Thursday, April 24, 2008

Where Have I Been?

Doing all kinds of things, taking pictures, attending Pioneer Days, going to Farmer's Markets, watching birds, hanging out.

Wow, I've been BUSY!

And just as I was getting ready to post about all this, once again, I got sick!

What is wrong with me?? Do I have the Plague?? Valley Fever?? The REALLY Big Disease???

I just don't know, but it always starts with a sore spot in my throat, followed by a runny nose and a dry hacking couch, and boy am I tired of it!

Anyhow, I'll be back as soon as I'm among the living again.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ollie Johnston

An era has now officially closed.

Once upon a time, we were deeply involved in the world of Disney. We collected, we attended conventions, we wrote a monthly newsletter for Disney collectors, I wrote articles for magazines and we made many, many good friends in the community.

Now a bit of history is in order here.

Back in the very early days, I'm talking the 1930s here, there were people who worked with Walt Disney who spent their time creating a legacy and fulfilling a vision. They worked hard and produced magic and made history in a field that, prior to their efforts had not existed. They flourished for years and left us with works of art that entertained and affected millions of people.

They changed the world.

Among these many talented people were a group known as Walt's Nine Old Men, a play on words that referred to FDRs Supreme Court.

Two of these Nine Old Men, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston always shared a special bond.

They met in college and formed a lifelong friendship that is like a fairy tale. The worked together, met their wives around the same time, bought property and built homes next door to each other and maintained a close working relationship and a friendship that was a model for us all for some 70 years.

After retirement, they begin a whole new career, authoring books that became known as the official bibles of animation. Starting with Disney Animation, the Illusion of Life, they explained, in words and pictures how it all worked, written so that we can all see a bit deeper into the process that created so much magic for all of us.

Both Frank and Ollie were honored around the world for their unique place in the art world. They were also commemorated in a fine film called simply Frank and Ollie, directed and written by Frank's son Ted. If you are at all interested in this unique pair, I really suggest you get your hands on this film for a glimpse into their story.

But for me, they were much more than this.

We had the honor of meeting them in the late 1980s and became friends. They enriched our lives in so many ways and I always felt special when I got the chance to spend any time with them. These two men, along with their lovely wives were models of how we all would like to be. Talented, funny, creative, kind, warm and wonderful, they were different than most of the people we met. Not only were they supremely talented but, to a fault, these were Ladies and Gentlemen whose likes we aren't going to see again.

And why am I writing this now? Well, my heart was really sad when Frank passed away in December of 2004, and just today I learned that Ollie Johnston, the very last of Walt's Nine Old Men, left us today.

And the world is a poorer place for it.

So the next time you pop a Disney film in a DVD player, remember that these characters were created by real people. When you see Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, you're looking at Frank and Ollie. And when you see Bambi, or the Dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, or Lady and the Tramp or any one of a dozen or more classic films, you're looking at Frank and Ollie.

And now they are both gone from us.

And tonight I am really sad.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Is Anybody Here?

While this blog was started for my own enjoyment, I assume some folks are reading it, but maybe not?

Just wondering . . .

Anyhow, today is turning in to a pretty exciting one.

While we were Bosque del Apache last winter, I got a bug to try painting with watercolors. Now mind you, I've never painted anything more intricate than my bedroom wall, and have no drawing talent whatsoever. But never being one to let inexperience stop me, I dug right in.

And promptly got stuck.

And that was when, once again Serendipity struck.

See, there were these folks who pulled in to the RV park and we got to talking (as often happens) and it turns out that the Mrs. of the rig was a watercolor artist! And not just a watercolor artist, but the President of the Southern Chapter of the New Mexico Watercolor Society which is based in Las Cruces!

She spoke with me at length, and gave me lots of tips, and I played with the watercolors a bit but discovered I really needed more help. Consequently I've been carrying my little kit with me but doing nothing at all with watercolors.

When we pulled into Leasburg, I decided to send her an email and see if we might get together. Well, she has extended a gracious invitation to dinner at her home, and it also turns out that the Southern Chapter of the New Mexico Watercolor Society is having a meeting today with a guest artist and we can attend!

What fun!

The artist is David Rothermel, whose work I love so this will be a most entertaining afternoon and evening, Wahoo!

More on this later, but if this isn't nice I don't know what is!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Leasburg and Fort Selden, Wow!

This is my one hundredth post, just thought I'd mention that.

Do I ever love being out on the road. In the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut, who left us one year ago today . . .

"We are here on Earth to fart around, don't let anybody tell you different"

Taking those wise words to heart, we are having the time of our lives.

Just yesterday a lovely couple walked by and asked if the spot next to us was open, and we said yep, so they pulled in and set up camp.

We chatted for a bit yesterday then met them again this morning and spent most of the day talking and getting to know each other.

Now we have new friends, is that wonderful or what? I just don't know another lifestyle that has so many opportunities to meet so many wonderful folks.

I woke up this morning to he sound of birds tweeting chirping and doing their version of the morning bark (for you Disney folks). When I looked out the window, we had about a dozen Gamble Quail, a like number of house finches (with their beautiful red heads), Mourning Doves, a group of Silver Cardinals, several Thrashers and a host of Little Brown Birds.

Whenever we park, we always set out some black oil sunflower seeds and they always attract the birds, but this place is a real treasure trove!

I thought I'd share a couple of pictures that I took from my bed this morning. I just love the giant windows in our rig, and particularly in the bedroom. Every morning is a visual feast.

This is one of the many Finches.

And here's a Silver Cardinal. Remember you can always click on a photo for a larger version of any picture. They really do look much better when viewed in a larger size.

After watching the birds for an hour or so, we decided to go over to Fort Selden. The fort is right next to Leasburg Dam, and was the center of life here in this area back in the 1880s.

In most of the State Parks and Monuments here in New Mexico, they erect these structures as places for people to rest. I know there's a name for them but I don't know what it is! I always take pictures of them, I just think the structures are so aesthetically perfect for this land.

From the inside, each one is different and I'm always fascinated by the patterns of the native wood against the sky.

I took a bunch of pictures and finally couldn't decide which of these two liked the best, so I'm including both of them.

This shot is kind of sparse, but I found it so easy to imagine troops and horses and the whole parade of frontier life in this open area.

Everyone at the Fort is getting ready for Frontier Days next weekend. There will be all kinds of events and demonstrations. We're looking forward to the fun.

This is a group of re-enactors who are practicing for the big event.

And now the REAL reason I'm so excited. This is Dave, a Ranger here who gives demonstrations of frontier cooking. We heard that he offers classes and we are hoping to get a group together to learn to prepare a cast iron meal cooked over an open fire.

I have spoken to him on the phone and he's a big fan of home made bread, so we spent a good amount of time discussing the ins and outs of bread making.

This is the horno at Fort Selden. It's an adobe oven often used in the olden days. The origin of the horno is Moroccan. This one was built by Dave and is used frequently for his demonstrations.

He also goes around the state and teaches folks how to build their own horno.

Here's a shot of Dave's cooking area. The big pot in the foreground was originally a washing tub, but would also have been used for rendering lard, making soap and other large tasks.

Here's a shot of Dave's chuck wagon. Guess what? It was originally the chuck wagon on Oliver Lees' ranch!

And here's the coffee grinder, mounted handily right on the side of the wagon.

As we were leaving Fort Selden, I took a couple of shots in their garden.

Isn't this a lovely collection of desert plants?

And here's a teaser of things to come, these beautiful cactus are just starting to bloom.

I can hardly wait!

I'll close with one more word from Mr. Vonnegut (who I adored, can you tell?)

"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

Well, if this isn't nice, I certainly don't know what is!

Life is very good.

What Were We Thinking???

We've moved to a spot I was sure I wouldn't like and have been telling everyone is a place we would never camp. But was I ever wrong.

Let me back up a bit.

Some time last year, we were staying at Oliver Lee State Park over in Alamogordo and decided to take a trip to check out Leasburg Dam State Park. Leasburg is located about fifteen miles outside of Las Cruces, the second largest city in New Mexico. Our thought was that this might be a good place to sit a spell.

But when we arrived, I don't know what we saw, but it wasn't good. We both looked around and went YUCK! we don't ever want to stay here, so we just wrote it off. For the last year or so have not even considered it as a possibility.

Then a few weeks ago, we were talking about where to land after Rockhound, and we thought that we would come to Leasburg for just a day or two, since we KNEW we wouldn't want to stay here for an extended time.

But, what can I say? We pulled in yesterday and went, Hey, this doesn't look too bad!

We had to dry camp one night, but woke up this morning to a glorious sight, cactus in bloom, a lovely desert scent, birds, bunnies, it was just so swell we decided we would stick around for a while. We even had our choice of a couple of different sites and found one we like a lot.

Here's a shot of our campsite. Pretty wonderful, don't you think?

Remember you can click on any of these photos for a larger version. Most of them look a lot better when viewed in a larger size.

At dusk, we took a stroll around the campground and I took some shots for the blog.

Here's a shot of one of the many yuccas that are blooming here at Leasburg. The light wasn't great so bear with me on this one.

Here's an ocotillo that's trying its best to bloom. I thought I might take a series of shots so you can see its progress. The ocotillo is an amazing desert plant, as so many are. With just a bit of rain, it will sprout numerous small green leaves, but when the water gets scarce, it will drop them all to conserve mositure. The flowers are an intense desert orange and quite lovely.

Hopefully this one will continue and there will soon be flowers to share with you.

Here's a shot of the sunset this evening. I believe I'm going to like it here!

I have a few other photos I've been saving for the blog, so this is as good a time to post them as any.

Most of you know that Cholula Red is named after a hot sauce and that Terry and I both love chili peppers. While in Deming, we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant named Canos. As we went to leave, I saw this guy hanging in an alcove. Well, I'll tell you, I would have bought him right then and there, but he wasn't for sale, so I had to make do with this picture.

Just before we left Rockhound, we had a bird that flew into one of our windows and stunned himself. We found him in a kind of stupor, sitting on the ground. Terry picked him up and tried to give him some water but he was just so shellshocked, he wouldn't respond.

Here's one more shot, shortly after this was taken, he came around and flew away to join the other birds. Thank Goodness he was OK!

And I just couldn't resist, here's one more shot of the desert at sunset.

Life is good.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

the Movies

I'm sure I've mentioned before how much we miss going to the movies in a theater.

Both Terry and I agree that there is just something special about seeing a film in a big dark box on a large screen, hopefully without the interference of rowdy neighbors.

Unfortunately, movie theaters are pretty few and far between in the areas of New Mexico we tend to visit. This year there were a lot of movies that were nominated for Oscars that we REALLY wanted to see but never even got close to a theater where they were playing.

But now, they've all come out on DVD and we've been having a mini marathon. I must say, I thought last year was a sterling one for film.

There Will be Blood just literally blew me away. I am always amazed to watch Daniel Day Lewis at work, I really believe he may be the best of a current generation of fine actors. While the movie is a bit slow in places, he literally shines and I feel I can recommend the movie 100%.

I also really liked No Country for Old Men, a fine piece of work from the Coen Brothers. I've loved most of their films and this one in particular.

I also thought that 3:10 to Yuma was a most entertaining endeavor. While not up to the quality of he other two, it was thoroughly enjoyable and a beautiful film to watch.

I guess it doesn't hurt that these films were shot here in the Southwest and carry a particular sensibility that seems to resonate with this part of the country.

On an entirely different note, have you seen Enchanted? I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but it really is in a category all by itself. Light and charming, Amy Adams is a revelation, hitting the perfect note of naivete and old fashioned charm, the likes of which I haven't seen on screen in years. I couldn't begin to talk about this film without mentioning James Marsden, whose portrayal of Prince Charming is dead on. If you love light and airy romance, this is the film for you!

Needless to say. we are once again feeling more in touch with ourselves, having somewhat caught up on our movie viewing.

Life is good.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bread, the Adobe Deli and the Museum in Deming

Boy have we been busy!

Well, not really, but it seems like it.

I continue to bake bread almost every day. I'm now working on a sourdough starter, and will soon be making some additions to the bread, possibly fruit or maybe garlic. I'm also trying different methods of baking. The pie pan of water in the bottom of the oven is an absolute, as is a good thirty minute preheat of the oven. These two things aside, I've been working with different shapes and sizes.

Since this dough is pretty wet, the loafs seem to spread out a bit. I've gotten great results every time as to crust, taste and texture but I've been a bit unhappy with the shape, hoping for a more rounded loaf. To that end, I decided to try baking the bread in a pan.

Now you may remember that the original No Knead Bread recipes called for you to bake the bread in a preheated cast iron pot, with a tight fitting lid. Well, I wasn't about to go that route, but I thought I might try putting the dough in some kind of a container, to help the loaf keep its shape. So I looked in my pans and found the next to the smallest of the nesting pans I use in the rig looked to be about the right size. It is a scant seven inches across, and about the size of the dough ball I get from 3 cups of flour.

And that seems to be the perfect size, because this is my result!

And here's a shot of the inside texture.

Boy do I love baking bread!

We also decided that another trip to the Adobe Deli was in order. We had heard that they had a buffet every Sunday so six of us decided we'd better give it a try, and were we ever happy we did.

If you are EVER in this area, don't miss this buffet. For once, every dish was exceptional, from the scalloped potatoes to the Cole slaw, the baked beans to the vegetable casserole (so good I had to ask for the recipe). And they have the incredible spare ribs on Sunday, Wahoo! We all decided it was so good, we went back two days later.

Unfortunately, we went for lunch with visions of their hamburgers dancing in our heads, only to be informed that they only serve deli sandwiches at lunch (they are a deli after all). We all looked at each other and decided that we would leave and come back for dinner, and so we did. Twice in one day but for only one meal), but once again it was well worth it.

Is this starting to be a habit? Looks like we may need to go to Adobe Deli Anonymous!

Yesterday we took a trip into Deming to visit the Deming Museum, officially named the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum and Custom House. Have I written about the Deming Museum before? If I have, I apologize, but this place definitely deserves mention.

I took a lot of pictures, way too many for one blog entry so today I'll just show you a few of them and I'll try to do a couple more entries about this astounding little gem. If you care to visit, you only need to remember that it can be found in the old USO Armory building right across the street from the original Custom House.

Maintained and managed completely by volunteers, this amazing place consists of collections donated by residents of the area.

And what collections these are . . .

For starters, they have what seems to be the most extensive collection of Native American pottery we've seen since we've been in the southwest. All of it has been collected (at a time that such gathering was still legal) and the collection is truly something to see. I'd also like to note that the way they display their pieces is special. You are never too far from any display, so you can always get really close and study all the artifacts to your hearts content.

For now, I'll simply post some pictures, with the caveat that these pictures just aren't as sharp as I would like. Between the glass and the fluorescent lights, I just couldn't get really clear shots. That said, I'm posting pictures to whet your appetite for your own visit. Remember that you can always click on any photo for a larger version.

This is a lovely old piece of Mimbres pottery. This lovely quail design is still used in many modern pieces.

Isn't this a lovely pot? What you can't see in the picture is that this is probably fifteen inches high, an astounding piece.

Every time I visit the Museum, I'm always amazed at the wonderful restoration employed in these pieces.

Isn't the shape of this pot beautiful? The variety on display is impressive.

I LOVE this goat motif, reminds me of my two sweet goats at home in California.

Another large pot. Isn't this beautiful, even with so many pieces missing?

And this pot is another large beauty.

And now some photos of the beautiful beads they have on display. I really like the way they display these ancient artifacts.

I would wear this every day!

