Friday, December 26, 2008

Gas for Cheap

Did I mention that I got gas today for $1.03/gallon? That included a $.40/gallon discount at my local Tom Thumb because I bought so many groceries. That may sound good, but I also bought a measly 5 lbs of potatoes today for $3.59. That seemed overpriced.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Some of my readers, all two of you, may not know that I've had to move my family blog from Blogger to Wordpress. This was necessary in order to outsmart certain governments in the world who have banned Blogger and have thereby hindered my communication with a certain segment of my family--the ones with the world's cutest grandbaby of mine!

So, if you are interested in my other blog, still named Linda's Family News, you can link here.

I may or may not end up moving this blog too, but I'm too tired to think about that right now. In fact, I'm a little sick, so I should just go to bed. I found myself coming home from the Christmas Eve service with a little fever. Gary's not doing so well either--he pulled a muscle in his back when we moved Rachel's Christmas present up the stairs to her second floor apartment--a new love seat.

Anyway, I posted photos of our unusual Christmas dinner over there, so go have a look if you want. And let me also wish you a Merry Christmas and Christ's peace for the coming new year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Should Never Have Doubted Her, Part II

Rachel got word this morning that she passed the 4-8 Texas Teacher certification test that she took last Wednesday.

What a relief for her, since passing was an important step in keeping her job. Gary's algebra tutoring must have helped!

We are very proud of her. Thank the Lord with us.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I've Been Busy Birding

I spent a lot of today birding. Well, I"m just an amateur, so it was just bird-watching out the back door. But I did pull the vertical blinds shut to make a viewing blind. I was doing this for the Birdstack Birds of Solstice project. I only saw 11 different birds, all but one on my bird feeder.

I also just made an online photo album for my bird photos. The photos themselves are not that great, but you get the idea. I guess you need one of those fancy cameras to make good photos. Click here to see my bird photos.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

White Winged Doves

I gave up trying to get my bird feeder fixed and instead just leaned it up against the deck. What do I have to do to get some help around here?? In any case, as soon as I put the bird food out, the birds arrived in, well, flocks. There were cardinals, tufted titnice, carolina chickadees, some sparrows but I don't know what kind, dark-eyed juncos, and these lovely white-winged doves. Oh, and one red-bellied woodpecker, too.

Tomorrow I'm going to participate in Birds of the Solstice. And I just now realized that the 24-hour period has already started. But I'll likely do my bird watching after church. Or maybe before church, since there's no Sunday School tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Bit of Birding

When my two older kids were in college, they took science classes that were taught by ornithologists. Andrew got quite interested in birds when he spent a semester abroad in Costa Rica and I enjoyed hearing all about the different kinds of birds he was seeing. Then Rachel had to do a bird observation project for her science class and she talked me into helping her (she doesn't have the world's best eyesight for birding). I do remember her insisting the the male and female Mallard ducks had to be different species--I mean, just look at them!

So I kind of got into birdwatching a little because of them. I'm strictly an amateur, but I do think it is kind of cool to find a new bird and do the work to figure out what it is. (I know I've blogged about birds in the past: here and here and here and here. Actually, I have lots of more bird posts and that reminds me, I should go back and take those birds and add them to my life list at Birdstack.)

Speaking of Birdstack, they are having a bird-watching party this coming Sunday. Which is also the winter solstice. I'm going to join them. (I think it is kind of strange to talk about birding and parties in the same breath!) It is easy, and you don't have to be a professional! Here is the scoop--why don't you join us?

Birds of the Solstice

The Good Life

This morning I was again reminded that the quality of life is automatically higher for those of us who do not have to commute to work.

Gary kindly joined me as we left at 6:05am to take Rachel to a location north of the metroplex. Traffic was bad coming home and worse going there. At least the temperature was above freezing unlike yesterday morning when the city was covered in a thin layer of ice. Someone said there were over 100 accidents yesterday in the area.

In other news, we enjoyed the GIAL Christmas dinner last evening. We could walk to that, too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas At Work

Today we hosted the annual department Christmas tea. As usual, it was held in the 2nd floor hallway, which isn't an ideal venue, but we make it work.

We are grateful to work with a bunch of great people who accomplish a lot with sometimes fewer than ideal resources and almost always cheerfully.

We even have some wise men around.

This year Joan found the mother of all poinsettias for the table--so big we almost lost Kathy back there.

I've noticed that my stats counter for this blog has suddenly increased--I think it is because this coworker mentioned that he was blog-buddies with me in a public attended by some of my coworkers. Now, I bet they are seeing themselves in these photos!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Should Never Have Doubted Her

Tonight was the church's annual "Family Christmas" service. Rachel picked the hardest Christmas song in existence to perform as a solo. Sam moved it down several keys to better fit Rachel's range, added a lovely viola part, and Rachel sounded just great!

Those of you who attended David and Sarah's wedding might also recognize her dress. Nice to wear it at least twice!

Friday, December 12, 2008

White Elephant Gift

Last night we joined our old Bible study group for their annual Christmas dinner--yummy Mexican. I brought homemade guacamole. After dinner we had the funniest white elephant gift exchange.

Gary's number was toward the beginning and he got some almonds. Then they were stolen. Then he got some mixed nuts. Then they were stolen. Then he got a block of cheddar cheese. Then it was stolen. Then he got a cheeseball covered with nuts--nobody took that. But at the end he found someone willing to trade it for some Christmas letter paper.

My number was at the end, and I ruthlessly stole the best gift of the evening from some visitor--he will probably never return!

Mooove over Marble Slab Creamery!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hi, Ma!

Sauerkraut continues to surprise me. First I learn that Ackley, IA, where my blogging friend Ma Hoyt lives, celebrates Saurkraut Days.

Then last week when I was at Sam's club, I discovered this at their food stand.

Yes, that's right. Single serve sauerkrauts sitting out for anyone to take. Of course, I noticed no one except me was taking. I guess some people can't eat a hot dog without kraut to go on top. As for me, I thought it would make some great blog material. On the other hand, Gary did actually open this package and eat the contents on the hot dog he had for lunch.

Gas Wars

Did I mention I filled up the van at $1.53 yesterday? *another little dance*

We saw it for $1.29 at two places on Sunday, but we didn't need gas then.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Christmas Flowers

Tonight we're having our first Christmas meal with friends. I haven't had time to make all my Christmas goodies yet, so this will be her Christmas present. The vase is a small "flower arranger" that my mother-in-law made. She's a potter and I love to give her creations as gifts.

Tomorrow afternoon we're driving to Grandbury, a cool little town an hour or so south of here, and will spend the evening there with three other couples with whom we used to be in a Bible Study. We don't get to see them often, so it will be nice to have a little Christmas party with them.

I'm taking them flower arrangers too, and we'll have a craft project to make flower arrangements--like this one, only better! I've bought the flowers, greenery, and candy canes and pulled out my corsage making kit from when I used it at David and Sarah's wedding last June. Good thing I did that, because I found the missing pair of needle-nosed pliers I'd been looking for.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Potty Report

A lot of today was spent talking and thinking about potties. No, no one has either diarrhea or constipation--this talk was about the replacement potties. Ya know, it aint that easy to pick them out!

I even got a phone call from the City of Dallas today about potties! They told me my voucher was on hold until I faxed them a copy of our water bill. I'll do that from the office tomorrow morning.

The contractor came today and we showed him our four drawings of possible floor plans. After getting his opinion, we have come up with a plan. The plan will include extensive plumbing issues, but he felt the plan was entirely workable and we think it will give us a very functional end result.

We've decided to rip the wall out between the two bathrooms, move both toilets, change both sinks, and put in new tub/shower combination in BOTH bathrooms. This is only barely possible in such a small space, but it is possible because we are moving the master bathroom sink into the bedroom. So technically the bath off the master bedroom will be a "three-quarters" bathroom, not a full bathroom. But there are many examples of dorm rooms, hotel rooms and even Rachel's apartment where the shower and toilet are together and the sink is in the main room.

So, if anyone wants to know what to get us for Christmas, Home Depot gift cards come to mind...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gas Prices

Did I mention that I filled up the van this weekend at $1.58/gal? *little dance*

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Does This Look Familiar?

Gary returned safely from his trip and brought us some dried mangos. Kitty was awaiting his return.

Thanksgiving 2008

I have a bit of spare time before leaving for the airport to pick up Gary and then to go to friends' house for dinner. I've made my yeast rolls and they are out on the countertop rising. Rachel is coming over soon to make her specialty, green bean casserole.

I was going to make a list of things I'm thankful for, and I still may do that, but I decided to make links all my Thanksgiving blogs of past years. Wow, I've been blogging for quite a while. It is always interesting to look back over one's life and see how things have changed (or not):

2007a and 2007b

I do have a lot to be grateful for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Tonight I'm realizing that it was about 150 years ago that I used to know how to do algebra. I'm feeling sorry for Rachel who is spending at least part of her Thanksgiving vacation studying for a certification test that she's not entirely likely to pass (because it is over specific content stuff that she too studied years ago. I went over some of the math review questions--it seemed a lot like reading a foreign language! The literature review was brutal too--ugh! At least I knew the English grammar questions!

Anyway, pray for Rachel to do as well as she is able on the test (Dec 17) and then that she won't lose her job if she doesn't pass it! Yikes!

She loves the job and it has been a great thing for her, a perfect fit. It has been a learning and stretching experience, but she has done a good job with it. It would be so sad to lose it!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose, Part 4

I love to get rid of things by finding a new use for them. My niece, April, is spending a year in Atlanta with an organization which works with the homeless called Mission Year. Recently, when April heard of all my cleaning and throwing out, she asked if we had any old backpacks to get rid of. I collected a few (mostly bags Gary was given at academic conferences, so they have weird logos) and needed a way to package them up to send to her. What better container than an old cat food bag turned wrong side out??

I wiped off the cat food residue, and stuffed the old backpacks inside.
I sewed it shut.

And now I await April's mailing instructions.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Husband Doesn't Like Tomato Soup

But I do, so I'm having it while he is away. I found a few leftover bits of ham and avocado in the frig to throw in for fun.

I'm still, still working on cleaning and sorting and throwing out projects. Yesterday's project was to gather together all the odds and ends of disposable dishes and cutlery and put it all in one spot--most were leftovers from two wedding receptions last summer. My goal for the day is to finish putting away the summer clothes and getting out some winter ones. And to throw a few away in the process.

Still to go: my desk and nearby bookshelves have been started, but they are a continual battle to keep under control. And then when Gary gets home, he promised me he'd do some cleaning in his office. Which is also my office.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Throne Room

I'm very excited to say that we are about to embark on a remodeling project at our house. We've been saving the pennies since our kids finished college (not a penny to spare before then) so we could remodel two of our three bathrooms. Yesterday I called a friend who manages many rental houses and got the name of a contractor whom he trusts. Today this contractor, named Ernesto, came by and talked to me. I'm so excited--I've been wanting to get this done for a long time.

First order of business: order a voucher for $90 off each new throne. That goes in the mail tomorrow.

We are fortunate enough to have a third bathroom that we can use while the other two are being remodeled. And I'm happy that the plan is to turn the half bath off our bedroom and the main bathroom with a tub into two full bathrooms with tiled showers. The space is tight, but it looks like it can be done.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Kitty tried to help Gary pack for his trip to the Philippines. I've heard from him (Gary, not the cat) a couple times. He seems to be doing well and had some funny stories to tell about desert at a fancy restaurant
And then the Filipina that I was sitting next to insisted that I should try "halo halo" for dessert. That's Tagalog for
"mix mix", and it is shaved ice with all kinds of things mixed in -- purple yams, green hard jello, jack fruit, corn flakes, coconut meat, and more that I couldn't identify.

I've made some good progress on my house cleaning, although I'd hate to have unexpected visitors yet. I've taken several more loads of Andrew and Laura's stuff over to the storage bin, I've recycled lots, and the computer department at work thanks me for the laptop cases if not the laptops!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My House is a Wreck

The last renters moved out and now some new ones want to move in, so I've got some cleaning to do.
This needs to be sorted.

This needs to go into storage.

These need to go to the cardboard box recycle at the warehouse.

This need to go to the crisis pregnancy center.

I don't know what to do with this.

I found three abandoned laptops while cleaning. What to do with those?

This needs to go to the church food pantry.

This needs to go into the paper recycling bin.

I didn't even include photos of the stuff on its way to the boutique, the overflowing recycling bin, or the laundry room.

I don't like cleaning, but I do find it therapeutic. Good thing, huh? :-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This has turned into a family favorite. Very filling and makes good leftovers too.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

List of ingredients:
1 large chicken breast
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 can 4 oz chopped green chiles
1 can 10 oz chicken broth or broth from cooking chicken breasts
1 can 28 oz crushed tomatoes
1 can white hominy
1 can black beans
1 can corn kernels
1 T olive oil
2 t chili powder
1 t oregano
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
oil for frying tortilla strips
8-10 corn tortillas (or use tortilla chips)

shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
chopped green onions
avocado slices
sour cream


1. Boil chicken, cut into chunks, save broth.
2. In large pan, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Stir in spices, tomatoes, broth, and 1.5 cups water. Simmer 5-10 minutes.
3. Stir in Hominy, chilies, beans (rinse first), cilantro and chicken pieces. Simmer 10 minutes.
4. Fry fresh tortilla strips in hot oil and drain on paper towels while soup is simmering.
5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with toppings.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm Sad

We've just returned from dropping this beautiful baby and her parents off at DFW airport. They fly to Amsterdam and then to Addis Ababa, arriving in about 24 hours. Lord, keep them safe and help them as they start their new life.

Another Sleepless Night

This is the second night this week I haven't been able to sleep. I guess vacation means sleeping in in the morning and that makes going to sleep the next night even harder.

Yesterday I slept very well since I was dead tired from working so hard to pull of Grandpa Simons's 80th birthday party. I decorated this cake (which I had baked a few days previous) and then made chicken curry for a crowd and rearranged the house to fit all the visitors. I think we had a total of almost 20. Grandpa claimed this was the only birthday party he had had since age 10--that is hard to believe!

If you have any desire to see photos of the birthday party, or of our time at the Dallas Arboretum, or general shots of our family time, you can click the links to go to my web albums.

Part of the reason I can't sleep is thinking about Andrew, Laura and Isabella off to Africa tomorrow to start their new life. I'm going to miss them all, but especially that sweet baby! And would you know it, Blogger is apparently blocked in Ethiopia, so I have to find a different way to keep in touch with them.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Worm and A Hero

I spent election night with a worm called "Removable Disk.exe". It got on my computer via Andrew's memory stick which got it while traveling around Ethiopia. Interestingly enough, when I googled the worm's name, the first Google hit was an African computer forum.

The odd thing about this worm was that it didn't infect Andrew's brand new computer nor Gary's older computer, even though the memory stick was inserted into them; for some reason it just liked my computer best.

The action of this worm was to turn certain files on one's computer in "hidden" and/or "system" files. This has the effect of making them disappear even though they really are still there. I became familiar with that menu item called Folder Options during this ordeal in my attempts to turn hidden files into ones you could see.

It took quite of bit of work, but before Obama had been declared the winner, I purchased a piece of clean-up software called Prevx CSI for $25 and it killed the worm. Well, I tried the free version first which found the problem, but refused to fix it until I paid my money to Pay Pal.

It was only the next morning that I discovered the full damage that worm had done to my computer. The worm was dead, but the damage had already been done. I probably would not have discovered all it had done except that suddenly all my photos in Picasa had disappeared. Yes, the files were still there just fine, but after Picasa scanned them into its index, then all they immediately disappeared from Picasa. Some internet research revelaed that this was due to hidden folders in the paths that Picasa scans--apparently a Picasa bug. Gary worked with me to discover the full path names for the folder in question--none other than "My Documents."

Our attempts to find a way in Windows to change the file attributes to unhidden or non-system proved futile, as I expect the writer of this worm knew would be the case. But not to fear, Gary (aka my hero) was able to reach back to the dark DOS corners of his memory and, with a little assist from Google, fashion a DOS command to unhide My Documents: attrib -h -r -s mydocu~1 in case anyone else ever needs it. Of course, to use it, you need to know how to get to DOS!

Now my Picasa photos are back, and life can go on. In the meantime I upgraded to Picasa3, and I'm still figuring that one out.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ticket Scalping

Quote for the day: "If Sting tickets can buy you a new dishwasher, then Madonna tickets can pay for my grad school loans."

Speaking of appliances, I dragged this small freezer out on the deck last week to defrost it, and discovered there were 4 casters hidden inside the compressor cavity.

Next time, it should move a little easier.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Yes, I Am

After further thought, I'm afraid I have to say that yes, I am a poor judge of character. This point has come to mind due to the heated political season which--thankfully--comes to an end on Tuesday. I have to say that my first time to vote, I voted for Nixon. Of course, so did most of the country. But what we later learned about Nixon was enough to put me off politics for life. I suppose that was the beginning of a growing personal cynicism about all things political. Sigh.

