Saturday, April 30, 2011

Three birthdays

Here's some of what's happening:
  • On Friday, D paid for a trip to Starbucks ($6) and C paid $7 to cover the feast at a Renaissance fair that her class is going to.
  • We were barely home today. The kids and I went to C's horse riding lesson and as usual, D entertained himself very well while we waited. After the lesson, we split some quiche at a Barnes & Noble's Starbucks, killed some time at B&N, then went to a birthday party at an indoor play gym with lots of inflatables. It was fantastic. I didn't know anybody there aside from the hosts, but there was entertaining chatter among the moms about how we all got through the tornado warning, a coke-sniffing local truant officer who conducts 6 AM raids on households suspected of being fictitious residences, dealing with a child who has a CPA's grasp of how much mommy owes her and other pressing business. We eventually went home to rest. Later in the afternoon, we left for a second birthday party, this one an army-themed party for a kindergartener. At the second party, there were dog tags, a quasi-military t-shirt, a boot camp themed obstacle course, a Simon says variant called "sergeant says," a large black poodle, target practice with paint ball guns, duck-duck-goose, a camo cake with a tank on top and many other impressive organizational feats.
  • I've noticed lately that the physically demanding side of being a SAHM is fading away. The kids dress themselves, D practically puts himself to bed, they brush their teeth, C has started washing and conditioning her hair, they clean their rooms, they sometimes make themselves breakfast, etc. I'm less and less labor, more and more management. As you readers may have gathered from my blog, I don't cook or clean a whole bunch (although I make a lot of sandwiches, heat a lot of soup, and mastermind many clean-up efforts). I do clerical stuff, email teachers, schedule stuff, supervise homework, grocery shop, keep the kids supplied with appropriate uniform items, drive a bunch of places with kids (two hours in the car today), and try to control media time.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tornadoes

Here's some of what's happening:
  • We had a couple of tornadoes passing through town Tuesday night. D was in bed and C was getting ready for bed when the siren started. We also got phone warnings from the college, warning us to stay away from windows and move to the first floor. We moved ourselves and the kids to an interior hallway with phone, water, blankets and laptops and spent about an hour waiting for the storm to pass over. There was lightning, thunder, rain, hail and some wind. It knocked over the kids' heavy slide but didn't bring down as many branches as I would have expected. Eventually, we got the all clear signal. The college is really good at this stuff.
  • C wants to know if she could spend 30 points and have us make Thai meatballs. That's quite a compliment.
  • There's a big house (nearly 5000 sq. ft.) in the early 20th century neighborhood I watch that has been dropping in price increments of $30k: $380k to $350k to $320k to $290k. Well, as of today it plummeted by $40,000 dollars to $250k. I wonder if there's some sort of major structural problem, because that's close to $50 per square foot, which is kind of crazy for this nice a neighborhood. But, on the other hand, 4800 square feet is kind of crazy for an architecturally undistinguished home. The house has absolutely acres of beige carpet. On the other hand, the kitchen is done up in blue-and-white tile (Delft?), which is totally me. If it were only half as big...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Monday

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • On Saturday, we procured birthday presents for next weekend's parties. We got Playdoh for a kindergartener ($5--the mom had specified a "small gift"), ordered a LEGO kit (under $10) for a boy in pre-K and a Klutz fashion design kit for a 2nd grader ($15). That was very good, I think.
  • The kids and I were doing Easter eggs Saturday night. I forgot that I was cooking the eggs, so they spent too much time boiling. The taste was rubbery, but did not interfere with our decorating project. The kids did three eggs with crayons and grocery store egg dye (they got some very interesting results with pink and red crayon and turquoise dye). We also did three eggs with the quasi-pysanki kit that grandma sent (pysanki are those amazing intricately patterned Ukrainian Easter eggs). I can't seem to find the exact brand of egg wrap on the internet, but here's a similar one. I also liked this gzhel' one (gzhel' is the Russian take on blue-and-white ceramics). The egg wraps are a sort of plastic sleeve that you slip on the hard boiled egg. You give the egg a quick dip in boiling water, the sleeve shrinks snugly onto the egg, and voila--a convincing pysanka! We were all thrilled. The eggs eventually turned into our family's now traditional Easter egg-and-sausage sandwiches--rubbery, as I said, but still pretty good.
  • I lost count at some point, but each of our kids has had three or four Easter egg hunts over the past week.
  • Our family was invited to a Middle Eastern themed Easter lunch at a graduate couple's home. They had roast lamb, tabouleh, cucumbers in yogurt, pita bread and hummus. It was fantastic.
  • I got an apple pecan fruitcake for our family for Easter. C is very fond of Collin Street Bakery's fruitcakes and so am I, so they are another one of our family's holiday traditions.
  • My husband and I finally managed to sort through our bedroom closet. It had become choked with two Christmases worth of boxes (we might need to return it!) and was nearly impassable. We put in a couple of hours work, my husband put nearly all of the boxes out on the curb, we sorted out five bags full of stuff for Goodwill, and the closet is finally functional again. I opened up several boxes of stuff and discovered a lot of stuff that I wasn't sentimental about anymore. A TESOL button? A button for a Russian film festival from 11 years ago? My blue books for my MA exams? To the recycling bin and the trash! I keep going into the closet to enjoy how clean and spacious it is now. I still have some old letters of mine to go through, but that's small potatoes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • The kids have a 4-day weekend with Good Friday and Easter Monday off.
  • My husband took the kids hiking at the big city park today. He saw several lizards that quickly skittered out of view.
  • The four of us went to a 3 PM outdoor Stations of the Cross at the college Catholic chaplaincy. The kids were very good, even though it was 90+ degrees outside and there was a lot of genuflecting, kneeling in the grass and standing up.
  • Campus is shut down for the holidays. With so little off-campus commercial life, this is takes some of the fun out of getting a big holiday. However, the independent coffee house is still open, which is nice.
  • It's hard to figure out exactly what to do on Good Friday when you're home with kids. The kids did do a bunch of workbook stuff, interspersed with episodes of Horseland. We had fish sticks for dinner.
  • My grandparents are celebrating their 65th anniversary tomorrow!
  • C is almost finished with the rosary she is making at CCD.
  • I made another list of houses for sale in the early 20th century neighborhood near downtown that I watch. My parameters are: under $300k and at least 3BR/2BA. Here's what we have currently: $96k (I suspect foundation issues), $172k (no garage because they seem to have converted the garage into living space), $180k (new listing, major street), $180k (three houses from very busy road, loud, backs to iffy street), $180k (new listing, marginal location, small), $192k (a cute house on a good street, we offered $130 something and were turned down in the fall and didn't get it), $195k (2700 square feet, major street, yard always smells like pizza), $200k (some pretty 1920s stuff, but lots of kludgy additions), $205k (2700 sq. ft., major street, foreclosure), $250k (excellent location, but 1937 home with original bathrooms), $260k (great location, lovely sunroom and covered deck, my neighbors are buying), $270k (very pretty, two houses from very busy road, loud), $290k (4800 sq. ft., major street, pretty kitchen, acres of beige carpet). There are also four houses in the $400s and one house in the $800s. That's 18 listings of 3BR/2BA or bigger, and the median is low-200s, but the prices seem to clump in groups: high 100s/very low 200s, mid and high-200s, and 400s. Those are three very distinct groups. If I had to choose something right now, there are houses priced at $180k and $192k that I like, but I have a lot of reservations.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mafioso

We are heading toward Easter and the kids have both Friday and Monday off from school. Here's some of what's going on:
  • D asked this morning, "Should I be an inch worm or a doggy?"
  • My husband and I have been watching a 1962 Italian film called Mafioso, which is about a Sicilian who brings his daughters and Northern Italian wife to visit Sicily and finds his visit more than he bargained for. It's wonderfully evocative in showing the contrast between Milan and Sicily in manners, dress, food.

