Fabric bucket

The latest creation my Brother and I made is probably my favorite so far.  If anyone has spent any amount of time over on Pinterest, you've probably seen those fabric buckets that are so versatile and just, well, fun!
I saw one a couple months ago at Target that I was thisclosetobuying, but decided that I was too cheap to spend $30 on it when I could just make it myself.

This is the one I made:

 I had two placemats I bought on clearance for a $1.50 at Target about a year ago, and they were perfect!
I just cut the bottom 3" off lengthwise to make the handles and sewed the two placemats together.  I then quilted some fabric together for the lining and had it all finished in a couple hours.
The hardest part in making it was measuring the fabric for the bottom.  A dinner plate was too small, so I had to improvise.  I ended up having to trace one of my large frying pans that ended up being the perfect size! (Wish I were kidding.)  Hey, just keeping it real...

 They would make great gifts for any occasion, such as a baby shower, and gift it filled with a pack of diapers, some onesies, wipes, and a stuffed animal.
They can be used for towels, yarn, quilting materials, or toys.  The possibilities are endless.

I think I'll put one under my bathroom sink to store rolls of toilet paper, or maybe I'll put it in Marko's room so he can store his guitar magazines.

The best part? You can make them in any size you need.  (:

I plan on making quite a few more to give away.

And making it myself ended up only costing me $3!  Not bad.  Not bad, at all!

Oh, and I need to remember to make a trip to Joann's to buy a compass so I can take my frying pan out of my fabric bin! (:

Have an awesome Friday!!

I'm loving my summer SEW much!!

I've really been taking advantage of my homework  free summer!  And I've also shown my sewing machine, whom I lovingly refer to as my Brother, no mercy.  None.  Nada.  Merciless as in never, ever, ever giving the poor guy a break.  Not even potty breaks...unless, of course, I need one!  But that's ok because in just a few short weeks, back in the closet he'll go until Christmas break.  Or better yet, that would be a good time to send him in for a good cleaning and to get oiled.  Kind of like a spa day!
So I wrote yesterday of my first attempt last week at making a quilt and how it was a huge success, and how I'm totally a professional now.  Ha!  

Well, I just finished up a chevron chenille blanket that I l-o-v-e.  Here she is:
I have to add that while I absolutely love my blanket, I really do not like the cutting part.  At all.  

I knew I was facing perhaps my biggest "cutting job" EVER with all the zigzags, so Gabriella and I made a run to Jo-Ann to buy a sharpener for my 2,388 pairs of scissors and ended up also buying 3 of these:
(Source: Fiskars.com)
They are Fiskars package openers that were on clearance for $1.97 each.  Can you believe it?!  They are listed at $14.99 online (!)
Well, I was on a mission, so I also bought one of these chenille cutters:
(Source: Google)

After the half-off sale and a coupon and my handy-dandy student discount (normally gives me 10% off, but during the month of July it was 20%!!), I ended up with a grand total under $11.  Score!
After trying the chenille cutter, I immediately did NOT like it.  It seemed to rip and tear the flannel layers and left the edges sort of stretched.  I just didn't like the way it "mauled" my fabric, so I quickly switched to the Fiskars tool.  Definitely the my new favorite tool.
The blade size is perfect for all those chevrons and before I knew it, I was finished.  This tool really is amazing!  I'm so glad I bought all three of them (at Gabriella's urging.)  Thanks Gabi!
You just have to be very, very careful using it because that thing doesn't mess around!  It's very sharp, precise and fast.  And it is now my new BFF.

Well, after I finished this blanket, Gabriella helped me organize my fabrics and we got them all folded uniformly.

Well...this of course only inspired me to start on yet another project.  Which will be tomorrow's post (:

Have a wonderful Thursday!

