Friday, December 31, 2010
My grown son's bedroom was converted into a studio/workspace for me. We did much of the work ourselves with the help of our friends Mike and Sara.
We built a couple of big planters to go along our fence between the house and garage and installed an irrigation system in our new planters.
Painted all of our old patio furniture.
Filled in the center flower bed on the patio to expand our usable outdoor space and relaid the paving bricks that had buckled due to the roots from the oak trees
Cleaned out our garage.
I started experimenting with some potential projects that I may sell on Etsy.
I took a writing course last winter.
I taught myself how to use Adobe Flash and created an animated Christmas greeting, complete with music for the school -- a major triumph.
Our kids are happy and doing well in their respective pursuits.
And we finally got rid of the crapvan and I got the car I've been wanting for over five years: a cute little red Mini Cooper.
I do have a few specific things I want to get done this year:
I want to finish restoring the large weaving loom I got last year. I've gotten a little bit done, but I'm ready for it to be completely cleaned up and in working shape.
I want to rework how the utility room is set up. Specifically, I want to design and build a custom storage unit to replace the old, battered, less than ideal armoire we are using now to store our small drink fridge and various other items. Especially now that I have a big stand mixer that really needs a convenient storage spot.
I want to finally open a shop on Etsy.
And I want to continue to experiment with my writing and do more on this blog.
Happy New Year y'all.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
We made it to Austin only a little bit late for lunch (okay, 30 minutes), at my mother-in-law Mildred's house. After lunch w/ the family, we sat around chatting and some of us watched some football game (obviously not me). Then we headed over to my sister-in-law's house. This time I took the Mini and introduced Mildred to its charms. Present opening, game playing (Sequence!), and munching on chips and queso ensued. I have a feeling that I'll be buying an attachment for my new KitchenAid mixer with at least one of the gift cards I got. The big question is going to be which one? I'm currently leaning toward one of the pasta making attachments. Feel free to give me input on this decision.
Today, we're going to an exhibit at the Blanton museum on the UT campus. I've been wanting to go to the Blanton for years, but it seems like most of the time when I'm in Austin, I'm moving my children from one spot to another and never find the time. We are also heading out to Cafe Adobe at some point for dinner (I think). And who knows what else. The good news is that so far we haven't scared my nephew Kevin's girlfriend Katie (who is lovely and fun). The bad news is that we do miss nephew Jonathon (in Egypt) and Michael and Sarah (doing wedding stuff w/ one of their friends).
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Really. See in the photo below? I'm beating eggs w/ cream for scrambled eggs for our Christmas Day brunch. Or rather, I'm drinking tea while the mixer beats eggs with cream.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
These are ornaments that she made. Aren't they cute? They go on my tree every year and I think of her when I pull them out of the box.
Catherine was one of my mother's fellow 4th grade teachers in Kenedy. And Catherine is one of the reasons I have learned to make things with my hands.
Catherine loved crafting things. She was particularly partial to anything involving sequins and beads. I can remember a time when she was into Faberge type eggs. Mom has one that she did w/ a tiny Nativity scene set inside. The outside is covered with little fake pearls. She also did appliques, and needlework. I was absolutely fascinated by how she could make such pretty things out of things like felt, styrofoam balls, yarn, and various sparkly stuff.
Catherine was, in many ways, very no nonsense. I remember her as being barely over 5 feet tall, stout, with flyaway blondish hair that was a law unto itself. To be honest, the kids at school did not mess with Mrs. Russell. We were more than a little afraid of her. Her husband went by his initials which were G.D. and I can remember her telling my mom about an encounter she had w/ some repairman or clerk who didn't seem to think that dealing with Catherine's complaint was a priority. "I'm Mrs. G.D. Russell," she told him, "and G.D. stands for just what you think it does."
