Friday, February 17, 2017

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

I did not learn to speak French or Spanish fluently.  I have not become the next great American writer...yet.  So, now I am learning to not become the next Ansel Adams!  Yes...I am taking a photography class.  Another one of my efforts to not let my brain turn to putty.  The good news is...I love it!  The bad news is...I have a lot to learn.  Maybe that is good news too.

TJ gave me a new camera for Christmas, small enough to travel easily but big enough to take decent pictures.  This camera has many settings and options and the only setting I used for the first month was the Auto setting.  I decided I really should learn to use the camera to its full capacity.  Why own a camera that does tricks and never do any tricks?  I am finding out that my little camera can do many tricks!  This makes me very happy!  Now I want to go somewhere other than my neighborhood or my backyard after my classes and practice my new found knowledge each week.  I find myself thinking of my usual photo taking opportunities (grandchildren, sunsets, bonfires, etc.) in my class and how I can utilize my new found skills.  "If only I had known this or that when I was here or there!"  but alas, I am just my house....surrounded by stuff I see every day.  No majestic sunsets, no cattails on fire in the night sky, no waterfalls....just the house I see every day in a neighborhood surrounded by freeways.  Not exactly the stuff that makes a camera jump for joy.

I am sooo looking forward to my next excursion when I can pull out my camera and take control of my aperture or shutter speed and take beautiful photographs.  I have always been a photograph lover and now this class is empowering me.  Watch out everyone!  So far, I have learned....

 to go from this....
to this!
or this...
to this!

not impressed yet?  Come on!  Depth of field....blurred background.... detailed background!  It's my best suburban effort.

I'll try another...
Frozen water
water in motion
All of this with the turn of a button.  Being able to take these pictures makes me want to go sit on a bridge above the traffic just to get one of those pictures of the car lights streaming down the highway.  These are things I have always wanted to do but never knew how to do and my class is teaching me the great mysteries.  Beware blog readers....the pictures on this blog may improve. (Lord willing!)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Where Did January Go?

January blew right by me this year!  I haven't been home much which may be the reason the month seems to have flown.  Mexico City was followed in quick succession by nine days in Madison with the grandsons while their parents celebrated the other grandparent's 40th wedding anniversary in Maui.  We got freezing rain, sleet, a bit of snow and lots of gray skies while they got blue skies, azure water, whale watching and sunset cocktails.  It was an even exchange I'd say.  I got little boy kisses every night and all the mac and cheese I could eat!

And they made "welcome home" cards for Mommy and Daddy!
Then there was a week and a half spent in Houston recovering from a nasty cold brought on by travel, exhaustion and a carrier husband.  The good news is that it rained many of those days which made me feel a lot like the weather and I had no FOMO on any golf games.

We NEVER have standing water in our back yard...that's a lot of rain!
While I was home I caught up with my other grandson, Logan, and his parents!  It was good to see them.  It is amazing how used to seeing each other we become and then a few weeks away seem like ages!  Logan is changing so fast I hate missing any of it!

The end of January is our annual ski trip to Park City.  We usually have friends and/or family joining us on our trip.  This year, due to schedule conflicts, the Super Bowl, life, and time conflicts none of our usual suspects could join us.  This meant that it was just the two of us!  When your husband works from home, time together is not at a minimum.  I was a bit concerned, I hate to admit, about how so much together time was going to work out.  You see, TJ is an 8:30-4 skier and I'm a 10-3 skier.  He is more aggressive than I am on the slopes so I just knew this was going to be either frustrating for him or very challenging for me.  Plus, all that time together!

We are still both smiling!
The ski gods smiled upon us and the snow conditions and weather were both perfect.  One day I chased TJ down the mountain all day, one day we both chased our friend down the mountain and the last day TJ chased me down the mountain so it worked out well for everyone.  Whenever we ran out of things to talk about we would just look at each other and say,  "What a gorgeous day!" and that was enough.  

A few reasons I love ski trips are.... you get to be outside all day in the fresh air, using muscles that don't get used every day, surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery God created, and at the end of the day there is absolutely no guilt over eating a good meal and going to bed early.  What was I even worried about?!  We also met up with some friends who live in the area which thankfully added  more to the "What a gorgeous day!" conversations.

