Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Travels

The winter perma-cloud has settled over southwest Ohio, and the days are short and dreary. We've been slow to get into the Christmas spirit, with not one Christmas decoration up, not one Christmas card written, and a slew of last-minute Christmas shopping/crafting yet to finish.

All of this dreariness was set aside for a moment last weekend as Ted and I travelled to the DC area for three days. We met our newest nephew, played with our other quickly-growing nieces and nephew, brunched with old friends and new babies, and mingled with extended family.

And of course, we made the obligatory lunchtime pit stop at our favorite chicken joint, El Pollo Rico.

Seriously delicious

The highlight of the weekend was probably all the time we got to spend with our two nieces and two nephews who live in the area - though they rarely hold still long enough to snap a photo:

It's good to see them so active, though. :)

We head out to Oregon next week, so I'll post a Christmas update sometime while we're there.  Until then...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sometimes We Vacation...

Ahhhh.... we finally got a little vacation time around here!

This year, instead of hosting a family Thanksgiving as we usually do, Ted and I escaped to the seaside in Puerto Rico for the wedding of two great friends.

I mean, look at this setting!

It was a quick trip, but we managed to fit in snorkeling, boogie boarding, and many, many games of euchre.

Euchre is a favorite midwest card game amongst our group of friends.

I have to apologize up front for the dearth of sunny seaside photos in this post, but then again I don't apologize. Upon arrival in Puerto Rico I decided this would be a true vacation - I would not be tied to my phone, checking work email or answering text messages. All our friends were at our same hotel, so I figured we'd be able to find each other by the pool if needed. And we did.

The downside of that is that we did not have a camera handy to take photos of things like the giant iguana terrorizing children in the pool, Mackenzie having the boogie board ride of her life all the way up onto the sandy beach (and high-fiving Ted on the way), Ted snorkeling with jelly fish and parrot fish, kids jumping off the upper deck of the snorkeling boat... I hope you can picture it all in your mind.

That being said, Ted or I managed to snap a photo here and there:

Snorkeling was one of our two outings on this trip. We took a boat with many other wedding guests to three different islands off the coast. We snorkeled with all kinds of fish on the first stop (one of our friends saw a sea turtle, but he swam away by the time we got there), collected washed up coral and ate lunch on the boat at the second stop (or rather, sat and focused on the horizon during lunch so as not to yark into the ocean), and sunbathed and swam around trying to spot eagle rays at the third stop.

Our other outing - just Ted and I - was to Old San Juan. 

It is a cat city (yay!), with many bowls of cat food set out for the strays. It seems to be a comfortable place to be an alley cat. 

Apropos graffiti in Old San Juan

Of course, what's a trip to an old fort city without visiting the fort?! Which just happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site...

fort selfie

view from the lookout tower

The quick history of the fort is that the Spanish were the first to sail to Puerto Rico. After weeks at sea, Puerto Rico was the first island in the path of the trade winds that offered fresh water, food, and shelter, making it desirable land to be in control of. In the 1500s the Spanish built two forts on the northeast corner of the island to defend their claim, and since everyone in Puerto Rico today speaks Spanish, I think you can guess how that went.

So that's pretty much it. It was a quick trip to freshen up in the sunshine and salty sea air. It was tough coming back to work after that, but Ted and I are fully back into the swing of things now. Classes just ended, and final exams are this coming week. After that, Ted will be on vacation and I'll be wrapping up Spring admissions and registering continuing students for their January classes.

Coming up we've got a trip to Virginia next weekend to see Ted's family and a trip to Oregon a couple weeks after that to see mine. We are looking forward to both of these visits very much. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Local Happenings

Not much to report here these days. Of course, we are as busy as ever, but most of what we do is not really blog worthy. I wouldn't want to bore you.

There have been a couple things worth posting about, however.

This past week I spent a couple days and a night in Columbus, Ohio. The purpose of the trip was the Ohio TESOL Conference (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), but the real highlight of the trip was catching up with a very old friend - my best friend from elementary school.

Somehow we did not get a photo together while I was there (darn!), but I guess we were just kickin' it old school style since we didn't document every moment of our time together for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. :)

I did, of course, get a photo of her cat, Rico (notice we're wearing matching socks):

While in Columbus, I visited The Ohio State University to tour their Intensive English Program (IEP). The campus is AMAZING, and they sure know how to brand themselves. By the time I left, I wanted to go to OSU.

Some shots of their brand new, 11-story library:

The "Classic" Study Room

A more modern study room, with embossed floor and wall of windows

The lobby of the library, with views of the stacks on each floor

Tiered balconies, each with study tables and arm chairs
(with the warm scent of roasting coffee wafting up from the 1st floor cafe)

View from the top floor study area

The campus "Oval" (OSU's version of the "Quad")

We were just catching the tail end of fall, with temps around 30 degrees and tiny snowflakes wafting down as we walked around campus. 

It was a great trip, and I really look forward to going back to Columbus. Maybe I can get a job in  OSU's English program...?

