hellidays : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

I’ll Be Homesick For Christmas

I’m a little late in getting this posted, but the sentiment is all the same. This list is an annual tradition here at Oh Fair New Mexico.

As I post this, I’m thinking about making a batch of biscochitos. Only, I couldn’t find lard at the grocery yesterday. What the hell kind of place do I live that doesn’t sell lard? Just gotta shake my head.

Anyhow, biscochitos or not, I wish happy holidays to you and yours.

Without further ado:



Top ten things I miss about Christmas in New Mexico (in no particular order):

Originally published December 11, 2007


1) An annual shopping trip to Old Town in Albuquerque. This was a longtime mom and me tradition. Every year I’d get to pick out my own ornament that would eventually be mine when I became an adult. I have every one of those ornaments stored in a Thom McAnn shoebox and they go on my tree every year. They are a glitter and glass history of my life. I remember buying each of them and it gives me a beautiful sense of continuity to have them on my tree.


2) Luminarias. I always was the one to make them for the family. Someone would drive me to an empty lot and I’d dig out two buckets worth of good New Mexico dirt, then I’d go home and fold down the tops on brown lunch bags. Each would get a candle inside and then at night I’d light them. It was my holiday job and I loved every folded bag and every bulk buy candle (and every small emergency when a bag caught on fire in the wind). I miss real luminarias.


3) The Bugg House, which, sadly, is no more. My sister lived over on Prospect and we’d go for a walk in the dark on Christmas Eve to take a look at the outstanding display of holiday spirit. On the way to Christmas shop at Winrock Mall, I’d take a detour to the Bugg house to take a look. No one does lights like the Buggs did.


4) Neighbors bringing over a plate of freshly made tamales as a Christmas gift. When there are three generations of Hispanic women in a kitchen with some masa and shredded pork, magic happens. Yum! I also miss that people would bring tamales to work in a battered Igloo cooler and sell them to coworkers. I was always good for a dozen or more.


5) A ristra makes a good Christmas gift. I’ve given. I’ve received. I love ’em. They’d become a moldy mess here, and that makes me sad, cuz I’d love to have one.


6) Biscochitos. My love for these is well documented.


7) Sixty-five degrees and warm on Christmas Day. Growin’ up, I think one year there was actually snow on the ground for the 25th, but it was melted by the end of the day. Oh Fair New Mexico, how I love your weather.


8) Christmas Eve midnight Mass in Spanish with the overpowering scent of frankincense filling up the overly warm church. Pure torture for a small child, but oh how I’d belt out the carols. And when we came home after, we could pick one present and open it. Gah! The torture of choosing just one!


9) A New Mexico piñon, gappy, scrawny Christmas tree that cost $15 at the Flea Market and was cut from the top of a larger tree just that morning. Look, to my mind, it ain’t a tree unless you are using a few low hanging ornaments to fill the obvious empty spots. These overly fluffy trees just ain’t my bag. If you aren’t turning the bad spot toward the wall, you paid too much for your tree.


10) Green chile stew for Christmas Eve dinner and posole for New Year’s, both served with homemade tortillas. My mouth waters. It’s weep worthy. I can taste the nice soft potatoes in the stew, the broth flavored just right. And posole to bring you luck with red chile flakes and soft hunks of pork. Yeah……


*sigh* Now I’m homesick.

Which is not to say I don’t have happy holidays where I live now…but sometimes I feel melancholy. In a way, that’s what the holidays are for, right? To remember.



Finally, in order to just really drive a homesick knife into my heart, I give you this, the beauty of Old Town Albuquerque:








Image via Delta Skymag



If We Make It Through December

If we make it through December
Everything’s gonna be all right I know
— Merle Haggard


Every year “If We Make It Through December,” a classic Merle Haggard song that was released for the first time all the way back in 1973 becomes the theme for my holiday season. I have been playing it on repeat in my car as I drive back and forth to my job.

I also play it when it’s dark in the morning and when it’s dark in the evening. As the rain comes down. As protestors shut down access to my home and helicopters hover in the sky. As my feet ache and my head hurts and I wonder why, for another year, I’m anxious, depressed and overwrought during the happiest time of year.

Every year I look forward to December and the holiday season, hoping to capture some small bit of that childhood joy and anticipation and magic. I watch movies like “White Christmas” that are filled with optimism and dancing and songs about snow.

Every year I feel crushed by an avalanche of end of year business activities. It’s the nature of the profession I have chosen that December is just always going to be craptastic.

And then current political events put a little exponential anxiety to this year’s festivities.

Now I don’t mean to hate December
It’s meant to be the happy time of year


Happy, yeah. Full of cheer. Ho, ho, ho. Yesterday should have been a really good day. My boss held a breakfast holiday celebration for all of her team. Then one of my main client teams had a holiday luncheon for us too. A day of eating? Hell YES!

But in between those two events, I had a bunch of other meetings. I was late to most of them and got chewed out. I was running hither and thither to get to these “fun” events where my attendance was fully expected.

At the end of the day I had an inbox full of emails and angry voicemails from people expecting me to get my other work done.

So I stayed late at work (again!) and tried to get somewhat caught up. I worked off most of the code red items and left the code orange for another day.

Then I went home exhausted and emotionally shut down. I was not a good spouse to The Good Man or a good human to my Feline.

Hell, I didn’t even plug in our Christmas tree yesterday. Yes, last weekend I managed to get our fake tree put together, but it is not decorated. I usually love to make cookies for the holidays, but not this year.

Instead I made toast for dinner and then went to bed. Feliz Navidad.

If we make it through December we’ll be fine


But as I whine on and complain loudly, I suppose all is not lost. This year I introduced The Good Man to December’s theme song. This happened while we were taking a drive to go see Merle Haggard play a live show at my favorite concert venue in Napa.

How bad can my month be if I get to see one of my all time favorite musicians play live? A musician who has written songs that make up a lot of the soundtrack of my life.

The Good Man is going through his own turmoil this December and so the lyric we most often repeated to each other on our hour long drive was this one, “If we make it through December we’ll be fine.”

And we will. We’ll be fine. This hell and highwater (literally, one of the highway exits in our town was flooded out so we had to seek an alternate route) will recede and we’ll find our way back to level ground.

I don’t mean to hate December. It’s just sometimes it feels like December hates me.





Photo copyright ©Karen Fayeth, 2014




Photo copyright ©Karen Fayeth, 2014. Taken with an iPhone 6 and run through Instagram. Photo subject to the Creative Commons license found in the far right column of this page.




Feliz Año Nuevo

Today feels more like New Year’s Day to me than it did on January first. This is easily explained, as today is my first day back at work and the reality of 2014 is slowing sinking in.

Today was the first day back to old routines and old problems and that dratted alarm clock squawking at me at some unspeakable hour when even the sun doesn’t want to be disturbed in his slumber.

But here I am, back in the grind, wondering how I can keep myself stress free and high energy for all of the many days that lie ahead until my next two-week break.

As such, it’s time for me to turn my attention back to words and writing and the ol’ blog.

I thought I’d kick off the New Year by doing an update post, addressing many of the things we’ve chatted about over the past month or so.

Where to start?


Oh Fair New Mexico


Well, let’s be a little meta and start by talking about my little blog. March will mark seven years of writing words on Oh Fair New Mexico.

Total count (before this post) is 566,730 original words over 1,669 posts.

For the loyal readers, I give you a huge hug and lots of thanks for keeping up with the wild meanderings of my mind.

In the past I was able to consistently post every weekday, and did so for years. Lately that flow has slowed quite a bit.

Is it that I just don’t have anything more to say? Hardly.

The nature of my job is such that I rarely have a free second of time during my days. This job is high energy and decisions required moment to moment.

In my former gigs, I was able to write up a post over my lunch or while on a break. Now, when I eat lunch (at my desk, usually) I have a line of people out my office door wanting to chat.

I often hear “Oh she’s there!” outside my cubicle walls and an “Oh, are you eating lunch? This will just take a minute” when a face peeks around my doorway.

My employees are top-notch folks and I take working for them very seriously.

But dammit! Mommy needs some alone time!

I get quite frustrated sometimes over my lack of time. It’s something I’m working on in this new year.

I’m telling you all of this by way of saying that even if a week goes by and I haven’t posted something, don’t give up on me. I’m still here and I’m still writing.


750 Words

Nice segue. Speaking of writing, lately I have been getting a nice boost from a website named 750words.com.

