Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Faces in the Garden

When I posted the blog about all the stucco work being done to the house, there was a photo of the wall with the little face pots from the State of Michoacan and the Village of Tzinzunzhan.  (If you say that fast, it
will sound like the wings of a hummingbird).  I've been told that Tzinzunzhan means that in the Purepecha
language, the place of hummingbirds.  It is a stunningly beautiful place.

One of the loyal readers commented and asked where they could find those face pots and I responded with the information above.  Then, I started thinking about all the faces in the garden in various places.  Most hold plants but a few, surprisingly, are alive.

 Just the other day, a noise came from the garden.  Rustling in the plants.  I turned around from what I was doing and was greeted by two pair of yellow eyes.  The incorrigible black feral cat who can leap five feet in the air to catch a bird!  Yes, I saw that with my own eyes.  And a grey cat perched in a flower pot.  Now I know why no flowers I plant in that side of the pot survive.  It was a great mystery.  Mystery solved.  She is laying on a newly planted bunch of alyssum.  I'm sure it is a nice soft bed.
 Then this morning as I was out pruning and plucking dead leaves, I bent down and was astounded to
see this magnificent butterfly.  Quickly I backed away and hurried down two flights of stairs to get my camera in hopes of being able to photograph this lovely creature.  It was still there when I returned and I snapped this photograph a little too quickly.  Hence it is not a sharp image.
 Strolling the garden though, besides the live faces, there are many others.  Most have a story behind them.

This lady came with me from Houston.  She is so heavy that I have to scoot her rather then attempt to pick her up.  I bought her at an auction at least twenty years ago.  Watching her and the hummingbirds on the salvia is a gift every day.
 This guy had a brother, but he eventually gave up the ghost and so now he hangs with a plant all by himself on the exterior wall of the guest house.
 Cantera angels are in many places.  At Christmas this trio wear red velvet ribbons in greetings for all that come to share the holidays. The rest of the year they just guard the door to the kitchen.
 This little boy is a treasure.  He has been in my life for about twenty five years.  He has moved all over Houston with me from garden to atrium garden to outdoor garden and then made the trip to San Miguel.
He was carefully wrapped in a bunch of towels to make the trek here.  He traveled by car - just to be safe.  For a while he lived in the home of my daughter Jennifer's house in Houston.  She adored him as much as I.  That is one of the many reasons why he proudly stands in the main garden here in San Miguel which is in honor of Jennifer.  In this garden, all the flowers are in white.  A color she loved.
                                     This angel playing the accordion is also in Jennifer's garden.
 More faces from Michoacan.  This guy does not look particularly happy.  Maybe the burro tail plant is not his favorite or maybe he is tired of hanging on the wall across from............
 This lovely lady wearing earrings.  Where did they come from?  Michoacan.  There is a very tiny little market on Friday mornings in Patzcuaro where very few tourists ever go.  It is one of my most favorite in Mexico.  I have been known to make the three hour drive just to be able to go to that little market.  I always find things that are one of a kind.  See things that touch my heart and leave, always, with a smile on my face.
 These are more of the face pots that I posted last week in the blog that I referred to at the beginning of this post.  I cannot remember the name of the woman who makes these.  The information is here in the house - somewhere - and a Purepecha woman took me to her home.  Where that home is, I could not begin to tell you as it has been about 20 years ago.  But, these can be found at the Palm Sunday Market in Uruapan each year and possibly at the straw market in Tzinzunzan.
 This lady has traveled with me for a very, very long time.  Initially she was in my house for many, many years.  Created by Hayes Parker, a world renown artist who creates in concrete, it was a birthday gift.
She has aged well.  Better then me.  I can see her from my bedroom as she resides now in the downstairs garden with mandevilla, bougainvillea and sprengeri fern surrounding her.
Last, but certainly not least, is this magnificent gift sent to me by Bill LaCivita, an artist from Rhode Island.  His creations are magnificent.   Bill is a reader of the blog.  He wrote and said he was creating a goddess for me!  I was flabbergasted.  Indeed she arrived in Houston amidst many oohs and aahs from me as I unwrapped her.  She now resides in the garden outside my bedroom where I gaze at her daily.  If you are interested in purchasing some of Bill's work, google him and you will find information.  This lady has been with me six or seven years.  She is a joy with her shells and accoutrements.  I love her dearly.

