Wednesday, December 30, 2009

just a few more pictures...

Here are a few more of our Christmas images. Raine has been bothering the cat more than ever, much to the delight of both. Here they are in a mutual admiration conversation.

Before we left for North Carolina, we opened a few gifts at home. Carl gave Raine a very cool ton-ton sleeping bag (as in The Empire Strikes Back). It has a light saber for a zipper pull, a plush head, arm, leg and tail, and the fabric on the interior of the bag looks like intestines. Raine loves it.

We went to see the movie Avatar, which was good. Raine thought the 3D glasses were cool, while I just thought she looked really cute in them.

Finally, we made it home, and flew into El Paso in good weather, spent the evening without a drip of moisture in the air, ignore those clouds, will ya? And in the morning.... winter wonderland.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


While in North Carolina, we went to see the Biltmore house, built and occupied by several generations of Vanderbilts, and now a najor tourist attraction in the area. The house is humongous, a castle, really. There is a sweeping circular staircase that rises four floors (or was it five?) THere were numerous bedrooms, each spacious enough to have its own Christmas tree. There was a banquet hall with three fireplaces, each large enough to stand in. That room had a two story Christmas tree in it, with gift boxes as part of the ornamentation. They were the right scale. It was an amazing house to see, and imagine living and/or working there. They had several of the staff bedrooms on display as well as pantries and kitchen areas.

They don't want you to take pictures inside, though, so I didn't. They also do a portrait which they sell. One outside by the front door, and one inside. Both came out well, but I Ron's mom has them, and I doubt they would be happy if I posted them anyway. So I took some outside, on the main lawn, which was snow covered and picture pretty. Ron wanted some pictures of trees, too, so I took a few with the snow in them.

I don't know what it cost to get it, but it was beautiful. The grounds are lovely in the winter, and I'm sure they are only better in the summer. You can walk through them on paths, and I'm sure that would be an outing in itself.

Monday, December 28, 2009

return and report

We made it back from North Carolina. The trip was very nice and we had a great visit with the grandparents and I'm very glad we did it. I'm really glad to be home, as well. Fran suggested a couple of picture blogs, and I'm glad to oblige. Today I'll do some of the general pictures, with captions...more or less.

We had sort of a white Christmas, as it had snowed the Friday before we got to North Carolina. The first picture is of the woods that surround Ron's parents' "front yard." Ron misses those trees still.

We went to the science center and aquarium where we got to actively explore a lot of science and math concepts. We also got to watch their small collection of sharks and stingrays get fed, and even touch a shark (hey, I was too busy touching to take pictures). Raine got her hair trimmed that evening, and even let the stylist use the curling iron on her for the first time!

Finally, Raine enjoyed painting this year, she started with some ornaments that Nana had gotten, then went on to Christmas creatures. Finally, she and Poppop painted piggy banks for each other.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

the big eve

So here it is, Christmas Eve day. One of the most anticipated days of the year for those under the age of... 20? Well, Raine, at least, has been looking forward to Christmas Eve for a while, now. Of course we have some anxiety... Will Santa find her here in NC? (some of her gifts are here, but her bike stayed in NM) Will she get what she has asked for? (the jury is still out on this one...)

Last year, her most asked for toy was Spike the dinosaur, a huge rc dinosaur (costing $130 or so) that we figured she would play with for a couple of hours, then would take up space in her already crowded bedroom. She didn't get him, and she seemed really happy with the gifts she did get. This year, much to my surprise, the only item on her list to Santa was... Spike. Now, not only do the previous considerations still apply, but she is also a year older, and Spike is really getting out of her age range. BUT he is what she is asking for. The parents' dilemma once again.

Santa will not be leaving Spike under the tree, but I think he will be leaving Raine a note. She plays and plays with her bionicles, so, she will get to see an equivalent amount of bionicles and get to choose between them. Then - whatever she chooses - it IS her choice, and she should be happy with it.

