Monday, January 24, 2011

Ms. Condoleezza Rice

Did you know that I know Condoleeza Rice?

Ha! I don’t really.

Our neighbor, who we so fondly call Neighbor, asked us to watch his cat Condi (short for Condoleezza Rice) for 5 days. Neighbor watched our house while we were away for the holidays, so we owed him. Phil couldn’t watch her because he is highly allergic to cats, so it was up to me. Not having a pet in several years though, I was overly excited- embarrassingly, overly excited- to watch Ms Condi. Personally, I feel like I already know Condi. She has a perch in Neighbor’s dining room that looks right out onto our back porch, and during the day she sits there watching me do things around the house. I wave to her & she meows back at me. Condi & I got along great last week. I hope I get to watch her the next time Neighbor decides it’s too hot in Houston :-)
Condi on her perch- and you can see the doors to our back porch here, which I accidentally left open, oops!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Benefits of Joe

I just knew there was a reason why I loved my morning cup-o-Joe so much (other than avoiding a mid-day headache). In January’s edition of Southern Living, there was an article on the best perks of coffee. Being a researcher (and a constant critic), I investigated to confirm some advantages, for your enjoyment:
1- Coffee may reduce your chance of developing diabetes: People who drink 3-4 cups of coffee a day are 25% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes (Sidebar- still go easy on the sugar & flavored syrups).
2- Coffee helps reduce muscle soreness after workouts: A dose of caffeine (equal to 2 cups of coffee) reduces post-exercise muscle soreness by half. (Sidebar- I still question this one since caffeine is a dehydrator)
3- Coffee is a great source of antioxidants: Antioxidants help protect your body from heart disease, stroke, & a slew of other diseases.
4- Coffee is a brain booster: Coffee increases short-term memory recall, (Sidebar-long-term memory recall is NOT enhanced with coffee). People who drink 3-5 cups of coffee a day are 65% less likely to develop dementia & Alzheimer’s disease. (Sidebar, again- I have also read that men, only men, who drink 5-6 cups of coffee a day- yes that is a lot of coffee- reduce the risks of Parkinson's Disease by up to 80%)
5- Coffee may reduce your risk for developing some cancers: Coffee drinkers are 50% less likely to get liver cancer than non-coffee drinkers. There is also evidence that coffee consumption is linked to lower rates of colon & breast cancers.
So, bottoms up! Go get your morning coffee! Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Boots

I just love boots; they are my favorite type of shoe. You can wear them for all occasions: formal & informal. You can wear them all day & not worry about your feet hurting. I have only had 2 pairs of “black leather boots” in my life: one pair I got in 8th grade, which I wore for 10 years, & a pair I got in 2008. I wore these boots into the ground. I had the heels replaced frequently; in fact, so often that it would be cheaper to just buy new boots. This was the reason for my boot excursion last weekend, that & the fact that I was growing a hole in the bottom of one.

Here are the boot requirements for last weekend’s shopping excursion:
Toe: I like a toe that isn’t pointy OR squared OR round .....but something in between.
Style: I like tall, black leather boots that stop just below the knee. I already have ankle booties, so I didn’t want that, but I’m also not looking for a boot that goes over the knee. Whenever I see someone wearing above-the-knee boots they look like a super hero to me. I cannot stand in front of a lecture hall of 300+ students dressed as a super hero!
Heel: I don’t like flats or chunky heels or wedges. I like stiletto heels that are at least 3 inches tall. (I mean, come on, my husband is 6’7, you can’t blame me for only wearing tall shoes.)
Design: I like a little detail, but not something tacky or gaudy. I want something that is simple, classy, & will cross trend lines (because clearly I wear my boots for a long time, I don’t want to have to keep buying them to stay in fashion). I was also looking for a zipper.

So would you consider me to be boot picky? YES!

Last weekend I had my unsuccessful boot excursion, & then this past week was just a bad week (and when I say “bad” I mean just plain rotten- see previous post). Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. By Thursday it was predictable that everything I tried to do was going to go awry. Friday, when I got home I sat on the couch to just take a moment to process the week....when the doorbell rang. I went to the door & this is what was waiting for me: Not only a boot that met every picky requirement I had, but was also my favorite shoe brand!

Now, who do you think, knew about my shoe hunt, knew my shoe size, knew my favorite shoe brand, & would have the most perfect timing? I am on very lucky girl. Thank you!!!!!!!

God is the Captain of my Ship

Have you ever had a moment in your life when God was so evidently present that you were no longer fearful, but instead comforted? I had a moment like that last week. Last Monday I was facing a huge task list for the week- I knew it was possible to get it all done, but it was going to take some serious time management. I had a manuscript revision due on Friday, so Monday & Tuesday I was going to go over conceptual edits, while Wednesday & Thursday I was going to rerun my statistics. Monday & Tuesday went according to plan, but as soon as I got to my office on Wednesday morning, I dreaded that the rest of the week was shot. I had a phone call waiting for me, letting me know of some MAJOR malfunctions in the lab; I dropped everything & ran over to help....19 hours later I was finally finished dealing with the lab crisis. Early Thursday when I got to my office, I was motivated to make up for lost time. However, as soon as I sat down I got another call. After meetings & more meetings, I returned to my desk at 3pm. “Ok Darby, data time” I thought to myself. I plugged in my external hard drive, beep...... beep ..... beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep... My hard drive was DEAD! In November I needed a new cord for the hard drive, so I thought “Well, if I get another new cord it will probably work.” I went & bought another new cord & plugged it into 6 different computers. My external hard drive was officially DEAD. Since I just got a new computer I hadn’t had a chance to back everything up yet. So I sat, staring at my lap top (tears running down my cheeks), thinking of the 8 years of data, manuscripts, lectures, test banks, & pictures (including our wedding pictures) that were gone forever. Why didn’t I back up all my files immediately?! Why did I think an external hard drive was invincible?!

Thursday evening we had a birthday party to go to, & I tried to pretend I was fine, but I’m sure it was obvious that my mind was distracted. Isn’t it amazing how God can place something on your heart, that you think is intended for someone else, but you later realize it was for you the entire time? Last Sunday, our message was on John 6:16-24 & Mark 6:45-52 where Jesus saved the Disciples from a storm & brought them to safety on the shore. During the message I had someone in mind that I knew had been struggling & I thought this message may be comforting to them. Little did I know that I would be referring back to those verses later in the week. What perfect timing God has! I knew that I could not solve my hard drive crisis, nor could I.T.; I had to turn to something way more powerful than myself. I willingly invited God to navigate my ship to the shore.

Oh how God provides & placed the scriptures on my lips to pray! Romans 12:12 (“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”) ran rapid on my heart. I prayed & prayed all evening, & I meditated on His Word all morning. I had no desire to talk with anyone but God.

On Friday morning I was at Best Buy when they opened, & they told me it would be $1600 to retrieve my data, if it was even possible. I purchased another external hard drive & returned to my office. When I got to the parking lot at the office, I saw my friend Beth, who just happened to be running late. I truly believe that God placed her there at that moment to distract me on those last few steps inside, & to remind me that this storm was not about me, it was about my dependence on the Lord to provide.

When I sat down at my desk, I had great expectations from God. If He raised a man from the dead, can’t He raise my hard drive from the dead? I truly believed that He was physically capable of doing this, & I asked Him if He would. God knew what was on my heart, so I specifically & boldly requested that my hard drive would be fixed when I plugged it into the computer, not the expensive $1600 route. I was asking for a technological miracle & I was joyful in hope.

I plugged the old hard drive in, & it worked long enough for me to copy everything onto the new hard drive and then died again. This time I had tears running down my face for a totally different reason from the day before. There was no explanation for the temporary life of my hard drive, for the exact about of time it needed to be backed-up, but divine intervention! Praise the Lord!!! (Yes, I now have everything backed-up...in 3 places) He does provide! Even at the meeting with the reviewers later on Friday, when I showed up completely empty handed (and extremely nervous), went perfectly. Thank you Lord Jesus for your faithfulness! Thank you for jumping into my boat & “immediately” taking me from my storm to the shore! God is the captain of my ship: when I was struggling, He was there!

I thanked Phil for his encouragement & support, & he jokingly replied, “I had you on suicide watch.” My response, “you’re a very smart husband.” Just kidding! But seriously, thank you Phil for being so supportive, & not laughing at me when I asked you to pray for my hard drive.

I don’t pray for sports games, but apparently I do pray for hard drives. It seems silly to call a hard drive death a crisis right? Maybe so, but at the moment, it was a HUGE storm for me; I’m so glad that no matter how big or how small a storm, God is faithful to listen, to be present, & to provide comfort. How come it so often requires a crisis for us to return to the Lord? If you have asked yourself this question, I encourage you to invest a few minutes in this video (click on the picture below). The Lord is present with you & wants to be the Captain of your pink kayak.

Monday, January 10, 2011

When the cat’s away the mice will play

Phil went camping this past weekend; he left midday on Friday & returned Sunday afternoon. What did I do with ALL my free time?

Friday night I had an unsuccessful shopping excursion for black boots & then came home & curled up on the couch to catch-up on all my DVR’d shows from the week. I was Queen of the remote :-) For dinner (I shocked myself sometimes), I had soup from a CAN! FROM A CAN PEOPLE! I never eat premade foods; however, I ate a deliciously simple meal from a can. I’m not sure if it was really all that “delicious” or that the minimal work required increased the attractiveness. But who cares, right?

Saturday morning I woke up still thinking about 2 pairs of shoes that I saw at DSW the night before. I was supposed to be looking for boots, because I am wearing a hole in the bottom of mine, but since I had 2 gift certificates & I was still thinking about those gorgeous shoes, I went back to DSW for them.
In the afternoon I tried my hand at antiquing. I had a list of a few things I was keeping my eyes opened for but didn’t find anything I really loved. If you go antiquing in Houston, where do you go? I was just on Westheimer, but are there other places that are better?
I also ventured to the wonderful world of Sur la Table (thanks Kel for the recommendation). Here are some treats I got there:
A new colander
EVOO cruet
A cake server
Cookie cutters: a bee hive, a bee, and a football <--all my favorite things :-)
I think I'm officially ready for the play-offs now
I did get some productive things done this weekend. For example, I took down all of the Christmas decorations. This is the part I dread most about Christmas time. I simply hate to see the season go. If it were up to me, we would have Christmas year-round. However, since Phil is highly allergic to pine trees (and has been coughing up his lungs since we returned from vacation), I figured I better suck-it-up & take the tree down. To distract myself, I watched A LOT of football as I took the decorations down. I love the play-offs so I was easily distracted, but I will admit, my house does look a little naked now.
Sometimes I have to "mess-up to clean-up" This is what the living room looked like as I was packing away all of the Christmas decorations.
I signed up to bring snack to Sunday school this past weekend so I made 4 dozen Not-So-Ordinary Ham Biscuits. These ham biscuits are topped with a poppy seed glaze that is so savory. I really liked these (I hope everyone else did too).
All in all, it was a good weekend, but I was delighted to have Phil back home. Have a great week Hawley blog readers!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Best Gift of All

Are you tired of all the Christmas posts yet? I promise this is the last one. In all of the previous Christmas 2010 posts I haven’t mentioned anything about the gifts we received. There was never any doubt- WE ARE SPOILED! We received so many wonderful gifts, and here are some of our favorites:
My dad got me this awesome handheld blender.
My mother gave me handmade pure vanilla extract.
Cooking is in my blood. For as long as I can remember I have been cooking with my Granny, my mom, my sister, & for my family. When my Granny passed away in 2009, I didn’t have any of her recipes written down. Unfortunately, I always thought I would have time later. This Christmas my sister & dad collected all of Granny’s recipes & put them into a cookbook for me. I cried & laughed when I opened this gift. These recipes are so precious to me, so you will be seeing many posts later of me working to get these dishes to taste just like Granny did.
Opening the gift....I had no idea what awesome gift was in-store for me.
Crying.
Granny's original recipes.
My aunt Karen gave Kellyn & me many of Granny’s Christmas decorations, which are also a special treasure to me. I carried them in my carry-on & had them in my lap the entire flight back to Houston.
Opening our baskets of decorations.
Me crying, yet again. I had a lot of happy tears this Christmas.
As soon as I got home, I decorated with Granny's decorations....even if Christmas had already passed. This is the ornament I opened in the previous picture.
I got a set of these old mercury Christmas ball ornaments that Granny had.
Granny's angel & Christmas mice.
My dad gave Phil a Troy Polamalu Christmas ornament. As soon as we got home Phil put it on the tree next to a cardinal ornament & said, “This is Troy...crushing the cardinal, just like he did in the last super bowl!” HAHA While we are really enjoying our gifts & are truly grateful, the best gift of all was the time that we got to spend with family celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas indeed!

Richmond Christmas

Here are a few pictures & tidbits from the portion of our vacation spent in Virginia.

Kellyn always makes my favorite pumpkin pie for my birthday & this year was no different; it was delicious!

Since this was my first Christmas home since 2006, Kellyn & dad waited for us to arrive to get the tree. We went to our favorite tree-pick’n spot (the local Putt-Putt Mini Golf Course, of course), and trimmed our tree to perfection. Phil & I kept staring at the tree thinking that it was way better than our Houston tree.

Carrying the tree in the house

Phil putting the star on the tree- he is so handy: can carry the tree AND put the star on the tree without needing a step-stool- I think we'll keep him around ;-)Prom pose in front of the tree hehe

Kellyn & I "showing" the tree

Dad with his girls

Kellyn, mom, & I went to the nutcracker.

Christmas Eve was spent at my Granny’s house with family, (I got to check out all of the original Ruby trees).

Kellyn & I at Granny's house in the Blue Room.

Kellyn caught us smooch'n in front of the tree.

Later on Christmas Eve we went to the 11pm church service. Since we live, or I used to live rather, right across the street from church, we walked to & from the Christmas Eve service, as is tradition. As requested, I got my Christmas wish two years in a row: SNOW!

Phil in the snow on Christmas making a silly face of course

Christmas morning we started at my mom’s house & then we came back to my dad’s for gifts & dinner.

Mom opening her new Scentsy.

Looks like Kellyn was excited about this gift, LOL

Mom opening a gift....Phil reading Consumer Reports hahahahahaMy new scarf

Kellyn opening her new cake decorating kit (Yes, that is "A Christmas Story" in the background)I think Dad really liked this book; I know that I enjoyed it hehe

I got The Office board game!!!!

On the 26th, mom hosted a birthday party/welcome home party for Phil & me. Unfortunately, due to the snow not many could make it, but we enjoyed it none-the-less. Thanks Mom!

On the 27th, we tried to rest for the journey back to Houston. In the morning, I tried on my wedding dress to make sure I hadn’t gained too much weight over the holidays (I think this is a good gauge for me hehehe). Later I went to lunch with my mom & then went out to dinner with the Fleming side of the family- it’s a good thing I tried on my dress before, right? After dinner, Phil & I took a short 2 hour nap, then drove through the night back to Baltimore, returned our rental car, & got to the airport. After flying to Houston via Atlanta, Phil went straight to work while I unpacked & did massive amounts of laundry. We crashed that night since we hadn’t slept in a day. After such a long trip we were exhausted, but had an awesome time. It was a fantastic Christmas! Thank you to all who help us get all over the east coast & have such a pleasant vacation; we miss you dearly already!

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