Thursday, December 31, 2009

Here's to YOU!

A frightening thing has happened.............
I hate this............
But I feel compelled to let it out.........
I've been inspired!!!!!

I first read my friend Bunny's blog and then jumped on over to my cousin Anita's blog but it didn't stop there.  There was Ruben and Debbie and Comet and Blitzen......Wait, wait, wait! As you may be able to tell, I become quite engrossed in the Christmas spirit.  And why not!  The Holiday's are but once a year which means I've only had the fortune of enjoying Christmas and New Years 54 times in my lifetime.  Not nearly enough for someone my age.

I think it's quite unfair that Christmas is only celebrated once a year.  It's such a joyous time.  People overall seem to be in better spirits, which may be due to the consumption of spirits, or due to the excitement of giving and/or receiving gifts.  There are parties to go to, caroles to be sung and the big fat lie we tell our children about Santa delivering gifts.  Don't get me wrong, I lied too.  I loved telling my children about Santa and the excitement it created in them.  I loved the innocence with which they believed.

New Years Eve; another reason for the joy.  Except for those who still don't get the connection between drinking and driving, New Years Eve is so exciting.  I think back on so many New Years Eve parties.  Parties with my parents, parties at my parents home (when they weren't there shhhhhhh)...parties with friends, parties with dancing, parties with laughter, parties with good old fashioned clean fights....I know, but it's funny after the fact.  Uncles who cry when intoxicated.  Aunties who dance with EVERYONE.  New Years Eve at the Rose Parade and New Years Eve's with a small group of friends.

 I'm getting all sentimental....

The older one gets the more stories there are to tell, ain't it so?  The story I love most is the one about you.  How you and I met.  How we spend time together.  How we play together.  How we shop together.  How we adventure together.  How we travel together.  How we learn together.  How we grow together.  How we write together and how we read together.  Each of you created special memories for me.  Some old, some new.  Some educational, some spiritual.  Each of you brings something different into my life that no one else can. 

So if I've never told you, thank you for your companionship this year and in those past.  I couldn't have made it through another year without your support and kind words, your prayers, your honesty and encouragement.  There is nothing that compares to you, your stories and the laughter and tears we share.

Here's wishing each of you love enough to fill your cup, money enough to keep you dry and fed and faith enough to know that when you're running low, God Himself will hold you up and send friends and family to gather around you.

Happy New Year 2010 Comments and Graphics for MySpace, Tagged, Facebook

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Main Entry: ta·ma·le

I was over at my cousin's blog the other day. She wrote about "the best little cake with a flaky outside layer, which if made properly, is chewy and dense. The treasure inside of a cannelé should lightly reveal a moist, golden miette, like the inside of a fresh bread pudding".  It took everything in me to stay seated, finish reading, and not run into the kitchen looking for something to snack on.

This time of year, especially, everything looks and smells so tasty.  Everyone begins baking and offering the most delicious of delicious cakes, cookies, candies and tamales.

I grew up in a home where it was mandatory to make tamales every Christmas.  Man.da.tory.  You had to be present and accounted for if you even thought you might want to eat one during the holiday season.  We learned early on how to hold the oja in one hand, spread the masa on, spoon in a bit of meat, add an olive and close the thing up for consumption at a later time or date. 

We generally made them Christmas Eve during the day.  That night family and friends would gather at the house and we'd eat tamales all the way through to New Years Eve.  I never tired of them and gained at least five pounds every year during the holidays.

We made a variety of them; pork, chicken, cheese, I can even remember making bean tamales.  If that ain't Mexican, I don't know what is!  Bean Tamales!   Some tamales were laced with jalapeños, some sweet and some were filled with corn.  There isn't anything we didn't try.

I haven't made them for a time now so I wonder if I still have a hand for it.  I really should give it a shot.  Christmas is just not Christmas without them and my family has gotten into the habit of buying them instead of making them.  So now that Christmas day has passed, and before we get into New Years Eve, I've decided I just have to try it.

This week I'll be going out to buy all the ingredients.  I'm not the best of cooks, but neither am I the worst.  I frequently feed friends and family.  When there are parties, I'm often elected or offer to do the cooking.  It all gets eaten and we haven't lost anyone yet so my cooking can't be all that bad, right?  Humor me, please.

Wish me luck, I'll report back after the first of the year.  If I gain 5 pounds, you'll know they were good.

The most sexiest food in the world. Once you taste one tamale, u will fall completely in love with them.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas at the Bozas

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas time is wait until everyone has gone to bed, turn off all the lights but those on the tree and lay on the sofa to watch the reflection of the tree lights on the ceiling.  I've done it since I was a young teen.  It's a time to dream, reflect and focus on the real joy of the season; Christ.

