Sunday, September 30, 2007


more orchard

Saturday, September 29, 2007


The habit I added last week was hugging my children every day and telling them I love them. I think I got all four kiddos every day! It was nice having an "excuse" to hug those older two. And I didn't even have to chase them around the house. ;-) They were very receptive!
Habit 4: Make dinner. I did it. But I don't get excited about it. I'm going through a cooking slump. Does that ever happen to you?
Habit 3: Daily writing. Did great this week. I've started a new story based in Maine and I've been working on it since Wednesday. It's going well. I've also done a lot of research on Muslim Spain, the setting for my historical fiction novel. I found a specific time I'd like the novel to take place and I have all kinds of ideas. But here's my problem: I need information on daily life and customs of medieval Spaniards. I found some good stuff about the Jews of medieval Spain, like what their houses were like, what they ate, etc. But nothing so far about the Christians and Arabs.
Habit 2: Violin practice. I have not practiced the past three days. The weather has been gorgeous! We've been outside.
Habit 1: Clean speech. Good.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

sagrada familia

It's only nominally dedicated to the Holy Family. J and I decided this is actually a temple for Gaudi worship. There is a large and extensive shrine to modernist architect Antoni Gaudi within the temple. If it's ever finished, I wonder if they would actually have the gall to hold Christian services there.

more sagrada familia exterior details

Is that frosting dripping from the eaves? If so, how did that lizard get into the frosting? Maybe it is in fact primordial ooze, which might explain the reptile, and is of course the very first thing you think of when contemplating the birth of the Savior. Wise men and barnacles.
Are those more barnacles above the Holy Family, or are those stars? Hard to tell. The star beneath them appears to be trailing ropes of coral. I've got it! Who needs Bethlehem? It's the Holy Family in the lost city of Atlantis.

sagrada familia exterior details

So, are the weird bumpy things barnacles and coral or... leaves?

august 4 sagrada familia

Construction on Sagrada Familia began in 1882 and has far to go. Antoni Gaudi drastically altered the original neo-gothic plan to his modernist style with designs from nature. I do like the interior. It's truly inspiring. Now as to the exterior...
Well. What do you think?

barcelona modernista houses and parque guell

flip flop race

Last Tuesday. A warm, showery late afternoon. I had just straightened my hair to go out to a play but I ran out in the rain anyway to get these shots. The rainjackets were superfluous.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


New habit this week: Hugging my kids every day and telling them I love them. This is easy with my youngest two, but the older two have become a little cuddle-averse. I might have to chase them around the house to get those hugs! So this could meet an exercise goal, too.

Past habits lowdown:

1. Clean speech. I rock.
2. Daily violin practice. I roll.
3. Daily writing. Doing better. I'm excited about my book again and I'm developing an idea for another book. The first book I will need to do a lot of research for but the second I won't so much. I hope to be writing an actual exploratory draft of the second book while I research the first. If that makes sense.
4. Make dinner. I did well! We did not have to go out once this week. A couple of the meals required very little preparation but no one complained and it was cheaper than takeout or a restaurant. Score!

Friday, September 21, 2007

not for robots

I discovered a treasure trove at Not for Robots, not so much a blog but rather a collection of essays by Laini Taylor, children's book author and fellow perfectionist, on how she writes. It may be the best advice I've seen on writing because I can tell Laini's mind works a lot like mine does. She obsesses too. In these essays she explains how she gets around it so she can get through that first draft, which she calls an "exploratory" draft. Here she compares that exploratory draft to hacking your way through a jungle with a machete. I loved that metapor!

I'm thinking of making my book historical fiction. I've ordered a bunch of books from the library on Moorish Spain. I'm excited about it again!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The arepa is for Venezuelans what the tortilla is for Mexicans. It's eaten with most meals. It is made from pre-cooked finely-ground corn meal, or "harina PAN" as it is commonly called. The simple dough recipe is 2 1/2 cups warm water, 2 cups corn flour, and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix until a soft dough forms. The dough is then formed into patties and either deep fried or browned in a pan and then baked. Our friend Ed makes them the latter way. He also adds cracked wheat to boost the fiber and nutritional value. I was surprised to find that I prefer the taste with the cracked wheat.

