Monday, February 24, 2014

My love/hate relationship with Austin

It is no secret that I have struggled to embrace life in Austin. The summers are hell. It's in Texas. And it's a big city.

But. But. There are so many aspects of our life here I love. I know I will forget the positives in a few months when the heat of the summer is upon us, so I best write it out now while my heart is full of love for this place.

So here it is. What I love, and hate, about life in the Texas capital.


The winter. It's blissful. The past two weeks have been in the mid-seventies, sunny, breezy. Perfect park weather. Perfect biking weather. Perfect everything weather.

The food culture. There are farmers' markets at least four days a week all year round. We live less than three miles from four urban farms. There is a local, seasonal, bulk only grocery story. A cooperative grocery with two branches. More food trucks and restaurants that I could ever hope to try. Even though we rarely go out to eat, we are glad to live in a place that has so many options, many of which are focused on local and seasonal foods.

Our backyard. HP spends at least an hour every day exploring our backyard and the parkland beyond. We usually meet Neil in the driveway on his way home from work. I'll take Neil's bike inside and work on dinner while they head out back to run down the path, throw rocks in the creek, climb the hill to the bridge, and explore the boulders at the bottom of the stream below. Besides the obvious benefits for engaging a toddler, we have space to hang up our laundry, grow a garden, and look out our back windows and see nature, rather than concrete.

Our house. The major repairs are almost done and we will soon be able to kick back and enjoy the fruit of our labors. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. The size of our house is just right for our family (1300 sq ft including an enclosed garage we use to store our bikes, tools, strollers, etc.). If anything I would say it is slightly too big. The mortgage is affordable, which in Austin's real estate market is becoming harder to come by.

Community. After a low point last summer, I stopped making excuses for not getting out of the house and made socializing a priority. It has paid off and I am significantly happier now than I was a year ago. Austin is a young city full of transplants, which makes it easy to meet people once you reach out.

Neil's job. He likes the work he does, has coworkers he enjoys being around, and is making a meaningful contribution to the world. It's hard to complain about that combination.


The summer. I am terrified of the summer. Yesterday HP and I were down by the creek while Neil worked on replacing outlets in our house. We had on long sleeves to block out the sun, hats, and suncreen. The heat was uncomfortable. Not unbearably so, but still a notch above pleasant. It's February

The size. It's a big city and we are not big city people. Austin is not a dense place; if it were, the large population would be less of a problem. Almost anywhere we want to go requires a minimum three mile bike ride, usually closer to five or six, and sometimes more than ten. Not terrible, but not amazing. Besides the inconvenience of a large land area, the air quality is terrible and borderline non-compliant.

Cost of real estate. Ideally we would live in a more central, walkable neighborhood. I love our house and yard, but I wish we could walk down the street to the library or to grab a coffee with friends. Simply put, we are priced out of those neighborhoods. I try and pretend we're not and frequently browse the listings, but when I stop and do the math I have to admit that it's not going to happen.

The politics. I know crazy stuff happens in all parts of the country. My native Missouri (home of the infamous Todd Akin) is no exception; I am always horrified when I read the local newspaper and discover what the state legislature is up to. But Texas is its own special brand of crazy. Austin is somewhat isolated, but we are still governed by Rick Perry and have to follow the curriculum decided by Texas State Board of Education. (If you had any doubts about the incompetence of the Board of Education, please watch this documentary.)

The lack of nature. There are some beautiful parts of the city and state, but it's no Oregon or even Arkansas. I miss having beautiful hiking trails and mountains nearby. There are always vacations...

Austin is likely not our "forever" place, but even taking into account the negatives, it's a good place to call home.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Life lately

I would start out by stating how crazy my life and how I have had no time for blogging to explain my lack of recent posts.  But that would be a lie.  Here's why I've really been away:

(1) I've been reading. Every night I think about all the things I want to blog about, but when nap time rolls around, I pick up my book instead of writing. There are worse ways to spend the afternoons and I can't say I feel guilty about it. My favorite books from the past month? Divergent, A Partial History of Lost Causes, and the Family Fang.

(Can we also talk about how ridiculous the Austin Public Library is for only allowing users five holds? Because five holds is not enough. Especially when I have to wait MONTHS for popular books. Example: I am number 242 in line for the Goldfinch. Two hundred and forty-two. There are 42 copies, but it will still take several months before I make it to the top of the list. Ugh.)

(2) Every time I start a post my phrasing feels all off, my word choice is awkward, and I give up before I have halfway through.  My answer to that is that I am going to hit publish and stop worrying about it. Because I like looking back on old posts and seeing where I was and what I was thinking.

So here I am. Writing.

This means you can look forward to many more posts of this nature with no general theme and lots of rambling.

The garden is sad. Very sad. I did manage to plant for the late winter/early spring the weekend before last. My seeds are old though, so the germination rate is likely to be low. The radishes have sprouted, but the rest of the garden looks just as barren as before. We do have cilantro going strong if that counts for anything.

The weather has been amazing for the past week. Absolutely gorgeous.  Mid-seventies. Sunny. Perfect for going to the park and wearing the toddler out. I thought I could trade the awful summers here for a real winter, but I have realized that may not be true. It doesn't get below freezing often, but being trapped in the house on the couple of days where it has been too cold to bike somewhere was ... challenging with a toddler. And yes, I know I have nothing to complain about and that when it is cold here it's not even that cold. Let's just ay I have become much more sympathetic to parents of small children who live in cold climes.

We have been waking up in the five o'clock hour for the past month. Usually the first half of that hour.  Usually the first quarter of that hour. I am a morning person and am happy to be up by six. Quarter till would even be okay.  But five? It's a little much. When we try and lay down with him to coax a few more minutes of sleep into all of our lives, he now sits up and emphatically says "no! no, mama! up! go! go!" When I ask if he wants to get breakfast he sweetly says, "o-kay!"

We (finally) closing in on our house projects. The bathroom is almost done. I have been slowly chipping away painting the trim in the main room. The front doors still need to be painted, quarter round needs to go up, and any number of other smaller projects. But we are getting there. Can you imagine how much free time we will have on the weekends when large projects aren't looming over our heads? I can. It will be glorious.

My birthday is next week and Neil is taking off work so we can spend the day together. It will involve breakfast tacos and tamales, time at the park, good cheese, and a cup of coffee and a good book while the boys have their own adventure. We even hired a babysitter for the evening so we can check out a new restaurant on the eastside. I love birthdays.

My child is still sleeping right now, which means he has been down for three and a half hours. Morning at the park with friends for the win. What was not a win was discovering my bike had a flat tire just as we were preparing to leave the house with HP already strapped in and ready to go. Once it became apparent that I was not going to be able to find the source of the leak immediately, we switched to my other bike and the trailer, so no harm done. Fixing it is my project for the evening. Not my favorite task.

And he's up! Off to make frittata for dinner.