Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sooooo...Bob Vila I Am Not.

We had visitors a few weeks ago - Noel's daughter Katie and his sister Brittney:

We had a great visit - we went out to the Kemah boardwalk and took in some sun (and, needless to say in Houston in summer, humidity). 

And we got up early one morning to go to the zoo.  However, I forgot to take pictures except for this one:


One of the most fun things we did (in my humble opinion) was go tubing down the Comal River.  Lazy days, folks, and really nice.  You rent an inner tube and float for 2 hours under swaying trees and puffy clouds.  Did I take pictures?  No.  Why?  Because we were sitting in tubes for 2 hours in the middle of a river, and cameras + river = potential disaster.  Next time any of you are in Texas, we'll go back.  We loved it!

We also went to San Antonio.  Next time any of you are in Texas, we'll go to San Antonio!  :)  It's one of our very favorite places in Texas - so pretty!  I've put pictures of S.A. on here before, so I didn't bother to take very many, but we did capture Katie getting into the spirit of Texas. 

Don't Forget The Alamo! Or the salsa. 
Katie, this should be your yearbook photo.  Seriously.  

There also might have been some video hunting.  Because...Texas. 

 They headed back already, and Noel and I settled back into regular day to day life, including doing some home improvement projects!



Ok, so let me explain.  We haven't been feeling the love from the ceiling fan in the bedroom (ie. it is STUFFY in there compared to the rest of the house), and I thought maybe it was because that little switch thing on the side was flipped the wrong way.  So the air is going up?  Instead of down?  Or something?  So Noel pulled the cord on the ceiling fan and then went to brush his teeth.  He asked me if it had slowed down yet.  And so I decided to try to stop it.  With a small blanket I had crocheted for the cats. we get to buy a new ceiling fan. 

You should see me work on cars!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BIG Announcement!

Hello everyone! 

Sorry for not blogging for so long, but I can finally make a BIG announcement that has been keeping me really busy:

I am opening up my own professional coaching practice!

Nottingham Personal & Professional Development

I am currently completing my coaching certification program through the Coach Training Alliance (and have been in classes for it since March), and will receive my certification in a month.  I've had the fantastic opportunity at my job to develop and run a coaching program for leaders, and it's going wonderfully.  Now it's time to start taking on additional individual clients!

While I can coach anyone about anything, I specialize in working with nurses who want to achieve more in their careers, or find more work/life balance.

Please see my website too!

So if any of you know any nurses (or anyone, for that matter) who are:
  • Stressed out at their jobs,
  • Burning out and thinking of making a career change,
  • Wanting some guidance or support in reaching a goal, have them give me a call!

Coaching can be done over the phone!

(Also, now that this is officially announced, I can start blogging again!)

Happy August, everyone!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Nailed It!

Ah yes, Photorama time!

Noel and I have been very busy lately, what with working on the house, the garden, work (duh), and a little bit of traveling.  Photographic evidence below.

First, the house!  We've been working on fixing up our entertainment center.  When we moved in, it looked um....DIY.  And not necessarily in a good way.  We're updating it, fixing it, painting it, and doing some design work on it. It will be fabulous.  Now, I don't have any pictures of it that I can show yet (I want to display it all when it's finished), but I did want to show something that amazed and astounded me.  Despite all of the moving of large pieces of wood, the sanding, the caulking, the nailing, and the painting, I have somehow managed to maintain these:

Yes, they're real.  And yes, they're also hot pink.  Because summer.  Usually when I get vain about my fingernails and paint them, they understand that polish=self-destruct, and usually one or more will break within about 2 hours. 

But!  So far so good.  Anyone for bowling?

Ok, so next on our list of photos (I know that first one was a life-changer, so try not to get overexcited that more Time Magazine caliber pictures are on the way).  Our garden has started to produce!!  We have the weirdest, biggest mutant cucumbers ever.  (Except for Cukezilla a few years ago, that looked more like a small watermelon).  Behold the Bounty!

Summer squash (that will be fried this week), okra, little tomatoes (Noel says they're great in salads), and 2 types of cucumbers.  The one at the top is what most people think of when you say the word "cucumber."  The others at the bottom look like what most people think of when you say the word "prickly oversized zucchini monster."  They are, in fact, cucumbers.  The biggest we had so far was SEVENTEEN INCHES LONG.  That's...not normal.  But it tasted good!

We're freezing the okra for cooler weather, when it will be chopped up and fried.  Yum.  The squash won't make it through the summer.  :)

And although we were excited for the pretty squash, Loki was not impressed.

