Monday, July 18, 2011

H-family visit!

My family made the trip down to TX to visit us in our apartment for the first time since we've moved in. I spent all week preparing: buying food to keep their bellies full, cleaning, organizing, and making sure all those little "extras" were in place (hand mirror in the bathroom, clean sheets & pillows, good-smellin' lotion, etc). My sister was at a dance camp that week, and her last day was Friday. She had a final dance to perform in the morning (that my family all got to see), and then they headed for our place from there. Here's a picture (courtesy of my mother) of the backseat of the H-family "bus." My sister is still in her dance outfit, and my grandparents are happily enjoying the ride south. :)

My uncle and his family were watching over my parents' and grandparents' houses while they were gone. Uncle K thought it would be funny to plant some "guard flamingos" in the yard. The picture below shows what a good job the guards were doing while they were gone... vicious! 

On Friday night, J and I took my family to my favorite Mexican restaurant, and then came back and crashed at the apartment... there wasn't time for much else. On Saturday, J, my sister, and I went to Six Flags. I hadn't been there in YEARS, so I'd forgotten what it was like! Apparently, they have hit the 50-year anniversary mark since the last time I was there...

We rode 3 roller coasters immediately, and I felt SO sick. I sat down while they rode a couple more, but my nausea didn't go away. I guess this means I'm officially old, since my stomach can no longer handle the "cool" rides. :( Meanwhile, my parents and grandparents were touring the community and sight-seeing at various stadiums and shops. We all got home in the afternoon, took some time to cool off, and then headed to the pool for a while. It's unbelievable how stinkin' hot it is outside! Obviously, I notice it a lot more when I'm moving from an air-conditioned place to outside. As soon as I step out there, it feels like the heat is punching me in the face! Anyway, we spent some time at the pool and then changed to go to dinner and for yogurt. 

On Sunday, the guys went golfing and the ladies went shopping. Us girls hit a few shops that aren't available in OK, and then headed back to the apartment, while the boys were sweating their tails off on the golf course. We happened to find our way toward a Five Guys, which has become my dad's new favorite fry-location. So I snapped a teaser-picture to show him:

I guess the picture stirred up some interest again, because we had dinner there that night. There haven't been any OK locations (until now, as I understand it), so this was a new place for my fam, and it was a hit! There was some confusion about the name, though... it seems that the burgers and fries were so intoxicatingly-good that the name was always scrambled in some way. I heard it called all kinds of names this weekend: Five Men, Five Fingers, and my personal favorite: Burger Five. It became a running joke all weekend long. :)

Above is a picture of my sister and me, modeling some of the new clothes we got on our shopping trip. Doesn't she look so grown-up?! *Sigh* 

J and I got bored on the way to "Burger Five" that night, so we took a picture in the car:

J had to go back to work this morning, and I tried to get back into my workout routine. I went for a jog while my fam packed their stuff and loaded the vehicle. By 9 am, they were outta here. 

We hope they enjoyed their stay!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chicago: July 2011

J and I recently got back from Chicago. Most of his family lives there, so he's used to going pretty often! I, however, have never been on a plane twice in three months, so this is a whole new experience for me. 

The purpose of this trip was for the kids' birthday parties. Our niece, S, turns 12 this Friday, and our nephew, J (I'll refer to him as J-2 so no one gets confused!), turned 5 a couple weeks ago. This is our personal, online shout-out to them: happy birthday, kiddos! :) 

We arrived really late Friday night (or Saturday morning, if you want to get technical about it). Last time we visited, I had an allergic reaction to a cat that lives in the townhouse. Sure enough, when I woke up on Saturday morning, I had watery eyes, a runny nose, and an itchy throat. Luckily, J's brother and sister-in-law were kind enough to let us sleep on an air mattress at their house for the remainder of the weekend....thanks, guys! 

Everyone was busy setting up for the party on Saturday afternoon. The kids' mom was busy making two (delicious!) cakes for dessert. Below is a picture of J-2, happily devouring some left over cake mix. :)

The kids' dad was out buying food and drinks for the party. J and I set up the tables, chairs, tents, and games for the party. The party started at 4:30, and there were a lot of people there! I love the set up of their neighborhood. Everything is pretty open, so the neighbors are able to just walk on over. Everyone seemed pretty close knit and got along really well, so it was a happy time. I hope that when J and I finally buy a house of our own, we're lucky enough to have friendly neighbors like they do! 

Everyone seemed to have fun. After eating, the kids had a water balloon fight and then broke out the super soakers. There was also a play set in the backyard for the little ones to play on. We'd set up a bags game and volleyball/badminton net, too, so there was lots to do. I neglected to get any pictures of the actual cookout party...I was having too good of a time to worry about snapping pics. :) By the way, the weather was GORGEOUS! It was a whopping 88 degrees all weekend! Some of the folks were sweating, but when us Texans told them it was about 105 in our neck of the woods, they quickly agreed that the weather felt nice. ;)

Sunday was J and I's "marriage celebration lunch." (I'm not sure what else to call it, so that's what I've dubbed it.) We ate this restaurant called the Bohemian Gardens, and I was exposed to some more authentic northern food. There were several items I'd never seen or heard of before, but most of it was pretty good! Again, I failed to get pictures, so here's a make-up shot:

Those are all the cards we received from people who came to our lunch. Everyone was so nice, and it was great to see (and/or meet) everyone! Loved ones, your thank you cards are already in the mail. :)

Monday was our last day there. When we woke up, our niece, S, was asking her parents about going to this new Chinese place that had opened near their house. Everyone went, and it was so good! There was a huge variety of food to choose from -- much more than your regular Chinese restaurant buffet. There was something for everyone. Our other niece, A, tried some type of oyster or clam and loved it. ...Where else would you get to try that and not have to go hungry if you don't like it? :) Below is my fortune:

I do like that I finally have some proof that "I am the master." lol. 

