Monday, December 28, 2009

Rockin Around the Christmas Tree

{Brrrian's beautiful Dutch Shepard, Bruno, enjoys the snow}

If you are going to be in freezing weather, it might as well be snowing. Right? That is how I feel. Winters in Ohio are brutal, but the good thing is I am always guaranteed a white Christmas. Snow says Christmas to me and it makes this time of year all the more special. (It was almost 60 degrees in Atlanta when we left for Ohio)

Every year we have weather and flight [standby] issues, and as I sit here in the Canton airport business lounge watching the snow come down while I wait for my flight, I can hear my dad [sarcastically] saying:

"Well, I don't know why you would think you'd have problems flying a few days before
and after Christmas, the flights are usually wide open"

5 days straight of Arnold fun brought a lot of fun and memorable times. I think it calls for a listy-list accompanied by pictures, otherwise this post could be ridiculously long. Plus, I love making lists!


1. My mom's Hungarian traditions top my list. Homemade [Wellman] bread, mushroom soup, nut roll, and lepeny (a pizza looking pastry with sour cherries over a tapioca "sauce" on a pizza-ish crust)

2. Spending time with the most adorable baby ever, my new niece 'Cheeker-Cheekers'

3. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow......its the one time of the year that I like the cold.

4. Santa Claus coming to town.

5. My Madmen hairdo [compliments of my mom] with my new H&M flower clip.

6. Girls only photos!

Jenny and I laughing till we cry over our "milk or powdered creamer blind taste test."
Much to our surprise, we both failed at guessing which was which.

8. My mom looking so beautiful in her new outfit.
9. Getting excited when we finally could open our presents!

10. Barbie's delicious homemade chocolates (photo taken with my new Canon 50mm lens)
That wraps up my condensed listy-list of highlights at the Arnolds!
Not that presents are the focus on Christmas, but since I dearly love surprises, I still get excited like a little kid! Besides the Canon lens, I also received sexy [yet comfy] black pajamas, coffee,
a couple books on photography and travel writing, and a beautiful silver locket necklace from Ernesto. I hope your day was as happy as mine!

My only wish is that I could have seen my brother Tim and his family and that I could've seen Brrrian longer. (that is ok, we are planning to visit him in Asheville very soon)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Remembering Guadalajara with Tortas Ahogadas

If you have been to the awesome city of Gudalajara Mexico, you know what a diverse city it is. Art, shopping and of course food are some of the best in the country. When we visited Guadalajara this past September, the city showed us that all of the hype I had read before the trip was in fact, all true. Actually it was E's cousin Mario, who has lived in the city for the last 7 years, who showed us around. He was a great tour guide and I think he has eaten at every restaurant in the city. When I asked him the best place to "taste Guadalajara" he took me to Tortas Toño (Dirección: Av. Tepeyac # 605) for a Torta Ahogada.

Ahogada means "drowned", and it is an appropriate word to describe these sandwiches on a bread [said only to be made in Guadalajara], filled with meat and bathed with tomato and hot sauce. While some restaurants and food stalls automatically top the tortas with both salsas, most people prefer to indicate how much chile sauce they want, since it is quite hot. When serving them at home, you may want pass the chile sauce separately.

This recipe is adapted from a Mexican cookbook called 101 Recetas Mexicanas. And I must say this recipe is quite authentic, coming very close if not on par with the torta I ate not too long ago in Guadalajara.

Tortas Ahogadas


For the tomato sauce:

3 pounds roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup water
salt to taste

For the chile sauce:

¼ pound arbol chiles
1 cup water
½ cup white vinegar
salt to taste
For the tortas:

8 bolillos (French rolls) split in half lengthwise
1 ½ pounds boneless pork loin or shoulder
1 onion, cut in half3 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 sprig oregano
salt to taste

Place all tomato sauce ingredients in a saucepan and cook until the tomatoes and onions are soft. Allow to cool, place in blender and puree. Strain the puree and set aside.
Lightly roast the arbol chiles on a comal or dry griddle, just to the point of fragrance. Do not allow them to char, as this results in a bitter flavor. Remove the stem and seeds from the chiles. Place the chiles and remaining chile sauce ingredients in a saucepan, cook until the chiles have softened, remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer sauce ingredients to a blender, puree and strain. Set aside.

Cook the meat in water to cover with the onion, garlic, bay leaf, oregano and salt to taste. When cooked through, remove from cooking liquid and allow to cool. Shred the meat with two forks, or slice thinly if preferred.Remove the soft center (called the miga) from the rolls, place the rolls on plates, and divide the meat among the rolls by placing some on the bottom half of each roll. Bathe each one with tomato sauce. The tortas are easier to eat if the top half is left "dry." Each diner can add chile sauce to taste. If possible, do as they do in Jalisco and use a plate with a lip to serve these tortas, to prevent messy dripping. Serves 8.