Next up, we have work.  Now my job (as a trainer/speaker/coach type) sometimes has awesome perks.  One of them happened last weekend (before Memorial Day weekend) with a speaking engagement in The Big D (and I do mean Dallas).  We packed our bags for a 2 day/2 night stay at a luxury resort! 

Samson helped with the packing.

We stayed at the Gaylord Texan, a gorgeous property in Grapevine, TX.  I don't know if any of you have ever seen a Gaylord hotel (other than you, Rachel, who has also seen the one in Nashville that is INSANELY HUGE).  But they are astounding.

The outside of the main hotel:

Also, the weather was gorgeous.  Bit warm, around 90, but beautiful skies, which we could see all the time in the hotel, because the Gaylord properties all have massive atriums (atria?) as the centerpiece of the hotel! 

(Thing In Sky!)

Because of the massive atrium setup, they have essentially a small town inside the hotel, complete with restaurants, shops, entertainment, gardens, trees, walking paths, etc.  At dusk they had these little lights all over the paths.

The Gaylord Texan has (surprise surprise) a Texan theme to it.  This area below was designed to look like San Antonio, and even featured a replica Alamo!  Do you see the little river in the middle of this picture?  It flowed all through the atrium, winding its way around little model train displays, gardens, restaurants, and seating areas.

Here is the same spot at night so you can see how pretty it was in the evening:

The food was some of the best we have ever eaten (seriously, I could eat their lobster bisque every day and be happy).  The staff was exceptionally courteous and efficient (even with my 2 am complaint about the screaming tweens in the next room - tip to parents: nobody thinks your loud obnoxious untrained children are as charming as you do).  There was a spa. Massages were had.  Even the breakfast delivered by room service was phenomenal.  My workshop also went very well. 

My only major quandry?  Why is it that all major humongous hotels have hallways that look like they came straight out of The Shining?


Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Long, Hard March to Nowhere

So today was the March of Dimes in Houston.  Noel and I had planned to go do the 5 mile walk.

We got up early early early this morning, got dressed, and headed out the door to meet up with some of my coworkers to carpool to the site of the walk.

We got to the parking deck where we were meeting, and nobody had shown up yet.  So I checked my email, and found out that due to the threat of bad weather, they were cancelling the walk.  Sigh.

So we grumbled.  I guess I should've checked my email earlier, but really?  We knew we had to be there really early, and who is going to take time to check email that early? 

We walked anyway.

And yes, I wore black/green/orange argyle knee socks.  Why not?

In other news, we harvested the first of the sugar snap peas today!!  YUM. 

And in other other news, I saw this when stopped at a redlight this weekend.  This family relationship seems...unusual...

A golf man, a tennis woman, and 2 businessmen?  WHAT?!?!?!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Heeeeeere's Gottfried!!

My dear sister expressed some concern over not seeing Gottfried, our friendly garden gnome that my friend Lisa gave to me years ago, in our previous pictures of the garden.  No need to worry - Gottfriend is just fine and at his post!

Here he is, surveying his domain.

(Note that he's totally bleached out by the sun - he's a very diligent (and possibly albino) garden gnome.  Perhaps I should repaint him?)

And he's doing a great job.  Check out the garden now!


You can't see it from here, but the sugar snap peas are now actually through the netting and are 5-6 inches above the top of it!  Amazing.  And, as Noel pointed out previously, a little creepy.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fish Smoothie = Nature's Miracle Worker

Hi all!  Happy April!  Hopefully you all survived the tax man ok.

The weather here in Texas has been warm and sunny of late.  Noel and I have been working in the garden, weeding and such, and trying to protect everything from the birds.

We put up a bird feeder this year, one of those inexpensive $8 deals made out of plastic.  The birds LOVED it.  Unfortunately so did the squirrels.  We would see them scare off the little chickadees so they could hang upside down, Flying Wallenda style, and eat the feeder completely empty.  At one point, they just decided to forego the formality of actually climbing onto the feeder, and we found the aftermath -- empty feeder on the ground, with holes chewed in the top and side.  HOLES.  These were some seriously hungry/gluttonous squirrels.

So we upgraded feeders to a squirrel-proof one.  They still get plenty of seed from the ground, but now the little birds get a chance to eat too.  The cats LOVE watching the action outside, and sit on the window sill chirping at the little family of young squirrels that wrestle at the base of the tree.  So cute.

Until they get into the garden.  Then things get serious.

So this past weekend, I weeded quite a bit (we are in Texas, and it's been steadily in the upper 70s & 80s - weeds are plentiful to say the least).  We also put up some netting over the garden so that birds and squirrels couldn't get into anything.  Because yes, things are already growing! Witness a baby tomato!