I found myself doing the same thing this year and then took some pictures with my phone.  They're somewhat grainy because they were taken with my phone, but they're warm.  I hope you enjoy and feel the spirit of Christmas. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sanchez Ranch

One of the things I most looked forward to as a kid was our family trips to the Sanchez Ranch.  The Sanchez are family friends from way back, who live in Malibu up in one of the canyons.  I don't recall my first trip there to be honest, I must have been a small child but I do remember our camping trips at the ranch.

As with all things my dad did, going to the Sanchez Ranch for a weekend camping trip would mean taking an entire group of people. I don't suppose it would be much fun if it were just our family anyway, or maybe it would be, but I never had the chance to experience a trip to the ranch that way.  I suppose that my dad being 1 of 9 children, simply didn't know how to do anything alone.  I remember mom telling me they never went anywhere alone when they were dating.  I doubt that it had anything to do with not wanting spend time with just her, it was simply that he was accustomed to running in a pack.

So, our trips to the ranch were planned way in advance.  One year my dad got a big truck and loaded it with a sofa, area rug, a refridgerator and various other pieces of furniture.  The Sanchez were probably half freightened to death when they saw us coming thinking we were moving in on them but these are people whose families crossed the Mexican boarder into the United States, if they could make that trip and survive, certaintly they could survive Dan Leonard and his pack.

As a kid, I of course wanted to do kid things.  You know, climb on rocks, go on hikes, take a ride at night with the Sanchez boys at the wheel who would drive like crazy in old trucks without doors.  And then in the middle of a winding road where you could fly off the side, as in a CLIFF, hello!, they'd turn the lights off and laugh like mad men while we all screamed at the top of our lungs thinking death was surely knocking at the door.

I recall one trip when my brothers brought a few friends along.  They were in high school at the time and thought they were invincible and decided to hike to the top of "Boney".  Boney got it's name because it was a hill that was mostly rock at the top.  From where the campground was, it looked like a hop, skip and a jump so the boys being brave or dumb as I prefer to think, took off with little else but some smokes and a lighter.  We'd had breakfast (a group breakfast of course) so their bellies were full and they thought sure they'd be back by lunch.

During the day there would be different groups going out on short hikes up through the unpaved roads or to the grotto where there were beautiful trees lining the path.  It was fairly safe so as long as we went out in a group, which almost all did, there were rarely any problems.

Lunch came and went and no sign of the boys.  Mom being ... mom ... began to worry.  It's what she did.  For a living.  I believe my Aunt Camille paid her to worry for her too so that she wouldn't have to do it herself.  Dad assured her the boys were fine, not to worry, they'll be down before long with a huge appetite.   Pepe (one of the Sanchez brothers) tells her not to worry, "the kids love to hike up to Bone".  Pepe can call it "Bone", because he lives there.  He's earned the right.  They're on familiar terms he and Bone-ey.

It's Summertime so there's still plenty of sunlight left.  It's time to get the accordian out and start singing old songs in Spanish that none of us kids know the words to but have heard a minimum of 1 billion times. Uncle Joe plays the best but unfortunately for the rest of us, there are two accordians.  Dad and Pepe share their talent.  I always wished Pepe would just say "No Dan, you can't play so don't even ask" but of course, he's far too kind and lets my dad have a turn at it.

After a few hours appetites start to build and the whole camp begins preparing for another meal.  Not all the meals are group meals but you know when you're around that many people with food, you just kind of slip your hand across the table and devour a bag of chips while in conversation which gives them the right to kinda slip they're hand across the table and slip a steak off your plate during dinner.  Whaddya gonna say "hey! I only ate your chips, leave my food alone".  So either you share or you sit across the table from a friend and drool while they eat ambrosia salad when all you have is raisins.  I don't know...maybe it's just my thinking.

Dinner has passed and the sun is starting to go down and you know who is worrying enough for herself, my aunt and anyone else who wants to get in on the gig and they're not even paying mom.  My dad, who is Mr. tough guy, is "concerned".  He'd never admit to "worried".  Ever.  For "mom's sake" he goes over and talks to Pepe about the boys not having returned and Pepe says he could get one of his earth movers and start up the side of the hill to see if maybe he can find them but then with the sun going down, it might not be the best time to be driving up.
A small group of men get together and start hiking up while yelling "Rusty, Greg, Barry" and whoever else went on this up and down, be back in five hike.  The men are a little smarter though, they only go so far because even with flashlights, hill climbing is not wise when you can only see a few feet in front of you.  The women have stayed down at the campsite and they're all calling out the boys names too thinking that if they can hear and they're lost, at least they'll know what direction to go in, even if we are in a canyon and the sound bounces all over the place.

I still remember the second we saw the first flicker.  There was a huge roar from the crowd as if the torch runner was coming to open the first day of the Olympics.  Which ever one of the bone heads took the lighter, even though they didn't smoke..wink, wink.. was using it to light their path.  They must have been moving at a snails pace but that little flame, it turns out, was a life saver.  Luckily they didn't actually start a fire and burn the whole canyon down because my guess is, long time family friends or not, the Sanchez may not have invited us back.

