Sunday, August 30, 2009

Financial Peace

I am so excited. Sunday I started the Financial Peace University, created by Dave Ramsey. If you haven't seen him on Fox's Business Channel or heard him on the radio, this is his website: www.daveramsey.com. I had heard his name before, and I know he is a financial smarty, but I didn't know he is a Christian (it's not hard to figure out, I just hadn't put on my listening ears in the past). I have been really careful about researching long term money plans because I want advice from someone that understands money priorities as a Christian, but I have no idea about stocks, money market accounts, etc etc, and he is breaking it down. I have had financial planning on my To Do list since I started full time teaching b/c I live in the near future, with some savings in the bank, but I need to start thinking about long term financial purchase planning, and retirement (beyond the basic)). It's been a need, but I had never really made it a priority. Thanks to Heidi, this came onto my radar! She took this course a few years back, and said that it is life changing. I was so grateful for the info, and I immediately started researching. The classes are given by lots of area churches, but it's a 3+ month commitment (worth every minute for a life time of changes), but waiting for a new series of classes to 'start' took time, and it took awhile to carve some things out of my life, so I could place this in my life (it shouldn't have been so hard). I also knew I wanted to do this, but this also means I need to create a 'hobby' budget, and...uhh....I'm fabulous on a budget as long as we aren't talking stickers, fabric, random wooden shapes, and paint....then...I'm a nut, and I don't know if I want to face the reality in that zone of my life! Sunday was class #1....and it was every bit as good as I had hoped! I can't wait to learn more. I know this is a LONG TERM project....I think I'm about to map out the next 5 years of my life with careful planning, and then attaching a lifetime of balanced budgeting, but it's good to have a plan, I'm getting old! ....and now....off to do some homework. Homework...music to my teacher ears! :O)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Missing Muffin


Yesterday it became obvious that Muffin was declining quickly. She has not been eating well for the last three months, despite our best efforts, and creative meal planning. She is less than a month shy of 18, so it's not unusual, but it was still hard knowing she wouldn't be here much longer. I was glad I got to pet her last night, and tell her to say, "Hello" to Ben, and Cindy before she passed away sometime before morning. Muffin was the best cat. She NEVER bit, scratched, or chased toes in the middle of the night. She had all the dogs, (and people) in this house under control. She let me poke her, flip her, and pull her around any which way without a single complaint. She was an 11 year kitty breast cancer survivor, and she had the prettiest green eyes I've ever seen. Muffin was 'my' first pet (though she came into a pack of family pets I loved at the time, she was 'mine'). I had wanted another dog, but that didn't work out, I got a cat-and I couldn't be happier about that outcome-she's what I needed. She has been with me for more than half of my life, I held her the day she was born (my cousin's cat's kitten), and the day she passed away. She 'knew me when.' I liked to pretend she too remembered and missed the good ole' days in my childhood home, our pet family Cindy, and Ben, and my Grandad along with all the other special places and memories that made me---me. I always find one of my little furr babies when I get home from a hard day for a hairy hug, and I liked to think Muffin really 'got me' since she experienced so many of the things that shaped me. I never deal well with death, but it was worth the 18 years of life that I got to spend with her. I'd never trade the experience despite the sadness at the end. I know I'll always miss Muffin.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Newest Toy


I bought this Ice Cream machine in Old Town Pasedena at Sur La Table. I am only allowed in this sort of store on very rare occasions. This was just such an occasion. I haven't used it yet, but it has all the doo dads I 'need' for ice cream fun. I certainly didn't need it, but...it was right up my alley. Now....to plan a get together--->in addition it can give me something to look forward to doing next summer! P.s. I should add-I've always secretly desired to be able to fill a cone as beautifully as the Dairy Queen Employees that get those pudgy little stacks of ice cream, with that cute little curl on top. We all need goals. That's one of mine!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekend in Austin

