Book Club at My House (aka Learning to Make Do)

Book club at my home was approaching. All the other book club ladies have such nice homes and nice furniture to go with them. I was aching for a coffee table and perhaps an end table or two so that people wouldn’t have to put plates on their laps. It is a tight week for us this week so I also wanted to make nice things to eat without going to the store. Which meant no fresh fruit. Hmmm. I made a blackberry coffee cake streusel and a bundt cinnamon coffee cake as well as a hash brown bake. No going to the store also meant no paper plates (at least not sturdy enough ones to use)…no problem, I don’t mind doing dishes, and using real plates is always nicer than paper.

I was trying to clean stains off the couches, stains off the carpet and feeling bad for myself that I didn’t have all new-matching-beautiful-perfect furniture. I could quickly see everywhere the dog has been…but would I give up the dog? Definitely not. She is worth the stains and hair. Then, I quickly got a grip and realized none of those things are important.

The house looked so nice from midnight to about 10 minutes AFTER book club was over. I was very thankful for Cole – one of the BEST KIDS EVER – who was more than willing to stay up and help me clean. He even manually picked out leftover red M&Ms from the Christmas bags I stocked up on after the holiday when they went on sale (he did the same thing with candy DOTS! What a kid!). The red looked so cute in my valentine heart dishes and nobody knew how frugal I really was.

I had been at Kohl’s earlier that day and had a clearance banquet tablecloth in my hand for $19.99. Mind you, I have two white banquet tablecloths that I can’t seem to locate since our move. I searched. Don searched. No such luck. I put the purchase back on the shelf at Kohl’s and walked out empty handed. Even though I felt like I desperately needed that tablecloth. So, I went home and took a cream colored fabric shower curtain and washed it and laid it out on half the table. Then, I took another cream colored tablecloth I had (smaller than banquet) and put it over the other half. Then, I took a small square tablecloth my mother made for me and put it over the seam. I can honestly say that I doubt anybody even noticed and it looked so good! I really AM learning how to make do and it felt pretty good! Give it about 3 days and I’ll find my white banquet tablecloths somewhere…isn’t that how it always goes?!

When all was said and done, I was so happy with how everything looked and tasted and the company was the best of all. I learned a couple of things: 1) if you refrain from the impulse to buy something just because you think you need it, DON’T DO IT!!. You’ll feel better in the long run. You and your home can shine with what you already are or have. 2) Women who don’t care about those things, anyway, are the best friends to have. If anybody would have cared in the least, I really wouldn’t want to have them as a friend, anyway!!!

Touring the Houston Area: Galveston, San Jacinto & Battleship Texas




Today we went to Galveston. We were chilly. Not negative 7° F chilly, but cold nonetheless. When the wind blows off the ocean and it is 45° F, it gets pretty cold into your bones! We wandered and the kids found seashells. My Dad really seems to enjoy the ocean while my Mom stays as far away from the water as possible! The poodle even hit the sand for awhile but they quickly headed back to the car. Then we drove down Seawall Blvd. and ate for the 2nd time at Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant. We love eating there and looking out over the gulf. It is fun to watch huge ships pass by. We heard if you try the ferry (which is free), you can see dolphins swim along side – really?! Can’t wait to find out. We will definitely go back when it’s slightly warmer. We drove down the Strand but it was really getting rainy so we headed toward home.





On Saturday, we spent some time at the San Jacinto Monument and touring Battleship Texas and we thoroughly enjoyed that, too. The boys thought it was a gigantic jungle gym. I think it brought back Navy memories for my Dad. We are so glad we found out that if you buy a state park pass, it gets you a tour of the Battleship and into the monument area for free – otherwise an adult is $10 per ticket. It also gets you into any state park for a year – what a deal! We can also bring up to 15 friends for free each time we go. Afterwards, we drove to Joe’s Crab Shack in Kemah on the Boardwalk to celebrate Donnie’s birthday. What a fun, carnival, Coney Island type atmosphere! We plan to head back there on a sunnier day later this week. I’ll try to post more pics but I’m actual living faster than blogging, so it’s all good. Lots of catch-up to do once the parents head home. If you’d like to see more pics, you can click on any of the pics above and it should take you to our flickr account. If I don’t post again before January 1st – HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!!!

