Thursday, July 30, 2009

National Hispanic Cultural Center

I posted some pictures awhile back of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. For several years Dan and I have gone there, on occasion, for a meal; and I have taken guests there to see the art work, the museum, and the gift shop. But, before today, I had never visited the National Hispanic Cultural Center, which is in the south part of Albuquerque (4th and Bridge).

Today after work I thought I'd go investigate it. I didn't spend long there, but hope to go back sometime and spend more time. One of the first things I checked out was their restaurant, and I was almost overwhelmed by the wonderful aroma of Mexican cuisine. It was 1:00, I hadn't had lunch yet, and my stomach started growling - but I resisted. I looked on the door, for their hours, and found that they are open until 3:00 every day except Monday. Sadly, dinner isn't an option, but maybe Dan and I can go for a Saturday morning breakfast sometime; or my friend, Pam, and I might meet there for lunch some Tuesday.

The center has several beautiful buildings, including a History and Literary Arts Building, A Technology and Visual Arts Center (including an art museum), the Roy E. Disney Center for Performing Arts (with two theaters and an auditorium), an Education Center and the Restaurant (La Fonda del Bosque). There is also a store, connected with the museum, and a walking and bike trail that winds through the Bosque - THAT sounds like a photo op just waiting for me to explore.

Here are a few pictures I took today. I can't wait to go back and spend more time (and eat some enchiladas!).

The tree-lined walkway that leads from the parking lot to the art museum. Actually, this is leaving the facility, so my back is to the main buildings.

Stop and smell the flowers! This is just a closer look at some of the native plants in the flower beds that border the sidewalk.

This tower is not yet open. Inside a world-renowned artist is creating a fresco of the Hispanic culture. Click on the photo below, to enlarge it, to read the details.

This is a fountain that sits in the courtyard outside the restaurant.

La Fonda del Bosque Restaurant, inside.

This plaza is used for outdoor performances. There is tiered seating on the south (left) side of the plaza.

This water art - a flume - borders the west side of the plaza.

From beneath the flume, watching the water spill out.

I peeked inside the Intel Center for Technology and Visual Arts. This beautiful arched hallway runs through it.

And this hall, also arched, runs the length of the Roy E. Disney Center for Performing Arts.

Inside the Performing Arts building is this beautiful lobby outside the Albuquerque Journal Theater.

Between the Performing Arts Center and the Technology/Visual Arts center is this quiet courtyard, with another water feature.

It was sunny and about 85 degrees as I strolled through the Center. By the time I got home, a half hour later, a thunder storm had moved in. The sky was so dark that I had to drive with the headlights. I got inside before the lightning started streaking across the sky and the rain started coming down. But, like most of these summer thunder storms, it passed quickly.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Texas Bow-Head

It's been a long time since I swiped a photo from Kelsey's blog to put on my own, but this one was too fun not to share with everyone.

This would be a good time for me to say thank you to Kelsey, too, for her thoughtfulness in posting lots and lots of wonderful pictures of our sweet granddaughter. It means so much to us, since we are many miles away and can't see her in person often enough. Keep 'em coming, Kelsey!

The Daring Bakers' July Challenge - Mallows (Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)

Before I share this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge with you, I'd like to give you an amazing piece of dietary information. You, too, can eat the decadent treats described below, without fear of putting on even one ounce of weight, if you just follow the advice in this brief, but enlightening, article*:
If you eat something and no one sees you eat it, it has no calories. If you drink a diet soda with a candy bar, the calories in the candy bar are cancelled out by the diet soda. When you eat with someone else, calories don't count if you don't eat more than they do. Foods used for medicinal purposes NEVER count, such as chocolate, toast and Sara Lee Cheesecake. If you fatten up everyone else around you, then you look thinner. Broken cookie pieces contain no calories. The process of breaking causes caloric leakage. Things licked off knives and spoons have no calories if you are in the process of preparing something. Examples : peanut butter on a knife when making a sandwich, or ice cream on a spoon when making a sundae. Foods that have the same colour have the same number of calories. Examples : spinach and pistachio ice cream, or mushrooms and white chocolate. Note : chocolate is a universal colour and may be substituted for any other food colour.
I think this article missed one important point: foods eaten at the movies (popcorn, Red Vines, Milk Duds, etc.) have no calories, as they are classified as "entertainment." So, moving beyond our fear of calories, let's get to the good stuff!

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. We had the option of making one or both of the recipes. I chose the Mallows (recipe HERE).

Funny! It was only a couple months ago that I was nostalgically whining to Dan: "Do you remember those chocolate covered marshmallow cookies we used to get as kids? The ones that were round on top and had a cookie base? I haven't seen those in the grocery stores in years, and I'd love to have one!" So you can imagine my delight when the July Daring Bakers' challenge was announced.

I had a lot of fun making them. The base cookies were a breeze - simple little butter cookies with a hint of cinnamon. The recipe made oodles of them, though, so I knew I was going to have some left over. In the end, that turned out to be a good thing . . . but more about that later.

The marshmallow part of the recipe came together quite easily, as well. I remember that my Grandma Rose made marshmallows a couple times for me, and I've always meant to try my hand at them. Once again, the Daring Bakers gave me the kick in the pants that I needed.

The third part of the recipe, the chocolate coating, should have been the easiest, but was the part that gave me a problem. The recipe called for semi-sweet chocolate and a little bit of cocoa butter or vegetable oil to be cooked together. But I didn't follow the recipe exactly (tsk tsk), opting for milk chocolate instead of semi-sweet. Everything looked perfect, but the chocolate stayed sticky instead of forming a crisp shell. I put the cookies in the refrigerator, and they firmed up, but got soft again when I brought them back to room temperature. Not a huge problem. They were just as tasty straight from the refrigerator, and Dan didn't seem to have any problem finding them there.

But refusing to accept defeat, I decided to pull out those extra cookie bases I mentioned above and make some more cookies, using semi-sweet chocolate. I also tinted the marshmallow a soft pink this time around. Success! The chocolate took about two hours to set up, at room temperature, and form a nice hard shell.

These cookies really aren't difficult to make, so I'll probably make them again sometime, but my favorite part of this recipe was making the marshmallows. I remember, about a year ago, buying a tin of "homemade" marshmallows from Williams and Sonoma, for a gift. I think they were about $9 or $10. Now I can make my own, package them in a pretty box, and give them as gifts. Mmmm mmm. Wouldn't they be nice this winter, in a foamy cup of hot chocolate? They could even be flavored with mint or strawberry or . . . well, the sky's the limit. Oh! And I might have to try my hand at making my own Marshmallow Peeps for Sweetpea next spring.

[*The calorie counting advice is not original to me. I saw this somewhere years ago, and just ran across it again in another blog I was reading (]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Oh, NO!

I scrubbed two Idaho spuds, last night, patted them dry and poked holes in them so the steam could escape. A few minutes later Dan fired up the grill, which was my cue to start cooking the potatoes in the microwave. They were fairly large, so I figured they would be done at about the same time as the little steaks.

After the grill was hot, Dan put the steaks on and sat outside, in a lawn chair, to tend them. Eight minutes passed, and I thought I should just check on the potatoes to see how they were doing. I opened the microwave and, to my shock, there were no potatoes inside! There on the counter, beside the sink, sat the two scrubbed spuds.

I have always heard that you can ruin your microwave by running it with nothing inside, so I hoped for the best and popped the potatoes in. Then I went outside and sat down with Dan and confessed what I had done. We were both hopeful that I hadn't ruined the oven.

When the steaks came off the grill, I went to see if the potatoes, which had had such a late start, were even close to being ready to eat. OH NO! They were stone cold. It turns out that that warning about not running the microwave empty is one to be heeded. We tried unplugging it and letting it cool off, and then plugging it in and trying it again - rebooting, so to speak. Though the fan came on, and it sounded as if it were cooking, it wouldn't even warm a cup of water. I felt terrible. The microwave wasn't quite two years old!

This evening we went to Lowe's, bought another one, and then spent a couple hours installing it. Although the oven is the same brand and looks identical, the template for installing it was different, so Dan had to drill new holes and all that jazz.

It's up and running now. And I know I'll be somewhat paranoid about never running it empty again.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Catching Up

I'm a bit behind in blogging, but I can't say that a lot has transpired lately. Here are a few of our recent activities.

• Dan's birthday was the 8th, but we celebrated on the evening of Friday, July 10. Tim joined us for dinner at Zea's Rotisserie, then we came home and had birthday cake. This year Dan's cake-of-choice was German chocolate.

• On Saturday, the 11th, Dan and I went to breakfast at one of our favorite places, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. If you ever visit Albuquerque, this is a nice place for breakfast or lunch. Some of the featured items on the menu include blue corn pancakes, Indian fry bread, outdoor-oven-baked bread, and (for lunch) Tewa tacos.

This is a picture taken inside the center. The restaurant is to the left, where you see the pendant lights.

Here's the outdoor oven where the bread is baked.

After breakfast we stayed a few minutes to watch some of the dancers. Most Saturdays young people from one or more of the pueblos perform. This group was especially good.

• Yesterday I went shopping for a chair. My mission was to find a chair that really fit me. Currently we have two matching leather chairs in our family room. They are nice-looking, and Dan finds them quite comfortable. But when I sit in mine I get a neck-, head- and backache, because it is made for someone taller than I (that would be most anyone). The cushioned roll at the top of the chair is supposed to fit behind one's neck, but it just pushes my head and shoulders forward. Also, the seat cushion, from front to back, is too "deep," so my knees don't bend at the edge unless I scoot forward, causing me to slump. I did find one; it is ordered and should be here in a couple weeks. It doesn't look all that different from the one I sit in now, but it's much more comfortable for me. I took this picture of it in the store, with my cell phone.

• What has been most responsible for my non-blogging is a project I've undertaken to de-clutter our office and guest-room closets. They have been used as mini-storage units, and I'd really like to reclaim them as office and guest room closets! I am storing everything in bins. The bins are numbered, and each item in the bin goes into a database, so that we can call an item up at any time and know where to locate it. It's taking much longer than I anticipated. But I'm starting bin #7 now, so progress is being made. Now I have to decide where I'll be keeping all these bins. I may have to rent a small self-storage unit!

• Thanks for checking in. Hopefully I'll have something more interesting to report on in the coming days.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Good Morning, Big Brother!

I love my Kindle. I really do. It is with me, in my purse, wherever I go. A ten minute wait for a doctor's appointment? Waiting for the oil to be changed in the car? Waiting for my friend, Pam, to show up for our Tuesday lunch at Sweet Tomatoes? In any such situation I reach for my Kindle, and the time flies by while I read a few pages of my current e-book.

One of the e-books I recently purchased was the Works of George Orwell. I really only wanted to re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four, since it had been years -- no, decades -- since I had read it. As I worked my way, once again, through this book that gave us the terms "Big Brother," "Newspeak," and "thought crime" I realized that I had forgotten how depressing and, in ways, terrifying this story really was.

The protagonist in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a character named Winston Smith, who works for the Ministry of Truth. His job is to change history, by making events and information appear or disappear, based on the directions of the Ministry of Truth; for rewriting the past, the Party contends, is vital to control over the present:

"This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date."

Imagine my surprise, this morning, when I awoke to learn that Amazon had electronically pulled George Orwell books from Kindle owners' library of purchases. YES! They removed the book. It disappeared! No record remained of having purchased these books. History had been "brought up to date!"

Amazon's explanation? They say the book was added to their store by a third party that did not actually have rights to sell the books. Imagine, if you will, how you would feel to learn that someone from Barnes and Nobel sneaked into your house during the night and removed a book from your shelf.

Can you miss the irony that they were Orwell's works that were eliminated? To borrow a Newspeak phrase, what a doubleplusungood development this is!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Dan!

He's changed some since this picture, which was taken in 1969, but then so have I. Birthdays have a way of doing that to all of us. We've changed together, growing more alike over the years, more accepting - even more appreciative - of our differences, and deeper in love with each other. I've lived twice as long as Dan's wife as I did before we were married. His history is now my history. It's a beautiful thing!

There's not a big surprise party in the works this year. We're just looking forward to a quiet dinner together this weekend. But we've learned to treasure those quiet together-times.

Happy Birthday, Honey!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Few Pictures of an Old Fashioned 4th of July

Happy Fourth of July! Today Dan and I celebrated our country's birthday, along with some of our church family, at the home of some dear friends, Jean and Jerry. Young and old, alike, enjoyed the burgers and hotdogs cooked on the grill, and the potluck side dishes and desserts.

It's my prayer that God will continue to show America His grace and mercy, that we might continue to enjoy His blessings, and that our nation will, one day soon, choose to be, once again, one nation under God.