Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sneaky Husband - Part Two

And now, the REST of the story (continued from HERE).

So, one huge surprise wasn't enough for this birthday, I guess.

Last night Chris and Kelsey said they wanted to take us to dinner. Dan told us that he made reservations for us at Black Angus, for 6:45. We drove over there, and were taken to a back room to be seated. As we walked into the room, the host stopped, and I was wondering why he didn't seat us. That's when nearly the whole room broke into "Happy Birthday to You!" Seated at various tables surrounding ours were all sorts of dear friends, and Tim was already seated at the family table. In the center of our table was a stunning bouquet of red roses (from Dan), along with a pile of cards from everyone. I really couldn't have been more surprised!

Friends and family
Roses from Dan

It must have taken a good 15 minutes for me to get around and hug and thank everyone who was there to usher me into senior citizenship! After dinner came a pretty decorated cake, and a sort of a roast/toast/"This is Your Life" from our preacher and good friend, John.

Part way through the dinner it dawned on me that I not only have a sneaky husband (as I said in the first post), but an entire sneaky family and a host of sneaky friends! Dan pulled it all off without a hitch, but being the perpetrator and secret-keeper took a toll on him. He was pretty drained by the end of the evening. He asked Chris to do the driving when we left the restaurant, and, after we got home, he didn't take long to drop into bed.

What a guy! And What a family! Having Chris, Kelsey, Sweetpea and Tim at our family table and so many loving friends there with us, was a sweet reminder of the blessings God has showered on us over the years.

The "Sneaky One" and me with my cake

Chris, Kelsey and Sweetpea

Sweetpea's favorite part of dinner was the cake

This morning Tim and our friend, Keith, joined us for a final breakfast together, before Chris, Kelsey and Sweetpea took off for the airport. Here are just a few more pictures, taken over the past few days, of my favorite "subject."

Sweetpea has her own little Fisher Price camera, and here she is taking a picture of Grandma's robotic puppy, Rocky. This was the first time that Sweetpea was around Rocky and not terrified of him.

"What do you mean? Take WHAT finger out of the ice cream?"

A contented Grandpa, with Sweetpea in his lap

Sweetpea and Grandma, before the party

Time out to do a little "work"

A big smile from our pride and joy

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Daring Bakers' January Challenge - Tuiles

It's the end of January already and time to post the results of the first challenge of 2009, from the Daring Bakers. This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Baking Soda and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux. (Recipe HERE.)

The ingredients are simple: butter, powdered sugar, flour, egg whites (slightly whisked), vanilla and, for my decorations, a tiny drop of red food coloring. The recipe results in only a tiny bit of dough, but it is sufficient for making quite a few cookies, since they are shaped by spreading the dough with a spatula over a thin template, so the dough is no thicker than the template. I decided to do hearts, since Valentine's Day is coming up. And I made my template from a piece of art foam, a little less than 1/8" thick.

After laboring (albeit with love) over the Yule Log last month, these thin, crisp, delicate little cookies were a breeze, and lots of fun to bake and shape. "Tuile" (pronounced "tweel" - sort of) is a french word meaning "tile," because the cookies are supposed to resemble the curved tiles on a roof. Traditionally they are baked flat and then set over a curved surface while still warm, giving them their characteristic curved-tile shape. I chose to shape my valentine cookies over a series of three small dowels, laid side-by-side, trying for a rippled shape.

I read somewhere that the surface should be slightly bumpy, something like the skin of an orange. There was a French word for that texture, but I've forgotten it. If you look at this closeup, I think you'll see that typical surface texture.

The Daring Bakers challenge also required that we serve the tuiles with some sort of a fruit accompaniment. For mine, I made a berry compote, by cooking up raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Here is the final result. The little vanilla flavored tuiles, along with the berry compote and a dollop of whipped cream were really tasty. Just ask Dan!

I wasn't really satisfied with the thickness of my tuiles. I decided that my template was slightly too thick. I used a second, thinner template with a bit of the left-over dough, and the result was a couple of cookies thinner than potato chips (see above). They were almost transparent, and extremely fragile. But they tasted wonderful, literally melting on the tongue. I think the proper thickness of template lies somewhere between my two, and I know I'll have to keep trying to get them perfect.

Other Completed Daring Bakers' Challenges: Lavash, Pizza Napoletana, Caramel Cake, French Yule Log

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Have a Sneaky Husband

Today was my birthday. It was a BIG one - you know, one of those that ends in zero! The one that gives one senior citizen status in some restaurants.

