Married to the Empire

Monday, September 29, 2008

How to Forget You Have a Cold

Sunday afternoon I headed outside. After being cooped up in the house with a cold, I figured the fresh air would do me some good. I brought some library books out to the back yard and invited the cats to join me. (They practically tripped each other up in their excitement to get out the door.)

The boys love going outside, but they have to be watched closely. Specifically, Calvin has to be watched closely. He's a runner who will be over the fence in a second if he sees that we're distracted.

And I definitely got distracted. Steven came out to paint the corners that had been redone this week.

I got busy talking to him and forgot to watch the cat. In the meantime Doogie had covered himself in dirt and debris. I think he wants some better camouflage or something for when he's in the bushes. His bright, white fur is definitely like a beacon that screams, "There's a cat in the bushes!" So, he rolls around in any patches of dirt he can find.

I went out to the alley to look for Calvin. When I found him, he smelled funky. Like something had licked him. He was mildly damp and smelled like spit. I grabbed him and took him straight inside. I ran the bath and then did something I've never done before: I bathed the cats.

The cats have had plenty of baths, mind you, but Steven is always the one who bathes them. I'm just the lady with the soothing voice who waits by the tub with a big fluffy towel to wrap sopping wet kitties in. But since Steven was busy painting the house, I had to attempt kitty baths all by myself.

It actually went pretty well, but there was a lot of screaming and howling. Afterwards, I caught pictures of my angry boys working hard to put their damp, spiky fur back into place.

I have to say that being busy chasing down runaway cats, then having to give baths to funky-smelling felines is a great way to forget you have a cold. I always wondered how mothers can take care of their children when they themselves are sick. I guess this was an example of how. You just do because if you don't, they can get lost, hit by a car, or just smell really, really bad.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Polymer Clay

I've been sick for the past few days and not feeling up to doing much of anything. However, I'm a bit restless, wanting to do something, but not having the energy to do much of anything. So, I decided to try out a new craft.

I got the idea from something I saw on Etsy. Hobby Lobby had polymer clay on sale for 99 cents a package a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to buy some and play around with it. I pulled out my Star Wars stamps, as well as some holographic figures with Rebel symbols on the bottoms.

I stamped a few Rebel and Imperial symbols, as well as a few words such as believe, hope, and dream.

The clay was pretty easy to work with, and everything turned out well enough, so I think I've found an enjoyable new medium with which to work. The best part about it was I could do it all on a tray table in the living room while I watched a DVD. It didn't make a huge mess the way my paper crafts always do. I'll put up some pictures later this week of what I'm doing with what I've made.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Niece's Wedding

Steven's niece was married on Sunday in Kaufmann, TX. (I hadn't heard of it, either.) It wasn't quite as in the middle of nowhere as I expected. It was actually only about an hour outside of Dallas, but it was definitely small-town Texas. After driving on some little back country road for a ways and running over a snake (Steven swears he didn't see it slithering across the road), we found The Victorian House, a surprisingly beautiful place considering it was way off the beaten path in a town that doesn't look like it gets all that many visitors.

We arrived quite a bit early, so we wandered the grounds a bit, and I snapped some pictures:

Steven snapped a photo of me on the tree swing in the front yard:

Steven and his mother:

The sweetest thing EVER: Little brother walking big sister down the aisle. Pardon the blurred photo, but it's all I've got:

Wedding vows:

The kiss:

The beautiful bride:

The reception area:


And our hope for the newlyweds:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Simple Stromboli

A super-easy meal when you're short on time is stromboli. I threw one together the other night since I had some pepperoni needing to be used. My recipe is adapted from one I found in Taste of Home several years ago.

Simple Stromboli

1 tube of refrigerated crusty French loaf (I just use my pizza dough recipe, cut in half.)
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 lb. sliced deli meat (whatever kind you like or have on hand)

On a lightly-floured surface, pat dough into a 14" x 12" rectangle.

(Okay, so mine's not really a rectangle.)

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over dough to within 1/2-inch of edges. Top with a single layer of meat.

