Saturday, March 31, 2007

sopa de tortillas



I've been having one lousy time trying to upload photos to blogger, and I've had no success at all with my flikr account.

This is sopa de tortillas, one of J's ultimate favorites. This one was particularly good--we had it for dinner in Monterrey. We also ate the best flautas ever with a delicious cilantro sauce. I didn't take a picture because, contrary to what you might think, I don't take photos of all my food. Today we had gorditas, but I forgot my camera. I did want to get some photos of Lidia and her gorditas. All the more reason to go back for more!

Friday, March 30, 2007

monterrey


I find myself with the computer for a few minutes so here's what's going on so far.

We left Minneapolis early Monday morning and drove all the way to south of Fort Worth. The next day we made it in to Reynosa about 4:30 pm. The kids were very good, but who can complain with unlimited Nintendo, movies, and (almost unlimited) junk food? Happy campers.

Wednesday morning we left the kiddos behind with their delighted abuelitos and headed off to Monterrey, about 2 hrs away. J had several meetings there on Wednesday. I read, took self portraits, splurged at a book store, and walked around el centro snapping photos. When J was done with his meetings in the evening, we walked around some more. We chanced upon his cousin, a policeman, in el centro. B was very surprised to see us, not knowing we were in town. He was on duty with three other officers. They have to stay in groups now and carry machine guns because of the virtual war going on there between the police force and the narcotraficantes. The fifteenth officer this year was assassinated the day we were there, and I think there have been about forty people killed who happen to be near the targeted policemen at the times of the assassinations. Four more people were killed last night and five this morning.

This violence is, of course, unnerving to the forthright, hardworking regios of Monterrey. I seem to like Monterrey more every time I visit. I like the people and their open, frank way of speaking. I like the mountains, though they are often obscured by smog. Unfortunately there is a lot of air pollution there. J and I hiked Mt. Chipinque Thursday morning, ate lunch with a friend, and then drove out to Santiago to check out some house lots. Santiago is a town about 20-30 minutes from Monterrey. It is largely made up of ecologically protected area. The development we looked at had beautiful mountain views, walking paths, fresh air, trees, and wild life. We are not planning at this point to move to Monterrey. We like to look around and see what's out there. On the way back to Reynosa J told me that life with me is exciting because I always have something brewing. He said he has no idea where we will end up in two years, but it's fun to be part of my dreams. I liked that.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

the merchant of venice

I realize this picture of Ave and her son doesn't have much to do with Shakespeare's play, but I'm posting it here because for one thing, Ave looks really cute, and for another, when I recently saw this play at the Guthrie, a young woman sitting behind me had a laugh that reminded me of Ave's.

I don't think I've posted yet this year about the shows we've seen at the Guthrie. We've been going to the Guthrie for years, but I still get so excited about going to performances there my stomach gets all fluttery.

This year the Guthrie moved to new digs in the warehouse district. I love the building from the outside, and there are stunning views of the river from the inside. However, the inside decor leaves much to be desired. The thrust stage itself is beautiful, but the hallway to get there is dark and narrow. It's supposed to be modern and hip, but I just don't care for it. I've been trying to hunt up some photos of it online, but in the photos it looks really cool. In real life it's, well, dark and narrow. The opening play this year was "The Great Gatsby" and it was so-so. It was one of the few plays I've seen there that just didn't work. Next we saw "Lost in Yonkers," and it was wonderful. The young actors who played the two boys had perfect timing. It's hard to go wrong with Neil Simon.

Tuesday night was saw "The Merchant of Venice." It was a stunningly beautiful production. I don't know what it cost them to put in that gorgeous floor of interlocking circles and back drop of gold doors, but it was a pretty penny. The period costumes were also gorgeous. Go here to see a clip of Shylock. This is one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays because of the character Shylock, a caricature of a Jew. This production makes no attempt to temper the prejudice as I've seen others try to do (to eye-rolling effect) by making Shylock a more sympathetic character. Shylock is indeed an uncomfortable presence in the play, especially for a modern audience, but I simply don't see that as something that needs to be fixed. It's Shakespeare, for crying out loud. When you change the character of Shylock, you change the entire play. Shylock is not supposed to be a complete human because he does not learn to extend mercy. Thus, it fits him to be portrayed as a caricature.

