Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Neither one of us is crazy about turkey, so I did a beer-can chicken on the grill out front, and we matched that with some traditional sides: green bean casserole and cornbread stuffing.  I forgot to look for a can of Ocean Spray cranberry; that was the only thing really missing.  But we had a nice day, and a nice meal, and overall I’m calling TurkeyDay 2012 a success.  Much of the rest of 2012 has been rougher than most years, but today was nice.  For no reason at all except it’s Turkey Day (and, I suspect, he loves me) my brother-in-law Bill caught me on Facebook today for a quick hello and some well-wishes.  Quick, and simple, and really no big deal, but it means a lot to me.  I miss my family and having them get a quick word in now and then means a lot.

After that, I heard from a friend from the Manila days, with a “Happy Thanksgiving” message and an update on her upcoming travels to ZAMBIA!!!! Congrats, Carolyn!  Carolyn LOVES Africa.

We’ve had a hectic few months; our Nanny, the beloved YaYa, got sick over the summer with what turned out to be chronic renal failure, so we’ve been working thru that; dialysis, lots of doctor visits, and lots of reassurance that she’s cared about and cared for.   Then we found out Lisa’s Daddy wasn’t just feelin’ punky much of the summer because he was old and tired, but because the cancer he’d cleared many many years ago is returning; he’s had a rough autumn, but he’s tough as an old shoe, and doing pretty well with in-home care at this time.  Lisa was able to work things such that she could go home and spend a significant chunk of time with her folks while they work out the changes in their lives from these developments; she was gone for 5 weeks, and I’ve never missed anybody more.  But she’s home now, and we’ve got a visit back with the whole fam-damily coming up pretty soon.  And then maybe we’ll make it up to the Maryland side of things before the year’s out!!

I’ve got much to say and much to show, but I’ll do more soon, for real, I promise.  Get back to reading the blog, and I’ll get back to what we all really want, which is more stories and pictures of the two beautiful girls.

Hope y’all found much to be thankful for this season and on this day; I’m looking forward to this Holiday Season, cuz honestly 2012 needs to finish strong – it’s been kinda sucky for a few months!

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I Still Miss Someone

It never occurred to me until I came up with that song title for this post, that it was my Mom who first introduced me to the music of Johnny Cash, among so many other things.  She would have been 91 today.

Oh, no I never got over those blues eyes
I see them every where
I miss those arms that held me
When all the love was there

Happy Birthday, Mom, and I Still Miss Someone – You.

Last Day of the Terrible Twos?

OK, I know they actually go on longer than that, and 3 can be as bad as two, but honestly, two has been mostly delightful.  At this very moment, in fact, she is next to me saying “un, two, tea, pour, pibe, six, seben, eight..”  and she’s counting the slots on my 7-day pill reminder box.  That’s right, my 7 day pill reminder box.  Yet she’s consistently counting to 8.  I will have to watch more closely to determine where the 8 is coming from, but I don’t want to spook her cuz she’s cute as all get-out.   Tomorrow she turns 3, and we’ll have some fun, and take some pictures, and show ’em to y’all.  And maybe someday I’ll explain my long absence from the blog.

We’ve decided Cuauhtémoc Brewing could sell a lot more of this swill if it came with one of these in the box!

Peace from Mexico City!!

Small Number, Big Love

It's been a Party ever since!

Today I’m just going to load the dang thing up with pictures, as many as it’ll let me, because I think they’ll tell the story better than my words could.  But to get the ball rolling, 4 years ago today it was snowing in Atlanta, cancelling flights to the area and even closing the airport for a moment.  I remember this so vividly because my very good friend, Paul, cut short a trip to Hawaii to sit in the Phoenix airport and be told he couldn’t connect thru to ATL.  Lisa’s very dear friend Beth agreed to FLY to Atlanta, despite strong personal misgivings about air travel, and was foiled by the weather.  Both of these missed connections are important because both wanted to be in Atlanta for the same reason – The Wedding of Steve and Lisa, billed as the Love of the Century, but hell, it was only 2008.  Anybody who wants to top us is going to have to go some, though, because in the intervening four years we’ve changed countries of residence three times, had two Absolutely Adorable Daughters, and grown closer than ever.  I wanted to post today to celebrate finding other half of my heart, and tricking her into marrying me and thinking it was all her idea.

