Thursday, September 26, 2013

Create Your Own Font

The most frequent compliment I receive from friends and strangers alike is in response to my handwriting. I've been commissioned to provide my handwriting skills for awards and wedding details and am dabbling with lettering as a side job.  I even got picked for a job once based on how neatly I filled out a job application!  The problem with my writing, however, is that it takes me longer than I'd like to write so when I heard about the ability to create your own font, it was like I struck gold!  You mean I could just type up a note in a few seconds rather than several minutes and no one would be the wiser?  Sign me up!

First, a little history about how my handwriting style came to be.  I lived in Rapid City, South Dakota when I began attending elementary school where the D'Nealian style of writing was taught.  I think this is the reason for my style of writing.  And I can't be certain, but I think how I hold my pen/pencil (straight up) has something to do with it, too.  My older sister who is just 15 months older than me attended the same elementary school so our handwriting is very similar.  It would be interesting to see handwriting samples from everyone who learned D'Nealian for comparison of similarity.

Back to creating your own font!  The process is pretty simple and quick, the longest part being writing out the individual letters and characters.  As an admitted perfectionist, I had to reprint the template a couple times and start over.  Even still, I wish I had been more exact but so goes the life of wanting to have everything precisely perfect!  Once you've filled in the template, scan and upload your pages to get a preview of what your custom font will look like.  If you're happy with what you see, buy your font for $14.95 (a bargain if you ask me), download and install into your font book, and type away!

Even though I still write personal cards and thank you notes by hand, having this gem handy makes life just a bit easier.  You can see touches of my font throughout the blog, have you spotted it yet?!  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On This Date: Remembering Abuelo Rafa

On this date, one year ago, my great grandfather Rafael Montalvo quietly passed away after 104 wonderful years.  I'm not normally one to be so public about my losses and personal matters, but remembering him gives me peace and I consider myself lucky to have had the luxury of spending so much time with my abuelito Rafa.

I have so many fond memories of him, from being a little girl visiting his home overlooking the beach in Puerto Rico, to the most recent years when he and my grandparents would stay in Miami for extended periods with my aunt and cousins.  Over the past 10 years, we had the opportunity to get closer and I will always be grateful for that.  When I visited, he would pull an envelope from under his pillow and give me cash (and some for my siblings, too) from his social security stash.  Even when his vision was gone, he had such a system that he didn't need to see the bill to know what he was giving; he systematically knew where each denomination was within the stack!  Considering he received so little from those checks, it made us melt.

After my niece, his great-great granddaughter (!!!) was born, he would give my abuelita (Wita to us) cash to send to her for a special gift on his behalf.  What is extra special about his bond with her is that they share the same birth date exactly 102 years apart!  She met him once as an infant when part of my family flew to Puerto Rico to surprise everyone.  As she grew, he dubbed her Rumbera #2, second to her Titi Tashy!

Without the use of his vision over the last couple years, abuelito Rafa would rely on his hearing (he loved to listen to baseball on the radio) and hand recognition.  As soon as I would get to the house from the airport, I'd go to him without speaking and give him my hands.  After embracing them for a few moments, he would instantly know who I was and smile.  These moments are perhaps my favorite.

While I am sad I can no longer visit or speak with him, I have peace knowing he lived a full life.  How many people are fortunate to live that long in good health?  He was truly blessed and I am blessed for having loved and been loved by him.

Te quiero mucho y te extrano abuelo.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Good Eats || Sugar Sweet Bakery

It's no secret: I love baked goods!  I make a point to visit local bakeries when I visit a new city or even just locally, plotting my plan of attack before I even leave my house to make sure I can fit in as many sweet stops as possible.  I'm always looking for new shops and was lucky enough to stumble upon Sugar Sweet Bakery (thanks to Facebook) in Tucson where I went to college (go Wildcats!).  Last month when visiting my family in the area for my niece's 3rd birthday, I stopped by the newly opened shop to see what they had to offer.

Sugar Sweet Bakery opened its door this July in a charming little dining and shopping district just East of the U of A campus.  This boutique bakery is packed with thoughtful touches like a giant hand lettered chalkboard wall, hanging mason jar light fixtures, clean modern lines, and even a few vintage touches-check out the door fixtures and you'll see what I mean.  Add to it the mouth watering display of cookies on display on the counter and cakes in the fridge (offered by the slice) as well as unique tchotchkes for sale, and this bakery has a charming atmosphere that begs you to come back for more.

On my first visit, I picked up a chocolate number (along the lines of a death by chocolate variety) and lemon cookie.  Being a chocolate girl, I was sprung after my first bite of this rich cookie!  And the lemon was just as pleasing with a sweet hint of real lemon, not an over the top extract type of flavor you find from large scale bakeries.  Like their description promises, these goodies offer "a truly homemade experience.  Our comforting baked goods are made from scratch in small batches using simple, high-quality ingredients and traditional techniques."  You can taste the handmade, small batch love in every bite.  The best part for me, being a chewy texture kind of gal, is that these cookies are soft yet firm (because that makes total sense, right?!) and oh so chewy.  I love it when I find a treat that meets all my needs!

I was so hooked after my first time that this past weekend I had to make another stop.  Lemon made its way into my tummy again as did the chunky monkey which is probably one of the most amazing cookies I've ever tasted!  Chocolate chips, banana, and walnuts make this tasty guy top of my list and will be the reason I will keep going back every time I'm in town.

If you happen to be in Tucson, add Sugar Sweet Bakery to your list of visits.  And stop back to tell me what you think!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 || I Will Never Forget


Like most Americans, I will never forget the day our country was attacked.  I was a junior in high school living in Northern Virginia.  My dad worked at the Pentagon which was only 20 minutes away from my school.  Walking from my homeroom to PE, the halls were buzzing with chatter that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers in New York.

As I walked into my next classroom, the news reports blared on the TV and everyone was gathered around speechless. The Pentagon had just been hit.  Seeing the panic on my face, my teacher let me use her phone to call my dad to see if he was okay.  To say I was relieved when my dad answered and said he had been scheduled away at a meeting in Norfolk is an understatement.  Being so close to the Pentagon, the school was put on lock down for the remainder of the day.  Every TV in the school was tuned to the news all day with students and faculty glued to the coverage, many with tears in their eyes.  The imagery and chaos will be burned in my mind forever.

I remember feeling an immense sense of pride for my country following these attacks, being so proud of the heroism displayed in this time of need.  In the middle of tragedy came a strong sense of community, from the devastation sites to individual cities.  Lining the streets of Smoketown Road, a main street in the city of Woodbridge where I lived, were countless American flags proudly waving.  While fear was prominent, so was pride. But in the back of my mind and I think in everyone's mind was a feeling that America would never be the same.

On the 10 year anniversary of the attacks, my dad and I watched a powerful special that hit deep.  While I did not personally lose anyone in the attacks, the loss is still felt and the surreal experience replays in my head over and over again.  This tragedy shook our nation and its citizens to the core.  Twelve years later and I still can't make sense of it.

I will never forget.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Labor Day Weekend Festivities

family road trip!

Instead of spending this Labor Day weekend lounging about the house, working on projects, and finishing "Orange Is The New Black," Josh and I (and Ricky Ricardo, too!) escaped to Lake Havasu to spend time with Josh's oldest half brother, Dave, and his family. Josh is originally from Yorba Linda, CA where his older half siblings still live, but Dave has a vacation home in Lake Havasu City where he keeps his fun outdoor toys. Although pretty well burnt (despite using SPF 50) and tired from an adventurous weekend, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly!

taking a dip in the questionable but cool water
Saturday afternoon we took the boat out for a few hours but got off to a bit of a slow start. Actually, we got off to NO start at all since the gas tank was empty! Once that situation was resolved, we cruised through the lake and anchored for a bit to take a swim. With rain clouds overhead and a steady drizzle coming down, we figured we would call it an early day and head back to the house to make dinner and take it easy since we had big plans for the next day.
So these big plans...they involved propelling oneself into the air via a board with boots strapped to it and a jet ski powering it all, better known as flyboarding. It's part 'This is totally awesome!' and part Uncle Si 'What is this, Star Wars?' so naturally Josh was into it since he'd been dying to try if after seeing it on youtube months back. Josh plus his brother, three nephews, and a friend spent three hours flying around on this board, doing flips and dives and spins. It was definitely worth it to see all of their smiles when they were done! J (Dave's wife) and I worked on our tans since losing our bikini bottoms in front of crowds of onlookers wasn't much of an interest to us. Oh, and when I say I worked on my tan, it was more like I roasted like a lobster!

Josh flyboarding

can you see the pure joy in our faces?!

While flyboarding was the highlight for the boys on Sunday, I was looking forward to being towed on the raft. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard from having so much fun! Even when I got thrown off the back of the raft doing 40 mph, I was laughing hysterically! Hitting the water hurt, but it was so much fun that I almost couldn't stop laughing enough to swim back to the circling raft. With a thumbs up and retying of my bikini bottoms, we were at it again! I can't wait to go back.
happy lobsters!

this handsome guy

For dinner Sunday, Dave and J treated everyone to Sho Gun, a Japanese tepan style restaurant that they kept raving about. Josh has never had Japanese food so this was interesting! I have to give him credit because he tried things I didn't think he would even touch. He's one of those picky eaters due to fear, so sometimes you just have to trick him into eating something then admit that there was raw fish once he says he likes it! He's come a long way since we began dating when it comes to broadening his taste adventures and each new food he tries is a small victory.

dinner at Sho Gun: Dave and Josh (J in the background)

Not to be left behind, J brought her English Bulldog Maggie to keep Ricky Ricardo company. Maggie is double his size but he has always preferred playing with the big dogs so he was over the moon with such a willing playmate. Like true bulldogs, they could only take the excitement for so long before they were both worn out and needed a timeout to hydrate and nap! He slept the whole way home and continued to sleep the rest of the day. Too much fun for this guy!

too much party, now he needs to rest!

 Hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend!