Saturday, December 22, 2007

SLC Christmas: Loving one another.

Sometimes life throws you a curve.
Or an unexpected bump when you ski.

I took this picture because I was touched watching my kids caring for their father when he was in so much pain.

Jeff and Bernie had a great time skiing Brighton together on nice squeaky powder snow this morning.
Bernie just wanted to get a half day of skiing in with Jeff to start the holidays.
Laura and I were happy to stay home while they went.

Bernie and Jeff were coming down a green run, an easy slope compared to what they usually ski, when Bernie went over an uncharacteristic hump in the run.
He wasn't expecting it, but he got great air, according to all who witnessed it.
He really didn't have any choice; it was just there.
And then he fell.
Jeff was skiing right behind him, and was able to get him help right away.
The snow rescue team had to sled B. down the mountain.
X-rays say the bones are fine, but the ACL (and/or other ligaments) are torn.
It was an excruciating injury. Jeff had broken his ACL a few years ago himself so he knew what it was like.
LauraRN was called into action once they got home, and Jeff helped him with icing his leg splint.
Morphine, and other drugs are keeping him comfortable now....
Bernie is just going to have to basically lay low for the rest of our time in SLC.

We just hope and pray that Bernie will be well enough to travel in eight days.
I can't imagine how he could possible fly with his leg like this.
He will probably need surgery once we get home; maybe therapy can address it.
Either way, we are so thankful Laura will be moving to Houston in January, and will living with us for awhile.
She's the best nurse in the world, especially when you need post surgical care and pain management.
The four of us are just huddling downstairs, watching a little TV.
Bernie is alternately sleeping and waking on the couch.
He won't be able to go upstairs to bed.
We got a heated blanket and an air mattress for him to use as he camps out downstairs.
At least the view out the sliding glass door as seen above is pretty for him to enjoy.

I am so sorry Bernie had this happen to him.
I am so grateful to have two kids that know how to offer their care.
And that the four of us are together during this time.

SLC Christmas: December 21-22

Hi Mom and Dad D. and S.!
Well my house is *spotless* (as always , I just had to clean like crazy before I left, why is that???)
and now I am kicking back and having fun.

The SLC airport was packed, but nothing compared to Houston's airport. Yipes...glad we got there early early for once.

So fun to see Jeff in a muffler and overcoat. The southern California boy with flip flops and shorts 24/7 has morphed.

We stopped for the traditional bean and cheese burritos on the way home to Jeff's. Bernie commented on the cute decorations...oops, I mean real icicles.

Got to see my grand kitty!
Isn't Mowsie adorable sitting on his daddy's lap? grandcat is God's chosen cat to the world...or something like that.
Jeff has gotten a gorgeous tree. I keep thinking it is so pretty it almost looks fake, and then am disgusted with myself that I now compare perfect real trees to artificial trees, instead of the other way around.
Note that the presents have ALL arrived from California...

There is no more room under the tree. The gifts are now piling up the staircase.

Laura bought paper whites, which are blooming, and the amaryllis will probably bloom before we leave too.

The kids even switched out the decorations in the bowl on the coffee table.

And Laura bought a bouquet of roses to welcome us.
The boys are skiing this morning on a foot of powder; Laura and I have been catching up, and now were probably going to go to the store to order meat for Christmas dinner.
We're supposed to get another big dump of snow tonight.
Yes...we miss you...I'll be posting regularly so you can enjoy being part of the fun via the blog, and of course we'll call too....
Love you!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Birth Plaid

I had to go dig our kid's Christmas stockings out of storage yesterday.
We'll be celebrating Christmas at Jeff's place, and Laura will be there too.
We'll take their stocking with us for Santa to fill up there.

I needlepointed Laura's stocking for her when she was a newborn.
Back in 1978, pink, yellow, lavender and white and moss green seemed like just perfect colors for a little girl named Laura.
I also wove her a matching blanket on my 42" four harness loom.
And I made a star with similar yarn for the Christmas tree, with her name and birthdate and "First Christmas" engraved on a color foil center.