Sadly, I have no pictures of the Very Beginning, mostly because I had no idea it was the beginning of anything at all.  Lisa came to work where I worked in late 2003, and although we talked a bit, it was essentially professional and (I thought) I thought nothing of it.   Then I thought a little more of it, and then we were going to lunch together literally EVERY day she was there (she worked an odd schedule).  And when we were finally kind of dating, which probably dates to about June of 04, I told my good friend JoeHaney I was dating.  He was amazed, amused, appalled, and five other things, not all of which start with A.  He asked if it was an on-going thing, and I said Yeah, and he allowed as how he ought to know her name, then, and I said “Lisa.  I met her at work.”  To which he responded “Lisa from the Christmas Party??!!!??!!!” And I had no idea what he was talking about.  He said I talked her up very much after coming home (sober, even) from the company Christmas Party 6 months earlier.  JoeHaney is of course delusional, (he’s friends with me, after all) so I assumed he was inventing things.   Then I told our mutual friend Adam.  Who responded “Lisa??  Fron the Christmas Party???!!!”  So maybe Joe wasn’t making it up after all.  Or maybe they were in cahoots, to make me feel crazy.  Anyway, I took no pictures at the Christmas Party, because I’m apparently the only one who didn’t know I’d already fallen for her.  We did eventually get things going, though (boxes from a nearby liquor store, a borrowed truck from the above-mentioned Paul, and a sincere offer to help with a last-minute apartment move got me in the door), and that summer we took a weekend trip to Chattanooga, TN to see the aquarium and other cool things.  That I got a picture of.  This is from the See 7 States platform on Lookout Mountain, in Tennessee right across the GA line.

I hadn’t done a whole lot of traveling in my life up to that point, but Lisa had grown up with a love of travel that she got from her Most Amazing Aunt Mary, along with myriad other good traits.  I had been out of the country once, on a work trip to Switzerland, never been to California, crossed the Mississippi only twice, once on a work trip to Las Vegas and the other to Steamboat Springs with above-twice-mentioned Paul.

Yes, I was sweaty, fat, and had horrifying-looking glasses. Doesn't Lisa look nice, though?

We started kinda small, with a there-and-back day trip to Baltimore (my first glance at my future wife’s totally unhealthy obsession with IKEA) because Atlanta didn’t have an IKEA yet; no pics there, but I still have the orange Camden Yards hat we got on that trip.

We went to Chattanooga, where I learned that when confronted with vacation time in a new place with exciting things to do and places to see, Lisa’s favorite activity is sleeping late.

Then the next year we did the Meet The Family event; I met big sister Amy and her family, with big sister Christy, Dad, and big brother Ted, for a week at the beach in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and brought Lisa along.  With enough forewarning that she was able to get SCUBA-certified, and join me on a pair of scuba trips off the Carolina coast.   She got to meet some of the family, and hear snarky stories about the rest of  ’em 😉

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Family Dinner at Wrightsville Beach. We hid down at the far end of the table from Dad.

 

And then, we finally left the country – for a minute.  In December of 2005 we went on what was my first real cruise – I’d gone to Freeport, Grand Bahama from Miami when I was in college, but it was a leave-in-the-morning, return-in-the-late-evening deal, with no meals.  On a really old and crappy ship.  This was much nicer- we cruised with Celebrity, on the Zenith, which was their oldest and most decrepit ship at the time, but still really nice.  We sailed past Cuba, and were apparently greeted by gunboats as we approached, but Lisa and I slept thru that part.  We stopped in Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island, where we did some more scuba diving, and it was fantastic, if exhausting.  Then we came back to Florida via Key West, where Lisa and I wanted to do the typical touristy thing and get our picture taken in front of the Southernmost Point marker…. which was being repainted at the time, so it’s all unkempt-looking – you can even see the fancy 3M blue masking tape on it:

New sweetie-pie, new coat of paint on the Southernmost marker.

Bill and Amy got their picture made in the same spot a few years later, and it was cool to see the marker all finished, and with the masking tape removed.  We enjoyed that cruise so much we repeated it again 366 days later, but did a 7-night, 4 stop, 3-country cruise this time.  I’d taken a picture of another cruise ship anchored next to ours in Grand Cayman on the Zenith cruise, and it was Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas.  366 days later, that was the ship we were on for our second.

