Thursday, May 31, 2007

Did you hear that Granny Smith went to a Royal Gala where she met a Pink Lady?

We all grew up hearing that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," and that old school saying has some seriously new school appeal! Eating just one apple each day can do wonders for your health. Not only are these tasty beauties loaded with 5 grams of dietary fiber that help keep a hungry girl feeling satisfied (and regular, by the way!), they also are proven to lower cholesterol. Need a little pick-me-up? A single apple is packed with energy! If you're trying to cut back on caffeine, chew on this--research* shows that eating an apple in the morning makes you feel more awake and alert than a cup of coffee does!

When I was a little girl, I remember about three varieties of apples at the grocery store: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith. Not one to like a mealy apple, I quickly became a fan of the Granny Smith, due to its crisp texture and tart taste. In more recent years, those fancy farmers have cranked out several new varieties of delicious apples, including the popular Fuji and Royal Gala. My local grocery store carries at least seven varieties. Why not have some fun the next time you're at the supermarket, and pick up one of each? Become an apple connoisseur by having a taste test of your very own, and find out which is your favorite. I'm a big fan of the Pink Lady, and not just because of her adorable name--she's firm, crisp, and a real sweet-tart! Best of all, a single apple is fat-free and contains only about 80 calories, so munch away!

*I heard this several years ago on a radio news report.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Homeward Bound

Note: This post was written in the wee, small hours of Tuesday morning. I have since arrived in the Lone Star State.

I am at LAX airport right now, sitting at my gate, waiting to board the red-eye home to Texas. I'll be spending the week at home doing a variety of fun activities that include wedding dress fittings, going to a bridal shower that some of my mom's friends are throwing me, and attending a reunion at a theatre that I used to work at in Houston.

eSuitor and I went to our church's Memorial Day picnic Monday. The weather was gorgeous--warm sun and cool air--a perfect Southern California day! The picnic was at a private park that the church rented. We got to catch up with friends and even got to ride a tilt-a-whirl. *Funsies!* The kid in me had (count 'em!) two snowcones--one was half orange-pinapple/half fruit punch, and the other was blue raspberry. Mmmm. (When you let the kid in you have two snowcones, it's not as bad as when grown up you has that many. You know kids--such fast metabolism!)

When we got back to eSuitor's place, I began to get one of those eyeball headaches that just wouldn't quit. I took a 45 minute nap and when I woke up, it was worse. I thought that maybe I needed some caffeine (as that usually nips my occasional headaches in the bud), so we hopped in the car to get some dinner and a diet coke, but in the car, I started to feel nauseous, and nothing sounded good. You know that somethin' ain't right with me when food of any kind lacks appeal. So we turned around and went back to his place. I decided to try to take another nap. Three hours later, I woke up feeling like a new woman. Thank You, Lord! I'm so glad I'm feeling better now, because traveling when you don't feel good is no fun. I think that all that time in the sun today did me in and made me a little dehydrated.

I'm on the plane now, typing away to my heart's content. I can't believe that my wedding is only 32 days away (not that I'm counting!) Time is a flyin'!

Monday, May 28, 2007

My Graduate

The past week has been a wonderful one of celebration. On Thursday night, we went to eSuitor's baccalaureate dinner and hooding ceremony. All of the graduates of his seminary were hooded by a professor that they developed a special relationship with during their years of study.

Here is a photo of eSuitor being hooded by his dear professor, Dr. C, who has had a profound influence on him during his time in seminary. I love the look of joyful pride on Dr. C's face. He seems very pleased to be hooding my honey!

This is another photo of the two of them together. (Don't you just love the academic regalia?!) I've been talking to eSuitor about writing a post as a guest blogger one day. He has had a fascinating seminary experience that he describes as "paradigm shifting". I think it might fun to hear more about that from him, if he is willing. :)

Here are a couple of pics of me with my man. This one was on the night of the hooding. And this one on graduation night, right after he graduated!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Milestone 1: Coming Right Up!

