Monday, April 26, 2010

Living the Abundant Life with Friends

Several years ago, I would have to think too hard to determine exactly when, but let's say 6 years ago, a group of new friends got together for dinner. I do remember that the Young girls and Fleet boys were in middle school/elementary. David and Susanne Young, Bill and Lynne Fleet, Jerry and Kathy McKinney and Mark and I ate at one of our houses. We had met/bonded in Robbie Hendrick's Sunday School class at CPC. I still can't remember who started it. We had such fun that we decided to keep having dinner together. It was decided that someone else would host the next time, and so we began. It doesn't hurt that we are all good to great cooks. Over the years we've shared fish, poultry, beef and pork. We are carnivores. We know who makes great salads....everyone except me, and who can make you cry from a great dessert; that would be all of us! Our own wine conneseur, Dr. Fleet, has educated us and shared from his collection. The men have all stood over grills in the heat and cold to put the goods on the table. We have scoured our cookbooks to come up with the best recipes. Gumbo's, stews, and chilis over Super Bowls or SEC football. You name it, we've probably shared it. Our birthdays are spread over the calendar year, so we morphed into a Birthday Supper Club.

Friday afternoon we were overjoyed when these six waved us in at the passenger pick-up at Hobby Airport. Hugs and kisses insued until the traffic control whistled us to get moving! Fifty minutes later we were seated at La Finca, our favorite Mexican eatery in Katy. Margaritas ordered, table-side guacamole, chips, salsa and fabulous entrees were delivered and consumed before we made it to the house, groaning from over-indulging.

How appropriate, then, that one of the best times we had this weekend was at 2 local grocery stores. Saturday morning after a waffle breakfast, all of us, men and women inclusive, piled in the cars and ventured out to Fiesta, a cultural experience, and My HEB at Fry and 99 to explore. We were like children at FAO Schwartz. We stopped in the produce sections to examine all the exotic melons, squash, roots, herbs, mushrooms, etc. and really wanted a tutorial on the uses of these things. We squealed with delight (really, we did!) at the fajita and charo bean seasonings and Mexican vanilla. Wonder was written on our faces. Susanne and the man who makes tortillas at HEB became fast friends. She tasted every variety as he handed them to her hot, directly out of the machine. (She went home with at least one package of each, so good marketing for him!) The girls headed to the nail salon as the men returned home to start on the ribs for dinner.
Susanne, Lynne and Bill, trying to figure out what to do with these things!
"You know, Susanne, I think you're right!" You two are so cute!

After a stop at Charming Charlie's, a jewelry/accessory store, we returned home to the guys sitting on the patio while the ribs cooked away. Somehow, the chips, guacamole and salsa had disappeared. Good thing we had a doctor on hand, although he kept saying he was on vacation...what's up with that!? Shrimp, ribs, slaw, garlic smashed potatoes, and rolls were loaded on plates and enjoyed by all of us. We had to take a walk after dinner to make room for strawberry shortcake for dessert!

Breakfast was a yummy blueberry/lemon cake and cereal before church. We had plans to get Jerry some "real Texas" barbeque (smoked beef brisket) for lunch, but with leftovers filling the fridge, decided we would go another round with the ribs and shrimp. Mark warmed the fajita marinated shrimp on the grill and we added shrimp fajitas to lunch. Homemade tiramasu completed the food fest. It was funny that the fact that the tiramasu didn't have a chance to set up and was a little runny didn't stop any of us. That stuff is so good!

All too soon, it was time to load up and head back to the airport. It means the world to us that these sweet friends would organize their busy lives, find a weekend, get their flights planned, and visit us for a few days. As Jerry said in his final prayer, these people have had a huge impact in my life. They have helped form me into who I am. I love them so much and am so grateful for the depth of friendship we share. All this food I've discussed is just a catalyst to so much more meaning. God brought them into my life to be a part of the abundant life He promises.....abundant salvation, abundant friendship, abundant love, abundant giving, abundant laughter. I'm so happy I will spend eternity with them, but between now and then, we'll keep on sharing the good stuff. "Let's eat!"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Travelogue of Italy March 2010

When we left off last time, Grace had arrived, we visited a winery, toured the Academia, the museum which houses Michelangelo's David, had a family picture made at Piazza Michelango, went to dinner at Zaza's as a family, got Robert and Charissa ready to go home, Ross got food poisoning, Robert and Char missed their flight from Amsterdam to Chicago because Italy went on daylight savings and Holland didn't, they got routed through Toronto which was a nightmare, lost their bags again, got home a day late, Ross slowly recovered.
Monday, all of us except Ross who was still recuperating went shopping...a common theme of the coming week! Grace got her Italian leather purse, some things for friends, etc. Grace experienced "Glee" for the first time. Of course gelato was included in the day's activities.
Tuesday, Ross was feeling better, so we went to what R & L call "Little America" outside of town. It's a mall with large stores, movie theatres, and Burger King. We shopped at H & M for Grace and Lindsay. I just hope Grace has as many interviews as we've gotten clothes for! Of course I'm kidding. We are glad to purchase things she will be able to wear as a teacher next year. Lindsay benefitted from the trip, too! She is one stylish Euro-mama! We ate dinner at Burger King. Colton loved the chicken nuggets, fries, and ketchup! Of course, Lindsay had given him some veggies as an appetizer.
Wednesday, Lindsay, Grace and I ventured back to Pisa for more Vietri pottery. We were successful in finding some great things! Ross and Grandy had the pleasure of spending the day with Colton and their day included a trip to the local "Home Depot" type store. Fertilizer, weedeater string, and other manly purchases were on their list. They cleaned up the back yard after the winter and cut the grass. Colton enjoyed the outdoors after his nap!
Thursday was a bit rainy, so we stayed close to home with plans of a train trip to Sienna the following day. While Colton napped, Grace, Mark and Linds did more shopping including a small surprise for Chachi. Every evening we watched more espisodes of Glee. We are all hooked! It was so good just being a family together with little or no agenda.
Friday we all got up early and ready for the train trip to Sienna. Grace wasn't feeling great due to a stomach reaction to some congestion medicine, but still tried to make it. After arriving at the train station, she was feeling no better. So we decided to go home. Lindsay and Ross were given the day off and enjoyed a lunch date and some shopping. Ross is always game to visit yet another sports store. The boy loves him some shoes. He has since he was little and would take a nap with his hands in his shoes! Later in the evening we went to a cool educational toy store and picked up a swimming pool and some water toys for the long hot summer ahead.
Saturday we did a last tour through town, bought a swing, installed it and Colton loved swinging in his own backyard! I have to say putting Colton to bed on Saturday was tough. Gigi shed some tears kissing that boy while we rocked and watched a praise video. I don't know when I'll see him and his parents again. But I do cherish each memory of smiles, giggles, running, sly grins, seeing something he wants to eat and making that face he makes, tears and even little temper fits.

(Pictures are on my facebook page. I have been challenged to edit and post this one!)

I know a darling redneck who lives in Florence, Italy!

More pictures and a travelogue about the rest of our trip coming soon!