The State Capitol

Kelly, Holly, and I headed down 35 to Austin this weekend. We made a quick stop in West for Kolaches, and once we got to Austin Kelly, and Holly catered to some of my 'to do list wishes' for our Capitol City. I have been down many times, but it's been the wrong season, or I've been with people who insisted they did NOT want to see the bat colony that lives under the Congress Street Bridge. There is an estimated 750,000 that live under the bridge, and fly out around sunset (most fly south in the winter, but they follow this routine the rest of the year). We couldn't find a place to park near the bridge, so we found one on the other side of the river, and we walked along a trail so we could overlook a part of the river the bridge spanned. Sure enough, they all began flying out around sunset. There was a continuous massive line flying out for more than 30 minutes. It was a pretty spectacular sight (they said the best time to see this was in late August). They were off to eat insects in the area....
Bats

...then we were off to eat BBQ. This was another item on my 101 wish list. I have seen this restaurant featured on tons of national shows, including three Food Network Specials.
The Salt Lick

It's a BYOB restaurant, though they do serve sodas. We got a big selection of their meats and sides. The sauce was different, less sweet, more vinegar, the meat had more 'pepper'...I love pepper. The atmosphere was really fun, very relaxed, rustic, located in the middle of the hill country, and a vineyard, with a lot of outdoor seating, and a live band. It was completely packed.
On Saturday Holly, and I went swimming at Barton Springs. They dammed up a portion of the cold springs, and created a pool for the waters to flow through. There was more moss, and water plants than I remembered, and the water was like swimming in a cup of ice water. We basically built a layer of goosebumps to help us adapt and swim, but it was fun to swim in the fresh spring waters, I think August may be be one of the few months I can manage this because even with it being 103 degrees, it was so cold.
Barton Springs

We ate at Threadgill's for lunch, near the Springs. I had never heard of the restaurant, but it was great homecooking, and according to the restaraunt, a local legend.
That evening the three of us went to see Wicked the Musical. Holly is obsessed, Kelly had never been, and this was my third time, but it's so cute, I'm always game.
Wicked at Bass Concert Hall

We stayed at the Doubletree downtown with a suite room, and a balcony overlooking the middle of downtown (thanks to Kelly's connection working at a hotel, we got a great deal, and an even better room). It was a fun girl's weekend, but I'm glad to be home, with no real plans to leave town (though plenty of plans IN town) for the next few weeks. Starting with a herd of students coming back to school tomorrow! Time to get some sleep!

Time Around Pasadena

I'll summarize the two and a half days we spent in Pasadena, and two days on the road home to the best of my ability. BUT one of my favorite this to say is, "....to make a short story long." because I can over analyze, overtalk, and overreport on just about anything. Here's my very best effort.
Wednesday night we arrived in Pasadena and headed over to Jimmy, Lydia, Blythe, and the cats' new home. Lydia's family were in town through Tuesday to visit, and help them move in (thus, our stop in San Francisco to share the visit). They were sweet enough to let us swing by, despite the chaos in their lives, and spend some time with them. We met precious little Blythe Anne on Wednesday (as I previously posted about), and got to catch up with Jimmy and Lydia.
(One of their two cats, October looks so much like my old cat, Cindy-she's just nicer than Cindy (Cindy had too much 'personality' to be 'nice'), and maybe a little rounder :O))

Thursday we headed back over to visit with Lydia and Blythe, and then we went to their 'old' home in Pasadena to help with the last minute clean up. In the afternoon, Blythe napped, and Mom and I headed to Old Town Pasadena (very near our hotel) and shopped up and down the streets (beautiful). That evening everyone met up again at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.

Friday we took Jason to see some of the sights and sounds of LA. We started in Hollywood and ate at Johnny Rockets, saw 'the' Hollywood sign, walked along the Stars, and examined the handprints/footprints in front of the Chinese Theater. (Just fyi, if you drive to Hollywood, there is a 'mall' garage you can park at by the Kodak Theater, it's two dollars if you get your ticket stamped at one of the restaurants in the open air mall (the same open aired 'mall' with the views of the Hollywood sign)). Next we headed over to Santa Monica Beach. We decided Jason would like the Pier. I sat on the sand and people watched. The surfers were out in full force ( sharks had been spotted the last few days in those areas (with seals), and I had just finished watching shark week on Discovery....so....). The water is FREEZING, and rougher than the gulf 'near' me, and I find-I like the sand in CA!

I did dip my feet in, but it's sort of like burying your toes in a block of ice.
That evening we went back over to see the family, eat dinner, play games, and to watch/hold Blythe. It was not long enough, and it's so hard to leave her, she wouldn't promise not to grow, but I'll see if we can continue getting pictures posted online.
Saturday and Sunday we made the LONG drive home. We drove along the 'bottom' of the states this time. We drove through Palm Springs with miles....and miles...and miles of wind farms (sure, these aren't rare to see, but it's the sheer number that impresses me here). I rediscovered the barrel cactus in Arizona that grow 'down' there. I love these cactus-they are the ones I've doodled a million times in looooong meetings at work). When we got to West Texas on day two, we drove through Sweetwater-my grandfather's home town. Mom had never been. We didn't get to see much of it, but it was just nice to know-he drove those rodes once upon a time!

It was an action packed trip. For a 'full' photo story, this is a link to my shutterfly album. http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=0b6ab7cdd7a87e5b6276141d224b0f78&sid=0AZMmrNw0YsmLJYA

Highway One-San Francisco to Los Angeles...Almost


The plan was that we would take Highway One for an hour or two while heading towards the LA area. I had heard some of the prettiest sights on Highway One were on this stretch of the road, but it takes two days to really see it the way it's supposed to be enjoyed b/c it's really curvy, with horseshoe shaped turns, two lanes, and 35 mph hilly driving, and cliff hugging highway. We didn't get off on the spot we had planned in order to move over to a 'regular highway' after the first hour or two...and we ended up getting 'stuck' on the highway. It was gorgeous, despite the fog that obstructed some of the views. There were tons of pull outs, but we only stopped a few times in our goal to get to Pasadena and family time. I would for sure recommend going along this route to anyone with time, and perhaps a strong(er) stomach. I've never been good with motion, so it had me feeling a little ill to be transferred from side to side as we took the turns, and I hadn't anticipated this so I could take medicine. It look 10 or 11 hours of driving (more than the predicted 5-6 on 'regular' highway), but after the scenic drive we headed straight to see the family.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day Three in San Francisco


Our first adventure of the day was a ride on the old Cable Cars. (We rode them again later in the afternoon as well). It was a tight squeeze, but it had to be done! It was interesting to make our way up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco, and it required some real skill for the drivers to get our momentum...and breaks 'just right' to find success.

We also watched the drivers turn the cars at the end of each route. I noticed that the transportation employees tended to lack 'traditional' customer service methods. They did a lot of screaming, and they administered quite a few insults, but it was certainly a unique experience!
In the afternoon Mom and I headed out to see the famous row of Victorian Homes (Nicknamed 'Postcard Row' or 'The Painted Ladies). They have a lot of history, but....I just love them because they were featured in Full House in the opening credits. One of the homes was in the process of being painted, but they were certainly lovely to look at from Alamo Park across the street.

Our next stop was Lombard Street. It's one of the crookedest streets around. We stood and watched lots of fellow tourist attempt the curvey street.

Day Two in San Francisco: Baseball Game


It was Jason's idea to attend a game (he went again the second night as well), and it just so happened the games going on while we were in town was a huge rival: The SF Giant's vs. The LA Dodgers. I have NEVER seen a crowd quite like this! There were a pretty respectable number of Dodger's fans, but I have to say-I feared for them. Even walking to get concessions they were heckled by the Giant fans, hats were stolen, and thrown around, bullies! The boos were serious when it came to anything Dodgers. Another scary thing-there were no less than FIVE fights in the stands where huge crowds formed, officer had to come in, and over zealous fans were removed. I've never seen anything like it. The Giant fans were spirited, but to a frightening level....even though I was rooting for the Dodgers (only because Jason told me too, and I really didn't have an opinion), I told my Mom we were going to clap when the Giants did anything good so we could make it out of there in one piece. I cheered silently for the Dodgers, who won. The other interesting element to this field is that kayakers hang out in the bay just beyond walls where pop flies sometimes go, and they wait for a piece of the prize. There were three guys that had even rigged a raft out of plywood and some sort of floatation device. Theybrought along a grill, beach balls, and lawn chairs, pretty amusing!

I think this is the only stadium with this view, fog rolling through, and sea gulls swooping around as ball games are played! It was also COLD as the sun set!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day Two in San Francisco: Fisherman's Wharf


We walked around the wharf, and ate lunch at Fisherman's Grotto.

