Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chaos Is An Understatement

I told our company coming for dinner today that if they find a seat, sit down and don't move.  It may be awhile before another seat becomes available.  Our house is perfect for the two of us, not bad for two more but seven people with Christmas gifts, big dinners, suitcases and visitors gets a bit tricky!  But we are making it.  Terry and Carol as well as Kara's friend Lora, her husband and daughter Hope are coming for dinner today.  An even dozen!

Larry and Kristin arrived right on time on Wednesday and despite six inches of snow overnight in Michigan, Kara and the kids arrived on time too.  We were so thankful for that.  We came home, got settled in and had our Christmas just two days late.

Morgan received a Merida from Brave costume for her Build A Bear Molly.  It included a red wig that was wrapped in a sort of hair net to protect it in the package.  When Kristin helped her dress the bear, Morgan put the hair net on too.  Kristin said she didn't need that, it was just part of the packaging and Morgan pipes up with "No, she's a noon aide!"  I hope all those women working in their school district in Michigan aren't reading this. 

The electronic age dominated our Christmas, probably as much as anyone else's.  If the electric goes out, we are done for.

After dinner we drove to see the lighted house Ted and I visited last Friday.  Larry took lots of pictures.  The display was closing at 10 pm so we were the last people there and talked to the man who builds it all.  He was very nice and passed out candy canes.  Larry said he would bring him a CD with pictures of the house on it.  I don't think he believed him because the next day when Larry did just that, the guy said people tell him that all the time and this was the first time he had received any photos.  You can visit his website at

Friday morning we girls went to the bridal salon to look at gowns.  We all learned some things about bolero jackets, belts, strapless dresses, etc.  This opened up a whole new avenue for Kristin to pursue.  We found a lovely combination that will now be her benchmark as she looks some more.  She is going to LA in February with her friend Sheetal who will be the maid of honor.  There is a big bridal shop out there she wants to visit.  I'm sure her final selection will be lovely.

We went to Olive Garden for dinner compliments of Uncle Terry and Aunt Carol then went to see a couple streets decorated in our own area.  One is an entire area decorated to honor a young man who was killed in an accident.  Apparently it has grown each year with everyone in the neighborhood joining in.  The next was Whoville where one neighbor paints the characters with looks and interests of the children living in that particular house.

Saturday was American Girl store day.  We made our way to Memorial City Mall in Houston despite the drive and traffic for Morgan to use her gift cards from Kristin and me.  Kristin asked Morgan, who was playing a Game Boy in the back seat, how she was doing and she said "I'm OK, I just keep getting my head knocked off and killed." 

These doll clothes are more than you would pay to dress a real person!  She bought a set of PJs for the doll to match a nightgown her mother bought her and an ice skating outfit. 

We tried to eat at their restaurant but there was no availability.  We tried CA Pizza Kitchen, passing the skating rink, but it was a 20 minute wait.  They all wanted to try Cheesecake Factory and I said it would be worse, and it was, one hour.  We ended up at Sweet Tomatoes which was a good choice.  Everyone had what they wanted and we were seated immediately.  When I took Morgan up to get an ice cream she didn't want a brownie under her ice cream nor a cone, she just wanted ice cream with sprinkles.  They happened to have white and green ones for the holidays instead of chocolate.  When we got back to the table she told her mother "I hate Michigan State but they are the only sprinkles they had."  She cracks us up!

We all went to Mass at 5 pm then went to see one more house decorated with lights in time to music.  There was not nearly as much to look at but the music seemed to be synchronized a bit better.  Over the garage door, there were talking Christmas tree outlines in green lights with mouths that moved.  They were hilarious as Miss Piggy, Kermit and another time as the Chipmunks.  All in all, we saw some really neat displays.

My oven continues to give me fits.  It turned itself off again this morning while I was baking a french toast casserole.  We have been watching it like a hawk all day.  Good thing Ted is using his smoker for the brisket.  Let's hope we get this one last big company meal on the table!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Let The Chaos Begin!

