Saturday, December 29, 2007

Merry Christmas & Happy 2008~

The best part of any holiday is spending time with family& taking time to enjoy those moments.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yes, Virginia...there is Cold Weather in Mexico at Chrismas!

We are in Torreon for a few days & I am bundling up to keep warm. I am putting on layers of extra clothing. I met Carolyn in the hotel lobby yesterday here at the Marriott Hotel amid the loudly playing Chrismas tunes & holiday decor. Music: too loud, Decorations: nice but quite different from home. While I was waiting for her I was blasted by cold air each time the door opened into the Lobby. I didn't bring nearly enough warm clothing for our little road trip to Torreon. I am feeling the "South of the Border Chill". The cold takes a while to get down here but it has cooled down considerably. Not chill by Alaska or Chicago standards but cold for my thinning blood....Brrrrr!!! (It was in the 30's yesterday morning, go ahead laugh but I am chilled to the bone here) Last night I actually ordered warm milk for a night cap~I am always willing to try something new when I am chilled to the bone & not at home:)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fa, La, La, La, La, South of the Border~

I thought these tiny little dolls handcrafted by Mexica Indians of Central Mexico would be a great little addition to our little South of the Border Christmas tree.

It's the most wonderful time of the year South of the Border. There are so many Christmas decorations & Nativity scenes in Monterrey the streets are ablaze with color. Blink & you might miss it on one street but just around the corner there is generally one more blast of ribbons, nativities & trees to see. My favorite Nativity is the one in front of Vitro Corporativo, the Mary & Joseph figures are made of glass bottles. When the sun hits these large scale Nacimiento figures it is spectacular. Yes, another fantastic sight South of the Border!

This tree makes me laugh with the ultra skinny palm right next to the big Christmas Tree in the plaza at Santiago. Quite a contrast but quite Mexican!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Quilting ~ A piece of home right here in Mexico!

I was invited to join the International Quilters of Monterrey Mexico. This group has been going strong for more than 20 years now. I don't profess to be a great Quilter by any stretch of the imagination but certainly hope my skills will improve around these extraordinary, skilled Quilters. They seem to a great group of talented, smart women.

I like the current IQMM monthly project it's the Square of the month & no two renditions are alike. Guess which Quilt Square is mine? ( is in English!) Once all 12 months are completed, each of us will have a wonderful full sized quilt.

The Mercado de Navidad

At the Mercado de Navidad they were selling a whole host of Angels, Marys, Joseph, Lions, Tigers & Bears~Oh, my! Seriously, they sell so many animals it would make Noah's head spin. There are so many typical Mexican Nativity pieces each somehow representative of day to day life in Mexico that truly is quite overwhelming. It is sensory overload on every level but quite fun!

While visiting Mercado de Navidad in Monterrey Jackie & I were amazed by the selection of pieces & parts to the Nacimientos as well as handcrafted ornaments. There were wreaths, pine trees, Christmas pinatas & a wide variety of Christmas decorating items. We really were captivated by the colorful straw woven ornaments with their twists & curvy shapes. Jackie even bought a cute little Arbol de Pino with her "Bunco Earnings"....Yes!!!! She has gone over to the dark side fellow Texas Bunco Babes, Jackie had beginner's luck & won a sizable cash prize. I think she might approve of the game at this point~

Saturday, December 8, 2007

In giving we receive so much.

Each week when I volunteer at Casa Hogar Douglas I feel my heartstrings are touched in a new way. Today serving & helping at the children's home Christmas party was no exception. I have met a group of incredible adults there at Casa Hogar & am constantly amazed by the random acts of kindness which seem to make daily changes in the lives of the kids there. Those children are truly beautiful & give me much more than I can ever possibly return to them.
To find out more about Casa Hogar Douglas check out this site:

I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.
Albert Schweitzer~

Friday, December 7, 2007

Nacimiento~that's Nativity for the Gringos!

These pieces are all made by hand & have a very Latin Characteristics to each piece.

*The biggest question many people have is why the devil in a manger scene? Historically nativities were used by Spanish priests to teach Biblical parables, stories as well as principals. The devil is there to show that evil in the world is always trying to fight against good. I thought it was strange but it made sense for me to get a little "diablo" for my nacimiento if I am going to have a very typical set. Last year in Coahuila I saw several devil figures holding items representing the 7 deadly sins! There was even one with a hotdog he was roasting on his pitchfork!!!! Hmmm, with certain members of my family hotdogs are a deadly sin...(Okay~a little dark humor at Christmas time, but seriously I saw a few of those.)

I just adore the girl with the pineapples, the family of pigs as well as the colored snake on top of the stone well. I will never find these pieces or symbols which are so typical of Mexico once I leave. I intend to continue to add to this set as I can. As Jackie is visiting next week & I am hoping to take her to a Mercado de Navidad. Typically that type of market has only Pine trees, Mangers, pinatas, ornaments & pieces & inexpensive images for the nacimientos. It is a very cool South of the Border experience~Also a very good place to stroll & have a nice mug of hot Mexican cocoa:)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

December South of the Border

Decoración de la casa para la Navidad!

I am putting up a few Christmas Decorations & getting ready for my daughter to visit tomorrow. I pulled out this cheery Royal Doulton plate, a gift from my sister before I moved here last year. It shows a pleasant little Christmas Posada which is far from the way the modern South of the Border posadas are celebrated in this day & age, but I like it none the less. The colors & raised relief make a perfect addition to my Mexican Navidad items. *I had a little help of the furry four legged kind when I set up the Colorful Paper Mache Nativity set. Katerina played with the lightwieght Wisemen & Mary, moving them around. Later in the day I thought Mary looked like she was in conversation with the Wisemen!! Hmmm! Better keep that cat in line~she will have her own Fiesta with my decorations.

This view this morning at daybreak was an automatic tonic for the day! I can't put a price on that~it's the little blessings that keep me daily going forward.

Friday, November 30, 2007

White Bean & Escarole Soup

I love Soup Weather~there is nothing quite like cooking up a nice pot of soup & warming up all the way through at dinner time.

1 head escarole, cored
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped or shredded carrots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons dry thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cans of cannellini beans, drained, navy beans are also good
3 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Blanche the escarole in boiling water for 1 minute. Rinse it in cold water.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add Italian sausage and brown it on both sides.
Bake sausage in the oven for approximately 12-15 minutes or until it is cooked through. Drain excess oil from the sausage (I blot the excess with a paper towel), chop sausage into bite-sized pieces.
In a medium stock pot, combine the onion, the carrots, the garlic, the water and the 2nd tablespoon of olive oil. Simmer the mixture over medium heat until the onions are clear.
Stir in the thyme, bay leaf, cannellini beans and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Take half of the mixture and purée it in a food processor or blender.
Return the puréed mixture to the stock pot. Stir in the sausage and the escarole. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer for an additional 5 minutes and serve.
This makes 6 large servings or 8 medium-size.

*I have used both Kale & Escarole in this soup. You can also leave the sausage out entirely to make it veggie only or change up the sausage according to taste.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

It's not just a state of mind~

Good to be home

I only know how I feel when I am here. It's just hard to take the Texas out of the Texan. I love the way Fall smells, the sun feels & the wind feels with a "Blue Northern" blows in, putting that chill in the wind. The people, places & spirit of Texas are just hard to get when I am any other place on earth. Day to day these things carry me through & give me a mental anchor to let me drift back home when I need to.

Friday, November 23, 2007

From my point of view~

Home again!

Words can't describe the feeling when I see Texas from any angle! On those days when Texas & Mexico are worlds apart this is a blessed & wonderful sight.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thinking Green just before Turkey Day!

