Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wedding Bells for Andrea & Louis

Grams and Grandad are back in Corpus Christi after a five day trip to North Carolina for my niece's wedding. We flew in to Greenville, South Carolina on Thursday and drove to Asheville, North Carolina where we spent Friday at the Biltmore Estate.

On Saturday, we drove to Concord, which is just north east of Charlotte arriving in time for the bridesmaid luncheon. It was a very girly affair with finger sandwiches, beautiful flower-covered cupcakes, a charm cake for the bridesmaids, and personal gifts for the bride. She received several very sexy nighties and some very touching personal gifts. The mother of the groom gave her a special gift to open. It was a beautiful handmade purse made to match the bride's dress. It was made by a friend of hers who is seriously ill. We all cried. Then we laughed when my sister Jan, the bride's mother, went into the bedroom and brought out a clothing bag which had a sign taped to it that read "Wedding Night NO PEEKING." It seems that Andrea chose her wedding night lingerie several weeks ago, took it home, and hung it in the closet. She's very organized!

 After the luncheon we took advantage of the opportunity for a family picture. Back row center is my sister Jan. On the left is her daughter Kelly and on the right is the bride Andrea. On the front row Grams is on the left and Bylinda on the right. We have one more sister, Kay, who did not make the trip with us. Neither of our brothers made it either.

The wedding was an outdoor event in the Arbor Garden at Orchard House at 6 p.m. Sunday evening and was followed by a dinner and dance in the permanent tent structure also at Orchard House. We arrived about 5:30 p.m. The 45 minutes or so that we waited, it was miserably hot and steamy. We were all dressed in our proper wedding attire. The lady behind me leaned forward and whispered, "The liner of my dress is completely stuck to my body." We both laughed, but I knew what she meant. If I had gone to the ladies room at that point, my Spanx would have never come back up.

Once the wedding got started, it was a brief ceremony. Andrea and Louis chose a reading from Christian writer C. S. Lewis. Thank God protestant ceremonies are nice and short. After the ceremony, the guests enjoyed a cocktail hour in the garden while the wedding party posed for pictures. Then we moved to the tent where we had a delicious dinner followed by dancing. They had two DJs who were really great at getting the crowd involved. And we danced the night away and had so much fun.

I can't resist one more collage which includes some photos of the groom's family. My brother-in-law Don did a wonderful job with his toast to the bride and groom. It was lovely and touching. I also thoroughly enjoyed the best man's toast. He welcomed Andrea to a very exclusive club of people whose names are always mispronounced. Their last name is Wojciechowski. His mom said to pronounce it like "where's your house key?" 

And, a few words about his mom and his aunts. We had so much fun with them. We line danced, we sang, we laughed together. I know they love Andrea and are welcoming her into their family with open arms. We all stayed until almost midnight when the bride and groom finally left the party. 

And here is my favorite picture from the wedding. It's Andrea and Louis leaving the ceremony. The sun is setting behind them and it gave them a beautiful golden glow. And, they were both  actually glowing with happiness and love.

I am so proud of Andrea and the life she has chosen. I wish Andrea and Louis a long and happy life together.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Vacation That Changed My Outlook

Grams has vacations on her mind this week. We're leaving tomorrow for a few days in North Carolina. My niece, Andrea, will be married on Sunday in the Charlotte area. This will be our vacation this year. We've planned a couple of days in Asheville where we'll tour the Biltmore Estate. I've wanted to go there for many years and I'm really looking forward to it. My sister, Bylinda, will be traveling with us. So pardon me if I don't get any new posts up until the middle of next week.

Although we often take long weekends to the Texas Hill Country or to see the kids, we don't take what I refer to as a "fabulous vacation" every year. We try to go someplace every few years. Last summer we went to Boston, which ranks as one of the best vacations ever. So, I'm okay with a more modest vacation this year.

A few years ago on one of our "fabulous vacations" Grams and Grandad took our first cruise. We took a 5-day Carnival cruise out of Galveston with ports of call at Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. Most of the time was spent on the ship.

I wasn't at all sure about a cruise vacation. I already knew that I was not a fan of boating. Once around the lake and I'm done. Small boats make me feel trapped and bored. There is nothing to do but sit there while someone drives the boat. Besides, I always thought cruise vacations were for old people. This was not a problem on a cruise ship.

One of the difficulties we have in planning vacations is that Grandad and I have vastly different ideas about what constitutes a fun vacation. HE thinks a vacation is to go, see, do, all day long. Vacation to him is doing something 24/7 ... busy, busy, busy. MY idea of a great vacation includes plenty of time to sit in a lounge chair with a good book and a cabana boy who brings me cold drinks every now and then.

