Thursday, June 28, 2012

Horses & Heels has her say!

I'd like to thank Raquel, the gal behind Horses & Heels blog for writing a review of Cowgirl Dirt Cosmetics. Visit her post to read all about it and follow her blog too. Raquel writes a neat blog about living in the cross-hairs of the city and the country. She loves cowboy boots ... I can only imagine how many pairs she actually owns and every Monday, she showcases a new pair. She also has great recipes and chats it up when it comes to fashion, cosmetics and horses.
I'm Raquel; I live where the city meets the country. One day I'm wearing stilettos, next day it's spurs. I have an obsession with cowboy boots, Christian Louboutin, cooking & cosmetics.


~M

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Unfinished stories

She woke to the sound of a harsh wind through the cottonwoods. Grayness enveloped her and a tingle of ice crept up her spine. The dream, still present in her minds eye, punching her in her gut. The scream, the deafening sound of hooves beating against dirt, the acrid smell of smoke and the lingering taste of ashes caught in her throat. The familiar name formed on her lips, "Cole." It was always that way. The dreams were always there, time after time since she was small girl. She'd never told anyone about them. As much as the dreams made her weep, they were hers and hers alone. 
Georgia O’Keeffe Cottonwood III (1944) Oil on canvas (49.53 x 74.30 cm.)
Unsigned, The Butler Institute of American Art. 
As she lay in bed, somewhere in that nether region that is dreaming and being awake, her lips formed the name again, "Cole," this time a warmth rose in her stomach and she closed her eyes again to bring the dream back.
...
...

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Where's the party?

The party was at my brother-in-law's last weekend for a combination celebration of my nieces 30th birthday and Father's day and it was a perfect time to have a Cognac Party! Ever have one?
Miss Sophi sent me a very nice bottle of Camus' Cognac Borderies XO to try and review* and that's just what we did as we all enjoyed the warm, sunny day in my BIL's backyard.
If you know a bit about cognac, then you know that it is exclusively produced in the cognac region of France. Think medieval town, cobblestone streets, beautiful Renaissance facades. Five generations of the Camus family, back to 1863 have been producing in the Cognac region. They have a worldwide presence and have won several awards including the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in March 2011 with a score of 93 points and achieving the "Excellent, Highly Recommended" category


It is (in Cognac) that the fabled nectar has been created since the 17" century and that the very air one breathes is permeated by the heavy scent of spirits evaporating from oak casks held in storage: this aroma is referred to as the "angels's share'.  http://www.westernfrancetouristboard.com/cognac.html  
Cognac can be enjoyed in cocktails, on the rocks or sipped neat. Although, we had cocktail recipes to try and there are several listed below, it was a unanimous decision to try the cognac sipped neat. This was a good idea because everyone took time to savor and think about the taste in their mouth. They swirled the cognac in their glasses, watched the legs drip, looked at the color, savored the finish. Personally, the thing I thought very interesting was the difference between the genders. The men were so impressed with the physical bottle. It is lovely, large and commanding. The woman were more interested in the drink itself. I would have thought just the opposite. 
The Camus Cognac Borderies XO was elegant. The flavor refined and smooth. The men spoke about "bite." Some said there was a bite and they felt that was a good thing, most said there was no bite and they also felt that was a good thing. Ahhh! The human palate, so distinct, so individualized. I personally enjoyed the cognac. I thought it had a very buttery taste and quite nice for sipping and a cognac that I will certainly have and serve again ... and I'm interested in several of their other products.

Nice color!

The birthday girl! This little lady and her baby to be could not participate** in the cognac tasting but enjoyed the party just as well.

Good friends!


Cheers!!




I enjoyed mine and I love my new nail polish!

Try a .....
CAMUS-Rita
2 oz CAMUS VS Elegance Cognac
1 oz sweet & sour Mix
1 oz Grand Marnier
Combine all in a shaker with ice; strain into a small rocks glass with salted rim. Garnish with a lime wedge




This sounds like a delicious drink to have: 
CAMUS Cosmo
1.5 oz CAMUS VS Elegance Cognac
0.75 oz Cointreau
0.75 oz cranberry juice
0.25 oz lime juice
Combine ingredients with ice and shake..Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lime twist


This is different!
CAMUS Honey
2 oz CAMUS VS Elegance Cognac
0.5 oz honey syrup*
1 oz grapefruit juice
Combine ingredients with ice and shake with ice.  Strain into a short rocks glass fresh ice.
*The honey syrup is a 3:1 ratio of honey and water



and this one ....
CAMUS Passion Fruit Mousse
1.5 oz CAMUS Cognac
0.75 oz sweetened condensed milk
0.75 oz passion fruit concentrate
Combine all ingredients with ice and shake. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with an edible flower.


 I like this ...
CAMUS Sazerac
2 oz CAMUS VSOP Elegance Cognac
1 white sugar cube
3-4 Dashes of Peychaud's Bitters
0.25 oz Lucid Absinthe
Saturate sugar cubes with bitters and gently muddle. Add the CAMUS VSOP Elegance Cognac and stir with ice. Strain into a short rocks glass that has been coated with absinthe. Spray the glass with the lemon peel zest and rest the peel on the rim as garnish.  




This was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to learn more about Cognac and the region in which it's produced. We all enjoyed a little bit of the history and a very nice drink!
Next time you are out, ask to be served  Camus' Cognac Borderies XO and try it for yourself. I think you will like it!


