Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Lee and I went on a trip! And spent 2 nights and 3 days away from the kids (thanks, mom!) It was awesome! We were celebrating our 9th anniversary, and since I have already decreed that for our 10 year I want to use my passport, I thought it would be fun to travel somewhere for 9 as well (and Southwest had great deals on flights to New Orleans). Here is a list of where we have stayed for our previous anniversaries...

2000 - The Crescent, Dallas
2001 - The Crescent, Dallas (saw Angie Harmon and Jason Seahorn on their wedding weekend)
2002 - Castle in northern England
2003 - Hotel Zaza, Dallas
2004 - Wildwood Inn, Denton
2005 - The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas
2006 - Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
2007 - Hacienda Las Barrancas, Santa Fe
2008 - W Hotel, Dallas

2009 - W Hotel, New Orleans

We woke up Monday morning, April 27th, to thunder. That is never good when you are planning to go on a plane! We had a perfect plan of dropping off the kids at school, parking the car, greeting mom as she deplaned from Austin, and then getting on our plane to NOLA. However, the thunderstorms threw us for a loop. While our plane left on time, mom's plane arrived 2 hours late and we were not able to give her the car keys. So, we had to leave them in lost and found at the airport. I had to acknowledge that the lost and found people were not liable for my keys numerous times, which was a little scary because it was the keys to a new Honda Pilot that we had purchased 3 days before!

We made it into New Orleans fine and took a taxi to our hotel. The W at the French Quarter was small with an amazing courtyard and was in a great location. Our room was not ready when we arrived so we dropped off our bags and went for our first meal in New Orleans at this great place called Red Fish Grill. This is owned by the Brennan's family and yes, I was starving, but it was really good. We both had shrimp poboys (it was the lunch special), though Lee had seafood gumbo soup and I had a strawberry salad. Then, we had chocolate bread pudding. I do not like bread pudding, but I ate more of it then Lee did. It was so good!

We then wandered all around, I had heard that you could get a great view of the city from the top of the World Trade Center, but when we got there security said that for legal reasons the club was no longer open... The website seems to differ, but oh well... So, instead, we went to Harrah's casino! I am a cautious person financially, but I was willing to play the 25 cent slots. Interesting though, they do not accept $1 bills! So, we put in our $5 and we had lost $2, when we won $4! I told Lee to cash us out and we got now $7 and left!

Our room still wasn't ready when we got back, so they gave us 4 free drink coupons, yeah baby! For dinner that night we walked to Emeril's, it was really good! We got calamari, which was good, though not the best that I have had. I ordered a bacon salad, thinking that it would be a salad with bacon. However, the plate came out with 3 half slabs of bacon... It was good, just not much lettuce! For dinner I had risotto which was okay and Lee had hangar steak which he enjoyed. The best was dessert, I had banana cream pie and Lee had blueberry bread pudding which according to him was not as good as the chocolate. On our way back to the hotel we met a friend from Trinity University who lives in New Orleans. We went to the Hotel Monteleone which has a spinning carousel bar! It was great to catch up with Zee and meet his wife Kacie.

The next morning we woke up at 7am, had room service breakfast, and left for our plantation tours. We visited Oak Alley sugar plantation that has the largest 300 year old oak trees I have ever seen. Their life expectancy is 600 years, so hurry and visit, you only have 300 more years to see these trees!

Then we went to the Laura plantation which was a creole sugar plantation. Our tour was led by the man who purchased the plantation in 1993. His passion was contagious and he made the stories come alive. He did tell us a little about his Katrina experience. Below the clock face on this grandfather clock you might be able to see a water line, the flood waters went that high. However, this clock was stored at his home in New Orleans, on the 2nd floor!

When we got back to New Orleans at about 1:45 pm, we were ravenous and ate lunch at Port of Call which serves hamburgers with a baked potato. It was not the best burger that I have had, but I ate it in 3 seconds (or so). We then walked all around the French Quarter and stopped for dessert at Cafe du Monde (of course!)

When it was time for dinner at August, I was not hungry but I was excited about Chef Besh! Two New Years Eve ago (when I knew that we were old and parents because it was easier to stay home on New Years Eve then try to find a babysitter), Lee and I watched the Next Iron Chef on the Food Network. Yes, we watched the entire season on New Years Eve. Chef Besh was the 1st runner up, and I wanted to eat his food! It was really good, I had the sheep! and Lee had fish. Then, we waddled over to Zee and Kacie's French Quarter apartment. It was just east of Jackson square on Chartres with a balcony. It was a treat to see a real New Orleans residence.

The next morning, we rode the St. Charles trolley over to Commander's Palace, but since they don't open until 11 am, we first had a cemetery tour by a volunteer who had been giving tours since 1981! It was very informative, the plot is your own private property and must be maintained by your family. The marble cover often bows and the best thing is to use granite!

