Monday, September 29, 2008

Guacamole

Over the weekend I ate processed guacamole, and I feel I've betrayed all that is Southwestern and natural. There is no reason to eat processed guacamole. Don't know where guacamole originated but I suspect it's a Spanish-speaking place and I don't know where acavados come from, originally, but it ain't New Mexico or I'd have a tree in my back yard. Still, guacamole is standard fare around here, along with sour cream and salsa. Yum! I eat it with blue corn chips, fajitas, and whatever else I can get away with.

I was telling my sister I sinned and ate processed guacamole and she asked me how I make it. I'm like... "With a fork?"

She laughed, but that is actually an important clue. You do not blend guacamole. You really don't even need to use a knife if your avacado is ripe, but if you want you can do this neat little trick:

Slice your avocado in half, working the knife around the pit longways. Put the knife down, twist the halves, and pull them apart. Slam the knife blade into the pit so it sticks there, and then twist/wiggle the knife until the pit comes out. Practice this honey, you'll have your own cooking show in no time!

Don't throw the pit away! Bury it in the bottom of your guacamole to keep it from turning brown.

Spoon (or fork...or spork!) the avocado out of the skin and plop it into a bowl. Toss in the ingredients below and mash it until just mixed, with a fork. NO BLENDERS PLEASE! It's not soup.

Here are the other ingredients:
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Jalapeno -- fresh. Diced. DO NOT put your fingers in your eye after dicing. Trust me. And remember, the flavor spreads after the dip sits for awhile. Careful, gringos.
  • Garlic (I use dried and granulated to get the flavor spread around more quickly than the smashed fresh, but if you're a purist...well, smash the fresh)
How much of everything? Well, that depends. The flavor should be balanced. Not too much lemon, not too much salt, generally not too much jalapeno unless you're showing off how much chile you can handle. Definitely not too much garlic. Avocado should be the main attraction.

Some people I know like to substitute a tablespoon or two of salsa for the tomatoes and jalapeno -- now that makes for a really quick guacamole.

Serve in a bright bowl, fresh. Not processed. :-(

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Soul of the Cook


One of my favorite cookbooks is online. It's called Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook and Art Gallery. It's been up for years, thankfully(!) so whenever I need to fix something simple but unique and different from my usual New Mexican and kid food cuisine, I like to try new things from there.

But tonight I'm making an old favorite, called Tabakh Ruhu, or Soul of the Cook, a delicious eggplant and tomato dish with meat. I make it with ground lamb and fire roasted tomatoes and serve it over rice. For my veggie friends, I'll make a separate pot with tofu, which I haven't actually tried before.

And now I'm off to shop for groceries and a new rice cooker! I'm looking for one that is not aluminum and is bigger than my 2-cup standby. It has proven not so easy to locate -- Walmart was out so I don't even know what they carry. I hit a couple of similar stores with no luck so I think I might have to go to a cooking store or department store. Wish me luck, dinner is at 7:00!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Millions of Colors, So Little Time. And Space.

These days there are hundreds and hundreds of colors of Delica beads (for the non-beaders out there among my 12-minus-3 loyal readers -- I'm pretty sure 3 bailed after the McCain Photoshop Incident -- Delicas are Miyuki's brand of tiny cylindrical Japanese beads). A lot of the colors are surface variations of the same core bead colors; you know, a matte surface or a rainbow (AB) surface. And then there are the transparents. And the matte rainbow transparents (Ok, I might be making that up!) Still, that's a lotta color to play with.

At a recent workshop I wrote in my handout that the human eye can discern about a million different colors. Well, that info was based on my notes that are at least 10 years old, so last night I googled for:
how many colors can human eye see?

(Well first of all let me just say you couldn't pay me enough to be the lab rat that had to distinguish a million colors. Can you imagine the eye test for that??? I mean, I like color but I seriously doubt I could sit still that long.)

So here's what I found. Seems opinions range quite a bit. Suffice to say, it's a lot more than Miyuki makes. Fortunately beads are compact.
  • Ask Yahoo says "nobody knows" and "millions and millions.
  • WikiAnswers says "blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah" and never answers the question. I did find out I'm a trichromat with a 10% chance of having an extra color receptor, though. Gads!
  • On a different page, WikiAnswers cuts the blahblah completely and states, simply: between 35k and 55k. Unfortunately they don't explain what a "k" is. I think it's thousands?
  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says some women can see 100 million colors. Pity the housewife who had to prove that.
  • The gods and goddesses on Mount Wikipedia say it's . . . to tell ya the truth I couldn't FIND the answer but this line did pop out (ew!): "Eyes can be eaten by humans; in some countries" LOLOL!
  • The RGB video phreaks at ArsTechnica variously claim the number is 3 million, 16 million, and fortunately somebody over there named stickboy got everybody back on track by pointing out humans don't see in bits and bytes. {SNORT!
  • I found an interesting article at The Visual Body, but unfortunately my cone cells got fatigued before I located the answer. ;-)
When I dig up my favorite color & physiology link, buried in my notes somewhere, I'll revisit this topic because now that I've been entertained by the above, I really would like to know who decides this stuff and whether it's based on a guess or an actual study.

