Friday, January 3, 2014

Items Around the House

During my last few days off from work, I decided to do a quick project.  I've been wanting to bring in more plant life in the house so I went to Home Depot and picked up several small indoor plants.  Next, I went scouting around the house for items to put the plants in.  Here is what I came up with.

Starting from the top left:  a glass cream dish I found in the woods near an abandoned house; a tea cup I fished out of a stream in England; an urn I bought at an auction in Normangee; an actual planter that was home to an ivy I killed and then some succulents I killed; Illy coffee cans that I spray painted silver; and finally a Rotel can I spray painted black.

I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt trying to find appropriate sized containers for my new plants.  It's nice to have more life in the house.  Hopefully I can keep them alive longer than my previous plants.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So long 2013...Here's a look back.

This marks a year of blogging for me.  It's been very rewarding in that I didn't quit, and I found that writing about my life is enjoyable.  This whole thing started as a scrapbook of sorts for me.  I don't print out pictures anymore or keep a journal, so now I have all my memories out there for the world to see.

These are the highlights for the year.  I look forward to more blogging in my future, maybe someone out there will find something insightful...probably not.

So long 2012, this was the beginning of a new year that has come and gone.

From campouts, to graduations, we had a lot of good times with the family and friends.  I am so lucky to have so many people to celebrate life events with.  Can't wait for more this year.
The summer was a very memorable one, spent baling hay with my dad, getting a new job, and losing an amazing dog.

We enjoyed a nice evening at my grandparent's for an impromptu Friday night dinner, like the old days.  Rhonda had a proper send off before her wedding in Normangee in the heat of September, then more Normangee in the cool of November.  Finally, there was the trip to Louisville for lots and lots of volleyball.

These are only a few of the highlights of the year.  They're the small (and some large) moments that I never want to forget.  Time to ring in a New Year and make many more memories.  See you next year!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dover and Canterbury

Sept. 17, 2013

When we left London, we drove straight to the White Cliffs of Dover.  This particular day was cold and windy so we bundled up and took our photos of the beautiful scenery at the edge of the English Channel.

Next stop, after a scenic drive north, we arrived in Canterbury, Kent  What an amazing place!  So historic and beautiful.  The Roman ruins here date back to the 1st Century AD.  It's a little overwhelming taking it all in.  It began to drizzle while we were here so we had to take shelter in the Cathedral.  By the time we went back through the town center, everything was closing and the schoolers were flooding the streets.  No shopping today.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Now we must hit the road to our next destination...Milford-on-Sea (and surrounding areas).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


It's been over a month since I was walking the streets of London.  Sadly, it's been so long that all the wonderful memories are beginning to fade.  Let's see...

We arrived at Heathrow airport sometime in the afternoon on a cloudy Sunday, September 15th.  It's all coming back to me!  The rental car establishment was very helpful, in that when we asked to upgrade to a larger vehicle to accommodate our 2 weeks worth of luggage, they gladly gave us a brand new Audi sedan.  Yes, the Audi did have room for our luggage...without us in it.  This was not going to work.  Not only did this car have not a scratch on it and beautiful leather seats, but we were going to have to put a large suitcase in the front passenger seat with three people in the back if we wanted to drive out of that lot.  We promptly traded that upgrade in for a beat up VW minivan with tons of room to spare.

Now we're feeling good, first obstacle out of the way.  On to the next, driving on the wrong side of the road!!  The trip from the rental lot to the hotel was very colorful.  Our driver had 3 backseat drivers to help him along the way.  We treated ourselves to the Jamie Oliver Diner in Piccadilly Circus and then off to bed.
Street view of our hotel.

