Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Puerto Rican Day

My last name may be Holmes and my heart might be in Texas, but my roots are 100% Puerto Rican!  We had a gathering of all the Diaz cousins at my sister's beautiful home.  My niece Alicia flew in from San Francisco, my son Jared flew in from Philadelphia, my daughter Amanda flew in from New York City, and my mom and brother drove up from central Texas.

It's been a long time since all the cousins have been together.

Despicable Me 2!  It was hilarious!

Oaky, it was really more of a weekend.  On Saturday morning, we all gathered to begin a day of shopping, cooking, salsa dancing, and general merriment.  No, the black and white theme was not planned.  :)

While my mom and sister cooked (I left the cooking to the experts and had dishwashing duties), the cousins (and Uncle Miguel) played games.

Savannah did Alicia and Amanda's nails.  It might be hard to tell, but they are done in Cheetah patterns, Savannah's specialty.

Just me and my kids.  Poor dad is still working hard in Oman.

Here is what made up our Puerto Rican feast.  It was more of a traditional Christmas dinner.  This is Arroz con Gandules, or rice with pigeon peas.  Delicious, trust me!

Here are Tostones, or fried plantains.  These are green plantains, not ripe ones, so they are not sweet.

Normally we would have Pernil, or roast pork.  For the sake of time, we compromised with pork chops.

Pasteles!  These are a concoction of grated green plantains and other root vegetables.  There is a pork meat filling.  The vegetables and meat filling are wrapped in a banana tree leaf and then a waterproof foil pouch.  The whole thing is boiled for about 45 minutes, and then voila!  I have vivid memories of the whole family making dozens of these at one time, a process taking all day.  Now my mother orders them frozen from a lady she knows.  I would buy frozen ones from a Puerto Rican restaurant in Chicago.  A little hard to come by in Oman!

 Here is my sister, Diana, making mojitos.

Here are the kids, enjoying some Blue Bell ice cream.  Not very Puerto Rican, but very Texan!

After eating, came gift time.  I brought all the guys head scarves from Oman.  I bought these at the Souk in Muscat, and a nice Omani customer showed us how to wrap them around.  We also used a refresher video from youtube to help us remember.  Don't look too closely!  It is definitely a learned skill!  I was happy to find Longhorn colors for Jared and Uncle Wilmer.

The girls got blingy head things.  And black kohl eyeliner, again from the Souk.

My beautiful mother and all her grandchildren.

The next day, there was just a little more cooking.  Things we didn't have time or stomach room for on Saturday.

Growing up, we called these pastelillos.  But most everyone else calls them empanadas.  It's a fried pie with a delicious beef filling.

And rice pudding, Amanda's request.  The rice pudding really did remind me of Christmases past.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Mineola--Austin's Playground

We have visited lots of people and places so far this summer.  It has been hard to find time to blog, so this is a couple of weeks late. We were visiting Papa and Miss Diane in Mineola, one of Austin's favorite places.  Mineola is where my husband grew up, in beautiful east Texas.

 People always ask me where Austin gets his height.  Meet Papa, Joe's dad!  As tall as Austin is, he is not as tall as Papa.  But give Austin a couple of more years, and we shall see!  

Papa took us to have a bit of fried catfish in the big city of Alba.  We rode in his pickup and listened to country music.  Texas all the way!

Fried shrimp, fried okra, fried catfish, and fried corn fritters.  Don't judge me.  I passed up the hush puppies, the French fries, and the fried apples.  But not the pecan cobbler.  ;)

Well, this is Savannah's favorite activity on the farm.  Driving the mule.  She has been driving the mule since she was 8 or 9!

Austin enjoys driving the 4-wheeler.

Savannah took me for a drive around the farm.  I was hanging on for dear life!  I am afraid she has a bit of a lead foot.

I have been visiting Mineola for over 30 years, and have never shot a gun.  Austin felt that it was up to him to remedy the situation.  It was, um, loud!  I did hit the target, however.

Papa, aka Raymond, knew I was going to do a blog post about Mineola.  He wanted to make sure I included a picture of his favorite tractor.  Not that he plants actual crops, but he does enjoy moving dirt around.  Joe would love to hire him to help build the quarry in Oman!

The old barn

Austin loves the farm in Mineola.  He loves shooting, fishing, driving the 4-wheeler, building forts, and having fun in the workshop.  Since Papa is more of a gun collector than a sword collector, Austin made his own sword.

Just enjoying a pleasant afternoon.
And of course no trip to Mineola is complete without a run to Super Wal-Mart.  Today's purchase?  Quack Dynasty t-shirts!

There is a lot of camouflage in East Texas.  Even Scooter the dog!

A small store located in Lindale.
Well, this concludes our first trip to Mineola this summer, but not our last.  Next time, there will be cousins!  :)





Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Friends From Around the World

I love meeting new people and Oman is a great place to do this.  I have met people from countries I have never even heard of!  Have you heard of the Faroe Islands?  This blog post is about new friends from Ethiopia and India (countries I have heard of.)  These pictures were taken in May and June, but just now blogging about it.

My new friend, Tg, invited me for coffee.  She made the coffee in the traditional Ethiopian way.  Let's see if I remember the steps.  First, she took green coffee beans (who knew?)  and put them in a pan on the stove.  She roasted them for a good ten minutes, stirring constantly.  Then into the grinder.  Next, she placed some beans in the special pot, seen above in the red bowl.  She poured some boiling water in the pot, then poured some out, checking the color.  She decided the pot needed more coffee.  Then she filled the pot with boiling water, and let it sit.  She told me that we had to wait until the steam stopped coming out of the pot.  As the coffee cooled a bit, the grounds would sink.  This way she could pour the coffee without the grounds falling into the cup.

Tg served the coffee in the traditional way.  She filled my cup halfway with warm milk.  Then the coffee, and some sugar.  Delicious!  Let me just say, my cup of coffee at home the next morning was a letdown!

Here I am with my good friend, Caroline.  Caroline is the teaching leader for my Bible study, BSF.  I love coming to BSF and seeing all the beautiful saris worn by many of the Indian ladies.  So on this day, Caroline surprised me with my own sari demonstration. 

A sari is really just one long piece of cloth.  About 6 meters, or 19 feet.  It can be made of just about any fabric, from cheap cotton to the finest of silk.  Don't remember what this one was made of.

You start by placing one end at your shoulder and the other end at your waist.  Then all the fabric in between gets folded and tucked.
Ta da!  The finished product!  The whole thing is secured by a pin at the shoulder and one at the waist.  There is usually a matching short-sleeved top to go underneath.  Young girls start wearing saris at about the age of 13. 

 Saris are more common in the southern part of India, while the tunic and pants were more prevalent in northern Indian.  Caroline is from southern India, but she says that the tunics are becoming more popular in the south, too.  It takes about 30 seconds to put on a tunic and pants, but about 15 minutes to put on a sari!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mission Trip to Oklahoma

 My kids spent the first two weeks of the summer going on two trips with their old church youth group from Naperville, Illinois.  This post is about their second trip, a mission trip to Oklahoma City.  This trip had been planned for a long time, before the devastating tornadoes hit the area.  So, in addition to their scheduled activities, they also helped with some tornado cleanup.
The kids spent six days helping at the Capitol Hill Church of Christ, in Oklahoma City.  They were helping with the children in the summer-long program.  The children are there from 9-2, and participate in all sorts of activities.
 Austin made some new friends.

Savannah spent her time helping with the 3-6 year olds.

Austin spent his time with the 9 and 10-year-olds.  One of the activities is shared reading time, to reinforce the children's reading skills.

Austin also helped plan a water balloon and shaving cream war.

Apart from their duties at Capitol Hill, they also had a chance to visit the Towers Elementary School, where 7 people lost their lives in the tornado.

 Savannah took this picture.  This used to be a neighborhood full of houses.

Austin and Savannah are helping at a house struck by the tornado.  All the Sheetrock had to be removed, so that the insurance inspectors could determine the damage to the structure.  Being one of the tallest, Austin had ceiling duty.

 They also spent one day helping clean a lady's yard.  A stranger asked what they were doing, and bought everyone a snow cone.  The snow cones were much appreciated, as the temperature was over 100 degrees!

 There was some play time in the week.  The kids all got to attend a minor league baseball game.  Austin was chosen to participate in the Silly Human Tricks.  Why am I not surprised?  :)

Not sure what Jenna did, but Austin pretty much made silly faces.

Savannah and a friend at the game.
This is an e-mail that Austin wrote Joe at the end of the trip.  I have decided to include it, since he can sum up the week much better than me!
 Hey pops. I am on the way back home to Aurora! The mission trip was a roaring success. We helped out a lady whose house was hit bad enough to warrant help. I took down the ceiling and all the drywall. I got thoroughly soaked in fiberglass insulation but that was alright. After we helped the lady we gave her the $5,700 we raised for her with our fundraiser at church and at Uplift. The next person we helped was an older lady with a terribly messy backyard. Like junkyard messy. It was bad. She didn't get hurt by the tornado but she signed up for the volunteer help anyway. We got a large trailer and filled it up twice. Exhausting work! It was just above 100 degrees and it was a lot of physical labor and I was surprised how well everybody did! No one complained! We also took down two well built sheds which was super fun destructive work. But now my shoulders hurt. Anyway, so we found a hole under one of the sheds. Turns out that the women's husband was about to go to jail and so he dug that hole so that he could hide from the cops under the floor of his shed when they came to arrest him! It was completely understandable that this guy got arrested cause there were weird things spray painted all over one of the sheds. It honestly felt really good to wear myself out helping someone. Savannah worked hard and was always begging for the sledgehammer. Rusty even commented on it during one of devos. Now to the main reason we are here. We were helping out with a church called Capitol Hill Church of Christ. This is in a poor neighborhood in Oklahoma by where we were staying. We went to a church service when we got there on Sunday and it was said in English and also translated into Spanish. Oh and every church service the church provides a meal to all who comes and that night it was frito pie with watermelon which was amazing. The next morning we came to the church at nine and started helping the summer school that was there. Well it was closer to a day care. Our job was to make a buddy and in general just to be helpful and help the interns control the kids. I was with the 9-10 year olds which was quite a challenge. Was I ever that crazy at that age? We worked until two everyday which is when we went straight from the church into tornado relief work. I made good friends with our two girl interns and that led to me suggesting an attack on yellow group. So me and Yvon loaded up about fifty water balloons and got about four cans of shaving cream and at recess time we attacked. It was a battle of epic proportions. I had shaving cream absolutely everywhere! Since I am the giver of piggy back rides or the general jungle gym, they all had to tackle me and rub shaving cream into my hair and stuff. It was great. The last day we went to a museum! You can imagine how difficult it was to control four boys who all wanted to do different things. But this was an awesome museum. We rode segways, fenced, and watched a chemistry show about explosions. Saying goodbye was surprisingly hard. You become close to a few kids without even knowing it and its sad to leave them. Most of them have sad family stories and you can tell how much they love us right then. I even cried a little bit. But the part I think is funny is that I have a few more nine year old Facebook friends. This trip has drained me physically and mentally and I am ready to get into a bed and sleep for about a week. But I know that won't happen cause I have to see all my friends! Anyway pops, I gotta catch some Z's on the bus ride home so I'm not wiped and cranky when I get back. I love you so much old man. Hope work is going well people are being good! Miss you and I'll call you sometime in the next couple of days and give you more detail. PEACE!
I am proud of all the kids on this trip.  They worked so hard to make a difference in those lives in Oklahoma.  I also want to thank Rusty and Adam for their pictures I used.
The kids and I are now in Texas, where we will spend the rest of our time in the US.  Visiting family and as many friends as we can squeeze in!