I asked Ed about adding egg and shredded cheese to the dough because that's how I had learned to make them. He said that was a "Caracas thing." He's from Maracaibo.

The arepa below has what looks like grill lines on it. Arepas can be grilled but are more commonly baked in the oven directly on the rack.

carne mechada

O.k., here is what I did to make the beef filling for the arepas:

3 lbs. beef roast (I don't remember what cut I used)

2 T or so oil, divided use

1 red pepper, diced

1 large white onion, diced

1 heaping T minced garlic

1 small can petite-diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp cumin

dash of red pepper

black pepper and salt to taste (I made it pretty salty because the arepas don't have much salt)

Brown roast on all sides in oil. Remove from pan and slow cook in crock pot until very tender. Remove and shred beef with two forks. Heat oil in large black skillet. Add onion and pepper and cook until onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and seasonings. Add shredded beef. Stir. Turn heat down to low and simmer 20 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

viva mexico

Today is Mexico's Independence Day, which we celebrated by making arepas, a Venezuelan food. We're never very Mexican in our celebration of this day, but Bernie did the grito at school, so that counts. Our Venezuelan friend Ed came over and made the arepas. I made the mechada, a shredded beef filling. Everything turned out so well that all the children now claim arepas are a new favorite meal along with tacos, tostadas, and gorditas (made-in-Mexico versions only). In fact, Marcus said his arepa was the best thing he'd ever tasted! I used to make them all the time when we came back after living six months in Venezuela. Georgie ate lots of arepas with black beans as a baby, but then I got out of the habit of making them. Arepa flour is not readily available around here. At least, not at your everyday grocery store. Anyway, looks like I'll be making arepas again.

for montse

I feel bad dissing the birthplace of Montse's and Nestle's grandfather. But you know what, girls? After reading my not-so-positive review of Barcelona, your expectations will not be so high when you go. And you will be pleasantly surprised. You will love it and think, What in heaven's name was Calandria talking about?
Anyway, here are some photos of a place in Barcelona anyone would love. I bring you the Museum of Chocolate:

august 3-5 barcelona

Frankly, I was disappointed. Sometimes it's all about expectations, and my expectations for Barcelona were definitely too high. I had low expectations for Madrid and was pleasantly surprised. (I haven't finished my Madrid report but for some reason I don't feel like writing about that today.) I had read so much about Barcelona and had even planned on moving there!

It was absolutely crawling with tourists. It was often a challenge to walk down the street. It was hot, dusty, stinky, and loud. I had a headache most of the time. I think if I'd seen Barcelona at the beginning of our trip I would have enjoyed it more, but I'd been several days already in the sun and my skin had started reacting to the sub block. I wasn't very fun to walk around with (poor Jorge) because I only wanted to be in the shade.

The photo above is of Las Ramblas, a pedestrian walk that is way over-hyped. It seems it used to be an elegant walk lined with classy shops and restaurants and as I look at the photo it does look nice. But it didn't feel nice. Now it has loads of booths selling tacky tourist stuff.

Without question there were a lot of cool sites and great food. I had my fill of yummy seafood paella! Obviously loads of tourists enjoy Barcelona very much.

The street performers were fun:

