Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires...courage.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Windsor Castle

After lunch we toured Windsor Castle. A very cool place. The interior was what I was most impressed with, but unfortunately photography was not allowed. Fortunately the outside was pretty cool as well.
D'oh! Blogger restricts number of pictures per post, so here's a link with a few nice ones as well as some historical details.

Perhaps you can go online and find some interior pics too.

I'm told by the little old lady that walked past me as I took this shot that this is the most popular car in the entire castle. Apparently every tourist that sees it takes a picture. Although it looks like a slugbug, I'm told it isn't... Do you know what it is?

My view as I approached the castle

A nice little Garden Just inside the Castle Wall

Many people think that if the Union Jack is flying over a residence that means the Queen is present. Not true. She uses the Royal Standard or, in some cases, her Personal Standard. No she wasn't home when I toured. This was pulled from the web. I just wanted to know what it looked like so I thought you might as well.

I thought this was a pretty interesting perspective of St. George's Chapel, also inside the castle walls.

Tapas, Anyone?

After a short morning of work and meetings on Tuesday I took our guests to tour Windsor Castle. We took an express train from Reading to Sloan Station and a connecting train into Windsor. By the time we arrived it was slightly after 1:00 so we looked for a place to eat. We stumbled across a Spanish place in the station that looked convenient, so in we went. For those of you who don’t know, tapas is an interesting style of cooking that involves ordering several small appetizer sized dishes per person, and perhaps sharing your selections with others in your party

A better explanation and possible history can be found here

Now I assumed that my European colleagues where familiar with Tapas so I didn’t bother to explain for fear of insulting any of them, some of whom were more well traveled than I. One thing that I have found to be common in tapas menus is that the name and description of the dish are not sufficient to convey to me what exactly I’m ordering. Apparently it’s worse is when you don’t understand the language in which the menu is written. My new friends pondered and translated and pondered some more, while I asked the waitress to give us some more time until finally we were ready. The waitress returned and Mr. Crasan ordered the perfect dish that was the result of so much deliberation. Then for a moment there was a bit of an uncomfortable pause while the rest of the party waited for her to take the next patron’s order and the waitress and I waited for him to order his second item. “And what else would you like sir?” she asked politely. The retired Colonel pondered this for a moment before saying “Nu, iz enough.” Then it hit me. “Da, multi.” I said from across the table. Blank looks of confusion…
I explained to the translator who in turn explained to the rest of the table that we had to start the whole process over again and each pick two more plates.
We got the whole mess sorted out relatively quickly and spent time in conversation and taking picures as we waited for the food.
I trust you remember what I said about the menu. Well the other thing I find to be common in tapas menus is that it’s easier to tell what the food will be from the name and description than it is from actually looking at the food. When dishes began to arrive (3 per person, x 10 people, = 30 unique entres) the result was mass confusion. No one, including myself, remembered the names of the dishes they ordered and looking at the dishes did not help in the least.

Waitress: “Who had the (insert unknown Spanish words here)?”

Blank stares

Me: “Sorry we don’t remember.”

Waitress: “Come on guys, we’ve got 29 more of these coming!”

Ah, good times. We finally got it all sorted out and fun was had by all. Several commented on how good the food was, and the Colonel even made up with the waitress.

I think this place may have earned some repeat Romanian Business.

Homeschool Hi-lites

We've really been enjoying our abbreviated home school lessons over the last two weeks. When I found out my parents were coming for a visit, we kind of sped up our schooling to finish the unit we were in. That way, we could do the basics while they were here, and have shorter school days. It has worked out pretty well. We've spent our mornings concentrating on Math, Handwriting, Spelling, Memory Verses, Math Facts Drills, and Reading Aloud. This has left our afternoons free for outside play in the snow, building igloos or making snowballs. We've also been able to spend more time playing games, and just pursuing our own interests.

We've spent so much time "doing school" each day this year, we have often felt we didn't get to do much else during the week. That's one of the reasons I am excited about our curriculum choice for next year! Heart of Dakota covers all of the subjects I want, but it is done with shorter lessons and makes for a shorter school day. So, even with Corbin starting school, it should not take the entire day, and we will have time for other pursuits. Heart of Dakota is a company that I "discovered" when we began homeschooling in 2006. I was looking for something for Hailey, that would allow us to really concentrate on her reading skills, incorporate the Bible and God's word, as well as History, Science, etc. HOD was the perfect fit. By the end of the year, she was reading very well, and this year she has been able to follow the emerging reader's schedule in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, by HOD. We switched to something else for this school year, because I was trying to find something more exciting than what we were using with Logan at the time. I wish I hadn't. The content is great, and the kids love it, but it is not going to work for us next year. Hailey will not be ready for the writing involved, and with Corbin being added to the mix of "school", I needed something that would cover all our bases but take less time. So, we are going back to HOD for all of the kids. Hailey and Logan will be using Bigger Hearts for His Glory, with Logan using the extension pack to add to his learning in History and Science. Also, they will both have their own LA and Math programs. Corbin will be using Little Hearts for His Glory for Kindergarten, but we are actually going to begin next week. He has been asking to "do school" for several weeks now, and though I've been putting some things together for him, I wanted to get something that I can just follow. So, I am very excited about beginning with him. This will last us from now until the end of his Kindergarten year, because we are going to go very slow with the program since he is beginning at 4.5 years of age. We have also begun using http://www.starfall.com/ to get him more familiar with the letters and their sounds. So, anyone who needs extra practice, check it out. We used it with Hailey too, and it really helped enforce what she was learning in her Phonics program. To find out more about the HOD products, visit http://www.heartofdakota.com/. There is also a link for the message board there, where you can get wonderful encouragement and advice about homeschooling and to ask questions about which program may work best for you.

