Friday, December 28, 2012

My Year in Books, 2012

A couple years ago, Lisa at Two Bears Farm got me hooked on a meme where you list the books you've read for the year by answering a list of questions. This year, I've only read 46 books, well short of my normal yearly average but my semesters this year have kept me ultra busy reading academic articles, journals, and excerpts, and writing papers, instead of reading books (either for class OR for fun - I wasn't in any literature classes this year). Seriously, I have never been SO BUSY in reading non-literature academic works and writing papers as I have during the Spring and Fall 2012 semesters!! Let me tell you, I will be SO GLAD to get back to "all literature, all the time" once I'm back in American Literature M.A. classes.

Be sure to check out The Happily Ever After for a load of lists!

Anyway, here's my list (some of which were audio books which I listened to on my commute to/from school):

Describe yourself:
The Crime Writer, Gregg Andrew Hurwitz

How do you feel:
Burning Bright, Tracy Chevalier

Describe where you currently live:
Back of Beyond, C.J. Box

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Native North America, Mark Q. Sutton

Your favorite form of transportation:
Manhattan Transfer, John Dos Passos

Your best friend is:
Queen of America, Luis Alberto Urrea

You and your friends are:
We People Here: Nahuatl Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico, James Lockhart

What is the weather like:
The Storm, Clive Cussler

What is life to you:
Open Season, C.J. Box

Favorite time of day:
The Night Strangers, Chris Bohjalian

Your fear:
The Panther, Nelson DeMille

What is the best advice you have to give:
Between the Tides, Patti Callahan Henry

Thought for the day:
The Fever of Being, Luis Alberto Urrea

How I would like to die:
Seneca Possessed, Matthew Dennis

My soul's present condition:
The Eighty Dollar Champion, Elizabeth Letts

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Winter View

A wintry "through the woods" view on the way to my parents' home:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On the Road - White Christmas

Snow along the side of I-80 in central Iowa! Roads were clear, fortunately!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Eve of Christmas Eve Preparations, 2012

Okay, so we have a lot to do before tomorrow - Christmas Eve!

(A side note: for some reason when I uploaded these photos to my computer, the color looked really off . . . I tried to edit them on PicMonkey, but I don't know if that helped or made it worse.)

First, we had to get the "Santa plates" out of the china cabinet. We use these plates to serve Santa his milk and cookies, as well as give oats to the reindeer!

Yes, Livie has some of her art project stuff in the background. ;)

Then, since we're having posole for Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow night, I had to get the blue corn posole in a bowl so it can soak overnight (after which, I'll cook it for a couple hours in the slow cooker, then add all the other tasty ingredients).
Livie likes the fact that the corn looks blue, purple, and black. She can't wait to see what color it turns out once it's cooked.

Of course, we have to have cornbread with our posole. I'm using this cast-iron cornbread mold to bake the cornbread. Livie loves that we'll each get a serving of cornbread in the shape of corn on the cob!

And we can't forget the cookies! Livie helped me make most of these. She also helped taste-test them, too! Gotta make sure they're good enough for Santa! (They are - I taste-tested them, too!)
Chocolate chip (and snowmen, thanks to Livie)

Oatmeal scotchies (and holly, thanks to Livie)

Last but not least, the tree, decorations, and stockings have been up (since the weekend after Thanksgiving).

Now if I could only get her to cooperate at bedtime!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I'll Be Home for Christmas . . .

if only in my dreams . . .

I heard that song yesterday, and I was suddenly very, very homesick for the Southwest - namely, my grandparents' home in El Paso, TX as well as the cozy, too brief home in Alamogordo, NM (we'd lived there only one year), where Livie celebrated her very first Christmas.

(Frank Sinatra's version off YouTube)

And then when Livie and I were at our favorite pizza place in town last night, I heard a song originally sung by Michael Bublé - Home - but this version I heard last night was sung by a country star, featuring Michael Bublé (I later learned the country star was Blake Shelton).

 (Blake Shelton's version off YouTube)

When this song came on, I was so overwhelmed by such a strong sense of saudade (a Portuguese word that captures a sense of homesickness, nostalgia, or a longing for something or someone absent - but without much chance of return) and a longing for being back "home," in the Southwest, where my family is from . . . and where I lived for a time (having been stationed in the Southwest twice while in the military). I almost cried, I was so homesick.

See, the first time I'd heard the song Home, was in New Mexico, the day Livie and I had moved into our house in July 2006, and I was busy unpacking while listening to the radio. Andrew was deployed in the Middle East at the time, and wouldn't be home for another three months. I was missing him, worried about him, and trying to keep busy with setting up the new home.

And I'd heard that song a number of times during that year of living in New Mexico.

So every time I hear this song, I think of that home, the desolate beauty of the desert, and the very first Christmas with Livie (meaning: the very first time I got to be "magic" by playing Santa).

As I sat there watching Livie color while we waited for our pizza, I couldn't believe how hard the saudade had hit me, especially since we've been here in Iowa for a few years now and have our "new" Christmas traditions pretty firmly established (including eating a very New Mexican posole for Christmas Eve).

Although the saudade faded by the end of the evening - for the most part, anyway - I still had a vestige of it lasting through the night, and into this morning, causing me to look through some old photos from our New Mexican Christmas:

The tree, night before Christmas

Arch decoration, night before Christmas

Sacramento Mountains, Alamogordo, NM

These photos will have to do as I get my Southwest fix from afar. (Too bad I don't have a photo of my grandparents' place at Christmas time - that would've been priceless).