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I was just reading Montse's blog which reminded me I need to get back to my SMART habits. I dropped them a little before we went to Europe and now it's time to get back in the swing.
My former habits were:
1. clean speech. I'm proud of myself on this one. I'm not perfect at it yet, but when I do swear I really notice and it even seems odd.
2. violin practice. Going great guns this week. I've nearly whipped Gavotte from Mignon into submission.
3. daily writing. Not so good. I need to get back to this some how because it is really important to me. I've been blogging pretty frequently, but what I really want to do is keep working on my novel. Even though it's in a bad place.
I'm adding two new habits this week. One is get school done with Lidia by 11:35 am. As most of you know, one of my children is doing homeschool (virtual academy, actually, K12 like Montse's girls) this year. She is doing wonderfully well, but needs my occasional reminder to stay on track if she is to finish by the time Bernie gets off the kindergarten bus.
Second habit I'm adding, make dinner. I know. So exciting. I am sometimes very lazy about getting dinner made and we end up eating out. This was something I did really well at the beginning of this year because it was a New Year's resolution, but I've gone back to my old money-wasting ways.
I was going to add my yoga/pilates/weight-lifting routine as a habit this week because I haven't done if for a long time. I have been walking/running almost every day. But I'm not adding that habit because you can only do so much! Sometimes you have to make tough choices. I think I have to choose between firm buns and writing my novel. Which do I really want? (Picture firm buns on one side of the scale and a finished manuscript on the other. Which would you choose?)

well done

We advanced mightily on the massive landscaping project today. We're not such wimpy good-for-nothing non-gardeners as I thought! I'm no Amity, but I quite enjoyed it. The gorgeous 60 degrees was perfect for outdoor work. Last night we went to Bachman's and picked out some plants. Three honeysuckle butterfly bush and three mint julep junipers. We thought that's all we could handle in one day. We had those planted by 11 am with the help of some kind friends so we were off to Bachman's again. We got two more honeysuckle and three hydrangea (one peegee, two limelight.) We also bought a peegee hydrangea tree and Hetz columner juniper for delivery as delivery is free this week, yeah! When we got back it was time for J to take Marcus to soccer, so they took off and I stayed behind to plant. I had those five bushes planted in an hour and a half. And there were a lot of roots to dig out and rocks, too. I have rewarded myself with a well-earned and much-needed shower.
Once we have the hydrangea tree, juniper, and spruce tree in I'll have to put up the before and after photos.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


is Lidia's new blog! She is quite excited about it. Check it out and feel free to leave comments. I moderate the comments so be nice. :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Last night we went to Christos, one of our favorite restaurants. It's Greek. We went with people from J's work and had a great time. We got there about 6:30 and came out of the restaurant at almost 9. Someone had broken the window of our car and taken my purse. I was so dumb to leave it in the front seat.

There was just a little cash in my purse. Yes, my cel was there but it's an old one that's often on the fritz. I had to get a new one anyway. I wanted a new purse too so here's my opportunity. It was a pain to cancel the credit cards and now I need a new driver's license, but no biggie. I also need to figure out what checks I had left in my check book. However, the thief didn't try to use my credit cards so probably won't bother with the checks. Yes, and I know I have to watch out for identity theft. But really, the biggest annoyance will be getting our window replaced.

But just imagine that poor thief when he (I'm assuming it was a he) opened the purse and found no cash. He must have been so disappointed. Now how's he going to pay the drug dealer? And what if he hurt himself breaking our window? I wonder what he used to break it. Did he leave his home with a hammer already planning to break a car window? Did he notice my purse in the front seat of the car and think to himself, "Here's my chance," and then for something with which to break the window?

madeleine l'engle dead

I just learned today of Madeleine L'Engle's death in Connecticut last Thursday. Lidia is reading A Wrinkle in Time right now.

This New York Times article on L'Engle has some interesting stuff.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

lack of progress

Last night J said he looks forward to being a kept man when I publish my books.

So that was a good laugh.

I mentioned in the last post that I came back from Europe, read what I've written so far of my novel, and greatly disliked it. I don't like the style at all. Also, after visiting Basque country and doing subsequent research on their culture and history I realize that what I've written so far is all wrong. All wrong. I can't remember if I posted on this blog that my book takes place in an imaginary setting based on Basque country. A friend suggested that I not rewrite it all but rather continue with the story and try to write in a different style more to my liking. I have worked on it just a couple times.

I'm not so good with transitions. I mean life transitions, not transitions in writing (though I may not be very good at those either). I probably could find time to work on that novel every day even though I'm homeschooling Lidia now and violin has started up again and I still have about a million papers to turn into the schools and I have a major landscaping project that I'm doing myself.

All of the above plus a load of other stuff prompted that "possibilities" post. I really want to write but I keep making excuses. I'm really good that those. I should teach a class or something.

Monday, September 10, 2007


I'm taking a break from practicing Gavotte from "Mignon," a Suzuki book 2 piece that is insanely difficult for me for some reason. My fingers are sore. I need to build up my calluses again.

I haven't written about books for a long time. Several people have mentioned that they always enjoy my book posts. I can't imagine why, but I'll give the people what they like. :-)

I took Inkspell, sequel to Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, to Europe with me. I got about half way through but when I got home Georgie absconded with it and I haven't seen it since. I want to finish it. We loved Inkheart, which we heard on audio with Lynn Redgrave narrating. When I started reading Inkspell I tried to imagine her narrating and it added a lot to the experience. Ave mentioned that she didn't much like Inkheart and I'm curious to know why. Sis?

I read Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence. I found it fascinating, though the first couple chapters were hard to get through with the multitude of names thrown at the reader. After a little while you realize why you are learning of all these people. They have interaction and influence on Jane eventually. But good luck keeping them all straight. There are many Janes and Cassandras. As I read this book I couldn't stop thinking about how Regency England was not a land of opportunity. People were so dependent on inherited wealth!

Our book club pick for September was Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. It was certainly a unique book. Williams writes about the flooding of the Great Salt Lake and resulting destruction of the bird refuge there relating it to her mother's struggle with cancer. I read about half of the book and scanned another fourth. I did not feel especially inspired by it. It's not my favorite style, but even then, if I'm going to read about people connecting with nature I prefer Annie Dillard or even Thoreau. I identify with William's insistence on the importance of place, but I am more inspired by Willa Cather's writings on that theme.

I've been reading various books on Basque history and culture. I came back from Europe and read what I've written of my book so far and hated it. More on that later.

I discovered a new favorite children's book author: Joan Aiken. I read Wolves of Willoughby Chase and loved it. I look forward to reading the others in that series which imagines an "alternate history" in England. I read the details of it but I've forgotten since I don't know enough of the history of England. I'm ashamed to admit if I read the two different versions, I might not recognize which was the imagined history and which the real! I found that Aiken also wrote a three-book series that takes place in 19th century northern Spain! So I have the first one on reserve at the library. They were out of print for awhile and were just reprinted this year: Go Saddle the Sea, Bridle the Wind, and The Teeth of the Gale.

I read Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman, a Newberry honor book. It is extremely clever. I'll give it that. Look, has anyone else out there read this? What did you think? I think the premise is very good. It's the diary of a "regular" girl of the Middle Ages, so she's not a princess or a peasant but something in between. So, middle class in the Middle Ages. And guess what? Teenagers of the Middle Ages suffered from terrible angst. Who knew? I would have thought that the holy wars, Black Death, and daily struggle to eek out a living would have filled their minds with other thoughts, but seems not. Seriously, I was very interested in the historical details in the book. The author obviously did painstaking research. So thumbs up for that. However, I have two issues with the book. One is that it is crass. Why do modern writers of children's lit feel this compulsion to write about bodily functions? Do they mistakenly think the "juvenile" in juvenile literature means "marked by immaturity; childish" rather than "of, relating to, characteristic of, intended for, or appropriate for children or young people" as I'm pretty sure is the correct sense of the word in this context? Elizabeth George Speare didn't write about gross things. Neither did Scott O'Dell or Madeleine L'Engle or Elizabeth Enright. So why the gross stuff now in actual Newberry honor books, supposedly the best literature out there for young reader? My second issue is that while this book is very clever, it does not strike me as having much heart. The protagonist is obnoxious. She only has hatred and contempt for most of her family. There are a couple of instances in the book that she demonstrates concern for someone besides herself, but it's very rare. I see that the intention is that she shows growth and progress toward the end of the book, but I didn't see enough for my satisfaction.

Friday, September 07, 2007


have you seen this?