Monday, November 12, 2018

Cathing Up News

The weather has turned cooler and has been sunny. Finally we have fall, and now it is moving right on into winter. Such is life in OK. As usual, I keep waiting on things to slow down, but they never do. At least with the time change, we have to slow down some, since it gets dark early. I love that.

Yesterday, it was so nice outside that Toby and I did some outdoor chores. Since we had our first fire on Friday night, we decided we had better cut some firewood.  Toby worked the chainsaw while I gathered and stacked the wood.  I had de ja vu.  Forty years ago when I was pregnant with Bo, we lived in San Marcos going to college and living in the married housing down by the river. Of course we had little money and worked several jobs to make a living while going to school. On weekends we would go out toward Lockhart where friends were building a house.  Toby helped build the house sometimes (for pay), but other times we would cut wood on their property.  We would take the wood back to San Marcos and drive around in the wealthier neighborhoods and sell the wood for something ridiculous like $25 a cord.  Forty years later and we are still cutting our own wood. I'm not pregnant, but I am fat and still clumsy. Where are the young, hungry college kids when you need them? Actually, it was not bad - kind of fun - at least until you stop and get stiff and sore.

Soon after we finished the wood cutting and stacking, the grandkids showed up. They played on the four-wheeler mostly. Toby recently uncovered the pool table in the barn. Several years ago, he got an old pool table from friends, and it has been covered in the barn since then. Toby is hoping to work on our pottery room soon and has been clearing things in the barn to get ready for the room. The pool table will go in the pottery room that will double as a man-cave. The kids were fascinated by the table, and so we had to have lessons in pool. Part of life's training.
Art is going well. There is the CTAC Holiday Art Show coming up. That means I will be working on setting up the show as well as putting art in the show. I have finished two watercolors that are okay, but not prize-winning. Maybe sell-able. I need to get things finished and framed. Yikes! I need to kick it into gear.

Art at the Edge (high school alternative class) is really fun.  I love those kids. They are a mess, but they are willing to do art and they seem to enjoy it. They talk while they paint, which is fun, but sometimes they get way off. I have to tell them to change the subject - TMI. They think that is quite funny.

Big News
Jesse's bestfriend, Lindz and her husband Shay, adopted a baby boy. They are naming him Fredrick Theodore. Yep, Freddy Teddy! Shay wants to call him Teddy (says that it is a great baseball player name). Lindz wants to call him Theo. I lean towards Theo, but time will tell. He is now two months old and filling out nicely. I go and hold him at least once a week. We had a party for him - a "come and meet the new kid" party.  He was perfect - slept while everyone took a turn holding him. He woke up to smile and coo to Jesse - his favorite aunt. His story is so amazing:

In late September Shay and Lindz got a call from a lady they knew saying that a young teenager was pregnant. She had hid her pregnancy from her family for a long while - the baby was due in Oct. She wanted Shay and Lindz to adopt her baby. They made a plan to meet the mother and discuss things. A few hours later the lady called back to say that the young mother had gone into labor early and was now at the hospital. If Shay and Lindz wanted the baby, they needed to go to the hospital too. They went. The hospital set them up in a room just like expecting parents. We all joined them there like expectant grandparents. At 4:00 PM the baby was born. At 5:00 the baby was placed in Lindz' arms, and the deal was done. All on the same day! It was a miracle. I guess all births seem like a miracle, but getting a baby - such a perfect little man - was truly God given.  We are all in love with Teddy/Theo.

Friday, November 02, 2018

The Last Leg

After a weekend in Strasbourg, Toby and I made our way back to Paris and then home. It's at this point when you are really tired that you question having made a plan that was so long - like too many days away from home. Still, Paris was beautiful.

We left Strasbourg before the sun was up - walking to the train station to catch an early train. Our plan was to get to Paris early so that we would have a day there before heading home.  We came into Gare de l'est train station and chose a hotel within walking distance so that we could drop off our luggage and see the city.  That part worked like a charm.  We caught the Metro to a station near Notre Dame. It was such a beautiful day and there were lots of people out and about. We walked down the River toward the Eiffel Tower.  That part was probably a mistake.  The walk was long, there was lots of construction along the river, and it got rather warm.  But, I guess it was good, too, because we were out in the open air and seeing the city.

