Friday, September 27, 2013

Cooking with Padre: Salsa con chicharrones

As my hordes of regular readers already know, our priest is teaching me to cook like a native Mexican (when he has the time). This, then, is the first in what I hope to be occasional posts of traditional Mexican recipes as taught by Padre.

As a background to how he came to be such a good cook, he told us that his mother taught him to cook when he was still a boy. He had a younger brother who had meningitis and epilepsy (he eventually died young), and whenever the brother was in the hospital Padre's mother had to stay there with him. Here in Mexico (as in many other countries) family members are expected to stay with a hospitalized person to help in their care. As the oldest child in the family, Padre had the responsibility of feeding his younger siblings during those times when his mother was gone, and he came to love cooking, which is his favorite thing to do on his day off each week.

This first recipe is a simple salsa, mixed in with pork rinds (chicharrones) to make a main dish. The salsa needn't be used with chicharrones, but I had never heard of cooking with them before so Padre wanted to show me how it's done.

Salsa ingredients:
8 tomatillos OR 5 roma tomatoes (fresh)
5 dried guajillo chiles (can be found in the Mexican section of most supermarkets, with the spices)
2-4 piquin chiles (these are a bit harder to find, and they're also much hotter than the guajillos)
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled

3 cups of chicharrones (pork rinds)
1/2 large onion

Using a griddle or large shallow pan, and without adding any oil, heat the chiles and tomatillos (or tomatoes). The heat should be on medium-high; you don't want everything to get blackened. The point of heating the salsa ingredients is to intensify the flavor. The chiles will only take a couple of minutes to darken; take them out of the pan and set them aside. The tomatillos (or tomatoes, whichever you use) will take longer; you want the skins to become somewhat translucent, but they won't be actually cooked to the point of softness:

The small red thing in the pan is the chile piquin - you can see that it's much smaller than the guajillos. Padre used 4 of these, and the Pirate and I think that 2 would be our ideal - piquant without a lingering heat.

While the tomatillos are still getting done, put the chicharrones in a pan or pot with high sides, and NO OIL, and put over medium heat, stirring regularly. This step can be skipped, but the flavor will not be as strong. The color of the chicharrones will darken somewhat. DON'T allow them to burn.

Slice the onion and add to the chicharrones along with about 2 tbsp of oil. This step should be done after the chicharrones have turned golden. If you were to put the onion in earlier, the liquid that it makes would prevent the chicharrones from browning. Continue to cook the mixture, but turn the burner down a bit, since you'll need to give your attention to finishing the salsa.

Cut off the tops of the chiles and slice them down the middle; remove all the seeds. Set one of the guajillos aside for later. Put the other chiles in a blender with the browned tomatillos, the browned piquin chiles, and the garlic cloves. Add enough water (or broth if you have some) to liquify the mixture (about 1/3 of the way up the blender container). Blend until well liquified. Voila! Salsa! (yes, I know that's French, but I can't think of a Spanish word like that).

Pour the salsa over the chicharrone mixture and turn the heat to medium. Mix the salsa in well, and stir continually until the salsa has soaked into the chicharrones so their texture has become like soft meat (this will take 5 minutes or less). Take it off the stove. Take the guajillo that was set aside and crumble it over the chicharrones; mix it in thoroughly and serve.

As you can tell, traditional Mexican cooking is done "by feel", not "by the book". I hope that this example encourages you to try other ingredients when making salsa, or other types of meats or mixed things to mix the salsa in with. Buen provecho!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

{p,h,f,r} September in Baja Sur

I'm finally getting it together after too many weeks of not remembering to link up with Leila et al over at Like Mother, Like Daughter for
round button chicken

We have had great weather down here all summer - cooler than usual, even days with morning fog! We had some good rain, although we could use another storm or two before the end of the season. Desert plants undergo the most amazing transformation with even a small amount of rain, and my desert garden at the front of the house looks better than I have ever seen it.

After several cancellations (unexpected funeral masses, etc.), Padre (our parish priest) came out to our house on Monday to teach me how to make salsa with chicharrones. I'll be putting up a post with the recipe and pictures in the next day or two, but here's a teaser photo of him putting salt in the mixture.