On Monday, eSuitor and I spent the entire day together. It started in the morning with our final premarital counseling appointment. Several months ago, we took a test called "PREPARE", which helps a couple determine areas of their relationship that are strong and which areas need some growth. It charts trends in our families of origin and in our relationship together. And it assesses the overall health of the relationship. The counselor/minister who meets with the couple must be specially trained to interpret the test results. Our meetings with our minister were very fruitful in terms of helping to discuss our areas of strength, and it was a safe environment to talk about our areas in which we need to grow. Overall, our minister told us that he feels really good about our decision to get married and said that he sees "green lights on all sides". After praying for us, he told us that he can see the fingerprints of God on our relationship, and that was a lovely affirmation of our decision to marry.

After leaving our counseling session, I got to attend eSuitor's very last seminary class with him! It was a marriage and family class, so the subject matter was very interesting and time-appropriate!

After class, we cooked dinner together at his place. Here's my man where he always looks very much in his element! I feel so blessed to be marrying a chef!

He made us this delicious asparagus which he cooked inside of an olive oil dampened paper bag in the oven. It was infused with a subtle lemon flavor from cooking it with the citrus fruit.

We decided to eat off of these pretty plates we received as an early wedding gift!

eSuitor is about to pass three major milestones, all in about five weeks time: graduation from seminary (which happens tomorrow), turning 40 in early June, and getting married in late June! As part of his graduation from seminary, he was given this silver ring. It is inscribed with the words of Jesus, "Abide in me"--a daily reminder to live in intimacy with Jesus.

I am very proud of eSuitor for realizing his long-time dream of graduating from seminary. God bless you, Baby! May He use you to touch others with His great love. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Confetti Trees and More!

One of the most striking things about life in Southern California is the variety of trees and flowers that grow and bloom here all through the year. Being from Houston, I was accustomed to tall evergreen firs. So the flora and fauna of So Cal is new and different to me! I took all of these photos on a walk this weekend with eSuitor.

The Royal Palm is one of my favorites here.

The jasmine growing in front of this little dream house smelled so fragrant.

The tall pointy trees are called cyprus (not to be confused with the cypress trees of Texas). I like to call the cyprus here "Tuscany Trees" because they remind me of the trees that dot Italian hillsides. The purple tree on the right is the variety I am currently having a love affair with. They are called Jacaranda, and every May and June, they are covered with their breath-takingly beautiful purple buds.

I like to call them "confetti trees" because as the buds begin to fall off, the ground looks as if it has been littered with lovely purple confetti!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interior Design

What Your Soul Really Looks Like
You are a warm hearted and open minded person. It's easy for you to forgive and forget.
You are a grounded person, but you also leave room for imagination and dreams. You feet may be on the ground, but you're head is in the clouds.
You see yourself with pretty objective eyes. How you view yourself is almost exactly how other people view you.
Your near future is likely to be filled with great successes and accomplishments. You just need to figure out how to get there.
For you, love is all about caring and comfort. You couldn't fall in love with someone you didn't trust.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lurking Elsewhere Today...

One of my blog buddies, Katie, lives in Florence, Italy (bless her heart!). Today, she has written a very cool post answering some questions that I asked her about living in Europe, Italian art, and her life of faith.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Some Questions from my Favorite Canadian Blogger!

Word Nerd at "Words...Thoughts...Nonsense" sent me the following questions for this interview meme. These were some deep questions, and I hope my answers do them justice!

Question: What are your three biggest accomplishments?

1. Going to acting school at The Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC. Those were some of the most important years of my life. I grew so much as a person and I really came alive to my passion for acting during that time. It was during those years that I had my first real boyfriend, and I don't think it's a cooincidence that it happened at the same time that I was really getting honest with who I was. I think that when you know yourself well, you are in a much healthier place to have healthy and successful relationships.

2. Living in Spain. I had a long-time desire to live overseas--specifically in Europe. My year living and working in Zaragoza was fulfilling on nearly every level. I'm so grateful to have had such a rich cross-cultural experience. My friends there are still very dear to me. Spain definitely left a mark on my heart.

