Monday, June 30, 2008

Porch, Pals, and Pittsburgh!

Well, we did it. I am SUCH a clutz, though... can you believe that during the course of this one day project, I spilled - not one, but - TWO cans of paint?? Maybe my Mom is right. Perhaps she SHOULDN'T have let the doctor use the forceps.

I met my neighbor, too.

The porch (AND the columns AND the cornices AND the spindles) is (are) painted!! Thanks for your help, little bro. I wouldn't have done all that you wanted to do, but I'm so glad you talked me into it. It looks great.

I'm now in Pittsburgh for work, and got to hang out with the Fachers yesterday. This is Eliza and Eloise at the Barnes & Noble.

This is the view from my room at the Pittsburgh Hilton. Nice, eh? The new stadium on the right and there is a beautiful fountain to the left. You can't see it, but off further to the left is the incline, and as I went to sleep, I could see a gorgeous church all lit up at the top of the hill. Very pretty. I love Pittsburgh.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sand-a Floor!!

Well, OK, I'm no Mr. Miyagi, but in a vain attempt at doing my own work on my house this weekend (don't worry, my brother is helping), I have plans to paint the porch.

For those of you who know me, I have had my fair share of home improvement projects with the last house I owned. Everyone told me "you don't know what you're getting into." I didn't know what I was getting into. At ALL.

Now, I'm somewhat more realistic about my expectations. Still, because I've been burned before, I now tend to look upon every project as a monumental event. For example, this is my front porch:

This is what my front porch looks like to me when I consider the task of painting it:

I think I'm organized, though. Here's the plan:
1) Bill pressure-washed the area a few weeks ago, so we're all set.
2) Spot sand, clean and paint the bare areas of the deck.
3) Clean the verticals (rails and columns).
4) Prime and paint verticals.
5) While waiting for primer to dry, rip out, measure and cut new latticework for under the porch.
6) Paint deck.
7) Paint latticework.
8) Install latticework.
9) Take bath and drink a beer.

Here's are the big variable:

Wish me luck!!

On Sunday I head to Pittsburgh on business (read: EXPENSED!) and I get to hang out with my friend Jenna and hopefully Andrea ... here's a recent pic of Jenna and her little anklebiters:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


IT DIDN'T RAIN! Thanks goodness. It was funny enough having my food in the garage, part of the party on my front porch, part of the party in my backyard and a dozen kids running up and down the alley behind my house ... if people had been inside it would have been a zoo!

So much fun! We had friends, family, teachers, counselors, neighbors and siblings in attendance. There was nowhere NEAR 127 people (which is fine with me!), but unfortunately Aunt Crazy bought WAY too much food in anticipation of the masses. I don't regret it at all, though, because I gave it all to the Luals to take home and with 10-14 mouths to feed at any given meal, I'm pretty sure it's all gone now!

Here are some pictures from the party. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Seth, Deng, Sadie and Grace

Susan, Kristen, Leslie, Courtney, Awut (Awut Chan, that is, also known as "Big Awut"), Barb, Matt and Amanda

Aunt Crazy

Twins Achan and Anger, who stayed at my house Friday - Sunday to help me prepare

Friends from school

Nicole surprised me with a Birthday Cake! Matt helped light the candles and Deng helped me blow them out!

Nicole and Aunt Crazy

Duk and Deng were all decked out in their little suits at the beginning of the party, but even with the fans supplied as party favors, it was much too hot to wear them the whole time!


Duk, Ramsey Cole, and Deng became fast friends!

Nyabol and Barb were buddied-up quickly, too

Awut Lual (aka "Little Awut"), Deng, Duk, Awut Chan, Achan and Anger Lual

Another Lual tutor, Lauren (who absolutely saved the party by solving the last minute transportation problems of the guests of honor!), Awut's friend Brandon, Awut, and Ayak

Yay and Nyabol's friend, Ernie

Mrs. Abrams (who coordinated the Jamestown Field Trip) and Awut

The alley behind my house - definitely the preferred party zone

Dancing to the Lual 2008 Playlist on my iPod

Friday, June 20, 2008

Party Hearty Marty!

This has been the week of preparations for the big "End of School BBQ" for the family I tutor. It will be on Sunday afternoon ... the invite is above.

