Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Quiet Room

Even our 3 year old knows this as the "Quiet Room". There's something about my dining room that makes you want to speak in hushed tones.

This room is near the front of the house, just down a little hallway to the kitchen but for some reason whenever I am in this room (hiding out) my family can't find me! Ahhh! Bliss!... It could be that I stay perfectly still with my eyes closed - you know the "I can't see you, so you can't see me..." theory, far it works!

I've tried many times to capture the "essence" of this room with my outdated camera but to no avail. The pictures don't do it justice with it's harsh flash and untrue colors.

Oh, I know there are some things that need tweaking, adding, subtracting, etc. but for now I am going to focus on the positives of this space. Contrary to what you might be thinking with it's bold floral, it's a rather soothing room. It's filled with many collections that I have either hunted down (antique green transferware, tole trays) or was lucky enough to inherit (silver tea/coffee service). 90% of the furniture was refinished by me (including the antique piano!) except for the wingbacks and a few sidetables.

My husband and I built the window bench one weekend(that was one Looongg weekend!) and I painstakingly sewed up the curtains, cushions and most of the pillows. I even installed the dark blinds myself when my husband was on a trip (he still hasn't said anything about how they suddenly "appeared"). The black buffet (formerly a peeling,beat up brown finish) was a roadside find that I made him back up & load in the truck, hoping the neighbors weren't peeking out their windows at us! ha-ha! :)

Some might think a formal dining/living room that only gets used a few times a year is a wasted space...but not to me...I use this room daily, I just don't have a crowd of people with me. When the holidays arrive ,this room is anything but quiet with our family & friends gathered but during the other 360-some odd days of the year, it's become a sort of retreat where I can sit with my tea and look around at all my little bits & sparkly pieces and breathe deeply. You know the room that stays clean and things are exactly where you left them....

I steal a few minutes of peace & tranquility and then I am ready to face daily life again with my family, because you all know that once in a while you wish you could ship the little buggers off to boarding school (or camp, which we did for a week!)

So now I am going to stop talking and let you sit and relax...because that's what this room is all about. The Quiet.~ Enjoy! ~

Monday, July 14, 2008

My In-laws.....

Some of you may remember that my inlaws are visiting... I didn't fully explain how their visits work...You see, my inlaws are from Mexico. My husband is a US Citizen but has been here working off and on since he was 14 to help support his 11 siblings and parents. Yes, he is the oldest of 12! Some of his siblings are almost like children to him, he has had a big hand in raising them here in California. Now getting back to my inlaws. Their visa had expired and it took nearly 2 years of paperwork & travels to the Texas/Mexico border to get their visas renewed. They live on a ranch about 3 hours from Guadalajara which is no where near the Texas border. Their ranch is like a tiny village with a few markets, a small school & a church. One member of the community goes weekly to the next town to collect any mail that might have arrived for this small ranch.

Up until about a year ago, the only way for my husband to contact his parents was to call the only phone in the village (inside one of these little markets) to send a message to his family (which of course is hand delivered) that he will be calling back in one hour, meaning for them to go to the only phone in the whole town. On his last visit, he updated them with a type of cell phone but the reception varies.

My mother in-law is a wonderful person, full of home remedies to cure your ailments and the ability to throw together a meal with minimal ingredients. Even with a language barrier (we do alot of "miming" and drawing!) we get along well. She has learned more English than I have Spanish. My father-inlaw is a shy, quiet farmer who either runs in the opposite direction to avoid having an awkward conversation with his American daughter-inlaw or "yells" at me in Spanish, thinking that I must be deaf and if he yells it at me, I will understand him much better! :)

When his parents come to visit, the rest of the family comes in droves to see them where ever they are. That means sometimes we will have 8 people sleeping in one room, scattered about, but happy to be near their family. It's very humbling.

My husband typically visits his parents once a year when his construction work slows down,usually bringing along our now 9 year old son. His mother would send back these sweet pancakes called "Gorditas" These were unlike anything I have ever tasted! I would "horde" them all to myself.

So the other night, I brought up the subject of Gorditas while we were having dinner. My husband said we needed a brick oven and you sort of "smoke" them. I figured, oh well, that was that...end of story.

I woke up the next day to my Mother-inlaw outside gathering left over bricks from our front porch and other projects... since my husband is in construction, we ALWAYS have leftover materials, mortar, etc. laying around.
There's my Mother in-law in a skirt and little pumps making this oven in 100 degree weather. She's shy and wouldn't pose for me.

We, "WOMEN",with some help from the kids, made this in a day while the "MEN" were gone. Later after returning home from work, my husband's contribution was to clear away any weeds with the tractor and spread gravel for safety. My husband thoroughly enjoyed seeing his wife covered in mortar and lugging a wheel barrow around. I think I saw a new respect in his eyes, his wife isn't such a prima donna after all ! :)

Now on to the recipe...

First we had to find some milking cows - seriously! We needed unpasturized milk. We live in an agricultural area so not too hard. We had to heat the milk on the stove and add an enzyme (I won't tell you where or what it's from, I had a hard time with this part myself!) to make our own cheese. I believe my mother-inlaw called this "Cuajada" and I did a little online research and it's similar to a "ricotta" cheese.

Told you she is shy - she wouldn't turn around for the picture.

Then we used "Maseca"corn meal, some flour, baking soda & powder, a different type of brown cane sugar called "Piloncillo" that we melted on the stove, cinnamon, melted butter, raisins & peanuts and of course this drained cheese mixture. You know how these old family recipes are, a little of this, alot of that...

Melted "Piloncillo"

After stoking up the little oven, we were ready ....

My mother -inlaw was outside until 10 pm baking these.

Being with my in-laws is like stepping back in time. Making do with only the bare necessities. On my only visit to their home, I was in awe of their lifestyle. Milk is delivered in buckets and a woman comes peddling a basket of eggs to sell. We washed the dishes outside on a rock with a bucket of water. That was something I won't forget! Laundry is washed in an old fashioned crank machine and air dried til it's so stiff it can stand up on it's own. Women iron daily to make the clothes more pliable and it's something they ENJOY. I am amazed at what my Mother in-law can do with a sewing machine (she will make young brides in their little village their wedding gowns!) and am in awe of her needlepoint, embroidery and crocheting. Lost forms of art.

Being around my Mother-inlaw has definitely humbled me and yet I think her crazy American daughter in-law has rubbed off on her as well. The first time she ever left Mexico was 12 years ago to attend our wedding.

In the years since, she traveled alone to visit us many times and the independence suits her. I try to pamper her and do all the girly things I sometimes take for granted. But my experience with her "building" our own little oven with found materials is something I won't easily forget, I felt like a true Pioneer Woman that day, breaking bricks and spreading mortar...And I know she was doing this all for ME. See? feelings & emotions can be expressed even without speaking the same language! :)

My Mother in-law and my husband dancing at our wedding.

Living Happily Ever After. The End!