But thanks to her friendship with my mom, I got to see another side of her. The side that liked to make pretty things and the incredibly generous woman who shared her creations with her friends. Her church in Kenedy would have a bazaar and Catherine always contributed her creations to it. And even though I never had her as a teacher in a class, she taught me that you can learn how to anything with your hands. And while I don't blow out eggs and turn them into beaded wonders, I do weave cloth, sew, and make my living as a graphic designer. Over the years, I've taught myself how to knit, embroider, needlepoint, etc. And part of my interest in things of this sort is a direct result of knowing Catherine and seeing all the different things she would make with her hands. So wherever you are Catherine, thank you for teaching me that making time for creative endeavors is important and to not be afraid to try my hand at something new. You may not have been my classroom teacher and you never taught me math or English, but you taught me something much more important: How to live a creative life.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
First step was to find lampshades to cover. As it happens, I remembered seeing self-adhesive lampshades at various craft stores. So, I located three of them in the size I needed. Next step was fabric. I looked at a fair amount of new fabric, but nothing looked like the poinsettia Christmas tablecloths the ones I had seen were covered in. So, I went online to Etsy and found the perfect little square vintage tablecloth at a bargain basement price. Once it was delivered, a quick trip to the fabric store netted narrow red cotton binding for the top of the shade and some very delightful red bobble fringe for the bottom of the shade. A bottle of fabric glue and I was ready to go. And the end result is this:
Saturday, December 04, 2010
For about three or four years, I've been lusting after a Mini Cooper. They are beyond cute, they are the antithesis of a mini van and are just plain fun. Specifically I wanted a red one with a white roof and the sunroof. A CD player would send me over the moon. But I figured with two kids in college, I was pretty much stuck with the crapvan for as long as we could baby it along. So, I'd put "Mini Cooper" on my Christmas list every year, with the result that I have a nice selection of toy Mini Coopers now.
Today, all that changed. Today I got the real thing. It's red and white, has a sunroof and more techy stuff than I ever imagined I'd have in a car. None of the cars I've had to drive have ever had a CD player. This car not only has a CD player, it has BlueTooth, a place to plug in my iPod, etc. I can even change the colors of the little accent lights in the interior. (Currently they are green.)
So, the Crapvan is gone and in it's place is the cutest car imaginable and it's actually mine. Well, mine and the bank. But I'm not going to let them drive it.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Grandma had already been completely blind for more than a decade when I was born due to a hereditary condition, but in the kitchen at least, it didn't slow her down much. Among the things I remember with great fondness is her gravy. It was wonderful and after she stopped being able to cook and I was subjected to a variety of substances masquerading as gravy, I came to the conclusion that I would have to learn to make gravy myself. I did eventually succeed in that quest. And having learned to make gravy, I marvel that she did it so well without being able to see.
But the one recipe of Grandma's that has been handed down is the one for her fruit salad dressing. you can find a version of her fruit salad at any family gathering during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each family of cousins has its own version of the fruit salad itself, the most basic of which is the one my siblings and I preferred: diced apples and bananas mixed with the dressing. Some of my aunts added pecans and/or marshmallows. But the key to the salad was the dressing. And I offer it to you here. I served it this past Thanksgiving with a salad consisting of raspberries, blackberries, pears, and bananas. And I served it on the side, not mixed in the salad as, much to my dismay, none of my children have taken to this particular delight. This dressing, more than any other family recipe, brings back memories of the holidays of my childhood.
Irene's Fruit Salad Dressing
3 whole eggs
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C white vinegar
1/2 dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs.
In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, vinegar, mustard, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Take the pot off the stove and very slowly add the beaten eggs, stirring constantly with a whisk to keep the eggs from scrambling. Place the saucepan back on low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat. If needed, add a little butter and evaporated milk to thin slightly. (I rarely have to do this step.)
Let cool. You can serve on the side or toss into a fruit salad. Store in the refrigerator. Can be made ahead of time.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
My wonderful children. I am exceptionally blessed with my son, my daughter-in-law, and my two daughters. There were all here today and while they do like to give me a hard time, I know that they love me.
My husband. Yes, even though he's been driving me crazy today and scaring me over what he might buy tomorrow if he goes shopping on Black Friday (he was positively giddy over some of the electronics on sale tomorrow), I am glad that we are still together after all this time. Though I will admit it would be nice if he'd learn how to carve a turkey so I don't have to do it. But then, my daughter-in-law has promised to get a lesson from her dad at Christmas, so even his disinterest in doing the carving is okay tonight.
My neighbors. I love, love, love, the commune. If I need an egg or a hug, they are there for me. Everyone should have friends like these living next door and just down the street.
My choir friends. How cool is it to have friends who love to sing and are good at it. It's like living in Glee. (Only we don't burst into song randomly.)
My co-workers (you know who you are) who keep me sane. Not an easy task. But they are there for me on the rough days and always ready to laugh with me on the good days. I am truly blessed by knowing them.
My mother. Oh, my sweet mother. I am beyond blessed to still have her. She is truly the best mom in the world. I could tell you why, but I have a feeling there's a word limit on these posts.
Happy Thanksgiving y'all.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
We keep thinking that at some point, they'll finally all be off the tree. But it hasn't happened yet and this has been going on for a good month now and shows no sign of stopping. We were just sitting outside by the firepit tonight and every few minutes we'd hear the 'crack' of a falling acorn hitting the patio.