Now, help me do the math on this one:

Lual Family = 11
Extended Lual Family = 3
8 invites each for the 7 school-age children - 7 x 8 = 56
Probable number of escorts for invitees = 25
Additional outstanding invites to teachers, counselors, other tutors and friends = 31
Aunt Crazy = 1
Total possible attendees at Sunday's party = 127

Now, that's a lot of cold cuts, baby. Thank goodness these kids don't drink yet - I'd have to take out another mortgage on my house.

So tonight Mo is taking me to Costco (God love her) to procure food. Tomorrow I scoop up a handful of the kids to employ them as child labor in the pre-party setup phase. I've ordered Earth-friendly party supplies and fans for the guests (as party favors) in case it gets hot. Not too much I can do about the rain, though, so PLEASE let it stay dry from 12-4!!!

Wish us luck!! And have a great weekend,
Aunt Crazy

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Bloody Sunday

No, nothing so dramatic as all that, I suppose, but I HAVE bled a bit today coming up against the wrong side of many many stickpins!

Why, you ask?
Because today, I sewed! Like a real sewer. Sewing person. Well, someone who sews, anyway. :) Yesterday Susan spent an hour teaching me about my new sewing machine, bless her heart! It would have been a total waste of money (after my failed attempt at graduating from Clothing Construction in May) to continue to let this beautiful piece of equipment gather dust.

So I woke up this morning and decided to tackle this "turn your old jeans into a skirt" project. I may not yet be ready for Project Runway, I admit, but I'm pretty happy with the results!

Friday, June 13, 2008

It doesn't FEEL like Friday the 13th!

It just feels like FRIDAY! Whoopee!

I am in town this weekend catching up on my weeks of slacking off. It's been fun though! I've gone out to dinner, unpacked all of my treasures from England, and even got to spend several days with my sister's family in Cary last weekend. We had such fun! Here are a couple of the latest pictures of Munchkin and Pipsqueak. It's not often I can get them to grin like this - if only I could get them to smile like this in ONE PICTURE at the SAME TIME! Oh well, it's good to have goals.

Don't forget World Wide Knit in Public Day tomorrow (I know, I know - it was already on your calendars!)

Have a great weekend!

Aunt Crazy

Lauren (Munchkin) as Minnie, with Minnie

Kyla (Pipsqueak) - not to be outdone by her big sister - grabs the nearest Happy Birthday hat

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Complete Anglophile

(In addition to those below, more pictures than anyone can POSSIBLY handle - approximately 550 in all - may be found here ... )

England! What can I say? It was GORGEOUS. I had the absolute BEST time.

Aunt Crazy and huge hat; appropriate only for English weddings and Gospel Churches :)

I arrived at Heathrow on Saturday night *insert image from Love Actually here - 3 minutes into the video on this link, anyway!*, and we headed back to Sophie and Rupert's house in Brentford for a bottle of wine. Sunday morning Rupert made us a true English Breakfast (eaten with Brown Sauce or Ketchup but NOT syrup!) Then we headed to the Victoria and Albert museum for the afternoon. To top off the cultural experience of the day, we saw the new Indiana Jones film in Rupert's old neighborhood of Fulham, and then had dinner at Sophie's favorite Italian restaurant.

Monday was a Bank Holiday, so Rupert came with us to the National Portrait Gallery to see the "80 Years of Vanity Fair" exhibition that Sophie and I were so excited about. We had lunch in the Portrait Gallery in a very "posh" restaurant on the top floor that overlooked most of the London skyline, but more specifically, Trafalgar Square.

Then Rupert went home and Sophie and I tackled the National Gallery and the Courtauld Museum in the Sommerset House. It was a smaller museum, but I DEFINITELY understand why it is Sophie's favorite. It was stunning, and they had a really cool exhibition on "La Loge", which featured only art representing box seats at the theatre and the business of the theatre as THE social scene of hte 19th Century. (Yes, I bought a book!)

I think that was about it for Monday, so we came home and ate a light dinner in front of the TV in the new "Cinema Room." Last year, Sophie and Rupert tackled a major renovation in their London rowhome that involved LIFTING THE ROOF (yes, you read that correctly) to expand their loft space into a full bedroom and bath. It was gorgeous. I love their house.