Well, the kids have finished school for the day. We will probably not be going out today, as it is 3 degrees here, and http://www.weather.com/ tells me it 'feels like' -10 degrees. I actually went out this morning before 8:00 am to get some pictures of all the snow, and my fingers hurt from the cold. Anyway, we may play some checkers or a new Spelling game I got for the kids. And I need to get Mom to play Boggle with me, as she will not be here after Sunday. Well, y'all take care. I'll be on, or Karl will, soon, to tell some more of our adventures.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Correction on snow amounts

Okay, I realized this morning that I measured the snow amounts incorrectly last night. I was using a ruler, but used the cm side instead. So, when I went out this morning, there was a total of 8 inches in our driveway and in the back yard. Still, that's a LOT of snow! It is so cool to look out and see this. Even though we have struggled with this move in many ways, we've had a lot of good times too. I know, no matter where we end up at the end of this contract, I will not regret our time here in New York. It's been such a great experience! Shoveling snow can be fun; building snowmen and caves or igloos; throwing snowballs and sledding; taking walks to the "Y"; just watching my mom sit by our back door gazing at the snow because she's never really seen it before and is so excited about it. All of these things have been so worth any difficulties we may have suffered. So, thanks Karl, for being so successful in your job that you were accepted in this program and brought us all here to experience this. :)

Well, that's it for now. I just wanted to share about my mistake. Now maybe you have a better picture of what it's like here; or maybe you don't.

food and fun

With the business day coming to a close it was time for food and fellowship. Our Director for European Sales, Charles Spyra, is a US native who is living here in the UK. He arranged a reservation for 14 at the London Street Brasserie. I'm not sure what a Brasserie is, but the food was incredible.

It was a short walk from the hotel through town to the restaurant, so we left the hotel at 7:10 for a 7:00 reservation. Don't ask.

During large dinners, I get the impression that people from former eastern bloc nations like to drink and like to toast… to everything. Apparently Romanians are no exception. Col. Crasan, the ranking member of the 9 person Romanian contingent would from time to time during dinner say any one of many traditional Romanian phrases that really have no direct translation into English, due to an implied sarcastic intent or because of a play on words that loses its meaning outside of the native language. Each time, our Dealer, Laurentiu, would attempt to translate. One such phrase was "Batura i temelie, mancharea i fudulie!" (I don’t have the keyboard for the proper spelling but this is roughly how it sounds) which translates roughly to "The drink is the necessity, the food is just for showing off". The format for the night was roughly, toast eat, toast, eat, eat, toast, laugh, toast, eat… you get the picture. They know that's not the way it happens everywhere, and as we poked fun at them for all their toasting, they made fun of the Russians who are apparently even worse…

Col Crasan happened to be sitting at the head of the table. About halfway through the meal someone mentioned jokingly that this was the seating position of the king. Charles then suggested that Pete, who sat at the opposite end of the table, must be the queen. Then, apparently forgetting the he was in Britain, in a restaurant full of Brits, Charles got in on the toasting act and raised his glass in mock toast to Pete, "To the queen!" At that instant the adjacent tables, comprised primarily of locals who were of course not privy to our joke, raised their glasses and exclaimed "To the Queen!" then some of them actually broke out in song with "God Save the Queen". Our table, composed of entirely non-English, did an admirable job of controlling their laughter so as to not cause a brawl in the middle of the restaurant. Chuck later admitted that he had never actually said that out loud in public before. It’s probably safe to say that he will not be doing it again.

All in all it was a great time, And I really enjoyed getting to know, on such an intimate level, a culture which most Americans will never experience. Naruk!

Back to Business

Ok, still behind on my posting, so let's continue catching up…
Sunday fun is over so, on Monday, time to go into the office. I was told that our bags arrived at the hotel last night and were picked up by the delivery service at 10:pm. Unfortunately, they don't deliver until some undisclosed time on Monday. Big help. Thanks. So I'm leading off the day giving the corporate overview to Foreign customers that I had just met in 3 day old clothes, essentially jeans and a t-shirt. Nice.

They didn't seem to mind, or if they did they didn't let on about it. This was my first time giving this presentation. Luckily nobody was really listening to me anyway. Most of the customers speak little or no English, so I used our dealer, Laurentiu, to translate. Because of his years of experience as a coms officer in the Romanian military and subsequent experience as our dealer, he is more familiar than I am with both our equipment and our customer needs. So I would say like 3 sentences and he would "interpret" for like 3 minutes. All I really had to do was advance the slides and tell him the high points that I wanted to be covered. Awesome.

Near the middle of the workday we got notification that our bags arrived at the hotel. Double awesome. Time for a shower and some clean clothes before dinner.

more sunday walking

During my walk on Sunday I also stumbled across the ruins of Reading Abbey. Living in a country as young as ours, the concept of walking through what is left of a 1000 year old building is completely foreign to me. It was a pretty cool experience. I type slowly, so let's just link to the history
And show a bit of what I saw.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sunday Afternoon in Reading

One of the first things that strikes me when I travel to a new area is the difference in architecture from what I am used to. Cobblestone and brick paver streets found in the world's older cities always add a charm that isn’t found in more “modern” locales. Often, as a city is modernized, a few streets will not be paved with asphalt and older buildings are retained and refurbished turning the area in to a small shopping district that is unique to the area. The city of Reading (pronounced red-ing) is interesting in that these old buildings are merged with new to create a bit of a hodge-podge of contrasting architecture all tied together with large stones and brick pavers. It seems to give the area a high-end flea market appearance, if you can imagine such a thing.

Sprinkled throughout are various pubs and clubs that attract new college students (they’re called “First Years” here) and high schoolers trying to pass for First Years.

Lesson 2: I can’t afford anything in the UK.
Because my luggage was delayed from arriving in London, I contemplated buying at least a collared shirt for the meeting on Monday. I step into a store in which is displayed a huge sign which reads “SUPER BLOWOUT SALE” 80 pounds for a shirt. I don’t know what you all think, but that doesn’t sound like a super blowout anything. It is pricey, but if my bags don’t arrive by Monday morning (which they didn’t) I will be presenting our corporate overview in clothes that traveled with me across the Atlantic and that I will have been wearing for 3 days. I quickly realize that with the current weakness of the USD, this shirt will cost me over $170. I’m sorry, but the customers will just have to deal. So now I'm curious and I begin to look at tags. I found regular screen printed T-shirt. 25 pounds. For you doing the math at home that’s over $50 – for a shirt that I would pay maybe $8 for at home. $3 if it’s on super blowout. Maybe we should save shopping for another day.

Winter Storm

The weather 'men' had been predicting a winter storm for today and tomorrow. The warning is in effect until noon tomorrow. It snowed a bit overnight, enough to leave a light covering on the ground. However, it began snowing sometime between 6 and 7 am this morning and has not stopped all day. I just went out about half an hour ago and measured 6 inches in our driveway, just since Dad shoveled this afternoon. I measured several spots in our yard and the range was between 9 and 13 inches. That's more than we've seen since we've been here, and I'm so excited to see it! I'm sure that there are times that severe really seems severe, but to me it hasn't seemed that way at all. Of course, I knew I wouldn't be driving in these conditions. For those who do, I know it takes special care.

Dad and the kids went out to play today.

Dad even wore Karl's snowsuit, gloves, and boots so he could 'play' comfortably. They built a 'cave' and Hailey tried to build an igloo, but I think she was wishing Karl was home to help her. Being an engineer, he knows exactly how to do it, and they had a great time when they built one before. I'm sure they'll get the chance to work together again.

I made Cheeseburger Soup for dinner tonight. I haven't made this in ages; the kids had never had it, but Logan and Hailey liked it. Corbin I had to make try it, but he didn't like it. I would normally have insisted he eat it, at least a few bites, but he is sick with a cold right now so I didn't push it. I gave him some apple sauce instead, which is what he had actually already requested. When he's better we'll have to get right back to our normal meal-time rules.... Anyway, what I wanted to share about this meal is that I first had it during the week after bringing Logan home from the hospital in Auburn. A close friend brought it over for us to enjoy with some delicious whole wheat muffins and a salad. So, when I thought of it today, I just had to get in the kitchen and make it. Mom and Dad enjoyed it too, so you never know; some of you Alabama relatives may end up trying it before long!

Well, I need to get the kids to bed. Corbin fell asleep on the couch after dinner. Poor baby; I think the combination of his cold and hard snow-play left him exhausted today. For those of you familiar with Corbin you know how unlikely it is for him to fall asleep on the couch! :) I took him up to bed already, but these older two need to get there. So, everybody take care.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Family Time

Mom and Dad have been here for 8 days and 9 nights already! It doesn't seem like it's been that long, and they will only be here through Saturday night, now. Their plane leaves Rochester early Sunday morning. I'm so glad that they've gotten a chance to come visit us, to see the snow, and just spend time with the family; talking and playing games, etc. We will miss them so much when they leave, I know! Thanks to everyone who's been taking care of things for them at home.

Saturday morning Karl offered to drive us all around so we could let Mom and Dad see some of the area. We wanted them to get a look at some of the farms and the houses here. The city of Rochester will have to wait until their next visit, though they did get a quick glimpse of some of the taller buildings in the distance. I think Mom, especially, liked seeing so much snow. Even though there were only a couple of inches on the ground in most places, it's more than she's ever seen before. I'm glad they got to experience it.

Karl left here late Saturday afternoon with his co-worker. They arrived in London Sunday morning, without their bags! The flight from Rochester was delayed, resulting in a late arrival in Newark and a mad dash to their connecting flight. Karl tells me they let them board the plane, but had already removed their luggage from the plane and would not delay any further to re-load them. They were supposed to get them late last night, but I'm not sure if it actually happened. If they did not arrive, then Karl gave his presentation in jeans and a nice Henley-looking very handsome but not necessarily proper business attire! :) Not to mention that these are the clothes he left Rochester in on Saturday. I'll have to ask him how that all turned out when I talk to him today. He's hoping to have time to post a few comments and some pictures, so stay tuned to our 'channel' for more information.

We have no big plans today....I have to get the kids signed up for their swim lessons, and I also need to send in paperwork for their baseball teams in the spring. I'm sure there's laundry to be done and bathrooms to be cleaned. And, I want to play a game of Boggle with Mom! Wish some of you were here to play with us. :)

Well, that's all I have for now. Take care, and I'll blog again soon.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Touchdown in London

Touchdown in London, 9:15 local time. I remember interviewing for my first job out of college, one of which was with Kimberly-Clark in Neenah, WI. When I flew into town on that December night it had just started snowing before I arrived. I picked up a rental car, and on the way to the hotel I had to stop for a minute in a local department store parking lot to get out and just let the snow fall on me for a minute or two. At the time it was the farthest north I had ever been. I kind of just stood there for a minute and simply thought, “wow, I’m in Wisconsin.” Not that there was anything particularly special about the town, It was just very cool to be so far away from home, in and environment that was so foreign to me. I got that feeling again this morning.

The Romanians arrived about an hour after us, giving us time to pick up a coffee and croissant for breakfast while we waited. First lesson: coffee is quite a bit stronger in the UK than what I’m used to. After introductions the driver ushered us to a small passenger van that we arranged to take us to the hotel in Reading. During the drive there was constant chatter in Romanian interrupted briefly by our dealer Gelu, who translated the high points of what had just been said. Most of the people speak at least a little bit of English, but it is of course easier for them to communicate with each other in their native tongue, so Gelu did an admirable job of keeping Pete and I included in the conversation.
We just checked in and let everyone go their separate ways with the intent of meeting up again this evening for dinner. I think I’ll head out and walk the street for the afternoon and see what I can find. I popped the TV on when I got here, and as I type this, there have already been 2 Spice Girls videos on. I think that’s my cue to go

Friday, February 22, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Well, we all woke up this morning to a Winter Wonderland. The trees carry snow on their branches and the ground is covered. It's simply beautiful! It continued to snow until about 11:00 a.m. or so. Mom was excited to see it falling and to finally see a 'real' snow. Dad has been shoveling our driveway each day, and I can tell you we (especially Karl) will miss that when they go home! I think, even as cold as it is, Dad has enjoyed experiencing the snow and doing the different kind of work that is required here. :) The kids have been able to get out and play again, since it's powdery now, instead of slushy. Maybe we can get out sledding again before long; we'll post more pictures of that if we do.

Mom and Dad have volunteered to let Karl and I have a 'date' tonight. I think we may go to Macaroni Grill for dinner. This is an Italian place that we had enjoyed occasionally when we lived in Florida-there's one in Orlando. I think we went once to the one in Montgomery when we lived in Auburn. They have delicious seasoned bread, served with olive oil. For the entree, there are so many choices. My usual and favorite order is Chicken Scallopine, minus the mushrooms. It's served in a lemon-butter sauce with prosciutto and capers. It also includes artichokes, which I hink are delicious. Karl has several dishes that he likes, but I think his stand-by is Sausage and Peppers with pasta. I can't remember the name of our typical dessert choice, but it's a pastry with chocolate, peanuts, and ice cream. The Macaroni Grill is a great place to dine if you're a fan of Italian food. We may go to a movie or bowling after, but we haven't decided yet.

Well, I need to prepare lunch for all of us. I may post more later; if not you'll know that we're just spending our day enjoying the snow together. Have a great weekend, ya'll! :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Immunity time

In getting ready for my trip this weekend, I was asked to go by the medical office to get some routine overseas vaccinations. I don’t know if my skin has toughened as I get older or if the needles have gotten smaller, but I don’t even feel the prick any more. I had to get a Td and typhoid. Overall a much more pleasant experience than I remember as a child or during inoculation day in boot camp.

Every time I have to get a shot I think about the day in Basic that we got what came to be called the glue shot. It was so named because, I swear, this stuff was a thick as Elmer’s glue - like the stuff you used in elementary school on your construction paper piggies and popsicle stick Christmas trees. Once injected we had to sit on the floor with legs crossed, rocking back and forth for 30 minutes because it formed a little knot at the injection site and actually had to be worked into the surrounding tissue. I remember the little nurse that gave me my shot was about 5’3”, and had to inject this thing using both hands, one holding the syringe as you would a tennis racquet and the palm of her other hand to push the plunger. I could, no joke, feel her shaking as she struggled to empty that monster into my backside. While waiting in line the DI said that this shot would cure anything, then proceeded to name off about 10 illnesses that this thing would kick, of which half were obviously made up on the fly, and most of those I wouldn’t repeat on a website that might be read by my kids. I don’t know what was in that needle, but I didn’t get so much as a runny nose for 10 years.

So Anyway, after today’s shots, the nurse gave me a little travel first aid kit and a don’t drink the water speech and sent me on my way. Nothing left to do but pack.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Food, Fun, and Fellowship

Okay... we all know that anytime there's a family get-together food is GOING to be involved! :) When my parents arrived last night, we took them out for hamburgers at Red Robin. I don't know how many of you are familiar with this restaurant, but for someone who would not touch ground meat of any kind for about 3 years, I will tell you this is the BEST place to go for burgers. They have many different kinds, but some of our favorites are the Guacamole Bacon Burger, the Bleu Ribbon Burger, the Sante Fe Burger, and the Five Alarm Burger. I always order the Guacamole Bacon Burger, without red onions, well-done, and with pepper jack cheese instead of swiss. It is absolutely delicious! Now, of course, this is not the healthiest of fare. They do have salads and wraps to choose from, as well as chicken burgers. So, you could try to eat a bit healthier while eating there, but you'll never find these menu items on any nutritionist's list of foods to eat! Today, I made homemade pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon for breakfast. We like to enjoy these with Reddi Whip, chocolate syrup, maple syrup, honey, butter, strawberries, etc. I always have plain pancakes, and sometimes I add chocolate chips, blueberries, bananas, or strawberries to the batter. We usually have "Pancake Day", as the kids have christened it, on Saturdays, but we delayed it a day so Mom and Dad could join us. For lunch we had Chicken Vegetable Soup with Barley. This is a homemade soup that I've just kind of put together on my own. Here is the recipe:

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Barley

8 cups water
2 chicken breasts
3/4 cup barley
green beans
1 can diced tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
chicken bouillon or paste

Place chicken breasts in a pot with water and simmer until chicken can be pulled apart with a fork. I add the potatoes and carrots to the water while the chicken is cooking to ensure that they are cooked through. Once done, remove the chicken breasts from the water and pull apart; return to pot. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and simmer about 1 1/2 hours. I do not measure the vegetables; you can put as much or as little of each as you like. The barley could also be replaced by rice, noodles, or omitted, if you like; whatever works for your family. This recipe made more of a "stew" and we like it that way. Just add more water if you like it "brothy". Serve with biscuits or crackers. Very tasty!

For dinner tonight we are going to have Lasagna, at Karl's request. I plan to double the recipe since we have two extra adults in the house right now. I am using Hot Italian Sausage as the meat for the sauce, which is also homemade. I will serve this with Italian bread, a salad, and sweet tea to drink.

We've enjoyed our time together so far. Mom and Dad brought one of those checker games with them (the kind you get at Cracker Barrel) for the kids. This morning, my dad played each of the kids in a game of checkers while we all sat and talked and watched. They had a good time, and it was special to watch them play my dad. Karl took a picture so we can have that as a nice memory. Karl, Dad, Logan, and Corbin have all gone to the library. Logan had a couple of books to pick up, and there were some books we needed to return, so they thought now would be a good time to go. Actually, I "suggested" that Karl take Logan, and Dad and Corbin wanted to go too. They should be back soon. Hailey, Mom, and I stayed home for some "girl time". :)

I have always liked to sit around and listen to stories. I love to hear Mom talk about her childhood, and tell me things that I never knew about family members. (hehehe) I remember riding to town with Mom, Aunt Mildred, myself, Wayland (sometimes), and Stephanie to go get a coke at the Jr. Food Store in Summerdale. Of course, I looked forward to getting the coke and snack we would pick up, but I so enjoyed leaning against the back of their seat and just listening to them talk and laugh. We had some good times, and I am thankful for the simplicity of those days. I also remember sitting at the kitchen table with the adults when we had people (usually family or church members) over for dinner. I can see Logan beginning to develop that interest now, too. I was always disappointed when there wasn't a spot for me at the table. Then I would have to lean against the counter if I wanted to hear, but I was usually in the way there. I hope our kids have some great memories when they grow up, as I do.

I plan to have Mom show me how to use this sewing machine she gave me quite some time ago. I learned how to thread it, but there is a problem with the bobbin. I am determined to figure it out, via her knowledge, so I can begin to practice sewing. It is a goal of mine to learn to sew, and eventually to quilt. But I guess I need to start with threading the machine correctly! Hailey has an interest in sewing, knitting, crochet, etc., but I haven't been able to teach her anything because I haven't learned myself. I know Mom tried to show me some things growing up, but I must have been too stubborn to listen. So, Hailey and I will try to learn together. Maybe we'll tell you how that goes?!

