Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday-Baking Basket

I love to bake with my kids. I've got very little shelf space in my kitchen and when we put things away, they are seemed to be shoved here and there and then I spend forever looking for stuff the next time. So here's something I started doing last month that has really helped:

I put all my baking stuff like baking soda, salt, baking powder, brown sugar, cocoa, vanilla, etc. in one basket.

It makes clean up a breeze, fits nicely on the shelf, and I can always find just what I need.

Works for me!

Check out Shannon's blog, Rocks in My Dryer for links to other great tips.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Best of Small Town-K-Squared's Mom

Friends are critical to the life of an expat. You leave your country, family, friends, everything you know behind and move to some foreign country and try to make it work for your family. Your local friends become your family and support system. It is amazing how quickly you can make friends as an expat; everyone needs friends, so most people are super friendly. There's no, "Well, she seems cool, but we'll see. Maybe next month I'll invite her over for a playdate". Nope. It's all about the here and now. And a lot of the friends you make are friends for life (like my friend Grammy!).

In Small Town it's been difficult to make friends because there aren't a ton of expats as there's only one industry here. In Caracas there were all kinds of embassies, tons of different companies, etc. etc. Here it is all oil, all the time. And, there is no international school. So, most companies don't send American or European families with kids here. Guapo's company is, hmmm, let's say special in that way.

My friend, who comments on every post I write as "K-Squared's Mom" arrived last fall. She came at a dark point in my stay here in Small Town when my only friend was leaving with practically all of my kids' friends (she had triplets). Sometimes in my blog I think I make Small Town sound pretty good, but really, it can be a pretty hard place to live. Don't get me wrong, I love my life and wouldn't trade it for the world, but it is not all boat rides and monkeys. And the shrimp can only keep the kids occupied for so long.

The turnover here is incredible because people just can't take it. Even Latins. Even Mexicans. There are 12 houses in our housing compound; of the 12, only two haven't changed renters since we arrived 2 years ago. Several have changed hands 4 times. We have more than one marriage break up due to Small Town living. Not good.

Anyway, K-Squared's Mom arrived, and on her first night here we went to dinner. As we got out of the car, two of my kids and her two kids started holding hands and I knew then and there I had myself a new friend. She has been such a blessing in my life. She is one of those "beautiful on the outside and the inside" kind of people.

She has taught me much about the beauty and grace of her Filipino culture. It shines through in all she does. She is kind and generous to all she meets. Her home is her refuge from the world, and in so being is decorated with love and always has fresh flowers. Whenever I go to her house for a mid-morning playdate, she has prepared an entire meal for us. She is a wonderful, loving mom to her two kids. I could go on and on, but I'm afraid I will soak my keyboard with tears. Of all the things about Small Town and all the people whom I have met, I will miss her the most of all.

To give you an example of just how cool she is, she had a Harry Potter party for the kids on Saturday. It wasn't anyone's birthday, she just did it so the kids could have a fun activity (fun activities are hard to come by here in Small Town).

The kids received super cute invitations telling them they had been accepted at Hogwarts and they were to report Saturday night to Hogwarts (which was being disguised as a Muggle house).

They arrived and had to go to Gringott's Bank to take out money so they could visit Diagon Alley to purchase various school supplies. (She made the wands and the bags for the wands. Such projects require hours of searching for supplies here in Small Town):

The kids then had to be sorted in to their houses (a cell phone was hidden in the hat and annouced (on speaker phone) which house each child was in):

Then it was off to their first class: Defense against the Dark Arts where practiced some spells and then had to fight off a Dementor (played by K-squared's mom's husband who also played Professor Snape and "Dumbledad". What a great sport!)

Next they had Potions with Professor Snape where they made some Poly Juice Potion:

Then they had a feast (the house-elves were on strike so the kids had Domino's and Kentucky Fried). After dinner they had a little time to chill out in the Gryffindor Common Room. Then they had to find the snitches.

To finish off the night they had a trip to Hogsmead to spend the last of their Galleons on treats.

Here's one last shot of my little Juan Carlos (3 yrs) posing as "Drakin" Malfoy as he calls himself.

The kids had a great night! My hat's off to K-squared's mom! Thanks for being such a great friend. I will miss you dearly.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Freezer Food Friday-Butterhorns

Welcome to Freezer Food Friday! It's the time of the week when I share a tried-and-true freezable recipe. Handiemom is posting a quick and easy recipe on her blog today as well. If anyone else wants to share a recipe, or anything food related, on a Friday, let me know and I will put a link in my post.

But before we get to that, a few items to wrap up the week:

Something New:
Yesterday Stephanie from For Better or Worse had a great post on little girls' hair-do's. I need a lot of help in this area. I tried one on Margarita and here's how it turned out:

Not bad, eh? Thanks Steph!

One Funny Kid Story

Sorry, my kids weren't funny this week. Look at Margarita's face in that pic. Nothing but business around here.

Finished Project(s)

Moving is like final exams for those crazy about organizing stuff. This time I feel like I'm going into battle with a little cheat sheet: my new, beloved label maker. Grammy introduced us when I went to Houston last month. I think we're going to be life long friends.

This week I organized the baby stuff and kids' too-small clothes. And 10 years worth of non-digital photos. Whew! Next week: Bathroom Crap. Stay Tuned!


Yeast and I have a love-hate relationship. I love it, and all the yummy things it helps to make, and it hates me. I seriously think it can sense my fear when I open the fridge and pull it out. I've tried all sorts of bread recipes and I just can't do it. There is something wrong with me. And it's a huge time investment to make what with all the kneading and the rising, when it's just going to turn out like a brick. I've been burned too many times.

So, now I just stick to the two recipes that I actually have regular success with**. One is for cinnamon rolls and the other is for butterhorns. Today I will share the butterhorn recipe. It was given to me by a friend from Springville, UT. It is a great recipe.

1 rounded tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup warm water

Put these two together, stir and let yeast rise.

Scald 3/4 cup milk (put it on the stove on medium heat and watch for the first appearance of little bubbles and then remove from heat)

Add 1/2 cup butter and let cool.

To yeast, add:

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 beaten eggs
Milk/sugar mixture

Add 3-4 cups flour (or as much needed to obtain a soft, but not sticky dough)

Kneed for 3-4 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 3-4 hours. Then divide dough into 3 pieces, roll each out into a 12-14" circle. Spread melted butter over the dough; cut into 12 wedges (I use a pizza cutter and it works like a charm). Roll each wedge up starting with the wide end, ending with the point. Butter tops. You can add sesame seeds if you like.

Place rolls on greased cookie sheet with the point side down. Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer overnight. The next day you can take the rolls off the pan and store them in Ziploc freezer bags.

Take them out of the freezer 3-4 hours before serving and place on greased cookie sheet to raise. Bake at 375F for 12 minutes. This recipe makes 36 rolls, but can easily be doubled.

*Be warned: they are addictive little things.

**Oh, one more thing: don't let them rise in the trunk of your car. Doesn't work. One Easter in Venezuela, all the Americans from our church (read: women who can really cook) were getting together for dinner right after our three hours of meetings. I thought I'd just let them rise in the trunk and then make them at my friend's house so they would be fresh out of the oven. My head was hung in shame the entire dinner as I saw people eyeing, and then cautiously nibbling at what were supposed to be butterhorns. Not pretty, don't try it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Not So Best of Small Town-Filth and Muck

Small. Town. Is. Dirty.

Tons of trash. Bad smells. Unidentifiable oily-looking liquids. Sad looking animals searching for love and/or food.

When we arrived here in Small Town it was quite a shock to the ol' system. I used to attempt to run outside with Guapo before we got the treadmill and we would count how many times we would dry-heave during a run. The smells could kill you. If I were pregnant here I would have to confine myself to my house. Make that, in my house in front of a fan, as sometimes the bad smells just waft in, uninvited.

Sadly, we are used to it now.

In the States, I can remember every now and then seeing red as someone would throw a cigarette out of their car window. Now, on a daily basis, I see people hucking all sorts of stuff out of their cars. Hamburger wrappers, soda cans, biggie drink cups, dirty diapers. Whatever. Not to mention the men that just relieve themselves on the street. It is so disturbing. It's not as if they don't have trash cans (or toilets). I've seen them.

Small Town could be a pretty place; it is a fairly lush, jungly sort of terrain with some decent beaches; but, in order to use the beaches you would have to clear a spot of trash to lay your towel down. And who knows what you'd find out in the water. Ewww. I shudder at the thought.

This is not a generalization against Mexicans. I have been to plenty of different parts of Mexico; nowhere compares to Small Town when it comes to grossness. Mexicans that are not from here are just as disgusted as we are.

On the upside, though, it's an election year here in Mexico and the incumbent party does tons of improvements before the election to gently "remind" the people how great their party is. So right now, as I write this, Small Town is teaming with trash trucks and street cleaners. I'm not kidding, like one in every 10 cars is a trash truck. Traffic problems galore. And in our two years here, I have never once seen a street cleaner; the average Jose-on-the-street probably doesn't have a clue as to what it is.

I have to say, it looks much, much better. There is still trash all over the place, but it's not piled up so much. Just a nice single layer. It would still look dirty to your average tourist, but for Small Town, it is squeaky clean. For those of you were thinking of visiting, I'd book soon, before the July elections.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday-Froot Loops and Pipe Cleaners

Today's tip is quick and easy: Froot Loops, pipe cleaners and a ziploc baggie.

I take them on airplanes and to church to keep my kids occupied for a little while. Sometimes I use Cheerios or a mixture of the two. They can make the standard bracelets or necklaces, or get more creative. I am not creative, and they are not at home, so you'll have to settle for my poor attempt at a fish.

Works for me!

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for other great ideas.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

10 B's

I am sure most of you have seen this little letter game. My friend Steph over at For Better or for Worse assigned me the letter "B". So, I had to come up with 10 words that start with "B" and explain why. If anyone hasn't played this game yet and would like too, let me know in the comments and I will assign you a letter.

1. Brows. Guapo and I were abundantly blessed in this regard. Poor Juan Carlos (3) is suffering the genetic consequences. His eyebrows are about 1/2" in width already. At least he has blond hair (for now!).

2. Biology. I got my BS and my MS in biology.

3. Bamboo Hut and Brick Oven. My two favorite places to eat while I was attending #4. Do any of you Utahans know if the Bamboo Hut is still open? I would love to go there this summer.

4. BYU. My alma mater. Go cougars (said weakly as I was never the most faithful fan).

5. Bast***d. My first brush with profanity. When I was 4, my dad was carrying me up some stairs in our house and I hit my head on a hanging plant and proceeded to call the plant the aforementioned word. I can still remember the look on my dad's face.

6. Brazil. One of the countries we could possibly go to after our stay in Mexico.

7. Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Boston, Barcelona. Four places I would like to visit.

8. Brothers. I've got two. Great guys.

9. Banana Bread. Love it. While I was on bed rest with Margarita someone brought me over a yummy loaf with a crumb topping. Anyone have a similar recipe?

10. Bungee Jumping. NEVER. EVER. Couldn't pay me enough.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Best of Small Town Mexico-Having Rich Friends

Meet our friends Enrique and Guadelupe:

They are loa-ded. Five houses that we know of including a vacation home in Aspen, several boats (this is the small one), lots of travel, etc. etc.

Anyway, every now and then they invite our whole family out on their boat to go fishing. We always have a great time. As Small Town shrinks on the horizon, I try to forget we live in Small Town and pretend we live somewhere cool. We spend the day fishing, swimming, looking for dolphins and monkeys, and eating junk food.

Our friends blare some satellite station called "Pure Love" (said very slowly by a man with a very deep, smooth voice: Puuuuure Looooove). Pure Sap is more like it. So, we find ourselves out in the middle of nowhere, with Mexicans belting out lyrics to mushy love songs from the 80's like, "Love lifts us up where we belong..." and "I get so emotional baby, everytime I think of you..."(all sung with heavy accents of course). Always humorous.

They invited us to go on Saturday. Normally we catch so many good-sized fish that we get sick of it, but this time, between 6 adults and 4 kids, only two ity-bitty fish were caught. Both by Juan Carlos (3 yrs old). He was thinking he was pretty much it. He strutted around the boat saying, "I won the fishing. I won the fishing."

Here's my favorite pictures from one of our outings:

*** Bonus material:

At the marina that they park their boat at, you can see the "Big Shrimp's" shiny new girlfriend.

