Birthday Fun on Two Continents!

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February 19th 2015
Published: March 2nd 2015
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Me & DadMe & DadMe & Dad

At my family birthday dinner, I cuddled up to my father on a special night out.
I began writing this blog entry at the Benito Juarez Airport of Mexico City: Between flight announcements and TV sports it's extremely LOUD, but I'll do my best to start writing this entry. Tonight I fly into LAX - heading to visits with my Dad, my sister and my brother Bob who will be arriving from Baltimore. "But weren't you just recently in LA?" I hear you ask, dear reader. Well, yes - Nov/Dec was a visit for my niece Jenna's wedding, but as my Dad ages (he's almost 89) his health declines more rapidly and I want to spend as much time with him as possible while he's still with us. Since my work schedule permits, I'm heading back again. Also I found a super cheap fare available on Aeromexico (a.k.a. Aero'maybe'go) and the Quito to Mexico City leg of my flight was less than half full!

As I pass the time (6 hour layover at the airport!) it occurs to me that it's been nearly 25 years since I was last in Mexico! Not that I'll be able to leave the airport and actually BE in Mexico City this time (security, etc). Funny that Aeromexico advertises
Me & My SibsMe & My SibsMe & My Sibs

Selfie with Bob & Claire at Barnsdall Park near Hollyhock House.
Heineken beer on each seatback (under the tray table). On my flight they showed the same awful movie (Maze Runner) twice in a row (gak!). But the Aeromexico safety video was rather cute and creative - a young couple sneaks a kiss before putting on their oxygen masks, a little girl buckles in her teddy bear to show how to use the seat belt and as an example of stowing personal items under the seat a ventriloquist stashes his look-alike dummy.

This writing session is being continued at my sister's home...I've been in LA area for a full week and am just now getting back to my blog. I cast my memory back to the first days of February when I became godmother & temporary foster mom to two sweet doggy sisters named by Shana, Soly & Luna (SolyLuna = Sun & Moon). These young shepherd mix pups were abandoned at the entrance to the El Salado hot springs, just up the hill from Shana's house. She hoped I might adopt them, just as she had adopted the LuLus (Lupe & Lucy, another pair of female puppies who were abandoned at Salado). Nope, not the right time
Newly OperatedNewly OperatedNewly Operated

These sweet sisters were abandoned up by the hot springs. Shana named them SolyLuna (Soly in the foreground is the alpha, Luna has a white tip of moonlight on her tail)
for me to adopt a dog (much less two dogs!), but offered to pay to have them spayed.

Another reason I declined to take them home permanently; these pups have endeared themselves to nearby business owners and regular hot springs visitors. Talking with folks in the area where SolyLuna hang out, I discovered that at least 4 different people have been feeding them regularly. They've created their own community and seem to be in good health. I called around and found a dog shelter vet in Ambato (an hour away) who would sterilize them both for what the vet in town planned to charge for one. Shana and I draped the back seat with old sheets went to pick them up off the street. They jumped right in the truck and did pretty well during the drive (Soly got a little pukey but my truck was well protected!) Shana and I went shopping while they were in with the vet. They were both pretty groggy most of the ride home.

I agreed to have the dogs stay at my place for a few days while they recovered from their surgery. Once they'd fully emerged
Agoyan DamAgoyan DamAgoyan Dam

Hydroelectric project just outside Banos...nice view from the trail up the hill at Parque de la Familia (Banos' Family Park).
from the anesthesia, they gobbled up an entire bag of puppy chow and a kilo of meaty bones! After two days of being well-fed and amply cuddled, they weren't quite as eager to get back in the truck when it was time to drive them back up to El Salado. All of their street vendor friends were so happy to see them and thanked me for taking care of their operation. I visit them regularly when I go to the baths and they seem happy living the street dog life to which they had become accustomed.

I had the best of intentions to exercise regularly while in Banos, but as Carnaval approached the town filled with national tourists and it was impossible to visit the hot baths. I had a hard time motivating myself to go for walks in my neighborhood, partly due to fear of getting douse with water or sprayed with fun foam (how the kids celebrate Carnaval). I know, those are just excuses, but I did head out hiking one day with my Air B'n'B friend, Suzanne. We started out at Parque de la Familia, taking the trail up the hill to the Hydroelectric
Jean & DavidJean & DavidJean & David

Who knew that Karl's Mom is such an accomplished artist. Thanks Jean for the lovely sunset scene!
Dam overlook, then winding down through the agricultural exhibits. From there we continued on to the Pailon del Diablo Waterfalls and finished with lunch at Miramelindo. I was glad to share some of my fave places with Suzanne, especially since she can now recommend them to guests who stay at her house.

In anticipation of receiving out-of-town visitors for my birthday bash, I did much of the party prep way in advance. As the week leading up to my Bday advanced, it became clear that my guests from the Andes would not be coming and my friends from the coast cancelled in the last few days due to illness. So, I had some time to play Scrabble with Shana in the last few days before the party. Since I thought I'd have my house full of visitors, Shana offered to host three of our mutual friends who drove down from Quito for my birthday. In the end, I had my house all to myself for the final preparations. Good thing, since the assembly of the veggie kebabs took much longer than anticipated!

It was really fun to set up tables and chairs out in
Boys in the TreesBoys in the TreesBoys in the Trees

John (above) and Santi (below) had a great time climbing up the chopped off trunks of my front yard avocado trees. Nice angle for this shot, Julie!
the garden in front of my house. Fortunately the rain ended in the morning and a stunning afternoon sun lit the valley hillsides for my afternoon party. My cleaning gal, Cristina, brought over her boom box and we figured out how to hook up my ipod to play a specially prepared mix of party music. Melisa, Willian & Diana donned aprons and took charge of the grill. Luckily the wind was blowing the smoke away from the appetizer-laden tables.

My house is a few miles out of town, and since it was a holiday weekend I knew that the taxi drivers would be reluctant to brave the tourist traffic on the road up to my place, so the day before the party I drove my truck into town and Karl parked it in the courtyard of the volunteer library overnight. Then, the afternoon of the bday bash he drove party-goers to my house. It was fun to have over a dozen folks arrive all at once!

While the chicken and sausages were sharing the grill with the vegetable skewers, Karl did a head count and determined that there were about 35 guests from 6
Threading VeggiesThreading VeggiesThreading Veggies

The artistry of vegetable kabobs - colors, shapes & textures alternate on bamboo skewers.
different countries! It was so great to introduce good friends to one another, to look out over a mix of local Banos friends, expat residents and visitors travelling through. The kids enjoyed the hammocks, tree-climbing and playing ball. The adults enjoyed the rum punch and strolling through the avocado tree grove in the back yard. A good time was had by all and the food was delicious!!!

Just a couple days to recover from the party and return borrowed tables and chairs before heading back up to Quito. I spent the better part of a day with my lawyer, trying to sort out the latest glitch in my visa renewal process. Since the Ministry of External Affairs (Extranjeria) seems to change its requirements weekly, there's always some document or other missing. This time the upstairs offices insisted that I had to renew my cedula (ID card) before they could proceed with my visa renewal. My former cedula has worked just fine for the past two years of renewal, but this time some clerk got a bee in her bonnet. Downstairs at the cedula renewal window they told me that they couldn't do a thing for me until

Once the chicken was done, on went the sausages and veggie kabobs. Compliments to the chefs!!
my visa renewal upstairs was completed. Catch 22! We finally convinced a guard to allow us to go upstairs where my lawyer managed to find someone who would understand reason! This kind gentleman saw that we were being put in an impossible bind and he agreed to lift the suspension of my visa renewal process, assuring me that I would have no problem with immigration at the airport.

The next morning at 6:45 a.m. my exit visa was stamped and I continued out of the Migracion line and into duty-free (you're required to pass thru the shop to get to the gates). As I perused the face lotions I felt a hand on my shoulder and the immigration agent gently guided me back to her counter. She said that after I walked off, her screen flashed an alert that my visa was at risk of being annulled. I explained to her that it was in process, even as I was texting my lawyer for back-up. The agent made photocopies of my passport and warned me that I risked problems when coming back Ecuador. Needless to say I've been in contact with my lawyer and he's sent me
Hollyhock HouseHollyhock HouseHollyhock House

Aline Barnsdall never lived in this Frank Lloyd Wright house she had commissioned. She donated the land (now a center for the arts) and the house was recently renovated and opened to the public. Stunning!
documents I may need to show in order to be able re-enter as a resident. OY! The bureaucratic BS seems never-ending!

My brother Bob who lives in Baltimore was already in LA on a business trip, so he met me at the airport. It's such a relief not to have to stand in a rental car line and drive the LA freeways at night after a long day of travel! When he left to head back east he took me to pick up my rental. As is our custom, my first morning in LA we took a big walk around the Hollywood reservoir (a man-made lake at the base of the famous Hollywood sign). The next day we explored downtown LA on foot, starting with a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House (stunningly beautiful) and continuing with an informal tour of the Bradbury Building (where many movies have been shot) with an eclectic lunch at Central Market (food stalls from around the world). We went into the LA Public Library, housed in a massive four-story historic building.

That night the whole California family gathered (Bob, my Dad, sister Claire & nephew Sam) for
Wacky Meal PresentationWacky Meal PresentationWacky Meal Presentation

Look closely - Claire's steak has an enormous fork, Dad's salmon sports a giant lure, Bob's Asian meal hosts a Samurai sword, Sam's got a crazy chicken and my lamb came with a pig chalkboard!
an oh-so-fun dinner at an over-the-top theatrical restaurant called Barton G's. Claire had received some tips on what to order, so we started off with popcorn shrimp brought to the table in a popcorn popper! The lobster 'pop-tart' pastries were served in a big pink toaster and each of our main course meals had a crazy presentation as well. Dad's salmon sported a giant fishing lure, Claire's steak came complete with a 3 foot tall fork, Bob's Asian tuna dish needed the samurai sword removed before eating. I ordered lamb which had a pig-shaped chalkboard on which they'd written "Eat Lamb" and Sam's chicken dish was adorned with a wacky aluminum chicken sculpture.

For the special birthday dessert we ordered the s'mores pizza -- served in a pizza box with a lit sparkler, the crust was toasted marshmallow covered with a layer of fine chocolate, sliced strawberries resembled pepperoni and coconut rings looked like onions. The eye deceived the palate and we all enjoyed this sweet treat to top off a memorable birthday meal!

As I finish writing this blog entry I've been in California for a week and visited with my Dad every
Birthday PizzaBirthday PizzaBirthday Pizza

With a marshmallow crust, a layer of fine chocolate, strawberry 'pepperoni' & coconut 'onions' this sweet s'mores pizza dazzled us with its bday sparkler!
day. Sometimes we just hang around his Assisted Living facility (The Village at Sherman Oaks) and play cribbage. His math memory seems unimpaired and he trounces me at cards regularly! We'll have lunch in The Village restaurant with his lady friend Bonnie or listen to a live piano concert of show-tunes in the lobby. One afternoon we went to the cinema and saw Selma (they only other viewers at this matinee showing were an African-American guy on his own and a family of five from India).

One day I took my Dad up to the Griffith Park Observatory and we saw the star shows in the domed theatre. Spectacular views from all around the hilltop observatory -- it wasn't clear enough to see the ocean that day, but it was cool to look down at downtown Los Angeles. Amazing how many tourists were there from all over the world. The observatory is housed in a gorgeous old stone building which has been recently renovated. It's good for me to be reminded of the history in my own country of birth. Well, I'm off to meet my Dad again. We'll spend the afternoon together and then meet Claire
Field Trip with AlField Trip with AlField Trip with Al

Dad and I both enjoyed our visit to the Griffith Park Observatory
for dinner when she finishes work.

Please make sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see some great photos!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


Banos Bday FunBanos Bday Fun
Banos Bday Fun

Suzanne, Julie, Butch & Joyce joined me in celebrating my birthday! Joyce had been reading my blog even before she & Butch moved to Ecuador!
Sharing Bday JoySharing Bday Joy
Sharing Bday Joy

Good friends old & new in Ecuador: Vick, Willian, Flo, Irene & Delery enjoying the afternoon sunshine in my garden.
Grill GirlsGrill Girls
Grill Girls

Melissa & Diana stepped up and did an amazing job on the BBQ (with a little help from Willian).
Art Shot by JulieArt Shot by Julie
Art Shot by Julie

Yellow & Green Zucchini, Eggplant, Mushrooms, Onions, Potatoes, Carrots, Red Peppers & Garlic grace these healthy "pinchos"
Key FrameKey Frame
Key Frame

Nynne sold my first key-baubled frame to a young couple for their wedding photo -- so I had to decorate another one with old keys & such.
Tiny Sea ShellsTiny Sea Shells
Tiny Sea Shells

There's something so relaxing to me about sorting shells & other small objects to combine them into pleasing designs.
Furry BallsFurry Balls
Furry Balls

Observe how the naranjilla (lulo) fruit grows. When ripe it's like a small orange-y persimmon...makes great juice. The lavender fuzz on the young leaves and blossoms is just delightful.
Bloomin' BananasBloomin' Bananas
Bloomin' Bananas

As the rubbery kneepad-like blossoms open they expose the tender inner structure of a bunch of bananas...ain't mother nature grand?
Lobster Pop TartsLobster Pop Tarts
Lobster Pop Tarts

Served complete with toaster, these seafood pastries were a heavenly appetizer!
Popcorn ShrimpPopcorn Shrimp
Popcorn Shrimp

Brought to the table in a popcorn popper, the shrimp and their dipping sauces were a yummy app!

2nd March 2015

Ideas inspire!!
So glad you've shared your bday stories, your time with your Dad and family and friends. What an inspiration you are Jill! And now I must go figure out how to make lobster pop tarts ! Do u have time for a San Francisco leg on this trip? Always room for you here-- anytime! Xo. Amy
4th March 2015

Like a lobster without a tart!
Only you! What a great post! It's so great that you came back up to spend more time with your dad. These are the moments.
4th March 2015

Belated happy birthday! Your party sounds wonderful. Wish I could have been there to share the delicious food. I'm glad your dad is doing so well. Maybe next time you visit, you could swing by Tucson, would love to see you. Abrazos, Bonnie

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