Friday, December 30, 2011

Late Winter in Central Iowa

This is late December in central Iowa (at Abuelita and Nonno's house):

I took these yesterday. Can you believe that? Brown, not white! Let's see how long it takes before we get snow.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a "Merry Christmas!"

We had a wonderful evening last night tracking Santa, going to Mass, and eating a tasty dinner. We let Livie stay up a little later than usual, because we were waiting for Santa to get to North America, in hopes that would help her get to bed right away.

Here we go on our photo journey:

Liv's ready for church.

The table is set with the china.

Liv is served: tacos, beans, chocolate milk.

Dessert: peppermint ice cream in a wine glass!

Andrew was surprised I'd served her dessert this way, but I said it was a special occasion; Livie deserved to have it served in a fun, unusual way! Besides, she has to wait until 2027 before we can fill her wine glass with wine!


Silly Liv!! She's pretending to fly with Santa!

Silly Liv! The Rudolph plush toy is in the reindeer treat bowl!

Putting out cookies right before bed!

The cookies, milk, and reindeer oats are ready for our special visitors!

About an hour after she went to bed, Andrew and I became Santa's helpers (shhhh!). 

Santa was here!

 And then this morning . . .
She was especially excited about receiving Ariel. . .

. . . and the finger puppets! (Daddy's back there looking at his gift.)

Legos from Grandmamá and Grandpapá!
Mama got a few treats in her stocking: a bookmark, a couple "tokens," and a French lavender soap!

Livie made this for Mama and Daddy at school!
Andrew got a Camel Bak "Better Bottle" in his stocking which is "the only thing I want this year." Plus, it was his idea to have tacos and beans, so he got just the Christmas meal he wanted. And we're going to see some movies he's been waiting to see, too. (We're taking Nonno, who's also looking forward to seeing some great movies!)

I also received from "Santa" (a.k.a. Grandmamá and Grandpapá - thank you, by the way!!) the three books I've been waiting to get my hands on: Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea, Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson, and Devil's Gate by Clive Cussler.

So in a couple hours, we're heading to Abuelita and Nonno's house for the week. I hear that Abuelita also has something under their tree for Livie. 

Tonight we're having tacos . . . again! We don't normally get homemade tacos on a regular basis, so we're not complaining that we're eating them a second night in a row! 

I won't have much chance to upload my photos from my camera, so I will probably be on a bit of a bloggy break this week. (Unless I post something without photos!)
I hope you all are having a splendid time with your families and friends!

P.S. I hope Abuelita, Nonno, Grandmamá, and Grandpapá enjoy the photos!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Day, 2011

Livie, Andrew, and I are ready for Christmas. I'm having fun with the magical side of it, since we have a small one in the house.

Livie and I have been having fun tracking Santa, thanks to NORAD's Santa Tracker, which not only shows where he is on the map, but offers occasional videos of Santa and the reindeer team in various places around the world. It is SO MUCH FUN!

Liv wants to show off her reindeer pajamas.

Of course, later on this afternoon, we'll go to Mass, then come home and eat a Tex-Mex/New Mexican dinner . . . a new tradition we started last year (when we ate posole). This year, though, we're eating tacos, refried beans, and Mexican rice.

For the past few days, Livie and I have been reading some Christmas-themed books. One of my all time favorites is a book called, The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola.  "Las Posadas" is a Hispanic tradition, one that is big in New Mexico (and Santa Fe, especially). In a nutshell, actors dressed up like Mary and Joseph knock on doors, seeking shelter (the Spanish word "posada" means "inn"), and the crowd (the "audience") follows along. At the end, they find shelter (in the plaza) and everyone celebrates with hot cocoa and cookies.

Here's our version of the book. I love its colors and illustrations.

Much later tonight when Livie finally falls asleep (in her reindeer pajamas), Andrew and I can play "Santa's Helpers" by putting the presents under the tree and into the stockings. And don't forget . . . we get to share some cookies and milk.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Getting Ready for Christmas

We're impatiently waiting for Christmas in my house (Livie, in particular). First, Livie's enjoying a tasty Christmas treat (yes, she's still in her pajamas, mid-afternoon!):
Huge Santa Lollypop!

Next, I busted out the plate for Santa's cookies, the bowl for the reindeer treats (either oats or carrots), and the "And milk, too . . ." glass. They're waiting to be put into use on Christmas Eve.
I bought these in El Paso, TX, not long before Livie's first Christmas. We've been using them each year. I've never seen them anywhere else, ever again, so I'm glad I bought them when I saw them!

Reviewing Fun Times

So now that I'm on break and don't start classes (for grad school) again until mid-January, I've been working on a project that's been on hold during the fall semester.

Since I've been looking through old photo albums, I'm coming across photos I'd forgotten I have.

Ready to go on a "trip" to two very different parts of the country?!

