Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Piggy---Queen of Free Form Jazz!

My baby girl was singing in the car the other day and Big Daddy was impressed with it. So, like he does with many of the Monkey Man creations, he got her to record it this morning. They sat together and tweaked through GarageBand and ended up with this huge statement of bitchin' free form jazz! So without further ado, please click the link and enjoy...


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Ice Cream from the Blizzard of 2010

As shown to us by Papa!

A generous helping of snow, preferably from an area free of dirt, urine or dog poo!

Add a several tablespoons of sugar, stir well.
Add about 1 tablespoon of vanilla

Then add milk until you have a creamy, sherbet like consistency.

And there you have it, fluffy, yummy, snow ice cream in less than 5 minutes! What a treat! FYI, can cause a serious brain freeze if eaten too quickly!

The Great Blizzard of 2010

OK, so maybe not a blizzard, really more of a light dusting, but still... WE GOT SNOW HERE PEOPLE! Central Texas! SNOW! And although I know that in comparison to other parts of the world this is so entirely pathetic, we absolutely made the very best of it! We let it fall on our tongues...

We made snow angels...

We had a snowball fight and of course, the biggie---we made a BONAFIDE SNOWMAN! (And I'll tolerate no chuckling about the puniness of said snowman from the peanut gallery up north!) ;-)

Papa even treated us to a batch of snow ice cream (post to follow shortly)! So it may not have been much snow, but for us here in the heart of Texas it was more than we've seen in 5 years, so we RAN WITH IT! And I just have to say, I'm not a fan of snow in any amount, but this snow was perfect, fluffy and wonderful. What a treat for my baby girl who has never until today ever experienced snow. She's seen pictures, but she's never touched it, never tasted it and certainly never been slugged by a giganto snowball (that's right... PROPS TO MAMA for a solid hit)! This was the happiest my kids have been in weeks! I am so glad that Big Daddy insisted we call it a "Snow Day", just wish he could have joined the fun. Work sucks!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fruit salad... Yummy Nummy!

I love fruit salad but I don't like it plain and I don't like it with Cool Whip or anything really sweet. Besides, we can all do with a little less high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated veggie oil and various other things we can't pronounce! So I rummaged through the fridge and the pantry and came up with something healthy, yet totally yummy!

To me, fruit salad changes with whatever I have available fruit-wise. Today we had ripe nectarines, bananas, apples, clementines, some freshly cut pineapple and I thawed some frozen marionberries, raspberries and blueberries. I mixed them all well and set them aside. I took about 1 cup of plain yogurt, mixed in around a tbsp or so of honey and some vanilla. I served up the fruit, drizzled it in yogurt sauce and sprinkled it with almonds! The kids adored it and I felt totally guilt-free giving it to them. I even encouraged seconds! :)

New Mexico Trip part 5--Balloon Fiesta!

The whole reason we go to New Mexico every October is for this...

(well, and of course to visit my Mom!) If you have never been to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta you are missing out! I take my kids every year and we never get tired of it, especially on those perfect days when the sky is clear and blue and all of those amazing colorful balloons take to the air en masse! My kiddos twirl around on the grass, looking up to the sky, getting dizzy and giddy all at the same time. Whether you're 5 or 35 or 75 or 105, you just can't help feeling like a silly, little kid when you see these things! Especially the special shape balloons, I mean seriously... DARTH VADER and the Space Shuttle!!!
Or what about two-eyed, two-horned, flying purple people eaters?

Maybe fish with lips are more your style? And yeah, that's the moon back there!

Monkey Man digs the turtle with sneakers, while I'm a big fan of the Brazilian Bees (they always hold hands on take-off!)

But I'm a purist at heart. I just adore the regular-shaped balloons with gorgeous rainbow colors!

I mean seriously, can you get much better than that?

So here are a few general tips regarding Fiesta. You have several options on how to get there, you can drive and park at the site. Parking is usually about $10 and the entrance into the park is $6 for people 12 and up. If your kids are under 12 they are FREE! If you choose to drive, expect there to be serious lines, especially if you aren't getting out there before 7am! You can also take the NM Rail Runner and take the shuttle from the Rail Runner to the Fiesta Park. I have never personally done this, but heard from people that it's pretty convenient. Your entrance into the park will work all day, so if you go to the morning ascension, but want to come back later in the evening for the glow, you can get a wristband that will allow you to re-enter the park that day. You will want to LAYER! It is cold as a witch's titty when you arrive, but as the sun comes over the mountains it generally warms up pretty quick. I usually put the kids in long johns, with jeans and t's over them and a heavy sweatshirt or jacket and a hat and gloves or mittens. It sucks when it's dark and cold and your head and hands are freezing! Take a backpack so you have someplace to stuff all the extraneous clothing once it starts coming off! And of course, A CAMERA! This is one of the most photographed events in the world and for good reason... IT'S AWESOME! Take advantage of it and get some cool pics!

So, what do you do after you've woken up at the crack of freakin' dawn (Dawn Patrol launches at like 6:30am), watched balloons for hours and you find that you are absolutely famished? Well, you can chow down on breakfast burritos (yes, in New Mexico they are called burritos and not tacos like here in Texas) or Mini-Cinni's (baby cinnamon rolls served in a sno-cone cup) at the fiesta OR you can pile into your car and head over to Murphy's Mule Barn at 9700 2nd NW to hang with the pilots and crews and eat the most affordable breakfast in town. You might want to try these...

Hotcakes the size of your head just can't be beat! Just be aware, this place gets jam-packed and you may have a wait. And the waitstaff is iffy. They are competent for sure, but not usually very friendly! But the food is GOOD and CHEAP which is probably why it's such a fave with the balloon crews!

So there you have it, the insiders low-down on Balloon Fiesta. It's a great time and a gorgeous event, but if you want to see it and you aren't as lucky as I am with relatives that live in town, you certainly want to book your stay WELL in advance as hotels book up something like 6-8 months in advance! The fiesta usually falls on the first full week of October.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Mexico Trip part 4--Abo Ruins

So in case you were wondering, yes... I spent 10 days in Albuquerque, so I had plenty of time for adventure! Day trip #3 was out to the Salinas Pueblo Missions area to see the Abo Ruins. For those of you that would like a little more background... Abo, more formally known as "The Church of San Gregorio de Abo" was one of the largest Franciscan missionary operations in New Mexico. The church was built by Indian women and children who were being instructed in the Christian doctrine. While the Indian women customarily built the houses, the men did the spinning and weaving. The pueblo was built by the Tompiro Indians and was settled somewhere around 1150 AD. They made their living trading goods with other pueblos. Around the late 1670's the Spaniards and the Tompiro Indians left due to drought, famine, and Apache uprisings.

We couldn't have asked for a nicer day to explore the ruins. The wind was almost non-existent, the temperature was nice and it was slightly overcast. As it happened, we showed up on the perfect day at the perfect time. Ranger Murt was about to lead an off-trail hike to see the petroglyphs! Petroglyphs! You all know I'm a SUCKER for petroglyphs! My mom and I were floored though, we've both been to these ruins before and neither of us had ever been aware that there were glyphs in the area. What a treat! So I grabbed the camera and off we went! Ranger Murt was full of interesting info and the Monkey Man immediately gravitated to the front of the pack in order to hear everything. He asked good questions and participated a great deal. Ranger Murt later commented on what a treat it was to have a child that was so polite and paid attention and asked relevant questions in the group. That boy makes his Mama proud! I didn't get the luxury of hearing most of the talk as I was bringing up the rear with a whiny Piggy! Oh well, on the bright side, I had plenty of time to take pics!

One of the first things we encountered was a little pond. Nothing terribly exciting, but New Mexico terrain is just unreal. The earth is so red and the foliage is so hearty and tough.

Wild Aster, small and dainty and usually overlooked, but against the red soil it's just stunning!

We encountered all sorts of interesting stuff on the hike. We found a baby horny toad (I was mad I didn't snap a photo of it but I was too busy helping the Piggy get a good look at it), a vinegaroon exoskeleton, skunk scat,

pack rat nests (we saw three, but this one was next to a glyph!)

and let's not forget the totally rare, ever-elusive Felis catus (domestic, short-hair variety)

It was a bit of a hike through the rough but we finally made it to the glyphs and WOW! There were a lot of them and they were super cool. The thing I found most interesting is how different these glyphs are from the ones at Three Rivers in Tularosa and the ones at the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque. These areas are no more than 3 hours from each other, yet the glyphs are very different in each site. So needless to say, you should make an effort to see all three! Here we have a variety of glyphs, you can probably pick out the phoenix and the mountain lion. I personally thought the mountain lion looked more like a fox, but as you will see next, it's not even close! (As always, if you'd like a closer look, click on the pic!)

Fox glyph

The kids thought this one looked like Big Bird, I called it the "Funky Chicken"!

The kids were also mesmerized by this particular glyph, they wanted to hold their hands up to it. I think it was an affirmation of those that lived long before us.

After admiring all of the beautiful glyphs, we headed off on our own to explore the mission ruins. Along the way we found a placard and the Monkey Man took time to read it to his little sister.

The next few photos are of the ruin itself from several vantage points. There was something very electric in the air while I was shooting. I find that many empty abandoned places have a sort of strange energy around them. And even if you visit that place more than once, the energy is always present, yet it's always different. That day, with the overcast skies the ruins seemed to be looming, almost brooding. It was eerie and invigorating at the same time. Very cool.

It was a really amazing day out at Abo. For those of you interested in this type of thing, there are actually 3 different ruins within the Salinas Pueblo Missions. Abo, the one I have discussed here, Quarai and Gran Quivira. From what I understand, Gran Quivira is great for bird-watching. Unfortunately, with 2 young kids, we were not able to fit all three ruins into one day, but they are fairly close to each other and if you got an early start, you could probably fit them all in. We will have to wait until our next trip to New Mexico in order to check them out. You can bet I'll post a full report when I see them!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Mexico Trip part 3--Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks

So how is it I spent 7 years of my life in Albuquerque and never once heard about this place?!? I only stumbled across it when I was doing a web-search of things to do in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. And boy, was I ever glad I discovered it! Tent Rocks National Monument is just a ways off the I-25 freeway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It is located on the Cochiti Pueblo and is very easy to get to. There are no dogs allowed and there is a fee station which charges a minimal $5 per car. The road from the fee station up to the parking lot is about 5 miles of seriously bumpy, washboard roads that I guarantee you won't get over 20 mph on! Make sure you add that to your drive time!

While on this bumpy ass road we came across a real treat! I slammed on the brakes, grabbed both kids and showed them this little beauty...
Since it was out roaming around I can only assume it was a male looking for a mate. He was HUGE and AWESOME! The kids loved him! The Monkey Man was impressed that I noticed him, but then again, it isn't terribly hard to spot a spider the size of a small cat!

We were definitely eager to start our hike once we arrived, so we grabbed our water bottles and backpacks and headed out! You have 2 choices, the cave loop and the canyon trail. The signs are a little misleading, we thought the canyon trail was also a loop, so we hiked and hiked and hiked, then realized in order to get out, we had to turn around and hike the entire canyon back! It was awesome, but probably not the wisest choice with a 3 year-old! But as you will see later, the views were worth any hardship!

On the hike in, this was one of the first formations that we saw. The small rock at the peak looks like a football helmet to me!

A lone manzanita bush

I'm a big fan of old dead trees, so I couldn't pass up a shot of this old guy.

My little Sunshine Girl discovering the tickly flowers of a chamisa bush

And once we got to the mouth of the canyon we found this incredible old tree with exposed roots. You can just imagine the wind and sand and water that eroded away all of the earth around it! It amazes me that it's still standing!

The following shots are various views from within the canyon. At some points it was so tight you had to scoot sideways to get through passages and then it would suddenly open up and blow your mind! The Monkey Man had a great time climbing and crawling through it and the Piggy was not about to be left behind. She stayed on her brother's heels all the way to the summit!

I can attest that this was no easy hike. Lots of places you had to duck or crawl, lots of tight spaces to squeeze through and at the end of the trail it was straight up the side of a mountain, but that's what we were there for, so we did it and these were the amazing views we were rewarded with!

Now I will be the first to tell you the hike back out is a bitch! Getting down from the summit is a little precarious, mostly with a 3 y.o. perched on your back! But although it was a long hike back to the car, every minute was worth it! There was definitely an energy in this place and at times you could swear that the wind was whispering to you as you made your way through the canyon! For me personally, it was one of those adventures that made me so happy that I have my kids! It is because of them that I want to explore more of my world. I want them to see all of the amazing things I never saw growing up. So if you are ever in the Albuquerque or Santa Fe area, I highly recommend that you take this day trip! Oh yeah, be sure to pack a picnic! There's not much in the way of restaurants out there! Happy hiking!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Mexico Trip Part 2--Ridin' the Rails to Santa Fe!

Once we arrived in Albuquerque and took a day or so to recuperate from the drive, it was time to get out and have some fun! A couple of years ago, Albuquerque unveiled their new commuter rail, "The Rail Runner"! It's a double decker commuter train that runs from Belen up to Santa Fe. So we decided to take a day trip up to the capitol city and take the train! The kids were so excited as they have never been on a train before. I was shocked at how amazingly affordable it was. Kids under 12 ride free and when we ordered the tickets online they were $5 each ROUND TRIP! So for way less than gas and cost of parking we were delivered right next to the downtown plaza! Sweet!

The kids were waiting oh so patiently...

"MOOOOOOMM! Is that it? Is that the train? It's almost HERE!!!!!" Sadly it was the southbound train, we had to wait a little longer!

And then if finally arrives and my children are overjoyed!

We hopped aboard, found a nice seat on the second level with a table and enjoyed a leisurely ride up to Santa Fe. The Monkey Man was pretty disappointed, he had it in his head that we were on a speeding locomotive that would get us to Santa Fe in 10 minutes. But alas, we were on commuter train that had to make stops and it took us about an hour to get there. Now I will admit, Santa Fe is about an hour and a half from Albuquerque, so technically the train didn't save us time, but the luxury of just sitting back and letting someone else do the driving and not having to deal with parking in Santa Fe was worth every minute to me!

Once we arrived, we were STARVING! So my mom suggested The Atomic Grill. She recommended the Frito Pie. I opted for the green chile cheeseburger, cuz, you eat green chile when you're in New Mexico, besides... Frito Pie? Who the hell eats Frito Pie anymore? BIG mistake. The green chile cheeseburger was a disappointment especially when the Frito Pie looked like this

So I have to admit, my food and the kids' food was only passable, therefore I normally wouldn't recommend this place, but that Frito Pie was INSANE and that alone would make this place worth visiting if you're ever down at The Plaza!

After re-energizing ourselves with lunch, we headed over to enjoy the park in The Plaza. For those of you that don't know what The Plaza is, it's the city square, the heart of the historic district. There is shopping, museums, old cathedrals, art galleries and many areas where you can buy authentic Native American jewelry and pottery. There happened to be an amazing harpist performing that afternoon. We sat down on one of the benches to enjoy when all of a sudden my view went from this...

to this...

How rude!

After the kids played and we got our fill of harp music we decided to see what else the historic district had to offer. There was an art festival happening next to one of the chapels, so we headed over to see this and to enjoy some of the beautiful fall color.

I'm obviously not Catholic, but Santa Fe boasts some of the most amazing cathedrals. They are absolutely gorgeous. And we just happened to be passing by the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi just as a wedding was coming out. So we were able to see the beautiful bride and listen to the mariachis! Very cool.

And the great thing about Santa Fe is amidst all of the cathedrals and shops and galleries, there are just little things that make you smile, like a beautiful wall of morning glories!
I really felt I couldn't take the kids to Santa Fe and not take them to see the famous spiral staircase at Loretto Chapel. The Monkey Man thought it was cool, but he was mesmerized by the beautiful stained-glass windows.

All in all, it was a beautiful fall day! We couldn't have asked for nicer weather, the train was great and we enjoyed all the culture, history, art and architecture that Santa Fe has to offer (well, at least as much as we could cram into one afternoon!) And although I'm aware that Santa Fe is a funky, eclectic place, this one caught me off guard!
I would have to say I'm pleased to see the post office has a sense of humor, however... all it took was this ONE thing to wipe the kids' brains clean of all the amazing sights we had seen that day. If you ask either one of them what they saw in Santa Fe, they will tell you, "THE R2D2 MAILBOX!"