We just got a seminary student to help in our parish, and it looks like he'll be staying for a year, which is longer than any of the prior students the bishop has sent. He'll be ordained as a deacon in January, which will be a huge help to Padre, who does not only daily mass but 5 masses every Sunday (and of course all funeral and wedding masses) all by himself! And of course that doesn't include everything else he does for us. We have a real saint in our midst, for which I am deeply grateful to God.

Anyway, Padre and the seminarian, Martin, will be coming for lunch on Sunday (there's just enough time between 2 masses to squeeze in a meal) and Padre is bringing chicken tinga, which he'll make on Saturday. He promised to teach me how to make it later, when he has more time. Estoy MUY dichoso! (I am VERY happy), especially that we have a seminarian-soon-to-be-deacon to help Padre.

I'm not sure what she thought was so funny, but here's Quila (short for Tranquila, which she isn't) laughing at something. Well, at least it looks to me like she's laughing!

As you hordes of regular readers will know, I have a rotator cuff injury that is preventing me from:
1. cooking
2. knitting (I had to put aside my latest project when it was 2/3 done)
3. making the bed
4. hanging the laundry on the line to dry
5. washing the dishes
6. washing my hair
and on, and on, and on

My amazing husband with a servant's heart has picked up all the slack (except for the knitting!). I am deeply blessed by having such a godly man to take care of me. He is - and has always been - a model of how I want to be.

Mil gracias, mi querido!

Now amble on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more tales from blogland.

Pirate Post - the OJ trial (not what you expect)

I've been operating at about 25% of normal due to a rotator cuff injury that leaves me with only one usable arm. My wonderful husband the Pirate has been taking on most of my regular tasks in addition to the things he normally takes responsibility for. Meanwhile he continues to write reflections on the various ways that God breaks through in our lives, and today I've got one that illustrates what a treasure I've got for a husband.


There were four oranges left and I asked her “Would you like some orange juice?” “Well, yes I guess so” she said, unexcited, unmotivated and apparently not very thirsty. This made it hard because YES, I wanted some OJ in no uncertain terms, but there was only enough for one glassful.

“That’s OK”, I thought, “I’ll have something else” trying to be loving and giving, but I REALLY wanted that sweet, delightful glass of fresh squeezed juice. I made it, added ice, set it on the table and said “Your juice is here.” Then I ate a fully endowed weekend breakfast while staring at her glass, sitting 12 inches away.

But it was a gift given. I couldn’t just grab it and knock it down in two big gulps. Not just a little sip, either. That would be betrayal. So, I left it there – a sweet little gift, not a double-cross. I finished and when she got up and left the table I was tempted to ask “You going to finish this juice?”, but I didn’ stayed where she had left it.

Half an hour later I found the glass on the counter, drained except for a fraction at the bottom. Just a swallow, not enough to really satisfy or make any difference. But as I drank it I knew that THIS was a gift to ME. Maybe from the wife of my youth who strives to please me. Maybe from the Almighty, who knows how to multiply fishes and loaves. Maybe He knows that a little bit, combined with His blessings goes a lot farther than our own fresh squeezed sacrifices.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Week Ending 21 de septiembre

It was another quiet weekend here. The most noteworthy thing was the weather - we've been having lovely coolish days, just like late September in Alta California. Highly unusual for Baja Sur, where September and October are generally as hot as it gets (which in our town would be the mid-90s) and muggy. We've had high fog the past few mornings which is slow to burn off, and even then the breeze from the fog keeps the temperature in the mid-70s.

I spent most of the weekend reading, since I'm still unable to use my right arm for much due to a rotator cuff injury. This means that the beloved Pirate (my husband) has had to take over many of the areas that I'm generally responsible for. The one thing we haven't quite figured out how to deal with yet is cooking. So far we've been eating out a lot more than usual (mostly at taquerias). Saturday night we went to one of our favorite restaurants, which is expensive enough that we don't go there often. However, I was in the mood for sushi, and was willing to use a good portion of the week's budget to have some. Happily the owner, a neighbor of ours, was there when we arrived and he offered us some free sashimi (a new combination he had just created). As the Pirate said - and I agree - it was the best sashimi we've ever had!

On Sunday the Pirate decided to make quesadillas (not usually his forte in the kitchen) and they were tasty; good job, mi amor!

Just so you get a sense of what the weekend was like, here's picture I took while lying on the banco in our outdoor living room; muy tranquilo, no?

I'm linking up with Wanda at Reinventing Mother, and encourage you to click over to her site as well.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Musings: Dealing with risk

In my years as a financial planner the main issue was always risk. Not "investment risk" but life risk. Things like, "It's too expensive to live here in the Bay Area, but how can I take the risk to move elsewhere? How will I find a job? How will I find new friends?" or, "We want to buy a bigger house but the monthly costs will be much higher; will the extra financial burden hurt our relationship?" or, "Since I want my kid to go to the best college possible, I figure I'll just borrow the money from my 401k plan, and just hope I can get a job as a Walmart greeter once I've 'retired' ".

As I used to tell my clients, life IS risk - the only way to avoid risk is to be dead.

So now we live in Mexico. Thanks to the American "news" media, Americans have unthinkingly absorbed the line that the entire country of Mexico is unsafe due to the presence of drug cartels. Oh really? Let's try to think this through a bit, shall we?

Mexico is a large country - it is as large as the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, and Spain combined - with 31 states plus the D.F. (their version of D.C.). As we all know, the murder rate is not uniform throughout all the states in the U.S., nor all the cities in the U.S. There are plenty of people who wouldn't consider going to Oakland or Detroit because of all the "news" stories about crime there, but I know people in both those cities who live peaceable, happy lives without being worried about their personal safety. I dare say that wherever you live, dear reader, you know of an area near you where you would feel less than secure.

So, if we then admit that it is NOT appropriate to reject an entire nation based on generalized statistics, how can we know whether a specific place in Mexico is risky? One key observation (if you're into reading statistical data) is that the high murder rates you hear about in Mexico are specific to one group of people: those involved with drug cartels. You are actually much less likely to be in danger as an extranjero (non-Mexican) in Mexico than you are to be hit by lightning, or win the California lottery, or be physically assaulted almost anywhere in the U.S. If the drug cartel executions weren't included in the murder rate, Mexico would be shown to be considerably safer than the U.S. So unless you plan to buy drugs or hang out with drug dealers while you're in Mexico, you're not on the radar screen of those who are looking to off people.

Let's look, then at the considerable regional differences in the murder rate. As the map on the link shows, even taking drug cartels into account, most of Mexico has a lower-than-average murder rate. The states with very high murder rates are the ones struggling with a strong presence of the drug cartels. So how is this different from many areas of the US where there is a strong gang/mafia/cartel presence? (and don't be so naive as to think that the U.S. doesn't have these problems). Even in the Mexican states that look the worst on this map, an entire state doesn't bear the risk evenly - there are specific areas where the cartels operate. Not much different from living in the greater Los Angeles area where there are certain cities or neighborhoods where non-residents would do well to avoid. That doesn't mean that all of L.A. is given over to murderous gangs, nor is all of California, or all of the U.S.

The town I live in is small, about the same size as Fort Bragg, California which is near our family compound in the States. There are drug problems in both towns (where are there not?) but our town in Mexico is quite a bit safer than Fort Bragg, even without a police force that one can rely on. When our teen-age granddaughter came to stay with us earlier this year, my daughter-in-law asked if it was safe to let her walk around by herself during the day. I couldn't understand where that question came from until she said that she doesn't let our granddaughters walk around alone in Fort Bragg by themselves (and our granddaughter echoed that by saying that she doesn't feel safe walking by herself in Fort Bragg during the day).

Here in our town there are so many people without cars that day or night there are lots of people - often entire families - walking from one place to another. Also, people (in large part) live their lives outside, in the company of other people. This is common throughout Mexico, whose culture is much more oriented toward family and community relationships than the American culture. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, you're in plain view of numerous people of good will all the time. In our town we have an added protection - most of the people who live here are from families who have been here for generations, and everyone knows everyone else. Not much can be done in secret or anonymously around here - if you're in the Mexican part of town (it's a different thing where the gringos congregate). much risk is there for Americans in Mexico, either as visitors or as residents? If you aren't looking for the adrenaline rush that comes from doing stupid things in dangerous places (say, trying to buy drugs in a bar in Tijuana) you're in less "danger" than if you were going to wander around Orlando after seeing Disneyland. You're in less danger than you would be as a tourist in New Orleans. You're in less danger than you are (statistically speaking) if you live in Houston. Oh, and by the way, La Paz, which is the capital and largest city in our state of Baja California Sur, is considered to be one of the safest cities in North the U.S. State Department!

