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.



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.

First Your Fave, and Now Mine

On Wednesday I re-shared what is the most popular post ever on Oh Fair New Mexico. It also happens to be a holiday post.

Today, I want to share one of my personal favorites. I have many posts I am especially fond of, but this one fits the holiday bill.

I like it because “We Three Kings” really is one of my all time favorite Christmas carols to sing, and also because I learned something in researching and writing this post. I no longer just belt out words about frankincense, I really think about it.

Plus, dat potential New Mexico connection. Am I right? Yes I am.

So for your Friday reading, here is a little discussion about frankincense and how it it made.



The Gift of the Magi – In short supply

Originally published December 22, 2011

We three kings of Orient are/bearing gifts we traverse afar

So goes the lyrics of one of my all time favorite holiday songs. I belted it out with gusto during Midnight Mass through most of my formative years.

As the story goes, the Three Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh on that first Christmas, thus paving the way for BlueRay players and gift cards and a Red Ryder BB gun.

I always thought gold was the good gift in that stack. Who knows what all that other stuff was? Wasn’t a gift of frankincense and myrrh like getting a fruitcake and an ugly sweater?

Yesterday, I read with interest an article in USA Today discussing how the Boswellia tree, a scraggly tree found mostly in Ethiopia, is facing quite a sharp decline. Like 7% of trees dying off per year and new saplings not maturing into full trees.

Frankincense is the dried sap from a Boswellia tree. Cuts are made into the trunk of the tree (called stripping) and then sap flows to heal the wound. When that sap hardens (called, appropriately enough, tears), the dried frankincense is harvested from the tree and it can be burned or oils extracted for perfume.

The trees are threatened for a couple of reasons, one is that the Ethiopian government has pushed people to relocate from the highlands to the lowlands where the tree is prevalent. This puts pressure on the ecosystem. The highlanders brought cattle with them, and the cows eat saplings. Also, the grasslands are burned to make it easier to get to the trees to collect the frankincense, but that also kills saplings.

In addition, the process of cutting into the trees leaves them vulnerable to attack by longhorn beetles.

Researchers are still trying to understand if climate change is also a concern.

In all, quite a fascinating bit of understanding about that gift from the first Christmas that I’ve so often sung about but not well understood.

Of course, as I read the article I thought “I betcha these trees would grow in New Mexico.” Well sure enough, there is a man in Arizona who is growing and selling Boswellia trees and they seem to do well in Southern California, Florida and parts of Arizona.

It’s too cold here in the Bay Area, but if I was back in New Mexico, I’d totally want to see if I could grow a Boswellia tree.

The Boswellia tree

Cuts are make into the trunk of the Boswellia tree to encourage the flow of resin

Hardened frankincense, also called tears

All images from LookLex Encyclopaedia.

This week’s Theme Thursday is (appropriately enough): gift

Running My Own Traditions Here

I think it’s time to re-run what has to be THE most popular post ever in the six years of this blog.

It originated in a fit of the holiday blues and a massive case of homesickness back in December 2007.

It’s all still true. Every word on this list applies in 2013. Pretty much all of the links were broken, so they have now been updated. I also gave 2007 me a light edit. Who was I with the two spaces after every period?!

Special thanks to @NewMexiKen on Twitter for recently tweeting out a link the 2007 post. You rock!


Top ten things I miss about Christmas in New Mexico

1) Annual shopping trip to Old Town. A mom and me tradition. Every year I’d get to pick out an ornament that was mine. I now have all those ornaments in a Thom McAnn shoebox that, yes, Sunday night I opened and hung them all on my tree. They are like a history of my life. I remember buying most of them and it gives me a good sense of continuity to have them on my tree.

2) Luminarias. I was the one who made them at my house. My mom would drive me to an empty lot to dig up two buckets worth of dirt and I’d fold bags, place candles and light them. It was my job and I loved every second of it, every folded bag, every candle that caught the bag on fire. So beautiful.

3) The Bugg House, which, sadly, is no more. My sister lived over on Prospect and we’d go for a Christmas Eve walk in the evening to take a look at the outstanding display of holiday spirit. When I would go to Winrock Mall to shop, I’d always swing by the Bugg house to take a look. I miss it so much.

4) Neighbors bringing a plate of fresh made tamales as your Christmas gift. When you get three generations of Hispanic women in a kitchen with some masa and some shredded pork (and lard, gotta have lard), magic happens. Yum! I also miss that people would come to work with tamales in a cooler and sell them to coworkers. I was always good for a half 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 in the Bay Area, and that makes me sad.

6) Biscochitos. My love for these is well documented. (2013 edit: I made a huge batch on Sunday and shared them with coworkers today. Now they are cookie zombies asking me if I have more. 505 represent!)

7) Sixty-five degrees and warm on Christmas Day. 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 then when we came home after church, we could pick one present and open it. The rest had to wait for Christmas morning. Gah! The torture of picking just one!

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

10) Green chile stew for Christmas Eve dinner and posole for New Year’s. My mouth waters. It’s weep worthy. I can taste the nice soft potatoes in the stew, the chicken broth flavored just right. So amazing. And posole to bring you luck with red chile and hunks of pork. Yum!

Which is not to say I don’t have happy holidays where I live now, but sometimes I feel melancholy.

Oh Fair New Mexico, how I love and miss you so.

Image via The Vintique Object Blog.

Made My Own Club. Won Top Prize. So there.

I’ve talked a bit on this here blog about the photography club I recently joined filled with stodgy scientists and photographic perfectionists.

The way it works is that each month we are assigned a theme. We can either submit photos we already have that fit the theme, or it’s highly encouraged to go out and shoot new photos. Most months I dig into my inventory and pull out a couple photos and submit them to be evaluated. Some months I’ll push myself to produce something new, so I often have one new and one previous photo to submit.

This month’s theme is “Holidays” and I didn’t have a ton of photos already lined up and ready to go, so I decided to shoot a couple fresh pictures.

The due date for submitting photos is usually the day of our meeting, but somehow I missed the memo that this month (due to the, um, holidays) the due date is way earlier. I thought I still had this weekend to shoot then upload, but alas, no.

Here is the photo I did manage to shoot and submit:

Image Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth

Took that while setting up the Christmas tree. Turns out photographing Christmas lights is harder than it looks.

Here is the photo that I shot this weekend and can’t submit. I had this photo in mind for a while, planned and set up the shoot and executed on it. I’m pretty happy with the results.

But sadly, cannot put this in the running for the December contest.

Image Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth

So pooh on all of this! I made my own club. I have my own contest.

And I win. Yes. I get to win because nanny-nanny-boo-boo.

But seriously…I have to keep a closer eye on due dates.


Both photos Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. Both taken with a Canon Rebel and touched up slightly in Elements.