Friday, December 25, 2009

I'll Be Home For Christmas

Well, it is that time again. Christmas morning and I have already had a pot of coffee. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the "Wooster Clan". (6 family members) Talk about pokey! Every year, we have to wait for them to open their presents at their house before making their way over to my parents. What this means is that I don't get to open any presents till they get here. Yes, I am 36, and maybe I'm a l little too excited to open presents, but....... I want to open presents xmas morning, not xmas afternoon! I think I only called them twice this year to rush them along.... And so I wait........
Hope you are having a merry Christmas and that you don't have to wait on family members.

Disclaimer: Yes, I just woke up and I am still in my pajamas. Also, I know that Christmas is not just about presents. The most important thing to me is that I am together with my family. "With that being said", (Curb your Enthusiasm) I do like the surprise factor of presents and I am always very excited to GIVE and receive gift with my family. Its a barrel o' fun!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

THE LIST- an update

You may or may not remember, that back in June of this year I made a list of 38 things to do before I turn 39. Well, I sort of forgot about it and now I realized that I have some updates to share. I can cross the following things off "the list".
3. get a job
When I wrote #3, working for Ernesto and the Christmas Light Pros was not what I had in mind, but I really liked the job. I was constantly on the move, meeting new people, and in charge of raking in the $$$. I actually grew the business by 50% for 2009. Not bad for my first season, right? It would be so nice if this job lasted 12 months of the year...or wait a minute here...working just 3 months of the year wouldn't be so bad, would it?

4. buy a sewing machine
My mom bought me this Janome sewing machine (#11574) for my birthday and I am loving it so far. First project: pillows.

6. get Viva La Cocina [Mexican food blog] up and running
It has been a slow start, but I am trying to develop my voice for this blog. People are stopping by for the delicious recipes. Favorites like ceviche and fish tacos are posted here!

8. take photography classes
I have joined the Decatur Digital Photography Meet-up and have learned a lot from the other members. I may still enroll in an actual class, but this seems to be working for now. (+ its free)

10. write a guest blog for someone else
Back in August of this year, I wrote a post on design blog Coco + Kelley about summer fun. It was cool getting all the comments from strangers!

14. finish crocheting turquoise blanket
I started this turquoise blanket earlier this year in Costa Rica. Although its not as big as I originally imagined it, I am finished.

16. visit Maureen and Lauren in the US
Lauren came to Atlanta in October and stayed with us. It was great to see her. Maureen is still on my list.

19. Introduce [my jewelry line] Zafiro to the world
I participated in my first art show as Zafiro Jewelry at Candler Park Fallfest this October and I was so happy with my debut. Many thanks to my creative director, my mom! My website is still a work in progress.

24. paint a room turquoise
I thought I was going to be fine with the orange walls that were here when we moved in, and I was for a while, but when I broke out my Christmas decorations I changed my mind. This color, called "embellished blue" by Behr is a perfect compliment to xmas and all my other decor.

31. get an iphone
This thing is amazing, pure and simple.

32. embroider a peacock
I bought this peacock pattern in Mexico and started it, but want to do a bit or research on some embroidering techniques so I can make it the best it can be.

34. frame artwork from my travels

In my current apartment, I don't have room for all of my artwork, but I have framed a few in my collection, and they really make the place special.

12 down, 26 to go! Are you a list maker too?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Birria or Stewed Lamb in Chile Sauce

I am still in disbelief that Christmas is just one week away. Since putting my tree up 10 days ago, I find myself making time just to sit close by and enjoy it. Yesterday was a perfect day for just that. It was cold and rainy here in Atlanta and I had absolutely no desire to venture out. In fact I probably wouldn't have changed out of my pajamas all day if Ernesto had not flipped though our favorite cookbook and saw a recipe for Birria, or stewed lamb in chile sauce.
We bought Mexico The Beautiful Cookbook probably 7 years ago. There are stains on it and the pages are worn, but it is still beautiful and always guarantees us a delicious meal.
After looking over the Birria recipe, we decided this called for a trip to the Buford Farmers Market. This market is huge and carries any and every type of hispanic [and Asian] foods you may be looking for. Not to mention, my favorite feature, in house freshly made corn tortillas!

Speaking of fresh tortillas, this Birria dish is served with them on the side or you could even the wrap the meat is in the tortillas. This recipe is typical of Jalisco Mexico, and is hands down, the most delicious lamb I have ever tried. I bet you will not disagree.

