Heaven’s Gain

On July 4, I awoke around 8:00 AM.  I made breakfast, poured my cup of coffee, and sat down at the computer to write a blog entry that I never posted (or finished.)  Around 8:20 AM my phone rang.  When I saw that it was my dad, I knew it was the call that I had been expecting and dreading.

My sweet grandmother passed away in the early hours of this Fourth of July.  She was 90, and lived the fullest life a person could dream of living.

At some point in the coming weeks I will write a tribute that hopefully conveys, in some small way, the greatness of this woman, but this morning I am not emotionally ready to do so (and writing such a piece is a task that will take weeks, not minutes or hours.)  For this morning, I will simply share what I posted to Facebook yesterday:

Heaven gained an incredible lady early this morning. Words cannot do Grandma Tudor justice, and those of you who knew her (or have heard my infinite stories about her) know what I mean by that. She always loved and served wholeheartedly, putting herself before no one–family, friends, or complete strangers. After battling Alzheimer’s in her final years, today is truly a day of freedom for her. We miss her tremendously, but we know that she is (probably line-dancing) with God today.

If you had the pleasure of knowing my grandmother, please feel free to share your favorite memories here. ❤

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What followed was an unbelievable outpouring of love, memories, and testimonies of how this tiny lady had touched so many lives.  My friend Katie wrote:

“I don’t think I have ever told you this but Grandma Tudor is who I envision when I think of Mother Theresa…everything I have read about her was embodied in your grandma: loving, always busy taking care of the poor, full of wisdom, but delightfully humorous and full of spunk! I hope they are in heaven swapping stories right now!”

(Katie: thanks for bringing me to tears when I read this as well as ever time that I’ve reread it. ;-))

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 I know there will be plenty more tears shed in the coming weeks, but as my sister said yesterday, we are the only ones crying… not Grandma.

Thanks to everyone for the love, encouragement, and kind words on what was a very tough day yesterday.  We take comfort in knowing that Grandma Tudor is finally free from the darkness that is Alzheimer’s and dancing with her Heavenly Father!

Friday Cheers, Hay, and Mother’s Day

It’s Monday morning, and Andrew and I had another full, but awesome weekend.

We kicked things off by heading to Friday Cheers–a summer concert series on Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond.  $5 lets you enjoy good music, nice river views, and excellent people-watching.  There are food trucks, and people park themselves on picnic blankets all around.

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The bands playing this Friday were The Lone Bellow and Radical Face–I was excited about the former, Andrew the latter.  The music was good, as was the company (we met up with a few of my college roommates but ended up seeing about 30 other people that we know, including my brother!)  The only downside was that, in addition to the food trucks, a cigar store parked its truck on the island (I say that as if it just drove up and decided to stop, which I know isn’t the case;  it may have been a sponsor,) and so many people were smoking.  <Begin smoking rant here> Now, I know smoking is not illegal, and we were at an outdoor event, but as a nonsmoker it stinks to leave a family-friendly event with a sore throat because people decided to light up while standing in very close proximity to other people.  Be kind to your body, but if you aren’t going to do that, at least respect the fact that I am trying to be kind to mine.  <End smoking rant.>

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Playing with the panorama feature on my phone before the concert

Saturday morning I went with a group from our church to work with Shalom Farms.  We spent three full hours putting straw around the potato plants.  That’s a lot of pitch-forking, walking, and squatting!  Also, to add to the week of wildlife I’ve been having, we found a few giant spiders and a nice little snake.  By the end of our time there, I was itchy and never wanted to see straw again.

When I arrived home in the early afternoon, Andrew informed me that he had purchased straw that morning to put in our garden.  Hah.  He had no idea that I’d been doing that all day, but I told him that our little 10 x 20 garden would be a cool down after everything that morning!

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I have no idea how he determined the amount of hay we would need, but he better not quit his day job in favor of farm math;  we used maybe a quarter of one of those… bales?  (I better not quit my day job either in favor of farm terminology…yes, I’m sure that’s a paying job ;-))

Saturday night we went to a graduation party for our good friend Gabe after her graduation from VCU.  The party was held at the Center of the Universe Brewing Company up in Ashland.  We were given a brewery tour, enjoyed time with friends, played Corn Hole, and celebrated Gabe.  We are proud of you, my friend!

