Monday, March 31, 2008

(Extraordinary) Rendition

This weekend we watched the movie Rendition. Wow. Great cast and acting, what a powerful and awful story. The wrenching documentary at the end in the bonus features alone make it worth the rental fee. I know Hollywood can sensationalize things, but still. Intense.
On nights like these I curl up next my love, grateful that he is home, safe and in one piece; unscathed, at least physically, from the war. I loved Reese Witherspoon’s performance and can’t imagine what pain the family member’s of prisoners (of war) go through.
On nights like these I am also all too aware that Los can relate to Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, and I want to get out of the military asap and do something stress-free, like open an organic bakery. Instead of life and death and intelligence and torture and right and wrong kind of matters- we can fret about blueberry season and flaxseed and so forth. Sounds good and peaceful to me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bucket List- last installment: Things to do before I kick the bucket

76. Sell, donate or give away everything we don’t really want in our home
77. Let everything in our home tell a story (e.g. we got these candelabras in Buenos Aires at the San Telmo Antiques Market)
78. Learn how to be more lavish (with self and others)
79. Ski black diamonds confidently
80. Build community with neighbors everywhere we move
81. Play card games (and other games) as a family
82. Use alternative gift markets at Christmas
83. Practice yoga and/or pilates regularly
84. Officiate weddings
85. Officiate funerals
86. Be as good of parents as the Cummins’ are to their girls
87. Try Zorbing
88. Go to Thai beaches and eat Thai food in Thailand
89. Learn how to dance with abandon (without feeling awkward)
90. Find the perfect haircut for my crazy curly hair
91. Memorize a book in the Bible (I’ve seen it done)
92. Go hiking and camping
93. Teach our kids to engage the culture and change the world
94. Learn about Judaism and Jewish Festivals
95. Know my geneology and have my family’s/Los’ family history written down
96. Get heirloom jewelry and china from people in our family
97. Do a polar bear plunge (just once)
98. Get a tattoo with Los (in solidarity with C and J)
99. Make good memories
100. Help others live fully while they’re alive and make friends with death, it is not the enemy, and it is not victorious.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bucket List- part 3 (of 4): Things to do before I kick the bucket

51. Become more ‘Green’
52. Buy the world’s most comfortable couch
53. Amass furniture that isn’t hand-me-down
54. Have a big tub in the master bath (TMI, perhaps)
55. Get a nice camera and learn more about photography so we can capture our adventures more artistically like Joel
56. Paint a big canvas with our kids
57. Go to a soccer game (football match) in Europe
58. Attend a Puccini opera
59. Get SCUBA certification and go to as many reefs as possible
60. Own kayaks or maybe a sailboat
61. See a manatee up close
62. Go to a Dodgers baseball game with my dad
63. Train my dog not to think he’s the center of the universe (or train myself to think that)
64. Go skydiving
65. Ride a Vespa somewhere scenic
66. Own a Bernese Mountain Dog, or a French Bulldog, or both
67. Exercise regularly
68. Have a flower ‘cutting’ garden to have fresh flowers in the house all spring/summer/fall
69. Cruise from Singapore to Dubai or China
70. On the way, eat Indian food in India
71. Buy some brilliant fabric in India to make pillowcases with
72. Learn how to sew (first step, get a sewing machine, or at least a needle/thread)
73. Have an instant hot water faucet on our sink
74. Live somewhere warm enough that we can grill/eat outside at least half the year
75. Have an ‘outdoor living room’

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bucket List- part 2 (2/4)

26. Drive from Chicago up to Mackinac Island, MI and kayak
27. Teach our kids to develop a habit of gratitude (and make cute handmaid thank you cards for gifts)
28. Have a fountain in our backyard
29. Ski Killington, VT, and/or Jackson Hole, WY (the only 2 good states I haven’t skied)
30. Frame our kids artwork in our home
31. Go to Alaska and climb a mountain (preferably not Mt. McKinley, I’m thinking small, more like a hill…)
32. While I’m there, maybe I can go dog-sledding too
33. Go to Hawaii to snorkel, or ride a bike down a volcano, whatev.
34. Be in a book club
35. Hear the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island
36. Become a Master Gardener
37. Explore Maine in the summer
38. Learn how to be a better DIY-er (laying hardwood, tile, molding, etc.)
39. Have a second home at the beach (Los Osos, probs) or in the mountains in CA (Mammoth, my heart)
40. Go to Israel, Palestine and other Biblical sites
41. complete a triathlon, probably just the sprint distance one (I only like swimming in warm pools, not oceans/lakes)
42. Go to a college football game in the South (at Texas, or Florida preferably, who along with Cal are my adopted teams)
43. Learn more about history (local, national and world)
44. Host an exchange student
45. Build a pergola
46. Have a clean house
47. Buy our first tv (with DVR)
48. Have more rituals
49. Organize my library by topic
50. Have a library I’m proud of (and have read)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Bucket List- to do before I 'kick the bucket'