The host of the party ... my brother-in-law!
What are you doing this weekend?
~Maria

* I am not paid to review products marketed by Deussen and my opinions are mine and take into consideration the opinions of those who may have also tried the products.
** “GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems” Underage drinking is prohibited.
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A visit with our newest guest poster ... JoEllen Krauss

I would like to introduce JoEllen Krauss, our newest guest poster. JoEllen is a freelance writer for Providian Medical and a specialist in OB/GYN ultrasounds. She loves to read and write about books she has read.  In the following post she shares interesting reads for moms who need that much-deserved break in the land of pages and letters.

Mamas deserve to Get Lost in a Good Book
Summer is the time when many school-aged kids enjoy not having to pick up a book, but it is the complete opposite for many moms. Without the need to rush children to and from school, lessons, practices, and other late August through June obligations, summer can be a time for moms to relax with a good book or two. Whether reading from the comfort of an air conditioned home or outside on the beach, moms have many choices when it comes to what they select to read. Although every person's preferences are different, the following books are sure to entertain. 
For the romantic at heart, "Crossing the Borders of Time" by LeslieMaitland is a post-war story showcasing a daughter's desire to find her mother's former love. "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" by HelenSimonson takes readers back to an English village and tells a very sweet love story at the same time.
At Bookworks
Moms looking for a bit of adventure should pick up a book like "Blonde," by Joyce Carol Oates. About the unseen life of Marilyn Monroe, this book may help those women who feel overwhelmed with their busy lives cope. Another option is "The Magus" by John Fowles. Stuck at home with their kids for the summer, women can easily lose themselves in the story of a man that simply wanted life more interesting. 
Those who want a bit more of a long term commitment in the form of a series of books have their choices between fantasy in the likes of "The DarkTower" series by Stephen King, which is a series of six novels that tell a continuing story, or a gratuitous series that started out as fan fiction with the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy. This trilogy has gained so much popularity over the last few months that there are few who have not heard of it, but it is a quick read, perfect for a long day out by the pool - if you feel comfortable reading it in public, that is. A third trilogy, StiegLarsson's "Millennium" series includes "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which has already been adapted into more than one successful movie.
Supernatural themes are quite popular these days, but so are autobiographies and memoirs. These exist for  education, like the books written about Presidential candidates like Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama. With an election coming up this fall, moms can stay educated during the summer months, or choose to read more frivolous and fun memoirs, like any of comedienne Chelsea Handler's works, Jenny McCarthy's book, or even that of Ellen Degeneres. 
Spending the day outside and relaxing does not mean that a mom has to neglect her duties around the home, because there are books that can provide ideas for crafts, projects, and recipes that can be used in the home long after the summer months have passed. Although cookbooks by The Food Network stars like Guy Fieri and Giada De Laurentiis aren't exactly something that can be read end to end, and "Dress Your Best" by Clinton Kelly and Stacy London may only provide some helpful tips and advice, they can keep even the busiest moms intrigued. 
It simply depends on personal preference, but there are books out there to suit every taste. From fantasy novels to tell-all works about the lives of celebrities, the choices are endless, and with the ease of portable e-readers, books have become as portable as cell phones. Despite having kids home for three months, moms deserve a summer break as well. Though this list is by no means exhaustive, sometimes all it takes is picking one title, and going from there. The subject of one book may be similar to that of another, and moving from book to book can provide entertainment as well as define tastes. Whether falling in love with Christian Grey or learning more about the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe this summer, mamas definitely deserve the right to lose themselves in a good book.
 ~

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer make-up

Have a look at the latest edition of Cowgirls in Style magazine, page 14, where Cowgirl Dirt's Miss Sarah writes about great summer make-up tips, then visit our site and use the coupon code on page 19::

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Do NOT feed the Trolls ...

Today, after almost four years of blogging, a "troll" showed up on the blog. If you don't know, a troll is someone who comments in an inflammatory way, is completely off topic, their claims make no sense to the posting and who's purpose is ... well, I don't really know what their purpose is at all. Oh! and they are most always anonymous, as this one was today.
The "trollface", first appearing in 2008, is often used to indicate trolling in contemporary internet culture.[1] Modern usage of the word itself dates from 1980s. From Wikipedia
This troll commented about how awful (say what?) this blog was and then wrote "Check out my website at blahblah dot com" ... it was one of those loan companies that charge crazy interest to people in dire need.
Are you kidding me! This is not even a smart troll! 
I'm sure the whole purpose was to incite me to open the link and most likely be smacked with a nasty virus.
The nice thing about the blog moderation feature is that I don't have to include that comment. I can and do approve comments that contribute something to me, to the post or the blog in general. 
After all, it is my party, so to speak! 
I write this blog because I like to write, because it's a record of what interests me. It's not a serious or intellectual blog ... it's for fun, easy reading. Sure, I want people to read it and if they have constructive criticism, I'd be happy to hear it but I don't have to accept hateful comments. 
Not on my blog, not in my life!

...And this is the max amount of time I will give to this subject ... my "This is Spam" button took care of the problem and now on to fun stuff like my post about our weekend Cognac party coming up soon!


~Maria


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Friday, June 15, 2012

{from the archives} Night Lights ... a short story

Photo from the Internet  findfreegraphics.com   
Night Lights
A thousand-word short story using the prompts rain, sailboat and shame. Picked up by Cleaver Fiction and featured on Bloggy Moms!
Kara woke to the sound of thunder and the branches of the tree outside her window slapping against the clapboard. She walked to the window to close it and saw a light in the distance. Glancing at the clock on her side table, she knew it couldn’t be a light in the dock office. Ben had already locked up for the night after tying up and securing all the boats. He certainly wouldn’t be doing paperwork at 2:30 in the morning. The storm, although loud, was not serious enough to be a concern.  She strained to see better through the rain that poured in sheets, something most people in the South were quite used to enduring. She thought she could make out a mast but wasn’t sure. She just knew something was out of the ordinary for the middle of the night.

