Pay It Forward

Today I had some errands to run in New Braunfels, so, of course that meant I’d be having lunch at Chick-fil-a. I tried to plan it so that I wouldn’t be there in the middle of the lunch run, but I shopped a little too long at Target (imagine that).
When I get to Chick-fil-a, cars are wrapped around the building and every parking spot is filled. A lady in a truck let me in front of her in the drive through line. I waved and was appreciative. There was no way to let her back into her spot, so I decided to pay for her lunch at the window. As I handed the girl my card, I told her to run it for mine as well as for the car behind me. The look on her face was unforgettable and had, “WHY?” written all over it! It was as if she had never seen a kind gesture before. She asked me several times if I were sure I wanted to pay for the other vehicle. Each time, I reassured her I did. I kept telling her to tell the lady behind me thank you for letting me into the line. The clerk wasn’t getting it at all. Finally, in one last attempt, she said, “Ma’am, hers is sixteen dollars.” 
I just looked at her, smiled, and asked her again to run my card for the car behind me. “Be sure to tell her thank you,” I said one more time. I don’t know if she told her thank you, but I know that I love it when people do things like that for me. I hope she enjoyed her lunch, and I hope the clerk took something bigger from the action than just the fact that I spent an extra sixteen dollars at lunch.

Twenty Percent

As I mentioned, I started an evening teaching job. I’m teaching developmental math at Austin Community College in San Marcos. God really did his work getting me there; it was a strange series of twists and turns no man could have made work out. I’m thankful I’m there, and maybe it’ll turn into something more later. The class is Monday and Wednesday from 6:00-9:00 pm, which is so crazy and backwards to me! I’m having the toughest time adjusting to get up and be productive at home (or be lazy, as some days have it), then go to work. SO, SO backwards! 
Anyway, we’re now three classes into it (two for me, I was on vacation last week) and I have a little more to write about. Last week, the students were supposed to take a pre-test for placement into the appropriate section of the class. One class is “advanced” the other is “basic” (actually, they’re both basic developmental mathematics, one is supposed to go a little quicker than the other, but I’m not sure that’s even happening). I was told all these pre-tests would be taken care of and the split would be done when I got back on Monday. 
Apparently, they had a problem with the grading of the test. (Really? You just graded straight off an incorrect answer key and didn’t notice? Wow. I don’t do that in my kindergarten classroom.) About 6:05, the other instructor strolls in with the re-graded tests while I’m in front of the class I haven’t met, asking about homework I didn’t assign, and trying to keep the ball rolling. Not my idea of organization. 
We finally get them split and where they’re supposed to be, and I take the “advanced” class to the other classroom. We get started, and they seem to sort of get most of what’s on the pre-test. I’m pretty impressed… then we start on new material and I lose about four of them completely. Two stop taking notes and just sit there! They don’t ask a single question, don’t respond when I try to ask them where they got lost, nothing! They. Just. Sit. (This is where I have a really hard time working with the students who are in a developmental math class in the first place–especially the younger ones who got themselves into this class by just those types of actions!) I offered them both the option of moving to the other class, and one took me up on it. That helped the morale some. I left feeling pretty disgusted by the whole thing. 
Last night was much better. The other student who was concerned moved to the other class, and the remaining two who were struggling (but actually trying) sat with the tutor and got extra help as we worked. One of the mouthier students from Monday took some sort of medication before she came in, so she wasn’t as outspoken about how she thought the class should be taught. It was much more pleasant, and everyone was making progress with the material. We’re still a little behind where I’d like to be, but we’re slowly catching up. 
It’s hard to believe that in a six-week course (five for me) we’re already 20% of the way done. They have so far to go in so little time, and most of them don’t have the ability to get to where they need to be without me dragging them in the dust of my new materials. We’ll see how it goes.

