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Sunday, December 31, 2006

The last day of the year. Spend it well! We got a lot of snow yesterday, so we're going out with snow shoes to have a look around. Later we'll drive up to the Ski Valley for the torchlight parade and fireworks. There's nothing like the boom! and the light reflected off the side of a mountain. It's a good time to reflect on the past year, and plan for the new one.

I think a good year takes planning. We have a little ritual for New Year's Eve. We write our wishes, plans, goals for the coming year, make a copy to keep, and burn the other in the fireplace. It's like in Mary Poppins, when Jane and Michael write their ad for a new nanny, and the dad burns it. Of course it found it's way to Mary Poppins! We send our wishes to the Universe, and it's amazing how much of what we ask for comes to us. The trick is to be careful what you wish for. Pray like a lawyer. Leave nothing out. And most important, only speak in positives. Put your attention into what you want, not on what you don't want. It's fun. Try it, and see what happens!

Have a fun and safe New Year's Eve. I'll see you next year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

How humiliating... these are the ugliest cupcakes in the world. I don't know if it was the high altitude (7,000 ft) or the spelt flour. Rick assures me they're deeeelicious...

I think it's best if I stick to glass cakes. These are ever so much cuter. My new website is up and running today, and the Taos Cupcake Diet is sure to be a big hit.
Check it out.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Another Christmas come and gone. I struggle with the political correctness of my Holiday Greetings to people I meet in my wanderings... Raised Catholic, I just naturally say Merry Christmas... but I've long since wandered away from the religious view of the holiday. I'm more of a Solstice kind of girl, but that's too simplistic, and I know the mere mention of Christmas makes some folks bristle like porcupines.... What to say? Happy Holidays seems so stiff and safe. I've kind of gone back to the old Merry Christmas because it's the only time of year I get to use the word merry. Besides, it's meant as a well-wish, and I hope people take it that way. In Sri Lanka they call it Xmax... fitting for our celebrations here! To the max... Anyway - hope you had a good one, whatever you want to call it. A nice friendly seasonal celebration of love and light is good for us by any name.

I have pictures for you - of course! We started Xmax Eve with our friends, Jill and Keith. Keith McHenry is the Food Not Bombs founder who happily for us, lives in Taos now. They had their first-ever Taos food event on the Plaza that day. It was fun! We took along a box of teddy bears that needed good homes, and enjoyed some terrific food. The local police left them alone, and the official FNB Troubadour sang to us. A good beginning to a holiday.

As it started to get dark, we made our way to Taos Pueblo. This is one thing we never miss - the procession from the church with a statue of Mary carried on a platform like a princess, Pueblo Elders, dancing children, guys with real rifles that they fire into the air (to scare away evil spirits?), and practically everyone in towm milling about, waiting for the super-size bonfires to be lit. It's an amazing thing to see. I took a couple of quick pictures, just for you. We're not supposed to have cameras there... I'm a rebel.

We had friends here after the Pueblo, for some good, spicy veggie cioppino and wine. I forgot to take pictures... must have been the wine! Xmax morning was a nice little frenzy of gifting. You've seen enough family photos with stockings and silly bows stuck on heads. This one kind of sums it all up...

We spent the rest of the day lounging around, reading, napping, eating. Just Rick and me, as the kids had other places to go. It was perfect. The next morning we woke up to the strangest cloud with a rainbow colored hat - I think it was the Mother Ship. Most beautiful.

So here we go... headfirst into a new year. Get ready to make your wishes. We usually get what we ask for, so wording is very important! More on that later. Cheers for now!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Diamond Cupcakes

The obsession with cupcakes continues...

Cupcake beads are nothing new, and diamond studded gold cupcake charms are out there for those who have $500 or so in spare change. But I hadn't seen lampwork Diamond Cupcakes before, so I made some. Maybe I'll even make some for my website. If you read this, tell me what you think of the idea.

Going to finish making the Family Christmas Magic, and then try to relax... Rick says I seem distracted... haha! Wonder why!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Singing at the OBL

When my friend Deborah suggested we all go to the Old Blinking Light for Michael Hearne's Christmas Sing-Along, I said, Sure... but I don't sing! Well shut my mouth... By the end of the evening, Michael had us all on stage with him, singing "Drift Away" - not a Christmas song, but a Mentor Williams classic, and local favorite because Mentor and Lynn Anderson live here in Taos. I'll let the pictures tell you what a great time we had. Maybe next year I'll be brave enough to get near the microphone...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hellooooo Cupcake...

My Mom wasn't one to give advice on relationships. I remember just one time, when I was helping her make a birthday cake for my Dad... We were spreading thick chocolate buttercream frosting on the double-layer devil's food cake, and she got kind of quiet for a minute. Then, in her most serious maternal tone, she gave me these words of wisdom... "Men like lots of frosting."

