Saturday, October 26, 2013

Recipes for Viva New Mexico!

I’ve gotten a little backlash for not posting the recipes from Viva New Mexico!

After getting permission from my mumsie, here they are, with a bit of background.

The recipe for Jose’s Burritos came from a beloved friend named Jose Chavez.  He was a co-worker of my dad’s at the Conoco Refinery in Billings, MT.  There would occasionally be times in the refinery when some of the unioned workers would go on strike, and the Conoco employees would have to pull “strike duty” where they would work extra shifts, and Conoco would set up a make-shift camp for the men to stay in so they wouldn’t have to cross picket lines.  One of those times, Jose made a massive batch of burritos and gave my dad the recipe.  It’s written on a piece of dad’s Conoco letterhead and is in his handwriting, which is funny, because he wasn’t the cook. 

Jose was a really amazing man and good friend to our family.  He taught boxing to underprivileged kids and when he retired became a “lay priest” in his Catholic Church.  And he made really good burritos.

Jose’s Burritos
2lbs Hamburger
1 #1 can whole tomato or stewed
4 cans Ortega’s green chili (or substitute with fresh roasted Hatch Green Chili if you can!)
1 ½ cans cream of mushroom soup
Pinch of sugar
Garlic and onion salt to taste

Brown burger, drain grease.  Chop chili, mash tomato, add soup and spices (or you can do this step in the blender or food processor, like I do).  Add to meat a little at a time.  Add a little water to thin it out (about a soup can’s worth).  Simmer 1 ½ to two hours (or stick them in the crock pot, this seems easier).

To serve:
Flour tortillas
Chopped onions,
Grated cheese
Chopped lettuce and
Chopped tomatoes

Fill a flour tortilla with meat (using a slotted spoon) and cheese, roll and place on plate seam side down, top with juice from the meat and more cheese, place in microwave for 45 seconds to melt cheese.  Top with lettuce, tomato and chopped onions.

The chicken enchilada casserole is one of those things that there wasn’t really a recipe for, Mom just sort of always made it, with a “little of this”, and “some of this”, probably the way you make scrambled eggs, but here’s as close as we could get:

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
3 chicken breasts cooked and shredded or chopped (Or you can use rotisserie chicken from the store.  Or you can use your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers.)
2 cups roasted, peeled and chopped New Mexico green chili (or you can use canned, if you have to)
1 26 oz can Cream of Chicken soup
Milk (use cream of chicken can)
2 cups shredded cheese
¼ cup onion, chopped
10-15 corn tortillas, torn into pieces to fit your pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Make a mixture with cream of chicken soup and milk, so it’s slightly less thick than cake batter.  Spray a casserole dish (13x9 should work) first with cooking spray, then dip tortillas in the soup and milk mixture and lay them out in the bottom of the dish so that there are no gaps.  Top with a layer of chicken, chili, onion and cheese.  Make another layer of tortilla dipped in soup mixture (remember not to leave any gaps!), then chicken, chili, onion and cheese again.  Whatever is left of your soup and milk mixture can be poured over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees until heated all the way through.

When we were cooking last week, Mom told Amy the story of where she learned to cook these.  Her girlfriend that she worked with at the bank in Las Cruces, NM, is the one who taught her to make these, and I had never heard that story before, even though I’ve eaten this casserole all my life.  She worked at the bank when she was pregnant with me.  How fun to know that little bit of history.

With love from my family to yours.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 25, 2013


Do you remember my wedding ring post?

A few years ago, when I decided to stop wearing my wedding ring, the solution for me was to start wearing Sawan’s. 

Sawan actually had two wedding rings.  He had the one from when we exchanged vows, and then we had bought a cheap silver band at a street fair once, because he was afraid he would lose his good one when he went fishing, but still liked to be wearing a ring.  It ended up that he wore the cheap one more often then he wore the “real” wedding ring.  This cheap silver band is the ring that the paramedics took off his finger when he died. 

The silver one is the one that I chose to wear.  It was thinner than his other one and so it fit better.  It was still way too big for me; it could easily slide off every one of my fingers, including my thumb.  I usually would wear another ring over the top of it, to keep it on.