Roll up tightly from a short side; pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down on an ungreased baking sheet.

Optional: Brush top with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. I never do this because parmesan gives me migraines, and it really doesn't need the butter. But I mention it because you might like it.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

(Obviously, I didn't seal my seam very well.)

Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cut with a serrated knife.

I serve it with small bowls of spaghetti sauce for dipping. This would also be good with tomato soup, if you're someone who likes to dip your bread into really wet things. (I am not a member of that particular camp, as soggy bread grosses me out.)

The only drawback to this is that I'm left with an opened, mostly full jar of spaghetti sauce, which means I have to make spaghetti later in the week. I don't like spaghetti, but since my husband does, it works. I'm just that nice.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

True Blessing

Here's some honest confession for you: Our house keeps us poor.

Okay, so not poor, but it seems to take every spare bit of cash we have. There's a lot we don't do, such as take vacations, because we just can't afford to. If you've been following our blog for the past year, you'll know some of what I'm talking about. Between repairing leaks under our house (which involved temporarily moving out), having a fully-grown tree fall in the front yard, and having our roof and gutters replaced after a massive hail storm, we just haven't had any extra cash for more interesting endeavors.

And actually, the gutter saga, which I don't believe I've mentioned here, continued on today. But in a very, very good way.

We were told that we had some rotted spots that would need to be fixed before they could hang the gutters on our house. Steven planned to fix that himself, and he was going to try to get it done in the 2 weeks before we were to leave for youth camp. (This was back in July.) We'd told our contact at the roofing company that they were not to install our gutters until we let them know we were ready.

So what happened? Steven wasn't able to finish before we left for camp. In fact, he felt a bit in over his head on the project, and he'd left a message for the roofing company to get an estimate on having them fix it. We left for youth camp, and when I called one of the catsitters to check on my boys, she told me that the gutter guys showed up while she was at our house and were hanging our new gutters. *sigh*

The new gutters looked great, but they were hanging over partially messed-up corners. And one of the downspouts was lying in the grass. It took until today (we're talking about 2.5 months later!) for this to get sorted out. Someone came over early to start pulling down our gutters, then someone else came over to fix the rotted corners:

I was worried because I still hadn't heard an estimate on the cost of this. I called the company, and I received a call back from the owner himself. Y'all, he's pretty much taking care of this himself. He acknowledged that this was his mistake, so we're only paying for the cost of the wood and some of the labor. We're talking only about $125 out of our pockets! Truly, this is a blessing, as we've had thousands of dollars slipping through our fingers in the past year. Frankly, we're trying to recover financially from all of the massive repairs, so this was very good news.

And as I'd been praying about this, it's definitely a positive answer from the Lord!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cajun Food

I spent part of the day at my parents' house. They generously offered to let me put the birthday gifts I'd bought for my sister and 2 of my nieces in with their shipment, since they had plenty of room in their box. This saved me a lot of money in shipping! While I was there, they took me out to lunch. I was in heaven because we ate here:

I lived a good portion of my growing-up years in a suburb of New Orleans, so I love Cajun food! The Ralph & Kacoo's that used to be in Dallas closed down several years ago, but a new one opened up in Allen not too long ago. That's where we ate. I gorged on crawfish and was very, very happy!

This reminded all of us of an experience several years ago. We moved to the Dallas area from New Orleans when I was 14. I was desperately missing Cajun food, so my dad took us all to the Ralph & Kacoo's that used to be in Dallas. I ordered boiled crawfish and was given a huge tray piled with the little critters. I sat there happily popping off the tails, peeling them, and eating them. The entire restaurant was watching me. I guess Dallasites weren't too used to seeing skinny teenage girls eating crawfish like a pro. My sister, who has never liked too much attention, was mortified. Didn't bother me in the least!

