50/50 Friday – Week 3

Week Three of my 50 Things to Do Before 50 list and I made little progress, although I did manage to stay on track by trying out a new recipe.  This week was Father’s Day,  so in keeping with our hollandaise tradition I decided to make Eggs Benedict for Juan.  I mentioned before that this dish requires precision timing and coordination, and with me cooking solo, I needed to find a simple hollandaise sauce recipe. I looked online and found this one. I was not disappointed. The sauce was easy to make and it came out great. I added more lemon because I like my hollandaise tangy like that. I also halved the recipe so I would not have too much and it was a perfect amount for four eggs. Juan loved it. He especially liked the fact that I served it to him on a tray, in bed.

Diego was up early and crawled in bed with Juan so I brought Diego his own tray too.

Even though it's not his day, Diego gets breakfast in bed.

The thing about Eggs Benedict is that no matter how hard I try to clean my kitchen as I go, when I am done cooking, my kitchen ends up looking like this.

Number 36 on my list, “Get another dog,” has also gotten some attention this week. As I write this Juan is looking online at photos of adoptable dogs at the local animal shelters. I am not sure I am ready for another dog yet, but I may have little say in the matter. Juan seems to think a trip to an animal shelter in on our list of things to do this weekend. Check in next Friday for an update on my 50/50 list, and to see if we have a new addition to the family.

A Birthday, a Graduation and an Anniversary*

We all went to church today and celebrated another special holiday in the church calendar.  It was Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church.  So, in addition to our usual worship service, where the kids often assist as acolytes and I assist giving communion, the service had a festive flair.  There were flags during the procession, incense, and  birthday cake and a jazz trio on the lawn after the service.  Even the altar looked festive because it was  adorned in the color for Pentacost, which also happens to be my favorite color–red. Underneath our albs many of us wore red, including me.

Red shoes

With me and the older kids participating in the service, Juan and Diego sat by themselves in the pew.  Juan kept Diego entertained by letting Diego draw on  on pew cards. Diego drew the same thing he always draws:

A Christmas scene

When Juan asked him why he always draws a Christmas scene, Diego said he would draw something else. And he drew this:

Easter scene drawn by Diego

I guess he doesn’t know how to draw a Pentacost scene.

Sigh.

After church we had another celebration to attend, graduation.  Diego graduated in cub scouts today.  He graduated from a Tiger cub to a Wolf cub.  The ceremony is called “bridging” and marked by the boys from his pack crossing over a bridge. We took a picnic lunch to a local park and celebrated with the other families. How quckly time flies. I remember when we were at the same park watching Nico bridge as a cub scout. Now Nico is  a boy scout and working his way up in rank.

Sigh.

Diego goes from a Tiger cub to Wolf, and trades his orange scarf for a yellow one.

After all that you think we’d be done with our celebrating. But wait, there’s more. We all went out to dinner to celebrate my parents 50th wedding  anniversary.  Through their  50 years together my parents have managed to raise four kids, have 9 grandchildren and share some wonderful, and not so wonderful experiences. Through it all they have stayed comitted to each other and our family   We like to joke that my we don’t know how my mom managed to do it.  As if to prove our point, my dad told us his own joke tonight.  He said that my mom saw him crying on their anniversary. When my mom asked my dad why he was crying, he told her that  50 years ago my grandfather caught my dad and mom together and, with his shotgun aimed at my dad,  my grandfather asked him to either marry my mom or go to jail. My dad jokingly recounted how he chose to marry my mom.  Again, my mom asked him, why he was crying. My dad explained,  he was crying because he realized that if had chosen jail, he would be a free man now.

Sigh.

My parents on our recent trip to New York

*This post was inspired by the post, Blessings, Tonys and Zombies, in Accidental Stepmom. Check her out.

50/50 Friday – Week One

Last week, on my birthday, I posted 50 things I wanted to do before my 50th birthday, which is still a couple of years off, thank goodness.  I am happy to report that one week into my project and I am making some progress.

