10 December 2009

Catching Haley's Comet...

...is what last Friday felt like. In the deep South, snow is something that is read about in stories, seen in newspaper photos from "up north". We know it exists. We occasionally travel to places where it is a regular occurrence. But rarely do we get an "up close and personal" experience with it - in our own backyard.

Last Friday, the Houston metroplex received a rare (dare I say "magical"?) treat in the form of this frozen fluff from the sky - the bane of many a northerner. And I would suppose that if we received in it huge quantities for extended periods of time, our fascination with the stuff would wear thin. But we don't so it was worthy of awe and excitement as well as school and office closures (and no, I don't want to hear your stories about "wow, we get several feet all winter long and we don't close tbings!" - you have snow plows - we don't because they'd be used once a decade perhaps.)

We felt like we'd caught Haley's Comet. After all, snow comes to Houston just about as often.

Which of course calls for much of this:

I kept pulling the pillow away from the screen because I thought it was too hot. But they kept pushing it back...but I did draw the line at their request for hot chocolate.

15 November 2009

And a happy birthday...

...to MEGAN! Happy, happy birthday to you. It's your first 29th birthday! Wish we could have been there to give you the "royal treatment" - hope you are well soon.

The Queen Mother

07 November 2009

A conversation...

Saturday morning. Heading out to do a HUGE list of errands.

Cheri: Don't you want to check locally for new running shoes before we head into Houston in case you need to look while we're there?

Mike: No, shoes aren't a critical path item today.

Cheri: (amidst laughter at response) Well, you enrolled me on the concept of needing new shoes so I made it an action item for me. So I was just following through.

Mike: (with a smile) I admire your due diligence.

Girls, if you want to be able to talk to your man, ya gotta learn the language.

27 September 2009

It's official...

I had an appointment at the Apple Store this afternoon. Mission completed and we were heading out of Memorial City Mall to get to our movie. Being a Saturday, the mall was crowded necessitating our parking so far north of the mall it was almost Dallas. We walked down two hallways and then headed into Macy's. It's been AGES since I was in a department store and of course, the first thing that hits you when you walk in is all the conflicting fragrances in the 'Beauty' department. Mike started sneezing and my nose started twitching. Dashing past the bottles of scent, I tried to appear casual as we passed a makeup workshop in progress - Estee Lauder I think - complete with a makeup artist the likes of which I have NEVER seen in a mainstream department store.

She was dressed in black shirt with plunging neckline, black short shorts, black ankle boots with stiletto heels, black nail polish, and heavily black-kohled eyes. But that's not what caught my attention - she was wearing HUGE netting bow "hat". I mean, seriously, that thing had a span of at least 30"! Mike and I kept looking straight ahead and continued walking. Heads straight ahead, we cut our eyes to each other after we passed her and then burst out laughing.

"Did you see that?", I ask Mike. "All that black nail polish and makeup.", Mike replies. "That hat?? Did you see that HAT?", I say. "Is that what that was?", said Mike. We decided all that was missing was the silver dancing pole.

It's official. We are fuddy-duddies. We have joined the legions of "tutt-tutt"ers who walk through the mall and feel like we are on some sort of anthropological expedition. It might have been a foreign country for all we knew - who were these people and what were they doing? And WHY were they doing it? We start sentences with "I remember when....(fill in the blank)" or "In OUR day...(also fill in the blank)".

Furthermore, I notice that we now not only discuss lab results but congratulate ourselves, almost to the point of high-fives, when they come back "in normal range". We are excited when we catch a 6:15pm movie on a Saturday night, the WEEKEND no less, because we can be home by 8:30pm.

We have become domesticated. And it doesn't even bother us!

But please slap me if I start wearing "sensible shoes". There ARE limits.

We're not worried!

Our burly, rough and tumble grandson, Luke, appears to have great potential as an athlete. He has been able to throw (accurately) a ball for over a year now. I may have some football games to attend in the future (something I didn't have with my own two boys).

But this past summer during visit to "Gramma Cheri's Keller House" as it is known, Luke spent the night. As this is the first time we've done this, it was significant. I didn't know if he'd be happy to actually STAY the entire night or decide to bail once it was bedtime. But we didn't have any issues whatsoever and he went to bed just like he did at home (and also woke up early - just like he did at home). I was getting ready the next morning while he was in and out of my room. I was drying my hair when I noticed he was very interested in my shoe hanger. Next thing I knew, he was off and "running".

I really like how he's really working it with that pacifier.

And the kick "off" was executed well.

