Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

It's early evening on New Year's Eve. What better time to take a quick look back and a peek forward?

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


I'm currently in Austin, celebrating Christmas for the third time with Larry's family. We got here yesterday after a fairly hideous start to our trip by driving through heavy rain in Houston. Visibility was practically nil on our way out of town. I'm a bit of an anxious driver at the best of times and so Sara and I were very relieved when the skies cleared around Brookshire. We managed to make up a bit of the time we lost and I was happy to see that my mom's old 1991 Toyota Camry (which I was driving, having grudgingly agreed that Larry could take the Mini), has quite a bit of pep in it still. No wonder Sara and Emily have named that car Apollo. It does take off.

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

Dear Pioneer Woman: Why the Odds Just Got Better on Your Giveaways

For the past year or so, I've been throwing my hat in the ring when The Pioneer Woman (aka Ree Drummond) has one of her giveaways. Especially when she's giving away a KitchenAid stand mixer. But no more. The odds just improved for the rest of you by one on those giveaways. Why? Because for Christmas this year my family gave me a gorgeous white KitchenAid Pro stand mixer.

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.

I also whipped cream with Amaretto for the chocolate waffles we had for brunch and made homemade bread with it yesterday afternoon.

Never did I dream that I would have one of these. I'm still amazed that it's sitting on my kitchen counter. And I have Ree and my daughter-in-law Sarah to thank. Ree, because she got me interested in these lovely mixers due to her recipes and contests, and Sarah for deciding I shouldn't have to wait for spot of good luck to get one. Seems Sarah got the idea after I mentioned that I had entered a pre-Thanksgiving drawing for one. So, she started calling the family to get them in on the act. I knew something was up, but had absolutely no idea what it was. The box showed up all wrapped last week and I still had no idea what it could be. Never did I imagine they would get me one of these mixers. Even when I stooped to snooping enough to test the weight of the box, I still had no clue. The best guess I could come up with was a bunch of bricks with an old-folks home brochure attached. (Two of my children like to threaten me with a life sentence in a nursing home.)

On Christmas Eve, we set up my laptop and got on Skype so we could visit with Michael and Sarah, who were in Seattle with her parents. And after the preliminaries, we got down to business. Mainly seeing the look on my face when I finally unwrapped the box. So, I started tearing off the wrapping paper and literally couldn't believe what I saw. After all, I had already gotten what I thought was my main Christmas gift: a new Mini Cooper. I wasn't supposed to get two fabulous gifts. In fact, I had told my husband he was completely off the hook for anything else, including stuff in my stocking. But this had evidently been planned since before the whole car thing got serious. And now I have two magnificent pieces of machinery.

So, thank you. All of you. Larry, Michael, Sara, Emily, and most especially Sarah. Oh, and you too Ree. I am confident this baby can take on the sugar cookie dough that has burned out three hand mixers. Not to mention lots of other things I've been wanting to try. Like homemade marshmallows. It's a little strange to just stand with a cup of tea in my hand and watch the mixer do the work without having to hold it, but I'm sure I'll get used to it real fast.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lessons in Living: Catherine Russell

This is the stocking Catherine Russell made for me a long, long, time ago.

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

My Christmas Project

Normally the lamps in my den look like this:

Plain Jane lamp shades

 In years past I would have been perfectly happy with my lamp shades over Christmas. But in November, I went to the Houston Quilt Show. And in the course of wandering around all the vendor booths at the show, I happened upon a couple who were selling what had to be the cutest lamp shades in the world, covered with old Christmas tablecloths and trimmed with red and green braid. I totally fell in love with these lamp shades. I knew that they were just what I needed this year in my pale vintage green den. But I needed three shades and those babies weren't cheap. I had a very vivid mental image of what Larry's reaction might be if I splurged on those lampshades. I did ask the very nice woman if they had a website and was told that they did not ship anything. So, I decided I needed to take matters into my own fairly crafty hands. After all, I have a studio just perfect for a project like this.

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:

Is this not cute?

The lampshades look just as adorable as I thought they would. I am beyond happy with them.

Is it a bit over the top? Maybe. But it makes me happy. And admit it: You know you wish you had these lampshades too.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Farewell to the Crapvan

About thirteen years ago we bought a used 1996 Dodge Caravan. At the time, it wasn't too bad. I was actually happy with it. And overall, considering the use and abuse we put it through (three teenagers for example), it's been an exceptionally good car. But it did have its problems. Like windshield wipers that we had worked on and replaced so many times that I lost count. The serpentine belt from hell, which would come off if it got a drop of water on it going through a puddle (and we live in Houston where it rains, a lot, and there's a lot of puddles). Or the summers (at least three) that I went through without a functioning air conditioner. And for the past two years, I've lived in fear of the transmission failing completely. So over the last few years it truly earned its nickname of the Crapvan.

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.

Me and my car. We're very happy together