Well, I don't have much else to tell. I'm sure I'll be back later this week to give more details about our visit. By the way, I think my mom is enjoying seeing the snow. The first thing she did when they got here was throw a snowball at Daddy! Anyway, ya'll take care. 'Bye.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day Fun

Well, we had a fabulous time last night. Karl had acquired our babysitter for last night; she arrived at 4:45 p.m. The kids were excited-they really like Betsy. Anyway, I had requested that we dine at The Cheesecake Factory. Their cheesecake is scrumptious, and they have a large selection of lunch and dinner items as well. So Karl stopped by the restaurant at 4:35p.m.; picked up a beeper and put our names on the list. Would you believe it was already a 25 to 40 minute wait at that point? Go Karl!! It was a very smart choice to stop there before picking me up! When we arrived back at the restaurant they were telling people 40 minutes. So, we both enjoyed delicious pasta dishes for dinner. I think I liked Karl's choice better, because his chicken was breaded and had some spicy seasonings. That's probably what I'll order next time we go. My dish had fettucine and a garlic cream sauce with sauteed chicken and sundried tomatoes. It was also very good, but less seasoned. We each ordered a piece of cheesecake for dessert. Karl's was something new; it isn't on the menu yet. I can't remember the name but it included pistachios and was green in color. He said it was really good. My order was for Craig's Crazy Carrot Cake Cheesecake; this is the same one I ALWAYS order. I looked at the menu, but I'm a creature of habit. "I know this is good, what if I order something else and it's not as tasty, then I'll be disappointed." This is how I think! It was a wonderful meal, and we had a nice time together.

When we left the restaurant it was to head to the Rochester Auditorium. We had talked about attending a movie earlier in the week, but Karl came home one day and told me he got tickets to see STOMP instead. We were so excited to get to see this group live! We've seen one of their T.V. 'shows', and also a couple of commercials they've done, and we have always thought their performances were so cool. I don't know how those guys (and 2 gals) have the strength and endurance to do a 1 hour 45 minute show, but they did such a great job. Some of their "instruments" included aluminum trash cans as drums, metal and plastic oil "drums", plastic and paper bags, newspapers, clapping and snapping, stomping, push brooms, and a plethora of other materials. It was sort of comical too, which was an added bonus. I had such a great time; thanks Karl for setting that up. I love you!

Other news:

  • Mom and Dad are coming in tomorrow at 4:23 p.m. We are all very excited to see them, and that they will get to see some snow. There is snow on the ground now because it's been below 30 all week. And, it's been snowing all day today. I know my parents are excited that they'll be seeing their grandkids! :)

  • Karl's trip overseas is only a week away. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. I'm not afraid to be alone, but I am concerned about all of us missing him. It's been quite a while since we've had to go 2 weeks without seeing him, and I expect it to be a bit difficult. I know he's excited about the prospect of seeing all those new places, though. I hope he'll take his camera and capture it for us. Then, I can vacation there via his photos!

  • I've ordered the homeschool materials we will be using next year. I know it seems a bit early for that, but I just couldn't wait once I decided. We're switching curriculums, and Logan and Hailey will be doing all subjects together except Math and Language Arts. This will simplify things for me, as Corbin will be starting school too. I'll only have to implment 2 programs instead of 3. Yay!!!!

Well, I guess that's it for now. If I think of anything else I have to say, I'll just come back. Have a great weekend. 'Bye for now!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Special Gift

As you all know if you've read my other posts, I went home to see my parents over last weekend. While I was there, my mom said to let her know if there is anything I want to take home with me. So, as I looked through her books (I love books!) I remembered to ask her if she has a KJV Bible. I 've been looking into buying one for some time, but I haven't decided which one yet. I have several reasons for this. First, both churches that we have attended use the King James Bible extensively. And, if I want to read along, it would be easier if I were reading the same version. Secondly, I have read that the KJV is the 'original', therefore better. I guess the 'true' original would be the Hebrew version but I think we all know I do not read Hebrew! :) Anyway, when checking this out, it did come to my attention that there are some verses in the KJV that are not in the NIV, which is the one I use. I thought it would be nice to have both, so that when I'm studying or just reading the Bible I can refer to each if I like, to see how they compare. Lastly, in homeschooling my children I have discovered that many of the books we read are written in a more old fashioned way of speaking. Some might even say it's archaic. Things written by Shakespeare, for instance, are quite different from the way we speak or write today. So, since we read from the Bible each day anyway, I thought using the KJV would be a good way to help the kids become familiar with those 'older' words. Back to my visit with my parents. My mom and dad both said they had a KJV Bible. As I looked, I found a really old one, bound with duct tape at the spine. It is the Holy Bible (KJV) Eighth of the World edition. What makes it so special is that my mom's Aunt Anine gave her this bible. I never knew my Great Aunt Anine, but she was my Grandmother's sister (on my mom's side of the family). My grandpa died before either my brother or I were born, and our grandma died when I was just 3 years old. So, we never really knew them. We've heard many stories about them over the years from our mom, and our aunts and uncles, though. To have something that was owned by someone who would have been close to my grandma means a lot to me. I've been looking through it, finding passages that my mom said she herself probably hi-lited. It's very exciting to read those passages and wonder what the words meant to my mom. I'm so grateful for the gift, and I look forward to using it in our schooling as well as my personal bible reading. Thanks Mom, I love you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Recommended Vacation Spot