If this drink is good enough for Oprah then it is worth trying! I needed to use up the produce as we pack up & head to Texas for Thanksgiving. I juiced it all & it is really quite tasty! Salute & Buen Provencho!

Green Drink Recipe
2 apples, cored
2 big handfuls of spinach
1/2 cup of chopped parsley
1 celery stick, chopped
1 thumbnail length of ginger root, peeled
1 lemon - juice only (use peel slice for zest)
1 medium cucumber

**I can't find lemons here & substituted persian limes. Also, he suggested adding sweet things if it is too tart. I added the juice from 2 small clementines. Anyway, one can feel quite virtuous having something like this a day or so before Thanksgiving~helps to stay the course!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

1 1/2 Cup Flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Cup pumpkin puree
1/2 Cup olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 Cup dried Cranberries,(toss with 1 Tbsp. flour)
1/2 Cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift together flour, salt, sugars, baking soda & set aside.

Mix the pumpkin puree, oil, eggs & spices then combine with dry ingredients, do not over mix, stir in nuts & dried cranberries. Pour into well buttered & floured 9X5 loaf pan. Bake 50-60 min. till a skewer comes out clean from center. Turnout the pan & let cool on a rack. This recipe can be doubled quite easily.

I started this recipe with a fresh pumpkin~

A Pot of Zesty Pumpkin Soup~

Pumpkin Soup

6 C. Pumpkin Puree (3-15 oz. cans)
4 Tbsp. Butter
2 Med. Yellow onions, chopped
2 Garlic gloves, minced
2 Tbsp. Flour
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. Paprika
1/2 tsp. curry powder
2 dashes of Tabasco, Cholula or fave hot sauce
pinch of Cayenne pepper (or 3 chili pequines, dried)
1 large Green Apple, peeled, diced
4 cups Chicken or Vegetable broth
1/2 c. whole milk
1 tsp. Thyme, fresh
Salt & Pepper to taste

Saute onion, garlic, apple in butter till translucent & slightly golden, add flour to make Roux. Slowly add 2 cups Broth. Add Puree, seasonings,thyme, then rest of broth. Add enough broth to give consistency of a thick soup but not too thin. This may vary some if you use fresh pumpkin. Simmer over low heat till Soup is heated (approx. 30 min.) Remove from heat & add milk & serve in heated bowls.
Top soup with extra fresh Thyme.

Thread your Chili Pequines onto a toothpick so you can locate them in your Soup, Stew, etc.

¡Feliz Día de la Revolución!

, Celebrate in style this week!!

Sending out some South of the Border Love, from now till Thanksgiving~

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It was one of those started with Spinach Salad!

As I bit into my spinach salad yesterday at lunch I broke a piece out of one of my molars! From my lunch hour the rest of the day went downhill. John & I had numerous phone conversations as he was driving back into town about my problem & how best to solve it on a Friday afternoon. I was supposed to meet a friend to have a leisurely visit to a local craft fare. She ended up staying with me till I made it to a late evening dental visit. Quite fortunately John made some calls & has friends who made an appointment with a dentist in Monterrey as well as drove me there with a personal driver. The dental office was near the Hospital San Jose in Monterrey. I really was impressed with both the Doctor & his staff as well as the state of the art equipment. He examined me & told me he would put a crown on my tooth after I saw someone else for an emergency Root Canal!!! The reality is that I broke about half of my tooth on that gritty Spinach Salad! He made some phone calls & within 30 minutes the Dean of the College of Dentistry at TEC de Monterrey who does only restoration & root canals was giving me an emergency root canal till 8:30 pm last evening. I return for the crown on Tuesday & then head to Texas for our Thanksgiving holiday. By then I will be thankful all of this is behind me! Right now my jaw feels like I've been kicked in the head. I think it will be a very low key weekend.

