Married to the Empire

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

He just looks innocent

Don't let that sweet face fool you!

Doogie more than earned the title of feline delinquent today. When I said before that my cats excel at naughtiness, I wasn't exaggerating. Doogie has a thing for ruining technology. I think he could take on the Transformers and win. He's already managed to destroy a TV. (He used it, repeatedly, as a point for jumping on and off the top of my armoire. It finally couldn't take the 11-pound thuds anymore and died.)

Today's technological destruction: Ruf's computer keyboard.

Doogie has a thing for water. If he finds a glass or vase or anything else with water in it, he enjoys knocking it over. It means that I rarely have cut flowers in my house. It also means that leaving a glass of water somewhere overnight is a recipe for destruction. Ruf forgot and left a glass of water on his computer desk last night. The sound of a glass of liquid being knocked over woke me at around 6:30am, but I never found where the sound came from. Ruf discovered it tonight when he turned on his computer. The keyboard wouldn't work. Then he noticed the dumped over glass. He picked up his keyboard, and water poured out of it.

The keyboard is now in the trash, Doogie is in the doghouse, and a new keyboard is on tomorrow's shopping list.

I should have a sign on my door: Feline Delinquents Live Here.

Grocery Savings

This is where you find out how much of a nerd I am sometimes. I look forward to receiving my newspaper on Wednesdays because I'm anxious to peruse the grocery store ads. Like a dork, I'll sit there and find deals on things we use, match the deals with coupons, and head to the store when I get the chance.

Today I went to Albertson's. They had Newman's Own spaghetti sauce (the only kind I will eat because most spaghetti sauce is gross) 2/$4. Add in a 50 cent coupon I had that Albertson's doubled, and I got 2 jars for $3. I picked up a loaf of their fresh-baked French bread for free because I'd filled out a survey a while back for a free loaf. I bought a can of Rotel, which was 75 cents. However, I had a 30 cent coupon, which was tripled, so that was free. Strawberries were on sale 2lbs/$3, and I bought 1lb. for $1.50.

For a grand total of $4.50, I bought 2 jars of organic spaghetti sauce, a can of Rotel, a fresh-baked loaf of French bread, and 1lb. of strawberries. Not too shabby!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More family pictures

These were all taken at my sister's house in London, so technically, they could be listed as London Part 5. I'll just classify them as family pics, though.

The nieces LOVE digital cameras. They're a great thing because they can take pictures to their hearts' content, and they're not wasting film. I believe the majority of these pictures were taken by our niece L. (I figured that out because she's not in most of the pictures.) These are some of the ones that were actually pretty good. (As in, not a picture of food, the TV, people's heads cut off, etc.)

This is a fun one of Ruf, E, L, and me. (Please keep in mind that I had been rained on a few times that day!)

My sister, BIL, and C:

There's a story behind this one. E looks angry, and for good reason! Right before snapping the picture, her sister told her she looked dumb. E gave L a very dirty look, just in time for L to snap the picture. Uncle Ruf isn't helping matters by making bunny ears behind her head:

Another one of Uncle Ruf, Aunt Ewokgirl, E, and our sweet little A, who refused to look at the camera:

Grandpa and Grandma (my parents):

A cute one of A, who was still refusing to look at the camera, playing with her dollhouse:

And finally, another picture of C and Grandma:

About our names

I've had a few people ask me why I refer to my husband here as "Ruf." A few years ago, he came up with the name Ruf Terrain to use when he played online video games. He just thought it sounded cool. When he created his Star Wars website, Dagobah Swamp, he called himself Ruf on it. (He also called me Ewokgirl.) I decided to hold to some degree of anonymity here (which is probably silly considering I post pictures), so I just use our online names on my blog. Maybe someday I'll change my mind about that, but for now, he's Ruf and I'm Ewokgirl.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Christian literature

I dislike most Christian novels. Plainly put, they're lousy. Everyone is virtuous, no one has any really dreadful sin in their lives, and with what little wrong-doing they have in their lives, they're quickly saved after a 3-page sermon by a main character. Add bad writing to the mix, and you have a slew of reasons I rarely read Christian fiction. In my opinion, Christian media is steeped in mediocrity.

I read an article several years ago about how Christian writers seem to have an agenda, and much of what they write is propaganda rather than a real story. If Shakespeare had been writing for the CBA, no one would remember Romeo and Juliet today. That article has always stuck with me. You can read it here: Terry Mattingly on Religion.

This article gives me hope for the future of Christian writing: New Direction for Christian Publishing?

Both articles well describe exactly why I tend to avoid Christian fiction and literature. My hope is that someday we'll move back to the quality of the greats like C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. One can hope.

Some random thoughts

Saturday morning I was viciously attacked in my kitchen when a plate leapt off the counter and aimed for my foot. There was screaming and crying involved, and amazingly, the plate did not break. I think its real goal was to try to break my foot. It did not succeed in its attempt, but it did leave me with a very nasty bruise. Because I know everyone is dying to see my pictures of my feet, here you go:

This weekend just happens to be the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. No, we are not at Celebration IV in LA this weekend. We went to Celebration III in Indianapolis in 2005, and 2 years just isn't enough time in between Star Wars vacations for me. I like Star Wars. I do not like 5 straight days of Star Wars.

Anyway, in honor of this anniversary, I leave you with a picture of my sweet husband dressed up as the bad guy of all bad guys: Darth Vader.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

London Trip Part 4

Everything pretty much shuts down in London for Christmas. December 24-26 is all holiday, which is so different from our consumer-crazed society here in the States. My BIL suggested we all go to the Christmas Eve service at St. Paul's Cathedral. (I forgot to bring the camera with me. Doh!) Once inside, we were reminded at the start of the service that we were all in long tradition of celebrating Christmas there. People have been worshipping at St. Paul's for over 1400 years! What an awe-inspiring thought! Here's comes my brutal honesty, though. That was hands-down the most boring church service I have ever attended! The music was amazing, but we didn't know most of the carols. Also, much of it was just for listening. They only asked the congregation to join in occasionally. The entire service was read out of the booklet I have pictured below. Word for word. Anyone could have led that service because all you had to do was read! The funny thing was that a lot of people were starting to doze off during one very long, drawn-out carol. Suddenly, the pipe organ BLARED, and half the church shot up out of their seats! We were laughing so hard! Even though the service was dull, it was a unique experience, and I'm glad we went.

That evening we all hung out at my sister's home for a Christmas Eve dinner. E was trying hard to teach Uncle Ruf how to play one of those little-girl hand-clapping games:

L was anxious to show off her gymnastics skills:

Christmas Day! Because Christmas is also my birthday, we started the day by being treated to breakfast at the hotel by my parents. Then, since the public transportation is completely shut down on Dec. 25, my BIL picked us up and drove us to his home. When we walked in the door, we were greeted by a beautiful Princess A, modeling the Cinderella dress that Santa brought her.

Also in the photo are my mom, my sister, and my nieces L and C.

A better shot of our little Cinderella:

We were also greeted by another princess. Princess E was showing off the Belle dress that Santa delivered for Christmas. (Uncle Ruf is in the background.)

Our lovely niece L is posing in front of the Christmas tree:

Our beautiful niece C being silly and wearing her little sister's dress:

Ruf and I gave the girls new DVDs for Christmas. My dad took this picture of me, my mom, C, L, and A all watching Spy Kids:

Uncle Ruf and Princess E watching the movie:

It was a nice Christmas with my family.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A catly vigil

Poor Doogie. His little internal clock tells him every day when it's 2pm. That's the approximate time our mail arrives. This is important to him because most days I allow him to walk outside with me when I get the mail. (Calvin is not afforded this privilege as he is exceedingly naughty when allowed to walk freely outside. He must be carried, put on a leash, or left inside.) Doogie just enjoys sniffing the garden, gnawing on grass, or just watching the birds, whom he sometimes finds very scary.

Doogie has no concept of 2 things: rainy days and Sundays. On Sundays my poor little baby sits by the front door for hours, meowing at me whenever I walk by. I tell him that there is no mail on Sundays, but he tells me that he doesn't know what mail is, nor does he care. He just wants out. Rainy days also leave him confused. I have no interest in cleaning up muddy paws, and I also know that water falling from the sky would completely freak him out, so inside he must stay.