Small Town really digs its shrimp.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Freezer Food Friday-Breakfast Casserole

Before this week's yummy, freezable recipe, here are a few odds and ends to wrap up the week (for those like Guapo Sr. who aren't so much interested in Freezer Food):

One finished project:

Juan Carlos's (3 yrs) quilt has been in the works for about a year and a half now. It doesn't help that I have to import 100% cotton fabrics to Small Town. But, alas, this week I finally finished it. Are you asking yourself what the heck kind of critters are on the quilt?

Iguanas, lizards and frogs of course. Juan Carlos took quite a liking to the indigenous fauna when me moved to Small Town.

Even with the new addition to his bed, he still slept in "The Chair" last night. Oh well.

One funny kid story:
While Julio was having a glass of delicious boxed milk earlier this week (doused with Hershey's syrup of course), he asked me, "Mom, why is there a cow on the box of milk?" Me (thinking it was some kind of trick question): "Ummm, because milk comes from cows?" Julio: "I knew it!!!!" like his life-long suspicion of dairy products was finally laid to rest.

Pretty sure we've talked about the whole cow/milk thing at some point in his life.

One cultural difference (in Small Town thin is not in):
I've recently shed a few unwanted pounds. Nothing serious, no dieting or anything, I just haven't been hanging out quite as often at night with my friends Ben and Jerry. I am still well within the normal weight guidelines (read: I am not too thin). While visiting the home of a nice lady from church this week, the woman got a very serious look on her face and we had the following conversation:

Nice lady: Can I tell you something, and you won't get mad at me?
(I'm thinking, Ok. What could this woman, whom I don't know all that well, possibly say that would upset me?)
Nice lady: You are looking so thin. Are you ok?
Me: Yes, I'm fine. (trying to not look happy, because she is obviously concerned, but feeling very satisfied that someone noticed!!!)
Nice Lady: Are you sick?
(I can tell by "sick" she doesn't mean your common cold; she's looking at me like she thinks I have cancer. )
Me: No, no, really, I'm fine.
Nice lady: Stressed out?
Me: Well, sure. A little, you know, the kids and all, but not more than normal.
Nice lady: I'm concerned, you just look SO THIN.

Thank you, thank you, thank you nice lady!

Recipe Time
Ok, on to the recipe. This is one for a breakfast casserole that is tasty and really easy. It would be great for a nice Sunday morning breakfast or for when you have visitors. Every time I've made it, someone has asked me for the recipe. Here it is:

  • 16 slices white bread cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound ham (leftovers if you have them, or I just use regular old lunch meat style ham)
  • 4 cups cheese (I like cheddar, but you could use Monterey Jack, Swiss, a combo of two cheeses, etc.)

In a greased 9X13 inch pan layer bread-ham-cheese-bread-ham-cheese. Then mix together:

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups milk***
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

Pour over the layers. You can either freeze it at this point and pull it out of the freezer 12-14 hours before you wish to serve it, or, put it in the fridge overnight. It needs to cook for 35-40 minutes at 375 degrees.

***I had a couple of friends over yesterday morning, so I prepared this Wedesday night. When I pulled it out of the oven I thought it looked just a little dry. I forgot the 2 cups of milk. Playing the hostess is one area of my life that I am trying to improve and this did nothing for my self-confidence in that area. But, my two gracious friends ate it and one even asked for the recipe.

Don't forget the milk!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cursed by My Own Blog

Anyone out there ever jinxed themselves on their blog? Last month I wrote a post about what a great sleeper Juan Carlos (3 yrs old) is (or was).

Well, that was last month. Recently, he has gotten unusually attached to me and doesn't want to be out of my sight for a minute. This includes at night. We go through the normal bedtime ritual and everything seems normal. But once Guapo and I are in our room with the door shut, he lurks (usually singing) around the outside of our door until he either: A) falls asleep in the hall (the tile just can't be that comfortable):

or, more commonly, B) waits until I finally turn out the light (11:00-11:30) when he slowly turns the door handle, tip-toes in, tries to wiggle his way into bed with me until I banish him to "The Chair" (a lazy-boy next to our bed).

Every. Night.

