Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vote early, vote often

Karine and I have lived 10 of the last 12 months outside the United States. We've established for ourselves a home away from home here in Honduras. We've got a dog. We're having a baby. We're comfortable and happy here and generally consider ourselves lucky to be living in such an interesting and flavorful place. There is a lot to like about Honduras and a lot to love about Hondurans. Sadly, the government here doesn't really work for the people. Poverty and corruption exist on a scale that's difficult for friends back home to comprehend.

Living abroad the last year we've come to realize what a truly awesome place the United States of America is. We proudly cast our votes by absentee mail-in ballot last week. Please remember to vote on November, 4th.


On a related note, I was speaking to a group of fourth graders today about rights, laws, and democracy. I got carried away and ended up standing on a chair reading the Gettysburg Address.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What we listened to this morning...

Our new consensus Sunday morning after church and rainy day chill-out music: Vampire Weekend.

Rain Day

Our alarm clock went off at 5:30, and by 5:40 am, my phone was ringing. School was cancelled! It's been raining for the past 20 hours pretty steadily, and when this happens, bridges go out and roads are flooded. No school for us today! (When our principal called to tell me, she could hear Tom singing and dancing "No school- phone tree!" in the background- she found this funny.)

We were already up and the coffee was on, so after activating my class phone tree to let the students know, we enjoyed a relaxing morning with coffee on the front porch, hot veggie & egg scramble, and fresh sparkly juice drinks. We have cozied up in our favorite cold weather clothing - sweatpants and t-shirts. Tom has even donned slippers for the occasion. For our first activity of the day, we curled up to listen to an episode of an NPR show we love (and so we download the podcast), "This American Life." Tom cuddled with Ruby on the floor, while I watched my belly move and dance around. (The baby really likes rain days with coffee and juice too!)

Who knows what other exciting activities today will bring! Happy Rain Day!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Strange Craving!

While food has definitely been my #1 obsession lately (hence the baking/cooking sprees), there's something I haven't been able to stop thinking about this past week. It's something I just really want, have never craved it before, and I think about it at least 3-4 times a day! No, it's not the strange pregnancy phenomenon, "pica," in which pregnant women want to do things like eat dirt, clay, coffee grounds, or match heads. Instead, I've developed an intense desire to swim with a dolphin.

I'm not sure how it got in my head, but for the past week, I've been fantasizing about swimming with these giant mammals while I'm super-prego. I realize that this is one of those things that many people dream about and is a once-in-a-lifetime thing to do. I'm very lucky to live just a quick boatride away from the island of Roatan, home to Anthony's Key Resort. At AKR, there are daily dolphin encounters. A good friend of ours spent last summer working at this resort with the dolphins. We couldn't be in a better place to make this happen easily.

On our way to church this morning, Tom proposed an idea. He suggested that we have a contest of sorts. We will be competing against ourselves to see if we can post a blog every day in November. If we can do this, we'll use part of our Thanksgiving break weekend to go swim with the dolphins out in Roatan. If we don't post a blog every day in November, well, we'll just have to see. But I think we can do it. Go Team Lewandowski!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

This and That

It's been another busy week in Lake Wobegon- I mean La Ceiba.

Due to Tropical Depression Sixteen, school was canceled on Thursday and Friday of this week. While the storm did bring about quite a bit of rain on Wednesday, and was supposedly going to get worse in the coming days, the storm fizzled out once it hit land, and didn't pose much of a threat to us in La Ceiba. We woke up Thursday morning to blue skies and light showers later in the day. Our school totally would've had class, but COPECO (the Honduran equivalent of FEMA or something like that) declared that it would be illegal for any school to have class for 72 hours. Unfortunately, they declared this in the middle of the worst day, and Thursday and Friday were beautiful.

We went to the doctor again for a checkup on Thursday. He said that everything looks great! We even took a tour of the recovery rooms (that's what I think of them as) for after I have the baby at the hospital. Each room is equipped with cable TV, air conditioning, a second bed for hubby and a walk out balcony with an oceanfront view! You can visit our hospital's website here. Our doctor is a German man, who speaks 5 languages. He's the founder and director of the hospital. We like him!

Our doctor had not yet seen our ultrasound pics that proved our baby was, in fact, going to be a boy. When he looked at the pictures, he said (in Spanish), "I don't see any boy parts here! 18 weeks is too early to tell. That ultrasound doctor (not the one that our doctor normally works with) didn't know what he was talking about!" Imagine my concern when I pictured our little boy actually being born a little girl! So, we took advantage of a second day in a row off of school to visit the sonographer again (the one our doc recommends) and confirmed that Baby Lew IS actually going to be born with boy parts. It may seem like we do a lot of ultrasounds, but they only cost us $3 each! It's so fun to check him out and see him moving around. He's already up to 1 lb. 5 oz and around 12 inches long! That explains my ever-expanding belly.

Ruby thouroughly enjoyed her almost three-week stint with her boyfriend, Fisher. He went home to his owner today, and Ruby has been a bit sad ever since. Yesterday, we came across the dogs just hanging out in the doorway to the backyard. It was just too cute!

This morning, Tom had band practice with his friend. They're playing again on Wednesday nights at Expatriates Bar here in La Ceiba. It's always fun to listen as Tom learns new songs to sing and to play on the guitar. For the 10 years I've known him, I've been listening to him on bass, but recently his guitar skills have become quite good! Plus, he has such a nice voice too!

I'm officially in full nesting mode. Every day, I begin thinking about the evening meal. This week, my new recipes were rosemary roasted chicken, homemade enchiladas, french bread, monster cookies, and tonight's special- chicken pot pie from scratch! (I did have to substitute rosemary for sage in the crust, but it was still very tasty.)

Last weekend, we got our crib and put our rocking chair together (Okay, so Tom put them together, but I was solid moral support). Today, I saw the table man walking down the street selling this table. We already had a similar one that we've been using on our patio out front, but I've been thinking that it's just the right height for a changing table. I flagged him down and paid him 350 Lempira ($18) for his craftsmanship and home delivery. I think I'll sand it and paint it tomorrow. The nursery is really starting to come together!

Well, that's the news from La Ceiba, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average. (At least I'm pretty strong, Tom is definitely good looking, and I've got a good feeling about Baby Lew being above average.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Anne Lewandowski Notch: Fighter, Angler

My sister Anne is the toughest person I've ever met in my life.

Cancer patient, daughter land fishes of a lifetime in 24 hours
Jason Durham
Park Rapids Enterprise - 10/11/2008

“I’d like you to take my daughter-in-law out to catch a walleye.” The request, similar to those I receive almost daily throughout the summer, soon turned into something entirely different. “She’s never caught a walleye before and she wants to land one before she dies.” Sheri Notch of New Frontier Resort on Long Lake informed me that her daughter-in-law, Anne Notch, was battling stage-four colo-rectal cancer and catching a walleye was a goal yet to be accomplished.

Unfortunately, I was booked. I told Sheri to call good friend and fellow guide Jeremy Anderson of Jone’s Guide Service. Jeremy arranged a trip and I couldn’t wait to hear the results. I called him the night following their trip, hoping he would deliver good news. “The trip was canceled,” he said. “They called this morning. Anne was too sick to go.” It was just over a year ago today that Anne Notch, pregnant at the time, received her cancer diagnosis. “The doctors said I might have two years to live if my body responds positively to the chemotherapy,” Notch says. “My body has not responded.” A CAT scan last June showed the cancer had doubled in size.

Although I had never met Anne Notch, her plight stuck with me. Mid-August the phone rang and once again the voice on the other end was Sheri. “My daughter-in-law is coming back up at the end of the week. Is it possible to get her out fishing?” Once again, guide trips filled my week, but I suggested checking on Jeremy’s schedule. A few days later, while driving the boat in from a guide trip on Long Lake, I met Jeremy cruising out. We checked in with each other that evening, as we often do. “I had Anne Notch today,” he said.