Today I was less conspicuous by merely ordering fried crawfish and etouffee.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Funny Surprise

I just love receiving packages in the mail, especially when they're a complete surprise! I opened my mailbox yesterday to find that my friend Judy had sent me something. I laughed when I pulled this out:

I hadn't seen Mad Libs in years! She's such a sweetie for thinking of me when she saw it. Steven and I did a couple of them in the car today. I'd forgotten how silly and funny they can be!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Praline-Topped French Toast

We had a breakfast for our youth group on Sunday morning, and my contribution was 2 pans of praline-topped French toast. This is a really fabulous recipe that always garners tons of compliments. Just pretend that it's good for you!

Praline-Topped French Toast Casserole

1 (13-16 oz.) loaf of French bread
8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 T. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt

Praline topping:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans (I beg you; leave this vile part OUT!)
2 T. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Cut the bread into 20 (1-inch) slices. (If you buy pre-sliced bread, don't worry about this part, obviously.) Arrange in a generously buttered 9"x13" baking dish, overlapping the slices. Combine eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Beat until well blended, but not bubbly. Pour evenly over the bread slices, spooning some between the slices. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake casserole, combine praline topping ingredients (except for the pecans, because they are GROSS!) in a medium bowl.

Blend well and spread evenly over the egg-and-bread mixture in the casserole dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden.

Cut in squares to serve. Makes 8-10 generous servings. Recipe can be cut in half for smaller groups. (Or you can double it, like I did in the pictures.)

I got this recipe from The Nestle Inn in Indianapolis, which is where we stayed in 2005 for Star Wars: Celebration III. Really nice place run by really nice people.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Saying Good-bye

Sunday we said good-bye to our youth minister. He and his wife are headed off for a mission opportunity. We're quite sad to lose him because he's been a fabulous youth minister. The kids love him, and the adults enjoy working with him. We've seen tremendous spiritual growth in our kids during his time with us.

We started the morning with a breakfast for the youth. We did this in place of our regular Sunday-morning classes. It was a special time for just the kids to hang out with the youth minister and his wife. We had lots of yummy food, and 3 of our talented girls sang a song they'd written.

During the service the youth sang 2 songs that they'd worked on during the summer:

There was an entire chorus of sniffling going on during one of the prayers. What a blessing to have had a youth minister worth crying over!

We had a reception later that afternoon for the entire church to attend. The kids showed a video they'd made of the youth minister's time with them. It was very well done and quite sweet. We took a final group picture, and then we said good-bye.

It's been a good year-and-a-half.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Happiness Is an Old Friend

I have a lot of wonderful friendships, but the ones most dear to me are probably my college friendships. I spent my growing-up years moving fairly frequently, and since that was in the days before email, cell phones, and free long distance, I lost touch with most people.

But then came college. Baylor is the only school I've ever attended from start to finish. That alone does something to cement friendships when you can be freshmen and seniors together. The sorority helped, too. Sisterhood forevermore and all that. Then, of course, there is the experience of going through the first grown-up relationships together. The break-ups. The engagements. The general angst that comes with knowing that the next boy you date could very well become your husband.

My friends and I did pretty well at staying in touch right after college graduation. But then grown-up jobs, weddings, children all started to take over, and keeping up just became harder.

But I still love them all, even if we rarely talk.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of getting together with my friend Jill. You know have a good friend when you could both date the same boy in college (at different times, of course) and remain friends. And be in the wedding party of the friend who married the boy! (Jill married him. I didn't meet mine until after college.) We hadn't seen each other in a few years, but it was like time hadn't passed. Well, except for the fact that we were comparing our gray hairs! And she has pictures of children who belong to her on her mantel. But otherwise, it's all the same.

Our picture from our day together (taken at arms length, unfortunately):

We just hung out, ate lunch (with pie!), and talked, but it was wonderful. Old friends are the best!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dusting Off My Taps

My friend Michelle found out about an adult tap class that takes place on Monday nights. We both signed up. Tonight was our first night to attend.

Wow. I'm not as agile as I used to be. Once upon a time (meaning 16 years ago), I had no problem dancing in 2-inch heeled tap shoes and moving with some grace. Sixteen years and a few extra pounds apparently make a difference. And not in a good way.

