Oh Holy Night!

UltrabrI wonder if I could get Chris to do THIS for our house.

Maybe we could somehow charge admission to cover the electrical costs.

(Beware this links to a fairly large file.)

Thanks go out to my sister-in-law, Elisabeth for bringing this lovely sight, ahem, to light.

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No 2 alike

FlakeSometimes we all need something to bring out our inner child. 
Today I found this nifty site. 
And I made a snowflake (or two).   
You can, too. 
Have fun…I’d love to see yours.

See, I told you I was a bit flakey.

Week at a glance

Oh what a holiday week!

As you know, several of our family members
came to visit for Thanksgiving. While
Steve, Elisabeth and their two daughters stayed at Elisabeth’s mom’s house in
Sun City West, we enjoyed the pleasure of Lynne’s company all week.

When they arrived Saturday,
we all met at a fun restaurant in
Scottsdale to catch up, and to enjoy a much more relaxed reunion
than any the airport could provide. I
had done a little bit of research online before they arrived, to try to find an
eatery that would meet my requirements. First of all it needed to have a few vegetarian selections on the
menu. But, I still wanted to find
unusual carnivorous fare for Chris’ highly meat oriented family. Secondly, I was looking for a place with a
Western, Southwestern, or Mexican theme. Additionally, I thought it would be great to dine outdoors, in order to
highlight our fantastic weather. And
lastly, of course, it couldn’t cost a mint. The restaurant that I eventually chose was The Carlsbad Tavern in
Scottsdale, AZ.  Nov_05_055

It featured
New Mexican fare, had a few veggie choices, and was very affordable. The main draw to this particular eatery
though, was the nice patio area – complete with a fake little stream (including
a waterfall and bridge) and large fire places. Reading that it sounds incredibly cheesy, but it actuall
y was done
well. The food was not particularly
spectacular, but it hit the spot nicely. Many dishes featured New Mexican green chili and I think everyone left
satisfied and happy.

After this lovely meal, we
all piled into our two vehicles and drove and drove and drove around the north
side of
Phoenix to Elisabeth’s mom’s place. Have I mentioned lately how nice it is to not
ever have to think about traffic? I love
that about our tiny little town. We visited in Sun City West for a few minutes
and then headed for home.
 

Now I don’t know about you,
but when my mother or my mother-in-law comes to visit, I scrub my house top to
bottom. There is no dust, the linens are
fresh, and the toilet bears resemblance to a gleaming chalice. This time was different. During the final couple days of pre-company
frenetic scrubbing, my husband and older daughter were hard at work sanding
sheetrock and tearing up the kitchen floor. May I just say that this is not at all conducive to dusting or
mopping? Scheduled to retrieve said
family from the airport (a two hour drive from our home) at   
1:40 pm, the kitchen floor was finally laid 12
hours before
arrival. In fact, we were still painting
that morning. So my house was not the
sparkly, impressive retreat I had been hoping to provide. But so be it.
After the initial “reveal”, I was able to just relax and allow it to be
what it is…home.

Sunday was quite a bit more
relaxed. Steve came up the hill to go
four by fouring with Chris and Maya in the jeep he’d rented for their visit. They drove up to the top of the hill
overlooking town and took some nice pictures. Then went exploring over by the old mine and eventually down the
mountain. Along the way they found a waterfall
and small pool of water out in the middle of the desert. They came back exhilarated and grinning. We fed Steve and all settled in for an early
night, as we had planned a special surprise trip for Lynne the following day.Jerome_nov_2005_006

We rose early on Monday morning
in order to make it to 
Clarksdale,  AZ  by noon. There we had reservations on the Verde Canyon
Railroad, which was scheduled to leave the station at 1:00
for a relaxing four hour trip through “The Little
Grand Canyon.” Lynne had no idea where
we were headed. We teased her, saying it
was an appointment for Lasik Surgery. With Jerome/Clarkdale a mere 1&1/2 or so away from home, we figured
leaving by  9:30 am 
would give us ample time
to make it to for the
noon check in.   

We grabbed a quick bite in Prescott and were on our way, making pretty good time. We took Highway 89 north out of Prescott, through Chino Valley and were driving along feeling pretty excited. About an hour out of Prescott, with Ash Fork looming, we began to wonder why we
weren’t seeing any signs for Jerome. Shouldn’t we have passed it by now? With a sinking feeling I pulled out the map.

