Monday, September 30, 2013

Billy the Kid

The town in New Mexico that we visited yesterday is called Mesilla (Meh-see-yuh), and the Old Mesilla plaza is a place for music, art, and awesome food. It is also a little slice of history.

This is the old cathedral on the square. Originally it was a mission-style church, but in 1908 a French Catholic order took over, and when it needed repairs, it was done in the style of the French cathedrals. It's called St. Albino.

But Mesilla hasn't always looked this peaceful.

Across the corner from the Billy the Kid building--
which now holds a tacky giftshop so I didn't take that photo.
But this is the style of the building.

This is the plaque from actual Billy the Kid building.

This is what the ceiling of these buildings look like inside in their 
original construction. The owner of this building preserved it so people
could understand how they were made.

If you want to read more about Billy the Kid,
go here.

Other photos from Las Cruces.

If you gotta have a water tank, why not make it beautiful?

Same with the bridge!  Click on the photo to see the artwork.

Hard to see behind the light pole,
but look at the bridge abutment at the interstate on-ramp.
It's the symbol of Las Cruces (the crosses), the larger town surrounding Mesilla.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Colorful Southwest

I forget in between visits how truly colorful this part of the country is.  And yes, El Paso and Las Cruces ARE part of THIS country.

How can you not like a restaurant that paints the rocks on the sidewalk that runs beside it?

Today we stopped at a "yard art" place. 

This cowboy is made with rocks!

Instead of a pig in a poke,
it's a pig on a bike!

Any Razorback fans?


All of this stuff is imported from Mexico. Tomorrow, New Mexico...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Air Travel

I love being other places. I just don't like getting there.

Today isn't so bad.  I had an okay flight from Washington to Houston. One baby nearby and he was pretty good.  Mom had bought a seat for him, but he didn't stay in it for a minute. I bet if she'd brought his carseat on board and strapped him in, he would have accepted it as the norm and just hung in there. That's what we did when ours were that age and it worked a charm. They knew the carseat in the car wasn't negotiable, so they just accepted that the airplane was like the car.

Air travel seems to bring out the worst in people though. They don't want to pay the bag fee, so they overpack and bring it all to the gate, and then are shocked when they have to gSate check it...but that way they avoid the fee. (Little travel tip there for you).

Or they drag their big bag on anyway and take up twice as much room in the overhead bins. Or -- personal space. People are almost aggressive about it.  I feel like the person who gets stuck in the middle of the row should have unfettered access to both armrests. The guy next to me was doing this passive aggressive thing with the armrest on that side. I kept telling myself, "God loves him too."

He never did turn off his electronic devices and during our final descent he was putting his fingers into orifices on his face that I didn't want to think about.  Ick.  The guy on my right just slept so he was fine.  We were in an exit row so that meant lots of leg room which was cool.

To counter that experience with Mr. Elbow, I have to compliment the Houston terminal on what they've done to make passengers feel welcome and valued. Lots of plug-in places; lots of wi-fi. Good food choices, etc. Very clear signage and boarding information.

So different from Washington Dulles.  Welcome to the capital of the free world...bleh

So I have one more leg to travel, to see my mom in El Paso. Can't wait.

Monday, September 23, 2013

NYC and Maker Faire

We spent the weekend in New Yawk City! The drive up was awful because the traffic was so bad, but my husband handled it well.  I found it distressing that so many of the cars around us had a single person in them, and about half were on a phone or some other device.  I don't know when Americans will get serious about carpooling. Probably when gas is $10 per gallon.

We went up for Maker Faire.  It's hard to explain the maker movement. If you know an engineer, he or she will probably be able to do so. Essentially, it's all those people who like to fiddle around with electronics and code and science, and they make stuff.  The Maker Faire is a chance for some to show what they've made, for others to show how they're making things, and yet others to show what they have in mind. There's room for enthusiasts, professionals, and everyone in between.

I'm NOT an engineer, so the gadgety part of it makes my eyes glaze over. And I'm very practical, so the many people who have programmed their 3D printers to make plastic stuff ... well, if it ain't useful stuff, I don't really see the point.

But I understand the concept that out of playing with various devices and materials we often have revolutionary leaps in science, so I was able to keep my "but what good is it?" inside my head instead of coming out of my mouth.

Besides, my men were having a lot of fun.

The exhibit I found the most interesting was some guys who are using shipping containers to make homes and retail spaces. They can wire them for electricity and running water, turn them into classrooms, and dwellings. I can see a great opportunity with these as they move away from "novelty items" and towards becoming solutions for refugee camps and slums than tents and cardboard. It may be that we will change our definition of 'dwelling' space in time. One thing is for sure -- I wouldn't accumulate a lot of stuff if I lived in something this small! There's even a mall in London now made of these things!

