23 October 2008

Believe it or not....

I was driving home tonight from a delightful dinner and movie evening with my dear friend, Marilyn, when I almost swerved off the road upon seeing this:

Now I only had my iPhone camera. And it WAS night. So in case you can't tell of which I speak, it's my HEB gas station and 'regular' is ONLY $2.43/gallon!!

I can't even remember the last time I saw, let alone BOUGHT, gas at this price.

I had "a moment"...seriously.

After the past two weeks, it was a little ray of hope in the darkness of despair. Okay, so it wasn't that profound but it was pretty durn exciting!

Just share my joy.

Oh, and I got a carwash too. Simple pleasures are the best. :)

20 October 2008

When Royalty comes to Tea...

HRH Princess Kennedy

This past weekend we were honored to have HRH Princess Kennedy of Pflugerville grace us with her presence. The occasion was the celebration of HRH Kennedy's 4th birthday which was actually on 6th October. But as is customary with Royalty, her "official celebration" is on a different day so as to allow her subjects the joy of public celebration. According to my sources:

"The tradition of having an official birthday for the Sovereign was begun for practical reasons. Monarchs who had their birthdays in the winter months often encountered problems due to cold, wet weather spoiling parades and other outdoor celebrations."

HRH Queen Dowager Ann of Heritage Grand

Therefore, her alternate celebration fell on Saturday 18th October this year. We wish her Highness a happy and healthy year and are quite pleased to have been honored with her and her entourage in our home this year.

HRH The Queen Mother, Cheri of Avalon and HRH Megan Duchess of Pflugerville

Please go here for further photographs of this grand occasion. And MANY happy returns of the day, Princess Kennedy! LONG LIVE THE PRINCESS!!

The Royal Family
(Left to right) Megan Duchess of Pflugerville, Lleyton Prince of Wails, Timothy Duke of Austin, The Queen Mother Cheri of Avalon, Princess Kennedy of Pflugrville, King Michael of Avalon, Dowager Queen Ann of Heritage Grand

I've been tagged...

Another "tag" is going around and I "caught" it. :) You are supposed to go into your photo files and post your 6th photo in your 6th file. As my 6th file was empty (it was a trip Mike took to Indonesia soon after he started with Parker Drilling), I deleted it making the 6th file, joy of joys, one from Disney! I was "a-feared" it would be something mundane like our house under construction or furniture damage claim documentation.

Now that would have just set your Monday on fire I'm sure.

So here is (drum roll, please...) my SIXTH photo from my SIXTH file:

If you're wondering where Mike is, can you believe he was back at the resort on a conference call?

Of course you can.

And I want to point out that this photo was taken 2 years, 6" shorter hair and 60 lbs ago. I have ever so many "before" photos.

I tag Emily, Kathleen (who has TONS of photos - so perhaps we want the 6th in 6th, 7th in 7th, 8th in 8th...) and Liz (who also has a household ruled by a schnauzer).

Happy Monday.

And may the Force be with you.

17 October 2008

Yes, dogs CAN decorate! Check it out...

A friend of mine sent me this article from the London Telegraph. We used to live in London and this was our newspaper - that and the ultra-liberal USA Today (okay, we just wanted a US news tabloid - even if the news WAS 2 days old...)

This is so hilarious! I always envisioned my two schnauzers, Izzie and Shelby, looking pathetic and downtrodden when I left the house ONLY until they heard my car pull out of the garage and then swing into action watching Animal Planet shows, checking up on emails and fixing huge plates of Royal Canine nachos in the microwave.

Turns out SOME dogs do decorating. For those "not in the know", the ORIGINAL to our "Changing Spaces" was in the UK and called "Changing Rooms" and Carol Smilie is the equivalent to Paige (love her or hate her) here. And D.I.Y. is "do it yourself" as well as any store like Lowe's or Home Depot as in "Let's run down to the local D.I.Y. and get some new lino whilst we're out, darling"...

Hmmm, perhaps I should leave HGTV on the tellie whilst I'm away and take the remotes with me...brilliant!! Absolutely BRILL!

