Sunday, March 29, 2009

Approval Is Good

We had a good day Saturday. It was the day we were approved to be puppy raisers for Southeastern Guide Dogs Inc. (SEGDI). They even have a blog for puppy raisers at The Blue Coat Journal. Each area has an area coordinator and we are part of the Suncoast Puppy Raiser group. Now that we have had our house visit and have been approved, gone over the checklist and have a copy of the puppy manual (165 pages!), we will wait 3-6 months for a puppy. We could get a Vizsla, Australian Shepherd, Smooth Coated Collie, Goldadore or Labrador. We said we would take whatever was available.

Even better news was that my headmaster is in favor of the idea and will let me bring my dog to work! Woot! We'll bring the puppy over the summer to introduce him/her to the school and meet her many soon to be fans. Then we will have a convocation for each division explaining the rules of interacting with a guide dog and what a guide dog's job is and how they are raised/trained. There is a really great short video for the kids to watch and then I'll bring out the puppy. That will be totally cool.

I'm hoping that our puppy will be that community building element that helps our three separate divisions come together. I'm also hoping that when the dog is on campus that it serves as a persistent reminder about disabilities so that the disabled are not forgotten. Our kids are great and I expect them to rise to the challenge: not being able to pet the puppy when he's working! 8-)

I've spoken with two of my directors and they are on board. I meet with the third tomorrow. We will be puppy sitting a 1.5 year old Vizsla guide dog in training this weekend. So the experience starts tomorrow!

If you are interested in SEGDI, they are having an open house this Saturday from 9 am to noon. If you come, you will see us and possibly meet Jean, the Vizsla we are puppy sitting. I was really touched that her name is Jean. It seemed a good sign that our first puppy had Fred's mom's name, sort of a Jean seal of approval!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cake v. Pie: Pie Wins Because Pi Is Infinite!

The Guadalupe Cafe is our favorite place in Santa Fe, but this visit we only got to eat there once. Usually, their pie is homemade, amazing and hard to come by, meaning, you had better reserve a piece when you sit down or it won't be there when you are ready for dessert. Over to the left are the pieces of peach/strawberry pie we had during our last visit to Santa Fe. The crust was a bit thick for my taste and the strawberries were not right, dried out and not oozing sweetness. It was an acceptable pie, but not up to Guadalupe Cafe's usually exacting pie standards. As we had pie in as many places as served it, we had plenty of contestants for the ultimate pie winner.

While Guadalupe Cafe's pie may have disappointed, their food did not. Their chips are homemade and spiced just right. The chile is hot, unapologetically, hot, which is great in my opinion. Their salads are served in HUGE bowls and you cannot physically finish them. They rock!

The blueberry pie we had at Cafe Pasqual's was the winner. I don't have a shot of that pie. It was a very tasty filling, a bit on the sweet side, with flaky crusts. However, eating at Cafe Pasqual's is a mixed bag. We ate dinner and it was wonderful. We also went for breakfast and were terribly disappointed. The Mexican hot chocolate was so sickly sweet that I left half of it. Fred's huevos rancheros were gross. He ended up eating the other half of my chile relleno and scrambled egg dish, which was fine. Sheldon's hot cereal dish was just that: hot cereal with no attempt to dress it up with maple syrup, cinnamon, cream, etc. It was bland and dull. Kitty had French toast that was just ok. Nothing special. I expect something special with the prices that Cafe Pasqual's charges. It did not deliver for breakfast. Dinner was very nice.

We also had a nice pie at Harry's Roadhouse. Harry's Roadhouse is a great, out of the way place that you have to search out to find. It serves amazing food, with a terrific waitstaff and a pleasant, cheerful atmosphere. You can find it all here, burgers, salmon, New Mexican cuisine...and pie.

Another great place, one that is not out of the way, but that is right on the historic plaza in Santa Fe is the Plaza Cafe. We ate there twice and had a snack of a basket of sopapillas and Mexican Hot Chocolate. Their Mexican Hot Chocolate is perfectly sweetened with lots of whipped cream. It is a liquid dream. They had a caramel chocolate pecan pie that was very good, but still, the blueberry pie pulled ahead.

We had a bit of pie gluttony at Zia Diner. I ordered Wicked Cocoa, Fred the strawberry rhubarb crumb, Sheldon went for apple and Kitty had cherry. They were all just ok. I had a bison burger that was very tasty, but Fred was not pleased with his trout or his rice. Kitty found it to be acceptable (she ordered the same thing as Fred) but Sheldon agreed with Fred that the rice was soggy and the trout a bit fishy.

Here is a shot of the apple pie we had at Orlando's in Taos. We all decided that it was a very good pie indeed. Perhaps second in the pie wars.

