Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - Review of My Year

Wow!! 2010 went by so fast.. I can't even believe it! It seems like we were just hooking up our Wii and enjoying ringing in the New Year at home and then I blinked my eyes and here we are again... 365 days later...doing the same thing! When did this happen? How did this happen?
So, I want to review some of my more favorable and memorable moments of 2010!

January found me blogging a funny video of the Russian boys when one wife had enough of her husband drinking vodka...she poured the vodka out and swapped it with water! See their reactions here...too, too funny!

February I took possibly my favorite picture of Lena (favorite this year at least), took Mom out to Le Madeleine for a later birthday lunch and dedicated a blog post to Mom here.

In March I played hookie from work and spent the day outside with Lena helping her learn how to skateboard and blogged about it here. I love days like this and am so happy I was able to do it. I missed so much with my girls at my first job and was determined that at any future job my family would be put first. You can never get those moments back...and I couldn't bare to miss anymore!

April was a fun month for me...and possibly planted me to this house forever. I have always wanted a rose garden and looked longingly at all my neighbors who had rose bushes. So, for my 32nd birthday my Papa Bear and the girls planted me my own rose garden. The yellow bush succumbed to the Texas heat but the other four are doing great. I can't tell you how excited I was and how many posts I wrote about my beautiful roses. I can never leave this house roses are here. So, when they were planted here, so was I!!! Read about my roses here and my wonderful birthday dinner here.

In May we welcomed a new family member....Toby. He was originally a Mother's Day present for my mother but we had to buy him a week early. By the time it was time to give him back we all fell in love with him and it was confirmed he wasn't going anywhere. We had a new family member and Mom got a new cell phone!! Meet Toby here.

In June we witnessed a really bad storm with wind force so high it broke fences and caved in roofs! Our electrical box stopped my neighbors metal gazebo from coming into my master bedroom. The fence between me and my "favorite" neighbor broke and I have to is still broken, fallen down and crumbled today. He bought a 52-inch TV but couldn't fix the fence. See the storm pics here.

In all my years as a mother, almost 15 to be exact, I have NEVER been alone with my girls. Papa Bear has never left me for any period of time. Well, that changed in July. He went with his friend for four days to Galveston and I was devastated. I cried, I was scared, I cooked my first apple pie. It wasn't that bad... being alone and the pie! Our adventure those days are recorded here.

Ohhh August. August, you brought some major changes for me I honestly never expected...prayed for yes, but never expected. I was fired!! First time in my life ever being fired. I prayed for so long to not be at that was literally sucking the life out of me. The honest truth is that my bank was losing business to it's competitors who offered the same business for free. We were told if we lost this particular account we would love a half person...equivalent of a part time person. Well, we lost that account, they moved my desk and took my four pages of notes for the new directions of a major account and then tried to put 23 errors against me. I stood my ground and didn't sign anything stating I was responsible. Instead, I told my assistant supervisor that she and the Supe moved my desk, made my notes disappear and they needed to sign because they are responsible. Sooooo.... a few days later my battery was dead and my car wouldn't start. I had to call in and they fired me at the end of the week. However, I had documented proof that I was not on probation for call ins, in fact I was in good standing. I won my workers comp appeal and will now start college classes to get me in nursing school Jan. 18. I totally believe in unanswered prayers. God knew when it was the right time for me to be let go from that job....I was patient and I listened. So.... that post is here. And by the way, I absolutely LOVE being a stay at home mom. It's challenging at times, but I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Being able to stay home with the girls allowed me to do many more fun things with them. I missed that so much when I was working. So, in September Lena and I met my friend Lisa at the Gunter Hotel for lunch. The hotel is haunted and Lena had never been. We had so much fun!! Lots of pics here!

October is one of my favorite months of the year, possibly my most favorite! Why? Because Nightmare on Grayson opens and then it's the Greek Festival! I didn't get many NOG pics but I did manage some GF pics. We took Mom this year. I always love the food and dancing at the Greek Festival. This year it didn't disappoint!!! See the post here. We also attempted to get rats as pets for CC this month. Don't ask... I can't believe I allowed it. They didn't work out, so instead we got a new family member...a lovely guinea pig named Tiramisu. She is now so rotten and spoiled. She yells, bites, demands....she fits right in in our home! I introduced her to my blog here.

November Lena rode a horse for the first time. We spent Thanksgiving in my nieces new house in Hallettsville, Texas. I love being in the country with my family. It's always nice to go home. See our pictures here. I also found a new passion..Praline Apple Bread. I make it quite often now. It is so good! Find pics and the recipe here.

And finally here we are in December. We had our annual visit from Abdelkrim. This year marked 25 years of friendship and we celebrated with a couscous celebration. It was so fun!
Our days lately have been visits to the dog park (Luigi loves it) and me trying out new recipes.

