Friday, October 31, 2008

Crazy Week from Hell part 1

Sunday evening, we settled down for an evening of relaxation watching Halloween Horrors. (side note: I realize that this is a contradiction of terms. The entire goal of horror flicks are to increase heart rate, cause blood-curdling screams from the innocent, and to raise blood pressure possibly to boiling point. But when I say relax, I mean to avoid the dishes, and other problems laying around needing attention so in theory it is possible to relax and pee in your pants in fright at the same time) A neighbor girl had come by earlier in the week with a tub of cookie dough, sweetly stating that Grandma Dee Dee had always bought from her and so in return for her kindness, she wanted to give us this particular tub of cookie dough. My personal theory differs slightly from the story she gave. Considering the evidence: exhibit A; the type of cookie dough is Key Lime White Chocolate Chip, a strange flavor for some not willing to experiment and exhibit B; the seal was broken and a chunk or a spoonful if you will had been spooned out. This leads to my hypothesis, that the girl and/or her family tasted said cookie dough, disliked it and decided to give the poison to the new neighbors. Luckily, we don't mind strange flavors, and or evidence that somebody had already tasted the goods. With the cookies in the oven, we realize however that we don't have milk, and cookies just cannot be eaten without milk. What happened in Kyle's words...
So the other night, Van and I were having a hankerin for some keylime white chocolate cookies. I know, they sound weird but they're actually quite delicious if you ask me. But like any good cookie, or any bad cookie for that matter, they are soooo much better with a tall glass of milk. Well, we were out of milk, so I, being the good husband that I am very kindly volunteered to do the milk run. Let me back up a little here. For those who don't know, Van and I are living at Grandma DeeDee's while the uncles figure out what they are going to do with the house after Thanksgiving. DeeDee's house isn't smack dab in the middle of the ghetto but it's certainly on the outskirts. It's old school some might say. A generally comfortable mix of old timmer wasps and the hard working hispanics. Without getting to non PC about it, it's certainly not the part of town where it's ok to leave the doors unlocked or forget to bring your valuables in from the car at night. But it's quiet. For the most part. So off I went to the corner store to get a jug, when low and behold, the fridge had nothing but soda and beer. No problem, I thought. There's about half a dozen gas stations within a 20 foot radius of where I was. 3 stations later, still no milk. Well, HEB was still open God blessem so off I went to HEB. I worked my way to the back of the store, mustering as much will as I could to not buy the Dorritos or cinamon glaze twist donuts I passed on the way and selected my gallon of 1%. I prefer 2%, Van prefers Skim. We compromise. When just as I was pulling the gallon out of the fridge, 2 shots echo through the nearly empty store. Now oddly enough, the first thought that went through my head was...."that doesn't sound like a very big gun." Probably not the wisest thing to be thinking when you hear gunshots but who ever said I was wise. After 30 seconds which felt like 30 minutes passed by, the workers started coming up and through the aisles saying "coast is clear, he's gone, it's ok, come on out." Pretty stinkin scary. Turned out, some guy at the front was shot twice but he seemed alright and the paramedics didn't seem too worried about him. So, I paid for my milk, got in the car, pumped up the 2 Pac, checked to make sure my 45 was loaded and thought, "damn it feels good to be a gangsta."

Monday morning once again we receive news that sends my innards into a civil war. As if my stomach didn't already have enough holes from the overactive stressed-induced acid. The email said two things. #1 SNET, the Korean school at which we have been hired, which has been ever so patient with out situation, is now feeling pressure to fill the two positions that they have been holding since June. They still would very much like to hire us, but they must give us a deadline of two weeks, November 7 to have Kyle's paperwork in the mail for the visa. What does that mean? That means that Kyle has to take all four of his tests, start and finish the creative writing class, receive a grade, have the grade sent to UT, have a certificate of completion printed out along with a sealed transcript and mail it to Korea by Friday. #2 Vanessa's visa expires Thursday as in in three days. A visa number is issued when all of the required paperwork, ie: diploma, transcript, contract, background check has been sent to Korea and processed by the government. They then issue a visa number and the applicant has three months before the visa expires. My three months were about up. While Kyle drove up to San Marcos to plead his case with his professor and the correspondence office, I looked up what was needed to get said interview. An application including a passport, passport picture, sealed transcript, $45 money order among other things were required to be sent in before an interview was granted. I thought maybe I had a sealed transcript at my house, but Kyle had the car so until he returned, I couldn't be sure. Meanwhile, Kyle had a successful meeting in San Marcos. His professor was very kind and accommodating, and everyone agreed to move things along in a timely manner. On Kyle's return to San Antonio, after being stuck in traffic for over an hour, he received a phone call from San Marcos that he was approved to sign up for all four of his tests. He pulled a Uee and headed back towards San Marcos to sign up for his tests. When Kyle returned home, I jumped in the car and headed over to my mom's house to look for the transcript. It wasn't there, or if it was there, it was hidden in the mounds of clothes, books, and papers stacked in our bedroom. By that time, it was too late to drive to Austin.

Tuesday first thing in the morning we drove to Austin for my sealed transcript. Kyle came with me because he was still registered to vote in Travis county and therefore could not vote in San Antonio. Our errands in Austin took us all of ten minutes, and we jumped back in the car for home. While at home, Kyle studied while I attempted to run errands like a normal person with their head attached, but my attempt crashed and burned in a flame of absent-mindedness. I had run out of funds, and my mom agreed to get the money order for me. She told me to meet her by the SACU (local bank) by her office on Broadway. As I maped out my route in my head, I visualized the bank we normally frequent, on Nachodoches. I realized my mistake only when I had pulled into the wrong bank. I quickly pulled out and headed over to the correct bank, however once again the mapping in my head got in the way. I use two banks, Wellsfargo and SACU. There is an SACU and a Wellsfargo on the access road of Broadway and 410, so which one do I drive to? Wellsfargo. This time I don't realize my mistake until I have entered the bank. By this time, my mom is growing impatient. Luckily, the third time is a charm and I arrived before my mom stormed off waiting for her daughter without a head. I gathered my paperwork together and took it to the post office to overnight it to the Korean consulate in Houston for my interview. And then I went to vote! Yay for voting! Don't forget to vote! I then headed back home to my mom's house for my studious hubby. We decided to wait there until the creative writing book came in the mail. That is right, we only received that book this week. Two months of waiting, third time's a charm didn't work for this little book. They attempted sending it by mail not once, not twice, not three times but four. I have no idea what happened to it the first three times or why we never received it, but we didn't. We even drove up to San Marcos to pick a copy up on our way to Houston, only to find out the last copy available had been given away that day, and the next copy was not to come in for another 3 weeks. We ordered another copy from the company-whoever the company is- and they said two days, but after two days, they said they hadn't received it from the warehouse? Confused yet? Yeah so were we, in fact, we never really understood, we just wanted the book and wanted it two months ago. We finally received it though, so that is another hurtle tackled.

stay tuned for the rest of Hell Week!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Creative Writing 101... Childhood enemy

It's been a long week, one which I am too tired to explain right now. Kyle has been working hard, studying Spanish, writing for his creative writing class, generally getting stuff done and being a good husband. One of his assignments was to write about a childhood enemy using showing rather than telling. The difference between showing and telling, is my writing that Kyle is a good husband or showing the reader by writing about how when my shoe comes untied, he bends down to tie it for me. The latter is obviously a more effective way of writing. Since he took so much time with this assignment, we thought we would share it with you! Enjoy!

Chris Armstrong was one of those kids that just couldn't help but be a bully. He was 6 foot 5 in second grade size and his idea of a good time was anything that involved pestering, disrupting, or any form of, as he liked to put it "goofin around." The only thing was, no one on the receiving end saw it as just "goofing." He was the kid that intentionally wouldn't move out of the way to avoid bumping into someone, and then quickly inform them of what an idiot they were for not getting out of his way. I suppose if you wanted to get analytical about it, you could probably say that he was just a product of his upbringing. I don't have much of a memory of his family, although in retrospect, I know now that he came from a pretty broken home. I guess most butthead children aren't born buttheads, though some might be. I think more often kids become buttheads because that's all they know how to be when everyone around them is a butthead. I'm not saying that justifies what he did back then. Just because someone is a jerk to you doesn't give you the right to be a jerk to others. My worst experience with Chris Armstrong wasn't exactly what you might expect me to say. In fact, I never expected anything like what happened to happen to me back then. I was a good kid. Not exactly the polar opposite of Chris because I wasn't a total geek either but I never treated people with disrespect. But in second grade on the blacktop of Redland Oaks Elementary, one single day almost changed all of that. Now, that one day is a story in and of itself but what I really want to talk about is what happened after that day that was almost as bad as the first. Confused? Me too.
Doom's Day: The long and short of D Day was that we were playing kickball, the ball went out of bounds, I went to kick it back in and just as I was in mid kick, one of the special needs kids reached down to pick it up. I didn't kick him that hard but it was apparently enough to get sent to the principals office over and I never even got the chance to plead my case. Instead, I got tossed into the elementary school version of an anger management course lead by Miss Bowl, the school councilor. Miss. Bowl was one of those classic councilor types with the long floral pattern dress, the old, sweet next door neighbor attitude and shiny gray hair that was always tied in a bun to keep her face from falling off. It wasn't that she was all that old I don't think, but when a person is that nice, that often, in every circumstance imaginable, something builds up inside and if it's not released it takes it's toll either on the soul or, in Miss Bowl's case, on the body. She was the weariest looking person I think I have ever met in my life. Looking at her just made you want to give her a hug and then go take a nap from dreariness. The weird thing was, she wasn't slow. There was no turtleness about her, in fact, she was more like a rabbit jumping from person to person. "How was your day today Chris? Oh that's too bad. Why don't you go take a rain cloud down from the attitude board and put that in front of you so we all remember that you're having a bad day, mkay? And John, how's your day going? OH WAIT! I think it's time for some weather!" That was the other thing, she loved the Weather channel. She loved it so much, she recorded it whenever something "exciting" happened. I liked weather as a kid but not like Miss Bowl did. So the classic councilor peppiness was there, but it only ran surface deep. I can't really explain to you how I, as a 7 yr. old was able to catch on to this except to say that I've always been rather insightful when it comes to people. There was just something about how she never held eye contact with you for too long and if she did, she would drift. It was like she'd rev the boat to full throttle, then realize that's not really the speed she wanted to go so the engine would die and she'd just drift for a bit, letting the waves of regret just toss it around for a bit. Then she'd realize we were there and need to rev the engine up again so we didn't get caught up in the drift with her. I think that was it. Maybe she loved her job so much because she didn't want us to end up as weary as she was.
Anyways, the week following D Day, I was put on mandatory Kiddy Anger Management for one week, every lunch and an optional second week, but really all that meant was my teacher Miss Brooks could say, "Kyle, do you need to go see Miss Bowl today?" in front of everyone at the cafeteria table. If I said "no, I'd rather stay", she'd reply, "are you sure? Don't you like seeing Miss Bowl and your friends at lunch?" Apart from the embarrassment at the lunch table, there was more discomfort in that statement that I now think Miss Brooks was very much aware of. The thing was, the kids at Miss Bowl's lunch parties were not my friends. My "friends" were the kids like me who did not take pleasure in the abuse of others, and who did not need anger management. What I needed was someone in the adult world to realize that what I was "angry" with was the fact that I had been falsely labelled as a bad kid and that I didn't have the savvy to be able to express this to any of the adults at the school because they all thought I was just one of the angry kids. The only thing worse than being thought of as one of the bad kids was not being able to do a damn thing about it. So off to Miss Bowl's lunch parties I went and the worst was yet to come.
After having served my one mandatory week, and 2 days of Miss Brooks humiliating me at lunch, I figured, she's not going to stop any time soon so I might as well save myself the embarrassment and just go straight there. Well, the fiasco started with the fact that Miss Brooks' class, my class, was the last to go to lunch, so the only seat left at the Anger Management table in Miss Bowl's office was the one between Miss Bowl and Chris Armstrong. Now, Chris had nothing against me and I had nothing against him, specifically, but generally speaking, I didn't like kids like Chris and frankly I was kind of scared of him. It was like sitting next to a firecracker that's been lit but hasn't gone off. You're never sure if it's safe to go near it. So on the 7th day of going to Miss Bowl's lunch party and sitting next to the school bully, when Chris patted me on the back and said, "want my milk?" I nearly wet my pants. The temperature in the room had suddenly dropped to below freezing. All the noises from the outside world fell to the floor like sand. My nose began to tingle and those three words replayed in my head over and over and over. I had no idea what to say. All I could do was stare at his milk. Slowly I realized that everyone else in the room was staring at me, waiting to see what I would do. They were all frozen, just like me. Even Miss Bowl was entranced by the severity of the moment. If I said no, I risked offending the one kid in school who I knew for sure wouldn't think twice about beating the crap out of me the second no adults were looking. If I said yes, it meant that any hope I had of making friends with "normal" kids would be obliterated. I had never in my 7 years, been faced with such a difficult decision and none of those schmucks in the Kiddy Anger Management class were making this moment any easier. They all just stared, filling the silence with electric tensity. I was so nervous, and so frustrated with having to be there, in that room, with those jerks and weary Miss Bowl all staring at me, all thinking "GOD I'm glad I'm not him right now." I hated that kid for reaching down as I was about to kick the ball. I hated the principal for never letting me explain. I hated Miss Brooks for patronizing me, and more than all of that, I hated Chris for being nice, for what I was sure was the first time in his life, with me. But there was something else I hated even more than Chris, Miss Brook's patronization, Principal Pear, or the special needs kid. I hated the fact that no one in that school, kid or adult, had tried being nice to Chris. They were all afraid. The adults were afraid of rewarding his bad behavior. The kids were, like me, afraid of committing social suicide and while I'm sure every one of them had thought about it like me, not one of us had ever actually tried to genuinely be nice to Chris. Miss Bowl did I guess, but it was the kind of niceness that seems forced. Like, sympathy niceness. "You seem so angry and upset, I have to say something nice to you to keep you from taking it out on someone else" kind of nice. So for the first time in my life, I decided that maybe being popular wasn't for me. It seems now like such a silly thing to be preoccupied with at 7 but what kid doesn't want to be liked? That's what I have come to realize. Every kid wants to be liked. I think that's why Chris asked me if I wanted his milk that day. He had a chance to make a friend that wasn't like him. I wasn't angry. I wasn't rude, or disruptive. I was normal. Somewhat anyways, and maybe he thought that I was the kind of kid he really wanted to be friends with. So I said, "sure. Want my brownie?" For a second I thought maybe that's what he was wanting all along. For a second I thought, "geeze, what kind of an idiot am I thinking he might actually want to be friends." Then he said "wanna split it?" and I knew two things right then. My social life for at least the rest of second grade was over, and that Chris Armstrong wasn't going to be kicking my ass anytime soon. Even then I wasn't naive enough to believe that kids like Chris can turn their wicked ways around overnight but I thought, at least it's a start. And if everyone thinks that Chris is my friend, well at least I don't have to worry about getting picked on anymore.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Because everyone needs a good laugh

This blog has turned into a type of compulsion. I feel guilty if I don't post anything. I know it is ridiculous, and some of you out there are probably wishing for the day that I stop the insanity of too many posts, and way too many details. One day. I have a dream that one day we will once again have lives that don't revolve around getting Kyle graduated and actually re-enter the real world. When that day will come is unclear, but I know it will come, I can feel it.
So in the spirit of a short and pointless post, here is something that might make you laugh. Halloween pets : This is from cute overload and has some adorable pictures of miserable pets in Halloween costumes. The especially funny ones are towards the bottom.

The Obama/McCain dance off: (this is a video, you have to go to the blog to enjoy)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pumpkin Carving Party

Pumpkin patch pics :)
This is my attempt at trying to be Martha Stewart.

We had fun gutting our pumpkins
...and playing with knives
Thanks for the creepy dounuts Susie and Chad

Spanish, Spanish Spanish, focus, focus, focus. For several weeks, Kyle and I chose to play the role of the reclusive couple, hiding as far back in our hermit shells as we could stuff ourselves, away from the distractions of the world of fun and friends. Our goal was to have Kyle complete his Spanish classes in a speed comparable to Speedy Gonazale's speed and agility when he says "Arriba Arriba" and then leaves the screen faster than a speeding bullet. With his course work finished, and only his tests left uncompleted, we felt that our shells might be left for just one evening of smashing good fun, carving pumpkins. We invited some of our favorite San Antonio buddies for some din din and carving delight. We love hosting, we love Halloween and we love doing fun craft projects like carving pumpkins. Last Halloween we were in Chile. Chileans have tried to incorporate Halloween into their own culture, but it is a slow process, and one I think they don't really get. We had one group of trick or treaters come by the house with plastic masks, holding out their hands for candy. Nope, they didn't have bags, they just held out their hands. It was kind of sad actually. But what was more sad, was that they didn't have pumpkins, hence not pumpkin carving. Here is a link from our pumpkin carving extraveganza two years before. And another.
Dinner was butternut squash soup, partially picked for our vegetarian friends who weren't able to make it, but also because the previous time we made it, the soup had been badly blundered, and I felt it needed a retry. I mentioned before in the previous post (Fun in H-town) about often making mistakes of grand proportions when Leslie, Kyle and I are together in the kitchen, and this is the one I think back to with the fondest memory. The time was around thanksgiving 2006. Leslie wanted us to make a butternut squash soup. I found a recipe that sounded delightful on Food Network, however this recipe was three in one. A recipe for the soup, a recipe for the cooked spices, and a recipe for the sweet and spicy nuts. I knew the soup would take time so I began prep work the night before, carefully heating and blending the spices, and almost burning down the house with the frying of nuts. The first batch, I, being the inexperienced fryer, did not understand the qualities of overheated oil. I threw my first batch of nuts in to the boiling oil. A exploding volcano of oil brewed, spilling over the blackened, charred nuts and towards my face. The entire first floor filled with black billowing smoke turning on every smoke alarm. It only took that one time to correct my mistake, and the rest of the nuts were delicious. The next evening was our group cooking event over at Leslie's house. We peeled the squash, (which is a much easier task if you throw it in oven for 20 min. or so beforehand) threw in the ingredients and voila, we had a soup, or did we? Instead of soup, we had a disaster. The disaster occurred when the directions said to throw in the spice. I failed to notice that we were to only use 2 tsp not the entire quantity of 1 1/2 c. that had been prepared. Somehow, with a miracle we saved the soup, and it was a great success.
This time around, we did not make as many mistakes, except that we doubled the recipe and found ourselves with excessive amounts of left over soup. I like the soup but not for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
All in all the party was a success, good food, great company and terrific pumpkins.

Yes, Kyle's pumkin is eating a little one, "No, no don't eat me!"

Our creations, the canible pumpkin and the ghost

Caleb's pumpkin, Arrrg Pirate.
The Fink Family. Asher, it is night time, why are you wearing sunglasses?
Asher's destroyed pumpkin. If nothing else, pumpkins are fun to smash :)

Yes, that is the number of miles they are about to run in the San Antonio Marathon! Go Laura and Aaron!

I love their pumpkins, they are the most opposite possible! Long and wide! :)

wooo... creepy

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced leeks, white parts only
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 6 cups peeled and roughly diced butternut squash
  • 3 cups peeled and roughly diced apples
  • 2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub, recipe follows
  • 6 1/2 cups chicken stock or 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth mixed with 3 cups water
  • Sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • 1 cup chopped Spiced Candied Walnuts, recipe follows, optional


Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat, and cook until it turns nut brown. Add the leeks and cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute briefly to release its fragrance.

Add the squash and apples, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Stir in the Toasted Spice Rub and cook briefly to toast it, about 1 minute.

Add the stock or broth-water mixture, bring to a simmer, and partially cover. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the squash and apples are tender, about 40 minutes.

Transfer in batches to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return to the pot, reheat to serving temperature, and season with salt.

Divide the soup among warmed bowls and garnish each portion with some of the walnuts, if using. Serve immediately.

Toasted Spice Rub:

  • 1/4 cup fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup pure California chili powder (about 1-ounce)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

In a small heavy pan over medium heat, combine the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns. When the fennel turns light brown, work quickly. Turn on the exhaust fan, add the red pepper flakes, and toss, toss, toss, always under the fan. Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool. Put in a blender with the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon and blend until the spices are evenly ground. If you have a small spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices, grind only the fennel, coriander, pepper, and chili flakes. Pour into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients.

Yield: about 1 cup

Spiced Candied Walnuts:

  • Peanut or canola oil
  • 4 cups walnut halves
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat about 1-inch of oil to 350 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add walnuts and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain and transfer nuts to a medium bowl. While nuts are still hot and slightly wet, add confectioners' sugar and toss to coat nuts. Stir and toss until all the sugar has melted into the nuts; if bits of unmelted sugar remain on the nuts, they will not fry properly.

Stir the nuts again before frying. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer a few nuts to the hot oil, allowing the foam to subside before adding another spoonful. (Otherwise, the oil could foam over and burn you.) Fry in small batches until the nuts are medium brown, about 45 seconds per batch; be careful not to overcook. Scatter on an unlined baking sheet to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, stir together cayenne, cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and the pepper.

While the nuts are still warm, transfer them to a bowl and sprinkle evenly with about half of the spice mix. Toss well to distribute the spices and then taste a nut. Add more spice mix, to taste, and toss well after each addition. When cool, pack in an airtight jar. They will keep at room temperature for at least 2 weeks.

Yield: 4 cups

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why can’t life be simple?

Ok, so I don’t really want life to be simple or simplistic because then life would be humdrum, and lallygaggingly boring! And we don’t really want that, at least that is not what I want. Some of you out there may actually desire boring lives and you have the right to the most boring life you can design for yourself. But what I mean with my head upturned, yelling into the heavens, “Why can’t life just be simple!!?” I refer unfortunately, yet again to Kyle’s multiple failed attempts at graduation. Not that he is a failure or that he is the failee, but the graduation itself failed to occur despite his repeated hoop jumping. (The full hoop jumping story to come to soon) Now nothing too drastic has occurred, just another swirling hoop. After weeks of living, eating, breathing and swimming in Spanish, specifically Spanish 3 and 4, on completion of the course work (minus the tests) we decided to reward ourselves with a little get away, and re-enter for a brief time period, the world of socializing; hence the last two posts, Maker’s Fair and Fun in H-town. The plan was to drive up to Austin, through San Marcos, to hand deliver (we currently have no trust of the post office) his entire packet of hard work into the hands of the correspondence office. We drive up to San Marcos, Kyle attempts to turn in his paperwork, but is halted. - All of his paperwork should be copied so that if they happen to loose it, we will have backup – sounds like a great plan to me. David, the correspondence guy suggests that he bring it back Monday.

Ok, that is not that big of a deal, just a little more driving right?

We drive onto Austin and then Houston and have unquantifiable amounts of social fun.

