Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pocket Change and Ugly Sweaters

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, the gifts are all in the mail, the Christmas cards (with letters included) are in the mail and "most" of the shopping is done... because, really, what would Christmas be without some last minute gift buying?  Why be totally prepared when you can be scattered and do a little scrambling around for those last items a few days before Christmas?  I don't think I've ever been totally ready for Christmas, maybe I should give it a whirl one year and see how the other half lives....those perenially prepared people.  Nahhhh!

At least the tree is up and it is even decorated!

This year we will have two Christmases!  Our first Christmas will be in Houston and the second will be in Wisconsin.  The first will be the adult Christmas and the second will be the kiddie Christmas!  We plan to enjoy all aspects of both! 

We are all really looking forward to some of our Christmas traditions.  What traditions does your family have?  Ours are probably a bit bizarre!  One of my favorite traditions is a recent (last 5 years) addition.  It started when our kids were finally of legal age and in this case our youngest was of legal age when we lived in Canada, so she was only legal by Canadian standards at age 19 or 20.  It's the Eve of Christmas Eve pub crawl.  On December 23rd we have dinner at TJ's favorite little Italian restaurant, drive around and look at Christmas lights in the ritzy neighborhood of River Oaks and then hit a few pubs wearing our tackiest, ugliest Christmas sweaters.  We have quite the collection of them too because we were stylin' back in the '80s...and we never throw anything away!  I saved enough ugly Christmas sweaters to outfit several other family members too!  Another aspect of the pub crawl is that we spend all the pocket change we have been collecting over the year.  We used to just take the kids out for pizza with the money but now it has evolved to buying them beer.  The "change jar" took on a whole new meaning when we lived in Canada!  With Loonies and Toonies in the mix we had some serious money in the "change jar".  It almost covered dinner and the first pub.  This year we will be lucky to cover the bill in the first pub with the change jar money but it is fun to see all that spare change pay for something for everyone. 

TJ's favorite ugly sweater!  He has left the price tag on for over 15 years because.....
the original price, 15-20 years ago, was $175.00 and after 4 markdowns it was purchased for $9.99 by my Mother. 
 She probably used here employee discount on top of that so $7.00 is just about the right price for this gem!

The rest of our Christmas traditions are pretty....traditional.  There is Mass on Christmas Eve, then we all open one gift (usually matching pj's for everyone to be worn on Christmas morning).  In the morning there is a marathon of gift opening while we eat Monkey bread and listen to Christmas music, followed by brunch and then later in the day, a roast beast dinner.  Sometime over the holidays we watch Love Actually because...".if you look around love actually is all around us"! 

This year we may be fortunate enough to enjoy all of our traditions twice!  Once in Houston in our balmy Christmas weather and the second in Wisconsin in the cold and snow!  The snow and cold will be a real gift to me because everyone knows that I love the cold weather.  I am really looking forward to sliding down a hill on a sled with my grandsons!  Merry Christmas Lisa!

As if preparing for Christmas were not enough to do I decided to have a few upgrades done in the house.  Perfect timing!  It is always nice to have your house torn apart and covered with dust days before the biggest holiday of the year.  Maybe I wasn't thinking straight when I made this decision.  Having workers here for two days has forced me to stay home and get things done around the house.... things like wrapping all of our gifts, addressing Christmas cards and getting organized.  Hmmm, maybe I should do this every year!  Nahhh.

I hope all of you have a perfect Christmas with family and friends.  Enjoy your traditions and take a moment to thank God for sending his Son to earth in the form of an innocent child.  God Bless you all!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Christmas Before Technology

After a few grueling hours of online shopping today I decided to take Sadie the Wonder Dog out for a walk.  We were enjoying the arrival of a "real" cold front and feeling just a bit of the holiday spirit with all the houses in the neighbrhood decorated for Christmas.  I even listened to a little George Winston's "December" on my ipod.  Then it hit me!  Technology is ruining Christmas!   Let me explain.....

I had just spent hours online at my kitchen table purchasing gifts.  Without technology I would have been out shopping.  I would have been in and out of the car several times and would have totally enjoyed that cool breeze at each stop.  I would have been shopping, listening to piped-in Christmas music all day and enjoying all of the store decorations.  I might have even purchased a few gifts...but maybe not, I have such a hard time making those decisions!  It may have been frustrating but I would have been out among other holiday shoppers and felt the bond of being in the trenches for the day.  Instead, I drank tea, listened to whatever I wanted and purchased an alarming number of gifts in record time without talking to a single person, looking for a parking place or standing in line.  Bah humbug!

