Thursday, August 29, 2013

7 Quick Takes - a week of surprise tests

Yes, well this has been QUITE a week. Last week, remember (those of you who are regular readers of this blog) that we had Tropical Storm Ivo come through on Friday and Saturday. Sunday there were little white clouds and perfect weather. So far so good. Then it was Monday, the week of the surprise tests.


Monday our cleaning lady was sweeping the kitchen floor when she called out to me "Look! A big scorpion!" (I hope you're reading this, Jen). Alive, of course. She put the broom over the top of it and swept it out the back door, where I killed it with a big rock. Having dirt right outside the back door comes in handy sometimes, although calling the raw earth "dirt" is giving it a label better than it deserves. On to surprise test #2:


Tuesday and Wednesday the cloud cover continued to build and the weather report said that Tropical Storm Juliette was headed our way. Since we had just had a tropical storm 3 days before, we prepared for this one based on our experience of that one. BAD FAIL! By 10:00 Wednesday night the wind had really kicked up, and at 10:30 the electricity went off. Then the full force of the storm hit. We have been in hurricanes here, but none of them was as bad as this storm. I think the difference is that the hurricanes we've experienced passed to the west of us so we only felt one edge of them, whereas this storm passed directly over us. This had the strongest winds (with rain) that I've ever experienced. While we were in the thick of it I realized that the cushions from our outdoor furniture were getting soaked even though they were under a roof 6 feet from where the rain was. So I ran out and grabbed them all and brought them inside (sopping wet, of course). At the same time our two dogs, who we had chained up on the porch, were both standing, not in the shelter of the porch, but out in the storm, so we decided to unchain them, expecting them to go to David's workshop, where they generally stay during storms. We stayed awake and alert to the noise of things falling and breaking until the wind died down (after midnight) and finally fell asleep.


The next morning we woke up to find a mess. It was hard choosing only one photo to show, since everywhere we looked there was stuff broken, flooded (the upstairs bedroom!), covered in leaves and palm branches. And it was raining, steadily. So out we went into the rain to deal with the things that had to be dealt with. We got soaked; I ended up changing out of soaked clothes twice before giving up and just staying wet. The electricity was still out, and it looked like it might be out for days, since we saw power lines down all over the place. So David went to the store and bought 4 big bags of ice for the refrigerator, and I figured out what meals to make over the next 4 days that would use up all the perishables before they went bad.


Meanwhile, neither of the dogs were to be found. In mid-morning Quila showed up but Huerfa didn't. We were concerned, so we got in the truck and drove slowly around the whole neighborhood, but there was no sign of her. David went out a second time in the truck, and then on foot with Quila (hoping she could lead us to Huerfa), but no luck. Our good friend Diego and his two boys joined us in looking for her, but as of tonight (Thursday) she's still MIA.


Having nothing better I could do since the electricity was off, I worked on my latest handwork project which is a crocheted modesty top to wear over camisoles. I had already completed the back and one side when I found out that although I had carefully measured the gauge more than once, the finished pieces were quite a bit smaller than they should be. I thought about ripping them both out and starting over, and couldn't bring myself to do it, so instead I decided to increase the width of the back by 3 inches and leave the front alone since for some reason it was close enough to gauge that it would be usable. So I had to figure out how to add crocheting to the 2 sides without it looking like I had. I ripped out the top part of the back which is a more complicated stitch pattern and just added width to the bottom which is simple filet stitch. I think I came close enough, don't you? Next - redo the top part.


On Monday our fumigator had made his monthly visit. Usually he just sprays outside (mostly for fleas) but since we had just found a scorpion in the house that morning, and since we were also seeing flying termites in the house, we had him spray inside as well. Thankfully the termites here are only about 1/5 the size of the ones in Mendocino, but they swarm the same (that means there are always hundreds or thousands together). We thought that would be the end of the problem, but no such luck. When I got back from mass tonight (Thursday), a swarm of them showed up on the kitchen table. There were even more outside in the summer kitchen. The photo above, by the way, shows a flying termite stuck to my gin and tonic. Oh, and as David was trying to reduce the number of termites in the kitchen, he looked down at the floor and found...

a dead scorpion! No idea who stepped on it or when....

