Saturday, December 26, 2009

OMG We Have A Garmin

The eleven of us gathered for brunch on Christmas Eve at the Grand Floridian. Here is a bunch of Disney characters that came by to meet the kids. We had a fellow take our picture at the Christmas tree and it is the only one we have of all of us together. Sam and Morgan watched Disney cartoons while we waited for the cars to be brought out front.




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Kara and family headed back to Magic Kingdom; Kelly, Pat, Cassie and Kristin went to Universal Studios and Ted, Ally and I went to Kristin's to start preparations for Christmas dinner. Ally has a cold and was just tuckered out and wanted to rest.

The next morning we all met at St. Ann's, our old parish church, and we attended Mass. We took up an entire pew. We decided to do presents while the dinner cooked. Then the kids put a gingerbread house together. Ted did what he does best, sawed logs.


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Ted has been an opponent of GPS systems because of the horror stories he has heard from people driving RVs. But after our trip to San Antonio and the streets being closed downtown for the Riverwalk Parade, Kristin thought one would be good for finding places once we have parked at a campground. We used it to go to the hotel when we left and it did fine until the last street. It said turn right and we needed to go left. We could see the hotel but also knew where it was. Score one for Ted. We're using it for places we know to try to learn the idiosyncrasies and see if we can use it successfully.

We slept in this morning and then stopped to buy a router for Kristin's house. There are five laptops there now and only one connection. This way she will be able to use hers all over the house. Then we went to La Mesa RV. There Ted found an Allegro bus he really liked. I've never found a motorhome that had a layout I liked as well as my 5th wheel but this one had everything I wanted and more. Ted drove it to the Volusia Fairgrounds up I-4 and then I drove it around some too. We are in no hurry to make a decision of this magnitude so what will be, will be.

We were a half hour late getting to Tom and Eileen's. They suggested dinner in Palm Coast which is an hour away. We agreed and eventually found out why they chose this particular restaurant. It is in their new neighborhood. They are planning ahead for retirement and downsized to a patio home with no pool. We weren't too surpised because we knew they had been looking. We wish them well when they decide to sell their DeBary house and move permanently.

We stopped by Kristin's but the kids were not home yet. Then I remembered they were attending a Blue Man Concert at Universal. We'll spend most of tomorrow with them. Hope everyone had a great Christmas and are gearing up for an eventful New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 25, 2009

And So This Is Christmas

We were at the eye doctor at 8 am on Monday and were on our way by 8:30. We traveled east over 105 and were in Beaumont in less than two hours. I was talking on the phone to Karen in Cincinnati when a truck in front of us pulling a small flatbed trailer started to lose control. There were at least 20 5-gallon plastic buckets of white paint and once the liquid started sloshing I'm sure it worsened the situation. I was on the phone hollering "woe, woe, woe" and poor Karen was frantic on the other end. The truck finally ended up plowed into the grass but white paint was flying everywhere. Luckily we missed the paint and skirted the pails to continue on our way. The guy got out of the truck so we knew he was OK or we would have stopped.

We made it to Biloxi by late afternoon and checked into our Isle Casino room. We rested up for awhile, then went to play some games and finally ate at the buffet which wasn't very good. We were in bed early and on our way a little after 7 on Tuesday morning.

It was a long haul to Disney. We checked into our studio at Old Key West and met up with Kara, Allen, Sam and Morgan. They had just finished eating at Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Hotel so we walked over to the snack bar and got a bite to eat. It was another early night because Kara said we had to be at the gate for "rope drop" at 8 am the next morning.

Kara has visiting Disney down to a science. They have a time share and she belongs to a group that studies crowd behavior and inside info to help plan time in the park. For example, we approached the turnstiles that were not open yet and there were long lines at most. We walked to the far right and got first in line. No one moved out of the long line the whole time we stood at this turnstile.

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We went through first and immediately gave our tickets to Allen so he could go get Fast Passes for Soarin', the most popular ride at Epcot. Then we were stopped at the "rope" to wait for opening. When it dropped, everyone hurried past us while we stopped at the Kim Possible exhibit to get a ticket for a mission in the park and then went on to The Land. While everyone else was heading to Soarin' we walked right on three different rides. When our hour interval was up, Allen went to get Fast Track passes, another popular ride. We let the kids play in an area and then went to Soarin' with our Fast Passes. While others were waiting 90 minutes we were on and off in 15 or so.

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After a few more quick rides, we rode the boat to World Showcase and kept our noon reservation at the French restaurant. I wasn't expecting much but it was fantastic! We were visited by Remy the Rat from the movie Ratatuille (spelling?).


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Aftet lunch we did our Kim Possible mission. It took us to Germany where we made steins sing, nutcrackers play music and trains run. We did all this using a device that looked like a cell phone. We got a kick out of a sign near the train that said Wurzburg. We visited there in 2006. We took time to listen to singers in the Liberty Inn all dressed in Dickens attire followed by the fyfe and drum corp.

We went back to the park part and went to Fast Track where the wait was one hour for Fast Passes and 2 and a half hours for the regular line. Apparently it had broken down and got backed up. So we went to the Energy ride with dinosaurs and by the time we got back, the line was gone at Fast Track for those with passes and we were on in 15 minutes or so.

By this time we were all pretty tired so we decided to leave. After a quick stop at Walgreen's we then got a pizza and headed for home. They were going to Magic Kingdom in the morning. Ted and I were sleeping in and taking our time checking out. We had reservations at 11 o'clock at Park Fare in the Grand Floridian for all 11 of us.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

We're Out of Here

The house is cleaned, gifts distributed here in town and my clothes are out on the bed. I have used all my "transfer" bags from the RV to pack the presents and things I am taking to Florida. Terry & Carol's children are all coming into town so both their house and ours will be full through New Year's. Their son's family arrives today. This has worked out well for everyone.

