Friday, December 31, 2010

365 Photos for 2011

In 2008 I attempted to complete a photo challenge in which I was to post one picture per day (366 in all, since it was a leap year) taken during the year, each one representing a theme from an assigned list. Sadly, I fell short, only completing 266 photos. I let that challenge rest for both 2009 and 2010, and am now ready to take it on again. I'll give it my best try. You can check my new blog (click HERE) on a regular basis, starting on January 1, if you wish to follow along. (Link is also posted in the side bar, to the right.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010 - Carlsbad, NM

On Thursday, December 23, Dan and I folded down the seats in our little SUV, packed it to the brim with luggage, presents and groceries, and headed to my mom's house in Carlsbad, in preparation for a family Christmas. Tim left Albuquerque at the same time, in his rental car (his own car is still in the body shop), and we kept in touch along the way and stopped in Roswell for lunch together. We were glad that there was no inclement weather or bad roads this year.

Christmas Eve day was relaxing and enjoyable. Dan, Tim, Mom and I got in a lot of visiting, since the only tasks I had to do that day were to roll out some pie crusts for Christmas Day dinner and wrap the last of the presents.

I rose early on Christmas morning and started making our breakfast kolaches and baking pies. Chris, Kelsey and the children were due to arrive at Mom's house around 9:00 a.m. They were driving from Pecos, TX, where they had enjoyed a huge Christmas Eve celebration with Kelsey's extended family.

Shortly after 9:00 our Christmas Day became less relaxing, more energized and animated, and even more enjoyable than our Christmas Eve had been. Children are to Christmas morning as lights are to the tree; they make the day glow!

Clara waited patiently, with eager anticipation, until she was given the okay to start passing out the presents. Robert, who only a month ago celebrated his birthday, and just the day before had celebrated Christmas at his other grandparents' home, knew what opening packages was all about, but he was a bit slow, so big sister helped him along at times.

Our Christmas dinner was a roasted pork loin, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pasta salad, apple sauce, and bread rolls, with both pumpkin and pecan pie for dessert.

That evening, and the next day, we spent as much time as possible playing with the children. Robert walks - and even runs - all over the place now. He and I had fun playing the "Where's Robert?" game. He would run out of the living room, into the kitchen, where I couldn't see him. I would ask, "Where's Robert?" which was his cue to peek around the corner and wait for me to say "Peek-a-boo, there he is!" He would laugh, run and hug me, and then dash back into the kitchen, waiting for my next "Where's Robert?" Over and over. Such fun!

Clara and I took a walk to the river, played games, read books, tried out her new bicycle (her Santa gift) and her "stompers." She's such a sweetheart, and getting to an age where we can talk about so many interesting things.

Tim left on Sunday, right after lunch, because he had to be back at work on Monday. Chris and Kelsey and Dan and I planned to stay until Tuesday morning. However, our plans changed. Both Robert and Chris started having respiratory problems. Robert hardly slept on Sunday night because of a bad cough. All four of the Texas Judds were sleeping in the same room at Mom's house, so when Robert didn't sleep well, neither did the others. They decided to head on home on Monday. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Robert ends up visiting his doctor once they arrive back home.

As for Dan and I, we also opted to leave on Monday. On Sunday night, Dan tripped on a large wooden planter box that sits just outside Mom's front door, and fell down hard onto the pavement. We were so thankful that he didn't sustain any serious injuries -- nothing broken (except his Nook - his e-book reader), nothing sprained, just a few scrapes and some sore muscles. We felt that going home on Monday was the best thing to do, after such a shake-up.

Despite the less-than-perfect ending, we have many wonderful memories of our time together. I'm so grateful for my mom, who, at 84, was willing to host all of us; for Tim, who took time off work to spend time with the family; and for Chris and Kelsey, who always put family first, even when it means traveling so far with two little ones.

God is good. We are blessed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Five Years Old!


Clara turned five yesterday. Kelsey posted lots of pictures of all the birthday activities on her blog, and this was my favorite -- Clara and her daddy. So sweet!

Happy birthday to our precious Clara!

Reading Log - June through November 2010

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
This novel, considered a classic, first published in 1943, is a coming-of-age story of Francie Nolan, a young girl from an Austrian/Irish-American immigrant family, living in Brooklyn. Francie, like the Tree of Heaven which grows, literally, out of the cement of the Brooklyn streets and sidewalks, is resourceful and able to thrive despite the hard times suffered by her family.

Personally, I was hooked from page one, when I discovered that Francie, who was eleven years old when the story opens, was born in 1901, the same year as my Grandma, who immigrated from France as a little child.

Tai-Pan, James Clavell
Long ago I read Shogun, by James Clavell. Shogun was an epic tale about the Japanese feudal system, and I found it fascinating. Although Clavell’s books are long and detailed, I felt I was ready to tackle another one.

Tai-Pan is a story of the European and American sea traders who seize the uninhabited island of Hong Kong, with its natural harbor. It takes place at the close of the first Opium War.

Although there are many characters in the novel, the story centers on the competitive relationship between Dirk Struan and Tyler Brock, owners of the two largest shipping companies vying for domination of the Chinese market. Dirk Struan, whose company is the largest in all of Asia, is known as Tai-Pan, translated Supreme Leader.

I learned a lot from working my way through this book, but I did find it to be work. When I read Shogun, I found myself being emotionally tied to the characters and didn't want to come to the end of the novel. Tai-Pan, although an interesting story, left me with an emotional disconnect to the characters, and a feeling of satisfaction and relief that the book was finished.

Paranoia, Joseph Finder
After working my way through Tai-Pan, I wanted something much less academic. I found it in Paranoia. It is a fun novel, with twists and turns around every corner. The main character, Adam Cassidy, is involuntarily trapped in a spider-web of corporate espionage, which turns dangerous when he falls into the roll of a double-agent.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett
I kept running into people who recommended The Help. I avoided reading it for about a year, thinking it was probably too similar to The Secret Life of Bees, which I read recently. Finally, however, I thought I’d give it a chance. I’m so glad I finally succumbed.

I was correct that there were some similarities in this book to The Secret Life of Bees, in that it centered upon black-white relationships in the Deep South. But the similarities stop there. The Help, as suggested by the title, itself, tells the stories of some of the African American maids – the help - who worked in the homes of the white socialite families of Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s.

Their story is told in an original and clever way. Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a recent white college graduate, has moved back home with her parents, on their cotton plantation in Jackson. Her passion is writing, but she has been unable to land a job in her field. Skeeter, herself, grew up in the loving care of Constantine, her family’s maid, but upon her return home finds that Constantine is gone and has been replaced by a new maid. Skeeter’s questions about Constantine’s disappearance are avoided and not answered by her family.

Those questions, however, lead Skeeter to a new and unprecedented relationship with two of Jackson’s African American maids, Aibileen and Minny. From this relationship grows a clandestine book-writing project and, eventually, a true and deep friendship. The book they write, in the midst of the historical drama of the civil rights movement and the assassination of Medgar Evers, in Mississippi, eventually involves the cooperation of a dozen Jackson maids and puts them all at serious risk.

The story plays with the emotions, as it has complex shades of humor, tension, fear, sadness, grief, admiration, joy and love. I highly recommend its reading.

Thank You Dr. Estes

On our recent trip to Texas, our first over-night stop was Abilene, where Dan and I went to college and where we met.

In the morning, while Dan was getting read for the day in our hotel room, I turned on the TV and flipped through the channels. A commercial caught my eye. It was for a dentist named Dr. Estes, and it was saying something like, "Dr. Estes is back! Come and see him for your dental needs." They flashed a photo of Dr. Estes, showing an older gentleman.

Now I don't know if this Dr. Estes is the Dr. Estes I remember from Abilene in 1971 or 1972, when we were newly weds and I was still finishing up my degree, but judging by his photo in the ad, it's possible. He was quite young at back in the '70s. Whether or not this is “my” Dr. Estes, the ad brought him, fondly, to mind.

In that long-ago time, I had been having a nagging toothache and, foolishly, was doing my best to ignore it. I was busy with school and we were on a pretty tight budget, with no dental insurance. Eventually it came to a point where ignoring it was not an option. The tooth, which was a front one, became abscessed, and I was in excruciating pain.

I didn't have a local dentist, but someone recommended Dr. Estes to me, telling me he was a good dentist and a fellow member of the church of Christ. I called his office. Because I was in such pain, he said to come in immediately, which I did. I was crying when I got there. I told him that I just wanted him to pull the tooth. Pain does funny things to your brain; I didn't care if I left his office with a gaping hole in the front of my face, as long as I wasn't hurting. Just PULL IT OUT, I begged him.

