Because our trip to Austin for SXSW was so last-minute and spur-of-the-moment, I was concerned that we wouldn't be able to get a place for us to stay. To make matters worse, all the schools in Texas are on spring break, so finding a place to board Rufus while we went was going to be impossible. To be honest, I half-expected that we would actually end up cancelling everything and staying home.
But we got lucky -- if by "lucky," I mean we found "a-pet-friendly-house-that-was-entirely-too-big-for-us-and-far-too-expensive-but-it's-a-business-expense-I-guess-so-let's-just-get-it-and-regret-spending-the-money-for-weeks-later." So we cringed, called the homeowner, and signed the little contract for two nights in Austin.
Then, late last week, I was talking with my friend Maile (pronounced "My Lee") a crazy-talented photographer who lives in San Antonio. Maile is one of my happy-surprise friends I made over the past year or so: she's one of those people who you meet and wonder to yourself how you haven't known each other since college (and the point that when I was in college, Maile was still running around her elementary school playground need not be made here. Hush, now). She's seriously insta-family. As we were speaking, we realized that we'd both been invited to a lunch hosted by Mighty Events and Intel in Austin.
"Where are you staying?" I asked.
"Actually, I was just going to drive in and back," she said. San Antonio is about an hour's drive outside of Austin.
"Oh, don't do that," I said. "We're renting this ridiculous house. There's plenty of room."
"Oh, thanks," she demurred, "but the kids are home for spring break, and I don't want to leave Jason home alone with all three ...."
"Dude, bring them," I interrupted. "When you see the ridiculous house we're in, you'll see we have tons of room. Besides, Alex would love the company of the kids."
Happily, she agreed, and I have to say, it was one of the most pleasurable times our family has ever had with another family. Marcus and Jason are pretty much the same person: if Marcus were an American ex-Marine from Kentucky, he would definitely be Jason (and conversely, if Jason were a freakishly tall, lanky mountain-biking Brit from Cornwall, there's no doubt in my mind he'd be Marcus). The kids met each other and disappeared, and we didn't see any of them again except for meals. We're already planning getting our families together again sometime this summer.
Besides, I think it's scientifically impossible for you not to fall in love with a family with these faces in it, don't you?
Angels, all of them. Just wonderful, lovely kids.
Oh, wait -- did I mention that Maile just also happens to be the designer, founder, CEO and wildly-creative mind behind the ultra-awesome Epiphanie bags?
Straight up: I love these bags. I own several. The backstory: Maile was tired of camera bags being so mannish, and after she'd wrapped her expensive camera in one too many tube socks and carried it around in her handbags to events where a canvas-camera bag would have been inappropriate, she decided to do something about it. She designed camera bags that she would've loved to own herself, and started Epiphanie, a line of handbags that are fully padded and customizable so that women could take their cameras and lenses anywhere, stylishly.
Recently, Maile came up with a few new products -- a couple of laptop bags that are also feminine and stylish. And she donated several of them for the attendees of the Mighty Events/Intel lunch.
But there were a few left over. So I snagged one.
And to show you love on this Thursday, I'm going to give it away to one of you.
Simply leave a comment below, and at the end of the day, I'll pick one commenter at random to win the "Paris" camera/computer bag you see above, worth US$ 185. The bag is black with a shocking pink interior (more details can be found here), and it's eight shades of awesome.
But that's not all! Since the focus of the lunch was about "mobile etiquette" (how we use our mobile devices with manners), Intel tucked a few more goodies into the bag:
You'll receive Emily Post's Great Get-Togethers: Casual Gatherings & Elegant Parties at Home by Anna Post and Lizzy Post, the great-great-granddaughters of famed manners-maven Emily Post. In addition, you'll receive a couple of the funnest letterpress greeting cards from Paperwheel Press, containing sweet sentiments with a techie twist.
Again, just leave a comment below for a chance to win -- no matter where in the world you are -- and I'll update this post after midnight with the winner's name. And trust me, if you're a guy, you still want to enter -- because any woman in your life who owns an SLR camera will be so grateful to you for winning this for her, she might even bake you a pie.
And with that, happy Love Thursday, friends. May the luck of the Irish be with you!
UPDATE: WELL. When an Epiphanie bag is at stake, you guys don't mess around, do you?! It was awesome reading your comments as they came in all day long -- thank you! Still -- there can only be one winner, and the winner is Bridget, who said, "What a fabulous bag - Happy St Patty's Day!" Congratulations, Bridget! Check your email, and be sure to send me your snail mail address.
Thanks again, everyone!
Portrait images: Photographed with my Nikon D300, 50mm lens. The photograph of Maile, taken last September: aperture 1.4, shutter speed 1/200, ISO 320. Photos of the kids: top 2 -- aperture 1.4, shutter speed 1/400, ISO 200; final picture -- aperture 1.4, shutter speed 1/500, ISO 200.