Sunday, April 14, 2013

Unexpected Pleasures

It's Sunday night and we've had a wonderful weekend. We had two great big surprises. First of all, Katy and Our Little Princesses came to visit. Travis had a busy weekend which included some continuing education classes and his poker night, so they took the opportunity to visit us.

On Friday, while I was working, my phone rang and the caller ID said it was my nephew James from the Dallas area. I must admit that the first thought that went through my head was that someone must be dead. James is my eldest brother's son. We see each other at reunions, weddings, and funerals. So, to get a phone call from him was a first. Turns out, he and his family were in town for the weekend and wanted to get together. We arranged to meet for lunch on Saturday at Fajitaville on the beach.

We have eaten at Fajitaville several times now. Its casual atmosphere with an open air restaurant and bar on the first floor keeps pulling us back. The food and service have continued to improve every time we've been there. Saturday, the food was exceptionally good. I had the catfish fingers. I think it was the best catfish I've ever had.

It was sunny and warm, but very windy. We sat outside and visited while Our Little Princesses frolicked on the beach.

As you can see from the photos, Princess E continues to love life at the beach.She was so overcome with joy that she literally whirled in the sand. I'm pretty sure that when she's a teenager, she can be enticed to spend a lot of time visiting Grams and Grandad. I know she's definitely a beach bunny in training. Meanwhile, Princess J loves to jump. She will climb on the bed or sofa or anything else that's bouncy and jump up and down. Her family sometimes chants "Jump, jump, Princess J" as she jumps through the house. She thought the washer-toss games were there for her jumping pleasure and proceeded to jump off the elevated ends over and over again.

It turns out that James and his family were here with their son Benjamin and his scout troop. They stay overnight Saturday night on the USS Lexington. The museum, located on board the decommissioned aircraft carrier known as the blue ghost, is right on Corpus Christi Bay. If you're coming to visit, you definitely should include a trip to the museum. One of their most popular programs is allowing scout troops to camp overnight on board the ship. I must admit, I'm a little jealous. I would love to stay on board overnight. The ship is purported to be haunted. It was even featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters. I have been on board the ship several times, but never overnight. The tours are interesting and there is even an IMAX theater on board.

The museum was also used for filming the aircraft carrier scenes for Pearl Harbor starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Alec Baldwin. When they were in town, you would hear gossip about where they were eating lunch or dinner. I never ran into any of them though. Darn the bad luck. 

We had expected to spend a quiet weekend just hanging out at home. I probably should have been sewing. I still have two crib sheets to finish for my friend Kandyce, who is due in less than three weeks now.

I'll be very busy this week with substitute teaching a kindergarten class. School is already starting to wind down for the year. We're already in our last six weeks.

I hope there were a few unexpected pleasures in your weekends too. We thoroughly enjoyed ours.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Our Girls Weekend

While most of the family went turkey hunting a couple of weeks ago, Katy and I enjoyed a girls weekend with Our Little Princesses.

It was a lot of fun. On Friday afternoon I got to do one of my favorite things ... go with Katy to day care to pick up the Princesses. It just does my heart good to walk in to each of their classrooms and watch quietly as they play with their friends. Then there is that very special moment when they look up and see me. They always just drop what they're dong and come running across the room and fling themselves into my waiting arms. There are not many things in the world that compare with that.

On Friday evening we went to Cerroni's Purple Garlic for pizza. We drive right past this place on every visit to San Antonio and I've always wanted to try it. Ironically, it's located right next door to a Pizza Hut. They offer pizza, pasta, and subs along with beer and wine. They also have a covered patio with a huge sandbox. It is a great place for a family evening. Katy and I sipped wine and chatted while the girls played in the sandbox with all the other kids. We had a delicious meatball and pepperoni pizza. We ended our evening at home. After bathtime, we all cuddled up on the sofa and watched Wreck-It Ralph.

Saturday morning, we were up and out of the house early. After a quick breakfast, we had an appointment for a session with Picture People at La Cantera. I had never heard of Picture People, but after checking their web site, I see that they have locations all over the place. They specialize in portraits of families and children. Their photos are bright and creative. The photographer we worked with was extremely patient. While both of the Princesses are usually outgoing and happy, there is just something about have their picture taken by a professional that turns them introverted and shy. He really had to coax them into just standing in front of the backdrop. But, like I said, he was very patient and stuck with us until he got some really great photos.

First I want to show you a little side-by-side of how much the girls have grown in one year. The photos on the left were taken on Easter Sunday last year. The ones on the right are from our session the week before Easter this year.

While I love how happy and healthy they are growing. It makes me a little bit sad that they are not babies any more.

There were quite a few photos that I thought were really good. I will say that Katy and I didn't agree on all of them. This collage includes several photos that we didn't have printed. I thought they would give you an idea of how hard our photographer had to work.