[7] DID I PASS? Rather than fretting about Huerfa or our lack of electricity I prayed the rosary. Every Thursday I pray the rosary for specific groups of people - the men and the youth of our town, those who have strayed off the path to the Kingdom, those who are in perilous situations, and the disregarded, sick, poor and otherwise unvalued people of the world. Today this had the extra effect of taking my mind off our post-Juliette problems, which were minimal compared with some people here. I also made myself keep to the commitment I have made to go to adoration and mass every Thursday. So I got through the day with much more peace than I would have done in times past. And...the electricity came back on just before I left for adoration! God is certainly our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble! LATE UPDATE: I was in bed praying for God's continuing grace to keep me from being too sad about Huerfa disappearing when I felt Him nudging me to go look out the window, and there she was! Thank you God for Your great love toward all your creation!

For more quick takes, probably quicker than this one, hop on over to Jen's at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Got leftover tamales?

When I was growing up in Northern California there used to be an ad on the radio every Tuesday saying "Tuesday is Red's Tamale day!". I don't know who Red was and I didn't eat tamales as a child - I had my first tamale after I was 40 years old. Now I live in tamale country, so I recently ended up having a lot of leftover tamales and needed to do something interesting with them. I found a recipe for Tamale Casserole in one of my favorite cookbooks, "Tacos, Tortas and Tamales", by Roberto Santibanez. As usual, I tweaked it a bit so this is my version, taking into account that most readers won't have all the same ingredients available that I do here in Mexico.

> 10 leftover tamales
> 2 large (7 oz?) cans of diced chiles, or if you're up for more heat, 2 cans of rajas (sliced poblanos) or if you like to do things from scratch, 4-5 fresh poblano chiles
> 1 medium onion
> 12oz cheese (oaxaca, chihuauha,jack or cheddar or a combination), shredded or sliced thinly
> 1/4 cup of sour cream
> about 8oz of salsa, preferably a real Mexican variety like the one in the photo below - this shouldn't be too mild since it will be cut by the sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the husks from the tamales and roughly chop them into pieces of about 1".

Slice or dice the onion and cook it in a pan over medium heat until soft. Add the chiles (if you use fresh poblanos you'll have to char them, remove the skins and de-seed them, and cut them into slices or chop them).

In a baking pan or similar size casserole dish, layer the tamale pieces, the onion/chile mix, and the cheese. The dish I used here is about the size of a 9x9 pan, but about 1.5 or 2 times deeper, and the ingredients filled it to the top.

You'll end with a layer of cheese, but before you put that layer on...

Mix the salsa and the sour cream (or half and half, or canned milk if you don't have any sour cream), and pour evenly over the contents of the casserole. THEN add the last layer of cheese.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.

If you like tamales, you'd love this casserole - it has the tamale taste but is much more flavorful. My husband called this dish "extraordinary!" - something he rarely says about food. This recipe could easily serve 6 people.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Frittata is the answer

The question, of course, is "What can I make with summer squash that would be a good hot weather dish?"

Here's what I did with some some my excessive amount of summer squash that's now coming from our garden. I had looked through a great cookbook I have on how to use the vegetables in your garden, but for squash there were only recipes for salads or soups(!?).

Since my favorite kitchen challenge is to make tasty meals of stuff we already have (rather than finding recipes and then going and buying the ingredients), I rummaged around and found - in addition to the squash - a tomato that was going to go bad if I didn't use it pronto, some onions (my motto for cooking is "start by cooking an onion in some olive oil..."), a tin of smoked clams, and some eggs.

So here's what I did:
1. Start by slicing an onion finely and cooking it in some olive oil (true to form!) on medium heat. I used a 10" pan, so if you use a smaller pan, reduce the ingredients to fit the pan.
2. Slice at least 3 smallish squash very thin - you could probably use up to 5 squash in the frittata, depending on their size - but I just took the 3 that needed to be used soonest.
3. When the onion has cooked enough to get soft, add the squash to the pan. If you slice too much squash and realize that it won't all fit, set aside some for tomorrow's meal.
4. Break 6 eggs into a bowl (could be up to 8 eggs if your pan - and the crowd you're feeding - is big enough).
5. Add a pinch of coriander to the eggs, a couple of shakes of the original Tabasco (the best for eggs, if you like them a bit spicy), some salt and pepper, and if dairy's okay for you, a small pour of milk or half and half (this makes the egg mixture thicker and smoother).
6. Once the squash has softened up a little (not too much!) add the tin of smoked clams with their oil to the pan and turn the heat to LOWEST.
7. Slice the tomato thinly and add to the pan (the tomato isn't necessary, but it looks nice)
8. Add the eggs, making sure that the egg mixture spreads over the contents of the pan.
9. Cover the pan (I'm too lazy most of the time to do the trick of turning the frittata, so having the pan covered ensures that the top gets cooked).
10. Leave it for 5 minutes and check to see if the top is solid yet. If not, check every couple of minutes until you've got a solid top.
11. Let the frittata sit for at least a few minutes or up to a couple of hours with the top on. This dish is great warm, cool, or cold.
12. Serve it up!

Some changes that would work well:
You could add some chopped up garlic to the onions. If you do that I would forget about adding the coriander to the egg mix - the flavor is too subtle to stand up to garlic.

You could use thyme instead of coriander to season the eggs.

If you don't have a tin of smoked clams (but why not? They're so versatile!), you could use any leftover meat you have, or substitute some grated cheese (any kind) for the meat.

You could also add chopped olives if you don't use smoked clams - they would give the frittata a distinctive flavor. But don't put them in with the smoked clams because the flavors would probably work against each other.

Putting in some chopped parsley would be a pretty addition too.

Since we usually eat only one thing per meal, the two of us ate the whole frittata in a single sitting. If you add a green salad and some crusty bread, both of which would go really well with this dish, there would be enough to serve 4 adults, or 2 adults and 4 children.

Buen provecho! (the spanish version of "enjoy!")

NOTE: this post is dedicated to the two of my granddaughters who love to cook the most: Ayla and Brenna.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Week Ending - betcha can't top this one!

This was my birthday weekend, and I was looking forward to a very special gift that I had specifically asked for. But first...

FRIDAY: Today the workmen came to tear down our fence because our black dog, Quila (short for Tranquila, which she is NOT) had pushed on it so hard in guarding our house from the dangerous and malevolent schoolchildren that pass by every day that it had given up the ghost and fallen over.

This, of course, meant that we had to keep the dogs chained up most of the day so they wouldn't run off and get into trouble, which is their normal MO.

What made the day particularly interesting is that the front end of a tropical storm came through just about the time that the welders started working to weld the posts. Yes, rain - a steady drizzle.

In the late afternoon, since the dogs had been on their chains all day, I decided to take them for a walk - in the rain - to give them a chance to "do their duty". Since I'm not strong enough to take both of them on a leash at the same time, I had to do the walk twice. We all came back thoroughly soaked (surprise!).

SATURDAY: The first thing I did when I woke up was take the dogs for (separate) walks the rain again. On Saturday Tropical Storm Ivo had moved in closer, so we had wind as well. I was desperate to do some laundry and since we don't have a dryer (why bother when it's sunny 360 days out of the year?) I had David string up some twine in the guest bedroom so I could do a load of the most desperately needed clothes and have somewhere to dry them that didn't cut off our ability to walk around in our 850 square foot house.

On Saturdays I generally cook up a bunch of things to use during the week - rice, beans, and whatever else comes to hand. Although we were in the middle of a tropical storm, it was still too hot to cook inside, so I fired up the woodstove in the "summer kitchen" (which is where I've been doing all my cooking since the weather got hot) and put on a pot of black beans, a pot of rice, and 4 crabs that I had bought at the pescaderia (fish store) the day before. By this time the rain had stopped, but the wind had really kicked up, with gusts of about 40 MPH. I had to hold onto my potholders, but other than that it didn't affect my ability to cook.

THEN came my birthday present! Our priest had promised to teach me how to make mole (pronounced mole-ay for you non-spanish speakers), and at lunchtime he showed up with about 20 ingredients. He laid them all out and while he did almost all the work, I took notes. What most people in the States don't realize is that there are many types of mole, not just the one with chocolate. This particular mole doesn't have chocolate, but it does use FOUR different types of chiles, along with TWO types of nuts, bananas, and many other things. It took about an hour and a half to put it all together, and another half hour to cook.

After all that effort we were all hungry so I made a salad for us to eat:
1/2lb of good ham (not that watery stuff-use thick sliced bacon if you can't find good ham)
1 small (8oz) can of corn
1 bell pepper (I used yellow)
1 large roma tomato
1/2-3/4 cup of kalamata olives
3 hard boiled eggs

I cubed the ham and heated it up, then mixed it with the other ingredients and poured garlic italian salad dressing (purchased) over the whole thing. It was a major hit!

Part of the birthday present is that Padre was going to come back after the midday mass on Sunday (the third of 4 for him each Sunday) to have chicken mole with us. He told me that we should have rice and tortillas with it, so after he left I went back out and cooked up the chicken and made another batch of rice (because the first batch I made is for other meals this week). After those were finished, I deboned the chicken and also got all the meat out of the crab to use for later. So the result of all the cooking outside on a woodstove during a tropical storm was:
1.5 quarts of black beans
2.5 quarts of mole (yummy!)
3 quarts of rice
1.5 pounds of deboned chicken
1 pint of crab meat
And of course the salad...

SUNDAY: Our church has a fundraising program for the various groups in the church where one of the couples in the church makes tamale lunches once a month and tickets are sold, with the cost of the tickets covering the ingredients, plus extra which goes to the church groups. For some reason David had bought FOUR tickets this time, plus a friend of mine gave me 2, so we had SIX tickets for tamale lunches. Thankfully I had just found a recipe that uses leftover tamales to make a casserole, so right after church I got the 6 lunches and we hightailed it home to fire up the woodstove so I could heat up the chicken mole and the rice.

We had a VERY tasty lunch and I got a wonderful surprise. I asked Padre what recipe I should learn next and he said that he will come over in a week and teach me how to make a special kind of salsa that I've never heard of. It turns out that he LOVES to cook traditional Mexican ranchero food, which he learned from his mom, and he usually spends his day off each week cooking! So he's pretty excited that I want to learn this stuff, and I'm even more excited that he's willing to find the time to teach me! I'm hoping to have a series of occasional blog posts, "Padre's Kitchen", with the recipes and photos of these traditional dishes. I'm sorry I didn't take any photos while we were making the mole, but trying to watch Padre and take notes during a tropical storm needed my full attention. However, Padre said that soon he's going to come over and watch ME make the mole from scratch, to be sure that I have it down, so I'll do a post with the recipes and photos then.

After Padre left David and I settled in for a nice long summer's nap, and when we woke up we took the dogs for a walk. And enjoyed the sunset, of course!

Feliz cumpleanos to Kathleen Basi and everyone else whose birthday was this weekend! Now hie thyself over to Reinventing Mother to see what's been going with Wanda and others this past weekend.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes from Mexico

I'm joining up with Jen and the gang at Conversion Diary for Seven Quick Takes with the hope of getting some bits and pieces of things up and out of my list of draft posts.

[1] I went to Holy Hour this evening before mass, and just as I got there it sounded like all the fire engines and ambulances in town were racing to what must have been a giant emergency. About 10 minutes before mass started, they came racing back the other way, horns and sirens blaring. A minute later ALL the bomberos (volunteer fire department), including the junior group of bombero trainees and the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) people, marched into the church. What was going on? They sat down around me and remained through the end of Holy Hour.

When the mass started, Padre welcomed them all and announced that they were there to give thanks to God and the mass was dedicated to honoring their service in the community. I was trying to imagine all the members of the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department, of which my son Matt is one, going to church together to give thanks to God and have the pastor bless them - NOT going to happen in our lifetime! At the end of the mass Padre went outside with them where their vehicles were parked and blessed the whole group. And of course, I didn't have my camera with me because you don't need a camera in church...RIIIGHT! (I'll try not to make THAT mistake again).

