Sunday, September 16, 2012

Autumn Cometh!

Hello everyone!  Autumn is coming soon and I am excited!  It means that festival time in Texas is starting up, and so is baking time!

Things here are going well - we've been very busy, as you hopefully can imagine.  We went last weekend to a rodeo (just a small one) and the weekend before, we went to see this exhibit (called Bodies Revealed).  Here's a link to some images of the exhibit - we weren't allowed to take pictures.  Warning though, these are not for the squeamish!  This exhibit is a medical demonstration of cadavers that have been preserved with silicon and then dissected to show different parts of the body.  It was EXTREMELY cool:

Other things that have gone on:  my Mom came for a visit, we planted our new fall garden (so far so good!), I'm working on some new writing projects, and I'm also transferring into a new position at my company.  We were acquired by a larger company and my position was going to be eliminated.  Thankfully though, another department happily snatched me up to work with them.  So I'll be doing the same type of thing, but in a more clinical/"nurse-y" way.  Very exciting!

So other than that, the kitties are doing great, the house is looking wonderful.  Here are some pics of the decorating so far!  Here is our living room fireplace.  Noel made the fireplace screen out of a metal room divider that he cut down artistically to size and then painted it black.  He mounted it over the fireplace hole to keep the kitties out of it. 

The metal sculpture above is actually brick red, hard to see in this picture.  Below that are the Day of the Dead skulls I collected every time I went to El Paso.  Hola, El Paso!!

And you may not remember our ratty (literally - the mice had eaten holes in it) yellow velvet couch.  We moved it multiple times and finally finished reupholstering it.  It looks great, if I do say so myself!  :)

Love love love it! 

So this coming weekend is another festival, this time one with Scottish Highland games.  Awesome.  And also it's the first day of Autumn on Saturday, which means Autumn Fest!  YUM!

Ok, so I'd type more but there's not one but TWO kitties sitting on me right now and they make it hard to type.  Ta ta for now!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Please Don't Drag Me Out In The Street

I can NOT believe it's been so long since I blogged last time. I am so sorry! Life, as you can imagine, has been crazy busy. We've been working into getting moved into the house, but it's been a bit challenging - Noel was about 2 hours away working for a long time, and I've been in:

- Denver
- San Antonio (three times)
- El Paso
- Harlingen
- Dallas

So yeah, kinda all over the place. Then Noel's kids came to visit for 3 weeks!

Needless to say, because of all this traveling I have a TON of photos to post, so let's get started!

One of the really interesting things we went to see with the kids is the National Museum of Funeral History. (Yes, this place really exists, and it's AWESOME) (And also a little creepy). Don't believe me? Here's the website:

And here are some pictures! They had a neat collection of old hearses:

This is a horse-drawn carriage for children's coffins.

This is a Japanese hearse. Apparently the Japanese spend the highest amount in the world on funerals. They certainly do it in style!

This older hearse is just stylin'.

The woodwork on this carved carriage was just gorgeous. It really looks like fabric.

There were other interesting and creepy artifacts of funeral history too. This casket had a strange backstory. At the turn of the last century, the only child of a couple died. The couple was so distraught they came up with a tragic plan - the husband would kill his wife and then himself, so that they could join their beloved child in death. To this end, they commissioned a casket made specifically for the family - a 3-seater, if you will.

Now the good news is, they couple decided not to go through with their plans. The strange (and oddly amusing) end to the story is that years and years later, after the husband died, the wife tried to get their money back on this casket. Her offer was refused, and it ended up being donated by the coffin maker to the museum. It just makes me kinda like this lady - she actually wanted a refund on her specially made murder/suicide casket.  Awesome.

Sometimes people ask me why I'm interested in death rituals (I studied quite a variety of death rituals while in grad school too). My answer is, you can tell more about a culture from how they treat their dead than just about any other way. The museum had a fascinating section on Victorian death rituals.

Now, if you want to see death treated to the nth degree, check out the Victorian era. They invented the wreath upon the door tradition (as quoted by George Jones). Mirrors were covered with black cloth. They had elaborate clothing restrictions for those who were in mourning. And to top off your styling mourning ensemble, you could always add some festive death jewelry, like this:

It's made out of the hair of the deceased person. No really. They made necklaces, bracelets, watch chains, hair ornaments (and wore them not ironically), and even made pieces of jewelry to display in frames. All out of the hair of the deceased.

