Tuesday, December 30, 2014

San Antonio Visit

We were on the road at 8 am Sunday morning despite the cool temperatures and rain.  We stopped for breakfast at the Flying J just before getting on I-10.  As we moved west, the rain stopped and tiny bits of blue sky peaked out.  We had no difficulty locating our campground and the cabin the kids were staying in.  Once settled in we left to visit the Alamo and Riverwalk.  We watched the movie in the long barracks and looked at the artifacts but did not get to see the inside of the Alamo itself because the line was so long.  We were pretty sure we did not have enough time to make it through the line before closing.  Besides being the weekend between Christmas and New Years, the Alamo Bowl will be played over New Years.  The city is swamped with visitors.

The decision was made to do the boat ride the next day because it was quite chilly.  So we ate at The Republic of Texas restaurant.  We walked a bit up and down both sides of the river walk before heading back to the campground.

Monday we spent a good part of the day at the Mission of San Jose.  We saw the video about the Indian tribes that are classified as Tejanos, Mexicans who found themselves living in Texas as governments changed.  It is very well done.  From there we toured the buildings and grounds on our own.

Ally with the mission church in the background.

Ted as we approached the buildings.

Pat, Kelly and Ally in front of the famous Rose Window.

Pale reminders of the colorful designs used on the church by the Mexicans.

The current altar which included four very old statues.

Pat and Kelly walking in front of the church.

Kelly and Ally in the garden.

We moved on to El Mercado where we did a bit of shopping and had a late lunch at La Margarite.  It was so good and we left really full.  The waiter needs to work on Sweet and Unsweet.  No matter which tea we ordered, he brought the opposite!

We left there and walked to the boat ride on the river.  The kids really enjoyed that.  Eventually we walked back to the car and headed home with a stop at Walmart for some breakfast items.  

You are the first to see the initial photos I have taken with my new camera.  The learning curve continues!

We had breakfast in the RV before heading to Mission Concepion Tuesday morning.  We were just in time for a tour and Danny did a great job.  It is the first time I have heard of the blending of Christian beliefs and symbolism with Mexican beliefs and customs to teach the people who lived within the mission walls about God and Christianity.

This is the oldest stone church in the U.S. and has never been damaged so it never had to be rebuilt.  Frescoes within the church have been painstakingly restored as best as they can be.  It is the only one of the five San Antonio Missions with a double bell tower.  One of the eight original bells remains and is still in use.  Four of the five missions are still used as parish churches.  Only the Alamo is not.

The main altar featuring the Assumption of Mary.  The circle (God) above the triangle (Trinity) above the door in the previous picture is positioned so that at 6:30 pm on 8/15 (feast of the Assumption) the sun spotlights the painting.

The chapel with a partial frescoe restored.  It was a red drape with a valance pulled back to show something that is mostly green.  One can only surmise what it was in its entirety.

The kids left for Austin from there to get Cassie before continuing on to Dallas.  We did some running and returned with just enough time to cut up some cheese and sausage and get dressed before Gus and Melissa arrived.  We had a nice visit and dinner at Texas Roadhouse.  If the weather had been better I would have fixed dinner but needing to cook and eat inside gets a bit crowded.

I was able to download the latest pictures with no problems or cursing!  But there is lots more to learn.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


We went to church at 9:00 on Sunday and just as Mass started,  a couple with six kids piled into the ends of the two pews in front of us.  The rest was a lesson in Trials and Tribulations for me.  The kids were quiet but climbed back and forth all over the place.  The poor baby in the carseat had toy cars run over his head, up and down his arms, etc. but remained quiet!  God love 'em all!  I survived and even know what the homily was about!

Ted had made tortellini soup for his last day at the gun club.  I had lots of my salad left from the night before so he took that plus ice cream to go with Pete's pies for the guys to have lunch.  Ted said everyone raved about the salad which I had considered nothing special.   I was just glad they enjoyed it!  