Inspired by Annie’s list of 100 things to do in life, I have attempted to write my own, we'll see if I can make it. (1 of 4)
1. Be on all seven continents (2 left)
2. Own an orange cat named L. Tigre (we can call him Teegs)
3. Be published (book, magazine, newspaper, etc.)
4. Live off 70% of our income, save 10%, invest 10% and tithe 10%
5. Go to Charleston, SC (where my dad’s fam came to the US in 1703)
6. Be healthy (which probably means losing weight)
7. Go to Auschwitz and weep
8. Actually stand up on a surfboard and ride a wave in
9. Own a horse (or have regular access to one)
10. Work at a (plant) nursery like my fave Christianson’s
11. Sell one of my paintings
12. Finish out my last 5 of our glorious 50 states
11. Adopt a child from another place
12. Develop a good wine collection and learn way more about the appellations around me and around the world
13. Run a half-marathon with my husband
14. Cheer him on while he runs the NYC and/or Boston Marathon
15. Live close to family and good friends
16. Believe in myself (consistently)
17. Preach sermons in churches around the country/world with confidence
18. Finish a Ph.D. or D.Min
19. Get good at tennis (my forehand is weak)
20. Be able to flip-turn when I swim
21. Grow and eat our own veggies all summer like my dad does
22. Learn how to can them for winter like Los’ relatives do- I think that would be fun to do with kids
23. Learn how to knit and make my own beanies/scarves
24. Do a rafting and houseboating trip on Lake Powell and in the Grand Canyon, AZ
25. Become a good cook

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lake Padden: It's a Dog's Life

Since we'll be moving at some point this year, I feel myself getting nostalgic about lots of stuff I'll miss. Today I even left my dentist thinking I am sad I may never go there again... One of the places I'll miss a lot is Lake Padden. We've had a ritual on Sunday's post-church of going to Lake Padden. We hang at the dog park for a while (sometimes there are no other little dogs, so Burly plays with the big guys- in the second pic he is being run over, click on it to make it bigger) and then we walk around the 2.5 mile gorgeous trail. For those of you in Seattle, it's like Green Lake minus the urban-ness.

On rainy days like this one, I let Burly off the leash and he runs into the water lots of times as we make our way around. There are designated dog swim areas, but he makes his own as well:)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Embracing The Anglophile Within

I am a sun-craving, flip-flop fanatic Californian at heart, but recently I’ve noticed myself becoming obsessed with all things British. In June we are going to London and Wimbledon, en route to Greece and Turkey, woo hoo! But I haven’t been to the UK yet, so this obsession is a little ironic. Los’ grandma is British, and when we were hanging out with her in D.C. we had the best time. After we said goodbye to her, we confessed our mutual crush on her vocabulary, and have greeted each other with a faux-brit accent ever since, “hello love!”
We have incorporated her words, as well as some from Charlie and Desmond (brotha) on Lost. I know technically they are Irish and Scottish and not big fans of being lumped in with the English, but I haven’t figured out how to be PC about all that yet.
So here’s my ever-growing blanket list of things I heart about our neighbors across the pond:
Sports: I love how they appreciate soccer, the real football, unlike Americans.
Drink: I love having tea every day, I wish it were a cultural thing over here too.
Men’s Fashion: I am a sucker for the sharp jeans and coat jacket and scarf. Incidentally, this is what Los was wearing the day he proposed to me in France
Books: Since high school when I was introduced to the Bronte sisters, I’ve liked most things British, all the way up to today’s popular Emily Giffin book Something Blue.
Movies: Jane Austen films to the current Brits in Hollywood
Music: Sting to Coldplay, life-long staples.
Words: Even their swear words are cooler than ours, I remember my high school soccer coach used to always use them. Here are 10 fave British slang words.
Spot On

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday (between Good Friday and Easter) and Our Big (un)News

Some theologian (maybe Jurgen Moltmann, I forget) said we live in Saturday. Our lives are all Saturday. After the crucifixion and death of Christ, yet before his coming back. Our lives are lived in the tension, the dialectic, of despair and hope. Ours is a theology of hope, that one day we will see Christ again. One day things will all be made new. One day this will all make sense. We know the end of the story, so we live in hope. Yet we don’t know exactly how it will happen, so we live in tension, we live with conflict. We live on Saturday, with ambiguity, with mystery. And that’s uncomfortable!

In Biblical Greek there is a construction “men…de…” which means, “on the one hand, on the other hand…” It’s used a lot in Hebrews and other NT books to juxtapose something in the Old Testament with Christ, with the rhythm of refrain implying Christ is better, Christ is better, Christ is better…

So on the one hand (in our lives), we found out when Carlos came home last night, that we didn’t get the Olmstead Foundation scholarship we applied for to move overseas for him to get an advanced degree. I was crushed, devastated, shocked, sad, angry, you name it, I was it last night. I had put all my chips in, I was 100% expecting to move to CA for language training and then to go abroad. It made perfect sense for our lives (in my mind)- full of adventure and excitement…

Yet on the other hand… God must have something better, more perfect, in mind for us. And Carlos is home! All that really matters is that we’re together. Joys are doubled, sorrows are halved, no matter where we go. Maybe we’ll still go abroad (there are a couple of jobs in Suriname, Brazil and Australia that we know about so far); or maybe for this season we should stay Stateside, in FL, TX or CA? I don’t know. I live in Saturday. I live in mystery and yet I hope.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mt. Baker Ski Ditch Day