We had talked about going to a movie this weekend to celebrate. And Dan told me that Tim was meeting us for dinner at Jason's Deli this evening, before church. I was looking forward to both of those birthday highlights.

So around 5:30 this evening we pulled up in the parking lot of Jason's. As I was walking toward the glass doors, I saw a little blond head peeking out and thought to myself, "Oh, how cute. She almost looks like . . . she looks JUST like . . . that IS SWEETPEA! My jaw dropped to the ground, and I just stared at her, open-mouthed, through the doors. She had her little Fisher Price digital camera in hand, and I think she snapped a picture of me in that dumbfounded pose.

I finally pulled open the door, and got a huge hug from Sweetpea, then from Kelsey, Chris, and Tim. I felt like I was dreaming, and was hoping I wouldn't wake up too soon. In the course of conversation, I also learned that Dan had already called my boss and arranged for me to be off work tomorrow and Friday, to spend as much time as possible with the kids before they leave on Saturday.

Yes, I do have a sneaky husband, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Thanks Dan, Tim, Chris, Kelsey and Sweetpea for the best 60th (oops, I spilled the beans) birthday ever.

Monday, January 19, 2009

5 Things . . .

5 Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago

1. Starting a new job at the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development
2. Thinking about buying my first digital camera
3. Digging my car out from under a ton of snow every day
4. Planning a valentine cookie-baking day at my house with two little girls, Kaylee and Sarah (cousins)
5. Painting the living room and office of our condo in Juneau

5 Things On My To-Do List Today
(Note: No work today because it's a holiday (MLK), so it's not a typical weekday)

1. Write up my Daring Bakers blog (to post on 1/29)
2. Fold clothes and put them away
3. Watch a movie on TV
4. Go out on some errands with Dan
5. Read (my current "read" is Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi)

5 Snacks I Like

1. Chocolate coated gummy bears
2. Popcorn
3. Nectarines
4. Grapes
5. Nuts - especially cashews and almonds

5 Things I Would Do If I Was A Millionaire

1. Retire!
2. Buy a new digital SLR camera
3. Take my kids and granddaughter on some fun vacations
4. Help pay off the loan for the new construction on our church building
5. Buy Dan a classic sports car to restore - and rent/buy him a place to do it

5 Places I Have Lived (For Various Lengths Of Time)

1. Juneau, Alaska - 22 years (not counting college years, when I was out of state)
2. Newberg, Oregon - 14 years
3. Albuquerque, New Mexico - 5 1/2 years (so far)
4. Abilene, Texas - 3 years (plus 1 year in nearby Anson)
5. Adak, Alaska - 1 year

5 Jobs I Have Had

1. Elementary school teacher
2. Welcome Wagon lady
3. Assistant to the VP for Academic Affairs at a small university
4. Assistant to a private investigator
5. Mom

5 People I Tag (to post a "5 Things . . . " list on their blog)

1. Kelsey
2. Papa John
3. Patty S.
4. Becky C.
5. Mom (Come on, Mom. This will give you something to write about.)
and a bonus (I know, that makes six, but . . . who's counting?!)
6. Betty W.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Two-fer" Night

Friday night is date night for us. Since I had a "Happy Birthday" gift card (buy one, get one free) from Chow's Asian Bistro, last night we decided to take advantage of that offer and have a nice dinner at a very affordable price. Both of us were a little adventurous and tried something new from the menu. Both of us wished, in the end, we'd have gotten our familiar favorites; but for half price we couldn't complain.

As we walked out to our car I said, "We really need to go into JC Penney's [which was right next door] and get a new mattress pad." You see, I ruined our old one last week, by tossing it in the dryer; it came out in shreds. Dan was agreeable to the suggestion, so into Penney's and down the escalator we went. When we came to the bed and bath section, we found a huge white sale going on. So huge that it overwhelmed us! Not only did we get the mattress pad, but we also ended up with a pillow for Dan (I didn't need a new one) and a down-alternative comforter! Even at 50% off, that was a tidy little sum . . . so much for a cheap date!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Reunion - Long Time in Coming

If you read my blog last week, you'll recall how thrilled we were to have Sarah come and visit us. We hadn't seen her in 11 years, since she was eight years old. We were still all a-whir with the afterglow of Sarah's visit when we received a message from someone else we hadn't seen in twenty years!

We first knew Patty, in Juneau, when she was three years old. We left Juneau, to move to Oregon, seven years later. After our move a decade or so passed before we saw Patty (briefly) again, when we attended her and Edwin's wedding. Two more decades have passed since then. We've kept in touch with Patty's parents over the years, though not as well as we should have. What has put us all back in touch in the last year or two are reading each others' blogs.