At least he picked a sensible pump. :)

26 September 2009

I hear VOICES!

I went to a cooking demonstration at Brookwood Community yesterday with my friend Cynthia. They decided to channel Julia Child and had their chef, Laura Day, show us how to make the famous Boeuf Bourguignon (fancy title for roast beef stew with fancy veg). We also were served lunch consisting of the same and believe me, it was well worth it! I may have to gather up all these ingredients myself and try my hand at this ala "Julie and Julia" sans the profanity (as well as the "falling asleep and forgetting to take it out of the oven so it was ruined" scenario). Shoot, I might even have to go buy this lovely Ruffoni pan to make it in! (Forget high fashion - I go weak at the knees when I see stuff like this).

Anyway, during the demonstration, I received a phone call that I missed because it's just not good form to keep one's mobile ringer on during French Cooking Demonstrations (although NO ONE told that to the two men who attended because both of them received calls and wouldn't you know those guys, both in their 50s or 60s, had obnoxious song ringtones? isn't there some law against that if you are a male over the age of 14?). After I got to the car I turned my ringer back on and noticed I'd missed a call and had a voicemail waiting. I was glad then that I'd missed the call because now I have this message recorded to listen to over and over again (not to mention also sharing it with Mike later last night).

"Hello? Hey, Gramma?? This is Kennedy. I was hoping to have a princess cake for my birthday. So could you please make me that, please Gramma? I love you too. I love you, Gramma, Gramma Cheri. Bye!"

That's it, verbatim. I listened over and over to get it down word for word. You see, I'd phoned Megan earlier to ask what kind of cake Kennedy wanted. She wasn't sure if so said she'd ask her when she got home from school. I knew she was going to the San Antonio Zoo for her birthday and thought she might want a zoo themed cake. But given Kennedy's history, I figured Princesses could figure high up on the chart of Birthday Cake Interests. So Megan must have discussed it with Kennedy and Kennedy was calling to take care of business.

This is very significant to me because, well, it's my first "grandchild left" voicemail. The first of many I hope.

And, yes, Kennedy, I will be VERY happy to bake and make you a princess cake. Love you, sweetheart.

Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day was weeks ago but it's been so busy I never got around to posting about it. I think I was in shock that Mike was actually IN the USA. Usually, he spends Public Holidays working in Kazakhstan or en-route coming or going overseas. So (shock!) he was actually at home which of course called for DOING SOMETHING! So we went to Pflugerville which is only 2-1/2 hours away.

We hadn't been in Pflugerville since the "Great Surgery Debacle of Summer 2009" (aka known as "Megan's Unbearable Lightness of Being...in Great Pain") so we definitely wanted to go back and once and for all demolish the bad hospital vibes. :) And everyone was doing great!

We kind of joined Tim and Megan in a "Stay cation" going out to eat or "ordering in". We discovered some great new places in Austin. One of these was the perfect marriage of fantastic and original hamburgers, homemade ice creams and a playground out front for the kids - score! One of my favorites was Phil's Ice House (the aforementioned ice cream/burger/playground winner). I even told them they needed to get one built in (preferably) west Houston in general; Katy, in particular. They CAN hold a candle to Beck's Prime!

We ate so much at lunch on Saturday that we had no appetite for our reservation at P.F. Chang's. So Megan called and rescheduled for Monday at lunch and we got Pei Wei takeout for Saturday night - MUCH later in the evening! (Note to those "not in the know" - if you register for online ordering at Pei Wei, you'll get 30% off your first take-out order).

Sunday after services was an old favorite - Houston's Restaurant. I always laugh about going to Houston's in another town - Houston's in Austin? How come we don't have an Austin's in Houston? Moving on...naps in the afternoon, bliss. Then headed to Freddy's Frozen Custard for supper. If you ever get a chance to go to one of these, be sure and get their Turtle Concrete - oh.my.word. And then we went back and let the kids play in the bounce house purely expecting to see dinner "revisited" but they didn't have any playground equipment induced nausea. :) Tim even got out the good old Whamo!Slip'n'Slid and he and the kids had a blast. I didn't get any photos as it was dusk (and the water was flying!).

We played 42 that night after the kids were in bed. This is historically a game fraught with tension since Mike plays for blood and I barely understand the game. But all went well that night and I evidently played fairly well - Mike and I won two sets!

"Who dealt this garbage?"...oh, it was me.