I don't know what 2011 might have in store for us. I certainly never expected some of the changes that we went through this year...but we survived them as a family. I learned how much I am in love with my family and how happy I am being a wife and mother. I feel so blessed for this time I have been able to be home with my girls. I don't take one second for granted. We live a modest life in a modest home and drive a paid off car. Sure I would love a bigger house (but what would I do about my roses?) and a newer car but those things don't measure the happiness and love we have here in our home. We love each other because we just love each other. Not one of us love the other because there is something we want or need from that person. There is no selfish love here. Just an honest, pure love. Maybe I will have to return to work, maybe my husband will have to look for another job. I don't know. But I do know I will be thankful for what ever may come our way and will be optimistically looking forward to the changes we may encounter. So, 2010 has given us some major ups and some drastic downs, but we stayed strong and stayed together and that is exactly how we will greet 2011... strong, happy and together!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bittersweet Goodbye

These past few days have been so rushed and crazy. If you read my last post I am proud to report...I found my JCPenny receipt! And today I almost forgot to stop by and buy fresh bread for tonight but remembered at the last minute to stop by and get it. And...I am ashamed to admit it, I may have just had to go in a liquor store with Lena to buy a case of coke for tonight. I didn't want to make two stops and the liquor store was right next door to the place I was getting the fresh bread. Anyway, I got it all and the evening was a success!
Yesterday I kept Nic's children while he worked. I took them to McDonald's to play. They are so sweet!
And for dinner I made my Beef Fried Rice. This time I left out the fresh asparagus and added frozen broccoli and peas and water chestnuts...It is sooooo good!!
I had a craving for chocolate chip cookies today and I know Abdelkrim loves cookies so I made him a huge batch. When he was working at the NIH many years ago I would bake cookies and mail them to him! I was kinda frustrated today trying to buy chocolate chips. There are so many different types, cinnamon chips, dark chocolate chips, semi-sweet, caramel, etc. I remember when there were only chocolate chips....oh well. I took home Hershey's chocolate chips.
The recipe on the back called these "Hershey's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies." And this was no lie...they were THE BEST cookies I ever made/tasted/baked!! I'm sure the cup of butter had nothing to do with that!!

My pan is old and used...but it holds so many memories. Good ones, bad ones, sad ones... I think I take lots of my frustration out baking! haha!!

Lena and I ended up visiting our stores this afternoon. One store was so swamped it took us an hour before we could visit the manager so we wasted some time in Bath and Body Works. They have amazing deals!! When we walked in Lena said, "Mom, how much do you want to bet we walk out with a bag?" And she was right, we sure did!! How we got it inside without Papa Bear seeing was pretty funny! We never expected him to have both locks locked and he had to open the door for us. Oops #1! So CC walked to the kitchen to try to hide it in the cabinets and he followed her in there to make some water for himself. Opps#2! You should have seen how CC awkwardly hid it by placing her purse in front of it and pretended to do something with her water bottle.
Anyway, tomorrow is Abdelkrim's last day here. He leaves around lunch time. As always when he comes to visit Papa Bear made lamb shishkebobs for him. It's kind of their tradition. Hence, why I needed coke (for Ab) and fresh bread for our dinner.
Again we all held hand and said what we are thankful for. This time Ab's camera was working so we were able to record it all! Here are he and and Emil discussing something interesting.

Papa Bear, Abdelkrim and Mommy
Mommy and CC
I realized I didn't have any photos of me and as they were walking out I managed to grab a couple. Please excuse my appearance. I had been running non-stop and now my throat hurts and by the red on my cheeks it looks like my fever was starting!

I just love the look on my Papa Bear's face. He reminds me of my brother...always having to be silly! It always so sad when Ab leaves. We miss him so much. Papa Bear and I want to go visit him this summer.
My sweet little Lena has been saving her money to buy Just Dance. They bought Just Dance 2 a couple of weeks ago but liked the song on Just Dance 1 too, so we loaded us up and went to Wal-Mart to get it. I left my cell phone at home but had my camera in my purse... doesn't she just look thrilled to be taking a picture in Wal-Mart next to the Wii games?
On the way in to Wal-Mart there was this young boy playing the guitar and harmonica and singing. CC thought he was too cute and I told her she was going to take a picture with him...don't you just love when I have my camera with me??? This was her reaction.
And this was Lena's when she saw me take my camera out....
His name is Wilson Donovan and his YouTube (thetruthwasinthere) page is here.
So now we are home and Igor and Stas are here, Lena is in bed, CC is cleaning and I am blogging. I am so ready to go to bed. I can't believe there are only two more days left in this year....time flies by too fast!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's Been One Of Those Days...