Kara’s curiosity got the better of her. She went downstairs, pulled on her wellies, threw her rain slicker over her nightgown and headed out in the rain and down to the dock.  As she got closer, she could make out the shape of a sailboat, looked to be about a 20 footer. She stood at the edge of the dock in the rain watching the boat. It looked like it was listing a bit. She thought about calling Ben but remembered she didn’t grab her cell phone from the foyer table where it was charging. She started to wave her hands hoping someone on the boat would see her. She was startled by a voice from behind her.

“No one’s on the boat”, the voice softly said.

She turned around quickly, fearful all of a sudden that maybe this was a bad idea. She saw him walking toward her then and was stopped by the image of a man, about her age, sopping wet with no shoes. His eyes were a striking blue, piercing her.

“I sprung a leak. Stayed with it as long as I could, tried to guide her as close in as possible. Took the dingy in all the way but when I got to the dock, I slipped and fell into the water. I’m about as wet as I can be”, he said.

Stunned by his piercing eyes and athletic body, she could see the outline of his six-pack abs as his shirt clung close to his body. She still couldn’t speak.

“My names Jake, Jake Johnson. Do you know the dock master by any chance?”

Kara paused a second to find her voice. “Uh, yes! Yes, Ben is the dock master. I was going to call him when I saw the sailboat listing but I forgot my cell phone at the house. Sorry.”

“That’s OK”, Blue eyes said. “I’m surprised to be seeing anyone this time of night. I thought I’d have to wait it out, catch my death from the wet. What made you come out here in the middle of the night and get drenched?”

It was then Kara looked down to see her slicker wide open and her nightgown completely wet from the rain and knew he was looking at her wet clinging nightgown. What was she thinking? She pulled the slicker close but it was too late. Her face was burning with embarrassment and regret. If her mamma was still around, she would have told Kara she should know better, ‘cause she was raised right and you don’t bring any shame on the family, no matter how little bitty it really was. Well, she thought, was a gorgeous man seeing her in her nightgown shameful?

“Well, I saw a light in the distance and my curiosity got to me. I thought maybe someone was in trouble.”

He watched her pull her slicker close and wondered if she had caught him enjoying the view. He was amazed to see her on the dock wearing a pair of rubber boots, and a slicker over her long nightgown that was really nothing but a thin wisp of cotton. He had better think about his predicament and not about how her wet hair fell onto her shoulders or the frame of her face and well, the rest of her too. He needed help and a place to dry out.

“Do you think you could help me out? I need a place to dry out until I can get some help with my boat.”

“Oh, uh sure, I just live up there. I’ll call Ben; he’ll be able to help you. Follow me and while I’m calling, you can wait on the porch.”

She felt bad making him stay on the porch but she didn’t want to take a chance just in case. Not that he couldn’t just grab her now if he was the serial killer type.

He was disappointed he couldn’t get into the house to dry off and the more he looked at her the more he wanted to know her. Maybe this was a place he could disconnect from his hell of a job in New York. The boat was just the start, the freedom he was looking for, and maybe fate brought him here with the tide.

Kara came to the porch with a tray of hot coffee and some cookies. She had changed into jeans and a tee shirt and ran a brush through her hair. The rain had stopped and the humidity was settling in. It wasn’t unusual for the temperatures to remain in the 70’s during the night.

Kara hadn’t been attracted to a man in a very long time; maybe fate was working to her advantage. She knew it was crazy to think what she was thinking.

“I called Ben; he’ll be here in a bit. He making some calls to get you help with the boat and he’s bringing work clothes for you to change into.”

She watched as he wrapped his hands around his coffee mug and wondered why not. She leaned in and smiled, “By the way, my name is Kara.”

© Beachwalkermari 2011


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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Books now ... let's chat!

What books are you reading now? 
I recently read Wild Penance by Sandi Ault. I've read a few of her books and the stories are always good, always set in New Mexico, always a mystery that takes in a bit of the New Mexico landscape, culture and folklore. Wild Penance, while good was missing something. The book dragged in parts, some subplots and characters could have been expanded upon, and the end was a "hurry up and finish" plus it was obvious who the villain was early on. If I had to rate this book on a 1 ~ 5 scale, I'd give it a 2.5.
Now that won't stop me from reading this author, she does have a style that is engaging and her subjects are always interesting.

I also read Agony of the Leaves by a favorite author Laura Childs. I adore her Tea Shop Mystery books, have read every single one, all set in Charleston SC, and the beautiful Lowcountry, an area of which I am very familiar. Loved the story! The protagonist of the Tea Shop Mystery books always surrounds herself with interesting characters, my favorite is Drayton, and generally places herself in gracious social situations. There is a cast of potential villains that you would least suspect and a typical mystery cozy climax.  However, I was thrown for a loop with the twist at the end of this book which was very abrupt ... so unlike the authors usual style. However, I highly recommend this author and in particular this series. On a 1 ~ 5 scale, I'd give it a 4.75.

Not batting a hundred here ... haven't hit any "love, love, love this book" fuzzy feelings but I don't give up on authors easily.

Just finished Dancing Naked in Dixie by Lauren Clark, a new author for me. I picked it up because how can you not love the title of the book. I liked the story, it was easy and fun, a fast, cozy read. The characters were engaging though not deep and the main characters traits were a bit overdone but overall, a good southern chick-lit read. I don't think you can truly judge an author by one book so I'll probably read more from this author. It's a 4 on my scale.


In my hands now is Sea Change by Karen White. I truly enjoy her books and am always engaged by her style of writing. Her characters are always deeply defined, always working something out, which makes it so easy to identify with the individual characters in some way. The stories are nicely climactic and thus far, I've never been let down. I've met the author several times at book signings and she is a very delightful person, incredibly interesting and engaging. I've only just started the book so I'll have to report later but I expect it will be as good as all her others and I might just get the "love, love, love fuzzy feelings!

On my TBR (to be read) list, I have: 
Unbroke Horses by D.B Jackson

Porch Lights by Dorothea Benton Frank

Unbridled Cowboy by Joseph B. Fussell

And ... Hard Country by Michael McGarrity


Leave a comment and let us know what you are reading so we can all add to our TBR list!

* All photos are from Amazon.com

~Maria

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A proper note for a proper time ...

If you have been following this blog for a while, you have probably figured out that I like to hand write notes and I like all sorts of papers and pens. Well one of my favorite paper companies, Crane & Co has just gone live with their new American collection. A lot of great designs! My favorite is the Land Of The Free Correspondence Card  ... yep, it's a rifle!!! and yes, I'll purchase these correspondence cards!

And for those who like to make a political statement, you can hand write a note to your favorite friend who holds opposing views with the Red State Correspondence Card and Blue State Correspondence Card

Photo from  http://www.crane.com/ 

Photo from  http://www.crane.com/ 

Can't decide or prefer to stay politically correct? Then have a look at the Party Animals Correspondence Card

Photo from  http://www.crane.com/   
Crane & Co papers are really ideal and top my list. I worked for a fine stationer when I lived in CT, Crane & Co was a best seller in all categories. They have a fine and long history dating back to the 1700's and they continue to be the supplier of currency paper for the US Government having been awarded the contract for more than 130 years. Pretty neat huh?? Do you still send hand written notes?


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Hazy Days, Crazy Days

Photo from  ohshoot.typepad.com   
I've been away from the blog for a few days. It's been pretty busy, pretty hectic getting ready for my move back west. There are boxes to be packed, paperwork to be organized, work to be finished and new work to be started. Oh! ... and don't forget housing ... gee, I got tired just thinking of all that has to be done within the next 3 weeks. On the up side, I've got over 20 years under my belt living in New Mex so at least I know what I'm getting.
Once I settle back  into New Mex, I'll start to wind down the projects I've been working on for the educational non-profit WISE Services, although I'll continue to freelance for them as needed on writing projects and will gear up for a more intense saturation of Cowgirl Dirt Cosmetics doins'. There's lots of planning going on at Montana offices of Cowgirl Dirt so be on the lookout for what's new. Very excited about this line!

Wish me luck, my friends!!

~Maria

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

A fond farewell ... I'll Have Another

I'm really very sad to hear that Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another will not be running in the Belmont Stakes. It could of / would of been the first time I'd have placed a bet on a horse race in years ... since I was in college. I attended school in NY, so a bunch of my college friends and I would get together sometimes at Yonkers where they have the Trotters and where the owners have added a casino in recent years, boy have times changed. We would also ride out to Aqueduct or Belmont, it was all just for fun.
That's when I became enamored of these beautiful sentient beings we call  Horse. I once went to a horse race in St. Croix ... just a track and a few bleachers, most people stood but not by choice and the local ladies would sell cokes and chips. So much fun!
Even so, with so many potential bets on I'll Have Another, the purse would have been pretty small and that would have been okay, it's about the fun and the anticipation.

I'll Have Another developed swelling in his left front tendon which looks to be the beginning of tendinitis. Confirmed by the Vet, the owners felt it best to side with caution. I am actually happy the owners cared enough to consider the welfare of the horse and not just run him into the ground for the chance at fast money.
It will be nice to watch when I'll Have Another leads the post parade today at Belmont ... sort of a fond farewell. I just loved it when his Jockey, Mario Gutierrez said "He'll be my hero forever." I'm sure its hard for everyone involved with this horse to accept he won't be running and won't have the chance at the Triple Crown. It will all be well though, I'm sure. I'll Have Another will head to a nice grassy ranch where there are plenty of good snacks, people who love him and a stable of fine fillies to keep him engaged.
He really was something in the stretch! 
USA Today 



~Maria

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lowcountry life ... gorgeous is not optional!

Ahhh! The lowcountry captured so beautifully in this young person's advertisment for Sperry Topsider. Compliments of Charleston Grit, a very good blog by the equally good Charleston Magazine.


For all of you who did not get a chance to take a holiday with us when we lived in Mt.P ... enjoy!

~Maria

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{From the Archives} A Different Way of Things ... a short story

Another short story from the archives ... a quick read!


A different way of things ...

A Santo bulto and a painting of the Dolorosa i...
The sadness had mostly passed. The people in the line had paid their respects in the days and nights before. The men had gathered and held vigil with the box all night long praying long prayers and taking turns napping at the back of the little church. All that was left was for the box to be put low. So on that sun bright and cloudless morning a line of trucks proceeded out to the family cemetery.
The box didn’t have the honor of a fancy car to keep it secure or lend an air of dignity; it only had the bed of a family member’s truck to rest on. A bed too short for the pine to settle comfortably so it shouldn’t have been a shock when the box slid back on that last bump causing the line to stop short and the people following to gasp and grab their mouths. As if it were an everyday occurrence, the boys got down from the truck and lifted the box back into place. It was a different way of things.
The box arrived at the place where it would finally rest. The trucks from the line flooded the small dirt road, causing dust to rise. The men got down from their high seated trucks and crowded a small area where they began the task of digging in the dirt. Under the high sun, their shirts got stained with dust and sweat. Some cussed under their breath. When they had dug enough it was the son that jumped down into the depth of its six feet or so. Perhaps it was to check it was dug right or maybe, he just wanted to see how it felt. The wind picked up just then and the trees rustled their leaves. As the son climbed out and dusted his hands and pants, he motioned to the men it was time. With ropes wrapped around, they surrounded the box, lifted and lowered it down, then pulled hard to bring their ropes back up. Those were ropes needed for all manner of things life brings and couldn’t be wasted.
The woman stood around noticing the other woman, noticing the first wife, the other children. Except for the very old vieja who just leaned against the fence and prayed, there was nothing somber about this event. The men still sweating returned the dirt from where it came, taking turns as the day was getting hotter.
There was nothing more, it was over. Just a wooden box and a hand dug grave.
One by one, they all found their way to a small barn nearby where some woman had set up pots of beans and tortillas, shredded pork, trays of pineapple cake and brownies, Kool-Aid, coffee and beer, lots and lots of beer. Then as if day turned into night, then day again, all was new and what had been was faded into memory.

