Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Michoacán, among other things

May 8, 2010

Last weekend we took a short trip through Michoacán. We stayed at a cute little hotel in Patzcuaro and explored the pueblo one day, passed through Santa Clara del Cobre and then made our way to Morelia for another day. The sights were nice and the shopping was very good.

In Patzcuaro we bought some artisan chocolate, a nice tablecloth and I finally was able to buy some dried whole linden flowers for tea. I have seen this in Guadalajara, but always in really busy markets and it is hard to ask vendors lots of questions when the crowds are so large. There were no such crowds in Patzcuaro and I was able to quiz the lady selling the flowers in front of the basilica. I asked her so many questions; she gave me a half packet of fresh linden flowers for free. She said the fresh ones were only good for adding to necklaces and painting the petals with nail polish. She said the tea from the fresh flowers is too bitter to drink.

We had lunch at a fabulous little lunch place, which served strawberries and cream for desert. We were so full we were unable to eat dinner.

The next day we headed over to Santa Clara to shop for copper things. Many of the pueblos in this area are still specializing in one item, material or style of artisanal work. Near Santa Clara del Cobre are pueblos specializing in wooden chairs, guitars, lacquer or something else. I came home with a burnished copper vase.

After the shopping we headed on to Morelia, the capital of Michoacán. We walked around some more and saw the sights. My favorite walk in Morelia is the pedestrian walk parallel to the aqueduct and leads to our favorite restaurant in town, La Inmaculada. The next morning, we had breakfast on the main square and then headed back to Guadalajara.

The very next day, I presented an hour-long talk in the class I’m auditing about my thesis work. It was very rewarding and I really liked the dynamic – lots of good questions and the professor helped me out with some questions which were outside the scope of my work. This was the first time I ever presented this work in Spanish and it went pretty well. Where to go from here…. Hmm….

Meanwhile, I just finished my third week of running. I’m working off a program called Couch to 5K and so far, so good. The program is really helpful and I’ve found a good route.

We in the midst of the hottest part of the year now and we are sweltering. I’m trying to keep the garden watered as much as possible, but haven’t tried to plant any seeds for the next go round. I’m mentally preparing some things, but I need to wait for a break in the weather first.

I finished two knitting projects, the shawl and the gift, and am now working (slowly) on the sweater and trying to remember how cold I was in January.

Class, cat and other projects

March 10, 2010

Well, once again, it’s been a while.  But, I thought an update on all the New Year’s plans was in order.

I have been attending the class Migracion Internacional since the beginning of the semester.  The professor is great and I’m having all kinds of conflicting feelings like: I’m talking too much in class, I should be teaching a class on migration, I should be studying at a higher level than undergraduate (even though it’s all in Spanish), maybe I should really get my butt in gear about this doctoral degree idea, I want to tell them all about the research I did for my MA and thesis, I should sit back and listen more, if I don’t understand something is it because of the language or was it a difficult concept?, and many other things.  So, it’s very invigorating.  I return home for lunch after my class and I feel a strange combination of tired and charged for the rest of the day.  I think this is good.

We adopted a small kitty who immediately doubled in size (ok, maybe it took a month).  We looked into an organization a friend of the family used to adopt her cats and went to their monthly fair.  Now Eco has been with us for a couple months and is master of the house, yelling at us all morning and sleeping all afternoon.  Also, he’s very pretty.

The sweater project died and had to be put on hold, but the knitting continues.  Mom hooked me up with a knitting website and now I can find free patterns.  I’m currently working on a shawl with the yarn that would have been the sweater but wasn’t enough.  And, a present for a friend, so I won’t say much about it here – especially in case it doesn’ t turn out well and I’m too ashamed to send it.  As soon as I finish the shawl, which is also the first lace pattern I’ve ever attempted, my needles will be freed up for the renewed sweater project attempt – with new yarn.

