Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Blustery Day

Since groundhog day our Shenandoah County weather has been all over the map. We've gone into spring with temperatures in the 60s, back to winter with snow and ice (it was flurrying this morning), and we've had incredible winds. Last week on the way out to Mass we saw that a section of the fence had blown down. Four or five posts were apparently rotten and they just snapped off. I neglected to take a photo before Larry cleaned it up, But I did take a video of the high winds in action to give you an idea of its sights and sounds. Fortunately it wasn't cold that day so documenting the effects was not an uncomfortable experience. I can't claim to be the intrepid photographer who braves the extremes for a good shot. (Heh heh...)

And here's the gap-toothed opening in our fence. One more spring chore on the to-do list for Larry. Building fences is not in my job description.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On to Austin

The second half of our January Texas interlude was to Austin. But the trip began with a visit to the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory halfway between Houston and Austin. Alice and Martina met there for the grandparent exchange and we all visited the factory and sampled the delicious ice cream. Mmmmmmmmm... We were so busy enjoying our treat at the end of the tour that I forgot to photograph it.

Andrew and Ella are sick of touring and want to know when they get to the ice cream!

That's Mia riding the cow home being led by the little bronze girl and Grace. Moo...

Sophie, Grace, and Mia stand in front of the old ice cream delivery truck. It looked in better shape than our two cars -- certainly a lot shinier.

In Austin we spent a week mostly lounging around, playing games, reading stories, and just enjoying each other's company.

Here Ashley is counting her marbles, the reward for doing chores, etc. that can be cashed in for money. Want to share some with Gramma please?

We took both Ashley and Jonathan out for breakfast on different days. Here's Jonathan enjoying an alien pancake at Denny's with a big hot chocolate on the side. The gal who served us was originally from Pittsburgh and was familiar with one of our favorite restaurants, D.J.'s in Weirton, OH that serves the best ribs and potato skins on the planet. Small world! We're always striking up conversations with folks who turn out to be connected. On one trip to Houston we were served by a retired schoolteacher at a dinette in Louisiana. He was from Wheeling, Larry's home town, and had gone to school and been best friends with one of Larry's cousins. That was eerie -- what are the odds?

And here's Andrew enjoying a chocolate yogurt. I'm curious...Is the enjoyment measured by the degree of yogurt that ends up on the face and body? Bathtime!

Paige and I had a great time doing jigsaw puzzles together. I love them and so does she. We did four before she moved on to other activities. And isn't she as pretty as Jasmine? You gotta love that angelic expression.

And here's why these kids are so good looking -- our son Neil and daughter-in-law Martina. We had a nice outing together to Roy's in Austin which is just about the nicest restaurant I've ever eaten at. The food is Hawaaian and served in real style. I didn't take my camera unfortunately or I would have taken a picture of the dessert, a chocolate souffle filled with molten chocolate. Did I say I'm a choc-o-holic?

And I had to include a picture of cleaned-up Drew. Isn't he a cute little guy. We joke that he looks like a troll doll I have, but the doll is really cute so it's no insult. I think calling him an elf is a better image. He definitely has cute little elf ears. Miss you, Drew!

A highlight of our trip was going to lunch with a dear priest, Fr. Robert Bradley, who lived in our parish in Alexandria when he was the chaplain to the Poor Clares. He is still active and shepherds the Latin Mass community at the Cathedral of St. Mary's. We were so pleased to see him looking so well although he's having some sciatic nerve problems which can be miserably painful. Please keep him in your prayers. When I'm critical of the Jesuits I always thank God that I know a wonderful one in Austin. As long as there are a few I have hopes the order won't die out completely. St. Ignatius, pray for them, especially your faithful servant Fr. Bradley.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Time Out for Snowstorm Fun

Before I get to more on our Texas trip I just have to have a Virginia commercial. I love the changing seasons and always hope the winter brings us at least a few "snow events." We've had a little bit of the white stuff both last week, when Tara's children were here to play and we went sledding, and this week when we just revelled in the winter-wonderland beauty of it.

No, those aren't trees covered with cherry blossoms but our winter fairyland. I love to see the weeping willow covered in snow.

Brendan and Ryan help salt the driveway to make it easier to get out.

I took some videos of the kids sledding but somehow they didn't survive and my low batteries corrupted some photos for uploading them to the blog. Darn! I'll end with a few photos of Tara's children from our fun visit. Brendan's happy here, but Sean is not. I can't recall what happened because he was mostly cheery and getting into everything in sight. This was just one unhappy moment. Did you take his toy, Brendan? (I know he didn't; he's really good with baby brother.)

Lauren and I went to a Victorian bridle shower tea and we learned about how young Victorian ladies sent messages with their fans. We also made tussie-mussies, little flower bouquests that also could be used to send a message. Each flower or green has a particular meaning, but I don't recall them now. We had a wonderful time and Lauren was the perfect Victorian princess. (She wasn't wearing her PJs like she is in this picture.

Ryan wanted a tussie-mussie too and found one for himself in the napkin ring basket. I think the yellow is the perfect match for his green pajamas. The two favorite bedtime songs for Lauren and Ryan were The Ugly Duckling and Thumbelina. I forget how many times I sang them.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More on the Aquarium - Did I mention they have tigers?

We really enjoyed a talk about the white belgian tigers. I think they had four of them. We saw two - absolutely beautiful. They seemed to want to preen and strut for the audience. Some children sitting next to the glass had the excitement of a tiger batting at them just like a giant cat. They wre fun to watch.

The parrot was mixed in among the fish tanks -- I guess it was a rainforest theme. We certainly enjoyed his beautiful colors.

I think the kids (even the big kids) enjoyed the rides most of all. We took about four rides on the carousel and the ferris wheel and two on the train. The train went through a building where it stopped. A tunnel-like aquarium filled with sharks surrounded us. It was fascinating to see all the different types of sharks swimming around us. I didn't take any pictures because I figured the flash would just reflect off the glass, but it was fascinatin.

If you want to check out Sophie's birthday party which we celebrated while we were there you can check it out at Frodo 7. Alice blogged throughout our visit so there's more there if you're interested. As for me and Larry, one of our last outings was early in the morning -- getting up to take Madeleine to Denny's before school. It was a real pleasure to be out with our first grandchild who is blazing the trail for all the rest. Can you guess how much she enjoyed that build-your-own Grand Slam and hot chocolate?

Am I in Texas or Virginia?

The temperature is in the upper 50s and Larry and I just took a dam walk - Burnside dam is just under a mile from here and makes a comfortable round trip rosary walk. The temp today is about what it was for most of our Texas trip so it's a good lead in to blogging on the rest of our Houston trip. One of the highlights was the trip to the aquarium. I've been to the Baltimore aquarium and it's big with hundreds of tanks lined up along a spiral walkway. It's also very expensive - like going to a theme park. I've only been once and I thought it got kind of boring. Somehow looking at tank after tank of fish gets old after awhile. The dolphin show is fun though.

I was really taken with the Houston aquarium though which is small, but has not only fish, but a parrot, some reptiles, and games and rides. The variety made it extra fun.

Mia and Madeleine are fearless but note that grace is keeping arms lengths away from this grinning shark and Sophie is taking off. Where's Dad when you need to be rescued from girl-eating sharks.

Now what kind of fish is that rising up out of the fountain? And what is that little yellow fish below? Heck if I know although I could have told you when I was reading the tank marker. How soon we forget.

Is that Mia's smiling face behind the diver's face mask?

Petting stingrays isn't very scary once you know the aquarium has removed their stingers. But Mia, Paka, Sophie, and Madeleine aren't going to test it.