Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Did You Pack the Igloo?

The obstreperous camping team of Willden, Wheat, and Thomas decided that winter break would be a fine time for another camping trip, this time to Enchanted Rock, and indeed, it was a fine time.  What we did not count on, however, was the snow.  It really and truly snowed in the Hill Country, and there was snow on the ground as we drove to Fredericksburg.  We stopped for lunch at Rebecca Rather's new Pink Pig, and when we told her we were going tent camping at Enchanted Rock, she looked at us like we were nuts.  She was seriously concerned for our well-being, physical and probably mental, and I was, too.  However, onward and upward.  We arrived at the park and picked out sites right up against the rock, and started a fire before doing just about anything else.

Oh my GOODNESS, it was cold.  That night I slept in three layers of tops and bottoms, wool socks, gloves, a hat, and a hood, wrapped in my sleeping bag with a quilt on top.  And I was still cold!  Luckily, we had our brand-new hats from Nepal to keep our heads nice and toasty.  Matt and Shannon picked them up for us on their world travels, and I loved them so much that I named them: NePaul, NePaula, NePaulette, and NePauline.
I did not venture too far from the campfire, and my trusty Thermos of hot herbal tea was always close by to keep me warm on the inside.  I stayed so close to the fire that I actually melted the leg of my favorite fleece pants.  Whoopsie.
We did eat good on this trip.  We had homemade tamales for dinner and then a Dutch oven peach cobbler for dessert.  I could definitely get into the whole Dutch oven thing.  We roasted marshmallows whenever we wanted to--this was vacation, after all--and Isla had a bit of a problem with hers.
The kids loved to be te trolls under the bridge between the parking lot and our site. They were pretty scary.
We hiked to the top of Enchanted Rock and the wind whipping over the top of the dome was fierce.  I swear I wore a hat AND a hood the entire time we were there.
 We made it to the top!  Wheats, Thomases, and Willdens, and another successful trip.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like a Project

Okay, I know it's August.  I know that I've come around the horn and next Christmas is now closer than LAST Christmas.  I know I am a bit tardy in posting...  everything.  Always.  I can only assume that the two (or so) people who actually follow this blog will forgive me.  You rock.

When I told the lady at JoAnn Fabrics that I was going to use all that felt to make a nativity advent calendar, she marveled that I was starting it so soon.  Hah!  How long did she think it was going to take for me to crank it out?  Because I was sweating to get it done by December, let me tell you.  Once the fun stuff (the cute figures) was done, I was much less motivated to do the not-as-fun stuff (the numbers and the background).  But I did made my deadline.  Oh, and did I mention that I made not one, but two of these calendars?  Because I have two kids, you see, and it was now or never.

I found a pattern online:
I added to it, and here is the final product:
I also made these ornaments, which I am in love with:
Merry Christmas!  (Late or early, take your pick.)

Camping with Crabs

We had a terrific time camping at Padre Island National Seashore over Thanksgiving.  The Wheats and Thomases joined us, and we had an excellent time.  (The hammock kerfuffle with the homeless woman wasn't the greatest, but at least none of us got stung by a stingray like the poor Scandinavian fellow in the next campsite.  Perspective, people.)  We brought Thanksgiving leftover foil dinners and I made a pumpkin pie and an apple crumble in a box oven.  And they said it couldn't be done!  ("They" being Greg and David.)

The kids could not get enough of the beach.  On our last morning the wind nearly blew us right off the campsite, but the other days were fair and mild.  Tyler especially likes being buried, and Natalie spent hours in the surf.  She tried boogie boarding and found that she liked it A LOT.
 The wind was just right for a little kiting, so everyone took a turn.
 For some unknown reason, there were no shells to be found, but there were plenty of Portuguese Man O' Wars scattered up and down the beach.  Greg bucketed a live one for show and tell.
After dark Greg left for a run on the beach, and returned very quickly to let us know that the sand was overrun by crabs!  We grabbed flashlights and headlamps and took the kids on a crab hunt, which they LOVED.  As we adults ambled along, we would see the knot of kids take off across the sand, all their lights trained on a little crab fleeing for its life.  We laughed our guts out.  It was, hands down, the highlight of the trip.
 Look at these monkeys!  (SEA monkeys, that is.)  Ella, Reese, Natalie, Tyler, and Isla.  Reese probably just told the favorite joke of the weekend, which went something like this:

Reese: Knock, knock.
Natalie: Who's there?
Reese: Garbage!

