Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Had a Little Party

One of my best friends attended the funeral of another one of her good friends recently... on her birthday. So it wasn't a "Happy birthday" this year, as I'm sure you can imagine.

To do what little I could do to cheer her up, I had a girl party at my house... and we had.

A.

BLAST.

My friend, henceforth known as Karon, since her name is, well, Karon, received a lovely gift on her birthday. A split-glass beverage dispenser. I was instantly jealous, but have since found one on the net, and will be placing my order very soon. That is, of course, unless one of you decides you would like to gift me with one. I will gladly offer you many thanks, should you be so generous.

Anyhoo, I made raspberry lemonade and sweet tea, and served them in the beautiful jar. I used my gorgeous ice bucket (in its very own stand) and some pretty glasses. Just the sight of everything all prettyful made my heart sing.


I prepared chicken spaghetti, green beans (cooked the traditional Southern way in lots of bacon and onion, and long enough that there's absolutely no trace of nutrition in them so that they can scarcely be classified as vegetables), garlic bread, and salad. It was... beyond words.

Nobody was shy, so as soon as we thanked the Lord for all the food, we dug in.

And continued digging.

And then we gathered 'round the table and ate until we couldn't eat no more!

But then we ate some more, because it was delicious, and because I also made this:
It's a strawberry-lemonade cake, and it was DEE-VINE. I made fresh strawberry jam and fresh lemon curd the night before the party, and spread them both between the layers of cake. Then I piped some homemade strawberry buttercream all over it and slapped some strawberries and lemon curls on top and called it a day.

I wanted the house to be festive, so I made tens and tens of tissue paper balls and suspended them from the ceiling in the entry hall. The ceiling is high enough that you couldn't reach them, even on your tippy-toes. Each time the air conditioner was running, the balls would spin lazily in the breeze. It was lovely.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KARON!

If I am remembering correctly, I haven't posted a picture of the hallway, yet, so after the ladies left I got a few. The hallway is about seven feet wide, and 30 feet long. Which is probably another reason all those paper balls don't make it feel cluttered.

On either side of the hall, nearest the dining room, are little niches. In one we have a mirror, which currently reflects two of my favorite faces in the whole wide world. I like that the mirror is arched at the top, like the front door and the windows next to it.

In the other niche, directly above two of my favorite faces in the whole wide world, are pictures of three of my favorite faces in the whole wide world. Cavan has feeber, so he's eating popsicles. Cullen is showing the love for his brother by eating sympathy popsicles.

Don't let the blue eyes fool you. This kid knows how to work adults.

I made a wreath for the front door. And it's still there. A week after the party. But it's okay because Cavan's birthday was five days ago. And I'm not ready to acknowledge the fact that I've run out of babies. Again.

Cullen wanted me to take his picture, so I did.

But then he wanted me to let "them" see him going "RAAAAAAAWWWWWRRRRRRR!" So I did.

Here are the boys, at the other end of the hall, desperately trying to open the french doors, despite the fact that I told them they could not go outside, and throwing a screaming hissy fit, despite the fact that I told them to cut. it. the heck. out.

I don't know why I took a picture of the bookcase that I use as a hall table. Maybe I just felt the need to torture you a little more before you left my little corner of the world.

It's days like this that you realize who your true friends are, not that I had any doubt. And it's days like this that you just can't stop smiling, and thanking the Lord for placing them into your life.

As I had the pleasure of sitting around my own dining table, and listening to beautiful women talk about heavy (and not-so-heavy) topics, I just couldn't stop thinking that I am so unbelievably blessed. It felt like Sunday dinners at my aunt's house, when all the ladies in my family would sit around and talk for hours about everything and nothing at all. It just felt... right.

We sat there so long that eventually plates were filled again... and my chicken spaghetti was no more.

Miserable, we went to the town square to adorable little antique shops, before we went back to my house, where Karon fixed us iced coffees.

I can't remember a more perfect day.

I hope you enjoyed it, Karon. I love you from the bottom of my heart, and wish you many more.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Have Some Thoughts

Every now and then, anyway. ;)

And I have pictures to show you.

LOTS and LOTS of pictures.

But at the moment, my house is filthy. A long weekend, and everybody at home (for the very first weekend since we moved) makes for a very dirty house, very quickly.

So I'm just popping in for a sec to say I'm still here.

Cullen is currently in time-out (and I'm using a very cute egg-timer to show him exactly how long he has to stay there; thanks, Kelsey!) but once he's out I'm kicking the boys outside to play. Hopefully I'll get something done while they're out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Working on Plans

How do I blink, and a week goes by since my last post? I thought for sure it had only been a day or two.

We met with our builder last week. He showed us some houses he is almost finished with. I am quite impressed. He does BEAUTIFUL work. Not only that, but he ACTUALLY CALLS US BACK! We have met with a few builders recently who don't seem that hungry for our business. But this one has met with us twice (once during his daughter's track meet, which really spoke to me. I mean, he was in our town, and met with us between her events. It was important to him to see his daughter perform, and important to meet with new clients), returned our calls even when we didn't leave a message, answered all kinds of questions, offered good suggestions, drove us all over South Texas to show us houses, and offered the kids gum when I ran out.  :)  So we've pretty much decided to give him our business.

Hubs is taking the plans I drew up to an architect today, to see about having them made into blueprints. I'm starting to look at flooring and appliances and faucets and paint color and cabinetry and countertops... and feeling a little overwhelmed.

We built the house we just sold, and got to choose lots of things, but that builder wasn't so great about communicating with his clients. We would walk in and think, "OH! There's tile in the bathrooms. Huh. I didn't realize he was going to make a pattern. I guess it looks okay." And the next time we'd go look, there would be cabinets (all the way to the ceiling, which is how I told him I did NOT want them), and we'd say, "Wow. That's not really the color of stain I was wanting, but, okay."

Don't get me wrong, it was a pretty house. Every realtor that showed it had nothing but good things to say. Our realtor said it was the best-showing house on the market in our price range.

I'm just saying that I didn't get to pick out everything that went in there.

And right now I'm thinking that might have been a blessing!

But, since this house is being built on our own land, instead of on a lot in a neighborhood, I feel like it has to be just right. Not just okay. There aren't any do-overs with this one.

In the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal, but I am feeling anxiety about making sure the cabinet color matches the paint and the paint matches the countertops and the countertops coordinate well with the flooring... Ugh.

Don't even get me started on bathroom layouts.

Well, I guess I just got me started on bathroom layouts. Again, not a big deal, but I want to make sure that this house fits our family, for the life of our family. I want all three kids to be able to (efficiently) get ready in the bathrooms, ten years from now, as well as today.

I want to make sure the kitchen is warm and welcoming, in addition to being efficient for regular family meals, large holiday parties, and baking huge custom cakes.

That's probably a pretty tall order, but that's what I'd like to see happen.

And that's where we are. Looking at TONS of pictures. Researching materials. Tweaking layouts.

Dreaming about our new house.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sophisticated Dinner Conversation

Monday night we had the in-laws over for dinner. I had a roast I was planning to cook, but at the last minute wussed out and thought it wouldn't be enough... so I made an emergency trip to the grocery store.

I left the house at 3:48. I drove (slowly, through a school zone) to the grocery store, went inside, and bought 14 items: a bigger roast, red potatoes, carrots, bananas, grapes, strawberries, eggs, bacon, biscuits, 2 packages of dinner rolls, coffee, and nestle's quik. I checked out, loaded my bags into the car, and left. I got home and looked at the clock just before I got out of the car. It was 3:56.

I had driven to the store, shopped, and driven home in eight minutes.

EIGHT.

MINUTES.

And that is when I admitted that there MAY be advantages to small-town living.

I cooked both roasts that night, but we only ended up eating the one I already had. The second one wasn't touched. Which was fine, because I wasn't crazy about it. It was on the tough and dry side, and the carrots were still crisp. Which annoyed me, because I marinated the meat for a couple hours before I cooked them and put the carrots in during the last hour of cooking. {SIDE NOTE: The second, bigger roast just happened to be a "Nolan Ryan" roast. I have no idea what that means, except it was the only kind the store carried, and cost about two dollars more per pound.}

So last night I put the Nolan Ryan roast, the leftover carrots and the juices back into a clean roasting pan, and slow-cooked them for a couple hours at 275.

They were delicious. They were moist, tender and full of flavor.

As we were eating, I told Hubs, "This roast is so much better than the other one."

He said, "I know. The whole texture and flavor is completely different."

I replied, "It's annoying, though, be-"

Hubs interrupted, "It's a Nolan Ryan, baby!"

I said, "I know, but-"

"NOLAN RYAN!"

"Yes, I get that it's-"

"NOLAN RYAN!"

"OKAY. I know it's a-"

"NOLAN RYAN!"

Big sigh from me at this point. I obviously wasn't going to win this conversation. So I gave up.

Hubs answered a question from Cullen, once he figured I wasn't going to say anything more.

I took that opportunity to turn to Hubs and quickly say, "It cost $14. Two dollars more per pound than the other one."

"WHAT??? IT'S NOT A BABE RUTH!!! WAS HE EVEN A HALL OF FAMER???"

Dear. Lord. Help. Me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mom's Visit; Day 1

Here is yet another post I've had sitting around in my drafts folder. I wrote it in November, and am just now getting around to editing it... we all know how great I am about regular posting!

WARNING: ELEVENTY-MILLION PICTURES AHEAD. SOME ARE NOT-SO-FLATTERING. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

My mom came down from Music City last week for a long-overdue visit.

Since the kids were out of school for veteran's day, we decided to pack in mucho fun.

We picked her up at the airport in Houston and spent the night in a beautiful suite. We woke up and picked the hotel's continental breakfast nearly clean, taking two trays and two bags of food back up to our little kitchen. The kids feasted like kings on Texas-shaped waffles (Do other states' hotels' continental breakfasts have waffles shaped in their state's likeness? We debated and reached a consensus that if you have to eat a waffle shaped like a state, Texas is really the way to go.) yogurt, Froot Loops, bananas, apples, muffins, bagels, and Lord-only-knows-what-else. Along with every drink suitable for breakfast. I drank something not-so-suitable for breakfast. Coke. Thanks for asking.

We were planning on going to the zoo, but the driving rain vetoed that. Which is fine with me. I mean, really, finding a porta-potty on a construction site somewhere in downtown Houston and hanging out around it all day wasn't high on my list of priorities, and the zoo smells about as nice, so I was okay with a plan change. We went to the Children's Museum. The nice, clean, climate-controlled Children's Museum.

We played. We climbed. We crafted. We laughed. We played some more.

I will now allow the 3,602 pictures we took to speak for themselves.



Okay, maybe I'll speak for them. Cullen took this spoon from the Mexican kitchen room. He carried it around with him, occasionally spanking me, throughout the rest of the museum.


Christian worked really hard on the Great Wall of China.


I really don't understand why it took, like, hundreds of years, or whatever, to build. It only took Christian about fifteen minutes.


In the science laboratory, the kids got to measure, weigh, and sort foam blocks.


They loved it. The entered the info into the computer, and then sent the block down the conveyor belt.


Except for Cavan.


He thought it was more fun to throw them on the floor.


But then when Hubs swung him upside down to distract him, he thought that was the most fun of all!



Cullen loved the train.


Every time he disappeared, we'd find him here.


He loved turning the wheel the most.


Which is good, because he got lots of "twains" for his birthday and Christmas.


Cavan loved the ambulance. Or, as he liked to think of it, "his" ambulance.

They had an entire city in the museum, that included city hall with emergency vehicles, cafes, banks, art studios, a tv station, and a grocery store.


Speaking of the grocery store... here is my mom in the mini HEB they had. It had all the departments you find at your local grocery store, fully stocked. Cullen loaded Mimi's basket full of stuff.


Then Christian got to play "cashier" and ring up her purchases.


Cavan wasn't the most competent bag boy the store has ever seen.


The computer actually worked. The kids tapped pictures of the items in the cart, and the number of items, and the computer added it all up. The customer "paid" and the kid-cashier put the money in the register, or swiped the credit card, and a receipt printed out as a souvenir. The kids could do it as often as they wanted, or leave and come back again. Which we did.


Next we went to the cafe.


Cavan LOVED this place. But he didn't really "get" that you weren't supposed to eat the plastic food!


Christian took our drink order and went to get me a coke with light ice. My favorite!


Chubs was trying to figure out where the "real grub" was!


Kids busily working the kitchen, while Mimi patiently waits for her food.


Next we headed to the art studio, where Chubs painted his first masterpiece!


And so did my Baby Love, Cullen.


My beautiful, Pretty Princess painted a rainbow for me! What a sweetie!


Cullen got the hang of this bike really fast... makes me wonder why he won't ride his real one at home!


Cavvie-Cav found a little friend! They were so cute, running back and forth together!


They had a vertical obstacle course of sorts. It was made up of a bunch of large plates, that you climbed up and down and sideways. It was a three-story maze that I attempted to conquer.


Christian was so upset! She was terrified that I wouldn't find my way out, and I'd get stuck inside the Children's Museum forever, and they'd have to leave me there, and she'd only be able to come visit me during summers and school holidays. So I decided to give up my dream. For her. Maybe cracking my head open on the edge of one of those plates had something to do with it, but mostly it was for her.


My mom (who will probably kill me once she sees this picture... HI MOM!!!) tried to do it, too. But she got stuck right away.


I was a good daughter and dutifully pointed and laughed.

 Hard.

For several minutes.

While I made Hubs get photographic proof of the event.

For our family memoirs, you understand.



Smile, MOM!!! She eventually got out, and we tried to persuade the kids to get in for a picture, but only one brave soul would dare.


 Who knew it would be him???


 We continued playing...


 and playing...


 and playing.

We went from floor to floor, exhibit to exhibit, learning, playing, crafting, and ...


 making music! The kids put little balls on this belt, and when they turned the crank, a different note was played when the ball dropped. It was really beautiful music.


They... wait for it...

HAD A BALL!


We went to the lego cars room, where Hubs and Cullen tried to build the perfect lego racecar.


Christian was more interested in building the perfect paper machine.


Two of my favorite faces.


Then we raced their lego cars to see whose was the fastest... and could make it to the bottom of the track in one piece.


Cullen LOVED this part of the museum.


And I LOVED watching his little face just light up...


Each time he raced a new creation.


My baby love.



His excitement is contagious. When he's excited about something, he doesn't hold back. One of my favorite things about him is the way he hops up and down when he's happy. It's like he has springs on his feet, and never fails to make me smile.


 Two more of my favorite faces.

We had so much fun while Mom was here. The next day we had a party at my house... and the day after that Mom, Christian and I shopped around town. Mom took us for manis and pedis, and it was Christian's first time at the nail salon. She got to sit in a pink butterfly chair, and got the most outrageous nail style I've ever seen... and then made them do mine just like hers!

 Later that day we met some friends at a state park in the next county, for Frontier Days. They had bunches of people demonstrating old-world crafts. It was really interesting. After that we hiked through the park and took bunches of pictures.

That night, we probably stayed up until 2 am, talking. We just didn't want to go to sleep, because we knew the next morning we had to take her to the airport.
The worst part of her trip was taking her to the airport. It's always hard on me, not knowing when I'll see her again, but it's especially hard on Christian. She always gets so emotional when Mimi leaves. She cries and cries and cries, big, body-wracking sobs. I always have to have a distraction plan, and try to be upbeat. But it's hard on me, too, wanting to cry like a little baby that my mom is gone, and yet present a strong front for my own little girl.

And on that happy note, I'm going to sign off!

The boys are napping, and I need to get some crafting out of my system!