PLEASE try to remember that the "news" media doesn't exist to give its viewers/hearers objective information - not even NPR does that. All media have at their core the need to have enough readers/viewers/hearers to justify their existence, and the only way that they can get that is by focusing on the sensational. As beloved Pope Francis recently said, "a single tree falling makes a sound, but a whole forest growing doesn't". Here's a last link that might put this subject into perspective.

This is a photo of two things that are at the heart of Mexican society: the church (that's our neighborhood chapel in the photo) and having fun outside together, this time at a neighborhood street fair.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Pirate Poet

When my husband was a kid he used to call himself Red Dog the Pirate. He has always gotten a great deal of pleasure out of playing with words, whether by writing essays, children's stories, or poems. I (and many others) have been telling him for years that he has a rare gift, but being a humble man he doesn't promote himself or even use this gift much except for the enjoyment of family members and special friends.

However, this is my blog and I'll do what I want with it, and one of the things that I want to do is give other people the opportunity to be delighted and moved by his writings. So occasionally I will post one of his essays or poems in the expectation that it will move people he doesn't know as much as it moves people who know and love him.

You can find these posts by going to the "Labels" section on the lower right of the page and clicking on "Pirate Posts".

Here are the 3 children's books he has written (which are available through amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Life in the Lower South

When I started my blog I had in mind a way to keep in touch with family and friends on a more regular basis than I could by individual emails and phone calls, and perhaps entertain them with tales of life lived elsewhere. However, I soon realized that I had no way of knowing if ANY of my friends were reading my blog (and not even sure if my family members were, although more hopeful in that direction), and that without readers I didn't have much motivation. So I set about to become known to at least some people in the blogosphere. I did linkups - both popular ones (like 7 Quick Takes) and less-known ones (like Week Ending). I developed an off-blog relationship with some other bloggers in the process and learned what kinds of blogs (and linkups) I am most drawn to.

I really enjoy the linkups that challenge me to reflect: Week Ending, A Simple Woman's Daybook, and 3-2-1 (not exactly a linkup, but same result).

I find myself wanting to sound like the bloggers with meditative posts: Rakhi at Pitter Patter Diaries, Sarah at Everyday Elegance, Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter. They consistently find deeper treasures in the things of everyday life.

And I want to be a voice for a different perspective on life in another country - showing the fulfillment that can come by embedding yourself in an alien culture, rather than trying to replicate your own culture in an alien place. Embracing and being embraced by the Other.

David and I have plenty of experience with that. In fact, most of our adult lives we have found ourselves in places/social milieus/situations that are WAAAAY different from what we have experienced before, and have found what a great gift it is to step into the unknown and partake of the richness there. That's the foundation from which all my reflections are born. That's the source of all our stories. That's the element that has shaped our lives more than any other.

So the theme of this blog is "life in the Lower South", which is the English translation of "Baja Sur", the state in Mexico that our town is in. As with any small town in Mexico, much of life here revolves around the church, so there is plenty of that element in this blog as well - not only in relationship to our pueblo, but also how it affects us (especially me) on a deep level.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Week Ending - Dia de Independencia!

It's been a quiet week(end) here in Lago Wobegon...
I strained the muscles in my right shoulder and it has been too painful to move much. I have an appointment with the chiropractor later in the week, but meanwhile I've been deprived of my most favorite activities - knitting, sewing, cooking, writing. There are two things I can do with only one hand: read and water plants. Thus the low-key weekend.

However, today (September 16th) is Mexican Independence day - the day the revolution to gain freedom from Spain began. The celebration always starts the night before, with a re-entactment at 11pm of the "grito" - the cry to revolution - that the priest of the town of Dolores gave in 1810. It took 10 years for Mexico to be freed from the yoke of Spain, and of course it had to endure further wars to keep its independence from bullying nations like France and the USA. But...

Everywhere in Mexico last night there was a party in the town plaza, so here are a few pictures of our fiesta. Unfortunately my camera isn't really up to the task of night shots so here are the best of the bunch:

Here's the plaza, decked out with flags, and the ever-present Tecate beer tent. As far as I can tell, Tecate is the main sponsor of every fiesta and fair that happens anywhere on the Baja peninsula.