On the way back to the airport that evening, I snapped a couple quick pictures of the neighborhood. According to J, old Chicago used to build their houses really close together. I can't remember the purpose behind that, but there are still some neighborhoods that have the original spacing. I took several pictures of the houses, but I feel that this picture captures the space best:

Not much yard space, either! Another thing about the north: they have very slanted rooftops. J says this is because the snow piles so heavily on the roofs, and they need something steep to let it slide off so the roofs don't cave in. ...Unheard of here in the south! (We're more worried about tornadoes. :) 

On the plane, I met this adorable (and talkative) 9-year old girl who pretty much told me her life story. lol. She was a sweetheart and had an unusual childhood... Our plane stopped briefly in Missouri before heading back to Texas. I was devouring a good book and J was watching a funny movie on his iPod, so we didn't really notice the length of the flight. :) We got back to our apartment around midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning, and I spent yesterday unpacking and stocking our 'fridge back up. 

We're glad to be home, but we miss our Chicago loved ones. <3

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wedding announcement

This goes against all the privacy I've tried to maintain on this blog, but I have to post it because I want a place to keep this link!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Independence Day '11

My hometown has always hosted a Blackberry Festival, ever since I can remember. When I was a kid, I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. It's lost some of the magic as I've gotten older, but I still make it a priority to keep the tradition alive and visit the festival every year. J and I had two summers together while we were dating. He visited during the festival during both summers, but this was our first festival as a married couple. 

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we ended up officially getting on the road about 4:30-ish. We were cruisin' along and doing well until we came to construction. The marquees on the side of the road claimed we only had 19 minutes of congestion, but we think it was really 19 minutes until the next marquee. Note our speed, ON THE HIGHWAY. (By the way: that's my lovely little grandma and grandpa on the dashboard there!)

That was aggravating. (Not to mention it was 103 degrees outside..thank goodness for a/c!) We tolerated that for about 45 minutes and finally were able to speed up again. We encountered a wreck in OKC, but it only slowed us down briefly. What was supposed to be a 3-hour trip turned into a 5-hour trip. We unloaded our car and went down to the festival pretty quickly to meet some of our friends. We had a good time together, and it was great to see them again! (We hadn't seen them since our wedding!) 

On Saturday morning, we got up for the annual Blackberry Parade. It was already pretty hot at 10 am, and the parade lasted 30-45 minutes. Afterwards, we all walked down to the festival again to get some food and have a look at the car show. It was so hot that J and I abandoned the idea of a car show pretty quickly and just walked back to my parents' house for some a/c and a good nap. ;)

Years ago, my parents had an annual 4th of July cookout. We invited friends and family, played games, ate good food, and stayed to watch the fireworks. But in 2006, when my parents opened up a snowcone stand, we could no longer have our cookout because they were too busy working the stand at the festival. This year, though, they didn't participate in the festival, so the cookout was back on! I apologize for the not-so-good quality of picture. I actually own a point-and-shoot, but I rarely carry it with me, just because my iPhone has a camera, and that's always on me, anyway. But since I've started blogging, I may have to switch back to my Fuji. ...Anyway.

Everyone brought food and chairs and we sat out on the lawn after 7 pm (when the temperature had finally dropped below 100 degrees!) and had a meal. Then the boys started a game of wiffle ball.

You can see a few pictures above of J in his competitive stance...hah! 

Around 8:30, we decided to walk back down to the festival and start getting set up for the fireworks. When I was a kid, everyone would gather on the baseball field as early as 7:30 or 8:00 and stake out spots for firework-watchin'. I guess lots of people decided that watching from their home would be a better idea, because we didn't fight much of a crowd. While we waited on some friends, we people-watched (always a good time); talked to a few of the kids who were running around, playing catch or kickball; and took pictures. See?

K and N arrived, so we took some pictures of each other. 

We watched the fireworks and decided that we'd better take advantage of the carnival food one last time before it left at midnight. So we got in line for a fried Snickers, which I'd never had before. 

Yum! We stayed to talk to our friends and people-watch for a little bit and then we walked back home.

Now it's Sunday, and in a couple of hours, we're all going over to my Meme and Papa's house to eat some of Meme's delicious home cooking. Afterwards, the guy are going golfing while the gals will just hang out and talk. :) 

It's been a great weekend, and it was fun to see the family and friends we hadn't seen since our wedding. (You'd think a 3-hour commute wouldn't be that much -- and we're thankful it's not more -- but it's a bit of a pain sometimes!)

The 4th of July is still my favorite holiday. :)