What does this mean? Who knows? I did a tiny bit of research and the Farmer's Almanac says that our area of Texas will have a very wet and cold winter. So, it could be a forecast of a cold winter. Another thing I read said that this is a sign that the trees are going through a stage where they try to ensure the continuation of the species. All I know is I'm tired of the damn things littering up my patio and driveway.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Yes, it's a bit of a downer. We tend to sing music that verges on the dark side. Requiems and the like. One number we did last year had verses that talked of blood on the moon. Or some such. The verses on that one would give a small child nightmares. Hell, they almost gave me nightmares.
Occasionally I long for the opportunity to sing at a Christmas concert. Or a spring concert. After Easter, not during Lent. Yes, we switched one year and had a concert during Lent. Again with the somber music.
But we do get to sing some beautiful music. This year, our choir is singing four of the movements from Gabriel Faure's Requiem. I love this music. It captures the beauty and majesty of the Catholic requiem service. Though from my reading of the notes in my score, I believe that this particular Requiem was not considered completely kosher, so to speak, by the Catholic church. Seems Faure wrote it the way he thought it should be done and that didn't necessarily conform to the requirements of the liturgy.
No matter. It's beautiful. And hopefully, we'll do it justice. If you are already tired of the Christmas carols playing over the speakers in all the stores, come over to St. Thomas More Catholic Church on Friday night and enjoy some music better suited to the fall season.
Monday, November 08, 2010
Eating stew made from the recipe my mom used to make when we were kids.
Neighbors who will accept (or extend) a spur of the moment invitation.
Making progress on one of my long-term projects.
Ideas swirling around my head for things I can create.
Music I'll be singing this week in a concert swirling around my head. Currently playing: Gabriel Faure's Requiem.
The incredibly nice cool weather we've had the last week or so.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Every so often, I troll through AutoTrader.com to see what's available in used Mini Coopers. After over 20 years of driving three different Chrysler/Dodge minivans, I'm completely over the whole minivan thing. Unfortunately, I'm currently stuck w/ the third van, which I not so lovingly refer to as the Crapvan. It's past it's use by date, but with two children still in college and various other obligations, a car payment is just not something I feel comfortable taking on right now.
But this week, there is a real deal out there. A 2004 with low mileage. And it pretty much has everything I want. It's red w/ a white roof. No racing stripes. Cloth seats (leather seats are a big mistake in Houston during the summer). Sunroof. And this particular model is priced extremely low. Almost low enough to make me seriously consider trying to get it.
So, I stopped by the dealership after work and took a look at it. In fact, I actually sat in it. And with a massive showing of self-control, got out of it and walked away to get in the Crapvan and drive home. It was my car version of when I used to take the girls shopping for formal dresses for dances. We'd almost always see one dress that was fabulous and fabulously out of our price range. But I'd tell them, "Just try it on for funsies." Well, I tried that Mini Cooper on for funsies and it looked wonderful.
I think it's a good thing I didn't ask to drive it. I'd still be driving.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
But this weekend is about the things I don't have to do. I can do this stuff or I can do nothing. If I opt to do stuff, this is some of the stuff I'm thinking about doing:
Going to the quilt festival.
Cooking a pot of stew.
Planting sweet pea seeds. Along with some other flower seeds and a couple of varities of bulbs.
Working on repairing my large loom.
Sitting outside sipping wine while a fire burns in the fire pit.
I rather like making a "Maybe I'll do this" list. Maybe I'll do it more often.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
My heart breaks for them as they face the upcoming holidays and getting through the special days they were looking forward to this year, dealing with the fact that there will be no prom photos this year, no white dress and crown for graduation, no packing for college.
I did not know their daughter. She was one of the over 600 girls in the school where I work. But I mourn her life being cut so tragically and wastefully short. I hurt for her friends and classmates who have learned, in the hardest way possible, that the golden days of their youth can turn to ash in an instant. I pray that her family will have the courage to get up in the morning to this new unwanted reality that has been thrust upon them. And I pray that someday, they will know joy in their lives again because this daughter, sister, friend was, from all accounts, about bringing joy to others.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
- It's only a couple of days past Halloween and at least 4 weeks to Thanksgiving. Plus it was in the 80s yesterday here in Houston. Please, please, please take down the Christmas decorations. All it does is annoy me to see them up this early.
- John McCain, I want an apology from you for unleashing Sarah Palin on an unsuspecting nation. What were you thinking? Oh, wait, you weren't. You stupid, stupid man. The worst of it is, I strongly suspect our long national nightmare won't be over for a long, long time as it seems Ms. Palin has no intentions of going away quietly any time soon.
