Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mad Hatter Tea Party

I'm part of a spouses' group that does monthly get-togethers, often at someone's house, and this past Tuesday I hosted a Mad Hatter tea party (we are the Madhatters).  I had somewhere around 15 or 20 people over and I made all the food and stuff.  I was working on it nonstop all day Monday and Tuesday, and I *just* finished washing all the dishes a little bit ago this afternoon.  I still have one or two things to put up before the house is back to normal, but it's getting there.  I was exhausted yesterday so most of the cleanup (especially dishes) was today.

Anyway, I only took a few pics before people arrived and I was silly and didn't take any of the food.  Oops.  I did make cute little signs for all the dishes and stuff, and a sign for the front door, but that's about all the time I've spent in my craft room all week.

This is what it looked like on Tuesday morning.  Every time I die-cut a bunch of stuff, the dogs like to chew on the paper scraps...I probably shouldn't encourage that since I think that's why Vader thinks it's okay to eat the Royal Post when it's pushed through our mail slot next to the front door.  Oops.  But anyway, there's my girl Sadie having fun with multicolored paper scraps amid all the creative clutter that is my craft room.

This is Vader's idea of "stay out of the kitchen".  He thinks he *has* to be able to see everything I'm doing in the kitchen, and the door and cabinets block his view.  I'm constantly chasing him out of there even if he is cute : ) I get tired of tripping over him when I cross the kitchen to get to the oven.

My sign for the front door.  I didn't want to be constantly running to get the door when I knew perfectly well I was having a bunch of people show up, so I left the door unlocked and put the sign up.  Seemed to work for the most part, I only heard the doorbell ring a couple times.  After I stamped the flowers on it I thought D'OH!  Why didn't I do a teacup?  I have a teacup stamp!  The perils of late-night stamping.

Here's my collection of mugs for those who didn't bring their own tea cup (the sign says "NEW CUP!" because the Mad Hatter and March Hare yell that before they all move down one seat at the table).  I spy Mary Poppins, Tinker Bell, a Care Bear, a Baylor bear, and some Mary Engelbreit artwork.  And tucked in the middle is my newest mug which features the Cowardly Lion.  When Lee's not looking I think I'll have to acquire the Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow too, hehe.

These are all the caffeine-free teas, also known as...

The Dormouse's "Take a Nap" teas.  Because he's asleep in the teapot.

And here is my (much larger) collection of caffeinated teas...

...endorsed by White Rabbits everywhere who are running late.  I did signs for all the food I didn't take pictures of too, and really with the SU Floral Framelits dies and a bit of stamping, all my signs came together in like 20 minutes.  And then everyone grabbed handfuls of jellybeans as they went around the table getting food.  Lucky for me that all the Easter candy is out 'cause I got the really good jellybeans, like five bags of them.

So you want to know what I made food-wise?  Because I'm crazy like this, all the recipes I used were new to me.  So here's the menu:

- Ham & Swiss pie.  This must have been good because it was gone in about two minutes...I didn't even get to try it.

- Mock Turtle Soup (really vegetable soup).  I looked up actual recipes for mock turtle soup and they all involved ox tails or organ meats and NO WAY am I eating any of that.  I found an easy and quick recipe for veggie soup in my Southern Living cookbook and about 95% of it was gone at the end of the night too.  If anyone is interested I can post that recipe later.

- Bread & Butterflies.  Toast a piece of sourdough bread, cut it with a large butterfly-shaped cookie cutter, and put butter on it.  Voila!  Cute and easy and goes with the theme.

- Bacon Tomato Basil Dip.  This took longer than I thought it would to put together, what with all that herb mincing, but it too was gone at the end of the night.  I served it with Ritz crackers and had a plate of cheese slices too and all that was left was two lonely Ritz crackers.  I put them out of their misery...chomp!

- The Queen of Hearts (Stolen) Berry Tarts.  I looked all over for tart recipes and found one that called for blending up a few things (milk, some cream, eggs, a couple other things) and then microwaving it to cook it.  It tasted okay but didn't really set up so it was kinda runny when I put the tarts together (I cut up strawberries and added some other berries and cut kiwi).  It was only afterward that I thought WHY DIDN'T I JUST DO INSTANT PUDDING?!  It would have been SO much easier (and I wouldn't have had to clean the blender).  Gah!  Notes for next time.

- Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies.  These were gooood, definitely keeping the recipe.  I'm not embarrassed to say I had one for breakfast yesterday.

- Lemon brownies.  These were okay, but I had one today and all the glaze didn't really set on top of the bars, it's all over the bottom of the pan so it's kinda like an upside down cake or something.  I'm not sure I'd make these again, they're kind of similar to lemon squares with a tart glaze on top...if I do make them again, I'll decrease the lemon juice in the glaze and maybe it will set better.  And maybe I could try making orange brownies.  Oh, I got a microplane zester when I was in the States and used it for the first time to make these and it was AMAZING.  Why did I wait so long to get a zester?  I will totally be using fresh lemon zest in all my recipes instead of the dried lemon peel they sell in the spice aisle.  Bonus:  the house smelled like lemons for a day and I didn't even use lemon-scented cleaner.

- Happy Unbirthday Carrot Cake.  At the risk of repeating myself, this was AMAZING.  I bought a springform pan just so I could make this recipe.  I loved that it didn't have coconut in it (hate coconut) and next time I'll have to try adding some raisins to it.  The frosting is to die for too, I had a giant spoonful of it after I frosted the cake.  What, there was some left over and I couldn't very well let it go to waste, could I?!  The only thing that took a long time with this cake was grating the carrots.  And I'm gonna have to take one for the team and eat the last piece of it so that I can wash the cake stand.  It's tough, I tell ya.

So there's what I made; the tea was all set up in the kitchen with a couple of fast-boil tea kettles and then I had all the chairs in the living room and Alice in Wonderland playing on the TV with the sound on low.  Everyone seemed to have a good time and I'm fairly certain the food was a success, even if it was ALL experimental.  The only thing I had kind of a lot of left over were the tarts.  I didn't realize that I hadn't used even one of the recipes before until I'd gotten everything just about ready.  Ha!  Guess I like an element of uncertainty when I host a party?!  Or perhaps I'm just mad.  We're all mad here, you know.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Practically Knee Deep...

I brushed Sadie today while Lee was doing our taxes.  Have you EVER seen that much shed dog hair all in one place?!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thriplow Daffodil Festival

Karen dragged me to an early-morning gym class on Saturday (who does early morning workouts on SATURDAY?!...okay, it was 8:30 but that's early!!) and my legs are still sore.  Then we went to another class tonight and I'm wondering if I'll be able to lift my arms over my head tomorrow morning.  Good thing I washed my hair tonight...

So in between killing ourselves at the gym because we're crazy, yesterday we (and by we, I mean Karen, Karyn, me, and several other people) went out to brunch for Karen's birthday (she's a St. Paddy's baby!) and then to the Thriplow daffodil festival.  Reminds me of Japan, they had festivals for all kinds of flowers...cherry blossoms, lotus, azaleas, orchids, lilies...probably a good thing I missed the Ie Island lily festival though, I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to lilies.  They're beautiful but OH SO SMELLY.

I digress.

Thriplow daffodil festival!  Unfortunately, it's been much colder this year than the past couple of years, so the festival was a bit light on daffodils.  We saw a few, but there's lots more that hadn't bloomed yet.  But first up...

A patch of yellow crocus!  We decided yesterday that the plural of crocus is croci (both hard c's, like in crocus).  Croci sounds cooler than crocuses.  And reminds me of crocodiles.

Hey look, I found some daffs!

I didn't take a whole lot of pictures yesterday, but luckily Karen did and she kindly burned a disc for me.  I just emailed her the paltry few pics I took, it wasn't many (less than 10) and I have some kind of mental block against learning how to burn CDs.  Lee's taught me like five times and I still have no clue.

We got in a debate about what kind of flowers these are and we're still not sure but the conclusion we came to was maybe hyacinths?  Some gardening type out there has got to have the answer.

I love that I live in a place where it's not uncommon to see thatched roofs.  Because awesome.  They're covered with small-gauge chicken wire to keep the critters out.

