Before Jesse and I had kids, we called his mom and dad's house "the spa." Lots of relaxing, good food and drink and great company. With 3 active kids, it's not quite the same as the old days, but we're all enjoying ourselves.
Lee is reading 2 books a day or so (Magic Treehouse and Encyclopedia Brown from the library), Asa is drawing up a storm, and Maxine's enjoying the carpeted expanse of the living room as she tries to crawl (she's pretty far from it still!). Aleta got us a membership at the JCC so we've also been swimming with the kids and taking advantage of the fitness facilities. We're having such a nice time here!
2 weeks till the end of our trip and our return to Toronto- we're getting all rested up.
Jesse's lovely grandparents live in Sarasota.
We spent one of our last days in Florida with them. Lee went fishing for the first time with them on the dock behind their condo.
Grandma Paula was the only one brave enough to put the bait on the hook. (She told all the boys and men to "Stop screaming!") Lee didn't catch anything but he had fun!
Everyone in our family thinks that Maxine looks like Grandma Paula. She is lucky to have such a beautiful grandma to take after--
We went back to Myakka Park and the boys all went out in a canoe all around the lake. We went there once before (I posted about it here) but we didn't have time for a paddle that day. Jesse said they saw at least 30 alligators, who were luckily fairly uninterested in my boys.
Next stop was to visit with my Aunt Wanda and Uncle John in Arcadia, FL. I had not seem them in 23 years! The kids got a ride in a golf cart, and had pudding and played cards with Aunt Wanda. It is so nice to feel welcomed and loved by family- even when we haven't seen each other in so long!
On the way home, we stopped for dinner at a Red Lobster. Lee has been asking to try lobster and crab- we thought it would be the perfect restaurant for a little guy to try seafood. (It was.) The crab was a hit, not so much the lobster.
Here is Lee with his "Ultimate Feast" entree:
A lovely day!
We've been doing lots of relaxing here in Sarasota with Josh, Jen, Maya and Mali. We've been eating well (Jen makes great New Mexican food!!) and enjoying outside time and cousin love.
Jesse and I have gone to 2 (!!) movies and today we had a great day at the beach.
Lee said, "This is life!!" I couldn't have said it better!
Yesterday we went to this fantastic park, "a remnant of wild Florida," Myakka River Park. We walked on a trail to a suspension bridge leading to an 80' tall tower that looked over the top of the tree canopy.
Turkey vultures swooped through the sky riding warm air currents. We all enjoyed the breeze and the view.
After the tower, we went over to the lake a few miles away.
We were all really hoping (well, all of us except Asa) to see some alligators. The alligators were all out in the lake hunting, as it was dusk and they hunt by night. But we did see some amazing birds (a biturn, egrets, a Great Blue heron, lots of turkey vultures)
If you look closely, you can see the vultures roosting in this tree.
Since my last post, the kids and I traveled back from Key West on the ferry--
They were amazing little travelers, as usual really, and there were lots of grandparents aboard to help me out.
We reunited with Jesse (yay!!) and came back to Sarasota.
I was pretty sick with a cold for the last few days but I am feeling better now. Asa had a crazy foot fungus that let an infection into his body so we had a little experience with the cash-and-carry approach USA health care system. He's much better now after some antibiotics.
The last few days we were in Key West we went swimming at a great public pool a block from my dad's house. It is on the roof of a US Navy Station building that the government gave to the city. It's on Navy land- you can see the housing in between the pool and the beach)
The boys had fun swimming with "Buppy"
We went on a fun day trip today and I will post about that tomorrow. Good night!
We're in Key West, staying in my dad and Bill's guest house. Only problem is that they are staying in it too as they are renovating their house!! But they are happy to have us so we're lucky.
Lee's birthday celebration with my dad and Bill:
cocktails on the "porch" of the new house
and ice cream
Asa- my lovely middle child.
Asa has been really challenging and funny lately- feeling himself growing older perhaps (he's now 3 and three-quarters!) and both loving and hating it. Ask him to do something and you might hear "I'm not gonna!!". The other day he said to me, "I so do not!! Mom, you're wrong!!" He's been pinching and hitting me lately, "as punishment." But at the same time, he is so sweet. Lee is his "dear sweet big brother," Max gets kisses, and I am "so beautiful."
We are at my dad and his partner's in Key West. They live in a neighbourhood that is part old Key West ghetto and part gentrified. Asa and I went out looking for the wild street chickens we could hear from the house. As soon as we saw one, he ran after it. "I'm gonna catch one!... I'm gonna pick it up and take it home for a pet!" He settled for throwing them some bread that my dad's neighbour Elvera gave us.
Asa has also been very interested in language lately. He loves to play rhyming games, and is always asking me how to spell things or "what does A-T-I-L-Q spell?" He has a flair for inventing words- one of his Bionicles has a weapon called a "smike poper," and Max's clip-on-to-a-table chair is her "hover chair." Today he brought me a piece of paper and said, "Write down these words. It's my poem."
The kids and I flew from New Mexico to Florida on Thursday. We'll meet up with Jesse here when he comes back from Japan. We're visiting Jesse's lovely cousins Josh and Jen and their daughters Maya and Mali. We were here 3 years ago, when Lee had just turned 4 and Asa was 8 months old (the same age Maxine is now!) Here's a picture from that visit:
We're staying in their sweet little guesthouse
the kids are playing together like long-lost friends
and the sun is shining!
Pat and Lisa had us over for an early (by one week!) birthday dinner for Lee. He wanted to celebrate with our family in New Mexico and with Jesse. (Jesse has gone to Japan for a business trip. We'll fly to Florida in a few days and he'll drive there when he gets back- We'll rendezvous in 2 weeks!) Lisa set up make-your-own-pizzas. Here's Lee making his own:
The boys and I made a Cream Cheese Pound Cake (highly recommended cake, and Lee's favourite- recipe to follow!).
Lee loved his new cowboy boots and a good time was had by all!
Here's the recipe for the Cream Cheese Pound Cake. It's from Bon Appetit a few years ago.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Using electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt; beat 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in flour at low speed until batter is smooth (do not overbeat). Transfer batter to pan.
Place pan in cold oven. Set temperature at 200°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase temperature to 250°F; bake 20 minutes. Increase to 275°F; bake 10 minutes. Increase to 300°F; bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour longer. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap; store at room temperature.)
We have Jesse's cousin, Chana, visiting us here in Taos. She's living in Santa Fe for a bit so we've been able to have lots of time together! She lived with us for 2 months in Vancouver, and was present at Maxine's birth, so we are quite bonded with her!
She was also able to fill in this morning as special guest homeschool teacher. What a treat!
After putting on the chains (!!) to get out to the main road, we spent the day in Taos. We had lunch at the famed New Mexican restaurant, Orlando's
followed by some town sightseeing/shopping and a trip to the library.
We also went to this great "all things western" store called Horsefeathers, where we got Lee a birthday present (!) and met the charming proprietor, Lindsay.
He has a huge selection of cool Western junk and cowboy boots.
The ones I liked were $400 (used!)
the Bluebird boot- ooh la la.
still in Taos!
we've been having some nice family time with Jesse's cousins, Pat and Lisa
On Monday we got huge amounts of snow- probably about 8 inches. Pretty unusual for the desert.
Our view has been transformed.
Yesterday "Uncle" Pat showed up at 9:30 a.m. after braving the elements to get the boys some snow boots and mitts. What a hero!!
One of the best things about being in New Mexico is the food.
My dear cousin Jen T. is from here, and years ago she taught me how to make Red Chile Enchiladas. I've been importing red chile powder from New Mexico ever since from Hatch Chile Express.
Even better than red chile is green chile. Hatch can Fed Ex frozen green chile but we've never gotten it together to do so.
Here in New Mexico you can buy frozen green chile at the grocery store.
It is a special kind of pepper (New Mexican chile pepper), roasted and chopped. This is so exciting for me, you have no idea!
I found a great site, Viva New Mexico, that has lots of traditional recipes. Last night I made Chile Verde Stew.
Wow!! It was great. The leftovers will make delicious Chile Verde burritos.
I just have to figure out how to get a bunch back to Toronto. I have a plan....
this is the house where we're staying
this is the view from the back of the house
It is so lovely here!
Auntie Nakeesha came to visit today-
and brought Asa a stuffed Musk Ox from Alaska. This is a great coincidence-- when he was 2, he made up a little rhyme that went "My socks! My socks! My musk ox!"
Here's a cute one of Miss Fluffy Head (a stranger passed her one day and said "Fluffy head!")
Lee went to spend the day and sleep over at Aunt Nakeesha's- they emailed that they are having a great time (we don't have a phone here!). Asa and I had a nice afternoon together while Max had an extra long nap. He got lots of attention, for once! He loves his new backpack from Grandpa Bruce, and wore it all day. He's also wearing his new "surfer dude" shirt we got thrift shopping in Albuquerque.
Good night, friends!
We landed in Taos last night. Jesse's cousin, Pat, his wife, Lisa, and their son, Connor, live here, as does Jesse's Aunt Nakeesha and her husband, Ivy. Pat's neighbour only lives here part-time and has generously lent us his house. It is a beautiful big comfy house and we are so happy and fortunate to be staying here! The view of the mountains and the land are incredible. It is freezing cold here though- probably as cold as Toronto- but so sunny!! Last night the boys enjoyed the gas fireplace-
Lee has been reading "Calvin and Hobbes" like crazy. It's annoying Asa, who has no one to play with when Lee's reading.
Our last stop in Arizona was Canyon de Chelly. We have been there before but had to go through again because it is so lovely. It is on Navajo land, and 40-50 families still farm on the canyon floor. There are ancient cliff dwellings--has been inhabited for 2500 years by different Indian people. It is such a gorgeous spot- way smaller than the Grand Canyon, but I like it better. We got there in time for sunset- here are a few pics, which turned out to be the only ones I took because the weather the next day was really bad. The boys learned how to say "I am a boy" in Navajo (especially helpful for Lee!) from a nice man we met up there selling jewelry and playing flute music.
