unHoliday Decorations

I returned to work this morning to this lovely creation in the elevator lobby.  Is it just me, or does this creations seem to celebrate autumn, rather than a traditional holiday occurring within a few days of the winter solstice?

Happy unHolidays?!?!

November 30, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

Before falling asleep Thanksgiving evening, I remembered to turn off my weekday alarm on my cell phone.  When Terry and I finally woke up, we discovered a house transformed (see photo to the left).  Being gracious guests, we refrained from comment and chortles.

Rachelle cooked her dad an egg-white, ham and cheese omelet and I sampled her beer biscuits.  Derek and Royna fell asleep on the couch so they woke up after we ate and came along with us for a short ‘painless’ shopping spree on ‘Black Friday.’

Our first store was Rachelle’s old employer, Ross, where I found a new purse and wallet, an electric razor for Terry and some reasonably priced extra virgin olive oil for Rachelle.  I had a thirty percent off in store coupon for Barnes & Noble, so we trekked all the way across the Golden Triangle Mall.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find the appropriate gift I wanted to use the coupon for, but I did spy a newer version of the Lightwedge that’s now rechargeable and thinner and lighter.  Oh, well.

Next, we stopped at Hobby Lobby pricing small air compressors for Derek (a requested Chrismtas gift wish list item).  The prices were mind boggling, so that item will be bought online.  Rachelle prowled around for fabric paints and aprons for a Christmas gift idea.  She was disappointed in the selection and variety of fabric paints so we eventually made it to Michaels near Bed, Bath and Beyond, where Terry and I found our next hopefully dog-proof stainless steel trash can (no, we didn’t buy it and haul it back here to Kansas from Texas; we’ll buy it at our own local BB&B).

By then, the morning had melted away so we stopped at Paulio’s Pizza Cafe for lunch.  We ordered the King and Hawaiian Sunrise (my favorite pizza bar none!).   After lunch, we returned to Kent’s ‘Redskins Christmas Extravaganza’ where he and his significant other spent the rest of the daylight putting up the exterior decorations.  After Nic returned from work (and Derek and Royna returned to Plano), all four of us (Terry, Nic, Rachelle and I) spent the evening wasting time playing Peggle on the Xbox 360 in the spare bedroom.  Rachelle and Nic left ‘early’ to create spring rolls for tailgating on Saturday but Terry and I toughed it out and made it to the credits by 1:00 a.m.

After a quick and meager breakfast of English muffins and almost oversleeping (one o’clock in the morning is way way way past my bedtime), we joined Kent and several others for tailgating on the University of North Texas campus in a parking lot near Fouts Field stadium.  This football game was the last ever to be played in the old stadium since the new stadium on the other (south) side of I-35 will open next spring.

Can you guess who was invited to play against the UNT ‘Mean Green’ Eagles?  Oh, the irony!  The Kansas State Wildcats!  Quite funny, if you think about it.  Here’s our daughter, sporting her green UNT T-shirt (the girl on the left with short blond hair and white framed sunglasses) prior to the flood of purple pouring down from the north.  You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day for an outdoor party and a final college football game for UNT, providing a great game but ultimately a victory for the Wildcats.

We returned to the house, Terry took a nap, and I read a book while everyone else watched several college football games (sometimes simultaneously) on Kent’s amazing LED HD 3D television.

Sunday morning, Terry and I quickly packed the Bonneville and headed north, pushed relentlessly home by another stiff wind.  Our gas mileage on the routine trip was nothing short of miraculous.  We stopped in Wichita for a couple of hours to visited some old friends but still made it home before seven o’clock.

Monday I relaxed and recovered from all the driving and almost finished the latest Wheel of Time novel published last month.  I’m within one hundred pages of finishing The Towers of Midnight.   Terry and I went to pickup the Rotts from the kennel around noon, but the groomer hadn’t given them a bath yet, so we went back at two o’clock for some squeaky clean excited Rottweilers.

What a great time we all had, including Roxy and Apollo.  Just wish there had been more time to spend with everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving from North Texas

Thanksgiving Dinner with Nic, Raya and TerryTerry and I drove five hundred miles in record time against a stiff south headwind yesterday to visit our offspring and their significant others.  Even though we left over an hour later than I had planned, we arrived in Denton before the sun set and to a balmy 84 degrees.  We were so early, Rachelle and I had time to make our first of three trips to the largest Kroger store in Texas (just five minutes away from her residence).

After Terry and I retired to the spare bedroom, Kent (Rachelle’s landlord/homeowner) decided to decorate for Christmas.  We woke up to Christmas a la Redskins (I’ll let Rachelle explain that one to you.  Or, if you’ve seen the DirecTV commercial about Cowboys and Redskins fans, you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about).  I forgot to reset my cell phone alarm, so I was up by five o’clock since it’s technically a weekday.

Terry, Derek and Royna hamming it up over the turkey. I only had to make two more trips to Kroger before I got the turkey in the oven.  This year Derek had requested a ham instead of turkey, so I also had to juggle warming up a sprial cut ham with the usual side dishes and the family tradition of sticky buns. Derek and Royna arrived from Plano just shortly after noon, as the turkey was cooling and the ham was in the oven.  Everything turned out well and we all sat down for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Everyone pitched in to clean up and we soon had the kitchen back to normal and sat down to enjoy Toy Story 3 on Kent’s amazing Samsung LED HD 3D sixty inch television.

Here’s hoping all of you are having as great a family gathering as we’re having here in chilly north Texas this Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Pies and Moon Pies

I ran to the grocery store after work this evening to pickup supplies for pumpkin pie baking.  Finding a parking spot proved challenging as everyone else must have had the same idea I did.  I managed to get in and out in less than thirty minutes.

Once home, I scrounged around for the church cookbook where my mom’s pumpkin pie recipe languishes most of the year.  I only make it twice a year, for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Moss Family Pumpkin Pies Nov 2010
Moss Family Pumpkin Pies Nov 2010

2 cans (15 oz.) pumpkin
1.5 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 cup egg whites
1 cup half & half
2 T melted butter
2 T molasses
3-4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 pie crusts (9 inch deep dish)

I combined all the ingredients in my mixer and stirred on the lowest setting.  I preheated my oven to 425 degrees.  I used a large cookie sheet to hold my two pie crusts (I used frozen ready-made crusts as I didn’t have time or energy to mess with making them from scratch).  I poured half of the pumpkin pie filling into each shell.  I put the sheet with the two pies in the oven for fifteen minutes, then reduced the temperature to 350 degrees and baked for another 45 minutes.

While the pies were baking, I decided to drive across the river (almost due east from my home in Lansing) to Bed, Bath & Beyond to purchase a couple of pie carriers so I could transport the pies to Texas on Wednesday.  I took K5 for the first leg of the trip and the nearly full moon shone through the leafless trees and reflected off the railroad tracks.

Once I returned home, with such a clear sky and low humidity, I got the telescope out and attached the digital camera to take a few photos of the ‘blue moon’ (one day late).  After taking a half dozen shots of the very bright moon, I removed the digital camera and repositioned the telescope to view Jupiter.  I used various eye pieces and saw the stripes of Jupiter and four of its moons (all to the left of the gas giant at this time – around 8:00 pm Central Mon 22 Nov 2010).   Even though the evening was a bit chilly, I’m glad I had another chance to dodge the recent cloud cover and spy on the moon and Jupiter again before winter weather arrives.

Movie Review: Part I – Potter & the Deathly Hallows

I’m at a distinct disadvantage, compared to my daughter, never having read any of the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling.  I once attempted to listen to the first book as an audio book. While entertaining, it still didn’t appeal because I am not the intended audience.  Perhaps forty years ago I would have liked it, but not at this stage in my life.

Before venturing to the theatre, and parting with the outrageous price of a ticket these days, I read reviews by well known film critics.  Since I also subscribe to Netflix, I use this method as an aid to deciding whether to wait for the DVD release or not.  Yesterday’s USA Today review by Claudia Puig proved very informative and helpful.  And, after watching the film yesterday evening, I agree with her assessment.

Terry mentioned afterward he missed the action.  I had forgotten to warn him this was a darker more intense movie than the previous Potter releases.

I liked the film for providing powerful character growth among the three principal protagonists: Harry, Hermione and Ron.   Hermione’s courage and sacrifice threaded through the film, revealing her poignant grief and resilience.  Ron surprised me the most with a turn from adolescent flippancy to steadfast fierce young man.  Harry tries, but fails to astound me.  Although, I glimpse the end and see the telegraphed but twisted triumph foreshadowed in the tale of the Three Brothers and the Deathly Hallows and hope he can avoid miring himself in martyrdom.

I give the movie four stars out of five.  It feels like the middle dark misfit installment of a trilogy, leaving you feeling dread that darkness has the upperhand, but, wait, it is always darkest before the dawn.

Restaurant Review: Macaroni Grill

I treated myself to lunch at the Macaroni Grill Friday.  The pleasant atmosphere and strains of jazz standards created a relaxing ambiance.   I selected the Scallops and Spinach salad from the lunch menu, one of a dozen or so items containing less than six hundred callories.  Seared and succulent scallops perfectly complemented the wilted spinach tossed with aged prosciutto, roasted garlic, lemon and extra virgin olive oil.  I prefer my spinach crisp and cool, but the flavorful combination satisfied my lunch palette.

Before my salad, my server brought a large (well, large for one person) warm loaf of bread and provided extra virgin olive oil and fresh ground black pepper.  Never one to turn down bread, I ate every last crumb.

My husband and I will have to try this establishment for dinner some time, although it’s a bit far from home for our usual date nights.

Meteors and Moons … Oh My!

I completely missed the annual Leonid meteor shower thanks to cloudy and cold conditions and a bout of insomnia that left me tossing and turning and eventually snoozing through my alarm.  I might be able to catch a few strays and stragglers this evening (after midnight if I’m really ambitious), but I think I’ll take out the telescope and zoom in on the Moon and Jupiter (and its moons) this evening.

And speaking of the moon, Sunday will be our next Blue Moon (follow this link to an explanation, definition and debate regarding the definition of ‘Blue Moon’).

Venus, Spica and Saturn visible before dawn Nov 2010
East before dawn, November 2010 (Image made by Starry Night)

If I manage a good night’s sleep, I may even wake early to watch Venus rise before the sun and hope to spy Saturn as well.

This will be my last weekend for stargazing for the foreseeable future.  It’s high time I contacted Meade for an RMA and shipped the telescope off for repairs (estimated to take five to six weeks to complete).  Since the weather is quickly chilling and producing more cloud cover, this may be the best time to get that reconditioning work done.

Either way, with or without a telescope, keep looking up!

Restaurant Review: Paulo and Bill

Five days later, but still a fond memory.  Last Saturday evening, I took my hubby, Terry, out for a light dinner on the eve of his birthday.  Again, we’d recently watched an episode of KCPT‘s Check Please! that featured the Paulo and Bill restaurant on Midland Drive out west near I-435.  I called ahead, since it was a Saturday evening and anticipated a large crowd.  They accepted reservations, so I reserved a table for two at 6:30 pm.

We arrived early but glad to have called ahead as the only parking spots available were for handicap access (which Terry has temporarily until his back recovers more).  We were seated almost immediately once we identified ourselves.  Our server was gracious and knowledgeable of the specials and the menu. 

For an appetizer, we tried the Garlic Bread Bruschetta that came with various toppings like goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes (roasted in balsamic vinaigrette), caramelized onions and roasted red peppers.  Beautifully presented and delicious to devour. 

While the specials sounded wonderful, we wanted some lighter fare so ordered Pizza Classica version of their Wood Fired Stone Oven Pizza with a couple of caesar side salads.   The greens were fresh and crisp and the pizza flavorful. 

We promised the server we would return, on a less busy evening for both us and the restaurant, to sample more of their appetizers, entrees and desserts.   We enjoyed the night out and another great restaurant suggestion by Check Please!

Giving Thanks Early

God is good!  All the time!

Twenty Years Ago ... the Moss Family
The Moss Family ~ Jon, Rachelle, Terry & Derek (1990)

Just a couple of months ago, I had a hard time counting my blessings as I’d been taught.  Striving to praise Him during the storms, instead of just when the sun shines, so to speak.

Now, just a handful of weaks later, my cup overflows, my heart is bursting with joy and pride and my blessings seem as uncountable as the stars.

Yesterday, while I was shutting down and packing up to return home from work, I received a jubilant call from my son.  He’s currently wrapping up his college at SMU’s Guildhall in Plano, Texas.   The reason for the call?  He’d accepted an offer from Haliburton for an astounding salary (which I won’t repeat here to protect the parties involved).  As soon as I got off the phone with Derek, I spent the next few minutes bouncing off the walls and sharing the great news with my co-workers, who probably thought I’d lost my mind. Once my feet touched the ground again, I rushed down to the lobby to catch my vanpool ride home.  I shared the news with them as well and phoned my dad during the commute home.

Once home, I told Terry, because Derek hadn’t called him yet.  Later that evening, I received a call from my uncle and aunt in Virginia to congratulate and share in the good news.  Overall, Tuesday ended on a very high note.

Today, I received even more good news from Rachelle‘s boyfriend.  He also finally found employment in Denton, Texas, within just a mile or two of their house.

Derek marries Royna in July 2009
Moss Family Addition ~ Derek, Royna, Rachelle & Terry (July 2009)

I’m so excited for all my offspring and would-be-offspring.  Next week, when Terry and I head south to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with all of them (Derek & Royna and Rachelle & Nic), I plan to continue my continual prayer of thanksgiving with them.

One week to go before I can be reunited with my kids!  Lord, let the days fly by and my heart overflow with Your peace and grace.


Stargate Served Cold

How many different ways can you dish up revenge?  Stargate Universe explored several possibilities in last night’s episode ‘Malice‘.

The Lucien Alliance loose canon, Simeon, not only escapes and kills his tag-along guard while free roaming Destiny, he continues his killing spree, taking down two civilians at once and multiple marines, raids the armory, takes a hostage and flees with her to one of the three planets in range of Destiny’s stargate. Rush, oddly enough, is first through the gate before it closes while Colonel Young et al. are still scrambling to catch up.

The IOA back on Earth wants Simeon alive, believing he and only he holds information regarding a Lucian Alliance attack on the home planet.  Those chasing after the resourceful cunning Simeon are not convinced he will impart the information even if captured alive or that the information is reliable.

The rest of the episode consists of a cat and mouse game with Simeon playing the cat to deadly and explosive effect.  Colonel Young didn’t heed the warning of the leader of the Lucian Alliance prisoners on Destiny, not believing that one man could prove so fatally dangerous.  The surprise, to everyone but me perhaps, is who finally outwits Simeon.

Many characters who are normally optimistic, forgiving and peace-loving, reveal their weaknesses during this crises, but forge ahead and prove their mettle.  Small steps with big results.

Next week’s episode trailer left me with a bad feeling.  Do we really need to ‘magically’ meet up with the stranded survivors who chase to leave Destiny last season? And they ‘magically’ bring back a shuttle to Destiny?  Pshaw!

Postscript on the location … eerie and alien … can you say ‘New Mexico’?  Here’s an excerpt from the link in the first paragraph above:

“We went back to New Mexico. To the Bisti Badlands. Not the same desert as we went to in the pilot, but another desert that is incredibly alien-looking. I went to the location for some of the shoot, and it was … I’d never seen anything like it on earth. It was a bizarre formation created by melting glaciers, and it is just … there’s these things called hoodoos, which rise up out of the ground, and there’s mineral deposits all through them. And so it looks truly alien. It looks incredibly remote, ’cause it is. We were in the middle of nowhere. Fifty miles south of a place called Farmington, N.M.”

(Executive producer Brad Wright, in an interview with Blastr.com)