Tales from the Hill's Country

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gordon Visits the Vet

Chris and I have noticed something odd about Gordon for a while now. He's more sleepy, has a bit less pep in his step and is in general just not himself. For a while, we've chalked this up to his getting older.

A little more recently, we noticed that he didn't want to jump off of things. Usually, Gordon stays in bed while I get ready for the day. Then, when I go into the office, he jumps off the bed and finds a comfortable spot underneath my desk. Lately, though, I'd hear him bark from the bedroom... wanting to jump down... but not. So I'd pick him up and take him to the office with me.

Again, we just thought he was getting older... maybe he'd hurt his paw... but he wasn't limping and otherwise seemed ok, so we weren't extremely concerned.

Then we went to Baton Rouge and he really started acting funny. We'd pick him up and he'd yelp in pain. Something was obviously very wrong.

That's the story of how I found myself in the vet's office the day before Thanksgiving.

Of course, we didn't want to stop the party at the compound... so the compound came with me! Well, a few of us: Laura, my dad, Chris, Gordon and I all attended this unscheduled Thanksgiving activity.

After lots of poking and prodding, the vet declared we needed to do x-rays.

The good news... the x-ray showed that nothing was wrong with Gordon!
The bad news? He was still in pain and we don't know why!

She gave us some pain medicine and anti-inflammatory pills and we had a doped up dog for the rest of our visit.

Update: we are back at home and Gordon seems to be just fine! What in the world? Was he faking for attention? Was he scared of Laura and Justin's dog, Tootie? (Shown here in a photo from last Easter:)
Who could be scared of that face?

It's a mystery... but I'm glad that (at least for now) I have a pain-free doggie!

First Annual Hill Compound Mexican Train Domino Tournament

Our first night of Hill Compound Thanksgiving fun was met with a Mexican Train Domino Tournament.

Laura and I made the score board...
(I'll let you guess whose feet those are...)

After the basics of the score board were done, we added in the players names:
Tom "The Tornado" Beard, Laura "playing for 2" Hill, "Atomic" Andrew Klatter
Chris "no nickname" Hill, Katie "takes this too seriously" Hill, Conrad Kodiak Colin "to many nicknames to fit" Kopp
Jojo "standing in for Maria" Couvillion and PD "y'all want some wine?" Hill

Jojo started out as the score keeper...
But had to leave with baby Maria before the game was over...

So Andrew took over:
After a bitter fight, lasting many hours... the game was done and winners announced:
Andrew, Laura and Chris were the top three. (I won't mention that the scorekeeper was conveniently also the winner... or that we are hiring a third party accounting firm to take over score keeping for the 2012 Tournament...)

Conrad, my dad and I were in the bottom three. Conrad is holding the reason he scored so poorly... and I have no excuse for my bad playing.

That left our middle man... PD-- who scored exactly in the middle of the winners and losers!
This might be the only time that PD will ever be described as the "average"!

You might think the tournament is all fun and games...
But it's actually just the beginning of a fierce competition. I'm so distraught about my loosing score that I've already begun training with a dominoes coach so I can improve my standings for next year's tournament. 

Tomorrow I'll post about another first (and hopefully last) Thanksgiving tradition... "Spending the morning at the Baton Rouge Vet".

Thanksgiving on the Compound

How do I explain the Hill compound? Hm.

Chris' Dad (PD) invited Chris' cousin (Colin, but everyone calls him Kodiak, except for me who calls him Conrad) to live with him. So PD and Conrad live in house #1. Chris' brother (Justin) is married to Laura. She and Justin live immediatly next door in house #2. They have a pal, Casey, who lives with them-- as well as Laura's brother (Andrew). Makes perfect sense, right?! Chris and I stay with PD and Conrad when we visit and my parents, who come for Thanksgiving, park their motor home between the two houses. So for Thanksgiving, the Hill compound includes 10 people. Add to the mix Johanna and Jeremy (who don't live on the compound, but visit every day) and little Maria... well, it makes for an exciting holiday! Perfectly clear, right? No? Well, ok... here's a crudely drawn chart:
Ah ha! Now you understand the Hill Compound!

It's become tradition that Chris, my parents and I travel to Baton Rouge to spend a week on the compound each Thanksgiving. This week includes two card tournaments, a Laser Tag throw down, a Thanksgiving meal for 30, an Iron Chef competition, a Secret Scarf Society Meeting and a Cookie Extravaganza. That's just a taste of the chaos-- in the "downtime" we are busy with runs to the warehouse, Gumbo making lessons, Harry Potter watch parties and (this year only... hopefully) a morning spent with the Baton Rouge vet!