Turns out that a cruise is the perfect vacation for us. There is something for him to do all the time. Once you're ten miles out, the casino never closes. There are also plenty of activities I enjoy -- hot tubs, sun decks, bingo. And lots of good food, including that midnight buffet you've always heard of.

Another thing that we really enjoyed about this particular vacation was the large group of friends and family who joined us. There were 14 in our group which gave us dinner companions every night and traveling companions when we went ashore.

On the day we stopped at Playa del Carmen, my next-door neighbor and I took an excursion to Chichen Itza. This all-day outing was the highlight of the entire trip for me. It was a long four hour bus drive out into the Yucatan jungle. We had a great tour guide who pointed out the sites as we went along. He was very knowledgeable, as he was native to the Yucatan, of Mayan descent, and had studied history. He pointed out the native dwellings along the road and taught us a little about modern day life in the jungle. I was disturbed to learn that most native dwellings don't have window glass. They just have openings for windows ... in the jungle ... where there are bugs and animals in abundance. That was my first eye-opener. They also don't have beds as we know them. They sleep in hammocks, usually using the same hammock for their entire life.

The pyramids at Chichen Itza were nothing short of amazing. Seeing one of the wonders of the world first-hand was a privilege that I don't take lightly. We were among the last groups to be allowed to climb the giant pyramid at Chichen Itza. At the time, I weighed about 300 pounds and the climb to the top was quite a challenge. But standing atop that pyramid and looking out over the jungle was something I would not have passed up for anything. I'll also note that coming down was even harder. I went down on the seat of my pants, one step at the time. Needless to say, those pants were retired after the trip down.

The entire vacation was fabulous -- from the Captain's reception to the evenings in the hot tub on deck -- everything was as good as you've heard cruise vacations are. But on the day we drove out through the jungle, there was a moment that I have never forgotten. It was just a few words spoken to me by a young man of Mayan descent. But those words not only stuck with me, they changed my outlook on life.

About two hours into the bus ride, we stopped at a shop on the side of the road that sold silver jewelry. It was a nice clean shop that sold soft drinks and had clean bathrooms. The counters were tended by young teenage boys who were all dressed identically in white pants and white tunics. They spoke little to no English. Most of them could communicate about the price of the merchandise on their counters, but very little else. I purchased a lovely pair of silver earrings and a cold drink, then I went outside to wait for the bus to load up and get back on the road.

As I walked outside, one of the young men also walked outside. As several of us stood chatting and waiting, he asked questions about where we were from and what our lives were like. He also answered our questions about life in the Yucatan. He told us that he was fortunate to have his job and that he only earned a few dollars a week, but it made a huge difference for his family. We stood and chatted for about 10-15 minutes, then the bus driver came out and we started to get on the bus. As we said goodbye and turned to go, he said to me "To me, you live like a queen."

Boy did that strike me. Now I grew up in South Texas. I've visited the Mexican border many times in my life. From my first visit when I was about 12 years old, I could see the abject poverty that was prevalent and I counted my blessings. Since then I've been acutely aware that if I had been born just a few hundred miles to the south in Mexico, my life would have been different. But those seven words spoken by that young man, made me realize how truly blessed I am to be an American.

We are not wealthy by American standards. We are average middle class Americans who work for a living. We've never felt like we had a lot. But those seven words drove home to me like nothing else ever has how blessed our lives are. Since that day, I am so keenly aware of the blessings bestowed on us as middle-class Americans. Those seven words changed my entire outlook on life ... and I'm grateful.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Play Ball

Last Friday evening, Nick and Marie treated Grams and Grandad to an Astros game. It was Aggie night at Minute Maid Park, so we all got Aggie/Astros caps and bags. Marie's brother Artie, and his girlfriend Claudia, joined us for a fun evening. Artie is a Braves fan, so that made things more interesting.

I should start by telling you that I am not a baseball fan. I mostly enjoyed baseball when Nick played little league. And I say mostly because, well, you know how youth sports are. There were those overly aggressive fathers who sometimes reduced their own kids to tears and the over-enthusiastic mothers who spoiled the fun for everyone. But, mostly I enjoyed it. I'm a huge fan of Americana and, what's more American than baseball? Plus, I loved the innocence of the kids. It didn't really matter if they won or lost. All that mattered to them was that everybody got a snow cone at the end of the game.

Years ago we would take the kids to Astroworld at least once a year and often try to take in a game at the Astrodome. There was always something special about that first view of the field when you walked into the Astrodome. But after professional baseball players went on strike twice in the 1980s, professional baseball just sort of lost its charm for me. After all, these are grown men who play a game for a living and get paid millions of dollars. I have a lot of trouble working up any sympathy for either the players or the owners. It just left a bad taste in my mouth and I just sort of lost interest.

