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. 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Arroz Con Leche - Mexican Rice Pudding

I am Posting this recipe simply because I need to have this recipe in my life. My children need to have this recipe in their lives, my nieces and nephews need this recipe in their lives...for this is our childhood. A dish my mom would make when we were sick, sad, cold or just because she wanted to show us how much she loved us. Today mom is sick with the flu. Nothing sounds good to her...nothing! Well she's not starving on my watch! I set to making some Arroz con Leche (Rice with Milk) for her and I need to post it so I always have this recipe.

Mom is sitting over there in her chair at the kitchen table telling me step by step how to make this. First, fill the pot with water. This pot probably holds about 8 to 10 cups of water. Place it on the stove and wait for it to boil. *COMPLETE RECIPE BELOW*

Once it is boiling, add 1 1/2 cups of white rice. Mom uses Mahatma rice, but any rice you use is ok, but don't use the instant Uncle Ben rice or anything like that.

Then you add one can of Carnation Evaporated Milk...very important...please SHAKE THE CAN! Mom made it abundantly clear that all the good stuff has settled to the bottom, (by good stuff she probably means carbs!) so SHAKE YOUR CAN MAN!

Now add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, you can add more later to taste but I found that 1 teaspoon was more than enough, and I love cinnamon!

Add 1 cup of sugar, again you can add more to taste later but C'MON!!! One whole cup of sugar? Yikes! You know this stuff is gonna be good!

Then you give it a gentle stir because you didn't use a big enough pot and you don't want to make a big mess! You stir making sure you get all that cinnamon dissolved in there. Is this a beautiful picture? Minus that alien looking thumb with the thumbnail stained from peeling pomegranates!

Once it comes to a boil, and watch it carefully as it will over-boil in a second, turn down the heat and continue stirring every once in a while just to make sure that you get everything mixed in well. I would say it took about 20 to 30 minutes for it to be cooked to mom's satisfaction! See...needed bigger pot.

Check this out! Not quite done yet, but getting there. You can't imagine how wonderful and homey my house smells right now! See those little flecks of cinnamon? So pretty. You can taste it at this point and adjust the sweetness by adding more sugar and/or cinnamon. Also take a bite of the rice to see if the rice is soft enough for you. Mine wasn't...yet!

If it's not quite done, just keep stirring, just keep stirring and then you can even wonder in amazement about people from my mom's generation. That generation that let nothing go to waste. See what I found in one of my kitchen drawers? Do you know what this is? This is all the twisty-ties from bags of bread, bagels, tortillas. My mom has saved them and tied them together so she has them available to tie up a bag of rice or whatever. She's amazing! That was a wonderful, caring, thrifty generation!

Reminds me of a colorful Grasshopper!
So still stirring every once in a while, just bubbling gently. I'm making sure not to let it over flow, look at all that beautiful scented steam rising from the pot! Mmmmmmm, can't wait! Just so you know, I didn't eat any of this. There are two million carbs in this! I did taste a spoonful and felt my waist expand an inch! *sigh*

It's 57 degrees outside, and I know the sun is shining in through my kitchen window, but it's still cold to us Arizona folk transplanted here in sunny Southern California so this warm bowl of loveliness just warms the cockles of our heart and the rest of our body too!

My Kitchen with the sun shining through the window
And Voila! The finished product. So creamy and sweet with that lovely cinnamon taste. It just makes everything feel right. Mom ate about a cup of this, which is fabulous for her! So make this for someone you love on a cold, dreary day, or on a cold, sunny day, or any day, you will be glad you did!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Journey...Not the Destination - Part Deux

Ok, so for all my faithful readers....all two of you, I present to you Part Two of the most recent adventure my sister and I had. Part one is HERE.

When last we met, I posted a picture and asked you to guess where I was. This is the picture.

Pretty little place isn't it? Lots of pine trees obviously.

Sextant was the only one to play along with my little game and hazard some guesses. His first guess was Yosemite and his next guess was Sequoia National Forest.

Thanks for playing Sextant, and even though you did not guess exactly the place you were close and you win a ribbon just for participating! Here you go!

You really were close and those pine trees were a bit of a give away, but it could be almost anywhere since we headed  North.

But what city/place is this where we were? It was the beautiful city of South Lake Tahoe! It was my first time ever being there. Lisa has gone a couple of times before but she's never really had a chance to see much of it.

As I mentioned, we took the scenic route and once we got closer instead of going into Sacramento, we took the road less traveled. Highway US-50 East. This highway was one that went up, up, up into the mountains. We reached an elevation of 6237 feet above sea level! Now remember, we're Arizona folk, used to seeing miles and miles of desert flat land...this was a whole new experience for me!

Here's some of the shots my co-pilot, my sister Lisa took.

We arrived at our destination and we were already late for a meet and greet that had been scheduled, so we checked into the hotel, dropped our luggage off in the hotel room, quickly freshened up and headed out to meet the others for dinner. We met up with them at a nice little Mexican restaurant called Azul which was about two blocks from the hotel. Azul in Spanish means Blue. Because Lisa and I had eaten such a great lunch in Turlock we decided to keep it light for dinner.

Lisa had a salad which she loved! It was huge too! I can't for the life of me remember what all was in her salad but you can look at the picture and hazard guesses, maybe you can win a ribbon for participation as well! The yellow looks like it could be pineapple, but I believe it was mango.

I chose a Coconut Pork Taco, which was ok, the tortilla was cold and I tasted nothing of coconut in the whole thing. I also ordered a cucumber salad consisting of cucumbers, red onion and jicama in a sweet and spicy dressing, this was very good.

After dinner we walked back slowly to the hotel, stuffed and happy enjoying the cool air. By the time we got there we were all huffing and puffing. Everyone blamed the thin air of the higher elevation, but I think it was really all that food, our age and lack of exercise!

It had been a long day, but it was still only our first day, more adventures awaited the next day, so stay tuned for part three, more beautiful pictures and more food as well!