Saturday, May 30, 2009

That Big State, Over Yonder

Wildorado, Goodnight, Estelline, Quanah, Chillecothe, Bowie. Small town after small town greeted us as we drove across Texas earlier this month. Each little wide spot in the road had a name and a history and obvious pride in both. We didn't have the time to stop and treasure-hunt in any of the antique shops or browse the general stores nor, for that matter, sample the "eats" of very many cafes, but they all called out my name as we passed by. Perhaps, someday, we can take a more leisurely trip through Texas, park our car alongside the curb of this little town or that, and stroll through the corner Rexall Drug or visit the community library. Maybe we can even order a Coke float at the soda fountain and sit on a sidewalk-bench to finish it off. But on this trip we couldn't tarry. We had our mind's eye on a destination and pushed hard to get there as quickly as possible.

I did copy down the words of a few amusing ma-and-pa shop-signs we saw along the way, though. For instance, in Chillicothe there is a store called Dang Good Pecans. Their sign also promoted their "dang good coffee" and "dang good candy"; in Denton I saw Mable Peabody's Beauty Salon and Chain Saw Repair. The Good 'Nuff Cafe was in Clarenden, which is also where I found my favorite: the It'll Do Motel, which boasted, in bold letters, "CEILING FANS!"

We've driven through a lot of states over the years. Sometimes, as we travel through one, two or, even, three states in a day, the highway miles blend together into one long stretch of homogenous countryside. But Texas refuses to let you forget where you are. "Drive Friendly" signs, bluebonnets and buttercups grow along the roadside (thanks for those wildflowers, Ladybird Johnson). When you stop for lunch and order iced tea, the waitress asks for clarification: "sweet tea?" And the Texas lone star hangs on front doors and is proudly painted onto the sides of old brick buildings, mailboxes and whatever else will stand still long enough to be painted.



Now that we're back in New Mexico, I have to admit I miss being urged, as I'm leaving a roadside cafe, "Y'all come back now!" And we will, because of one blond, blue-eyed little girl that I miss. And her mama and daddy. And a new heart-tugger on the way.

Round Robin Photo Challenge: Growing


The theme for this Round Robin challenge is "Growing." We had a thunder shower pass through last week, and as soon as the rain stopped I dashed out to take some pictures of the roses in our back yard. They were weighed down with big, heavy water droplets. These roses have been growing in our back yard since we moved here, six years ago, with almost no care or attention. The bushes are not very pretty - quite woody and scraggly, yet every year they put out beautiful flowers. I really don't know how they survive our hot, dry summers with little to no TLC.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers' May Challenge - Strudel


The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers. (Recipe HERE.)













In what was an otherwise busy month, we were both off work and at home for Memorial Day, so I got up early and prepared the strudel for our breakfast. Instead of the traditional apple filling, I filled my strudel with a strawberry/rhubarb/apricot mixture. It was delicious. I used fresh strawberries, frozen rhubarb, sine there wasn't any fresh at the market, and dried apricots. It was sweetened with light brown sugar.

The first step was making the dough, which was easy and fun. It was a very soft, very pliable dough. The recipe said to let it sit for 90 minutes, but I left mine overnight. Then I cajoled it into a tissue-paper thin sheet. One Daring Baker remembered her mother telling her that strudel dough was to be thin enough "to read love letters through."

Butter and breadcrumbs were supposed to be sprinkled across the face of the dough, but I thought crushed ginger snaps would add a more exciting flavor to the rhubarb filling.


After baking, I glazed it with a powdered sugar icing and served it, still warm. Dan had his with a strong cup of espresso, and gave it his hearty approval.

Still hot from the oven.

Glazed

Ready to eat

Other Completed Daring Bakers' Challenges: Lavash, Pizza Napoletana, Caramel Cake, French Yule Log, Tuiles, Chocolate Valentino, Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna, Cheesecake

Friday, May 22, 2009

High Tech Meets Low Tech

On my birthday, in January, Tim gave me a beautiful card that held lots of love and some birthday money. I knew exactly what that money was going to be used for. It would be the beginning of my Kindle purchase fund. Kindle is the electronic book reader, sold by Amazon. For a number of reasons I thought it would be just the ticket for me.