Still, I keep thinking of the Christmas that I got what I really, really wanted, and yet, it was one of the most disappointing Christmas gifts ever... Is this when she's going to learn the lesson of being careful what you wish for?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the really rich

Yesterday, as part of our Christmas holiday visit, Raine and I went with Ron's family to the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, NC. Oh My Goodness. The grounds surrounding the mansion are amazing, even before you get to the castle... uh, house. We walked through the restored rooms like the library, the dining room and the conservatory, up the grand staircase to some of the fimly and guest bedrooms (each with its own Christmas tree and fireplace) through the servant's rooms (pretty nice accomadations on their own, really) and down to the basement for the gym, bowling alley and swimming pool, then back up the the kitchens (and the kitchen servant's rooms) with about 5 pantries, and a walk in refridgerator. Then out front to the snowy front lawn area. The ground were beautiful. The views from the house were amazing. The conservatorship has been well done, and is admirable. The grounds must be lovely to walk/hike through although we took a pass on it yesterday through the snow. They had lost a number of trees to the weather, but clean-up had begun already. It was a good day. Interesting to see how some of the "other half" lived. It would be cool to have seen it in full operation, with staff and all, but not even the Vanderbilts can afford to keep the house up these days...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I wish you...

A Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Blessed Yule... whichever sentiment matches your mood and/or beliefs.

I'm leaving tomorrow on a plane to North Carolina, and hopefully a little snow. I'm taking Raine to visit with her Grandparents for Christmas. We'll get to do some fun stuff, like visit the Biltmore House, which I'm really looking forward to, and maybe get some good bar-be-que while are there.

I'm not sure what the computer options will be, or how much opportunity I will have for blogging while I'm gone, so, don't miss me too much while you are waiting for Santa to arrive. I'll be keeping busy, and have pictures and thoughts to share on my return.

Friday, December 18, 2009

favorite card

I'm going to share my favorite Christmas card of the season with you all. It was hand made by Raine, and as you all know, I'm an annoyingly proud Mama. Oh well.

The first image is the cover of the card, and I bet I'm one of the few people who has a Christmas card complete with an evil laugh. The next is - of course - the interior.

Merry Christmas to you, too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

shopping talent

It may be a good thing for my budget, but I have limited talent and patience for shopping online. On the one hand there is so much out there! On the other hand, there is so much out there. Sometimes just thinking of something I might want to shop for, narrowing the possibilities, is overwhelming. I've been trying to think of a very cool gift for Raine this year, thinking I could shop online and... and.... and it just is too much. I don't even know where to start.

My other problem is that while you look at a picture of the item, and most often read a description, that really doesn't satisfy my shopping needs. I want to look at it up close. Pick it up and feel the heft, turn it around or upside down. Shopping should be visceral for me. All those pictures are more like looking at a long slide show of someone else's vacation. Even if they went somewhere you really want to go, their photos don't trigger the emotional/sensory memories for you that they do for them. Sigh.

Carl and Ron are wonderful online shoppers, Carl especially can find the coolest stuff to order. So I know it CAN be done. It can. Hmmm maybe when the 3-d comes? It will you know, but it still won't be tactile. Think they'll ever get that one done?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

green chile enchiladas

Carl made some tonight. They were soooo yummy. You're gonna want these, Fran and Lillian (yeah, I know, like you didn't as soon as I mentioned them).

He's been working on his cheesy sauce, and man, were they good. We had our cousins over, and there were many plates scraped clean with a fork, and would have been licked had it not been for "company" manners. I bet you thought we might not have any...

Anyway, I'm not above teasing you with them. Anything to encourage you to make your way this direction sooner.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

all about

...the end of the semester. I'm getting my ducks all lined up and ready to roll. Tomorrow is the first half-day of testing. The kids who would do it, wrote the essay part of their exam today. I have a few grades to enter into the computer, and about 10 pieces of make-up work (OK, maybe 15) to grade and enter... Scantrons for the tests tomorrow and Thursday. I should be able to have my grades in and complete by Thursday, which is good because that is what the administration would like. (oh, don't notice me rolling my eyes, here. Its a good thing you don't have visuals.)

Friday will be a short day of turning in stuff, and a (hopefully) quick meeting. OR jury duty, which-ever. Then, the stress will be over for the semester. Winter break will begin. Two weeks of shopping, traveling, visiting and no school.