I thought I'd go ahead and share a few from November 2001 and December 2002 from two locations I love: the Southwest, and Chicago.

These first few photos are from Tucson, AZ from November 2001. I was still active duty in the Air Force, and stationed in Tucson. Andrew, also active duty, but stationed in North Carolina, had come out to visit to celebrate a few occasions: my birthday, my promotion, and to be my date for the Air Force's Birthday Ball.

While he was out visiting, we'd hiked to Seven Falls (which I posted a photo of the other day), and visited the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, which is one of the coolest museums I've ever been to - if you ever get a chance to spend time in Tucson, you need to plan on spending a couple hours there.

This is from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. We're on a bridge over a dry wash. Below us are a couple javelinas, scratching themselves against each other. The one in the front is facing to the right, and the one in the back (hard to see - you can see its hind legs underneath the front one's face) is facing left.

Again, at the museum . . . I got Andrew to smile for a photo. He'd never been so close to a cactus before, and thought they were pretty cool. However, he made me nervous because he kept kidding around about touching one; I got worried he'd actually touch one by mistake. 

 This one is from the Saguaro National Park area, just west of Tucson. It's a beautiful place to visit and get your fill (of viewing, only) of saguaros!

These next few photos are from Chicago in December 2002 (when Andrew and I had our church wedding).

This one was taken a couple nights before the wedding (and about two weeks before Christmas). Andrew had never been to Chicago before, so we were taking a walking tour through the city, beautifully lit for Christmas. (I'd been using one of those disposable cameras, so the photo quality is not great - I guess it proves "you get what you pay for"?) The Chicago river is behind him.

This one was taken from one of our hotel windows, the day after the wedding. I remember thinking as I fell asleep in this room, that the muted city sounds from way below were soothing.

A view from another one of our hotel windows. I thought this was a particularly cool view. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Few Lost "Treasures" from the Southwest

I was looking through some photos (looking for one or two in particular) and I came across these three photos that I'd completely forgotten about.

These first two were from when I lived in Tucson, AZ (2000-2002).

I was out and about somewhere, and realized I probably didn't have enough any saguaro photos.
I always thought that orange plant looked cool. Not sure what it's called, by the way.

 This was at Seven Falls (after we'd gotten some good rain) - this was a nice day hike I liked taking every so often. I think I took this photo when Andrew and I hiked there, once.
(I think I've posted this photo before . . . but it's been a while since I've looked at it, and it's cool, so I'm posting it again!)

This was Liv's first Christmas (in New Mexico). I always thought her "bed head" was funny when she was a baby - it always got all spiked up like that in the back.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Favorite Christmas Ornaments

Last night, Livie was asking me about some of the ornaments we have on our Christmas tree. So I was telling her about them, and where Andrew and I had gotten them.

After telling her the stories about my favorite ones, she asked me if I were planning on posting photos on the computer. I hadn't, but she asked me to, so she could see the photos after getting home from school today . . . so here are the photos and stories about my favorite ornaments (get settled in and cozy with a warm beverage before you start reading - it's a long one!):

This first photo shows two Chicago Blackhawks ornaments. The ball is my first and "oldest" favorite. When Andrew and I had our church wedding in Chicago in 2002, we stayed for a couple days after the wedding and took in the wonders that Chicago has to offer, including a Blackhawks game against the Dallas Stars at the United Center (where Chicago's basketball team, the Bulls, also play).

We'd gotten married on a Saturday evening, and the game was the next evening. This was Andrew's first NHL game ever, so it was a treat for him. I'd bought tickets for my brother Alex and my dad; unfortunately, Alex couldn't make it at the last minute. So it was just Andrew, my dad, and me. It was my dad's first NHL game, too, having only been to a few minor league games in Des Moines, IA. Me? Well, I'm a huge Blackhawks fanatic fan, so I'd been to plenty of games by this time (and I even have a Blackhawks tattoo - but that's a story for another time).

So when the game started, both Andrew and my dad were amazed at the speed and power of the game, which is hard to appreciate when you've only seen NHL games on TV. They also had fun at the United Center. I'd made sure to treat them to the full experience - the beer, the nachos, the screaming crazily cheering wildly for the 'Hawks. My brother, Joe, and I (and sometimes one of Joe's friends) had been to numerous 'Hawks games in the past, and we always enjoyed the combination of the Blackhawks/being in the United Center/nachos/beer/cheering, so I wanted to make sure both Andrew and my dad experienced these things, too.

Well, during one of the intermissions when Andrew and I had gone to get more treats, we'd come across some ladies selling ornaments - the ceramic ball with the hand painting on it. As you can see, they are really cool, with the Blackhawks logo, the city skyline (which goes all around the ornament), a beautiful evening-blue sky, and snow. It came in a red, satiny box (with padding on the inside), so we could safely transport it home. Since I'm such a Blackhawks fan, Andrew decided to buy one for me . . . and it would also commemorate our wedding weekend, too. (The Blackhawks player ornament - #88, Patrick Kane - was a recent addition.)


