Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Texas Bowl

We are big college baseball fans. We've had season tickets to Rice baseball for 9 years now. This is the first year that we bought football season tickets and, my guess is, we'll be season ticket holders for another! The Rice Owl football team (members of Conference USA) went 9-3 in the regular season. They were invited to the Texas Bowl. Convenient as it is the hometown bowl. The game was held December 30 at Reliant Stadium home of the Houston Texans. Yep, we were there.

Reliant Stadium -- a really big place!

Bronze bull "dressed" for the season.

Rice Owls meet the Western Michigan Broncos (also 9-3).

This is a picture after the game. They've spent the week together at lunches, dinners and press conferences. They got to know each other. I really like both teams
getting together to congratulate each other
on a game well played.

I'm happy to report that the Owls won the game 38-14
for their 10th win of the season. It's been a
very long time since the Owls have seen such a
successful season. It's the Owls' first bowl win
since the 1954 Cotton Bowl game. 10-3 matched
the school single season record of 59 years ago.

Fireworks after the game.

As Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle wrote:
"Rice wants to be a winning program that challenges
its kids academically and athletically."

That's why we are fans.

Go Owls!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Unfinished Knitting

Now that all the holiday crochet projects are done and sent on their way (dolls and pot holders), I reached into the closet to see what knitting projects were left unfinished. I started this one last spring. I wanted a light wrap to wear inside. Houston always has the air conditioning running and it gets cold in buildings. I liked this pattern immediately. It is a free pattern from Lion Brand Yarn: Lion Brand Lion Cotton Lacy Stole (Pattern Number: 70337AD). I went searching for the Lion Brand Cotton in town and when I couldn't find any I decided I would use Bernat Satin Sport. I love the light weight, snuggly feel of this yarn and the Jade color.

One of the reasons I picked this pattern is that is was marked Easy+. I should have known the secret was in the + ! I can't tell you how many times I frogged the first eight rows. Enough that I finally said *to heck* with it and decided to just keep going. So what if I made a mistake. The first try at a pattern is always mine, and I didn't care if I could see the mistakes! I also remembered a story about Navajo weavers -- they always make an error in the weaving so that the evil spirits have a way out of the rug. I must have really built up some bad karma -- there are lots of ways for evil spirits to get out of this stole! When the stole is finished and blocked, I'll show it to you again.

Here's a project I'm finishing up. The other two pieces are done. Can you guess what this is? You'll have to come back in the New Year to find out. I can tell you all about it on January 19!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

From our House to Yours

Enchanted Forests and Fairy Tale Magic

Festivals of Light

The smell of wood smoke, cinnamon and cloves, baked potatoes,
apple cider, tangerines, oranges, balsam and fir.

A Favorite Ornament
Precious Memories

Rebirth of the Sun
Return of Light and Life
The Birth of Something Precious and Holy

Whatever is beautiful, whatever is meaningful, whatever brings you happiness ...
May it be yours this Holiday Season and throughout the coming year.

Many Blessings To You

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mail Art Surprise!

Look at the surprise I found in my mailbox the other day. MAIL ART! It's from one of my favorite people - Sharon at All Norahs Art. I danced around the living room ooooohing and ahhhhhing. I think Mr. Dragon thought I had finally "lost it". It was several days before I could bring myself to open the package. I worked very carefully so that I wouldn't mess up the mail art.

Look what I found inside. Napkins! Sharon's blog site was one of the first I listed in my favorite links (before the list got out of hand). Her tutorial on using napkins is wonderful and if you haven't seen it you should! Sharon is an inspiration to so many. I'm just thrilled with my surprise package. Napkins are wonderful (and I promise to put them to good use), but the real treasure -- look carefully -- some of Sharon's sisters. Oh, my! I think I'll go dance around the living room again! Thank you, Sharon (and Norah).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Links For You!

It's time for a little catch up. I really haven't been missing in action. We finally got the art work back up on the walls downstairs. Mr. Dragon is painting one of the bedrooms upstairs that had some drywall/plaster work done. I've spent way too much time reading blogs, but have enjoyed every minute. It's been sorta like *down time* seeing what everyone else is doing.

One of the blogs I check in with every now and then is Sorta Frugal. She had a wonderful post about finding a forgotten Christmas treasure backed away in a box -- a wonderful little paper angel. Not long after I read her post I was looking in a closet and found my own forgotten treasure in a box. Not sure I would call them a treasure, but they are cute! When we were living on Galveston Island, I had a *Santa's Box* -- a box I kept in the closet that I used to put small little gifts that I would buy throughout the year -- things I found on sale. I used these little things as hostess gifts, secretary gifts. Nothing much, just a little something nice that said *I remember you*.

