Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pretty Part 2 of Cowboys, Mermaids and Monsters on the Goodnight Loving Trail

If you're used to camping in Utah's Cache Valley where it's green and A River Runs Through It (you know, the campground,) you might not be very drawn to this camp site. But see that place in the back where it's kind of red and rocky? Yea, behind all those scraggly bushes.

Can you see it better now?

How about now?

Now that's a camp site!
Or a fishing hole. You choose.

Do you suppose odd geology and water chemistry provide a home for mysterious and threatening big-eyed Roswellian creatures? Growing up, I heard a few stories. There are tales of ghost horses and Nessi-cousins and vanishing cars. The ranger at the information building told us that a few years ago, they put some orange dye one of the cenotes and several months later, orange water bubbled up in a lake in China.

The only creature I ever saw myself, though, was the little cotton-mouth that appeard suddenly from the swirling depths as my daughter and I swam in the lake a few years ago. Swimming with venomous snakes is my limit.

There are several of these small lakes bordered by high red bluffs, over which silvery-winged Turkey Vultures soar and catch up-drafts to hang like kites in the blue-oh-so-blue, blue sky.

Bottomless Lakes State Park offers a variety of activities including hiking, swimming, fishing and scuba diving.
I guess that's why it's called a recreation area. But you can actually swim and boat in only one lake. The one I showed you in my previous post.

The lakes are water-filled sinkholes or cenotes (sort of pronounced seh-note-tays, not "C" notes; however this place fairly sings to me like a siren song,) formed when circulating water dissolved salt and gypsum deposits to form subterranean caverns. Eventually, the roofs of the caverns collapsed from their own weight resulting in sinkholes which soon filled with water.

Underground springs feed the sinkholes and water loss is through evaporation.
The lakes' greenish-blue color creates the illusion that the lakes are bottomless. Cowboys on the Goodnight Loving Trail added to the lake's mystique when they failed to find the bottom of the lakes by tying rocks to their lariats and their lariats together and dropping them into the lakes. The saddle ropes never touched bottom. The cowboys didn't have much of an understanding of under-currents, I suppose.
I probably wouldn't be thinking a lot about undercurrents, myself, if I happened upon this site after a long hard ride on the dusty trail.
Would you?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cowboys, Mermaids and Monsters on the Goodnight-Loving Trail (Part 1)

Another dry and sandy-looking stone building. New Mexico has a lot of these.

But come a little closer and see that the sky isn't the only patch of blue.

Hey, what's this? A portal to a mysterious aqua-world?

What a delightful surprise! (New Mexico has a lot of these, too...delightful surprises, that is.)

This is one of the "Bottomless Lakes" that are often hidden from view until one learns to recognize the signs around them and eagerly approaches. Not all of them are tucked behind dry and sandy looking buildings, of course.
I wonder what they're standing on?
Ooops, where did they go?!

More to come in near future posts...maybe some about mermaids and monsters and other myths, if you insist on calling them that; certainly some about geology, gypsum and cavernous sink holes. Hold your breath, Ladies and Germs!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sign On A Stick

At night, on the old Bloomfield Highway, it looks like it might be the Rescue Mission.

In the harsh light of daytime reality, it's...well, what in blazes is it?

A truck on a stick?

A truck and a cross on a stick?

Oh...I get it. Clever. And not at all corny.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

There's A Slow Bread Rising

I seldom get so stoked about something that I can't quit thinking about it and have to tell everyone I know about it...oh, no wait...I'm always getting fired up about one thing or another. So, here's one thing I'm really pumped about right now:

"Slow Bread"

You've heard this resurgence of late about slow food and how we've just got ourselves too far ahead of ourselves with our hurry-a-day world that we are paying a higher price than we could ever really imagine, right? In my tasty opinion, there's a lot to be said for slow food. I think it's easier than fast food, because I use a crock pot to slow my food for me. Dump in a frozen roast in the morning and by late afternoon, I come home to a kitchen smelling like Grandma's house in the 60s. Especially if I put sour cream and mayonnaise on top of the roast before I leave it to it's simmering juices.
Well, this beautiful, artisanal-quality bread is even easier than that frozen hank of beast in the pot! Listen carefully: Stir water, flour, salt and yeast, let it sit for 12-18 hours, give it a couple of folds and bake it. And you have yourself a fabulous (and I NEVER use that word, so it must be good) loaf of perfect bread.

There are scientific reasons, naturally, that it turns out so well. You use only a quarter teaspoon of yeast, so time is what really makes the dough rise and proof and taste so fantastic (another word I use so sparingly I don't think I've heard myself say it outloud.) There's something about the percentage of hydration, too--working on the gluten, maybe. It's a very wet and sticky dough from start to final dump in the pan.

The fermentation process eats sugar from the carbohydrate in the flour, I think, because there is no sweetener of any kind in the recipe.

At the end of this post, you will find links to an article explaining some of the whys and wherefores, the recipe and a video of a master baker using a similar process with a spelt flour.

This is what mine looked like when I tipped it out of the bowl.

It smells quite "yeasty" early on and a bit like beer. Or sort of like raw beer batter for fish and chips or something like that. Hearty and fermented in a fresh way. (But then again, I'm a real sucker for "going bad kimchi" when it starts to get sour and you fry it and eat it with tofu. I hope I don't regret divulging that because most people would shrink from some of the things I really like and maybe not trust my judgement on even this one, and I wouldn't want you to get the idea that there is one single person on the earth who would not like the whole process, smell and all, of this bread being created right in his or her very own home!)

