Monday, December 12, 2016

What's on my Tree? (Plus Frito Pie Recipe, News and Special Drawing)

I'm doing my holiday post a little early this year, because Spacefreighters Lounge will soon be "Going Rogue" to celebrate and chat up the release of the next Star Wars movie later this week.

So today I've got some holiday goodies to share with Lounge readers. Hope you enjoy the seasonal fun and "surprises."

What's on my Tree this Year?

This year I'm so grateful to have a tree. In all the hustle and bustle of recent holiday seasons, David and I couldn't even remember the last time we put up a tree for the holidays. For 2016, we wanted to break the cycle and return to tradition. So Saturday, we set aside a special "Tree Time" to get our tree up and deck it out.

In doing so, we rediscovered a lot of the treasures that have been stuck away in storage boxes for quite some time. We also found out we probably have enough ornaments to adorn three full-size trees, so at some point in the future, maybe after we build that addition that's been in the planning for decades, we may put up multiple trees.

But for this year, I'm more than happy to have just one!

I know some folks who buy all new ornaments each year or decorate around a theme for the holidays. I think that's really great, but it's so not us. Our ornament are like happy memories that we get to enjoy each time we ferret out the boxes and unpack them.

Let me share some of that nostalgia with you.

First of all, there are the Mexican ornaments. Mom has been gone since 2007, but she lived a good part of her life south of Tucson, Arizona. When I went to visit, we'd often make the 30 mile jaunt down across the border to Nogales, Mexico to look for pottery or rugs or whatever other treasures we might find.

One year we found some beautiful handmade Christmas ornaments. The Christmas stocking and reindeer pictures above are two, and you can see more in some of the other photos--some traditional and some not so. (Like the VW Bug at right.) Every time I went to visit after that, we'd go search for more of the same quaint ornaments...and we'd always find them!

Over the course of about 25 years, I added to my collection until I finally ended up with well over 100 by the time Mom passed. Each one is handmade and unique--and each one
reminds me of Mom and our special trips. So many memories there. So yes, those will always go on our tree.

There are others that hold special memories, too. A set of beautiful snowflakes a friend of my mother's hand crocheted. (You can see one in the photo at left.) It was the same friend who was an avid readers and with whom my Mom first shared some of my early writing. This friend was the first person from outside our family to encourage me with an "always keep writing." So yes, those really are "special snowflakes" and hold a special place on our tree, too.

We also have a set of red and green chile ornaments that Mom handmade for us out of big sparkly beads. They can be hung alone, in pairs, or in threes like mini-ristras. They always make me smile. You can see them in a few of these photos.

It's part of folklore that including a bird's nest in your Christmas tree will bring good luck. We didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to grab a little good fortune, so our tree is adorned with both a nest and a bird.

I also have to mention Sad Llama. I "won" this silly crocheted Llama in a holiday gift exchange long, long ago when I was in my early twenties, so he's aged quite gracefully over the years. He was the little joke gift that nobody wanted and at the end of the exchange, he found his way into my hands. Well, I thought he was actually quite a handsome fellow and wasn't at all put out in getting to take him home. He's probably one of the oldest tree ornaments I now own. He's been a fixture on my tree every since.

We have just a few traditional globe ornaments--one for New Mexico, one for MSU, and one with hummingbirds that's another special reminder of Mom, who loved little hummers and collected hummingbird knickknacks and artwork her entire life.

New Mexico ornament with Mom's handmade chile ornaments.
Go Green. (Of course!)
Hummingbird ornament.

We also have a few rocking horses and racehorses--neither is a huge surprise, I'm sure. LOL This photo shows a lovely blown glass rocking horse with a sprig of holly on his side.

Our tree topper is a bit non-traditional. It's a green cowboy hat. Ha! No kidding. Although I almost opted in for the new musical Death Star from Hallmark this year, I never did get around to buying one, so our tree is once again decked out Western-style.

And here's the entire tree lit up for the season.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.
Hope the season is filled with good times and great memories.