(Stewed Lamb in Chile Sauce)
4 chiles guajillos
3 chiles anchos
1 cup hot water
1 lb boneless lean lamb, cut into pieces
1 lb lamb ribs or shanks, cut into pieces
12 cups water
6 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1 small sprig thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp groung chile pequin

1 cup onion, chopped
3 limes, cut in half
1 cup cilantro, chopped

* On an iron skillet, toast the chiles, then soak the chiles in the hot water for 20 minutes. Transfer into blender and puree. Strain and set aside.
Place lamb meat, water, garlic and onion in large dutch oven. Bring to a boil, skim the surface, cover and cook over medium to low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.
Remove and discard the onion and garlic. Add the pureed chiles, bay leaves, cumin, marjoram, thyme, salt and pepper.

Cook for another 50 minutes to let the flavors blend. Meanwhile, blend the sauce ingredients in a blender.

Serve the lamb in deep bowls with hot corn tortillas and the garnishes sprinkled on top.
Add sauce according to desired spiciness.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tis the Season for Surprises

I love surprises! Ernesto said we are going somewhere tonight and you have to dress warm! Smita and Alan were coming over for drinks Thursday evening. I told them there was going to be a surprise and they were also intrigued. I thought for sure we were going on on a lights tour, but when he headed straight for downtown?? I saw us coming up to Bicentennial Park, it was all decorated, nothing like the Christmas Light Pros could have done, of course, but still very festive!
Then Smita guessed it, ICE SKATING! I guess I never knew, or else I forgot that the park sets up a rink every year! I was so exciting once I knew. Smita was scared, trying to come up with any excuse why she shouldn't do it. Ha! We didn't let her get away with that!It was chilly that night, so Im glad I took Ernesto's advise and dressed warm! I wore my fur hat [that I bought in China] a fur vest, and gloves.
The place was packed. We had to wait in a long line and finally got our turn on the ice.
$7 + $2 for the [most uncomfortable plastic] ice skates ever! 90 min limit!
I felt very comfortable on my [uncomfortable] skates and Ernesto and I decided that we must break out our roller blades again. Its so much fun.

Smita had only been on skates once before. She said she fell and then called it quits. She was pretty nervous and unstable on the skates, but Allen eased her onto the ice.
He pried her away from the wall. Soon after, the strapping young man had her doing rounds!
We all had a great time and it was such a surprise!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Beauty Boost at Carter Barnes

Do you need a beauty boost? Are you unemployed? Are you looking for sanity in your busy day? Yes, yes and yes.

I was reading this article on daily candy Dec.2, and it said that Carter Barnes, an exclusive salon in Buckhead's Phipps Plaza, was having an event for women during these hard economic times, called "Beauty Boost."
"Carter Barnes salon is out to prove it with a day of charitable services for local women who could use a little oomph during these bad economic times."

I can see some of you rolling your eyes, but I'll have you know that I have not paid to get my hair done for a year and a half in order to save money!! That was before I left for Costa Rica and my hair go so light because of all the sun, I need to balance that out again. I am not at the beach anymore!!

I wrote my little story about how I voluntarily left my job to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and I had no idea how bad the job market would be I got back. I have been unemployed for over 6 months! yikes!

There were over 2000 applicants for Beauty Boost, and guess what??? I was one of the 250 women they chose!! woo-hoo! Hair cut, color, highlights, botox all for FREE!!
Hell no, I didn't get botox! Are you kidding? I really don't even like to color my hair, I like to be a natural beauty! You can see in the pic below how blondie my hair got in Costa Rica, I had to go for a richer color, my natural color please.
After getting my hair color done and loving how they gave my hair a "blow out", I decided not to go for the cut. I really like my hair long. I asked Theresa the stylist, "Do you watch Mad Men?"
I told her I have been wanting to learn how to turn my long hair into all of these awesome 50's and 60's hair styles. She rolled my hair up in velcro rollers and put me under the dryer.
After our hair was done we were sent over to the professional photographers for some head shots! This was too cool. I wasn't able to capture my poofed up hair in the back here, but my professional shots will be ready for pick up this Friday.
After the "photo shoot" it was on to meet with the recruiters. I took copies of my resume and got some great advice on rearranging, adding/deleting info to cater to the types of jobs Im searching for.... domestic goddess based in Mexico at $80,000 a year please, they said they would keep their eyes open for it and give me a call.
At the end I walked away with a beautiful hairdo [on a Monday afternoon with no where to go] and a great goodie bag with full size bottles of Kerastase shampoo and other goodies, including a gift card to Belk.
A big thank you to Carter Barnes for this wonderful event and generous gift right in time for the holidays! I went home happy with my new Mad Men look and put on my apron and cooked my hard working husband a delicious home cooked [Indian] meal. It was ready when he walked in the door. I make the meals, clean the house and try to look good while doing it. Its a full time job!