I met Jody for breakfast on Saturday and besides treating me to breakfast she gave me a lovely set of note pads with my name on it. They're awesome. I'm always looking for something to write a note on and end up with an ugly yellow pad for lack of anything better. What a great gift. I gave her a Pottery Barn candle, brown bread Ted made and fudge that I made. I hope she and Dave enjoy it all.

Ted had gone shooting in the morning and right after he came home the doorbell rang. It was my neighbors again with a dish of homemade turtles. I love these type of Christmas presents. It is what Christmas was like before Best Buy and

We met Rick and Brenda at Dickie's BBQ for dinner Saturday night. I didn't have their gift last week because the fudge I promised Brenda was not made. She didn't want the evaporated milk or marshmallow creme kind. She wanted the sugar, cocoa, milk, cook to 234 degrees kind that is on the Hershey's Cocoa can. And that's what I made. I also brought her two dishtowels from Germany (that I found out were made in China!). When I had my pictures from this summer put into albums, I had one made of all the photos I had of them. They fulltime in their motorhome so space is always a consideration. The fudge will get eaten, the towels are necessary and the album is not bulky and won't take up room.

From there we went to the Texas Opry Jamboree in Magnolia. To our surprise there were almost 40 people there from Rayford Crossing including Jay and Stella. They were all eating in the cafe and their seats in the theater were right in front of us. When the group was announced from the stage, we whooped and hollered right along with them.

The show was so enjoyable. It was a totally politically incorrect production and Joel Brewer who owns the Opry said if you come to the Opry you are going to get a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, that's what Christmas is. He got a rousing round of applause. The nativity scene and songs at the end were heartwarming and done so beautifully. It was a wonderful end to our celebration here in Texas. Now it's on to Florida to celebrate with our immediate family.

About my eye ... It is getting better each day but I am supposed to use it for reading and it's not quite there yet. I see the doctor at 8 a.m. tomorrow and we'll leave right from there. Since we'll be in Conroe we're going to travel east over 105 into Beaumont and avoid all the interstate traffic during rush hour. We have reservations at one of the casinos in Biloxi. Do I dare hope to win enough to finance this trip?

We will meet up with Kara and family at Old Key West Resort for two nights at Disney. Kelly's family arrives the same night and will be at Kristin's house. We're doing Epcot Wednesday and on Thursday (Christmas Eve) we are taking all the kids and grandkids to brunch at Park Fare in the Grand Floridian Hotel at Disney. We plan to all attend our former church in DeBary on Christmas Day, have dinner at Kristin's and then Kara's family flies back home. The rest of us are staying on but I'll save that for another Post.

So there you have it - our Christmas 2009. God's blessings on you and yours. Travel safely wherever you go. I'll see y'all in the new year if God's plans match mine. Feliz Navidad.

Friday, December 18, 2009

An ode to my Ford Expedition

First let me say we lived north of Detroit for 16 years so we have an affinity for American made cars, especially those companies headquartered in Detroit, and specifically Fords. We found in Texas there are predominantly three types of vehicles - your ever present pick-up, the SUV and foreign sedans. We have two out of three, both Fords.

I drove to bunco on Monday and the gals contributed so much food for St. Anthony's Food Pantry that I had the entire back of the Expedition loaded and had to put the overflow on the second seat. Needless to say, the fellow at the food pantry was thrilled and so was I.

We had a great luncheon and our annual Chinese Christmas gift exchange. There were some beautiful things passed around. I got a squishy massage pillow that will be great while traveling. I intend to take it with me on Monday when we leave for Florida.

That evening Ted and five other people went down, and seven people came back, from the U. of Houston basketball game. Terry's son-in-law is the basketball coach for the team Houston played and they were in town for that. The Expedition will actually seat eight but I went to Lessons and Carols at church with Gerre. What a beautiful concert and service. We both enjoyed it.

I received an e-mail from Pat whose condo we will be staying at on New Year's Eve in Naples. She wanted to know what we would be driving because they needed a big car so everyone could ride together. Once again, my Expedition to the rescue.

And now I'm loading it up with presents, clothes, things Kristin bought while she was here, some household things for her and several kitchen items I'll need to cook dinner for 11 people at her house. When you live alone, you don't need service for that many people. There's plenty of room in my car.

So there you have it folks, my ringing endorsement of the gas guzzling SUV Obama doesn't want us driving around. When they give up their private planes, I'll think about giving up the car of my choice. I lived in Michigan, so I know Hell, Michigan has frozen over a time or two but .... well you get my drift.

We went to dinner with Terry & Carol on Tuesday since we won't be together over the holidays. Tuesday worked best because my eye surgery was scheduled for Wednesday. It was cancelled Wednesday with a phone call at 5:30 a.m. and then rescheduled for Thursday at noon with a follow-up visit at 1 p.m.!! They said everything went fine.

This eye was a little more irritated and wasn't in focus at all but my pupil was still very dilated. When I got up this morning I couldn't see any better out of it so I called the doctor. They had me come in and he said there is swelling but he wants to see me at 8 a.m. on Monday before we head out of town. He doesn't know why I'm not focusing better. He feels the swelling will be down on Monday but if it isn't they will dilate my pupil and take a closer look. I can see distance OK. The right eye is ignoring the left eye which is what it is supposed to do. However, I can't read with my left eye and that is what it's supposed to do. The doctor seems to think it will be fine in time. Let's hope he is right.

Well my neighbor just brought us soup, salad and bread for lunch because of my eye surgery and because she is just a great neighbor so I'm going to sign off. Hang in there folks, Christmas is just a week away.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lousy Weather Weekend

Thursday went as planned. I saw the doctor, had lunch at Tommy Bahamas, enjoyed coffee, dessert and presents with the neighbors and played Canasta with Gerre's group in the evening. I didn't know it was their Christmas Dinner night and I was pleasantly surprised. I'm glad I didn't eat before I went.