The photo below is my favorite photo from the session. It now has pride of place on Grandad's desk at his office.

I also love both of these photos.

This grouping now hangs in a frame on the wall in my living room. I absolutely adore it.
Having our portraits done at Picture People was a lot of fun. One of the best things about it is that you see your proofs within about ten minutes and your prints are ready in less than an hour. If there is one located near you, I highly recommend them. I am pretty sure some of these photos will be finding their way into the masthead on my blog.

After a stroll around La Cantera, we headed home for nap time. On Sunday morning we had cinnamon toast and tea for breakfast and took a drive out into the Hill Country looking for wildflowers. We didn't find any, but we had a nice drive which gave us plenty of time for talking. By the time we got back, the family was back from hunting and we all gathered around the dining room table for sandwiches and chips and sharing stories of our weekend adventures.

As the old saying goes ... a good time was had by all.

I was not compensated in any way for this post.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Annual Valenta Family Turkey Hunt

A couple of weeks ago, Grandad and most of the rest of the family went to Sonora for the annual family turkey hunt. This has become a family tradition. I think they've been doing it about five years now. It's about a five hour drive from Corpus Christi to Sonora. I rode as far as San Antonio with them. Katy met us for lunch at Bass Pro Shop and I spent the weekend with her and Our Little Princesses.

(L to R) Chase, Nick, Travis, Marie, Danny, Casey, Patrick (Grandad), Gary

All the winners got Crown Royal.

Grandad and Marie were the big winners. The winner is determined by the length of the turkey's beard. Travis won the booby prize for not getting a turkey. I believe it was a tie between Travis and my nephew Chase and they had a tie-breaker of some sort. That made it a clean sweep for our side of the family.

Grandad's brother Danny & his eldest son Chase

Grandad's brother Gary with his wife Nancy and their son Casey

Katy and I stayed in San Antonio with Our Little Princesses. We thought about joining the hunting group this year, but we decided to wait another year or two when Princess J will be a little bit bigger and won't put everything in her mouth.

We had a girls weekend which included a professional photo session. I'll share those photos with you very soon. I promise they are spectacular! On Sunday morning, we had a breakfast tea party complete with cinnamon toast triangles and tea. It was all very elegant and we all enjoyed it, especially Princess E.

The hunting group returned on Sunday afternoon and picked me up on the way home. Everyone had a great weekend. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

DIY - How To Confuse Your Adult Children

This post was inspired by my friend Robin who blogs over at Diary of a Yummy Mummy. She and her family have been enduring some home repairs and subsequent updating of their home in the Boston area. I don't envy her, especially considering that she has two little boys under the age of six. I feel her pain. Okay, I am a little jealous that she lives in Boston, but not of the home repair part.

We built our house in 1984. It was the 80s. That's the only explanation for the original decor choices. For some reason we chose white vinyl flooring in the kitchen, dining room, and both bathrooms. All the rest of the house had brown sculptured carpet. Both bathrooms and the kitchen were wallpapered. All the remaining walls were white.

The original decor served us well through raising our children. We painted a time or two over the years. Then, when the kids were in middle school, we let them choose color for their bedrooms. At some point over the years, the wallpaper was removed and everything else was repainted the original white. It was the path of least resistance.

When Katy left for college in the fall of 1997, it was time to make some changes. After 13 years, the old, nasty, brown carpet and the white vinyl had to be the first to go. (As an aside here, if you have carpet, don't be surprised at how dirty the floor underneath it is. We were absolutely appalled at the dirt underneath. It was disgusting.) They were replaced with a planked vinyl that runs through the entire house. It looks like hardwood and, sixteen years later, it still looks great.

When it came to replacing the floors, we were somewhat delusional. We thought the contractor would take it one room at a time and we would be able to move furniture out of one room at a time. Not so. The contractor insisted that everything be moved out of the house. He said it would take three days to do the job. He was more than delusional. It took him an entire week to do the work. Then we had to let the floor set for a couple of days before moving our furniture back in.

We were fortunate on two accounts. First, my in-laws were empty nesters with a big five bedroom house about fifteen miles away. We were able to stay with them. Second, Nick was in high school and had lots of good buddies with strong muscles who were perfectly willing to move the entire house full of furniture into the garage, onto the patio, and back into the house again. It was inconvenient, but mostly painless.

A couple of years later, after Nick left for college we repainted the other rooms ourselves. We did the living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathrooms ourselves. That was all pretty uneventful. We were able to take our time and we went one room at a time. Then I decided it was time to redo our bedroom. We decided on a beautiful tobacco brown for the walls with a pastel blue ceiling. As part of repainting the bedroom, we had to remove a god-awful popcorn ceiling. It's not hard to do; but it's a HUGE mess. By this time, we were empty nesters. We had the entire house to ourselves. We could take our time and we had the whole house to spread out in while we painted. We began by moving all the furniture out of the bedroom.