We enjoyed that one so much that we did it one more time, but this one was our honeymoon, two weeks after the Glorious Dance Party that we threw in lieu of a traditional wedding.  It’s hard to believe it’s been only four years, but we’ve squeezed some life out of those years – and some miles!   Lisa joined the US State Department’s Foreign Service in May of 2008, and we shipped out to Manila in the Philippines for 2 years in September.  Living in the tropics was awesome; we’re both anxious to do it again sometime, if that’s how things work out.

In very small print, that second red line says "your life just changed, forever... and for the better."

The Philippine Islands are amazing – lush, and tropical, and absolutely beautiful, and extraordinarily bio-diverse.  And in December of 2008, we learned that they were about to get diverse-er.  That’s Lisa over there, on the 7th of December (a Good Day To Get Bombed – thanks Dad!) showing me a foul-smelling little plastic stick that changed our lives forever.  40 weeks later we were joined, quietly and peaceably, by a beautiful daughter.  Our naming discussion lasted about 20 seconds:

ME:  “Well, I have some ideas for boy names, but I’m not married to any of ’em.  If it’s a girl, I’d very much like to name her Virginia Rose, after my Momma.”

LISA: “I like that very much, it’s a beautiful name!   And if it’s a boy, I’d like to name him Ross Heflin, after my grandfather.”

ME:  (long silence)  “I’m pretty sure it’s a girl.”

LISA:  “You just don’t like the name Heflin.”

But it all worked out, and we were joined by The Fabulous GinnyBoo in August of 09.  Every day since has been a treat – Ginny grows (larger and) more endearing and loveable literally every single day.  Here are a couple of favorites from the Philippines:

Balayan Bay, Eagle Point Resort, Anilao, Luzon, Philippines

Verde Island Passage, Mindoro/Luzon, Philippines

In the airport on the way to Boracay Island.

When we’d been in Manila one year, the State Department asked Lisa to name some places she might like to work next, and if things worked out they might send us to one of them, or they might send us somewhere else entirely.  One of the job requirements is that Lisa become fluent in at least one other language besides English, and the State Department accepts the teaching responsibility – they’ve got a little impromptu State Department college set up in Arlington VA.  So we named a bunch of spanish-speaking posts, from Hermosillo Mexico to Havana Cuba to Bogota Colombia, and they chose Mexico City for us .  So we finished out the two years in Manila, came to DC for 9 months, and started thinking about how only children can sometimes be really weird.  Lisa’s an only child.  My Dad’s an only child.  Need I say more?  😉  Weird’s not bad, per se, it’s just… well, it’s weird.    So we began discussing a possible second daughter, decided it was a good idea, and turned up pregnant some time in January of 2011.  We moved to Mexico in June of 2011, after learning to hablar a little español, and welcomed Ripley Ann to the family in October!

Ripley!I know it’s been only four years, but we’ve packed the living into them, and they’ve been a joy.  Today we start Year Number Five – I wonder what it holds in store??

Thanks to all for reading my ramblings – I wanted to take time to let folks know what a joyful ride these four years have been, and how much I’m looking forward to four more, and four more, and four more, and….

Noche Buena, estilo D.F.

Twas the night before Christmas, and all thru the land,

the people were happy and gay,

At least I assume so, they’re all speaking Spanish,

And I can’t understand what they say!!!

¡Feliz Navidad!

 

We had a lovely Noche Buena here tonight, just the family.  We’ve now got a new two-year traditional Christmas meal going; Ednalyn made her slowly-becoming famous Zacatecas-style Stuffed Roasted Chicken, which was served at our Christmas Party in VA last year.  I roasted some winter vegetables, and Lisa made her WorldBeating Pecan Pie, and the girls were just barely behaved enough that we were able to eat it with some leisure, and much pleasure.

Christmas Eve Dinner

The veggies were easy and delicious; just fingerling potatoes, carrots, red onion, and brussels sprouts drizzled with garlic-and-thyme-flavored olive oil and roasted in the oven for an hour.  The cheese is a local gorgonzola, a delightfully stinky spanish-style blue cheese.  It’s on the table because of that last unidentified thing – the rectangular yellowish lump that looks kind of like a slab of butter you’d be wise to throw in the trash.   It’s actually an English Fruitcake.   Lisa participates every year in a Christmas Ornament Exchange program with some “invisible friends” that co-inhabit a web chat/sharing site.   You get assigned a person to send an ornament to, and some other person gets assigned to send one to you.  We’ve gotten some neat things thru the years, and given some neat ones too.  Some of the folks feel inclined to send some other stuff along too, especially if they’re from OTUS (Outside the US).   This person is living in the UK, so in addition to the nifty reindeer ornaments she added 4 traditional British Christmas Crackers, which we’ll open tomorrow, and the pictured fruitcake, with a very funny letter accompanying the whole package.  The fruitcake is covered with marzipan, which is why it looks funny, but UKgirl said it’s good with Stilton cheese.  That not being available, we got the gorgonzola, and she was right – a good combo.

The pie caused a bit of consternation:  We wanted to wait a bit after dinner before having the pie; so we did.  In the meantime, Ginny ran off with YaYa to have her bath, and came back out, to watch her favorite song videos with Daddy, which is a distraction for getting her teeth brushed.  Teeth well-brushed, she entertained herself with toys and stuff prior to bedtime.  ‘Til DumDum Daddy broke out the pie –  before Ginny went to bed, but AFTER she’d had her teeth brushed – and refused to give her any, cuz of the teeth thing.   That didn’t go over so good.  Probably should have waited til she went to bed.  My dreams shall be haunted by Ginny’s voice wheedling “Moh?  Moh??”    Moh = More.  As in, More Pie.  LOTS More Pie.  Sometime tomorrow, that little girl is getting a big ol’ piece of pecan pie.

Tomorrow morning should be fun – Ginny still doesn’t fully grok Christmas, but she gets into the spirit of things a bit, and I know she’ll enjoy some of the things she’ll open tomorrow.  Next year I think will be the Big Deal, when we can really sell the Santa Claus thing, and the cookies and milk and all that stuff.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

I Like Weird Stuff

OK, I’m not the most adventurous guy in the world, but I love to eat. And if people somewhere eat something, and it gets a reputation for being good, I’m not usually going to stick my tongue out and say, “Eeeew, that’s gross” without giving it a try.  OK, OK, I found the boiled fertilized duck egg in the Philippines, balut, to be revolting, but at least I got all the way to the vendor before backing down.  Here in Mexico in the southern states, they have apparently billions and billions of grasshoppers.  I guess they traditionally destroyed a number of crops, so the locals decided, “Dang, if y’all are gonna eat my wheat, I’ll just have to eat y’all!!”  And so they do.  They’re called chapulines here in Mexico; other Spanish-speaking countries eat ’em, too, but they call ’em saltamontes, the Spanish word for grasshopper.  The Mexican name comes not from Spanish but from Nahuat, the language of the Aztecs who settled here before Cortez and his merry band arrived.  Hence Mexico’s version of Central Park, called the Bosque de Chapultepec, or “the forest on grasshopper hill.”

Anyway, I get an AWFUL lot of help around the apartment and the city from our building’s super, Chucho.  I wouldn’t be getting along around here half as well if it weren’t for Chucho.  Today, Chucho arrived back at work from his “weekend” (he works Monday thru Saturday, and lives many hours outside of Mexico City, so he doesn’t get home til Sunday morning,   His weekend is one day with the wife and kids, during the week he stays with a relative here in DF) bearing gifts:  guavas for Ednalyn, our beloved YaYa; granadas de moco for our neighbor upstairs (a story in itself) and chapulines for me!  Here is a stock photo of some chapulines in a market; they sell ’em by the 100 grams, and they’re very light, so 100 gr is a hot mess of grasshoppers.  ImageII was a bit nervous at first, of course, but Chucho told me they’re best if you re-fry ’em a bit, to make sure there’s no gushy parts (eew), and so they’ll be hot.  These were flavored with limón and salt, so all I did was dip ’em in hot vegetable oil for 30 seconds, and they were ready to go, as you see here:Image

So, how were they?  Well, not nearly as revolting as the balut, that’s for sure… and honestly, they tasted like something fried with lime and salt.  essentially no different than a very thin and insubstantial fried pork rind.  The inside is totally hollowed out by the cooking process, so what you see, the outside, is all you’re eating.  It’s very thin, and gets super-crispy, and pretty much dissolves away in your mouth after you crunch it.   Yeah, you’re eating bugs, but I guess if my cereal crops were devastated by locusts, I could be convinced to eat the locusts in turn.   In all, a worthwhile experience, and I’ll probably fry up and finish the rest of the bag.  I want to see if Ginny will try one, and Lisa has expressed an interest too.  Ednalyn and I both tried ’em yesterday, and were unanimous in saying “eeeeh – they’re all right.”Image

  Yum Yum Grasshoppers!!