“Um, Honey.”

Pause.

“Yeah?”

“There are, um, two highway
89’s.”

“What?!?!?”

“Yep. There’s this 89A. It looks like that’s the one that goes to Jerome.”

So we turned around and were
zooming back down the road. This was
around 11:15
. As I was
tearing the map apart with my eyes (talk about laser eyes), I chanced to look
up in time to see a sign pointing to the road leading off to the left.
 

“Hey, did that say it went to
Perkinsville? That’s on the map. It’s between us and Jerome. We should take that. IT WILL BE A SHORTCUT!”

Fortunately, u-turns are,
like, the state turn of
Arizona. Did I mention that half the population
appears to be older than 70 – with many of those rapidly approaching the 100
year mark? So we flipped a u-turn and
headed down highway 71. I should have
known that there really are no true shortcuts in Arizona
. Five miles
into it, the pavement ended. After about
a 5 second discussion we decided to continue. I mean; just how rough could a “highway” get?
 

Did I also mention that we were in
a Honda Odyssey Mini-Van?

Highway was, in fact, a ridiculous
name for this road. Barreling down this
rocky dirt road at 50-60 mph, we quickly came upon a series of unmarked forks
in the road. Each time we headed
right. Every once in a while we would
see a sign indicating that we had not only traveled far less than we thought,
but that we were, indeed, still heading in the general direction of Perkinsville.

Now, I can only assume that
we eventually passed though the booming metropolis of Perkinsville, because the
signs ultimately began to read ‘Jerome’. Upon seeing these, our hearts leapt. Jerome was only 16 miles from Perkinsville, and we still had about 25
minutes to get there. The next six miles
were great. We were roaring around the dirt
road switchbacks like a van full of bootleggers on fire. Yeehaw! We’re gonna make it!

Then we saw the sign. “Curvy road – next ten miles.” What the heck had we been on, I thought. Well, comparatively speaking…we had been on
the equivalent of I-80 as it passes through Iowa and Nebraska
. The next ten
miles were indeed curvy. And Chris did
not slow down – much. We zoomed around
cliffs. We screeched along crags. We talked about the journey being
more
important than the destination, and tried to enjoy the amazing scenery.
Well, everyone else seemed to enjoy it. I tried not to look down, for
fear of
throwing up on my map and brochures. Meanwhile, all this was being
accompanied by the dulcet sound of baby
snores coming from the car seat behind me. I wanted to pick that baby
up…jostle her awake…and yell, “How can
you sleep at a time like this? Don’t you
know it’s time to panic?!?”
 

Then we hit the most
unbelievable phenomenon imaginable – traffic. Yes, we found ourselves following another
Honda Odyssey, which was in turn following some incredibly slow moving
SUV. Or were they in fact just being – gasp,
choke- cautious?

At this point in the story, I
just have to say that I can now truly see that Lynne had indeed raised three
rowdy boys and a girl who tried her very best to keep up. She was calm, unfazed, and even (I believe)
somewhat amused. Jerome_nov_2005_123

In due time, the Odyssey and
SUV pulled out, allowing us to pass and we pulled into Jerome. If there had been clouds, I do think they
would have parted. Crawling through
Jerome at the posted 25 miles per hour, we headed down the hill to
Clarksdale and the train. When we arrived at the Depot, Chris jumped out while I parked our dusty
van. We had 3 minutes until the train
left and were the last passengers to board.
 

Unbelievable!

Since we’d been so late to
arrive, we had seats spread around the car, but that’s OK. Most people were out in the open air car
anyway, so we were able to simply sit where we wanted until folks came to claim
their spots. Then we could move to
another place with a great view. And
there were many great views to be had. I’m
so glad we made it. After I calmed down
a bit…thanks to a much needed visit to the restroom and my brilliant
husband’s offer of a Corona
, it was an absolutely stunning event.Jerome_nov_2005_030 

In addition to the cliffs,
rivers and geological formations, we spied javelina, heron, and bald
eagles. We learned about the ancient
cliff/cave dwelling tribe of the area. They were called Sinagua by the Spanish – meaning without water, and
disappeared at some point. They are
thought to have joined up with the Navajo or Hopi.

Our train ride was a
fantastic and beautiful way to relax for the latter half of the day. I would recommend it to anyone. Oh, I almost forgot to mention. The turn around spot at the midway point in
the ride is, get this, Perkinsville. I
couldn’t believe it.

