Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Little Ballerina

Recently I came across some childhood books of mine. I remember them so well.

This was one of my favorites.

The inside cover is my favorite drawing.

It's the story of little Carol whose legs were weak and she couldn't play with the other children.

(Pardon the rotated photo. Don't know why it does this now and then.)
Carol went to the doctor and he suggested ballet lessons to strengthen her legs.

"Ballet! Oh, Mother, may I?" Carol was thrilled.

Her lessons began. Her legs grew strong, and wouldn't you know it, she was chosen to be the star of the ballet. She got to dance around and awaken the sleeping flower dancers.

And dance with the boy.

Her parents were proud. She was their Little Ballerina!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Time For More Snow Photos!

These were taken back in December after one of our weekly snowstorms. By the time Christmas came, we'd already received our average yearly snowfall. Even a little more. About 40".

Our driveway road.  (I'm thankful for 4-Wheel Drive.)

The whole landscape seemed to be under a heavy shroud of grey snow clouds
while all the trees below were freshly flocked from the overnight snow.

The snowplow had been by but still the road was icy white. The cabin on the right is one of my favorites.

Though this snowy photo doesn't show it, the roof is of a rusted corrugated metal sheeting. (There I go again, finding beauty in corrugated metal and rust!) But the cabin isn't old. I watched it being built. From the moment it went up, it looked like it'd been there for decades. The wood was rugged and aged looking. The sheet metal roof was even rusted. I love it!

After all these years of admiring this new-old cabin, I finally had a thought that might explain why it looked old when it was brand new. There is a beautiful lake in this region. It's on Indian land and at 9000 feet elevation. The trees are gorgeous. Huge. The whole area is stunning and ultra desirable. Though the Indians owned the land, they allowed 100 year leases to non-natives who built cabins and enjoyed the lake for summer retreats. Several years ago, the natives suddenly terminated all the leases. Needless to say, cabin owners were furious. They'd invested a lot of money in building their cabins under the assurance that they could have them for 100 years. It's the kind of thing that would be passed down to future generations. Everyone was outraged over the breaking of the contracts. Suspicion swirled that one of the motives behind it was to inherit all the nice cabins built around the lake. Cabin owners weren't about to let that happen. Many of them hired companies to dismantle their cabins, transport them to new land, and re-assemble them. Other cabins were sold and the new owners did the same thing.

So, maybe, this instantly old cabin that I love is one of those lake cabins. And actually IS old. Hmmm.

Anyway, back to the photos.

Our little community was pretty iced over that December morning about a month ago.
Trees were sagging with heavy snow.

The road was icy and white. Even the power lines stretching high across the street
were covered with snow.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Indian Frybread - A Home Attempt

OK, so I took the massive-quantity, very vague "recipe" I learned from my expert Native friends and tried to make my own mini batch of Indian Frybread at home this weekend. Other natives we've talked to -- like at frybread stands at festivals -- have told us they use self-rising flour, so, rather than trying to figure out how much baking soda to use for my tiny batch, I figured I'd try this shortcut method.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I didn't figure out I needed to knead the dough until after I'd made it and wondered why it looked so different from my friends'. It must be because I arrived late to the frybread making session and the dough was nearly ready by the time I got there. Knead the dough. DUH.



I went ahead and made my dough balls, still not putting together the obvious.



 Traditional frybread is huge, about 10"-12" in diameter. I made mine much smaller, like frybread-ettes. 
Even though I tried to make a small batch, I still ended up with about a dozen too many. 
Of lumpy weird dough balls.

Because I didn't knead it, my dough was "short", not very elastic. I had trouble stretching my frybreads without breaking them and they wanted to drip and flop all over the place.
Also, they didn't produce the pretty bubbles like those of my native friends.
 I don't know if it's because of the self-rising flour or the lack of proper kneading.

(about 5" across)

Beautiful. Giant. Bubbly.

And I don't think my oil was hot enough. I had to cook them longer than seemed right, just to get the color somewhat right. But they still tasted great! We drizzled them with honey, making an awesome dessert!

(And there's my two holes from the fork!)

Though mine lacked the beautiful bubbles of the professionals, the inside came out
soft and wonderful just like it's supposed to.


A funny side note:
When I was "helping" make all the frybread for the work crew, I said to my native friends, "Ooooo, I bet these would be good with some butter and cinnamon sugar! Do you ever do that?"

They looked at me blankly and slowly said, "No-oooo", almost with a question in their voice. (Weird white woman!)