Last night we made a ten-minute drive over to Patty's parents-in-law's home (I'll call them T and G), where Patty and her family are vacationing for a few days, and we had dinner with them. We had a wonderful time eating together, laughing our way through a game of Farkle, visiting, and gazing in amazement at some of the rooms in our hosts' home. Edwin's mother, G, can and does do anything related to fabrics and materials. She spins, weaves, knits, sews and quilts, to name a few of her talents. Looms and spinning wheels captured our attention as we wandered through the house. But equally impressive were the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lining the walls of the library, the living room, and the sewing room. The books, for the most part, belong to T. He has a passion for WWII history, Russian history and Southwest history; and he has a most astounding library of books on these and other subjects. Patty tells us the books are double-shelved - in other words, what we saw was only half of his inventory of books! (If you look at Patty's blog - HERE - you can see more pictures of this warm, welcoming home.)

What a joy it was to see Patty again, to get to know Edwin and their three daughters (including a set of twins), to catch up on a little bit of their life story, and to meet Edwin's family.

Many thanks to Patty, for initiating this, and to G & T for opening their home and welcoming us around their dinner table.

Edwin and his mother, G, strategizing in our Farkle game.

Dan, Patty and me.

Edwin, Patty and their youngest daughter, who reminds me of the little Patty we knew back in Juneau.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another Year, Another Dinner

Our friend, Keith, joined us last night to celebrate Tim's birthday at Olive Garden.

After dinner we came home and had coffee and cake - an ice cream cake, from Baskin Robins.

Friday, January 9, 2009

American Girls

Sweetpea got an American Girl doll for Christmas.

On the Sunday after Christmas, when we were back in Albuquerque, I looked around the congregation and spotted new American Girl dolls sitting on a number of little girls' laps. Here are three of them, proud as punch of their new Christmas dolls.

Overnight Visitors

We left Oregon almost 11 years ago. We were friends with a couple who had two sons and a little girl, named Sarah. We had been there to see Sarah grow from a newborn to the bright little eight-year-old that she was when we moved away. She was as sweet as she was cute. We haven't seen Sarah (or any of her family) since 1998.

Wednesday night our phone rang. It was Sarah's mother. Sarah and a friend were driving from Oregon to Oklahoma Christian University, where they are both students. They were returning after being home, with their families, for Christmas break. Because of the terrible weather conditions in the Pacific Northwest right now, they had to go a route that took them down into California, then east on I-40. They would be passing through Albuquerque sometime Thursday night, and she wondered if they could stay that night with us.

"Of course!"

Sarah and her friend, Mark (from Vancouver, WA), finally made it to Albuquerque around 9:00 p.m. We all stayed up and talked until 11:30 or so, and Dan and I really enjoyed visiting with them. Sarah is a beautiful young lady now, a sophomore, who spent her first semester this year studying abroad (Vienna, Austria). We also enjoyed meeting Mark, who is the son of a Vancouver preacher. It was a joy having them here for this surprise visit, and we hope one or both of them will stop by on other trips to and from college.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Tim!

Today is Tim's birthday. It's been 33 years since he came, squawling, into this world. And now he's a responsible, independent young man. (By the way, my kids will always be "young" men, to me.)

We'll be celebrating this Friday evening. Maybe I'll take a few pictures to share.

A Sweet Sweetpea Moment

When we arrived at Mom's house, a few days before Christmas, Chris, Kelsey and Sweetpea were already there. Sweetpea ran to us, arms opened wide when we came in the door, and there was no doubt that she knew and remembered us from previous visits. But still, it's hard to keep names straight, especially when one has a Grandma, a Grandpa, a Nanny, a Bia and a Pawpaw (not to mention TWO Uncle Tims!).

One afternoon I was sitting in the living room with the "kids", while Mom was in the kitchen and Dan was in the family room, trying to fix Mom's computer.

Sweetpea looked around the living room and asked, "Where's Grandma?"

"I'm right here," I said.

"No," she said, "Where's Grandma?"

"Do you mean 'Nanny'?" we asked.

"No! The other Grandma," she said, with obvious frustration.

She was asking about her Grandpa! So for the rest of the trip Dan was teasingly referred to as "The other Grandma."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Puzzling Post

I think I've gone overboard on public art, so this will be the last one, for awhile. I may revisit it later. This one I've made interactive, to keep you awake. I think the lack of comments in the past five days tells me my readers have been a bit bored with these art displays. Sorry!