100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask

For quite a while, I've had Ilyce Glink's 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask waiting around to be blogged. Glink's book came out in 2005, so at this point, it's a historical document from the heights of the housing boom, and I feel like I've got a big piece of the puzzle that explains what went wrong. Here are some quotes (the bold is my emphasis):
  • Glink says that historically, "Anything below 8 percent is considered very low" for mortgage rates.
  • "Typically first-time buyers put down less than 15 percent in cash on their home, and that number has been falling in recent years as more zero-down and super-low-down-payment-options have become available."
  • "In the past decade, homeownership has become more affordable than almost any other time in the last half century. Mortgage interest rates have fallen from a high of 18 percent in 1982 to 10 percent at the end of the 1980s, to the 6.5 to 8 range for most of the 1990s, to around 5.3 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (a 46-year low) during the early 2000s."
  • Glink says that traditionally, lenders have thought that you can afford to "pay between 28 and 36 percent of your gross income in debt service." She includes property tax and home insurance in that 28 to 36 percent.
  • "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation's two largest investors in home mortgages, are federally charted private corporations [!!!] mandated to provide financial products and services that increase the availability and affordability of housing for low-, moderate-, and middle-income Americans. Because these companies are in competition [???] with one another to purchase, repackage, and resell the largest amount of residential mortgages, they are continually developing new loan products to help more consumers achieve their homeownership dreams. At the beginning of the 1990s, for example, Fannie Mae decided it would extend the upper limit of the debt-to-income ratio from 36 to as much as 40 or even 42 percent. Freddie Mac quickly jumped in and created loans that do the same thing. On FHA loans (backed by the Federal Housing Authority), the upper limits on the debt-to-income ratios have been extended to as much as 43 percent. For special homeownership programs backed by Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, the ratios can be even higher, with down payment assistance provided." Dr. Watson, I think I have discovered a clue.
  • "Study after study has found that homes sell, on average for 6 percent below list price."
  • "Zero-down and very low down payment loans (where the amount you put down is 3 percent or less) are a relatively new phenomenon. As lenders get more comfortable with the idea that the vast majority of people who have no equity in their homes are still good risks, the zero-down mortgage programs will continue to expand." What could possibly go wrong?
  • "If you choose an FHA loan, you can put down as little as 3 percent, of which 2 percent may be a gift from a friend, relative, or a grant from a nonprofit housing organization."
  • "As we went to press, President Bush announced that the FHA would soon begin offering zero-down loans."
  • As of 2005, the VA offered a zero-down mortgage for veterans, but the mortgage rates fr those were more expensive than the VA's 3-5% down mortgages.
  • "When the first edition of this book was published in 1994, loans over $203,000 were considered to be jumbo loans. As we went to press at the beginning of 2005, jumbo loans ranged from $359,650 to $750,000."
I will probably have to do a follow-up post, because we're just over half way in to Glink's book. At least in Glink's telling, the deterioration of lending standards seems to have been largely driven by federal and quasi-federal agencies. This is very interesting, because the question of whodunnit is a very controversial one. At least based on Glink's contemporaneous testimoney, it looks like the feds played a major role in setting the housing market up for disaster.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meerkats

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • I went with D's class on a trip to the zoo. One of D's classmates climbed up on the wall of the meerkat enclosure and was saying, "Did you know the meerkats know me? I'm their buddy!"
  • C is supposed to record the phase of the moon every day. That has happened...some of the time.
  • My husband was at a conference in Boise, Idaho over the weekend. He encountered a couple of Basque eateries, to his great surprise. I mentioned this to my mom and she told me that Basque sheepherders were imported in huge numbers to work in Idaho and other mountain states.
  • D is learning about time at school. The sheet he brought home said for me to talk to him about analog and digital clocks and minutes and hours. I pulled out a Kumon workbook and showed him how it works. D decided to do 10 pages of the Kumon telling time workbook right there.
  • My husband told D about seeing The Neverending Story in school. D was puzzled. "But school is for learning!" he said.
  • C was watching a cartoon version of the swan princess story. "A swan is a perfect thing for a princess to turn into," she said.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

Here's some of what's happening:
  • Today was Palm Sunday.
  • C wrapped a gift for a classmate this afternoon!
  • This afternoon, I took the kids to a birthday party for one of C's classmates out in the leafy suburbs. It was very much a girl party. It started with an Easter egg hunt that turned into a scavenger hunt with a series of clues directing us to different locations around the yard (our hosts have what must be an acre lot). At one point, I heard a girl saying triumphantly, "I am so awesome!" after she figured out a clue. Then we had a mummy wrap, a balloon-popping relay, root bear, cupcakes and little tubs of Blue Bell ice cream. I'm not totally sure how I managed to drive there and back, but the GPS helped a lot.
  • Dinner was IHOP, taking full advantage of their free kid's meal with one adult entree deal.
  • After dinner, the kids joined the neighborhood kids who were running around with toy swords and light sabers exploring abandoned backyards. After the college does the demolition here, the neighborhood's central island will be a big green space (hopefully preserving some of the older trees). That will be less exciting for little adventurers, but easier for their parents to monitor. I chatted with some neighbors, exchanged real estate info, and got to see their photo album of a house remodel they did before they moved here.