This next one was from some Christmas store around Fanueil Hall in Boston (where we were stationed for 4 years). Since I was an equestrienne for most of my life, Andrew thought this rocking horse would be a nice addition to our ornament collection (especially since they could paint my name on it), and the year would signify our first Christmas together.


The next few are from when we lived in Alamogordo, NM. Livie and I had moved from the Boston area to New Mexico when she was 4 months old. Andrew followed about 3.5 months later, after he returned from his deployment.

When he'd gotten back, he and I had spent just under 24 hours in Santa Fe, while my parents spent time with baby Livie in El Paso, TX with my grandparents. I loved Santa Fe, and would love to go back one day (and spend more than just most of one day there!).

While we were in Santa Fe, we came across a Christmas shop (Susan's Christmas Shop, if I remember correctly), so we had to go in. I figured this would be the perfect place to get some southwestern-looking ornaments for our first Christmas in New Mexico, especially since it would be Livie's first Christmas ever.

I found the best little ornaments to commemorate our time in New Mexico!

This first one is a little pot made by a Native American. As you can see on the front, it depicts an adobe pueblo so common for the area. You can click on the photo to see it a bit bigger, and maybe that'll help you get a better view of the chile ristras depicted on the ornament. On the back, it says: 2006, Feliz Navidad, Santa Fe, and the artist's signature.

Yes, it's a little blurry when you click on it, but it gives you a good idea of what it looks like.

This Native American baby is probably my favorite, because I think it's so cute. They had these in baby-boy-blue, as well. I got the pink one to signify Livie's first (New Mexican) Christmas. Livie loves how it looks like the baby is saying, "Oooh" with her round, little red mouth.

These next two are of the St. Francis of Assisi church in Rancho de Taos, NM. I love this style of church, and I'm glad I found one depicted in an ornament. The second photo shows the bottom of the ornament: it's a tiny history of the church, along with the artist's signature.

So there you have my very favorite Christmas tree ornaments, signifying various places where we've lived. However, they each make me a little homesick (for Chicago, Boston, and New Mexico, respectively), when I put them on the tree.

I know this was a long post, but I hope you enjoyed the stories.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stargazer Pics

So all the stargazer lilies I got from Andrew on our anniversary have opened. I took a few photos and played around with them on Picnik.

Here are the results:
Here's one photo that I cropped into a square.

Same photo, using "boost."

Here's another photo.

The second photo, using "invert."

I love how the last photo looks like some sort of alien species!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Blueberry Pancakes - Then and Now

Livie and I were talking about our home in New Mexico this morning; I was telling her different memories of mine because she was too little to really remember living there. And because I told her she first ate blueberry pancakes when we lived in Alamogordo, she decided we'd have them today, since we haven't had them for a while.

And because of our conversation, I decided to do a "Then and Now" post today.

Liv's almost 13-months old here (in our New Mexican kitchen), and MESSILY enjoying blueberry pancakes! Shhh, don't tell Abuelita that I shared this photo; she especially does not like the "messy baby" look!

And now, just a couple months shy of turning 6. She got to use "the special table" (breakfast-in-bed-tray) in Mommy and Daddy's room (so she can watch Dinosaur Train). I'm glad she can now eat without making such a major mess!! (BTW, she's got one leg curled up - apparently it IS a comfortable position.)

 Since the conversation was about New Mexico, I just HAD to include a landscape photo. This was taken near sunset in our backyard. The backyard faces east, but that just means the sun leaves a golden glow on the mountains late in the day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Catching Up

Now that I've got some time before classes start again, I've got the chance to catch up on these (not necessarily the coffee, of course. . . that's always in high demand during the semester):
These are the books I started earlier in the semester, but haven't yet had a chance to finish. That's Livie's magic wand, by the way - she wanted me to include it in the photo.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Random Post-Semester Photos

Okay, so my semester finally ended yesterday when I submitted my last two pieces of work - two completed final papers (one was 16 pages(!!) and the other was 7).

Today was spent running some errands on campus: returning a ton of library books to their home in the University of Iowa's Main Library; selling back any and all textbooks that the bookstore would accept; dropping in on the veterans' liaison to smooth out any potential snags with next semester's VA benefits; buying a few last-minute gifts; and grabbing lunch at the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City.

Here are a few photos from the past couple weeks, which I hadn't had a chance to transfer to my computer 'til today (although there are two photos from today in this bunch, too) . . . 

During studying . . . yes, I have a scorpion paperweight (you know, because I love the Southwest - and this one can't sting me!).

Study break with Livie!

"Chile ristra" lights (this photo didn't come out quite how I'd hoped).

Stargazer lily anniversary flowers!

Walking on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City today.

The registrar is in here.
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