© Beachwalkermari  Sept 8, 2010


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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

OKL ... Napa Home & Garden Products Highlight

Napa Home & Garden Sale 

Napa Home & Garden Products Highlight
Napa Home & Garden is a favorite among One Kings Lane shoppers. With a variety of high-quality decorative accents at low price points, this sale is always a hit. Sale end Fri. 06.08







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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes ... Delicious!


From Eating Well Magazine
This is absolutely delicious and less than 100 calories per serving. A perfect side to a burger, or just as a great toaster oven treat. 

INGREDIENTS
4 tomatoes, halved horizontally
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Loccatelli Brand, my favorite!)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste ( I used Red pepper flakes to give it a hint of heat)
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 450° F.
Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet. Top with Parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

~Maria

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Do your remember the night ...

I wish I knew who wrote this piece ... it's beautiful!
do you remember
the night we drove
out into the inked darkness
until the hum of the city
evaporated into contrails streaked above us
like some pollock canvas
that night i looked up at the sky
and its infinite display and i said
"doesn't it make you feel better
to know you're made of star dust"
and you laughed quietly and replied
"you'd rather be up there, wouldn't you?"
and i think that's when you first knew
i would always be tripping over things
because the ground didn't interest me
in the slightest
~~Author Unknown 
Source: Internet

