Thursday, December 25, 2008

New Plan

I have a new plan for my life.
I am going to marry Santa.
He is jolly.
He has all the toys.
He has been Sainted.
Nicholas is a good name.
He likes cookies.
I am on the nice list.
He makes the world a better place.
I have been dating all the wrong men, what was I thinking?

I have OCD with my Christmas tree.
My tree must have a theme.
No one of a kind, handmade, mixed, or gifted ornaments.
Nope, 20-50 of each one.
Silver snowflakes.
White snowflakes.
Clear snowflakes.
White icicles.
Clear icicles.
Ice drops.
Ice strands.
Clear stars.
White lights.
It looks like winter.

This year I used less than half of the ornaments and lights and I still love it. Don't get me wrong. I love the other types of trees that people do with a variety of and handmade ornaments and I could spend hours looking at every thing. I just can't live with them. Issues definitely. Oh well. I don't think any ornament has ever cost more than $1 and often are 6/$1. That is the nice thing about using multiples. It is cheaper but doesn't necessarily look it. Also a theme keeps me focused on what I buy to decorate with. Trust me, I could spend a couple thousand dollars every Christmas on new stuff. And yes I have a fake tree.

I hope everyone has been immensely blessed this Christmas with love, peace and joy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

White Peppermint Fudge

Chocolaty. Buttery. Full of nuts, cut into little squares and luxuriously melting on your tongue, slowly pleasuring so many of your senses.
Hot fudge, oozing down the round slopes of cold mint chocolate chip ice cream, fluffy whipped cream lightly pressing itself onto this sensuous embrace of decadence.
These are the visions in my head when the word fudge is spoken.
Yes, brown fudge.
Not white.

I saw these tempting photos though at A Southern Grace of this white wonderful looking treat. It was so pretty it reminded me of layers of white tuille with red sequence trim. And add to that, it is peppermint and I needed peppermint ideas for the plates of sweets for my neighbors. Then I saw the word fudge. What fudge? Where's the brown stuff?

Now I am willing to think outside the box and I have a pretty big box, so I figured I would give this a try. But I am changing the name. Because fudge is brown. Okay, maybe just a little outside the box this time.

This is way easy and the ingredients are a little cheesy (ooh, I rhymed), but at Christmas who really has time for being a food snob? I suppose you could use chopped white chocolate instead of the chips and make your own frosting from scratch to make this, which I may attempt at another time just for fun, but the end result of this recipe is really pretty yummy. I think I like white fudge.
Thanks Grace.

I added butter of course because my brown fudge always has butter, lots of butter, I used extra peppermint extract, and I added crushed peppermints to the white fudge.


12 ounce package vanilla chips
16 ounce can vanilla frosting
1 cube butter, sliced
2 t pure peppermint extract
1/4 c finely crushed peppermints
8 drops red food coloring
crushed peppermint candies or candy canes or a smattering of peppermint sprinkles

Line an 8-inch square pan with wax paper.
Melt the vanilla chips in the microwave.
Using a hand mixer stir until smooth.
Warm the frosting in the microwave for 30 seconds - 1 minute.
Mix into melted vanilla chips.
Add butter slices and mix well.
Blend in peppermint extract.
Lightly stir in 1/4 c crushed peppermints.
Spread the creamy goodness into the prepared pan.
Drip the food coloring over the fudge and swirl decoratively with a knife.
Sprinkle with crushed candies and/or sprinkles and chill until set.
Cut into 1" pieces and share.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Remember this?
Now check out this.

If you missed the set of postings on the tables I featured and you are interested in viewing them and reading all the tips then go here.

One of my very favorite entertaining sites is Totally Tabletops. The owner, Sheena S. Kalso, who is absolutely gorgeous by the way, was so helpful to me when I worked on my charity table setting back in October. I was searching for flatware in ivory and antique looking. I had located some beautiful pieces, but the average cost was $50 per place setting which was out of my budget. Although I eventually found what I was looking for in the nick of time at Target, I truly appreciated her efforts. Now she has featured my table on her site. I am so excited I could just piddle my pants as Leslie says.

