Planning & Paperwork

Friday is the day I get to sleep in a little in compensation for having to go grocery shopping. I am glad the holidays are over and I am back to buying “normal” food. First, though, I had to plan next week’s Geography menu so I’d be able to get the supplies I’ll need.

I had a student come in to take a test after lunch and then I worked on paperwork for a while. I never run out of paperwork! I also made a run to Walmart to get things Aldi didn’t have, but I will have to venture forth to a third store for sure if I am going to get the ingredients I need for Geography class. Fennel, leeks, and rhubarb can be hard to find around here.

Since tomorrow is supposed to be a sewing day, I washed and dried the rest of the fabric I’m hoping to use. My grandchild will have some colorful things!

Now I’m waiting to make a late-night run to the airport with Lucy to pick up Tanner. Thankfully it’s just our local airport—not the one in Dallas.

42 Years

Can you believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve? What I can’t believe is how much I have to do before then! I am still addressing Christmas cards!

Yesterday Walter and I went to church with Lucy and Lina and enjoyed the more traditional service. It was a quiet day since Spencer and Jade didn’t come over, but we enjoyed watching a Christmas movie in the evening.

This morning Walter and Lina went to work on his annual floor-refinishing contract, and I took Lucy with me grocery shopping because I had LOT of stuff to buy, especially knowing now that I’ll be leaving town again on Friday to go visit my parents.

After getting most of the groceries from Aldi, I still had to go to the bank and to the post office to mail several packages, and to Walmart to get some things that Aldi didn’t have. Tomorrow there will be one last shopping trip for the handful of items I can only get at Kroger!

Meanwhile, Lucy made some cookie dough and I made a batch of Nutella fudge by altering another fudge recipe. It appears to be acceptable. Tomorrow’s going to be a really big cooking day, though.

***

On Christmas Eve of 1977, my three younger brothers and I snuck into a theater in a mall across from the mission complex in Florida where we were staying for a big family reunion. We had our parents’ permission, but we had to sneak because several extended family members believed that watching a movie in a theater was a sin. So we couldn’t tell anyone what we planned to do or talk about it afterward.

And that’s how four missionary kids from Africa walked into a theater and saw the first Star Wars movie, which was still showing in theaters after being released in May. I think our jaws were on the floor the whole way through. We were gobsmacked. We’d never seen anything like that in our lives! And the worst thing about it was that we had to go straight from the movie to a big dinner and we couldn’t say anything about it!

In the last 42 years, I know at least my brother Matt and I have seen all the Star Wars movies in theaters. He usually gets to see them before me. When The Empire Strikes Back came out, he called me on the phone and couldn’t resist telling me the big plot twist: “Darth Vader is Luke’s father!” Woah. I couldn’t believe it. Now, everyone knows it, but back then it was a HUGE reveal.

So tonight, one day away from being exactly 42 years later, I went with my husband and two of my daughters to see the final installment of the Star Wars saga. We didn’t have to sneak. Still mulling it over . . .

Return Trip

Well, I am back home, at least for a few days. I wasn’t able to post last night because the hotel didn’t give me a wifi password and by the time I realized that it wasn’t posted in the room anywhere, I didn’t want to go back out and track it down.

Yesterday morning I left Flynn’s place at about 8:30 I think. He helped me load the car before his morning meeting started, and I said goodbye and set off. It was a glorious sunny day and I kept looking over at Pike’s Peak glittering in the sunlight until it was no longer in view. By the time I made it through the Raton Pass and down into New Mexico, I was seeing very little snow—thank goodness. There was a lot of snow on that road when I drove the other direction on Monday!

I drove into Amarillo on fumes, partly because I was holding out for lower gas prices and partly because there was a long stretch with no gas stations. After filling up and stopping at Walmart to buy a salad, I continued on to Childress, where I had booked a room for the night. I prefer if possible to have the first day of a two-day drive be the longer one.

Childress was a lot busier than I remember ever seeing it before, but I had a ground-floor room and was quite happy to get some rest. For the first time since leaving home my feet were warm enough to go sockless!