The food was fine, but the view was what it was all about. (This is the harbor the restaurant overlooks, I took this picture from the outside, but you get the point- it's pretty!)

They served Sourdough Bread, the rest was fine, but who really cares about a meal when there is an endless bowl of bread?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Bread is Born

I have to interrupt this trip report to tell you about the most exciting part of San Francisco. They birth Sour Dough Bread there!
video
YUUUUUUUUUUUUUM! It's everywhere (mostly filled with clam chowder). The story is this bread likes this foggy climate. Little loaves of bread were EVERYWHERE (including in my tummy), and served with meals. If I didn't like anything else in San Francisco....I'd like it for the bread alone. There is one large bakery in Fisherman's Wharf called Boudin that has huge windows inside and out so you can see the bread being 'born.' There is also a section where workers shape the bread into super cute shapes (along with traditional loaves). Here are just a few of the end products: Once the bread bakes they fill baskets with it, and it floats throughout the restaurants (there is line of these baskets 'flying' around in an assembly line of yumminess (there is some reason for this, it goes to the different eateries, and counters via these baskets, but let's pretend it goes to bread heaven). There is a store, restaurant etc etc etc that serves this 'heavenly bread.' Excuse me while I go book another trip to San Francisco...

Day Two in San Francisco: The Golden Gate Bridge


Another 101 List Item was visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. The idea was to drive across it (what was I thinking?), BUT I decided I was going to walk across the bridge instead, I made the list, I can adapt as needed. It was a great day (I saw the following day when the fog rolled it how it is many of the days people visit, so I was grateful for a beautiful view). We walked about halfway across the bridge, it was windy, and busy (there were LOTS of bikers who had rented bikes, and didn't have a slow speed sharing the bridge). Golden Gate Bridge: Check!

Day Two in San Francisco: Walking Along the Bay

After our trip to Pier 39, we decided to walk along San Francisco's Bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. We had read it was a 3.5 mile walk, but after we walked 3.5 miles, we figured it to be about 3.5 MORE miles, and found a bus route. Here are a few highlights from the walk. It was an unusually sunny, and very warm day which left us with some clear pictures, and a sunburn!
Alcatraz
They were booked 6 weeks out....just another 'overcrowded prison' I guess :O)
Ghirardelli Square
The birth place of some YUMMY chocolate...

Lots of Ships
Here is one built by women during WW2.

The Beach
People were swimming in these cold waters along with seals and sea lions.

View from Fort Mason
This was a very steep climb, but a really great view! The buildings below were where soldiers shipped out from during WW2.

Park
We stumbled upon this park on the way to find a bus to take us the rest of the way to the bridge!

Day Two in San Francisco: Pier 39

video
Our first official site-seeing stop in San Francisco was Pier 39. I had to see the Sea Lions! They are very cute, very loud, and they don't like to share their docking space (sort of like a wet version of my dogs trying to find 'their spot' in bed in the evenings). There were a lot more than the ones pictured here (and this is about 1/5 of the population that usually hangs out on the docks, but the rest headed out on a summer vacation). Along with a spot to sit and watch the Sea Lions, the Pier also has tons of places to eat, shop, and play. We did a bit of all of the above! There was a pair of Sea Lions who spent more than thirty minutes pushing each other off the dock, leaping back up, pushing, leaping....it actually never stopped, I just left, they are probably still there fighting over the perfect spot. I think the Sea Lions in San Francisco have to be one of my favorite things! We actually swung by the Pier 3 times in the two days we were in town.

If You're Going to San Francisco...


It was a long day, but we finally made it to San Francisco after sunset, so our first sight was one of the huge bridges that crosses the bay. I should say-I don't like bridges, at all. My Mom is almost blind at night when it comes to driving, but when you weigh that fact with the idea that I want to close my eyes on bridges....we figured limited sight was better than no sight, so she did the drive over the bridge. There are a lot of bus lanes, and bike lanes, but we maneuvered our way to our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Whitcomb which is near the Convention Center. We didn't book our room until closer to the trip, but this was still a great find, and very affordable (if you can't stay near Fisherman's Wharf, I recommend the hotel). It's been around since 1916, but the rooms are well kept, and the lobby has a fun feel, and lots of fun little quirks. There is also a Starbuck's, and restaurant in the hotel, so no complaints there!


