Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dad…making his presence known on his 93rd birthday…

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Photo I took of my dad when we lived in Illinois – photo is circa 1970s

Today would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday.  Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico on October 25, 1922.  He died on June 1, 2001.  I remember it was a Friday.  He was 78 years old.

This time a year, I like to take a Virgen de Guadalupe candle to the memorial garden where his ashes are interned and replace the one from the previous year.  I just returned from a trip to visit my sister Kanista in North Carolina last night, so I haven’t had a chance to buy one and go by the gardens in Alabaster.  I hope to do this over the weekend.

Meanwhile…dad has been making his presence known today!  Kanista and I were talking about things like this yesterday.  You know…dreams, things that happen that appear to be a coincidence…being open to these types of happenings or just being observant can show you so much and also be comforting in many ways.  Kanista and I spent five days together and we had so many instances happen to us that we were recalling them all and laughing about them on our way to the airport yesterday.   At the same time, we were marveling and delighting in how great it made us feel and the fact that we were experiencing these happenings together!

So the marvel continues today as I was heading home after work.  I was thinking about dad and also of the traditional Mexican birthday song called “Las Mañanitas.”  I decided to look up the lyrics to make sure I had them right.  It’s been awhile since I had sung it, after all!  Then I got the urge to hear the song along with some mariachi music, so I pulled up a YouTube video of Vicente Fernandez singing it.  Vincente is a Mexican ranchera singer and for further coincidence…he was born on February 17th which is also MY birth date!  Anyway, the song was sung to a series of photos put together in a slideshow.  The first slide that popped up was this one…

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This slide appeared at the beginning of a YouTube video for the Mexican birthday song – Las Mañanitas. Praxedis is my father’s name – coincidentally?!!!

Remember, my dad’s name is Praxedis!  I sat in disbelief at first, but then I started to smile.  “Ok, dad!  Happy birthday!” – I said out loud.  Then I decided to sing along to the video to serenade my father.  Next, I decided to run by my favorite thrift store and browse through quickly.  As I hurriedly ran through the rack with all the coats, I spotted a green shirt hanging among the coats that was clearly out-of-place.  Or, was it there to get my attention?  It had the Notre Dame initials on the front – very small letters – and it was a man’s shirt in the women’s section.  Notre Dame was my dad’s favorite school and football team.  Now, we live in the state of Alabama where you are either “for” Alabama or Auburn.  To mention Notre Dame here is taking your life into your hands!!!  And finding a shirt with these initials…what were the odds?  Dad was a Notre Dame fan his whole life.  I still have his ND sweatshirt and blanket…

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Notre Dame shirt at the thrift store. Notre Dame was my dad’s favorite team!

Of course, now I was laughing!  “I hear you, dad!  Happy birthday and I’ll raise a glass of wine for you tonight when I get home…because I don’t like Schlitz beer!”  Schlitz was his choice of beer, by the way.

Happy birthday, dad!  I feel certain the entire Zuniga clan is celebrating you today in heaven!

Con mucho cariño….Teresa

The Official State Cookie of New Mexico!

Biscochitos - fresh out of the oven and on my dining room table!

Biscochitos – fresh out of the oven and on my dining room table!

Biscochitos!!!  Say this word to any Mexican and they will immediately begin to drool!  I kid you not!

These cookies are some of the best you will ever taste.  They are SO good that the New Mexico legislature named them the official state cookie in 1989!  Of course, the cookies go further back when the Spanish brought the recipe over from Spain to Mexico many moons ago…

My New Mexico Zuniga family makes the best biscochitos ever.  No lie…I always look forward to having a few at our family reunions…that is, if I can get to them in time!  They are in high demand and you really have to grab one when you can or they are gone in a flash!  Both my cousins Nelinda (aka Danda) and Hortencia (aka Wiro) each have their own unique recipes of this delicious cookie.

I’ve been doing a little research into the ingredients and decided to give this one a try for my annual cookie swap party.  I always make Mexican Wedding Cake cookies and one other in case a friend comes to the party and doesn’t have time to make cookies.  This year I decided on biscochitos as my “one other.”

Ingredients for my biscochitos...except for the cloves...I decided not to use those...

Ingredients for my biscochitos…except for the cloves…I decided not to use those…

One of the main ingredients in the recipe is lard.  Yep, LARD!  As my cousin Danda always says…when people see that the recipe takes one pound of lard, they get a little scared of these cookies!  I’ve seen a number of variations to this cookie but substituting lard for anything else is a no-no.  One of my cousins uses cloves in her recipe but I opted not to use this in mine.  One uses brandy in hers while my other cousin does not.  It’s interesting how a recipe can vary.  I decided on using the brandy and I can tell you…wow!!!  What a great flavor!

