What’s Cooking – Ketchup…?

Happy New Year!  May all your dreams for the new year come true. I know mine will…or, most of them anyway.

Son #1 came to Mexico in late November. They were in Mexico; Mexico City, Lake Chapala, Zihuatenajo and points between. He brought along his lovely lady friend…(yes, we love her!).

They spent five days in Cuidad de Mexico.  He had tickets to a two-day music festival.  Part of the line-up included Imagine Dragons, Nine Inch Nails and all kinds of bands I had never heard of.  what?…I’m pretty excited I had actually heard Imagine Dragons.  They played at the Half-time show for the Grey Cup Football game a couple of years ago.  We liked them.

They brought t-shirts, goodies I had ordered from Canada and curry ketchup from a steakhouse in Cuidad de Mexico, “Butcher and Sons”.  Here is a link to their website.  Son and Ladyfriend loved the place.

https://butcherandsons.com

B&S’s curry ketchup has me gobsmacked.  I am not a big ketchup lover.  I even hesitate using it in my Coctel de Camarones.

But this stuff is amazing.  Since we don’t have a Butcher and Sons restaurant here or Guadalajara (yet), I went to my trusty Pinterest menu and found a recipe.

I has a lot of ingredients and takes a while to simmer but well worth the effort. I cut the brown sugar from 1/2 cup to 1/3.  I got the recipe on Pinterest from Coffee and Quinoa dot com.

 

 

 

 

 

Our propane stove doesn’t simmer well without a cast comel, a griddle placed over the lowest flame. It diminishes the flame to allow a slow simmer.

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I used my zippy new immersion blender.

…and funneled the ketchup into bottles.

Home-made curry ketchup.

 

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Tomato Roses at Armando’s Hideaway

Armando preparing shrimp flambe table-side.

Some days come along that are even more special than others.  I talk about that a lot.

We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on August 30th.  Ten years…what a life! Here’s a post about our Fifth Anniversary.

It hasn’t always been peachy, sometimes downright awful and sometimes so incredible it brings tears to my eyes. Some days I have to stop and pay attention because there is a lesson on the breeze or in the raindrops.  Life lessons that need to be marked, even though in the moment it seems mundane.

I had a conversation with a dear friend on Friday last week.  He told me that sometimes he stands on his terrace and shouts into the night, “I Love my Life!” I told him I occasionally do the same.

For our anniversary this year we went to a restaurant we had heard good things about and had not yet visited; Armando’s Hideaway in west Ajijic.  We have to be rather choosy about when and how often we travel across the pond.  It takes us about an hour to get to Ajijic and with the increased traffic, more often than not, a bit longer. And not just traffic, the entire area has gotten busier, not only in the high season (November-March-ish) but the overall increase of Mexican tourists is notable and delightful. They are young and hip and bring a cosmopolitan vibe to the entire area, our southside included.

A Tenth Anniversary is special, indeed.

Armando’s Hideaway is off the beaten track down the street from the Danza del Sol in west Ajijic.  The decor is beautiful, particularly the ladies room!  Art is painted directly on the walls in some areas of the different dining spaces.  Mirrors give the small-ish rooms a spacious feel.  There are a couple of fireplaces for cooler evenings. Like these days of early November!

We asked for a “romantico mesa”, a romantic table and he seated us in a room overlooking the small garden at a large open window. We were the only patrons. Armando and his wife treated us to a warm, family-like experience.

We ordered drinks; his margaritas are excellent and he brought us each a warm, damp hand towel to freshen up.  We both had an appetizer and our main course, I had the Camarones Flambe!, was served with a luscious red tomato carved into the shape of a rose, and dessert.  All were Fabulous!  We will certainly go back.

Life is good.

 

 

A Quinceañera

Isn’t she lovely?

When a young lady turns fifteen in Mexico her family hosts a Quinceañara (KIN-SIN-yar-rah).  And it is a Big deal. It is largely a Latin American celebration, in it’s modern form, dating back many decades, with origins that date back to Aztec times.

Mexico takes the tradition significantly up several notches.

On her 15th birthday the girl is accompanied to Mass by her family, friends and most of the village.  The ceremony is dedicated to her step into womanhood and pledge of loyalty to God and her family.  Her father invites a group of local boys and girl friends that are her Court. The members of her village and invited guests accompany her to an event/party honouring her and her commitment to her family and Church.

We did not attend the church but we did attend the party after.  Her name is Chuyita, pronounced, Chew-YEE-tah.  She wore a stunning, strapless burgundy gown with a large hoop, full length skirt. Her hair and make-up were professionally done.  Her Mom and younger sisters were dressed in gowns, the girls in mid-length dresses and Mom in full length with a beaded neckline.  The girls with ruffled white ankle socks and black patent leather buckle shoes. Many of the other ladies and girls in attendance were dressed in the same style with hair perfectly coiffed, braided and curled with many girls wearing matching ribbons and/or bows. The young men of her court wore matching shirts and ties in the same colour as Chuyita’s gown.