Today is a rainy day, so I went out for the mail by myself. Doogie has now kept vigil by the front door for more than 4 hours. I've explained to him about the rain, but he just refuses to understand. So, in honor of his sad little vigil, I leave you with one of my favorite photos of him:

Inexpensive furniture

A few years ago, I desperately wanted something for my dining room. I was really envisioning a sideboard of some sort, but we didn't have it in our budget to buy a nice piece of furniture. So, I improvised. I found a hideous 1970s dresser from a girls' bedroom set at a local thrift store. The price tag was $35. I bought it. I brought Ruf back with me the next day to pick it up, and he questioned my sanity because the thing was hideous.

Once at home in the garage, I set about the task of stripping the dresser of all its ugly paint. I then sanded it, primed it, then painted it with an oil-based paint. I replaced the tacky 1970s drawer pulls with some pretty glass ones I found on Ebay. I'm most proud to say that the only help I needed from Ruf was filling in the holes from the old drawer pulls, then drilling new ones. Oh, and he screwed in the new drawer pulls for me because he's stronger and can get the bolts tighter. Here is the finished product:

Total cost for the dresser project, including purchase of dresser, supplies for stripping, primer, paint, and drawer pulls: $80.

This last year for my birthday, the only thing I wanted was a curio cabinet I'd found at IKEA. I wanted something with clean, simple lines, and the IKEA cabinet fit the bill perfectly. Even better is that the price was only $99. Since it is in my dining room, I painted it to match the dresser I refinished. I also had a glass drawer pull leftover from the dresser project, so I had Ruf put it on instead of the one it came with. My gift was not only the purchase of the cabinet, but also Ruf's labor in putting it together. If I'd been smart, I would have had him give me the labor of priming and painting it, too! :-) The curio cabinet houses my collection of turtles from around the world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

London Trip Part 3

Like all visitors to London, we went to the Tower of London. You can't see it in this picture, but for Christmas, they made the moat into an ice rink. At one point the intention had been to go ice skating there with our nieces, but that didn't happen.

We started out with a short tour by a Beefeater. For the life of me, I can't remember his name, but he took a picture with us:

The White Tower, which now contains the Royal Armouries' collection:

The Chapel of St. John the Evangelist (in the White Tower):

Ruf with some very old armor once worn by royalty (but I can't remember who):

What would the Tower be without torture devices? On the right is The Rack, used to pull people apart. On the left is a horrible crushing device. A person was essentially folded into thirds (think fetal position), placed inside that little metal thing, then the metal was tightened until the prisoner was crushed. I think that sounds even worse than the rack!

A typically stoic soldier outside the Jewel House. How these guys can keep straight faces while tourists stand around gawking and acting like total goobers is beyond me! And is it just me, or are they recruiting small children to the military? This guy looks about 12 to me. Surely it's not because I'm getting old!

The Tower Bridge all lit up at night. After killing prisoners, they would chop off their heads and stick them on the bridge on pikes. They were left there until they rotted off. So civilized, don't you think? *gagging*

A shot of the Tower of London at night (Sorry about the blurriness; I was having flash issues):

London Trip Part 2

Any Star Wars fan worth anything knows that part of the original trilogy was filmed at Elstree Studios in London. Since Ruf is a member of the 501st Legion, he contacted the UK Garrison to ask about good Star Wars-related things to do in London. One of the guys in the UK Garrison kindly set us up with someone at Elstree Studios to give us a personal tour! Not only were we given a tour, but our tour guide for the day was a man named Norman who actually worked on the props from the original Star Wars trilogy! He even picked us up at the train station!

The George Lucas Stage:

There was a scene cut from Return of the Jedi in which Luke builds a new lightsaber. This is the actual lightsaber used for that scene:

Landspeeder (not the real one):

The door to the infamous Studio 8 where Star Wars was filmed:

Han Solo in carbonite (not the original):

Chewbacca (not the original):

Jawa and Wicket the Ewok (not original):

R2-D2 in pieces (not original):

C-3PO with Yoda in the background (not original):

For the Harry Potter fans, a case of HP wands and the Tri-Wizard Cup (not original):

A drawer full of the actual prop knives used in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which was shot at Elstree Studios:

And finally, a picture of Ruf with our gracious tour guide Norman the Prop Man:

This visit to Elstree Studios was #1 on Ruf's list of things-to-do in London. A great big thanks to Norman and the UK Garrison of the 501st Legion for setting this up for us! Being in the 501st is like being in a fraternity with brothers and sisters around the world!

Our London Trip Part 1

My sister's family moved to London last summer, so my parents' gift to Ruf and me was a trip to London for Christmas. We all spent Christmas together, and it was wonderful! My sister's family didn't have to spend their first Christmas as expats without their family, and we didn't have to be without them, either!

One of the activities I was most anxious to do was to visit the London Brass Rubbing Center. (Sounds like a weird sort of place, doesn't it?) It's located in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church. They have replicas of medieval brass plates, and they set you up with paper, wax, and your choice of brass plates. I'd been wanting something unique for my dining room wall, so we went there with the intention of creating a work of art for our home.

I settled on a brass plate called "The Woodhouse Feast." Ruf did the complementary rubbing of "The Woodhouse Abduction."

Ruf working on his rubbing:

Me working on my rubbing:

And the final product after framing:

Monday, May 21, 2007

Four new audio books

I finished James Patterson's Cradle and All this weekend. It was good. I returned it to the library today and came home with 4 new audio books to listen to while I work in the kitchen. Three were culled from the children's section. There are classic books out there that beg to be read (or listened to) even by adults. I haven't read Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia in years, and I've forgotten the details of the story, so I checked that one out.

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is a classic I've always meant to read, but never have, so I brought it home.

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen is another one that has interested me, so it came home with me, too.

And last, from the adult section, I checked out Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell. I've really enjoyed the other Cat Who books I've read (well, actually, I've only ever listened to this series). After reading the reviews of this one on Amazon, though, I'm not too sure that I'll like this one as much. Guess we'll see!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The cats haven't killed us yet

Our cats have had a rough weekend. With the weather becoming so warm down here in Texas, the cats have been shedding profusely. One of the best ways we've found to help get rid of the excess fur is to bathe them. Yes, we bathe our cats. (Really, we're not crazy!)

Our poor boys despise baths. The weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth is of biblical proportions. If they wore clothes, they'd be tearing them in their distress. Doogie wailed like he was being killed. Calvin endured in silence. They were no doubt plotting our deaths. Ruf and I were very unpopular for a couple of hours after that ordeal.

Poor Doogie has allergies. Usually it's his nose that makes him itchy and sneezy. Today, though, it was his left eye. It was very pink, and he was desperately trying to scratch it by rubbing it hard against Ruf's nose. So, we took him into the bathroom to flush his eyes with saline. He fought hard, buried his face in Ruf's armpit, and smacked my hands away as much as he could. We're bigger and stronger, though, so we prevailed. Again, we were most unpopular.

But you know what? The boys have most of their shedding fur gone, they smell great (mango soap!), and Doogie's eye is clear again. Sometimes we have to do unpleasant things to those we love because we love them.

I just wish I'd thought to take pictures of my little drowned rats while they were in the tub yesterday.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Trying new cookbooks

I'm a bit of a cookbook fiend. I love the things! I enjoy reading them, finding new recipes to try, and whenever I go to the bookstore, I always find several that I'd love to buy. However, experience has taught me that I don't use a lot of what has caught my fancy.

My solution is to use the library to try new cookbooks. I check out interesting-looking cookbooks, try a few recipes, then if I find myself gravitating back to a particular book, I'll buy it. After I checked out the More with Less Cookbook 3 or 4 times, I finally bought it. Other cookbooks were fun for the novelty, but I never went back to them, so I didn't bother buying them. I figure this little method has saved me tons of money that I would have otherwise wasted indulging in my cookbook fixation.

Check out more frugal tips at Biblical Womanhood.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Calvin and his squirrel

Calvin was teased by a squirrel who decided to hang out in our kitchen window:

Calvin and Doogie desperately hoping their squirrel buddy will come back: