Foto Friday: There’s a Yankee in the Doodle House (how dandy!)

It’s Picture Day today at the middle school where Heath teaches. With this in mind, I’m resurrecting Foto Friday this week because everyone deserves to see the outfit my favorite history teacher chose to grace the pages of the RBMS yearbook.

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Is he a great teacher or what?

(Props go to Mama Joy for making such a kick ass Yankee uniform.)


Gone are the days

From where I’m standing,  there are two schools of thought on what to do with a place, a home, when one of the people who loved it and lived within its walls perishes. It’s inevitable, I suppose, that part of what you once loved about the home would leave along with the departed, causing the remaining inhabitant(s) to become prisoners of their own surroundings.  But it’s also true that you might love the place all the more for the memories it stirs, deriving comfort and familiarity.  Such is the paradox of a home in mourning. It remains partly a tribute to the person who loved it and partly haunted by their absence. How much of one or the other tugs at the subconscious is what inevitably drives us to either stay submerged in the memory or move forward its shadow.

To summarize my metaphorical ramblings, I’m grieving the loss of my grandparents’ house. Since my grandmother, Oma,  died in 2009, my grandfather, Papa, has been diligently keeping the house they shared together in working order. I wouldn’t say he’s been struggling with the upkeep, but it’s not been without it’s challenges. A few days ago, he finally moved out—putting the only house I’ve known he and Oma to call home, on the market for the highest bidder.

It’s a beauty of a house, a grand old thing they built together in the Texas hill country before I was born. Allegedly they traveled the country in an RV for some undetermined but lengthy amount of time before deciding there was no better place on this planet to retire than the outskirts of New Braunfels, Texas. They bought two adjacent lots and planted their house in the middle of a grove of native trees. As a kid, it was an epic destination, as every proper grandparent house ought to be. To begin with, the house served as the setting in which I was permitted to inhale more homemade cookies than I was ever allowed at home. Then there was the hearth, which instead of a traditional fireplace, was actually an elevated stone platform that played host to a shiny blue franklin stove. But this unconventional setup turned out to be the ideal location for after dinner “talent” shows where I forced my doting family to sit through dramatic readings of my favorite children’s books or bizarre musical numbers I had written 15 minutes prior to showtime. Bro’s and my original performance of Mexican Date, I’m told was a big hit.  But cookies and attention-seeking behavior aside, the house is where I did my bonding with Oma. That’s where we cooked together and picked peaches. We rocked back and forth on the porch together, admiring the rolling grass like you’d admire waves from the deck of a ship. She told me stories and in turn I’m sure I provided an endless supply of laughter and general adorableness. It’s where I had the privilege to truly know my only living biological grandparent. After Oma died, the house is where I took Heath to engage in philosophical debates with Papa that would start around 5, cocktail hour, and carry on well into the night. The routine was fairly standard—cocktails at 5, dinner around 6:30, mind-spinning conversation until 9 and then sherry on the porch; but while predictable, dinners at Papa’s house were nonetheless looked forward to with monumental anticipation. Two weeks ago, Heath and I had our last-ever cocktail hour in the most consistent house of my childhood, and it’s not an easy experience to swallow.

The reasons for Papa relinquishing control of the house are fairly practical. It’s a lot of upkeep for one person, and while New Braunfels has grown exponentially from the time he and Oma first settled in, it’s a bit of a drive from  the town center. And he’s lonely, I would be too. And living that far, that isolated from human interaction was wearing on him. He traded drinking sherry alone for the opportunity to dine with friends in a growing retirement community. I’m glad he knows what he wants, and that at 88 he doesn’t think he’s too old to go after it. I admire that. And if I chose that path for myself, I would want my grandkids, hell, everyone, to be happy for me.

But I’m still a little heartbroken. Damn those childhood houses and their emotional hooks.

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The philosophical debates on exestentialism and excessive wine drinking will continue, however; even if the venue has changed. And that is something I can cheers to.


Foto Friday — Mother’s Day Edition!

We’re celebrating mother’s day a smidge early at the doodle house. After all, why would we wait until Sunday to celebrate when Friday is everyone’s favorite day of the week anyway?  Our thoughts exactly.

Here’s a photographic tribute to our wonderful moms. The women who both changed our diapers and watched us graduate from college, and in between taught us right from wrong, read with us, cooked for us, cheered for us, cryed with us and loved us unconditionally. A blog post hardly seems a proper platform to  begin to show our gratitude for all your years of selfless giving and affection, but we want you to know we love you back. Thanks Joy and Gretchen for being the best moms in the world.

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A very doodle Christmas

Merry holidays from the doodle fam!  It’s been a rather unconventional Christmas this year for Heath and me—partly because we hosted the family Christmas celebrations for the first time, partly because we celebrated on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, and MOSTLY because today we take off for our two-week vacation in India!  New posts will be absent from the DH blog for the next two weeks, but I’m hoping to come roaring back with hundreds of pictures and tales of our travels when we return.

Until then, enjoy your friends and family as we have enjoyed ours this holiday!

Some of the family (dog included) cuddled up on the couch pre present-opening.

Some of the family (dog included) cuddled up on the couch pre present-opening.

Cooking in the kitchen with mom.

Cooking in the kitchen with mom.

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Heath enjoying some Stephen Colbert.

Heath enjoying some Stephen Colbert.

Bro got a girlfriend for Christmas.

Bro got a girlfriend for Christmas.

christmastable

Our family’s tradition is to make fish (and shrimp, and mussel, and scallop) stew for Christmas dinner. Unconventional perhaps, but none the less delicious.

I wonder if Stella knows it's Christmas.

I wonder if Stella knows it’s Christmas.

My fantastic parents who celebrate 15 years of marriage tomorrow!

My fantastic parents who celebrate 15 years of marriage tomorrow!

Heath and me with Papa, my remarkable and beloved grandfather.

Heath and me with Papa, my remarkable and beloved grandfather.

 

 


Best before and after ever?

Admittedly, waiting a week between blog posts is unacceptable, and for this I apologize.

You see, I’ve been a bit busy over the past week. For one… I changed jobs, which has been wonderfully exhilarating but very time consuming. And for another, we have been wrapped up in a major yard rejuvenation. My garden guru (mom) has been staying with us for the past week to help us install a custom landscaping plan she designed for our front and back yard. She and Heath have been waking up at  7 am every morning to put the plan into action. I wouldn’t believe the transformation if I wasn’t part of the process.

I squeal with glee at the end result. What all did the plan entail, you ask?

1.) Weeding the existing flower bed

2.) Cleaning the succulent planter and adding gravel to cover the dirt

3.) Pruning the trees

4.) Marking a curvature for the bed

5.) Leveling and installing paver borders

6.) Scrapping grass from the walkway and landing

7.) Installing and leveling the paver walkway

8.) Shopping endlessly at various nurseries for the perfect plants and pavers

9.) Installing the plants

10.) Mulching

11.) Mowing

12.) Edging

Already we are at step 12 and I can’t begin to describe the lengths they’ve gone to to make sure the new plan is not only installed but also poised for success. Every paver was perfectly placed and leveled and every plant was meticulously chosen, taking into consideration its water needs, soil needs, future growth, and cohesion with other plants. Nothing was selected on a whim. As good as it looks now, I know it will look even more marvelous once the plants mature.

Of course, the front is only half the story. The back is still in the works, but already we’re making progress to turn that from a wonky and weed-laden war zone to  polished and pristine courtyard.

There’s more to tackle in the rear, as most of the projects taking place back there this week have been less the stuff of glamorous makeovers and more maintenance (taking care of some of the things we let slide during the school year). We removed a large brush pile we had long been ignoring, chopped down a dying tree, pruned up a tenacious Pecan and cleaned and reorganized the shed. And of course, there was a bit of harvesting.

Tomorrow is dear mom’s last day gardening at the old doodle house, but at this rate  I wouldn’t put it past her to install a swimming pool back there just to prove she could. The woman’s a landscaping machine. I can’t wait for our next back yard bbq to show off the fancy new digs.

Heath and Mom relax after a solid day of work in the garden. Pool to come soon? Or how about a tree house? I wouldn’t put either option past these two.


Holly gets hitched!

It’s rare that I would write 2 wedding-related posts in a week, but our lives have been pretty matrimonial as of late. So far this year we have been invited to:

-4 weddings (with 3 more still to come)
-6 wedding showers
-4 bachelorette parties.

Apparently ’tis the season. This weekend at least was the last of our Denton weddings until September, but we went out with a bang–celebrating the union of Ryan to Holly, Heath’s youngest sister.

Family weddings are usually special in their own merit, but this one was particularly meaningful because we both had a part in it: Heath walked the bride down the aisle and I got yet another chance to play photographer. Hooray for being useful!

We were thrilled to send Ryan and Holly off in style, but I’m definitely looking forward to a few weekends spent at home with the doodles rather than traveling up and down the I-35 corridor.

Congrats to Ryan and Holly! Thanks for letting my camera crash your big day!


Happy Blogiversary!

Today marks two years of blogging from the doodle house!

Documenting our lives and sharing the things that have entertained and inspired us has been tremendously rewarding. The blog has been a place where I can be creative and goofy and honest, and I’m so happy to have found such joy in this little hobby.

Some highlights of what we’ve done and seen in the last two years…

We added chickens to our family….

And we took some chickens away…

We got married!

And honeymooned…

We got our feet wet with gardening…

We bought a new house!

We traveled…

And traveled…

And traveled a little more…

It’s been a thoroughly eventful two years. There’s no telling what the next two will hold.


More ideas from my garden coach

Heath and I have been spending a lot of time in Denton lately, which for us means spending a lot of time in my mom’s garden. It’s not a bad place to be. Over the past few weeks, her front yard has really started to burst with color.

A view of the front yard from my mother’s walkway.

 

The charismatic front porch.

Looking out toward the street. (While I’m taking photos, good old mom is hard at work mowing.) 

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A foot path through the flora.

Flower bed detail

Very Alice in Wonderland

Her terracotta terrace.

Absolutely the prettiest tomato cage I’ve ever seen.

After telling my mom I liked her sun dial, she immediately went out and bought me one. I guess I need to start aiming a little higher if that’s how she’s gonna play it.

The garden lining the driveway.

She is so creative with her use of color and texture. I can’t wait for her to come makeover our space. Happy gardening!


SURPRISE!

We’re having a boy!

A 6-foot-tall, 180-pound boy, also known as Bro.

Yes, we’ve reached that stage in life that every young couple dreams of. After you’ve graduated from college, nailed down a respectable job, and bought your first house, it becomes time to lovingly welcome a Bro into your life.

Bro is my little brother, my only “real” sibling if you want to get technical about it. And although he is a complete goober, I am a little fond of him and would (rightfully) do anything for him. So when it became a little tough for this UT anthropology graduate to find a job in “these tough economic times” we thought it fair to let him bunk with us at The Doodle House until he can figure things out.

So the past couple days on the east side have been a little chaotic. Bro hasn’t graced us with his presence yet, but we’ve been plenty busy clearing out closets and rooms to prepare for his arrival. It goes to figure, you get the house set up just the way you like it and then, like that, you find yourself in the midst of a  complete reorganization of house and home. Bro will be staying in the office, which means saying goodbye to my peaceful grey nook and hello to a man cave.

That, of course, means finding places elsewhere in the house for the day bed, bookshelf, and desk that currently take up real estate here. The past week this same scene has been playing on repeat:

  • I move a piece of furniture to whatever place in the house I think it will fit.
  • I live with it for a few days and decide I don’t like it there.
  • I move it again.

Bless Heath for coming to my rescue every time I yell “MOOSHY, WILL YOU COME HELP ME MOVE THIS?!” from across the house (it’s been about 4 times a day).

Hopefully by the time Bro’s big move in day arrives, we will have gotten things sorted. Until then, I know how I’ll be spending my evenings. At least I don’t have to worry about lifting weights…

To Bro!


Papa’s Hill Country Hideaway

As kiddos, visits to the grandparents’ house were always looked forward to with great anticipation. Like most youngsters, I relished the time I had to spend with my grandparents because, of course as grand parents do, they doted on me incessantly and spoiled me rotten with baked goods and mouthwatering, artery clogging four course meals. Getting there was half the fun too. My Oma and Papa lived 5 hours South of us on the freeway–a trip that was actually more like 12 hours once you factor in a stop at the outlet mall for an obligatory road trip souvenir and a not-so-speedy run to the Czech Stop to purchase more fruit and cream cheese kolaches than should ever be consumed during a lifetime. But sweets and treats aside, I still loved visiting their home in the Texas Hill Country.

As a chubby tot I loved their home for very different reasons than I do now. A pier and beam craftsman with a giant wrap around porch, being on the deck at Oma and Papa’s felt like being a passenger on a cruise line sailing over a sea of wildflowers. Few sensations beat the one that came with dangling my little legs over the side of the porch while looking over blue bonnets and pear trees and making a mess of my mango juice and Sloppy Joe. Yes, as a kid  (and maybe a little bit as an adult too), that was pretty much as good as it got.

Inside was great too. A Franklin stove in the living room set inside a special elevated stone nook proved to be a great stage on which to perform scenes from my favorite storybooks for the family after dinner. A house that features spectacular views of nature and spectacular views of me? Of course I loved it.

But today I love the house for more reasons than its potential to be a platform for post-dinner performances. It’s the house my grandparents built and lived in together for nearly 25 years, and where my grandmother said she was happiest. After touring the country for months in an RV, they reached the Texas Hill Country and could think of no better place to spend their retirement together than in the rolling green hills in the New Braunfels country side. They designed and built the home from the ground up, focusing incredible detail on every aspect from the gingerbread trim on the exterior to the stain on the kitchen cabinets. They did it together and ended up with a beautiful home that acted as the perfect setting to display their love of art, enable their love of food, drink and entertaining, and enjoy their love for each other for the last years of my grandmother’s life.

So while I’ll always love rocking on the porch and looking over wildlife–now with a glass of wine rather than a plate of sandwich–I think even more I’ll love the way the house makes me and anyone who enters it feel. It’s warm and stylish and loved to its bones. It smells like fresh bread and always sings of happiness.