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Every year it seems the Christmas season really starts after Floyd and Richard have their annual Christmas party. This was probably our 6th year attending and, it never fails to put me in the holiday spirit. They go all out decorating both inside and out. (Lighting is of course done by Ernesto!) Since my current job has a very relaxed dress code, I was especially excited this year to dress up. One day a few weeks ago, I worked outside with Ernesto and [since it was cold and raining... and I didn't complain once] he paid me $100 cash. Of course I went right to TJMaxx and bought a beautiful outfit. (Tahari black pencil skirt, Kensie silk blouse and Soft black suede/patent leather heels and belt....all for under $80!! What a bargain shopper I am!)
At the party we posed in front of their beautiful tree (as we do every year) Below with pose with our lovely hosts, Richard (far left) and Floyd.
We always have a nice time, catching up with friends that we see only once a year at this particular party. Every year we vow to get together during the year, only to see them again at the next years party. haha! The food was literally smorgusboard [orgusboard, orgusboard] and we had to try everything. Here Ernesto shows no restraint...eating off the serving spoon! (just kidding Floyd!)

It was finally time for the Christmas Light Pros to think about decorating their home for Christmas. Ernesto brought home the most gorgeous tree this year. It's called a Noble Fir and I am loving its bright green color and full figure. This past Sunday, It was cold and raining. Ernesto was still out there putting up lights. (pobresito) I stayed inside our cozy place decorating to my new favorite Christmas CD from Starbucks .
I bought a few heavy glass ornaments from TJMaxx this year and some turquoise beauties from one of our suppliers. Plus last year after xmas I went to Target and bought a several birdie ornaments with real feathers. Add those to the beautiful collection I already had, and I must say I have such an eclectic Christmas tree, it makes me so happy. I hate that we are so late putting it up....I think I will keep it there as long as it lives!
You may have noticed that my wall color has changed from a bright orange to a perfect turquoise. (this completes #24 on THE LIST) It's a great backdrop for the greenery, the white tree skirt and my furry white stockings.
I love Christmas! Have you guys tried anything different with your decor this year??

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Wish List

a loss for what to buy Cindy this year. I actually had a hard time coming up with this. These are just some ideas, but numbers 1, 2 & 8 on the list would make me happiest.
Have I been naughty or nice? come know me

1. A cute little rare rare [kitty] that likes to be inside and cuddle.

2. This 50mm lens for my Canon Xsi (it's great for food/jAdd Imageewelry shots).

3. These grey Asics running shoes for when I startup up my workouts again.

4. This Photoshop book so I can learn how to manipulate my pictures.

5. This bicycle basket...ah, what the heck, how about a bike too?

6. Comfortable lounge clothes/pajamas that are warm and sexy. Is that possible?

7. These Lonely Planet books on travel writing and photography.

8. A fun trip somewhere! Top choices: Vietnam, India, Thailand or Mexico!


This "C" is from daily drop cap, she does a new letter everyday! So cool!

Monday, December 07, 2009


I guess something I am really thankful for this season is that I have been too busy to blog! gasp!
Ernesto and I should be winding down with the Christmas lights in the next week, what a season it has been! I have put a ton of miles on my little car running around Atlanta giving estimates. It has actually been pretty fun. I like meeting all the different people, and Oh! the houses and mansions I have seen. I have broke out my camera a few times. I love this pic of one of the houses Ernesto did! Damn those Christmas Light Pros are good!We have been so busy I didn't even get to share my wonderful trip home to Ohio for Thanksgiving. It was so nice to see everyone, even though it was only a 24 hour trip. Thanks to my sis Jenny for making the trip to the airport, I know how you love to drive!! (She was contracted out by Paul's Shuttle that day) We drove straight to Wooster Ohio!
Bill and Barbie hosted this year. I don't know how they had time, but their house was in tip top shape for guests! They put on the coziest most delicious Thanksgiving! Even though they have a 3 month old, you would have though they had lots of extra time on their hands. Look how carefree and relaxed they look!Barbie made 2 turkeys, caramel apples, little turkey name cards, she decorated the table like Martha Stewart and my favorite touch, a turkey made out of fruit. I must say my brother is a big help and wonderful hands on dad, but come on Barbie!?!?!? I love this pic:This was the first Thanksgiving spent with my family in 4 years. What a wonderful day! The most exciting part was that I got to see my adorable niece again, little Eleanor. What a little mouth!
Look at this little turkey! Isn't she the cutest?! My name for her, besides little mouth (which is for anything cuddly) is Cheekers. Can you see why? Hi my little Cheeker-Cheekers!
After dinner we roooooolled outside and the guys played "tossticle" while I enjoyed a piece [or two] of pie and the blazing fire!
Oh so many things to be thankful for this year! But as usual for me, my #1 thing is my family. How did I get so lucky? I was so happy that I got to spend the day with everyone. And although Tim & Michelle, Tyler & Noah were in New Mexico, we did video skype after dinner so we could all visit.

Now just a couple more weeks till Christmas!! woo-hoo! I hope I can last, I haven't been this busy in.....oh......a year and a half. So so thankful!


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