I don't know about men, but I know I like lots of frosting. So even though I made too much for this batch of cupcakes, I somehow made it all fit. Think the menfolk will like them?

Happy Solstice!

It's fitting that today is the day the sun begins to regain it's strength and the days begin to lengthen. The storm yesterday left us several inches of beautiful snow here in the lowlands of town - only 7,000 ft. elevation - and the sun is out and making everything sparkle. The nearby ski resorts must be doing a happy dance. Lauren said Taos Ski Valley got over a foot while she was at work yesterday. Here's a link to the web cam up there. I haven't gone skiing in 25 years, but I think I might want to try it again this year.

And today, since I don't really have to make beads for few days, I'm going to bake! It's all Jean Yates' fault. After seeing my beads with diamonds (OK... CZs...) in them, she sent me this picture of a Diamond Cake that's selling for something like 1.6 million dollars in Tokyo. I guess you're supposed to eat it after removing the 233 diamonds. Crazy, but kind of cool. After seeing that, I thought, well, it's a little out of my price range, but maybe I can have a little silver cupcake charm, or a t-shirt from Johnny Cupcakes. I snapped up a silver cupcake on ebay for almost nothing, and then decided I needed to know more about the little cakes themselves. Living here in a small town, I'm slow to catch onto trends... I didn't know there were so many la-de-da little cupcake shops out there! And then there are recipes, books, blogs, websites.... I've become obsessed with cupcakes overnight!
When I went outside this morning, everything looked like a cupcake. The little blobs of snow on the trees, the fluffy caps on the latilla fences, the flower pots looking like cupcakes on steroids.... all the world is a cupcake! And so, even though I'm not known for my baking skills, I sent Rick to the store for flour, sugar, spices, and little paper cupcake thingies. Today I'm going to make gingerbread cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. The recipe follows the pictures here. I think you should make some too. And if we want to, we can even decorate them with sunflowers, so they'll be Solstice Cupcakes! Wouldn't it be weird if I quit making beads and started making cupcakes instead?

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream-Cheese Frosting
Source: Gourmet Magazine, January 1990
Makes 12 cupcakes.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsulfered molasses
1 large egg -- beaten lighly
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces cream cheese -- softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon thinly sliced crystallized ginger

Into a bowl sift together the flour, the ground ginger, the cinnamon, the cloves, the allspice, and the salt. In another bowl cream 1/2 stick of the butter, add the granulated sugar, and beat the mixture until it is fluffy. Beat in the molasses and the egg, beating until the mixture is smooth.

In a measuring cup combine the baking soda with 1/2 cup boiling water and stir the mixture to dissolve the baking soda. Stir the mixture into the molasses mixture (the mixture will appear curdled) and stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture, stirring to combine the ingredients well.

Line twelve 1/2-cup muffin tins with paper liners and spoon the batter into the liners, filling them halfway. Bake the cupcakes in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. (The cupcakes will be flat or slightly indented on top.) Transfer the cupcakes to a rack and let them cool.

In a bowl cream together the cream cheese, and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, add the confectioners' sugar and the vanilla, and beat the mixture until it is fluffy and smooth. Beat in the zest and the lemon juice and chill the frosting for 30 minutes. Spread the frosting on the cupcakes and top each cupcake with some of the crystallized ginger.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

December Snow!!!

We woke up to snow this morning, which makes me very happy. Looks like we might get that White Christmas I've been dreaming of. Lucy and the goaties are less thrilled, but warm and well fed, so they'll get over it. Enjoy the photos while I go post some beads on my website! I feel kind of light and bubbly. Weeee! Snow!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I'm not here much, am I? Too much to do these days, and besides, my horoscope said everyone is too wrapped up in their own stuff right now to even notice what I'm doing. Great! I can romp around here and do whatever I want. I'm posting a few beads on Wednesday. I have some new sparklie things to "bling" in the New Year. Lauren approves, so I know I'm on the right track. After Wednesday, I'm taking a little break. I'll get back to biz sometime in the first week of January. Right now I'm just making what feels fun, leaving options open for new work next year, and enjoying hanging out with Rick and our friends. We went shopping in town today, and I think we've finished! We celebrated with lunch at Orlando's, and then came home to do the last of the house decorating and relax for a while. I even talked Rick into painting my toenails for me! He's just the best boyfriend.

Hope you're getting in some rest time in the middle of this seasonal frenzy of activity. Sometimes we like to skip something fun so we can stay home and do nothing. It's wonderful! There's nothing like a quiet evening of tomato soup, grilled cheese with green chiles, and old Christmas movies. Comfort and joy don't come from the mall. Settle in tonight with someone nice, and feel the magic. Ahhhhhh.....

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

If I Were Queen...

...I'd live in this house. And I'd invite you all to my Christmas Party, and I'd have Bead Camp every summer. This is the most wonderful house I have ever seen. The fact that I got to go inside it amazes me endlessly...