So let’s get started…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift the 6 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a bowl, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together 2 cups of lard and 1 1/2 cups sugar until smooth. Mix in 1 teaspoon of anise extract (I over poured a bit), and beat until fluffy. Stir in 2 eggs, one at a time. Add the sifted ingredients and 1/4 cup of brandy, and stir until well blended.
  3. Roll dough into balls.
  4. Mix together the 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon; roll the balls in the mixture.
  5. Place cookies onto baking sheets and gently press down on the mixture so they aren’t perfectly round.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

Que bueno!!!  Here are a few photos of the prep work in a slideshow!

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The Fabulous Zuniga Men

Photos of my dad (center) and his two brothers - Lorenzo and Felix - from my Day of the Dead altar.

Photos of my dad (center) and his two brothers – Lorenzo and Felix – from my Day of the Dead altar.

Today is Veterans Day.

It’s a work holiday for my office.  I decided to stay at home today and take down my Day of the Dead altars.   While I was dismantling and gathering all the photos, I put aside the ones of my dad and his brothers in their military uniforms.

The Zuniga Brothers…Praxedis, Lorenzo and Felix….

All the Zuniga men were Veterans.  All so handsome.  All so ready to serve in some capacity.  Today I reflected on these photos and those that my extended Zuniga family posted on social media.  Today I took some time to reflect upon their sacrifice for our freedom.

Thank you dad, Uncle Lencho and Uncle Felix…so proud of you all.

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My dad…Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga

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Uncle Lorenzo Zuniga

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Uncle Felix Zuniga

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Uncle Lencho and my dad – Praxedis Zuniga

 

Christmas Music in November?

My large collection of Christmas music at home...I like adding a few new cds each year!

My large collection of Christmas music at home…I like adding a few new cds each year!

Every year in early November, the Christmas music begins on a local radio station.  Now, I love Christmas music, but listening to it in November…that’s a bit too early for me.  I mean, hello?  Remember Thanksgiving??!!!

It does prompt me to begin researching new Christmas albums about to be released for the year.  I have a rather large collection of Christmas cds and I really enjoy adding to it every year.  Of course, some years are better than others.  If I buy a new cd or two, they go directly into my car so I can listen on my way to work and back the month of December.

This past weekend I was at Michaels and stumbled upon some Christmas cds in the midst of all the crafting items and Christmas decorations.  (Honestly, trying to find Thanksgiving decor was difficult…)  My sister, Kanista and I had been talking about the group Pentatonix a few months ago.  She had just discovered them and went absolutely head over heels for their music.  They released their last Christmas cd – That’s Christmas to Me – in 2014 and somehow I missed getting it last year.  I spotted it in the array of Christmas cds at Michaels and so I bought one cd for Kanista and one for myself.  On my way home, I broke my own rule about “no Christmas music before Thanksgiving” to give the cd a listen…it is FABULOUS!!!

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I also bought another new cd – a group called Straight No Chaser.  I don’t event remember how I discovered this group several years ago.  Their cd – Under the Influence – was released in 2013.  I remember thinking I would pick it up two years ago and then never did.  I can’ wait to give this one a listen in December!  (Yes!  I’m waiting to open this one up!)

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Each year the week of Thanksgiving, I go through and select a few older cds that I’ll listen to in December.  There are always a handful that make the cut every year – no matter what!  There’s The Andy Williams Christmas Album for one.  This one brings me back to when we were living in Puerto Rico and my mother would play the vinyl album on our Magnavox combo tv/record player/radio unit.  There are certain songs that make it Christmas for me and one of those is hearing Andy sing “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  I also sang  this song with my show choir group in high school so I’m always singing along in the choral version.  I just love it…so many great memories with that song!

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Christmas with Dino was a recent purchase but again, these song by Dean Martin are oldies but goodies!  I have always LOVED Dean Martin – he reminded me of my dad in a lot of ways…at least the person I saw on TV when I was growing up.  Dino makes the cut every year.  I’ve grown tired of the many renditions of the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” but not when Dean Martin sings it!  Makes me wish I had been around during the Rat Pack Days!