~Maria

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

{From the Short Story Archive} Death at the Morada


2006-05-20_242{From the Short Story Archive}

The sun was barely coming up over the mesa. The night had been cold and Jake was running out of time. He had to get the cattle back down to the valley before the crew left for Fort Worth. There was no way he was going to miss out on a chance to make some money with the rest of them. When Rivera said the rancher from Dallas was looking for some good hands, he was ready to go. Only he had to finish the work he promised to do for Mateo, so he had to get these five head down so they could be hauled over to Tucumcari day after tomorrow. He dusted himself off and drank the last of the rotten coffee he made earlier, then he wet down the fire pit he had made. He could see them off in the distance. Looks like none strayed, that was good. He didn’t want to waste any time looking for a stray and his back wasn’t feeling all that good after sleeping on a roll all night. The thought of a nice warm bed was mighty enticing just then. Mateo would let it pass if Jake said he couldn’t bring them down but he wanted to keep it good with Mateo for those times when he needed some extra work. Mateo was shrewd and if Jake didn’t do what he promised he’d pass him over the next few times for work, Mateo’s way of saying, "don’t mess with me."
It pissed Jake off that he had to kowtow to the Mexican but until he could get enough money to buy the land back, he’d have to play that game. Jake was a raw teen when his father lost the land to the bank trying to make it work as a farmer. The Mexican had swooped in to buy it up from the bank for pennies just as he had done to his own “borracho” brother’s land whom in a night of drunken gambling, signed it over to Mateo for $50,000.00 when the land was worth $500,000.00. The “borracho” wasn’t able to think beyond the bottle and ended up begging his brother to let him live in the old adobe house that was on the land. When he could stay sober, he worked as a hand for his brother Mateo. The 50 grand was gone in no time.
Jake saddled up and started the work of the day moving cattle. The sun was over the mesa now and it would be late afternoon by the time he got down to the valley assuming there was no problems. At least it was a pretty morning; he could enjoy the blue sky and crisp air. Wasn’t long before he saw the smoke. He wasn’t sure where it was coming from.
“Damn!”
He cut away from the heard and headed toward the smoke. As he got closer, he saw the fire. The old “Morada” was on fire. No one should have been in the old church this time of year, the old Spanish families held their ceremonies during Easter. The “Majordomos” checked on the church now and then to keep it clean and ready for use. It’s was possible they were in trouble. After all, they were always lighting those damn candles all over the place.
Jake grew up with the old Spanish traditions all around him; partly they were his traditions too. He had joined the local men on several occasions when they paraded the saint statues through the villages. Had joined the big feast at the “Morada” on Good Friday and walked the Stations of the Cross. A few times, he even took part in the “Penitentes” rites with “Los Hermanos.” He could speak 'Spanglish' with the best of them and could switch to pure Castilian, on a dime, to talk with the “Viejos.”
When he reached the "Morada", it was awash in flames. He pulled out his cell phone hoping he could get a connection. Cell phones didn’t always work in the high desert mountains. He dialed Mateo but the call dropped. He knew he wouldn’t be able to do anything himself; there wasn’t even a water supply nearby. The rangers would have to either let it burn out or order up a slurry drop. He moved a few yards hoping he would find a hot spot and dialed again. Mateo picked up on the second ring.
“Mateo, its Jake. The “Morada” is in flames. I can’t put it out myself. Call the ranger station, see what they can do.”
“OK, stay there, I’ll call them. Is the herd safe?”
“Yeah, they’re fine, far enough away. Hurry up, The “Viejos” are gonna’ be upset if they lose all their old statues.”
“OK, let me call” and Mateo hung up.
Jake waited, helpless, hoping they wouldn’t end up losing all their treasured artifacts. He wondered if he should start to dig a line just in case the grass caught. It could help, it would keep him busy until the rangers and volunteers got there. This was gonna’ put a damper on his plans. He got down from his horse and gave her a smack. He knew the horse would trot down to where the cattle were, instinctively looking for safety.
He heard the helicopter first followed by the grinding of gears of the volunteer water trucks. Three trucks pulled in close. Men jumped out and started getting the manual hoses ready to spray. They had to hit the target consistently since they had a limited amount of water in the trucks. He knew all of these men, spent plenty of time in town with any one of them having a beer or hitting the dance hall. He knew them all to be good men, hard working men. He kept digging knowing they would tell him to do something else if it were necessary. One of the men, Billy, nodded at Jake letting him know he was doing the right thing by digging the fire line. You couldn’t take a chance. Wildfires were a problem in the west and everyone knew to be careful just like they knew to turn the water off when they brushed their teeth. Water was precious in the desert.
It was almost an hour later when the fire was out and all that was left were adobe walls and burnt wood beams. The sheriff had arrived, as did several of the local and state police. A few of the local ranchers and “Viejos” had driven up in their old ranch trucks to see what was going on.
They found the body face down near the wood stove. It was easy enough to see the woman had been shot in the head. Identifying the body would be a pain in its condition. When the coroner left with the body, the sheriff walked back over to Jake. Ray Moro had been the sheriff longer than he cared to remember and this murder was not something he wanted to have to deal with. He had promised his wife they’d ride up to Alamosa for the weekend. Looks like that will have to wait. He knew Jake and his family for years and knew Jake was a good man even though he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his father losing the land.
“Jake, do you remember hearing any vehicles or voices up here last night?”
“No, I didn’t. Like I told your man, I made camp a good ways back near where the shale road reaches the top.”
“I’m pretty sure you would have heard if there was a vehicle. Dead quite up here in the night and sound carries pretty good. Doesn’t mean they couldn’t have hiked up. If you remember anything more than you already told my deputy, come see me.”
“Alright Ray.”
The sheriff started walking toward his truck and without turning back called out, “Stay close Jake, just in case we need ya’ for anything.”
Jake was tired. All the craziness of the day and digging the line that wasn’t needed took his energy. Most of the day was gone and he still had to move those cows. Looks like he wasn’t going to Fort Worth. He was hours behind his schedule to get down to the Valley and now Ray wants him to “stay close.” What the hell does that mean?
Mateo had called him twice to find out what was going on and told Jake not to worry about the cows. If he got them down by tomorrow afternoon, that would be fine, there was still time. Jake didn’t tell him about the woman found in the Morada.
~
Mateo sat in the cab of his dually and dialed ‘Becka’s number again. He was starting to get worried. She told him she was going to be staying at La Fonda. It was a pretty long drive from Dallas and he was hoping she didn’t run into any problems on the road. The Jeep Cherokee he bought her a few months ago was in good shape, it was brand new and he had made sure it had regular maintenance. Why wasn’t she answering her phone?
Mateo looked out over the valley. He loved this place and planned to make all of it his own. He was proud of his accomplishments even if some thought he went about them in a shady way or was overly aggressive in negotiations. He was a landowner, a successful rancher and was respected in Santa Fe and Taos as a man of influence. He built himself a spectacular home with a view of the entire valley and mountains beyond. From the back, he could see the mesa. His family was well taken care of and his wife Dolores had everything she could want. Now that the kids were gone, Dolores had taken to volunteering in town leaving Mateo with more time on his hands than he wanted. He probably could have brought those five head down from the mesa himself but no matter what Jake may think; Mateo liked him and wanted to give him the extra work. He knew Jake thought he was a bastard for buying his family’s land at a bargain but it was just business.
Mateo started up the truck and headed down the gravel road. He’d head into town, get a beer at Shorty’s before he tried to call ‘Becka again. Maybe play a game of pool.
Mateo walked into a full room at Shorty’s. A Los Lonely Boys song was playing. He sat in a booth by the pool table and ordered a Tecate. Ray Moro spotted him, walked over and sat opposite Mateo in the booth.
“Winding down Mat?”
“Yeah, got too much time on my hands. I think I need a hobby.”
“I don’t know about that, you seem to be a pretty busy guy from all that I read in the Journal.”
Mateo laughed, “Can’t believe everything you read.”
“I expect you handled the call up to the mesa today. What happened?”
Ray sat back and nodded to the waitress to bring his usual, Coke with ice and two wedges of lemon. He knew it was Mateo who called the fire in and that he was told about it by Jake who was working Mateo’s cattle up there.
“Yep, I was up there. Looks like we have a murder on our hands. Used the fire to cover the deed. Don’t know why people think a fire will cover up a murder but they do. Jake spotted the fire.”
Damn, you’re kidding me. Jake didn’t say anything. Just that the Morada burnt to a crisp. Who was killed and why didn’t he tell me?”
“He’s under orders from my office not to share any details though I’m surprised he did as we asked and we aren’t sharing yet.”
“You can see the mesa from your place, Mat. Did you see anything, lights, vehicles, anything out of the ordinary last night or today?”
“I can see the mesa from the back of the house but I don’t usually go out back and I didn’t last night or today. Do you think the murder took place last night?
“Hmm, like I said before, we aren’t sharing yet.”
Mateo sat talking with Ray a while longer before he remembered he had to try to call ‘Becka again. He told Ray that if he remembers anything or hears anything, he’d let him know and he excused himself. Back in the truck, he tried ‘Becka’s phone again. Still no answer. Now Mateo was concerned and he headed to La Fonda.
~
Jake was exhausted by the time he got down to the valley. It was just before dusk and he was happy he made it before the sky darkened. Now the cattle were wandering in a big corral and he was heading home to shower and sleep in his own bed. His truck was just where he left it. He’d call Mateo in the morning even though Mat would have a bird’s eye view of them from his front porch.
Happy he didn’t run into any major snags keeping them together and herded in the direction he wanted, he still would have preferred to have never even seen the smoke. He wished he didn’t have to be involved. He didn’t see or hear anything except the smoke and didn’t know anyone was in there until he heard Ray call for the coroner and still, he doesn’t even know who the body was. Ray was careful not to share details but expected details when he answered questions. Jake couldn’t remember a murder around here in his lifetime. This would be a big deal once the details were out.
Jake flashed his lights at the driver coming up the road that didn’t have their headlights on and was driving much faster than the two-lane country road could allow. Ignoring his flashing lights, the driver passed him way too fast and way too close. Jake recognized Dolores’s car and was surprised by her driving. He’d never seen her drive like that before but he was pretty darn sure it was her driving and not something else. No one could miss that big hair of hers.
Jake parked in his driveway, happy to be home; still annoyed he wasn’t going to Ft. Worth.
~
Mateo pulled up and parked beside the barn. It was late and he was tired. 'Becka never checked into La Fonda and still there was no answer when he called. The lights were on and that meant Dolores was still up. He thought about Dolores, she was a good woman, a good mother. They had met in high school and married shortly after. Within a year, they had a daughter and the following year, a boy. They had a good life. Dolores never had to work but now that the kids were gone, she was antsy to do something. When she told Mateo she was thinking of volunteering at the museum, he supported her; even spoke to a friend on the board to see if he could smooth the way. And he did.
Lately though she wasn’t herself. She was moody and drinking more than normal. Maybe the volunteering was too much. He’d talk to her about it.
He walked up the steps to the porch and looked out over the valley. Looked like Jake had brought the cattle down safely. He would have to throw in a few bucks more for a job well done. Dolores was passed out on the couch, Chris LeDoux was blaring on the radio and an empty bottle of wine on the table. Mateo turned off the radio and picked Dolores up to put her to bed. Mateo couldn’t figure out what was going on with his wife. He got her undressed and into the bed and headed to the kitchen to get something to eat. He opened the refrigerator and took out the makings for a sandwich, adding item after item into the crook of his arms. With his elbow, he swung the refrigerator door closed and started to put everything down on the table when he saw the note. In Dolores’s handwriting was the name ‘Becka and a phone number. It was “Becka’s cell phone number. Mateo lost his appetite. Dolores knew.
Mateo didn’t mean for anything to happen. He loved his wife and he loved his life with her but when he met Rebecka on business in Dallas, he didn’t realize he was heading into danger. This wasn’t good. Maybe that’s why ‘Becka didn’t meet him and why she wasn’t answering his calls.
Mateo put the sandwich makings back in the refrigerator and took out a beer. He went out to the porch and sat, he needed to think of what he was going to say to Dolores.
~~~~~+++++~~~~~
Mateo woke to a knock at the door.
“Ray, what are you doing here so early in the morning?’
“Came to talk with you about the fire. We identified the body that we found in the Morada, Mat. Her name was Rebecka Moran.”
Mateo leaned against the wall, “Come in Ray.”
When Ray finally left, Mateo just sat and stared. Mateo couldn’t believe how his world was spinning out of control. They found ‘Becka dead in the Morada with a gun shot in the head. Her Jeep was found in the parking lot on Marcy Street in downtown Santa Fe just a few blocks from La Fonda. Whoever killed her was sloppy and thought the fire would cover their tracks. Ray had been sure to tell Mateo to stay close because there was much more they would need to speak to him about regarding his whereabouts and his affair with Rebecka Moran.
Dolores had heard everything from the bedroom. When Ray left, she came out dressed looking like the pain of the world was on her shoulders. Couldn’t tell if it was the pain of what she had learned about her husband’s affair and the murder or if it was the bottle of wine taking its wager.
“How could you Mateo? You make me sick.” She turned back to the bedroom and retrieved an overnight bag she had packed. “I’m leaving. I’m going to Taos, I need to think.”