Friday was cold but we hooked up and were at the campground around noon. There was a fire going but the smoke was bothering my eyes and I didn't think the one just operated on should be exposed so I didn't hang there too long. Eventually I went back in the camper and played with my farm on Farmville. There were about 70 people in the rally hall for the spaghetti dinner. There were a dozen "pots" to choose from and this time we didn't run out. It started raining in earnest and everyone scattered for the night.

Saturday dawned warmer but misty. It never rained but it was never dry all day either. I think everyone was glad to have a dry, warm rally hall for our potluck breakfast. Afterwards, Ted and I went to Tommy and Susan's motorhome to see a fabulous quilt his sister made for them. It took two years and she used pieces of family members' clothes for the quilt. What a beautiful keepsake on so many levels.

We stayed there for a long time and talked about different travels and trips. They aren't retired so have to plan their vacations based on the amount of time they have off. They were interested in our time in South Dakota and are going back to read that part of my blog again. We had a fantastic time there and I think they would too.

I had toyed with the idea of coming home and doing laundry and start getting things together for Florida but decided there wasn't enough time to accomplish too much so I stayed at the campground. We had a great potluck dinner with ham, turkey, brisket and all the fixings and then some.

Afterwards we had a gift exchange which is always fun. However, everyone opened their gifts all at once and we didn't get a chance to see everything. That's the best part of some of the presents. Ted got a 3-pack of BBQ sauce and I got a nightlight. Then in another game Ted got two stacking Christmas baskets.

Rick and Brenda had come over from Timber Ridge and sat with us for dinner. They came back to our rig for a visit and gave us a friendship stone for our garden. Well, it's not really a garden, just the natural area in front of our house. I have two things for them from our travels but Brenda asked for one other thing that I need to make this week yet. We'll see them Saturday and I certainly hope I have my act together by then.

I woke up at 5:20 Sunday morning and spent the next five hours in the bathroom. Ted went on to church and brought some Pepto Bismol back. After four tablets I finally felt well enough to get dressed and help close up the RV. We were home before noon. I spent the day on the couch but finally felt well enough to eat in the evening.

I have my bunco luncheon today and my surgery Wednesday. I don't have time to be under the weather. I'm feeling better this morning, not 100% but enough to function. I'll stay clear of people in case I had a bug but it could just as easily have been something I ate.

It's raining again today and I can't wait to get out of here and head for Florida. I don't remember having so many yucky days in a row since I moved here. I'm going to follow the sun - hopefully!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Still Cold Here!!!

Saturday's Wine Tasting was a hoot! This is one of the first parties of the season and everyone was in rare form. The weather has remained so cool that several fur coats showed up! Sherida's house is decorated literally from top to bottom. I don't know where she stores all of this the rest of the year. I love looking at it but would hate to take it down after New Year's. I am a minimalist this year. Front porch, sideboard in kitchen, poinsettias by the fireplace. I'm done! We won't be home on Christmas so I figured what I did was enough.

Sunday was church followed by non-stop football but the games fell way short of the exciting ones on Saturday. I'm trying to gather my things for camping this weekend and also for our trip to Florida. I have two piles started in the small walk-in closet.

Ted took my sweet potatoes to the funeral for me on Monday since he was going that way. That gave me more time to get ready and allowed me to go right to Michele's. She always has so much food that we have a hard time getting everyone to sit down and play. Between hands someone is always wandering off to get food and I'm as guilty as the next person. I didn't win or lose, just ended up in the middle.

We did some running yesterday. We picked up my ring appraisal papers, sought out a UPS truck to give the driver a pre-paid package and also hit Wal-Mart. I needed to get a pair of reading glasses for next week when my left eye gets fixed. I've been using it to read but after the surgery it will be great for distance, not so much for close up.

Gerre and I are still walking our three miles every other day. Today the jeans and sweatshirt weren't enough and I was cold the entire time. Ted left for Dallas and I met Susan and Vince for lunch. I had a plaque stand for her and she had a package for me. I came home and made lemon squares for tomorrow and e-mailed a grocery list to Kristin for Christmas dinner that I'll cook at her house.

Tomorrow is a doctor appointment for my eye, lunch at Tommy Bahamas followed by dessert and gift exchange at the neighbors and then another Canasta group to sub in. I need to have everything ready tonight for camping because I sure won't have time tomorrow to get it together. After I walk on Friday morning Ted will be chompin' at the bit to get over to the campground.

The weather isn't promising all weekend so we'll probably spend a lot of time in the rally rooms. There are close to 100 people coming and we fill up the place stem to stern.

I'll get back at y'all next week sometime. Until then, stay warm, travel safely.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

For This I Moved to Texas?

We kept an 8:30 am doctor's appointment in Conroe on Thursday. The girl did some looking and testing of my eye and wrote her findings down. The doctor came in and read what she wrote and said "this is good." Then he looked at my eye and said "this is better than good." So I'm doing well. He said there was no reason to delay the 12/16 surgery so it is still on.

From there we went to JCP and I was able to look all around the store and see without my glasses! Of course my eyes aren't seeing the same so it's a bit disconcerting but I am aware of the far vision I haven't had since grade school.

Friday morning I drove to the walking trail without my glasses and walked with Gerre. It was 42 at 8 am but had dropped to 39 at 9 am when I returned home. We headed to Conroe to look at an RV that is for sale and while there, it started to snow! Mostly flurries but they were reporting two inches in downtown Houston. We stopped at the Dollar Store, had BBQ at MacKenzie's and then thought we would stop at Social Security to check on Ted's application status. They were closed due to inclement weather!!!! The ground was barely wet. They would never go to work in Ohio or Michigan I guess. Inclement weather to me is 15 inches of snow and 25 below zero (all of which my kids have attended school in while students in Michigan).

So we came home and waited forever on the phone to talk to Social Security. Ted has never been notified that his application was approved. The fact that the interviewer was questioning him about his other wife Victoria had us concerned! We met at age 14 and 15 and will be married 45 years in April. I hope Victoria finds the correct husband. The lady I talked to said on January 7 his will all be in the system and to check on line on January 8. Let's hope she is right. Mine went through without a hitch but then I didn't have a second husband no one knows about!

I was able to get my hair cut and colored at the last minute late in the afternoon. When I came home Ted had fixed dinner for the third night in a row. I'm liking this interest in grocery shopping and cooking. He said a young girl had asked his opinion on ground beef. He asked what she was using it for and gave her his opinion and why. You could almost see the chest puff out with pride!

We covered my pansies last night. Good thing too because it is 29 this morning at 6 am. We have the Christmas Party Wine Tasting tonight. I am taking sweet potatoes and an extra bottle of wine. CASA (Court Appointed Advocates for children) is having a "wine pull" at their gala in February. We said we would donate a bottle for it. I worked with CASA for about three years when my friend Jean was the director. After she retired I lost touch with the organization. However, I'm scheduled to begin working with Junior Forum in the spring. Newcomers has sort of run its course and my friendships and groups are established. It's time to move on and broaden my horizons.

Stay warm. I'm trying to. They did say we'll be back in the 70s by the beginning of the work week. Let's hope they are right.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Down, One to Go

Kristin and I were up and out early on Sunday. Our first stop was Michael's where we purchased frames and mats for the pictures I have hung in my guest bath. Kristin has beautiful pictures and photographs all over her house and decided mine would look better matted. From there we went to Old Town Spring to Petals and Metals to look for a metal cross for her. The only one we found was $160, a little more than she was willing to pay. So off to the nail salon we went. And it was closed!! I don't know if it was just for Thanksgiving weekend or they have decided not to be open on Sundays anymore. Either way, we were out of luck.

So we came home and worked on the pictures and mats. The matting went fine but we both seemed to be mathmatically challenged when it came to hanging them. No matter what we did, we ended up with a dot in the wrong spot on the wall. Eventually we got them hung and then decided the burgundy mats on the small pictures were "too much" so she suggested I change them out.

Carol had invited us for dinner Sunday night so we headed over there. It was great to have someone cook for us and we all enjoyed the dinner. I was fading fast and we came home about 8:30. It wasn't long before we were all in bed because of the 3:30 a.m. alarm I set.

We had Kristin to the airport and were back home shortly after 5 a.m. so we both went back to bed. At 7:00 Gerre called and we agreed with the rain and cold we would skip walking. Ted got up so he could be at Rick and Brenda's to go downtown to help them unload their old motorhome and reload the new one. He videotaped the walk through so Rick can refer to it if he needs to recall some instructions.

I went to Susan's at 1 pm and stayed there until 3:30. When I left for home I called Ted to see if they were all back at the campground and he said they were still downtown. I was amazed they were still moving stuff from approximately 300 sq. ft. of space. Of course there were two people emptying and only Brenda trying to put it all away. It was after 6:00 when Ted got home. He was very tired and the trip to the airport hadn't helped.

Tuesday we went to Sam's to return some crab cakes that were being recalled. We received a phone call telling us to bring them back ... but Ted had already eaten two. They gave us our money back for the whole pack but no one ever told us what the problem is/was. We were looking for toys for our church giving tree and it became apparent Ted was looking for a boy toy and I was looking for a girl toy so we decided to buy two. He chose two Tonka trucks with moving parts. I chose a stroller/bed/diaper bag/carrier Princess Disney set. We don't have to wrap them, just put them in the bin at church.

Then we went back to Michael's to return one frame and mat and to buy two cream mats to replace the burgundy ones. I came home and changed them and they do look better. I'll hang on to the burgundy mats for use in my bedroom. Kara and Kelly and families had portraits made so I'm thinking just maybe two will end up in my Christmas stocking.

Today we were at the Conroe Surgery Center at 7:30 for my cataract surgery. The only hitch was it took four attempts before they got the needle in for an IV (in case I needed it). Turns out I didn't so I got stuck all those times for nothing. I was awake and heard the doctor fussing with a "chunk" he was trying to get with the vacuum. He told me when he was slipping the new lens in and it was all over. We were back home by 9:30. Everything is very cloudy out of my right eye but I can see better without my glasses than with them. However, my left eye needs the glasses for now. It will all work itself out I'm sure. We have to see the doctor at 8:30 tomorrow morning and then again next week. We'll discuss whether to proceed with the 2/16 surgery since we're leaving town 2/21. I won't be able to keep a one week post surgery appointment. If it's a problem, we'll just do the second one after the first of the year. It would be nice to get them done though so both my eyes are working the same.

I'm wrapping presents today and Ted is fixing dinner so it will be an easy day for me. Catch y'all "down the road."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Harwin, Turkey and San Antonio

I walked with Gerre on Monday morning. We're trying to increase our three miles a little each day but we're normally restricted by time. It's been cool in the morning so it's great walking in jeans and a sweatshirt with sneakers. Then I cleaned up and met Ann, Carol and Jody at Target to leave for Harwin.

When we arrived we immediately ran into Susan, Irene and Linda at the flower place. I did find two new things and that was all I was looking for. We hit the purse, jewelry and linen places before finally returning home around 6:00 p.m. Ted even called to ask where I was. I'm seldom gone so long but it was a fun and productive day.

I stayed home Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for Kristin's arrival and cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I had things under control early Thursday and was able to go with Ted to the airport to get Kristin. We had a great dinner (if I do say so myself) with Terry and Carol. By half time of the Texas/Texas A&M game, Kristin was in bed and Terry & Carol left for home. I was pooped.

We left early Friday morning and headed for San Antonio. After checking into the Hampton Inn, we walked to the Alamo for our first stop. Then we viewed the film and museum pieces in the Long Barracks. Next was a walk along the Riverwalk and then a boat ride on the river.

It was a BIG weekend in San Antonio we discovered. Friday night was the lighting of the tree on Alamo Plaza, lighting of the trees along the Riverwalk and the boat parade along the river. In addition it was St. Cecelia's Feast which is celebrated as the start of the holiday season by the Tejano's and from the Airmen we saw in town, there must have been a graduation at Lackland AFB. We and 199,997 people were in town visiting.

We drove out to the Mercado where we encountered the St. Cecelia celebrations and enjoyed the music and stalls. We decided to eat at La Margarita's because the Riverwalk and surrounding streets were being blocked off just as we left that area. We had great Mexican food and were entertained by the mariachi players who stopped at the table next to us. The gentleman there stood up and sang song after song. He sounded like a Spanish Enrico Caruso. What a voice! We couldn't have paid for any better entertainment.

Trying to get back to the motel to park was a real challenge. Traffic was backed up every which way. We finally skirted it all, got parked and walked back over towards the river. Of course we didn't have a ticket for a seat along the river so we stood at a wall above the river right at the convention center. The parade lasted a long time and was very colorful with lots of music and lights. We called it a day and headed back to the motel.

Saturday morning after breakfast we checked out and went to San Jose Mission. It is one of the biggest and best preserved along the Mission Trail. We watched a movie about the many native tribes that lived here once but eventually became disjointed from attacks by Apache Indians and the Spanish invaders. The missions were their salvation but also their downfall in that it caused the loss of much of their culture and also brought European diseases. Today in Texas we refer to the people of this descent as Tejanos. They are Mexicans who were in Texas before it was Texas. They are hardworking, religious, family-oriented people and they love a fiesta!

We headed home and made a planned stop in San Marcos at the outlet mall. I bought a $70 dress from Strausburg Children for Morgan for $15 and Kristin got two pair of Easy Spirit shoes for $20 each. The crowds were terrific so we didn't stay long. From there we started for home in earnest just stopping in Giddings to buy tomato preserves for Carol at Lee County General Store. We also arrived in Magnolia just at 5:00 o'clock so we went to St. Matthias for Mass. We came home to our Thanksgiving leftovers and called it a day.

Morgan and Sam called this morning. They are on the Polar Express going to the North Pole to see Santa. This is a train out of Owasso, MI. They said they were having hot chocolate "which is like coffee but tastes good" Morgan said. Sam said this was the best time of his life because he had been at the Star Wars Concert yesterday. Oh to be a kid again.

Kristin and I have a lot of running to do today. Her flight is at 5:45 AM tomorrow so it's another VERY early day. I'll catch you all later.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Our First Texas Wedding

Friday was a cold, drizzly day and we had to be at church at 2 pm for our directory picture. We got dressed nicely and were on time but we were the first persons for the day and had to wait a bit while they set up. This is such a transient area and they've been taking pictures since last summer. I wonder how many families will have moved on by the time it is published.

Afterwards we went to the jewelers to pick up my newly resized rings, drop off Ted's gold chain that had broken and get new batteries in two watches. We're turning into their new best customers.

Neither of us had eaten all day because Rebecca cleaned in the morning so we missed both breakfast and lunch. We decided to go to Sweet Tomatoes. A bowl of hot soup sounded good. I think we were the best dressed in the restaurant! When we left it was after 4 pm and we still needed to stop at Sam's to get something to take to Wind Down.

The thought of walking through the drizzle in the cold into and out of Sam's, staying dressed up for another three hours until we left again, parking a distance and walking to the party because 70 people were coming just seemed like more effort than we wanted to expend. We made a U-turn, came home and were crashed on the couch by 5:30. We caught *ell from some folks for not showing up and worrying them but it just felt good to stay in.

We went to church at 5 pm on Saturday with Terry & Carol, stopped off at Chik Fil A for a bite and then headed on over to play bunco. I tied for most buncos, tied for most wins and Ted won something. We doubled our $10 to $20. Not a bad night and we always enjoy this group.

We slept in some this morning and then got ready for our FIRST Texas wedding. Our neighbors picked us up and we drove to the church where the service was held. It was lovely and very touching. Grace is 75, Jack probably a bit older. They were surrounded by children and grandchildren and made one big family.

The reception was a sit down dinner at the River Plantation Country Club and the menu was ... chicken fried chicken. What else would you serve at a Texas wedding if you weren't serving brisket? The food was very good and there were three tables of neighbors. It was an enjoyable and fun time.

I hope to walk tomorrow. We missed out Friday and Saturday because of the rain. Then four of us are taking off for Harwin. Most of the ladies won't drive to downtown Houston and I will. Also, my Expedition has plenty of room for packages, another plus. Doesn't take too much to be popular some days.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lightning Speed

Life is roaring past at such a fast clip. I can hardly believe we are about to enter 2010. That means almost 10% of the new century has gone by. Unbelievable.

We stayed home last Saturday night, something we haven't done for quite some time. After church Sunday we had breakfast at Terry & Carol's then Michele picked me up for our Southern Living party. Ted watched football on TV and we stayed in Sunday evening too.

I continue to walk with Gerre 3-4 times a week and it feels good to get out and move briskly for an hour or so. My bunco group met on Monday and we made plans for our Christmas luncheon. December is going to be even busier than November.

I returned to the dermatologist for some more "freezing." She said these things really like me but we're determined to keep after them. Then I had to see my internist for a pre-op physical for my cataract surgery. I had an EKG, chest X-ray, blood and urine labs. I sure hope this suffices for both surgeries. I don't particularly want to do this a second time.

Wednesday evening I went to the country club for Happy Hour and left about 7:00 to deliver five pairs of PJs for the Houston Reserve Unit deployed in Afghanistan. Emily was not home yet so I had to bring them back home with me. She called right before I got home and we agreed I would take them to her on Thursday evening.

Today was our neighborhood ladies' luncheon. I chose Casa Imperial since the restaurant at the Conference Center was booked with a golf outing. I'll keep that one in my back pocket for the next time it is my turn. I picked up a few things at Tuesday Morning and stayed home until I did my run to Emily's with the PJs. They needed 96 pairs and were 9 short as of last night. She said a church came through for the last nine so they had a pair for each soldier in the unit.