Meanwhile back at the ranch I got the house in order and started the laundry.  I went over my menus and grocery list before finally sitting down.  Monday and Tuesday would be relatively calm until Kelly and family arrived.

It was dinnertime on Tuesday when our company finished their long trek. Ted had smoked a brisket so we all sat down to eat and chat about their trip from Michigan.  We spent the rest of the evening sorting out our plans for their time here. 

Pat, Kelly and Cassie met a colleague of Pat's for lunch and a visit on Christmas Eve.  Our plans to eat at 4:00 diminshed as the traffic increased, delaying their arrival back home.  So we went to the restaurant at 6:00, looked at some Christmas lights and went to church at 9:00.  It was going on 11:00 by the time we got home.  We decided to leave the gift giving until Christmas morning.  Santa was good to me.  I received a new camera, a GPS (because Ford's SYNC doesn't understand me) and a hair dryer brush.  The girls bought me make-up and sweaters.  

We spent a good part of the morning doing presents and answering phone calls and texts.  Once we finished it was time to start dinner that we planned for 3 p.m.  Our dinner was very good but by the time we finished cooking, eating and cleaning up It wasn't long before I was fast asleep on the couch and missed going to the movies with the kids.  I didn't even hear them leave.

Cassie had friends from Austin coming to get her on Friday and we had invited them for lunch so it was back to the kitchen once again.  They arrived right on time and we had a delightful visit and meal.  When they left we started taking down the few decorations I had up and prepared them to be put in the garage and attic.  Since we needed to move two cars for attic access we left them until the next day. 

We then went to the mall to return Kelly's spice rack because Pat and I had both bought her one.  We also were looking for something to put the shadowbox in but struck out.  I think Kara will have to wait until summer to get it.

Meatballs and spaghetti were on the menu for dinner.  They had been in the freezer since last week when I had prepared them for Terry and Carol.  I was relieved to have an easy meal to get together.  We were down to just the five of us with only Ally here.  My sauce and meatballs tasted even better the second time around.

We chose Hundred Step Journey from On Demand for our evenings entertainment.  I even stayed awake through the whole movie.  It was very predictable but enjoyable.  Certainly not a Must See.

Saturday was spent putting the decorations away, doing laundry, loading the RV, packing up the kids' things and eventually church.  From there we went to the mall to return the container the shadowbox did not fit in despite the dimensions given.  I also returned some slacks to Macy's.  We had for dinner  what we refer to as Fend For Yourself Day.  All the leftovers are put out along with paper plates and you build your meal then pop it in the microwave.  It cleans out the refrigerator, keeps from wasting food and saves me from cooking!

Gerre and Barry arrived close to 10 pm to pick up Tucker.  He was certainly glad to see them.  I gave her three pointsettias to take home.  She has a green thumb and will keep them blooming.  I am lucky to keep them alive through the holidays.

We left Sunday morning before Chris arrived to take up residence.  He will have to wash the sheets himself for his bed.  We left a little after 8 am so no time to do laundry before we headed to San Antonio.  After not being there for almost three months I am sure he won't mind in exchange for some private time away from the folks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Up Early Every Day

I have been checking off each thing I have to do as a countdown until our oldest daughter and her family arrive.  First thing Monday morning I was up peeling sweet potatoes and getting them into the oven for a funeral at church.   I then got myself ready for my bunco group's Christmas luncheon.  We dropped off my pan of potatoes then proceeded to the most exclusive area of where we live, complete with a guard to check us in!  The amazing thing about the folks where I live is that for most, it doesn't matter where you live.  Everyone is included and welcomed.  I always joke that some may think they are in their walk in closet when they come to my patio home!

Brenda's house is overwhelming in size and decorated beautifully.  After much oohing and aawing by all, we had our gift exchange followed by a delicious lunch at tables set most elegantly.  We all had a good  time and thanked our hostess for her efforts to make our party fun.  She did a terrific job.