Mateo was speechless. He knew he should say something but he was overwhelmed. All he could do was watch her go. He couldn’t believe this was happening.
He picked up his phone. “Jake, it’s Mateo. I need your help. Can you handle the haul to Tucumcari? I’ll pay you good. The woman’s body they found, turns out its someone I know. I can’t leave and I don’t have a mind too. “Can ya’ help me out?”
Jake figured he knew what Mateo meant when he said he knew the woman. There were rumors around about his business trips to Dallas. When Mateo asked him for help, Jake saw dollar signs and agreed to haul the cattle to Tucumcari.
“Sure, no problem, I’ll take care of it.”
“Everything you need is in the barn and I’ll leave the papers you’ll need in your box, I’ll call the boys and let them know you’re taking my place. They’ll be at the barn by sun up. Make sure they know there’s no drink until the works done. I’ll call Bill Deere in Tucumcari; he’s the person you’ll see when you get there. I’m counting on ya’ Jake.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve handled hauls before.”
Jake hung up and smiled, Mateo just might get his after all.
~
“Hey Ray, got a minute.” Ray’s deputy was standing at the office door.
“Whatcha’ got for me Frank?”
“We found tire marks on the back side leading up to the mesa and it looks like the vehicle had a bit of an oil leak too. We also found two sets of footprints; both woman and one set matched the shoes that were on the deceased. The fire was set with gasoline probably from the cans kept in the workroom at the back of the Morada.
“Good work. Did you match the tires to the vehicle type?
“Yeah, belongs to a Cadillac Escalade, not too many of those around here.”
“We also found a pair of sunglasses on what would be the driver’s side, ladies Oakley’s
“Hmm, I know of one Escalade around here and the driver usually wears Oakley’s. I don’t think I like where this is going. You know what to do next Frank.
~
Mateo sat on his porch looking out over the valley. He had no energy to do anything. He kept going over in his mind how ‘Becka ended up at the Morada and why she never called. Who would want to kill her? Mateo sat with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He was sure Dolores would be filing for a divorce. This would ruin him. He heard a vehicle and looked up to see Ray Moro driving up the road. Mateo watched Ray slow down to make the turn over the cattle guard into his property. He’d be up at the house in a minute. Mateo got up and headed to the front door to let Ray in.
“Ray, come in. How about some coffee, it’s old, from this morning. I could make a fresh pot?”
“No thanks Mat. If ya’ have a coke I’d take that. Is Dolores here?”
Mateo handed Ray a cold can of Coke from the refrigerator “No, she left to Taos. She heard us talking this morning and took off. Said I made her sick. She’ll probably file for divorce.”
“What time did she leave?”
“Around 8:30, shortly after you left. Why?”
“We think she may know something about what happened up at the Morada. Let me make a call, I’ll be right back.”
Before Mateo could say anything else, Ray walked out onto the porch and closed the door behind him. Mateo didn’t understand what was going on.
“Mateo, did you see Dolores yesterday morning?”
“No, I left the house early to meet the boys for breakfast in town. I had to tell them what the plan was for hauling the cattle Jake was bringing down to Tucumcari. She was still sleeping when I left.”
They heard the Deputy’s truck coming up the driveway. Ray went to the door to let him in. Several other vehicles were with him. Ray spoke quietly with Frank for a few minutes.
“Ray, we have a warrant to search your home”, Ray said and Frank handed it to Mateo.
“Sure, go ahead. Am I a suspect?”
“No Mat, but Dolores is. We found tire marks up at the Morada that match her Escalade and a pair of Oakley’s, the one she always wears. Did she have them on when she left for Taos?”
“No. God, I can’t believe this. Dolores couldn’t.” Mateo fell into the chair at the table.
“She’s been picked up in Embudo on the road to Taos. They found a gun in her SUV. I’m sure it will match. She’s already implicated herself. Looks like she found out about the affair and lured Rebecka to the Morada, shot her and tried to cover up with the fire.” Ray put his hand on Mateo’s shoulder.
“Yesterday, when I came in I found a note with ‘Becka’s name and cell phone number and I realized she knew about the affair but kill he, I can’t, I don’t think Dolores could do such a thing.”
~
Mateo got the call from Ray in the late afternoon. Dolores didn’t want to see him or have anything to do with him. She didn’t want him to come to the trial or attempt to reach her. In her mind, this was his entire fault. Ray said she was ranting and didn’t make sense but she wasn’t sorry. She confessed to the murder.
Dolores heard Mateo’s cell phone ring and was surprised he had left his phone on the nightstand. Dolores picked up the phone and saw the call was coming from “B”. Dolores had felt the change in Mateo and knew something was wrong with their relationship. Mateo had been distant, often taken trips that he wouldn’t normally have bothered to take and he had been guarded about where he was going, what he was doing. So when she saw the call come in from “B”, she went into a tailspin. She starred at the phone until, the message signal came on, and then she dialed the voicemail and listened. The woman was talking about their upcoming tryst and how excited she was to be with him. She left the time and place that she would be in Santa Fe. Dolores was sick and then the plan started to evolve.
Dolores called the number back under the guise of being Mateo’s secretary. Dolores figured if it didn’t work and the woman knew better, then she would just have to have it out but if not she could meet this home wrecker and Dolores would have her say. She called and identified herself as Mateo’s secretary and told Rebecka that Mateo would be in a meeting and asked her to call Rebecka and arrange to pick up and bring her to the ranch where they would attend a party together. Dolores had laughed when she realized how young and na├»ve the woman was and that made her even angrier. Dolores picked her up in the parking lot a few blocks from where the woman was planning to stay. They drove the hour chatting amiably about Rebecka and how she met Mateo. Rebecka was more than happy to keep the conversation on herself. It was apparent from what Rebecka was saying that she knew Mateo was married and had two grown children but that was all, didn’t even know the wife’s name or anything about his children but was convinced the wife had to be awful if such a nice man like Mateo would so easily stray. Rebecka was happy to tell about the Jeep Cherokee that Mateo had bought her among other things including the diamond bracelet, which Rebecka kept dangling in Dolores’ face. Dolores had all to do to keep her temper. When they arrived at the Morada, Rebecka wanted to know why they were there because it didn’t look like anyone else was. Dolores said that was where they were all meeting, she was to get there early to open up and turn on the lights, blah, blah, blah, and Rebecka believed her. It was so simple and when Rebecka walked in and looked around, she turned to Dolores who had a gun pointing at her. It had made Dolores feel so good to just say, ‘I’m Mateo’s awful wife’ and shot Rebecka in the head. She left the body there, went to the back room where she knew there was a few can of gasoline, and poured it around. As she left, she lit the gas and for a few minutes watched the flames take hold.
“Mateo, she may need an insanity defense,” Ray said.
Mateo hung up the phone, walked out to the porch and dialed Jake. Listening to the phone ring, he watched the sun go down on the valley.
+++++

© Beachwalkermari  October 5, 2011

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