For Mother’s Day on Sunday we went to church in the morning with Andrew’s mom, then took her out to lunch to all of our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Vietnam Garden.  Sunday evening my mom and brother came over to our house, and we cooked burgers on the grill.

I posted this photo on Facebook yesterday in honor of my mom.  It’s one of my favorites from our wedding that I think anyone who has taken part in a wedding can appreciate:

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We were all so tired of taking photos, but desperately trying to get the Christmas card shot.  Whitney’s best friend Jeanine was behind the camera trying to make my nieces laugh–or smile… or just look in the general direction of the camera–and her strapless dress fell down, leaving her a bit exposed.  This photo captured everyone’s reaction.

My brother, however, posted the winning photo that captures the coolness of our mom.  When Ross was about ten, he got really into WWF wrestling.  He’d watch the shows on TV regularly, so my mom decided to take him to see it live.  This photo was taken before the show, sporting their WWF t-shirts, and honoring one of Ross’s favorites with the wrestler’s signature move:

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Hah!  Awesome.  Not much else can be said about this one 😀

We had a wonderful day celebrating our mamas and a great weekend with friends!

What was the highlight of your weekend?  

DIY Sewing Organization & A Surprise Party

My sister, Whitney, turned 30 last week, and we drove to North Carolina Saturday for a surprise party thrown by my brother-in-law, Charles.  The party was a huge success– backyard barbecue, fantastic bluegrass band, and Whitney was genuinely surprised.  Everyone had a blast!

I meant to capture the entire party, but mostly just took pictures of my family.  Sorry for the photo-overload, but I really love these people. 🙂 Ross, my mom, and my mom’s friend Walter drove down from Richmond, my dad, Aunt Ann, and Uncle Richard drove up from Atlanta, and Whitney’s best friend Jeanine drove down from Northern Virginia:

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I think the best surprise of all for Whitney was this:

528277_622926824389862_313341416_nShe babysat these girls during her college days 10 years ago, and they made the trip from Northern VA to celebrate her birthday.  Whitney actually screamed when she saw them.  Charles set the bar pretty high for himself for future birthday parties. 😉

As for our present…  Whitney is incredibly crafty.  Among other things, she sews/monograms/appliques adorable children’s clothing which she sells here on her Etsy site.  <–Check it out!  The last time we visited, I noticed that she could use some organization in her sewing room.  I searched Pinterest for inspiration, presented a vision to Andrew, and we began work on a project…

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…that ultimately turned into this:

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A pretty sewing organization board!

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Plus a set of pincushion mason jars for storage and, well, pins.

We were pretty pleased with the outcome and thought crafting a present was a great way to honor the ultimate crafter on her birthday.

Happy birthday, Whitney, and happy crafting to all!

Easter Sunday

Happy (belated) Easter!

Yesterday we had a great time celebrating Christ’s resurrection with family and friends.  In the morning we attended the contemporary service at our church, in which they played this awesome video.  It’s a beautiful visual of what Easter means for us:  Christ is risen from the grave, and we are set free!

DSCN7609Dressed in our Easter best…yes, that is Andrew’s basketball medal hanging from the mantel behind me 😉

After church we had Andrew’s mom over to the house for lunch.  We prepared ham, fruit salad, and–(wait for it)– eggs in hash brown nests.  Andrew saw the idea on a cooking show last week, and we decided to give it a try!  Here’s the recipe we used (halved.)

DSCN7610Andrew making the “nests” with the shredded potatoes 

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The eggs in hash brown nests turned out well!  They were a bit tough to remove from the muffin tins, but once they were out tasted great. 🙂

And, what would Easter be without a few sweets?

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I made “trash” (or “puppy chow”) on Saturday and cannot stop eating it!  The stuff is so addictive (peanut butter+chocolate+powdered sugar on rice chex… What’s not to love?)  Andrew has been hitting the jelly beans pretty hard.

