Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Caribbean Corn Chowder



Caribbean Corn Chowder with sweet potato and mango. Yum. This vegetarian dish is the gluten and dairy free variation (just for the fun of it). I loved the sweet and spicy feel of this recipe. http://thefigtreeblog.com/2013/03/caribbean-corn-chowder.html

Too Wordy

I've been working on Anna's Baby Book. The rough draft is 43 pages in Microsoft Word, and I haven't chosen any pictures yet. Oops. I am not sure an online photo book editor is going to get this job done. That's what happens when you value the written word a little too much. ;)

I want a pretty book, but all the online photo book publishers don't seem equipped to handle a word count like mine. Plus, they are expensive.
Ideas?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Family Trip 2013: Day 8

It was technically still Day 7 when we showed up at our hotel in Albuquerque, but this definitely belongs to the Day 8 report. You will see why in a minute.

Anna fell asleep on the way to the hotel, and she woke for only a moment when I took her out of her carseat.  Zachary and I took Anna and a couple things up to the room. I stayed behind with the sleeping baby while Zachary went down to get the rest of the luggage.  The plan was for him to return and set up the crib, and I would place Anna in her bed and go to sleep myself.  She was really tired, so I had high hopes she would sleep for at least a few solid hours.  We planned on driving to Oklahoma City the next day (Friday) then go up to Ponca City to visit family on Saturday and return home that night.  That would leave us Sunday and Monday to rest at home before Zachary needed to go back to work.

Those were our plans.

Read ahead to see what actually happened.

Imagine this. I'm sitting in a dimly lit hotel room with a sleeping baby. Zachary is getting the luggage. I hear a noise behind my chair but I credit it to an overactive imagination or... there it is again. I get up and discover a giant cockroach in front of me. Still holding a sleeping Anna, I grab for the camera and try to snap a picture. It won't take because of the darkness. I grab my shoes and shake them out (while still holding the sleeping baby), put them on, and go towards the door. Another cockroach guards the exit. I stomp it under foot and leave. I wait for my hero in the bright hallway. The baby awakes. We leave (with a refund) and decide to drive through the night. We take turns at the wheel and return in record time. We step into our Home Sweet Home, but there is a damp smell. The bathroom looks like it was rained on.  The ceiling sags.  Everything is wet. In our absence, our upstairs neighbor has flooded her bathroom... which in turn soaks ours.

Welcome home!

Seriously though. It was a great trip. We are blessed!


We did not take pictures.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Family Trip 2013: Day 7

We went through a Border Patrol checkpoint on our way to the Kartchner Caverns State Park.  Can you believe it? We were close enough to Mexico that we went through a border checkpoint. I still haven't been in a foreign country, but we were close.  I saw a Mexican mountain in the distance. Someday, we will actually go over the border.

 
 
 
Speed limit signs slowed us down long before we could see what we were approaching. There were several officers and dogs, and they looked like they meant business. We rolled down our window, and they visually scanned our vehicle.  I think it was obvious we posed no threat -- a young couple with a baby in the back surrounded by toys, luggage, pillows, bags of snacks and fruit, and several large jugs of water. Yep. No threat. They waved us on.
 
As requested, we arrived at the Kartchner Caverns visitor center an hour early for our 9:40 tour, but they were able to bump us back to the first tour of the day at 9:00.  That was nice.  They warned it would be warm and humid inside the caverns and suggested we leave our jackets in the car.  We had to leave just about everything else in the car too -- cameras, bags, purses, etc.  I was able to bring our baby sling for Anna to ride in since, of course, strollers were not allowed.

Just as a side note, we went through the entire trip without ever using our stroller.  It just seemed wrong to expect Anna to be tied down in her carseat for hours on end just to take her out and plop and lock her into another seat.  Zachary and I carried her everywhere when we weren't in the car, and our sling was a great aid for longer walks.

Anna is holding her ticket in this photo.
We took cell phone pictures in the visitor center, but that was it before hiding that electronic device away. They have a very firm rule about photography in the caverns.  There are two tours available, one in the Big Room and one in the Rotunda and Throne Room but only the second allows children under seven, so I will let you guess which one we took.  Yes!  We went on the Throne Room Tour!  How's that for easy decision making?

Anna loved the first part of the tour which involved riding up a steep hill in an open vehicle, going through bank safe quality doors, entering the warm and humid cavern, and being misted from three sides.  The mist helps replace the water our dry skin and clothes steal from the air and washes off or entraps any lint, etc. that might be tempted to fall off in the delicate environment of the cavern.  They say the cavern is so humid that any foreign objects mold over very quickly and become unrecognizable, and that isn't good for the cave. They hose the pathways at the end of each day.

The tour we went on is completely wheelchair accessible and was a very easy walk.  Kartchner Caverns is 90% "alive." The formations are still growing. They are growing slowly, but water is still making its way through and creating the beautiful stalagmites, stalactites, soda straws, and other formations.  I love seeing the glossy smoothness of the moist rock.