Teaching New Tricks

I started my evening teaching job today… it was good, but it throws a little kink in my thinking. I’m a get up and get everything done kind of person; I like to relax the evening away with Mr. Gray. That’s not quite how this works out. It also throws a little wrench in dinner time. So, I’m trying some new stuff that will keep for Mr. Gray when he gets home from work. Here’s tonight’s: 
Tortellini Salad
2 pounds frozen cheese stuffed tortellini
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1 can chick peas, drained & rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup Italian dressing (more or less to taste)
1 head broccoli
1 small-medium lemon, juiced (watch for seeds)
  • Prepare tortellini according to package directions
  • Meanwhile, begin mixing other vegetables in a large mixing bowl
  • Drain tortellini & rinse with cold water
  • Add tortellini to vegetables
  • Add dressing & lemon juice
  • Toss to coat 
  • Serve chilled
Even sans meat, Mr. Gray loved this salad! It has a great flavor. We will definitely have it again.

A Little New England Time…

Thursday, Mr. Gray & I headed to the East Coast for a little vacation time and my cousin’s wedding. On paper we knew what we had to do to get there, but it didn’t really sink in until we started off. We got up about 4:00 Thursday morning, drove to Austin, flew to Newark, rode a bus to another terminal, flew to Providence, hopped in a cab to Galilee (I love that we were in Galilee, even if it wasn’t THE Galilee), rode the ferry to Block Island, then got a cab to the hotel (they called it an inn… I can’t get used to saying that, but it was more of an inn than a hotel). Whew! Once we got there, we realized we’d have to do all that again to get home! 

Our first flight was definitely a northern crew headed home. It’s always fairly easy to note where the crew is from–especially when leaving Texas. The crews from Texas and the South are generally so polite and friendly. This crew wasn’t interested in doing much of anything to ensure our flight was pleasant, or doing anything at all. One of the first announcements asked that everyone please check their overhead bins because the plane couldn’t take off until they were all shut. I have never been on a flight where the crew didn’t walk through and take care of that themselves. Hmmm… 
Once we landed in Newark, we had to get on a bus to change terminals for our next departure. Mr. Gray, being the Southern gentleman that  he is, got up to offer his seat to some older ladies who were standing. They both looked at him like he was crazy and continued to stand. I had plenty of wiggle room as we cruised around Newark. Mr. Gray didn’t want to sit back down after offering his seat, so he just continued to stand. It was a very different scene from anything around here. 

We successfully made our way out to the island, and were pleased to see that the moped rental place was right up the way from the ferry landing. We headed over to rent our moped for the weekend. They were maroon–WHOOP! 

Mr. Gray walked up to talk to the lady while I waited with the luggage. The plan was to put the luggage in a cab with me while he took the moped to the hotel. As soon as the lady saw me, she told him I wasn’t allowed to be on the moped at all on the island. So we settled for a cab. 

With all the talk of a “heat wave” in New England before we left, we knew they were experiencing warmer temperatures than they were used to. We went as far as to make fun of these poor people for thinking those were hot temperatures. Then we got there and noticed that air conditioners are not standard in that part of the country. Please see exhibits one, two, and three in our windows: 

We were really quite comfortable as long as we had all the fans on, all the time. (They stole the third one back from us the last night.) It worked out nicely in the evenings once the sun set and the outside air cooled off as well. 

Friday night, we ate dinner at an air conditioned restaurant (YAY!) and then headed to one of the hotels on the island for drinks with my family and other wedding guests. Many of the people on the island looked like they belonged there; they wore sailing clothes (like you see in movies… I didn’t really think there were any men who actually dressed that way) or other nice high-end apparel. However, there was a group of 6-10 at the Spring House, who had to be Guidos. Straight off the crazy show (Jersey Shore? I don’t know, I’ve never seen it, but I’ve seen the people). They talked the talk and dressed the part, so Mr. Gray and I just watched them for a while… hilarious! I wish I would’ve had my camera (it was too dark for my phone) to catch these folks in action. 

Saturday we planned on kayaking, but the weather looked a little gloomy for the already cold water, so we decided to walk to town and rent a Jeep for a couple of hours. We just wanted to cruise around and check out the island. We got about half-way to town, and it started to rain. We stopped at the Block Island Depot to wait under the porch until I let up… 

We watched it for quite some while; the funniest part was the only two people had umbrellas. I don’t know if they were all tourists who were unprepared (like us) or if the people on the island just don’t care if they get wet. Once it let up, we headed towards town again. Before we got much further, it started to POUR! We headed into Block Island Grocery (which has air conditioning, by the way) and called a cab. We were drenched when we got back to the room.

