Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feed the Birds

Everything is drying out here, including me. As the weather cools, I forget to drink all that water I guzzle in the hotter months. I need to find a way to trick myself into it. Maybe some nice herb teas or something. There's nothing to be done for the flowering plants in the yard though. It's Purple & Yellow season around town, with all the last minute bloomers coordinated into this glorious color scheme. I still have a few stray hollyhocks in bloom, and the cosmos are going strong, along with one unlikely pink-and-yellow rose bush. I don't know why or how it survives here, but I sure do enjoy it.

The local birds are having a real feast these days, fluttering around the finished sunflowers and hollyhocks, and splashing in our makeshift bird baths. One is a saucer stolen from under a potted plant, and the other is a beautiful blue frying pan that I overheated and blew a hunk of enamel out of. So sad to lose it from the kitchen, but lesson learned, and now it makes a lovely bird bath.

I think I'll start gathering some of these seedy delicacies and make a wreath or something out of them. I'll save it for when the weather is colder, and bird food is harder to find under the snow. I also promise to pour warm water in the bird baths every morning, because I know they'd rather drink and bathe than ice skate.

Today on Positively Vegan: Zucchini Noodles with Peanut Sauce!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moving Forward

As you may have gathered, our daughter Julia, and her sweet baby Jacob have been living with us for a while. Jacob is 5 months old now, and it's time for them to have their own place to call home. Although our house is too big for the two of us, it's too small for two more. And of course, Julia wants her own place, filled with her own things, where she can do things her own way. And now, happily for all of us, she has it, and we will soon have our guest room back.

Yesterday, Rick and I helped move them to their own pretty little apartment near the center of town. It's clean and bright, and off the beaten path, so hopefully quiet too. They have 2 bedrooms, a bathroom with a nice tub, and a big kitchen that flows into the living room, and opens out the back door to some wide open space, and a very friendly looking old cottonwood tree. I think it's perfect. And best of all, they're still only a few minutes away, so we'll have lots of time with them, and lots of baby snuggles and sweet shared moments as Jacob grows up. We're pretty lucky grandparents, and I'll admit it - happy to have our empty nest back.

Jacob at 5 months old, with his Heidi-Nana
Today on Positively Vegan, Figs & Cashew Cream. Oh, yum!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Blog

As promised, I've started new blog, focusing on vegan cooking and lifestyle. Even if you aren't vegan or vegetarian, I think there will be a lot of fun, interesting, and tasty things for everyone. It's called Positively Vegan. I hope you'll visit! And if you spot any typos, please let me know. As my own editor, I sometimes miss a few.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Field Trip

Rick and I went for a nice hike to Williams Lake yesterday. It's our favorite hike in this area. It starts above Taos Ski Valley, and goes up to 11,000 feet in elevation in about 2 miles. It's not exactly easy, but not too hard either, especially for uncommitted exercisers like us.

We paused to consider our options when we saw a school bus parked at the foot of the trail, but decided not to let a bunch of kids scare us off. The hills were indeed alive... with the sound of high schoolers. It wasn't exactly a serene setting, so when we got to the top, we kept going to the waterfall, where we had a nice quiet lunch, all sounds of youthful exuberance drowned out by the stream.

The kids left after a while, and we had a chance to sit quietly by the lake for a while, in the cool fall air, before skipping back to the bottom, where there is always a reward for our hard work... on the deck of the Bavarian! Who would guess there was a little slice of Germany, high on a mountainside, in northern New Mexico? You need 4 wheel drive or skis to get to it, and it's wonderful. Like a little European vacation in our own backyard.

Why don't we do this more often? We let work interfere with fun, I guess. Well, that just has to stop.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'd Like to Explain

Facebook, love it or hate it, is a great platform for discussion. And due to the limited space and custom of saying things in the briefest of ways, it's also a great place to be misunderstood. I really put my foot in it yesterday when I glibly quoted a bumper sticker that I found witty. I will repeat it here now, but you are not allowed to start yelling at me until you've read this entire post. It said, People who truly love animals don't eat them... just sayin.