So, that's it.  Never a worry that I'm lonely as a single woman.  I have plenty of company all over the gardens and in view from the inside of the house.  Now, if they could all talk, it would be a roar I'm afraid.
Thankfully not.  They exist just because of their beauty.  How nice..........

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Little by Little

Patience is absolutely necessary to live in Mexico!  It had been a mission all my life to be so, but it never worked.  Well, at least until I moved to Mexico.  Within a year, patience was my middle name.

IF one is not patient about everything, one might as well get a big supply of TUMS or learn how to chant to get over one's frustrations.  It is so much easier to realize that nothing is worth the previous path just mentioned.  It's all small stuff.

Take the exterior of my house.  The brick wall that faces north had never been stuccoed.  There is no insulation or drywall or anything in the construction of these houses.  The walls are one brick thick!
Therefore, dust, noise and even a trickle of water from a hard rain will soak into the brick.

Many times in the past, I could lay in my bed and hear a conversation at night on the other side of the wall where lovers park........

For about the last fifteen years, I've gently asked the people that I rent this house from to stucco the wall.

Finally at the end of 2015, I sent an email detailing the four things that really needed attention.  Stuccoing the wall being #1.  The first part of March the landlord appeared with his son to interpret and we went over the four things.  He said they would start in two weeks.  Last Tuesday, in April,  he telephoned and said they would come with the scaffolding and materials to start the next day.  I did not get too excited!  But, they did show up....amazingly.  Here is the result of three and a half days of work. Two of the four things are completed.  There is hope.

The stucco has to "cure" or dry for about eight days before it can be painted.  That's okay, I've waited fifteen years. It will be the same color as the front of the house. That is when the painter appears.  I'm thrilled.
 While the stucco man was here and the landlord was paying, I had him stucco this wall above the laundry sink or gardening sink.  Now I'm debating if I want to tile it, if so with what. Or if I want to have a mural painted there or just paint it and cover it with blooming vines.
Lots of these blooming mandevillas or a mixture of that and other vines would be pretty in big pots.  My mind is reeling.  What do you think?  I had about ten design books out last night looking at how to do rubbled (broken) tile walls with a design or basic tile or whatever.  What fun!

In the meantime, when all is dry, I'll have the painter come to paint it the tropical green color that is in the covered seating area.
As you can see, the wall area here was previously an orangey, mango color.  Now it is just a mess.  I had forgotten what a mess construction areas can become.  At least a full day has been spent cleaning up concrete and mess in preparation for painting and getting flower pots and things back in place.

The flowers and shrubs and trees are really now starting to bloom.  It has been a month since we had SNOW.  But, we have also had two nice rains so the photos below show how things have returned to life.
By summer it will be lush and tropical up on this little roof of paradise.

This afternoon, now that everything has been cleaned up, reading on the roof terrace with views of the mountains and canyon sounds like a good idea.  Don't you agree?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

On a Journey with Academia International

Last evening the end of the school year program was presented by Academia International here in San Miguel.  To say it was quite a production would be an understatement.  The program was one and one half hours long of dancing, singing and great choreography.  The participants were not only the students but
the teachers as well.

As I sat in the second row, I reminisced about all the school programs that have been seen by me over the
last forty-five years.  This show, last night, stood apart in many ways.

Typically the programs I've seen in the USA were dance programs or  singing programs with kids lined up as singers.  This production last night rivaled a talent contest or mini-theater production.  In fact, it was held at
the Theatre Peralta where the likes of many well known musicians, singers and theater productions take place.

My reason for being there was that Matilda, my granddaughter,  was in the program dressed in a beautiful Egyptian costume. Quite elaborate.  Not only did she have on the costume but they had also put fake eyelashes on the girls and a makeup artist worked all day according to Mati to glamourize them.  Whew.

