Wednesday, February 28, 2007

winter dreams

O.k. folks, it's time for my yearly obsession with moving to a new place. As most of you know, every year in February I decide I am moving. I decide on a city and proceed to research it extensively and exhaustively in the library and on the web. I pick schools for my children. I look at houses for sale. I start sprucing up my own home in preparation for the move. I make relocation plans with J. We discuss how he will work from our new city. (Can you tell he's been through this before? He's very calm about it.) I talk to my mom and Ave about my plans and bounce ideas off them.

In past years it's been Portland, Maine (near my family) and Monterrey, Mexico (near J's family). Last year it was Roanoke, Virginia, though I later switched to Charlottesville. Go here and here to see those posts from last year.

This year the winner is (drum roll, please) Barcelona! I have never been to Barcelona, but it's going to be my new home. I've even settled on San Cugat, a quiet, green suburb about 20 minutes north of Barcelona. A bus from the American School goes up there. Why the American school, you ask? My kids speak Spanish. Why don't I just send them to public school? Well, because they don't speak Spanish in the public schools of Barcelona. They speak Catalan. So. I just need to come up with about a million euros to buy a house big enough for my family in San Cugat, and of course there's the pricey American school tuition, too.

Yes, I realize that three months from now when you ask me about Barcelona, I will probably reply, "Wha?" But just humor me for now, people. Because who knows, maybe I really will move there and then when you call me and tell me you're taking a European vacation and need a place to stay, I will remember that you supported me in my obsession and I will say, "Mi casa es su casa."

Hey, this kind of thing keeps me off meds. And it has led me to learn quite a bit about Catalonia. I've started reading Ghosts of Spain: Travels through Spain and its silent past by Giles Tremlett, who in this opening chapter seems genuinely surprised to discover that in Spain there isn't an "official" version of history regarding the Spanish Civil War and that Spanish school children learn different versions depending on their region. What was he expecting? When you think about it, an "official" version of any historical event seems highly suspect, and for something as devastating and recent as the Spanish Civil War, how could there be anything but a collection of different perspectives?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

starting to not like buccanneers

I noticed that several people commented about possibly reading The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton, maybe because of my description of it. I thought I'd better say that I'm a little over half way through the book (I'm not reading fast these days) and I'm starting to not like it so much. If it takes a turn I suspect it may take, I might not finish it.

Just so you know. :-)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

art shelf challenge

Against the Sky, 1911, Robert Reid (1862–1929)

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Eleanor Roosevelt
Athena created the art shelf challenge, and I'm taking a stab at it here. I'm not sure yet if I'll make it a regular feature. I am so often inspired by great art. It stimulates me. I haven't made it to any museums for a while, but I do occasional cyber visits when I need a fix.
I read the above words by Eleanor Roosevelt tonight. I immediately knew the perfect painting to go with her quote. I saw Against the Sky about six years ago at BYU's Museum of Art. It's part of their permanent collection.
This young woman looks like a determined dreamer of the sort I imagine Eleanor Roosevelt had in mind. She dreams big and isn't fazed by the obstacles. She takes no shame in her dreams, for why should she? She dismisses her critics and challenges her naysayers. "I may have a ninteen-inch waist," she says, "but there's more to me than meets the eye."


I used to scrapbook. It was very time-consuming, so I stopped. These are of Georgie. The top is her first Thanksgiving, middle is from when we were living in Caracas, and bottom is our first apartment in Minneapolis. How do you like the dangerous cleaners we kept under the sink in the bottom photo? We weren't especially safety-minded.