The sh*tstorm ensued almost immediately, and continued throughout the day, leaving me feeling battered, tearful, exhausted, and eventually... inspired. I learned a lot, and came up with a great idea - I think - as part of the process. As Difficult Things tend to be, even self-induced Difficult Things, it was absolutely perfect, and I'm not at all sorry it happened. I am sorry I hurt some feelings with my blanket statement, which of course could only reflect my own limited perspective. But because of those hurt feelings, I was forced to press on and explain myself. I hope the ones who were hurt continued to read the thread throughout the day, but I have a feeling some of them didn't. I want to explain further here.

I used to eat animals. I've also had pets all my life, and loved wildlife, and even claimed a sincere adoration for the cows in the fields. I liked steak and burgers and chicken and fish and cheese... glorious cheese. And I was able to create a disconnect between those "food" animals and the other beloved "pet" animals. They seemed different to me.

As years went by, little by little I took animals out of my diet. First the cows, for health reasons, and also because they're, well, cute. Those big brown eyes and docile nature... sigh... After a while, I couldn't befriend them through the fence, and then go home and turn them into a meatloaf. Chicken and fish were not cute to my eyes, and seemed so much less aware, so it was easy to keep eating them. For a while. I started reading more and more about health, nutrition, and eeek, factory farming, including that of the fishes. And the more I knew, the more I couldn't un-know, until there came a tipping point where I could no longer eat any of them because I could no longer see any of the creatures of the earth as "less than" me.

Now I'm in a place (and a pretty lonely one, here in Taos), where I can't rationalize petting my dogs, feeding the wild birds, relocating spiders from the bathtub to the yard, and then eating other animals of any kind. While I'm appalled by the conditions factory animals are forced to endure, for me, as a personal choice, I no longer want to eat anything "that has a face," even if it was raised with love and respect. Most animals eaten in this country have led a most disrespected lives, and to me, that is intolerable. Animals raised thoughtfully and humanely for food are at least given a nice life, but again, for me, I see no reason to eat them.

Sure, there are plenty of arguments for eating meat. I won't even go into them, because I'm no longer interested. I've been there. I'm here now. I'm not some kind of militant, card carrying animal rights activist. I just happen to feel a certain equality with them. For me, there's no reason to eat animals, so I don't. I don't need to, and I also don't want to. It's that simple. I can no longer understand which animals are friends, and which ones are food, because they all seem the same to me. They all seem like friends.

I was accused of several unpleasant things yesterday, and as I reject those accusations, I'll also quickly try to dodge another before it hits. As a vegan, I believe firmly in certain things. Veganism is a way of life, but it is not my religion. I'll even risk some further wrath by saying that I think God is too big for just one religion, so I refuse to choose one. To me, veganism is more like recycling... it's something everyone can do, at least a little bit, and the more the better, for the individual, the planet, other humans, and of course, the animals.

Some of us save and recycle every can, bottle, and scrap. Some towns support recycling better then others. Some people don't care, and throw everything in the trash. Some are somewhere in between. It's become commonly accepted that recycling is a Good Thing. I hope that will also happen with veganism. Little by little, I hope things like Meatless Mondays will become more and more popular, that people will begin to educate themselves, to eat even a little less meat, and that as we start to see improvements in our own bodies and the world around us, veganism, like recycling, will catch on as another widely accepted Good Thing.

I want to help that happen, and I want to remain sensitive to each individual's right to do whatever they darn well please. I know a lot of people are curious about veganism, and it's hard to sift through all the websites and information out there. I often get requests for recipes from people who want to add a really good meatless meal to the menu once in a while. There are books and websites and experts all over the place, but I think there's a place in the mix for someone like me, a non-expert, a student, a curious cook, a brave (or foolish) blogger, to assist in the learning process for those who are interested. This blog is not the place. Facebook is definitely not the place. And so, the great idea I got from yesterday's lively discussion is...

