Friday, May 28, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas - Culinary Delight

I love enchiladas! I love chicken enchiladas! I made up my very own recipe the other night. It came out so great I thought I'd share it with you (in case you love enchiladas like I do). Here you go: WARNING!! - Be sure you are wearing pants with an elastic waistband. This is not Fat Free or Calorie Free.

Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees

One (1) roasted chicken (I bought mine at Price Chopper and you can also buy one at Costco or Sam's). I like these because they are slow roasted and are ALWAYS tender and always great. I can't make one this good and it saves a lot of time. You can buy them seasoned with lime or smoked, as well, if you want to shake up the flavor a bit.

2 cups sour cream - can use non-fat
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can green chilies (drained). I just learned you can buy these in different "hotness" - who knew? I'm  
        pretty sure these were pretty mild but suit your own taste.
Salt & Pepper to taste - I used a lot of course black pepper
Emeril's Southwest Seasoning - to taste - I used about 2 teaspoons or a little more
1 cup Monterey Jack/Colby cheese
2 cups Mexican style Pepperjack cheese (Kraft)
Flour Tortillas - 3 or 4, 10"

Large mixing bowl
9x12 baking dish (spray with Pam or grease lightly)

Pull the skin off the chicken and then pull the meat off the bone - I used both white and dark meat. Tear meat into bite-size pieces. Put chicken & everything else, EXCEPT four tortillas and about 1/2 cup of the Pepperjack cheese, in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. You may want to mix the soup, sour cream and chilies/seasoning together before adding the cheese - it makes the mixing a little easier and more thorough.

Now, layer all of the ingredients in the baking dish. Start with a thin layer of the soup mixture and then one layer of Flour Tortillas. Repeat until you have used everything. End with the soup mixture. (I believe I only had two layers of the flour tortillas. Sprinkle the remaining cheese (or however much you choose) over the top of the enchiladas and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or so in a 350 degree oven. It is done when heated thoroughly and the cheese is gooey (technical term).

This recipe is Simple, Easy, Not Rocket-Science and Delicious.

Serve with tortilla chips, rice, beans, salsa, pico - whatever makes your mouth water and Enjoy!  Yum, these are really good. And, if anything is leftover, you can eat it for lunch the next day and it still will taste great. I know!

Monday, May 24, 2010

One Voice and One Heart

Photo Courtesy Photobucket

There we are, holding hands while we sing The Lord's Prayer. Sunday after Sunday. It is the tradition at our church! During the "Our Father", we reach our hands out side to side and join hands with those closest to us until everyone is linked together and, then, we either recite or sing the Lord's Prayer.

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your Name,
    your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
        on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
    as we forgive those
        who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
    and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
    and the glory are yours,
    now and for ever. Amen.

This past Sunday was no different. The time comes, we all scramble around to be sure we are all connected, hand-to-hand, in some form or fashion. It's always amazing to me how tricky it is to accomplish this hand-holding feat.

We are finally settled and then we begin - this week we are singing..."Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name..." For some reason, this is always about the spot I get choked up. I get locked up in the moment and the tears start to run down my cheeks. I can't force the words past the lump in my throat. I love to listen to the voices of those praying with me while I lift my own in the silence of my heart. It's not the words, so much, that get to me. It is the connection we share, heart to heart, in that moment.

I stand there and I am connected to all of these people that I have grown to love. I hear John singing in his shaky, 90-year old voice. And, I am overcome with the thought of the number of Sundays he has lifted his voice to pray this same prayer.

This past Sunday I found myself holding hands with Joe who is in the process of loving his mother as he is watching her slowly make her transition into God's presence. I can feel the fullness of his heart through his voice and the tight grip of his hand. He sings the words boldly - when his heart must be breaking. Halfway through the prayer, I feel another hand grab hold of mine. I hear this voice softly singing the words.."Save us from the time of trial..." and I recognize the voice of Jeremy, a 14 year old young man, who is dealing with the unexpected death, only a few days before, of his mother. And, I can feel his hands shake along with his voice. At this point, I am totally undone. My heart is full. And, I think about my own full bucket. It seems so trivial compared to those around me. Yes, I have my own things I'm trying to sort out and that I carry with me. However, in that moment, it seems as if the bucket is not quite so heavy because I am surrounded by faith, hope and love. These people help me carry the load. So, I tighten my grip on both of these hands that are holding mine - willing them to know that Love is big.

I am thankful for this tradition and this beautiful gift and this moment. When we are finished, I find myself wanting to hang on to these hands and hearts. I don't want to let go. I understand that the beauty is in the connection and the love we share with each other - through the outpouring of our hearts to one another. And, through the outpouring of our hearts to God.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hank and the Dog Bath Blues

Hank is our dog. He's BIG. He's fluffy. He's stinky. He's miserable. He's a MESS! I just dropped him off to be groomed this morning. Joe and I are bad, bad parents. We have been trying to get him to the groomer for several months now and have been procrastinating. It costs a lot of money to give this dog a bath and a haircut. But, I could stand it no longer - the dog reeks.

We have tried the bath thing at home and quickly discovered it is not the best idea. One time, after he had rolled in something disgusting, we had the bright idea to put him in the shower and Joe would get in there with him and scrub him down. That was an interesting idea. We've only done that once. Turned out, it wasn't such a good idea. My house was really wet - even the walls; and, so was Joe. And, so was I.

Another time, I tried to give him a bath outside and with the garden hose. That was not a good idea either. He was patient and let me soap him up and rinse him off - even though the water was pretty cold. I was so proud. He was nice and clean. Then I let go of him. He proceeded to take off and run his classic figure eight pattern, touching his nose to all four corners of our yard at 35mph, complete with hairpin turns. That dog runs for Glory. Now, he was wet and green up to his knees and his entire under belly - Joe had just cut the grass. I wouldn't mind all of this so much if I didn't feel like he was laughing at me - Hank, not Joe.

So, this morning, he was going on a trip to be groomed. I sang a song for him, too, just so he would be ready. It was a bluesy number that lamented his plight. It went like this:

You're going to get a bath...
Because you smell so bad...
You're going to smell so sweet...
No more "Frito" feet...

I think He liked it. I could see his head bopping along with the beat.

Now, he is enjoying his makeover and I am writing this blog and I am completely dumbstruck...

The last thing I saw as I left the room was Hank jumping up onto the grooming table. The table top is four feet in the air. The groomer wasn't ready for him yet. She was across the room getting her stuff together. Mind you, whenever we take a trip to the vet or to the groomer, Hank is usually stuck to my side like white on rice. He is usually more than ready to leave with me. He doesn't like to be left alone in places like this. Usually, if possible, he is grabbing my keys, running out the door toward the car and barking that he will drive. He is not a brave soul. However, there was my boy, jumping onto the table and all ready for business. He sat down and then - this is the ultimate...

...He looked back at me over his shoulder and He SMILED!

I'm even fairly certain I saw his head bopping and, I think, maybe I heard a hum...

I'm going to get a bath...
Because I smell so bad...

I love our dog!

UPDATE:  The groomer called and told me Hank was ready to be picked up. When I got there, she took me to the back room where all the dogs are drying and fluffing out. I looked everywhere for Hank. The only dog close to his size was something with really short hair and a really long tongue. Talk about a makeover - I didn't recognize my own dog.  He went in a Doodle and came out a Poodle - go figure. Evidently, his groomer went for the "summer cut". And, his ears are longer on one side than the other. Oh well, he's happy. I think I will leave the ears. I kind of like them this way. He can be a trend setter (not to be confused, though, with an Irish Setter).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

50 New things update

Well, vacation brought about a lot of "new" things to add to my list and I have a few other things to add since I've been home. So, here goes:

I'm psyching myself up for this adventure.

1. I traveled a zip line through the canopy of the Mexican jungle - one line was 1/2 mile over a river that was far below. Just to be clear, I am not too excited about heights and I get vertigo very badly when I have nothing underneath me. However, I even went backwards with one of the guides - not on this long line, a much shorter one. It was so incredibly awesome. Of course, I was hooked securely to the zip line and the guides there made us feel very safe. The most difficult part was walking on rubbery legs to the next jumping off point and then hitching my "sexy leg" up (that's what they tell you - "sexy leg") so I could be hooked up without being goosed - I am so OUT OF SHAPE!

2. I rode in a cab in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - this was much scarier than the zip line, I assure you. There ARE stop signs in this city. However, I don't believe they are acknowledged by anyone - the streets are cobblestone and very narrow. There is a lot of traffic and they drive fast and stop slow and like to weave in and around other vehicles - and pedestrians. I'd rather get my adrenaline rush through the canopy of the jungle. Or walk - but that is scary, too, on those narrow roads (without any shoulder).

3. Joe and I enjoyed a back massage in a little hut by the beach - felt great. This was also Joe's first time to have a massage so he thought it was a pretty good thing. I'm hoping for many more massages in my future.

4. I watched Joe eat Octopus AND squid - I don't know why that grosses me out! I could hardly watch him take a bite. In fact, I don't think I did - Yuck! From the look on his face and his total concentration, he doesn't seem too awfully sure about the stuff, either. However, he says it tasted pretty good.

5. I sang Karaoke in public. This is usually just something I do in the privacy of my home. But, I thought - what the heck, I will never see these people again. So, Abbey and I sang a duet. We did justice to "Come Together" by the Beatles. I never knew that song had so many words.

6. I woke up each morning with the sound of the surf on the shore - pretty cool.

7. I had my hair colored and restyled yesterday. I like the cut. For some reason, these hair stylists can't seem to get my "natural color" to be correct - even with a picture. I went in with faded red/auburn hair with lots of grey and came out brown (but, without any grey - thank goodness) - go figure. I enjoy being red-headed since I have always had red hair. I was born with it. I don't know how to act with mouse brown hair - so, we will see. I have 5 more days to determine if I want something to be changed.

8.  We celebrated my grandson's 1st birthday. He loved the cake!

I think he's wondering if he's going to have to share - Ooohhh, this stuff is good!

By the end, he knew exactly what to do with that icing.

8. I discovered my soon-to-be 3 yr old granddaughter knows how to use our VERY expensive camera. She and her cousins visited the other night and, after they left, I found the camera under the bed in our guest room. We had a house with 8 adults and no one seemed to see the little one carrying the camera through the house. It is almost as big as her head. I think she is going to be famous one day for her photography. These are terrific shots. But, now that I am look at them, I think she may have had some help - she's not quite tall enough for some of these angles, hmmmm. I wish I knew what she was thinking when she took these...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mass - an addition to my list of "50 new things"

En el nombre del Padre y del Hijo y del EspĂ­ritu Santo

We attended a Catholic Mass while we were on vacation last week. This event, in and of itself, is not so remarkable since two of the three of us, at an earlier time in our lives, were members of this denomination. The truly incredible thing about this event is that the mass was spoken entirely in SPANISH.

Why did we go to a Catholic, Spanish-spoken mass, you may be asking? To worship, of course. And, it was great - even though the only words we could identify were Jesus, Dios, madre de dios, Padre, Senor (Lord), hosanna, aleluya and amen. We could understand enough to follow along.

We entered a small room on the resort that was set up for the worship service. There were rows of chairs, all dressed in white coverings. Someone had placed a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a table at the front of the room - the only indications this room was set up for a religious service. At the back, by the door, there were several fliers provided so we could follow the service. They were the readings for the day (in several different languages). And, in addition, someone had thoughtfully provided an Order for Worship that contained the worship service written in parallel columns - one in Spanish and the other in English and some other language I could not identify. This allowed the non-Spanish speaking people, like us, to at least pretend we knew what was happening and when.

The priest finally arrived about 10 minutes after the service was scheduled to begin - the Mexican clock moves a little more slowly, we learned. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and sporting a backpack. No clerical collar could be seen. We weren't sure he was the priest until he began changing into his vestments. This made everyone feel more comfortable  - at least those of us who were practicing catholics at a previous time.

My favorite parts of the service were the singing, the offering of the peace and sharing Communion.

The singing was awesome even though I didn't know the songs. There was a woman sitting in front of us that sang loud and proud. It was a very small room so the sound that filled the room rang off of the walls. To me, there is nothing better than hearing voices lifted to God in praise and with one heart. I could not understand a word that was being sung and, yet, I found my eyes begin to sting and my heart was full.

I sat there thinking, "Wow, who knew God could understand all these languages?" Intellectually, I believe that God knows all, understands all and listens to all. However, this experience was a lesson in the truth of this belief.

The  Offering of Peace was also a great experience. It was so sweet to hold hands with other believers and share God's Peace. Again, we could not understand the words that were spoken and we could understand what was being offered from our hearts. God's peace! Pretty powerful.

We were a little nervous about Communion. We all really wanted to share. However, in the Catholic church, the sacraments of Communion are only offered to those who are members of the Catholic faith. This theology is different from my own and that is a blog to explore on another day. However, in spite of not being able to share the physical sacraments - I still left there full. It was a reverent time for me. I realized that "communion" was happening between all of us in that room - Catholic or otherwise. God's love was a living presence between us regardless of whether we broke the bread together and shared the cup.

I learned lots of things that morning. I learned some Spanish words - like Senor is the word they use for Lord. I learned that the woman in front of us tolerated no disrespect in God's house - this was taught when she leaned forward and told the young man in front of her to pull up his pants (they were sagging south, a bit).

And, by far, the most important thing I learned is that God speaks the language of Love with a voice of Love and it is easy to understand - if only I listen with my heart.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Portraits of Mexico

We just returned from a week's vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. So, I'm going to write a few words in Spanish. However, I only know a few phrases so this part will be very short - And, it is important information. It is a public service announcement for anyone traveling to this part of the country...The Spanish translation is in blue.

"Hello, do you know where I can find the bathroom, please?"
            "Hola, donde esta la bana? Por favor."
 "Yes, What, five pesos? Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!"
            "Si, Que, cinco pesatos? Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!"
 "What's happening?"
            "Que pasa?"
 "Thank you very much. Goodbye - You have got to be kidding!!!
             "Muchas Gracias, Adios! You have got to be kidding!!!
 "Joe, JOE, I need five pesos, please, yes five pesos. You have to PAY to go to the bathroom...sigh"
             "Pepe, PEPE, tengo cinco pesatos, por favor. Si, cinco pesatos. YOU HAVE TO PAY TO GO TO THE BANA, SIGH?"
(Note, I know the question marks need to be upside down and I have not written this to be gramatically correct) These really are all of the words you need to know to get around safely and with dry underwear. But, I can tell you this. Don't go to the country without a pocketful of five pesos - it can be a risky move.

So many things about this trip have caused me to think and to wonder. Most of us know we are privileged to live in the United States. But, until you travel to a country that has so much less and until you stay in a resort that caters to your every whim, that fact does not really travel home. Let me rephrase, a country that has so much less and works so hard for what they have and, yet, who are seemingly very happy people - the fact that I am so spoiled and privileged did not really travel home.

There are many things I brought home with me from this trip. The country is beautiful, the country is poor and the people we encountered have happy hearts. They also have at least this one thing in common. They LOVE to have their picture taken. And, they are not shy about letting you know. I found it so intriguing. Joe and I talked about this quite a bit. Maybe it is because they want to feel important, maybe they are just trying to make a little extra money, maybe they just want to be recognized and to put their stamp on this world in a permanent way. Whatever the reason, I'm thankful because I was able to offer them all of these things for just a short while. They opened my eyes to seeing others and to wanting to give them that moment.

We were walking through the city and an open air market. I was carrying my Nikon around my neck. Since it is a fairly noticeable camera (meaning too big to fit in my pocket), I was asked repeatedly if I was a professional or an amateur photographer. This cracked me up right off the bat - what I am is a picture taking fool. So, I thought this was fairly hilarious.

I was waiting for my husband and our friends and I had stopped along one of the stalls to rest. Across the way, I noticed two men that kept waving their arms, trying to get my attention and pointing to my camera and then to themselves. Apparently they wanted me to take their picture. So, I did.

I asked them to smile for me. So, they did (Isn't it GREAT?).

We continued on our walk through the city and along the oceanfront and we ran into this character. I had noticed him weaving back and forth in front of us as we walked along. We sat down and he circled back and came running up to us and said, "Hi, I'm Mexican from Mexico, take my picture." So, I did. Luckily Anthony was there to make the picture even better - the local guy is the little guy on the right. I didn't ask him to smile; but, he did. He was very happy.

We had dinner in a small village across the road from the resort. A stark contrast to say the least. We ate dinner in this placed called "Tony's Hide Away" that has delicious seafood. The restaurant is tucked away on the second floor of this adobe building and is "open air" - meaning no windows. We could look out over the village from the balcony. Again, I'm taking pictures of all I can see and we notice these arms waving at us from down below and from one of the other rooftops. Like I said, these people are NOT shy. I love the smiles...

I like the boys. We did not even know they were there until we could see their arms waving and could hear them laughing. I wonder what they were saying to each other.

As we walked back to the resort, we followed the road through the village. Here are some other moments that touched me:

AND, my personal favorite. I asked him to smile...and, he did!

I'm thankful for these moments in time - captured forever by the lens of my camera. But, hopefully and more importantly, captured forever by the lens of my heart.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Oh Boy!

Sorry the blog has not been updated for a while. We've been busy with some exciting opportunities lately and we were in Mexico last week (vacation). I have lots of things to add to my "50" list - so, keep tuned - lots of new stuff will be coming soon!

Happy Mother's Day to all - I pray you feel God's Love surrounding you today!