Relaxing and cooking

December 27

While at our local Hastings, we found the Firefly series and Serenity. Mark and I rank this as one of our favorite series, and were happy to watch it with my parents. With Dad's love of westerns and Mom's love of adventure movies, it seemed like a good match.

After a day of cooking sweet treats- fudge, sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip cookies we also headed out to the only digital cinema that I know of and watched the Chronicals of Narnia- oh the detail. It is getting so hard to tell the real from the computer generated- what an adventure. Afterwards we visited Antonios for true tex-mex fajitas!

Posted by Laura @ 11:15 AM CDT [Permanent URL] [No Comments]

Christmas in TX

December 26

Christmas in TX is always special. On Christmas eve we headed to St. Williams church to sing some favorite hymns. Then we headed out around the neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights. There was an especially nice selection this year- it seems that the inflatable creatures were especially decorating the night- there was even a gigantic snow globe.

When we got home, we all opened one present and headed off to sleep. Christmas morning is always exciting with the beautifully twinkling tree with all its decorations. Since I always seem to be the first up, I started making crepes for breakfast- my favorite breakfast in the entire world! You see these crepes are folded around creamy vanilla ice cream and scrumptious strawberries- ohhhh yeahhhh. I also made pigs in a flaky croissant blankets.

This morning I was especially excited to give my parents some special treats that we found in Germany. We found a pub glass for Dad, a bell to add to Mom's collection and a special selection of delicate ornaments. In one of the last places we visited, Rotenburg, we found a wonderful shop with all types of German ornaments. My parents had brought back an amazing selection when they went. The thing about wooden German ornaments, is that they are extremely delicate. Several of my parents ornaments had broken over the years and I was so happy to find replacement snowflakes and to add to their beautiful collection.

After the mornings festivities we ate our traditional Christmas dinner with cornish hens, veggies, gravy and pie- delicious cherry pie. I love holiday food!! We also spied a woodpecker with Mark's new binoculars.

Resting after our meal, my parents put in Condorman- Mark had never seen, but in my youth I was very fond of it (use to sing it while on the potty I am told). We also opened up Mark's Ricochet Robots (a game he was pining for) and stretched our minds. What a wonderful Christmas!!

Posted by Laura @ 11:09 AM CDT [Permanent URL] [No Comments]

Adventures in TX with Armadillos

December 23

It is always fun to come home. The last time we visited was in May (we usually would have re-visited in August, but we were in Germany), and it was especially nice to be able to spend a whole week with family. One unforgettable part is the delicious food! Dad always makes the best smoked meats and this time his smoked turkey was exceptionally amazing! Along with guacamole and TX beans we also enjoyed mouth-watering steaks and a fork tender roast.

Between the delicious food, we adventured to Calahans to find a prized potato masher- just like the one I grew up with, this masher will leave smaller lumps and will last a life-time. We also saw the cutest chicks (I thought it was too early for them) all clucking away happily. It is always a treat to visit this truly western store.

We also headed out to Goldwaite to visit a supply store. My parents had found this jewel of a western store on their road-trip adventures. It was amazing. The entire store was packed to the gills with every type of modern cookware, camp stove cookware, clothing, tackle, gear and too much more to mention. Mark and I picked up a snowflake cake pan (no icing required), a small book on making bunt cakes and a book on dice games. After looking at so many goodies, we headed across the street to a Buffet restaurant- and I got a delicious chicken fried steak (with real cream gravy), delicious french fries and ranch-style beans (with a healthy salad too). After we were all sufficiently stuffed, we headed around the block (of the very small town) and saw one family had decorated their driveway with old glass power line connectors- it was really beautiful. On the way home, we stopped for a treat at Dairy Queen and stumbled across a truly unforeseen event- armadillos- note the plural. I usually only see armadillos after some quickly moving vehicle has ended their life, but we saw at least a dozen. They were on the side of the road, little smooth grey hotdogs with pointy noses. Within just a minute we saw at least 6. I am not sure if it was mating season, but that was an event few ever see!

Posted by Laura @ 10:51 AM CDT [Permanent URL] [No Comments]

Traveling by train to Texas

Dec 19th

Yesterday we headed out of Madison on the Van Guilder bus to the Chicago Amtrak train station. Arriving a bit early at the station, we played a two person version of Settlers and snacked on our lunchables. After lugging our luggage up to the upper deck of the train for our roomy coach seats, we snuggled into our home for the next day.

Overall it took 29 hours to reach Texas, leaving a bit late from the station (Sat at 4pm) and arriving hours late to Austin, TX (Sun at 9pm). While riding trains in America is incomparable to riding in Europe, we were happy not to have to spend 20 hours driving on the road. In our roomy seats I finished 2 novels, ate two impressively good microwaved pizzas, played Razzia and had a delicious hot sandwich. The bathrooms were a bit more roomy than those on an airplane, but not by much.

As we were pulling into Austin, we went through Round Rock and under the bat bridge. We were very happy to stand up and get off the train once we arrived and happily ate the delicious sandwiches Mom and Dad brought. While we didn't sleep well with the rocking of the train, we weren't exhausted when we arrived and sure slept well that night!

Posted by Laura @ 11:52 AM CDT [Permanent URL] [No Comments]

Finals week

December 17th

Today I had my final riding lesson. It was exciting to ride a new horse (I have been riding Shadow- an adorable paint most of this session) called Grande. Grande is a young half-blanket appolossa with quite a spirit. After he decided to suddenly stop during two speedy turns, we came to a understanding and the rest of the lesson went very smoothly. In fact, my instructor says that I could take the senior rider test (so I could take out horses on my own). I know that I still have a lot to learn, but feel that I have made great progress riding this year- starting in E1 and moving up to E3 now.

This weekend, I also met with Kelly, a research associate and friend working under Dr. Meyer. She is preparing a paper for an upcoming conference in TX over material that I worked with. It was nice to help out a friend and talk about the work I have spent so much of the last 3 years working on.

This week also marked the last class days at MATC. I quickly finished my grades Saturday and turned everything in so that we will be ready to head out on our train trip to TX soon. I found that I really enjoy working as a college instuctor- where I can keep learning everyday and helping eager students learn new and challenging concepts. It is nice to know that the career path I have worked toward (my whole life it seems) is exactly where I want to be.

Posted by Laura @ 11:47 AM CDT [Permanent URL] [No Comments]

Back in the routine

December 4th

It has been a very busy week. I am tutoring two students for cs302 at UW-Madison and really enjoying learning all the tweaks for Java 7.0. This years final project is especially challenging with creating a drum machine (a GUI that combines different drum sounds). With work and tutoring becoming so demanding at the end of the semester, it was nice to break up the week with a great game night and the start of horseback riding again at Hoofers.

Posted by Laura @ 11:41 AM CDT [Permanent URL] [No Comments]