The boys finally make it back starved, thirsty, scared and exhausted.  My mom and all the other ladies make a big stink over them.  Pampering them, bringing them food, wiping their mouths as if they were the Prodigal sons.  Brats.  They do something that dumb and they get babied.  I remember thinking they were just plain dumb.

So that was the highlight of that trip.  We talked about it for weeks on end half way rubbing it in to make them feel rediculous and the other half because, it was a dumb thing to do but they got back alive.  I don't think they ever hiked up to Boney again.  Big Chickens!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Building Addiction

For the last 1,000 years I've been trying to get my husband to put the socket plates on, in our kitchen.  He say's he can't find the right screws and if you ask me it's cause he's lost his.  Ok, enough about him and on to my dad cause I don't want to dog my husband completely...just a little.

Unlike my husband, my dad loved to build things.  I think he considered himself less than an expert at building but didn't give a flying banana, he did it anyway.  He started projects and then hoped he had enough smarts to get it right.  One of his favorite sayings while he was working and it was pointed out that something wasn't quite right was "it doesn't matter"; something I heard often because I was always pointing out the somethings that weren't quite right.
First Kitchen Addition
When my parents bought the home I grew up in, it had a large back yard, 3 bedrooms, one bath and a single car garage.  At some point, dad decided the single car garage would make a wonderful enclosed patio.  So he went to work on enclosing the garage door, putting a nice sized window in it's place and then adding sliding glass doors to provide the patio feeling and allow easy access to our large backyard.

After some time it occurred to him that the yard was still large and he could build more.  So, in his downtime he made little drawings of what it would look like to add an outdoor patio to the already enclosed one with the sliding glass doors.  Before anyone had a chance to voice their opinion on the subject the cement slab had been laid and viola!  Patio #2.

2nd Kitchen Addition

It wasn't long before  Mr. Winchester Mansion, was hard at work again.  All I know is, he put some walls up around Patio #2, added a little cement and brick on one end with some god awful green plexiglass to create "effect" and our outdoor patio was quickly turned into an indoor patio.  The sliding glass doors were left in place until 2, too many kids attempted to run through them.  It's a shame we didn't have a video camera back then.  Who knows we might have won Funniest Home Videos.  Makes me sad to think about it the missed opportunities.

Eventually the sliding glass doors came off and the two rooms were combined to make a huge den.  It got mighty cold downstairs.  I must explain.  There were only two stairs but it was downstairs to us all the same and about as close as we were gonna get to having a stairway.  I remember when we'd invite people to "go downstairs", they'd prepare for the long walk.  Women would lift their skirts so as not to trip on them and men would immediately look for the handrail only to be disappointed that after one, two we'd arrived.  I remember some visitors would actually keep the march up for a while, sure they were still moving downward.  It was entertaining as all hell.

So things didn't end at the den with two stairs, noooooo, not that easy.  Having enclosed the second patio gave us no where to sit outside in the Summer time, except in chairs on the grass.  And I know you know what's coming next but what the heck, I'm the writer here so I'm gonna tell you; Patio #3.
Kitchen Remodel

Corrupting a Grandson
Patio #3 was a little unusual in that the cemented area extended out more than it did along the back of the house.  I'm not really sure what the thinking was but "it doesn't matter", that's how it was planned, that was how it was gonna stay.  I just stood by and watched without question because the truth of the matter, doesn't matter.  By this time our Patio left little space to build outward and our big back yard was....well, no longer "big".

Following the patio's came the extension of the kitchen, the add-on of the washroom, the remodeling of the kitchen, the new window in the living room, and so on, and so on, and so on.

At this point, we all thought Dad should be admitted for evaluation.  Seriously, the man went to bed with nails hanging out of his mouth and a hammer in his hand.  My mom woke up with drawings of various parts of the house etched all over her body and Lord knows what they did with the level but no one ever slid off that bed. 

There really isn't enough time to take you through to the end of his building escapades; there were so many.  But I will say, he never filed for a building permit.  You know why he didn't get that permit, right..."it doesn't matter", that's why. 

After a hard days work, teaching the kids to play the innocent
Many years after he'd run out of energy to continue building on, he'd gone to the hospital for a pre-op to angioplasty.  He had a terrible reaction to the dye they injected into his veins and it ended up cracking the heels on his feet so badly, he couldn't walk.  The doctor gave strict orders for him to come home, put his feet up and rest.  Yea, right!  During a time he swore he'd be resting I walk into the room and find him crawling on all fours with what else but a hammer in his hand.  The doctor didn't say he couldn't crawl.

Well, dad certaintly loved to build.  My husband doesn't but then again, if you'd like him to write you a song, move over daddy cause the music man is here!