Friday, February 23, 2007

the lost planet of pie

I know I've been posting a lot about Lidia lately to the exclusion of the other kids. She seems to be the one doing a bunch of stuff right now.
For her school's Inventor's Fair last week, Lidia wrote and illustrated a science fiction story called "The Lost Planet of Pie." She taped the pages of her story to one of those display boards. She even made a clay model of Planet Pie.
We were concerned that people might not stop and read Lidia's story. This is a huge event with hundreds of projects! But lots of people stopped, read the entire story, and had encouraging comments for the budding writer. One man put the palm of his hand on Lidia's head and said that he had to "touch the brain of the person who created this story." Hee hee!
Lidia is now working on a story for Reading Rainbow's Young Writers and Illustrators Contest.
Here is an excerpt from "The Lost Planet of Pie:"
What happened to Planet Pie?
There was a planet called Pie. It was called Pie because it was a pie with six lands. There were: Spameatland, Strawberlan, Dariland, Fruland, Veggieland, Chocoland, and The Capital.
Each land had a liberty sculpture. Spameatland had a giant meat ball. Strawberland had a giant Strawberry. Dariland had a Cream cheese mountain. Fruland had a giant banana. Veggieland had a giant pea. Chocoland had a chocolate cactus. The capital was just one house of every land.
Every land had different houses to. People in Spameatland lived in dried meatballs. People in Strawberland lived in strawberries. People in Dariland lived in cheese. People in Fruland lived in apples. People in Vegieland lived in mushrooms. People in Chocoland lived in Chocolate bars.
The planets near Planet Pie were: Planet Kewakastan and Planet Rewarastan.
No one was different at planet pie; every one was just the same as the people here.
The people that used to live in planet Pie were looking for new technology on different planets when they discovered Kewakastan and Rewarastan. When they were looking for new technology the Planet Pie vanished.
Every planet that you desert will vanish.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


We read Mother Teresa: A Complete Authorized Biography by Kathryn Spink for our book group. While it was very inspiring to read about this incredible woman of whom I did not know much, I found the book was lacking in some ways. As my friend Fauna said, "The book did not endear me to Mother Teresa." As an Amazon reviewer said about the book, it "reads, at times, like a laundry list of events with no coherent effort made to illuminate the person behind the events." I did, however, really enjoy our book group discussion about it. It was interesting to hear why others did love the book and thought it a very good treatment of Mother Teresa.

A few Saturdays ago I picked this up and had a lovely escape from February blahs. River Secrets by Shannon Hale follows the story of Razo, a character from Goose Girl and Enna Burning. It was good, though I preferred Goose Girl. (The one I didn't like so much was Enna Burning. Too much horror for me, but believe me, I have a very low tolerance for the slightest whiff of horror.) Shannon Hale has a great sense of humor that comes through very well in her books. I can also tell that she has an acting background, as her scenes are well-staged and the dialogue is usually interesting and believable.

I first heard about Twilight from Shannon Hale the time our book group met with her. She asked if any of us had read this book by Stephenie Meyers, who, like Shannon Hale, happens to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Evidently, this book and its sequel were bestsellers and have a tremendous following of teen readers. It's a love story about a human and a vampire. That's why I didn't run out to find a copy right away when Shannon mentioned it back in October. :-) But then Ave read it and said it was a fun read, so I thought I'd give it a try. That's a goal I have this year--to broaden my reading horizons. It was a fun read. We're not talking Song of the Lark, here, but I can definitely see why it appeals to teens. Ave and I were talking about the book yesterday and laughing about a few things. This book celebrates and justifies teen angst. Stephenie Meyers and Shannon Hale both have interesting web sites with good advice for the budding writer. After reading these two fantasy YA novels, I wondered if I could maybe write one. I started writing and quickly found that it's not as easy as I thought it would be. Maybe I should leave the fiction writing to Lidia.

Ah, this is my comfort zone. The Buccaneers was not finished by Edith Wharton before she died, but another writer has finished it. I see that it's been made into a miniseries. It's about five American girls in the 1870s who are wealthy, but cannot break into the New York's high society because their wealth is too new. They go to Europe in search of husbands who are titled but poor. (Not that they want poor husbands. But they don't seek money, they seek class.) I'm about a third through the book. I love books that explore societal mores and the individual's place in society.

In contrast to the above YA fiction, when I read a book like Song of the Lark or The Buccaneers, I do not think, "Oh, I could write something like that." I savor it as the work of art that it is, but I have no pretensions that I could achieve it, at least not at this point in my life. I do enjoy writing, perhaps in the same way I enjoy learning to play the violin. Writing helps me better appreciate the genius and hard work that go into producing great books, just as stumbling along on the violin make me that much more in awe of the virtuosos.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chicago weekend

This past weekend we went to Chicago to see some old friends and for Lidia to participate in the Prairie State Feis. Lidia went to her first feis (Irish dance competition) in St. Paul last September, and this was her second. This feis was much bigger. It was a mad house. There were 1441 partipants!
I cautioned Lidia to not expect a medal this time. It was her first time dancing in the Beginner 2 category. The girls were her age, but many have been dancing for more time. Lidia competed in jig, reel, and slip jig, in that order. Jig is the most challenging dance for Lidia. I think she does much better in the reel and slip jig. When I watched Lidia do her jig and compared her to the other girls, I was dismayed because all of them were doing more complicated steps. However, Lidia gave a very solid performance, and it was good enough for a third place medal! Unfortunately, at this point she started to feel sick. She had a headache and then a stomach ache. She did o.k. in the reel, but it wasn't a Lidia-style reel. She got fifth place. By the time she performed the slip jig, she was not feeling well at all. Also, they had three dancers going at a time for the slip jig, and Lidia's group went first. The three girls had a hard time not bumping into each other, and I could tell that disturbed her. Lidia had been practicing this dance a lot and in the days leading up to the feis she had made tremendous improvement in precision and power. She wasn't able to show it off this time, and she didn't place. Next time!
We're very proud of Lidia and her hard work.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

out of commission

Uncle Bogey was attacked yesterday morning by a vicious weimeraner when he and Mom were out on their walk. These photos were taken before the attack. According to my Mom's blog, (which she won't let me link to. she's shy.) Bogey had to get lots of stitches and has many puncture wounds, but he will recover. The weimeraner jumped a fence to get to Bogey. Mom is going to start taking a weapon on her walks, but isn't sure what to take. Any ideas? There are other vicious dogs around and she felt very helpless when she had nothing to fight that dog with.

bogey, frodito sends his love

Sunday, February 11, 2007

out with the old...

(we'll probably keep Bernie)

in with the new!

Saturday, February 10, 2007


J left for work before 5 this morning to get some things ready for his trip. I woke up when he got up and then relaxed back into a deep sleep. When Marcus came hacking and snuffling into my room at 5:15, I felt like he was yanking me out of hibernation. No good trying to get back to sleep, I was up for the day. Now at 8:41 pm I am exhausted. I write this while my children are still shuffling around getting ready for bed. I'm trying to keep my patience and keep awake until 9 when I can turn into Mean Mommy and enforce lights out.

This morning I told the kids that I would take them to Target to get some new toys if they would go down to the basement and pick out some old ones to throw out or give away. They were down there for a good part of the morning. I expected them to come upstairs with a couple of things each. They lugged up a big box full of things and set it down before me. "Whoa!" I said. "Good for you guys!"

"That's not all, Mom!" they yelled gleefully and ran back downstairs. Up they came with two more boxes full.

I cannot express how happy this made me. I am in the midst of a major decluttering. I started about a week ago to make me feel better during this cold snap. I saw an Oprah show about decluttering and that fueled my fire. We have collected way too much junk around here. It is hard for me to declutter for several reasons. 1) I am a Yankee and we believe in being frugal, saving stuff for a rainy day, and all that jazz. 2) When I throw things out, sometimes that means admitting to myself that I made an unwise purchase. 3) Sometimes I feel guilty throwing out gifts from people who visit my house and then wonder wherever is that such-and-such I gave Calandria four Christmases ago?

But as you know, this year my motto is "fear not." So I'm not supposed to be giving a flying fig what people think. I sometimes obsess about the possibility of hurting people's feelings. Maybe J and I need to stop talking about that book we mean to write, One Thousand and One Ways to Offend an Elizondo, dedicated to his mother's family. Maybe it's making me paranoid.

I digress. Sorry, it's the sleepiness. Ah-ha! 9 pm. Lights out. Tomorrow I will post photos of the junk the kids are throwing out (or giving away) and the prize they got at Target.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I took this pic to show Amity the "progress" I'm making with my hair. It grows so slowly in the winter I feel like pulling on it like I did when I was a kid to make it grow. Last week I thought I'd completely reached my limit with it and I was ready to cut it all off again. But then I colored it and that helped. My natural color is a medium ash brown, but the natural color quickly fades so that it looks like I lighten it even though I don't, and my roots grow in dark. It was looking especially nasty last week but after I colored it I felt better. Better about everything in my life, in fact, though nothing is especially peachy.
We don't look so terrible for having been up half the night. Bernie looks the picture of health here, but she was throwing up a lot and had a high fever. She is slightly better this morning.
I loath February. Marcus has been sick for weeks, off and on, and now Bernie has started. My laundry room which is off the garage, is permanently muddy and gritty. My carpets look appalling. In spite of my efforts to whip my body into submission with careful eating and lots of exercise, it is holding fast to the 5-8 remaining lbs. that are keeping me out of my skinny jeans. I stuck my tongue out at them this morning as they hung in my closet, mocking me. Because of the arctic temperatures we've had here I haven't wanted to go outside to exercise and I hate that. I am not making as rapid progress as I would like with violin. J is going to Budapest on Saturday and I'm not.
O.k., so that's why I hate February but now for some cheering thoughts. I have been buying healthy foods and cooking from scratch. As I waited in the checkout yesterday at Cub, I glanced down at my cart (as a little break from catching up on Cameron's woes, Jennifer's pain, and Angelina's grief) and I felt virtuous seeing the loads of fresh vegetables and whole grains there. We have been out to eat only a couple times this year. Combining that savings with doing my own cleaning now, I have already saved a lot! I feel powerful and capable.
J is usually a sicky this time of year also, but credits my healthy cooking with keeping him well. I attribute it to the excitement of the new business. He is usually at work by 6 am. He leaves work at about 6 pm and comes home to eat with the family and spend a couple hours with the kids. He usually does more work once they're in bed. He is not getting a lot of sleep but feels good anyway.
Bernie wants me to lie down with her and read a book.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

at work

she is a serious writer...
but still lots of fun.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

crock pot

Karen asked for more crock pot recipes. Here is one that I am almost embarrassed to post because it is just pot roast. However, people always seem to really like it made this way and ask for the recipe.

1 beef roast, smallish
1 envelope dried onion soup mix
2 envelopes brown gravy (separate use)
parsley (optional)

Empty onion soup mix and 1 brown gravy into a pie plate. Mix them around. Cut pot roast into about 1/2 inch slices. Dredge pot roast slices on both sides with soup/gravy mix and place in crock pot. Cook on low for 8-10 hrs, until roast is very tender. Make up other gravy packet according to package directions in a sauce pot. Carefully transfer roast from crock pot to serving platter and cover with tin foil. Empty juice from the crock pot into a bowl. Remove excess fat from top of juice with a couple paper towels. Stir about a cup of the juice into the gravy. If desired, thicken with a couple teaspoons of cornstarch in water. If desired, add some chopped parsley to gravy. Pour some of the gravy over the pot roast and reserve some to pour on potatoes. Garnish pot roast with sprigs of parsley.

If I am making a largish pot roast, usually because missionaries are coming over, I make a lot more gravy.

It occurs to me that many of you will see this on Fast Sunday. Oops! Sorry.

Friday, February 02, 2007

bok choy noodles

This is not a great photo, but since I don't tend to make this during the day when I have better lighting, it's the best I could do.
This is something my mom made up when they were visiting. We'd just made a trip to Whole Foods and felt like eating our lovely bok choy for lunch. Bok choy is my favorite vegetable right now. It's a mild-flavored cruciferous that all my kids will eat. My kids really like this recipe.
1 large bunch bok choy
1/2 red onion, thin-sliced and chopped in quarters.
1 T garlic, chopped
red pepper flakes
20-25 frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pkg. (4 servings) udon noodles
ponzu sauce
2 T olive oil
Prepare noodles according to package. Chop bok choy, rinse and drain. Add olive oil to hot skillet. Add onion and garlic, stir for a few minutes until browned. Add red pepper and stir for about a minute. Remove onions and garlic from pan and add shrimp to pan. Cook about 3 min. each side until opaque. Remove shrimp and add bok choy. Cook for a few minutes and add ponzu sauce to taste (a few tablespoons?). Toss everything together in a big bowl, including noodles. Taste and add additional ponzu if needed.