Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Phoenix for a Day

We left LA this morning and stopped here in Phoenix for the night. Not too many pictures from today, but we did get this one this morning.Recognize it: it's the building that is used for CSI:Miami's crime scene headquarters. In real life it's FAA Credit Union.

One other picture from the road today is from Quartzsite, AZ. There are no houses. The only permanent structures are commercial. Everything residential is mobile. Trailers and RVs as far as the eye can see.

We did take pictures at Disneyland, but they will be posted later...

when we get home.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hollywood & La Brea Tar Pits

Today we spent the day on foot and rain in Hollywood. The Metro system here in LA has light rail and buses. We bought day passes for all of us and rode both. L does NOT like underground rail. She thinks it is as creepy as the hotel in Holbrook. She kept asking if we could walk back instead of taking the subway.

We went to Grauman's Chinese Theater and took pictures of footprints.

Why are Sean Connery's footprints of bare feet?

We took some of the Hollywood sign, too. (It's there, close to the top of the mountain behind me.)

From Wiltshire Boulevard we took the Metro bus to the La Brea Tar Pits. It is not at all what I was expecting. For one thing, it's right in the middle of the city. It's a working laboratory and a natural history museum filled with the excavations from the tar pits on the site: dire wolves, giant sabre tooth cats, and woolly mammoths. Check out the teeth on this mastodon.

It was a really neat place.

Not too far from the Tar Pits is the Petersen Automobile Museum. Mr. H definitely wanted to go there, but the girls protests prevailed. He'll save it for a time he's out here on a business trip.

One thing I've learned on this trip is that there are a lot of different people in this world and they are all represented on the Metro in LA. I'm from a pretty much homogenous population. It is so different here. There were people from every racial and ethnic group I know of. Some spoke English and some didn't. In fact, the people who looked the most like me spoke French. And LA people live so close to each other that they create their own private spaces around themselves. I think the people on the trains with their eyes closed were the residents and all us tourists were the ones looking at everything. At one point we were on a very crowded bus going down Wiltshire. There were people in every seat and the aisles were filled with standing passengers. I leaned over to Mr. H and said that folks in George County only get this close to each other for one thing: George County football!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On the Road Again...

We took a walk through Mr. H's sister's neighborhood while we were in Phoenix. Her neighbors are serious about their decorations, even though the yards are not big enough to turn our lawn mower around in. (Their yards are rock gardens: no mower necessary.)

We left Phoenix this morning about 8. On our way out of town, we passed the stadium where the Cardinals play.Saguaro "sah-wah-roh" cacti grow everywhere in Phoenix. Once we got into California, we stopped seeing them. I believe they are the most alien plant life I've ever seen.

We made really good time getting to Los Angeles. We took I-10 from Phoenix to its end at Santa Monica Pier. I have now been on both ends of I-10. On our way home, we plan on taking I-10 all the way home. Then I can say that I've been on every mile of I-10!! This is the view of downtown LA from the interstate.

We went to the beach after we got something to eat. L and M couldn't resist walking in the Pacific, even though it was cold. L wasn't expecting the water to get to her just yet!!

We got to the beach late in the afternoon. We walked quite a bit and climbed on rocks. We watched the sun set into the Pacific Ocean. We watched for the green flash, but it just wasn't there today. I wish we had more pictures from the beach, but we took so many pictures, that both my and the eldest's camera batteries died not too long after we got there. She did however last a bit longer than me and got a picture of a pelican that landed on the beach right in front of L. I'll have to get it from her and post it. I love pelicans. They are my favorite bird.

(update: I just copied it from her Facebook photo album.)

We're going back to the beach tomorrow and will also go to the Star walk and see if we can get a picture of the Hollywood sign. We saw it from the interstate, but it was too far away to photograph. Monday is Disney day.

Good evening from the West Coast. Be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Shopping

Mr. H and I went Christmas shopping with just our eldest this morning. He wanted to go to Fry's (electronic geek heaven) and Harbor Freight (tool geek heaven). When M & L heard that, they were not interested in coming with us. We also went by a BMW motorcycle dealership. While Mr. H looked at bikes, I found a solar powered backpack. It was the coolest thing!

The first place we went was to Old Town Scottsdale. There are lots of tourist shops there, selling everything from jewelry to leather goods. Mr. H told me to pick out my present. I got a silver and Caribbean blue opal ring and matching earrings.