It's "shaped" with a generously floured hand. The empty, covered casserole is heated in the oven for a half hour before the dough goes into it.

No oil in the recipe or on the dish.

Cook it covered for about a half hour, uncovered for another 15 minutes, take it out of the oven and the bread fairly jumps out on it's own, crisp, crackly crust and all.

It has a beautifully moist, almost-but-not-quite-chewy crumb and a very pleasing sound when you tap it. It made me feel like I had just created a holistic piece of art when I took it out of the dish.

I took it to share with some family members and now my niece wants me to make this for her birthday. She used to ask me for my ono-licious mango upside down cake.


We tried it with butter and private reserve high altitude wild mountain mohagony flower honey, and you may be saying to yourself, "Ah, now that is the life!" But you would be mistaken, because the butter and honey couldn't stand up to the flavor of the bread. I'm not kidding or lying or exaggerating. It was much better without a drop of anything on it.


I had bought some Blue Bird flour thinking that I would try the "real" recipe for Indian Fry Bread, (All the Navajo Fry Bread bakers I know say that you can't make it real without Blue Bird flour and the only place I know to get it is at the Native American Trading Post in Salt Lake City. I'll do an experiment with that recipe pretty soon and let you know what my taste testers and I think about it. Also, just so you know, there's a funky little Navajo Hogan in Salt Lake City where you can get pretty good fry bread and EXCELLENT mutton stew with real hominy in it!) and this is the flour I used for my first trial with slow bread.

The flour is not listed on the trading post website, but they do sell it. http://natputah.com/ Sometimes they run out. It's about 9 dollars for 20 pounds.
I don't know if it made that much difference, because supposedly, you can use any flour and the results would still dazzle and amaze you.
I also have to confess that I am no novice to baking bread, so I sort of know what to look for and expect in the feel and look of ready dough, but I think if you closely follow the recipe, which is almost not like a recipe at all, it will turn out very well. In the article, the baker says he likes to take a sort of haphazard approach, himself. Or words to that effect.
I think pretty soon I will go to Good Earth Health Foods and buy some spelt flour for my next experiment with slow bread, and maybe later include some other ingredients like chocolate chips and dried cherries. Or maybe those are better in my Irish Soda Bread recipe that I have a secret step for that just makes the bread what it should be--I will share with you when the time comes. Because I just get so stoked about these things!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Albuquerque's First Neighborhood

"San Felipe de Neri Church"

--constructed in 1793

Just got back from a too-short trip to see my mom in New Mexico. My daughter and son-in-law went with me and it was a road trip worth chronicling over several posts, so that's what I plan to do. Loved the visit with my mother and her sister in Roswell, but I'm starting with this trip to Albuquerque's Old Town.

The appeal is that it's old. If you know me, you know I do "old" very well. (Witness some posts in the future about the golden past! When I get to it, that is.)

Styled in the traditional Spanish pattern of a central plaza and church surrounded by homes and businesses, Old Town still sports historic homes, some of which have been renovated into today's shops, galleries, museums and restaurants.

"Restaurant Antiquity"

An upscale menu, the most unusual to me was the champagne-marinated salmon. We didn't eat here. We didn't go to New Mexico to eat a $50 piece of salmon.

Cute Couple Cupola

Or is it a well?

The church again


I like looking at these places as if people still lived in them and then sort of envying them their unique digs. Knowing that they are places of business--shops and museums--doesn't really have the same impact, though. It's just a little too touristy, although I love being a tourist, and commercial, althought I love spending money like a tourist.

Somewhere in here my daughter tried on some expensive clothes while I chatted with the shop-keeper about Ogden's ghosts. She and her husband bought a souvenier in a folk art store for his mother--a very cute, brightly painted, little pop-up tin creche folded down in a tin box.

I guess I forgot to take a picture of the Candy Lady's adobe abode, and that's funny because it's the only place I spent any money. I bought fudge with piñon nuts in it. Not nearly as good as Lydia's almond toffee-bejewelled fudge. I think it's not a big seller, what with piñon nuts in it when it could have walnuts or almond toffee, so it was probably on the shelf a while and was kind of crackly on top like it was old.
I don't know if you know this, by the way, but piñon nuts are not the same as pine nuts. They look and taste different. You can taste the tilde. I like them, but better just salty and split open between my front teeth--the way we ate them when we were kids--and not ruined by dusty old crusty fudge.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You Make Me Smile!

Lydia--THANK YOU SO MUCH for the very thoughtful gift! I didn't have time to take a picture of the fudge--or the licked-clean plate it was on. You can guess why. Well, actually, I did share it because I had to. I took it back to my office and it brought people out like bees to pollen.
And I'm using one of the book marks in Nancy's book THAT I WON in her drawing, thankyouverymuch, so that I don't have to leave it lying open face down on the table stressing the spine. (I'm almost finished with the book, Nancy. I'm intrigued! Thank you, too, for this wonderful gift!)
The purse...well, it wants to be borrowed by a few people who saw it, but as of today, it is still in my possession. On my person as I write this, actually. It has a little cell phone pocket in it!
I have to write this on the fly and I don't want to let more time go by without expressing how touched I am and I don't have my camera with me and I wish you could see the big chunks of fudge with almond toffey chips in it and the classy little ribbon-and-beads book marks and the cheerful little purse with a cell phone pocket in it...and I will save the pictures and use them later for another post. Just believe me when I say that purse is very CUTE and fashionable.
I love all the gifts--even the fudge that is already gone. (I'm still loving it.) More than anything, though, I am softened by the fact that there was so much care and thought woven into the making of these things.
I'm happy.