Opening the *Santa Box* I found these tins -- Mr. and Mrs. Claus and Mr. Snowman. Their heads pop off and you can put candy or little trinkets on the inside. What was amazing to me was what I found on their bottoms -- MADE IN THE USA -- with a 1981 date. They are in our living room today and I promise, I won't forget them again.

This is *Zoe Nathan's Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake*. Doesn't it look delicious? Some of my favorite things in this cake: cranberries, orange zest, cornmeal, ricotta cheese. I love The Wednesday Chef web site and I think you will too. Check it out. Isabelle is very entertaining.

One more link for you for the holidays (or any day). Check out Eddie Ross. He has suggestions for hostess gifts and a tutorial for making a wreath.

I have to add one more link for you. My friend Julie is a digital scrapper and she has a wonderful set of Christmas tags for you. I'm not a scrapper, but I can really use new gift tags! Check her out at Julie It Is.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

5 A Day

I was visiting Leah today. She had been tagged to take part in the Mindapples project telling the world what five things you do that help keep you mentally well.

Here’s how it works:

  • Write a post telling your readers five things you do that help keep you mentally well.
  • Link to the Mindapples site.
  • Invite five blog-friends to do the same (if you want to)

And that’s it.

I've decided to list my five things that calm/ground me, but I'm not going to tag anyone. Play along if you like.
  1. I like to meditate.
  2. Walk around the neighborhood.
  3. Listen to music - usually with a Celtic flavor.
  4. Be creative. That might mean playing with paint, working with yarn, cooking.
  5. Reading. Keep the little gray cells active!
  6. Stay interested in life! Get up in the morning and welcome the day.
  7. Opps -- guess I've gone over 5!
It's not 2009 yet, but already the January calendar is getting busy. I enjoyed Creative Everyday so much in 2008 that I signed up for Creative Everyday 2009 (check out Leah's blog). Jamie at TNC is starting a new book in January - Twelve Secrets of Highly Creative Women. I'm sure it will be as much fun as Soul Coaching was -- not to mention good for me, too! Paulette Insall has a new journaling class that starts January 5. The Houston Zoo is starting off its wild life lectures in January with cotton top tamarins and I have a short, 15 minute presentation for the docents early in the month. Wow! That should keep me busy. Perhaps I should add number 8 above: Keep Busy. Then there is no time to get flustered!

Seeing the little Christmas tree widget counting down the days to Christmas reminds me that time moves quickly. Make every moment count. Embrace every moment.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Handmade Christmas

How about some handmade (crochet) Christmas potholders?

Christmas Tree




I think the wreath is my favorite. They are doubled making them extra thick. I think they will look very nice on the table this Christmas. Those of you who are looking for your box from Twisty Lane, don't read this post! The patterns are available from The Crochet Village and Annies Attic.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Old Town Spring

Our girls craft day was canceled again. Last time it was Hurricane Ike that delayed things. This time our hostess had walking pneumonia and my other buddy was stuck at home getting a new fence (the old one knocked down by Ike). Someday we will get together! Hopefully soon.

Mr. Dragon and I decided to drive out to Old Town Spring. As far as we can guess, it has been at least twenty years since we last made this journey. Amazing! I remembered it fondly and thought since it was holiday time, it would be a treat and the shops would be decorated. Our little trip was fun. Neither of us remembered the Old Town being as large as it is today. Street after street of little shops.

Old Town Spring was decorated for the holidays.

Old Town Spring has a magazine and map that we quickly took and marked out our afternoon. We decided The Little Dutch Girl was a definite stop. They make fudge -- all kinds. We came home with a 1/4 pound of four different flavors - chocolate chocolate, chocolate walnut, maple nut and pumpkin. You read that correctly PUMPKIN. The Pumpkin was my favorite. Delicious! Definitely worth the drive! Now I have to find a recipe for Pumpkin fudge.

We couldn't resist the toy store.

Another toy store window.

This was my favorite shop. Metal, Petals and More. They have two shops filled to bursting with metal, antiques, flowers, candles (favorite candle was Snapdragon) -- you name it they have it. My favorite pieces were the wonderful metal holiday decorations.

Metal, Petals and More

Metal, Petals and More

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home had the most delicious aroma when we opened the front door. They have wonderful coffee. One of the local television stations was filming in Old Town Spring and the camera man and young woman reporter were here warming up with coffee.

Mr. Dragon gets points. Old Town Spring is definitely a girly place. We had lunch at Ellen's. The food was very good although we waited over an hour before we were served. For the longest time, Dick was the only male in the place. Soon there were two more gentlemen -- both looking as if they had no idea what they had gotten themselves into. Mr. Dragon was well aware of what he was getting into and went along anyway! What a guy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crochet, Mixed-Media, Free Patterns!

Let's start with the free patterns! Caron yarns is celebrating Christmas with a Twelve Days of Christmas email. Each day for twelve days they are sending out a free knit or crochet pattern. The first pattern was for a red stocking for the front door. Hurry over and sign up for the newsletter and start receiving these patterns. The Connections archives are at the bottom of the page and you can find the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas patterns there. Enjoy!

The Gwendolyn dolls are finished. I made the red/orange one first. Then the blue/purple big sister. Same pattern (Gwendolyn), but with some hook size changes. I didn't put an edging on the little sister skirt, but I did on big sister so you really see her pantaloons. Their eyes are black faceted plastic beads -- cheaper than buttons and easier to find. They were a lot of fun to make and I think my little girls in California will enjoy them.

Listen With Your Heart is finally finished. I took the background class with Paulette Insall, Hurricane Ike came ashore, then the destruction/construction/painters were busy and all the art work, art supplies, craft stuff, yarn -- was under plastic -- some still is. Our part of the painting of the walls isn't finished. Mr. Dragon had to set up a studio in the wash room on top of the washer and dryer to get his homework for his art class done.

I'm very happy with Listen With Your Heart. The background is a little busy, but that's okay. With my notes from Paulette's class and this piece, I will remember all the things I learned! I'm ready for the next project already making its way around my little gray cells, but it will have to wait. Girls Day is coming up this week. Finally! I'm getting together with my two best buddies to craft, bead, paint and shop. Yipppeeee!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Is Coming!

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

The kitty in the Santa suit looks just like our little Riley -- if Riley would let us dress her up -- same disgusted look I imagine she would have. Too funny! Have you made your list? Checked it twice? I'm heading off to the post office on Monday with the first of the boxes. I'm helping Santa!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Twilight of Thanksgiving

The day has lengthened into eve,
And over all the meadows
The Twilight's silent shuttles weave
Their sombre web of shadows;
With northern lights the cloudless skies
Are faintly phosphorescent,
And just above yon wooded rise
The new moon shows her crescent.

Before the evening lamps are lit,
While day and night commingle,
The sire and matron come and sit
Beside the cozy ingle;
And softly speak of the delight
Within their bosoms swelling,
Because beneath their roof to-night
Their dear ones all are dwelling.

And when around the cheerful blaze
The young folks take their places,
What blissful dreams of other days
Light up their aged faces!
The past returns with all its joys,
And they again are living
The years in which, as girls and boys,
Their children kept Thanksgiving.

The stalwart son recalls the time
When, urged to the endeavor,
He tried the well-greased pole to climb,
And failed of fame forever.
The daughter tells of her emprise
When, as a new beginner,
She helped her mother make the pies
For the Thanksgiving dinner.

And thus with laugh and jest and song,
And tender recollections,
Love speeds the happy hours along,
And fosters fond affections;
While Fancy, listening to the mirth,
And dreaming pleasant fictions,
Imagines through the winds on earth
That heaven breathes benedictions.

~William D. Kelley (1814-1890)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Countdown Continued!

We are another day closer to Thanksgiving. Do you have sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving? How do you prepare them? Here's a recipe I cut out of the Houston Chronicle years ago. I made it the first time to take to a Holiday pot luck.

Cranberry Apple Sweet Potatoes
  • 1 (21 ounce) can apple pie filling
  • 2 (18 ounce) cans sweet potatoes, drained and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 (8 ounce) can whole cranberry sauce
  • 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
Spread pie filling in 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish; arrange sweet potatoes atop filling. Mix cranberry sauce, preserves and marmalade. Spoon over potatoes. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven 20 to 25 minutes. (Original recipe from Chronicle reader Mary Nita Wing)

You'd guess correctly if you figured I've made some adjustments to the recipe over the years. I put it in a much larger baking dish (I guess can sizes change). I also mix the sweet potatoes with a little brown sugar and a 1/4 cup of bourbon (you could use rum) to give the recipe a little more zing. It makes a pretty dish and has all those wonderful autumn colors and foods I think of when I think Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Countdown

I thought I'd start a Thanksgiving Countdown and offer you a few recipes for the coming holiday. The first is Butternut Squash-Apple Soup (you know I love soup). Apples are the perfect autumn food and Butternut Squash is the perfect color for autumn. When I was growing up in New Mexico one of my favorite things was to drive to Pena Blanca and the Dixon apple orchard and buy apples and cider. The orchard is north of Albuquerque in a beautiful valley. Wonderful place for a picnic. Nice memories for me. Back to the soup! This recipe is a combination of a couple of recipes I found - one in Bon Appetit and the other in the Witch in the Kitchen cookbook by Cait Johnson.

Butternut Squash-Apple Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
  • 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed (about 6 cups) (I buy one large butternut squash and let it go at that!)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 cups (or more) vegetable broth
  • 2 cups filtered apple cider or apple juice
  • 1/4 cup apple brandy
  • Freshly grated nutmeg and ginger
  • salt and pepper to taste and perhaps a little fresh thyme
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic and chopped onion. Saute the onion and garlic until golden then add the vegetable broth, apple cider or apple juice, brandy, diced squash, sweet potato, and apple. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered until squash, potato and apple are tender. Add spices. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. In small batches, carefully puree the soup in a blender or food processor until very smooth. (I prefer a little chunky.) Watch the amount of liquid. You can always add more juice/cider/or broth at the end if you want to thin the soup.

Ina Garten has Butternut Squash and Apple Soup that is very similar. She uses more squash (2 large) and more apples (about 4) and less liquid (2 cups of water to cook and adds 2 cups of apple juice or cider at the end after the soup has been pureed -- again with the idea that you can add liquid at the end to make it the consistency you want). Also, she adds 2 tablespoons of mild curry to the soup.

You get the idea! It is a beautiful and tasty soup for the Thanksgiving season.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Temple Trek Two

Some months ago I posted about a Saturday we spent “Temple Trekking” with a colleague of mine. We spent two weekends with her discovering the international city of Houston. This post covers the second weekend.

Our first stop was the Chung-Mei Buddhist Temple. We started in the temple garden.

This young monk is tapping on his “Mokugyo”.

This young monk is napping instead of tapping on his “Mokugyo”, or “Wooden Fish” used to set the pacing of chants. His face conveys the deep peacefulness that many of us are working so hard to find. Maybe if we just sat for a bit and relaxed into the present moment, we would find what we are seeking.

Young apprentice monk with his begging bowl.

One of twelve young monks with a zodiac symbol. I had to have a picture of the dragon.

On the temple steps.

No pictures were allowed inside of the temple. It was much like the Jade Temple except there were three Buddhas on the altar: Shakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha and the medicine Buddha - Bhaishajyaguru. Instead of pews there were kneelers. There was a small museum area where the story of Kuan Yin was told.

Chung-Mei Temple has a tea room -- FoGuangYuan Tea Room. A drop of water, it is a place for people to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea, and talk about Buddhism and Ch’an. The name of Ch’an Abode - a drop of water - tells us that we should appreciate what we have around us, cherish and be grateful. Tea drinking has an important place in the traditions of Ch’an Buddhism, great monks have attained enlightenment through drinking tea. When people come for a cup of tea they can also attain the wisdom of Buddha’s teaching.

On the suggestion of Rev. Hong, who was an excellent hostess, we ordered three pots of tea, an order of Chinese pancake (small six wedge puff pastry) and an order of Ju-Yi sandwich (made with fresh baked bread, mushrooms, corn, a special blend of herbs and served warm). Everything was delicious. The tea was especially good. My favorite tea was the special fruit tea -- a delicate blend of apples, pineapples and jasmine flowers. The aroma was divine. Kao Shan Tea (high mountain) is a green tea that is grown in the mountains of Taiwan. Only the top tender leaves of the plant are used to make the tea. The third pot of tea was called Black Forest and included blueberries. Mr. Dragon and I need to go back and try out more of the menu -- there is a Prosperity Tea and a Chinese Mint Tea; Prosperity Rice (seven grain special temple blend brown rice with veggies) and Longevity Rice (very dark rice that is cooked with seven grains and beans giving it a distinctive color and flavor and includes veggies and tofu). After our tea we were off to our next stop - a Hindu temple.

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is the first traditional Hindu shrine of its kind in the country. It’s a massive, sprawling, but resolutely graceful temple, made out of hand-carved white marble from Italy and limestone from Turkey. It’s all turrets, arches, and flags outside and carved likenesses of Hindu gods on the inside. The marble is cool under your bare feet. We had such a good time as we called out to each other as we recognized the Hindu gods -- a nagini, Vishnu and his avatars, Ganesh, Brahma and oodles of others.

Our Saturday came to a close much too swiftly. Soon our friend would be off to China and Beijing to study for a year. We do hear from her and about some of her adventures. She is thinking about starting a blog -- yippeee!