Monthly Archives: November 2007

Milagros

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This past Monday, I went to a doctor to see what is wrong with my thumb.  I was born without a right thumb, and have completely learned to cope without it – except for maybe fastening bracelet clasps….  Anyway, I have recently experienced a lot of pain in my left hand – mainly along the base of the thumb.  It doesn’t hurt all the time, but when I make a certain reach, it hurts like a mother.  And, no, I can’t NOT do that reach.

So, after 1 hour and 30 minutes of waiting (1/2 hour in the waiting room, where a woman blithely ignored the “please take your cell phone calls outside” sign,  45  minutes in the exam room waiting, and 15 minutes consult), the doctor declared that it was tendonitis.  She sent me home with a prescription for an anti-inflammatory medication and told me to wear one of those arm splints for support for a while.  I have been pretty good at wearing it, but I have to take it off to draw.

wordpressmilagroblueangel.jpg Lately, what I have been drawing are milagro – like hearts.  I have been collecting images off of the internet of Mexican tin ornaments in various heart shapes, and I am whittling them down to line drawings.  Then, I scan them and use my digital collage technique to color them.  So far, I have two designs with variations on my CafePress site.  They are in a new shop section called Milagros – I plan on making a calendar when I get enough designs.

In case you don’t know what a milagro is, it is a small charm – here is a better description:

“Milagro also refers to an ancient aspect of Hispanic folk culture: small silver or gold votive offerings in the shape of arms, legs, eyes and other body parts; animals, fruits, vegetables, etc. These milagros are often attached to statues of saints or to the walls of certain New Mexican churches–and now are also found as components in necklaces, earrings and other jewelry.  In the classical sense, milagros (also known as ex-votos or dijes) are offered to a favorite saint as a reminder of the petitioner’s particular need, or they are offered to the saint in thanks for a prayer answered.”

Technically, I am not making milagros.  I am inspired by the many and various versions of the Sacred Heart that are represented in Mexican tin ornaments and mirrors.  I have also found some fabulous Italian ex-votos that are more intricately detailed – I have other plans for them – maybe black and white prints.

I have always had a thing for hearts.  Not necessarily the “country-style” heart – I like the classic heart shape.  I started working with them by making simple valentines for friends – I would cut out beautiful images from magazines using a heart stencil, then back them with a doily and heavy-weight paper.  Then, I started using a heart shape in my black and white collages – I added color later.  Those are available in my shop called Celeste’s Valentines.

Back to work!  I was so fortunate to have 9 whole days off for Thanksgiving break, but the first full week back after a vacation is always so hard!  I’m so sleepy!

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Recipes from the Reata Cookbook

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Now, in case you wondered what I do on my vacation weekend and in my spare time – maybe you don’t but I’m going to tell you anyway – I surf the internet. I usually start off looking for something specific, and then I get side-tracked. Last night, for instance, I started off checking E-bay for pictures of Mexican tin hearts – I am doing a series on them. From there, I segued to Mexican tin ornaments, then to milagros (heart-shaped), then to ex-votos – there are some AWESOME Italian ex-votos on sale right now. Then, I went to check for new retablos – those painted thanks stories from Mexico.

See how it works?

The day before yesterday, I was considering using some of my cajeta (goat milk caramel) in my Thanksgiving apple pie. I had already found my recipe for the cajeta pound cake on a site with recipes from Grady Spears’ cookbook: A Cowboy in the Kitchen. I thought I had also seen an apple pie recipe with the cajeta in it – but it turned out to be an apple crisp.

Now, I was born in Fort Stockton, Texas – my mother’s parents had a sheep ranch west of there. We used to spend Thanksgivings there, as well as a couple of weeks during the summer – I guess so that our parents could have a break! My grandparents took us on road trips through the Davis Mountains, so I have been to Alpine, Texas – and probably through Marfa as well. I have been to Langtry, to the Judge Roy Bean Saloon, and to Balmorhea to the big spring-fed pool over there. So, I consider myself to be a Texan (when handy).

My mother was just a teen when the movie Giant was filmed in Marfa. But I was probably in my teens when I finally saw the movie myself. I watch it whenever I catch it on TV and consider it to be every bit as important and epic as Gone With the Wind (which I also love). Reata was the name of the Benedict’s ranch – and it is the name of Mr. Spears’ restaurants in Alpine, Fort Worth, and Woodland Hills (I think that is north of Houston). Here is the URL to the restaurant website.