Houston Museum of Natural Science – Sugar Land

All I can think of when I see this picture from HMNS Sugar Land is “Man! Those nostrils are HUGE!”

The boys had quite the time. We liked it so much we bought memberships so we could go and visit the Houston HMNS the next weekend. We liked that, too, as well as the Faberge egg exhibit but I think we actually preferred this little version over in Sugar Land with the dino dig and small planetarium. Don’t the boys look cute? I mean, scary?

Growing Boys!

I have been swamped with work.  And church stuff.  But I couldn’t resist putting up this great picture of Gabe – he’s skinny as a toothpick but at this rate, that won’t last long.  He was dying to try the Mel Burger from Mega Mel’s Cafe in Tomball.  Great place!  If you finish a Mega Mel (which is even bigger than his) within 2 hours (and the Mega Mel costs $19.95 – 2 lbs of beef, 1 lb of bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc.) you get your name written on the wall.  Fun family night at a greasy spoon.

Quilt Market Houston – A Newbie’s Perspective

Houston’s International Quilt Market didn’t indicate any sort of economic recession to me. These people have a passion and they take it seriously. There are some wonderful men at Quilt Market (if you’ve never met the big wigs over at Clover tools, run their direction as fast as you can – they are funny, generous true gentlemen!). But overall, the estrogen was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Husbands lined the walls, held the bags, and stood aside while female shop owners and designers worked the floor. Fabulous!

In Amy Bradley’s booth.

They even have little green ribbons for those of us who were venturing there for the first time. Other newbies stopped me to ask where I got my ribbon. You see, at Market, it’s all about what you’re getting: contacts, friends, food, fun, but most importantly…inspiration. And I’m not even a quilter!

Izzy & Ivy Designs won best new booth or something like that (an official award; not a made up one like mine!).

I came upon Quilt Market almost by accident: hubby transferred to Houston and my good friend Benay, of Beany Boy Quilts, wanted me to help her design and layout a quilt book. We’ve been in Houston about 14 weeks and – true to her word – Benay came down to visit me and we headed out for downtown. The rows upon rows of interesting fabrics and quilts were mind boggling. I don’t quilt, you see, but any girl with graphic sensibilities can appreciate a good quilt design. You could immediately tell which pattern and fabric designers stood out from the crowd because their booths were crowded. There were so many fun exhibitors who actively passed out fliers, smiled and said hello, inviting you into their booths. In contrast, there were quite a few exhibitors who just sat in their booth looking unfriendly and not even saying a word. I noticed a trend: those with traditional patchwork and passé designs were the ones looking uninviting. The best exhibitors had not only fresh, fun quilt designs but they also included other projects: animals, backpacks, books, you name it! Their creativity wasn’t limited to quilt design. And it showed. They were genuinely creative people.

L to R: Benay Derr, Amy Bradley, Lizabeth Rolfson

Amy’s quilt design for baby – great idea!

The sweetest and kindest exhibitor has to go to Amy Bradley and her daughter and mother. What a fun crew! They are the kind of people you just know you love instantly. And her work…well, she was a graphic designer first (I’m not biased or anything) and it shows.

Mary Cowan, right, of Mary’s Cottage Quilts

Another trend I noticed was that the freshest designs of the lot were not from good old Moda or Windham Fabrics but from independent start ups – most coming out of Utah. Riley Blake was a huge hit – what a great setup out of Alpine, Utah – and Mary Cowan of Mary’s Cottage Quilts in Sandy, Utah. Another Utah favorite was Abbey Lane Quilts: Marcea Owen and Janice Liljenquist were so friendly and patient with us as we had to touch every. single. thing. My favorite fresh designs outside of Utah were from The Noble Wife. Designer, Jacquelynne Steves and her stalwart husband showed that all of the hotbed of fabric designs is not exclusive to Utah as they hail from Woodstown, New Jersey.

My all-time favorite booth of the show, however, has to go to Melanie Hurlston of Melly & Me. This group from Australia and their lovely accents were not the only thing that attracted me to their booth. I was hooked from the Friday night Sampler Spree and sought them out Saturday to get another hit from their hip wares. The books – all designed and produced by themselves (including the photography!) – were a breath of fresh air. They exuded confidence in their own designs and it just plain didn’t look like everybody else’s version of the latest trends. They were fantastically independent and I cannot toot their horn enough. I will be seeking them out for personal inspiration, graphically speaking, and I don’t even quilt! They totally were the Homecoming Queen of Quilt Market in my book!