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The Carpenters Christmas Collection – what more can I say.  I am always blown away by Richard Carpenter’s musical arrangements.  Karen Carpenter’s voice is a given – it’s timeless to me.  I mean, didn’t we ALL want to BE Karen Carpenter when we were growing up?  That voice!  Merry Christmas Darling” always gives me goosebumps.  Incredible to think that the lyrics to this song were written in 1946 by Richard and Karen’s choir director and twenty years later – when Richard was his student – the director gave the lyrics to Richard and he composed  the melody!  There is one other song on this two cd set that isn’t well-known – Little Altar Boy – that is simply gorgeous.  If you haven’t heard it I strongly encourage you to give it a listen.

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Ottmar Liebert is a German guitarist, songwriter and producer and is best known for his Spanish influenced music.  You would find him in the new age/jazz section if you were looking for a cd.  I was first introduced to him in 2001 by my cousin Nelinda when my sister and I were visiting her in New Mexico.  She had one of his cds playing in the background as we enjoyed a meal and chatted.  Perfect “set the scene” type music and Ottmar quickly became a favorite of mine.  His cd called “Christmas Santa Fe” is one that I used to always play on Christmas Eve when my family was larger and we would gather at my house to enjoy my mother’s enchiladas, rice and beans, salsa and margaritas!

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Last but certainly not least…I found a compilation cd set called La Parranda by Fania records.  The album describes itself as representing “the essence of Latin American music.”  Fania was a New York based record label that became known for promoting salsa music.  It features music by Hector Levoe , a well-known Puerto Rican salsa singer, and Willie Colon, a salsa musician.  This music always takes me back to Christmases in Puerto Rico.  I have always liked this cd title because Parrandas are a Puerto Rican tradition where a group of friends or family members, go unannounced over to a neighbor’s house very late at night to sing traditional Puerto Rican Christmas carols. The songs are called “aguinaldos” or gifts. I remember doing this as a child and bringing maracas and  “guiros” to accompany the songs.  A guiro is a Latin percussion instrument made of a hollowed out gourd that has parallel notches cut in the side.  It is played by rubbing a stick or tines along the notches to produce the sound.  I remember everyone would argue over who got to play the guiro.  It was always the coveted instrument!  Great memories but doesn’t music do that to us?  It takes us back in time and lets us relive our precious memories…

Meanwhile…I’m getting these cds ready to load in my car so I can enjoy the sounds of the holidays, my way…  What Christmas music makes your holiday special?  Let me know!

 

Salsa Señorita, the Tamale Task Force and the HICA Tapes.

Carlos Aleman, Lori Sours, Clementine Tufts and myself at the HICA tamale sale video filming this month.

Carlos Aleman, Lori Sours, Clementine Tufts and myself at the HICA tamale sale video filming this month.

Sounds like Hispanic intrigue, doesn’t it? But it’s really a new way for the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama – better known as HICA – to get the word out about their annual tamale sale!

Some of the many varieties of Salsa Señorita Salsa!

Some of the many varieties of Salsa Señorita Salsa!

Since our tamale sale took a little “siesta” last year we decided to create a Tamale Task Force of staff and board members to really amp things up this year!  I love it when creativity starts to flow and everyone throws out any and ALL ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem.  We narrowed down our list and decided to make a few YouTube videos.  We invited Lori Sours, co-creator of Salsa Señorita, to join us and make and share some of her tasty recipes using her delicious salsa.  Two years ago, Lori was gracious enough to partner with us on our 2013 tamale sale.  During tamale pick up day, we used to get questions like “do you have any salsa for sale to go with the tamales?”  – and so that year we had salsa on site for sale thanks to Lori!

UAB Film Making Graduate - Jessica Chriesman - works the angles during the tamale sale videos. This one features Lori Sours, co-creator of Salsa Senorita and Ernesto Martinez of Hacienda Grill.

UAB Film Making Graduate – Jessica Chriesman – works the angles during the tamale sale videos. This one features Lori Sours, co-creator of Salsa Senorita and Ernesto Martinez of Hacienda Grill.

We worked with UAB Film-making graduate, Jessica Chriesman, to create the videos and had a blast in the process.  Lori came ready with recipes for four segments.  Who knew you could make so many delicious dishes with salsa?  The first was a beer cocktail also called a michelada.  Seriously, there was salsa in that beer drink!  Lori also made a salsa slaw, guacamole with salsa and finally a salsa cheese dip!  Ernesto Martinez of Hacienda Mexican Grill did the michelada segment – lucky guy!  I got the slaw segment and not only did Lori add salsa to the slaw…she also added honey!  OMGEEE!  It was SO DELISH!  Never would have thought of that combination in a million years!

Carlos Aleman studies his lines as Lori Sours sets up for their guacamole segment of the HICA tamale sale videos.

Carlos Aleman studies his lines as Lori Sours sets up for their guacamole segment of the HICA tamale sale videos.

Carlos Aleman, History Professor at Samford University, got the guacamole segment.  I was a little jealous because I absolutely LOVE guacamole.  There was plenty though and we all dug into guac with chips between segments.  Maricela Garcia rounded things out with the cheese dip segment.  Before each segment began, we would run though lines and during Carlos’ and Lori’s segment, they got tickled about something and kept breaking out into laugher!  You know how it is…no matter how hard you try, you just keep breaking out into laughter?  That went on for a little while until we were all laughing.  I think we may have a great “out-takes’ video in the making!  Jessica was definitely patient with us all as we goofed up, goofed around and well…acted goofy!  (Thanks Jessica!)

Of course in addition to promoting Salsa Señorita and the recipes, we also had tamales on hand with information on how to order beginning Thanksgiving through December 11th.  We had pork, chicken and my favorite – cheese and pepper tamales in these videos.  I had not eaten much that day so I devoured whatever I could!

Photo opp with Lori after our salsa slaw segment.

Photo opp with Lori after our salsa slaw segment.

Spending the afternoon with Lori was the best.  She is so down to earth and really loves what she does.  A native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, she and her brother, Mark Coffman, created a salsa company based on their mother’s recipe.  They use all natural ingredients and as she describes – “it’s vegetables in a jar with a kick!”  Growing up she said her family put salsa on everything.  I told her I could relate with my own New Mexican family!  We got into an animated conversation about Hatch chile peppers and she told me she keeps a freezer full at her house.  I showed her a picture of my cousin Nino, in Alaska, getting ready to roast a huge batch of peppers and she said she could relate!

The videos will be ready soon.  I’ll provide the links so you can get a sense of the fun we had filming that day as well as the great salsa recipes.  And remember, if you are in the Birmingham area and want some great tamales, you can buy them through HICA’s website beginning Thanksgiving day through December 11th!  And guess what…we’ll be selling Salsa Senorita too!  Be sure to buy a jar or two on pick up day.  A portion of the proceeds will go to HICA!

Muchas gracias, Salsa Señorita!  And HUGE shout out to HICA staff members, Clementine Tufts and Holly Hilton for handling all the arrangements and logistics of the day!

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Gathering of the Clans

Zuniga family reunion 2003 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Zuniga family reunion 2003 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The 2003 Zuniga Family Reunion in Albuquerque, New Mexico was so wonderful!  We had a huge turnout that year and I loved spending time with everyone and hearing their stories.  Looking back at the photos of that reunion makes me both happy and sad…we’ve lost a few family members since them.  That’s why these reunions are so important and we make every effort to attend every two years.  We alternate these gatherings between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Denver, Colorado.  Next year we will be in Albuquerque and we’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Zuniga Reunions.  It’s sure to be special…

When we left the 2003 reunion, we had a little time to spend in the Albuquerque airport before our flight.  My kids wanted to pick up souvenirs so we wandered into a few stores and they found a few little trinkets to bring back home.  There was a gift shop that had a lot of Hispanic art and Day of the Dead items for sale that got “my” attention though.  As I made my way through the store something else drew my attention too.  There were these pins on the counter near the cashier.  Petroglyphs.  Ancient folkart…they were beautiful.  Each one was on a card and had a saying.  I stared at them for the longest time and then selected the one that kept drawing my eye.

It was called “Gathering of the Clans.”  I turned it over and began reading…

My people came this way.  They welcomed those who joined their journey.  We tell their stories:  The stories of the gathering of the clans. 

 

Petroglyph Pin - Gathering of the Clans by Alice Seeley, New Mexico Artist

Petroglyph Pin – Gathering of the Clans by Alice Seeley, New Mexico Artist

I remember thinking…wow!  Here we were at a family reunion and this was the pin that I picked up.  It was almost as if it had selected me!  I bought this pin…and a few others that day.  Each of their sayings hit close to home .  Each spoke of family, ancestors and stories.   I wore this cluster of pins for quite a while on a favorite jean jacket.  They were always a topic of conversation and it always took me back to that particular family reunion.

NOTE:  These pins were created by New Mexican artist, Alice Seeley.  She is a painter turned jeweler and she creates these designs in lead-free pewter.  All jewelry is marked with her name and the year.

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