The last Friday he was here, Los skipped work and we headed to the mountains with 20 or so friends and co-workers to ski/board all day. I can’t wait til a) we have more adventures like that, and b) we have a retreat place to call our own- Flory’s et al. I am jealous! There is hardly any place in the world that I am more at peace, than at a cabin or ski resort lodge, sitting right inside the window, looking out at the beauty of snow-covered mountains. Until that day comes, I will be sustained by our occasional trips up to the mountains. I just love them. Beaches are good too, but there’s just something about being up here I have a hard time describing. Stillness. Raw. Clean. Majestic. It is majestic up here. The craggy peaks, the fluffy snow, the treetops pointing to heaven. The wind against your face, and the exhilaration in your heart you feel going down runs. I LOVE that. Connecting with the creation, I’m into it. And I love watching people fly down the mountain with grace- seeing people do what they are great at is beautiful in itself.

Best- Worst

Best-long, luxurious sleep in a Heavenly bed with nothing to do when you wake up except make a fun breakfast
Better- solid sleep for 6-10
Good- Sleep with no pee breaks
Bad- Rolling around in your bed for hours and getting up to pee 3 times
Worse- sleeping under a bridge in the winter
Worst- Incurable insomnia

Simplification-station and Blessing

I cleaned out my great-grandma’s house when I was a kid, after she passed. Not to be dishonoring, but what a disaster zone it was, the entire home reeked and was filled to the gills with junk! You couldn’t even walk, there was no floor space, mountains of things everywhere… I remember the look on my dad’s face when we surveyed the task at hand, it was half-overwhelmed and half, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” I vowed that day never to become a pack-rat.

It’s no shocker that our favorite pastor in the country is Rob Bell in Michigan. We call him our ‘road pastor,’ listen to him as frequently as possible, and could probably quote him in our sleep. One thing that he said last spring, which stuck with us was,

“if you were moving tomorrow, what would you keep, sell, give away, recycle or throw away.”
Then he said, “why not do that today?”

In our culture of consumerism and accumulation, where more is more, this question of Bell’s has become something that Los and I come back to again and again as a heart-check. I’m all for having nice things that we really like, but not into stockpiling for “some day.” We are one of the only families on our street that can park two cars in our garage. I think this is sad. Our neighbors assure us that when we’re older, we’ll join them in parking outside, because we’ll have way more stuff by then. I hope not!

Last spring, the day we left for Australia, we decided to clean out our closets. As we purged, the pile grew higher and higher with things we haven’t worn in years. A lot of stuff was in great shape and could easily be sold or donated. To clean felt like an act of obedience, yet I had no idea how God would use it.

Well, we found out an hour later. We didn’t have to leave our house that day until noon, so after the Purge-Fest 2007, Los drove to the gym. When he left the gym, he came upon a homeless woman, looking for help. As he engaged her and she shared her story, it became clear that she needed some clothes nice enough to interview in, for jobs; to get back on her feet. And she “just so happened” to wear my exact size. Thanks Lord. Carlos told her to hang on, and came back 20 minutes later with 10+ outfits for her to wear. She was astounded and joyful, caressing her new clothes. She shared with him how hopeful this made her feel. Amen. We drove to the airport feeling warm in our hearts that day. It is amazing how easy it is to bless other people! We have so much stuff that we don’t need, that someone else could really use. Join us in asking Bell’s question.


I almost didn't want to type that, for fear of cursing myself. But then I remembered I don't believe in curses... So there it is! He is in our country (albeit Maine) and should be home tomorrow night, that is a GOOD Friday indeed! Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I Believe…

Another post in honor of Easter. I had to sit down for some people and I write what I believe. It's by no means comprehensive, but a good start. Have you ever thought in depth about what you do and don't believe re: God? It's kind of hard to articulate! Try it. I did with my college girls, and an interesting conversation ensued that we may never have had otherwise.
I believe in the trinitarian God, Father, son and Holy Spirit. I believe they exist in eternal community and created all that exists. I believe that God’s sovereign and sacrificial love enables humanity to be in right relationship with God. He promises a covenantal love to His people.

I believe that the free will we have, has been abused by poor stewardship, so only Christ, by grace, through his death and resurrection, can reconcile us to God. I believe that when we submit our will and desires, to be conformed to Christ’s likeness, the Holy Spirit works in us, to purge our sinful nature and build us into his disciples.

I believe we can commune with God through prayer and through gathering as the body of Christ, the church. We interact with God through the Bible given to us as His Word. When we read the words, hear the Word proclaimed, and pray the word, we mysteriously encounter Jesus, the Word of God.

When we respond with a sacramental life, we honor and grow nearer to God. Through sharing the ‘signs and seals’ of communion and baptism, we are incorporated into Christ’s death and life. We take in his body that was broken, then as a body we are broken and go out into the world as His ambassadors to share the good news of his grace to others.

Resurrection Reflection (repost)

Here's something I wrote at this time last year. According to my stat counter, people from all over the world (Australia, England) are reading this this week. So in honor of Easter and such, I just thought I'd throw it back up there- it's from the point of view of Mary Magdalene. Be blessed.
“Mary.” Hearing that one simple word, my name, changed everything. To be honest, I was crying so hysterically when I first saw him that I didn’t even recognize him! I thought he was the gardener. The gardener! Didn’t he teach that he was “the vine and his Father was the gardener?” Well God, I guess he is looking more and more like you the longer I know him.

When he said my name, all the confusion and chaos of the past couple of days came to a halt. All of a sudden my identity felt secure and affirmed. I never pictured Jesus going about things this way, but there he was, alive, and once again, helping me understand truth. He calls me by name, he calls us by name, he meets each of us where we are, and has the power to restore everything that’s broken.

In any case, I had been so upset because I thought maybe someone had stolen his body. Everything that had happened the past couple of days was almost unbearably heart-wrenching. Seeing my teacher, my friend, up there on the cross was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Perfection sandwiched between criminals. Dying a humiliating death in front of people who persecuted him up until he gave up his last breath. Why did it have to be like that? He used to hint about this, but it was too cryptic for me to imagine what was really going to happen.

And there was an earthquake as he died. It was as though the earth was grieving the loss as well. I couldn’t tell which was louder, the chasms being split open on the ground, or the crashing happening inside my heart. Both were devastating. That morning was so dark. The clouds that came over the sun came over my spirit as well.

And then I was supposed to prepare for Sabbath? Yeah right. I felt angry, I felt restless, I felt out-of-control; the last thing I wanted to do was be still. There was no peace to be found this week. I stayed as long as I could outside the tomb. His mom and I and some others reminisced about Jesus’ impact on our lives. I don’t know if it was good or bad to do, since it made us all the more grieved.

I remembered the state I was in when he first found me. I was a mess. I usually don’t like to think about the demons that haunted me, but for a long time they were all I knew. They kind of ‘defined’ me. I believed a lot of lies about myself back then. When Jesus came into my life, he got rid of all of them. I didn’t have the power to do that on my own, and believe me, I had tried lots of ways to seek peace before meeting him.

Go figure, he was the only way to true peace. And he still is. When I was crying in the garden and he came to me, and said my name, I felt a surge of joy run up through my body. I hadn’t felt that in days, and I grabbed him, wanting to be as close as possible.
He said I couldn’t hold on to him, though. That he wasn’t staying. He was going to be with his Father, and told me to tell everyone about him. So that’s what I do now. I tell people, like you, about Jesus. I tell of his teachings, and how he changed my life. And the joy and peace I have now can’t be shaken. He is alive. And he calls me by name.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It Just Keeps Getting Better

When I was in high school, I literally hoped I would die when I was 23. Isn’t that weird, I hoped that for years! I thought what could be better than youth and the college years?! It is all downhill after that, responsibility and such- no thanks, just give me the fun and then take me away to the pearly gates (just kidding, I don’t actually believe there are said gates in heaven).

As I turn 29 today, I am so thankful it wasn’t God’s time for me to make my grand exit when I was 23- life just keeps getting better and better, I wouldn’t want to miss it.
Since I’m on a roll with numbers from my previous blog, a quick recap of the past/best decade of my life (to this point)…

18- I left home in CA and moved to gorgeous Seattle where I made life-long friends at my university and church
19- I went to Kyrgyzstan for the summer and learned from being stripped of everything I knew, to find my identity in Christ alone.
20- I switched my majors to something more up my alley (I would have been miserable in Pre-Dentistry, I suck at sciences) and went to Europe for the first time with good friends
21- I did summer staff at a Young Life camp in CO, and learned what godly families could look like for the first time. I also began reconciling my relationship with my dad after feeling bitterness for 14 years. Major healing.
22- I first felt called to vocational ministry and met my husband!
23- I lived in Berkeley and fell in love with life at it’s fullest- I now want nothing less.
24- I began graduate school at Fuller in Menlo Park
25- I moved to Florida, another amazing season of life, where I learned how different cultures within our country can be! And we went to Europe to ski and got engaged in the Chartres Cathedral, France.
26- We moved across the country again, got married, bought a house and I resumed grad. School
27- We got little Burlington Philippe Evans, the world’s best dog
28- Went to Australia, Europe and South America, and I worked as a chaplain at the hospital, which was a very transformative time of examination of self for me

I can only smile as I anticipate what 29 has in store… Greece/Turkey, graduation (potentially my last ever- though I constantly think of PhD fodder), another move, maybe a pregnancy? I can’t wait! Life just keeps getting better… I am grateful.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Preserving Liberty

My prince on his steed...
Just an average work day:)

Chasing Liberty

There are a lot of great one-liners in the movie. My fave is when Ben tells Anna that he's
so unbloodyhinged just being near
her. I love it... If that's not the most romantic thing I've ever heard I don't know what is.
Here's that scene

Isn't his voice great? I want to raise my kids in England just so they'll sound like that:) I don't suppose Brits ever wished they sounded like us, eh?

the ending (with the beautiful Puccini song Nessun Dorma in the background...)

Watch this for a date night, people, I'm tellin you... So cute.

Mandy Moore, my inspiration?

Soon to have a graduate degree in hand, I like to think of myself as intelligent, so I don’t even know how to start this blog. I’m just gonna throw it out there: I like movies made for teenagers. Or younger, even. When Los is home, we spend money on more intellectual, or fast-paced, suspenseful, etc. genres of movies. Usually. Actually, we had free tickets last winter that I used, dragging him to see Enchanted. He endured it like a champ, that is love! Not gonna lie, I cried. I don’t know what it is, but every time he leaves, I go to my neighbor’s houses and borrow all kinds of cheesy, sappy movies that we usually would never watch together. Chick flicks galore, and things like Princess Diaries and Bring it On. I mean, what?
I almost feel like writing this is some kind of confession, but it’s laughable. It seems incongruous with the rest of my personhood- but I love movies like this! I remember a couple of years ago, I went with Kathleen and Mallory Cummins to see 13 Going On 30. Mallory was the age the movie was geared toward, yet she sat there with an embarrassed/incredulous look on her face while her mom and I cried! Ha!
My new favorite is Chasing Liberty, a couple of years old, but I just watched it this week for the first time. And then I may or may not have watched it four more times... Come on, I was multi-tasking! I’ve already confessed my slight infatuation with daughters of Presidents. I mean, if I’m never gonna be one, I would at least like to meet one. But so far the closest I’ve come to actualizing that dream is watching movies about First Daughters.
The movie is shot in Prague, Venice, Berlin, London and D.C., some of the world’s most awesome cities. I went to Prague before it was a big deal, in 1999; and it is so gorgeous! I went to the ballet Swan Lake there, a memory I won’t soon forget. In Chasing Liberty Mandy Moore and the guy (my new fave Brit, Matthew Goode) have a cool scene watching an opera from a rooftop. I think I’ve only been to the Opera once, in Vienna, Austria- and that was just because everyone else was doing it. But I’ve never really been into it. So Mandy Moore’s character inspired me to learn about opera some, and to try going to a couple. I learned that Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco’s operas all have some interesting performances coming up. I figure I should experience Puccini and others’ creations in person rather than on YouTube or Wikipedia, which is what I have done this week. So anyone up for some culture, holler at your girl. Or if you have more chick flicks to recommend, you could holler at me as well☺

And p.s. to all closet Mandy Moore fans, her new album sounds cool, she collaborated with awesome people like Lori McKenna, The Weepies, Chantal Kreviazuk, and a guy who produced John Mayer.


You know you're OCD when...
you are walking your dog around the neighborhood and you wish you could fix other people's gardens because they're just not doing it right...

not that I do that.


1- tooth I floss daily
2- days until I turn 29
3- summersaults I do in a pool before taking a breath
4- days until the love of my life comes home and my in-law’s go to France- one of the world’s best countries
5- continents I’ve been to so far
6- months til I am done with graduate school forever (maybe…)
7- languages I have studied somewhat
8- pairs of flip-flops I own
10- hoodies I own
16- countries I’ve been to so far
24- flights I went on last year
36- times I said the word “like” in a 5 minute speech in 9th grade. Oops.
42- satsumas I ate at one time (it was a competition. I lost.)
45- states I have been to in the US so far
48- state license plates I have counted in one trip (skiing in CO). I remain on my quest for the elusive 50 (damn Delaware only has like 12 residents, and not that many Hawaiians snow ski, I imagine…)
90- hamburger patties on one person’s order at San Diego’s In-n-Out Burger
199- times I have listened to Sara Groves on my iTunes
206- dollars the speeding ticket I am trying to get out of costs
300- plants I have planted so far at my house
1000+- sweet pea flower seeds I harvested last fall from the 25 I planted (let me know if you want some this spring!)
5,000- miles we drove our new Prius in the first 2 months of owning it
8 million- hairs (approximately) my beloved dog sheds per day

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trader Joe’s- Best Grocery Store in the Land

This is my blog dedicated to Trader Joe, Jacques, Giotto, Jose, Ming, et al. Thank you, traders, for taking care of me when cooking from scratch is not my highest priority. Sure I love going to shi-shi grocery stores with their fancy aesthetics around every corner as much as anyone else. I also love supporting local farmers. But some times I’m just exhausted or lazy, and the idea of hunting stuff down to whip up a gourmet meal is not on the agenda… Other times, like now, while Los is out of the country, I just need a fast, small portion. You really know how to meet my needs, and I am thankful. You have a kick-ass wine and cheese section, and cheap organic food and flowers. What else could a girl need, really? So here’s a list of current favorites, just so you know:
1. Chili Lemon Pistachios
2. Cinnamon-Cranberry Goat Cheese
3. Pumpkin Spice Granola
4. Sweet Potato Ridge Cut Chips
5. Niman Ranch meats and the Asadas
6. Raclette and other imported cheeses
7. Caribbean Fruit Floes
8. Spicy and Garlic Hummus
9. Pistachio and Dark Chocolate-covered Toffee
10. All the Indian Simmer Sauces

The list could go on and on, but these are a few highlights. Thanks again traders, for making meal times exciting and easy.
Love your faithful patron,
p.s. if you have never had the luxury of experiencing TJ’s goodness, call 1-800-SHOP-TJS and they will tell you where your nearest store is, and give you directions. Really.
p.p.s if you HAVE had the luxury, tell me what YOUR faves are, we love to try new stuff! Por ejemplo, JJ turned us on to the Cinnamon-Wheat Swirls, what else, do tell?!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Buenos Aires

We ended our glorious trip in the European-vibe city of BA. While it is one of the world’s great cities, with fashion and cuisine galore, it is still just that, a city. And when you’re coming from unadulterated creation, it is somewhat shocking to fly into a place where as far as the eye can see, from a puny plane window, is building upon building. And when we were brought to street level, we witnessed grafitti, noise pollution and litter such as we hadn’t seen in the previous 10 days. Again, shocking to the system.

