Friday, December 29, 2006

The Birthday Girl

Today is the birthday of a very special person--my sister-in-law Jen! She is turning 29 today (such a baby, I know) and we are heading to KC tonight to celebrate! Chad's brother Mark is throwing her a "Magic Birthday--29 on 29" party. Jen is super fun and ultra smart and will kick your tail at Trivial Pursuit or Cranium any day of the week! She is also an accomplished knitter and makes very gorgeous scarves, hats and shawls for friends and family members every Christmas. Jen is patient and thoughtful and funny, and we are very lucky to have her as a sister-in-law! Happy Birthday, Jen!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Blessings

Obviously Christmas was a few days ago, but I just have to share just a few of my favorite pictures of my dear family opening some of their favorite gifts.

Saturday night, our nephew Quinton got a Sponge Bob lamp and pretty much went into hysterics he was so happy. I got a little bit of video of the elation, but unfortunately much of his happiness had passed by the time I got the camera changed to video mode!

Mom loves her beautiful new hat that my sister-in-law Jen knitted especially for her!

On Sunday, Miles and Quinton got a set of 75 hot wheels from Grandma Decker, and they were thrilled! I was just really amazed that they make a set of hot wheels this big!

Miles was pretty jacked about the Leap Pad, even though I'm not really sure he knew what it was at this point!

Hope LOVED her new stuffed animal she opened on Christmas Eve, but in typical Hope fashion, she had ripped it's appendages off in about 15 minutes.

Celtic liked his new froggy, and of course he carried it around the house all evening trying to protect it from his sister, who wanted to tear its appendages off!

My best present arrived on the 25th just before 10 p.m!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Chuckles

My cousin sent me this joke the other day and it really made me laugh!

A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Christmas and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.”

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

“We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this,"

She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, "You are not getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "They're coming for Christmas and paying their own way."

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Saddest Thing Ever

Okay, maybe this isn't the saddest thing EVER, but yesterday was about the biggest bummer of a day I've had in a couple of months. My brother Eric was supposed to fly into Kansas City last night for the Holidays. He lives in LA, and unfortunately was supposed to fly through Denver. If you've seen or read the news at all in the last week, you will of course realize that the Denver airport was closed because of a huge storm, which means that my brother's flight was canceled. Although I knew that on Wednesday, somehow I thought maybe he and his girlfriend Paige would still have enough time to get here before our party on Saturday night that I was so excited for them to attend.

Yesterday morning he called, and I was excited to hear about his new travel plans. Unfortunately, the news wasn't good at all. When they tried to call the airline to reschedule their flight, the phone line was apparently so busy the airline just quit picking it up, so it just rang and rang forever. Luckily, Paige's dad called his travel agent, who gave them a special "travel agent-only" number to call which was actually answered by a person. After THREE AND A HALF hours on hold, they were finally able to rebook their flights by pretending to be a travel agent, but the earliest flight they could get is coming in at 10 p.m. on Christmas day. AAAAACKKKK!!! I am so disappointed. Not only will they miss our party on Saturday, but Eric and I were planning on taking a road trip together to my Dad's in Ohio, and I was so excited to spend a fews days hanging out with him! I tried not to cry to my big brother, since obviously he has no control over it and that would have made him feel worse than he already does, but I have to admit I did cry to some of my coworkers!

I really should be thankful. There are thousands of people who are stranded at the Denver airport, and had Eric and Paige flown a day or two earlier they would probably be among them. If they hadn't called the special travel agent line, they probably couldn't have rescheduled their flight as quickly as they did. My mom is still worried that they'll have trouble flying through Chicago because of all of the Denver related backups, so maybe them getting to Kansas at all will be a real life Christmas miracle! :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Sweetest Thing Ever

My friend Shannon got married in October, and I was very excited that yesterday she finally sent pictures of her wedding day. They are beautifully arranged in a slide show with music which she sent out to all of her friends and family. I asked her if I could share it with my friends (and what better way to do so than on my blog) because there was something super special about Shannon's wedding ceremony: her Great Dane Van Gogh was in attendance. Van Gogh is a huge part of Shannon's life and that of her new husband Phil, so they decided that he should also be part of their wedding day. How sweet is that?

Even though I'm sure the majority of you don't know Shannon, if you're a dog lover (or just a romantic) you will love these pictures! You might have to download the file to watch it, but it is just so sweet it's totally worth the few extra minutes. The pictures of Van Gogh start about half way through, but the music and the rest of the pictures are beautiful too!