All the plaza lights were changed to show the colors of the Mexican flag: green, white and red. GREEN represents independence and hope, WHITE represents religion (specifically the Catholic Church) and purity, and RED represents the blood of the fallen national heroes and the union of the two races (Spanish/european and native Mexican).

At any town gathering here there are MANY more children than you'd see at a similar gathering in the US. When we go to the Fourth of July parade in Mendocino - a classic small town parade - there are very few children, either in the parade or watching it. Same thing with county fairs. Although Mexico's birth rate is dropping as in all other parts of the world, it's still above replacement level, so when all the tired old countries of the north implode in the next century due to too few children, Mexico - which still values the family over all else - will still be vigorous.

Because there are so many kids in the crowd, the primary vendors were of kid's tchotchkes. I love this stuff - it's cheap and colorful and kids are SO thrilled to get one of these things.

Here's our church, all decked out for its part in the celebration. It's on one end of the plaza, and the theater (a real traditional theater, not a cinema) is on one side:


P.S. To find out what some of the people in the U.S. did last weekend, go to Wanda's blog, Reinventing Mother.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Musings: Just say yes

I have spent a great deal of energy during my life promoting clear thinking. This has been helpful to people in the context of my former career, but the dynamics are different in a family, and especially between a husband and wife. With my husband this focus on clarity of thought comes in the shape of correcting his inconsistencies and and instructing him on how to achieve the same level of clarity that I possess [shamefaced grin].

Since I became Catholic and got up the nerve to address "the Mary issue", I have found what a powerful resource her life is as a model for us. The more I meditate on how she responded to situations, the easier I find it to respond the same way. After all, if she, being "only human" could respond with grace, patience, and humility in difficult situations, there's no reason why I can't learn to do the same.

This is playing out in my life most profoundly in my responses to my husband when (from my perspective) he is being inconsistent or otherwise not thinking clearly about something. I am learning to "just say yes" - rather than arguing a point, or instructing him, I am letting go of the issue in my heart; I am acknowledging inside myself that it's okay for him to hold opinions that I disagree with, or believe things that I think are incorrect, or even decide that we should do things that I would not choose. If these things bother God, He knows how to get through to David without my help.

What has surprised me as I have begun to practice this virtue is how immediate the reward is. The unexpected result is a peace that fills my soul and strengthens me to continue to walk this path. Because of that I'm finding excitement in each opportunity to accept my husband's thoughts and proposals without reservations. And it only took me 45 years to let go of insisting on my perspective being right!

I'm so thankful that this man is both gracious and patient!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Daybook for September 10th

I know that the blog The Simple Woman's Daybook only does linkups once a month, but I so love the structure that calls us to awareness and gratitude that I'm going to use it for my post today.

Outside my window...since I am lying on the banco (built-in sofa) of my "outdoor house", I am "outside my window", but what I am looking at is a sky that is a perfect shade of blue with small fluffy white clouds scattered along the edges. This view is framed by the palm branches of our palapa roof.

I am hearing...the phone ring in the house, which I am not going to answer.

I am thinking...about how blessed I am, even when I have to set aside things I love to do because my shoulder hurts so much.

I am thankful...that our house is situated to catch every breeze that comes off the ocean. It's always pleasant here, even when it's hot in the rest of town.

In the kitchen...I had planned to make stuffed squash for dinner with a couple of globe squash from our garden, but that would be difficult with an arm sling on, and besides we just had a late lunch of beef tacos from a favorite taqueria in town so we're not likely to be hungry enough to eat a real dinner tonight before David goes to mass and music practice.

I am creating...thoughts in my head since I can't work with my hands until my shoulder heals. I'm hoping this will season of "thought creativity" will help me to clarify my hopes and direction for this blog (yep, I'm still trying to figure that one out).

I am enjoy this time of relaxation rather than grumping over the time that I'm "wasting".

I am wondering...why people are so often afraid of God (and therefore studiously ignore Him) - life is so much more full on every level when you turn your heart toward Him.

I am reading...Spanish Recognitions by Mary Lee Settle. Her book Turkish Reflections is one of my all-time favorite books, and Spanish Recognitions is similar. Both describe the spirit of a place, woven in with its story and its current social landscape.