Check it out:

So that display satisfied my need to see something useful for mankind to come out of all this investment of energy, time and money.

There was also whimsy, which I appreciate, and some very cool science to back it all up.  In all, it was a nice trip and I didn't have to dwell on the fact that the washer is STILL not working (part should be here Tuesday) and I'm running low on clothes. And the traffic coming home was a breeze.

Here are some photos from the weekend. Agriculture, Fashion, and Music.  What more could you want?

This was a bicycle powered tiller. You KNEW I had to look for bikes, right?

Dress made from USPS shipping envelopes. Your tax dollars at "wear"...

Now THIS is a clever use for race numbers. They're always made of
tyvek-type material that will wear and wear...

All of these instruments actually play.  Look closely. Do you see
the hockey sticks? Can you identify more of the pieces?

Sponsored by Citibikes, these butterfly rides were
quite popular! It was a bicycle zoo.

Now this is what I call a merry-go-round!

And NY is well known for alternate transport. This
is a cargo bike extraordinaire!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rinse Cycle

Yesterday afternoon our washer quit with a basket full of clothes and the water level very high.

My husband diagnosed the problem and we ordered the part which will be here Monday.

But I had to do something about those clothes sitting in the water. I pulled them out, wrung each piece out as much as I could, and put them in a basket.

This morning, I went to the nearby laundromat to wash them completely and get the water flung out of them via centrifugal force.

Oh. my. goodness.

I put the clothes in a 40lb washer and saw that the cost was $4.75!  Ouch!  But I needed to do it, so I went ahead. Then I couldn't figure out how to put the $5 bill in the machine.

Turns out, one has to purchase an access card. It costs $1 on your credit card, but the machine doesn't give receipts. So once capturing my credit card info, I would have nothing to prove that they didn't take $20 vs. $1.

That's when I said, "no thank you."  I brought the clothes back home, and have draped them over the rails of our deck so at least the water can evaporate/run-off.  They won't be clean, but they won't be a sodden mass. When my husband fixes the machine on Monday (we'll be gone this weekend), we can run them.

But I started thinking about the economics of this situation.  I wanted to do only 1 load of wash. If one separates whites and darks, and is washing for an entire family, that would easily be two loads in the 40lb machine every week.

$4.75 x 2 = $9.50 x 50 weeks per year = $475 per year.  That's enough to BUY a washer.

And that doesn't even take into account the cost of using the dryers.  I think I'm being conservative with two loads as well, and of course, I didn't add the $1.00 for the access card!

Most of the people I saw in there were non-native speakers of English. The laundromat is in our most economically disadvantaged shopping center. Do you see the issue here?

I have been accused of being cheap on items like this, but not hesitating to indulge in the extravagance of my new bike.  Yep, it's true, I am cheap as well as profligate. That's because I have some options due to our income and careful stewardship. How much wiggle room does a family in the subsidized housing have? Or someone making $9 per hour? My daughter thought that was a lot of money but that's because she wasn't paying for any expenses living at home.  Wow...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Slow Down, you Move too Fast...

Gotta make the morning last ...

Well, no skippin' along the cobblestones for this new bike, but definitely feeling groovy.

My friend and I rode FORTY MILES today and were still smiling.  We rode from Arlington to Mount Vernon and returned.  It was awesome.  The trail is paved the whole way. We saw a couple of ospreys (sea eagles) air battling, flew under big birds with loud engines (National Airport) and just enjoyed the speed and cool air of the day.

Along the way we went through my old neighborhood from when I was in high school.  Talk about flashbacks!  Wow.

And somewhere in there we saw these two on posts for a gate to ... nowhere.  They're just on the gate posts to look pretty.

Perfect day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The EYES have it

FINALLY, I got a go-ahead for the eye surgery in October.  Woo-hoo!

My appointment today was at Walter Reed/Bethesda.  The young corpsmen were pretty subdued today. The Navy Yard shooting, while at the other end of DC, was a little too close to home. They're saying, "We expect to go in harm's way when we go abroad, but here at home, by one of our own? That's hard to take." It's similar to what the young Army folks were asking after Hasan Nidal forfeited all of his credentials as a healer and brutally slaughtered young men and women who were in a medical facility, preparing to deploy to lands far away in order to protect and serve people who weren't even Americans. It's not rational, so no amount of examining can make it something we can understand.

Then another sad show I heard yesterday.

