Thursday, May 31, 2012

New camera lens and other assorted junk (I mean stuff)

I bought something new . . .and I don't have a picture of it so I found one on an ad and copied it . . .and it is a horrible picture BUT you can see what I purchased.  I purchased a new lens for my Canon and I've been playing with it.  Mark gave me a gift card to Wolf Camera for Christmas and I have a tiny savings account (I literally save $30 a month in this account!!) and as soon as I had enough money to put with the gift card, I quickly drove to Wolf and made a purchase.  I have an even larger lens that I use with my 35mm Rebel but it does not have image stabilization (or as I call it "anti-shake").  I guess I need to purchase a tripod to use with the bigger lens.  I'm just not really sure what pictures I would shoot with a tripod.

Have I ever told you that I love the color red?  I do.  It is one of my favorite colors.  I have a red kitchen aid mixer and I have this red lodge skillet.  Yes - the people who make wonderful iron skillets also have a color line!!!!  I was actually cooking dinner for my sweet friend, Lucy, who recently gave birth to a beautiful but tiny baby boy, Wint . . .Wint is now with Jesus.  Sometimes it seems as if the only thing we can do for those we love who hurt is to pray for them and cook for them.

I shot this from the deck using the new lens.  So pretty. 

I was all the way across the deck and captured sweet kitty sound asleep. This is what crazy middle aged moms do during the day when they are left home alone :-) - give us a camera and a skillet and a project (like cooking for someone else) and goodness gracious, we can make ourselves happy!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

28 years

It is amazing to me that we have been married 28 years. It is amazing for many reasons - one is that I'm surprised we haven't killed each other over the years. We don't argue/communicate well and sometimes that causes a major problem. But we have persevered . . .and we have loved and laughed and cried (that would be me mostly!!). Many people say they are married to their best friend. I always think that is nice but I've never thought that about Mark. Yes, he is the one that I run to first in most situations but lots of times he will say, "call Phella - she is smart and wise!!" He usually says that because he knows that I won't take his advice. (for some reason, we are both so stubborn that we have a hard time taking each other's advice.  I will admit that I take his more than he takes mine - hahahaha!)  He also tells me to call her when I am weeping over something only another female could understand!! I actually think that I am married to my hero. He is always there for me when I need him. He can fix just about anything. He always seeks the right. His morals are top notch. He is an excellent daddy (that is a wonderful thing!!). He is a faithful husband. He is my defender. He is an excellent provider. He is a Christian and lives out his faith. He makes me laugh. He goes to church with me every single Sunday. He prays with me at night and at the table and anytime we need to pray. He makes reservations at really cool restaurants and surprises me for our anniversary. He loves my friends. He actually even loves my family (I started to type more here but decided not to do so!!). He loves our cat (sometimes more than he loves me :-) but that is ok!!) He always took care of our kids when they threw up (believe me - that was an important skill for the man I married!!!). My list could go on and on . . .but I'll just tell you about our anniversary. Mark made a reservation at Highlands Bar and Grill. We had never eaten there before and we had a great time.

Here he is . . .sitting in the restaurant all dressed up.

He even took my picture (but it took a couple of shots to get his finger out of the picture :-)

I had a great glass (actually two glasses) of a really good Riesling.

We both ordered an appetizer.  Mark ordered a seafood medley - shrimp, oysters and snapper fried in a very light tempura batter.  I ordered asparagus and it was yummy.

The lighting was romantic.  For our meal, we both ordered beef.  It was good.  In the last couple of years, we have been to Hot and Hot and Cafe Dupont and now Highlands.  (we've been raising twins and sending them to college and haven't been eating at too many fancy restaurants over the years - we usually just go to the local Mexican restaurant!!!!).  Out of those three restaurants, I think my number one choice is Hot and Hot - mainly because they serve this incredible tomato salad.  It is so delicious.  I think my number two choice may be a tie between Cafe Dupont and Highlands.  We are so lucky to live in a city that has so many incredible award winning restaurants.

The valet took our picture in the parking lot while we were waiting on my car.  You can't see the car behind us but the valet told us that it belonged to a "regular" and that it cost $200,000.  About this same time, a big old pick up truck pulled into the parking lot.  I think that is pretty neat - this is a restaurant where folks who drive Ford Escapes, pick up trucks and $200,000 cars can all come to eat.