But before I can get into all the fun... let's start with the trip to Baton Rouge. (Otherwise titled, "Five Photos of my Adorable dog, Gordon!")

Gordon and my dad are two peas in a pod. Gordon's favorite spot in the Motor Home is on the back of my dad's chair while he's driving.
He likes to think he's a part of the action. Here's my dad maneuvering through the parking lot. First he said, "everyone look to the left to make sure we aren't going to hit anything."
So Gordon looked to the left.

Then he said, "now let's look to the right to make sure we're clear."
And Gordon looked to the right.

Then my dad said, "Gordon, are you sure we're set?"
And Gordon nodded in approval.

This is a true story. Anyone else concerned that we have a dog as our lookout?

After safely exciting the parking lot... Gordon finds himself off duty. He likes to sit on my lap in the front seat to take in the scenery:

Once we made it to Baton Rouge we were greeting by the members of the compound. PD had set up a Wine Tasting Table for us which we enjoyed throughout the week.
That night we enjoyed our first annual "Hill Compound Mexican Train Domino Tournament". Photos and stories from that will be posted tomorrow!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tutu Apron

In honor of my newest family member, Maria, I whipped up a new product for my etsy store! She probably needs to wait a few (or five) years to actually wear it... but I just can't get over how cute it is!

It's a basic black apron embellished with a pink tutu, matching ribbon "belt" and bow. (So far I've just made then in hot pink, but I wouldn't be surprised if a Tiger fan asks for a purple tutu with gold bow!) And of course, no outfit is complete without a strand of pearls!

I have the listing up on my etsy store-- let me know if you want one for the pint-sized chef in your life! Houston pals, email me and we can work out shipping. And, like all items in my shop, all FOKs (Friends of Katie) get 20% off with the code: FOK2011.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm so busy this week counting all of my blessings, that I don't have time to blog!

I'll be back on Monday, featuring a new etsy shop item. Then starting Tuesday, I'll have many, many stories from the Hill Family Thanksgiving week.

Here's an out take photo from our first annual Domino Tournament:
 More stories to come next week... have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Volunteering Behind the Scenes

My former church (and former employer) Second Baptist Church is gearing up for their annual Christmas missions event: Angels of Light. It's an amazing week-long event where the church hosts Angels from Houston. (The Angels are people in need who are currently being served by various missions and agencies that partner with the church.)

Each night the angels are picked up at their mission or agency and brought to the church where they eat dinner (donated by local Chick-fil-A restaurants), see a show/sermon and are given a Bible, bag of groceries, goodwill clothing voucher and age-appropriate toy on the bus as they are driven back. There are many amazing stories of the hope and joy that this event brings these Angels!

As you might imagine this is a very detail-heavy event! From wristbands to name tags, gift sorting to directions... there are a TON of tiny (but important!) details to consider. Thankfully the Ministry Network Staff (and the volunteer board) are up for the challenge!

Since I remember all of the work that went on the weeks prior to Angels of Light, I asked my pal Amy if I could come up and help out for a few days. I think my e-mail was returned in less than a minute with a huge YES!

Here's Amy conferring with Lindsey about childcare (for those that volunteer the week of the event):
Great photo, yes? It wasn't even posed! Really! This one, however, was:
That's me, pretending to sort through lanyard nametags. In reality, I didn't sort through any nametags. I mostly labeled wristbands. Lots and lots of wristbands...
Each band is color coordinated with the church campus and the night they are attending (as well as the number of bus the Angels will be taking).

Here's Amy, hard at work (with bus captain boxes in the foreground):
And then there's the Bibles... this is just a small section of them!
Here's ANOTHER small section:
I mean... that's a LOT of Bibles!

I truly enjoy being able to take a tiny bit of time out to help get all of the behind the scenes details ready. And I'm SO very proud of my pals in Ministry Network, their volunteer chairmen/board and the entire Second Baptist Church family. They accomplish SO much for so many Angels in our hometown. And they do it with humility, grace and love.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Texas State Capitol

Chris needed to be in Austin for business for a few days last week, so I went with him. His full day of meetings found me walking around Austin's downtown area exploring shops and visiting a building that I'm embarrassed to say I had never visited before:
The Texas State Capitol building!

I wondered the grounds a bit before joining in on a tour of the building. For it being a random Wednesday afternoon, I was surprised that about twenty other people were in the tour group as well (they give tours about every 30 minutes).

Our tour guide did a great job of mixing facts in with interesting stories.
That's her explaining the six flags that once flew over Texas. The seal is underneath the big dome and it's hard not to look like a slack-jawed-yokel when staring up at the dome's ceiling.
To give some perspective on how tall it is-- that star is eight feet across. Here's another way:
See those tiny men in the center of the photo? That's not even half way up!