The program began with the teachers dressed as flight attendants on a world wide trip.  The backdrop on the stage was a Monopoly board with spaces marked with various foreign countries and cities.  Since the school is an international school there are many children from many other countries.  Something, that to me is a wonderful opportunity for each student in the school.

 Here are the teachers singing and dancing.  Sorry that the photos came out blurry but obviously the camera was not set on the correct setting.
It occurred to me that in all the myriad of programs that I ever saw in the USA, never, not once, did I see teachers on the stage dancing and having so much fun.
 I'm not sure where or what the first group of kids represented as there were three pigs, a pixie and a kid dressed like a British barrister.  As little as they were, their singing and dancing was really cute.
 Next were the proverbial cowboys and cowgirls with guns.  One little girl's skirt, with guns in her pockets kept sliding down and I grinned watching her try to figure out what to do to dance, sing and keep her skirt from falling down.  She managed NOT to lose her skirt.
 Matilda was in awe of this little girl who was the queen of the Egyptian girls.  Mati told me she had a REAL gold crown whereas their crowns were just painted gold.  Aren't you amazed at the complexity of these costumes?  In the public schools here in San Miguel, the mothers make the costumes for the parades and programs but I don't think these were made by parents.
Mati in her starring role as the head of the girls in purple.  Sitting on the second row, I could see her counting to know when to change positions or lead the girls somewhere else.  At eight years old, she is already a sweet, beautiful leader of her friends.
 During the show, they would announce foreign countries that we were going to visit.  The above photo  was Palestine  The photo below was Ukraine.  There was a little boy, not in costume like the others,  who danced a Ukrainian dance forever.  I could not believe he could dance that strenuously and for that long.  It was quite extraordinary.
 Then, "the journey" moved to China.  The dancing was kinda like robotic and Sebastian, sitting in the audience next to me decided he could do that too and tried to do it on the floor beside the seats.  Never a dull moment with kids around.
 Well, drat, the China photo just got moved to the end somehow and the photo above is a Michael Jackson "look alike" who came out with smoke machine roaring and they all danced to Thriller.  What that has to do
with an international journey, I have no idea.  But, the kids enjoyed it immensely.  They danced to three Michael Jackson songs.  One was with zombies that scared the wits out of the little kids sitting in the audience.
As I said, it was quite a production.  Kudos to the choreographer, the teachers and everyone else who worked with these children on this program.  It is my final hope that through all that learning that they also
learned about each country that was part of the program.

What a fun evening.   What an eye-opening experience it was to see how talented kids from first grade to grade twelve can be.  Viva Mexico!                                        

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Vandy Anderson, "The Voice of Galveston"

About seventeen years ago, shortly before I moved to San Miguel, a friend and I attended a "Newcomers
Dinner" at a restaurant that no longer exists.

At that dinner, I met a delightful couple who changed my life forever.  The couple was Vandy and Sue.  It was instant laughter and like.  They mentioned that they lived on Galveston Island and the stories began flowing like fine wine.  Amazement, giggles and memories were shared that night and for many nights after that.

Upon returning to Houston to get rid of all my stuff, like my house, my stuff and my businesses, I visited
with Sue and Vandy in Galveston along with them driving up the Gulf Freeway to see me in Houston.

Little did I know in those early days all the joy and sorrow, laughter and silliness that the three of us would
experience over all these years.   Yes, I left Houston, but I was back up there enough or Sue and Vandy were down here enough for many, many memories and good times to ensue.

Vandy passed on to the great radio show in the sky last Saturday.  It was unexpected and devastating
for all the citizens of Galveston, me and the world. 

You see Vandy was one of the kindest, most thoughtful and funny men I have ever known.  Add to that
Sue as the co-pilot and there you had it.  Pure joy!

I could write ten blogs and never cover all the stories I've been told by Vandy about Galveston, flying, books, the port, the Maceos...........on and on and on.  Many of those stories were shared as the three
of us drove down the seawall in Galveston.  Windows down, wind blowing, hair be damned.  Vandy
smoking his cigar.