Wow, it's odd to see a picture of your hand that is twice as big as your hand. But the ring is really pretty. Looking at it typing this post, it's a little greener than the picture shows. I love it.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Corner, Crater, Cousins

We did a lot today, but still left some things undone. Before we left Holbrook, we drove by the Wigwam Motel. We didn't stay there, because you have to make reservations 2 weeks in advance. I don't think one of the TeePee rooms would have held all 5 of us anyway.

We made it to Winslow, Arizona, to take our pictures standing on the corner with a flat bed Ford.

We made it to the meteor crater, too. We had intended to take the rim tour, but it was canceled due to adverse weather conditions. You can't really tell from this picture how fiercely the wind was blowing.

But this was the weather we were heading into:

Our initial plan was to head from Flagstaff to Phoenix by way of Sedona, but that is a longer, steeper, more winding way down to Phoenix and we weren't sure the roads would be passable. Even if it wasn't snowing at the lower altitude, it would have been raining, though, so we decided to stick to I-17 and head straight to Phoenix.

Some relationships just seem to pick right up where they left off, and that's the way it is with our girls and their cousins. I took this picture right before I came to my room to write this post. The 5 of them are sitting on the floor in the next room, laughing and playing together. They are all about 2 years apart, from 20 down to 11 1/2. They love being together and that's the main reason we're here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Amarillo to Holbrook

You know it's cold when the door knob to your room is frosted. It was in the teens when we woke up this morning. After breakfast we headed west. Just out of Amarillo is the Cadillac Ranch. We stopped to take a few pictures. It was incredibly cold so we didn't stay too long.

Just past the line of cars, I took this picture of the flatness of Texas.

Once we got farther along, we could tell that it had snowed recently.

We stopped in Albuquerque at a Wal-Mart for some lunch supplies. There was a retired Raiders football player signing photos. His number was #53, but I don't know who he was.

Our main goal for today was to get to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest before dark. We got there at 4 and they closed at 5, so we did the quick tour. This picture is of the Agate Bridge. It is a petrified log. There is a concrete reinforcement under it to keep it from falling apart. Pretty cool.
There are some really big petrified logs towards the end of the park drive. Here's the family sitting on one. I have no idea what Mr. H was saying.

Our search for a good place to eat didn't work out so well tonight. L thought everything we saw was creepy looking. She had us in stitches. Hopefully she'll recover when we leave what she considers the Bates Motel in the morning.

Tomorrow is Winslow, AZ and the meteor crater.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Amarillo Sky

The road trip is underway!!

We left home at 4:06 a.m. (only 6 minutes behind schedule!!!) At 7:16 we were crossing over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg. We got into Texas about 10:15. And kept driving and driving and driving and are still in Texas. This picture was taken before noon around Dallas.

For lunch we stopped in a rest area and had a picnic. The wind was not helpful! But it wasn't cold yet and the sun decided to shine for a few minutes. The farther west we went the flatter it got. and the trees disappeared. Finally they were just about all gone.

It's amazing to me, who is almost always surrounded by trees and rolling hills, to see such flat bareness. With views like these, you can see why early people thought the earth was flat.

This was our view of the setting sun. We still had about 2 hours of driving after the sun set but it really was the perfect end to a great day. I am so proud of our girls. There was no fighting or fussing at all today.

We drove so far today because we want to stop several places tomorrow: Petrified Forest, Meteor crater, and a few places on Route 66. Pics to follow when we have them.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Our neighbors had their dachshund neutered last week. To keep Peanut from messing with the stitches, he is wearing a cone around his head. I didn't have my camera when we were down there, but picture a red wiener dog wearing one of these.

George Sanderson wears one after a sock gets stuck to his back in Monsters, Inc. Then the CDA comes and fixes him up.

Early Christmas

Since we'll be leaving before daylight tomorrow, we celebrated Christmas with Mr. H's mom and our eldest's boyfriend last night. It was in the 70's outside so instead of a fire in the fireplace, we had to open all the windows to catch a breeze. With all the running around I had to do the past few days, I did not try to cook anything. We ordered pizza from the little grocery just down the road. It was wonderful. Nothing to clean up, no leftovers to store. (Actually, there were 2 pieces of pizza left, but Mr. H has already consumed them for lunch today, so I'm good.)

I think everyone was happy with their gifting. I got a glass cake dish with dome from Sr. Mrs. H, a beautiful silvery-gray shawl from L and a hand-made mosaic H to hang on the wall from the eldest. The camera, Nintendo DS, 2 DS guitar hero games, and Vera Bradley purse (which was delivered just hours before the celebration: perfect) were all happily received. Mr. H already had his windscreen and he's probably going to buy mine when I see something I want on the trip.

Today, we're washing, packing, cleaning the van, double checking what we need to take. That includes chargers for phones and cameras, power supplies for everthing that will plug in. We have an inverter that plugs into the jacks in the vehicle allowing devices that plug into regular wall outlets to plug into it. Nifty!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grandma Nell Would Be Proud

I think some abilities and affinities are genetic. My Grandmother Nell made most of her own clothes and quite a few dresses for me, too, when I was growing up. She taught me to sew, but I'm not the seamstress that she was. I think my eldest daughter has inherited the creative gene, too. She is making a present for her boyfriend. And it's not a small project either: it will fit on an extra long twin size bed.

Can you tell his favorite NFL team?

I'm writing this to post later. I don't want to spoil the surprise in case he ever reads this blog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Middle School Concert

Tuesday night was the Middle School Concert in George County. For the first time in quite a few years, it was more than just the band. The Seminole Singers are back!

The 7th grade band played a few songs, then during the change from 7th grade to 8th grade band, the percussion ensemble played Beat Street, the parade cadence. M, who carried marching bells in the parade, had to play cymbals. She hates playing cymbals. But she did it anyway. Here's a picture of the 8th grade band playing "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

Bells is what she really likes to play. And here she is doing her thing. (standing alone in the back)

She has a partner that usually plays the xylophone (wooden bells) next to her, but Audrey was playing wooden blocks during the Grinch song and was in a different location. (sorry for the poor resolution but I was pretty high up and the camera doesn't perform really well on the zoom setting.)

We ended the evening at Burger King: no cheesy tots were consumed. We are a french fry family.

Tomorrow (Thursday), L's 6th grade band is going to perform in the cafeteria while the kindergartners eat lunch. I have to find out what time that is so I can inform Sr. Mrs. H, who will be headed up this way for other stuff. We're also having our Christmas with her and the eldest's boyfriend Thursday evening. I think we're ordering pizza. I hope everything that is supposed to get done tomorrow gets done. It's going to be one of those days. Then Friday we spend the day packing and getting ready to leave at '0 dark thirty' Saturday morning.

Clean Up at Hotel Bethlehem

Sunday night at church the children's choir presented the musical "Hotel Bethlehem."

There was a doorman, a bellhop, several maids, hotel manager, stable boy/valet, and the paying guests. It was one of the best written children's musicals I've seen in a long time. And I think we had something we've never had before at ABC: a dance/interpretive movement.

L had the part of Phoebe, a visitor from the east (she was a fashion statement from New York City: sparkly purse, high heel black boots and a great hat!) And she had 2 solos which were wonderful, especially the jazzed up version of "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Here she is with one of her best buds (the doorman, minus the top hat and white gloves she had on earlier.)All that being said, what everyone remembers is how it ended. The stableboy/valet got too hot in his dinner jacket over the bible costume and, after a flawless performance with included a major speaking part and several singing solos, ended the production by running down the aisle with his hands over his mouth, headed for the bathroom.

Somehow, I missed that part!!

And so did my eldest!

So we watched the DVD last night after M's band concert, anxiously awaiting the moment we missed in the live performance.

We watched that musical, carefully concentrating on the stableboy/valet, looking for signs of emminent disaster. We see toward the end that he isn't swaying back and forth. We see him, at the end of the last song, taking the dinner jacket off. We see the speaker that was in the line of fire. We are waiting for the "big finish" that everyone else saw....

