Thursday, January 16, 2014

Three of My Winter Essentials

The past few days, Liv and I have had an icy walk to and from school. Even though I've salted my driveway and the sidewalk in front of our house, the city has sanded the streets, and the school has salted their walkways, there are still icy spots that are unavoidable.

Especially at the corner where Liv and I (as well as lots of other students) cross. This particular corner's at a somewhat low area where water naturally pools. So when we have weather just warm enough to start melting ice and snow, water pools at this corner. Then it gets below freezing, and that (seemingly giant) pool of water freezes up like an ice skating rink. It makes crossing the street a bit hazardous. We don't want to slip and fall, especially since it's at the corner - I'm always worried that either Liv or I (or another kid) will slip into oncoming traffic.

That got me to thinking about the winter weather gear that I'm glad I have.

Quite a few years ago - it must've been when I was in college and was home visiting at Christmastime - my brother Joe and I were at our local mall. He didn't have a car/ride and wanted to head to the mall to pick up some gifts; I was more than willing to go with him. I liked spending time with my brothers, and if that meant taking one of them to the mall, I was all for it.

Well, we'd walked past one of those kiosks that sells all those toasty warm shearling products. I tried on a pair of mittens and said I loved them and would have to come back another time to get them. (I don't remember why I wasn't going to get them right then.) As we walked along and Joe made a purchase for our youngest brother, Alex, and maybe another purchase for somebody else, he decided he had to go the the men's room.


He came back grinning, and I somehow noticed that he was hiding attempting to hide an extra bag among the other bags he already had. He ended up saying something like, "If you were to get those mittens you liked, you would pick the small ones and not the mediums, right?"



Fast forward to Christmas day.

He'd gotten me those mittens. And I still have them, as evidenced by the photo above. They are SO WARM.

I'd used them a LOT (except for skiing/sledding, because I'd go with mittens that are a bit more water repellant), and they went with me wherever I moved - although when I was stationed in Tucson, AZ, they remained in a box of winter weather gear (like my snow parka and winter boots).

When Andrew and I ended up being stationed in Boston, and I knew I'd need these mittens at some point, I actually couldn't find them! They were lost! So Andrew, upon finding a similar pair at a similar kiosk at our "new" local mall, bought me a new pair.

The original mittens that Joe had gotten me were in that winter weather gear box and it had been temporarily lost on our household goods' journey between Tucson and the Boston area. I was glad the box finally showed up, though unfortunately, another couple boxes were lost for good.

Anyway, these mittens are perfect for those low wind-chill days when I'm walking Livie to and from school!

My other favorite winter gear invention: YakTrax.

These are things you put on your shoes that help you maintain traction as you walk on icy or otherwise slick paths, kinda like tire chains for tires. A few years ago, I'd bought a pair of the "walking" variety. They're thick rubber "webs" with metal coils that go on the bottoms of your shoes. They really help reduce all the sliding around you do on icy surfaces.

That's my very poor, poor quality photo of what they look like. (Yes, it's gunky out there with the sand and the salt and the gunk.) You can see a better pic of one here.

I actually meant to wear these one morning when I ran outside while visiting my parents over the holdiays (treadmills get boring FAST in the wintertime). But I hadn't realized that Andrew had brought them inside; I thought they were in my car. So when I got to the trail head, they weren't there. But I went running anyway, and slipped on a nasty patch of ice, wrenching my right foot and aggravating the just-about-completely healed tendonitis. I took a couple weeks off, and that morphed into a couple more weeks off and. . . well, I need to get back to running. I'm just about out of the habit.

Anyway, my third favorite winter thing?

My peppermint mug. Usually used for coffee, and occasionally for hot chocolate. I use it mostly in the winter, because it seems like it's a wintery themed mug, right?

Anybody else have winter gear you just can't live without?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Liv's First French Baking Lesson

While we were at my parents' for Christmas, Livie got to do a special activity. My mom had had a very special guest staying at her house while we were there. Pedro. Pedro used to work at one of the US Embassies in South America, as well as honing his culinary skills in Paris, of all places. He knows his way around a kitchen like any celebrity chef you'd see on TV these days.

Well, one day, my mom said that Pedro had mentioned to her that he had the perfect activity for Livie. He wanted to teach her how to make an apple tart. He had this French recipe he wanted to teach her; it was one he'd seen young French children her age making all the time, during his stay in Paris. He said it would be a perfect first "from scratch" recipe. And it would be delicious.

So one afternoon, after tending to their "mise en place" (getting all their ingredients ready and kitchen tools set out in their proper places), they got right to work on the recipe.

 Pedro's ensuring she's getting all the pastry ingredients in the bowl.

He's giving instruction on how to mix the pastry ingredients."Use two hands on the mixer."

She is doing it herself!

Adding some final wet ingredients.

Time to add the apples on the pastry dough. Abuelita is "supervising."

Almost done! She's adding golden raisins that had been soaked in . . . something with cloves (I've forgotten exactly what it was).

 It's ready for the oven!

After smelling its heavenly aroma wafting from the oven, it was FINALLY ready.

Liv gets the first piece.

It was DELICIOUS!! Now I just have to email Pedro and ask him to send me the recipe so that Liv can make it again.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I DO Love Those Southwestern Mountains

Okay, I've been meaning to share a couple more photos of the Southwest, namely a few more mountain shots. These pics were taken while we were in El Paso and Alamogordo in November 2013.

Now, keep in mind, I took the pics while we were driving, so they aren't high quality shots. But they are still visual memories for me . . . until the next time I make it back "home," whenever that may be.

 My grandparents used to live not too far from the base of this mountain (the one with the noticeable "ridges" at the top). Needless to say, I saw these mountains (the Franklin Mountains) every day when I visited my grandparents in El Paso. Not knowing when I may be back in El Paso, and knowing that I probably wouldn't have a better chance at snapping a pic, I went ahead and took a shot while we were driving on US 54 in El Paso. Probably on our way back to Ft. Bliss.
I don't remember which day I took this pic (using my camera, not the iPhone), but it seems like it was midday. Probably, it was either the day of the visitation (Veterans' Day) or the next day (my birthday/Oma's funeral).

Now this next pic (also from the camera) was from Sunday, November 10, 2013, the day Andrew, Liv, and I had gone to White Sands National Monument. We'd spent pretty much the whole day in Alamogordo, NM, either visiting White Sands, or hitting some other "major attractions" while we were there, so Livie could see where we used to live. (The last time she was there, she was about 1.5 years old, and thus, doesn't really remember it.) 
 These are the Franklin Mountains, again, as we're heading southward on US 54 from Alamogordo, back to El Paso. As you can see, the mountain peak with the "ridges" on the top is the one near where my grandparents used to live. This was taken late in the afternoon, probably around 4:00-5:00 PM Mountain Standard Time. There was something about that time of day that made it feel like I was "going home" to my grandparents' house, even though we weren't. It was as though I was where I was supposed to be.

 Okay, so I've shared this pic of the Organ Mountains in a previous post about White Sands, but I really do love these mountains, so I'm sharing it again. 

We're obviously at White Sands National Monument. I had to stop and just stare at the Organ Mountains, trying to somehow lock in the moment: the sounds of the wind, the voices of Liv and Andrew as they explored, occasionally hearing other visitors' voices (or the faraway sound of traffic from miles and miles away) carried on the wind, the sound of local fauna (mostly birds), the scents - there's nothing quite as beautiful as the scent of the desert Southwest, the feel of the breeze on my skin, and the sun shining on me. I was trying my hardest to make this a visceral memory, not just the one I saved on my camera.
If you click on the pic, you'll be able to see a somewhat larger version of it. In the middle of the photo, you can see some jagged peaks. Those are the Organ Mountains, just bordering Las Cruces, NM. Once, long ago, a friend of my grandmother's told me that they were called the "Organ" Mountains because the jagged peaks looked like the pipes of an (instrumental) organ. Interesting, isn't it? I always love hearing "the rest of the story," to quote Paul Harvey.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Here's to Oma! (It would've been her 89th birthday today.)

Here's to Oma on what would've been her 89th birthday (today, January 8th).

Dance away, Oma!! Dance away. 

Oma's favorite music (Glenn Miller and his genre):

And good, ol' Frank Sinatra. (This song was the last dance at my wedding reception.) We'll see you again, Oma, but not yet. Not yet.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What's on Tap for 2014?

Well . . . let's take a look. Get ready for a ton of pics! ;)

More running . . . injury free!

More riding (for Liv, and maybe me, too - I miss it). 

My "Alumni Weekend"/25th reunion at Culver Academies in May!

 The Iowa State Fair!

An air show, hopefully!

An air show with the USAF Thunderbirds, I should clarify!

Continuing grad school (for me, and elementary for Liv)!

 And more obedience training for Jock!

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