Ted had driven to Austin on Monday and back on Tuesday. He went shooting on Wednesday and then flew to Midland/Odessa,TX today and will be back tomorrow. This has been a very busy month for him also.

Tomorrow we get our picture taken for the church directory. Most were taken over the summer and we assumed we just wouldn't be in it. But they have one last call to those that missed so we're taking advantage of it. Tomorrow night is Wind Down at Jody and Dave's followed by bunco on Saturday night with the St. Anthony group.

My neighbor is getting married on Sunday and we're attending the wedding and reception with other neighbors. They are in their late 70s and I'm sure it will be a very nice service.

I'm going to the Harwin area of Houston (wholesale district) on Monday with Ann. I'm looking for a new arrangement for our master bath but not much else. My Christmas shopping is pretty much done. The kids want rental cars paid for, Universal tickets, Disney tickets, etc. so it has been easy for me.

I guess by Tuesday I better get to the grocery for Thanksgiving dinner shopping. Kristin flies in that morning and Terry & Carol will be coming over for dinner. Friday we are taking Kristin to San Antonio and San Marcos for the weekend.

By then it's the first week of December and my surgery. I'm going to just take the month one day at a time. It is jam packed with events but I have to see how I do. They said I can drive as soon as I feel I can see well enough to drive. My other eye should be OK, right? So I figure I'll be out and about quickly.

Just in case I don't get back here before next Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving to all. I am grateful for all the people in my life and the great things that God has done for me and my family.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I'm Officially Old and God is Laughing

I went to Canasta as planned on Monday. Since Michele and I had no cards the first round my overall score was low enough to give me lowest score ... and my money back! For dinner we met Stella, Jay, Rick and Brenda at Sweet Tomatoes. We made plans to play Pegs and Jokers on Thursday night.

On Tuesday I kept my eye doctor appointment and was shocked when he told me I had cataracts on both eyes. I thought I needed my prescription changed. Pretty soon I'm going to be the bionic woman! Since I was having a hard time driving in the bright sunlight I went to the Black Walnut Cafe near his office for the Coffee and Chit Chat Group to give my eyes a chance to adjust.

That afternoon when I could see OK again, I followed Ted to the car wash where he used the gift card I gave him for his birthday for a complete detail inside and out of his truck. We stopped at the shopping center on the way home. I bought a gift for our Texas Boomers Christmas Party and the young man at the register asked me if I belonged to the Tuesday Club. I said no and he asked if I wanted to be since he thought I probably qualified. He explained it was 10% off on Tuesdays for seniors. Sure kid, I'm a senior, give me my darn discount!! I guess the mirror hasn't been lying and I'm probably in for a real shock when I can see properly again. Can't you hear Him chuckling already? Don't ever doubt that God has a sense of humor.

Pegs and Jokers was scrapped for Thursday evening because Ted had to fly to McAllen at the last minute. He took a 5:40 a.m. flight home on Friday to be back in time to take me to have my eyes "measured" and get all the instructions for my 12/2 cataract surgery. For not being a big deal, I have a lot of stuff to do prior to the surgery.

Last night we were invited to the country club by Jeff and Connie because we had taken them to dinner awhile back. A good group gathered and it was a nice time.

Today Susan, Carol and I went to a Christmas open house in Conroe. Then we stopped at MacKenzie's for a burger before heading south back to The Woodlands. Susan and I continued on to the jewelers to pick up my rings. They did a spectacular job replacing the emerald with the new diamond and the new ring using all my old diamonds turned out terrific. My wedding band sparkled like crazy from a good cleaning. It's a quite nice 45th anniversary present times two.

Ted has been at the Houston Gun Club over the past couple of days. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary and had all kinds of shoots, dinners, fireworks, etc. He won third place (out of 200 shooters) in skeet and brought home a trophy. The lamp table in the office is getting crowded.

We're having goetta for breakfast at Terry & Carol's tomorrow after church. She is introducing a few novices into the intricacies of Cincinnati cuisine. Then I have a Southern Living party and Ted will be content to watch football all afternoon.

I just want to say I don't feel old. We both had a great year with no aches, pains or doctor visits. We walked all over National Parks this summer, all over Europe last month and I'm walking three miles a day with Gerre (we're working up to 5 miles). And other than the time adjustment, I've been sleeping great. So, unofficially, I'm still young at heart regardless of what the calendar, the doctor and that kid say.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Accomplished Week

Monday after my walk with Gerre, I cleaned out my office closet. I was gathering up cards, envelopes and pens to be sent to the soldiers in Iraq so they can write home. My friend Anna takes care of this and I had a small shopping bag full for her. She asked me if I would sponsor PJs for a soldier. I said sure and started looking on line. I was able to get four sets of PJs on line from JCP on sale and with free shipping. I ordered four different sizes. I think I'm supposed to write notes to go with them. Anna will get back to me on that. After all that was taken care of I cleaned the files and had to empty the shredder five or six times. But now I'm ready for tax time and a new year.

Tuesday's funeral luncheon was an all time high for our St. Martha's group I think. There were about 250 in attendance. I thought we had so much food that we could set some aside for the Thursday funeral, but I was wrong. I seldom claim to be exhausted but believe me when I say I was exhausted after that. Then I had to come home and wash 12 of the tablecloths and make brownies to deliver on Wednesday for use on Thursday. I felt bad for the ladies going back for a second time in one week. However, no one dies at a good time, no matter when it happens.

On a brighter note, our Wednesday Newcomer breakfast was a huge success. We had great attendance and a lovely buffet by our hostess. This is a casual atmosphere for new (and old) members to get together with nothing to do but get to know one another. I met a new lady and she and I are going to the Christmas luncheon together so she knows some one when she arrives. Sometimes it's just that little extra that makes people comfortable in our group and they become enthusiastic members.

Thursday was the Habitat for Humanity luncheon and fashion show. One of the St. Anthony men from Terry & Carol's bunco group had purchased an entire table. His wife asked Carol to invite me. Sometimes we sub in that group so they know me and Ted. It was a very nice luncheon and show. We met a couple more ladies from our church. There are over 4200 families at St. Anthony's so getting to know people is a challenge.

Gerre and I walked on Wednesday and Friday. Then Ted and I went to the jewelers here in The Woodlands. I have a diamond and emerald ring that my mother gave me. I wear it all the time and the emerald got pretty beat up. We purchased a marquise diamond to replace the emerald in that ring. I also had two other rings - one had my original engagement set diamonds in it and the other had my mother's engagement set diamonds. We chose a setting that will use all the diamonds from both rings into one new ring. When the kids had a big 40th anniversary celebration for us, Fr. Terry asked us to remove our rings to repeat our vows. Darn! I missed a perfect opportunity for a new ring. I just never gave it a thought. Since April will be 45 years, I guess we'll call it a 45th anniversary present.

Wine Tasting last night was awesome. The couple had traveled to Argentina and used those wines along with Mediterranean food for the evening. They had a digital frame showing pictures of their trip, a map on the refrigerator showing their travels and the location of the wineries and then they did a slideshow on their TV of the wines we would be tasting. Now how is anyone going to top that! We start with a sparkling wine or champagne, move up to the white wines and then on to the bolder reds. I liked them all and I'm not much of a red wine drinker. Ted drinks Caffeine Free Diet Coke instead. He's not much of a drinker but enjoys the group nonetheless.

I've been on the phone with our daughter Kara a lot this week because Morgan has been sick. We finally think she is on the mend. Kara is ordering shirts for us for our day together at Epcot during the holidays. They have a timeshare and spend lots of time at Disney World. Here is the design for our shirt. They find it easier to keep track of one another this way. I know it worked well in 2006 when all eleven of us went to Disney.

Next week looks a bit calmer. I'm playing Canasta tomorrow and going to the eye doctor on Tuesday. My calendar is clear beyond that for a few days. I need to start thinking ahead to the holidays. How did that get here so soon?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Settling In

After finally adjusting to the seven hour time difference when we first got back, I had another hour thrown at me when DST went away! I slept until 6:30 this morning so I think I'm OK now. On the other hand, I'm grateful for all those 3 a.m. wake-up calls because it allowed me to get the trip blog finished when there wasn't much else I could do while Ted was sleeping.

This past week we both had doctor appointments and I had a dentist appointment. I'm glad to report Ted's blood pressure, cholesterol and PSA are all good and he takes no medicine for any of those things. I also had lunch with Gerre and Jennifer on Thursday.

On Saturday I had lunch with Susan and when Ted returned from shooting we went to Rayford for the chili-cookoff/Halloween party. What a crowd they had. I don't think you could have put one more vehicle into the park. There were lots of adults as well as kids dressed up for the festivities and RVs had been decorated for a contest. There was a keg of beer in the middle of the breezeway and 22 entries in the chili contest.

Music started at 3:00 with the potluck at 4:00. The chili was the main dish with all sorts of side dishes and desserts. Afterwards we all went to Tommy's motorhome and sat around a campfire. It was perfect weather. In fact, the weather report this week gives our weather an 11 out of 10!

Sadly we have two funerals this week at church, a 16 year old girl and a young mother. I'll be working the luncheon today but just cooking for the one on Thursday. I wash all the tablecloths so I'll have to get them right back up to church for the second luncheon.

Wednesday is our Newcomers breakfast club and Carol has invited me to a Habitat For Humanity luncheon on Thursday. Then it's Wine Tasting on Saturday with Canasta Monday afternoon. It doesn't take long to get back into the swing of things.

Kristin is coming here for Thanksgiving and we're taking her to San Antonio and San Marcos over the weekend. We've made plans to go to Florida for Christmas because all three of our girls and their families will be there. We'll be at Disney for two nights, out near Kristin for 5 nights in a motel while Kelly and family stay at Kristin's and then hit Punta Gorda to see my Dad, Cape Coral to see a friend, Naples for New Year's Eve with friends from New York and Lady Lake to visit friends and allow Ted to call on the newspaper as we head for home. We'll stop in Slidell, LA too to see our sister-in-law. We'll get a lot of visiting mileage out of this trip.

People have been asking me if I've got next year planned. We'll probably go to the Rio Grande Valley in February for a couple weeks, we have Sam's 1st Communion in Michigan in April, a wedding in Cincinnati the first part of June, our granddaughters' dance recital mid-June (Morgan is now dancing as well as Ally) and a trip to Cancun the end of August with Ted's brother.

I have to take all these events and start making a plan. I know we won't be out as long as this past summer. We're flying to Michigan in April for just five days and will head out later with the RV in time for the June 4 wedding in Cincinnati and then travel to Michigan. Where we go from there until we need to be home in August is up in the air right now. They say if you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trouble in the Locks

Day 17 - We were scheduled to arrive about 8 a.m. in Basel but due to a broken lock, we were delayed about three hours. As part of the Discovery Series we were expecting a lecturer on board in the morning. Around 11:30, in the rain, standing at a lock we were entering, stood a young lady waiting to board. We wondered what happened if someone missed the boat and we were told to call the number on our boarding pass and they would have a taxi take you to the next lock we were going to go through and you could board there. We finally saw this scenario in action. We went through 33 locks this trip. The schedule for the day was wrecked and adjustments had to be made.

So after lunch Peter walked us to the streetcar and gave each of us an all day ticket. We then proceeded to the Marktplatz with its colorful town hall and we took a walking tour. When that was finished we rode a streetcar on a complete route around the city ending up again at the Marktplatz.

The optional tour to Rhine Waterfalls, located on the upper Rhine River below Schaffhausen, Switzerland had been cancelled. So we took time to visit the Co-Op store in town to buy some Swiss chocolate. We continued to run into fellow passengers both in the store and on the streetcar.

We made it an early evening because we and Terry & Carol had a 3:00 am wake-up call. Our bags were to be out at 3:45, breakfast at 4:00 and departure at 4:30. If you go to the Almost 22 Hours ... entry on the left hand side of the blog, it finishes this magnificent trip we were so delighted to take.

Alsatian Wine Road plus the Stork Park

Day 16 - Today we rode through the famous wine region of Alsace where there is a delightful blend of French and German cultures. We passed through the Elsass region to the foothills of the Vosges Mountains to travel the Route de Vin past rolling vineyards and flower-decked villages.

Our first stop was at the Stork Park where these birds are being repopulated. After dropping to 10 mating pairs, a program to break their migratory instinct to keep them safe was implemented and there are now 500 pairs. They do this by removing some of the eggs from the nest, hatching them in incubators and keeping them in captivity for three years. When released, relative safety and easy food at the park make "hanging around" an easy choice for the storks without confining them in adulthood.

Continuing on through several delightful villages, we arrived at Riquewihr, the "gem of the vineyards." This town was producing grapes for wine during the Middle Ages and most houses were erected in the 15th to 18th century. It is protected by twin walls.

We strolled through the streets until we arrived at the place of our wine tasting.

Once again we entered a cellar, this time by a narrow stairway with a rope banister. There were several round tasting tables with glasses ready for us. The floor was gravel and we were told to pour any unwanted wine on it. I didn't like the wine as well as at the German wine tasting but I'm certainly no connoisseur of wine. Here we all are - Peter, yours truly and Ted, Tom & Jeanne, Les & Pat with our ever-present earphones. Instead of "hat hair" we had "receiver hair" but our ears were warm!

That evening the crew put on a variety show for our entertainment.

Another Morning of Rest

Day 15 - Today's optional tour was to Baden-Baden with a ride through the Black Forest. Ted and I had done this previously and opted to stay on the ship and take in the Discovery Series Cuckoo Clock demonstration. The clocks are all hand carved and hand painted. They are really beautiful. We bought a hand carved mantel clock during our early 1990s trip and just enjoyed seeing the craftsmanship. The ship was sailing and the tour group caught up with us in Strasbourg, France.

As an aside, when we were having our disembarkation talk, the question was asked if anyone needed a Value Added Tax (VAT) form. This would be used to get a refund of the tax you paid if you had spent more than $120 in any one store. No one on the ship needed one. I think this speaks to the strong Euro against the U.S. dollar. Everything was quite expensive this trip and people simply were not buying.

My father's family came from the Strasbourg region and Ted and I had visited here on our previous trip. We were anxious to see the Astronomical Clock once again. It is housed in the Notre Dame Cathedral and has a long history.

There is a tribute to our servicemen carved on a pillar in the cathedral.

The first clock was built around 1352. This stayed in place for about 150 years until it finally failed. Work on a replacement began in 1547 but due to the religious turmoil of the time was not completed until some thirty years later. Major modifications/rebuilding work took place again in the 19th century.

The clock is on four main levels and provides a variety of astronomical information; i.e., time, tide, moon phase, etc. It's magnificent in itself, but what makes it such a tourist attraction for visitors to Strasbourg is the collection of automata that perform on the various levels. These include a cherub turning an hour glass, another hitting a gong and a figurative representation of the four ages of man.

The main "show" takes place at 12:30 daily. On the top level, figures of the twelve apostles parade in front of Christ and bow before him while a cock spreads its wings and crows. Because of our schedule we were not able to see this again. However, now you must pay to be in the Cathedral at that time. Also, it was 2 Euros (about $3) to turn the light on to even see the clock! Add that to all the signs about pickpockets and it certainly put a damper on our visit.

In the afternoon we enjoyed a sightseeing tour by boat along Strasbourg's canals. We had to go through two locks to circle the city.

Our tour concluded at the Palais Rohan (mini-Versailles) and we walked on our own through the city back to the ship.

On To Speyer

Day 14 - Speyer was founded around 50 AD by the Romans and flourished during the Middle Ages. However, much of it was destroyed in the 17th century during the Palantine War of Succession. Little of its past glory survived except for the Romanesque Cathedral that was built between 1030 and 1125.

The crypt is of special interest, since it has retained its original condition to the present day. Being the official church of the Salic Emperors, eight German Emperors and Kings, four queens and a number of bishops were buried here.

Emperor Konrad II, buried 1039
Empress Gisela, wife of Konrad II, buried 1043
Emperor Heinrich III, buried 1056
Emperor Heinrich IV, buried 1111
Emperor Heinrich V, buried 1125
Empress Beatrix, second wife of Friedrich Barbarossa, buried 1184
Agnes, daughter of Friedrich Barbarossa, buried 1184
King Philipp of Swabia, Son of Friedrich Barbarossa, buried 1216
King Rudolf of Habsburg, buried 1291
King Adolf of Nassau, buried 1309

At the opposite end of the main street is the City Gate. This is one of the tallest city gates in Germany. It was constructed between 1230 and 1250. You can walk up countless stairs to the top to see Speyer from above. Inside there's an exhibition on city fortifications.

That afternoon was our Discovery Series Home-Hosted Kaffeeklatsch with a local family. We arrived at the home of Sybil who proceeded to explain how her present home was a farm house. Her present "apartment" was the pig sty, the area her one son occupies had been the goat and horse stable. Her twin sons occupy what was the main house. A large barn sits in the rear and behind that her garden. It is amazing how much she had growing in a relatively small space.

We went inside to have coffee or tea and some of her lovely cakes. She had made a chocolate torte, a cream torte, plum cake, apple cake, coconut balls and sugared walnuts. That was way more than the 7 of us could eat. I had eaten a light lunch and skipped dessert so I could enjoy her offerings. I was not disappointed. We had a nice conversation about life in Germany before being taken back to the ship.