Doggie D.I.Y: dogs get their paws into some home decorating

Doggie DIY

Ever wonder what your dogs get up to when you leave the house? No doubt you never consider D.I.Y as an option. Fido and Bob here have decided to treat their owners to a Changing Rooms makeover. But first, the obligatory cup of tea and biscuits (it's in their contract.)

Doggie DIY

To begin with, our dynamic duo take the necessary precautions to preserve their home by laying dust sheets

Doggie DIY

Bob gets to work with a spot of sanding. He may be enthusiastic, but the stupid mutt's forgotten to wear a mask - he'll be sick as a dog if he's not more careful

Doggie DIY

Looks like Bob's gone a bit too far with a sledgehammer... and he's run out of Poly! He'd better get B&Q on the dog 'n' bone

Doggie DIY

Fido gets to work on the walls with a beautiful sky-blue. Painting's a bit of a challenge if you have paws. Looks like someone's going to be in the doghouse when his owners get home

Doggie DIY

Want a good way to get around a dog eared paint job? Wallpaper over it. It's also a good way to get around nagging colleagues, or collies

Doggie DIY

Meanwhile, toilet-trained Fido checks out the Page 3 stunner, Fifi LaWoof from Birmingham

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Who's a good boy? Bob washes that paste out of his fur...

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...and when he's bone dry, he gets to work on the dining room. Not sure about swinging cats, but there's certainly enough room to spin a dog in here

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Then he puts up a set of shelves. Looks a bit wonky, but what do you expect? The poor pooch can't see colours!

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The boys aren't bad at the decorating lark, but when it comes to plumbing it looks like you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and they're both 70 (in dog years)

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Get Carol Smillie in here! After working like dogs, Fido and Bob are dog tired

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Bob and Fido - If you want your home to go from a dog's den to a poochie palace, you know who to call.

The images all appear in the 2009 Make Over Mutts calendar, available here unless you live in the USA and then you're out of luck, which is unfortunate because I'd proudly display this in my office any day. Perhaps I can catch Shelby and Izzie on hidden cameras and make my own American fortune...

Oh, and for those scratching "behind their ears" about the Page 3 reference? Well, in the UK most newspapers, ahem, "enhance" circulation "figures" by having a buxom girl on page 3...sans anything but a garment seemingly made of dental floss. Not the Telegraph I might add. But it is a bit of a shocker when you visit, are riding the train and pick up a newspaper that seems to be, well, a regular newspaper, only to find "a pair and a spare" staring at you. Then you get paranoid about which newspaper your husband reads...

With thanks to my friend Kathleen as well as Telegraph.co.uk. And of course credit to the photographer ICARUS, listed on the original website.

And people say the British have no "sense of humour".

13 October 2008

Half way there...

Mom's eye surgery went without a hitch (only a "stitch" - okay, bad pun...). We were very impressed with the out-patient surgery center. It was very low-key, not overly "medical" and the staff super, super nice! The procedure lasted about 30 minutes and she was up and about almost immediately. We head back to the doctor tomorrow morning for a post-op appointment.

Thank you for all your prayers! :)

Out the door...with one request...

I'm literally out the door to take Mom to the Surgery Center for her cataract surgery. Please pray for her today and this week as she is recooperating from the surgery. When this eye is completely healed, they plan to do the other one. I know she is a bit anxious about it all as it will be the first time she's been "under" since Dad passes almost 6 years ago. Surgery isn't fun under any circumstances but when your best friend is no longer living, it has to be tougher - I know it would be for me.

Thank you! I'll post later on tonight with a progress report...

10 October 2008

More on Kipper...Kipper the dog...the one with the slipper....

Further to my previous post, I want to "plug" Kipper. He is adorable and the little song about him will get stuck (in a nice way) in your head. Now, I'm a dog lover anyway so it wasn't any stretch for me to fall head over heels for this little mutt, but even without my canine love affair, I'd have fallen for Kipper anyway. The following is from a website about his DVDs.

Just so you know. And you have to meet Tiger too...