So last Friday night's trip to the Astros-Braves game was our first visit to Minute Maid Park. I knew that the park had a retractable roof. Therefore I assumed that, since it was a very warm, sunny day, the roof would be open and we would be sweltering in the Texas heat. Not so. I was delighted and surprised to see that the roof was closed and the stadium was air conditioned. Yippee! We sat near first base in cool comfortable seats.

There are a wide variety of food vendors available at Minute Maid Park. We had Papa John's Pizza. It was pricey ... three personal size pizzas cost almost $30, but I do love me some Papa John's Pizza. Nick had a burger and fries and half of my pizza. I was disappointed that I didn't find Minute Maid Light Lemonade at any of the vendors near us. It's so hard to find non-carbonated drinks with little or no sugar in public venues. I thought, since this was Minute Maid Park, they would have a wide variety of Minute Maid products available. If they did, I didn't find it. I also didn't find iced tea, so I drank water. Later in the game I had a bag of pistachios which were also expensive, but very tasty.

We sat in the lower level right near first base about 30 rows back. The seats were surprisingly spacious and comfortable. As I said, I'm not a baseball aficionado, but I've been to a few arenas and stadiums for other events. Comparatively speaking, these seats were among the roomiest I've seen. Keep in mind that Grandad is 6'5" tall requiring an ample amount of leg room. There was enough even for him.

It wasn't a competitive game; the Astros lost miserably but it was fun. The other fans around us were engaging which made it a communal experience. As far as I'm concerned that's the only reason to attend a sporting event instead of watching on TV. The two young men who sat in front of us (there is a photo of them above) were particularly nice and friendly. And, since it was Friday night, there were fireworks. That meant, we got to witness the opening of the retractable roof, which was surprisingly fast. I wish I had timed it ... I would estimate it took around 15 minutes. The MLB info page for Minute Maid Park site says it opens and closes in 12-20 minutes which would make my estimate right on target. It was interesting to watch it open and it's also interesting to note that there is a person who "rides" the roof on the left field side as it opens. The zoom on my camera is not powerful enough to pick it up ... I could barely see him myself. Marie had to point him out to me.

The fireworks were fun too. It was crooner's night so the songs that accompanied the fireworks were classics we all loved by the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Buble. It was great! We all leaned back, sang along, and enjoyed the show.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm sold on professional baseball again, but I would definitely go again. Minute Maid Park alone is worth the trip.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Grams and Grandad spent the weekend in Houston with Nick and Marie. We were there to celebrate with them as Marie received the sacrament of confirmation.

Marie being anointed, the priest moved right in front of her just as I snapped the photo
The confirmation took place on Sunday evening at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Although we've been practicing Catholics for our entire married life, this was a unique experience. Our Lady of Lourdes is actually Giáo Xứ Đức Mẹ Lộ Đức which is a Vietnamese parish of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The church hosted confirmation for several parishes last Sunday, which also was Pentecost Sunday. I think there were close to a hundred adults who were confirmed that night. Most Catholics are confirmed as teenagers, but often, for one reason or another, while they are baptized as babies and receive communion around eight years old, they never get around to confirmation. Such was the case with Marie.

I want to tell you a little bit about the church. The building is only about a year old and is really, really beautiful. This is the second new church I've been to in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, and they are really exceptionally beautiful in the traditional sense. So many modern churches look like retail establishments. These buildings are much more traditional and I'm sure much more expensive. But, kudos to their architect. They really are gorgeous. This church has mass in the Vietnamese language with one mass in English on Sunday.

Photo from here
As you can see, the church is beautiful. But, the church is not the building. The church is the people and this church has some wonderful people. You could tell they were proud to be hosting this event and they were proud of their church. As we arrived that evening, I was intrigued to see several ladies in traditional Vietnamese clothing. As it turned out, those dresses were lay minister's vestments. The Eucharistic Ministers wore white and gold and the Hospitality Ministers wore bright pink.

I snapped these photos with no flash because they were taken during the mass. I thought the traditional dress was a beautiful addition to a very special celebration. Eucharistic Ministers at our church and at most churches dress exactly like the photo below. Serviceable and neat, but much less beautiful.

Photo from here
I have to say that I was very disappointed in the behavior of quite a few of the people who attended this mass. Before the service began, an announcement was made requesting that everyone refrain from flash photography and from moving forward to take photos during the service. There would be ample time afterward to pose for pictures and the Vicar General, who was bestowing the sacrament, would be happy to pose for photographs after mass. Over and over during the very long service, people with cameras got up and walked in front of everyone to snap a photograph. Some even had their friends stop in front of the altar and pose for pictures during the mass. It was very disrespectful of others who were straining to see their own loved ones as they were anointed.

