spitting distance of the door. (I had explained to my friends that most people do not walk to get somewhere. They may walk for exercise, but generally drive to the walk.) With most places not serving brunch until eleven, we walked a couple of blocks to the Old Pecan Street restaurant, on Trinity! It was delightful. We enjoyed breakfast, and heard all about Judy and David's adventure the previous day. I felt as if I had flown back in time, when we used to go out for dinner and chat about things that we considered to be so important, not knowing where we would be in decades to come! Out of the three of us, I would have probably voted myself to have been the one most likely never to have lived abroad! Brunch was delicious and we walked back to the hotel, where we bid the travelers a bon voyage, and walked back to the car. There was an element of sadness as I waved cheerio, as there always seems to be when someone leaves, but it was so nice to share my city with friends, I focused on the positive!
Frank was left alone on Saturday evening for a short time, and again on Sunday morning. Those eyes may cause me to feel guilty ninety percent of the time, but my omelette and croissant were beckoning me with a force more powerful than any puppy-dog pouts!
Next week is going to be another break with routine, as we have Thanksgiving to celebrate. I am unsure as to when I will face the crowds and shop until I drop, if at all, but I shall be enjoying two days away from the office! It is at this time when I send seasons greetings to all that celebrate the tradition and contemplate everything for which I am thankful, something that I try to do everyday! I am very thankful for my life here; for my friends, near and far; for my family, near and far; for my husband, and even for the dog! Whatever I decide to do on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I am sure that on Sunday I shall be reliving it all in ....... another story!