Monday, December 31, 2007

Feliz Ano Nuevo - Happy New Year

(*Don't forget to read the back of the postcard!)

Dear Friends and Family,

As we near yearend, it is a time for contemplation. Life is a rollercoaster, filled with both good and bad times, and we certainly have had our share of both this year. But overall, we have to remind ourselves how fortunate we are.

We spent a considerable amount of time this past year in San Miguel de Allende, our home away from home. Rereading our San Miguel News is reliving a year filled with new friendships, house renovations, art and photography, friends and family from Michigan coming to visit, lots of good food, music, lectures, concerts, markets, cooking classes and more.... We were lucky to have our car this year to begin exploring other parts of Mexico. We traveled to Patzcuaro, Morelia and Uruapan, for a giant art and craft fair during Holy Week, to Mexico City, to Tlaquepaque and to Puerto Vallarta, not to mention lots of day trips to nearby towns and villages.

Driving back to Michigan from Mexico, we drove through Savannah, where Linda taught a workshop at the Ford Plantation. In May, she spent the month in China, participating in the first Inernational Print Exhibition, creating art at the Jingzdezhen Ceramic Institute, eating exotic foods, visiting museums and art sites in China (while Carlos kept things going back home) and also had exhibitions in San Miguel, the Joyce Goldstein Gallery in Chatham, NY and the Water Street Gallery in Sagatuck, MI. It was a very art-filled year for her!

Carlos started a new business, brokering mortgages in Mexico (, and is meeting with some success. The housing market in Mexico is tough right now, due to overbuilding and fallout from the US market. He is active with Shalom SMA, the Jewish group here, and continues to lead services and take a leadership role in its organization. He also bought a new motorcycle - a bright yellow Honda (see previous blogs) - and he loves to ride around town and explore the countryside around San Miguel. People shout “Superman” when he rides by - amazing how many people know him! (In Spanish, Soberman comes out as Superman, more or less).

Our children are well, employed and making their lives interesting and unique. Lisa has a new job as the interim director of the ZOA, and her husband Mendy has a successful career in information technology. Our precious granddaughter Lilah continues to amaze us with her adorable personality, dance techniques and good disposition. Of course, she is beautiful and brilliant (are we not proud?) Did you notice her on our vintage 1936 New Year's card? Tracey is living in Boulder and has a promising new job at a PR agency. David also has a new job working for a research firm ( and has a terrific serious girlfriend, Jen Seader, whom we just adore. 

I echo the words of my friend, Judy, who wrote," As one year is drawing to a close and another about to begin, we are thinking of all of you...the friendships we treasure, but too often might seem taken for granted. Well, it isn't! Think of all the wonderful connections we have in our lives as we ring in 2008".

Feliz Ano Nuevo and best wishes for a wonderful 2008.

                     Linda &

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Linda's Jewelry Show & my Moto Trip

Today, Linda displayed and sold her bakelite jewelry at a craft show at the Instituto Allende, a well known art school. She had a good day, and was able to get some great exposure and sell quite a few pieces. Maybe that's why she looks happy.

She shared a table with her good friend Alice Neufeld (the other bonita mujer [pretty woman]) in the photo. Alice also had a successful day at the show! We will all celebrate with a dinner out a Bella Italia tonight (maybe the ladies will buy!).

While Linda and Alice were selling, I was exploring on my motorcycle. I followed a dirt road past the train station and ended up at the shore of the presa (reservoir). Note the mountains in the distance....Although it looks like a lovely lake, it is a man made lake with water unfit for man or beast. The water is primarily used for irrigation. Although filthy, some of the locals swim, boat and fish in it! We keep hoping, and the city promises, that one day the reservoir will be cleaned up and will become a community asset. Large homes lie nearby the lake, including a virtual castle, supposedly built by a rich Mexico City lawyer (grist for another blog).

I saw a boat at the lakeshore with two people in it. Getting closer, I saw a father and son. The man was unloading cut up tree sections from the boat. I asked him what he was going to do with them, and he said "burn them in his fireplace." In other words, he took out the boat, crossed the lake, dragged three tree sections (perhaps 75 lb. each) for firewood. Probably took him an hour!

I left the lake and drove down a long stone road. It was surrounded mostly by farmland. However, there were occasional large homes, and, in the distance, an amazing hacienda. Unfortunately, the small camera I had with me couldn't do justice to the hacienda on the distant hill. I'll try again some day.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Mexican Cooking Class at our Casa

Last Sunday we met our friends Alice and Wendy for brunch at a wonderful restaurant, housed in an old hacienda near the Parque Juarez. The setting was lovely and the food was delicious. All of us love to cook, so on impulse, we introduced ourselves to Maria Rodriquez, the cook, and asked if she would be willing to teach us some of her traditional Mexican dishes. To our delight, she accepted our offer!