Before technology I would sit down and compose an annual update letter to include in our Christmas cards.  I would attempt to include a bit of humor, an update on each person in our family and a Christmas greeting.  With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs there are now about 5 people on my Christmas list who do not know what most of us have done this year... or this morning for that matter!  What is the point of writing a Christmas letter anymore?  I guess I could just make stuff up and send it!  Bah humbug!

Before technology, I would spend hours personally addressing my Christmas cards.  I can now just press a button and print labels and stick them on my cards, but I won't.  I used to print pictures to include in the individually signed cards, now the picture and our signature are the card.  OK...that has been around for a while, but you had to go to the store with a negative (remember them?) and get the store to make the picture cards for you and then wait at least two weeks for the cards to be printed.  I got mine in 24 hours this year and I made them from the comfort of my sofa using my laptop.  Bah humbug!

I am still one of the few people in the world who has a real Christmas tree.  You know, the kind the grows in the ground and drops thousand of needles the minute you put it in your house!  We can now program our lights to turn on and off at the appointed times.  I used to go outside to turn the lights on and off, I sometimes would see a neighbor doing the same thing and we would visit for a while.  Sometimes the lights would get left on all night and we could knowingly nod at each other the next day.  Technology has taken care of my absentmindedness.  Bah humbug!

I am sure there are some of you saying things are a lot better now with technology.  Who wants to go shopping and fight the crowds? Who wants to sign and send Christmas cards?  Who needs a real tree, they only litter your house?  Life is so much simpler now, right?  My question is, are we in more of the Christmas spirit with all our extra time?  Maybe once I start wrapping all those gifts I bought online I will feel the spirit...haven't found the gift wrapping app yet...but it probably exists! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fun and Games

The best part of our Thanksgiving, which I know was weeks ago...., was not the dinner.  It was the post-dinner games!  We had a table full of friends and family, playing games was the logical conclusion to the night.  We love to play games.  We have a few family favorites, Apples to Apples is one, "the name game" is another and now we have a new one.  We call it, or the people we learned it from call it, Chemistry Taco.  I really don' t know how this describes the game though.  I will make an attempt to share this game with you....because it is awesome and can make you laugh until you cry and you are going to want to play this at home! 

The game is a cross between the old fashioned "telephone" game and pictionary...
Sorry for the poor photography quality, you get the idea though...right?
Any game that starts with "Squanto gives the first Thanksgiving turkey to the Pilgrims" and ends with "Turkey Badminton"  is fun in my book!  We had 11 people playing on Thanksgiving so everyone began with 11 pieces of paper in their stack (the same number as the number of players).  Each player writes a statement describing a "scene" on the first/top piece of paper.  Then everyone passes their stack of paper to the person next to them.  Right or left...your choice!  The next person reads the statement and draws a picture of the "scene" on the next piece of paper in the stack and puts the statement on the bottom of the stack of papers.  Everyone passes the stack of paper, with their drawing on top, to the person next to them and that person writes a statement on the next piece of paper to describe the drawing, and so on.  Eventually, you get back a series of drawings and statements that evolved from your original statement.  Sometimes they stay pretty close to the original statement throughout and sometimes they go horribly or hilariously wrong!

Just in case you wanted to see more poor quality photography!

Take this series for example.  It began with "grandma got run over by a reindeer".  The drawing underneath is the first drawing.  Somehow that lead eventually to "Life or Death reindeer games" with the resulting drawing with reindeer shooting each other and some of them belly up on the ground.  I think there was a "border patrol by reindeer" thrown in there somewhere too.  The drawings and statements get more and more creative as the adult beverages flow.  At the end everyone does a sort of show and tell with their series of papers and that is when the laughter begins.  It is always funny to find out what you really were supposed to be seeing or drawing.  I highly recommend this game the next time you have a group of friends or family at Christmas!  This is my Christmas present to all of you!  You can thank me after you catch your breath from all the laughing you will do when you play.

In other fun and game news.....