Check out her site and all the many really wonderful ideas. Entertaining is a way to celebrate life, something we so easily get too busy for. Gather friends, family, your pets or just your own soul. Celebrate your breath, sunshine, Tuesday at 2, whatever inspires you. Make memories that your grandchildren gasp over. Invite the paparazzi to your party when you are old and hopefully the cops will be called to shush the noise.

You are blessed with this life. Savor it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chili con Queso and street tacos

I have been sick since I came back from vacation and working then coming home to bed basically, so my apologies for the late post. I, personally think it is an omen from God that I should be a woman of leisure who travels the world for pleasure in order to stay well and peaceful.

We do eat some street food in Mexico. In Puerto Vallarta this place is really good though it is not technically street food, it is outdoors and on the corner, across from the Super Mercado which is next to the suspension bridge over the Rio Cuale.

We ordered their 'Dedos de Camaron', which were fried shrimp tacos, every time we went there and once you go, you will go back again and again. At 20 pesos a piece they were only about $1.80 each, one makes a small lunch or snack. The plates are covered in a plastic bag for really easy clean up, a little tacky but hell, how fun is it to just go with life as it comes sometimes. The tortilla is soft which is traditional, not the baked or fried tortilla shell that so many Americans are used to, and the shrimp are fried in a batter then you add a dressing/sauce, hot salsa fresca, fresh squeezed limes and a lettuce/spinach/cilantro/carrot chiffonade mixture. OMG these are good! Sorry there is no photo of the tacos but we kept eating them before I ever thought to take one. That happened a lot. Great flan also and a staff that smiles at you when you come back day after day after day.

Also if you are old enough like me, you will remember laying on the bed to zip up your skin tight Chemin De Fer jeans, the girls that work here didn't forget how to do that.

These are 2 of my happy, hungry sisters waiting for lunch. Sitting at the counter is fun and friendly and very traditional.

Puerta Vallarta is in central Mexico and on the ocean which means fresh fish is in abundance. One night as we waited outside for a table at Cafe de Olla (eat here too), I noticed a couple men with ice chests speaking with the chef or the manager. When I sat down at the table and inquired about what type of fresh fish was available, the answer made it obvious that I had just witnessed todays catch being sold to the restaurant. Bass off the boat with garlic, tortillas, rice and beans. Bring it on. And for less than 100 pesos it was less than $9. In Mexico people eat real food, not a lot of sweets and the only fast food that I saw is like the taco stand above.

Now how about a traditional Mexican recipe? Let's begin with what we Gringos would call an appetizer. Chili con Queso. Northern Mexico is where there are large cattle ranches and there is much more use of dairy products. Yay! I love cream and butter and cheese. Oooh, and ice cream. But this isn't about ice cream although ice cream is a fine appetizer in my book. Flour instead of corn tortillas are more typical in this part of the country also.

When handling chiles, always use care. Thin latex gloves help, but wash, wash, wash and never touch your eyes or inside your nose, there is bad stuff in them thar peppers that burns and it burns bad.

from Savoring Mexico

2 T butter
2 small white onions, finely chopped
4 jalapeno chiles, seeded and cut into strips
15 anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and deveined, then cut into long narrow strips
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c warm water
sea salt to taste
1 lb queso asadero, monterey jack or other melting cheese, shredded
Flour tortillas, totopos or good quality tortilla chips for scooping

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter.
Add the onions and jalapeno chiles and saute until the onions are limp and golden, about 5-10 minutes.
Stir in the Anaheim chiles and tomatoes and cook until all the chiles are soft, about 5-10 minutes longer.
Pour in the cream and warm water, season with salt, and simmer for several minutes.
stir the cheese into the chiles, cover, and remove from the heat.
When the cheese has melted, pour the chiles into a heated serving bowl.
Serve while it is still bubbling hot, as the cheese will separate and become tough and stringy if allowed to cool.

Serves 10-12 as a dip, or serves 6 as a filling for tortillas.

My preference is fresh flour tortillas, but as I said, I have been sick and back to the store was not going to happen. Not the best photos but you get the idea.


Monday, December 8, 2008


Two days ago I was warm and the sun was shining. Today I am freezing and it is foggy. I am not happy about this.

I love Mexico. The people are friendly and devoted to their faith, it is beautiful and festive, humbling and inspiring. Ever since my first trip to Puerto Vallarta these have been my favorite pieces of art. The designs are all a little different, some are an obvious pattern, some are a seemingly random design and every one is absolutely gorgeous. They catch the light and reflect what is beyond at their best when they are layered. Five is probably the necessary amount for the nicest result, but they are very expensive which puts my interest in the couple thousand dollar area. But then who needs curtains when you have these.

The window in these photos is at Le Bistro Jazz Cafe which is on the Rio Cuale, and the metalwork is the window. Yes all sorts of critters can get in and there are 3-4 foot long Iguanas that live in the trees all around (see him in the photo below?), so I would send in the critter getters first if I worked here to catch them and send them on their happy little tree climbing way. Le Bistro is very, very elegant and the food is excellent, a lovely experience if you are there.

If you cross the bridge after leaving Le Bistro, you will come to the outdoor marketplace. It is fun and there are lots of handcrafts to haggle over. I don't haggle much because I realize how poor these people often are. Unfortunately the world economy is beginning to really affect Mexico in that tourists are spending half of what they used to and costs have gone up tremendously for locals and tourists alike.

Halfway through the marketplace is a suspension bridge. It is lots of fun attempting to walk it in some sort of ladylike fashion though some say it is easier to cross after a few margaritas. The local young women cross it in heels which I would never attempt. On the other side of the bridge and across the road is the Super Mercado and the best shrimp tacos around.

Puerto Vallarta comes down from the hills into the Bay of Banderas. It is so pretty because of all the flowers and even buildings are often in colors of fuschia, teal, periwinkle and tangerine. There are lovely butterflies and pottery painted by hand with designs that amaze me. Then there are sunsets that take your breath away. And we even had fireworks every night. I love fireworks.

People are friendly unlike many countries. You are often welcomed with Buenos Dias Amiga and you are treated as a guest. I think it is so important to be a good tourist. To remember that you are a guest. It is not your country, not your rules, not your way. If you have the proper attitude towards the Mexican people and what little they have in the way of stuff, I believe you will come home happy, relaxed and feel blessed for all you have.

I will be back in a day or so with recipes, I just wanted to share some of the beauty of Puerto Vallarta with you.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

This is the view from my parents condo in Puerto Vallarta. See how far downhill it goes. Down, down, down. See Amber walk down the steps. Huff, puff, puff. See Amber wobble on the cobblestone. Wobble, wobble wobble. See the highway that you risk your life crossing. Run, run, run.
Every day we walked to town downhill. Every day we took a taxi back uphill. We are not stupid. Most of the roads in old Puerto Vallarta are still cobblestone and sidewalks are sometimes 3 feet higher than the road. You have to pay attention because often part of the sidewalk is missing and steps appear out of nowhere. I love this kind of stuff. It is real life. It is imperfect. It has character. And it is not like the United States. There is no one to sue, so pay attention.

This is the view from the pool up to the condo. We are at the very top middle of this photo, you can see the front wall of our patio. It is 128 stairs down to the pool. It is 186 stairs up to the condo. I counted. Figure it out.

I liked this little guy. Actually he was about 4 inches long body wise, but he sort of minded his own business.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008



The shopping season has begun.
Think about what is important to you and to the path you leave.

I am currently consuming margaritas in Mexico.