:: right now ::

It seems that so much has change in just a few days. I don’t want to forget these days, so I will make sure we have this page to come back to and enjoy.  Right now:

:: Lucas lost his first tooth last week. Took a whole week to leave it for the tooth fairy to come.  We were all enjoying this moment.

We made this recycled (“super soft”) sweater tooth (with a baseball cap) with a tiny pocket in the back to leave for the tooth fairy.

Lucas wanted to keep his tooth so he left a note.

:: Lucas also had his first sleep over at a friend’s house few weekends ago. It seemed that when he returned in the morning, he was that much bigger, my littlest one.

:: Siena had her first swim meet last week also.  It was lots of fun and I don’t know what I would give to bottle those smiles we got before and after each race from Siena from the side of the pool.  This is her thing right now and we are all loving it.

:: I’m enjoying so much our warm and cozy quilt I finished for our bed.  I love seeing those colors and touching how soft it is.

:: I’m looking forward to seeing what the bees have done in our beehive since we last opened it last summer.

:: Enjoying seeing the excitement to plant and get the garden ready.  And especially seeing Siena search and find all sorts of containers to make little greenhouses for her seeds.

:: I’m loving seeing Siena water her seeds everyday. And even more fun is to see how exciting it is when a new little seedling starts sprouting in those tiny containers where she’s planted the seeds.

:: I know that even being ready to get planting and weeding, I’m still enjoying the colder weather.  I do love rain and cold.

:: I’m enjoying seeing the flowers peek from the ground and on the trees, knowing that even the calendar tells us it’s spring time, it doesn’t seem to be quite here yet.

:: enjoying being home with my kids.  It is such a special treat for sure.

:: a little scattered at all my options of making.  Should we make more candles? How about lip balm or a new lotion? Or should we try to make soap? Knitting? Sewing? So much goodness to choose from but very exciting.

:: enjoying this new (to me) tea, Bengal Spice, in our mugs we were gifted from our friends Debdutta and Mithu.  And hoping someday we’ll get to see the north east part of India.

:: loving our kombucha.  We are giving it a try again now that we are back, and though it’s been cold, I left it a little longer than in the summer, and it was so good.  Everyone at home really liked it.  I’m trying new teas, all decaf, and they’ve turned out really good.

:: Siena and Lucas found some carrots we planted last spring and were left all this time.  A little tough, but it was great to eat something from our garden!

:: enjoying the sun when we get it.

:: I loved my whole day with Mark, when Lucas and Siena had their day at Trackers this week.  This was the first time we’ve been by ourselves for more than 4 hours at a time, together, just the two of us, in almost 10 years.  Never had we done this, since Siena was born.  Crazy, but I had never thought about it and it was just nice to hang out.  We went to our favorite bookstore downtown and spend the whole time immersed in my own books, not having to keep track of anybody.  Just enjoy reading, browsing and looking around.  Not multitasking, just sitting down reading.

:: enjoyed a surprised stop at the doughnut place downtown, to bring donuts for those little people of ours, that were having fun up in the farm, planting, hiking, checking out the baby goats they saw and helped being born two weeks ago.

:: I am enjoying my new and the first issue of Taproot.  So filled with inspiration.

:: I am happy to had seen a friend from long ago and catch up with our lives during lunch.  And loved listening to Lucas and Siena tell her their experiences in India.  Love the way they relive our stay there, and don’t want us to forget too many details yet.

:: I am so happy we got to spend a whole week together, seeing friends, and enjoying breakfast and lunch together with Mark off from work. I love spring break!

Have a great weekend.

India : The Agra Fort – part 2

There are so many ways you can take a picture of the Taj Mahal.  There are too many. And you can never tired of taken pictures of it. It is beautiful no matter where you are looking it from.

In this room our guide showed us a trick that you can talk on one corner of this rather large room, and you can hear it on the other side of it.

It was fun to see that. Incredible really they knew that.



Photo by Lucas

Photo by LucasHere we are, the five of us at the Agra Fort, seeing this beautiful water fountain, where if I remember correctly, each one of these spikes represents each one of Shah Jahan’s wives.  I think there were seven of them.

I can’t get tired of it. Just look at the magnificence.

Here we all are looking at the beautiful architecture and decoration of The Fort, but also de room where Shah Jahan was prisoner.

And we continue with our tour and our amazing guide, that made history a lot more interesting!

These girls wanted me to take a picture of them. They were smiling as they asked me.