 We decided to spend a little time inside the rest of the day and took a nap before the wedding. 

The wedding was in a gorgeous garden in a friend of the couple’s back yard. The reception was in the groom’s mother’s back yard. Both were gorgeous. It rained a little during the reception, but not enough to hurt anything. There were several hand- and home-made touches to the wedding that made the details so nice. It was fun to spend time with cousins we rarely see and to do so in a setting other than a funeral!

We got up early Sunday morning to do the cab, ferry, cab, plane, bus, plane, drive home trek again, and were pleased to be able to ride the ferry with cousins as well. We were all headed to different airports on the mainland, but we got to visit a little more before heading back.

As we hopped in our cab to ride to Providence, I noticed that the cab driver had the “defrost” on full blast cool air instead of the air conditioner! Mr. Gray and I were cracking up–we had a hard time dealing with four days of no air conditioner, and these folks don’t even use the air conditioner enough to know how to turn it on correctly. After switching it to decompressed (read: hot) vent air, she finally got it on the AC and I stopped feeling as though I was suffocating in a sealed up tin can. 

We spent a few hours waiting in the Providence airport (ate some Wolfgang Puck pizza–yum) before departing (after a delay) to go back to Newark. While we were waiting in Newark, we went to the Garden State Diner to grab dinner before our plane (we did a lot of sitting; we don’t actually eat all that often–even in my condition). A poor bus boy spilled tea (thankfully Yankees don’t sweeten their tea to the point of syrup like Southerners) all over me while we were eating. Fortunately, it didn’t stain my clothes or stay too wet for too long.

On our plane into Austin, a lady several rows in front of us started having chest pains and trouble breathing 30-45 minutes before we were scheduled to land. The flight attendants paged any medical personnel to help with the situation, and the pilot rushed our landing. Paramedics were waiting in the jetway for her, and got her off the plane immediately upon landing. It was a situation that was handled excellently. We don’t know what happened for sure, but we hope she’s all right. 

We made it home about midnight, and now we’re back to business as usual. It was nice to sleep in my own bed with the AC and the ceiling fan! Poor Mr. Gray had to get up and head to work, but he was planning a trip to Home Depot before we were even off the plane, so I’m sure he’s got something to keep him busy before he catches up on any sleep!

So Close Now…

The walls are painted; the floors are down; the doors are back on their hinges. Our nursery is coming together! Mr. Gray has done such a wonderful job helping me get things just where I want them. We haven’t put the crib together yet, but that will come. I don’t want to have all of it done too early–then what will I do with my time? 
Here are a few sneak previews of the nursery so far: 
This little corner isn’t quite finished, but it’s close. We’re not sold on the color of the recliner, so we’ll probably get a new slip cover for it. The crib will be to the left of the recliner on the striped wall. Baby Gray already has books on his bookshelf! I can’t wait to read to him! Nonna made him the quilt on the recliner, and it’ll be on his toddler bed later. 
These stars are from one of my favorite booths at Wimberley’s Market Days. They’re hand-cut out of tin. Mr. Gray helped make this vision work. I had no idea how to pull it off, I just knew what I wanted–he’s the power behind my visions.
Pops & Nonna gave us the dresser/changing table. Mr. Gray put it together, and I’ve already started filling it with Baby Gray’s things! The little buckets on top were a Target dollar spot find! They’re primary colors with stars all over them; I love them! 
All in all, it’s getting close to ready for the shower. Of course, after the shower, I get to work on it some more! I can’t wait for our little guy to be here and enjoy his room. 
We’re off to Rhode Island for the weekend; my cousin is getting married. We’re taking an extra couple of days to just hang out and relax before Baby Gray gets here. Expect to hear all about it!

The Fourth and Fifth

For the Fourth, we headed to Buck’s Poolside with a few things in tow: Pork ‘n Bean Salad, watermelon stars, and Jolie Blonde Brownies. Recipes and photos are below. 

Pork ‘n Bean Salad (I forgot the photo. It looks like a bean salad.)

1 can Pork ‘n Beanas, drained & rinsed
1 white onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
Dill pickles, chopped (to taste)
Mayonnaise (to taste)
Salt & pepper (to taste)

  • Mix all ingredients and refrigerate. 

 Jolie Blonde Brownies

1 stick butter (room temperature)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 cup flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup malted milk powder (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
Nuts, baking morsels or chips, or both (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cream together butter & brown sugar
  • Add egg and mix until well blended
  • Stir in flour completely
  • Add vanilla, malted milk powder, baking powder, baking soda, & salt
  • Mix well
  • If desired, add your choice of nuts or baking chips
  • Spread into a greased (I flour mine, too) 9″ x 13″ pan
  • Bake for 16-20 minutes or until golden brown and slightly sunken in the center

This time, I did not add anything to the brownies when baking. Instead, I used buttercream frosting and sprinkles to decorate for the Fourth of July. I only got to taste one I scrounged around and found–they went fast!

Mr. Gray also sliced a watermelon for me (at my insistence, of course) so I could make watermelon stars. I just had him slice the watermelon cookie-cutter thick and cut the stars out with cookie cutters. I stuck them in the freezer to help them hold their shape, but I’m afraid they might get soggy if they sit out too long after freezing. Only freeze them if you can serve pretty quickly. I sprinkled blueberries around for color as well.

We had a great time at the Couchs’ with good food and friends. Mr. Gray has been sore today from the adult football game, but he loved every minute of it, I know. Next year, Fabby can teach Baby Gray to swim while we’re there (right, Bean?).

Today we worked on the nursery some more. Mr. Gray did the finishing touches on the floor, and I covered nail holes in the moulding (in the office, too). We got the changer/dresser put together and into its place. The curtain rod, curtain, and decorative stars are up as well. We’ll get the crib done tomorrow. all we need now is the shower and a baby! 

We got the office/art room put back together; it looks different, but good! Some furniture that was displaced from the guest room will make a permanent home in there, and another piece or two was repurposed and put to use. We’re waiting to find a day bed to put in there for guests as well.

The best news? I have my living room back! YAY! No more clutter and craziness! The worst news? I’m not feeling like uploading photos of either room, sorry. 

Baby Steps

Mr. Gray has been working hard on getting the nursery and the office ready for the floor to go down all week. If I see another concrete dust footprint I might scream!  He got it done, though, and today, Uncle Jay, Ty, Luke, T-Paw, and Pops all came (each in their own separate white truck, I might add) to work on the floors. They got to our house about 2:00 and started on the underlayment. By the time I got home a little before 4:00, they were all diligently working to get Baby Gray’s floor laid. 
There they are, all six of them, crammed in Baby Gray’s room. Please notice Uncle Jay’s knee pads (he needs those because he turned 40 in June). They were really working a lot harder than this photo gives credit for; each of them had a job to do.
The only thing I didn’t get on camera was the white truck convention in the street outside our house. They worked until after 10:00, and they had all the floor laid in both rooms at that point. Now we just lack the shoe mold and the final finishing touches. A few baby steps are missing before we run full blast into the nursery decorating part of this deal; the closet and entry doors from both the office and Baby Gray’s room are scattered throughout the living room, and that pile of furniture and closet stuffings (see photo from previous post) are still in the dining area as well. I did break down and sweep; I couldn’t stand the dust on my feet!
Overall, I love the color we chose. It looks great with both the yellow in the nursery and the khaki in the office. I can’t wait for it to all be complete–until then, here’s a sneak preview! 
Now I’m off to finish baking my Blond Brownies for the Fourth! I’ll decorate them and post photos and recipes tomorrow! (A hint: malted milk was involved!)

Baby Gray’s Room is Coming Together!

I don’t know how on earth people remodel their whole home while living in it. We’re replacing the floor in the two rooms we use the least, and it’s making me crazy! When we moved in, we thought we were going to keep the guest room and move the nursery into the office when the time came. However, Mr. Gray has been focusing on his art a lot more lately, and the office turned into a studio of sorts somewhere along the way. We decided to add a day bed to the office and lose the guest room instead. So what started as this: 
Is now turning into this: 
Obviously this photo was taken before Mr. Gray finished the stripes. They’re completed now, and, I have to say, I’m pretty impressed. He used a laser level and did the edges by hand. (Paint tape feathers edges on our textured sheet rock.) 
Once the walls were done, Mr. Gray was ready to start ripping out carpet and scraping the padding off the floor. However, he couldn’t do that with furniture on top of the carpet, now could he?

Why, yes, that is all the furniture from both rooms and closets in our living area. Thanks for asking! (See why I can’t imagine doing a whole house…) Luckily, it doesn’t have to be like this for long.

We’ve been wanting to put down laminate in those rooms, so we brought  home a sample to test out. This is the look we’re hoping to achieve when T-Paw and Uncle Jay come help us get the floor installed (this picture is from the samples and some creative photo cropping): 

I can’t wait to get Baby Gray’s furniture all assembled and into the room! We’ll get started on that when the floor is down. It’s all coming together!

Cheater Chip Cookies Save the Day!

I’m always up for trying new recipes and baking new things… today I decided I wanted to try to make homemade brownies (I’m a sucker for Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge, so this was a big deal for me). Mostly, I didn’t have a box of brownies, and I had all the stuff to make them from scratch, so it sounded like a good combination. I pulled out the ol’ Methodist Cookbook (you can’t go wrong there), and got to work. After I added the baker’s chocolate, though, the batter wasn’t turning the dark chocolately brown it should ave.

I was slightly concerned, so I called my mom. She said as long as I was following the recipe it should be fine. So, of course, I tasted the batter (only a tad so Baby Gray didn’t get Salmonella). You could tell the chocolate was there, but it wasn’t like it should have been. Since baker’s chocolate wasn’t the answer the first time, I added a little cocoa. That didn’t do much. So then I added some meltaway center Hershey’s Kisses. I figured at least they’d add a little chocolate in some places.

This is what I got:

A pan full of beautifully textured, perfect, non-chocolate brownies! They were the most perfect brownies I have ever seen (with the exception of the off-color from the missing chocolate). I cut into them to taste and be sure they were not good. They weren’t.

I still needed a dessert for this afternoon (I wanted to take one, anyay; I didn’t need one). I had a box of cake mix and about 30 minutes, so I pulled out my Lookie, Lookie It’s a Cookie cookbook and got started tweaking a recipe to fit what I had. I decided I wanted oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and it looked do-able based on the recipes in the book and the white cake mix I had.

This time, my results were much better:

These were the perfect density and texture; the only thing I would have done differently is add a little more oatmeal. (Too bad I didn’t measure so I know how much that is… ) They were a hit at dinner!

Cheater Chip (+Oatmeal) Cookies

1 box white cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4-1/2 cup (or so) minute oatmeal

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine cake mix, eggs, and oil
  • Mix well
  • Add chocolate chips and oatmeal until well blended
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet (I didn’t grease mine)
  • Bake 10 minutes
  • Makes about 45 cookies


This week has not been a good week for my luck with electronics! Pre-orders for the iPhone 4 started yesterday, and after fighting the systems to get it to tell me I could order the iPhone for the contract price, then I found out I could not pre-order a white one. Ugh. I like white. So I debated buying a black one for now and giving it to Mr. Gray when the white ones came out, but I think I am just going to wait on the white ones to launch. That sort of ruined an hour or so of my afternoon.

Today, I was driving home after my math class, and my Sirius radio stopped working. I knew I had waited a long time to pay for it, but everyone told me they take forever to turn it off. Plus, I had already talked to them and told them my payment was on the way. So I called them, and after a 25 minute phone call, I still had no radio. The Sirius representative said that in 15 minutes max it would be working. I was meeting a friend for lunch, so I left it at that and went to eat.

We ate and talked for almost three hours. When I got back to the car, I still had no radio. I called back and spoke with another representative who was going to put me on hold for “two to three minutes” while I was transferred to a representative from tech support. I was on hold for about 19 minutes when the call was disconnected. I called back again. Finally, I was transferred to technical support successfully, and the technician was able to tell me how to reset the radio so it would work again. Trust me, this took skill. I had to:

1. Turn on the car
2. Turn on the radio
3. Turn off the radio
4. Turn off the car
5. Open the driver’s side door
6. Leave it open for 30 seconds
7. Leave the door open and turn the car back on
8. Turn the radio on
9. Wait for the screen to begin showing updates

Siriusly? It was ridiculous! I’m just glad it works now.