Sunday, May 30, 2010

Liv's a PBS Kid!

Yesterday, we went to the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, IA. Liv got to meet Buddy the young T-Rex from PBS Kids' hit show Dinosaur Train. She had a blast!

We'd started to walk away, but then she turned around quickly to give him a hug.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taking a moment to remember . . .

Just thinking of U.H. as the light turns golden, just before the sun sets completely. It's supposed to be a full moon, by the way . . . in case you were wondering.

Also, since I recently posted about books, I thought I'd post some "lost" photos I recently re-discovered. Okay, they weren't really lost, but I'd forgotten I had them. They were tucked away in a photo file I hadn't needed to look in, but for taming curiosity.

Below are the photos I found . . . they are of U.H. and a baby Livie in El Paso as they share a "discussion" over a good book - something U.H. was good at, and something Livie is now showing a love for; she and I will continue to share discussions over good books. And I can hardly wait to get her a library card of her own, when she's old enough. Maybe she'll be better at returning them in a timely manner than I am.

Liv's momentarily distracted as she walks to U.H. for story time.

Time for reading!

Sir Rafa is looking on.

U.H.: Thanks for conducting story time with "Kitty Cat" (a.k.a. Livie). I'm glad I captured it in photos.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So many books . . .

With the receipt of a Barnes and Noble gift card for Mother's Day, I've been to the bookstore a few times trying to narrow down which books I should get right now.

For now, I've settled for a book called The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees (50% off, with an additional 10% off for Barnes and Noble patrons holding a "Members" card) and a magazine about the midwest.

The remaining amount on the gift card? It's being saved for a new book by one of my very favorite authors, Nelson DeMille. He has a new book coming out in early June, called The Lion. I'm anxiously awaiting getting my hands on it; I'm sure I will have it read soon after purchasing it. I've been waiting for months for this book to come out!

Wouldn't it be exciting being an author, and having people as excited as I, when they find out you've got a new book coming out?!

Anyway, I'm sure I'll still have a little left over on the gift card. But I'll have to browse around to decide what to buy with that remainder. I have a few ideas, but we'll have to wait and see, to find out which book actually makes it home, in addition to The Lion.

In the meantime, I've checked out Louisa May Alcott's classic, Little Women, from the library. First, because I've been thinking about it for a week or so, for some reason. Might as well put my thinking to good use and read the book.

Second, because of my purchase at the bookstore today. What are the chances, by the way, that I'd be thinking about Little Women, and then happening to find a book (though fictional) about Louisa May Alcott?

And my favorite connection: Livie was born in Concord, MA.

I'd love to go back and visit that area (just to visit, not to live). That area is great, and there are so many things to do and see: the Minute Man National Park, Boston, the North End, Mike's Pastry, the New England Aquarium, a trip to Maine . . .

One view of the beautiful Minute Man National Historic Park in the summertime:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Liv's a photographer!

For Christmas 2009, "Santa" got Livie a Fisher-Price kids' camera - waterproof, shockproof (meaning: sturdy in design, in case small hands drop it), and easy to use.

Here are some of her photos from the past few months.

She took a photo of Abuelita and Nonno at their house. This would've been around Christmastime.

She HAD to take a photo of Caesar.

We're driving somewhere. She took a photo of her view out the window from her car seat.

Here's Nonno at Marissa's baptism party (at a restaurant in Chicago).

Here's Abuelita's bird feeder, as seen from the den/library.

And here's the toilet and toilet paper from a hotel room. I think she and I were at Culver Academies' Horsemanship Weekend with Brenda and Aprilia. This would be our hotel room in Plymouth, IN.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - A Ceremony

I was seriously considering writing about my wedding, but since Andrew and I had both a justice of the peace ceremony (so we could get orders for a joint-spouse assignment in the Air Force) AND a church wedding, I don't want to pick one because they're both important.

So I think for this one, I'll go to my high school graduation 21 years ago on June 4, 1989. Plus, that whole time was so magical, and I'd like to recall it, because it is so fun to think about.

I went to Culver Girls Academy (or "CGA," part of the Culver Academies, including Culver Military Academy for the boys), in Culver, Indiana. It's on Lake Maxinkuckee, a lake formed by glaciers long, long ago. It's in NW Indiana, just over a 2-hour drive to Chicago, and not far south from South Bend, home of Notre Dame.

Anyway, the week of graduation was filled with so many activities, that it was almost hard to just stop and think of the importance of what was about to happen at the end of the week. And because all these activities kind of blurred together as the week sped by, I'm going to talk about a few of them.

I was a member of the Culver Equestriennes, an honor organization for the girls in the Equitation Program at Culver. The Equestriennes perform mounted drills to music; it is precision riding as a team (think of the Canadian Mounties' Musical Ride). We had to wait until our second semester at school before we could even try out for the team!

Not only did we have to maintain a high level of horsemanship ability, we also had to maintain a certain GPA if we were to ride on the team.

Anyway, we were getting ready for our final Graduation Ride, with dress rehearsals, making sure our boots were polished, our white breeches were spotless, as were our hunt coats.

And on the day of the final ride (the same day that the other Honor Organizations performed), we had to make sure our mounts were spectacularly groomed, with manes braided and finished off with spiffy looking white tape (like dressage braids) - it really stands out on black horses. Plus, the horses' hooves got a coat of hoof black (I won't say what it really was) so their hooves were shiny and black. And the graduating seniors got to stencil an 89 on our horses' rumps, instead of the usual checkerboard pattern. It's basically getting the hair wet, and combing it in a different direction so that it shows a pattern.Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of that.

Here are 4 of us from the Equestriennes. The 3 of us on the left side of the photo were also on the Varsity Jumping team. This photo was taken shortly before graduation week. I'm obviously the second one from the right.
Here's an example of our entrance in an inverted V formation. I'm in the line closest to the camera, 3rd one from the right. This is not a photo of the graduation ride, but one from my 3.5 years on the team.

Anyway, it was a spectacular, fun, bittersweet performance. It was such a great memory, because it was something so fun, rewarding, and all of us teammates really worked well together. Bittersweet, because it would be our final ride, our final opportunity to do a musical ride as a team, to live music.

Not only did we have the Honor Organization performances, we had end-of-year awards ceremonies. Okay, so you know I was an avid equestrian. At this end-of-year awards ceremony, I was awarded the Outstanding Horsewoman trophy for my accomplishments.

Here's the trophy as it's displayed in the BHT (Black Horse Troop) Lounge in the Riding Hall. My name is engraved on the pedestal.

Then there was Final Ball (not "prom" or whatever other schools call it). If I remember correctly, it was the night before graduation. I don't really remember. Not only did we get dressed up for this very important dance, we had a special ceremony the night before our very important graduation ceremony.

We had the ring ceremony. Typically in our junior year, we'd have a senior chosen to "ring" us. We'd get to wear that person's senior class ring that year, with the Culver "C" facing in (because we were still "in" school). Then on the night of Final Ball, we'd put our senior's ring back on her finger, with the "C" facing out. Well, I wasn't going to be doing this ceremony with a junior, putting my ring on me with the "C" facing out. I was having Wendy (who was my roommate for two years, and who later became my maid of honor at my church wedding), ring me. She graduated in 1988, the year before. So just before midnight, we lined up, and as soon as the 1989 flashed, she took my ring off my finger and put it on with the "C" facing out.

 Here's my class ring. All CGA class rings are standardized and look like this. However, you had the choice of what kind of gold you wanted, or silver, if you so desired. The CGA Crest is in the middle, with the Culver logo on one side and year of graduation on the other.

Finally, after plenty of activities during graduation week (and there were PLENTY of others in addition to Honor Organization performances, awards ceremonies, Final Ball), it was time for graduation.

I remember how bittersweet it felt. I would definitely miss all the opportunities I had become involved with, all the friendships I had made - and yes, after 20+ years, these are the people I am still friends with, and many of us still keep in touch. As a matter of fact, every year Culver hosts Alumni Weekend, which, this year,  happens to be starting NOW. It lasts the whole weekend, with plenty of activities for Alumni/ae - you just go on the year that corresponds with your 5th, 10th, so on. Last year was my 20th. Okay, I'm off track (I may talk about Alumni Weekends another time) . . . so back to graduation.

All the seniors of CGA wear white dresses for the day of graduation. It's traditional to get a photo of the graduating class in front of the Culver Memorial Chapel. But, for some reason, the photographer on our graduation day had camera issues! And we didn't get an official photo. But plenty of parents were on hand with cameras, so we at least got some photos of that moment.

