Thursday, October 31, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Wind Chimes

I feel like I hit the ground running this morning and have just now been able to sit down for a minute and put thoughts to paper (well Web paper).

It's Halloween and although it's not one of my favorite holidays it is on the eve of Día de los Muertos, which is a time that I do look forward to. I spent my morning cleaning house and finding things to put the finishing touches on the altar.

I was thinking of something to write about, which is hard to do when you're cleaning and putting things together--my mind raced in all kinds of directions trying to not forget anything. And because it was a cool morning, I decided to open the house up and let some of the fresh air in. I've said before I just love fall days for this very reason--wind, cool, but still warm enough in the day to wear shorts and flip-flops.

After I opened the house up, the wind rustled the leaves on the trees and for some reason that sound always reminds me of my grandmother's house. Maybe it's because unless it was bitterly cold, she usually had her whole house opened up all the time--no air conditioning. So when I heard the leaves rustle, I just stopped for a minute and waited.

What I was waiting for, I wasn't entirely sure. And then there was silence after the leaves stopped rustling and it came to me, there were no wind chimes. My grandmother LOVED wind chimes and always had them around--in the front, in the back . . .  EVERY WHERE.

So I went looking for wind chime sounds because I don't have one, and this came as close as anything to the sound I remember. We'd take naps with the windows open and the leaves would rustle and if it was windy enough, the wind chimes would sound.

Such a weird thing I'm finding that so many of my senses--smell, sound, and taste--have memories of their own. It's a magical thing on some levels.

¡Hasta la proxíma vez! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Receta: Salsa Roja

I know, I didn't think I'd get to this either, but it's time for another receta (recipe). This is one of my favorite red salsas to make, especially during football season. There's just something about chips and freshly made salsa that satisfies that need to munch while you watch your favorite team squirrel away their hopes of winning a game or pounding the other team into oblivion. . . .

Ingredients for Mild Salsa
4 Roma tomatoes
1/4 cup onion
1/4 cup cilantro
2 cloves garlic
La Costeña canned jalapeno slices
salt to taste

I have used a mini chopper in the past, but prefer a blender because it holds more. So I start off with two Roma tomatoes (tops and bottoms cut off) and then I roughly cut them up into smaller pieces.

Two Roma tomatoes
Two Romas, cut into pieces

 Then I cut up onion, cilantro, and garlic.
Onion, rough chop.
Cilantro, rough chop
Garlic, two cloves, rough chop

At this point, I put everything in the blender and decide that I need to add two more Roma tomatoes.

Two more tomatoes; rough cut these too.
This is what it all looks like in the blender:

Salsa ingredients in the blender.
At this point, I add salt. It really is to taste. So I start off with maybe 1/4 teaspoon. But now, it's time to add the jalapenos. I like my salsa mild where I can enjoy the flavors with a little amount of heat, so I use a toddler spoon (no joke) to add the jalapenos and most importantly, some of the juice to my salsa ingredients.

My preferred brand of jalapenos for salsa
jalapeno slices
Salsa, ready to blend.
I know you may be asking why I would choose to use canned jalapenos slices as opposed to fresh jalapenos. Well, for starters, they're already cut up, so I don't run the risk of burning my hands or stinging my eyes while I chop. Additionally the "pickled juice" also helps keep the salsa when it's the refrigerator. (Also, if you want hotter to start with, use Herdez brand. They are hotter.)

Now it's time to blend:
Whirr, whirr in the blender.
Also, I suggest tasting after your first blend to make sure your salt content is OK and also to check for "hot" level. I prefer to use Tostitos Round bite-size chips. These chips are not too salty and provide a nice base for tasting the flavors in the salsa. After a taste test, I decided I need a few more jalapenos.

Adding more jalapenos
Blend in new jalapenos and taste again. That last little bit completes this batch of mild salsa. It is also mild enough for my children to eat it.
Look at all that yummy goodness!

I also have to make a batch for the hubby because he likes his much hotter than I do. So this is what the blender looks like when I make his salsa (more garlic, more onion, and the rest of the can of jalapenos and all the juice was used).

DH's salsa, ready to blend.
Whirr, whirr in the blender
DH's salsa . . . notice more green
He prefers Julio's Mexican Tortilla chips with his salsa. Let me know if you try this recipe or if you have any tips for when you make your own salsa.

¡Hasta la proxíma vez! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Throwback Thursday: The House Shoes

It's fall, which is one of my favorite times of year, not because the leaves turn colors and fall from the trees (not many trees around here to do that) or because I like pumpkin anything, because I don't really care for many pumpkin foods. But it's because in the morning, it's so cool and crisp and by the afternoon it's generally warm enough and with abundant sunshine that it's the perfect mix of days. And in the mornings when I have the house to myself, I'll usually be found sitting at my desk sipping hot tea and wearing a pair of fuzzy socks. I'll be honest, I pretty much detest shoes. I'm either in a pair of flip-flops, barefoot, or if the weather's cool, fuzzy socks. And that's how I am this morning, cup of tea and pink fuzzy socks, working on getting my brain fired up to do some work.

