Movie Date: Chef


Email from Mama Rote to the fam:

This afternoon, at Josie and Israel’s recommendation, Kyle and I went to see the movie Chef.

We recommend it highly! It is a father & son/buddy/foodie/travelogue/break up & make up/multicultural story with Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johannson, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey, Jr. and some good music. We even recommend staying for the credits.

Something good for a rainy afternoon.


I thoroughly enjoyed this one! Check it out, but don’t go hungry. 

Cholula Churches

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Happy birthday, Mexico! Actually, I’m not 100% clear on the history behind Mexico’s September 16 independence day . . . I do know that it involved a priest-rebel yelling the “grito” on the night of September 15 . . .

Whatever the case, I think you should eat tacos (or one of the authentic recipes here) and drink margaritas this weekend!

The holiday reminded me to post some of the pretty pics from our trip to Cholula, though months have passed. Mama Rote, who was also on the trip, focused her photo efforts on the beautiful churches in Cholula (as well as the neighboring city Puebla), of which there are hundreds. Neither of us is big into photography (Can you tell from my cell phone pics on this blog? Sorry.), so I thought she was rather brilliant to narrow her scope in such an artsy photojournalist-ic way, specifically on the church towers against the sky.

All of these were taken with her phone—unedited!:

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It’s such an incredibly beautiful place, as you can see. Thanks, Mama Rote for your (phone!) photo essay.

Our trip to Cholula fell during Holy Week, which was a great time to visit, aside from the strange bank hours. As I mentioned, Cholula (actually two cities: San Pedro Cholula and San Andres Cholula) is known for its churches. When the Spanish took over the existing native city, they built churches on each and every pagan temple or worship site, and of course that was a lot, since there were deities for rain, sun, various animals, etc. Legend holds that there are 365 churches, one for each day of the year.

Over and over I wished we had a personal art history and/or religion professor to give more details on a certain church, how they were used since sometimes they were just a block away from one another, and a thousand other questions about the special displays for Holy Week. But I had to let it go and just take everything in. I did ask a guy in one of the churches what the fresh fruit hanging from the ceiling meant. Good Spanish practice, but not great for finding more information.

me: Hi. Do you speak English?
guy: No.
me: Why is there fruit in the church?
guy: For Holy Week.
me: OK. . . But, I don’t understand. I’m from the United States. In our churches, we don’t have fruit for Holy Week. The fruit means new life?
guy: Yes.
me: OK. Thanks for your help.

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The two required churches to visit in Cholula are Santa Maria Tonantzintla (where these pics of Mary Tobin and Abuela came from), with crazy syncretic decor covering the inside; and San Francisco Acatapec, with gorgeous gorgeous talavera tile covering the outside.

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That one was my favorite. The most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. We took pictures, but they don’t convey how overwhelmingly breathtaking it was. (No pictures allowed inside Santa Maria Tonantzintla, but you can learn more about both churches here.)

Which photo is your favorite? I love the yellow one at the top of the post, and the nighttime shot.

P.S. We considered it, but are not naming our daughter Cholula. (Or Sriracha, or Chauffeur, my brothers’ suggestions.)

most this amazing


i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-e.e. cummings, 1950

We had a nice relaxing time with Mama Rote’s side of the family last week in east TN/north GA, enjoying the water and “the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky.” (And also, eating.) I hope we’ll be able to get back soon! And I hope you had a nice Labor Day weekend, inhaling the last sweet breaths of summer.

P.S. Listen here to e.e. cummings reading the above poem aloud. Very cool.

Classic Movie Alert: The Court Jester

Email from Mama Rote today, to all her offspring and our significant others:


The Court Jester is on TCM Sunday evening at 8pm ET/5pmPT.

I think you should NOT MISS IT. But that’s just my opinion.


“The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.”

If you’ve ever considered taking my old movie recommendations, now is the time. You’ll love this one. It’s full of hilarious scenes, memorable lines, and of course, Danny Kaye making faces like this:

(Fair warning to my husband: there’s singing and dancing. But also a great sword fight scene.)

You’ll do a double take when you see Angela Lansbury as a beautiful young princess, rather than Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. And then there’s one of my all-time favorite villains, Basil Rathbone.

Enjoy! (And you’re welcome.) Have a great, swashbuckling weekend.

She’s Still Got It.

Mama Rote burlington sock ad

Happy Mother’s Day to Mama Rote and the rest of you lovely ladies!

Last week I talked about parenting with one of my favorite honorary mamas, Linda Rice, of Little Lights. If you know Ms. Linda, you’ll be able to hear her voice in this short interview. If you don’t, you’ll feel like you know her.

And some other thoughts on motherhood I’ve enjoyed:

P.S. A bonus link, if you’re not a mama and all this gushy-ness is getting to you: Meg, my friend from high school, wrote this piece on why being single through your twenties is great. Yes to the hour long bath.

P.P.S. Mama Rote staying in the picture.

Tell The Stories (or, It’s my birthday!)

Growing up, on the morning of my birthday, mom crawled into bed with me and told me the story of when I was born.

They drove to the hospital early in the morning for a scheduled c-section. Mom wore an ugly hospital gown that said “Mommy.” Dad wore scrubs. When I was born, they counted my ten fingers and ten toes. My dad was so thrilled to have a baby girl after two sons that he was practically dancing around the delivery room.

Dr. Dilts asked my mom, “Is that the same man you were married to before?”

Dad took me into the hall and asked Uncle Steve to guess boy or girl. Uncle Steve said, “I think it’s another boy.”

“Wrong! It’s the baby princess,” Dad said gleefully, presenting me to my uncle and grandmother. “And I’ve already got her a gold card.” (A reference to an AmEx commercial, where a new dad in the hospital has visions of birthday parties and ponies, and realizes “I need a gold card.” I learned this last detail today, since Mama Rote is visiting us this week.)

A question stood out to me in a recent article in Parade Magazine about happy families (I always read Parade on Sundays, unless someone steals our paper.):

When a team of psychologists measured children’s resilience, they found that the kids who ________ were best able to handle stress.
-Ate the same breakfast every day
-Knew the most about their family’s history
-Played team sports
-Attended regular religious services
Fascinatingly, kids who knew the most about their family’s history had better self-esteem and felt more in control of their lives. “They understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves, and that families naturally experience both highs and lows.”

Today a good friend reminded me about my identity, who I really am, utilizing more of a modern medium. She attached a bunch of pictures in a birthday email to me—pictures of me and our group of college friends, some from weddings, mostly silly. This was one:


I thought, “That is me. That’s really me.”

There were many more [worse] pictures she could’ve chosen, which only reinforces the sweet, secure feeling I had as I looked at them. These friends know who I am, for better or worse, and they love me. My family, far from perfect, is mine. They know me, they love me, even though I don’t return phone calls very well.  When I feel as if I’m drifting, floating, out of control—these stories, these pictures become a happy anchor.

Tell the stories, good or bad. Tell the stories.

Call me Fishmael.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Source: via Josie on Pinterest

Hey, internet friends, what do you think?

It’s fall, and we’re looking forward to all those nice fall-y feeling things. Israel and I brainstormed over lunch this week, and he’s specifically looking forward to:

    • college football
    • tailgating
    • pumpkin beer
    • pumpkin anything
    • delicious air
    • sweaters
    • getting out his Patagonia fleece
    • romantic comedies that feel appropriate to autumn, such as St. Elmo’s Fire and Breakfast at Tiffany’s

It’s also about time to switch out clothes and little house items, like putting away the summer table cloth and getting out that delicious candle. BUT we have a dilemma. “Fishmael” is our gurgling cod from last summer’s New England vacation, possibly my favorite souvenir I’ve ever purchased. (We obviously had to choose Nantucket Red.) Does he stay or does he go?

Here’s Fishmael in his native habitat:

[Let’s take a moment, not for silence, rather for loud appreciation of Mama Rote’s handiwork on those shelves during her last visit! I had the vision; she handled the execution. Here’s the before; the cabinet on the right:

Note well: this metamorphasis took place only during times when Mary Tobin was asleep. And, these cabinets are heavy as the dickens, so we didn’t budge them to paint. When we move, we’ll have to paint the three remaining sides.

We lined the back with wallpaper (from a Washington Design Center sale) and used Annie Sloane chalk paint, which lived up to its rep of being nice and easy. The color is a mix of Duck Egg and French Linen that we dubbed “French Duck Linen” or “French Egg” or “Linen Duck” . . .  shall I go on?]

What do you look forward to for fall? I hope you’re pulling out the blankets, sprucing up the nest to make it nice and cozy, and enjoying the cool breeze through your windows.

More importantly, if you had a gurgling cod pitcher that brought an awesome glug-glug sound to the water glasses at your summer dinners, and—let’s be clear—undeniably reminds you of summer and whaling in Nantucket, would you let him stick around through the cold months? Or are some things made even more special through their absence? Again I ask you. Does he stay or does he go?

In the “A for Effort” Department

My mom, arguably, is putting more effort into learning Spanish than I am. And she’s definitely beating me in the cute-clothes-for-my-daughter arena. She and some friends get together regularly with their sewing guru to work on precious clothes for their grandchildren. As you’ll see below, though, her aging mind can only handle so much:

I went to my sewing/smocking lesson the other day and worked really hard. The stuff we were working on was painstaking, and I was really focusing on measuring and counting stitches and getting it exactly right. When I left and started the car, my Spanish lesson CD came on. The guy on the lesson said,

“Let’s say that you come inside on a hot day and see Luisa. Try to say, ‘Good afternoon, Luisa. I want some very cold water if you have any, please.'”

So I took a deep breath and said (drum roll here), “Good afternoon, Luisa. I want some very cold water if you have any, please.” HAHA! Obviously the sewing was more mentally fatiguing than I realized.

Don’t worry, Mama! We appreciate your mental anguish, and we dig the clothes.

An Unfathomable Miracle

Friends, I know it’s over now and Mother’s Day has been facebooked, tweeted, blogged to death. I just wanted to share two of the old pics my mom sent me last week in preparation for my first Mother’s Day:

OK, and one thought! These make me wonder about how my mom’s mind must be blown that I’m a mom now. I cannot imagine Mary Tobin being big enough to drive (“But her legs are too short,” a friend observed at dinner Saturday night), much less being a mama. I do believe it’s a miracle, the way this works. And wise of God that I can’t grasp the magnitude of my task . . . we need to take it one stage, one day, one hour at a time.

Some links in honor of mamas out there:

Revisiting a few old posts: