Saturday, April 30, 2011

Your Sunday Best - 30 Apr 2011

Here's this week's photo for Your Sunday Best, hosted by A Rural Journal.

White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, NM, February 2007

I've posted this photo before, but it's one of my favorite New Mexico scenes, and one I wanted to share again. 

I took this photo at White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico, when we still lived in Alamogordo. It was in February 2007, just a couple weeks before Livie's first birthday. She had fallen asleep in the car on our way to White Sands (it was about a 20-25 minute ride, so of course, she fell asleep). Andrew sat in the car with her while I got out and took a few photos, the above being one of them.

I miss the vibrant skies of New Mexico, where we had 300+ days of sunshine per year. At least I have photos to look at when I'm homesick for the Southwest.

Please click on the button below to view all the "Your Sunday Best" photo entries:

Art is Awesome!!

Today, Livie, Andrew, and I went to The Dreaming Bear's open art studio (every Saturday from 10 AM - 4 PM). We went a little over a month ago (check out A Day in the Life of an Artist), and had a blast.

Because it had been a while since we've been there and seeing how Mother Nature was threatening to give us rain, we decided to go again today. This time, *I* decided to do some artwork, too. Daddy just observed, giving Livie a hand every so often.

Anyway, Livie decorated THREE things today!

She painted a horse, using Cotton as inspiration and making her horse a Palomino named Goldy.

Didn't she do a great job with this?! She picked the right paint color for that Palomino coat, and just the right color for the mane and tail.

Here's Cotton (registered name: Wild Stride), who was Livie's inspiration.

Here's Livie's flying heart!

And here's Livie's dinosaur! (She had adult assistance with the hot glue gun and the eyes.)

By the way, her stuff is sitting on paper plates as we wait for the paint to dry completely. It still had a couple slightly goopy spots when we left the studio.

I decorated a picture frame with turquoise paint and some "jewels." I'm planning on putting a New Mexico photo in it. I'm going to put it on my desk and use it as inspiration for writing. 
 (It started off as a plain wood frame.)

It was so much fun working in the art studio, getting paint all over our hands, and doing something creative. Livie and I are all wound up now, after using our little gray cells and making cool things.

I can't wait 'til we get the chance to go back.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Memory Lane Friday - No Theme

I think that since it's another "No Theme" week, I'll post a photo of a place that I love - my grandparents' house on Blue Ridge in El Paso. I have the best memories from spending time with my grandparents here.

Sir Rafa took this photo 30 years ago, in April 1981.

I love all the memories of Blue Ridge - Oma's famous breakfasts: huevos con chorizo, or pancakes, or avena (oatmeal) . . . playing in the back yard . . . their neighbors giving us juicy, green grapes from their back yard grapevines . . . the piƱata I had for one of my birthdays . . . sparklers in the back yard on the 4th of July . . . the list could go on.

Anyway, I love this photo of spring in El Paso. I love Sir Rafa's expertly manicured lawn, the Italian Cypress trees (on the right edge of the photo, and the left side of the house).  I love the fact that I can look at this photo and remember great times with my Oma and Sir Rafa.

Memory Lane Friday is hosted weekly by Lisa at Two Bears Farm. Please click on the button below to read her Memory Lane Friday entry, as well as other participants' posts.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Fun

Happy Easter!

The cutie found her Easter basket!

(Somehow I forgot to turn on my camera's red-eye reducer.)

She's been wanting this movie  forever!

Chocolate goodies!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Your Sunday Best - 23 Apr 2011

Okay, here's my contribution for "Your Sunday Best," hosted by A Rural Journal.

"Cloud Gate" (a.k.a. "The Bean"), Chicago, IL October 2009

I took this photo in October 2009, while Livie and I were in Chicago with a friend of mine and her daughter. They'd wanted to do something "touristy" and "uniquely Chicago," so I figured they'd like seeing "The Bean," as it's affectionately called. We then headed to dinner for some authentic Chicago-style pizza, before heading to Ghirardelli's (across from the old Water Tower) for chocolate.

Livie and I love "The Bean" because it is just so cool-looking. It's fun getting photos of it because of its reflective surface. And with the color of the sky, the cityscape, the clouds . . .

Please click on the button below to see all of this week's contributions:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Memory Lane Friday - Earth Day

Somehow with all my schoolwork piling up as we head towards the final month of the semester, I completely forgot about writing a Memory Lane Friday post last week.

But this week I'm here! It's partly due to procrastination, partly due to my needing a break from the mountain of reading that's making me feel cross-eyed!

Anyway, this week's topic is "Earth Day."

We don't do anything specific for the Earth on "Earth Day." But we do try doing things every day.

For example, we try to recycle on a regular basis. Our community has limits on what they'll accept in our recycling bin every week (they collect the stuff in the recycling bin every Wednesday morning along the trash). But we make sure to put what they do accept in our blue recycling bin so they'll collect it every week. They usually accept paper/cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic (like bottles, but not plastic bags). They don't take glass, so Andrew has to take that separately to the recycling place on Saturdays (usually every 2-4 weeks). 

We also like supporting local farmers' markets, buying fresh, organic produce, or buying organic stuff at the grocery store (like organic milk, yogurt, and certain fruits, like apples or grapes).

Our favorite is the Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market
Downtown Farmers' Market sign, 2010

  Check out these great flowers!
Flowers, Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market, 2010

We usually come home with some great produce from the Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market.

Whether I'm buying stuff at the farmers' market, or at the grocery store, I do my best to bring reusable bags to tote my groceries home. I'd say I'm good at remembering to bring the reusable bags most of the time. But once in a while I forget.

Livie and I also have a few reusable, BPA-free plastic bottles that we try to use on a regular basis for our drinking water.

We try to also save energy, which is not only good for the planet, but good for our wallets. So we make sure that the lights and/or TV are turned off when we leave a room, and make sure the thermostat's set at a reasonable level based on the weather.

I'm sure there are some other things we do that I'm just momentarily forgetting. But you get the idea . . . 

Please come back next week when the topic is another "No Theme."

Memory Lane Friday is hosted weekly by Lisa at Two Bears Farm. Please click on the button below to read her post for the week, as well as other participants' posts:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Following in My Footsteps?

The paddock boots: my well-worn pair on the left, and Livie's new pair on the right. Aren't hers so cute?! (I know, I know . . . I need to wipe the dirt off them.)

She told me yesterday that she wants to go galloping around on a pony. I told her the first step is to get back on the pony (Isabel, the cute little chestnut from my previous post) and learn to walk and trot. She agreed that she'd try again.

But first . . . I'm taking her to a mounted Pony Club meeting in the area, so she can watch other kids during their group lesson.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Your Sunday Best - 17 Apr 2011

Today I'm participating in the weekly "Your Sunday Best" (showcasing photographers' favorite "photo of the week" entries) hosted by A Rural Journal.

Farmers' Market produce (mostly eggplants) from summer '10.

Please click on the button below to see A Rural Journal's photo for "Your Sunday Best" as well as other contributor's photos:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Photo of the Day - 16 Apr 2011

Here's the photo I picked for a "Photo of the Day" post:

Daddy's first weekend at home (in NM), after returning from a deployment.

I was sitting here homesick for New Mexico, so that's why I picked a photo from when we lived there.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Liv's Riding Lesson (Sort Of)

Today was supposed to have been Livie's first "official" riding lesson. Since it was the very first lesson, it was an abbreviated lesson: the instructor's plan was to teach her how to groom and tack up the pony before having her ride for about 10 minutes. Then they'd return to the stable aisle to untack the pony and put her away.

So this past week, we'd ordered and received her pair of cute, little paddock boots, as well as a purple schooling helmet (safety is paramount, after all). She was SO EXCITED about it!

When I picked her up from Pre-K today, she jumped around like crazy, barely able to control herself, in anticipation of her lesson.

In the car during the 15-20 minute drive to the stables, the only question was a variation of, "When are we gonna get there, Mama?"

Finally we got there (after a seemingly unending car ride - for me, the repetitive "are we there, yet?!" questions were driving me NUTS, while Liv's excitement made her impatient). She jumped out of the car and bounded to the stable door.

But of course, her first mission was to find Benny, the barn cat. And when she found him moments later, she was so excited, she shouted and jumped around, startling him into running away. When I told her to walk and use her inside voice, she gave me a pouty lower lip.

Then we found her instructor, who offered a friendly greeting, and got the lesson pony, Isabel, out on the cross ties.

She had Livie "help" her groom Isabel. It was really cute, but the lighting wasn't sufficient enough for my little camera, so no photos.

Next she showed Livie how to tack up Isabel and then it was time to go out to the ring.

With her helmet on, Livie "helped" the instructor lead Isabel out to the ring, and they headed for the mounting block.

When they got there, the instructor asked me to hold Isabel while she (the instructor, not Isabel) helped Livie get up.

And here's where the lesson took a drastically different turn than what I expected. As soon as Livie got on, she started complaining that she wanted to get down, that she didn't want Isabel, but rather, another pony.

She INSISTED on getting down, and refused to get back up. She indicated that she'd wanted the palomino instead of the chestnut (Isabel).

Later on, she said it was because she wanted a smaller one, but all the other ponies Livie's been on have been near Isabel's size (only Gabby was a bit smaller).

It wasn't until we got home that she told me that she thought the instructor was going to leave her alone. I told her that would NEVER happen, and she agreed we'd try again another day.

Anyway, here are the three photos I got (not the best lighting for my dinky camera).

Livie's checking her laces, while her instructor's checking the tack.
The helmet and boots are just too cute!

Livie's pointing at Benny, who's in the middle of the ring.

There's Benny on the mounting block!
This was moments before she mounted up and had The Meltdown.

Her instructor and I thought that if she really wants to ride, it might be helpful to come out while she's giving other young students a lesson, so Livie would remember that she doesn't need to be nervous. We may also try heading out there when there's a mounted Pony Club meeting, so she can see a bunch of young riders in a lesson.

Then again, maybe Mommy will decide to take a lesson and Livie can watch "the master" at work! Haha!

Before saying goodbye, we gave Isabel a few treats - an apple and some peppermints! Livie laughed at all the "Isabel slobber" she got on her hands.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The only time she isn't talking . . .

. . . is when she's asleep:

Then again, that's not necessarily true; sometimes she talks in her sleep.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pow Wow Time at the University!

Yesterday, Livie, Andrew, and I went to the 18th Annual Pow Wow at the University of Iowa. It was a BLAST! (Just a note: I took some photos and videos, but it was with my little point 'n' shoot Kodak Easyshare C340, so they're not the best photos. But they're good enough to give you an idea.)

We first went out for breakfast; we'd gone to Hy-Vee (a grocery store chain in the area), because they had a cafeteria. Liv and I had gotten pancakes (I had no idea they'd be the size of dinner plates!) and bacon, plus mine came with a side of eggs (scrambled). Andrew got eggs, toast, hash browns. The portions were HUGE (I didn't know they'd be so gigantic), so we walked out of there well fed.

After our commute down to the university (about 45 minutes), we found the Rec Building. Doors opened at 10 AM, but we'd gotten there around 11:30 AM. It worked out just right, because that's the time I'd wanted to arrive. The "Grand Entrance" was scheduled for noon, and I didn't want to miss it; by arriving 30 minutes early, I wanted to be sure we had time to park, buy our tickets, go potty, and take a look around.

Anyway, the "Grand Entrance" is where all the pow wow participants line up and dance into the dance area - all done up in their regalia - while the drummers and singers provide the music.

