Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our friend Jake

It seems our home is making a name for itself in snake circles. Slithering guests Hissy and Bully have now been followed by a permanent resident of the reptilian class. He descends from ancient cobras and is distinguished by gleaming red eyes. Fortunately this most recent critter is a little more predictable than his predecessors, thanks to a hand-held remote controller. We’re all quite fond of Jake {the Snake}.

It took the longest for Jake to earn Eleanor’s trust. Even now she still has moments of gleeful concern, but she squeals with joy when she wields the controller and will bravely dash in to save people from Jake in the little game we play.

Luke has mastered the controller, and delights to slither Jake forward full-speed to strike his target. Oh the peals of laughter that follow each bold attack!

Every once in a while, in dim lighting, I start at Jake’s suspicious silhouette in the corner of the living room. But those few moments are far outweighed by my appreciation for Jake’s sturdy construction and easy-to-use buttons. He has freed me up to accomplish more than one household task. Thank you so much H, G, and J for sending him to us. We take good care of him – as you can see he’s become quite comfortable here, even in our private med clinic!

PS: I just love all three videos here from Jake’s first few days with us, and there are a few more photos here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Feast with friends

Thanksgiving morning, our kitchen fell prey to a shocking predicament. We were ready too early! The turkey package instructed cooking for 5 hours, and we loaded our lady bird into the oven a touch early to be sure. But then at just 10:15 a tasty turkey aroma enveloped our home. I tried to believe that she couldn’t possibly be done, but when we checked her at 10:45, she was already 15 degrees above the target temp! Ay caramba! Fortunately the internet came to our rescue with a ‘turkey emergency’ website. We quadruple-foil-wrapped our birdie and kept her warm until the meal, and she only dried out a little.

What a fun feast it was, followed by a lovely walk around our neighborhood to see the sun set and luminarias light up rooftops. {I’m quite taken with the southwestern Christmas tradition of luminarias -- candles in paper bags lining walkways or rooftops -- and am hoping to get a set now that we have a stucco home.}

We spent the rest of the weekend with a few more casual get-togethers, some little projects, and lots of relaxed family time. A perfect holiday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Our first Fiesta

Somehow Erik and I managed to live in Albuquerque for four whole years without ever properly attending her annual Balloon Fiesta. But last month we remedied that and were so smitten by the beauty and excitement of the event that we can’t wait to go back next year. Plus, our new house affords a spectacular overlook of the balloon dotted city to entice us.

The ten-day festival was long enough for Luke and Eleanor to fall into the routine of running to the window each morning to look for balloons. Then we’d take to the driveway in our PJ’s for a closer look, watching to see which way the balloons traveled and where they would land.

Our first official event was the evening balloon glow, during which the balloons all inflate, filling the field with glowing jewels of light. But first Luke fed his need for speed with some rides down the super-slides!

Even more than the Fiesta, my weekend highlight was having Papi in town! We were delighted that my dad’s business trip brought him out our way.

After a little time for sideline attractions, twilight fell and the balloons began to glow, sometimes blinking in unison and swaying in the light breeze.

As it got darker the balloon lighting grew even more surreal, as you twisted and turned through crowds in a forest of glow. {Made much brighter below by Erik’s slow shutter on a tripod.}

The next morning we underestimated the notorious Fiesta traffic a bit, and saw the first of the 500+ balloons ascend from Solveig.

We feared that we might miss much of the spectacle, but thankfully traffic sped up and there were crowds of balloons left to launch when we arrived.

It was chilly, and early, but the kids were mostly enthralled.

The balloon propane tanks flashed flames and whooshed noisily slowly giving form to limp plastic that awoke in wild shapes.

All around us the riot of colors and shapes soared off filling the sky.

There was always a new shape to point out in the sky or puzzle at as it filled on the ground. Here Spidey-Pig and Lion King face off.

And my favorites, the classic bumblebee lovers.

Instead of being kept behind caution tape, the crowds stream freely amidst the balloons. In fact, if you aren’t watching your step you might trip on the anchor ropes held by the ground crew or bump into an inflating balloon.

We didn’t get quite that close because the propane tanks were so noisy, but we did catch a basket photo op.

By mid-morning we were starting to run out of steam, but nonetheless we all left exhilarated. Being so close among the balloons as they filled and sailed away, it felt like we were part of the ascension event, rather than mere spectators. What a blessing to find more and more to love about ABQ each year, even though we do miss being closer to family and friends. Any more visitors for next Fiesta? (:

{More pics here.}

Under the sea with L & E

After their initial debut at Luke’s preschool party, Luke the Shark and Ella the Fish paddled back for Halloween, ably crossing boulders and bushes alike.