So good night everyone! Sweet dreams! Mwaaa haaa haaa!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Breaking News:  it's time to bid adieu to views like this:

And also views like this:

Because we're moving!  We closed on our new house this afternoon, and will be moving to the 'burbs just north of Houston!  It's a little bittersweet.  We've loved living out in the country.  But while we'll miss the beauty of the farm, we won't miss the long commutes, the cows licking my car, the hordes of horseflies, and the piles of poo right next to our car doors.  Also, frankly, when Noel's gone on his long work trips, I'm stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nobody to talk to except the cats, sometimes for days and days on end.  And when I expect the cats to start talking back to me, we begin to have some problems.  And did I mention the 3 hours I spend every day in the car commuting to work?

So goodbye country life.  We will miss you!

Say Hello to our new house!

We are slightly excited.

(I hug the floor)

(Noel does cartwheels in our new living room!)

Here's a picture of the living room!  Now, to clarify, this isn't our furniture - these are pictures from the real estate listing.  We're SO excited to have a fireplace!!!

The kitchen has granite countertops!  And a dishwasher!!  (As opposed to our hands, which have been our dishwashers thus far).

There's a breakfast room:

AND a formal dining room!  (Love the red and the built-ins!)

Check out the Cleopatra-esque sunken tub in the master bathroom!  Oh la la!

A Master Bathroom, you say?  Yes!  Know what that means?  We have more than 1 bathroom in this house!  This is so exciting.  When we have people come visit now, we don't have 5 people sharing 1 bathroom!  Hurrah.  Beside the bathtub, behind that closed door, is one of TWO master walk-in closets!  We currently share one non-walk in closet.  Wow.

We are so excited.  As I said, we'll miss the farm.  We really will.  And while it's been peaceful out here and beautiful, it's really so remote that it makes life hard sometimes. 

For example:

  • I currently drive 45 minutes one way to get the cats to the vet.  At the new house?  There's a vet at the NEXT EXIT. 
  • Currently the nearest Waffle House is 36 miles away.  At the new house?  There's one at the NEXT EXIT. 
  • The closest knitting group to the farm is 45-50 minutes away.  There are multiple ones in our new town.
  • There's a Super Target 1/2 a mile away. 
  • And we won't have to go grocery shopping at Wally World anymore (hallelujah).  Why?  Because our new town has an HEB!  My favorite grocery store!  With a cheese shop inside!  And free sushi samples!  We are in heaven.
So yes, moving to the 'burbs is going to be a change.  We won't have so much open space around us, obviously, and we'll be dealing with more traffic.  BUT.  We have a charming new home with lots more space inside, and actually lots more privacy outside, with a fully fenced yard for our garden!  And it's an investment in our future.

Yay!!  Our own home!!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Blast From the Past

Remember this?

Seeing as how much we've moved this chair from state to state and have NOT worked on it in the past several years, we apparently didn't. 

However, we're in that kinda painful phase of the home purchasing process where we're stuck just waiting for the underwriting to be done.  For those of you who may not know, Noel and I are not exactly the most patient people in the world.  Ergo, this whole thing of "Hurry up and get us your bank statements and now....sit there and wait on other people to finish,"  we're not having an easy time. 

So we've already started packing!  Do we have a closing date yet?  Not so much.  But.  We're being proactive!  And also we're getting rid of a bunch of old junk like allergy medicine from 2009.  Nice. 

Also, to Barb's comment via email:  yes, it is a little wild that we gypsy souls are actually buying a home and settling in!  We like it here though, and figure that if we decide to travel for any long period of time again, at least we won't have to move our furniture into storage!  :)  Because seriously?  I am SICK of moving this furniture.  We've moved it, what...3 times in the past 2 years?  Too much.

So anyway, back to the chair.

This was a chair that used to look like this:

It was an $8 Goodwill find, complete with gorgeous Golden Girls-esque Miami pastel upholstery.

And mold under the seat cushion.  Don't forget that!  So how does one reupholster a chair?  Well, for this particular one, we used a lot of disinfectant.  Gross. 

We took off the upholstery very slowly and carefully.  Why?  Because the old pattern pieces are used as the pattern for your new fabric!  So go slowly, pull out the staples, and don't rip fabric. 

Here are the pieces once removed from the chair:

Oh, and one other VERY important thing:  make sure to label the pieces as you take them off!  When you cut the new fabric, you'll label it as well.  This seriously saved us as we finally pulled this poor chair out of the garage and were able to figure out which piece went where, even though it had been years since we had looked at it!

We used crushed velvet for this chair.  Be sure when cutting your fabric that you lay out the pieces so the nap (the grain, so to speak) of the fabric is facing the same way on all the pieces.  Velvet in particular will show as darker or lighter depending on whether it's turned one way or the other.  It may not make much of a difference until you get the pieces beside each other, and then it's really obvioius.