I love how the play examines Christian virtue, especially forgiveness. The relationships between the men and women are hilarious. I always adore the casket-choosing scenes, and they were very well-done. And thank you, thank you, Guthrie Theater, for not making Antonio and Bassanio homosexual lovers.

clan conner 2004


Saturday, March 24, 2007

mom?


I stumbled across these the other day when going through old photos. The top is my fourth grade school picture, the bottom my fifth grade. Several questions come quickly to mind, such as, what was I doing wearing that ugly barn shirt for picture day in fourth grade? I look much happier in my fifth grade picture, and maybe that's because I'm wearing an attractive sweater. I wore that sweater basically every day of fifth grade. Also, I think my mother has some answering to do for those fourth grade bangs. What happened there, Mum? The mullet, which had grown even longer by fifth grade, is bad enough, but did you have to hack my bangs that way?

Yes, Ave, I know that's the pot calling the kettle black. When I was about fourteen and Ave was about ten, I decides her long, even hair (which was beautiful in retrospect) was hopelessly out of fashion. I grabbed the scissors and cut her some feather-able side layers, resulting in the world's hugest mullet. My mother was outraged, but Ave was delighted. I think I did this the night before her school picture, so the look was captured for posterity. It was pretty bad. But Mom, I was fourteen and I had an excuse. What is your excuse for those fourth grade bangs?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

the buccaneers


I really should be cleaning my bathroom or packing for Mexico, but I need to write about this book!

This is the book Edith Wharton left unfinished when she died. It was completed in 1993, following Wharton's synopsis, by Marion Mainwaring. I ended up loving it. I started to love it, then began to hate it, put it away for a while, then finished it and loved it.

Why did I start to dislike it? I identified too closely with Nan St. George, the protagonist, and bad things started to happen to her. That was not the problem, because of course bad things must happen in novels, even to girls who remind me so much of myself when I was seventeen or eighteen it is eerie. What bothered me is that I feared that Nan was going to turn into someone repulsive. However, this novel probably has the most hopeful ending of Wharton's works.

There are some slow, slightly tedious parts in the beginning of the book but there are other parts that really shine. The last third is written by Mainwaring, and yes, I can see the difference in style. It is more vigorous and modern, but maybe not as interesting. There are none of Wharton's flashes of incredible insight into human nature. It's not quite as spicy. However, I'm glad someone finished it, because it is definitely a story that deserved finishing.

I loved the look at contrasting values and expecations between the American and British upper classes. I loved the discussion of art, its value, and its ability to move.

Monday, March 19, 2007

happy belated birthday k in california


I should have posted this on the thirteenth. To read about this wild night, go here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

store wars

This has become a major part of our family culture. There are daily references in our house to "tofu-d-2," "Cuke," and "Darth Tater."

a mormon in the white house?

Several people have asked me what I think about Mitt Romney. I have replied that I don't know much about him besides that he's Mormon and running for president. I have said before on this blog that I am often cynical about politics and politicians. I don't want to be that way. I don't think it's an admirable attitude.

Lately I've been wondering if what keeps me from being more politically involved is not that I'm cynical so much as uncommitted or on the fence, I sometimes have a hard time deciding what I really think about issues that everyone else seems so emphatically and passionately decided about like the Iraq War, for example. One day I think, like Hillary Clinton, that we should get the heck out of Dodge. The next day I think we need to send more troops in to make at least some attempt at increasing the stability of that region (now that we've gone in and messed things up). And then I think about the American lives lost and I'm back at square one.

Also, I am ignorant. I often skip the articles on tax reform or health care or... see, I don't even know what the issues are, say nothing about being able to form an informed decision on them.

Hugh Hewitt, writer and political pundit, has written a book on Mitt Romney called A Mormon in the White House? Ten Things Every American Needs to Know About Mitt Romney. I think I'm going to read it. Lowell C. Brown, an active Mormon and political blogger discusses the book and other Romney stuff in this article on Meridian. The big thing that's been thrown out there in the media about Romney has been the big "would an evangelical actually vote for a Mormon" question. I find it absolutely fascinating that Romney is considered unelectable by some because he is a Mormon. Fauna said that she heard Hewitt say on his talk show that if Romney were not a Mormon, there would be no other Republican candidate considered. Brown mentions the following bigoted statement by Jacob Weisberg of Slate magazine: "I wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism." He has many more offensive things to say in his article, though I have to say I am not so much offended by Weisberg's bigotry as astounded that he would publicly make such a statement in this day and age.