Anyway, the only other thing of note this past week was the concert that Ted and I went to in Hamilton, Ohio last night. We saw the musical group Huun Huur Tu from Tuva, a Russian federation republic on the border of Mongolia. Ted saw them in Tuva years ago while he was doing research for his dissertation. They are Tuvan throat singers, which means they use a special technique to sing multiple notes at one time. They play traditional instruments handmade from wood and animal skins, and some of the songs they sing date back to the 12th century. It was difficult to take photos in the dark auditorium, but this gives you an idea:

Here is a little sampling of their music...

...and a demonstration of what Tuvan throat singers can do with their voices:

We actually own both of their CDs and sometimes listen to them on long road trips. I hope you enjoyed this small sampling of their music! I leave you now with a recording of one of the songs they performed last night, about the revered golden horse:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2nd Annual Dia de los Muertos Fiesta

(cats are optional on your Day of the Dead ofrenda)

Get out your candles and your papel picado, it's that time of year again:  Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead! We had a little gathering last year, and it was so nice that I decided to make it an annual tradition.

This year our party doubled - or maybe tripled - in size, with quite an international mix of guests. We had Russians, Americans, and one Iraqi all under one roof to celebrate this Mexican tradition.

Instead of cooking a main course from scratch this year, I picked up an assortment of frozen Mexican foods to throw in the oven or steamer - tamales, toquitos, and crispy tostadas for taco salads. With the time this saved me, I was able to make two pumpkin pies and four loaves of pan de muertos. Mm-mm-mm!

There was plenty of food and drink at the party, and things got muy caliente inside, despite the freezing temperatures without.

We had our first snowfall of the year on Saturday morning.

Thankfully, the hearty mums (and the cats) survived.

When it's cold outside, it sure is nice to do some baking! I was definitely channeling happy homemaker as I made the bread and pies.

The humble beginnings of pan de muertos...

finished loaves of pan

And just to prove that the pumpkin pies were made from scratch:

Jarrahdales (blue pumpkins) make the best pumpkin pie

This was the ofrenda at the end of the night. You can see some decorated sugar skulls in the lower right corner (gotta have activities to keep the kids busy!). It was nice to have several people participate this year in adding photos of their departed loved ones. I decided to set up the altar in front of our window so the candlelight could be seen from the street. 

There was light on the front stoop as well, in the form of our hybrid Halloween/Day of the Dead jack-o-lantern:

(daytime view)

And now that the festivities are over, Ted and I are left with plenty of sugary churros and beer to keep us sated for the month of November! Won't you come join us? :)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Resuscitation - gasp!

I've been told my blog is on life support.

So... it's time to bring it back to life! I don't have the same time I had in the previous year to post about the day-to-day happenings here, but I'll do my best to at least do an update now and then. Here's a quick run-down of life these days:

1.  I took a new full-time job. I am now the Associate Director of the program I taught for last year. I really enjoy the work I am doing, but unfortunately it means I commute for an hour-and-a-half each day and I sit in front of the computer for many hours a week. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance the longer work hours with the day-to-day chores of making dinner and exercising.

2.  Ted and I have taken many small trips over the past few months. Since returning from summer vacation we have travelled to Colorado for a mountain wedding, D.C. for Ted's workshop at the Holocaust Museum, Hocking Hills for a friend's birthday party, Chattanooga for my mom's Iron Man triathalon, and Indianapolis as chaperones on a field trip with 40 Chinese college students. Phew! We are coveting our weekends at home these days. Here are a few photos from our various outings:

Beaver Creek, Colorado

Maze exhibit at the National Building Museum

Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

This pose is called "The Meer."
(Hocking Hills, OH)

Mom and her teammates at the Iron Man starting line
in Chattanooga, TN

Ted's favorite site in Chattanooga

Indianapolis Motor Speedway - home of the annual Indianapolis 500

3.  I've been doing a few little updates around the house when and where I can. I haven't finished or photographed all of them, but I will share one little photo wall with you:

I printed some square Instagram photos and hung them (along with other
things like wedding invitations and birthday cards) on leftover
picture frame hanging wire.

I also picked up these cute placemats at the
Crate&Barrel store in Indianapolis.

4.  Coming up:  

a)  This Saturday is our 2nd Annual Dia de los Muertos party. Today I am getting my Day of the Dead candles and decorations out of the basement and decorating the house. Later in the week I'll make the sugar skulls and the pan de muertos (bread of the dead). 

b)  In November Ted and I will travel to Puerto Rico for our friends' wedding. We cannot wait for this mini-vacation, although I have to admit that I will miss cooking a turkey and hosting Thanksgiving, as has been our tradition for the past several years.

c)  In December we will travel to Virginia for Ted's dad's birthday, and we will travel to Oregon for Christmas. I'm glad we'll get to see both families, especially our new niece/nephew (coming in November!) and my grandparents.

So that's my life for the past, present, and foreseeable future. I'll try to get another blog post in next weekend - I promise.