P.S. I don't suppose I feel too badly about my awkward first attempts at shaping frybread with the pros. They told me, "They say you have to make 1000 of them to get good at it." I suppose practice makes perfect with the dough, too. (Just keep repeating to yourself, Judi: "Knead the dough. Knead the dough.")

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Rez

I really like living here in the mountains with a Native American tribal nation close by. I love seeing the old women coming into Wal-Mart in their native dresses. Their greying hair is either in a long braid or folded up on the back of their head clasped within a barrette. Some of them wear the beautiful jewelry we've grown accustomed to associating with Indians, squash blossom necklaces, or beautiful turquoise, coral, or heishi strands.

I've lived here for over ten years but had never visited the reservation town. I never had a reason to go there until the recent work weekend to help get their new crisis pregnancy center building ready for move-in. Sometimes Indian reservations are ugly arid pieces of earth, testimony of how "generous" our white-man ancestors were to the Indians they rounded up and "gave" land to. But this reservation, in the pines and mountains is beautiful country.

The mountain below stands as a guard over our nearby reservation town.

I love laundry on a clothes line. These Indian blankets caught my eye.

Broken windows and graffiti are common sights. It seems that many of the buildings on "the rez" fall prey to vandalism. In fact, the original pregnancy center was a victim of idle arson. Nothing better to do one night. The fire didn't completely consume the building and the plan was to repair and rebuild on the original site. But a short while later, on another idle night, someone set the remains on fire again resulting in a total loss. The center has been housed in a suite of rooms at a nearby motel for two years. Building on a new site has been slow, relying on donations of labor and materials, but they're finally ready to open in their new building this week.

There are many problems on the reservation but there's one I enjoyed seeing. Wild horses. Based on my experience, this seems to be a common thing on many reservations. We saw it in the northern part of Arizona when driving to Alaska a few years ago. Driving north we saw flashing lights headed south on the wrong side of the road from us. A tribal police SUV was driving on the wide shoulder of the highway, chasing a small herd of wild horses away from town.

On my work weekend, I saw horses just wandering around grazing in the area of the center.

I pulled into a small parking lot to see this fellow.

At the end of the day, on my way out of town, I decided to go into the parking lot of the local community college campus for another photo of the mountain. "Hm, what are these bright yellow triangular pieces of steel stretched across the entrance?" As I rattled over them, I thought, "they must be like cattle guards. Something to keep the wild horses out maybe."

They don't work.

The evidence was everywhere. On the paved driveways, the gravel parking lots, and grass.

Wild horses and reservations just seem to go together. What an interesting problem to have to deal with.

I got my late afternoon photo of the mountain, but it's obviously not as good as my earlier one.

And then, driving on I noticed the moon rising. Parting views of my weekend on the rez.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Indian Frybread

A local treat in Arizona is Indian Frybread. It's a big hit at festivals and fairs. I've been wanting to learn how to make it for years now. Last weekend I had the privilege of joining some Native American friends in making frybread for a work weekend we were part of. It was so much fun and those ladies are so good they can make frybread in their sleep!

While I had hoped to come away with a recipe, I realized quickly that this idea was a laugh. Like when I asked The Fisherman's Grandma for the recipe for a peach cobbler she whipped up in my presence, I got a similar response. Grandma grew up in a "holler" in West Virginia. When I asked her for the recipe, she said, "Ohhhh, Honey! I've been cookin' since I was nine years old; I don't use recipes!"

So it was with my expert frybread friends. Their "recipe" used their hands and bowls as measuring devices. They're used to making it in large batches for large family functions. A bowlful of flour, a handful of salt, etc. Hm.

I think I could approximate their batch of 40 but I'm still working on calculating that down to a batch of four.

This batch produced about 20 large frybreads.

This is how they kneaded the dough. Right in the bowl. Ingenious.

I didn't figure this out until I tried making my own at home. And didn't knead it. While in the presence of the pros I thought they were merely mixing it. After all, they didn't take it out and knead it on a floured counter like I'm used to. I think it's pretty neat that they've mastered the art of kneading it right in the bowl. I love the beautiful consistency of her dough. This photo and my memory of how the dough moved in her hand will be my guide.

Nice smooth frybread dough balls. Aren't they pretty?

Three batches, each made by a different woman, produced a total of about 70 dough balls.

Next up was flattening them out. This is where their experience really shines.

