Tales from the Hill's Country

Quips, stories and observations from our adventures in marriage and parenting (as told by Katie).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

This weekend Chris and I frantically drove to Baton Rouge because of a NEW ADDITION to our family!! I will post photos and stories of Jojo and Jeremy's exciting weekend tomorrow.

I thought I'd share some Halloween photos with you today, though.

Here I am at my first Halloween:
That's me, waiting to be born. And my mom dressed as a very pregnant girl scout!

Here's my brother dressed up as a clown (this was before I was born):
And here is Chris (possibly the same year...)
 I guess clowns were "in" in the late 70's?

For some reason, my parents allowed me to trick-or-treat long after it was age appropriate... here I am at 15 (maybe 14?)
My crafty mom made that mask. We both still love the Jack-in-the-Box commercials!

So while I was one that refused to grow up, Chris dressed up as a boy who refused to grow up:
Chris and I still haven't chosen what we'll wear tonight... but with a large costume box in the attic, I'm sure we'll find something. Laura (Chris' brothers' wife) and I were laughing that just like us, she and Justin are known among their friends as the ones to have random costume pieces ready at a moments notice.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chris' Moose

While shopping at The Red Door in Baton Rouge (during work weekend) I found the perfect birthday gift for Chris:
A moose wall hanging!

It makes perfect sense, right?

After all, THIS was my wedding gift to him:
A three-foot tall Sasquatch who still lives in our family room (eventually we'll put him outside...). In this photo you see him dressed up for our wedding. He changes outfits for seasons and occasions (you might remember him here, wanting to go skiing).

So, I figured a large moose would fit in nicely.

After buying it in Baton Rouge, I had to make sure I secretly got it home. That's a big challenge, since Chris packs (and unpacks) the car and this moose isn't tiny. With some distraction and trickery I was able to get it in the house without him noticing (it was wrapped up).

As soon as Chris went to work, I went to hanging the moose. I was ready for Chris to be surprised when he came home!

But after he made it home, he passed the moose four times without noticing it! I couldn't believe it!

Finally, I watched him walk towards the wall and ask, "what is this?". At which time I exclaimed "Happy Birthday!"

Chris is smiling in this photo, but he wasn't too sold on the moose. Thankfully it was a birthday present, so he can't say no. He even accused me of buying the moose because I liked it and just saying it was a birthday present so he would have to like it too. I would never admit to do that!

So as it stands the moose stays! I haven't dressed him for fall, yet... but I do have some Christmas garb in mind for him!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chris turns 30-something

When you were a child, did you ever hear someone say they forgot how old they were? Or see them have to stop and think before answering? When I was younger, I remember thinking those adults were lying.

Well Chris is now 30-something is he's starting to pause when asked how old he is. I know he's in the range of 32-35... but I also have to think about it. Good grief.

Anyway, Chris had a birthday. Not sure which one... but I'm sure there was cake! And, at the Birthday boy's request it was total chocolate, inside and out:

(I, being, a good wife, ordered the LSU colors.)

It was a low-key day. Chris requested that after church we watch football, eat pizza and drink beer.

But he didn't want just any pizza, he wanted to make his own triple meat, quadruple cheese pizza. I wasn't involved at all in the process, but I could hear him happy in the kitchen (complete with the kitchen-aide mixer so he could make his own pizza dough). It looked amazing:
He put herbs in the dough, three meats on the pizza (Italian sausage, pepperoni and something that I don't remember) and eight cups of mozzarella cheese. It was every man's dream:
Then we cut into it.

I really don't know where to begin...

Our first hint that something might be "off" was that the dough was still... dough-y. As though it hadn't been cooked at all. Then we tasted it. I don't have the words. It was sweet and gross at the same time. Really, an awful crust.

Come to find out, Chris hadn't measured the sugar for the crust (which he made from scratch)... he just "put a handful of it" in the bowl. In his defense, he made an amazing pizza on this birthday two years ago... but this one, nope.

So we put the pizza aside and went straight to cake.
And since he hadn't had much of the "gross pizza" dinner... Chris had an extra large serving:
You can see... it took up most of the plate.

But his 30-something Birthday did not start OR end with this at home, low-key celebration.

At work, he was called into an important meeting, which ended up being:
Surprise birthday cake for Chris!

And we had cake AGAIN at the Baton Rouge Hill Family Weekend.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart...
Here's to forgetting your age for many, many more years together!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hill Work Weekends

A few months ago, Jojo and Jeremy needed help getting their house ready for the baby. This included some yard work, electric work and a room redo (guest room to nursery). The other members of the family (and friends) pitched in and they hosted the first Hill/Couvillion work weekend!

Not long after that weekend, Chris and I decided we needed a patio immediatly. Actually it was all Chris' idea. You can read about that weekend here. Again, we had members of our family (and friends) pitch in to complete a massive project.