See the gargantuan 6 ft tall hibiscus!

Marvel at the lantana that Just Won't Stop Spreading!

So yes, netting was needed.  We put up some extra posts, stranded some twine around the perimeter, and spread the netting over the whole shebang. 

I had also fertilized that day with the official Stinkiest Fertilizer Ever: fish emulsion. 

The neighbors hate us.  Until we bribe them with home grown veggies to placate their assaulted nasal passages.  This stuff STINKS.  I got it all over myself the first time I used it a few weeks ago, and washed my hands in: soap, dishwashing liquid, more soap, antiseptic soap, lime juice, and baking soda.  Still the smell persisted.  GROSS.  The cats were following me around. 

But the stuff works.  So I repeated the process on Sunday, thankfully not smearing it on myself this time.  Then Noel came to me with a note (I was on the phone).

"The fish stuff is creeping me out.  You need to go look at the garden."

I thought that maybe it had created some new kind of funk from baking in the sun, or had left a weird slimy residue or something.  Nothing could have prepared me for what he really meant:

The veggies had grown exponentially overnight. 

Remember what the garden looked like a mere 3 weeks ago? 

When I walked out on Sunday, I saw THIS:

When we put the netting on, the sugar snap peas (the tallest things in the picture above) were about 5-6 inches below the netting.  The very next evening, they were already latched onto the netting and crawling up through it! 

Thus the creepy fish stuff.  :)

Everything is coming up really nicely!  Hopefully the netting will help.

Next thing to net & protect?  Our new peach tree - with little baby peaches!

They're so cute & fuzzy, I can't help but pet them a little.  But we've already noticed them disappearing off the tree.  Stupid squirrels. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter everyone!  May your chocolate bunnies be plentiful and your Easter eggs not stinky.

Around here in east Texas, things are already blooming beautifully (thus the mad rush on allergy meds at the grocery store). 

This part of Texas is known for our state flower, the bluebonnet.  They're beautiful, and this past weekend, Noel and I took a scenic drive up to Brenham to see them.

We were not disappointed!

They grown in massive patches, often on the sides of the road.  So everyone pulls over and joyfully plops their unsuspecting (and soft, fleshy) children in the middle of the flowers, unaware that someone else enjoys bluebonnet patches.


So, I didn't see any snakes.  Noel pulled over on the side of the road while I jumped out to snap these quick pictures.  Our conversation went like this:

Noel:  Be careful.  Don't go into them.

Kelli:  I won't!  I just...want...(tiptoeing toward flowers) get a better angle.

Noel:  Kelli, seriously.  Don't get in them.

Kelli:  I'm not!  I'm just strategically squatting NEAR them.

Noel:  If you get bitten by a snake on the butt...

Kelli:  I'm not going to get bitten!  I'm not going to get close enough to any snakes!

Noel:  Remember the moose?

Kelli:  Ok, fine.  I'm getting in the car.

(Reference to moose - once on a trip to New England I saw a moose, and instead of staying safely in the car like every other tourist taking pictures of said moose, I got out and started stalking the moose.  Which promptly walked away.  Because I have no self-restraint when it comes to animals).

I did get some nice pictures though, moose and snake be damned.

Because it was so pretty out Saturday, Noel and I also went for a photo session at the lake near our house.  I'm working on a new project that will be announced soon, and needed some headshots.

Noel is now considering going pro. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Arugula Ready for Spring?

Let me begin by saying that I understand that many of you are stuck in miserable weather right now.  We are not far above freezing tonight - the low is supposed to be 37!  BRRRRRRR!!!

Anyway, despite the Colder Than A Welldigger's Butt weather right now,

Happy Spring!

Our garden is coming up surprisingly well, considering our yard is basically either quicksand or super-hard clay.  But below is a pic!!  I tried to type in labels on everything, but it's probably hard to see.
We're trying to grow blackberries.  I also have a small raspberry bush (it's basically a stick with 9 leaves right now).  Being from the mountains originally, we got spoiled on wild blackberries, raspberries & blueberries growing up.  They grow wild at the edges of forests there, and you can usually find them at cemeteries, right by the trees.  I don't know why people think this is creepy.  Blackberries are blackberries, right?  Even if they're slightly morbid.  They don't taste particularly emo and depressed. 
So in case you can't see, here are the labels of the garden rows from left to right:
  1. Okra
  2. Cucumbers
  3. Sugar Snap Peas
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Radishes & Salad Mix (same row)
  6. Squash
At the left back, by the fence, are the blackberries.  There are more tomatoes in the raised bed at the rear right.  And those are some tough tomatoes - they're from last year, so they survived below freezing temps and are still producing! 
Since we can start our gardens so early here (mid February this year), we're already harvesting.  Here's our first radish!