Photo by Lucas

Thank you to our guide, we had the most amazing tour of the Agra Fort, we could ever had wanted.

We left hot and tired from a “winter” (for some) afternoon, but filled with stories and memories I hope we won’t forget.


Photo by Lucas

Thank you. Until next time.

India: The Agra Fort – part 1

On our second visit to the Taj Mahal we decided to go see the Agra Fort.  Last time we were in Agra, at the Taj Mahal, we decided to go see Fatehpur Sikri, so this time, with Glendie whi was visiting us in India, and our last trip to the Taj Mahal, we thought it would be a great way to complete, in person, our love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.

We decided to get a guide for our visit to the Agra Fort.  Also, an experience on itself we thought Glendie should have.

You never know who you’ll get.  Guides come to you, so many of them. They have their name tag, their ID, but you never know who you’ll get.  But for this visit, we got this man.

He showed us some photographic tricks and highlights I should picture.

But he mostly told us the history of the place and of that time in India.

We saw monkeys in the fort.

The stories and history is so rich.  I wish I could remember more details. India is an amazing country and there is so much to learn.

And we couldn’t have gotten a better person, a better guide on our visit.

He knew so very much. He was engaging and told stories in a beautiful way.  A great storyteller. Here’s a 10-second piece of his storytelling.

Jehangir Mahal.

All these carvings are amazing!

I wish I would have done some rubbings on paper of all these beautiful walls.

You can see the Taj Mahal in the background.

Finally we get to the place where we can see the Taj Mahal, clearly, from far away.  Seeing it complete, a sight I will never forget.  Such a beautiful place and an incredible story.

Everywhere you look there’s beauty.

Peacocks carved.

The Taj Mahal peeking in almost every corner, window.

The moat.  The end of our tour tomorrow.

Happy when swimming

Siena had her first swim meet last week. My first swim meet as well.  I’ve always loved to swim too but I never competed.  I can’t even do that turn for all the practice I did.

Last year Siena wanted to start swim lesson again, after almost a year break. She started and learned all the strokes pretty easily.  She was fast and soon swam across the pool with not much effort, or so it seemed from outside of the pool.  She was so happy every time we went to class.  She still is.  A year later, and many lessons after, with no more levels to go, she’s enjoying swimming so much, she could be in the water every day, all day long.  I understand her, I do love water too.

Siena started in this non-competitive team, practicing every week with 8 other kids, and she’s loved it from the moment she tried it.  There’s no reason to skip a class. We are always there, every week. It is so much fun seeing her swim and learn new techniques, improve her strokes, learn to dive off the board, learn to turn.  It’s lots of fun even from outside the water.

Last week was their meet. Ten teams in Portland, all learning, all different ages, and they all seemed to be having fun.

We got there by 7:45am. They warmed up outside the pool.

And inside the pool.

Practiced the strokes.

Can you see her smile?

She’s always smiling when she’s swimming.

Even while she is swimming!

Butterfly stroke.  Siena said it was the hardest stroke for her.  It is for me too and I think for lots of people is.

Did you see Siena’s self portrait?

Yes, smiling again.

Then the non-competition competition starts.

We are excited to see Siena and her team mates. And really it’s fun to see all the kids swimming looking like they are having fun.  It was great.

Here they are waiting for their turn for the first race.  By now, they’ve all practiced diving from the board twice already.  They are ready to start.

Their teacher/coach.

It is very hot inside the swimming pool, especially looking from the bleachers.  Lucas and Mark went outside to get fresh, cold air for a little bit while Siena had a break from her races.

Do you see a smile again?

Readying for one more race.

We are having fun too watching Siena swim.

Smiling again!


Siena when she went to try her first class in the team, she told her teacher that she wasn’t sure if she was going to like it because she couldn’t do the butterfly stroke.  He told her that she will practice it in class, not to worry.  Siena is also taking another swim class, and I know whenever she gets a chance, she practices butterfly.  When they give her “free style”, she chooses butterfly.

I know that she’s learned it and gotten much better in the last month or so, with all the swimming, but she’s worked so hard in making it the best she can.  It seems that the hardest something is, the hardest Siena works at making it her best.  Right now, she told me, not surprisingly that butterfly is her favorite stroke.

I know I’m her mom, but you can see how pretty it looks in this short video in the butterfly race:

The almost complete team. Smiling!  We all had so much fun. Thank you Siena.

After swimming we went to have lunch with Grandma and her friend Denise who came to Portland to see us and to see Siena in the meet.

