December 30, 2008

Kelley family together at Christmas

Dave's mom Martie (or Nana to Katie), and brother Doug, both flew in for a week over Christmas this year. It was hard being without Dave's dad, but good that we were together in a place that had no memories. And, as usual, Katie was the tonic for everyone.

We took it easy over the week, partly in consideration of Martie's health, but also to spend relaxed time together. We did make it to some of the missions -- the two that I had not been to yet -- to give Martie a taste of that part of San Antonio's history.

Christmas Eve and Day were very fun with Katie really getting in to Santa this year. She left him a snack -- Hershey's kisses (thanks for sending them, Dad and Cynthia) and water. And the first thing she wanted to know when she woke up Christmas morning was whether Santa had eaten his snack. She ran up and down the hall several times to double-check, flapping her arms in excitement. And she loved opening her stocking presents and all the presents under the tree. Martie's box of gifts that she sent ahead of herself didn't arrive until Saturday, so we had a second Christmas on Saturday. Everyone was happy with their gifts, especially Miss Katie -- who had presents from all over the country. Now we begin the post-holiday tradition of thank-you notes. :)

In the afternoon, Katie (and Nana) had a nap, while Dave, Doug, and I went for a walk downtown at Brackenridge Park. It was a nice warmish sunny afternoon -- we weren't the only ones out in the sun:

Oh, yeah, and it was my birthday. I got to eat chocolate cake all weekend. I definitely don't feel 43.

We also went to the Alamo and the Riverwalk -- the one mandatory place to take all visitors. And Nana got a chance to push Katie on the swings! Katie's been asking since this summer, when Nana and Granddad took her to the park in Lewisburg. Here's the whole gang on the Saturday after Christmas:

Both Martie and Doug flew home on Monday morning.
It was good to be together for the week.

December 26, 2008

Celebrating Christmas, San Antonio style (part 4)

Dave's family was here for Christmas (more about that in the next post), and we tried to expose them to the local traditions, too. The biggest one is tamales for Christmas Eve. That's the primary food for Christmas Eve dinner -- either they're cooked at big tamaladas (tamale cooking parties) in people's homes, or they're ordered from one of the local places. Those places make thousands, and lines start at 5 am every day in the week before Christmas Eve. Not being a morning person (or willing to stand in line that many hours), I got them frozen and steamed them at home. :) So we ate pork, chicken, and bean-and-jalapeno tamales for our Christmas Eve dinner.

Of course it was only after Christmas that I read the Bush family had them for Christmas Eve at Camp David. I guess we have one thing in common.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

December 24, 2008

Celebrating Christmas, San Antonio style (part 3)

This past Saturday we drove up with our friends Keith and Lori into the Hill Country, to two cities known for their light displays. We started at Marble Falls -- with dinner and PIE!! at the Bluebonnet Cafe. The pie is so good that Katie needed two hands to eat it!

Marble Falls' riverside park is lit up in December with light frames (I can't think of another way to describe it) of all shapes and sizes and colors. You enter through a tunnel that is all dazzling white lights, bright as daylight, then you are surrounded by color. It was really neat. This is just a taste (as is the photo at the top of today's entry).

On our way home, we detoured through Johnson City (of Lyndon Johnson family), which we had read decorates their courthouse. Wow, do they ever! Check this out:

And their city park is full of lights and cutouts. Katie liked the sleigh (because she could finally touch a display), but especially Rudolph.

But by far the most spectacular display I have EVER seen was at the Pedernales Electric Co-op in Johnson City. It helps to be your own electric company. The entire building is surrounded by these big trees with enormous canopies, and every one was fully lit. It was as bright as daylight, and amazingly beautiful.

December 19, 2008

Crazy weather, part 2

This morning (December 19) I woke to the sounds of the groundskeepers MOWING THE GRASS! In the fog, no less. We've had two days of non-stop, thick, fog. I tell Katie it's like living in a big cloud. It lifted this afternoon, so Dave went biking.

This crazy weather week started with us hiking in Government Canyon, again, in our shorts. (Look who hitched a ride in the backpack with Katie!)

Then on Monday we wore winter coats. Today I am hot in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. Our poor family who's visiting next week can't figure out what to pack -- it's supposed to range from the 20s on Sunday night to the 70s on Christmas Day. I could get used to the 70s, I suppose, but not the great swings. I'll keep you posted.

December 17, 2008

Celebrating Christmas, San Antonio style (part 2)

This past weekend (Dec. 12-13) was the annual performance of Handel's "Messiah" by the San Antonio Symphony and the Mastersingers. I actually haven't sung it in a few years, so it was fun to revisit it. We sang almost the whole thing -- 2 1/2 hours of music! The guest conductor, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, is a conductor with the Montreal-based Violons du Roy, and he was fantastic. He is young (30, maybe?) and that was fun -- he came to rehearsal in jeans, used words like "freaking out" and "ditzy" to describe musical styles, and just was more relaxed than many conductors. He brought with him the four soloists, who were all fabulous. A lot of singing this week and weekend, but worth it. It's starting to feel more like Christmas.

Of course it's so warm that we had on short sleeves when we got our Christmas tree...

And then on Sunday night we went downtown to the Little Flower Basilica for La Gran Posada - the Mexican commemoration of Mary and Joseph's journey looking for lodging on Christmas Eve. Lots of singing, a grand procession, and much pomp and circumstance (which I always love), mostly in Spanish. The evening ended with bunuelos, Mexican Christmas cookies (fried tortillas with sugar and cinnamon). Sorry I didn't get any photos (it didn't feel right in the basilica, and the fluorescent lights in the social hall made the pinata photos I took too dark).

December 12, 2008

Crazy weather!

As nice as it is to have warm temperatures in December, we both feel a little -- OK, a lot -- discombobulated. It just isn't right to have Christmas in what feels like September! More leaves are finally changing, at least. But it's been warm enough many days to go outside to the playground in the morning, or for me to read the paper on our outdoor balcony during Katie's nap.

And then the next day we'll need to turn the heat on and wear our jackets outside. Last Tuesday the afternoon high was 85, and by the time I got out of rehearsal at 10 pm, we were dodging sleet in 45 degrees. It might be cold at home in PA, but at least it's consistent.

I'm sure I'll be posting more about the weather down here. It's a source of constant amazement to us.

December 10, 2008

Celebrating Christmas, San Antonio style (part 1)

We're trying to take advantage of all the things that make the holidays different here -- events and traditions that we either have never heard of before, or that we don't have at home.

Last week we went to the Witte Museum's big winter holiday bash for kids. We did hear some Celtic music (familiar, of course) and a family mariachi band (now familiar enough that Katie recognizes the style of music); ate tamales, nachos, and sugar cookies; and made a wax candle and a Christmas ornament. Katie is a whiz with colored glitter glue!

And on Saturday Katie and I went to a harp concert. Our friend Laurie is a member of the San Antonio Harp Ensemble, and they have a big Christmas concert each year. It's always on a Sunday afternoon during naptime, so we went to their "warmup" concert in a local hospital lobby. Katie was fascinated with the harps and the music.

While we were there, sitting quietly, Dave was pedaling hard for charity. He rode in the "Mission to Mission" charity bike ride, held the first Saturday of December each year. Yes, it is warm enough to do that every year. I think he rode past three of the four missions on the Mission Trail as part of his 34-mile ride. Kudos to him! I haven't been on my bike since we've been here, unfortunately, but Dave's been getting in some good time on his road bike. That's one big advantage of warm weather and no rain. :)

December 9, 2008

A friend in town - December 5

A friend from central PA, Ian Proud, was in town for a conference this week and we met him for dinner on Friday. It sure was nice to see a face from home! He brought the Pennsylvania cold with him, but it made the lights on the Riverwalk seem a little more Christmasy (that's what you see hanging from the trees in the background).

December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving - Doug visits!

Dave's brother Doug drove down from Denver for Thanksgiving week. We had a great visit, although busy. It was his first trip here, too, so we tried to get a lot of sightseeing in, in addition to my concerts and Thanksgiving and the big UVa-Tech game on Saturday (that's all I'll say about it this year, sigh).

Doug went with Katie and me to the Children's Museum on Wednesday; we went with my new friend Kim and her boys Luke and Jacob. Here's Luke, checking out his and Katie's groceries (Katie just LOVES that toy grocery store at the museum):

On Thanksgiving Day it was in the 70s, so we spent as much of the day outdoors as we could, and ate our big dinner after sundown. We visited the Alamo, of course, and saw the big Christmas tree there and walked around the Riverwalk. It was odd being outside in shorts, but nice!

On Friday we drove out to Natural Bridge Caverns and went underground for one of the tours. We all found it really interesting, including Katie. Very cool trip.

And in the afternoon we went up the Tower of the Americas back in downtown San Antonio. Here's Doug with Katie at the Tower.

Saturday was more relaxed for the girls, but the boys spent the day touring the Spanish Missions -- by foot in the morning and by bike in the afternoon. They both enjoyed themselves very much, and I'm sure it was good for them to spend time together.

Katie asked this morning where Uncle Doug was; she's happy that he and Nana are both coming for Christmas in just three weeks!

November 27, 2008

Andrea Bocelli, night 2

Okay, tonight was even more exciting -- after the concert was over, Bocelli sang two encores! The crew rolled out a grand piano, and he sat down at it to play -- and, of course, sing -- Schubert's Ave Maria. Beautiful. And especially moving for me, as I sang it in September for my father-in-law's funeral mass. The second encore was a duet from La Boheme with the fabulous soprano we had, accompanied by the conductor at the piano. It was a little strange to see all the fawning women at his feet with cameras, rose petals, etc. Good thing he can't see them. But he could hear them, I'm sure.

No more Bocelli photos (can't top the one with his arm around my waist), but a couple from the front of the Municipal Auditorium. The San Antonio Opera really did this one up, with spotlights and red carpet.

All in all, an amazing week for this singer.

November 26, 2008

Andrea Bocelli!

Tonight (November 25) was the first of two evening performances of a semi-staged version of the one-act opera "Cavalleria Rusticana" with Andrea Bocelli in the tenor role! The San Antonio Mastersingers were the opera chorus. What a thrill!!

The Municipal Auditorium was sold out for both performances (5000 seats each night), and the audience was thrilled, too -- lots of applause every time Bocelli came on stage and after he sang, and instant standing ovation at the end. The music is exciting, the drama was very well conveyed by the leads, and of course Bocelli was the star. This is his first time singing this role live, and we were lucky that it was here. It was a rush for us to sing for that size audience, too.

It was interesting to watch how everyone worked with him and his lack of sightedness. There were raised lines (for lack of a better term) placed on stage to indicate where he was to stand and walk, and the staging included other leads walking on with him, lots of times to touch him partly so he could get his bearings, etc. If you didn't know he was blind, and couldn't see his face (big auditorium), you would have never known. And he was very gracious to all of us fawners after rehearsals this weekend, as you can see from the photo above!

If anything changes after Wednesday night's performance, I'll post again. Oh, yeah, and in the audience tonight was Sherrill Milnes, famed Metropolitan Opera star; I've been in two choirs that sang "Elijah" with him and Dave and I drove him back to NYC from State College about 10 years ago. He was backstage as we filed on for the second half, and I said hello as I walked past. :) Rumor has it that Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs star, was in the audience too. No word if Eva Longoria Parker was there with him...

November 19, 2008

The Zoo - Wed., November 19

Katie and I went to the San Antonio Zoo this morning for the first time. I'm not sure why we waited so long, but we'll now be going back again. It's not as nice as the Pittsburgh Zoo (for example, Pittsburgh has at least 6 elephants, while today we saw only 1), but there's still a lot we haven't seen.

I'm not sure what Katie's favorite was, but it was funny to see so many animals sleeping. We'll have to go again when the weather's a little cooler (it was probably 72 when we were there, and warmer in the sun), and see if they're a little more sprightly. We did enjoy watching the gibbon family a lot, including their year-old baby boy. He was just as exploratory and fearless as any human toddler boy! Katie's not that physical, but it was just as much fun trying to get her to pronounce the names of the animals -- "bibirusa", anyone? (That's an African warthog, if you didn't know -- I didn't.)

Dave's birthday weekend

Dave's birthday was November 15 (Happy Birthday also to Erin, Dick/Opa, and Cara!), and he wanted to go hiking. So we went back to Government Canyon and spent the morning outdoors. Katie's turning into quite the hiker - she walked about a mile, almost half of the trail. Here are the birthday boy and the newest hiker resting partway up.

Of course we went to the brewpub, the Dodging Duck, for dinner. Our friends Keith and Lori joined us, and then came back to the apartment for birthday cake.

And Sunday was the Peter and the Wolf concert! The San Antonio Symphony does a fabulous job with their interactive family concerts. There was an "instrument petting zoo" (kids actually get to try out instruments with members of the symphony), crafts, and conducting workshops with Ken-David Masur, the conductor (he's Kurt Masur's son, for anyone who knows who that is). All before the concert, which featured an "ask the maestro" segment, a chance for one lucky kid to conduct the orchestra briefly, and captions for sections of each piece projected onto the back wall. The place was packed, and kids -- including Katie -- really had a good time. And now she has a conductor's baton!

November 11, 2008

Katie's first symphony concert, Sun., Nov. 9

Sunday afternoon was Katie's first symphony concert -- and she did really well! Our friends from PA, Keith and Lori, have a high-school age son who is a very talented percussionist. He plays in the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio (the philharmonic level, VERY good), and their first concert was this weekend. We knew two of the pieces - Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez", arranged for harp, and Copland's "Billy the Kid" suite. It sure helped to have been able to play them for Katie in advance, and she really enjoyed the music. We were proud parents, of course.

Next Sunday the San Antonio Symphony has a kids' concert - "Peter and the Wolf". Katie is very excited already! Now if we could just find a copy of the CD in the library...

Leaf-peeping in South Texas, Fri., Nov. 7

Just so it might feel a little more like fall, we headed out to Lost Maples State Natural Area to find some fall color. Leaf-peeping in South Texas just doesn't hold a candle to PA or New England! We joked that Lost Maples really refers to the trees, not just the maple variety...

But we did see some nice color (more than anywhere else here), and had a great hike of about 4 1/2 miles. Katie walked the first mile all by herself. When it got to the steep part, we made her get in the backpack on Dave's back (he volunteered for the exercise). She was the envy of almost everyone else we saw, especially on the steep sections.

On the way home we ate dinner in the town of Bandera, self-proclaimed "Cowboy Capital of the World". Katie was pleased to see that the man at the next table had worn a cowboy hat. :)

The Election

I am writing this several days after the election, and I know it's not a "family adventure", but I couldn't not comment. Dave and I both voted absentee ballot in Pennsylvania. It was a little odd not to go vote on Election Day. But it was exciting to know that our votes made a difference (wouldn't have been true here in Texas), and we are excited at what this country has chosen to do. No matter what you think of Barack Obama's policies, he represents a sea-change -- we hope -- in the way this country sees itself, and we should all be thrilled and proud.

Our daughter will grow up with Obama as the first president she remembers, and therefore will never think that there is anything unusual in a man whose skin color is different than hers being president. And she will never think it is unusual for a woman to run, seriously, on a national ticket. That knowledge will just be part of the way she views the world, and that can only be a good thing.

November 10, 2008

Tour de Gruene, Sun., November 2

No, we didn't ride the Tour de Gruene, but can you tell from the photo who did? Yes, that is Lance Armstrong!! A small town about 45 minutes away from us has an annual two-day bike race that Lance rode 12 years ago after his bout with cancer. It was the first race of his comeback, and he basically rode it that way again this year. We would probably have gone up to watch anyway -- the scenery along the Guadalupe River was really pretty, and the town has a lot of quaint history, in addition to the race -- but seeing Lance Armstrong was even better. We also went to the awards ceremony; he got first place, of course!

Air Show, Sat., November 1

We live very near Lackland Air Force Base, which is where all enlisted Air Force personnel go through basic training -- a big and busy place. It's close enough that we have fighter jets and huge cargo planes go overhead every day. Luckily we all like airplanes! This weekend was a big air show at Lackland, so we had to go. Lots of planes on the ground to look at, everything from early biplanes to the newest fighters and helicopters. Here are Dave and Katie waving from the back of a BlackHawk helicopter (boy, they're big):

The best part, of course, were the flyovers. The fighters (F-15s, F-16s, and the new F-22s) are FAST and LOUD! I can see why there are so important to our national defense - amazing airplanes. They did a fun "demo" called the Heritage Formation: a WWII-era plane and the three new fighters.
Dave got a great shot of them:

Dave and I both took lots of movies of all of the various aircraft. The one of the F-22 wouldn't do it justice (both speed and deafening noise), but here's one of the famous Navy Blue Angels - they were the stars of the weekend. Note that the plane in the middle of the formation is flying upside down...

And did I mention that we all got a little sunburned in the mid-80-degree weather on November 1? :)

November 6, 2008

Halloween 2008

I wasn't sure we'd be doing Halloween this year, partly since we still don't give Katie candy (although she definitely knows what "lollipop" is), and partly because I couldn't get a straight answer from her about a costume. Eventually we settled on a queen, which at times became a princess, and later a fairy. I made all the pieces of her costume, with some decorating help from Katie (take a close look at the jewels on her crown), and it did look homemade! But she loved it. She wouldn't wear it in advance, but she eagerly wore all the pieces for each of the events we went to: the apartment bash on Wednesday, dressing up for Kindermusik Thursday morning, the library party Thursday evening, and the safe YMCA trick-or-treating (with face painting) on Halloween itself. We decided that going door-to-door in an apartment complex was not the way to go this year.

In addition to the obligatory photos of the cute Halloween kid, I've included a video we took at the apartment party (sorry it's a little dark -we were inside at dusk). One man came dressed with a full-head mask of death (I think). He was tall to begin with, and this thing made him even taller. He was obviously there to try to scare the kids, but one of our neighbors told the littlest kids, including Katie, that he was a big bat. That made her fascinated with him, as you can tell from this movie. You'll hear "Bat, where are you?", and you'll notice she uses her wand to try to repel him :) Enjoy!

November 4, 2008

My sister visits! Oct. 24-27

My sister, Jennifer Bell, came to visit this weekend! We found a cheap airfare online last month, and this was our Christmas present to each other. It sure was great to have her here, since we don't see each other often -- Denver is just so far from Lewisburg. And Katie loved having Aunt Jen around!

We spent the weekend doing all the touristy things, of course, to make sure Jennifer got to really see San Antonio. If anyone else comes to visit, we will tailor your visit to your interests. :) But you really need to see the Riverwalk and the Alamo, if nothing else. That was Saturday's venture, along with a walk around downtown and through the Founders' Day celebration. Here are Katie and Aunt Jen at La Villita (in the bright sun):

On Sunday we spent a lot of the day at two of the four missions that are still extant in San Antonio, part of a National Park site. They are fascinating for their history and architecture, and the way they tie all the disparate cultures that now make up San Antonio together. I visited them when I was here 6 years ago, and they're still really interesting. Katie liked the running-around part best. These are some of my favorite photos from the day:

The girls spent Monday morning at Brackenridge Park -- we rode the little train, and had a picnic in the Japanese Tea Gardens. It was too short a visit, but we had a great time!!

October 31, 2008

Children's Museum Oct. 22

We went to the Children's Museum again today. I was planning on taking Katie to a big playground downtown that we've driven by a few times, but she asked for "the museum". Can't say no to that! They just opened a new exhibit by the Texas grocery store HEB (the ONLY choice around here) -- a miniature HEB. Katie couldn't get enough of it! I loved the fact that she put Elmo and the basket in her cart, and I was proud that she chose only fresh ingredients. :) We'll be going back to spend more time, there, I'm sure.

First Mastersingers Concert Oct. 17-18

I sang my first concert with the Mastersingers this weekend; we sang Brahms' "Schicksalsleid" (Songs of Destiny) with the San Antonio Symphony. The second half was the symphony doing Mahler's Fifth Symphony. It was a fantastic experience to be with such a professional choir and professional orchestra. Dave came to Saturday's concert (our friends from PA, Keith and Lori Lysiak, babysat Katie at their house in Helotes outside of S.A.) and he was really impressed. It didn't hurt that we performed in the beautiful Majestic Theatre. It's worth taking a look at their virtual tour.

Now we move on to December's Messiah concert, and November's concert with Andrea Bocelli!

Pumpkin Patch Oct. 16

Katie's Kindermusik class went to a local pumpkin patch for their class on October 16. They had songs and stories, as well as face painting. And Miss Ana bought all the kids a little pumpkin to paint. Katie knew exactly which one she wanted and carried it around all morning!