Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Santa Mojo

Santa Mojo wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year!

(Please DON'T sit in his lap!!!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fudge: It's a Family Tradition

Have you ever noticed that many of the things we feel passionate about in life often have roots in our childhood? Fudge is one of those things for me, and for my brother. We'd listen endlessly to my mother talk about the great fudge her mother, my Nana, made. Fudge even became my aunt's favorite food, though she manages to pace herself and still has a gorgeous figure. Since my mother is not a cook, she'd stop at almost any place that made fudge to see if she could recreate that experience from her own childhood.

But my siblings and I all love to cook. So every year at Christmas, my brother and I make pounds and pounds of fudge, giving most of it away. We've researched the recipes, tried dozens, and always come back to the recipe that's on the back of the Kraft Jet Puff Marshmallow (pictured). It's simple, and I've never, ever had a failure in all the years I've made this. The photo above includes the Santas I blogged about earlier in the week, and the first pieces of the creamy heaven from this morning.

And here's the recipe in case you can't find Kraft Jet Puff Marshmallow:

Fantasy Fudge

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine (or 1-1/2 sticks)
1 small can (5 oz) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
1-1/2 pkg. (12 squares) BAKER’s semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped (I ALWAYS use a 12 oz bag of Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate chips instead)
1 jar(7 oz) JET PUFFED marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped walnuts (I like Pecans)
1 tsp vanilla

Heat sugar, butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in 3 quart heavy saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil on medium heat until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in chocolate and marshmallow creme until melted; stir in vanilla and walnuts.

Spread immediately in foil-lined 9 inch square pan. Cool at room temperature at least 4 hours; cut into 1 inch squares. Store in airtight container.

Makes 3 lbs. or 40 2 square servings

Happy Birthday Dear Sparky Girl!

Here's my darling girl in her custom-made Armani sweater (shhhhh! It's really a clearance item from Target). Happy Birthday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Goodbye, Gourmet Magazine

My dear friend, Novel Woman, posted today about the demise of Gourmet Magazine. I commented that I am positively DEVASTATED over the news. I have been a devoted foodie for eons, and have at times subscribed to many different food magazines. I got tired of every one of them. Then I found Gourmet. It wasn't simply a magazine chock-full of excellent recipes, which in of itself would work for me.

What made Gourmet unique was the spectacular writing. I loved opening the magazine and reading the words of Ruth Reichl, editor-in-chief. I even liked seeing her photo, because she looked so happy to be there, like someone who enjoyed her job. Really, how many times do you read the editorial?

Gourmet always managed to tell the reader a great story. For example, in the Southern Cooking edition of January, 2008, Gourmet told us a story of one Miss Lewis, a great Southern cook. She's someone I would have loved to have met, and reminded me a bit of my Southern granny, Mamo.

Novel Woman requested that I post Miss Lewis' Featherlight Potato Roll recipe. Don't flip out when you see how long this recipe takes. You simply make up the dough in the morning, then pop it in the oven before dinner. I think that's actually much easier, because you can then tend to the other dishes in the evening.

I start making these in the morning and let them sit during the day. If I have time to chill them for the 8-12 hours, fine; but if I don't, I go ahead and let them rise without the chilling and they are still divine. I always make rolls in one of those 9x13 glass pans, setting out three rows of five rolls for a total of 15 rolls. Reason? Because that's the way my Mamo did it, and clearly, if Mamo did it that way, it must be best.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Santas Say Merry Christmas From Around the World

I used to live in Dallas, Texas, where there was a wonderful needlepoint shop in an old section of town. Not only did the shop feature gorgeous canvases, but they also had classes taught by the incredible Patsy, a charming Southern Belle, and her daughter Julia.

Each year when I get out the Santa dolls that I made in their classes, I remember how much fun we all had. If you are thinking of picking up a craft, I highly recommend taking a class, not just for the knowledge imparted, but also for the fellowship.

Santa Claus:

The American Santa:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DAM! It's My Painting!

No, I didn't paint this stunning painting, but I have decided that it belongs to me. Sort of. Let me explain.

It's entitled Ghost Orchard, by Langford Monroe, and was painted in the year 2000. I'm a big museum buff and was at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) this past Saturday. On my way to a traveling exhibit, I encountered this painting, a painting I cannot recall seeing before, even though I've visited the DAM many times. How on earth did I miss this? (Click on the painting so you can appreciate it better)

I have been watching a Teaching Company course on the Louvre. The professor, Dr. Richard Brettell, gives practical advice on how to get more out of your museum visits. One of the things he encourages people to do is to choose a painting in a museum as your own, the painting you will always come back and visit each trip to see if you notice anything new, or if you feel differently about it.

This painting is the one for me, the one I want to know well and see again and again. It evokes the land of my childhood, filled with orchards, although my orchards were filled with pecan trees. As a teenager, I used to drive out to the Rio Grande by myself at twilight, and watch the day's end, or ride my bike out to watch the sunrise, and though the bank was not covered in grass the way this one is, the feeling of complete serenity is the same.

And what about the white horses? What do they mean? Am I supposed to understand these animals as being real? Or are they spirits? I'll have to go back and take another looksey.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Vote Early, Vote Often

My dear friend, The Novel Woman, is an incredible writer and has entered a contest. SHE'S MADE THE FINAL ROUND!!! While NW is so gifted that she's won most every writing contest I've heard of her entering, we need to make sure she wins another. So hie thyself over pronto and vote for her hilarious poem, Poem #2, by Pamela, because it is clearly the best. Click here to vote before Wednesday.

I Miss Nana

I love Christmas, as many of us do. Right now, I'm very footed in the present, making sure all the frippery gets frappered and the Big Event goes off smoothly. It's only natural that when I am alone in the car heading out for Christmas shopping and the miles fly by, I am transported to Christmases of old, and I remember those who are no longer with me to celebrate.

One person I have been thinking of lately is my Nana. I adored both of my grannies, who were and continue to be my role models. They both have been gone for many years, but never forgotten. Rather than pine, which Nana would find absurd, I do something for my kids that my Nana did for me: I make chop-chop eggs and toast and serve them up on Nana's bridge china. How can soft-boiled eggs chopped up with butter and salt and pepper and served with buttery toast be so good? Because Nana made them with love.

One of her many talents was playing duplicate bridge and smiting all her opponents, but always with a smile. I have the dainty plates and cups she used at her bridge parties, and I use them and enjoy the heck out of them, just as Nana always enjoyed life. Nana is still with me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Writing Tip #723: Weird *ss Trail Mix

Geez, I hate giving out writing tips. I don't mind reading them, but I feel a bit pretentious giving them out, as if I know what I am talking about. But this time I actually do know, and this one is too yummy to keep to myself.

So this is me, getting ready to write: I grab my pad of extra-heavy paper, the kind that doesn't allow the ink from any one of my three sacred fountain pens to leak through.

Then I call up a friend, because I like writing on a team, and I've got one terrific team mate in the form of Biker Chick. She's inspiring, the way she blasts away at the poor laptop without even stopping to breathe. I have to sneak a peek over at her now and again to make sure she's not turned blue, and then at her keyboard, because I expect to see it bloodied or bruised, especially the space bar.

Sometimes we write at coffee shops; sometimes we stay at home, which could be boring except that we know how to spice it up. You see, we always make a small dish of Weird Ass Trail Mix, which was borne of leftover Halloween candy that was no longer appealing. The mix consists of whatever you've got hanging, like cashews, Lime and Chili Almonds, Good and Plenty, Sugar Babies, Reese's Pieces, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, and even some old chocolate chips that have been "curing" (a bonafide Julia Child term) in the fridge too long.

This particular combo is quite conducive to writing Sci-Fi**. Are you clueless as to how you're going to write that scene where your human main character has sex with an alien to save the Universe? You know you gotta throw out all your preconceptions to get that one figured out. And then it hits you:
Must be something like the way your entire being gets all scrambled when eating a Junior Mint and some Good and Plenty together.

Go ahead, Try this at home.

**Too bad I'm not writing Sci-Fi.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What's Your Favorite Bed Time Story?

More snow is on its way. Time to settle in for a good read.

Sparky requests her favorite story, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, one of the greatest stories around about being lost, and then being found by those who love you best.

She always has happy dreams afterwards.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Knitted Hats

It's snowing outside, and Christmas is nearly here. Time to knit one of the easiest and best-loved projects of all, the hat. One hat generally takes 200 yards of yarn, or about 1 1/2 skeins. I hate wasting that 1/2 skein that's leftover, so I almost always buy three skeins, and make two hats. Here are the two hats I made out of three skeins of Noro, a yarn from Japan renowned for intense color:

Here's a closeup of the first hat, knit in the round on double-pointed needles:

The top of the hat:

The second hat took longer to make, as it features a slip-stitch pattern. Even though it is the same yarn, the pattern makes the hat feel thicker:

I love the crown of the hat, which shapes itself into a hexagon simply from decreasing:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tiger's Tale, Taiwanese Style

In case you didn't get the news, or didn't understand what you did hear, this video explains everything you need to know in less than two minutes, with awesome animation:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One of Life's Mysteries

The other day I opened my post office box and found the latest Victoria's Secret Christmas Catalog. As I began looking through it, I wondered how my ordering something from this catalog is a way of celebrating Baby Jesus' birthday. I thought about it some more. If placing an order will deepen my spirituality, why didn't I get a Vicki's catalog for Yom Kippur? Nor did I receive one to help me celebrate the birth of Buddha on April 30. How about you?

Do you get it?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Where's Waldo?

If you're not keeping your eyes open here in Colorado, you're going to miss out. Yesterday afternoon we were heading west on I70 to Vail, and I was determined I was not going to miss out. I was watching the mountains closely and here's what I saw:
Just mountain, scrub, and boulders, right? No.

I looked closer and found my prizes, a herd of big horn sheep:

You don't get to see these guys often, since they blend right in with their boulder-colored bodies and snow-colored butts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For Deniz: A No-Sewing Knit Garment

Deniz and I are both writers and knitters. We've been chatting back and forth about the sorts of projects we like to knit. And I discovered that she and I DO NOT like sewing stuff together after it's been knit, as in, sewing the front to the back and/or sewing in sleeves.

May I suggest this gorgeous vest? The pattern, called the Raveneli, (scroll down mid-page) can either be made into a vest or a jacket. This vest was created for one of my daughters, and required NO SEWING! It's all done in one piece, and it uses big needles as well, which means it works up quickly. I used yarn from Textiles a Mano which I discovered at the Estes Park Wool Festival. Laura Macagno-Shang is the owner and hand dyes the yarns. I've also placed phone orders with Laura, not only because she has gorgeous products, but because she treats her customers so well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monkey Mind

Subtitle: Enjoy the entire sky, please!

I mentioned earlier on this blog that I had a dream come true for me the first weekend in October, when I was lucky enough to get to go to Taos, New Mexico and study writing at a weekend seminar led by Natalie Goldberg. Natalie Goldberg is the author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, 1986, and ten other books. She has been a practitioner of Zen for over thirty years and teaches seminars in writing as a spiritual practice.

Now before I get any further in describing what I learned, PLEASE remember one thing: There are as many successful methods of writing as there are authors. So I am not saying that this is THE one and only way to write. It may not be for you. But it is for me!

THE IDEA: Natalie teaches an extremely simple writing process. She advocates writing longhand with a fast pen. Buy a cheap spiral notebook so that you give yourself permission to write the worst crap ever. One of her first writing rules, and there are very few, is to keep the hand moving at all times. Within each of us is a creator and an editor, and that by keeping the hand moving, we keep the editor (called Monkey mind) at bay. If you keep your hand moving, something creative will come out of your hand.

Why not use the laptop? Writing on a computer is a completely different physical activity from writing longhand. You will get a different result. Be mindful that if you use a computer for work, handwriting will signal to the brain that you are involved in a different activity.

Monkey Mind: Monkey mind is the name of our internal editor, that voice that tells you how stupid you are, how you can’t write, how what you write is garbage, etc. Monkey mind robs you. Monkey mind is always commenting, and we shouldn’t care or listen. Monkey mind lives within every artist, not just writers.

Natalie gave an excellent example of how Monkey mind works: You are out enjoying a beautiful day and you get a tall ladder and a marker. You climb up the ladder, and place a mark on the sky. Then you observe and obsess over the microscopic mark (Monkey Mind) and cannot even see the rest of the sky, much less enjoy it. You are blind towards anything else, towards the entire rest of the sky. All else is called Wild Mind. By the way, when you are writing a book, the closer you get to the end, the more Monkey mind screams.

Wild mind is where we want to write from, because this is where we all really think. We engage in discursive thinking; below it is Wild mind. It is our job as writers to connect to Wild mind and then get out of the way. When you meet Wild mind and write from that place, others connect to your writing. Monkey mind, the dot on the sky, that’s where we focus, whereas the whole sky, Wild mind, is where we should focus.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eins Swine, Wish He Were Mine

Meet Tetley the tea cup pig, featured in this article. Isn't he a doll? Various family members who shall remain unnamed (Biker Chick) want me to get one of these darling creatures. So just for grins, I did look here for more details. These animals are so popular that this breeder can only put your name on a waiting list. It's a great site, giving plenty of information about pig ownership.

One of the disadvantages of owning a pig is that they become "spoiled and manipulative." Eke! That would be dreadful. I wonder what that would be like? Dear Spark and I don't want to know.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

TuTu Tuesday

Subtitle: My Mouth Gets Me in Trouble Again

First off, I know it isn't Tuesday, but I like that title so you're stuck with it. The moral of this story is control your outrage and your mouth, or else it's off to the sewing machine for you.

During the summer months, I was at the shopping mall with Biker Chick. Now, I'm not a shopper, while Biker Chick is quite the trend setter. We stopped at one of her favorite stores, where she admired the tutus. I looked at the garment and expressed my outrage at the price, the lack of a lining, and at the poor quality of the scratchy tulle. (You know what's coming next!) "I could make a tutu much cheaper and much nicer than that!"

To which Biker Chick replied, "Oh Mumsy, would you?" I saw that lovely smile and I was trapped like a fly in a web. So off to the fabric store I went to purchase tulle, lining, and gross grain ribbon. I could not find a pattern, so I winged it by cutting strips and sewing them together. I also purchased flowers to go on top of the ruffling.

This first tutu was created for elder teen daughter in her favorite colors of lime green and purple:

And this tutu was made for Biker Chick:

The girls love their skirts so it was all worthwhile, but next time I will keep my mouth shut at the mall.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Another Pair

I loved everything about making these socks:

I'd been admiring this yarn from the moment I first saw it at Morehouse Farms; so when I saw they were having a sale, I jumped like a ewe and bought some in Indian Summer. Morehouse Farms is located in the Hudson River Valley in New York, where they raise their own Merino Sheep. Merino sheep are said to produce the finest sheep wool around, quite soft and durable.

Most hand-knit socks are made on small needles (size 2), but I made these on a bigger needle, (size 4), which means they made up much quicker. You can see the cabling much better on the back sock in the photo below. These socks are thick, which means they're suitable for cold winter days, unless you are biker chick, who likes to wear them anytime with hot pink high heels:

I used a chocolate brown merino wool for the toes to mix things up:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Nothing like snowy weather to make me get back to making socks, one of my favorite things to knit. Knitters have extreme feelings about the humble sock--it's either your thing or it isn't. One of the reasons I love creating socks is because they are so portable. I like the idea of slipping the needles and a small ball of yarn into my handbag or coat pocket and working a couple of rows while waiting for the next important thing to happen (translation=waiting for one of my children.)

I also love making socks because I actually get them finished. Because I sometimes get overwhelmed, I don't enjoy making big projects, like sweaters.

People who don't enjoy making them say that they do not like making things that wear out as fast as a sock does, or things that require hand-washing. I hand wash socks I make because I want them to last longer.

Socks are made "in the round," meaning that they are created on three or four double-pointed needles so that they have no seam. (Circular needles also create items "in the round" but are not used for socks.)

Here's a pair of socks I made last fall. Because this yarn was self-stripping, I chose to make the socks completely plain and let the stripping set the style. This photo shows the top of the sock, which I chose to rib:
Here's the finished product:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What do you mean it's over?

Mo says: Halloween CANNOT be over!

Mo checks the window to see if there are any more trick-or-treaters:

An angry monster tells Mo to be quiet and go back to sleep:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Elk in the snow

Daughter and I drove right up to these ladies, rolled the window down, and snapped our photos. Elk are fairly docile, yet, if you get too close there can be trouble. How do you know if you are too close? If they look up at you, that's too close.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

AMAZING Garland of Snow

The snow got so high on this ledge it could no longer support itself and curled over. Truly a mystery as to how it stays in place:

I thought about this all afternoon, especially since I finally got out of the house and saw this phenomenon all over town. WHAT is keeping these "garlands" of snow in place? WHY doesn't the snow tumble down? And then I remembered my high school physics. My theory is that the snow is stays in place because of surface tension of water, AND because this is a special, dry snow, AND because the temperature is just right. Any other theories?

Big Snow Got BIGGER

The big snow from yesterday got much bigger. Compare this photo with the photo from yesterday's post and see for yourself:

A melancholy sun tries to break through:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First BIG Snow

Been snowing since last night and hasn't stopped. Should stop tomorrow. Here's what the porch looked like at 3 p.m:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Bought Myself a Balloon

Daughter had a Halloween party on Saturday and as we were getting last minute items, I found Frank, right there in the grocery line. Our eyes met, and I knew I should restrain myself, but I couldn't. He was just so over the top, floating up there above all the gossip rags. Okay, so he's a rotten, two-faced guy, but I love him anyway--he's pure man. I know he's flirting with my daughter (that's her, hiding behind him). Plus, he follows me all over the kitchen while I'm cooking, like he's afraid I'm going to cheat on him. He's says that if I do, he'll go to pieces.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hepzabah Pumpkin

It's that time of year. Biker Chick created this pumpkin. Her inspiration was the character of Hepzabah, from House of the Seven Gables, by Nathanial Hawthorne.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Land of Enchantment, Place of Doors

Spent the first weekend in October at a writer's weekend with Natalie Goldberg in Taos, New Mexico, otherwise known as the land of enchantment. It was sheer magic, everything I expected, and more. A part of the weekend was spent at the former home of Mabel Dodge Luhan, a home that has been transformed into a B&B. Mabel prided herself in the company she kept, including Willa Cather, D.H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Georgia O'Keefe, etc.

One extremely fascinating aspect of the house was how short and somewhat narrow all the doors are. And the doors themselves are works of art. This door is in the office of the house:

Here's the backside of the same door, which was painted by D.H. Lawrence when he visited Taos:

Below is a shot of the room where Willa Cather stayed. I was intrigued by the glorious carved door in the middle of the room, just big enough for perhaps Alice and her rabbit to fit through:

A close-up of the door:

I did open the door, as curiosity got the better of me. And behind it? Nothing but another door and insulation.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Lost Weekend

Haven't blogged in a while, which is rather obvious. But I haven't had a lot to say. So I got in my car and drove a far piece to an enchanted place called Taos to see if I could find my voice. Turns out it wasn't missing, just hiding. More later.