Weekend

Here's some of what's happening:
  • On Friday, I took the kids to a kindergarten birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese type place. It wasn't utterly terrible, but I think I will try to only take one kid to this kind of place next time. I told the kids that they'd get their one cup of tokens, they could spend them as they chose and that would be it. Experience has shown that C is very susceptible to the gambling aspect of the games at these places. She'll put token after token after token into these machines while trying to get some junky prize. There's no natural limit to how many tokens she would put into these machines, so we have to create one (my husband, in fact, only allows the kids to do rides at these places). D wanted to use his tokens mainly on rides and he spent a lot of time in the habitrail. C is technically too tall for the habitrail, but after seeing her moping about not being allowed to feed the one-armed kiddie bandits, I told her to go in.
  • All Friday night all over town, we could see and smell the smoke from the northern Texas wildfires.
  • On Saturday morning, I took the kids to C's riding lesson out at the ranch. We went home and then in the afternoon, I took the kids out for lunch at Pei Wei (the kids split an adult entree) and then we went and saw Tangled at the $2 theater. I thought that the motivation for Rapunzel's imprisonment was very cleverly thought out, although I note that there's some fuzziness as to what triggers Rapunzel's healing powers. Logically, it seems to me that the witch could equally well sing the song herself, since that's what the witch does when the magical power is in the golden flower. Later in the afternoon, I picked up sticks in the backyard and helped D plant the basil and dill seeds that my Russian tutor gave him after she babysat the kids. The seeds are saved from her garden and my Russian tutor says that the basil seeds are from a monster basil plant. I'm all for monster basil plants. I also dug a trench and D planted the tulip bulbs from the pot of indoor tulips I bought last week. Despite the squirrels' attentions, we were very successful with that method last year. Aside from the gardening, it was a pretty sybaritic day.
  • The kids kept playing different horse games all day yesterday after C's riding lesson. C was usually the horse. They made a stable for her out of a large cardboard box and the kids took turns being harnessed to the big red wagon.
  • Our weather is exquisite. We've been starting the day at about 55 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit and ending in the 80s.
  • There have been some developments in housing news. I got to see my neighbor's paint sample pots and talk furniture with her last night (she'll probably be moving in her newly renovated house in a few weeks). I recommended the tables that a local boutique has made out of reclaimed oak floorboards. We may get one of those ourselves, because they are very reasonably priced for the size you get. I hope they don't run out of floorboards before it's our turn!
  • Another neighbor is closing soon on a house. This is the one with the huge, beautiful sunroom and huge, beautiful covered deck that I saw with two other families from our neighborhood. It's 3BR/3BA, almost 2400 square feet, 1950s (very period bathrooms, but kind of cute), is on one of the best streets in a very good neighborhood and was priced at $260k. If you had the money, I think it's not a bad deal, but I suspect that my neighbors are going to going to try to do better on the price.
  • A third neighbor has looked at my husband's colleague's house near campus but didn't like the floorplan (no formal dining and a smallish kitchen for a big house) and thought it would need too much updating. It's 2900 square feet and is for sale for $285k, which is somewhat reasonable, but it's in a price range where buyers don't want to have to make any compromises.
  • "Oh dear! I turned into a horsey!" squealed D. "Walk on!" said C. "Trot! Canter!"
  • As a last bit of real estate news, there's a new listing on the biggest street in the early 20th century neighborhood I watch. It's $180k (!!!) and apparently 2200 square feet, but it's on the wrong side of the street. It's one block away from a stale 2700 square foot listing at $195k (the one with the yard that always smells like pizza) and one block away from a 2700 square foot foreclosure listed at $205k. The times, they are a changing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pendleton

