Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Christmas 2010

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Susie and Rob Easterling

Other than the fact that Rob won a Noble Prize in statistics and Susie was named Most Congenial Co-Pilot in the Allegro Bus category, it’s been a pretty routine year in the Easterling/Hinkle clan.
We did a couple of extended Tuzigoot trips this year: spring trip to Kentucky, summer trip to Vancouver, with lots of interesting and scenic stops going and coming.  If you missed any of our exciting reports, or would just like to read them again, you can backtrack through our Tuzigoot blog.
Our biggest trip of the year was going to China in September with Jeff, Valerie, and Malia Easterling as they adopted another granddaughter for us, 1-yr. old Macy.  They seem rather busy now, successfully juggling jobs and child-raising and -nurturing.
Heidi Hinkle has a new job: national account manager for Pernod Ricard Spirits.  She’s handling the transition from supervising 500 employees as the Beverage Director at the Aria Resort to working out of her Las Vegas home-office quite well, thank you.  The big story is that she and sweetheart, Joseph Vargas, will be married in June here in NM.   
Jeff and Valerie Hinkle are now settled in their semi-rural home in Sioux City, IA, where Jeff manages the Shopko store and Valerie works as rehabilitation therapist. The highlight of Jeff’s year (other than Black Friday when he opens the store at 3am) was when he and Valerie and his siblings and other family members all came to Cedar Crest in September to celebrate his 50th birthday. 
Mike, Karen, and Jason Easterling continue their active lives in Cary, NC, doing their biomathematics, statistical analysis, and fifth grade work.  We went to NC for some of Jason’s spring and fall soccer games, thank you Southwest Airlines.
Mandi Venable, our favorite Southwest Airlines employee, and her husband, Paul, are now both in Denver working for our favorite airline.  They’ve rented and furnished a charming apartment in the Lowry section of Denver.  Paul wrote a Christmas song last year and recently posted a great youtube video.
Matt and Suzy Hinkle live in nearby Rio Rancho, NM and continue their management jobs (Supply One packaging company and a first grade classroom) in Albuquerque.  Tony is now in Iraq; he’s an Army Cavalry Scout.  We’re all nervous and very proud of him.  Kaci will be completing her degree in music theatre at Baldwin-Wallace College this spring.  We attended her senior recital in early December. Wow!  Andrew, a senior in HS, has continued his soccer exploits and is now pursuing collegiate opportunities.  Can Matt and Suzy say Empty Nest?
All of our wonderful children and grandchildren surprised us with an early Christmas gift of a paving block outside the renovated UNM basketball arena, known as the Pit.  Here's a picture (Rob overshadowing Susie for the first time ever).

 On a serious note, Rob’s Mom, Bonnie, died in October after enduring a long decline with Alzheimer’s disease.  We’ve had some wonderful family reunions centered on her birthday the last couple of decades and hope to continue those reunions in her memory.

                       THE REASON FOR THE SEASON



Thursday, November 25, 2010

Las Cruces Weekend-2

On both Saturday and Sunday we spent some time in Old Mesilla, the historic village on the SW edge of Las Cruces.  Here are some scenes.

Back in the late 1800s, I learned from the history of the Methodist Church in NM written by Rev. Thomas Harwood, when a Methodist preacher tried to preach from this plaza some locals threw rocks and ran him out of town.  No plaques to commemorate that, though, but I haven't gotten over it.

Old Mesilla is known for its restaurants and we sampled three of them.  When we checked into the Inn on Friday I asked if there was any place to get fish tacos (continuing my fish taco quest in places far and near).  The Lundeen's daughter, who was working the desk, suggested Andele's.  Good choice.  Different from fish tacos I've found.  The fish was fried whitefish, broken up into bitesize pieces.  This came on a plate along with a corn and black bean mix and cole slaw. Various salsas were available at a salsa bar.  Tortillas were served separately, so you built your own fish tacos from the plate of fixins.  Some of the best I've had.

Saturday night, anniversary night, we ate at an Italian restaurant, Lorenzo's.  Again, very good with a NM touch - red chile alfredo sauce on penne and Italian sausage, for me.  Also on the menu, the house specialty: green chile lasagna.  Susie had some very good spaghetti and meatballs, no chile-flavor.  Meatballs, though, had currants in them that added a sweet taste.  Had a lively and personable NM State U waitress who added to the fun: Waitress!  There's something in my meatball.

Sunday evening it was La Posta for classic Mexican food.

I should mention that Sunday morning we attended church at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, just a couple of blocks from the Inn.  The preacher there is James Large, who has preached at our church in Albq a few times when he was in the District office there.  I believe St. Paul's now has a larger membership or average attendance than our church, St. John's, but the church's large and beautiful sanctuary didn't have very many people in it for the 10:45 service.  (Note the repeated use of the word, 'large.')  Maybe because it was the day for people to turn in their 2011 pledge cards and there was a guest speaker -- the District Superintendent.  But, of course, we weren't there to count the house or critique the music program and preacher.  No, that would be wrong.

Monday morning we left for home, taking a more easterly route through Alamogordo, Carizoso, and Corona, where Susie's brother, Charlie, and his wife live.  Along the way, though, we made a discovery of the sort that makes travel so interesting.  First, though, here's a shot of the east side of the Organ Mountains. 

Very strong, cold wind blowing through the pass from which this picture was taken.  The weather's changing.

Between Carizoso and Corona there's a turn-off to the ghost town of White Oaks, a place I've read about and wanted to see, but never have taken the time to do so.  Today was the day.  There's a lot of information and pictures at the White Oaks website.  I took a couple of pictures.  This is the schoolhouse, now a museum, not open when we were there, though.

This is the restored Gumm House.  It played a minor role in the Billy the Kid saga.

More pictures and info at the website.

We noticed several signs in town for White Oaks Pottery, located three miles further out of town, so decided to check it out.  We found our way there and pulled up to a building with a sign pointing up an outside stairway leading to the gallery.  There wasn't anybody around and no vehicles in sight.  I went up the stairs and found the gallery open.  Inside was a sign saying we use the honor system here, come on in and shop.  Susie came up and in a couple of minutes the owner/operator, Ivy Heymann joined us.  She's a real dynamo and has quite a story.  About 35 years ago she came out west and found some land in the wilds of NM that she could buy for $500/acre.  With help from locals, she built a small home, studio, and gallery and has been creating pottery ever since.  The White Oaks website has a nice slide show of her pottery and you can see other examples at her White Oaks Pottery site itself.

We bought a couple of coffee cups and a pie plate and she showed us around the place - her large kiln and her studio.  Here's a picture of Ivy and Susie (TWO dynamos; when we checked out of the Inn, the host said to me, Come back any time and bring that wild woman with you.) in front of White Oaks Pottery.

The White Oaks website says, Ivy Heymann's White Oaks Pottery. An experience worth the adventure.  
We agree, so if you're ever in the neighborhood, ... .

The road beyond White Oaks, which is dirt, eventually loops back to US 54, so we followed that and on to Corona.  Had a nice visit with Charlie and Sue and got home in plenty of time for Dancing With The Stars.

So, a special, memorable anniversary weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving from Cedar Crest - first snow this morning.


Susie and Rob

Las Cruces Weekend-1

Last year Hawaii.  This year Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Celebrating our anniversary.  Both special.

We thought about a Tuzigoot trip to the Gulf Coast to mark our 11th anniversary and give their economy a shot in the arm, but just didn't have the time to do it justice. Decided instead on a weekend in Las Cruces after some web-surfing found an intriguing B and B there.  It's been a mild November in Cedar Crest, but Las Cruces runs 10-15 degrees warmer this time of year, so that was another attraction.

Trip almost ended in Socorro, though.  We stopped there to check out a couple of gift shop/galleries on the plaza and take a picture of the NM Tech campus, where Mike went to school.  Heidi also lived in Socorro a couple of years.

Leaving town, as we approached the on-ramp to I-25, I saw a car waiting at an intersection.  Then, just as we drew even, he accelerated on a path that would broadside us.  I swerved and accelerated, and braced for him to hit us on the right rear, but he must have seen us just in time to avoid a collision.  Whew!  Soon after that we stopped at the Owl Bar and Cafe for the traditional greenchilecheeseburger lunch to settle our nerves.

Next stop on the way to Las Cruces (Susie said we're going to have a relaxing weekend, not a go-go agenda) was the El Camino Real Heritage Center. The Camino Real was the royal road from Mexico City to Santa Fe back when Spain was colonizing what is now New Mexico.  A portion of the camino in central NM was called the Jornada del Muerto - journey of death. This was a stretch of about 100 waterless miles.  The Heritage Center is at the north end of the Jornada.  Socorro was named for the "succor" it provided northbound travelers after they made it across the journey of death.

Here's a shot of the observation deck at the Heritage Center.

 Here's one view from the Center - I don't think that track in the foreground is an actual piece of the Camino Real.

The Center, which is fairly new, has some nice exhibits and photos and is well worth a visit. Just one more reason to go to the Owl Cafe.  (I should note that the Buckhorn Cafe, located in San Antonio, NM, as is the Owl, has been written up as having an outstanding greenchilecheeseburger as well.  We've never tried it.  You could stop in one on the way down to the El Camino Real Center from Albq, the other on the way back and make your own assessment.)

A few miles further along, we got off I-25 and drove through the cotton, chile, and hay fields, then pecan orchards along the Rio Grande valley.  Nice, actually brilliant in the late afternoon sun, late fall colors along the way.  Found our way to the Lundeen Inn of the Arts near downtown Las Cruces.

The Inn is a restored 100-yr. old Mexican territorial inn, now a combination inn and art gallery.  The Lundeens added living quarters on top of the old inn.  Here are some interior shots.

This comfy little den was where I spent my pre-breakfast time.  A coffee table book there that I read was a Paul Horgan (famous writer of the SW) biography of famous artist, Peter Hurd, published in 1971 and interspersed with a lot of Hurd's art (a bunch of it from Horgan's private collection).  They were classmates at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell and continued their friendship as they both became celebrated in their fields.  One interesting story.  They were the only two enrolled in a writing class.  Their teacher said their semester assignment was to write a book.  They would alternate weeks: one would write, the other would illustrate. What an enlightened instructor!  What an opportunity to develop life skills!

Here's one of the gallery rooms and the great/dining room.

The host, Jerry Lundeen, who is an architect, told us that there are generally around 300 paintings adorning the Inn's walls.  (Wife Linda is an art dealer and was away for the weekend.)  Makes it a really interesting place to stay, especially when, like us, you take the time to bask a bit.

Saturday morning we went to the downtown Farmers and Crafts Market.  Some scenes:

 There was a street street artist.

Susie's in the picture, but she's not the one crouched next to the artist.  Your professional photographer can also be seen.

There was old-folk music.

And, best of all, mariachi music.

We had street food for lunch and topped it off with fresh kettle corn.

Incidentally, you can get your kettle corn with either red or green chile seasoning.  Which reminds me: When Mike's in-laws visited us a few years ago, his father-in-law commented, What's with this place?  No matter what you order they want to add red or green chile!  Yes, Bob -- even popcorn.

We also did a little shopping.  Susie found the perfect ring.  I found a nice Nativity scene produced by a local craftsman to add to our collection.

I like finding nativity sets produced by local folks who just like to do this sort of work, not out to make a buck, not mass-produced.  The mountains in the background, I suspect, look a lot more like the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces than anything around Bethlehem.

Saturday afternoon we just drove around a couple of the historic districts in town with one stop at the old RR station, now a RR museum.  Exhibits included a model train layout.

Across the street was this transportation mural.  We'll let that bus represent Tuzigoot. 

Well, Blogger keeps locking up, maybe telling me that this posting is long enough.  To be continued.  Stay tuned.