And then the screen goes blue!!!!!! That part was edited out! We were all so disappointed!! However, I suppose it's for the best. No one wants to be remembered for spewing at the Christmas program and end up on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good Bye

On the way home from the Deacons & wives banquet last night, I pulled in behind a high school student. I could tell the car belonged to a student by looking at the back window. In the place usually reserved for encouraging school teams was this message: "Good-bye Billey Joe - We'll miss you."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Things I Learned This Week

While I was in church last night, I pulled the bulletin from this past Sunday out of my bible. I noticed the note that I had written on it. Then, as Dr. T was teaching from Revelation on the letter to the church in Laodicea, he said something that made me write another note. Here are my notes, what Dr. T said and what I thought about it:

Sunday a.m. - Why be afraid of dying? It's like L not wanting to leave the trailer to move into the new house. The trailer was all she, at age 5, had ever known as home. She just couldn't imagine leaving it, had no idea how much better it would be in the house built just for us.

Wednesday p.m. - Real church is chaotic. It's like the home of a family with small children and guests. Some things are planned for and organized, but sometimes wonderful things happen and just take you by surprise. Something is always happening.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some Teachers Have It

It amazes me to watch some teachers in action. The band director for the 6th grade bands in the George County School District is one of those teachers. This school year, the sixth grades stayed at the elementary schools instead of going to the Middle School. In order to maintain a 6th grade band program, one of the middle school band directors, Mr. Terry Slayter, agreed to travel to every elementary school in the county every day to teach band. What an undertaking!! But, honestly, the man seems to work miracles.

The 6th grade band, when they all combined for the Lucedale Christmas parade, was about 125 strong. They played and they marched, AT THE SAME TIME!! As one of the parents marching along with them, I heard "Jingle Bells" about 40 times. Mr. Slayter does a GREAT job of motivating those kids. And he does it so gently, and makes it seem so effortless.

After the parade, when the 6th graders came back to the gym at the middle school, Mr. Slayter told them to line up in their parade formation. He then told them how proud he was of them, especially the drummers, who had never carried that much equipment that far. He told them the performance wasn't perfect, but that gave them something to strive for next time. When he told them to go put their horns away and then come back and sit in that same formation, they did it. This was to make handing out pizza easier, but for some reason the pizza wasn't there yet. Over the next 40 minutes, he kept those kids entertained while we waited for pizza. He never seemed stressed or aggrivated (like I would have!). He talked, he listened, he threw candy at them since they didn't get to collect any from the parade. He is such a gentleman. We ended up heading home before the pizza arrived, if it ever did. But the attitude of Mr. Slayter was very positive the whole time.

You can tell that this man loves what he does. Without the beginning foundation our kids get from him, they would never stick it out all the way to the high school band. I am so glad that this man is a part of the lives of so many kids I know. They are better for knowing him.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Breakfast Club

Last week, I had to meet with one of the teachers at the middle school. I'm the treasurer for one of the school organizations. When I dropped M off, I saw that teacher had car duty that morning and decided to go waste time for about half an hour. I headed to Hardee's.

I love going into the Lucedale Hardee's early in the morning. There is a group of older men that meet there every morning (at least they have been there any morning I've been there.) They take over several tables on the south side of the dining area. Plaid flannel shirts and denim overalls are the uniform of choice topped, of course, with John Deere caps or ones with fertilizer logos. The conversation was mostly "T's": trucks, tractors, trailers, trees. I did hear a dog and someone's dad mentioned, too. It was not the same men the whole time I was there. Some would pick up their trays and say their good-byes, making room for newcomers. The table was full of laughter and friendship---kinship, I guess I would call it. Some of these men have probably been friends for longer than I've been alive. They know all about each other and yet don't get tired of meeting for breakfast at Hardee's in town. It's their generation's version of facebook.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Another Ghost of Christmas Tree Past

The build up to Christmas would begin some time in October when, on a visit to Grandma Louise's house, she would take us into the dining room. There on the dining room table, next to the punch bowl that was always there, would be the first Christmas present of the year. Over the following weeks, it would be joined by more and more presents. My little brother and I would circle the table looking for tags with our name on them. Then, some time in early December, the gifts would be moved from the table to their ultimate destination: under the tree.

Grandma Louise ALWAYS had a real tree flocked with white snow and trimmed with gold ornaments. Going back to pictures of my first Christmas confirmed it. She knew what she liked and she stuck with it.
She went all out for Christmas. Her front door was always wrapped like a giant package and she had a flower shop trim all her decorations with real evergreens. The Santa and reindeer on her piano were always prancing through a forest of real Scottish pine.