This morning I had my tea, loaded the car again, and set off southward. It was a cold but beautiful sunny morning. However, as I looked ahead I saw what appeared to be a snow-covered mountain range. Since I know that no such mountains exist, I looked closer and realized I was looking at a wall of white clouds that seemed to be just sitting on the horizon. The wall was very sharply defined. As I drove closer and closer, I saw that the clouds were indeed sitting right on the ground! Soon I was driving through fog and drizzle. The weather remained damp and overcast for the rest of my drive.

By 1:00 I had reached my first destination, the home of my friends Don and Gwen, who love north of Forth Worth. As I’ve mentioned before, the three of us have known each other since grade school in Zambia. And today, they happened to have all three of their children home, so I snapped a family photo:

After a couple of hours with them, I continued on my way, stopping for a quick supper and again at Walmart to get some groceries for tomorrow. Jasper left to go visit Mercy and Daniel before I got home, and Lina will be arriving tomorrow. I made it home at about 7:30 this evening and have already unpacked everything. The next few days are going to be VERY busy.

The news about my mother continues to be very concerning—to the point where it seems likely I will be making another trip very shortly after Christmas. Worry about my mom really kind of overshadowed my time in Colorado and nothing has happened to allay my fears. Please continue to pray for her and my dad.

Parting Shot:

The frost on the roof of my car yesterday morning before I left Flynn’s house. Isn’t it pretty?

A New Snowman

It’s not a secret that I collect teapots. Any student who comes into my dining room, which is also my classroom, soon notices that there are 36 teapots on display (plus a few more in another room, but they don’t have to know that). So it’s not surprising that over the last twenty years or so, some of those teapots have been given to me by students.

Today was my last day with the blond brothers until after the holiday. They came bearing a beautifully-wrapped gift—which turned out to be a teapot shaped like a snowman.

I am delighted. I have two other snowman teapots, gifts from previous students, and have always thought it would be nice to have a group of three. Now I have three cheery little snowman teapots. This evening I made my evening tea in my new pot. I always like to use them right away!

Meanwhile, the brothers had a vocabulary test to take and then I went over their stories with them. They both did a great job!

After they left, I had to go out running errands again, as I think I have every day this week. We have our last Geography class tomorrow, so we will be making the food that Jasper enjoyed most from this last semester: chicken kebabs and fried plantains. Which meant I had to go to the Mexican grocery store, Aldi, and Walmart! Now the chicken is marinating so that it will be ready when Jasper fires up the grill tomorrow.

I have spent the evening working on my craft project and preparing for tomorrow’s Geography test. And working in the kitchen. Lucy turned in her last paper today and is done with her semester! She and Tanner celebrated by watching a movie this evening before Lucy had to go to work.

I talked to my mother this evening for a few minutes. She is still in the hospital and they are still waiting for some answers to questions about her health issues. Bloods tests indicated that she may have some kidney problems—which may in fact be the source of her excruciating back pain. So please pray that the medical staff is able to help her and that she can begin to have a meaningful recovery.

That Busy Time of Year

Yesterday we went to church and instead of reading while Jasper was in Sunday School, we had a couple of actual conversations. Because of the way the schedule worked out, we had our family dinner for lunch and Spencer and Jade came over. Sammy was already here because my husband had fetched him on Saturday evening while I was at the parade. We still don’t have our tree up.

I had to do some cooking in the afternoon as we had our small group gathering for supper, and it’s always a potluck. We were supposed to bring “party food” or appetizers, so I made deviled eggs (with bacon in them), keto sausage balls, and my first keto brownies. Everything turned out well.

Since it was our Christmas gathering, we had a gift exchange. This is the kind of social situation which is fraught with anxiety for me. I always worry that I will get the wrong kind of gift. I had no idea what was normal for this group (we did have a price limit). As it turned out, everything was fine. I came home with matching mugs. No one can claim I don’t use mugs! Walter also brought home a large Batman mug, after “stealing” it from someone else. It was one of the gifts we had brought!

Then we sang some real Christmas carols, accompanied by guitar. I teared up a little, I confess. I miss those traditional songs so much.

Much as I enjoyed our gathering, I was close to tears by the time we returned home because I had such an overwhelming amount of stuff to do and I have been running very short on sleep.

