Questers of the Truth

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I was eight when I found myself at the crossroads of Christmas belief.  The perilous intersection where believing in Santa meets the acceptance of reality.  I hung on with child-like confidence that my schoolyard friends were mistaken, my older siblings were wrong, that there truly was a Santa and reindeer and the North Pole.   I didn’t like being laughed at for ‘still’ believing.  Santa had to be real.  I desperately wanted him to be real, but I definitely didn’t want to the last one to learn the truth.

My parents promoted the loud charade of Santa, giving credence to my conviction in Mr. Claus.  Candy filled stockings, milk and cookies for Santa, even hay for the reindeer were utter proof to my young years that Santa Claus was real.  Whispered, “better be good for Santa” rang in my ears, while Holiday carols spewed from the car radio.  Everywhere I turned was evidence that Santa existed.  How dare my classmates tease me that there wasn’t a Santa Claus!

Every member of our family had a red felt stocking, handmade by our mother, with our names sewn on the top.   They hung on the wooden mantle above the fireplace just waiting to be filled by the jolly ol’ man.  Even our dogs had specially stitched stockings that were bursting with rawhide treats by Christmas morn.  I certainly didn’t want Santa to go away, leaving me an empty stocking.  If I didn’t believe, would Santa skip our house?  Would our stockings be packed away, never again to be filled chockfull of candy and toys?

On the eve of Christmas, my mother would assist my sisters and I in placing a tall glass of milk and a plate of homemade cookies on the hearth, our carefully handwritten wish lists arranged by its side.  Snicker doodles, Russian wedding cakes, candy cane cookies piled high on a large red platter, tasty treats for St. Nick.  For weeks, Mother could be found in the kitchen, baking the most wonderful holiday confections; letting each of us kids select our favorite cookie to make.  If I didn’t believe in Santa, would mother quit baking sweets, my eight-year old brain frantically wondered?  Would the warm cinnamon scent waffling through the house fade away?  Would there be no special dessert served after our Christmas Day dinner?  Would we still celebrate Christmas?

A few days before Christmas, Father would bring home a huge bale of hay.  “Fodder for the reindeer”, he’d grunt, as he was hefting the heavy bale from the back of the pickup truck.  Under the bright outdoor Christmas lights, he’d scatter the flakes of hay about the front yard.  Eight large hay mounds tagged for the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh and a special one for Rudolf.  Once he directed us to place apples on top of the alfalfa claiming they needed extra energy for their long night delivering presents around the world. If I didn’t believe in Santa Claus, who would feed the reindeer?  Would Christmas go away? Would anyone care?

For forty some-odd years, I’ve sat at the junction of believing and not-quite believing.  Do I continue on the magical journey, keeping my faith in the magic of Santa?  Do I take a sharp right turn, jostling the memories of filled stockings, homemade cookies and hay for the reindeer before packing them tightly away in the trunk?  Last year the decision was taken out of my hands.

My husband and I were asked to play Mr. and Mrs. Claus for a large family Christmas gathering.  We were given a beautiful Santa suit, specially selected presents for the children, and directions on where and when to show up.  My husband practiced his “Ho Ho Ho’s” while I made a list of all the “good” children’s names that would be attending.

The bright red Santa suit was fur trimmed and embellished with tall black boots, a wide thick belt, and a red velvet hat.  White woolen gloves, a snow-white beard and hairpiece, old-fashioned wire-rimmed glasses along with a padded under belly pillow completed the costume.  As my husband was dressing for the part, our two Bernese Mountain Dogs came in to investigate, sniffing at the strange red velvet material and pristine fur adorning the edges.  I grabbed the camera, begging my husband to sit with the dogs for a brief photo op and quickly snapped some pictures before we needed to be on our way.

It was weeks later that I remembered to upload the pictures to the computer.  January was getting ready to turn into February before I had the time to flip through the shots I had taken.  Christmas had long passed, the tree taken down, the holiday decorations put away.  The spirit of Christmas had disappeared into worrying about paying the bills.  I sat at the computer and pulled up the pictures from Christmas.

questers of the truth

questers of the truth

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson once said, “Questers of the truth, that’s who dogs are; seekers after the invisible scent of another being’s authentic core.”   I looked at the first photo on the screen, seeing our two Berners with Santa.

The opening photo revealed our dogs, Dolce and Amore, nestled beside Santa, glazing up at him with wonder.  They were enchanted with Father Christmas, enthralled with his inner spirit, his big heart, his jolly laugh.  The adoration in their eyes shone with true belief.  Santa’s authentic core was laid bare by the truest of seekers.   And, there was Santa, eyes closed, basking in the joy of unselfish affection, unconditional love.

I knew without a doubt, weeks into the new year when Christmas was a long past remembrance, it didn’t matter whether you are a just turned eight year old or way past the half-century mark, Santa was real and would be forever.

‘Twas the night before Christmutts……

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Image

 

‘Twas the night before Christmutts, when all through the pen
not a creature was stirring, not a mutt nor a hen.
The stockings were hung by the dog door with care, in hopes that St. Bern soon would soon be there.

The dogs were nestled all snug on their beds,
while visions of rawhide and bones danced in their heads.
With Amore in her ‘kerchief, and Dolce in her cap, they had just settled down for a long canine’s nap.

When out in the dog pen there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature dog sled and eight tiny Terriers.

With a little old driver, so lively and durn,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Bern.
and faster than Greyhounds, his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

“Now Rover! Now Ruddy! Now, Pepper and Buddy!
On, Daisy! On, Charlie! On, Duke and Harley!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now leap away! leap away! leap away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, jumped to the sky
so up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sled full of toys, and St. Bern too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing and a little woof woof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Bern came with a bound.

He was covered all in fur, from his muzzle to his paw,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and straw.
A bundle of treats he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes–how they twinkled! His jowls, how merry!
His tail curled over, his nose like a cherry!
His long muzzle was drawn up like a bow, the whiskers on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a rawhide he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a big round belly, that shook when he barked, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old mutt,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of his strut.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings with treats and jerk.
And laying his paw aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sled, to his dogs gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmutts to all, and to all a good night!”

 

 

buffy

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City of Paris Dry Goods Company's Christmas tree -  a Christmas tree so big, it reaches the top floor!

City of Paris Dry Goods Company’s Christmas tree – a Christmas tree so big, it reaches the top floor!

When I was little, every November, my mother would take us girls into the city to go shopping.  Christmas Shopping.  Major get out the card, shop til’ ya drop type of shopping.  In one day, in one fell swoop, get it all done kind of shopping.  We lived in a small farming community in California, so a trip to San Francisco meant a grand adventure for my sisters and I.  It meant having a fancy lunch and if we were lucky some See’s chocolate!  It meant a ride on the cable car and some taffy candy down at the wharf.  It meant seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and huge ships in the bay.  But a shopping trip in November meant going to the City of Paris Department Store and seeing their five-story tall Christmas tree, a true wonderland for my eyes.

I remember one year, all of us kids got new Christmas togs.  New, not a hand-me-down-four-times-doesn’t-quite-fit-it’s-too-short Christmas dress, but brand new.  New, not home-made or sewn, but tags still on new.  A Christmas dress from the City of Paris.  I still remember that dress.  It was blue with red xylophone bars across the front and down to the hem line, gold cording over the bars.  It was a Buffy dress.  TV’s Family Affair, Buffy Davis wore one just like it in the show.  Oh how I loved that show and how I loved that dress.  At the time, I was six and a half, pudgy with freckles across my nose, a scraggly pixie hair cut and missing two front teeth.  Not exactly the cutest kid in the class, but when I put on my Buffy dress, I magically transformed into a princess.  A Buffy princess.  I’ve always believed, at some point, young or old, every girl needs a Buffy dress.  Something that makes their inner self shine, something that lets them feel beautiful and special, inside and out.

The other day, while at out and about at one of my favorite little shops in Santa Fe, I found the perfect Holiday outfits for Dolce and Amore.  And, I couldn’t resist.  Had to have them.  Didn’t care that Malcolm might get just a tiny bit cranky over some frivolous doggy purchase. Come hell or high water, I was buying.  I had found the ideal Buffy attire for them.  Something to make them feel beautiful.  Special.  Like a Buffy dog princess.

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Dolce loved her Buffy collar so much she wouldn’t let me take it off her.  Amore carried hers through out the house (I think she liked the jingle jangle from the little bells).  And Malcolm, he grabbed the camera to take pictures of our beautiful princesses.  He thought the collars perfect canine attire for the holidays!

Here’s to the Buffy in all of us!

For delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

red or green?

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Red or Green? and, no, I’m not talking about what color holiday wrapping paper to choose from.  We’re talking chile here.  If you ever find yourself in New Mexico, the official state question is red or green, referring to the type of chile you prefer.  For those that enjoy both red and green, just say “Christmas” – you’ll get a colorful plate of both.

just say Christmas!

just say Christmas!

Me?  I like red, red smothered over a breakfast burrito, red cheese enchiladas and red pork posole. And, I like green, chile verde (green chile stew) and green chile cheeseburgers.

When it comes to red, New Mexico is split down the middle between liking Chimayo Red or Hatch Red chile. North of I-40 and you’ll be a Chimayo Red fan, anything south of the interstate and you are in Hatch territory.  Wars have been fought over which tastes better.  Families split over chile feuds.  Restaurants battled over reigning chile champs.  I-40 is New Mexico’s chile line in the sand.

However, most of New Mexico’s cuisine leans towards the green chile.  Roasted, peeled and chopped, green chile goes with everything!  From turkey to cheeseburgers to eggs to wrapped in a heated tortilla with a little butter and salt.  Green is usually considered spicier, red is said to be gentler, but more pungent.  Some say green will vary in heat, hitting speeds of extremely hot to barely mild, while red is steadier in its heat gauge.

So, red or green? What will it be? Next time you’re in New Mexico and asked this question, if you can’t decide, just ask for “Christmas”.  A chile treat worthy of the holiday!

ACAPULCO’S CRAB ENCHILADAS with SALSA CON TOMATILLOS

My father grew up on a large cattle ranch on the central coast of California.  The ranch cook was Hispanic and would serve a big Mexican Dinner for the cowboys on Christmas Eve.  Tamales, rice, beans, homemade tortillas, even natillas!  Dad carried on the tradition, abet a little more gourmet, and on Christmas Eve he would cook up a big fancy Mexican meal.  One of my favorite dishes was his crab enchiladas with green tomatillos sauce.  Merry Christmas!

Enchiladas

  • 8 corn tortillas
  • oil or lard
  • 2 cups flaked crab meat; picked over for shells
  • 1/2 minced green chiles
  • 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
  • 6 tbsp. minced onions
  • shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • ripe olives – pitted – garnish
  • avocado slices – garnish
  • Tomatoes; peeled and sliced – garnish

Salsa Con Tomatillos

  • 2 – 12 oz. can Tomatillos
  • 2 tortillas, fried
  • oil or lard
  • 4 Serrano Chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1 minced jalapeno chile
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 – 2 fresh minced garlic cloves mashed in 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. crushed cumin seeds
  • 1/24 cup chicken broth
  • green food coloring

Sour Cream Sauce

  • 1 pint Sour cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 4 tbsp. chopped onion (may use green onions)
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

SALSA CON TOMATILLOS:  Drain the tomatillos and reserve the liquid for later use.  Fry 2 tortillas in oil or lard until lightly browned.  Break and drop into the half of the juice of the tomatillos.  While these are soaking and getting soft, saute the onions, chiles, cilantro and garlic mashed in salt in oil/lard.  Saute until soft but not browned.  Put the tomatillos, softened tortillas with juice, saute mixture, broth,  cumin, and 3 drops of green food coloring in the blender.  Blend until smooth.  Transfer to the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Sauce may be used as is or strained for a smoother more professional presentation.

SOUR CREAM SAUCE:  Combine all of the ingredients and stir gently to blend.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready.

CRAB:  Combine the crab, onions, chiles, and 1/2 cup of cheese in a bowl.  Moisten mixture with a little of the leftover Tomatillo Sauce.