This is the 28 year-old popcorn ceiling in my laundry room which has not yet been removed. We once had these ceilings throughout the house. Not a good idea in our humid climate.

In the style of the 1980's, our house has a "great room." It's a 20' x 20' living room with the dining room and kitchen at one end. The kitchen and dining room add another 8' x 20' area making for a pretty big room. That meant that there was enough room to put our bed in the living room. Since Nick and all his friends were gone to college, we had to do the moving ourselves this time. In order to minimize the amount of moving, we just moved our bed right outside the bedroom door into the living room. Then we proceeded to sleep there for a couple of weeks while we took our time redoing the bedroom.

Our master bedroom after painting.

We had been sleeping in the living room for several nights without thinking anything about it. Then, on Friday night, we were sound asleep when we heard a key turn in the lock on the front door. Nick had come home unannounced for the weekend. He switched on the light to find us in our bed in the living room. With a shocked look on his face he exclaimed "What the hell!"

With a straight face, I told him that since we were now home alone, we had decided to make the living room into our bedroom and move the living room into the bedroom. He looked very confused for a couple of seconds. Then he strode across the living room, flipped on the bedroom light, and realized what was really going on. I'm pretty sure he actually thought I was serious for just a few seconds. It was priceless!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Weekend 2013

We had a quick visit from our Princesses and their Mom this weekend. They came in Friday afternoon in time for dinner with our Friday evening dinner group. They stayed through Saturday evening.

The main purpose of the trip was to attend a baby shower for our very good friend, Kandyce, who is expecting her first baby within the next month. It was a bonus that they were here for at least part of Easter weekend.

On Friday night, we went to a terrific place for dinner. Doc's Seafood and Steaks is located on Padre Island right on the Intercoastal Waterway. It was our first time to eat there. We have tried unsuccessfully to go there at least twice. The first time, another member of our Friday night dinner group had a conflict and so we went someplace closer. The second time, they were closed for a private party. As they say, third time's a charm.

It was dinner on Good Friday during Spring Break season on the island and we had a party of 7 adults and a high chair. We expected a very long wait. When we arrived they told us it would be an hour. We waited less than 30 minutes. The service was excellent, the atmosphere was relaxed with live music, and the food was probably the best seafood I've had in Corpus Christi.

The Princesses enjoyed seeing the birds fly by and the barges being pushed along by tug boats. There were quite a few brown pelicans in the area. It's pretty exciting to see them fly past at eye level, especially for a two-year-old.

On Saturday morning, we had Easter baskets for the girls. They went straight from bed to bath on Saturday morning. Then, as soon as they got out of the bath, they saw their baskets and went running across the house naked to claim them. There are no photos, for obvious reasons. Those baskets were full of plastic eggs that were filled with candy and other fun stuff.

Every time the Princesses visit, Grandad makes his world-famous pancakes for breakfast. After our delicious breakfast, we dyed eggs with the girls. I bought a Tie-Dye Easter Egg kit from one of the dollar stores. As a back-up, I also bought the traditional PAAS Easter Egg Dye. I wanted to be positive we had something that worked. We had a lot of fun with both of them. I was very pleased with the Tie-Dye kit. It was not messy and was very easy for the little ones to handle. There's no mixing and you don't need containers for the dye. You just squeeze a few drops of dye into a plastic bag, add the egg, roll it around in the bag, and it's done. We added a plastic bag clip so the eggs wouldn't fall out when the girls rolled them around. I'm pretty sure they liked it better than the traditional dip dyes.

Then Grandad hid the eggs and the hunting ensued. You may be able to tell that Princess E dressed herself for the Easter Egg hunt.

With very little assistance from the adults, the Princesses found all but one of the eggs. In order to get Grandad to show them where the final egg was hidden, the Princesses were required to tell Grandad that he is "the greatest Easter Egg hider in the whole world." It's a tradition that goes all the way back to when our kids were little. It was hilarious to hear four-year-old Princess E repeat those words back to her Grandad. He used to make Katy and Nick say the exact same thing every year.

After the shower on Saturday evening, Katy and the girls headed home to San Antonio. They spent Easter Sunday with their other grandparents. It was kind of the best of both worlds.

We went to early Mass on Sunday morning. Then we had breakfast at Starbucks, came home, and watched a marathon of the last season of Game of Thrones. We haven't watched the first episode of the new season yet. We'll watch it Wednesday or Thursday night when Grandad returns from his monthly trip to Houston.

I hope you all had a fabulous Easter celebration complete with whatever kind of worship you choose, people you love, jelly beans, and chocolate of some kind. Ours had all that and more.