My Photography

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May smorgasboard

 Aaaaand now onto other happenings of May which I failed to mention thus far:

1) Dad and I have always shared a love of carrot cake, and mom and the girls treated him to this lovely one on the 13th, which I'm definitely jealous of!

2) Little brother Gus graduated with a BA in Classical Philology... pretty impressive. Congrats!!

With Grandma, Tom and 4 of 6 siblings present.

3) His college was down in Texas, so when the fam traveled down for the graduation they also stopped by Uncle Dave aka Critterman's house where animal-loving littlest sis had some fun with his menagerie!

I have many similar pics, though
I never got one with the albino
 snake! Lucky Tess!

2014, with Thomas...

...and 2006, also with Thomas, but with a different turtle I think.

4) They also attended our cousin's highschool graduation. Congrats Brenna!!

5) Bia got confirmed and took this beautiful picture with her best friends. She has some really lovely friends!

6) On May 4th it was my mother-in-law's birthday and on the last Sunday of May it was French mother's day, so May is a generally good month for her! Felicitations belle-mere!!

Not a super recent photo, but a nice one I took and edited.

7) French mother's day was also the day of my choir concert. Othman and his sister Sarah took their mom to the concert, as a nice mom+adult kids outing. It worked out that although I know many people that went (including colleagues and students), no one ended up taking a nice picture, or any pictures! This one snapped on Othman's phone was the best I could get my hands on. But it's ok because when YouTubes go up I'l be sure to post them here!

8) My cousin John-Michael, pictured here with his lovely girlfriend, graduated as well this month down in Phoenix, and is now officially a Doctor of Pharmacy! A huge congrats to him for all his hard work!  

With our Albuquerque relatives!

9) Little sis Isabel finished up her first year of college! With super-mom and super-Thomas' help she went from this:

to this:

in the space of a few hours, then headed home for the summer!

10) Last but not least my little sisters celebrated getting their passports, so they can visit Morocco in August!! A super exciting event, definitely worthy of celebratory milkshakes.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A second painted gift

You may remember my post about a painting I made for a little boy I tutor. Well his birthday was in April and his sister, who is also my student, had her birthday not long after mine. Seeing as I had painted something for him, it was only fair to make her something as well! She turned 12 this year, so I didn't want to make anything too childish, but it couldn't be too serious either. I think what came out, above, was a good compromise! I added the fabric paint details to make it a bit more fun for her. It's not very precise but that's kind of the whole point. I got the idea from this painting: 

found by Google and saved on my desktop as "painting idea". She really liked it, and it was a fun and quick little project to do... maybe I'll make another one for me!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy birthday big brother!

As you can see, I wasn't kidding when I said May was a month of celebrations! 

Marrakech Oct 2012
Patrick, aka Pap, Pappy, #1 and big bro, is the sibling I've shared most with throughout my life. We're the two that remember all the family moves and houses (and oh so many-- KS 1&2, NJ 1&2, NE 1&2, SD, São Jose, Sitio, Quinta...), the two that went to all the same schools (and oh so many-- Oakgrove, MCS, that one in São Jose, Kolbe, St. Peter's, Pius and ND, not to mention those homeschooled years!), throughout highschool and college we shared many friends, a car that no one else could figure out how to drive, and many fun sibling lunches in South Dining Hall. He lived in Chicago for many years and I loved visiting him there on my way between Casablanca and South Dakota and I'm excited that he's in Chi for a few months again now and in July we'll be able to relive that! On the flip side he's the only one of my friends and family who's visited Morocco thus far, and it was so fun to host him and show him this country that has been my home. 

The Marsolek-Braga-Henebry friendship tradition!
We may have shared a lot, but we are certainly very different people. Left-brain versus right-brain is a pretty accurate description of our different ways of viewing the world, complementary but dissimilar. When we were little I kind of drove him crazy a lot with my wild-child behavior, he was always the more cautious, the more methodical, the calm one. He was a good influence, let's say. It's funny because I married a man who is also an engineer (though quality management and computer engineering are about as different as you can get) and he shares more than a few of the personality traits with my big bro. I guess that's pretty telling.