that I should have never gotten out of bed. Maybe I'm still tired from this weekend...maybe I'm getting sick. My chest has been hurting and I have been so tired I just don't know what to do. The other day I feel asleep in the car while Papa Bear was with one of his accounts and he called me THREE times before I woke up and picked him up.
Anyway, we had Kamila and Nicolai today while Nic and Gina worked. I took them to McDonald's (and almost fell asleep in the play area!) to play and eat. Papa Bear asked me to bring him some sandwiches and fries and a lotto ticket. I spent all the extra cash I had on cell phone charms from a Ukrainian missionary that was there and I forgot to pick up his food. I remembered when I walked in his office. I felt like crap, like the smallest, meanest, rudest most horrible wife ever. Here I was with all the kids and we had full tummies and my Papa Bear was working and hungry and it was all my fault...and I didn't even buy his lotto ticket. So, later I did a few errands at his store and lost time talking with one of the managers and made it late to the other store. Thankfully I had nasty, nasty rain to blame it on. I went to JCPenny to return Lena's dresses she didn't like and found that I had gift receipts (because I can't find the original reciept) for everything I bought that day....everything except the receipts for Lena's two dresses. Next up the grocery store... the one thing Papa Bear asked me to pick up was a can of garbanzo beans...and the one thing I forgot was guessed it..garbanzo beans! Ugh!! I feel like the worst wife on the planet. I can't wait to just go to bed. Hopefully tomorrow will be better!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Couscous Celebration - 25 Years!

This year marks 25 years of friendship between our friend Abdelkrim Alileche and our family. This friendship has spanned many continents and many, many countries. Abdelkrim has always wanted to work as a professor here in the states and just this year his dream came true! We are so honored to have him not only as a friend but truly a part of our family.
To mark this anniversary of friendship, we thought long and hard about an appropriate gift for him. We finally came up with this desk clock. It has a mahogany wood base, gold plated columns and the globe itself is made of lapis, mother of pearl, turquoise and jade and other stones. He loved it. In fact he said this gift to symbolize our friendship was about to make him cry.
On Ab's last visit here in 2009 he said when he came to visit in 2010 he was going to be in control of the cooking for this celebration. So he and Emil went shopping for all the ingredients and the girls, Mom and I went to Sonic and McDonald's for drinks!
Ab said he was in charge and Emil was his assistant. Well, I became the assistant of the assistant. We had so much fun and the house smelled amazing!!!
While the guys cooked Charlie took a cat nap....
and Lena relaxed! Last night ended up being quite long and we were all still a bit tired!
Abdelkrim has a new Droid and to say he is in love with it would be an understatement! He is ADDICTED to it!!! Here he is showing Emil all the cool things it can do. They decided that our iPhones are now ancient!
My mommy...and the reason Abdelkrim was introduced to our family!
A rare photo of me and my Papa Bear... we've been together going on 16 years and this is probably our 5th picture together.... and I didn't even get a whole smile outta him!
Ab just can't put that phone down!
As much as Abdelkrim looks forward to seeing Emil and talking with him, we joke that my Papa Bear is the real reason Ab comes to visit!
Before we ate Abdelkrim had us all hold hands and offer a prayer, each saying what we are thankful for. Mom thanked God for bringing us together through the years, CC just said "thank you", I thanked God that Abdelkrim was part of our family and we have maintained this friendship for so long. Lena copied CC, got shy and just said "thank you." My Papa Bear thanked God for good friendship and good food and Abdelkrim that God brought two different families (Christian and Muslim) together and we are in fact family. It was so moving and touching and shows that religion doesn't and shouldn't matter. We can all get along and cross those lines if we have a pure heart and love for our fellow man.
Here Abdelkrim is pouring the couscous in a serving bowl.
The lamb couscous Abdelkrim and Papa Bear was so good. They put garlic, spices, carrots, potatoes, garbanzo beans and grapes. Oh man, we all ate until our tummies hurt!

My mommy and me.
Me and my Lena at one of the rare moments she graced us with her appearance this evening.
We had such a fun evening of talking and laughing and eating. It was just wonderful. I always wish Abdelkrim could stay longer. We talked about when I went to New York and worked with him in his lab. For me, it was one of the most memorable and magical times ever. This is a link to what we worked on, killing cancer cells with anthrax. It was an experience I will never forget. Abdelkrim has invited me to work with him again in his lab. I am so honored and thrilled and am honestly really thinking about it! It has always been a dream of mine!!
The weather has been cooler at night. It's been averaging the upper 20's and I love it... I just wish for once we could get a little snow. Now THAT would be amazing!! The downside of this cooler weather is that we haven't been able to walk in the park and man oh pants are feeling it! Darn all this holiday food!!
We have one more week left of 2010! This year came and went so fast. It brought about many changes for us. We've stayed strong through it all. I am excited (and maybe a little crazy) to see what changes are to come for us. So, I'm going to try to make this last week of 2010 the best I can...not waste one moment on anything useless or negative! And hopefully I can bring that attitude straight into 2011!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Leading Up To Christmas

Yesterday our friend Nic called and asked if we could watch his children while he worked for a few hours. His kids are so sweet and fun, we immediately said "Yes!"
Lena enjoys playing with his daughter Kamila and little Nic is too funny. I taught him to say "What's up baby?" That was the first thing he said when Nic came to pick them up. Little Nic is really too much!!
It was a nice break from all the rushed work of Christmas we have been doing these past few days! At least for the hour or so I was there I didn't have to worry about the stores calling for rush jobs.