Speaking of graphic inspiration, the award for best overall graphic sensibilities in quilting design would have to go to Patrick Lose of Patrick Lose Studios. I had the chance to chat with him and it’s no wonder – he used to teach Graphic Design at a design college in Des Moines, Iowa. Now that’s so close to home, it gave me goose bumps (I’m still a little midwestern home-sick!).

Lizzie B’s groovy peace quilted rug.

Other standouts: Lizzie B Cre8tive – she would have to be runner up for Quilt Market Homecoming Queen – great rugs and all around design. Very eye catching! I also liked Cloud 9 Fabrics, organic and super soft fabrics.

The Miss Congeniality award goes to Laura and Lynnette of Beach Garden Quilts in Seattle. They were wonderfully friendly – like instant best friends – and helped us feel at ease. They have some innovative quilted looking floor mat designs – be sure to check them out.

A quilt in the display section…name anyone?

The only thing left is to recuperate. But I don’t have time. I’ve been so inspired, I have all sorts of graphic design inspiration to work out.

p.s. You can look at all of my Houston Quilt Market pictures at my flickr account.

Bennie: Book Club & Huskers

Rule #1: This book club is not for kids. Do not bring your kids. Find a babysitter. So — I broke rule number 1 already and since I was the only one doing it, I arranged in advance for the hostess to have Lightning McQueen at the ready. She had better toys than we do (dinosaurs and cars do the trick!) and Ben was super quiet upstairs…for the first hour and a half. Nearing the second hour, when he had enough, Ben devised a surefire way to get me to exit Book Club quickly: come downstairs naked. A high school friend reminded me that, yes, indeed, this is how we roll in Nebraska. Unfortunately, my day was not over yet!

I promptly went to Barnes & Noble to purchase September’s book. I figured if I bought the book they’d have to let me come back, right? So….sitting in Barnes & Noble, I purchased a sandwich and cookie. I ate the sandwich. Ben ate the cookie (lunch=cookie when you’ve had the morning that he had entertaining book club ladies). Our conversation went like this:

Mom: “So, Ben, do you even know that you live in Texas now?”

Ben: “Yeah.”

Mom: “Do you like Texas?”

Ben: “Yeah.” (Boys are such great conversationalists).

Mom: “So. Are you a Husker or a Longhorn?” (At this point, I’m just fishing for info).

Ben (mouth full of cookie): “A Longhorn!”

Mom: “Well, that’s not gonna fly! You are a HUSKER!!! You ARE a Husker, right?!

Ben: “I’m a Husker. Do they fly?”

20 minutes after blog entry: I had to remove the word “naked” from the title and the tags because within this short amount of time I have had too many hits from freaks in this world searching for “naked boys” and getting my blog. Unbelievable. What is this world coming to?! I am actually physically ill over the thought. I didn’t even consider such sick things when I wrote the article. I will take your IP address and send them to the police. Disgusting. May God have mercy on your soul.

Klein Ward Summer Picnic

Gabe & Benjamin getting drinks.

Beanie eats a doughnut for his main dish! Our standards have gotten so low this past year…we hope to reintroduce vegetables now that we’re a bit more settled!

A gaggle of girls catching toads and the jealous boys looking on!

Our new ward is huge. Really big. We have 3 or 4 Sunday School teachers who trade off teaching every week. Seriously. They make up callings so everyone can have one. I realize this won’t last long because there is a new church being built not very far away and everything will be rearranged and we’ll probably lose half the ward but, still…it’s a nice respite. Not that I don’t enjoy serving. It’s just very nice to not have to magnify four different callings for awhile!

So far we have met only really nice people. Nadine’s best friend is my new Mariyn Godby. She’s wonderful (but I still miss you Marilyn!). There’s a piano playing beautiful woman who reminds me so much of my cousin Leslee Bartlett (and she just got called to Stake YW Pres – lets hope she isn’t there quite as long as Leslee was as Stake Primary Pres!). Let’s see…today we saw a glimpse of a Jared Boldt serving in Primary with his computer. It’s funny how you see people you miss in people you meet. I don’t have a new Sheila Lauducci or Benay Derr yet but I’m looking…not that either of those women could EVER be replaced! I just need a cheap substitute.