Then they would get to San Miguel and as the great raconteur he was, Vandy would talk about how he and Sue would fly down in their plane, land on a dirt strip out by the prison and pay anyone they could find to watch the plane for the time they were in San Miguel.  Whoever it was, was paid with oranges from the Texas Valley and pesos.  Oh the stories he could tell.  And the stories we created with our shenanigans.

My heart is heavy, is an understatement.  The memorial for Vandy is today at Moody Gardens in Galveston.
Not able to be there, but I know his spirit knows I wish I was there.  This post has been started and stopped since Saturday evening.  I just could not write it............something rare for me.   So much to say and not enough time!    Adios Senor Vandy.     Photos to share...........

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Delicious Expeditions

A great friend who I met in San Miguel many, many years ago, has owned restaurants here along with having a fabulous international traveling group.  This group travels not only to see places, but for cooking classes with Kris and whoever she brings in to teach in various locations as well.

As a member of IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) and the author of several published cookbooks, Kris is extremely knowledgeable not only in cooking, but in teaching as she
has done this for many years.

I have tried unsuccessfully to be able to advertise on my blog for Kris' company Delicious Expeditions, but
have given up being able to get that accomplished,  Instead, I'm going to send you her website, so you
can go to see not only her trips abroad but her cooking classes in New York City and also in San Miguel.

The website is www.deliciousexpeditions.com   Hopefully this will work.  Kris has written a very interesting article this month on the Mafia and Italian Olive Oil that you will not want to miss.

The above are just a few of the many trips planned for this year.   Now, before you think that Kris must be some old woman since she has so many accomplishments and is so busy, let me tell you that she is
only in her 50's!  She is extremely organized and competent to handle ALL of this.  I marvel at her "can do"

Kris and I are having lunch at a relatively new restaurant together on Saturday.  For me it is more about hearing about her next adventures then it is about the food.

Check out her website.  If you decide to go on any of her tours, let me know.  I might want to join you!
Slovenia and Venice are high on my list!

Bon Voyage.............

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Traveling Through Time from a Beach in Mexico

This story begins back about sixty years or so ago when I became interested in reading.  Although I do not remember what the exact book was that began my love affair with reading, I do remember a book of Bible stories for children and, of course, the Nancy Drew series.  Yes, over the years I read all of them.

It drove my mother to distraction that I would have rather read then be outside playing or going somewhere with friends.  Of course, by teenage years that was tempered some, but not completely.

Still an avid reader, to put it mildly, on my latest trip to the beach in December, January and part of February, one of the greatest parts of the trip was having time to read as much as I wanted. 

In preparation for the trip, I downloaded about sixty books.  No, it was not my plan nor did I accomplish reading that many, but, they were there if and when I wanted them.  It was necessary to download them ahead of time because where I was staying, the house has solar power and is not always fully powered.
The Kindle was a GREAT resource, to put it mildly.

Little did I know that about a month into the trip I would become deathly ill and have no energy or ability to walk the beach or much else.  But, of course, at times, I could read.  It was a godsend.

With a view of the ocean and the wildlife, with a book, was just perfect, except for being ill.

In addition, a bag of books came along as well.  I always leave them wherever I stay for others to enjoy after I have read them and leave.  It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  I do admit, that the Kindle made it all a lot easier at times.  Most times.

Here is a list of some of the books I read:

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho - one of the most intriguing that I read.
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
The Confession, John Grisham - always a quick read
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zeven
At the Water's Edge, Sara Gruen
Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate Dicarmillo
Aztec, Colin Falconer - a favorite
Bittersweet, Colleen McCullough - about Australia
Roadwalkers (Voices of the South, Shirley Ann Grau - I learned that people, many children,
                          during the Depression had no home or place to go so they walked from home
                          to home or farm hoping for food.  Truly an eye opening book
The Towers of Tuscany,  Carol M. Crum - a true story
Call of the Kiwi, Sara Lack - about New Zealand and the involvement of their soldiers in WWI.
Madam Tussaud, A novel of the French Revolution, Michelle Moran - Fascinating
Charleston, Margaret Bradham Thornton
A Thousand Days in Venice, Marlena de Blasi
The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd - A favorite
For One more Day, Mitch Albom

There were many more as I think the final count was 22~!  Every one of these books expanded my horizons.  Learning something new every day always captivates me.

It was such a treat, especially since I've been so busy since returning to San Miguel that I have not had a chance to read for six weeks!

My two most favorite books, which I think I've mentioned before were The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

What are some of the books that you have read that I should add to my reading list?  Please share!

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Favorite Restaurants in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Articles written by travel writers always include the most expensive restaurants in town.  Habitually, they are Aperi, Zumo, a relative newcomer, The Restaurant, Moxi and Andanza.  All of these restaurants, I presume,
have publicists and marketing firms to contact writers who come to town for a couple of days and write
something about the town while including some or all of these restaurants in their articles.  Out of over 300 restaurants in San Miguel now, these are continuously mentioned in articles.

Interestingly, however, when it comes time to name the Top Ten Restaurants through DonDay's SMART
awards, seldom are those restaurants in the running.  (See DonDay's blog on the blogroll on the right side of this post)

The locals have a whole other set of criteria and spending a fortune at some of the above mentioned restaurants is for the visitors to town, not the locals.  That is not to say that the ex-pat community does not
have as sophisticated a palate as the visitors, but we've been here longer and no the secret, wonderful places
that provide ambiance, superb food, and excellent service without breaking the bank.

Since I basically live on Social Security, I'm one of those people that watches every peso but still enjoys
dining out from time to time.

While looking back through Picasa for the past year to find photos to share with you of the places that I'm
going to name, it was surprising how often meals out are at friends' homes.  To me, those are always the
most enjoyable.  They allow for plenty of time for great conversation, laughter and delicious food.

The first restaurant I'm going to mention is FIRENZE.  Antonio has moved his location a few times, but never has the food suffered.  Now with a special little place located on Recreo near Solutions, it is my
place to go for, IMHO, the most delicious Italian food in town.  In addition, for lunch there is a prix fixe
menu for 150 pesos.  Which today, with the strength of the US dollar means lunch is around $8USD.
I've written about this restaurant previously.  It's just that darn good.

Second is NECTAR.  Nectar is a whole environment in a courtyard filled with hummingbird feeders and, of course, hummingbirds zipping around.  It is attached to a delightful shop known as Camino Silvestre on
Correo.  This company sells the hummingbird feeders, hence their hanging  in the courtyard cafe.

The menu is unique with many vegetarian selections.  The soups, salads and sandwiches are delicious.
Inevitably if someone allows me to choose where to have lunch, I say "Nectar".

My favorite item is the carrot soup with either the Nectar salad or a half of a sandwich.  Here are a few photos.  Presentation is lovely, always.

This is the shop Camino Silvestre which is adjacent to the courtyard.  Don't miss browsing here when you have time to see all the goodies.

For breakfast, I have two favorites.  Posada Corazon on Aldama, only a few blocks from the jardin and Cafe Monet located on Zacateros down near the V where two or three streets intersect.

To dine at POSADA CORAZON, one must call and make reservations, then ring the bell on the front door to be admitted to the Boutique Bed and Breakfast.  Walking through the gardens one comes to the glass enclosed restaurant which has a lovely living room with a fireplace and other amenities.  Breakfast is cooked to order, which allows for plenty of time to visit with friends while waiting.

CAFE MONET is the "go to" for inexpensive, but absolutely delightful breakfast.  My favorite, the homemade steel cut oatmeal, is what I always order.  It surprises me as I have never found oatmeal to be anything I ever wanted to eat, but with the addition of pecans and cranberries, etc.  this is not ""your Mom's old oatmeal".
The prices will astound you, causing you to wonder how you could possibly eat that inexpensively. The coffee is tasty as well.  Sorry, I have no photos to share, but I will say that the first time I visited the cafe I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the paneling, the art and the whole feel of the place.  Still am.