However, there were some highlights. First of all, our hotel 248 Finisterra was such a treat, we loved it. The surrounding neighborhood was enjoyable too. And we got to connect with our friends Marla and Justin there. Justin’s a pilot in our squadron, about to move to Florida. And Marla was in our wedding, she’s completing med. school at U. of Kentucky now. They are global travelers too, and were beginning their trip as we were ending ours. Joel found the six of us a great restaurant that first night, MOTT, which was reviewed by the New York Times, our news source of choice☺

The first half of Sunday was a great time, as we went to their famous San Telmo Antiques Market. I’ve never seen such a big antiques district. Carlos and I bargained with the locals and bought some killer silver candelabras which look great in our formal dining room. I have wanted some like this ever since I saw my friends the Cummins’ with similar ones. They are legit and make me feel like a grownup! Joel and Cara found some amazing artwork and bought one of the most creative paintings I have ever seen. At home, they’re amassing a cool collection of works from different continents.

The latter half of Sunday however, was a waste. We were duped into this “historical” tour that ended up being nothing more a “sewer tour” of BA’s old aqueducts. Ridiculous. Then we went to a half-bizarre/half-disturbing art museum. The night was topped off by my trying certain parts of cow I will never ever try again (intestines, blood sausage, etc.) Oh well. You gotta try everything at least once.

Monday was silly as well, as our book made a day trip to Uruguay sound pretty interesting and historical. I am learning to have a yellow caution flag raise in my mind when I read the word historical. Suffice to say, we were left wanting more.

Tuesday, however was a good last day. The Flory’s picked up some cool wardrobe pieces and we got a chandelier from a local artist that we’re in love with. Trying to pack that was a little interesting. But it made the intercontinental flights and is now hanging in our bedroom and looks great.

By the end of our trip we were missing our dogs and the comforts of home, two weeks was plenty abroad. If we were to do the trip again, I would have added a day in wine country and subtracted a city day. All in all, however, the trip was pretty great. Full of experiences and stories we’ll remember. It was our first time ever traveling with others, and I’m glad to have found the Flory’s are super easy to travel with! I wouldn’t be surprised if we traversed the wilds with them again in the future. As ready as I was to go home by the end, I found myself missing our friends after we parted ways. So thank you, Joel and Cara, for sharing life with us. Joel, thanks for doing all the driving, that was such a huge gift. Thanks as well for taking all the amazing photos we’ll have now to remember the beauty we saw. And Cara, thanks for sharing your beautiful heart with us and letting us walk alongside you in your grief. Your strength is remarkable. We love you and can’t wait to live in the same state as you some day to have more frequent reunions (and Settlers matches). Looking forward☺

Glacier Perito Moreno

I am not ashamed to say I found something that makes me squeal like a little kid- I am in love with this glacier. First of all, I have never seen something so amazing in my life. 5 stories tall, miles deep, fed from multiple directions, it is gigantic! And other-worldly blue! And, oh, the noises it makes! These HUGE crashing sounds that reverberate off all the surroundings… Unbelieveable. I could’ve looked at it all day long if my hubby/friends would let me. When big chunks fell off and went hurling down into the sea below, I jumped up and down like an 8 year old full of glee. We all need things in our lives that make us do that!

This pic of Los is kind of symbolic of saying goodbye to Patagonia (for now)...

Computer Sensei

I love El Calafate, Argentina. After our awful experience at the Estancia Maipu, walking into the Miyazato Inn here was so restorative. The charming hostess graciously ushered us in, showed us our immaculate, serene (bug free to boot!) rooms, and then offered us yummy caramel apple cake and jasmine (Japanese) tea at no cost, just to welcome us.

It was quite amusing to hear her and her husband (both Japanese) speaking fluent Spanish. She said there is only 8 Japanese people (including their family of four) in the town of 18,000. Joel was asking her about wi-fi in the B+B, and she said she wasn’t sure how to set up the modem, etc. When he quickly diagnosed and fixed the problem (ridiculously easy for him, though impossible for her), she deemed him her Computer Sensei.