OK, so on the other gift – the granadas de moco.  Did anybody look up the spanish?  No?  Then you missed out.  Yes, granada is the spanish word for pomegranate, a very important fruit and culinary ingredient in Mexican culture; but it’s also the word for grenade.  I don’t know if pomegranate is granada because it resembled a grenade to somebody, or if grenade is granada because it resembled a pomegranate to someone, but the fact remains, two meanings, one word.  And moco means “snot” or “booger.”  So yeah,  I’ve been given a fruit colloquially known as a booger grenade.  As it turns out, it is vaguely like a pomegranate inside, in that you don’t so much peel or slice it as crack it open, to reveal a mess (and I do mean mess) of lemon-seed-sized seeds coated in what looks like semi-clear mucus.Image

 Granada de mocho:  The “booger grenade”, or “snot pomegranate”

In truth, the fruit is more widely known in Latin America as either the granadilla or granada de china, and is a close relative of the passionfruit, whose taste it resembles, though a bit less sweet.

So two new tidbits to add to my worldly experience!  It’s a bit mind-blowing to consider all that’s happened in my life recently.  In 2003 I was 42 years old, had traveled to Las Vegas via Denver once, and other than that never been across the Mississippi river; I’d been out of the country twice; a day trip  on a Spring-Break cruise to Freeport, Grand Bahama in college, and a 10-day trip to Switzerland in 1988.  I was never getting married, never-ever-ever having kids, and hoping to grow old in peace, in one place, probably in that house in Roswell as it rotted around me.  Then I met Lisa, and she didn’t steal my heart, she invented it.  She had a travelin’ jones, so we left the country, together, on a cruise ship.  It was fun, so we did it again the next year, and the year after that.  Her jones was not satisfied, so she took a job that involves heavy travel.   I made it to San Francisco, and had lunch with the sea lions and ate sourdough bread and Ghirardelli chocolates at Fishermans Wharf;  I flew to the Philippines – The Philippines, for Pete’s Sake!!!!!! – and lived for two years in the most crowded metropolitan area on the planet.  I traveled to 10 or 12 of the 7,107 islands that make up that amazing country, and made a side-trip to Singapore, where they do not spit.  I got Platinum Status on Delta for all the miles I’d racked up!  I had a daughter, and my life was ruined.  I had children – no more late nights with the boys, no more spur-of-the-moment trips, no more fun.  Oh, woe is me.  And then, the daughter turned into the Fabulous GinnyBoo, who’s more fun to spend time with than all of the wonderful people I’ve ever sat in a bar with on a Friday night.  We moved back to the US briefly, and some very brave and persistent people taught me very well, to speak Spanish very poorly.   I saw my beloved niece Katie get married (OK, there was a ton of traffic on 295, and I was late, so I actually missed the ceremony – but I watched her get tipsy and dance with my Dad, and her new husband).    My nephew David met the girl of his dreams, and threw a party in Paradise to celebrate – I went to the glorious island of St. Lucia to watch him and Stephanie tie the knot, dodging rain-drops, cruise-ships, and free-ranging beach chickens all at the same time.    I moved to Mexico!!  Holy Cow!  Americans moving to Mexico!  Is that backwards, or WHAT?   I’ve learned to functionally speak and understand spanish, the key to which has been the mastering and early use of the phrase “por favor, digame como yo tenga tres años.”     The Ned, my remarkable, exasperating, and utterly unique father, passed away after a full life of 94 years, peacefully in his sleep for no reason other than the fact that he’d lived long enough.   The calm, cool and collected Adam joined our extended family by marrying my equally-beloved-niece Melanie.   And now, I have a second daughter!!  Very different than the Fabulous, but lovable too, is the Formidable Ripley Ann.  I’m looking forward to getting to know her, and spending the next 18 months here in Mexico, and learning the answer to my new favorite question, replacing “How Does It Work?”:   WHAT HAPPENS NEXT??