My Uncle Carlos

My Uncle Carlos.

I could go into his whole life of how he came to be, but I can already hear my Uncle cursing at me, so I won’t. But what I will tell you is who he was. For those who didn’t get the pleasure of meeting my Uncle Carlos, he was a bit of a Superman, Jack of All Trades kind of guy.Coming from a large family (and when I say large I mean 20 plus brother and sisters) he had to help the family. From working in factories, picking fruit, to some odd jobs he may have forgotten to mention, my Uncle learned from an early age how to work hard and educate himself. Although he never bragged about his intelligence or had degrees hanging on the wall, my Uncle was one of the brightest and smartest men I had ever known.

His tax return may have said one thing, but he could do anything. He was an Engineer, Carpenter, Therapist, Surgeon, just to name a few. But the titles I believed he held closet to his heart was Husband and Family Man. He was always there for our family. He raised his own two sons plus children that weren’t his own. On the surface, you wouldn’t call my Uncle the tradition nurturing type, but he always told you want you needed to hear, not what you wanted. He stepped up when necessary. He provided for his family beyond monetary value. He taught lessons far from the classroom, and put his life and soul on the line for his family. He lived by example.

And there was his wife, Norma. My Uncle acted like a hard ass, but he truly was a teddy bear, especially when it came to my Aunt. It was simply the way he looked at her that spoke volumes of love, passion, and admiration he had for her. Married 40 plus years, Carlos may have acted like a tough guy, never showing too much emotions, but he had a soft spot for Norma. Holding her hand, cuddling with her, even if acted too macho for it, and being a devoted husband. Even in his last days when he couldn’t do much, he would pucker up his lips to kiss his wife. That he knew.

On Friday, August 12 2011,after a hard fought battle with Prostate Cancer, Carlos became Chief Engineer for God. St.Peters most likely asked him to fixed his gate, and then had a beer with him. It is still surreal that I will never see my Uncle again, but I know he is not hurting anymore, and probably running the show with God.

If you didn’t get to meet Carlos, you missed out. But if you want to see his impact, look at his wife, his sons, his family, and his community.We live knowing the man whose hands showed the best of his hard work. We live with him by our side, watching, and probably saying “sal-es” and laughing with a slight smile. Carlos was truly a good person, not because he pretended to be, but because his soul was. When I leave this earth, if I am half as good of person as my Uncle was, I would be content.

I love you and thank you Carlos.

Carlos

Carlos

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Faith

………………………………………………….

I have literally sat in front of my computer screen trying my hardest to write this. To write something witty, charming, or some other rhyming words to get my thoughts , and feelings across. My ultimate goal and theme of this blog post was to talk about Cancer, how it has affected my life and family, and talk about what my cousins are doing to help raise money.That was the ultimate goal, but as I sit here, and try to find the right words, my computer screen remains blank. All I can think about is the following:

Cancer sucks.

Well that’s obvious says my mind. That Journalism and Communication background really has helped. And while I can write 20 page papers in my sleep, to write 500 words about Cancer has become the hardest thing to write about. I have so many thoughts, feelings, and emtions that I want to say, but with every time I backspace it to try to write beyond:

Cancer Sucks.

How does one tell a story without the right words? How can you deal and handle someone with Cancer when you can barely deal with them having it? Doesn’t this all sound selfish? Can I just scream in a paper bag?

There are no right answers to these questions or right ways to react. It is bloody cancer. It affects millions of people, and their families, yet nobody knows. If there were right answers and reactions, people would have solved it by now or at least know how to handle it the right way. But because there isn’t one true way, we handle it in diferent ways. Some become really involved, others avoid.Some go to Fiji to live out in paradise.

While different, each path has the ultimate faith that tomorrow my love one will be cancer free.It doesn’t matter the statics or the success rate; they are low. Faith, above all else, is the strongest static. It is what gets people out of bed that their love one will get better. It makes people walk 3 days to find a cure. It will make people believe the fight it not over. It may not cure the cancer, but it gives me the belief, and almost anyone, that it can cure it. Without it, what else is there?

My main goal of this blog post is to help raise money for a cancer walk my cousin and cousin-in-law are doing. The money raised will help go to cancer research so maybe people won’t have to live on faith alone. For more information or if you would like to donate, click here

I may not have right words to express how I feel about Cancer beyond that it sucks, but maybe a bunch of jumble words will help.

It still sucks.

Week 3: From Broke College Student to Chef

Background

A Convo with My Mom

I turn to the woman who gave birth to me, my mother, for this week’s cooking recipe. For those who have never had the pleasure of meeting my mother, she is one one of the most beautiful, caring and amazing women I have ever known. Now that we have that out of the way, she also says some off the wall things because well she can. So who better than to have as this weeks tester of one of her favorite baked goods then my mom from her recipe.

This week I cooked Mini Vanillia Scones. They are sort of like Starbuck’s scones without the lines and extra charges. We are using a recipe she found on a site because as she puts it, its sort of like hers just not as good. Tanslation: Not everything should be exactly as measured. Word to the wise: Make sure you understand a little bit of geometry before attempting. I barely passed that class, and explains the odd shapes.

Mini Vanillia Scones

Mini Vanillia Scones

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces (like extra tiny tiny pieces because if you don’t have an eletric bowl and/or mixer, it becomes a bitch to mix)

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup regular full-fat sour cream
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract(my mom says to use fresh vanilla. Of course after the fact)

Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • water, as needed

Directions:

Prep Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 25 mins

  1. Preheat oven to 400 deg. F.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  3. Using any method you prefer, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until flour resembles coarse meal,(pretty much ignore this part, but for those fancy people out there you can try this) The “grate” method: I grate a block of cold butter against the large holes of a box grater and weigh the butter ribbons to get the amount I need  Toss the butter ribbons with the flour mixture, and then use two knives to cut the flour-coated ribbons into 1/4-inch pieces.(for the record a knife works just as fine.)
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg yolk and vanilla extract until blended. Add this to the flour-butter mixture and stir with a fork until dough forms a cohesive ball. Use a spatula to get the dry bits fully incorporated.
  5. Place the sticky dough onto a parchment-lined (or ungreased) baking sheet and pat into a disk about 1-inch in height. Cut the dough into wedges but do not separate. Or scoop dough into a mini scone pan if available.

A break from the recipe….this is where geometry became a problem for me. I understood disks like this:

disks

Squared

When infact a disk is well a circle which you then cut like a pizza as shown here:

Me with a pizza cutter

Me with a pizza cutter

Or in my case the squares. However you choose to do it, it doesn’t affect the taste.  I say this because maybe there are others out there who didn’t do too well in geometry like me, and on top of it being it late, gets shapes confused. Moving on…

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.(for me it took like 13 minutes)

While it is baking

GLAZE

  1. Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl, and add water one teaspoon at a time, mixing vigorously until smooth and runny.(don’t skip out on the sugar. Use extra. And don’t forget to add vanillia to the mix. It doesn’t say, but trust me. With all the extra sugar it took me about 1/4 of water)
  2. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of glaze over the hot scones. Brushing rather than drizzling gives a smoother appearance and requires less glaze.(The only brush I have is a make up and hair brushes, and no one wants the scones a shade of purple eye shadow. A knife or spoon still does the the job fine)
  3. Serve immediately. Store cooled scones in an airtight contanier (they honestly taste better cold. eat a couple fresh then store them)

Another week where my kitchen sort of survived.Thank you to those who have sent reciepes. Keep them coming. Below is my mom’s video response. Did she say when I am old and grey?

25 things to do before I turn 25

 

Yep, that is me 20 years ago

That time of year again. In the next couple days this 23 year old will be turning 24. And although 23 has been a great year, I believe it will only get better from here. So here is my list of this time of 25 things I want to do before I turn 25.

Let’s start with the things from last year’s list that I didn’t get to:

1) Donate my hair to locks of love

I promise I will do this before next year. I am trying to grow my hair out really, really long so when they cut it, I will still have some hair.

2) Go Zip Lining

In the state of Arizona, we were only able to find places where you had to do zip lining as a group, therefore I need to travel somewhere else to find zip lining. If you know of anything, please let me know.

3) Write a funny story about my Grandpa

I think this one has been the hardest because of how personal it is. However if there is a will, there is a way

4 ) See the Suns win a championship…*cross fingers*( might change this before I die)

Considering how there have been tons of trade rumors for Steve Nash, I am not sure if this will happen. I have faith in my time, but this will be on the list until there is no need for it.

5) Buy a lottery ticket when the jackpot is 100 million

I have never been a gambler when it comes to money. The rush I get when I gamble is not a fun one,therefore I rather avoid it. However maybe one dollar could change the world.

6) Take an unplanned trip

After not writing the story for my grandpa, this is the one I had wish I had done.

7) Learn how to ride a bike

I will admit it, I am clumsy as hell. I fall just simply walking. However, when someone goes “well it’s as easy as riding a bike,” I can never nod in agreement, just more in awkwardness.

8 ) Go to a Cardinals game in their new stadium

I have not done this, but if anyone has extra tickets, I am more than willing to fill that seat.

And now the new things:

9)Learn to cook

Listen, I am the greatest at calling in food orders, reservations, etc. However, sometimes even that can get boring. And while it can be fun, I want to enjoy cooking.  I can make the basics, but with grad school, it is often hard to find time to eat, little lone cook it. I am hoping as it winds down it will be easier.

10) Visit a new country

Last year I got to see some great new states, but it is time to broaden my horizons. Time to see more of this crazy planet.Maybe somewhere in Asia. Maybe Costa Rica. I got a travel bug.

11) Finish my applied project

So far, my project has been a pain in the butt. From getting it started to what I want to accomplish. Hopefully it will get off the ground because I need it to:

12) Graduate from Grad School

To be honest, grad school has been the hardest, most rewarding thing I have done. I have written about three novels worth of papers and essays, read millions of pages, and slept very little. Lost a couple things from its effects, but in the end the gain will be worth it….I think.

13) Find a job that fits my career, and that I love

At the end of May, I will have two shinny pieces of papers that will tell the world two things. One: I spent a lot of money. Two: I am qualified. So please hire me. *fingers crossed*

14) Sing in front of a crowd

I am not talking like Karaoke because that is more fun and off key. But maybe with a band or seriously even just one time. I by no means want to make a career out of it, just something that would be fun.

15) Donate Blood

I hate needles. In fact, I hate blood. However, with recent family and medical events, you start to realize life is short. You have to live it and give back. Here is one way i can do it.

16) Learn to change a tire

I will admit, I am kind of dumb when it comes to my car. It is almost like I completely zone out anytime someone talks about cars, therefore I want to learn some basics.

17) Improve and strengthen relationships.

A lot will be changing during my 24th year. People will leave, some will stay, and some will enter my world I never thought would. I want to keep those relationships close to my heart, no matter where the world will take me or them.

18) Take a dance class

I know some of you maybe shocked to know I haven’t taken classes as an adult. Shocking I know. Therefore I would like to take a class, and see how it goes. Maybe my new thing.

19) Learn Spanish

I joke a lot about this, but I am really upset at myself for not being fluent in Spanish. I kind of took it for granted, but I don’t always want to be like this. I want to be able to speak, write, and communicate Spanish.

20) Run a 5k without stopping

Not sure how I am going to do this because I hate running, but hey let’s try this

21) Move

This maybe one of those things that can wait until the next year, but here is a brief summary of my moving experience. I lived in the house I grew up in for 18 years, then my current local for almost 6 years with a brief break down under. I love having one steady locale, but I do feel it is time to move. Just not sure when

22)Try a new restaurant  where I have never eaten that type of food

I am not sure where to go with this, but maybe like Ethiopian or something like that.

23) Take an Improv Class

I may really suck at it, but hey at least I tried.

24) Streaking?

Maybe not that per se, but do something out of character that is fun and excited/ Life is about enjoying it, not going through the motions. Sometimes I have gone through the motions, but lately, I am trying to to take chances.

25) Make 24 the best yet. 25 will then be better


My Hometown

Hi my name is Maria Konopken and I am from Mesa Arizona.

I do not say this statement above as a confession for an addiction or something I am ashamed of. For those who weren’t a part of the birthing process, I was born and raised in Mesa. I speak about my hometown with pride and joy. However I do see there are some faults in my city like buildings falling apart, construction that never ends, and a lack of glamour. It doesn’t help that Mesa is Spanish for table. It is no Phoenix rising from the ashes.I have became accustomed to that fact Mesa is the Jane Brady of Maricopa County.We are no Marsha like Phoenix is. I see there are some faults, but I can point them out because its my city.

However, recently my table of a city was named by Forbes as one of America’s Most Boring Cities. According to Forbes, Mesa has lace of diverse activities, lack of media attention, and something abut a housing bubble that make Mesa boring.Some of you are probably agreeing with Forbes, especially those from glamorous cities in the state that were not name like Yuma or Tucson;you know the happening places.

But are you kidding me Forbes? Are you kidding?How can you say Mesa is boring when you haven’t visited? I get it. From the outside Mesa may lack what some call glamour, bright lights, and nature, but had you been to Mesa, you would know we are far from boring.

Infact did you know you can go ice skating year around in Mesa? Yes you heard right ice skating.Can’t do that in New York City. I have seen Rockerfella in the Summer. A bunch tables, tourist, and pigeons, and last time I checked, it was frowned upon to go ice skating on pigeons.

But in Mesa, you can go ice skating at  Fiesta Mall. I know what you about to say. Maria I have never heard, nor seen any ice at the mall, and you wouldn’t be lying. There is technically no ice, but you can do a similar version of it called Nylon skating. Go to Payless Shoe Store, grab the nylons you put on when you try on shoes, but put it on the bottom of your shoes. Do not wear heels, this will end badly. You then zooooom right out of the store dodging vendors, signs, and small children. Try not to hit anyone or break anything. The mall itself is pretty big so you can spend a couple of hours in the mall, having fun, and not buy a thing. People may look at you funny, but remember its apart of Mesa’s Charm.

Once you get tired of skating, head across the street. There you will see a tall blue building. Some people might call it the blue light, some a high-rise, I call it the Bank of America building. Possibly the tallest and the only high-rise in Mesa. Little known story about the building, the man responsible for that building had dreams for the table city. He wanted Mesa to be a metropolis full of people, corporations, and high rises. Sort of on the same level  as Phoenix. It would have been great however, these dreams were soon dashed when this little thing called embezzlement happen to the guy and gone was the money and the dream. I should end this story by saying, I am not sure if that was true. My mom might have told me this just to shut me up, and thought I wouldn’t remember it. As you see, this clearly work.

So what can you do in one of the only skyscrapers in Mesa? Have you been to Disneyland? Heard of the ride haunted mansion? Well think of the bank of America building as Mesa’s own Disneyland ride without the high prices and creepy guy with gloves. You simply walk in the building, go the elevators and go up and down and up and down. You can have a short ride. You can have a long ride. You can try to get to the 13th floor. You can stop chat with people and I am sure there is  free food somewhere in that building. Have fun, no line, and cost you nothing.You will probably be escorted out of the building, but just remember its apart of mesa’s charm

If physical activity or amusement parks aren’t your thing how about a relaxing day at the Salt River Tubing?  Do not quote me, but I think it’s the only city’s natural water sources mixed with beer, marshmallows, and sea creatures from the black lagoon. Do not be scared, it helps you float better, but then again that could be a rumor. Anyways to get to the salt river, you pile everyone and their nana into the car. Drive down a long ride into the middle of the desert. Drive until you see somewhat of a civilization, park your car and get your hot as an oven tube. A bus with no seat belts and maybe no ac and a driver who thinks they are in NASCAR will take you to this water and you have arrived. For the next 5 to 6 hours, you will be sitting on a hot tub in the 120 degree heat. You may get 3rd degree burns, you may lose your shoes, and you may even meet the creatures from the black lagoon, but again all its all about Mesa’s charm.

I think I have made my points clear of why Mesa is fun exciting and definitely not boring. If you don’t like my suggests, I do have more. There is plenty to do in mesa like ummmmmmm Well just take my word for it. Who you going to trust, a native or everything you read online.

Hi may name is Maria Konopken and I am from Mesa Arizona.