As any good Aggie will tell you, once you do something twice, it must become a tradition... so the Hill family Work Weekends were born! Basically each of the three siblings will pick a weekend during the year when they will focus on getting things done around the house. And the other two siblings (plus other family and friends) will pitch in. A great way to get a huge project (or many little projects) done faster. It also forces the homeowners to prioritize their needs and is a fun time for everyone to get together.

This past weekend, it was Laura and Justin's turn. They needed some things done in the yard:
(How you dig those mank-tops?)(Mank-top = man tank top.)

A fresh coat of paint in the family room:
huge room... AND the ceiling:
As well as another room redo-- again, guest room to nursery:
Due to the paint fumes, the pregnant ladies (Laura and Jojo) were not allowed in the house. So they grabbed me and the three of us went on a bit of a shopping spree. I feel like I'll need to work twice as hard next year since I didn't really do much this year.

Tootie, being not pregnant, was given an important job-- guard the paint supplies:

Can you tell who in this photo did manual labor all day and who went shopping?
Justin is smiling... but his eyes are closed. Jeremy is not smiling.

How about this photo? Who did manual labor here:
Aha! Trick question! PD did the manual labor, but Jojo is also sleeping. I guess growing a baby is tiring...

Chris and I enjoyed being able to give back to our family... and we'll look forward to next year's round of Hill Work Weekends. I already have a list ready... ;)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gordon's Post

Few people know that Gordon is my blog-writting little helper. As I speak he is keeping me company in the form of napping underneath my desk. The other night, however, I found him trying to get much more involved in the process:
This is not posed in any way. Chris and I were watching TV when I looked over and saw Gordon patiently sitting right in front of the computer. I'm taking this as a sign that he wants to up his communication level with us.

Anyone know if there's a Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing... for dogs?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Four years ago I bought a craft kit from Martha Stewart's line of crafts.

We all know how I feel about Martha Stewart.

This, however, really was surprisingly simple and turned out great. The kit had materials to make a leaf wreath for fall. It included the wreath form and lots of paper leaves attached to wire. Mine turned out pretty great.
Full disclosure: that is not the wreath I made. I don't have any photos of it... but it looked similar to this. In case  you're super worried about me posting photos that aren't mine... I found this photo here.

After four years of use, then storage (and three moves) my wreath began to look... well... not great.

So I re-purposed it! Or you might say I up-cycled it. Whatever the catch phrase is this week.

First I took apart the wreath and detached the wires from the paper leaves. Then I sewed them together.
There was no rhyme or reason, I just grabbed the next leaf and tried not to make everything too uniform.
Once they were all sewn together, I had a fun garland to hang in the dining room:
It adds a some fun, fall flair to the feasting room.

By the way, this post is brought to you by the letter F.

Not really.

I'm glad I didn't throw the wreath away...
You're welcome, environment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Man's Best Friend

I am married to an amazing man who works very hard. We live with a wonderful dog who thinks he works very hard. And in truth, he does. He defends our home by barking at everyone (joggers, stroller-pushing moms and especially bicyclists) who passes by. 

Last week Chris had a particularly tiring day at work and Gordon had too-- he defended us from both the post man AND the UPS guy.

So I wasn't too surprised when I saw this on my sofa:
 Let's get a close up of Gordon all snuggled up:
And let's note that Gordon had taken no less than nine naps that day (which is his average).

It was nice seeing my two hard-working boys get some well deserved rest.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stuffed Laundry

When I came back from Maine, I had a lot of laundry to do.

Not only did I have all the clothes I brought with me, but I also had a full (really FULL) basket waiting for me at home.

After about a dozen loads (not exaggerating) (ok, maybe exaggerating a little), I decided it was time for my favorite blanket to get a wash. And on a whim, I threw in a little stuffed animal I bought during my Disney camping adventure.

When the bell went off on the washing machine, I was met by this little guy:
Is he trying to get out? Or asking to go again?
Either way, he looks a lot cleaner!

I didn't snap a photo, but in the dryer, this same stuffed animal was in the back of the dryer with his back turned to me. Was he angry that the ride stopped? Or traumatized from the experience?

He was probably just glad to be safe from Gordon, who sometimes confuses him for a chew toy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Very Large Crawfish

On my last night in Maine, we gathered at the house for a lobster dinner.

I've never eaten a lobster like this, but it reminded me of a large (really large) crawfish!

First we visited the lobster tanks:
They were separated by weight-- from one pound, all the way to a whopping three pounds of lobster!
We chose the five that looked most tasty and headed home.

Here are two of the lucky ones:
See how happy they look? They can't help but dance in delight that they have been chosen to complete their fate by being a part of our dinner.

This dinner ended a week-long adventure in (and traveling to) Maine. It also ended my crazy summer travel schedule. I hadn't been in Houston for more than two weeks since May. I've loved seeing family, friends and new scenery... but I'm happy get back to my bed, my man and my routine.