Orlando's however, was first in the New Mexican Cuisine Wars as they made fabulous chile rellenos, enchiladas, posole, fish tacos, taco salad, carne adovada. We just didn't order anything at Orlando's that wasn't fixed perfectly and served with a smile. However, I must admit to a small feeling of guilt....pie guilt....

You see, my favorite dessert was not the pie at Orlando's, nor the pie at Cafe Pasqual's or the Plaza or any of the pies or sopapillas. My favorite dessert, the one I craved and had to go back for and in fact ordered several of so that I could take some back to my B&B and snack on them later was the state cookie of New Mexico: The Biscochito dipped in chocolate, which Orlando's served.
It is cookie heaven. Light and tasty, with anise seeds and a thick coating of dark chocolate on half of its heart. It was a little bit of cookie love, cookie perfection. I have looked for the recipe from Orlando's, but they don't have a cookbook. I found a couple of potential recipes and will try them and get back to you with the results. In the mean time, if you have a chance to go to Taos, go to Orlando's. Order anything, but make sure you order the Biscochito dipped in Chocolate. It may not be infinite, but I still dream of it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Here's the Thing about Santa Fe/Taos in March

Yesterday was a bit of a frustrating day as you can see by the photo above. The Martinez Hacienda was closed. The Taos Pueblo was closed, even though on the 18th, they had a big sign that said they would be open on the 21st. As of the 22nd, there was a new sign: closed until the 25th. But we had driven all the way up there to see the pueblo. Sigh. This is the lesson about Santa Fe and Taos, and perhaps New Mexico in general. You need to have alternate plans. Plans that include things that are always open, such as the Rio Grande Gorge:

This is the view looking down 600 feet from the gorge bridge, which is always open. It was, dare I say it, gorgeous. 8-) Sorry, it was a bad joke we repeated constantly to cheer us up from the disappointment of not getting to see the Taos Pueblo.

We have now visited three pueblos: Cochiti, San Ildefonso, and Taos. And in none of them did we feel welcome. I think that there is a very odd environment at the pueblo. It is a sacred place that is also open, occasionally, to tourism, which by its very nature is the opposite of sacred, perhaps even profane. So when you visit, there is a real sense that you are something other. While you may purchase some art (and there is amazing pottery and jewelry and outrageously talented artists living on the pueblo) and help out the pueblo residents there is a real sense that you are not to be trusted. Given that all of us can remember those people, those tourists who make us all look bad, I completely agree! Many tourists can be rude, unfeeling, callous, stupid and awful. Many can also be interested, awestruck, humbled and very excited about learning about a culture that is so very different from theirs. How do you protect against the former and still welcome the later? Turns out it is a very difficult balance to achieve. For my part, I think that I will bypass any future visits to pueblos out of respect for the privacy of the residents. The Santa Fe Plaza is able to showcase Native Artists and that's where we will seek out their art. Should you choose to visit, you should be very cognizant of the rules (no photos without a permit, usually $10 a day; no photos of residents without their expressed approval; no looking into doorways, as this is their home; no going in the Kiva or climbing on it as it is a sacred space).
The bottom line is that New Mexico is a state of artists, whether they be jewelry makers, weavers, chefs or potters. They may be Native American, European transplants or Native New Mexicans. The artisitic sensibility is that they live at a different pace than the rest of us nine to fivers. So, yes, the sign did say, open on the 22nd, but something came up. Yes, the door says open at 9 am, but the painter had a late night painting, so she won't be in until later. Or the biscuits burned, so the chef will make another batch and open up then. So be prepared for disappointment and have many options that you can switch to when something turns up closed. That way you won't be disappointed or frustrated. Or depend on the hiking and the national monuments. They don't close...unless it is Nambe Falls, which is on the Nambe Pueblo, which was....closed. I kid you not.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eating in the Santa Fe Area

Wednesday we went to Taos to see the Taos Pueblo, but it was closed until the 22nd.  We did have the happy circumstance of eating at Orlando's.   Do NOT miss this place.  I will post the photos of our wonderful food later, but to suffice it to say, if you want authentic New Mexican cuisine, Orlando's is your place.  I am having a serious craving for their biscochitos dipped in chocolate.  Splendid.  Kitty had chicken tacos and Sheldon had a very good taco salad.  Fred can't remember what he got, but he liked it.  I got La Reina, which had three carne adovado tenderloins with a dark, rich red sauce, a cheese enchilada, hominy and pinto beans.  It was so wonderful.  I can't wait to go back.