I lined the stocking with pink satin, and added a white rabbit fur cuff, then beaded her name on the front.
There was an antique beaded tassle too... couldn't find it this year.
Wonder what happened to it?
Why plaid? The plaid is actually her birth date: 7-22-78
Seven rows of pink, two yellow, two lavender, seven white, eight green.
Both vertically and horizonally.
I thought it was a sweet way to commemorate her birthday.
I also planned to make stocking for each of my babies eventually.
And a pillow with our anniversary date plaid.
Isn't that just the cutest idea?

But then Jeff came along on 3-7-80.
80 rows of something kind of doesn't work in a plaid.
No way to stitch a zero...
Maybe I should have just done 3 and 7 as a simple plaid.
But by then Laura was a very active two year old and I had my hands full just keeping up with her.
So my mom knitted a sock for Jeff.
Family life...sometimes you just go with the flow and it all works out fine in the end.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Orleans Anniversary Trip: Sunday December 16, 2007

Sunday morning was check out day.
It was a very cold morning too; the wind was blowing, and the temperature was in the low 40's.
The hotel was overwhelmed with everyone checking out at once.

We headed to the Coffee Pot restaurant for breakfast. When we are in NO in nice weather we usually try to eat breakfast there in their patio.
Bernie's Bloody Mary has the traditional hot pickled green beans as garnish. I had biscuits with eggs and chicken livers in a spicy sauce. And grits. Gotta have grits in New Orleans!
While we were eating, one of the waitresses greeted some old friends with hugs and kisses.
After the friends were seated, the waitress clasped her hands to her chest and began to sing a soul/blues/gospel song right in the middle of the restaurant.
The rest of the wait staff kept on doing what they were doing, some of the guests stopped to listen, others kept on talking.
I mean really: how wonderful is that?
We window shopped a bit, killing time until the Patio Planter Christmas Open House tour began at 2:00.

Beignets and coffee au lait over looking the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square is always a good idea.
That was when the three well heeled dogs swung by.
Sara commented on the first post that the dog has a red manicure. Too cute....I can't believe I had missed that little detail!

Just walking around the Quarters was a treat.
Loved this balcony in New Orleans Saints football team's colors.
(They were playing that afternoon; they won!)
This balcony is draped with bead looped on the railing, ready to be tossed as the situation warrants.
I discovered the Patio Planter's tour when I did some research about what was planned for the weekend in New Orleans.
The Patio Planters is a club. Members must live in the French Quarters and have either a patio or balcony garden. The French Quarters, AKA Vieux Carre is by definition an 8 block by 13 block area.
By the favorite street is Royal Street, from end to end. Just in case you have a chance to go...
The tour tickets were $15 apiece, and the tour included five houses in the French Quarters. I figured it was a great chance to mingle with the locals.
The first house was the Rectory of the St. Louis Cathedral. It consisted of three adjoining town houses built in the 1830's. Probably the most interesting thing there to me was the Monsignors "crook" (there is a name for these...anyone out there who is a Catholic... can you help me out?)

The second stop on the tour was the home of children's picture book author. Her entire house was covered in walled in bookcases filled with children's picture books. Christmas trees filled up the rest of the space. She sat in the kitchen and chatted with each person arriving, telling stories non-stop.

The property dated back to 1722, and the present structure was build in 1860. Of course the inside has been remodeled. The owner had hosted a party for the American Library Association when they met in New Orleans a few years back. She had dozens of children's book authors sign the mouldings around her inside doorways!

The current owner was a very creative lady. Get a load of the cockle burr nativity set pictured above..

Doesn't that just beat all???
I loved how the houses had charming courtyards out back.
This little "shot gun" cottage was constructed in 1898, was and completely renovated after being bought in April 2007.
If you walk past the cottage at 729 Dumaine Street when the shuttered doors are closed, you could have little clue as to what was inside.

Inside....very up beat! A darling husband and wife own this house, along with four other houses.

We had a lovely chat with the husband outside amidst the wife's bonsai collection.

We had to walk between the five houses and had a chance to admire how various people had decorated their balconies for Christmas.
Aren't the diamond shaped windows charming?
The little house looked so southern and welcoming, although it was not one of the houses on the tour.
I'm still enamored with the blue paint on the undersides of eaves.
I also like that they painted the scroll work in contrast to make the design stand out more.

I had never seen this kind of tree before.
Such an elegant flower; it is about the size of a small tea cup.