After we left the restaurant, we were going around the block so that we would be headed in the right direction and Mark saw a pedestrian running across the street and a motorcycle flew by us and plowed straight into the man. Mark was screaming, "he's dead. he's dead." I was dialing 911. Now you have to understand that since Christmas, I have consumed one margarita (at supper club last month!!) and no other liquor before this night. I had two glasses of wine that night. Needless to say, my 911 call was pretty pitiful. Mark had to correct my information several times because I didn't see what happened. I actually thought a car had run over the motorcycle guy.  You won't believe this - or maybe you will - the motorcycle driver reached the top of the hill, stopped, turned around and looked down the hill and drove off.  BUT when he hit the man, a piece of his motorcycle fell off so we are hoping they could track him down that way.  We were very thankful that some people in the little park next to where this occurred ran out into the street to check on the gentleman. He tried to get up (so he wasn't dead and we were very glad) but had to lie back on the street. The ambulance and police were on their way so we didn't stay since there were quite a few people already surrounding the man on the street.

We actually ended our night by going to meet our supper club. They were all gathered together and we went and spent the rest of the evening laughing and having fun with them. Bonnie had made Pomegranate margaritas and I had one when we first got there and then I switched to water. Mark on the other hand called the margaritas "juicy juice" and had quite a few. Needless to say . . .I drove home!!! We had a great anniversary and I feel blessed to be married to my hero!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I like a good pedicure

I love getting a good pedicure. I love how smooth my feet feel afterwards. I love the wonderful foot and leg massage portion of the pedicure. I'm a person . . .not a cat. Our cat, the old man Snugs, has to get his nails clipped. Sounds like a pedicure to me. Seems like it should be enjoyable. As we are driving to the vet, I say to him, "Snugs, you are going to get a pedicure.  It is a good thing."  All the while, he is making the most incredible sounds.  He makes these low guttural sounds - certainly not a meow - when he is in the car.  What is even funnier is that he makes them continuously on the way TO the vet but on the way home, he is pretty quiet.  Does he know that we are going to the vet?  That is the only time he ever rides in the car. 

Look at the expression on his face. He is not enjoying his pedicure.  His nails grow quickly and he has to have them trimmed fairly often so we thought to ourselves, "we should be able to take care of that at home."  hahahahahahaha!!  N.O.T.  It is not going to happen at home.  ONE TIME - yes, ONE TIME, Laura was able to trim them at home.  Then he figured out what she was doing.  He is a very strong and very stubborn kittyman.  Thank God for Veterinarian Techs who work on Saturday morning.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Yummmmm - Brown Sugar Brownies

Since I'm on vacation today, I decided to bake something to share with someone else!!  My mother-in-law taught me to bake these back when Mark and I were newlyweds.  I couldn't bake a thing back then!!  While our kids were growing up, I would guesstimate that I baked at least 1,000 pans of these yummy treats.  I have a new lens for my camera so I decided to take a picture of the ingredients and then realized that I forgot to put the brown sugar box in the picture!!  Oops!!  The recipe is simple and delicious.  First preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  While the oven is heating, melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter.  I love Land o' Lakes personally.  When butter has melted, add one box of brown sugar and stir until well mixed together.  Next add three eggs (I use jumbo).  Add them one at a time and stir.  Do not use an electric mixer for this recipe.  The brownies will be soooo tough!!!!  (yes, I tried and yes, I had to throw them away)  After adding the eggs, add 2 1/2 cups of self rising flour.  I always buy White Lily Flour if I can find it.  To me, it makes the lightest baked goods.  (This is not a paid post - they could care less that I like their flour and Land o' lakes could care less that I love their butter!!)  After adding flour, stir well with wooden spoon.  You need a strong spoon to stir the mixture -- a wooden spoon works really well.  Next add 1 tsp. of vanilla.  Last but not least, add 1 cup butterscotch chips.  Optional:  baking m&m's, chocolate chips instead of butterscotch, coconut, 1 cup chopped pecans.  The best combination is the butterscotch chips and the pecans.  Spray a 9 X 13 pan with pam and pour the brownie mixture into the pan.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Check the brownies at 25 minutes.  They should not "jiggle" in the middle but you do not want to overcook these.  Allow to cool before cutting (except for the piece or two that you cut pretty quickly because they smell so good as they are baking . . .)  One of Laura's friends loves these brownies.  One year, I baked her a pan of these for her birthday and wrapped them in a "shirt size" box - simply use wax paper instead of tissue inside the gift box.

Brown Sugar Brownies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray a 9 X 13 inch pan with pam

1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1 box of brown sugar (light not dark)
3 jumbo eggs
2 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup pecans, chopped

Melt butter, add sugar and stir.  Add eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition.  Mix in flour.  Stir in vanilla.  Fold in chips and nuts.  Pour into pan.  Mixture will be thick.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Enjoy!!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A day away

Last week, we were treated to a "day away" from the office. It was really nice for me because the day was held at a church about four minutes from my house!!  The day started with snacks provided by a local vendor.  We had Special K bars and big muffins and slices of cake.  The attendees were administrative assistants from several local churches.  The day began with a sermonette by a local priest.  He talked about our "call" to be a part of a church staff.  I really enjoyed his delivery and he said some things that really made me think.

During our first workshop, the speaker handed out several sheets of paper to each participant.  We were asked to draw pictures about our offices and co-workers.  We were to think of our offices as a zoo!  You can see my silly drawing below. 

During lunch, we were entertained by a local improv group.  I laughed until I had tears coming out of the corners of my eyes!!

We also worked together on a mission project.  We made "lovies" (loveys?) for preemie babies.  When a mother has to leave her sweet baby in the hospital, she takes the lovie home and sleeps with it.  Then the mother takes the lovie back to the hospital and they put it in with the baby.  Because the mother's scent is on the lovie, it supposedly helps with the bonding experience. 

Here is our group from Trinity.  Amy and I are standing in the back.  Mary is on the left and Donna is in the middle and Kristi is on the right.  It sure is nice to work with friends!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Empty Nest . . . again

When our kids moved away to college several years ago, we experienced empty nest . . .all at once. That happens when you have twins.  It took us several months, but we adjusted and actually enjoyed our empty nest.  Then after both graduated from college, Laura moved home while she pursued her master's degree.  We've enjoyed having her back at home for several years . . .actually, we've loved spending time with Laura but we've hated her mess :-)  I'm pretty sure I was messy at that age, too.  Don't ask my sister . . .she might tell stories on me!!!!  So now we are back to empty nest again.

Laura has moved into a lovely apartment with two nice roommates!!  Mark rented a large truck.  He said that we were "overtrucked."  We loaded her furniture inside.  Actually, Dustin came over and he and Mark and Laura loaded the furniture!!

I highly recommend renting from enterprise.  They are not paying me for writing this.  We just had a good experience with them.

The truck was loaded up on Friday night and we woke up early on Saturday morning and drove to the new apartment.  It is about 15 minutes away.  The problem was . . .we had help on Friday night but we didn't have help for Saturday morning . . .and the apartment is on the third floor . . .with no elevators.  Lauren's (yes - we have another Lauren - roommate) "uncle" had hired two of his workers to help with the move.  We were able to hire them on the spot to help us get the sofa and mattress and box springs and all of her other stuff up those three flights of stairs.  Thank goodness!!!!

Laura picked out great things for her apartment.  This is her cute rug in the bathroom.

She made these great frames to go over her bed.  Each frame has a little "clothesline" strung from side to side and the photos are hung with tiny clothespins.

I love her comforter and pillow shams.

One of her sweet friends joined us that day and helped Laura to organize her closet.  She also helped Mark hang the pictures.  Mark is happy to "eyeball" the wall, hammer the nail and hang the picture. 

Laura painted these three canvases to hang in her room.  I think this is neat!!

After a tiring day of moving and unloading boxes and hanging pictures, Lauren's "aunt and uncle" invited us all over for dinner.  They have a lovely home on a private road and the food was yummy!!  They also served a drink called "a red head in bed."  I thought that was a funny name!!!  It was delicious.  I think the most yummy thing of the evening was the miniature twice baked potatoes.  "Uncle" James has built an incredible room in their basement with exposed brick and a bar and a wine cellar.

So now this middle aged mom and dad are back to an empty nest . . .and every night, I'm "shoveling" a little more into the closets and trash cans :-)

Friday, May 18, 2012

What a life . . .

From tip of nose to tip of tail . . .30 inches long. He is one very long kitty cat. Even more amazing . . .he can curl himself into a ball the size of a small paper plate. When he wants to sleep soundly, he tucks his front paws and his tail between his back paws.  If he doesn't tuck his tail, that crazy tail will not be still.  Sometimes he falls into that sound sleep and his tail will be in mid curl and it will stay curled while he sleeps.  He even snores . . .quite loudly.  Once again, who would have ever dreamed that our family would own a cat. . .and be crazy about said cat.  He is one spoiled kitty.  Since Laura moved out last weekend and Glenn and Lauren are living several hours away, I told Snugs this week that he is now an only child.  I swear . . .I think he chuckled!!  He won't like us very much tomorrow . . .he has to have a pedicure.  You can't see his claws in this picture but they are quite frightening at times.  I wish we could learn to trim those nails at home.  Laura was able to do it one time but since then . . .no way Jose'!!  He also needs some more flea treatments and a new tube of Cat Lax.  Cat lax is exactly what it sounds like.  The vet finally found one that I can get him to consume.  It has catnip in it and it smells a little like pancake syrup.  I'm not going to try it so I can tell you how it tastes.  He has so much fur that he needs Cat Lax because he grooms so often. . . and then has issues with hair balls.  So I've learned all sorts of ways to get that Cat Lax into him.  I just mixed it with some Taziki's chicken and he ate it :-)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's that time of year . . .