We eventually branched off into the neighborhood and found the Mus'ee d'Orsay. I wanted to show Toby the paintings as well as the building - an old train station.  The lines getting into the museum were extremely long. Toby was not willing to wait and I had been there before - so we moved on.  As we got closer to the Eiffel Tower, we found a street with lots of outdoor restaurants. We picked one and had lunch and beer.  Paris was packed with people. There was some sort of runner's race going on and the day was so perfect. I think everyone in France had the same idea to get out and enjoy the city. The area around the Eiffel Tower was bustling and the lines going up in the tower were ridiculous. Once again, Toby was not willing to wait.

We made our way to the Metro and then to Montmartre.  We made the mistake of taking the stairs out of the Metro there - OMG! It was the one time in all our walking that I thought I might not make it up and out all the stairs.  Then we started toward the church and those stairs.  As we got closer to La Basilique du Sacr'e Coeur, it was apparent that something was going on - it was wall to wall people. There were tents lined up down the streets and around the church - a wine tasting festival. Toby was horrified by the numbers of people packed into one area.  After choosing to skip the de Orsay and the Eiffel Tower, I insisted upon climbing the stairs to the church. And so we did. I was sweaty and red-faced, but we did it. The view was beautiful overlooking Paris. It was difficult to find a spot to stand and look out over the city - people were packed. And so we made our way down the stairs and to a sidewalk café and a beer - our go-to way of resting up.  We did a bit of shopping in Montmartre for gifts to take home, but we were done-in with all the walking and people.  My brain was fried as well as my legs and feet worn to nubs. We made our way back to the hotel where we took showers and ibuprofen.  We did not get out that night, but rested up for our trip home.

The next morning we ate breakfast and caught a bus to the airport - all of which was an adventure.  We got to the airport in plenty of time, but not without some trepidation. While waiting in line to go through security, Toby managed to break both the zippers on my backpack. For the rest of the trip I had to hold it together with my hands. I know this is a small thing, but when I was packing for this trip, I had debated about which backpack to use. I chose poorly. We had a ridiculous time waiting and boarding the WOW airlines to Iceland. Yep, we went through Iceland. The plane was much like Spirit Airlines - bare bones - cheap! The hop to Iceland was not so bad, but the long flight to DFW was uncomfortable.

The Iceland airport was like a huge mall with lots of stores and places to eat - and it was expensive! The money you save on the cheap airlines went to buy food at the airport.  The seating areas were not comfortable and the power-outlets were not working well. We had several hours to wait and then the 9 hour flight home.  Fortunately the plane was not so full and we had an extra seat on our row - giving us a bit more room. Unfortunately, there was a family of small kids sitting behind us - enough said.  The lesson we learned was that we are too old for cheap flights like Spirit and WOW.  I'd rather pay a little more and get food and drinks and comfort. We did find a water fountain at the airport where we filled up water bottles for the last leg home.  The airlines did not even offer free water. Pillows and blankets were certainly out of the question.  Movies and music and power outlets - no way! Next time, we will leave those airlines to the youngsters.

Going through customs is always a hassle - even more so when their system was down at DFW.  We got to our car in the rain and cold, but it was good to be almost home.  It was really good to turn into our driveway three hours later and fall into bed.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Next Leg - Strasbourg

The next leg of our trip took us a bit out of my comfort zone, but it all went well.  My brother and SIL were taking her class of college kids to Stasbourg, which is on the German/France border. We were invited to go, too. Being that we were on vacation  we were a bit slow in deciding to go along. When we finally said yes, the train was booked and so was the hotel.  No problema. We could take a different train and stay at a nearby hotel.  It was the train that was a bit scary. The student's train was a direct/no-stop train. The train that Toby and I took went to Paris and then we had to get off one train, take the Metro to another station, and get on a different train to Strasbourg.  We actually managed it without a hitch, but it was uncomfortable trying to work our way through the Metro and then the train station.  I had forgotten most of my previous knowledge of how to work the Metro, so we stopped at one of the info desks to ask. The man sold us tickets, but whatever he said on which line to take was totally not understandable. I did finally catch the number 4 in his French. Yay! We took the line 4 and did well. Once at the new station, we had to catch the train. It was here that the train folk said our luggage was too big and we needed to pay 20 Euros for each bag.  Toby took up the train guy's time switching luggage around to get one bag smaller. So we only had to pay for one bag. It was all just a hullaballoo. Our luggage had been the same on all trains and there was plenty of room on the trains.  In fact, we usually check our luggage on planes, but I saw lots of people whose luggage was larger than ours carrying their luggage on the planes. I guess the real trick here was to pay earlier for large luggage, which we did for the planes.  We had heard that some airlines will at the last minute charge you lots for luggage, but if you pay the fee early, you will save yourself time and money. We did not get that message for the train. I still think it was just a scam.