Regular college football season has ended.  Sigh....   This season has been one of surprising results.  For the first time since I can remember, Notre Dame has ended up at #1, at least for now.  Go Irish!  Having two daughters and a son-in-law who graduated from ND, we are very big fans of the Irish.  My beloved LSU Tigers are at least in the top ten but did not have their best season.  I am surrounded, down here in SEC country, by ND haters.  The Irish get no respect down here....I guess we will see how they perform in the National Championship, I will be wearing my blue and gold!  After the bowl games are over I will be in post college football withdrawal, which could result in more blogging.  For now, let the decorating, shopping, baking and mailing begin!  Yikes!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Normal November

Hello my very neglected blog!  I have not forgotten you, even though I have not paid much attention to you lately.  I could say life has not been exciting or inspirational but I would be lying.  Even everyday life can be exciting and inspirational, we just have to pay attention... maybe I haven't been paying enough attention.   Life doesn't come with a built in theme either, so maybe I'll just get started and hope a theme pops up somewhere along the line.  Can you tell I'm reaching here? 

 I was lucky enough to spend some quality time with my daughters recently.  There was that beer infused trip to Denver with Katie in October and last weekend I spent time in NYC with Rachel and Kelly, you can read all about it here.  We planned this trip well before Sandy "the super storm" and the ensuing snowstorm.  The city was alive and well, at least the parts we saw.  There was a two hour trip, usually only an hour, from the Newark airport to Kelly's apt. that might have been due to Sandy but I am not going to complain, I got there.  I hardly even noticed all the recycling piled up along the streets waiting for pickup either.  We had a great time together and did our best to walk all of the streets in NYC....or at least it felt like we did.  I am sure all of that walking countered all of the food we ate over the weekend....right?   New York City is a great city to eat your way through!

I could live on a street like this!

Maybe I could be the crazy holiday decorating lady on the street like this one!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Aside from my NYC adventure, life has been pretty normal.  Normal meaning a regular schedule of ESL classes with my British colleague who insists on teaching the Queen's English to Mexicans living in Texas (my son says I am living a Saturday Night Live skit in this class!  I totally agree.).  Rounding out normal life is lots of golf, church, dinners out with TJ, long walks with Sadie, watching college football, occasionally cooking a meal, blah, blah, blah...  I search to find inspiring topics to share on the blog but sometimes just having a regular life is inspiring enough.  Some people would pay good money to have a "normal" week or two!  November once again has proven to be one of my favorite months down here.  It has been amazingly perfect almost every day and I have done my best to spend countless hours outside enjoying the cool crisp air!  There is peace in having a routine, even if it only lasts for a couple of weeks.  I think the next month will be less than routine!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Passions (Boundless Enthusiasm)

As life would have it, I have been to several events lately in large convention centers.  You remember the Beer Fest  where I was surrounded by people who love beer, right?  There was a lot of beer loving going on in that convention center!  Last weekend I went to yet another beer fest (at least this one was outside) and the beer loving passion continued. 

This week I witnessed thousands of people exhibiting and enjoying a very different passion.  I went to the International Quilt Show in Houston.  I left with my mouth wide open in awe.  I am not a quilter and I do not play one on TV but I do know how to sew and I can appreciate the masterpieces at the quilt show.  I was surrounded by thousands of people who were/are passionate about quilting.  The atmosphere was a bit different than at the BeerFest!  The similarity was each's passion about a certain craft.  Yes, brewing beer is considered a craft. 

The much more subdued crowd at the quilt show

The quilt show was like going to a museum exhibit.  These quilts are works of art!  I went with my two very good Canadian friends who are true Scotia women!  They both quilt and could appreciate the quilts on a different level than I.  One of them even had a quilt, well... part of a quilt, in the show.  It was very exciting to find her quilt.  Hers was in the "group" quilt section, meaning each square was made by a different person and then the squares were sewn into a cohesive, beautiful, interesting quilt.

My friend and "her" quilt!  She is famous now!

One of my favorite "group" quilts, Balancing Act.  It explained how each rock was done by a different person and how life and group projects are a balancing act just like putting this quilt together.

The quilt that won Best in Show was amazing!  It was a patriotic quilt, very appropriate in this election year.  (Have you voted yet?  If not, don't forget to vote!)  We happened upon it when the quilter herself was talking about the quilt.  I could feel her passion and was actually choked up listening to her describe the quilt.  It was truly a work of art and most likely a labor of love.  She was passionate about her work.
The description of the winning quilt
Zoom in if you can! It is amazing!