Congratulations, Shannon! :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

White Elephants

I've mentioned before how much fun we have with our Journey Group friends from church, and last week's Christmas party was no exception. It was our second annual white elephant gift exchange, and I just wanted to share some of the most unique and hilarious of the items that were given in the spirit of trying to get rid of things in our houses we didn't want. :)

Kristin was lucky enough to choose this lovely head. Cara is a hair stylist, and she had this head left from one of her projects. The Mildrens stole it from Kristin later and named it Steve or Mark or something.

James scored big with a box filled with bunches of girly gifts, deceptively wrapped in NFL wrapping paper. The box's treasures included a little Kimono style cover for a water bottle and some gloves with painted fingernails. James was a great sport about getting in touch with his feminine side!

Chad received a lovely toy that was actually quite mesmerizing once it got some batteries!

Okay, maybe these don't seem quite as funny now that I'm writing about them, but I guarantee you would have laughed if you'd been there! Not a Journey Group meeting goes by without us doubling over with laughter about something or other!

For the complete set of pictures from the evening, you can click here to watch the slideshow!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Picture Perfect Packages

I started this strange tradition several years ago, and honestly, I can't even remember how many years it's been or how I got the idea in the first place. I only know that it's one of the few creative things I do all year long. Most people, including my husband, probably think it's time consuming and silly, but the result is just so darn festive I can't give up the practice!

Every Christmas, instead of purchasing normal wrapping paper and/or gift bags, I wrap all of our presents for friends and family in brown craft paper, then use decorative sponges to paint the packages. The colorful and coordinated gifts are topped off with assorted ribbons. I do the wrapping as the gifts are purchased, and then once I have a big batch of gifts wrapped I spend an evening painting. This was the first batch I did one evening last week.

This probably seems like such a ridiculous waste of time, but I just think they're so pretty! It's a weird tradition that I just can't resist doing every year!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A McPain In My Stomach

Last night, Chad and I did something neither of us had ever done before. It was the KU Alumni Association staff holiday party, and our event included dinner at the Improv Comedy Club in Kansas City at Zona Rosa. If you've never heard of Zona Rosa, it's a Plaza-like shopping/residential area that's up in north Kansas City. A couple of the comics described the area as a little "spray out of a can" version of Kansas City that they created near the airport since the airport is out in the middle of nowhere. It's a beautiful shopping area, but there wasn't anything that out of the ordinary with regard to the stores. We popped into The Sharper Image for a few minutes to see what useless and expensive stuff they had for Christmas, only to find possibly the most ridiculous gadget I've ever seen in my life: the World's First Truly Silent & Efficient Watch Winder. Are you kidding me right now?

Okay, so back to the comedians. The first guy was named Craig Peters and was actually originally from Missouri. He was pretty foul, but very funny. He did this bit about his road trip to KC and how he stopped to have a big McBreakfast and ate his McMuffin and then got a McPain in his side. You can probably imagine where the bit goes from here so I won't repeat it, but needless to say it was hysterical. He was a really funny guy, but I can't find much about him on the Internet except this random picture (that really doesn't look much like him at all) which came from the website of some other comedy club.

The headliner for the evening was a very funny and not quite as foul comedian named Jake Johannsen who is very well-known. He's been on Letterman 32 times, so as you can imagine, there's references to him all over the Internet! You can check out his MySpace page or his website or some videos of him on YouTube. He was very funny. We pretty much laughed nonstop for his entire performance, which I think was about an hour. Some of his material was a little bit racy, but he also has some funny stuff about being newly married and a new father. Overall it was a very funny evening, and I'm really glad we got to go! By the end of the evening, my cheeks hurt and I had a McPain in my stomach from laughing so hard. Tonight is our KUEA Christmas party, which I'm pretty sure will not be nearly as entertaining!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Parent's Worst Nightmare

Someone sent me this picture via e-mail the other day and it made me laugh really hard. Can you imagine how embarrassed you'd be as a parent if you received a copy of your child's "goofy" class picture and your child was the first kid in the front row?

Oh my. That had to be horrifying.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Most Adorable Dogs in the World

The other night while Chad and I were eating dinner, Celtic and Hope struck a pose that was just too cute to ignore. Unfortunately, the only camera within arm's reach was the one on my Palm Pilot, which doesn't offer much clarity. Regardless, I had to capture a shot of this adorable pair.

I'm so glad they've bonded. :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Speaking of Trees...

If you read my last post you know I have an aversion to Scotch Pines trying to poke me to death. Here's an incredible video that someone sent me the other day which only strengthens my disdain of this these dry, prickly trees:

Is that not amazing (and scary)? Just one more reason to love my moist, soft White Pines!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Tree Addiction

Last night, Chad and I finally got around to decorating the Christmas tree we purchased last weekend. For the last 10 years or so, our tradition has been to go out to a local Christmas tree farm and walk around in the freezing cold while Chad picks out trees that are adequate and I explain to him why they aren't perfect for our home. It was actually kind of fun and not really as painful as I'm making it sound.

Our favorite tree farm was this place in Eudora called Pine Hill, which was complete with horse rides, wassail, a pond with ducks, and dogs running around with big bows around their necks. The farmhouse was so gorgeous I would always tell Chad it was my dream house and I wanted to buy it if it went on the market. Then, one Christmas, it did. Of course it was way out of our price range, but the most awful thing about them selling the farm was that it meant our favorite tree farm was closing! The last year they were open, because they hadn't been replanting (knowing they were going to sell) and their crop wasn't that good, they flew in some White Pines and other non-Kansas varieties of trees from some northern states. This is where my tree addiction began.

For those of you who commonly cut your own trees in Kansas, you'll be familiar with the plethora of cuts and stab wounds you usually receive when trying to set up and decorate a Scotch Pine. They are dry and they are prickly. When I saw the beautiful soft, green, flexible needles of the White Pine and realized that I could actually touch it without bleeding, I fell in love. Although it wasn't quite as fun (for me) as walking around the tree farm in search of perfection, it was worth the sacrifice to bring home this soft, perfectly shaped tree that wasn't a fire hazard. Plus, we still enjoyed the ambiance of the tree farm.

So the last couple of years, we've gone to a different local tree farm, yet stuck with the new tradition of walking through the small selection of gorgeous White Pines and picking the most perfect one in 10 minutes or less. It's not quite the same, but this farm does have hot cider, which makes it a little bit festive and fun. It's worth the loss of tradition to get my White Pine fix and stick my face right into the branches!

So last night, we decorated our beautiful tree (that's so perfect it actually looks fake) and put up the rest of the Christmas decorations in preparation for our favorite holiday! We really only have one important tradition when it comes to tree decoration:

If you can't tell exactly what is happening here, it's the ceremonial hanging of Chad's favorite ornaments--Larry Bird and the more recently acquired Steelers bulb. I think we have a picture of Chad hanging Larry Bird for like the last 5 years, at least!

Anyway, after an evening of tree decorating we are very pleased with our beautifully soft White Pine!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

You probably think I'm referring to Pearl Harbor, but actually, in the Luce household, December 7 is the anniversary of another very significant event in history--at least in our personal history! Five years ago today, I took Chad to the emergency room with severe stomach pains. After a long wait and thorough examination, the surgeon on call assured us that Chad needed a "textbook appendectomy." HA! When this simple surgery lasted way longer than expected, the surgeon came into the waiting room to inform me that he wasn't even able to find Chad's appendix, since his appendix wasn't enlarged in the least. What he did find, however, was a fist-sized mass in Chad's colon, which turned out to be diverticulitis. To make a long story short and spare you the gory details, complications from this surgery to remove the mass led to a second surgery 6 days later, which led to a grueling hospital stay of 16 days. Watching Chad suffer through the pain of those surgeries and the subsequent recovery had to be one of the most physically and emotionally draining two weeks of my life! I couldn't even fathom how difficult it was for him. Finally, on December 23, just in time for Christmas, I brought my weak and emaciated husband home from the hospital. One of these days I'll hook up the scanner (five years ago we didn't have a digital camera) and show pictures of what he looked like when he came home. I believe he weighed just under 160 pounds. It was crazy!

Due to the nature of Chad's surgery, about 2 months later he had to go back for a third and final surgery, just days after his 30th birthday. Thankfully, all went smoothly and he was out of the hospital in a mere 7 days. Fortunately, his problems since then have been relatively minimal and he leads a fairly normal life considering he's missing half of his large intestine!

