Monday, June 28, 2010

Travel Stories:: An Introduction and The Cat Lady of Barcelona

There are certain moments in time-- a day, an hour, an event-- that are filed away in my brain, and  each one can be brought to the forefront of my mind with perfect clarity.  While other memories are hazy or fuzzy, these are the ones where I can remember not only what happened at that particular moment, but what the sun felt like as it warmed my back, or the way the wind whistled around a street corner, or the tinkling of music floating out of a nearby window. Each one of my five senses can recall specific memories. And if I close my eyes, I can almost feel like I am there again. It's as if these particular moments are forever cemented in my mind.

Most often, these memories usually involve a place I have traveled to.  I absolutely love to travel.  I love to take in the sights, sounds and smells of a new place.  Have you seen the movie Dan in Real Life?  It is one of my recent  favorites.  In the movie, Juliette Binoche's character is asked to describe her perfect day.  Among other things, she mentions that her perfect day would begin in another country, a country where she doesn't speak the language.  I love being in foreign countries.  So in honor of that, I am going to do my best to describe a few of my favorite moments from my travels overseas.  Each night this week I will try to retrieve those crystal clear memories and put a few of them into words.  Enjoy.

After a busy day of sightseeing, shopping, and exploring, our feet were absolutely aching, screaming out for a respite.  The winter sun was slowly moving westward, and we could feel the January chill start to seep into our clothes.  Feeling exhausted, my friends and I stopped to discuss our next move.  We were tired and travel weary, and I think we could all feel that cranky, irritated tone slipping into the conversation.  Should we press on to our hotel and just call it a day? We are in Barcelona for crying out loud!  The sun is just now  setting, and there is still so much to do and see! I'm starving!  Where can we get some good paella? 

It was then that we noticed the park across the street.  I do not recall the name of the park, but I can see the ornate, iron fence defining it's perimeter.  I can see the trees waving the in cool breeze.  Without really saying anything, the three of us wandered over to the entrance and stepped inside.  Colors were getting less distinct as the sun kept creeping down further and further.  There was a purple haze to the sky and the trees took on shades of hunter green and black.  We found a bench and quietly sat.  It was the kind of park where you might expect fairies to flit around sprinkling their pixie dust.  It was enchanting.  The sounds of the bustling city seemed distant and muted.  I think we knew that we needed to rest and recharge.  There is something so comforting about sitting in silence with good friends.  So we sat.  And we filled our lungs with the crisp evening air. 
After half an hour or so, we saw her.  A dark, hobbling image slowly loping into the park.  She had come prepared for the cold, dressed in layers and wrapped in a shawl.  She reached a hand into the large purse she was carrying and retrieved a bag of something-- we couldn't quite make out what it was in the gathering darkness.  Then we heard her soft voice call out a few words and her tongue made a few quick clicking sounds.  From out of the bushes and from behind the tall trees, a parade of cats made their way to her as she scooped her hands into the bag and scattered what looked like small pebbles onto the ground.  It was then that we figured out what was in the bag:  cat food!  She was coming to feed the cats!  We watched her gently pet each feline that came up and rubbed against her legs.  Even though we couldn't understand her words, we knew her tone was loving and gentle.  What was her name? Where was her family?  Where did she live? How long had she made this her nightly ritual?  These were questions that we were all thinking, but didn't mention at the time.  We just watched, and kept our thoughts to ourselves.

Although most of this moment is quite clear in my mind, I don't recall exactly how long we stayed on our quiet park bench that night.  I do know that when we left it was dark.  I know that our feet were not hurting anymore; the irritated, cranky tone from our earlier conversation was gone.  And three formerly travel-weary friends left the park feeling refreshed, our spirits calm, and our souls warm to the very core.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Staples

When I think of summertime, the following words immediately come to mind:
blue skies
crepe myrtles 

Almost everyday I concoct a new variation with whatever fruit I happen to have.  Strawberries are almost always included because they are of course perfectly in season right now.  On this day I added bananas, pineapple and mandarin oranges to the mix.  Sometimes I add grapes or apples or grapefruit; there are no rules!  You just can't mess it up.  There is something so wonderfully summer about a cold bowl of fruit salad.

What are some words that come to mind when you think of summer?

Friday, June 25, 2010

I Brushed Another Cat Out Of Tundra

Ha! The title of this blog post might be the strangest one ever written! For clarification, one of our cats is named Tundra.  She is what you might call plump, chubby, round or meaty.  Ok, who am I kidding, she is all of those words combined.  She started off as a sweet little kitten and over the last eleven years has grown into a massive ball of fur.  Very thick fur.  We jokingly call her "Ro-Tundra" because of her rotund girth.  Because she is so large, and because her fur is so thick, she tends to get knots in her coat-- especially where she can't reach when she grooms herself.  Thankfully, that girl loves a good brushing.  When she hears me go to the laundry room and retrieve the comb and brush from the shelf, she comes running.  I try to brush her once a week or every other week, but over the last month or so I had totally slacked off on my brushing duties and the poor cat had quite a few knots to undo.  So last night the two of us sat on my bedroom floor as I combed and brushed and combed and brushed until her fur was soft and smooth and knot-free.  Then I looked at the massive ball of cat hair that I had removed from her and was shocked because it was literally the size of a small kitten.  I kid you not.
Tundra giving the kitten-sized-hairball her evil pet eye stare.  Scary, huh?

I almost put it out in the yard because I thought some birds might use it to line their nests, but instead I opted for the trashcan.  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Silly Sign Game

Several years ago Mike and I created a silly game that we play when we are on a road trip or a vacation.  Actually, he started it and I just play along.  I think it must have started out of my husband's love and fascination with different fonts.  His graphic design background plays a big part of this.  He has several books about typography and he even likes to create his own fonts sometimes.  So here's the game.  As you pass a sign (billboard, a business sign, etc.) you have to take turns reading that sign out loud in a voice to match whatever font is on the sign.  For example, we passed a sign with letters that looked like they were on fire.  So those words were read in a voice much like the announcer at a monster truck rally.  Space age looking fonts demand that you read them as a futuristic robot.  Signs written in very fancy script or calligraphy must be read as if you are a royal queen or grand theater performer.  We've read smaller signs in a voice like the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.  Or boring looking signs in a sad Eeyore voice (you know...they donkey from the Winnie the Pooh books?).  Sometimes it is just the volume of your regular voice that makes a difference.  For example:
I would read the word "auto" in a normal sounding voice, but "glass" requires that I shout it out.
It absolutely keeps us laughing and makes the time driving go by much faster.  So next time you are driving around your town or city, give it a try!  You will either discover the hilarity of our game or think that we are nuts! :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Do you know what your first spoken word was?  The first word you said other than "Mama or Dada"?  I know what mine was.  Light.  And I know what Hannah and Leah's first word was too.  Light.  Really, I promise.  In both my case and in my girls' case, the word was pronounced "Dight!"  For my girls, it started with the question, "Where's the light?"  And with a chubby little hand, they would reach up and point to the nearest light fixture, their chocolate brown eyes sparkling with delight.  After a few months of pointing, we finally heard their sweet voices say, "Dight!!" as they pointed up.  This was always followed with exuberant applause from their Daddy and me. 

Guess what Lucas is doing these days? 

Mama:  "Where's the light, Buddy?"
Lucas:  reaches out his chubby (and tan!) little hand and points toward the nearest light fixture
Mama:  "YAY!!!" clap, clap, clap

I may be wrong, but I think we might hear "Dight!" in the near future.  What a sweet, sweet word.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Songs for the Little Ones

I love listening to music with my kids.  The girls so enjoy dancing around and singing.  Even Lucas is starting to do a little moving to the beat.  We listen to a variety of things around here as we try to expose our little ones to different genres of music.  In that mix is both "kid songs" and "adult songs".  For example, one of Hannah's favorites is "There She Goes" by The La's.  They are also both fond of "Friday I'm in Love" by The Cure.  Just to balance things out, they are also fans of  Veggie Tales Silly Sing-a-longs (love veggie tales but I can only listen to Larry's voice so many times....).

Since we've had kids, we have discovered that there are quite a few very talented musicians who cater to the 5 and under crowd!  I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorites for you here so that maybe you could check them out with your little ones!

Laurie Berkner
Ralph Covert
Justin Roberts
The Innocence Mission-- in particular their lullaby cd entitled "Now the Day is Over." 

Just today I went to youtube and pulled up a few songs for us to watch the videos and dance around.  It's one of our favorite things to do.  And hey, it even burns off a few calories while we're at it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Rainy Day and a New Recipe

I heard the soft, swift footsteps come running into my dark bedroom.  Then I heard the boom of a loud thunderclap and I knew right away why my daughter was crawling into bed with us.  Without opening my eyes, I whispered for her to climb on up.  Before I could form another thought, a much louder, angrier boom of thunder shook the windows.  And seconds after that, our other little five year old came running into our room too.  Once everyone was snuggled up together in our bed, I finally glanced at the clock on my nightstand.  The glowing numbers read 3:37.  When we finally woke up at 8:30 it was still thundering and the rain was still pouring down.  As I found out later in the day, we experienced record breaking rainfall today.  10 inches, in fact!  There were dangerous flash floods all over the city.  People were stranded and the local newscasters were urging everyone to stay home.  Luckily, we had no where we had to be today, so we geared up for a rain day at home.  Movies, coloring, reading, was all on the agenda today. 
And so was playing/dancing/acting silly in the rain!

My drenched front flowerbed
There is something soothing about a cloudy sky
Being cooped up in the house all day always makes me want to cook!  I decided to try out a new recipe that ended up being quite delicious.  I made lemon-basil potatoes and spinach which was a recipe I found in my much loved Southern Living cookbook. 

Here's the recipe if you want to give it a try:
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
1 package fresh spinach
Chopped red onion for garnishing (optional)

Slice potatoes into thin wedges.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Spray with non-stick vegetable spray to keep from sticking.  Bake at 475 for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.
In a bowl whisk together lemon juice, garlic, basil, mustard, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well combined. 
Wash and dry spinach, then arrange on a platter.  Pour 1/2 the lemon juice mixture over the spinach and toss. Add potatoes on top and dress the potatoes with the remaining lemon juice mixture.  Top with chopped red onions (if desired).

It was yummy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Roller Coaster Ride

Today we are headed to Frontier City.   One Sunday each summer, our church sells discount tickets to our local theme park.  In the evening there is a huge concert with the different worship teams from different campuses and a huge baptism bash where two big swimming pools serve as a place for people to "get dunked."  It has been awhile since I have ridden any roller coasters, so I'm not quite sure how this is going to go over, but my Banana and Bee are super excited to go.  I think they are finally tall enough to ride a few of the adult rides like the ferris wheel, the scrambler and the tilt-a-whirl.  Let's hope I don't throw up!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Remembering Friday

Today was one of those days where nothing exciting or drastic occurred.  It was just a random, "normal" day.  But I would love to look back at this blog one day and read about what an average, uneventful day was like  during the summer of 2010.

I started the day by making baked oatmeal.  I got the recipe from Money Saving Mom last year some time.  It is pretty good and a hearty way to start off the day. 

Lucas went down for a morning nap around 9:30 and slept until 11:00.  The girls played in their room while I went around the house doing my "morning chores" which included:  cleaning up breakfast dishes, wiping down kitchen countertops, feeding the cats, making all the beds, throwing in a load of laundry, etc.

We warmed up some leftover homemade pizza for lunch.  I love it when we have leftovers to eat.  It makes lunch so much easier in my opinion. 

Around 1:00, I finally had everyone fed, shoes on, and freshly diapered, so we headed out to find a Coin Star Machine so the girls could "cash in" all their change they have been saving up.  Several months ago, I created an "Obedience Jar" for the girls.  Whenever they obey Mike or myself the first time we ask them to do something, they get some money to put in (no specific amount-- just whatever I happen to find.).  Turns out they had $14.17 saved up!  I rounded it to $15 and gave them each $7.50 to spend at Target.  Hannah got a horse and Leah got a My Little Pony kitchen set.  They got to really see how money works and also that good behavior is rewarded!

Hannah and Leah showing off their new toys
The now empty Obedience Jar
We got home and I put Lucas down for his afternoon nap at 2:30.  He slep until 4:00.  They girls played with their new toys while I made a pot of chili for supper.  Chili is not really a summer meal, but it just sounded good.  And it is cheap which makes it a winner in my book.  While I was chopping a rather potent onion, my eyes started watering like crazy.  I looked like I was seriously crying!  When the chili was finally in the crock pot, I caught a reflection of myself in a mirror and laughed out loud!  I looked like a crazy racoon with dark mascara circles under my eyes from all that crying!  Well, either a racoon or a goth teenage girl-- either one.

Mike got home early-- right at 5:00.  Hooray!  We ate dinner and gave the kids a bath, then Mike ran to the hardware store for a few things while I tried to get everyone in bed.  Not and easy task tonight.  Lucas is getting his two top teeth (they are just about to break through his gums!) so he was very fussy.  I gave him some motrin and he seemed to calm down.  Hannah decided to play her stubborn card and refused to pick up her room.  After I took her new horse away and gave her a stern warning, she broke down into sobbing and screaming.  It was a doozy of a fit.  In these type of moments, I have to remind myself to be calm and stay in control.  She eventually helped clean up and we had a very good talk about anger and self-control while I was tucking her in.  The night ended with kisses and hugs and I love yous, so it was all ok.