We had dinner (including Navajo fried bread)near our motel, watched a movie on the computer with the kids, and turned in. The next morning we had planned a hike into the Canyon, but due to the cold and the rain we called it off and headed for Albuquerque.
On the road between Cottonwood and Canyon de Chelly, we drove through the Sedona energy vortex. What is a vortex? "A vortex, it is claimed, is an area of invisible, swirling energy
emanating from the earth and producing an uplifting, rejuvenating
sensation in visitors."
Hmmm.... Well, our compass was totally crazy-- spinning all around as we drove through the area.
It is beautiful though!
Yesterday, feeling revived by our day of rest and the sunny weather, we headed off for some sightseeing. First stop was Montezuma's Castle, a cliff dwelling that built by the Sinagua people 1,000 years ago.
When I was a kid I was fascinated by Indians, and read whatever I could get my hands on. I bought Lee some books about American Indians in the gift shop, and wondered aloud to Jesse if I was just projecting? Maybe, I decided, but in a good way. He seems to be enjoying the books- reading us interesting sections in the car.
It was also a beautiful spot- there were lots of these trees with bare white trunks- Arizona Sycamores.
Asa took this picture of Lee and Jesse:
After a picnic lunch, we drove to Jerome, Arizona. Jerome is an old copper mining town that went from 15,000 people in its heyday in the 1920's, to only 50 people in later years. The town is impressively situated on the side of a mountain, and has a lot of old-timey appeal. Here's a snap of the town with the J on the hillside above it, and one of the jail that slid 250 feet down the mountain.
When I was a kid, my family lived in Arizona for two years while my dad was getting his Ph.D. We had a lot of adventures (thanks, mom and dad!) and these two places made a big impression on me. I liked bringing our children around the old haunts.
The motel we were staying at for the last 3 days had very spotty internet service, so I haven't been able to post in a awhile. I'll try for a quick one while the boys are all swimming.
Yesterday the kids and I were going to a health food store across the street from our motel in Cottonwood. It was a 4 lane road, with no stop signs or lights to cross at. We waited and waited for someone to stop to let us cross but after at least 5 minutes, still no one had! I was even pointing my finger out in the road and making eye contact with people as they passed by, and still no one stopped!! In fact, they looked at me like I was crazy- "What's that woman DOING out here by the side of the road with her kids!!!"
We finally made it, and as we crossed the parking lot, a very well coiffed 50-something woman in a shiny silver sports car pulled up--
Lady: "Excuse me, can I give you and your children a ride somewhere?"
Me: "Oh, no, that's okay- we're just going to the store here."
Lady: "I saw you standing by the side of the road there, and I was trying to get your attention to give you a lift."
Me: "Oh, that's very nice, but we're just going here to the store."
Lady: "I could give you a ride back!"
Me: "Well, we're going to be here for a little bit."
Lady: "I don't mind waiting!"
Me: "Ummm... Thanks anyway!"
Wow- that makes up for everyone who didn't stop.
Yesterday we drove the scenic route from Wickenburg to Arcosanti (through some more serious curvy mountain roads- high desert this time). We had plans for a bigger day, but we were all feeling a bit rough and also hadn't realized we would lose an hour upon entering Arizona (the cleaner at the motel must have wondered why we checked out so g.d. late).
Arcosanti is a community that was started in 1970 by an Italian architect as an example of high-density urban living in harmony with nature. A small part of it has been built (what you see above-sorry, forgot to take any pictures- as I mentioned, it was a rough day...) It was a very strange place. They seem to get most of their money from making bells, showing tourists around the place, and hosting "workshops" for "interns." Charging people to work there seems sort of lame to me (I had the same reaction when I visited Findhorn -- an "ecovillage and spiritual community" in Scotland) but apparently lots of people want to do so. Jesse pointed out that it seemed strange to call it an urban community when it is in the middle of nowhere, on the end of a 2.5 mile dirt road. They have huge plans for completing the buildings that are part of the grand design, and want to have 5,000 people living there eventually. What they have built so far is funky and interesting architecture, but quite run-down already. I can see how it could be a groovy place to live, but it all seems like a long shot. Delusional may be too strong a word, but it did come to mind. And I am generally a pretty optimistic person!
Today we had a seriously low-key day. Maxine still has quite a bad cold, and Lee had a fever of 102 last night. We cranked up the heat and put on a humidifier. Lee was fine this morning and Maxine is on the mend for sure.
So now we plan for tomorrow and the next couple of days....
We decided to avoid Phoenix, and head up to north-central Arizona. We'll stay a few days in Cottonwood, where there are many things to do and see nearby. We got off the busy Interstate 10, and drove on a back road to Wickenburg, Arizona (ever hear of it?) It was a lovely drive, following the full moon.
The moon from the highway:
A bit later from the back road:
We left Palm Springs today. Maxine still has a bad cold- the wee girl has lost her voice- and cousin X had a stomach flu. Poor babies! We stopped by Joshua Tree for an afternoon hike. The boys were great- fantastic strong hikers, including a bit of accidental (pricker)bushwacking, and I only had to carry Asa the last half hour or so!