Last Friday Ted and I drove to Conroe to see one of those houses all decorated with light shows set to music.  It was fantastic!  We stayed for at least a half hour, heard a dozen or more songs, all with light shows set to that specific music, and it never got back to where we came in.  We hope the kids arrive in time for us to take them to see it before they turn it off on 12/27.

Saturday was one more party - a Christmas luau out around the pool of our friends.  There was a live band, dinner and enough imbibing that we were rocking to a little Proud Mary followed by a conga line where no one ended up in the pool!  It was a fun time.

Our last engagement was an open house at the home of Richard and Caroline on Sunday.  Richard outdid himself on his many enticing eats.  I even tried a piece of venison and it was really good.  We saw some people we hadn't seen in awhile and met some new ones.  That always makes for a nice evening.

Monday was my day to get busy for Christmas Day dinner.  I had the table all set.

And the bar too.  However, except for a few beers and some wine, nothing else was touched.  We just don't run with a big drinking crowd. 

We went to eat at Texas Roadhouse Christmas Eve and had no trouble getting a table, we were seated promptly.  We had intended to go to Mass at 9 pm but it was a little before 6 o'clock when we left the restaurant so we thought we would drive by church and see how bad the parking lot was for the 6:30 service.  There were parking spots and we found seats in church easily so we stayed.  The children's pageant was so cute.  Fr. Tom passed by and shook Ted's hand and congratulated us on finding a "couple of good seats."  It is only the second time we have been at our church for Christmas services in the 12 years we have lived here.

Christmas morning was more hustle and bustle as we prepared for our guests to arrive.  Of course I had three things to go into the oven, all with different temperatures, and my oven still is not heating to the proper temperature and shuts itself off at times.  I am going to have it looked at as soon as I can.  But the ham was baked and Ted wrapped it in foil and put it in a cooler so I could turn the heat up to finish the sweet potatoes and pineapple casserole.  I also had green beans and made ambrosia salad.  Corn pudding and a green salad were brought by our guests along with a carrot cake, pecan pie and snacks!  We were not going to go hungry.

Here we are with our Santa Hats brought by Peg.  It is cranberry apple juice and champagne in glasses ringed with coconut.  Cute!

The meal turned out great if I do say so myself.  We delayed dessert until after we played cards so I made quick work of clearing the table and loading the dishwasher while Irene put all the cards out.  We played a game of Shang Hai and I Shang Hai'd and won at our table!  Great Christmas gift to myself. 

I served the pecan pie and carrot cake while encouraging folks to take some cookies or candy from a large plate full that Irene had also brought.  Of course no one would take anything home because they wanted me to keep it for the house full of company I have coming.

For being "alone, without family" it was one heck of a nice Christmas Day.  We have such wonderful friends here.  The saying "a friend close by is better than a brother far away" rings true.  It was dark, cold and windy when everyone went home.  My Santa had taken a header into the sprinkler, one tree was over, and the basket of poinsettias had taken flight.  I decided to wait until this morning to set things right but the wind still hasn't died down.  We went from 73 degrees to 35 in just a few hours.  The next week is not predicted to get above 70.  Bummer for the kids coming.

Kristin and her fiance Larry arrive this afternoon from Florida.  I am concerned about Kara and the kids getting out of Michigan tomorrow because they are getting snow all day today.  But they are used to that and people just go about their business in all that mess.  I remember when we moved there in 1981 I was to go somewhere with some ladies and it snowed about 8 inches over night.  I called the next morning to see if we were still going and the response was "sure, why not?" 

So I will expect them all here on time.  Sure, why not?

Friday, December 21, 2012

That Week Before the Week

After a nice laid back weekend, this last week before Christmas was busy but not quite as bad as last week.  Monday was my bunco group's Christmas Luncheon, our 12th year.  Michelle had everyone for lunch and it was fantastic.  She has the cutest Christmas dishes and set a very lovely table.  Her meal was great and she made the most beautifully decorated cookies for Christmas and served them with Blue Bell (what else here in Texas?) peppermint ice cream.  I had a small gift for everyone and we had our gift exchange.