One day in June, I put it on, and remembered feeling for it with my thumb on my way to work.  At the end of my long day of shampooing, cutting, styling, and chores (cleaning and laundry at the shop), though, I looked down and didn’t have it on.  I realized that I hadn’t put a smaller ring on top of it that morning, so it could have fallen off.  I looked everywhere.  I asked my friend and coworker if she had seen it, but she hadn’t.  I was already late to meet a friend at a baseball game, so I didn’t have as much time to look for it as I wanted, but I was devastated.  I went back to the shop over the weekend, tearing apart my station, ransacking every space that I could think of, but didn’t find it.  I left a note for the cleaning people, and they also looked, and took apart the vacuum cleaner bag, but didn’t find it. 

It was lost.  I was so sad.  I thought about it daily.  It was so hard for me that I couldn’t talk about it.  I told no one.  The only people who knew about it were the cleaning people and my coworker. 

Four months later, about two weeks ago, I was downstairs at the salon, switching out the laundry.  I heard a clinking in the bottom of the washer, and as I pulled out the last of the load to put it in the dryer, my ring came out from beneath the part that swishes the laundry around in the bin.  I found it!

I cried.  It was just a cheap silver band, but it was another piece of him that I thought was lost from me forever, and was now restored.

I’ve worn it everyday since, but am sure to put on a smaller ring on top of it to keep it on.  And, the good news is, after four months in the washer, it’s really clean.
Back on my finger, with a ring on top of it, to hold it in place.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Viva New Mexico!

My parents grew up in New Mexico.  They love the beauty of the desert.  It’s always funny to me, when I’m in a desert location with them (like most recently Arizona, for instance) when I look out on the wide open fields of dirt, with a little rock mixed in, and an occasional cactus, and my dad will say, breathlessly, “Isn’t it beautiful?”  I’ll say, “I guess.  If you like that sort of thing," you know, because I'm so sweet.  I grew up with mountains.  I like trees.  For me, mountains are my favorite kind of beauty.  I think it’s because that's what I grew up with.  As I’ve gotten older, I can appreciate that a desert is beautiful in it's own way.  It’s not my favorite kind of beauty, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

The good news is, my parents choose to live in the beauty of Colorado, where I am.  They gave me an appreciation for New Mexican food (heavy on the green chili, and under no circumstances do you use cumin), but I get to enjoy them being present without the dust of the desert.

I have bragged about just this sort of thing enough that one of my girlfriends wanted my mom to teach her to cook some of her signature New Mexican dishes.

On Friday, the three of us got together to make two things: Jose’s Burritos and Chicken Enchilada Casserole. 

As I stirred and chopped and spooned into casserole dishes, I wondered how I could possibly make these things at my own house without my mom’s utensils.  This seems to be a big problem for me in my own cooking.  My mom has an awesome heavy metal slotted spoon and spatula that were her grandmother’s, that I used in her kitchen when I was growing up, and there are some things that I just don’t know how to make without them.

It was such a delicious afternoon.  Just the girls, hanging out, visiting, and in the end we all had two meals prepared (actually, we all had two items prepared, but for me it will make more like six meals, I put some in the freezer, and have already brought dinner to a friend whose mom is in hospice).  Lovely.

Enchilada Casserole (Can you see Arthur out the window?  He was whining because I wouldn't let him in.)

The army of Crockpots (housing the Jose's Burritos)

The Chefs.  Please call us Senora Amy, Senora Noel, and Senora Leslie (but only for this post).

Monday, October 21, 2013

High Maintenance

My little dog is so high maintenance.   I guess I’m not surprised, his mom is pretty high maintenance, and don’t they say that animals resemble their owners?

Arthur has had a problem with puking for most of his life.  He is on a pretty normal schedule of throwing up about every 10-14 days.  I have gone through phases of trying to figure it out, changing his food, putting him on different kinds of probiotics, giving him Greek yogurt, nothing seemed to change it.  I figured it was a food allergy and I didn’t know what else to do.

He also has a spot on his back, an itchy, dark spot on his white fur that has become not only increasingly tacky, but also increasingly uncomfortable for him.  I finally took him in to the vet to see what we could do about it.  This is apparently a food allergy related issue, as well.  After two different visits, changing his food to a science diet that made him even more sick, and more itchy, the vet and I decided to try him on a new raw diet and she also put him on a couple of different prescription strength probiotics, to try to get his guts back to normal.

