Not A Food Blog

8 Apr

There was nothing in my childhood that compared with walking into the house after school and smelling my mother’s spaghetti sauce bubbling on the stove. She learned the art as a young bride in Newark, New Jersey in 1942, living in an apartment complex peopled with Italian immigrants. The women took pity on her, taking her under their collective wings to teach her how to cook.

My parents as newlyweds.

She used large cans of peeled whole tomatoes and small cans of paste to thicken the crimson mixture. Garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves and an array of Italian spices gave the sauce its deep, rich fragrance. It’s funny how a particular aroma can transport you through time and space. Spaghetti sauce is my mother’s kitchen.

Staples you will find in my kitchen at all times.

I remember returning home as an adult to find a jar of prepared sauce on the kitchen counter. I expressed my shock at her sacrilege, but she only laughed. No longer cooking for a large family, with just my dad and her, she took the easy way. I can’t blame her but it was certainly not as good.

Can’t you just smell it?

I continue to make her sauce recipe. I don’t cook it for hours like she did, and I’m sure it doesn’t taste the same. With my own family, I got in the habit of adding a lot of vegetables, mushrooms, cauliflower, grated carrots or zucchini. It was a way to make it a bit healthier (IMHO) and get vegetables into my kids. But I do still use whole tomatoes and paste and lots of garlic.

Three generations circa 1994.

My daughter always asks me to make spaghetti when I come to visit. In this day when children no longer wish to inherit possessions, my mother’s spaghetti sauce can live on. I think that would make her very happy. It certainly does me.

DOS TORTAS

Life Is A Bloody Inconvenience

4 Apr

Of course we are all living through the biggest inconvenience of the century. For that reason alone, surely we should be able to control SOMETHING! A seemingly quiet day of bread making, art project, and exercise can go in a completely different direction fast.

I have been wanting cinnamon rolls. So I made them!

I can always lock myself in my studio, or escape to my hammock with headphones. Interruptions can be many, boohoo.

Don’t let the sweet face fool you.

I find that living with people, dogs, neighbors, the weather, you name it, can all have unforeseen consequences. Some days I’m ok with it, others, it’s a challenge.

Studio time.

On the scale of introverts to extrovert, I fall somewhere off center to the introvert side. I like being alone. In life before Covid, I scheduled a yearly retreat with paints, knitting, journal and a good book. Long walks, sans dogs are such a luxury.

How can I be so cranky living in paradise.? It’s an art I guess.

Today I make the decision to put my plans aside and do what needs doing, a quick trip to the doctor and pharmacy for my mother-in-law. Bladder infections come on so quickly at a certain age. I’ve managed to swim and the bread is rising. Complaining of any sort is such privileged behavior. If you celebrate Easter I hope it’s a good one. Weather here is lovely. Hammock here I come.

DOS TORTAS

Accepting Life’s Fire

28 Mar

In 1982, I couldn’t make up my mind which to pursue in my artistic quest, quilting or weaving. Then a job in a local quilt store was posted in the Austin American Statesman and I jumped at it. Do you remember the days of job hunting in the columns and tiny squares of newsprint? The Sunday edition always had the biggest Help Wanted section. One weekend, I hit the jackpot.

Bolts of fabric.

There it was, a part-time job in a hole-in-the-wall establishment that belonged to a mother/daughter team who claimed to be related to Willie Nelson. I don’t know about that, but they were an interesting pair who knew a lot about quilting. I applied with a little sewing experience and a lot of enthusiasm, and got the job.

I made this at the request of my mother. She collected cows. (The striped fabric)

I remember women excitedly coming into the store with ideas and patterns in hand eager to buy fabric and make magic. The shop walls were covered with bolts and more bolts of solids, calico prints, and stripes in all colors. We happily pulled them off the wall and piled colors high to see the affect they would have when cut up and reassembled into a Grandmother’s Flower Garden, Log Cabin, Star of Texas or any of a million patterns old and new.

Lone Star
Notice the state of Texas quilted in the corners and armadillos across the bottom. The quilt was a gift for my mother-in-law who died of Alzheimer’s disease. It was later returned to me.