*Of note: I was impressed by the level of care I was able to get & how quickly people responded. Often we think the medical care South of the Border as being somehow less than standard. I can attest to the fact that it was premium care & quite first class. Even if it wasn't my idea of how to spend a Friday night in Mexico~ At one point the doctor wasn't sure the tooth could be saved since there was so much broken out & one of the roots looked inflamed. For the fine care I received & friends who helped with this minor crisis I am thankful this Thanksgiving holiday~

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Diabolitos & Dangerous Roadways

After a late night at the Friday wedding, John's week of meetings & my week of visiting we headed back to Monterrey on Saturday afternoon. Our trip was thankfully pretty uneventful but I did happen to capture a "Diabolito", one of the small desert dust cyclones of which there are many in Coahuila. I also had my camera ready as we headed into the hairpin turns of the mountain pass between Saltillo & Monterrey. I was told my a local recently that it is rightfully called "The dead man's slope" or "cuesta de los muertos". The sign alone really says enough... I guess the sign is cheaper than building a better,straighter road to begin with. The many roadside shrines are a testament to the danger & constant conditions which put the traveler in peril. I guess that is Mexico danger, devotion & unpredictable~all rolled into one!

Katerina & some of the guys in her life!

We took Katerina with us to Torreon, she visited her vet while we were in town. This visit was punctuated with some Rabies shots & the introduction of a new friend. Generally when she visits Dr. Sergio she has the run of his office. She is such a frequent visitor that she is called the Princess around the clinic & sits at his laptop & in his chair. This trip was a little different for her as she is no longer the only cat at the clinic. She met "Diego", an adorable orange Tabby. Sergio explained to us that he recently rescued Diego from an airduct system in a house in Torreon. Now he is a permenent resident at the vet clinic. Diego & Katerina seemed to be on very friendly terms by the time we arrived to pick her up on Saturday morning. The only snag in the friendship came when we put her cute little satin pet carrier in the car & realized that Diego had sprayed her carrier to "mark" his territory...we realized about half way to Saltillo that the strange odor was Katerina's kitty carrier. Needless to say Sunday was spent cleaning the kitty carrier so it is fresh & clean once again! Ahh, the price of kitty friendship.

Wedding in Torreon, Coahuila

John & I attended the wedding of Luis & Marcella Compean Friday night in Torreon. It was a beautiful service in the Campestre with a very grand reception following at the Montebello Country Club. We arrived back at our hotel by 1 am but were by no means the last to leave. Out at Montebello celebrations were still going strong till the wee hours, I'm certain. *I did find out that almost all evening weddings in Mexico are very formal affairs. I was one of 3 women out of approx. 400 guest not wearing a floor length gown. I felt fine wearing my dress but will keep that note in my head for next time. I'm still living & learning, somewhere South of the Border.

Friday, November 9, 2007

A good hair day!

Today I had a hair appointment with one of our local stylists, even though the appointment started later than scheduled, which was not my fault~a true "South of the Border time" thing... It was a good hair day. My friend Lori (who has not too many bad hair days) came to the salon for a show of support & great company as well. The salon at one point was an adventure in disorder. But eventually I was quite pleased with the job well done. Joey was a prestigious Golden Scissors Nominee this past year. I really don't know what that is other than a high honor. Bravo Joey! I like my hair today, although tomorrow is another day...

You just never know how the day will progress here South of the Border! Lori even drove me past the Gianormous Milk Carton Sign so I could capture another Mexican photo opportunity. Just another day down south!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

In Mexico ~ we women stick together!

I love these women!! With 190 million people in Mexico all it takes is a few good friends to keep me sane South of the Border!

Friends, spending time, having fun~

South of the Border outings are always more interesting & exciting when you have friends to share it with. Whether shopping, lunching or just wandering, it's better with friends. We walked through clusters of people down in Centro today exploring the ordinary, extraordinary & inexplicable.

Another fun time with the Chicas! Great day: Caroline, Joan & Lori!! BTW, where is other Chica in these pics? hmmm...Strange to have her Chiliquiles photo but not Lil Martha.