Dec 31, 2011

Italy:Austria :: Texas:New Mexico

Remember in elementary school you had to do those analogies, X is to Y as A is to B. And it would be something like big is to small as black is to white.

Well it's New Years Eve and that's what I'm (happily) doing. I was looking at a map and thought "wow, are Italy and Austria as close as we think? Rome and Vienna kinda look far away."

I did exactly what any other Gen X/Yer would do, I Google Map searched it. They are about 775 miles apart. That's pretty similar to driving from Austin to Los Alamos, New Mexico. And for those of you with shady southwestern US geography, New Mexico is a neighbor state of Texas.

Yup, what in Texas only takes you to the next state in Europe will result in another stamp on my passport.

While I was originally thinking I wouldn't have any 2012 new year's resolutions (other than to make less resolutions) I'm now thinking I might have one: see Italy and Austria. With any luck, that one's in the bag.

I was spammed. I think.

At work I deal with a lot of blog spam, especially when I first started and our filter system was pretty primitive. But that's just one of the casualties of having a popular blog, with SEO around terms that other people want to advertise to and being open to commentary. (Tangent: we changed to the Disqus commenting system that requires log-in and I would say our spam was reduced by about 80% plus our commenting system is now more interactive. But alas, I digress.)

Today though I got my first spam comment on here! Well, at least I think I did. Disqus email alerts me to comments and I woke up to this email.


Looks like spam to me. But get this - I can't find the comment anywhere but in my email. It's not showing on the post nor is it showing in the admin settings in Disqus. Strange right? Donde esta my spam?

Assuming though that I was spammed, I'm not sure if I should be irritated or pleased. On the one hand, nobody likes spam. On the other hand, does it mean this little blog is kinda a big deal now?

While I'm not totally convinced that this little blog is a big deal, I'm choosing to be pleased with my spam. I'm considering it a blogger milestone.

Dec 30, 2011

2011 Resolutions

At the beginning of the year I wrote out my short list of new year's resolutions. I achieved 2 out of 6 and partial credit on a few others. That's probably about 50% overall, or in school-terms, definitely an F. I also did no good at helping Lexi achieve her resolution.

Here's my performance review:
  • Reading list: About 50%. I read more than this but I just forgot to reference my list.
  • Work outs: I have no idea how much I worked out each week but what I do know is that October-December killed whatever average I had going. The good news though is that I actually weigh about 2 pounds less now than I did at this time last year. I think that's a win overall.
  • Eye liner: WIN!
  • Pictures: I don't think I took more (God knows I didn't take any of the friends I rendezvoused with on business trips.) I probably broke even with 2010.
  • Save $$: We saved but I'm not sure we saved as much as we hoped. That said, we did have a LOT of fun and paid out-of-pocket for some important things like wisdom teeth removal. So a win-ish?
  • Europe: WIN!
I'm not one to lower expectations usually but maybe I was a bit of an overachiever here. Who has SIX new year's resolutions plus one for the dog?

For 2012, my new year's resolution might just be to have less resolutions.

Dec 29, 2011

Holy $&*% I'm going to Europe!

I'll admit, this has been somewhat lost on me lately with the holidays, intern hiring, very early 2012 travels (see you next month Phoenix & NYC). But tonight, with my 2012 Italy calendar hanging next to me and European hotels and itineraries on my computer screen, holy guacamole it feels real! We'll be going to Europe in just a few months!

In Google Images, here are a few of the things I hope to see


Holy cow. I can't believe I'm going there. All of those theres.

Best of

At work this month we ran a 4 part series on the best of blog posts, culminating with today's best all-around post. It was very objective in nature - we just reported back on what Google Analytics told us.

So because I love Google Analytics and am a little bit of a nerd, here are the most popular posts from this blog, as objectively reported by Google Analytics.
  1. And party we did
  2. You can't have half
  3. Ross wants to share
  4. Who did what?
  5. New truck!
PS Blogger has some crazy analytics thing now too. I'm not sure how or why it differs from Google Analytics (they are all Google products after all) but it says that this post on cheap wine was the most popular. Since everyone loves cheap wine, I can certainly see how that'd be true.

Dec 28, 2011

Christmas Part 3

Christmas morning I loaded the car with presents and cake balls, made the mandatory stop at Starbucks, doubled back to the house for my flat iron and then hit the road to Houston!

I arrived at about 11:30a which gave me plenty of time to change into my holiday clothes (complete with new jewelry from the hubs) and help Mom and Dad with a little set-up (though they really had it covered). It also gave us time to open the Christmas box from Kevin which he instructed us to open early. When I saw our gifts I knew just why - crystal drinkware engraved with "World's Best Sister" and Mom and Dad respectively. FANTASTIC. We drank from those all day.

We had 13 people at the Lowe Family Christmas this year and it must have been the year of the prime rib because that was a part of the menu just like at Nancy's.