First they flatten out the ball, making it a disk.
Then they run their hands around the outside edge, letting the dough disk hang down from their topside grip. This stretches it bigger still.
Then they start flapping. That's the best way I can describe it. They pass the dough from one hand to the other, flapping it back and forth. Occasionally they stop and do a little shaping.

I was a total klutz at it, but my first attempt came out pretty good. I was using my palms and fingers but they do it differently.

When I tried to learn their way, I was a dunce. They actually lay the dough across their thumb and wrist, rather than across their fingers. This stretches it nicely without the pressure of fingers creating weak spots. These ladies would stand in the middle of the kitchen, or lean with their backs against the counter and just flip-flap away. I was in such danger of losing control of my dough that I had to stand over the counter. I flipped my dough right off my hand several times while they were just flap-flap-flapping away.

I wish I had a sound recording of their handiwork. They were so fast! It was like their hands were clapping together. Since the dough mainly lands on the lower part of their hand and their wrist, they actually were clapping. Back and forth, back and forth, they'd flip one hand over the other and back again. It made a pock-pock-pock sound. A clap-clap-clap. Dozens of time for each frybread. I was in awe.

Finally, it was time to fry up my very first frybread.

Instinct told me to lay it into the oil starting at the front of the pan and move away from me. That's not how they do it. They start at the back and lay it down toward them.  And they do it perfectly. My first attempt folded under the edge.  I learned that in the superstition of native tradition, this means my husband is cheating on me. We all laughed. It seems that "Traditional" has become a religion among Native Americans. The value of their heritage and traditions seems to have evolved into a religion, one full of superstitions. My friends are all Christians, though, and worship God rather than the traditions of their heritage.

When you put the dough into the oil, it bubbles up with pretty bubbles. Note the odd shape of this frybread. It's one of mine. When my friends put theirs in the pan, it perfectly fills the pan. Perfectly round, perfectly out to the edges of the pan. Amazing.

When it first goes into the oil, you're supposed to poke a couple holes in it. That's so it won't over puff. Some of them stretch some holes in the dough before they put it in the oil and others just use the fork to poke holes once it's in. See my folded under edge? Wait, where's The Fisherman, right now?

The bottom of the frybread looks entirely different. No bubbles to speak of but the rim and the center seem to stand out and get brown while an inner ring stays pale.

Taa Daa!  My very first Indian Frybread. 

Making frybread is quite a social experience, at least when you're making it for a big party - or work crew. We stood around talking, flapping, and frying. We'd each shape a dough ball and wait our turn to fry it up, chatting together all the while. Sometimes we'd get ahead in flip-flapping the dough and let them set till time to fry.

In the end we had several fine stacks of beautiful frybread.

This stuff is so simple but so yummy. Just flour, baking soda, salt and water. But so, so tasty. To keep them warm, we layered them into an ice chest, ironically. We took them over to the work site along with pinto beans, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and salsa for Indian Tacos.

(Now, I know my English friends are going to cringe at the sight of these mashed-up, ugly-colored beans, but they are a delicious staple out here in the Southwest. They're so normal that it's hard to stand back and imagine seeing them for the first time. But trying to do so, I can understand how they look absolutely gross. Trust me, they're not.)

They were a big hit. And I was thrilled to learn how to make them from Native American Indians, sweet Christian women who I am privileged to work with and call my friends.

(In case you're wondering where we were while making the frybread, and why there were racks of clothing nearby: we were at the temporary office of a crisis pregnancy center which also sells clothes and baby items for "internal" money earned by clients taking parenting classes. The work weekend was one of the final pushes to bring their new center on the reservation to near completion.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Trusting God, Book and Bible Study by Jerry Bridges

Running Blind, by Shirlee McCoy

More Than A Dream - Life With Jesus Christ, by Muhammad Al-Hallaaj

Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed (Bible Study on David by Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, Kay Arthur)

The Fisherman's Quilt

When The Soul Listens, by Jan Johnson

Leota's Garden, by Francine Rivers

Out Of The Overflow, compilation

Under A Desert Sky, by DiAnn Mills

Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers

Unplanned, by Abby Johnson

The Genese Diary, by Henri Nouwen
Savoring God's Word, by Jan Johnson

My Favorite Winter Trees

In a neighborhood of our sleepy community there is a line of trees that I love. I love them best in winter because their squiggly, curvy branches are bare.

After another big snowstorm in mid-December, I went into work late because of the snow. I took my camera a captured these twisty branched trees with a thick layer of snow.

They line the street in front of a little old house with a big yard.

They're my favorite winter trees, made all the more beautiful to me with a layer of snow upon each branch.