Sunday, December 30, 2012

Garden Window - New Year's Decor

Hey There:

Made it to the end of another year, getting closer to the next World Cup in Brazil, so far my family, friends and cats are OK. It can be hard not get into a weird mood with the "looking back" thing and focusing on all the things that didn't get done. For me it's the perfect time to get lost in Dr. Who or Star Trek and long for the next metal show now that I'm so fed up with holiday music and cheer.

I've very much enjoyed decorating my Garden Window depending on the season or festivities and  I have many ideas for next year. So for now Happy New Year to all and here is my last decoration of the year:




Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Garden Window Decoration - Christmas

Hey There:

Better late than never, this year was a decorating challenge with half my decorations at my Mom's attic in Mexico and the stuff I had with water damage. So no tree this year, but I had enough for my garden window, though this year it was not as flashy as I would normally do it.



The little tree was given to me 13 years ago when I arrived in San Diego, I was at my first apartment with nothing more than a TV, my clothes and an air mattress, little by little I furnished the apartment mainly with second-hand things either bought at thrift stores or given to me by the ladies at the office I worked in. I mostly received kitchen things, pots, pans but sometimes I would receive decorations, like the little tree for my first Christmas in San Diego.

What I liked about it the most was that it reminded me of a tree we had when I was a kid in the 70's and to this day even if I have a big tree in the house, I always take out the little one and deck it out, usually with blue accessories and lights, I think for next year I will decorate it in purple.


For a time I had a thing about buying nativity scenes, at one point I had 12 of them but this is my favorite because it was my first. I remember I put it on layaway and got it just in time for my second Christmas in San Diego. The little houses light up.

In the left corner you might be able to see a tiny scene made inside half a walnut shell, so cute!



Usually my next door neighbor decorates her garden window, but this year my other next door neighbor also decorated hers, so our little apartment complex looks very festive!




Happy Holidays to All!!!



Friday, November 30, 2012

Sopa de Fideo - Recipe


Hey There:

One of my favorite quick lunch meals is Sopa de Fideo, a pasta soup in a tomato & chicken broth. Even though this is a staple in most Mexican homes, so far only El Camino in Little Italy has it in its menu, and by the way, it's very good!

mexican food

Ingredients:

1 cup macaroni pasta (in your choice of stars, letters, elbows, etc)
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp oil
1/2 can tomato sauce
4 cups of water
1 tbsp Knorr chicken bouillon (to make this recipe vegan you can substitute with tomato bouillon)
Cilantro (optional)


Steps:

1 - Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
2 - Slightly saute garlic and pasta, stirring constantly so pasta doesn't burn. Pasta will look golden within a few minutes.
3 - Add the 1/2 cup of tomato sauce stirring until all the pasta is coated.
4 - Add the 4 cups of water, the water can be at room temperature or slightly warm.
5 - Add the bouillon, one tablespoon should be enough, but taste the broth and add more if you want a stronger flavor. At this point you can add a few sprigs of cilantro, if you have any.
6 - Let the soup simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until the pasta is fully cooked.

Once the soup is done, ladle it into a bowl and you can spice it up with hot sauce or lime, then sit back and eat while you watch a movie. It's a quick and satisfying lunch.






Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fresh & Easy Holiday Cooking Event - Salad Recipes


Hey There:

A few weeks ago my dear friend Darlene Horn, writer of the awesome food blog My Burning Kitchen, had me as her +1 to an invitation from Fresh & Easy to kick start the holiday season with some cooking and lots of eating with Chef Cindy Perez!

We met at Sur La Table, a place where you can find every kind of cooking tool, the staff is very knowledgeable on techniques and they also offer cooking classes right in the store! This was my first time there and I was very impressed.

The cooking area has plenty of space for the chefs and the students, no matter where you are, you will be able to see the chef either by standing near or by looking at the strategically placed camera and monitor or giant mirror on top of the prep area.





The class I attended was provided by Fresh & Easy, so when Darlene invited me I jumped at the opportunity. I'm a big fan of the grocery store and go there several times a week for their ready-made meals, they are such a time saver!

Coming in, we were greeted with a selection of fruits, cheeses and crackers, as well as our choice of white wine, red wine or beer. I choose beer and I was very impressed with it, Hopper Whitman Winter Brew, so good!