Susie and Rob

Macy Update and Jason Soccer

We want to update you on Macy's status.  If you read our postings on our September trip to China in which Jeff, Valerie, and Malia adopted Macy into their family, you know she was born with a bilateral cleft lip.  Basically, a goodly portion of her upper lip was missing, or misplaced.  Here's a China picture from Jeff and Valerie's Macy blog  (http://youbelong.net/pages/htmlos/31246.1.226374598418707688/easterling).

She had her first operation on Nov. 9 and we drove (Ford Explorer, not Tuzigoot) to Denver to be with Malia and to help out a bit when Macy came home.  She was in surgery for seven hours, six for the cleft lip, one for a hernia fix. She was able, though, to come home late afternoon the next day.  Pretty amazing.  

We had a great time with Malia during those two days (Jeff was able to come home for the night, which was good).  One highlight was making cookies with Nei-Nei.

(I don't know what it is about Blogger.  Sometimes it orients correctly, sometimes it doesn't.  Think of it as a neck exercise as you sit in front of your computer.)  In case you're wondering, those cookies are autumn leaves, not brown Christmas trees.  With the butter, cinnamon, and sugar toppings it didn't matter.

We were amazed at how good Macy's lip looked when she came home.  There were still stitches and glue holding things in place, but they would dissolve over a couple of weeks.  We could see the basic outline, though.  (Pictures below.)  She wore arm restraints to keep her from touching her face.  When she went walking, someone had to be there to prevent her from falling face first.  Biggest problem, though was sleeping.  She needed to be on her back, while she was used to sleeping face down.  Sleeping strapped in a car seat (in her crib, not in the garage) didn't go over well, so the remedy was sleeping, fitfully, or not, between Mom and Dad - bonding in more than one way.

Valerie's sister, Adrienne, who lives in Los Alamos, came up for the weekend to help out.  That gave us a chance to fly to Raleigh and join Mike, Karen, and Jason for a soccer tournament in Martinsville, VA -- about a two-hour drive from their place.  We had not made it to a league game during the fall season and this tournament would be the last outdoor soccer of the fall. 

It was chilly in the morning; Jason had 8am games both Sat and Sun.  Here are a couple of shots of the frosty fields.  The sun warmed things up nicely, though.

And here are some action shots:

Jason on defense.  Stop that guy!

Jason, no. 17, on offense.  He has just taken a powerful free kick, bending it like Beckham.  The ball hit the crossbar and bounced off the goalie and in.  GO-O-O-O-AL!!

Now, do you see that teammate, in the white shirt, standing behind the defenders?  Could have been called offside.  The other team complained to the referee.  He said that, in his judgment, that player wasn't influencing the play, so it's not an offside according to the rules.  Hmm.  We saw several unusual calls in the tournament, but, as they say in the World Cup, that's soccer for ya.  

Jason's team, Barcelona FC (I didn't know that Cary translates into Barcelona), finished the tournament with two wins, one loss, and just missed getting into the title game.

After our soccer weekend, we jet-setted back to Denver on Monday, spent the night at Mandi's, went to Outback to celebrate Paul's birthday, then drove home on Tuesday.  Stopped by to see Jeff and the girls on the way out of town.  Here's a fuzzy, cellphone picture of Macy one week after surgery.  Lookin' good!

Here's a picture a few days later that Jeff took.

There will be more surgery to come, but she's off to a great start.


Susie and Rob

Saturday, September 25, 2010

China 9. Guangzhou and Home

While in Guangzhou, we didn't get off Shamian Island, except for the night river cruise, but I thought I'd post a few Guangzhou pictures, shot from our hotel room and the balcony at the end of the hall.

And from the river front.

We flew out of Guangzhou late Wed. night for a short flight to Hong Kong, but it wasn't easy.  We left the hotel (in a van with a couple of other adoption families) to get to the airport with a lot of time to spare, but we spent a lot of time on crowded streets before finally getting on the airport freeway.  Then, when we got to the security and customs checkpoint, it was blocked while the security folks dealt with an incident.  That took more than an hour to clear so we ended up running to get to our plane right at departure time.  (We don't know what happened.  It involved soldiers.  An Aussie in the crowd said, The Chinese never explain anything.)

We spent the night in a very nice airport hotel (alas, no breakfast brunch included) then caught our flight to San Francisco late Thursday morning.  The 12-hour flight seemed to go pretty well, particularly compared to our return flight four years ago.  (Susie and I got lucky again, thanks to our travel agent: our two reserved seats had an empty seat between them and nobody showed up to claim it.  It turned out to be the only empty seat in our part of the plane.)  Four years ago Valerie spent much of the flight walking Malia.  This time, Macy slept quite a bit and Malia, of course, is all grown up now when it comes to flying.

We had bought tickets to accompany the kids to Denver, where we would spend Th. night with Mandi and Paul, then fly home Friday.  But, we had checked SW connections from SFO to ABQ, so that was our back-up plan -- avoid the hassle of an overnight offload/onload in Denver.  Getting home was a priority for all of us.

Jeff and Valerie had things under control (we think they concurred), so we went to the SW counter in SFO and found that there were seats available on a flight to ABQ via San Diego.  We caught that but due to a bit of a mix-up at the SW counter our bags traveled on later flights via Los Angeles.  Matt and Suzy picked us up (they had borrowed and taken good care of our PT while we were gone), so we had dinner at Applebee's with them, then picked up our luggage (slight panic when it didn't seem to be there with all the other luggage from LA) and drove home.

A great and very special trip.  Glad to be in Cedar Crest again.

China Cheers,

Susie and Rob

House and double rainbow, June, 2008.

China 8. Shamian Island

Shamian Island.

In Guangzhou we’re staying at the White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island.  This is a small island, about five blocks by two blocks, in the Pearl River, just barely separated from the north bank of the river.  In the mid-1800s the island was granted to the British (4/5) and French (1/5) governments.  Subsequently, it became the headquarters for other foreign businesses and governments.  At one time the U.S. Consulate was here which is one reason the White Swan Hotel became adoption headquarters; I believe every U.S. adoption is processed through this consulate.  Now, the consulate is elsewhere in Guangzhou, but the adoption agencies still use the White Swan. 

Because of its history the island’s architecture is very European in flavor – large, colonnaded buildings, lots of trees, a broad promenade down the center.  Many cornerstones date in the early 1900s.  Most of the buildings are now apartment houses, but still the island has the feel of a colonial enclave.  For one thing it’s not nearly as crowded as most urban Chinese areas are.  Makes it a pleasant place to stroll with the babies.

Here are some pictures that may convey the flavor of Shamian Island:

 The island is a popular locale for wedding and fashion shoots.

There are a Protestant chapel and a Catholic church on the island.  On Sunday we attended a combo Chinese/English service at the chapel.  It was packed and alive.  A couple of the songs were done in English and scriptures were read in both languages.  The Preacher, accompanied by an English translator, preached from John 3:16.  We had attended here four years ago and were glad to see the church still going strong.  Here's the church.

 And here's the steeple.

 Several sculptures like this around.  This one is The Grandparents.

One of the White swan traditions is the group photo of each adoption group’s new kids on one of the red couches in the lobby.  It’s a madhouse as all the parents try to keep the kids lined up and take pictures at the same time.  This was the best I could do.  Macy’s in the left  front.  She’s wearing an outfit that grandma found in a nearby store.  Also bought a matching one for Malia.

I like to go out in the early morning to watch the Chinese exercise rituals along the riverfront.  Some of it is very sedate (Tao Chi, a correspondent has told me), some more frantic.   Some are in groups, some solo.  Some groups bring boom boxes that provide accompanying music that I like to listen to.  

Fans and swords can be part of the exercise.

A popular nighttime attraction is to take boat cruises on the Pearl River.  We've seen the brightly lit boats on both this and our previous trip, but had never been on one.   Well, last night the group outing was a dinner cruise on the river, so Susie and I went.  Some scenes:

The White Swan puts on a light show on its riverside front.  These lights flash in different patterns.  I caught them almost all on.

Nice evening, lots of bright lights.  We had a good time.


Susie and Rob