Ted always stays outside and loads my car with the food donations everyone brings for the food pantry and then takes it all there for us. This year he had one more job.  Brenda asked if he would open the bottle of champagne for her, which he did.  Then he went to the gun club to shoot. Last evening he loaded up my Expedition one more time with the six bags of wrapped presents and the tricycle that goes to the Women's Shelter Gift Distribution location where I am working this week.  I have a case of water to take too for the workers.  And people ask why I drive such a big car.  

I finally learned why we have a day between intake and distribution for the shelter.  I had only worked distribution in the past so didn't know what transpired before that.  Besides accepting the gifts for the families, there is Shelter Santa donations.  These donations are not strictly for Christmas but will also be used throughout the year; however, we were advised they never last that long.

A dozen or so long tables were set up and marked for Infants, Boy Clothes, Boy Toys, Ladies, etc.  It becomes a challenge on some items how to classify them.  By the end of the day we had to put baskets under the tables for overflow of toiletries, hot wheels, Barbies, socks, crayons, PJs, etc.  The next day the shelter employees boxed everything up by category to be moved to their facility for storage and use as needed.

Our busiest time was when 17 Corvettes from a club came as a caravan loaded down with gifts, an envelope of gift cards and a check for $1,000.  All of that arriving at once kept us hopping for awhile.

Our 54 family gifts had arrived by 4:30 so we left an hour earlier than expected.  

Wednesday I had an early morning dentist appointment then used the day to get caught up on my own stuff.  Thursday I was back ready to help distribute the family gifts.  I hate to admit it but two 8 hour days on concrete took its toll.  I was so tired when I got home but after dinner I proceeded to make meatballs and spaghetti sauce from scratch for our company on Friday.

I met one of my best friends for breakfast Friday morning.  It was raining but we both ventured to a new coffee shop anyway.  We spent about 2.5 hours together visiting by ourselves.  Usually we are out in a social situation and conversations and folks are all around us.  I am glad we took the time to spend time alone this holiday season.
We had Terry and Carol for dinner Friday night and exchanged our gifts.  One of ours was a gold ornament that says "Donna and Ted   50 years   1965-2015", our first anniversary acknowledgement that we will celebrate next year in April.  They all joined the clean plate club so dinner was a hit.

Saturday was hair appointment day, pick up of my secret project and our neighborhood dinner complete with friends who had moved to Florida that were back for a visit.  This called for a strawberry and spinach salad and now I am finished!!  No more special cooking until the kids arrive.

Here is the secret Merry and I worked on together.  Framing was done at Michael's.  Since Kelly will transport it to Michigan I was only able to email a photo to Kara and Bill.  They loved it because now all their momentos are in one place and preserved.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Entering the Home Stretch

Wednesday was the longest hair appointment of my life!  I am trying a new girl and she cut, colored, highlighted and styled my hair but I was gone close to five hours!  However, one of those hours was spent going and coming.  Her shop is in another town.  But in the end it looked nice and Ted really liked it so I guess it is worth the extra time.

Our neighborhood luncheon was in a treehouse on Thursday.  I knew the place had Treehouse in the name but I thought it referred to the small treehouse by the parking lot.  There is a room built around a huge tree separate from the restaurant and not visible from the road.  It will seat 20 so the dozen of us fit real well.  Despite the sadness of Wanda not being with us, we had a lovely time.  I drove a carful of ladies and when I returned I changed clothes because it had gotten so warm and then I headed to the nail salon.  As far as appearance goes, it was as good as it was going to get for the weekend.

I was expecting Isabelle on Friday afternoon but by 4:00 she had not arrived.  We were due at Irene's birthday dinner at 5:00 so I finally had to call and reschedule her until Monday afternoon.  We had a very nice dinner at the country club with lots of friends all around the dining room.  The food was good unlike the holiday dinner food I had at their other clubhouse last week.  I think they need to work on consistency.

