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Friday, January 23, 2015

The Journey...not the Destination - Part Tres

A continuation of a post about a trip my sister Lisa and I took to Lake Tahoe in October...yes, I know, I'm a slacker, but life keeps going even when I just want to sit and write! This is Part 3 and you can read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE and then you'll be all caught up! Ready to head back to October of 2014? Let's go!

When last we left our intrepid heroines, they were just getting to their hotel in Lake Tahoe after a pleasant dinner and a brisk walk and after a long day of travelling 358 mile from their small hometown to South Lake Tahoe, California. We were bushed! We called it a night early and went to bed.

Now this was not a pleasure trip for my sister, nope...this was work for her. So the next morning she arose bright and early to get ready to meet the rest of her group for breakfast and then meetings and classes all day. I arose a bit later, got ready at a leisurely pace and then went down to meet the wives of all the men in my sisters group for breakfast and then a morning of shopping with the ladies!

This was the first picture I took that day and I love it still! It was breathtaking, and this was just the parking lot!

The ladies and I had a great time shopping. It was nice to just take my time browsing the stores. I bought quite a few things that I didn't need but had to have. The morning went by way too quickly and soon it was time to head back to the hotel to rest and wait for the working part of our group to be done with their meetings so we could go out to dinner.

My sister Lisa had requested that we go to a restaurant there that she loves called Fire and Ice Grill. I had never been there but she had on previous trips.

Fire and Ice is a very unique restaurant in that you line up and grab a bowl and head to their "market". The market has all kinds of raw vegetables, pastas, and legumes. I wish I had thought to take photos of that area but I was busy trying to get the lay of the land, but here's a very similar picture.

Photo Credit - Trip Advisor

Once you've filled your big bowl with veggies, you head on down the line to the proteins section. You can choose from scallops, steak, pork, chicken, sausage, name it and they had it. Then you choose a sauce from the myriad of sauces they had such as BBQ, Sweet Chile, Honey Ginger, so many I can't even remember.

I was bit confused and worried about putting raw meats on the vegetables that I was about to eat, but then Lisa guided me to the grill where the magic happened. Just watch this video and see the magic yourself.

It was so fun to watch and it tasted amazing. The only thing is that I put a ton of raw jalapeno on mine and of course when you cook jalapeno it just gets hotter....whoa Nelly that was some spicy stuff! I can't wait to go back again. I had scallops but I wasn't sure how they were going to get cooked and it just seemed wrong to throw a bunch of raw scallops on top of my veggies so I didn't get very many and they were so good that I could have had a whole plate of just scallops!

Here's one last photo of the grill. The cooks were amazing, how they kept track of every one's food just befuddled me! You can see all the different variations of veggies and proteins and that area smelled so good. If you ever have a chance to eat at a Fire and Ice Grill Restaurant I highly recommend it!

Again after that wonderful meal we took a long walk back to the hotel and went to bed. Hopefully I can write and post Part 4 before another couple of months go by.


Monday, January 19, 2015

From Left to Write - If I Fall, If I Die

"How was it that to give a child life was to, on that the very same day--even before you could lay eyes upon their slick, purple bodies--have already given them their death?"

This is a line from the book, If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie. I loved this line in the book as it's so true. I think there is nothing greater than a mothers love. To be a mother that suddenly becomes terrified of the outside, of life, of dealings with other human beings. How do you raise a child when you can't even handle life yourself? And as a child, how do you know that the way your mother is is not normal? Do you understand, or do you accept only what you do know?

I remember when my daughter April was born. I didn't work for two years after she was born, just stayed home and took care of her. At that time we lived in a mobile home, in a mobile home park. My husband worked two jobs to provide for us and when he came home he was tired and grumpy and we fought a lot and he didn't help much with the baby.

My mom, who was and still is my best friend lived 30 minutes away and I would talk to her every morning on the phone and again in the evening, but other than the communication with my mom and my grumpy husband I spoke to no one all day except my baby daughter.

Before you knew it she became my whole world and being home, in my sweet little two bedroom mobile home...well that became my whole world too. I can remember the UPS driver coming to the house one morning to deliver a package and I hid like the mafia was outside waiting to kidnap me and my daughter and take us away, peeking through slits in the curtains terrified. I was that much of a shut-in, I was that terrified of the outside world!

When I would go outside, to go to the grocery store or to a restaurant with either my mom or my husband I felt like I was watching myself from the outside, I didn't really feel part of the world. Kind of like taking NyQuil and not sleeping, just wandering around in a fog, always in a hurry to be back into the world I knew, the world inside my little mobile home with just myself and my daughter.

I often wonder what would have happened if I had stayed home to be a full-time wife and mother. Would I have become an agoraphobic? Would I have eventually refused to come outside at all, to be a part of the outside world? What would have happened to my daughter, growing up with a mom that refused to leave the safety of her home?

Fortunately for me when my daughter turned two I was offered a good job by a lady that had employed me in the past and my world opened up again. I met the people at the daycare center Penny Lane Preschool where I left my daughter each morning. I made friends with other mothers, I made friends with the ladies at my new job and I became acclimated to the outside world again.

When I became pregnant with my son four years later I was worried that I would go through that shut-in phase again, but that didn't happen as I still had to be a part of my daughters outside world. Had to attend school events and walk her to the bus stop, but it still scares me just a little bit how much I love being home and alone in my own little world, reading, watching TV, blogging. I worry about retiring and wonder if in my retirement maybe I'll become a shut-in? One never knows, but it's so easy to fall into it.

This post was inspired by the novel If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie,about a boy who's never been outside, thanks to his mother's agoraphobia, but ventures outside in order to solve a mystery. Join From Left to Write on January 22nd as we discuss If I Fall, If I Die. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Monday, January 5, 2015

New Years Resolutions - To Make them or Not?

What is it about the start of a new year that makes us all sit down and reflect on the past year and how we can do better? How we can make resolutions to lose weight, take a class, be nicer, exercise more, you know the drill.

Why don't we look at the past year and at the things we've accomplished and build on them instead? Those are the resolutions I'm making for this next year. Not to say that losing weight isn't still going to be a part of my resolve in the new year, definitely after all the Tamales I ate on Christmas Eve and Day and the turkey with all the trimmings that I ate the day after Christmas.

......So sad! I started the above post on January 1st, with all the good intentions in my mind of getting this done and trying to post more often. Here it is the 5th of January and already I'm behind.

But just because I'm behind doesn't mean that I can't continue forward. For instance, there's this game that I play on Facebook called Puzzly Words. I love playing this game and I'm super addicted. So super addicted that I can play it for a couple of hours non-stop. Here's a print screen so you can see what I'm talking about.

So you see that there are 4 rounds and I have 60 seconds to make 3 words out of the letters shown. To the left you can see the smaller screen of the opponents I'm playing, Rob, Cookie and Sharon. I can see them out of the corner of my eye placing tiles and moving them around, but I can't see the actual letters so I don't know what words they are creating.

Now that I'm here, and there is no pressure and no little clock counting down, I can see the words EMERALD and EMERGE and MINERAL and OMNI and GALLON and RAINING...but of course, with no pressure it's much easier to see those words. This is what I came up with. I scored 15 points, Rob scored 22, Cookie scored 22 and Sharon scored 21. They all scored more than me!

You can see that I screwed up big time and placed the word LONED. I don't know what I was thinking, but I'll blame that error on the fact that I was trying to do print screen and save the game boards to show you so it slowed me down and messed up my concentration. Yeah...that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

The moral of the story here is that I could quit at this point. I probably can't catch up so why not just watch TV until the next three rounds go by and then try again in the next game. But instead I look at this and see the challenge and think to myself, " can catch up. You can not only catch up but you can beat these guys in the next three rounds! Don't quit, go for it!"

And you know what? Sometimes I do beat them and that feels great! But if I don't try, I will always be an underachiever, I will always be a loser. And even when I don't win, when I lose, like I did this time, well I know it's ok because I gave it my all and I have a chance in the next game to win! Right?

And so even though I didn't start my year like gang-busters just blogging like a maniac, I can do this one post, and maybe one tomorrow and I can get my writing mojo back in never know. But I will continue to build on this one post! Happy New Year my two faithful readers!

What about you? Did you make any New Years Resolutions?


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Books Read in 2014

I've been keeping track of the books I've read each year since 2009.

Now in 2009, 2010 and 2011 I just read to read and kept track all on my own and on my blog.

 In 2012 I signed up for Goodreads and they kept track for me. Not only did they keep track, but they also let me set a goal of how many books I wanted to try to read and how many I actually did read.

You can see I was sadly lacking in 2012 and 2013 and didn't reach my goal, so in 2014 I played it safe and only set a goal to read 20 books and far exceeded that amount! I'm an overachiever and they love overachievers!

Here are the books I read in 2014. I credit my online book club, From Left to Write in helping me to exceed my goal!

If I had to choose my three favorite books of the year I would choose The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, The Divorce Papers and The Underground Girls of Kabul.

So for 2015 it's time to set a new goal. Seeing as my goal before was always 30 books and I read 33 in 2014 I'm going to shoot for 35!

Can I do it? We shall see. Regardless I love reading, I love my online book club and I can't wait to see what great books I will read this year.

What about you? Have you set your challenge?

Happy New Year!
May 2015 be filled with books that take you on amazing journeys!


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Baby J Sunday and a Princess!

Today is Sunday. Normally about this time I am getting things ready to make breakfast for our little Baby J and her daddy. But today they are not coming!

But never fear! I'm not sad because we were lucky enough to spend the whole day with her yesterday and she got to meet a Princess. This Princess is her cousin Clarissa, my brothers daughter who celebrated her 15th birthday with a traditional Mexican party known as a Quinceanera. This is the equivalent to a Sweet Sixteen or a Debutante Ball and marks the transition from childhood to young womanhood.

Because our family is Catholic, the celebration begins with a thanksgiving Mass. The Quineanera arrives with her parents, grandparents, god parents, and family. She also has her court of honor which is her best girlfriends each accompanied by a young man.

Here's a picture of my mom and Clarissa (in pink). At the bottom you see Baby J, she fell in love with Clarissa and thought she was a Princess and didn't want to move far from her. This was a very special day for my mom, to see her granddaughter celebrate her 15th birthday is a huge deal!

During the Mass the Quinceanera is presented with several items of religious significance and that will have special meaning for her as she gets older. She receives a ring, a tiara, a rosary and a cross. Here's a picture of my mom presenting the cross that the Priest has just blessed.

My mom also presented her with a very special gift. A ring chosen just for her symbolizing her Catholic Faith. Clarissa has always been very special to my mom. Ever since she was just a baby she would come and sleep overnight with my mom. This tradition carried on throughout the years and in fact Clarissa was here just a few months ago and spent the night with my mom and she always wants to sleep with her Nana.

This is a special time for family and we were all so proud of Clarissa and of her parents for honoring her in this way. Here's a picture of my mom and her four children, her two sons Federico and Jaime and my sister Lisa and I.

After the church ceremony the party continued at a reception hall a few miles away. The place was decorated beautifully, even David Tutera couldn't have done a better job! I wish I had taken more pictures. They had set up a photo booth for the kids to take pictures in various costumes and using props. They had a Candy Table with Crystal Jars and Bowls filled with various types of candy and a three tiers of candy apples in the Quinceanera's favorite colors of Pink and Purple.

As soon as you walked in the door of the hall there was a guest book to sign of course, but then there was a special tribute to Clarissa's precious paternal grandfather, my dad and her Tata. I was so touched that they remembered to honor my dad. He would have been so proud of her on this day, as he was every day from the second he met her!

There were so many special things to see that I can't get to it all, so I'm just going to post pictures with a brief explanation so I can have this memory forever.

Here's a picture of the Court of Honor.

Here's a picture of the father/daughter dance. My brother was so nervous and yet so proud!

So it was a big day for us all. We were all blessed to be able to share this day with Clarissa and to still have our mom with us. It was a beautiful day for our family and Baby J got to spend the day with her "Nene", she fell in love with the stained glass windows in the church, she played with her many cousins, especially her cousin Melissa who is next in line for a Quinceanera and her Uncle Jaime still had a baby to hold in his arms while his own baby was enjoying being a grown up girl at her wonderful party!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Sisters - Forever Friends

This post was inspired by the novel, The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan, about two estranged sisters who are forced to work together in order to uncover the hidden inheritance left to them by their mother. Join From Left to Write on December 2nd as we discuss The Mill River Redemption and enter to win a copy of the novel. As a member I received a copy of the novel for review purposes.

This year has been a pretty good year for my online book club. We've read some really great books that created quite a bit of discussion and really inspired all the members to share thoughts and feelings and experiences. I believe this is the last book for 2014 and it's a good one. I can't wait for 2015!!!

I only just started this book over the Thanksgiving Holiday and have to admit I haven't read it all but was inspired right from the beginning to write about sisters.

One of the best posts that I've ever written, and my personal favorite is this one entitled simply SISTERS. It starts out with one of my favorite paintings, Deux Soeurs (Two Sisters) by William Adolfe Bouguereau. I love these two sisters together. The older one protecting the younger one and yet you also see the older one leaning on the younger one for support. I felt this when I wrote the post about my mom and her sister.

I feel that when I think about my own sister. There is a special bond between sisters and definitely a strong bond between my mom and her sister and me and my sister.

"Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child." - Barbara Alpert.

My Sister Lisa and I in Mexico on vacation with our parents
As a big sister you're brave because you know your little sister is watching you, waiting for your reaction. If you're not scared, she's not scared.

"Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other." - Carol Saline

My sister Lisa and I at a Halloween Party this year
When you're with your sister you know that you have a ready-made friend. Someone there that's always ready to be your partner in crime!

"Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship." - Margaret Mead

My sister Lisa and me this October in Lake Tahoe
"A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost." - Marion C. Garretty

Lisa and I in our aprons ready to do our mom's bidding while making Christmas Tamales
"If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child." - Linda Sunshine

Lisa and I in the bleachers waiting for her sons Graduation Ceremony to begin
"A Sister is a gift to the heart, a Friend to the spirit, a Gold Thread to the meaning of Life". - Isadora James

If ever Lisa and I have to work together to discover a hidden inheritance I think we will do quite well both in finding the inheritance and in spending it!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Baby J Sunday - Ooh Pretty!

Saturday I decided I wanted to put up my Christmas Tree because I knew Baby J would be coming to visit me on Sunday and I couldn't wait to see the expression on her face!

I bought a new tree this year. The one I had in previous years was a small one, about 6' and it was one of those that come pre-lit and after a couple of years the lights don't work any more and you have to add your own anyway. This year I bought a beautiful one that's 7.5' tall and very full! So full in fact that normally I would put a bunch of ornaments on ornament stands around the house but with this one I used all my ornaments and have room for many more!

As you can see in the picture below our puppy Chorizo really loved it and immediately claimed the chair nearest the tree so she could gaze at it and nap. Today she was over it!

I completely forgot to grab my camera this morning when Baby J came in but she was in awe! When she first came in the house she and her daddy came in through the kitchen door and she noticed my Nativity Scene right away. She ran to it and exclaimed "Pretty!!!" I showed her Baby Jesus and she picked it up and kissed the baby. I was frantic thinking she might drop Baby Jesus but she was very gentle with him!

You can see the Nativity below. I've posted this before. My mom made this set for me back in 1983 when she was taking a ceramics class. I can't believe this Nativity is older than my son who was born in 1985!!! It's painted with a pearlized glaze which has several pastel colors in it and it picks up all the colors of whatever color lights I use. This year I used multi-colored lights but used a red garland as red is moms favorite color.

My new addition to my holiday decorations are the Snowman and Snow Woman pictured above. A gift from my mom. I just love them and so did Baby J. The one thing she did NOT LIKE and I had to remove from the room right away was my Nutcracker! I was surprised she took such an instant dislike to it.

Here's a picture of him in a window display that I haven't quite finished yet so this is all I can show you. I think he's awesome! Love his mustache but I think she disliked his teeth. He's about 36 inches tall and was a thrifting find about 5 years ago. I'm thinking of starting a collection of them and purchased a small one of these in green which I'll post about later.

The one thing she really loved was my set of Christmas Tree and Polar Bear refrigerator magnets. My mom and I were laughing so hard at her because she would take the bigger pieces and slam then onto the refrigerator but when she would put the small pieces on she was super gentle with them. She's such a unique little thing!

Her mom has taken to straightening her curls and while she looks very pretty and grown up with straight hair...I do so miss her curls! So that's it for Baby J Sunday, another fun and happy morning spent with the apple of my eye!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Baby J Sunday - Gobble, Gobble, Gobble!

We didn't think we were going to have Baby J today which was kinda sad. Mom has had the Flu and we didn't want her to get sick. But Mom was finally feeling better, she's been on antibiotics for almost a week so we thought we would be ok as long as mom didn't get too close to her.

 I was really excited to see her because we didn't get to see her last week either and I had a special something to share with her. My cousin Jessica likes to make lots of creative things for the holidays with her daughter Roni. She had posted on Facebook these great photos of some M&M Turkeys for Thanksgiving and bless her little heart she sent me three adult turkeys and one little baby one especially for Baby J!

Cute right? They're made with brown netting, pipe cleaners for the feet and head and red turkey dangler thingy and then little googly eyes. You always have to stuff a turkey and these were stuffed with M&Ms! Yum!

Baby J loved hers! I thought she would look at it and shake it around and put it down and look at it, but that kid knows her candy...straight into her mouth right through the netting!

She was able to bite through and get a bit of mushy M&M in her mouth and then she started looking at it and trying to figure out how to get them out of the netting!

We figured maybe it was best to open it up for her before she crushed them all! And then we told her that this turkey was a gift from her cousin Jessica and asked her to smile for Cousin Jessica and she gave us that cheesy smile we love, it melts our hearts!

Love my Baby J and my Baby J Sunday's and a special thanks to Cousin Jessica for sending a little bit of love to us :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chicken Soup Made Easy - with Beans even!

So I've mentioned a million times in previous posts that I am not a natural born cook like my sister. My sister can open up her pantry and her fridge and see that she has six ingredients in there and she can whip up a meal just using those things!

I can be in the middle of a whole grocery store with tons of ingredients and I couldn't figure out how to boil water without a recipe in writing!

Luckily there are people, like my sister, that are great at being creative with food, and they actually have the good sense to write it down, with pictures and step by step photos! Not that my sister doesn't have sense, she just doesn't have time to write everything down!

So I've been hunting down soup recipes! I know that we're not in the middle of a freeze here in sunny California, but it does get cold people. At least cold for a transplanted Arizonian!

I found a great recipe and a great Chef. And you know why this Chef is so great? Because not only does he create these recipes and write them down, but darned if he doesn't do a video too!

Chef John is an online teaching Chef on the award winning food blog Food Wishes. I love this blog! He has so many recipes and tips and ideas and you know what else? He is damned entertaining. Such a creative, droll, sarcastic sense of humor! Just love him!

The recipe that I tried and loved is Chef John's White Bean and Chicken Breast Chili. This is a photo of his version. Doesn't that look great? Plus I really love the white bowl, that bowl just screams "Soup's on!"

Photo Credit - Food Wishes
This soup called for quite a few ingredients I didn't have on hand, so I had to stop by the store. Is it just me or do you have the experience that you can stop by the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread and you end up at the register with a full shopping cart of $200 in groceries? Every single time!

Here's my version. I made it a bit more soupy as I wanted a soup, not a chili. Verdict? Loved it! So rich and spicy.

Some of the ingredients that Chef John had me get were things I had never tried before, but then again I had never tried making a soup before either. I had to get powdered Ancho Chili and powdered Chipotle Powder and Corn Meal. I had also always wanted to try Cannellini Beans so as long as his recipe called for white beans I bought them, they were good, very meaty.

My peeps are not very fond of onions, but I decided it was time they grew up and ate like real adults and not like five year old kids that can't abide onions, so I did just like Chef John instructs in his video and started out by caramelizing the onions. My peeps loved it! You can taste the onion with all the other ingredients but the onion is almost invisible, just a translucent little gem in there, like you can see in the picture above.

Here's Chef John's video, watch it if you have a chance he's so funny!

***Chef John's Ingredients, watch his video above for instructions***

Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 or 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1 1/4 lbs
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp flour
about 3 cups chicken broth or stock, divided
1 tsp fine cornmeal
2 cans (15oz) white beans
cayenne to taste
1/4 tsp sugar or to taste
1/3 cup chopped green onions
sour cream and cilantro to garnish

I used the toppings he recommended, cilantro, sour cream, chopped green onions and I added chopped jalapenos. I am loving making soup! More soups to come!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Childhood Talent

When I was a little girl I had an amazing talent that astounded all the relatives that would hear me.

It was such an amazing talent that many times they offered me money to perform, much to the dismay of my parents who didn't feel my talent warranted all this fame.

More than likely my parents were scared to be blamed for my ability to perform this talent so well at such a young age. Where did I learn this talent from? Was it from my dad? My Mom?

We lived out in the country on the ranch my dad worked at. I was the oldest child and therefore had no older sibling to help me cultivate this talent.

I’m sure by now you are wondering what this amazing talent of mine was? Do I still have this talent? Do I still perform for relatives? Do I still perform for money? Ok, that question looks as bad in writing as it sounded in my head!

My amazing talent??? Was it singing? Yodeling? Playing an instrument?

Nope, Nope and Nope! It was my ability to curse in Spanish with a smattering of curse words in English thrown in just for fun.

Family and friends were stunned and mesmerized by how I was able to curse in fluent Spanish. I don’t know where I learned these words, but they were doozy's!

And not only did I know these words in Spanish but I had this knack of stringing them all together in one fluid sentence, without hesitation, without tripping over the words. Boy howdy did I impress my relatives! Is it any wonder they offered me money? And this was in the days of penny candy when with 50 cents I could buy 50 pieces of candy!!! And I did love my candy in those days!

You can understand now how my parents probably felt and why they were dismayed, because definitely I had to be learning these words from one of them as I wasn't even school age yet!

You've all seen that fabulous movie A Christmas Story right? I know I watch it several times each holiday season and love it!

There's a part in the movie where little Ralphie lets out with a swear word and his mother is stunned and wants to know "where did you hear that word?" Well as Ralphie said about his dad, "Now, I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master." And then they wash his mouth out with soap!

Love that movie, and I can probably guess where I learned all my swear words too, my old man!

This post was inspired by the novel J by Howard Jacobson, about a world where collective memory has vanished and the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited. As a member of the online book club From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.