[2] Last week I did a series of posts about a trip we made to mainland Mexico. Our priest had invited us to come stay with him and his family (mom, brothers & sisters, and MANY nephews) while he was on vacation, and we were delighted and honored, so off we went. However, I forgot to do a post of the day we spent exploring Padre's home city of Leon (BAD FAIL!). Leon is the leather capital of Mexico, and I've never seen so many shoe stores! Whole shopping malls of stores selling only leather goods, entire mercados with hundreds of tiendas filled with purses, streets with shoe stores on all four corners. However, as this link describes, that's not what the people of Leon are most proud of (it's a great story!)

We went to the cathedral and I fell in love with this statue of Mary, holding her Son's crown of thorns. Unfortunately I didn't get a clear enough photo, so I guess I'll just have to go back to take another one!

[3] Something else that really impressed me was an altar in the cathedral museum. It was made by a famous Mexican artisan for Pope Benedict to use when he visited Leon last year. The entire thing is silver, and it was made as an act of love, not because the Pope asked for it (I can't even imagine that humble man asking for anything!) So now that it's in a museum we all get to enjoy the amazing craftsmanship of this piece.

[4] I was praying the rosary recently and when I got to Jesus being crowned with a crown of thorns God showed me something I had never seen before. Jesus is the King, so it is right that he was crowned. If the people who crowned him did it to mock him, that doesn't affect the fact that the King should have a crown. It's not the intent of the giver that matters; it's the significance in God's eyes that counts. Even though the soldiers put a crown on Jesus to shame him, his dignity in suffering showed that he was worthy to wear it. Here's an image from the Cristo Rey monument we visited, in which a huge crown of thorns encircles the entire interior of the church.

[5] Back at home, we've been working on our "outside house" - a huge palapa-covered patio (a palapa is a roof of palm leaves) - to make it more usable, since the hot weather has finally arrived and it's actually cooler under the palapa than in the house. The outdoor kitchen and dining areas needed work. Two of the four chairs in our dining area had been wrecked by being out in the rain - the woven esparto grass seats had fallen apart - so I painted them and wove new seats using colored strapping tape. Here's a pic of what the chairs looked like before (with the woven grass seats) and what they look like now.

[6] As a birthday present (my birthday is Sunday), David made me a cabinet for our outdoor kitchen because I had nowhere to put pots, pans, plates, etc. I made a mosaic top from tiles left over from our guest suite construction, and today I grouted it.

[7] Well, I can't top Jen's scorpions (although we have them down here, but apparently nowhere near as many) but here is an interesting bug that just showed up on our living room floor. It's not poisonous, just big with VERY long antennas.

With that great ending (?) I'm sure you'll want to find better images to fill your mind, so fly on over to Jen's and see what else is there - a plethora of options, I assure you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Five Favorites in my neighborhood

It's been awhile since I've done a Five Favorites linkup with Hallie at Moxie Wife, but I thought you all might be interested in what my neighborhood is like (no doubt quite different from yours!). So here are five of my favorite places in my neighborhood.


I LOOOVE the colors of this house. Most houses around here are painted orange, or sometimes green, so this is a rarity. I don't know the people who live here, but I pass it when I'm walking home from the neighborhood grocery store (see below).


This cute little casita is at the corner of my block (that's my house peeking out from behind it). It's been for sale for years and if I could justify buying it I would, just so some norteamericano doesn't buy the property and tear the house down to build a gringo palace.


At one point (about 100 years ago) our town was famous and rich because sugar cane was grown here. There were 5 mills in the area, and this machinery is what's left of one of them. It's right behind the grammar school, two blocks from our house.


This is where I get most everything. This photo shows half the store, so it's pretty small, but it has almost everything I want except fish. I generally walk down here a couple of times a week to do my shopping. It's 3 blocks from my house.


Happily, sunsets like this are visible from anywhere in my neighborhood every evening, although our house has the best view of all.

Check out other favorites (having nothing to do with neighborhoods) over at Hallie's, and may you be blessed where you live.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Week Ending 17 Agosto

I'm joining Wanda of Reinventing Mother for her Week Ending linkup, and praying for God to comfort her in her trials and reward her with the sweetness of His presence.