I hung out with family, got the latest scoop from everyone and ate lots of good food. For our gift exchange this year, we traded photos, mostly old, which sparked a lot of fun conversations about different family stories. My Uncle Larry also brought an old home video of my third birthday party which was HILARIOUS. My favorite three parts in that video were...
  • 5 year old Robin jumping out of the sandbox, running to her mom and yelling "A dime! I found a dime!" Ah, if only life were that simple today.
  • Uncles pushing/throwing the cousins down the slip-and-slide. We got way more slide and did way less work.
  • Mom, 8 months pregnant with Kevin and wearing her 1980s pregnant lady swimsuit, eating a piece of cake and telling the camera "getting fatter with every bite." Awesome.
After the whole clan left it was just three. We FaceTimed Ross in for some present opening, specifically when I opened the brand spankin' new Blu-Ray player from Mom and Dad and when they opened the Houston Symphony tickets we gifted them with. Other present highlights include many new pairs of shoes for me, some of our fav movies on Blu-Ray from Kev and one of my favs, Dad got Mom a book of bed-and-breakfasts from which she gets to pick their 2012 vacation. The book even came with a voucher for one night free at any B&B listed. So cool!

For a final Christmas highlight, here's a video of Lexi playing with the new puppy blankie Kevin and his girlfriend, Carley, sent her. We're not sure if she thinks its a chew toy or a blanket but either way, she loves it.

Dec 24, 2011

Christmas Part 2

This evening was Christmas Part 2, Ross' family. We meandered over to Nancy and Jack's mid-afternoon and ready to relax until present time.

Since Ross' work schedule doesn't let him easily come to Houston, we do our big Christmas with his family and then I go to Houston on Christmas Day to see mine. This all means that the main gift exchange happens Christmas Eve.

He lucked out this year and didn't have to wait for normal present opening time for his gift. As soon as we walked into the house he was greeted by his big gift - a shiny blue bicycle. It was perched under the tree for him, adorned with a silver bow, just like a kid would receive a bike on Christmas Day. Straight out of the movies. And from his reaction, I think he really loves it.

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Just hangin' out, watchin' football
Once the surprise of the bike passed, we hunkered down for appetizers, football and drinks. Around 4:30p we started present opening. Even though there were just six adults at Christmas Eve, it's amazing how many presents we had! Let me hit the highlights.

Ross gifted me with my third and biggest present: Cirque du Soleil tickets. We have exceptional seats for the performance at the Cedar Park Center in March. I can't wait! I've always wanted to see this and March is the perfect month to already have a date night on the calendar. Good job hubby!

As for the other highlights...we gifted Meg with a Coach wallet and Jack and Nancy gifted her with a Kuerig one-cup coffee maker. Earrings (courtesy of Lexi, she's so good), perfume and a fancy schmancy blow dryer also found their way into Meg's gift pile. Meg gifted me with beautiful tea light holders and Ross with two books that are right up his alley.

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Really excited about socks and boxers
Jack gifted Nancy with several pieces of Waterford crystal, including two wine glasses in the same pattern as two she already has. Nancy gifted Jack with a whole new wardrobe from Eddie Bauer. We gifted Jack and Nancy with two wine tasting kits.

Nancy and Jack gifted us with a personalized world map to track our travels on and a cashmere scarf/hat set for me and several good work out outfits (plus socks and boxers, can't have too much of that) for Ross.

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Reinbeer
Stacy gifted us with very good margarita making tequila, of which we'll likely invite him to partake. We gifted him with an Alamo Drafthouse giftcard and a six pack of "reinbeer."

And the all around stockings overflowed with books, fancy shower gels, candles, gift cards and more.

Post-presents it was mealtime. Nancy hit a homerun with prime rib and I'm pleased to report that both my broccoli dish and my cake balls were huge hits.

Needless to say it was a very merry Christmas :) We hope your Christmas Eve was just as wonderful as ours!

Dec 23, 2011

Cake Balls

This summer I was reading my coworker Cynthia's blog, specifically her Adventures In Cooking: Cake Balls post. I happen to LOVE Holy Cacao cake balls so I immediately starred this post for another, more housewifey day.

Today was that day.

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Exhibit 1
Well, actually it started last night when I baked a butter fudge chocolate cake. Today I tore that cake apart and mixed my cake crumbs with white frosting. See exhibit 1.

Then I chilled it in the fridge for a few hours before moving it to the freezer for a few hours. Fast forward to 2:30p this afternoon and I was ready to make cake balls!

Using my favorite kitchen tool, my un-ringed hands (as in naked of engagement, wedding and TriDelta rings), I started making a million little cake balls, all about 1 inch in diameter. Then I popped those suckers into the freezer and got to work melting my white chocolate chips.

This, friends, is where things got ugly. I improvised a double boiler with a small pot and Pyrex bowl but the chocolate seized. I tried again. Ditto. I realized that it was the steam from the water; the condensation was ruining my chocolate. So to the microwave. This worked OK but my best microwave bowl for the job was a tiny guacamole bowl. I couldn't fit much chocolate into it and what was there would quickly harden. I'd add more chips but now there were little bits of cake in it too which ruined the smooth meltiness of it.

I even called Age and she suggested using my frying pan instead of my Pyrex bowl and going back to the double boiler method. This worked better but again, the condensation kept ruining my chocolate. Somewhere in the neighborhood of attempt 7, I ran entirely out of chocolate. Damn.

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My foil wrapped, store brand savior
Off to the grocery store, only for the third time in one day, to buy dark chocolate, the easiest to melt of all the chocolate varieties. And that is when I saw it: my savior.

I know Christmas is about the baby Jesus and he's my savoir, etc, but I kid you not, there were three wise men and a manger surrounding this HEB brand easy-to-melt chocolate-in-a-tray. I grabbed the chocolate and the vanilla and sang hallelujah while standing in the check out lane.

With the help of my savior, I was able to quickly melt chocolate, dip my cake balls and decorate them in lovely white sprinkles, all before kickboxing at the gym.

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Ta-daa!
And BAM! Now I've got ballpark 3-4 dozen cake balls plated and ready to travel to Christmas Parts 2 and 3 tomorrow and Sunday respectively. 

To answer the your next two obvious questions:
  1. I'll make these again provided there's more HEB chocolate goodness available.
  2. I have no idea if they are good. After eating cake, frosting and chocolate instinctively off my hands all afternoon the last thing I wanted when I finished these was more sweets. So the jury is out until tomorrow.

Christmas Prep Day

Growing up, Christmas Eve always doubled as Christmas Prep Day. You know, the day you spend cleaning bathrooms, adding bows to presents, grocery shopping and in general making your home and family ready for The Big Day. Since Mom hosts the big Lowe Family Christmas, Prep Day was serious business. (Though I'll admit, twice in college I bowed out in favor of the Texans home football game.)

Since Ross' family celebrates Christmas Eve, that makes today Prep Day. It's not quite lunchtime and I've...
  • been grocery shopping so I could...
  • go from step 1 to step 2 in my cake ball recipe (which I did, successfully I think), more on this later today or tomorrow
  • selected a Paula Deen cheesey broccoli dish for Christmas Eve dinner. You can't lose with Paula Deen.
  • cleaned the master bathroom
  • walked the puppy
  • got laundry and dishes going in their respective washers
  • put an all Christmas music playlist on the stereo to complement my lit tree and several Christmas scented Yankee Candles
But that's just the start of Prep Day. After what I expect to be a lovely lunch with Brittany and her ever-growing preggers belly (I'm touchin' it, don't worry, I know God created adorable pregger bellies so we could all touch them. Let's hope baby KC is kickin!), I'll need to move on to cake ball step 3. This is the step I am most anxious about so cross your fingers it works out. (Cake balls are an experiment this Christmas. To quote my husband "why must every holiday dish be an experiment?" Because baby, that makes it more fun!)

Then cleaning our bedroom, tidying up the living room, evaluating the present situation, a good workout at the gym to balance out all the delicious holiday food I plan to stuff myself with over the next two days, and eventually, once cake balls are totally complete, cleaning the kitchen.

Normally "cleaning the bathroom" and "tidying up the living room" would feel like chores. But there's something strange about pairing these things with Christmas music. When I do that it just feels like part of the holiday fun and routine.

Maybe I'll try cleaning house to Christmas music in July and see if it has the same effect.

Dec 22, 2011

(Love) Parenthesis

We've discussed my love of parenthesis before (see post). So imagine my excitement when I discovered this in my Google Reader today: 15 ways to use parentheses.

I know. Exciting isn't it? Here's a few of my favs, excerpted from the article
Examples, directions, explanations, and clarifications: 
2. “At that point, you may want to consult with a professional. (Refer to the Resources chapter for a list of tax advisers.)”

Abbreviations (usually) after the first reference to the full version of the term:
6. “The country’s import and export levels are regulated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).”

Modifying words or phrases, or interjections:
8. “The writer will (one hopes) produce well-crafted prose.”
9. “It turns out that he had (gasp!) told the truth.”
 As you can probably guess, numbers 8 and 9 are my most favorites. I use them (a bit too) often.

Dec 20, 2011

If you can't fry it, spray paint it gold

A few months ago, the six year old across the street, Jaelyn, and I were walking Lexi. On our walk Jaelyn collected herself a nice big pinecone and I told her about how Grandma and I used to decorate them like Christmas trees when I was little. She asked if we could do that and I told her sure, closer to Christmas we could.

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The least messy spray painter ever
Today she held me to my half of the bargain. In our scrubby clothes we laid out wax paper in the garage, lined up our three pinecones and got to work.

First we spray painted them gold. Then Jaelyn Elmers glued them with stripes. The two small ones we glittered green and the big one we glittered red. The very tippity-tops were given the alternate color. I offered to let her do all the glittering, since that's the fun part, but she said no, I could help. The gluing, she told me, is the really fun part and judging from the amount of glue she used, I'd have to agree.

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Finished product
Now her lovely Christmas cones are drying in the garage and tomorrow will be delivered to her house to become what I assume will be the centerpiece of all holiday decorations. I mean really, how could gold and glittery pinecones be anything but the centerpiece?

PS The post title comes from a book Jane gave me in college, The Official Guide to Christmas in the South...or if you can't fry it, spray paint it gold. I couldn't help but think of this as I bought and employed that little bottle of gold metallic paint.