Anyway, we made it safely to Strasbourg and checked into our hotel. Once there, we went into the city center in search of a bank to exchange money.  We got to the bank just as they were closing. Being French, they don't stay a minute longer or help anyone out. It was not really a problem - we had enough Euros and most places take credit cards. So we found our way to the main plaza in front of the church - found a great table in the shade and had a big beer. Toby complained that I took and posted too many pics of him sitting and drinking beer. But hey, that is what we did often. We managed to find my brother and SIL who were just around the corner having a beer themselves.

We joined the college kids for a boat ride around the city which is surrounded by rivers and canals.  It was fun, but I nearly fell asleep on the boat - must have been the swaying of the boat the the voice of the guide. After the boat ride, we made our way to a beer store - of course! The beer store guy gave us the name of a great restaurant with authentic German/French cuisine. We had some good food including pig knuckles.  We stayed out late walking around the city center and enjoying the sites - and beer.

The next day we joined the students on a tour of the church - Notre Dame de Strasbourg. It was pretty awesome. We had time for lunch and shopping before we met back up with the students for the next tour. We went to a kitchen store where they made these wonderful ceramic pieces. We bought a bread pan for the GGs.

The next tour was of the only concentration camp in France - Struthof. This part of the tour was sobering, and yet, very beautiful. We got back to the city center in time for supper. Although the supper was really good, our waitress was a bit of a soup Nazi  - making us do everything the French way. Then one of the other waitresses was extremely rude - I wanted to let her know her behavior was unacceptable, but in France, you don't necessarily tip and the unions make it impossible to fire someone. So I was quiet. Still, I think she needed to be enlightened :)

The next morning Toby and I got up early to catch a train to Paris. This was the last leg before we headed home.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Second Leg

Someone said, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could just hop on a train and go to OK City for the day?" I answered, "What would we do once we got there? We would have to take a taxi everywhere we went and nothing is close to anything." But in European countries people take trains all the time. Train stations are in the city centers and everyone walks. It is very cool, but I don't see that happening in Oklahoma anytime soon.

Toby and I took a train to Angers from Paris.  It was very comfortable and fast.  It was dark and raining when we got to Angers, and my brother met us at the station to walk us to their apartment about six blocks away. Easy-peasy. We stayed up as long as possible and slept in a bit on Sunday morning to try to get on France time.  It was helpful that Toby and I were able to sleep on our flights to Paris. So, we were ready to go and explore the town of Angers on Sunday afternoon.  I love walking in the old city centers - the narrow streets and funky stores! Angers has some great old timber-framed buildings as well as a castle that was the cradle of the Plantagenets. We walked along the top of the castle walls and towers and visited the Apocalypse Tapestries. I'll let you Google that if you are interested.

On our second day in Angers we rode bicycles down the Maine River to another little village where we stopped and had café la crème. It was a beautiful ride - nice and flat - along the river with the fall foliage. Just perfect! Well, I did crash on my bike once. It was toward the end of the ride in the middle of town where everyone could see me. It wasn't much of a crash (except that I am 60 years old and fat). I was almost stopped and my plan was to bump up on the sidewalk and walk my bike up a big hill. Unfortunately, I did not bump up, but instead fell down. As I crawled off my bike with my butt in the air, I thought, "It's a good thing no one knows me in France, but they just got a good view of my bee-hind!"

The next day when my SIL was off work, we rode the opposite way on the river and to where the Sarthe River merges with the Maine.  We ate at a little village café.  The waitress set a wine bottle on the table, but it did not have a label. We couldn't figure out if it was wine or vinegar for the salad - ha! It turned out to be wine. We had a good laugh at how dumb we Americans probably seem to the French.  On our way back to Angers, we took a ferry across the river to a little island. Here we bicycled around the island and back to the ferry crossing. There was a little outdoor place to sit and have a beer or wine or whatever. It was great! Such a perfect day. By the time we got back to Angers the sun was getting low and I was worn out.