P.S. I stole the little Delica images above from Sandi at Stormcloud Trading Company. Tell her Miz Mary sent ya. ;-)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sage Dreams

I finally found some time this weekend to roll out a new pair of earrings in my Etsy shop. Is that pitiful? One pair??? Got a stash by my computer just waiting to be photographed! ARgh! Too busy.

Had class all afternoon yesterday and then went on a date with the DH to his coworker's birthday party at a Mexican restaurant. They had a band there called Vanilla Pop. I don't know if that was a reference to the music, their ethnicity, or the fact that the woman sitting next to me though the lead singer had to be the blonde-wigged, sunglassed bass player's dad. They were it, by the way -- just the two of them. One keyboard, one electric guitar he occasionally swapped for a bass, a drum machine, recorded horns, and a bubble machine. I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or just get up and dance. After a margarita I did find myself shimmying in my seat to Neal Diamond, Frank Sinatra, and a catchy little version of Ring of Fire sung with a British accent. Well, who's to judge -- it's a living, right?

Today is the last day of the Fair and Junior's kung fu hopping, er, fighting. This year after their stage performances they were hired to also wander the streets in their Chinese dragons, causing mischief in the crowd, and working in a few flips and jumps when space permits. Next weekend I shall be free!

Anyway...back to the earrings:


Sage Dreams Archetype Earrings
Vintage cabochons, stamping, and rhinestones; decoupage

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Meinrad Craighead

Years ago on a hot summer evening I stumbled into what I thought would be a poetry reading at Full Circle Books (the now, unfortunately, defunct women's bookstore in Albuquerque). Instead I came into a full out sacred ceremony involving, as I recall, cool water from the Rio Grande, some crystals, bunches of wildflowers, a bunch of other women, and the art of Meinrad Craighead. (I'm sure there must have been candles, too...) She had just published Litany of the Great River, featuring words and her unique, small scale artwork delving into images of the divine feminine. I cherish my signed copy, and have bought a calendar of her images every year that I could find one at Wild Oats. 8-)

Last weekend a feminist show opened at UNM, with Meinrad and Judy Chicago as jurors, and although I haven't been able to attend yet, all week my recollections of her rich artwork, and the influence she's had on me, have swirled around in my mind and dreams. So here are some resources to share with you:
Enjoy, and be inspired!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fried

That's it. I'm completely insane. I admit it.

I am "tweaking" an online course in Blackboard CE6.0. Read between the lines. In my looney world, "tweaking" is a polite word for constant, compulsive editing. I took a searching and fearless moral inventory of my "skillset" needed to tweak. No, I'm not bragging, the inventory made me realize how nuts I am. I honestly had no idea I was doing this.

Well, first there's Blackboard. The mother ship. It's a hog. I spend 50% of my course development time tapping on the keyboard and clicking this and that, and the other 50% waiting for the %#@*& page to refresh.

Then there's Dreamweaver, my beloved workhorse of an HTML editor. Etc. Only problem is, my version at home, which I installed on Windows Vista, refuses to create tables anymore. Maybe, like me, it's unconsciously rebelling against information overload? (Tables? TABLES??? We don't need no...) I can copy a table from another file and edit it just fine, just can't create a new one. But I love you Dreamweaver, more than you'll know.

I record my weekly welcome messages in Audacity, reading from the html page. I've gotten to where I can record and convert to an mp3 in just a few minutes, once I've written a good clean welcome message (er, as opposed to a what kind of welcome message?). I'm so over the fact that I hate my voice, which makes getting a good take a LOT easier. ;-) It's a bit of fluff really, but I do it because that's what the students comment on the most. They like it. Makes things more personal I suppose.

When I'm doing how-to's I usually use PaintShop Pro's screen capture utility because that's where I edit my images (why is it I have to edit every screen shot I take? Does it really make that much difference to reduce to 80% of the original size? Must I add a border around everything? This week (and it's only Tuesday) I am about to go nuts clicking the same dawg keystrokes over and over...

And when I was in training last week my buddy next to me reminded me about SnagIt. I've had it for years cause it came with Camtasia. (Have you lost software count yet? I have!) I didn't use it much, preferring PSP. But when I saw those cool torn edges borders etc. that you can put around the grabs, I went a little nuts for a couple of days. And then in Vista they've got that Snipping Tool, which is quite handy (compared to the days of Alt+PrntScrn + crop in Paint + saved as .bmp...). So I've been "playing" a little too much with screen shots.

And then there's SoftChalk, which I hate/like. Like because you can add cool little interactive components like drag and drop quizzes, flash cards, crossword puzzles, self-tests, and embedded glossary definitions. Hate because it's expensive and creates a folder full of four million files for one little activity. Hate because it's buggy and doesn't play nice with Blackboard CE. It's not Windows (or anything else) compatible so I'm thinking of trying that new product by the Respondus people that does the same kinds of things -- java jingle balls, I call 'em. Again, the students like those things.

You can't get away from Adobe Acrobat for creating PDFs (from anything, trust me). I use PDFs for some of the course handouts and other files where formatting is critical or I don't want somebody to mess up the page... ;-)

I try not to use PowerPoint (I mean, isn't 8 programs enough already?), putting my lectures into html pages instead. I'm not going to mention pbwiki because thank the stars, I haven't been able to justify using it in this course. Last spring I used an online webquest site but opted this time to take the pages and restructure them in Dreamweaver. And my quizzes are short and sweet so I haven't cracked open Respondus in a few months.

So that's only...what? Eight different programs? (not counting Word, where I flesh out my drafts) It occurred to me this morning -- why on earth don't I do what I tell everybody else to do -- create it all in Word? Now that Word has the "Save as Filtered HTML" feature you can actually get a decent HTML page (the only issue being images, which end up in one convenient little folder). WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF? Because I'm nuts. That's why.


OH! LOL -- I forgot my webcam. Does that count?


Did I mention my Internet connection is running slow today?

--I really, really, really need to detox.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta

Ronda Kivett asked a question in her Charlie for VP comment about the Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta.

The answer is YESSIREE! I love the Fiber Arts Fiesta. It is a biannual gathering of all the fiber arts guilds in New Mexico, including the New Mexico Bead Society, silk painters, lace makers, doll artists, weavers, quilters, and more. Usually it's held on Memorial Day weekend.

There is always a featured artist from New Mexico. There are lots of demonstrations, and each guild gets a booth to show their wares and perhaps sell specialty items such as books and patterns to support their guild. The NMBS usually also buys an extra booth for its members to sell from. And there are other vendors -- my favorite being Treasures of the Gypsy [no website], where I always plan to lose most of my money. And then some. ;-) She specializes in exotic trims, fabric yardage, and funny little geegaws and embellishments like embroidered sequins and such from India, with an emphasis on dollmaking. (I cannot, however, seem to say "Treasures of the Gypsy" without sounding like I've had a couple of beers.)

I'm kind of sad that South Beach Trimmings doesn't come to the show any more -- he has the absolute wildest trim I've ever seen gathered in one place. Maybe he'll come back in 2009?

The FAF also has a fashion show, exhibit, and other events. One year I helped Nikia babysit the 9/11 Bead Quilt -- a very moving experience for sure.

So yes, Ronda, maybe you can come to town for a visit that weekend. . . certainly there are other things for the family to do while you spend a few hours trolling. . . er, cruising . . . er, shopping . . . er, participating in educational activities at the FAF.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Autumn Nights and Daze

Oh! Oh! I snagged a Treasury! At a normal reasonable hour of the evening too! So I gathered up some Etsy images (jewelry, clothing, paintings, photography, prints) of how I feel about this time of year -- the rose hips harvest, crisp cold nights, high mountain apples, tall grasses going to seed, and most of all, the going within, the solitary walks along the irrigation canals. The crows! I love this time of year. Finally we are not sweltering, all of a sudden, it seems, I'm wearing a sweater in the morning. Drinking hot green tea with cardamom instead of cold fruity drinks. I'll keep looking around on Etsy for the next few days to bring some more handcrafted art into my little gallery. Oh and if you're registered at Etsy, feel free to comment about Autumn Nights and Daze.

The capture below is what it looked like last night (you can click the link to go to the Treasury, at least for the next 3 days or so):


etsy handmade items

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Accessorizing with Lightning Bugs

Yesterday's post reminded me of a funny story my brother told my kid around the same time he told him how to hypnotize a chicken. I debated whether to publish it here or not, cause after all, this is my blog, not my brother's, but what the heck? I've been in computer training all week (I've never sat still this long in my life) and will be there the rest of the week so it's not likely I'll come up with any brilliant thing to share in the next couple of days...

So. My brother likes to ride Harleys. He also happens to have a full beard. I know what you're thinking. Well, it's true. Back in the day, it was even more true. He has always lived out in the country. I think that's because he likes riding his Harley back and forth to work.

And when I was growing up there were a lot more lightning bugs (I think more genteel people call them "fireflies") than there are nowadays, thanks to evil pesticides and ambient light and whatnot. My husband, who grew up in northern New Mexico, had never seen or heard of them until we went back to visit the first time. We were sitting in my friend's living room and there was a stray lightning bug flitting around. It was getting kind of dark outside but she hadn't turned up the inside lights yet. I noticed my husband kept blinking and looking all paranoid out of the corner of one eye or the other. Finally someone mentioned the lightning bug and he was so relieved because he thought he was hallucinating! Every time he'd see it blink, he'd look toward the little light, but it would be gone!

Anyway, back to the story. My brother was riding his Harley down the highway, and apparently he hit a big swarm of them. If you've been around these little critters, you know that when they get smashed (again, like yesterday's bats, I admit I may have incurred some karmic debt as a child but let's move along for now...) they glow for a little while, like phosphorescent paint.

So my brother pulls over at a gas station and walks in all cool like, except he notices he's getting some unusually frightened looks from people. Like they don't want him to catch them staring. Like they are baffled and afraid. He figured they didn't care for his leather jacket and full beard. Etc. You get the picture. Gosh, people are always judging bikers! ;-)

Well, finally, he gets home and looks in the mirror -- only to discover he's got streaks of glowing bits of smashed lightning bugs all through his beard and eyebrows and face where he tried to brush them off. LOL!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How to Hypnotize a Chicken

I read today that some goats have a genetic disorder that causes them to faint and fall over when startled. I've never seen that happen, but my first thought was, it's karmic debt for all the smarmy, socially unacceptable things they do the rest of the time.

But it did bring back fond [ahem, clears throat] animal memories of growing up in Kentucky, which I can hopefully pass on to my son, one at a time. My oldest brother already explained to him how to hypnotize a chicken. It's a bit different from Wikipedia's instructions, but here goes:

You pick up the chicken (this separates the wheat from the chaff right off the bat...). Then you tuck its head close to its body and hold it there (again, not all are blessed with this talent, it may take practice). Then you hold out the chicken and kind of rotate it in a circle, horizontally. You can then set down the chickens in various parts of your living room and continue your party, with live (but very well behaved) chickens as the decor. Call it a "chicken" party if you like.

Which reminds me of another well crafted, but at this point, slightly embarassing, adventure we used to have with bats. We would gather in a small clearing (no I did not grow up in the mountains, I'm talking about a park here), and throw a light-colored frisbee high into the air. A bunch of bats would follow it to the ground, where a (usually) boy-child would thump it with a broom. That's the embarassing part that we haven't passed on to my son (and incidentally, yes, there are bats here in Albuquerque). I never knew a bat that died or seemed hurt, they just got stunned, and then with a flashlight we could get a really good look at them before they fluttered off into the dark again. Call it scientific inquiry, OK? I would never do that today. These days, Junior substitutes a rolled up ball of athletic socks for the frisbee. And there's no broom. That I know of.

One time, my friend was wearing a white hoodie and when the bats came down and we all ran back into the trees, they followed her (screaming)! LOL! Same girl, same hoodie -- we went out to a friend's house and she decided to ride the girl's horse. At night. Never having ridden a horse before. Well she got on and the horse took off. In the dark, you could hear the clippity clop, and see her white hoodie bobbing up and down, getting smaller and smaller. I think you could also hear her screaming but I'm not sure, we were probably laughing too loudly. All of a sudden, the white hoodie stopped bobbing and just stayed still in the air. Huh? But we could still hear the clippity clop, clippity clop. Suddently the white hoodie fell to the ground. She'd gotten hung up on a tree branch!!! She was not one of my luckier friends, in general.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Captured for a Purple Rain Treasury

Trying to keep my eyes open last night until Junior finished slogging through a big pile-o-homework, I went Etsy-surfin' and found my li'l ole Fishnet earrings in TreasuryWest by sepolidoro. It's a Purple Rain themed gallery, really intense violets and lavenders -- definitely more purple rain than, say, purple flowers. Rather atmospheric up close! Anyway, THANKS sepolidoro. 8-)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

September Poll: If you were a bead...

. . . which bead would you be?

Please vote in the poll to the left. I know, I put up only 10 choices. I can hear the grumbles! If you are a bead I didn't mention, feel free to post it in a comment. BUT you must describe why you chose that bead! Or I will... why I'll... flog you with a hank o'truecuts!