Dec 19, 2011

Lexi v the Donkey

I couldn't wait any longer - I was just dying to give Ross one of his Christmas gifts.

So tonight he opened the silly board game I got him "Drunk Ass." As he read the description on the back of the box, Lexi sat and stared down the donkey on the front. And then she did this...


Christmas Part 1

Receiving is good, giving is better and shopping for it is best of all.

Not to brag, but this year I think I did a bang up job on Christmas presents. Of course, I haven't been able to share them with you, lest the recipients read this blog (and I'm pretty sure at least a couple of them do...Mom). However the first wave of presents has been given and received so now I think I'm in the clear to share a few of my faves with you.

We sent Kevin a whole Christmas box out to San Diego. The best thing in there were two Fit Decks. Ross discovered Fit Decks this summer at the fire station. They are the same size and shape as playing cards and each one has directions for a different exercise as well as how many reps to do for beginner, intermediate and advanced. The idea is every work out you shuffle the deck so that no two work-outs are alike.  Ross loved his two decks so much we got me two (perfect for hotel room work-outs while traveling) and got Kevin two as well. Kev's two are the basic deck and then the Navy Seal inspired deck.

And of course to balance the exercise, we included a restaurant gift card and Hershey Kisses in the Christmas box.

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Ava watching Asa fly his plane
Yesterday we did a mini family Christmas with our nieces and nephew at their non-Turner grandparents' home (which is very conveniently about 10 minutes from us and 2 minutes from our best bud Ryan who celebrated his birthday yesterday). We gave Asa a construction set for a model airplane, for Ava a bead set and instruction book for making jewelry and for baby Adele a cardboard book about Captain Teddy Bear. We only stayed at Christmas for a quick second but Nancy sent me text updates and before the day was over, Asa had already built his plane, Ava was experimenting with her beads and Adele had "read" her book at least three times. (Likewise I've enjoyed our gifts from the kids very much; I've already eaten 75% of the chocolate we received.)

Here's to hoping they enjoy their gifts at least half as much as I enjoyed shopping for them!

Dec 17, 2011

Cuddle Pup

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Put the computer away, Mom. Sleepy time.
Thursday night Lexi and I had a mini wiener dog over for a slumber party. It was like most slumber parties - very little slumbering.

But it did confirm something for me: I'm definitely a big dog person.

The little pup cuddled in bed with me at one point but there was hardly any puppy to cuddle with! I couldn't hug her with my arms...I guess I could have hugged her with one hand. Hand hugs are just not the same though.

Now Lexi, she's a cuddler; she snuggles up, stretches out next to you and becomes the little spoon. You've got more than 50 pounds of puppy love to hug on and it's awesome. How I ever slept without 50 pounds of big puppy next to and at times, on top of me will forever remain a mystery.

Dec 14, 2011

Nerd Alert: Laughing at Twitter

I realize only four of you who read this also tweet (you know who you are my lovely nerd friends) but OMG this is hilarious. So hilarious I am taking a moment out of my late lunch to share it with you.

Summary: Twitter launched a new interface that includes "brand pages" that someone like me managing a company's social media should hypothetically be really excited about. Except I'm not and this blogger does a bang up job of explaining why.

Via Why Twitter Brand Pages Are Pointless
Twitter introduced brand pages.

Some people say it will be a game changer. Those people are idiots. It won't be a game changer, because nobody uses Twitter.com for tweeting, or at least they shouldn't be.

...

A tweet scrolls across my "All Friends Column:"

"My lap is full of napping cat. I'm hungry, but if I disturb Mr. Fluffy Pants, he won't forget the transgression."

I am powerless against only two things: tweets with bacon in them and kitty cuteness. Naturally, I'd want to reply with something along the lines of:

Order pizza for delivery, explain your dire situation, and have them bring it to your chair. #catnapfever


But then I look at the bottom of their tweet and my enthusiasm for replying plummets. I see the date, time, and then "via Web," which is code for, "The bleeding idiot is STILL using Twitter on a browser, probably the horrific IE 9, and will be oblivious to your reply. Don't even bother. They obviously have no self-respect, probably have criminal records, and think the "Oxford comma" is a pretentious bit of punctuation. In short, they are heathens. I blame their parents."

So I move on.

...

There are only three reasons to ever open a browser and use Twitter:
  1. You are on some strange computer in a library, computer cafe, or at your friend's house. (The one who mocks your use of social media and prefers to do things "outdoors" with people.)
  2. You are popping in to see what changes it's made and you have no intent of staying more than 37 seconds.
  3. You've recently suffered a massive head wound and don't know any better.
I'm not a religious person, but I believe Leviticus 5:9 says, "Thou shalt not use Twitter to tweet, lest they spend all of eternity in hell, listening to Justin Bieber tracks, with a gaggle of pre-teen girls." I think it comes right after the passage about, "Thou shall pick one avatar and stick to it, or your followers won't know who you are and will think you've died in a horrible llama herding accident."

Dec 13, 2011

The Latest Addition

iphone_picTo our Christmas tree.

This afternoon we had our department end-of-year celebration happy hour. My manager has been our interim leader in the 10-ish weeks we lacked a director. To wrap up her stint as fearless leader, she organized said happy hour and gifted each of us with "awards of awesomeness" and Christmas ornaments. She decided in honor of our awesome year as a department that we all needed commemorative 2011 ornaments. I concur.

And our new director, who is lovely, gifted us each with a bottle of wine from her wine clubs. (Note the plural. The woman belongs to multiple wine clubs; I love her already.) All in all, a good day of additions to the holiday season.

Dec 12, 2011

Texans!

You probably already know but just in case...

The Texans are going to the play-offs!

I'm not one to blog on current events too much but ladies and gentlemen, this is not just a current event. This is a Black family milestone. The Houston Texans are the only team in all of sports that Ross and I agree one. The only team we can both sit down and cheer for. Texans games in our home are an event.

Yesterday we whipped up some homemade mushroom cheeseburgers, fries, guacamole and margaritas (tell me that doesn't say Texas all over it) and settled in for a nice winter's football game.

We cheered, we cursed, we jumped up and down, we scared the bejeezus outta Lexi and then with a comfortable two seconds to spare, WE WON.

Houston Texans, AFC South Champions. Has a nice ring to it huh?

Dec 10, 2011

I am my mother's child

Every holiday my mom tries to put some crazy non-traditional (as in non-traditional for the Lowe family) item on the menu. Duck or seafood or...I don't even know what. But she's that crazy aunt in the family and I tease just a little about it.

Except today I'm trying to decide what veggie I'll bring to Christmas Eve and as I say "green bean casserole is boring. We always eat green bean casserole" it's like I can hear my mother's voice. She must be standing next to me...

I'm Googling and Campbell's Kitchen searching for something, anything different from green bean casserole, that's still veggie based and tasty.

And every time I holler to the hubby "how about broccoli in a lemon cream sauce?" or "creamy veggie medley?" all I get back is "I just want steamed broccoli. You can add cauliflower if you wanna make it interesting."

Maybe I'll just bring wine.

Dec 9, 2011

A JLA Kinda Week

One element of the provisional year at Junior League is trying your hand at several different types of activities. Wednesday I helped with Coats for Kids, today I did a "done-in-a-day" shift at the Austin Children's Museum and tomorrow is more Coats for Kids. (These are more one time things like last month's A Christmas Affair that I do in addition to FIT shifts I do as my regular placement.)

The idea of done-in-a-day activities, like the one I did today, is that they meet one time or short-term needs for a nonprofit. During the holiday season, the Children's Museum needs volunteers to assist with gingerbread house making workshops. So today I donned a green volunteer's apron and doled out frosting, candy and highly-sought-out house decorating tips. In case you are wondering, pretzels make great windows.

Tomorrow it's back to Coats for Kids for distribution day. I'll get to help kids pick out new-to-them coats that will keep them cozy warm all winter. I can't wait to see their cute little faces!

Today's museum shift and tomorrow's Coats for Kids shift are exactly the kind of thing I was joining Junior League in search of: direct service. So much of my professional work and volunteer work is indirect, be it marketing, fundraising or other behind the scenes work that when I was determining how and where I wanted to volunteer, it was direct service I found myself craving. I love meeting the kids, doing the grunt work and actually being a part of the program. I also lucked out that FIT is about 50% direct service shifts so that area of interest is being regularly met for me there too.

So to answer the "what's going on" question that is the overall basis of this little blog, this week in our family it's oral surgery recovery and a whole lotta volunteering.

Dec 8, 2011

Less Wise, More Toothless

This morning Ross had his wisdom removed. We were both shocked when the receptionist told us it would only take about 45 minutes to an hour. I had been planning to go up to the office for a team meeting and then mosey back to the doctor's office, maybe even return some shoes on the way. Instead I ran to the pharmacy, got his 'scrips and joined the team meeting via conference call.

iphone_pic
When I was allowed back to see my recovering chubby cheeked patient the first thing he mumbled was "no cow'oun." It took me a minute but what he meant was when they put the anesthesia gas mask on him, they didn't ask him to countdown. And as he would tell me later when the drugs wore off, apparently they put the gas mask on him and what felt like five minutes later, took it off. He started to ask what had gone wrong but before he could get the words out they told him he was done.

Another early and awesome conversation with drugged, toothless hubby went as follows

Ross: I asked to keep my teeth. They wouldn't let me keep them.
Me: Gross! I wouldn't let you keep them either.
Ross: What!? They're my teeth!

I shared this insightful conversation with a few friends via text and Val suggested that Martha Stewart probably had a way to make them into this year's newest Christmas ornaments. I called that creepy, she called it resourceful.

Anyways, several hours later, we're at home and he's on drugs but not acting too loopy. A bowl of sorbet just proved to be God's gift to the wisdom-toothless and now we're experimenting with sorbet-limeade-cranberry juice-strawberry slushes. Oh and of course, no amount of drugs or holes in his mouth would keep my hubby from cheering against Ben Roethlisberger so we're doing that too.

Dec 6, 2011

Things That Grow

Ross introduced me to the Family Feud iPad app today. (Fun and addicting.)

We did a round that was "things that grow on a pregnant woman."

We got belly, breasts and butt. We missed the fourth one: hair. Gross. I guess I knew that one but I didn't really need to know it. Thanks Family Feud for that less than attractive reminder. I'm now hoping my kids can legitimately be delivered by a stork.

PS Really weird Family Feud category right?

Dec 4, 2011

And party we did

Last night was our annual Christmas party. Each year there's a battle of wills - I want a cocktail party, Ross wants a frat party. The result, girls in pretty dresses playing beer pong in the garage.

The house was fully done up in its holiday glory with Christmas candles, "let it snow" handtowels, lassoing Santas and a sleigh napkin holder. I had what I think was a fairly impressive spread on the table: chocolate chip cookies, artichoke dip, tortilla pinwheels, pigs-in-a-blanket, and of course the staples, chips and salsa. I also whipped up hot spiked cider (and a smaller pot of hot virgin cider for our two prego friends).

Ross had the garage set up for party central. Beer pong in the middle, keg to one side, darts on the wall and washers just outside the garage in the driveway. It was quite the place to be.

I might venture to call this our most successful Christmas party yet. Here's why
  1. I wore a hot new dress and felt like a million bucks
  2. We floated the keg but still had cider and wine...ie overall perfect amount of booze
  3. All our worlds collided with about 30 guests who all seemed to get along 
  4. Deltas! Not the usual suspects but 2 new ones via the Austin alumna chapter
  5. The party happened both in the garage and in the decorated house
  6. Someone usurped my camera and I actually ended up with photos
  7. Last guests helped with some initial clean up making this morning not too shabby 
  8. Gifts of wine were plentiful - I have more now than I bought for the party
  9. Total fatalities: just one wine glass
Enjoy the pics!





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Nov 30, 2011

Thankful XXX

Friends.

I've been blessed by having some of the best friends a girl could ever wish for. There's the Deltas, my old high school friends, new-ish Austin friends and the occasional plus one from different spots along the way. Between us there's babies, spouses, new chapters in life, a slew of career choices and different adventures every day. I love not only having the support and goodwill of my friends, but being a part of whatever chapter they are experiencing.

I couldn't be happier to call them all my friends. So thank you friends, for being you.

Smattering of fun friend photos


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DSC00591 loweC_7198 019 087

Nov 29, 2011

Thankful XXIX

Fav book as a kid
Books.

Books are definitely something I have taken for granted all my life. First I was one of those kids lucky enough to grow up going to library storytime. In fact one of the best little kid pics of me is me grinning and clutching a reading certificate from the library. Can you say awesome?

Since my teen years I've been on a mission to have my own library. Public libraries are great and all but I like to write in my books and I really don't like to give them back. ...And I was really jealous of the way Belle from Beauty and the Beast got to swing around the library on a ladder. Thus I clearly need my own personal library and ladder.

Recently though my love for and constantly great access to books has been contrasted by an increasing awareness of kids who do not have books. This summer I heard about the United Way of Lake County which did a book drive for their community in response to the fact that 76% of incoming kindergarteners did not have books in their homes. I immediately started buying books as baby shower presents - my friends' kids will not be a statistic!

A local author and my most recent read
I thought about all the kids without books tonight as I went through my THREE overflowing bookshelves to donate to the book giveaway portion of the upcoming Coats for Kids Junior League event. (Short version: kids whose families could not otherwise afford it go home with both a coat and a book.)

I'm glad I can give these kids new books to read. Hopefully they'll discover a book that they just love and one day will tell their friends about how they too are thankful for books.

Nov 28, 2011

Thankful XXVIII

I'm thankful for video plus Internet magic.

Specifically video calling via the Internet (ie FaceTime) and posting web videos (ie YouTube).

Being able to call Ross via FaceTime when he's at the station makes his crazy schedule a hundred times more bearable. And when I'm on business trips, it's even better. I'm thankful for it now and I know when we have kiddos I'll be even more thankful. I mean just think about it, when one of us is gone we'll be able to call in for bedtime stories! That's awesome!

And then there's YouTube. Perfect for sharing cat videos and walking babies...like this one!


I'm so glad that even when my friends and their adorable babies are far away, I can still witness the milestones and fun little moments in their lives.

God, technology is great.

Nov 27, 2011

Deck the Halls!

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Posing for his "action" shot
This weekend, and mostly this morning, we got our little home all decked out for Christmas! While we usually don't wait too long, we're also not those people who start hanging lights while the Thanksgiving leftovers are still warm. But this year we had to be on our game - next weekend is the big Christmas party! No time to dilly-dally.

We tried something different with the outside lights this year: monochromatic. Red lights all around. However, not different from past years, the near heart attack I have when Ross climbs on the roof. People always ask if I worry about him at work. No but I do worry myself sick when it comes to hanging the Christmas lights.

Inside I took the lead on decorating the tree. For the first time ever, we really didn't need plain glass ball ornaments (I did hang four just to fill some space in the back but we didn't need them). I love that every ornament has a story.


This one, for example, is from our very first vacation together. We spent three nights in West Texas at the Fort Davis State Park.

And our latest addition, a gift from Mom and Dad's recent trip to San Diego to visit Kevin.
Then there's our real classy ornaments: beer and bikinis.
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Thankful XXVII

052I'm thankful for my little brother.

You might expect me to wax poetic about his service to his country or his recent promotion to petty officer. I am, after all, very proud of him for his Navy service and the strong start in his career.

However, I was happy to have Kevin as a brother before he joined the Navy and I'll be happy to have him as a brother when his Navy career is done. Navy or no Navy, he's a great kid. He's fun to be around, sincere when the time's right, a smart-ass when the time's right (and sometimes when it's not right but I think that's part of the definition of "smart-ass"), helpful all the time and to his very core, a good person.

Like most siblings we have stupid inside jokes, stories only we think are funny and plenty of dirt on each other. It's great.

I'm thankful to have a brother who I not only love, but who I really like.

Nov 26, 2011

Thankful XXVI

I'm thankful for our little slice of heaven.

This post started out as "thankful for holiday shopping" which is very true but then I started thinking, holiday shopping has started out a little more fun this year. Why? Well, for the first time we didn't write out a penny by penny budget. And that got me thinking, yes I'm thankful for holiday shopping, and a flexible holiday budget but what I'm really thankful for is our happy life together.

We're lucky to have everything we really need, both in the tangible sense of shelter, food, warm clothes (or cool clothes as July and August necessitate) and in the intangible sense of health, happiness and love.

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Travel: My #1 choice for occasional splurging
We're also lucky enough to have many things we simply want, from table-runners for every season to vacations to fulfilling careers to flexible holiday budgets.

But if you know us (and since you are reading this you probably do), I think you'd agree that we aren't super fancy. We're more Chili's than Ruth Chris', more Target than Tiffany's.

And I love it.

I'm so thankful to be living this husband-loving, bargain-shopping, puppy-kissing, full-time-working, occasionally-splurging, wonderfully ordinary suburban life.

Nov 25, 2011

Thankful XXV

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Festive table-scape
Christmas decorations.

They make the house I like into the house I love through their over-the-top use of sparkles, metallics and glitter. Our assortment of home decorations include shimmery plaid napkins (pictured), silver bell wreath, red and silver bell door hanger and a cowboy Santa Claus just to name a few.

It will probably be a many day process, but at our home, it's starting to look a lot like Christmas.

Nov 23, 2011

Thankful XXIV

Health insurance.

We're going a day in advance with thankfuls because I have no intentions of logging on to any computer anywhere tomorrow as it would interfere with my holiday eating, drinking and socializing and we can't be having that.

Today I am thankful for health insurance. A couple weeks ago I got a bill for a dentist appointment because I went FIVE days before the six month mark. Naturally, my angry self appealed - I mean come on, I was clearly trying to make my appointments six months apart.

And Happy Thanksgiving to me because the insurance decided to pick up the tab. To borrow from old Ben Franklin, $90 saved is $90 earned.

Thankful XXIII

My big, happy family.

Part of me felt like I should save this one until tomorrow when I get to see all of them but ya know what - I'm excited about it today. Tomorrow morning Ross and I will throw Lexi into the car and hit SH 290 east to Houston. We'll be Thanksgiving dinner bound. There will be fifteen Lowe family members there to greet us, fight over green bean casserole with and squeeze in next to at the dinner table(s). And if I know us, there will be almost as many dogs in the yard as people in the house.

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Lowe Family Thanksgiving, 2007
Having always had big boisterous family holidays, they are the only way for me. Growing up there were eight grandkids within ten years of each other - that's a lot of toys, coloring books and Popsicles. Recently we upgraded to nine grandkids which means we're back to having a kiddo at holidays. (Hurray! Holidays really are all about kids after all.)

I love smooshing everyone into the same house, dressing up card tables with fancy tablecloths, having a smorgasbord of over-sized family-famous dishes and seeing which uncle gets relegated to the Kids' Table this year (my bet is on Larry). The ever-consistent menu, football in the background and declaration of "whoever eats the fastest gets the mostest" is what I look forward to every year.

Right now my designated contribution of "a chocolate something" is baking in the oven and I'm starting to feel pretty darn Thanksgiving-y. I can't wait to see my parents, Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins all squeezed around the table tomorrow.

Nov 22, 2011

Thankful XXII

Rain!

Last night it rained so hard here in Austin that the thunder and lightning woke me and Lexi up. That's my kinda rain. Maybe we're finally seeing a rainy season that will put a dent in this drought. Fingers crossed!

Nov 21, 2011

Christmas Comes Early

As you'll remember, one of my favorite things about Ross is his generosity...especially when it comes to gifts. One of my other favorite things is how eager he gets to give said gifts. He is awful, just awful I tell you, at waiting to give a gift.

iphone_picExample: He had not one but two plans for proposing, the second with less lead time than the first, but ended up dropping to one knee within just a couple days of ring purchasing because he couldn't wait any longer.