... a new blog.

I've already started building it, although it isn't published yet. It will be soon. It's called Positively Vegan, and in keeping with the title, I'll make a promise to you. I will speak only of the positive aspects of a vegan diet/lifestyle. I will not say anything, ever, to try to make you feel bad about your own life choices. I will encourage you to know all you can know, and to do the best you possibly can for yourself and our shared planet. I will be respectful of our differences. And yes, I will attempt to woo you over to the Vegan Side.

There will be a page within the blog called The Nasty Bits, that will provide links to all the horror stories of factory farming, meat associated health problems, livestock related environmental issues, and other things you may or may not want to know. You will have to go to that page on your own, when you're ready. Or not.

There will also be a page of fun and happy links, to recipes and shopping and resources to help you on your merry meat-free way. The main page of the new blog, the "meat," as it were, will be personal postings about my successes and struggles as a vegan, as well as recipes and pictures and encouragement. I had talked about writing a recipe book at one point. Honestly, I don't have it in me, although I suppose a well written food blog might one day evolve into a book. It's a possibility, but not necessarily a goal. The real goal is to share the love and the good food. Vegan or not, everybody loves good food, right? Yes, we can all eat together, at one big table, and nobody has to get hurt.

OK. There it all is. If you still want to yell at me... well, I hope you don't. I'll get the new blog, Positively Vegan, up and running soon, and will keep this one going as it has been all along. I think the Food needs its own space, but I think I'll also include recipes here, and will likely copy them over to my slot on BlogHer, because it's good to triangulate whenever possible.

I hope you'll stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Boys

Rick and baby Jacob, almost 5 months old already, share a sunny September moment on the porch. I love this picture.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What a Beadmaker Wears

Over the years, I've made a name for myself - in the bead world, at least - as one who makes flower beads. I do other things too, but the flowers are what I'm known for. I like making them. And I stopped trying to stick to "real" flowers long ago, realizing that any flower I think I invent already exists out there somewhere, so matter what colors or how crazy looking. But as much as I like making the flower beads, they aren't what I tend to wear.

I wear my own beads all the time, but usually not the ones I put out there for the world. I prefer to wear simple strands that celebrate light and color. One great bead is a wonderful thing, but I prefer to wear a necklace that's more a sum of the parts. I also have and wear a lot of silver jewelry. Plain silver makes my heart sing. I wish I was a silver smith. I've tried, but I didn't love the process, so I leave that to others. The silver is great with any of my beads, whether they're simple or extravagant, and it doesn't make me look all matchy-matchy. I do not like tidy little sets of jewelry. I like to mix it up.

This is my favorite necklace of the moment. It's been my favorite for over a year. It goes with almost anything, in a chameleon-like way. The colors are what I call "desert canyon" colors, which is a soft blend of greens, blues, browns, pinks, and purples. It says "southwest" to me every bit as much as turquoise and silver do, but in a quieter way. The beads are made one at a time, like everything I do, and then cleaned one at a time, which is the not-so-fun part. After that, they're sorted and strung on wide, soft silk ribbon, with a simple sliding bead closure that gives me adjustable lengths. It's strong and supple and smooth. And something I didn't think of a year or so ago when I made it, it's completely yank-able, which is an important feature with my grandson Jacob in our lives now.

You know how I feel about custom orders... something like, Run away! Run away! But when a friend asked me to make something simple and earthy for his daughter for Christmas, I immediately thought of my necklace. And thoughts being what they are, one leading to the next, it wasn't long before I thought if I like this kind of necklace, and someone else is asking for one, than maybe a few others would like this sort of thing too. I do realize that not everyone loves flower beads.