I've been telling Guapo to be patient, that he is probably just struggling on some subconscious level with separation anxiety, being scared of the dark, or something. You know, on some level he wouldn't be able to verbalize. So yesterday I strike up a conversation to see if we can't get to the bottom of the problem and he instantly, completely, matter-of-factly explains his whole method to me:

"You put me in bed, then I go in the hall, then you and dad watch a movie, then dad turns off the movie, then you read a book, then you turn off the light, then I go in to your room and I sleep in the chair. I want to sleep with you, mom."

So there you have it. So much for his subconscious's problems, he's quite aware of what he's doing and why.

Last night when Guapo said good night to him he replied, "Ok dad, now go watch a movie."

He won't want to sleep with me forever, right??? (I am so hoping that by posting this I am re-jinxing myself and he will turn back into the super sleeper he once was!)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday-The Baby Gift Stash

I'm a little reluctant about sharing my tip today. I don't have a huge urge to announce to the world how cheap I can be, but I don't think I've given any of you a baby gift recently, so here it goes.

When Kohls is having a huge end of season sale, I go and buy up cute baby outfits for 70% off the alreadry marked down price. Then, I store them. When I want to give a baby gift to a friend or an acquaintance, I've got a nice, albeit inexpensive, gift on hand.

Last summer I stocked up on 6 boy outfits and 6 girl outfits. I only have 2 left of each (ever notice how good people are at reproducing?). Here's what remains of the 12 original outfits:

They each cost $1.80. Heck, at that price I can give two and look like the generous friend for LESS THAN $5.00.

I save time because, obviously, I don't have to go to the store; and I save money because 1) I bought the gift on sale and 2) it would be impossible for me to go to a store such as Kohls and only buy said baby gift. I would end up buying the baby a gift, myself a gift, Margarita a gift and so on and so forth.

I do this with grown up gifts too-Bath and Body supplies when they have their 1/2 yearly sale, blank notecards and journals from Marshall's and TJ Maxx.

Works for Me!

Have fun checking out other great tips through Shannon's blog.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Not So Best of Small Town Mexico-My Dishwasher(s)

Welcome to the time of the week when I get to vent my frustrations on living here in Small Town. None of my complaints are any big deal and I'm not really the complaining type, but I thought I'd share just in case anyone was wondering what some of the drawbacks might be to up and moving to Small Town in the near future (I know the shrimp from yesterday's post has got some of you thinking).

Well, one problem is my dishwasher. Actually, I have two. Here is one:

And here is the other.

No. Dishwasher.
No. Disposal.

And here's the sink. It only has one section.

So, I have to put this red bucket in the sink to have some semblance of separate washing and rinsing areas (looks eerily like the kids' bathtub, don't you think?).

I don't do all the dishes. Sometimes I use these little dishwashers, but they often malfunction, leaving a sudsy mess all over the kitchen.

And, three mornings a week a nice lady comes and cleans my house. I could have her come every day, but I prefer a messy house to someone constantly lurking about making me feel lazy. So, she takes care of the dishes 3 times a week but 5 people X 3 meals a day = muchos platos sucios.

Another bonus of Small Town dishwashing: if dishes aren't washed before bed, many different types of ants come out to check out the pickings. I am not too proud to admit that sometimes, after a long day, the ants win.

So, start a load of dishes in my honor today!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Best of Small Town Mexico-The Big Shrimp

You know you are in Paris if you see this:

You know you are in Italy if you see this:

You know you are in NYC if you see this:

And, you know you are in Small Town if you see this:

That's right. A huge shrimp. This is the best-known landmark in Small Town. When you ask for directions they almost always involve the shrimp. As in, "Head towards the shrimp; when you reach it, take a left". Strange.

I have to say though, sometimes when I am driving by it, it is so bizarre to see a huge shrimp water fountain that it some how brightens my day.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

(We interrupt the previously scheduled "Freezer Food Friday" to bring you this Mother's Day Special, already in progress) (read: I am running out of freezer recipes)

I just wanted to take a moment to let my mom know how much I love her. She is a great lady and I miss her all the time as do my kids.

