About Me

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Hello! Welcome to my online travel-food-life journal/virtual scrapbook. I am a poet, playwright, journalist, editor and basic jack-of-all-trades writer. I was born in El Salvador and raised in Minnesota. I have just returned home from a year and a half in South Africa.

31 December 2012

Remembering SA: New Year's and the Fountens

It being New Year's Eve, I can't help but remember last New Year's.  It was one of the most fun nights I've ever had.  When Aaron and I were told we were going to stay up and ring in the New Year, we didn't know that we were literally going to stay up all night -- but that's what you do in South Africa!  And we didn't know that that night was going to be the beginning of our relationship with one of the most beautiful things South Africa gave us: the Founten family.

As we prepare to ring in 2013, I just want to take a moment to remember our dear friends, who from that first night treated us like family, who laughed with us, who shared family recipes, who taught us about everything from what it was like to grow up under apartheid to how to make a proper braai fire.

These pictures were taken at our send-off just days before we left South Africa.

Here are two of the cutest girls on this here earth, Miss Jamie Lee and Micah!

The boys, chillin':

The girls doing likewise:

Anton made a delicious potjie:

Mutton and bean curry -- my favorite!


She learned it from her mummy!

As always, the food was AMAZING:

Petula and Terrance are one of the sweetest couples I've ever met.  And Petula sings like a songbird!

Here are (from left to right) Auntie Angela, Trevor, Mark, Charmaine, Auntie Poppy and Anton:

The fabulous Liza and Fiona:

Girls, girls, don't argue about the cake!

Janine with her gorgeous baby Allyah:

And the whole clan!

And don't you know that they surprised us at the airport as we were leaving?  They are truly such a sweet, loving, fun family.  Saying goodbye to them made me cry like a baby!

Dear Foutens, we will be remembering you this New Year's!!!  We will miss the midnight braai and the dancing at 3 a.m. and watching those first rays as the sun brings us a New Year.  You are ever in our hearts! 

And to everyone, I want to wish you and yours ¡un Feliz Año Nuevo! May 2013 bring you lots of peace, joy, fun, adventures, growth, learning and love and love and love.  Gelukkig Nuwejaar!!!!

27 December 2012

¡Feliz Navidad!

Hiya!  Here's a quick little pictorial of our Christmas celebrations!

For us, the big celebrations come on Christmas Eve.  The first was at our house, where we had paella (I am writing up the recipe!)

My niece Naomi was fashion herself in her Christmas dress:

My nephew Nathaniel loved his cap from South Africa:

And Naomi loved her flamenco shawl and her South African doll whom she named Winnie (as in Mandela) ... look at my sister putting bunny ears on Winnie!

We had a great time (though Nathaniel might have been in a sugar coma at this point!)

Then it was on to the Armstrongs!

Don't Aaron and his dad look so much alike?

My mother-in-law and my sister-in-law:

Our cousin Crissy and her sweet daughter Bella:

It was pasta-party-time!

Cousin Jeff and Roman:

And cousin Guido's little boy, Aiden in his awesome new Spiderman slippers:

Squid is a big part of the Tuccitto family (Aaron's mom's side) tradition.  Back in the day, they -- like many Italians -- celebrated The Feast of the 7 Fishes on Christmas Eve.  These days, while we don't do 7 fish dishes, we still do the squid.  And it is amazing!

Here's what I brought, strawberry tarts topped with fresh whipped cream and strawberries:

At the front are Italian cookies, pizzales.  They are super light, crispy and slightly anise-flavored.  So good, I'm going to get the recipe from my mother-in-law!

It was a big gathering, and so much fun!

The next day (Christmas Day) is when the Armstrongs just chill!

After all that feasting and partying, it was lovely to just chill in front of the fire and relax with homemade biscotti and a hot drink.  

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday with your loved ones.  


24 December 2012

3 Months Back, Ending 2012 & Feliz Navidad!

Just about three months ago, Aaron and I came back from South Africa.  They've gone by quickly, and before we say goodbye to 2012 I just want to share a few pictures/glimpses into life as we've known it.

Less than 48 hours after I landed, I was called to duty! 

I'm very proud to be on the Board of The Loft, the US's largest and most comprehensive literary center.  And wouldn't you know it, basically upon disembarking (30 hours, 4 flights) I was at a Loft event!  I had the great pleasure of thanking Bao Phi for 10 years of dedication to our unique spoken word series, EQ.  That night, we featured bow-down-and-recognize poets Patricia Smith and Anis Mojgani.  I also got to see my poet-brother, Rodrigo, and his family, including little Santiago, who was born while we were away:

Cuteness, no?  And speaking of cuteness:

I was SO happy to have gotten back in time for autumn.  It is my favorite time of the year here in Minnesota.  We went apple and pumpkin picking with my sister Carolina's family.  That's Aaron with my niece Naomi and my brother-in-law Paul on the hay wagon.

We also had to have a Salvadoran feast upon our return:

On a beautifully warm day my family gathered in our back yard and I was able to have all those foods I could not get/find/make in South Africa:

Yuca con Chicharrones!

A meltingly tender Salvadoran tamale, note the chicken and chunks of potato within?

... and Mamones! (Also called quenepas)  They are a weird tropical fruit that Aaron looks askance at and which I gorged on.

Also, there was some bocce played:

One of the nicest things about being back has been sitting with my kitties in my sunroom:

I am a complete animal lover and I missed these guys terribly.  This sunroom is filled with my books and little mementos.  It is my happy spot.  But truth be told, my whole house is my happy spot.  I am a true homebody.  I love our home with its warm wood and books everywhere.  I'm a nester for sure and I can't tell you how lovely it has been to be back in our own home, with our own stuff.  To have more than one room to live in -- it's glorious!

But gosh we miss South Africa!  We miss the people, the food; in fact, we were braaing till we absolutely couldn't anymore.  Look at this chicken my boy made.  Yum:

And then he attacked a pumpkin with a drill:

Hee!  It was all good (Halloween) fun:

Also, I turned 30somelalalala:

My brother-in-law and I share the same birthday.  So we went to one of our mutually favorite restaurants, Bucca, to celebrate.  Yes, that is the pope's head on the table.  And yes, there is a small monkey sitting on top of his head.  Let's just say we had a good time!

November was a more somber month.  A good friend of mine passed away suddenly and it marked the third anniversary of my sister's death.

And on Thanksgiving, we decided to finally scatter our cat Mickey's ashes.  Mickey had to be put down while we were in South Africa.  It was awful.  When we got back, my in-laws had his ashes for us.  We thought about it for a while and then decided we wanted to scatter them in one of our favorite places on earth, Minnehaha Falls:

The falls are right in the middle of the city; they empty into the great Mississippi River and are about 5 minutes from our house.  They don't look like much right now because there was almost no water and it's fall and all the leaves are dead, but it's a spectacular spot. 

We decided to scatter the ashes on Thanksgiving; we were very thankful to have had our little guy for 7 years, we loved him utterly and it seemed appropriate.  His absence is palpable in the house.

The rest of Thanksgiving was lovely.  Lots of pies of course:

And we got to meet another baby born while we were away, our cousin Kadie's boy Roman:

Such a cutie, he's like the Gerber baby!

Which takes us into December:

Not only am I a nester, I am a crafter!  Made the most awesome salt dough ornaments this year!

We also had a big, beautiful snowstorm:

A total winter wonderland, like living in a snow globe!  I guess I really am a true-blue Minnesota girl because I really love it, I love having a white Christmas.  There's something so finite and ethereal about a snow-covered world.  Happy sigh. 

By the way, I love Christmas.  I love this time of year, I love the decorations, I love the snow, I love the preparations for it, and most of all I love sharing it with family:

We are a bit torn this year.  On the one hand, we are really missing our South African friends -- who are like family to us.  We will miss the Christmas crackers and the braais (and OK, it would be nice to take a dip in the pool!)  But we are also so incredibly grateful to be home again and to celebrate with our families.  We are going to savor the paella and the squid and pasta (and we're gonna go cross country skiing soon!)

So I guess all I can say is that we are just really grateful.  To have had the incredible array of experiences we've had this past year.  To have all the families we have.  To have weathered difficult things and come back out.  To have savored so much, with so many beautiful people.  To have each other. 

From our little family to yours, we wish you a beautiful, safe, and joyous Christmas. 

The Armstrong-Duartes