So I made three necklaces last week, that will appear in my BeadShop today. I added some silver beads to the mix, because I had them on hand. Wear a simple pair of silver hoops with one of these, and you're practically perfect. (Excuse the excessive use of my own face here today - I was the only model I had yesterday, and my hair was in a fairly good mood...) And, if the question is, can you wear more than one of these at a time, well of course you can, dear. Take it from this old granny.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Green Chile Stew

It's a magical time of year in New Mexico. Everywhere you go, there are big tumbling chile roasters, in market parking lots and on street corners. The delicious scent on the fall breeze is enough to make your mouth (and eyes) water, and even to mask the stench of nearby fast food joints.  It's Green Chile Season, and it's a good reason to celebrate.

More and more I'm making our food from scratch, which takes a bit more time, but pays off in much better meals. So when Lauren brought home a big box of freshly roasted, steaming chiles a few days ago, I was happy to jump in and start peeling them. It's a messy job, but it's necessary. The roasted chiles are placed in a bag right out of the roaster, so they can steam, which loosens the tough, charred skins. when they're cool enough to handle, you peel the skins off, and if you really want to super-prep your chiles, you can remove the seeds, ribs, and stems. I just deal with the skins, and then freeze the chiles whole for future use, setting some aside for immediate consumption.

I like to make Green Chile Stew first. It's a favorite spicy, comforting meal that assures us we'll be warm in the long winter ahead. If you eat enough of this stuff, you'll be heated from the inside out, no matter what the weather is doing. My most recent batch was my best ever, but of course I was too busy cooking to write it all down. I think I can give you the basics though.

Have some cooked black beans on hand, either made from scratch, or canned. I also like to dice and cook 2 or 3 potatoes, to add to the stew at the end. Start by sauteing a chopped yellow onion in a big pot. Add fresh garlic, carrots, red bell pepper, and celery. When they just start to soften, pour in a whole beer, and add 3 big tablespoons of corn flour (or 3 corn tortillas, buzzed up in the food processor). Next add a can of tomatoes, and a can - or box - of vegetable broth, depending on how big a batch you want to make. Let it thicken and bubble a few minutes, and then add a cup or two of chopped green chiles, fresh or frozen corn, cooked black beans, and cooked potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and a little tamari if you have it.

There's no real way to gauge how hot your chiles are, and therefore how hot your chile stew will be. The guys doing the roasting will tell you they're mild, medium, or hot, but I don't think they really know. When you cook with fresh chiles, expect it to be hot and spicy. Serve your stew with bread and beer, and if you eat dairy, offer some sour cream and cheese as toppings to help cool the fire. I made a nice cashew sour cream that did the trick.

If you can get them, always use fresh roasted chiles. If you can't get them locally, try ordering from Southwest Chile Supply in Albuquerque.

You might find Bueno chiles in the freezer section of your favorite market. They're a good second choice.

And if all else fails, canned Ortega chiles are better than nothing.

Do what you have to do. Green Chile Stew is food for heart and soul.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I like nice things as much as the next girl, but I don't like a lot of clutter and stuff in my house. I came up with a way of shopping some years ago that works really well for me, and it comes in especially handy for big ticket items I could never really afford. No, not credit cards. In fact there's no cash exchanged at all. I just claim the coveted item as "mine," and then leave it right where it it, usually in a beautiful store or gallery, reasoning that it looks better there than it would in my house, it will be safe there, and I can go back and see it when I want to. Last time I checked, the gorgeous antique Chinese bronze rhino with the beautiful green patina was still in the window of the gallery I left it in, somewhere in Seattle. It makes me happy to visit it, but I have no need to actually possess it.

I know a lot of people who collect things. I've tried a few times, but have been pretty unsuccessful since the giant coffee can full of marbles I had in the 4th grade. It was quite a collection, but I have no idea what ever happened to it. I used to gather cow-things for my kitchen, when I lived in Nevada, but that didn't last. Now I have only a painting of cows that my Mom gave me just before she died, and my Dad still spends hours in card shops looking for cow birthday cards for me, which I cherish, of course, but don't display in a lighted hutch. 

