Wednesday, April 29, 2009

we love you, june. we miss you already.

I can't say anything else right now. Too upset.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The white moutain villages of Andalucia are a must-see. And when they say white, they mean gleaming alabaster!
The first photo is of Ojen, and the others are of Frigiliana. I love the word "Frigiliana." Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your sense of humor) that's a soft "g" in Spanish, sounds like an "h." We were with friends for a couple days in the Malaga area. We asked how they kept everything so white, and they said people paint their houses every spring. They also scrub the outside of the house and the sidewalk or street in front of their houses. Not only do they do this in the white villages, but in the cities and suburbs, too. I've heard that their houses are just as immaculate on the inside.

I adore the flowers that hang down the walls.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

40 years ago today, edited

[Edit: Posted another pic to show that G does smile now and then, even for photos. :-)]
J's parents were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 40 years ago today. They were eighteen and nineteen. J's mom had been dizzying her priest with questions about religion and she was unsatisfied with the answers. She and J's father were engaged, and they met with missionaries from the LDS church while they were supposedly out delivering wedding invitations (my mil's father was opposed to the Church at that time, so they couldn't see the missionaries at home). One week after their wedding, they were baptized.

Something I really appreciate about J's family is their tradition of miracles. They have innumerable stories about miracles, large and small, in their lives. They have great faith and they act on it. They are obedient. They live with gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving. Consequently, their lives are rich and abundant.

a food post

We got home yesterday evening. I woke up bright and early (4:20) and decided to write a post. I sat here staring blankly at the screen for a few moments because I had no idea where to start. It was an amazing trip and I have 500 photos. Then I remembered that there were requests for food posts, so I guess I start with that.
The first three pictures show my favorite restaurant of the trip: El Tintero, or The Inkpot, in Malaga. It's not just the food, it's the experience. The first photo shows about 2/3 of this enormous place down on the beach. You go in and get a table. There are no menus. There are guys roving around the room with plates of seafood--just about every kind you can imagine and more. They shout at the top of their lungs what they have (very noisy!) and you take a plate of whatever appeals to you. We went with three other couples and we got many, many plates. We got to try a little of everything. The second two photos show a specialty of Malaga, grilled sardines. I love seafood, so this was absolute heaven. My mouth is watering excessively just remembering.
I have no other photos of other restaurant food we ate in Spain. We were eating with friends a lot, and I just didn't remember to take photos. And when I did remember the restaurants were too dark to get good images. The food was amazing. We had tapas and tapas and tapas. Paella (though it's better in Barcelona). Gazpacho. Delicious guisados, or thick stews of meat and vegetables. Oh! Get this. We were in Madrid for two days and one time we ate at this restaurant around the corner from our hotel. It was just a little place, but there were photos up of celebrities who'd eaten there, including one of Prince Felipe with the proprietor. There was one of Tom Cruise. J wondered what he'd been doing in that neck of the woods. I said, "Oh, it must have been back in his Penelope Cruz days." We laughed. When we got home J was looking at the GPS. "Look at this," he said. "The Church of Scientology of Spain is half a block from that restaurant." Mystery solved.
The pastries of Spain are to die for. Why don't we have these little pastry shops in the States like they do there? And why, oh why, do we not eat more pastry cream? Why, for example, do our cream horns have nasty whipped frosting in them instead of delightful pastry cream? It is a mystery.
The fruits and vegetables in southern Spain are large and nicely colored like the ones I find at the grocery store here. But there they are bursting with flavor.

Monday, April 20, 2009

hola from granada

Wouldn't it be wonderful to see the places you've always dreamed of seeing all by yourself? (Or maybe with a few friends.) Today I saw the Alhambra. The Alhambra is the only remaining moorish palace in Iberia, and much of it is well preserved. It is the most visited historical site in Iberia. Hundreds of thousands of people pass through its gracious halls and courtyards every year. I wisely bought tickets weeks ago. Some people show up thinking they can buy tickets the same day, only to find them all sold out. Why is it so popular with the masses? Because of a 19th century New Yorker, Mr. Washington Irving, writer and romantic rhapsodizer. He "discovered" the Alhambra in the 1820s and fell so in love with it he stayed a few months in a couple of rooms there. It wasn't a hotel. It was actually something of a homeless shelter, as Irving describes it in his book, The Alhambra. In it, Irving gives a lively history of the place including many tales of local yore. He is even moved to write some tales of his own. This book became a popular read for romantics all over the world and they started flocking to the Alhambra. So even now, though 99.9 percent of the Alhambra visitors haven't read nor will ever read this book, they put the Alhambra at the top of their Spain itinerary. It's an inertia thing. The book is interesting reading, though I can never read a lot at once. Irving goes into these rapturous ecstasies that become a bit much. I love to have my own rapturous ecstasies, but I don't always want to read about other people's. Anyway, I had a lot of preconceived notions about the Alhambra after reading the book. Very high expectations.