We went to Cafe Pasqual's last night for dinner and had a great meal.  I started with a sweet potato and chipotle cream soup, which was a bit thin, but tasty.  Then I had the papusa, which is a stuffed corn cake.  The filling was a variety of vegetables.  The slaw on the side was tart and spicy and wonderful. I think it is my Cafe Pasqual cookbook, I'll post it when I get back if it is.  Fred got the Plato Supremo which had a pork carnitas taco, chicken mole enchilada and chile relleno.  I thought the mole was a bit sugary, but with a nice chocolatey bite.  The pork carnitas were a bit dry, but flavorful.  The chile relleno was wonderful.  Dessert was homemade blueberry pie and it was splendid.  The crust was tender and flaky.  Fred and Sheldon inhaled it!  Kitty thought it a bit sweet, but she doesn't really like blueberry pie. I  don't like blueberries, so I just tasted a bit of crust.  Both Sheldon and Fred thought the pie to  be not too sweet and amazing.  You need to make reservations for Cafe Pasqual's.  

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Break 2009: Santa Fe with Kitty and Sheldon

Fred and I are enjoying Santa Fe, NM and the surrrounding areas during my school's spring break 2009.
Here we are at Doc Martin's in Taos, NM were we stopped for a nosh in the afternoon after roaming around Kit Carson's house and museum, the Harwood House Museum and the always wonderful Fechin House and Taos Museum of Art.

We arrived in Albuquerque and after a small panic regarding the rental car, we got on our way. We picked up our friends Kitty and Sheldon, who arrived from NY an hour after we did. We drove our mini van to El Portal, which was OK for lunch. The carne adovada was a bit dry. The sopapillas were wonderful though. The main square was a bit boring.

Here is a photo of the four of us from today's hike in Bandolier. We were in one of the cave dwellings. We did the hike to the cave dwellings and to Alcove house. It is a great hike and very pleasant. As Kitty says, Nature on a leash. We are going to come back and do one of the more strenuous hikes to the falls.

After Bandolier, we went to Los Alamos. Rather a Stepford town, but steeped in history. The Bradbury Museum was free, which is a nice change from Taos prices (basically, the Kit Carson museum is $5.oo to watch a history channel video, but you are supporting the site, so I guess it is all good in the long run).

Fred and I aren't big war or science buffs, so while it was interesting, it paled pretty quickly. We also stopped at the San Ildefonso Pueblo. They are known for their black pottery. It is a very small and impoverished pueblo and it is a bit odd to have to buy a photo permit and to feel like your every move is being watched and reported upon. It isn't very welcoming, yet I felt like they did need the revenue. So it was rather a mixed visit.

Here is a shot of all of us being silly by a gorge (long story!) on a bridge at Bandolier. It's been great weather as well, so all is fine.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spring Break Blues

It's a couple of days before Spring Break and everyone is falling apart. There is another round of flu hitting the kids. Tempers are worn to the breaking point. Teachers are at their last straw, a very small and measley sprig of straw and any child with a late paper is getting the queer eye. The students have had it with papers, papers, papers and works cited pages and tests and quizzes shoved in at the last moment before the marking period end. Third marking period sucks. It just does. I teach research for US history, Government, World History, Health, Honors Chem and Chem. I even do a small Psych project with the kids. I'm worn out. I had 17 classes of works cited pages to grade and I made a mistake and pregraded some of that means I still have 6 history classes to give real grades to. Plus the Chem annotated bibs need to be graded.

Granted this is my job and I love teaching research. But concentrated teaching like this drains me. Just drains me.

I can't wait for Friday and to be released from this marking period. Seriously.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Baby Blanket Done!

The monkey baby blanket for Carolina's baby boy Wyatt is done! It is from the Stitch and Bitch Guide to Crochet. It is my first time doing granny squares and using different colored yarn. It actually went together pretty fast.

Here is photo of the monkey face. He's cute, I think. the procedure was that I did all the squares first. I had to do extra squares because I didn't do a guage and used a smaller thread. Then, I read the pattern wrong and just made lots of squares with various colors. After I started to put them together, I realized that the outer edge was in brown because brown was what was used to crochet the squares into rows and then attach the rows together. So, I had to do another round of brown on every square.

Then it took me quite a while to figure out how to put them together because it just didn't seem right. It was a bit puckered. It all came out when I blocked it with the iron and a damp towel, but next time I will insert some DCs to make the corners not pucker. I added DC and TC stitches to the outer bands to make it all even.

I didn't do the edging called for in the Stitch n Bitch book. I thought it wasn't finished enough. So I got an edging from Nicky Epstein's Crocheting on the Edge. It looks fabulous. I've gotten lots of compliments on it. I'll be mailing it off this week.

I've also started a flower scarf. It is from Positively Crochet and is a one skein scarf. I'm using Noro's Aurora, wool, kid mohair, silk and polyester. It's a great yarn to work with. I got it at Fiber Arts during the holiday sale.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

6 Things That Make Me Happy

Elisabeth Abarbanel over at the very cool Archipelago blog and one of my new online independent school librarian friends (she got me going on Libguides, which seems to have replaced the pathfinder and possibly the library website completely, very very cool) tagged me in a meme called Things That Make Me Happy. I did cave and do the 25 random things about me on Facebook and I am only doing this because 1. Fred and Amy both said my book reviews were boring and they wanted more writing from me and 2. Elisabeth asked and I think she is pretty cool, so I don't want to disappoint her. Here are my six things, in no particular order:
  1. Willow (my chocolate lab). As you can see from the photo, she is a nut. She is always sleeping in very strange positions and providing many opportunities for mirth. More photos of Willow can be found at my husband's blog.

  2. Cooking and eating (does this count as two?). I made beignets this morning from La Bonne Cuisine. My dad gave me this cookbook many years ago and it contains the best quiche recipe EVER. I recently modified the quiche recipe by whipping the egg whites to soft white peaks and then folding in the other ingredients in order to make a taller, more lovely quiche. It worked like a charm. I do love figuring out little things like that. Back to Beignets, they were great. We had them with fresh berries. More on tomorrow's post.
  3. Coming home and walking into the house and realizing that the housekeeper has cleaned the whole house and there is nothing for me to clean. And clean sheets! I love going to sleep on freshly laundered sheets. Am I on 5 now?
  4. Books. I'm a bibliophile. I love reading them (romances and fantasy are my stress relievers, preferably, victorian romances or urban fantasy). I love suggesting new books to my friends, students and faculty. I love hearing about good books. I love discovering a new author (like when I read Charles Dickens was John Irving's fave author and decided to give him one more try (9th grade English class on Great Expectations was disasterous! WOW! David Copperfield Rocks!) Books online make me happy especially, because then I can read AND...
  5. Crochet! Yep. audiobooks are perfect for the crocheter. Crochet makes me so very happy. From my yarn addiction, to making random crocheted flowers to making gifts for my friends, crochet allows me to relax, be creative and chill.
  6. Fred. Saved the best for last. It's hard not to be happy when you have a supportive and loving spouse in your corner no matter what, through size 16 to size 10, from putting myself in the emergency room after the 2000 Disney marathon (which I finished! and am never allowed to do again lol!), Fred is the yardstick by which all my other female single friends measure potential mates.

Here are the rules for this meme:

Link to the person who tagged you.
Post six things that make you happy along with these rules.
Then tag no more than six other blog buddies and let them know they are tagged.
Let the person who tagged you know when your entry is complete.
So tag, you are it!

  1. Sharing from Afar
  2. Gisah
  3. Fred
  4. Christy

Monday, March 2, 2009

Madapple Madapple by Christina Meldrum

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
OK. I'm going to admit upfront that this book is confusing as all get out. When I read the reviews and the book jacket, I thought the book was a fantasy book. Girl raised by crazy loner mother is left an orphan and must survive a brutal world and battle good and evil. Seriously. I really thought we were talking fantasy series. IT'S NOT.

It is set in the present day, but written in such a dreamy language to give you the impression of otherworldliness. The conceit of botany (madapple being a key plant in the plot) ties everything together. Or tries to. The chapters go from orphan Aslaug's perception of the world and past events to a chapter from the courtroom where she is on trial for murder and arson. So you go from dreamy, hallucinogenic remembrances, to gritty trial transcripts.

Ultimately I found the book unpleasant, from the mother's brutality (she puts out a cigarette on Aslaug's chest to teach her some bizarre lesson on life)to her rape/dream sex/virgin birth by her first cousin.

The plot is downright hazy. Like whisps of fog, you think you see ahead of you, but's something different. I can't say I enjoyed reading this. I'm not sure I learned anything other than some plant botany.

It was so heavily hyped and promoted that I feel really let down. I expected an amazing read and what I got was an icky feeling and joy when I could put it down and say, I don't ever have to read that again.

View all my reviews.
City of Bones (Mortal Instruments, Book 1) City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you are looking for a fast paced urban fantasy for young adults,this book is a pleasureable read. Fifteen year old Clary Fray has a typical life: she's taking summer art classes, has a wonderful boy (Simon) who's a friend but would like to be more and a mom who is just insane and completely maddening. Then the unexpected happens when she witnesses a violent act that Simon and others can't see. They can't see the dying boy or the three young people who killed him and claim he was a demon and they are demon hunters. Perhaps there is a reason for her mom's maddening behavior...perhaps Clary has some secrets in her family closet...perhaps this end of summer is going to become something outrageous involving werewolves, vampires, demons, traitors, a kiss and the appearance of family she thought were dead. Perhaps this is the most awful wonderful thing to happen to her ever as it finally opens her eyes to what she is, where she is and who she is with and should be with.

Given all that, I do have to say that the only disappointing thing was the ending. As this is Book 1, the author had to make a hook for the next in the series. I thought it ended a bit abruptly and without a clear resolution on some key plot points. That being said though, I still mightily enjoyed it and would recommend it.

View all my reviews.