I am hoping...that we'll have more rain before the rainy season is over. Our plants are SOOO happy right now - new leaves and flowers everywhere!

I am learning...the joy that comes from simply accepting life as it comes. No more arguing with the husband to prove I know what I'm talking about; no more frustration when situations don't progress the way I think they should; no more feeling sorry for myself when I can't do what I want. Life is so precious, regardless of the details.

I am pondering...the mystery of how so often we can be completely surrounded by grace and be unaware of it.

A favorite quote for today..."We must have definite lines; but not because definite lines are the things which restrain humanity. It is because definite lines are the things which distinguish humanity." - G.K. Chesterton

One of my favorite contemplating the great tenderness that the Creator of the universe has for us.

A peek into my day...So far today I've had 3 significant phone conversations in which I was able to give encouragement and rejoice with those who have reason to rejoice. We went to town to see the advisor who processes our residency paperwork, but she didn't show up, so we did some errands, got some tacos and came back to our welcoming home.

Here are 2 native plants that are considered weeds. The one with the silver leaves is called "incienso" because in times past it was used as incense, and the pink one is "san miguelito" or coral vine. I have a native plant garden below our patio that I planted them in. They're too beautiful to be mere "weeds"....grace everywhere you look....

Monday, September 9, 2013

Week Ending 7 de Septiembre

I generally have a hard time thinking backwards. I generally can't remember what I did yesterday or the day before, and anything beyond a week ago is impossible unless I have recorded it somewhere. Decades ago I took to heart the passage from Philippians 3 (one of my favorite chapters in the Bible) "forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." That is probably why I so appreciate Wanda's invitation to record each weekend - it forces me to record the small but beautiful elements of a particular moment in time.

This past weekend has mostly been about the sky. The 4th Tropical Storm in 10 days (Lorena) arrived on Wedesday and has hung around until now. However, this one has been a real teaser: no wind and no rain (until very early this morning) but VERY dark clouds covering the sky from Tuesday through today. So here are a bunch of sky pictures for you. This was what the sky looked like on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday:

By Friday evening everyone thought that the system had basically passed, and we had a stunning sunset.

However, Saturday morning it was still cloudy. Early Sunday morning (while it was still dark) we actually had some rain. When we got up the sky was blue, the sun was beating down on us, and it was HOT and MUGGY. But...

By late this afternoon the dark clouds were back. So far, no more rain, which is probably just as well since there are quite a number of buildings around here that lost parts of their roofs in Tropical Storm Juliette a week ago. However, the evening sky tonight was beautiful, with the sliver of a moon peeking through the clouds:

This entire past week has been unsettled since we've all been waiting for the Storm That Didn't Happen.

Our team didn't go out to the small community of Meliton Albanez to serve on Friday because (I think) it actually was raining there and if you saw my post from last week you'll know that their church has no roof. On Saturday I usually cook things to use for meals in the coming week (rice, beans, chicken, etc.), but it was too hot and muggy to do that, so I made a salad for dinner using some of the plantains that had been on the plant next to our house that Tropical Storm (actually Hurricane) Juliette knocked over.

All this fruit is from our plants - the passion fruit and mango as well as the plantains. On Sunday we decided to go out to eat for dinner because it was still too hot to cook, and also as a belated birthday treat for me. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, owned by a neighbor of ours.

David wanted me to take a picture of his sangria because, as he said, it was memorable - very tasty, with lots of fruit:

Unfortunately I didn't have my glasses on and I only took one picture, so you'll have to put up with the fuzziness.

Here's a view of the park across the street from the restaurant:

Although we're surrounded by desert, our town is clearly an oasis, with plenty of trees!

That's it for me this weekend. I hope yours was full of good things. Head on over to Reinventing Mother to read about other people's weekends.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

3 Reasons, September edition

I was so dismayed to find out that I had completely spaced out on the date, that I wasn't ready with a post for my FAVORITE linkup, 3 Reasons I Love Catholicism. I have been so discombobulated this past week - things have not been connecting properly in my head. Maybe it's due to having had 4 Tropical Storms come through here in a week and a half.