Who needs conversation when you get to look at this all day?!
After four days and many hours on the mountain, every muscle in my legs, arms and back feel well used.  My face and lips are feeling just a bit wind or sun burned.  And thanks to the untimely death of my flat iron a day ago, my hair looks like I stuck my finger in an electric socket.  Braids and pony tails to the rescue!  I never go anywhere without taming my locks so the first stop when we get home is to buy a new flat iron before I see someone I know!

What is better than a mountain view?  A mountain view at sunset!  Bring on February!
It's nice to have friends in high places....literally!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Roof Tops and Pyramids

New Year's Eve seems so long ago!  In a moment of wanderlust back in October, I made plans to take a trip with my daughter the week after New Years day.  "Why not" I thought, it would give me a well deserved rest after Christmas.  Just what I would be needing... five days of eating out, touring and spending quality time with one of my daughters.  So, on January 2nd I bid "Adios" to Houston and flew to Mexico City.    It was really quite easy... board a plane... arrive 2 hours later in a foreign country!

You know you are in a great neighborhood when this is right around the corner!
I quickly shifted from Christmas hostess/wife/mother/Gigi mode to tourist mode.  I was greeted at the airport by my driver, (I've never had a driver before!) and when he got to our neighborhood he pointed out the 20 or so places to eat dinner, have breakfast or coffee, try churrros and hot chocolate, or buy groceries all within walking distance.  So far, my impression is quite favorable!  Our neighborhood continued to be a bright spot in the trip, it had everything!

We roamed around the area a bit, had sunset drinks on a rooftop bar and then headed to the restaurant where we had dinner reservations.  We found the restaurant, which was unfortunately closed for the holiday and realized we were a week early for our reservation.  Drat!  Back to the neighborhood for some comfort food and home.  This was about the point I realized I was VERY TIRED from the holidays!  The travel adrenaline had worn off and the harsh reality of exhaustion and possible illness set in.  My much needed sleep came with great difficulty and it became very apparent that a visit to a pharmacy and/or doctor was needed in the morning.  Luckily, we were in an awesome neighborhood and both were right down the street.
The view outside the "clinic"....

I visited the nearby pharmacy and found out that before I could get my prescription I had to see the doctor in the clinic next door.  A short 15 or 20 minute wait later I saw the doctor who was younger than my daughter, in a one room, tiny clinic.  We communicated in our best attempts at each other's languages and she confirmed my suspicion and wrote me 3 prescriptions to be filled next door.  250 pesos or $12 later I had three prescriptions and a doctor visit under my belt.  I felt better already!   I needed to rally....we were doing a 5 hour food tour that afternoon.

I muscled my way through the food tour.  After all, I'm not a quitter!  Five hours, six stops, multiple interesting food tastings and a lot of history and culture mixed together kept me putting one foot in front of the other.  I was full after the third stop....I so wish I could have enjoyed the food truck ceviche tostada as much as I know I would have on an empty stomach!
"Avocados, the bacon of Mexico!" 
Spicy Crickets!

Our food tour was a little bit of everything. The food market was a visual treat as well as the stop for our most unique tastings.  We were introduced to spicy crickets and grasshoppers and some other insects (the new protein).  I bravely tried the little crickets and some other bug that reminded me of a doodle bug but the grasshoppers were just too big for me to handle!  At one stall, a cute little girl and her mother proudly served us many different types of herbs along with a root that made your mouth go numb and tingly all at the same time when chewed up.  Her grand finale was a cup with an edible rose and other flowers, fruit and some yummy chocolate pudding.  It really was delicious!
There was also plenty of normal food at the market!
After our food tour we walked around the Zocalo (main square)with our new found appreciation for the history of the area and admired the cathedral and it's surrounding buildings.  We were done for the day and spent the rest of evening digesting!

The Museo Nacional de Anthroplogia was our activity the next day.  It was very near our neighborhood and situated in the Bosque de Chapultapec or as I referred to it, the Central Park of Mexico City.  You can spend an entire day in that park!  Between the museum, the castle, the walking paths, paddle boats, hundreds of street vendors and restaurants, the area is worth at least a day of your time if you visit!  The museum was a walk through history from 10,000 BC to the early 1900's.  Too much to cover on this amateur blog but absolutely worth a visit.  The castle is at the very top of grasshopper hill (they really like grasshoppers here!) and has a view worth the climb.  Considering Mexico City is at 7,300 ft. what is another 2 or 300  ft?  We huffed and puffed our way to the top and the castle and view were worth the climb.
The "lungs" of Mexico City, working hard so you can breathe!

After an afternoon of culture and history not to mention altitude and low humidity, we were thirsty!  We found yet another roof top bar for a happy hour treat.  This time it was near what will be referred to as the Katniss Everdeen fountain.
My name is Diana, not Katniss!
No wimpy drinks here!
Our final day was spent exploring the pyramids of Teotihaucan.  My body was only beginning to adjust to the altitude.  These pyramids are amazing and the challenge of going to the top was more than I could bear so to the top we went.  I didn't feel too bad when everyone was stopping at each level to catch their breath.  7,300 ft. is no joke!  I really did not expect the altitude to be so noticeable but it took it's toll on my lungs!  The view from the top was cool and the fact that they even exist is even cooler.  The Pyramid of the Sun is the larger one but the view from the Pyramid of the Moon is nicer if you ask me.  The steps to the top of the Moon are also each at least a foot and a half high, talk about a challenge.

All the way to the tip top of the Sun!
Kelly considering whether we really need to do 2 pyramids in one day....

Yes!  We do!  To the Moon!
We decided to be adventurous on our way back to the city and took the bus.  Seemed easy enough, there was a stop at the pyramids and several other people got on the bus with us back to Mexico City.  Our first stop was in a small town and 2 police climbed onto the bus and walked the aisle, checking out each person.  They were followed by a man with a video camera who recorded each passenger and then proceeded to record each person who boarded the bus.  I am not sure whether I felt more or less secure after this.  One thing for sure, even though I was hot and tired, I did not close my eyes to rest on the ride back.  We arrived at the chaotic bus station, found a ramshackle taxi and arrived safely in our cozy, cute neighborhood!  We had a very typical Mexican lunch of tacos and beer.  Kelly then stated that she could  just sit there all afternoon and drink beer!  It seems so long ago, already!

You gotta love a place that serves 7 different kinds of salsa with their chips!
Mexico City... where the dollar goes a long way, the food is great, the history is interesting, the air is thin, you can't drink the water, the traffic is epic, and there is never a lack of things to see or do, and rest for the weary!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Wink Wink

Do you believe in fate?  What about coincidences?  I read a book called When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life.  To be honest, I only read parts of it.  It's one of those books you can read a chapter here and there...a pick up and put down book.  The main theme of the book though is "are they really coincidences?".  I have always been interested in noticing life's little coincidences.  I, for one, believe there is a higher power at work when things happen that make you stop and take notice.  Or quote Forrest Gump, "I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floatin' around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happenin' at the same time."

Recently, I have had God winking at me with both eyes.  For instance...I wrote my last post  on November 30, very late at night and most people did not read it until the next morning, December 1st.  I just polished up something I had written back in March.  I felt like I needed to publish one more post in November and editing an old draft was the easy way out.  In the post, I mention my friend Debbie who lost her battle to cancer.  Imagine my surprise the next day when it was called to my attention that December 1st was the day, exactly 5 years ago that she died.  Wink, wink.

Earlier in the week I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't spoken to one of my daughters in while.  I had a dream about her one night... an anxiety dream.  You know, one of those dreams where you are in turmoil running away from certain disaster?  She was in the dream and when I woke up I decided I needed to call her that day.  I called her from our land line and we had a lovely conversation and she was in no danger of certain disaster.  At the end of the conversation she mentioned how glad she was that she called me.  I said, "I called you!".  She replied, "No, I called you on your cell phone."  We were talking on my land line.  I checked my cell phone call log and there it was, she had the exact time I called her and somehow we were automatically connected.  Wink, wink.

