Tis The Season for a Re-Blog

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This post first appeared on this little ol’ blog on December 11, 2007. Today it just feels right to re-blog it because the list is still true. This post remains one of my all time favorites since the Christmas season always gets me feeling a little extra homesick for New Mexico.

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

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 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. And in a weird way, that’s what the holidays are for, right?

Finally, as a ode to My People, I give you this:

Image lifted from a friend’s Facebook page. It was just toooo perfect to pass up. If it’s yours, I’m happy to add an attribution or take it down, your choice.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos


Today, I offer this beautiful virtual ofrenda so that we all may take a minute and remember those who have passed on into the next world.

On this day of both sorrow and celebration, the veil is just a little bit thinner.

Today I remember my four grandparents, my father, my best friend from high school, my dear college friend, and yes, even Steve Jobs.

May we all take a moment today to remember those whom we have loved and lost.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos to us all.

Virtual pink pastries and sugar skulls for everyone who passes this way on their journey.

Photo from kalavinka‘s Flickr Photostream and used under the Creative Commons license, as granted on the applicable Flickr page.

A Good Guide

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After my dad passed a few years ago, I took possession of the family collection of photo albums and scrap books, with the solemn promise I’d keep them safe.

It was an easy promise, because I adore all the family artifacts. As a kid, I used to dive into the pages and smile at photos of my hot young mom (she was stunning!) and my young dad (he was geeky!).

My mom was a great scrapbooker so there’s great stuff to look at, including lots of artifacts from when she first moved to Albuquerque back in the 1950’s.

When my mom handed this all over to me, I realized the collection is far larger than I’d ever known, and I’m loving taking time to go through it all. Every time I dive in, I manage to find something I’ve never seen before while I’m in there.

Some of my favorite finds are the handwritten letters, which is such a lost art. You can learn a lot about relatives you never knew by reading their letters.

I have an assignment from a rather important editor (my amazing mom-in-law) to write about my paternal grandmother, and so I was in the family stacks last night doing some research.

That’s when I found this, a letter from my grandfather to my father.

The handwritten bit up in the corner says, “Read weekly, a good guide – Dad”

Here’s what it says:





* *

1. The value of time

2. The success of perseverance.

3. The pleasure of working.

4. The dignity of simplicity.

5. The worth of character.

6. The power of kindness.

7. The influence of example.

8. The obligation of duty.

9. The wisdom of economy.

10. The virtue of patience.

11. The improvement of talent.

12. The joy of originating.

Such simple words that encapsulate such very strong values. This is endearing fatherly advice to a son and it is timeless. This was written in 1949, but is just as applicable 62 years later.

Gives me much to ponder as I wade through another busy work week.

What Makes San Francisco Fun


Had to smile when I read this bit today in the SFGate, the San Francisco Chronicle’s online home:


From Leah Garchik’s column:

“On Upper Grant one recent Saturday, Mal Sharpe and his Big Money in Jazz Band were playing at the Savoy Tivoli, which has windows open to the street. When Sharpe sang out to a group of passing German tourists, reports Lucy Johns, no one responded. But their tour guide, Tara, said she was not only a guide, she was a singer. This spurred the crowd to demand a song. She sang ‘All of Me,’ and ‘we all swooned,’ said Johns. ‘Then she tromped off down the street with her bullhorn, leading the Germans to City Lights,’ said Sharpe.”


I love the visuals on this bit of North Beach storytelling. I adore Mal Sharpe, he’s a SF Bay Area legend, and one of The Good Man’s favorite jazz musicians. When you see a Mal show, you are completely engaged by his charm. So this story, inviting a passerby to come up and sing (and she knocks it out of the park), comes as no surprise to me.

It’s one of the many reasons why I love North Beach.

These kind of things just happen every day in San Francisco. It’s just how we do things…especially in North Beach.

Here’s another example. One night I was sitting at my favorite family-owned Italian restaurant called Sodini’s (it’s a North Beach icon). The restaurant was crammed and I was alone, so I manged to squeeze into a nice seat at the bar next to an older gentleman.

He and I got to talking when he offered to buy me another glass of Chianti. The man turned out to be Leo Riegler, current owner of Vesuvios, the world-known bar next door to the City Lights Bookshop where the Beat Generation used to drink and write and fight.

Leo has owned quite a few businesses in North Beach through the years. That night he told me about the coffeehouse he once owned (on the site that is now the Lost and Found saloon). I asked him about the bands that used to play there, as that coffeehouse was well known to host Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, and more. He told me a long and involved story, the punchline of which was…

He used to pay Janis Joplin $20 a night to play his stage.

I mean. Wow.

All this over a simple plate of ravioli and a glass a wine. Leo is a walking musical history lesson.

That’s just how it goes in North Beach. That scruffy guy in the corner of Caffe Trieste who looks like he just dragged in off the street? Probably a world famous poet laureate. That run down guy who looks like he’s about to pass out on the bar at The Saloon? Likely a multi-millionaire musician.

And then sometimes you just meet a random German tourist who can’t believe that his tour guide stepped in off the street, did a set with a local band, wowed the crowd, then kept going.

How beautifully inspiring. The Muse always does a little dance inside of me when we walk together up Grant street. It’s her fault I moved here, after all…..

Stockton Street, looking toward the tunnel, 2:51 a.m.

Photo by my North Beach friend, Scott Palmer.

Marriage, in a Nutshell


A couple of days ago I was at the mall because I had to return a couple items.

After getting all my errands done, I strolled past a See’s Candy shop.

I *love* See’s Candy.

I thought to myself. “I’m going in. I’m getting a half pound box of all of my favorites and I’m eating them all!”

But then I thought, “No. The Good Man would only give me guff about getting See’s only for me and none for him.”

So I walked a little further. “Ok, I’ll get two half pound boxes. One of only my faves and one of only his faves.”

Then I stopped. “No…he’ll just be like ‘why you gotta bring so much sweets into the house? You know I can’t resist!'”

So I sighed. And considered walking away.

But no. I really wanted See’s.

So finally, I relented. I’d get a half-pound box, twelve pieces total, six of my faves and six of his faves. I really wanted all twelve for myself. A lot. If I was single I could have all twelve to myself!

But the right thing to do was to get twelve to share. That’s compromise. I’d only do that for someone I really loved and trusted.

So I did. I got only twelve pieces and I selected his six with care, trying hard to remember what he likes. I knew he’d be happy about the surprise.

I brought the box home. The Good Man wasn’t home from work yet.

So I ate my six pieces.

Then I ate one of his.

And I’m not sorry.

“Love and marriage, love and marriage….”

Photo Credit: Rebecca Crump

Photo from Ezra Pound Cake.