After lunch we decided to take a nap.  It took me a while to fall asleep, even though I knew I was really tired, and I almost gave up.  However, at some point I dozed off, and when I woke up it was 5:00!  An epic 3-hour nap.  😀

For dinner we met my mom, brother, family friend Barb, and my mom’s friend Walter at–(again, wait for it)–Cracker Barrel.  This is strangely becoming a habit for my family;  we ate there with my mom and brother on Thanksgiving Day because the rest of the family couldn’t get together until Friday, when we had our real Thanksgiving.  We’ve never been the type of people who go out to eat on holidays, but it does seem to be happening a lot lately…and CB seems to be the restaurant of choice 🙂

We had a great time laughing, telling stories, and reminiscing about the time Barb took my sister and me to the movies…and we thought we were hilarious putting popcorn in her purse.  Sorry, Barb. 😉

How did you celebrate Easter?

A Rock Star Birthday

Six years ago I drove down to Raleigh, NC for my spring break;  my sister was due with her first child that week, and I was hoping to be there when my niece made her debut into the world (uh, not in the room… just nearby ;-))

After spending a few days waiting, I finally had the joy to meet Kendall:

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I didn’t know it was possible to love someone so quickly and so deeply, and my life was forever changed.

Last weekend, Andrew and I had the pleasure of attending Kendall’s 6th birthday party.  To make a long story short, Kendall’s parties are elaborate.  Like, make-other-moms-look-bad elaborate.  This year the party was “Rock Star” themed.  I’ll let the photos do most of the talking:

Friday night, the photo booth needed to be constructed and tested:

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Saturday morning we had a bit of downtime to relax and break-in the bounce castle:

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Andrew stepped up to the role of Cake Engineer and made an awesome guitar cake for our little rock star:

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Impressive, right?

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VIP passes and sunglasses for the guests, cream cheese and JAM! sandwiches, yogurt-dipped pretzel drum sticks, pop star popcorn, guitar pick carrot chips…

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Kendall was born for the spotlight;  this was the best smile we could get from Lauren 😀

Cake and presents, of course:

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Isn’t Lauren a good helper? 😉

There was also Just Dance happening on the Wii and guitar decorating for the photo booth.  Speaking of the photo booth…

After all the kids left (and I should mention there were 30 kids!), the big kids adults had some fun:

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Charles, Kendall, Whitney, Ross, Ms. Patsy, Lauren, Andrew, and me… My dad, grandmother, aunt, and uncle were not able to make the drive from Atlanta, and we missed them dearly!   

The masterminds behind the Jam:  my sister, Whitney, and her best friend Jeanine:

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We had a wonderful time celebrating Kendall.  I sure am glad that kid was born!

Colorado Part 2: Mountain Views and Hot Flashes

High altitude can do strange things to the body.  The lack of oxygen can cause shortness of breath (check,) headaches, digestive issues (check,) fatigue, dizziness, and…hot flashes? (check.)  Okay, so I can’t find proof that high altitude causes hot flashes, but I also can’t find any other reason that I experienced them on this trip!  It happened a few times Wednesday night and Thursday, which would have been when my body was trying to acclimate (plus, we drove even higher Thursday.)  At first I thought the hotel room was too hot, the heat in the car was turned up too high, etc.  When I noticed that Andrew and Jenny both were still wearing their jackets, I realized: I was having hot flashes.  Hah!

Has anyone else experienced this?  Are high altitude hot flashes a thing?

Moving on…

Saturday morning we ate brunch at Beatrice and Woodsley–a fairy tale-esce restaurant in downtown Denver.  I ordered the “Eggs Johnny Fever–Pan fried goetta on toasted onion bread with sunny eggs, mustard hollandaise, and roasted cauliflower.”  Yum.

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It was a sunny, 50-something degree day, so after brunch we met our friend Ashley at Washington (“Wash”) Park, walked around the lake, and chatted for a while.