3. My relationships with loved ones. For me, relationships are what makes the world go 'round. I am blessed to have a very close relationship with my family and some very dear friends. eSuitor and I also share a very close bond. I feel humbled and proud (can one feel both at once?) of these relationships, as they are essential to my journey through life.

Question: What is your favorite memory from childhood?

It's so hard to pick just one. I was blessed with a wonderful childhood full of love and fun times. So many great memories! Some of my most vivid impressions of childhood include climbing trees, playing softball with the Red Hots, and playing spy out in our backyard. Interesting that they were all outdoor activities, and now I'm much more of an indoor person. Hmm.

Question: If time, money and geography weren't obstacles, where would you live and why?

I think that right now, I would live right where I am. Of course, I could do without the traffic, and I would love for my family and friends to live much, much closer than they do. But the climate and career opportunities that come with life in LA are wonderful. Oh, and my sweetheart lives here, too!

Question: What do you LOVE about your future husband, eSuitor?

On my eHarmony profile, I said I was looking for a man with strong character and integrity, and that is just what I got! eSuitor is a man of his word. Very reliable. Extremely trustworthy. I also love that he is emotionally available. We have been very open with each other about who we are, and that kind of emotional intimacy is awesome. I thank him often for loving me so well. He truly wants me to flourish in my personal life and also in the context of our relationship. That kind of selfless love nourishes me deep in my soul. The one person that he loves more than me is God. And that is what I love the best. So much of who he is flows out of his relationship with God, and I wouldn't change that for the world.

Question: In what ways does your faith help you on a daily, montly and yearly basis? How do you think it makes a difference in the way that you live?

What a great question! It's so hard to answer this question without sounding cliche or overly religious. So I'll do my best here.

I would liken my faith to a long-term journey with my best Friend. I placed my faith in Jesus 22 years ago. When you've been in a relationship with someone that long, it's sometimes hard to remember what life was like without Him. Just like marriage or having a baby changes nearly everything and touches every aspect of your life, so does having a relationship with God. It is a magnificent thing to realize that the God of the universe is also my Friend. The God who rules Creation also rules my heart with His peace. The God who made the sun and moon and stars loves me dearly and acts on my behalf. I do not claim that my life is perfect...far from it! In my imperfection, I am dearly loved and I never walk this journey of life alone. So to answer your question, my faith is all about this relationship with Jesus which impacts every day of every week of every year of this journey.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Interviewed by Ally Bean

Ally Bean at "Crazy Dust in my Coffee" sent me the following questions for this interview meme:

Question: What part of your day do you enjoy the most?

I am a night-owl by nature. I’d have to say that my most productive hours are often between 11 pm and 1 am. So much creativity can flow for me at those times, and it’s quiet because the rest of the world is asleep. I admit that I haven’t seen much of those hours lately. And while I’ll never call myself a morning person, I have actually been enjoying waking up and working out in the morning. It’s a great way to jump-start the metabolism and to get my day off and running to an energetic start.

Question: What is your opinion of the color red?

Very bold. Very Spanish. Very American. Very sexy. Very timeless.

My IKEA computer desk is red, and I like the punch of color that it adds to the corner of my living room.

Question: When you first meet a person are you able to remember his or her name? If not, why not? If so, how do you do that?

Unfortunately, I don’t generally remember people’s names at first meeting. I think it’s because there is always a level of social anxiety at work when meeting a new person. Sometimes, I have to ask more than once what a person’s name is. I’ve heard that repeating a person’s name three times gets it in your head. “Ally? Hi Ally! Nice to meet you, Ally.” That always seems forced and cheesy to me, so I choose authenticity over remembering names. I can tell when I make a good connection with someone, though. So when a good connection is made, and I want to get to know a person better, I usually say, “I’m sorry. I’m terrible with names. What’s your name again?” And then that person is relieved because they can’t remember my name either!

Question: Charmed or Bewitched?

Question: What is the dumbest pair of earrings that you've ever worn out in public?

I’m not going to say that they’re dumb, but they were definitely a craze that I participated in. Pretty much every day of junior high right on into high school, I faithfully wore my shrimp earrings that looked a lot like these.

When I lived in NYC in the mid to late 90s, I noticed that a fad among many of the Puerto Rican-American women living there was to wear this style of shrimp earrings with one’s name scripted across them. I still think they're a cool look...I couldn't pull it off, though.

Would you like me to interview you? Here are the rules:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me” and also leave me your e-mail address if I don’t already have it. (I’ll be sure to delete it from my comments, so that it won’t sit out in the ethersphere endlessly.)

2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Double Celebrity Sighting!

If you want to see the celebrities when you come to LA, don't look for them in Hollywood. Instead, you need only to hang out in the craft stores, apparently. Today, within an hour of each other, I had two celeb sightings. First, I saw Melissa Joan Hart at a scrapbooking store.

About an hour later, as I was getting ready to walk out of a fabric store, a striking woman with presence walked in. I thought to myself, "I don't know who she is, but she seems important." I then looked to the door and the same man who held it open for her was still holding it open for me. I'm not even kidding!

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Butterfly, hover
Near my mother,
And tell her that
I dearly love her!



(The above poem is actually one that my sister brought home from elementary school for our mom. It's been hanging on a wall in our house for about a quarter of a century now, and it gets quoted on a regular basis!)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

en el medio del camino

When I lived in Spain, I was addicted to the Spanish take on American Idol. It was called "Operacion Triunfo". I was so happy to find the link to this video on YouTube. It features one of my favorites from the season. Her name is Beth and she sings a rockin' rendition of "En el Medio de Camino" here with Alejandro. She ended up placing second or third in the overall competition, but went on to record her own CD and represented the country of Spain in the Eurovision continent-wide competion that year. I love her dreds and her confidence.

Enjoy the video.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Visit to the Hearst Castle

After saying farewell to our friends in Cayucos, eSuitor and drove to Fresno for the wedding of our friends, Dan and Sara. On the way, we decided to stop for a tour of the Hearst Castle. It is one of California's top tourism sites. The place was truly spectacular, and totally worth checking out. "Opulence" would be the word of the day, so brace yourself. Walking around this place, I felt as if I were on the set of The Great Gatsby--only this place was for real!
William Randolf Hearst inherited the land where he later built the Hearst Castle. This is one of his guest houses called "Casa del Sol". It, along with the other houses on the property were all designed by San Francisco architect, Julia Morgan. Her designs were inspired by Mediterranean art and architecture--principally from Spain, Italy, and Greece.

The landscaping was also gorgeous. When nature produces these colors and the perfect natural light, one need only to zoom and click!

The place included both indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

Notice the indoor swimming pool's diving platform!

Hearst was a great lover and collector of art. Much of it is actually ancient Greek and Roman art, though there are some reproductions.

Here's a pic of eSuitor and I at our friend's wedding. eSuitor was a groomsman, and he looked so handsome in his tux! The next time I see him in one of those, he will be my groom! Just 53 days to go...not that I'm counting!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sweet Friendship

On Thursday, eSuitor and I road tripped up the coast to the town of Cayucos to visit some dear friends of mine who were in town visiting from Spain. It was a wonderful visit that consisted of conversation, food, more conversation, and more food. So basically, it was perfect. :)

Dinner at the Sea Shanty in Cayucos

Here is a photo of my friends: Jeff, May, and little Marta. It was fun getting to know their little girl, who I hadn't seen since she was just a couple months old. She has a big personality, and she's absolutely beautiful!

It was also great to get to introduce them to eSuitor, and vice-versa. It was like watching two of my "worlds" come together. Everyone liked each other, and we're looking forwarding to spending more time together, whenever that may be. My friendships made in Spain are in a special category of their own: they were caring, intimate, genuine, and straightforward. Seeing May and Jeff again was like pouring water on parched soil. I miss May so much! She is a soul friend. And when we said goodbye, I dissolved into eSuitor's arms and cried me a river. Friends like that are rare gems, and I'm blessed to have sparkling jewels like these in my life.

Using My Assets

I'm not saying I'm proud that I own one of these. I'm just saying they work.

Operation String Bikini is really going poorly. I have gained back every pound that I lost. :( It's really frustrating. South Beach Diet, I'm running back into your forgiving arms. I'm sorry I left you. Can we try again? Thanks.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More photos from the weekend in San Francisco

In the previous post, I wrote about the shower in San Francisco. Here are some other images of the weekend:
The shower was at my cousin, MB's house. She has an awesome backyard/garden where we all sat down to open presents. Doesn't it look picturesque?

My sister is going to be my matron of honor, although she prefers the term "best girl". It was really special to have her sitting there next to me as I opened my gifts. It reminded me of being at her bridal shower four years ago. :)

Several extended family members came to the shower, including my great Aunt Rita (my paternal grandfather's youngest sibling). She is beautiful inside and out. I also want to say a special "thank you" to my cousins Jamie, Sofia and Shellie (not pictured), who drove about two and a half hours to celebrate with me!

Having my blog buddies J and Cherry present was a special honor!

After the shower, my Auntie M had us over to her house for a hamburger and chili cookout! Here I am with my cousins at the cookout. When I hang out with my Dad's side of the family, I look like an Irish lass surrounded by Italian/Latinos, which I am! :)

Jilly and MB (lovely shower hostess #1).

My mom and Auntie M (lovely shower and cookout hostess).


I haven't posted in the last week because I've been so busy having fun! :) My mom flew out for a week, which was so awesome of her. We tried to strike a good balance of relaxation, fun, and productivity. Ultimately, I think we succeeded.

One night, while relaxing, we decided to flip on "The Bachelor: Officer and a Gentleman". My mother, who has maybe watched a total of 2 hours of television in the last five years, was totally sucked in! I got such a chuckle hearing her talking back to the tv, "She is NOT the woman for him!".

For fun, we ate plenty of good food, toured the Huntington Gardens, and I got to show her eSuitor's condo, where I will be living in two short months!

To be productive, we addressed 95% of my wedding invitations. That also fell under the "fun" category for us, as we both love writing in pretty handwriting. It must be a mother-daughter genetic link.

Toward the end of the week, my sister flew in to LAX, and the three of us road tripped up to San Francisco, where my cousin (aka fairy-godmother) and my aunt threw me a lovely bridal shower! My Dad's side of the family lives there, so several ladies from the family (and two very special guests*) came together to shower me with love and fantastic gifts! Many of the women who came to the shower drove in from far away to celebrate with me. I felt very honored, and I'm not sure how to adequately thank them (though I imagine that a thank you note is a good place to start!). Being a recent transplant to California, it really means a lot to me to have such wonderful women out here who came together to support me this weekend, and whom I hope to get to know better as time goes on.

* One major highlight of the shower was getting to meet two very special guests: "J" from Thinking About and Cherry from Cherry Extract. These are two of my earliest blog buddies. We have been reading and commenting on each other's blogs for over a year. I was thrilled when they RSVPed that they could attend the shower, and meeting them was a total joy! It didn't actually feel like a first-time meeting at all! It was more like continuing a conversation with two friends who I already knew. We all agreed that the community of bloggy friends that we have made is one of the most unexpected and wonderful things about blogging! Thank you, "J" and Cherry for attending my shower. I'm already looking forward to our next meeting!
Here is a photo of "J" with her new haircut, myself, and Cherry!

(J, I copied this photo from your blog...I hope you don't mind. I'll be posting more pics when I get them!)
I am amazed that after blogging for just over a year, I have now met three of my favorite bloggers, who literally live from coast to coast. (I also met Buttercup over Thanksgiving.) I can't help but think that God somehow brought us together for a reason. Whatever the reason (friendship and community, I imagine), I am very thankful!