Summer time with my Brother (:

I have been MIA for a while.  Truth is, I was hanging out with my Brother, and together we were busy, busy, BUSY creating things.
Now, I love my real, breathing brother, but the the brother I'm speaking of, of course, is my beloved sewing machine that is completely ignored the entire time I am in school.  I know...I feel so bad!  But everyone knows that as soon as each semester is over, I lovingly pull the Brother out, dust him off and we pick up right where we left off.  (: 

Well, when I pulled the Brother out, I had lots of projects in mind and I really didn't know where to start.  And I could hardly contain my excitement when I had Marko pull out my giant stash of fabric.  I was seriously like a kid on Christmas morning!

Well, I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I have always loved quilts.  Loved them!  I find them fascinating because of the amount of work put into them and I love the fact that if taken care of, they can last years and years, and can be handed down from generation to generation.

About a couple years ago, I suddenly decided I wanted to make a quilt someday and I have actually been working on a quilt for myself for about a year now, off and on.  Well, more off than on because, well, I didn't know what the hell I was doing, so I was just started cutting triangles and sewing them together.  

Kidding...Sort of.

Well, this summer, I finally took the bull by the horns and completed the top layer.  Now, anyone that knows me can vouch for the fact that I never do anything on a small scale.  Nope.  Kind of like my cooking.  I am just physically incapable of cooking a normal, family-sized portion of anything.  In fact, my very first attempt at making tamales resulted in my making almost 20 dozen!!  And my attempt at making a quilt was no exception.  I suppose most people would, you know...make a baby quilt to begin with, right?
Well, mine is none other than a flipping' king sized quilt.  Totally not kidding!!
Believe me when I tell you that many, many times, I questioned my sanity at having taken on such a huge project when I had no idea what quilting was all about.  And I'm not lying when I say I had zero knowledge on what batting was (I do now!), or what binding was (ditto!) or even how to begin to put that on (Yep!)

So...this is the top layer:

After I finished my top layer, I thought "Okay...now what?!"  I literally had no idea how to proceed.  I also had no idea what I needed for the layers (or even how many layers I needed.)  So I asked the nice ladies at JoAnn's.  Boy, they saved my life!  They told me I needed to buy batting and pointed to the general direction of where their batting was sold.  Imagine my dismay at getting to the aisle and finding a million choices. Ugh.  I finally decided on 100% cotton because, well, I'm from Texas and I love the cotton fields I saw growing up and I love anything 100% cotton.  That's not the only reason.  I guess I chose cotton because I really can't stand polyester anything.  Again, I didn't know what I was doing, but I'm pretty sure I made the right choice.

So it was at this point that I brilliantly decided to make a small quilt to, you know, practice on (!)  Duh.

And this is what I ended up with:
I'm pretty happy with it.  It isn't perfect, but rather "perfectly imperfect."  Not bad, considering it is my very first attempt at quilting, right? (:   Plus, it's still good-sized for a practice size.  See what I mean about not doing anything "small-scale?"  The part of the quilt hanging over the fence is still almost double the part showing.  And I learned a lot, which is exactly what I wanted.  I also learned some tricks on the binding that work amazing!

I plan on finishing up my quilt before school starts in a month and I have to hide my Brother back in the closet until Christmas break.  I know...I'm such a bad sister. Ha!

And I've decided to make a quilt for Marko and Gabriella's beds as well, you know, since I'm a pro now (:

My Brother and I also made a chevron chenille blanket that I'm loving!  But that will be tomorrow's post.

Have a great week!


Turn the other cheek!

I've mentioned how Gabriella loves make-up and actually is the go-to person for any make-up tips, etc. for everyone that knows her personally.  I mean, this girl really knows her stuff!  She's like a walking, breathing, make-up encyclopedia; she spends most of her allowance on make-up, and has quite an impressive collection of make-up now.