This morning when I woke up I had that sick shaky feeling inside that you get when you haven’t had enough sleep. But I took Sammy to school and put gas in the car and came back and went to work and drank my tea while preparing for class and making gluten-free chocolate cookies and helping Jasper edit his story.

We were still frantically trying to do all the things when the students arrived—half an hour earlier than usual, per my instructions. They had an hour to take their vocabulary test while I ran around setting up the food and beverages. After the test was out of the way, the kids loaded their plates with the snacks they had brought to share, got drinks, and then we sat around in the living room while they took turns reading their stories.

As always, there were some very entertaining tales. Some were funny, some were touching, and a couple were darker. I enjoyed them all. We even had a little time at the end to watch some of a movie based on the last book we read.

Then I had a little lull during which I had plenty of stuff to do before my tutoring student arrived. He also had to take the vocabulary test, during which I was able to do some knitting.

As soon as he left, I took off for the post office to mail some hot chocolate mix, and ended up waiting almost 20 minutes for the right person to come and unlock the stamps I wanted.

Then it was off to Aldi and Walmart to buy more hot chocolate supplies because I have received enough orders to warrant making another batch. I still have one more batch of chai mix to make too, and it’s all got to be done by Saturday (including the shipping), because I’m leaving town on Sunday. And I have a huge craft project which must be done by then also.

At least I don’t have to teach tomorrow. Maybe we’ll get the tree up! I spent some time this evening rearranging furniture to make room for it.

Final Day

Can you believe there is only one month left in this year? I can’t believe that when I was a kid I thought a year was a long time. The years flash by so quickly now.

I failed to mention a notable even that occurred yesterday, and that is that my new roaster oven arrived in the morning. Missed Thanksgiving by one day!

So today, I was planning on doing a pork roast for supper, and what better time to inaugurate my new roaster? I learned a couple of things about it in the process. It is a little narrower and deeper than my old roaster (larger overall capacity). It has no indicator light to tell me when it is on and when it has reached the set temperature. And “350°” according to this roaster is not as hot as 350° in my old roaster. So I will have to either set it at a higher temperature or add a considerable amount of time to have a roast come out the way I want it.

We had a leisurely morning today. Mary went for another run. Jordan and Jasper and Daniel went out for donuts. I made a huge batch of my famous turkey salad and also went to Walmart to stock up on Vitamin C in hopes that we can stave off Lina’s plague. And after we all returned to the house, we enjoyed a video chat with Flynn and Tiffany.

After lunch I set off for Hobby Lobby. I needed a candle for the middle of our Advent wreath and also some supplies for my costume. I am once again going to be participating in the Mount Pleasant Christmas parade and I am going as the Queen of Diamonds. This year I volunteered to walk beside the float instead of riding on it.

Meanwhile, Mary and Mercy’s friend Joy had arrived and most of the kids went out for coffee. When I returned home, only Lina and Jasper were here. Poor Lina is still so sick and just needed to lie down for a while.

After everyone had returned, including Spencer and Jade, my four daughters and I took off for a little mother-daughter outing. We went to Books-a-Million since my favorite bookstore is now closed on weekends. We bought some drinks and browsed through the store. I ended up bringing home my first three 2020 calendars—which makes me realize I’d better get going on my annual calendar for the family!

We had our roast for supper and afterward watched a silly movie. Tomorrow everyone is leaving. So I guess I ‘d better get the peanut butter fudge made before I go to bed tonight, so Mary and Jordan can take some with them.

Parting Shot:

?

Three of my daughters in their matching plaid shirts.

R.I.P.

As I continued to work in the kitchen today, I planned to make something in my roaster oven, which is an appliance I use all the time. I turned it on to preheat, but when I went to check on it, it was not hot at all. I tried plugging it into another outlet, but no luck. The light was on, but it was lying.

I was miffed. How dare that oven go out on me two days before Thanksgiving after 30 years of trouble-free performance? I had already decided I would have to brave driving the Beast (my husband’s work van) to go to the bank, so I continued on to Walmart intent on getting a new roaster oven. Normally at this time of year they are in plentiful supply.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, our Walmart had apparently never heard of how useful roasters can be for the holidays. There were none at all. Then I was more miffed. I came home and ordered one, but of course it won’t arrive in time for Thanksgiving. All the more reason to be glad I’ve been making so much stuff ahead, since I’ll be having to heat it all in the “main” oven.