After the quilt show I started thinking that each of these exhibits was a result of passion.  At each event I was surrounded by passionate people.  Passion can produce some interesting and amazing things.  What am I passionate about?  Is there anything I am passionate enough about to spend hours, days, weeks, months or years to do or produce?  I am still thinking.  I am envious of these people who have this deep passion inside them and enjoy something enough to dedicate a good percentage of their lives.  The rewards are apparently great.  Judge for yourself.

Look closely, there are a pair of hands quilted into the sky!
One of the winners
I took this one for my LG!
My Canadian friends had a great visit in Houston.  It was fun to let them see some of my life... away from the shore.  Their observations were interesting.  They frequently asked about public transportation....or the lack thereof.  Yes, there is no real public transportation in Houston and what little there is, is not used to a great extent.  Houston is just too spread out and it is just too damn hot for most of the year for public transportation to be effective.  We will all have to do a lot of adjusting for public transportation to be a reality here. 

Another conversation was initiated on Saturday when college football took the stage.  Talk about passion!  We are passionate about our college football.  Fanatical might be a more appropriate term.  I tried to explain tailgating and the passion that many of us have for our chosen teams.  They were amazed and probably baffled.  There is nothing like it in Canada, not even hockey.  We take sports and pre-sports partying to an extreme.  My husband witnessed one of the premier displays of this passion Saturday night with 93,000 other crazy fans at the LSU vs. Alabama game in Baton Rouge.  I cheered for my Tigers with passion that night at home but they came up short. 

What is your passion? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Girlfriends and Books

Girlfriends are special people.  Some of us are lucky enough to have several different groups of "girlfriends".  I LOVE my girlfriends.  What is it about girlfriends?  There have been hundreds of books written about friendships.  I don't assume to equal the prose written to capture the special bond between women.... but I live it.  I belong to two different book clubs, I golf with a group of women and I have 3 sisters, 3 daughters, a daughter-in-law, and several sisters-in-law...I am part of many different groups of women.  Each group is unique and each group is one of my favorites!

Women share things that need to be shared.  We probably even share some things that don't need to be shared but that is for another post. I think this is how we "deal" with life, plus it is cheaper and more fun than therapy.  We share, we talk, we process and we move on...or at least I do.  Each group has a different dynamic. 

In my book clubs we read assorted types of books and discuss them, like most book clubs.  Sometimes the discussions take us places we did not expect to go.  Yes, we have been known to stray off topic.  A book can lead us to share personal experiences, opinions, emotions, and interpretations.  I used to hate reading in school but I usually loved discussing the books in class....surprise!   The reading was painful but the discussing was pleasure.  Even when I don't like the book we read, I still like the discussion.  I really like discussing the ones I actually enjoy reading. 

Count yourself lucky if you have great girlfriends!  Count yourself double lucky if you get to read interesting books with some of those girlfriends.  If not, go join a book will meet some great people and even get to read some good books...and some bad books....and it will be cheaper and more fun than therapy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

So Much Beer!

Put 59,000 people and 2,200 different kinds of beer in a huge convention center in the mile high city and what do you get?  58,999 people who love beer more than I do....well, close.  The Great American Beer Fest is like nothing else.  It is three days of wall to wall beer.  If I only liked beer as much as I like wine it would have been sooooo much more fun.  It did not matter though, I was there to help my daughter in her booth for the weekend.  I was one of the few people who was not there for the beer. 

The proud creator!

BeerSox made their mass debute at the GABF.  I was there to provide moral support, a smiling face and cheap labor.  It was like being on an episode of The Apprentice.  At least Donald Trump was not there to say "You're Fired".  We had a lot to learn over the weekend.  Good thing we had three days.  On our first day we set up the booth for the night session.  We all thought it looked very smart!  Check it out!

One of the dedicated weekend staff!  She likes it!

We were ready for the thousands of beer drinkers on Thursday night.  The booth was beautiful and ready.  Everyone admired our booth from afar, meaning outside our area rug.  We tried to invite them in with our winning personalities, good looks and the promise of a hand dyed/hand knit beer insulator.  There were a few brave souls who ventured into the booth, everyone else admired from afar and said, "Cool!  Awesome idea!" and then went searching for more beer.  If we only had beer!

Friday we (I use this word in the broad sense, meaning mainly my daughter) took a different approach.  If "they" wanted to admire from afar, we would bring afar to them!  We moved the BeerSox right up to the main pathway of the thousands of beer drinkers.  We added a few incentives and business picked up!  We are so smart, one of us even has a business degree...and watches The Apprentice.  The other two are young, enthusiastic and way cuter! 

Just try to walk around our BeerSox!  Take a closer look...admire...and buy!
Sales on day two were significantly higher than day one.  Whoo hoo!  Saturday was going to be a marathon.  One afternoon session and one evening session.  My daughter recruited another friend of hers to help with the afternoon session and I took the afternoon off.  The new friend proved to be a sales maven!  Together they had great sales during the afternoon session.  I tried not to take it personally.  With the new set up and the excellent sales crew, sales on Saturday were better than the first two days combined.  We were all very excited!  Good thing too because we were also all totally exhausted.  Nothing like a peak in sales to give the crew a much needed burst of energy.   We powered up before the last session and went in prepared to sell.  The last session proved to be just as successful as the afternoon session!  It was amazing to have people stop by and say things like, "I told you I would come back on the last day and I'm here."  We also heard things like, " We saw your ad and just had to see what BeerSox were."  The ad was great.  This was my first experience at the launching of a new product and it was scary and exciting all at the same time.  To go out on a limb with a new idea takes a lot of guts. 

The crowd was huge.
 There were wall to wall people, all there to taste the thousands of beers.  I will admit it was overwhelming at times.  So many people, so much beer.  Some people were friendly, some were more friendly than they should be, some were dismissive, some just ignored us but I don't think there were any who were out and out rude.  The feedback was mostly positive and that is what I think should be the focus for the weekend. 

The packing up at the end of the last night took all our remaining energy.  Well, not really, the girls had enough energy to go out later that night, I went home and promptly collapsed with a nice glass of chardonnay and put up my aching feet.   Standing on our feet for over 6 hours a day for three days in a row was "work".  The girls did manage to sample many of the craft beers.  I even tried to find a beer that would come close to being drinkable...for me.  There were a few.  I can truly appreciate the magnitude of this event.  As a wine drinker, if there were over 2,000 wines in one place to sample over three days in one ounce tastes, I would be over the moon!  So, I get it!
I just want to know where the Great American Wine Fest is and how I can get a ticket!  I'll bring my Vinosox.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

You Say Tomato....I Say Tomato

I am back to my ESL classes.  Over the summer the program took a hit and had to close several locations.  One of the closed locations was MY location!  I was greatly saddened at the thought of all my students being without classes, I hope they have found a place to attend classes and are able to continue their progress.  As a result of the closing I am teaching in a different location this year.  I am now the "new girl".

As the "new girl" I am at the bottom of the teacher ladder.  I am in an established class as a helping teacher.  There are two other teachers in our level who have been there for a while and have a working relationship....i.e. power stuggle.  I have decided to just take my subservient role for a while and help the students who just aren't getting "it".  The lead teacher is an older gentleman from England.  He speaks the Queen's English.  We don't really speak the Queen's English down here in Texas.  He is constantly teaching words as they are pronounced in England.  Think of the word "last"....pronounced in England and in the southern United States.  Yup, our students now have a Spanish/British accent.   This list goes on and on with the words he insists on teaching with the British pronounciation.   I guess if they learn to speak any English it will be a win!  I better brush up on my British accent. 

This week I will be participating in what I think will be my own episode of "The Apprentice".  Stay tuned to see if I survive Denver, lots of beer, handcrafted BeerSox and sales.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Playing Favorites?

Yes, you are in the right place.  I changed the look of the blog, guess I got bored.  Instead of painting the walls around here I decided to change the blog a bit, don't get too used to this look though, I'm not in love with it and it might just change next week!  I am trying to make it look a little fallish!  It is not really fall around here yet, but I know it is just around the corner...right?!

We are dog sitting for a few days.  We have our "grand-dog".  I have been noticing how much more attention I pay to the "grand-dog" than to Sadie.  Poor Sadie.  Lemy (grand-dog)  has been attached to my hip for his entire time here.  He follows me so closely that he steps on the back of my flip flops (yes, I am still wearing flip flops and it is almost October...ugh!) when he walks behind me. 

This is Lemy...keeping his distance
I had a little flashback today.  When the kids would have friends over to visit I would find myself bending over backwards to be nice/hospitable to the the expense of my own children.  Why is it that we are always nicer to guests than we are to our own family?  You know this is true!  Sadie can tell you this is true.  She has been looking at me lately with the "Really?  Are you kidding me?" look.   "Lemy gets to go out into the green space and run whenever he wants and I have to practically beg to get a few minutes out there! " is what Sadie is thinking, I can see it on her face.  The dogs have decided to cohabitate... but at a distance.