Well, I guess there was a technical issue with the loudspeaker equipment, so the emcee kept us up-to-date and entertained (with lots of talking and stories) while the issue was resolved. (Half the center could hear and understand him, loud and clear. The other half? While the volume was fine, the clarity was not - he sounded really garbled.

 Here's a shot of the Rec Building about 15 minutes before the festivities started.

After working on the equipment for about 20-25 minutes, the Grand Entrance finally started around 12:30. That made me remember something my Native American Literature professor had said: it's rare for a pow wow to start on time, since there's usually a glitch. He was right, at least for this pow wow!

The Grand Entrance was awesome to watch and to feel - the drums caused this great vibration, and you could feel it in your core. Yes, putting it that way kinda sounds spiritual, but it was, in a sense. I was totally absorbed.
Here's a shot of the Grand Entrance.

After a song about victory, and another thanking veterans for serving our country (which was awesome - I got a little teary-eyed), the dancing, singing, and drumming started.

Livie couldn't sit still; she kept getting up and dancing to the beat. It was hard not to - the beat was mesmerizing. Since it was in the "rec" center, there was an indoor track in the building. Inside the track oval, was the tennis (and volleyball?) area, which is where the dancing occurred, sans nets, of course. Livie couldn't sit still, so we'd get up and walk around the track, and we were still able to watch the dancing. She'd dance along beside me as we walked around.

Our full bellies eventually digested our breakfast, leaving us hungry again. There were food vendors, so we went and got a couple fry breads. These are akin to sopaipillas or funnel cakes. They can be sweet or savory, depending on the toppings. For instance, you could order a taco, with the fry bread as the "tortilla." Or you could get one with a bit of honey on it, or even powdered sugar.

Livie and I ordered ours plain, because I like to savor the taste of it, and I wanted to see how Liv liked it before we got one with stuff loaded onto it. No photo - we gobbled 'em up too fast! Oh, and some time later, Andrew bought some bison jerky. It was really good - some of it was regular, and some was super spicy. We at a little, and the rest we saved for later.

At one point, I ran into a professor who is also the adviser for the American Indian Studies Program at UI.  She and I spoke for a few minutes, and I introduced her to Andrew and Livie. (I mispronounced her name and was so embarrassed; she was so gracious, though, about helping me pronounce it correctly.) I'd mentioned that Livie really enjoyed dancing to the drumming/singing. She said that later on, if time permitted, there'd be an "Inter-tribal" dance, where anybody could go in the middle to dance. She said if that occurred, we could go in and have fun.

I hoped that we'd be able to take part, and hoped that Livie would not get too pooped/crabby and want to leave before the Inter-tribal dance took place.

Well, thankfully, she did a great job the whole day! And we were there for a while! But the whole atmosphere was amazing, so we really did have a lot of fun.

Buying her this purple butterfly/feather hair clip helped keep her chipper!

 The gentleman in the yellow regalia was a spectacular dancer; I enjoyed watching him. But all the dancers were absolutely amazing!

I ran into my Native American Literature professor late in the afternoon. I was hoping to introduce Livie to him, but she and Andrew were off looking at something while I was getting some bottled waters. My professor and I talked for a few minutes, and I told him how one thing or another reminded me of stuff we talked about in class. We laughed about some funny stuff we'd talked about and I suddenly missed my Uncle Hector. It was just that kind of conversation "UH" and I would've had. Before we parted ways with a "see you later," he reminded me to have Livie dance in the Inter-tribal, to which I agreed.

Livie was about to explode with excitement. Andrew backed away, refusing to take part. I told her to go ahead and I'd take photos. But when she gave me the pouty lip look, I went in with her. I was a bit nervous at first, but then got into it, again being mesmerized by the drumming and singing. This was a blast, even though Livie suddenly got really shy partway through, and made me carry her, all 37.6 pounds of her.

For me, "dancing" in the Inter-tribal was the highlight.

Here are a couple video clips of the dancing. 