While I'd certainly never want for either of us to have to go through something like that again, I know it was a learning experience--one that strengthened us as individuals and as a couple, and one that definitely strengthened our faith. We saw God's hand in so many of the circumstances surrounding the event, there was no doubt that it was all part of His ultimate plan! Not a fun trial, I assure you, but one that we're thankful is 5 years behind us!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Speaking of Creative Friends...

Last week, my friend Amber and I went to a "Bead and Beauty" party to check out my friend Kristin's latest jewelry designs. For the last few years Kristin has been selling her original creations around the holidays because they make such wonderful Christmas presents. This year she had what seemed like hundreds of bracelets, necklaces and earrings on display. She even had beads available for you to make your own necklaces, which I did, with a little help from Amber! Although the idea was to go shopping for gifts for friends and family, I actually fell in love with one bracelet that I ended up buying for myself. It's kind of hard to tell what they look like from the picture, but here are my beautiful new purchases, most of which will be given to loved ones for Christmas.

Kristin is super creative and has lots of jewelry to choose from, so if you're interested in some of her designs, I can probably hook you up!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Festive Trees

This week I went to an annual Lawrence event called the Festival of Trees. It's a benefit that supports The Shelter, Inc., which is a local organization that provides emergency social services for children in our community. I probably wouldn't have attended the event except that my friend Amanda, who used to be a graphic designer at Endowment, was the featured local artist for the event this year. She was commissioned to make 25 handmade ornaments to sell at the event, the proceeds of which would benefit The Shelter. There was a whole article about her in the Lawrence Journal-World that talks about her ornaments in particular and her art in general. There's even a link to a slideshow with audio commentary by Amanda. It's pretty cool! She's super talented, and you can see lots more of her work on her website, I just love her work and could spend hours looking through her portfolio. I was lucky enough to purchase the very last one of her handmade ornaments on the last day of the festival, and we discovered that it compliments our red kitchen beautifully! I'll be displaying it year round instead of just at Christmas!

Anyway, the Festival of Trees raises funds by receiving donations of uniquely decorated trees from people and organizations in the community, and then auctioning them off to other people and organizations in the community. It might sound a little silly, but when I actually went this year, I was pleasantly surprised at how many really fun and unique entries there were. I was hoping that the Journal-World would have lots of pictures of the fun entrants, because some of them were just too crazy or complicated to describe. Some of them weren't even really trees at all, like the entry from Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, which was actually like four little putting greens stacked on top of one another in the shape of a tree. Many of the trees has particular themes, like the Dr. Seuss tree, which apparently sold for more than $2000. There were trees with decorations made by children, and trees that were themselves made of recycled metal. It was really interesting! Although the Journal-World didn't publish many pictures with their article the following day, they did publish a link to the local news coverage, so you can get a glimpse of a few of the trees!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Matt's the Man

The other day I blogged in honor of my friend Erika's birthday, so today I thought I'd send out birthday wishes to her husband Matt as well. How fun is it that they have birthdays just a few days apart?!

Matt is a super smart guy and a talented designer of all sorts of cool stuff. Just check out his awesome website and all of the crazy things in the "fun projects" section. I think one of the most amazing is his current "Pope by Pope" sketch experiment in which he is doing blind contour drawings of each of the Popes throughout history. Some of my other personal favorites are the Vestimentis Ursum projects in which he takes apart mechanical children's toys. Even the picture of Matt above is part of a unique project of his from last year--he grew a beard and then spent a week just shaving it off, bit by bit! There aren't many people in this world as creative as Matt, that's for sure! Happy birthday to the other half of the Kirklands!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm Freezing!

As I drove home from work yesterday, there were joggers and dog walkers out in t-shirts and shorts. Chad and I walked the dogs together late in the evening, and he didn't even wear a sweatshirt. Today, I had to scrape the ice off my car for ten minutes when I left the office. Activities all over town were canceled due to inclement weather. This is what our patio looked like when I arrived home.

Yesterday, the high was 71 degrees, which was an unofficial new record. Right now, the wind chill is 14 degrees. I understand the concept of a cold front, but a 50 degree temperature swing in a matter of 24 hours is a little ridiculous, don't you think? I mean seriously--I'm freezing!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Happy (Late) Birthday, Erika!!

