Monday, March 30, 2015

deep in the heart of texas

I have now visited thirty one of fifty states! Neither Dan nor I had been to Texas before this weekend (we don't count airport layovers). Nineteen more to go!

My college roommate Katherine and her fiancé Dave got married Saturday in Tyler, Texas. We arrived late into Dallas since our flight was delayed over two hours, but this talented young string quartet (who happened to be on our same flight) entertained us during the wait in the terminal.

After landing, we drove from Dallas to Tyler, which is about a two hour trip even if you're too scared to match the 75 mph (??!?) speed limit on a two lane road with no divider. None of the highways in my home state even go that fast! Dan also spotted a guy on a horse wearing a cowboy hat. Welcome to Texas!

Saturday morning, we met up with some of my other college friends to check out the famous Tyler Rose Garden. Since it's only March, the garden wasn't fully in bloom yet, but the perfectly clear skies and 70 degree temperatures more than made up for the lack of flowers. Plus, lots of mockingbirds serenaded us while we wandered through the grounds.

If you want a desktop background version of the camellia blossom or the flowering tree, just right click on the links below and choose "save link as" to download to your computer.

Camellia blossom wallpaper (Desktop)
Flowering tree wallpaper (Desktop)

On the way back from the garden, Dan and I stopped by the Goodman-LeGrande House and Museum to check out a little flower and artisan fair. Then we met everyone back at the hotel for a quick barbecue lunch before the wedding.

The wedding was at the Cathedral downtown and was officiated by the Bishop, which was neat. The bridesmaids, including my friend Julie, wore light green dresses which coordinated nicely with their orange bouquets (Katherine's favorite color). The reception followed at a pretty Italian villa outside the city. Bethany, Susie, Julie, and I got a photo with the beautiful bride. (I loved Julie's hair... It was very Texas.)

Since both the bride and groom went to Notre Dame, there were lots of Irish fans present. After dinner, a crowd formed around a couple of iPads to watch ND almost upset the #1 ranked UK men's basketball team. So close!

Dan and I had fun taking silly pictures in the photo booth.

Sunday, we went back to the Cathedral for Palm Sunday mass before driving to Dallas to catch our flight. We were delayed again, but guess who was waiting at our gate... the same string quartet from our flight on Friday! We enjoyed another impromptu concert... A good end to a fun weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

leafy baby blanket

Another knitting project finished! My friend Katie is expecting her first child at the end of April. I'm not quite ready to brave a baby shower yet, but that's no reason to deprive her little one of a cuddly blanket! This is my second time knitting the Leafy Baby Blanket pattern. I used Cascade Sierra Quattro yarn in the colorway green tea. It's a shame this yarn is discontinued because it's perfect for baby items (all natural cotton-wool blend, very soft, machine washable). I still have enough for one pink and one blue blanket! More details about this project are on my Ravelry page.

cozy birdhouse | leafy baby blanket

cozy birdhouse | leafy baby blanket

The baby shower was scheduled for Sunday, so I met Katie, Laura, and Courtney for lunch and pedicures on Saturday instead. One of my favorite blogs, Thrifty Decor Chick, recently featured a gorgeous little eatery called The Cake Bake Shop and highly recommended it for anyone in the area (read the post here). It looked delicious and girly and wonderful, so my friends and I lunched there on Saturday. I had a caprese sandwich (so good) and a raspberry cheesecake (even better). Between the four of us, we also sampled the apple crisp, bread pudding, and berry pie. Yum!!

cozy birdhouse | friends at the cake bake shop

cozy birdhouse | cake bake shop raspberry cheesecake

Saturday evening, I drove back home for my friend Ben's birthday party. I've been to several of his food-themed birthday parties over the last 6 years including seafood (this year), fish tacos, bourbon tasting, and Chicago-style hot dog (where I met Dan for the first time!).

Sunday, I made a steak and ale pie for dinner. I've been wanting to attempt it since our trip to London two years ago. I followed this recipe except I used a regular (dairy-free) pastry crust on top instead of a Yorkshire pudding batter. Our stuffed Baby Hulk (from our trip to Universal Studios Orlando last year) particularly enjoyed watching me make English mushy peas. They are bright green and involve lots of SMASHING!

cozy birdhouse | baby hulk making mushy peas

Lastly, an update on our backyard birdies: they have slowly discovered that it's more fun to bathe IN the bath rather than NEXT to it and are having little pool parties every afternoon. Yay!

cozy birdhouse | sparrow at the bird bath

Friday, March 20, 2015

bathing beauties

Last weekend I finally built a proper base for my birdbath. I bought the bath this winter when it was horribly cold but we didn't have any snow yet. Our neighbor has several birdfeeders, but I kept wondering, "Don't the birds get thirsty??" We put it near the garage so I can see if from my spot on the couch, but the ground was too frozen to level the dirt sufficiently. I've been looking at the leaning tower of birdbath all winter.

Finally, Saturday was so warm and pretty. I dug a trench, laid some cinder blocks, and leveled the bath. Daydreaming about cute splashy birds, I carefully filled it with water. When I got home from work the next day, I looked outside hoping to see some little bathing birdies. There they were, at the base of the birdbath... taking dust baths on the mounds of dirt I dug up. At least they appreciated my hard work in their own way.

cozy birdhouse | sparrow by the birdbath

cozy birdhouse | sparrows in the bushes

After work on Wednesday, I visited Nolan at the cemetery. I had some free time before meeting friends for trivia at a restaurant nearby. His grave marker had been installed very recently, so I was glad I stopped by and got to see it. Being there was very difficult; I keep thinking how unfair it is that I'm visiting our baby in a cemetery. I miss him.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

with a little help from my friends

Happy pi day! Don't forget to celebrate the ultimate "pi second" today 3/14/15 at 9:26:53. I slept through the morning pi second, but I get a second chance this evening (ignoring military time). We celebrated by buying ingredients for apple pie, but we were too busy enjoying a pretty spring day to actually bake one.

So, I went back to work on Thursday. Technically, my leave was approved through Friday, but my savvy mother-in-law recommended going back on a Thursday to ease myself in with a short week. Very smart. I spent a large portion of my time sorting my 953 unread emails. A normal week away from my computer usually yields about 400, so 900 in six weeks is a blessing. People must have given up after the first few unanswered notes!

Going back to the office means I get to spend more time interacting with humans than with a parakeet, which is a nice change from the last few weeks. I do love hanging out with Charlie, but our conversations struggle due to his limited vocabulary (mostly just a very cheery "Hi!" that sounds suspiciously like Dan). Little outings with friends over the last month have been the perfect treatment for cabin fever and a good excuse to wear something besides sweatpants. I've been keeping busy with:

  • An afternoon of lunch and yarn shop browsing with my friend Kathy. I used the gift card she gave me to buy some gorgeous yarn for a sweater. The yarn color is called Shire, so I can't help but talk like Gollum when I look at it. Shire! Hobbits!
  • A Lenten Friday fish fry with our friends Ben and Jen, followed by drinks nearby. This was our first foray into the world of the Catholic fish fry, and I was pleasantly surprised. Then again, I love me some Filet-O-Fish, so my standards aren't particularly high.
  • A classy Saturday at a Wine Festival with my friend Amanda. We took it easy and did not try all 700 available. Afterwards, Dan and Nate (Amanda's husband/DD) met us for dinner at a trendy gourmet hot dog restaurant. Yum!
  • A snow tubing trip with my friends Laura and Andy, Dan, my parents, and my brother Kevin. Since it was very warm and the last day of the season, the tubing workers had fun messing with some of the tracks... sending a rookie employee into a splash pond and pushing dummies off a ramp half way down one track. Extra entertaining!

Spring flower arrangements from my cousins Courtney and John and our friends Kierston and Alan are brightening our house. You can spot them in the photos of our dining room and kitchen in my previous post!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

it's curtains for you

My sewing machine gets used for the occasional craft project or costume, but 90% of the time, it is either hemming pants (I'm small!) or stitching custom window treatments. I love being able to choose exactly the right fabric and style for curtains or even just tailor store-bought drapes to the perfect length. Since we bought our house a couple years ago, I've outfitted almost every window in the house. I'm particularly fond of the dining room. The simple muslin lets in just the right amount of light, and the inside-mount tension rods show off our pretty craftsman trim.

cozy birdhouse | living room curtains

For some reason, I never got around to finishing the kitchen windows. But, after a few weeks at home with the honeycomb blinds in there, I just had to do something: valances to cover the blinds, a short cafe curtain for a smidge of privacy, and a little ruffle for the back door. I found a super easy pleated valance tutorial from Living Solutions Interior Design which required only a little sewing and a staple gun.

cozy birdhouse | kitchen valance and cafe curtain

cozy birdhouse | kitchen valance and door ruffle

Yes, that door ruffle is slanted because the door is slanted because nothing in this house is square. It's just one of the idiosyncrasies of an older home that I find endearing more often than annoying. Sloped floors, weird steps between rooms, crooked everything... all fine. One thing I do NOT love about this house is our annual ant infestation. Yesterday started so nicely. I vacuumed and mopped the whole house and had just finished hanging my new curtains when I spotted it: the beginning of ANTpocalypse 2015. This year wasn't nearly as bad previous years when the ants discovered my half-empty ginger ale carelessly left overnight on the coffee table. I was late for work that morning and quickly texted my boss, "I'm going to be late today, my living room is covered in ants." (Fortunately I noticed the auto-correction to "my living room is covered in pants" so my coworkers don't think I'm a laundry-avoiding slob.) A faint scent of Raid lingers today, but I think the worst is over. Now I have to clean the floors all over again!