This is Lemy and Sadie cohabiting....notice his close proximity to moi!
As most kids react to their parents being nicer to the company than to them, Sadie has started giving us the cold shoulder.  I am sure she is saying in her little dog brain, "Sure.... be nice to him, take him out for extra walks...but who is going to be here next week?"    There will have to be extra sweetness coming her way when Lemy goes home.  Promises promises...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Summer Romance

Did you ever go to summer camp or to the beach for the summer and fall hopelessly in "love" with someone while you were away?  He or she was so cute and different than those kids at school.  You were both kind of anonymous and not bound by your "status" back home.  Summer romances are so invigorating and clandestine.  You would promise each other to "keep in touch over the winter".  These promises usually lasted until school started and you were back in your real life, well at least for me.  Oh, but it is so nice to just pull out those memories from time to time and savour them. 

I have a Canadian summer romance every year!  Some years there were boys involved but most years my romance was with Canada. 
It happens every year.  I go away for a month or two or three and leave behind things like television, shopping, eating out, driving in traffic, having a yard guy....and no yard, twice weekly garbage pickup, a garbage disposal, and lots of other "stuff" and live rather rustically for the summer.  I always think I will miss the creature comforts of home when I'm away and every year I am proven wrong.  I fall in love with a much simpler, slower, rural life and Canada herself. 

Summer is over.  I am back home and already I have been distracted from my summer romance.  How fickle the heart is!  I only hesitated a few seconds when I threw away a banana the garbage and not in the green bin of joy.  My heart fluttered when I saw all the pretty clothes in the stores and the amazingly low prices.  I was smitten when TJ and I ate out three nights in one week and I did not have to pull the food out of the dirt, wash it, cook it and clean up afterwards.  My heart lept when my drive to the golf course was only 5 minutes instead of 30 and then it sank when I had my highest score of the summer.  The thought of meeting with my book club and seeing all of my friends put a giant childish grin on my face.  The biggest surprise came when I reluctantly (it was the day after our 4.5 day drive home and I was exhausted and this was the last place I wanted to go) went back to teach my ESL class and was once again swept off my feet by a room full of eager, smiling, Spanish speaking people ready to learn to speak English.  I had all but forgotten about my summer romance in a little less than two weeks.  Sorry Canada.  I promise to write....and I will come back next summer to pick up where we left off!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Weight of a Purse

"Real" life just came rushing back at me like the tidal bore and it was in the form of a purse.  All summer I have been using a very small, light purse because.... what do I really need up here?  A wallet, keys and some SPF lip balm...right?  Ok, maybe a pair of sunglasses too since it has been sunny ALL summer.  Today in my packing efforts I transferred from my small summer-at-the-shore purse to my "real" life purse.  The passport, calendar, pill box, check books (yes, that is plural, one for Canada and one for the States), reading glasses, cell phone, etc. all got put in the purse.  I am ready for the road trip home.

 I went to eat dinner tonight at my parents cottage and grabbed my purse on the way out the door, ugh!  It weighed a ton!  That's when it hit me...."real" life weighs a ton!  I have not even left yet and I am already weighed down.  Can you see the sad face I'm making?  All the trappings of "real" life are going to hit me one by one as I head south over the next few days.  There will be no more looking out of windows at the water or the open fields in my yard and breathing fresh air.  No more long walks on the sandbars with Sadie until next summer, if we both survive "real" life for the next 8 or 9 months.  No more open windows with curtains blowing in the breeze.  I will no longer be surrounded by close friends and family.  No more carefree lifeystyle that seems to fit my nature.

Yes, Sadie, we will both miss this daily ritual!

So I will pick up my heavy "real" life purse tomorrow and leave another summer in paradise.  The weight of this departure will be heavy on me all day until I come to terms with reality and decide it is time to move on.   There is more to life than the shore....I guess.
Stay tuned for some "real" life in the next couple of weeks.  Until then, I will sleep well tonight...with the windows open and the cool breeze to keep me comfortable!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Death By Eggplant

You know that episode of the I Love Lucy show where she is working on a candy assembly line and it keeps going faster and faster and she can't keep up so she just starts shoving the candy in her mouth?  I know how she feels!  At first, the thought of working around candy is enticing, but even too much of a good thing is just... well...too much!  Take the garden for instance.  The thought of fresh produce right outside your door is something we all would agree is a nice thing. 