Sadly, I'm a day (or two) late posting birthday greetings to our wonderful friend Erika! Her birthday was the 27th, and while it's the 28th where I am, it's actually the 29th where she is! How is this possible, you ask? Erika and her husband Matt recently moved from Lawrence to Hong Kong, where they are 13 hours ahead of us.

Erika, who is seen here with her adorable nephew Brayden, is a very creative person who was a super-duper florist and chocolatier during their days here in Lawrence. She has a very entertaining blog about their transition to the Far East which was one of my inspirations to start blogging. Of course, her life in Hong Kong is much more interesting than ours in the Midwest, but I decided to follow in her blogging footsteps none the less.

While we certainly miss Erika and Matt and the fun times that we had with them at our weekly Journey Group gatherings, we are definitely enjoying the entertaining stories of their new adventures in China. It's a life I can hardly fathom and would definitely never be brave enough to try. So Erika is not only creative and funny and talented and beautiful, but she's courageous as well! Oh--and she's also frequently known as Erika the Encourager. :)

Happy Birthday, friend! We miss you!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Highlights and Lowlights

My plan for today was to share the highlights of Saturday's exciting trip to Columbia to watch our Jayhawks play Mizzou. Unfortunately, the trip wasn't very exciting at all and there were very few highlights in the game. I'm sure many of you are wondering what in the world could have possibly possessed us to travel to hostile Tiger territory to watch a mediocre Jayhawk team that has struggled with consistency this year. Besides the obvious answer (that we are extremely loyal and dedicated fans), we just had such a fun time at the previous week's victory over K-State, we decided a road trip with friends to support our boys in blue would be an exciting adventure. Even though we never found any friends who could go along, Chad and I still left at 6 a.m. on Saturday and drove the 165 miles to Columbia with high hopes.

While the game actually stayed relatively close all the way into the 3rd quarter, KU never actually looked very solid. They could only run the ball and their defense was like a sieve. Even so, we were only down by 3 points and were about to get the ball back when one of our guys jumped offsides, giving Missouri a first down when they should have been punting. That was pretty much all she wrote. After that, Missouri outscored us 22-0. Ugh. I can't even remember any actual highlights to share.

I guess one thing that was pleasantly surprising was that we didn't encounter any rude or offensive Missouri fans. We sat with a fairly large KU contingent during the game, but we walked around a little at halftime and the Tigers were surprisingly well behaved. Since we are normal KU fans and generally despise people from Mizzou, we half expected to be accosted at some point while we were there. Maybe Chad will be a little less prejudiced against MU grads because of our positive experience. :) By the way, Missouri's stadium is quite beautiful, although there are some traffic flow issues in certain areas. We didn't see much of the rest of the campus, but at least this structure was really very nice.

Upon our return on Saturday, we were thankfully comforted by KU's incredible win in basketball over the the #1 Florida Gators! Since the game started way too late for us old people and then went into overtime, I was struggling to stay awake by the end and started taking power naps during the time outs. We almost gave the game away at the end of regulation after making some stupid fouls, but we hung on to win 82-80. If you didn't get to watch the game and want to see some highlights, click here. The local sports guy isn't so great, but at least you can see a few of the bright spots from the evening!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Dog Park Adventure

Today we did something that we hadn't done since Hope came to live with us in August of 2005: we took her to the dog park. We used to go to the dog park fairly frequently when it was just us and the boys, even though they would often disobey their parents by heading back into the woods to hunt for rabbits, we always knew they wouldn't go too far and would eventually come back to us when they got tired enough. With Hope, we had concerns about her hunting instinct overpowering her desire to obey, so we really put off taking her somewhere where she would be off leash in an unfenced area. Since the weather is absolutely gorgeous today and we didn't have any other important plans, we decided to finally give the dog park a try.

The park started out well, with Hope cautiously checking out the area and shying away from the other dogs. She hung out near Celtic for about the first 5 minutes we were there.

Then we started on a little walk through some of the trails of the park, and Hope looked up at all of the open fields before her, and she TOOK OFF!!! Here's a nice picture of Chad running to catch up with her (with Celtic not far behind), since she clearly was completely ignoring the fact that we were calling her.