We did some more exploring of Angers on Wed. My SIL had to work, so my brother took us to a market where we shopped for fresh veggies. We stopped at a café for crepes and did a bit more wandering around the city center. This was actually some hard cider that we had with the crepes - I think it is a Normandy thing to have crepes and cider. The guys had to stop in a beer store and buy all sorts of French beers to try.  It seems the micro-breweries are big everywhere.  I did some shopping for gifts -  stopping at the La Maison d'Adam to buy some things for folks at home. It is a very old timber-framed house that is now an artisan gift shop.

Each night with my brother and SIL, we had great meals and wine. They were great hosts. Their apartment was really nice - apparently St. Edwards in Austin keeps apartments in Angers for the teachers who come and go teaching there. I'm so glad we were able to make this trip before my SIL retires in May. My SIL and her university in Angers

The next leg of our trip was to Strasbourg, France. We took a train to Paris where we had to catch the Metro to get to a different train station and then onto Strasbourg. Pretty exciting! More on that later. Remember that you can click on the photos to see the up close.

Friday, October 19, 2018

First Leg

France was wonderful, but it sure is good to be home.  I packed mostly long-sleeved items  thinking that the weather would be a bit cooler than it had been in OK. I took a light jacket, but hoped that the long-sleeves would be perfect. Well, the weather was perfect and the long-sleeves were a bit too warm. I was constantly pushing them up my arms. Most of the time the long-sleeves were fine, but now and then when in a crowd or warm area with no breeze, I overheated. We did lots of bike riding and walking and sometimes that overheated me. All in all, it was good, but sometimes I wished for a short-sleeved T-shirt and my sandals.

I'll start with my trip over to France.  I took Spirit Airlines to Cancun and then France airlines to Paris.  The Spirit airlines was cheap and not-so-comfy, but it was a short hop. The people on it were headed to Cancun and were in party mode. So it was loud. I kept thinking that it was similar to riding a bus to Cancun  - minus the live chickens.

Once in Cancun, I had to get my luggage, go through customs, and get to a different terminal. Customs was rather tough compared to other places. I kept thinking, "What are they worried that we are bringing into Mexico?" When I finally got out to the bus stop to catch the shuttle to the other terminal, I was accosted by taxi drivers. The first one told me that it would be 30 minutes before the next bus and it would take 40 minutes for it to get to the right terminal - and that I would not make my next plane. It totally freaked me out. Even though I knew he was scamming me, I was freaking a bit on the inside. I finally got rid of him, but more taxi drivers approached me. Each had a different timeline/story, but the gist was that I would not make it to my next plane if I did not pay $20 to take a taxi. I put on my best scowl and stink-eye to discourage the drivers. Eventually I got on the shuttle to the next terminal. Some other American ladies got on, too, and we shared our taxi driver stories.  I made it in plenty of time for my flight, but did not appreciate the hassle.

The flight itself was interesting. People flying from Cancun to Paris were mostly people from France.  No one seemed to speak English.  I did meet a Mexican lady who did not speak French or English, but we communicated in my bad Spanish and her bad English. Both of us seemed tickled to communicate at all. The flight was not that full, so I was able to stretch out across the seat row and sleep.

Once in Paris, I made my way to the train station to wait on Toby. I did some sketching and serious people watching. We eventually caught the train to Angers (sister city to Austin). We did it all without a hitch.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Art Week

It has been a wild couple of weeks. We had church camp last weekend. For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you know our whole church goes camping in the Wichita Mountains.  This year Toby was in India. So, Bo and I set up the tent and had GBN1, Mr. T, and the baby boy.  Jesse showed up too.  We did well.  The boys are a handful and have to be watched closely. I was worn out from being constantly alert. My motto: I have a fly swatter and I know how to use it!

This week was lots of art stuff. I hung an art show at the CTAC that will start next week.  It is two guys that are both western artists. Then Tuesday was art with the young girls, Wed. was my class at the Edge (yes, I finally got all my paper work done so I can work one morning a week) and Thursday was art with my older ladies. In the midst of all of this I have been preparing for my trip to France.  I leave in the morning. My brain is fried and my body tired.

I just wanted to let you know I was alive and well and looking forward to my vacation. See you in a couple of weeks.