After our lovely, calming
train ride, we headed up to Jerome. Unbeknownst
to Lynne, I had been researching Jerome for about a year. I planned to surprise Chris for our
anniversary in April but was unable to make it happen. It was the same story for his birthday in
August. So when I found out that Lynne
was coming for Thanksgiving; and then additionally that it would occur just
days before Kajsa went onto the transplant list, I thought to myself. “It’s now or (what will seem like) never.”

I spent a lot of time looking
into hotels, inns and B&Bs in and around Jerome. I eventually chanced upon a great package
deal for the train and a hotel room, so I snatched it up. We stayed at The Connor Hotel in Jerome. It is a relic of the mining boom of the
1800s. The whole place is done up in a
Victorian motif and felt quite unique and special. We had some dinner at the Jerome
Brewery. Don’t be fooled by the name –
There is no beer brewed here and the food is OK, but not great. I would not recommend the place.

Where I would direct anyone
wanting a great meal, though, is the Mile High Café. This is where we all went for breakfast on
Tuesday. It was not only bright and
airy, but quite affordable and gastronomically divine. Jerome_nov_2005_076

We spent the day wandering
around Jerome window shopping. For those
of you who are not familiar with the town of
Jerome, it is a really neat place to visit. Jerome was originally a mining town built on
the incredibly steep side of Cleopatra Hill, and looking across the valley
toward the red cliffs of Sedona. The
houses are built along winding streets and appear to sit one on top of
another. When the mine closed, the
booming town of 1500 dried up and became just another western ghost town. Until, that is, the late 1960s when it was
discovered by cowboy hippies who began living in the old (condemned)
houses.  Jerome_nov_2005_100
It slowly grew into a unique,
bohemian artists’ community. There are
now about 500 people living in and around Jerome. If I had a truly artistic bone in my body, I
would love to be among them.
 

Our plan was to buy nothing
in Jerome. But Chris broke down and got
Kajsa a little Javelina stuffed animal. It is incredibly cute to hear her say Javelina. Well worth the nominal cost. Maya bought herself a cactus stir stick
(She’s begun collecting these), and I found a Jerome magnet.
Jerome_nov_2005_110

We headed back home that
evening and were more than happy to put our feet up. This was especially true knowing that we were
to meet Elisabeth, Steve and the girls in Wickenburg the next morning. Fortunately, they were alright with meeting
up at 12:00
. This allowed
us to sleep in a little bit and to let Kajsa get a nice long rest.

From Wickenburg, Chris and
Steve traveled half an hour to Ben Avery Shooting Range
where they fired at poor innocent clay targets for a
few hours. It seems I cannot escape men
with guns. My father also shoots skeet,
as well as being an instructor thereof. In fact, Chris is very excited to take my dad to Ben Avery when my
parents come to visit in January. Hopefully, he’ll do better then. Apparently, Steve ended with a far better score than Chris.
 

While the guys were off
portraying their personal version of manliness, we were the height of girliness. My plans for visiting The Wickenburg Western
Museum were quickly dashed as the tourist shops once again beckoned. We hit a few places. The one we spent the most time in had a great
watch that I tried on and really liked. Ever since mine died a couple of months ago, I’ve had my eye out for a
new one, but hadn’t really found anything I liked. This one was slightly feminine, but sturdy
enough to handle my life. I made sure to
bring Maya over so that she could see it, my plan being that she’d drag Chris
down to show it to him for my birthday on Monday.Wickenburg_nov_2005_001

We hit a couple more places
and ended at Chaparral Ice Cream Parlor. Everyone had a scoop before we headed up the hill toward home. After the guys joined us we had a big
barbecue complete with a fantastic barbecued cabbage from a recipe we found in
the book my mother got Chris for his first father’s day. We made both vegetarian and original versions
and everyone loved it. Even I gobbled it
up – and I have always been a great loather of cabbage. The recipe is quite simple.

Barbecued Stuffed Cabbage:

1. Turn cabbage upside down and core/hollow out a nice
sized bit. You want to have plenty of
leaves left, but no heart.

2. Chop up some onion. Fry it. Then you add in your
protein. It originally called for bacon,
but I substituted diced vegetarian Kielbasa. This I added to the frying onion until I had a nice crispy mess of
goodness.