The garden shuffles along without much assistance from me.  With the lone exception of the first tomato plant.  I saw it was trying to put out new leaves and decided to cut back all the older, dying leaves.  I now have a full-on second round of tomatoes coming on the first tomato plant!  I’ve never had this happen before – it always got too cold.  The second tomato plant is staggering behind.  It put out flowers, but is half the size of the first plant and seems to have an infestation of something which I have not researched and have not taken any action other than squishing a few bugs and spraying more soapy water.  The peas continue to be very unhappy with their lot in life.  Adolfo and I ate a total of 5 peas from the 5 plants.  I saw one more sad little flower yesterday.  Maybe we will both get one more pea.  The serano chile has also decided to go another round and is putting out flowers and chiles like crazy.  I picked a LARGE, ugly worm off the plant this morning and threw it over the balcony (my pest prevention plan).  The chile plant seems to not mind at all, even though some of the leaves were chewed off.  I made three cups of pesto (not all at once) from the basil plant and need to cut it back again.  It continues to insist on flowering.  Also, the gardenia is not happy and I don’t know why.  I’m sure I could read about it, but I haven’t.

I have a lovely backlog of books to read which I am savoring or devouring depending on my mood.

The cooking has not been very interesting since my stomach is all messed up and I’m on a very boring diet – so boring I’m losing weight even though I’m eating potatoes at practically every meal.  The one bright spot today was that Paty and I made the Oatmeal Chippers out of the Farm Journal Cookies book.  She had asked me to teach her a cookie recipe.  I told her my big secret was halving the sugar.  They turned out great, as usual.

New Year

January 6, 2010

Christmas and New Year’s Eve were a whirlwind of family and friends and food and visits.  Except for the unexpected absence of my father (lost passport, I’m sure you’ve heard), it was a very nice break.

It was also an appropriate time for reflection and planning.  I have started some new projects and am planning to start a few more.  I’m working on knitting my first sweater and will hopefully be able to wear it around the house when I’m done.  We have been looking at pictures of the cats on the Adopta Guadalajara web page and are getting a little bit closer to getting a small furry friend.

But, the bigger plan I’m working on is a plan to audit a course this coming semester.  The semester starts in the first week of February and I have decided (with the pushing and prodding of family) that I should sit in on an undergraduate level course at the UdeG.  I haven’t asked the professor yet, but I know him and I think he’ll say yes.

The bigger picture to this plan is the elusive doctoral degree.  I’ve been looking and pondering for a while and I think the idea of getting a degree in the US is just too expensive right now.  I don’t want to quit my job, I quite like it, and I would have to do a program arranged so you are doing distance learning for the semesters and spending the summers in Minnesota.  However, without the possibility of doing work-study, the aid will be all loans, and this is scary.  Especially scary since I earn an income based on living in Mexico.

So, I’m going to check out the UdeG and see if I can handle it, if I like it and if I can remember how to write academic papers in Spanish.  It will be a new challenge for the new year.


December 5, 2009

I’ve been having an exhilarating time at the FIL.  Since the invited area is Los Angeles, many of the panels and round tables are of authors I’ve read, I have their books, and/or they provided the foundation for my thesis.  Needless to say, I’ve been there a lot and have been asking lots of questions and coming home breathless with excitement.

After posing one question, an author I admire posed a question back at me and I have been thinking about how to respond for the last couple days.  Héctor Tobar writes for the LA Times and he is best known for his debut book “The Tattooed Soldier”, which I didn’t read because it’s about tortured Guatemalans.  His second book, “Translation Nation” was lent to me by Iliana and it was fantastic.  He travels throughout the US focusing on the Spanish-speaking US, but not just in the big cities of LA or Chicago, but in the little towns in Alabama or Kansas where they are having an influx of Spanish-speaking people because they have a meat packing plant or a chicken processing center.  It is a very interesting and important read.

I thought he did a very good job of capturing the culture of the Mid-West, not something that many LA writers can do, and when I told him this, he asked me where I was from and also for some recommendations on books that have good representations of Mid-West culture. So…..

I’m assuming he’s looking for something beyond Mark Twain or Laura Ingles Wilder, the first things that popped into my head.  The best book I can think of is called something like “Farm” which makes it impossible to find in any book search.  I got it from the MU library and it was guy who spent a year living with a farmer and family somewhere near Warensburg.  He goes into great detail about the difficulties of modern farming and the social fabric of these communities.

Anyone else have any suggestions?  Héctor asked me to email him when I had something.

Yeah, sorry about that…

November 29, 2009

Oooh this blog thing is getting the best of me.  So many things have happened, time has past, gardening and cooking have progressed.

We harvested the very first tomato the other day and yesterday I took the second one off the plant.  I’m impatiently waiting for the mother load to ripen.  The plant is loaded down with green fruit and this morning I re-worked some of the supports so the vine is not doubling over quite so much.

I recently transplanted two more tomato plants and we will see if I can finally get my perpetual tomato production plan in action.

I’m also trying to get a plan together for some Christmas preparations, which includes cookies and bread baked and in the freezer, and some small meals stashed away.

We’ll see if I manage to get the Christmas cards out this year.  It didn’t happen last year, so I’m still stocked up on cards.

And, now the FIL has started, so we are going to be at the book fair all week long!

tourism at home

September 13, 2009

We had a very eventful weekend with Adolfo’s brother and girlfriend, which included the Ballet of Jalisco, a ceramics studio in Tonala, Guachimontones and raiding the lemon tree down the street.

The Ballet was nice to see and I hope they get better and better. They are a very young company, only just formed in January, and their first show was canceled due to swine flu.  Of the four pieces, one was very nice and showed a lot of promise.  Three of the pieces were kind of painful to watch.  But, I think they show promise, some of the dancers were very good, and I hope the city continues to support them.

Yesterday, we traveled out to the suburbs of Guadalajara to Tonala, a town known for ceramics.  We got a tip from Adolfo’s father on how to find a ceramics studio and with a map were able to find our way to a plain-looking door leading into a small house.  In the entryway, we met two brothers whose father, Nicasio Pajarito, started their studio and they showed us the pieces on display.  As Adolfo’s brother and his girlfriend looked over the cups and water pitchers, Adolfo chatted with the brothers.  As they chatted, one of the brothers said to the other, “Well, looks like we aren’t going to sell anything today….” and Adolfo said “What are you talking about? We’re here to buy things.”  And, the brother explained, that since their father wasn’t in the shop today, they couldn’t sell any of his things.  Adolfo suggested they call the father, but they said he was out in the fields harvesting corn and wouldn’t be available.  Finally, they decided they could sell some of their own pieces, which were purchased with gusto.  We were able to see the kiln and the areas where they form and paint the pieces.  When Mom and Dad come to visit, we are going to return and see if we can get one of the sons to give us to a tour.

The day before that, we went to see the local pyramids!  We have pyramids!  Way over here in Western Mexico.  And, the best part is – they are circular.  Check it out. They were only just discovered in 1970 and the reconstruction/reparations began in 1999.  They are currently building a museum at the entrance and when we arrived there was almost nobody there.  It was much more green than the link shows, and maybe Adolfo will put his pictures up soon.  Guachimontones is only an hour from Guadalajara and a very easy day trip for some very interesting sights.

And lastly, we stop off at the lemon tree down the street and brought home about 30 lemons – and there are many more on the tree.  This weekend, while walking to Adolfo’s mother’s house, I passed the lemon tree and the gardener was outside raking leaves.  I stopped to talk to him and mentioned that the tree looked like it was ripe for the picking.  He agreed but said, “there’s a problem with this tree”  I said, “oh really?”  and he continued to explain that the problem with the tree is that it’s not a lime tree and it’s not an orange tree.  He said the owner doesn’t really like the fruit and I could have as much as I liked, whenever I wanted.  Apparently, the only thing this tree is good for is making “aguas” or fruit-waters, but even then you have to add a few oranges or it’s undrinkable.  So far, I have two quarts of preserved lemons in jars.  I made a bunch of lemonade, some lemon curd (and biscuits to go with) and still have five lemons left over.  I’ll be on the lookout for more lemon-based recipes.

Quite an eventful weekend.

New York City vs. Chicago

August 13, 2009

We made it back from New York on Monday and I’ve been very happy puttering about the house and neighborhood for the last couple days, getting myself back on track on the home front.

New York leaves me with conflicted feelings. I love that we got to see all the good friends and family there and eat good food. We wolfed down the food, flavors and ingredients we cannot find in Guadalajara – corned beef and pastrami sandwiches from Katz deli, herring from Russ & Daughters, hole-in-the-wall dim sum in Chinatown, Pakistani food and NY style pizza. We sat around the breakfast table with good people having good conversations. We went to bookstores and stocked up on books in English. It was a great vacation.

But, New York City always leaves me feeling melancholy. The first time it happened I was visiting friends in Brooklyn and I said to my friend Max, “I know they don’t feel sorry for themselves, but I feel sorry for the people who live here.” She responded, “You’re right, they don’t feel sorry for themselves.”

So, this visit I was prepared to like the city. We were staying with family and we had a low-key agenda (books and food, food and books). But still, I can’t shake the feeling. I feel sad in New York. I feel lonely and isolated in the congested city.  I don’t know what it is and have been pondering my reaction for days.

Chicago, on the other hand, was really special and surprising.  We were there last month after our trip to Missouri.  We were shocked by the super-friendly locals, to the point that we considered them somewhat ill or in recovery from the harsh winters.  Over and over again we were treated far nicer than the usual tourists.  A friend tried to confirm our theory with a local and was told it is absolutely not the case.  We still don’t know why they are so happy and friendly.

The food was very good, if you could find the right places.  The Publican, Sweet Maple Cafe and Hopleaf Bar being the stand out favorites.  The architecture was outstanding, we went on three different architecture tours.  There was public art everywhere and it was being used by the public.  The art museum was free on one of the afternoons while we were there and it was packed.  The parks were swamped with people.  We were happy just wandering around the city.

Now, back at home, I’m trying to get the garden back on track and the kitchen back into shape.  Most of the garden survived and we’ve been getting really violent thunderstorms for the last couple nights, so I hope the seedlings can hang on through the wind and hail.  We have visitors already marked on the calendar, but we have no plans for leaving the country for a while now.  It’s good to be home.

oooh sorry

July 19, 2009

Yes, I’ve been away. Yes, I’ve been neglecting the blog. Yes, many things have happened in the mean time. I’ll try to get back up to speed soon. Until then, you can check out the photos on Adolfo’s Flickr site – he is doing a much better job of posting.

The obvious

April 30, 2009

About the Swine Flu, we have no cases in the State of Jalisco.  Nevertheless, all classes are canceled until the 6th.  Movie theaters, bars, museums and other places where large amounts of people gather are closed until the 6th.  The restaurants are open and on Tuesday, when we went to buy Adolfo’s guayabera for the wedding, I saw the restaurants doing pretty good business.  I don’t see panic in the streets, people seem pretty calm.

We aren’t really heading out unless it is necessary – Adolfo went out to a meeting this morning and I think he went to another meeting on Tuesday.  Any business that can is be handled by phone or email.  I’m fielding a lot of questions from my coworkers and students and Adolfo has a translation project he’s working on, so we are busy at home.  I probably won’t go to the Abastos market this weekend and will go instead to a small supermarket.  Also, my excursion was canceled yesterday – we were supposed to leave for Michoacan tomorrow.  I’m really sad about that.

All in all, I’m about to get really bored here at home.  I hope we will be back to normal soon, the country is losing a lot of money on all these closures.

Many things

February 24, 2009

Well, many things have been happening and not much writing has been done.

I have been stalking the dried fava beans at the abastos market and I finally got up the nerve and bought about two cups.  Tonight, I made soup from my Diana Kennedy book and I think it turned out really good.  Sadly, I also found out that Adolfo detests dried fava bean soup and would not even try a bite.

My job has been kind of nuts lately, but mostly in a good way.  Hopefully, I will soon be planning a trip to Xalapa.

I went for the first round of wedding dress shopping, which was kind of horrible.  The first shop was comically horrible.  First, when the shop ladies found out I was shopping for a wedding dress, there were yelps and squeals of fake congratulations.  Then, I tried to explain that it would be a casual affair and I was not interested in dresses with sequins, rinestones, or other plastic crap.  She responded excitedly that it was “my day” and as the bride, no matter how casual, I was supposed to “shine” (with rinestones, apparently).

Also, a friend is beginning to study for the GRE and this morning we met to work on vocabulary.  We are thinking good thoughts about a Fulbright grant to the New School in NYC.

While all this is going on, I’ve managed to kill off a tomato plant and encouraged an aphid invasion.  So, the garden is not in tip top shape.

There are many more plans in the works.