Since January I worked to build the fund and, by Mother's Day, was getting close to the purchase price. As a Mother's Day gift, Dan surprised me with the remainder of the amount needed, and I wasted no time in placing my order from Amazon. My Kindle arrived the day before we left on our Texas trip. I loaded it up with some good reading material, and packed it in my bag. When I ordered it, though, I didn't think about how I would protect the screen when I dropped it into a bag. Once it was in my hands, I knew I'd need to do something, but there wasn't time to order a cover for it and have it before we left.

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. So I took an old, cotton dish towel, and wrapped the Kindle up in it before tucking it away. That stylish dish-towel-Kindle-cover went with me all of those 1754 miles that I mentioned in an earlier post. The Kindle was taken out and tucked back into the towel dozens of times.



Once I got home, I ordered a cover, and it arrived today. Ahhhhh. No more worries about damaging the screen! It's safe to drop it in my bag and go. But, I have to confess that a part of me misses the quizzical looks - sometimes even big grins - I got from people who saw me carefully wrapping my high-tech book reader in the old cotton dish towel.



I'm thrilled with my purchase, by the way. It was worth saving for. But my recommendation to anyone thinking of buying one is to buy a protective cover at the same time. Or, if you prefer, stock up on some stylish cotton dish towels.

Seeing Out of Both Eyes

For those who have asked, yes, Dan did have his second eye surgery on Wednesday. All went well, and he is already seeing quite clearly out of it. I've suggested that we go "try out his new eyes" on the new Star Trek movie, as soon as the dilation returns to normal (in about a week).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Home Again, Home Again

I promised a few more details about our trip. I'll try to keep it brief.

Going down to the kids' house, we drove 630 miles the first day, to Prosper, Texas, where we spent the night with Dan's sister, Marci. Our nephew, Caleb, was visiting there, as well. On day two we left Prosper and drove to Chris and Kelsey's house, in Spring - another 255 miles.

Our timing for this visit was probably not the best, since poor Kelsey, who was 13 weeks along in her pregnancy, has had morning sickness all day, every day, for quite awhile. She was a real trooper, though, and joined us in some meals out (even though food isn't on her list of favorite things these days), to church on Sunday, and to the dance recital. We were proud of how Chris steps up and does what he can to keep things running smoothly during these difficult days. We stayed at a hotel near their house so that they wouldn't have to give up their bedroom, and so that we could get out of their hair and give them some time to rest, as needed. It worked out well.

One of the things that delighted me was watching Sweetpea interact with her Grandpa. He was the undisputed "Numero Uno" on this visit. Her little face just lit up whenever he walked in the room; she had to hold his hand wherever we went; and Grandpa was the only one who could read the bedtime story. I joked about feeling a kinship with Avis (car rental). Remember their ad campaign years ago? "We're Number Two. We try harder!" But the truth is that I loved every moment of watching that Grandpa/Granddaughter bond growing stronger.

We brought a couple of little gifts in our suitcases, including a hop-ball, which turned out to be a hit.



On our return trip, we drove from Spring to Amarillo, where we spent the night - 580 miles; and then drove the final 289 miles, to Albuquerque, on Tuesday, for a whopping 1754 miles for the entire trip.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

First Time on Stage

In another post I'll tell you a little more about our trip to Houston to see Chris, Kelsey and Sweetpea. But despite what your mama taught you, I'm going to let you have dessert before the vegetables, metaphorically speaking. The highlight of our trip was attending Sweetpea's spring dance recital, and here are some pictures from it. Sweetpea performed twice, once in her class' tap dance and then, a little later, in their ballet. So now, without further delay . . . here she is!

I rode beside Sweetpea in the car, going to the dance recital. I snapped a picture of her cute, ruffly white socks, the tulle ribbon, tied around her ankle (hard to see in this picture, but it's dark gray and below her sock ruffle) and her shiny tap shoes. Little did I know that the ribbon would cause such a problem for her during the tap performance. You'll need to read Kelsey's blog about the recital to learn all about that.

Here's Kelsey, pinning the flower onto Sweetpea's costume, in the parking lot outside the school where the recital was to take place.