3. Scoop this into your cabbage and cover it with about ¼
cup of barbecue sauce and a half a stick of cubed butter.

4. You can then cover this with aluminum foil and stick
into either the oven or the grill. You
want it to cook either in indirect heat or at 350 for an hour to and a
half. It is done when the cabbage is
fork tender.

As
we ate this we couldn’t help but think up new ways that this could be
prepared…perhaps with Hoisin Sauce or Italian Sausage. We also baked apples and pears for
dessert. These apparently went nicely
with the pig that the rest of the family ate. I know that I for one felt the veggies to be more than sufficient.

When
we were about to eat, cards came out. I
got a very nice birthday card from Steve and Elisabeth as well as flowers and
the ingredients for Buttery Nipples. No,
it doesn’t have butter or nipples, but is instead Baileys Irish Cream and
Dekuyper’s Butterscotch Schnapps. Yum!

Lynne
also gave me a card along with a little box. When I opened it, what should I find but the watch I’d admired
earlier! I was so surprised. I don’t know when she’d found time to talk to the saleswoman. Mothers sure do know how to be sneaky.

Chris’
brother and his family stayed as late as they could, and then we had to say
good-bye, knowing that we would not see them again for many months. I was just glad we got a chance to visit, no
matter how brief it may have been.

After
they left, I made a couple of pies while we played a game of This and That,
then went to bed.

Thursday
– Thanksgiving – Thankful Thursday. We
had much to be thankful for.

I
cooked all day. I made dressing, mashed
baked potatoes, green been casserole, sweet potatoes & cranberry
relish. Maya helped with the sweet
potatoes and crescent rolls. Chris made
pancetta wrapped pork loin for Lynne and himself.

We
managed to sit down by 5:00 

to veritable feast. We all said things
that we were thankful for: Among them
the presence of family, the ability to provide such a great meal, and Kajsa’s
entry onto the donor list. We ate and
talked and then all pretended not to be sleepy.

Later
we had some pie. The pumpkin was a
simple traditional recipe, but for the pecan, I had chosen a delectable
Chocolate Chip Kailua version. Oh my
goodness. It was amazing.

Here’s
the recipe:

PECAN PIE WITH KAHLUA AND
CHOCOLATE CHIPS

Ingredients:

1/2
cup sugar

1/4
cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1
tablespoon all purpose flour

3/4
cup dark corn syrup (I used half corn syrup and half molasses)

1/4
cup Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur

1
teaspoon vanilla extract

3
large eggs

1
cup chopped pecans

1/2
cup semisweet chocolate chips ( I used half semisweet and half dark chocolate
chips)

1
purchased frozen deep-dish 9-inch pie crust

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat sugar and butter
in medium bowl until smooth; beat in flour. Gradually beat in corn syrup, then
Kahlúa and vanilla. Mix in eggs, then chopped pecans. Sprinkle chocolate chips
over bottom of crust. Pour filling into crust.

2. Bake pie until filling is puffed around edges
and just set in center, covering edge of crust if browning too quickly, about
45 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely. (Can be prepared 1 day
ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Serves
8 to 10.

Credit
goes to: Bon Appétit December 1996

When I took the pie out it looked
burned, but there was not a hint of this in the flavor. I think it may have just been attributable to
the molasses.

Lynne
had to be to the airport early yesterday, so Chris drove her there alone. We got up to say farewell, and then promptly
fell back into bed.

All
in all it was a great week and a fantastic visit. It is; however, going to be a welcome
challenge to get back into the normal swing of things around here.

I
hope that you all also had a peaceful, happy
Thanksgiving with much to be grateful for.

Update

Fall_colors_008

I’m sorry that I haven’t been here for a
while. I’ve been feeling a bit blue
lately…and whenever that happens I tend to withdraw from all that I usually
am a part of. I apologize if I worried
any of you. That was absolutely not my
intention. In order to boost my mood,
I’ve been doing a lot of purging. Bathroom cabinets, children’s clothing, you name it. I’ve really only dialed-up long enough to
check email and see what’s going on with the family at large.

So tonight when I logged into my email
& saw a note from Running2Ks, I must admit I felt a pang of guilt. I really hadn’t noticed how long it’d been
since I’d posted anything. Thank you for
reminding me that I am not alone in the world. It is so easy for all my old childhood insecurities to convince me that
no one will notice if I slip away. Again, thank you.

So I guess with all of that said, I
should post some sort of an update.