Monday we played with the kids and they did more bouncing in the bounce house (have I ever mentioned how that thing has been worth every penny??? Oh, I did? Sorry...) and then went to P.F. Chang's for lunch. That's when Lleyton decided to plant one right on Mike - just took his Papa's face between his hands and put on right on the kisser!! Too awfully cute - I was almost jealous but I got the the good picture so was happy. :)

We loaded the car and all three dogs and headed back to Katy that afternoon (us and about a million-kajillion other people). We were fine with traffic till we got to I-10 and then it was stop and go. So we cut off and went down to 90A, cut through Fulshear and avoided traffic while enjoying lovely country scenery.

All in all a VERY enjoyable long holiday weekend.

We just need to eat at home for a LONG time...

25 September 2009

Out of the mouths of babes...

Luke has graduated from baby crib to big boy bed. This transition happened awhile back but the first time I'd seen the new shared room of Ben and Luke was this past weekend when we went for Ben's birthday party.

Luke proudly showed me his bed (complete with cute little rail) and commenced jumping up and down on it. Kennedy got on too and started bouncing. Lleyton was getting a huge grin on HIS face with the anticipation of a good bounce as well. I told Luke I was going to get on his bed and bounce too. And y'all know me - I'm not going to win any supermodel-thin awards anytime in THIS lifetime! Luke stops jumping, looks at me, and solemnly announces, "You go bounce on Mama's bed".

Smart kid.

24 September 2009

Snips, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails...

Last Saturday we celebrated my eldest grandson and grandchild's 5th Birthday. When Benjamin was born, Mike and I still resided in London (well, maybe Mike was as I was spending an awful lot of time in Texas that year including 8 weeks when he was born...). One of the main reasons we decided to move back was the births of our first two grandchildren, Ben in September and Kennedy early the following month. The Atlantic became impossibly wide after that and within a year we'd make plans to repatriate. We just were NOT going to miss this adventure of grandparenthood!

I have been blessed to be a part of every single birthday Ben has had, party or not. As this was his 5th, I think perhaps my days are numbered for him actively wanting me there each year. I can see it now, 10 friends at the paint ball place and there is Gramma Cheri in full camo, zeroing in on his friends...or the year I break a hip when they go roller skating and I fall - somehow I don't think so. With Kennedy I can probably host mani-pedi parties and get away with it a lot longer! :)

And now a MasterCard moment:
2 Cake mixes - $2.16
1 Can Icing - $1.56
4 eggs, milk and oil - $1.50
7 bags of various candies - $17.58
1 Grandson happy with his birthday robot cake - PRICELESS!

All of his grandparents were there in force this year as well as some of the great-grands. And Ben had most of his cousins and a couple of friends in attendance. The bounce house got a good workout (I'll say it again - that thing was WORTH EVERY SINGLE PENNY!) and the weather was good for outdoor playing (always a boon for the harried mom and dad of such occasions!) I have been putting my cake baking skills back to use - Ben wanted a robot theme so a robot cake was in order (by the way, it is WAY easier to trim a cake with lots of candy instead of all the piped icing and cut prep time down by an hour at least - woot!)

I had bought semi-sparkler candles for the cake, thinking the effect would be nice, not knowing that they were also the "hard to blow out" kind of candles. Oops! Good thing Ben is 5 and has very healthy lungs (note to self, do not use said candles for any asthmatic or emphysemic honorees). As the photos below will tell, he had to really work at it to get them out and STAY out!

Then he was NOT happy to learn that the "still shot" of the "blowing out of the candles" had not been caught by mom and dad's camera and a staged reshoot was in order! His dismay was understandable but hilarious.

I had lots of leftover candy from the cake so put it all in a big plastic bag and brought it over. Luke, being the eagle eye that he is, spots it...

...checks to see if Mom is watching...

...is followed by his friend and...

...buys said friend's "silence" with payment in kind.

Then the gifts were opened. The Wall-E robot was a big hit!

Kennedy helping and taking away the wrapping paper trash.

A sure fire sign that these guys are getting older - they wait and let the honoree open the presents!

Checking out the new Wall-E robot toy - of course, Uncle Tim had to come check this one out!

And you can never go wrong with a huge old honkin' set of Crayola Crayons and art supplies!

So Happy Birthday, Benjamin. You are almost in kindergarten now - one more year. Soon you'll be a big brother to little Master/Miss Brewton when he/she is born. And you're a good big brother for mischievous brother Luke. We love you very much and have enjoyed seeing and helping you grow and mature into the sweet and smart young man that you are.

