"What we do in this life, echoes in eternity."
Maximus, Gladiator
"Our creator would never have made such lovely days, and given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal."
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Am Legend--Again

I already wrote about "I Am Legend", the movie. I just signed up for goodreads.com and since yesterday I got brave and finally read the book, I thought I'd publish my review. If you're not already on goodreads, go ahead and sign up; it's an awesome website. Kind of like facebook for book lovers.
Here it is!

I Am Legend I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've been thinking about this story ever since I saw the movie several months ago. I was very hesitant to read the book because I was afraid it would be too graphic, or too scary. Well, it is a scary story, and not because of the vampires, but because it's about a vampirism plague that wipes humanity out of the face of the earth. The main character, Robert Neville, lost both his wife and daughter to the pandemic. I think the scary part for me was imagining I was in his place, knowing that I couldn't protect my children if they were infected, that nothing I did would save them. For this reason I think the book is scarier and sadder than the movie. Even though I tried to picture the character as the author describes him in his book (German-English descent), I kept seeing Will Smith in mind. Will Smith made a terrific Neville in the movie; he really conveyed the suffering and anguish Matheson describes in the book.

The writing is very well done, descriptive, not too harsh or graphic. There's not vulgarity either, so that was a plus. I was worried at first that the language would be bad. I recommend this book, especially during Halloween time, and also if you want to read about a person's determination to live even when there's apparently nothing to live for.

This copy I borrowed from the library contains other stories by Matheson. They are all suspenseful and/or scary. There is one story, "Prey", that I was familiar with. When I was a young girl I saw a film version of it, and it's one of the many reasons I'm still afraid of ethnic dolls or wooden carvings of people. you read it and you'll know why.

When I read "Prey" I realized Matheson's stories are well known, but his name is not--at least in my case, I hadn't heard of him before I am Legend came out as a movie.

View all my reviews.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bookmark seller

My little Swan Princess has my heart in her hands. I know I've written about her charm in several occasions, but today, my heart melted with love. Today we had wonderful weather; it must have been high 70's, and Gorgeous Boy wanted to set up a little store to get money so we could go to a haunted maze. We had planned on going anyway; I don't know why the kids felt they needed to help pay for the outing, but all the same, they wanted to do something to earn some money. Princess thought they could sell fruit, and yes, we had several peaches and apples, but none she could sell for $5.00 each, so she gave up on the fruit idea. Then Gorgeous decided to go sell golf balls with his friend and next door neighbor. Jeff helped them collect balls from the creek that runs on the back of our house, and the little boys set up a table right by the country club entrance to sell the balls they had collected. They ended up selling only one. Their lone customer: Swan Princess, who payed $.25 for a ball that had already been in her room before her brother decided to add it to his inventory.
Swan Princess still wanted to earn her own money, and after much thinking, she ran to my room where I was nursing Chubbers and trying to have a little nap, and happily announced she had decided to sell bookmarks! Her little delicate hands were clutching a collection of cards, tags, pieces of ribbon, that she had gathered from several hiding places. 
I told her that selling bookmarks was a great idea and I actually drifted off for a few minutes. When I got up, I went to the front door, and I saw this:

My daughter's singsong voice kept chanting :
"Bookmarks, for saaaaaaaale.
Over here, 25 cents ........ Bookmarks."

I'm not exactly sure why, but my eyes filled with tears, and in my mind, I was taken back to Rosario, where I've seen kids selling cards, stamps, flowers, not for a fun family outing but to avoid being beaten for not bringing money to abusive parents, or to feed themselves and/or hungry little siblings.
Her fragile silhouette, her shrill little voice, the puppy by her side, made me want to protect her forever, to shield her from this world, to keep her innocent and happy all her life. I know she'll grow, she does everyday; this little girl of mine is so smart and bright! But this image of her is branded in my mind. 
"Bookmarks, for sale
Over here, 25 cents..." 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I've been tagged!!!

I've been tagged by Tiffany, and I'm thrilled because it's the first time ever that I've been tagged in almost 2 years of blogging!
It's a fun tag too. You have to go to your 6th photo folder and pick the 6th picture. This one I got is from our trip to England last year, though it feels like a lifetime ago. Wow! I actually was there once! This pic was taken in London. I have no idea whose statue that is, or what cool building is in the background. Oh! I just remembered! It's Westminster Abbey, where my beloved Henry II, Harry to his friends, is buried. 
I tag Cristina, Aline, Adriana, Candice and Kady!!!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's Snowing!!!!!!!!!

No more to say! A couple of days ago we were wearing shorts, and drinking mate in the yard; Today, it's finally winter! Where did fall go? It just passed us by? I feel like Piglet in that Winnie-the-Pooh movie, when in October Rabbit losses some pages from his calendar, and believes they're on Groundhog Day. Piglet asks in a little sad voice, "have we missed Christmas then?"
I feel like asking, "Have we missed Halloween? The most excellent holiday of the year?"
Oh brother!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Date with My Son

I know that lately I've been posting a lot more about my oldest child, Gorgeous Boy, than about the other three little ones. This hasn't been because he's my favorite or anything, quite the contrary. No, no, you're wrong again. He's not my least favorite either; I don't have a favorite among my kids. Even though I couldn't believe my mom when I was a little girl, I do know now that a mother has a different kind of love for each child. But I digress, I'm posting a lot about my Gorgeous because since he's the oldest, he's the one who gets relegated all the time, the one I spend the least time with, the one I spoil the less, the one I demand more from. He's also the first one to do many things, so his first times are also mine.
In his school parents have to volunteer a certain amount of hours each year because the school was literally organized by parents and is ran by us, the parents. So, besides doing my class rotations every week, I also volunteered to go on a field trip with Gorgeous' second grade class. They were visiting the Hindu Temple, about half an hour from home. I had always wanted to visit it, and this was my chance to get to see it AND spend some alone time with my son. Well, alone is a figure of speech because there were 3 classes of about 22 kids each on the same bus. You do the math. To say that the ride was noisy is a complete understatement. Fortunately, I'm an expert in blocking out whiny, demanding kids, so after a few minutes, the noise turned into a drone, white noise. My boy cuddled with me all the way to our destination (we visited a pond first because the class is studying habitats), he nestled with my hair (like when he was a baby), we talked, I saw him joke and play with his little friends. I about burst with pride when I saw him share his lunch with a little boy whose mom had forgotten to pack a lunch for. 
At the temple, the kids were so respectful! Most, if not all of them, are LDS, so they know a Temple is a special place of worship. The temple is surrounded by a working farm, and the kids saw miniature cows, peacocks, llamas. The kids could walk the llamas, and they even had a llama race.
Once inside the temple, a gentleman (I assume he was the leader of the congregation, but I lack the correct name for his position. A yogi? Pardon my ignorance) gave us an overview about India. What a fascinating place! After that, we were taken to a second floor, where the children participated in a chant. That experience was mesmerizing to me. Their little bodies swaying with the music, feeling the sacredness of it with their own souls, clapping their hands in unison, and rising their bell-like voices in a mantra as old as the world:
 "Hare Khishna, 
Hare Hare, 
Rama Khrishna, 
Rama Rama,
Rama Hare."

The adults were a little confused about this. Were we supposed to want our kids to chant this mantra, even though God was named in another way than the one we use all the time? I could feel some of the parents were a little uncomfortable, but I felt elated seeing my son being so open to other cultures. I mean, don't get me wrong. I don't want him to embark in an spiritual quest, abandoning the church. But I do want him, and his siblings, to learn that other peoples find God in other places, with other names. And that if the world could learn that, we'd live in Paradise. 
After the song, a Yogi taught the kids a few yoga exercises. Again, I couldn't help feeling so envious of these children's capacity to learn, to open their minds and souls to new things. 
As a side note, both the Yogi, and the man who gave us the tour were older men. The yoga teacher was almost 50 years old, and I've never seen a person in better shape in my whole life (other than on TV, and not all we see on TV is real). The guide (for lack of the correct word) was in his 70's and he was svelte, and limber, energetic, healthy. There's much to think about that vegetarian diet! 
My favorite part of the day?
Gorgeous took my face in his hands, kissed my cheek, and said, "This has been the happiest day of my life." 
I can't add any other words to that. 
Here's some pics!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I know it's long overdue: What is Mate?

I know I talk about drinking mate all the time (I talk about it all the time and drink it all the time), and many of you who have known me forever have either seen me have my mate ritual or have participated with me. In essence, mate is an herbal tea, more accurately, an infusion. I could write about the wonderful properties of yerba mate, an herb that grows in the semi-tropical climates of Southern Brazil , Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. I could write about how impressed the Spanish conquistadores were to find the mate drinking South American aborigines were very vigorous and healthy. I could write about how yerba mate is replacing coffee, tea, and green tea as the new energy drink of the century; you get the high without the bad side effects.  

I could provide numbers to prove mate is healthy and good for you, but I won't. I'll just give you a basic rules of mate serving and drinking etiquette, and I'll finish with what this drink means to me.

First you need the right tools: a mate (the container) which is a small cup. It can be plastic, metal, a gourd, carved wood, a hollowed out cow horn, etc. Just a container that won't leak and that won't be too hot to the touch. The mate can be very ornate or very simple. Some people (myself included) note the difference of flavor if you drink from a plastic mate opposed to a wood one. Personally, I love gourds and wooden mates.

You also need a bombilla, which is basically a straw with a tiny strainer at the end to filter the yerba. NOBODY likes to end up with tiny bits of yerba in their mouths. Those little bits can get stuck in your throat and itch like crazy.

Last but not least, you need yerba, the actual herb. There are all kinds of yerba, with dust, without dust, strong, soft, with digestive herbs, Uruguayan, Brazilian, Argentine, traditional, wild harvested, organic. People usually like the yerba they're used to. I don't like my mate too strong; I get a stomachache if the tea ends up too bitter. 

Optional: sugar, herbs like chamomile and peppermint, orange or lemon zest, you name it. I like my mate clean, occasionally I'll add peppermint leaves from my own garden.

Once you have prepared your mate, you add the water, which will be hot, but not boiling. You don't want to burn your yerba. The cebador (the one that prepares and distribute the mate) drinks the first one which will be very bitter. The flavor softens as the yerba gets diluted. If there's a group of people (a ronda), the cebador will pass it to his right. Each person takes a turn drinking from the mate, and the person taking a turn drinks all of it. No one likes to drink left over mate from the person before (I know, we're all drinking with the same straw already! But it's true; you drink all of your mate). When the person is done, the mate returns to the cebador who will repeat the process with all the members of the ronda. Remember, it's usually family and close friends who share mate. It's no fun to drink with 20 other people, besides being unhygienic, no one likes to wait half an hour for a mate. 

One important rule: don't touch the bombilla; if you do, the mate will be ruined and the yerba will lose its flavor. Don't touch the bombilla!

Drinking mate is the opposite of watching TV; it makes you talk with your mate drinking companions, or if you're drinking solo, it makes you think. I've always studied or read with my my mate by my side; it helps me relax.

Families drink mate together in the morning, or in the afternoon, or after meals. When friends come visit, you offer mate to them. My best friend G and I can drink gallons while we talk. If you go to a home where you don't know the family, don't be offended if they don't offer you a mate, but be prepared to accept if they do offer. Rejecting mate is like rejecting food, a personal affront to the hosts. In my family we're very particular with whom we drink mate. I remember when I was a teenager, my next door neighbor, who had known me all my life, finally invited me to drink mate with him. My brother was in shock, but to me it meant that this neighbor had finally "adopted" me as his granddaughter. I loved listening to his stories as a young boy working in the fields and the factories. 

In our Argentine culture, the sign that you're finally an adult is when you prepare your own mate, just for yourself, instead of the whole family. I don't remember when I made my own mate for the first time. Was I worried, happy, stressed, in love? I don't know, but I do know it must have been a special occasion. When Jeff and I got married, my 4 best friends from Argentina sent me a super nice mate set. It's not a proper home without your very own mate set. 

Mate is present in every Argentine home, be it poor or rich, Canaya or Leprosa (reference to Rosario's football teams), Socialists, Capitalists, young, old, ignorant, college professors, doctors, the president, writers, musicians, group of students, nuns and priests ... the list can go on forever. 

Mate means you put up with the most horrible, watered down mate just because the conversation is good, not the mate. It means you take turns, you drink while the other talks and vice-versa; you at least say "Thank You" once a day, when you are done drinking mate for now. 

Mate is not only the herbal tea, the health benefits, the ritual; mate is companionship, conversation, confidences, part of our Argentiness. Our neighboring countries drink mate too; especially Uruguayans who are also known as "Panza Verdes" ("Green Bellies"), and mate means similar things to them. 

I love it when my kids drink with me; I let them drink it when the yerba is watered down and cool. Once they get a taste of it, they'll never let it go. My kids even have a play "mate set" instead of a "tea set", and they've invited me to many a nice mate ronda, complete with philosophical questions and conclusions and all. Very "Argentine."

Even my very boricua Jeff has become addicted to mate, but he still only drinks it with me; it's our special time to talk at night or even work in our individual projects, joined by this give and take of mate drinking. 

We have mate at home, in the parks, at the beach, on the cruises we've been; we've taking it to our trip to Europe, with a well marked package, mind you, in case people think it's an illegal substance or something. We have mate during long drives; I take my mate things when we go to holiday dinners to our extended family's homes. 

Mate is an essential part of my food storage; I can do without many things, but not my yerba. When our prophet, President Hinckley visited Argentina back in '96, we were all a little anxious he would say something about this herbal tea. We all sighed with relief when he didn't. And I know for a fact even several of the General Authorities and Area Authorities were relieved too. 

Mate drinking is as much a part of me as Rosario Central, Argentina's football team, Soda Stereo, or the smell of jasmine in the spring. Can't imagine my life without it.