The Spaghetti Factory.

We sat by the window where we could see the river.  It is full, you can see the current is strong, carrying large branches down the river.

Really good, heart food.

Perfect for that day.

And ice cream of course.

A fun day for sure.

Making : beeswax candles with my kids + tutorial

I love candles.  I really enjoy having them lit for meals.  I think they add a specialness to the occasion, and it’s such a small thing to do that I try to have them a lot.

I made my first candles a very long time ago, 18 years ago actually, when I first moved to the US.  I was excited to be able to make so many crafts than in Chile I never saw or learned.  Then, few years back, I made them with Siena in our first days of Laura Ingalls Wilder (together with making butter, learning to quilt, etc) when all we did was the “old way.”  She also made some in one of her classes/camps at Trackers few years later.

We’ve played around with beesawax before, making hand dipped and rolled candles, and also trying a recipe for a salve and lip balm.  We have a list of other recipes and projects we want to try with beeswax, and especially since we have our own bees.

But for now we wanted to take photos of our hand dipping candle making and record it here.  Maybe for someone else out there wanting to try, but also, because it’s fun to see what we’ve been making.   Here’s our tutorial.

TUTORIAL: Hand dipped beeswax candles

Supplies: hot plate or stove + can (to melt beeswax) + pot (for water and big enough to fit the can) + beeswax + candle wick + 2 bolts (for the weight) + knife + scissors + jar/pot (for cold water)

Note about the supplies: I’ve had some supplies for a long time, and our friend Glendie, gave us all of her candlemaking supplies, so we can leave these for this use.  The pot for the water bath will probably get wax in the process and I think it’s a lot easier to just keep it for that, but I’m sure the beeswax will come off if you want to re-use it for other projects.  But I’m also sure you can find a used one in the thrift store would be  ideal.

The can for melting the beeswax you’ll keep reusing it because you’ll probably have wax left that will harden and then you will reheated for next time, so that one you won’t clean up.  The can should be a tall and narrow so you don’t have to use too much wax to make tall candles.  I’m still trying to find the perfect can for this.  Ours is a little too wide and short, but it works just fine for making candles.

I had this beeswax and have been trying to cut it to fit into the can to melt. Sometimes I shave it with the knife so it melts quicker.  You can also buy beeswax pieces, which would make it a whole lot easier.  Put the beeswax pieces (whatever size you end up having) in the clean and dry tall can where the wax will be melting.  Then put the can in a pot with warm water (to get a head start.) You always need to heat the beeswax in a double boiler, or water bath. Never put it direct to the heat source.

It will look something like this.  You need to do this part first, because it will take a while to melt the beeswax.

Now, while the wax is starting to melt, get the wick ready.  The wick should be a little taller than the can you have for melting your beeswax or whatever size you want to make your candles.  This is going to be how tall your candle will be.

Double the wick, because you will be making two candles at a time.

Tie one bolt on each end of the wick. It doesn’t have to be a big knot, but secure enough so it won’t fall off when you are dipping.  The bolts are for the weight, to keep the wick straight when you dip it.

Dip it in the can of melted beeswax, holding the wick in the middle section, because you’ll be making two candles at a time.  As you know, you have a can full of hot beeswax and a hot plate (or stove).  Make sure the kids are not too close and are working carefully.

You’ll be dipping lots of time.

After each dip you put your wick with the growing wax sheet in a jar of cold water, to cool off.

It will cool it off quicker and let you dip and dip and make your candle quicker.

Dip again.  Make sure you don’t keep the wick in the hot, melting beeswax for too long.  It will melt the beeswax you already have in your wick, which is the start of your candle.

So keep dipping your wick in the beeswax.

And into the cold water jar, again and again, alternating.

And again. Lots and lots of time, until you like the size and look of your candles.

Because of the bolt in the bottom, it will make this funny shape.  My son leaves them like this, because they are called Oompa Loompa Candles. But you can also make them even in the bottom.

Once you have the size of the candle you like, you are ready to trim the bottom, to make it more even and to take out the bolt, for more candles.

Peel off all the excess beeswax you have around the bolt.  It is still warm, soft and smooth and smells good. Go ahead and take off excess beeswax around the bolt, carefully.

With the knife (that we keep for these projects too) you cut the bottom section of the wick that is tied to the bolt.

With your hands, make it smoother.  Flat or rounded, however you like it.

Now with the little bits of wick left, that you took from around the bolt, you can also use them to make tiny candles.

Dip them as the other ones.  For these don’t tie a bolt, they are already stiff because they have wax already and they are already small pieces.  Just be careful with the hot wax pot, because you have less wick and will be getting your hands closer to the hot beeswax.

It’s the same process.  Dip in hot beeswax and then cold water, time and time again, until you like the size.  We made lots of tiny birthday cake candles. We dipped them less than the bigger candles, and were very easy, much quicker, to make.  And so much fun!

We gave some of these to our little friend for his birthday and got to see them lit on his birthday cake.  Can’t get more special than that to the maker of these candles!

You can dip and dip and make candles all day, or all morning, or all weekend.  We had so much fun and we’ve been using them each day at dinner time.  It reminds me of the day of making and of light that we seem to have more of.  It calms me seeing that fire flicker at dinner time.

I think we are planning another day of making soon!


I found a letter written by John Steinbeck via Rhonda at Down to Earth, written by him  in 1958 in response to his son’s letter.  It’s about love and what it means to him.

The letter is in Letters of Note book, I still need to check it out from the library. He of course describes it beautifully and explained with incredible words I wish I’d be able to find and write some day.  But I’m glad someone has described it for all of us to enjoy.

Here’s a copy of the letter Steinbeck wrote to his son I copied from The Atlantic‘s article from January 2012:

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



Love is all that too.   Have a beautiful and a weekend and enjoy those you love.

:: this moment : firsts ::

A beautiful and fun Friday ritual. Inspired by SouleMama.

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. – Amanda Soule

First swim meet Siena has participated in.

First tooth Lucas has lost.

If you’d like to leave a comment and a link to your moment, we would love to see it. Have a beautiful day.

Shah Jahan, a love story

Shah Jahan, born in 1592 was the emperor of the Mughal empire from 1628 to 1658, after his father’s death.  His “complete” title was: His Imperial Majesty Al-Sultan al-‘Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Malik-ul-Sultanat, Ala Hazrat Abu’l-Muzaffar Shahab ud-din Muhammad Shah Jahan I, Sahib-i-Qiran-i-Sani, Padshah Ghazi Zillu’llah, Firdaus-Ashiyani, Shahanshah—E–Sultanant Ul Hindiya Wal Mughaliya, Emperor of India.

When Mark was applying to go to India and we were waiting for the results of the scholarship we read lots of books about India.  To learn about the history and the culture.  We wanted to learn about places we might want to see if we were to go there.  We watched videos, and searched online ideas and questions that came up from our conversations, prior to any decisions.

Siena fell in love with Shah Jahan’s story before we left to India.  I think it was this book. Taj Mahal by Caroline Arnold.

We read about how Arjumand, not from a royal family, became the one Shah Jahan, Khurram, married with his father’s consent. He met her at a Bazaar, and said about her to his friends “her face is more beautiful than the full moon.”  He told her that “he would keep the gem (he bought from her) close to his heart until they met again.” And that he was going to see her again the day their hearts join.  And that “he was going to shower her with real diamonds more brilliant than the stars”

The words used, the illustrations, the story itself, I don’t know what moved Siena about this book.  She loved it so much, we added it to our library at home.  And we have it right now on our coffee table with books about India with beautiful photographs, and a special book I made for Siena, with photos of our own, from both of our visits to the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort.  To complete the story for us.

The book says that the wedding’s feast was glorious and had five hundred delicacies. There were musicians and dancers, poets, and a beautiful night.  The emperor said “From this day on you shall be known as Mumtaz Mahal, Jewel of the Palace.”

Photo by Siena

Prince Khurram and Mumtaz loved each other so dearly, they devoted to each other, as they were inseparable.  She went with him to the battles.  He was so powerful and seemed invincible when she was with him.  The Emperor Jahangir, rewarded his son for his power and his strength and gave him the title of Shah Jahan, “King of the World”.

After his father died, he became the new ruler, the Emperor.  He and his wife, Mumtaz cared for the people in their empire.  Every year he gave away his weigh in gold, silver and precious stones and spices, medicine and foods to those in need.  Siena remembers this part of the story and always asked why he did that.  I think she really likes the idea of fairness and being nice to each other and especially those who need help.

One day, when Mumtaz had gone with his husband to accompany him in the battles, she gave birth to a daughter, her fourteenth child. But she was not well and all night Shah Jahan was by her side.  He asked her not to leave him.  She shared her love for him and asked for one wish as the morning reached “that the whole world know of our love”, she said.