On Tuesday, we headed to the British Museum in the morning. Then we just walked the streets of London gazing at all the poor saps who had to work that day. We had lunch at "Ye Olde London" pub on Fleet street, and I had my first bitter, London Pride... served at room temperature, naturally!

Sophie and Aunt Crazy at the pub

Then we saw St. Paul's Cathedral and walked across the Millenium Bridge to South Bank to take a look inside the Tate Modern, a new art museum that was renovated from an old, decrepit Power Station. It was really creatively done. We passed the Globe Theatre (reconstructed on the original site of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre of old!) and picked up a couple of Gelati's.

Then the GREATEST THING happened! Sophie turned to me and said "... and right over here was the house they used as Bridget Jones' flat for the movie." WHOA! Step aside Big Ben - we're talking BRIDGET JONES here!

Sophie standing in front of Bridget Jones' flat (the door is just behind her)

Aunt Crazy and Tower Bridge

So then we walked back across the London Bridge to tour the Tower of London. The BLING was incredible! I thought it was really clever how they'd instituted this system of human conveyor belts to make sure that the lines keep moving. (You can go back through the line again as many times as you want, too.)

We saw all of the infamous torture equipment (including a pair of thumb screws - yikes!), the various items of all of the different kings and queens, the gate that opens from the Thames river - giving prisoners their last view of freedom before the inevitable fate that followed their incarceration in The Tower, the scribbles of the prisoners on the wall, and - of course! - the site where Ann Boleyn (and several of Henry VIII's other wives) were hung.

Tuesday night we met a friend of Sophie's at Vertigo, a restaurant on the top floor of Tower 42. 590 feet above the Thames, drinking champagne whilst gazing on 360 degree views of the London skyline ... not too shabby. Not too shabby at ALL.

Wednesday was SHOPPING SHOPPING SHOPPING! I was introduced to Selfridges, and let me tell you, I am in love. (Don't tell my iPhone, who I've been seeing since March... shhhh.)

So what could be better to top off a day of shopping than tea at the legendary Fortnum and Mason? Sophie had made a reservation for us months ago, but only after trying to get into some of London's even more prestigious teahouses. One of my favorite Sophie quotes from the week:

"I'll believe there's a CREDIT CRUNCH when I can make a reservation for tea at Claridge's with less than 6 months' notice!"


Sophie and the famous Fortnum and Mason china

After floating away on four pots of tea and dozens of finger sandwiches, we took the tube over to Covent Garden / Picadilly to see ... get this ... the London production of ....


It was actually quite good! We loved the delivery of the famous lines, the spinning skirts, and the dashing Rhett Butler.

Thursday we headed out of town. On the way out, we stopped at Hampton Court. For those of you who have been religiously following The Tudors, this is the castle that Cardinal Wolsey built then later "gave" to Henry.

Hampton Court Palace

It was really a great way to spend the morning. The idea that this castle perpetually held 2,000 people - at a time when the wheat to make a loaf of bread was milled by hand - is truly incredible to imagine.

After dropping by Stonehenge for approximately 3 minutes (I know, I know, but honestly - it's a bunch of 5,000 year old rocks: How long does it REALLY take to absorb that??), we headed to Somerset to spend a wonderful evening and night at Rupert's parents' house. It was fun to stay in a 180 year old house in the country. Everything you'd picture, really!

Friday morning after a glorious stint at the Book Barn (SOOOO cool), we had lunch with the bride-and-groom-to-be at a pub just behind their house in Farrington Gurney. See below. Simon seemed to enjoy his last few moments of being in charge. :)

Samantha and Simon 24 hours before matrimony

The wedding was in Chewton Mendip and the reception was in Wells, the most adorable town you've ever seen. Excuse me! It is a CITY - the smallest city in Great Britain, by the way. What distinguishes a town from a city is the presence of a cathedral, and the Wells Cathedral certainly qualifies.

Simon, Aunt Crazy, and Samantha

Shutterbug Sophie shooting Aunt Crazy

Shutterbug Aunt Crazy shooting Sophie

The sendoff of the new couple

After an immaculate reading of Corinthians I, Rupert in the car, I enjoyed doing the Hugh Grant moves to "Jump" from the Love Actually soundtrack in the car on the way to the reception.

The lovely bride and groom take on the first dance!

Simon and Samantha are in Bali now on their honeymoon, hopefully having a wonderful time!