Anyway, here are my favorite three for this month:


I've done a post on how my understanding of prayer has changed since becoming a Catholic, but one aspect of this has been a real comfort to me today, and that is that Catholics know that often it's hard to find the words when praying, so they are generous in composing and sharing prayers for specific occasions. Today was the day of fasting for Syria, and I was spinning my wheels, spiritually speaking, in finding a means of praying that I knew was of the depth and breadth that the situation deserved. "Oh God, help the Syrians" wasn't enough. Happily the US Conference of Catholic Bishops put a prayer on their website for us tongue-tied people to use, and I was SO thankful, because it covered aspects of this situation that need our prayers that I, of course, had completely ignored in my own attempts to pray. I have come to love the prayers that others who are more spiritual and articulate than I have made available for the rest of us to use.


Since this is the world-wide day of fasting and prayer, it's a good time to be thankful that the Catholic Church identifies with people who are suffering, whether or not they are part of the Catholic family. Of course, christians in general are like Christ in this, but the message becomes so much stronger when it is focused and acted out under the banner of the largest group of christians in the world. The Church keeps her family aware of the sufferings that various members are undergoing (as well as the sufferings of those who are not part of the same family), and calls us to pray regularly for them. We, as a body, pray for those who are suffering at every mass, but as the Pope did in calling for a specific day of prayer, we are often called to special prayer for those who are suffering. And of course, the cloistered monks and nuns throughout the world have prayer for the suffering as their daily work, 24/7/365.


The Catholic Church understands the amazing gift that God has in store for us - sharing in His glory - because it sees in Mary what that means, what it looks like. All the things about Mary that protestants get the willies over are for ALL of us: her purity (we will be clothed in white), her importance in the redemption of mankind (God made us to be co-workers with Him), her queenship (we will reign with Him). If we can't look at these things made visible in Mary, we are missing the joy that comes from truly laying hold of the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. She is what we will be, and that's not something to be sneered at, but received with awe.

For more wonderful things about the Catholic Church, click yourself over to Micaela's blog.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My first daybook

I found out about the Simple Woman's Daybook awhile ago on the Priest's Wife's blog, Fear Not Little Flock, and loved the concept. But for some reason I kept putting off joining this linkup. However, I decided that this day would be more satisfying if I took time for reflection, so here you are:

Outside my window...I am looking at our blue concrete wall and the neighbor's bamboo peeking over it.

I am thinking...about how tender and generous God is to us.

I am thankful...for having a breeze every day. The area we live in is known for its regular breeze, which comes from the ocean a mile away. It makes summer in the Mexican desert pleasant!

In the kitchen...I am planning to heat up some tamale casserole for dinner; it was excellent the first time around, and am expecting it to be so again.

I am wearing...a blue t-shirt and tan capris.

I am creating...a modesty top (crocheted) to wear over camisoles.

I am go shopping tomorrow for odds and ends - canning jars, cotton tank tops, elastic to re-do a skirt. I'm not sure if I'll find any of these things in the small shops in our small town, but I'm hoping!

I am wondering...what my "real" voice might be for my blog - where is my blog taking me? What is its purpose?

I am reading...The Fathers Know Best, by Jimmy Aiken. This is a very handy short version of some of the key writings of the early church fathers, in order by topic.

I am be able to finish my crocheting project soon without my sore arm getting worse.

I am looking forward to...the next time our priest can come by and give me a cooking lesson!

I am learning...not to push back when my husband's opinions and mine differ - it only took 45 years, and the secret to this transformation is a relationship with Mother Mary (relatively new for me, since we only entered the Catholic Church in 2010).

Around the house...I am enjoying the tidiness and cleanliness - the after-effects of it being house cleaning day!

I am to use my blog to bless and encourage, rather than simply recording interesting bits of my life.

A favorite quote for today...from St. Gregory the Great, "Who am I — what kind of watchman am I? I do not stand on the pinnacle of achievement, I languish rather in the depths of my weakness. And yet the creator and redeemer of mankind can give me, unworthy though I be, the grace to see life whole and power to speak effectively of it."

One of my favorite seeing my plants flourishing.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
> making mole enchiladas on Wednesday
> going to confession and adoration on Thursday
> serving at the small chapel in the ranching community that our parish supports

A peek into my day...

