Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Benjamin Button

Yesterday I ignored the bad reviews and saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I'm glad I did. It reminded me a lot of Brad's performance in Legends of the Fall. The backward aging process was cool, if a little disturbing at times. Brad Pitt, playing himself in this clip (Round Table Discussions), looks his actual age. He looked about twenty in a few scenes. It's easy for Hollywood to make actors look older for a film, but I'm really curious about how they made him look so much younger.

Now I want to track down F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story that the movie is based on. I'll let you know how they compare.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Danger of Books

Books aren't usually considered dangerous objects (unless they're used as impromptu weapons). But for me, books are dangerous. I get way too wrapped up in a good book. I burn dinner. Dirty laundry piles up. Clean laundry piles up. I temporarily reside in the setting of the book.

I spent about a week in November with Edward Cullen in Forks, Washington. I read the four books of the Twilight series in less than one week. That's 2,560 pages in less than seven days. Now my burnt dinners make sense, huh?

Last week I picked up the new issue of Writer's Digest with Megan McCafferty on the cover. The article intrigued me and I had to go pick up Sloppy Firsts, the first book in her Jessica Darling series. I was hooked. On my next trip to the bookstore, I picked up books 2-4.

As a writer, I have learned something from Stephenie Meyer and Megan McCafferty. The secret to young adult cross over success is creating a compelling, average American girl heroine and a reformed bad boy hero, creating heart-melting dialogue, and only allowing the average girl and the reformed bad boy to appear together on a limited number of pages. It's driving me nuts.

I keep reading to see how these relationships are going to work out. When the average girl or the reformed bad boy does something stupid, I get mad. I don't really think this archetype is fair to young women. It sets them up for expectations that few men will be able to fulfill. That's why books like these are unfair to men and women.

But at least Marcus Flutie is a little more . . . attainable? . . . than Edward Cullen.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Marley and Me the Movie

The book-to-movie films of the last few months have really reinforced my preference for books over movies. I had high hopes for Marley and Me but the movie was kinda shallow. The benefit of books is that the author is able to express a depth of feeling and a wide arrange of emotions that actors can only "show" in so many ways.

If you haven't read the book but want to see the movie, I recommend seeing the movie first. It's kinda funny in certain parts, but the book is hilarious. The movie is kinda sad at the end, but the book is a tearjerker.

Marley makes my Sofia look like a little brown angel. Marley, as portrayed in the book, is probably the worst case scenario for potential lab owners.

The best actor award for this movie has to go to Dr. McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy as John Grogan's reporter friend. McSteamy's character wasn't in the book at all as far I recall, but that addition to the screenplay made the movie edition better.

High points of the Marley movie: cute dogs and McSteamy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Marley and Me en espanol

Hace un rato vi un libro de un labrador travieso. Marley and Me esta escrito por el dueno del "peor perro del mundo" y un escritor estadounidense. John Grogan cuenta su relacion con Marley y como Marley estaba involucrado en cada paso de su matrimonio.

Como duena de Sofia, mi labradora chocolate, entiendo mucho de lo que escribe Grogan. Tambien estoy muy contenta de que mi Sofia no se porta tal mala. Pueda ser super-necia a veces, pero al menos no come el sofa como Marley.

Ya tengo planes de ir a ver la pelicula de Marley. Ojala sea mejor que otros libros que se convierten en peliculas.

Marley and Me

I just finished reading Marley and Me. I started it several weeks ago, but about halfway through I got sidetracked by Twilight. I had meant to read Marley for a while now, but the impending release of the movie provided me with motivation to read the book. I'm really hoping this is a better book to big screen adaptation than Twilight.

As the owner of a chocolate lab, I can identify with a lot of John Grogan's woes. Marley's antics make Sofia's stubborn spells seem like no big deal. So what she ran all over the yard with a dead blue bird in her mouth yesterday while I chased her in the freezing cold wind storm? At least I've never had to "search" for a necklace she swallowed.

I have a feeling movie theaters could really sell some tickets if they let dog owners take man's best friend to see this movie.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Proof Labs are the Smartest Dogs

I love this story. It's great that a story that could have ended in tragedy had a happy ending. The lab going back to save the other dog gave it a nice touch.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sofia's Christmas Album

I am admitedly one of those loonies who thinks dogs are substitute children. I really wanted to make Christmas cards with a picture of my husband and I with Tiger and Sofia. I'm running out of time, so I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the family pic will have to wait till next year. But then tonight I got a brave moment and decided that maybe I could just put a cute pic of Sofia in front of the Christmas tree on the front of a card. I mean, wouldn't a pic of a beautiful chocolate lab be pretty cool?

Then my problem became getting her to sit in front of the Christmas tree. When I said sit, she sat wherever she was. I wish I had reinforced tree in her puppy vocabulary. The treat in my hand was more interesting, but at least she was in the general vicinity.

I think all the hard modeling work made her a little bit sleepy.

It really wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. She only grabbed one ornament, but it had already fallen off the tree. She triedto hide the evidence for the picture.

Bottom line: I think I'll skip a photo Christmas card this year. The glowing eyes look like they belong on a Halloween card instead. But at least I have an "album" of Sofia's first Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ana and the Lamb Soundtrack

I started working on my submission for A Knoxville Christmas 2008 in late September. It took a little work for me to get in the Christmas spirit in the early fall. I turned to my iTunes list to see what Christmas music might inspire me. Here are the songs that did the trick:

Noche de Paz (Silent Night) from Ponle Salsa en Tu Navidad collection
Estare en Mi Casa Esta Navidad by Luis Miguel
Va a Nevar (Let it Snow) by Luis Miguel
Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano
The Little Drummer Boy by Johnny Cash
Oh Come All Ye Faithful by Johnny Cash
Mamacita Donde Esta Santa Claus by El Vez
Navidad by Gipsy Kings
Navidad en Mi Barrio by Victor Manuelle
Cascabel by Yomo Toro

It's a unique mix. I needed something to blend the American and Mexican since I was writing about a bi-cultural Christmas experience.

Now to begin the quest for love songs for Valentine's Day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


En las ultimas semanas he estado empezando mi blog personal. (Me tienen que disculpar porque no puedo usar accentos con este programa.)

Voy a empezar a traducir articulos que he escrito en ingles. Si ves problemas en mi espanol, por favor mandame un correo electronico para que lo puedo cambiar.

Desde junio yo escribo articulos de opinion y un blog para el periodico local, el Knoxville News Sentinel. Mis articulos salen el domingo cada dos meses. Yo escribo en el blog como se me pegue la gana. Mi tema principal es latinos. Yo vivo en un parte de los Estados Unidos que apenas esta sintiendo el crecimiento latino que lo demas del pais ha visto hace anos y decadas.

Tambien escribo cuentos cortos. Por supuesto se tratan de latinos, mexicanos en particular. Ya tengo dos cuentos publicados local. Uno se trata de una nina mojada cruzando la frontera. El otro es de una chava que quiere hacer borrego para su primera Navidad con su esposo americano.

Mi intencion en empezar este blog era explicar cosas a los guerros de mi vida americana-mexicana. (Yo soy gringa, nacida en Tennessee, casada con un chilango.) Hay cosas en mis cuentos que quiero explicar a los americanos que los lean. Mi meta es educar a los americanos a traves de mis cuentos y articulos. Decedi empezar a traducir unas cosas para que los latinos que me visitan aqui puedan aprender algo de la vida en gringolandia y tal vez aprender un poco de ingles.

Y por supuesto escribo aqui de mis perros, Sofia y Tiger.

Bienvenidos a mi blog desde gringolandia.

My First Lamb Taco

I was in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in Sevierville the first time I learned that Mexicans eat lamb. A couple insisted on taking me out to lunch after I had accompanied them to their daughter's appointment with a doctor to translate. Those were the early days of my Spanish acquisition. I was much better at talking to the American doctor than I was the Mexican parents, but they didn't mind.

The hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant specialized in tacos, and not the kind Taco Bell offers. When the waitress told me the options, the only one I recognized was tacos de carne asada. After the waitress left, the couple began explaining the other options.

I understood what carnitas were when they said puerco (pork). After a few minutes, we gave up on tacos al pastor. Pastor automatically translated into preacher and I didn't want to go there.

Next: tacos de barbacoa. It looks like barbeque tacos, but I had a feeling that wasn't right. They decided to explain the animal it comes from. The man said it had four legs. The woman said it had a lot of fur. Then came the next word: perro. A look of terror crossed my face. They expected me to watch them eat dog tacos?

The woman realized the mistake in her choice of words. She assured me that the tacos did not come from a dog. She then resorted to making the sounds the animal makes. Baaaa - Baaaa, not Ruff Ruff. I kept asking questions until I was sure we were talking about a lamb and not a dog.