The format of the class was for us to prepare a few things (salads,pastry cream and chocolate ganache), Chef Cindy would cook and show us other things (gravy, eclairs and cauliflower gratin) and finally we would have some ready-made food to complement all the "hard" work we did.

The ingredients and recipes were all ready for us to begin cooking, and we did so while we chatted with our fellow San Diego bloggers, had some drinks, took pictures, tweeted, posted and tried to pay attention to Chef Cindy while she cooked and taught us a few tricks.






Each table had a different salad (recipes will be at the bottom) and we were able to sample them all until it was time for the big meal, with turkey, butternut squash risotto, stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes and bread. These dishes and more can be ordered in advance for Thanksgiving dinner, of course by the date of this post it is too late to pre-order, but you can still go to the store on Thanksgiving day for some last minute shopping!




Finally, the dessert table was set, most of us were way to stuffed so they provided little take-out boxes where I put my yummy desserts. 



On our way out we were given a goodies bag filled with Fresh & Easy items like chocolate, premium coffee, wine, seasonal pita chips, pumpkin pecan pancake mix, gingerbread mix, and other products. But what got me very excited was their brand of Dry Brine Rub, this promises the great tasted the brine process gives, without having to confiscate an ice chest or igloo from our significant others.


And now the salad recipes, all of them were very good, but I did have my favorites...

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette
(Favorite!!)



Serves 4

Ingredients:

                Salad
·         16 oz. package fresh&easy butternut squash, cubed
·         2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         ½ teaspoon pepper
·         6 oz. bag romaine and radicchio salad
·         ½ cup pomegranate seeds
·         ¼ cup toasted pepitas
·         ¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled
Dressing
·         3 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
·         2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
·         3 tablespoons orange juice
·         2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
·         1 shallot, finely chopped
·         1 teaspoon honey
·         Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking Directions:

1.       Preheat oven to 400F.
2.       In a lined baking sheet, toss butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for about 30 minutes, until brown.  Remove from oven; allow to cool.
3.       In a jar, add pumpkin seed oil, white wine vinegar, orange juice, Dijon mustard, shallots, honey, salt and pepper.  Seal jar with a tightly fitting lid and shake until all ingredients are combined.
4.       In a large bowl, place romaine and radicchio salad, butternut squash, pomegranate seeds, pepitas and goat cheese.
5.       Pour dressing over salad and toss lightly.


Italian Sausage Ravioli Salad with Warm Brown Butter Dressing
(Second Favorite!)



Serves 4


Ingredients:

Salad
·         1 package fresh&easy Italian Sausage Ravioli
·         1/3 cup roasted pepitas
·         1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
·         12 oz. bag fresh, washed spinach
·         ¼ cup, thinly sliced red onion
Dressing
·         4 tablespoons butter
·         1 shallot, chopped
·         1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
·         2 teaspoons honey
·         Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions:
1.       Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil; salt generously.  Add ravioli and cook as per instructions on package.  Drain immediately and set aside.
2.       Place spinach in a large bowl, top with ravioli, pepitas, red onion and goat cheese.
3.       In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter.
4.       Add shallots and cook until tender and the butter turns a light brown color, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Pour over the spinach in a bowl and toss lightly.


Wedge Salad with Pear and Blue Cheese Dressing



Serves 4

Ingredients:

Salad
·         1 head red leaf lettuce
·         ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
·         ½ cup dried cranberries
Dressing
·         ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oilextra virgin olive oil⅓
·         3 tablespoons pear nectarpear nectar3
·         1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegarwhite balsamic vinegar1 ½
·         1 tablespoon fresh lemon juicelemon juice½
·         ½ teaspoon Dijon mustarddijon mustard¼
·         1 Bartlett pear, peeled, cored and dividedbartlett pears1
·         ½ cup coarsely crumbled blue cheesegorgonzola cheese½
·         Salt and pepper to taste


Cooking Directions:

1.       In a blender, add oil, pear nectar, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, ½ pear (diced), blue cheese, salt and pepper until smooth.
2.       Cut red leaf lettuce into wedges and thinly slice remaining ½ pear lengthwise. Place the lettuce wedges on a salad plate.  Top with pear slices, hazelnuts and cranberries.
3.       Top with dressing and serve.