Mr. Spears now has 4 cookbooks to his name, and it looks like he’s going to be in a video something called The Cowboy Way. It looks like a cooking show – it’s about time! The cookbook I want is A Cowboy in the Kitchen: Recipes from the Reata and Texas West of the Pecos by Mr. Spears and Robb Walsh. It looks like it could be had for $12.00 second hand. I was thinking it would be a good gift for my mother, who is from West Texas, or my father, who loves to cook, but I probably just really want it for myself – they can borrow it if they like!

Here are some links to sample recipes that I have found so far on the internet. I am still laughing over the first link, which I found a few minutes ago when researching Grady Spears: It is from the Pepcid AC (heartburn medication) website!

Okay, I must stop now – I have to go eat pie and ice cream.  Next – some cool recipe sites I came across in my search.

Thanksgiving night

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I am probably going to go to sleep right after this post – I have not gone for seconds of apple pie and ice cream like my husband has. We got back from “lunch” at Mom’s at around 6:30 – we had been there since about noon. Mom did the big thing – the turkey and stuffing. She brined the turkey using the Victoria Gourmet Smoky Brining Blend she got from the Cook’s Warehouse. It was really good, but the turkey was HUGE – 18 lbs. for just 5 people!

I brought the makings for Kir Royale and I wish I had brought an appetizer because we didn’t eat until 2PM or so. First course was a curried pumpkin apple soup – left over from a luncheon Mom had last week. It was great. Then we had the turkey, stuffing and giblet gravy. For side dishes we had Oysters Rockefeller (not served in the shells), a congealed salad, green beans, and a roasted butternut squash, carrot, and sweet potato mash I made.

I made the desserts as well. I made a pecan pie using the recipe on the back of the Karo Syrup bottle. It was good, but leaked under the crust so it was a little hard to pry out of the pan. I also made an apple pie. I used Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie recipe, but used Jonathan apples as well as Granny Smith. I also used calvados (apple brandy) instead of the water, and added some quince paste to the pie – I had some left over from making some cupcakes. I went to the store and bought some ice cream to go with it. I got one pint of Haagen Daz Light Dulce de Leche and then could not resist a new flavor: Cinnamon Dulce de Leche. Awesome!

While I’m on that thought process, what about this: Haagen Daz has a limited edition flavor – Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan.  That would be awesome with that King’s Cupboard Pear Cinnamon Caramel sauce, wouldn’t it?  With poached pears?  😉

Now I’m hungry again…

Best Books Ever

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I have always been a bookworm – I was famous for it in elementary school.  That is, if you consider being ridiculed, bullied, and jeered at (living in a small town in Louisiana, reading was not a pastime that was generally admired – except for your teacher, of course.). I made the big 6-mile move to the big city of Lafayette when in high school, and things went a little better.

Right now, I don’t take too much time to sit down and read a book.  I receive most of my literature from books on CD driving to and from work.  If the book is particularly good, I take the long way home.  I belong to two libraries now – Cobb County and Gwinnett County.  I have already paid for Cobb, but I probably will not renew.  Gwinnett had a good selection – they must have more commuters.

Right now, I am starting into the Berrybender Narratives by Larry McMurtry.   I am reading Sin Killer, the first one.  That reminded me that I was planning on keeping a list of books that I love – what better place to put that than on my blog?  I happen to be one of those people who reads books more than once – a thing that most of my students find inconceivable.  I would much rather read or listen to a great book that I have already read than to waste my time on a mediocre unknown book.

So, here’s a start – they are in no certain order – I am just listing them as I think of them:

  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – I still cry when my favorite characters die!
  • National Velvet by Enid Bagnold – Don’t even speak to me of that abomination of a movie with Elizabeth Taylor.
  • Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole – Read it in honor of the real New Orleans.
  • Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough
  • Cress Delahanty by Jessamyn West – I don’t know why this isn’t more of a classic!
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • My Friend Flicka,  Thunderhead, and The Green Grass of Wyoming by Mary O’Hara
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver – I love this book!
  • The Misty of Chincoteague books by Marguerite Henry
  • The Dune Trilogy by Frank Herbert
  • The Original Trixie Belden Mysteries – I wish life were really like that!
  • The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson
  • A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

That’s all for now – I am going to Fernbank with my mom, my sister, and her kids.

Misery loves company…

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I don’t know if I have mentioned it lately, but life is really sucking right now. I am LITERALLY counting the days that I have left in this school year. I have a little calendar that I keep in my agenda and “X” off the days that have passed. I have two more days until my Thanksgiving week off, then 19 looooong days of Purgatory until the Christmas break.

Then the year will be halfway over.

90 days. That’s right. I have 9.5 sick days left. I supposedly have 5 personal days now in honor of my 10 year service to the system. I will probably use all of them. I will need them.

I won’t go into it anymore. Anyone who reads this blog just needs to know that it is hard to be terribly creative when you are emotionally whupped at the end of the day. I am trying to cool it on the cooking creativity, because I will end up weighing 200 lbs. by the end of the school year.

I wish that I was one of those people who could be satisfied with a knitted version of a cupcake. Is that sick or what? You can’t eat those! Now, these knit cupcakes are more like it.

I am going to try and switch my focus to regular meal cooking. I have a lot of spice and sauce packets that I have collected. Maybe I’ll try those.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my father is out of the hospital.  He had a lot of suggestions for the nurses and his doctor as to how the hospital could be run more efficiently.  He also had to tell the night nurses to keep it down so that he could sleep.  I am sure that they are glad to see him go…

Cajeta Cupcakes with Membrillo Surprise

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I finally made my cupcakes with cajeta. I had this recipe for cajeta poundcake that I found years ago and decided to try and use it for a base for cupcakes. I filled the cupcake cups almost half full, then put a slice of membrillo (quince paste) on top of that.  I then topped that with a little bit more of the dough.

The recipe made much more than a regular cupcake recipe – about 40 cupcakes in all.  Note:  the recipe calls for 2 cups of cajeta – that is actually one 23 oz bottle.  I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to get the last 1/2 cup out.  Beware – the bottle WILL melt.

I decided in the end not to ice the cupcakes.  They were dense and chewy enough with the 3 cups of sugar and 2 cups of cajeta caramel.  I brought most of them to school – I still have leftover bread pudding that I am eating.  People really liked them – I had some of my Mexican students and one teacher from Nicaragua rave about them.  I personally thought them too heavy.  I may experiment with a regular Cake Mix Doctor Pound Cake recipe or just adding some cajeta to a cake mix.

Not now, though.  I think I have to stop with the cupcake making or my family may plan an intervention.

Last night, my husband had passes to go to the Jonathan Coulton show with Paul and Storm at the Five Spot in Little Five Points.  We got down there in time to eat a dinner of falafel before the show.  Both acts were awesome and funny.  The Jonathan Coulton phenomenon just shows the power of the internet and blogging.  He actually came to Atlanta just because enough fans promised to buy tickets to see him if he came! How can you not love a guy who writes a song about IKEA?

This has been a pretty tame day.  I woke up at 10:30 and took the dog to the polo fields over on the other side of town where I used to live.  It’s the only place I know of where I can let her off leash with no worries.  Then, I found a shady place to park so that she could wait for me in the car while I ate sushi at RuSan.  When I got home, I took a nap until it was time for my massage.

While I was napping, we had a phone call from my dad.  He called to tell us that, in case we were looking for him this weekend, he would be at the hospital.  What?!!!  My dad lives in a small town in Mississippi, about one hour north of my sister’s home in Covington, Louisiana.  He had a urinary tract infection last month, and it has gotten worse.  He got out of the hospital for an hour to make arrangements to have his dog taken care of, but he is staying in the hospital on an IV drip of antibiotics for a couple of days.  I hope he’s going to be okay.  My sister is going to check on him and pick up his dog tomorrow.

You’ve Made a Sale on CafePress!

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I’ve been working a lot on my CafePress site lately.  I was tinkering with the settings and found this box I could check to have an e-mail sent whenever I make a sale!  I have been working on a series based on line drawings of M185673688v3_240x240_front.jpgexican tin heart ornaments and mirrors.  I have been adding digital collage elements to the line drawings and then uploading the results to CafePress.

I may have too many items up at CafePress, but I think it’s worth it.  I’m already paying for a shop, and if someone buys just ONE of my vampire valentines, it will be worth it!   I have already two articles from my El Gallo shop, and I just put that up a couple of weeks ago!  So far, my biggest sellers have been my Guadalupe Heart, my Frida items, and all of the Loteria designs.

That’s all I have to say right now.  I am busy with school – it is grading time, and we are preparing for a visit from the Middle Years Programme people.   I need to MYP my classroom.  I also need to put some student work up, so I am screwing up my courage to execute a small Heraldry project.  My students are going to study the language of heraldry, which comes from French.  They are going to design a coat of arms, and write a paragraph on the symbols that they have chosen.  I have a great book called Design Your Own Coat of Arms: An Introduction to Heraldry (Paperback)
by Rosemary A. Chorzempa
that I am going to use.  I just got my classes shuffled, so I may be able to fit them in my classroom.

Bread of the Dead Pudding

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I have had a leisurely weekend – we went to see The Nightmare Before Christmas Friday night.  I think I was able to see the 3-D effect with my glasses.  Normally, I cannot see 3-D or those Magic Pictures because my eyes don’t always focus on the same things.  But the glasses seemed to work.  My husband said he got a little dizzy when the camera panned.  I don’t think I saw the film in 2-D before – I liked it.

Yesterday, I stayed home mostly and played around with a new design for CafePress.  It is a new shop called Milagros.  I a still working on the template and collage elements, but I think it is quite nice.   I am using Mexican tin hearts that I have found and re-drawing them.  Then I am using my digital collage method to add color. They are still a work in progress – I have also made a Mardi Gras colored one.

I had a lot of baking plans for this weekend, but only completed one project.  I had bought some Pan de Muertos – or “bread of the dead” a couple of days ago.  I had meant to bring it in and share it at lunch with some other teachers, but it didn’t make it out of my trunk.  Maybe in the back of my mind I already wanted to make bread pudding out of it…  Yesterday, I got it out of the car.  It was not too stale.  Mexican sweet breads are not my thing, really.  I like my breads French.

But Pan de Muertos is really a kind of egg-y bread – similar to brioche, I suppose.  So I sliced it up into cubes and left it out on the counter for a while as I researched brioche bread pudding recipes.  I found one that looked quite easy on Epicurious.com:  here is the link to the original recipe.

I altered it a bit – substituting 1 cup brown sugar for one of the cups of sugar.  I also decided to add a bag of ate fruit candies that I bought in Guanajuato.  Ate is a Mexican candy made from fruit paste.  It comes in quince, guava, and other flavors.  I had a bag of ate squares, and that made up a cup of fruit to add.  I also added raisins because I didn’t think there was enough fruit.   Instead of Frangelico, I used 1/4 cup of calvados (apple brandy) I bought in Paris two years ago.

Here is my recipe:

Bread of the Dead Pudding

1 pan de muertos (large) cut into 1/2-inch cubes
8 large eggs
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar and 1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup calvados (apple brandy) or dark rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup ate candy (or buy a brick of ate and cut into cubes)
1/2 cup raisins (I only had brown, but golden might be nice)

Preparation
Place bread cubes in 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Whisk eggs, whipping cream, milk, sugar, calvados, and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend. Pour over bread cubes (I used a square baking pan and was afraid it would overflow, so I used a 1/2 cup measure to add the custard a little at a time.  I worked out perfectly) Let stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing bread into custard mixture. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until pudding is set in center, about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

It was really delicious – I served it with Blue Bell Light Ice Cream (Homemade Vanilla) and Hershey’s Dulce de Leche Syrup.  Fabulous!!!!

Speaking of caramel – a couple of years ago, my mother bought me a jar of ice cream topping from The King’s Cupboard.  It was, I believe a chocolate/caramel sauce, and I remember being addicted to it.  Luckily for me at the time, it was only available through her gourmet product selling friends, so I forgot about it after a while.  Well, when I was at Sur la Table, I found more King’s Cupboard products – in particular, a Pear Cinnamon Caramel Sauce.  I did not buy it (yet), but I did do a Google search for the company and found it.  Alas, there does not seem to be any more Chocolate Caramel Sauce.  But they do have cake mixes…  The White Chocolate Hazelnut looks like it might make a good cupcake.