Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Baking days...

Yes, as planned we spent several of our days baking.. We made salt dough ornaments for gifts, we baked several varities of oatmeal cookies, a few batches of my version of a Russian tea cakes, gingerbread, sugar cookies for rolling out and decorating.. Yesterday I even treated myself to some scones.

Missy loves to play in the flour almost as much as she likes to eat the cookies.. Her sweet tooth has finally emerged..
The neighbors Victoria and Julio were also in on the salt dough cut outs...

When the Garibays' finally joined us for Christmas they were ready to cut out cookies..

We had a great week!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I don't know what it is about traditions.. I mean besides the obvious link to family or culture.. Some people just don't care..They ignore them or fight them as if that will change them.. Well, not me. I love traditions. I love the comfort of following in the footsteps of our ancestors. For me, its a link to my grandmother and the roots of our family tree..Its great memories.. Where is she going with all this rambling.. Tamales.. Of course!

Just keep up.. my grandmother would make food with so much love.. I can remember her sitting in her kitchen besides her beautiful stove (some day I will also have a vintage stove).. I was a small child but the impression was deep.. After she passed the cooking of traditional foods was up to my aunt Josefina, my mom and other women.. Some of my uncles have a mean hand with food so if they offer up Carnitas, fried fish or tamales you are there front and center eating as if for the first time.. Again, I digress..
After college I found myself cooking and craving some of the traditional foods that I grew up with.. I had seen people cook but had never really seen a recipe or heard anyone discuss ingredients.. Raw food, spices and pots came out and next thing I know there was the smell of food luring me.
At Christmas time, it was always tamales.. Every variety of tamales from savory chicken to sweet corn.. My mom had never really been into the traditional Mexican dishes venturing into Italian cooking and American cooking for every day food.. However, for special occasions she would make Mole or Chiles Rellenos..
Again, I am a bit long of the story... Somewhere along the way I decided that since I no longer wanted to beg my aunts to make tamales and no one else was volunteering, I WOULD. I would grab the torch of Christmas Tamales and bring it back to our family..
I know. I am a glutton for punishment.. I mean tamales are no small feat. If you take it on, you plan to hurt from standing, your back will ache from all the dishes and huge pans.. I don't care... Its been about 8 years and its going strong..Every year I have oraganized and invited othter friends to join the family for what tends to be a gab session over food. Just like quilting, the talking flows as your hands accomplish their task..
This year it was a 3 generation event. It was my mom, Missy and ME! That is it.. People were busy, traveling, caring for others.. We missed the extra hands but at the same time it was neat for me to see mom and missy in mischief mode deep in the throws of Masa..

In the words of one of my favorite Latin artists, Gloria Estefan "Que viva la tradicion!"

which tanslates to "Let the tradition live"..

Monday, December 21, 2009

Music and Magic

The Winter show at LES was a neat treat. All of the Kindergarten classes put on a show in their PJ's.. They signed Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Rocked out to Jingle bell's..

After the program we follwed them to the yard where the cardboard trains came out.. Missy was a pink felt car with a aluminum light and white felt snowflakes..
Here comes Room 3 as the Polar Express..

FaLaLa LaLa, LaLaLa La,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Settling in for the Holidays..

We started the baking, we wrapped presents and made lists.. We are nesting for the holidays.. I can't wait for the end of the week. I can't wait to see my dad and Tina for our Holiday dinner and gift exchange..
It will be the first in a series of mini reunions that we will get to host. This year our house is the gathering spot. No pressure. In fact, I am ready for the fun to begin.. We will make tamales, host a cookie decorating day and at least one ornament exchange before the real event.. Christmas. It has always been my favorite holiday.. The lights, the mystery of presents, the food and most importantly family.. It's a time when we cocoon at our house. We eat, sleep and play together for a few days..
Can't Wait!

Book Review: The Calligrapher's Daughter

We picked a book set in Korea.. From the moment I picked up it, I was sucked in. The pace was calming and the story highlighted the fall of the Korean Royal Dynasty to the Japanese.. It was a historical view with life.. It was a story that highlighted the class and gender differences of that period in history. I was amazed, surprised and curious.. I giggled when I saw words in text that I had heard at my friend Katherine's house in my teens.
I really enjoyed the book and the lessons of a culture which was almost wiped out. It was also an amazing contrast to the life we live in this day an age.. To read about women having to walk steps beind a man and relegated to "women's work" always makes me grateful for the blessings of the U.S.A.
The main character was definetely strattling the past and the future. She was raised in a traditional household with a father who was bound and determine to resist anything new and foreign. While her open minded and faithful mother was receptive to education and the opportunity to learn. As much as she looked to the future and hoped to progress, there was no model yet for what that future looked like.. They would have never imagined the transition to modern living outside their family home without the ancestral tombs and lessons to guide them..
Happy Reading,

Festive Friday Night!

It poured this weekend..
Friday night the storm made me slightly anxious as I drove to Vista with Maya in tow.. I gave myself extra time, I made sure I left a cushion between me and other cars and I am sure I signed the cross at least once.. Thankfully, we arrived safe and sound.. Monica's house was shelter in the storm.. I am sure it was a great night for the menorahs to be lit in Jewish homes.. An opportunity to reflect on the miracle of the 8 nights under the cover of cleansing water.. Shalom..
I unbundled Missy and snacked on the goodies Monica was getting ready to set out for the rest of the ladies. She would make Martha herself proud with her cheese plate, tiramisu cake, artichoke salad and other savory treats..Hugs and kisses, I will be back.. I am off to drool at Julie's fabulous home and wish my quilting pals a Merry Christmas..
Drool is right.. Julie has a lovely home. It's not only charming and welcoming it tells the story of a lovely family.. The Isa's are a happy and rambunctious bunch.. You smile when you see them because they emit a friendly warmth and kindness..
The ladies brought some fabulous food ranging from a light and tasty salad, which I need to request the recipe for, to an amazing red velvet dessert that made me wish I could like the spoons! No matter the food on the table it was the company and the delightful snow man craft that made the night.. How lucky are we to have such an amazing group of women to share our family stories over quilts with? Blessed and grateful...
Now back to the second party of the night.. The white Elephant party at Monica's was in full swing and to my surprise a cousin whom I hadn't seen in ages was present. How sad is it that we let so many years pass? Thankfully we all seem to find our way back to our family in time of need and festivity.. My cousin Evelyn is now a woman.. She has a family and a little boy who shares my name.. Small world..
The night was spent catching up and eating Monica's amazing goodies..When we were as satisfied as chesire cats it was time to pass our mystery gifts left and right according to the reading.. We had a blast and ended up with new treats to take home..
What a wonderful night to kick off a much needed weekend..

Monday, December 7, 2009

I can't belive it!

It's December.. I feel full from Thanksgiving still and now I have to move on to presents, cookies, tamales and ringing in the new year.. Yikes!
Thankfully the Christmas shopping is about 90% done. I have a few stocking stuffers to find and lots of wrapping. Yes, I wrap. I love to wrap. Presentation is important! I remember as a small kid my cousins and I would spend hours wrapping. I loved to see the perfect present unfold.. To this day I love receiving a true gift wrapped and if there is ribbon I am drooling.. We have gotten a little lazy and spoiled with gift bags but for Christmas, I am all about wrapping..
It's frosty outside.. A chilly 50 degrees and a rain filled day. I enjoyed my hot chocolate and restocked my tea supply. I should be set for the rest of the year..
Speaking of which, let's not rush. I am so excited for our holiday shutdown. I need the mental breather. I can't wait to fill the house with the smells of cookies. My cousins and their families have been annual recipiants of my baked goodies.. I have a cookie exchange to attend too. I love tasting new receipes. Maya and I are also hosting a mom and me cookie decorating party. I can see the sprinkles all over the floor and the faces filled with frosting. Should be a sweet afternoon.
I already sent out the Tamale party evite. I can't wait to taste our annual tamales. It's a tradition I forced on my family but I think they secretly love it. I felt the need to preserve one of my grandmother's traditions. I love the idea of gathering once a year for tamales and then sharing with friends and neighbors. Isn't that what the holidays are all about? For me it is.. I love the time with all the women in the kitchen. We share stories, memories and we each have our own way of wrapping tamales.
December is here. Christmas is around the corner. It's time to spread the love..