I was up early Saturday morning getting ready for Pat, Susan and Peg to come wrap the gifts for our women's shelter family.  I staged all the gifts into stations to help facilitate the work.

When they arrived we all pitched in.

And in about two hours we were all done.  

We had to put all the wrapped gifts into plastic bags marked with our family's number so it can once again be staged at the Gift Distribution site.  I will be working both the intake day on Tuesday and on Thursday the distribution day.  

We went to church and to Chik Fila afterwards with Terry and Carol until it was time to meet Gerre and Barry.  They bought us tickets to see "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."  I was unfamiliar with the story and it turned out to be so enjoyable.  It was nice to see something with the true meaning of Christmas as its message.  

Today I will finish wrapping the last few things and go to the grocery.  I have to take a pan of sweet potatoes to a funeral at church tomorrow on the way to my bunco Christmas party.  We donate food to the church food pantry so Ted will stay at Brenda's with the hatch up, collect all the food from the arrivals, then take it right to the pantry.  We will have a gift exchange and lunch instead of playing bunco.  I hope someone will give me a ride home!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Little Breathing Room

We attended a lovely memorial service Saturday afternoon for Wanda.  There was a nice crowd and three rows of neighbors at the Baptist church.  Afterwards, coffee and cookies were served and we had a chance to extend our sympathy to Noel.  We hadn't seen him since all his family was in town.

We were home just a short while and then had to leave early for our own church.  We were helping people choose gift information from our Giving Tree and also accepting gift cards and presents from  those that stopped by last week to choose their tag.  After Mass we had to return to our duties until everyone had been helped and Paul moved the collected gifts to the storage Pod and took possession of the gift cards.  I couldn't remember where I had put our card but thankfully I found it in the last place I looked!  Another thing completed.

With that out of the way we left for Susan's with the big box containing the tricycle.  Bill, her husband, offered to put it together.  We didn't think it was any more than attaching handlebars and wheels but we didn't want to open it to find out it was more.  We aren't the best at that stuff.  I needed to spend $4 more at Academy for free shipping so bought the bell for the handle bar.  I didn't take it to Bill but felt confident we could do it!  Sunday Susan wrote "LOL, the tricycle came with a bell!"  I gave my bell to Ted with the Academy receipt and gave him another errand for Monday.

One Christmas Eve I had to put a Barbie Dream House together with no instructions and only the box photo to go on.  Logic played big time in that endeavor.  At Kristin's wedding her maid of honor and friend for over 30 years said in her toast that she loved playing at our house because with three girls we had every Barbie toy ever made.  I still have a jeep, horse trailer and one horse in the toy box in the garage.

While Ted went shooting I finished wrapping our gifts and got out what I have for our wrapping party.  We have plenty of paper but we will need boxes, bags and tape to give the mother to wrap her children's gifts.  We will wrap hers so she has Christmas surprises too.  I am waiting on two things to be delivered and need to get one gift certificate and I am done unless I can think of something for Ted.  The man only needs gun powder but he can't find any to buy.  Ammo is being bought up so quickly that all production is going to manufacturers.  Buying it separately as a component is almost impossible right now.

Monday I played cards but didn't get down twice, went out twice and ended up last!  Such is life.  I was at the home of the Alzheimer's patient that Ted takes out to lunch and for rides.  His wife has a lot on her plate right now.

I was scheduled to work four hours at the Thrift shop on Tuesday but Peg called and asked if I would use my Expedition to take the nursing home party bins to the storage office at the Forum office.  We arranged for Judy to work two of my four hours so I could help Peg.  Lots of cooperation.  Afterwards Peg treated me to lunch as a thank you.  We had fun talking about Cincinnati food since we are from there.  Goetta, Skyline chili, Graeter's ice cream, turtle soup, buckeyes, german potato salad, etc.  So many childhood memories.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Stamina Week

I met Peg, Pat and Susan at 10 a.m. on Monday morning.  We had to set a budget and decide what we were going to purchase for our Women's Shelter mother and two sons, ages 2 and 6.  Susan and I took the boys' lists and Pat and Peg took the mother's list.

We got the boys jackets, hoodies, tennis shoes, jeans, PJs, shirts and a few toys including a tricycle for the 2 year old.  We also bought diapers and wipes for him at Mom's request.   Mom got a comforter set, sheets, pillows, sleepshirt, underwear, makeup, socks, jacket, Skecher shoes and four shirts.  We set next Saturday morning aside to wrap the gifts.

Our Christmas luncheon for one of our three Seniors groups was Tuesday.  This called for two bags of salad and two bingo prizes.  I took a poinsettia candy dish and someone set a bag of Lindor chocolates in it.  My second prize was a set of two Christmas mugs and someone set a box of tea bags with them.  They both got picked about half way through.  Our menu was quiche, salad, rolls and red velvet cake.  A group from Cy-Fair High School performed and were spellbinding.  We all usually gather in the kitchen during the entertainment but everyone came out to sit and listen.  They sang Carols in such beautiful harmony.  Kudos to their teacher.

That night was our own Holiday Party held at the country club where we live. I took the Globetrotter Spaulding basketball I bought last summer while traveling as my toy collection gift.  Everyone looked so festive.  Normally we see each other in our rather plain uniforms.  We had a nice time but the food was horrid.  People were taking photos of their plate because it was so unappetizing looking.  It was all white and orange - a clump of mashed sweet potatoes, a pile of white and orange winter vegetables and chicken florentine rolled into a log with white sauce.  Everything was in the middle of the plate, all touching with nary a sprig of parsley to enhance presentation.  Bread pudding was dessert and was stiff enough to cut into squares.  I was missing my Talbot's Tavern of Bardstown KY bread pudding made from leftover biscuits with bourbon sauce.  The wine, salad, rolls and coffee were good and we just didn't eat much off our plates.  It is one of thousands of meals in a lifetime so no sense getting too upset over it though I heard the comment we are going back to Shirley Acres next year.

When the evening was over, Judy and I separated the toys as equally as we could for the two organizations they were going to.  Jill was heading one place, Judy and I another.  She and I did that the next morning.

During dinner, Jean said she wanted to work at the nursing home Thursday but the roster was filled.  She has an elderly neighbor living there and hoped to encourage her to join the party.  I gave up my spot so she could attend and the next day ran the two packs of sugar free cookies I had already purchased to her house.  

I was so busy this week it was a relief to not have to go.  The other reason was I had just received word that my neighbor Wanda had passed away and I didn't know the arrangements.  I am glad she is no longer suffering but will miss her terribly.  Our neighborhood Christmas luncheon next week won't be so festive I'm afraid.  When I came home in the daylight the next day, the beautiful Christmas wreath Merry had made for Wanda's nursing home door was hanging on the front gate.  That was all it took for the tears to start.  The last thing she told us when we last visited her was "I love you two."  

Friday was the Board of Directors/Executive Committee holiday brunch.  It was held at the office which was turned into a beautiful banquet hall.  The tables were lovely and the food wonderful - cream of fresh vegetable soup, salad, chicken salad croissants and many, many homemade cookies, candy and petit fours.  We had our regular meeting and already started on next year's business by electing a  Nominating Committee.

I took the afternoon to get my eyebrows touched up.  It has been over four years since I had them done and they needed a little filling in.  Emily had me finished in half an hour.

In the evening we met Gerre, Barry, Jennifer and Gene for dinner before attending A Christmas Carol, the Broadway Musical.  It was a nice production of a familiar story but with most of the dialogue done in song lyrics as many musicals are.  Unfortunately, two young boys had mic trouble all night and we hardly heard any of their singing.  Thís was opening night and I am sure the next performances will find the problem fixed.

Today we will attend Wanda's memorial service.  She has already been buried in Livingston at a private service for the family.  It is such a hard time of year to lose someone.  Then again, no time is good, is it?