Thursday, October 24, 2013

Visiting the Hive - a week with my sister

I haven't blogged in almost a month. Not because I haven't had things to write about but mostly because my laptop keeps getting stolen by my children. As their desktop computer is still on a boat, my laptop is their only connection with the online world.  So I keep having to confiscate it back from them. It makes me grumpy.

The most amazing women on earth.
But I just spent a week with my older sister  - she's the one on the left - preceded by a short visit with one of my two younger sisters - the one to the left of me. And that is enough to cure any grumpiness. It's hard for me to put into words how I feel about my sisters. But this picture sums up our relationship pretty well.

Last week Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a wonderful talk in the LDS General Conference. His topic was inclusion in the church; the idea that no matter your background, your doubts, failings, or differences there is room for you in the church community. That is how it works with my sisters.

We are different. Two of my sisters work as teachers, one a full-time kindergarten teacher and one a part-time preschool teacher. The third is an amazingly talented photographer who works when opportunity and her schedule allow. I haven't had a paid job for 14 years.

My oldest sister has lived in the same small town for 20 years. When we go grocery shopping she knows everyone we see, down to the bagger boys. Both my younger sisters lived in the city we grew up in until fairly recently. One of them now lives in Texas, far away from family for the first time. The other moved to a really small town an hour away from both my parents and the oldest sister. The last time I lived within 2 hours of my family was in 2000. My baby sister served a mission in Australia and then took her husband back for their honeymoon. The other two sisters have been only to Mexico. And I've been to more places on the globe than I ever imagined I would.

Three of us have five children each and one has two children with one more angel in heaven. Their ages range from grown and out of the nest (or nearly) to three year olds. Our husbands' careers include computer programmer, Auto shop teacher, Air Force doc and Border Patrol agent.

But we are the same.  Do you see that smile up there? It's the same one- just on four different faces.  Our husbands call us The Hive because we think alike and can understand each other perfectly with minimal communication and effort.  One of the pillars in my ever-changing, always crazy life is that my sisters will always get me. They will understand even when they can't relate. They will always support me, love me and accept me.  It's a given. A blessed one.

So my time with my sisters this past month has been wonderful.

My kids have enjoyed it too. They've enjoyed spending time with their cousins and being able to walk outside and do this:
One of the great advantages of living on the outskirts of a small town is that there is space. Space for planting a garden, space for projects, and space to ride an ATV all around the property and down the dirt road and over the jump into the wash. My boys were out on the 4 wheeler every chance they got and would come back inside with dust covered grins.

My sister and I worked on her oldest son's upcoming wedding plans. She is in charge of most of the reception and is a bit stressed about it. She is also deluded in her estimation of my talents and asked me to help arrange the flowers. So after a day's work we had this to show for it:
We also had bouquets for the bridesmaids and bride and other arrangements for the display tables and the lattice backdrop. It was an enjoyable day and felt good to flex my creative muscles a bit.

The big event of the week was the county fair. We took all the kids on ride bracelet day and it still cost me a packet to get bracelets for all 5 of my brood.
They all enjoyed the rides but I think if asked, the highlight would have been either the life-size, blue-ribbon-winning Tardis made by their oldest cousin, Jake:
Or this chicken and all his fuzzy headed compatriots:
The crowning jewel on our week there was the smoked ribs and pork shoulder created by my brother-in-law. He let Carson help him prepare and smoke the meat, thereby earning the title of Coolest Uncle. This is pretty hilarious since years ago my oldest two though he was the Meanest Uncle. But I digress. I'm not a super huge rib fan but these were the best I have ever tasted. OMGosh delicious!
They went so fast it I almost didn't get a picture! We devoured three full racks of ribs for dinner and had the pork shoulder shredded with sauce for sandwiches the next day. SO good.

As I'm writing all this I'm realizing that I didn't take any pictures with me or my sister in them. I guess that is typical. We are the moms, always behind the camera. Both of us tend to be overly critical of ourselves in photos. But I need to be better about taking shots of more than just my kids. Because I want to remember the times I spend with my sisters. Those memories are more important than a thick chin or a bad hair day. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Arizona Beachfront Property

My good friend Juli and have a code of sorts. When one of us is having a horrendous day or is under a lot of stress, she will call up the other and ask, "I'm running away to Mexico, wanna come?" 

Let me assure you that being in the middle of a intercontinental move qualifies as being under a lot of stress. So after being back in the United States for one week, the kids and I decided to leave it once more - to go to Mexico. My parents had a week scheduled at their shared condo and invited us to go with them.