This town has exploded in the past decade, in 2001 there was only 6,000 people, it has tripled in 6 years. There’s one street (Av. Libertador) full of shops and elegant restaurants (the trio of Casimiro places are fantastic). But beyond the façade of Libertador, the rest of the town is haphazard dirt roads without signs, containing a random assortment of homes and businesses. Outside of our B+B I can hear roosters crowing, birds chirping, dogs meandering and this morning I saw an old car drive by slowly on our dirt road, while the passenger held on to a lead for a horse that was trotting beside the car… You know you’re in a ‘third-world’ town when…

It reminds me of my time in Kyrgyzstan, a lot of raw, unpretensious beauty without development. It’s good times. There is a gigantic glacier here, called Perito Moreno, that we are going to visit. There are options to hike on it, sail up to it, or just to drive as close as possible to check it out. We’ve talked about fly-fishing, horseback riding, or other options for our two days here, so we’ll see what we choose.

Beetles and Bags of Tea

We finally were on the road to our Estancia, La Maipu. Argentina is famous for its’ ranches (estancias), and we were so stoked to stay in the same place for two nights, and to experience a working ranch. We were excited to go horseback riding again, to possibly shear some sheep, and to hike around the gorgeous terrain. So stoked that we made the effort to drive down a desolate road along 3 lakes, 70+ miles each way, to go to this particular Estancia.

On the internet it seemed like a great deal. Some of the all-inclusive Estanicas we really wanted to go to (like Helsingfors- $440/night) were priced steeply, whereas Maipu presented at only $140/night… But shortly after we got there, we realized we were gravely mistaken. We were shocked to learn that dinner (which was not included) turned out to be $25/person. Not the world’s biggest deal, but unfortunate considering that there was nowhere else to eat, and all they took was cash (a hot commodity considering the closest ATM was 4 hours away!) and it was frustrating that we were uninformed of the discrepancy. We then quickly learned that the activities were also not included in the price we’d pre-paid to be there. Horseback rides were going to be $50, no matter whether they were for 1 or 8 hours, etc.

Because we hadn’t seen this coming and were low on cash (from buying gas, and El Chalten) we took a while deliberating what to do. It was then that the hostess realized she was not going to be making much money from us and got disdainful toward us. In Spanish, she made rude remarks that implied we were wasting her time. Considering that we four were half of her guests, I was shocked by how off-putting she was.

It got worse. That evening, the Flory’s counted over 50 (cinquenta!!) bugs they killed in their room, no, in their BEDS; needless to say, their sleep was a little rough. I am sorry, but that is just unacceptable when we are paying $140/night. The next morning, when I tried to tell the hostess about that problem, she brushed it off, saying that bugs are normal (en serio?!). Unbelievable.
Being too disgusted to continue engaging that conversation, I switched the subject to ask what was included in breakfast. The night before we’d discovered the outrageous price of tea during dinner (6 US Dollars per bag!), but the tea was now on the table with other breakfast items that were free. So I asked simply if tea was included with breakfast, or if it still was $6?

This apparently put Ms. Maipu over the edge, because she then began berating me in Spanish. As I’ve said, my 15 years studying the language hasn’t brought me close to fluent, but I know enough to pick out phrases like: I’m not trying to rob you, I don’t care about 6 dollars more or 6 dollars less, if you guys don’t want to follow my rules, go stay somewhere else, I’ve been doing this for 7 years and have never had any problems with any guests until you…

Right. Didn’t see that coming. And the funny part was she never answered my question, so I responded to her tirade with, “…so, is the tea included with breakfast or not?” When the Flory’s joined us, she said it would be better for her and better for us if we left that morning. Intense. And just for good measure, she yelled at Joel for putting their nasty, beetle-ridden blankets on the ground in their room.

She was super sketchy, and the least hospitable person we’d ever met. She lied to a couple who left before us, saying the estancia had no gas, and their generator was out. Promptly after they left, the lights ‘curiously’ came back on… Joel wrote the Estancia booking company saying that in the 35 countries he’s been to so far, he’s never had this poor of service. Ah, the power of the internet. We’ll make sure anyone we can reach knows not to stay here. Compliments go far, but complaints go farther, and when your business is hospitality, being hospitable, I would argue, is a key component of one’s job.

Gas is Brains

A famous saying along Ruta Cuarenta (Route 40) is “gas is brains.” This is no joke; if you haven’t noticed from Joel’s photos by now, this place is not developed hardly at all. It is breathtakingly beautiful for a reason- it is raw nature! So all guide books say to fill up with gas every chance you get, since you JUST DON’T KNOW when you’ll come across gas again! We were smart and had our rental agency mark on our map every place there was a diesel fill up station. Some times it was as ghetto as this picture of a little hut; but beggars aren’t choosers, we were grateful! Getting gas that day was hilarious, Carlos had to go walking around their dirt-road ‘town’ to find the gas person, knocking on doors of multiple homes. That situation was classic in a way that makes me cringe.

One time we stopped at a station to find out they were “out” of gas until Saturday at the soonest- problematic since it was Tuesday! We tucked our tails between our legs and drove 100+ extra miles back to the last place we knew (or rather, hoped) there was gas. Fortuitously, it ended up not being a problem for us. However, friends we met from Chicago, Michael and Alicia were counting on there to be gas at that station; we never found out what happened to them… Hopefully they won’t show up on the side of a milk carton or in those things we get in junk mail some day as missing persons- they were nice.