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Then we continued chatting over ice cream at Sweet Action.  They serve a few dairy-free flavors, so Andrew was able to have some as well.  It was apparently the best DF ice cream he’s ever had!

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After saying goodbye to Ashley, we decided to get a late lunch (the theme of the day was “keep eating” ;-)) at Sputnik–a quirky, hipster, hole-in-wall restaurant with great tacos and waitresses that say, “What do you want?” when taking your order.  At least ours did.  We filled up on tacos and drove west towards the mountains to continue enjoying the weather and the scenery.

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 photo (21) Awesome.

Finally, on the way home we stopped at a point of geological interest:

photo (12)My husband.

It was a whirlwind trip, but we managed to pack in lots of great food, outdoor adventures, and time with family and friends.

Until next time, Colorado!

Colorado Part 1: Bison Burgers, Powder, and Hot Flashes

We are home from Denver and feeling a bit jet-lagged today!  While I only spent three and a half days out West, Colorado did not disappoint.  We packed as much as possible into our brief trip.

I arrived Wednesday evening after flying by myself for the first time (I know–how does a person make it nearly 27 years without flying alone?)  I made it through security without being pulled aside for the first time in three trips, I navigated the enormous Dallas airport, and it only took me one song on my iphone to realize the earphones were not plugged in all the way and everyone around me on the plane could hear my music.  Success!

Andrew and Jenny met me at the airport, and we drove downtown and had dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill.  After a day of peanut butter, bananas, and trail mix, I opted for a bison burger with fries and a side salad.  The burger was delicious, but huge, so I was only able to eat half of it (and Andrew helped with the fries ;-))  It definitely hit the spot!

Jenny had to work Thursday, so Andrew and I borrowed her car and took a trip to Golden–home of the Coors Brewery.

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We walked around town for a bit, then ate lunch at Windy Saddle Cafe, which boasts some excellent gluten-free grub.  We split a GF butterscotch muffin as an appetizer (because who doesn’t need a lunch appetizer?), and each ordered a sandwich–Andrew’s on GF bread, mine on a fantastic baguette.

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This is only half of the sandwich… the half I couldn’t finish 🙂

After lunch we took a tour of the Coors Brewery.  Neither of us are really beer drinkers–Andrew can’t have it because it contains gluten, and if I’m going to drink hundreds of calories of sugar, I’d rather have a Coca Cola– but the tour was actually very interesting.  Andrew said it was like being in an episode of Modern Marvels (that’s a good thing, in his mind.)  Of course, the few photos I took had little to do with how beer is made:

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We picked Jenny up from work just before 4:00 and headed for the mountains; we’d booked a room at a hotel close to where we were skiing Friday so we wouldn’t have to wake up early to make the drive.

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As we drove west, it began to snow…and snow…and snow…

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We arrived safely at the Alpine Inn, where Andrew morphed into an icicle maniac:

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(Side note: As we walked past this window to check in, we noticed someone changing clothes inside.  I quickly turned away, feeling awkward, but also wondering why the heck someone on the first floor would get dressed with the curtains open!  When we walked back outside to get our things out of the car, we noticed someone else changing clothes in another room.  As Jenny and I were saying, “What is wrong with these people?!” Andrew pointed out that, perhaps that was the pool room.  And it was :-D)

Friday morning, we hit the slopes.  Because it had snowed the day before–and continued snowing throughout the day–we had the opportunity to ski on fresh powder, or “pow-pow” as we’ve heard it called. 😉  All three of us were more or less beginners (I skied twice in 7th grade,) so we took a group lesson.  Our instructor was amazing, and by the end of the day, we were pretty much pros not half bad.

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The obvious height difference on the ski lift cracks me up 🙂

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Yes, I was wearing the same skis as 10-year-old boys.

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At the end of the day our instructor told Andrew to watch out, because the next time he took me skiing I was going to kick his butt 😀

photo (9)Awesome sunset on the drive home

To keep this post from becoming longer than anyone cares to read, I’ll stop here for now, but there are more Colorado adventures to come in another post!

Oh, and the hot flashes?  I’ll save them for my next post as well. 😉