The funny thing about list-making, is that the act of writing it down, somehow makes it more likely that the task will get done. The really funny, like strange, thing that has happened, is that now that I have sent out a message to the Universe about what I would like to accomplish,  the Universe is sending messages back to me. For instance, I listed that I want to contact some former teachers and thank them. Well, the other day, I received a Facebook message from some of my high school friends about an informal reunion. This led me to find one of my favorite former teachers. We are now friends on Facebook! Number 32 on my list states, “Take a sunset horseback ride.”  Last week I received an email offer to take a sunset horseback ride in nearby wine country!  Needless to say, I bought the offer and  during the coming months I will be able to check that off my list too. In the meantime, here’s my progress, so far:

I spent my birthday at the beach.  We went to Paradise Cove in Malibu. This stretch of Southern California coastline is a local landmark that I have never visited before. So, I just completed the first month of  Number 21 on my list. Paradise Cove was perfect location for relaxing on my birthday,  and I can now understand why it is a Southern California favorite. There was a small pier,   lounge chairs and cabanas, it had a nice restaurant. I don’t know why it’s taken me 47 48 years to visit.

The restaurant makes a great place for meal or people watching.

Diego on a stretch of Paradise Cove.

I have also been replacing my coffee with green tea, number 28 on my list.  I really only drink coffee in the morning, when I need it most. I miss the taste of coffee in the morning and I guess my body is missing the caffeine kick too, since I seem to take longer to get going now that I am drinking green tea instead of coffee.

I noticed that I was a little slower on the uptake the other morning, as I was practicing speaking Spanish, number 50,  on my list. Juan, is fluent spanish speaker. He is helping me out by speaking more and more Spanish around the house. I am not a fluent Spanish speaker, but I notice a dramatic improvement after a margarita . Anyway, I felt like the extra practice was helping until Juan tried speaking Spanish to me in the morning, after I had cut out the coffee. No caffeine or margarita at 6:30 a.m., and I couldn’t understand a word he said, nor could I form a cohesive sentence. Note to self: Do not attempt to speak spanish without having caffeine or margaritas.

The last thing I did to make some progress on my list was to buy a new food and use it in a new recipe, numbers 19 and 37 on my list.  I went to a farmer’s market and bought Black Kale.   Then,  I went home and made Tilapia and Escarole, a recipe I found here. The recipe called for esarole but I substituted kale. When Erica and Juan saw I was cooking with kale they were not sure they’d like it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like it either. But the recipe was healthy, easy and  it got great reviews, so I thought I would try it. It turned out great.

The Farmer's Market vendor told me that this was Black Kale even though it looks green to me.

It may not look good but it tasted good.

So, that’s my update on my 50 Before 50 list.  I’ll be posting more here as soon as I have checked more off my list.

My Blessing and My Curse

I have recently discovered a couple of beauty items that I just love. One is for my nails and the other is for my hair.

I have the good fortune, or good genes, to be blessed with strong, healthy fingernails and hair. My hair grows quickly and I have always had a lot of it. Even now,  when I am at an age that most women begin to experience some hair loss,  my hair has become, as my hair stylist says,  “normal.”   However,  even though the hair gods have been kind to me in some ways,  they have not smiled upon me when it comes to hair color.  You see, I am losing that too, that is –my color.  I started greying in my early 20’s and have been fighting it ever since.  (My 12 year-old son also has good hair genes and has a healthy head of hair, but I recently spied two grey hairs on his head!)  If you combine the premature greying of my hair and its fast growth rate, you can see I have a real problem trying to stay ahead of my greying shimmering roots. I have had to spend more and more time and money to achieve my “natural” look.  I have toyed with the idea of letting my hair go au natural, but I still feel too young and I am far too vain to allow myself to do that.  For now, I put up with frequent trips to the salon for my color, or enlist my husband’s help for the home color touch-ups. But I recently found a new weapon in my fight against silver roots.  It allows me to extend time between salon trips, and keep me from donning the plastic gloves and staining my bathroom and towels,  with hair color from home do-it-myself jobs.  This secret weapon looks a lot like a  crayon, but I consider it more to be a magic marker:

The other asset that good genes have bestowed on me are strong fingernails. They grow quickly and are quite strong.  I used to get a professional manicure, but, lately I have given up paying for them.  I think professional manicure is a waste of money on me, because I don’t have the time to wait for the polish to dry completely.  I ruin the manicure before I am out the salon door.  Inevitably, I will sit through the cuticle clipping, filing, shaping, buffing, painting, but the moment I get up from the salon chair, I smudge the polish reaching for car keys, credit card or the door handle!  Besides with all the housework, and keyboarding I do,  the manicure starts to chip away after one day.  Because I am cheap frugal, I save my money and don’t pay for a professional manicure unless it’s a special occasion, like the trip to NY I took three weeks ago. The morning I was leaving for my trip I went to get a manicure. As usual the manicurist tried to sell me extras:

  “Hot oil cuticle treatment?” No.

“Neck and shoulder massage?” No.

“Callous Remover?” Hmm?  No.

“Gel Polish?” What?

The manicurist pitched me the gel manicure. She told me it would last much longer than a regular manicure. It would cost slightly more, $13, and take a bit longer,  since they had to put my nails under a UV light between polish coats. I thought I was running short on time so I said no. Then, as it is my prerogative, I changed my mind and went for the big splurge. I am glad I did. That was three weeks ago, and here are my nails today:

My nails have grown out,  so it’s time for me to remove the gel polish, but the polish has not chipped.  Three weeks later and  it is going strong. I loved it!  I don’t know when I will get another manicure, since I don’t really have  a special event coming up, however,  when I do get my next manicure, I am going to pay the extra money and spend the extra time for a gel manicure.

Now if only they could come up with something that makes the color in my hair last as long the gel polish on my nails!

My Own Memorial Day…Also Known as My Birthday

Gabe-birthday-part

Image via Wikipedia

Memorial Day 1963. A day when our nation was honoring the fallen who had given their lives in service to their country. A day when many were probably out enjoying picnics, barbeques, and parades. It was also the day when my mom went into labor, my dad drove her to the hospital and, thinking he had time for a quick errand, left her in the doctor’s capable hands. Boy, was he surprised when he returned to the hospital a short while later, and was told my mom had a baby girl, me! As my brother will tell you, that was probably the last time I arrived early for anything!

Like my brother, who was born on New Year’s Eve, this year my birthday falls on a holiday. But unlike my brother, who grew up feeling like he was getting short-changed on gifts or parties because he had to share his birthday with a major holiday, I don’t mind sharing my birthday with Memorial Day. Because my birthday falls on Memorial Day I sometimes get a day off from work, friends or family are ready for a party, there’s always a new movie release, and there are some really great sales. This year, I am not going to any parties or barbeques. I will go out to lunch with my family and if the weather clears, maybe I’ll go the beach, and if not, then I may see one of new summer movie releases. Sounds like a perfectly good way to spend the day, especially when I am still reeling from our whirlwind New York trip last weekend.

In honor of this birthday, the birthday that brings me another year closer to a landmark birthday, I have been putting together a list, a Bucket List, of sorts. I shared the list with my husband, and he said it looks more like a big ass TO DO list. True. Many of the things on my list involve home projects, and probably cause him some concern because that means the Honey-Do List isn’t too far behind. Some of the things on my list probably are contradictory, like #37, “Try a new wine, #20 “Try a new recipe once a week” and #18, “Lose 15 pounds.” But still, it’s my list, and I hope by putting out here in the Blogosphere, I will be more inclined to check it off as “Done.” Besides, the list may generate some interesting blogging material. I hope that some of the activities on my list will keep me from getting too caught up in the busyness of life and force me carve out some time for some fun. So, here’s my list of 50 Things to Do Before 50:

1. Take a sunrise hike.

2. Clean out my attic.

3. Clean out and re-organize my pantry.

4. Organize the kid’s school files/records/memorbilia.

5. Re-paint my family room.

6. Take a cooking class.

7. Make curtains for my bedroom.

8. Read a classic American novel.

9. Read a classic English novel.

10. Whiten my teeth.🙂

11. Learn to take better pictures.

12. Print photos for my hallway.

13. Frame photos for my hallway.

14. Hang photos in my hallway

15. Go on an overnight spiritual retreat.

16. Teach Diego to ride a bike.

17. Ride bikes along the beach.

18. Lose and keep off 15 pounds.

19. Try cooking with a new food once a month.

20. Try a new wine once a month.🙂

21. Visit a local landmark/attraction once a month.

22. Travel to Italy.

23. Get a new blog design.

24. Review my financial retirement plan.

25. Begin working on my book.

26. Drop a dress size.

27. Take on a cause.

28. Replace my morning coffee with green tea.

29. Take a hot air balloon ride.

30. Keep a Gratitude Journal.

31. Thank some of my former school teachers: Mrs. Smith, Mr. Gilliland, Mr. Brooks.

32. Take a sunset horseback ride.

33. Participate in a 1/2 marathon.

34. Go to the Hollywood Bowl with a picnic.

35. Camp on the beach.

36. Get a dog.

37. Try a new recipe once a week.

38. See the desert in bloom.

39. Watch a movie marathon.

40. Go on a baseball trip.

41. Plan my 50th birthday bash.

42. Take a family portrait.

43. Pay off my student loans.

44. Get a new car. (Not a minivan)

45. Try out for The Amazing Race.

46. Complete Covenant II.

47. See Les Miserables (again!).

48. Learn to knit a hat.

49. Scan and organize old photos.

50. Practice spanish weekly.

So, there you have it. This list will stay up under the “My Story” menu tab on my blog. So you and I can both go back there and check it out to see how I am progressing. Good thing I have some time to finish it off because I will definitely need it. Now, I am going to get celebrating my own Memorial/Birthday….

Blogging from the Big Apple

I have been on vacation in New York. That is, if you call flying across the country with three kids, and two septuagenarians to attend a college graduation and family wedding, a vacation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I love to travel, but vacationing with a large family, to attend assorted family events makes it more family than vacation.

In the interest of economizing I booked our flight on a red-eye from LA to JFK.  I tried to prepare us all for red-eye flight by packing neck pillows and blankets.

Waiting to board the red-eye to NYC

We were scheduled to arrive in the city that never sleeps at the sleepy hour of 5:30 a.m. I thought  this was a good idea since it could  save us a few hundred dollars by not having to pay for the extra night in a hotel.  I figured that if we could check into our hotel early we could  rest and freshen up later.   I am also the kind of person who can sleep anywhere, including an airplane, and who needs sleep anyway?  Well, maybe my 70+ year-old parents and my kids could have used some.

Asleep at breakfast.

So much for my planning.  But,  eventually we did manage to get into our room shortly before noon, and everyone promptly went down for a long nap. Finally, about mid afternoon,  we headed out to explore the city. We stopped at Rockefeller Center.

In front of 30 Rock

And Diego and Nico stopped at the Lego Store in Rockefeller Center.

We strolled down 5th Avenue where my parents visited the Waldorf Astoria…

My parents, being the good Catholics that they are, wanted to visit the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Juan, being the Apple Fanboy that he is, wanted to visit his cathedral…

We ended up at Central Park for a carriage ride.

The family in a carriage at Central Park

Diego in Central Park

Then took the subway to Times Square, where we took more pictures  and saw ourselves on the Jumbo-tron.

There was much more on our list that we wanted to do, but time,  money, and energy prevented it. So, we ended our first day in the city with a meal at Juniors and their famous cheesecake.

