Category Archives: U.S. Austin, Texas

Our land base home, Austin Texas

50th Birthday Celebration

Austin Part II: The Celebration

Austin has been my home for well over 20 years and has enabled me to amass many, many amazing friends.  But, living remotely and out of the country makes it challenging to stay in touch. Why?  Well because, frankly, life gets in the way.  Yet somehow, my group of friends forgives my absences, supports my failures, and celebrates my successes.

Heather Newby organized an enormous 50th birthday celebration bringing together friends from the past and present.  Matt and Diana Barker hosted it at their beautiful home, made brisket, provided a host of apps and beverages, and many others supplied drinks for the bar.  It was a spectacular party and a great opportunity to catch up with my long lost Austin friends.

My amazing Austin friends gathered together!

My amazing Austin friends gathered together!

Diana and Matt had a giant “50” balloon sign out in the front yard, just so people knew where the party was.  She did not even know that I had always wanted something like this – loved it!

Diana truly made me feel like a princess - even the day after!

Diana truly made me feel like a princess – even the day after!

Heather Newby made the most delicious carrot cake and Diana hired a piano player.

This carrot cake was beautiful and incredibly yummy!

This carrot cake was beautiful and incredibly yummy!

Lisa Wood created a beautiful photo montage from a collection of photos that our friends sent in.  I’d publish it, but it is a huge file.

Daniel is famous for his birthday poems even though he had “retired” many years ago.  Somehow, Heather convinced him to come out of retirement for one more poem.  See entire poem below and see live recording on my Facebook page posted 1/13/18 from Lisa.

Daniel overwhelmed me with his spectacular poem.

Daniel overwhelmed me with his spectacular poem.

It was truly overwhelming to see so many happy, fabulous people come together for a celebration.  I am humbled to be surrounded by such love.

Lucky girl that I am to call these people my friends.

Lucky girl that I am to call these people my friends.

Love abounds!

Love abounds!


POEM by Daniel Dolce

Lordy, Lordy look who’s…shit, you’re not 40!

Let’s try this again…

Back from the Ocean Blue

So, Happy Birthday to you

Got a pretty sweet lookin tan

Good to have you back on dry land


A year on a boat with Matt?

How they hell did you manage that?

I mean, I know you two are married…

Really, no thoughts…to leave him out there buried?

Back with friends for just a spell

The time away has done you well

You’re looking awful nifty

Even though, you’re 50

We’ve missed you very much

Though never really out of touch

We Love you with all our power

Well…now that you’ve had a shower

Raise a glass to Christine

So lovely and pristine

Keep on drinkin that whiskey

And we’ll do this again when you’re 60!

 Special Thank You:

  • Matt and Diana for hosting my birthday party
  • Heather for organizing it and for making the cake
  • Wayne, Sharon P., Michelle J. for coming into Austin
  • Lisa for making the video montage
  • Michelle M. for letting me stay at Casa Martin
  • Sharon and Shawn for helping me clean my attic
  • And all my friends for making me feel so loved

Austin…Home on the Range, Part I

Coming back to Austin is always fun, but can be a bit challenging as I don’t have a place to stay or a car.  Our home is on the rental market and completely empty.  Luckily, my good friend Michelle, allows me to stay at her house and use it as my “home base” during my visits.   She has a gorgeous home, central to almost everything, is a generous and loving host and friend.  Plus I get unlimited love and kisses from her son Jake and she and Jeremy are superb chefs!

Michelle sent me a text, immediately after my plane landed.  She had been helping me with my birthday present to myself and told me to meet her at Rock of Ages.  She miraculously scheduled an appointment with Steve, the owner who was willing to give me my 50th birthday tattoo.

Many of you know that I have a small tattoo on my right shoulder (a heart with a cross inside it) which was replicated from a piece of James Avery jewelry that one of my dear friends (Darlene) gave me years ago.  Unfortunately, the tattoo did not come out as well as I had hoped and for years I have wanted to clean it up or cover it.  About 6 years ago I found a new tattoo that I really liked but I just wasn’t ready to pull the trigger as the first one hurt like a mother trucker!

After a lot of contemplation, I decided that I wanted to cover my old tattoo with my new one.  The entire process took all of 10 minutes – but it wasn’t a pleasant 10 minutes.  Not nearly as painful as the first one, but certainly not easy.

First, he drew the new design on paper and stenciled it on my back so I could see what it would like.  You can see the blurry edges of the original tattoo and then compare it to the clean edges of my new tattoo.  Then the outlining process began…

Michelle being the studious one, documented the entire process, asking questions, and gathering data.  It was a great distraction as all I could was hold my breath.  It was especially painful when he went over the old tattoo as scar tissue had formed underneath and he had to break it up – fun!

But, the end product was perfect, better than I had imagined! Steve did an amazing job, was very gentle, and extremely professional.  I would highly recommend him and his shop!

The next day, I was able to get a MUCH needed cut and color.  Wendy at Deseo salon has been my stylist for over a decade and always makes me feel like a princess when I leave.  Right image has straggly hair, long, but wickedly damaged.  Left is nicely managed, silky smooth.

Deseo hair salon with Wendy who cut and colored my hair.

Deseo hair salon with Wendy who cut and colored my hair.

Besides visiting friends and running errands, the main reason I come to Austin is to see my doctors.  My first visit was with my plastic surgeon Dr. Piazza at The Piazza Center.  Usually I don’t have any concerns when visiting him as it is a general follow up.  However, I had a bump on my incision that had been bothering me for well over 16 months that I wanted him to check out.  Thinking it was nothing, I was not worried.

However, he informed me that the number one location for breast cancer to metastasize is the incision site.   AND, this bump was on the incision site, on the left side of my left breast (which is where my cancer was), so guess what?  He had to biopsy it.  $HIT!  A few shots, biopsy and 3 stitches later I am out the door.  Thank Heaven above, the results came back 2 days later clean!  My oncology visit with Dr. Patt at Texas Oncology, went really well.  She is so happy with my recovery that she is willing to let me visit annually vs bi-annually.  Sweet!

A wonderful scheduling phenomenon occurred during my Austin visit.  My old boss and several co-workers happened to be in Austin for a regional meeting and were able to meet me for dinner.  It was so awesome to catch up with them!

Jes, Jon, Stacy and I - TDC comrades.

Jes, Jon, Stacy and I – TDC comrades.

One of my biggest chores on this trip was to clean out the attic at our house.  We had sold, donated, or tossed everything inside the house to make room for renters.  However, we stored items in our garage attic.  It was time to clean it out.  My friends Shawn and Sharon came to help, thank goodness!  Piles to Goodwill, piles in the trash, a pile for Wayne’s house and a pile for John and Missy’s barn.  Now the house is completely empty of all Mitchell paraphernalia.  We went to celebrate at Maudie’s.

Sharon and Shawn with me at Maudie's

Sharon and Shawn with me at Maudie’s

Our favorite server, Adolfo at Maudie's

Our favorite server, Adolfo at Maudie’s

A few visits with friends squished in between tons of errands and chores.  Always productive and good to be back in Austin.

A Tourist in Austin

Every 6 months my doctors expect me to make an appearance to ensure that all is going well so I scheduled a trip to Austin in July.  To my surprise, my sister and Aunt Donna volunteered to fly in from California to keep me company on this whirl wind adventure.  Not only did I have several appointments, but I had lots of “honey do’s” on my list (since we had not been in the states for awhile).  With our house rented, we opted to stay at a Home Away property called Corazon Apartments (our place looked nothing like the photos).  But the first night, I crashed with Heather and Michael at their super swanky downtown apartment.  Heather, is the best! She invited the girls over for a potluck dinner which allowed me to get caught up with everyone.  It was so great to be together my pack of fabulous women!

Barbara, Amy, Kim, Heather, Tiffany, Missy, Marcie, Heather, and I.

Barbara, Amy, Kim, Heather, Tiffany, Missy, Marcie, Heather, and I.

View from Heather and Michael's place!

View from Heather and Michael’s place!

First thing Thursday morning, I headed to my neighbor’s house as she is thinking about putting it on the market.  She caught me up on the neighborhood gossip, what’s for sell, who is doing what and so on.  Then it was off to the races!  I wanted to try to accomplish as many errands as possible before my family arrived so I hit the bank, our P.O. Box (to pick up mail), and the market all before my hair appointment.  I had not had my hair “cared for” in 6 months and it was due for a bit of color and a trim.  Wendy at Deseo Salon is a rock start!  In fact, she won “best hair salon” in Austin this year!

Wendy and I before she worked her magic!

Wendy and I before she worked her magic!

Leaving with bouncy, shiny, perky hair, I headed to REI to pick up a new Spot Gen3 so that all of you can follow us and pin point our location,  It allows us to send updated messages to our support team during passages.  I also picked up a Flex2 as my Fitbit ChargeHR band decided to separate and stop working.  Not wild about the Flex2 but it is water proof.  I am thinking it is a stop gap until Fitbit comes out with a better display band that is water proof.  One can hope.  After REI, I headed to the airport to pick up Kimberly.  Her flight was right on time and after many hugs and kisses we headed to the mall.  I needed to pick up a few items at Nordstrom (girl stuff) and popped into Apple to make an exchange.  Matt had purchased a brand new MacBook Pro and the fancy charger bank (which is a USB-C) decided to stop working  As you know, we found an apple store on Curacao and were able to buy a new one, but we wanted to exchange this one as it is still under the 1 year warranty.  However, I walked in and was sent to the Genius guys and was told I needed to make an appt. to see a genius just to make the exchange since it had to come from a different stock.  Oh dear!  I made the appt for the next day and we left to pick up my aunt from the airport.  We were all starving, but decided to check in to our rental first.  It was a royal pain in the butt and I will say that I will never use this property management company again.  I won’t bore you with the massive disappointment of our experience.  After we unpacked we headed to one of my favorite stomping grounds, Hula Hut for a sunset dinner.

Our waiter photo bombed us - too funny!

Our waiter photo bombed us – too funny!

Donna and I enjoyed a HuLaLa that comes in a fishbowl.