- And now, speaking directly to Ms. Palin: If your idea of the kind of values America needs is our teen-aged children having babies before they graduate from high school, then skipping out on college to go on reality TV shows, then you are even more out of touch with America than I thought. Do not go portraying yourself as Ms. American Mom when you've got a family situation that is totally and utterly out of control. America, you go ahead and trash Mr. Obama. But if I'm looking for a public servant with family values, I'm going to go with him. I can guarantee you his daughters won't end up on a reality TV show after having a child with an idiot who decides posing nude and hanging out with pornographers is a better way to further his career than going to college.
- It's time to get serious about gun control. This past weekend, one of the seniors at the school where I work was the victim of a drive-by shooting. She was at a Halloween party, just another teenager on a Friday night. A good kid, looking forward to all the events of her final year of high school and going on to college. And she was killed by an idiot with a grudge and access to a gun. Don't anyone give me that crap about how if someone nearby had had a gun, they could have shot the guy who did it or prevented this tragedy. The only way this tragedy could have been prevented is if the guy who did it had not been able to get his hands on a gun. How many time do I have to say this: No one needs a handgun or an automatic weapon of any kind.
Monday, November 01, 2010
But probably the main reason she saw pumpkins is that this past Saturday we had our annual pumpkin carving party, or as I like to call it, "Small Children with Knives."
Some of the highlights from this year's event:
The twins discovering a squirrel skull next to the driveway as soon as they arrived. They immediately picked it up to show to their mother, leading her to say words she never imagined would come out of her mouth, "Boys, put down the squirrel skull."
My granddog, Laila (a miniature dachschund), zipping around in her banana split costume, much to the delight of the little kids.
The sheer, utter delight of loading up all those little kids on sugar, then sending them home with their parents. One of the twins came in at the start of the party and asked his mom for a cookie. Of course, she said 'No, not until after supper.' I laughed and told her, "Now if he had asked me, the answer would have yes, but if he's stupid enough to ask you instead of me, then too bad."
The terrific pumpkins all lined up and lit with candles.
Watching my various friends, some of whom had never met, making connections and having a wonderful time on a perfect October evening.
It was the best ever. Guess I'll do it again next year.
Monday, October 25, 2010
The Old House is located in a little town called Falls City. According to family lore, the ghost in the house tends to hang out upstairs and walks around. My mother has told me of hearing footsteps upstairs when she knew no one was upstairs. After we moved out of the house, I remember my Aunt Ruth stopped by the house to use the bathroom one Friday on her way from San Antonio to visit us. She heard footsteps upstairs and assuming that some local kids were up there. So, she went into the front hallway and called up the stairs for the culprit(s) to come downstairs right now! And the footsteps did come down the stairs, but no one came with them. So, Ruth turned and ran out of the house and would never go back in there alone again.
I also remember one day at the new house when some of the neighborhood kids were doing the ring the doorbell and run away thing. One of us laughingly suggested that maybe it was the ghost from the Falls City house. My mother literally turned white. The very thought freaked her out.
Strangely enough, my mom has told me that she never heard so much as a creaking board at the old house after my father's death till the day we moved out. Believe me, my mom invented anxiety and I'm sure that being a widow with five children (one an infant) and a blind mother to take care of led to quite a few sleepless nights. But she said she never heard a thing. My personal theory is that my father took the time to inform whoever it is that walks around the house (I suspect it's my great-grandmother) that they needed to cool it until Mom moved out. Or maybe great-grandmother did it on her own. My mother did take care of her for years until she died.
Mom and her siblings eventually sold the old house. Shortly after the sale went through, we heard that the buyers were upset that we had sold them a haunted house. But they must have made peace with the ghost, because one of their children still lives there.
There was at least one ghost sighting at our home in Kenedy though. My older sister told me that on the day of my wedding, she looked out a window to the back yard, which was set up for the reception and she saw our dad walking through the yard. It may just have been that he was on her mind as I was the first of us to marry, but I like to think that he was there for my wedding.
I have not been inside the house in Falls City for decades. But I still dream about it. That house has an emotional hold on me that no other house will ever have. It may or may not be haunted. But I am.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Mom is on board with this plan to give us kids peace of mind, because it will cut down on her fears of not being able to tell us if something is wrong. So, there were no arguments with her about ordering this and I'm fairly certain she'll keep it on all the time.
After I got off the phone with the company on Monday, Mom mentioned that one of her good friends had gotten this device for her then 90ish year old mother a few years ago. The device arrived and Mom's friend and her brother explained to their mom that the point of the device was so that if she needed any help, all she had to do was push the button on the pendant and it would call them. And all was well. Until the day when the son's phone rang showing that it was the lifeline device. He answered it before the local emergency services could answer and asked his mom what was wrong. And she said, "Well, you told me to push this button if I needed something and I need someone to bring me a glass of ice water."
Mom plans on asking for iced tea.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
So, I've decided to take a page from Julie Andrew's book. Or rather the guy who wrote the lyrics for My Favorite Things. And yes, I know. That song's about feeling better when you are afraid. But I figure listing some of my favorite things might work also for when I'm afraid I'm going to take out an innocent bystander.
1. Reading. I adore reading.
2. Glee. Listen people, there's a reason why movie musicals were so popular for so long. When faced with reality, who wouldn't want to escape into a world where it's okay to burst into song and you always sound good when you do so?
3. Chocolate. Preferably dark chocolate. Yum.
4. Wine. If it's a nice white with a fun well-designed label, even better. (Trust a graphic designer to pick wines based solely on the label design.)
5. Baking stuff from scratch.
6. Cooking for friends.
7. Our annual pumpkin carving party. Where I get to bake from scratch and cook for our friends.
8. Making things.
9. My children. Except when they are threatening me with future residence in a nursing home.
10. Snuggling in the wee hours of the morning when it's raining outside.
11. The commune aka our neighbors.
Hmmm. Maybe I need to just do some of these things.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
It's always been like this for me. When I was a child (and we didn't have air conditioning in our school), I would come out dressed for the first day of school in a fall outfit and my mother would have to send me to change because otherwise I would have passed out from the heat. And I would always protest to her that it was September. Which meant that it was FALL. And it was supposed to be COLD! But we lived in South Texas where it only began to cool off in late October, IF we were lucky.
High school was a nightmare. High school in Texas means football. I was in the band and for some unfathomable reason, our band uniforms were made of wool. Yes, you heard me. Wool. Wool pants with a fully lined wool jacket, overlaid by a wool overthinging that fit high around your neck. In Texas. And in September and October when temperatures were not in the 50s, but in the 80s. If we were lucky we may have gotten a cool front and nobody died of heat exhaustion at the game.
Over the years, I've somewhat made my peace with living in a part of the country that doesn't have a proper fall. But fall remains my favorite time of the year. When the first cold front blows in, I will be outside welcoming it with open arms. I will decorate my house with pumpkins and leaves. We will hold our annual pumpkin carving party at the end of October and luckily, this year it falls the day before Halloween, so everyone's pumpkin should be able to survive 24 hours without deteriorating into a mushy, moldy mess before Halloween night. Maybe one day I'll live in a part of the country where fall starts in September, not December and the leaves turn wonderful colors.
I can dream.
Monday, September 13, 2010
When I got to Larry's room, I met his new nurse, who, while nice, was no Getta, the lovely woman we had when we originally got to the room. Also, it was Monday morning. Which means that there was more going on and less personal attention. We had gotten a little spoiled by the personal attention we had received over the weekend. And before the morning was over, they were short handed as the secondary nurse had had to leave.
Anyway, we settled in to wait for the doctor. And wait. Larry's mom called wondering where we were. Finally, when they brought Larry his lunch, I decided to try and run down to the cafeteria to get something to eat. I had barely sat down with my lunch when my phone rang. It was Larry and the doctor was there. So, I grabbed my plate and drink and headed back upstairs. Thankfully Larry was finishing up showing his doctor how to set up voice activated dialing on his iPhone.
An hour or so later, we were on our way back to Mildred's house. So far he's doing well. We're going to stay an additional day and go home on Wednesday. He's got a few restrictions, such as he can't lift heavy stuff, or drive for a while, but overall, we are so lucky that he's okay. Big challenge over the next few days is to make sure he does both things the doctor told him to do. He's supposed to rest and walk. I have every confidence in Larry's ability to rest. Getting him to move is another story...
Sunday, September 12, 2010
What happened was that we woke up this morning and he was running a fever. And our instructions were that if he started running a fever, he was to get to the closest emergency room pronto. So, we went back to Seton Northwest and were greeted by familiar faces, who weren't all that surprised to see us turn up again.
Thankfully the surgery went well. They were able to do the less invasive laparoscopic procedure, which means Larry will probably be released from the hospital in the morning and I'm hoping he'll feel up to heading back to Houston on Wednesday.
I have to admit that there were some advantages of doing the surgery here. Mainly that I had Larry's mom and sister keeping me company and giving me support during the operation. For which I am profoundly grateful.
As for future plans, well for now I'm taking it day by day or even hour by hour. Sitting in a hospital for over 12 hours will do that to you.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
But then I ended up spending every single night (except Friday) working late. And when you get home from work at 9:00 pm, the last thing you want to do is to start grating carrots. No, you want to have a glass of wine and go straight to bed.