The hotel, in Sussex, was very comfortable.  We enjoyed a typical English breakfast of poached egg, toast, ranch style beans, and boiled tomato each morning.  It was pretty tasty.  The first morning we hit the trail to Hyde Park which was just a few blocks away.
I kept getting a rock in my shoe on our trip through Hyde Park

 This day was full of walking.  We hit all the main attractions in one day.  We only went in to a few because of time.  St. Margaret's Church, across from Westminster Abbey had no line and was free to get in so we opted for that.  We also went in to St. Paul's Cathedral and climbed to the top for a spectacular view.  The Tower of London was a favorite for me because it brought to life all the Philippa Gregory novels I've read about Henry VIII.  I also very much enjoyed sitting in the sun and having tea near Hyde Park.

A royal toilet

The sun did not last unfortunately.  By lunch time it was raining on us.  We had to duck in to a cafe in the City of London for a bite to eat until the rain slowed down.  From here, we made it to the River Thames to get a glimpse of London Bridge, Big Ben, and the London Eye.

By the end of day one, we were exhausted.  We took the tube back to the hotel from the river, freshened up, and had a delicious Indian dinner.

The next morning we were off to Dover...

Friday, October 4, 2013

Wedding of the Year

A major life event is upon us this weekend.  Tomorrow, the marriage of my wonderful younger sister to the love of her life will be taking place in Normangee, Texas.  I'm a little sappy and sentimental right now because I just wrote my toast.  I was going to try and wing it, but I'm not the most eloquent person.  I get tongue tied and forget words that are in my everyday vocabulary.  Even though it's in front of friends and family, I cannot help but stress about the public speaking.

So in addition to the bridal showers we've been having over the past few weekends, Rhonda's bachelorette party was over Labor Day and it was a huge success if I do say so myself.  Everyone seemed to have a good time (I hope) and we had the best mix of girls (women).  I definitely had an amazing time.  Destination:  Austin, Texas and then off to Fredericksburg to taste some wine.  We decided to skip dirty 6th this time and opted for Rainey Street instead and then a quick petty cab (or three) ride to west 6th.  So so much fun!  Rainey Street is my new favorite place in Austin.

So the wedding hasn't actually happened yet, I just wanted to get a head start on this so I can finish it up soon after the nuptials.  Rhonda is the most amazing sister anyone could ask for.  I love her more than I can express in words.  Count yourself lucky to have her in your life because she will put your needs ahead of her own.  It was like pulling teeth to make her let us take care of her last weekend.  She is so used to pleasing others.  I'm glad she finally let go and allowed us to celebrate her.  Ladies, and you know who you are, thank you so much for joining us.  You really made the weekend special.  Rhonda has great friends.  Thank you for putting up with me :)

Now for the highlights:

The bridal shower was such a success.  Our aunt's house had the best decorations thanks to +Amy Jones and her tireless hours finding just the right touches on Pinterest.

My new thing is making Zoe videos with my phone.  So much more interesting than looking at photos!  I predict you'll be seeing a lot of these in the future.

On to the bachelorette party.  VRBO is my new best friend.  Our accommodations were so nice and reasonably priced.  We were minutes from downtown on a game day weekend and we stayed in a great condo with plenty of room for everyone (OK, we packed ourselves in that place but it cut cost and we were so tired it was easy to sleep).
I will only share the tasteful winery pictures online.  We don't have any that are bad, the night shots in Austin are blurry and dark so they aren't worth posting.

And now for the main event!!!  I am in a hurry to get this posted so excuse the unedited photos.  My photographer did a wonderful job so it wasn't really necessary (thanks +Brian Doig ).  Rhonda was so cool, calm, and collected on her wedding day.  Not even the rain or the power outage could keep her from enjoying every second of her big (outdoor) day.  No power meant no music that was painstakingly picked out specifically for each moment of the bridal procession months before the wedding.  It worked out because while everyone walked to complete silence, she was able to walk down the aisle to an impromptu acapella rendition of When You Say Nothing at All sung by very talented guests and close friends of the bride.  That was what finally cracked that calm demeanor and brought tears to her eyes.
This wedding can only be described as a simple but very elegant country wedding that completely captured the bride and grooms personalities.  Everyone came out to support the best girl I know and helped make her day truly memorable.