It was incredible for a small village and a modest family to put on such a celebration for one girl.

A Mariachi led her in with her family, Mom and Dad and all her siblings, followed by her court of extensive relatives and friends.  The Mariachi played for two hours and walked around serenading at each table.  When our turn came, they playing La Bomba, a chorus of it as a stand-up harp solo. What fun!

Chuyita, her Mom Isobel and younger sister.

 

And food kept coming for two hours.  Guests arrived over all that time and trays of food and drinks served throughout the venue that likely sat 200 people.  And the place was full.

A young, hip Banda arrived and played after the Mariachi.  The Banda must have been about 20 members all dressed alike, young and hip with all the various instruments, vocals and dance moves.

It was a special time and we are so grateful to be a part of this wonderful culture and particularly a part of a community of friends that make age-old traditions come alive.

 

 

Five cakes.

Are You a Dancer?

We’ve been living la vida loca and kind of languishing in a lull of pool time, cooking new dishes together, which we love doing, and visiting with the cornucopia of great friends both foreign and Mexican.

One of our lovely foreign friends is American and has lived Lakeside for many years.  She is a professionally trained dancer in classical ballet and taught at a prestigious dance school in the US.  At a social gathering, she told me about a woman (who was at the event) she had recently met whom she engaged in conversation.

Here is basically what was said;

“You have the telltale walk of a dancer,” said my elegant friend.

“Well, yes,” said new friend.  They chatted for a few minutes about where and how long ago their dancing career dated from and where. Ya know, dancer stuff.

As they, again, got together close to me, I sat marveling at the wonders of dancers; how they walk, how they wave delicate fingers, how they hold their long necks aloft.

I piped up and told them I used to be a bit obsessed with aerobics years ago when I was fit.  In that time, I met a woman who asked me if I was a dancer.

I told them how I delighted in that question, how I so wanted to be a dancer and be that elegant.

“I have always wondered if she meant to ask if I was a Pole Dancer,” I said.

Those two lovely women simultaneously looked at me, blinked and only broke into a smile when I burst out laughing. Perhaps dancers’ forte is not their comedic acumen.

Hummingbird Watch

Over the winter, only a few hummingbirds came to my feeders…Sigh.  I make my liter of sugar water about once per week.

Well, they’re back! I told you about my hummingbirds (I like to thing they are mine…silly human) here and here.

For the past few weeks, I have been making a liter of hummingbird food at least once per day.  I take the feeders in at night, much to the chagrin of our neighbourhood bats.  When I get up, I take them back out to their hangers on the terrace nice and clean and full.  If I forget, the feeders are empty in the morning and covered in bat slobber (ick).

These days, I refill one of them three times per day.  The pineapple feeder takes a few days to empty as Miss Bossy Pants runs off any hummer that comes close, dominating from her perch.

This is MINE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other day, we turned our patio chairs around to watch.  And we sat there for hours.

Mama PhotoBOMB!

We took dozens of photos.  We like to identify as many of them as possible.  The most common visitor is the purple-crowned hummingbird.  There are many of that breed, young and old. The youngsters only get limited protection, then they are on their own and have to fend off the others at their peril.  They learn fast…hummingbirds are brawlers, and they take no prisoners.

 

 

 

 

 

Ten in one shot.

Here are ten in one shot (note the little guy with his tongue out).

When I first put out the feeders in the morning, there are so many I can’t count them all.  They move so fast. Most of them, purple crowned included, hover when they drink.  Others still their wings and sit on the edge, and one drapes himself on the side, spread eagle, like a bat and drinks.

Then we saw this little, tiny guy.

We identified him as a “sparkling-tailed woodstar” hummingbird.  Quite the handle for such a cute little guy.  He has a white “sparkling” tail that is split into two feathers and is kinda black and white striped.  He is so small, about half the size of the others.  He flew rather tentatively through the fray to the feeder.

 

When we see a bird we either have trouble identifying or is unusual we rely on our friends, John and Rosemary Keeling at Lake Chapala Birders.org. They are very knowledgeable folks and are amazing.  They have back up contacts like the Audubon Society (that impressed the hell out of me).  They respond to our goofy, rookie birder questions with kindness.

We sent two photos of this little guy to confirm our identification.