So I moved to plan B. I would bake the cake early on Saturday morning in Austin. And I prepared accordingly. When I got home from work on Friday and started to pack, I packed half my kitchen. Or at least it seemed like I did. I had three cloth shopping bags filled with everything from flour to cake pans. I brought my mixer. I brought parchment paper rounds to line my cake pans. I brought every single thing I thought I would possibly need to successfully bake this cake.
I had a plan.
Unfortunately, the universe also had a plan and its plan did not involve measuring flour and sifting confectioner's sugar. It's plan involved my husband waking up at 3 in the morning with severe abdominal pain which sent us to the emergency room here in Austin. Several tests and hours later, we were told that he had gallstones which had decided to take up residence in the neck of his gall bladder and our ER doc was going to be talking to a surgeon who would decide whether he was admitted to the hospital to have said gall bladder removed or if he would be released to have the surgery done quickly after we got back to Houston.
Thankfully he got released. We did get to celebrate his mom's birthday with the rest of the family and thanks to my son and daughter-in-law, there was a carrot cake. On which I put the candles I had brought from Houston, the only item I had brought for my cake-baking which got used.
Hopefully tomorrow morning we will head home to Houston. I've already emailed our family doctor requesting a referral to a surgeon. I'm just hoping we can make it back without having to go to the emergency room again. But right now, I just hope he can get some good sleep tonight.
And that's why I didn't bake a cake for my mother-in-law's birthday.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
I baked a cake today. The cake was for a friend's birthday dinner. This was a potluck dinner and I was asked to bring dessert because I have a bit of a reputation amongst my friends for baking. So, I decided to make a from scratch (no mix involved in any shape or form) chocolate cake with caramel-milk chocolate icing. It's a truly awesome cake.
Unfortunately, today was not my day. I neglected to take into account that I do live in Texas where the temp today was around 100 degrees. So, when chilling the frosting, I should have allowed a few extra hours. But no. I didn't, so when I took the frosting out of the fridge, it was a little on the runny side. Okay, a lot on the runny side. But I figured it would be okay, if I just hauled the frosting and cake layers to the party and iced the cake there after stowing the icing in our host's freezer for a while.
That was a good theory. But only a theory. Instead of a beautifully iced 3 layer cake, the cake layers started sliding around. And then the top layer started to crack apart. It was a mess. Thankfully I had set the cake up on a disposable cake carrier I bought at a cake supply place near my house. So, seeing my 'masterpiece' falling apart and in imminent danger of sliding off the plate when I removed the dome lid, I decided to turn the whole thing upside down and turn it into a trifle. I was able to do this because I knew that the cake itself was going to taste fabulous. Because I made it and the frosting from scratch. So, while my friend Debbie had perhaps the worst-looking birthday cake ever, it didn't matter. Because everyone agreed that it was one of the best tasting cakes they'd ever had.
Snatching victory from the chocolate mudslide of defeat. That's what I'm all about.
Monday, July 19, 2010
But finally, I have some time to regale you with tales of Sin City.
After I arrived and detached myself from my work email, I headed down to the lobby and took a quick look around it and the casino, then I headed outside to check out the pool. The Mandalay Bay prides itself on it's stellar pool area with good cause. Once Larry was released from his conference, we met up downstairs and wandered around. We ended up getting some dinner and spent a little time playing slots, but it had been a long day and Larry had to be up early to get to his first event in the morning, so we had an early night.
Tuesday was pool day. As I said, the Mandalay Bay has a really incredible pool area. If I could have brought anything back from Vegas, (besides scads of money from a slot machine), it would have been their wave pool. Please understand that I am not a pool person. I have never been a good swimmer, rarely put my head underwater, and have never been one to just lay out by the pool and read. I always just figured that if I wanted to lay around and read all day, better to do it inside in the air-conditioning in a comfy chair away from the heat and bugs. So, it came as a surprise to my sister Mary Claire that I spent most of two days out by the pool. But I did and it was wonderful and relaxing.
In the afternoon, I headed out on the tram to check out the strip close to the hotel. First stop on the tram is the Luxor. That's the big, black fake pyramid with the sphinx out front. I went in and wondered around a bit and in that brief bit of time, found myself wondering why anyone would stay there. If you've never been in the Luxor, the pyramid is hollow inside with the hotel rooms lining all four sides. Not a speck of natural light gets in this place. None. So, it's dark w/ a lot of very bad fake Egyption decorations everywhere. I wondered down into the shopping area, which was also dark, depressing, and had a few too many closed up shops. Basically the place was a tomb. And that's when it hit me. It's a pyramid. Pyramids are tombs. Which leads to the question: Why would anyone want to vacation in a fake tomb? According to Larry, it's because anyone can walk into the Luxor and get a room for $40 something. Okay, so it's a cheap tomb. Even ickier.
