Me

Me
A Fireside Chat?

Friday, December 26, 2008

 
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The Gringos First Christmas

In another fifty five minutes our first Christmas in Mexico will be over. Despite the fact that we missed family and friends at home, it has been a splendid day with perfect weather, perfect company and a perfectly wonderful Christmas dinner compliments of our friends Janet and Charles.

I think that the pictures above and below will speak for the type of day that we have had and need no further explanation with one huge exception. El Toro, the beast in several of the photos is made from paper mache (I have included a shot of the inside of Mr. Toro as I think that the construction is amazing). The Bull was the staging platform for a pyrotechnic display at the Yacht Club, in Chapala, a couple of weeks ago. I was not there but I understand that the fireworks were quite spectacular and not at all like the menacing black smoke that comes from the “rockets” that are still sounding even as I write.

The Bull is going to spend some time in Janet and Charles’s garden so that repairs can be made before he is pressed into service for some future celebration. As you might imagine a paper mache Bull that is used as a launch pad for fire crackers has a few holes in its flanks but in spite of the damage he remains quite impressive!
 
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Cath and I with El Toro

 
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As Promised Andrew

 
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fleas Navidad!

 
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Feliz Navidad!

It’s Christmas Eve and at home there seems to be a ton of fresh snow every day and the temperatures are the mind numbing digits that compare with those in Antarctica. And I expect that on some, probably many, channels George Bailey is carrying Zuzu’s petals around in his pocket as Clarence gives him a glimpse of what life would be like if he had never existed. At home, friends and family are gathering and warming their hands or butts by the fire, and kids everywhere are begging to open just one present before they go to bed.

Here in Mexico, the fireworks are concussing off of the sides of mountains, shaking the glass in the window frames and scaring the dogs; I have been told that this noisy vigil will continue for at least the next twenty four hours. All along the Caraterra there are homes displaying niches with empty mangers and anticipatory, iconic parents; their faces set aglow with strings of Christmas lights, some blinking others constant. On occasion there is a Frosty or a Santa sharing the same small front garden; the incongruity of the scene makes me smile. Friends and families are gathered, and as the sun has gone down, they are warming their hands/butts around fires; women are pulling rebozos a little closer encircling shoulders and kids everywhere are aching to open just one thing before they go to bed!

It is not so different here except that most of my friends and family are warming their hands/butts in front of fires that burn thousands of miles from here and I am missing them. But, tonight I stood in the back yard looking up. The sky is awesome as there is not much ambient light in our small village, which has the advantage of making the heavens appear as black velvet shot with crystal shards. Out of the millions of stars I can clearly pick out the North Star, the Dippers and Orion’s belt; my knowledge of astronomy extends no further. These familiar constellations are positioned differently, or rather I am. Nevertheless their presence makes home seem closer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Cath

 
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Cake by The Mud Pie Construction Company

It is nearly 8:00 P.M. and I have just finished cleaning up the kitchen. As it is Cath’s birthday I wanted to bake her a cake and make what ever she wanted for dinner. The early menu was perfect; she wanted barbequed hot dogs and chocolate cake. That was three days ago. Since then we have been through a couple of revisions before she finally settled on chicken as the main course. No problemo! I do chicken. But cake; now that’s a different challenge.

I started looking for a gluten free recipe on the web shortly after eight this morning. I wanted to be sure to cover all of her favorites: chocolate, caramel, & cream cheese icing. Of course the first thing to do was to blend some flours, some starches and some xanthium gum to make some sort of cake flour and while I was hunting out all of the various components and necessary ingredients I notice that there was no coco powder. I asked Cath: “Is hot chocolate the same”. It is not.

After rifling through a few possible substitutions I found that I could pulverize chocolate squares and that would do, but how many squares? Back to the internet to find that I needed two and a half which was no problem except that when I unwrapped them they did look ancient and unexpectedly light in colour. When you live in a village without stores you use what is at hand and thus the buff coloured chocolate squares were turned to dust and added to the flour.

As I followed the recipe step by step I eventually came to another troubling ingredient. I had honey but not enough . . . not nearly enough. Top off the honey with corn syrup and hope for the best. Eventually the cake was poured into two cake pans and placed in the oven.

I started keeping an eye on it at the half hour mark and was amazed to see that the mortar coloured batter had formed an outer ring that sort of looked like cake but the centers were billowing like flatulent balloons. I’m sure that the only thing holding the pans on the rack was the weight of the mortar.

Now I’m not much of a baker but I did recognize that cake with the texture of quicksand would be no match for the candles on Cath’s birthday cake so I left it to bake until nearly seventy minutes had past and finally the shish-kabob stick that I had been spearing it with came out clean and I was on to the filling and the caramel for the top.

I have never made caramel sauce before but when it was done it reminded me of those horrible candy apples at Halloween that after one bite you needed to brush with a dremel tool to get your mouth open again.

Dinner was great even if I do say so but it is now hours later and the cake, such as it is, still sits on the kitchen table waiting to be tested. The caramel topping is like a tortoise shell so I’m not sure how we will cut it but so far neither the birthday girl nor I have so much as looked for a blunt instrument with which to tackle it. I did venture to tap it with the back of a knife; it sounded like one of the stainless dog dishes being chased across the tile floor by a licking dog.

Doesn't this look like it was dumped out of a bucket?

 
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where there is smoke there is chicken!

If we are driving anytime from mid-morning till early evening there will be smoke by the side of the road . . . every road!

Clouds of it mark the many roadside restaurants and alcoves where you can pull up and buy the most delicious chicken, potatoes/rice and coleslaw. If you like, you can “eat in” although at first glance you may not recognize that the one or two plastic tables, under a tarp, equal a restaurant. The accoutrements leave a lot to be desired but once seated and served you get so lost in the flavor that the dust devils set swirling by endless, noisy traffic, goes unnoticed for the most part.

Don’t let me give you the impression that all of the pollos (Spanish word for chicken) places are the same. There are some large operations lakeside with dozens of plastic tables and chairs, an expanded menu, and men and boys waiving red cloths and whistling you into open air restaurants where the water, when the level is high enough, laps at the concrete or dirt pad where you may be seated. Again, the food is wonderful and served so hot that you can hear it sizzling before it arrives at the table.

As an added bonus, if the view and the ambience fail to delight, then perhaps the Mariachi in their silver studded charro outfits will put a song in your heart. These wandering minstrels play an assortment of string instruments and trumpets and sing of love, hate, betrayal, politics, often with a seemingly tongue in cheek presentation.

More Formal!

 
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Less Formal

 
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Hadley

Hadley
This is MY Giraffe and I don't want it Packed!

Gertie

Gertie
Soon to be Our Home on Wheels