Who doesn't like fresh peas, carrots, onions and tomatoes right outside the back door?

Making dinner usually involves going out to the garden and seeing what is ripe and available and planning a meal around the pick of the day.  Easy enough!  The produce trickles in as the summer goes along, first the lettuce then the peas, carrots, spinach, Swiss chard, herbs, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, leeks, onions, tomatoes, artichokes, peppers, beans, turnips, beets, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.  Any one or two...or three of these vegetables is great and when the house is full of family or friends it is nice to have meals planned by whatever is ripe and plentiful.  As each thing ripens it is always exciting to eat the first harvest.

Ok, we can eat all of this....that is a lot of tomatoes though....

This summer was one of the warmest and driest in history, fact.  Apparently that means the garden will grow with wild abandon.  It also means that the fruit trees at the farm will produce abundantly.  Who knew? addition to all of the fruit and vegetables we have planted, the trees that just happen to be growing here have record crops this year. 
These beauties almost plum tuckered me out!

As the population at the shore dwindled the produce in the garden increased exponentially!  Who will eat all of this food?  We invited friends we travel to NYC with every year to visit us for a week and Mrs. NYC is  a very skilled chef/baker.  She was all into making the most out of the garden.  My problem was that by the time they arrived my excitement over the garden was waning.  I was already in "time to pack everything up and leave" mode and they were all in "wow!  Look at all this food and think of all the yummy things we can make with it"  mode.  As the week went on I began to feel like Lucy and the chocolates.  So much produce!  We picked beans, peas, carrots, strawberries, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, leeks, and a million plums.  Her enthusiasm for the produce knew no bounds!  She was not alone either, TJ and Mr. NYC were more than happy to harvest the bounty.  We may have all doubled in weight because of all the delicious food Mrs. NYC prepared.   We (well "we" may be one too many people, really Mrs. NYC) made...

Plum tart

grilled artichokes and radicchio
homemade tomato basil pasta sauce

Tomato pesto tart

Plum jam

A huge apple, plum, blueberry crisp
The list goes on and on...and it was all delicious!  Don't say anything when you see me and notice I have gained a few pounds!  We ate like royalty when Mr. and Mrs. NYC were visiting.  Once they left it was down to two people and now...just me.  Right before the master gardener himself left on a business trip he deposited this at the doorstep!

tomatoes for one?!  Can I bring these across the border?

Exactly what I need/want.... enough tomatoes to feed a family of 20!  We leave in 4 days and I'm here alone ....hmmm, tomato sauce in between packing and cleaning the farmhouse?  As my mind raced through all of the possibilities for these tomatoes and the time and energy involved to make something meaningful out of them he brought one more thing into the kitchen....and this is when I went off the deep was the straw that broke this camel's back....

an chocolate too many! 

So as much as I enjoy the garden and it's many fruits, when it's time to go, it's time to go.  I can't take it with me so I'll just have to leave it for the deer and the raccoons.  It's time to clean the very full fridge and freezer until next summer.  Time to put away all the toys of summer, put the flower boxes in the shed,  take the chairs off the deck, clean the floors, beds and bathrooms,  do all the laundry and throw away all the garbage, compost and recycling.  That poor eggplant will probably never get cooked.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fireworks, Friends and Farewells

There are fireworks going off in the distance.  The sky is black and the lights on the distant shore flicker and it is quiet in the house, except for the remote fireworks.  It is the end of the season and after a perfect week of the most spectacular weather I find myself wishing everyone who comes here could experience a night like tonight.  Peace and perfection.  There is something to be said for subtle beauty. 

The last week has been one of the most spectacular weeks far as weather goes.  I only wish I could put it in a bottle and take it home with me and bring it out whenever I need a breath of fresh air!  This is how I remember summer as a child, sunny and beautiful during the day and cool and crisp in the morning and at night.  Ahhh!  I find myself just wanting to sit outside and soak it all up.  My motivation to do anything inside has been taken over by the beauty of the great outdoors.  I would feel guilty working inside on days like this.  I have even resorted to pulling weeds in the garden... just to be outside!  TJ will be so proud!

who can work when it looks like this outside???