ENCHILADAS:  Heat the tortillas in the oil or lard until they are soft.  About 1 minute.  Add more oil as necessary.  Dip each tortilla in the Tomatillo Sauce.  Place 1/4 cup of crab meat in the center of each tortilla.  Spoon a little Salsa Con Tomatillos on each.  Roll the enchiladas and place them in a shallow baking pan.  Cover with the remaining Salsa.  Sprinkle generously with shredded jack cheese and bake at 400 degrees about 10 minutes or until hot and the cheese is melted.  Serve with a dollop of Sour Cream Sauce and garnish with olives, avocado, tomato slices and pieces of crab leg.

Credits:  Raymond G. Marshall, started the famous chain of Acapulco Mexican Restaurants in California.  This is the original recipe and was the house specialty.

 

fat man gifts

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There is a reason why jolly ol’ Nick is rather rotund – all that Christmas candy and cookies he is served on Christmas eve.  Those many platters of Christmas treats, piled high and plentiful.  All those sweet concoctions made especially for Santa.  And there is a reason why all of us add a little extra tonnage on the ol’ thighs somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years, between office parties and neighborhood gatherings – all those holiday treats our neighbors and friends gift us, all those tasty nibbles that we swear we will only have one. 

Ha!  One, my ass!  You can never have just one – one cookie, one bite, one taste.  One doesn’t take into account the three cookies you snuck in your mouth while no one was looking.  One doesn’t mean the extra bites and samples you had, “to make sure it was okay”.  One doesn’t explain the chocolate smear on your lips as you exit the bathroom.  Nope, just one does not justify the evidence.  The damming evidence of, dare I say it, tummy tonnage.  GASP!  It can be found anywhere, under your chin, around on your rear, behind your arms.  FAT! 

Hell, weight gain is fine….. on someone else.  So, enjoy helping your family and friends get fat with these wonderful and rich chocolate chubby gifts.  Gifts with good taste!  Gifts that keep giving well after they have all disappeared!

 

PUDGY FUDGEY SAUCE

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. of your favorite liquor such as Amaretto, Bailey’s, or Kahlua (yes, add some more calories!)
  • Small decorative jars with lids

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat.  Remove from the stove-top and whisk in the chopped chocolate until melted.  Stir in the liquor.  Pour into jars and cool completely before covering (otherwise the sauce will become granular).  Once cooled, cap with the lid and refrigerate.  Makes approximate 2 cups and will keep up to 1 month in the refrigerator. 

Now just tag, bag and gift!  Add a small serving spoon to your package to encourage sampling right out of the jar!

 

CHOCOLATE BON BONDS

they will bond smack dab onto your belly!

  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

       Optional:  add 1 tbsp: peppermint oil; coconut oil; Kahlua, Grand Marnier or a flavor of your choice

In the top pan of a double-boiler, bring the heavy cream to a gentle simmer.  Remove from the stove-top  and stir in the chocolate pieces and butter.  In the bottom double-boiler, bring 1/2 ” water to a slow simmer over low heat.  Set the top pan on the bottom double-boiler stirring continuously until completely melted.  Remove from the heat.  Pour the chocolate mixture into a shallow bowl.  Cool completely, cover and refrigerate until the firm, at least two hours. 

Pour the cocoa in a glass pie pan.  Line an airtight container with wax paper.  Using a melon scooper, dip into a glass of warm water then quickly dip into the chilled chocolate mixture to form a 1” ball.  Drop and roll the chocolate Bon Bon in the cocoa powder until covered and place in the prepared container.  Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks or the freezer up to 3 months. 

Makes approximately 30 Bon Bons if you don’t eat any.  Ah, screw it, keep these for yourself!

 

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD

make two batches and hide one for later!

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened dark cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 tbsp. softened butter – pliable but not easily spreadable
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • cooking spray

Combine flour, cocoa and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Place Sugar, butter and oil in a medium bowl and mix with your CLEAN hands until combined.  Add the flour mixture, again, mixing with your hands until blended.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place dough on a baking sheet that is coated with cooking spray.  press dough into an 8″ x 5″ rectangle about 3/8″ thick.  Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork. 

Bake for 30 minutes or until just set.  Cut shortbread into 24 pieces (one less and we’ll know you ate one!)  Cool.  Gift box and deliver all those calories with a smile on your face!

 

PrintFor delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

pawing

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tuckered out

being famous is soooo exhausting!