It was just as beautiful as I expected. But. Yes, there are a few buts, actually. There were so many people! Supposedly, you are only allowed 30 minutes in the Palacio Nazaries, the best part, and there are all these tour groups, etc. It's impossible to get a decent picture. Also, I like to touch things. But you know, they said I couldn't run my fingertips over all that delicate plaster. That made me feel inhibited, so I didn't take off my clothes and roll in the flower beds or run through that long, rectangular fountain of shooting water. That darn book made me want to experience the Alhambra like Irving did and it just can't be done now a days because he wrote that darn book and made it too famous. Thanks, Irv!

Also. The patio of the lions did not have the lions! They are being "restored." The fountain they supported on their backs is there, but it's mostly covered up with tent. That was too bad.

I'll have to wait to post photos until I get home. I know you were all missing me terribly, so I decided to toss you this little crumb. Things have gone well. It finally stopped raining yesterday when we went to see Ronda, a stunning white village of Andalucia.

Monday, April 13, 2009

the hunt

We've been in Mexico for Easter the past few years. It was fun to have a chance to participate in this Easter egg hunt at a park not far from here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

please watch

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

what think thee

Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see
And in thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the mem’ry find
A sweeter sound than thy blest name,
O Savior of mankind!
Jesus, our only joy be thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And thru eternity.

paintings by
Minerva Teichert

declining religious rights

-- A Christian photographer was forced by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to pay $6,637 in attorney's costs after she refused to photograph a gay couple's commitment ceremony.
-- A psychologist in Georgia was fired after she declined for religious reasons to counsel a lesbian about her relationship.

-- Christian fertility doctors in California who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient were barred by the state Supreme Court from invoking their religious beliefs in refusing treatment.

-- A Christian student group was not recognized at a University of California law school because it denies membership to anyone practicing sex outside of traditional marriage.

Read more here.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

more inspiration

I thought of some other things that inspire me and I want to jot them down here.

There are those stories of really heroic people that do mighty deeds. You read about them in the news and yes, those stories are very inspiring. But what impacts me more are the quiet, day-to-day acts of selflessness, loyalty, charity, dedication, etc. of those around me.

When we were in the Bahamas, Georgie made up a little cot from an easy chair and three cushy stools because she didn't want to share a bed with a sibling. The person who cleaned our room and made the beds brought some sheets in and made Georgie's cot up. The day we left, J came up and whispered to me, "Go look at Georgie's cot." I did and found a handmade thank-you note there for the lady who made up her cot.

Lidia started lessons with a new violin teacher last year. This teacher has her doing LOTS of scales. I noticed that Lidia was spending more than half her practice time doing scales. A couple times last year I tried to meddle. I stopped her halfway through the scales and told her she'd better move on to her pieces. Lidia said, "No, Mom. My teacher says that if I do these scales every day, then someday I'll be able to play anything." I backed off, and Lidia continued with the scales. The violin teacher has high standards and she really pushes Lidia in her lessons. She is not negative, but she's certainly never going to say, "Ok, that was nice," if it wasn't. If you play something badly, she says, "So, what did YOU think of that?" I know because that's what she says to me. :) Anyway, Lidia has been doing these (boring) scales daily now for over a year. She is very proficient. At her last lesson, her teacher stopped her while she was playing and told Lidia that she is her most dedicated student. She congratulated her on her practice, and said that it is paying off tremendously. I think I even saw some tears in the teacher's eyes!

So that is what inspires me. A teenager thinking of someone besides herself and taking the time to show gratitude. A little girl who does the boring stuff because she knows it will lead to excellence.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


[Edit: Dang! I wrote this for Chocolate on My Cranium's Wordful Wednesday. Except, now I see that it wasn't supposed to be this Wedneday, but next rather. Oh well, I screwed up. Sorry, Monts.]
I love to read. I especially love to read novels. Ever since I was a kid, I've dreamed up plots and characters for my own novels--the ones I would write some day. However, I never wrote one. Why? Because it seemed too hard when I made small attempts. Also, once I became an adult, I tried reading a few novels written for adults rather than the classics I grew up reading. Some were okay, but nothing inspired me to want to make my own contribution. I decided the really great books were written by past generations, so I went back to the classics and stubbornly stayed there.

In July of 2006, I read a book that was on our book group list for that year. I was reluctant to start it, since it was modern juvenile fiction. However, I was surprised and delighted by Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. The entire time I was reading it, I thought, "I wish I'd written this book." I realized that great and inspiring books (at least according to my taste--I know everyone's different) were being written now, and I could find them in the Young Adult, Teen, or Juvenile fiction aisles at my library or bookstore. I found that the books that most sparked my imagination and desire to write were fantasy, adventure, and historical fiction/fantasy. Previously, my list of favorite authors was fairly small, limited to Jane Austen, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Charles Dickens, Booth Tarkington, the Bronte sisters, and a few others. I joyfully added new favorites like Eva Ibbotson, Joan Aiken, Neil Gaiman, Nancy Farmer, and Laini Taylor.

Not only was I inspired by these books, I was also inspired and encouraged by the authors who wrote them. From reading author blog posts about their experiences, I realized that writing a book took a tremendous amount of time, dedication, and hard work. I learned many useful tips about writing books and I realized that I could do it.

Last summer I came up with an idea for a historical fiction novel. I developed a plot outline, setting, and characters. I spent many, many hours researching the time and place--medieval Spain. However, when I started writing the book, I realized that I needed to do a lot more research, and it wasn't going to be easy to find what I needed. I lost momentum on that project because I became tired and frustrated with the research dead end. I'm still excited about the possibilities for that book, but I decided it was a bit much to tackle for my first.

About a month ago, a new book idea occurred to me. I am really excited about it. It's historical fiction/fantasy, but the setting is much closer in time and geography. The research is so much easier. Actually, I already have an idea for a sequel!

Reading Princess Academy reawakened my desire to write novels. And that new desire to create recreated me. I feel like an entirely different person. I am more aware of beauty and I find inspiration everywhere. Life is suddenly so much more compelling, riveting, moving.

Who needs drugs?


Bernie is having a friend over this afternoon and Marcus told her they'd better stay out of his room. Naturally, Bernie had to say, "Oh, we will. We're only going to stick our feet in." Marcus felt compelled to come up with some signage that would deter sticking one's feet in. I don't know about you, but I'm terrified.
Additional Marcus: At a baptism two Saturdays ago, Marcus found an enormous strawberry amongst the refreshments. He wrapped it in a napkin and brought it home to show me. I was impressed. He pulled it out of the refrigerator yesterday to marvel at it, and I said, "Oooh! Throw that out. It's going to get mushy and moldy."
"That's the point," said Marcus.

Monday, April 06, 2009

life sucks in the bahamas

Seriously, you don't ever want to go there. Here are some photos showing how rough we had it.

Friday, April 03, 2009

conch salad: mmmmm

We are really enjoying the Bahamas. The time has flown! We only have one full day left.

I am not a beach resort fan, but it has been fun to see the kids enjoy themselves so much. How they love the water and sand! J took them snorkeling a couple days ago and all four loved it. Lidia and Georgie even got to see sharks. Bernie and Marcus were first in line to jump in with the sharks but they weren't allowed because they are too little to hold onto the rope for that long. My kids are nuts. Where do they get the daring streak from? J, of course. I think once, long ago, I may have been daring. But now I have to be the safety-minded parent. That's not a role J will ever assume.

Today we drove around the island a bit and passed the monument to Sir Harry Oakes. It was weird. I had forgotten that he lived here for many years and was actually murdered here in Nassau. Sir Harry was born and raised in my area of Maine and graduated from my high school. He lived a rather adventurous life after that until he struck gold in Canada and became very, very wealthy. To avoid taxes in Canada, he became a British citizen and moved to Nassau. He picked up the title for his charitable works in the England and the Bahamas. I passed Sir Harry's marble mausoleum in the cemetery every time I went to town as a kid. So the weirdness came of seeing something Sir Harry-related so far from Maine.

Conch salad is like ceviche, but made with conch (the little fishie inside the conch shell). I loooooove.