Winter Fruit Salad with Honey Apple Cider Vinaigrette




Serves 4

Ingredients:

Salad
·         6 oz. bag fresh&easy European Blend Salad
·         ¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
·         2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
·         1 granny smith apple, cored and diced
·         2 carrots, peeled and shaved into strips with a peeler
·         ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
·         ¼ cup sliced and toasted almonds
·         1/3 cup dried cherries
Dressing
·         1 garlic clove, minced
·         2 tablespoons honey
·         3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
·         ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
·         Salt and pepper to taste


Cooking Directions:

1.       In a large bowl combine salad blend, red onions, celery, apple, carrots, feta cheese, toasted almonds and cherries.
2.       In a jar, combine garlic, honey, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cover tightly and shake until fully combined. 
Pour dressing over salad, toss lightly and enjoy!


When it comes to Thanksgiving Day my cousin will take care of everything, but I'll be putting my new found recipes to use on Christmas Eve.

Happy Holidays!



The cooking class, meal and product were provided compliments of Fresh & Easy. I was not compensated for my review and all opinions are my own.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Garden Window Decoration - Thanksgiving

Hey There:

This may not have been my initial idea for Thanksgiving / Fall decoration, but I like the end result, even if I got it done way too close to Thanksgiving Day. The first thing I did a few weeks ago was buy gourds from my local farmer's market, my idea was to get a cornucopia and have it looking all abundant with the gourds, glass grapes and big fall leaves.

Nice idea, but couldn't find the cornucopia. At the beginning of the month got so busy I didn't have time to go to craft stores and by the time I did, there were no cornucopias in sight...and maybe they don't sell them in Southern California, next year I'll look online.

Anyway, so last weekend it was a mad dash at Michael's, Ross and Marshall's, looking for the last fall items they had and I was able to put this together:

fall decoration, gourds

My neighbor also gets in the decorating mood and here is her garden window decoration:


 The reason why I am so pleased with my decorations is that I was able to do a quick craft. If you've ever been to Michael's craft store, you may have noticed they have $2 "grab bags", the bags are sealed and you can't see inside, so its a gamble and a surprise to see what you'll get. This time I saw a very big grab bag and I took it, among several items there was a plaque ready to be painted.

I thought about writing "Welcome", "Ellie's Place", and other nice and cute things...then it hit me, and I decided on the best line ever written:

fall craft


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Garden Window Decoration - Day of the Dead and Halloween

Hey There:

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year, there is no gift-giving or family obligations, the only thing that is required is to be spooky and have fun.

I was raised in a border town in the North of Mexico, therefore I grew up knowing all about Halloween and going for "triki-triki" on the 31st. But in the rest of Mexico the ancient ritual of the Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.

I have several storage boxes full of Halloween decorations collected throughout the years, but this is the first year I make a Day of the Dead altar to celebrate my ancestors. But first let me show my Halloween decorations, unfortunately half of it is in storage with my Mom, but I least I got some stuff out.

halloween day of the dead

garden window


OK, now to the juicy part, my altar, on the first pic you may notice the bottom part of the garden window contains the altar, in the pics below I will explain each part of it. This ritual has been practiced in Mexico since the time of the Aztecs and it was one of those rituals that the Spanish could not eradicate so it was incorporated into Catholic rituals. This time of year people flock to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their relatives, they clean the gravestones, take flowers, have a nice afternoon picnic, take music and honor the dead.

This ritual exemplifies how we view death, not as an ending, but as the next step. Many cultures venerate their ancestors and believe they are with us to help, protect and guide. The Day of the Dead altars are very personal and usually very colorful, this is my first one, next year it will be better.

I'll explain my altar by parts, on the pic below we see several items:
  • The photograph features my Dad and his four brothers, of which three have passed away as well. It is one of the few photos of them together, so the altar also acknowledges my uncles.
  • The sugar skull represents people who have passed, this one is for my Aunt Mica who passed away earlier this year. The skull is made of hardened sugar decorated with icing, it is hard and can last for years as long as it does not get wet.
  • Next to the photo is a traditional bread baked only in this time of year. They are sold sweet sprinkled with sugar or savory with sesame seeds on top. These breads are edible and I bought one for me and one for the altar. It is tradition to have some of the deceased relatives favorite foods on the altar, I've been told that once the celebrations are over the foods from the altar have no taste, the spirits took it. I don't think I'll be sampling this bread on Nov 3rd.
  • The lady skull on the pink matchbox is known as La Calavera Catrina, a zinc etching by Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada done in 1910 and now a staple when it comes to the Day of the Dead decorations.
  • The purple votive holder just looked cool and it holds a flame-less tea light.



  • The cat in the photo is Simba, my first cat in the US, he was such a rascal!
  • The three small robed skeletons in red, black and white represent the cult of la Santa Muerte, there are several interpretations and ways of worshiping, but in themselves they are supposed to protect against harm.



  • That's my Dad, he passed away 3 1/2 years ago and this picture is from the early 70's in the apartment they lived in when I was born. I do have many more photos, but I liked this one.
  • The beer next to him is the Mexican beer Tecate, his favorite.
  • Wondering about the Brylcreem? It was the only hair grooming cream he used, since I can remember he's been using that brand. As the years went by it became more and more difficult to find it, as well as more expensive. I was lucky to find it and now it will be a staple in my altar.


And this is how my altar looks at night with the flame-less candles.


As I mentioned before, altars are very personal, colorful and full of meaning. Each year altars are placed in Chicano Park and Old Town in San Diego, CA. Last year I went to both events and took some video, one of the ladies from a museum gave a very good explanation about the meaning of the holiday.



And in case you didn't know, we have many haunted places in San Diego, back from the time this was the wild wild west. This is a video from a tour I took at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, very cool stories!

Friday, October 12, 2012

San Diego Public Library eCollection


Hey There:

I've had this conversation more than once, a friend and I will be discussing such and such book and me being a San Diego Public Library super fan will say:

"You can check out if its available in the Library and download it to your Kindle"

Blank stare.

"Yeah, you can download eBooks and eAudiobooks from the Public Library!"

And then the questions come.

Do you know about this? If not let me tell you more:

I believe everyone is familiar with the Public Library system. Residents of the city or county can request a Library card and be able to borrow books, movies, audiobooks, etc. for a certain amount of time at no charge.

Through the Library's website you can search for a book, see which branches have the book and request for it to be shipped to your nearest branch, receiving an e-mail notification when the book is ready for pick-up. You can also check on the status of your borrowed items and even renew them.

Now it gets even better because you can borrow from the eCollection and upload the eBooks, eAudiobooks and videos directly into your devices.

Register

First things first, you will need a valid Library card in order to be able to register in the SDPL Digital Media Library.

One you are registered, you will need to download Overdrive Media Console and Adobe Digital Editions, both are free software, the links and instructions are available on the Library's site.




Supported Devices

You will be able to download files into Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iAnything, PC, tablets, MP3 players, etc. To view the very extensive list, click this link.


Digital Account

You may borrow up to 5 items at a time. If an item is available you can Add to Cart and download it, otherwise you can Place On Hold, when the title is available you will be notified by e-mail. They have over 150 titles "Always Available".

If you place a title On Hold you will be able to see where in the queue you are, in the example below, the Library has 2 copies and 17 people already on the waiting list.



The titles you borrow will be downloaded into the OverDrive Media Console, from here you can transfer to your compatible mobile device or play it on your own computer.





eBooks

These can be borrowed for 21 days, at the end of this period you will no longer be able to access the book unless you borrow it again. If you finish the book in less time you cannot return it, you will need to wait until the 21 days are up.

As of the date of this blog post, the Library has 3,741 titles in its eCollection. This is a sample of how many titles the Library has to offer, with the collection growing constantly.

Sci-Fi & Fantasy - 466 titles
Mystery & Suspense - 964 titles
Biography & Autobiography - 243 titles
Business & Finance - 133 titles


eAudiobooks

These have flexibility, they can be borrowed for 7, 14 or 21 days. They can be downloaded into iPods or MP3 players until the borrowed time is up. As of the date of this blog post, the Library has 3,699 titles in its eCollection.

Romance - 289 titles
Juvenile Fiction - 321 titles
Classic Literature - 706 titles
Self-Improvement - 168 titles
Foreign Language Study - 88 titles


Video

Videos also have the flexibility of 7, 14 or 21 days. They have more restrictions, for example I downloaded an Anthony Hopkins biography documentary and it can only be viewed on a PC but not on a Mac or any other devices. The quality on the video I watched was very good and I could see it as a small window like it is in the pic below, or have it full screen. As of the date of this blog post, the Library has 1,161 titles in its eCollection.

Drama - 48 titles
Horror - 10 titles
Travel - 80 titles




So there you have it, go forth and download...legally.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Garden Window Decoration - Between Holidays

Hey There:

I miss blogging so much! On the bright side, I haven't had a chance because I've been working with many authors on my eBook Formatting business, so in a way it's a good thing I'm busy...but I do miss blogging. I'll be organizing my time better and hopefully will be able to post more, I have a big list of topics!

This will be a short and sweet one. During the summer I had a beach theme on my garden window and the next big thing will be Halloween, so in between holidays I put up Mexican folk art that I've acquired over the years.

This time, my decor has had a new living addition to it. My cat found a way to get to the garden window and now its her favorite place to watch people and dogs come and go. It's been nice to come home and see her in her new spot!


cat in garden window

cat and mexican folk art



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tuna Salad Recipe

Hey There:

Growing up I had no inclination in learning how to cook, in high school the fanciest thing I knew how to make were pancakes and this tuna salad. I would make it for lunch during summertime - which in my hometown was 7 months out of the year. I made it a few times this summer, especially in August which was uncommonly hot in San Diego. Its an easy and fast recipe using common kitchen staples and just the perfect cool food to have during a hot and muggy afternoon.

Tuna Salad

1/2 bag elbow macaroni - preferably from the Hispanic section at the grocery store
Lettuce
1 can of mixed vegetables
1 or 2 cans of tuna - I actually use 1 1/2 cans, the other 1/2 goes to my spoiled cat
Mayonnaise
Salt, pepper and/or seasonings to taste
Saltines

recipe


  1. Cook the elbow macaroni in boiling water with a touch of cooking oil to avoid them getting stuck.
  2. Once the macaroni is cooked (10 - 15 minutes), drain and rinse.
  3. Chop the lettuce as finely as you like, half a head should be fine for this recipe.
  4. In a bowl combine the lettuce, mixed vegetables, tuna and cooked macaroni.
  5. Coat everything with mayonnaise and that's it!
  6. Eat with saltines.
When you taste this salad it might seem that it needs salt, I like to add pepper or seasonings like Mrs Dash, but avoid adding salt since the saltines complement the salad. But if you don't want saltines, prefer to eat it with tostadas or just plain, then by all means, add some salt to taste and enjoy!

mexican recipes

Monday, August 27, 2012

Spotlight on Crypto-History (I was an extra!)


Hey There:

Over the weekend I participated in the taping of an indie project as an extra. As opposed to my participation in the taping of TLC's Randy to the Rescue, this time I had some camera time!

The film shoot was for a web series called "Spotlight on Crypto-History", in it the main character - Mark O'Bannon, author of The Dream Crystal - interviews people from the past. In this particular scene, he was about to interview George Washington Carver - portrayed by Extreme Rahim -  when an explosion interrupts everything!




My job was to be in the audience, scream, duck and cover my head because of the imaginary bomb. In this part of the scene only the back of my head was shot. Once that part was done, the director, Jimmy Diggs, writer of several episodes of Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Voyager, decided I should be in front of the camera.  I got on stage, kneeled next to George Washington Carver and my instructions were to fan him and check if he was alive. While two other actresses where crying over Mark's inert body.





Another scene shoot that same day was between the bad guys, who planted the bomb. This scene was shot in the alley behind Lestat's. In these pics the director, Jimmy Diggs, is giving the actors instructions about the scene.




"Spotlight on Crypto-History" is a web-series meant to promote the main project "HMS-Victory", a steampunk style story that involves important characters from the past, like Madame Curie and George Washington Carver, time travel and many more things the creators don't want me to reveal!

This project has been written, filmed and cast right at Lestat's Coffee House (3343 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116). I've seen countless production meetings, plot discussions and "Hey! You wanna be in a movie?".

The goal of having the web series is to create and audience and then launch a Kickstarter project to get funding for "HMS-Victory". As the website links are available I'll update this blog post, in the mean time you can see updates through Jimmy Digg's Faecebook page.