Monday, December 31, 2007

Fun Monday #5: Revealing My Shameful Addiction

Peter asked us to put the Fun into Fun Monday. However, I am revealing my terrible, hidden addiction to you here today. When I indulge myself, I sometimes get lost for hours. The breakfast dishes sit undone, the laundry molds in the washing machine, and back when I worked, I would occasionally close the door to my office and pretend to be in a meeting. Toward the end of my working days, I did this to cope. Sometimes for hours. That is how I became the pathetic user you find before you today.

It is a truly terrifying addiction, a time drain to rival all time drains. There is nothing else on which I willingly waste so much of my own precious time. It is a sick and twisted diversion.

Here are some of my favorites:

toothpaste for dinner

toothpaste for dinner

toothpaste for dinner

toothpaste for dinner

toothpaste for dinner

I couldn't pick just one. It's an illness, I tell you. Someone please save me.

Friday, December 28, 2007

too many days of Christmas

After making my blog rounds yesterday, I feel quite lucky. Over at Laurie's, I read about P. Miller's life-threatening blizzard ordeal. Almost the entire family was sick at the Nekked Lizard household, and poor Jenny spent a couple of hours sick in a gas station just to travel home and find out her adorable offspring contracted double conjunctivitis. My little cold is hardly worth mentioning.

The little guy still believes in Santa. I think. The alternative is that he knows the truth and is playing along for effect. Or he may possibly be gathering intelligence. He left Santa a note. It was simple, a question about the order in which the reindeer are harnessed to the sleigh. After consulting hubby, I disguised my handwriting to the best of my ability, answered his question, and put the note down next to the empty milk mug and a plate containing the last snickerdoodle, half eaten. I stuffed the stockings and left unwrapped gifts from Santa for the children in front of the fireplace before retiring for the night: jewelry for our lovely daughter, a stereo for the big guy and a Nintendo DS Lite for the little guy.

We got up very early Christmas Eve morning to the Santa presents and bulging stockings. We celebrated early to accommodate Christmas Day travel. Last year the family came to us, so this year, it was our turn to do the drive on Christmas morning.

After tearing through the wrapped packages, we had our traditional baked French toast for breakfast with a side of the chocolate candy that Santa left in the children's stockings. It was a lovely, leisurely day. The children enjoyed newly acquired Christmas gifts while hubby and I lounged on the sofa. We ate when we felt hungry and slept when the mood struck.

Christmas morning found us on the turnpike, driving to the home of hubby's sister. We arrived with presents, food, children and dogs in tow. Jack and Maddy went straight to the backyard, to avoid my sister-in-law's newly laid wood floors (which are indeed quite gorgeous). Present opening was the first item on the agenda. The older children are getting hard to by for, and my in-laws opted for gift cards and Amazon Wish List items. The little guy is still tons of fun. He got video games, lego sets, and multiple nerf weapons. When the nerf guns were opened, we ran the boys, young and old, outside to shoot each other with abandon. Afterward everyone but me settled down to watch a movie. The weather was beautiful. My brother-in-law built his wife a lovely covered patio this summer and equipped it with a stereo, sun blind, and comfy furniture. I sat in the shade, had a drink, and watched Jack and Maddy run through the back yard in the sun.

My brother-in-law grilled prime rib and we had all the trimmings along with it for our Christmas dinner. My contribution was dessert: crustless brownie pie and Southern pecan pie. Everything was delicious. A wonderful Christmas, wouldn't you agree?

But we're not done. My father volunteered to work Christmas Day. There are younger mothers and fathers in his department, and since we became adults with families of our own, he frequently takes holiday shifts to give those parents the holiday with their children. He works for an airline on systems that support an important computer resource for the industry, something that runs 24 hours per day, seven days per week. It is sweet of him, but not altogether altruistic: he receives extra pay and once the holiday has passed, extra time off the job. As a result, we aren't celebrating the holiday with my parents until tomorrow.

Saturday will be our third celebration. The sheer volume of presents that my children receive is unbelievable. My husband has one nephew who is twenty-one years old. My brother has never married and has no children. The adults on both sides shower my children with an obscene amount of Christmas loot.