My reward for all my efforts was to go to a movie tonight. Before I ever knew that my husband would be out of town this week, I bought a ticket to go see Never Surrender, the Galaxy Quest documentary that was showing tonight only. I had to drive the Beast again, and without any dash lights so I had no idea how fast I was going. When I arrived at the theater, I texted my husband about it and he explained that you can get the dash lights to go on; you just have to sort of coax them into it by turning the knob ever so slowly until you find the magic spot. I am happy to report that I achieved this elusive goal on my way home.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed the documentary and tried not to think about my to-do list. Once I returned home I got a couple more things made. Tomorrow is dessert day!

Parting Shot:

This is what a dead roaster looks like after 30 years of hard use, including going to Africa and back.

A Departure

This morning I had to run some errands before leaving town with Jasper, and I was so distracted by everything I had to do that I sent someone the wrong kind of chai! I will have to rectify that on Monday.

Jasper got all packed and we left the house at about 10:30 this morning, headed for the Greyhound station in Texarkana. Like last year, Jasper is going to Memphis to spend a few days with Mary and Jordan before returning with them when they come for Thanksgiving. I know they will have a good time.

Meanwhile, after seeing him safely onto the bus, I drove to the faire site to meet with Sandy (aka the queen) to discuss upcoming events such as the parade. This year I volunteered to walk beside the float instead of riding on it. I think it will be fun!

After a nice visit, I headed back to my own town, stopping at Walmart and Aldi, where I bought a LOT of food. Thank goodness Lucy was home to help me put it away! Unfortunately, Aldi was out of a couple of things I needed, so later this evening I made another quick dash to Walmart. I hope I got everything I need for between now and Thanksgiving. I would have to be pretty desperate to drive the van.

Tomorrow morning my husband heads to Atlanta to spend a few days with his mother and sister. He’ll be returning the night before Thanksgiving. So I have several days of advance cooking and organizing to do.

Quote of the Day:

As we drove out of town this morning, Jasper and I passed a large school.

Jasper: “There’s the prison.”

Me: “That’s actually a school, you know.”

Jasper: “Schools are just prisons that you pay to go to.”

Chai and Soy Sauce

I spent part of this morning working on my chai business and getting some bags mailed out. This is the time of year when I try to make a little extra money by making and selling my fabulous spiced chai mix. I will be making and bagging more this weekend.

Then it was time to work with the blond brothers. They are both a joy to work with and their writing is coming along well.

After they left, I had to make a quick run to Walmart for a few things I’ll need for tomorrow’s Geography class. I came home and started mixing up the marinade for the meat when a horrifying realization struck me. The marinade calls for soy sauce. Soy sauce has wheat (and therefore gluten) in it. I have a gluten-free student—and am gluten free myself. And I was out of GF soy sauce, and Walmart doesn’t sell it. So I had to drive to the other side of town to get what I wanted at a health food store.

That pushed my whole timetable back because I had to give the meat time to marinate. So I’ve been doing some late-night cooking. Hoping it will make tomorrow morning a little less rushed.

Trying to Keep Up

Why do Saturdays never go as planned? I gave up a fun day in Dallas and also my alternate plan of going to a local festival in order to stay home and work. And I did work. I went to Walmart and Hobby Lobby. I cooked beans and made pudding (it took forever) and washed dishes. I made low-carb coconut macaroons. And I spent hours and hours researching and doing other types of class prep.

I thought I’d be done with that by lunch and be able to spend the afternoon grading. Nope. I foresee lots of grading in my day tomorrow—except that’s going to be busy too.

My husband was able to stay home today as his yard jobs are winding down for the year. Instead he worked on our yard and in his workshop. Lucy and Tanner went to Dallas and had lunch with Mercy before going to the college’s rugby game. Spencer and Jade were also there. Jasper waited for hours for a ride to his regular gaming session, then ended up carrying gas to his friend on campus and waiting for another two hours before his friend was able to start his car! So he didn’t get to play very long.

At least I can say I’m not any farther behind than I was at the beginning of the day!