Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some of the things I'm thankful for

Generally, I'm a pretty happy person. Around this time of year, I see everyone making thankfulness lists and I feel like I should also.

Number one is my wonderful husband Terry. Regular readers know how special he is, so I won't go on again. Just know he is the best thing in my life.

I am also thankful for our lifestyle. Who could ask for more? As an example, I'll post a few pictures I've taken in the last couple of weeks.

Sunset at Storrie Lake
How can you not be thankful for this kind of majesty?

There was a time when I didn't realize
that this color actually existed in nature.
Who knew?

I took this last night.
For any readers who might remember my Disney days,
Do you see a hint of Chernabog?

After the shot above,
the sky transformed into this.
I LOVE New Mexico skies
(remember to click for a larger version)

So that's just a few of the many things I'm thankful for. That said, I've had a pretty wonderful Thanksgiving day!

I woke about 8am and looked out the window to discover a rainy day, and decided to make this a relaxed Thanksgiving. I'm currently reading Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, and I'm liking it a lot. Even though it is written for young ladies (I believe the target group is about fourteen years of age) I like the way Ms. Meyer writes and find myself engaged with the characters. I think I'll have to read the whole series!

So I spent this Thanksgiving morning all snug in my bed with a good book. Is there any thing better to be thankful for?

Then I remembered the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I was a bit late and Terry was still sleeping, so I decided to surprise him with orange frosted cinnamon buns, yum. By the time we we settled in for the Parade, it was almost over. Somehow I wish I could watch it without all those commercials, still it's a fun event. Watching the crowds on the streets is my favorite part, it really seems to start the season.

Finally, about 11:30 we decided it was time to start thinking about dinner. We spent yesterday afternoon making candied pecans and fixing our turkey for today. This year, as last, we got a turkey breast, which we butterflied, then stuffed with dressing and fresh sage. Then we roll it up like a big Tootsie Roll. Then we wrap it with bacon, roll it in parchment paper, then wrap the whole thing in tin foil. See why we do this the day before?

So we put the turkey in the oven, started the stuffing (done in a casserole, the stuffing in the turkey just isn't enough). Then I started on a cranberry salsa (fresh cranberries, some orange zest, a bit of sugar, an apple, a fresh Serrano chili, a bit of lime juice a pinch of salt and a healthy dose of fresh cilantro). This was the perfect thing to snack on while we were doing the actual cooking!

Our good friend Debbie joined us and brought a whole new set of dishes to our table, including carrots cooked with ginger and chili (a new favorite) and Paula Deen's green bean casserole. She also made fresh cranberry sauce and a tasty pumpkin cobbler.

Oh and we also had sourdough rolls and mashed potatoes and gravy

I have to admit, it was a totally decadent meal, but we have leftovers that will last us for days and days. Here's a picture!

My turkey roll didn't quite hold together this year, so while it looks kind of funky in the picture, believe me, it was delicious.

After this lovely meal, we sat around and digested for a while, another of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving.

When we finally decided it was time to go out to the rig, this is what greeted our eyes!

Being a California girl, I have to admit I am still awed by the beauty of the first snow.

I do love my life, and every day of the year, I try to remember that

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

So I've started getting ready for tomorrow, what fun!

I have to admit I love cooking for Thanksgiving. But then I seem to love cooking for any event, or no event at all . . .

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a new recipe I tried today. These are a bit spicy, but that's the way we like em, so don't say you weren't warned. As usual, I picked this up somewhere on the internet, but didn't bookmark the spot. I just wanted to tell you that so you didn't think it was some fabulous recipe I made up.

Sweet and Spicy Pecans

nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1½ tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon finely ground fresh black pepper (generous)
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ cups pecan pieces

Start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Now spray a large cookie sheet with the nonstick coating. Combine the corn syrup, the sugar, the salt, the pepper and the cayenne. Stir till it's fairly smooth, then add the pecans and mix to coat them as evenly as possible. (I think almonds or walnuts would also work well, but I've only used pecans). Once the nuts are coated, put them on to the cookie sheet, doing your best to make a single layer.

Set your timer for five minutes and during that time, spread out a large piece of tin foil on a counter. After five minutes, pull the sheet out and stir the nuts to assure an even coating. There should be a nice syrup-y layer on the pan by now. Put the cookie sheet back in the oven for another seven to ten minutes. The nuts should be golden and the syrup should be bubbling around the nuts.

Now you have to act quickly. Move the nuts off the cookie sheet on to the foil and start carefully separating the nuts with two forks. The candy mixture will quickly harden, so if you don't work fast, you'll have one big lump. After the nuts are separated and cooled, move them into an air tight container where they'll be good for about three days.

These are interesting, kind of sweet/salty with just a bit of an after bite. We like them a lot, and they were quick to make!

Okay, that's the Thanksgiving recipe for this year! We'll also be having a stuffed and rolled up turkey breast, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, gingered carrots, Paula Deen's green bean casserole and a pumpkin cobbler, YUM!

Lots of leftovers so I won't be cooking for a few day at least.

Here's hoping all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for, because, as always,

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Montezuma Castle

BEWARE, there are a LOT of pictures in this entry. Now that I've warned you of that, prepare yourself, these photos are our tour of Montezuma's Castle, a beautiful old hotel nestled in the Sangre de Christo Mountains outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

We were fortunate enough to be able to visit the last time we were here in Las Vegas. That was when I took the shots posted here, but I never got around to posting them.

While sitting around looking for local events, Terry saw a notice in a small local paper that the Castle would be open this afternoon for tours. I got all excited, thinking this was my chance to get some great shots. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we found that the tour was cancelled, because they were filming at the location. Have I mentioned that they're filming a biography of Georgia O'Keeffe in this area? It will star two of my favorites, Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons. We're hoping they might be filming up at Ghost Ranch when we're there, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Anyhow, before I get into the particulars, I want to apologize. Some of the interior shots are pretty bad, but they're the best we got on the one day we were able to visit the Castle. As always, click to enlarge them, most (not all) look much better in a larger version.

Now for just a bit of history.

The original Montezuma's Castle was built in 1882 by the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroad. With numerous hot springs located in the area, it was a perfect spot for cross country travelers to visit for a respite on their journey. It was also the first building in New Mexico to have those new fangled electric lights! The Hotel was a huge success till it burnt down in 1884. Since it had been such a success, it was immediately rebuilt, but burnt down again in 1885 but rebuilt AGAIN in 1886. When it reopened, it was renamed the Phoenix as it continued to rise from the ashes.

In its final incarnation it boasted 90,000 square feet, a bowling alley and a casino. Famous guests over the years included Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and Jesse James. It was a going concern till the Hotel closed in 1903.

Since then, it's been used for many things including a stint with the YMCA, a Catholic Seminary and a Baptist college. It was then left empty for many years and suffered serious vandalism and generally fell into disrepair.

Then in the early 1980s, it came to the attention of Armand Hammer, who purchased the property to be used as a campus for the United World College. In 1997 it was placed on the list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Finally, in 2001 the school spent $12 million to restore the Castle to its former glory, with stunning results.

So now on to my photo tour of Montezuma's Castle.

As you drive up the private lane that leads to the entrance you get this view

This plaque is located at the guards shack.
You must sign in here to enter the campus.

The entrance to the Castle

One of many shots I'm including,
just because I like the way this old beauty
looks in photos.

The Lobby.
Can't you imagine walking into this in the 1880s?

I'd like to apologize again
for most of these interior shots.
I didn't have my tripod
and the flash shots looked really bad.
Even though it's not very clear,
this beautiful old fireplace is a wonder

The top of the fireplace.
This fireplace is actually made from clay, not stone.
It's a beauty.

A full shot of the fireplace and the lobby

This is the reception desk.
Amazing woodwork,
warm with the patina that only old wood can show

Terry took these next two shots
Somehow he found this lovely spiral staircase.

I missed this completely
so I'm really glad he saw it and took these shots.

There are numerous tile fireplaces in the Castle

Another fireplace

This one was my favorite.
Enlarge it and you'll see that
even the tile in the firebox is unique.

An engraving of the hotel from the 1800s

Famed Glass Master Dale Chihuly
donated these chandeliers to the College.

While I greatly admire his work
I have to admit I don't really think
they fit in this venue.

Some of the windows in the dining room

One of the enclosed sun porches.

There are wide porches circling most of the Castle

Not only do the porches afford a spectacular view,
I love these photographs.

The shapes and angles
of this beautiful old building fascinate me.

I also like the mixture of textures,
wood and brick
and the organic trees

Also the way the light shines on the polished wood
It really is this beautiful

Another shot that shows the shapes and angles
of the Hotel

Then when you just think the angles are a bit much
they throw in a round turret.