On Thursday night I saw Mitt Romney and his wife Ann on Larry King.

I was very favorably impressed by Ann Romney, who is certainly no shrinking violet. She is gorgeous, but she doesn't act like a woman who is conscious of her looks. She seems kind of tough, actually. I think she could take on Hillary no problem, and I think Hillary is hard as nails. I don't mean that negatively. I admire strong women. Anyway, Ann is not afraid to talk, and admitted to disagreeing with her husband on some political issues. However, she appropriately (I think) declined to discuss it.

My first impression of her husband is that Romney is a younger, smarter, better-looking version of Ronald Regan when he ran for president. I think our country desperately needs a Ronald Regan right now. I know some of you are gasping for breath at that statement and that's o.k.! Deep breathing. Ronald Regan was unfailingly positive. His powerful personality made good things happen. I think we need to believe again in the uniqueness and greatness of our young country. O.k., I need to believe in it. We have become too cynical. Yes, there is a lot that is wrong, but there is so much that is right. This is still a great country. I'm still proud to be an American. Lately I've been thinking about all of those dire reports about the state of American education. We don't come out as well in standardized tests as much of the rest of the developed world. We are behind in some ways, but why are we focusing so much on that? Wouldn't it be more effective to celebrate and improve what is uniquely right about us rather than trying to ape what other countries do? We've got excellent leadership qualities. We are open and welcoming, generally speaking. We believe in the strength of the family because, after all, this nation was built on the backs of strong pioneer families.

I know I went off on a little tangent there, but I think what I was trying to do is explain what I think it the single most important quality I'm looking for right now in a candidate. The ability to help us believe again in our country--to unify us in our appreciation for what makes the United States of America a great nation. I don't know that I care so much about change and improvement in other areas. Or rather, I think Americans will always be striving to improve anyway no matter who is president--that is a given. Our constant striving is something that defines us. What we need is to believe, and to strengthen families.

I begin to think that Romney, of all the candidates, might have a chance of pulling that off.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

happy st. pat's


Lidia did a show at the Mall of America last Saturday. She also had two performances yesterday, one at a school and one at an assisted living home. Tonight she has her last one at a country club. She has loved it! She's third from the left [edit: fourth from the left--you can't see the two boys on the ends very well] in the photo above.
I have wanted to post several times this week about various things, including what I'm reading and our last book group. I don't know where this week went! What have I been doing? Not housework. My house is a wreck! Not the mypublisher book I'm making for G. It's not finished yet and it was supposed to be for her birthday. What then, have I been doing? What???
I hope to get some posts up this week, but we are preparing for our trip to Mexico to see J's family. We leave next Monday and will be be back sometime. We're driving so our schedule is flexible. I suppose I shouldn't be revealing on the web that our house will be empty for a few days, as some local burglar could happen upon this post as he is perusing blogs (hey, thieves surf the internet too). "Ah-ha!" he will exclaim and on a certain night next week break into our home while we are unsuspectingly and peacefully sleeping at guelitos' house 1600 miles away. He and his little burglarizing team will freely loot our house of... books? Legos? Our seven-year old t.v.? O.k., so I guess I would be pretty ripped if they took my computer. I'll have to make a bunch of back ups before we leave. I wonder if they would take J's '95 Saturn if I left the keys in it? Maybe I should leave a note saying, "Don't forget the car."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

yes!


I have lost over ten pounds since December. I decided that the weight would have to come off slowly. I gained it slowly--nearly fifteen pounds over two years. It happened so gradually I barely noticed. Suddenly things were not fitting, but then we'd move into a new season and I would end up buying some new things that did fit. I decided that I could lose one pound per week without feeling deprived. In the past I have decided to lose weight, but I would always cut out too many of the things I love, feel deprived, and then go back to my bad eating habits with a vengeance. Maybe my eating habits were not awful, but they were not healthy.