Kirk W. Johnson founded The List Project. This is what it is all about:

  • The List Project was founded in June 2007 with the belief that the United States Government has an urgent moral obligation to resettle to safety Iraqis who are imperiled due to their affiliation with America.  Our groundbreaking program of pro bono legal assistance from hundreds of attorneys at top law firms has helped bring over 1,500 Iraqi allies to safety.  Although the war is officially over for the American public, Iraqis who formerly assisted our troops, diplomats, and aid workers are still in grave danger. Our mission continues.

    What I heard yesterday was that despite the legislation being approved and law firms donating thousands of hours of time, the immigration system is so screwed up that the legislation is about to expire in 2 weeks with thousands of people still on the list but not processed and something like 20,000 visas NOT GIVEN OUT.

    We talked about it last night at dinner. My very smart 16 year old son asked, "Mom, why do we spend all kinds of resources trying to reward people who are here illegally, but not get straight to taking care of these people in Iraq who risked their lives and families in order to help us help them?"

    Despite being much older, I don't feel much wiser. I don't have any answers for my son. Frankly, I'd rather reward someone who put him or herself in harm's way for me rather than someone who broke the law to be here. In the latter case, that person jumped the line -- and by the way, did nothing to help our military troops in the process.

    This just seems so bass ackward to me. Believe me, my heart aches for people who have to flee their home land for whatever reason -- economic, wars, drug cartels ... but we have to have a system that rewards those who follow the rules and do it correctly, or we get so bogged down that we end up with this situation -- where the legislation EXISTS to bring the Iraqis here, but the State Department and INS and Homeland Security are too bogged down in bureaucracy to move them through.

    Imagine you're at an amusement park and you're in a really, really, really, long line for the coolest, most popular ride in the country.  You've researched it, saved your pennies for this trip, and looked forward to it for years.  The line shuffles forward in tiny movements, and every so often you get a smile or encouraging announcement from overhead, but all you can ahead of you is the line.  Looking WAY up high, you can see the ride you're going for. You only get glimpses, but it looks like more fun than you've ever imagined having in life, so you persevere. Tiny step, followed by tiny step. Then finally, after waiting for what seems like HOURS, you're at the front of the line. You eagerly step up to the chute that will guarantee you a place in the car that's pulling into the station. Out of the corner of your eye you see a group of people rushing up the exit. All the Disney employees step back and say, "sure, go ahead" to these interlopers and let them get into the cars for the ride. This happens again and again and again. Every time you're about to get into a car, a group rushes up from the wrong way, and the ride managers just let them in.  You scream in frustration, "What is going on?" The ride managers just shrug and say, "Well, they're already here."

    This is what we're doing to the people who want to immigrate legally. And the stakes aren't a fun ride, they're people's very lives. When you compare their stories, and you factor in that people here illegally are at the greatest risk of exploitation, you understand why we cannot approve wholesale amnesty for illegal aliens, or any part of amnesty. If they are illegal, they must go home. If they have had children while here, they need to take the children with them or find someone here to care for them. Those American citizen children will not lose their citizenship by virtue of living in their parents' home country. They can return here when they are able to do so on their own.


    A photo to finish. Although it is a beautiful day today, this is a little bit what I feel like inside.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Apologies to Dr. Seuss

One bike, two bike
Red bike, Blue bike

I spent two hours today counting bikes at the intersection of our major regional rails-to-trails multi-use trail, and another trail that is mostly a commuter route.

It was an absolutely GORGEOUS day. In fact, when we first got there, I felt a little cold, especially up on the bridge. But no complaints because it was dry and cool and the blue sky was eye wateringly beautiful.

My son was with me helping. He was counting East - West (the multi use trail) and I was counting North South on the commuter trail. But it's Saturday so the commuter trail was pretty quiet, so I decided to count along with him.

The way it works it we make a hash mark for each person on a bike, recording the direction in which they're traveling. Every 15 minutes we move to the next diagram on our recording paper so the count can be broken down into 15 minute intervals.

Look at that sky!  Wow!

After about an hour he wasn't feeling very well and I was counting both directions anyway so I sent him home. Last message to him: Text me when you get home.

In the last 15 minutes a friend from my biking group stopped to talk and I almost messed up my count!

Overall I was surprised that on such a beautiful day there weren't more families out cycling and walking the trail.

I also saw a guy exit the regional trail, go down onto the protected commuter trail, hop out of that trail and then ride facing traffic on the shoulder. He was going southbound while the traffic was headed northbound. When he got to the next intersection, he crossed the 6 lanes of traffic so he could go southbound on the correct side of the street -- where there's no protected path.