Not far down Ancha de San Antonio is HECHO EN MEXICO.  One of the most well run restaurants for lunch and dinner in the town.  The service and quality of food is impeccable.  Owned by a graduate of one of the leading hotel and restaurant colleges in the USA, this fact shows on a daily basis.  It's a go to place for either indoor or outdoor dining.  I've been dining there for fifteen years and have never had a bad meal - ever. 

Also in this general area, over facing Parque Juarez is the bed and breakfast, VILLA SANTA MONICA.  It is a hidden gem.  Whenever I want to get a taste of how dining in Mexico was twenty-five years ago - calm, not rushed servic, not swarmed with visitors, this is it.  If I want to share with people the beauty of Mexico, my choice is Villa Santa Monica.  The grounds, the courtyard, the waiters, all is extraordinary.  I won't say the food is extraordinary, but with all the other things, the food is satisfying and enjoyable.

LA FRONTERA is in a small group of shops out on Sterling Dickinson.  The owner is also the chef, and Noren is always there to make sure the food is served promptly and the customer is satisfied.  There are daily specials.  Most are good home cooked food such as meat loaf on Monday and fish tacos on Friday.
It's the go to place for our lunch bunch that usually dines there every Friday.  One does not have to have the daily special because the menu has many things that one cannot find anywhere else in San Miguel.  Her brisket sandwich and home made fries is a favorite with the group along with the fish tacos.
Again, lunch with a drink is usually under $10USD.  They charge no extra for great conversation or if we choose to dine outside on the patio.......Just kidding.

MILAGROS on Relox just down from the jardin,, Chamonix, on Sollano right near the jardin are two other restaurants that I frequent when possible.  Milagros is the choice of the coffee klatch group on Mondays for many reasons.  There is an extensive menu for one.  The waiters all know our names, but best of all the food is delicious.  Somehow, even if we walk in with 12 or 15 people, there is good and prompt service.

CHAMONIX has courtyard dining along with two small dining rooms.  It is a favorite of mine because the menu has items on it that are not found in other places in town.  Always excellent.

Going out of town, somehow, the destination for dining is always NIRVANA.  It has grown from a restaurant to a restaurant and retreat.  The owner/chef of the restaurant originally came from Mexico City and opened a tiny restaurant on Hernandez Macias with about six tables, if that many.  I dined there about 16 years ago.  I've never forgotten that meal.  That's saying a lot, as at that time in my life I was very involved in the culinary world in the USA.  It was an exceptional dining experience, not because of the ambiance or service, but the cuisine itself.  No, I can't tell you what I had to eat, but I've never forgotten that little place.  When I moved to San Miguel, I searched for Nirvana and by then it had moved into larger accommodations on Mesones and eventually found its perfect place in the country.

Again, it is a unique menu with things like huitlacoche and squash blossom soup on the menu.  An arrachera burger.  Unique salads.  Delicious desserts.  All served either inside the restaurant, on a patio under a palapa roof or out on the grounds with grass overlooking a little stream.  What's not to love?

A place  that used to be in the country but is now on the libramento is PIZZA PIG.  A funky, fun place to have home made pizza made with home made Italian sausage or there is a great vegetarian pizza as well and also dessert pizzas.  Tim, the owner, always makes everyone feel welcome.  His new location doesn't have the ambiance of the old place in the country, but we totally overlook that to have the best pizza in town.
Pizza Pig now does home delivery as well.  I can attest to the fact that they get it to you fast, hot and just as delicious as dining at the restaurant.

I could not finish this list without again mentioning lunch on Sunday at MANSION DE MONTITLAN located on Montitlan in Balcones.  This is a huge private home.  In order to dine there, one must ask to be put on the email list, then when wanting to go there, email your reservations with your entree selections and voila, a very unique dining experience.  I've written about "Gayle's place" as locals call it so many times, but it is quite outstanding.  Here are a couple of photos to tempt you.

That's my list.  Hope when you're visiting town, you'll try some of these places.  Or, if you find some other places that you feel are exceptional, please let us know.  Of course as I'm writing this sentence, about ten
more places come to mind.  Buen provecho!