A Special Holiday Interview by S.E. Smith

I had the honor of being interviewed by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author S. E. Smith for her December Newsletter. I had so much fun answering her questions! We talked about all sorts of things including what other genres I write, where I find inspiration, and the deets on my pets.

Want to take a peek? S.E. Smith's December Newsletter.


Frito Pies for Christmas? Oh My, Yes!

New Mexico traditions for the holidays--or really any time of year--include tamales, posole, biscochito cookies and...Frito pies! Yes, that's Frito as in the crispy corn chip, made into a special hot and spicy treat to warm you up on a wintry day, Southwest style.

No one is completely sure of the origins of Frito pies, but local lore claims they were first invented in the 1960s by Teresa Hern├índez, who worked at the F. W. Woolworth's lunch counter on Santa Fe plaza in New Mexico. At that time, Frito pies were actually made and served up inside the Frito bags, which were sliced lengthwise and the ingredients poured inside. Modern Frito pies are usually served up in a bowl.

I once asked a former coworker, Annette, for her authentic Frito pie family recipe, and she was happy to write it down for me.


To make red chili and beef mixture, you'll need:

1/2 to 1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
chopped onions (optional)
garlic powder
1 to 2 tablespoons flour
Either frozen red chile or chile powder
2 dashes soy sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Brown the ground beef with onions, garlic, salt and pepper.  Once ground beef is browned, add two dashes of soy sauce (if desired), and 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for about two minutes. Blend chile (or chile powder and water) in blender. Combine red chile mixture with ground beef mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until it reaches desired thickness.

To prepare Frito Pies, you'll need:

Red chile and ground beef mixture (above)
Pinto Beans
Lettuce (chopped)
Tomatoes (chopped)
Onions (chopped)
American cheese (grated)
Sour cream

Spoon heated canned or fresh cooked pinto beans into small to medium size bowls, then fill each bowl with Fritos and pour red chile ground beef mixture (from above) over the Frito chips. Top with cheese, chopped lettuce, onions, tomatoes and/or sour cream.

Dig in and enjoy!


Special Surprise Drawing

I come bearing Romulan Ale. No, no! Wrong holiday. Gifts! I come bearing gifts--in a special holiday giveaway drawing--just to say "Thank you and Happy Holidays" to the patrons of Spacefreighters Lounge.

Here are the prizes for the drawing:
  • A print copy of Inherit the Stars gifted via Amazon, or if you'd like me to autograph it and include a book mark, I'd be happy to do that too. (That will take longer to receive, so you should probably plan on January.) Inherit the Stars was a pick for Best Books of 2015: E-Originals.

  • A set of twenty US Postal Service Pets Forever First Class Stamps

To be entered in the drawing, just comment below and include these three things:

1. Which prize or prizes you'd prefer to win ("any prize" works, too). If you're a winner, we want to be sure you're getting something you want.

2. Your first name

3. A contact email, Facebook or Twitter address where we can contact you. (Very important, because we don't like to pass over a winner because we can't reach them.)

4. Bonus (Optional): Tell us about something special on your tree and you'll be entered in the drawing twice.

Winners will be announced next Monday, December 19st. If a winner doesn't claim their prize by contacting me with an address by Friday, December 23th, an alternate winner will be selected. (So please check this blog next Monday!)

We wish you a very happy holiday, good times with family and friends, and the celebration of your own special traditions.

~~~*~~~   Happy Holidays From Spacefreighters Lounge  ~~~*~~~


  1. My parents always used the same decorations every year, only adding new ones when the mostly real glass ones we had were broken over time. Opening the boxes each year was like meeting up with old friends. That, and our family tradition of letting our kids decorate the tree and each buy one new decoration every year, are what finally inspired me to write a Christmas story of my own at long last. We do have an extra little tree this year with some Star Wars decorations hubs bought as a joke, and we picked up some extra stars and a string of lantern lights that look like little Death Stars. Youngest's R2-D2 toy is the tree topper. :D

  2. The Star Wars tree sounds really cute! And I'm with you on the heirloom ornaments feeling like old friends. We add new ones for special occasions too, and they bring more memories years down the road.


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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.