Try not to hate me for my vacations. I have to work with 9th graders. I need all the sanity I can get. I like 'em, but they drive me bonkers, sometimes. (repeat after me.... better than 6th graders, better than 6th graders..... OK better now).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas spirit

Fran wrote her post the other day on how she just wasn't feeling the holiday spirit this year. Fran, I'm with ya. I don't know what it is, really. We have a kid in the house, who is very excited about Christmas. She came home one afternoon with very important news, "Mama, do you know that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is on tonight?" Of course we found it and watched it. We've been pulling out our assortment of holiday movies to watch, as well.

There have been many years that I have enjoyed planning for Christmas decorating, and creating some crafts for the season. This year, not so much. Oh, sure, I got fabric for rocking horses, and Roxanne and Tennie and I worked on them like crazy for the past couple of weeks... but usually I'm thinking and planning and creating in August, September, etc.While I was at Roxanne's, Landon pulled out the dragon I crocheted last year. I thought, wow, has it already been a year since I made those? What happened to me this year?

We did decorate this year, finally. The tree is up, and pretty. (picute included) We added a couple of strings of read lights to the white pre-lit stuff, and then pulled out a lot of red and white ornaments (along with whatever struck Raine's fancy of course. She did a lot of the decorating this year, and did a great job of it too. Ron hung lights along the eaves, for the first time in several years, and the house looks festive, now, too.

Raine and I will be traveling this year, for Christmas, and since Ron won't be able to go, I know I'll miss him. Christmas will be kind of spread all over the place this year, some here, some in North Carolina. I'm trying to get psyched up for it, I really am. Maybe once school gets out, and the end of the semester pressure is off, I'll feel more of the spirit. I hope so.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Yep, there's space, all right. I'm staring right at it. Again. Some more.

It's that time of the year when my brain is pretty much fried: the week before finals. OK, I'm going to be giving semester exams, because my students will be returning to me next semester, but still. We all try to hold out to the end, but sometimes, they're done, I'm done, everybody is done. I kinda think that this is one of those years.

It hasn't been an easy semester for me, the learning curve has been high, and the patience required has been off the scale. Still, I'm encouraged that next semester is looking better. In fact, I'm looking forward to it. Although the students will be the same, my co-teacher is changing. I'll take a fresh start of almost any flavor at this point, and run with it. I get the feeling she will too.

For those of you who know her, Alicyn Green-Wall (also known as Mistress Toragana) will be working with me next semester. Yeah, I think it will be good. And yeah, I know, I spelled one - if not two - of her names incorrectly. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

not reading

I'm not reading enough. You would think - as an English teacher and all - I would read, read read. I LOVE to read. My daughter will even leave me alone long enough to let me read these days. So, what's the hold up? It isn't like my to-read list has gotten any shorter... although I may have kind of mis-placed it.

What is the problem, then? Its a vision issue. Its not a new vision issue, though. I don't think my glasses have suddenly gone south or anything, even though it may be time for a new pair. Its that age-related vision issue, the one that makes you need multiple prescriptions. You know, bifocals, trifocals, etc. and with my eyes, at least one lens is really thick. There seems to be a "sweet spot" where I can actually read easily... IF I can find it and keep it. It isn't a very big spot.

So I've been re-thinking my general glasses policy (one pair). I'm wondering if a near/middle distance pair that I could read or cross stitch with, then watch a little TV with would be possible. Then, perhaps a middle/far distance pair for driving, and general active/outside activities. I'm wondering if having the transition between 2 prescriptions would be more useful and usable that the transition between 3 is.

Any one have any experience with this? Anyone?

Monday, December 7, 2009

another serger milestone

I didn't even blog about sewing over the weekend. I felt the lack, so here goes.

After serging the edges on many fleece blankets for Christmas gifts (and I have to say, I think they are a fabulous gift), my machine was rather full of fluff. When I changed thread this last time, it wasn't sewing right. I thought, well, I've messed up with the threading, and/or this fuzzy stuff is wrecking havok.

First things, first, I cleaned the machine with little brushes, and canned air and more canned air, and then I swept. yikes. Then, I tried rethreading. Then I ran a test seam. Then I threaded it again. I found the instruction manual, and used that as well. (even). Still, one of the loopers was very loose.I could figure out which one, but still didn't effect much of a change, no matter what I tried. I gave the whole thing a rest for a few days, not wanting to get too frustrated, and to give myself time for ideas to percolate.