The owner would peruse our artistic efforts and pull out a special bolt she called the “fire”. A pink, yellow or orange fabric that was inserted into a blue, brown or green quilt. It was opposite on the color wheel. The customers would raise an eyebrow to which she replied, “trust me”.

Log Cabin
Machine pieced and hand quilted. All quilts made by me.
A variation on a Grandmother’s Flower Garden 1984
Hand pieced and hand quilted.

I am doing my best to trust life when it presents me with its “fire”, whether a pandemic, broken leg, or cancelled trip to visit the grandchildren. When the quilts were finished, sure enough, those unexpected bursts of color made them all the more beautiful. I hope I can say that about my life. The challenges teach me lessons I surely wouldn’t have volunteered for. The unexpected provides the fire, and for that I welcome it, to the best of my ability.

DOS TORTAS

Perhaps Swimming

21 Mar

It’s not surprising that reports of mental health issues are on the rise in this time of Covid. When my youngest brother died of brain cancer in 2000, I sat on the couch every night for a year, it was as close to depression as I’ve gotten.

Michael on the left. His hair was growing back after his first brain surgery,

One of the things that pulled me out was swimming. Last night I found an old diary where I wrote about loving to exercise, specifically swim.

Training for the Bacalar open water competition several years ago.

I moved to Bacalar to be able to swim. I have the answer to the blahs in my back yard, cold water and exercise. I just have to do it. My goal this week is to get up earlier and swim before the wind picks up causing the waves that make it more difficult. The motivation of even ten years ago is more difficult to find these days.

My triathlon days.

Fingers crossed it works. Seems I cross my fingers a lot these days.

DOS TORTAS

Ain’t it the truth.

My HerStory in Hair

14 Mar

I found my first gray hair at 17. Today at 69, my hair is almost completely white. I have never dyed it, unless you count the time I tried henna and my hair turned orange. I have gotten compliments on the color and even inspired friends to grow out their dyed locks.

33 years old

I’ve worn my hair short and spikey for many years. Last January I decided to grow it out. I’ve always judged long white hair to be “old looking”, something to be avoided. Well, guess what, I am and there’s no avoiding it.

2017 self portrait

My last haircut was in March 2020. I was planning a trip to Atlanta for my uncle’s 100 birthday. Covid and the quarantine happened shutting down my plans and those of the entire world. As the months rolled by I cared less and less about my appearance.

Eye glasses also changed with time.

I’m not sure I would have made it this long if not for Covid. I can now pull my hair back in a rubber band, or braid it in kindergarten style. I continue to look in the mirror and wonder who this strange face is looking back at me.

Braids to keep my wild hair under control.

Life is a hoot and this is aging. It’s certainly not how I thought it would look. I can’t imagine what my life would be like today if I hadn’t exercised, eaten well and generally been happy. Who knows it might be exactly the same, but I doubt it.

DOS TORTAS

Quarantine Penpals

7 Mar
Sunday Sunrise

I had a pen pal in fifth grade. I wish I could say that we still write to each other. I would have a story worthy of the evening news. Truth be told, I don’t remember much of our penship, not even where she lived or how long we corresponded.

Letter to my father.

When attending college in Mexico in the seventies, I wrote a letter to my father. I found it among his things when he died. A keepsake for sure. He had written a letter to me that I responded to. I wish I still had it.

Do we even know how to write?

For awhile I lived in Okinawa, Japan. It was the eighties, before smart phones, computers and instant communication. I hand wrote letters on blue, tri-fold airmail paper. They took awhile to arrive stateside but the fifteen hour time difference made phone calls challenging.

In the time of Covid I have nurtured a few pen pal relationships. One is with a guy I met on our cruise to the Panama Canal a year ago. He and his wife hung out with us on board and we knew they would be good travel companions. Dan likes to write. He sends missives that are entertaining and detailed. He is a good storyteller and together we exchange our lives in lockdown.

Panama City

Someday they will come to Mexico. Perhaps when we are all vaccinated. When Covid cases are manageable and when we can hug each other and go out. Won’t that be grand?

DOS TORTAS

Like Broccoli Only White

28 Feb

This week was my birthday. We went out to dinner Friday night to one of the new little restaurants popping up in Bacalar. Per a recommendation by our local residential list serve, we heard they had vegan options and good prices,. We dandied up a bit and headed the three miles into town.

