I am a sucker for the holidays (aside from tacky decorations and contemporary holiday songs - those are free to disappear from existence). This is the time of year when I hang out with Bing and Fred at Holiday Inn and dance around the house with Andy Williams. On that note, does anyone know of a good version of 'Carol of the Bells'? I am horrified by what Mannheim Steamroller did to it, and I need the real deal. Decor is minimal around here, and that suits me just fine. I have a miniature fake tree on the table that was once decorated with various treats and given to the family dog. Now it's just a wonky tree. But it works. A strand of white lights hang in my front window, and that's festive enough. The only thing that was missing around here, in my humble opinion, was snow.... but now that's here, too!
Alright, alright, I'm cheating. This photo was taken in the San Pedro Mountains in New Mexico 2 years ago. The Beastie Wild Things have trampled all of the snow in our backyard, and now it is less than photogenic. The snow is really there - I promise.
In early October, Justin and I visited Jonamac Orchards with some friends to pick tasty apples.
We had an awesome time. I was quite happy to hang out in the barn yard and pet the goats after we collected our half peck of apples. It didn't seem like a ton of apples at the time, but back at the house, I wondered what I should do with our stash.
I soon decided to make a pie.
Not a traditional pie.
I made a raspberry apple pie-like thing. The little gray beastie supervised while I mixed up all the good stuff in the kitchen.
*Unknown, but brilliant. These are the first lines of a poem from a cherished story book I had as a kid. The book went missing, and I wish I could get my hands on it again.... I can't remember the rest of the verses.
Back in July, Justin and I decided to visit our dear friends Ingrid and William in San Diego. We had a fantastic time exploring the coast, visiting the zoo, touring the Midway, sampling the local brews, and watching goofy stuff on You Tube. All four of us enjoy food.... a lot..... so, aside from dining at some awesome restaurants, we decided to have a pizza party.
The idea was simple: we each made a crust, and had free range of all other ingredients in the house (within reason.... no one wants to spoil a good pizza, right?). We came up with a lovely array of pizzas (and some serious leftovers). I also think that the pizzas say something about our personalities.
The Leah Pizza: For my topping, I chose mushrooms, red peppers, marinara sauce, garlic, and I used only Parmesan cheese (which was a happy accident). I spent less time thinking about the toppings and far more time rolling out the crust to ensure that it was as close to circular as possible, because I generally spend way too much time perfecting pointless details. In the end though, it was tasty. And aesthetically pleasing.
The Ingrid Pizza: Ingrid has a vibrant personality and knows her way around a kitchen. It's no surprise that she added a colorful splash of arugula to her pizza. It was awesome. This was definitely my favorite pie of the night. I'm also a sucker for anything with the color green, and I love my veggies.
The Justin Pizza: Justin, unlike me, is good at tossing aside the silly details (like perfecting the shape of the crust) and just loads on the good stuff, like pepperoni, jalapenos, and cheese. Lots of cheese. He wins the award for the goofiest-looking pizza, but it was also the most robust. This pizza was intimidating.
The William Pizza: William is the artist. He cleverly rolled out a rectangular-shaped crust, and then ever-so-carefully laced various meat and vegetable toppings across an even veneer of golden cheese. Every layer spoke for itself. The last pizza was truly not least; it was, indeed, a masterpiece.
We sampled everyone's pizza, and decided that they were all good. YUM! We might have had to sample each of them twice... or more.... and then, bellies full, we rolled into our beds for the night. ZZZZZZ. Now that is how you spend a good vacation!
There are so many things that I will miss about New Mexico. Perhaps not the endless road construction, bad drivers, and Albuquerque sprawl.... but the good stuff. Lots of good stuff.
Cottonwood trees. Roadrunners. The Range Cafe. Vast open spaces. High desert trees, flowers, and cacti. Mountains. Big blue skies. Art. Culture. The Shidoni Foundry. Chile. Adobe. Dry air. The Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Old lava flows. Luminarias. Proximity to other amazing sights in the southwest. Carlsbad Caverns. Madrid. Free spirits. A small airport. Chai from Winnings Coffee House. A city with a big heart. Volcanoes. Turquoise. The bellydance community. The Rio Grande. White Sands. The scent of Piñon. Local bands. Local brews. Living in a place that rhymes with "quirky".
Last but not least, I am moving away from some dear friends. The kind of friends with whom you can talk or not talk, laugh or not laugh, do stuff or not do stuff... the wonderfully comfy kind of friends.
I remind myself that this is not "the final goodbye", it's more like "until next time" or "see you later". I could not stay away forever. Part of me will always live here, or maybe New Mexico will live in me. Either way, I will be back to see the people and places that have become such an important part of my life.
It has been a productive weekend so far. Yesterday, I made a... um.... skirt! More on that adventure later. I made progress on my embroidery project. And now I am running experiments in the lab.
Yep, that's right. It's a fine balance between art and science around here. The art is more fun, but the science is interesting, and moves me towards a career (it also pays my rent, however dinky the paycheck may be).
Research is a frustrating experiment. Eureka moments are far and few. There are many, many "back to the drawing board" situations, akin to seam-ripping and reapplying gesso to a painting that just isn't working. Sometimes, though, things work out. And then your advisor is happy. And then you (try to) publish a paper. And then you're one step closer to finishing a PhD.
It's nice to have projects to come home to when life at school is frustrating. I have plenty of "oh, $&#@!!" moments at the sewing machine and easel alike, but it keeps me happy and sane.
I recently bought a magazine with recipes that are made entirely in one skillet. Since washing dishes is not my idea of a good time, this sounded like a fantastic plan. Additionally, my brother bought me a fancy new skillet for Christmas last year. Why not put it to good use?
My first meal-in-a-skillet attempt was chicken Vesuvio. According to the magazine, this dish is a big deal back home in Chicago... but honestly, I had never heard of it. The recipe looked tasty enough, though.
There's nothing particularly unique about the recipe, but it was yummy and satisfying. I give it 4/5 stars. I will give myself a star, too, because the picture of my food looks just as good as the picture of the food in the magazine. YES.
My hair is thick, curly, and temperamental. I have freckles, though they have faded a little over the years. My eyes are light brown with gold and green flecks, just like my dad's. My nose turns up, just like my mom's.
There are many features to capture in a portrait, but the character remains undefined. I think that's a good thing. I enjoy the freedom to choose what I like and don't like, and the option to completely change my mind the next day. No mold required. Keep 'em guessing, and be happy.
When I was seven or eight, my mom taught me a couple embroidery stitches. I worked on a pillowcase with an iron-on Berenstain Bears pattern. Sister Bear was watering a flower in the rain or something like that. I'm not sure if I ever finished it. (Hey Mom, did I finish it? Do you still have it?) Anyway, that was the last of my needlework - until this year. I just needed a 20+ year hiatus to get back into it!
My awesome friends Beth and Andy have this awesome little kid, and his first birthday was approaching. I was antsy to start some kind of project, and I decided to give embroidery another try. With a handy little book of stitches and motifs by Aimee Ray, I came up with a design.
Once I completed the drawing and transferred it, this piece only took an afternoon to complete. I was really happy with it. Hooray for rocket ships!
French knots proved tricky at first, but I got the hang of it. Ursa Major and Ursa Minor are recognizeable, I think!
I threw in a few stars with different stitch styles, but tried to keep it simple.
This is a basic piece, but I am so happy that I found something that held my interest for more than 5 minutes. I don't often finish projects these days. Since I gifted this, I started a new embroidery project which I have been working on steadily. YAY! Go craft something.
I am not a particularly talented seamstress, but I can hem a pair of pants and replace a button. Recently, though, I decided to step it up a notch. I spied a (super-cheap) sundress at a local thrift store a while back, and decided that I would try to modify it. The straps were spindly and falling off, there were pockets (I don't like dresses with pockets!!), and although I thought the colors were nice, there was a band of brown and black at the base of the skirt (below the knee) that just didn't work for me. For a couple bucks, I thought it looked like a good project.
I cut off the bottom 8 inches of the skirt, which included a nice band of orange with which I made some wide straps. I stitched the pocket openings and removed the extra fabric, hemmed the bottom, and - voila! I'm so happy with the outcome, I'm dancing in our oil-stained driveway.
This required very little talent and creativity, but it was fun to reinvent something, however small. I'm certainly up for trying this again, and someday setting the tension on my sewing machine correctly in less than three tries.
I just bought a fancy new muffin pan for myself, so I decided to modify my favorite banana bread recipe
and make banana muffins. I made one tiny change, though: I substituted
1/2 C flour with 1/4 C oat bran and 1/4 C flaxseed meal. I thought it
would help with texture and bump up the nutrition factor. After 20
minutes in the oven, I had some baked banana goodness!
I admit, I was neutral at first. But then, after living in Albuquerque for a few years, the adobe house really grew on me. It's just.... so.... warm. It's inviting. It has personality and charm without being overbearing. When a petite adobe house is nestled in the high desert mountains, it makes for a wonderful home home.
(This is not my house.... but I wouldn't mind living in it... minus the lounging flamingos.)
When paired with the scent of piñon pine, it's perfect. Ahhh.
When it comes to the winged kind, our backyard is mostly populated with morning doves and pigeons. Every now and then, we see a finch. This weekend, Justin and I decided to encourage the finches to spend more time in our yard.
They were wary at first, but the house finches began to test the waters. If you build it, he will come....
...and then they were swooping in from everywhere! Yay!
Soon enough, they were acting like they owned the place.
Happy Springtime! It's time to do some work in my mini-garden, and also try to grow some native grasses in the backyard without the dogs destroying the work. First things first: Go to Plants of the Southwest and drool over all of the little lovelies....
All you have to do is follow the yellow (brown) brick (mulch) road....
Look! It's a Redbud Tree!
Look! It's me in a fort! (Forts are AWESOME.)
So many things to choose from... all kinds of trees and shrubs suited to desert growing conditions...
...and grasses and herbs and flowers....
The staff is knowledgeable and very nice. They don't laugh at me when I ask goofy questions because I am a garden novice.
And look! A pretty plant just for me. :)
Justin and I planted our herbs and shrubs this weekend. I will keep you posted!