That's it.  That's the joke, and let me tell you, it KILLED every time.

 Wheats, Willdens, and Thomases: camping fiends.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Sweet Treats

I made these cookies for a "B is for Baby" shower:
 This was my second batch of onesies.  The silver dragee "snaps" really sell it:
 The only problem with these was that B cookies had a tendency to tip over as the frosting softened.  Next time I either need lighter cookies or thicker frosting.  The "baby" and "boy" were made with royal icing and were very fragile--I was glad I made many more than I needed:
 Mmmm... Chocolate cupcakes with a layer of milk chocolate ganache, topped with pink peppermint cream cheese frosting, for the ward Christmas party:
 A dear friend threw a gala, leopard-print bridal shower for her daughter-in-law-to-be, and I made these cookies as favors.  (It was a HUGE shower.)  I did a little web-based research and this is how my leopard print icing turned out:
 I made these for our Relief Society Christmas dinner.  I was asked to make one of my favorite holidays treats, gingerbread cookies, but plain old cookies were not fancy enough for me.  I have a reputation to uphold, after all!  So I made gingerbread cupcakes with cinnamon butter cream frosting, topped with gingerbread man sprinkles and mini cookies.  Now THAT'S more like it:

Gobblin' Up the Miles

Happy Thanksgiving!  This year our whole family ran the annual Turkey Trot at Greg's work, and when I say "ran", I mean that Greg ran the 4-mile course, Ella ran the 2-mile course, and I cajoled, pushed, and dragged a reluctant Natalie (that's a nice way of putting it) for 2 miles.  Despite the fact that she out-ran her sister in a lap around our block a few days before, on the morning of the big race she was complaining of sore feet before we'd even left the rec center parking lot.  My conversation with her at that point went something like this:

Natalie: My feet hurt!

Me: No they don't.  Keep running!

It was a proud moment.  Here we are before the race:
Greg was the fastest registered runner and as such won us a turkey!  Ironically, Natalie also won us a bird through the raffling off of the very last one.  She was SOOOO proud!

Halloween: I Know What We're Gonna Do Today!

Ah, Halloween!  The silliest of holidays.  That morning my seminary class was invited to dress up, and some actually did!  (Please note Joseph's "Facebook" costume.) 
 We played Scripture Mastery Trick or Treat and had a Halloween buffet o' treats:
Around here we are BIG fans of "Phineas and Ferb", so we decided to rock the 104 days of summer vacation as Agent P, Doctor D, Lindana, and Candace Flynn-Fletcher:
 "A platypus?  PERRY the Platypus???"

Red Hot Cousins

In November 1994 my cousin Madison was born.  Oh, we were so excited!  Her parents had been waiting and waiting and WAITING for her, and her arrival was cause for major celebration.  Here I am holding her for the first time:
Despite our 18 year age difference, we have always been pals.  So imagine how thrilled I was when she came to visit us in San Antonio!  She is a big fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and had tickets to see them here in Texas, and called to see if I might be interested in going to the concert with her.  Are you kidding???  Me??? Concert???  For the record, I am nearly always up for a concert.  So she booked the flight and came on down, staying just under 24 hours.  We only had time to show her the essentials, like the Alamo:
 And the Riverwalk:
 Back home at Casa Willden, we made time for a game of Apples to Apples, a Cousin Madison Classic:
And, of course, we went to the concert.  What a kick.  I hadn't been to a huge arena show like that in years.  I had, of course, seen the Chilis once before, at Lollapalooza '92.  You know, two years before Maddie was BORN.  Good grief.  She put on her new t-shirt and I donned my oooooold one (that has been acting as PJs for many years now) for a photo op:
Thanks for the fab 24 hours, Maddie!  Please come back again when you can stay a little longer!

