Thursday, October 13, 2011

Long Distance Romance

Harry and I met online way back when nobody even knew what that meant. Back then only 14% of Americans had any internet access. (Now days over 85% have access) In 1996, he was working for Apple Computers in Santa Clara and I was in the mountains of Colorado working for Apple's online community called: 
eWorld logo

I was also finishing up my divorce and feeling very alone when the children were at their dad's house.  It was so very nice to be far away in the mountains but connected by the web to somebody as nice as Harry.
He had told me that he was an artist.  I told him that I had written a children's book and would love an illustrator. We decided that we would work together.  What happened instead was the beginning of a great friendship.  We would spend hours and hours talking on the phone or through IM's online.  Every morning, I would wake up to a sweet email from him.  It was so nice to get to know him before I really ever met him.

Harry says that he knew almost right away that we would get married.  I think, because of my recent divorce, it took me a bit longer.  I'm glad he hung around until I was ready.

Fifteen years later we are once again in a long distance relationship... well sorta.   I manage a small restaurant up in the mountains. I usually leave home Thursday afternoons and come home way past bed time on Sunday night (or if it snows, early Monday morning). It is hard to be away from family life and my little ones, 8 and 10 years old.  For survival, I make myself NOT think about what I’m missing. I put in 14 hour days and call usually once a day. I work and then sleep- then go back to work.  I do nothing else.

What makes this even close to tolerable is that I home-school Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The girls are with me the entire time. I don’t have to share them with a teacher or babysitter. I get to see the “a-ha!” moments when they finally understand a math concept. I get to be there when they want to cuddle.

I do miss the days when we could afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom. I miss eating every dinner together, doing home improvement projects and going to the zoo with the family.  What we do is not perfect, but it works for us.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Popcorn, Cinnamon Cocoa and Princess Warriors

Yesterday morning the girls played outside in short sleeved shirts.  It was a bit chilly, but the Chinook Winds from the previous days had warmed up the sidewalks and soil.  The skies were a deep blue and the birds were singing.  It really was a glorious morning.

Around 1pm we finished up our History study on Queen Nzinga of Angola. She was a real princess warrior who fought successfully against the slave trade and the mighty Portugal.  (Check out this link:   Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )  It is a piece of history that I was never taught, but I am glad to share with my daughters.

As the girls were putting their notebooks away, we looked outside the window and realized that we were in the middle of a snow globe!  Big fat flakes were falling from the sky.  It was a genuine January day in Colorado.

What can you do but enjoy it?  Susannah suggested that we make some hot cocoa and popcorn because the flakes looked like popcorn falling from the sky.  I heartily agreed.  I make both of these the old fashioned way.

Not that I am super cautious about chemicals, but I'm not crazy about microwave popcorn and what is used to make it.  I think that air popped corn taste like dried oatmeal without the brown sugar. Therefore, we cook the popcorn in a big pot with a bit of oil and a cup of popcorn kernals.  It takes just as much time as microwaved and is really much cheaper. There's something magical about waiting for those first few seeds to explode into fluffy white clouds of goodness.  A sprinkle of salt and I am in heaven.

My hot cocoa comes from the Hershey's cocoa box, except for my special ingredient- cinnamon.
If I can, I try to use real mexican cinnamon, but what ever I got is what I use.
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c cocoa
Dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 c hot water
4 c milk
3/4 t vanilla
A. Mix sugar, cocoa, salt and cinnamon in a saucepan; stir in water.
B. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir 2 minutes.
C. Stir in milk and heat.  DO NOT BOIL.
D. Remove from heat; add vanilla and whisk..... "What?  Why whisk? Huh?"

In Mexico, the cocoa is heated and then just before serving it is whisked with a special tool called a molinillo.  It is placed with the handle between your palms and you rotate it back and forth like you are making coils out of clay.
Molinillo (chocolate stirrer)
There is even a wonderful little chant that the kids sing as they whisk the brown milk into a lovely foam that replaces marshmallows.  (Bate means beat or stir.)

Bate, bate, chocolate,
Tu nariz de cacahuate,
Uno, dos, tres CHO!
Uno, dos, tres CO!
Uno, dos, tres LA!
Uno, dos, tres TE!
Chocolate, chocolate!
Bate, bate, CHO CO LA TE
Bate, bate, bate, bate,
Bate, bate CHO CO LA TE

Sometimes, I use "Real Mexican chocolate".  It is super sweet and flavored with cinnamon and nuts.  Because of these additions it can be grainy in texture but more nutritious. It comes in thick disks that are broken up and added to hot milk or water and then whisked with the molinillo.  You can buy the cocoa at most grocery stores in the isle where you get other Mexican products. Nestle, Abuelita is the most readily available.