More daffs!  Basically, the daffodil weekend events take over the entire village,  so they stop traffic and set up booths and things and a few of the homes have their gardens open for people to walk through and look.  Again, sad face that the cold weather lately (it kept trying to snow last week) hasn't been kind to the flowers.  But I did find a booth selling some inexpensive teapots and dishes, so I bought a few things including a super-cute teeny teapot with daffodils on it.

No idea what these are, but they're cheery.

Purple croci!  I've seen a few patches around our village, but most of them haven't bloomed yet.  We also saw several patches of snowdrops (love snowdrops, they remind me of Stardust), but since those have been out for quite some time they looked a little on the sad side.  I have a teeny patch of them next to the conservatory at the back of our house, and we've got some daffodils coming up too that haven't bloomed yet.  But no croci.

Giant draft horse!  They had some horse-drawn wagons ferrying people from one end of the village to the other.  It always amazes me how BIG their feet are.  Side note:  there's a breed of horse that is indigenous to this area of England called the Suffolk Punch, but sadly they're heading for extinction.  I think I saw a thing where there's only about 300 left; they used to be used for farm work but now mostly farmers use tractors.  And slow down traffic hereabouts driving along the roads.

Here's the Ferret Man.  I think it's funny that the ferret cage says "danger" on it.

It's not a fairy ring; the mushrooms were wood carvings to put in your garden.  They also had a bear and some really neat-looking old man faces.

I'm SO glad Karen took a picture of this, because I didn't even see it!

We got to see part of a sheepdog demonstration, where he herded ducks all over this open field.  Karen heard the dog's owner saying that only one of the ducks has a name, the brown one--Tude, because he has an attitude.  We spent probably 10 minutes watching the dog herd the ducks, it's more fun than it sounds.

There's Karen with some daffs!  She says her hat (it's a Highland Coo hat) looks like she killed something and hung its pelt from her backpack; I said it looks more like she has some kind of crime-fighting ferret sidekick hanging on her sleeve.  (Note to self:  Moxie Crimefighter joke goes here.)

There's me and Karyn!  I quite like this picture.  And we've both got our green on for St. Paddy's Day, how do you like my Baylor scarf?  I love the color on Karyn's coat too.  Then again, green is my favorite color.  I didn't even dye any food green this year for St. Paddy's Day....

There was a whole herd of sheep in a small pen and lots of cute little lambs.  That one on the left looks like he's playing King of the Mountain.

Baa ram ewe!  They're cute and they make funny noises.

Karen is obsessed with hedgehogs; she wants to catch one and make a pet out of it and squeeze it and love it and call it George.  Karyn came running back to us all excited when she saw the hedgehog boxes and had to show them to Karen.  Karyn actually gets hedgehogs in her yard from time to time; Karen is jealous.  Are you confused as to which one is which yet?

Last pic, Karen loved the daff trash can.

After we finished at the daffodil festival, Karen, Karyn, another girl Laura (sadly in no photos) and I went back to the restaurant where we'd had brunch and we got tea and all manner of lovely and decadent desserts (white chocolate raspberry cheesecake?  yes please) and then headed back to Karen's house so we could all pick up our cars. 

Funny story:  Karen, Karyn and I were standing behind Karen's car, chatting, when she looked down and was like "OMG WHAT THE HECK IS THAT!"  There was something that looked like long gray hair coming out of her tailpipe.  At first Karen was all afraid some animal had crawled up there and gotten cooked as we drove along, and then she put on gloves and pulled the hair out and it just kept coming and coming and coming, so then we wondered if someone had played a really bizarre prank on her stuffing hair up her tailpipe.  So then she posted a picture of it on Facebook with a what the heck? message and it turns out it's muffler hair.

MUFFLER HAIR.  Who even knew there was such a thing as muffler hair?!  Her car is 17 years old and apparently the insulation in the muffler is fiberglass and sometimes falls out looking like hair when the muffler needs to be replaced.  When I talked to my dad last night, as soon as I described what was coming out of that tailpipe, he started grinning and nodding like he knew the punchline of a joke.  He said a few years ago my brother Adam had borrowed his car (whichever car that was, he's had more than I can keep track of) and was driving down the highway when he noticed this muffler hair mess trailing all over behind him.  I'm just still trying to wrap my brain around a car shedding hair out its tailpipe.  At least we know that no animals died in Karen's tailpipe on her birthday.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Texas Pics!

Lee is going to be THRILLED when he reads this:  I'm sorting our pictures.  I'm not really deleting any photos because we kind of agreed that we should both take a look and see which ones we both like rather than one of us just going through and picking everything.  Anyway, the pictures on the Mac are all in one big "Pictures" folder, but somewhere in 2012 we quit actually naming folders when we uploaded pictures and so that's what I'm working on.  We'd started a system to organize the photos, so I'm applying that to all the pictures from the last year or so.

So why'd I start this?  Well, it's kind of part of my scrapbooking goal for this year.  Sometime after we moved here (I think it was 2011), I did something like this and printed out a bunch of photos from both Okinawa and a few from England, and I was going through some of those today while I was working in my craft room.  I really want to start on scrapping our Europe photos while we still live here, ya know?  But to do that, I need to sort these photos and upload them to Winkflash.  So I decided to do that tonight.  (Or at least start it.)

So, 2013's photos were easy to sort since all I've got thus far is the snow pics from January and pics from my trip back to Texas.  Mom printed me out some pics she took while I was there, but she hasn't figured out how to upload them onto a computer so I can only show you what I got, and of course Blogger uploaded them in a wonky order but let's just go with it.

The first full day I was in Texas, both my parental units took off work and we drove 100 miles south to Waco, to visit Baylor University.  We tooled around Waco a bit, visited a scrapbook store (SO much smaller than it used to be, doubt it will last too much longer) and had lunch at Schmaltz's, this fabulous sandwich shop that's in the strip mall where the scrapbook store was that I used to work at (the one that's there now is a different one, mine went out).  So, on the main drag in Waco (Valley Mills Drive), you can see this:

It's a Port-a-Potty.  On a pole.  With a mannequin inside it on the potty.  It's just so wacky and random I had to try to get his picture as we drove past; he's been there since before Lee and I went to college.

Here's Mom and me on Baylor's campus near the Bear Pit.

Yes, Baylor's mascot is a bear, and they keep *actual* bears on the campus in between the student union building (SUB) and the campus bookstore.  The Bear Pit is actually pretty nice, it's got indoor and outdoor areas and it's been redone since I was a student.

On my birthday, we had dinner at Rosa's (taco restaurant chain, if you don't have them) because I miss Mexican food.  I posted details about when and where on Facebook in the hopes that some of my friends might join us, and here's Roseanne!  We've been friends since middle school and we were in the high school band together.  Our friend Toby met up with us at my parents' house after dinner and we all three had a good time catching up.  Later on in my stay, I got to see Toby again and we spent some time at Starbucks with Lori...actually, we're all former Haltom High band members :)

Mom was walking around with her camera when we had cake and ice cream back at the house (if I tell you I ate birthday cake for breakfast for like a week after my birthday, you won't judge me, will you?) so I took this pic of her taking our pic.  Because I'm silly.

I told you these pics were out of order.  This, my friends, is the dorm where I lived for two years.  When I lived there, they had parallel parking spaces all in front of the row of dorms, and this is where I learned how to parallel park with Neelu was rolling on the ground laughing at me.

Right before I left to go to the airport, I cornered Ginger (Dad's dog) to get a picture with her.  She didn't want to cooperate much though.

Yeah, that's the best I could get of her.  But I wanted her picture anyway.

We had a bit of time the morning I left, so Mom and Dad took me to breakfast at IHOP.  I'd meant to ask Mom to do a bit of surgery on Juan the Mexican Polar Bear while I was home and I forgot about it until the last minute, so Mom did it for me at IHOP.  (There was a rip in a seam on Juan's front.)

And you've seen this one before, Mom with the A-Team's '55 Chevy Bel Aire.  And that's just about all the pics I took, minus the 4 or 5 trying to get a good shot of Miranda, and the best one of those has been posted here already too.

Ok, back to sorting pics I go!  TTFN!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Some Amusing Stories & Goal Check-In

Ok, so, I kind of feel like I'm living in Crazyville right now, but it's all good because Crazyville means fun stories, right?  So here's a couple of tidbits for you.