If you ever read the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, then you learned the value of morning pages. Per Ms Cameron, morning pages are three handwritten pages about any topic you please. The intent is to help prime the ol’ pump and get the creative juices flowing.

I have done morning pages off and on for years and they sure help, but it’s easy for me to let them drop. They are kind of a pain in the butt sometimes, plus my handwriting sucks. Also, my hand can’t go fast enough for my brain.

Enter 750 words. The creator of the website did the math and figured out that three pages is, give or take, 750 words.

So it’s morning pages, online, with reminder emails and badges and statistics and fun.

Why I’m telling you this is because I have been working on words on that site and boy can I tell a difference.

Hopefully that difference will show up here on Oh Fair too.


The Feline

Just before Thanksgiving, I wrote a pretty sad post about my little fuzzy one.

She had just spent a weekend in the pet hospital and when we brought her home she was weak and quite skinny.

At the time, we didn’t think she would make it to Thanksgiving.

She did.

Then I was just certain she would not make it to Christmas.

She has.

So here I am on January 6th feeling pretty amazed that The Feline is actually doing ok. Through the wonders of modern veterinary medicine, she is not only ok, she has gained a little weight and is clear eyed and feisty and full of vim and is feeling like her old self.

It’s kind of amazing. The Feline will never recover from her ailment, what she has is terminal, but The Good Man and I now understand how to manage it. We got her steady and we have more time with the little punk than we thought.

She will be 15 years old in March, and now my hope is that she gets to celebrate her little cranky feline birthday.

Here’s a photo taken about a week ago. This was the first time I really realized she was feeling better and it’s become one of my favorite photos of her:




Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth



That Damn Chocolate Bear

You listened to my tale. You sympathized with my anxiety. You heard my cries.

The response was best summed up by a New Mexico friend:

“Snuff the Yogi.”

And I want to. Oh. I want to.

Here is the status of the Bear as of this morning.




Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth

He sits there, mocking me. He is in residence on the shelf set aside for snacks. During the height of holiday madness, that shelf was cram packed with delicious treats and he survived by cowering in the back behind the biscochitos and the sugar cookies and the See’s Candy and the rocky road treats made by The Good Man’s little sister.

After the piranhas had their holiday feeding frenzy all that’s left is that damn bear and a crappy candy cane.

Yes, people, I’m telling you that the bear is still intact.

I asked The Good Man, “What kind of maniac doesn’t eat a freaking chocolate bear?!”

He politely responded that since things have escalated, he will be seeking a safe house where the bear can be granted asylum.

He’s just doing this to torment me. He knows one day in the not too distant future I am going to tear the apartment apart and walk through that bear’s gold foil restraining order and tear him chocolaty limb from chocolaty limb.

Oh it’s happening.

Well there we have it. I think that gets us all pretty much current and caught up as of today.

I am through most of my first Monday back at work. All in, it was not bad.

Manageable.

Onward until tomorrow.

Feliz Año Nuevo my friends.

I just realized that it’s only two weeks until the glorious three day weekend of MLK Jr. day.

I can hardly wait.




All images © Copyright 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the right corner of this page.




Chocpocalypse Now

This is a bear.





A chocolate bear. A delicious Lindt milk chocolate bear. A tasty holiday morsel, a gift, a happy chocolatey treat with a red bow around his tiny bearlike neck.

This bear is a survivor. It has outlasted all of the cookies, both biscochito and sugar cookies. It outlasted the holiday decorated six pack of Toblerone that was a gift from a coworker. It has outlasted all of the Christmas 2013 bits and bobs of delicious sugary treats. It has even outlasted the giant candy cane, which is always the last to be eaten around here.

Oh yes. This bear is a survivor.

The bear was gifted to The Good Man. It is The Good Man’s bear, and so by the laws of respect and decency, I have neither opened nor nibbled on the bear. Sure, by the laws of the State of California that bear is half mine to do with as I please. But I am a nice spouse and I give The Good Man the space to open and nibble on his own present first.

But this bear. It challenges me. It torments me.

There it sits in its thin gold foil, smirking at me while I rummage and forage for holiday sugar snacks that aren’t there anymore. Oh sure, I came home from work loaded with sweet meats in the week before the actual day of Christmas. We had a dedicated shelf for all of the sugary holiday yum-yums.

But they are gone. Noshed. Dispatched with.

All except this freaking smiling bear. The bear that isn’t mine but make me want to p0wn it like the little chocolately bitch that it is.

I want to bash in its little head and gobble at its ears. I want to reach into its gullet and pull out the still beating chocolate heart and bite into it with fury and insanity and let the juices dribble down my chin.

I want to fry up its little chocolatey liver and sip from its corpuscles.

Oh yes, I want, need, must have it. It vexes me. It taxes me. I shall dominate this milky chocolate bear that hails from Switzerland and mocks me and doesn’t understand the needs of a sugar fiend.

Must. Smash. Bear.

And gobble the remains.

Must.

So.

Do you think I probably need to back off the sugar a bit? Probably need to get a few more veg in the maw and less processed sugar snax? Maybe something protein based with a little less fat? Something with actual nutritional value?

Yeah. Me too.

Happy Post-Holiday Food Hangover.







Slightly askew photo of my chocolatey prey is Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and a dash of maniacal insanity.




The Question – Never To Be Answered

Often times during the many (let’s not count, shall we?) years that I have lived in California, I have had occasion to ask myself the following:

“California? You live in California? Why the [expletive deleted] do you live in California?”

Never is that question asked more strongly of myself than at the holidays.

When someone asks me what is my favorite time of year in New Mexico, I will respond “It’s a toss up between September, when the leaves are changing, and Christmas when New Mexico shines like a pinõn scented jewel.”

It turns out the holiday season is when I miss New Mexico the most. California feels too crowded, too stuffy, too something for me to really believe I live here.

Then I get into the spirit of the season and I find ways to make my corner of the world a little New Mexico. I bake biscochitos. I put my New Mexico ornaments on the tree. I remember my home state, and it’s ok.

That said, there are newer traditions too. California traditions that I have made that over time begin to also have meaning.

One of my favorites is to go to the ocean on nor near Christmas Day.

This began many years ago in the time before The Good Man. I believe that is referred to as the BTGM epoch.

One year in the age of BTGM, I was all alone on Christmas, and that was actually ok by me. Things were pretty good in my life, all in. I was a bit lonely but I was doing fine.

On Christmas Day, rather than sit home alone and sulk, I decided to go visit my favorite beach in my favorite coastside town of Half Moon Bay.

On that 25th day of December, while the world sang carols about letting it snow, I drove down California highway 92 and squinted into the clear bright sun.

That was one of the most beautiful, perfect days I can ever remember in Half Moon Bay. It was quiet, easy and not crowded.

I drove home from my day at the beach content and peaceful. The next day it started to rain and didn’t let up until, oh, about May. But the memory of the beautiful day lingered through the damp season.

This year I had the chance to do my new(ish) tradition again. The Good Man and I went to Half Moon Bay to celebrate a birthday with a family member. For her special day, she wanted to watch the sunset over the water, and we were all too happy to oblige.

The Good Man and I got there early, on purpose, so we could be calm for a while and watch the waves.

As I sat there in a nice comfy Adirondack chair, watching the world go by, this was my view:




Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth


This is a fairly iconic view of Half Moon Bay, and my photo has done nothing different or special with it. But this is my photo. A memory of my day.

You’ll notice nary a cloud in the sky. I didn’t even need a jacket as the sea winds blew in. It was so calm and so peaceful and a perfect holiday day in California.

I disrupted The Good Man’s peace by declaring that, “I need to do a selfie!”

He grumbled about the state of the world and how you can’t just tell someone you went somewhere, oh no, you have to prove it by taking a self photo and…rabble rabble rabble….

That accounts for the sort of smirky face. He rabbled while I snapped:




Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth


Then we had our late lunch and it was delicious and happy and we spoke of holiday things and laughed and it was my own version of joy to the world.

After we ate we went back outside to watch the sun set quietly over the ocean while a guy squeezed the life and song out of a bagpipe. That loud clear bagpipe and the rapidly setting California sun was almost dream quality, surreal but oh so real.

It looked like this:




Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth


And as the sun sank below the horizon, I smiled. I thought about how beautiful that same sun must have looked earlier setting over the volcanoes in Albuquerque, casting a glow onto the Sandias.

I thought about home, but I also thought, “you know, this isn’t too bad either.”

Merry Christmas Eve, ya’ll.

May it simply be “not too bad” wherever you are today.







Photos Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.





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