I do understand why he did not want to go on the path for a southbound journey of any length. It is intersected by exit ramps, some of which are pretty scary. Sometimes it's safer to ride in traffic. But the riding southbound in the northbound lane.  Wow.

My son and I watched him do it and then I said, 'DO NOT even think of trying something like that." He grinned.

From the bridge on the trail above the major road.
The asphalt on the left is the protected trail.
The shoulder area next to it is where he was riding.
The big wide space where there are at least 4 ways to die is where 
he cut through.  Shiver.

And of course, he never texted me, so when I got to my next destination I called his phone.  Straight to voice mail. Then I texted him.  No answer. Finally I called our home phone and guess who answered? Yes, the child who was responsible for my blood pressure spike today.

He did apologize.

Friday, September 13, 2013

My husband, my guinea pig

Last week when I was at the Amish ride we stopped by a farm stand afterwards. I bought some GORGEOUS yellow bell peppers and started wondering what to do with them.  After a few hours of cogitating, I made the list of ingredients. Dear husband picked them up (he shops on base for us per my list - what a great arrangement) and tonight I finally got the chance to cook.

And dumb me, I forgot the photos.  We were too hungry.

Yellow Thai Bells

3-4 Yellow Bell Peppers, cut lengthwise
1 lb or so ground turkey or chicken
Green onions, cut into tiny rounds -- green parts too
Juice of 2-3 fresh limes
1/3 cup rice
1/2 bunch cilantro
Just enough Sriacha sauce OR Thai peppers, cut small

Just like regular stuffed peppers, cut them in half length wise.  Dice up the parts from the crown that are useable -- really small though.

Submerge the pepper halves in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Pull out and drain.

Throw the turkey and the green onions and diced up tiny pepper pieces in a skillet and move it around until the turkey is browned.  You can add some salt and pepper, although now that I think about it, I should have thrown in a little fish sauce!

Drain the fat when it's browned and then add the rice, lime juice, about a cup of water.  Cook for about 15 minutes until the rice is puffed up.  Watch it though -- the turkey is so lean that the bottom of the pan will scorch very easily.  When the rice is puffy and the water absorbed, add the cilantro and the hot sauce or peppers. Stir to distribute them and then fill the waiting pepper halves.

Unlike green bells, you do not have to go to the oven with these.  There's no cheese to melt!

Serve these babies right up.  I had some mango halves (I love Wegmans) and served those on the side. It was good, and healthy, but could use some tweaking -- so let me know what you suggest or try!

So why the title?  The son was invited over to a friend's house -- the dad is a master chef and usually invites US too! Don't know why son rated tonight, but that's okay.  So I had to cook...and my husband likes to eat. I told him he might want to have the pizza place on speed dial, but he was a good sport and actually quite liked it. Then my son came in to have an appetizer before he goes to the Chef. He went back for seconds!

So there.  I guess they were hungry.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

I first heard this famous quote when I was studying history in college. I thought it was a clever way for our history professors to justify their existence, but since I like history, it worked for me.

Now I'm wondering whether we remember too well. Do we take events of historical importance and enshrine them? Do we pour out resources to the extent that the celebration far outweighs the significance?

Do we pour so much emotion into remembering events that we are unable to move on?

I am, of course, speaking of the 9-11 attacks. Yes, they were terrible. Yes, every one of those lives lost was a tragedy -- even the lives of the hijackers. But as long as we dwell upon the victimhood (the families of the dead, the survivors of the events, the injury to our nation), we are driven to emotions like anger, rage, vengeance. We also deny those who want to move on with their lives the ability to do so. We want to take them out of their lives 10 years later and examine them once again. Maybe they're trying to heal, starting to learn to forgive. Are we, in insisting upon them being victims, forcing them into wearing only that label?

My grandfather got an ear infection when he was young. Because this was before antibiotics, he lost most of his hearing. He quit school after 8th grade because there were younger kids to feed. He went to work for the newspaper and the printing presses finished off what little hearing he had left. He never learned to sign, and never went back to school. Today, we'd call him a victim of economic and medical hardship.

Boy would that make him mad. He worked very hard, as a man is supposed to do, to put food on the table for his family and educate his children. I doubt he spent even one day in his life regretting that. He was very happy with God, his family, the Dallas Cowboys and the Arkansas Razorbacks on his prayer list and he felt very blessed by all that God had allowed him to enjoy.

I think we make it very easy to wallow in victimhood these days. Experiencing a tragedy should not define us. Triumphing over it, to where the fact that we experienced it becomes the LEAST important thing about us, shows that we are people of character and fortitude.