Marie chose Christopher as her saint's name. Saint Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. Marie is definitely a traveler herself. Next week Marie will start her new assignment with Exxon in Norway. Here is the newly confirmed Marie with her husband and sponsor Nick. Congratulations Marie, we are very proud of you!

I thought you might also like to see that today I have a new blogging assistant. Her Highness is asleep on the sofa right next to me. Yesterday we drove home from Houston to Corpus Christi. Then we met Katy in Three Rivers last night and I came back to San Antonio with her to spend the week taking care of Her Highness. Grandad will come up for the weekend. Our Little Princess has gone with her Daddy and big sister Mady to visit family and friends in Louisiana.

As you can see, we're both working very hard. Nice work if you can get it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Matching Outfits for The Grands

There's not much to write about. I've been enjoying the first few weeks of summer and not doing very much. I've got my house clean and started a few reorganization projects around the house, but nothing too challenging. Although my chandelier is now sparkling clean.

We've started converting a cabinet in the laundry room into a storage center for all my small appliances. However, most of the stuff in the cabinet belongs to Grandad so I'm going to have to wait for him to tell me where it goes. I'll snap some photos when it's done. I have found some things in that cabinet that I haven't seen in many years. Like this piece of home decor from my "country decor" days. Thank God those days are over.

Grandad spent the last few days working in Houston. He came home last night. That means that I've been home alone since Sunday. I took advantage of the time to do a little sewing for the Grands.

On the left is a tunic for Our Little Princess. On the right is a swing dress for Baby Sister. It's made by my favorite pattern for baby girls. My mother-in-law made dresses like this for Katy when she was born. Somehow I managed to hold on to the pattern for 30 years.

For some reason, Blogger is rotating this photo and I am unable to turn it.
I had one yard of each piece of fabric. The tunic required 1 1/4 yards so I had to cut both pieces. When I finished cutting it out, I was pleased to discover that I had enough left to make the swing dress for Her Highness. The swing dress is fully reversible. The tunic is trimmed with cotton lace in a natural color. The swing dress is trimmed with aqua rick-rack which is set on the edge so it shows from both sides. All the materials were already in my sewing box so the cost of both of these dresses was zero!

So the girls have their first matching outfits. I hope their mom doesn't think the matching is too cheesy.

A note to all of you who commented about Her Highness having very long legs. Grandad is 6'5" tall. Her Mom and Dad are both in the neighborhood of 6'. Our Little Princess has long legs too. Grams is 5'1". Those long legs are genetic ... but they didn't come from me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Look How Big She Is

Baby Sister will be 8 weeks old on Monday. I haven't seen her in a couple of weeks. Katy sent this picture this morning via cell phone. I can't believe she's already so big ... just over 11 pounds. She continues to run a low grade fever on a regular basis and Katy reports that she's pretty fussy in the evenings. Just to be safe, she went back to the pediatrician this morning. He ordered a few more tests but reported that he's not worried about her. She seems to be thriving. They'll continue treating the fever with Tylenol for now.

Because of other summer travel plans, Grams probably won't be seeing her until June 23rd. That's a long time and I will admit that I'm having withdrawals. I'm thinking I may spend the next few weeks sewing up some clothes for both Our Little Princess and Baby Sister. But, I'm waiting for some guidance from their Mom. I know they both have lots of clothes. But, hey, a girl can never have too many clothes, right?

I'm also working on a list of things to accomplish this summer while school is out. Right now, I'm formulating a plan to convert the under-utilized cabinet above my dryer into a storage space for all my small appliances which now live on top of my dryer. This will require a new step stool so I can reach them and will also include removing the existing cabinet doors. Grandad is not totally opposed to this idea. So we'll start with cleaning it out. Maybe we'll get that underway tomorrow.

Today's project is cleaning the chandelier in my bathroom. It will be the first time I've disassembled and washed all the pieces of this one. Wish me luck.

I'm also still working on an appropriate nickname for Baby Sister. Right now I'm leaning towards "Her Highness" because she does seem to demand everyone's full attention. We'll see as time goes by if it fits her personality or if something else emerges.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

June 1
Turned off alarm clocks
Baby girls in bikinis
Texas Hill Country Peaches
Water sprinklers
Bare feet
Raspberry iced tea
Shaved ice
The ice cream man
Water parks
Evenings in the front yard with neighbors stopping by
Weather forecasters with nothing new to say
Fresh herbs from the garden
Vine-ripe tomatoes
Painted toenails
Floating the river
These are a few of the things that make summertime easy. What do you love most about summer?