Donna and I enjoyed a HuLaLa that comes in a fishbowl.

Sunset at Hula Hut - spectacular.

Sunset at Hula Hut – spectacular.

Friday morning we went for a walk on the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake.  It was a beautiful morning, not too hot or crowded.  We visited briefly with the ducks and turtles and continued on our way – short walk, maybe 2.5 miles, but got us out and moving.  We then headed up North to a nail appt.  My Aunt had never had her nails done – what?  Yep, you read that right.  So, I made an appt. to see CiCi at Lavish Nails. It was a great spoiling moment for sure!  We walked out with gorgeous toes and had a true “lavish experience.”  Hungry again, we headed to another one of my favorite places, Maudie’s to enjoy the best TexMex in town.

Mmmm, love me some Maudie's!

Mmmm, love me some Maudie’s!

We went back to the rental to pack a small overnight bag as we were heading to Lake McQueeny to see some friends.  On our way south, we stopped at the outlet mall as I was hoping to find some summer dresses appropriate for the boat and perhaps some new shorts at LuLu Lemon.  We stopped at several places, made a few small purchases, but my quest was still continued.  Shawn, Sharon, Wayne, Sydney, Dylan, Kimberly, Donna, and I piled into the ski boat and headed to to the lodge for Wayne’s pre-birthday celebration.  Shawn showed us around the lake, expertly backed in the boat and treated us all to a fabulous night!  The next morning, the ladies went for a morning walk around the neighborhood and returned to enjoy a “big breakfast” tradition at the Melnar home!  It was so fabulous to see our good friends!!!!  We needed to head back to Austin, ran some more errands, hit the Domain Shopping center and had success finding a few summer dresses and new shorts!   I was also able to exchange Matt’s apple battery bank with no appt. Yeah! Saturday night was dinner and dancing at the Broken Spoke. My aunt is an amazing dancer and my sister and I used to shake a tail feather in our day so I had to show them how we do it in Texas.  The Derailers were playing and it was a true Texas experience.  We quickly spotted the best dancers and to our excitement several asked us to dance.  We took turns being twirled around the small dance floor and truly enjoyed the experience.

Donna, me, and Kimberly at the Broken Spoke

Donna, me, and Kimberly at the Broken Spoke.

We met the owner of The Broken Spoke, James White.

We met the owner of The Broken Spoke, James White.

Sunday we headed to church as I had not seen my church friends in a long time.  It was a new priest, but a good sermon.  Always good to reconnect and recenter!  Afterwards, we swung by the bank and Walgreens and then I had to stop by our house to meet our property manager.  It was a bit odd seeing our home with renters in it, but all looked ok.  Feeling awkward being at my home, we left as quickly as we could and got breakfast at Maudie’s (some things are just too hard to resist).  We decided that today would be a relaxing pool day.  Even though the pool was only 3′ deep, we enjoyed the atmosphere while we chatted with my good friend Michelle.  We cleaned up and headed to head Shady Grove for dinner, another Austin landmark.  We happily consumed a hippie chick sandwich and a Shady Thang outdoors under the big, beautiful tree!

Donna, me and Kimberly at Shady Grove

Donna, me and Kimberly at Shady Grove

It was still light out and I thought I would surprise Donna and Kimberly by stopping at the South Congress Bridge for the nightly bat show.  Over 1.5 million Mexican Free Tail bats come out at sunset to feast on 10-20k insects per night!

Start of the bats coming out to eat.

Start of the bats coming out to eat.


A new piece of art popped up in the last few months at 5th and Lamar – and we had to stop for a photo shoot.

ATX Art at 5th and Lamar with Donna, Kimberly, and I.

ATX Art at 5th and Lamar with Donna, Kimberly, and I.

Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with some Amy’s Ice cream (Mexican Vanilla should be a staple in everyone’s diet) which is always a fun experience.

On Monday, my Aunt Donna had to head back to California and we had a day full of doctor appointments.  We met with my oncologist first who gave me the all clear and told me to start working out again. Not because I had gained 6-7 lbs since I saw her last but to build bone strength. I know, I know it is so hard to get into a work out routine on the boat – but I will!  She also told me to consume 4-5 drinks per week, max!  Eek, I am not a huge drinker, some weeks I won’t drink at all and some weeks I have more than that – so will make a conscious effort to watch it.  Then we hit the bank again, the P.O. Box, and the pharmacy before meeting with my plastic surgeon.  He too gave me the thumbs up – good day to be me!  We headed back to the rental, packed a bit and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Moonshine Grill, for my favorite trout dinner.

Kimberly and I out Moonshine Grill.

Kimberly and I out Moonshine Grill.

Even though I did not get to see everyone I wanted to see or relax as much as I wanted, we were able to squeeze a lot in 5 days.  I was ready to go back home to Matt and the boat.

I left for the states with a small carry on and returned with two overstuffed bags!  Errands complete, returning home with boat parts necessities.

Little tired, ready to be back - I scan the crowd for Matt.

Little tired, ready to be back – I scan the crowd for Matt.

Check, Check, Check

  • Visit friends
  • Enjoy family
  • Shopping
  • Fine dining
  • Country Dancing