I also labeled which way was up, for the same reason! 

So here is the nekkid chair, sans upholster and mold.

(Needless to say, we disinfected the fool out of this chair, because we're reusing the padding)

Another thing I can suggest when taking the upholstery off is taking tons of pictures as you go.  These will be super helpful when you're putting it back together.  You may also want to take detailed notes, because you'll be putting the chair back together the same way it was originally put together (which is often the reverse of the way you took it apart).

So here it is with the seat and one arm put back on.  Most of the time, you use a lot of staples and pull the fabric taut (but not so tight that the fabric is going to tear when you sit on it!) and staple it to the wooden part of the frame.

Please note, this is the point where we put the chair in storage.  The fabric pieces went into a bag and into the sewing closet. 

And now we come to present day, when we sit at home packing up stuff and wondering what we can do to keep ourselves occupied while we wait for the closing.  And so we said "why not reupholster some furniture?"  Because 'going for a walk' or 'eating a pizza' is just way too easy.

I took some detail pictures just to give you an idea of how these things go together.  This is a picture of the outside arm.   You can see the front of the arm here, along with the contrast piping.  See how many staples we used?  We attached the velvet part first, then stapled the piping on.  Once the outside piece goes on over it, you won't be able to see the staples.

The black at the bottom is sewn to the velvet that goes over the front of the lower part of the chair.  We used black cotton to save on velvet costs, and also because it won't rub the seat cushion velvet as much. 

You'll also see that the velvet that's stapled has lots of cuts in it.  You have to have faith in yourself and do these cuts, often during the pre-staple stage, to get the fabric to lay right.  If I didn't do these cuts here, the fabric would never lay flat across that curve in the frame.  This part is seriously scary, making cuts, especially when you don't have any velvet left (like us).

In this picture, you can see that we've gotten both arms and the wings done.  Major progress!  I was pleased that it only took me 2 hours, working by myself, to get from the storage stage to here. 

The fabric on the arms and wings were pulled through the frame and stapled to the back wooden part of the frame.

I then took the piece that goes over the big yellow foam piece there, and stapled it on to the same part of the frame, between the frame piece and where the wing was stapled on.  Then I simply pulled it over the top, pulling it snug and smooth, and stapled it to the back frame.

See how it overlaps on the top and hides any staples?


I'm glad to say that with only a few minor exceptions (small pieces I want to hand sew together), this chair is actually finished!  I'll take some additional pictures to show you what it looks like completed.  We're very pleased with it!  It has a cushion piped in the same contrast trim, and just to make it look more modern, we painted the legs a high gloss black lacquer.

Now if this weren't enough, we decided to seriously overachieve and reupholster our gold Victorian couch as well.  Woo hoo!  Noel stripped it yesterday down to the frame and the seat foam, and he painted the frame high gloss black lacquer as well.  We're going to reupholster it in gray velvet.  Swanky!

So that's a super brief crash course in DIY upholstery!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's Texas Bluebonnet season!

There are a tremendous numbers of wildflowers blooming right now - so pretty! I guess because the drought was so bad last year, nature is trying to make up for it this year by dumping as much pollen as possible into the atmosphere.  The plan is working!  Everything is making us sneeze.  :)

A few weeks ago,  I helped as a dresser & emergency seamstress at the Ms. Pasadena Senior pageant.  It was awesomely fun!  There were 11 contestants, and I helped them by sewing hems, fixing sleeves, and actually sewing one lady into her evening gown, a la Marilyn Monroe.  :)  They were so sweet - it was really fun. 

Here are our winners:

They competed in a talent competition, life philosophy, and evening gown competition. 

Previous winners came as well.  The lady standing here is last year's winner. 

So it was a great experience!  I hope to help again next year.

What else is going on in our lives?  Noel is working in Trinidad and will be there for the next 6 months.

April Fools!  :)

He's here!  He got back from his job in NYC on Wednesday of last week, and we've been busy driving all over Houston looking at the house we're in the process of buying!

No April Fools!  We really are in the process of buying a house!  I don't want to say much more about it because I'm afraid of jinxing the process, but it's an AWESOME house and Noel got to see it today for the first time and loves it!  We're so excited to be moving into our very own house, and while we might miss the farm some (and little Winston), we will NOT miss the commute, nor the flies, nor the 45 minute drive to the vet, nor the cow pooty so graciously plopped next to the car doors. 

Obviously we will keep everyone posted as we go through the process!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Noel's Brief Visit Home!

Guess what?  Noel actually got to come home for a few weeks!  We decided to celebrate his return (and all the major holidays we didn't get to spend together) by going on a long weekend to San Antonio.  We really enjoyed the trip and took tons of pictures!  So without further ado, here is our trip!

First off, a coworker told me that there are caves in them thar hills (about 20 minutes outside of San Antonio).  Who knew?  Neither of us had ever been into an underground cavern system, and it was awesome - really, one of the most impressive and awe-inspiring things I've ever seen.

Even the entrance was neat!

Underground, we saw a tiny little bat (couldn't get a picture without scaring the little guy) and lots of weird formations, including a set of pools of water: 

Some places in the caves looked like something out of Lord of the Rings.  So incredible.

I had a hard time telling if my pictures were turning out well.  So I took a bunch - this is one using a flash:

And this is the same location without a flash (slightly blurrier but really impressive):

So yeah, a foray deep into the earth.  Also, we expected it to be cold, but it was actually 70 degrees inside and 99% humidity.  Needless to say, sweaty.

Since my discovery of enchiladas with mole sauce, I've been diligently seeking another restaurant that serves it.  Found one in San Antonio, within walking distance of our hotel.  The food was good, but we were more impressed with the Christmas Tree that was the ceiling of this place:


We also paid a visit to the San Antonio zoo!  It was neat - heavy on birds, but they had some big animals too:

A gorgeous snow leopard that was eyeballing us:

A HIPPO!!  Swimming!!! 

I love him.

Hee hee.  Did you know that Hippopotamus is Latin for River Horse?   They aren't graceful as a horse.  Also, a female hippo is one of the most dangerous animals on earth.  But still - so cute!!  :)

Ok, those of you who are scared of snakes?  Look away now.  Those of you who aren't afraid of snakes?  You will be...

The fattest reticulated python ever.  Its body is at least 20-25 inches around.  Seriously - did they just feed this thing a walrus? 

Next up is a picture that cracked us up:

Please note that the pirahnas are all staring directly at us.  Not moving, just staring.  It was...unnerving.  I think they were sizing us up.  Really.  Would we taste good with mole sauce?  Why yes.  Because everything is better with mole sauce. 

There was a pedestrian shopping area in San Antonio that was neat too - live mariachi bands and check out the flags:

We ate basically everything in San Antonio.  YUM.

What else did we see while Noel was in Texas?  Why the rodeo, of course!  And not just any rodeo.  The Houston Rodeo & Livestock Show is in town, and it kind of a big deal.  As in, it's HUGE.  World BBQ cookoff competition, major bands playing (Miranda Lambert, Alabama, etc.)  And of course a rodeo!  This was Noel's first ever rodeo in person, and I told him that we were doing it in the wrong order.  It's better to see the little local rodeos first, THEN move up to the big time.  But we went against tradition and saw the PBR rodeo!

Ok, so admission: I thought that PBR rodeo was named for the beer, PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon).  Actually it stands for Professional Bull Riders.  But it's also sponsored by the beer.  Cuts down on confusion I guess.

We were sitting at the end of the field, so we could see the bulls being herded into the chutes to be ridden.  These guys really have this down to a science, how to separate the bulls into different pens, shift them into others, coax them into the chutes, and catch them once they've been ridden.  It was impressive!

(p.s.  Aunt Betty?  There are some cowboys for you in that picture - enjoy!)

Also impressive?  The size of these bulls.  Mom?  We'll have to try to go to this if you're in town during the next Houston Rodeo.  You'd like it.

They even had a fancy light show at the beginning, and PBR lit up in fire!! 

So Noel was very impressed with the rodeo, and now is committed to going to county fairs when they come through so we can see the rodeos again. 

However.  That ends the time that Noel was here.  Only 2 weeks, and he's off to his next job, this time in New York City.  (Being a new Texan, I can't help but say "New York City!?!" like the Pace picante sauce commercials).  He flew there a few days ago and will be there for probably 5-6 weeks.  City slicker!  He won't know what to do when he leaves NYC (population density: 67,000 people per sq. mi.) and gets back here to the land of There's Nobody For Miles. 

Speaking of the farm, I got motivated yesterday to get out in the gorgeous sunshine and did some landscaping.  First, the before picture:

And the after picture!  I made a small retaining wall out of some leftover bricks, planted some petunias, lavender, and 3 red azalea bushes around the front of the house.

Now we just have to keep it watered so it'll all thicken up and grow pretty.  Fortunately we've been having rain lately, so that'll help.

So that's the update from the farm for now!  Hope you enjoyed it!  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hither and Thither (and Now Older!)

Much has happened since the last post, although there is one constant - Noel is still not home from Florida, but at least he's on his way back now!  He should be back sometime tomorrow!  So yes, the Elvis Christmas Tree is still up.  But not for long!