My weekend started with a VERY unusual (for me) hankering to make cookies, so I did. Two dozen nutella chocolate chip cookies, and a dozen "3-ingredient" peanut butter cookies.

What I didn't realize was how RICH and ADDICTIVE they are - especially the nutella cookies! The poor Pirate got carried away eating them on Saturday night and woke up Sunday morning feeling so bad that he stayed home from mass! This NEVER happens to him, so lesson learned - I've got to reduce the temptation factor next time I'm in the mood to bake something.

This is how the Pirate looked most of Sunday.

But back to the rest of the weekend...
On Saturday I decided that I needed a new headcovering for church, so I repurposed a shawl that I never wore by downsizing it and the result was this:

I also worked on a crocheted top that I'm making to wear over cami's.
This color (which is the official color of the Mexican postal system) is really amazing! Believe it or not, it goes with everything! I guess fuchsia is the new black - at least in Mexico.

The weather was perfect on Saturday, with a lovely breeze. I was out in the ramada most of the day crocheting and reading, and sometimes looking at the view.

However, it was too hot on Sunday to cook inside the house, so I got the wood cookstove going outside and made a little supper.

This is one of my famous "one-pot" meals. I am the queen of one-pot meals because I learned to cook on a longbox wood stove (NOT made for cooking!) with a single pot!

We had our supper outside in the ramada.

Once it got dark we went back in the house and I wrote the most recent episode in a series of posts about our trip to mainland Mexico.

Check it out - it's a pretty good story!

Gimme that old time religion

This is part 5 in a series.
For part 1, click HERE. For part 2, click HERE. For part 3, click HERE. For part 4, click HERE.

Padre was supposed to call us at about 10am so we could walk down to the street to meet him. I wasn't too worried when he hadn't called by 11 - we were all on vacation, after all - but I started praying that everything was all right with him. At 11:30 he called and said that the cough that he had started having on the way back from San Miguel the night before had become really bad, so he had driven home to Leon and had to have an injection of something and get some sleep. He said that he would pick us up at 1pm. We were going to end up in Guadalajara that night so we could fly home the next day.

We had agreed ahead of time that his mom and sister would come with us because we would be passing by a favorite shrine of his mom's, and he could also take her to visit relatives in Guadalajara. The shrine of Nuestra Senora de San Juan de los Lagos is a major focus of pilgrimages in central Mexico, and it was an amazing experience!

It's just like the descriptions of pilgrimage sites in the Middle Ages (my favorite era), with the streets surrounding the basilica filled with little tiendas.

I was particularly drawn to the ones that were selling crocheted items (there were quite a lot of them!), with the women crocheting goods to sell while waiting for customers.

When we entered the church, it was completely packed, and the central aisle was full of pilgrims walking on their knees to the the altar, where mass had just started. There is a mass every hour and a half at this church every day of the week, with the first one at 5:30 AM and the last one at 7:30 PM. Every one of them is apparently as packed as this one. Some pilgrims walk here from hundreds of miles away!

We found a place to stand along the side, and the entire time of the mass, more and more people kept coming in and walking past us to the front, or going on their knees down the central aisle. Since the church looked totally full when we came in, I have no idea where everybody found a place to put their bodies. I don't think I've EVER been in such a crowd in my life. When it was time for communion, there was no way that people could come up to the front, so we all just stood in rows in the main aisle and the servers came down the aisles and served us communion. I received from a tiny nun, surely only 4 1/2 feet tall - wonderful!

The Pirate did most of the driving (several hours worth) because Padre still was wiped out and his cough, although better, was quite worrisome. While we were on the road Padre told us that many people who go to that shrine go in fulfillment of a vow that they make to God if He answers a particular request of theirs. He called this an example of "popular religion", which although faith is present, an abiding relationship with God is often absent. The focus of popular religion is on what the person wants, not what God wants, and often the people who go on pilgrimage don't otherwise go to church or have any concept of spiritual growth. Of course, there are lots of people who go on pilgrimage who are serious about their relationship with God (a mixed crowd, just like in Canterbury Tales).