To work the puzzle, click on the arrow in the bottom left corner of the puzzle. This picture is of one of the tiled arches at the North Fourth Art Center, on 4th Street.

My first attempt at solving took 5 minutes and 10 seconds. Try to beat my time (shouldn't be too hard), and post your time as a comment. Have fun!
Click to Mix and Solve

Public Art Part V - Old Town Gate and Albuquerque Museum

This is the eastern gate into Albuquerque's Old Town. It's a towering, tiled mosaic on stucco. As you've probably already noticed, tile mosaics are a very popular art form here, as are bronze sculptures and painted murals.

The parking lot just outside the gate serves Old Town and the Albuquerque Museum, which is adjacent. Below you'll see just a small portion of the outside public art on the grounds of the Museum.

This one is titled "Howl"

A close-up of "Howl."

Don't ask me to explain it, but the title of this piece of art is "Tea and Steam."

"Bear With Planes and Clouds." Hmmm.

"Mother Earth."

This grouping, below, is of modern-day Albuquerquians, enjoying a pleasant day in the sunshine.

I've included a couple close-ups. When I first walked past this exhibit, I did a double-take, because the man with the newspaper reminded me of my dad. Those of you who knew him might also see a similarity (see second close-up, below).

This next series, also on the grounds of the Museum, is called "La Jornada" (The Journey). It commemorates the arrival, in 1598, of Governor Juan de Onate, who left Santa Barbara, in presdent day Chihuahua, leading an expedition bound for New Mexico. Nearly 600 settlers accompanied him, along with Mexican Indian allies and Franciscan friars. Onate founded the first European settlement in New Mexico (Juan de Onate being born in America, of Spanish parents). From what I have read, there was heated controversy over the erection of this monument, since Onate is said to have carried out a bloody retribution against the Acoma Pueblo Indians for the killing of Juan Zaldivar, Onate's nephew, and several of his men in a skirmish at Acoma (near Albuquerque).

You will notice, in the background of two of these pictures, that you can see a rocket. The rocket stands in the corner of the parking lot of the National Atomic Museum. According to a sign posted beside it, it is a Redstone rocket (the type of rocket, with a Mercury capsule, that carried Commander Alan B. Shepherd into suborbital flight from Cape Canaveral, in 1961).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Further Information on the Arch (see post below)

I had to do a lot of Internet searching, but finally came up with some information on the arch I photographed for the post below.

It is called the Solar Arch, and was dedicated in 1985. The artists were William Drexel, who died in 1987, and O. K. Harris. The description, from the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS), is: "An arch with slots cut through the top, so that beams of light illuminate times of the year and hours of the day marked on the sidewalk below the arch."

So my suspicion has been confirmed, and I really must go back to take a better look at this solar calendar.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Public Art Part IV - 4-H Park Arch and The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Near the intersection of 12th and Menaul, across the street from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, is the 4-H Park, with this huge metal arch. I've always admired it as we drove past, but this was the first time I stopped at the park.

Now I'm realizing that I didn't do such a good job of photographing the arch. Once I got home and started looking at the picture of the concrete pad that lies beneath and behind it, I saw that there were some numbers and words carved into it. I need to go back and take some good close-up pictures of those carvings, because I think they have to do with months and days of the year, and that this whole thing might be some kind of sundial or calendar. Maybe some of you can help me with this??? Here is the one picture I took of the concrete, and below that you'll see a section of that photo that I enlarged. I'd love it if one of my readers could figure this all out. And I promise to return to the 4-H Park and capture some better images of the numbers and words.

Leaving the park, I went across the road to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. They are the official interpretive center for the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, and their mission is: "To preserve and perpetuate Pueblo culture and to advance understanding by presenting with dignity and respect, the accomplishments and evolving history of the Pueblo people of New Mexico." Dan and I go there, now and then, for our Saturday morning breakfast.

The art I chose to photograph is only a portion of what is on display, and is only of outside (public) art. There are a number of murals painted on the stucco walls. Note the outdoor oven near the last mural. This is used to make their bread for the restaurant. When the bread is baking, the aroma in the outdoor air is wonderful. If you take the time to go inside, and especially to go through their museum, you'll see more art than you can take in.

This piece is dedicated to "all of the American Indian Veterans who served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America."

This metal sculpture is on the street-side wall of the building.

And, I saved my favorite for last. This beautiful bronze statue stands at one of the entrances.

More Albuquerque public art is coming your way soon.