Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nacho Mama's Weakly Reading

I don't know about you, but I've always been a voracious reader. My saintly husband (Nacho Daddy) and I were married for nearly 8 years before we had our first child. Until then, I would go through a book or two a week. Every morning I would get up early, pour myself a cup of coffee and settle down to read a few chapters before beginning my day. And the silence!

Now, of course, I am shaken awake by at least one set of little hands (that I am eternally grateful for, don't get me wrong!) As I wipe the 5 hours of sleep from my puffy eyes, the demands begin: breakfast, diapers, clothes,  pack lunch, etc. Sometimes I can get a few seconds to pour a cup of coffee in between tasks, but often I perform them in something of a stupor. After the first few years of motherhood, I could feel my brain turning to mush. Reading? Limited to safety instructions and nutritional facts. Reading had always been a part of who I was-without it, who was I?

Fortunately with baby 2 came some other wonderful things to help satisfy my need to read.

First of all, during my pregnancy I discovered blogs (tiny choir of angels). I could actually get tips and engage in adult conversation with other moms, other designers, etc. on my crazy mommy schedule! I could ask a question at 3am and someone out there would have an answer. That was HUGE. I feel so bad for moms who had to cope with the isolation of those first few months without anyone to talk to.
Blogs are especially great for moms, because posts are generally the perfect size for the amount of time that we can devote to reading throughout the day. I like to check in with my favorite blogs (some of them are in the blogroll, right) while preparing dinner and right after putting the kids to bed.

The second thing that helped was audiobooks. So often we moms have to give up our reading time simply because we need to keep our hands free! With audiobooks, I can "read" a book while picking up toys, mopping, folding laundry, etc. Right now I'm listening to Amy Sedaris' new book, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People (absolutely hilarious btw-especially if you're crafty). One tip though: take a minute and listen to the preview before you decide to buy an audiobook. Sometimes the person reading the book has a voice that is annoying or worse, boring.

One of the fun things, though, about being a "bookish" couple has been watching our kids develop a terrific interest in books themselves. My husband also lost his reading time when the kids came along. Now that they're a little older, he can get the time to read, but the 2 year old enjoys hiding his reading glasses. And he can't read without them-or can he? Two weeks ago, for his birthday, he got one of these from his sister:

Now, I'd seen people at coffeehouses and in airports with these, and I must admit, they seemed kind of dumb. Why read on a screen when a book is so portable already. Now? I TOTALLY GET IT. In just the 2 short weeks since the Kindle came to our house, my husband has read 4 books without his glasses, because he can make the text as big as he wants. He can get thousands of classic books for free (our 7 year old is halfway through Alice in Wonderland) and the screen somehow comes very close to simulating the experience of reading the printed page. The only question now is whether we need a second one. Ok, it's not a need-it's totally a want. But between my husband and our kids, I have yet to read a whole book on it. I'll keep you posted :)

Finally, the other awesome thing that happened in my reading life was that our city put their library system online. Now I can search for books, even audiobooks and videos, and put them on reserve (at any hour of the day!) They get delivered to my local branch which is a very short walk from our home. I love the public library system! Even though I'm an Amazon affiliate, I always check the library first for the books I'm interested in. Sometimes I'll like a book so much I go ahead and buy it for our home library, sometimes not.  The important thing is that we are once again a household of readers. And that is worth more to me than a lifetime of silent mornings.

Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving BONUS Craft!

If you read my Thanksgiving table-runner post at Rock On Mommies (which was SUPER easy!) then you know I promised and even cinch-ier craft here at Nacho Mama's Blog!

I wish I could take credit for this one, but my family got these at a Halloween-pumpkin-carving party we attended at the home of our friends Dani-Sue and John. Dani-Sue decorated the tables with these a-dorable PUMPKIN PEOPLE!!

 Aren't they cute? And you won't believe how easy to make. The hair is just torn-up strips of ordinary masking tape! The pumpkin people at the party had all kinds of fun and different hair-dos. The faces are drawn on with fine-tipped Sharpies and the ribbon on top is pinned right into the pumpkin with straightpins. SO. EASY!!

I guess you could do this with a normal-sized pumpkin, but something about the baby pumpkins makes you want to steal a couple to take home with you, like I did!

Hope you'll give this one a try. If you do, email me photos at and I'll share them with everyone.

Happy, CRAFTY Thanksgiving!

Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama

Nacho Mama's "Empanadas"

If you’re anything like me, this time of year brings a flood of childhood memories.  Many of them are food-related. The holidays meant a long drive from San Diego to Oxnard. And Oxnard? Meant La Central.

La Central was the bakery where both sides of the family would go for pan dulce (which, for some reason, we called pan mexicano). We’d always stop at La Central on our way home from church on Sundays. It’s still there, where it’s always been. I can still hear the rickety screen door that would always slam behind us-we were so distracted by the delicious smells that we always let it slam.  I can’t possibly conjure the intoxicating aroma of fresh pan dulce, but I can show you what we saw-and believe me, it looked almost as good as it smelled:

And by the way-La Central has the BEST glazed doughnuts in the whole world. Better than Krispy Kreme, better than Dean and Deluca,  better than in your dreams.

But my favorite thing to get at La Central was always the pumpkin empanadas. Because I, Nacho Mama, am a pumpkin whore. You may as well know.  And today my craving for pumpkin empanadas was all-consuming. I just had to do something about it. Even though my baking skills are rather, um, lacking. Oh, I can cook ropa vieja that’d inspire you to write a poem about me-but a cupcake? (cue ironic trombone here)

So? I improvised:

I had some leftover pumpkin from the pumpkin chili I made earlier this week (told you)  and some other stuff in the fridge I thought would be good. Here’s how it all shook out:

-2/3 cup pure pumpkin
-5 oz honey-vanilla greek yogurt (I used Voskos, from Fresh and Easy-my favorite!)
-1/2c light brown sugar
-1 tube light crescent-roll dough

I mixed the pumpkin, yogurt and sugar together. Then I rolled out the crescent dough, and put a spoonful of the pumpkin mixture in the middle of each triangle, sealed it and crimped it with a fork. Ok, they looked kind of weird:

But after baking in my pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, they looked awesome!

Not satisfied, I made a glaze with powdered sugar and lemon juice, and then sprinkled them with EDIBLE GLITTER STARS. 

Yeah, you read right! Edible glitter. I thought I’d dreamt it, but I asked the Crafty Chica if it actually existed and she told me yes! I raced to my local cake supply place and bought some. You should know that I am also a glitter whore. As far as I’m concerned, there’s not a thing or person on earth that couldn’t use a little glitter. Glitter helps me think. But I digress, the point is: they were YUMMY. And they are now gone. Were they as good as La Central? No. But they were a delicious and distant second. Plus? They had glitter.

Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Raised on "Chicano Soul"

Music has always been a big part of my life. Growing up, all my grandparents sang and/or played guitar at family gatherings, often joined by uncles and cousins. We have so many great singers in the family and just about everyone plays some kind of musical instrument. I myself played piano & clarinet but sadly did not inherit the "awesome pipes" gene. Le sigh.

In my childhood memories, there is always music in the background. My mom's parents sang beautiful songs together, like Ojos Negros, Piel Canela, in the kitchen while preparing sandwiches. My dad's father loved to sing rancheros, mariachi music and corridos at Sunday barbecues. And my dad and his brothers loved to play music from the "Chicano Soul" era that took place in LA in the 60s.

What, you never heard of it?

Chicano Soul crossed over into the mainstream a few times with groups like Cannibal and the Headhunters (Land of 1000 Dances), The Premiers and Thee Midnighters. My dad's brother Jess had been in the Chicano Soul group, The Mixtures, and we kids grew up hearing stories about how our Uncle Chuy had rocked the house at the Rainbow Gardens Ballroom, where The Mixtures were the house band. My grandfather was especially proud that his son (bottom center of the photo below, with the sax) appeared on TV, in the music show that broadcast live in LA from the Rainbow Gardens.

As you might have noticed from the photo, one of the groundbreaking features of The Mixtures was that they were an interracial group in a disctinctly non-interracial time. And from what I've heard, they brought the pepper to every party! I love listening to these records when I'm spending time with my young family, dancing and spinning to this joyful, raucous music. Of course, the Mixtures albums I've been playing all these years (that belonged to my dear late father) are scratched and badly worn by now. So I was ecstatic to learn that the complete recordings were being reissued and released this fall!

My dad and my Uncle, though not twins, shared the same birthday-November 20th, which is this Saturday. As I write this, my brand new copy of The Mixures: Stompin' at the Rainbow is on its way to my home (I ordered the LP but it's also available as a CD). It should arrive just in time for me to celebrate and remember our family's beautiful musical legacy.

Did your family have a creative legacy? Did they paint or write poetry? I'd love to hear about it!

Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama

PS-If you'd like to see and hear a little of The Mixtures for yourself, check out their facebook page and this Youtube Video!

NOTE: My dear Uncle Chuy sadly lost his battle with cancer the day after Christmas 2010. There were many moving tributes to his memory, including this one. We will miss him very much.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nacho Mama is a Rock On Mommy!

lWell it's up! You can check out my post about Thanksgiving, My Big, Fat, American Thanksgivings at Rock On Mommies.

It's about the way my family put the American in Mexican-American!

We lived in San Diego, but my parents were both born and raised in Oxnard, California. We made the 10-hour roundtrip drive every other weekend to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles and my many, many cousins.

Whenever any of my friends has occasion to visit Oxnard, they always ask me where they can get "the Good" Mexican food. And I'm always at a loss. Because we never went out for Mexican food, why would we? We were eating it every day at home! My grandfather's homemade salsa and nopales(cactus) sat in mason jars on the table at every meal.  But if you want to know where to get a fabulous burger or Japanese food in Oxnard? I'm your gal.

Like many of you, we put our own spin and flavor on the holidays. What were your famly traditions when you were a child? Do you keep them up in your family now?

If you're wondering what mine were, you'll have to head over to Rock On Mommies to find out!

Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This is Nacho Horn-It's Mine, and I'm Tootin' It!

If you've been poking around this blog (thank you, btw) you know that I am the weary veteran of many blogs.  And I've been searching for a chance to write about all of my interests on one, single blog. But the timing never seemed right-I never seemed to have a good enough reason. Then, suddenly, I became a member of a very illustrious and heralded club: I became a Mommy-blogger.

I had never really planned on becoming one, even though I had been blogging as a designer, blogging as a blogger and blogging as the fictitious queen of a small town in the American Southwest (long story) for several years. I pretty much had a blogging outlet for every facet of my personality, with 2 glaring exceptions: The Latina and The Mommy. But I wasn't complaining. Then-something caught my eye on twitter (more about my insatiable twitter-addiction later): Rock On Mommies (only my FAVORITE Mommyblog) was looking for new contributors. And specifically, a new contributor for their House & Home department, Abode. How did they know?

Quickly as I could, I dashed off a sample post, sent it in, lit a veladora, and waited.  And I got it!
I couldn't believe it! I was now a Mommyblogger! So I should have a Mommyblog, right? But what to call it? Well, if you read my first post, you know that story already :)

So now you'll find me twice a month at Rock On Mommies, sharing decorating ideas, crafts, household tips and perhaps the occasional recipe. And I'll be posting additional, related content here, at Nacho Mama's Blog.  I can't wait to hear what you think!


Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama

MEAL PLANNING-Nacho Mama's Little Helpers

(Some of this post was previously published on my blog, defunct)

So those of you who read this blog regularly and/or follow me on Twitter (@shesnachomama) are well aware that I am on the Weight Watchers plan (again-don’t judge me!). I’m not going to into the details of the plan, for that please go straight to the source. Like many of you following this plan, I know that if you follow the plan, it works. Of course the flip of this is that, as my leader Judy likes to say, “If you almost follow Weight Watchers, you almost lose weight!” I love the ww plan personally, but I know there are a lot of other great ones out there (like Sparkpeople) and I really believe that when it comes to your Dining (just like your style) you really have to go with what works for you. But most plans have a lot of great insipirational sayings that pop up over and over again. Usually because they happen to be 1. Catchy and 2. True. One of my favorites is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Well I plan to succeed, thanks very much! And a great part of my success on ww can really put down to the degree of planning that I put into my Dining.

So I thought I’d share a couple of things that have been working for me (and I would LOVE to hear what’s working for you!)

Mine is white-I can always find it in my bag

The first thing is my Crackberry. Which I use to:
-Hunt for healthy, low-point recipes (which I then email to myself)
-Keep a running grocery list which I make additions to throughout the week (which I delete as I shop or which I can send as a text to my DH when he is doing the weekly shop)
-Track points (I prefer the paper trackers they give you at the meetings, but sometimes I have to miss a meeting and the ww app is a good backup-if you’re not on ww there are all kinds of great free calorie/food tracking apps)
-Keep up with my favorite design, weight-loss and cooking blogs (see blogroll) for when I need inspiration on the go
-TWEET (I love Twitter! I wish I could tell you why.)
-I use the stopwatch app to time my exercise (more on this later)
-I use the Pandora app to keep me moving with great music (again, I’ll do an exercise post soon!)
I LOVE my new smartphone! But of course you don’t need one! In fact the first time I did WW (before Baby #1) I lost about 65lbs by doing all of the above with a small notebook which I kept in my purse at all times, as well as my, ahem, Walkman (remember those? No?)

The second Tool which really helps me is my Menu Planner. Now this I like to have on paper as well, and I always keep it posted above the desk in the family office. No more phone calls asking what’s for dinner! I found this adorable and useful menu planner for FREE on the web and print them out as I need them. I fill out my menu planner every Sunday. NOW-just because I plan out the entire week doesn’t mean the planner is set in stone. I prefer to think of my menu planner as my “safety net.” Sometimes things happen and we might end up eating out or with friends, but the planned meal is always there if we need it. We recently had company visiting for 5 days and I still went ahead and planned a dinner for every night they were here-we ended up eating at home at least 3 of those nights and it was so nice not to have to endure endless “So what do you feel like having?” conversations! I don’t know about you, but in our family those can go on for hours.

The third tool I use is my Mini Daily Docket, which I downloaded from one of my favorite home-management site, Simplemom. I fill this out every night for the next day. This is useful in just planning my day in general, it’s a small half page to-do list where I can jot down all the things that seem too trivial or tedious to enter into my Blackberry’s calendar (like “pick up 2 avocados”) and it’s so much easier just to have that 1/2 a letter-size piece of paper to throw into my purse every night instead of carrying a big filofax. But one of my favorite features is that at the very top of the page each day is a box that says “What’s For Dinner?” Having “Chicken Parm and Salad, 6points” there helps me keep my eating in check all day long.

What about YOU? What’s helping to simplify your dining? What’s challenging?

Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama

REVIEW: The Only Decorating Books You'll Ever Need

(part of this post is re-printed from my blog, The Blissful Bed and Bath)

Gorgeous, full-color home decorating books, whether on your bookshelf, coffee table or nightstand, can be a costly addiction habit. Just trust me on this one.

My friends often raise their eyebrows at my HUGE collection of home decor tomes. “YOU bought all of these?” Um, yes. What,  so because I’m an interior designer all my ideas are supposed to just pop into my head while I sip my daily organic green tea in my “meditation corner?” If only! I always say, a designer is only as good as her resources, and it’s my job to see what’s going on in the world. And besides that, these books are so pretty.

So then the next thing my friends ask is “Well, which one do you think I should get?” Which is, in fact, a sticky one because everyone’s taste is different and sometimes people don’t like what they think they like (does that make sense?)

Not to worry! To paraphrase Russel Wright, the best and most useful home decorating book I can recommend is for EVERYBODY. It truly is the only decorating book you’ll ever need (notice I didn’t say it’s the only one you’ll ever want, which is a different matter altogether.)  It has no photos(just drawings) and costs just over 10 bucks. And you know what else? It fits in your purse.
It’s Apartment Therapy: the eight step home cure, by Maxwell Gillingham Ryan, the mastermind behind the ba-rilliant Apartment Therapy website. Don’t let the title throw you, this book is a handy guide to every room/area of your home, whether that home is a tiny NY studio or a sprawling McMansion in Texas. What to know how to create an oasis of peace in your bedroom? It’s in here. Want to know how to make your home “flow?” It’s in here. (NOTE: This is not the “companion” volume, Apartment Therapy Presents, though that book is good too.) This book is compact and accessible, taking you on a process of self-discovery to help you make the most of your home, whatever that may be.  You can do the recommended “8-week cure” (even implementing some of his tips can make a huge difference) and you’ll not only have a happier, more peaceful home that feels like YOU, you’ll have a party at the end to celebrate with all your friends!

The other decorating book I find myself reaching for again and again is Tim Street Porter's Casa Mexicana. 
It's out of print, but very easy to find on Amazon and even in some stores. Even if you're not latina (like me) you'll find this book is filled with all kinds of ideas big and small, that you'll want to try in your own space. From the large, austere homes of Barragan, to festive ideas for table settings, art display and entertaining, this book shows all of the practices discussed in Apartment Therapy implemented in living color. And because Mexican interiors (like their American counterparts) come in a vast array of styles, I can safely say there's something in this book for everyone. I've had this book for at least 10 years and never run out of inspiration from it's vibrant photographs. If you happen to come across it in your local used bookstore-BUY IT!

So you see? I had to buy all those other books so I could be sure and recommend the best ones to you. And I’m afraid I’ll have to keep buying those big, expensive picture books, you know,  just to be absolutely sure. Because I care.

Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama

Welcome! This is Nacho Mama's Blog.

Thanks so much for stopping by, I hope you'll stay a while and check out my blog. I've been blogging for many years on many subjects and have been trying to come up with a way to bring it all together under one blog. Then, just the other day, my husband and I were watching Paula Deen on the cooking channel make a fatally delicious pumpkin pie. We watched her take a bite and say, in her inimitable Georgia-peach way, "Mmmm-mm! This is Nacho Mama's Pumpkin Pie, Yawl!" My husband perked up and said, "Nacho Mama? That's you, isn't it?" And I suddenly realized that it was, in fact, me.

So I leapt up off the sofa, ran to the computer and bought the domain name before one of the other Latina Paula Deen fans beat me to it. If you're one of them, neener-neener-you're-a-weiner. If you're not, I hope you'll enjoy Nacho Mama's Blog!

Wishing you love with extra cheese,
Nacho Mama