Enough with the blame and the wallowing. Let's get on with life. Perhaps we should say instead:

"Those who cannot let the past go are condemned to dwell in it."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A New Arrival

I finally took the plunge today and invested in a road bike. I started at REI but their stock had been cleaned out over the weekend. I needed to go to Green Lizard Cycling anyway, so I test rode some bikes there. The first one was a Raleigh and was ... 'meh'

The second was a Cannondale Synapse carbon fiber. Yeah, ouch in price. But, when I got on it to test ride, two things happened. First, I did not want to turn around at the 2 mile point. I wanted to go and go and go. Second, today was a muggy, HOT day, and I forgot how hot and bright it was when I was riding this baby.

So I went back and said, 'yes ... if the banker says yes.' And of course, my dear husband said, "if it makes you happy and it will help you stay healthy, go for it."

They measured and fit me, and I had them put my clip pedals on it. Tomorrow I'll really start to ride it. I need to put the water bottle cage on and some lights. This will be my "fun" bike, and my beloved Bianchi will become my "errand and work" bike.

So, ta-dah:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Riding

What a perfect day to ride -- this is definitely one of our perfect 15 days!

I rode to the next town over (Vienna) to get my hair cut. The air was cool, humidity was low, and it felt like fall is coming.  Pumpkins, soup, football games, yessss.

My hair stylist wasn't thrilled that I was putting a bike helmet on top of her work, but in my book, it's better to have a helmet than hair that advertises.

I was almost home when a guy passing the other way turned around and came up beside me.  It was my friend Jeff from the bike advocacy group I belong to.  We're both involved with Safe Routes to School and are passionate about getting kids outside -- on bikes, walking, or whatever. Just GO OUT AND PLAY!

Jeff commented on my miles on The National Bike Challenge.  Trust me, I'm a piker compared to the people who actually bike commute. But still, it's nice to know that I'm accomplishing something as part of a team. It's also cool to look over the last three months and see a distinct pattern of healthy choices.  Okay, well my biking is healthy. Let's not talk about food right now.

What is funny is in the challenge when you enter your miles, you designate whether they were a) transportation, b) sport, or c)mountain biking.  So today, when I rode to Vienna and back, it was technically transportation, but I enjoyed the heck out of it, so does that make it sport?

At any rate, another 15 miles chalked up, and feeling good.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Buggy Chasing

My friend Betty and I drove over to Dover, DE for the 27th Annual Amish Country Bike Tour. The day was perfect -- perfect weather, perfect driving, nice people, and a good cue sheet. Oh, something else very important, a FLAT course.  We could have done 50 given this course, but we didn't know. Next year...

When we were riding along one road, there were two little Amish boys, with their blue shirts and bright blonde hair, sitting up on a fence waving at the cyclists calling out "Morning!" They were so adorable! Nearby an older fellow was using a gas powered weed-eater. My friend said, "hey, I thought they couldn't use machinery!" I think gas powered is okay...or at least with that guy it was!

The world famous pie at the Amish Schoolhouse pitstop was the goal of our 25.  I had a piece of shoofly pie that was the best thing I've ever tasted. A reporter from the Dover paper asked for my name so he could quote me on that.

We got a lot of positive comments on our jerseys, and folks were just friendly. After our ride we stopped at one of the Farm Market Stores and bought a bunch of fresh produce. Yum.

If we do it again, we resolve:

1.  We will ride 50
2.  We will not go up the night before. We might as well sleep in our own beds at home and get up early. In the hotel we didn't sleep well, and we would have had plenty of time. We finished and there were people just starting out.

Halloween on the hoof!

A sign of good things to come!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 2 of 15

Another perfect day for bike riding.  Met a friend and we went for 20, ended up about 23. Glorious, beautiful weather and while we were out, my friend from church stopped by and he and another guy cleaned up all of our sticks, branches, leaves, etc. that he and I had talked about hiring some day laborers to haul off. Now we and the garden people can get something going in the landscape!  So exciting!

A friend of mine often posts photos of the tax time pig in her town. I thought I'd answer her with two photos from my ride today.

First, a Rolls Royce - isn't it a beauty?

And a Rolls Royce passenger in the "Seat of Honor"

Beauty and the ... er ...

The non-driving co-owner (wife) said, "we only drive the car around to show off the passenger."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Oh Glorious Perfect 1 of 15

We normally get about 15 days per year that are absolutely perfect for cycling and today is one of them. The weather is coolish, the humidity is low, no strong winds -- just gentle breezes.

And since the kids went back to school, and the commuters went back to work (Congress is back in town) the trails are not crowded.

Oh Glorious, perfect day.  Rode 10 miles doing errands, lollygagging all the way because it was too beautiful to hurry!

Here's proof: