Friday, March 28, 2008

By The Time We Got to Phoenix,...

It's like this everyday in Phoenix.

Sun City. Did you know Phoenix has an average of 325 days of sunshine a year? It is also really, really hot in the summer, which should start any day now. Luckily, we went for Easter and it was super outside. We stayed at Sasha's Aunt Ruth's place which has a really great Brady Bunch kind of vibe, as did the whole neighborhood. Only all the folks walking around were absolutely NOT kiddos. Kinda more geriatric.

Greenest yard in the neighborhood.

This was Sergio's first trip to Arizona, and Sasha's second. We were easily impressed by things like the really cool cacti in Ruth's backyard, not to mention her amazing orange tree. Ruth even had an extra fridge set up with nothing but frozen fresh orange juice socked away. We even made orange juice popsickles! Yum.

Is "popsickle" spelled with a "k"?

Besides visiting Sasha's family, our main mission was shopping. Sasha's mom Kathe had already got the ball rolling with some excellent scouting work by finding the perfect perfectly-plain crib. Baby stuff in Mexico seems to range from "cheap and crummy" to "mad expensive (and crummy)." Since we're adding a new member to our household, we had the opportunity to take advantage of some free shipping courtesy of our employer so we stocked up while stateside. (In fact, the movers arrived at Ruth's place just today to pack it all up and the "layette" shipment should be here in a few weeks. Hooray for nesting!)

Anyway, we hit the ground running after landing in Phoenix and we were filling up shopping carts the very night we arrived. Within a span of about four hours that evening we loaded up Kathe's Corolla with stuff from IKEA, Babies R Us and Target -- and even managed to squeeze in a dinner break at In-n-Out Burger. God, we love America.

Naturally, we spent a lot of time in the car during this trip. And we never felt scared for our lives -- Sasha didn't hear Sergio curse at his fellow drivers even once!

Mom-to-be has quite the entourage.

The next day we test-drove strollers and cruised around Scottsdale's finest consignment stores. Sasha was in heaven, checking things off her list with glee.

Once the consumer binge was over, we decided to take in a few sights. On Sasha's last trip one of the highlights had been a tour of Taliesin West, the Frank Lloyd Wright residence. She also checked out the world-renowned Heard Museum of native american art and a very impressive desert botanical gardens.

Ooh, angular...

This trip, well, not so much on the learning. It was more big-box retailers, second-hand stores and this place called Mystery Castle, built south of the city by an eccentric transplanted Washingtonian. The dude built the entire place by hand over 15 years back in the 30s.

Seriously, check out that bump!
(and thanks to coworker Catalina for the hand-me-down pregnancy enhancing top!)

The original owner's daughter still lives in the place and likes to hang around while folks tour her pop's very kooky and inspiring house. She was like a hundred years old, making her only slightly older than the average tourist. The whole scene was very "outsider art-esque" with details ranging from windows fashioned out of old hubcap grills to a tea set that belonged to Winston Churchill's mother.

Not pictured: about one billion stuffed animals.

The view was great, and we loved the use of the discarded bricks that looked like caramels!

Downtown Phoenix over the left shoulder.

After poking around what Sasha's cousin Bryant described as his "dream house", we took a trip downtown to eat some pizza. After reading all about Pizzeria Bianco, we were keen to put its reputation as "the best pizza in the US" to the test. We arrived at 8 PM to a three hour wait. Yikes.

We toughed it out though and eventually we were all happily eating what truly was a delicious pizza pie. If you find yourself in Phoenix, definitely give this place a shot. It isn't your greasy take-out style pie (which is awesome too) but rather a super-thin chewy concoction where each element --sauce, cheese, crust---was perfectly fresh and perfectly delicious.

As for our other adventures, we didn't get in to the sold-out Cubs-White Sox Cactus League game, although there was a hilarious episode of Sergio and Bryant attempting to buy scalped tickets with a pregnant lady and two sexagenarians in the backseat. Instead we spent the rest of the time hanging out by the pool and had an Easter Day cookout.

It was a great trip, and it was super to have the chance to show-off Sasha's 7 months gone belly to her very excited Mom who had endless enthusiasm for talking about things like making your own baby food and the pros and cons of pacifiers. And if Sasha is any kind of responsible she will be drinking tons of milk and keeping her feet elevated -- that's the can't-fail advice passed along from her great Aunt Myrtle to Kathe and Ruth and look at the amazing kids they had!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Our Dinners with Lara and Derek

Largest man in DF at that moment.

Just a short week after our jaunt down to Austin, we welcomed two of our favorite Austinites to Mexico City for a weekend getaway of their own. Lara and Derek took the go-fast plane to DF and we immediately got down to the weekend's business: eating.

Lara and Derek were only here for a couple of days, and they had told us ahead of time that they were mostly interested in checking out restaurants and walking around town -- which happens to be a Moreno specialty. In fact, we're a little worried that Lara's cute shoes never recovered from our long march through Coyoacan and Condesa.

The first night we visited La Valentina, a place just up the road from us that we had missed and that Lara had heard nice things about. It turned out to be a very boisterous joint with a wide variety of Mexico's traditional fanfare, such as strolling mariachis and even better, a strolling fortune-teller, who was, in fact, a tiny little canary in a cage. According to the little bird, Lara can expect to meet someone soon who will invite her to participate in some kind of project...

The Gammon Beards did some exploring on their own on Friday while we were at work. It sounds like that included taking a sketchy cab ride and getting swept up in some seriously overcrowded scenes in the Zocalo. We tried to make up for their predictably unsettling first day in the DF with a visit to a swanky Spanish restaurant called D.O. Our guests were a little underwhelmed by their fish, but we Morenos were delighted with our choices, probably because we ordered the most gluttonous things (for example, Sergio's rabbit with a foie gras risotto)! Yum. We did all agree on one thing: Spain's jamon is awesome. And the wine was nice too. (Even Sasha liked her beverage: a nice old-school green bottle of 7-Up. Fancy!)

Mmm, fat...

After dinner, we popped over to another one of these super-trendy-circa-1999 hotel bars. This version was in Polanco at the Habita Hotel, and featured drinks on the rooftop patio complete with DJ and film projections. Sasha liked the fireplace, but it was too early for much in the way of people-watching. No matter how hard we try, we will probably always miss the party here in Mexico City. This is a late night town.

Good crowd. Must be $9 beer night.

In the morning, we were off to see Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul and show Lara and Derek a bit of the neighborhoods in DF. The Kahlo house is a museum with some selected drawings and ephemera from Frida and Diego's personal collection. It was a small museum, but it was fun to see the original furniture and studio. And the patio was pretty! Their house is REALLY blue.

We spent a little more time touring around Frida's neighborhood before heading up to Condesa for more walking. We managed to stop every few hours for refreshments, of course. And then wound things up that night back in Polanco with another go at "alta cocina" at the peculiarly empty Izote. Good food, no people. And a strange deconstructed lemon tart...

All in all, it was a lovely weekend with our lovely friends.

Can you tell they use the same fashion consultant?

Now, we're looking forward to another super weekend: Easter in Arizona. Our plans include visiting with Sasha's mom, Aunt Ruth and cousin Bryant, shopping, baseball spring training and maybe, a Rockets basketball game! Oh and maybe eating the best pizza in the United States? We'll have a full report next week.

The Cactus League at Scottsdale Stadium

In the meantime, though, there's some cool stuff happening here at our house this week. We just finished up our second round of painting this morning. Now both of the bedrooms are coated in fresh paint! Good riddance to the mauve/beige scheme courtesy of the resident interior design team, i.e. the Musset Maintenance crew. The guest room/nursery has been transformed by a very bright shade of yellow, which we prefer to think of as citrus-y rather than neon-ish, and "fun and cheerful" rather than "over-stimulating and colic-inducing." Sadly, we ran into some custom-paint mixing dead ends at the local Sherwin Williams, and suffice it to say, we're now committed to the off-the-rack "Fun Yellow". The room looks like a tennis ball. But in a good way. Once things are all dolled-up, we'll post some pictures of the "new" bedrooms.

Even more fun, we've got tomorrow off from work to enjoy a Mexican national holiday (Benito Juarez's birthday, not St. Paddy's Day, though we will consider it a twofer). Because it is also the start of Semana Santa, or Easter Week, we are really enjoying the mass exodus of the city. This place is starting to look like Labor Day in New York City. Blissfully quiet, and maybe a little spooky? There is a rumor that the power company employees are going on strike today which could mean no power or water which would definitely be a major drag ....and could make things a lot spookier.

Not everything is shut down for the holiday week though, for example department store delivery trucks are running, and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a giant bed this week. The new mattress set-up gets delivered on Wednesday and we will be sleeping like kings in a matter of days. Not a moment too soon as Sasha is getting larger by the day. This last trimester stuff is no joke.

Speaking of growing families, we'll sign off with a tribute to this little fella: Nathaniel Henry Shugarman. He was born in Washington DC on March 3rd, and his mama is one of Sasha's good friends from her Michigan (and Chicago) days.

Congrats Megan and Keith --- We can't wait to meet the Shugarbaby in person!


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Aaron and Jennifer De la Garza Lueckemeyer

Wow that's a mouthful isn't it?

Another wedding, another weekend in beautiful central Texas. You'd think we'd get tired of this but we love the opportunity to visit our old haunts and especially to witness dear friends as they tie the knot. Last weekend's wedding was extra-special for us because our friends Aaron and Jennifer actually met at our wedding way back in October '05, and now we got to go to theirs. According to an old superstition that Sasha may have fabricated, it is good luck when people hit it off at your wedding, and when they get married themselves -- hello, jackpot!

Whoa there you two, wedding's not till tomorrow.

Also, with the coming release date of Li'l Moreno, Vol. 1 this June, we took the opportunity to a little research on baby gear. It was our first entry into a Babies 'r' Us and wow, what a scene that is. We're still too freaked out to actually buy anything, but it was a good warm-up for the Easter weekend shopping extravaganza we've got planned for Phoenix. Apparently there is a great deal of debate in the world as to whether as-yet-unborn infants prefer to spill food and vomit on yellow giraffes or pink rhinos, etc.

Sergio also got to shop for some toys of his own -- we finally got a new camera. We upgraded under the Canon brand to the Powershot G9 so hopefully this blog's photos will no longer be of pitifully-low resolution or include inexplicable grey lines like the pictures of the soon-to-be-dead in The Omen.

Now that's a good zoom.

The wedding was lovely, right at sunset on a gorgeous Texas evening. The happy couple were beaming.

Watch the booze there, 6-months.

One of the best aspects of the weekend was seeing our old friends Michael and Lisa Hyche, who we also had not seen since our own nuptials. They live in Cincinnati with their beautiful little girl Julia and are expecting a second child this fall. They are dear friends and we wish we could see them more often!

In addition to finally figuring out what boppy pillows are, we also ate some Thai food at Madam Mam's, checked in for church, had breakfast with Hillary Clinton's staff and just missed Gloria Steinem at Las Manitas and took a stroll through campus. Apparently there's now a Cesar Chavez sculpture on the West Mall.

I remember paying for this.

It was great to be back in Austin, see friendly faces and celebrate another match made in heaven.

California, Summer 2008

Oh, and cool thing, we happened to share our plane ride home with Piper Stege Nelson who was doing important things in Mexico City this past week for work. Small world!