We ate out too much. At least once per week J and I went out to dinner, and often one other time per week with the kids. I've noticed that when I go out to restaurants I end up eating about twice as much as I normally would at home. I am short and small, and those extra calories turned into extra pounds. Now we eat out infrequently. When we do eat at restaurants, I set aside half of my meal to take home before I even start eating. That has worked really well, because I seem to feel perfectly full but not too full.

When I made the goal of losing weight in January, I knew that I didn't want to feel deprived. I love food! I especially love desserts. I have kept eating dessert, but a little less often and not as large servings. This past week I've had a bowl of ice cream, peach cobbler, and chocolate brownies. And I still lost two pounds. Sometimes it has required some stern self-talk to keep from going for that third brownie, for example, but I always feel so much better when I 1) do let myself eat dessert, but 2) eat a reasonable amount.

I plan on exercising six days per week, but I never do. I have too much going on in my life. My family is more important than exercising six days per week, so some days I have to drop it. I average four days per week. I have been doing Yoga Booty Ballet dvds and they're working for me. I look forward to consistently good weather so I can get out for long walks in the early morning when everyone is still asleep.

I have made some great food discoveries, some found in Health and Shape magazines. The salad above is a new favorite I came up with . Black beans, grape tomatoes, and avocado mixed with a tablespoon of olive oil vinaigrette on top of salad greens. I love colorful food. I enjoy it so much more when it is beautiful.

Some other favorites are:

plain yogurt with sliced bananas, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar
Red River hot cereal with dried berries
Swedish crisp bread topped with tuna salad with chopped red pepper and celery
Sabra hummus (thanks, Michelle!) with veggies and homemade pita chips
spicy lentil soup with shitake mushrooms
resolution salad
stir-fried bok choy with udon noodles
To celebrate losing ten pounds I'm getting a pedicure. I've never had one before.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

the great depression

"Richest country, saddest people--any coincidence?" asks this commentary by Bret Stephens for the Wall Street Journal.

"...the results of a study, recently reported in Forbes, purporting to show that the U.S. has the highest rate of depression among a survey group of 14 countries. The study, jointly conducted by the World Health Organization and Harvard Medical School and based on more than 60,000 face-to-face interviews world-wide, found that 9.6% of Americans suffer from "bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or chronic minor depression." A whopping 18.2% of Americans were also found to be experiencing "mood and anxiety disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder."

I think I'm off to Nigeria. Their depression rate is 0.8%. The article brings up some interesting considerations including cultural differences.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

art shelf challenge: bramasole


Vincent van Gogh, Olive Trees, 1889
This one is at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. I used to go there so frequently. Why not anymore?
Bramasole is Italian and means "yearning for the sun." Athena sent me this word and its meaning last year when I was looking for words in other languages that mean "longing," like aƱoranza in Spanish.
I love to say the word bramasole. That word so thoroughly defines me this time of year. I love to look at this painting and imagine myself strolling amongst the olive trees, the Mediterranean sun pressing my clothes warm against my back.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

geography guy

While watching me do an internet search on Spain yesterday Marcus said, "Mom, are we moving to Spain?"

"No, probably not. I mean, not right now."

"We should move to Gibraltar. That's part of the U.K."

"What? No, Silly. Gibraltar is part of Spain, see?" (I google 'Gibraltar.')

"No, Mom. Gibraltar is a territory of the United Kingdom."

And the little stinker was right.

Friday, March 02, 2007

more georgie


[Edit: The previous photo I had put here wasn't working for some reason, so I put up this one. She was 3 1/2 months here and is on her way to plumping up. Quite a cutie!]
In the first picture in the previous post, G is about 3 weeks old. She looked like a gnome. She had the skinniest little arms and legs. By the time she was about 4 months, she had filled out a lot. I took that semester off when I had G, but I started classes again when she was less than 2 months old. I sometimes took her to class with me. When that spring term ended 2 months later, I remember a girl from one of my classes saying, "Wow! She has plumped up a lot in these few weeks! That's good because she was... very delicate looking." I had to smile at her attempt to be tactful. :-)

In this photo she's 6 months. We'd just moved to Minnesota from Utah.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

my baby's 12!





Happy birthday, Georgie!