While we are enjoying our new ward (you can see pictures of the ward party here), we certainly do miss the Gretna Branch. Our hearts were there when it was formed and will always be there – even when it becomes a stake.

Buried Alive in Boxes!

Don’s on vacation this week to help unpack and get things straightened out…and to enjoy the first week in our new home…but instead of unpacking, we’ve mostly been fielding calls and running around trying to help Wells Fargo finally get our mortgage file complete and to closing today. It took an executive complaint – after our third loan officer left (this time for jury duty), I spammed ever single board member and executive that I could guess an email for – and one of my pleading emails got through. The VP and Regional Manager who called us the next day had not heard about the mess from their minions…and one of them mentioned she wished it had come “up” from below instead. She said they received it as an executive complaint. I hope upper management realizes what a mess this North Houston and Woodlands office of Wells Fargo Mortgage is. We think it would be wonderfully ironic should the manager who couldn’t get anything done had to show up to closing today since all of those who have been finally getting our file done are too far away. We HOPE to let you know. Still planning on 1 p.m. signing today…wish us luck prayers! We could certainly use them. I have to say, though, with the attention we’re finally getting that Wells Fargo is trying to make things right and those in authority certainly can get things done…they’re reimbursing us first month principal and interest in a check to any non-profit we name plus no underwriting fee, processing fee or loan origination charge. Plus, an additional credit on the survey (over $2,000 in apologies, basically) to help offset the cost of having to pay the sellers for the week of the lease. We still don’t know the final numbers but I am so relieved they’re making it right…we stepped into a hornet’s nest and a soap opera chain of events behind the scenes at Wells at the Woodlands office and we didn’t know it until it was too late!

Buddha Hand Citron Fruit Tree

Picture from White On Rice.

We have inherited at least two Buddha Hand Citron fruit trees. The fruit is amazingly ugly but it SMELLS so good! It smells like a not-tart-lemon. Or a lime. Or a sweet lime. Obviously very difficult to describe but it’s wonderful! I’ve heard of a few uses:

1. Soak the rind in sugar and make a citrus flavored sugar. There are some interesting ideas on Chowhound.
2. Remove the pith and candy the peel.
3. Cut off the fingers and dice and use as you would lemon zest (same taste, less bitter). There are some good looking recipes over at flavorandfortune.
4. Make lemon vodka liqueur…okay, not for us since we don’t drink but maybe you can cook with it? It sure is pretty in the bottle, anyway.

You can buy the tree from Bay Flora for $67 or you can buy the fruit online at Local Harvest for $20 apiece! Geesh! Wish I knew where I could sell them for that in Houston!


No pictures or fun things today yet…we’re hanging in there and praying Wells Fargo gets their act together. The previous owners kindly let us lease back and move in last Friday but the extended contract ends this Friday so we really need them to get our file processed quickly and we keep getting empty promises and the runaround. Pray for us!!! More pics soon.

Settling In…

I’m too tired to even post a picture though I have a few really good ones of piles of boxes. The boys had an 11 or 12 foot tall fort created with boxes IN THE ENTRYWAY so that we couldn’t even get to the door if we wanted to.

We love this house. It feels like a little bit of heaven. We love the paint colors. We love the layout. I adore the kitchen and master bedroom – it is so big that Cole claims we could cut it in half and give him some extra yard outside! I am a bit afraid to go upstairs and see how the boys have unpacked their things! Back to the kitchen…I’ve been there for 2 days straight…it’s not a gas stove or a double oven (both were on my “must have” list) but I am so happy with what is here. I love the tile and the cabinets. I want to paint the inside of them Martha Stewart bluish green (probably the same color the previous owners used on the wainscoting in the laundry room which is DREAMY). Not only did the previous owners leave us a welcome basket of CHOCOLATE (dark, too!), she labeled all the house color paint cans with the room it was used in AND THE YEAR/DATE it was used…seriously, I wish everybody could buy a house from people as nice as we did. We were extremely blessed to meet them. Our own house “touches” will come in good time…I’m going to just enjoy our family being in a home again for awhile first.

