Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas 2017 - Katy, TX

Christmas this year was about as good as they come - with the exception of one missing family member. Tim didn't make it to Texas this year, and was definitely missed.

I got up at 6:00 on Christmas morning and crept down the stairs to find this sweet little package on the sofa, sleeping in the glow of the Christmas tree lights. I'm told that he actually came downstairs at 3:45 to ask if he could look in his stocking. When he was told "Not yet," he went upstairs and woke Clara to let her know that they COULDN'T look in their stockings yet.

Finally, around 7:45 a.m., after gathering in front of the Christmas tree for a photo, everyone got the "okay" to begin passing out and opening gifts.

Clara got a beautiful charm bracelet and several special charms. She was also really pleased with the owl wall decor that Robert made, with a little help, at his Daddy's workbench and using Daddy's tools.

Robert got a Lego kit to make an RC tracked racer. Probably his favorite gift was an aquarium for his bedroom and a gift card to equip the aquarium and buy fish.

For breakfast, Clara made Monkey Bread (seems an appropriate breakfast for the monkey pictured above!), which we enjoyed along with some hot cocoa.

Later that day, for lunch, Chris prepared cold-cuts, including a variety of natural cheeses and cured meats. He taught us a new word, inviting us to enjoy his charcuterie spread.

That evening we talked with Tim by phone, and let him know that he was missed. After the phone call, it turned into "pile-on-Daddy" time.

Clara eventually left the pile and climbed into an easy chair to listen to music on her new MP4 player. This was a birthday gift (Dec. 8), not a Christmas gift. However, there was a speaker for it under the Christmas tree!

But Robert never made it up off the floor. It had been a very long day for him - starting at 3:45 a.m. - and sleep came easily, for both Robert and his Daddy.

The day after Christmas Robert was eager to go to PetSmart to pick out some fish for his aquarium. When we got there, and talked with one of the employees, he told us that the aquarium water needed to sit for a minimum of 24 hours - and maybe as long as several weeks - to be safe for the fish. So Robert picked out some gravel, a beautiful hidden-hole statue, a plant, and a moss ball.

The fish will come later. I thought he might be disappointed at not getting any fish right away, but the moss ball turned out to be almost as good as fish. Robert named it "Mossy," although we tried to get him to name it after a Formula1 race car driver - like "Stirling Moss" or, maybe, "Felipe Moss-a."  But Mossy it was, and he proclaimed his love for Mossy numerous times that day.

On the 27th everyone went to Schlotzky's for lunch. There we took one final photo with the kids, and then left for home. We've got the best grandkids ever! What a joy to share the holidays with them.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Clara's First Orchestra Performance

On Wednesday Dan and I traveled to Houston to attend Clara's school orchestra performance. Clara, being a first year student, performed at the opening of the concert. I guess I'll never get past tearing up when one of my kids or grandkids is on stage. I can't imagine how I'll react when Clara, at some time in the future (I'm sure), performs at Carnegie Hall!

We were surprised at how far these first-year musicians had come already. And by the end of the concert, when we heard the cream of the crop of eighth-graders, we were amazed. Their teacher/director was obviously and justifiably button-popping-proud of them.

First-Year Orchestra. Kelsey was a little disappointed that they were asked to wear their Mayde Creek Jr. High Orchestra hoodies, instead of dressing up a bit. But that didn't seem to affect their performance at all.

Robert seemed to enjoy the concert, for the most part. He did rest his head on Grandpa's shoulder, at one point, and take a short nap.

After the concert, in front of the tree in the lobby of the high school performing arts building.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Party, Party, Party!

Saturday, December 2, was the start of our many, many Christmas festivities.

From noon until 3:00, I volunteered, along with other Salado Village Artists (SVA), at the Bell County Expo Center, for Christmas on the Farm. This is the annual fund-raiser for Aware Central Texas, an organization that works to prevent child abuse and family violence through education and case management. I love this low-cost event for children and their families. There were over 40 fun activities for kids. Our (SVA) booth was the Christmas stocking booth, and we helped over 750 children decorate their stockings.

Decorating stockings at the SVA booth
That same evening we met four other couples from church - Kay and Andy, Kelly and Trish, Larry and Deborah, and David and Denise -  at Olive Garden for dinner before taking in the Temple Symphony Orchestra's Christmas concert. I should have taken a picture or two, but I was too busy having fun.

My book club had their Christmas dinner on Monday (12/4) evening. We were hosted by Jean, an 88-year old member of our club, who loves to entertain. She has lived in the same house for 40 years, and it was not a new house when she and her late husband bought it. I think it was built in the '30s or early '40s, and has tons of character - just like Jean, herself. She kept us in stitches most of the evening with stories of her amazing life. She still volunteers overseas for two or three weeks each year, providing humanitarian aid to people in different countries. She comes by her adventurous spirit naturally, as her parents also traveled widely. Our book under discussion this month was an Agatha Christie Christmas mystery, and we learned that Jean's parents actually met and dined with Agatha Christie once!

First Monday Book Club - holiday dinner at Jean's 
Tuesday (12/5) I drove to Salado to join my friends from SVA for a "fancy" holiday lunch at the Inn on the Creek. One of our members, Connie (I also know her from church), made most of the arrangements, and brought her musically talented daughter, Nan, to play Christmas music throughout the luncheon.