Ed and Jere, my mom's 2 brothers, were always home for Christmas.They are bachelors to this day, so there were always 3 times as many adults as kids. Opening presents was first priority at Grandma Louise's house. One of my uncles would call our house about 9 on Christmas morning wondering where we were. We'd drive across town to my grandparents' house and the frenzy would begin. Jere usually sat under the tree and passed out presents. One year my granddad gave my grandmother an especially grand gift. Jere let out a really long "AAaaaahhhhhhh" and a tradition was born. Every year after that, either for a great gift or for the gift giving as a whole, Jere led us in the "Exclamatory AAaahhhh!"

In the picture below I'm reading a book one of my uncles gave me: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (Did you know that it was written by Ian Fleming, the same writer that gave the world 007 James Bond? A car with gadgets, imagine that!)

I really liked this book, because here I am, still reading it in another location. Just behind the Christmas cards on the music rest, you can see the reindeer in the greenery. Santa is just over my head. (I know there is a lot of alcohol in the picture: that's okay, my grandparents were Presbyterian!) My brother and I both got big stuffed German Shepherds that year. Mine is beside me in the chair. And check out those white go-go boots!

Here we are a few years later. I see Grandma's dog Tiny got in the picture. His name might have been Tiny, but he outgrew it!

I couldn't resist putting in this picture, even though the tree's not in it. It's one of the last of them altogether. I'm pretty sure that this was my grandmother's last Christmas. That's Ed in the pink shirt, then Mom and my grandmother Louise (who never smiled in pictures) and Jere in the red shirt. The champagne was tradition for Christmas at Grandma Louise's house. Pa-Pa Ace opened the bottles when I was little and after he passed away, the cork popping duty passed to his sons.

Looking back at old Christmas pictures makes me wonder what kind of memories and traditions will my girls take with them into their families. I hope they are as wonderful as the ones I remember.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ghost of Christmas Trees Past

I grew up in the city where both sets of grandparents lived. So every year, we had a triple helping of Christmas. The 2 families that produced my parents were so different! I sometimes wonder how they found each other.

My dad was an only child, so family gatherings on that side were very small: 2 grandparents, 2 parents and my brother and me. Maw-Maw Nell and Paw-Paw Floyd were married on Christmas Eve and that's when we did Christmas at their house. My dad usually worked on Christmas Eve (unless it was on a Sunday) so we had to wait all day for him to get home. Then we'd pack up the presents for his folks and drive the few blocks to their house. (The picture below is probably from 1963, headed from the dining room down into the den.)

Once we got to Maw-Maw & Paw-Paw's house, the Christmas family meal always came first. The usual was turkey and dressing and all the southern things that go with a holiday meal. My grandmother always fixed spiced beets, too. My little brother liked to put the beet juice on his rice, turning it a nice hot pink. My grandad liked coconut cake, so my grandmother always fixed him one: 4 layers of sweet, white goodness. (I can't believe I found a picture of the cake!!! That's pound cake, sweet potato pie and ambrosia on the side board with it.)

After we were too miserable to eat another bite, we moved from the dining room into the living room. This was the only day of the year that I remember ever going into that living room. It was not furnished for comfort. The tree was in the corner, in all its shiny aluminum glory. I seem to remember only blue glass ornaments on that tree. (I found a picture from the 'blue' era, probably 1966. This is the same tree as in the first picture, just a different decorating scheme.)

My grandmother discovered a talent for making beaded ornaments, so I know she changed to a green tree at some point.
I have several of those beaded balls for my tree. They have to be hung from sturdy limbs, because they are quite heavy.

My girls and my brother's boys were old enough to remember 'Mo' Nell, as she asked to be called by them, before she passed away. I'm glad they all got to know her.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Cookies

We made Christmas cookies last night. My recipe had a few lines at the bottom for something called "cookie paint" which is egg yolk and food coloring. I was skeptical, but it's wonderful stuff. After they bake, the colored part is very shiny. (Paint before baking)

We started out with angels and snowflakes before we discovered the cookie paint.

Here are a few of our happy little cookie people, posing in front of my gingerbread house teapot. I can't really call them gingerbread people when they are made of sugar cookie dough.

Here's Mr. Bill and a guy from the Blue Man group. M made the Blue Man. Mr. Bill was my idea.
L made this guy with the rosy cheeks. He had a slight accident and needed the walking stick. Um......well......he had several more accidents and can't be found anymore. Must be a relative of Mr. Bill.