And here's a collection of assorted beads. Some of these are no larger than a grain of rice. Whoever created these beads was immensely talented and industrious.

Now for some of the arrowhead collections. Again, the way they display these pieces adds such a dimension to the collections, it's hard to explain.

More arrowheads and beads.

And even more beads and arrowheads.

I'm just including a few of my favorite baskets, but they have dozens on display.

Isn't this intricate design beautiful?

For my last picture for today, I had to include these beautiful beaded boots. Every time I see this kind of bead work, my heart sings. It takes me to places that speak to me of the kind of people who created such magnificent work.

What an amazing visit. I will try to post more pictures from the Museum, since these represent less than one tenth of the collections in this great Museum.

Life is very good here in Deming.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What to do with those Dried Chilis???

How many times have you seen those big bags of dried chili in the market and passed them by without a thought, because after all, what do you do with them?

I have to admit that I've gone close to six decades of my life without giving this chili a lot of thought. To me, chili was pretty much something you bought in a can. When I would make "home made chili" I would use chili powder, but I've never been able to quite make the connection between those dried pods I see in the market and what I call chili.

Until I came to New Mexico.

While camp hosting at Manzano this last summer, our Ranger Harold taught me how to make chili, New Mexico style. There are as many different methods as there are cooks her in NM, but this was my first time, so I followed his instructions to a T.

His method involved soaking the dried chili in warm water (hot from the tap was what he used). You then let them soak for about 20 minutes, at which point they are somewhat hydrated but the skins still have a tough texture. Then you taker the chili and a bit of water and toss them in a blender till you have a paste (add liquid to keep a somewhat wet texture to the resulting paste).

Then you put the paste through a strainer, getting a somewhat thinner paste and discard what didn't make it through the strainer. The resulting liquid is then put in a pan with some flour, as much liquid as you feel necessary and some garlic powder. Simmer till combined and you have chili sauce New Mexico style.

You can use this to make enchiladas (and in New Mexico,you will always be asked flat or rolled when you order enchiladas. If you order flat, be sure to say yes to the egg on top). You can also use the sauce as a base for any variety of chili flavored dishes that you might like.

Since last summer, I've been playing with this method and I've refined it to what suits my purposes better.

I start with mild Pasilla Chilis. These have a good amount of spice and a mild heat. My favorite chili has a good spicy flavor and leaves your mouth with just a nice warm aftertaste, but never takes the top off your head or ruins your palate for other food.

I then cut the stems off the top of the chili and shake the seeds out and discard them. Then I chop the chili loosely and put it in a bowl. Now I take either water or broth (chicken, beef or vegetable, your choice) and bring it to a full rolling boil and pour it over the dried chili. Let this mixture set for twenty to thirty minutes, then strain the juice through a fairly large strainer, reserving what sits in the strainer.

Now if you're going to make something like Chili Colorado, which requires a long cooking time, just use this strained juice as your broth still reserving the remaining pulp. About thirty minutes before your dish is ready, take the resulting strained pulp and blend it with a bit of liquid and add it to your stew. By this time, you shouldn't have to strain and the resulting paste kicks the flavor up to the next level.

You can also use this method for enchiladas, a pork stew, or as a flavoring for side dishes like rice. Actually this sauce will also keep in the refrigerator for quite a while, and if you use your imagination, you'll find dozens of uses for your homemade chili sauce.

And it will be so much better than any you'll ever buy in the store.

So the next time you see a bag of that chili in the store, pick it up, put it in your cart and play around with them. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

I know I was!

Just for Fun

As you know, I spend WAY too much time online and run across all kinds of fun things. Usually, I just look at them and snicker, trying not to clutter up the blog with my silly amusements.

But this time, I truly couldn't resist.

As a teenager, I LOVED Mad Magazine, and always went to the back cover first thing for the fold-in.

So imagine how pleased I was to find an online interactive site, posted by the NY Times, of some of these old chucklers.

Click here to enjoy.

I am so easily amused, but maybe that's why I always feel my life is so good.