Since Noel was going to be in Florida for such a long time, we decided it was time for a visit.  And seeing as I am doing really well with getting over my flying fear, we got tickets for me to go out to West Palm Beach for a weekend trip!

It was slightly chilly for a dip in the ocean, but we got to take a nice leisurely walk. 

Also. manatees!!

We even saw two of them!  But this was the only picture I could get.  National Geographic should be calling any day now.

Ok, so you know Vanilla Ice, right?  Doofy white rapper guy with parachute pants?  Popular in the 90s?

Take a look at this:

Everybody now:  A1A, Beachfront Avenue!  (That'll be stuck in your head for days.  You're welcome.)

Noel did some research and found us an Irish Pub to go to - Shindig, in Port St. Lucie.  They had fantastic reubens!  And great ambiance - these neat whisky casks in the walls were only part of the cool decor. 

(Isn't he handsome?)

Can't wait to see you soon, honey!  Drive safely!!

So one unfortunate thing about Noel being gone for so long is that he missed my birthday last week.  Yes, I am a year older and am almost in my (gasp!) late 30s.  But if 40 is the new 30, that puts me solidly in my mid-twenties, right?  Anyway, I took matters into my own hands and made myself a cake.  It was pink!  Yum.

I also got a pretty bouquet of flowers from some of my coworkers in Tennessee.  Wasn't that sweet?

I had them on my desk for several days, but then my allergies started acting up so I had to move them.

Then last week, I got on another plane in the other direction, and went for a work trip to the West Texas Town of El Paso!  (No worries - I didn't meet Fellina nor get shot by a wandering angry cowboy).

The airport had these neat copper yucca plants on the roof.  Pretty!  Also, Thing In Sky!

El Paso is the boot capital of the world!  The airport had displays of some really gorgeous ones - these are truly works of art.  I LOVED these black & turquoise ones:

I'd be afraid to wear them anywhere!

So when I got off the plane it was nighttime, and I thought "Wow!  El Paso is really big!"  Look at all these lights!

Then it dawned on me - those lights aren't El Paso, they're Juarez, Mexico!  El Paso is a border town, after all.  Now, before everyone panics, let me say that El Paso is very safe.  I never felt nervous or worried while there.  And my coworkers who are stationed in that office also said that while Juarez itself is going through some really horrible times, the violence hasn't come over to El Paso.  They said that they get frustrated when they hear about the media making it sound like El Paso is the OK Corral.  It seems like a really neat city, and very pretty!  Another misconception I had was that it would be flat desert.  It is desert, but it's high desert.  The mountains around it are very pretty and sparse looking!

So my coworkers there also took me out to eat, and of course we went for Mexican food!  We went to a place called Barriga's, which is apparently actually a restaurant from Juarez that came to El Paso years ago.  I decided to be adventurous and try mole (not the little gray underground critters - gross).  This is pronounced MOH-lay.  It's a spicy sauce that you put over enchiladas and such, but it's different from anything I've ever eaten.  The nice spices are mixed in with chocolate.  Yes, chocolate!  I hadn't tried it before because...well, chicken enchiladas in chocolate sauce sounds more like a dare than dinner. 

BUT.  This stuff has changed my life.  I now want spiced chocolate sauce on everything.  Seriously.  If you ever get the chance to try this stuff, DO IT.

Just looking at that picture is making me drool again.  One of my new coworkers taught me how to make it as well, and I might have to try it at some point.  It didn't sound hard. Of course, it's also not as easy as just going out to eat somewhere and getting it.  I know for sure, next time I'm in El Paso, I'm going there again!

So in non-travel related news, I came home from work one evening and found 5 cows in the back yard.  Sometimes they rub up against the fence and accidentally (?) open the gate so they can come in and chow down on the virgin delicious grass by the house.  (I smell a conspiracy).  I took my flashlight and went out (still wearing my work dress & shoes) to try to herd them out again.  In the dark.  Sigh.  Alas, it was not going to work.  They split ranks and went separate directions, and I just couldn't get them to go the way I wanted.  Cows are not known for their directional abilities. 

Know what they are known for?

Their pooping abilities.  Which they proceeded to demonstrate repeatedly in the front yard.  Yes, I took a picture of cow poop.  Please note that they aim for areas where we are most likely to walk, ie. directly by the gate or next to the sidewalk.  Tell me this is not coincidental.  By the time I went to work the next day, the yard looked like a cow patty minefield, and there were no cows in sight.  Guess they knew when to get out of Dodge.  Thanks, cows!

Look!  Synchronized napping!