Blogging Like Crazy Didn’t Make Me Crazy!

img_3991Today ends 30 days of blogging every day.  Yep!  You read that right!  I blogged EVERY. SINGLE DAY this month!  And…I lived to write about it!

The incredible Javacia Harris Bowser, founder of the See Jane Write networking group challenged the women of the group to #bloglikecrazy for the month of November.  I did this last year and it was a fantastic experience.  I wondered then if I could find enough topics to write about for 30 solids days and I did!  And like anything you do, with practice you get better and ideas come a little easier.

This year the only snag I hit was a pesky sinus infection the week before Thanksgiving which is still hanging on today.  So even though I had some bigger ideas for topics to write about, I didn’t feel good physically and I think it clouded my ability to write on some days.  I chose easier topics to write about and figured I would reserve others for a time when I was thinking more clearly and not as exhausted from fighting the congestion.

I ran into my friend Audrey Atkins yesterday who blogs at Folkwaysnowadays.com and we talked about the bloglikecrazy challenge.  She did the challenge too and we were both excited that we were one day away from finishing!  Check that goal off our list!  Oh, and you really need to check out her blog and her series for this challenge on favorite idioms.  It’s terrific and hysterical!  I learned a LOT about idioms this past month thanks to Audrey!

Back to our meet-up – we discussed how important it is to really plan things out and write ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling at 8 p.m. at night to get a post completed.  I admit, that was me on several nights during this challenge!  But through this process, I’ve thought about other topics I want to explore and write about.  I’ve also been surprised by what people are actually reading vs. what I sometimes “think” will spark interest.  It pays to look at your analytics and see what is catching your readers’ eye!  I’ll be doing more of that as I move forward.

Javacia started See Jane Write to empower women to write and live a life worth writing about.  Thanks so much, Javacia!  It’s a wonderful goal to aspire to and I think by accepting this challenge…I’m on my way!

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Making Tamales on TV!

HICA Tamales!!!

HICA Tamales!!!

Well, today was fun!  I got to make tamales on television and help promote the HICA Annual Christmas Tamale Sale! 

I’ve done TV appearances before to promote the sale but this is the first time I’ve “made” them on TV.  Let me explain why I used quotes around “made.”  Usually, we bring a few tamales to the TV station, along with some Mexican décor.  We set everything up on a table and talk to the host/anchor about HICA’s programs, explain a little about tamales and end with how to buy them.  Today we took a different approach.

Monica Black, HICA’s Communications and Development Associate, arrived at the station equipped with everything we would need to make a tamale on camera.  She along with HICA staff member, Cindy Garcia, brought tamale fillings, masa (tamale dough) already made, corn husks (some already softened), ingredients to make both the red and green sauce for the filling and beautiful talavera plates for display.  Oh!  and they also brought a dozen of each flavor of tamale we are selling along with the tamale pots!  They are so awesome!

Me and Carlos Aleman - getting ready for our 3 segments on ABC 33/40 Talk of Alabama!

Me and Carlos Aleman – getting ready for our 3 segments on ABC 33/40 Talk of Alabama! Photo credit: Cindy Garcia

We made full use of the new studio kitchen at ABC 33/40 today.  Naturally, we couldn’t show the entire process in real-time – we would have been there all day, which we explained.  We were able to show the steps involved and demonstrate how to make an actual tamale from spreading the masa on a corn husk and adding our choice of filling – in this case either pork with red sauce or chicken with green sauce.  Next I showed how to fold the tamale and explained how to place the finished product into a tamale pot – a tamalera – and how to cook them.

Through all this, my fellow board member, Carlos Aleman and I talked up HICA and how this tamale fundraiser helps support the wonderful programs of the organization.  We have been doing this tamale sale since 2003 and sold over 70,000 tamales!  That’s a BUNCH of tamales!!!  This year our goal is to sell 10,000 and hopefully we will meet that goal.  We shall see!!!

Anyway, it was a different TV experience since the first segment was about 4-1/2 minutes long followed by another 2-3 minute segment halfway through the one hour show.  The last segment was at the very end of the show when our wonderful co-hosts sampled their choice of tamales and we did a quick wrap up on how to buy tamales on our website.

Thanks to the folks at Talk of Alabama on ABC 33/40 for such a wonderful experience today.  Y’all were so wonderful to work with, in particular our co-host for the segment, Javante Ingram!  Java has her own special tamale story which she shared with us on air.  And that’s why we love this tamale sale so much…it brings out the stories in people and how important tamales have become in their celebrations and special memories.  Food does that!

A photo from the ABC 33/40 Talk of Alabama website showing the first of 3 videos from the show today.

A photo from the ABC 33/40 Talk of Alabama website showing the first of 3 videos from the show today.

Don’t forget to buy some tamales if you are in the Birmingham area!!!

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Who Has Seen the Wind?

The Better Homes and Gardens Storybook that me and my sisters had as children living in Puerto Rico.

The Better Homes and Gardens Storybook that me and my sisters had as children living in Puerto Rico.

Today was a blustery day…it had me thinking about Winnie the Pooh and the blustery day movie that I used to watch with my kids when they were little.  I told a friend the gray sky and wind made me think of living in Chicago and the way the sky would look right before it would snow.  Of course, that’s not about to happen here right now!  It’s 69 degrees outside and we are in a drought – rain would be a welcomed sight tonight!

The wind also had me thinking about a poem I learned when I was around 8 years old and living in Puerto Rico.  My mother bought me and my sisters a Better Homes and Garden Story Book.  I always loved that book because of all the stories and poems that filled it.  I remember writing my name along with the names of my sisters in the “this book belongs to” section in the front.

I wrote our names in the book - me and my sisters - in case there was any mistake about who the book belonged to!

I wrote our names in the book – me and my sisters – in case there was any mistake about who the book belonged to!

When I was visiting my sister in North Carolina recently, I spotted the book in her bookcase and it brought so many memories back to me!  I was so happy that she had the book and as I thumbed through it a rush of memories came back to me.  In particular, I found the poem “Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina G. Rossetti.  As I read the poem I told my sister that there was a melody that went along with it and I started to sing it to her.  She had no idea about the melody…

The poem in the book - a short little poem that apparently had quite an impact on me as a child.

The poem in the book – a short little poem that apparently had quite an impact on me as a child.

I’m not quite sure where I heard the melody to the poem.  It may have been one of the children’s records we had and played over and over in our bedroom.  I tried to find it online and but never could find the exact melody that I know and sang to my sister that nigt.  But today, I was humming that tune as I drove downtown at lunchtime.  And tonight we are finally getting that much-needed rain along with the wind…

Who has seen the wind?  Neither I nor you;

But when the leaves hang trembling, the Wind is passing thro’. 

Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I; 

But when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.

Deck the Halls!

Zuniga-Odom Christmas Tree 2016

Zuniga-Odom Christmas Tree 2016

It’s officially Christmas at our house!  While everyone else was shopping on Black Friday, I was at home getting all our Christmas decorations out and up around the house.  It doesn’t take as long as it used to since I organized my decorations by room and labeled everything.  It took a little time one year after Christmas but it was so worth it!

On Friday, my husband did his part and put our pre-lit tree together. Later that day I added some large white star lights to it and got it ready for the family to decorate it together today.  We’ve had a full house this weekend and it has been so nice.

Our 2016 Hallmark ornaments to add to our growing collection.

Our 2016 Hallmark ornaments to add to our growing collection.

So after a late lunch of left-over taco soup, I put on some Christmas music and we got started.  As I mentioned in my Hallmark Obsession post a few days ago, I add to my Hallmark ornament collection every year.  I always put the new ornaments out on the dining room table for the kids to see and then they race to add their favorite to the tree.  Then the singing and the storytelling begins as everyone sifts through the two large storage containers full of Hallmark ornaments dating back to 1973.  At some point someone – usually my husband – remarks that the tree is getting full and there is no more room.  I am always determined to prove him wrong and keep adding in little nooks and crannies.  I’ll also rearrange a section to add a larger ornament to a limb where a smaller one is taking up too much space.  My kids swear I rearrange most of the tree when they are gone but that’s not true.  Instead, I walk around the tree to see which ornaments they have selected to adorn the tree that particular year.  We have so many that I love to see what strikes them as special.  My son-in-law, Ryan, is a real trooper and hangs in there with me to keep adding ornaments when the others have given up!  This year he broke one of the ornaments – which is really not a big deal – and I said “that’s why we have super glue!”  He said “now I really feel like part of the family!”  Usually, my husband, Eddie is the one who breaks something!  Everyone had a good laugh about that…

Our ginormous collection of Hallmark ornaments in these two huge storage containers.  I used to put them back into their individual boxes for many years but it got too tedious so I just keep the boxes in the attic now.

Our ginormous collection of Hallmark ornaments in these two huge storage containers. I used to put them back into their individual boxes for many years but it got too tedious so I just keep the boxes in the attic now.

After the tree is complete, I unveil the family ornament.  Each year since 1989, when my son was born, I have bought a handmade ornament with our names and the year on it.  I never really thought about what a tradition this was until I had collected about 10 years worth.  When we got Lucy, our pup, I added her to the ornament.  Now we have added my son-in-law, Ryan and their pup, Lucia.  So my challenge has been to find an ornament with space for 8 people on it.  I like to select it myself and make it a surprise for everyone each year.  I’m so glad I accidentally fell into this family tradition and love looking at the different designs from over the years.

The 2016 Odom family ornament!

The 2016 Odom family ornament!

Finally, we take family photos in front of the completed tree.  I can always count on this being one time of the year when we are all together and can get these photos so I really do cherish them.  Kind of like first day of school photos…I always knew I would get those too!

Admiring our tree this year...

Admiring our tree this year…

Soon after the photos were taken, all the kids scattered and went to their respective homes.  The house is quiet again.  I stopped briefly to enjoy a glass of wine and watch the tree against a background of Christmas music.

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Iron Bowl Saturday at the Odom House

Easy peasy taco soup ready for the Iron Bowl today!

Easy peasy taco soup ready for the Iron Bowl today!

Today was Iron Bowl Saturday and this is the first time in a long time that we’ve had a watch party!  All the kids were home today and I honestly can’t remember this happening.  Typically a few are AT the game or not in town.  I know my husband was really excited about watching the Alabama/Auburn game with his children.

This called for Taco Soup and of course, he was up bright and early to put a crock pop of this delicious soup on to slow cook.  Kickoff was at 2:30 so the soup would be nice and hot by then!  Along with that, he made cheese dip with rotel – one with ground beef and the other plain (for me)!  My daughter, Anna Marie made her now famous swiss and bacon dip and also a cookie dough dip.  Oh the dips!!!  So much for the diet!!!

At any rate, our family room was full of family – human and the furry kind – and the game was watched to the conclusion we all had hoped for – Alabama won!  YAY ALABAMA!

Game day jerseys on!

Game day jerseys on!

Here are a few photos of our Iron Bowl Saturday – Roll Tide!

If you want to see the recipe for this delish Taco Soup, check my post from last November!

My Hallmark Obsession

My collection of Hallmark Mary's Angels ornaments.

My collection of Hallmark Mary’s Angels ornaments.

I blame my mother…  She worked at a Hallmark shop when I was in high school in the 70s and got our family started on Hallmark ornaments.  I still have the original yarn ornaments that used to hang on our tree!  Years later, mom managed Hallmark stores and so access to these cute and sometimes whimsical ornaments grew.  The ornaments started to change too.  Aside from Snoopy and others, they became more elaborate and even expanded to current movie characters.  The number of ornaments offered each year also grew.  In fact, July became the month when Hallmark would unveil their Ornament Book and put up displays in their stores!

I’ve been collecting Hallmark ornaments for over 40 years now.  Our family tree is nothing but Hallmark and each year when we gather together to decorate the fun begins.  My kids will recall an ornament and a story behind that particular one.  They laugh and tease each other remembering something about when we bought that one or how special it was or silly.  The stories are endless and I love hearing them!  We joke about my husband and how he always manages to drop one or break one – thank goodness for super glue!  We have so many ornaments in our collection now that I would need two more trees to accommodate them all!  When my kids and my husband think we are finished, I’m keep adding more to the tree.  They give up, but I’m determined to pack it as full as I can!