We've been going to Rocky Point since I was a teenager. First camping at Playa Bonita and then later staying in the condo.  My husband has never once been able to come with us. Initially because of school demands, then because of deployments and now because active duty members can not go into Mexico. But if you know me, you know I am pretty independent and don't stay home just because Geoffrey can't accompany me.

The last time the kids and I were all at the condo was in 2006 while Geoff was in Iraq.
Here's my cuties 7 years ago. Rory was just a baby.

I visited a few years later with all my sisters and some cousins for a great girls trip. And during our move from Utah down to Texas, my oldest two spent some time with my folks and got to visit the condo then.

But it was great to be all together again. We did all our favorite things - eating pollo asado (roast chicken) with fresh corn tortillas, cabbage and limes. Buying warm tortillas from the tortillaries by the dozen and making quesadillas with chihuahua cheese. My kids though this was hilarious and immediately renamed it puppy feet cheese. And of course we had to go buy paletas nearly every day. Paletas are Mexican popsicles. They are good sized, come on a rough thick wooden stick and are available in flavors like mango, lime, coconut, strawberry with chili and pistachio to name a few. They melt quickly because there is nothing artificial or weird in them and they are delicious!

And of course we spent lots of time at the beach.

The water was warm and shallow. It took us a few days to figure out the tide schedule but once we did we went tide pooling and collected crabs, slugs, tiny fish and weird worms in a bucket.
My mom and I took long walks on the beach in the morning. One morning we came home with this:
As I was still doing school with the kids whenever we weren't at the beach or in the pool, we turned it into a science lesson. Gotta love homeschool.

One Saturday we went shopping in an area we call Shacks Fifth Avenue.  Years ago it was really just shacks along a dirt road but lately its been developed with pavement and sidewalks. It's still the best place to find souvenirs. I bought a hammock chair, hoping our new house has a back porch. Delaney, Brannick and Carson all bought hats. Carson's was a bit unusual but he loves it.

For those of you who watch Studio C, we decided he could dress up as the Awkward Avoidance Viking for Halloween. Evan got a necklace and Rory settled on a back scratcher. Yeah, that was a weird one but whatever makes him happy.

My most interesting find was these bracelets:

Yep, that is the Turkish nazar boncuk and a khamsa!! But what are evil eyes and the hand of Fatima doing in Mexico!! Mexico has its own set of home guardians and superstitions but they don't include these. We asked the shop keeper about them but she didn't know much about them. I got the impression they were just another bead she could buy to make bracelets out of. Crazy, huh?

Sunday we went to church at the local branch and tried to sit quietly through the Spanish service. A little boy in front of me was fascinated with my Kindle. I had it out reading through a Sunday School lesson. He could not take his eyes of it. When I handed him a pen and a piece of paper from Evan's notebook he drew a perfect replica of it, right down to the small icons on the bottom of the screen and the cut out of the case for the speakers.

Monday Mom took the older boys and I to a shrimp place for lunch. Delaney and the younger boys don't care much for seafood. We sat on the top patio of the restaurant and watched the pelicans dive into the water and engulf huge beakfulls of tiny fish. The seagulls pestered them, picking at their mouths as they slowly let the water escape. Then the pelicans would throw back their heads and gulp down their meal, wagging their tail feathers in satisfaction before taking flight to repeat the process.
No, that's not a margarita. It's just the world's best lemonade - which in Mexico is made from limes.

My hot lunch dates.

After we got back from lunch,  the whole crew headed down to the beach one last time.  We were leaving the next day and had decided that our final hurrah would be to take a banana boat ride.

Here we are, all loaded up and ready to go.  We ended up paying $5 per person for a 5 minute ride. That's a bit steep but it was a fun and made a great memory.

Tuesday morning we packed up and cleaned, got our last hits of pollo asado, fresh tortillas and paletas and then hit the road.  Adios and via con Dios!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cochem Castle - Last visit to Germany

 Yes, I am back in the United States preparing to lead a much less adventurous life in Nevada. But things moved so fast at the end of the summer that I never got to blog about our last trip to Germany. And as my new life is going to be depressingly devoid of European travel, I have to maximize the memories.

Back in early August I took Brannick and Delaney up to Germany. We flew up in a C-130 - their first time doing a Space A hop in a military plane.  Delaney had been invited to attend Girls Camp with the Kaiserslautern Stake and Brannick just needed to get off base for a bit. We were able to stay with our good friends Mark and Karen Bowen, who had just moved from Incirlik to Spangdahlem.  Since we arrived a few days before the camp started, the Bowens took us to a castle festival they had heard about.

This is Cochem Castle. It's a darling castle on a hill overlooking the Mosel River.  It was built around the year 1000 by a count. That nasty Frenchie - King Louis XIV, aka the Sun King, pretty much destroyed it in 1689 and it lay in ruins for almost 200 years. Then in 1868 a German businessman named Ravene bought it and rebuilt it in a Neo-Gothic style. As was the fashion, he used it as a summer home.  Can you imagine? Forget a villa, or a beach cottage, let's go summer in a castle.  Since 1978 the castle has been city owned and every year they have great little Medieval type festivals.
Me and my peeps.

 To my everlasting disappointment, there were no knights skipping around banging coconut halves together. (Is it wrong that my image of history is influenced by Monty Python?) But they did have these guys:
The cheesiest sword fighting you can possibly imagine. We decided that WWF wrestler rejects get jobs as festival swordsmen.  Not only were they completely unbelievable but in manliness they were a pale second compared to these guys:

Bare chests, long leather skirts, big drums and bagpipes. Yep, it doesn't get more masculine than that. Brannick loved them and I'll admit the music was pretty rockin' even in another language. Too bad they weren't selling CDs. 

Eventually we took a tour of the castle, which advertised an English tour guide. I have no doubt that he could speak English but the tour was most definitely in German. He gave us a paper with a short English description of each room and left us on our own. 

Boy armor.

Girl armor. (Just kidding).
And Goliath's armor.
 Seriously, that guy was tall. Too bad there were no pro basketball teams in the Middle Ages.  Maybe it would have been too hard to dribble a basketball and bang your coconuts together at the same time?

We really enjoyed the festival. It was a beautiful day, good company and good fun.

Here's the crazy part. Stay with me cuz it's a bit convoluted. Last October the whole family visited Burg Eltz (this post) and for Christmas Carson found a small resin plate depicting Burg Eltz at the base thrift store.  He was so excited to give it to me.  Then just in time for Mother's Day he found a similar plate with another castle on it.  I hung it on the wall next to the Burg Eltz one. After I got back from this trip I happened to look at the plates and realized that the Mother's Day plate was of Cochem Castle!! How's that for a coincidence?

Finally - just to prove that I really am in Arizona - here's a picture of two javelina we saw in Saguaro National Monument one morning. Kind of a smaller version of the one the boys shot in Pozanti.  And see those mountains in the background? Those are the Catalinas, an indelible part of my childhood mental landscape. They say 'home' to me.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Back in the Good Ol'

A long time ago I heard about a funny bit published in Reader's Digest. A travel-tired little girl lay on a pile of suitcases in an airport while her military daddy saw to the details of yet another flight. A nearby woman sized up the situation and remarked, "You poor dear. You don't have a home, do you?" The little girl sat up and replied, "Yes, we do. We just don't have a house to put it in right now."

Such is our state at the moment.

This house was merely a container for our home this past year. As containers go, it's a pretty good one. I liked it.  But it's time to say goodbye.

Goodbye house. Goodbye friends. Goodbye Turkey.

Our 'home' has been on its way for a few weeks now. The family left Incirlik on Wednesday, September 4th.  We were one of only four families who made it out of Turkey that day.  A problem with the cargo weight resulted in almost everyone who was booked for the rotator to Ramstein getting kicked off the flight.  For some fortuitous reason, my 7 person 10 suitcase family wasn't kicked off. The delay meant we didn't get into BWI until after 2 am, turning our planned good night's sleep into a three hour nap but at least we were back in the country.

Did you know that there are lovely people who show up to greet returning soldiers at BWI no matter what time of day or night?  It may have been the sleep deprivation but I will admit that when we were met with a handshake and a "Welcome back to the United States," I got all teary-eyed.

Two more flights from Maryland through Chicago to Vegas and we were done with planes for what we hope will be a very long time.  Hello Vegas!!

Geoffrey's dad, Leo,  picked us up at the airport. We had asked him to rent a 15 passenger van or something comparable for the drive down to Phoenix.  He showed up with one of those bus style RVs. My kids were over the moon. After being strapped down in airline seats for over 30 hours they could lounge and move around and get snacks and drinks out of the fridge with out waiting for an airline attendant's cart. And since this grandpa drives trucks and buses for a living, I passed out on the rear queen size bed for some catch up sleep with no shred of anxiety. Well played, Grandpa.

We had a great reunion taco dinner with Geoffrey's family which he and Leo were very late for. They had gone to return the RV and came home two hours later with a motorcycle. Have I mentioned that Leo can be a bad influence on my husband? Actually, the bike is exactly the type he's been wanting, was a great price and its purchase means I won't have to listen to months and months of motorcyle research.

The next day my parents drove up from Tucson to bring the crew down.  We had dinner with my oldest sister, Treisa and family that night and with another sister (Michelle) and brother (Traver) and respective families the next day. It was fabulous to see everyone again. And both Treisa and Traver brought party packs of Eegees. Best welcome home gift ever.

Sunday we celebrated birthdays - Grandpa Riggs, Cody - Michelle's 3 year old, and Evan - who turned 11 the day we drove down to Phoenix.
Yet another bypassed birthday make-up.

On Tuesday Geoffrey left for Vegas via Phoenix. He had collected his Jeep from Treisa whose talented husband Ed has it running better than when we left it with them.  A small trailer for his acquisition and his golf clubs later and he is on his way. He will stay in a relative's home until we find a new container for ours.

Meanwhile the kids and I are hanging out in Arizona. My parents have three extra bedrooms and lots of patience. They have a week at their Mexico condo and a week at their mountain cabin that we will take advantage of. My sisters have both invited us for visits.  So being 'houseless' is not so bad.  Because I'm feeling right at home.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fabric hoarding, I mean shopping, in Old Adana and two quilts in the wings

Helga, my sewing machine (she's a Viking) is all packed and on her way to Nevada with all our other household goods. We are neck-deep in that lovely paperwork/busywork quagmire they call out-processing. And I am really missing the stress relief and therapy of sewing.

So what does a girl do when she can't sew? She goes fabric shopping of course!! It was actually on my list of things-to-do-before-leaving-the-country to go buy more Turkish fabric. If you remember from this post and this post, Turkish cottons are 96 inches wide and make really fabulous quilt backs and binding fabrics. I compared wide quilt back fabric prices online the other day and the cheapest I found for 106 in wide fabric was $20.00 per yard. And I can get 96 in wide fabric for 10 Lira per meter which works out to $5 per meter (yard) and sometimes even less. Gotta love that!!

So my daughter and my friend Linne and I headed to Old Adana's fabric district on a sweltering hot day to see what pretties we could find.
Here we are contemplating yet another purchase.
See that pile on the counter?  You can't look at the fabric yourself here. You have to point to the one you like and they will unroll it on the counter for you to examine. Then they just pick up a meterstick, do a rough measure in the air and then cut or sometimes tear the fabric. No exact measurements and no 'cutting table' here.

Here is what we ended up with:
I already have the top one in black and red but had to go back for the brown and red. Love the vintage look of both of these. I bought 2 meters each which is plenty big to back any size quilt. Kinda crazy that these fabrics are made in Turkey but have English text on them. I never saw that when we got here a year ago but now there are in almost every shop.
Delaney, my pianist, picked the music one. The ships are on a map background. I love finding nice masculine fabrics that aren't cheesy. Two meter pieces again.

Some awesome solids and tone on tone plaids for bindings. I bought half meter pieces of each color. Making binding is a breeze when each of your 2.5 inch strips is 96 inches long!

So all these will go in a box and be mailed to Nevada to await the arrival of Helga. And someday they will be used in a quilt and remind me of my year in Turkey.

I did keep one quilt out. Well, two as I am working on two quilts at once from the same pattern. I'm hoping to borrow a friend's machine and get the rows assembled into complete tops before I leave here. Here's a sneak peek:
 These HSTs are really really small. They finish at about an inch. That's the smallest I've ever worked with. I've always thought pieces that small were just too fussy to be worth it but these are a bonus block from the main charm square blocks and I just couldn't throw them away. The pieces strips will become a top and bottom border on the finished quilt.

Here is one of the ten rows, finished, pinned and labeled in duplicate. The fabric line is Juggling Summer by Zen Chic. Great colors! I can't show you more than that because the future owners of these two quilts read my blog. But as I have missed being able to have a finish for Amanda Jean's Finish It Up Friday, I will content myself with linking to Freshly Pieced's Work in Progress Wednesday. Cuz just knowing that I have two lovely quilts patiently waiting for me to finish them helps me keep a little happy space in all the craziness of a trans-oceanic move.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Shaking in my custom made baby seal leather. . . jackets

Last year we arrived just before our stretch of birthdays and I was scrambling to try to make each birthday special with little advance planning. This year we had lots of time to plan for birthdays - and then plans changed. So once again, my kids' birthdays are sneaking up on me and happening right in the middle of moving chaos.

Delaney's birthday was this past weekend- sandwiched between agricultural customs inspections, the boys' boar hunt and lots of lots of pre-packing, out-processing stress. And it's her sweet sixteen. I wish we could have made it more special for her. She's such a great girl and deserves to have a wonderful celebration. But life is life.  We did the best we could. Berry breakfast cake in bed, some presents from each of her brothers,  chicken alfredo for dinner and peanut butter cake with peanut butter frosting for dessert. A long game of farkle in the evening with me, her dad and brothers.
I felt like I was fighting anxiety/panic all day and not as joyful as I would have liked to be on her special day. But we must have done okay because just before going to bed she came in our room to thank us for making it such a wonderful day for her.  Actually, that is probably more a reflection of her kind, thankful heart than our mediocre efforts.

But I did have one epiphany about these birthdays that turned out rather fantastic. One of the things you can get here in Turkey is leather. And the place to get it is Pop's Leather. They've been around forever and all the pilots know them. You can get flight jackets here but they also do purses, bags, cowhide rugs, holsters,  and leather jackets.  They have plenty of jackets to buy off the rack but if you want something different or one to fit just right, you can have a jacket custom made.  So I took Delaney there about a week before her birthday to pick a jacket.

Brannick came along too. His birthday is next week - the day we move out of the house and into the temporary lodging. Great timing for his big 18th, huh?

After trying on nearly every ladies jacket in the store, Delaney found one she liked. Well, she found one zipper style and a different waist style and a third leather color. And because its Pop's, she could have all of those combined into her very own unique jacket.
Doesn't it look fantastic?

Brannick had been eyeing a cowhide rug and I had planned on that being his birthday present. But then he saw a Harley Davidson jacket that just called to him.  After some debate, he chose the jacket over the rug. I think it was a good choice. Girls aren't all that impressed with a dead animal skin on the floor but we are going to have to drive them away with a stick when he wears this:
Shorter sleeves were all the adjustments he needed for his jacket.

We picked up the jackets the day after Delaney's birthday. And because the kids couldn't bear to let the movers pack them, we kept them out. It's still deathly hot here and will be in Arizona and Nevada but we will mail them to Las Vegas on the off chance that it will cool down before our HHG shipment arrives lest they miss a chance to look this cool.

And although my birthday isn't for another two months, I decided to get myself a jacket as well. After all, I won't be here in October. Here is mine being modeled by Delaney:
It has a zip out hood that I totally love. And frankly, it looks way better on me since my short hair is framed nicely by the hood rather than being pushed up in my face like Delaney's is.

Geoffrey also got a jacket, along with having the knit cuffs on his flight jacket changed to leather ones and buying a fur snap on collar for his flight jacket as well. His birthday is long past so I don't know what his excuse is.
Here's Brannick showing off Geoff's. Again, this jacket is nice on Brannick but my hubby rocks it!! It's just his style and looks so classy.  He had it tailored to his measurements and it fits him like a glove!

The cool part about having your jacket custom made (or altered) at Pops is that they sew a label inside that says:
Custom Made for Ida Ewing by Pops Leather
Pretty awesome, huh?  And when I went to pay for our purchases (feeling slightly guilty that my family is solely responsible for the deaths of a small herd of bovine), they had discounted the total to the equivalent of one whole jacket. Happy birthday to my checkbook! The owner called it a going away gift. Very nice of him.

One last photo - my favorite one.  I love these two kids. I love that they are good friends. I love that they are good people.  I don't claim to have much mothering wisdom but somehow I figured out years ago that while these two dislike being told what to do, they will leap over tall buildings if I ask them to help me. So through the years of deployments and homeschooling and moves and all the other craziness of military life, we have become a pretty great team.  Delaney is my assistant mother, cook, organizer and everything else. I could not manage this family without her. Most of it she can now do better than I can. Brannick is my strong man, my lifter, mover and reacher. He has been the man of the house through many dad absences and fills that role well. He never allows the younger kids to be disrespectful to me.  I know without a doubt that he has my back.  They both do. And there have been times when that fact is what has allowed me to sleep at night. They are a blessing I don't deserve.