On Wednesday, eight of us gathered in my cocina (kitchen) to learn authentic dishes from a real Mexican cook. Our biggest obstacle was not our unwillingness but our inability to speak Spanish. She spoke no English, but luckily, body language and gesture were great communicators! We watched, observed, took notes, (and drank wine at the same time) and within two hours, we were enjoying tastings of delicious dishes, using ingredient that many of us had never used.

I thought it would be fun to share the recipes with you, since most of the ingredients are available everywhere. Now you can create the tastes and smells of Maria’s cuisine in your own kitchen!

Maria’s Recipes
December, 2007

Chile Pasilla Salsa
1. In medium-hot dry pan, toast 5 chile pasillas. After softened, remove veins and seeds and crumble. Add water (enough to cover chiles), let sit for a few minutes and then strain, reserving water.
2. In same pan roast 6 tomatillos until skins are slightly charred.
3. Pulverize one garlic clove in molcajete, a three-legged lava stone bowl with a tear-shaped lava stone used for crushing herbs, chiles, etc – a Mexican mortar and pestle. You can always use a Cuisinart, but somehow it’s not as authentic! Add chiles and mash, pushing in a circular motion. Add generous tsp. of salt and grind, grind, grind! Add a little of reserved water and keep mashing. Add tomatillos, which are now cooked and soft, and mash into the chilies one at a time.
To use: Add water, garlic, onion to chile pasilla. Saute chicken breast or shrimp in oil and simmer in the salsa.

Chiles de Almor
1. In dry, medium- hot pan toast 6-7 ancho chiles. (Fresh are called cascabel).
2. Add 5-6 tomatillos to the pan and toast.
3. Devein and crumble chiles and soak in water for 1 minute.
4. Add chiles (save the water) and garlic clove to blender.
5. Add 1 cup of reserved water, roasted tomatillos and 2 tsp. of salt.
6. In frying pan, sauté 2 Tb. onion, add 4 eggs, whisked, and scramble. Add a dash of salt to egg mixture.
7. To the cooked eggs, add the chile salsa and cooked pinto beans, flor de mayo. (They are cooked in water to cover, with a little garlic, for 45 minutes or until tender). Add a handful of chopped cilantro. You may need to add 1/3+ cup water to the sauce. To correct seasonings, test on the side of your hand.
Serve with finely chopped onion and cilantro.

Slice the cleaned paddles into strips. Add to small saucepan and boil for a few minutes and drain. Add cilantro, garlic and green onion. or make a tinfoil packet of strips of cactus (soak in water briefly), cilantro, onion, garlic, and salt. Seal and let steam in dry frying pan with the tomatillos.

Champignones (mushrooms) a la Mexicana Maria
1.Chop handful of mushrooms, onion to taste and 2 garlic cloves.
2. Saute onions and garlic in little oil. Add mushrooms, 4 leaves of epizote, 1 tsp of salt, and 2 chopped tomatoes. Cook until soft.

Rajas y Salsa de Jitomates
(Chiles in Tomato Salsa)

1. Roast 5-6 poblano (fresh, dark green, mild) chiles directly over a flame, turning until skin is blacken on all sides. Put in paper or plastic bag to help steam off skins. Let cool and peel off skins under running water. Seed and pull off veins. Cut into thin strips.
2. Saute 1/2 onion and 2 cloves of garlic in a little oil. Add 2-3 chopped tomatoes. Add chiles. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Saute chicken, meat, vegetables or shrimp and simmer in the sauce.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday Poem

Twas La Noche before Christmas

Twas La Noche before Christmas and all through LA CASA,
Not a creature was stirring, only the "MASA".

Mamá making tamales con mucho CUIDADO
In hopes old Santa would feel OBLIGADO
To bring all the niños, both BUENOS Y MALOS
A nice batch of DULCES and other REGALOS.

Mis hermanos and I went to sleep in our CAMAS
Some in CALSONES, some in PIYAMAS,
Cuando out in the yard I heard such a GRITO
That I jumped to my feet like a frightened CABRITO.

And who in the world do you think ¿QUIÉN ERA?
Santa Claus, in a sleigh with a big OL' PULSERA
Came dashing along a little "HELADO"
And pulling his sleigh, were all his VENADOS.

I watched as they came, and this little fat HOMBRE
Was shouting and whistling, and calling by NOMBRE

Then standing straight up, with his hands on his PECHO
He flew to the top of our very own TECHO.
With his round little belly like a bowl of JALEA,
He struggled to squeeze down our old CHIMENEA.

Then huffing and puffing, and a little CANSADO
He picked up a bag that looked so PESADO
He filled all the stockings with lovely REGALOS
For none of the niños had been very MALOS.

Then chuckling aloud, seeming very CONTENTO
He turned like a flash and was gone like the VIENTO.
And I heard him exclaim and this is VERDAD,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

An interesting day....

Today is a typical Saturday....clear blue sky, temperature in the mid-70's.