As I sat here trying to figure out what I wanted to write about, the train that goes through the center of town--or what was once the center of town--and that you can hear for quite away reminded me of the train by my grandmother's house. I know I've mentioned it before but there seems to be no memory of my grandmother's house that does not include the sound of the train passing by or us stuck waiting for the train to pass so we could cross the tracks to get to her house or so we could leave from her house.

But today's not about the train, it's about the shoes, house shoes to be exact. Whereas I like to run around barefoot at home, my grandmother always had a pair (or six) of house slippers that she wore around the house and outside. I know that at some point they were certainly brand new, and I recall when I was older that my parents would buy her new house slippers, but the ones I remember most were the softly worn ones that had walked back and forth across the house from the bedroom to the kitchen and from the kitchen to the outside utility area to the washer and dryer and back again in circles all over the house and yard. And for some reason I only seem to recall those shoes in a light blue color; maybe that was her favorite color? They were the type of house slippers that didn't have the toes covered--they were open. And her perfectly colored red toenails peaked out over the top.

They looked kind of like this when brand new:

This image is not mine; I claim no copyright and it can be found here

They may or may not have been ribbed like this, but you get the general idea, except now imagine that they have been worn most days and they have been broken in to the point that they are still comfortable. Those would be my grandmother's house shoes.

It's weird to me, especially as I write this, to think of the simple things--house shoes and her painted red toe nails--that I seem to recall about my grandmother the most. Although there are also scents; it's weird how the nose has a memory, too, but that's for another day.

I'm off to enjoy my fuzzy sock day; enjoy yours in your house shoes, if you've got them, or your fuzzy socks, rain boots, tennis shoes, or high heels.

¡Hasta la proxíma vez! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Exprimidor

I recall my grandmother having one of these--or many of these as the years wore on. On a whim last spring, I set out to make my own fresh-squeezed lemonade so I bought a handheld juicer from a local store. It was a pretty red and smooth and had a good handle, but when I got it home I realized it was actually too bulky for me to be able to juice properly and didn't juice well either. So the next time I went to the mercado, I bought me one of these, un exprimidor de limones (lime juicer). 

It's easier to handle, juices much better, and was a fraction of the cost I paid for the one I got at the store. More importantly, it's just like the one my grandmother had and reminds me of her. And as I note, I found that I like limonada made with limes and not lemons . . . I'll have to remember to post that recipe when it gets hot again.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Throwback Thursday: The Front Porch

Ah, time for me to blog . . . as in it's been forever since I blogged and I actually have time to sit down and write.

Time is a funny thing; it can go by quicker than you realize and then another day, time just drags by as the minutes slowly click off the clock. You're young one day and the next day you wake up and you're forty, but it feels like you're still twenty-eight.
- - - - -

I suspect like many families during a different time and place, my grandmother's front porch was a special place during the afternoons, evenings, and well into the darkness of most any night.

I remember as a child sitting on the edge of the porch, watching my feet dangle without touching the ground. Of course, I was relegated to a seat on the ground because there were only four, sometimes six, chairs on the front porch, two on each side of the front door on opposite sides of the porch and occasionally one or two in front of the window facing the street.

I recall my grandmother always sitting on the left-hand side of the porch (where, if you weren't careful, you could hit the person sitting next to her with the screen door). Maybe she sat in that somewhat-precarious spot because you could see all the people coming over the railroad tracks and down the street toward the house. And if they saw her sitting there, they'd stop by and visit for a while.

There were so many times I recall that everyone sat outside, visiting, feeling the breeze sweep across our faces while the younger-than-me kids ran around from the backyard to the front yard, playing chase games.

There were the Fourth of July festivities that we gathered for at my grandmother's house. Her house was perfectly situated to see the fireworks that they'd launch from Amigoland Mall, which was just a hop, skip, and drive over the old bridge to Matamoros. And there was that one Fourth of July (or maybe there were more) that my mother and her brothers (as adults) decided to launch fireworks from the empty lot across the street. Luckily no one burned anything down or got hurt in the process, but it does make me wonder the crazy stuff they did as children.

The kids would get sparklers, and we'd write our names in the sky with those. And then there was the watermelon. Grandma could cut (gut?) a watermelon like no one I've ever seen before or since. We'd all end up with these huge wedges of watermelon out of just one melon. How she did it, I don't know, and I still wonder in amazement (and shiver in fright) at her skill with a knife.

We'd all take our wedges of watermelon out on the front porch where we'd sit around the edge and spit the seeds out into the yard, waiting for the fireworks to start.

But what I remember most about her front porch--other than all the neighborhood and family gossip and meeting all kinds of family I'd never met before on that front porch for the first time--were the chairs. From year to year and season to season that woman only seemed to want a certain kind of chair on her front porch, replacing them only when they'd finally rust out.

I ran across similar chairs just this past week, and I was instantly taken back to sitting on grandma's front porch listening to the adults talk while I sat there and tried to piece together what they were saying.

I miss those days on the front porch . . . and how in my younger days and naivete thought there'd always be another visit on the front porch with grandma and my aunts and uncles.

And now all I have are memories and pictures of similar chairs . . .