I remember Dr. Estes’ kind, but firm, words to me: “I’m not in the business of pulling teeth. I’m in the business of saving them.” He told me that he wanted to drill a tiny hole to release the pressure and then do a root canal. That was the first time I'd even heard of a root canal procedure, and I wasn't convinced that it would leave me pain-free. Plus, as I told him, we had no dental insurance and couldn't afford such an expensive procedure. "Just pull it," I cried out in my misery.

But Dr. Estes saved me from my own foolishness. Despite my protests, he performed the procedure. The instant he drilled into that tooth and released the pressure, my pain was GONE, and I could, at last, think more clearly. Then he took away my financial worry by telling me there would be no charge for his services that day. I wanted to hug him! In fact, I think I did.

I'll never forget Dr. Estes for his skill, his professionalism, his generosity and his kindness to me, a young, struggling college student, 40 years ago.

And now, I’m going to do my research, to find out if the dentist featured on the ad is, indeed, “my” Dr. Estes. And if so, I’m writing him a thank-you note.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wee Hours Wake-Up Call

At 12:30 this morning, Dan hears a noise, but doesn't think anything about it. He drifts back to sleep, then the phone rings and wakes both of us. It's our neighbor, Lorraine, across the street. She says that something "strange" has happened in our driveway.

Tim spent the night with us, because he was to leave very early this morning for the airport to start his Hawaii vacation. He had parked his car in our driveway. We went to the front window and tried to make sense out of what we saw -- a badly damaged car, not Tim's, sitting sideways at the lower end of our driveway and, from our viewpoint, what looked like Tim's car, also damaged, sitting up by the garage doors.

We called 9-1-1, and were told that someone else had already reported it and that the police were on their way. We stayed inside until the police arrived, because we didn't know who might be out there. While we waited, Tim woke up and wanted to know what was happening. We really didn't know much, but broke the news to him that his car had been hit.

The police arrived quickly and were so nice. We went out and assessed the situation. The out-of-control car jumped the curb, on the up-hill side of our driveway, plowed across the sidewalk and into our driveway, hit Tim's car, spun it 90 degrees, and stuffed it into our garage doors on the opposite side of the driveway.

Wow! Lots of police cars at our house!

The other car

Tim's car

Tim's damage

I began reassuring Tim that he would still make it to the airport to start this trip he's been dreaming of. I told him I would drive him. He was planning on leaving our house at 3:30 a.m. But there were two big obstacles to my plan. Number one was that his luggage was in his trunk, and not accessible. And, once I was thinking clearly, the second obstacle dawned on me. There was no way we were going to be able to open the garage door - it was seriously damaged and hanging onto the track by only one of the four panels - so I wouldn't be able to get my car out. What to do? !

Eventually the tow truck arrived, to haul both cars off. The tow truck driver was very accommodating, and after he pulled Tim's car away from the garage door, he let us try to open the trunk to get the luggage out. It worked! Next we had to solve the transportation problem. We figured the only solution was to call a cab, but one of the police officers on the scene kindly offered to drive Tim to the airport. Both obstacles resolved!

From inside the garage we saw that we were only about two inches away from having a three-car accident, since the buckled door (and Tim's car on the other side of it) almost "kissed" the rear of Dan's car.

From inside the garage

Both of us had to call in to work this morning and report that we wouldn't be able to come in, since we can't open the garage door. We have someone lined up to come tomorrow morning to replace the door and the opener, but until then our cars are trapped inside.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Girls' Afternoon Out

On the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, Kelsey, Clara and I left the boys at home and had some time just to ourselves.

Kelsey set this event up perfectly. After we were finished with dinner and had cleaned up the kitchen, Kelsey asked Clara if she'd like to have her hair done up like a princess. Of course she did! Clara adores the Disney princesses! Kelsey combed Clara's hair and put in some pretty little lavender clips, and then dusted her cheeks with a little powder and put some gloss on her lips. Clara was already beginning to feel pretty as a princess. Then Kelsey hinted that Clara really should wear a pretty dress if she wanted to look like a princess. Out of a sack, beside her, she pulled a Rapunzel play dress, which she had secretly purchased the day before. Clara's eyes lit up, and she couldn't wait to put it on. After Clara pranced around like a princess for awhile, Kelsey suggested that it would be nice to go somewhere, since Clara was all dressed up. Of course, Clara thought that was a great idea, so the three of us (the girls) piled into the car to an unknown (to Clara) destination.

It took awhile, even after we arrived at the movie theater, for Clara to realize she was going to see Tangled, the new Disney movie about Rapunzel, and that she and Rapunzel would be wearing matching dresses. How fun is that?!!

I never got a posed picture of Clara in her Rapunzel dress, but I did snap a few candid ones, as she was spinning and twirling in a dance of pure childhood joy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Daring Bakers' November Challenge - Crostada!

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. (Recipe HERE)

I was eager to make this, since the crust (the pasta frolla) was a lovely shortbread-y type of dough, and we were encouraged to try any kind of filling we wanted. I thought an apple custard filling would be great for fall.

The pasta frolla, though somewhat sweet, was mixed up, by hand, in the same way pasta (for noodles) is, starting with the dry ingredients in a pile and the egg placed in a center indentation. Starting with a fork, and then using my hands, I incorporated the dry ingredients into the egg, just until it all came together into a nice dough.

After refrigerating the dough for a couple hours, I rolled it out, put it in a tart pan, and baked it. Once the crust was cool, I brushed it with an apricot glaze, to seal it and keep the filling from soaking in and making it soggy. (It worked well, by the way!)

For the filling, I sauteed some tart apples (Granny Smiths) in some butter and sugar until they were slightly soft.

After the apricot glaze had set up on the crust, I filled it with a layer of apples and poured the custard filling over top. I sprinkled a little cinnamon over it and popped it into the oven (20 to 25 minutes). If I make an apple custard crostada again, I will bake it for a shorter amount of time. I think the custard was a bit over-baked, but still tasty!

Not Fair!

Poor Robert! You only get to turn one year old one time in your life, and his first birthday didn't turn out the way it was supposed to. He had been running a fever for nearly a week, and had a lot of congestion. So Kelsey and I took him to the doctor this morning, and learned that he had a very bad ear infection, especially in the right ear, as well as some wheezing in his lungs.

The doctor gave him a shot of antibiotics - NOT an appropriate birthday gift! - as well as a couple of prescriptions. He's been on at-home breathing treatments all week and will be continuing them, as well.

But we didn't let the day go by without any fanfare. Kelsey baked cupcakes, Chris went out for balloons, and we all sang "Happy Birthday" to the birthday boy. He dug into the cake like a one-year-old is supposed to do. Actually, he has been a real trooper, playing and smiling and passing out loves to Grandma and Grandpa, despite being under the weather.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dreaming of Christmas

November and December are busy months for the Judd family. First comes Robert's birthday, then Thanksgiving. Next will be Clara's birthday and then a visit from Old Saint Nick!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy First Birthday, Robert!

Robert turned one year old on Tuesday! Here he is in his new riding toy. You can see by his clapping hands and smiling face that he's tickled with it. Sadly he's running a little fever and has a lot of congestion going on, so we're not sure his little party, scheduled for tomorrow will be a "go."

Here's a picture of Robert last year at this time. What amazing changes in just twelve months! He's started taking his first steps this month, and is jabbering expressively (his own language, for the most part). He loves to point his little finger at things and ask, "This?"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Look What Came in the Mail


I can't believe our baby is turning a year old. Here are a couple scrapbook pages I've been working on for the past 11 months. We only need one more picture of Robert in his nursery rocking chair to complete the layout. It won't be long now!



When I Was a Child I Thought As a Child

I remember, as a child, seeing people limp – like Chester on Gun Smoke – and thinking that having a limp was similar to having brown hair, or being left-handed. It was, I thought, just something some people had. It never occurred to me that a limp was indicative of pain.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Join In the Fun

They say a language that doesn’t evolve will become a dead or extinct language. As evidence that English is a living language, every year the publishers of English language dictionaries add to their pages words that have come into use through our changing culture. Supposedly, these words have, both, currency and potential longevity. I’m not so sure.

In 2009, the Word of the Year, for the New Oxford American Dictionary was (drum roll, please):

unfriend – to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook

(Apparently, Blogger is sadly behind the times, since it's spell checker identifies both “unfriend” and “Facebook” as misspellings in the above definition.)

Some other interesting new English words that were validated by the dictionary folks in 2009 include:

intexticated – distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle

screenager – a person in their teens or twenties who has an aptitude for computers and the Internet

freemium – a business model in which some basic services are provided for free, with the aim of enticing users to pay for additional, premium features or content

deleb – a dead celebrity

frenemy – one who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy

locavore – one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible

What do you think the 2010 Oxford New Word of the Year will be?

Can you create your own original new word, serious or tongue-in-cheek? Give it a try and post your word as a comment here. Don't let me down! Get busy and get creative.

Here’s one of my own to kick off the fun (a bit lame, I know, but that means yours can be too):

mobile scone – a pastry bought at a coffee shop’s drive-through window and eaten for breakfast on the way to work

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Friend, Carrie, Makes Me Laugh

Here's a quotation from my friend, Carrie, on her Facebook page. It was too good not to pass along:

"I read last year 4,153,237 people got married. I don't want to start any trouble, but shouldn't that be an even number?"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Christmas Past

I’m trying to remember what year it was . . . maybe 1998 or 1999, soon after we’d moved back to Juneau, after living for 20 years in Oregon. It was the year my mother came to visit us for Christmas.

A couple weeks before Christmas, on a Saturday, Dan, Mom and I went down to South Franklin Street to browse in the gift and jewelry shops that were still open. Many of these shops close up for the winter, once the tourists quit coming, but others, which cater more to the locals, are open year-round.

In one of the jewelry stores I found a handmade piece of Alaskan art for sale. It was made to be worn as a pin or put on a heavy chain and worn as a pendant. It was made of sterling silver and fossilized ivory, in the shape of an Eskimo, holding a fish in her hands (I always thought of the Eskimo as a woman, although that’s debatable). I fell in love with this piece, and oohed and aahed over it. I even took Dan by the arm and drug him over to the display case to make sure he saw it. Later that day Mom took Dan aside and told him that he really should go get that piece of jewelry for me for Christmas. He said, "Maybe."

A few days later, when Dan was at work, Mom and I went window shopping again. We went back to look at the Eskimo. We were told it had sold, and that they didn’t have another one like it. I was a little disappointed, but felt better when we saw a similar one, although the ivory wasn’t quite as pretty, at another shop. That evening my mom took Dan aside again and told him that he’d better get himself down to this second shop and get the Eskimo pin for me, since the original one was already gone. He was pretty noncommittal, which irritated Mom.

Christmas morning finally came. We sat around opening presents and eating my homemade cinnamon bread. We were down to the finish when Dan put a package in my lap and then stepped into the kitchen to answer the phone. It was Chris and Kelsey on the phone, and Dan chatted with them for a long time. After waiting about half an hour for Dan to hang up, I decided to go ahead and open my package. It wasn’t the right size or weight for jewelry, I realized, but Dan had been know to wrap presents in deceiving ways to trick me, and I was pretty sure my Eskimo lady was inside. It was rare that I hinted so strongly about a gift. I slowly and carefully unwrapped the present. It was . . . a . . . telephone. Just an ordinary, sit-on-the-counter, plug-into-the-wall, forest-green telephone. “Well, we did need a new one,” I said out loud to my Mom, who appeared to be much more upset by this development than I was.

About that time, Dan said good-bye to the kids and looked our way, quickly assessing the rather chilly living room scene . . . all presents opened, everything cleaned up, me sitting on the couch with a green telephone in my lap, and my mom with a how-could-you scowl on her face.

“Oh, no!” he cried, “I’m so sorry! There’s something else!” He dashed over to the tree and, reaching into the thick branches, pulled out a small package. If it looks like a jewelry box, and shakes like a jewelry box, it must BE a jewelry box. Sure enough, inside, cradled in a little pillow of cotton, was my beautiful Eskimo lady, holding her fish. And I knew, by the looks of the ivory, that it was the original one, not the almost-as-nice one from the second store.

Dan told us, then, that he had whispered to the clerk, that very first day (before my mom had ever begun prodding him), to put the piece on hold for him, and had gone back later to pay for it and pick it up. He had thoroughly enjoyed playing clueless for two weeks and watching my mom's nervous reaction. He had to admit, though, that he’d almost blown it all on Christmas morning, when he’d become distracted by a phone call and left my mom and I thinking, for 30 minutes, that he’d missed the mark by an Alaskan mile.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

We were hopping up every minute or two, tonight, answering the door to trick-or-treaters like these. I hope your evening with the ghosties and goblins was as fun as ours was.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Recent Activities

* We enjoyed a dinner at the home of Dennis and Betty Ann last Sunday afternoon. Betty Ann prepared mole (pronounced molay). This was my first time to eat mole, a dark red/brown Mexican sauce, incorporating red chili and chocolate, served over meat (often turkey). I had been reluctant to order it at a restaurant, because I’m not fond of hot, spicy foods. But Betty Ann’s mole was mild, and I really enjoyed it. Dennis and Betty Ann’s house sits at the edge of a large natural arroyo, Bear Canyon Arroyo. Their backyard, where we dined, is immaculately groomed and has a stunning view of the Sandias. Here’s a shot I took, during dinner, with my cell phone.

* Congratulations are in order! Dan starts a new job on Monday. He will be working with the same people, in the same office and sitting at the same desk, but working for a different contractor and taking on new duties. He’s excited about it. And, as an update to his recent health issues, he's feeling better and better each day. He continues on the blood-thinner medication and is being monitored on a regular basis by his doctor.

* This evening we met up with a group of friends (eleven of us) at Sandiago’s, a restaurant in the building that houses the lower dock for the Sandia tram. We were there to celebrate our friend Alicia’s birthday. The women sat at one end of the long table, and the men at the other end, which allowed "girl talk" and "guy talk" to flow in a steady stream. Here's a picture of Alicia with her birthday cake:

Even though this building is at the base of the tram, it is up in the foothills of the mountain, overlooking Albuquerque. At sunset it's really a beautiful vista, with all the twinkling city lights spread across the valley.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Daring Bakers' October Challenge - Doughnuts!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious. (Recipes HERE)

What a perfect treat for October! I made yeast (raised) donuts, and they turned out delicious. The outside fried up with a thin crisp crust, and the inside was airy and tender. Although many people fry doughnuts in a light oil, I remember my dad, the baker, telling me about the science of frying doughnuts. A hard fat (shortening, lard, etc.) works better for those attributes I just mentioned - crispness outside and lightness inside. He must have been right, because I used lard and these were outstanding.

I started out cutting them out with a doughnut cutter that I found among my collection of cookie cutters. It was a plastic one, and I've had it for years and years. That's probably why it cracked and broke after cutting only two doughnuts. From the rest of the dough I simply cut little pillow-shapes, using a pizza cutter. They fried up just fine, for the most part, although I had a couple of uncooperative pillows that refused to turn over to fry on the second side.

I sugar-coated some, glazed some with a white vanilla glaze (with sprinkles) and glazed a few with a caramel flavored glaze.

When I was finished frying the them, I took some across the street to our good neighbors. Coming back into the house, after breathing the outside air, I was struck with the wonderful smell of hot yeasty doughnuts. When I was a child, and we lived upstairs over my Dad's bakery, I woke to that delicious aroma every morning. What great memories!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Skype . . . Yipes!

It had been a long, long time since we’d arranged a Skype call with Chris, Kelsey and the kids. A friend of mine, Celia, who co-teaches the two-and-three-year-old Bible class with me, is always bragging about her amazing Skype visits with her two one-year-old grandbabies; she visits with each of them, through this technology, two or three times a week. Based on her enthusiastic reviews, I’ve been pushing for more Skype calls with our grandkids. On Saturday Kelsey called to arrange for such an audio/visual experience for 6:00 (our time) that evening.

On the dot of 6:00, both Dan and I were seated in front of his monitor, eagerly anticipating the call. At 6:01 Dan couldn't wait any longer and decided to place the call from our end; but there was no answer. Then we received a message, “Small crisis. Wait just a minute.” So we did.

A couple minutes later the call came through. It was so fun to see Chris, Clara, Kelsey and Robert, sitting there on the couch (a little reminiscent of the opening scene of a Simpsons episode) ready to talk with us.

The crisis, we learned, happened just as they were ready to place the call. Clara had suddenly gotten sick and thrown up! But she looked pretty perky as we started our conversation. She told us about what she was learning in school; we talked about Christmas wishes; she showed us her souvenirs, brought home by her Daddy, from Rome. And then she ducked down, off camera, to throw up in the bowl she had brought with her.

Robert, with some coaxing, gave us a wave, then was done with the whole thing. He wanted down where he could crawl around. But wait . . . that wasn’t really what he wanted! He wanted to be held. But no . . . he wanted down. Poor Kelsey! We hardly saw her on camera, as she was trying her best to mollify Robert. She tried a bottle, which worked for awhile, and then said, “I think I’d better go get him ready for bed.” Off camera, and from clear upstairs, we could hear him screaming as if he were being tortured. (I later learned from Kelsey that, unbeknownst to anyone at that time, Robert was getting sick, too, and began running a fever later that evening.)

Talking over the crying, Chris began telling Dan about his recent travels, while Clara (now wrapped in a blanket and growing more peaked by the minute) and I sat staring at each other on the screen. Occasionally I’d form a heart with my fingers; she’d smile and “heart” me back. I'd wink; she'd wink. I'd waggle my fingers, with my thumbs stuck in my ears; she'd do the same. I’d make funny faces; she'd make funny faces. All the while the men continued talking about the wonders of Rome . . . until Clara captured center stage by grabbing for her sick-bowl and filling it once again. And on that discordant note we ended our Skype visit.

On Sunday morning I beat Celia to the punch in bragging that I’d had a Skype call with MY marvelous grandkids, too. (I didn't see any reason to provide any further details.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New "Wheels"

Yesterday we said good-bye to our Ford Escape. Here it is, sitting on the car dealer's lot, in my mind's eye looking rather sad and hoping for a good new home.

We drove home in our new VW Tiguan, which is VW's small SUV. It's really a crazy name - sort of a combination of "tiger" and "iguana," but despite that, we like the vehicle. It's our first adventure in leasing, instead of owning, a car.

Though, in the pictures, the colors of the two cars look similar, they really are different. Our Escape was an orange color, actually called "blazing copper." The new one is red, with the official name of "cherry."

Here's hoping for many rewarding photoshoots-to-come with this car!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What to Do on a Day Off?

I treated myself to a day off from work today. Taking an occasional day of leave for no particular reason always feels like skipping school, and I love it!

I thought I might like to go on a photo shoot, but couldn't seem to pick a place to go. So this morning, bright and early, I headed out the door with no destination in mind. Of course it is still Balloon Fiesta week, so the first thing that captured my attention were the balloons lifting off. It was a perfect morning for it. I hope you don't mind a few more balloon pictures, if I promise some other subjects later on in this post.

These were some of the early risers, silhouetted against the eastern sky.

I started the day off with a breakfast at McDonald's. When I came back out to the car I saw this balloon, Sunny Boy, descending. His bright face was looking right at me, but by the time I got my camera out, the wind had turned him sideways. I could tell it was going to come down near the Cottonwood Mall, which was nearby, so I played "chase crew" and went to watch it land - along with about two dozen others who had the same idea. As you can see in the last picture of this series, another balloon was looking for a place to set down, but I decided to let someone else have the fun of chasing it down.

Before I left, Sunny Boy's pilot came over to talk to all of us who were there watching. He handed out trading cards (that's a Balloon Fiesta tradition) and talked with us a bit. He is from Colorado Springs, but used to live in Albuquerque. He does not own the balloon, but gets to pilot it occasionally for the owner, a lady from Akron, Ohio. Here he is, standing in front of the collapsed balloon.

So, I had had my McBreakfast and helped the balloons take off and land, and then I headed to a park I'd heard about but never visited before, the Rio Grande Nature Center Park. Once I got there I decided it was more of a park for people with good knees (i.e. not me). There are lots of trails, including a bridge that takes you to the trail that goes for miles along the Rio Grande. There is a nature center that sits at the edge of a pond that is populated with ducks, geese and turtles. Here are a couple pictures of the turtles.

From the park I headed to the Botanical Gardens, one of my favorite Albuquerque hang-outs. I had heard that the butterfly pavilion was open a little later than normal, to accommodate visitors for the Balloon Fiesta . . . and me :-) A lot of my pictures came out slightly blurry, since I was shooting with my telephoto lens without a tripod. But I got a few that are pretty.

After the butterflies, I wandered around a bit, taking in the model train and other sights.

By this time it was almost noon. YES, I'd done all of this in just five hours (I left home at 6:45 a.m.). I decided to call it a day, as I was getting warm and thirsty, which brings me to the perfect end of my adventures . . . a stop at Sonic for a cherry limeade!