So after a scolding and another attempt with her off leash, followed by another sprint by Chad to catch up with her, we took a nice walk around the park with her ON the leash. We decided to give her one more try off leash after we got back to where some other dogs were playing, but as soon as she saw the open field again she took off in a dead sprint in the opposite direction of where we were. Chad was NOT happy with her, to say the least. I'm not sure how far she would have gone if it weren't for a pair of boxers who were playing out in the middle of the field she was running through. When they turned to chase her, she turned tail and sprinted straight back to Chad. We actually had to laugh since she had been completely ignoring him until she was scared, at which point she fled back to the security of her daddy's arms. :) Regardless, the rest of our walk was an enjoyable one ON leash through some of the scenic wooded areas of the park.

Even though our first dog park experience wasn't as successful as we had hoped, we still think the dogs had a good time, based on their appearance during the ride home.

You be the judge. :)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Reasons For Thanksgiving

It only seems appropriate that today I would share some of the many things for which I am thankful.

*I'm thankful for an awesome husband who helped clean house this morning and then even set the table for dinner, after searching online how to fold the napkins into fancy shapes (please excuse the folding chairs and the wrinkled tablecloth that I refused to iron).

*I'm thankful that all of my hard work from yesterday paid off, and that today's meal turned out really, really good! We baked a turkey and a small ham this morning, and then Chad made mashed potatoes. I even made gravy for the first time and was actually successful at it! The meal got rave reviews from everyone in attendance.

*Speaking of those in attendance, I'm thankful that Chad's Grandma Decker was able to join us for dinner despite her less than good health, and for Grandma's niece Patty who drove them all the way from Salina.

*I'm thankful for Chad's parents Mark and Ginny, who are rarely able to come visit us in Lawrence but made the trip to be with us today!

*I'm so thankful that my Mom is still with us this Thanksgiving after her difficult battle with cancer this year! I'm also thankful for her very sweet, but very old dog Ginger, who brings Mom and Cliff so much joy.

*I'm thankful that even though my brother Eric isn't home for Thanksgiving, he will be coming home for 10 days around Christmas!

*I'm thankful that our friends Matt and Erika's cat Quincy arrived safely in Hong Kong yesterday to join them in their new home there.

*I'm thankful that tomorrow we have a whole day off with absolutely nothing to do except hang out and be lazy.

There are so many other things for which I'm thankful, but one that is especially worth mentioning is the blessing of so many good friends that we love dearly! I could make a list, but for fear of leaving someone out, let me just say that you know who you are! Thanks for being so much fun--we love you all.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cooking Craziness

Wow. What a day. This morning, since I hadn't blogged for several days, I'd planned on talking about how great the last several days had been for many of our favorite sports team. However, my day of Thanksgiving feast preparation took me way longer than expected!

Here's what I fixed today, most of which will be baked tomorrow:

Cherry/Pineapple Jello
Blue Cranberry Sauce
Creamy Green Bean Bake
Homemade Shells and Cheese (like my Grandma Seaman used to make)
Apple Cornbread Stuffing
Sweet Potato Casserole
Squash Casserole
Dinner Rolls (from scratch)
Cornbread (from a mix)
2 Pumpkin Pies
Brine for Soaking the Turkey

Needless to say, it's been a long day and I'm really tired. Although my assistants Celtic and Hope where usually there to help me clean up my spills, for the most part this was a one woman job! The funny thing is, every other day of the year, cooking at our house is mostly a one man job, with Chad being the head chef and me being the assistant. Chad seemed completely fascinated today that I was even capable of such cooking and baking expertise!

So tonight as I rest my head on the pillow with my trusty laptop as the clock reads 11:59, my back and feet ache from standing, but my head and heart are very satisfied with the accomplishments of the day!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We're Down With OCC

Those of you who are our age might catch my musical reference, but actually this post has nothing to do with bad rap songs from from the early 90s. The OCC I'm talking about is Operation Christmas Child, a really neat project of a Christian service organization called Samaritan's Purse. We've participated in this project for the last few years, and although it's very simple, it's also very fun and rewarding. You can watch the video from the Operation Christmas Child link above to get a more detailed look at what it's all about, but in a nutshell, people fill up shoe boxes with gifts and toys for small children, and then OCC delivers those boxes to children in very remote areas of the world who may have never heard about Jesus and the celebration of his birth.

For the last couple of years, we've gone with our Journey Group (bible study/fellowship group) to the dollar store and had a blast picking out toys and gifts for our boxes. Here's all the cool stuff we got this year (for a 5-9 year old girl) and the process of putting it all together!

Voila! Our box is all ready to go, so today we'll deliver it to our church, and then someone from our church will take all the boxes to an official OCC drop off location, where I assume other volunteers for the organization will pick them up. Last year, Samaritan's Purse collected over 7.6 million shoe boxes and delivered them to children in 95 different countries! We think it's a really cool program!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Old 97's

I actually posted this video temporarily a few days ago when I was practicing embedding a YouTube video into my blog. Because it's my favorite band in the world, I decided it deserved a permanent place in Luce Chatter blog history.

I know I've tried to explain to my friends and family a million times how awesome the Old 97's are live, but you can't really get the full experience until you've been there. I promise you, the next time they come anywhere near Lawrence I will be all over every one I know to go see them!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Medicinal Tequila

Someone sent me this via e-mail the other day, and it is so darn hilarious, I just had to share. Be forewarned, however, that it's not exactly suitable for all ages!

I haven't looked at JibJab for quite some time, but I originally heard of the site when they did a hilarious parody of George Bush and John Kerry during the last presidential election. If you never watched this JibJab original (or even if you did), you should really check it out!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Roof Over Our Heads

This really isn't very exciting news, but a couple of weeks ago we got the roof replaced on our house. When Lawrence had that big storm in March that damaged all the buildings on campus, there was some hail in our neighborhood which damaged lots of rooftops. Ours didn't see nearly as much damage as most, so we kind of worried that the insurance wouldn't cover it, but thankfully it did! Like a typical woman, I changed my mind about 4 times before we decided (okay I decided) on which colored shingles looked best with the house. Now that there's no going back, I'm still not entirely sure we made (okay I made) the best choice, but I guess anything's an improvement from the low-grade materials that were used when the roof was constructed in 1993. Here are before and after pictures so you can judge for yourself if the new color is an improvement.


I guess it's a little hard to see the color because of the glare of the sun, but a keen eye will notice that in addition to the roof, we've also had the windows and siding replaced since that first picture was taking back in early 2005. We might be taking baby steps, but we're trying to keep on top of all the needed repairs and home improvements!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hope Is Weird, Part Two

So here's the story that prompted the post about Hope's weirdness in the first place.

Back in early October, you loyal readers (I know there are just so many of you) will remember that I blogged about our dear little Hope's confusion when her brother was running around the yard tracking the scent of a small animal that she couldn't see. Well just a couple of weeks after that, we let the dogs outside one night for their final potty break, and much to our chagrin they kicked up a rabbit in the yard, and of course proceeded to bay and bawl at the top of their lungs and chase the rabbit running for his life. Now because it was dark, we're not exactly sure how this happened, but Hope actually caught this poor rabbit in her mouth during the chase. Thankfully, she let it go, either because she wanted to chase it some more or because it wriggled free, and the little bunny found a way to escape from the yard. As you can imagine, after this excitement, neither Hope nor Celtic had any interest in coming inside and going to bed, and yet we didn't realize at the time what a life changing experience this would be for our little girl. Apparently, Hope has now realized her purpose in life--her raison d'ĂȘtre, if you will. She now knows what it means to be a scenthound.

Although rather uneventful, here is a little video that I shot over the weekend so that I could capture her quirky behavior and share her new favorite pastime. It's just with our small digital camera, so the quality isn't that great. In the first one I shot I used the zoom, which made it even grainier, so this is video clip number 2.

At first, Hope's new love of being active in the great outdoors seemed like a good thing. She is getting exercise and clearly enjoying herself, and we can handle walking out to the yard to drag her in on occasion. However, on Saturday night, after she'd spent many hours of the day with her nose to the ground, we noticed something horrible:

Look at the poor girl's snout! She's become such an obsessed sniff-o-holic that she has rubbed her face raw. :( Now we're having to let her out for just a few minutes at a time, forcing her back inside when she won't come willingly. Our silly girl has gone from being completely uninterested in tracking wildlife to completely obsessive-compulsive in a matter of weeks. She spent almost the entire evening standing at the back door, crying to be let out. She's definitely a strange ranger about some things, but as everyone who has met her knows, her sweetness certainly outweighs her weirdness!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hope Is Weird

If you haven't met our dog Hope, she can be a little strange. We excuse her oddities because we know she had a rough life before she came to live in the comfort of the Luce household. It's kind of long, but here's the story of how she came to live with us:

When I first saw Hope at the shelter in the summer of 2005, she was in the holding area (not available for adoption) nursing a litter of puppies. My friend JoAnna and I were just looking through the holding area to see what dogs would soon be "moving up" to the dog adopt area. When we got to Hope's kennel and saw those sad hound eyes, I immediately fell in love with her. Then we walked around to the back side of her kennel and saw her information card, which said HEARTWORM POSITIVE across the bottom. My heart dropped and I almost burst into tears, because we knew that a positive heartworm test meant that she would be euthanized as soon as her puppies were weaned. Treating for heartworms is expensive, and the shelter just doesn't have the funds to do it. Since Chad and I hadn't had a foster dog in a while, I went straight home and told Chad that I'd found our next rescue. When I told him that she was heartworm positive, he of course asked who was going to pay for her treatment, to which I replied, "Uh...that would be us." Chad wasn't exactly sure this was a good idea, so I dropped the issue for the time being, since I knew I had a few more weeks to work on him while she was weaning her pups.

For the next couple of months, every weekend when I was at the shelter I would go visit Hope, who was actually named Shelly at the time. On each visit, I would tell her that I was going to name her Hope because I hoped she would survive her heartworm treatment and find a wonderful home. One weekend my dad was visiting and came with me to the shelter, and when I took him back to the holding area to see Hope, I'll never forget him saying, "That's the saddest dog I've ever seen in my life."

So by August, Chad had agreed that we could foster her, and on August 22, 2005, we finally brought Hope home. Immediately we noticed the many scars, emotional and physical, that this sweet little girl had. She cowered pretty much every time you wanted her to come to you, and if you used a stern voice at all she would just freeze in terror. She had big chunks of flesh gone from both ears and a wicked scar around the knee of her back leg. Not only had her previous owners clearly neglected her--evidenced by the fact that she hadn't been spayed or put on heartworm preventative--but it appeared that they had mistreated her as well.

After a few days of getting her settled, we took her to the vet to start her heartworm treatment. She stayed at the vet's office for 2 days while they injected her with arsenic, and then she got to come home for the 30 day resting period that follows. During that time, she had to be kenneled while we were gone and could only go outside on a chain so that she wasn't able run around. If her heart rate were to go up while her body was killing off the heartworms, the decomposing worms might get pumped through her veins too quickly, causing a dangerous clot (gross, I know). During her 30 days on a chain, we noticed how agile and deftly she moved while tethered (as opposed to Steeler and Celtic, who would manage to get themselves tangled in about 30 seconds), and we decided that she must have spent much of her previous life tied to one. In fact, as we inspected the scar on her back leg more closely, we realized that it looked like the indentations of a rope or a chain that had dug into her skin after a particularly bad entanglement.

Although it was a big of a struggle to keep Hope subdued for 30 days, at the end of the month she went back to the vet for a final injection, and was able to come home and be a normal dog. Housebreaking went pretty well considering her age (which was estimated at 5-7, even though now we think she's a little younger), and her other house manners were remarkably good for a dog who'd lived her whole life outside. The boys seemed to really like her, more so than most of the other fosters we'd had over the years. We started actively looking for a permanent home for her, and a few weeks later we took her to visit a potential family. They seemed to really like her, but I wasn't too sure about them. I cried the entire way home from their house because I didn't want to let her go. Thankfully, the family decided to get a puppy instead.

Many more weeks went by without anyone showing much interest in Hope. Chad and I talked a lot about how much we loved her, and discussed the idea of keeping her, but we realized that if we adopted Hope there was no way we could ever foster again, because 4 dogs would just be too many. Then sometime in early December, a really nice couple came over to meet her as a potential playmate for their Lab. We really liked them and we took Hope over to meet their dog later that week. The dogs seemed to get along, the couple was really nice, and Hope didn't even seem to notice their cat who was perched up on the furniture. We left her there for the afternoon, thinking that we'd finally found the perfect home, and decided that if this perfect family fell through, she would definitely become our dog. A few hours later they called and said that once their cat got up to move, Hope started chasing him, and they couldn't get her to stop. As much as I had liked them, I was secretly so happy! I didn't even care that we'd never be able to foster again because we loved her so much and she fit so perfectly into our family. A few weeks later, we signed the adoption papers and she officially became Hope Luce. :)

Now I actually started this post because I was going to tell a story about Hope's weirdness, but clearly this has gotten way too long, so tune in for her weirdo story tomorrow.