Well, recently, her godmother went with me and Gabriella to Sephora, which, by the way, is Gabriella's absolute favorite store and she was amazed, AMAZED at Gabi's knowledge in beauty products.  Even the saleswoman and the manager commented on how they loved listening to Gabi explaining everything to her godmother.  I'm sure they also loved the fact that Gabi's sales pitch resulted in her godmother making a good-sized purchase (:

Since Gabriella is only 13, i allow her to experiment with all the make-up she wants at home, but she knows that once school starts, it's only mascara and lip gloss, even though she knows how to apply make-up better than most adults!
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I received a coupon from Victoria's Secret in the mail and Gabriella asked me if she could have it.  I remember I was loading the dishwasher and I didn't pay too much attention to the coupon, but I heard her say that it was for some free blush with a bra purchase, and of course, she was pretty excited about it.  I thought it was odd to give away blush for buying a bra, but I was busy, so I quickly forgot all about it.

Last week, she was going to ask me if I would take her to VS to get her free blush, and was crushed because she discovered that the coupon had expired the day before!  I got the coupon from her to check the date myself and started laughing so hard I may have even snorted!
The coupon stated that it was for a free Cheekster, which, at VS, is this:

(Via Google)

I literally laughed so hard my cheeks hurt!  Hahahaha...Pun totally intended(:

Gabriella laughed too and said "I hate VS!...that was SO misleading!!"

My daughter's definition of cheeks is clearly much different than VS's!!

Bloglovin' part two (:

I finally jumped on the Bloglovin' bandwagon!  And I'm, well, lovin' it so far.  (:  I've also added a widget to my sidebar so you can "follow" along on this crazy ride called life.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, my previous post's gibberish was what I was instructed to do to enable the switch. Haha.

I have to admit that I've been wanting to do this for a while now, but just never found the time.  Until now.

This Bloglovin' is pretty awesome in that it conveniently sends you an email to alert you of a new post on the blogs you follow!  There is even an app for your phone so you can be alerted that way (!)  How awesome is that?!

Simply amazing, I tell 'ya.    


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Chip off the 'ol block

I posted yesterday of my 14-year-old son, Marko, and his unique taste in music.
I also wrote of how this drives his 13-year-old sister absolutely cRaZy!!

Well,  history has a bizarre way of repeating itself and some people don't believe in it happening, but it does!

Many, many years ago when the hubs was about Marko's age (yes, that long ago!), his younger sister Nacha would listen to what was very popular music at the time.  She is about 4 years younger than the hubs, and she listened to groups such as Los Temerarios, which happen to be one of my favorites in Spanish music.  Here is a video of what she used to play at that time:

And she'd play this music pretty loudly at home.  Until her older brother (my hubby) got home and started playing his classical music full blast:

And...my mother-in-law would have to hear Nacha yelling "Amá!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Just as I do with Gabriella.  All the time.  In fact, there are actually times that I even have to hear the hubs whine about Marko's music.  I wish I were kidding.  Ugh!

But you know what's funny about this is that until the hubs saw firsthand how Marko is doing the same thing with Gabriella, he realizes how crazy he must have driven Nacha with his choice in music!

And Nacha, I'm sure, would love to know that Karma has come to bite the hubs in the butt, and make him pay for what he did to her all those years ago! Haha!

My favorite intern (:

My son, Marko never ceases to amaze me.  Ever.  He has always been awesome and as the years pass, he just continues to be more, well, awesome!

Something that I love about him is the fact that he is so original.  You know how some people "copy" what others say, or do, or the way they imitate someone's handwriting or signature or style, and try to pass it off as their own?  Probably because they're not cool or original enough to come up with their own? Yeah, well, Marko has never done that.  He is as original as they come.  With Marko, it really is "What you see is what you get."  The style of clothing he chooses, the musical instruments he chose to learn all by himself, and even the genre of music he loves is all his own.  And I'm not kidding.
Most anyone would expect a 14-year-old boy in this day and age to listen to whatever is popular amongst people of Marko's generation, right?