I love fresh fruits and veggies . . .first trip to the neighborhood market . . .alabama strawberries . . and california strawberries and asparagus (I don't think it was grown in alabama - do we grow asparagus in Alabama?  I'm going to have to check out that thought).  I also bought a couple of vidalia onions (from Georgia) and some Florida tomatoes and some alabama squash.  I have no idea where the avocados and lemons were grown.  Tomorrow I'm going to the real farmer's market . . .I can't wait to see what they have for sale!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

109 PB&J's

We enjoyed dinner together and then quickly cleaned off the tables and spread out the plastic tablecloths, jars of peanut butter and jelly, plastic knives and spoons and latex gloves.

It was amazing to me how much heat 16 bodies generated.  The air conditioner was down on about 65 degrees and the rest of the house was cool but you could step through the door into the dining room and the heat went up about 10 degrees.

They quickly devised a plan - those on one end of the table removed the bread from the sacks and spread peanut butter on both pieces of bread (this is very important when a PB&J has to sit for a day or so - keeps the jelly from seeping through the bread) . .  . then they passed the sandwiches to the jelly spreaders . . .then to the baggers and last but not least to Will.  Will was in charge of counting and putting the sandwiches into the paper boxes.

There was lots of conversation about all sorts of topics.  It was a great evening doing something for someone else!!  I imagine the folks at Church of the reconciler really enjoyed our sandwiches.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

O what a wonderful evening . . .

Mark and I hosted our supper club in April and we had so much fun.  I've been trying to eat healthier and have not been drinking any alcohol but I made homemade margaritas . . .actually I made skinny margaritas and they were delicious.  I had not consumed an alcoholic beverage . . .especially a margarita since January 8.  That is pretty sad that I know when I had my last one!!!  I haven't missed the alcohol as much as I thought I would (not that I'm a big drinker anyway - maybe four or five drinks a month!!!  (max!!)

I was just playing with the camera and taking shots of the margarita glasses!!  I love how you can see the limes peeking out in the background.  Maybe someday . . .if I keep practicing . . .I'll learn how to take some really great pictures.

Dona brought the appetizers and they were yummy and Phella brought the dessert . . .and she made a skinny cheesecake and I thought it was delicious . . .because once again . . .I have not had any cheesecake since New Year's Eve when Nathan made his "to die" for cheesecake and brought it to our house . . .straight from the oven.

As always, the kitchen was the initial gathering place.  We have gotten so much "use" from our kitchen table.  I still love it!!

Such pretty friends - I love these girls!!  (yes . . .we are still girls . . .even though we are grown women!!)

I had planned to make a centerpiece in a fish bowl . . .cut the roses really short and have the white flowers around the edge.  Guess who cleaned out the basement?  Mark.  Evidently he thought that my fish bowls were for fish and since we don't have any fish . . he gave them to the goodwill or salvation army or hannah home.  So as I had a meltdown in the kitchen . . .my sweet daughter came to the rescue.  She said, "I am my grandmother's granddaughter.  Surely I can arrange some flowers.  She did it and I thought they looked lovely.

This is one of those posts that is probably boring to the rest of the world . . .but I feel this need to photograph and write about some of the fun . . .and just regular daily events in our lives.  I think I have this fear of forgetting.  Also, after our friend, Susan died and our other friend, Bill Frazier, died . . .I have felt that it is so important to have pictures of my friends.  Actually, not just to have pictures but to spend more time together making memories.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Easter Sunday

I love Easter.  It is one of those really good days . . .where you remember that Jesus always wins . . .where people usually have smiles on their faces (unless you are a mama trying to herd your family for a photo op) . . .where you are greeted (if you are a church goer) with the words, "He is Risen" and you respond with, "He is risen indeed."  Easter is one of those holidays where families usually gather and eat a good meal with a few treats.  Easter is one of those Sundays where the music is spectacular and over the top during worship.  It is one of those worship services where your senses are truly alive - you hear the music and the sermon - you see the cross that has been transformed by grace - you smell the Easter lilies and other flowers.  Easter is glorious after the week before.  I always feel like we have walked to the cross with Jesus.  I feel so sad after the Good Friday service of darkness but then . . .Sunday comes!!  He is Risen!  He is Risen INDEED!!  (The picture of the cross above is from my front door.  I ordered it from "Mine by Design" on facebook.  She does great work - she even painted mine in custom colors to match my dark green front door.  My problem with Easter decorations is that I don't want to get them out before Easter.  Those 40 days before Easter are when we are participating in Lent.  So this year, I got up early on Easter morning and immediately - in my night gown - went out on the front porch and hung the cross on the front door!!)