The gentleman in the yellow (on the far side of the dance area), with all the yellow fringe swinging about - I loved watching him dance. When Livie and I were out "dancing," he was out there, near us, and it was so incredibly cool seeing him dance up close. But they were ALL incredible to watch.

Video ©Sonya Heilmann April 2011

Liv and I enjoyed watching these girls performing a "jingle dance" in their "jingle" dresses. They had these metal (aluminum?) cones sewn onto their dresses. These conical bells would jingle when they moved.
Video ©Sonya Heilmann April 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Memory Lane Friday - Second Grade

This week's Memory Lane Friday topic is "Second Grade." I've talked about 2nd grade before when we had "A Favorite Teacher" as the topic. But that was a year ago, so I'm going to repeat a bit of info.

When I was in second grade (at least I think it was second grade and not third), we had a teacher by the name of Mrs. Hunter. She was SO kind and calm. The class loved her. I remember that her room had a little reading nook. There were big fluffy pillows in one corner, and a curtain you could pull around yourself (like a curved shower curtain) so you'd have a cozy little reading area to read quietly. I always loved that corner of the room.

Anyway, the thing I remember most about second grade is that Mrs. Hunter had a pet skunk named Daisy! She was very docile and cute, and the whole class thought she was great! Daisy's scent glands had been removed, so she wouldn't get anybody stinky.

Sometimes Mrs. Hunter would bring Daisy to school and it was SO much fun. We were always so excited about our class "mascot" on the days she came into school.

Striped skunk photo by Tom Friedel (from Wikipedia)

Her husband was an EMT and he came by one day to tell us about a day in the life of an EMT. We got to go outside and see the ambulance, which was cool.

Another day, she had a classmate's mom and older sister come by with one of their Arabian horses for a sort of "show and tell," teaching us a bit about horses. Again, this was another one of those outside lessons (obviously).

Having already started riding lessons, I thought this was awesome!!

Arabian horse photo by Aline Sagrabelny (from Wikipedia)

Mrs. Hunter also had our whole class over at her house one evening, where we made ice cream in one of those old-fashioned ice cream makers - the kind where you've gotta use the salt and the big ol' hand crank. We all got to take turns cranking the ice cream maker. It was a blast. And the ice cream? It was delish!

She couldn't have made school more fun than that!!

Please come back next week when the Memory Lane Friday theme is "Third Grade."

Memory Lane Friday is hosted by Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs. Please click on the button below to read Lisa's post, as well as other contributors' posts.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Here's whooo I'm looking at!

Earlier, I talked about the owl nest in my parents' back yard. Click here to read about it.

While on a study break, I headed back to the house and borrowed my dad's camera.

Here are my attempts at getting photos of the owl in its nest:

Of course, its back was to the camera when I finally got out there.

We're estimating it's about a quarter of a mile from the deck where I stood to take the photo. 

Note: Somewhere between 7:15 PM - 7:45 PM CDT this evening, my dad and I saw the "changing of the guard." The smaller male (we think) took off and the larger female (we think) took over. She was doing that "dance" I explained in my previous post.

This is the "arranging of the eggs" we think - where she settled them on her feet before she "sat down" and incubated them. My dad explained that they get the eggs on their feet, like a pigeon would (or like a penguin, if you've seen March of the Penguins) as they incubate them.

Whoooo whooo whooo is that?

Livie and I are currently at my parents' house, which is about 140 miles (approximately a 2:30 hour drive) from our house. We got here Thursday evening, after an already long day for me. My schedule?
  • Up at 5:15 AM to study a little, 
  • At 6:30, I get ready, 
  • At 7, I get Livie ready, get my travel mug of coffee in the car, eat a yogurt or have a whey protein drink
  • At 7:30, take Livie to Pre-K then drive nearly an hour to the U of I for two classes back-to-back,
  • 9:30 AM - 12:10 PM, Native American Literature and Early American Literature
  • 12:30 - drive home (it takes a bit to walk about 0.65 mi to the parking garage, lugging a ton of books)
  • 1:30 - Lunch and load up the overnight bags, portable DVD player, DVDs, 2-3 of Liv's stuffed animals
  • 2:30 - Pick up Liv and drive the 2 1/2 hours to Abuelita's

So . . . when Andrew is doing his Reserve weekend, we head to Abuelita and Nonno's house so Livie can spend time with them while I goof off on my laptop at the local library study. Yesterday, Abuelita took Livie to get a manicure (a new monthly "tradition" for them) and went to see a movie. Today they're making a cake.