I woke up and ate a healthy breakfast of coffee, pina colada yogurt with granola and dried cranberries. Since it's Saturday, I attended services at our synagogue. We had an excellent turnout for services and Torah (bible) study - 12-15 people.

Linda was not feeling well today, so I'm on my own. In the afternoon I walked downtown and saw some interesting sights. First was a 1950 Chevrolet, carrying a bride to church for her wedding. I missed the bride and the wedding, but took some photos of the Chevy. The driver was obviously very proud of the car. He carefully put a piece of foam rubber over the convertible top before he put the cover over it.

Opposite the gorgeous Chevrolet was a policeman directing traffic. On this particular corner you often see a policeman desultorily waving traffic on. But today the officer stood on top of a mound of holiday gifts. In his hand was a lantern with a green and red light which he was using to direct the traffic. Assuming that the gifts were being collected for orphans or some worthy cause, I asked one of the police officers. He replied that it was for the "campaneros" - which I assume means the other policemen. I guess it beats paying bribes - or "morditas" (translates as "little bites"). I must say that I understand why a policeman might want a microwave oven or another appliance, but I'm not sure who the metal rooster is for. I'm interested in finding out if the pile grows in the next few days. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back in San Miguel

On Tuesday, with somewhat heavy hearts, we returned to San Miguel. Linda's mom was being transferred to a rehabilitation center, and we regret not being there with her. We expect to make frequent visits back to Michigan until she is feeling better.

We arrived, sans two suitcases (which showed up last night). It was a pleasure to open the door and find our warm home ready to receive us (though one bathroom is out of commission while some minor construction work is going on).

Linda may not have mentioned that I bought a new motorcycle! It will enable me to explore the countryside around San Miguel and report my explorations in future blog entries. It's a bright yellow (all the better to be seen and avoided by cars, pedestrians, etc.). It's only 150 cc. (about 15 hp), but it's ample to get around town, where the average speed is under 20 mph, and one rarely gets into third gear.

Note the sign on the garage door...Se ponchan llantas gratis.

This is a Mexican no parking sign. It translates as We Give Free Flat Tires (if you park in front of our garage). It's one of my favorite San Miguel amusing and clever...and it makes its point loud and clear.
Bella was very happy to see us return after two weeks. She hasn't left our sides since we returned, and sleeps between the two of us. She has a new habit of climbing on the fountain and drinking from it. Unfortunately, I didn't catch her drinking, but at least you can see her on one of her favorite perches.

Tonight we attended a Posada, one of the religious parades held almost nightly this season. A float with religious figures is followed by a crowd. Neighbors shower them with chocolate coins and oranges. It's very quiet, peaceful and moving. On the way to the Posada, we walked through our local market. Dozens of booths were still open (it's about 8:30 pm), selling holiday lights, decorations, plants, toys, handmade clothing for baby Jesus dolls, etc. Men, women and children of all ages fill the streets of the market, and later the Posada. At the Posada the crowd is singing songs together - possibly religious songs, although they don't have that feel or sound - more like old fashioned popular songs (the Mexican versions of Yankee Doodle or Old MacDonald).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wishing we were in San Miguel!

Dear Friends and Family,

Linda's mom is in the hospital, so we have had to extend our stay in Michigan. Today a winter storm dumped 6-8" ("inch" in Spanish is "pulgado") of snow.

We went out to the drugstore and bookstore. A three mile trip turned into an expedition. We almost got stuck in our own driveway! Parking lots are treacherous. Our rear wheel
drive car with tires that probably need replacement are not the best thing for snowbound streets.

Current plan is to return to San Miguel on Tuesday with four bulging suitcases. No more requests, please!

Our trip has been busy - with friends, family, and doctors' visits. If you haven't heard, Carlos has had good news concerning his prostate cancer. He will have no treatment at this time - just regular PSA tests and annual biopsies - what is called "Active Surveillance." This is the best news we could have gotten.

Lilah (our 19 month old granddaughter) has grown since we saw her last. She loves to dance and
wear Nannie's (Linda's) shoes. She has a great sense of rhythm and style. David came to visit for
the weekend (unfortunately Tracey couldn't come - new job).

Lisa, Tracey and David all started new jobs this week! Happiness is three employed adult children (or, as our friend Alice says, "You're only as happy as your unhappiest child").

I forgot to mention that we have house guests...a large family of squirrels, which has taken up residence in the walls, garage and attic of our house. We hear them scurrying around, and when we bang on the floors or walls, the noise stops. We hired Critter Control, a local pest management company, to trap them, but they have been stymied so far. It figures - we got the smart squirrels. We have found nuts in the house, so apparently some of the squirrels have been bold enough to enter the house while we were gone. It's war!

Last Saturday we had a birthday party for Carlos (December 6, for future reference). We enjoyed a delicious Mexican dinner and entertainment provided by David Linden and Tom Holyer, two of our good friends.

We ate, drank and laughed a lot - and discovered that none of us can sing and that none of us can remember the lyrics to the popular songs from our youth!