We stopped at another sanctuary to the martyrs of the Cristero war before heading on to Guadalajara, but I didn't get any photos (I was pretty tired at that point). When we got into Guadalajara it was dinnertime and we set out to find a particular restaurant that Padre had told us about which served Argentine-style (LOTS of different meats brought on skewers). It took us awhile to find the place, and when we got within a couple of blocks of it we saw most of the trees in the median strip of the road being cut up and hauled away. We found out that early that morning a huge tormenta (storm) had come through and knocked over 81 trees in the city, and flooded a bunch of homes as well! After dinner - a great treat for us all - Padre took us to our hotel and went with his family to a relative's house. We were on our own until we got on the airplane the next day.

Friday, August 16, 2013

El grito and and other significant events

This is part 4 in a series. For part 1, click HERE. For part 2, click HERE. For part 3, click HERE.

Arlene and Glen had accepted our invitation to go to San Miguel de Allende, but when we arrived in Guanajuato to pick them up, we found out that Glen's back was out so it was just Padre, David (the Pirate), Arlene and me on the day's adventure.

Instead of leaving Guanajuato via the highway, we took the VERY high way via a two-lane road that went along the mountain tops. Guanajuato is at about 7000 feet, so the mountains that surround it must be around 8000. We definitely got above the tree line for part of the journey. It's so amazing to be south of the Tropic of Cancer (therefore in the tropics) but have cool weather in the summer. The entire central section of Mexico is a high plain known as the Bajio, and it reminds me a lot of the Central Valley of California: big agriculture with prosperous cities scattered around (well, that part isn't like California, where several cities in the Valley have had to declare bankruptcy), and quaint towns in the surrounding hills and mountains.

The road brought us into Dolores Hidalgo, where the Mexican War of Independence from Spain began. In the U.S. we think of May 5th as the Mexican Independence Day, but that is incorrect, and that day isn't very important in Mexico itself. It's September 16th, the day that the priest of Dolores called the townspeople to arms to fight against the Spanish, that is considered Independence Day in Mexico.

This is the church of Dolores Hidalgo, the one that the priest was pastor of. The second photo is the retablo to the side of the altar. Since the town wasn't awash in gold and silver (as Guanajuato was) the retablo is plain wood, unpainted except for one saint on the right. I like it much better than the gold retablo in Guanajuato.
After a substantial breakfast in Dolores Hildalgo, we got back on the road to San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel has a higher percentage of foreign residents than any other city in Mexico, but thankfully our experiences there were of the Mexican community.

Padre dropped us off at the main plaza in town and went to look for a parking place. We wandered over to the church (above) and discovered a wedding in process. One of the marvelous things about the Catholic Church, at least here in Mexico, is that all masses are public, so if there's a baptism or a wedding or a funeral, anybody can come to the service. We entered the church and stayed for the rest of the mass, and watched the bride and groom process out of the church. We turned to go too, and saw a large group of people dressed in black on the steps of the church. Yep, a funeral party. As soon as everyone from the wedding mass had exited the church, a casket was brought in and the funeral attendees entered for a funeral mass. Rather than staying for that, we waited on the church steps for Padre (who still hadn't arrived after a half hour; parking in the city is notoriously awful).

This horse was standing on the side of the plaza. Although he was in harness, there was no carriage for him to pull, so it was a bit mysterious.

Once Padre arrived he showed us the city from a Mexican's perspective. A Mexican priest. So, of course, we checked out all the churches in the city center. And found...another funeral mass! We opted out of attending that mass as well and went on to a convent. The church in the convent was closed, but we stayed in the courtyard awhile soaking up the peace of the place.

Definitely more fulfilling than going to all the shops catering to gringos, full of expensive stuff.

Although there were lots of gelato and frozen yoghurt shops for gringos, we decided to cap our visit by getting real Mexican helados (ices). The little cart that we went to had over 30 varieties of ices (take that B/R!) with some VERY interesting flavors - "dulce de angel", "dulce del diablo" (with chile, of course), and many more I'd never heard of.

The little plaza we sat in to eat our treats had the first cactus we'd seen anywhere on the mainland.

We drove back to Guanajuato where the Pirate and I stayed overnight with Glen and Arlene and Padre planned to stay at the house of a good friend of his. But things turned out differently. More tomorrow....