They said that it seemed as if the whole empire was sadden with the news of her death.  Shah Jahan did not drink or eat for many days, and did not care to be the ruler anymore.  He only could think of his promise.  One morning he woke up after a dream of seeing Mumtaz in a beautiful palace with white walls.   He requested the best architects, calligraphers and artists of the world to design the most magnificent tomb, garden and palace they could imagine.

Shah Jahan spent all he wanted in getting the white marble from Jodhpur, jade and crystal from China, coral from Arabia, lapiz lazuli from Afghanistan, mother of pearl from the Indian Ocean. Emeralds from Colombia, as well as topaz, garnets, onyx, rubies and so much more.  He asked the artists to create the most beautiful place, “as if heaven on earth are joined.”

Having been next to the Taj Mahal, right there, touching this beautiful place, it is all that. It is the most beautiful palace, garden, tomb, it is as if heaven and earth have joined to create this spectacular site.  The calligraphy written along the walls, the inlaid gems, the symmetry, the white-ness of it, the sight. All breathes beauty and love.

Many years went by before walls began to rise in Agra.  Many more took to finish it, and at the end was called the Taj Mahal.  “Almost as perfect as their love.”  They then brought her coffin to this final resting place, covered by pearls and the biggest diamond laid on top.   We could see it when you walk inside.  The tomb coffin is right there. Isn’t it incredible?

As Shah Jahan sat there, watching the reflection of this beautiful palace in the water of the pool, he envisioned a tomb for himself on the other side of the river, mirroring the Taj Mahal, made out of black marble. Both reflections would unite in the Yamuna River, to become one, he thought then, they would be together once again.

Few years had passed from the Taj Mahal’s completion when Shah Jahan became ill.  His son, Aurangzeb, their sixth child, took power and mad that his father was spending so much of his fortune, he decided to lock him up in the Red Fort of Agra.

On our second visit to the Taj Mahal last November, we visited the Red Fort in Agra with Glendie.  We visited most of the corners including the room where Shah Jahan was locked.

This is the room where he spent his last years, in prison.

From this room he could see the Yamuna River and in the distance the Taj Mahal and its reflection, probably as we see it today, and we saw it that day last November.

It was so inspiring and so powerful to see this place.  Both places.  But seeing The Fort, and this room especially, in my mind, it felt like the story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal was closing to an end.  It felt like I could close the chapter, close our book of this love story.

Shah Jahan lived enclosed in these walls for eight years.  I am sure he thought of all the moments together with the love of his life, his promise becoming reality, reflecting in the river, in a palace, a place, full of story and incredible beauty.  A Monument to Love, where the whole world can see the love two people had for each other, and never forgotten.

Taj Mahal : a second visit

Photo by Lucas

Glendie came to visit us from here, the US, to India while we were there last fall.  It was so special, and it was great to have her there with us.  Glendie came for close to two weeks, and we had to do the most of our days with her.

We figure, being so close to Agra, seeing the Taj Mahal was ‘a must’.  So we went, for the day on her last weekend there, before returning to Idaho.

This time we knew what to expect.  We had decided ahead of time we wanted to ride the camels to the gate.  And! This time, instead of paying 500 Rs, we paid 100 Rs.

and this view… oh this view… I could have stayed there all morning.  It is so breath taking.  I have seen lots of pictures with the arch, the Taj Mahal in the back, but being there, in person, seeing it with my own eyes, it is completely different.  No photo explains it.  No photo is worth standing right here seeing this palace of love, in front of you.

And for me, nothing will take away being there with Lucas and Siena and Mark, together as a family.  When did we ever think we’d be there standing in front of this Wonder of the World?  Once Mark was applying to this Fulbright Exchange, we only dreamed of being there.  It was just a dream.  But now, and this day, it was real. It was so beautiful and so real for all of us.

Something we will never forget.

Photo by Mark

And this second time at the Taj Mahal, being there again, with Glendie.  What a treat!  So very special.

Photo by Mark

Photo by Lucas

The gardens are beautiful too.

Besides the architecture, the art, the construction, being there feels perfect.  It feels like you are part of a whole.  A small part, but part of something very special.  Both times, it felt international, I felt foreign to this place, but at the same time, I felt I was part of something.  Maybe part of history.  But probably is part of what Siena always talks about that she read somewhere:

There’s two kinds of people.  Those who have seen the Taj Mahal, and those who haven’t.