I'll be buying new tap shoes this week. Mine are not in great shape after nearly 2 decades, my feet have spread a bit (thank you, Birkenstocks), and I just feel like I could totally topple over in them! Graceful I was not tonight. But even though I felt like a total clod, I'm glad that I'm trying. The exercise certainly can't hurt (although I might hurt a bit tomorrow).

Now I just need to practice a bit before next week's class!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Not-So-Stormy Saturday

We were told that Hurricane Ike would hit Dallas with tropical storm winds. Didn't happen. We just had moderate rain and a little wind. We eventually got bored at home and headed out to Steak-n-Shake for milkshakes.

While in that part of town, we just wandered a few stores. First stop was a recently-opened Halloween store. They had a whole wall of Star Wars stuff. More specifically, junky Star Wars stuff. Steven attempted to try on a Clonetrooper helmet:

Then he gave his official opinion on the cheap Vaders:

They are definitely not 501st approved costumes!

I dragged him to a craft store, in which I received the question, "Can we go yet?" pretty frequently. For some reason, pretty papers and rubber stamps just don't hold his attention. He passed the time by flipping through a Joel Osteen book. I asked if it changed his life. He said yes because it made him laugh. Somehow I don't think that was Osteen's goal with his book...

Next we went to Half-Price Books. I planted myself in the midst of the craft books while Steven did his own thing. Quite a while later, he found me. He'd found several things, including this set of LPs in perfect condition:

Only $5 for the original Star Wars score played by the London Symphony Orchestra! Good thing he bought me a lovely new record player for my birthday last year. He also found an expansion pack for some Star Wars PC game. And some Iron Man comics. He said we had to go or he was going to keep finding things to buy. Usually, I'm the one with the high tab at the bookstore!

All in all, it was a nice way to spend a rainy Saturday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Battening Down the Hatches

The weather here is supposed to get bad tomorrow. Hurricane Ike is wreaking havoc on the Texas coast, and we're expected to get tropical storm force winds all the way up here in Dallas. They're talking flash flooding and power outages. Truthfully, I don't expect things to get that bad, but I figured we should be prepared, so I spent some time today shopping for batteries and a new tank of propane for the grill. Never hurts to be ready, even if I don't think we'll actually need it.

I needed some groceries, but that had more to do with the youth breakfast I've organized (and am cooking for) on Sunday, as well as the food I'm bringing to a farewell reception for our youth minister. The grocery stores were fairly packed, but there didn't appear to be a run on the typical stuff people buy during bad weather: eggs, milk, and bread. I have a friend who calls it the Great French Toast Crisis, since all the things required for French toast are what always fly off the shelves. What's ironic is that is exactly what I needed, and even for that purpose. I'm making two pans of praline-topped French toast for the youth breakfast.

I was annoyed to see this:

You see, I'd driven by that same gas station at 10:45 last night, and the price was only $3.45 for regular unleaded. Overnight, it jumped 16 cents, presumably because of the hurricane. I just get annoyed when the price jumps overnight when the gas supply has not yet been affected. I did still manage to find a station that hadn't jacked up their prices yet.

So, the plans for this weekend are just to stay holed up in our house. I guess we'll get the opportunity to see the quality of our new roof, such as, if it can keep all its shingles in high winds. I expect I'll just spend time in the kitchen and craft room, and maybe in front of the TV with some movies.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

WFMW: Dance Shoes and Video Games

Dance is the only form of exercise I've ever enjoyed. After Steven received a Wii for Christmas, I bought Dance Dance Revolution for my own use. It's a great program, as it has a workout mode, different levels of difficulty, and several other options. While it really can't be considered dancing (it's more stomping and shaking the hands than anything else), it's still a fun game.

The mat that comes with the game says that it should be played barefoot. I found 2 problems with that. It was winter, and my feet were cold. Also, bare feet and a plastic-y, vinyl-ish mat don't mix. Instead of stomp, stomp, stomp, it was stomp, stiiiiick, stomp too late, stiiiiick, stomp even later, stiiiiick... So not working.

