Happy 2012!

For the last several years, I have made a habit of attending the American Astronomical Society meeting held the second week of January. It is a great way to dive into a new year. In addition to presenting a poster about whatever research I have done recently, I also get to attend talks about dozens of interesting topics. Each winter meeting is a chance to see friends and colleagues from years past – Mudd, San Diego, a summer here, an adviser there. The conference is traditionally held in one of four cities, on a rotating basis: Austin, Long Beach, Washington DC, and Seattle. This year’s meeting was particularly special for me because it was in Austin, as was the first meeting I attended back in 2008!

Since I live in Las Cruces, one of the highlights anytime I visit a big city is eating food. Thai food, Indian food, whatever flavor of Mexican food is there… so imagine my surprise when I began searching for restaurants to visit and stumbled across one called Casa Chapala.

Mom and me at Casa Chapala for my 17th birthday

You see, while growing up in Richland, my favorite restaurant was unquestionably Casa Chapala, in neighboring Kennewick. A bean burrito, or sometimes chicken! With rice and beans on the side! This was the best. For pretty much every birthday between 1990 and 2003, you could find me at Casa Chapala, wearing a goofy sombrero and eating complementary fried ice cream for dessert.

In 2004, I began college, and ate there when I came home for winter break. Same story in 2005. Then in 2006… I learned the owners had moved away. To somewhere in Texas. (Because clearly Texas didn’t have enough delicious Mexican food.) I was devastated.

Now, back to 2012. As it turns out, two friends from high school recently moved to Texas in the last six months (thanks, stalkerbook! er, facebook!). One to Austin and another to the Dallas area. So I had the best idea ever: eat lunch with both of them at Casa Chapala.

So after a long conference, brain overloaded with astronomy, I walked two blocks to the restaurant and reunited with two lovely ladies and their significant others over lunch.

Mari, myself, and Laurie: orchestra pals reunited!

As usual, Casa Chapala did it right. Still one of my favorite restaurants.

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