The Zellmers really took good care of their home. The only hitch we’ve run into is our fridge won’t fit in the laundry room. Well, it fits in the slot but there is a windowsill in the way…not sure what we’re going to do about that yet. Our chest freezer was going to be sold but now Don thinks maybe that will fit instead. Let’s see…what else do we love? The kids love the big tub in the master bath. It’s not as big as our old one (nor is it a Jacuzzi) but they were all very pleased and seemed to like it more. I think not being a Jacuzzi is a plus.

The dog is in heaven. She keeps trying to sneak off into the field by our home. I bought a new rug for the kitchen today and she has claimed it.

The movers will need to replace 4 things: 1) Ben’s bunk bed headboard/footboard got lost before they even hit Texas (was never received in the warehouse) and 2) The loaders in Gretna damaged a big dresser on industrial wheels that we used to store the boys’ toys 3) my jogging stroller got damaged, and 4) a miscellaneous box of blankets was lost. Not too shabby for 20,720 lbs of stuff, I think. The only thing that breaks my heart is Ben is sleeping in Alex’s old room on the floor for now until his bed can be replaced. It’s okay, though, he is snuggling in blankets and the carpet is very soft. Hmm…as I type this he is sleeping in my bed. Not good.

I hear sawing upstairs. The older boys have taken my serrated kitchen knife and are building cardboard forts in the playroom. They asked for duct tape about an hour ago while I was preparing a lesson for church and I didn’t put two-and-two together…I’d better go take some pictures and see if anybody is bleeding!

More later when we’re coherent again.

Grogan’s Mill Farmers’ Market

I’ve been looking for farmers markets (or farms!) close to me that have raw cow’s milk (I see lots of raw goat milk) and grass fed beef. I’ve been having a bit of trouble finding just the right place. I have lots of links left to check out from the Weston A. Price Foundation but I did find that Grogan’s Mill in the Woodlands has a farmers’ market with organic veggies and grass fed beef starting in October through the beginning of December. I’ll have to check it out in a few months! If you know of a farm, please email me.

Mercer Arboretum in Spring, Texas

We had a great time at the Mercer Arboretum last weekend. Here are some of the pictures but you can see them all at our flickr account.

Jack’s eyes in this one crack me up!

It’s such a beautiful area that people go there to take just about every kind of picture (choir, wedding, etc.). We stumbled upon a crowd of people with matching shirts, cowboy hats and boots. They looked so neat! Then we saw what they were there for: the most beautiful 15 year old hispanic girl. I guess it’s a tradition. All I know is she was luminous. They had two Hummer limos and it was very ceremonial looking. I snapped a couple of shots because I had just never seen anything like it before!

Houston Heights II

So here are the Houston Heights shots I found online while I was searching for real estate. The smallest houses are a bit over $200K while the larger ones (3,000 to 4,000 square feet) are over a million. If you’re really into checking out the area, go to the Houston Association of Realtors website and choose “advanced search” and search for the whole neighborhood – just enter “Heights” into the dialog box. Have fun! Some of the interior pictures on these houses are really amazing.

Houston Heights I




So I had a client meeting in The Heights on Monday morning and I had never been to the area. To be honest, I was afraid to go anywhere near downtown – small town chicken that I am – but it was a very fun, artsy, historic area. It reminded me of Dundee in Omaha. I left Spring around 8:15 and arrived in The Heights around 8:45 but my meeting wasn’t until 9:30 so I drove around taking pictures like a tourist.



I also stopped at a cute bakery and took pictures of the oodles of goodies because they were so colorful! I have never seen such pink cookies in my whole life! The pastries were filled with pineapple filling. There was a sweet potato filled empanada. There was a cinnamon doughnut looking pastry filled with apples. I also bought some sugar cookies for my potential clients. I accidentally gave away the treats that I purchased for Don and brought home the sugar cookies. Oh well. After all that, the kids didn’t even like the cookies. They were dry and crumbly (okay by me) but not very sweet at all (even though some were coated in sugar) and tasted of cornmeal. Hmmm…I guess we’re too sugarified in the midwest. Would probably take some getting used to.




I’m posting some of my random shots while driving and hanging out the window but I also found some shots of Heights houses for sale. One of these is for sale for $1.3 million. {cough, hack, cough} Trendy, indeed.


One thing that I am excited to have found is a little shop called Sew Crafty – Houston. I haven’t looked it up online yet but it looks like they offer classes all week. They were closed when I got there but isn’t their logo really cute? I’ll link to them as soon as I find out a little more about them.