I also like the way they've incorporated the ramps
Don't they look like they are part of the original design?

Another turret

The Castle seems to fit so well into her surroundings

A shot from the back of the Castle

As you explore the grounds,
you discover paved pathways
wandering in the forest

A parting shot

We took this shot of the Castle
from higher up in the Sangre de Christos.
It's the white building in the center,
I felt it would give you
a better perspective on the location.

If you're ever in the area and learn that the Castle is open for tours I recommend you go and see it for yourself.

It's quite remarkable, a tribute to a time past and now being used to help improve our future,

Friday, November 21, 2008

the Weavers and the Brides of Christ

Have I mentioned lately how lovely New Mexico is?

I recently went into Santa Fe for a Film Festival meeting. It's a little over an hours drive and the day was truly stupendous. The bright turquoise skies are so clear it seems you can see forever. Between Las Vegas and Santa Fe, the landscape changes about twenty times, making for an ever changing vista that always takes my breath away.

You might say I am besotted with New Mexico.

For the drive, I brought my ipod and looked through my playlists, trying to decide what would be perfect for this wonderful day.

I decided on the Weavers, a folk group from the 1940s through the 1960s. I haven't listened to them in a long time and once again, I was transformed.

Do you know who the Weavers are and have you ever heard them?

A cutting edge folk group, they started in the late 1940s. Comprised of
Ronnie Gilbert, Pete Seeger, Fred Hellerman and Lee Hays, they were true pioneers. Featuring tight harmonies anchored by the amazing voice of Ronnie Gilbert, I always forget the effect their music has on me.

If you've never heard their music, I suggest the Weavers at Carnegie Hall or any of their Reunion albums.

While everyone knows who Pete Seeger is (and rightly so) it is Ronnie Gilbert who always amazes me. She has one of those loud, clear voices that possesses such clarity while conveying so much passion! I really feel her voice is the glue of this group. She's had an amazing life as a performer and an activist, still occasionally performing in her 80s. Quite the woman.

Now, I'll change topics and tell you about a fascinating series I just watched on DVD. Called the Brides of Christ, it's a warm, thoughtful, provocative story about a group of nuns in a convent immediately prior to and after Vatican II. Sounds pretty dry, but this is a wonderful series, quality acting, full characterizations all set during a time of religious, political and social upheaval. It stars Brenda Fricker, Sandy Gore Josephine Byrnes and Lisa Hensley. Also in the cast are a pair of young performers named Naomi Watts and Russell Crowe.

I realize I'm not doing a great job of describing this production, but believe me, if you want fine drama with a heart and a conscience, give this one a look. I think you'll like it.

Just so you know, we are fine and

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Las Vegas

I've had the following pictures since we were in Las Vegas months ago, but never got around to posting them. That said, I figured now would be a good time to put them up here,

Most were taken when we took a day trip up to the Mora Valley, an area a bit to the east of Las Vegas. The area consists of lush green valleys bordered by rolling hills rising to majestic peaks, my favorite kind of landscape.

As we were driving along, I took pictures through the window, so some of these are less than sharp, but I loved the shots, so here they are.

One of the many deserted cabins we see in New Mexico.

Open landscape.
Remember to click on any photo for a larger version.

As we drove higher into the mountains,
the landscape changed.
These little purple flowers were everywhere.

After taking off on a national forest road,
we came onto this area,
which has a ton of open campsites.

Here's another campsite.
This is drycamping with no facilities,
but since we are self contained,
this would be ideal for us.
We're filing this location away for warmer weather.

One more shot,
you can see the fire ring in the foreground.

We took a short walk into the woods
and found this little creek.

The temperature was a mild 75 degrees.
Birds and butterflies were everywhere.

When I took this picture,
I thought I was only taking one butterfly.
It wasn't until I looked at it on the computer
that I saw the second one.

One more shot of flowers under the trees

And of course there were bunches of squirrels
(or chipmunks or something . . .)

A bit further up the road,
the landscape changed once again.

A close up of these cliffs.
The light doesn't show as well in the photo,
but they were stunning.

As we headed for home, this shot caught my eye.
We had to do a quick U-Turn to get this shot,
can you see what got our attention?

In case you couldn't make it out,
here's a closeup.

Just a few more shots
of the amazing new Mexico sky.

I think I've posted this photo before,
but it belongs in this sequence,
The sunflowers were everywhere.
Be sure to blow this one up,
it looks best at a higher resolution.

As always