The flight home was 29.5 hours shorter than the drive there, but it was still a full day of airports and airplanes. My second (and longer) flight was only about half full and I sat on the same row as a Delta pilot. He was the epitome of a pilot stereotype-- called me "little lady", winked at the stewardesses and when asked for his drink order he answered, "I'll take a cup of your best coffee, darling". Between watching his antics and my personal choice for an inflight movie (I love when flights have the personal screens!) I was entertained and comfortable as I headed home.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Church in Maine

While spending the weekend in Maine, I had a chance to visit my brother's church.
It was a rainy day... but you can imagine how picturesque it must be when the skies are blue!

At the entrance, they have racks and hangers for coats:
I'm guessing this is because in the winter everyone wears heavy coats, mittens and hats. Just a little detail that this Houstonian found to be charming in the little Maine town. 
I've come to really enjoy the home-town feel of smaller churches and I appreciated the casual nature of the service. There was even a time set aside for anyone to stand up and share what God was doing in their lives. Some people shared mini testimonies of recent struggles while others just shared announcements about upcoming mission projects or events. 

Another thing I thought was neat: when the elders of the church come together for a meeting, they always couple it with a service project. The previous week, they met and updated the paint on part of the church. 

The heart that the parishioners have for missions was evident throughout the service and that was more obvious at the International Festival they hosted afterwards. The Festival consisted of booths representing different countries. They sold items from that country and someone from the church who had served there was nearby to share stories and answer questions. I was very impressed with the reach of this little church. They might be small in numbers, but their percentage of mission trip participants was high. 

I left with this hand-made basket from Africa. 
My brother and Christelle left with many items. Some of them included this basket, a sponsorship for a child and... pea soup!
The label on the pea soup says, "Give Peas a Chance" which I thought was a really cute idea.

There was a poster board highlighting the various countries represented and this one drew my eye:
After watching Christelle carry her baby around in the baby carrier all weekend, the familiarity of this photo touched me. A sleeping baby and a tired, but strong mama. One of those things that translates to all cultures.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

LL Bean

LL Bean was founded in Maine and they have a super store there. Of course, I had to check it out!

The store spans several buildings and includes an aquarium, a rock bridge and many darling displays. Even the "chandelier" is themed:
I guess it's kind of a requirement to take your photo in front of the large boot outside of the store. At least, that's what my mom indicated when she posed me in front of it.
The Maine (and main) LL Bean store is open 24/7. I assume they did this in order to save money. With no closing time, there's no need for locks on the doors!
The themed "door knobs" were another one of my favorite little touches.

Before we left, we took a photo of the shoppers-- the Beard ladies, the former Beard lady and the newest Beard boy:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Maine Views

I mentioned in a previous post that everything in Maine seems to be prepared for a spontaneous "photos of Maine" calendar shoot.

Seriously, everywhere I looked there were charming views like this:
It rained the majority of time that I was there (which was actually quite nice, coming from the drought we've been enduring in Houston!) and the skies weren't blue... but the leaves were just starting to turn and the colors were beautiful already!

One rainy morning we ate at a little restaurant and sat next to this charming window:
You can see that most of the tress in the background are green, but imagine how beautiful that will look in a few weeks!

Our first evening in Maine, we visited a small town near Augusta.
It was a fairly quiet evening, so I was surprised when all of a sudden I heard a live band start up. I couldn't pin-point it at first, but soon I realized that it was coming from here:
See the door below the Kennebec Wharf sign? It's a lower room that has a bar and (apparently) live music. Fact: as a Houstonian, I get really excited when I see a basement.

We walked into a convenience store where they had a section of locally grown foods:
Later I saw a barber shop. My dad has always said he wishes there were more men's barber shops with the close shaves and the friendly banter. So I snapped a photo:
Um, hey dad, how about a smile?
Well, there you go. See the barber pole in the background? I wish I had gotten a shot of the barber chairs inside...

Another thing I found charming were signs like this in front of many of the shops (keep in mind, it's around 6pm on a Friday):
I love using "ish" when talking about time.
Another sign that says, "Call and we will open the store for you-- Robert". How fun is that?

We walked by an open bookstore and my brother told me that there is rarely someone behind the counter. It's run on the honor system-- people choose their book and leave the money.

This last photo isn't really a good example of the beautiful Maine views... but it's a good example of Maine-speak:
At this counter you can order soup or "chowda". I wish I could copy the Maine way of talking. It's very distinct-- a little loud (almost gruff) and very matter of fact. I think it's a subtle nod to the "heartiness" that these folk must have in order to survive (and enjoy) the long, cold winters. Accents intrigue me-- and it was fun to hear a new one!

All of these photos were taken by a non-photographer (me) on an iPhone. So you can imagine what a professional photographer could do with this kind of backdrop-- charming overload!