Well, for some reason, the music Marko prefers is not what his peers listen to.  Not by a long shot!
First of all, Marko has always loved oldies.  And not what I, or even my mom (his grandmother) would consider to be oldies.  I'm talking oldies as in, well, oldies.  And I really am not kidding.
His favorite singer is none other than Al Jolson.  Never heard of him?  Well, neither had I.
Actually, my mom hadn't either (!) Ha!
Jolson sang as a child (he was born in 1886).  Yes, you read that right, and he performed professionally from about 1911 through maybe the late 1940's. Here is a clip of Jolson, his wife, and Jolson's parents. The clip is from one of Marko's favorite movies: The Jolson story, of course:

I can't tell you how many iTunes cards Marko has used to buy all of his music for his iPhone.  He seriously loves that old music!
And believe me, he's been teased a little from kids at school who have heard Marko jamming out to Jolson at school.  But Marko just lets it roll off his back.  Marko is Marko and he doesn't care if anyone has a problem with that (:

Well, imagine how excited Marko was one day some months back while he was searching the radio dial and came across an oldies station that actually plays music from way, WAY back in the day.  He was super stoked about it and quickly programmed it onto my car stereo for easy access. (I probably don't have to tell you that his 13-year-old sister isn't too thrilled about that!) Hahaha!
(Tomorrow's post will be something very funny and beautifully ironic about this!)

Well, not too long ago, we were driving home and I pointed out the radio station to Marko.  He had no idea it was a local station, by the way.  He quickly called his dad, who, coincidentally, was a long-time-extremely-successful- Spanish radio personality, to ask him if he would go with Marko to the oldies station to see if he could perhaps do some sort of internship with them.

They went.

And this is what Marko did last Friday:
He was introduced "on the air" and became one of the team.  He will be at the station every Friday through the summer.  And he is on cloud nine (:

Isn't it amazing how DNA works?  I mean, he definitely got his radio genes from dad, and well, radio is a media, which is journalism...and I am a journalism major, after all.  (:

I am so proud of him.  I love sitting back and watching him shine!

Cap fail!

I spotted an article yesterday on "America Online" that had me seriously laughing out loud!
Apparently, a cake was ordered for a young woman's college graduation by her mother, who requested it be her daughter's school colors and with a "cap" drawn on her head...you know, perhaps a mortar board like this one?:
(Source: Google)

You think? (:

Well, the person who took the order misunderstood. Big time.  Hahaha!!!!

The graduate's mother reportedly said that she could hardly contain herself when she opened the box to this:

The order taker understood the lady to be requesting a flipping CAT on her graduating daughter's head!!

Really?!  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  This has got to be the funniest thing EVER.

Definitely made my day!!

Have a great weekend!

National Anthem

I have been so disgusted with the "problem" some bigots have with Sebastien De La Cruz singing the United States National Anthem at a little basketball game last week.
Here is a clip of Sebastien:
Really people?!

Sebastien is Mexican-American...born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.

He chose to dress in a traditional Charro outfit while he sang the National Anthem, which happens to be HIS anthem...that's right, because, well...he happens to be American.  And the Charro outfit was perhaps his way of showing his pride in his Mexican roots.  And he should be proud!  I sure am proud of being Mexican-American, and I've always taught my children to also be proud of who they are.

Well, some ignorant bigots determined that he "must be illegal" and even commented how "upset" they were that "that Mexican kid dared to sing their National Anthem."

Boy, talk about taking two steps forward and one step back.
It amazes me that some people continue to teach their disgusting beliefs to their kids.  They had better get used to "us," because we're not going anywhere.
And all of these "adults" writing this garbage must be big, strong people...I mean, ganging up on a child must make them feel big and tough.

I guess he did such an amazing job singing at game 3 that he was brought back to sing at game 4.   Only this time, he was introduced by the awesome, Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, and his beautiful wife.     

Take that you bigots!
Oh, and thanks so much for your ignorance...it brought so much attention to little Sebastien.  Not that he needed it, but I'm sure you all helped boost his career big time!
Hahaha (:

No more unibrows!!

I've been taking Gabriella to have her eyebrows waxed for about a year now.  Well, since she started 7th grade.  Yes, my middle school diva wants a nice, clean glabella, which is the proper term for the space between your eyebrows. Ha! 
And every trip there cost ten beans.  I know!

When I took her last week, I attempted to pay with a large bill and was quickly told that their policy was to accept nothing larger than a $20.  I panicked because I had forgotten my debit card and had no where to get change.  The girl that had waxed Gabriella's eyebrows suggested I go to one of the stores nearby to "get change," and she suggested Sally's Beauty Supply.  I had to leave my daughter at the wax place as collateral while I ran to Sally's.
Well, I felt uncomfortable just walking in and asking them to break my large bill and not buy anything, so I walked into the first aisle I got to and immediately saw this:
What a serendipity moment!  It was their last one and it was on sale.  I saw the label that said "kit," but didn't know what all it included, and there was another lady eyeing it also, so I quickly grabbed the warmer and yelled like a crazy woman for assistance. Haha!

Can you believe it? I no longer have to pay to keep those eyebrows looking good (:
Thank goodness for the the wax place's policy.  Otherwise, I would have continued to pay them every few weeks for something I can DIY.
Oh, and did I mention that the entire kit was on sale for $29.99?  The photo doesn't show it, but it came with the warmer, wax, cloth strips and the instructional CD.  The only additional thing I had to buy was the little popsicle stick things to apply the wax, but they were only about $4.  So buying this kit will pay for itself after only three waxes!

I was one happy mama.  And I'm not bothered in the least that the Sally's worker thinks I'm crazy (:


Well, my family made an impromptu trip here yesterday:

South Dakota is such a beautiful state!  We'll definitely be back (:

Vasquez, Basquez (:

With this month's "roots" theme, I've written of my family, included pictures, our family tree, etc.  

I've also written in the past how I was raised by my single mom because, well, there isn't any nice way to say it except to say that my "dad" was a piece of $*&t deadbeat loser.  He died sometime last year...or maybe it was the beginning of this year...don't really care to remember.  I'm not sure what caused his death either.  Not that it matters much to me.  And this will probably be the last time he is ever mentioned in my blog, because I only write of what is important to me.

So, you see, when I talk of my family, well, I am speaking of my mom's family.
The only family from my "dad's" (I use that term very loosely)  side of the family that I claim and love, are my tía Aurelia, tío Pru, and their daughters, Cindy, Jackie, Diana and Gina and their children.  They are excellent people that really had the misfortune of being related to that "man" person.
I always thought it was funny because their last name is Basquez, and my family on my mom's side are Vasquez.  Weird, huh?
I have so many fun memories with my Basquez family members.  I even went to high school one year with those girls.  And we had a blast!  

I shared a room with Diana, and boy, we'd stay up late every.  single.  day.  just talking and giggling about everything under the sun.  As a matter of fact, every single memory I have with them are happy memories.  The best memories of laughing until our sides hurt with all of us involved in some silly dance, or song or whatever.  Everything we did together always turned into the best day ever.  And I am so blessed with having them in my life. My awesome tío Pru, living with five women...I'm sure we drove him crazy, but he always had a beautiful smile on his face, and he had the most contagious laugh.  He was the epitome of what a father should be.  I loved him so very much.  In fact, everybody he met loved him.  Unfortunately, he passed when Marko was a baby.  His death was such a tremendous loss to all who were fortunate enough to have known and loved him.
Here is a very old picture of my tíos:

My tío was a large man.  He had to be to be able to hold his gigantic heart.  He and my tía raised my cousin Jackie as their own after Jackie's mother passed away when Jackie was very young.  Jackie has also passed away now.  She was pretty amazing too.  She was one of the most unselfish human beings I have ever known and her story deserves it's own post someday.

Cindy and Gina are so awesome and I love them so very much.
Cindy and her husband, Lupe, just lost their beautiful daughter, Christina in November and their strength and faith truly leaves me in awe.

This is my sweet cousin, Diana and her daughter, Courtney:

Please include Diana and her family in your prayers.  Diana has been hospitalized for the last month and I so miss our marathon phone conversations.
I love you sweet D, and I miss you so much.  Please get well soon!!

Family Tree, part II

I have always been fascinated by family trees.  And the bigger it is, the better.
I finally made one for our family about six months ago and I plan on updating it once a year.  As far as I know, one had never been made and I felt it was important.  I wrote a post about it back when I made it, but with this month's "roots" theme, well, I thought it was appropriate to include it again.

I find it so interesting to see just how large our family really is, and I only started it with my grandparents, Amá and Apá.  Well,  now that I think about it, I guess I shouldn't be that surprised at the size of our tree...I mentioned just this week that my grandparents had 17 kids (!), and of those 17, 14 survived.
A funny story I remember my mom and tías telling is that with Amá having so many kids, that when one of them was sick, she would go get the cough syrup or aspirin, etc., and by the time she'd get her spoonful of the medicine measured out, many times, she would end up giving it to the wrong child!  Wow.
Here are a couple pictures of my mom and her siblings as kids:
This picture is my all-time favorite of Amá.  She is the one on the left, by the way.
I love, LOVE that someone froze this moment in time when she was such a young mother and I love that she climbed on top of that pickup with her sister-in-law, Libertad (both in dresses!) to take a picture with their small kids.  The little boy on the lower right of the picture is my Tío Marcos (her oldest), and the baby right next to her is my Tío Pablo.  The baby next to Tía Libe is her baby, Maye.

This is Amá with her first six kids (:

This next one is of my mom and only eight of her siblings.  My mom is on the far right:

The next picture is some of my mom's younger siblings.  From L-R, it's my tíos, John, Danny, Joe, Pete, Yolanda and Sylvia.  And I'm the baby in the picture. Haha.
And the picture below was taken during a trip to South Dakota.  With everyone that went on the trip, I imagine we had some sort of a caravan going on...right?  And that would be moi on the lower right in front of Amá...and I'm stuffing my fat face with something. Haha.  My family is going to South Dakota tomorrow, so I'll have to remember to refrain from having any pictures taken while I'm eating/drinking (:

Regarding the tree I made, my goal is to eventually go back even further in our history.  I know it isn't happening anytime in the very near future, but maybe by the end of the year (?)

Here is my version of our tree.  I'm not sure why it appears so "boxy" in the picture below.  It doesn't print that way:
Along the trunk of the tree, I have my grandparents' names and the entire tree is their offspring and their families.  The size is crazy, huh?
I think so.

Have a great day!

Time travels...

Well, I've talked a little about how food has always been a big part of my "roots."  Something else that was perhaps just as important is of course, music.

I grew up listening to a wide variety of genres of music.  Some of my aunts and uncles, especially the older ones, played their 8-tracks...Yes, 8-tracks of various Spanish music.  I especially remember this song by Juan Gabriel: 
My younger aunts and uncles listened to Tony Orlando & Dawn: 

or Freddy Fender: 

I remember my aunts, Sylvia and Yolanda taking me with them on their dates with my now uncles and listening to "Knock 3 Times" or "Before the Next Teardrop Falls."  I was about 5 years old at the time, and I remember I learned the lyrics to those songs pretty quick.  (:
I heard one of those songs about a year ago on an oldie station and it immediately took me back to my childhood.

My mom also listened to all of this music, but she also listened to country.  Boy, I remember belting out this old Patsy Cline song:

And also old Loretta Lynn/Conway Twitty songs like nobody's business!  Especially this one: 

I may or may not turn the volume all the way up and sing along while watching "Coal Miner's Daughter." Haha.

So I guess you I can honestly say that I listened to country since before country was "cool," because, well, country is very cool!

Later on when 80's music came along, well....that goes without saying.  It is simply the best music in the world.  Who can forget REO Speedwagon?  Or Foreigner?  Michael Jackson??  

Apá listened to Carlos y Jose, which isn't music I would personally choose to listen to, but every once in a while I'll be flipping through stations on the radio dial and I'll come across one of their songs and it instantly reminds me of Apá.

Isn't it amazing how a certain song has the ability to  flood you with memories of a certain place, or person?  I think most everyone has that "time travel" effect from listening to a certain song.  I find that pretty amazing.

Oh, and just to clarify...I found these videos on Youtube, and we most certainly never saw them back in the day because we didn't have the internet, MTV, etc. back then. (:

Until tomorrow! 


Just recently, I was driving my kids home from school when my daughter nonchalantly asks me from the back seat "Mom, why did you name me 'Gabriella'?"
Me: "What?!... I L-O-V-E your name!"
Gabriella: "You should have named me Naomi."

I literally felt my heart break into a million pieces.  I devoured every baby name book I could get my hands on while I was pregnant with her to make such an important decision!  And here she was telling me she "hates" her name.

I was undecided for quite some time on what to name her.  At about 7 months of my pregnancy, I had it narrowed down to Claudia, Isabella, Monica and of course, Gabriella.  I decided early on, as when I named Marko, that my children's names had to be beautiful (in my opinion) in both English and Spanish, and that they would be pronounced correctly in both languages.  There are some beautiful names in Spanish, but when they are pronounced in English (or at least attempted), they literally get slaughtered.  I absolutely didn't want that for my kids.
So, as my scheduled C-section date of May 17th came closer, I finally decided on Gabriella because it means "God is my strength."  And I wanted it spelled with two l's rather than just the one.  I seriously put lots and lots of thought on her name.  I mean, it is an important decision, after all.
And she hates it. Ugh.

I guess I could chalk this up to Karma because I remember having this same conversation with my mom at about the same age.  And I regret it.
Especially when my mom told me that I had been named in honor of her baby sister that had passed away as an infant.
Yeah, I felt so incredibly small and so stupid for complaining about my name.

My son, Marko, on the other hand, has never once complained about his name.  Even though throughout his entire life, he has had to put up with having somebody inevitably say "Polo" every.  single.  time.  his name is called.  It doesn't seem to bother him.  He has had to hear that so much that he might have thought his name was Marko Polo for at least the first two years of his life!  Poor kid.  Other names I considered for him were Aaron and Robert.  Oh, and the reason his name is spelled with a K rather than the traditional C, is because I lost a bet with the hubby on whether our son would have a full head of hair or not.  He didn't. (:
Marko's name means "War like," which is pretty fitting.  I was in labor for almost 48 hours and after pushing for about 8 hours (NOT kidding!), he was delivered by emergency C-section.  We both almost died during the delivery, so yes...war like is perfect.

One reason for his name is, coincidentally, in honor of my uncle, my mom's oldest brother, that passed away the year I was born.  His name was Marcos, and I wanted some variation of that name.  And also...my son may or may not carry the name of the artist playing while he was conceived.  Haha.  Kidding.....sort of.

Anyway, all this to say that this is how I ended up with my name.  And I have embraced it ever since I found out the reason my mom decided on it.
Thanks, Mom!


This afternoon, as I went through the motions of putting a small mountain of beans on my kitchen counters so I could sort them out, rinse them off, and finally put the beans in my Crockpot to cook, I couldn't help think of Amá (my grandmother), and how she did this every day.  She would let me help her sort the beans and rinse them.  I remember feeling really grown-up and special as I helped her cook.
Amá never cooked her beans in a Crockpot, maybe because they weren't made big enough for the massive amounts of food she would make at every meal.  Did I mention how she and Apá had 17 children?  I guess they had 17 children total, but only 14 survived.  Pretty amazing, huh?  That certainly deserves its own post sometime this month!

Anyway, Ma always cooked her beans on her stove top.  And I mean a huge pot...like the ones used to make tamales!  It looked something like this:

(Via Google)

Since my mom was always working, Amá was the one that took care of me most all of the time.  I think I must have been pretty well-behaved because, well, I don't have any memories of being in trouble.  That could only mean that I was well-behaved, right?  Sounds good, so we'll just leave it at that. (:

I loved spending time with Amá.  She was the epitome of a mother and grandmother, and I was blessed beyond measure at having her in my life.  I think I am the only one of all of my cousins that had that special bond with her.  And for that I am so grateful.  All of my cousins were blessed to have both parents and I was the only one that was being raised by a single parent, so that may have been why I was always raised around my awesome grandparents.  Whatever the reason, I was blessed and I wouldn't change a thing about my childhood.

Amá only spoke Spanish, so that was my first language.  
I used to sing in Spanish as a small child because I would hear Amá singing and I would learn the songs.  I loved hearing her sing and she had a beautiful voice. She was awesome.  I don't have one memory of her being mad or even upset about anything.

 She was always in a good mood and it was so contagious.  You just couldn't help feeling warm and secure in her presence.  When I was little, we lived on a farm in Fort Morgan and I would help her after school or on school breaks as she cooked to feed her large family, and at every meal, without fail, there was always a mountain of her delicious flour tortillas.
I would sit at the table talking to her as she made her little balls of dough:

(Via Google)

and she would join in, and even if I bored her with my childish conversations, she never let on.  She always made me feel important.
In hindsight, I feel a little guilty because she would start rolling those tortillas out and as soon as she would put a hot-off-the-comal tortilla on the table to start her "mountain"...well, I would immediately grab it and start spreading butter on it and eat it as quickly as the butter would melt. This went on for at least the first three...or four.  Sometimes even five (!) tortillas.   I always managed to hinder her "mountain" from even starting up because they were just so good and I just couldn't resist.  And she never complained.  Her huge stack of tortillas didn't ever start up until I was full (:
(via Google)
Amá's stack of tortillas was always about 3 times this size and they would always be gone at the end of each meal.  I don't know how she did it.  She was simply amazing.  I really think that I got my love of cooking from growing up watching her cook.  And I love that.  Something else that I do not think is a coincidence is the fact that I am unable to cook small portions of food.  I always cook in huge pots too, just like Amá did.

You know how I mentioned that she only spoke Spanish?  Well, I clearly remember sitting at her feet while we watched "The Young and the Restless" together every weekday.  And she never asked me to interpret for her!  Maybe she understood English, but just never let on?  Haha...You think?  

This picture is of my beautiful Amá and me:
I actually remember the day this was taken.  We lived in Alliance, Nebraska, and we had gone to a grocery store that was right by the overpass.  We walked in and I told her "Look Amá, they're taking pictures!, Can we take ours?"
So we did.  

I treasure this picture.  Especially because I have such a vivid memory of this day.  I remember skipping alongside her as I held her hand.  You can tell by my bedhead that I was not ready for pictures.  But I didn't care.  I loved Amá and she loved me.
Can you see that mark on my cheek?  My uncle Jr., his wife, Cruz, and their then bratty kids (haha) had visited from Texas not too long before that, and during that visit, their son, Mark, bit me on my face!  I remember having a life-sized stuffed doll with a plastic face that I loved and cousin Mark bit the doll's face on the cheek and then proceeded to bite my face.  I remember crying so much.  I wasn't used to anyone hurting me, so I was very upset. He got into big trouble for that...not that it made much difference to me at the time.
My cheek eventually healed up.  My poor doll's didn't.  I remember being so upset for months because my doll's beautiful plastic face was distorted from her cheek being all twisted up.  I thought it was the end of the world.

One thing I have always remembered Amá telling me, and I've actually taught my own daughter was this:
When I was about maybe 4 or 5, I had just had a bath and I was putting lotion on my face as you can imagine a child doing it...pretty sloppy and all over the place.  Amá sweetly told me to never rub down on my face because I would grow up having wrinkles on my face.  And to this day, I always remember her saying this and I never, ever pull down on my face.  Isn't it funny how such little things in life end up being such important things?
Amá passed when I was 12.  And I miss her so, So much.  I really wish my kids could have known her.  Their lives would be so much richer had they had this beautiful lady in their lives.

Amá, you were the best grandmother ever.
Rest in peace.

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