Next stop on the tram is the Excaliber. Read fake castle. Really fake castle. And yes, I know: Vegas is all about fake. Fake architecture. Fake lashes. Fake boobs. That pretty much sums it up.
I will say that one of the things that surprised me when going down the strip was how close together all of these places are. For some reason, I expected more space between each hotel/casino and I didn't expect them to be so close to the street. Photos of Vegas are obviously deceiving.
One area I did like was downtown Vegas along Fremont St. It's been rejuvenated in recent years. It's a little sleazy with the old casinos opening out to the street. Various versions of Elvis are available for photo ops (what's your favorite Elvis? Young Elvis, Sequined Elvis, or Overweight Elvis?) along with girls dressed up (or rather barely dressed) as Vegas showgirls. We had dinner down there on Thursday night, then had a memorable (for lack of a better word) bus ride back. The memorable part was the two drunk guys who didn't seem to understand that the purpose of public transportation is to transport the public. I know they had a problem because every time the bus stopped to pick up people, they'd start complaining loudly about how the bus was taking forever and getting crowded with all the people they were picking up. We won't even go into their comments about the passengers ethnic makeup. Thankfully, they finally passed out before I lost my temper and berated them for being ignorant fools.
The best part of the trip though was my day trip to the Grand Canyon. But that's a post of its own.
Monday, June 21, 2010
The flight over was terrific. I had a seat on the right side of the plan which meant that I got to see the Grand Canyon from the air. Fabulous. Actually the terrain we flew over was fascinating. I need to check and take a look at where there's a forest fire in New Mexico or Arizona. I'm assuming it was New Mexico, simply because the mountains were forested heavily. The mountains closer to Las Vegas are bare.
Another surprise was the absolute vast emptiness of the country we flew over. Roads and dwellings disappeared for the most part. At one point flying over an area not too far from where the Grand Canyon started, I could definitely see it as having once been a part of an ocean based on the patterns formed by the earth.
As for Las Vegas, I thought Houston was flat, but Vegas takes the prize. It's just this vast flat plain surrounded by mountains.
In a minute, I'm going to go and explore the hotel before meeting up with Larry later on. I would have already headed out, but I made the mistake of checking my email after I unpacked and had to send several emails out on work issues. Obviously I suck at taking off from work. I will try to do better tomorrow.
I never thought of myself as a Vegas kind of person, but who knows? I may love it. On my plans are a day trip to the Grand Canyon. I've been assured by my children that this is a must see ("It's not just a big hole in the ground Mom!"). So, I'll be doing that on Wednesday.
I will have access to a computer, so I'll hopefully be able to post about my adventures.
Off we go!
Saturday, May 01, 2010
As a family we have celebrated births, weddings, graduations, deaths, and just being alive and happy. When I was in the depths of a major depression a few years ago, these wonderful people stood by me and helped me to come out of the darkness and see the good in my life. My children have been blessed by being friends with people of all ages and seeing that friendship is one of life's most precious gifts.
This week, one of our families moved away. I understand why Rick and Lora felt it was time to move. They have two small twin sons and the area in which we live is not known for stellar public schools. The cost of educating children in a private school is unreal. I know. I work for a private school. Plus Rick had a long commute to his job. So, they sold their house and bought a new home north of Houston. Last night, their house was empty. And so is my heart.
I know we will see them, but I will miss them terribly. I will miss seeing the boys playing in the tree in the front yard. I will miss seeing Rick or Lora walk their twin dogs (the best behaved dogs in the world) early in the morning and late at night. I will miss hanging out in their front yard,in their back yard, and at their house. I will miss being able to stop on my way to choir practice and get filled in on what is happening in their lives. I will miss Lora's pork loin and cole slaw (I always refused to get her recipes on the theory that I would never make those dishes as good as she did). I will miss having them show up at my back door.
Because of Lora and Rick, I know how to build a 7 foot tall T-Rex out of paper mache. It was Lora who bought a second hand play fort at a neighborhood garage sale and installed it in my backyard for her boys to play on when we gathered at my house. And I was thrilled because the 'surprise' in my back yard was a second hand play set, not a second hand dinosaur. Because of the twins, I know about the Walter the Farting Dog books, (which I will be buying for my great-nephew this Christmas). And the list goes on and on.
Right now, my friends are working on setting up their new home. I hope that their new neighbors are coming over to welcome them and will help them as they settle in. Rick and Lora's new neighbors need to know that their lives are about to be enriched in ways they never imagined. And Lora and Rick need to know that the instant the boys are out of high school, I expect them to move back down here. I'm marking off the days...
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Another thing that made me happy this weekend was that we got our garage cleaned out. Thanks to Michael and Sarah, we now have a garage we can walk into and locate what we need. We also have a pile of trash piled up in front of our house awaiting pickup by the city trash workers this coming Wednesday. I feel slightly guilty about filling up a landfill with this stuff, but then again, I have a clean garage. I'll live w/ the guilt.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Here's the loom on the stand in position in the closet. I like that I'll be able to put a storage container under the loom and still roll it out easily when I want to work on it. This shot also shows the pegboard wall we put in the closet to hide the box for the built-in shelving.
This is the finished worktable and the metal draftsman's chair I bought in Warrenton. I do plan on making a cushion for the stool.
The worktable from the shelving side. These are going to come in very handy for in-progress projects.
These are the planters after we finished construction. We used 6"x2"x8' or 10' cedar boards. It was a little tricky to make them fit as we had to build trapezoidal shapes to fit snugly into the two spaces. The finished units are each 18" deep. We stacked the layers on top of each other and fastened them together with metal strips inside the units. We then lined them with weed cloth and filled them with a mixture of old leaves (they'll compost in the units), top soil and garden soil. Then today, we planted them.
Here are the finished units. I love the way they look and the extra space I have for plants. I have a mixture of vegetables, herbs, and flowers in them. We still need to finish installing an irrigation system which will work on a battery-operated timer. Hopefully we'll be able to get that done tomorrow.
Not bad for a week's work. The rest of the backyard will take a little longer. We lost quite a lot to the cold weather we had this year. I'm currently trying to figure out what I want to go along the house where we had some huge hibiscus bushes. I can't say that I will miss the hibiscus as they had gotten out of control. But I am not looking forward to digging their remains up. Whatever goes in that bed will definitely be smaller. For now though, it's time for bed. There's still a lot of things left to be done this weekend.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
We still need to finish up installing the closet doors and the built-in shelves, but we've decided to wait on that until Mike is free to help us. There's a limit to our skill level. Today we're going to reinstall the venetian blinds and put up the new curtains I found at Ikea. I had planned to sew net curtains, but when I was at Ikea earlier this week, I found these wonderful net curtains, which were exactly what I wanted, for only $5.00. Yes, $5.00 total.
We're heading back to Ikea today to buy the shelving unit I want for the room. We will also be making a stop at Lowe's to get wood for the shelves and more white paint (so I can paint the shelves). So, more photos to come soon!
In the meantime, here's how the room currently looks:
Friday, February 26, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Here's the loom with paint color samples. None of them made the final cut.
This the the room looking toward the window. None of those colors made the final cut either.
This is the closet. With one tiny door and almost 3 feet of closet space on either side of the door.
This is the closet now, with an opening wide enough for 2 30" doors.
This is the closet now looking through the opening in the short wall which will become a built-in book shelf. That's Michael moving lumber so he can take out the rest of the carpet.
I wish I could say I was a major help in the demo work, but really the credit goes to our friend Mike. He came in, measured and started sawing through the sheetrock and taking out 2"x4"s. And then he reused the 2x4s he had removed to brace the new opening. He also came up with a great solution on how to build the bookshelves. We're planning on reusing other materials from the closet. The clothes rod will be cut down and put back and we'll use the old shelf as well. Larry did his bit hauling stuff out, setting up a fan to blow the dust out the window, tearing down sheetrock, and whatever else needed to be done. You've earned your couch time tonight sweetie. Sara was right in there too, hauling stuff and occasionally annoying Mike w/ remarks like, "Are you sure that line is level?"
Major praise also to Michael who removed all of the carpet, padding and furring strips himself while Mike and Larry were at Home Depot picking up molding and other supplies for the project. He's not totally off the hook for the mess he left in that room when he moved out of the house, but he's definitely making progress.
Sara and Mike will be back next weekend to help finish up the construction. In the meantime, I need to start patching the sheetrock and painting. After buying enough paint samples to paint the room in a rainbow of colors, I've finally decided on a color. It's called Coral Brick. It's a much deeper, richer color than I thought I wanted in this room, but I really like it. Now if I could only get my painting helpers (yes, I'm talking to you Sara, Emily, and Maddy), but they are all away at college. So, it's just up to me. But I may break out the painting music mix cd Maddy made back when we painted the kitchen and the den.