Here's some of what's happening:
  • C made many, many paper flowers with the kit she got as a first communion gift. She's filled one small vase in her bedroom and I gave her a blue glass vase for the kids' bathroom. Between the blue vase with paper flowers, the bright towels in various tropical shades (electric blue, hot pink, bright green turquoise), the small toy aquarium and the kids' toothbrushes a certain theme has developed, and I think it works pretty well. I like a white bathroom--it's very flexible.
  • Speaking of themes, I'm noticing how many blue objects I own. I don't want to push that too far (there be the 1980s), but I think I can get pretty far with my cobalt blue and white dish towels, dark blue and white Polish and Russian dishes and my small collection of blue and white Delft tiles. Although I don't like my dining set (1970s/1980s country with a slowly eroding table top consisting of a thin laminate over particle board), I can see that the blue and white stuff coordinates well with dark wood and keeps it from looking too cold. This is helpful because a lot of IKEA's solid wood furniture is painted or stained black and what they call "brown black." I guess you'd want to keep the walls white or cream.
  • I've held off buying much new home stuff because I want to see what our next home looks like first. However, I'm emboldened by my purchase of the cobalt and white patterned Egyptian dish towels. Our current sofa throw is on the way out (I think we've had it for the past 10 years), and I am thinking about replacing it with something from Pendleton. Although Pendleton is also known for conventional plaid woolen blankets and shirts, they started producing trade blankets 100 years ago and they have catered to the Native American market ever since. I couldn't find anything in their saddle blanket/throw section that I liked, but they have a number of Native American blankets that look perfect (I like the geometric patterned ones that are greyish blue, the blue ones, and the ones that have blue and a rosy red). There are at least a half dozen of the Pendleton blankets that I would like to own. However, as attractive as that idea sounds, they start at around $200 each, so I'm going to need to prioritize. I like the idea of warming up the blues with a pinkish red. I've noticed that Oriental rugs often have a similar color scheme, but I've never been able to understand how people can bring themselves to walk on anything so precious. Buying a Pendleton blanket to use as a sofa throw would be a big move for me, because it's a step toward eclectic, but it also feels very appropriate.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

First Communion

Here's some of what's happening:
  • Yesterday D said, "I love school."
  • I'm feeling the urge to iron my new blue and white dish towels, and I don't iron anything.
  • Today was C's First Communion. My MIL and SIL are here for the weekend (and a bit of the week) and we are painting the town red.
  • I seemed to spend much of the first part of today getting C in and out of her fancy white dress. C wore it to church, changed out of it for lunch (bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon brought by MIL), then changed back into it for a photo shoot on campus. I was very happy to hang the dress up in the closet.
  • Transportation was complicated, due to the fact that our car seats five and there are six of us. There were a lot of double car trips.
  • As our gift, we gave C a copy of the Little Office as well as a Catholic RSV translation of the Bible (very pretty, I think--we got her the leather binding). We gave her our gifts before mass, which was fortunate, because otherwise they would have gotten lost in the hail of grandma gifts that fell on both kids this afternoon. D has built a robot with one of his gifts (a LEGO set) and C has been making paper flowers with hers.
  • There's a thistle the size of a small Christmas tree on the front yard of one of the doomed houses across the street.
  • MIL and I went to walk around the neighborhood near campus and had a chance to see my neighbors' progress with the renovation of their new house. Amazingly, there've been two weeks of work and they hope to finish in two more weeks. That is incredible. They've knocked out some walls, ripped out some built-ins, and are putting in Bosch appliances, granite countertop and engineered wood flooring.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oops

Here's some of what's happening:
  • I just realized that I spaced out on an appointment for one of the kids this afternoon. D was home sick, so we couldn't have done it anyway. Oops.
  • D has been having a fever. I also got an emergency babysitting assignment with Baby L this morning. Baby L turned out to be covered with hundreds of pink spots. I'm hoping that we're not going to get it, because that would be a pretty lousy payoff for $33. C, in particular, needs to be healthy this weekend, because it's her First Communion and my MIL and SIL are coming for the occasion. I was also feeling run down (viral?) this afternoon, but D graciously let me nap. I feel much better now.
  • D is very good with babies, by the way, but it takes a lot out of him. He played a bit with Baby L before retiring to his room to play with blocks. I understand.
  • All of this stuff has discombobulated my plans for getting ready for the big weekend.
  • Our Texas wildflowers are blooming! Along the roadsides, there are huge patches of blue bonnets and some white and pink flowers. If you go into the country, you'll see big stands of bushy wild sunflowers (they're less tall, but with many small heads).
  • My old dish towels (what my mom would call "tea towels") are beginning to fall apart and I was starting to run short. I just got an order of new ones from Amazon and am expecting to enjoy them very much. They are Egyptian cotton, cobalt blue and white (but other colors are available, too), and in an assortment of patterns. As I've mentioned before, I have a collection of blue and white Polish and Russian ceramic stuff that will probably have a lot of influence on my future kitchen and dining room. I like the idea of a blue and white kitchen, but I have concerns about it feeling too cold. I'm currently leaning toward a white kitchen with blue accents, and these dish towels are just the thing to add a little color without making the kitchen feel like a snow cave.
  • C says: "Some people, it's very difficult to imagine rollerskating."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Boston cream pie

Here's some of what's happening
  • C has lately really gotten into drawing slices of Boston cream pie. She asked her art teacher how to draw it, and she's been drawing slices with perspective ever since.
  • I've starting working on Marita Nummikoski's Troika, which turns out to be the beginning Russian textbook that they teach with here. I'm going to be derailed for the next week because of C's First Communion festivities, but I hope to start flyering for Russian tutoring soon.
  • My husband's colleague's 3000 sq. ft. house near campus has just gone on the market. There's no sign on the yard yet, but an email went around announcing that it is priced at $285k, which is $95 per square foot, on the nose. The house under construction next door has a roof now and they're starting to put on the siding, which is some sort of white stone. That light stone is locally referred to as "Austin stone." Thanks to the magic of the internet, I now know that Austin stone can be either natural (limestone?) or mixed up with cement and other ingredients. On this house, it's being laid in an interesting irregular pattern, which may or may not look good in such small pieces on such a big barn of a house.
  • I babysat Baby L this morning. His taste in toys is shifting. He doesn't have nearly as much interest in the Leapfrog table that was his favorite for the past few weeks (it offered glorious opportunities for hanging on and pushing buttons and putting balls down a chute). I put away a couple of baby items and pulled out some blocks and several Little People sets (a zoo, a Noah's ark and a farm) from storage. I multitasked by listening to some 1970s (?) Russian songs and talking to Baby L as I wiped down dusty toys. He was really into the big squishy plastic blocks. This is excellent, because we have a multitude of toddler stacking toys (in fact, way too many).
  • In other Baby L news, I discovered this morning that macaroni and cheese can be considered a finger food.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Peter Rabbit

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • My husband is just back from Minneapolis.
  • While he was away, the kids and I had a beginning-of-the-month spree. D and I took C to her riding class Saturday morning. In the afternoon, we went to lunch at Pei Wei (the kids turned in 35 points to go there) and we went to Barnes and Noble. I got a Peter Rabbit coffee mug. I think it's the cutest thing ever, but the kids are unimpressed.
  • The kids have been rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender (a cartoon, not to be confused with the M. Night Shyamalan feature film).
  • C says, "I want to be a National Geographic photographer when I grow up."
  • My other purchase at the bookstore was the Spring 2011 issue of Better Homes and Gardens' Kitchen + Bath Makeovers. It's a very good issue (I particularly like the kitchen with aqua island and black and white checkerboard floor), but I have to single out one homeowner for some tsk-tsking. This homeowner built a house in 2000 with brown wood cabinets and granite countertops. By 2008, she realized that she didn't like her kitchen. "The original maple cabinets and dark granite countertops made Kim Plant's kitchen look dark and dated." Plant had her granite countertops ripped out and replaced with $10k of white marble as part of a $33k remodel. I'm still getting used to reading renovation stories in which homeowners rip out 1990s kitchens, but this takes the cake. I suppose there will be many more similar stories in the years to come, as people slowly realize that they don't actually like their $100-per-square foot-dog's breakfast granite.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fiesta

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • C is working hard to earn ribbons in music class, which is what the kids get when they master a song.
  • Last night we went to the cafeteria for dinner and then to the fiesta that the Hispanic Student Association put on. They had a mariachi band, free (I think) food from a taco truck (there were hundreds of people in line), a ring toss, a balloon and dart board table, an artificial bull to ride (fraternity brothers held the ropes and made it jump around), Mexican-style popsicles, a moon bounce, an arts and crafts table and a prize table. The kids did the ring toss and the moon bounce and D rode the artificial bull twice. He got a moderated kid version of the ride. The college students I saw got the version where the bull tosses you off. We collected tickets and then went to the prize table, where we loaded up on Mexican candies: different kinds of dulce de leche, guava candies and a very interesting halva-like peanut candy called mazapan (here's the Wikipedia article on marzipan, to give you an idea of how varied marzipan is around the world). I skipped the tamarind candies (tamarindo), having found them too tart in the past. In previous years, the college fiesta has been held in an open area. This year, it was moved to a courtyard with a new fountain and beautiful old live oaks. This allowed for a very effective use of decorations: Christmas lights, paper lanterns, pinatas and Mexican cut paper banners (there's a similar folk art in Poland).