The last house at 716 Esplanade Ave. was the best.
The owner was a lively lady, a recent widow just oozing with personality.
She was impressed that I complimented her on her chocolate pot; most people don't know what identifies a tea pot vs. a coffee pot vs a chocolate pot. We antique loving hat wearers just "click" when we get the chance!
She had incredible antiques, including a large mirror that originally came from a former brothel on Canal Street.

The owner had this picture of herself in the bedroom. What a hoot! Isn't she fun???
The house had a reception room, dining room, kitchen, and a study/family room. In the back of the family room the owner had a two story doll house with probably twenty rooms, each furnished in minute detail. I quickly snapped a picture of this room with a doll "bride". It's worth it to enlarge this picture. EVERY room in the doll has was this elegant. This doll house room was about the size of half a shoe box.
The owner had hung this perfect little touch of Christmas cheer on the side door leading to a side garden, which in turn lead to a patio garden and a small swimming pool.
During Katrina the area had experienced "micro bursts" AKA tornados; the winds separated the back half of the house from the rest of the building.
The owner had done a remarkable job making the property perfect again.

Some of the places did not allow photos, and I didn't take a lot of pictures because of that.
Boy, do I wish I could have though!

The railing in front of the property's small front garden.
The Patio Planter's tour funds a yearly event in New Orleans: The Annual Caroling by Candlelight in Jackson Square, which was held at 7 pm that evening.

Drat....we had to fly out at six.

Next year....there is always next year.
How lovely it must be to have everyone in the city crowd into Jackson Square to carol by candlelight!

I just love New Orleans.
This iron fence is a perfect example of the romance of the town.

Sometimes when I need a break, I dream about New Orleans.

Love you NOLA.
We'll be back real soon!
(For recipes and another blogger's take on NOLA, click here. Lots of wonderful recipes!)

New Orleans Anniversary Trip: Saturday Dec. 15 2007

While Bernie and I were getting beignets on Friday, we checked out tour plans. Lo and behold, the tour ticket agent was Karla Boullion, my tour guide from my last NO trip. I had just been telling Bernie what an excellent guide she was, then we walked over to the ticketing booth, and there she was.
She had injured herself fixing up her new home, and was doing booth duty until she was well enough to lead tours again.

I asked her what tour was the best option, and she recommended the Honey Island Swamp tour.

That was exactly the tour I had in mind, so we booked it for the next day.

Running into Karla was like running into an old friend!
So....on Saturday we snoozed in a bit, then headed out. A bus picked us up at the hotel, and drove us almost to the Mississippi border. We saw several of the neighborhoods that had been underwater during Katrina. The guide told us only 10% of the neighborhoods are now inhabited. FEMA trailers were to be seen as well as the blue tarps on roof tops.
They were regular looking neighborhood, except all the windows were either gone or boarded up.
We had to go inside the gift shop...I LOVED the Christmas garland and wreath made from local materials.
Pine cones, Spanish moss, and red berried branches.
I should know the name of the green stuff as we have it growing in our yard.

Isn't the Spanish moss mysterious and lovely at the same time?

We headed inside for air conditioning and gift shopping.
I loved the colorful collage of Louisiana themed refrigerator magnets.
A coffee mug told the Legend of the Spanish Moss.
This "Legend of..." stuff is getting to be pretty popular in children's literature.

Overhead the sky was crystal clear blue, with no wind. The moss dangling from bare branches...I wondered what it looked like when there were autumn leaves on the tree.
We got aboard the boat, and discovered we had a little female anole along for the ride as well.
You can see one of the Katrina search spray paint markers on the piling in the center below this house. It had been underwater at one point.
Anole rode alone....hopping on people, running along the railing.
Our first alligator sighting.
Look at your left, just below the vegetation touching the edge of the picture, from the island. It is a little six foot long female.
There are a few on the beach area as well, but they are harder to see.
The big males are already hibernating.
Close up of Ms. Anole. Love her white pearly back design. Notice that here she is brown. She was quite fearless. Watch her riding along here.
I'm happy....
Bernie's happy....
Under the bridge we go. The bridge will open; the concrete block is lowered as a counter weight to draw the bridge open.
The boat wove through small water passages.
The other people in the boat were from Spain, Sweden, Korea and Uruguay.
I had never felt the world to be as small as I did after finding out where everyone else was from.
Just pretty...
The water was often covered with water lily. We glided right over it.
Two more gators. One on each end of the horizontal log. One on the left is in profile, the one on the right is looking straight ahead. Alligators are rather docile, unlike crocodiles which will stalk and attack.
Yup, alligators are basically lazy critters, devoted to sunning themselves and eating turtles, ducks and fish. They have to be at 70 degrees minimum to digest food, that is why these girls are enjoying the day. They are small enough to heat up; the bulls are already on the bottom of the swamp hibernating because they can't heat up their big bodies as fast. Once the air temp drops, all the gators head to the bottom of the swamp for winter.
The guide didn't expect to see any gators out; the next day the temperature dropped from low 80's to the low 40's. Our timing was good!
Another gator....there's at least two million gators in Louisiana.
Close up of the plants covering the water. The leaves are about the size of a clover petal.
Honey Island Swamp got named for the honey found inside the hollowed out cypress trees.
It was a gorgeous sight wherever I looked.
Hey there, Gorgeous!

Spanish moss is so dreamy looking.
Our guide Nolan showed us processed Spanish moss. Moss was harvested, soaked in water, then beatened to remove the grey covering, revealing a filament that is a hard as horse hair. It was actually used as "horse hair" for stuffing in the original Model T Fords and also for weaving blankets during the Civil War. It really felt just like horse hair!
I always thought swamps would be smelly like stagnant water, and with tons of mosquitoes.
Actually, since the water is gently flowing, the air is incredibly fresh and there were no bugs. The guide says mosquitoes are actually rather rare in the heart of the swamp as there is little standing water.
You can't see it, but there was a gator swimming across our water trail in the picture above.
It was all water under the plant covering.
I learned that a swamp is water covered forest floor, and a marsh is water covered meadow.

The cypress is shedding its rust red tiny feather like leaves. Cypress live to be thousands of years old, and the wood will not rot. All the French Quarter houses were built using the cypress back in the late 1700's-early 1800's. Most of the really old trees were harvested at that time.
Our guide Nolan: A real live Cajun. He was Kelly Ripah's family's guide a few weeks ago. He said he didn't have a guide shirt that day, and actually was wearing an extremely dirty tee shirt when he was called upon to lead the private tour.
Isn't that always the way?

Cajuns are of French heritage. They left France, moved to Arcadia Canada, then were booted out for refusing to pledge to the English king, so they came to New Orleans back in the early 1700's. They have their own foods, language, music and culture. Cajuns are especially known for making their living fishing and hunting.
This is an ancient cypress that has been struck by lighting. The lighting halted its growth, but the tree then forms the thorny appearance. This particular tree has shown up in a lot of movies, including Interview with a Vampire. It is a landmark within the swamp.
The area was so serene and so quiet , it was hard to imagine a film crew set up there. Honey Island Swamp is a nature preserve, so great care is taken when ever it is entered for any reason.
A squirrel nest far above us. One of the advantages of going in winter; in summer all the trees would be in full leaf and it would be more difficult to see the birds and the distance.
Ms. Anole has switched her brown color to green now. It never ceases to amaze me how fast they change color.
The gently running water is muddy brown, as the soil is clay based. There is no bedrock in Louisiana, the soil goes 40 feet deep, so the water always has a brown tinge.

A pretty little red berry bush in the middle of the swamp.
Rather Christmasy, don't you think?
As soon as the tour was over, a wind kicked up. By the time we were back in our room the wind was gusting at 35 miles per hour. We could hear it howling, and watched the storm cloud bands move in from our hotel window.

Time for our Anniversary dinner.

This night we checked Fromers for a rating before going to The Bourbon House for dinner. I had the quail; everything on the menu was fabulous!
After dinner, we walked around the French Quarter again.

The hotel lobbies were all so beautifully decorated for Christmas!
A fairy was posing on one street corner.
I got sprinked with fairy dust.
A magical way to end the evening, don't you think?
Today, December 18th is our actual anniversary date.
You may see our wedding pictures here.
Thirty one years it has been for us.
And we are still having fun.