Here is their response:

“Both photos are of immature males, the tails are obvious and distinctive.
This species comes here only in May and June to breed and then goes elsewhere. A birder in Ahualulco (one hour west of Guadalajara) has noticed that their Sparkling-tailed Hummingbirds disappear for the months of May and June!
The current name is Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird, previously Sparkling-tailed Woodstar, previously Dupont’s Hummingbird.
Thanks for the photos.”…

We are so pleased to provide a nursery for these little delights. Perhaps the other-species adults at the feeder gave him some leeway.  Good birds.

We have added the “Sparkling-tailed” hummingbird to our spread sheet.

 

 

 

 

This guy guarded the little flowering bush beside the pool all afternoon.  He looks like a youngster; is kind of fluffy with a relatively short beak, but he sure knew how to fend off the others. I am studying bird books to identify him (I’ll let you know).

 

 

 

We sat there gobsmacked, talking, taking pictures, petting the dogs and marveling at our little world around us.

Busy March

Today is the first day of spring. All of my friends and family in Canada are gleefully willing away the retreating annual ice age, often with mixed results, melting snowbanks in some areas and spring blizzards in others.

Here at Casa Luna de Miel, we are enjoying another lovely, warm, sunny day.  Temperatures have been warming for weeks now.  I dragged out packets of seeds and will sprinkle them wishfully into the dirt.  Maybe some will grow.

But this year, spring brought the wonders of olde friendships, family and a group of people who share my writing passion. All within a couple of weeks.

Whew…by mid-March I flopped on the sofa.  I only had the energy to watch curling. Yea, I know, call me wild and crazy.

I have been on the organizing committee for the Lake Chapala Writers Conference for more than two years now and I just love it.  The 2018 conference on March 7, 8 and 9th was, of course, preceded by the previous years’ planning and all that, well, organizing. I had a great time with it but more importantly, I very much enjoyed working with outstanding colleagues/friends, who care more than anything, well, almost anything, that our conference is a success – that we provide a fulfilling, meaningful experience for all of our participants.

It was time-consuming but certainly worth every minute.

In all the last minute planning, meetings and concerns, a very dear olde (I use the term “olde” because using the word “old” doesn’t feel right) friend called.  We had somewhat lost our path of relationship bread crumbs in our 35+ year friendship over the past two years for a couple of reasons.  All I could do was wait.

I didn’t care when she was coming to visit, just that she was.  She arrived for a week, the week immediately preceding the writers conference. We had a great time meeting new friends, paddling around in the pool, sightseeing, shopping and just hanging out together.

 

With olde friends, it has never mattered how long we have not visited or spoken.  When we do get together time just melts away and all is right with the world.

The week after the conference my sister arrived.  She spent four days with us.  I organized a “Ladies Lunch”  so she could get a big swig of my circle of women friends in one binge.  (Yes, I did get a couple of comments from my funny, feminist friends on the terminology.)  With only four days, it seemed the best way for her to meet most of them.  We did much the same activities, saw the same places and imbibed the same way as I did with my friend.  We are all pals – my sister, my friend and me.  They live in the same Canadian city, in the same neighbourhood.

Mr. Wonderful understood how important both the visits were/are to me.  He just hung around in the background, giving me space to tend my friendship garden, quietly taking care of stuff, like poolboy/bartender duties and chauffeuring us around like the boss he is.

I have often said that I must have done something pretty spectacular in a previous life to have been blessed with this life and the people now in it.  I know, it sounds a little kooky, but I know it to be true.

Happy Spring!

Now, how is Jennifer Jones doing today?

2018 Lake Chapala Writers Conference

I am on the organizing committee for the annual Lake Chapala Writers Conference.  I told you about it here.

It was a bit like childbirth; while I was in the middle of it, I just wanted it to be done without any catastrophes.  Now that it is over I look forward to the next and forgot all about the pain and the messes.

That’s me up at the lectern.

This is my second year on the committee and the 13th annual conference. I attended one the first year after we arrived as a participant.

In writing, there is always something new to learn. Always a new technique and the presenters gave us plenty of guidance and inspiration.  I delighted in being in a roomful of like-minded people.

Many attendees complimented us on the overall conference, especially the food.  The catering was done by the family who owns El Jardin restaurant.  The event salon is directly behind the restaurant and is managed by the son of the owner.  Pablo Sr. and his lovely wife, Lupita did all the food arrangements and Pablo Jr. attended to every need we had, no matter how small and seemingly irrevant. If you are in need of a venue for your event, please consider them.  They did a wonderful job for us and we have already booked for next year.

Pablo Sr. and Jr. on each end with Herbert, Victoria, Lupita (the restaurant manager) and me.

I was absolutely exhausted when it was over.  I guess that is what happens with a wonderful event – tired but happy.

And one of the group gave me this beautiful bunch of lilies, my favourite flower, or rather, one of my favourites in thanks.

 

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