Butterflies in the stomach? I think Kelsey had more of them than Sweetpea did, as we walked into the building.

A collage of pictures of Sweetpea in different dance positions. And, below, three of my favorites.














































And, finally, here's a little video clip of Sweetpea's class as they came on stage for their final bow. Sweetpea is the second one. Aren't they all so cute? By the way, their teacher, Ms Ryan, is something like 8-1/2 months pregnant, and still dancing around with them! BRAVO for these little girls; and BRAVO for Ms Ryan, as well.

video

On the Road Again

Yesterday we drove from Houston to Amarillo, Texas. This morning we're about ready to hit the road again, for the last leg of our return trip. This picture should give you a clue about why we made this journey to Texas. I'll post a few pictures of "the star" tonight or tomorrow, after we get home.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Round Robin Photo Challenge: Floating!


Some of you suffered through my 366 Photos for 2008 and even my 12 of 12. For awhile, now, I've been "out of duty." I haven't been participating in a photo challenge of any kind. I recently discovered and became a member of The Round Robin Photo Challenge. This is a twice monthly challenge, designed with fun in mind. The theme for each challenge is chosen from a pool of suggestions contributed by the challenge participants. Although capturing new images for the theme is encouraged, using archived photos is fine, as long as they are original to the participant. As you'll see, I chose one archived image and one new one for my first theme.

Here was our assignment for May 16:
"Floating!" The idea was submitted by Vicki, who authors the blog, Maraca, during one of our recent challenge pool roundups. Sounds like fun... right? Birds do it. Clouds do it. Feathers off of birds do it. Lots, and lots of things will fit the criteria for the next challenge, so grab your cameras and get to it!

"Harbor Seals on Floating Ice" - Tracy Arm Fjord, near Juneau, Alaska. Summer 2006.

"Floating on Air" - Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ballooning Capital of the World. May 2009.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Wheels for Tim


On Saturday Tim traded in his pick-up and became the proud owner of a shiny new Honda Civic. He came by this evening to take his mom for a spin. What fun! That new-car smell always gives me a little "high."

Congratulations, Tim! May you travel many happy miles in this little blue beauty.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Pain by Any Other Name

Remember Juliet's famous lines, in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Last week, as my doctor was pushing that needle deep into my knee joint, he told me, "You're going to feel some pressure now." Afterward (though not at that very moment) I had to laugh at his reluctance to use the word "pain."

It reminded me of our Lamaze instructor, back in the '70s, who told us there would be "periods of discomfort" during the latter stages of labor.

And then there's my very kind and capable dentist, who is always careful to prepare me, as he's about to inject Novocaine into my gums, with these words: "Okay, you're going to feel a little pinch now."

"Pressure"? "Discomfort"? "Pinch"? Ha! I wonder if old Will will mind if I take some liberties with his beautiful and famous lines:

What's in a word? that which we call a pain
By any other word would feel as sharp;

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for rescuing this fool.

Thank you, Lord, that my computer, which died at work yesterday, only had a bad power supply rather than a crashed/trashed hard drive.

Thank you, Lord, for our Technician, Gary, who was able to move my hard drive into a new tower.

Thank you, Lord, that my database revisions, which represent approximately 100 hours of labor and were not backed up, were not lost.

Thank you, Lord, for a wake-up call. My revisions are no longer on my desktop, but on the shared drive which is backed up on a regular basis.

Amen

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ouch!

I saw the orthopedic surgeon today, to discuss the prospects of knee surgery. Dan went with me, and I was happy to have him there.

The doctor said that the arthritis in that knee is pretty severe, and that there are some "spurs" forming. But he feels like we should try a few things before jumping (pun intended) into surgery. Today he gave me a cortisone injection (and Dan, who was holding my hand, says he still has nail marks!). The hope is that this injection will give temporary relief from the pain, so that I can do some physical therapy and strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. He says that stronger muscles might actually reduce the swelling and the pain, but if not, stronger muscles will certainly make recovery from a future surgery easier.

I'll see him again in a month or so, after starting physical therapy. What he said made sense. No need to rush into major surgery without trying other options or without making sensible physical preparations.

But OUCH! That injection wasn't fun.