Settlers of Catan

Our trip was just over two weeks long. We had it packed full of natural beauty in 3 countries. Yet SOMEHOW we managed to fit in 11 games of Catan; what can I say, it’s just that fun… Final scores: Joel- 4 wins, Los-3, Case and Cara- 2. It sounds silly, but I had never thought of having a strategy until I played Joel Flory; man, did he teach me a thing or five, I will never be the same!

You know you’re a diehard when: the lights at one of our ghetto places turned off at midnight; so the Flory’s busted out their head lamps (awesome, I want one) and we collected candles, so we could play in the dark until 1:30 in our room. We rearranged our furniture and everything to make space for a table and chairs in that teeny room. Hard core. I will chuckle every time I pull that sweet memory out of my memory bank. I would share more, but those details are Joel’s to share if he so inclines. Good times, they make me smile.

and p.s. Los and I have played the 6 person version twice now, can I just say I love open-trading and building! Revolutionary! I will never be the same. Okay, enough geekiness...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Animales Part II: Sheep- Leaving the Many for the One

The animal we have seen the most of are sheep (ovejas en Espanol). We have frequently seen a couple of men on horseback (though one guy was on a dirtbike, awesome) moving large packs of sheep to one place or another.
But one time sticks out to me the most. As we were driving in the park, Cara (with her eagle-eyes) spotted a sheep crossing the road, and took a photo of it. I made the requisite joke, why did the sheep cross the road? I wasn’t trying to anthropomorphize, but as we passed, the sheep seemed frantic, worried, or upset by something. Dismissing that as my imagination, we drove along… and about two miles later we came across the hugest herd we’ve seen our entire time in S. America (on in my entire life, really). Hundreds, thousands of sheep were moving en masse along with at least 10 herding dogs and lots of men.

That’s when I realized that the one sheep we’d seen before made sense to me. I have never really understood the Biblical story of the ‘lost sheep’ (Matthew 18) before, and this vivid image got me thinking. Why would the ovejadors go back for that one sheep, when they had so many with them? That wouldn’t make sense, it would almost seem like a waste of their time, not worth the effort.

But on the contrary, Jesus isn’t like that. For whatever reason, we inevitably get distracted from our goals from time to time (e.g. my blog about the hike). We get lost, we stray. We may think one path is right for us, but we’re really deceived and blinded from the truth. At times we have tunnel-vision, and by the time we take a breath and bring our head up to look around, we are in unfamiliar, maybe dangerous terrain. We are independent, stubborn and don’t want to ask for guidance. Yet, we can’t always find the way on our own.

And Jesus says he leaves the 99 for the 1 who was lost. We may feel far from him, but could it be that at that very time, we could also be as close to him as ever? He pursues us. We are worth the effort to him. We are valued, not a waste of his time. In a new and profound way, that makes me overwhelmed with gratitude, because I know what it is to be lost. And how good it is to be found.

My husband likes to run, apparently:)

Animales Part I: Foxes, Horses and Llamas- oh my!

I’ve never been one to crave going on an African safari, but I think this park has changed my mind. Seeing the Guanacos (who look like llamas) in their natural habitat was amazing. Cara spotted the first two, as they ran down a hill in front of our car and were fighting with each other. They bounded away with surprising speed, we later learned they are a relative of the horse, so their galloping became less shocking. As we drove through the park we saw huge herds, mamas and babies. So cute!

Torres del Paine Part IV: Cussing and Praying- One Dot at a Time

Sunday morning I was really excited when we woke up for the 11-mile hike. Growing up in California, near Yosemite, I thought I was prepared to conquer any terrain with ease. Not so. At the end of 5 miles to the base of the Torres del Paine (pronounced Pie-nay) is a ½ mile vertical pile of rocks, which we were supposed to climb up. It was described in our Chile book as “knee-popping” boulders of all shapes and sizes. Super. Need I mention that from years of soccer, my left knee is less than optimal? And unlike popular trails in the US, there is no clear way up, just intermittent orange circles spray-painted on rocks.

Cara and Joel flew up to the top (though she says it was tough, I don’t buy it) whereas I had the hardest time. I encouraged Los to go on ahead, while I stayed below. Apparently we have different views of quitting. It was snowing on us, because of this people coming down the mountain said there wasn’t even good visibility at the top. Seriously? What is the point, I ask you! I was so fatigued that at some point I started crying. Rarely do I get to a ‘breaking point,’ but that was it…
After a while of feeling miserable and sorry for myself, I realized that no matter how many times I cussed, prayed (yes in that order, unfortunately) or craned my neck to see if Cara and Joel were descending the boulders, I wasn’t going to see them. Then Los encouraged me instead of looking at the whole mountain and getting overwhelmed, just to take it ‘one (orange) dot at a time.’ That became our mantra until we conquered the towers of pain.

Finishing this, I thought about the parallels and how many times in life people get paralyzed with fear or inability to digest complex situations we face on earth. Tragedy happens, our workload is increased, or maybe there are too many questions and unknowns for the future; and rather than doing what we can, to take care of ourselves for the day, we feel like giving up. I know I am prone to that response rather than focusing on ‘one dot at a time;’ but I would like that to change. Life will never stop giving us boulders to overcome, but we can change our responses to them, rather than be overwhelmed. That’s my aim, even if I throw in some praying and cussing for good measure.