During the first three hours of their four-hour trip, the fishing was pretty slow. They caught a few bass and northern pike, but no walleye. In the final hour Jeremy got a bite and fed the fish some line, assuming it was another bass. It turned out to be a 12-inch walleye. He was disappointed that he hadn’t let Anne catch that fish. Anne said, “I would be happy with a walleye like that; any walleye.”

Then the fishing gods smiled upon her. “She had a great hook-set,” Jeremy said during our conversation. “By the bend in her rod it looked like it was big, but I couldn’t tell how big.” After netting the walleye, the measuring tape told them exactly how big—27 ½ inches for her first walleye ever!

Once Anne’s five-year-old daughter Natalie saw the fish, she became enamored with walleye. “She spent 5 hours one day trying to catch a walleye and, even though she never lost focus, it didn’t happen,” Anne recalled. But the next day, after only 15-minutes on the water, young Natalie was proudly displaying a 24-inch walleye. Pilgrim’s Taxidermy will memorialize the two fish in a combination mount created for Anne and Natalie.

Anne’s one-year old son, Christopher, probably won’t remember the summer his mom and big sister each caught their first walleye, but 3-year-old brother Sam might. He now wants to catch a walleye and, additionally, would like to dress up as one for Halloween.

You can visit Anne's Caring Bridge website here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


As this new life grows inside of me, it makes me reflect on the cycles of life. As these incredible tiny people enter this world, some of the people we love leave this world. On Thursday, my aunt Marilyn Nelson passed away. While I'm not able to go home to celebrate her life and memory with family and friends, I'd like to share a few of my own thoughts and memories about my aunt.

When I was younger, my family would go up to Bemidji, Minnesota for weekend visits. Marilyn would always get up early with my brother and me while my parents slept in. We'd drive into town to the Mr. Donut and pick out some donuts and long johns to bring home. Weekends at her house would be spent swimming and fishing in the lake in the summer and cross-country skiing on the nearby trails in the winter. Marilyn also always had cool craft projects for us to do. My brother and I would sit at her kitchen table while Marilyn introduced us to the crafty world of dreamcatchers and mini-sculptures with Sculpee. We'd become obsessed with these crafts, and once we got back home, it would be our favorite pastime for the next several weeks.

Chris, Marilyn, Pearl, and Me circa 1984

Marilyn has left a lefse legacy behind. For as long as I can remember, my family has celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with healthy servings of Marilyn's lefse. Every year, her tiny kitchen would be turned into a lefse-making labratory for days at a time. In the past 5 years, I've started to get in touch with my own Scandanavian heritage, making my own krumkake and this past year, lefse. I don't think my own will ever hold a flame to Marilyn's secret recipe. She perfected it through the years, making it impossible to replicate. We enjoyed many holidays at Marilyn's house. The whole family, including her beloved dog Pearl, would enjoy huge meals all together. Holiday mealtimes will always remind me of Marilyn.

Marilyn not only piqued my interest in crafting, but in music too. In 1990, Marilyn was brave enough to invite my brother and me to join her on her annual trek up to the Winnepeg Folk Festival. We joined her circle of friends and their families for camping, music, and bonding fun. Later that year, a young man she worked with gave Marilyn a mix tape of rock songs. She thought her neice might appreciate it, so she made me a copy. For a year, this was my favorite tape, and I loved rocking out to Europe's "Cherokee" and the Beastie Boys. From folk to rock, her eclectic taste always interested me.

Many of my friends might know her as my "pink aunt" for the hundreds of pink items she and her partner bestowed upon me between 1997 and 2007. Among my favorite pink items is a plastic pink colander, a pink kitchen stool, and a 1950's era "bust exerciser". I probably received more than 300 items over that 10 year period- all because I said my favorite color was pink in 1997!

Cynthia and Marilyn at our wedding in July 2007

In the 9 or so years between my first meeting Tom, and finally getting married last year, Marilyn has always been a huge supporter of us as a couple. She and Cynthia knew from the beginning that Tom and I were meant for each other. We've always loved spending time with them, and have appreciated their liberal mindedness and humor. Marilyn has been an example of strength and independence for me throughout my life. She will be dearly missed, but always remembered!

Friday, October 10, 2008


I feel like I've just jumped years forward into the depths of parenting. For the past week or so, Ruby's doggy boyfriend, Fisher has been staying with us while his owner is away. (Ruby gets to spend some time at Fisher's house over Christmas) The dogs have a blast playing together. For hours each evening, they walk around the house together, bite each other's faces, and try to sit on each other.

While both dogs are fixed and we're in no danger of puppies, there are times as a mom that I feel I must step in. Tonight I told Fisher that I thought he should go stay at his house tonight (with another friend who is staying at the house). The Lewandowskis need to have some family time- just the 3 of us. I'm going to have a little talk with Ruby about spending too much time with just one other dog. She's young, and she needs to spend more family time with us! I feel like I've hardly seen her during the past week! Those two are always off running around the backyard, or worse yet, kissing each other.

When Fisher is here, she doesn't always follow the house rules (like no sleeping on couches at night). I feel like she's a different dog when Fisher is near. She's even started drinking! (Out of the toilet, that is.) Somtimes it's hard to be a (dog) mom.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Name and Number, Please

So, now that we're having a baby, we're faced with the challenge of naming this little guy. A name is a pretty big deal. While on one of my "mommy-to-be forums" I learned about this Name/Numerology website. All you do is plug in your name and it bases an analysis on your name. Tom and I both tried it with our names and it's pretty cool.

Here's an excerpt of what it had to say about one possible baby name. This name was suggested by my dad. He said he'd be honored with either Larry Gary or Gary Larry (A combo of both Tom and my dad's names.) We put it on our list of possibilities... We'll get back to you on that one, Dad.

Name Meaning for Gary Larry Lewandowski:

Soul Urge: 37 / 10 / 1

(Vowels: AYAYEAOI)

Your Soul Urge - The Song of Your Soul - A Deeper Look Into What Motivates You

You are the essence of individuality and independence. You are intense and convicted when it comes to defending your beliefs, as you never doubt your inner strength and ability to handle any challenge. Many are inspired by your confidence, while others may feel irritated and view it as arrogance. You are likely to attract people and situations that allow you to express this part of yourself or else they will mirror these traits back to you.

Personality: 62 / 8

(Consonants: GRLRRLWNDWSK)

Your Personality - The Impression You Make upon the World
There is an air of affluence about you, no matter your station in life. People assume you are in control. You give the impression that you are the best at what you do, so naturally others look to you for leadership. You have an eye for quality and no matter what it takes you dress for success. Designer clothing of the highest quality is certainly your preference. People cluster around you hoping that some of that luck is contagious.

So now, our big question is do we want to put our child on the path to be a confident, intense, individual in designer duds?????

Check out the website and try your own name. Does it work for you too?

Monday, October 6, 2008

FOCO Taste Test: Mangosteen Juice

We love experimenting with new juices. FOCOs are some of our favorites. Sometimes their juices have chunks, but sometimes they are really good. You can check out a previous FOCO taste test here.

The mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is a tropical evergreen tree, believed to have originated in the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas. The tree grows from 7 to 25 m (20-80 ft) tall. The rind (exocarp) of the edible fruit is deep reddish purple when ripe. Botanically an aril, the fragrant edible flesh can be described as sweet and tangy, citrusy with peach flavor and texture. Mangosteen is closely related to other edible tropical fruits such as button mangosteen and lemondrop mangosteen. Botanically, it bears no relation to the mango (Wikipedia).

We thought the juice was really tasty. We're huge mangosteen fans now. Mellow fruity flavor, peachy bouquet, and no chunks. We love our FOCOs, but we don't love the chunks.

We want to plant a mangosteen tree in our backyard.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I am not gonna lie. I haven't been particularly impressed with Sarah Palin's policy positions or command of the English language. But I am posting this picture as a train enthusiast.