Monday, June 28, 2010

Three Years, 524 Posts and 30,000 Visitors

I just looked at my visitor counter (which I just moved to the top right for easier viewing) and saw that I'm approaching 30,000 visitors to my blog. Actually it's more than that, because the counter wasn't there from the beginning. Then I noticed that I'm also coming up on my blog's three-year anniversary (July 17). I've posted 525 times in those three years.

Let's celebrate! If you are the 30,000th visitor (ding-ding-ding-ding-ding), leave me a message in the comments (and your email, if I don't know how to contact you) and I will send you a copy of Red or Green: New Mexico Cuisine.

Remember to look at the counter. I won't know who wins if you don't tell me!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Daring Bakers' June Challenge - Pavlova


The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard. (Recipe HERE)

According to www.aussie-info.com, “In 1935, the chef of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia, Herbert Sachse, created the pavlova to celebrate the visit of the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.” Since that time, the Pavlova has been adopted by the Aussies as a national dessert.

Pavlovas are made up of a meringue base with pastry cream or mousse mounded on top. They can be dressed up with fruit, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or anything else the chef chooses. I made individual Pavlovas, but the typical Australian Pavlova is made in a cake pan and cut into individual servings.

“So,” you might be wondering, after looking at the photo above, “Where’s the chocolate in these chocolate Pavlovas?”

I honestly did start out following the recipe as assigned in this month's Daring Bakers’ Challenge, but my first attempt, sadly, went straight into the trash. Luckily, I had only made the meringues, so the loss wasn’t great. My chocolate flavored meringues came out as hard as hockey pucks. To bite one was to risk a broken tooth!

So, on my second try I decided to go all vanilla (which Dan and I prefer, anyway). I also adjusted the baking temperature and time for the meringues, and they baked up perfectly – a nice thin, crispy shell on the outside but still soft and "marshmallowy" on the inside.

Next was to cook up the pastry cream, which was so good I could have eaten the entire bowl all by itself. It was eggy and creamy and vanilla-y. I refrigerated the pastry cream until the next day. Then I folded in some whipped cream, which made it even more decadent, and piled dollops of the cream into the meringue shells.

I added fresh raspberries and kiwi, and poured a light apricot glaze over the fruit. To dress it up, I drizzled a raspberry sauce on the plate around the dessert and dusted it all with powdered sugar.


Our neighbors, Dave and Lorraine, happily agreed to help us consume my Pavlovas. They were a hit. Here's Dan enjoying a bite.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Overheard

We were dining at Wendy's a week or so ago. A grandpa and grandma came in with their granddaughter who was about five years old. After getting their food they sat down at a table near us. They had purchased a Kids' Meal for the little girl, and with it came a prize. "What's the prize, Grandpa?" she asked. Grandpa reached into the bag and pulled out a "Motown for Kids" CD. "It's a CD!" he said. "A CD is kind of like a record."

The little girl gave him a brief, blank stare and then said, "Well, anyway Grandpa, can we play the CD in the car when we leave?"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Grandpa Being Silly

You might remember that Clara declared Grandpa "silly" during our latest visit (and isn't that what Grandpas should be?). Last week a Father's Day card arrived from the grandkids. Inside was a picture drawn by Clara for Grandpa.


On the back of the picture Kelsey explained: "This is a picture of Grandpa (being silly) and Clara sitting on the couch. The couch is green, the floor is purple and they both have knees."

Precious!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Current Project: "Robert's First Words"

It took awhile to build momentum on this, my first book for Robert, but I'm moving full steam ahead now. Here are a few sample pages from Robert's First Words. As you can see, I chose a denim theme. My denim background digital paper came from a Scrappers Guide kit called BoysAndToys. The photos were all taken using my new light tent.




I have 14 pages completed, and would like to have 20 to 24 in the finished book. I haven't yet done the cover or the title page, but my goal is to have it completely formatted and sent off to the printer sometime in the next two weeks.

You probably can't read the little jeans rivets that are in the bottom corners, but I've attached an enlargement. I found a great Photoshop tutorial (HERE) for creating them, in case you're interested.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One Regret

Maybe it was culture of the place I lived, or the culture of the times, or the culture of my circle of friends. Whatever it was, when my children were little it was frowned upon to brag on your own children . . . or at least I thought so.

Don’t get me wrong, I remember telling my boys how proud I was of them. I remember telling them how happy they made me, how handsome they were, how smart they were, how much I loved them. But that talk stayed between them and me. I never said to someone else, “Isn’t he the cutest, smartest little fellow?!”

How sad!

These days I read a number of blogs written by young mothers. It always makes my heart soar when they write, “I have the most beautiful daughter!” or “He's the most perfect baby?” or “She’s so talented!" I regret that I felt constrained to be so modest about my absolutely wonderful children!

So, World, let me brag about my sons. Let me tell you some of the things I wanted to say back then.

Chris was the cutest little blond, curly-headed boy. He was smart, too. At two he used to pull the magnetic letters off the refrigerator door and run to me to tell me the sounds each letter made. He was so talented with his hands; building sets were his favorites. When he was about eight Dan gave him the erector set that had been his as a child. Chris played and built with that set for years. All together Chris had about eight years of music training (piano and trombone), and always surprised me at how easily he picked up musical theory. He was a people-person almost from day-one. He always had a fun-loving circle of friends around him. A person’s age didn’t matter to him. He had friends who were several years younger, and friends who were older. He even made friends with some of his teachers. Chris had the energy of a buzz saw and that energy brightened up any room he walked into. And he was a good kid.

Tim was cute as a button. He had brown eyes and pretty, thick, shiny dark hair. Dan always said that Tim had the best hair in the family. He was the most delightfully contented baby and toddler any mother could ask for. All you had to do was look at him and he would break out in a big smile. He was very affectionate and gave the best hugs and kisses. I had more than one of his teachers at school tell me that they'd take him home and keep him if they could. He was compassionate, always looking out for others. Tim looked at life from a different perspective than most people, and his unorthodox perceptions were often insightful. At an early age, Tim seemed to understand that things worth having were worth waiting for; he was patient and steady about life, not seeking immediate gratification. He chose his friends carefully, and those he chose never knew a more loyal friend than Tim. And he was a good kid.

There! I'm proud of my sons and it felt good to say so.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cirque du Soleil - Alegria

"All photo and video cameras are strictly prohibited."

That's what our tickets said, and they were serious about it, for at the door they were asking to see in our bags. So I'll have to tell you, rather than show you, about my afternoon with Tim at the Santa Ana Star Center, where we saw the Cirque du Soleil show, "Alegria."

It was really a beautiful show, and something I'll always remember. Imagine, if you will, trapeze artists performing breath-taking synchronized acts in mid-air; fire dancers; contortionists; jugglers; ballet dancers; acrobats; trampoline, bungee cord and gymnastic-ring artists; and clowns - all of them dressed in elaborate costumes and wearing fascinating painted faces.

One of the most incredible acts was the one where acrobats were thrust high into the air from a flexible board (at most 6" wide), where they performed in-air acrobatic feats and then landed, amazingly, time and again, back on that narrow springy board, which was perched on the shoulders of two fellow-performers. That act and others made me think about the high level of trust that these risk-taking performers, in the spotlight, must have in their partners who, though less flamboyant, have critical roles.

The lighting, the colors, the action that was happening all over the stage (and sometimes off the stage) was almost hypnotizing. The music was haunting, and the story line was, at times hilarious, and at other times thought-provoking.

I want to thank Tim for sharing his extra ticket with me. And thanks to his supervisor, as well, who gave Tim the tickets. We saw the show from one of HP's suites, which made it even more special!

You can view a trailer of the show HERE.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Growing Larger


This is a picture of my backyard cactus. When we first moved into our house, there was a small, wild cactus growing in the middle of our yard. I definitely didn't want it there, so Dan dug it up and literally plopped it into this pot, which already had some potting soil in it. I've never watered or cared for this cactus, but it keeps growing, and every summer it blooms. I took this picture the day we got back from our Texas trip.

But the REAL reason I'm posting this is to test out my new blog format, which has also grown! Now I can post larger photos when I want to. Please let me know if the new size creates any viewing problems for you.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mama's Proud

Tim joined us today, as he often does, for our Saturday morning breakfast. We went to The Range in Bernalillo, a favorite of all three of us.

Knowing that this week was Tim's first week as a "regular" employee, having just completed more than four months of training for his new position at HP, I inquired about how his week had gone. I was happy and proud to hear that it went great. Just recently his immediate supervisor was promoted, leaving Tim with a brand new supervisor, who is just getting to know his staff. One day this week the new supervisor came to Tim and presented him with two tickets to Cirque du Soleil, which is coming to Albuquerque later this month! He told him that when the tickets came to him, he contacted the former supervisor to ask which employee on the team was most deserving of a reward. "Without a doubt, that would be Tim," he was told.

It was nice to get the tickets, of course, but even nicer to be singled out for his good work.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Time to Gather and a Time to Sow . . . to Ebay

Flour runs in my veins; I got that from my Dad. From my Mom I got my love of crossword puzzles . . . and my dislike of cottage cheese. But I don't know where I aquired my "collector's gene."

I can remember, even as a child, that having two of anything was the green light, in my mind, to start another collection. I had a rocks and minerals collection and a penny collection. I collected the little round cardboard disks out of the center of milk bottle caps. I collected marbles, stamps, post cards and, let's not forget, little troll dolls! This urge to gather and collect didn't stop when I reached adulthood . . . bunnies, antique bottles filled with sand from around the world, Margaret Furlong Christmas ornaments, Harmony Kingdom trinket boxes and milk bottles . . . to name some of the collections that are still clogging my closets.

Yes, clogging my closets! My milk bottles do stand proudly atop my kitchen cabinets, but none of the other collectables have seen the light of day since we moved to Albuquerque, over seven years ago. It's TIME! It's time to let go.

This week I've been pulling milk bottles down and washing them in warm sudsy water, getting them ready to be adopted out to new, loving homes. I'm going to learn the "ebay way"! And when the milk bottles are gone, I'll move on to the first of those unopened cartons in the closet, and then another, until I have reclaimed my storage space.

Wish me luck.

Oh, and let me know if you are in need of a little hotel-sized bottle of shampoo, conditioner or lotion . . . I happen to have a big collection of them.