I'm not sure whose parent took this photo. I'm in the front row, all the way to the left.
Oh, and we all had arm bouquets. I had cream-colored roses with maroon edges. I loved 'em.

So when we graduated, we walked through the CGA gate. Our name would be announced, I think we signed the graduation book (?) got a hand shake (or hug) from the Dean of Girls (Dean Trudy Hall, at the time of my graduation), and a hand shake from the Superintendent (Dean Manuel, at the time) and walked through the gate. And then we'd sit down, and wait for the remainder of the ceremony. CGA went first, and then CMA went through their own gate. I remember Dean Hall giving me a big hug, saying "Take care of those horses, okay?"

And within a couple hours, it was over. Just like that. Four years at Culver were over. And a new adventure was beginning. Wow! Exciting and bittersweet.

Katy (class of 1990) and I are bawling our eyes out. This is the bittersweet part.
The fun side of the coin: our dorm mother, Ms. Mack, had let me "sign Katy out" on leave, so she and I could hang out for a while after graduation. Shhh! She wasn't really supposed to do that. 

One of my good friends, Rosann, and her family had rented a cottage on the lake. We had a party there, celebrating our graduation. Here's the cake:
Of course, I just noticed they misspelled "Congratulations" and Rosann's name, but oh, well. It was fun. The whole experience. Everything leading up to graduation, and while it was bittersweet, to move away from friends, I'm glad most of us still keep in touch. And besides, we get to see each other every 5 years!

Please click on the box for this week's other Memory Lane Friday posts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sleep, interrupted

Somebody decided to kick me out of bed this morning, so she could have the king-sized bed to herself.

She slept like this for 4.5 hours after crawling into my bed at 4AM.

She looks comfy, doesn't she?!

Must be nice to be flopped across the bed like that!

She's finally awake at 8:30 AM.

Monday, May 17, 2010

2010 Marion Arts Festival

This past Saturday, we headed to Marion's City Square Park to enjoy some art created by artists from across the country. We went to the 2010 Marion Arts festival. I guess this is something that has been going on for nearly two decades!

Fortunately, it was a nice, cool, mostly cloudy day, so the weather helped make the festival enjoyable.

There were two artist there who were from New Mexico! One was a painter and the other was a printmaker from Albuquerque. Both happened to have crows in their artwork. I don't know if that's "coincidence" or not, but I've been feeling saudade for New Mexico, and have had a dream or two about crows lately. Good ol' Joe Leaphorn, the "Legendary Lieutenant" of Tony Hillerman's books doesn't believe in coincidence, so maybe the crows are trying to give me a message.

But enough of that . . . and back to the festival. It was a lot of fun, and Livie enjoyed the "party" with all the crowds, the scents of tasty food wafting through the air, the great artwork, and the drum line, that made her get out of the BOB and dance around.

We even bought a small photo of some red chiles, as a reminder of how we enjoyed New Mexico so much. But the photographer? This particular artist was actually from Wisconsin! Imagine that! He had great artwork, which is why we were so impressed with his chile photo so reminding us of our beloved Southwest.

Lots of crowds pack into Marion's City Square Park to view all the great artwork by artists from all over.

Livie's enjoying a hot dog nearly as big as she is!

Liv hears the drum line and has to dance around!

There she goes! She actually told Daddy (a trumpeter), "Trumpets and brass are good, but the drum line is COOL!"

She's hopping away to the drum line's beat!

I couldn't afford the beautiful ceramics, so I took a picture.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Memory Lane Friday - The Foods I Loved

Today's Memory Lane Friday topic is "The Foods I Loved" and you know I'm going to have to talk about my Oma and her cooking. Her cooking is what I always consider "comfort food." Her food is what I always crave when I want something good. If I need Mexican food, hers is what satisfies the craving. As a matter of fact, Oma's cooking is what I craved when I was pregnant with Liv. Oma's cooking and tamales.

Oma has always had this amazing cooking. It was always homemade. It didn't matter if it was breakfast or dinner. 

But since breakfast is the first meal of the day, I will begin with a typical Oma breakfast. I am salivating, just thinking about it. She used to make huevos con chorizo for us sometimes - once a week, or sometimes even twice a week. Or more, if we asked her for it.

She had these great flour tortillas that she'd warm up on this round cast-iron thing on top of the gas burner. You could smell the flour tortillas warming up, with a warm, cozy, bready, flour-y scent wafting through the air. And the chorizo? It was the Mexican type, not the Spanish or Portuguese type (which was more of a hard salami type of sausage). The chorizo she used would come out of the casing before being cooked, and as it browned, would crumble like ground beef. It was the Peyton brand chorizo that apparently is only available in West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and a handful of military commissaries (which included Hanscom Air Force Base, where Andrew and I were stationed for 4 years).

And then you'd hear the sssssss of the chorizo links as they sizzled and browned in the skillet. This is when it started smelling divine. Mmmmm. Spicy (like cumin, not burn-your-mouth-with-chiles spicy), sausage-like, and mouth-watering.

While the chorizo was browning, you'd hear the tsk-tsk-tsk of Oma's fork as she whisked the eggs in a bowl. As soon as the chorizo was browned just right, she'd pour the whisked eggs into the skillet over the chorizo and begin to scramble them all together.

And then it was all ready. A heap of huevos con chorizo on your plate, flour tortilla folded in half on the side of the plate. Fork in hand, I remember scooping the huevos con chorizo into the unfolded, warmed flour tortilla, rolling it up into a burrito, and then taking a bite. Mmmmm. It was eggy, full-flavored (because of the chorizo), and full of carbs (the tortilla) to balance out the protein (and fat) from the eggs and chorizo.

This was pure breakfast heaven. And now I'm very hungry.

When I lived in Tucson and New Mexico (and when I realized I could get the same chorizo at the commissary in the Boston area),  I'd make huevos con chorizo, too. Sure, I watched her make this dish, and it tasted basically the same, but hers was always better. I think it's because, as she always says, she "made it with a lot of love."

Then there was lunch or dinner. She used to make cheese enchiladas on occasion, and while I loved her red sauce for its rich flavor and thought that her enchiladas were tasty, I found that they were a little heavy on the chopped onion (which she always kind of rough chopped - the onions were never really chopped finely enough) and I'd get heartburn. It was weird. I could always handle spicy food, but too much onion? My stomach and esophagus couldn't handle it.

My favorite lunch or dinner menu in Oma's repertoire? Homemade tacos and homemade beans. She told me step by step how to make her tacos, and while I tried to make them on occasion, they NEVER came out right. I'm not sure I had the technique just right.

Oma would brown ground beef, season them just right (salt, pepper, cumin), saute them with diced potatoes, and then stuff the mixture into corn tortillas (fried briefly in oil and then folded while still warm and malleable). At least, this is what I remember.

After assembling a bunch of tacos and setting them on a cookie sheet lined with foil, she'd stick them in the oven for a little while to make sure they were all warmed and hot enough to eat.

And the beans? Mmmm.

Making her world-famous beans was a process. Not hard - just time-consuming. She'd soak pinto beans overnight. The next day, she'd cook them in water seasoned with garlic salt and onion powder. When they were soft, she'd drain some water, saving some so that when she mashed the beans, they wouldn't get dried out. Then she'd brown some chorizo in a big skillet. When it was browned, she'd add the mashed beans and cook them all together so the flavors would blend. And then she'd add shredded Monterrey Jack cheese on the top.

Two or three tacos topped with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and a side of her world-famous beans. Oh, and her delicious rice. I have now idea how to make that. Note to self: get her rice recipe from her next time I see her.

So there it is. There are the the foods I loved growing up . . . and the foods I still love. And now I am hungry.

Okay, so I don't have any photos of my Oma while she's actually cooking something. But I have a number of photos of her, so I'm going to add a few here:
This photo was taken way before my time, but here's my Oma when she was a young woman.

Here's Oma at the Blue Ridge Circle house. This must've been in the early '70s - maybe '73?
My Uncle H. used to say this was Oma's "Ann Landers hairstyle." By the way, I don't know why/how the couch turned out that funky maroon color in the photo (it was actually an olive green), and how Oma's dress turned into such a vibrant purple. Ah, well. At least it's a great photo of her smiling.

So here I am with my Oma and Sir Rafa. We're not in El Paso, but we're together. I believe they were visiting us when we lived in Wilmette, IL.