The nice thing is it's at the end of a line of hotels along transportation routes, so we were one of the first people to hop on, and there was usually a seat to be found. I should say at this point-I did find the transportation a little bit LESS easy to maneuver than some cities b/c they have four choices that each go different places. There is the historic F car, the famous Cable Cars, a metro underground/AND above ground, and bus routes. We took them all at one point or another (it was easier than parking in an overpriced city with no spots, regardless of the high cost). They were pretty crowded, and I don't know how parents with small kids maneuver them calmly, BUT they come frequently, and you can get around to all the big sites.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Few Fun Stops

On the way to California, we made a few fun stops. First, Big Boys: I miss this place, we used to go to Kip's Big Boy in Richardson when I was little, and it's fun to revisit those memories. The food is fine, but it's really all about 'the Big Boy.'

Driving up the middle of California, we drove past tons of crops....hours, and hours worth of fruits, veggies, nuts, and cows (I'm still sad about the cows, I want to believe they come from the grocery store:O(). I like to find neat little places to take a break, including this Farmer's Market. The farm where the products came from surrounded the farm, which was something I had not seen before, but pretty neat. You could pick your own, but I let them do the work for me.

Life is a Highway

I love Williams, Arizona. I understand there are a variety of (probably) fabulous places to stay outside the Grand Canyon, but I like Williams! It was our second night on the road, and it’s a cute town along Route 66! I’d be interested to hear about other little towns like Flagstaff, AZ but….I can’t help going back to a place I KNOW I love. This town is great b/c it’s at the base of some mountains, so it’s cool in the evening, it reminds me of CO in the summer. We stayed here the first time around b/c there is a train that goes to the Grand Canyon, which was neat, but we decided to drive these last two trips, and were drawn back to Williams for the atmosphere. There are a row of cute little souvenir shops, motels, and soda shops. There are plenty of motorcyclist, and antique car lovers who stay in the town, which can make for some interesting scenes along the streets. We always eat at a restaurant called Cruisers 66, and thus far, the food has been good, and they have a really neat eclectic atmosphere, and live music at night.


The town has a 50's feel, with only small accomodations (mostly motels, with some inns, and small hotels), but they are all nice, including Motel 6 (it's true) WEST (there are two). Sure, you get some really colorful comforters, and one bar of soap upon entering your room, BUT they have a pretty large, indoor HEATED (yes, it actually isn’t cold AT ALL) pool, AND a good sized hot tub etc etc. I dig it. There is a nice little lobby with sofas and a fireplace you can hang out next to as well (just to emphasize why I’m promoting this as a great place to stay, other than saved money, which should be reason enough!). This go round, we had about enough time for dinner, a swim, and a quick sleep before heading on down the road…

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Grand Canyon and a Few of Her Residents


We stopped at the Grand Canyon on the way to Williams, AZ (our stay Saturday night). This was Jason's first time to see the Canyon, and Mom and I's third trip.

Every time I get to see something new, and the size never fails to amaze me. Yet, I can't retain the 'real' size in my mind, and I certainly can't capture it on film, it's too grand, it just doesn't fit! There are certainly not enough adjectives to capture the experience on a blog, though one verb seems pretty accurate: GO! If you haven't been, you must GO! This trip, we stayed near the first few rims upon entering, and we walked around the Village areas and shops along the rim (you can take a bus and see more sites, but this had to be a shorter trip than last year b/c of the number of things we were squeezing into this week). On the way out of the park this time, we saw some Elk!

