Friday, April 30, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - A Favorite Book

Oh, boy. This is gonna be really, really hard to narrow down! For as long as I can remember, I have been a bibliophile.

My mom always read to me when I was young. And because of this, I can hardly remember a time when I didn't know how to read.

Reading was a little vacation - a way to head off into some wonderful other place, where I could do anything the characters in my books were doing.

Therefore to pick a favorite book? This is hard.

So I think I'll "cheat" a little and pick a series of books.

Anyone care to guess what that series is? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Well, just about any girl who was an avid equestrian was also an avid fan of "The Black Stallion" series by Walter Farley. (I also liked "The Island Stallion" series, but in this post I'll focus on the stories about Alec and "The Black.")

I must've had all the books in the series. But what started it off is when my mom got me my first books in "The Black Stallion" series for Christmas one year . . . okay, it was "Santa" and "he" had left them in my stocking. It was a boxed set of four, including "The Black Stallion," "The Black Stallion Returns," and two other ones from the same series (not including any from "The Island Stallion" series).

I started reading the first one, "The Black Stallion," and I was hooked. I loved all the adventures that Alec and "The Black" experienced. I loved how "The Black" acted - a spirited, spunky horse with a lot of character. I remember imagining this huge black horse with a flowing mane and tail. Looking back on it, the image I had of "The Black" was really not that of an actual Arabian horse, with dished face, dainty ears, high-carried tail.

Rather, I think I imagined him to look more like a Friesian horse - much bigger, more massive, ready to pull a carriage or perform dressage, instead of running like the wind and winning races like Alec and "The Black" did in the books.

Anyway, it was fun getting lost in those books. I'm sure I read a number of them more than once. And I specifically remember reading "The Black Stallion's Ghost" and "The Black Stallion Mystery" at least two times each! And while I was creeped out by "The Black Stallion's Ghost," I was also thrilled at the same time. There was just something about that book that fascinated me. Creepy, yes. But fascinating, too! Somehow the supernatural aspect of the book made it not only spooky to me when I first read it, but hard to put down.

And since I don't have any photos of these books, or of myself while reading them, I'll add a photo of Black Lightning (stall #35) from Culver. No, he's not a black stallion, but he IS a black appaloosa (all black except for his white facial markings, and a couple hard to see white spots on his rump and his belly). I rode him sometimes for equitation class at Culver (Culver Academies in Culver, IN), especially in the summertime during Sarge's class. Or sometimes I'd ride him for Varsity Jumping. He was kind of a nut, but I loved riding him!

Please click on the box below to read this week's other Memory Lane Friday entries:

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Liv used chopsticks the last time we ate at the local HuHot Mongolian Grill.

Here's the photo I snapped with the camera on my phone:
Liv saw this photo and said, "There's your favorite girl, again!"

Monday, April 26, 2010

An afternoon in Swisher

We spent the afternoon in Swisher on Saturday. It included a leisurely lunch and a short walk.

Swisher is a typical small town in Iowa. And when I say small town, I mean small town!

Took some photos, so here they are . . .

Around the bend

Exterior, Káva House & Café

Exterior, Káva House & Café

Interior, Káva House & Café

Interior, Káva House & Café

Interior, Káva House & Café

Interior, Káva House & Café - yep, it's old-fashioned!

Somebody's ready for lunch!

Experiencing a new culinary taste - fruit with raspberry vinagerette!
She ended up eating all her fruit! And almost all of the sandwich!

We've finished lunch and we're headed out.

Daddy's providing the muscle-power on the way back to the car.

Had to walk across the tracks to get back to the car.

Liv's still enjoying her pressies!

Livie is still enjoying the pressies she received from Christmas, as well as her 4th birthday party.

She wanted me to take some photos of her while she played with the little train set she got for Christmas. And she wanted me to make sure I got the photos posted so Grandpapá could see them.

So here they are . . .

Sunday, April 25, 2010

This poem's been on my mind.

Since it's National Poetry Month, and since I've been thinking about this poem a lot the past few days, I think I'll share it here.

It's by Octavio Paz. I have a couple books of his poetry which I sadly haven't looked at for years. But the other day I was sitting in the den looking at my bookshelf and there it was. I saw his book of poetry called Configurations, realizing I hadn't really looked at it since I graduated from college (Lake Forest College, in Lake Forest, IL).That was back in 1993 . . . and I haven't looked at these poems since the mid-'90s.

And so I picked up Configurations and began flipping through it. The spine was broken in one part - at the part where this particular poem is located. I read it, remembering how much I liked it, felt connected to it for some reason.

Anyway, here it is, one of my favorite poems by Octavio Paz:
Mis pasos en esta calle
               En otra calle
               Oigo mis pasos
Pasar en esta calle

Sólo es real la niebla

And for those of you who don't read Spanish, here's Charles Tomlinson's translation of Paz's poem:

My steps along this street
              In another street
In which
              I hear my steps
Passing along this street
In which

Only the mist is real

Friday, April 23, 2010

Brown Wordle

I did this a number of months ago, based on a writing assignment I did for a creative writing class. It's called a Wordle, and my writing assignment was called "Brown."

Click on the picture to see it:
Wordle: Brown

Memory Lane Friday - A Family Heirloom

I had a specific item I was going to write about. I guess it could be considered an heirloom and is promised to me (my Oma's cast-iron thing that she used on her gas-stove burner to heat up/toast flour tortillas for huevos con chorizo, among other things), but I realized I had no photos of it. Besides, it's currently packed in a box somewhere in my mom's basement.

Also, since I've talked about Oma's kitchen in another Memory Lane Friday, I think I'll talk about that particular kitchen item another time.

So instead, I'll talk about a piece of my Oma's jewelry that's been handed down to me.

This piece of jewelry was a ring actually made by someone my family, specifically for another person in the family. But since the intended person didn't much care for opal, it became my grandmother's.

The ring is gold and delicate looking and has a heart on each side. Since opal is so fragile, it had broken at some point and had fallen out . . . even with all the thought she put into caring for her jewelry.

When the opal broke at some point, she had the stone replaced with a blue topaz. I always thought it looked like the same color as turquoise, but clear and sparkly -  not opaque like turquoise.

I don't know how many years it had been the original opal, but opal was always her gem - she always seemed to wear a piece of jewelry with opal in it. And I remember this ring as an opal ring.

One day, however, when my grandparents were visiting, I saw her wearing a kinda familiar ring . . . a blue topaz ring.

I'm pretty sure I must've been on a school break - maybe Christmas break. I was in high school at the time.

We were in the mini-van one evening; one of my parents was driving. I was in the back next to Oma. I gazed at the ring and asked her about it, not recognizing it. She said she'd had it for a long time. But while it looked sort of familiar, something was different about it.

This is when she revealed that the opal had broken (she'd accidentally bumped her hand on something which is when the opal cracked and fell out). And this is when she had the blue topaz set into the ring.

And then she said she'd been intending on giving it to me. I was surprised. She said that whenever I was ready for it, she'd give it to me. Not thinking she meant right then and there, I asked, "Can I have it now?"

Without even making any kind of reaction, no surprise to her face at all, she took off the ring and handed it to me. Surprised, I put it on. Again surprised, I realized it fit! She and I had the same ring size.

And I've had it ever since.

I don't wear it often. Actually, it's been a while since I have worn it. But that's only because I hardly wear rings (not even my wedding set - but only because I take those rings off to clean the kitchen or give Livie a bath, or something, and then I forget to put them back on). I only wear them for special occasions. Besides, my hands are so dry and chapped right now, I'd be embarrassed to call attention to them by wearing a ring.

Please click on the box below to read today's other Memory Lane Friday posts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Mother's Day gift . . . a little early

Last month, Livie signed up at pre-K to do a special Mother's Day project.

Well, this morning when I dropped her off, I was surprised with the gift that she made for me.

The kids made special collector's plates. And they are very cute!

Here's the plate Livie made for me:
Livie's in the middle. Andrew and I are on either side. I think I'm the one on the right with the "long" brown hair and the eyelashes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hot Air Balloons!

Look what floated by our house about half a mile away!  It was close enough for us to hear the shhhh shhhh of the "pilot's" stoking the flames to heat the air. It kinda made me miss New Mexico.


Sometimes you just need to spend time with your grandmother!

Here I am, about 2.5 years old, with my Oma:
As the photo indicates, this was July 1973 in El Paso, Texas at the Blue Ridge Circle home. 

Oma and I are at Western Playland (which used to be in El Paso, but is now just over the border in New Mexico) on the helicopter ride (which goes up and down like the Dumbo ride at the Disney theme parks):
The back of the photo said 1973. Since we're bundled up, it must've been winter? 

25 Jun 2006 - Location, still El Paso, TX. Baby Liv and Abuelita are in Oma's kitchen in the Mountain Walk Drive house:
This is Abuelita's favorite photo of her with her first grandchild.

Present day . . . Here are Abuelita and Livie:
 This was Easter morning, 2010 at Abuelita's house in central Iowa.

This photo was taken 19 Apr 2010. We're at our current Iowa home, and Abuelita is spending the night before she heads to a dance lesson the following morning.

Here's another photo of Abuelita and Livie.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Liv likes bling!

This is how we spent our Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday we went down to Swisher, IA for lunch at Káva House & Café in Swisher, IA. It was a cute, little place in a small little Iowa town. 

And it was pretty delish, too. I'd chosen the half a sandwich and cup of soup: the "Granny Gobbler" sandwich and Chicken and Wild Rice soup. The "Granny Gobbler" sandwich had shaved, smoked turkey piled on, thin slices of Granny Smith apples, Havarti cheese, and apple butter. The soup was served in a teacup. It was SO good, with the apple and apple butter giving it a crisp, sweet tartness to the salty turkey. I keep thinking about that sandwich. 

I also had a caramel Italian soda (carbonated water, caramel-flavored syrup, and half & half). Tasty. It tasted like cream soda, which I guess it was, right?

Livie had a grilled cheese sandwich, but wasn't too hungry, having just woken up from a nap. She did devour her fruit, though. 

Then we headed to The Secret Cellar (also see my previous post about The Secret Cellar as well as my article on it.)

Livie had a blast looking around. And Andrew and I had a couple small tastes of wine (each taste was about 2 sips each). Then we headed out back where Livie ran around and jumped on the hammock. This was the highlight of her day. 

Check out how much fun Liv had on the hammock:
Looks fun, doesn't it?!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It was fun!

On Wednesday, I spent time in a small Iowa town called Shueyville (population in July 2007: 281). But it was fun! Wanna know why?

I went to this really cute little wine shop called The Secret Cellar and spent about an hour there. Okay, so I was there to do "research" for an article I wanted to write. But it was such a cute place, and the owner, Lauren Cannon, was so nice, it was like going on a fun field trip.

Here's her stained-glass sign at the entrance:

 Here's the cute blue house where she's set up shop:

I love the purple beginning to bloom on this little tree:

She had all sorts of wines, some of which were from local Iowa wineries (yes, apparently Iowa has wineries!) and from across the nation and around the world (like the German eiswein or "ice wine" in English which she sold to the customers who stopped in while I was there). There were even those big bottles of wine - those 1.5 liter bottles (I guess it's called a "magnum" and it holds the equivalent of two regular sized wine bottles).

And she had these bottles of wine that were shaped like a high-heeled shoe and others that were shaped like some exotic bird!
Shoe bottle:

Bird bottle and shoe bottle:

Big bottle (this is actually a 5L-sized bottle!! That's good for mom's night with the ladies):

Not only did she have wine, she also had other liquors, beer and tasty foods. Some of it was gourmet food and from the local area, like the pickled asparagus from the Amana Colonies. There were chocolates, soup mixes, stuff for appetizers, tasty gourmet cheeses and crackers. And she even had little candies and sodas for kids . . . like the kids she says stop by her shop after school to pick up snacks on their way home.

Some of the liquors she has on hand:

Some of the food and treats she has in the store:

Then there were the gifts - she had a lot of great gifts, like shirts with bling which shaped wine glasses and said "Wines Constantly" or the soy-based candles from the mom-owned company here in the Cedar Rapids area.

Here's the cute bling shirt (there was a matching hat, too - not shown here):

Here's a floor mat (cute, huh?):

There's even wine bottle jewelry - how cute is this?!

Here are some other gifts, including the soy candles (seen in the middle of the photo):
Some of the candles (they're all white) came in cute scents, like "XOXO" or "High Maintenance" or "Bitch." There was even one called "The Secret Cellar" made for this shop. Lauren was burning one of these "The Secret Cellar" scented candles while I was there. It smelled good. Fruity/flowery.

Oh, and she does these custom gift baskets for any occasion like Mother's Day, birthdays, anniversaries, and such. She puts great stuff in it, like: chocolates, a bottle of wine, a candle, bottle jewelry, some gourmet treats. And sometimes she'll even put in a gift certificate for a massage, where the masseuse will go to your house to give you a massage!!

Anyway, she has a lot of stuff going on there. For example, she's got this great party planned to kick of the season - on May 1st, she's having a "wine party" where there'll be plenty of wines to taste, cheeses and crackers, live music. She also does private wine tastings for groups, like for bridal showers and such. There's a great backyard, complete with hammock and "gazebo" to add to the ambiance. 

Doesn't this look like a great place to hang out with a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers? I think I'd like to read a book or take a nap here, though (on a cool day):

Isn't this cute? There's a grapevine theme going on. Can you see it?

So it was a lot of fun to go out there for "research." I would definitely like to go back to get a bottle of wine or two, and some cheeses and crackers.

Maybe for her next wine party, I can attend. Her first one coincides with the opening of the Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market, and we already planned on going to that, so we'll be 120 miles away when she has her first wine party.

Looks like a fun place, doesn't it?!
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