On to more pleasant matters: the calendar says it must be autumn, but the temperature is 80 degrees. Dallas, never known for its natural beauty, does have nice wildflowers and this year there are also a few colorful trees around.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Am I a Poor Judge of Character?

Since I can't sleep tonight, I'm writing a blog. I used to fall asleep without any problems, but middle age has ruined that for me. Sigh.

One time, several years ago, I witnessed a situation where I learned that I'd been lied to. Not just a little white lie, but a systematic and complicated network of deception by a person to conceal the fact that he had AIDS. When the truth finally came out, along with all the sordid accompanying details, I (and others) responded first with shock. Then sadness. Then anger. Then with self-doubt. The questions came: "Am I such a bad judge of character that I couldn't see through the lies? Shouldn't I have figured this out? How did I allow myself to be duped? Am I that stupid? If he lied to me, I wonder how many other people are lying to me? Should I examine people's words more carefully before I accept them? Am I too trusting?"

Years have passed, but I'm still uncomfortable when I recall that situation. I guess it has been hard to forgive this person--for his bad choices and for lying to me about them.

Recently, I've faced a new but similar situation. I trusted someone but later learned that this person was not worthy of my trust. In this case, I confronted the person and they admitted their sin and asked for forgiveness. I actually told them I forgave them, and indeed I tried to forgive, but truthfully, I'm not sure I really have deep down inside my heart. I still hurt over their bad choices, and I still question myself for allowing myself to be deceived.

It is tempting to develop an attitude of "trust no one" to avoid being duped again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What a Computer is Not Good For

My husband is off at meetings for 10 days. His computer more or less died the first day out and has since gone from bad to worse. The experts are examining it tomorrow. In the mean time, someone lent him a computer to finish preparing his speech which was presented this morning without incident.

But I had to laugh when I was going through his email inbox this morning. One email said, "Hey Gary. I'm sitting on your right. Can I have a meeting with you over lunch?"

So I, in Dallas, wrote back: "First of all, Gary's computer died. Second, he's not reading email. Third, he can't see well enough to read emails during all the boring meetings like everyone else. If you want to talk to him, then tap in on the shoulder and look him in the eye and talk to him!"

The person emailed back, "OK, I will."

Aren't computers great??

Saturday, October 25, 2008


It takes a redhead to wear shoes like this to the theater! But, really, in this particular case, what could be more appropriate??

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I've kind of lost my joy in blogging. And my interest. That, and I just seem to keep busy enough with family related things. Being a grandmother seems more interesting than being a blogger, at least for now.

Sometimes I consider writing certain thoughts here, and then decide against it; sometimes I wish I could be just a little more anonymous!

Gary left today for a 10-day trip East. I got a phone message that he arrived safely, but he didn't answer when I tried to call him back. He's been working so very, very hard on the next edition of the Ethnologue. I'm about to declare Death by Ethnologue, Part II. Part I was four years ago.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


What's that you've got in your shopping cart?

Oh, it's some coffee!

We're so happy to have Laura and Isabella back with us, if for only less than a month.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Camping and Relaxing

It was great to get out of town for the weekend. If you're interested in see camping photos, you can check out my family blog.

If not, you can still admire these two new wildflower photos I've added to my collection.

purple aster (a late season bloomer, and lots of them around)

This is a new one for me, I think in the water plantain family. They grow in the mud at the lake edges, and it was hard to get really close for a good shot because of the mud.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I have no idea what the point of this is, but I drove up behind this giant trailer today. (Just happened to have my camera handy.) Scary! (the side of the trailer said something about motorcycles).

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Staying Home

Can you believe that this kept us from going to church today?

Well, it wasn't quite that cut and dried. The event did prevent my family members from getting to early choir practice and then we decided that we'd make alternate plans because today was youth Sunday. Not that we don't like the youth--we do! There are a great bunch of kids at our church. It is just that a certain member of our family can't handle the music on youth Sunday!

Anyway, the route for this national event was right in our neighborhood, and followed or intersected all of several routes that we normally drive to church. They were blocking off intersections and letting cars only go one way. But I must honestly admit that it would actually have been possible to get there by going all the way around on the freeway.

And we'll be skipping church next Sunday too--going camping. Wow, two misses in a row? That might be a new record. :-)