My parents live in a really wooded area. There is quite a bit of "wild" life around here. Lots of deer, some raccoons (the word raccoon, by the way, has its origin in the Powhatan tribe's Algonquian language), possums, birds native to Iowa, and the next door neighbors' chocolate lab, Bentley (or Bailey, or boo boo, or some other two-syllable name starting with B). I should know his name by now, because they're always yelling it when he runs over to jump on me.

Well, anyway . . . yesterday morning, while we were in the kitchen, my dad comes over and points out the window above the sink. He asks me if I see the white tree down the hill a way, with the huge nest in the high branches. Why, yes, I see it. Why?

He hands me a pair of binoculars and has me look closely.

There's a HUGE owl in the nest. This bird is MASSIVE!!

Its back was to us at the time, but I could easily see the two tufted "ears" poking up on the top of its head.

I couldn't stop watching it. It sat there, occasionally swiveling its head around. It was so cool to look at.

At some point I headed to the library to study, but when I headed back for lunch, I grabbed the binoculars and looked again. It was still there. I then remembered they're nocturnal, right? No wonder it was still there.

Then later in the evening, around dusk, I looked at it again, thinking it might be heading out soon, if it hadn't already gone. But it was still there. It looked like it was trying to get comfortable, doing an intricate "dance," lifting a gigantic wing, putting its head down, shifting its weight, and then repeating with the other wing.

It dawned on me that perhaps it's incubating eggs! Because it was still there as I watched through the binoculars in the fading light.

This morning it was still there, but it had turned itself around at some point and was now facing the house. I was still looking at it, absolutely fascinated, when my dad came into the kitchen. I asked, "Do you think it has eggs in that nest?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm sure it does."

"I can't stop looking at it. It was doing a 'dance' last night at dusk, like it was trying to get comfortable, rearranging eggs, maybe?"

"I'm sure it has eggs. I've been trying to see it during a 'shift change.' You see, there has to be a pair of them. They take turns with the eggs. . .the owl will abandon the eggs if there isn't a mate."

Huh. I didn't know that. Then he described how they arrange the eggs and "sit" on them while they're incubating them, and said it's similar to how pigeons "sit" on and incubate their eggs. (He used to breed and race homing pigeons, so that's how he knows about pigeons).

I like these unexpected learning moments.

And now enough procrastination. I have to get back to my school work.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Memory Lane Friday - No Theme

This week's Memory Lane Friday is another "No Theme" Week.

It's been a long week (I'm wiped out from school and then driving to my parents' for a long weekend), so I figure I'll post a few photos and let them speak for themselves.

I picked a few from New Mexico; I found some cute ones while I searched for that quail photo I posted a few days ago.

Here they are . . .

I took this a couple weeks before Livie's first birthday. I had to get her ready one morning before leaving for work, and she'd fallen asleep after I'd changed her diaper on my bed. So I let the two of them sleep a bit longer while I got myself some breakfast. But I had to take a photo first.
Sleeping beauties

These two photos were taken in our back yard in Alamogordo, New Mexico during the summer of 2007. We had gone outside one afternoon because a storm was moving in. We wanted to enjoy the momentarily cool weather and the "New Mexican perfume" that the rain brings in the southwest. 

I don't remember what Livie was so excited about, exactly . . . maybe it was the rain.
In our back yard in Alamogordo, NM, circa summer 2007.

In our back yard in Alamogordo, NM, circa summer 2007.

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