They checked on their glitter-painted pumpkins,

Biked the perimeter,

And inspected our pebbles.

We had to watch out because you never know when a shark may sneak up…

And ATTACK!!!!

After our backyard photo shoot, we had a lovely time trick-or-treating with friends. Happy Halloween, from the cutest pair of fish in the sea!!

{More Halloween pics here.}

Weekend recap

We just finished a typical weekend of projects and playtime. Being relatively new Wild Oak homeowners, we are still plugging through the string of initial projects that came with the house and setting things up to our liking. Since we did a slightly better job photo-documenting than usual I thought I’d share a little recap here.

We started off with some shop time on Saturday morning, auto shop that is. The chief tech was relieved that handy helper #2 didn’t lose any lug nuts.

After a while the helpers lost interest and took to climbing on our stump challenge course. I’m not sure exactly how we’ll configure them for the long-term, but I think there’s promise for a playcenter in these tree sections. They came from a cottonwood that died tragically in the septic work just before we bought the house, but the silver lining is all the tree materials that it left us with. {And a big thank you goes to Grandpa Nielsen for cutting it down with Erik a few weeks ago!}

After the balance warm-up was complete, it was time for a little stump-dancing!

The other future for the poor cottonwood is firewood. Last weekend we bought a new-to-us wood stove from a fabulous vintage boutique and this weekend Erik went to work installing the pipe in our chimney. Of course I couldn’t help calling him “Jim” and humming “chim-chim-en-ey” all afternoon.

Our primary time and money investments in Wild Oak so far have been on the roof. I can’t wait until we move that focus to more exciting eye-level projects! But here’s a rare pic that shows a glimpse of what we’ve done… solar panels, reflective sealant, radon mitigation system, rooftop ducting, and now a stove pipe. To think this roof was empty and black when we first saw it!

After shocking himself by looking in the mirror after the chimney project was finished, Erik asked for one more pic, the final ‘after’ just before showering.

The weekend also held a visit to the playground, pumpkin cookie baking, church, and much, much hand-wringing over ordering a couch for our back room. I decided on this one while it was 40% off, we’ll see what we think when it arrives in a month or so! Then we capped the weekend off by testing out the new wood stove. The kids carted in a pile of branches and eagerly awaited our stove’s first flames. Magical indeed…

Until we realized that smoke was escaping into the house, cutting the fireside show a little short. Of course it’s nothing Erik can’t fix (we hope!). Now we’re excited for a little Thanksgiving get-together this week, my darling harvest dolls included. I think I hear Eleanor awaking, so it’s off to buy a turkey for us. Gobble, gobble!

{More weekend pics here.}

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Busytown art party!

More pumpkin and Halloween pics wait in the wings, but I’m interrupting our autumn theme for an event that reaches back to February… Luke’s third birthday party!

We finally got in gear for two little parties for our precious boy, just after he turned three and a half. Smile Of course decorations were in order, and Luke had just the tool to help us blow up balloons.

Eleanor helped too.

While we made a few other preparations, they tested out the party activities. First up was coloring some Busytown vehicles that can be cut out, folded, and glued into little cars and trucks. These came from a terrific out-of-print activity book by Richard Scarry.

On the other side of our back room was the second party activity: bean bag toss! Featuring a hand-painted beanbag board by Luke and Eleanor.

After the game, everyone went outside for some easel time.

Next up was an art snack-tivity. Grape and apple toothpick sculptures! Check out Eleanor’s apple car with balloons.

Then came cake time. Luke drew all sorts of expressions in icing on the ‘Bananas Gorilla’ cupcakes.

Eleanor approved!

We ended with some open playtime. {More pics here.} Happy late late birthday Luke! It was so much fun to throw a party with and for you. I love how you’re developing your own opinions and can think through decisions with me. This party tapped into your long-standing love of painting and Richard Scarry books, and recently we’ve been watching the Busytown Mystery cartoon too. Now Luke and I are always solving mysteries in imaginative playtime together. I think Luke chooses his identity based on the characters’ vehicles and most admires the red motorcycle. So when we play, Luke is always Sally and I’m Huckle! Eleanor gets to be Lowly or Goldbug. It’s a mystery!