Shelby and Izzie try not to be jealous.


Meet Kipper

Featuring the most adorable dog on the small screen, Kipper is based on the best-selling books written and illustrated by Mick Inkpen. Optimistic and curious, Kipper is the quintessential child with an overactive imagination, loveable antics and unforgettable charm. Gentle humour, laughter and warmth fill each adventure of the affable hound and his animal friends – Tiger, Jake, Pig and Arnold – as they find themselves in one hilarious escapade after another.

Kipper is a model preschool series that encourages creative thinking and reinforces themes such as friendship, sharing and caring. The age-appropriate, easy-to-follow storylines provide subtle educational values and pro-social elements. Kipper is animated by award-winning Grand Slamm Children’s Films, animators of Angelina Ballerina, Percy the Park Keeper and Sheeep.

In which I suddenly become a book reviewer...

I had dinner with one of my best friends yesterday (thanks, Marilyn!). She had just come back from visiting with her grandson and we were catching up. Bryce is the same age as our last three grands, turning one last April. We like to share our stories of the cute things the grands say or do and marvel that we, who first met each other and became fast friends when our own children were in elementary school, have navigated the teen years with our children and they (the children) have grown into adulthood and for some of them, parenthood as well. And to say it's surreal is an understatement. One day you're on the phone complaining because said children didn't clean their room, talked back, blah, blah, blah and the next, you're lamenting the fact that you don't get to see your children in their homes nearly as much as you'd like.

In an eye-blink.

So there we were, in the "new and improved" Ruby Tuesdays (yes, it is new - and I'm relieved to find substantially improved as well...but when you were on the bottom the only way was up...but I return to my point) sipping our signature drinks of Diet Coke with lime wedges (can't say we don't live dangerously here in the southern Bible belt!), relaxing after a delicious meal, catching up like we hadn't seen each other in weeks (which was true - between my travel back and forth to our place in Keller and her work schedule, getting face time together is hard). And discussion always comes back to the grands.

She was asking about which books and things our grands enjoyed. Of course, when someone asks you something point blank, the typical brain has a "fight or flight" response and usually mine takes the "flight" route. I was completely blank other than the Kipper series by Mick Inkpen. I told her I'd look at my gift histories for Kennedy and Ben on amazon.com and email it to her.

I finally remembered my promise about 10pm last night (yes, I repeatedly repeat myself...) and went to look it up. I was stunned at how many books and DVDs I'd purchased over the past four years. And quite pleased as well with the selections truth be told. So in the interests of promoting grandmotherly reading encouragement, I'm going to share a good portion of that list with you. And if you are a mother, you might find this of interest as well.

First let me say that my love of books for the early-or-non-reader age group is typically dictated by GREAT art - whether it's quirky, classic, old-fashioned, contemporary - if the pictures in a children's book don't "grab me" right off, it usually doesn't get further attention and is returned to the shelf. Now, I don't want to come across as one who only looks at pictures and doesn't read but let's face it, good art is what keeps non-readers attention! Without great pictures to go with a (hopefully) great story, attention is initially going to be short. And there are two main objectives to reading to children in my opinion:

1) Spending time, one-on-one, cuddling with your lovely child/grandchild for an extended time

2) Instilling a love of reading, curiosity and imagination in your child/grandchild that will extend into adulthood, opening new worlds to them in a secure and loving environment

So I'm big on books. Really big on books. Mike and I both are and always have been. We could be in desperate financial straights but always find a way to get books (which I might add was a bit hard to do sometimes when we lived in foreign countries that did not have English as the first language in the pre-amazon.com days when we had to actually, GASP!, go into a bookstore!). And when I found out Megan and Jennifer were both pregnant, we naturally found ourselves often at the booksellers in the UK where we were living. Initially I was looking for copies of the same books we'd bought our children when we lived in the UK back in the early 80's when the "Spot the Dog" books were first published there. As we looked for classic editions of A.A. Milne's "Pooh" as well as Eric Hill's "Spot" books, I came across and promptly fell in love with Mick Inkpen and his Kipper series as well as his other series. They are a bit difficult to find stateside but amazon.com does carry quite a few of them. And the "proof is in the pudding" as they say - the grands LOVED them! In fact, watching the DVDs (which are voiced by British actors), Ben now calls the back and front yards "the garden" and pronounces Kipper's friend, a black schnauzer named Tiger, "Tye-gah". It is too cute!