This Christmas, no exception. In fact, it's already arrived! Just check out that bling!

He's extra special amazing because he inventoried my jewelry box while I was at work today. Can't have repeats, no sir. My baby makes sure to round out my collection with new and different things each time around. And he knows I'm not really into colored gems. I prefer neutrals...just like the diamonds and pearl here.

There's even a pair of matching earrings. The set has already been scheduled to make an appearance at Jane's wedding (official debut date TBD but Jane's wedding will definitely be included in the tour).

Please allow me to reiterate Thankful XVI, my hubby.

Merry (early) Christmas y'all!

Thankful XXI

iphone_picLexi.

She is not only the cutest pup ever, but the sweetest. Just look at that picture from last night. How can you not love her?

Of her many traits that I love some of my favorites are how she is super duper cuddly, how she is always under foot (and therefore never really runs away, such a good girl) and how excited she gets to greet you when you come home.

Among her funniest traits is the 10 a.m.-stare-down, that is, what happens at 10 a.m. if people are home but denying her a walk. She finds you, stares at you and will not stop until you take her for a walk. She is insistent!

Finally, they say that a dog is the animal replica of its owner. Lexi proves the point. She is rambunctious like Ross and cuddly like me. She demands constant attention (like me) and is always ready to eat (like Ross...and well, kinda like me too I guess). She loves to run (like Ross) but has to be a drama queen about how worn out she is after the fact (like me). And because she doesn't know she's a dog but thinks she's a people like us, she sleeps in the bed, preferably with her head on a pillow and body under the covers.

Nov 20, 2011

Thankful XX

Today I am thankful for Southwest Rapid Rewards.

Because I just used them to book my plane ticket to Jane and Chris's wedding! Up early Friday morning, to Boston in time for a nap, pre-wedding activities that night, wedding on Saturday, Sunday with friends/family and fly back Monday afternoon.

As you know, I recently got a Southwest credit card. I paid my $100 annual fee and -BAM!- 50,000 reward points. That enabled me to pay $7.50 today for my round-trip plane ticket to Boston. And I still have 20,000+ points left with which to visit Kev in the spring and maybe take another, or at least half of another, trip sometime later.

Thank you Southwest Airlines for not only helping me go see my favorite people but for being bag-free and generous with your peanuts.

Thankful XIX

Yesterday, I was thankful for the Travel Channel. Yes, definitely.

Nov 18, 2011

Thankful XVIII

I'm thankful for VTO - volunteer time off.

I mean really, how cool is that?

Also, only slightly related in that it's a work thing and it has a thankful message to it. Here's a really cool video I directed. (I guess you can say directed. I had the idea and helped define the "vision" if you will but my talented coworkers actually did most the creative work. Either way, it's very cool.)


Nov 17, 2011

Thankful XVII

The Dishwasher.

Yes, today I am thankful for the dishwasher.

Normally I hand wash our big pots and pans, not because they are fancy and I'm worried about keeping them up but because they are big. I can either fit in one large pot or three bowls. Obviously my choice is clear.

This week though has been unusually busy with A Christmas Affair and Ross picking up two 12-hour shifts of overtime.

So this morning when I saw that the kitchen sink was still full of dishes, I just said to hell with it. I filled the dishwasher quickly with a few large items and let it do it's magic while I went to work. Coming home to a clean kitchen and clean pots and pans is lovely.

Clearly, The Dishwasher is a gift from God herself.

Nov 16, 2011

Thankful XVI

The encore edition

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Living life & having fun,
opening weekend for Rangers v Sox
I'm thankful for my husband.

I know I told you this earlier in the month, but lets be honest, I didn't do him justice. And to be totally honest there probably isn't a blog post in the world that can do him justice. But I'm going to at least try.

I'm thankful for Ross because he keeps me sane. He has a light-hearted attitude, wrote the book on fun and knows how to infuse any day with a good time. He lives life fully and whole-heartedly, taking risks and enjoying every minute. He's just plain fun to be around and who doesn't love that.

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Loving Lexi,
whether she likes it or not
I'm thankful for Ross because he is affectionate. Whether it's me or Lexi, he always makes sure we know that we're tops. He hugs and kisses and sends silly text messages. I know every single minute of every single day that he loves me more than anything.

I'm thankful for Ross because he's giving. He's giving with presents, always making sure that this birthday or Christmas is better than the last. And he takes such a joy in the time and energy he invests in finding that perfect gift to bring a smile to your face.

I'm thankful for Ross because he followed his dream. That might sound a little cliche, but it's true. He didn't become a firefighter to make millions. He did it because it's what appeals to him, both for the adventurous nature and the giving back. Every day I'm proud that he is making a difference to families in their scariest moments. I'm also proud that he struck out on his own path, choosing something he's excited and passionate about instead of something that will simply fill the bank account. At the risk of getting ahead of myself, I'm thankful that our kids will see and learn from that example. Being passionate about your work and being able to help others are two of the most important lessons I want to teach our kids and he lives them every day.

Finally, I'm thankful for Ross because he's my other-half. Everything I'm not, he is. He's the perfect fit for me and I'm glad I snatched him up for my own.