Commander's Palace was very fancy and delicious! The lunch special was 25 cent martinis! The turtle soup was amazing, though we could not figure out why it takes 3 days to make it. I think I had fish and Lee had another meat, but I do remember the dessert! We shared the strawberry shortcake which takes 20 minutes to prepare and was so worth it! The biscuit was fresh from the oven and yummy!

We then rode the trolley back, checked out of the hotel, and made our way to the airport. What a fun trip!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Garage sales and stuffed animals

I have always loved garage sales and Madeleine has a new love for them as well. Here are some of our recent garage sale finds on Madeleine. Both the leotard and boots are from a few weeks ago and this past weekend we got some roller skates!

Another fun activity for me is to see how the kids make toys out of any and/or everything. Madeleine had the great idea of putting all of Everett's stuffed animals in his crib, and then on the floor into a pile so they could jump on them. Then, Madeleine wanted to try this in her own room. It did take a while before Madeleine was willing to put the stuffed animals back where they go. And, we are not allowed to purchase stuffed animals at garage sales because we have too many!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

THE ballet recital

Madeleine has been going to ballet every Saturday since September and loves it. Here are some pictures from the recent ballet recital, Madeleine and Sydney were gumdrops on the candyland express. After Madeleine's performance she wanted to watch the other 27 dances. I did not realize how many classes meet at the Dallas Ballet Center! Madeleine had to have her hair in a bun, and wear lip liner, rouge, and blue eyeshadow!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How cute are they?

This is yesterday morning as Everett was waking up Madeleine...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Theological musings

I recently heard Bishop Robert Schnase, author of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, share material for his work-in-progress next book, Five Practices of Fruitful Living. Here are some notes that I took…

Obstacles to us receiving/accepting God’s love:

What keeps us from God? We have a fast forward lifestyle. There are high tech sounds and sensations all around us. We live in a fast forward motion in our physical world. We invest time, passion, and energy in things that do not merit it. We surf the internet and change the channels on the TV remote without purpose. We must swim in our celebrity culture daily. Watching TV is good because it provides fantasy and relaxation, but where does a pattern of years of unreflective life lead us?

Think of someone that you admire. Do you admire that person because of all the things they purchase? The extra hours they spend at work? The hours they spend on the internet? The celebrity facts that they know? None of these leads to a rich life that satisfies. We are missing the sacred meaning to our lives because we are so busy working, making a living, keeping our home. Romans 12:2 in The Message translation says, “So here's what I want you to do: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for God. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what God wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Are we too in love with this present world? God is in the depth, but we only pay attention to the surface. God is in the silence, but we only pay attention to the noise. God is in contemplation, but we let distractions distract us. God is in the mystery, but we think that the only things that matter are the things that we can touch and can explain. God is in the love of others, but we only love ourselves. God is in the being still, but we run from one thing to another. We are squeezing God out, leaving the sacred behind. Our ancestors heard natural noise in their world, but we rarely hear the natural noise of our world. Instead, we hear artificial noise. In today’s world it is hard to develop the ability to listen for God, it is hard to hear God’s word and feel God’s love because hearing God requires hard soul work.

We live a superficial life, do you have something to live for?

Things that keep us from accepting God’s love and believing it:
1. External distractions of our lives and our world

2. Internal distractions inside ourselves

3. Upbringing – maybe we didn’t feel loved by our parents and we grew up feeling that we were not good enough to be loved. We don’t know what unconditional love looks like or feels like. Like the warning signs on your side mirrors in your car, God’s love is closer to us than it appears.

4. Afraid of silence. We fear light and how it might shine on us. We have complicity in cutting ourselves off from God. Luke 15 is a chapter of parables of lost things: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost (prodigal) son. The lost sheep parable reminds us of distractions. We are so distracted that we lose what is important to us (like the lost sheep). The lost coin parable reminds us how clutter can consume our lives. The woman couldn’t find what she valued because of the clutter in her home. The prodigal son is a parable about willful rebellion, internal attitudes and the choices that we make.

We can say yes to God’s yes to us!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter pictures

What a wonderful Easter! Here are some pictures from our Easter...

Pictures from the Smith gathering at Aunt Patty's in Denison. This is the pinata, youngest children get to swing first.

Everett and Lee egg hunting, the trick is to call them balls and then Everett gets them.

Lee with the kids

me and Madeleine

A Dish

I have had this dish for a long time. My grandpa Nicholls got it from the Chantal outlet in Houston. My grandpa died in the summer of 2002, but he had lived a mile away from me since I was in 7th grade. I used to go to his house after school, he would often pick me up from junior high. When I think about my grandpa Nicholls I think of his incredible cooking. He would make me chocolate chip cookies that were the most delicious, buttery filled goodness made from heaven. His mashed potatoes and swiss steak were melt in your mouth yum. Grandpa's secret for his mashed potatoes was "to beat the hell out of them" after they had boiled for 20 minutes. Grandpa's cooking abilities began out of necessity after his wife died when I was just 6 months old. My mom always told me that my grandma had said that she was going to live until she saw me, and she did.

My grandpa was instrumental in my life. Having him live so close to us helped me to get to know him better and he likewise. He was so supportive and encouraging of education. His years as teacher and then superintendent in Pennsylvania were who he was, an educator. He sponsored many scholarships to help folks financially in their college endeavors, including two in my own graduating class. Grandpa was nice to every single person that he met. I remember going to the Sears with him to pick up a microwave and he ended up giving the gentleman who carried the microwave to our car money for college! Grandpa drove 3,000 miles from Houston to Alaska when he was 90. He lived a rich life, always loving, always giving, always learning.

I believe that my mom gave me this dish after grandpa's death, he was 98 1/2 when he died. I have used it most recently in the last 3 years anytime I made brownies, cooked asparagus, salmon, chicken... this was my go to dish! And when I would take it out of the oven I would think of my grandpa. I would think about how much I missed him, how I wished we could have one more conversation, how I wished he were still alive.

This dish began cracking about a month ago, and last night the crack ran all the way up to the top of the dish. I realized that it had finished its course, that it would not be safe to cook in it any longer. I put it in the trash, and then took it out. This dish was more than just a dish. This dish had history, this dish had touched holy hands. This dish was bought by my grandpa! So, I took a picture, and then I lovingly placed it in the trash. I miss you grandpa; thank you for continuing to love me and to teach me.

Deion Sanders!

Last Thursday was Madeleine's monthly preschool art class at the Dallas Museum of Art and we ventured to the downtown branch of the Dallas Public Library. This 8 story building has a reputation of being populated with many of Dallas' homeless and we did observe a few folks outside of the library in makeshift beds. The library is huge and there is an entire floor dedicated to children's literature. Madeleine and I were the only non employees on the 2nd floor last Thursday when people started to congregate in the area reserved for storytime. Then the group of school children, then the news crews, then the mayor, then ... Deion Sanders! They were kicking off a reading effort (or something, it was hard to pay attention because Madeleine was not interested!) but Deion read The Little Engine that Could. I was amazed at how small Deion was, no huge muscles, no huge height, he seemed ... normal. Maybe he's the little engine that did!

Madeleine loved the entire shelf of Dora books and also got a great book that I would encourage all those whose children will wear glasses to add to your library, Princess Peepers. As we were checking out our books Madeleine needed to go to the bathroom, I asked the check out person where the bathroom was and they replied, "You should go back to the children's floor, you have to have a key to get into that bathroom. You do not want to go to any other bathroom." Umm, okay... why not? What is happening in the other bathrooms? I didn't investigate and instead went to the children's floor, got the key, and went about our way.

Then, to art class at the DMA. We had an outdoor art class on sculpture. The teachers explained sculpture as any art that you can walk all the way around. Here is a picture of the kids replicating the stones in this circle sculpture.

They then had an activity with a ziploc bag full of shells that they arranged themselves. Another activity was with legos after observing a sculpture that utilized different shapes.

Here is Madeleine pictured with her creation of a sculpture.

And Madeleine with the huge Tutankhamen advertisement outside of the museum.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Can eating out be a hobby?

Recently when Lee and I were on a date at a restaurant we decided that our hobby is eating out at different restaurants. I love to get my D Magazine or Texas Monthly and cut out articles about new restaurants in Dallas that they recommend. I also love the D Best reviews of restaurants and the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas. I had amassed a large pile of these cut out articles, so this past weekend I decided to write down in the computer all of the restaurants that I wanted to try. I included restaurants that I had been to before if the article recommended a certain dish that I wanted to try. I have 179 restaurants in Dallas and Fort Worth that I either 1) have not been to and want to try or 2) have been to and want to try a certain dish, dessert, or cocktail that was recommended. I do not know how I feel about the large number of restaurants that are on my list, but I do love to eat! (Thank God for Weight Watchers!)

Through this adventure I found a lot of parks that had been included in Best of articles that I had clipped out. I put them in the GPS in the car and also put in an ice cream place that sounded delish. Today we visited Mel's Ice Cream in Richardson. It was so good! Peanut butter ice cream with Reese's peanut butter cups... and the kids size was as big as a melon! Next time I want to try the shaved ice, there was a lady that came in and got two cups of just ice, no topping... she said the ice was good on its own...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Trip to the Zoo

Last Thursday my brother-in-law Andy and I took the 4 kids to the zoo! They had a great time and I'm not sure if they enjoyed the zoo more (not many animals were out, it was cold and late in the afternoon) or playing with their cousins more... Here they are with the penguins.