The Mary's Angel tree that I have in my dining room every Christmas.  I think I'm going to need a bigger tree next year!

The Mary’s Angel tree that I have in my dining room every Christmas. I think I’m going to need a bigger tree next year!

I have several favorites on the tree each year, but probably my all time favorite series is Mary Hamilton’s – Mary’s Angels.  A few years back I decided to put these angel ornaments on a separate tree in my dining room.  They are small and delicate looking angel children and they are adorable.  This year is the 29th year for the Mary’s Angel series.  The angels are all named for flowers and their outfits are based on the floral color.  This year’s angel is called Zinnia and her design pays homage to vintage china dolls.  Robert Chad is the Hallmark artist responsible for bringing all of Mary’s Angels to life.  They are incredible works of art in my opinion and I love that they have a special place in my dining room each year.

Zinnia - 29th in the Mary's Angels series...

Zinnia – 29th in the Mary’s Angels series…

I think I have almost all 29 of the angels in the series.  Last year they issued a special “Magic” ornament.  These are the ones that have sound and/or light.  In this case, there are two angels holding lanterns that light up and the song that plays is “This Little Light of Mine.”

My home is all decorated for Christmas as I write this.  The only thing left to do is to gather the family on Sunday and add the Hallmark ornaments to the tree and share stories.  I am looking forward to that…

 

HICA’s Annual Tamale Sale is BACK!

HICA Tamales go on sale Thanksgiving Day!

HICA Tamales go on sale Thanksgiving Day!

I know it’s Thanksgiving Day and you are all probably up to your eyeballs in turkey and dressing…BUT…give some thought to Mexican food too because today is the beginning of the 13th Annual HICA Tamale Sale!!!!!

If you live in the Birmingham area and love tamales, you don’t want to miss out on this fundraiser benefiting the programs of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama  – HICA.  The sale runs through December 11th and orders are taken online with pick up date on December 16th at the HICA offices.  If you work with a Tamale Captain, you may be able to get them delivered to you.  All this information is on the HICA website so be sure to check it out today and place your order.  Flavors include chicken with green sauce, pork with red sauce and MY favorite, cheese and pepper tamales.

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Tamales have become a tradition for many non-Hispanic people in Birmingham over the years of our sale.  It’s definitely a tradition with Mexican families, mine included!  Friends and family get together to have a tamalada (where you make the tamales) and then after they are all made – dozens and dozens – you eat them together!  Tamales are fairly labor intensive to make so they aren’t necessarily made on a regular basis.  Christmas is one of those special times when they are made and we’ve shared this information with the people who return every year to buy tamales from HICA.  They come back and share their stories of eating Christmas tamales with their own families along with salsa and other fixings!  It’s so fun to hear the stories every year during pick up day.  We may try to record a few this year!

Me and Isabel Rubio after filming our tamale sale video this year in he kitchen.

Me and Isabel Rubio after filming our tamale sale video this year in he kitchen.

This year, HICA’s Executive Director, Isabel Rubio and I made an English video that will run beginning Thanksgiving day.  HICA Staff members, Monica Black and Cindy Garcia were on hand to make a Spanish video to run as well.  We gathered in Isabel’s kitchen to made the videos a few weeks ago with Latino News.  And the best part?  We got to eat the tamales afterward!  YUM!!!

Cindy Garcia, Isabel Rubio, me and Monica Black after the tamale videos wrapped up - thanks to Latino News for filming!

Cindy Garcia, Isabel Rubio, me and Monica Black after the tamale videos wrapped up – thanks to Latino News for filming!

Being a part of the HICA Tamale Sale is one of my favorite things to do each year as a board member!  If you’ve never tried our tamales before, I encourage you to give them a try this year.  They are simply the best and hopefully this will be the beginning of a new holiday tradition for you and your family!