Four big guys were just hanging out, munching on grass. We were about the fourth on the 'scene', and were quickly joined by fellow park attendees. People got very close taking their pictures....I stood back, but still got some fun shots. The last thing we spotted before leaving was a much larger group of lady 'elk' or rather, calves a minute down the road.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Believe in Reading the End First


I confess, I read the end of books first. I want to make sure they have a happy ending before I invest time into the read. So, on my blog-I'll start at the end of my story. This past week and a half my Mom, brother, and I made a trip to CA, with some great stops along the way, and a good ending, this is the ending, the rest will follow. Our motivation for this trip was making time to meet cute, little Blythe Anne before she got any older. She's the first of the next generation in our family, and she's a fabulous place to start that generation. We arrived in Pasadena on Wednesday evening, and headed straight to Jimmy, Lydia, Blythe, October, and Zippy's new house to get in a few hugs, and holds. Blythe is the cutest little girl (sure I'm biased, but also, truthful) with big blues eyes, a serious outlook on the world around her, and the best little facial expressions. She loves her Mom, a LOT, and is happiest in her arms, but can appreciate a good nap with Dad as well. She isn't so sure about the rest of us, maybe Jimmy told her the story about the finger I cut (for the record, I was SAVING him, but I'll have years to tell my side of the story when she is a little bit older). In any case, over the two and a half days we were there, we snuck in a few Blythe 'holdings', I got to take her on a walk that put her to sleep, and she was completely fine with us playing with her as she bounced in her chair, or kicked on her back after changing. She also blessed us with the best smiles. She so precious, it was hard not to hold her the whole time, but I didn't want to leave any scars....so maybe I can sneak in a few more squishy hugs when we see her again for Christmas. It was hard to say good bye and know how many months it will be before we see her again, but I feel blessed by the internet, digital cameras and facebook friends who also share pictures of this little one. Here is my little album on facebook. I can only imagine what I would have done with a full week of photos. More pictures to come from the trip, but these were some of my favorites of Blythe and her world! http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=99608&id=725172809&l=69d29eee07

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Prayer Request

I'm traveling to California with my Mom and brother tomorrow. Please play for safe travels. This is also an unexpected opportunity to spend some time with Jason. He's never really wanted to come along with us before (I can't imagine why, we're real fun girls), and I'm really excited he is coming. I hope this can be a really memorable, and healing time for him after a tough last few months. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers over this next week, and beyond as he continues to search for comfort, and understanding and God's purpose for him. It's hard not to see God's hand in the rugged beauty of the West's scenery, and I hope that surround each of us on this trip!

I Knew I'd Find a Purpose For My Purchase

I just found these pictures I took (cleaning out a disk so I have plenty of room for pictures of Blythe), this is one of three buckets I HAD to purchase awhile back, and I posted about their potential. I have to ration these fabulous finds out (the next two will someday find a purpose_, just in case they stop selling them. If I had the space, I'd buy out the stores of all the cute, clean paint buckets, mason jars, sucker sticks, and cellophane bags I could find (I can't explain why these are the things I gravitate towards-I wish I craved purses or something normal). I mailed it, so I needed a record of how it was supposed to look after a few days travel in the heat (chocolate, and soda, maybe not the best summer shipping articles). I made this for Maurine a month or so back to commiserate with, AND CELEBRATE her morning sickness. :O) Here is my first clear buckets home:
Pregnancy Survival Kit

Reverse

The Guts of the Gear

"Left Over" Recycled Crayons


The pickings were slim on color choices with my recycled crayons towards my last tray of letters this last go round of 'alphabet crayon making.' (I n case you think I've colored through my last set, I try to keep a supply around to take with me when visiting friends with kiddos, but....I ran out awhile back). I had seen an article in Family Fun or somewhere like that on cookie cutter crayon making. I decided to toss some of my extras into a pan (I made it shallower, and less messy by making a tray out of foil). I didn't want to mix up too many colors, or you just get 'dark' and I like the hippy crayon look.

I baked the crayons, and then let them cool (trying not to slosh around the liquid crayons too much when removing them from the tray) just enough to cut out the shapes with a cookie cutter. I chose the bear because that's my current schools mascot...and also-my old school's-Sic'Em Bears...they will someday have a home in fellow alumn's child's art collection-I need to start them out young on the road to Baylor. I'm not sure if I can melt the left over 'cuts' again, or if the colors would just be too mixed up...I'll revisit that later. OK....and to be honest-peeling off the papers actually gives me sore thumbs after awhile, AND it's a bugger to clean the cookie cutters, and trays. They are pretty cute though, and I was able to peel off the papers while watching a Deadliest Catch marathon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Happy 24th Birthday, Holly!