I just wanted to post today about a wonderful vacation spot. My in-laws own a cabin in Blue Ridge, GA. My family and I, and sometimes extended family or friends, have spent a week there here and there over the last couple of years. The cabin is right on The Toccoa River. The name of the cabin is Toccoa Pearl, and you can view pictures and check out reservation information at http://www.toccoapearl.com/. During the summer you can walk down the driveway with the provided tubes and follow the road as far as you like, then hop in the water and tube down the river, again as far as you like. It makes for a very relaxing activity, although there are a few small rapids to make it exciting, too! We have taken all of our kids down the river and they absolutely love it. We spent a week there last summer with some close friends and their kids. It was such fun, just spending our days walking the road, tubing the river, breaking for lunch, walking again and tubing the river in the afternoon, then breaking for dinner. We enjoyed the hot tub at night and playing pool downstairs. They have a great kitchen for cooking, as well as a grill on the deck and a table on the deck that seats 8. There are also rocking chairs and hummingbird feeders on the deck. You can hear the rush of the water as you go to sleep at night and as you wake again in the morning. I remember delicious meals with family, card games with friends, talking with my sister-in-law whom I don't get to see enough. And most recently watching my newest nephew play on the floor and pull himself up on the furniture there. It's a fabulous gathering place for any occasion. We've had some beautiful moments there, and I just had to share it with you. I hope you have a chance to experience it if you're ever in Georgia.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Trip Home

Well, I have to say it's been a crazy, busy weekend! My Dad retired from his job on Friday. He had been there for 26 years and 4 months, can you all believe that? He worked so hard to make a good life for us when we were growing up, as well as for himself and my mom since we left home. Now, it's their time to relax and do some traveling. Hope ya'll have fun! :)

My mom called me several weeks ago to find out if I could fly in for the surprise retirement party she was planning for my dad. She also asked my brother to fly in from California. We were to also be a 'surprise'. So, we spent those weeks planning, making phone calls and talking in 'code' to keep my dad from finding out. It was fun! We had to think of good reasons to call because he might get suspicious of such frequent communication. Mom and I usually talk once a week anyway, so I figured he would wonder what was wrong if I called for no apparent reason more often than that. But, my sweet daddy was completely unsuspecting. Wayland and I both flew into Gulfport, MS, (flights were cheaper) and rented a car to drive to our parents' house. It was nice to spend some time talking to my brother....he was a captive audience for 1.5 hours. I loved it because he had to listen to me whether he wanted to or not! :) I love you, too, Wayland. So we arrived and dad had not gone to work yet. He was surprised to see us, but he believed that we were just there to celebrate that day with him. By the way, my parents are flying into New York next week to see me and my family. I ordered their tickets for them...so I just told dad I thought I had to hand-deliver his ticket information. He knew that wasn't why I flew in....but he still didn't know about the party. So, dad was scheduled to work one last day at Vulcan, beginning at 3:00 that day. The guys he worked with had planned to have a cookout for him. Dad decided to wear a shirt and tie to work-he's worked with a furnace there which is not a shirt and tie position- for the first time in his life. Well, his boss ended up calling my mom when he found out my brother and I had flown in, to see if we would join them for the meal. We headed to work, too! It was good to hear all the nice things, and the jokes, they said about my dad. I've always known he's a hard worker; I'm glad they saw it, too. Everyone really seemed to be glad for him, and to have enjoyed working with him. They gave him some gag gifts, such as a cane with a horn on it, as well as some nice ones like a framed picture of the original four furnace workers and their 'guys'. They had been asking daddy what kind of gift he wanted as a 'going away' gift, and he eventually told them a GPS. (Daddy bought an RV recently in preparation for his traveling days) I wasn't even aware Dad knew about a GPS-I mean that IS a technical product and I wouldn't have considered him a technical guy. I learn something new every day! :) Well, they gave him a compass; the kind that has a suction cup on the bottom so it sticks to the dashboard. That got some laughs....but then they pulled out a Garmin GPS. Now, he just has to have someone set it up for him. Or maybe he'll do that himself since he's so full of surprises... It was a nice meal, and good to hear them praise my dad. We spent the rest of our time there just hanging out, and went to church with our parents on Sunday. They have a new pastor, but we didn't get to hear him speak. They were having a singing group, The Colmus Family, visit to sing for them. It was very enjoyable. I grew up in church with all those hymns, so I felt right at home. If you like country gospel music, you chould check them out for some 'down-home' singing. :) We got to go out to lunch with some of our extended family, then we had to head back to Gulfport for our evening flights home.