In the meantime, I'm biding my time before I get to play Santa, once again (it's fun and I enjoy it a lot). Just a few more days, though, right? Livie and I get to do a bunch of things before "Santa" delivers presents under the tree: making posole for Christmas dinner, making cookies for Santa (yummy!!), and packing for our trip to Liv's grandparents' place on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Second 10th Anniversary

Andrew and I celebrated our "First 10th" Anniversary in June. When we were in the Air Force, we were on different assignment schedules. Since our church wedding (with the cake, the dress, the big party, etc) was being planned for December 2002, and I was getting a new assignment in August 2002 (while Andrew still had a couple more years at his assignment at the time), we had to have a Justice of the Peace ceremony in June 2002 so we could get on the same assignment schedule.

So that's why we have two anniversaries per year, the first being in June, and the second (honoring the church wedding).

And that's why today is the "Second 10th Anniversary."

I remember some distinct things about the church wedding. I remember that since we couldn't do photos in the cathedral, we did them beforehand in a special room in the hotel where we were having the reception (and the same one where we'd had a block of rooms reserved for all the guests). There were lights set up, and after a while, it got very hot in there, posing and waiting for the photographer to regroup us into specific photo opportunities.

When it was time for us to head to the church, and since it was December in Chicago, I'd had this white faux-fur cape I was wearing over my dress (plus a faux-fur muff). The bridesmaids and I were going to head over to the Cathedral by limo (Andrew and the groomsmen were being shuttled over there in one shuttle, while the rest of the guests were being shuttled separately). Well, we were waiting, and waiting . . . and WAITING for the limo to come pick us up from the lobby of the hotel. I kept looking outside to see if the limo was there . . . every so often, I'd see a white limo go around the block.

Impatient and overheated underneath my fuzzy wrap, I went outside to wait and cool off (remember, it was December in Chicago). The cold felt SO GOOD after being under the lights and in this wedding dress and wrap. My poor bridesmaids were freezing, though - but every time I told them to go inside to wait, they would say they weren't leaving me. I even offered to go back inside so they could get in there and get warmed up. Candi was very insistent, though. "If you're overheated inside, we'll stand out here with you. We're not going inside if you want to stay out here."

Dianne, Brenda, me, Candi

 By the way, while we were standing out there, pedestrians were walking up and down the sidewalk, like they do in a busy city like Chicago. Many saw me standing there in a wedding dress and offered best wishes. Kind of fun being the center of attention. 

FINALLY, after 10-15 minutes, I saw the limo park across the street. Not knowing where the wedding planner was at that moment, and knowing that earlier, she had been insistent that we get to the Cathedral by a certain time, I got really frustrated, not knowing what the plan was. "Why is the limo over there? Aren't we supposed to get going? Anyone know where Karin is? Are we supposed to get in the limo now?"

The wedding planner was momentarily AWOL, so I made a decision. "Let's get going. Follow me, ladies." And I marched across the street saying, "If there's ever a time I'm dressed to stop traffic, today's the day!" As my bridesmaids scurried to catch up with me, I heard cars honking and drivers and passengers waving and cheering at me. I even saw some friends in their cars, on that very street, heading toward the Cathedral (I think I even saw Sara and Pete). This was cool. I was stopping traffic and people were cheering for me.

And then I saw the shuttle that had just picked up Andrew and the groomsmen, ready to transport them to the Cathedral. They all stood up in the shuttle, pointing at me and cheering and making a big deal because I was literally stopping traffic. It was pretty funny.

Andrew was pinching my rear; that's why we're all laughing.

(My mom later told me that the wedding planner was really irritated that I'd done that, but hey!! She had disappeared momentarily and hadn't given me an update on the plan/schedule. And there was the limo! So I took charge! )

Anyway, once we'd gotten to the Cathedral (and waited for the ceremony before us to finish), Candi had given me a mint-chocolate cookie. I'd really needed a peppermint, but none of us had one. So Candi did the next best thing - chocolate and mint.

Finally, we got started. I remember that Dianne (one of my bridesmaids) thanked me for including her in wonderful memories. I was just glad she was there.

And I remember that as my dad and I were walking down the center aisle, I saw movement to my right, down the far right aisle. It was my Aunt Lily and cousin Sylvia. Aunt Lily had her little camera pointed right at me as she tried getting photos. A few years later, Sylvia said that she'd been embarrassed that Aunt Lily had done that. I told her not to worry, that it was one of my favorite memories of that day. I had my own paparazza (singular, feminine form of paparazzi)!!

The reception area.

Later on at the reception, I remember that a good friend of mine (Sara) had told me that if I needed to use the ladies' room, I'd better have someone go in and help me, because wearing a dress like that, it's a two man woman job!! Better yet, I'd better wait until I couldn't wait any longer. And I needed to trust her because she knew from experience. Hahaha!

Brenda, Candi, Sara, me. We were all on the equestrian jumping team together at our high school.

Oh, and the food . . . salmon and a petite filet mignon, both cooked to perfection. And sorbet in between courses, to cleanse our palates! Mmmmm! Andrew STILL talks about that salmon.

And what wedding reception would be complete without the wedding cake?

And one more very important memory: my grandparents were there to help celebrate the occasion.

So, after sharing some of my very favorite memories of the day, I have to say, "Happy Second 10th, Andrew!" 

Note: All photos in this post (except for the one of Brenda, Candi, Sara, and myself) were taken by professional photographer Brad Baskin.

(Click here and here for more wedding photos.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Barn Charm - Coralville, IA

Okay, I took this drive-by photo last week on my way home from school (Nov 28th, I think). It's in the Coralville, IA area, just north of I-80 and just east of the I-380 interchange.

I've always admired this barn. Sometimes there's a chestnut horse in the pasture. I didn't see him (her?) on this particular day.

"Barn Charm" is hosted by Bluff Area Daily. Please click on the "Barn Charm" button below to view the rest of this week's fantastic "Barn Charm" entries:

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