Congratulations to the happy couple..

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sam Houston Memorial Museum

I let  a lot of time slip by in between blog posts and it got harder and harder to get back into it.  Now I'm sitting here recovering from a surgery and have absolutely no excuses.  This last summer road trip was taken on July 27th to Huntsville, Texas.  I've gone to this museum with my 3rd and 4th graders for field trips over the years and the kids really enjoyed getting to play with the toys from the period and helping with the farm chores.  I enjoy the learning more about the history of Sam Houston.  He led an extraordinary life, both personal and professional.

Sam Houston's Heritage
Houston's family came to America from Scotland.
He lived among the Cherokee as a teenager.
Fight for Independence from Mexico
Top:  Santa Anna's Sword given to Houston after capture.
Left:  Reconstructed skulls found on battle field at Battle of San Jacinto.
Right:  Scene of Santa Anna's capture.  Houston spared his life.
The weekend we visited the Memorial Museum just so happened to be the anniversary of Sam Houston's death and funeral.  He died on the 26th of July 1863, 150 years ago.  There were several special activities planned for the weekend including extra exhibits in the museum and a masonic funeral.  The Steamboat house Houston lived in during his last years is onsite along with his family's Woodland home, a working kitchen, Houston's law office, a family cabin, a blacksmith forge, barn, garden, hunting cabins, museum, and a visitor's store.

150th anniversary of Sam Houston's death

Left:  The riffraff in front of Houston's famous Steamboat house.
Top Left:  Gardens near the working kitchen.
Top Right:  One of the Houston's hunting cabins.
Bottom Left:  Furnished room in the Steamboat house.
Bottom Right:  Houston's families Woodland home.

I'll let the pictures do all the talking in this post because of the complexity of Houston's life.  He is a remarkable man not only to Texas History, but the shaping of our Nation.  This museum is nestled on the campus of Sam Houston State University and is a great place to visit and experience life in the 1800's.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Canning 101

The joys of being a teacher are the days you get to spend visiting with family and having nowhere else you need to be.  I had the opportunity to spend the whole day at my grandma's house canning salsa from the tomatoes and jalapeños out of the garden.  It turned out to be quite a fun day.  So here is what I learned from the expert...

Step 1:  Sterilize!  Run all the jars through the dish washer and dry face down on a towel.

8 cups very ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 1/2 cups yellow onions, chopped
1 cup jalapeño peppers, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 Tablespoons canning salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
15 ounces tomato sauce
12 ounces tomato paste
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Step 2:  Chop Chop Chop.  Coarsely chop veggies.  For this recipe, it is not necessary to de-skin and deseed the tomatoes but we did core them and take the skins off (except for the smaller ones).  To take the skin off the tomatoes, put in a large pot of boiling water until skins crack (about 1 minute), plunge tomatoes in a bowl of ice water, and when cooled take the skins off and cut out the tough inner core.

A candid shot of the expert herself :)  Double checking the recipe.
Step 3:  Put all veggies through food processor and pulse several times.  The garlic and jalapeños need to be chopped finer than the rest.  

Step 4:  Mix all ingredients (except cilantro and lime juice) in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Stir frequently and boil for 15 minutes.  At the end of the 15 minutes, turn off heat and stir in lime juice and cilantro.

Step 5:  Fill jars with salsa about an inch from the top of the jar.  Wipe the top of the jar with a clean, damp cloth.  You should get about 7 pints from this recipe.

Step 5:  Boil lids and rings before sealing jars.

Step 6:  Submerge jars in boiling water.  Boil for 15 minutes.

Step 7:  Take out jars and wait to hear them 'pop!'  

Savannah cracking jokes all day.  You have to watch that one ;)
This was such a fun day and I'm so lucky to have wonderful family to spend time with.  Love you guys!!!