Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Part 2

Chris, Kelsey, Clara and Robert rolled into town on Friday evening. Our extended Christmas with them was really fun.

Here's a little peek into our time together.

Clara is pretty happy with all of the American Girl doll accessories she unwrapped.

Clara spends some quiet time playing with some of her Legos and with Robert's Magnatile set. 

Robert asked Santa for some Ninjago Legos, and Santa REALLY delivered! Besides these three sets, he has two more at home! Oh, you might notice the cellophane wrapper on his head. Yes, after two days of Christmas picture-taking, his patience with posing ("Say cheese") was wearing a little thin, so he got creative.
Chris helped Robert to sort the pieces, so they were easier to to find; then Robert went page by page, following the directions to assemble this nearly-200 piece Lego set.

All finished!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day 2014

Christmas Day was relaxing and enjoyable. We started the morning with a special breakfast treat of fresh kolaches, from our local Kolache Kitchen. Then we exchanged gifts.

Here's Mom, showing off a painting of a pear that I did. Although it was only an exercise, she really liked it, so I had it framed for her. We also got her a portable ice-maker for her apartment at Stoney Brook, so she can have iced tea whenever she wants.

Tim has been playing all day with his quadcopter drone with HD camera. Sadly, we forgot to get an SD card, so he wasn't able to take any video, but we'll pick one up tomorrow.

Dan will be kept busy for a while, putting together his wooden model of a working trebuchet. He enjoys small woodworking projects (like the doll house we built for Clara last year), and has always been interested in trebuchets, so it seemed like a good match. 

And Dan knew just what to get for me . . . a table-top easel. It'll make painting a lot more enjoyable!

Even after opening presents this morning, there were still packages underneath the tree. They are for Chris, Kelsey, Clara and Robert, who will be coming to celebrate Christmas with us a little late. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tim is Here!

Tim arrived, to spend Christmas with us, on Sunday evening :-)

Tonight we took him to see the Christmas lights at BLORA (Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, which is located on Fort Hood property). They put on a marvelous annual Christmas light display, which takes about an hour to drive through. I was doing the driving this time, so I only snapped a few quick photos for you. It is much more spectacular than these snapshots would lead you to believe. Mom didn't go with us this time, by the way, because she went a week or so ago in a Stoney Brook bus.

It wasn't quite dark when we began the course, but got dark pretty quickly. As you can see in this picture, BLORA is on the shore of Lake Belton.

The entire manger scene stretched out too far for me to capture in a single picture, but here are the wise men traveling to Bethlehem.

You drive through this tunnel of blinking, pulsating lights to exit the park. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's That Sweet Time of Year!

I've started my Christmas cookie baking! And I'm looking forward to having friends and family around to help us eat them all up!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Happy Birthday Clara

Clara turned nine years old yesterday. I can hardly believe she's growing up so fast! Dan and I drove over to Katy yesterday morning. We got there about lunch time. Clara was in school, but Robert and his Mommy were home. At the end of the day we went to school to pick her up. She didn't know we were coming, so she was surprised to see us there.

This was her second big surprise of the day. Her first one was that her daddy spent the day at her school, volunteering in the "Watch D.O.G.S" program. The Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is a school-based father involvement program. The dads spend at least one day a year helping in their kids' schools by reading with students in small groups and doing other things as assigned by the school principal. Of course, Clara was proud as punch to have her daddy at school all day long.

In the evening, we went to the Rain Forest Cafe for Clara's birthday dinner. Dan and I had never been there before, so it was as exciting for us as it was for the kids. The interior of the restaurant is like a jungle. There are all sorts of life-sized animatronics inside, including elephants and gorillas which were the noisiest of the bunch. Every few minutes a huge thunder and lightning storm occurs, and the animals go pretty crazy. All of the noise was a little overwhelming for the kids. Robert always hid his ears and sometimes covered his eyes, as well, while he waited for the storm to pass and the animals to calm down.

"Too loud!"

For dessert Clara got the chocolate VOLCANO. It was really pretty, with a sparkler in the top and lots of chocolate syrup running down the sides of the decadently rich chocolate cake slices which cradled vanilla ice cream. Yum! The wait staff brought it out singing a loud Volcano song, with lots of clapping.

Once we got back home, the kids took their showers, got into their p.j.s and then got to watch a Frosty the Snowman video before going to bed.

This morning Dan and I went to a nearby hospital, where Clara's school choir (3rd through 5th grades) performed. Kelsey was volunteering at the school for their Santa's workshop, so couldn't be there. I took pictures and recorded some videos for her, so she wouldn't miss out, completely. (This is just a short clip.)

I didn't have any trouble finding Clara in the crowd!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Long-Awaited Birthday Gift

Dan's birthday is in July. One of the gifts I gave him for his special day was a pair of tickets to the Temple Symphony Orchestra's Christmas Concert. So, after waiting six months, he finally got to enjoy that gift, last night.

We had not heard this orchestra before and, considering the size of Temple, did not have high expectations. But before the first piece was finished, we knew we were in for a great treat. The orchestra and its conductor, Thomas Fairly, were first class.

The first half of the program was classical music, and the second half was lighter, more familiar Christmas music. There were also some vocal pieces, featuring one soprano, a baritone, and a combined chorale from San Gabriel and from Temple College.

Near the end, the conductor led the audience in a sing-a-long. It was fun singing with the chorus and the full orchestra.

This program was just what we needed to put us fully into the Christmas spirit. We may make this an annual holiday event.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Art Class

Here are two of my recent art class projects. I hope to do watercolors, eventually, but my teacher says she wants me to get more comfortable with acrylics before moving on to watercolors. She also wants me to continue doing studies of other artists (like these two) for awhile longer, before trying to paint originals from my own photography.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Day and Following

There were a few moments earlier in the week when I wondered if I would be able to pull off the Thanksgiving dinner that I had been so looking forward to. But each day got a little better, and it was a success! By Thanksgiving morning my cold/flu was pretty well behind me and my head trauma was healing nicely. The only thing that still bothered me (and still does) was a pain in my rib cage, which must be a result of the fall.

I did a lot of the preparation on Wednesday, and then, on Thanksgiving morning Dan drove out to Mother Neff Park and picked up Kelsey so she could come and help me finish getting the meal ready. Clara came, too, so we had a nice morning together - just us girls. Around 11:00 a.m. Kelsey, Clara and I drove to Belton and picked up Mom and brought her to the house for the festivities.

The guys showed up around noon - Chris and Robert, and their good friend, Jason (aka J-Dog), and his father, Jon, whom we hadn't met before. All in all, nine folks to gather for the Thanksgiving feast. Oh, I almost forgot that there were two others - Max, the kids' dog; and Zeph, Jason's dog. They enjoyed a beautiful sunny day in the back yard.

Clara and Max, playing in the back yard. Notice Clara's new fashion statement - glasses!
Chris and Robert - two of the special men in my life

Mom, Clara, Robert and I. The sun coming through the window made it a difficult shot, but it's better than no picture at all!

Robert loves our living room rug, because it has roads and a round-about for his cars.
For Friday, Kelsey planned a birthday celebration out at camp. Robert, Clara and Jason all have birthdays in the couple weeks around Thanksgiving (Clara's 9th and Robert's 5th). Clara and Robert knew that there was going to be a party, but it was to be a surprise for J-Dog. It is sooooo hard for a five-year old boy to keep such a big secret like that, but Robert did it!

Kelsey baked the cupcakes at camp, and that takes some talent!
 J-Dog was surprised that he was one of the three birthday honorees.

Kelsey brought a pretty table decoration, but the wind kicked up a bit right at party-time, so what better to keep it on the table than a strip of duct tape (the camper's secret weapon) up and over the top!!! 

J-dog was such a good sport, joining in on the scavenger hunt, playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, and blowing out the imaginary candles, just like one of the kids.

The birthday kids heading to the stump - to find the next scavenger hunt clue.

Clara reads the clue aloud, and everyone tries to guess where to go next.

"Come on J-Dog! Hurry!"

The end of the hunt - and a bag of prizes for the three participants.

Clara gets spun around before trying to pin the tail on the donkey.

Kelsey's turn!

Robert models one of his birthday gifts.

Maybe Kelsey needs her own TMNT cap for Christmas!
Jason is a superb campfire chef! He pretty much takes care of all the meals. That's Jon, his dad, reading in the background.

Dan and Jon really hit it off and spent most of both days in never-ending conversation.