A Fireside Chat?

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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Table for One?

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

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The Person of the Day

The person of the day is my Mom. Happy Birthday Mom.
She is not the person of the day (my day) just because it is her birthday. It is because every day she does everything she can to take care of everyone who needs caring for and in particular she has devoted her attention to my Dad who is not well. She has been tireless in her efforts to make sure that my Dad is comfortable and when she cannot manage that on her own she has had enough love and good sense to keep a hold of his hand but to step aside and turn the job over to those who can. That is really why she is the person of the day, that plus the fact that I love her and she is always in my heart.

I WON!!!!!

We were at the Chapala Yacht Club art festival yesterday and just before we left Cath and I bought tickets on a draw. A few minutes ago we got a call to say that we have won a prize although the caller did not know what the prize is. That’s OK though; the prizes were all contributed by the artists at the show and every thing is beautiful.

It was such a perfect day - hot sun, no humidity – a made to order day for wandering around and looking at examples of the various mediums and the entertainment that I took lots of pictures to post to the blog. As for our prize, our amigos Fran and Bill have agreed to collect the winnings as they had plans to return to the show today and they also have plans to come here tomorrow so viola! . . . everything is perfect.

I wish everything was perfect at home. Although things are improving daily, my Dad continues to be hospitalized and that has been a great worry for the last two weeks. Mary and Mike and of course my Mom have kept me up-dated daily but still being this far away is hard. I knew that this scenario was a part of what I had bitten off when I left Canada but the reality of it sure has made for tough chewing. My Dad’s fragile health was and is the one thing that sits like a rock in my brain and makes all activity a little leaden.

There are ties that bind and ties that strangle. I am so fortunate to be “bound” by the ties to my family and friends and as we were preparing to leave this last year parent, family and friends said, on several occasions, that although they did not want us to go they did want us to take this time in our lives to experience everything that is desirable and within the realm of our own possibilities. I have very generous parents; although I have no children I recognize how painful it must be to let your children go at any age.

Anyway enough of the maudlin; I did mention that things are looking up and hopefully my Dad will be home this week thanks to the ingenuity of my Mom who is having a stair lift installed this week.
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I just have to draw your attention to the girls in the white dresses. Not only are they beautiful kids but their posture is impeccable. Those are glass votive holders on their heads and after several dances, some of them quite lively, there was not a single broken holder!

Pictures from the CYC Art Festival




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Monday, November 3, 2008

"All that we love deeply becomes a part of us." Helen Keller

Indi . . . A beautiful Girl.

It was one year ago that she left us. There seems no consolation when hearts are broken so I will not try to console with anything more than this: she will always be remembered.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in." Henry David Thoreau

It is longer than I thought since I last up-dated this blog. This is partly due to that retirement syndrome that leads retirees to perpetually shake their heads while muttering: “I just don’t know how I found the time to work; I’m always busy but I don’t know what I’ve been doing . . . .“

Having lived my working life in fifteen minute increments to keep up with a demanding schedule and at the same time enjoy the clients who visited me daily I was definitely a slave to the clock. If I was in the middle of the woods on the blackest of nights without a watch on I could still tell you what time it was within a few minutes. I know, without looking, what time I opened my eyes in the morning and what time it is when my brain shuts down sometime the next morning.

Here in Mexico it would seem that each day’s schedule is established by a single sentiment –-MANANA--. I frequently consider just throwing my watch into Lake Chapala and I probably would if it didn’t hold such sentimental value. It was a gift from my parents when I finished university which, incidentally, was about thirty years behind schedule on that but apart from my tardiness in getting a formal education, I am mostly on time for appointments.

I do recognize that I am an absolute tyrant when it comes to time management. Cath on the other hand is largely unchanged by retirement when it comes to schedules and respecting them. A watch on her wrist is one of those useless bobbles that might just as well be worn in her ears (where she can’t see it) for all the significance that it holds.

Yesterday we were going out to lunch with friends; before that I had a couple of errands to run. My errands had to be taken care of before lunch, as businesses in Mexico typically close at two (or shortly before) for siesta and may or may not open again at four (or shortly after) depending on the whim of the merchant. But yesterday was Saturday. Double whammy! On Saturday, two o’clock is the end of the business week . . . PERIOD!

I started the day early, had my bath, got dressed and set about feeding the dogs and doing a few things while I waited for Cath to get ready. When I had run out of things to do I decided just to do a little finishing work on a chest that I have been painting. I was being oh so careful not to get paint on my clothes and little by little I applied paint and resisted calling out to Cath with instructions to “get the lead out.”

I had some coffee, I got fed up painting because it is too hard if you have to worry about keeping it off your clothing and therefore not an enjoyable pastime. I went into the back yard and picked up the poop. I took a few pictures, I played ball with Hadley and finally . . . FINALLY!!! I heard Cath coming out of the bedroom and I thought: “at last!” But no. Out strolls Cath, still in a bathrobe, uttering that familiar refrain: “I can’t think of anything to wear!”

I have to admit my peevishness escalated into a full blown rant as I reminded her of the importance of leaving on time to catch the art store open, and still be on time for lunch with Fran and Bill.

Did you ever watch Lucy pull the football away just as Charlie Brown is about to kick it to kingdom come? If you have then you will understand the futility of timekeeping in Mexico with Cath!
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This is MY Giraffe and I don't want it Packed!


Soon to be Our Home on Wheels