And so here I am now, sitting in a calm, quiet house.  It is good to reflect on the day-- the highs and the lows.  The only other thing I am thinking about is my current craving to drive to Braum's for a hot fudge sundae.  It is so tempting!

What did you do today?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Science Museum

Yesterday afternoon my parents and I took all three kids to the Science Museum of Oklahoma.  For anyone who has grown up in this area,  you will know that the museum used to be called the Omniplex.  "Science Museum of Oklahoma" sounds so very official.  I'll probably always call it the Omniplex.  But anyway....we had a GREAT time!  There is something for every age and every interest there.  There were even areas where Lucas could crawl and explore.  The girls played with bubbles, found their way through a mirror maze, felt the ground shake under their feet as they learned about earthquakes, and sat through a cool planetarium show.  We captured a few photos of other fun things we did.

The girls got to ride on a segway.  I secretly wanted to try to ride one, but my fear of falling over in front of all the cool teenagers working in this area held me back. 
We spent a good deal of time at the echo tube.  Yelling "Hellloooo!" just never gets old.
Lucas practiced his walking skills.  Did I mention that he took 4 steps on his own yesterday?!?! (I love my Dad's smile in this photo by the way.)
 We spent a lot of time in the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame area where there were plenty of bars, balance beams, and floor mats to tumble to your heart's content.
And what trip to a kids' museum would be complete without a puppet show?  Leah entertained us all with her unique puppeteering talents (did I just make that word up?)

I love getting out and exploring the fun, kid-friendly places Oklahoma City has to offer.  What are some of your favorite places to go where you live?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


If you come happen to call our house in the near future and get our voice mail.....
If you stand on our front porch, ring our doorbell, and get no answer....
If you wonder why there are continuous, high-pitched screams of joy coming from the backyard.....

It is because of this:

The Six Flags Bonzai Falls Waterslide
We have officially graduated from the average slip 'n slide.

Bring on SUMMER!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Anniversary Weekend

This weekend Mike and I celebrated our 11th year of marriage!  Friday night we sent all three kids to my parents' house to spend the night so we would go out for a nice date.  Dinner is always on the agenda, so we went to Mama Roja's on Lake Hefner for dinner.  The food was very good, and it had a fun atmosphere, but we decided it wasn't quite anniversary worthy.  Oh was so nice to just spend some quality time together.  Later that night we met up with our friends Jamie and Taylor (who happen to share our June 4th anniversary) to play some pool on their new pool table.  We had such a great time with them!  All in all it was a wonderful, laid back night spent with my best friend.

The picture to the left is a copy of our wedding program that Mike designed and drew.  I loved that he was my knight in shining armor.  Mike and I met back in August of 1996 in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  I was a sophomore and he was a junior transfer student at our small, liberal arts college.  One of my best friends, Heather, was an art major, so she had several classes with this "mysterious, talented new student from New York."  I thought mysterious was a good word for Mike.  He was also cute and he absolutely intrigued me.  I was determined to meet him.

We ended up meeting briefly on busy Friday night at Deem's Bean Scene, a coffee shop very close to our college campus.  A few weekends later, I decided to have a party at my aunt's house in Oklahoma City.  She had a great pool in her backyard, so it seemed like a perfect Labor Day Weekend place to hang out.  My roommates and I started inviting everyone we knew and Mike ended up catching word of it.  I was very surprised when he showed up along with a few other guys he knew from the dorms.  It was there, at that party, that we finally got a good chance to really talk and start to get to know each other.  After that weekend, we started finding other chances to talk-- a bench on campus, in the cafeteria, at a table in the GC, etc.  Finally, he asked me out and our first official date was September 22, 1996. 

We had no idea during that first date, that 14 years later, we would be where we are with the awesome kids that we have.  I can honestly say that he is my best friend.  We can laugh until we have tears coming out of our eyes. We can both feel free to share something that is on our heart and know that we will always have a listening ear. We give each other the space we need to pursue our own interests.  And there is always this sense of being so comfortable together-- that our conversations are just easy.  After all these years, I still really like the guy! :)

Thanks for a great anniversary weekend, Mike.  I love you!