Back to School 2012

It's now March, and I, of course, am only 6 months behind here on the ol' blog.  Let's try to fix that today, shall we?

It was mid-July when we returned from our cross country trip so we had weeks and weeks of summer stretching out in front of us...  Well, some of us did.  I sprained my foot instead, taking me out of commission for the three weeks before my scheduled surgery on the same foot.  So much for the rest of the summer.  Fortunately for everyone my mom came to take care of everyone while I convalesced post-surgery.

I was still hobbling around in the wretched boot when school started for the girls, and Seminary started for me.  Here's Ella, sun-kissed and ready for the 4th grade:
 Natalie started preschool at Ella's alma mater, University United Methodist Day School:
And Seminary started up again in our front room, every week day from 5:50am to 6:40am:
Here's to a great start!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Across Tennessee: Elvis, Pandas, and The Creepiest Motel 6 on the Planet

After we left Gatlinburg, we were definitely on our way home.  However, we had a few days left and a few new places to see.

We didn't spend much time in Nashville, and it rained the whole time we WERE there, but we did manage to walk around Broadway, aka Honky Tonk Row.  I had read about Hatch Show Print and really wanted to see it.  It's this old print shop on Broadway that still screen-prints posters for all sorts of events.  It was old and funky and really cool to visit:
I kept my eyes peeled for a glimpse of Keith Urban (he and Nicole DO live in Nashville, after all) but the closest I came was a ginormous handbag covered in photos of him.  It was a bit much, so I passed, but I DID buy a guitar-shaped spatula that I now refer to as my Keith Urban Memorial Spatula.

Our hotel messed up our reservations (which was fine, because it was a pretty skeevy place) so we decided to drive on and see how far we got.  We made it all the way to Memphis, ready to find someplace cheap to sleep for a few hours.  Mission accomplished!  We managed to find the creepiest Motel 6 east of the Mississippi.  (I think they had a plaque.)  As if the rent-a-cop guarding the property weren't enough, our "non-smoking" room reeked of smoke and had an ashtray on the dresser, for our convenience.  You know you are scraping the bottom of the barrel when you are just grateful there is no hair in the sink.

However, after we woke up and got out of that room as fast as we possibly could, things could only get better, and they did.  After treating ourselves to breakfast at Cracker Barrel (pancakes, finally!) we headed on over to the Memphis Zoo:
 (We're walking like Egyptians, can't you tell?)  Now, you know I am a fan of zoos, and I can generally find something good to say about any zoo, but believe me when I say that THIS zoo is truly spectacular, one of the best I have ever been to.  I am sure it helped that the weather was cloudy and blissfully not hot, but weather aside, this is just a beautiful zoo with a terrific variety of animal exhibits and interaction programs.  The top priority for me at this zoo was the pandas, Ya Ya and Le Le:
I fell in love with the pandas!  They are one of only four pairs in the whole United States--the others are in San Diego, Washington DC, and Atlanta.  We got to watch them eat their bamboo, have a drink of water, and do a lot of sleeping.  They were enchanting.

We also got to feed a giraffe named Kenya, which was a hoot:
We also fed budgies:
All of the animals at the Knoxville Zoo were either asleep or hiding (or both) and while all the animals at the Chattanooga Zoo were awake, there were only 3 or 4 of them, so it wasn't really the ultimate zoo experience.  But Memphis Zoo, oh, Memphis Zoo was definitely worth the price of admission.

After the zoo we went downtown and rode the vintage streetcar to Beale Street, where we ate lunch and browsed through all manner of Elvis souvenirs.  Then, on our way out of town, we drove past Graceland:
With two tired kids in tow, Graceland would definitely NOT have been worth the price of admission.  (FYI, it's really expensive.)  So no Jungle Room or gold Cadillac, just the gates.

And then we were on our way home!  After one last motel, where all the crickets in Texas go to die (but at least there was no smoke OR hair in the sink), we made it home:
The Wheats made us a fab banner, which as soooo nice.  I took a picture of our trip odometer just to prove how far we had gone:
Hoo-boy!  What a trip.  I am so glad we went.