Salado Village Artists - Christmas luncheon at Inn on the Creek, Salado.

Nan, at the keyboard.

Connie with her daughter, Nan.
On Thursday evening (12/7) we enjoyed a musical performance by the Salado Community Choir. A number of our good friends sing in this choir. They did an outstanding job!

Kay and Deborah in the opening song.
And, on Sunday evening (12/10) we celebrated with our church friends. It was a great party, with beautiful decorations, fun games and activities, a visit from Santa and tasty finger foods of all kinds.

Santa "Kelly" Claus entertained the children.
At one point that evening, four teams were formed to compete in decorating four "Christmas trees." Those trees were actually walking/talking Christmas trees, in the form of some of our church staff, including Daniel (youth minister), Joe (preacher), Ray Don (family life minister) and Saturnino (minister to our Spanish speaking members).



Ray Don

and our WINNER, Saturnino!
 I still have one more party to attend -- my Bell County Genealogical Society party -- but I think that's enough partying for one post.

Monday, November 27, 2017

It's Fall, Y'all!

We are in the midst of a beautiful fall! We've had day after day of blue skies, sunshine and temperatures in the 70s during the day. 

Our Thanksgiving, this year, was different, since the kids didn't go camping, as they usually do. We really love those outdoor Thanksgiving dinners, but this one took place at our house, for a change, and it was fun, too.

Robert's birthday always falls near Thanksgiving, and this year it was smack-dab ON Thanksgiving. So when Chris, Kelsey, Clara and Robert arrived, on Tuesday, we went immediately into both Birthday and Thanksgiving prep-mode. This was "Number 8" for Robert, and he was a little disgruntled that he had to share HIS day with the holiday, so we went to some extra efforts to make his birthday special.

Birthday fun included:

Ninjago cupcakes, baked and decorated by Kelsey;

Presents opened first thing in the morning, while the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was put on "Pause;"

Our happy 8-year-old!

Breaking open a mini-piƱata, to find the candy and toy treasures inside the little donkey;

And a three-hour visit to Spare Time, our local arcade, bowling alley and laser tag establishment. Chris took both Robert and Clara, while Dan, Kelsey and I stayed home and got three hours of R&R.

At the Houston Judds' home, Friday evening is always pizza and movie night, so we kept the tradition here. Clara took orders and made all of the pizzas for us, and did a great job! And after dinner we all watched the 2004 version of Around the World in 80 Days.

There was plenty of time for playing games and building robots as well. The kids brought a game called Ticket to Ride with them, which we all enjoyed playing several times.

Playing Ticket to Ride

Building a robot from a kit Robert got for his birthday.

Clara brought her violin, and we were amazed at how fast she is progressing. She only started at the beginning of this school year, and already is playing melodies, some of which she is playing by ear! She is currently first chair in her school orchestra! Every time I see Clara play her violin I get a little lump in my throat. This violin is the one that her great-grandma (my mom) played when she was young, and a music major at Pacific College, in Oregon. A year or two before Mom passed away, she had the violin re-strung and tuned and cleaned, and gave it to Clara. She would be so proud to see it being used by her talented great-granddaughter, Clara.

The day after Thanksgiving I put my new laser light projector out in the front yard, to spread twinkling lights all over the front of the house. And today I put up our small Christmas tree. Christmas will probably be in Houston this year, so no need for my big tree.  So Thanksgiving/Robert's Birthday Celebration is a wrap, and we're on to Clara's concert, her birthday and CHRISTMAS - all coming in December.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Day in Round Top, Texas

Last Saturday was a beautiful fall day, and one packed with good times.

In the morning, Dan attended his first Sons of the American Revolution (S.A.R.) meeting, and was inducted into it. His Revolutionary patriot was John Judd, born June 27, 1761, in Waterbury, Connecticut. He served as a private for Connecticut and, later, for Pennsylvania.

At 11:30, Andy, Kay and I drove to the library, where we retrieved Dan from his meeting and set out on our two-hour trip to Round Top, Texas.

Round Top is a tiny little village, a haven for antiques, art galleries and eclectic gift shops.

Despite its size - population 90 - Round Top is home to a world class center for performing arts, known as Round Top Festival Hill. The Festival Institute was established in Round Top in 1971, by concert pianist James Dick. The campus, today, has grown to over 200 acres and includes a chapel, a number of historic homes and other buildings, and spectacular landscaping. The centerpiece of the campus is the Festival Concert Hall. The interior is breathtaking, with all of its custom-made woodwork. (If you are interested in details of the woodworking, take a look here.)

The Festival Concert Hall.

Entrance gate to Edythe Bates Old Chapel 

Edythe Bates Old Chapel

Interior of the Concert Hall

At Festival Hill we met up with some of Andy's family, and enjoyed a concert by the Baylor Brass Quintet, composed of five Baylor University professors. They performed a great variety of pieces - some classical, some more contemporary - in the Festival Concert Hall.

After the concert, Andy, Kay, Dan and I drove to Jack Allen's Kitchen, a fabulous restaurant in Round Rock (different from Round Top), where we had a late dinner before returning home.