Here's a funny picture of my mom and me on a park bench in Milan last year (the result of taking three young kids on a two week European vacation; never sleeping in the same hotel for more than 2 nights). It's not the most attractive photo of either of us, but it makes me happy when I look at it. Two moms, just wiped out. It also serves as a hint to Guapo as to what I want for Mother's Day this year (I'd love a trip to Italy, but I'll settle for a nice nap):

10 Reasons I Love My Mom:

  1. She is an awesome shopper. Bargain hunter extrodinaire. Her specialty: shoes.
  2. She loves to travel and therefore visits us wherever we are; she is the only person from our families that was brave enough to visit Small Town twice.
  3. She loves (and spoils) the grandkids like crazy.
  4. She makes the best manicotti ever. She is not Italian, but she married one and can now cook like one.
  5. She is my athletic idol. The woman has run ever since I can remember and started running marathons at the age of 54. Thanks to her, I will always value physical fitness.
  6. She taught me from the get go the importance of honesty. That has stuck with me all of my life.
  7. She is young at heart and has taught me that much of growing "older" has to do with your attitude.
  8. She is always there for those who need her. She is a friend to the friendless.
  9. I know all decisions she made while she had kids at home were done with her children in the forefront of her mind. I appreciate the sacrifices she made to have me and to raise me and my brother and sister.
  10. While devoting a good part of her life to raising her family, she has maintained her own identity. She is a successful, smart, strong woman who has her own life and own interests.

Happy Mother's Day Mom! I love you.

I am so grateful for the chance to be a mom to my three wonderful kids. I want to thank all of the women in my life that have helped me along the way. Like my amazing mother-in-law who has my undying respect after successfully raising not only Guapo, but 5 other rambunctious boys and 1 girl (and remaining sane). Like Grammy, whom I visit as often as I can; I always tell Guapo a trip to Grammy's house is a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy and parenting classes. And like Dorothea, my kids' teacher here in Small Town, who reminds me of the magical"ness" of childhood and how amazing little kids really are.

And to my friends Jules, Elin, Mandy and Rita (among others) whom over the years have told me, "I know just how you feel". Those little words help so much when I have occasional feelings of inadequacy regarding my mothering. I have this warped idea stuck in my head that if I am not doing cartwheels to play Candyland 15 times in a row or play Play-doh again or if I have a sudden urge to get away from my kids now and then, I am not a good mom. So many thanks to my dear friends that get to see me when I am not at my best, and they still make me feel like I am a great mom.

And to all of you mommy bloggers, it helps me so much to read of your joys and sorrows of motherhood so that I know that I am not alone in this most important job in the world.

Happy Mother's Day to one and all.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I really should just retire. . .

Well, my blogging days are coming to an end.

Did you see my post yesterday? I got twenty four comments. 24. 2-4. And, there was not a single comment from a family member, or any fake comments from Guapo; not even one from Grammy whom I can always depend on for a comment because she feels sorry for me and my low-yielding comment blog.

Nope. 24 honest to goodness comments. And, if that weren't enough, one was from from Daring Young Mom and another was from Shannon. My blogging idols.

It cannot get any better than this; I had better just quit now because anything from here on out is going to be a huge let down. I tell myself I don't care about comments, that I am just doing this for myself and to record a little bit about our lives here in Mexico, blah, blah, blah. But who am I kidding? I love getting comments!

Lest you think I am boasting, I know the only reason I got said 24 comments is because of Shannon's excellent "Works For Me Wednesday" idea. It really was ingenious. We get to bounce around visiting each other's blogs and taking in some great tips. I love it. The problem is, now with the the 24 comment post, I am sitting here thinking, "I've got noth-ing." Nothing for next week's tip. It's a lot of pressure.

So, I really should quit, but I'm afraid I am a blogaholic. I am addicted to blogging. There. I've said it. So even if I really wanted to quit, which I don't, I probably couldn't even do it without some kind of 12-step program and a unconditionally-loving, non-judgmental support group which I think is going to be pretty hard to come by here in Small Town Mexico.

So, I'll be back.

BTW-What'd you think of Chris Daughtry getting the boot? Margarita (8 yrs) is a mess today. He was her pick to win. Of course, here in Small Town, we are a week behind, so for us, he doesn't really get kicked off until next Wednesday.

Oh, and one more thing: thanks for the comments! You guys are the best!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday-Family Trivia

Today for my Works For Me Wednesday, I am going to share a little family game that my kids just love! The idea is not my own, but came from my friend Janice J. We like to call it “Family Trivia”.

