Friday, December 14, 2012

Hear no evil ...

(Click photo to see larger) --- I´m not sure of the date of this photo ... maybe about 10 years ago?   These are three of my English teacher colleagues when I worked at CENLEX Zacatenco (the foreign language center of the Instituto Politécnico Nacional in Mexico City).  We were at some kind of hours-long conference in another building on campus and on one of the breaks I noticed the three guys on the concrete bench outside were coincidentally dressed in colors similar enough to be a band. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Early Morning Still Life

Here's a photo I took sometime last week. I was up early that day, and some weak winter sunshine made it all the way through the living room and into the kitchen (there is no kitchen window), and it was so cheery that I felt compelled to record the moment. I love the yellowy colors here, and all the various fabulous shapes of the utensils.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Valentine Hearts

This year I continued my years-long (at least a decade) tradition of making lots and lots of woven paper hearts for Valentine's Day. I've done various things with the hearts over the years, but this year I ended up using them in garlands and to make "fortune cookies" with.

Here's a pile of the hearts I made.

Here's the garland I made in "Valentiny" colors. I don't think I'd ever made a garland of any sort before, and this one was for a swap on Swap-bot. I ended up making several more and giving them away to others, too. I can see myself making different sorts of garlands in the future, as they are fun and not too tedious to make, and fabulously decorative (lots of bang for the buck).

The citrus-toned garland

And the Indianapolis Colts garland

I also found some nice quotes and printed them onto little slips of paper to put inside some of the hearts, kind of like a fortune cookie.

Then, for a couple of days before Valentine's, I would leave one or more hearts in miscellaeous places wherever I would go -- stores, church, doctor's office, etc. It was great fun!

The quotes I used in these "fortune cookie hearts" are the following:

Love is like wildflowers: it is often found in the most unlikely places.

We cannot do great things; only small things with great love.
~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.

The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
~William Wordsworth

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

Forever will little opportunities to love daily drop into our hands to abundantly satisfy the question, "Lord, what will you have me do?"

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Awhile back I heard/read about zentangles, and I've been trying my hand at creating them during the last several days. I've found them to be quite engrossing. An ATC swap for "zentangle newbies" on Swap-bot was just the motivation I needed to start doing these.

Here are the two zentangle ATCs created for that swap and which I mailed out to my partners today. Each one is going to a different person, so this photo is probably the only place they will ever be seen side by side. Kind of like twin babies, these two were created at the same time and with very similar features, but were intended to be individuals. Will they perhaps feel a mystical connection to each other, regardless of where each travels in the world? lol

Below is a zentangle bookmark I created for another swap, and which I will have to mail out in a couple of days. I really, really like this and am loathe to give it up, but I know it is good for me to do so. I guess I'll have to make more!

One side of bookmark:

Other side of bookmark:

If you are unfamiliar with Zentangles, this site will tell you about them.

And I recommend this video regardless of whether or not you are interested in zentangles; it's just delightful to watch and listen to.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Four Magi

The other night the hubby and I watched The Fourth Wise Man. This 1985 made-for-tv movie starring Martin Sheen and Alan Arkin is based on the short story called The Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke.
movie dvd christmas magi

It tells the tale of a supposed 4th member of the magi, one who was never quite able to make it to the manger to adore the new king. He continues to search for Him for many years and ... well, I won't say any more so as not to spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet, but suffice it to say that it holds one's interest.

I don't remember the first time I saw this movie, but I do know that it was on Mexican television and dubbed into Spanish. Mush have been sometime in the 90s. I've seen it again a few times since then, stumbling across it on television around Christmastime or Epiphany, which is still celebrated in Latin America. I'd always yearned to watch the film commercial-free, and since the local library did not have it available, about a month ago I broke down and just bought my own copy off Amazon. Now it's one movie in our slowly-growing set of "keeper" dvds.

This story never fails to move me all the way to blubbery tears. Each time I see it, I notice more details, more references to other Bible characters and ideas. Yes, the sets and wardrobe -- and even the acting, sometimes, despite the stellar cast -- can be awfully cheesy. Oddly, though, even the unplanned comic relief provided by the cheesiness doesn't take away from the depth of the story. Here is a man with his eye always on his mission (actually, his vocation) who, nevertheless, is compassionate enough to take a detour from what he thinks is his path in order to help others who need him. While it seems quite obvious to those of us already steeped in New Testament thought, the protaganist does not realize that it is precisely by taking these detours that he is actually accomplishing his mission.

Martin Sheen's last line in this movie is one that I'd love to be able to say one day: at the end of his character's lift, he turns to his faithful friend and says,
"I have seen the Lord, and He has accepted all of my gifts."
One could ask for no more than that.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Today's theme for the Photo Friday challenge is edible. Here's my answer to such a challenge, a photo from my files (click here for a larger version):

Last summer we planted three little jalapeno plants outside our apartment window. The landlady had given me permission to cultivate a little patch of neglected ground out there, and while my own mind went toward flowers, foliage plants, and herbs, Eddie (those are his hands in the picture) decided he wanted to try hot peppers. For some reason I had my doubts as to how they would do, but they turned out hearty, hardy, and prolific! This year we're hoping to plant some lesser-known Peruvian peppers. I hope they do as well as Eddie's jalapenos.

Monday, February 02, 2009

It's Groundhog Day!

I'd like to take a short break from the brownie-related posts to wish everyone a Happy Groundhog Day!

This is a scan of the Groundhog Day card I produced this year and sent to a few people. It's a lino print, which means I carved my design into a piece of flexible material which I then inked up with red and used to make prints on yellow tissue paper. The teal outlining accents were done by hand with a Sharpie marker. I think he turned out quite cheerful, don't you?
I've been enthusiastic about Groundhog Day ever since I read All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life by Jack Santino. That is such a good book! What was that, maybe about 15 years ago? The funny thing is that that was when I was living in Mexico, where Groundhog Day is unknown (though they do have their own special -- non rodent related -- celebration on February 2nd). I just fell in love with the history and lore of this holiday. It also might have to do with the fact that I have quite a bit of German heritage, and it supposedly was the Pennsylvania Dutch (who were and are actually of German extraction, not Dutch) who started the groundhog tradition here in the USA. So perhaps I have a tendency towards groundhog love in my genes.
Well, whatever. I just wish there were someone else near me who loves the day as much as I do and would enjoy really celebrating it. My dear, dear hubby goes along with all my carrying on, but his heart isn't totally in it. I guess he doesn't have groundhog blood like I do.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Brownie Quest: There's Pudding in the Mix!

Another "healthier" brownie idea I have come across involves using a boxed chocolate cake mix and a can of pureed pumpkin. I had both on hand, so I tried it. You just combine the mix and the pumpkin, then bake. Yes, that's it -- no other ingredients. Supposedly you get a dense, fudgy brownie-like thing.
I used a Pillsbury Moist Supreme Dark Chocolate cake mix and a 15-oz. can of Libby's pumpkin. I baked this in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan until a knife inserted in the center came out clean. It smelled good. It looked good. The texture was good. It tasted good.
But it wasn't brownies. The end product looked and cut just like cake, and was not at all dense and brownie-like. The flavor was very chocolately and only very slightly reminiscent of pumpkin. I doubt if I will be making this again, however, because of way the cake became a heavy, sticky yet slippery mess once inside my mouth, which was not very pleasant.
And so the search continues.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brownie Quest: First Tentative Steps

And so the adventure begins!
I made a batch of brownies with a very promising recipe that some ladies were raving about over on a forum I frequent. This version uses pureed black beans instead of flour and Splenda instead of sugar. I was pretty excited over the prospect of a brownie with fiber in it.
I followed the recipe to the letter and ... they turned out awful! So bad, in fact, that we had to throw them out -- but first I let them sit over night, to see if they improved with age. Well, they didn't.
I was disappointed, but not dissuaded from my mission. I'll try again another day.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Brownie Quest: The Beginning

What could possibly motivate me to update this blog after more than six months of inactivity? What could shake the snow off of my winter-anesthetized state of lethargic hibernation (how's that for an overladen, redundant metaphor?) and get me to actually write something here?

Only chocolate.

More specifically: brownies.

I am on a quest to discover new horizons in brownies. I have been Googling recipes and reading ideas about different kinds of brownies on forums and blogs as well as in old fashioned print cookbooks, and I am ready to begin.

But before I try some new recipes, allow me to post an old one. This is my starting point, my "standard," so to speak.

I associate cream cheese brownies with the seventies, which is when we started making them in my family, but it's anyone's guess as to where and when they were born. I love them because of the creamy aspect of this recipe, which makes it less stick-to-your-mouth-and-make-you-pucker-from-the-sweetness rich and yet no less delicious.

These have been a huge hit when I've taken them in to work, and plenty of folks have asked me what the "white part" is, which kind of surprises me. Hm. I guess not everyone has had cream cheese brownies before. Who knew? Maybe they just weren't there in the seventies.

By the way, brownies tend to be difficult to cut neatly into bars. I've found the best way to do this is to completely line your baking pan with alumninum foil (leaving an inch or so hanging over the edges), then grease the foil before you pour in the batter. Once your brownies have been baked and cooled, you can just lift the whole thing out of the baking pan, peel away the foil, and cut with a large chef's knife on a cutting board. This sure beats trying to pry baked-on brownie out of the corners of the pan!

Okay, so my "classic" recipe is the following:

** Those Seventies Brownies **

(or simply Cream Cheese Brownies, if you prefer)

You'll need:

one box of your favorite brownie mix, plus the ingredients it calls for (typically, an egg, a little oil, and some water)

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Prepare brownie mix according to the directions on the box and pour it into a greased baking pan. (See foil tip, above recipe.) Blend the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Pour this mixture over the brownie batter, then drag a spatula or knife through both the chocolate and the white layers of batter until it looks "marbled." Bake it at 350F for anywhere from 40 - 60 minutes. The time will vary according to the size pan you are using, but due to the addition of the white "layer," it will take longer than the times given on the brownie mix package. Be careful not to overbake them, though; the surest way to ruin brownies is by baking them too long. Slightly underbaked is best if you like gooey, rich, fudgy brownie goodness.
Note: Please feel free to leave a comment with your own ideas, recipes, and/or thoughts on brownies.