These two ladies were already in McDonald's when we got there. Funny thing is, they dressed their children and even managed to put make up on themselves..but they forgot to get dressed themselves. I understand this is just McDonald's and this is the holiday's, really I do, but when did it become acceptable for adults to go out in public in pajamas? Seriously, what would their husbands think of them going out in public like this? I'm sure they wouldn't go anywhere with their husbands dressed in pj's! I know for certain my husband would not let me out of the house like this...ever!
Even if it's late at night and I'm driving through he tells me to put on decent clothes. I was just shocked. When my children were little I NEVER let them out of the house in night clothes. EVER!! My mother probably would have completely flipped out had I done that, not to mention my MIL and imagine what they would have done had I gone out in public in my night clothes!! Maybe times are changing, maybe I need to get an update. I don't know. Maybe it's not such a big deal... I just know even my girls are shocked to see teens in the stores in pj's. Oh well, my rant is over. Just know that in no time in the near (or far) future will you ever see me in my pj's out in public. It would probably just make you sick if you did!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Day In The Life....

Being a jeweler's wife during Christmas time is absolutely NO FUN!! In fact, it is rushed and tiring and exhausting! I swear...from early in the morning to way past midnight it is non-stop running! You would think I would be happy once Christmas is over...oh no! It stays just as busy til usually around Valentines Day. Then it tapers off.

So when Sonic hits it's Happy Hour you better believe we are there for a caffeine fill-up!
Yesterday between my 50,000 trips to the malls I did find time to make my Praline Apple Bread. My mom gave me two individual sized bread pans, so I made one for each girl. Lena's had no praline topping, CC's did.

Both of their loaves were finished in minutes....and my whole big loaf was finished by noon today. I think another batch is in order for tomorrow. That is IF I can find time. CC will KILL me but here she is on the computer eating her loaf.
Today I had to make five..that's right... FIVE trips to the mall today. I totalled up my time driving today and it was 6.5 hours in the car...driving... from mall to mall and then back and back again.... But that is normal Christmas errands for us. I am terrified of the next three days. The closer to Christmas it gets the more rush jobs and special requests we get. I am just thankful we have work. So many right now don't. And we don't know how long we will be getting work so we are thankful each time the phone rings!
This was my view much of the day...but again, thankful to have it.
I'm not complaining... really I'm not. I just don't think most people know how busy we really get this time of year. I looked at my blogger stats last December and I only had 9 posts...for the entire month. THIS is why!
So after my fifth visit to two different malls Papa Bear decided we girls deserved Starbucks!
Lena has been wanting to walk around La Cantera mall, so we did. Thankfully this trip was not jewelery or shopping related...just walking around, enjoying the lights and music and fresh, crisp, cool air! It was lovely!
I love the palm trees lit up this way. So pretty!

THIS is a more typical photo of my girls...this is pretty much what it is everyday...all the time!
Lena being silly and CC hiding from my camera!!

After walking around we met Lisa and her sons at Taco Cabana for Mexican food and lots of talking. I have photos on my camera of CC and Chris but I'm too tired to download them right now!! We had so much fun talking and being cheeks seriously hurt from laughing and smiling. It was wonderful...a much needed break!
One complaint about "the most wonderful time of the year".... why, oh why, do people who are supposed to be so cheerful and full of merriment almost kill each other over parking spaces? Is this not a DIRECT OPPOSITE of what this time of year is supposed to represent? I don't get it! And this has NOTHING to do with the fact that during one of my many trips to the malls someone side-swiped my car. I didn't even notice it til Papa Bear pointed it out this morning! I have seen more wrecks today than I have seen in the past week. Just tonight at TC a lady was trying to get out of her car and the space next to her was empty. A car was pulling in so fast they were literally inches from hitting her. She even screamed. it THAT important to get there first or be one car space ahead of someone or park a little farther away and you know, actually WALK a few extra steps to get to your location? I just don't get it! Spending most of my day in the car driving this time of year I see all kinds of things...even someone eating soup while driving. COME ON!!! I wish people would just stop and think what this season is supposed to mean to them. We are all in a rush and have an agenda. Some of us are working, others are shopping and some traveling...give your fellow drivers a little respect, use your blinkers, hang up your phone, slow down in the parking lots and if you have to walk a little extra to get a parking space...go for it! A little extra walking won't hurt any of us!