And thanks for still wanting us there. :)

Ben and I about a year ago - I've always loved this photo of my "Butter Bean" and his Gramma Cheri.

15 September 2009

For the love...

...of grandchildren! We went to P.F. Chang's in Austin with Tim and Megan's family on Labor Day and Lleyton evidently thought his Papa was something because all of the sudden, he grabs Mike's face with both hands and plants one on him!

Lucky guy!

03 September 2009

A Literal "Sunday Afternoon Drive" in California

Yes, that is indeed the OCEAN!

As promised, here are some photos of our Sunday afternoon drive down the coastal highway between Anaheim and Laguna Beach. We didn't park, get out and walk around - perhaps we should have. We did attempt to find a parking place at one point, but not finding one within any reasonable distance from the beach, we caved and just drove on seeing more beautiful scenery. We're not really what you'd call "beach people" anyway. I mean, we have a pool here at home and I'm the only one who uses it. I think Mike's been in it once or twice in the almost 4 years we've lived here. And coming from Lubbock, I just recently found out what "ocean" was! Okay, I kid - I found out about those when we moved to London the first time and we flew over one.

This drive really made me feel like I was on VACATION!
"Nuthin' like that round these here parts, buddy!"

I've never been a fan of palm trees and this just backs up that feeling - looks
like a bunch of matchsticks with tassels stuck around that house. Oh, sorry if
it's where you live...

Anyway, back to the point, we had promised Tim we would NOT leave California without seeing the ocean. So we did see it - and it did not disappoint. But the interior designer in me kicked in and I was all agog at the architecture of the homes and the gorgeous yards and what looked like fabulous shopping for antiques, designer studios and all that jazz. I know - I'm warped. And Mike, while happy to drive me wherever REALLY just wanted to go back to the hotel and watch "Bones Season 1" dvds. Yes, we live a riveting life. But just the fact that Mike didn't read any work emails or take conference calls was enough for me to officially label this a "true vacation to remember".

I hope you enjoy.

Even the gas stations were pretty!

Beachcombers - and they had clothes on!! :)

Beauty around every curve of the road

What a beautiful drive.

Two houses here - but they are HUGE!

I wonder when this house is going to slide down into the ocean? Eeek!

31 August 2009

And now, the REST of the story!

Entrance into the California Adventure

After a full night's sleep and a good breakfast, we ventured forth the next morning (Thursday) anticipating the long entry into what we now considered Mickey and Friends Gargantuan Garage of Massive Acreage. It actually only took 30 minutes on Friday to make the same jaunt so we were encouraged. Our plan was to explore virgin territory aka California Adventure. Perhaps it's because we had nothing to gauge it by but our experience started out more fun than the previous day! We headed straight for the Paradise Pier to see if we thought we could stomach the huge roller coaster, California Screamin', which is the focal point of the entire park. We looked at it, were uncertain about riding, got Fast Passes (just in case) and then went to ride the huge Ferris Wheel called Mickeys Fun Wheel - and it's not your typical Ferris Wheel. We got on one of the free floating cars, not one of the stationary, non-swinging ones. What a TRIP! Great fun!! Still undecided about Screamin' so went to ride Mulholland Madness, Soarin' (which is just like the one in WDW, one of my absolute favorite rides!), and the Monster's, Inc. Sulley and Mike to the Rescure Ride. We were still undecided about Screamin' so decided to run back over to Disneyland and go on some rides we'd missed the day before. Small World was fun (and a bit different with an outside loading dock and Disney story characters throughout). You cannot leave ANY Disney park without going on the Small World ride - it's traditional! We waited over 50 minutes for the Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin - okay, but not really worth the wait in our opinion. Then we walked back over to CA for our dinner reservation at the Wine Country Tratorria. We then waited about an hour to go on Toy Story 3-D Mania and it was worth every minute of waiting - what a FUN RIDE!! We would have gone on it again if the wait hadn't been so long, and, of course, they were one of the non-FastPass rides. Sigh...

Aladdin and Jasmine in Small World

Alice in Wonderland - Small World

Mulholland Madness

We decided neither of us was brave enough to go on Screamin' so scoped out the crowd and offered our FastPasses to two unsuspecting, but VERY grateful youngsters. Well, they were probably in their late 20s, early 30s, but when you're in your 50s, anything 40 and under is "youngsters" to us. We'd been in the Parks about 10 hours by now - our feet were beginning to protest so decided to do a bit of shopping in Downtown Disney before heading "home" to the Marriott.