Because I used to dance, I found a super simple solution (other than just wearing socks, which honestly works just fine, even if the mat says that a huge no-no). I pulled my old ballet shoes out of the closet and started wearing those when I play. The leather soles mean feet don't stick to the mat and there's ease of movement because they are truly the next best thing to being barefoot.

Storage is simple. We keep the mat in a corner that is blocked by the TV and a basket full of quilts. I just shove my dance shoes back there with it. It's blocked from view, but always easily accessible.

When winter rolls back around, and I'm wearing thick socks around the house, I'll probably switch from ballet shoes to my leather-soled, lightweight jazz shoes. My old dance shoes are being used again, and I'm getting some much-needed exercise. That works for me!

For more Works-for-Me Wednesday tips, go here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Ever have those days where you just can't think of anything interesting to write? I'm usually pretty good at turning the ordinary workings of everyday life into something somewhat interesting, but lately, I'm completely uninspired. Our weather has been crazy, which has been messing with my migraines in a major way. I think it's all affecting my mood, too.

For my faithful readers, please bear with me. Everything here is fine (except for the stupid headaches); I'm just, well, uninspired. Hopefully, this will pass quickly.

Speaking of migraines, a friend who also suffers from them mentioned that plants in the bedroom have been shown to have some effect in the reduction of migraine. Anyone know of any good plants that don't need much sunlight (my bedroom gets very little) and won't hurt plant-chomping kitties?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Food Pantry Donations

Each of our small groups at church are supposed to get involved in some sort of outreach ministry. Seeing as food pantries nationwide are hurting for donations, while need is rising, our group decided to head up collections for our local food pantry.

I made an announcement during the service last Sunday, Steven put a collection box in the church foyer, and in only one week, our members had brought in all this:

I dropped all that off today. I'm excited about this. Our church is small, yet our members are so giving. I just hope we can keep up the momentum and remember that we have people in our community who need the basics, such as food and paper products. My hope is that I'll have a trunk full every week to drop off at the food pantry.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

When Stormtroopers Get Together Socially

It's often still Star-Wars related.

We were invited over to Brian's and Kameron's home for a Falcon Party. Brian found the $200 Millennium Falcons that all the guys were drooling over for only $50 each. He bought a few, then offered them up to some of the other stormtroopers. Steven jumped at the chance to get this awesome new piece for his collection for such a low price. (And let me tell you, even I am impressed with how cool this ship is! Definitely worth spending $50. But not so much at the original $200 price.)

We were having a little trouble finding the house, but then Steven said something about their home being obvious. I assumed he was referring to the sheriff's car in the driveway, but Steven pointed up:

Yeah, I'd say that a stormtrooper flag is an obvious sign that we'd found the right house. (When I stepped out of the car and started snapping pictures, Brian said, "We're getting blogged!" I'm so transparent.)

Kameron prepared a delicious dinner for us, then we all went to check out the Star Wars Room:

Of course, they have Star Wars stuff in other parts of their house. Like the living room, which I forgot to take pictures of. I'm beginning to think that I'm the only wife who doesn't let the Star Wars decor seep out into other parts of the house. (Check out Mike and Lindy's house, for example.)

Then, it was time to get out the Millennium Falcons. Steven was quite excited to pull his out:

The guys did their thing while Lindy, Kameron, and I chatted:

I snapped a picture of a couple of the Falcons sitting side-by-side. Brian is standing behind them:

After the Falcons were assembled, the guys pulled out the XBox and played a Star Wars Lego game. (That's Mike's back, by the way, and if you look off to the right, you can see some of the Star Wars decor for the living room.)

I even tried out the game and liked it. We have a Wii, not an Xbox, but I was told that they make this game for the Wii. I think we might have to get it. Part of what I like is that your character can die, but comes right back to life without having to start over. Since I'm a pretty inexperienced gamer, that's my kind of game!

It's fun to get together with these couples outside of 501st events. We actually have a lot in common outside of Star Wars, which is good for me since I'm the only one not in the 501st Legion. (Kameron and Lindy are both in the 501st. I don't even do costumes, although they were attempting to talk me into doing a Sith cheerleader outfit with them.)