Saturday, March 5, 2016

Halloween and Thanksgiving

In October, we moved to a new apartment, and as our first guest in our new place, we welcomed a good friend whom we had first met in Kyrgyzstan 10 years ago. Saule now she lives in L.A. so it worked out nicely to come visit us over Halloween weekend. We made sure she got the full American Halloween experience, from pumpkin carving to pumpkin pie to dressing up to trick-or-treating. Plus, Texas managed to blast her with dramatic weather - pouring rain, howling wind, and terrific thunder. (One morning, when I came downstairs, she told me her phone had been beeping with both flood and tornado warnings. "Is this normal??" she asked with big eyes. Luckily, she loves rain. As do I.)


We took walks in the sprinkles and ran along the pier at a nearby park in the raging wind. We decorated some skulls. We ate kasha. And we carved pumpkins!

Mmm, kasha.

They turned out beautifully! Look at that center pumpkin - Saule, you're a natural! 

Next up, costumes and face paint. Josh was a vampire-ish sort of creature, the boys were dragons (Sebby wore the dino/dragon costume I made him last year; I was flattered), and I was Elsa (it was too hard to pass up now that I can definitely pull off that side braid). Saule, in Halloween anticipation, brought her costume with her - a gypsy.

I experimented with some Johnny-Depp action on the eyes. Freaky.


Off to trick or treat!

It was sprinkling when we left, so we grabbed our umbrellas and braved the rain anyway. We were determined to show Saule how it's really done (and mall trick-or-treating is definitely NOT how it's done), not to mention we were eager to take advantage of our new neighborhood with friendly residential homes and sidewalks. The rain picked up, smearing our face paint and moistening our clothes. Though not the most ideal trick-or-treating weather, it was somehow fitting. The dark and gloom, the wind-driven rain - it was all very Halloweeny. We even got to enjoy one family's rather scary haunted house they created inside a trailer on their front lawn. Plus, with the weather deterring a lot of trick-or-treaters, the neighbors were EXTREMELY generous with their candy!

All that running about in the rain made us hungry!

Before she left, we also had to make sure she saw our favorite nature park - the Armand Bayou. It was, of course, sprinkling, but only lightly. We saw turtles and even a calm deer who let us watch her for quite some time. 

On the way to the airport, we stopped at the Aquarium restaurant for a snack, and made sure she got to pet a sting ray before heading back to California. It was a short visit, but we managed to pack a lot in. It was great to have her!

Our Thanksgiving was cute and cozy. Like last year, we made a huge feast and ate it for several days - just like it should be. Mmm. Complete with two kinds of pies, apple and pumpkin.

And this year, we happen to have our own real fireplace (an odd feature in Texas apartments), which makes Christmas decorating just that much better.

Six-State Road Trip: part two

Our Grand Forks days were great! Tanya and I covered all the bases for our preferred brand of fun: frog-catching, tree-climbing, ice cream on the front steps, ukulele sing-alongs, and homemade cookies. The kids got along pretty well, especially outdoors, and were super photogenic. Between the summer foliage and the shining red and yellow hair, these photos are precious.

We spent one day at Turtle River State Park, where we all waded in the muddy river and caught frogs to our hearts' content. We had bucketfuls! We even made bank-side pools for the critters so that Harry could observe them more closely, though he cried every time they hopped away.

Catch that frog!

On one of our final days, we had a lovely day in park with this amazing Birch 'family tree' just calling out to be photographed. 

The princess and the frog

Never underestimate the importance of sunscreen

We then wandered down to the river, getting buried in mucky mud up to our ankles, to look for more frogs. We found a few, to Harry's delight.

The beautiful reds!

The cute blondies!

Ah, the mamas.

Eventually, we were on our way back to Brookings again for our last few days. An afternoon at the kids' museum, adventures on the bike trail, an array of interesting musical instruments, and some old reel-to-reel movies created a memorable end to our trip.

In the kids' museum

The famous T-Rex

Just like old times

On the bike trail


Have you ever played a didgeridoo? 

Practicing on the Kyrgyz mouth harp, the ooz komuz.

Grandpa dug out the reel-to-reel films of Tanya and me as young kids, which the boys loved watching. Misha was fascinated with the inner workings of the machine and tried to create his own.

Onto the show!

Young Tanya and me with Papa

Young Tanya and me with Mom

All too soon, it was time to drive home again. Luckily, we were warmly welcomed back by Kent and Connie in Oklahoma to make our trip a little easier. We spent the night, and in the morning we got a wonderful tour of their land - by Gator.

Pecan trees

I have many more beautiful photos from our first visit to Kent and Connie's, but due to an inopportune glitch in my photo drive, I cannot access them. However, the kids (and me!) were delighted to get the chance to milk real goats and watch them prance around their pens. We even got to try goat's milk, as well as Connie's secret pancake recipe.

Somewhere in southern Oklahoma, we stopped at this scenic overlook 

and then we kept on going until we were home. Josh was happy to see us!