Let me tell you something about my lifestyle.  I don’t cook.  First of all, when I’m the only person eating, it’s really more affordable to eat Chipotle most of the time.  If I were to cook, food goes bad in the fridge before I can handle eating it for five nights in a row.  But also, cooking is not something I enjoy.  At all.

So, when I looked into raw dog food for my dog, it was roughly six times the cost of what I had been feeding him (and I was already feeding him an all-natural dog food from a whole foods type pet store…read that- not cheap).  I was stressing out about how I was going to be able to feed my dog, myself, and pay my mortgage.  So, I looked online and found a recipe for raw dog food you can make yourself (which is much more affordable), and my mom and I made it on Monday.

I can’t believe I’m making food for my dog, when I won’t make people food.

It was actually really fun!  The recipe had ground meat, veggies, and it required sardines, which, when we put them through the food processor, along with the other ingredients made her house smell like a fart (wow, Arthur, your mom and Grammy love you very much!).  But, he loves his food, and gives me lots of fishy kisses; as though he knows how much work it took to make it for him.

His tummy seems to be better and he’s not waking me up in the middle of the night scratching.  I think he’s on the mend.
Early morning fish breath kisses.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Upstairs Bathroom Project: Complete!

This summer we should really have re-named the Pink House “Renovation Land.”

I have two bathrooms in my house, which is not common for a house built in 1900, so I am uber lucky. 

My upstairs bathroom, however, left much to be desired.  I don’t know anything for sure, but with a house built in 1900, it’s possible that the bathroom was an afterthought, a retrofit (meaning that the original house had no bathroom at all).  It certainly looked that way.  All of the plumbing was wadded into one corner.  The bathroom had been updated in the fifties, so I had a fifties era tub and homemade vanity, and then the tile had been updated in the nineties.  It was esthetically tacky, to say the least.  But, also, I am 5’3”, and would hit my knees on the vanity when I sat on the potty, so I can’t imagine what it was like for someone taller.  The way that they had retrofit the tub to accommodate a shower had a weird extension on it, which was also crowded into the corner with the toilet and sink, with only about a six-inch gap from the toilet.  I would be aware of this during the day, but when I would get up in the middle of the night to go potty, would usually forget, so I had perma-bruise either on my knee or shin.  I was so over it. 

I wanted to not just remodel the bathroom to make it more user-friendly, but I also wanted to restore it, to make it look like it belonged in a house built in 1900.  In addition, there is no master bedroom upstairs, with an en suite, so I wanted to add a door to the bedroom next to it, to give it a “Jack and Jill” type entrance, where it made one of the bedrooms seem like a master, but still gave access to the hall and the rest of the house, as it’s the only upstairs bathroom.   All of this required moving everything around, plumbing wise, ripping everything out, moving the current door, moving the lights.  Phew.  It was a tall order.

So, the contractor that I hired started in mid-July, and quoted me two and a half weeks to get the job done.  We finished last Friday.  That’s more like ten and a half weeks, if you do the math.  Nothing went according to plan.  The guys that did the initial work had to do a bunch of stuff over again.  I eventually had to call in back up (thanks, Dad) to get them to follow through on what they said they were going to do.   It’s been an emotional roller coaster.  It made me feel really widowed.  I had to keep remembering that even if my husband were alive, I would still have been the one dealing with the contractor, because I was better at it.  I felt like I was being taken advantage of because I was a woman with no man around to back her up.  I also felt like it sucked that I’m 34 and a half years old and what it took to finally get it right was to call my daddy and have him talk to them.  I realize that it’s more like I’m smart enough to know how to use my resources, and in the end, the job got done (my dad is a construction engineer who deals with contractors on a daily basis, so even if he were just my friend, he’s exactly who I would have called to support me on this). 

It was a long ten weeks.  I got so tired of plaster dust, of having stinky men in my house, of having to be up with a bra on at 9AM every day (even if they didn’t show up by then, which was the norm).  In the end, I got the bathroom of my dreams and I’m so excited!  (I can’t wait to finish painting the bedroom next to it and move into my new “Master Bedroom!”)
Arthur and I in the "new" vintage tub.