It is simple to prepare: write questions related to your family on the front of note cards, and answers on the back and fire away!

We have questions about birth places, birth dates, favorite foods, cousins names and where they live, where people have served missions, etc., etc.


"What are Grandma's cats' names?"

"Where was Margarita born?"

"Where did mom go to college?"

"Which cousins live in Portland, Oregan?"

"Whom did Uncle Joe marry?"

"Where did Uncle Aaron serve his mission?"

"What kind of animal bit Julio at the zoo in Venezuela?"

(an ostrich in case you were curious!) You get the idea.

I store all of the cards in a little note card box.

My friend told me they play it over dinner sometimes; we use it as an Family Home Evening activity and I think it would be a great time killer on a road trip. It helps the kids feel a connection to family members who live far away!

Works for me!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I'm it.

I'm it! The Bright One over at Deja Vu All Over Again has tagged me for a little game of 4's. Here you have it:

Four jobs I've had:

  1. Secretary for my parents' friend and attorney (BOR-ING)
  2. Chemistry TA (This is how I met Guapo; he was in my class :))
  3. Breast cancer research assistant
  4. College Biology teacher

Four movies I watch over and over:

  1. Pride and Prejudice
  2. Sabrina
  3. Meet the Parents
  4. You've Got Mail

Four places I have lived:

  1. Provo, Utah
  2. Arlington, Virginia
  3. Houma, Louisiana
  4. Caracas, Venezuela

Four TV shows I love to watch:

  1. American Idol (of course we are a week behind here :()
  2. 24
  3. Gilmore Girls
  4. Rachel Ray (when I'm in the States)

Four places I have been on vacation:

  1. Guatemala
  2. Aruba
  3. Italy
  4. Belgium

Four places I would like to go on vacation:

  1. The South of France (Mandy are you reading???)
  2. Thailand
  3. Italy
  4. Argentina

Four websites I visit often:


Four favorite foods (I love to eat, so this was a hard one):

  1. Gelato
  2. My friend Rita's yummy pork spring rolls
  3. Prime rib
  4. Crab legs

Where I would like to be right now:

  1. At our little mountain house visiting family
  2. Out to dinner with our friends the Simons
  3. Ordering room service at a fancy hotel with Guapo
  4. On a plane going somewhere exciting

Four friends I am tagging (ones that I didn't bug last game):

  1. Nettie
  2. Smart Mama
  3. JD
  4. Lei

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Best of Small Town Mexico-Monica and the Monkeys

I am happy to report the post-travel doldrums have lifted. I can once again report on some positive aspect of living in Small Town. I have my my friend Monica to thank for that.

On Saturday, on our way to the beach, we paid her a visit. She is a spider monkey that lives at a kind of so-called "crocodile reserve" on the way out of town. It's more of just an old abandoned ranch with a little old caretaker guy who looks after the monkeys and crocs. The place is almost always locked up, but if you drive by and notice it is open, you can meander on in and explore. The little guy will come out and chat about the monkeys and demonstrate how he can call a loose, one-armed howler monkey out of the trees to have a banana.

In the States, the only animal "interactions" you are allowed to have usually involve a basic group of small farm animals. And if you do get to touch something cooler than a goat or a sheep, it is under heavy supervision usually with a one- or two- finger touch policy (like a sting ray or baby shark). If it is something way cooler, you probably have to sign an insurance waiver. Not here in Small Town Mexico. If you are brave (or stupid) enough to touch it, you can. Good luck suing anyone though if something goes wrong.

Anyway, back to Monica, she is a spider monkey that is on a long leash. She is very tame (knocking on wood as I type), and such a sweetheart. We took her a bunch of bananas. If you sit close by, she will come over and sit right on your lap. And she clings to you when you try to stand up.

Here's Guapo holding her:

There is also have a cage full of other spider monkeys. One little mama had the sweetest little baby. Every time I got close to the cage she would reach out with both arms to hug me.

Here she is with her baby:

Look at this little face:

So sweet! I am so baby hungry. Well, baby monkey hungry.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Freezer Food Friday-Marinades

Happy Friday!

Today's frozen food tip is marinades. You can do one of two things: make a super-batch (say, 5 or 6X the normal amount) of your favorite marinade and 1) divide it up into ziploc baggies and freeze; OR 2), actually add the meat of choice and freeze them together. The easiest thing I have done is buy those bags of boneless, skinless breasts; I make the marinade, divide it up into the bags and then throw 5 breasts into each bag. They go back into the freezer and I forget about it until we want to eat it.

It's great if you have people coming over for dinner. You can just pull out a couple bags of chicken, make a salad and/or veggie, cut up some French bread and serve ice-cream sundaes for dessert. So easy.

I have two recipes to share, one for chicken and one for pork chops.

Chicken first. My kids LOVE this. I like it just fine, but I keep making it because my kids say things like this to me when I make it: "Mom, thank you so much for making this chicken, I love it," like we are in a commercial or something. I like that kind of positive reinforcement, so I keep on making it. You can grill it, bake it, or even cook it in frying pan, slice it and use it in fajitas. I have tried all three ways, and they like it any way I serve it.

Marinade for 6 chicken breasts:

  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. Dry mustard
  • 1 cup oil (any kind)
  • 1/2 cup Red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Parsley flakes

Put chicken in a Ziploc bag with the marinade; let marinade for an hour or so and cook it anyway you like it.

And now for the pork chop recipe (I think this would be good with chicken as well):

Pork chop marinade:

Enough for 6 pork chops.

  • 16 oz. Pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing

Grill, broil or pan fry pork chops until no longer pink in the center.

If you like either of these recipes, they can easily be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc. I usually multiply the recipe by 5 to have enough for 30 servings; I prepare 5 pieces of meat that day and then I divide up the rest (5 pieces + 1/5 remaining marinade in 5 Ziploc bags= 5 easy meals). When Guapo isn't home to fire up the real grill, I prepare the chicken or chops on my George Foreman Grill. I prepare a salad and veggie while the meat is grilling so the whole process only takes around 20 minutes start to finish. Easy, Easy, Easy.

If anyone has a great marinade recipe, please share! I would be happy to post it next Friday (or link to your blog).

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday

A couple of weeks ago, Shannon over at Rocks in My Dryer started a "Works for Me Wednesday" theme, wherein participants share a tip that works for them. I am more the "tip-gathering" type than the "tip-giving" type, but I will play along as long as I can think of useful tips.

Here in Small Town, Mexico we occasionally have power outages. So, I have a Rubbermaid container that I keep high up in my room (where my 3 little cyclones can't reach it) that I keep filled with flashlights, extra batteries that actually fit said flashlights, candles, matches, a battery-operated lantern, etc. No more stumbling through the dark looking for a flashlight. When the power goes out, I know right where to find everything I need.

Works for me!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Happy Birthday Juan Carlos

We have recently celebrated Juan Carlos's 3rd birthday. I just wanted to take a minute and reflect on how much I love being his mom.

He was born after a short, but very painful (thanks to a pitocin-drip and a very late anethesiologist), delivery in Caracas, Venezuela. He entered the world sobbing; they handed him to me and I held his little face to mine and he instantly calmed down. It was one of those moments I will never forget. Not much has changed, to this day he is a true "mamma's boy".

He is our little blond-haired, blue-eyed Venezuelan. He is like a ray of sunshine in our lives with his happy disposition and funny sense of humor. Like the other day, he came running to me to report a fall off of the back of the sofa; he talks so fast and half of it you can't understand, but the last part was very clear: "just like Humpy Dumpy."

Here's one of my favorite pics of him:

The child is part-fish (must come from Guapo's side of the family). I am not one to obnoxiously brag about my children, but I think he may have a future as an Olympic swimmer! He has been swimming for just shy of a year (never had a lesson) and can make it 2/3rds the length of our pool. This week he added to his repertoire of tricks a complete front flip off of the side of the pool. Amazing!

And, he loves to dance. This must have something to do with being born in Latin America because Guapo and I are not so hot on the dance floor. If we are out walking around and a car drives by with their bass booming, he will stop whatever he's doing and dance. Here is a little clip from a Halloween party last year. He went as a little pig (video courtesy of my good friend Alessandra):

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Happy Birthday Juan Carlos! I love you!