It was a whirlwind trip, with some rumors of flight delays. (my flight was delayed by minutes, some others for hours) I ended up arriving home only 15 minutes after I was scheduled to, so it worked out pretty well for me. By the way, the weather in Alabama was sunny and warm, 75 degrees on Sunday. When I touched down in New York the temperature was 3 degrees. Yes, you read that right! I don't think I've ever experienced such extremes in my life. It is sunny and not so warm here at 10 degrees today, and we are all staying inside. Poor Karl did have to go to work this morning and he says it's so, so cold out there! One thing I intended to do was take some pictures while at home (I still call it home even though I haven't lived there in 12.5 years-Karl knows my real home will always be with him!) but I didn't even get the camera out. It slipped my mind, I guess because of all the wonderful food (thanks ya'll) and the great time talking with everyone. I'm glad to be back with my babies and my husband, but I do already miss the south. It just makes me appreciate everyone, and the weather, that much more!

Well, we've gotten a very slow start today due to our late night. We will be eating lunch soon, then get started with school. I hope you all have a super week. I'll try to post again soon. Until then.....

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

I've been promising to put up the recipe for this for over a week now. Please enjoy!

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups milk

3 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (3 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For sauce, cook onion in butter till tender. Stir in flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Add milk; I use powdered but regular milk is fine, too. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. If using cheese, add 3/4 cup to sauce and let melt. Remove from heat. Place half the potatoes in the dish, then add ham. We used leftover ham from our Christmas dinner, probably about 2 cups. (I doubled the recipe for our family) Next, pour half the sauce over the ham and potatoes. Repeat the layers. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes. Uncover, and bake for 30 minutes more or until potatoes are tender. Let stand five minutes. Serves 4.

** I adjust this recipe for my family. I have found that the cooking time varies according to how much ham I use, and whether or not I double the recipe.

*Recipe is adjusted from the Scalloped Potatoes recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1989.

Hailey likes to help me cook. She did a great job helping me put this meal together. I decided to put some chives on top, and serve with sour cream and cheddar cheese. We added a salad and some sweet tea and we were ready to eat!

A 'Warm Spell'

Well, I have to say it wasn't much of a 'winter storm'; not for us anyway! There was some rain, sleet and a bit of snow on Friday, and it all made for nasty driving conditions, but the kids and I stayed snug in the house. Karl did have to drive to work, but he made it there and back safely. It was still cold and slushy over the weekend, but Monday brought us warmer temperatures. And today the high was about 50 degrees- we didn't even need coats. :) So, the snow is mostly melted, and the kids are celebrating because they should be able to go to Camp Arrowhead tomorrow.

We did not get to visit that church I mentioned. We were supposed to go again on Sunday, but Logan woke up with a temperature so we listened to the service on-line instead. Isn't technology great?! I have to admit, it was difficult to concentrate when the sermon was punctuated every 10-20 seconds with Corbin's shooting sounds from his space ship but we at least got to get 'fed'. I really like the preacher there, and I expect that we will still go for our second visit as soon as we can. Karl had been sick all week last week; I don't know if Logan's illness is related to his or not. I'm just praying that I don't get sick- the other kids either. So far, so good.

Hailey had her ice skating lesson today. I spend most of my time sitting with Corbin, reading to him or practicing his letters, etc. But I do get to catch a glance of her now and then. She seems to be doing well. I noticed today that she and one other child were several feet in front of the other kids during one of their skates across the rink. I think that's an indication that she's doing well, but I may be biased. :)

Logan has had his glasses for a week, now. He has only had one headache (this is something we were dealing with before he got glasses-trying to figure out the cause). I don't know if the reduction is due to the glasses, but I'm thankful nonetheless. Suffering from migraines myself, I have much sympathy for anyone with a headache! Now we just have to get him into the habit of putting them first thing every morning. It took some time with Hailey, lots of reminders, but I know he'll get there.

Karl and I are constantly amazed at the energy Corbin has! Maybe it's because we're older now and WE have less of it so it just SEEMS that he has more than the other kids did, I'm not sure. But he is always moving-running everywhere- and he's so joyful. He's a good boy. He does have his weaknesses, things he has to work on, but he's mostly obedient. However, even when he's not, it's done so joyfully! He always has a smile on his face and is quick to laugh. I love it. He brings joy every day-they all do.

We have a trip coming up at the end of this month, actually Karl does. He has the opportunity to go to London for a week with work; on from there to Romania for a second week. He has never been out of the country, except when we went on the cruises we've taken together. So I think he's excited about this trip. He says he feels guilty leaving me here, that I can't go. I do wish I could go, it would be a great experience. But I'm glad that he will get to do this. If he can he may post some pictures and blog a little while there. It really depends on what he's doing, if he has time. So make sure to come back and check for pictures. The kids and I will be fully stocked and ready to stay put if the weather is bad; but we will take full advantage of any good weather, too. Please keep all of us in your prayers, that we'll be safe and happy during Karl's absence and that he will be successful in his business dealings.

Well, that's all I have for now. I'll try to blog some more tomorrow or Thursday. Have a super week!