One of the amazing, fabulous, so-cool-I-can’t-believe-it aspects of our new apartment is a real, actual, honest to goodness wood burning fireplace.

No pellets. No gas. No “oh it’s just for show we don’t use it.”

A real fireplace! With fire! From a log!

Yowza! [ insert cavewoman grunt here ]

Fire, good. Warm. Unh-huh.

However, since there are several units in my building, and who knows what sort of yahoolios I have for neighbors, today I called my insurance agent and double checked that I’m super duper double covered for such things as fire. And you know…burning.

Turns out that I am covered, and that’s good. I was raised with a healthy respect for fire. When my mom was just a little girl, her brother was using a burn barrel (or maybe burning leaves, I can’t remember) and he accidentally set several large farm fields on fire. My mom can vividly recall the huge flames and ever since she’s kept a healthy distance from any sort of fire.

So of course, my dad used to load up our 1970’s burnt orange free standing fireplace with lots of sappy New Mexico piñon logs. Then he’s say “what?” when mom mentioned that maybe that was a little too much fire for such a small fireplace.

I mean, as a kid I learned how to make a darn good campfire and over the years I’ve always really enjoyed cooking over fire (both bbq and camping), however, in my adult life, I have never lived anywhere that had a fireplace. Most apartments don’t offer this feature because the property owners don’t want to assume the risk.

Last night, I pondered while looking at this particular fire:

The first fire in our new place!!

For as much progress as we have seen in the world including technology, medicine, engineering, etc…meaning, of all the amazing tools that we, as humans, have at our fingertips, it’s still the tool of the caveman that can wipe the whole thing out.

One flickering flame. One spark from a burning fire is a lifechanger.

And so today, when my insurance agent asked me the all important question “what is the distance to the nearest Fire Station” and I answered “less than a mile,” at I first felt worry over having to even discuss the probability of tragedy. Then I felt thankful that the fire station is so close. Then I felt doubly thankful for all the people who work at that fire station and are willing, as a normal part of their job, to come and save me, and The Good Man and, yes, even The Feline, from a possible terrible situation.

Being a human is full of risks. Even if I choose not to use my fireplace, I can’t control all the others in my building. So yeah, I’m going to use that fireplace and I’m going to stand in front of it and warm my rear end. I’m also going to be very careful and very respectful.

And very grateful.

Regarding the fire, the Feline says, “where you been all my life?”.

Yes, that’s a box of Duraflame. Real logs are on the way.

Except where noted, photos Copyright 2012, by Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the far right column of this page. Photos taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ app.

Photo at the link to the freestanding orange fireplace is from That is not a photo of my family’s home.

Family Traditions

With the insanity of a more-than-full-time job, and the crush of the holidays, I’m a little sad that I wasn’t able to make a batch of my Blue Ribbon biscochitos this year. (Long time reader Ephraim has agreed to eat extra of his wife’s batch of biscochitos in order to bring balance back to the universe)

I also didn’t get a chance to make sugar cookies.

I didn’t manage to get to that chocolate covered peanut butter ball recipe I wanted to try.

And toffee. This year I was going to make toffee.

I didn’t get any of that done.

Thankfully, one family tradition did manage to squeeze through my kitchen as we near the holiday.

When I was growing up, my mom used to make these fabulous cream cheese mints. I always considered them to be so elegant and classy. Posh, as the Brits would say.

I remember my mom wrapped up a beautiful box of mints and gave them to my kindergarten teacher (who I idolized). She sent my mom a gushing thank you note. For some reason that stuck with me.

Through the magic of the internet, I was able to find myself a set of candy molds that approximated my mom’s collection, and Thursday night I put all else aside and whipped up a batch.

Tasty treats. Family lore.

Happy Christmas Eve to us all!!

This tin was supposed to make its way to work to share. It didn’t make it to work. More for me!

So pretty!!

Photos Copyright 2011, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons on the right column of this page. Photos taken with an iPhone4s and the Hipstamatic app.

My drug of choice

So pretty. So solid. So….dreamy.

The elegance of the sucrose molecule.

Mmmm sweet Mother Sugar.

Here in the holiday season, her deliciousness is impacting my life in glorious ways.

Cookies, cakes, fudge, peppermint bark, egg nog, See’s candy, candy canes. All of it. WANT!

The trouble with my little predilection for sugar, however, is the more I eat it, the more I want it.

And then I become something much like a frenzying wildebeest.

So not cute.

I foresee a painful but necessary detox in the month of January.

But for now? Oooohm nom nom nom nom nom!!

And I’ll pretend I didn’t read this article.

This little foray into my favorite addiction is brought you by Theme Thursday and this week’s theme: Sweet

Article link from a December 8th post by NewMexiKen

Image from Wikipedia and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.

Tis The Season for a Re-Blog

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.

Pardon Me, Waiter. What Is this?

Over the past few days The Good Man and I had some things to celebrate, so we got out of town for a few days.

We headed up north and checked into a really fancy schmancy hotel. The Good Man had planned the weekend to be a surprise for me, and it was amazingly good stuff.

I’d been advised to bring one nice outfit for a night out, and so I did. Friday night I put ‘er on and off we went to dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant.

(In case all Michelin means to you is tires, a starred restaurant is a really big deal.)

So being the New Mexico hayseed that I am, I made sure I worked very hard to mind my manners, use the right fork and not laugh too loud inside this very expensive and fairly quiet restaurant.

Of course, that only lasted through my first Sidecar martini drink.

Once the sugary brandy took hold, all bets were off.

Which just happened to coincide with the end of appetizers, when our fantastic server began setting up our table for entrees.

Ok, so a nice sold fork was laid down. Good. Then kind of a funky scroll sided knife, but a knife nonetheless.

And then another utensil was put next to the knife.

It looked like this:

Shaped like a spoon, but flat like a knife. I was perplexed. I had NO idea what in the sam hell it was.

Then I watched the waiter lay out a similar place setting for The Good Man.

Before the server could get away I blurted out “Excuse me, sir? But what is this?” and held up the alien utensil.

He took a step backward. I reconsidered my manners.

“My apologies,” I said. “It’s just that my mother taught me all the forks, but I have no idea how to use this.”

He laughed, “It’s a sauce spoon, your entrée comes with a wonderful sauce and this will help you get all of it.” Then he showed me how to use it.

And, well, by god that flat spoon did work pretty darn good on that tasty sauce.

I mean, where I come from we sop up all the good sauce with a biscuit, but whatever. I guess if they want me to use a fancy spoon, I will.

Didn’t stop me from licking it when I was done.
(ok, no, just kidding about that last part)

Image from Connox Living Design Shop.