One of the things I found particularly interesting was the attention to detail. Check out the regal looking elevator:
Or the chandelier in the House and Senate rooms:
(You can't really tell, but each light is a letter and it spells out "Texas")

Even the door hinges are ornate:
Each one weighs over 7 pounds!

Here's a photo of the room where the Senate meets:
And the House of Representatives:
If I ever had political aspirations (which I absolutely do NOT) I think I'd choose to run for a position in the House, since their chairs look far more comfortable. I probably shouldn't include that tid-bit on my fictional campaign flyers...

A trip to the (very large) basement of the capitol gave me this neat view of the building:
It was here that we learned that we have the tallest state capitol of all the other states (which, as a Texan I expected to hear). Our tour guide hesitated and admitted that Louisiana's capitol building is technically taller but, "they built a tower, not a dome... so they don't count." Darn right they don't! Here's to Texas and our tallest capitol building in the Union!

Disobedient Squirrel

Today's photo is from the grounds of a famous building.Tomorrow I'll write about the actual structure. Today, I bring you a rebel squirrel:

The sign says "Please, help preserve this historic tree. KEEP OFF." But there's a squirrel having lunch on that tree right above the sign.

Any guesses where I am?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Crafty Mom

I have a crafty mom. I can't remember a time when she wasn't turning cardstock into a boat, kleenax boxes into an adobe village or old tshirts into handy bags.

So it came to little surprise that I saw this at her house:
Magnolia leaves... turned into... any guesses...?
A wreath!

Remember how I turned a wreath into a garland? Well I did that at my parents house while they were gone. (I needed my mom's sewing machine.) Since the old wreath form didn't fit into the trashcan, I just placed it next to the trash can.

My mom finds this and decides to get crafty!
That's the old wreath form on the back.

And here's my mom with her creation! She asked me not to get her in the shot. And she said if I did get her in the shot that I'd better not post it on my blog! Whoopsie. ;)
Here it is on the door with all it's rustic charm:
A few days later, I came by and noticed she had spruced it up some more...
(Photo taken by my mom)

Not sure which I like better-- the spruced up version or the simple original one.

Either way, I guess I see where I get my crafty tendencies!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spaghetti Squash

Have you heard of spaghetti squash?

You might have seen it at the grocery store and not known what to do with it. I first saw it in my Aunt's kitchen and had no idea what was on her counter top.

This is what a spaghetti squash looks like:
She and my cousins told me that it was amazing... so the next time I went to the store, I picked one up. That was about two years ago... and I've made it many times since!

The hardest part about spaghetti squash is cutting it in half. Use caution. And if possible, get Chris to do it for you. Then don't watch as you fear he will cut his finger off and ruin your dinner.
Once you cut it (notice it's the long way), you'll see a bunch of seeds, similar to a pumpkin:
I always spoon them out and throw them away. You might be able to roast them like you would pumpkin seeds? Don't know... someday I might try.

Regardless of what you do with them, you want to get the seeds out... then place the two sides in a pan with about a half cup of water.

My dear friend asked if she could put them in a pyrex dish. In theory, yes. In reality... no.
See how one is on top of the other?
You don't want that... you want them both flat. I guess if  you had a really large pyrex dish, or a really small spaghetti squash... or you just did one half at a time? But I suggest using a pan.
Again, put about a half cup of water (just enough to barely cover the bottom) and throw into the oven (preheated to 350) for about 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, take out, flip the squash over (carefully, it's hot) and assess:
If the flesh is tender enough to be loosened with a fork, then it's ready! If not (and it probably isn't) put in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. (I usually don't flip the squash back over, so now it's going into the oven sunny-side-up.)

After another 10-15 minutes, it's probably ready, but if not, throw it in again... I don't think it's very easy to over-cook this thing.

Here's the goal:
It's ready when you can take your fork and easily scrape the flesh (like you would for pulled pork or shredded chicken). As you do, it starts to look like spaghetti!
So now, scrape all the flesh of both sides into a bowl. A medium sized spaghetti squash will yield enough "noodles" for a lot of people (or many meals for a few people-- Chris and I get at least a dinner and two lunches EACH) out of this!
I used the "noodles" just as I would spaghetti and usually add meatballs (or boudin balls) and marinara sauce. I've also seen recipes that call for a little olive oil, salt and pepper (I'd guess that's for a side dish).

I haven't make traditional spaghetti noddles since first trying this recipe! I much prefer this version than the pasta kind. It's lighter and much healthier (and in my opinion tastes better).

Spaghetti squash-- another reason to love Fall!