First I had them choose a gift based on birthdays, then everyone pulled a small piece of paper telling you what to do with your gift; i.e., "swap with the person with the most grandchildren" or "swap with someone not wearing a Christmas shirt" etc.  Then I read the story of the Little Toy Soldier and every time I said left or right they had to pass their package.  It was a lot of fun and no one had to "steal" from someone else.  Each year I try to come up with a different game but after 12 years, it is getting a bit harder.

I worked at the thrift store on Tuesday for four hours.  After three hours of tagging children's clothes, I elected to sit down and cut buttons off the discards.  Most people only do two hours for very good reason but I needed to get the hours in.  I have three more shifts after the first of the year and one senior luncheon to work and my 50 hours will be complete.  I may help out at other events but I needed to schedule those hours to be sure I got all my hours in.  Being gone until March 15 doesn't give me a lot of time.  We also must attend four meetings and help out on our committee (mine is Social) four times.  I have it all planned out and I am good!

Wednesday was an early dental appointment and everything went fine there.  This is the first time my dentist has seen the partial that the proctodontist made for me.  He asked if it was working out OK and I said yes.  Beyond that he said everything looked fine and keep up the good work.  Now that I think about it, he didn't give me a new toothbrush and toothpaste.  I don't use them but save them for traveling or put them in the guest bathroom in case someone forgets theirs.

Afterwards we went to Kroger's to start our massive grocery shopping.  We tend to run in and out of the grocery several times a week buying a few things here and there.  But with Christmas dinner for 8 and 5 people coming to stay, that wouldn't work.  We loaded the basket to the top but still aren't finished.

We drove to Livingston State Park on Thursday to visit with our friends Rick and Brenda who have been work camping there.  We stopped to see them in Memphis on our way home this past summer but haven't had a chance to visit until this past week.  They leave for Memphis right after New Year's so we won't see them again until June when we head out for the summer.  No matter which roads we take to go north, it seems we always drive through Memphis to get there.

Today we will finish the grocery shopping and I'll do the laundry.  We have parties Saturday and Sunday nights so the weekend will pass before we know it.  Christmas Eve will be busy with preparation for dinner on Christmas Day and we'll attend church sometime in the evening.  We try to avoid 4 o'clock because there are so many kids it is hard to get much out of the service.  I'll try the calmer one when everyone else is eating dinner.

I hope you all are getting everything accomplished that you need/want to.  This is a busy time of year but never lose sight of what we are celebrating.

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

~ Agnes M. Pharo

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Place To Be Last Friday Night

There are social events and then there are social events.  One of the most coveted invitations is to dinner at Irene's for her big Christmas party.  The basis is a Dining With Friends group that meets all year but Irene fills in with friends (like me!) who do not belong.  We were so happy to be included. 

With our travel schedule and Ted's picky eating habits, attending a home cooked dinner can turn into an ordeal when something is served Ted doesn't like.  And there are lots of things he doesn't like and refuses to try.  But that's a whole other story.  We turned down a kind invitation to join the group on a regular basis but John was fixing tenderloin and that happens to be on Ted's list.

The house was all aglow as we pulled up and you just knew it was going to be a great evening.  Irene and John are the most gracious of hostesses and so many of our friends would be there.

The front was decked with poinsettias, a lighted angel and the massive front doors all done up so beautifully.

Inside was done up even more exquisitely with a huge tree, banister up the stairs and along the hall all wrapped with lighted greenery and a magnificent mantle all decorated.

There is a "party room" at the back of the house where desserts and drinks were located as well as six tables set for dinner. 

There were two servers engaged for the evening to help with serving.  This is the young lady who helped Irene, John and Mary get dinner out to all us folks.

Jeff and Rachel were two of our dinner partners.  They go to our church and we have been in bunco groups with them.  The other folks were new to us but I learned he was a retired 3-Star General and they split their time between Texas and Alabama! 

Dinner was salad which Ted proceeded to take apart, giving me the cucumbers and tomatoes from his, followed by melt in your mouth tenderloin, green beans and potatoes cooked with red peppers (Ted ate the green beans) and rolls (which Ted ate) all cooked by John.  Dessert was a choice of blackberry wine cake (which I had - delicious!), tiramisu or carrot cake - all baked by Irene.  All of the desserts were fine with Ted but I honestly don't remember if he ate any.   No restaurant could have done any better. 

And you know the best part?  John and Irene are one of three couples coming to our house on Christmas Day for a casual lunch buffet followed by an afternoon of Shang Hai.  All of us will be welcoming our children the day after Christmas and I saw no reason for all of us to be alone on Christmas Day.

My house would fit inside Irene's three times and my table will be way less elegant than hers, but that won't matter to anyone.  We choose our friends by how they treat us, not by what they have.  And having friends so willing to share with you is the best Christmas present ever.

The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?

 ~ Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 14, 2012

Party Hardy

I left home Wednesday morning at 7:45 and returned at 7:15 that night. First up was working the NAM Senior Luncheon for Junior Forum. These folks always have a good time and really enjoyed the Merry Melodies Christmas show and the lunch we served.

From there I headed to my Shang Hai group, taking my Christmas shirt with me so I could change. We all had our photo taken together in front of the tree. I had good cards and came in second.

Then it was off to Karen's to drop off two bingo prizes for the next day's senior luncheon that I was not scheduled to work at.

Finally at 5:30 I was settled in the pedicure chair soaking and had time to sit back and relax. It felt good.

But Thursday it started again. I was working the Women's Shelter gift distribution at the Methodist Church. By the time I left, when all gifts should have been picked up, there were still 20 families who had not arrived.

I know if someone was providing my family Christmas presents I would remember to pick them up. But that is just me.

And when did they stop putting kickstands on bicycles? I took many out to cars but I had to hang on to them until the car pulled up because they can't stand up by themselves. Hardly seems like progress to me.

Well I couldn't stay any longer because I was due at the salon to get my hair cut. I suppose someone from the shelter contacted the 20 families. I may never know.

Then it was home to dress quickly for the next event which was a group dinner we had been invited to at a local restaurant. The food was good, their handling of a crowd mediocre and their price pretty expensive for what we had. We sat with Janet and Tom who we don't know well so it was nice getting to know them better.

Tonight is a big dinner party at my friend Irene's house. She has a huge party room and 42 are invited for dinner! I can't even wrap my mind around that. Her decorations are exquisite so I will take a few photos to share next time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Amazing Race Excitement

Saturday after church we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant with Terry and Carol.  Ted shot on Sunday and after dinner we watched the second last episode of Amazing Race.  I was excited because one of their stops was Mallorca, Spain where we had just been.  They had to do a challenge inside the bullring that I have a picture of in a previous post and the Pit Stop for that leg of the race was the Belver Castle that also is in the post.  Doesn't sound like much but I thought it was really neat!  I am easily amused.

I played Canasta yesterday and scored in the middle.  We have been playing so much Shang Hai I had to wrap my mind around Canasta again.  I didn't have good cards all afternoon but my scores hit the average mark but average doesn't win.  This is the $1 group so you don't lose or win much.

Today is the lull before the storm because tomorrow starts up a couple very busy days - both day and night.  In the midst of all that I need to do some "grooming" at the nail and hair salon in anticipation of the holiday parties.

We have invited a few friends over for Christmas Day for a casual buffet and a game of Shang Hai.  It seems there are several couples whose children are coming after Christmas like ours or are leaving on a trip a day or two after.  There is no reason for all of us to be home alone on this special day.  And besides, I get to use my new Christmas dishes I bought last year.

Life is partly what we make it and partly what it is made by the friends we choose. ~ Tennesee Williams

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Staying Afloat

After the fellows left I had several days with nothing pressing to do.  I had kept that time free because I knew I would have lots of catching up to do.  I got all my shopping done (OK, mostly on the internet!), wrapping (when it arrived) and took care of my Christmas cards the easy way. 

Friday Carol invited me and several friends to a lunch at the country club to visit with her friend Judi who came to town. That started my busy time before Christmas.  In the evening we met Barry and Gerre for dinner and then attended a performance of "White Christmas."  It was done with all the song and dance production numbers and was very entertaining.

Saturday at church was the first opportunity we had to tell Fr. Tom about our visit with Richard in Rome. He was happy to hear we met up with him.  Later I emailed Fr. Tom a photo of Ted and Richard together at dinner.

I invited Terry, Carol and Judi for dinner on Sunday. Ted had to shoot but came home in time to grill a whole pork filet. Normally he would do tenderloins but he bought this by mistake. He did an excellent job! Wild rice, baked apples, vegetables, yeast rolls and pumpkin pie rounded out the meal I made.

Monday I dropped off sandwiches at church for a funeral, picked up Judy and went to Jeanne's for lunch to celebrate Peg's birthday.  The area Jeanne lives in is gorgeous.  It is out a bit and I never even knew it was there.

That evening Ted and I attended a "mission" at church. This is done by a visiting priest, most of whom are great speakers. Missions last for three nights but his message just never came together for us and we didn't attend the next two nights.

I spent Tuesday doing laundry and getting ready to host my own neighborhood luncheon. My menu was Chicken Florentine Casserole, Jarlsburg Winter Salad, croissants and Banana Split Cake. We had a nice time, exchanged our gifts and everyone said they enjoyed the lunch, gifts and decorations. It's nice to have that behind me.

Thursday I did my favorite Junior Forum job - hosting a Christmas party at Regent Care Nursing Home. We decorate the tables for whatever the season is, put name tags on the residents, honor their birthdays, provide some entertainment and have cookies and lemonade for them. We have to be very careful about their dietary choices so each one wears a tag saying what they can have. Our lemonade is Crystal Light and we also bring sugar free cookies in addition to the regular ones so most can partake. There are a few who can't have either and the home provides something for them. It is a hard existence to say the least and to bring just a couple hours of joy to them is heartwarming.

Then it was time for some fun at the Junior Forum Christmas party. Suzy, Kathi, Margaret, Peg and I went together in my car. I needed to drive because I was bringing home the toys to be taken to Northwest Assistance Ministries on Friday. The meal was very good and we were entertained by a female barbershop quartet.  It was great to see everyone dressed up instead of in their JF uniforms!

The Social Committee Chair was out of town so we had to decide how to divide the gifts up between me and the gal taking half to another location.  Taking the bull by the horns I told the ladies who rode with me to separate them all by boy, girl, baby, stuffed animals, games and books. In no time we had them sorted, divided, loaded in the car and were on our way home.

There was a dog that moved, barked , growled and whined. Every time I hit a bump he carried on. We laughed all the way home.  The next morning I met up with Kathi and we delivered the toys. The dog entertained us all the way there.  We filled a huge bin and a rack with the toys and wrapping paper.  The ladies were delighted to receive the items.

When I arrived back home I took off my JF shirt and put on my church logo shirt and headed to Chik Fil A to buy a tray of chicken strips for another funeral. I certainly hadn't had time to make anything.  I stayed to help serve, clean up and brought eight tablecloths home to launder.

Today is a day honoring Mary in our church so last night we went back to church for Mass. A new young girl was the cantor and sang Ave Maria so beautifully it gave me chills. It was 9 o'clock before we got home. Ted helped me fold the huge round tablecloths and get them on big wooden hangers. They will go back to church tonight with us.

We have nothing planned for this weekend so I will start getting things ready for the children's arrival the day after Christmas.  Just wrapping my mind around meals and grocery shopping will take some doing. 

The next two weeks are more of the same but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Enjoy the journey, enjoy every moment, and quit worrying about winning and losing.