When Rick and I got married in 1992, and spent our honeymoon in Victoria, BC, we were smitten with the whole English tea thing, and decided to start a teapot collection. We bought a lovely pink one there, and still have exactly one in the collection. It's enough. I will admit to a rather sizable collection of jewelry, which I can't defend. I've been accumulating these personal adornments since I was a baby, and still have some of my very tiny jewelry. But lately, I'm feeling like it's time to start dispersing some of it to my kids. I don't wear most of it anyway.

Yesterday, my very savvy daughter Lauren invited me to a website called Pinterest. I'm sure everyone but me already knew about this site, but I'm happy to know about it now. At first I thought, Oh great, another way of wasting time on the internet... But when I took just a slightly longer look, I began to see some great creative potential in Pinterest. Once signed up, you can create "boards" by categories pre-assigned, or all your own, where you "pin" pictures from all over the web, of anything that interests you. You can follow other people's boards, and they can follow you, which is not what's important to me. What I like about it is it gives me a place to create beautiful collections of things I don't have to keep. And best of all, it encourages me to keep a sharp eye out for objects and images of great design and loveliness. It's good for my Artist Eye.

Today I'm mildly obsessed with my "Turquoise" board, perhaps because it's a rainy day in Taos, and I missed the blue sky's cheery greeting this morning. Tomorrow I might spend some time looking for beautiful food, or tiny homes to make my heart sing, or dare I admit it, jewelry... Who knows, I might even add to my teapot "collection" now that I can do it without having to dust it.

PS - my username on Pinterest is, what else, kimmiles, in case you want to follow me. I suggest you lead yourself instead though!

Friday, September 9, 2011

First Fire

It's been so hot here, and suddenly... it's not. It's been raining (mostly) since sometime yesterday, and tonight the damp chill in the house made us feel the need for the first fire of the season. It's a hard thing to give in to, so we didn't go for the big wood stove, but only the little kiva in the dining room. It's so cute and cozy. Almost like a camp fire indoors.

It's been quite a week, with car shopping and waiting for deliveries, and now learning how to use all the things that have finally been delivered. It's not that we're going crazy buying a bunch of new things. More like trading things we no longer need for things we will actually use. 

Since selling the trailer, which we can't make proper use of at the moment, the BigAss Truck has become the wrong vehicle for us. Besides being huge and hoggish, it's only one truck, and there are two of us who need to get around. It's been two years since I had a car of my own, and I'm feeling the need for some independence. So the BAT has been traded for a lovely white 2008 Toyota Rav4 for me, and Rick bought his dear old Toyota pickup back from the friend we sold it to when we left. He's happy to have it back, and I'm beyond happy to have something fun and pretty and smart to drive again. I picked it up this afternoon, all cleaned up and Toyota certified. Driving back home through the canyon, along the Rio Grande, I was grinning so hard my face hurt. The feeling of freedom that pulled out of the driveway along with the trailer a few weeks ago caught up to me again today, in the form of small white SUV that will take me anywhere I want to go.

Arriving home, I was also met by the new iPhones we'd been waiting for since yesterday morning. It was time. Our old phones were starting to lose their buttons and abilities, and I'm kind of adamant about keeping up with technology, even though I'm usually about 5 years behind. I want to be sure they get it right before I jump into the parade, but I never want to get so far behind I can't catch up. It took us a couple of hours to download everything, transfer contacts, update software, and figure out how to make a call, but after that we were wandering through the apps options, connecting to Pandora, and taking pictures. It really is a very intuitive phone. I know mine of going to be my friend.

The other gift awaiting me today was a big, deep cast iron skillet I'd ordered a week or so ago to replace another failed non-stick promise. I decided it was time to go back to good old cast iron, which really feels like going forward. Somehow, it fits perfectly with the nice car and the fancy phones. I think it's because the goal is to let go of what doesn't work, and bring in what does. Having new stuff doesn't necessarily mean having more stuff. Other things are leaving here as fast as the new things are coming to us. There's a good clean balance to it that's uncluttering our lives in a really soothing way.

Today felt kind of like Christmas. So many wonderful gifts, after so much anticipation... and often impatience. Waiting for Santa has never been easy. Tonight as we sit by the first small fire of many to come, it all seems just perfect, and certainly worthy of gratitude and celebration.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

Labor Day doesn't mean a lot to me. I take days off when I need them, and usually not when everybody else does. I'm working today, but not too hard. Yesterday was a theoretical day off, but instead of power-lounging, I pulled out some fabric scraps and the Dreaded Sewing Machine, and made a bag I've been designing in my head for weeks. It drove me crazy the entire time I worked on it, but I was also enjoying the construction puzzle of what to put where first, and how to get lining, pockets, and handles all in the right place. I was asking way too much of the machine with the heavy faux-leather and oil cloth, but eventually, together, after many, many re-threads, we did it. I still have dozens of threads to trim, but it looks pretty good, I think, considering how much I hate sewing. I learned a lot, I feel smarter, and I might even use the bag...

Today is a bead posting day, with part of the afternoon spent in the studio. I'm not going to do too much. It's almost crunch time, with my first show in years coming up in November. I'm doing Taos Folk at the Stables Gallery here in Taos, which I'm really looking forward to. It just means I have to make a lot of beads in these next few weeks. I think I can do it. I have to do it.

And tomorrow we're going to Santa Fe to look for a car for me. Rick bought his little Toyota truck back from the friend we sold it to before we went on our trip. He's happy to have it back, and I'll be happy to trade the BAT (BigAssTruck) in on something smaller, for me.

Busy times. Feel it? I know it's like this for a lot of people right now. Maybe I should be taking the rest of today off to... rest. There's a lot of activity swirling around in my little world. Might be wise to pause, take a breath, say Yay Me for all I've done so far this year, and try to go into this next round with grace and balance. Yes. Good idea.

Happy Labor Day to all the hard workers out there. Yay you! Take good care of yourselves. You make the world go 'round.

Friday, September 2, 2011


I've lost track of time, but I think it's been about a week and a half since we started the Floor Project. It wasn't as big a job as expected, at least in some ways. Once the carpet was gone, the pine floor underneath was fairly easy to clean and paint. I kind of liked the way the plain white primer looked, but then remembered we don't live at the beach, and white floors in Taos are just not practical.

We decided on a two-part epoxy floor paint. I can't remember the brand, but it was the only one we could get in town, at Ace Hardware. The stuff can be tinted any color you want, so we grabbed a bunch of brown paint chips, tossed them on the floor, and walked all over them with our dusty shoes on. The color that showed our own Taos dust the least was "popcorn kernel," so that's what we picked. Not exactly a design theory you'll find on the home makeover shows, but it worked here! 

We spent yesterday afternoon moving furniture all over the house. You move one thing, it changes everything. So we kept shuffling couches, chairs, rugs, and lamps until it all felt right. Now we have our room back, with a clean, un-stinky floor, freshly painted walls, and clean, 10-year old curtains that are still in good shape, so I really had to resist replacing them. The goal here is to use and re-use what we already have. So far, so good. My ancient loveseat now lives in the bedroom, where the dresser used to be. It's a nice quiet place to sit and read, and Heidi thinks it's her very own princess bed. All we have to do is hang some art on the walls, and wait for a couple of small rugs to arrive.

One of the best surprises of this project is my new dressing room/office. It's beautiful and light, I can see all my clothes, and there's a nice couch/futon to lounge on. I call it my "room somewhere."

I have some art to move in here too, and some closet organizing to do, but it's pretty much done... until we decide to repaint the floor in this room too...