Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Staff Dinners

This holiday season, eating has been a constant theme.

The two BLM interns who have been working at the museum left at the end of December, but before they left they wanted to come over to the house and make a traditional Korean dinner. Staff cooking dinner at our house was one of the traditions started on Grand Turk everytime an intern left.

Natalie cooked a dinner of spring rolls, BBQ pork, and stir fried rice. It was delicious, and we had a house full.

Having someone over to the house to cook became a good impetuous to get pots and pans. We still have been cooking with the one 5-quart chili pot that I bought in June. Right before Christmas turned out to be a good time, we found an opened box of Martha Stewart cookware that was missing pieces. It was 50% off and we got another 25% off because of a Friday late night sale. Cooking went off without a hitch, literally.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What was That?

Deneen was just awoken by a 3.0 earthquake that was 6 mile SE of Ocotillo, where we are staying this week. She came out to the living room to yell at the boys for wrestling. I am not sure what is funnier, that she was awoken by an earthquake, or that she could possibly mistake an earthquake for Martin and Davis wrestling.

Monday, December 26, 2011


On Christmas day it was 70 degrees. That is a good place to start.

Holidays have been interesting for the last couple of years. We have lost all of the family traditions that we once had in Ohio. We are now searching for new ones. Every house along the street where we are renting sets up luminaries along the sidewalk. It is the only street in El Centro to do this, and evidently it is a long-standing tradition.

The luminaries burned Friday night and Christmas Eave. On Friday night we went across the street to a block party. This, evidently is also a long-standing tradition. We have met several people on the street and have been invited to quite a few parties. Now that I think about it, there are a lot of parties on our street.

On Saturday we had a large Christams dinner with roast turkey and baked sweet potatoes. Then Saturday night we walked down the street, through the luminaries, to Willie's Donuts and bought a dozen choclate covered donuts. Everyone thought this would be a good new tradition.

On Christmas Day we celebrated with our new tradition, Monte Christo sandwiches and opened a conservative amoutn of presents. Martin got "toe shoes" for hiking (pictured), Davis got a new knife for hiking (pictured), Lucas got a ping pong table.

One of the benefits of not having furniture is that we now have plenty of room for a ping pong table. Most of our actual Christmas day was spent setting up a ping pong table and playing ping pong.

We received an invitation to eat Christmas Dinner at Pastor Ron's house. Around 3:30 we walked a couple houses down the street and had a wonderful evening of food, stories, and song. After-dinner conversation focused on a theological discussion of the portrayal of Mary Magdelyn in art and popular literature. After that, we played guitar and sang carols. It was quite the party. We walked home around 10:0o.

We are going to spend next week in Ocotillo hiking and working.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Martin's Trip to San Diego

Martin flew in from Chicago on Sunday. We drove in to San Diego to pick him up and thus began our ending Sunday evening.

After grabbing Martin we went over to Old Town where we walked around and looked at historic buildings and the outdoor markets. The Cosmopolitan Hotel was recently restored in 2010. The interior had a digitally produced reproduction wallpaper. I pioneered this method in 2003 but have not followed restoration work to know if it has come into general practice, but the paper was unmistakably a digital reproduction. I pointed this out at length to my wife and children.

Every time we have been to San Diego in the past we have eaten at Hodad's. This trip we decided we should try some other places. So we checked out Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives for some other highly recommended eateries. Old Town sports a Crazee Burger and right inside the door there is a large, signed poster of Guy Fieri just like at Hodad's. You can get a variety of meats including a Kangaroo burger, an Alligator burger, or an Ostrich burger. The hamburgers are said to be "voted best burger in town." We ordered five regular burgers. They weren't.

This weekend was the 61st annual Las Posadas procession in Old Town. We picked up a few candles and walked in the procession. The procession was led by Joseph and Mary, who was riding on a donkey. There were a couple other people, too. I am not sure who they were, but one was wearing a big sombrero.

Next, we went down to the Embarcardero to watch the 40th annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. Approximately 40 boats all decorated with Christmas lights paraded across the bay. Lights, music, dancing, it was quite an event and made us miss the maritime culture that was a constant in the Turks and Caicos.

After leaving the Embarcardero we drove over to Ikea and bought a dresser for the bedroom. Up the road from Ikea was a second restaurant visited by Guy Fieri and so we drove up to the Studio Diner and split a couple Monte Cristo sandwiches and a chocolate malt. The Monte Cristo, stacked with ham, turkey, and cheese, was dipped in batter and deep fried. On television it looked absolutely amazing.

My brother Bryan use to make Monte Cristo sandwiches. I can not remember the story where he saw them, but I think he had ordered on at a restaurant and then decided to make them at home. I have been making them ever since. Mine are grilled, light and delicate. Every time we make them we wish we had made more.

The deep fried sandwich at Studio Diner was really heavy. The plate came with four quarters. Between the five of us, we could only eat six of them. And after two you felt like you had a brick in your stomach. We all decided we liked our version of the Monte Cristo much better. The shake was great and the sweet potatoes fries were ten times better than the ones we ordered at Crazee Burger, which were suppose to be their specialty.

Well, there you go, a couple hours back over the grade and Martin is home for Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Going to the Dentist, Sort of

I wish I still had the time to write long, expletory posts that were insightful and funny...

This past Monday I went to the dentist...

in Mexico.

I have been talking about it for weeks, ever since I discovered that Algodones is the number one place where older US citizens go to have inexpensive dental work done. When we were there a few weeks ago I told Deneen that I was going to go.

Well, on Monday I built up extra courage and went. Now I have been to a doctor in two foreign countries. On Grand Turk we were covered by the National Insurance plan.

Deneen did not think I would follow through. I did get really nervous. Almost sick to my stomach, standing in the back alley where the dental office was located. But this probably had more to do with going to the dentist than going to the dentist in Mexico.

I was only in for a cleaning, which was advertised on the door for $15.00. While in the waiting room I could hear other patients talking about upcoming work. One was having impressions done and was trying to work out when he could get back across the border to have the rest of his work completed.

My fifteen minute wait turned into a 30 minute wait. But that was not so bad for a walk-in cleaning. The doctor was very nice and she made the experience comfortable. The office was clean and was a lot like going to the dentist 25 years ago. The dental chair had one of those spittoons.

The cleaning went quickly. The dentist wanted to sell me on lasering by gums. But I passed. I think the whole thing lasted 20 minutes. And then it was off to the cafe.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Staff Christmas Party, Sort of

This past weekend the two BLM interns working at the museum came over and cooked dinner at our house. Natalie is Vietnamese and wanted to make an authentic meal to share with everyone during her last couple of weeks in the Imperial Valley. With Jessica here, it was very reminiscent of the staff parties we had on Grand Turk when staff came over to the house and made traditional Haitian meals.

On Monday I escorted the crew to Algodones, Mexico, where we spent the day and had yet another staff Christmas party dinner, sort of. The BLM interns are finishing up four months of work. We are holding volunteer days at the museum on the first couple of Saturdays in December to make sure everything they started is finished, but that does not solve my bigger issue of what do we do for staff next year...

which I guess is just in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In Like a Lion

December 1 came in like a lion. If you see the news you probably heard something about the Santa Anna winds hitting LA. Bryan told me today that they had sustained winds of 30 miles an hour in Fresno and he was cleaning up limbs.

Please. I think 30 miles an hour has been about the average wind in Ocotillo since I have been here.

We did not get the wind, but we got a huge winter storm. It was 63 degrees when I woke up. I told Deneen that I can't handle this weather and we need to find somewhere warm to move. By evening it had dropped to 55.

Last year I walked around in a t-shirt and flip flops all winter. But this year I may have to have my cold weather gear shipped from Ohio.