Our tacos arrived and I was relieved to have ordered the most normal thing on the menu. Then they insisted on ordering me a taco de barbacoa. I gave myself a pep-talk and took a bite of a piece of meat. It wasn't really that different than steak.

I ate the taco. I lived. But it was a slippery slope of sorts. Once you've eaten a lamb taco, what's the big deal about a pastor taco, whatever that is? (But don't worry, I draw the line at tacos de lengua, or tongue tacos.)

The World of Books

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Knoxville Christmas 2008

The Knoxville writing community is releasing its second anthology of the fall. A Knoxville Christmas 2008 is the second Christmas anthology published by Knoxville author/editor Cyn Mobley.

My story "Ana and the Lamb" is the second story I've had published this fall. "Ana and the Lamb" is the story of a young Mexican woman living in East Tennessee who is determined to make her first Christmas with her American husband special. Ana remembers the steamed lamb her family made for Christmas in Mexico City, and she is sure that continuing that tradition will make her Christmas special. Or at least she believes that until she prepares it by herself for the first time.

The anthology is a collection of short stories, poetry, and essays inspired by Christmas time in Knoxville. Authors will be at Carpe Librum on Kingston Pike Sunday, December 6, at 2:00. Books are also available from


The Twilight Obsession and Twilight as Anti-Christian?

W's Regrets

Bush regrets lack of immigration reform

Obama and Latino Vote

Is this why Latinos voted for Obama?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving for the Dogs

I found a new favorite store last weekend. The River Dog Bakery in West Knoxville had the coolest dog-friendly, turkey-shaped cookies. I just couldn't resist a special Thanksgiving treat for my pups. Tiger and Sofia loved them!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tortilla Chips

When I have time, I love to make homemade tortilla chips. Most Mexican restaurants don't serve the same chips that most Mexicans make at home. These are fairly easy to make, if you're brave enough to face the hot oil.

corn tortillas
Canola oil (or other cooking oil)

  1. Cut tortilla in half, then cut each half into thirds. It's usually safe to stack 5-7 of these to cut at a time.
  2. When tortillas are cut, pour Canola oil into pan and fry a few tortillas at a time. Add salt just after you put the tortillas in.
  3. Remove tortillas from oil when they turn a golden brown. Be careful because they all seem to turn at the same time and some can get burnt.
  4. Let chips drain well as they cool.

Serve with guacamole or another homemade salsa.


The kind of quesadilla you get depends on where you're at and who made it. Most gringo-made and Tex-Mex (Taco Bell) quesadillas use flour tortillas and a blend of Kraft's Mexican shredded cheeses.

The quesadillas made in most Mexican homes are a little different. Most Mexicans use corn tortillas and a specific cheese- queso quesadilla. Most grocery stores sell both items.

  • Microwave a stack of tortillas for about 2 minutes or longer to make tortillas easy to fold. Be careful with steaming tortillas.
  • Cut cheese into small pieces and place desired amount on on side of tortilla.
  • Fold tortilla in half over cheese. If the tortilla crumbs along the crease, it needs to be microwaved longer. If the tortilla folds well but doesn't remain closed, use a toothpick to hold it closed while it cooks.
  • The Mexican woman that taught me how to make these fried them in a skillet. I usually bake mine now so they won't be so greasy. If you decide to fry them, use a little oil and do a few at a time. Watch out for cheese that oozes into the oil.
  • To bake them, spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place quesadillas on cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  • Bake quesadillas at 350 degrees until lightly brown and crispy.

You can also add chicken or beef to the quesadillas.

These are great with a salsa, especially guacamole.

Arroz Con Leche- Rice Milk

This is the easiest Mexican dish I've ever made! I like this for breakfast, especially in the wintertime. It looks a little like oatmeal, but tastes much better!

long grain white rice
sweetened condensed milk
whole milk
ground cinnamon

  • Boil 1-2 cups of rice (depending on how many people you plan to serve) in sauce pan. Keep heat medium to low once the rice boils because it will stick easily.
  • When rice is tender, add a can of sweetened condensed milk. Lower the heat.
  • Stir in desired amount of ground cinnamon.
  • Use whole milk to thin the rice to the consistency you desire.

This is fairly easy to take somewhere if you have a crock pot. Keep the pot on its lowest setting and add milk and ground cinnamon as needed so the rice doesn't get too thick.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sweetened Condensed Milk in a Squeeze Bottle

About a year ago I discovered one of the coolest things ever in the Hispanic section of Kroger. Nestle's Hispanic version of sweetened condensed milk, La Lechera, is usually cheaper than its tradional American counterparts. The cool thing is that it now comes in a squeeze bottle. One of the most annoying things about canned sweetened condensed milk, to me at least, is scraping it out of the can and getting it all over the place. And what if you don't need a whole can? It's pretty hard to save it for later.

I love the squeeze bottle version because I don't get it all over me and I can use as much as I need and store the rest in the fridge.

I've seen it at local Kroger and Food City stores. It is also available at

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Snow in Late October

I found this in Tiger's kennel a couple weekends ago. I went outside and saw Tiger laying by the door of his kennel with his head on his new bed I bought him after his "surgery." (Since he was a puppy, Tiger has been OCD about having his towel or bed in his house during the daytime.) I wish I'd had my phone with me to take a picture of the adorable way he was sleeping with only his head and paws on the bed.

This is what I found in his kennel the next time I went outside. Tiger doesn't normally destroy things like this. That's Sofia's job. It's a good thing Tiger is a fur ball because I won't be buying him another bed at Target for quite a while.

The Best Seat in the House

Sofia and Tiger know that a trip inside the house is a rare specialty reserved for extenuating circumstances. Tiger came in some on rainy days in the summer before we bought his kennel. Sofia had been banned from the house until she hurt her hind leg jumping for a ball. Both dogs had their inside toys and towels for those occaisional trips inside. They never sat on furniture (that time I rocked Tiger during a storm doesn't count since he was on my lap), bothered the fish tanks, or messed with things that weren't "theirs."

I think Tiger and Sofia left those rules out of new dog orientation when they met their new cousin Cholo. Cholo must have been an inside dog before he met me. As soon as he gets in the house, which is rare, he heads straight for the couch. He lays down in the middle of the couch and takes up the best space in front of the television.

I found Cholo asleep in a deck chair on his first day with me.

Hypoallergenic Peruvian Hairless Dog for the Obamas?

Peruvian woman is offering a special Peruvian dog to the Obama family.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cholo, My House Guest

I never would've thought I'd have one dog and be crazy about it. Then I got Sofia. Then I got Tiger. And now I'm dog-sitting Cholo, my brother-in-law's newly acquired pit bull. I was terrified of dogs growing up. Just the name "pit bull" is scary in itself. I don't think this dog realizes that he's a pit bull and the reputation that comes with it. He's one of the sweetest dogs I've ever seen. (Somedays he competes with Tiger for that title.) I let him in the house with me last week to watch Grey's Anatomy. He hopped up beside me on the couch and watched Meredith and Dr. McDreamy. I never woulda thought I'd be watching television with a pit bull.

Cholo is named after the song, Lean Like a Cholo, because of this weird limp he's got.

Beware of Puppy's First Toy

I think this first toy gave Sofia a subconscious message about her role as a hunter. She LOVED this duck. It's only fitting that a chocolate lab's first toy be a Remington duck, right? Sofia's parents are both duck hunters down in Southeast Tennessee. So I thought it only fitting to get this for her first toy.

Problem is, those hunter instincts have been going strong from the beginning. At nine months now, she has already engaged with a doe, almost engaged with a neighborhood cat, and tonight she chased a neighbor's baby goat around its yard (she's bigger than the baby goat). Plus she ate her first bite of deer meat last night, so I'm worried about what the rest of the winter holds for my little hunter.

Republican is NOT Synonym for Racist Redneck

Sevier County- A Resident's View

Latino wanted in death of Sevierville teen

At KnoxNews blog;
Preaching to the Choir

White Teens Stab Latino Man

On KnoxNews blog:

Mexican rice

Mexican rice is one of my favorite foods. It goes great with any meal. The drawback is the time it takes to prepare it. I've gotten recipes from several Mexican women and watched two women make it regularly.

Rice Basics:
For every cup of dry rice you use, you will need two cups of water to cook it in. It is very important to measure the rice out in the same thing you will use to measure the water. I use the small tumblers that come in Wedding Oats oatmeal.

package of long grain white rice
chicken bullion cubes
Roma tomatoes (I can tomatoes in the summer to make this a little easier. I have used canned tomato sauce from the store, but it isn't as good as fresh tomatoes.)
frozen mixed vegetables, if desired
Canola oil

Use a cup to measure out the amount of rice you desire. (I always use two cups of rice.) As you measure the rice out, place it in a bowl or medium sized container. Cover the rice with very hot tap water. Let the rice soak while you prepare the salsa.

Into the blender put: 1-2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 onion, 2 cubes of chicken bullion (1 cube per cup of dry rice), and tomatoes. Add a very small amount of water if necessary. Blend well.

Drain water from rice. In deep skillet or pot, pour about a cup of canola oil. Place rice in pot and cook on medium high. Stir well frequently so rice doesn't stick and it browns evenly. When rice is golden, drain excess oil. Pour mixture from blender into pan and add water according to amount of dry rice used. (2 cups dry rice= 4 cups water) You can also add frozen mixed vegetables if desired.

Cook on medium-low unil rice is tender.

Salsa for Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros, or ranch style eggs, are one of the cheapest things on the lunch menu at a Mexican restaurant. They're also pretty easy to make at home. You need eggs (duh), salsa, Mexican rice, and refried beans.

The salsa makes this dish. You might need to play around with it a little to get it just the way you like it. You can find both chiles at local grocery stores, Hispanic stores, and WalMart.

You need:
Roma tomatoes
chile guajillo - This adds a flavor to the salsa.
chile de arbol- This adds spice to the salsa.

In a small sauce pan, add 5-6 guajillo peppers and 2-3 chiles de arbol. It is better to start with fewer chiles de arbol the first time you make it. Add water and boil until chiles are large and soft.

In blender, mix 1-2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 to 1/3 an onion, tomatoes, and chiles. If the sauce is too thick, add a few spoonfuls of the water you boiled the chiles in. Add salt.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Baby Tiger

This is why I welcomed Tiger into my life.

Baby Sofia

This is Sofia at about 7 weeks. The first few nights were kinda rough, but she only cried when she had to take a trip outside. Her house training days were easy. She went through a phase of biting toes and chewing on the table cloth. She soon moved outside.


This is Tiger, the unplanned puppy. After spending a month or so with Sofia, my chocolate lab, my husband called me at work one day and asked if I wanted a little puppy who, along with his litter mates, had been abandoned in a co-worker's neighborhood. Some days I think he might be part beagle, but I'm pretty sure he's got some German shepherd in there somewhere. I'm positive that Tiger is the sweetest dog ever.


Sofia is my chocolate lab. I brought her home from the breeder on my lap when she was 6 weeks old. She thinks she's a little person. She's now almost 9 months old. I think she's the smartest dog ever. Well, she might be the 2nd smartest dog ever behind my dad's black lab, Mr. T.


This is one of the easiest salsas to make! It is especially good in the summertime with tortilla chips or shrimp.

2 Haas avocados (these are the regular, small black ones)
1/4 small onion
1 garlic clove (optional)
4-5 medium sized tomatillos

Remove the tomatillos from the husk and wash well. Food will have a bitter taste if sticky film isn't removed. Place 1 and 1/2 avocados in blender with other ingredients. This can be tough on some blenders, so add a tiny bit of water if necessary. Pour into bowl. Cut remaining half of avocado into tiny pieces and stir into bowl.

Comida Mexicana: Some Basics

A few years ago one of my Mexican friends gave me cooking lessons once a week. We practiced the staples, rice and tortillas, each week and she taught me a new main dish. The recipes I'll share here are more authentic than the food served in Mexican restaurants. Mexican recipes can also vary depending on what part of Mexico the cook is from.

Some common ingredients in Mexican food many seem strange or confusing to Americans. How manyt different types of chiles or quesos (cheeses) can you name? There are probably a few more than you would think. For most recipes, the chiles needed are not interchangable.

There is also a big difference between tomatoes and tomatillos. Tomatillos are from the berry family and have a papery, husk-like covering. Most grocery stores stock these in the same area as tomatoes. These are used in green salsas and guacamole. To prepare them, you peel away the husk and wash them well in warm water to get rid of the sticky residue. (The sticky residue will give the food a bitter taste.)

Knoxville News Sentinel Blog and Articles

Here are links to some of my articles and blog at KNS where I write primarily on Latino topics.

Links to articles that have appeared in the Knoxville New Sentinel:
June 2008 The American Dream: the Latino Version
August 2008 The Importance of Foreign Languages
October 2008 Latinos and Southerners: More in Common that You Might Think

Crossing the Line

My short story "Crossing the Line: Texas" appears in the Knoxville Writer's Guild's latest anthology Outscape: Writings on Fences and Frontiers. "Crossing the Line: Texas" was inspired by a five year old girl from Hidalgo, Mexico, that I met several years ago. There are so many children who have experienced things I can't even imagine. I hope that by writing this story I will give a voice, albeit fictional, to the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country who have no voice.