It looks perfect, and was so juicy!  I ate it with veggie dip.

Noel had our first actual salad of the year, made out of the mesclun mix seeds that Mom sent (it has spinach, arugula, radicchio, etc.) and has a radish cut up on top.  He was surprised at how strong the flavors of the salad mix are.  I guess once you're used to the tired veggies we normally buy at the grocery stores, anything this fresh is bound to taste more...robust.  He thought it was very tasty!  And the salad is still producing, so we'll get lots more.

So that's our garden update. 

In other news, we purged through some of our old paperwork this weekend. there any reason why we were saving tax forms from (wait for it) 1998!?  Also, we found approximately 438 different appliance manuals.  Going through them, we realized we only had 2 of the actual appliances still in our possession, and one of the was an iron, which I'm pretty sure I know how to work already.  So.  We had a bonfire. 

Does anyone else have trouble managing the crazy amount of papers that everybody acquires nowadays?  We keep trying out one filing system after another.  And none of them actually seem to work.  Well, guess we'll keep trying.  Or just keep purging owner's manuals every 9 years.  :-P

Although even though going through paperwork isn't the most exciting thing in the world, we did get lots of help.  Of the feline variety.  They are so helpful when it comes to searching the bottom of drawers to find old paperclips, and for keeping the Shred Pile warm by wallowing on it.

I call this photo:  Sunny Samson.

It's surprisingly difficult to photograph any of these cats - as soon as I pull out the camera, they decide they must immediately clean their rear parts.  A Kodak Moment, indeed.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Chevys & Beauty Queens!

This past week was an eventful one!  Besides all the regular stuff that we have going on (work, gardening, scooping cat boxes) there were several other fun happenings going on around town.  Noel and I are trying to get out more (instead of being homebodies on weekends and sitting around watching cheesy Syfy movies - this week's choices were about ice tornadoes and some kind of prehistoric glacier dinosaur - nice).

On Thursday, I got to volunteer at the Ms. Pasadena Senior Pageant again - my company sponsors it.  It's always so much fun!  I help out as a dresser and a seamstress if there are any sewing emergencies.  The group of ladies this year had fewer sewing emergencies, but I did get to cut the bangs on one's talent costume wig!  They were a really fun and sweet group.

Here are the contestants after the winner was crowned:

The lady on the left made her outfit - it had lots of embroidery & beading on it, and it took 6 months to make.  Beautiful!
This year I was also more prepared - last year I had my big sewing box and had to lug it around from dressing room to dressing room.  This year, I decided to wear a pin cushion on my wrist, scissors around my neck, and a bag on my belt with safety pins & thread in it.  Much easier to manage!
Also, can I take a second to say how much I love Weight Watchers?  I've lost over 47 lbs already.  Go Team!
(Also, self portraits like this are not as easy as they seem - I couldn't figure out where to look!)
So that was Thursday night.  On Saturday, we went to the Chevy & Corvette Expo in Houston, and while Noel and I neither one are huge Corvette fans, we did see some cars we loved.
This was Noel's favorite:

And this one was mine:

It was amusing that they had so many new cars there, but we both favored the stylish old ones.  They just don't make cars with that much flair anymore.  Sigh...

Today was really rainy this morning, but it cleared out a bit in the afternoon, so we went for a walk at the park near our house.  For those of you stuck in snowy misery, know that there is hope.  Spring is starting to pop out!

It won't be long now til the mosquitoes appear!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Time "March"es On! (Ha-cha-cha-cha!)

Happy March!

Author's Note: Please do not be angry with me, People Up North, for the following post about atmospheric warmth and no snow.

March is one of my favorite months - so much potential in March!  Spring officially begins, and life starts to bloom again!

In fact, Noel and I went for a nice walk today around the lake near our house and the trees are already greening and budding out. 

And even though I suffer with allergies (I am allergic to most of Texas), it's still such a wonderful sight to see the bright little bursts of green that are dotting against the sky now.  As I've mentioned before, Houston has a surprisingly large number of trees.  We live near a suburb called The Woodlands (for a good, green reason.  Someone thought ahead and are keeping a huge percentage of it tree-covered).  Noel and I went there several weeks ago to chow down on some delish bangers & mash at the Baker Street Pub.  The area there is so pretty - there's a little creek with walkways on either side, and it's illuminated with lots of tiny lights (and some not so tiny ones!)

So this past weekend we saw some different lights - headlights(You see how I did that awesome segue to the next photos)?
We went to a classic car show and saw some weird and gorgeous cars.  Check out the front end of this beauty!
How did taxi drivers back in the day transport their customers' luggage?  Simple - they put it all in a cutout area in the car itself!  (Seems like you'd lose a lot of luggage this way, but hey!  Kind makes sense.  Also, Mom - does that blue Samsonite luggage look familiar?)
Ok, this next car was a bit mindblowing.  They had apparently painted the car using lace fabric as a stencil on the bumper, hood, around the headlights, all over it!  How neat is this!?  (Don't mind my finger - that artistic choice.)
It's like your car is wearing a little black dress - or stockings!  Oh la la!
So that's been a quick look at some of our recent escapades.  We've also been working in the garden, and I'd take pictures but so far there's not a ton to look at.  Things are just now coming up - as soon as we can start to see stuff, we'll post pictures.  
It got really cold last night though - down to the mid 30s!  We had to cover the baby tomatoes so they'd survive the night.  Noel had pulled out his thick winter coat to go out and work, and Samson decided to help.
Don't mind the demon eyes.  That's his natural look.  :)
I took the opportunity of slightly cold weather to pull out some knitting.  This is the hard thing about knitting in a hot climate - there are only so many hats and arm warmers a person can use.  I'm now debating what I can make for myself that won't involve sweating 10 months out of the year.  Cotton grocery bags?  Cat toys?  (Even though everything I make for them is ignored in favor of a piece of wadded up paper or a twist tie?)  Hammock?  Mosquito Nets?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Happy Year of the Snake!

Last weekend we celebrated the Chinese New Year (this year is the Year of the Snake - time to declutter and prepare for good business/finances!).

Now one thing that surprises people (particularly us) when first visiting Houston is how culturally diverse this city is!  We have a huge Asian population in Houston, and I was told that the reason is the climate here is similar to the countries from where they originally came.  It makes sense: there are a lot of people here originally from China, Vietnam, India, and Malaysia, and the climate here would be easier for them to grow crops (especially rice) that they're familiar with, as well as available seafood, etc. 

Since we have such a sizeable Chinese population here (we actually have TWO Chinatowns - an older & a newer!) we joined up with some friends to see some celebrations.  But first, we met for food.  And here I must confess: I really had no idea what to expect.  I had gone to the older Chinatown once, and it looked like anywhere else in town, just had a lot of Asian restaurants.  The newer Chinatown traveling in a whole different country.  All the signs had Chinese on them, logically!

Also, I'd like to take a moment to apologize to my sister, who is traveling to China soon - I totally forgot to tell you about this when we were on the phone).

We went to see the Dragon dances, but unfortunately we were too late.  However, we saw this person, who represents a Chinese deity of wealth.  Kids got their photos taken with him.  I liked his hat.

 Since we missed the Dragon dances, we decided to head to dinner.  We ate at a Malaysian restaurant - we had chicken satay and I had chicken curry.  Noel had a shrimp dish.  Yum!  (I love curry, as long as it doesn't burn my face off).

 Afterward, we headed to a grocery store in the same shopping center.  I couldn't resist the photo op.  Here are some cookies and snacks on the shelves:

(Dare I mention that Noel bought the pink panda cookies?  Because he totally did).

I was more intrigued with the butcher shop.  Here we have a selection of various sea cucumbers and yellow eel.  Hmmm...

Exactly how does one prepare sea cucumber? 

And just when you're stuffed full of eel chunks, what's for dessert?  Green Bean Ice Bars. 

So I really wanted to try these, but Noel was so grossed out I decided not to bother.  Maybe next time.  :)  I did end up buying some rice balls with peanuts in the middle (we haven't tried them yet) and Noel got some other cookies that were called Japanese mochi balls - they were chocolate flavored and looked promising.  But they were gummy.  I don't mean they had a jelly filling or anything - they were entirely like a huge chocolate gummy bear.  GROSS.  We threw them out. 
The panda cookies though?  Delicious.  If not slightly emasculating.
So last weekend we also went to the Kemah boardwalk.  It's an old-fashioned oceanside boardwalk with rides and shops and restaurants.  We've driven past it a hundred times when we first came to Texas, but never stopped becaust it was always crazy full of people (summer weekends, so of course it would be).
However, on a brisk winter day, the crowd was manageable.  They had a two-story carousel!
And a lighthouse with requisite palmetto trees.
In typical Thing In Sky form, a wooden rollercoaster (too cold to ride or I would've been on it!)
We stopped at a fun rockabilly shop too, and I got an ADORABLE dress with a green Tiki on it.  Fab.  Now I just need a place to wear it!  (This seems to be a common theme with my clothing purchases of late).