"Mikey Mouse"

Saturday was very laid back with sleeping in, late breakfast, leisurely coffee drinking and massaging sore feet. :) We drove to an outdoor premiere shopping center called Fashion Island in Newport Beach after enjoying a FANTASTIC In-and-Out Burger lunch. I did a little bit of shopping and we got Mike's watchband repaired and then headed back to Anaheim as we had a dinner reservation at the Napa Rose restaurant at California Adventure's Grand Californian Resort (lots of "California" bandied about this place!). We've always enjoyed the California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Hotel at WDW and wondered if this would be as good.

Paradise Pier at California Adventure in daylight

Oh. My. Word. "Good" doesn't even begin to describe how fantastic the food was at this place! The food was an experience. The service was, in Mike's words, "impeccable". The ambiance was intimate and the decor stunning with huge picture windows with Arts & Crafts style stained glass overlooking a beautiful garden. The evening was PERFECT! They even wrote "Happy Anniversary" in chocolate on our dessert plates. Those fillets were so tender, they cut like butter. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED should you ever go to Disneyland! Afterwords, we walked back to Disneyland and rode Alice in Wonderland before doing a little shopping. We wanted to ride several of the long-term rides (Toad's Wild Ride, Peter Pan, Snow White, etc.) but they were either closed for some reason or the lines were over an hour (it WAS Friday night and the parks were jammed with locals). We then positioned ourselves to watch the Celebrate Disney fireworks display which began at 9:25pm. We found a spot to wait and then Cast Members roped off the area putting us front and center of a perfect viewing area without any obstruction. I got to visiting with a family from Liverpool who were there "on holiday" and had been to both the Florida and now California Disney Parks. They were very friendly and the time passed quickly before the spectacular fireworks display. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

Sunday we attended services at the Orange View church of Christ in Anaheim followed by another lunch at In-and-Out burgers. Oh I wish we had these restaurants in Texas!! Where else can you get two good old-fashioned cheeseburgers, fries, sodas and shakes for $13.98?? Then we drove up and down the coastal highway, looking at the architecture, houses, shopping, shoppers, beaches and the ocean (of course!). It really is a beautiful place from Newport Beach down to Laguna Beach. I can understand why people would want to live there from an aesthetic standpoint. Huge trees line the streets - and the streets were very clean and free from litter. I was in the mood for Mexican for dinner so we tried to get to the one in Downtown Disney but the queues for parking were enormous so we just started driving around the Anaheim area and found what looked like a chain restaurant called El Torito. It was very good! Everything was fresh, flavors were different from TexMex and the service very good. We shared a pineapple upside down cake for dessert - something I've never seen in any restaurant before let alone a Mexican one! It was light and perfect and made me want to go home and bake one.

Paradise Pier at Dusk - so very pretty and nostalgic

I'm not sure what we expected California to be like but I guess we had, in the back of our minds, a not-so-pretty picture probably based on the crime dramas we like to watch on TV. And I'm sure LA and other places are like that presupposition. But the areas we were in were gorgeous, well maintained, clean - and the people friendly. One thing that was VERY noticeable about the Disneyland Parks was the relatively modest dress compared to what is seen (or NOT seen, depending on how you, ahem, "look at it") in the Florida parks. You can get "quite an eyeful" in Florida as well as some questionable slogans/pictures on T-shirts. But other than a few low necklines, the California park attendees were relatively modest! Not to put the Europeans down, but we hypothesis that this observation might be due to the large numbers of Europeans that visit the Florida parks while the California parks had more Asian visitors - predominantly Japanese from what we could tell. Considering how "liberal" California is and all the hype with Hollywood and the "stars", we expected something different and were pleasingly surprised to find the parks more "family friendly" when it came to dressing.

Mike taking a business call

A Wife's Guide on "How to handle business calls when on vacation" - proven methods for sucess

We had a really wonderful time on our trip, getting away from "it all", getting time alone - Mike only took ONE call when he was there! No conference calls at 6am (which would have been 4am in California now that I think about it), no email syncing, only one "I need to take this call and then make one call" which was quite a feat for him! The only thing I would have changed about the vacation was our hotel - the Marriott was lovely and we had no complaints about it - it just wasn't "on property" at Disney which is something that definitely makes a difference to your stay if you're a Disneyphile like we are.

Happy Campers!

I hope to get some photos from our drive down the coastal highway this week so again, stay tuned.

So there you have it.

But I still keep hoping for a breakfast buffet to appear each morning. And the maid doesn't show up while I'm gone during the day. What's with that??