On Day Two in NYC we had planned on heading out to Ground Zero, and having an early lunch in Little Italy and then take the 1:00pm tour of the Statute of Liberty. I had the foresight to book the Statue of Liberty tour online months ago, but wasn’t able to book the tour to the inside of the torch since it was sold out until August!  What I didn’t’ have the foresight to do was account for the inevitable delay that occurs when you are traveling with such a large and diverse age group like mine. Let’s just say that traveling with my family is  a lot like herding cats. I also did not plan on it taking nearly an hour to get from the upper East side to financial district in our rental van. By the time we arrived at our $45 (!) parking lot we had to sprint to make it to the ferry that would take us to Liberty Island.  We finally managed to board the ferry, and had a great memorable  time touring this landmark in the rain, wearing our trash bags rain gear.

The kids made all kinds of inappropriate jokes as their brother posed under Lady Liberty's nostril.

It was a foggy, rainy day at Liberty Island.

Running low on energy and time, we had to skip the Ellis Island tour and headed back to Ground Zero where we took in the very moving exhibit at the World Center Tribute Center.  By the end of the tour we were all feeling pretty drained so we thought some authentic NY style pizza was in order. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything that looked like an authentic NY pizzeria so we ended up at a little hole in the wall that had only two bar stools and a standing eating counter. After two days of walking the NY sidewalks, our feet were tired, and even though next door there was a Papa Johns Pizza  with plenty of seating, we were unwilling to compromise comfort for “authentic” NY pizza by the slice. This “experience” finished us off and we limped back to our van so we could make the 2 hour drive north to the Hudson River Valley to attend the graduation of my cousin from West Point the next morning.

The graduation ceremony was very inspiring, and was a nice educational tie-in to the previous days sites we had visited.  At the conclusion of the ceremony the graduating cadets throw their hats in the air and the kids attending are allowed to enter the field  retrieve one. Erica, Nico and Diego each got a hat. Inside the hat, the cadet had written their name and included a message of inspiration and/or money. Erica and Diego both got nice notes in their hat and Erica got $50!  I promptly told her she could use the money to buy her own NY souvenirs, since NYC has to be the most expensive place for a family vacation!

The rest of the weekend was spent with family, attending the ceremonial pinning of lieutenant bars on my cousin overlooking the Hudson River at Trophy Point, and a celebratory brunch at the historic Thayer Hotel.

Sunny skies at West Point’s Trophy Point.

My cousin gets her Lieutenant bars overlooking the Hudson River.

On one of our last days we were supposed to attend my cousin’s wedding at 2:00pm at the West Point Catholic Chapel.  However, someone forgot to inform the bride and groom that NY state law requires the marrying couple wait 24 hours after getting the marriage license before getting married. Since my cousin got her marriage license on her wedding morning, the priest refused to marry her. Oops! With some last-minute scrambling and frantic phone calling, an unofficial wedding was rescheduled for the guests at 2:45 at a protestant chapel.  The official Catholic wedding would take place the following day,  after the requisite waiting period, and after we left for our trip home.

Once the happy couple’s ceremony was concluded, we proceeded to the official reception with an official open bar.  My kids cleaned up real nice and everyone had a great time.

The other wedding guests seated at our table remarked how well-behaved our kids were, and asked how we did it?  I revealed our secret. I told them that we pinch them under the table any time they start to misbehave. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised that after over four days of traveling and sight-seeing my kids were still getting along pretty well and they remembered their table manners. And I was even more surprised,  shocked actually, at how grown up they suddenly seemed…hanging out at the bar ordering Rob Roys and Shirley Temples and dancing all night.

Whose son is this?

Diego worked it all night long!

All in all it turned out to be a good trip. But, after all the coordinating of travel plans, schedule snafus and family obligations, I am ready for a REAL vacation. One that involves me, and a beach,  and a drink that isn’t named after a 1940’s child movie star.

Fun Friday: Santa Barbara Overnight

Today is Juan’s birthday and we are in Santa Barbara for an adults only overnight.It’s one of those times where the planets aligned and all the kids are either with the other parents or with Grandma. The gods were especially smiling since I managed to secure a discounted price at a beachside hotel and a nice restaurant.

We are enjoying each other and some of our favorite things.

Happy birthday to the one who keeps my heart awhirl!