On the drive back into San Marcos, I am feeling upbeat and excited. I am so proud of Kyle for completing these assignments in superhuman time, considering how he loathes studying, and would rather be shooting his new air-soft gun. I wait in the car as Kyle runs to the building to turn in his accomplishments; 12 lessons, 6 lessons per class, two fully complete classes held tightly in his rather small man hands awaiting grading. But what happens next, should only be expected since we are talking about Mr. Bad Luck Kyle here. From the 12 lessons, they will only accept 2 lessons per week. They being Kyle’s professor, not the correspondence office. 12 divided by 2 is six, meaning six weeks, six more weeks!!! After he slaved hours upon hours to complete it as quickly as possible, they are telling us, “your hard work means nothing, nothing” followed by an evil laugh.
There is however streaks of possible silver in the this ominous cloud of evil misfortune, and that is that this rule is set by the professor, not by the school, and that she is said to be a reasonable person, that is if you can ever get her to respond to your emails/phone calls. We stayed in San Marcos for lunch, as we waited for her to respond to our desperate phone calls. It was the first meal out that we had had alone in several months, but I was feeling far from a celebratory mood. We didn’t hear from her the rest of the day. As soon as we arrived home, Kyle wrote an email explaining his situation and pleaded for an exception. He even ended the email with “In the words of my Chilean students, porfi profe, porfi” For those of you who don’t understand Chilean speak, that is short for por favor professor. Forty hours later, one email, and 7 phone calls later, she responds to Kyle’s email – “you may turn in multiple assignments.” We were thrilled upon hearing the news! I think Kyle was even more thrilled since I had turned into grumpy, zombie, scratch-your-eyes out one minute, cry-your-eyes out one minute Vanessa. I was like a pre-pubescent middle-schooler riding on a giant wooden rollercoaster of emotions. The more we continue down this impossible graduation path, the more I feel like I am back in the years when my emotions were out of control. One minute things are looking up and unicorns dance among the rainbows and another, we have hit a brick wall, fallen into a pit of slime and are having to wrestle with Joe the six-eyed swamp thing. I like rollercoasters, I enjoy the thrill of adrenaline running through my veins, but I am darn tired of this emotional rollercoaster we have been riding over a year and a half now. Every time I hear someone talk about graduating, I gawk in wonder at how graduation could be so simple. It should be simple, why can’t it be simple for Kyle? I keep praying that this will be the one, the final step, the one without the hoop of fire without a lion’s mouth to jump into, but we shall see. On a positive note, Kyle’s professor who hadn’t turned in his paperwork from an independent study Kyle took with her over two years ago, finally turned in the paperwork! So that is exciting! I would like to end this post with a list of things that I am grateful for. It is something that I try and do whenever something in life isn’t going my way, to remind me of all of the many blessings I have or have received.

Six things I am grateful for

1. I am grateful that Jake the cat, (Grandma Dee Dee’s cat) has started to warm up to me. You may not be aware that we are house sitting her house, and therefore Jake the cat, and up till now he has come in for meals and some weird meowing time when he was trying to communicate, but what we still are not sure. Currently he is sitting on top of my arms as I type, (not very comfortable and I think I may be loosing blood to my forearms)
2. I am grateful for my wonderful hubby, even when I am Oscara the grouch, or should I say especially when I am grouchy mcgrouchersons, he is extremely loving and attentive, giving me lots of kisses and being silly to try to put me in better spirits.
3. I am grateful for the cold front. I don’t like the cold, but I do LOVE making soups when it is cold.
4. I am grateful that we have friends nearby. I love Kyle and all, but friends are super important to us.
5. I am grateful that gas prices are going down. Although the economy is stinking like a pack of rapid skunks right now, I am grateful that we aren’t paying $4/gallon anymore!
6. I am grateful for NPR. That is probably the thing I look forward to most when I have to drive my car. Here is a super interesting podcast that was played today about trends during recessions.

What are some things that you are grateful for? And do you wish your life were simpler? How so?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fun in H-town

Peter entering the room to his surprise party.

Somehow we arrived in Houston not only on time, but with time to spare, truly a miracle if you know Kyle and me. The purpose of our Houston trip: Surprise Peter on his birthday with a super secret surprise birthday party lovingly planed by his wife Leslie. Peter knew we were coming in to town, but he had been told that it was for visa stuff, so our coming wasn’t a surprise, but Josh and Joanna, another close couple who drove up from San Antonio was a surprise along with all the other Houstonian friends who had gathered at the Turkish restaurant. Dinner was awesome, and it was great fun meeting many of their Houston friends. We didn’t get to play with Leslie and Peter as much as we would have liked since they both had to work at different times, but we fit in a great game of Redneck Life, which we bought for them as Peter’s b-day present. It is this great game which should be played if one needs to laugh. The goal of the game is to be the one at the end with the most teeth. Next time you are in a game store, check it out, it is tons of fun! On our last evening together, the four of us went for a 3 mile run, on a very crowded yet pleasant track around Rice University. We came home, took showers and cooked dinner. Cooking dinner as it usually is when we all get together was a very interesting adventure. Their printer stopped working, my solution was to quickly write out the recipe in short hand, however, I made a little blunder (shocker I know!) I wrote 1/4 cup crushed red pepper rather than 1/4 teaspoon. After we realized the mistake, we desperatly tried to remove as many of those little hot suckers as possible, since in great numbers they are equal to liquid fire. The dinner was not a total disaster, a little on the fiery dragon, and breathing flames side, but tasty just the same. And, I was very excited to finally drink the wine that Karen and Justin Benavidez gave us as a wedding present two years ago. It was a delightful cherry wine, that went wonderfully with our chicken-peanut chow mein. We always enjoy our time with our wonderful friends Leslie and Peter and can't wait to see them again! Hopefully next time we are in Houston, we will actually be doing visa stuff!

Redneck Life. They are ecstatic! :) Can't you see it in their faces!?

Josh and Joanna who came up from San Antonio just for the surprise!

Leslie on her way to work. Isn't she a cute nurse.

Here is the receipe if you are so inclined, but remember 1/4 tsp, NOT a cup. :)

Chicken-Peanut Chow Mein

Chicken-Peanut Chow Mein from Cooking Light
Lee Harrelson

Chow mein noodles are often labeled chuka soba. If you can't find them in the Asian section of the supermarket, substitute spaghetti or linguine. Chop and measure ingredients while you wait for water to boil.


4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups noodle mixture, 1/4 cup onions, and 1 1/2 teaspoons peanuts)


  • 1 cup precut matchstick-cut carrot
  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed
  • 2 (6-ounce) packages chow mein noodles
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup presliced mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons bottled fresh ground ginger (such as Spice World)
  • 1 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped


Cook carrots, snow peas, and noodles in boiling water 3 minutes; drain.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cut chicken crosswise into thin strips. Add chicken and 1 tablespoon soy sauce to pan; stir-fry 3 minutes. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Combine remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, broth, oyster sauce, sugar, and pepper, stirring well. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and ginger to pan; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add broth mixture, and cook for 1 minute. Add noodle mixture and chicken to pan; cook 1 minute, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with onions and peanuts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Maker's Fair

Imagination is more important than knowledge, for whilst knowledge points to all there is, imagination points to all there could be. Albert Einstein

I love being inspired. I wish however that inspiration would instantly manifest itself into know how and motivation. This past weekend we attended a fair in Austin called, “The Maker’s Fair” and as Kate so astutely pointed out, was a celebration of uber-dorkiness. It was a gathering of people who like to make things, all kinds of things, from the crafty to the highly technical field of robotics. The first demonstration we encountered was one of lightening and music. As the music played so did the lightening dance. (video here, must go to blog to see)

An empty cage adjacent to the dancing lightening, was a reminder of the robot wars that were happen later in the day. The next stop was to laugh at the singing bass car. You have seen the hilarious singing bass that can be hung on the wall; well this car was covered in them. Not only that, they were all programmed to sing the same song at the exact same time. It could be described either as very tacky or ingeniously creative! Our next encounter was with two women building an outdoor oven; the kind of oven that one identifies with Native Americans or great tasting bread. We even helped a little, grabbing handfuls of sand/dirt mixture to add to the mound. Kyle and I love to do projects together, making the haunted house with our own two hands was entertaining and rewarding. We have decided that once we have settled down, we are going to make one of these awesome ovens, have an amazing bread cookout and everyone will be invited! We’ll let you know when that happens.

Some of the other cool things we saw were knitted shoes, homemade roller skates from old shoes, huge hulla-hoops, a human-size mouse trap which took 13 years and $12,000 to make, a robot that shot marshmallows and a pyromaniac dream show, with fire exploding from a fire hydrant among other things. And of course the fair wouldn’t be complete without vendors, but not your typical vendors, Austinite vendors with flair. I wanted so badly to be in the business of shopping, but because I have no money, shopping is not an option at this point. There were so many creative crafts, jewelry made entirely from vintage type-writer keys, fury bear hats, feather headbands, I was in maker’s heaven. Being in the presence of such creative energy, I felt sparks flying every which direction, the ideas, and possibilities were limitless. One of our last stops of the day was in the scrap barn. Piles upon piles of clothing were provided without cost, but your goal was not to take the old, used clothing and wear it as is, but to improve upon it. The options included not only picking from about 10 different patterns for screen-printing (imprinting a cut out image with special paint onto cloth) but also at least 10 sewing machines and buckets of scraps were provided for endless hours of fun redesigning clothing. We were in a rush to make our Houston party with the Leslie and Peter, so we weren’t able to have endless amounts of fun, but Kyle found a jacket with which he had imprinted an umbrella on the front and jellyfish on the back, while Kate found me a pink express shirt with which I imprinted an abstract image onto. We could have spent the day just in that tent, but alas, we had more fun to attend to in H town. But here’s to hoping inspiration never ends.
The Human Mouse Trap

Kate showing her skills

Sporting the weird fuzzy bear hats.

The pyromaniac show

Kate's cool improvement on her new shirt
This handsome man is modeling a one of a kind sports coat
The Jelly fish

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back in Texas

The trip from Seattle was arduous and wearisome. Leaving BB’s house around 7:30 am we arrived in San Antonio after 11 pm. A direct flight would not have taken 13 hours, but because ours first flew to LA, to Denver and then San Antonio, it took a bit longer than a direct flight. LA was probably the worst airport I have ever been in, and if the city is anything like that jungle which is mistakenly referred to as an airport, I don’t think I ever want to visit that town. In LA we had to change airlines from United to Frontier.

Exiting the plane into terminal 6 we asked the information desk where to find Frontier Airlines, “terminal 3, and you have to take a bus.” We scrambled around the huge airport, dragging our luggage, and nearly 30 minutes later hopped on a bus to terminal 3 only to find out that the lady who gave us directions was either ignorant and too proud to ask for help or malicious, and the actual terminal we needed was 6, the terminal we came from. I was so mad, I was spitting fire, and laughing at the same time. Visions of our accidental run in, raced across my mind. Our next hoop of fire, after returning to our correct terminal was re-checking in and going through the airport security again since we were changing airlines.

Denver, the next destination was pleasant enough, until Kyle, while eating a Quizno’s sandwich, knocked a cup of delicious, mesquite flavored red sauce in between my legs. In the bathroom, the cleaning lady immediately pointed out how red and the location of the spill was especially ill-looking on a lady. After scrubbing as much as I could, using water and a shout towelette another random, yet very nice lady provided, I had gone from looking like I had a massive lady accident to looking like I peed in my pants. But what are you going to do?

Exiting the plane I felt the warm San Antonio air seeping through the air holes of the tunnel. The weather had been in the 50’s when we had left, but my piles of layers were unnecessary and uncomfortable back home. The words “back home” held a paradoxical feelingly to it. On one hand I was happy to have lots of great Mexican food at my disposal, and family and friends nearby, but on the other hand, being back home felt like a failure of sorts. We had left San Antonio back at the end of July on what was to be one of the hopefully greatest adventures of our lives, A going away party was thrown, our final goodbyes said and now we had returned, without even having had left the country. At least being in Seattle, away from familiar faces and people who knew our story, we didn’t feel so much like failures; we were still on our way, just in a holding pattern. But being back in Texas meant something else entirely; we had come back, after already leaving, and the knot in my stomach continued to grow as the feeling of failure intensified. The next morning, we met Kyle’s parents, aunt and an old family friend for breakfast at Jim’s. I was feeling overwhelmed by my sense of failure, but seeing Kyle’s parents and remembering the reason that brought us back to Texas brought all new emotions colliding with the others. It was our first time being around the family after the death of Grandma Dee Dee, and I felt loss. She had more to give, and now we were without her loving and magnanimous presence. A battle of emotions began raging inside but to multiply my battling emotions even more we were asked the questions. Questions that to most people are the most basic of questions, but to us, they are convoluted, complex and nearly impossible to answer “Where are you now? And what are you doing?’ These simple questions that demonstrate interest from the other party are difficult and painful for us to answer. Lately, I have answered those questions by saying, “We are nomads and currently we are in the business of jumping through hoops.” But that just creates more curiosity rather than quench it.

We are slowly coming to terms with being back home. It is helpful that we are near Texas State so Kyle can complete his course more quickly than in Seattle. And although the feeling of failure was overwhelming at first, it is only a feeling because we haven’t failed, we haven’t given up the dream. Our plans haven’t changed, only the path has changed, not the destination.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thanks Chrissi

So our cousin Chrissi sent this to us in an email today and we thought it was awesome enough for the blog and you wonderful folks who read it. If I could choose to be any animal in the world besides a unicorn or a pegasus, I would choose to be a dolphin. They are such amazing and playful creatures, I can't even whistle and yet they can make these extraordinary bubbles to use as play toys. Why or why wasn't I born a dolphin? Then I could be talented!

For subscribers (This is a video guys so you have to go directly to the blog to see it.)

An explanation of how dolphins make these silver rings is that they are"air-core vortex rings". Invisible, spinning vortices in the water are generated from the tip of a dolphin's dorsal fin when it is moving rapidly and turning. When dolphins break the line, the ends are drawn together into a closed ring. The higher velocity fluid around the core of the vortex is at a lower pressure than the fluid circulating farther away.. Air is injected into the rings via bubbles released from the dolphin's blowhole. The energy of the water vortex is enough to keep the bubbles from rising for a reasonably few seconds of play time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Saving the planet, one phonebook at a time.


I recently heard about a new movement, yellow goes green, that says "no" to paper and "yes" to a paperless world by opting not to have an unsolicited phone book delivered. When I first read about the idea, I had a panic moment, "I can't let go of what is real and tangible, what if the internet doesn't work for some reason." but when I stopped to face my irrational fear in the face I realized that I maybe use the Yellow Pages once a year and the rest of the time I use the internet. We don't need them now that we live in the electronic age, they kill hundreds of thousands of trees to make them, not to mention water, oil and energy and it is a good place to start in rescuing our planet. I love this amazing planet we live on, the more I explore it, the more I love, and I think I can sacrifice the security of my paper phone book to help maintain it's beauty. Every little bit helps.

Another website involved in the "paperless world" movement, which doesn't involve sacrifice, except maybe if you love getting junk mail, is green dimes. They help you empty your mailbox of all the unwanted pesky junk mail that you look through once and then throw in the trash. Let's think about it, beautiful world with lots of trees vs. clutter in the mail box. I love easy decisions!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The circle of life

Grandma Dee Dee, Pop Pop and their five sons

When boys become men, they really stay boys just in bigger bodies.

Grandma Dee Dee and her grandchildren.

If the rays of sunlight could have reached out and tickled our noses, I think it would have. Shining through the window, the sun breached the thin layer of skin blocking the world from our delicate eyes. At one time, one of us was a morning person (not me), early to rise and ready for the day, but those days have passed. Kyle has been converted and one of the greatest pleasures in life is lazily waking on one's body clock rather than the alarm clock for the great roll out of bed. After breakfast we settled down to work on some good ole Spanish when the phone rang. Kyle's mother was calling with the news of Grandma Dee Dee. She was sick with an infection in her intestines which prevented her life support of dialysis. This meant that Grandma Dee Dee was not much longer for this world unless some miracle occurred. I was raised in a family of fixers, something can always be done. I wanted to know that something could be done. There had to be something that could fix Grandma Dee Dee. We couldn't let something that seemed so trivial slowly drain her life. As I looked up plane tickets back to Texas, I prayed for a miracle, surely this wasn't the end of an era of such a great woman.

As I sat wishing for her extended life I got to thinking about life and life's cycles. These bodies we are born into are such a blessing and yet a curse. They help us to navigate the world into which we are born, giving us the ability to run, jump and roll in the grass. But they don't always stay strong and often turn on us in the end. We are born into delicate baby bodies that require nutrients and nurturing. We grow quickly into little humans, but much more bouncy and resilient than adults, more like bouncy balls than ceramic vases. We continue to grow up towards the world of adults growing stronger everyday until we reach our tipping point. The tipping point is different for everyone, sometimes it starts as early as in the 20's, and sometimes it waits until the 50's. Our bodies continue to grow and strengthen until we hit our peak, and the aging process begins the decent into the valley of decay. Often times we can hold off the decline by taking care of ourselves, keeping our minds and bodies healthy, but healthiness is not fallible, only preventative, not a cure for the aging process. I have heard it said many times before that we are dying from the time we are born. Maybe that's true and maybe it's not but they definitely are unpredictable. Our bodies are like a house, as soon as you have the money to put down a new floor, the refrigerator and the AC go out at the same time. Our bodies change from a smooth running vehicle that gets us from here to there, and everywhere to a hindrance, keeping us from experiencing the life for which we were made. I wish we could live in our bodies without the fear of the decline. We would be born, grow up, stay strong and die of something specific, not the shutting down of our systems one by one until we are trapped in our cursed bodies. I wish we could be like an ever-lasting gobstopper, almost impossible to destroy, except maybe with a hammer. But those are dreams, and this is reality. One reason, I had such a hard time accepting Dee Dee's fate was because her health had seemed to improve so dramatically over the last couple of years. Dialysis had done wonders for her and in my mind she was stronger than ever, or at least much stronger than she had been in the past. But in the end, her body was more fragile than I had thought, and it wasn't the ever-lasting gobstopper, just a regular body, imperfect and fallible.
Grandma Dee Dee's death not only started me thinking about our bodies' cycles but also the generational cycles. When we are children, we take for granted that there will always be people and/or relatives older and wiser. Parents, grandparents and sometimes even great grandparents are our families time capsules. The generations that connect us to our history and our journey and the reason we are here today. Our parents and grandparents lives often give us insight into our lives and it is hard to imagine a world without them. But like in school, how we slowly make our way up the chain from being a lowly freshman to being the king and queens of the world, Seniors, we don't have much of a choice. Life changes and we must change with it. I don't want to think of a world without my grandmother, or my parents, but we don't live forever, and one day, I will take their place as a parent, and a grandparent; the one giving advice and telling stories of how life used to be. Life moves in cycles whether we want it to or not. Grandma Dee Dee was Kyle's closest connection to his past on his father's side, and now that she is gone the world seems less complete and emptier. But we must fill it with our own stories and keep her story and those stories of the many generations before him, alive.
Grandma Dee Dee had a full and colorful life. She raised five boys and lived to see 9 grandchildren born. We are sad to see her leave us, but happy for her to continue along into her next journey as we must continue along ours.
The four generations picture of the Sanders Family. (Vanessa is the baby)

**A note to my subscribers: As in the previous post, it is sometimes a good idea to go directly to the blog as the emails don't always show everything. Anytime I post a video or animation, it will not attach to the emails. There are always two links in each email; one that is gray and says The Yellow Brick Road, and the other which is in blue and is the title of the current post. If you click on the title of the post, the blog will only display that one post so it is better to click on The Yellow brick Road.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

So funny

My friend Mariah made this for us and posted up on her blog so I thought I would share. Thanks Mariah! You are too funny!
Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Haunted House

By the end of August BB's coworkers were already discussing their Halloween decoration plans for their office. "It's a big deal here." was what she kept hearing. Evidently, it wasn't just a big deal to her immediate office, but to the entire City Hall of Redmond building. They decorate for Halloween like it is the only holiday of the year. One man last year, built a grave with real dirt and a tombstone in his office. This being BB's first year in Redmond, she felt that she should live up to the standard set in the building. We scourged Redmond, Seattle and the surrounding towns looking up and down for Halloween decorations without much inspirations. Until one evening BB came home and suggested that with our extra time we build a Haunted house scene for her. Kyle being the brilliant visionary little boy in big boy clothing that he is jumped on the idea and immediately started to work sketching his plan.
He was thinking an elaborate Haunted House on top of a mountain situated next to a cemetery with an wrought-iron fence surrounding it and three trick-o-treaters standing outside looking frightened. We started with the grass. Kyle pictured lots of green but also blacked dead grass on his scene and the experts online suggested sawdust. So we made the trip to Home Depo and what do you know, they don't care about their their sawdust, any we found by the woodcutter machine was ours. We bought a large peice of ply wood 3ft by 15in was 51 cents, by far the cheapest thing we bought for the project besides the free saw dust. Once at home Kyle poured green paint into a platic container added water and sawdust and out came grass!
Next step was to make the play dough to make our skeletons, skulls, spiders, animals and general Halloween creatures. We looked through lots of play dough recipes but we ended up going with "Rubbery play dough" because we happened to have those ingredients on hand.

Rubbery Playdough

2 cups baking soda
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup cornstarch

After we boiled it and let it cool, we had white squishy play dough that smelled of baking soda. Kyle had read that microwaving the play dough would help the hardening process. My pumpkin however didn't appreciate the experiment and started to blow up like a peep when put in a microwave. If you look closely at the largest pumpkin you can still see his deformity poor guy. Air drying the slow way, we decided was the best option. Our Haunted house project was intended as a leisurely art project, something for us to do on the side as a fun activity, that is until we received the news that we needed to leave for Texas and our leisure activity turned into a Haunted House marathon race.The play dough after we had molded it and let it harden.
I am painting the cat and the caldron. You can't tell but I used lots of glitter against Kyle's manly wishes for a House of fright :)
Painting makes all the difference. Do you notice the bones in the cauldron?

This is the start of the mountain. After attempting to glue the styrofoam to the ply wood Kyle used the drill gun instead.

The mountain has been paper macheed. And Kyle is starting on the Haunted House.
The Haunted house with shingles and everything.
I am painting the shingles every shade of purple I can make.
BB is working on the graveyard.
The mountain has been painted and grassed. We are working on the cemetery and the iron fence made of toothpicks.
This is Haunted House scene before all of the ghosts and goblins. Do you see the stalagmites and stalactites? Kyle was very proud of his cave under the mountain.

I included this picture so you could see the detail of the grass on the mountain. The grass turns darker as it gets towards the mountain. The purple path leads the trick-o-treaters to the witches lair.

The finished product. Because we ran out of time we had to buy little trick-0-treaters instead of make them. But it still turned out great!
BB with her Haunted House scene displayed in her office.

The two headed-snake, cross-eyed frog and broomstick are all essentials in a Halloween scene.

The graveyard. Oooooo!

My ghost (the one I made) is the one covered in glitter and in the tree. Kyle's ghost is behind the gravestone.
I love our Haunted House!

Kyle's vulture is very creepy!

The "smoke" coming out of the cauldron is actually Buttercup's (the cat) hair. Gross but effective.

Do you see the flying bats?

BB insisted on a pink spider so to go with the theme, I gave her orange glitter pok-a-dots.

All in all it was an awesome project and we are very proud of our finished product. We love doing arts and crafts together and since this one turned out so well, we may have to continue this for other holidays in the future.