A Xolo is a hairless Mexican dog which dates back to the Aztecs.

I am a person who would almost always choose to eat at home, but Lisa needed a break, and Alice insisted on paying, so off we went.

Happy birthday to me.

When I asked the waiter, in Spanish, what was in the vegan tacos, he replied, “cauliflower, it’s like broccoli only white “. I thought I would fall off my chair laughing. He clearly doesn’t have a lot of experience with vegetables! The tacos were delicious with their hecho a mano, handmade blue corn tortillas. I would definitely go back. The music wasn’t too loud. The food was tasty and I’m still laughing.

DOS TORTAS

It’s Not About the Words

23 Feb

I’ve always been a word person. In seventh grade Mr. Oldfield taught us to diagram sentences…verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, gerunds. The more complicated the sentence, the more I liked it.

Eighth grade and high school graduation.

When registering for high school classes, the counselor signed me up for a semester of Latin. I had no idea why. I was so lost in that class. I passed the course by copying test answers from the girl next to me. It took me a long time to understand that taking Latin was one of the best things I ever did and that I actually learned a lot. Not only is Latin the basis for English but made learning Spanish that much easier. I don’t think schools offer Latin anymore.

Even though I loved words, I never understood how to write a term paper. Classes at the University of Texas had a strong writing component. The teaching assistant would return my scribbling with suggestions for improvement marked in red. I made corrections and returned the paper as many times as it took to have an acceptably finished product. I was learning.

Graduate school and a job as a grant writer further developed my abilities. The final outcome was a love of writing. I do my best to hone my craft and produce a blog that tells a story. I am a work in progress.

Masters in Education 1996 University of Texas, Austin

So that’s the written word. What about spoken? My poor wife frequently looks at me in confusion. She is more of a statistical, black and white thinker. All my finely crafted communications leave her befuddled and give her a headache. It’s a wonder we’ve made it twenty-five years.

Last night I had a dream. An ethereal woman appeared to me and stated clearly, “it’s not about the words, it’s about the feelings.” The message shone through. People don’t feel loved, understood, and accepted by my well diagrammed sentences. I use words to protect myself and distance myself from people. They also make me feel smart. I guess it’s time for less thinking and more heart, a skill I’m willing to develop.

DOS TORTAS

A Very Different Sort Of Weekend

21 Feb

Last week, I was hugging the toilet and not after a night of debauchery in Cancun. Truthfully I’ve never been a debauchery kind of gal, but back in my youthful days, when guys in Mexico would keep the drinks coming, I learned about alcohol the hard way.

Celebrating my 21 birthday in Mexico. Heading out for a night on the town with my best girl.

Now, after living a sedate retired life in Mexico for seven years, I’ve never been this sick. And I’m still not sure what caused the intestinal upset, fever, etc. A course of antibiotics seems to be doing the trick and upping our hygienic game is in the cards. We buy all our produce in a small town mercado. It was probably only a matter of time, although outbreaks of things I can’t pronounce occur in the US food chain all the time.

A lovely small town market in Bacalar.

Wednesday I left for the much postponed trip to the US Consulate in Playa del Carmen, to renew my expired passport. The bus ride was quiet and socially distant. The required masks contributed to the tranquility and I curled up and slept most of the four hour trip.

First trip out in a pandemic.

The little boutique hotel that I had booked turned out to be a real gem. The room was $45US and included a full-on off the menu breakfast. My stomach was finally starting to accept food and I enjoyed it immensely.

House of the Flowers
Seafood soup for dinner. Very typical Mexican food.

Playa was hopping and the little I got to see hobbling around on my still painful ankle was mostly mask-less. Turning my paperwork in at the consulate was the easiest and least painful part of the trip. I’m now sitting in the bus station waiting for the return trip to Bacalar. If I had postponed yet again, I probably would have been able to enjoy myself more. And against the voices in my head, the consulate wouldn’t have cared a bit. Oh well, live and learn.

DOS TORTAS

Happy VD 2021

14 Feb

No blog today folks. I am very….very…very…sick.

Keep the faith.
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