... I've talked about my two sisters before. They're both fabulously talented and loads of fun to hang out with. Linda is an architect, and this is a house she designed for ridiculously wealthy, but very nice, people at Lake Tahoe. We drove up there before it was finished, and wandered around on a little unguided tour. As we pulled into the driveway, I babbled all over myself about how incredible, gorgeous, wonderful it was... and then Linda told me we were looking at the garage... OK, so the house was even more miraculous. The staircase you see me on here was modeled after the one on the Titanic. I have to admit, I felt pretty special standing there. As we wandered into what I think was the dining room, we met one of the workers, who was with the French Floor Guy and his son. They'd come from France, with an intricately patterned wood floor from chateau-something-or-other, and were the only ones who knew how to properly install it. French Floor Guy invited us to share his lunch, which was very sweet, and oh so French, and I still kick myself for declining his offer. Never again! I'm much more brave and silly now.

So maybe you have a hundred million bucks to spare, and would like to live in this most amazing house? It just happens to be for sale. To see more, click this link to Chase International . Once it finishes loading, go to the Table Of Contents, and click on "Tranquility". It's a video, so takes a few minutes to download, but it's worth the wait. If we all put our heads together and imagine me there, maybe we can get that Bead Camp going!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's party season, right? We went to a great one last night. A select few of us gathered to celebrate Deborah's birthday. Rae and Glo, our Two Italians, teamed up to make ravioli from scratch, with some very comical help from the rest of us non-Italians... a lot of wine and laughter later, we had a most amazing feast. Good friends, good food, good music... the perfect recipe for a Good Life. Happy Birthday Deborah!

Yes, after all that, we made dessert too. Chocolate madness took over the kitchen, and we gobbled it up with sips of most excellent champagne. I'm still recovering, but in a very happy way. If you want homemade ravioli, you'll have to find your own Italians to coach you. But Rae sent me the recipe for the dessert, and I think you should try it.

Molten Chocolate and Espresso Fondants for 6

For the fondants:

1 tablespoon/15 g plus 2 sticks (1 cup)/226 g unsalted butter
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
2 tablespoons/5 g freeze-dried instant coffee
8 ounces/225 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
4 large free-range eggs
4 large free-range egg yolks
3/4 cup/150 g sugar
1/3 cup/50 g all purpose flour, sifted

For the sauce:

1 cup/240 ml heavy whipping cream
8 ounces/225 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped

Coffee ice cream, to serve


To make the fondants:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat six 3-inch-/8-cm-deep x 2 1/2-inch-/6-cm-wide molds (such as a popover pan) or six 3/4 cup/180 ml ovenproof custard cups with 1 tablespoon/15 g of butter. Dust the molds with cocoa powder, rolling each mold around to cover the sides and bottoms well and tapping out any excess cocoa.

Stir the chocolate and remaining 2 sticks/226 g of butter and instant coffee in a heavy medium saucepan over a low heat until smooth. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until pale and doubled in volume. This will take about 3 to 5 minutes.

Fold in the melted chocolate mixture. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Pour into the prepared molds, dividing equally. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly puffed and just set around the sides (a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes should come out with batter attached). Let the fondants rest for 3 to 4 minutes.

To make the sauce:

Meanwhile, bring the cream just to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir constantly until melted and smooth.

To serve:

Run a small sharp knife around the sides of the molds to loosen the fondants. Place a baking sheet over the popover pan or a plate over each fondant. Holding the baking sheet or plate and mold together, invert the fondants onto the baking sheet or plates, giving a sharp little shake to loosen. The fondants will slide out onto the baking sheet or plates. Spoon the chocolate sauce over the fondants and serve with coffee ice cream.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wow... lots going on right now. Bet you feel the same. I'm hitting the point of "overwhelm", but there's still so much to do. (Is it possible to just fell "whelmed"?) We watched "Akeelah And The Bee" last night. I like spelling bee movies because I like spelling. I tried most of the words they used in the movie, and got a lot of them right... but then there were a lot of words I couldn't even guess at. I think I impressed Rick when I knew how to spell "effleurage". Impressed myself too! But I have some studying to do if I ever want to win a spelling bee!

Anyway... back to my point in mentioning this film... there was a quote in it that was so good I had to look it up later and print it out. It's now stuck on the bathroom mirror, where I'll be sure to read it every day. I sent it to Lauren, who's nose-deep in finals this week. And now I'm sharing it with you. It's wonderful. Read it. Print it. Believe it...

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson~

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Poochy - part six - the Exciting Conclusion!

Here's the last of the Poochy story. I hope you've enjoyed it!

And look! Must be a bit of Christmas Magic! My friend Detra just sent me this picture of a sweet little Yorkie Boy Puppy who needs a good home. He's four weeks old, and the last one left in the litter. Maybe you want to fill someone's stocking with a Christmas Pup? Let me know and I'll put you in touch with Detra.
Happy Holidays to you all!!!