I find I look for specific authors: Mick Inkpen, Bill Peet, Sandra Boynton, Eric Carle, anything illustrated by Garth Williams. And who doesn't remember the "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder?? I was going to name my 2nd daughter, who never materialized, Laura Elizabeth because of those books...we tease Tim that we almost named him Laura Elizabeth since the sonogram tech assured us he was a girl. :)

So without further ado, (and you know how much I like "ado"), I present my 'official' list of preferred toddler and preschool reading, in no particular order.

Lullabyhullaballoo! (Paperback)
by Mick Inkpen (Author) THIS ONE IS A REAL FAVORITE!!

Wiggle (Bccb Blue Ribbon Picture Book Awards (Awards)) (Hardcover)
by Doreen Cronin (Author), Scott Menchin (Illustrator)

Bounce (Hardcover)
by Doreen Cronin (Author), Scott Menchin (Illustrator)

Bear (Book & CD) [AUDIOBOOK] (Paperback)
by Mick Inkpen (Author), Martin Clunes (Narrator)

Giggle, Giggle, Quack (Hardcover)
by Doreen Cronin (Author) (Author), Betsy Lewin (Illustrator)

Kipper - Pools, Parks & Picnics
Series: Kipper Rating: Format: DVD

Kipper's Book of Colors (Kipper) (Board book)
by Mick Inkpen (Author)

Kipper - Let it Snow
Series: Kipper Rating: Format: DVD

Kipper - Imagine That
Series: Kipper Rating: Format: DVD

Kipper's A to Z: An Alphabet Adventure (Hardcover)
by Mick Inkpen (Author)

All About John Deere For Kids DVD 1 (2004)
Starring: All About John Deere for Kids Director: Tom McComas and Joe Stachler Rating: Format: DVD

Real Wheels - Truck Adventures (There Goes a Truck/Fire Truck/Garbage Truck)
Starring: Real Wheels Rating: Format: DVD

This Is My Hair (Hardcover)
by Todd Parr (Author)

Going Places (Board book)
by Todd Parr (Author)

Benny's Had Enough! (Hardcover)
by Barbro Lindgren (Author), Olof Landstrom (Illustrator), Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard (Translator)

Kipper's Treehouse (Lift-the-flap) (Kipper) (Pop-Up)
by Mick Inkpen (Author)

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go (Giant Little Golden Book) (Hardcover)
by Richard Scarry (Author)

Duck for President (New York Times Best Illustrated Books (Awards)) (Hardcover)
by Doreen Cronin (Author), Betsy Lewin (Illustrator)

Click, Clack, Splish, Splash: A Counting Adventure (Hardcover)
by Doreen Cronin (Author), Betsy Lewin (Illustrator)

Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection (The Railway Series) (Hardcover)
by W. Rev Awdry (Author)

Kipper's A to Z: An Alphabet Adventure (Kipper) (Paperback)
by Mick Inkpen (Author)

Kipper - Cuddly Critters
Series: Kipper Rating: Format: DVD

Kipper: Puppy Love
Series: Kipper Rating: Format: DVD

Kipper: Amazing Discoveries!
Series: Kipper Rating: Format: DVD

Kipper - Playtime
Series: Kipper Rating: Format: DVD

A Fish Out of Water (Paperback)
by Helen Palmer (Author), P. D. Eastman (Author)

C is for Construction: Big Trucks and Diggers from A to Z (Caterpillar) (Hardcover)
by Caterpillar (Author)

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Paperback)
by Bill Martin Jr. (Author), John Archambault (Author), Lois Ehlert (Illustrator)

Benny and the Binky (Hardcover)
by Barbro Lindgren (Author), Olof Landstrom (Illustrator), Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard (Translator)

If you can find used copies of Barbro Lingren's "Wild Baby Ben" books, they are worth it! Initially bought for Christopher when he was little, we would read "Wild Baby Chris" to him much to his delight. I had to get them for Benjamin when he was born of course and they remain firm favorites of his.

Waiting for Wings (Hardcover)
by Lois Ehlert (Author)

Planting a Rainbow (Paperback)
by Lois Ehlert (Author)

Bear Snores On (Hardcover)
by Karma Wilson (Author), Jane Chapman (Illustrator)

Bear Wants More (Hardcover)
by Karma Wilson (Author), Jane Chapman (Illustrator)

The Mick Inkpen Treasury (Paperback)
by Mick Inkpen (Author)

Where, Oh Where, Is Kipper's Bear?: A Pop-Up Book with Light! (Hardcover)
by Mick Inkpen (Author)

Kipper's Treehouse (Lift-the-flap) (Kipper) (Pop-Up)
by Mick Inkpen (Author)

Toot & Puddle (Toot and Puddle) (Hardcover)
by Holly Hobbie (Author)

In Wibbly's Garden (Wibbily Pig) (Hardcover)
by Mick Inkpen (Author)

Belly Button Book (Boynton on Board) (Board book)
by Sandra Boynton (Author)

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z (Harcourt Brace Big Book) (Paperback)
by Lois Ehlert (Author)

Hop! Plop! (Hardcover)
by Corey Rosen Schwartz (Author), Tali Klein (Author), Cory Klein (Author), Tali Rosen (Author), Olivier Dunrea (Illustrator), Oliver Dunrea (Illustrator)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: board book & CD (Board book)
by Eric Carle (Illustrator)

05 October 2008

All things bright and beautiful...

Today is Kennedy's birthday. Her fourth birthday no less. And to say I'm waxing nostalgic is an understatement. Back when Jennifer and Megan were both pregnant, they made the unusual decision (by today's standards) to NOT know the genders of their babies ahead of time. Life held few enough true enjoyable surprises, they surmised - let this be one of them.

So, following soon on the heels of Benjamin's birth 17 days prior, we were thrilled to learn that we had not only a grandson but also a granddaughter, Kennedy Beth! Mike and I received a call from Tim that they where heading to the hospital for an induction. We were in Bedford so we threw things into suitcases, tossed them into the car and got on the road to Austin as soon as possible. We got a call just as we were nearing Georgetown that Megan had safely delivered a baby girl! I have never known Mike to drive so fast without regard to the possibility of being stopped for a speeding ticket. He was a man on a mission and nothing was going to stop him!!

She was born late in the evening so by the time we got to the hospital, we had to be "let in" as all the hosptial entrances (except the front door - completely opposite L&D) were locked after 10pm. Never did time seem to stand so still as waiting for Tim to come open that door for us. And then we were able to go meet this young lady for the first time. We were still in awe and amazement that we had a grandson and now here was this beautiful baby girl! It was love at first sight.

From Day One, Kennedy has been somewhat of a Daddy's girl. Fortunately, she eventually let her mother and I into her "inner circle" but for awhile she seemed to only have eyes for Papa Mike and her daddy. And we don't need to worry about this girl being shy and retiring - she is a dominant personality who knows what she wants to say and do and isn't shy about letting you know. She loves singing, dressing up, putting on performances for you. And she is quite theatrical often dramatically informing us of her brother's misdeeds (just as her Aunt Jenny used to do concerning HER little brother, Timothy, who happens to be Kennedy's father...)

But she is genuinely affectionate and gives her hugs and kisses freely - you haven't lived if you haven't experienced Kennedy's "goodnight" routine with making the rounds in the room, giving out big hugs, very pursed lip "smackers" and firm "goodnights" before purposely striding back to her room for her bedtime stories. She loves her "bunny foo-foos" - all "dozens" of them. They have been her companions ever since she was old enough to hold a toy. And she loves stories at bedtime which have been read to her since she was just a tadpole almost. Mommy and Daddy did a wonderful job reading to her from just about Day One.

In some ways it feels like we've come "full circle" with the advent of the births of our grandchildren. But in other ways, it feels like we've only just begun. We have contributions to make, things to teach, things to learn, children to love and receive love in return.

And like the Ray Charles song, "And I say to myself, what a wonderful world!"

Happy Birthday, Kennedy! You will always be our "Little Princess" and we love you.

Life is a zoo...which is fine with me...

When I was up in Keller, I went to the Fort Worth Zoo with Jenjer and Mirai as well as Jennifer, Luke and Ben. It was a gorgeous cool fall morning and the first time I'd been with so many of my grandchildren. It's more fun to enjoy the zoo looking at it through the eyes of toddlers and a pre-schooler, let me tell you!

Here are more photos of our visit. Humor me. It's my God-given right as a grandmother to share photos of my lovely grandchildren at any given time.

And the meerkats were out. I love meerkats.

After the zoo, we went to eat at Pappa's Burgers, which if you are ever in Houston or Fort Worth, is definitely worth a visit. Expensive burgers but at least you get what you pay for. And the fries. Did I mention the fries?? Old-fashioned double cooked, crispy, with skins on. Oh my...

Enjoy. The photos AND the fries...

02 October 2008

Ah, the joy of reading...and Amazon...

I got a new book yesterday. There's nothing quite like having the doorbell ring and going to find a nice little parcel from amazon.com sitting on the little bench on my front porch!

I love the UPS man. He's the new GE to me - he brings good things to light!

Amazon and I have a tight relationship going back to November 1998. And one of the amazing things about amazon.com is that they keep records going back to when you first started ordering - I can check and see when I bought something, who I sent things to, get receipts, print receipts, etc. on their servers under "Your Account".

Which is helpful on SO many levels. Have you ever had to find old addresses where you lived, but can't remember exactly what they were, for an application, government form, morbid curiosity? I've referred back to Amazon time and time again as they store all my shipping and billing addresses until I delete them - even the ones in the UK when I was infusing the economy of the British Isles through amazon.co.uk. And they have a set-up for organizing and recording gifts you've bought. You enter recipients, can put in birthday, anniversary, holiday alerts and they will email you prior to said event at a time frame you specify.

And have you ever heard of Amazon Prime? It's a seemingly well-kept secret guessing from the blank stares I get from folks when I ask them if they are "Amazon Prime" members. For $79 a year, you can get all Amazon Prime eligible items bought shipped to you, 2nd day air, for nothing additional. If you want next day shipping, you pay $3.99 per item. And as much as I buy from them for ourselves and books for the grandchildren, they HAVE to be losing money on me! So, no shipping, no tax, receive in two days or less. Win, win, win! (except for budget - lose, lose, lose - but I digress...)

Anyway, back to my fun book I received yesterday. You all know we lived in London twice for almost 10 years total. And loved it. But the British culture is a bit of a puzzle to figure out and I have been accused of being not quite British as well as not quite American. Those who know me well will smile wanly, nodding with understanding as if to say, "She must be forgiven. She left these sunny shores for Foreign Lands and has not been herself since". Those who know me AND lived in the UK as well know exactly of which I speak! So this book holds great interest for me (and my fellow expatriates whom I met "across the pond").

The book is "The Anglo-Files: A Field Guide to the British" by Susan Lyall. I would have liked to have lived next door to Ms. Susan - what coffee clatches we would have had! She went to the UK in the 90s as a reporter for the New York Times and ended up marrying "one of them" (a Brit, not a New Yorker...) and, being both a reporter and a spouse of a national, her perspective on the culture and mannerisms of the British make for some hilarious reading! I started it last night but decided I have to read it out loud to Mike when we travel so we can both truly enjoy it. I also found a great blog about books where there is a blurb about the book and author here.

So whether you've lived in England, traveled there or just like "all things British", order this book (or check your library) and enjoy. I'm looking forward to more books by this author!

Now, I really must go have a coffee whilst writing my daily schedule in my diary...so sorry...cheers!