We had a bonfire on the beach tonight.  We had hot dogs and marshmallows, chips and drinks.  The cool wind blew and we wore jeans and sweatshirts and huddled around the fire when the sun went down.  It was a very intimate group, not too many people and not too few, just the right number.  I looked at the cottages all lit up on the point in the distance and wondered if they would all be dark in a couple of weeks.  How sad....the summer is coming to a close and the lights will go out. 
Will their lights go out in a week?

At home summer ends when school starts but there is no defining climate change to tell us the season is over.  Up here the weather tells us it is time to shift gears.  Oh, how I love that!  I love it in June when the days are long and the sun never seems to set, it is like the world is telling us to stay up and play and enjoy the summer while it is here!  As the summer winds down the days start to get shorter and the world is telling us we need to go to bed earlier and get the sleep we need for school or work. 

I have said more than my share of goodbyes over the past week.  "Goodbye, see you next summer, have a great winter, see you next year!"  Summer friends are special people.  Our summer friends see us at our best!  We are relaxed and happy.  There is no stress in our life because we are on vacation at the shore!  We all look so good too....we are tan and fit...because we have been outside playing for weeks and we are smiling.  A smile goes a long way, no one even notices whether we are tan or fit if we greet them with a big smile!  At least that's my approach....

I plan to squeeze at least two more weeks out of this summer up here.  It will be a relatively quiet two weeks but from what I have heard September is beautiful up here.  I hope it is true, this is uncharted territory for me.  I also hope that when I get back to Houston fall has decided to arrive.  What?? A girl can hope!

For now I'll just continue to enjoy the earlier sunsets!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Forced Growth

Have you ever put tulip bulbs in the fridge in October to "force" them?  We have to do this to tulips in the south if we want them to flower because the ground never freezes.  Does it hurt or is it just unnatural?  Not sure, but the result is always so rewarding and beautiful.

Have you ever had to do something you were not ready to do or something completely out of your comfort zone?  Like trying to grow tulips in the south.  I remember when I found out I was pregnant with our first child, I was not quite prepared but when the time came I muddled my way through those first months/years and grew into a mother.  It was not always easy and it required me to call on some skills I had never used before.  It was a new and scary role but very rewarding.

Life hands us roles that we are sometimes not ready to live.  We are put in situations we are not comfortable in and we have to find a way to make it through.  After all is said and done we grow and many times look back and nod and say a private "whew, thank you." 

The first English class I taught to non-English speaking people was out of my comfort zone.  I went in very apprehensively and after two years I find it has taught me many life lessons.  Something lead me to that ministry and out of my comfort zone.  That something also gave me the tools to use when I was lost and as a result I grew into a teacher.

Life situations we have no control over put us in places we never expected to be.  The death of a loved one or serious illness can put us in a place we did not plan.  How we handle this causes us to grow and call on resources that would have lain dormant otherwise.  We can surprise ourselves with our strength.  We grow, but not because we chose the path of growth.  We were given a little nudge, we were put in the refrigerator and then planted and forced to blossom. 

The next time you find yourself in a place you wish you did not have to be just remember tulips in the south.  They go through the discomfort of six weeks in the refrigerator and then once planted are able to blossom into some of the most beautiful flowers ever seen.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Their Last Day

The kids have come and gone.  It was a fun two weeks!  They came in waves and left in waves.  Of course we never get to do everything we want to do when we are together.  Each of us has our favorite things about the shore and we each want to have the best time possible.  The only problem is that it is impossible to do everything you want to do and then everything everyone else wants to do and still have time to do nothing, which is what we all really want to do when we are here.  Well, at least I do.

The grandsons were here for almost two weeks and they are at such cute ages, exhausting ages, but still super cute!  They were here long enough to really get into the rhythm of the shore.  I fear this rhythm will not play out well at home though.  Life is so much more structured with so many more rules than the shore.

On their last day I decided to take lots of pictures and capture them just doing stuff.  I want to remember just how cute they were this summer.  Luckily they were doing lots of fun things that were photo worthy.  So without any further adieu...their last day.

There was pea picking with Mommy
They did a little climbing

Christopher went down the slide

And he went up the slide
They raced cars on the deck

They had a picnic lunch outside

It was so nice outside that Daniel wanted to have his rest on the deck.


                    There was walking in the water with Mommy    
There was swimming with friends

They scowled at the paparazzi and ate snacks on the beach

At the end of the day they walked down the beach to the rocks and climbed around for a while

And then they Razzle Dazzled our favorite place in the world!

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