Tidbit #1:
Lots of British houses (like ours) use a boiler and radiators rather than central heating like in the States.  This week, I've been pretty cold in my house even though it was kinda warmer outside but I just thought meh, I'm always cold.  Then I noticed that my towel on the towel rack was still kind of damp even after sitting overnight, though usually the radiator behind it dries it out pretty quick.  Then yesterday, I finally figured out that the boiler was on, but none of the radiators are radiating any heat, so we're burning oil for nothing.  Ack!  No wonder I'm always cold in the house, and unfortunately it's supposed to get colder this weekend.  So I've got a boiler dude coming by to check it out tomorrow and hopefully he can fix it.  When I described the issue, he said it might be a plumbing thing, which is bad because our plumber still hasn't fixed the issue in our guest bathroom and that's been over a month ago that he was first out here (to be fair, I haven't called him back, but still, he said he'd get back in touch with me).  My friend Karen was laughing at me that it took me several days to cotton on to just WHY it's been so cold in my house.  I need more tea.  And perhaps a brain transplant.  Uh-oh factor:  it's supposed to get a lot colder this weekend.  Cross your fingers that Boiler Dude can fix it fast tomorrow.

Tidbit #2:
Usually, the last thing I do before I go to bed is check my email one more time, and most of the time Sadie lays in the computer room with me until I go to the bedroom (Vader generally puts himself to bed earlier).  The other night, Sadie wasn't in here with me, so I went down the hall to see where she was so we could go to bed, and I caught her up on the guest bed, on top of a sweater I'd just washed (what, I do my laundry but sometimes take a while to put it up).  I'm sure Lee would have scolded her but I just had to laugh.  Now I know why she likes to stay upstairs when I leave the house!  I usually confine her so she can't get to the stairs and so Vader is on the opposite side of the baby gate so they can't play-fight and she can't charge up and down the stairs without supervision.  I used to lock her in the study (there's a good dog bed in there for her) but now I say "go study" and she goes up the stairs.  Only now I've shut the door to the guest room, so no more cushy guest bed for Say-Say.

Tidbit #3:
I got home from lunch today and Vader had bitten a chunk out of the corner of our cable TV bill.  Do you think the cable company would accept "my dog ate the bill" as a real reason not to pay it?  Note to self:  teach Vader not to eat the post.  (Post =  British mail.  Mail = American mail.  Post is stuck through a slot next to our front door, mail I have to drive to the post office to get.  It doesn't have to make sense to you so long as it makes sense to me.)

Tidbit #4:
Ok, so this is funny and I feel like a doofus so I have to share it here.  I went out to lunch today with three lovely ladies and we're all chatting merrily away and someone mentioned babies and one of my friends says "Don't wait too long like me, or you might have twins" and I'm all like "yeah, my dad's a twin, I'm already in danger" and then like 20 minutes later I finally figure out that SHE'S PREGNANT WITH TWINS.  I wasn't the only one though, I carpooled with Karen and when we left we were both like did you know, or did it take you a while to figure out she meant SHE was pregnant?!  And we were both clueless for like 20 minutes but neither one of us had wanted to go waitwaitwait, you're pregnant? so much later and advertise that we're clueless.  (I am purposely not mentioning twin-mama's name since I don't think she's really spread the news yet, though I doubt any of my England friends reads here anyway).  So yes, I feel crazy.  Brain transplant!

Tidbit #5 (last one, I think):
Tuesday night, I got home from the gym after dark and of course I forgot to leave lights on at the house for myself, but I manage to get the door unlocked in the darky darkness and hit the lights and POP!  A lightbulb in the entryway burns out and of course it trips the circuit.  Because that happens almost every time a lightbulb goes out at this house.  So I'm thinking great, where did we leave the flashlight, so I got my iPod (because I always know where that is, naturally) and lit up its screen to find the flashlight; got the flashlight and used it to navigate through the maze that is our garage to go flip the stinkin' switch so I can have lights again.  (A tripped circuit breaker is like the only thing I know how to fix myself.)  So hunky dory and then ten minutes later, my neighbor Mark comes over to check on me because he'd seen me wandering the house with a torch (oh, British slang, teehee) and Sadie was all excited to see her friend (she loves Mark.  And the vet, even though he keeps knocking her out and shaving her bum.  Good thing she's not human or she'd have a thing for the guy who tries to roofie her).  I told Karen about it at the gym yesterday and we both laughed about how that kind of thing never happens during the daytime when you can actually see to get to the circuit box, and then this morning my house was all "Bwahahaha, that's what YOU think" and I tripped the circuit *again* when a kitchen light blew out.  Moral of the story:  British wiring sucks, and you shouldn't tempt fate by saying things like "it couldn't get worse" or "hey, at least it's not raining".

So it's a good time to check in on my 2013 goals!  Right?  Right!

1.  Finish master's degree:  The last class is over and done with, and now all I have to do is take a comprehensive exam this summer.  There's a light at the end of the educational tunnel!  And it's maybe not a train!

2.  Work on our scrapbooks:  Umm, so I'm behind my one-layout-a-week goal by like, a lot, but I finally managed to get one layout done!  (It's up on my other blog.)  Uh-oh factor:  See above, now I need to think about making baby books for twins.  I need less fertile friends.

3.  Finish the baby books from last year:  DONE!!  One was finished and mailed before I went to Texas (oh yeah, need to post those pictures) and the other one was completed shortly after I got back, since I finally found out my friend Beth had a boy.  But again, looks like this goal will be replaced with twin books.  It never ends!  Like laundry.  And dirty dishes.  And the long, long wait for Grimm and Castle to start on British television.  Maybe I should tell the British cable company I don't want to pay the bill because they take too long to get my shows.  And Vader ate part of it.

4.  Update our cookbook:  Haven't even started yet, though I have printed out even more recipes to try.  But Lee will return in a few weeks with the laptop which has what all I had started on it, so here's hoping this one gets off the ground soon.

5.  Stamp and mail out cards:  Stamping is generally going great, the mailing out bit is an EPIC FAIL lately.  AND I HAVE THE CARDS MADE EVEN!!!  I haven't sent out my thank yous from my birthday (badbadbad!) and I missed like three birthdays in the past week and a half and I had cards made I could have sent!  Must.  Do.  Better.

6.  Work out and eat better:  I go to the gym with Karen up to 5 times a week, so that part is going pretty well.  But I went to kickboxing on Tuesday and then came home and ate brownie batter (WHAT, I was craving brownie batter and no I am not pregnant, that's just me all the time), so at best, I think this one is breaking even.  Oops.  (But YUM brownie batter.)  (You read that right, I ate brownie batter but after I baked what was left, I haven't eaten any brownies.)

7.  Be happy:  I'm crazy and I know it!  But it makes me laugh, so it's all good.  And Lee will be home soon so that will definitely be happy!!

And on that note, I am freezing and I'm going to go make more tea!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Quarry, Part 6

Ladies and gentlemen (I can say that because I have evidence that both my dad and my husband read this, but I bet they're the only ones), it is time once more for my monthly expression of OCD:  the cross stitch project update.  The Scarlet Quince project for February is The Quarry:

And I've decided it is the most difficult one of the projects in my rotation because there is so much confetti stitching happening here.  But I made some respectable progress this month:

I finished the second page on the top row and got started on the one below it, so not too bad.  And even with all that white space waiting to be stitched, I am now officially 25% finished.  Here's a closeup shot of where I was working this month:

That dark smudge on the top right will someday turn into a tree, but for now it kinda sorta looks like the tornado that came after Dorothy when she was in Kansas.  Now for the OCD statistics:  I did 4,837 stitches, which isn't a whole ton compared to what I sometimes do, but it's not bad considering that a.) February is a short month, b.) my wrist has been giving me some issues this month, and c.) as I said before, this one is harder than the other pieces.  I'm at a total of 33,564 stitches completed, which means I have less than 100,000 to do.  I think I'll be more excited when I get to the flip side and I have 100,000 stitches done and 30,000 left to do ; )

In other news, today I turned in my very last essay for my very last class for my masters degree.  Today's fun word was "ameliorate", though when commenting on someone else's work, I managed to work "ancillary" and "raison d'etre" into the same sentence, which I thought was fun.  What, words amuse me.  So now I just have a comprehensive exam to take in June and I'm FREEEEEEEEEEE!  (Lee would say that's not true, I cost him money all the time.  I LOVE YOU HONEY!)

That's it for me today.  Peace out, peeps!