It's nice to notice the coincidences as we go through this life.  There are times when you find yourself in just the right place at the right time...or the wrong place at the wrong time and wonder "why you?".  My theory is, we are right where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there.  There is a reason you see that long lost friend one day in the grocery store.  A reason you are late for something.  A reason you took a different route on your daily commute.  We make thousands of choices every day.... don't you ever wonder why you made some of them?  I do.  Wink, wink.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

10+ Women, 10 Years, 100 books

I was doing a little housekeeping on the blog today and found this unpublished little gem.  Before the year is over I figured I would publish it in honor of the great women, the great books and the ten years we have been together.  Cheers to our monthly "meetings"!

We started as a group of friends and strangers, interested in reading books and discussing them.  Ten years later we have evolved into a group of friends, who in spite of scheduling challenges, are still committed to meeting once a month and discussing our most recent read and whatever life has dealt us.  Some months we discuss more about life than we do about the book, it all depends on the book... and life!
In the early years we met in each others' homes, in the dining room or the kitchen.  There is something intimate about being in someones home.  This intimacy lead to some memorable discussions over the years... most of which cannot be shared on the blog.  Sharing intimate parts of our lives brought us closer.  People who know certain things about you can only be considered close friends.  Book discussions brought us to places we never expected!

Our group has seen members come and go over ten years.  There is still a core group of about five of us who have been there from the beginning and another four who have been with us for a long time.  Some members drop out because they relocate, and we still miss them and talk about them from time to time.  All good, don't worry!  Life's commitments have forced a few to bow out as well.  When I moved to Toronto for a few years I continued to participate in the club by reading the books and calling in for the meetings.  I was the phone that got passed around the table.  At the time there were a couple of new members I had not met and they only knew me as the phone at the table.  I missed out on some good times I'm sure!

Over ten years, we have gone through graduations, job changes, deaths of parents, divorce, marriages of children, becoming grandmothers, winning and losing to cancer, turning the big "0" (50 or 60) together and the death of one of our treasured members.  We still take pause every now and then and throw out a famous Debbie quote.  "This...doesn't just happen.",she would say, referring to her loveliness as she headed home early to get her beauty sleep.  She is gone but never forgotten.

After a meeting, at one of our members' homes last spring, I wrote most of this post.  I did the math and counted the books, roughly, and was amazed.  Ten years sounds like a long time but it sure doesn't feel like a long time, especially when it is full of (mostly) good books and good friends.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Inner Loop-ing

We live "outside the loop"... in the burbs.  We like living in the burbs but we also enjoy the city.  We enjoy being close enough to visit the museums, restaurants, and various activities a large city has to offer.  Do we take advantage of it?  Sometimes.... but not often enough.  Today, we did!  We were both on the same page when the post-church question was "what are we going to do today?".  I guess we were both feeling a little culturally deprived.  Museum day it is!

2 Tons of bronze  "Reclining Woman With Fruit"....
There are days I feel about the same size!
Our first stop was the Art of the World Gallery to see the Fernando Botero exhibit of "abstract realism in luminous volume".  Thankfully the signature sculpture was outside or the stop would have been for nought because the museum was closed.  We peered inside the windows and wished we could see more.  I never expected a museum to be closed on Sunday, isn't that museum day?  We moved on to plan B or the continuation of plan A.

There are some things inside the loop that we don't have in the burbs and one of them is Trader Joe's.  We happened to be around the corner from one and just had to stop to see what was in store for the Thanksgiving season.  I could have wandered the aisles for an hour and TJ was equally entertained by the unique wine section.  We are so easily entertained!  We carefully chose our few items, waited in the very long but fast moving check out line and patted ourselves on the back for mixing it up with all the trendy folks.  It took great restraint for me to leave all of their yummy cookies, candies and snacks on the shelf.  I could have set myself up for weeks of weight gain had I caved in to all the temptation.  It's probably a good thing we don't have a Trade Joe's in the burbs!
Temptation alley!
Still feeling culturally deprived we headed to the Museum of Fine Arts for the Degas exhibit.  Unbeknownst to TJ, I had dreamt the night before about going to this we were literally living the dream!  We paid our entry fee and headed up to the exhibit.  TJ noticed that they charged us the "senior" rate for over 65 years old...."Sorry honey", he said.  That's what I get for hanging out with a gray haired guy who was rocking his white crew socks, black sneakers and shorts!  With our egos sufficiently crushed we continued.  We were both blown away at the sheer volume of work in this exhibit.  I don't always read everything in an exhibit but this was so fascinating, I read everything.  Reading the names of the people and places in his life took me back to Paris, which is always a good thing.

A classic
Yes, he was a sculptor too!
This was my favorite.

Museum-ing is hard work, especially if you are a senior citizen, so we needed to rest and refresh after our cultural education.  We consulted our smart phones and found a nice wine bar to explore.  We found a winner!  13 Celsius was a pleasant surprise.  We had a couple of glasses of wine and some delicious cheeses with baguettes and pretended we were tourists.  We discussed art, politics (because you can't get around it this week!), wine, hopes and dreams and it was nice.  By this time it was raining and the late Sunday afternoon crowd was buzzing.  The atmosphere was the perfect end to our cultural day.  We could have stayed much longer than we did but then our car would have needed to get picked up the next day after we took an Uber home.  The down side of inner loop-ing.

Wine and visiting museums makes you see things differently...
Just a couple of old kids enjoying the afternoon.
We called it a day and drove all the way back to the burbs in the rain feeling like we had been on a mini vacation.  We really need to embrace the city we live in/near and explore like we did when we lived in Toronto.  We get very complacent living in our neighborhood doing the same things every week and going to the same places.  We need to remember, sometimes it's good to get out of the cul-de-sac!

Monday, October 31, 2016

A Beer-y Good Time

Have you noticed how popular breweries are these days?  If not, you must not be hanging out with the cool kids.  I know I'm way behind on this trend.  Lately, I have been to several events at breweries and enjoyed each of them thoroughly.  This is saying something considering I don't even really drink beer!  It turns out breweries are fun places with cool decor and a great atmosphere.
Some of the cool kids enjoying a nice "fall" day at Karbach brewery in Houston.
At the end of September I visited my daughter, in Chicago, on my way home from the shore.  When she heard the date of my visit she mentioned she was running in a 5K that weekend and asked if I'd like to join her and her friend.  I'm a sucker for a nice run in some cool-ish northern air with my daughter so I agreed.  I trained (ran maybe 4 times) for two weeks before the run, it was a brutal training schedule!  I did not train for the beer drinking part of the event.  She assured me it would be a laid back, non-competitive run so I didn't feel too much pressure to perform.  I still didn't want to embarrass myself, or my daughter.  She was right about the non-competitive nature of the run.  It was just right for an old timer like myself!  Kelly and her friend were very considerate for the first mile and ran at "old lady" pace and then I set them free to run ahead.  I enjoyed running somewhere I've never been before, on city sidewalks, not knowing where I was or where I was going.  I just made sure there were always people in front of me and behind me....motivation to not be the last finisher!
Look, I see Chicago!  Yes, I was so slow I could take pictures!
The race/run began and ended at the brewery.  I think the main reason many of the people did this was for the free beer!  There were no t-shirts given away, only free beer.  The place was great!  Even I enjoyed a post run cold beer!  
Post run hydration!
The second brewery event was on a lovely Saturday afternoon before my nephew's wedding.  We had a lot of family in town and since the weather actually resembled fall we took a little outing to Karbach brewery for lunch and fun.  They had a great outdoor space which was just perfect for our needs.  We had all ages from Logan at 17 months to ....TJ and me at slightly older than Logan.  The kids could play and the adults could visit, have a beer and play bean bags.  It made for a lovely afternoon!

He is so excited he made the bean bag disappear!
Grampy and John doing some artwork!
The latest brewery event was last weekend at a family wedding in Atlanta.  What a perfect place for a reception!  Great atmosphere, plenty of space, good beer (of course) and I didn't have to run there to enjoy it all!  We danced the night away with some of our favorite cousins and shared in celebrating the marriage of two wonderful young people.  The outdoor space was the perfect place to enjoy the cool evening and recover from all our dancing.  Even though I did not indulge in the craft beer (thanks for serving wine), I hear it was yummy!  Everyone had a beer-y good time!  Who knows, maybe I'll start drinking beer....nah!

A cousin selfie with the bride and a photo bomber!

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