...with everything ripped out.

This is the before shot of tub that I refinished myself.

...and the "before" shot of the vanity that I refinished myself.

"After" of the vanity, shown through the new pocket door.

"Happily Ever After."

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Favorite Song

My friend Grahm is a cowboy that’s been stuck in a city for most of his life.  In May he left Colorado for Montana, to work on a cattle ranch.

He passed through town this weekend, and I got to spend a couple of hours with him, cutting his hair, then eating some Chipotle (he had had Chipotle the night before, but was so excited that I had suggested it, Montana seems to be lacking in Chipotles).

I got to listen to him talk about all that he learned in Montana this summer about cattle and how to care for them.  He talked about the way that being in the wide open spaces feeds his soul.  It was a great chat.

My favorite part, though, was him talking about the fishing up there.  He was in great fly-fishing country, and he is a passionate fly-fisherman.  I used to know one of those.

I asked him to tell me about the biggest fish that he caught.  He told me that the fish he was catching weren’t that big…. So I told him to tell me about the biggest fight.  He used words like “tail water,” and “riffle.”  He had used a “streamer” rather than “nymphing or dry flies.”  Just the words were so familiar to me, but it seems like it had been so long since I had heard them spoken with such passion.  It was like listening to my favorite song.  I had to swallow hard against the lump in my throat.

Sawan used to talk about fly-fishing so much that I remember a specific time, after him giving me a forty-five minute college-style lecture about “flows” (it’s something to do with people controlling how much water goes from the reservoirs to the rivers) that I knew my eyes had glazed over and I thought, “Oh my god.  I’m going to have to listen to this for the rest of my life.”  If only.

Now I long to hear fishing stories because they remind me of my love.  Thanks, Grahm, for "playing my song" for me.  It was a delightful evening.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Not just leaves are falling at the Pink House!

I’m loving fall! 

Not just leaves are falling at the Pink House.

Here’s a brief catch up on what’s going on in my life:

My bathroom project finally wrapped last week.  We started July 16th, I was told by the contractor it would take two and a half weeks.  It took eleven.  Maybe I misheard him...I think he meant two and a half months?  Either way, it’s finished, and it’s beautiful.  I’ll post some photos soon.

Nothing ever goes quite as planned in an old house, so I had planned to be finished and moved into the new bedroom suite by Labor Day.  Now if it happens by Christmas I’ll be stoked. 

Falling Ceiling Fans:
Phase two was finishing the bedroom.  I had it painted last weekend.  The paint I chose is Morning Fog.  Wouldn’t it be fun to be a paint namer?  Or a nailpolish namer?  That’s what I really want to be when I grow up.  Anyway, Morning Fog is a lovely shade of gray.  My friend Steve is the best painter ever, and will also help with random handyman stuff, so he also installed a ceiling fan for me, and I helped.  We had had three beers at that point, so we only dropped the old one, not the new one, luckily.  The whole room looks updated and much better.  

Falling Shelves.  Falling Workers:
I have been working on the closet, which is the last phase of the project before I can move in.  Over Labor Day my friend Rachel came to help me demo the old closet organizer (if you can call it that, it was a warped shelf with a rack that was at about 48”, not enough height to hang an adult dress from without it dragging on the floor) and we narrowly escaped a trip to the emergency room.  (Note to self:  When demo-ing, remove the boards with rusty nails from the floor before moving on to the next one.  How I landed in between those rusty nails without imbedding it in my knee is beyond me.  I felt that I was so lucky, I bought a lottery ticket.  Alas, I used up all my luck on the closet.)  I had to do some major plaster patching, and we painted it turquoise.  It’s lovely.  Last weekend my brother and I started installing an organizer from Ikea, but, with lathe and plaster walls, over brick, it was much more involved than we thought and will require another day to get it finished. 

Other than home improvement stuff, I’m still working full time and going to school two days a week.  I am constantly making lists of stuff that I need to get accomplished, so that I can keep up.  I have given myself lots of space to let items not get crossed off.  (How important is a clean car, anyway?)

It’s a glamorous life I lead, what can I say?

In honor of fall fashion, here's a photo of Arthur, sportin' his hipster bow-tie.

 Happy Fall, Everyone!