Hmmm… Where to begin. Chris has been working non-stop – both with
Shaun and on the house. We’re
desperately trying to get it ready for company. Chris’ mom, Lynne, is coming for the holiday. His older brother Steve will also be flying
down with Elisabeth, his wife, and their two dear daughters, Shelby and
Sarah. Sadly, for us Steve et al will be
staying an hour away at Elisabeth’s mom’s house; so we will only be enjoying
their company for a couple of days. But
I guess a little amount of time is far better than none at all.

Lynne, on the other hand will be staying
with us for 6 days. And while she
graciously says that we shouldn’t feel the need to clean for her; she is still
my mother in law. And like it or not,
there are certain face-saving obligations that go along with that
relationship. It’s still going to be
great to see her!

So, I suppose that’s another aspect of
my life that’s had me somewhat preoccupied.

As for the girls:

Maya’s her normal sweet, smart
self. Her discipline with school work is
truly to be commended. Of course, she
missed the school bus this morning and had to awaken Chris to drive her in to
Prescott . I think it will be a while before that
happens again. I guess even the smartest
among us can make mistakes.
 

Kajsa’s just plodding along hitting
milestone after milestone. Her
vocabulary is simply growing by leaps and bounds. It is an amazing process to behold. She knows most of her colors and shapes, can
count to sixteen, and is working hard to grasp the alphabet. Today she told me that I was “So funny.” And yesterday she mastered making horsy
noises with her lips and voice.

Today was Kajsa’s Dialysis
appointment. I found out that she is to
be listed for transplant next Wednesday. I was also informed that this may be overkill, as our transplant social
worker has apparently received numerous phone calls from family members who are
interested in volunteering for donor testing. (Oh yeah, I was crying at Dialysis again. But it’s so nice when they are tears of
immense awe and wonder at the beauty of the human spirit.) They [the potential donors] have asked to
remain anonymous. I can only assume that
this is to avoid disappointing us if there is not a “good” match found. I just want to say, I could never be
disappointed. I don’t know how many of
you there are. I additionally don’t know
who among you has made this truly awesome gesture. But I must say that I am more than thankful. Even if no “good” match is found within the
group of live donors, I will always be deeply, deeply grateful.

Practically speaking, after Julie has
listed Kajsa; Sandra will begin the process to gain approval for the workups of
any and all potential live donors.

So I guess to sum up. People are great. I am tired and feeling the seasonal
change. The blues are being abated by my
love for my wonderful extended friends and family. Maya rocks. Chris is a acing his classes and working hard elsewhere. And Kajsa is still an angel.

Thank you for your patience while I was
out of touch. I suppose now I need to
check in and see how all of you have been. I look forward to hearing all about your recent adventures.

BUSH HAIKU

Bushdisaster9krThis is a poem made up entirely of actual quotations from George W. Bush, arranged for "aesthetic" purposes, by Washington Post writer Richard Thompson.
A wonderful poem like this is too good not to share.
Ah, yes! A testament to literacy in the age of Every Child Left Behind!

MAKE THE PIE HIGHER!

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It’s a world of madmen and uncertainty
And potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet
Become more few?

How many hands have I shaked?
They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.

I know that the human being
And the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, Where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher!

Make the pie higher!

Grand Canyon to get Glass Bridge

Taken from the National Geographic website:

_grandcanyon

August 26, 2005

Fear of heights?

This is definitely no place for you.

The all-glass, balcony-like "Skywalk"–shown in an illustration
released this week–will extend over the edge of the Grand Canyon,
4,000 feet (1,200 meters) above the Colorado River.

"The Skywalk will be an attraction unlike any other in the
world," said Sheri Yellowhawk, CEO of the Grand Canyon Resort
Corporation. The company is building the bridge in the Hualapai Indian
Reservation on the south rim of the canyon.

The Skywalk is scheduled to open to the public in January 2006
as part of a new resort on the reservation. The resort, known as Grand
Canyon West, is to include a re-created Indian village and a restaurant
perched on the edge of the canyon. Tourism is the reservation’s biggest
source of income.

Grand Canyon West will be on the western edge of Grand Canyon
National Park, about 120 miles (about 200 kilometers) from Las Vegas.
But perhaps not even the Las Vegas Strip’s over-the-top attractions
will be a match for this glass-bottom walkway over the world’s biggest
gorge.

—David Braun