My mother-in-law always decorates her table.  Those eggs on the mirror were made a looooong time ago - Mark and George made them when they were young.  I can't believe that those fragile shells have lasted so many years.

We always have a spread of food.  We had carrot/raisin salad and potato salad and broccoli salad and devilled eggs.

We also had turkey and ham and hash brown casserole (I think that is what I made!!)  My mother-in-law always likes to have a salad type of lunch with just one or two hot dishes for Easter.

Glenn and Lauren didn't get to come home for Easter this year because they had been here so many times for Lauren's doctor appointments and her surgery.  I think they were just tired of driving back and forth.  We missed them but we still had a nice worship service and a wonderful lunch with family.

BIG projects around the house

Shouldn't middle age be a time of spending money on fun things?  Maybe a trip around the world?  Or maybe a trip to see the Northern Lights (on my bucket list!!)?  Well . . .first things first.  Our kids are now well educated and they are not in debt (neither are we - thank God!).  As of Saturday, our lovely daughter has moved into her own place (will blog about that soon!!).  Our handsome son and his sweet bride are settled into their place.  We are still here . . .in our 20 year old house . . .that we have taken very good of most of the time . . .There are big repairs that need to be done.  We can now mark one of those from our list.  We are now the proud owners of 28 - yes 28 large new windows.  Chunk of change!!  They are lovely.  They are energy efficient.  They keep the hot sun from fading our furniture.  The can be cleaned from inside the house (except for the large solid glass ones . . .and we actually have a few of those).

We took bids from three different window companies.  Both of our next door neighbors have new windows and they both used a different company so we took a bid from each of those companies.  We also took a bid from a company that replaced the windows in my friend's house.  The company that replaced one neighbor's windows was the highest bid.  The company that replaced the other neighbor's window was the lowest price.  Amy's (friend) company was the middle bid.  Now normally I would go with the middle bid.  But this is the interesting thing - we walked over to both neighbor's homes and looked at the windows (and I drove by Amy's house - sorry - I promise I wasn't stalking).  They all looked just about the same.  The energy efficient ratings were all very similar.  The construction of the window was very similar . . .so we went with the cheap guy . . .and then got him to get us his top grade of windows. . . .which was still cheaper than either of the other bids.  That was a long drawn out paragraph and I apologize!!

You can see from this picture above - our windows were in bad shape.  The glazing was missing from some of the window panes and the window sills were beginning to rot.  We had to have something done!!  I had to take a day of vacation to stay home while the workmen were there.  They were all very nice.  (read post from earlier about interesting thing about workmen)

Our house is up on a hill . . .and it is high . . .and those men were climbing all over the house and the ladders.  I don't think I could do their job.

The weekend before we had the windows installed, Mark painted our shutters and I painted the front door.  Of course, now we think we need a new front door because our windows look so nice.  Isn't that the way it goes?  You fix one thing and you realize how many other things need to be repaired?

Our next repair job . . .probably next year . . . will be a new roof.  We have got to decide whether we are going to stay in this house and grow old (older . . dang!!) here or if we are going to put it on the market and try to move to the small town where our church is located (10 miles away).  When I was growing up, I always lived within walking distance of my church and I would love to live within walking distance of our church today.
If we are going to stay, I would love to blow the back wall off the house and add on to the kitchen (granite counter tops and a double oven and a giant island and cooktop . . .oh such a dream) and family room and add another bathroom upstairs . . .but why do I even need more space?  Goodness gracious, I can't keep this one clean as it is!!
Anyway, I love our house.  It is more than just a house.  It is where we have raised our kids.  It is where we have entertained untold numbers of folks.  It is where we have awaited visits from Santa and the Easter bunny.  It is where we have heard the call, "Trick or Treat."  It is where we have carpooled and where we have ridden our bikes and where the kids have roller bladed (is that even a word?)  That red brick house . . .it is our home.  It. Is. Filled. With. Love!!  Yes, it is!!  (and it has brand new windows!!!)