This is a local herd of horses that occasionally comes by our house. The photo shows our new fence, which we just had to put in because the dogs pushed over the old (only 3 years!) one.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Week ending 31 Agosto

Linking up with Wanda at Reinventing Mother for
I encourage any bloggers who might be reading this to join us in this linkup. It's a great way to be mindful of how you fill your weekend, hopefully with good things.

FRIDAY was my first time serving with the team from our church that goes out to one of the VERY small ranching communities nearby to serve mass and provide spiritual support. The team I'm on goes there every Friday (there's another community that is served by a different team from our church). Most of the time one of the religious sisters of our parish leads the mass and serves communion, although sometimes our priest is able to come out to conduct the mass.

There are 3 of us lay women who go with her to sing, do the readings, and bring the love of Christ to the small congregation there.

This is their "capilla" - their church building. The man on the far right took the offering with his hat. There were about 15 people there for the mass (not counting us). I don't know how they ever got enough money to get the building as far along as it is currently, because the congregation is very small and quite poor. One of my prayers for them is that God will provide the resources for a roof and windows.

We got back home just in time for the daily evening mass at our parish. Although I had just been to mass, I felt the need to hear the homily, and I am SO glad I did! It was the feast day for Santa Rosa de Lima, patroness of Latin America and the Philippines (where I was born), and the first nun in the Americas.

I had heard people say that sometimes a saint will adopt a person (rather than the person choosing a patron saint) and I know that Santa Rosa adopted me. However, I have had a hard time getting close to her because she was so austere in her approach to God. Padre's homily cleared that up for me (at least in my heart; my head still doesn't get it). I hope to do a post soon on Santa Rosa, but I want to talk with Padre further about her first.

After mass I stopped at the neighborhood mini-super (grocery store) and got a couple of ice cream bars. These are the top of the line Mexican bars, sort of like Dove bars.

I bought these for the weekend, since I (mostly) try to follow the "no-S" diet", first brought to my attention by the amazing Jen Fulwiler, patron saint of Catholic mom bloggers everywhere.

SATURDAY started out sort of unfocused, so we decided to go to La Paz to get a few things that were on our Big City shopping list. We went to the mercado area, passing by David's favorite hardware store:

(this is him walking past the things that the store puts out on the sidewalk to entice people like us) and finally found a store that sells molcajetes, although you wouldn't guess that from a glance inside:

It looks like a saddle shop to me. If you want to see a picture of the molcajete I bought there, you'll have to come back later in the week when I post pictures of the cooking lesson that Padre is going to give me tomorrow, which will be a salsa with chicharrones.

On the way out of the city we stopped at Dairy Queen (!?) Yep, right here in Baja California Sur! I've always been a DQ fan but there are VERY FEW of them in the SF Bay Area where we lived most of our lives, so I'm pretty stoked to find one here in my corner of Mexico.

Since it was 97 degrees outside, it was a perfect topper to the day, sitting in the air-conditioned building having an ice cream. There aren't any air conditioned buildings in our town, but then our town doesn't get as hot as La Paz - it's generally about 10 degrees cooler here.

Because of all the rain we've had in the last week, the desert has turned eye-poppingly green. Actually, what we have here isn't technically desert, it's tropical deciduous forest: mostly bushes and short trees, punctuated by cardones (the Baja version of saguaros).

SUNDAY it seemed like we needed to continue with the ice cream theme, since it was pretty hot, even in our town. So I went to the local ice cream store, where they make MEXICAN ice cream (nothing like DQ or Dove bars) and got 3 flavors to take home: Kahlua, fig, and...BACON, which actually has bits of bacon in it! I also stopped at the local greengrocer's and found out that not only had their big metal pull-down door blown off in Tropical Storm Juliette, but their roof had blown off as well. No problems - they strung up some tarps to give shoppers and produce some shade and stayed open for business, since the whole town relies on this one store for a full range of veggies and fruits.

Just as I was about to start writing this post I heard what sounded like a horse neighing. I picked up my camera and went outside, and sure enough, the local herd of horses was hanging out across the road from our house.

This is not a wild herd, but they are allowed to roam free in our neighborhood. Usually they stay in the areas where there are no homes, but occasionally they'll meander over to where houses are and have been known to munch on people's plants. I've even seen them on porches, nibbling on potted plants!

I hope you all had a productive yet relaxing weekend. Check out Wanda's blog for more Week Ending stories.