Anna's natural nap time fell smack-dab in the middle of the tour, so she started to get a bit fussy.  Okay, very fussy. We tried just about everything to get her to calm down -- playing with her, funny faces, taking her out of the sling carrier, handing her to her daddy and then back to me, pointing at the lights in an attempt to fool her into smiling for a "camera..."  That last one worked wonders and she pasted a fake smile on her face for about the ten seconds it took to figure out that, no, her picture was not being taken.  Finally, in a last attempt to keep us on the tour, (since they will ask loud babies and their parents to leave) I nursed Anna discreetly while continuing to walk the tour.  She fell right asleep, and our fellow tourists sang her praises as we exited the cave at the end of the tour.  They told us what a good baby we have. With a sleeping baby in my arms, there was no way I was going to argue.

We said goodbye to Arizona and headed back toward Albuquerque and my grandparents' house.  We could have continued on for a couple more days, but we had seen everything on our list and were ready to get home.  We were stopped at another Border Patrol Checkpoint where the officer asked, "Everyone U.S. citizens here?" We said yes, and he waved us through.

We arrived at Grandma's about 7:00 where she had a delicious dinner prepared for us.  Anna let her Great Grandma Jan hold her. That made me (and my grandma) happy. I think another visit or two would make Grandma part of Anna's "inner circle."  We put our pictures on the TV for an old-fashioned slideshow presentation and enjoyed the city lights and good fellowship.  After our goodbyes, we headed to the hotel, but that is a story for another day!

Family Trip 2013: Day 6 Addition

I wanted to include a picture of my great grandparents, Errol and Clara Muckey, in front of the Flowing Wells Assembly of God, but my last post had too many pictures already.  I have to share it though.  To me, it was just too neat to be standing there in front of a place of worship that was an integral part of my family history and my own dad's life.

Errol and Clara Muckey in front of Flowing Wells Assembly of God
This is them inside (?) celebrating 50 years of marriage in 1970.
My dad (age 10) at the same celebration.  Note the wedding picture on the table.
2013
Anna and me in 2013
My dad's baptism


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Family Trip 2013: Day 6

It would be a shame to wake up in a four star hotel resort in the early hours of the morning and rush off -- so we didn't bother. We slept in, enjoyed the balcony, strolled the lobby, and just took our time.  Who knows when we will be in a hotel like that again?
Lemon Tree
 

Saguaro Gardening?
We did leave in time for a late breakfast elsewhere, as we were not up to paying resort prices for the meal.  Then we headed south toward Tucson.




Our first destination of the day was the Saguaro National Park.  Even before we got there, we were taking in the views of the beautiful Saguaro. They were plentiful in neighborhoods, around businesses, and along the highways and roads.  I guess I never thought about them being so close to civilization.  Visiting the southern part of Arizona is worth the trip just to see this magnificent creation.
 
The visitor center at the park had a "newspaper" with interesting facts about the desert and the cacti we came to see.  It made for fun reading later in the day, but we weren't there among the Saguaro just to read.  We went outside to see the real thing.




The top of a Saguaro
Being out in the desert was a new feeling for me.  Walking a short path brought us closer to the desert plants we came to see, and it made me glad we had plenty of water on hand and a means of transportation out of there when we were done.  It would not be a friendly place to lose one's way.

We headed into Tuscan next to visit a very special place in my family history: the Flowing Wells Assembly of God Church.  It is where three generations of my family worshiped: my dad, his parents, and his grandparents.  It is where my dad began to follow Jesus and was baptized.

I recognized the roof of the old part of the building straight away from family photos, and I just had to have my picture taken there.  I did manage to tour the new part of the church (built after my family's time there) but the old section I was interested in is now their children's area and was locked up.  It was just nice to be there.  And, sure enough, there was a Saguaro right next to the church.

The part I recognized.
The new section
Driving down Flowing Wells Road made me imagine my dad as a small child.  He lived nearby with his family.  He went to school and church here.  The story everyone tells is about the time my dad was walking home from school in the rain.  His dad found him at the corner of Flowing Wells and Wetmore and said he had found a wet Moore on Wetmore.  My dad didn't think it was very funny at the time, but he laughs about it now.

Our next stop was a religious site of a different kind.  We drove out to Mission San Xavier del Bac.  It was my dad who told me about this beautiful place.  As a schoolboy, he wrote a report about the Spanish mission and has fond memories of conducting the necessary research for the project. Mission San Xavier del Bac was built in 1783 and is stunning both inside and out.  I was surprised to find that it is still an active place of worship.  We were careful to be quiet and not disturb those who were praying.


Tombstone City Hall

We drove out to Tombstone after our visit at the mission.  Frankly, I have no interest in the O.K. Corral narrative for which Tombstone is famous, but I did want to see the town.  It is where my dad attended high school, and as such, it is a place of interest to me.  We swung at the park (just outside the famous corral), walked down the boardwalk, drove around the town a little, and then found a hotel about twenty minutes away.

 In one day we woke up in a four star resort and went to sleep in a one star extended stay, but it was a nice place, and I would stay there again.  They even had a microwave and dishes, so we were able to stay in and eat soup and popcorn for dinner.