Sunday, I worked on it some more. I could tell it was a tension problem, so I made sure that looper went properly around the little tension knobby. Then for good measure, I checked the other threads and their tensions. I noticed that there were a couple of oil points where I had been opening and closing a cover, so I dripped a drop of oil on them. When I tried my test seam that time, it went just fine. I edged the blankets I had waiting on that serger for a couple more gifts.

I felt quite happy that I had worked patiently and diligently enought to solve the problem that the machine was having. They all do at one time or another, and the more I understand about them, the better I will be at using them. I felt like I crossed another serging milestone. Yeah, I still need to check the instruction booklet to make sure I get it all threaded correctly, but I diagnosed and problem solved and got the machine going again. I didn't let that be a reason to push the machine off to the side and not use it for six months or so. I felt like patting myself on the back. I called Roxanne, so she could pat me on the back, too.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

new post

So, as you can tell, my imagination has been running in the other direction. Ha.

Raine lost another tooth Saturday evening. Not as much trauma this time as the first, so, not as much problem. We couldn't fine her litle tooth box for the tooth fairy, but we found a plastic easter egg, and it worked out just as well. What is it about that gap-toothed smile on a kid that is just cute? Maybe it is - in part - our understanding that it is part of that growing up process, but it still means their kids.

Fran you'll be glad to know that I'm still working on my novel. Most of its going on in my head at the moment... but its forming into something. Something good, and complete - I hope. And something worth reading all of, as well. But its nothing you can look at, yet.

All in all, the weekend was probably more relaxing than it had any right to be. And I relaxed more than I probably should have. I have way too many papers to grade, still. Sigh. My wish is for a good week coming up this week, and for the sanity to persist as the holidays approach.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

i wish

I wish I had a great idea for a post this evening. I'm just kinda out of energy and out of ideas. Not complaining, about it, mind you, just am.

I enjoyed reading a bookseller's - used books - blog this morning. He had listed a good many "fail" conversations with people who had asked him questions at his store. Fran, I'm sure you've had a good many of these conversations yourself, or very similar. I take away some amusement, of course, and a sad feeling inside for the people who just. don't. read. I have three classrooms of them this year, and it is something I absorb (because I find it hard to believe on such a basic personal level) a little at a time, and I can help but feel that one limits oneself making that life choice. At any rate, here is the link, if you are interested:

I mentioned in an earlier post that while in Colorado, the frequency of snow gave me pause. Well, it is snowing again, here. It is rather sleety this time, and was blowing around and not sticking to anything, so I can't imagine it will amount to much, but still, twice in one week is pretty amazing. If I were a skier, I'd be ecstatic, but I'm way too uncoordinated and fat. Still, winter is definitely coming this year.

And, above all, its almost Friday...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

well, do I?

For the months of November, December and January, I'm serving in the local Pettit jury pool. That means about once a week I have the possibility of needing to go into court to see if I'm going to serve on a jury. Monday was one of those days, no problem, I didn't need to go in. Tomorrow is one of those days, too. Problem. (well, of course or I wouldn't be writing about it, would I...)

See, here's the deal. You call into their message phone the night before your assigned day and listen to the message so you know whether or not you need to show up, and what courtroom, and what time. Only this evening when I called, the message was for today. Yeah, the one that people yesterday needed. It says no one is needed. For today. As in Wednesday, December 2nd.

So, I ask myself and those around me, does that mean I don't need to go in tomorrow? Could they possibly have said the wrong day and time? (I mean it is only part of their job, getting these messages right) Argh. Then, the question is, do I just go in to work, call from there and maybe have to drive back into town right away? Do I hang out at home until the courts open so I can find out whether I need to go or not, then I'm late to work (although I've left a message with the principal about what happened all ready, and they have me down for a sub). What time does that court open anyway?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

not so much

I enjoyed our little nod to snow... and our 2 hour delayed start to school.

This evening, however, I feel cranky, achey, and cold, cold, cold. That's just not like me, so I'm heading to the shower to get warmed up, and to bed under the quilt to stay that way.