Here's Oma and baby Livie in Oma's kitchen. This is in the beloved Mountain Walk Drive home in El Paso.

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

After checking out today's other entries, be sure to come back next week when the Memory Lane Friday topic is "A Ceremony."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Lilo Dress

When we lived in New Mexico, we had neighbors with a little girl a few years older than baby Olivia. The mom handed down some wonderful clothing for Liv to grow into.

Well, Liv is now big enough to wear a Hawaiian dress that looks a lot like one the character "Lilo" wears in the Disney movie "Lilo & Stitch."

And on a chilly day in May, on Mother's Day to be exact, she insisted on wearing it, even though it was 40 degrees out.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Land of Sunshine and Turquoise Skies

Patricia reminded me of Mesilla, NM today. And since we've had overcast, gloomy, threatening-to-rain weather here today in the land of green grass in east-central Iowa, I figured I'd reminisce a little about my time in Mesilla and all the sunshine the southwest gets.

There's a small sense of saudade today, but it's not too noticeable, and not too uncomfortable or sad. Why? I dunno. Maybe it's because it's gloomy out, and not that golden sunlight at sunset that always seems to make me miss my family, New Mexico, the Southwest - that sunlight I always associate with homesickness. 

Anyway . . . I can't remember the first time I went to Old Mesilla; it had to have been with my grandparents.

I do, however, remember visiting Mesilla a few times when I was old enough to remember (in high school and college) - once with my grandparents, U.H., maybe my parents and siblings . . . another time with my grandparents, NanĂ¡, and her grandson. I'm pretty sure there were other times with my grandparents and NanĂ¡, again, and Aunt Lily.

They always liked going to the Double Eagle restaurant for lunch, but on occasion, I got them to go to La Posta for lunch, instead. Probably because there was too long a wait at the Double Eagle.

Then there was the first time with Andrew, when we were stationed in the Greater Boston area, and had visited my grandparents in El Paso for Easter. Andrew and I wanted to take my grandparents, but they insisted they were going to stay home and take a nap. So Andrew and I went by ourselves.

I remember taking our time browsing around, checking out the Basilica of San Albino, looking through the little stores around the plaza, getting a treat from Stahmanns Pecans (and some to take back to Oma and Sir Rafa), and getting some wine from a local winery (I think it was a margarita-flavored wine).

After that first trip Andrew and I took at Easter, we ended up going each year at Easter time - while we were stationed in the Boston area before Livie was born, that is.

Here are just a few photos from our April 2004 trip:

Andrew's in front of the Basilica of San Albino.

Andrew's in the plaza, next to the sign telling of Mesilla's history.

Here he is, posing in the plaza.

Here's Mesilla's post office.

And again, here is the Basilica of San Albino.

And then when we were stationed in Alamogordo, NM, we were so close, that there was no reason not to visit. But Andrew was deployed the first few months Livie and I were there, and I wasn't in the mood to take a baby to Mesilla by myself. 

So I used the time Andrew was deployed to take Livie to El Paso so she could visit her bisabuelos - her great-grandparents.

But the last weekend the three of us spent in New Mexico before moving to Iowa (August 2007) - we spent a lot of time in Mesilla and El Paso. It was so hot. Wow, was it ever hot. And I'm certainly glad there was very little humidity!

There was some sort of arts festival going on around the plaza. I'd ended up buying a couple artsy photos (one of Mesilla and one of Tucson) before we headed indoors to eat lunch at La Posta. The restaurant's cool air was refreshing. But Livie's face remained flushed for most of the day!

We're checking out San Albino.

We're taking a photo opportunity in the plaza.

We're waiting for lunch at La Posta.

Liv loved the parrots they had in there, as well as the fish tank.

Of course, the lights on the trees were a big hit with her, too.

I don't remember exactly where in Mesilla this photo was taken.I'm thinking it's outside near La Posta.

Lounging in the guest bedroom at Oma's house, we're cooling off from our adventure in Mesilla. Yes, I had to change Livie's outfit for one reason or another.

I'm glad I can say that Livie has been to Mesilla, though she was too little to remember. Maybe one day we'll get there again. Because I was enchanted by the Land of Enchantment, and to some extent, so was Andrew. It would be nice to give Livie the opportunity to love the land that I feel is "home" - the Southwest.
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