I hope you have a wonderful birthday today Pap, and that year 27 is filled with many new and positive experiences and adventures for you, and I hope we get to see each other more than habitual once!! Love you!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bragging rights

Who else has a husband that was THIS cute when he was a kid??

Monday, May 19, 2014


I've mentioned the choir I sing in before, and I'm very excited that in six days I'll be singing in our end-of-year concert! It's going to take place at the historical Cinema Rialto, which ought to be quite an experience: 


We've worked really hard all year and I'm sure we'll put on a good show. All sorts of languages will make an appearance-- Arabic, French, English, Italian, Aramaic, Latin and more. From Gershwin to Fauré, from Carmen to an African American spiritual, there will be something for everyone. Casa friends-- please come!! 

I was in the audience during last year's concert when this picture was taken.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ringing in 25...

With all the birthdays and other things going on I haven't had time to write about my own birthday! A week ago today I hit the quarter-of-a-century mark, and am feeling a bit old as a result. ;D This birthday was the best birthday in many years, filled with friends and celebrations and good food and really lovely gifts! 

Disclaimer: the only photos taken of people this weekend are either on Othman's phone or his mom's camera, neither of which I have access to right now. So you'll just be seeing pics of all the stuff I got, which is not meant to be braggy, just a way to say thanks!

On Friday--my actual birthday--I worked until 9pm, but brought a dark-chocolate-coconut tart to work (as I do every year) which everyone really enjoyed. Thankfully they were very busy eating, sparing me the embarrassment of singing to me! ;D After work Othman picked me up and took me out to a really nice sushi dinner at Kiotori, one of the fancier sushi places around, where we ate well and laughed a lot.

We arrived home and as I was taking off my shoes he told me to close my eyes and hold out my hands, saying "be careful it's a bit heavy". This is what I opened my eyes to see:

I'd actually been bugging him to get me a plant to fill in our empty flower pot (well, not exactly empty, but full of a plant I managed to kill, oops!). He got me all the other plants as gifts so I didn't want to buy one myself and break the trend, hehe. I was pretty content with this as my birthday present, but he wasn't done! He handed me a big bag and I pulled out all this: 

He magically sensed exactly which painting supplies I needed, which is pretty impressive. The bag also contained some gourmet dark chocolate (very-empty box pictured below, haha) and a fun little silicone oven mitt.

I went to bed that night feeling old but spoiled! But the birthday celebrations weren't over yet. The next day I got a lovely little present from a co-worker who knows how much I like to read! I've noticed these Moroccan bookmarks before but this one is the nicest I've ever seen, for sure.

It's the perfect size for my Game of Thrones
books! (I found someone to borrow them from,
and am listening to them on audio during taxi
rides etc. in tandem, so by now I'm almost
done with the fourth!)

That night Othman and I went to have dinner with some friends at Papagayo, a restaurant that I had never been to before. People around here call it Brazilian, but it's more Brazilian/Argentinian, and the food wasn't feijoada or anything but it was delicious! Sipping on my caipirinha and listening to live music surrounded by great people, I knew I couldn't have asked for more. Well I guess I was a bit upset because I had forgotten the second tart I had made, which I wanted us all to have for dessert. (In the US if you say it's your birthday they'll bring you a free dessert and sing to you--here you bring your own cake to the restaurant and they'll serve it and sing.) In the end it wasn't a big deal though, because I shared my birthday weekend with many people there that night and all the fanfare they got as the band sang to them was something I was happy to avoid. 

Before dinner a friend gave me these fantastic sandals. She not only knew my size and that I needed some new ones, but she also managed to find some that I would totally choose for myself. I've definitely worn them 6 out of 7 days since.

Then during dinner another friend gave me this beautiful mug, picture courtesy of Vincent van Gogh:

This week an adult student of mine even brought me some little things! She takes Chinese classes and was doing some origami in a workshop and made the little crane for me and taught me how to make the basket after class! I still can't believe I actually made that, haha. The Chinese characters spell my name in Chinese and the other is Arabic calligraphy, so pretty!

 Last but not least, on Sunday Othman and I went to his parents house, where we had a nice dinner and then ate the previously-forgotten tart after I blew out some candles for the first time that weekend. Afterward his mom gave me a very heavy bag with these two boxes inside:

My first thought was, wow, fancy. And I was right! They gave me 6 gorgeous dessert plates, each with a different floral pattern, completed by 6 matching espresso cups with their saucers. I've never had any dishes half so nice, and I know I'll keep these for a long time.

I love how the plates and saucers have off-centered borders, I think that's a really cute touch.

In the meantime in the digital world of social media this happened on Facebook:

...and this...

...meaning I'm going to have one of my absolute best friends at my Moroccan wedding, which may have been the best birthday gift of all. 

In addition to the Easter/birthday package from my family, my mom wrote me a lovely post on her blog, a part of which here:

And little sister Maria, the other family member with a blog, also wrote me a sweet post:

Well if all that doesn't count as spoiled I'm not sure what does! Thank you thank you thank you everybody for a wonderful birthday weekend, here's hoping that this birthday, during which I felt surrounded by so much love, reflects the year ahead!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Happy birthday daddy!

Today is my daddy dear's birthday! I have to admit, I've always been a daddy's girl, which I'm sure is partly due to being sisterless for my first 6 years of life. Dad has always been a calming presence in the house, and a good antidote to a highly-charged Brazilian mother. ;D

In my family we have had some nice traditions and habits over the years that stem from my dad. When I was little I'd go with him every year to the Christmas tree farm to pick the perfect tree for the festivities. On weekend mornings we often wake up to his big stereo speakers pumping out his favorite albums, from the Neville Brothers to Cesaria Evora to Jeff Beck. We come downstairs sleepy-eyed to him grooving with a cup of coffee in hand and generally a book or magazine in the other. For many years dad would read to us kids every night before bedtime, working through huge books like Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. He's a great reader and I loved sitting in the living room listening to him telling us tales from other lands and times, because it really felt like it was him telling the story as he read it, not the author.

One thing I've always loved about my dad is how he has an answer for everything. If I need to know something about a certain topic, if I want advice about a particular situation, or if I just read something on the internet and want to know his take, he always has an answer for me. It's like he's a fount of knowledge! I'm always amazed at how much information he has stored away in that big brain of his!

Dad has always traveled a lot for work which has been hard on us sometimes, especially on my mom, but he never fails to call home and let us know he's there safe, to take lots of pictures in the exotic locales he visits, and to bring back perfect little gifts for all of us! Even now, when I only see my family once a year, I get back to the US and have a few little gifts waiting for me from my dad's trips around the world. It's always nice to know he's thinking of us at his conferences, meetings and field work. One highlight of my year in France during college was the week I spent in Montpellier with my dad, because he found a conference to attend in France specifically so we could see each other! It was a lovely week, and I was treated to a hotel room and restaurant dinners--definite luxuries considering my student budget!
I could go on and on and on about my dad, and how special he is to me and how grateful I am to have him as my daddy, but it suffices to say I wouldn't be half the person I am today if it weren't for his influence and love. I hope you have a wonderful birthday daddy, and many more wonderful years ahead! I love you!!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

To my mom on Mother's Day

May is a month of celebrations in our family. There are no fewer than 4 immediate-family birthdays, as well as the birthday of the Chomicki twins who are my parents goddaughters and our "cousins", plus with seven kids there is bound to be some sort of graduation almost every year, and last but not least of course May is home to the day we celebrate our dear mother. 

Growing up, all my friends loved my mom and thought was very cool, but I couldn't really see where they got that from. Most of my teenage years (and some before and some after...) were spent butting heads with her, and I caused her lots and lots of grief. A few years ago the realization dawned on me that part of the reason I fought with her so much was because I am really similar to her in many ways. We both hold strong opinions and aren't willing to back down from them. We both get emotional when we believe in something, and will fight hard for that. And we both seek beauty and appreciate truth. While we don't see eye-to-eye on many things, we've both learned to live with that, and though we may not understand the other's point of view we've come to a mutual respect.

Getting married has changed my life in many ways, and one aspect is that it has given me a new appreciation for my mom. Her early days of marriage resembled mine in some ways, and must have been harder in others. We both are/were young women expatriated and living in our husband's land, a place we came to willingly but a place of foreign customs, full of people with inexplicable behavior. Language and expectations are vital to a married couple, and marrying someone with a different native tongue, and with cultural expectations that you may not be aware of, can cause a lot of unnecessary strife. But when things get difficult she's an example to me of someone who made it work, and has reaped the rewards. I wasn't there in those beginning days of my parents marriage and honestly had never given them much thought, but lately I've realized that wow, she made it through, under circumstances even more difficult than mine, so hey, so can I.

Almost exactly a year ago I was sitting in the city headquarters of a large gas station company, waiting for my student; the head of human resources there was a lovely but not-very-timely lady. I had just bought a new little pocket notebook, and as I sat there thinking, I began to write down a list. I'll inscribe it here, as a mother's day gift, the best I can give to my mom on this day. Although I might write it slightly differently today, this is how it was written then, and I'll keep it unchanged.

My mother has many amazing qualities, many of which I share, others which I'd like to develop or adopt. 

We share, but me in my own way:
  • hardworking
  • creative
  • good at writing
  • good at cooking
  • passionate
For my development, now or in the future:
  • organizing events and other people
  • good at art
  • good at mothering
  • being a welcoming hostess
  • independent thinker
For adopting in the future:
  • making something out of nothing
  • bringing people together
  • encourages ability, talent and independence in her kids
  • optimistic

Thank you mom for being an inspiring mother, the best you could be, and the best I could hope for. I love you!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Isabel bahlisabelle

To my one-day-late birthday present:

I'm pretty happy you're my big-little sister. Here are some reasons why.

You learned how to do amazing makeup from just a couple YouTube tutorials, and made this ole face look so pretty on my wedding day! Those are some pretty nice skills... you might not want to ask me to reciprocate...

While we're talking about my face, you have a gorgeous one, with some pretty stunning eyes.

And even when you make ridiculous faces you remain adorable!


Also you can pull off prairie girl just as well as geek.

Even your duck face is cute!!

Let's not forget that you're crazy talented too. Singing, piano playing, piano teaching, whirlwind cleaning, fashion advising, and of course make-upping-- you can do it all.

You can even make me look a little less ridiculous sometimes... 

 And you feed giraffes. That's just cool.

Plus you look amazing in stripes.

And when you jam out with little girls you make the rest of the world want to do the same!

Even though you (along with Bia... and everyone else...) make me feel super short, you still let me steal your clothes, because you're just way too nice like that. 

I really could go on and on about why you were the best birthday present I could of ever asked for, but you've probably gotten the point by now. Despite that awkward age gap that only made me appreciate your insane level of cool much later than I should have, at least now I can revel in it. You're a beautiful, kind, inhumanely efficient, talented and loving person, and a wonderful friend to this big, absent sister of yours. People may look at all of us and think "Hmm, one of these things is not like the other... one of these things just doesn't belong..." but I'm still so happy that you're part of our family! ;D

(For real though, look-- you look more like Othman than anyone else!)

Anyway, all this to say I hope you have the happiest of birthdays today, and I'm sure 19 will be wonderful year for you, full of new adventures and experiences!! I love you lil sis!!