Ok here's the key (read this before voting):

If I was a bead, I'd be a(n)...
  • Swarovski crystal -- elegant, classy and finely cut
  • Opaque true cut -- vivid color with a hint of sparkle
  • Chunk of red coral -- bold and natural, with an ethnic flair
  • Lampwork focal -- unique, creative artisan style
  • Faceted amethyst -- classic, quality, understated elegance
  • Green kyanite -- earth-bound but daring, like the fairies
  • African trade bead -- a well crafted, well travelled treasure
  • Victorian jet -- rich black sparkle, the Queen's favorite
  • Labradorite -- mystical, magical seer
  • Fire polished crystal -- affordable and versatile

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

State Fair Jewelry & Beadwork Highlights

I spent the better part of yesterday at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds, along with five other judges, helping to judge the jewelry and beadwork that was entered in the Home and Creative Arts areas. This year, the number of allowable entries by one person was dramatically reduced to ONE per person, from previous years, where each person could submit as many pieces as there were sections. So I think there were only about 100 entries to critique -- still a daunting task that took us about six hours, minus a lunch break, where we were treated to a scrumptious and filling lunch from Fremonts.

Each judge looked at every single piece, and each piece was scored for design/composition, workmanship, and wearability/functionality. We looked at ornaments, necklaces, belts, key fobs, beaded floral arrangements, and even an aquarium filled with beaded fish. We saw chain maille, polymer clay, precious metal clay, bead embroidery, and off-loom beadwork, and probably dozens of other media and objects I've neglected to mention!

The strongest category by far was the beaded cabochons. We've always seen good work in that area, New Mexico having such a strong tradition of beadwork, as well as access to lots of gemstones. The interesting thing this year is that each neckpiece entry in that category used the same color scheme! They were all extraordinary, well designed and well executed -- and each one used turquoise and either tiger eye or bronze, some with bone or similarly colored components. What a coincidence! I wonder if it has to do with Sherry Serafini and Heidi Kummli's new book coming out within the last year or so.

And once again we were treated to a beaded doll by Mindy Lafler of Moriarty, New Mexico. Mindy beads around her large, handmade doll forms, that are HINGED at the knees and elbows (and feet, I think?? sorry I was distracted -- in a good way! -- by the clothing and hair this year). She dresses her dolls in beaded clothing. This year, an African American form whose skin tones were made with rich brown beads, was decked out in purple and green lingerie, over which an open right angle weave robe hung perfectly! She even wore high heel fluffy beaded slippers. And apparently she was getting dressed to go out, because her matching dress hung on a stand nearby. The simple silver bead necklace was the perfect touch -- Mindy's work is made even stronger by her sense of understatement. But what really blew away the judges was the hair -- made with dozens of perfectly executed spiral rope strands in deep, dark brown size 15 seed beads. At first glance her hair looked braided.

I don't want to give away too many secrets, I'll leave them for the Fair opening this weekend, but I think you can guess where one of the Best of Show ribbons went...

If you are thinking of entering the fair -- I'd highly encourage it. With only one entry allowed per person, pick your best piece, or better yet, PLAN your best piece. The competition within the sections wasn't too fierce -- many sections had only 2 or 3 entries. As long as your work is carefully rendered, it will probably win a ribbon. But here are a few tips that separated the impressive work (note, these are just my suggestions, not necessarily all the other judges', who probably have additional great tips along with the ones below):

  1. Pay attention to finishing techniques.
  2. Use quality materials, or at least use consistent quality throughout the piece.
  3. Select good quality gemstones, avoiding muddy colors or low quality.
And in case you weren't aware, the Home Arts area is one of the few contests around where you can enter other people's patterns, class projects, and designs created from books and magazine articles. It won't necessarily count against you to say so when you enter -- by that I mean, if two pieces are tied, and one is an original design, that one would probably get a bigger nod from the judges, but this contest is definitely for hobbyists as well as designers, and even has special categories for preteens, seniors, and handi-capable folks, as well as separate categories for beginners and intermediates.

This year, as in years past, there were way fewer polymer clay and precious metal clay pieces than there are people in New Mexico working with these materials! Also, the metal jewelry category is generally underrepresented (are ya listening, wire wrappers and silversmiths?), and the mixed media category is a great place to enter your most unusual pieces.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tarot Sun Earrings


The Sun earrings
Originally uploaded by mary_tafoya
A bit different. I mean, I've collaged my stampings but this seems more unique than any of them. It was fun digging around for the right beads for the center -- I chose an intense teal vintage lucite (looks more French blue in the photo though).

Yep it's in my Etsy shop, y'all. 8-)