Book signings, book tours, book readings.  Amore and Dolce would rather chew a book than attend a book fair.  They are tired of being paraded around, having to be on their best behavior, putting their white paw in it-doesn’t-wash-off ink to initial one of my cookbooks.  They are worn out from all the ‘meet n’ greets’ they have attended, from all the paw shaking, all the tail wagging.  They are fed up with pawing.  Put a fork in it, they are done!  Fini.  Through.  Over.

They are especially annoyed with the numerous showers they have suffered through in preparation for their appearances.  The strawberry scented shampoo (the store was out of un-scented), the loud fur dryers, the cute little red kerchief that I tie around their necks.  If they see me in my bathing suit, if they get a whiff of shampoo and see a huge pile of towels, if they get locked in the bathroom once again, I have no doubt they will revolt.  Stage a canine mutiny.  Quit the book-signing show.  Though there is nothing more precious than a fresh-from-their-bath dog, nothing more huggable than a clean one, but I think the girls have had enough.

Secretly, I know they enjoy the attention while pawing at the book signings, the extra love they receive from fellow dog lovers and cookbook lovers requesting a signed book.  They love showing off for us.  They are definitely not bashful when it comes to grabbing the spotlight.  I’ve seen Amore push Dolce aside when she wants center stage.  I’ve noticed the nose nudges from Dolce, reminding those petting her, while waiting in line, not to stop, there is plenty of light left in the day for them to continue rubbing her.

Nevertheless, they know the Holidays are here, and they know a signed cookbook is a much better gift than an unsigned one.  If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook makes for a perfect holiday present.  Personalized or left unsigned, Amore and Dolce will even dog-tag their favorite recipes for you!  Order yours today!

It's almost here!

Order your cookbook now – just in time for Christmas 

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For delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

snowflakes and mud

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A tired dog is a happy owner!  And nothing tires out our girls more than snow.  Play time in the snow is probably Dolce and Amore’s number one favorite doings.  In the life of a dog, there is nothing better than a full belly, a warm bed and a romp in the snow.

A week after our big snow dump, most of the snow has melted but there are still patches to be found, snow angels to be made and fun to be had!  On the lookout for fresh snow, Malcolm and I took the girls on a new trail at the Galisteo Basin Preserve this weekend.  We knew the snow was getting thin, but certainly didn’t anticipate the amount of mud we would encounter.  Snow melt brings slush, and then comes the mud.   And more mud.  And then more mud.  As we swished down the trail, accumulating thick mud on our boots, Dolce and Amore took off like the wind.  They smelled fun!  They got a whiff of excitement and ran ahead like a bunch of banshees, barking for the sheer joy of dawggy play time!

Dolce immediately sniffed out a sizable plot of snow and began her rattle, roll and shake.  Angel time!  Amore followed suit, building her own snow angel.  Then it was a race to the next patch of powder.  They ran through Juniper and Pinon, leaping over small gulleys and rain carved-out arroyos in search of more snow.  They found it – along with a lot of mud, returning with mud capped paws and more.

The mud and the muck is worth it.  The look on their faces, the expression in their eyes – there is nothing more joyful than watching them play and seeing unadulterated happiness shine back at you.

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

Amore and Dolce – perfect angels! (not)

the race is on

the race is on

muddy paws and all

muddy paws and all

twist and roll!

a twist and a roll in the last of the snow

happy dawg

happy dawg

grins and smiles

grins and smiles

SNOWFLAKE COOKIES – a favorite at Christmas!

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, silver white winters that melt into springs, these are a few of my favorite things!

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips – melted (and a few extra to nibble on)
  • Star shaped cookie cutter
  • powdered sugar

Mix sugar, butter, egg and vanilla well.  Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to the butter mixture.  Let chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out the chilled cookie dough on a floured board and cut into star shapes.  Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes.  Remove from oven when lightly brown.  Completely cool.

Place some melted chocolate in the middle of a star cookie.  While chocolate is still warm place another star cookie on top with the star points alternating with the bottom cookies.  Add a small dab of chocolate on the top cookie and sprinkle powdered sugar lightly over the finished cookie.

Keep under lock and key – husbands and dogs are  known to swipe one (or two!)