I am holidayed out. I dread the drive to my parents house. My husband and I will be trapped in our car with two teenagers, a suddenly whiny nine year old, and two schnauzers for just over two hours. That is not the worst of it. My parents want us to stay overnight. I suspect that a tour of the ice damage is planned. I would rather have every tooth in my head pulled. Sans sedative. This tour would involve approximately 1,000 acres. Daddy thinks he lost trees that will translate into twelve ricks of wood once he has converted the fallen trees into neat stacks of firewood. I love my parents. But I am living proof that you can take the country out of the girl.

On the bright side, I do have to say we have had a few quiet, relaxing days. One day my husband and I spent the bulk of the day sitting on the sofa watching the snow fall softly on our backyard. It was quite a pretty sight, especially with a fire roaring in the fireplace. Yesterday I caught up on my Tivo viewing while hubby played his favorite video game. The boys are so engrossed with their Christmas loot that they aren't fighting, and our lovely daughter has been busy working, sleeping, and doing whatever 17 year old girls do. If Christmas celebrations were over, life would be pretty perfect.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

the best bookstore in Paris

In the pictures above, on the corner across the street, you see before you the most magnificent bookstore in all of Paris. I'm getting a little ahead of myself, though.

My lovely daughter and I got up early for a day alone on the streets of Paris. The weather wasn't cooperating with our planned shopping excursion to Montmartre, so we came up with another plan. We took the Metro from Oberkampf to Opera and walked to the high rise shops called Galeries Lafayette. The shops are situated near the perfume factory we had visited earlier in the week and the gorgeous Opera Garnier. We had lunch that day in the cafeteria on the top floor of the high rise and had wanted to go back to wander through all the lovely things we saw on our ride up the escalator.

I'm not a shopper, as I am sure I've mentioned here before, probably multiple times. My lovely daughter got her shopping gene as well as mine and maybe those of two or three other people in the family. We stopped and looked at each and every little stand displaying wares for sale. There were items as diverse as scarves, souveniers, women's shoes, towel wraps for your hair, and children's toys. I think it took us an hour to walk from the Metro stop to the Galeries Lafayette.

Once inside, we marvelled at all the beautiful things available for purchase. There were six or seven floors, each one filled with gorgeous goods, like an upscale department store, but French. As we ascended, we looked at things to purchase for my daughter or to take home with us, and we looked just to look. My daughter had me take pictures of these lovely designer gowns so that I could try to recreate them for her next dance or prom. They both cost more than a small used car. You should have seen the prices on the wedding gowns.

She wanted a coat. We began looking in an area that we thought was the juniors department. We were on a floor of designer clothing, and the prices were more than we wanted to pay. Some of them much more. But she continued to look and as we made our way around the floor, we came to a designer who specialized in more affordable clothing for young women. There she found a little trench coat she loved, just longer than a mini skirt in a soft army green. It is beautifully cut and fits her well. She is wearing the coat below in a picture taken at the gate of the Tuilleries Gardens. (Her aunt says this picture is very "Madeleine, the teenage years").

We bought shoes, dresses, some tops, teal blue tights, a couple of lovely patterned silk scarves for me, and little presents for her brothers and father, my parents and my mother-in-law. The escalators ran all the way to the roof of the building, for gorgeous views of Paris. Even though the day was overcast and gray, you could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

We had a fantastic time, but we were tired and needed sustenance. After a meal in the Lafayette Caffe followed by ridiculously decadent desserts, we decided to return to the hotel. As we watched the underground world of the Metro pass us by, we discussed our purchases. My lovely daughter realized she had forgotten one important thing: a French language dictionary and a book, about third grade level or so, that she could use to improve her French reading and vocabulary skills. She thought that someone in a bookstore might be able to help her choose well. We were leaving in just a few days and might not have much more free time. I remembered that first day we had seen what looked like a charming little bookstore near the hotel. It was still open when we passed by on our way to the hotel from Oberkampf Station, so we rushed to the hotel and took our bags and parcels to our room. We ran back down the three flights of stairs and out the door, walking the two or three city blocks and crossing Boulevard Voltaire to get to the book store, Paperterie Appel Librairie, which I think is literally translated "stationery call bookshop".

We had stopped in the little grocery for drinks and as we walked in, we carried them with us. A man about my age spoke to us sharply in French. We did not understand. My daughter said, "Pardon?" He immediately recognized that we weren't French and said in his heavily accented English that drinks weren't allowed in the store. He walked over to where we stood and took them from us, placing them on his counter for us to retrieve when we were ready to leave. A woman who we supposed to be his wife asked if we needed help. She had dark, short curly hair and dark eyes. She was impeccably dressed and groomed, and reminded me of a grown up version of the French exchange student in Better Off Dead. My daughter spoke to her in schoolgirl French, asking for a good dictionary and a book recommendation. There was much back and forth, and a young girl not much older than my daughter came from the back and started to speak to us in excellent English. The older woman walked away and busied herself at a shelf of books.

My lovely daughter settled on a small, thick dictionary, one that was recommended by the young girl, Larousse dictionnaire français-anglais. She held a stack of children's books in her hands, trying to decide which interested her most. She has been a Harry Potter fan from a young age, and the book she selected, Ma soeur est une sorcière, translates literally to "my sister is a sorceress". Perfect. I selected a note pad printed with fleur de lis in a subtle pattern.

We took our selections to the front of the little shop and put them on the counter. The woman reappeared with a book in her hand. She conversed with my daughter in English, searching carefully for her words. The book was a gift for my daughter, for her to read when she mastered reading books in French. The title is one of the woman's latest favorites, hygiène de l'assassin (hygiene of the assassin). She wanted my lovely daughter to have the book because it pleased her that "this sweet American youth" was studying the French language.

The gift was surprising and delightful. It made me teary eyed that a complete stranger would have such a reaction to my daughter's quest to master French. There are wonderful people all over the world. Two of them own a bookstore on the corner of Boulevard Voltaire and Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in Paris.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

a stroll through the Louvre

Touring the Louvre Museum was the absolute highlight of our trip to Paris for me. I don't have the words to describe the breathtaking, utterly amazing collection. My photographs don't do it justice, but I'll share them with you anyway. These are some of the wonderful things we saw in the two days we spent touring the halls of musée du Louvre.

A view of the pyramid as we arrived. I think this was on the second day. The first day, it was raining, and we entered from the Metro through an attached shopping mall. We arrived so early that day, we did not have to wait in line to enter the museum. When we began walking in the corridors, they were nearly deserted. I was in heaven.

One of the corridors as seen from a staircase. Every inch of the museum is lovely.

There is an exhibit in the basement of the Louvre that details the history of the building. This is from inside, part of the original structure, a fortress that dates to the twelfth century. The showy palace that you see from outside was added much later.

I love this majestic lion. He is a Roman antiquity, fashioned of green basanite and yellow marble.

This flaxen funerary hanging, Death Between Osiris and Anubis, depicts Osiris, the departed, and Anubis. The arm that Anubis extends offers protection in the afterlife.

The title of this lovely piece is Psyche revived by the kiss of Love. It is one of my favorite sculptures that we saw. This photo simply does not do it justice.

There were many gorgeous vessels such as this amphora.

An unwrapped mummy. My lovely daughter thought it quite funny that he was draped in that fashion.

Dircé, wife of Lycus and devotee of Dionysus. In Greek mythology, Lycus was a ruler of ancient Thebes. She was sculpted by Bartoli, a Florentine artist between 1824 and 1834.

Mercury, messenger of the Gods, by Giambologna, about 1608.

Egyptian jewelry

An incredibly detailed mummy of a pharaoh, though I don't remember which one. Notice the intricate pattern on the face.

The goddess Nut raising the sun, engraved on the basalt lid of the sarcophagus of Djedhor, a Pharaoh of Egypt's Thirtieth Dynasty. He came to power in 362 B.C.

I don't remember who this guy is anymore, but isn't he fabulous?

In the Denon Wing, we saw many students copying the great masters. My favorite was an old man copying a beautiful Italian painting, but for some reason I cannot find a picture of him. Their work was always quite amazing.

Egyptian artifacts

I could have spent the entire available time walking through the galleries of the Louvre. We saw parts of two wings, the lobby and the gift shop. I suppose I'll just have to go back.

Monday, December 17, 2007

On Fun Monday #4, I Break the Rules a Little

This week, our Fun Monday hostess is kitten. She is interested in finding out more about our homes. Her assignment is:

I think it would be neat to hear about the story behind your home and the road you live on. It doesn't have to be historical, maybe just something that stands out to you. It would be nice to have pictures to go with your little story. I also would like to know who has the oldest house. Whoever has the oldest house will get a little Christmas treat from little ole me.

I've written about my home before. In fact, finding a new home was a significant focus of my blog back in the early days (not so long ago). There are posts about searching for a place to live, and posts about the move. I even wrote about the day I found out we were going to have to find a new home. I think I've exhausted this subject.

Instead, I'm going to write about the little house that was our home for twelve years.

I had just turned twenty-seven a couple of weeks before we moved in. It was the first home I'd owned in Oklahoma, my home state, since moving to Kansas at the tender age of 22. We had moved frequently, making our home in places as diverse as Topeka, Kansas, Lee's Summit, Missouri, Newport News, Virginia, and Aiken, South Carolina. The older two children were small, my little boy still in a crib. Even though they were small, the moving was already becoming difficult, and it was time to settle down.

The little house was painted a garish, 1980s country blue when we bought it. Inside, the walls were covered in wallpaper in the style of the time, with even the light switch plates covered. The paper in the kitchen was done in two matching prints, a large version below the chair rail and a smaller one above it. There was more country blue in the background for the wallpaper of the main bath, which was covered in dusty rose colored posies. It was hideous. The wallpaper in the master bathroom was the only one I could stand, and even that was outdated, a cream colored paper printed with flowers and a shiny stripe. It looked like a country magazine had thrown up all over the walls.

The house was located in an excellent school district. It was on a large corner lot, with trees in front and back. The high vaulted ceilings made the living areas and the master bedroom seem larger than they were. I loved the bay windows that looked out into the back yard. The open floor plan was exactly what I was looking for, and despite the horrid wallpaper, the bones of the house were good, with upgraded countertops in the kitchen and baths, gorgeous built in bookshelves and woodwork and a lovely master suite. I moved in thinking that we'd stay a few years, maybe five, tops.

I got to work, stripping wallpaper, painting, and replacing light fixtures that dated from about 1986. They were uglier than the wallpaper. There was a large dog run along the back of the house that I tore down one summer day while the children napped. My husband tore up carpet in the main bath and linoleum in the kitchen. He replaced it with tile he laid himself, learning how to do it from a book we bought at Home Depot. We ripped ugly, neglected bushes out of the flower beds in front of the house, enlarged the beds and reshaped them. We replaced the bushes with lovely double flowering azaleas. Then replaced them again with something else equally ambitious. And finally settled on boxwood,crimson barberry and a little ornamental peach tree with a carpet of creeping jenny.

Our lovely daughter's room went through several incarnations in that twelve years. The ones I remember most vividly are her garden room and her "grown up" room. I can't find a picture of the garden room, but imagine white French furniture with gold accents, linens reminiscent of a Monet garden painting, palest pink walls and a rose vine trailing its way from the base of the door up to the ceiling and around the whole room. The grown up room, which she loved, wasn't very girly at all.

The boys' room started out life as a red and white nursery for one and ended up a jungle room for two. My little guy still asks to see pictures of their jungle room and has selected animal print linens for his new room here.

We put our hearts, our sweat and our tears into that little house. Up until we moved in August of 2006, it was the only home my children had ever known. Our youngest came home from the hospital to that house we had remodeled and reshaped with our own hands.

We never did get around to replacing the horrible carpet. When we first moved, my lovely daughter told me the thing she missed most about the house was the old, ugly blue carpet. It was our home. We still miss it. But now I think it's just the idea of the house we miss.

And I, for one, don't miss that blue carpet at all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Images of the Ice

The ice will be gone today or Thursday. Most of the ice on the lawn is already gone, partially melted by the rain on Tuesday and partially by the high temperature of 39 degrees fahrenheit. Our forecast is for scattered showers and 36 degrees fahrenheit today. On Thursday, we are expecting sun and 45 degrees fahrenheit, but another storm system is headed this way on Friday. This time, the forecast is snow.

The power outages rose to 618,000 customers statewide today. Almost 251,000 of those are in and around Oklahoma City. This outage is the worst in the state's history. A similar storm in 2002 left about 250,000 without power at the height of the power problems. All 77 counties in Oklahoma have been touched. The current occupant has declared our lovely state a disaster area. Today the power companies held a press conference to say some of those poor people may be without power for a week to ten days, despite the fact that help is being brought in from out of state.

Even though we've had a couple of 30 second outages that made me hold my breath, we still have power. Several of my husband's coworkers who live no more than one or two miles to the east of us weren't so lucky. And because their homes are all electric and serviced by electric powered rural water wells, they have no power, heat or water and have had to leave their homes.

Soon the picturesque ice that has caused all the problems will be gone, so I thought I'd share a few more shots from my neighborhood.

A stand of trees on the east side of our front yard.

Our mail box.

The blackjack oak in the middle of our front yard.

The little junipers in front of my bedroom window. I wonder if they'll recover.

Another shot of the stand of trees on the east.

One of the lights that marks our driveway.

A tree from the back yard.

There are some wonderful photo slide shows of pictures residents have sent into the television stations. You can see pictures of the damage as well as some really beautiful shots of ice covering trees, bushes, furniture, houses, and statues. If you'd like to view them, go here. My kids will return to school tomorrow and our life will be essentially normal. There are many residents here who won't be so lucky. Keep them in your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

ice, ice, everywhere

We are having a big ice storm. The deluge started Saturday night with freezing rain followed by sleet and a few snow flurries. On Sunday morning, before the roads were too bad, my husband drove me to the grocery and the hardware store for supplies. I loaded up on kiddo food and canned goods plus milk, eggs and bread. We bought de-icer, ice melt for the sidewalks and driveway, and a key for the gas fireplace at the hardware store. The kids were out of school on Monday, and they're out again today. We are lucky; Monday morning the news programs were reporting 137,000 customers without power in the state. Now, that number is up to 500,000, but our power is still on. (Knocking wood as I type.)

My parents have no water or electricity and are staying at a hotel for the next two or three days. We haven't been able to reach my husband's mother, but we're fairly sure she is with his sister. The power outages are particularly bad in Tulsa this time. The Tulsa International Airport was completely without power on Monday and is expected to be today as well. One of the water processing plants has no power and Tulsans have been asked to conserve water.

Ice is dangerous and brutal. There have been twelve deaths as a result of traffic accidents since the ice started just in the Oklahoma City area and another death from exposure. Monday morning I heard that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the OKC police had responded to more than 100 accidents. I'm sure by now it's many more.

Our neighbors two doors down lost one of the big trees in their back yard. Luckily, it didn't fall on their house or the shop. I spoke to my father, who lives about 140 miles north of us, and he's lost so many trees on his land that he thinks he'll have about twelve ricks of wood to cut when the storm and its aftermath are over. It's no wonder the trees are coming down.

The ice is thick on everything. When I took the dogs out Monday morning in the ice covered grass, I laughed so hard I nearly cried. Jack gingerly picked his way across the yard, refusing to pee until we found some soft grass under the blackjack oak. Maddy didn't really walk across the yard. Once we were off the patio, she jumped and hopped. I think she was trying to get across the ice, thinking if she hopped just once more, things would return to normal. It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen a dog do.

Our yard backs up to a hay field. We haven't yet put up a fence, so the back of our yard is still marked by barbed wire. Just behind the fence there are little trees and bushes. They are all covered with ice and glistened in the little bit of sun that broke through the clouds.

The ice is on everything. I couldn't open the doors of my car this morning, even with de-icer. I had to resort to heat and a windshield scraper. Icicles hang in a thick fringe from the eaves. We had to pull one of the trash cans inside the garage and let it thaw just to take the trash out of the house. The little bushes in the front yard are so heavy with ice they are bending to touch the ground.

More freezing rain was forecast for Tuesday, but at 11:30pm the temperature in the Oklahoma City metro was 34 degrees F. It looks like the worst of it is behind us. For this storm, anyway.

My lovely daughter turns seventeen years old today. She told me she thought the weather turned at just the right time. Late enough that school was called off . . . so she gets a snow day for her birthday.